Editorial 1/ Better balanced
Editorial 2/ Shaky fence
Behind the library
Fifth Column/ Who wins and who loses out
Swords, bayonets and politics
Document/ A riot sponsored by the state
Letters to the editor

The Russian prime minister’s reported invitation to India to join the Shanghai Security Organization has, as expected, generated considerable excitement within South and North Blocks. The Russian premier, Mr Mikhail Kasyanov, is believed to have communicated to the visiting Indian defence minister, Mr George Fernandes, Moscow’s willingness to support New Delhi’s membership. The SSO was created in 2001, with Russia, China and four central Asian states as members. Most of the states had been working informally since 1996 to coordinate their policies and further cooperation in the common fight against terrorism, religious extremism and separatism. Although Pakistan had last year sought membership of the SSO, most countries had not shown much enthusiasm at the prospect of including Islamabad. The SSO has become particularly active after the terrorist attacks of September 11 last year for a couple of reasons.

On the one hand, the attacks on the United States of America made the member countries even more conscious of how vulnerable they could all be to terrorist strikes. All the six members of the SSO have witnessed a rise in Islamic extremism, and there has been some evidence of the presence of al Qaida cells in many of the countries. In addition, secessionist movements are threatening the stability of most of the states, which are all multi-ethnic with a significant minority presence. On the other hand, there is continued concern, particularly in Beijing and Moscow, that the US may use the international campaign against terrorism to establish a permanent presence in the region. It is now clear that US forces will continue to be active in Pakistan and Afghanistan during the foreseeable future. There are also moves by Washington to establish military bases in some of the central Asian states. Few can deny that Washington is interested in the region for a variety of strategic factors, including the vast reservoir of untapped gas and oil reserves in the area. It is this sensitivity to the fast changing geo-politics of the region that has made both Russia and China reach out to India with fresh robustness. Both Moscow and Beijing remain deeply conscious of the need to contain US influence in the region and are committed to a common struggle for a multi-polar system.

While in the early years after the Cold War, Moscow seemed willing to play second fiddle to the US, it seems no longer willing to accept this role. This change has been one of the hallmarks of the policies of President Vladimir Putin. China has remained sceptical of Washington’s policies, but was aware that on its own it could hardly act as a bulwark against American policies. For both Russia and China, India remains a vital actor. Even though New Delhi’s relationship with Washington has undergone a change recently, India has still retained a great deal of strategic autonomy. India’s leadership may perceive the US as a “natural ally”, but there is virtually no support within the country to become part of an American alliance in the region. The recent visits of the foreign minister, Mr Jaswant Singh, to China and that of the defence minister, Mr Fernandes, to Russia demonstrate that both Beijing and Moscow are acting in concert to ensure that New Delhi becomes a partner in the common quest for a more balanced order in Asia.


Fence-sitting is a fine art that all Indian politicians learn quickly. Only some do it better than others. As they swing gently, this way or that, they are watched either with trepidation or anticipation. Unfortunately, Ms Mamata Banerjee’s skills are not too finely honed; when she is doing exactly what others are doing nobody takes her seriously. The Trinamool Congress leader was the first to ask the prime minister that Mr Narendra Modi should go. Of course, she was never sure, during her interviews by journalists, whether this was meant to be a “request” or a “demand”; all she was sure of was that it was not an “ultimatum”. At the end of the day, it was the Telugu Desam Party chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, Mr N. Chandrababu Naidu, who made waves by demanding Mr Modi’s resignation. Certainly, Mr Naidu has the greater weight of numbers behind him to make waves. But that is not the whole of it. Ms Banerjee is lagging sadly behind in the political credibility race.

