Editorial 1 /Reform battles
Editorial 2 / Line of control
Elementary mistake
Fifth Column / Across the dairy divide
Mani Talk / An MP and his money
Document / If you can’t see them, they don’t exist
Letters to the editor

 
 
EDITORIAL 1 / REFORM BATTLES 
 
 
 
 
Battles for reform are often fought first with the enemies within. West Bengal’s chief minister, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, must have realized this as he struggles to usher in long-delayed economic reforms. The strongest resistance to his proposals for agricultural and labour reforms have come, not from the Congress or the Trinamool Congress, but from the partners of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in the ruling Left Front. It is only a coincidence that the changes were recommended by the American consultancy firm, McKinsey, whom the government hired for the purpose. This is not the first time that an American firm was engaged by the Marxist government to suggest structural changes for the state’s economy. McKinsey itself had done so before, while Arthur D. Little was the first to undertake such an exercise in 1994. Although McKinsey has lent to the critics’ voice some rancour, the outcry really betrays the old antipathy to reform. The changes suggested are the first serious attempts to introduce new ideas to improve agricultural productivity and restructure some labour laws to create an investor-friendly atmosphere. The front partners who cry foul over the proposed changes in agricultural policy often lament the fact that the state had not been able to build on its successes in land reforms. The growth of agro-based industries and diversification of crop patterns were long accepted as urgent solutions to the problem of stagnation in the rural economy. The changes that McKinsey recommended and Mr Bhattacharjee wants to introduce address these issues in very realistic terms.

Mr Bhattacharjee may thus find himself in the kind of predicament that Mr Pervez Musharraf faces in his battle to reform Pakistani society. The latter has to fight the jihadis who invoke religion and the people to upstage his agenda. In West Bengal, the resistance to reform is also justified in the name of ideology and the people’s interest. Ideologies, religious or political, can be enemies of promise. However, just as the Pakistani president cannot afford to surrender to Islamic fundamentalists, Mr Bhattacharjee has no choice but to go ahead with his mission to free the economy from the weight of bad policy and worse rhetoric. As a leading member of the CPI(M), he should know how its anti-reform rhetoric stalled the state’s economic liberation for years. It is a measure of his capacity to learn from past mistakes that he is now opening windows to let in the winds of change. Past experience of the left’s suspicion and subsequent acceptance of computerization, private capital and loans from the World Bank suggests that it is a matter of time before the new hinderers will see the virtues of economic reform.

   

 
 
EDITORIAL 2 / LINE OF CONTROL 
 
 
 
 
Terrorism powered by the ideology of militant Islam may be dead in Afghanistan but is alive in Pakistan. This was proved by the attempted attack on the consulate of the United States of America in Karachi. It is true that the car bomb did no damage to the consulate and to American lives, but that the US was the target is beyond the realms of doubt. What is remarkable is that such an attack could have been planned when US-Pakistan relations are on an unprecedented high with the two countries bound by an alliance to fight terrorism across the globe. It is easy to say that the Pakistan president, Mr Pervez Musharraf, has not been keeping up his part of the bargain to eradicate terrorism. That would be a crass simplification of the problem which confronts Mr Musharraf in the country he claims to rule. After the US bombing of Afghanistan, Pakistan has been overrun by terrorists who have escaped from Afghanistan. All attempts to stop such migration has failed. This has only served to strengthen the cause of jihadis within Pakistan. Such groups, previously, worked over time against India in Kashmir. After Afghanistan, they have another enemy, the US. Events have made clear that the Pakistan president has no control over these terrorist and fundamentalist outfits. What is worse is that Mr Musharraf does not seem to have control over those institutions — the army, the police, the secret service and so on — who are responsible for the eradication of terrorism and violence at the ground level. The state in Pakistan, over the years for its own interests, has supported and sponsored terrorism and fundamentalism. Mr Musharraf, before he was coerced by the US to join the anti-terrorist coalition, was a part of the process. He is now paying the price of his past. Between his intentions and their results falls the shadow of his past record as a sponsor of terrorism against India.

