Editorial 1/ Fahrenheit 451
Editorial 2/ Chaos unlimited
Too small to consider
Fifth Column/ And the fire continues to rage
Matter of choice
Document/ Then they came looking for us
Letters to the editor

 
 
EDITORIAL 1/ FAHRENHEIT 451 
 
 
 
 
According to a very moving film the French film director, Francois Truffaut, made, Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which book paper catches fire almost instantaneously. The temperature of the bonfire of books in the grounds of the National Library in Calcutta may not have reached such heights but that did not stop a few books from being burnt and destroyed. Calcutta must be the only place in the world where books are burnt in the grounds of a library, a place where books are supposed to be read and preserved. The very fact that there still has not been a howl of protest from any quarter is an indicator of the importance given to books in the priority-list of this so-called culture-conscious city. The National Library, as any regular user of the library knows, is nowhere near an efficient library catering to the needs of scholars. It serves as a public library with readers coming in to read magazines, light fiction and even just to spend time. This is compounded by the indifference and surliness of the staff. That the library functions at all is because of the dedication of a few exceptional individuals who have a certain commitment to their profession. This state of affairs has been going on for the last three decades at least. Things have deteriorated and not improved. But the burning of library books on the grounds is a new record even by the library’s own abysmal standards.

This plight of India’s premier library is to a large measure due to irresponsible trade unionism. Large sections of the library staff spend their time pursuing petty trade union interests instead of carrying out their responsibilities with due diligence. All political parties have actively encouraged this irresponsibility. Initial reports about the bonfire of books on Sunday suggest that it was an inside job which may have been perpetrated with the aim of framing certain senior officers. The probe that has been ordered will, one hopes, reveal the truth. If the culprits are indeed found, they should be named in public and the sternest possible action should be taken against them. They should be sacked and a charge of criminal arson brought against them. Nothing short of this should suffice. In terms of books, the National Library holds national treasures. The institution should not be allowed to be held to ransom by some employees who have nothing better to do in their lives. In innumerable ways, small and big, Calcutta presents itself in a dismal image to the world. The burning of books in a library only adds to this horrible image. The burning of books anywhere, for whatever reason, is an unforgivable act. To do it in a library, and ostensibly to settle a trade union score, gives to such a heinous act a special Calcutta twist. In the pyre of books burnt also the hearts of all book lovers.

   

 
 
EDITORIAL 2/ CHAOS UNLIMITED 
 
 
 
 
Bandh calls by political parties hit trade and business the hardest. It must therefore be an extraordinary situation which forces business organizations themselves to call a bandh. The Patna bandh call last weekend by the Bihar Chamber of Commerce and the Bihar Industries Association over the murder of three city businessmen in a day was a measure of the trading community’s frustration with the law-enforcing authorities in the state. The victims were only the latest in a long list of traders falling to criminals’ bullets in a state where lawlessness has been endemic. According to one estimate, nearly 10,000 small businessmen and traders had been forced to leave the state over the last 10 years because of constant threats to their lives and property. Many of those who stay on and still dare to do business in Bihar have to regularly pay “protection money” to criminal gangs. Kidnappings for extortion and even murders are rampant in most parts of the state and businessmen are the worst, if not the only, victims. The shadow of mafiadom has lengthened in almost direct proportion to the state’s economic ruin. As economic deprivations mount because of inefficient, corrupt and insensitive governments, criminality and corruption offer easy sources of sustenance for an increasing number of people. The vicious cycle is sustained by politicians whose vested interests in crime and blood-soaked money make it a story of unrelieved gloom and doom .

