Editorial 1/ All that glitters
Editorial 2/ Suspended in time
Index of solutions
Fifth Column/ Before tragedy strikes again
Still in the wilderness
Document/ On the road to zero pollution
Letters to the editor

Gold regains its glitter during any crisis. Globally, gold prices have crossed the threshold of $300 per troy ounce. In the domestic market, the threshold of Rs 5,000 per 10 grammes has been breached. Reduced supplies from mines, turmoil in west Asia and hardening oil prices have influenced global prices. Stock markets do not look attractive. The weakening in the dollar was also relevant, since institutional and hedge fund investors tend to shift investments, as do retail investors. South Africa’s AngloGold also decided to end hedging activities, perceived to be a brake on prices. In Japan, concerns over failing banks have driven institutional investors and mutual funds towards gold. However, $300 is a long distance away from the peak of $400 touched in February 1996. It is unlikely that global prices will drop much below $300, or rise much above $315. There are fairly robust signs of an American recovery and with the strengthening of the dollar, the bullish trend will become muted. Most analysts expect prices around $285 in 2003, $275 in 2004 and $270 in 2005. However, the present hike in global prices has also affected domestic gold prices, in addition to factors like an expected good performance in agriculture, the festival season and a weakening rupee contributing to increase in the landed cost of imported gold. It is doubtful that average Indians, especially in rural areas, consider gold an investment option. Portfolio choice is rarely driven by returns.

Gold’s hedging value against inflation and ostentation are more important motives. If returns from holding gold are compared to assets like equities, debt, mutual funds, bank and corporate deposits or gilts, gold has not performed that badly in the last one year. After all, a return of 17 per cent is not that bad when interest rates are declining and the stock market is headed South. Present regulations prevent a proper gold market from developing. There are no bullion exchanges where trade in derivatives is possible, although the World Gold Council hopes to introduce gold products like small bars, guineas and gold coins through bullion banks permitted to trade in gold. Gold products need not only be in the form of jewellery. Most gold holdings are also passive and outside the mainstream. This is true not only of the Reserve Bank of India, but also of individual investors. These holdings fetch no returns. Clearly, there is a case for liberalizing regulations, so that gold becomes a commodity like any other and investments are decided on the basis of returns, rather than sentimental considerations. For the moment, with the government having muted its sabre-rattling, the sensitive index has also recovered somewhat. As with global prices, a band around the threshold of Rs 5,000 for 10 grammes seems to be plausible.


Party politics has a legitimate place in democracy, but its effect on governance is mostly deleterious. This was proved once again by the extraordinary move by the ruling Nepali Congress to suspend the prime minister, Mr Sher Bahadur Deuba, from the party. Although there is no constitutional problem for Mr Deuba to continue in office till the next elections in November, his moral and political authority will certainly be eroded by his party’s decision. He faced the ire of the party leadership for ignoring its advice not to extend the state of emergency by another six months and then recommending to King Gyanendra the dissolution of parliament. It is difficult to justify the party’s stand on the extension of the emergency because the fight against the Maoist insurgency in Nepal, which had necessitated it, is far from over. Actually, the government’s battles against the Maoist guerrillas seem to have entered a crucial phase. Obviously, the Nepali Congress’s opposition to Mr Deuba’s move to extend the emergency by another six months was guided more by political factors than a genuine concern for Nepal’s law and order situation. Worse still, the party’s action against the prime minister is an unhappy fallout of the long-drawn personality clashes between Mr Deuba and the former prime minister and party strongman, Mr G.P. Koirala. The Nepali Congress has long been plagued by factions, but it is unfortunate for Nepal that the party’s problems have taken a toll on governance. The political instability that now grips the Himalayan kingdom will only add fodder to the rebels’ cannon.

