Editorial 1 / Stop now
Editorial 2 / Topped up
Who’s in, who’s out
Fifth Column / A war that should be fought
Means that justify the end
Document / Violence castsa long shadow
Letters to the editor

It takes only a word from the prime minister to halt Mr Narendra Modi in his tracks. But such words — given the prime minister’s famed reticence — have been few and far between. And things have happened in the intervals. But Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee has spoken, or has got others to speak for him, and there will now be no gaurav yatra working its dreadful way through Gujarat. This yatra was to be Mr Modi’s damage-control extravaganza. It was to make flamboyantly evident the noble motives behind his recent actions or inactions. It would have also laid bare the viciously motivated propaganda behind the creation of Mr Modi’s monstrous public image. That could have been quite a bit to convey through a moving pageant. But the Bharatiya Janata Party knows how to do yatras, and this particular show was supposed to have been flagged off by the master of such revels in the BJP, Mr L.K. Advani. But all this has been vetoed now, leaving Mr Modi with nothing but the projected ahimsa university with which to nurture what he likes to call the Gujarat “state of mind”.

It is of course a relief that the prime minister’s office has so decisively intervened and aborted what may have turned out to be a dangerous event. But such a move could also reveal interesting aspects of how the Centre’s relationship with Gujarat actually works. It provides a glimpse of how hierarchies operate within the BJP as well. By the deft manoeuvring of a sort of yo-yo mechanism, Mr Modi is allowed by his bosses to go a long way, until he is made to feel that he could get away with anything. Then the leash is suddenly, and publicly, tightened. Several birds are killed with such a stone. First, the PMO’s good faith is displayed. It is seen as capable of responding to the counsel of the national human rights commission — never mind if the other, more radical and far-reaching recommendations of the NHRC on Gujarat have been ignored. Second, by choosing Mr Advani to pass the firm word on to Mr Modi, there is another damage control exercise going on. Mr Advani has recently become a very different kind of political figure — and by the prime minister’s own making — from the earlier one of the rabble-rousing bigot. In a single masterstroke, Mr Vajpayee has managed to doctor this earlier image, while showing the nation how the deputy prime minister will henceforth discharge his duties, within the hierarchies of both the party and the government. If, over and above all this, stopping the yatra could forestall more communal unrest in Gujarat, then all the better. In the last few months, Gujarat and Mr Modi had appeared to have gone out of control. But it is now obvious that a tough, but flexible, leash had always been in place, as the latest twitch on it reminds all concerned.


The Left Front should be ecstatic. Especially the Communist Party of India (Marxist). The higher secondary results this year have vindicated the party’s faith in the system in which it has invested so much. Marks have reached a dizzying peak. The scores of those topping the higher secondary examinations merit list every year had been gradually rising. Now the proportion of elevation promises a time when the topmost score will shoot past the total in the test. The proportion of top scorers from district schools is also rising. This time, 20 of the places among the top 31 in the merit list have been claimed by students from district schools. For the CPI(M), this is proven victory over the forces of elitism in education, particularly the elitism represented by many urban schools, against which its members have fought an unremitting battle. As important for the party is the fact that the merit list shows how successfully education has spread in West Bengal, how evenly it has benefited the state.

It would follow logically that the standards of both teaching and student performance must have risen. Unfortunately, the results show a decline, not an improvement, in overall success. The yearly increase in examinees may partly account for the appearance of decline, but that merely reinforces the suspicion that standards have not really improved. North Bengal boasts two of the toppers in the merit list, but the general results in the region are unenviable. And students from district schools are not yet rocketing past their urban peers in higher education, something that the merit lists seem to portend. It is fortunate for the CPI(M) that it is just the merit list that is made public. But even here all is not smooth. The media exposure of toppers in the higher secondary examination — the best in other examination systems are not good enough for such attention, a small blessing — rather gives the game away. Every year shows a proportionate rise in the number of private tutors for each youngster on the merit list: six or seven have become routine. For a government trying to come down hard on private tuition this is a bitter pill to swallow. Contradictions tend to blow up in the faces of those who try to enforce them. In this case too, the very students who have vicariously covered the CPI(M) with glory have sung paeans of praise to the virtues of private tuition. They are joined in this by their parents, in most cases teachers or highly educated professionals. This exposes a basic failure of the education system and raises terribly uncomfortable questions about examinations and marking. And as for elitism, perhaps the CPI(M) education mandarins will be able to demonstrate how half a dozen private tutors for one child can be called by some other name.