The wisdom of organizing bandhs as a form of protest has always been questionable. That bandhs are usually counter-productive was proved again when some angry traders ransacked a police station and set several vehicles on fire on the streets of Patna. While this is clearly unacceptable, it is a good signal that the business community has at last joined other sections of the people in standing up against the state of lawlessness. However, it is no secret that business rivalries are often behind kidnappings for ransom and even contract killings. To say this is not necessarily to endorse the view of the state’s director-general of police, Mr R.R. Prasad, who pathetically sought to gloss over the abysmal failure of his officers and men by attributing most murders of businessmen to trading rivalries. It is public knowledge that some businessmen feed the criminal-politician nexus with money and other resources to further their own interests. It is time Bihar’s trade and business circles made common cause with peaceloving people in fighting gangsters and their political patrons. A sustained campaign, that need not include bandhs and violent methods, is absolutely necessary to force a callous administration to sit up and act. The chief minister, Ms Rabri Devi, must realize that bold and realistic government initiatives are needed to hold Bihar back from the brink of anarchy.

   

 
 
TOO SMALL TO CONSIDER 
 
 
BY DIPANKAR DASGUPTA
 
 
The touch of solid ground under the feet engenders confidence in human minds, even though earth itself floats in space. The cushy feeling would undoubtedly disappear if the laws of gravity were to change. But it would be unjust nonetheless for the creator of the universe to be indifferent to the woes of mankind assailed by fears of cosmic instability.

Hopefully, a cataclysm will not visit us for a while yet. At least, not the Indians. The misfortunes that plague our society are inconsequentially small by comparison. Even so, misfortunes they are and they affect people who are smaller still, the so-called small savers of the Indian economy. And as they get swallowed up by the quicksand of recession, they are reaching up in vain for the helping hand of the next best alternative to their creator, the democratically elected government.

In July, 1964 the Unit Trust of India commenced operations with a mandate that is clearly outlined in its homepage. A brainchild of the then finance minister, it was set up with a “desire to increase the propensity of the middle and lower groups to save and to invest. UTI came into existence during a period marked by great political and economic uncertainty in India. With war on the borders and economic turmoil that depressed the financial market, entrepreneurs were hesitant to enter capital market”. Thus, “this institution…is intended to cater to the needs of individual investors, and even among them as far as possible, to those whose means are small”.

As per Chapter II, Section 3 of the UTI Act, 1963, the Central government would, by notification in the official gazette, establish this corporation. Section 4 of the same chapter states that the initial capital of the trust would be contributed by the Reserve Bank of India, the Life Insurance Corporation and the State Bank of India and subsidiaries. Chapter III, Section 10 requires the board of trustees of the UTI to consist of a chairman appointed by the government of India, a trustee appointed by the RBI, four by the Industrial Development Bank of India, one by the LIC and one by the SBI.

Section 20, Chapter IV permits the UTI to borrow from the RBI with the government of India acting as its guarantor. The IDBI is entrusted with the task of guiding the UTI in Chapter VII, Section 30 and the RBI appointed arbiter if questions arise “on a matter of public interest”. Section 32 exempts the UTI from payment of income tax, super tax and super profits tax. So, whether one likes it or not, the government had clearly anointed the UTI as its favourite child.

From its very inception, the UTI was backed by the government to serve the interests of people who were too small to fend against market forces. Moreover, it came into existence at a time when the economy was passing through turmoil. Over the years, the government did nothing to alter this image of the UTI as a government supported refuge for the small, especially so during periods of economic crisis. Indeed, even two budgets ago, the present finance minister went to the extent of announcing tax rebates on earnings from the UTI. Given the UTI Act, its clauses and sub-clauses, given the UTI’s own announcements quoted above, and last but not least, given the finance minister’s forceful support to the UTI in his budget speech, the public rushed to the UTI with its “small savings”. In its gullibility, it believed that the government was an economic agent that was least likely to renege on a deal.

Soon afterwards though, the circus began. The units began to falter. Redemption at maturity did not fetch the purchase price, dividends weakened and an overall sense of gloom descended. By now of course, the public is getting wary of the whims of the government’s pampered kid. Already, the prized Unit 64 certificates have turned sour. The net asset values of the US 64 certificates have plummeted at an alarming rate. Sale of these certificates entails capital losses, holding on to them the apprehension of a worse predicament.

