Editorial 1 / Dangerous drift
Editorial 2 / Monsoon bogey
Love it or leave it
Lessons at a price
Document / Overview of the finances
Letters to the editor

 
 
EDITORIAL 1 / DANGEROUS DRIFT 
 
 
 
 
The appointment of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s general secretary, and former Union minister, Mr Arun Jaitley, as the Centre’s special emissary to Jammu and Kashmir will be welcomed. Mr Jaitley has been mandated to discuss the devolution of powers with the state government and other political groups in Jammu and Kashmir. But there seems to be an increasing lack of clarity in the Centre’s policies towards the state. It has taken the Union home ministry more than a week, after the initial announcement was made, to issue the notification clarifying the role which Mr Jaitley is expected to play. This avoidable delay led to conflicting statements being made by the BJP leadership at the Centre and at the state. As a result, the initial public enthusiasm which had followed Mr Jaitley’s appointment has already been considerably eroded. Moreover, it is not clear what role the other Central emissaries are to perform now. The deputy chairman of the planning commission, Mr K.C. Pant, is the Centre’s officially designated “interlocutor” for talks with the separatists. However, in the more than one year since he was appointed, Mr Pant has visited the state only a couple of times, and most separatist groups have indicated that they are unwilling to hold any talks with him.

Within the prime minister’s office, Mr A.S. Dulat, the former chief of the Research and Analysis Wing, has been given the task of securing separatist participation in the coming assembly elections. Mr Dulat is believed to be behind attempts at creating a third front in the state, which would include parties and individuals who are not part of the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference or the National Conference. In addition, from time to time, there is the disclosure of special emissaries being sent to the state by the Centre. During the recent past, the former Union minister, Mr Ram Jethmalani, and the director of the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mr Wajahat Habibullah, are believed to have dashed to Jammu and Kashmir at the instance of the powers that be.

Unfortunately, all this flurry of activity does not seem to be part of a well-conceived game-plan. Just one instance of the confusion is the fast-deteriorating relationship between the National Conference government and the Centre. The state chief minister, Mr Farooq Abdullah, is clearly peeved with the National Democratic Alliance for not fulfilling the promise of securing a high-level position for him at the Centre. In turn, the National Conference leader has refused to either step down or have the elections conducted under governor’s rule, which seemed to have been part of the agreement. It is unlikely that many political parties or separatist groups will participate in the elections if they are held under a National Conference government. The options for the Centre are therefore narrowing. It is imperative for the elections to be credible and inclusive, but there is an increasing danger that they could turn into a fiasco. The forthcoming visit of the prime minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, to the state offers probably the last opportunity, before the elections, to rescue the Centre’s Kashmir policy from this dangerous drift and confusion.

   

 
 
EDITORIAL 2 / MONSOON BOGEY 
 
 
 
 
How serious is the monsoon problem and should alarm bells begin to ring? Uttar Pradesh has already declared drought in some districts. The national average of rain has been 22.48 cm, compared to a normal figure of 26.34 cm and this is the lowest in 6 years. Till this time last year, 75 per cent of the districts had excess to normal rainfall. This year, the figure is 37 per cent. The Central ground water commission monitors water levels in 70 reservoirs. In the week ending July 12 last year, these had 48 billion cubic metres of water. This year, the figure is 22 billion cubic metres. The definition of normal monsoon as 10 per cent variation around the long-term trend is misleading, since the temporal and geographical distribution of rains is just as important. If the weak monsoon leads to a drop in agricultural incomes and consequently constrains rural demand for manufactured goods, then the incipient economic recovery may well die an early death. But so far, there is not enough information. FICCI has produced a study documenting that in 1999-2000 and 2000-01, 8 to 11 states were hit by drought, and the economy weathered this. A bumper crop may, in fact, reduce rural incomes by dampening agricultural prices. So runs the FICCI argument.

