Editorial 1 / Bill and coo
Editorial 2 / Air pocket
Dilemmas here to stay
Fifth Column / Time for a second fiddler
Missing the link altogether
Document / Blind to the tell tale signs of assault
Letters to the editor

 
 
EDITORIAL 1 / BILL AND COO 
 
 
 
 
There is one thing that India’s fearless legislators are terrified of. It is called transparency. It is hailed as one of the principles upon which a democracy is based. But the promise of transparency — or the threat of it — contained in the recommendations of the Supreme Court and the Election Commission regarding amendments to the Representation of the People Act evokes a concerted terror among politicians. This has found expression in unified resistance and the formulation of a draft bill that makes nonsense of all the proposals. Typically, tribal mentality of the kind shown by the legislators seeks outlet in aggression. There was much ranting about overstepping by the Supreme Court and the EC prior to the drafting of the bill. Since the point being made by the aggrieved politicians was technically correct, the political parties no doubt felt that their responsibility towards the electorate had been honourably discharged.

Therefore the draft bill, now awaiting consensus, has simply ignored the issue of transparency. There is, of course, grave lip service given to the whole problem of criminals in politics, through a proposed two-page questionnaire in place of the EC’s recommendation of a 40-page one. “Heinous” crimes, excluding the attempt to murder, have been considered worthy of communication. But there must be two independent charges, under the jurisdiction of two different courts, framed within six months prior to the filing of nomination papers. There is no question of a history. And if the higher courts have put a stay on the proceedings they need not be considered at all. And since rival politicians may frame a candidate on the charge of attempt to murder, it is not included in the list. There can be few better examples of silence exposing a living reality. Both the mendacity and the criminal propensities of Indian legislators are brought out by this, together with their complicit hypocrisy in virtuously leaving this out of the draft.

The other two recommendations find no place in the draft at all. Contestants need not declare their assets and liabilities either before or after the elections or even their educational qualifications. No one is asking for doctorate degrees from legislators. As a matter of fact, people’s leaders may not have the highest educational qualifications in a country like India. But there can be no problem if the electors know what kind of person they are voting for. Perhaps the legislators are scared that the general level of education in the house of the people may be held responsible when their law-making turns out to be hopelessly damaging for the country. Similarly, there is no reason why people should not know what assets and liabilities the contestants have. Unless they have plenty to hide. None of this information would bar them from contesting — nothing but a sentence of imprisonment for two years or more would do. The dismissal of the people’s right to know disqualifies the present legislators outright from seats in Parliament. But what the draft bill shows is even more alarming. It shows a desire to perpetuate criminality and illegality in politics among the very people who should be the first to fight them.

   

 
 
EDITORIAL 2 / AIR POCKET 
 
 
 
 
The decision of Virgin Airlines to snap its links with Air India and pull out, for the moment, from India, is bad news for international travellers looking for competitive fares in the London-Delhi sector. But this is only one, and even perhaps a minor, aspect of the story. Passengers will suffer because of an outmoded policy being pursued by the government of India regarding landing rights in India and in Great Britain. Landing rights are subject to bilateral negotiations between the governments of India and Britain. India naturally lobbies for more flights into Heathrow, London’s principal airport. This is not always possible because Heathrow is run by an independent corporation over which Her Majesty’s government has no control. This often becomes a sore point in negotiations. But in India there is no such problem since all airports are under the Airports Authority of India which is directly under the government. The problem in India lies elsewhere and is located in the mindset that sees Air India as a national carrier. Air India is no such thing, it is just another airline which has no monopoly over the Indian skies and the international routes. Yet the Indian government works on the assumption that whatever landing rights are given by the British government to the Indian government belong to Air India. The landing rights are seen as part of the maharaja’s privy purse. This is as much an anachronism as the symbol of the maharaja to stand for democratic India.

