Editorial 1 / American cons
Editorial 2 / Broken trust
The politics of praise
Save them from us
Document / In sickness and in violence
Letters to the editor

 
 
EDITORIAL 1 / AMERICAN CONS 
 
 
 
 
All hell is breaking loose in the American financial sector. As if Enron was not enough, it now transpires that WorldCom disguised profits to the tune of $3.8 billion. WorldCom’s rise was meteoric, with Mr Bernard Ebbers inducted as chief executive officer in 1995. In subsequent mergers with MFS Communications, CompuServe and MCI, WorldCom rode the information technology bandwagon, with its stock trading at $64.50 in 1999. The IT meltdown signalled the end and when the internet bubble burst, WorldCom not only lost most of its customers, it also had to disguise its bottom line. Compared to Enron’s ingenious accounting, WorldCom’s disguise was remarkably naïve. Current expenses of $3.8 billion were shown as capital expenditure, with fictitious assets created and capital expenditure staggered over several years. What is even more remarkable is that Arthur Andersen did not catch on, despite being paid $4.4 million per year for such scrutiny. In March 2002, the securities and exchange commission started a probe when it was discovered that WorldCom loaned Mr Ebbers money to buy WorldCom shares. This led to Mr Ebbers exiting (with a golden handshake of $1.5 million per year for life) and Mr John Sidgmore taking over as CEO. It was Mr Sidgmore who discovered the can of worms.

The aftermath is bloodier than Enron, although WorldCom has not gone bankrupt. Since its share last traded at 83 cents, investors have lost more than $175 billion, and 17,000 people will lose their jobs. However, corporate misgovernance does not stop at Enron or WorldCom. Xerox has misstated revenues by $6.4 billion. Tyco’s former CEO has not only evaded sales tax, he has also tampered with shipping documents. The director of the New York Stock Exchange faces allegations of insider trading. In Enron-related partnerships, three bankers have been charged with fraud. The supermarket chain, Supervalu, has overstated profits like WorldCom. Three former Rite Aid executives have been indicted on fraud. A survey of wealthy Americans found that two-thirds distrust the management of publicly traded companies and three-fourths do not believe in financial statements. Investors are moving overseas. Regulators have reacted too late. In June, the senate enacted new accounting regulations and there is a proposal that securities fraud will attract criminal provisions in addition to civil ones. There are new rules on conflict of interest among stock analysts. The NYSE has new rules for board of directors. The United States of America has long preached corporate governance to the rest of the world and it is somewhat ironic that this corporate Watergate should be unleashed there. Cons are not the exclusive preserve of developing countries.

   

 
 
EDITORIAL 2 / BROKEN TRUST 
 
 
 
 
The recent assurance of the chief election commissioner, Mr J.M. Lyngdoh, that the forthcoming assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir will be free and fair, needs to be welcomed. It will require, however, more than just a promise of credible elections to ensure popular participation in the polls. An imaginative political initiative which can motivate candidates and voters alike is clearly an immediate need. Elections in Jammu and Kashmir have rarely inspired confidence. Other than the 1997 election, none has been free of extensive malpractice. Systematic rigging by incumbents deeply eroded the faith of the Kashmiris in Indian democracy and fair play. Many of the militants, who were responsible for sparking off the insurgency in the early Nineties, had contested the infamous 1987 elections or had been electoral agents of the candidates. Since then, however, the Election Commission’s reputation has steadily increased, and now the EC is viewed even within Kashmir as a largely neutral referee. However, given Jammu and Kashmir’s sordid experience with electoral politics, the CEC did well to assure the people that malpractices will not be tolerated. But even while the EC may be able to convince the Kashmiri public of its determination to ensure honest polls, that, by itself, may not be enough to generate popular confidence that the ballot box may provide a way out of the problems of the state.

What is required urgently is a larger political package within which the electoral exercise can be embedded. For instance, the moderates — a section of former separatists who are now prepared to enter the political mainstream — have made it clear that they are prepared to enter the electoral fray provided New Delhi acts on three fronts. First, they are in favour of the Centre initiating a dialogue before the elections, and they want that the interlocutor from New Delhi be either the prime minister himself or an individual who has the confidence of the prime minister. Second, the moderates want New Delhi to announce a series of confidence-building measures which can help build a climate of trust and goodwill in Kashmir. The release of a section of former militants, many of whom have been in jail for over a decade, could be one important step. Finally, they are demanding a period of governor’s rule in the state to ensure that there is a level playing field. Many of them believe that the incumbent National Conference has such a great advantage, for a variety of factors, that no other political party has a serious chance of winning. Many of these demands have considerable merit, and the Centre would be well advised to pay them attention. This is clearly a moment of opportunity in Jammu and Kashmir. It would be unfortunate if this was let past because of political ineptitude or bureaucratic inertia.