The Nepalese cannot be blamed if these developments further erode their faith in multi-party democracy, which they had won 12 years ago after a long struggle against the palace-sponsored panchayat system. As many as 10 governments came and fell in the past decade, making a mockery of the parliamentary system. Neither the Nepali Congress nor the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), the second largest party, has been able to lead a coalition government for a full term. Political instability has resulted in unbridled corruption and a near-total collapse of the economy. Although the people, frustrated with the politicians, often look back to the reign of the palace, it is unlikely that the country will revert to absolute monarchy. King Gyanendra has so far kept his commitment to uphold constitutional monarchy. He has gone by the book in accepting Mr Deuba’s recommendation to dissolve parliament and hold mid-term polls. He will need to exercise all his skills to help the interim government tide over yet another difficult phase in Nepal’s political history. Ultimately, however, Nepal can be saved from anarchy only if good sense returns to its politicians.


The report on national human development released by the Indian planning commission is a path-breaking effort. It follows the models set by the pioneers, the late Mahbub-ul-Haq and the Nobel laureate, Amartya Kumar Sen, in the United Nation development programme’s human development reports. Considering the importance of the document, it is surprising that it has received comparatively little public attention.

The human condition cannot be measured only by incomes. The need to take into account other aspects of development, such as the quality of life, longevity, literacy and health, was taken note of by the architects of the HDRs in the UNDP. They evolved the human development index as a conglomerate of the indices of development on various dimensions, including in particular, health, education and access to facilities as well as per capita income. The result was a useful benchmark for the comparison of development across countries and over the years.

While the NHDR follows broadly the pattern of the UN system, it differs in two or three important aspects. However, instead of per capita income, it uses the more easily accessible (to the planning commission) per capita expenditure data derived from the national sample survey’s work. Instead of life expectancy at birth for measuring longevity, it uses expectancy at age 1 together with infant mortality rate. For educational attainments, it uses literacy rate at 7+ and intensity of formal education as compared with adult literacy rate. These changes, although strictly technical in nature, at least make for easier computation.

As to whether a simple summation of indices in respect to these various dimensions is adequate to measure human development is a matter which NHDR considers briefly but decides in favour of the conventional wisdom. Simple addition is least controversial. Following the UNDP model, the NHDR also adopts the simple device of agglomeration of indices in different dimensions to arrive at the human development index.

Let us now turn to some of the results of the survey. The HDI for the country as a whole has improved from 0.302 in 1981 to 0.472 in 2001. Kerala — albeit a middle-income state — remains at the top of the HDR table with an achievement of HDI of 0.638 — an increase from 0.500 in 1981. West Bengal, which had an index of 0.305 in 1981, improved to 0.404 in 1991 and to 0.472 in 2001, but still has a rank of 8. Orissa is almost at the bottom of the list, with an index of 0.267 in 1981, 0345 in 1991 and 0404 in 2001. Bihar brings up the rear with an index of 0.237 in 1981, 0.308 in 1991 and 0.367 in 2001 and a rank of 15. Assam is very close to Bihar with an achievement of 0.272 in 1981, 0.348 in 1991 and 0.386 in 2001 and a rank of 14.

The states which have done well in HDI, apart from exceptions like Kerala, a middle-income state, are Punjab (0.537), Tamil Nadu (0.531) and Maharashtra (0.523). Among other Bimaru states, Uttar Pradesh lags behind with an index of 0.388, Haryana with an index of 0.509 and Rajasthan with an index of 0.424. Karnataka, the centre of the information technology revolution, is still a relative laggard, with an index of 0.478 and a rank of 7 in 2001.

So far as the urban-rural gap is concerned, the report shows that the national index for the rural areas has gone up from 0.263 to 0.340 and for urban areas from 0.442 to 0.511. The rural-urban gap was at the minimum in the case of Kerala and the highest for Madhya Pradesh. The picture as a whole is a mixed one and shows that different states have performed differently depending on the effort for improvement of HDI. Kerala, a state which has inherited the right paradigm, has taken steps for effective strengthening of the state’s infrastructure for health and education. The southern states generally have done better, part of the reason is also the differences in treatment and status of women. The higher status of women in Kerala may perhaps explain the better performance in education, health and infant mortality. The gender index is definitely better in the southern states of India.

The NHDR is significant for another measure it has produced, that is, the human poverty index. This incorporates three indices of deprivation. Deprivation in health is captured essentially through the proportion of population not expected to survive to age 40 years. Educational deprivation has been captured through a measure of illiteracy rates and the proportion of children in the schoolgoing age group not enrolled in schools. To capture the income deprivation, poverty index takes into account the proportion of population below the poverty line together with the ratio of population living in kutcha houses without access to safe drinking water and electricity.