There exist good reasons now to break this mindset and to bring into place a different way of distributing landing rights. There are other airlines, some of them more efficient, than Air India, which would offer better service on the London-Delhi sector. The name of Jet Airways comes to mind, especially after the department of company affairs has completely cleared the airline and declared Mr Naresh Goyal to be its owner. The point is important because Air India does not even utilize all the 18 flights that is given to India under the existing bilateral agreement with Britain. It flies only 11 and had given two to Virgin Airlines. Five slots were lying vacant; and after the departure of Virgin, there will be an increase in the number of vacancies. Passengers cannot have their options reduced because the government pampers a non-existent monopoly.

   

 
 
DILEMMAS HERE TO STAY 
 
 
BY SHAM LAL
 
 
The jingle which says that “piano keys don’t lock doors/Footballs don’t have toes” can be dismissed as laughable nonsense. When the Pakistan president shared his straitjacketed thoughts on a new constitution for his country with a television audience for 70 minutes last Friday, however, it was no laughing matter. It must have given most of his listeners the eerie feeling that the ghosts of past military dictators in the country had come to haunt them once again.

Once one knocks the stuffing out of it, what remains of Pervez Musharraf’s long-winded address is a message that the military is the only true democratic force in the country and that, whenever the chips are down, its will should prevail over that of an elected legislature and the government responsible to it. This is because no government or legislature can keep a dispassionate eye on its actions or distinguish between good and bad governance or between clean and corrupt administration.

That is where the idea of a national security council packed with top military brass comes in. It will comprise the heads of the army, the navy and the air force, the chief of general staff, the prime minister, the four chief ministers and the leader of the opposition, and will be headed by the president. Nominally, the six civilians on the body will have a majority of one in the 11-member council. But a body in which the military bosses speak with one voice, there will be no place for a clash of views and the business of counting heads will be at a discount.

The legislature will, of course, make all the laws, often at the initiative of the government. But which prime minister will dare to say “no” to a suggestion coming from the all-powerful president? If he wants to play safe, he will have to take lessons in what constitutes good governance from those who wield the gun. Unfortunately for Musharraf, the people of his country, who have had experience of living under three military dictatorships, know what this means. They will not easily buy his proposition, heavily rigged in favour of the armed forces, unless it is forced down their throats. There is already a howl of protest against an all-powerful national security council from most members of the bar in Pakistan.

For selling a sham parliamentary system, which could be emasculated by whatever clutch of generals happened to be in power, Musharraf left nothing to chance. He first forced the heads of the two mainstream parties to go into exile. Even if they dared return home, one would risk facing a charge of treason, carrying a death penalty, and the other, convicted in absentia of corruption, would be imprisoned for three years. In any case, neither of them could aspire to the post of prime minister since a new law which debars anyone from holding that office for more than two terms has been designed just to keep these two persons out office.

Nor could they hope to get many of their cronies into the national assembly or any state legislature since a new ordinance disqualifies all non-graduates, which means 98 per cent of the country’s adult population, from contesting any seat in these. Whatever else is needed to make the country safe for military rule, Musharraf can be depended upon to do it in the name of saving democracy, with his Western allies watching in silent amazement his all too fraudulent use of the electronic media to project himself as Pakistan’s man of destiny.

Some sections of the Western media, for all Musharraf’s presumed services to the anti-terrorist cause even while presiding over a country which happens to be the main centre, after the rout of the taliban regime in Afghanistan, for the spread of jihadi militancies, have not taken too kindly to his pseudo-democratic scheme. They smelled a rat even when he gave himself a five-year tenure as head of state in a referendum for which there was no provision in the constitution.

But what do constitutional niceties matter in a country where even the supreme court is forced to legitimize a coup under the so-called doctrine of necessity. While this doctrine prevails it will not be too difficult for a constitution tilted in favour of military rule to retain its democratic veneer, however great the strain this puts on people’s credulity.

Whether the main parties manage to persuade most voters to stay away from the polling booths in October to rob the elections — and the new system under which they are to be held — of the last shred of legitimacy, remains to be seen. But judging from the media reactions, Musharraf will find it extremely hard to win for his proposed scheme even a grudging approval of the public, irrespective of any verdict in its favour by a supine apex court.

