Editorial 1/ To market again
Editorial 2/ No peep shows
Capital mess
All his words and wealth
Document/ Return to the wasteland
Fifth Column
Letters to the Editor

The anti-globalization brigade has an unlikely champion in Mr Joseph Stiglitz. Mr Stiglitz’s academic credentials are impeccable. Tenured in Yale at a very young age of 27, he taught in Princeton, MIT, Oxford and Stanford and became a fellow of the Econometric Society also at the relatively young age of 29. Mr Stiglitz was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2001, jointly with Mr Michael Spence and Mr George Akerlof, for theoretical work on analysis of markets with asymmetric information. Standard neoclassical economic theory assumes perfect information among agents, an assumption not usually true and Mr Stiglitz’s work can help explain phenomena like adverse selection and credit rationing. However, this argument is not the same as an argument against the market.

From significant achievements in virtually every field of economic theory, Mr Stiglitz moved on to policy-making. He was a member from 1993 to 1997 (also chairman with cabinet rank) of the council of economic advisers for the former president, Mr Bill Clinton, and in 1997, became chief economist and senior vice-president of the World Bank. This was the period of the east Asian crisis and scandals in Russia and Mr Stiglitz had serious concerns about the Washington Consensus of standardized policy prescriptions thrust uniformly down the throats of recipient governments, regardless of their singular lack of success. Since he was fairly free with his criticism, including that of the treasury department of the United States of America, Mr Stiglitz was eased out from the World Bank in 1999, although he stayed on as special adviser to the president, Mr James D. Wolfensohn, for some more time. He moved to Columbia University in 2001.

The initial Stiglitz criticisms were quite legitimate and amounted to no more than arguments about reforming the international financial architecture. As a theoretical economist, Mr Stiglitz would probably have shuddered to be described as anti-free trade. But once the anti-globalization brigade adopted him and Mr Stiglitz sympathized with the cause, the anti-free trade argument became an argument against global inequity and for fair trade, whatever that expression might mean. Mr Stiglitz set up the Initiative for Policy Dialogue in Columbia as a possible alternative to the International Monetary Fund and World Bank view. Mr Stiglitz now believes in the virtues of government intervention. The wheel has come full circle, with the pedagogue replaced by the demagogue and the theoretician replaced by a public icon. There is something perverse about the Nobel Prize in economics. For a long time, it was believed that potential recipients had to make noises about development and inequity before they were awarded the prize. In Mr Stiglitz’s case, the noise largely followed the announcement and did not pre-date it. Hence it was perhaps less motivated. The award of the prize is for a specific contribution and the recipient should not treat the recognition as carte blanche to pontificate on everything under the sun. Understandably, the temptation is difficult to resist. For all practical purposes, Mr Stiglitz’s seminal days in economic theory are over. This was a beautiful mind and it would have been wonderful had Mr Stiglitz only been remembered for that work.


The Indian democracy is too pure to be tainted by debates on pornography. Or so thinks its moral arbiter at the Centre, the information and broadcasting ministry, led by one of the nation’s more zealous prohibitionists, Ms Sushma Swaraj. The chairman of the Central Board of Film Certification, Mr Vijay Anand, has resigned because Ms Swaraj’s ministry has forbidden him to lead a debate on the legalization of pornography, prior to the Parliament’s decision on the proposed XA certificate for some sexually explicit films. As Mr Anand rightly points out, the insult, in this case, is twofold — to the democratic right to public debate on any issue, and to an adult viewer’s sense of moral discrimination.

The notion of legalizing “soft-porn” is not simply a moral issue, but a law and order one as well. Mr Anand seems to have understood that. Instead of fostering a widespread system of law-breaking which involves bribery, illegal screening and piracy, Mr Anand was trying to work out a way of accommodating these films within a legal framework which would not shy away from the fact of their universal demand in the market. It is interesting to note that his pragmatic liberalism has its limits. He wants the XA films to be shown outside the cities, in suburban cinemas. (This is a bit like the civic authorities of 16th-century London banishing theatres and brothels to the other side of the Thames.) Mr Anand’s efforts are, however, the first serious attempt to allow a hitherto repressed republic of viewers to come of age. It is a pity that Ms Swaraj has again managed to set the clock back a couple of centuries or so. It is baffling that she sees no contradiction between her economic liberalism regarding the Indian film industry and this automatic puritanism. In this, she is part of a dour and woolly-headed lobby, which occasionally flirts with what it thinks to be feminism and comes up, unabashedly, with such proposals as always having a woman as the head of the Indian censor board. The only morally and politically mature resolution of this situation is to grant the CBFC complete autonomy. Ministries, politicians and bureaucrats should have as little say as possible in the rationing of visual pleasure for Indian filmgoers.