Ever since the last assembly elections in West Bengal, the Trinamool Congress has had very few places to run to. The broad bosom of the National Democratic Alliance became a natural home, and there still remains the carrot of a ministership. Ms Banerjee’s moral stand against Mr Modi’s continuance is to be lauded, although it is not free of political considerations. Ms Banerjee always did like to be topmost on the moral ground; it is an outworn selling point she still tries to use against the Communist Party of India (Marxists)’s “terror” in her own state. But more important is her need to win back the minority community backing that she once enjoyed, and which she lost to a great extent after she tied up with the Bharatiya Janata Party. Her ineffectuality in her state and her inconspicuousness in the NDA have affected her defiance. Even after the BJP has taken its stand in Goa and Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee has made rather a startling speech, all Ms Banerjee can say is that she does not go along with the prime minister’s brand of politics and that it is not only her party, but also other NDA allies who want Mr Modi to go. She has to go the way the cat jumps.


Some months ago the increasingly commercialized British Council, while “updating” its Delhi library into a “knowledge centre”, also quietly closed its library in Lucknow. There were small protests and a civilized fuss by the saddened many who grew up thinking of the quaintly named Mayfair Building — where the library was located, alongside a cinema hall, a restaurant, and a bookshop — as a sort of intellectual successor establishment to the nawabi ethos which had once been home to citizens who valued the life of the mind.

The late Anglo-Indian lawyer, Frank Anthony, had titled his autobiography Britain’s Betrayal of India for abandoning people like him; here was another instance of that same betrayal now for people to whom English books and English literature seemed a contrast to and a haven from the Hindutva mobs who had taken over the political and cultural life of the state capital. Overall, however, the death of yet another cultural institution was not momentous news within a city where the process of intellectual demise began when Charan Singh and Chandra Bhanu Gupta began alternating as chief ministers, and where the university, once a major hub of sociology and economics, has produced no one of note since Radhakamal Mukherjee, D.P. Mukerji, D.N. Majumdar and T.N. Madan.

In different versions, the closure of libraries in India’s non-metropolitan cities symbolizes the story of cultural decay in urban north India, some of which, in a snidely Naipaulean way, is captured by Pankaj Mishra’s Butter Chicken in Ludhiana. Allahabad and Benares, Rampur and Patna, Kanpur and Nainital, were all once cities with well endowed libraries. Sunil Sharma, Persian archivist at Harvard’s Widener Library, was strongly tempted even recently to chuck his Boston job and take up an offer by the library of the nawab of Rampur, renowned among scholars of Islam for its holdings of Persian manuscripts. He was dissuaded from such stupidity by the knowledge that the town was practically uninhabitable on account of its unsanitary conditions, and that the library is even now in the clutches of feuding factions who seem privately interested in selling the library’s treasures to buyers of manuscripts in the West.

C.M. Naim, professor in the University of Chicago, tells a similar story in relation to Hyderabad. He was instrumental, he says, in getting his university to provide a huge endowment to a Hyderabad library with the largest known storehouse of Urdu periodicals and pulp literature dating from the eighteenth century. One of the intentions of the endowment was to ensure the preservation of these irreplaceable publications. Within a year of the endowment being given, the library was inundated by the floods which struck Hyderabad some months ago: some of the Urdu literature went straight down its drain. Of Lucknow’s Amir-ud-daulah Public Library, once similarly famed, it can only be said that its state of disrepair has no necessary connection with death by water.

How many functioning public libraries are there even in metropolitan India? With the culture of browsing in libraries replaced among the young by the culture of surfing the net, with airconditioning environments more affordable within the middle-class home, and with the general calibre of librarians and the conditions of libraries under their management worse than pathetic, only a shrinking number of diehard scholars and their students might now even understand what it means not to have access to a fine library system almost anywhere within the country — with the possible exception of Calcutta (where the redeeming feature is merely that the rate of decline is not as catastrophic as in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh).

Lamenting the end of libraries in India is flogging a dead horse: except that, if you examine the importance of library purchases to Indian publishers, you realize rather quickly that the horse is not quite dead: that it is, in fact, alive and kicking, or rather “kickbacking”.