Even as he is fast losing ground in his country, having managed to antagonize the mainstream political parties, alienate the religious groups by his surrender to American pressure and earn the hostility of pro-taliban and pro-al Qaida elements, particularly among the Pashtuns who make no attempt to hide their resentment at the way he has betrayed the very people he used for long as instruments of his policy, Musharraf is desperately trying to salvage what he can from the ruins of his old policies.

No constitutional scheme he imposes on Pakistan can, however, resolve the glaring contradictions between the new policies he is pursuing and the balance of old and well-entrenched political forces in the country. From being a person who once inspired both fear and a sullen respect, he is gradually turning into a figure of fun. This is not only because, unlike Zia ul-Haq and other previous military dictators in his country, he has ditched a protégé regime and learnt to brand as terrorists those he hailed as freedom fighters until recently but also because his rhetoric about political corruption and efficient governance has a patently false ring.

That politicians in Pakistan, as in most third world societies, have been guilty of the grossest forms of corruption is a sickeningly familiar story, and in repeating it time and again Musharraf has brought no new fact to light. Meanwhile, what the public has begun to question is the effrontery behind his assumption that, in sharp contrast to the political life in the country covered in sleaze, the hands of the top military leaders are clean. If he is passionately committed to a thorough purge of public life, why has he said nothing about the military’s share in the pay-offs pertaining to big arms deals and the hefty profits some of the generals have made over the years in the lucrative traffic in narcotics? The answer to the question is obvious enough. For all his invocation of passages from the holiest book of his faith, Musharraf cannot go into the shady deals struck by those on whose support he depends for his survival as head of state. How can he defame the very establishment which made it possible for him to seize power?

This does not mean that he is in control of the situation. This is what most worries his allies in the war on international terrorism, particularly the United States of America, today. They are not even sure whether he is getting the requisite support from the Inter-Services Intelligence, with its close links in the past with al Qaida, in the search for Osama bin Laden and his men. And they have no illusion about his ability to dismantle the thousands of seminaries and madrasahs which are breeding grounds for a whole generation of religious bigots with a leavening of jihadi terrorists, however perverse their interpretation of scriptural injunctions regarding a holy war.

Only last week a Pakistani weekly wrote about the massive support that comes to al Qaida from all the religious groups, jihadi outfits and sectarian groups in the country. According to it, “all these have thousands of members and, as one police officer said, “there could be hundreds of volunteers here for suicide bombings”. Has Musharraf the necessary clout to disband these groups without provoking a response so violent as to put the survival of his own regime at risk?

The situation which has made the British foreign secretary, Jack Straw, admit ruefully the impossibility of monitoring cross-border terrorism in Kashmir, should indeed make even New Delhi furiously rethink the rationale behind its strategy of continued military mobilization along the line of control in the face of terrorist acts like the one which killed 27 persons in Jammu at one go last week.

Even the US is being impaled on the horns of a dilemma as it wonders how to deal with the dicey situation in Pakistan. The more backing Musharraf receives from the Bush administration the more ground he loses at home. On the other hand, the more earnest he gets in fighting jihadi terrorism, the more tempted he will be to turn whatever new national assembly is elected into a mere instrument to translate his diktats into laws. But none of his diktats can rid the country of the thousands of centres for spreading the very evil he has undertaken to eliminate.

As things are, subduing the terrorists is proving to be a tougher proposition for the US than fighting the Cold War. It has not been able so far even to live down the shock of the terrible events of September 11, judging from the way alarm bells are set ringing in the public so often, warning the country to be on its guard against another terrorist catastrophe.

   

 
 
FIFTH COLUMN / TIME FOR A SECOND FIDDLER 
 
 
BY NIRMALENDU BIKASH RAKSHIT
 
 
The Central home minister, L.K. Advani, has recently been appointed the deputy prime minister. He is one in a long list of deputy prime ministers. Despite it being common practice for a prime minister to appoint his deputy, the Indian Constitution has not provided for such an office. While Article 74(1) mentions a “prime minister” and also a “council of ministers” and Article 75(1) recognizes the office of the “ministers”, no mention is made of the office of the “deputy prime minister”. The appointment of a deputy prime minister is therefore an extra-constitutional arrangement without any legal sanction.

