Editorial 1 / Death’s head
Editorial 2 / Birth of a policy
Reasoning deficit
Fifth Column / Blueprint for a hindu india
Election or dynastic succession?
Document / But for the lack of evidence
Letters to the editor

 
 
EDITORIAL 1 / DEATH’S HEAD 
 
 
 
 
Pakistan’s military establishment will be hoping that the speedy trial of all those accused in the murder of the Wall Street Journal reporter, Daniel Pearl, will strengthen its international reputation as a reliable partner in the war against terrorism. A special anti-terrorism court concluded the trial within weeks, unlike the many years that regular Pakistani courts take to complete proceedings. The main accused, Omar Saeed Sheikh, has been sentenced to death and the three other co-accused have been sentenced to life imprisonment. The kidnapping and subsequent murder of Pearl, who was visiting Karachi in January this year had caused widespread shock, and deeply tarnished Pakistan’s reputation. Pearl had been in the process of establishing links between al Qaida and religious organizations active in Pakistan. In February, the abductors released a video cassette, which depicted the details of his assassination.

The irony, of course, is that Sheikh had spent several years in Indian prisons for the abduction of several foreigners, including an American in 1994. Later, Sheikh was one of the terrorists released in exchange for the civilians of the hijacked Indian Airlines plane in 1999. Since then he had operated with impunity in Pakistan, and had become closely associated with the Jaish-e-Mohammad and al Qaida. He was involved with planning terrorist operations against India, and in building resistance to the American presence in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Indeed, even those opposed to the capital punishment are unlikely to have much sympathy for him. Unlike most terrorists, he was a product of privilege who benefited from an education at some of the world’s leading institutions, including the London School of Economics and Political Science. Excerpts from a diary that he had maintained in Indian jails, reveal a depraved mind who was willing to go to any lengths in pursuit of what he believed to be a just and noble cause. The conclusion of the Pearl murder case, however, should not suggest that Pakistan has successfully won the battle against terrorism. There is, for instance, evidence to suggest that elements within Pakistan’s military regime still view the export of terror as an important instrument of its policy in Kashmir. Moreover, there are rogue groups that continue to operate even without support from the establishment. The recent terrorist attack in Jammu, believed to have been inspired by the Lashkar-e-Toiba, is a pointer in this direction. Many terrorist groups have even threatened to act against the sentence awarded to Sheikh and his colleagues. There is need, therefore, for international pressure to be sustained on Islamabad until it demonstrates clearly that its soil has been totally cleansed of terrorists.

   

 
 
EDITORIAL 2 / BIRTH OF A POLICY 
 
 
 
 
Jharkhand’s chief minister, Mr Babulal Marandi, is treading on dangerous ground. His “domicile policy” to favour sons of the soil in government jobs and educational institutions is not only bad politics but also disastrous public policy. It is now clear that the government’s claim of merely “adopting” a policy that existed in Bihar before its bifurcation and the birth of Jharkhand is also dubious. Jharkhand is under no obligation to continue with Bihar’s doubtful legacies. But whether Bihar ever implemented any “domicile” notification is besides the point. The important point is that such a move clearly violates the constitutional provision which bars governments from discriminating against anyone on the grounds of “religion, race, caste, place of birth and residence”. Rulings of the Supreme Court and several high courts have unequivocally said as much. Mr Marandi’s “domicile policy” only adds to the fears and confusion generated earlier by the controversy over his government’s reservation policy. In reserving 73 per cent of government jobs for tribals and scheduled castes, the government had betrayed a warped approach that has now prompted the domicile policy. Apart from its obvious illegality, the policy is sure to cause considerable social unrest in the state.

