Editorial 1 / All is not well
Editorial 2 / A little too late
A question of chemistry
Keeping unsound health
Document / To get the act together
Letters tot the editor

A silver jubilee is always an occasion for celebration. But there are times when even such celebrations have to be laced with some amount of scepticism. The silver jubilee of the Lok Sabha is one such. The assembly of the elected representatives of the people, one of the pillars of Indian democracy, has completed 50 years. The event passed virtually unnoticed. This is a reflection of the importance assigned to the Lok Sabha in the polity and by the political class. Yet when the Lok Sabha first met, it epitomized hope. The first general election in India was hailed as one of the biggest democratic experiments in the world. A mood of buoyant optimism informed the actions of the electors and the elected. A new nation had to be made through the will of the people — the task was challenging but very few brooked the idea of failure. Looking back, there is the overwhelming perception of failure, of hopes betrayed. A large part of this failure can be ascribed to the incredible decline in the calibre of those who get elected to the Lok Sabha. One way of looking at this apparent decline is to see it as a reflection of the deepening of democracy. Over five decades, groups of people who previously had no access to the leverages of power have undergone the experience of empowerment. They have become part of political society and they send their representatives to the Lok Sabha. But such people, for valid historical reasons, are untutored in parliamentary etiquette and the conventions of democracy. This has led to a decline in the standard of debate in the Lok Sabha and to a general deterioration of behaviour within the hallowed chambers. The deepening of democracy is a success of political society, but paradoxically, it has led to a decline within the Lok Sabha.

There is the feeling, based on the television coverage of Lok Sabha proceedings, that members spend more time shouting and rushing to the well than on constructive debate and law-making. What is worse in the current Lok Sabha is that the prime minister himself seeks applause by making cheap cracks at his opponents in the house. Debates have been replaced by jibes and substance by rhetoric. There is a good case for a review of the functioning of the Lok Sabha and for introducing proper induction courses for new entrants. But the success of these will be dependent on stricter eligibility criteria for prospective members of parliament. It must be realized that Parliament is not a forum for gimmicks but for serious discussion on issues which affect the country. The Lok Sabha stands as an institution which is practically synonymous with Indian democracy. But it is an institution fast losing its dignity. This does not augur well for the country.


Mr Narendra Modi’s damage control gestures are about two months too late. To call this a “good beginning” is therefore a little too forcedly upbeat on the part of the vice-chairman of the national commission for minorities, Mr Tarlochan Singh. The hopeful note struck by Mr Singh was occasioned by Mr Modi agreeing to almost all the demands placed by the commission during its first meeting with the chief minister. The minority leaders seem more or less satisfied with the assurances provided by Mr Modi. This is certainly a breakthrough of sorts. But coming in the wake of protracted, systematic and continuing violence, and from someone who has forfeited all moral authority and credibility, such promises could only sound outrageously belated. In his focus on relief and compensation, Mr Modi seems to be reducing the genocide in his state to something like a natural calamity. Rebuilding mosques begins to sound like reconstructing houses destroyed by floods or cyclones. Questions of responsibility and of justice are thereby quietly — and not so quietly — evaded. Mr Modi has assured the commission on several undoubtedly important measures: victims and survivors being allowed to put in fresh first information reports, the continuance of the relief camps, no forced rehabilitation, and so on. Moreover, the crimes against women have been obliquely acknowledged, or the allegations considered worth investigating. Token members of nongovernmental organizations and minority communities are going to be taken along to these surveys as well. But implementing all this would require the active participation of precisely those agencies of the state which have lost the trust of those they have so brutally let down. Besides, surveys and inquiries have never really been the problem. They are usually conducted with great aplomb by Mr Modi and his peers.

The opening of this dialogue between the state and the minority leaders does coincide with the new “security advice” being given to the chief minister by Mr K.P.S. Gill, who had been present during the meeting. An apparent change in policing strategies is also noticeable since the appointment of Ahmedabad’s new police chief, Mr K.R. Kaushik. But the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh are still beyond the reach of reason. Their position remains absurdly contradictory — seeking clarification from the commission regarding its view of their agency in the violence, yet refusing to take part in any rational process of interaction. If it is eventually a senior police officer who succeeds in getting these organizations to talk to minority leaders, then that alone would be the best indication of what the organizations have come to stand for in Gujarat today.