That the recent shake-up in the Central government has gone hand in hand with a shake-out in the hierarchy of the dominant party in the ruling coalition is no accident. The two jobs — giving a facelift to a lacklustre regime and revamping a party feeling downbeat after the drubbing it took at the assembly polls in several states — were parts of the same operation. That the much-hyped event made little difference to the image of either of the two is an altogether different story.

That most of the changes involved members of the dominant partner in the National Democratic Alliance is no surprise either, since the whole exercise was designed as a largely Bharatiya Janata Party affair. The revelation by a series of state assembly elections of an erosion of the party’s support base perturbed most members of the sangh parivar. There was growing nervousness in BJP circles even about the party’s poor chances of retaining its present strength in the parliamentary elections due in 2004 if it did nothing to buck the current trend.

The one thing that the visible shrinking of the BJP’s social base did was to give the hardliners in the sangh parivar the chance that they had been waiting for to vent their spleen on the Central government. They ascribed the decline in the BJP’s fortunes to the loss of identity it suffered from shelving its Hindutva and swadeshi agendas. Since some of them were merely echoing the sentiments of the BJP’s ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the consternation over what had happened did much to bring about a change in the balance of power both in the BJP and the sangh parivar as a whole.

There is widespread scepticism in the country about the rationale of the changes in the government, except for using the occasion as an excuse for providing more ministerial berths to young aspirants in the BJP for a share of the spoils of office. As for the swapping of portfolios by Jaswant Singh and Yashwant Sinha, it makes no sense to make both forgo the advantage of the experience they had gained in their old ministries — the one in the complicated game on the diplomatic front in the wake of September 11 and the other in learning the hard way of the need to keep a more watchful eye on the shady goings-on in the financial sector and the many difficulties in implementing the new phase of economic reforms, particularly in a period of world-wide recession.

As for the rest, the exit of a few Tweedledums and the induction of many more Tweedle-dees matter little except to the losers or the winners. The size of the new government, said to be the largest in the republic’s history so far, will by no means give it a more dynamic look. Nor will the induction of a new president, a new secretary and official spok- esman remove the glitches in the party machine. M. Venkaiah Naidu and Arun Jaitley may be more aggressive in selling the NDA policies to the public. But no hard-sell can make up for lack of policies which produce results.

This is not to say that things will remain much the same as they are now. The process of decay of the institutions of both state and civil society in the country has gone too far to be reversed by anything less than a new will to stem the rot and a determination to take the necessary corrective action in the teeth of opposition from any vested interest which feels threatened by it. Can a prime minister who is compelled to provide a ministerial berth to the only member of his party in parliament from Punjab summon the nerve to be so tough? The large number of allies he has to accommodate and the calculus of region, caste and ethnic affiliations he has to take into account all the time, make him vulnerable to pressure from a score of quarters. Is it surprising that his refusal to appease Mamata Banerjee in the recent government reshuffle has made headlines? Or that attempts are still being made to appease her and somehow repair the injury done to her ego?

The changes in the NDA government and in the party organization of the leading partner in the ruling alliance, cannot give either of them a new aura of moral authority in the prevailing circumstances. There was a lot of unseemly squabbling behind the scenes over the allocation of portfolios. And there is no dearth of discordant voices in the sangh parivar even today. Indeed the RSS mouthpiece never misses a chance of having a swipe at the government whenever a particular policy decision goes against the grain of the thinking of the sarsanghchalak.

Although the most fanatical among the sangh parivar cannot wish away the compulsions of coalition politics, they have already managed to put those leading the government on the defensive by cashing in on the BJP’s discomfiture over its loss of face in several states and thus securing more room for manoeuvre for themselves in influencing the BJP’s thinking on contentious issues. There are many straws in the wind showing a shift in the par-ty’s approach to problems, putting voi- ces of moderation at a disadvantage.

The prime minister’s own speech at Goa, quite contrary to the spirit of his confession in Ahmedabad that he was ashamed of what happened during the Gujarat riots, was one sign of the winds of change blowing through the BJP establishment. Another indication to the same effect came from the head of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Ashok Singhal, who, contrary to his earlier commitment, declared recently that his organization would not be bound by the court verdict on the Ram temple issue if it went against its demand. A still more ominous testimony to the change in the balance of power in the sangh parivar comes from Lucknow where a former chief of the Bajrang Dal, which took the leading part in the demolition of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya, has been made head of the Uttar Pradesh unit of the BJP.