Although its tribal majority was the reason for Jharkhand’s separation from Bihar, Mr Marandi cannot afford to ignore the interests of the large non-tribal population. In fact, most of the industrial centres of the state such as Dhanbad, Jamshedpur, Bokaro and Ranchi have people from all over the country. It will not do the state any good if these people, many of whom have technical expertise, are made to feel unwanted and eventually leave it. The chief minister needs to create an atmosphere of ethnic harmony if the new state has to prosper. Unfortunately, neither his reservation policy nor the new domicile idea is a step in that direction. There can be no dispute with official attempts to give a better deal to the tribals who have been left out of development schemes of successive Bihar governments. But Mr Marandi’s moves seem to have been prompted more by considerations of the majority votebank than anything else. The fear of a backlash by the tribal majority has also held back the opposition parties from taking on Mr Marandi on the domicile issue. But votebank politics has repeatedly failed not only the country but also communities it pretended to benefit. The only beneficiaries were the political parties which cynically used it in their pursuit of power. The Mandal politics of the late Eighties proved this as much as the mandir politics of a latter day. Mr Marandi’s tribal politics is an addition to this divisive agenda.

   

 
 
REASONING DEFICIT 
 
 
BY ANUP SINHA
 
 
The Left Front government has been celebrating its long and distinguished tenure of office in West Bengal. Its history of holding together a political coalition, along with its record of maintaining communal peace and harmony has not only been impressive but deeply significant too, in the larger context of national politics. The front displayed strong political will in undertaking agrarian reforms that aimed to benefit poor and marginal farmers. In activating the panchayat system it brought about a new level of involvement and participation of local people in political processes.

The benefits of this strategy not only paid rich political dividends to the front, it also brought about a marked improvement in the growth of state domestic product and per capita income. There is ample evidence of the positive effects of agrarian change, though there could be many debates about the degree and depth of the reforms. One indicator of the lack of depth in change is the insufficient attention paid to primary education and basic health. It did not reflect well on a government with a professedly pro-poor agenda, when West Bengal’s rank in human development was only 20 amongst all states and Union territories in 1991. This moved up marginally from 22 in 1981.

The national human development report puts West Bengal’s rank at 20 in the human poverty index in 1991, this time marginally worse than its rank of 17 in 1981. Yet, in terms of per capita net state domestic product (an aggregate measure which does not explicitly take into account achievements and deprivations in education and health) West Bengal ranked 10 in 1981-82 and 11 in 1997-98. Clearly, the front government’s performance in the field of building elementary human capabilities has been far worse than its ability to promote aggregate growth.

In this context, a frequently used defence pertains to the assignment of priorities to political programmes. The business of raising incomes and assets of poor and marginal farmers could be put ahead of investments in education and health. It could also take priority over industrial growth, in the state-owned as well as the private sector. Independent of whether the priorities of governance were indeed consciously biased in favour of redistributive land reforms and registration of share-croppers, the undeniable fact remains that the state has slipped substantially, relative to other states, in terms of industrial growth and in education and health attainments.

Even if such a priority lay behind the design of the front’s economic policy, there is no reason to believe that there was a paucity of economic and financial resources to give sufficient attention to the social sector. In other words, there was no trade-off in allocating resources for reforms and improving health and education facilities. The crux of agrarian reforms was to implement existing legislation. It did not call for long-term public investments as such. Years of neglect have now forced the front’s attention back to these areas. This has been coupled with the apprehension that the gains of land reforms and green revolution technologies may be reaching a limit where the impressive growth of the agricultural sector will peter out.

The front is at a crossroads. It had been claiming that the experiment of decentralized planning and panchayati raj marked a new model for India to emulate. But its record of poverty reduction and human development can hardly be singled out as exemplary. It is at best, only mediocre by all-India standards. Now, in order to catch the attention of much-needed investors, it has to claim that West Bengal is as good as any other state in the ability to be investor-friendly. Attracting long-term investments entails, among many other things, adequate physical infrastructure and human development. Ensuring human development entails, amongst many other things, adequate basic capabilities in education and health. Both these objectives require an active role of the state in providing budgetary resources and efficient governance.

In the context of the current discussion on the new strategy for economic development what has not received adequate attention is the health of the state’s fisc. We are just beginning to be aware of financial difficulties reflected in long delays in government disbursements and the postponed payments to school teachers. The general condition of the nation’s fisc is disquieting. The state government’s fiscal problems are alarming too. And amongst the states, West Bengal’s situation is, arguably, one of the worst.