In a famous analogy, John Kenneth Galbraith once compared the American economy to the bumblebee. It has a bloated body and gossamer wings. It is a wonder that it stays up in the air and does not fall to the ground because of the inconsistency of its structure. The early years of the new century appear to prove the appropriateness of his analogy.

The Nineties were the apogee of American power. The economy showed consistent growth, despite decline in many developed countries. The world had become unipolar and there was no other country that could compete with the United States of America militarily or economically. The Soviet Union had collapsed. The old communist countries were in various stages of disarray, destroying old structures and reconstructing their governance mechanisms. The Japanese economy was unravelling after forty years of spectacular growth. Europe was trying to present a more united front, but the Trojan horse that was the United Kingdom, held up all attempts at unity.

The European economic engine, Germany, was in poor shape, with high unemployment and poor growth. China, India, Taiwan, Brazil, were focussed on their own economic growth, for which the US was a vital element. Every nation wanted to be acceptable to and friendly with the US. The corrupt leadership of the oil-producing Arab countries was fragile and in no position to challenge the US even on the Palestine issue. Even Iran had no choice but to attempt to make up. The transformation of Pakistan from the creator to the destroyer of the taliban was a model for all the militant Arab countries.

The Nineties were the Clinton years in the US. Greed was good. Ethics and values were for preaching, not for practising. Articulation and presentation were rewarded over content and consistency. The White House bedrooms were rented to political donors who also influenced foreign policy. The decade saw the shedding of personal morality, the disappearance of any sense of shame, and the feeling that the good times would last forever.

These were also years of continuous growth for the American economy. Employment was growing at record rates. For a while, economists thought that the growth was fuelled by substantial productivity improvements due to the information technology “revolution”. But it soon became clear that this revolution had primarily fuelled the information technology industry. The rest of the economy grew rapidly but productivity improvements in it were not that impressive. Alan Greenspan and the Federal Reserve system kept priming the interest pump, with lower and lower rates, so that borrowing was constantly stimulated, as was equity for companies in preference to debt. Savings remained negative and the consumer was on a spending spree. This retail spending was financed by debt. The consumer was buying today for things he would pay for in the future, because the future was sure to be even better than the present.

Driving this feeling of prosperity was the widespread equity cult and the rising stock market. People felt rich and so they did not mind borrowing. House prices and housing construction boomed on borrowed money. Borrowing also financed other consumption expenditures. The collapse of the dotcom boom was a hiccup in this continuous growth of the economy and the stock markets, but Mr Greenspan, the Merlin with the magic wand for growth, managed interest rates again to stimulate the economy.

Then came September 11, the Afghan war, the self-righteous American “war on terrorism”, and the worst blow, the discovery that many American business icons (companies and their leaders) were dishonest, self-seeking, greedy and indulging in illegal activities. As one American icon followed the other (Enron, WorldCom, Xerox, Tyco), it came out that the respected monitors of the American economy were themselves sharing in the loot. Accounting firms like Arthur Andersen and others were signing off on false company accounts. Respected broking firms like Merrill Lynch were making money from investors who bought shares on their advice, when the advisors knew that the advice was wrong. Banks were over-extended and also involved in such deals. The president and the vice-president stood accused of having committed offences in their earlier incarnations, similar to the ones for which chief executive officers lost their jobs. Leadership was no longer trusted. With the loss of most of the past spectacular gains in values, there is a growing loss of confidence in the fairness and reality of stock market valuations.

The American economy is in serious fiscal imbalance. The government faces mounting deficits and the trade deficit is enormous. Foreign savings have allowed Americans to go on their long shopping spree, and as foreigners withdraw from US treasury bonds and reduce their investment in the US, there will be a long-term collapse in the American economy.

The world’s confidence that the American economy was inherently strong, stable and self-correcting is now ebbing. The decline of the dollar in relation to the euro is evidence. Retail expenditures confidence will drop, house prices will begin to fall, joining the collapse of the stock markets. This will seal the loss of the sense of well being that pervaded the US under Bill Clinton. The economy will take years to recover, especially because of the belief that political and corporate leadership are both venal.

