Editorial 1/ Yet to recover
Editorial 2/ Holding on
Going down, not up
Politics with shutters down
Document/ Removed from the eyes of the world
Fifth Column/ Take away the special powers
Letters to the Editor

The global recovery is happening, if not in the second half of 2002, certainly in 2003. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development expects growth to be 2.9 per cent in the second half of 2002 and 3.25 per cent in 2003. Consumer expenditure figures in the United States of America are up. Although the Indian economy is still relatively insulated, global recovery is good for export growth and hence for gross domestic product growth. Gross domestic product growth forecasts for 2002-03 still vary between the 5.2 per cent of the Confederation of Indian Industry and 6.5 per cent of the Reserve Bank of India. However, 2002-03 is likely to better than 2001-02. How much better is the question. The third quarter figures for 2001-02 are better and once the fourth quarter figures come in, with expected higher growth for services, the recovery will be confirmed. Core infrastructure sectors (crude oil, petroleum refining, cement, steel, coal and power) have performed better in April and May 2002. Rail and road freights have increased. Traffic at major ports is higher and the improvement in tax collections has been significant. Business confidence surveys conducted by the National Council of Applied Economic Research, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, CII’s associated council and the Delhi School of Economics-Economic Cycle Research Institute index also confirm the upswing.

With the war clouds receding, there is reason for greater bullishness. A large part of the bullishness is due to consumer expenditure recovering. But some caveats are also in order. Two-thirds of consumer expenditure emanates from rural areas and despite forecasts of another good monsoon, agricultural demand is yet uncertain. In the absence of rural demand, excess capacity will continue to plague manufacturing. A durable recovery will require improvements in investment and there are no signs of this happening.

True, the government is brandishing foreign direct investment inflows of 1.35 billion dollars for the first quarter of 2002, but foreign institutional investor inflows are down and turned negative in April. There have been no domestic investments. There have been no new capital issues and the capital market is dead. Nor is there any evident demand for credit and it is therefore not surprising that the capital goods sector is still in the dumps. Hence celebrations are premature. No broad-based recovery is yet in sight. If an economy grows at 4.2 per cent, obviously 5.2 per cent will be better. But this is a far cry from the 7 per cent plus registered between 1994-95 and 1996-97. The crux of the problem is that barring disinvestments and the national highway development project, substantive economic reforms have got stuck. Agricultural reforms hold the key. Such reforms provide the political economy support for liberalization. The government cannot get away by arguing that agricultural reforms are under the purview of the states. Not only has Mr Yashwant Sinha been unable to catalyse such reforms, hikes in procurement prices have been antithetical to liberalization. If the disinvestment picture is brighter, that is thanks to Mr Arun Shourie and his team. The rumour about Mr Sinha’s replacement by Mr Shourie has been doing the rounds for some time, and the replacement is now expected after the presidential elections. Perhaps that will reverse negative sentiments and confirm the recovery.


The Congress is not in mourning after all. The Democratic Front in Maharashtra, comprising the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party in coalition, has hung on to its government in spite of the all-out bid of the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party to topple it. Mr Vilasrao Deshmukh, the chief minister, is free to celebrate the fact that the Democratic Front not only carried the confidence motion but that it also won by a clear margin of ten. Yet there may not have been such a margin had the assembly speaker, Mr Arun Gujarathi, not disqualified seven rebel members of the legislative assembly on the basis of the anti-defection law. This number, added to the five Peasants and Workers Party members who abstained from voting, makes the margin quite non-existent. In other words, Mr Deshmukh’s government got through by the skin of its teeth, if that. It is not really a time for celebration after all, but for introspection.

