Editorial 1 / Playing the game
Editorial 2 / In the wrong court
Mani Talk / The implied opposite
Fifth Column / Towards greater workers’ union
No gains without growing pains
Document / Healthcare in the sick bay
Letters to the editor

The recent visit of the secretary of state of the United States of America, Mr Colin Powell, has created mixed feelings within India. While New Delhi can feel reassured by much of what Mr Powell said during his press conference, there were elements in his remarks that must have disturbed the government of India. On the one hand, Mr Powell stressed the need for the “broadest possible” US-India relationship, and indicated that several high-level officials would be visiting India in the next few months. He also seemed to echo India’s own position when he stressed that Pakistan must “make good” its pledge to cease support for infiltration across the line of control. On the other hand, Mr Powell bluntly stated that Kashmir was on the international agenda and that India should allow independent observers to monitor the forthcoming elections in Jammu and Kashmir. He also argued that releasing political prisoners from Kashmir, in the run up to the elections, would help improve the credibility of the polls. He also seemed to suggest that while infiltration from Pakistan may not have stopped, it had gone down and that the US expected India to take further steps to de-escalate tensions within the region.

Mr Powell’s visit may seem to reinforce his image of being soft on Pakistan and Mr Pervez Musharraf, but there is clearly a more complex US policy at work. His visit has clearly revealed that the latest American policy towards south Asia will be governed by three objectives. One, the US continues to view India as a long-term strategic partner, an ally in ensuring stability in Asia, and will seek to reassure India that its relationship with Islamabad will not affect the growth of the Indo-US relationship. Two, Washington clearly sees Mr Musharraf as the best bet for Pakistan, and for furthering American interests in the country and beyond. The US will, therefore, at least in the short term, do nothing that will undermine the military regime, even while it nudges it to move further in the process of reforming the country. The US clearly believes that the Pakistan president has delivered substantially on his promise to stop sponsoring terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. Lastly, it is not in American interests that there is a military conflict between India and Pakistan, and the US views credible and inclusive polls in Jammu and Kashmir as one way of reducing tensions.

It would have been naïve for India to expect that Kashmir would stop being of interest to the international community once the crisis with Pakistan was over. The shield that had seemingly protected Kashmir from global opinion has been pierced irreparably. Kashmir is now out there, at the centre of the agenda of almost every country that matters. But this sharp internationalization of a problem that India has traditionally sought to insulate offers New Delhi, counter-intuitively, with an unprecedented opportunity. Political imagination and diplomatic deftness could create conditions for a final settlement that would not just be in the long-term interests of India, but would also win widespread support from the world. But shibboleths of the past and dogmas of the present need to be discarded if India has to win the endgame on Kashmir.


An attorney general is expected to clarify issues, not confuse them. Mr Soli Sorabjee, the attorney general of India, does not seem to believe in this. His arguments before the 11-member Constitution bench have pitted him against the solicitor general, Mr Harish Salve, in interpreting constitutional provisions with regard to the absolute right of minority institutions to administer their own schools. The most disconcerting assertion Mr Sorabjee is reported to have made is that he was not speaking for the government or anyone else, but as attorney general. For a person of Mr Sorabjee’s experience and position, this is a strange assertion to make. An attorney general of India may differ in his views from the government of the day, although he is expected to formally present the government’s case. But at no time can he present his individual views as “attorney general”, disassociating himself from his official role with regard to the government.

If this were not bad enough, Mr Sorabjee’s arguments turn back confusingly upon themselves. A lawyer can present his case by playing skilfully with the nicest points in law and the Constitution. Unfortunately, Mr Sorabjee’s arguments fail to make clear exactly what his case is. His insistence that the relevant constitutional provision makes the right of minority institutions to administer their own schools an “abso- lute” right initially went directly against the view presented by the solicitor general. The solicitor general — and the government’s — case is that no right is “absolute”, all rights are regulated. Later on, Mr Sorabjee said both together, that is, Article 30 guarantees an “absolute” right to minority institutions, but “it has been held” that no right in the Constitution is absolute and unregulated. The only clear point he has made is in the case of minority schools which accept government aid. They cannot refuse admission to students from other communities if seats are available. Presented consistently, this last could make sense. Evidently Mr Sorabjee is not feeling too friendly towards the government at the moment. He is willing to suggest, most strangely, that he is present in court as a private individual, and also risk distortion in his arguments. But the courtroom is not the place for an attorney general to play out his discontent with the government.


