Editorial 1 / Hidden states
Editorial 2 / Winning bounty
Power, poetry and blood
Fifth Column / What was he trying to say?
Neither here nor there
Document /On waste mismanagement
Letters to the editor

Human development reports have become a rage. The United Nations development programme brings out an annual HDR, an HDR for south Asia is published from Islamabad, the National Council for Applied Economic Research produced an all-India HDR, the planning commission recently brought out a national HDR and several states have followed with state-level HDRs. HDRs document human development and deprivation, in addition to computing a human development index based on per capita income and education and health indicators. Given India’s heterogeneity and disparity, all-India figures hide more than they reveal. However, attention is exclusively focused on major states, while minor states and Union territories suffer from benign neglect.

The poverty ratio, defined as percentage of population below the poverty line, is a case in point. Data for computing poverty ratios are generated through National Sample Surveys at intervals of around five years. Such surveys were held in 1993-94 and 1999-2000, and show a drop in the all-India poverty ratio from 36 per cent in 1993-94 to 26 per cent in 1999-2000. But poverty ratios are not computed for minor states and Union territories. Assam’s poverty ratio is superimposed on Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Tripura. Tamil Nadu’s poverty ratio is superimposed on Pondicherry and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Punjab’s urban poverty ratio is superimposed on Chandigarh. Goa’s poverty ratio is superimposed on Daman and Diu and Kerala’s poverty ratio is superimposed on Lakshadweep.

Inevitably, policy prescriptions derived from these superimposed poverty ratios are likely to be fallacious. It is tempting to conclude that poverty ratios do not exist for minor states and Union territories because relevant data are not collected by NSS. But this is incorrect. Data are collected, but not used. NSS uses 10 per cent sampling. When populations are large, as is the case with larger states, 10 per cent samples are also large. When populations are small, as is the case with smaller states, 10 per cent samples are also small. The planning commission ignores data collected and instead superimposes figures from major states. That this negates heterogeneity is tacitly acknowledged by the planning commission’s own national HDR for 2001. This computes a human poverty index for 1991, based on poverty ratios and education and health indicators. Separate education and health indicators are used for minor states and Union territories, presumably because these data are from the census and hence reflect complete enumeration rather than sampling. But the data on poverty ratios are superimposed. Sikkim has its own HDR, published well before the national HDR surfaced. However, the national HDR completely ignores the existence of Sikkim’s HDR. Sikkim’s HDR reports some progress in the state between 1973 and 1994, including growth in per capita income. Yet the poverty ratio increased from 36 per cent in 1987-88 to 41 per cent in 1993-94, before dropping again to 37 per cent in 1999-2000. That these are Assam’s poverty ratios rather than Sikkim’s, may provide part of the answer.


Parliamentarians hardly ever agree with one another, particularly across the floor. But there are some issues on which the consensus is almost instant, such as a hike in their own salaries. The ruling party and the opposition had both agreed to the last hike. All, except the left. And this seems to have been the case this time too, although the issue is somewhat different — but not all that different either. Almost all members of parliament have greeted with great, and unanimous, gusto the proposal for an increase in the MP’s local area development scheme. One suggestion — made by no less than the currently infamous petroleum minister, Mr Ram Naik — that the fund be increased from Rs 2 to to 5 crore per year, has been warmly welcomed. But this time too the officially dissenting voice has come from the Communist Party of India (Marxist), and Mr Somnath Chatterjee’s objections deserve to be taken seriously.

The hike dreamt up by Mr Naik would amount to a lot of money. Five crore a year for five years comes to twenty-five crore per MP, which is not a mean sum. Multiplying that by the five and a quarter hundred members of the Lok Sabha, the amount — more than Rs 13,000 crore — begins to look rather dangerous to put entirely in the hands of politicians eager to retain their support base in the next elections. The dubious, and far from disinterested, magnanimity of the populist, the corrupt and the power-hungry is most likely to be whetted by such an augmentation of funds. Mr Chatterjee has also pointed out that the extra money could be allocated to the states. But as he knows very well, there is a problem at that level too with the available infrastructure for the utilization of such funds. Local area development usually means tubewells, schools, colleges, hostels and so on, particularly for the underdeveloped sections of society. But translated into the language of democratic realpolitik, all this almost always amounts to quixotic pre-election schemes resulting in immense waste, mismanagement and malpractice. It also perpetuates a corrupt and feudal culture of gifts, favours, obligations and sycophancy. Since the funds are in any case routed through the district magistrates, there is no reason why they should be specially associated with an MP, who will most likely be either clueless or dishonest with the money.