   

 
 
THE POLITICS OF PRAISE 
 
 
BY K.P. NAYAR
 
 
Every time India has a new foreign minister or a foreign secretary, the change is inevitably accompanied in the public arena by a shower of encomia for the new arrivals in South Block. Rarely are Indian commentators, analysts, experts and academics stinting in their praise for an incoming external affairs minister or a foreign secretary. If the cumulative praise over the years for India’s successive foreign ministers had all been justified or true, by now the person occupying the ministerial chair in South Block should have surpassed the combined intellect of Cardinal Richelieu and Henry Kissinger and outshone both men in the vision and practice of diplomacy.

An incoming finance minister, commerce minister or even a home minister seldom gets such praise even though, by any yardstick, those ministerial jobs are far more important than that of the minister who presides over the destiny of South Block. Nor is an incoming home secretary, defence secretary or even a cabinet secretary subject to as much scrutiny or the public gaze as a foreign secretary who takes over South Block’s corner room.

The reason for this, regrettably, is not far to seek. Few ministries have either the wherewithal or the opportunity to dispense patronage the way the external affairs ministry does. And patronage comes in a variety of ways: from trips abroad, to well-funded projects for producing films, to assignments for editing and compiling inane treaty texts and other South Block documents, which few people will ever read or refer to. For a couple of years until the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government came to power in 1998, even diplomatic passports were instruments of patronage, notwithstanding the road blocks which concerned bureaucrats put in the way of dispensing such a favour.

Thus, when Chokila Iyer became foreign secretary, she was hailed as a trail-blazer and her public persona was made larger-than-life. Even the mildest criticism of her was described as “sexist” and those who ventured to question her actions were described as willing tools of the “male brotherhood” in the Indian foreign service. Any honest assessment of Iyer’s career and record would have forecast that she would reduce the foreign secretary’s job to being a door mat. What actually happened was even worse.

But the greatest dishonesty by India’s foreign policy experts and others was in projecting I.K. Gujral as God’s gift to diplomacy when he became external affairs minister in H.D. Deve Gowda’s cabinet. He was hailed as a man with a diplomatic mission, as someone who had his cabinet job cut out for him. An aura of diplomatic expertise was built around him, notwithstanding the truth that Gujral’s only experience in foreign policy was during the few years when Indira Gandhi shunted him off to Moscow as ambassador. And the brief period when he was external affairs minister in V P Singh’s government. And what a time it was! The biggest blunders in foreign policy in recent years were made then.

Once again, July is the month of praise where South Block is concerned. There is a new foreign secretary and a new minister. And once again praise for both men has been unstinting in the last one week. The praise for Kanwal Sibal stems from a combination of his record and the expectations from the new foreign secretary. Morale in the IFS has seldom been lower: the result of Sibal’s predecessor having reduced the foreign secretary’s job to a mere shadow of what it was under some of her illustrious predecessors.

Those in the IFS expect much of their new boss. And their expectations are a reflection of his past. One example will suffice. In Washington, where Sibal was deputy chief of mission during the years when the foundations of the present bonhomie between India and the United States of America were actually being laid, he not only had to battle India’s enemies, but also those in the embassy, whose actions were an impediment to any improvement in Washington’s relations with New Delhi. Americans who had to deal with the leadership of the Indian mission then still recall that Sibal was like an island of sanity, common sense and pragmatism in the embassy in those years.

Some of the most crucial institutional arrangements in fighting international terror — which stand India in good stead today with the Arab world — were subsequently crafted during the period when Sibal was ambassador in Egypt. The praise for the new external affairs minister is reminiscent of what happened in Syria when the country’s long time leader, Hafez al Assad, died two years ago. Hafez’s son, Bashar, became president after Syria’s rubber-stamp legislature hastily reduced the minimum age for presidency from 40 to 34. Bashar was then 35. But almost from the moment Hafez’s body was laid to rest, the projection of a personality cult took over. It was as if the father was never there and it was Bashar all the way from then on.

