Editorial 1 / Rivals in arms
Editorial 2 / Borderline case
A bunch of lefties
Fifth Column / Nursing some new problems
Mani Talk / Ways of an unequal world
Document / Development dynamics
Letters tto the editor

 
 
EDITORIAL 1 / RIVALS IN ARMS 
 
 
 
 
The move from de facto to de jure is often a small but significant one. In politics, such a shift inevitably gives rise to questions relating to reasons, motives, pressures and so on. Thus neither the prime minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, nor Mr L.K.Advani should resent the discussion that follows the latter’s elevation to the post of deputy prime minister. It was known to everyone that Mr Advani was number two in the Union cabinet. The announcement by the prime minister that Mr Advani is now officially his deputy merely puts a stamp on the existing pecking order. But the timing and the implications of this announcement are open to interpretation. The record of previous deputy prime ministers will also inevitably add spice to any interpretation or speculation. All previous deputies to the premier were at loggerheads with the person who held the top job. The intensity of the rivalry and the hostility may have varied according to the personalities involved but the relationship was never without friction. There are good precedents to assume that the relationship between the present prime minister and his deputy will not be any different. Such an assumption is also grounded on the general perception that Mr Vajpayee’s relationship with Mr Advani has never been particularly cordial.

But there are more important issues involved here than the relationship of two individuals. The timing of this decision is important. It cannot but fuel speculation about the prime minister’s grip on affairs and about the succession. Mr Vajpayee cannot blame anybody if Mr Advani’s elevation fails to inspire confidence in his own control over proceedings. Unless, of course, this is a deft move by a very shrewd prime minister to win over a powerful rival to his side. Such an act of appropriation will find Mr Advani in the unenviable position of sitting on an important but irrelevant chair. A possible curtailment of Mr Advani’s influence can be anticipated from the resignation of one efficient and articulate minister, Mr Arun Jaitley, known as an Advani supporter. On the other hand, Mr Vajpayee may find himself a trifle hamstrung with the presence of Mr Advani as the latter is perceived as more saffron than the prime minister. The power equation within the cabinet and within the Bharatiya Janata Party will ultimately hinge on who is seen as a better vote-catcher in the next elections. The BJP is low on morale at the moment. Mr Advani has a track record of boosting organizational morale whereas Mr Vajpayee is the more acceptable public face. The future is thus open. But for the nonce and within the cabinet, Mr Vajpayee and Mr Advani may belie apprehensions of friction and rivalry and act as complements to each other. After all, whatever be their differences, they serve the same flag.

   

 
 
EDITORIAL 2 / BORDERLINE CASE 
 
 
 
 
Not much should be made of the reported dilution by the Pakistan president, Mr Pervez Musharraf, of his commitment to stop all infiltration into Jammu and Kashmir. Mr Musharraf is desperately attempting to consolidate his position before the parliamentary elections in October, and is prone to making statements to appease various domestic constituencies. The only real test of Mr Musharraf’s assurances must be on the basis of the situation on the ground. And despite a few conflicting signals from the Indian political leadership, there is significant evidence that infiltration from Pakistan has slowed down. There are also signs that there has been a further crackdown on various jihadi groups within Pakistan, and that orders may have been given to disband camps that trained terrorists for Jammu and Kashmir. Similarly, there are reports that important changes may have been made in the top brass of the Inter-Services Intelligence, the institution that has been principally responsible for sponsoring terrorism.

These are positive signs and reflect the commitment that Mr Musharraf has made to Mr George W. Bush. It was on the basis of these assurances that India started a process of de-escalation. But in the past two weeks, Mr Musharraf has given at least two interviews which seemed to suggest that while there was nothing at present happening on the line of control in Kashmir, he was not committed to a permanent end to infiltration. This, naturally, led to a diplomatic furore and embarrassed the Bush administration in Washington. The Bush administration has now once again clarified that Pakistan and Mr Musharraf are committed to permanently ending cross-border terrorism. It does seem Mr Musharraf’s apparent vacillation is essentially aimed at his domestic constituency. The Pakistan president does not want to be viewed before the forthcoming election in Pakistan as a leader who has compromised on Kashmir. Indeed, the national reconstruction bureau, a thinktank on political reforms appointed by Mr Musharraf, has recently proposed sweeping changes in the constitution of 1973. The proposed amendments include the restoration of the powers of the president for dismissal of the prime minister, and the constitution of a national security council dominated by the military. Mr Musharraf is seeking to win support for these radical changes and playing the anti-India card is often a useful way of mobilizing public opinion. Therefore it is important that New Delhi does not pay much attention to his statements as long as there is a discernible change in the ground situation. And if there is verifiable evidence that terrorism and infiltration have stopped, New Delhi must be willing to revive the dialogue with Islamabad.