It is interesting to reflect on how the race for power can be viewed through the lens of poetry. A Hindi poet once wrote, “To those who try to reach/ The throne of power/ Over mounds of dead bodies of innocent children/ Old women/ Young men/ I have a question/ Did nothing bind them to those who died?”

It is no great secret who wrote these lines. It was a Bharatiya Janata Party member of Parliament, who has, since 1998, been the head of government: Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The poem, entitled “Satta” or “Power” prominently features in collections and has been reproduced with a translation in the book, 21 Poems, translated and edited by the noted civil servant and writer, Pawan K. Varma.

Neither the author nor the editor informs us about the context or moment when the lines were written, but it is ironic how relevant they seem in the fracas around the timing of the Gujarat assembly elections. The Election Commission has gone about its work with due diligence, including on-site visits first by its officials and then its members. Even before it has announced when it intends to hold the polls, the ruling party has decided to launch a full-scale offensive.

Nobody knows what prompted the former cabinet minister and newly appointed general secretary of the ruling party, Arun Jaitley, to go on the offensive against the EC. Perhaps, having banked on early polls following the dissolution of the state assembly in Gujarat, the party was banking on easy polls to take advantage of the prevailing polarization among the voters. The comments mark the beginning of a possible war of words between the Union government and the election authorities.

At stake is a major constitutional question: who has the right to decide when polls may be held? In support of the view that early polls will help provide a healing touch, many ideologies and spokesmen have quoted the precedents from other states. Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab were states hit by insurgency, and the holding of the polls was widely seen as essential to give a message to armed groups who were trying to inflict serious damage to the country’s integrity and unity. Even here, and it is interesting how the fact is being brushed aside, the Jammu and Kashmir elections were not held in 1995, following on-the-spot inspection by the EC. They were instead held as late as October 1996.

As for the Assam elections of 1983, certain simple facts are being ignored. One BJP Rajya Sabha MP who is a former journalist went so far as to say that polling was only of the order of two to three per cent. But the official record shows a turnout of 33 per cent: not healthy or large, but over ten times the figure that has been claimed.

There is still a point here. The India of 2002 has one fortunate legacy of a decade of political turmoil, a politically neutral and independent EC. The change can be traced back to the T.N. Seshan era, but the tradition was further strengthened by his successor, M.S. Gill. Not so long ago, elections across north India were accompanied by open intimidation and booth-capturing, while procedures laid down for verifying the identity of voters were openly flouted by powerful rural elites and their henchmen. The fact that the body was earlier a weak-kneed one is no excuse for it to go back to its supine past and let politicians dictate the rules at poll time.

It is a measure of the maturity of the Indian democracy that all concerned admit that a strong and autonomous CEC is not only in keeping with the spirit and letter of the Constitution but also a necessity in a state like Jammu and Kashmir. It is indeed myopic of a regime that has put so much store on free and fair polls in the state of Jammu and Kashmir to now question the commission’s actions in another state even before it has arrived at a decision on how to proceed further. Such attempts at browbeating a constitutional body do not bode well for democracy.

Gujarat’s is a society that has been scarred by violence. Beyond that any comparison with other states bears little meaning. The reason is obvious. Even the prime minister was constrained to remark on a visit to the camps that there was a need to conform to the principles of fair play in statecraft. The expression he used was an orthodox Sanskrit one, raj dharma, and the idea that the ruler ought to be even-handed, just and equable in his dealings with all sections.

Just how the Narendra Modi regime handled the issue can be seen in comparison with the firm policing of the state after the Dariapur riots under his predecessor. Keshubhai Patel even publicly warned that no one was above the law, provoking a sharp retort from an ally, the Shiv Sena. Senior Sena ministers from the Union government even criticized his actions in arresting not only Muslim but also Hindu miscreants.