Vested interests and special interest groups have already been generous in their advice for Yashwant Sinha: they have worked out prescriptions for him on a variety of foreign policy issues. These range from west Asia to the US, from security issues to economic diplomacy. Almost a quarter century in the civil service — if not 18 years in politics — ought to have taught Sinha to distinguish between sycophancy and flattery. It is, therefore, to be hoped that the new minister will not be carried away by all that has been said and written about him and will, instead, insist on continuity in South Block as the anchor of how he proposes to function in his new job.

The Bashar-al-Assad aberration must not be allowed to rule South Block merely because it has a new leader. Jaswant Singh was one of the most innovative foreign ministers that India has had in recent times. And he conducted India’s foreign policy when the country faced the gravest diplomatic challenges in several decades.

Singh was stymied in many of his innovations because he lacked a team which was neither committed to those changes nor had the vision to grasp their significance in adapting India’s foreign policy to changing times. For instance, Singh wanted to put together a structure of advisers in South Block, who would give him advice independent of what a minister normally gets by way of mundane drafts initially written by a deputy secretary and progressively improved into policy papers as they moved to a joint secretary’s table and above.

But the vested interests in South Block made sure that the experiment was a non-starter. The only exception remains S.K. Lambah, because of the over-arching centrality of Afghan- istan in global policy today. If the morale in the IFS is at its nadir today, it is because Singh — unlike some of his predecessors — acted like a minister and refused to meddle in petty matters in his ministry. He left it to the civil servants in South Block, who failed him.

There are many myths about Singh, which were unfortunately, but understandably, encouraged by those who were determined to undermine his efforts to change the ways in South Block. One of these is that Singh was too easy on the Americans. The minutes of Singh’s meetings with the US secretary of state, Colin Powell, tell an altogether different story. At one such meeting between Powell and Singh, even officials who were present were taken aback by the vehemence and forthrightness with which the minister told the Americans what he thought of them. And he never failed to see through Washington’s games. Two years ago, the Americans made India an offer which they thought Singh and the prime minister could not refuse: co-chairmanship of the Community of Democracies, which the Clinton administration wanted to fashion into what the non-aligned movement was in the Seventies.

Singh was determined that Vajpayee should turn down that offer. He saw through the ploy: once New Delhi shared the chairmanship with Washington, it would have little choice but to take positions against friends like Iran, China and Cuba on issues of democracy and the like. Singh went into meetings prepared as few other ministers since independence have done. Before each of his nine rounds of talks with Bill Clinton’s deputy secretary of state, Strobe Talbott, Singh would assemble two or three of his officers and actually rehearse his sessions with Talbott. The officers would play the role of the American delegation.

Once, during a particularly grave turn in the perennial crisis in the west Asia, India was required to issue a statement. The joint secretary in charge of west Asia wrote a draft, which the foreign secretary believed was pro-Arab. The foreign secretary was reading Singh’s mind and assumed he would tilt the other way. The statement was watered down considerably and sent to the minister for approval. When it came back from Singh’s office, it was less kindly to Israel than even the original draft penned by the joint secretary. These are insights which Singh’s successor ought to remember every time he is pushed by special interest groups into taking positions which run counter to those traditionally taken by New Delhi: all in the name of a changing world order.

In the present atmosphere in South Block, it is unlikely that anyone will tell Sinha such vignettes about four years of Singh’s ministership. Perhaps, the new minister ought to take a few lessons from his diplomat son-in-law about the dangerous whirlpools in South Block politics. Asok K Kantha, now consul-general in Hong Kong, can tell his father-in-law a very instructive story of how an initiative with Taiwan — of which Kantha was in charge as director for China in South Block — nearly thwarted by vested interests many years ago.

   

 
 
SAVE THEM FROM US 
 
 
BY GARGI GUPTA
 
 
The battle between C.P. Thakur and Maneka Gandhi seems to have fizzled out for now with both ministers being shunted out of their ministries in last week’s cabinet reshuffle. And with it has died out the furore over the appalling condition of animals in Indian research institutes. Which is quite sad, because the condition of the poor creatures in Indian laboratories who are subjected to all manner of horrendous and exquisitely torturous tests in the name of scientific research and advancement, is something that deserves to be made a hue and cry about.