The HPI can take a value between 0 and 100, the lower the value, the lower the poverty. The all-India poverty index stands at 47.33, split between 53 per cent for rural and 27 per cent for urban. West Bengal, with a poverty index of 47.64, has a rank of 17. Its rural index is also high, at 56, while its urban index is low at 23 per cent. Kerala has a relatively low HPI of 32.10 with a rank of 6. Its rural-urban divide is also not too sharp. The rural poverty index of Kerala is 34.2 and urban index is 28.8. Not surprisingly, the HPI is the lowest for the city state of Chandigarh with 17.28 per cent. The well-developed agricultural state, Punjab, has a HPI of 33 per cent with a rank of 7. Bihar has a rank of 13 with a HPI of 57.57 per cent. Its rural index is 61 per cent. Uttar Pradesh follows closely with an index of 54.84 per cent on the whole and a rural index of 59.29 per cent. The level of deprivation in the country as a whole is quite high.

The NHDR attempts a detailed break-up of the extent of development on different dimensions, in particular between states. It also compares the HPI with the calculations based on head-count ratio of the poor. On the basis of the head-count of people below the poverty line, among the major states, Orissa, Bihar, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu had more than 50 per cent of their population below the poverty line in 1983. By 1999-2000, while Tamil Nadu and West Bengal had reduced their poverty ratios by nearly half, Orissa and Bihar continued to be the two poorest states with 47 per cent and 43 per cent respectively. Among other states, which have reduced the incidence of poverty, mention must be made of Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana, Gujarat, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka. Rural Orissa and rural Bihar continued to be the poorest in the country both in 1983 as well as in 1999-2000. The poorest three states in 1983 in respect of urban areas were Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Orissa. The ranking changed in 1993, when it was Orissa followed by Madhya Pradesh and Bihar.

The report is not confined to compilation of data on indices alone. It analyses also the reasons for the wide variation in the progress of human development. It contains useful data on the progress achieved by different states on education and health services. For the first time, the planning commission’s document analyses the problem of child labour and the policies and interventions needed to solve the problem. Attention is also devoted to the problems of the disabled, whose number runs to nearly 16 million in India. The NHDR rightly stresses the need for adequate implementation of the plans and programmes by the Centre and the states in order to achieve and improvement in human development.

While stressing the need for a massive assignment of resources for upgrading human development, the NHDR stresses the crucial nature of the challenge for improvement of governance in the country. Governance is critical to the success of the development effort. The agenda for improvement of governance should include improvement of institutions, delivery mechanisms as well as democratic decentralization. More important, the report emphasizes the need to make the judicial system more responsive and less prone to delays. It also stresses the introduction of greater transparency in government transactions with a view to reducing the scope for corruption.

The NHDR released by the planning commission is, indeed, an important document, which should set the nation thinking on what is to be done to achieve the goals set by the planners. It is obviously not enough to analyse and understand the reasons, although it is an essential first step. It is very important to implement the solutions for the deficiencies as pointed out in the report. That better human development still remains as distant a goal almost as it was at the inception of reforms, is a cruel commentary on the efforts of successive governments and successive planning commissions. One can also hope that the NHDR 2001 will mark the beginning of a new chapter of planning and implementation of the development agenda before the country. Otherwise, the NHDR will remain just an academic exercise.

The author is former governor, Reserve Bank of India


The news of the massacre of Indian soldiers and their families in Jammu has caused both grief and outrage in the country. The world has reacted similarly. Two questions remain unanswered about the tragedy. First, how could such an attack have succeeded? Second, what should be our response to it?

It is true that suicide attacks are very difficult to prevent. Even a militarized state like Israel feels vulnerable and the Mossad, its intelligence outfit with a formidable reputation, is not able to anticipate where the next attack will take place. There is, however, a major difference between suicide attacks in India and in Israel. In the latter, the attacks are usually directed at the civilian population. In India, they target the security forces.