If information is scarce and there is uncertainty about the quality of the monsoon, why have agricultural prices begun to increase? There is an increasing wedge between wholesale and retail prices of vegetables. Flat wholesale prices and increasing retail prices provide part of the answer. The upward pressure is primarily speculative. This can be spliced with the argument that everyone, especially the administration, loves a good drought. With elections due and the need for cash, political parties tend to build up an exaggerated response to drought. There are states, however, where food-for-work programmes, the public distribution system, rainwater harvesting and drought-relief programmes have worked efficiently. Even if the monsoon is deficient and thus leads to actual drought in some districts, the adverse consequences will be human-made. This is more a governance issue and is indicative of administrative failure in some states. Ms Mayavati’s failure is an administrative one. Ascribing it to drought amounts to looking for a bogey.

   

 
 
LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT 
 
 
BY K.P. NAYAR
 
 
That the economy of the United States of America is in crisis is now old news. But when some of the most respected names in the entire history of business, such as Johnson and Johnson and General Electric recently got to be clubbed with the likes of Global Crossing, K-Mart and Martha Stewart, this writer’s thoughts went back to the year, 2000.

Shortly after my arrival in Washington two years ago as the correspondent of this paper, a European diplomat posted in the US capital, an old friend and a Moscow veteran in the era of the former Soviet Union, told me that America reminded him every single day of the Soviet Union. America is a communist country, but a successful one, he told me. The only difference with the Soviet Union and its east European satellites is that unlike in those societies, propaganda is very effective here. The people lap up all the propaganda in the US: in Russia they used to quietly put up with it and look for the truth elsewhere.

Having lived in the US earlier, albeit in a different incarnation and for a shorter period than now, I politely listened to his thesis and did not feel inclined to dispute its well-argued premise. “O these Kremlinologists!”, I said to myself then, “They can never get Moscow out of their system. Especially if the USSR has been their first diplomatic posting and if they harboured the ambition of one day being an ambassador in Moscow.”

The European diplomat’s thesis came back to haunt me in the last two years every time something in America reminded me of the ways of the Soviet Union or of communist eastern Europe. Yet, I resisted the temptation to give in to the theory that the US is a phenomenally more successful version of the former Soviet Union. But this month, two things happened, which made it more difficult than ever to dismiss the diplomat’s thesis out of hand.

One is the plight of Martina Navratilova, the nine times women’s Wimbledon champion. Navratilova, who defected from what was Czechoslovakia in 1975 at the age of 18 and is now a US citizen. She is being pilloried from coast to coast in America for having spoken out her views on the values of American society. “The most absurd part of my escape from the unjust system is that I have exchanged one system that suppresses free opinion for another”, Navratilova wrote in the German weekly, Die Zeit. “It’s depressing”, she wrote. “Decisions in America are based solely on the question of ‘how much money will come out of it’ and not on the questions of how much health, morals or the environment suffer as a result”.

Despite living in a country where free speech is enshrined in and guaranteed by the constitution, the tennis great has become a figure Americans love to hate. Her situation has been no different from that of the actress, Jane Fonda, who was forced to apologize for having visited Hanoi during the Vietnam war and posed in front of a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun. Or that of the celebrated TV anchor, Bill Maher, who just lost his programme on ABC television for having suggested that bombarding Afghan civilians from the air with smart bombs is not exactly an act of heroism.

So far Navratilova has stood her ground, but safety for her has come only from numbers. By suggesting that she is being attacked because she is openly lesbian, the tennis star has sought the protection and the lobbying power of lesbians and gays, who are powerful forces in the US. “Love it or leave it”, Connie Chung, CNN’s latest star anchor, told Navra- tilova during one of her many TV appearances last week to defend what she had written. Chung suggested that the one-time refugee from Czechoslovakia should go back to where she came from. Navratilova responded: “I live here. I love this country. I have lived here 27 years. I have paid taxes here for 27 years...I love it and I am here and I am trying to do my best to make it a better place to live in, not just this country, but the whole world”.

The second instance is best described as a bolt from the blue. The Economist, that standard-bearer for everything that Western free-market democracies stand for, began a recent editorial on corporate dishonesty in America with the following words. “Business leaders are being knocked off their pedestals faster than Communist heroes after the fall of the Berlin Wall”. America’s way of doing business and running its economy was hitherto touted to countries like India as a model for reform. American corporate enterprises have been hailed worldwide as beacons of the future, especially since Marxism was comprehensively discredited in the Nineties everywhere.