The horror of facing capital losses is strengthened further by related happenings. The much-flaunted monthly income plan scheme seems to be hovering on the edge of bankruptcy. The total shortfall in the assured return of MIP schemes stands revised at Rs 3,388 crore. Further, the SBI and the IDBI have refused to bail out the UTI, since under the Security and Exchanges Board of India (Mutual Funds) Regulations 2 (X) of 1996, they are not sponsors of the project. The story goes that the UTI is waiting for permission from SEBI to launch a new scheme, so that repayment of capital can be deferred. Simultaneously, the rates of return on small savings have been gradually lowered from the 12 per cent prevailing two years ago to 9 per cent — 9.5 per cent today.

But the cup now literally “runneth over”. The finance minister has refused to help the UTI in its adversities. Worse, his ministry is contemplating a repeal of the UTI Act itself. The idea was mooted in a report of the Malegam committee. The repeal was recommended as a device to signal to the public that its expectation about government accountability in UTI matters was untenable.

Even as late as the Nineties, the UTI paid Rs 6,403 crore to support disinvestments in public sector undertakings. Obviously, such an action indicates a desire on the part of the government to retain control in the UTI. Yet we hear now that the government is hellbent on distancing itself from the organization, so that the public’s bill of demands from the government stays under control. Unfortunately, we live in a world where the buck is passed on eternally backwards. Each government in power hides behind the excuse that events that occurred prior to its term were responsible for the current hardships.

The hapless Indian investor though has been informed in the meantime that his anguish is purely illusory. There are two different reasons, it seems, why the public should not be concerned about the gradually falling earnings from its UTI papers. First, as of a constant nominal interest rate and a falling rate of inflation, the real interest rate must rise. A lower nominal interest rate therefore merely prevents the real rate of interest from rising. Hence, the nominal reduction harms nobody in terms of purchasing power. This argument is almost certainly specious, since the inflation rate in question refers to wholesale prices, while the man on the street is affected by retail prices, for which the rate of inflation has not been declining.

Second, a high real interest rate is actually undesirable, for the economic engine moves too slowly when the government offers that rate. It induces entrepreneurs to desist from investing in real productive assets, ones that generate employment and economic growth, since their returns are likely to fall below the government rate. They block their funds instead in the high yielding government papers. A government that puts any trust in this argument is even more naďve than a public that expects to be protected by it. In fact, this is a theory of investment and business upswing that does not survive a step beyond the most elementary textbooks in undergraduate economics.

Theoretical credibility apart, the policy negates another popular explanation of contemporary recession. This school of thought has it that in a globalized world scenario, demand pessimism in the United States of America affects demand for commodities everywhere else. The recession in the rest of the world will turn around as soon as the US economy begins to look up.

If so, what is the relevance of a low or high interest, or any policy at all? The world being tagged on to the US, the most sensible approach would be to leave Indian policy formulation to the US government. One wonders, if this is not what we are really after.

The author is professor of economics, Indian Statistical Institute, Calcutta

   

 
 
FIFTH COLUMN/ AND THE FIRE CONTINUES TO RAGE 
 
 
BY JYOTI PUNWANI
 
 
Addressing his party’s national executive in Goa on April 12, the Bharatiya Janata Party president, Jana Krishnamurthi, said “In any communal strife, there is always one who provokes and another who is provoked…If the message can go to everyone…that whoever provokes another…the state as well as society will come down heavily on him. Then the whole society will remain assured that there is justice rendered to all...The effort has so far mainly been to advise and attack the provoked.”

Krishnamurthi presides over the largest party in the ruling coalition in India today. His theory of justice with reference to communal riots must therefore be taken seriously. It expands on the concept of crime and punishment enshrined in our Constitution. According to the law, all those guilty of criminal acts must be punished. But Krishnamurthi’s maxim is a little different: only those who “provoke another” must be punished. Society too has the right to punish criminals, according to the BJP president, while the law says that only the state has this right.

