Editorial 1/ Just a first step
Editorial 2/ Task master
Some are more equal
Fifth Column/ Which way will they all head?
A few primary concerns
Document/ Accounting for the crores not spent
Letters to the editor

There was much in Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s speech on Independence Day that will appeal to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. But it is unlikely that the prime minister’s words alone will be enough to motivate opposition parties, particularly separatist organizations, to enthusiastically participate in the elections. There were three parts of Mr Vajpayee’s speech that were clearly directed at the people of the state. He indicated, more strongly than on earlier occasions, that he was confident the forthcoming assembly elections will be free and fair and that no one should have doubts on this score. He urged the people of the state to participate in the elections in large numbers, thereby demolishing President Pervez Musharraf’s assertion that the polls were a farce being enacted by India. Then, Mr Vajpayee signalled that a dialogue will be conducted with the elected representatives and organizations. This would, of course, include negotiations on devolution and the demand for greater powers for the state. Finally, what was probably the boldest element in his speech, Mr Vajpayee accepted that the Centre had in the past made mistakes in its policy towards Jammu and Kashmir and that it was now willing to make amends. Initial reports from the state indicate that the prime minister’s speech has generated some enthusiasm, and at least one separatist leader, Mr Shabir Shah, has welcomed it. But there is little chance of the separatists participating in the elections on the basis of Mr Vajpayee’s assurances alone. They believe that elections held under the National Conference government would not be fair. They have been arguing that a phase of governor’s rule would ensure that the electoral contest is not one-sided.

Moreover, many moderate separatist leaders had been asserting that a dialogue and the announcement of some confidence-building measures by New Delhi before the announcement of the polls would make it easier for them to enter the electoral fray without losing credibility. While the Kashmir committee, headed by the former Union law minister, Mr Ram Jethmalani, seems to have made some progress in its dialogue with the separatists, there has been no assurance of their participation in the polls. There may still be time for the Indian government, together with the Election Commission, to take steps to ensure that the elections are inclusive and credible. New Delhi could do well to release many of the separatist leaders who are in jails in India. The Centre could consider setting up a group of eminent Indians to monitor the elections in addition to the officially mandated observers. Finally, the Centre could try persuading the National Conference government, headed by Mr Farooq Abdullah, to step down before the polls in the national interest.


It could never be too late for the chief minister to admit that primary education in West Bengal has remained a mess for the last 25 years. But what Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee goes on to do with such an admission is the more important thing. Mr Amartya Sen’s Pratichi Trust has released its report on the state of primary education in Birbhum, Purulia and Midnapore. A number of conventional primary schools and sishu siksha kendras were surveyed intensively, and the trust has suggested some “radical reforms” in this sector, apart from presenting a critical analysis of its social, administrative and pedagogic aspects. Mr Bhattacharjee has accepted the report’s basic premise: the failure of the government to stall the decline of primary education in the course of its long reign. This is certainly the right thing to do. But it did take an eminent Bengali and Nobel laureate to elicit such a public and unqualified admission of failure, and there is something a trifle unseemly about this. The finance and primary education ministers have also accepted this admonishment with equal readiness. The former’s rejoinder is, however, interesting. Mr Asim Dasgupta has noticed a reassuring affinity between some of the opinions of the report and the government’s own deliberations over certain aspects of primary education. Mr Dasgupta is proud of this concurrence of approach, especially on the matter of private tuition. Governmental meditations on education in Bengal inevitably end up with this root of all evil. Private tuition is no doubt a rather undesirable symptom of everything that is wrong with the state of Bengal’s schools. But to remain stuck with this idea in every discussion of the matter will not do justice to the complexity of the trust’s findings and suggestions. The government must try to have more than just a single bright idea about what ails its education system.

Mr Bhattacharjee’s vision of free primary education for all poor children in the state will also have to elaborate itself, at a practicable level, in order to accommodate the implications of the report. The guarantee of free school-meals sounds more simple than what its implementation would actually mean in terms of administrative skills. The education minister will have to ensure the setting up and maintenance of a proper state-wide machinery for this to work, particularly in the rural areas. The fact of social inequality based on class and caste is another important finding of the report. The state will have to work out a disciplinary system which could identify and penalize such offences. The government must prove that its response to Mr Sen’s report is considerably more than cringing under a stern taskmaster’s eye.


The Human Development Report 2002 released by the United Nations development programme has presented a disappointing picture of where India stands amongst the nations of the world. India ranks 124. India’s human development indicator as calculated by the UNDP is estimated at 0.577 as compared with an average of 0.654 for developing countries as a whole. The HDI is formed out of the composite of the estimates of achievements in regard to gross domestic product, life expectancy and literacy. While we may derive satisfaction from the fact that India’s HDI has moved up from 0.407 in 1975 to the present 0.577, we still rank below China, which has risen from 0.523 to 0.726 for the same period. India’s low rank reflects primarily the low per capita income, low life expectancy and poor literacy achievement. India’s per capita income being only $ 3,546 in purchasing power parity terms as against the developing countries’ average of $3,783 (also in purchasing power parity terms) is one of the reasons for its low HDI.