Whatever be Mr Musharraf’s failures and whatever be India’s reservations about him, he is at least an ally in the battle against terrorism. Given the conditions prevailing in Pakistan, this is the best that can be hoped for. The alternative of a mad maulvi or a trigger-happy half-colonel is too horrible even to contemplate. Both US and India realize this in their policies towards Pakistan. Greater pressure must be brought upon Mr Musharraf to enable him to suppress jihadis within Pakistan. The US must appreciate that attacks against it within and without Pakistan and cross-border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir are inextricably connected. They are both part of the same ideology and in most cases carried out by persons driven by the same kind of fanaticism. There is, for the nonce, a convergence of Indo-US interests in Pakistan. This is more the reason why Mr Musharraf should be made to deliver on his promises.

   

 
 
ELEMENTARY MISTAKE 
 
 
BY TAPAS MAJUMDAR
 
 
Parliament has now passed the 93rd amendment of the Constitution of India to make education up to the age of 14 years explicitly a justiciable fundamental right of all Indian citizens. Presently the amendment will be a part of the Constitution.

The 93rd amendment only formalizes what has been the law of the land since the now-famous Supreme Court judgment of 1993. But as happened with that judgment, and with many other parts of the hallowed Article 19 of the Constitution, the amendment too will be shown all due respect whenever the occasion arises, but generally misunderstood or ignored in the everyday working of our education system.

Our most prominent educational institutions, instead of being the pace-setters in following the 1993 judgment or the constitutional amendment, remain generally ignorant of their import. As has been the fate of too many of the basic human rights of citizens that remain enshrined in the Constitution, the right to free education too may remain largely unreflected, or present only in form missing out the content, in the policies of these institutions. This is inevitable if the citizens themselves do not keep eternal vigilance, that final price of democracy.

My attention, I admit, was drawn to the promotion rules of the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan only because of an individual case, involving a girl I have known from birth, that recently came to light in one of the Central schools. Since this appears to be quite a telling example of the extremes to which systemic injustice can go if the basic intent of the nationally accepted policy on educational reform is not understood, I will retell it below.

First let me quote from the rules (as given in the Kendriya Vidyalaya Student’s Diary 2002-2003) governing promotions in classes VI to IX and class XI.

“1. Each student would need to pass the continuous and comprehensive evaluation as well as the annual examination separately with at least 1/3 of total marks. Thus each child should obtain not less than 20 of the total marks out of 60 in each subject in the continuous and comprehensive assessment from class VI onwards and 13 marks out of 40 in annual examinations, for being promoted to the next class.

2. The aggregate marks of 35 per cent in classes VI to VIII and 40 per cent onwards will continue to be operated. It is reiterated that the Article 116 to 118 of Education Code for Kendriya Vidyalayas will remain the same for other purposes of promotion and supplementary examination.

3.There is a provision for supplementary in maximum of two subjects in classes IX and XI.

4. A student will have to discontinue if he is detained twice in the same class.”

The promotion policy that the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan has adopted is positively worrying, particularly the part dealing with the children in the elementary education stage that ends with Class VIII. This is the stage that approximately corresponds to the age group of 6 to 14 years for whose protection Parliament has passed the 93rd amendment. I hardly need to explain to the readers why I think these rules are calculated to enhance, in a discriminatory fashion, the hazards faced by the weaker students up to the age of 14 years and how these could be construed as almost calculated to encourage the weak students to drop out of the system. These rules presumably were laid down in “hot pursuit” of that nebulous and little-understood target of “quality” of school education. But this cannot conceivably be an acceptable social target for the elementary stage.

The concern for the future of the elmentary education system is heightened even further when one thinks of the children in the scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and the other backward classes segments of the population. There is already a general cons- ensus in the country on providing positive encouragement to such children not only at the points of admission, but also all through and in different ways.