Krishnamurthi, like Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Narendra Modi, blames those who set on fire a bogey of the Sabarmati Express at Signal Falia, Godhra — and burnt alive 60 passengers — for the violence in Gujarat. For, according to Krishnamurthi, they were the ones who “provoked”.

Devil’s advocate

But Vajpayee, Modi and Krishnamurthi know that the burning of the train was preceded by a series of incidents. Investigating agencies have recorded the statement of the Muslim girl on the platform who was pulled towards the train by a passenger, but managed to escape. Many residents of Godhra saw this, as they did the assault on the tea vendor, Siddiq Bakr. The two bearded Bohras on the overbridge, who fled when a few passengers wearing saffron headbands targetted them, are also not the figments of imagination of an “anti-national” English-language newspaper reporter. The police commissioner of Ahmedabad, who continues to enjoy the confidence of the state government, said in an interview that the “kar sevaks were over-boisterous”.

The authorities at the Godhra railway station also made it a point to deploy additional security and close down all stalls on the platform, whenever a train carrying Vishwa Hindu Parishad kar sevaks to Ayodhya passed — no doubt to avoid such incidents.

Will Krishnamurthi now direct his party, which is in power at the Centre and in Gujarat, to ensure that the “state and society” punish those responsible for the crimes which provoked the Muslims at Godhra railway station?

Provocation enough

The demand of a section of Hindus in Godhra that the Muslims in Signal Falia must tell the police who the actual perpetrators were since they were the only ones who knew them is not unreasonable.

The police have already arrested 30 Muslims in Godhra. The state has thus begun the process of punishing the “provokers”, in the BJP’s version of events. But “society” too has also gone ahead and punished thousands of others unconnected with the carnage. Their only crime was that they belonged to the same community.

When he spoke of punishing “whoever provokes another’’, did Krishnamurthi mean the provokers’ entire community? The Gujarat police seems to subscribe to this view, for it allowed innocent Muslims all over the state to be punished for the actions of a few members of the community in Signal Falia. How then do we expect Signal Falia’s Muslims to co-operate with the same police? For that matter, are the Hindus in Godhra willing to pay for the crimes of the VHP men travelling on the Sabarmati Express?

Interestingly, testifying before the Srikrishna commission of inquiry into the 1992-93 Mumbai riots, Madhukar Sarpotdar, the Shiv Sena member of parliament, had put forward a theory similar to Krishnamurthi’s. Sarpotdar had said that the attacks on innocent people in one area was justified because members of that community had indulged in violence in another area. Such retaliation, he had said, was “natural”. It was this theory of retaliation, B.M. Srikrishna had said in his report, that was responsible for the January 1993 communal riots in Mumbai.

   

 
 
MATTER OF CHOICE 
 
 
BY BHARAT BHUSHAN
 
 
The decision of the Bharatiya Janata Party to return to its hardline Hindutva moorings is not the result of the communal polarization in Gujarat alone. The prospect that a large scale pogrom against the Muslims of Gujarat can translate into an electoral victory for the BJP is yet to be demonstrated. Gujarat might, therefore, be only the proximate reason for the BJP reaffirming its communal ideological moorings at Goa. There are other factors, too, which have prompted the party to opt for hardline Hindutva over a more broad-based platform of governance.

When the BJP decided to form a coalition government at the Centre, its parent body, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, readily agreed to such political experimentation. The RSS was not unaware of the limitations of coalition politics in pushing forward a Hindutva agenda. It knew that the BJP would have to compromise on the three major issues which form the core of its political programme — repealing Article 370 of the Constitution, implementing a uniform civil code and constructing a Ram temple at Ayodhya.

However, at a time when the Congress was on the decline, the RSS felt the need to send a message to the people that the BJP was not politically untouchable. It also hoped that the BJP’s coming to power would ease the frustration of its constituency, which felt marginalized at the hands of successive secular governments at the Centre. A supportive government at New Delhi might have also helped in widening the acceptability of the Hindu ideology of the RSS. None of these expectations have, however, been realized.