This is not to say that the state government was even-handed in every case, but there was a difference if only of degree. Unlike Keshubhai Patel, who is a veteran in the state assembly, having been a minister as early as 1974 in the Janata government, Modi is a new-comer to electoral politics. He also spent over ten years away form the state as an office-bearer at the national level.

The politics of polarization was and is as much aimed at his rivals within his party as at the opposition. Lacking a rapport either with the Patels or the Kshatriyas, the Godhra issue and its aftermath are means to project him as the sole leader of the new Gujarat. Hence, the unseemly haste with which he claimed that normalcy had returned. Unless he makes haste, his own adversaries within will cut him to size.

This is not the only reason why the BJP is going hammer and tongs at all those who oppose early polls. There is a deeper reason. It is an open secret that the core ideological agenda of the party has been in cold storage for much of the last four years in office. After a string of electoral reverses and following a shuffle of personnel within the party, it is testing the waters in Gujarat. As long as the party stays within the bounds of the law, it is free to preach whatever ideology it wants.

The ruling party would do well to heed the message of the times and abide by the EC’s verdict, whatever it is. There are times when a nation ranks first, and a party second. The comments about how well the Modi regime handled the violence bring back memories. Rajiv Gandhi’s remark that “the earth shakes when a big tree falls”, made at a rally to commemorate his mother, seemed deeply insensitive to the Sikhs who were killed in massacres in Delhi. The image never quite left him, despite his reputation of being Mr Clean.

But why go so far back in history, when the poet-PM put it so well himself. If his government does not watch its step, its own leader’s verse will come back to haunt it. Acts of violence against women and children can not be counted as “badges of patriotism” or “certificates of culture”. And as for power acquired through the politics of hate, he writes, “A throne smeared with the blood of the innocent/ Ranks lower than the dust of a cemetery.”

The author is an independent researcher and political analyst


With A.P.J. Abdul Kalam having taken over as the new president, K.R. Narayanan has moved far away from the official ceremonies and decorum that marked his office. Yet the sense of detachment will be difficult to achieve for many of us who continue to recall the values he sought to uphold. In a way, Narayanan acted as the conscience of the nation at a time when the gap between the politico-economic reality and the values dear to this Nehruvian intellectual were widening. Does Narayanan’s exit then indicate the end of all that he symbolized?

Let us first examine the social context that contributed to the making of Narayanan. When Narayanan entered the public stage, it was a time of grand ideals and unbound optimism. Socialism, despite its flaws, was still a living alternative to capitalism. The ethos of decolonization was alive and it was felt that the hegemony of the superpowers had to be resisted through nonalignment. It was believed that the post-colonial Indian state would be able to modernize society and fight the restricted identities of caste and creed. These ideas were part and parcel of the broadly progressive, left of centre, Nehruvian worldview. Narayanan embodied this spirit which influenced many other intellectuals of his era.

Do these ideas hold water anymore? It is obvious that the changing politico-economic context has delivered a blow to them. Socialism has collapsed and it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between globalization and the hegemony of American capitalism. The ideals of national sovereignty and nonalignment have become old-fashioned.

A dream fades

The Indian society itself has undergone tremendous transformation. The moral courage that allowed India to retain its multiculturism seems to be disappearing. India is now witnessing the assertion of Hindutva and the resultant communal upsurge. The idea of “shared Indianness” is also in crisis: the identities of caste, language, religion have become stronger and the democratic political space has been reduced to a site of conflicting interests. Democracy is no longer an instrument of collective empowerment. It is being used to divide, segregate and retain one’s restricted identity. The grand Nehruvian dream is being marginalized as a result.

Narayanan occupied the highest position in the country when this grand dream was collapsing. The country had by then already witnessed Ayodhya, the militant assertion of majoritarianism, the post-Mandal era renewal of caste identities and the lure of liberalization. At a time Narayanan ended his term in office, India witnessed the madness in Gujarat, the state-sponsored violence and the shamelessness of the ruling establishment.

For the future

It is true that in the Indian system of governance the president does not have much power to alter the state of affairs. Yet a good president asserts, arouses the conscience of the nation and makes his presence felt. Time and again, Narayanan has expressed his anguish. He has recalled Gandhi, Nehru and Tagore and spoken of sanity in an insane world.