   

 
 
A BUNCH OF LEFTIES 
 
 
BY BHASKAR GHOSE
 
 
The Left Front has completed 25 years of continuous rule in West Bengal, and celebrated it appropriately. Certainly, there is a good deal to celebrate. To begin with, the fact that they have been in power without a break for a quarter of a century is a record in our volatile form of democracy, and given the agility of our political parties and individual politicians. What makes it all the more remarkable is that this has not been done by a single party, although, after the first five years in power, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) could have ruled the state on its own; it has been an alliance of left parties which has done so, and they have had their share of disagreements among themselves. The fact that they did not allow these differences to lead to a falling out speaks for their good sense and realism.

But what really kept the Front together was not just their good sense; it was one man, Jyoti Basu, chief minister for most of these 25 years. Underneath his brusque, taciturn manner there was wisdom and far-sightedness, and also an almost uncanny ability to size up people, which made it possible for him to know how to handle them.

I saw this for myself. Many years ago he posted me to north Bengal as commissioner — not a very coveted post for many of my colleagues, but one which I was delighted to get. Then, a few days after my posting was announced, I was asked to see him in his office. I did so, and he handed me a letter, saying briefly, “Read this.” It was a letter from a senior minister from that region, protesting angrily at my posting, calling me “Siddhartha Ray’s man”, a “dangerous” officer who could not be trusted with such a “sensitive” post. I gave the letter back to him, not knowing what to say. Basu looked at me for some time, then said, “You obviously haven’t been to see him. That’s why he’s written this letter. Go and see him and everything will be all right.”

I did so, and the minister was not just cordial, but effusively so. I was just the man for the job, he said to me, I had been a fine deputy commissioner of Cooch Behar, and he knew I understood the problems of north Bengal, and that I could count on him, and so on. Later, when I got to know just how egoistic the minister in question was, I realized why Basu had wanted me to see him, as I realized the wisdom behind his decision to step down when he was still the most powerful political leader in the state.While the Front in general, and the CPI(M) in particular will — one assumes — accept this, it only underscores what the Front has achieved.

In the last 25 years, there are, it will be generally conceded, a number of things for which the Left Front can congratulate itself — the land reforms, even though there is a little less to them than meets the eye, the marked improvement in law and order, and for the communal harmony in that usually violence-wracked state. All this must be very comforting, and must even induce a feeling of complacence. “Well, that’s the least you can expect from the left” would be a sentiment over which there would be much nodding in pleasant agreement among their numerous supporters.

Looking back on the manner in which the left parties came together, one cannot miss the manner in which Lenin’s classic tactics have been followed. He had advised that one should act in three stages — ally with “like-minded” parties, use them to take over power, and then subvert the bourgeois system of governance from within. They did the first with an adroitness that does the CPI(M) much credit; they were, after all, the largest party and could have jettisoned the others had they wanted to. They then went on smoothly to the second move as an inevitable outcome of the first, a move that brought them electoral victory. It was the third part of the tactic that they tripped up on.

Before the remonstrations start, let us consider this. The Left Front has been loud in their affirmation of the inviolability of democracy, freedom of speech and all the other attributes of a free parliamentary democracy. They have slowly transformed themselves into votaries of the very system that they, according to the theory that they subscribe to, should have been destroying from within, ushering in the dictatorship of the proletariat. They have been most vocal in Parliament against what they considered unparliamentary behaviour and procedures; and even in the state assembly in Calcutta, they have been, from all reports, zealous in preserving the dignity and sanctity of the democratic functioning of the assembly.