The recent flare-up in west Asia, the biggest in the region since the Yom Kippur war nearly 30 years ago, has valuable lessons for India. For the first time in half a century, it has brought into sharp scrutiny, Israel’s hitherto successful handling of its ties with its biggest and most important supporter in the world: the United States of America. For several dec- ades, successive Indian ambassadors in Washington have fantasized that they could do to the US what the Jewish lobby has always done with great finesse — twist the American establishment around their little finger the way they wanted.

For about ten years now, New Delhi has tried to replicate the Israeli experience in Washington in terms of winning friends and influencing people. To a very large extent, India’s successes in dealing with the US in recent years and building on them were the result of these efforts to copy the Jewish way of dealing with official America. India is not alone in doing this. There are very small countries which have scored in Washington well beyond their size and importance simply because they have tapped into the Israeli lobby in America under various pretexts: in some cases only because the envoys from these countries are Jewish and have been able to cash in on the camaraderie which it entails.

Diplomats in the US capital are, however, realizing that for the first time since the founding of the Jewish state these unwritten rules of diplomacy in Washington are being challenged in the wake of the violence in west Asia, which began with Ariel Sharon’s controversial visit to Temple Mount. That the rules of the game in Washington are being rewritten for America’s Jewish lobby was brought home during the visit to the White House last week of Israel’s hawkish prime minister. Sharon’s White House visit, to the surprise of most America-watchers, was a bit like Pervez Musharraf’s trip to the US earlier this year: not a failure, but much less of a success than was predicted or expected.

Herein lies the lesson which India cannot afford to miss as Indo-US relations are at the crossroads. Simply replicating the modus operandi of the Jewish lobby in the US will no longer work. There is room for more original thinking in India’s dealings with the US, and more important, room for an injection of greater substance at various levels. This is an assertion which may surprise many, but the rising star on the US’s diplomatic horizon, believe it or not, is Saudi Arabia. But more on that later. Sharon arrived in the US last week with a clear agenda and was confident that he could get the imprimatur of the White House on his objectives. After all, the Israelis have all along been used to having their way in Washington. Primarily, Sharon was determined to eliminate Yasser Arafat from any future decision-making process on Palestine and secure US backing for his line that Israel would not negotiate with the chairman of the Palestinian Authority.

In order to achieve this goal, the Israeli prime minister arrived with briefcases full of documents, which, he claimed, implicated Arafat directly in acts of terrorism. Before Sharon’s arrival, supporters of Israel and Tel Aviv’s diplomats here made the point that there was more evidence linking Arafat to terrorist acts than any documentation which established a connection between Osama bin Laden and the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11. Which, incidentally, is true. Moreover, Sharon wanted to put the west Asia peace plan of the Saudi Arabian crown prince, Abdullah, out of the reckoning and, instead, get American endorsement for his own peace proposals to end the violence in the region. Critically aware that Riyadh’s stars are rapidly rising in Washington, Sharon hoped to dent Abdullah’s credibility and discredit the Saudis by insisting that they were financing the suicide bombers in the West Bank and Gaza.

To prove his point, Sharon brought along papers which listed $165 million in payments by Riyadh to Palestinians, half a million of this amount in assistance to families of suicide bombers in the last one and a half years alone. The prime minister had detailed talks with George W Bush, but he returned to Jerusalem without achieving any of his three objectives to the silent chagrin of Jewish lobbyists and other supporters of Israel in America.

That this happened in spite of unprecedented support for the Jewish state in the US congress is something which should make Indians sit up and think. Indian lobbyists and the Indian-American community have invested heavily on securing goodwill on Capitol Hill. In times of crisis, when the executive branch of the US government has been ambivalent, they have used the US congress as their route to get to the White House and the rest of the administration. But Sharon’s experience in Washington is a timely reminder to New Delhi against any temptation to put too many, if not all, of India’s eggs in the Capitol Hill basket. Timed to coincide with Sharon’s visit, both the US senate and the house of representatives passed separate resolutions expressing America’s solidarity with Israel. Only two senators dared to vote against the motion: in the house of representatives, the vote was 352 to 21.