In fact, following the 93rd amendment there must now be positive discrimination shown in favour of all relatively weak children up to the age of 14 years (or constructively, up to class VIII) and special provisions made for the children falling in the disadvantaged categories. There must be express arrangements for counselling of these children and continued meaningful communication with the parents. There must be remedial teaching after the first term for all children who fared poorly in the tests. And above all there must be humane promotion rules for all.

For a start, there must be provided in the lower classes at least those safeguards (such as supplementary examination or compartmentals in up to two subjects) that are already provided for in the higher secondary classes, or have long become an accepted part of the secondary and higher secondary examinations conducted by the Central Board of Secondary Education itself, to which the Central schools are affiliated. It is clear from the rules quoted above that what is considered good for the children in the higher classes of a Central school or their children appearing in the CBSE examinations for the “compartmentals” and “improvement” is not considered good enough for children of classes VI or VII who need greater protection.

Let me now come to the story of the girl I had spoken about. I confess I recount it with diffidence, because both I and my wife have been rather deeply involved in the upbringing of the child. She was (and is for another year compelled to remain) the student of class VII of the Kendriya Vidyalaya concerned. Her father is a Class IV employee coming from an impoverished family of Bihar, belonging to the OBC.

Priyambada (which is the child’s name we gave her at birth) in my own admittedly biased judgment, is intrinsically highly gifted though her talent has not shown up in her results — yet. In my opinion, she is a cut above her elder sister (in whose education too we are involved), who has happily just passed her CBSE secondary examination from the same school earning distinctions in English and social studies.

Priyambada fared rather poorly in class VII. Her progress report shows that Priyambada scored 323.9 aggregate over the whole year out of 600 which makes her aggregate 54+per cent. In three subjects, she has scored in the sixties (English 63.3, Hindi 62.3, Sanskrit 66.6); fifties in one (social studies 56.6) and high forties in one (science 46.5). She has failed her mathematics paper in the annual, the aggregate mark in maths over the whole year is also 28.6 per cent (that is, 4.4 percentage points less than the pass mark of 33 per cent).

Under “Remarks” after the first term, the school comment was, “Needs hard work in Science, Social Studies”; after the second term, “Work hard in Maths, Science”. There was no other warning, no special counselling for herself or her parents, no help from the teachers. Her mathematics marks (28.6 per cent) was only circled in the progress report and she was detained in the class. On receipt of the terrible news that at one stroke, with an over 54 per cent aggregate with failure in one subject, Priyambada, who had never failed before, had been made to lose a whole year, my wife, herself the principal of a school, wrote to the principal of the Kendriya Vidyalaya for help and advice. There was not even an acknowledgment.

Taking no heed of that insult she again wrote, along with the devastated father of the girl, applying only for the sight of the mathematics examination answerbook, to get a clue, if possible, for the next time. Both child and parents have now been made aware (for the first time) that the next time might mean expulsion. There was no reply. Verbally, the father was told that it was too late now to show parents the answerbook.

This is how, after all the rhetoric, the system has found the way of preserving quality, ending drop-outs by kick-outs. In the end, I cannot resist the temptation of recounting two recent conversations I had the chance to engage in. One was with a student activist who had worked hard for the right to education cause, and now felt content with the amendment. She wanted suggestions for what she could again be activist about. I tried, “Pick up a few cases of detained girl students from all over the country, choosing only from the best-endowed institutions, start public interest litigations where you think fit, and you will have interesting work for the rest of your life.”

The other was with two eminent educationists who were compla-ining loudly about recent incursions of judicial activism into our lives and how all our legitimate litigations of long standing (I had one they knew, and sympathized with) were being delayed and justice thereby denied. They did look very puzzled when I could only meekly mumble out something about the Nobel laureate, Kenneth Arrow, visualizing conflict situations between individual values (generated by what one felt was right for society) and individual tastes (that generally suited only one’s own self-interest).