At the centre of a recent controversy was the National Institute of Virology, where, claimed Maneka Gandhi, the monkeys used in the experiments were not only malnourished and bleeding, but they were also reduced to cannibalism and were eating faeces. But that’s the story of most animals in Indian laboratories — confined in cramped and filthy cages, in poorly-lit and poorly-ventilated rooms, given very little and substandard food, denied even the minimum, basic medicines to relieve their suffering.

There are laws and standards that mandate research animals be better looked after — the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, under which the Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision on Experiments on Animals was set up in 1963, and the more recent Breeding and Experiments on Animals (control and supervision) rules, 1998, which necessitates the setting up of an animal ethics committee in every research lab. Besides these, the government of India’s department of science and technology has plans to start the accreditation of animal houses based on the internationally accepted guidelines of the Assessment and Accreditation of Animal Care.

Interestingly, the heated debate between the two ministers was not about the necessity or even the ethics of vivisection, which so excites animal rights activists in the West. Thakur’s health ministry, which had jurisdiction over NIV, alleged that it was the “highhanded” attitude of the CPCSEA and its chairperson, Maneka Gandhi, which had been responsible for many pharmaceutical companies like Ranbaxy and Nicholas Piramal shifting their research facilities out of India. Maneka Gandhi in turn replied that she was not opposed to the use of animals in research per se, she was only insisting that they be better looked after.

NIV’s obduracy, alleged Maneka Gandhi, was not about animal rights at all, it was about bad science and plain corruption. The Pune-based institute had been hauled up by the CPCSEA in July 2000 for not maintaining proper facilities for its animals, and it had been given a year and Rs 1.50 crore to mend matters. But it did nothing. Also, she reasoned, diseased and weakened animals were highly unlikely to yield results of any value to serious researchers.

She has a point but few people are listening to her. For one, there are the political considerations. Thakur, a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party, is much more important in the National Democratic Alliance than an independent member of parliament like Maneka Gandhi. Two, there is the opprobrium the latter has earned as the “kutta billi” minister. The shrillness of her advocacy of animal rights tends to make most people dismiss her as a zealot who is not to be taken very seriously. Take her campaign against the sterilization of stray dogs, her insistence that jockeys use a particular kind of switch which does not hurt race horses, and so on — all very worthy issues in themselves. But it was her vociferousness that made her seem ridiculous and detracted from the seriousness of her message. In the present instance, health ministry officials had dismissed Maneka Gandhi’s concerns, saying that her demands for air-conditioners and floor tiles for rooms in which animals were kept were not available to human patients in government hospitals.

That is the problem with most such animal rights pressure groups. Take PeTA, the acronym by which People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is better known. PeTA has tried to replicate in India the methods which have made it such a success in the West. It had a number of celebrities to endorse its message (in India there has been everyone from Madhuri Dixit talking about elephants in Assam to Jackie Chan and Van Damme talking about the conditions in the Deonar abattoirs near Mumbai), it came up with a number of colourful and arresting advertisements, it investigated and circulated written and audio-visual material on various animal rights abuses in the country, and so on. But it hasn’t worked as well in India, probably because of PeTA’s perceived Western-bias (at one time, it actively campaigned in the United States of America against the use of leather imported from India). Also, a part of its message — vegetarianism — has been appropriated by thegau mata (cow mother) ideology of the Hindutva brigade.

PeTA has recently got into trouble even in the West. The animal rights pressure group has been taken to court by Huntingdon Life Science, an animal house which has demanded $ 10 million in damages. A PeTA undercover investigator had entered HLS to gather evidence of animal rights abuses — an act that violates the US’s anti-racketeering legislation. Shades of the Tehelka sting operation involving poachers in the Shivalik forests of Uttar Pradesh?

To get back to the science versus animal rights debate. Certainly, medical science would not have gone very far if it hadn’t been for research using animals. In the West especially, the church forbade cutting up of human cadavers and the only option left for early scientists was to dissect animals — mainly apes and pigs — and apply the results to humans. Over the centuries, much of our understanding of the physiology of the human body, of diseases, and many of the innovations in surgical procedures and instruments — the circulation of blood, penicillin, vaccines, to name a few — have been the result of animal testing.