But it is a reflection of the way business is done in the Bush White House that such overwhelming sentiment in favour of Israel did not sway the president into giving in to the prime minister of Israel last week. The personality of the present occupant of the White House is such that chemistry is very important. And there is no chemistry between Bush and Sharon. On the other hand, there is a lot to be said for the chemistry between Bush and Saudi Arabia’s ambassador in Washington, Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz. Prince Bandar is the son of Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, the kingdom’s second deputy prime minister and minister of defence.

An alumnus of Washington’s Johns Hopkins University and several US military colleges, Prince Bandar communicates with Bush far better than most foreigners the president meets, simply by having been ambassador in Washington for 19 years and having a keen sense of how to get things done in America.

Jaswant Singh is one of those in New Delhi’s power structure, who realized early on in the Bush presidency, the importance of such good chemistry. When the external affairs minister visited Washington in April last year and had his first meeting with Bush, he made sure that every minute that he spent in the Oval Office, every sentence that was uttered there was carefully cultivated to build that chemistry. Singh told Bush at that meeting, for instance, that the president had the opportunity which comes but once in history to completely transform America’s ties with India, a process which his father had started. Singh subsequently told everyone he could in Washington how wrong the public perception of Bush was, what a good grasp he had on public issues, how he went straight to the core of a problem and how graceful it was of the president to have received an Indian minister on a day when the Senate was voting on his pet tax cut proposals.

This was well before September 11 catapulted Bush to dizzy heights of popular approval. Millions of Americans still thought of Bill Clinton as the last elected president of the US, and Bushisms, the book which listed the president’s record of putting his foot in his mouth, was raking in dollars in bookstores all across America. But while chemistry is an important ingredient in the Bush White House, it becomes omnipotent when it is also backed by sound policy, as the divergent experiences of Sharon and Prince Bandar reveal. Sharon returned to Jerusalem empty-handed because Israel overplayed its hand in Washington. Over the head of the Bush administration, the Israelis tried to inordinately influence the American political process by discrediting the Saudis on the eve of a meeting between the foreign minister, Prince Saud al Faisal, and the secretary of state, Colin Powell.

The Saudis are now beating the Israelis at their own game in Washington. Riyadh pays a phenomenal $200,000 a month to the lobbying firm, Qorvis Communications, to promote its interests and point of view. In addition, it has hired two other lobbying firms: Patton Boggs for a flat fee of $100,000 for two months, and Hill and Knowlton on a longer-term arrangement for a fee of $77,000 a month. The latter helped Kuwait to put together its public relations campaign in Washington after the emirate was occupied by Iraq in 1990.

Slick efforts by Prince Bandar in doing diplomatic business the way it is done in Washington have convinced the White House that its interests lie in going along with the Saudis on multiple fronts. Bush, therefore, believes that Crown Prince Abdullah’s peace plan is the only viable path to peace in west Asia at this moment and that Sharon is being negative in trying to discredit that plan.

But most important of all, Bush wants Saudi, and Arab, support for his crucial plans to overthrow Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and Riyadh has let him know that the key to any such support is its peace plan. Embracing that plan also means giving Arafat a role in the peace process, although the idea may be anathema to Sharon. All of which means the Israelis have a problem in Washington, which they had never encountered before.


On April 7, World Health Day, the World Health Organization chose an interesting theme that was of crucial importance to public health. It argued that reduced physical activity, changing diets and increased tobacco use were largely responsible for the world-wide epidemic of non-communicable diseases. Two million deaths in the world are attributable to inactivity, it added. The WHO recommended regular but moderate physical activity, tobacco cessation and healthy nutrition. Governments were also called upon to create a supportive environment for such lifestyle changes. The slogan for World Health Day was: “Move for Health”.

Yet a few hours’ drive from Mumbai, tribals watch their malnourished children die in batches every year, felled by easily preventable and treatable infections. In rural India, struck by drought for years in a row, out-of-work labourers starve to death even as granaries overflow. In the wards of the tuberculosis hospital in Sewri, Mumbai, dozens of ill and dying people languish. For them TB means joblessness and no money to buy nourishing food.