The author is professor emeritus of economics, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

   

 
 
FIFTH COLUMN / ACROSS THE DAIRY DIVIDE 
 
 
BY P.K. VASUDEVA
 
 
The American dairy industry has flayed the recently passed United States of America farm bill 2002, which, it says, would further depress international prices of dairy products, enhance subsidies and protection levels and encourage inefficient milk producers in advanced countries.

The bill provides for continuation of the existing milk price support programme. Under this, the US department of agriculture’s Commodity Credit Corporation is committed to buying unlimited quantities of butter, cheese and skimmed milk powder from dairy plants at prices that enable them to pay a minimum support price for the milk supplied by farmers. The MSP has, in turn, been fixed at $ 9.90 per hundredweight for milk containing 3.67 per cent fat.

Considering that a hundredweight equals 45.36 kg and one kilogram of cow-milk is equivalent to 0.973 litres, this translates into an assured milk price of around Rs 11 per litre at current exchange rates. Compare this to the Rs 9.40 to 9.50 per litre rate that organized dairies pay farmers in India for cow-milk. Significantly, under the Federal Farm Act of 1996, the milk price support programme was supposed to be discontinued in the US from January 1, 2000.

But the farm bill 2002 has re-authorized the MSP for the period June 1, 2002 to December 31, 2007. The bill also provides for a National Dairy Market Loss Payments scheme, which sets a “target price” of $ 16.94 per hundredweight or Rs 18.81 per litre.

Numbers game

If one takes into account an average price of $ 15.02 per hundredweight received by US dairy farmers during 2001, the NDMLP, which takes effect from December 1, 2001 to September 30, 2005, translates into direct payments of $ 20.736 per farmer per year or over Rs 10 lakh of “additional” income. In contrast, a dairy farmer in Punjab, with a herd of 4-5 cross-bred cows, each yielding 3,500 kg over a 300-day lactation period, does not earn even a “gross” annual income of Rs 1.5 lakh.

Even while conceding that it adopts trade-distorting policies, the US has defended itself by claiming that its agricultural products subsidy is less than that in other countries. The start of a new round of World Trade Organization discussions following Doha has brought into sharp focus the trade-distorting policies in the European Union and developed countries such as Japan and the US. Developed countries account for virtually all domestic support and export subsidies, which distort agricultural markets worldwide.

For instance, the US domestic support ceiling is $ 19.1 billion compared to the EU ceiling of about $ 60 billion. Under the Uruguay round of agreements, to which all member countries including the US adhere, policies that seriously distort trade were differentiated from those with minimal effect on trade.

Unfair provisions

During 2000-01, India’s milk output was estimated at 81.43 million metric tonnes, making it the world’s number one producer. The US produced nearly 75 mt. But the differences arise in the scale of operations. India’s milk production of more than 81 mt comes from a milch herd of around 100 million, and 70 million dairy farmers. In contrast, the US’s milch animal population was assessed at 9.11 million in 2001, with a mere 0.11 million dairy farmers.

The contrast is also reflected in the operations of the Amul cooperative dairy farmers vis-a-vis the Dairy Farmers of America Incorporated — the largest dairy farmer-owned marketing cooperative in the US. The average price paid by DFA to its producers in 2001 was $ 15.22 per hundredweight or Rs 16.9 per litre, which again was much higher than the Rs 9.5 to Rs 10 per litre received by Amul farmers.

India and other developing countries will have to formulate a strategy to increase the output of milk by importing stud bulls for better breed of cows and controlling the population of milch animals having low yield of milk. Developing countries must also challenge the “income support” provisions of article 13.5 of the agreement on agriculture in the dispute settlement body of the WTO and demand the deletion of the clause.