Ever since the BJP came to power in Delhi in 1998, instead of increasing its political capital it has faced a rout in state after state. There have been 23 state assembly elections since then, including two in Manipur. Out of the 22 states which went to polls, the BJP or its allies ruled in ten. In nine out of these ten they failed to get re-elected — winning only in Andhra Pradesh.

The BJP itself lost power in Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal and Maharashtra. Its legislative strength declined in Punjab, Haryana, Tamil Nadu and Manipur. In West Bengal, Assam, Kerala, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Sikkim, the BJP could not win even a single seat. It had hopes of winning in Madhya Pradesh and Bihar but had to face defeat. Where it increased its legislative strength, it did so by leaning on a strong local ally — in Bihar, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Goa and Karnataka.

If the BJP cadres thought that being in power would mean that they too would share the loaves and fishes of office, then they were in for disappointment. Except for the redoubtable Murli Manohar Joshi, who has harnessed every half-literate RSS sympathizer to the task of running departments of mumbo-jumbo in our universities or re-writing history, the BJP cadre is nowhere in the prime positions of power.

In the Union cabinet, for example, nearly two-thirds of the BJP ministers are those who have had nothing to do with bringing the party to power. In the case of the appointment of governors, except for a few RSS men like Kedarnath Sahani, Sundar Singh Bhandari, Vishnukant Shastri and Bhai Mahavir, a majority of those appointed are those who have either had nothing to do with the BJP or joined it after it came to power. This is specially true of the governors who have been retained by the BJP and several retired policemen and armymen who have found favour with the party as governors.

The RSS, the main source of cadres for the BJP, is sad and angry down to a man. An RSS functionary put it succinctly, “It is as if I come to you in friendship and you behave as if you don’t know me. I groomed you, reposed faith in you and put you in power. And you see me as a problem to be hidden away in some outhouse. The BJP and the Jan Sangh were not the creation of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L.K. Advani and others like them. In fact, all these people are there because we created them.”

The party cadre is deeply dismayed by the non-performance of the government. While the RSS functionaries admit in private that they did not have great expectations from the prime minister, it is the home minister who has disappointed them. Advani’s failure, the RSS believes, is that he has not been effective in tackling non-contentious issues such as terrorism and other “anti-national” activities in Kashmir and in the northeastern states.

Staying in power has also not strengthened the BJP organizationally. Indeed, it has come to realize now what the Congress learnt in the late Forties — that as the party’s government becomes entrenched, its organization gets weaker. The top-ranking leadership of the party moves to the government, leaving the organization to be run by the second or third-rung leaders.

That is why perhaps the RSS has floated the idea of bringing political leaders with mass appeal back to the party organization. While there has already been some talk of moving younger ministers like Pramod Mahajan and Arun Jaitley back to the party, it is quite likely that senior leaders like Advani or Joshi would also be persuaded to head the party once again. Through such a move, the RSS would seek to demonstrate that a party that propagates Hindutva is more important than a government that does not.

For the RSS, the BJP has also proved to be an ineffective instrument in extending the influence of its ideology. It has therefore come to rely on another instrument it has fashioned for this purpose — the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. Compared to the BJP, it is the VHP which has shown remarkable growth in the last decade. Today, it has a membership of 17 lakh with over 1,700 RSS whole-timers on deputation, extending its area of influence.

It is not surprising, therefore, that new recruits to the RSS ideology are the result of the VHP’s efforts and not because of the governance plank of the BJP. Under these circumstances, the BJP has had to de-emphasize the broad ideological framework within which ruling political coalitions could be formed. This does not mean that the BJP is now keen on bringing down the government its leads at the Centre — but only that the BJP has made its choice between governance and Hindutva. It will rule as long as it can but would not be unduly upset if, for the sake of its Hindutva ideology, it has to forgo being in the government.