Is there anything to learn from what Narayanan was trying to say? Or was he just recalling an era that has passed? True, the society is in perpetual flux. The Nehruvian worldview too has its flaws that need to be transcended. It should not be forgotten that even Gandhi was not happy with the Nehruvian notion of technological development. New social movements initiated by subaltern communities have made us realize that we need to rethink our earlier notions of techno-industrial development and progress. But this rethink is possible only in an environment conducive to debate, cultural dialogue and critical thinking. Narayanan too was arguing for the return to that environment. It is difficult to disagree with his fundamental concern for an open, democratic, plural and egalitarian society.

Narayanan is no longer our president. But as an outstanding public figure he should keep his struggle alive. So should the people of this country. That is because the future of India lies in cultural harmony and egalitarian development.


Some in the Bharatiya Janata Party claim that the “Congressization” of the party has been effectively prevented by the prime minister ordering the cancellation of the controversial allotment of petrol pump, cooking gas and kerosene agencies by the ministry of petroleum.

Thus the BJP’s Rajya Sabha member of parliament, Dinanath Mishra, wrote in a newspaper column that in the last 50 years no prime minister had taken such a swift and bold decision. “The fact that a Congress-like culture surfaced even in the BJP created a political sensation,” he wrote. Cancelling the allotments under media — and opposition —pressure, he argued, provided the party with “a golden opportunity to acquire high moral ground once again.”

Not everyone in the BJP thinks like Mishra. There are large sections in the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh who believe that the decision to cancel the allotments was wrong. They claim that only 300 to 400 of the total 3,000-odd allotments went to BJP/RSS sympathizers and that too through “proper procedures”. They feel that Ram Naik did nothing wrong. After being under constant pressure from their partymen about getting nothing in terms of patronage, senior BJP leaders had instructed Naik to rectify this. The party, they feel, could have weathered the controversy if it had shown early enough that the Congress too had followed similar practices in the past.

However, the party leadership thought otherwise and attempted damage control when the scandal became public. The controversy erupted at a time when the BJP’s moral authority across the country was already on the decline.

The stuffing had been knocked out of its holier-than-thou attitude by the electoral defeat it faced in state after state (Goa was a mere blip in its overall rout). Its party president was caught on candid camera accepting a bribe. It failed to take firm action against Narendra Modi and the rioters in Gujarat. Its prickliness to media criticism was such that it sought to criminalize journalists and glorify the guilty. These developments, coming as they did one after the other, contributed to muddying the image of the BJP. It is in this broad context that the ongoing petrol pump controversy needs to be viewed.

The BJP is essentially a party of the middle classes. For these sections of society, the image of the BJP leadership was of supreme importance. The personality, image and credibility of the leader (what the RSS calls “Chaal, chalan aur charitra”) are of utmost importance in the BJP. The primary reason for this is that the moral authority of the BJP leadership flows from below — from the party workers and from the RSS cadre. This is quite unlike the Congress which has increasingly become like a corporation with a member of the Nehru-Gandhi family at the helm as the chief executive officer. In the Congress, power flows from the top. In the BJP, it has to be earned in terms of acquiring legitimacy with the cadre.

The leadership of the RSS and the BJP — whether at the top or at the lower levels — has traditionally comprised a few individuals who symbolize long and dedicated service to the mother organization. These are normally people whose character is beyond reproach, whose lifestyle is simple and who symbolize the sacrifices needed for the greater cause of Hindutva. It is because of their character that their followers identify with them and try to emulate them. They are admired and envied — in fact, treated as virtual demi-gods.

Now suddenly, it is shocking for their supporters to discover that their gods have feet of clay. In every parliamentary constituency where BJP leaders or their relatives have received petrol pumps, cooking gas agencies or kerosene depots, the local member of parliament, the party’s local president, its organizing secretary and the local members of the legislative assembly, are all suddenly embroiled in a controversy. Their “chaal, chalan and charitra” are being questioned.