The Depression and other shocks in the US have taught us that the American people and governments are always able to recognize facts and take drastic remedial action. We can expect the regulatory framework to become much tougher, the penalties for abuse much stronger, and many more restraints on the much-vaunted freedom of American enterprise. Does this mean the decline of capitalism? It more likely is an indication that there can be no such thing as totally “free” enterprise, or unrestrained markets. It means that the watchdog framework must be independent, fair and fast. It will lead to placing whistle-blowing almost as a fundamental right and duty, so that insiders can keep watch on their bosses. This might constrain business enterprise, but leaders will still find ways to make their companies grow.

What may well come out of all this is a better value system among managers and others as leaders recognize that greed was at the root of this collapse of corporate values. Stock options, extremely high compensation packages, unbridled freedom to CEOs, poor supervision by boards and shareholders, will all come under the microscope. The immoral legacy of the Clinton years must be destroyed if capitalism is to become vibrant once again.

India has lessons to learn from the American experience. We were wise to follow our own path to development. We were wrong to depend so much as we have done, on an opaque and secretive bureaucracy for major decisions with huge financial consequences. We should have instead introduced more independent decision-making institutions and at the same time freed government information on economic matters for public scrutiny.

But it is too late to expect our bureaucrats and ministers to be any different. Their enabling circumstances have to be changed. We must insist on much more open and consultative governance than we have. Elected legislatures do not perform this function. The general public must do so. Initiatives like the Bangalore agenda task force, the Kala Ghoda movement in Mumbai, the pani panchayats in Maharashtra and many other people’s initiatives need to be replicated around the country. New structures for governments to exercise discretionary authority, which allow open consultation and transparency, must be introduced.

Giving up the “command and control” style for economic management was the right thing to do. Now we must find other methods to monitor, regulate, police, and penalize violators of the market system that is the ideal economic solution to our problems.

The author is former director general, National Council for Applied Economic Research [email protected]    

The copyright of the works of Rabindranath Tagore expired in 1991 and the rights of the assignees of copyright in those works expired in 1966. However, the general impression that has gained ground is that, as a result of amendments made in the Copyright Act 1957 in 1992, the copyright of Tagore’s works stood extended for a further 10 years to 2001. This impression, though widespread, is erroneous.

One can understand the anguish of the institutions which had the copyright of the works of Tagore. After its cessation, not only would they suffer financially, but they would also be deprived of their exalted position as preserver, protector and defender of Tagore’s thought and culture as well as of the truncheon of power that they had brandished so long in this regard. But the hue and cry raised by them and a section of scholars about the danger to the purity of Tagore’s works from the expiry of the copyright is probably so much sound and fury.

The works of Tagore and many of his predecessors and contemporaries are a part of our priceless cultural heritage. Article 51A of the Constitution categorically directs that “it shall be the duty of every citizen of India...to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture”. Article 21 confers on every citizen the fundamental right to protect his life and liberty. As per the Supreme Court verdict in Ramsharan Autyanuprasi vs AIR 1989, the word “life” in the text of Article 21, “includes all that gives meaning to man’s life including his tradition, culture and heritage and protection of that heritage in its full measure...” In that decision, the apex court also observed that under Article 51A(f) that every citizen has “a duty...to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture”.

The upshot is that in case of an actual or apprehended threat to, or interference with, that cultural heritage, any Indian may move the court for necessary direction to preserve, protect, and participate in our cultural heritage. Whether the copyright of the works of Tagore lies with Visva-Bharati, Rabindra Bharati or with anyone else is not of much significance as far as the protection and preservation his works are concerned. If the works of Rammohun Roy, Iswarchandra Vidyasagar or Saratchandra Chatterjee and others, which do not have any copyright, have been preserved, those of Tagore will also undoubtedly be preserved, without the patronage of Visva-Bharati or Rabindra Bharati.

The impression had gained ground that the copyright of the works of Tagore would expire after 1991, 50 years after his death in 1941 and that it was principally to give a further extention of another ten years to the copyright, Parliament passed an amendment in 1992 to Section 22 of the Copyright Act 1957, according to which “copyright shall subsist in any literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work published within the lifetime of the author until 60 years from...the year in which the author dies”. But inadvertently, the amendment has failed to extend copyrights of works published before 1957, like those of Tagore’s.