   

 
 
DOCUMENT/ THEN THEY CAME LOOKING FOR US 
 
 
 
 
At first, they escaped to Chundagi village which was 5 to 6 kms away and took shelter with Bijal Damor, the local MLA. Then they were asked to leave since it was not safe and they walked to Kuajher where they were given shelter in a mosque. Here Shamim...delivered...a baby girl...but they were asked to leave soon afterwards because mosques were a target of the rampaging mobs. Shamim, barely able to walk, her infant being carried by her sister, almost dragged by the others, herself, tired breathless...they somehow managed to reach village Kudra. Here some adivasi Naikas took pity on Shamim’s condition and kept them in their huts.

B remembers: They were kind to us. Shamim’s clothes were dirty. Even though the adivasis were poor they gave her something clean to wear. They let us rest, but then again we had to move but they came with us, escorting us to the next village Chhapadvad...We had started moving towards Panivela village...Suddenly we heard the sound of a vehicle. A truck came with people from our own village and outsiders too. They had not come to help us. They stopped us and then the madness started. They pulled my baby from my arms and threw her away. I and the other women were taken aside and raped. I was raped by three men. I was screaming. They beat me and then left me for dead. When I regained consciousness, I found I was alone. All around me were the dead bodies of my family, my baby girl, the new born baby. They were covered with stones. I lay there the whole night and most of the next day. I do not know when I was conscious and when unconscious. Later I was found by a police squad from Limkheda police station...In the hospital the doctors confirmed that her medical examination had confirmed rape. She has named the people who killed her family members and those who raped her: Sailesh Bhatt, Mithest Bhatt, Vijay Maurya, Pradeep Maurya, Lala Vakil, Lala Doctor, Naresh Maurya, Jaswant Nai and Govind Nai (the last three gang-raped her). Her father and husband have been traced to another camp at Dahod and her brother, Saeed, is with her in Godhra...

Maqsuda Bibi’s story: Maqsuda, large eyes, very thin, lying with her head bandaged in...the hospital... She is from Anjanwa village, district Panchmahal. She says, I was in the house with my two sons, Ifzal and Imran. They were very scared and kept crying. Our village was attacked on March 5 (long after the notorious 72 hour claim of the chief minister). I took my children and we along with four other women started running. We were caught and all of us were thrown into a well that belonged to the sarpanch of the village Jaisigh Dona Ghori. I was unconscious. My children were still. I lay there the whole night. I was rescued by the police the next day but my children were dead and all the four other women with me. I wish I too had died.

to be concluded

   

 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

A grounded flight

Sir — The Indian Air Force recently showed its not too humanitarian side during the search for the 25-year-old Englishman, Joel Kitchen, missing in the Himalayan foothills (“Generous Indian pays for IAF greed”, April 22). The IAF has reportedly taken Ł18,000 for the search, but completed only 50 to 70 per cent of it. If this is true, then it indeed speaks very poorly of the IAF. But Kartar Lalwani, who is footing the bill for the Kitchens, is incorrect in claiming that the IAF should have conducted the operations free of charge merely because its British counterpart would have done so. It would be too much to ask from the air force of a third world country like India. Also, it is not as if the IAF had asked for the expenses only because the Kitchens are British. Whoever uses the services of the IAF has to pay for it, be that a civilian or a government body. That such a tragic situation has been used to exemplify racial discrimination and an opportunity for mudslinging is unfair. It has also unnecessarily slurred the reputation of the IAF.
Yours faithfully,
Jyoti Gupta, Calcutta

Name sake

Sir — The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and other right wing Hindu organizations have been adding fuel to the communal fire. This was once again proved by the statement made by the RSS leader, K.S. Sudarshan: “The people living in Hindustan should be called Hindus” (“All Hindus”, April 7). The statement follows innumerable incidents in Gujarat and elsewhere that prove how the sangh parivar is systematically targetting Muslims for persecution.

For example, headmasters of English medium schools in Ahmedabad have been reportedly ordered by the Hindu right wing to throw out Muslim students from their schools. Pamphlets are being distributed in Ahmedabad, Baroda, Surat, Rajkot, Bhavnagar, Kutch and other regions for the economic boycott of Muslim goods by Hindus. These acts, to name only a few, are part of a vicious campaign to divide the country along religious lines again. So it was not unnatural for Sudarshan to have made such an inflammatory comment. To decide on a name in an Indian language for the citizens of India is not worrying. What is is the use of the name of one religion to identify all citizens, including those who belong to other religions?