What is rotten in the state of Denmark is what has always been rotten in coalition politics: local power nexuses and secret understandings, coupled with money power. The erosion began when PWP members withdrew from the cabinet with the reinduction of Mr Sunil Tatkare into it, since Mr Tatkare of the NCP had been accused of conniving with the Shiv Sena-BJP in the Raigad district panchayat elections in order to defeat the PWP there. With the Democratic Front showing its cracks, Mr Narayan Rane of the Shiv Sena and Mr Gopinath Munde of the BJP went into action, escorting individual MLAs, some from the NCP, to the governor to claim greater support in the assembly. The government’s race to protect its own and the reported behaviour of the “protected” MLAs in five-star environments have held up the entire system to ridicule. Money and muscle power were both evident. The complaint of the Congress MLA, Mr Padmakar Walvi, that he had been “abducted” by the opposition before he could make a dramatic return to the parent party, adds one more absurd detail to the murky tale. No matter how ridiculous Mr Rane and Mr Munde now look, Mr Deshmukh does not have much reason to look jubilant.


Since December when the Lok Sabha was attacked by Pakistan-supported terrorists, the economy has moved off from the front pages as an area of concern. From time to time we have heard reassuring noises from ministers (“the economy will not be affected by the Gujarat riots”; “our economy is strong enough to bear the costs of a war”). Chambers of commerce have released optimistic surveys of the level of business confidence in the future and of a pickup in demand for some products. Every small improvement in indicators — tax collections, exports, improvement in prices of industrial products, a rise in non-food bank credit — is hailed as a signal of revival. The fact is that the economy is not in good shape. This is true of all segments.

Inflation is at a historic low but that is probably more due to poor demand than to any specific action of the government. Even the rise in fuel and power prices has had no effect on the wholesale price index. Interest rates have come down considerably but banks are awash with liquidity, despite some improvement in non-food credit in recent weeks. Of the major financial institutions, except for ICICI, Power Finance Corporation, National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development and Infrastructure Development Finance Corporation, the others are in varying degrees of difficulty. The non-performing assets of banks and financial institutions show no sign of falling despite the low levels of industrial lending by them, for some time.

This suggests that earlier loans are not being serviced and more of them continue to fall into this category. More borrowers are finding themselves unable to make enough money to service their borrowings. Cumulatively, export growth has decelerated. So has the growth of imports, indicating that the recession is continuing. The rupee has been declining gradually in relation to the dollar, though the dollar has also weakened. In relative terms, the rupee has weakened by even more than its exchange value shows.

However foreign exchange reserves continue to rise to incredible levels (for India), due to reasons unknown. In part, the causes could be overseas Indians finding it safer to keep their money in India, the funds influx due to growing takeovers and buybacks by foreign companies, and directions to exporters and holders of euro convertible bonds to bring their funds back to India. But foreign institutional investment is at low levels and foreign direct investment in building new capacities is almost at a standstill. The stock market survives by “promoter” manipulation, but investors have lost vast amounts of market capitalization.

The primary market has been signalled as being about to improve, because of the large number of initial public offers in the offing. But IPOs have in the past let down the investor, with high offer prices sinking to low levels as soon as the offer is completed. The integrity of most issuers and promoters is not high in the minds of investors. Either the new IPOs will fail, or like lemmings, investors will again follow promoters to the sink of collapsing market values. Industrial production has been growing at the lowest rates of the last ten years. Demand recession is spreading and a very large number of businesses are closed, closing or in trouble. Profit margins are badly squeezed for almost all products, many of which are cutting prices or giving away substantial amounts as gifts. Agricultural production is showing growth but stocks of foodgrains have piled up and we have little clue as to what to do with them.

The power sector may be reforming, but there are no results yet in most of the country. The service sector shows growth but the figures are difficult to believe. Tourism is down, as is the business in hotels and restaurants, which show declining occupancy and tariffs. The financial sector is in great difficulty with many stock exchanges having closed and even the biggest, the Bombay stock exchange, showing very low business. The advertising industry is facing the biggest recession in its history, and layoffs are rampant. When manufactured products are in decline, retail and wholesale trade could not be faring well, whatever the Central Statistical Organization’s figures might show. Information technology continues to show growth though margins are now under pressure.