At the Telegraph debate in early March this year, the Calcutta Club audience voted overwhelmingly in favour of Jaswant Singh’s policy of currying favour with the Americans. After the weekend visit to India and Pakistan of the American secretary of state, Colin Powell, I trust they are wiping the egg off their collective face. Exactly what “Mani Talk” had warned about has happened. Instead of fighting terrorism in south Asia, the United States of America has used it as a ruse to insinuate itself as the arbiter of our destiny. We let the camel in — and it has taken over our tent.

The American dilemma is that they are being asked to choose between a “stalwart ally” and a “natural ally”. They prefer instead to knock our heads together. As the Twin Towers are in New York not Kashmir, their war against terrorism ends at the Statue of Liberty. Here in our benighted subcontinent, they are not interested in ending terrorism, they are concerned with meddling in the India-Pakistan stand-off. This both confirms them as the world’s sole super-power and reassures their ilk that the browns are not being left to play with their nuclear weapons. It is ironic that an American black should be laying down the law to the lesser breed.

That is precisely what he has done. He has told us that we must hold free and fair elections. P.G. Wodehouse would have described this as “the petrification of the implied opposite”. That is, what Powell really means is that elections in Jammu and Kashmir under Indian aegis are not likely to be free and fair and, therefore, it needs the American carrot and the American stick to make them free and fair. Further, Powell has made it clear that he does not trust the Election Commission to ensure free and fair elections. He thinks that this can only be certified by foreign observers.

If, in fact, Powell had been the even-handed dispenser of justice he fancies himself to be, surely he should have had a quiet word in prime minister’s ear about the need for “free and fair” elections in Gujarat. But, no, he mentioned only Jammu and Kashmir because — and this is the bottomline — the US does not accept Jammu and Kashmir as an integral part of India; they do not regard the accession of the maharajah on October 26, 1947 as final; and, most important, they regard Pakistani-sponsored cross-border terrorism in 2002 as a side-show just as the British Commonwealth secretary, Philip Noel-Baker, led the West in the United Nations security council into treating the invasion of Jammu and Kashmir in 1947 by Pakistan-sponsored raiders as a side-show.

In acting in this fashion, Powell is no more than following the long-established American line on Jammu and Kashmir which Jaswant Singh has not been able to change at all. When the president, William Jefferson Clinton, made his imperial passage through India, with Atal Bihari Vajpayee and other courtiers fawning all over him (in disgust, I absented myself from his Central Hall address), Clinton abused our hospitality by describing Jammu and Kashmir as a “disputed area”, knowing full well that the core of the Indian position is that there is nothing “disputed” about Jammu and Kashmir: it is an integral part of India and the only outstanding issue is the vacation of Jammu and Kashmir territory illegally occupied by force by Pakistan in 1947-48.

Yet, so abject is the Vajpayee dispensation’s dependence on the US pulling out our irons from the Pakistani fire that they kept an obsequious silence. For the first time since 1947, India did not protest a US assertion of an unresolved “dispute” over the status of Jammu and Kashmir. No wonder Powell now regards us an easy push-over.

Not that the West did not warn us of their intentions. In the aftermath of Pokhran-II, the UN security council resolution of June 1998 brought Kashmir back to the UN security council agenda for the first time in 33 years. Not since the 1965 war unleashed by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto on India, had the UN security council felt the need to rake up Jammu and Kashmir. While the country applauded the Bomb, “Mani-Talk” in vain drew attention to the baleful consequences of the revival of Jammu and Kashmir in the UN security council. And there is now no Soviet Union to come to our rescue.