The designation of Lal Krishna Advani as deputy prime minister under the new dispensation is being sold to the public as no more than a formalization of a ground reality and converting a de facto into a de jure position. Yet, this is only the less important aspect of the change. It invests the home minister, on the prime minister’s own admission, with new responsibility. Indeed those who regard him as the person who will lead the BJP in the next parliamentary elections may prove to be in the right. Advani will certainly carry much greater weight than before in shaping both the government’s as well as the party’s policies.

How far three years in office as the second most important man in the government has tamed him and made him painfully conscious of the restraints an unwieldy ruling coalition imposes on the government remains to be seen. But the deputy prime minister is too realistic to miss the implications of the explosive situation in the subcontinent, the long-term risk involved in diverting more resources to defence at the cost of slowing down the rate of economic growth, starving the social services and letting the rundown infrastructure suffer further deterioration. Nor is he unaware of the forces released by the globalization process which are chipping away at the sovereignty of the nation-state.

There is no point, however, in giving much importance to the cosmetic changes in the government. What will matter in the end is its ability to formulate policies designed to produce better results by way of increasing the country’s economic strength, improving its defence capabilities against both external and internal threats, developing its material and human resources, and avoiding recourse to evasion in the face of difficult questions. The public has been told, for instance, that mobilization along the borders with Pakistan will continue until October. This makes many wonder what happens if Pervez Musharraf fails to dismantle all terrorist camps by then as is quite likely. Will the mobilization continue or will New Delhi expect the United States of America to make sure that the Pakistan president does not wriggle out of his promise on one pretext or another?

Again, has the government a precise idea of the political and economic costs of continued mobilization? Has it taken into account the possibility that the role of the US as facilitator of a dialogue between the two hostile neighbours, even in the absence of any common ground on the Kashmir issue, can evolve into that of a mediator? Ironically, the changes in the government, which engaged the public for over a fortnight, have turned out to be another meaningless exercise, diverting everyone’s attention from more important tasks at home and from problems which have for long defied a solution.


After being on the brink of a war for some time, both India and Pakistan seem to have cooled down. But given that Islamabad has not shown any signs of changing its policy towards India, peace may continue to be elusive for a long time now.

Although the intense pressure exerted by the United States of America and other Western powers may have been instrumental in bringing down cross-border infiltration considerably, it has not been successful in putting an end to it completely. Despite Pervez Musharraf’s promises, not all the terrorist-training camps in Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir have been dismantled. The situation could well take a turn for the worse given the covert presence of a large number of al Qaida fighters in Pakistan.

Although refusing to talk to Pakistan at Almaty, India has expressed its willingness to engage in a dialogue with its neighbour on all outstanding issues, including Kashmir, provided Islamabad fulfilled its promise to end cross-border terrorism.

The Pakistani president has, however, proved to be a crafty customer. He denied having assured the US about ending cross-border terrorism permanently and shutting down terrorist camps in Pakistan. He feels that if the international community wants peace, it should denuclearize south Asia, ensure conventional deterrence and help find a solution to Kashmir that would be acceptable to Pakistan. Understandably, it is impossible for India to entertain such ridiculous demands.

No change

Moreover, Musharraf still insists on describing the Inter-Services Intelligence-sponsored terrorism as a freedom struggle and refuses to accept the line of control as the permanent international border between the two countries. Such an aggressively rigid stand does not leave any space for diplomatic manoeuvring. Even if negotiations were to take place under international pressure, they are bound to fail as recently happened in Agra.

In the present scenario, New Delhi’s refusal to pull back troops from the western borders until Pakistan stops infiltration and acts on India’s list of 20 most wanted criminals, makes sense. George Fernandes has already ruled out the withdrawal of troops before October this year. Although the war clouds seem to be dissipating, as indicated by the army’s decision to allow frontline soldiers to avail of leave and resume suspended training programmes and military courses, a sudden flare up could still take place. The routine exchange of artillery fire along the LoC also shows that a full-scale armed conflagration could still break out.

Pressure tactics

Although Pakistan does not want to change its stance on either terrorism or Kashmir, it expects India to reduce its troops along the border. It is obvious that the long-term deployment of Pakistan’s army on the borders has taken a heavy toll on its economy. Islamabad is thus using other countries to pressure New Delhi into military de-escalation.