But The Economist drawing a parallel, however tenuous, between the current crisis in American capitalism and the fall of the Berlin Wall? Its first leader article brought back memories of how Lenin’s statues were toppled all over the Soviet Union and eastern Europe in the context of how men with iron-clad reputations such as Jack Welch of GE have been discredited? Maybe my friend, the European diplomat, had a point after all?

I recall the excitement in a financial newspaper, where I worked during the early years of P.V. Narasimha Rao’s reform programme, when it was announced by the Indian unit of GE that Jack Welch would make a trip to New Delhi. It was, in corporate terms, the equivalent of Jackie Kennedy’s celebrated visit to India when her husband was the US president. In the Eighties, when I was doing an internship with an international news agency at their Berlin office, I was put up in West Berlin, but my work was mostly in East Berlin, where the agency maintained a more modest set-up. The arrangement was complicated, but it was more than acceptable.

West Berlin was more attractive at night and East Berlin was professionally more challenging. The agency could structure such an arrangement because the Western powers did not consider Berlin a legally divided city or East Berlin as the legitimate capital of the German Democratic Republic: Berlin was a city under occupation with its various Allied zones: Soviet, French, British and American.

GDR officials, whom I used to meet, emphasized in interviews and on other occasions that their country ranked 12th globally as an industrial power. The news agency’s bureau chief, who was a drinking buddy of a central committee member of the Socialist Unity Party, even told me once with obvious German pride that East Germany was the only instance in history where a colony was more prosperous than the centre of the empire, a reference to Moscow.

A few years after the unification of Germany, I visited the headquarters of the Treuhand, the organization set up to privatize East German state enterprises. The head of Treuhand was still reeling from the realization that GDR was anything but the 12th biggest industrialized country. Everything had been inflated. The books of state enterprises had been cooked up, their inventories were maintained by sleight of hand, productivity had been exaggerated and many of the firms in GDR only deserved to be closed down.

Enron was described a few months ago as the biggest bankruptcy in US history. Last weekend, a new record was set when WorldCom became the world’s biggest bankruptcy. Re-reading The Economist editorial on the fallen idols of the corporate world, I could not but recall the horror of the Treuhand executives a decade ago and compare it to expressions these days on millions of American faces following the realization that they had been taken for a ride by their country’s version of capitalism and by those who were the corporate leaders of that system which claimed to have ushered in the most prosperous phase in America’s history.

All this is not to say that America’s economic system is in terminal decline. Or that any other political system is better than what is practised in the US. Indeed, the Economist editorial portends what could well be the future: “By all means tear the statues down, but don’t destroy them. The faces can be rechiselled next time round.”

It is pertinent to ask how or if all this is relevant to India. To answer that question in context, one must go back and recapture the mood all over the world, and more so in the US, on September 14 last year. The world was in shock after the terrorist outrage against America. And yet, on September 14, a mere three days after the world’s most spectacular terrorist attack, Kenneth Lay, the boss of Enron, not only had the time, but also the temerity to write a letter to the prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, equating his company with the American state.

What is happening in Wall Street today is relevant in New Delhi because, notwithstanding the crisis in American capitalism, some US official will again try to twist the Indian government’s arm and extract Enron-type concessions by complaining that US investment in India is “as flat as a chapati”. It is for Vajpayee and the finance minister, Jaswant Singh, and the external affairs minister, Yashwant Sinha, to tell those who use the chapati analogy that this version of Indian bread, however flat it may be, sustains millions of Indians. Reforms are due and badly needed, but India is not yet ready to exchange the familiarity of its chapati with the unknown promise of bagels — even with the added attraction of cream cheese.

   

 
 
LESSONS AT A PRICE 
 
 
BY ANURADHA KUMAR
 
 
On July 10, students of 172 government-aided, English medium schools brought downtown Mumbai to a standstill for five hours, choking traffic on several arterial roads. They were demanding that the government scrap its decision to implement a new income-based tuition fee structure. Soon after, the Democratic Front coalition government in Maharashtra put in abeyance its decision to hike fees in these government-aided, English medium schools.