   

 
 
MANI TALK / AN MP AND HIS MONEY 
 
 
BY MANI SHANKAR AIYAR
 
 
Elections to the panchayats and nagarpalikas were held in Tamil Nadu in October 2001. Over the past six months, I have visited the nine intermediate (block) panchayats of my constituency to meet with as many of the 410 elected village panchayat presidents as cared to come. At the first block meeting, less than half of them came; by the end, almost all were present. I have also met the presidents and councillors of the 12 town panchayats, as also of the three municipalities that fall in my constituency. None is chaired by a Congressman; indeed, there are but a handful of such councillors in the constituency as a whole. But there are unexpected advantages of belonging to a party which virtually does not exist: if there had been more Congressmen in the local bodies, perhaps they would have objected to my granting equal time to everyone!

At these meetings, I have explained that as a member of parliament, I am entitled to allot Rs 2 crore every year to projects of my choice. On the basis of mathematical equality, this amounts to around Rs 16 lakh to each of the blocks and municipalities of my constituency, plus a little more. God and Atal Bihari Vajpayee willing, I should be there for another three financial years; so this means approximately half a crore per block and municipality is available for investment over the rest of my present term.

Saying that it was the same electorate which voted me, which voted them, I invite it to tell me what in its opinion would be the optimal way of spending the available resources. I point out that the equitable thing to do would be to cover each of the village panchayats and wards of the municipalities, which means an average of around Rs 50,000 to Rs 60,000 per unit, but that this should be complemented by facilities that benefit more than one panchayat or ward. Thus, assistance given to a school benefits not only the panchayat in which it is located but also many other panchayats in the vicinity, and a bus stand in a municipal area cannot be identified only with the residents of that ward but with all those who use it. I, therefore, plead with the electorate to not be too mechanistic in defining what is equitable. I then list the requests made orally or, in a larger number of cases, glean these from their written submissions. There is no disagreement that priority must be given to the poorest and most needy.

I have also been travelling around the constituency, village to village, as is my invariable practice every evening, I am there, from around 5 pm to midnight or well beyond. I invariably head straight for the Harijan basti because there is virtual equivalence between poverty and caste. There, I meet the people and ask them what they need. So, in addition to the requests the elected local bodies’ representatives press on me, there are also the commitments I have personally made during these village tours. I thus have a cornucopia of data from which to undertake the heart-breaking task of deciding which works to sanction and which to leave out.

At the beginning, it was all quite arbitrary because so much needed to be done in so many places and the resources available were derisory in relation to demand. Now that I have been able to spend my money over several years, at the rate of a crore a year for the last two years of my first term (1994-96) and at Rs 2 crore a year over the first three years of my second term (1999-2002), I have the satisfaction of looking back at where exactly Rs 8 crore have already gone and the dissatisfaction of knowing exactly which are the hamlets, village panchayats, town panchayats and municipal wards still to be covered. My first priority is to cover the uncovered areas; my second to meet requirements which benefit more than one panchayat or ward (such as bridges, culverts and link roads); my third to concentrate on works which the state government, for good reason or bad, is not undertaking notwithstanding a huge seething unmet demand.

In the last category falls an utterly unexpected demand for small funeral sheds — a concrete floor and four pillars covered by a galvanized iron roof, costing about Rs 35,000 each — which amazingly constitute the single most pressing demand of the poorest and most deprived. When I first encountered this demand, I could hardly believe my ears. I would remonstrate with them, “I’ve come to ask you what you need to live, and you’re telling me how you want to die.” Then, slowly, the truth began dawning on me. The poorer you are, the less geographically or socially mobile you tend to be. So, when a death occurs, you do not need to ask for whom the bell tolls; each one knows it tolls for him. Boy and girl, man and woman, they have all known, grown up with, fought and loved the departed soul. As there is a minimum of a death a month even in the smallest of communities, and upto a death or more every week in the larger bastis, every inhabitant joins in the funeral several times a year.