Musharraf has also been under a great deal of pressure from the international community to come to an understanding with India. On the other hand, he has had to face the ire of numerous Islamic fundamentalist groups who do not want him to shun his aggressive Kashmir policy. It is not surprising therefore that the director of the US state department’s policy planning wing, Richard Haas, has predicted that a repeat of the recent crisis may take place within six months if Pakistan does not shut down all terrorist camps permanently.

Since Pakistan’s distrust of India is deeply embedded in history, it is unlikely that it would abandon its adversarial attitude towards its neighbour even if the Kashmir dispute were resolved to its satisfaction. It will then invent other excuses to destabilize India. Under these circumstances, it would have been in India’s interests to conduct a decisive war to weaken the military establishment in Pakistan and reinstating a democratic government in its place. Instead, India succumbed to US pressure. There were even indications that Russia would not have objected to India’s military operations against terrorist bases across the LoC. But, as usual, India has missed the bus this time as well.


Pervez Musharraf’s promise to permanently end Pakistan- sponsored terrorism in Kashmir and the American assurance to validate it amounts to an Indo-Pakistan ceasefire. The result reflects the effectiveness of Indian coercive diplomacy whereby the pressure of Indian army and air force presence in the north and Indian naval presence in the south forced the international community to bring about Musharraf’s concession.

The Musharraf-armed forces interface worked well despite the noises made by the Indian press which parroted the American and Pakistani line that war was round the corner. The recent crisis should prove to Indian commentators that controlled military escalation is sometimes necessary to attract international attention to one’s interests, and that there is no such a thing as “deft diplomacy” unless it is backed by a policy of punishment.

Indian armchair strategists must not forget that historically Indian diplomacy on Kashmir has been anything but deft. It was Jawaharlal Nehru who took the Kashmir issue to the United Nations and internationalized it. Nehru ignored the advice of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and General Kulwant Singh who wanted a few weeks to liberate the entire Kashmir region. The Bharatiya Janata Party-baiters should also not forget that the Congress under Indira Gandhi and her sons was in the habit of interfering with state elections in Kashmir and elsewhere, so the Kashmiris are right to insist on fair and free elections. Musharraf’s promise to halt the export of terror from Pakistan should help create an atmosphere for a good electoral process and the acceptance of the proposal to have foreign observers to watch the elections should facilitate transparency.

It is now up to the Indian leadership to build on the success of the Indian coercive diplomacy and to secure a strong combination of military, political and diplomatic movement. This in order to reorient both external and internal political constituencies, and recognize and reward India’s true friends. The orchestration of this combination has to be conducted outside the ministry of external affairs and it must involve the armed forces and the intelligence services because Indian diplomatic officials have little experience or understanding of the role of force in creating strategic opportunities. Islamabad this time gave in because the Indian navy was cutting across Karachi, and the other services sat across the line of control.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee should think about an Independence Day speech which recognizes the importance of the armed forces in the formulation of a coercive diplomacy vis-ŕ-vis Pakistan and its supporters in the United States of America and China. Second, he should think about ways to consolidate the recent gains.

For the second round, which will inevitably happen in a few months time, Indian policy-makers will have to understand the critical parameters within which India’s coercive diplomacy functions. What are these parameters? How can India create a policy keeping in mind its audiences in the Indian Ocean area, China, the US, Russia and Europe? Is the endgame the acceptance of the LoC as the international border, or, is it the American/UN occupation of Kashmir on the ground that Indians and Pakistanis are incapable of handling their differences? Or are there several endgames which require a combination of military strategy, psychological warfare and diplomacy? The challenge is huge because it requires Vajpayee and his men to not project India as a landlocked country as Nehru did. Rather, India should be projected as a sea-power as well, with a vision that goes beyond Pakistan, China and nuclear disarmament.

The first thing to remember is that India has been a reluctant power so far, the result of looking at strategic affairs through the Nehruvian lens. Recent experience however has shown that although India’s political class is slow on the uptake, it is not stupid. Three lessons need to be learnt. One, India has to recognize the value of nuclear weapons for diplomacy and even business. Two, Kargil and the recent crisis demonstrated the effective use of military power in the pursuit of national interests. Three, the crisis has shown that skilled coercion facilitates the development of a pattern of negotiated restraint, which is better than unilateral restraint where the obligations are one-sided, not common. Coercive diplomacy helps manage difficult situations and bring them to the negotiating table.