Each year, when the month of March begins to approach, publishers and wholesellers begin scurrying in the direction of libraries — or rather in the direction of librarians, who must be “persuaded” to buy books. This is kickback season, when the horse springs to life. If the Indian library has a front entrance which shows a “Closed” sign much of the year to people who still wish to read, it has a wide open back entrance for publishers who always wish to sell. Indian librarians in general are as corrupt as the average government babu, which is now frequently what they are by training. (There are always honourable exceptions who prove the rule.) Many librarians will only buy books via a particular bookseller, this favourite being the man with the most capacious suitcase. Many librarians even buy books published only by specific publishers, these favourites being those who are most willing to extend limbs under the table. Many librarians will only buy those books on which the publisher is willing to offer a minimum discount of 20 per cent.

In order to satisfy this thirst for books among Indian librarians in February and March — when government grants are released and must be spent in order to justify an increased budget for the year following — several Indian wholesellers and publishers make a beeline, during the winter months, to Europe’s book-remaindering markets where they pick up junked, unsaleable books at massive discounts. This is altogether very nice: the expenses on such travel abroad can be written off as a legitimate business expense, thereby reducing the wholeseller-publisher’s tax liability. At the same time, the fellow manages to collect a large quantity of remaindered junk for which Indian librarians are slavering in anticipation some weeks later: they are slavering because on such books, which the publisher-wholeseller has picked up at throwaway prices, the kickbacks that can be provided might even have made Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi rethink the idea that honesty is the best policy — at least in the month of March.

These are the general conditions of library purchases all over the country: the book qua book is irrelevant. For all the librarian cares, it could be a cowdung cake between hard covers and a dust jacket. From his perspective, the book is a lousy commodity with a strong potential for harassing him daily — by causing readers to want to enter his library. It is also, on the other hand, a desirable commodity that must be bought at the end of the financial year, from the “right” source, at the “right” price — to ensure he lives in comfort the rest of the year. This is not exactly the ancient Indian notion of a book or a library, nor of the European notion: “A library is thought in cold storage,” said a British lord once, a most noble and antique thought which, in our context, means something else altogether.

Is it as difficult to alter these conditions as to set anything right where the controlling authority is a government babu? Actually, it is not. Several library committees, in which committed readers and academics have become active and taken control to show the corrupt librarian his place, have demonstrated that a fundamental change can occur, and that it can only occur by changing the culture and environment in which library purchases are made. When such committees approve the specific books that are being bought, the sources from which they are being bought, and the prices and discounts at which they are being bought, contexts are created in which the meaning of “what a book is” changes — making books and libraries mean what they ought to mean, and what they once meant, even in the small towns of north India.


Atal Bihari Vajpayee had calculated that the Gujarat carnage would help him in two ways. One, it would increase communal feelings among Hindus and thus expand his electoral base. Two, the secularists would see him as the last bastion against the onslaught of the hardliners in the sangh parivar.

What he did not take into account is the actual impact the riots would have on the common man, including Hindus, and how the violence would reflect on the Bharatiya Janata Party, its abysmal failure to understand the people and to govern. The BJP exemplified both these failings at the Central and the state levels. Being communal was bad enough, but being incompetent and callous made matters intolerable.

Nothing else can explain the explosion of anger and disappointment that characterized the Delhi municipal corporation elections. The BJP defeat had been anticipated, but not even the staunchest of its opponents could have predicted the actual debacle. What is even more significant is that there was a tidal wave of support for the Congress. It won by large margins in a number of the constituencies and victory processions turned into huge demonstrations of affection and gratitude for Sonia Gandhi. This show of support is important given that general elections may take place sooner than scheduled.

Transparent deals

It is against this background that one has to examine and evaluate the all-India congress of the Communist Party of India that recently concluded in Thiruvananthapuram. It was, unfortunately, in many ways a pale copy of the all-India congress of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) that preceded it by a few weeks. The first meet seemed to justify the plea of the CPI’s general-secretary, A.B. Bardhan, that the two parties should work out the modalities of a merger. But it could also be seen to justify the general feeling in the CPI(M) that the CPI should dissolve itself and its members apply for CPI(M) membership.