West Bengal’s revenue deficit has grown by leaps and bounds over the period 1995-96 to 2000-01 with the revised estimate for 2001-2002 being more than Rs 8,000 crore. The ratio of revenue deficit to revenue receipt in West Bengal is at about three times the average for all states. The fiscal deficit of the state had moved from around 2 per cent of gross state domestic product in the early Nineties to about 10 per cent in 1999-2000. This has since fallen, and is budgeted at around 6 per cent for this year.

The real trouble is that fiscal deficits are driven more and more by revenue deficits. This has a number of implications. The most important of course is that considerable borrowing is undertaken to meet government consumption needs, and not for capital formation through public investments. Committed spending in the form of wages, salaries and interest payments leave almost no scope for creating infrastructure and boosting education and health capabilities, even if the government desires to do so.

Public expenditure on health and education as a proportion to gross state domestic product has been at best stagnant. The expenditure on health actually fell marginally between 1980-81 and 1998-99. The figures for education indicate a marginal rise. In terms of expenditures on both education and health, West Bengal’s relative position amongst all states has fallen, indicating that most other states have concentrated energy on improving human capabilities in a way that has outstripped West Bengal’s efforts.

The Left Front government missed an important opportunity in the first decade of its rule in not building social capabilities while going about the important task of undertaking agrarian reforms. Now, given the acute fiscal difficulties the state is in, even these opportunities are virtually non-existent.

In seeking the roots of the fiscal woes one may certainly point to the Union government’s own difficulties and disabilities, but there is no way that the state government can absolve itself from all responsibility for the current state of affairs. Unable to put its own house in order, the Union government has turned the heat on state governments with the medium term fiscal reforms programme. This seeks to cut revenue deficits for the entire nation (states and Union governments together) to zero, and bring fiscal deficits to around 2 per cent of GDP by 2005-06. Each state is supposed to set milestones towards attaining this target.

With limited sources of revenues and avenues for borrowing from the Reserve Bank of India, state governments have increasingly resorted to off-budget borrowings, and providing guarantees for the debt incurred by state-controlled organizations. For instance, West Bengal was one of the few states that enacted legislation putting a cap on risky guarantees undertaken by the government. However, it kept the West Bengal Infrastructure Development Finance Corporation outside the purview of the legislated cap on guarantees, thereby ensuring that it had recourse to tapping increasingly risky options if and when the need arose.

West Bengal’s recent growth has been fuelled mostly by agriculture and the services sector. The old economy industries that once gave the state its competitive edge over other states are in the doldrums, with a shrinking market and a myopic private sector that had sought to reap short-term gains only. The state’s public sector is inefficient, and totally impotent to deliver any revenue streams that will cover costs, let alone contribute to the state’s treasury. The new economy software industry is still in its infancy, and it is hard to predict where it will head with the information technology sector, the world over experiencing a serious slowdown.

The revenue base of the state government is based mainly on the old economy, manufacturing sector. The gains in growth of the agricultural sector and the services sector have not been translated into tax revenues for the government, even within the existing constitutional limits. Side by side, the government, over the past two and a half decades, had not hesitated to create more direct jobs in government. The wage bill and the pension burdens have now inflated current expenditures with a vengeance.

The Left Front government’s ability to systematically improve the sustainable choices open to the people of the state, especially the poor and deprived, had been limited by a lack of foresight in improving human capabilities. Now despite an emerging will to do so, there are severe fiscal constraints, many of them created by a lack of long-term vision. This is an indictment that is particularly severe for a coalition that is professedly pro-poor, undoubtedly secular, and with a political programme distinctly left-of-centre.

The author is faculty member of the economics group, Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta

   

 
 
FIFTH COLUMN / BLUEPRINT FOR A HINDU INDIA 
 
 
BY MOHIT SEN
 
 
There is increasing speculation in political circles about the Bharatiya Janata Party leadership’s strategy for the next general elections scheduled for 2004. Will it abandon its “soft saffron approach” and go back to a hardline Hindutva stance? And, very important, will it jettison its coalition partners? But first, it is important to know what the BJP’s objective is and what strategy it will employ to fulfil that objective.