With many small-scale units closing down, large-scale use of voluntary retirement schemes and general slackening in the economy, the employment situation is bad. Neither can the self-employed be as well off as before. The unemployed, the retired, and pensioners must be facing hardship because of the precipitous decline in interest rates on saving instruments. The one bright feature has been the apparent acceleration of the government’s disinvestment programme, which will, hopefully, not be derailed by the fracas over the Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited’s proposed investment in a Tata company. Disinvestments are unlikely to make a significant dent in the certain rise in the government’s deficit. Productivity is not growing. The economy is obviously in worse shape than it was even a year ago.

In this wretched economic scenario, a few enterprises in some sectors have cut costs, improved productivity, aggressively developed the market, and shed flab. Others, including even the bluest chips, had cut quality (like a reputed manufacturer of toilet soaps and ice creams), used gimmicks like share splits to stimulate market price rises, increased consumer prices by more than the drops in volumes, bought back shares at depressed values (many times achieved by artful manipulation), created artificial shortages of their products, and taken other actions at the cost of the consumer, investor and government.

It was clear in 1991 when we started liberalizing that the future was bright only for those who gave precedence in employment to competence over contact or chromosomes, established objective staff selection, evaluation and development programmes, invested in research and development and brand-building, focussed on the most promising and core businesses, and generally prepared themselves for intense competition. Those who did not do so, and preferred to continue in their non-competitive but hitherto profitable past ways, would find it difficult to survive. This has started happening to many businesses.

Are things getting any better for the economy? There is no good reason to think that they are. The fears of war, the evacuation of foreign nationals, the setback to foreign orders on domestic companies, the squeeze on margins, the fall in foreign investments, the huge extra expenditures by government, the rise in oil prices, have all combined to make the situation even more difficult. On top of these, there is the uncertainty regarding the finance minister, the finance ministry’s revolving chair style of staffing, the lack of any action on the inefficient and wasteful food procurement and public distribution system, the lack of progress on public investment programmes except the highways, the declining financial situation of most state governments, to name only a few of the obstacles to the growth of the economy.

If the Pakistan strategy was to bleed the Indian economy with active assistance to subversion and terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, the Northeast, criminal gangs in Mumbai and elsewhere, the Indian government has helped it by its lack of a coordinated and cohesive approach to the problems of the Indian economy, and speedy actions to set them right. We need actions at many levels. Our system of governance gives excessive and profitable discretionary authority to administrators and politicians. A statutory framework of independent regulators must replace most of these shadowy government regulators. Our justice system has to speed up. Not only do we need more courts at all levels, we need the judges to be better remunerated, selected independently, and with enforceable codes of conduct. We must make our farcical election funding rules more realistic. We must make penalties for non-compliance of rules, legislation and regulatory orders much more stringent. We must have a clear, coordinated and comprehensive set of policies on agriculture and food, energy including fuels, healthcare, integrated transport (including waterways), and the many other critical areas of the Indian economy, its physical and social infrastructures.

The economy is not going downhill because of factors outside our control. It is down and nowhere near its potential because Central and state governments do not know how to govern the economy.

The author is former director general, National Council for Applied Economic Research [email protected]


On June 5, rejecting a public interest litigation moved by the general secretary of the Indian Sufi Samaj, Mir Abdur Rahaman, challenging the June 7 bandh called by the Trinamool Congress, a division bench of the Calcutta high court castigated the political culture of bandhs in West Bengal. The judges, Ajoy Nath Ray and Arun Kumar Mitra, rejected the petition, pleading “helplessness” and saying that it was pointless to pass an injunction which it did not have a “reasonable chance of enforcing… with the machinery at its disposal.”

It is sad that the protector of the Constitution, the judiciary, is pleading “helplessness” in its fight against a practice that it considers “unconstitutional and illegal”. If a court of law cannot and does not have the means to implement its decisions, it is the duty of the government to carry out the instructions of the court. The state government cannot wash its hands of the matter pleading inability.