It was a decision in keeping with the Vilasrao Deshmukh government’s flip-flop on the matter that first came to the fore last August. In March 2001, the school education department advocated a cut in grants to English medium schools, which prompted the government to propose a 50 per cent increase in fees of English medium schools in Mumbai and a 20 per cent hike for schools in other parts of the state. But the government was soon forced to retract after parents and academics protested because the fee hike did not extend to Marathi medium schools.

On April 17 this year, a new fee formula, as well as a partial cut in subsidies to the 265 English medium schools in Maharashtra that currently receive aid, were introduced. The state cabinet imposed a uniform fee hike, categorizing parents as income tax and non-income tax paying, and directed that fees be charged accordingly. The cabinet also decided to introduce only two income slabs in the new structure as against the five earlier proposed by the school education department.

The very next month, however, the government did a volte face, going back to the fee structure originally proposed by the school education department. It outlined five annual income categories — less than Rs 15,000, Rs 15,000-50,000, Rs 50,000-1 lakh, Rs 1-2 lakh, Rs 2-3 lakh and finally, the highest bracket comprising all those with incomes above Rs 3 lakh. Only students whose parents’ annual income was less than Rs 15,000 were exempted from the fee hike; the rest would have to pay fees ranging from Rs 100 to Rs 400. Girl students who were earlier eligible for free schooling would also have to pay the revised school fees if their parents were income-tax payers.

The state cabinet approved this proposal in its attempt to rationalize the tuition fee structure in the 265 government-aided, English medium schools that had seen little change in over 40 years. To make the scheme workable, parents would now have to show proof of their income which could be anything from a ration card to a court affidavit or income tax returns. Of these 265 aided English medium schools, 185 are in Mumbai, while Aurangabad has two and the rest are in Thane district.

But these 265 schools only make up 20 per cent of the English medium schools in the state which receive aid. In most of the 1,736 primary level English medium schools and the 1,239 secondary level schools in Maharashtra, the government had already stopped paying grants-in-aid since these new schools were opened after 1973. Despite this, school authorities, parent-teacher associations and teachers’ committees have threatened to launch an agitation in protest against the state government’s decision to hike fees.

School authorities accused the government of discriminating on the basis of the medium of instruction. They were also sceptical about whether the scheme would be implemented properly, since documents could be fudged or easily procured. Some principals felt the hike was too steep. Most students, they insisted, were from the lower-middle classes, and the hike would add to the parents’ burden. Many schools already charge activity fees and other, similar fees from students, apart from the tuition fees that could work out to be as high as Rs 1,000 a year.

The state government, which stares a huge budget deficit in the face, defends the step as necessary. Despite an annual budgetary allocation of Rs 7, 400 crore for school education, the government is unable to provide education to students in remote areas. The share of adult education remains an abysmal one per cent of the education budget. The Maharashtra administration plans to increase its spending on education in rural areas. But the amount it will save by cutting down on grants to aided schools will only be about Rs 30-40 crore.

The 50 per cent increase in the salaries of an approximately six lakh strong teaching staff in the state, as recommended by the fifth pay commission, was implemented in 1997. This depleted the state coffers further. The non-salary component of the grants that go towards maintenance has not reached some schools for the past three years, so that some schools — 1,100 in Mumbai alone — have been landed with enormous maintenance bills. Night schools that cater to poor students have been the worst hit. School authorities claim that they have had to freeze several decisions, including expansion plans, to keep afloat. Some principals fear that the lack of money may lead to malpractices like donations.

Already some welfare schemes have been withdrawn. In a bid to cut down on “wasteful expenditure”, the administration’s budget for the year 2002-03 makes no allocation for the four-decade old Poshtik Aahar Yojana under which students in more than 1,000 civic schools were served a nutritious breakfast, free of cost. This scheme was believed to have boosted attendance in schools, in addition to providing underprivileged children with their only nutritious meal of the day. The Maharashtra government has also washed its hands off the mid-day meal scheme for primary schools, for it does not have the Rs 172 crore required to provide cooked meals to students.