The result is that the system has become more firmly rooted both at the Centre and in the state — not entirely owing to them, of course, but they helped, and helped most enthusiastically. Whether in the functioning of parliamentary committees, or in the debates in the Lok Sabha or the state assembly, they have been scrupulously correct, setting examples of good parliamentary practice, which their counterparts in Bihar and other states would do well to emulate. If anything, it is the Congress, the opposition party in West Bengal, which has been unruly on a number of occasions.

While this is a development that, in the long run, will be assessed as of considerable value in the evolution of healthy parliamentary practices in the country and the states, what it has done to the left parties — the Left Front — is something else altogether. In the early, fiery years when they were not in power, and even in the first few years in office during the dreadfully chaotic United Front governments which were formed in 1967 and again in 1969, the left parties made no bones about their ultimate goal. Many of their leaders openly said that they were using the parliamentary system only to attain their own objectives. That was a time when their identities were clearer, if less appealing. But today one is not quite sure what they are; and one gets the impression that they are not sure either.

They may say that their objectives remain the same, but that would be to fly in the face of the facts. Twenty five years is a long time; in that time all they have done is actually strengthen the system that they had declared they wished to destroy. How much longer will they take to achieve their objectives? Another fifty years? A century? Where will they and their ideology be by then? And do they have what appears highly unlikely, the vision to look that far ahead?

In the end, they remain and, from the look of things, will continue to remain, a part of the parliamentary democratic set up. With socialistic views, no doubt, but then, Tony Blair has those kind of views as well. And, with their comfortable and comforting routines, both domestic and public, with their children in English medium schools or in the United States, they are no longer the uncompromising soldiers of communism and the socialist state; just a bunch of people with left-of-centre beliefs but a part of the system by which the country is governed. The anniversary of 25 years of being rulers in a parliamentary democratic system is consequently a celebration, no doubt, but it is also a requiem.

The author is former secretary, ministry of information and broadcasting

   

 
 
FIFTH COLUMN / NURSING SOME NEW PROBLEMS 
 
 
BY BIDISHA BHATTACHARYA
 
 
“Wanted Indian nurses abroad.” Indian job-seekers are familiar with such advertisements in newspapers. Nurses are in short supply in the United States of America, Europe and west Asia, primarily owing to the growing population, a diminishing number of nursing students, an ageing workforce, besides the increasing patient load and escalating pressure to treat more people more quickly for less money. Installation of new technology, which facilitates rapid assessment, treatment and discharge has reduced the duration of a patient’s stay in hospitals in the West. But the emergence of advanced technology has made skilled and specialized nurses more in demand than before.

Nursing professionals in the US, called “registered nurses”, work as advocates and health educators for patients and their families, apart from providing direct care to patients. They often have to perform administrative duties, organize rehabilitation for patients, provide periodic services to patients at home and emergency care at worksites, help out in clinics, schools and so on.

An estimated 2.2 million posts of RNs will be vacant in the coming years. What is disturbing is that the racial divide is sharp in the US nursing establishment. White or Caucasian RNs represent 90 per cent of the workforce. The rest are made up of Afro-Americans (4 per cent), Asians (3.4 per cent), Hispanics (1.4 per cent) and American-Indians/ Alaskan natives (0.4 per cent).

Falling count

Over the last two decades, as opportunities for women have increased, numbers entering the nursing workforce have declined. According to a recent study, women graduating from high school in the Nineties were 35 per cent less likely to become RNs than in the Seventies. The number of women passing the national RN licensing examination fell from 97,679 in 1996 to 74,787 in 2000. As a result, RNs who entered the profession in the Seventies are now over 40 years and are not being replaced by younger RNs.

A recent survey revealed that in the last two years, half the currently employed RNs left the profession for reasons other than retirement, while most of those who remained expressed that they were not satisfied with their jobs. The dissatisfaction usually stems from inadequate staffing, heavy workload and the increased use of overtime in the nursing sector.

Nurses have every reason to complain since they have to undergo a gruelling training to qualify as RNs. They have to meet thr-ee major eligibility levels: an associate degree, a bachelor of science degree in nursing and a diploma.

For starters

In India, on the contrary, passing class VIII is enough to get one enrolled in any preliminary programme for nursing. This four-year long training had been introduced in 1958 in all medical colleges of West Bengal. But other cities like Delhi, Chandigarh and Mumbai offer better, even post-graduate, programmes. The absence of these facilities in West Bengal means professionals from other states have an advantage over those trained here.