The legal position regarding bandhs is clear from the Supreme Court’s 1997 decision. It upheld a landmark judgment of the Kerala high court which ruled that a strike undermined freedoms and rights and declared bandhs to be “unconstitutional and illegal”, as they violated the fundamental rights of citizens guaranteed by Articles 19(1)(a) and 21 in addition to causing national loss. The high court had ruled that “the concept of a bandh…can be understood as one where people are expected not to carry on their trades….with the threat….that any attempt to go against the call….would result in danger to life and property.” The judgment differentiated a bandh from a general strike or hartal. It maintained that nothing stood in the way of political parties calling a general strike or hartal unaccompanied by express or implied threat of violence to enforce it, but the same could not be said about a bandh.

In the O.K. Ghose vs E.X. Joseph (AIR 1963) case, two citizens belonging to the Kerala Chambers of Commerce had filed a writ under Article 226 in the high court seeking a declaration from the court that the calling for a bandh by a political party was unconstitutional and illegal since it prevented other citizens from exercising their fundamental rights. Moreover, the authorities did not take any measures to prevent violence and coercion, they alleged.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Communist Party of India had filed counter-affidavits after this. They argued that holding a bandh was a spontaneous expression of protest against a national calamity or against the exploitation of the people, and that this was the “fundamental right of a political party”. The Kerala high court quashed this argument, saying that political parties had the right to protest against an “erroneous policy or exploitation” but not to call a bandh on the plea that it was an expression of their “freedom of speech and expression”. The court also felt that the attendant restrictions on citizens amounted to an interference with their same freedoms.

The Kerala high court declared, “We cannot ignore the reality of what is involved when a bandh is called.” Political parties had conveniently forgotten the legal maxim, res ipsa locquitor — facts which speak for themselves — and had argued that a bandh did not involve the holding out of any threat, express or implied, to the citizen. The high court declared that a call for bandh implied that a citizen who failed to honour it would have to face “either injury to person or…property”. This meant controlling a citizen’s actions by instilling in him “the psychological fear that if he defies the call for a bandh, he will be dealt with by those who are allegedly supporters of the bandh”. The judges referred to many judgments to show how even the “psychological restriction” on citizens amounted to a violation of fundamental rights.

The Kerala high court also declared that it could not ignore the damage during a bandh. It felt that political parties and organizations which call bandhs and enforce them should compensate the government and citizens for the losses suffered by them during bandhs. The state should also take steps to recover the loss from the organizers of such bandhs. Finally, the judgment had directed the state and its law-enforcement authorities to do the needful to implement its ruling.

The Union government and the concerned state governments were assigned duties by the Supreme Court when the apex court upheld the Kerala high court judgment. The Union government’s primary responsibility in this regard is to place before the Parliament an amendment of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, enabling the Election Commission to disqualify a political party from contesting elections for a stipulated period if it calls a bandh. This can be easily implemented since, as pointed out by the Kerala high court, a political party calling a bandh is violating the oath taken before the EC.

Other states suffering from bandhs should also put into practice effective steps to check the incidence of bandhs. The Union government should try to legislate an act on bandhs that would provide a comprehensive and unambiguous definition of a “bandh” and list at least some measures that a state government will be bound to take against an errant political party.

A state’s law-enforcing agencies should be given orders to foil any attempt to call and organize bandhs. In doing so, the concerned state government as well as these agencies should be fair and neutral. If a political party feels compelled to call a bandh to protest against a government policy which goes against the interests of the people, it should be done only after allowing the government a reasonable time to redress the people’s problems.

It is time political parties understand that there is no such thing as a “fundamental right of a political party” in the Constitution. And even if there is one, it follows from the fundamental rights of the citizens which are guaranteed in the Constitution. Hence, it cannot go against the fundamental right of a citizen. A political party, therefore, cannot impose bandhs on people who are not in agreement with it. It can only call general strikes, and bandhs only on the condition that they will not use muscle power and coercion to enforce them.