A funeral is the defining community event. The sense of loss, combined with what the sociologist M.N. Srinivas has described as the “Sanskritization” of social behaviour, has ensured that every mourner wants to pay a fitting last tribute to the lost loved one. Hence the demand for a parlour where the final obsequies can be conducted in dignity. They can all bear the heat; but when it rains buckets — as it does through several months of the year — they need a place of shelter, not for themselves but for the dead body before it is finally interred or burnt. I have thus far built 251 funeral sheds, and, in several cases, mud or gravel paths to the funeral site. So popular has been this priority to funeral sheds that the state government has at last woken to the need for it and announced that it will shortly be launching a scheme for this out of government money. When that happens, I can shift my money elsewhere, happy in the thought that I was there when needed and can now turn my attention to other unattended needs.

The most important of these other unattended needs is a place where the locals can gather. The temple or church, where these exist, is, in Dalit bastis, the drawing room, the local inn, the meeting room, the wedding hall, the auditorium all rolled into one. The MP local area development scheme quite properly prohibits the use of the funds for building places of worship. So the next best thing is to build community halls. In Tamil Nadu, the public works department design is so poorly conceived that it costs Rs 4 to 5 lakh to build a hall that is too small and far too stuffy to be useable. I, therefore, got an architect friend to prepare a new, more spare design for a community hall of the required minimum size but at less than half the PWD rate. Resistance to innovation is, however, so fierce within the bureaucracy and technocracy that the state government is still to approve the alternative design a good two years after it was submitted. Fortunately, two of the three district collectors through whom I have to get the work done have had the courage to sanction my suggestion and so we now have a model to show off to all those who ask.

Schools are another high priority. The expansion of the schooling system in Tamil Nadu has been so fast and so effective that there is virtually one hundred per cent literacy, indeed almost cent per cent elementary education coverage, among children up to the constitutionally mandated age of fourteen. Among the other spin-off benefits of the universalization of elementary education, especially among girls, has been a plummeting of Tamil Nadu birth rates to Scandinavian rates and below. It was the combination of education-for-all and cooked noon day meals which ensured this marvel of development. Alas, the state has not the resources to build enough class-rooms or school compound walls or kitchens or dining spaces for the noon day meal to be eaten. The MP’s funds are an excellent source of funding such facilities.

At the start of my sixth year of implementing MPLADS, I find I have built 251 funeral sheds, 132 bus shelters, 95 link roads, 34 bridges and culverts, 61 bathing ghats, 30 revetment walls, 12 TV rooms and 11 public lavatories, besides providing various kinds of facilities to 127 schools, 5 colleges, 4 hospitals, 2 primary health centres and one veterinary centre. Moreover, I have provided 13 drainage works, 8 drinking water facilities, 7 community halls, 4 noonday meal centers, 8 fair price shops, 2 library buildings, a vegetable market and a boating yard. Now, what’s wrong with that?

   

 
 
DOCUMENT / IF YOU CAN’T SEE THEM, THEY DON’T EXIST 
 
 
 
 
The pressure to conform culturally in order to survive has become part of the fear psychosis of women. The fact-finding team heard many testimonies where rural Muslim women had to adopt “Hindu” attire — shun their salwar kameez in favour of sarees; and wear bindis in order to escape to safety. Wearing a bindi or not wearing one — such a small gesture and yet so large when seen against the firelight of over 200 burning mosques and dargahs across the length and breadth of Gujarat.

“The Malav hospital refused to provide protection. Ranjitpur is not far from Halol but as things were already tense, we could not take the direct route. As a result, we kept moving further and further away from Halol. Finally, we disguised ourselves as ‘Hindus’ — my mother-in-law wore sarees and bindis. We changed our names. My husband became Ramlal, my mother-in-law Sharda, my father-in-law was Amrit bhai, and my children were Ramesh, Raju and Suneeta.” — Mumtaz of Ranjit Nagar, now a refugee in Halol camp, March 30, 2002...

The impact of fear on Muslim women can already be seen. With the entire community under threat, women in particular are paying the price — with their freedom and mobility. Mothers fear for the safety of daughters. Husbands fear for wives. And the first response to fear is the imposition of restrictions. As Muslim communities ghettoize, there is danger of further ghettoization of women within the home. With entire families forced to migrate, the education of girls is suffering. Clearly, when lives are in danger, this is not a priority. Ila Pathak, a leading social worker in Ahmedabad, told members of the fact-finding team that her experience with forced migration indicated that mothers are often found to be more educated than daughters for precisely this reason.