But opinion is gradually changing, no doubt under the onslaught of strident animal rights advocates. For one, new research, especially into the history of scientific discoveries, is bringing to light how animal testing actually might have led researchers astray. For example, Alexander Fleming tried out penicillin on rabbits based on the observation that it killed bacteria in a petri-dish. But nothing happened because the physiology of rabbits is such that they eject the penicillin through the urine. It is only later, when he tried it out on humans, that he realized the wondrous properties of penicillin. In fact, scientists now say, it is very difficult to extrapolate the results of tests on animals because of differences in weight, sex, and in physiognomy.

Worse, some researchers have traced the development of new diseases like AIDS and some forms of cancer to unmonitored research involving animals. According to them, the rising incidence of Ebola and AIDS in recent times can be traced to polio vaccines disbursed in certain areas of the US and central Africa that had been developed using monkeys on which US defence organizations had tried out dangerous experiments in the Sixties.

So what do medical researchers substitute for animals? Some hospitals in the US nowadays discourage medical students from practising surgery on animals. They believe that such dissections do not help much in actual operating room conditions because of the vast differences in anatomy and these, in fact, de-sensitize students to human pain. Scientists are now substituting animals with computer models of cells and their functioning in order to gauge the efficacy of new formulations. Then there are epidemiological studies which have led to new breakthroughs in the study of tobacco and alcohol dependence as well as diseases like cancer.

But such research is still in the initial stages. Not only is it yet to come to India, also it is far from accepted practice in the West. Thus the best bet animal lovers in India have is to ensure that the procedures enjoined under existing laws are followed. That will be good enough to start with. As for the other battles, it might be a sensible idea to keep the politicians out of it.

   

 
 
DOCUMENT / IN SICKNESS AND IN VIOLENCE 
 
 
 
 
The team also received reports of individuals and groups of 50 to 100 people, sometimes armed, circulating in certain hospital wards. These groups would talk in violent language about people of the other community, and create an atmosphere of fear. Even more serious, both patients and staff reported incidents of attempts to inflict violence upon patients within the hospital. Although such incidents were probably uncommon, the fact that they could occur is a serious matter...

Another issue regarding hospitals related to the premature discharge of Muslim patients in certain instances. While such decisions were apparently taken in order to ensure the safety of patients, they confirmed that even doctors perceived that patients and their attendants were not entirely secure within hospitals. The appropriate action by the authorities...would have been to ensure adequate security rather than discharging patients...

The team examined the impact of the violence as well as its underlying processes on the health profession. It looked at three aspects: the participation of health professionals in violence and polarization within the profession; the possibility of discrimination by health professionals against patients of the minority community; and attacks on medical professionals and other losses suffered by them. It concluded that on the whole doctors have acted professionally within a very narrow definition of the word.

While doctors have not actively discriminated against any community, they have not pro-actively made any attempts to safeguard the rights of their patients or even their peers. The medical profession has also not made any attempts to contribute to the process of securing justice for the survivors by documenting medical evidence or highlighting the problems that victims have faced...

The team conducted several interviews with representatives of the medical profession — doctors from both the public and private sector, paramedical staff, and others associated with the health field...While some senior doctors emphasized that a certain section of doctors had definitely been drawn into right wing organizations..., the personal accounts of affected doctors themselves indicated that they did not interpret attacks on them in communal terms. However, it is clear that certain groups are trying to mobilize professionals along religious lines, which could lead to greater polarization within the profession.

Unfortunately, certain medical professionals have also been involved in propagating an ideology of hatred. As members of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad these professionals have also been responsible...for perpetrating grave injury on Muslims in Gujarat. They have played a role that runs counter to their professional calling...

Pravin Togadia (VHP, international general secretary), Jaideep Patel (VHP, joint secretary) and Maya Kodnani (MLA, Naroda) are three medical professionals who were reported as being directly involved in the carnage. Apart from making incendiary statements and provoking violence, at least two of these have been reportedly named in police complaints as assailants in different incidents in Naroda and Gomtipura...Although such reports referred only to certain members of the profession, no cognisance has been taken of their actions; nor have any of the medical associations taken action against them. Professional bodies, both statutory and voluntary, play an important role in safeguarding the integrity of their members. Their failure to even comment on the behaviour of members of their fraternity is inexcusable.