However, there was more democracy and greater transparency in deliberations at the CPI meet than there were in the CPI(M)’s. For instance, there was serious debate on C.K. Chandrappan’s suggestion that a resolution be moved for a national level and nation-wide alliance with the Congress to defeat communal fascism and counter-revolution. Another amendment which came up for vote was the demand that there should not be any joint activity with the Congress. Both demands were defeated.

Change positions

The CPI’s position is no different from the CPI(M)’s. The BJP is seen as the main enemy which has to be ousted from power, but the Congress must be prevented from regaining it at the same time. The third front is seen as the alternative to both the parties. It should be obvious that the CPI, much like the CPI(M), shares a weakness in strategy.

The third front is the left’s altenative to an alliance with the Congress. A continuation of its anti-Congress stance, the left does not realize that such a front can only help the BJP by splitting the secular vote. Allying with the Congress is not the same as becoming its appendage. The left can retain its full identity in such a combine. It can dissociate from, criticize and oppose the Congress whenever it thinks it necessary. It can help build up a common front against communal fascism.

That is also the central task of all patriotic and progressive parties and persons. In fact the left has every chance of emerging the hegemonic force in such an alliance. Why cannot the left in India achieve what the Chinese communists had in the mid-Thirties’ war of resistance against Japan?

The CPI is being hasty in pressing for communist unity while ignoring communist formations other than the CPI(M) and CPI. Besides, it is not insisting on a frank discussion of existing ideological and political differences as a prelude to such unification with the CPI(M). Is it too divided on these important issues? What is most significant is that beyond rhetorical calls for restoring the militant image of the party, it has not worked out any definite political programme. This is a sure sign that the CPI has resigned itself to ideological and political stagnation.


The medieval carnage in Gujarat is, as the prime minister put it, a national shame. It is also proof of communal, caste and ethnic animosities which lie beneath the surface of social stability. Scratch the secular patina and the warts and scars become apparent. It was evident in the anti-Sikh riots after Indira Gandhi was assassinated. It is evident now in Gujarat and more so in the speed and ease with which it has spread outside Gujarat. In the process what stands out is the belief system of Indian political leaders, amongst whom those with an understanding of the world beyond India are more an exception than a rule.

Communal riots and killings are not new to India. They have taken place during colonial rule and have occurred more frequently since independence. Such conflicts are impossible to root out completely as long as communal divides exist. What will stop them is not appeals to communal harmony or brotherhood, but the integration of communities. That integration is only feasible through the economic integration of societies.

In the absence of economic growth and interdependence, communities view their safety and security through communal and political prisms. These prisms reflect the economic well-being of societal groups in skewed images of discrimination and deprivation. That in turn leads to the call for defending the community against others. Defence of the community is then undertaken by using swords and knives and fire bombs and by taking the fight into the “other” community. The Ram mandir and Babri Masjid issues are symptoms of the deeper problem of militarized politics. Political activity undertaken by the sword, or its modern variant, the Kalashnikov, the petrol bomb or RDX are all part of the same phenomenon.

Notwithstanding the increasing tendency towards political violence, the state as the defender of social order has the responsibility to protect the lives of its citizens from arbitrary and wilful violence inflicted upon citizens. That is where the use by the state of its armed powers becomes vital. The coercive powers of the state are to be applied equally against all who subvert the cohesion of the state. If a state is seen to be part of the subversion process through conniving with communal groups, its credibility to speak for its citizens is seriously eroded. That is what has apparently happened in Gujarat.