There has been speculation about the reason behind Advani’s appointment. The most commonly held belief is that Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s failing health has made him shift some of his responsibilities to Advani. Add to this the communal turmoil in the country, and it is obvious that the deputy prime minister has only been chosen due to the exigencies of the time.

Similar exigencies have been behind the appointments of deputy prime ministers in the past. The office of the deputy prime minister was introduced when the first cabinet was formed after independence. It was offered to Vallabhbhai Patel in order to avert an organizational crisis in the Congress. After Patel’s demise in 1951, the office was abolished.

History repeats itself

In 1969, the office had to be re-introduced to avoid a split in the Congress. While the Congress high command wanted to make Indira Gandhi the prime minister, Morarji Desai refused to give up his claim to the post, putting the party in a fix. After a dramatic 72-hour negotiation, a compromise was agreed on. While Indira Gandhi stayed on as the prime minister, Morarji Desai was made deputy prime minister. Upon his dismissal, the office was again abolished.

In the 1977 polls, the Janata Dal came to power, and was later joined by the Congress for Democracy. Complications arose around the succession issue and two offices of deputy prime minister were promptly created. Charan Singh and Jagjivan Ram were appointed to the posts. But the government soon collapsed following a split in the coalition.

Charan Singh, as the leader of the breakaway group, Janata(S), formed his cabinet with the Congress(S) as an ally. Y.B. Chavan of the Congress(S) was made the deputy prime minister, but after an uneasy 24 days, the prime minister had to step down.

Neither Indira Gandhi nor Rajiv Gandhi, during their terms as prime minister, felt the need for a deputy prime minister. But in 1989, after the Janata Dal came to power, the new prime minister, V.P. Singh, appointed Devi Lal as his deputy. But he was soon dismissed.

Terms of alliance

Since then, the cabinets of P.V. Narasimha Rao, H.D. Deve Gowda and I.K. Gujral and even Vajpayee’s first two cabinets did not appoint a deputy prime minister. But a changed political scenario has necessitated a revival of the office after 12 years. But will Advani now look into the working of the prime minister’s office, or will Vajpayee move towards the North Block to work in tandem with the deputy prime minister?

Some political analysts feel that Vajpayee’s position will not be affected by the new appointment. The prime minister, most feel, will retain the decision-making power. And since it is common knowledge that Vajpayee consults Advani on all important matters of governance, no problem is likely to arise from the arrangement.

But history shows that in the past, deputy prime ministers have often been at loggerheads with their prime ministers, particularly in the coalition regimes. Charan Singh was instrumental in toppling the first Janata Dal government in 1979, and Devi Lal played a key role in ousting V.P. Singh in 1990. Even Jawaharlal Nehru and Patel, although from the same party, could not see eye to eye, and Patel had even thought of resigning at one point.

Whether Vajpayee and Advani are headed the same way as Nehru and Patel, or whether they will manage to forge a strong alliance in running the country remains to be seen.

   

 
 
MISSING THE LINK ALTOGETHER 
 
 
BY BARUN DE
 
 
There are two aspects of the controversy which Mamata Banerjee has foisted on the media’s attention after failing to return to the same ministry which she left last year. One is political expediency. The other is administrative rationale. While she and her advisers may be correct in pointing out the political expediency of the present decision to set up a new railway with its headquarters in Hajipur, they have been unable to clarify the exact reasons why the large structures of the railways which operate westwards from Calcutta to Waltair in the south, Nagpur in the centre and the edges of Uttar Pradesh in the north should not be more rationally subdivided. And they have failed to explain to the public why they did not politically object to the decision that they find repugnant today when they were in power in the railway ministry.

Obviously, the status quo should change. Equally obviously the railways and the government owe it to the public to clarify how zoning can improve railway management. The politicization aspect is clear. The National Democratic Alliance and the sangh parivar which prop it up are not the first to have dabbled in creating zones or divisions of existing zones for the benefit of politician’s coteries and backers behind the doors of those who sit in the railway minister’s chair.