Israel has found it next to impossible to guard all shopping plazas and restaurants in its cities and towns. It is equally impossible to check the movements of everyone who visits these places. This is not so with army camps or residences of armymen. These should and can be made impregnable. It needs to be pointed out that the three terrorists responsible for the Jammu outrage did not blow themselves up, and evidently had planned to escape after having done their job. They were killed eventually, but the speed with which their identity was established is uncomfortable.

Mass agitation

This brings us to a more important point. It is right to condemn Pakistan for training and arming terrorists who are then sent into India. It is also right that such infiltration has increased after Pakistan became a member of the global anti-terrorist alliance. The most disturbing fact is that we remain unable to stop terrorists from crossing the border almost at will. The situation and the implementation of measures need to be seriously looked into to prevent infiltration. We cannot blame our enemies alone for our own incompetence. Prevention of infiltration, or for that matter the capture of infiltrators can knock the wind from the sails of the Pakistan propaganda which insists that the infiltrators are freedom fighters from Kashmir.

What should be India’s response to the latest terrorist attack? The resolve to combat and defeat the proxy war by the unanimously adopted resolutions in Parliament is the minimum that could be done. But this resolve requires to be made the basis of a countrywide mobilization of people in which all political parties will have to participate, including eminent personalities who are not members of political parties.

War unlimited

To make such mobilization really powerful what is essential is the restoration and reinforcement of communal unity. Pakistan chose this moment to strike not just because of the visit of Christina Rocca to New Delhi and Islamabad. It struck because it was encouraged to do so by what happened and continues to happen in Gujarat. Quite literally, Narendra Modi has encouraged Pakistan to step up its proxy war.

Now, more than ever, it is necessary to go beyond stating that India is a secular state. We have to demonstrate that this is actually the case. Even in the midst of Partition there was not the slightest doubt that our nation-state was for all Indians who would be equally protected by it. Unfortunately, this has not been the case in Gujarat.

For this we give full credit to Modi, who has been given the title of “chhote sardar” by those who see him as a reincarnation of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Nothing could be a greater insult to the memory of Patel. It should not be forgotten that as the home minister, he played a major role together with Jawaharlal Nehru in controlling the communal riots in Delhi and elsewhere.

In addition to restoring and reinforcing communal unity we have to intensify our efforts to convince the world that we cannot go on being passive victims of the proxy war waged by Pakistan. We have sent a hard-hitting message by asking the Pakistan high commissioner to leave the capital. But that is not enough. Only the government can decide if the army needs to strike across the line of control. But while the war preparations go on, India should also preach caution. For a perpetual war is not the solution to the Kashmir problem.


The news of two incidents that occured on April 23 — the murder of a boy by a minister’s son in Madhepura and the abduction of a relative of the assembly speaker in Bhagalpur — had spread in Bihar’s political circles. But till 4 pm, these early morning incidents had not managed to filter into 1 Anne Marg, the swanky bungalow of the Bihar chief minister, Rabri Devi.

When reporters in Patna approached the Rashtriya Janata Dal president, Laloo Prasad Yadav, he could not hide his surprise. He immediately reached for the director general of police on his mobile. There was silence for the next few seconds as the DGP explained that he was not quite aware of the news. Yadav could barely hide his disgust. His private secretary however bailed him out of the embarrassment, informing him about the details and adding that the superintendents of police of the respective districts were on the job.

Half an hour later, the wireless dialogue between the DGP and the two SPs revealed the lack of coordination between them. “How does the news go to the chief minister’s house before coming to me?” bellowed the DGP. “We had to rush to the spot immediately,” came the feeble defence from the SPs.

Enter Bimaru Bihar, wallowing at the bottom of the Indian economic ladder along with Uttar Pradesh while its chief minister bides her time getting her second daughter married. The state, where everything is coming apart as a result of misgovernance, has come to symbolize absolute regression.

The concept of Bimaru, which once applied to Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, is being redefined by the Planning Commission’s first ever national human development report. The commission found that human development indices indicated vigorous development initiatives undertaken by at least two states of the category. Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have in fact reversed their downward descent in the economic ladder. The situation is the opposite in Bihar and UP, which remain wastelands despite the efforts.