Private nursing training institutes also provide this training, but few can reap the benefits. Those trained in government medical colleges and district hospitals are absorbed in the hospitals which train them since these do not recruit nurses trained in private institutions. But private hospitals tend to import nurses from other states as they are educationally more qualified than nurses from the state. The unemployment problem gets aggravated as a result. The state government recently declared that hospitals in the cities as well as in the districts are overstaffed.

But this does not mean that unemployed trained nurses can easily get jobs abroad. Even those with advanced training need to qualify for the Commission of Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools to get a job abroad. The CGFNS offers a training programme which is beyond the reach of most Indians, although it comes with an assurance of job with a salary of about $ 3,000 to $ 4,000 a month. Records show that only 15 to 20 per cent of nurses educated outside the US are able to pass examinations in the first attempt. Which means it may be too soon to pin one’s hopes on those advertisements.

   

 
 
MANI TALK / WAYS OF AN UNEQUAL WORLD 
 
 
BY MANI SHANKAR AIYAR
 
 
The three key questions which remain unanswered nine months into the war on terrorism are: one, what is terrorism? Two, who are terrorists? Three, what is the appropriate calibrated response to different levels of terrorism? All three questions are well illustrated by the war against terrorism in Kashmir.

First, what is terrorism?

Terrorism, we are told, is terrorism, easily recognized, readily understood, and, therefore, in no need of any extended exegesis. Moreover, we are told, nothing justifies terrorism and anyone resorting to terrorism will be dealt with as severely as were al Qaida and their state sponsors, the taliban, in Afghanistan. The government of India believed this. Hence, its unstinted support, on the morrow of September 11, to the war on terrorism. Nine months on, no one in India, not even the most naďve sponsors of an alliance with the West, believes that the international community regards terrorism in Kashmir as indistinguishable from terrorism on the Twin Towers. There are double standards in operation.

Terrorism was immediately recognized when it was the United States of America under attack. When it comes to the rest of the world terrorism is recognized only in its overall context and the answer is, therefore, sought not in terms of a decisive, definitive riposte to terrorism but in holistically examining all dimensions of the issue. Pakistan has for fifty years and more sponsored every form of terrorism in the valley on the ground that it disputes the legal validity of the Jammu and Kashmir maharajah’s accession to India. Kashmir, according to Pakistan, is the “unfinished business” of Partition. When we took the question of Pakistan’s cross-border terrorism to the United Nations on New Year’s day 1948, the UN agreed with Pakistan that terrorism was not the issue, the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India was.

Has anything changed in this regard since September 11, 2001? Indeed, has anything changed since Pakistan-based terrorists, after September 11, attempted to blow up the Jammu and Kashmir legislature building on October 1, 2001, and the Indian Parliament on December 13? Does not the fact that the world’s principal state sponsor of terrorism is also the international community’s prin- cipal ally in the war on terrorism make that an impossible conundrum to untangle?

Pakistan-based terrorism is only one — if the most intractable — of the many kinds of cross-border terrorism with which we have to contend. Beginning with Stalin’s Soviet-sponsored terrorism in Srikakulam in 1950-51, we have since suffered China’s involvement with Naga terrorists (now, happily, somewhat abated); acquiescence by the West — specifically, Britain, the US and Canada — in terrorism sponsored from their territories in Punjab through the Eighties and well into the Nineties; the use of Bangladesh as the principal springboard for terrorism in the Indian states of Mizoram, Assam and Tripura; of Bhutanese and Nepalese territory by Bodo militants and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence respectively; the use of Burmese territory by Naga insurgents operating in several states of the Northeast; and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam-sponsored terrorism (aided and abetted by LTTE operatives in France, Canada and the US) in Sri Lanka itself and in Tamil Nadu.

In the face of all these past and present manifestations of cross-border terrorism in the Indian subcontinent, the absence of an unambiguous definition of terrorism which would catalyze international action as soon as terrorism occurs remains the sine qua non of converting the war on Osama bin Laden — Bushman versus Caveman — into a general global war on terrorism. In sum, we need to know much more clearly than we know at present what constitutes terrorism if we are to call on the war against terrorism to rescue us from the many forms of cross-border terrorism to which we are subjected.