However, the passivity of bodies representing the medical profession is indicative of much more deep-rooted polarization within professionals. One doctor, who was earlier an office bearer of the Indian Medical Association in Godhra, reported that after a change of leadership, the current office bearers had stopped inviting Muslim doctors to meetings of the local IMA. It is well known and openly acknowledged that certain medical associations have political affiliations with right wing groups (National Medicos Organization, Ahmedabad Doctors’ Forum).

It is noteworthy that the Ahmedabad Medical Association (which has 90 per cent of the registered allopathic practitioners in Ahmedabad as its members) has not publicly condemned the attack on doctors during the violence. Condemnation of attacks on doctors followed only after Amit Mehta, a Hindu doctor, was attacked, although many other Muslim doctors’ property had been destroyed earlier and they had faced physical attacks.

An AMA office bearer was asked by the team as to why the AMA had not participated in relief work in the camps ...It was informed that there was a problem of safety. The AMA office bearer reported that they had sent a letter to the state government asking for security for Hindu doctors practising in Muslim areas, and vice versa...

The AMA office bearer asserted that “no Muslim doctor has been attacked in Hindu areas”. When confronted with a report that establishments of some Muslim doctors had been destroyed, he replied that the clinics must have been damaged accidentally because they adjoined other Muslim establishments; no one would deliberately destroy medical establishments.

To be concluded

   

 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

We are mightier than thou

Sir — That all the major political parties in the country have come together to move a bill in Parliament that would neutralize the Supreme Court’s move to ensure a better quality of legislators for the country speaks volumes about the political establishment in India (“Left, right unite against poll code”, July 9). Almost every government, irrespective of ideology, has talked about introducing electoral reforms as well as implementing the recommendations made by earlier committees like the Dinesh Goswami committee on electoral changes. Despite all the talk of cleaning up the electoral system, no changes or reforms were ever introduced. And now most of the parties, be it the Bharatiya Janata Party or the Rashtriya Janata Dal, are afraid that the dictates of the Supreme Court, if followed, would set a precedent that could land politicians like L.K. Advani and Laloo Prasad Yadav in jail. So the apex court can move over, our politicos must have the right of way. Shouldn’t these men be hauled up for contempt of the highest court of the country?

Yours faithfully,
Jyoti Sengupta, Calcutta

Bending the rules

Sir— Xerox Corp’s shocking admission that its Indian subsidiary, Modi Xerox, had made “improper payments” of around $700,000 in order to get government contracts establishes once again that bribery is an accepted way of doing business in India (“Corporate scam stings Delhi”, July 4). Be it in defence deals or in business collaborations with foreign companies, under the table monetary transactions are the norm. Sadly, none of the scandals that have broken regularly over the past few years have brought about greater transparency among public servants.

Even the senior advisor to the Confederation of Indian Industry, T.K. Bhaumik, has tried to justify such corruption by saying that “every government is corrupt in one way or another” and that even the American government has been embroiled in frauds and shady deals is an indication of the decay in the system. If the department of company affairs, which will examine Modi Xerox’s accounts, finds any irregularities, the Central vigilance commission would probably step in followed by the Central Bureau of Investigation. But there will be no conviction in the case. The only way to check corruption is to make all such deals transparent and take immediate and prompt action against the offenders.

Yours faithfully,
Aruna Gupta, Calcutta

Sir — Bribery and corruption seem to have become a part of public life in India. It was during Indira Gandhi’s regime that large-scale corruption and bribery first came to the fore. Her son, Rajiv Gandhi, began as “Mr Clean”, but it didn’t take long for the Bofors scandal to sully his career. And now comes the Modi Xerox bribery scandal. It appears that the Indian subsidiary of Xerox Corp, based in the United States of America, paid Rs 300 crore to high officials in the Central government to bag a contract to supply photocopy machines to government offices. It is precisely such a system, whereby one office is authorized to get supplies for departments located all over the country, that leads to corruption. Lower level offices should be given a free hand to make retail purchases. This will immediately put a stop to corruption. Also strict and regular auditing should be done to ensure everything is above board. But does the new finance minister care about taking steps to weed out corruption in government departments as soon as possible?

The government could also follow the example of the lok ayukta in Karnataka, under the former Supreme Court judge, M. Venkatachaliah. Its officials pay surprise visits to different government departments to unearth corrupt practices. But one man cannot make India a corruption-free country — ordinary citizens as well as intellectuals should participate in such an exercise.