Before the Copyright Act, 1957 came into force on January 21, 1958, the copyright of Tagore’s works was governed by the earlier Copyright Act, 1914. Section 79 of the 1957 legislation clearly says that “where any person is entitled immediately before the commencement of this Act to copyright in any work or any right in such copyright...he shall continue to be entitled to such right or interest for the period for which he would have been entitled thereto if this act had not come into force”. In other words, the term of any copyright under the earlier act shall be as prescribed under the earlier law as if the 1957 act had not come into force. Under Section 3 of the earlier act, the term of the copyright was to be the “life of the author and a period of 50 years after his death”.

This would have been the position, even without the provisions of Section 6 of the General Clauses Act, 1897, which says that the repeal of an act “shall not affect the previous operation of the enactment so repealed”. That is, the operation of a repealed legislation shall remain unaffected as if the legislation had not been repealed. Thus it would appear that the copyright of Tagore’s works, governed by the 1914 law that existed before the new act of 1957, was to be in force for 50 years after the death of Tagore. The period, now extended to 60 years from 50 years by the 1992 amendment, shall have no bearing on this.

The general rule is that no legislation would or can regulate matters taking place prior to that legislation, unless such retroactive operation is expressly enunciated or irresistibly implicated. There is no such indication either in the amended legislation of 1992 or in the original act of 1957; on the contrary, Section 79(5) of the 1957 act takes care to make clear that pre-existing copyrights shall continue to be governed by the earlier law and not by the new act.

It is true that sub-section(5) of Section 79 begins with the words “except as otherwise provided in this act”. Thus, though pre-existing copyrights would continue to be governed by earlier laws, the benefits under the new act of 1957 would be applicable to them, if it is specifically provided for under the new act.

For example, the ambit and meaning of “copyright” were considerably expanded under Section 14 of the 1957 act and even further by the later amendment. Sub-section(4) of Section 79 also extends such rights to the owners/holders of copyrights under the earlier laws. This necessitated the use of protective provisions “except as otherwise expressly provided in this act” in Section 79(5). But nothing in the Copyright Act, 1957 or, the 1992 amendment indicates that Section 22 (whether amended or unamended) would also apply to earlier copyrights. Section 79(4), which makes only Section 14 of the new act applicable to earlier copyrights, would rather suggest that only those sections as are expressly specified would apply to earlier copyrights. As the Latin phrase encapsulates, expressio unius est exclusio alterius, expressum facit cessare tacitum — express mention of one (or some) would exclude others not mentioned.

Under the earlier Copyright Act, 1914, which modified and added to the provisions of the British copyright act 1911, when applied to the provinces of India, Section 5 of the first schedule provided that “where the author of a work is the first owner of the copyright, no assignment of the copyright therein, made by him…(otherwise than by will)…shall be operative to vest in the assignee…any rights with respect to the copyright in the work beyond the expiration of twenty-five years from the death of the author”. It was further provided that “the reversionary interest in the copyright expectant on the termination of that period shall, on the death of the author...devolve on his legal personal representatives as part of his estate”. Therefore, any assignment of copyright made by Tagore in respect of his works would not operate beyond 25 years after his death in 1941, that is, beyond 1966, after which the interest in the copyright so assigned devolved on his heirs on intestacy.

There is also the decision of the division bench of the Allahabad high court in Newspapers Ltd vs Ratna Shankar (AIR 1977) which says that all copyrights from the time immediately before the commencement of the act of 1957 shall continue to be governed by the provisions of the earlier Copyright Act, 1914. And that assigning copyright before the commencement of the 1957 act shall continue to be governed by Section 5 of the first schedule of the 1914 act and would last for 25 years only after the death of the author, and the right for the remaining 25 years shall vest in the legal heirs of the author.

Therefore, whether Visva-Bharati or Tagore’s son, Rathindra Nath Tagore, held the copyright in one or more of Tagore’s works, the copyright would not operate beyond 25 years from his death. The Allahabad high court decision also ruled that in view of the provisions of Section 79(5) of the 1957 act, the act would not apply to the copyrights in force before it (as in the case of the works of Tagore). Thus, however laudable the intention of the 1992 amendment might have been in extending the term of copyright from 50 to 60 years, it still could not save the copyright of Tagore’s works from expiring in 1991.