The litmus test for us is Kashmir. And with levels of terrorism escalating in the valley post-September 11, rather than falling, notwithstanding the fine words we heard from President Pervez Musharraf on January 12, 2002, we would like to know just which war against whose terrorism the international community is engaged in fighting.

My second question: who are terrorists?

With terrorism remaining undefined, the identification of terrorists remains a matter of governmental whim and fancy. The US did not wait to check how far the taliban government was involved with the al Qaida attack on the US before launching the military action which drove the taliban government from Afghanistan. But the same US government is unwilling, notwithstanding the overwhelming evidence available with them, to declare Pakistan a terrorist state and take action accordingly. So, while we fight the West’s war in Afghanistan, is the West ready to fight our war in Kashmir? No, because while the West has now agreed, after all these years that terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir is unacceptable, it is not willing to define terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir or make the state sponsors of such terrorism pay the price of their infamy. So, Musharraf echoes the West word for word — which pleases the West no end — but does precious little on the ground to end the terrorism. And no one is leaning really hard on him to do it. On the contrary, as the principal ally in the war on terrorism, Pakistan is the beneficiary of more largesse than ever before.

The war on terrorism continues. So does terrorism in Kashmir.

The problem does not end there. The West is the biggest arms bazaar for terrorists, operating not only in India but worldwide. The West turns a Nelson’s eye to most of this arms traffic, while firmly fixing its good eye on the profits to be raked in through such arms peddling. In consequence, whether it is the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front or the National Socialist Council of Nagalim or the LTTE or the Sikh US citizens of Yuba County, California, terror is nurtured in the West if not by the West. Not, of course, when an organization is banned for being terrorist, but when terrorism is so defined as to let terrorist organization operate at will in the West for years, even decades. This is not a West-South question only. Terrorism in Ireland, for instance, draws sustenance from its sponsors in the US. But this is of little comfort to those in the South who suffer the consequences of terrorism by terrorist organizations not officially classified as terrorists.

My third question is: what is the international norm for calibrating the response to different levels of terrorism? Of course, there is none. But if no norm exists, clearly there is no global war on terrorism, just the strong clobbering the weak while restraining the weak from clobbering each other. The al Qaida attack of September 11 sparked unrestrained military retaliation by the strongest military power on the weakest. We in the Indian subcontinent, on the other hand, are urged to hold our hand. For my part, I am delighted to hold my hand because I do not believe war would solve anything between India and Pakistan.

But I do find it rich that those who displayed no restraint last November are the very ones counselling others to exercise restraint now. What is sauce for the goose is obviously not curry for the gander! There cannot be a global war on terrorism unless standards for reaction and standards of reaction are more or less the same for all.

That not being feasible in this unequal world, where the dominant powers secure the sanction of the dominated to pursue their quest for dominance, I conclude that there is no global war on terrorism, it is each for himself. We live in a world of cynical realpolitik in which the use of force to counter terrorism is not related to any general body of accepted principle but determined by the degree of one’s outrage and one’s capacity to do what one can about it. That’s all.

Extracted from an address to an international think-tank, Le Cercle, at Marrakesh on June 28, 2002

   

 
 
DOCUMENT / DEVELOPMENT DYNAMICS 
 
 
 
 
Important international efforts are under way to reform the international financial architecture. Those efforts need to be sustained with greater transparency and the effective participation of developing countries and countries with economies in transition. One major objective of the reform is to enhance financing for development and poverty eradication. We also underscore our commitment to sound domestic financial sectors, which make a vital contribution to national development efforts, as an important component of an international financial architecture that is supportive of development.

Strong coordination of macroeconomic policies among the leading industrial countries is critical to greater global stability and reduced exchange rate volatility, which are essential to economic growth as well as for enhanced and predictable financial flows to developing countries and countries with economies in transition.

Multilateral financial institutions, in particular the International Monetary Fund, need to continue to give high priority to the identification and prevention of potential crises and to strengthening the underpinnings of international financial stability. In that regard, we stress the need for the Fund to further strengthen its surveillance activities of all economies, with particular attention to short-term capital flows and their impact. We encourage the IMF to facilitate the timely detection of external vulnerability through well-designed surveillance and early warning systems and to coordinate closely with relevant regional institutions or organizations, including the regional commissions.