Yours faithfully,
V.A. Gopala, Bangalore

Sir — One did not quite know how intrinsic corruption was to Indian politics till Bofors happened. There have been numerous other scandals since then which involved foreign business firms — the urea scandal for example. Indian politicians have become known the world over as bribe-takers. But need the concept of graft in public deals be regarded with as much shame? In Italy as also in several Latin American countries, a substantial part of the money that exchanges hands goes to the mafia or underground groups. The partners in any such transaction, especially those that involve foreign companies, know that they have to pay the third party. This has become an accepted practice and doesn’t raise eyebrows any longer. Much of this money also finds its way into the pockets of politicians. In India, the issue has raised so much scorn because politicians are directly seen to be the beneficiaries of large-scale public deals. Would there have been less public ire had the money gone to underground groups?

Yours faithfully,
Jayant Srivastava, Calcutta

Bad deal

Sir — I am a frequent user of the internet and I have discovered that none of the big internet service providers have a decent package configured for users like me. I am talking about a system that would charge me an annual or a monthly fee which would enable me to browse the internet for an unlimited period of time during that year or month, instead of a specific number of hours. Since I run hundred hours in a little over a week, none of the packages available really suits my needs.The Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited had a so-called unlimited package which they ran for a year. I am positive that there are many users like me, as well as several small businessmen, who would prefer an unlimited package.

I also realized a number of things when I travelled abroad. First, that each time you connect to the internet via dial-up, you pay for only one phone call instead of the full charges that you have to pay every 3 minutes or so here. Second, all major internet packages are unlimited in nature, that is, you pay only a monthly fee and you can be connected the whole day if you wish. It may not be feasible in India to charge a person for the time he is online rather than on the number of phone calls made. However, it is astonishing that none of the major ISPs have come out with a robust unlimited internet access package that can get them far more revenues from people like me rather than the small 100 and 250 hour packages which usually benefit people who log on only to chat and check mail for a few minutes a day, and try to make their accounts last for three years. Is there a logic behind this or have the highly-paid executives of the ISPs merely decided to forget everything they learnt at business school because they are working in a country like India?

Yours faithfully,
Vinoo Samuel, Calcutta

Sir— With the advent of the latest technology the capacity of telephone lines have increased. However, owing to the lack of business sense among the telephone authorities, subscribers have not been given any added incentives. Instead, they have had to pay a higher tariff when they make a large number of phone calls. As a result, subscribers are indirectly encouraged not to use telephones unless it is extremely urgent.

Yours faithfully,
Hara Lal Chakraborty, Calcutta

You’re talking now

Sir— Johan Cruyff’s criticism of Brazil and this world cup is understandable. He is frustrated because his country did not qualify for the final round (“Scolari was scared of Germans, says Cruyff”, July 2). Moreover, the cup has also been taken away from the Europeans by a Latin American team. His statement that Brazil are “anti-football” because they take advantage of the mistakes of their opponents is laughable. Any other international team would do the same.

Cruyff should understand that the Dutch can blame only themselves for their defeat. Cruyff hopes that the Dutch never follow Brazil’s example. Is this why the Netherlands have never won a world cup? Brazil is not destroying the game of football, they have only replaced the European style of playing the game with a more popular Latin one.

Yours faithfully,
Vivek Vardhan, Bokaro

Sir— Luiz Felipe Scolari has singlehandedly transformed a disorganized team of talented individuals into a cohesive and winning unit. Despite the scathing criticism, even from his own countrymen, he has proved everyone wrong by helping Brazil lift the world cup for a record fifth time. But even this achievement has not impressed his critics, notably Diego Maradona and Johan Cruyff, the latter even going on to describe the Brazil team as “anti-football”. Yet, these anti-football tactics not only helped Brazil score the maximum number of goals in this world cup — 18 in all — but also helped Ronaldo win the Golden Boot for scoring eight goals.

It is ironic that Cruyff should criticize Brazil. After all, despite their “total football” technique, the Dutch could not even qualify for the world cup finals. Instead of complaining like schoolboys, the Dutch should learn a thing or two about football from the Brazilians. May be then they would be able to win more matches.

Yours faithfully,
Arnab Banerjee, Calcutta

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