These, who upto now symbolized sacrifice and devotion to the cause, have been exposed as selfish, petty and only too eager to grab the goodies for themselves. The party functionaries and the local swayamsevaks suddenly find that the opportunities which should have been opened up for them have been cornered by their leadership. Those whom they hero-worshipped, it turns out, thought nothing of usurping all the benefits for themselves. Their gods have failed them despite their moralistic sermons of selfless action.

If this is how the cadres feel, one can well imagine what the ordinary masses think. In a country with sluggish industrial growth, a monsoon-dependant agriculture and high unemployment rate, nobody likes someone else getting an unfair advantage. The middle classes in India, which is the primary support base of the BJP, is essentially a self-made class. It has expanded itself over generations through hard work. Its growing size is not a tribute to the political leadership of the day but to its own endeavour of giving its children professional education, with each generation trying to better the previous one.

Among these people the BJP stands discredited. It can no longer claim to be the party with a difference. The public perception is that these people are no different because when the opportunity came they too thought nothing of misusing power.

Even the beneficiaries of the BJP’s largesse are not happy. As a result of the cancellation there is resentment among them — they were given something and then it was snatched away. Their anger is also directed at the BJP leadership. While the well-to-do among them may be able to bear the financial loss, the relatively poorer beneficiaries who borrowed money from banks to take up these agencies have been virtually destroyed. None of them are likely to think kindly of the BJP.

The net result of this changing public perception is two-fold. The moral grandstanding of the BJP has become a bit of a joke. But even more importantly, its leadership at all levels has been discredited. The local MPs who had a role in the scandal stand little chance of being fielded again. The MLAs who pushed the cases of their family members for these agencies and have had their names splashed in newspapers have become targets of public ridicule — so much so that they are embarrassed to go amongst their party workers. Those who “facilitated” in the petrol pump allocations are even more discredited because they are alleged to have taken hefty bribes. Those who bribed them to get petrol pumps are demanding their money back after the cancellation, as in Andhra Pradesh.

In effect then, the BJP has the tough task ahead of searching for a new and credible leadership at almost all levels. Given the nature of the party, a new untarnished and unblemished leadership cannot be provided overnight — because such leadership has to emerge from below. The damage can be repaired but only over time — the time needed to nurture a new set of leaders.

An RSS functionary summarized the dilemma of the BJP by quoting Ghalib, “Na khuda hi mila na visaal-e-sanam. Na idhar ke rahe na udhar ke rahe (I found neither god nor love. Neither ear-thly pleasures nor heavenly was mine).”


The pollution board never conducted any comprehensive study to assess the impact of air pollutants on human health. As per World Health Organization estimates based on the air quality of Calcutta during 1995-96, premature death and hospitalization and sickness requiring medical assistance due to air pollution were 0.11 lakh and 55 lakh respectively.

Alveolar macrophage count in sputum is an indicator reflecting the lung tissue’s reaction to the inhaled pollution. In 1995-96 the department sponsored a study to assess the direct health effects due to air pollution in Calcutta, the AM response of the selected people of Calcutta and that of a control group chosen from non-polluted areas. The study revealed that Calcutta citizens had about 10 times AM in their sputum compared to the control group. Moreover, presence of iron in AM of the study group was much higher than that of the control group. According to the study, accumulation of iron in AM was due to secretion of blood from lungs.

The study also indicated that while only 14 per cent of rural children suffered from cold in winter, 46 per cent of children in Calcutta suffered from different lung diseases. Genetic changes in AM cells were also noticed. The government stated that...several measures had been taken for controlling vehicular emission by introducing stringent standard in automobile engines and fuel.

Solid waste other than hazardous and bio-medical waste are generated from domestic and industrial sectors. Though indiscriminate disposal of solid waste causes environmental degradation, government of West Bengal has not formulated any solid waste management policy. Responsibility for disposal of solid waste lies with the respective municipalities. Report (1999) on the status of environment in West Bengal brought out the following cases of disregard and violation of the safety norms and standards for disposal of solid and bio-medical wastes.