To all these people and many more, the WHO’s annointment of the choice of lifestyle as the most serious public health issue of our times would come as a surprise. These people are naïve enough to imagine that good health depended on water, food, sanitation, the living and working environment and access to affordable healthcare.

Surely, asking people to eat better and exercise more is a queer if not misleading message from an international body which is expected to provide leadership in health policy. A more appropriate theme for the World Health Day would have been people’s right to health, and governments’ responsibility to provide health for all — as expressed in the WHO’s path-breaking Alma Ata Declaration in 1978. National health policies should address the hurdles to providing such healthcare — commercial interests that masquerade as structural adjustments, liberalization and privatization. For these are the issues that recur in the many stories of illness and death.

Year after year the press reports on epidemics that kill children in rural India. And year after year we hear the same excuses being trotted out by the authorities: the children died of infections because their ignorant parents delayed bringing them to health centres. The facts: state-provided health services are not available in many parts of the country, especially where they are needed the most. Many exist only in name, without essential drugs or staff. Not only must the poor depend on such inadequate services, but they have also to remain helpless about the fact that their children are doubly at risk from infections because of the severe malnutrition.

To quote the WTO, “Unhealthy diets, caloric excess, inactivity, obesity and associated chronic diseases are the greatest public health problems in most countries of the world.” By clubbing nutrition with a sedentary lifestyle, the WHO obviously refers to the havoc wreaked by the processed food industry. While the latter’s contribution to the rise in non-communicable diseases should not be dismissed, the problem must be seen in the context of government policies encouraging this industry. Moreover, the more immediate worry should be that people are not getting enough to eat. An expert at the Indian Statistical Institute estimates that almost 50 per cent of Indians are malnourished, and another 20 per cent run the risk of under-nutrition. In other words, 70 per cent of the Indian population doesn’t get enough food to eat. According to government figures, 5 crore of the 36 crore Indians (more than one-third of the population) designated as living below the poverty line are actually starving.

Yet the structural adjustment programmes initiated at the instance of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund have forced a sharp cut-back in food subsidies. Under the targeted public distribution system introduced in 1997, households were demarcated on the basis of income into “below poverty line” and “above poverty line”. They were entitled to different quantities of subsidized grains and at different prices. For one, this leads to the withdrawal of subsidies from half the needy population in one fell swoop. Besides, given the average Indian’s wage insecurity and fluctuating earnings, such targetting is both “conceptually and practically problematic”, argues the ISI expert. Further, allotments under the TPDS provide less than the minimum recommended by the Indian Council of Medical Research, and at prices which the poor cannot afford. As a result, grains are not bought and many are starving to death. The uptake of public distribution service grain has halved over the last decade. Faced with overflowing godowns, the Food Corporation of India has chosen to let the grain rot or be sold abroad at a subsidized price.

The WHO’s call for “Move for Health” can be examined in the light of the problems faced by our programme to treat TB, which kills upto 500,000 Indians a year. While the success rates of treatment have reportedly gone up with the WHO-supported directly observed treatment short course, government and WHO officials agree that one of the important obstacles to an effective programme is poverty. “Economic hardships and droughts cause large-scale migration, reducing treatment completion and cure rates.” This is a fact acknowledged by both the Indian government and WHO officials responsible for the programme.

Health workers are aware that for the poor, TB often means unemployment, particularly in a country which boasts of employer-friendly labour legislation. Drug treatment takes the worst toll on the hungry, making it more difficult for them to retain jobs, and earn money for food. The programme, unfortunately, does not help poor patients get food and social support to enable them to complete the treatment. All this contributes to “defaulting” on treatment and eventually the development of multi-drug-resistant TB. Treatment for MDR TB costs over Rs 1 lakh per patient, has a low success rate and is not provided by the government.

What then should we make of the government’s commitment to healthcare on the World Health Day? In recent months, we have had another opportunity to look at this issue through the draft national health policy, 2001. The Jan Swasthya Abhiyan is a coalition of health groups agitating against the government’s failure to meet its commitment to healthcare. The WHO’s 1978 Declaration at Alma Ata, Soviet Union, and the 1983 national health policy of India had assured “Health for All” by the year 2000 through the provision of comprehensive primary health services.