The Indian judiciary has, in the last one and half decades or so, shown how judicial activism can come to the aid of the people in the absence of required legislative and executive action. Taking this further, the judiciary should ask the Union and state governments to submit affidavits on what actions they have taken so far to implement the decision of the Kerala high Court, later upheld by the Supreme Court. The last resort would be to issue orders to the Centre and the state governments for the implementation of the decisions, along with a deadline within which they must get back to the judiciary with a report of actions taken.


The Kalol relief camp is being run by leaders from the Muslim Ghachi community. When the trouble first started, Muslims from surrounding villages started flooding the Muslim-dominated mohallah (neighbourhood) in Kalol town. From March 1 to March 7, the galis (narrow lanes) of the entire mohalla had turned into a relief camp. The refugees simply lived out in the open for seven days without any shelter — a scared flock, seeking safety in “Muslim” surroundings. Some refugees found place in the madrasah, inside the masjid, and some in homes. The camp coordinators claim that it was only by putting pressure on Congress leaders, Amarsingh Chaudhary and Ahmed Patel, that they managed to get government permission to use a large maidan in town. Today the maidan houses over 2,500. The government supplies rice, wheat, sugar and oil. A government mobile ambulance visits the camp once a day.

Unlike urban camps, particularly the Shah-e-Alam camp in Ahmedabad, which has been visited by many, most rural camps have had few, if any, visits by outsiders. Many are located in remote areas, a long, dusty drive away from big towns and cities. Visits by outsiders, especially from the majority community, have been rare. One woman in the Halol camp, which had not had any visitors, said, “Bahar ke log bhi hamare bare mein soch rahe hain hame nahin malum tha. Ab to hum ek kone mein ho gaye hain, sab ke nazron ke bahar” (We didn’t know that people outside are even aware of our existence. We have been shunted in a corner now, removed from the eyes of the world).

Most striking in the rural relief camps is the need for the refugees to speak. Women in particular have not had a chance to share their experience with anyone. There is desperation in the way they respond to a sympathetic ear, and reach out towards an outstretched hand.

In order to reach the sanctuary of these Muslim majority areas in rural Gujarat, people have been forced to take refuge in jungles, forests, and fields for days on end, as they inch their way gradually towards safety. In the Halol camp for example, one woman had come to the camp only on the day the fact-finding team visited, after hiding in the fields for 24 days.

Testimonies from Panchmahals district:

Fatima Bibi, who was visiting her sister in Eral village, said she hid in the forests for four days. She ran out of her home to escape the mob on March 1 and reached the Halol camp on March 5.

Kulsum Bibi, also from Eral, where there are about 40-45 Muslim families, had walked several kilometres. Some families had spent several days hiding in forests and fields, without food and water.

Mumtaz of Ranjit Nagar, reached the camp on February 29, after walking several hundred kilometres and 24 days after she had left her village. She and her family, which included her husband, her in-laws and three children, fled their home when the mob arrived on February 28. They first hid in nearby fields for two days and then kept on moving...in search of a safe haven. They kept moving, as everywhere they reached there was tension. They could see fires…

To be concluded


Why do civilians have to suffer every time the security forces are attacked or ambushed by militants? This question is being repeatedly asked by the people of Manipur who become the invariable targets of the ire of security forces for every casualty incurred in their fight against insurgency.

Human rights violations by security forces deployed in the Northeast have been a regular occurrence ever since the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act was passed in 1958. Gross misuse of the act has wreaked havoc in the region. In the latest of such incidents, the Assam Rifles is alleged to have carried out a strike on innocent villagers in Leplen five days after 11 jawans, including a junior commissioned officer, were killed in an ambush in the area by insurgents belonging to the Kuki Revolutionary Army, a close ally of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah).