The response of Gujarat’s political rulers in fanning communal violence all over the state following the Godhra killings, is a major milestone in the political history of the country. The first historic milestone was in 1984 when Sikhs were massacred by politically-led and protected gangs. The Gujarat killings by armed gangs, who, it is reported, were helped by the administration and left undisturbed by the police, will be the second. India’s pronouncements about its democratic and secular credentials will henceforth be no more than protestations. In all international fora the spectre of Gujarat in 2002 will be cited along with the wilful destruction of the Babri Masjid.

There are no more places for the Indian political leadership and bureaucracy to hide the scarred face of Indian polity. In times of grave danger to the political stability of the state, the use of its military power is expected to be brought into play swiftly and effectively. The government is not expected to stand by and allow things to take its disastrous course. That is what the political leadership swears to do when it takes office. In keeping with the fashion of the period, such oath-taking before assuming office is undertaken in public before a large audience. It is symbolic of the responsibilities the political leadership assures to fulfil when in office. The failure to do so in Gujarat should normally merit the dismissal of the government by the Centre, in view of the damage the violence has done to national interests. That the government at the Centre also did too little too late makes it equally culpable for catastrophic failure of governance.

The Centre can claim that it received the request for military deployment from the Gujarat government late. The state government will claim that it had sought so many additional companies of paramilitary forces, which did not come in time. These are well known alibis for failures, and worse, for deliberate inaction. It is interesting to note that the military’s response was to ensure adequate bayonet strength at the earliest in Gujarat. On the other hand, the state government did not hand over responsibilities to the military as soon as it was on the scene. The ruling party at the Centre had rushed with alacrity to deploy the country’s armed forces for war against Pakistan.

To call in the army after an attack on Parliament in which intelligence failure and lax entry procedures to the area were the main cause is one side of the coin. The other side is the example of allowing its own party’s government in Gujarat to go slow on using the army to restore peace, when hundreds were being burnt alive. The double standards in using the military for the well-being and safety of citizens is apparent.

The relationship between national interests and purpose and the failure of the Gujarat government and even its alleged complicity in the violence is a serious matter. The government in New Delhi and its alliance partners will need to urgently consider the implications of the precedent established by the Gujarat tragedy. Can a government of a state in the Union of India conduct governance and policies in a way that undermines national interests and stability?

The burden of the acts of omission and commission of the government in Gujarat will have to be borne by the alliance leaders. They will have to answer for their lack of firm action not only to their political constituency but also every time they seek aid and financial support from abroad. Their credibility on justice and fair play on the question of Jammu and Kashmir will be affected adversely.

In security matters, the implications of the communal conflict can also be felt on India’s image as a responsible state having nuclear weapons. India has staked a claim to being a major player for maintaining stability in the region. The ability to play that role will be questioned in the light of the volatility and irresponsibility introduced by the Gujarat government and the inaction demonstrated by the ruling establishment at the Centre. The cumulative effect of these developments on India’s aspiration to find economic and political stability is going to be substantial. The prime minister initially referred to Gujarat as a national shame. The failure to anticipate events that bring such shame is a sign of the inability to govern effectively. Gujarat will do no good to either the country or its people, both of whom deserved better.

The author is director, Delhi Policy Group, and former director-general military operations


This report is a result of the visit to Gujarat by a central delegation of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), along with representatives of the All India Democratic Women’s Association from March 10 to 13, to express solidarity with the victims of the communal carnage and to get a first hand account of the terrible events on and from February 27. The delegation spoke to over a thousand people, including citizens of both communities in affected areas, victims of the communal attacks, administrative officials in Ahmedabad, members of relief committees, members of the Citizens Initiative, various nongovernmental organizations and intellectuals.

The delegation also met the governor, S.S. Bhandari, on March 12 and gave him a memorandum with the main findings of the team and demands, including the removal of the chief minister, Narendra Modi. The delegation visited camps in Shah Alam, Bapunagar Aman Chowk, Sundaram Nagar, Juhapura, Kankaria Municipal School No. 7 and 8 and Dariyakhan Ghummat in Ahmedabad. [It] also visited the site of the incidents of February 27 in Godhra, the Godhra Civil Hospital and the Iqbal relief camp in Godhra. One member visited the camps in Mehsana district. The delegation also received memoranda from several of the camps and relief groups.