For a while, Jaswant Singh was able to pretend he had wrought a miracle. An American official, junior to him in protocol terms but a genuine all-white American for all that, not only summoned Jaswant to meetings all over the world 10 times in a couple of years but also actually drove personally to the Watergate Hotel to take Jaswant Singh to lunch at home cooked by the good Mrs Talbott with her own pale hands. It was enough to send the Calcutta Club into a fever of self-congratulatory delight. At last, the Americans were on our side! Hurrah Jaswant Singh! Non-alignment murdabad!

Well, it has now come to this. Jaswant sowed the wind; his successor is reaping the whirlwind. Yashwant Sinha is not Jaswant Singh. He is not committed to the “Yankee Come Hither” line so assiduously pursued by his predecessor. He understands, as Jaswant did not, that the White House war on Osama bin Laden is not our war on Pakistani terrorism. The singular achievement of the Shimla agreement was that it kept the world out and set the stage for India and Pakistan to get together bilaterally to sort out their differences. That we ourselves are to blame for not taking advantage of that opening is true — but that is another matter. Now, after having invited the Americans in, even if we two do get together, Powell will be hovering above us like Banquo’s ghost at Macbeth’s banquet.

The winner is Pakistan. It is the Pakistani line that elections in Jammu and Kashmir under India aegis cannot be free and fair; that is the Powell line. It is the Pakistani line that Indian observers cannot be trusted, only international observers can; that is the Powell line. It is the Pakistani line that there is an unresolved dispute in Jammu and Kashmir which needs to be resolved; that is the Powell line. It is the Pakistani line that talks must begin here and now; that, again, is the Powell line. It is the Pakistani line that US good offices are needed to keep the peace; that is the Powell line. True, it is Pervez Musharraf’s line that infiltration into Jammu and Kashmir has stopped; and George W. Bush’s line is that it has not quite. Yet, the joint Busharraf line is, “ But of course infiltration has come down.” In all this, the Jaswant Singh line lies quite buried.

At the ministry of external affairs, Yashwant Sinha has made a good beginning after the disastrous Jaswant Singh years. In the finance ministry, Jaswant Singh has made a good beginning after the disastrous Yashwant Sinha years. If only the prime minister had not succumbed to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh pressure and put Jaswant in finance, as he wanted to, and possibly Yashwant in the foreign office, perhaps this double disaster — domestic and international — would not have overtaken our unfortunate land quite as comprehensively as it has now.


After public sector disinvestment, labour reforms is the next contentious issue on the economic reforms agenda. While Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu have already brought about some changes in their labour laws, West Bengal recently scrapped an expert committee it had set up on May 30 to review some provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act.

But what governments at the Centre and the states, political parties, and even activists of the workers’ movement forget is that more than 90 per cent of the working class is unorganized; thus 90 per cent of their efforts goes into alleviating the problems of only 10 per cent of the country’s workforce, which is organized. According to the 1991 census, there are more than 26 crore unorganized labourers compared to as many as 3 crore in the organized sector.

Of the latter, public sector units and government employees number 1.86 crore, while the private sector has about 78 lakh workers. The 22.5 lakh workers in Central PSUs have gone down to 18.5 lakh as a result of the voluntary retirement schemes. Together they account for only 0.6 per cent of the total working population — but the lion’s share of government benefits are directed at them. Also, only two per cent of the working classes in India are registered members of a trade union.

Unorganized, exploited

The unorganized sector includes farmers and the self-employed in villages (12 crore), agricultural labourers (7 crore), construction workers (2 crore) and household workers (1.5 crore). A vast majority of these have no fixed place of work, working hours or wages, no job security. Provident fund, gratuity, pension, child care and so on are a distant dream. The female among them are worse-off. For them sexual abuse combines with economic exploitation. The minimum wages of the unorganized sector is roughly one-fourth that of the organized sector, and even that is not paid regularly. So deeply entrenched is the nexus between contractors, police and political leaders that any attempt to forcibly implement minimum wage regulations leads to fierce retaliation.

It is against this background that a recent padayatra organized by the Joint Action Committee of Unorganized Workers and the Nirman Mazdoor Panchayat Sangam assumes significance. The march — which included construction workers, domestic workers, street vendors, tailors, rickshaw pullers, brick-makers, beedi workers and agricultural labourers — began in Kanyakumari on March 8 and culminated below the Triumph of Labour statue in Chennai on May 1. Braving the scorching heat, the workers (half of them female) marched along without jostling for leadership, or clamouring for media attention.