The JSA notes that the national health policy, 2001, “omits the very concept of comprehensive and universal health care”. The notion of healthcare as a right, to be provided by the government, is replaced by prescriptions encouraging privatization in one of the most privatized health systems in the world. Among the recommendations are user fees in public hospitals though even the World Bank admits that these only prevent the poor from accessing healthcare; and promoting “medical tourism” with tax exemptions for health facilities that will attract foreign patients.

The JSA points out that this provision will only “divert our best resources to serve the interests of the global health market”. Any serious analysis of the issues involving health and healthcare in countries like India must first address the structural reasons for poverty and ill health, and accept a commitment to provide with people comprehensive healthcare. However, the national health policy does neither. And the WHO asks people to exercise.


Trade in persistent organic pollutants is allowed only for the purpose of environmentally sound disposal or in other very limited circumstances where the importing state provides certification of its environmental and human health commitments and its compliance with the POPs treaty’s waste provisions. Delegates rejected a proposed World Trade Organization “supremacy clause” that could have encouraged states to challenge the treaty’s trade-related measures.

Most exemptions to the treaty requirements are chemical- and country-specific. But there are broader exceptions for use in laboratory-scale research; for small quantities in the possession of an end-user; and for quantities occurring as unintentional trace contaminants in products. Notification procedures and other conditions apply to exemptions for POPs as constituents of manufactured articles and for certain closed-system site-limited intermediates.

The World Wide Fund for Nature/World Wildlife Fund, a lead NGO in the important and sometimes very contentious negotiations, welcomes the POPs treaty as a giant step forward. But it is only a first step — vigilance must continue, both preceding entry into force and throughout the implementation phase. Prior to, during, and following the Stockholm Diplomatic Conference we will urge government officials and other stakeholders to: (a) Expedite ratification of the POPs Convention by at least 50 countries...(b) Make significant new commitments to provide technical and financial assistance to developing countries and countries with economies in transition. Such assistance by developed/donor governments is critical to ensure full and effective participation both preceding and following the treaty’s entry into force. WWF supports draft resolutions calling for the Global Enviroment Facility to establish a chemicals “focal area” and for GEF Trust Fund donors to contribute additional financial resources so that the GEF can effectively perform its POPs treaty mandate. We also endorse resolutions calling on states and regional economic integration organizations to make voluntary contributions to the United Nations Environment Programme Trust Fund for interim activities, and to provide direct technical and financial assistance for treaty implementation, including training, infrastructure development and capacity building.

(c) Examine additional chemicals for early inclusion in the treaty. The Stockholm Conference will consider draft resolutions directing the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to establish an interim POPs Review Committee. That subsidiary body should be authorized to begin — before the treaty’s entry into force — the screening of additional POPs candidates... WWF applauds efforts to get a “head start” in reviewing candidate POPs, recognizing that no decisions on adding chemicals can be made until after the treaty is in force. To facilitate such review, the chemical industry needs to develop and disseminate data on chemical persistence and bioaccumulation, information that is urgent- ly needed but often not available.

Possible additions to the POPs treaty would include four chemicals listed in the regionally-focused United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution’s (LRTAP) Protocol on Persistent Organic Pollutants: the insecticide chlordecone (kepone); the pesticide hexachlorocyclohexane (which includes lindane); polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons released in the burning of oil, coal and other organic materials; and hexabromobiphenyl, a fire retardant additive. Other chemicals or groups of substances which warrant immediate scrutiny for possible future inclusion in the POPs treaty include pentabrominated diphenyl ether, a flame retardant; polychlorinated napthalenes used in capacitors, electrical insulators and as engine oil additives; substances which break down into perfluorooctanyl sulfonate; ochtachlorostyrene, an unwanted byproduct; and endosulfan, an insecticide.

(d) Take national, regional and private sector actions that go beyond treaty provisions, both in terms of implementing treaty elements early and with respect to adopting more stringent environmental and public health measures than those required by the treaty. The upcoming ceremonies in Stockholm offer an auspicious start to such efforts: Sweden ranks as one of the world’s leaders in advancing policies that substitute safe alternatives in place of toxic chemicals, hold corporations accountable for the pollution they create, and advocate precaution where scientific evidence suggests toxic threats to wildlife or people.