The delegation included central committee members, Subodh Ray and Brinda Karat, Subhashini Ali, Kiran Moghe, Mariam Dhawale, along with Arun Mehta (secretary, Gujarat CPI(M) committee) and Mahesh Chand, Iva Mehta, Nalini Jadeja and Yashoda behn.

There is condemnation outrage and shock in the whole country against the inhuman attack on kar sevaks travelling on the Sabarmati Express in which 58 persons, the majority of them women and children, were burnt to death. It is essential that the Central and state governments act swiftly to identify and arrest the guilty...The visit to Godhra brought to light the surprising callousness and unconcern on the part of the state government to protect the burnt railway carriage that is surely crucial evidence in investigations into the horrific attack. The delegation saw bags of foodgrains, stoves, and jerrycans, usually used for kerosene or cooking oil, inside the burnt bogie. This points to a possibility that there was inflammable material inside the railway coach. In any case, the investigation must be expedited. There is widespread disquiet in the state about the individual who is to head the investigation since he is known for his pro-Hindutva views. One of his judgments while serving in the high court had been criticized by the Supreme Court for “relying more on imagination than fact”.

The events in Gujarat following February 27 have rightly been described as an example of a state-sponsored carnage against the Muslim community. It would be quite wrong to use the term “riot”. The justification of the carnage offered by Narendra Modi of it being a spontaneous reaction to the burning of the railway carriage does not tally with the facts on the ground. If the chief minister’s logic were valid, the first place to be affected would have been Godhra. The sequence of events in Godhra, gathered by the delegation, showed that because the administration moved swiftly and firmly within an hour of the incident, in comparison with elsewhere, the situation could be better controlled within the town. Elsewhere, particularly in Ahmedabad, it was not the administration but the constituents of the sangh parivar that used the first twenty-four hours to mobilize their wide network.

The two-day bandh in the state on February 28 and March 1 called by them was then used to unleash violence in urban areas. For the first time in the history of this admittedly communally affected state, even areas inhabited only by Muslims, like mohallas in Bapunagar, were also devastated.

to be concluded



Sinned against

Sir — Morals of incumbent politicians and bureaucrats seem to be the sole point which the countries they serve focus on. This time around, it is the turn of Switzerland to turn blue in the face thanks to the supposed antics of one of its top diplomats, Thomas Borer (“Swiss envoy’s escapades end”, April 12). Borer is alleged to have had an extra-marital affair while working at the Swiss embassy in Berlin which has resulted in his recall. The reaction to Borer’s “affair” is as unjustified as the reaction in India to the peccadilloes of the former chief minister of Assam, Prafulla Mahanta, or the alleged calls made to chatlines by a Union minister recently. Yet, the countries should remain satisfied as long as the ministers or bureaucrats carry out their duties and do not let their personal lives affect their work. But even in the liberal West, a bureaucrat is made to pay for his personal life. Should we not see this as an infringement of personal freedom, or is it just an occupational hazard?
Yours faithfully,
Sonu Agarwal, Agra

Public nuisance

Sir — The editorial, “No nonsense” (April 10), was disturbing. I believe that not only individuals but the state should also desist from exhibiting any bias for any particular religion. I also believe that any public place, maintained with the taxpayer’s money, should not be used for religious purposes. In India, this matter is given no thought at all. Sometimes, entire roads are blocked off for the religious practice of a few, be it during the pujas or Muharram. One should have the freedom to practice one’s religion so long as it does not infringe on the liberty and freedom of others. However, in India, it is the opposite that has become true. What is worse is that instead of dealing with the problem, the administration chooses to take the easier option of looking away and thus ends up adding to the problem.