Solidarity march

The marchers had a 28-point agenda which included specific demands like PF, gratuity, identity card and job security, besides implementation of constitutional provisions of “equal pay for equal work” and other laws framed for unorganized labour which have remained on paper; strengthening the welfare board; declaring all unorganized sectors below the poverty line; giving one acre of land to each landless labourer and so on. Ignorance of labour laws is phenomenal. Not many know about a Central law on construction workers passed in 1996, which has been implemented in Delhi and Pondicherry only or the Tamil Nadu Manual Workers (Regulation of Employment and Condition of Work) Act, 1982. Hence there is need for a sustained labour movement for these to be implemented.

The tremendous resistance to accepting the rights of the unorganized sector can be gauged from the fact that the day the rally was to culminate at the Marina beach in Chennai, an entire battalion of police officers had gathered to prevent the labourers from assembling. Thankfully, better sense prevailed and the police soon withdrew.

This march did not receive much attention from the national media, but it was an important indication of workers’ solidarity, especially at a time when the working class has been hit the most by the new economic reforms which have brought with it recessions, retrenchments and lay-offs.


A cautious optimism is in the air. Has the much-expected economic recovery started, or is it at least round the corner? In the recently held meeting of the prime minister’s economic advisory council, many of the big Indian industrialists reportedly spoke about an upswing in business sentiment. The latest available figures also support this optimism. The core sector — which includes power, oil, steel, cement — has grown at an average rate of over 5 per cent during the first five months of 2002. The rate of growth was less than 1 per cent in the corresponding period of 2001. More and more sectors are participating in the recovery. Non-oil non-gold imports, which typically go up with industrial activity, have gone up by 19 per cent over the second half of 2001-02. Tax collection (another indicator of economic activity) has picked up by 20 per cent during April-May 2002. Non-food bank credit has recently (April-June 14) grown by more than Rs 9,000 crore as against a decline of Rs 3,800 crore over the same period last year.

Two factors are being mainly held responsible for the upswing. The first is the strong agricultural growth last year which has stimulated rural demand. In fact, in recent times, the rural demand has been the mainstay of several sectors, for instance two-wheelers, automobiles, consumer electronics and fast moving consumer goods. An example of this is the sale of personal computers, which has gone up by more than 100 per cent in small towns in 2001-02.

The second is the spurt in road construction activity undertaken by the government. This has, in turn, helped growth in the steel, cement, construction equipment and commercial vehicles sectors. Finally, despite the continuing global recession, Indian exports have picked up by more than 5 per cent in the second half of 2001-02. The April 2002 edition of World Economic Outlook, brought out by the International Monetary Fund puts India’s expected growth in 2002 at around 5.5 per cent, while the Asian Development Bank predicts an even more optimistic rate of 6 per cent. Some observers believe that even if the overall growth rate may not change significantly, the contribution of the manufacturing sector will increase. This is a good sign since the data on service sector growth is often viewed with suspicion.

The ratio of India’s exports to its gross domestic product has gone up from around 6 per cent in 1990-91 to about 9 per cent now. Even then, despite all the talk of globalization, India today is much less of an open economy than the east Asian tigers or China. By the same token, the potential for exports to create demand and growth for Indian products is enormous. So, whether there will be a global economic recovery or not is an important factor for India’s growth prospects.

It is generally agreed that the American economy holds the key to global recovery. Japan is still in for contraction this year and may at best get a very low positive growth next year. Not much acceleration is expected in Europe since its deceleration was low to start with. Moreover, the European Central Bank is much too preoccupied with controlling inflation by cutting down fiscal deficit and growth in money supply.

The growth projection for the United States of America has been steadily going up. The April 2002 International Monetary Fund prediction was for 2.3 per cent growth in 2002 and over 3 per cent in 2003. The governor of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, has just predicted a growth rate of 3.75 per cent for the US next year. One may discount Greenspan’s pronouncement as a device to work the “investor sentiment” up. Even then, most analysts agree that the worst is over for the US economy and it is now poised for a recovery. The excess inventories of unsold goods have been gradually taken care of by cutbacks in production. So, more production and greater utilization of existing capacity is needed now.