A senior Congress leader once said that democracy is a great teacher because it forces you to accept the verdict of the people, no matter how unpalatable. If a communal party can convince the electorate that it should be given a chance to govern the country, then very little can be done to prevent it from coming to power.

But accepting the electoral verdict is not all there is to a democracy — a political party must also govern. Now governance is not simply about administration, though that is very important. The ruling party must be able to convince the electorate that it is concerned about their everyday problems — water, electricity, prices of essential commodities, housing, admissions to schools and colleges, health and so on. And inevitably, as they go about the business of governance, political parties, however radical their ideologies, are forced to soften their stand.

Tale of two “isms”

If it is the BJP that has learnt to accept the ideals and processes of democracy now, earlier it was the communists who were forced to compromise on their opposition to the Indian Constitution and elections. But, while the “communalists” were inherently opposed to democracy, the communists insisted that the “dictatorship of the proletariat” would make democracy a reality for an overwhelming majority of people. Things did not turn out that way always, but it was the belief in this doctrine that enabled the latter to join hands with the liberals to defend civil democracy.

Despite hiccups, the Congress and the communists in our country have worked together for long periods before and after independence. Unfortunately, because of an obsessive anti-Congressism, the communists then joined hands with the communal parties to end, what they called the Congress’s “monopoly of power”. Fortunately, the communists now regard the BJP as their main enemy though they are yet to accept the Congress as a strategic ally.

The National Democratic Alliance, of which the BJP is the chief constituent, consists of a large number of parties, not all of them communal. Also, the NDA agenda differs from that of the BJP on several important issues. Most of the NDA partners have their own ideologies — none accepts Hindutva and most are firm secularists. But power seems to have corrupted most of the partners, and they will, very likely, not offer much resistance to the advance of the BJP.

Desperate bid

The BJP leadership has also realized that it cannot establish a communal Hindu society within the parameters of parliamentary democracy. The majority of Hindus, let alone other communities in India, are secular and would not favour the establishment of a theocratic state. But the BJP is pushing the boundaries of the system to see how far it can go. For example, by raising rabble-rousers like Vinay Katiyar to prominence, the BJP could well be facilitating the birth of other Narendra Modis.

In the future, we can expect that the BJP’s main form of activity will be to organize public displays of Hindu rituals and other demonstrations which would probably lead to more communal riots. There will probably be more Gujarat-like pogroms against the minorities. Interestingly, some of the more cynical of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and BJP leadership feels that Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s methods of whipping up such a communal frenzy leading to a series of communal riots, is the best path to a Hindu rashtra.

The only way to prevent the RSS-BJP combine from carrying out its plan would be to organize a sustained campaign against them. This would however entail that all parties that believe in the ideals of secularism and democracy to come together and stop the BJP from succeeding.

   

 
 
ELECTION OR DYNASTIC SUCCESSION? 
 
 
BY BHARAT BHUSHAN
 
 
Omar Abdullah, a third generation Abdullah, will take over as the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir in the next few days. Farooq Abdullah himself is likely to be accommodated as a cabinet minister in New Delhi with a portfolio which would leave him ample scope to display his histrionic abilities. New Delhi meanwhile would announce yet another interlocutor to discuss the issue of granting greater autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir. If all goes well, these developments would take place over the next fortnight. Kashmir then would be all set for elections.

To ensure that the elections are free and fair, Omar Abdullah will obligingly recommend that they be held under governor’s rule. He has already hinted as much. His father, however, has made noises to the contrary, but the Abdullahs will oblige if Farooq is given an honourable deal.

To ensure fair elections, civil servants with impeccable records from all over India — with a large sprinkling of Muslim officers — will be drafted as election observers. The voter turnout will be much higher than in the past. And as of now, it seems that the new government might be formed by the Abdullah family firm, the National Conference. But it would come to power with a reduced majority — not the brute majority it enjoys now with 62 out of a total of 87 legislative assembly seats but, say, about 45 seats.