In the Calcutta Municipal Corporation out of the estimated generated quantity of 3,000 metric tonne on an average per day, about 2,200 MT per day is collected by conservancy labourers of the corporation. Of the remaining, about 500 MT per day is recycled by rag pickers and the rest 300 MT per day is dumped in water bodies and open space around slum areas where no collection is provided. Before final disposal, uncleared heaps of solid wastes are commonly left lying in the roadside vats for long periods in the city. Most of the medium and small scale industries have no separate disposal system. Dumping of industrial refuse, containing metal and toxic sludge, with domestic waste poses a major threat to the surrounding areas. The study conducted by the Society for Participatory Research disclosed that...the ground water of shallow tubewells in the area around the Dhapa dumping site of CMC was unsafe for human consumption.

...Mechanical decomposition and sanitary land-filling of solid waste were totally absent. As a result these dumps created serious health hazards due to uncontrolled dumping and leaches. House flies spread infectious diseases from these dumps. Moreover, mosquitoes responsible for dengue and filaria breed in partly filled marshy lands.

In the absence of any designated area for dumping or disposal of solid wastes, disposal of solid waste in the water bodies and low and marshy land was common practice in 25 test-checked municipalities in Howrah, Hooghly and Bardhaman districts. In one municipality (Arambagh), disposal of solid waste on the riverside was also noticed. A large number of ponds in Khardaha-Titagarh area have already been filled up by fly ash from a CESC thermal power station at Titagarh. Indiscriminate dumping of solid waste in the open storm water drains/ canals also causes clogging and flooding of the area in the monsoon season. In the hilly areas of Darjeeling, municipal solid waste dumped on the hill sides ultimately finds their way in hilly streams resulting in contamination of the water of the rivers besides creating slippage and landslides.

The board was assigned the responsibility for implementation of Hazardous Wastes (management and Handling) Rules, 1989. According to the rules the board was required to identify and notify the sites for disposal of hazardous wastes. Till date no such notification indicating the site for disposal of hazardous wastes was issued. Hazardous wastes were stored in the backyard of the industries and dumped in low areas causing serious environmental problems.

...Hazardous waste of chemical industries in Konnagar-Rishra area in the Hooghly district was being dumped into the adjoining low lying area. The waste contained chromium and toxic material, causing contamination of underground aquifers and agricultural land. Analysis (July 1999) of sludge...as well as the samples of water from tube-wells collected (July 1999) by the board as per complaint of the local people revealed the presence of high concentration of total chromium. Hexavalent-chromium was also far above the permissible limit. During sampling the board’s officials found that a large section of local people in these areas were suffering from skin diseases. The government stated (July 2001) that the industrial units responsible for such disaster were identified and the land and the tube wells were properly treated and made free from chromium contamination at the cost of the units responsible for such contamination.

To be Concluded



Give madmen a dressing down

Sir — Have the sangh parivar’s dress police let loose lunatics now to enforce its code on girls (“Girls in jeans face cane fury”, Aug 12)? Sunil Brunobeck, a young man who has been regularly caning jeans-clad female students of Ranchi’s St Xavier’s College, has so far been indulged and protected by the college authorities by not having any complaints lodged against him. It is appalling that the college has chosen to protect a non-student and a criminal rather than the students, who live in mortal fear of the lunatic. But the case raises another question: by the same counter that Brunobeck is a lunatic, the leaders of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal and Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad are also insane since they also threaten those who dare to flout the rules set by them. Will their atrocities go unpunished only because they stop short of wielding the cane? There is every chance that Brunobeck’s lunacy springs from sangh indoctrination.

Yours faithfully,
Kalyan Mandal, Howrah

Blood on the snow

Sir — With election dates in Jammu and Kashmir having been announced by the Election Commission, the frustration and desperation of Pakistan-sponsored terrorists are on the rise. The latest indication was the killing of nine Amarnath pilgrims by militants of al-Mansuriya, an offshoot of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (“Pilgrims massacred in strike on polls”, Aug 7). The Hizbul Mujahedin chose not to disrupt the yatra, but the Lashkar-e-Toiba decided otherwise.

While the Pakistan government has condemned the attacks in its usual way, Muslim organizations in India have remained silent. Had there been a similar attack on haj pilgrims, would these organizations have kept quiet ? Examples like this actually provide fodder for the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal to push their fundamentalist agenda and inflame Hindu passions. That the different security agencies are blaming each other for the tragedy does not speak too well of the security arrangements for the pilgrims. Fortunately, people still have faith in the security personnel as another batch of pilgrims have got ready to undertake the journey.