Effective implementation of the POPs treaty will require the hard work, wisdom and resources of governments, industry, NGOs and other stakeholders. Although many challenges lie ahead, it’s gratifying to start off the new millennium knowing that a solid foundation has been put in place, on to which further reforms can be made in the ongoing effort to protect and conserve life on Earth.

ConCluded The convention is open for signature by all states and by regional economic integration organizations at the United nations headquarters in new york from may 24, 2001 to May 22, 2002



Mother’s day in the sun

Apple of her mother’s eye Sir — The way Vivek Oberoi and Diya Mirza go on about their mothers on television and in newspaper articles, one would think they were the only ones to love their mothers (“Mummy’s day out in Bollywood”, (May 12)? Besides, what is all this fuss about Mother’s Day? Is it supposed to be the one and only day in the year that one expresses “love” for the mother? As it is, the entire hype and hoopla that card companies get up to on Mother’s Day and Sister’s Day and Pet’s Day and so on, has become sickening. Surely there are other (and better) ways of expressing love and admiration for one’s parents than giving them cards and gifts. And also, shouldn’t generosity and consideration for one’s parents be unconditional? The media hype surrounding such occasions accomplishes little other than giving some piffling celebrities the chance to score on prime time television and get some free publicity. It is time both the public and celebrities realized that what matters most is not what we say, but what we do not.

Yours faithfully,
Mithai Sengupta, Calcutta

Work order

Sir — The recent Supreme Court ruling which calls enforcing bandhs an “unconstitutional act” and forbids political parties from forcing people to participate in bandhs, coercing shopkeepers into downing shutters and damaging public property, is a landmark judgment (“Forcible bandh declared illegal”, May 11). The apex court has done well to uphold the earlier judgment of the Kerala high court which had said that bandhs were illegal because they violated Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution. The high court had held that bandhs instilled a “psychological fear” in citizens, which prevented them from “enjoying their fundamental rights of freedom of speech and expression and the right to life”. It also noted that, “When any attempt is made either to ply vehicles on the day of the bandh or to attend to one’s own work, or to open one’s shop...it has resulted in the concerned person being threatened...”

People have, over the years, become sick of bandhs, which have completely lost their meaning because parties have been calling them for the flimsiest of reasons. Worse, these parties feel that the success of a bandh depends upon how much violence it engenders. Political parties might think calling a hartal or a bandh is a part of their freedom of expression, but they cannot violate other people’s right to work. Poor daily-wagers, especially, are much inconvenienced during bandhs. The former Supreme Court judge, V.R. Krishna Iyer, called bandhs “contra-constitutional” because they went against the very right to life, denying access to healthcare and hospitals. While, most people have welcomed the Supreme Court ruling that bandhs are “unconstitutional”, it is sad that the judiciary has once again been forced by the failure of the legislature to make laws which prohibit or regulate bandhs, to step in and ensure that the constitutional rights of citizens are not curtailed.

It is true, as some political parties have pointed out, that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi frequently gave calls for bandhs during the freedom movement. But that was meant to be a show of national self-assertion. Besides, Gandhi had also said that the bandh day should be spent in fasting and prayer. But today hartals and bandhs have become farcical.

No one objects to peaceful demonstrations, but these cannot be allowed to interfere with the freedom of citizens. Besides, no right is absolute. Also, no one can deny that bandhs have led to the deterioration of work culture.

Yours faithfully,
Srinivasan Balakrishnan, Jamshedpur

Sir — By declaring enforced bandhs illegal, the Supreme Court has given daily wage owners and small businessmen something to rejoice about. It is not surprising that the judgment has invited strong reactions from trade union leaders of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh who have denied that they enforce bandhs or damage public property. However, the apex court has blunted the effectiveness of its judgment by striking down two directions given by the Kerala high court earlier, which had empowered the Election Commission to derecognize parties that enforce bandhs. Unless political parties are penalized for calling bandhs, the judgment of the apex court will not have much effect.