The poet was not bothered about the exclusive proprietary rights of his works and therefore could say that whatever he said, whatever he did, belonged not to him but to all — Balechhi je katha, karechhi je kaj, amar se nai, sabar se aj, and that he knew that he would have to surrender all that he had, all his words conveying his message — Amar je sab dite habe se to ami jani, amar jato bitta prabhu, amar jato bani.

Nor need we bother. The vast numbers of people who are interested in reading and listening to Tagore’s poems, songs and viewing his paintings would preserve them better.

The author is former chief justice of the Calcutta and Bombay high courts


Implementation of Environment Act and Rules relating to air pollution and solid waste management: The environment department was responsible for the formulation of policies relating to all environmental issues and their execution through the West Bengal Pollution Control Board. The board failed to take appropriate measures against the polluting industries for violation and disregard of pollution norms. Inspection and “stack analysis” were insignificant to have any impact on control of pollution. A large number of small industries were operating without consent.

Control of pollution from vehicular emission by the transport department was ineffective. Thermal power stations operating within the residential areas in the Kolkata Municipal Corporation did not observe ambient air quality standards. Due to pollution, blood lead level of about 55 per cent of children in Calcutta was above safe limits. Calcutta’s citizens had almost ten times higher alveolar macrophage count in their sputum. According to an estimate following a study conducted by World Health Organization based on air quality of Calcutta in 1995-96, hospitalization and sickness requiring medical assistance and pre-mature death in Calcutta were 55 lakh and 0.11 lakh respectively, the Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation’s Cossipore Unit alone contributes 64 per cent of Calcutta’s particulate matter.

In the absence of any notified site, hazardous waste was dumped in low-lying areas causing serious environmental hazards. Bio-medical waste in most cases were not segregated and dumped along with the domestic garbage in the water bodies and even on the riverside in one case. The pollution control mechanism was virtually non-operational in the state.

Out of 3.1 lakh industrial units registered in the state, the board could identify only about 10,000 polluting units (3.23 per cent). Out of 127 grossly air polluting units, 69 units did not conform to pollution standards set by Central Pollution Control Board .

The board conducted 3,347 inspections on an average during 1999-2001 and analysed only 541 stack samples which would be 36 per cent and 4 per cent of the required number if at least one inspection/analysis per unit was done per year for 4,627 red category units.

Due to the failure to equip its laboratory, the board could not assess some parameters like carbon mono-oxide, mercury, chlorine, hydro chlorine vapour and mist.

Pollution load from vehicular emission in the state increased from 311 tonnes per day in 1988 to 486 tonnes per day in 2000. Out of 1.93 lakh vehicles checked by Kolkata Police during 1998-2000, 1.36 lakh vehicles failed to pass the test, of which 0.29 lakh vehicles were running with “pollution under control” certificates.

All the five stations of CESC located in densely populated areas could never maintain pollution standards. Of these, the Cossipore unit alone contributed 64 per cent of the suspended particulate matter of Calcutta and southern generating station in the vicinity of a hospital failed to maintain even the standards for residential areas.

A good number of rubber industries, dyeing and bleaching units, small pharmaceutical units, paper board manufacturing units in the eastern and northern parts of Calcutta were running without consent and without adopting any pollution control system.

The Durgapur Steel Plant and the Burnpur and Kulti units of Indian Iron and Steel Company consistently failed to maintain pollution standards but no action was taken against these units. Both the Kolaghat Thermal Power Station and the Santaldih Thermal Power Station were operating with shorter stack heights and failed to maintain pollution standards. Ash ponds at KTPS were inadequate, and frequent overflowing of ash slurry resulted in deterioration of water quality and siltation of the recipient water bodies (Medinipur and Denun Canal).

The board monitored ambient air quality in eight district towns during the period from December 1999 to March 2000. The SPM in all cases and nitrogen dioxide in most of the cases exceeded the standards.

At Picnic Garden in Calcutta, lead concentration in dust on rooftops, soil around the lead factories and in sediment of the local ponds were found in alarming quantity.

In test-checked 25 municipalities, there was no separate system for collection and disposal of bio-medical waste which were disposed off along with domestic garbage in adjoining low-lying areas. Hazardous wastes were dumped in low lying areas causing serious enviornmental problems. In Calcutta, medical wastes from the hospitals were not handed over to the KMC vehicles for disposal. In many cases those were not properly disinfected and segregated. In several cases medical wastes were disposed off along with domestic garbage.