A precariously perched government, with even four or five legislators having the potential to destabilize it, is likely to be more responsive. There would be a credible opposition in place and a relatively guileless Omar Abdullah would be raring to make his mark as a politician and an administrator. The political space within Kashmir will open up and the people will get a responsive government.

Such a scenario would suggest that India has the Kashmir election all sewn up. But the reality is quite the contrary. There are three big spoilers in this picture — Islamabad, the National Conference and New Delhi itself.

A free and fair election in Jammu and Kashmir, endorsed by the international community, would weaken Pakistan’s case on plebiscite in Kashmir. Islamabad, therefore, will ensure that elections are not held properly and that the electoral participation is minimal. Abdul Gani Lone’s brutal assassination was the first indicator of the punishment in store for those who might be tempted to participate in the elections.

The immediate consequence of Lone’s assassination was that the other moderates in the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference clammed up. The United Jehadi Council issued threats from Pakistan that unless the Hurriyat leaders come clean on boycotting the elections, they should be prepared to face the consequences. It would not be surprising, therefore, if some more political assassinations are witnessed in the Kashmir valley before the assembly elections.

It is not only the Hurriyat moderates who are running scared. Despite the best efforts of New Delhi, a third front comprising moderate secessionists has not come into being. The various moderate secessionist groups have not coalesced, nor have their leaders given any indication that they would participate in the elections. This is nothing but a reflection of the fear of being killed.

It is also not in the interest of the National Conference that a free and fair election is held. No political party in Kashmir can match it in terms of the spread of its cadre and money power. And if only the traditional parties contest, it is quite likely that the National Conference would return to power, although with a reduced majority. But imagine an election in which the Hurriyat Conference and even the moderate militants participate. Then the National Conference may face the prospect of defeat. What then would happen to the dynastic ambitions of the Abdullahs?

Therefore, the National Conference would like that the elections are held in a manner which allows it to retain power and, at the same time, Omar Abdullah emerges with a certain amount of legitimacy. This can only happen if the secessionists do not participate in the elections and if they are held under a relatively neutral regime. With limited or no administrative interference, the voter turnout might even be honourable. That is why the Abdullahs might agree to elections under governor’s rule.

As for the government of India, its Kashmir policy is in complete disarray. It does not know what it wants in Jammu and Kashmir, except retaining it somehow within the Union. That is why its chief interlocutor on Kashmir, K.C. Pant has not been able to achieve anything. Nor would any other interlocutor be successful unless the government’s objectives are clear.

On the issue of granting greater autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir, the record of the Central government has been confusing. The home minister, L.K. Advani, had rejected the Jammu and Kashmir autonomy report even without considering it. His party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, the leading partner in the coalition government in New Delhi, stands for repealing Article 370 of the Constitution which gives a special status to the state. Only last week, the new BJP president, M. Venkaiah Naidu, proclaimed in his inaugural press conference that the party need not be ashamed of its agenda and referred to its stand against Article 370.

With what credibility then can Advani appoint an interlocutor to discuss granting greater autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir? And why should the issue of autonomy be discussed with an outgoing govern- ment and not with the one that assumes power after the elections? Under the circumstances, the people may be forgiven for assuming that this is only an attempt to give pre-electoral legitimacy to an otherwise discredited National Conference.

If the government wanted the moderate militant leaders to participate in the elections, then it should have given them an honourable way of doing so. When Shabir Shah said in an interview that fairness in elections could be ensured by the presence of Indian civil liberties organizations and intellectuals, New Delhi did not utter a word of encouragement. When he said that he wanted to participate in the elections — not to form a government but to see who the real representatives of the Kashmiri people were — again there was no response from the government. He had to retract his statement.

How then does India expect Shabir Shah or others like him to put their lives on the line by participating in the elections? And if none of the moderate militants participate, it is difficult to see what purpose a “free and fair” election would serve — except for ensuring a smooth dynastic transition.

New Delhi has now said that Farooq Abdullah would be removed as the chief minister before the elections, that the elections might be held under governor’s rule and that the question of autonomy would be discussed with the Kashmiris.