The game began long ago. When the Congress was united before 1969, there was talk of plans for the bifurcation of railways so that white collar jobs and new workshops as well as consumer capacity in previously rural areas could be hived off from the port city hubs. When the Indian states were reorganized in the Sixties with a certain degree of linguistic focus, the Central government’s plans for railway reorganization, which included diminishing the importance of the old Bengal-Nagpur railway (called the South Eastern Railway from 1953), were held up because of B.C. Roy.

The idea of zoning cropped up again in the Eighties when liberalization and criticism of the permit-licence-quota raj became popular. Even before Manmohan Singh and his team gave shape to liberalization, plans were afoot to decentralize the unhealthy bunching of public enterprise in areas of sick industry. There are stories of a survey done by the railway board which recommended in 1985 to Rajiv Gandhi that six new zones be carved out of existing ones, creating 15 zonal units in place of the present nine “railways”.

No debate has been based on that document which deserves to be published as part of a white paper to enlighten the public on the pros and cons of railway decentralization. It is said the document stressed the logic of breaking up unwieldy and far-flung zones and also the need to maintain “connectivities” of contiguity, ease of access along railway lines in the same zone, and the nature of economic activity and goods movement in the formation of each zone. One would like to know what the fate of that proposal was when the decision was taken to set up a new railway, carved off from the Eastern Railway.

This change was made by the H.D. Deve Gowda government, whose leaders are now opposed to the NDA and were opposed to the Bharatiya Janata Party even then. The railway minister was Ram Vilas Paswan, whose caste factional rivalry with Laloo Prasad Yadav led him later into the NDA, and now out into the wilderness. The decision to move to Hajipur made no locational sense. The common Readers’ Digest- Bartholomew’s Atlas, which is quite detailed, does not show Hajipur. It is said to be “twenty kilometers from Patna”, but between that stretches the broad Ganga crossed only by a recent road from northeast Uttar Pradesh. Hajipur’s future as a sprawling town between the flood prone Gandak and the Ganga was assured by Paswan. If say a senior railway officer in Dhanbad — which Nitish Kumar has placed in Hajipur’s control on the political logic that both are in Bihar, his home state — is summoned to meet his general manager, he will have to travel south on a different railway to Asansol, then go north to Kiul, cross the Ganga at Mokameh, and then journey across north Bihar till he reaches Hajipur.

Connectivity then has been hit for a six. State politics has probably been the major factor in the zoning decision. This is a type of politics in which white collar jobs are at a premium and new industrial locations to create productive investment as distinct from a consumerist middle class, at a discount. But will Hajipur’s profits necessarily be Calcutta’s loss, as the Trinamool Congress is now agitating? What are the job figures involved, and will the loss of say 5,000 managerial, clerical or labouring staff, make any dent in Calcutta’s commercial profits? The public deserves to get the figures as well as those from the railway budget “pink books” about how much has been spent by Paswan and by Banerjee in the last few years on the development of Hajipur and other new zonal headquarters.

Similar data should be made available before agitating against the bifurcation of the South Eastern Railway. Here, the boot is on the other foot. The BNR extended itself like three separate fingers from Calcutta and the node of Kharagpur into three resource directions.

The first tapped the mineral resources of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and eastern Nagpur and linked up the Calcutta-Mumbai passenger and goods traffic. The second pointed down Orissa towards Andhra Pradesh and performed a similar linkage for Calcutta-Chennai. The third stuck its thumb up through Midnapore and Bankura towards the coalmines north of Adra and the aluminium and lac of Manbhum and Ranchi. What will happen to Garden Reach after zoning is probably no worse than what happened to port commissioners after the Hooghly silted and efforts began to develop the Haldia area. Office staff transfer hardships can hardly be the logic for retaining a railway zoning pattern.