Gains of emancipation are being slowly eroded. Muslim women’s voices are being stifled. One can see this in the camps. Community patriarchs are in charge, and one sees no signs of women being part of the decision-making. But then this is an hour of crisis for the community as a whole. Some might call it churlish to raise issues of emancipation at a time like this. Will women’s issues have to wait for more peaceful times?

Rizwana is 26 years old. An advocate, she lives in Vatva with her parents. She has experienced animosity many times while attending court. “A couple of years ago, there was a stabbing incident — one of the girls in court remarked, ’Tum log to bahut stabbing karte hon. Seekhe honge.’ (You people do a lot of stabbing, you must have learnt it). An action by one individual would be attributed to the entire community. The Indo-Pak cricket matches would always become points of tension — ’Kuch bhi ho to Pakistan ka zikr karte hain’ (No matter what happens, they always raise the issue of Pakistan). Eight per cent of the advocates in the court are Muslim. Once it so happened that at one particular meeting, most of the advocates who attended were Muslims. A senior advocate walked into the room and remarked, ’Yeh to Pakistan ka court lag raha hai (This is looking like a Pakistani court). I used to feel, ’Hum to Hindustani hain — please humko aisa mat bolo’” (We are Indian. Please don’t say things like this to us).

She hasn’t been to the city civil court where she practised since February 27, 2002. “I normally go by scooter. I could go, but if I don’t come back then what is the point. They haven’t spared women and children this time. Women are not going to be allowed to roam about freely for a long time.”

What was she feeling? Anger, helplessness and a desire for badla (revenge)? She looked startled by the word badla. “Our people are laachaar (broken). They are not being able to do anything. Agar badla ka saval tha to kab ka le chuke hote” (If it were a question of revenge, we would have taken it long ago). “Ab to who din yaad hain jab hum ‘free’ the. Scooter le kar kahin bhi chale jate the. Ab to quaid ho gaye hain apne hi shaher mein. Badla nahin, logon ko phir se jeena hain” (Now I can only think wistfully of the time when I was free. I would hop on my scooter and go wherever I pleased. Now we are prisoners in our own city. People don’t need revenge. They need to live again).

— Rizwana, Vatva, Ahme-dabad, March 27, 2002.

The economic targetting of Muslims in the current violence in Gujarat is unprecedented. A drive down any street in an affected area will confirm this. Muslim businesses in both urban and rural areas have been systematically destroyed. Scores of women the fact-finding team met have lost everything overnight; everything except the clothes on their back. Shops were burnt and homes looted of everything. Many women kept repeating long lists of the possessions they had lost. Some insisted that we write down everything. The psychological impact of this sudden destitution has been brutal.

To be concluded

   

 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

Best friends in need

Sir — If any good has come of the current stand-off between India and Pakistan, it must be the newfound bonhomie between the prime minister’s aides — Jaswant Singh and Brajesh Mishra in particular (“Home truce for war abroad”, June 14). Ever since India’s national security became inextricably linked to its foreign policy, a fallout of the Kashmir problem and Pakistan-sponsored terrorism, it was clear that the two individuals responsible for advising the prime minister on these two vital issues would not be able to see eye to eye all the time. That Singh and Mishra have almost always agreed to disagree has made India a laughingstock at several international fora. If the clouds clear on the India-Pakistan impasse, will the “cold war” between Singh and Mishra resume? Hopefully not, because it will be difficult to create another Indo-Pak crisis, just so the two biggest power-wielders in the Indian political and defence establishments can come together.