We stress the need for multilateral financial institutions, in providing policy advice and financial support, to work on the basis of sound, nationally owned paths of reform that take into account the needs of the poor and efforts to reduce poverty, and to pay due regard to the special needs and implementing capacities of developing countries and countries with economies in transition, aiming at economic growth and sustainable development. The advice should take into account social costs of adjustment programmes, which should be designed to minimize negative impact on vulnerable segments of society.

It is essential to ensure the effective and equitable participation of developing countries in the formulation of financial standards and codes. It is also essential to ensure implementation, on a voluntary and progressive basis, as a contribution to reducing vulnerability to financial crisis and contagion.

Sovereign risk assessments made by the private sector should maximize the use of strict, objective and transparent parameters, which can be facilitated by high-quality data and analysis.

Noting the impact of financial crisis or risk of contagion in developing countries and countries with economies in transition, regardless of their size, we underline the need to ensure that international financial institutions…have a suitable array of financial facilities and resources to respond in a timely and appropriate way in accordance with their policies. The IMF has a range of instruments available and its current financial position is strong. The contingent credit line is an important signal of the strength of countries’ policies and a safeguard against contagion in financial markets. The need for special drawing rights allocations should be kept under review. In that regard, we also underline the need to enhance the stabilizing role of regional and sub-regional reserve funds, swap arrangements and similar mechanisms that complement the efforts of international financial institutions.

To promote fair burden-sharing and minimize moral hazard, we would welcome consideration by all relevant stakeholders of an international debt workout mechanism, in the appropriate forums, that will engage debtors and creditors to come together to restructure unsustainable debts in a timely and efficient manner. Adoption of such a mechanism should not preclude emergency financing in times of crisis.

Good governance at all levels is also essential for sustained economic growth, poverty eradication and sustainable development worldwide. To better reflect the growth of inter-dependence and enhance legitimacy, economic governance needs to develop in two areas: broadening the base for decision-making on issues of development concern and filling organizational gaps. To complement and consolidate advances in those two areas, we must strengthen the United Nations system and other multilateral institutions. We encourage all international organizations to seek to continually improve their operations and interactions.

We stress the need to broaden and strengthen the participation of developing countries and countries with economies in transition in international economic decision-making and norm-setting. To those ends, we also welcome further actions to help developing countries and countries with economies in transition to build their capacity to participate effectively in multilateral forums.

To be concluded

   

 
 
LETTERS TTO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

Pawns in the game of war

Sir — Nothing can be more outrageous and shocking than the photograph released by the Israeli army, showing a Palestinian baby dressed as a suicide bomber (“Baby bomber sparks war of words”, June 29). The snap testifies to the systematic indoctrination of hatred from an early age for anything that stands for Israeli authority . The Palestinian allegation that this was a ploy to shift attention from the ongoing offensive of the Israelis does not hold. The Israelis are no less guilty of similar crimes. Militant organizations like the Hamas have used children to carry out their suicide missions in Palestine. In all ages and countries, children have been mere pawns in the hands of warring factions in carrying out their agenda. With the west Asian peace process already in the doldrums as a result of a spate of suicide attacks and the resultant military re-occupation of Palestinian territory by Israel, the publication of such a provocative photograph can only worsen the situation.

Yours faithfully,
Aditya Basu, Bhopal

How to make ends meet

Sir — The Unit Trust of India’s decision to deny investors of US-64 a dividend for 2002 has come as a rude shock, especially those who do not receive any retirement benefits (“No dividend for holders of US-64”, June 22). Unit holders with more than 5,000 units will suffer since the government has only agreed to repurchase upto 5,000 units. The ministry of finance has no right to victimize investors after failing to safeguard their funds. The ministry’s argument that announcing a dividend will spiral the government’s expenditure to unmanageable proportions does not hold water, since it is well-known that most of the money in the country is amassed by corrupt politicians, government officials and businessmen. The Central Bureau of Investigation and the judiciary should be given complete authority to investigate the irregularities and confiscate ill-gotten money.

Yours faithfully,
B.S. Ganesh, Bangalore

Sir — I had deposited Rs 300,000 and Rs 200,000 in the month of January 2000 in the Monthly Income Plan scheme of the UTI, meant particularly for retired and aged people.