Even otherwise, welfare schemes remain ineffectively implemented. For instance, 60 per cent of those targetted in the book bank scheme for classes I to IV receive the books, but only 40 per cent of the students in classes V to VII benefit from it. The scenario also varies from district to district. The female literacy rate in Maharashtra may have reached a high of 68 per cent in 2001, but it remains far lower in the districts of Nandurbar, Jalna, Nanded, Osmanabad, and Gadchiroli — all in the state’s interior Marathawada region.

A saner course of action would be to introduce a uniform fee hike of Rs 100 to Rs 150 across all categories. It would silence the allegations of discrimination at any rate. However, after the July 10 protests, ruling party legislators and even the chief of the Maharashtra state unit of the Congress, Murli Deora, have become cautious and now want a rollback in the fee hike. After all, the ruling coalition recently scraped through a confidence motion and emerged bruised and scarred from the Mumbai civic elections early this year. No wonder the hike has been put on hold indefinitely and the government has gone back to its one-step-forward-two steps-back act. It is now believed to be rooting for a uniform monthly hike of Rs 5 for class I, and increasing it by Rs 5 for every class thereafter. Perhaps, the government will have better luck with this scheme.

   

 
 
DOCUMENT / OVERVIEW OF THE FINANCES 
 
 
 
 
This report includes two chapters containing observations on finance and appropriation accounts of the government of West Bengal for the year 2000-2001 and three other chapters, comprising 7 reviews and 33 paragraphs dealing with the results of audit of selected programmes and schemes and of the financial transactions of government including its commercial and trading activities. A synopsis of the findings contained in the audit reviews and the more important paragraphs are presented in this overview.

...The government showed a lower revenue deficit compared to previous year. The reduction was mainly attributable to increased Central transfer on account of Union taxes and grants-in-aid, while there was no reduction in revenue expenditure. The revenue receipts grew at an annual average rate of 15.30 per cent during 1996-97 to 2000-2001 while revenue expenditure grew by 22.6 per cent.

Receipts from tax revenue grew by 41 per cent from Rs 4,259 crore in 1996-97 to Rs 6,001 crore in 2000-2001. Although the non-tax revenue increased in 2000-2001 to Rs 1,215 crore from Rs 587 crore in previous year, this increase was mainly due to adjustment of interest receipts from the West Bengal state electricity board without involving any cash inflow. Without such adjustment revenue deficit would have been higher.

Revenue expenditure accounted for 87 per cent of the total expenditure of the government and increased by 13 per cent during 2000-2001 over the previous year mainly on the non-plan side. Interest payments accounted for 24 per cent of the revenue expenditure during the year and was up from 21 per cent in 1999-2000.

The share of capital expenditure in the total expenditure was 5 per cent during 2000-2001. Even this expenditure included Rs 42 crore, adjusted as investment in equity shares in Durgapur Projects Limited by converting part of its outstanding loans without any cash outflow. Borrowings were mostly utilized...to meet revenue expenditure.

The total liabilities of the state government had grown by 156 per cent during the five year period 1996-2001. Internal debt had grown by 493 per cent, loans and advances from government of India by 71 per cent and other liabilities by 151 per cent.

The investments of government was non-remunerative as the returns were negligible. Further, Rs 2,546.07 crore of loans raised by a state undertaking for infrastructure development were parked in deposit accounts of the state to improve the ways and means position of the government. Due to frequent mismatch between receipts and expenditure the state government had to resort to ways and means advances throughout the year. A declining tax to gross state domestic product ratio showed that the state government preferred the option of borrowing to that of widening its tax base...

Government’s investment in statutory corporations, government companies and joint stock companies... fetched insignificant returns as many of the government companies were loss-making. ...Poor recovery of loans worsened the financial condition of the government.

A persistently falling negative balance from current revenue, mounting interest payments, declining tax to GSDP ratio and galloping deficits indicated poor financial condition of the government. There was a significant deterioration in the financial position of the state during the last 5 years.