If asked about the link between the May 27 ambush and the Leplen villagers, the Assam Rifles personnel would probably have reasoned that it would have been impossible for the insurgents to carry out the attack without help from the villagers. In all probability, some villagers did have links with insurgents, but this is by no means exceptional in Manipur where insurgency has become a part of life.


The people of Manipur are caught between the barrel of the insurgent gun and that of the security forces. Although the government and the army argue that a dialogue with the rebels could lead to peace, people have been waiting interminably for that. Meanwhile, human rights violations by security forces go on unabated. For example, 15 villagers were reportedly tortured to death during operation Blue Bird in Oinam in the Senapati district. Till date, the Oinam incident remains a glaring example of the abuses committed by the armed forces in the Northeast. The matter is being fought in the courts of law.

On November 2, 2000, 10 civilians were gunned down at a bus stop in Imphal by the Assam Rifles, allegedly as a “revenge strike” against insurgents. Other famous revenge strikes include the killing of 13 civilians in March, 1984 when the Central Reserve Police Force fired indiscriminately at a crowd watching a volleyball match at Heirangoithong in Imphal. Physical assaults on civilians have often followed attacks by insurgents. The recent incident at Pangei Bazaar in Imphal, where the CRPF went on a rampage, killing two students and injuring several villagers, is one of many.

Road ahead

Human rights activists argue that unless the powers of the security forces are curbed, the atrocities will continue. Public opinion in the state is against the continuance of the armed forces act. But the campaign of political parties like the Democratic People’s Party has ended unsuccessfully. The Congress-led secular progressive front government in Manipur has continued to support the act, fearing reprisal from the Centre.

The Armed Forces Act, originally intended for Assam and Manipur, has been amended several times since 1972. Despite being meant for areas declared to be “disturbed” by the state government concerned, the act has been extended to cover most of the Northeast. The chairman of the Northeast committee on human rights, Surjit Chongtham, argues that the act is being used as a tool by both the Centre and state governments to oppress the people of Northeast under the pretext of combating insurgency.

The growing public opinion in Manipur against the act has forced political parties to give the issue a place in their manifestos. But they forget the promise the moment they come to power. Manipur thus continues to be a disturbed area for more than 40 years now. The act has failed to contain insurgency. Instead, militants seem to have gained in strength since the time the act came to being. Despite strictures from law courts, the armed forces show little respect for human rights. The popular sentiment in Manipur is strongly against the act. If political parties fail them, the people of Manipur will have to take to the streets to force its repeal, much as they did to force the Centre to reconsider its decision on the ceasefire extension.



Leave out the excess baggage

Sir — Who is Atal Bihari Vajpayee trying to fool with his sham “review” of his ministry’s performance (“Eight flunk Atal appraisal”, June 14)? Consider the ministers hauled up. Maneka Gandhi — who should never have been in the ministry. Rajiv Pratap Rudi — who probably never finds any time from his Page 3 duties to put in an appearance at the office. And whoever heard of Satyanarain Jatiya, Munni Lal, Ramesh Bais, Ashok Pradhan? What difference would it make if they are left out? One wonders at the criteria of evaluation. Significantly, all the heavyweights have been left out of the black list. There is no mention of George Fernandes in spite of the Tehelka scandal and his innumerable gaffes. Or Sushma Swaraj, who thinks selling Bollywood films abroad falls under the ambit of her duties as minister for information and broadcasting. In effect, the “review” drama seems nothing better than an exercise to make space for all the allies clamouring to get into the ministry.
Yours faithfully,
Rama Sen, Calcutta