Yours faithfully,
K.K. Biswas,Kharagpur

Run of the underdog

Sir — Senegal’s performance in the opening match of World Cup 2002 is being touted as an indication that African countries are the future soccer superpowers. But this is not entirely true. The very idea that African countries are capable of posing a credible challenge to the European and South American dominance of world soccer was floated after the sensational victory of Cameroon — newcomers too — over the defending champions, Argentina, in the 1990 World Cup. Francois Omam-Biyik’s goal had ensured that the world took notice of the thumping arrival of Africa on the global soccer scene. Although they have lived up to their reputation in successive world cups, their performance this time around has proved that the “Indomit-able Lions” are now more content roaring than biting. Their tame draw with Ireland, and a lacklustre 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia, are the outcome of a lack of direction in the opposition’s goalmouth, absence of coordinated moves, needlessly harsh tackles by players like Raymond Kalla, and a general failure to capitalize on one-on-one chances and half-chances. These led to Cameroon’s early exit from the tournament.

The same malady seems to afflict the Nigerian team, which also didn’t manage to go past the first round, despite the heroics of goalkeeper, Ike Shorunmu. Their exit was however a little more respectable than Cameroon’s since Nigeria was in the “group of death”, with Argentina, England and Sweden. The two African teams which did their continent proud were Senegal and South Africa, although the latter isn’t quite “Africa”, owing to its long history of apartheid, and the presence of several white players in the team.

Senegal reminds one of Cameroon in 1990, and now that they have defeated Sweden to advance into the quarter-finals, many see them as prospective champions. Although Senegal has ensured that at least one African country will be remembered for its on-the-field skills, Africa will continue to evoke more images of colourful players than colourful play. Who can forget Taribo West’s hair-horns or the dance of the Senegalese round the jersey of the scorer, Pape Bouba Diop?

Yours faithfully,
Santanu Ganguly, Calcutta

Sir — It is indeed true, as the editorial “Corner kick from the east” (June 16), points out, that apart from the high incidence of upsets, World Cup 2002 has been marked by the emergence of Japan and Korea as soccers powers to reckon with. What needs to be noted in this phenomenon is that the success of both Japan and Korea can be attributed to discipline and hard work, not to skill. In fact, the two teams are perhaps the most unskilled squads in the tournament. It is likely that Japan and Korea will remain unsung even after a good run because of their lacklustre, though accurate, game. But as long as a venture is successful, the means to the end becomes irrelevant.

Yours faithfully,
Suddhasatwa Basu, Calcutta

Sir — Once more, one of the biggest sporting events, the football world cup, is being held, and yet again, India hasn’t much to do but watch from the sidelines. Many of the countries which earned a place in World Cup 2002 learnt the game much after India did and, more important, are smaller than some of the states of India.

This is not the case with soccer alone. Be it athletics, hockey and, of late, even cricket, India manages to lose more often than win. But in spite of all this, whenever an event like the Olympics or the soccer world cup takes place, Indian sports experts crawl out of the woodwork to air their views in the media on how the others are performing. During the last Olympics, for instance, the columns by P.T. Usha would make one think that medal-winning athletes awaited her words.

Ask these same experts to explain the deplorable state of affairs of Indian sports and they come up with a litany of excuses. There seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel for Indian sports. Columns by Indian sportspersons on the performance of others are a waste of newsprint. At best, they are remin-ders of India’s departure from the inte- rnational sports arena.

Yours faithfully,
Amitabha Ray, Calcutta

Sir — Miracles do happen. Just as heroes are not born, but are made by hours of toil and dedication. This was the lesson to be learnt from the victory of debutants, Senegal, over the defending champions, France, in the opener of World Cup 2002. For the underdogs and beginners, this proves that nothing is impossible in this world.

Yours faithfully,
P.V. Madhu, Secunderabad

Spouses’ day out

Sir — If A.P.J. Abdul Kalam becomes the next president, then two bachelors will occupy the top two positions in the Indian state, while a widow is the leader of the opposition. Where have all the spouses gone?

Yours faithfully,
S.K. Khemka, Calcutta

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