I retired on August 31, 1999 and invested a large amount of my retirement benefits in this scheme. I have no other source of income. In this financial year, so far, I did not receive any money from this trust against my investments. Instead I have received a letter from the zonal manager of the UTI, mentioning that the trust has decided not to pay any dividend under this scheme for the period of April 2002 to March 2003.

It is obvious that the investors’ money has been drained to other non-profitable/loss-making schemes of the trust, while the holders of the scheme have been duped.

Yours faithfully,
Subir Kumar Baidyaray,Calcutta

Sir — I am an aged retired person who invested my life’s savings in the UTI MIP-2000 scheme. This was to ensure a regular monthly income. Recently, I visited the regional UTI office to inquire why the monthly income distribution warrants, due for the year 2002-2003, were not issued. No one was able to give me a credible answer.

The UTI is a government undertaking which gives it an advantage over private financial organizations. If the IDWs are not disbursed soon, the financial survival of several people will be at stake. Only the finance minister can bail us out by arranging for the required funds to be pumped in.

Yours faithfully,
A.K. Mukherjee, Calcutta

Sir — Recently, the UTI has stated in its plan offer document that it would not pay any dividend for the months of April to June 2002 on MIP-95 investments and that at the end of the scheme’s seven-year term on June 30, 2002, it will repay the maturity value of investment at net asset value. Since the NAV of MIP-95 is well below par, this means that there will be substantial erosion of capital. Except for 1995-96, when the UTI paid dividend at the pre-declared rate of 13 per cent per annum, the interest rate has progressively declined until it dropped to 5 per cent in 2001-02. The NAV has also declined sharply.

The investors who were lured by promises of a 13 per cent dividend have been taken for a ride. The trust may well give the lame excuse of inadequate recoveries of non performing assets owing to an industrial slump, but why should investors be forced to pay the price for UTI’s incompetence?

Yours faithfully,
Indrajit Sinha, Calcutta

Travel travails

Sir — A few days ago, the general manager of Eastern Railways, S.C. Sengupta, said that they are going to focus on tourism in eastern India. He named some specific locations as part of this project. There are many states which promote tourism and make huge profits, which are then utilized for developing further infrastructure to develop the tourism industry.

Compared to them, West Bengal lacks in basic infrastructure that will promote tourism here. For instance, Bolpur, which draws tourists from far off, is not properly connected to the different parts of the country. Few tourists are willing to lose time and energy in going there via Calcutta.

Keeping this in mind, Eastern Railways should extend its Vidyadhardham-Dumka train to Bolpur. This will help tourists from northern and western India to reach Bolpur directly, and also the other holiday spots such as Bakreswar, Massanjore. Once this train is operational, there will be a steady inflow of income for the railways and the local tourism industry.

Yours faithfully,
Manas Choudhuri, Calcutta

Sir — On a recent journey to Puri by the Puri-Jagannath express, several eunuchs boarded the compartment and went around disturbing passengers till well past midnight. They were haggling for money, not to mention the lewd words and gestures they used towards the menfolk in the presence of their families. The ticket checker and police expressed helplessness when accosted. We were told that regular passengers face this almost everyday. Surely, passengers deserve better treatment than being subjected to harassment at the hands of eunuchs.

Yours faithfully,
Kunal Lohar, Kalyani

Sir — While travelling with a colleague in 3017 UP Ganadevta Express, two bauls got up in the A.C. chair car compartment. The TTE confronted the bauls and asked them to get down. At this, a co-passenger chided the TTE, saying that bauls are the true representative of Bengal’s cultural heritage. When other passengers tried to defend the TTE’s action, they were asked not to interfere. After this unpleasant incident, the TTE had to face the wrath of the hawkers and other bauls who had earlier been denied entry into the compartment. On our way back, we had a similar experience. This time, however, a passenger threatened to chargesheet the TTE for allowing a baul in. These two events reflected contrasting attitudes of travellers towards the TTE. Such ambivalence makes the task of the TTE quite difficult and causes inconvenience to the passengers. Since the passengers pay a security surcharge in addition to the hiked fare, their convenience should be top priority for Indian Railways.

Yours faithfully,
Arup Kumar Banerjee, Calcutta

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