However, the excess production capacity built up through excessive investment, specially in the telecommunication and information technology sectors, continues to be a problem. That is why, despite successive cuts in short term interest rates, no one wants to engage in new investment expenditure to create more production capacity. However, the solution may come through the obsolescence of technology. The speed of technological progress is so fast in these sectors that much of the production capacity built up may become obsolete before even being used. That will spur new investment, generating employment, income and demand for other industries. One cannot be sure, though, about how long this process will take. But then, some companies may prefer to do it now rather than later as the current regime of record low interest rates in the US may be reversed once economic recovery picks up speed.

The other source of demand is consumer spending. Here the problem is that consumer expenditure has surprisingly remained steady despite the slowed down economy and falling stock prices making a lot of Americans poorer than before. Therefore, the chance of an increase in consumer spending, by itself, kickstarting economic recovery is low. On the contrary, American households suffer from a high debt burden and low savings. That makes it doubtful how long they can maintain their present consumption expenditure, specially if they become fearful of losing their jobs and income.

That leaves government expenditure, particularly military expenditure, as the saviour. It may well be the palliative chosen by the Bush administration. This may work for the short while, however “unproductive” it may be in the long run. A preferred solution would have been tax cuts and more social security payments for the poor. Most of this money would have been spent by these people, creating further demand. But the Bush administration has preferred to give tax breaks to the relatively affluent and business people.

Despite the general optimism, a few question marks have come up on the chances of a speedy recovery for the US and consequently the world. First, the currently unfolding business scandals in the US have made investors wary of investing in company stocks. They can no longer trust the profit figures of companies. They would rather keep their money in safer investment in banks which is not conducive to risky new investment activities. Second, the US federal government has turned its fiscal surplus of $255 billion in 2000 to a massive deficit of $117 billion in 2002. On top of it, the US trade deficit is expected to reach a record high of $350 billion in 2002.

These twin deficits are pushing the US dollar down. The expectation of a falling dollar is further depressing investment prospects in the US. This may encourage people to move their funds to Europe and Asia, hopefully including India. Finally, the west Asia crisis is worsening by the day. Any substantial rise in oil price may nip economic recovery in the bud and trigger stagflation — a combination of economic slowdown and inflation, the worst of both the worlds.

It is clear now that a large part of the so-called “new economy boom” of the Nineties was built on mass euphoria and overstated profits. The recession triggered the shake-out process which enabled only the solid companies to survive. Whatever growth takes place now would be based on firmer foundation. It would be more solid, sober and sustainable growth. This is good for the long-run health of the global economy.


The National Tuberculosis Control Progra- mme was implemented in the state since 1965 and the Revised National Tuberculosis Programme in 1999. Despite the implementation of the programme for 36 years, sputum positive cases increased. Excess consumption/indiscriminate use of drugs created drug resistance. Programme implementation was marred by non-investigation of all suspects/ symptoms of TB, deficiency in sputum microscopy, shortage of microscopy centres, absence of proper health education, non-observance of dose medication, inadequate supervision and monitoring. Action plans were not prepared and supply of medicines was not regular; diagnostic facilities were inadequate. As a result, target of new sputum smear positive patients remained unachieved. There were serious irregularities in purchase of medicines and issue of necessary medicines. Despite availability of funds, RNTCP was implemented late and all districts were not covered. Of Rs 4.21 crore of government of India assistance, Rs 3.38 crore was spent. State share of Rs 1.50 crore was not released. In RNTCP, utilization of government of India fund was 59 per cent in 4 years. Due to shortage of microscopy centres, intended benefit of the programme was denied to 2.82 crore targeted population. Implementation of RNTCP was delayed due to lack of advance planning. Benefit of the programme could not reach large population as detection rate was poor.

Shortfall in sputum examination and identification of new smear positive cases ranged from 52 to 84 per cent and 39 to 64 per cent respectively during 1996-2001. High dropout rate aggravated spread of tuberculosis while expenditure of Rs 8.02 crore on dropout cases was wasted.