The second thing that has to be kept in mind is that US policy towards India has been complex, throwing up as many opportunities as challenges. The US government is a divided house. Richard Armitage has a negative view of Pakistan but Colin Powell is pro-Musharraf as are state department officials like Richard Haas, head of policy planning, who retain the Cold War view of India. The central command, which runs the Afghanistan operation, is pro-Pakistan. Pentagon, White House and the Pacific command however see India as playing a vital role on the eastern side of the Indian Ocean. The bottom line is that Pakistan feels threatened by India’s diplomatic and military buildup and the US needs Pakistan. Thus the US is working on both sides of the street.

There are also NGOs in Washington who follow the Pakistani line about the link between Kashmir and the nuclear issue. They argue that Indian tests prompted Pakistan’s testing and this gave Pakistan a nuclear cover to assert Kashmiri rights. This theory has also given the advocates of nonproliferation a new lease of life.

However, the view that India miscalculated by going nuclear is deeply flawed. One, Z.A. Bhutto had decided in January 1972 to go nuclear, that is two years before India tested at Pokhran. Both Zia ul-Haq and Aslam Beg had decided to acquire nuclear weaponry and to intensify insurgency in Punjab, Kashmir and Afghanistan to give Pakistan strategic depth. Musharraf and the Inter-Services Intelligence have merely carried forward that policy. So Pakistan’s policy had a logic of its own which was pursued independently of India’s behaviour.

In retrospect the miscalculation was Pakistan’s because it seems to have intended to use its nuclear capability to deter Indian military action. But Kargil and the recent crisis show that India’s frame of reference to Pakistan is beyond deterrence, it is that of coercive diplomacy. Before the BJP coalition came to power, lack of Indian political will about using coercive diplomacy gave the misleading impression that the Pakistani strategy was working. But Pakistan’s nuclear umbrella was there to provide cover to its generals and to Washington thinktanks who played the south Asian nuclear card to seek Indian nuclear disarmament.

The same Washington strategists looked the other way when China transferred missiles and nuclear components to Pakistan. The Washington thinktank also assumed that it was right to accept Pakistani views about Kashmiri self-determination. How ironic that it should side with the Pakistan army which has never shown an inclination to have elections or allow Pakistanis self-determination.

There is no single end that India should persevere to achieve. There are several. One is to build on the recent US recognition of the sanctity of the LoC. Why not lobby to make this a permanent international border? The suggestion has been on the table at least since 1955 and even earlier. Another is to plant the idea in Asian circles that neither Pakistan-inspired militancy nor its nuclear capacity give Pakistan as much advantage as Indian nukes give it in the power politics of Asia. India is thinking beyond deterrence; it is thinking about stable relationships in Asia, about a balance of power that involves the US, Russia, Japan, China, itself, and regional powers like Indonesia and Australia and influential nodal countries like Myanmar. The broader aim is to construct the foundation of stable regional security structures in Asia.

The third end is to build links between like-minded Indian and American educators and policy-makers who see India as a mature democracy, a reliable strategic partner, a barrier against the spread of Islamic militancy and are believers in a stable Pakistan under a reform-minded Musharraf. Here the intellectual battlefield is Washington and New York. The affinity between India and Israel, and emerging alignments with Japan and Australia are assets in this battle.

The fourth end is to challenge New Delhi’s press commentators who are constantly looking for Indian concessions and are obsessed with what Beijing might think. Instead of misleading the Indian public by their half-baked ideas about nuclear war, they should stress the value of coercive diplomacy in a world of power imbalances, the changing Indian alignments with world leaders like Vladimir Putin and Jacques Chirac and the strategic planners in Pentagon and the Pacific command. Indian practitioners should do a comparative study of the political culture and the institutional history of the insular central command and the internationalist, sea-oriented Pacific command, which is America’s lifeline to Asia. The study will show that India’s success lies in its ability to facilitate movement across the borders — of military forces and economic goods, and of ideas and beliefs that create like-mindedness among nations.

M.L. Sondhi is co-chairperson, Centre for the Study of National Security, Jawaharlal Nehru University Ashok Kapur is chairman, department of political science, University of Waterloo, Canada


Medical professionals are expected to perform their duties within an ethical framework that is above religious and political affiliations. The failure to do so can mean the difference between life and death. Communalization can have serious repercussions on a society that has already been so deeply fractured.