Yours faithfully,
Amitabh Maitra, Calcutta

Sir — The Supreme Court’s ruling on bandhs is all very good, but it is doubtful how far the decree will be implemented. Take West Bengal. While bandhs called by political parties in the opposition, like the Trinamool Congress or the Congress, are not “successful” because the government machinery takes care to keep buses running and other public utilities operational, those called by the ruling left parties are almost always complete “successes” because the same government machinery connives to keep the roads empty. Then again, the people of the state have come to enjoy bandhs as paid holidays. In the interests of the economy, one hopes the apex court has the final say in this matter.

Yours faithfully,
Urmi Sanyal, Ranchi

Action report

Sir — The Telegraph has done well to publish the report compiled by members of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) central committee and the All India Democratic Women’s Association after a visit to Gujarat. The report clarifies some of the facts surrounding the Godhra massacre. The vernacular press had earlier reported that the coach may have caught fire by accident and that the kar sevaks had carried inflammable substances with them. The extract, “On the tracks of fire and hatred” (April 23), also says as much. While the exact cause of the fire has not yet been determined, railway officials have pointed out that it is unlikely that the coach would have caught fire so easily, had there been no inflammable substances inside.

This brings to mind a similar incident which had occurred a few years ago on the Mokamah-Arrah passenger train near the Gulzarbagh railway station. The compartment had been packed with office-goers and it was first thought that the fire started after a passenger threw out a partly burnt matchstick carelessly. But it later came to light that the fire had actually been caused by a leaking LPG cylinder which was being carried by a passenger.

Yours faithfully,
Mohammed Ali, Sasaram

Sir — The publication of the report on the Gujarat riots prepared by leaders of the CPI(M) and the All India Democratic Women’s Association indicates The Telegraph’s bias. Had the report of the National Human Rights Commission or the other nongovernmental organizations been published, it would have carried more weight. For one, these left organizations seems prejudiced against the administration in Gujarat. Two, the views of the Bhara- tiya Janata Party must also be brought to light in order to authenticate the conclusions of the published report.

Yours faithfully,
A.C. Banerjee, Calcutta

Sir — Ever since the Gujarat riots started, there has been a veritable rush of reports by various nongovernmental organizations and quasi-political organizations on the “truth” about how the violence started, how it spread, who was responsible and the condition of the victims. Almost every one of them indicts the Gujarat government and the Hindu community. Yet it has made no difference to the common Hindu’s belief that the pogrom against Muslims in Gujarat is justified because they have been persecuting Hindus, at least from the time of Babur. Rather it has strengthened his belief that the organizations which publish these reports are run by “secular” intellectuals who are anti-Hindu.

Yours faithfully,
Rajesh Singha, Calcutta

Courage on the field

Sir — Anil Kumble’s courage in coming out to bowl in the fourth match of the Cable and Wireless test series between India and West Indies despite a broken jaw is praiseworthy (“Kumble spins the other India”, May 14). His prudent decision to come in after seeing how much the ball was turning definitely paid rich dividends in the form of the wicket of Brian Lara. It is amazing that Kumble continued bowling for 14 uninterrupted overs with an injured jaw. India definitely needs more sportsmen like him.

Yours faithfully,
Aparajita Dasgupta, Calcutta

Sir — Anil Kumble’s heroism has once again raised the spirits of cricket lovers in India. Despite a broken jaw and writhing in pain, Kumble held his nerves and kept alive India’s chances of winning the test by taking the prize wicket of Brian Lara, and almost capturing Carl Hooper. Kumble may not get any awards for his performance, but his heroism will always be remembered in cricketing lore. His comment at the end of his heroic effort that he wanted to do his best because he didn’t want to feel that he had not done his best speaks of his determination and commitment.

Yours faithfully,
S. Poddar, Calcutta

Sir — Anil Kumble must be heartily congratulated for coming out to bowl in the Antigua test with his jaw strapped in a plaster. It needed a lot of raw courage to do that. Kumble has shown the world what a committed cricketer he is. One hopes he hasn’t done any permanent damage to his jaw and recovers speedily.

Yours faithfully,
Chandragoopto Ghose, Bangalore

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