In 4 test-checked districts, excess consumption of Short Course Chemotherapy drugs of Rs 3.13 crore was noticed. In the sub-divisional hospital, Bolpur, fictitious issue of Short Course Regiment medicine worth Rs 22.95 lakh was noticed.

Capsule Rifampicin valued at Rs 4.15 crore was purchased by the chief medical officer health (Rs 2.01 crore) and the deputy director of health services, E&S (Rs 2.14 crore) in excess of requirement. Irregular purchase of SCC drugs worth Rs 3.10 crore was made by DDHS, E&S (Rs 2.34 crore) and CMOH, Birbhum (Rs 0.76 crore) in violation of government of India guidelines. In Birbhum district, SCC drugs valued at Rs 1.12 crore were shown as consumed though the district was a non-SCC one. Huge funds so wasted by the department calls for investigation. Issue of the injection, Streptomycin (9.75 lakh vials), valued at Rs 46.01 lakh to patients without use of distilled water was doubtful.

Anti-tuberculosis drugs valued at Rs 55.90 lakh were issued to patients in RNTCP districts in violation of government of India guidelines. ATDs worth Rs 25.21 lakh were diverted to the Modified Leprosy Control Unit for indoor treatment while such drugs valued at Rs 3.97 crore were utilized under the NTCP without conducting quality control tests. ATDs worth Rs 24.62 lakh were not accounted for in Darjeeling district (Rs 21.26 lakh), the Birbhum District Tuberculosis Center (Rs 2.67 lakh) and the Malda DTC (Rs 0.71 lakh).

Due to inadequate training of medical officers and paramedical staff and non-utilization of media officers in information, education and communication activities, effectiveness of the programme was reduced...

The National Programme for Control of Blindness implemented from 1981-82 aim-ed at reduction in incidence of blindness from 1.4 per cent to 0.3 per cent by 2000. Even after 19 years, the state could not achieve this target. A large amount of Central assistance for upgradation of operation theatres, construction of eye wards and preparation of blind registers was not utilized. Rupees 86.41 lakh (32 per cent), out of Rs 2.67 crore of Central assistance, was not released by the state government. Against a target of 9.13 lakh cataract operations, achievement in the state was reported to be 842,145 (shortfall of 8 per cent) whereas achievement at 4 test-checked districts was 86,196 (shortfall of 60 per cent) against a target of 21,5500 during 1996-2001, thus depicting a different picture.

To be concluded



They stoop to conquer

Sir — If you thought recent allegations of pilfering of funds by multinational companies like WorldCom and Enron were a good enough comment on corruption in the United States of America, think again. Princeton University admissions officers have been found to have broken into the Yale university site to find out admission decisions regarding certain students who are applicants to Princeton as well (“Psst! Ivy League is snooping”, July 28). The fierce competition between colleges to ensnare the best students seems to have gone a bit too far. Not only is this a violation of a student’s right to confidentiality, it is also a criminal offence. When the most reputed educational institutions in the world resort to such measures to manipulate admissions, one can imagine what top officials in MNCs in the US resort to to get ahead. After all, most of these officials are students of these top bracket institutions and they obviously learn from the best.

Yours faithfully,
Subroto Chanda, Calcutta

Beauty myth

Sir — It would have been comical were it not so pathetic that the Yukta Mookheys of the world should be discovering the unpleasant side to their success stories at the same time that youngsters in the United States of America are beginning to introspect on whether a career as a jet-set business executive is worth aspiring for (“Beauty which hurts”, July 21). Alan Greenspan has rightly blamed the culture of “infectious greed” as being responsible for the current spell of the meltdown-induced global gloom. There have been other ways of explaining the phenomenon. But whichever way you look at it, one thing is obvious. The real victims of the bust are rarely those who benefit most from the boom.

However, it would be unwise to think that the American and the Indian situations are similar, never mind what the Indian Institute of Management alumni might say. For one, middle class Indians are less likely to take an offbeat path to find a solution. As a culture, Indians do not aim at getting rich: the vast majority merely think of a safe and decently-paying job that does not carry too much personal responsibility and does not require too much education. The question of chasing personal dreams does not arise. The media and the advertising industry in India have contributed mightily to this herd instinct. The question is, are Yukta Mookhey’s confessions, splashed ac- ross the pages, a reaffirmation of this pattern?