In such a crisis, medical professionals could become particularly vulnerable because they must venture out and work in an atmosphere of violence. They may find themselves targeted by communal elements, both as members of a particular community and as medical professionals helping victims.

While individual professionals may have little control over events, the medical profession as a whole has a responsibility to show solidarity towards all its members. It must protect them from any pressures that prevent them from performing their professional duty in an ethical and humane manner.

In the context of the Gujarat violence, there was little information on the impact on health professionals. As a body of socially concerned health professionals and activists, Medico Friend Circle saw the need to document the experiences of health professionals forced to work under such pressures, and to express solidarity with them.

The medical profession must also involve itself in the long and painful task of rehabilitation. In this context, it must be remembered that justice is an integral part of rehabilitation. Doctors have a duty to do their utmost to ensure that justice is done, by accurately and completely documenting information on the people they examine and treat. Post-mortem records, medico-legal complaints and doctors’ statements all provide vital support to victims seeking compensation and filing cases against the perpetrators of violence.

Those who suffer physical disability, and the large numbers who suffer from mental trauma, also need the support of the medical profession to rebuild their lives.

Finally, health professionals have an additional ethical and social responsibility, as close witnesses of the effects of violence. They must play a role in documenting what is happening and informing other sections of society, in analyzing the causes of violence and suggesting both immediate responses and long-term preventive measures. Indeed, there are many such instances of health professionals taking on this task.

In the current situation, where there is a deep threat to secular and democratic values, the medical profession must reflect on its own role. It must defend itself from external pressures, and also fortify itself from within. It must ensure that it upholds the humanitarian traditions of the healing profession and desists from becoming an accomplice to human rights violations.

It was against this background that the MFC decided to investigate the health impact of the unrelenting and horrific violence in Gujarat, and the role played by the public health system…

Mental health issues: post-traumatic stress disorder is a well-known sequelae of any disaster, and is accepted as a public health issue to be tackled by the health services in such situations. But, the only emotional support to victims of violence is being provided by camp volunteers, who have no training for this kind of work.

Because the team visited the camps nearly two months after the violence began, it could observe that a certain routine had been established. Survivors of the violence have made efforts to restore some normalcy in their lives. Still, the team also found pervasive psychological stress and trauma. Those who had witnessed killings and/or lost members of their families were the most severely affected. Many broke down while recounting their experiences. Many suffered from the more visible symptoms of psychological distress: bouts of crying and complete withdrawal. They also reported insomnia and nightmares.

In general, stress and trauma among survivors manifested in both physical and psychological symptoms. People expressed feelings of frustration, helplessness and fatalism, agitation, anger and depression.

Certain attacks, like those in Naroda Patia and Chamanpura, were so brutal that they have become part of collective memory. Even those who have not witnessed those episodes refer to them again and again. Survivors are always conscious that they could be once again subject to violence of that scale and brutality. Many live in constant fear of what can happen to them as insecurity and earlier memories haunt them.

Another manifestation of stress was in an increased level of reporting of non-specific symptoms. This may be compounded by the fact that, in most camps, people are living out in the open, exposed to the heat. They complained of headache, body ache, palpitation, stomach ache and disturbed sleep. Among women, in many camps, team members found instances of disturbances of the menstrual cycle, such as polymenorrohea (frequent menstrual bleeding) and dysmenorrohea (painful menstruation), which were concurrent with the outbreak of violence. There is a strong possibility that these problems are stress related. Women were very concerned by these changes. They were also distressed by the difficulties of managing menstruation without adequate water and bathing facilities.

To be concluded



Can’t buy her favours

Sir — It is evident from the recent cabinet revamp that there is only a slim chance of the Trinamool Congress leader, Mamata Banerjee, making a comeback in national politics (“BJP shows Mamata her place in Delhi”, July 2). As if losing the popular mandate in West Bengal was not enough, didi received a further drubbing from her trusted mentor, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. She failed to wrench the railways portfolio from Nitish Kumar, and, in all probability, can no longer prevent him from truncating the Eastern Railways. It is clear that the fire-spewing leader is no longer important to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s scheme of things. Perhaps the BJP has realized that it would be foolish to depend on Banerjee’s political gimmicks since, even with her help, the BJP is not likely to make any breakthrough in the left bastion of West Bengal. With polls to be held in 12 states, the BJP needs to keep its allies in these states in good humour. Right now, Banerjee can’t do much else but crib.