To be concluded



A small crisis never hurts

The Falklands War twenty years ago was accurately described by Argentine writer, Jorge Luis Borges as, “a quarrel between two bald men over a comb.” In that case then, the Ruritanian dramatics between Spain and Morocco over Parsley Island a few weeks back was a quarrel over one broken tooth of a comb — but at least they have had the sense to stop before somebody got hurt.

The “war” over Parsley Island was about a tiny, uninhabited and completely valueless piece of real estate, only a couple of hundred metres off the Moroccan coast, with no maritime zone of its own to generate fishing or mineral rights. The Spanish garrison was withdrawn in the Sixties, and its only regular visitors in recent years have been the goats that Rajma Lachili of the hamlet of Tsaura on the facing mainland coast sent across to graze there.

Nevertheless, somebody in Morocco thought it would be a neat idea to celebrate the wedding of King Mohammed VI on July 11 by landing a dozen soldiers on the island and raising the Moroccan flag. When they did, 30 million Moroccans were delighted, and 40 million Spaniards were outraged.

Coming on top of Spain’s recent defeat at the hands of South Korea’s upstart footballers in the World Cup, it was more than Spanish pride could stand.

Clash of the Titans

Madrid’s response came six days later, with a dawn helicopter landing by Spanish special forces who took the Moroccan troops prisoner and raised Spanish flags on Parsley Island. All in the best comic-opera tradition — except that Spain’s defence minister, Federico Trillo, said that his government had considered and accepted the possibility of casualties on both sides in the operation.

And except that the European Union and NATO both came out in favour of fellow-member Spain, while the Arab League voiced its solidarity with Morocco. And except that this was all happening in the aftermath of September 11, when various think-tanks, fanatics, defence contractors and academic intellectuals are promoting the idea of an impending great clash between the West and Islam. Within days, all the usual suspects — sorry, all the usual analysts — were counting up the weapons and speculating on how big this could get.

In addition to those old grievances, there have been recent tensions over illegal Moroccan immigrants in Spain, fishing disputes, the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara, and Morocco’s long-standing claim to Ceuta and Melilla — tensions bad enough for Morocco to withdraw its ambassador from Spain six months ago. For a moment, it looked to the “analysts” as if they might have something exciting to write about this summer, but alas, common sense has prevailed.

Lonely goatherd

We will never know at what level the Moroccan decision to seize Perejil was taken, but we may be sure that somebody at a fairly low level will be secretly punished for it, because it was a very stupid idea. Nation-states are like two-year-olds, and always respond belligerently to a direct challenge no matter how unimportant the actual issue may be. To imagine that Spain would act differently was extremely naive.

Once the deed was done, however, there was at least someone in the Moroccan government clever enough to realize that the error should not be compounded. The reason that the Spanish “counter-attack” met with no resistance from the handful of Moroccan troops on the island, one suspects, was because Morocco was already looking for a safe way out of the confrontation and had ordered them not to resist.

Spain promptly gave back its Moroccan prisoners and announced that it didn’t really want to keep its own troops on Perejil either: it would withdraw them at once if Morocco promised not to re-occupy it. On Friday morning, Morocco’s foreign minister, Mohamed Benaissa, gave that commitment, and the whole “crisis” evaporated. By August the whole thing will be over, and by September it will forgotten. Good.

Of course, the whole thing could have been avoided if they had just talked to Rajma Lachili. When a Spanish journalist asked her last week who the islet really belonged to, she fell about laughing and replied: “My goats.”



Spot the good cause

Sir — It seems that the city of joy has become the favourite destination for international celebrities wishing to dole out some money for charitable causes (“Melanie checks in as Martin did”, July 25). Following in the footsteps of stars like Steve Waugh and Ricky Martin, Melanie Griffith, better known as the wife of Antonio Banderas these days, recently visited the Sabera Foundation home in Calcutta to record an album. There is no denying that the participation of stars in social work not only fetches financial aid for the underprivileged but it also attracts much-needed media attention. In a country where nongovernmental organizations have to struggle against a serious paucity of finances, Griffith’s gesture is more than welcome. Indian celebrities with similar aspirations are more difficult to come by, although the money some of them make can match the pay-packets of their Hollywood counterparts. When will the Aishwarya Rais become more responsible citizens?
Yours faithfully,
Suman Das, Calcutta

Making of a president

Sir — We cry ourselves hoarse over the secular character of the Indian Constitution while chiding our fundamentalist neighbour. Yet we follow the policy of communal representation when it comes to choosing men for the highest offices in the state. How else would one explain the assumption that with A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, scientist and above all a Muslim, having made it as president of India, we could not have another person belonging to the minority community as the vice-president of the country?