If all these measures had come out of negotiations with the Kashmiri leaders, their impact would have been significantly different. However, that would mean accusing the home ministry of the intelligence and political acumen needed to package these pre-electoral concessions. Through sheer incompetence, therefore, India would end up holding an election in Jammu and Kashmir which may have little legitimacy. But it need not have been this way.

   

 
 
DOCUMENT / BUT FOR THE LACK OF EVIDENCE 
 
 
 
 
Neutrality and humanitarianism are the founding principles of the medical profession. The team repeatedly heard these sentiments from the medical association representatives interviewed. However, in practice, it did not find many attempts to uphold or re-assert these values. It is quite clear that doctors’ decisions on where to situate their practices are based on pragmatic considerations — the scope for earnings.

Still, the right of all people to work wherever they choose to work must be respected and protected. Any exodus of medical practitioners due to real or perceived dangers based on their religion will inflict irreparable damage on the profession. In this context, one cannot over-emphasize the role of medical associations in protecting the interests of all their members...

Although the team could not conduct a systematic investigation into the quality of medico-legal documentation, it was evident that there had been several lapses. Post-mortems were not conducted in several cases, dying declarations were not recorded and medico-legal cases were not recorded...

It remains to be seen whether these were deliberate, because such lapses in documentation are common in normal times as well. However, in this situation, these lapses have serious consequences for survivors’ attempts to get compensation and punish those who inflicted violence on them.

During discussions with both the survivors of violence and representatives of nongovernmental organizations working for the victims, the team came across medico-legal issues which will affect victims’ efforts to obtain justice. Some of these relate to the conduct of the police. In other situations, doctors may have been under pressure to “modify” post-mortem reports. While these issues need a full-fledged investigation, some instance which came to the team’s notice are mentioned below...

Legal volunteers involved in handling complaints of victims and their relatives referred to inadequate procedures followed by the police. Even though many of the deaths took place in hospitals (70 deaths in corporation hospitals in Ahmedabad as of April 25), dying declarations were rarely recorded. Most patients were victims of burns, stabbing or gunshot injury, and many would have been in a position to give a declaration after having received life-stabilizing treatment. However, neither the police nor hospital authorities are pursuing this issue. A senior administrator in the municipal corporation stated that at the height of the riots, when there were many casualties, only identification of bodies was done, not postmortems.

Another issue related to the police disposing of bodies prematurely, without waiting for relatives to claim them. The police is required to preserve the body for 72 hours, during which period relatives may identify and claim them. However, the police has disposed of bodies as “unidentified” within a day of receiving them. In such a situation relatives were often unable to see the body of their loved ones, gather any information about the cause of death, and otherwise follow up the case.

The National Human Rights Commission has laid down certain guidelines for conducting post-mortem examinations. There is also provision for video-photography during the post-mortem especially for custodial deaths. It does not appear that these guidelines have been followed in a large number of cases...

Eyewitness accounts of many of the rapes have indicated that many of the victims were subsequently burnt to death. This led to the destruction of all physical evidence. Other rape victims fled to relief camps immediately after the assault. The violence on the streets prevented them from approaching hospitals for a medical examination (and the recording of evidence), and the lack of facilities prevented this from being done within the camp premises. In such cases, physical medico-legal evidence of the assault no longer exists...

To be concluded

   

 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

With her blessings

Sir — J. Jayalalithaa has for long tried to prove that despite her grandiose personal expenditure she always thinks of the common man and tries to alleviate his problems, be it through the annadata scheme or through mass weddings. This time, Amma along with the Hindu religious and charitable endowments department, organized and sponsored a mass wedding for 1,008 couples (“Amma plays priest in mass marriage”, July 15). Having had a distinguished career in throwing lavish weddings, Amma also threw in a two day honeymoon package for each couple as well as a massive feast for at least 10 guests per couple. While Jayalalithaa claims that the mass wedding was a unique way of combining “spiritualism and social work” one cannot help wondering what could be the real reason behind the show. Could it be that, notwithstanding Amma’s vehement denials, this is actually the state government’s unique way of trying to enter the Guinness Book of World Records?