Yours faithfully,
Alpana Mitra, Malda

Reply with a victory

Sir — The recently concluded World Cup football has brought the best out of the talented Brazilian striker, Ronaldo. The expected showdown between him and the German goalkeeper, Oliver Kahn, turned out to be a one-sided affair, with Ronaldo coming up trumps by putting the ball past twice.

Ronaldo’s achievement is doubly significant because with his performance, he has silenced all those critics who had expressed doubts about his integrity and sincerity following his mysterious fit before the finals of the last world cup. It was even alleged that Ronaldo’s below-par performance led to Brazil’s defeat by France. His string of eight goals in this tournament is a fitting reply to his critics. Last but not the least, mention must be made of Rivaldo, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldinho and Cafu, because without their ample support, it would not have been possible for Ronaldo to score, and consequently, for Brazil to lift the cup.

Yours faithfully,
S. Poddar, Calcutta

Sir — By winning the Fifa world cup for the fifth time, Brazil have proved that they are the best team in the world. With the nightmarish experience of 1998 haunting the side, it was their determination that helped them win against the professional German side. For all the media hype about the encounter between Ronaldo and Kahn, it was not much of a contest since Ronaldo proved too much for the German goalkeeper to handle. (“Ronaldo’s redemption”, July 1). Ronaldo’s comeback as the star striker is perhaps the most important feature of this year’s world cup.

Ronaldo is certainly the man of the moment. But the Brazilians could not have come this far without the services of their coach, Luiz Felipe Scolari. His belief that Brazil should abandon their traditional style of play paid off in the end. Scholari’s emphasis on good defence and a balanced attack worked to the advantage of the team. He has brought discipline to a side which has seldom been associated with that word. Having succeeded in transforming a group of temperamental individuals into a team, Scolari deserves to be at the helm of affairs for some time now.

Yours faithfully,
Kamalini Sen, Calcutta

Sir — The defeat of Germany was only expected since they started the tournament as underdogs. Ever since winning the trophy in 1990, Germany have not witnessed the rise of talents of the likes of Juergen Klinsmann or Rudi Voeller. With only key players like Ballack and Kahn, the Germans were likely to find the Brazilians too tough an opponent to defeat. However, with an inexperienced and young side, Germany performed well above expectations by reaching the prestigious finals. With the next tournament being organized in Germany, one only hopes that a more rejuvenated German side will ultimately win the cup.

Yours faithfully,
Sandhya Mishra, Cuttack

Sir — The World Cup final between Germany and Brazil was not just a clash between two different styles but between passive planning and dynamic action, between machine-like efficiency and inspiration, between heroic defence and aggressive attack. Brazil’s key player, Ronaldo, was not, as anyone could see, fully fit. Yet, he managed to score two goals, which ensured that Brazil would lift the world cup for a record fifth time.

This world cup has seen unfancied teams get the better of the big names. But the refereeing left much to be desired. Without the controversies generated by the men in black, the 2002 World Cup could have been a really enjoyable one.

Yours faithfully,
M.R. Sridharan, Kanpur

Sir — The capital of Brazil is not Rio de Janeiro, as mentioned by Frederick Noronha in the report, “Goa’s tale: told by a Brazilian, captured by a Calcuttan” (July 2). It is Brasilia.

Yours faithfully,
Abhijit Ghosh, San Antonio, Texas

Rising misery

Sir — How did the former finance minister, Yashwant Sinha, manage to get the Union budget of 2002 passed with abnormal hikes in postal charges? Perhaps because the opposition was busy debating on the issue of Gujarat riots. This drastic rise in postal rates has exposed the anti-middle class stance of the Centre. Sinha’s claim that there has been a reduction in inflation cannot be believed given the hike in the prices of several commodities. The callousness of the Centre and the apathetic attitude of the opposition on this issue explains why people’s woes are on the rise.

Yours faithfully,
R.N. Mukherjee, Calcutta

Sir — The annual hike of postal rate is a big blow to the middle and the lower middle classes. But even after the price of printed postcards has been doubled, post offices regularly run out of stock. There is a 25 per cent rise in the price of envelopes as well. The condition of the Budge Budge Natun Bazar sub-post office is particularly bad. It is difficult to understand why the Centre has not paid any attention to this department. Surprisingly, there is no form of resistance from the opposition parties.

Yours faithfully,
Mohan Lal Sarkar, Budge Budge

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