When the Bharatiya Janata Party and the National Democratic Alliance selected Kalam to run for the presidency, they gloated over the fact that they had managed to showcase their “secularism”. In the process, they diminished the stature of Kalam from being a world famous scientist to that of a member of a particular religious community. Subsequently, even before the race for the vice-president began, it was presumed that a Muslim stood debarred from contesting the office. That probably explains the frustration and anger of the National Conference leader, Farooq Abdullah, who wished to run for the post of the vice-president.

But it is not merely Abdullah who has been excluded from the race. Najma Heptullah is another. Heptullah has proved to be a successful parliamentarian and speaker of the Lok Sabha. She has also been deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha and carried out her duties with distinction. She has been sent on several delegations around the world to represent India. She is articulate and confident. But for her, being a Muslim has turned out to be a disqualification.

If the president, vice-president and the prime minister of the nation can be Hindus, there should be no objection to having two or more Muslims or for that matter Christians, or members of any other community, as holders of the highest offices of the country. In fact, having both a Muslim president and a Muslim vice-president will enhance the prestige of India as a truly secular, democratic nation.

Yours faithfully,
V. Srinivas, Nagpur

Sir — Now that the president is comfortably ensconced in the Rashtrapati Bhawan, it is time to look for the vice-president. The elections for the vice-president were slated for August 12. The death of the incumbent vice-president, Krishan Kant, will undoubtedly hasten matters. The people of the country are tired of bad governance, corruption and nepotism. When A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was bandied as the next president, he came to symbolize the hopes of the countrymen for a better future. We hope that Kalam will bring his scientific temper to the office. With a man like Kalam in saddle, there needs to be someone as dynamic to play the part of the vice-president. It would be prudent to have a non-politician, preferably an honest Supreme Court Judge, to act as the sub-head of state.

Yours faithfully,
B.S. Ganesh, Bangalore

Sir — The media has done the nation a disservice in the runup to the elections of the president. For instance, it has allowed itself to be manipulated by the left, which sought to project Lakshmi Sahgal as a major contender to A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. The media even downplayed news which would have contradicted the left’s position. Take for example the fact that Sahgal was not accorded a decent welcome by the parties which supported her during her Bangalore visit. The left have used the media fully to attack the BJP and its saffron family through its presidential candidate. Unfortunately, the newsprint did not generate even one extra vote for Sahgal.

Now the media is trying to embarrass the NDA allies and the Telugu Desam Party for projecting a saffronite as the next vice-president. But what is the harm in selecting a sangh parivar man as president or vice-president? We knew that V.V. Giri was a leftist. He even addressed his countrymen as “comrades”. No one pointed a finger at him. We have so far seen either Congress leaders or leftists occupy the highest offices in the country. If the association of the august office with the left or the Congress is not considered harmful, why should an association with the saffron be considered so?

The media is wrongly projecting the Congress leader, Sushil Kumar Shinde, as the joint opposition candidate. But the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam has already extended its support to the NDA candidate. The Samajwadi Party leader, Mulayam Singh Yadav, is supposed to have blamed the Congress for not consulting his party before deciding on the vice-presidential candidate. Which means there is no consensus on the matter in the opposition.

Yours faithfully,
V.A. Gopala, Bangalore

Ignorance above all

Sir — Khushwant Singh has in the past displayed his ignorance about Rabindranath Tagore while making unsolicited comments about the great poet. But in the last instalment of his weekly column in The Telegraph (“Boredom is an expensive pastime”, July 27), he has surely surpassed all his previous records. He claims that the lines, “This above all; To thine own self be true...” — Khushwant even owes the name of his own column to these lines — are from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. But the lines are actually from Hamlet (Polonius to Laertes in Act I Scene III). Will the author stop his pretences to erudition now?
Yours faithfully,
Sukumar Banerjee, Calcutta

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