The attack, followed by another fidayeen attack on the Handwara military camp in Kupwara, in which a soldier and two militants were killed, proved for the umpteenth time that Pakistan continues to aid and abet terrorism in Kashmir. Thankfully, the Centre has not budged from its resolve to hold the elections.

Yours faithfully,
Srinivasan Balakrishnan, Jamshedpur

Sir — One cannot remember an Amarnath pilgrimage in recent years unscarred by terrorist attacks. And yet, every year, large numbers of Hindus, chasing an illusory shortcut to salvation, walk the danger zone. The pilgrims are to some extent themselves responsible for the attacks since they venture into the yatra with full knowledge of the risks involved. The government can stop such pilgrimages temporarily if it fails to ensure the pilgrims’ safety. If that means it has to interfere in some people’s faith, then so be it, since hu-man life is quite dear.

Yours faithfully,
Shiv Shanker Almal, Calcutta

Sir — How many Indians will be required to die before the United States of America is convinced that Pakistan is a terrorist state? Doesn’t the killing of innocent pilgrims satisfy the US on this matter? The rest of the world can surely come together and put pressure on the US to see the light.

Yours faithfully,
R. Sekar, Angul

Sir — The Union home minister, who is now also the deputy prime minister, always seems to acquire all the intelligence about terrorist organizations, but only after they commit an act of terrorism. Consider his statement immediately after the Amarnath yatra massacre: “This organization is the new name of the Lashkar-e-Toiba”, and so on. The irony is that far from containing such organizations, this rusted “iron man” of India has failed miserably to even diffuse tension in the country, be it communal or otherwise. He has proved to be the worst home minister India has ever had.

Yours faithfully,
Mrinmoy Goswami, Nagaon, Assam

Games, set and match

Sir — The performance of the Indians in the recently concluded 17th Commonwealth Games in Manchester has been nothing short of outstanding. It has come as a surprise to many because, given the neglect meted out to all sports except cricket, such results were the least expected. But this could be a good time to begin encouraging these sports and look into the problems faced by sportsmen and women who are unfortunate enough to excel in a sport which is not cricket. Government patronage will help, but it cannot be enough. Corporate sponsors need to come forward and put their money behind the Kunjarani Devis and the Anjali Ved Pathaks. It is now clear that there is a pool of talent in India which, with proper training and motivation, will yield rich rewards.

Yours faithfully,
Indrajit Bose, Cuttack

Sir — India’s show at the 17th Commonwealth Games in Manchester has been marred by doping controversies. Two weightlifters, Krishnan Madasamy and Satheesh Rai, have tested positive in the dope tests. Their statements have shown that there is a lack of basic awareness about banned substances among Indian sportsmen and officials. That even herbal Indian medication can contain banned chemicals has strangely escaped the comprehension of the sportsmen. It is only to be expected that international competitions like the Commonwealth Games will have strict guidelines on doping. Indians cannot afford to act naïve or feign ignorance because they only end up having their medals taken away from them. This has also earned India a bad name, and that is not good for a country which has begun to make a mark in international sports.

Yours faithfully,
Shyamalendu Dhar, Calcutta

Sir — The brilliant win essayed by the Indian women hockey players in the Commonwealth Games has reminded Indians after a long time that hockey is their national game. Not only did the women win the gold in Manchester, but they also beat formidable teams — England, New Zealand and South Africa. Special mention must be made of Mamta Kharab who scored the winning goal in the finals. Will it hurt the egos of Dhanraj Pillay and his men to try emulating the girls now?

Yours faithfully,
Saumitra Kumar Gupta, Ranchi

United in good times

Sir — The decision of the industrial tycoon, Vijay Mallya, to join the Janata Dal (United) — although it is well-known that he owes his Rajya Sabha seat to the Janata parivar — is an important event in Indian politics. But it has not received any coverage in The Telegraph, though Mallya’s United Breweries sponsors the two football giants of Calcutta, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal. Will the JD(U) now be rechristened the Kingfisher Janata Dal, or the McDowell Janata Dal? Perhaps Janata Dal (United Breweries) is a better option.

Yours faithfully,
Sakti Biswas, Calcutta

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