The experiments of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are definitely path-breaking. Madhya Pradesh, whose state domestic product increased from Rs 37,316.40 crore in 1994-95 to Rs 65,554.95 crore in 2000 advocates “a new kind of politics that takes people into confidence and discusses the state of development with them.” The state’s major initiatives include strengthening the district level governance with the eventual goal of decentralization. This has been attempted through reforming the power sector and simplifying the process of licensing.

Rajasthan too has witnessed a turn in the tide of underdevelopment. Breaking away from its stereotypical image, Rajasthan has set up the Software Technology Park of India at Jaipur. The STPI has installed a satellite earth station under state initiative and this is supposed to provide the gateway to reliable high speed data. The state has repositioned itself by its “electronic governance”.

Bihar on the other hand is still so badly governed that some analysts suggest in light banter that it should be encouraged to secede. The latest report of the comptroller and auditor general has exposed the extent of such misgovernance. The March 2000 report shows gross irregularities in key ministries like health, education and rural development. In its opening chapter, the report states that the liability of the government has grown by 13 per cent while its assets have declined, mainly due to the growing deficit.

Health and education ministries have especially come under fire. Take the case of the district primary education programme, which is supposed to be the most powerful tool for the spread of education. “The programme faltered midway due to poor utilization of funds and inadequate and ineffective monitoring,” the CAG report points out. It additionally notes: a “sharp decline in enrolment of children and increase in gap between genders indicate failures of one of the main objectives of the programme”.

On the national family welfare programmes, fully financed by the government of India, the report states how sterilization rates in 1997-2000 had reduced by 32 per cent compared to the figures for 1995-96. “As per the survey conducted in five districts, the utilization of ante-natal services varied between 20 to 37 per cent only,” it states. Scan any department, the story of financial bungling recurs with unfailing regularity.

S.C. Jha, who headed the finance commission, diagnosed that Bihar’s malaise lay in “expenditure mismanagement”. Advising the government to train its staff and the ministers on handling of funds, Jha had advised the state government to generate internal resources instead of diverting planned expenditure to non-planned ones. Jha was also categorical in stating that at least 50 per cent of the loss-making public sector undertakings should be either closed down or handed over to private hands. But the populist politics of the RJD has compelled the government to maintain status quo on the matter.

Bihar’s state electricity board is beset with a deficit of Rs 670 crore and a loan of Rs 5,000 crore. According to the CAG, the BSEB suffered a loss of power generation valued at Rs 49.59 crore for its failure to keep alternative diesel generating sets. When the board is crippled by a funds crunch, the decentralization and bifurcation of its two key units — generation and distribution — would obviously be stalled. “When reforms are the crying need of this sector, the process is being slowed down by the labour factor, employees’ stir,” says the state power minister, Shakil Ahmed Khan.

Had Yadav and Rabri Devi tried to honour their own commitments in the social sector by encouraging small scale industries and decentralization of governance, the state would have made some breakthrough in the social sector. But this remained a rhetoric. After 10 years of the Laloo Yadav family rule, members of the lowest caste still reside in ghettos while the upper caste members enjoy luxury in posh localities.

Unlike Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, where panchayats proved to be an effective instrument for social and economic change, Bihar languishes due to the unbroken criminal-contractor-politician nexus. A year after the new panchayat bodies were formed, the policy of powersharing at the rural bodies lost its way in caste strife. Neither bureaucrats nor dominant caste groups allowed the elected members to work independently. Since last year, at least 12 elected panchayet leaders have been killed. In a classic case in Bihita in Patna, a mukhia was shot dead by a block development officer in his office where a meeting was in progress on development. The BDO continues to be a symbol of bureaucratic control. The same rank colludes with the contractor-criminal network.As the state government fails to release funds, panchayats idly watch the growing rural tensions.

“The state’s treasury has run dry”, says Shankar Prasad Tekriwal, Rabri Devi’s former finance minister, adding that “but there is another treasury, owned by Laloo Prasad Yadav and company which is flourishing”. Tekriwal is bitter about Laloo Yadav ever since he was expelled and vouches that his ministry could never work independently due to the lack of direction on development. He feels that Laloo Yadav looks at development only from the parameters of reservation. “Nothing moves him except reservation and the fact that there are other indices of development does not impress him”, Tekriwal remarks.