Yours faithfully,
Nasir Ahmed Khan, Loktak, Manipur

Sir — Some people have a tendency to put their foot in their mouth. But K.S. Sudarshan’s comment about Indians being called Hindus takes the cake. For one, it is debatable if this land can at all be called Hindustan. Even if it can, one fails to understand why we should be called Hindus and not Hindustanis. Since the RSS claims to be trying to uphold the traditions and values of historical India, Sudarshan should go back to history to see how inaccurate his statement is. In the ancient Hindu text of the Vishnu Purana, the country is referred to as “Bharat Varsha”. In both the epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, the country is referred to as “Bharat”. Not once is Hindustan mentioned. Ancient historians like Megasthenes and Katayan give accounts of Bharat Varsha. The land was never referred to as Hindustan by any of its conquerors — Huns, Arabs, Mughals or British. Sudarshan is obviously trying to uphold the interests of his party. But will the change of India’s name to Hindustan serve them?

Yours faithfully,
Kalyan Basu, Dimapur

Sir — Before sermonizing Indians, K.S. Sudarshan should read Iqbal: “Hindi hain ham, watan hai Hindustan hamara” (We are Hindi, our homeland is Hindustan). Many Indians, irrespective of their religion, are called “Hindi” in the Gulf countries and in west Asia, and the minorities do not take offence at being called so. However, the word “Hindi” would not serve Sudarshan’s purpose of creating greater discord in India.

Yours faithfully,
M.S. Quraishy, Calcutta

Untrustworthy

Sir — As reported, Chandra Shekhar’s 600-acre farmland had been obtained from the Bhondsi gram panchayat by the former prime minister’s Bharat Yatra Kendra Trust, supposedly for the “uplift of the poor” (“Shekhar loses his farm”, April 20). The land at the moment houses an amphitheatre, boating facilities and a number of waterfalls, but there is no evidence of any facility for the poor. The Supreme Court’s order of seizure is welcome. But one wonders why it took two decades for the misuse of the property to be brought to the notice of the judiciary or the state. The fact that yet another committee has been formed to decide how the land should be used and when it will be handed back to the gram panchayat is cause for worry. For if justice has not been denied in this case, it just might be delayed.
Yours faithfully,
Sumant Poddar, Calcutta

Sir — Two recent incidents display corruption in high places. Chandra Shekhar’s Bhondsi farm and the misappropriation of funds by the chairman of the Punjab public service commission, Ravinder Pal Singh Sidhu. The only difference between the two is that while Shekhar did not hide his misdeed, Sidhu tried to stash his booty in bank lockers, away from the public eye. Both have had the bad luck to get caught, but there are many others like them in the country.

Yours faithfully,
B.S. Ganesh, Bangalore

Spaced out

Sir — I agree with Subrata Mukherjee that car parking is the best option for the area below the flyovers (“Parking push to car crawl”, April 1). If the area is not utilized in this manner, it will either be encroached upon or remain unutilized as in the Hastings area. It is astonishing that the use of the space did not form part of the overall planning of the flyover. Of course the less said about government planning the better.
Yours faithfully,
Santosh Saraf, Calcutta

Sir — There is an ever-growing shortage of parking space for vehicles in the city. In the light of this problem, the report, “Police pitch to block parking” (April 1), was surprising. The deputy commissioner, M.K. Singh, and the mayor should be complimented instead of being castigated for their efforts to increase parking space in Calcutta. The area under the flyovers should indeed be used for parking. These areas could also be converted into parking terminals for buses at night. This would free the streets at night which are normally used for parking by buses. Calcuttans should realize that it is better to use this area for parking than to have it used by hawkers.

Yours faithfully,
Sush Kocher, Calcutta

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