...Against the total provision of Rs 32,514.94 crore including the supplementary budget the expenditure was Rs 38,391.99 crore. The excess of Rs 8,545.52 crore was offset by the savings of Rs 2,668.47 crore in 86 grants and 20 appropriations. The excess expenditure pertained mainly to public debt (Rs 7,905 crore), pension payments (Rs 307 crore) and police (Rs 125 crore). The excess expenditure of Rs 8,545.52 crore in 12 grants and 3 appropriations required regularization under Article 205 of the Constitution of India. As of November 2001, the excess expenditure of Rs 13,762.30 crore pertaining to the years 1999-2001 were not regularized due to non-receipt of explanatory notes on the excesses from the finance department.

To be concluded

   

 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

A tough nut to crack

Sir — Unlike his predecessors, the chief election commissioner of India, J.M. Lyngdoh, has made it clear that he would prefer to maintain a low profile while executing his duties efficiently (“Toughness trial for Lyngdoh”, July 23). However, this should not give ideas to bullies in the Indian political scene. For Lyngdoh has so far shown how tough he is by resisting the demand of the Bharatiya Janata Party for early polls in Gujarat. The CEC feels that elections in Gujarat will neither be “free” nor “fair” if they are held immediately. And he has sound reasons for feeling that way. The Gujarat government continues to be indifferent to the interests of its people, particularly those that belong to a particular religious community. Early polls in Gujarat will serve a purpose very contrary to what they serve in Kashmir — bringing people together. Which is why Lyngdoh is justified in sticking to his ground. Be it Kashmir or Gujarat, India has in him a commissioner who really means business.

Yours faithfully,
Mitali Ghosh, Calcutta

Man of the moment

Sir — So A.P.J. Abdul Kalam has finally been elected the 12th president of India (“Kalam elected”, July 19). A scientist with political ambitions, Kalam punctuated his election campaign with speeches about what should be done to take India on a fast growth track. But Indians have had enough of such speeches. Now that Kalam has been elected to the highest office in the country, people would be waiting to see what real difference the president can make to the way the country is being run.

The solution to most of our problems is not hard to find. The cure lies in honesty, to be practised by all, from the man on the street to the president of the country. After all, an insincere boss cannot bring a dishonest subordinate to book. Our politicians have to lead by example here. Yet, so far they have shown no intention to curb corruption. Perhaps Kalam could do something about this. He has his advantages in that he is not a typical politician and commands respect as a scientist who has led the country on the road to progress. It will be sad if Kalam belies expectations and turns out to be a stooge put up by the Bharatiya Janata Party to prove its secular credentials.

Yours faithfully,
S. Sen, Calcutta

Sir — A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s message that “India needs a second vision to transform itself into a prosperous, poverty-free, healthy and developed nation” reveals that he is serious about bringing about change. Kalam’s realizzation seems to have been borne out of his experiences with poverty at an early age. The new president’s vision about a healthy India can be achieved if there is a strict implementation of the recent orders of the apex court and the Election Commission to keep criminals out of Parliament.

Yours faithfully,
B.S. Ganesh, Bangalore

Sir — The unequal race for the Rashtrapati Bhavan ended with A.P.J. Abdul Kalam marching ahead of the left-supported candidate, Lakshmi Sahgal. The former’s emphatic victory shows that the National Democratic Alliance would never bring in the communal question where national interests are concerned. However, a legislator’s suggestion that Kalam should have got his “hair cut before becoming the president of the republic” crosses all limits of decency (“Kalam talks vision, voter hair cut”, July 19). It is also unfortunate that The Telegraph did not consider it important to carry news about the new president on the front page. But the question remains — should a scientist have been drawn into the rough and tumble of politics? However much one may claim the president to be the holder of the highest office in the land, the fact remains that even this office is not removed from the dirty world of Indian politics. One hopes that Kalam manages to retain the dignity of his post.

Yours faithfully,
Sankar Lal Singh, Calcutta

Whose fault?