But one would like to know what exactly are the contours of the breakup of the South Eastern Railway and thus of the traditions of the old BNR. We have not yet seen any map of any zone. The location of the headquarters in the once undistinguished town of Bilaspur and not in the logical railway node of Nagpur, where the lines cross from Delhi to Chennai and Calcutta to Mumbai, or not in Raipur where the line takes off through the Orissa hills via Titilagarh to Vizianagaram and the east coast lines, is a straw in the wind.

The creation of new zones cannot be allowed to become the product of ministerial whim. Or of some ministers seeking to hector railway bureaucracy into following their own political vested interests. The continuance of this practice has led to a cynical acceptance of the inevitable erosion of integrity and values by a new class of “jo hukums”. Such cynicism can only be cured by first looking at the factual, and not rhetorical, expressions of political will. And second, and more important for the future, by developing new visions in detail to plan the industrial and commercial growth of at least Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh, not necessarily in market competition.

   

 
 
DOCUMENT / BLIND TO THE TELL TALE SIGNS OF ASSAULT 
 
 
 
 
The team’s interactions in the camps corroborate the evidence of massive brutality and the systematic use of rape in the pattern of violence. Those who have survived are recovering from serious injuries such as gunshot wounds, extensive burns, stab wounds and lacerations. Many survivors have been left with permanent disabilities resulting from paralysis, amputation of limbs and contractures. In addition, psycholog- ical trauma poses a serious problem with far-reaching consequences.

...A number of outbreaks have been recorded of measles, chickenpox, typhoid, broncho-pneumonia, and thousands of children have been affected by acute respiratory infections and diarrhoea. Drinking water and sanitation facilities are grossly inadequate, and there is no active state health service response to improve the camp situation and prevent an epidemic of a greater magnitude.

...The state and municipal services have collaborated in providing public health services in the camps and in various hospitals. Considering that the level of functioning of the health services, even in normal times, is inadequate and the fact that there are the additional constraints posed by the crisis situation and the communal environment, the effort has been commendable. However, this does not go beyond what is provided in normal circumstances — and is therefore highly inadequate for people’s needs. The approach seems to be not comprehensive treatment but some ad hoc measures to avoid the public outrage which would follow from complete neglect and deaths. State public health services provide immunization, some maternal and child care, and limited out-patient services. A comprehensive approach to healthcare in this situation would also include treatment of severe injuries, chronic illnesses, and extensive psychological trauma resulting from experiencing or witnessing truly brutal acts of violence.

Mental health issues: there is no acknowledgment of the need to provide treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder — a well-known sequelae of any disaster. PTSD is accepted to be a public health issue to be tackled by heath services in such situations. By ignoring the importance of psychological trauma, the services are under-estimating the scale of damage and undermining the need to rehabilitate the affected. The only emotional support and some kind of counselling is being provided by camp volunteers, who have no training for this kind of work. The camp volunteers’ own needs for support and sharing have never received any recognition.

Women’s health problems: existing services do not acknowledge women’s health needs. Also, the lack of privacy in camp health services prevents them from seeking treatment. There is no effort to make existing services more accessible to women. Hundreds of women have given birth in the camps, assisted largely by local volunteers, and without any facilities. These women, as well as those in curfew-bound areas, are not in a position to seek special health services.

The team’s report corroborates other investigations’ findings of large-scale and systematic sexual assault. There have also been many reports of women coming to hospitals in a condition which would make doctors suspect sexual assault. Yet doctors in hospitals visited by the team stated that no cases of sexual assault had been filed. In other words, doctors seem to have disregarded obvious signs of sexual assault. As a consequence, there is no medical evidence of sexual assault on which basis women could seek justice.

To be concluded

   

 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

Playing devil’s advocate

Sir — When Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and killed, few people believed that those guilty of the crime would be identified or brought to justice. But thanks to pressure from the United States of America, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh was not only identified as the mastermind behind Pearl’s execution, he was also arrested, convicted and sentenced to death (“Omar greets death with death”, July 16). While it is good to see justice being done finally, one still cannot ignore the many holes in the case, holes that make one wonder if Sheikh has been made a scapegoat. Why was Sheikh’s trial held in camera? Also the police have not been able to determine whether the body they found is Pearl’s, so how can a verdict be passed? But everyone seems to be deliberately ignoring the chinks in the case. After all, as long as the US has found at least one person to punish and make an example of since its war on terrorism began — why go into whether Sheikh has been convicted fairly or unfairly?