Yours faithfully,
Suvro Chatterjee, Durgapur

Sir — What “success” story is Yukta Mookhey talking about? Yes, she made it as Miss World 1999. But, as many would know, her forays into the film industry — a dream which most of the Miss Worlds share — have been largely unsuccessful. Film directors have been reportedly heard complaining about her incessant weight gain. Neither has her modelling career taken off, probably for the same reason. It is not strange, therefore, that Yukta Mookhey, out of sync, should now complain about having had to go through a gruelling regime for the contest. But she did enjoy every bit of her time in the spotlight. And now that there is nothing more that the business can offer her, it is time to brood and “enjoy” life with aloo parathas.

Yours faithfully,
Jai Acharya, Calcutta

Sir — Yukta Mookhey is doing her nation a service by highlighting truths that today’s generation has chosen to remain blind to. Indian women naturally have full bodies. If they try to change that forcefully, they would only end up doing extensive physical damage to themselves, as Yukta Mookhey’s case illustrates. The point is, what is the need for such change? After all, even now, nothing discourages us from thinking of Madhubala as a beauty, not even her ample girth.

Yours faithfully,
N. Chakravarti, Calcutta

Teacher’s post

Sir — It was shocking to read the story of Pranab Kumar Sengupta, who has been running from pillar to post for the last eight years to get his legitimate dues as a school teacher (“Be a union man to get paid”, July 20). The statement of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)- affiliated All Bengal Primary Teachers’ Association that it could have changed things for Sengupta if only he had approached it, underlines the power unions still enjoy in the state. What is most outrageous is that the education department of the government has dared to flout the orders of the high court to regularize Sengupta’s pay. With the state openly undermining the judiciary, is it not natural that people are losing faith in the legal machinery?

Yours faithfully,
Faiz Ahmed, Calcutta

Sir — The patience and determination shown by Pranab Kumar Sengupta in seeking justice are worthy of praise. With the education department turning a blind eye to the long-pending grievances of Sengupta, it does not take much to imagine the hardship he and his family have undergone. However, one would agree that the news comes a bit late in the day. Sengupta’s saga began decades back. Perhaps, the teacher could have been relieved of his suffering had the media been more prompt in exposing his plight.

Yours faithfully,
B. Srinivas, Purulia

Sir — It will not be wrong to assume that there are more cases like Pranab Kumar Sengupta in West Bengal. The financial plight of school teachers often drives them to give private tuitions. That is why much of the government effort to stop the practice has proved futile. In Calcutta, for example, a trained Montessori teacher with a post-graduate degree barely earns Rs 1,000 a month, whereas his counterpart in any other metropolis earns much more. Moreover, in private schools teachers do not receive any overtime allowances in spite of taking 23-25 classes per week. In addition, they are expected to set examination papers and arrange for extra-curricular activities which take up a huge amount of time and energy. It is time a body is formed to monitor the nature of work of schoolteachers to establish some kind of transparency in the education system.

Yours faithfully,
Bhavna Vaswani, Calcutta

Clearing the air

Sir — This has reference to the report, “Welcome to in-flight stench of death” (July 29). The malodour which was detected in the passengers’ cabin, a rare incident though, did not pose any danger to the passengers. Nor was it, by any stretch of the imagination, an incident which created panic among the passengers, unlike what has been reported. While the exact cause of the malodour in the passengers’ cabin is under investigation, it will be premature to attribute the cause to any “toxic reagent” which is used to preserve human remains. The report states, “As the flight touched down with a thud, two lids flew off the metals coffins.” In fact, there were no “metal coffins”. The bodies were transported in wooden caskets.

The Telegraph could have been more discreet, keeping in mind an issue as sensitive as the responsiveness of the nation to the martyrs of the paramilitary forces who have laid down their lives in the call of duty.

Yours faithfully,
S. Chandra Kumar, deputy general manager (public relations), Indian Airlines Limited, Calcutta

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