Yours faithfully,
Rahul Mukherjee, Mumbai

Health report

Sir — The report, “Transplant short cut to death” (July 11), is yet another example of the gross medical negligence that has become routine in state hospitals in West Bengal. The case of Rupa Das, who underwent a kidney transplant at Seth Sukhlal Karnani Memorial Hospital in April, and later succumbed to post-operation complications, is just one of the many cases. Das is supposed to have died because doctors went ahead with the transplant without conducting the basic human leukocyte antigen typing test, which establishes the “histo-compatibility” between the patient and the donor.

The hospital and its doctors, instead of taking responsibility for Das’s death, have blamed her parents who, they allege, had asked them not to conduct the test as they could not afford it. Although the head of the hospital’s nephrology department argues that the test is mandatory, the doctor who supervised Das’s operation, Rajen Pandey, insists that he was merely going along with the wishes of the patient’s family. But Pandey could have brought up the matter at the meeting of the authorization committee instead of independently deciding to go ahead with the operation. Skipping the test was both unethical and negligent on his part, especially since Das’s family does not possess the medical know-how to be aware of the consequences of the lapse. In the circumstances, it is the doctor’s duty to point out the repercussions. It is time the Indian Medical Association introduced tougher measures to ensure that doctors do not play with the lives of their patients.

Yours faithfully,
Sumant Poddar, Calcutta

Sir — The question that needs to be asked concerning the death of Rupa Das is whether it is right or wrong to perform an organ transplant from a parent to the child without conducting the HLA typing test to verify the relationship between the two. The answer is a scientific one and not a legal or a moral issue. As long as one is more than adequately sure about the relationship between the patient and the donor, the requirement of the HLA test is redundant. It is not often that the donor is made out to be the “mother” of the patient to whom she is unrelated just for the sake of an organ transplant. When there is such a possibility, the medical team may consider verifying the relationship by all available means, including the HLA test.

In the case of Rupa Das, it is malicious to suggest that non-performance of the HLA test is responsible for the death of the patient, that too three months after the surgery had taken place. The treatment protocol would not have been any different as this is done irrespective of whether the HLA test is performed or not. The only point of contention would be if now anyone could show that Lakshmi Das is not the biological mother of Rupa Das. In the absence of any such evidence, it would be wrong to make the assumptions that “Transplant short cut to death” evinces.

Yours faithfully,
V.V. Lakshminarayanan, head, department of nephrology, Woodlands Hospital and Medical Research Centre, Calcutta

Sir — Rupa Das’s case shows what a curse sickness is to the lower middle classes who are neither eligible for free beds nor can wish for special attention in airconditioned cabins.

Yours faithfully,
J. Acharya, Calcutta

League of goons

Sir — The suicide of Abhijit Sinha, who was interrogated by the police for his alleged links with the People’s War, and reported police excesses on those arrested reminds us of the dark days of the Naxalite era (“Rush on Naxalites leads to suicide”, July 9). It is horrifying that the interrogation should have prompted Sinha to end his life. For long the police have been getting away with the use of third degree measures against suspects. Sinha’s case has drawn attention because he happened to be the son-in-law of a senior police officer. But the left has forgotten that it had itself cried hoarse against police repression during the Congress government in the state. That the left should be following in its footsteps shows that the Communist Party of India (Marxist) is no different from the Congress in the Naxalite period.

Yours faithfully,
Amar Lahiri Majumdar, Calcutta

Sir — It is ironic that although the West Bengal government refused to introduce the Prevention of Organized Crime Act in West Bengal for the fear that it would lead to human rights violations, Abhijit Sinha’s death suggests that the government is not doing too badly without POCA.

Yours faithfully,
S. Chakraborty, Ulubari, Assam

Sir — Abhijit Sinha was a Central excise inspector and son-in-law of a deputy superintendent of police. What does the West Bengal police have in store for more ordinary people?

Yours faithfully,
Kajal Chatterjee, Sodepur

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