The reluctant candidate

Sir — A.P.J. Abdul Kalam is the right man for the post of president of India, even if his name was first proposed for all the wrong reasons (“Missile man cruises to pinnacle”, June 11). Kalam does not need to flaunt his minority status. His brilliant career and his image as an enlightened secularist are impressive credentials that weigh in his favour. Besides, more than constitutional knowledge, a president needs to take a principled and reasoned stand on important issues, something Kalam is more than capable of. Cometh the hour, cometh the man. In these dangerous, turbulent, times, Kalam’s appointment may yet serve to galvanize the nation’s collective conscience.
Yours faithfully,
Sudarshan Borpatagohain, Aizawl

Sir — Atal Bihari Vajpayee must be congratulated for promoting A.P.J. Abdul Kalam as the National Democratic Alliance’s presidential candidate. Kalam overcame grinding poverty in his childhood and rose to become India’s foremost atomic scientist. His life must be a lesson to all. His contribution to the nation’s defence and scientific sectors is second to none. Ironically, it was the sangh parivar and Shiv Sena which did not have any problems accepting Kalam, knowing his absolute commitment to the interests of the nation, while the secular parties led by the Congress demurred. They did not like the fact that Kalam’s name had been proposed by the NDA but they could not openly oppose the proposal since they were afraid it would cost them the minority votes.

Kalam’s becoming president will serve to strengthen Vajpayee’s hands as he tackles terrorism from across the border.

Yours faithfully,
V.A. Gopala, Bangalore

Sir — The NDA’s sudden decision to nominate A.P.J. Abdul Kalam as its presidential candidate is politically motivated. It was a gambit intended to throw the opposition out of gear — after all, they could ill afford to not support a candidate with his credentials — and a Bharat Ratna to boot. The BJP is merely exploiting this opportunity to show how it is not against Muslims.

Yours faithfully,
Ankan Ghosh, Calcutta

Sir — An overwhelmingly large number of educated Indians will welcome A.P.J. Abdul Kalam as the president of India. Kalam is a distinguished scientist and the “father” of the country’s nuclear programme. But whether his efforts have made the people of India feel safer or better off is debatable. Kalam will be promoted because he is a Muslim. But has he ever voiced his opinions about contentious political issues that affect the nation? What, for example, does he think about Hindutva outfits which question the patriotism of Muslims? Silence over such a grave issue may be construed as complicity.

India needed someone like K.R. Nar-ayanan who has political convictions and understands the problems and needs of countrymen.

Yours faithfully,
Waquar Ahmed, New Delhi

Sir — Anyone who has read A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s autobiography, Wings of Fire will agree that there could not have been a better candidate for president. If he becomes president, Kalam will be our own Abraham Lincoln, rising from the log cabin to the White House. His appointment will also send the right signal to Muslims in India and the world. Yours faithfully, C.V.K. Moorthy, Sandur n Sir — I was audience to a speech by A.P.J. Abdul Kalam when he came to our school to attend a function. He spoke precisely and had the ability to inculcate genuine enthusiasm in the audience. Moreover, he is only 70, and capable of shouldering all the responsibilities of the post, compared to the rest of the candidates who are in their eighties.

Yours faithfully,
Keshav Garg, Ranchi

Sir — The left has opposed A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s presidential candidature on the grounds that one, he is the NDA’s nominee and two, that he lacks political experience and knowledge of constitutional law. S. Radhakrishnan and Zakir Hussain were not politicians, but both distinguished themselves as president. It would be unfair to compare Kalam with career politicians like Sanjeev Reddy, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed and Zail Singh.

Yours faithfully,
R.C. Jain, via email

Sir — Besides being a scientist of extraordinary calibre, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam is unassuming, and dedicated to the service of the nation. Sadly, for political parties, his greatest virtue is that he is a Muslim. Religion is a matter of personal belief and has nothing to with his public obligations.

Yours faithfully,
C.R.Bhattacharjee, Calcutta

Sir — A.P.J. Abdul Kalam is the right choice for president because he is the only person who deserves to be commander-in-chief of the armed forces, being the man behind India’s nuclear programme. His other virtue is that he is not a politician.

Yours faithfully,
Diptimoy Ghosh, Calcutta

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