Sir — Some critics have found fault in the way the captain of the Indian team chose to celebrate its victory in the NatWest series at Lord’s. They argue that cricket is a gentleman’s game which does not allow for such ungentlemanly behaviour. They hold Sourav Ganguly’s behaviour as an indicator of the hooliganism that now pervades the game of cricket. But if these critics are so bothered about retaining the pristine quality of cricket, they should have also protested against the introduction of one-day matches or coloured uniforms for cricketers. But this transition happened without too much fuss. Whatever happens on the field today is not much different from what used to happen in the “glorious” days of cricket. The difference is that there are now stump microphones and television cameras all around to capture the moments. Ganguly was overwhelmed by the win and was merely expressing that. He should not be hauled up for his behaviour.

Yours faithfully,
Sankar Majumdar, Guwahati

Sir — India’s resounding win over England at Lord’s in the NatWest trophy final is commendable. India should try to form a team comprising experienced players like Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Anil Kumble and young cricketers like Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh and Mohammed Kaif for the forthcoming world cup in South Africa. Hopefully, the victory at Lord’s will set the tone for the test series against England. However, Ganguly should learn to control his emotions on the field since he is the skipper of the visiting side.

Yours faithfully,
A.K. Srivastava, Salboni

Sir — A few cricket commentators seem to be unfairly biased in favour of some players. Take for instance the fondness shown by a particular Indian commentator for the Mumbai players, particularly Sachin Tendulkar. In the Natwest trophy final, even Tendulkar would agree that he had played an atrocious shot that got him out at a critical juncture. But according to this commentator, the bowler had enticed the batsman to play the shot. He even went on to criticize the other batsmen in the team, including Sourav Ganguly, his favourite whipping boy. Unless these men refrain from this habit, their credibility might be at stake.

Yours faithfully,
Dhrubajyoti Ray, Mankundu

Sir — While the Indian side deserves praise for successfully chasing a mammoth total in the NatWest cup final, the media should exercise some restrain at such times. India is notorious for its inconsistency. After being hailed as a brilliant team following its test series victory against the Australians in 2001, India lost by a margin of 3-2 in the one-day series. In the subsequent Zimbabwe tour, India lost the final of the triangular tournament to West Indies and finally managed a draw in the test series against the host. The euphoria surrounding cricketers is easily converted to rage when they fail to perform. This creates tremendous pressure on the players which in turn hampers their game. It would be beneficial for Indian cricket if the media did not go overboard in its praise.

Yours faithfully,
Kajal Chatterjee, Sodepur

Sir — The NatWest trophy final leaves serious doubts about Sachin Tendulkar’s ability to win matches for India in crunch situations. Statistics reveal that he has made most of his centuries in India or against a weaker side. His serial failure in crucial matches raises questions about his capability as a worldclass batsman.

Yours faithfully,
Vishal Aman Bhagat, Calcutta

Cut them out

Sir — The downturn of various large corporates in the United States of America has led the American government to carry out investigations into the mismanagement of funds by these business houses. This shows that there is accountability in US domestic economic policies. The government could have conducted the investigation in better economic times. That it should consider such probes indispensable even when the economy is in bad shape shows that it is intent on safeguarding the interests of share-holders.

In India, the scandal involving Xerox, which is said to have paid bribes to Indian politicians, has recently come to light. The Indian authorities are also investigating the case. But in a place where financial scandals make headlines everyday, one cannot hope to see the result of such investigation. Besides, if the government is serious, it should institute an investigation into all companies which provide material to government agencies.

Yours faithfully,
Iftakhar Latif, Guwahati

Sir — The recent income tax raids on offices of Xerox show that the government has finally decided to take strong action against companies who are manipulating their accounts (“IT raids on Xerox offices, July 18). However, the timing of the raids should be questioned as the investigation was carried out only after it was learnt from the company’s US counterpart that it had paid over Rs 3 crore in bribes to government officials in India. Do income tax officials need to wait to be tipped off by the US before conducting a raid? It is well-known that multinational companies operating from India as also small businessman bribe government officials to bag contracts. The action against Xerox is probably meant to impress the US authorities.

Yours faithfully,
Mohammed Asif Iqbal, Calcutta

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