While the petitioner, A.K. Jaiswal, was correct in pointing out that public places should not be used for religious purposes, he displayed his narrow-mindedness by asking the court to ban only the offering of namaz in public places. He thereby chose to ignore the malpractices of other religions. If Jaiswal had not displayed his prejudice against Muslims, the Supreme Court could have taken this opportunity to debate the petition and perhaps come out with a ruling that would ban all religious activities that infringed on individual liberty.

Yours faithfully,
Debabrata Das, Minneapolis, US

Sir — The editorial, “No nonsense”, has rightly pointed out how the Supreme Court is made to waste time and money by hearing baseless cases. Till a system is introduced to sort cases so that only those which are important come up before the courts, the judicial system will not be able to function at its best. This is also the second time the apex court has proven that it alone has public interest at heart. Only weeks ago, the Supreme Court disallowed the performing of bhoomi puja within the Ramjanmabhoomi site in Ayodhya. It also held that status quo will be maintained with regard to the disputed property.

In the Jaiswal case, the judges not only imposed a fine on Jaiswal but also did not mince words while stating that petitioners like him were “causing bloodshed” in the country. This ruling could not have come at a better time, as it came a few weeks after the Arundhati Roy judgment, in which the judiciary came in for harsh public criticism for its rigid stand. Rulings such as the ones on Ayodhya and Jaiswal renew our faith in the fairness and impartiality of the courts.

Yours faithfully,
Antara Mehra, Cochin

Sir — It is obvious from the ruling of the Supreme Court in the A.K. Jaiswal case that the judges are oblivious of the trouble religious mass congregations and festivals create for the man on the road (“Namaz challenger pays for frivolity”, April 9). That the judges brushed aside Jaiswal’s petition for its anti-Muslim stance is commendable. But they could have seen the larger issue of how public display of religion disrupts normal life.

Yours faithfully,
R.H. Putran, Calcutta

Marriages are made on earth

Sir — According to the report, “Marriages and movies made for each other” (April 9), extravagant and grand marriages have gained immense popularity in India of late, especially this year. While the manner in which a wedding is celebrated is a matter of personal choice, one cannot help but wonder if the money wasted on such ceremonies could not have been put to better use. It is a shame that in a country where people have to eat mango kernels to survive, precious resources, concentrated in the hands of a few, are drained in such gala shows. The taste and sensibility of such people are shocking. That peacocks and black bucks should be roasted for the gastronomical delight of guests is appalling. There should be a legislation banning such extravaganzas.
Yours faithfully,
Sujit De, Sodepur

Sir — Servings of boar, black buck and peacock meat at weddings and other celebrations can surely be stopped. Have the moneyed reached such an elevated status in Indian society that they can now afford to make a mockery of the country’s laws and regulations and also ensure that law enforcers look the other way? That zoo animals are hired out to parade and entertain guests at weddings is a further violation of animal rights and wildlife regulations. It seems that India has truly reached its goal of economic liberalization where the state is liberal enough to allow the rich to flout all civic norms.

Yours faithfully,
Kajal Chatterjee, Sodepur

Flying high

Sir — On a visit to Hyderabad, I was amazed by its utilization of the space below flyovers in the city. All of it has been converted into gardens with fountains. The space underneath the Gariahat flyover can also be converted into small patches of green once the work is completed. This would also improve the ecology of the area which has little greenery.
Yours faithfully,
Avishek Nandi, Calcutta

Sir — The Gariahat flyover has been completed within the scheduled 29 month time. Although the media has constantly criticized SENBO, constructor of the flyover, the company should be congratulated for sticking to the deadline. And this despite delays at various phases and interruptions caused by the public interest litigation before the Calcutta high court and the dispute over the cutting of 700 trees. It is rare to see an organization stick to its word, particularly given the record of flyover construction in the other metropolises. For once Calcutta has done better than the rest.

Yours faithfully,
Sunil Mitra, Calcutta

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