Bihar therefore remains entangled in the Bimaru web. There is no political will to break free and the lack of political initiatives makes things doubly worse. Meanwhile, Bihar’s social divides widen, defying Laloo Yadav’s goal of social justice which has only provided a new lease of life to militants of all hues in the state. But the RJD supremo has no time for all this. Till very recently, he was too busy with the wedding in the family and now that it is over, he will be busy trying to impress viewers of the electronic media.


The following are the strategic objectives of the civil aviation policy of India:

The objectives of this policy are the creation and continued facilitation of a competitive and service-oriented civil aviation environment in which: i) The interests of the users of civil aviation are the guiding force behind all decisions, systems and arrangements; ii) Safe, efficient , reliable and widespread air transport services are provided at reasonable prices; iii) There exists a well-defined regulatory framework catering to changing needs and circumstances; iv) All players and stakeholders are assured level playing field; v) Private participation is encouraged and opportunities created for investors to realize adequate returns on inve- stments; vi) Rapid upgradation of airport infrastructure with priority to the busiest airports and those handling international flights; vii) Recognizing that transportation of air cargo is vital to the economic growth of the country, creation and development of specific infrastructure for air transportation of cargo and express cargo is encouraged, viii) Airline operations and acquisition of aircraft conferred “infrastructure” status for overall growth of the civil aviation sector; ix) Domestic and international aviation in the country are encouraged to grow at par with the world aviation industry; x) Inter-linkages with other modes of transport are encouraged; xi) Trade, tourism and overall economic activity and growth are encouraged; xii) International cooperation in aviation in tune with international trends and best practices, consistent with airspace sovereignty, is promoted; xiii) Indigenous development of aircraft, components and aviation products is encouraged, xiv) Security of civil aviation operations is ensured through appropriate systems, policies and practices, and xv) Effective systems are put in place for timely crisis and disaster management, including investigation of incidents/accidents...

India is a democratic country and the elected representatives are invariably connected with the decision-making process. Their participation at the national level is through parliamentary proceedings, meeting of various committees of Parliament as well as individual initiatives. States and local governments have corresponding arrangements. The inputs of various organized bodies/associations are also considered during policy formulation. Parliamentary committees like the standing and railway convention committees hold regular meetings with the railway administration regarding overall functioning of the railways. Representations, and suggestions from various quarters such as the passenger amenities committee, zonal rail users committee and trade associations like the Confederation of Indian Industry, Associated Chambers of Commerce and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industries are also considered.

In urban areas, lack of adequate mass transport, complete absence of demand ma- nagement and policy distortions in the area of fuel pricing and bank finance have resulted in an explosion of personalized transport comprising mainly scooters and cars. This has contributed to high levels of pollution and alarming rates of accidents. On the other side, many villages lack reliable all-weather connection with nearby markets and towns. Certain environment-friendly and socially cost-effective means of transport like coastal shipping, inland water transport and non-mechanized transport, hum-an or animal-powered, have remained undeveloped.

Planning for, and execution of railway projects is done in an integrated and need-based manner keeping a national perspective in view. Geographical boundaries are not a criterion for determining projects. The Union government and many state governments have approved private sector participation for construction, maintenance and operation of highways on a built-operate-transfer basis. A number of projects are under implementation.

The government is encouraging and framing laws ...for promotion of private sector participation in various areas of transport including roads and civil aviation.

To Be Concluded



It pays to be friends

Sir — The Cold War may be over, but the rivalry between the United States of America and Russia is not (“Bush, Putin sign pact to cut nukes”, May 25). That the US is not willing to compromise its position as “the lone superpower” in the world is evident from its unwillingness to concede any trade concessions to Russia even after the two countries signed a treaty to reduce their nuclear arsenals. True to its tradition of double standards, the US has expressed concern about the nuclear understanding between Russia and Iran, while Washington too has had a similar deal with North Korea. Although George W. Bush has talked about “a totally new quality in our relationship”, it is obvious that Washington is going to dictate the terms in any friendship between the US and Russia. Unfortunately, given that Russia is looking towards the US to exercise its influence in reducing Russia’s inheritance of old Soviet debts, Vladimir Putin has little choice but to toe the American line.
Yours faithfully,
Mithai Ganguly, Calcutta

Murdered hope

Sir— The daring assassination of Abdul Gani Lone, the moderate leader of the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference, in the middle of a public gathering is a blow to peace in Kashmir (“Murder of valley’s sane voice”, May 22). For, Lone was one of the few Kashmiri leaders to believe in the democratic process and he wanted the Kashmir problem to be solved by the people and not through foreign intervention.