Yours faithfully,
Arjun Sengupta, Calcutta

Winners take all

Sir — The Indian cricket team’s victory at Lords in the NatWest triangular tournament can only be described as fantastic. The carpers, who could not criticize the team’s performance this time, have turned their attention to the way the Indian team, especially the captain, celebrated the victory. Cricket is a gentleman’s game, say the quibblers, and it was unbecoming of the captain to give way to such excessive demonstrations of jubilation. Instead of underplaying the victory thus, we should let the team, which has won an international tournament after four years, celebrate in whatever manner it wants.

Yours faithfully,
Sankar Majumdar, Guwahati

Sir — It felt great to see two relative newcomers to the Indian team — showing a maturity and talent well beyond their youth — take the country to victory in the NatWest tournament. The win signals the dawn of a new era in Indian cricket. But it is still too early to say that the Indian team has got over its drought of wins, maybe we should wait for the team to win a few more tournaments at home and abroad. If it is to win consistently, the team needs to improve its bowling — especially in the first 15 overs, and also needs to try and take more singles when under pressure. If the team can achieve these, we may well see a shirtless figure dancing up and down once again in South Africa very soon.

Yours faithfully,
Siddhartha Das, Calcutta

Sir — The Indian cricket team’s win in the Natwest Trophy was simply glorious. Although the Australian cricket team scored more runs in the match against South Africa at Port Elizabeth in April 2002, but that was not a knockout match and moreover, by the time it was played, the fate of the series had already been decided. On the other hand, the Indian team had not won an international tournament in the last four years.

The captain, Sourav Ganguly, deserves credit for leading from the front. The win is more satisfactory because it was a team effort — the sporadic Indian wins in the past have usually centred around brilliant performances by individuals. If the new recruits in the team like Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif continue playing as brilliantly as they did in the NatWest tournament, India is sure to carry on with its winning streak.

Yours faithfully,
Dhrubajyoti Ray, Mankundu

Sir — The Indian team is often criticized for its lack of killer instinct. But the present cricket team has proved this claim to be incorrect. Chasing a score of 325 runs in a foreign country and deprived of Sachin Tendulkar early in the game, Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif, batted like men possessed. No praise is adequate to describe their achievement. They and the Indian team have made India proud. But cricket authorities in India, especially the coach, must address some grey areas or, what Geoff Boycott calls, “corridors of uncertainty”. One of them is the tendency of the Indian pacers to pitch the ball outside the off stump, which resulted in 31 extras being given away in the last one-day match it played.

The team must also find a specialist wicket-keeper. Rahul Dravid is completely drained out when he comes to bat after three and a half hours of wicket-keeping. India needs Dravid to focus on his batting since he provides some much-needed stability to the middle order.

Yours faithfully,
Tapan Das Gupta, Calcutta

Sir — Going by the way the Indian skipper celebrated the NatWest victory, it seems Sourav Ganguly has been inspired by the behaviour of the footballers during the Fifa World Cup. Frankly, what is the big deal about Ganguly taking off his shirt? After all, Andrew Flintoff did the same when England toured India in 2002. No one complained then.

Yours faithfully,
Manish Jaiswal, Calcutta

Parting shot

Sir — Of late I have noticed an increase in the number of young children begging on the streets, particularly around Park Street. Most of these beggars are young girls carrying newborn babies in their arms. If these babies are the offspring of these beggars it is very worrying. Social organizations should immediately look into the matter and if it is not possible to rehabilitate these young girls, they should at least be taught about and given access to birth control methods. The police should also look into the matter since these beggars pose a major traffic hazard as they run across the street without any regard for traffic lights.

Yours faithfully,
L. Kumar, Calcutta

Letters to the editor should be sent to:

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