Lone’s moderate views naturally won him many critics within the APHC and outside it. The difference of opinion between him and the secessionist Jamaat-e-Islami leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, fuel the suspicion that Lone’s assassination was actually plotted by the leaders of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, determined to sabotage the forthcoming elections to the Jammu and Kashmir assembly. The murder was no doubt intended as a warning to other moderates that any attempts to participate in the elections would be thwarted.

Given that the killing of Lone coincided with the visit of the Indian prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, to Kashmir, one hopes the Centre’s resolve to hold free and fair elections in the state will be strengthened. A successful round of elections is the only fitting reply to all those who oppose peace in the valley. Given the frustration of the jihadi elements, assassination attempts could only increase in the immediate future. The state and Central intelligence organizations have to be on high alert. The establishment of a democratically elected government in the state would be the best possible tribute to Lone’s memory.

Yours faithfully,
Srinivasan Balakrishnan, Jamshedpur

Sir— The assassination of Abdul Gani Lone could well turn out to be a setback for peace in Kashmir. If the report, “Cry for freedom and Farooq scalp” (May 23), is any indication, the assassination has already whipped up passions in the valley with Lone’s supporters blaming the state government. Although Lone’s son, Sajjad, had initially blamed the Inter-Services Intelligence of Pakistan for the death of his father, he is now pointing a finger at the state government for its alleged failure in providing proper security to Lone. Although this backtracking signals the possibility of external, even cross-border, pressures, it is easy to sway Kashmiri popular sentiment with statements like this. If the Centre does not act promptly to reassure the Kashmiri people, the situation could be exploited by the jihadi forces. Lone’s efforts to convince Kashmiris that militancy is not the solution to their problems would then go in vain.

Yours faithfully,
Manda Sen, Calcutta

Sir— It is heartening to see Atal Bihari Vajpayee announce a hefty financial package of Rs 6,165 crore for Kashmir. However, the APHC leader, Abdul Gani Bhat, is right in feeling that a lot more will have to be done to win back the confidence of the people of the state. After all, the alienation of the Kashmiri people had led to the growth of an indigenous freedom struggle in the valley in the first place. This movement was later hijacked by Pakistan and the jihadi groups backed by it. But more than a decade of militancy and bloodshed has led to a palpable disillusionment with Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in the valley. The Vajpayee government must try to reap the advantages of this.

Yours faithfully,
Partho Sarkar, Pune

Switching channels

Sir— The Central government’s proposal to introduce the conditional access system in order to regulate television viewing has been long-awaited (“Choice chest: what it packs for you”, May 12). The present system, under which cable television subscribers can watch nearly 90 channels, is hardly suitable for a country like India where language and culture are the biggest determinants of viewers’ choice.

The implementation of the CAS would help prevent the blacking out of cable channels by operators whenever broadcasters propose a hike for channels which are not necessarily watched by viewers who have to shell out the extra money. Since the viewer can now decide what he wants to watch, this will prevent any controversy over content.

While a section of cable operators may prefer regular price hikes to the CAS, the stand of the broadcasters is not clear yet. The CAS will save Indian viewers in India from being manipulated by bureaucrats and ministers trying to regulate their tastes.

Yours faithfully,
Amitabha Ray, Calcutta

Sir— The constant bickering between the channel broadcasters and multiple system operators over issues like the hike of channel fees and the under-declaration of the subscriber base by cable operators, has led to the introduction of the CAS. But this means that the consumer will now have to pay more than before: he has to pay the cable operator for the free-to-air channels as well as purchase an expensive set-top box. How can this possibly be in the interest of the consumer?

Yours faithfully,
Shavnak Singh and Debashish Dey, Calcutta

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