The latest data given by the UNDP should lead to introspection among policymakers as to how we can raise our rank in the global community. It is no use quarrelling with the basis of comparison. The UNDP is acknowledged to be one of the fairest institutions of the global system, especially in its compilation of the HDI.

Attention has also to be drawn to another compilation produced by the HDR, that is, the human poverty index. The UNDP’s calculation of HPI is based on a summary index of the following indicators — the probability of a citizen’s survival up to the age of 40, the adult literacy rate, the percentage of population not having access to improved water sources, the percentage of underweight children under age 5 and the ratio of population below the income poverty line. The poorer we are, the lower in rank in terms of HPI. India ranks 55, while China has a rank of 24 and Pakistan a rank of 68.

The HDR 2002 by its own admission has concentrated mainly on issues of the politics of development compared to the economic aspects. In its view, politics is as important to successful development as economics. The message of the HDR is that sustained reduction of poverty needs political evolution to conditions in which poor people have access to political power through successful democratic institutions.

The UN HDR 2002 has, in effect, become a treatise on the importance of ensuring effective democracy and the development of adequate institutions of governance. Contrary to some of the perceptions of Western economists and social scientists about the superiority of autocracy, the latest HDR emphasizes the fact that the democratic form of government and human development are fully consistent with each other. The democratic transition has been shown to be an essential avenue in terms of better governance and the faster achievement of human development.

In this connection, the HDR cites a number of scholarly studies to show that the correlation between autocracy and faster development is weak. The HDR 2002 asserts the contrarian view and cites studies to affirm its conclusion that democratization creates better enabling conditions for economic and therefore human development.

Obviously, democracy should not be confined to merely the frequency of elections. It also needs the establishment of adequate institutions of surveillance, such as the judiciary, to ensure civil and political rights. Only with a proper framework for enforcement of human rights can democracy be said to be complete. Equally important is a place for a free and active media, which the UN HDR ranks high among the necessary conditions for proper human development.

The UN HDR 2002 draws support for this from the observations of Nobel laureate Amartya Sen that post-independence India has avoided massive deaths arising from drought and famine mainly because of a free and active press in contrast with the millions who died in China as a result of famine. Chinese authorities were not able to realize the magnitude of the disaster because of the suppression of the media.

Peace is an important pre-requirement for economics and human development. In this connection, HDR 2002 rightly emphasizes an important statistic, which is often ignored, that is the wide prevalence of conflicts between — and inside — countries in the world in recent times. The UN HDR notes that in the Nineties conflicts between countries killed about 220,000 people, while civil conflicts accounted for nearly 3.6 million deaths. Prevalence of such disturbing conditions does affect the potential for human development. Civil peace is a precious resource, the need for which is often ignored by purists concerned only with economic development. But, economic development is infeasible when peace is fragile. The first victim of civil strife is development in all its dimensions. This is a simple but important fact, which we in India tend to ignore.

In this context, the HDR lays stress on the importance of maintaining appropriate power equations between security forces and the state. Threat from dominance by security forces is one of the dangers that a disturbed civil order brings. Such disturbances bring the security forces into the forefront of governance. India has been lucky to have maintained a proper relationship of civil society with the security forces without giving them the upper hand.

In its focus on democracy, the UN HDR turns the spotlight on the need to grow participative democratic processes. Democracy will lose value if it is practised only from above. In this context, the HDR 2002 invites special attention to a recent experiment in Porto Alegre in Brazil in which the local citizens were encouraged to participate in the formulation of civil budgets and their surveillance. An idea worth experimenting with.

The HDR emphasizes the increasing role of non-governmental organizations in the modern world. Non-governmental organizations have become particularly important in evolution and finalization of policies not only by governments but by multilateral organizations of the world. The UN HDR 2002, however, notes that they have a duty to be responsible and to be properly audited. The governance of NGOs is itself a delicate issue and needs to be addressed by persons interested in preserving NGOs as a viable and visible avenue.

In commenting on the pace of global development, the UN HDR 2002 emphasizes the increasing trend towards inequality between nations, partly caused by a faster growth of North America and Europe. The richest 10 per cent of the population of the United States of America has an income equal to that of the poorest 43 per cent of the world. The income of the world’s richest 5 per cent is 114 times that of the poorest 6 per cent. This growing inequality between countries is a serious problem, which has to be rectified. Opening up of international trade and increase of foreign aid are among the recommended solutions.

One of the important suggestions of the UN HDR relates to the improvement of governance of international institutions. Particular importance attaches to its suggestion to set up an economic security council at the UN to look after the economic affairs in the same way as the security council cell handles political issues. Given the fact that the suggestion includes a veto, it is doubtful whether the existing power structure, dominated by the US and Europe, will agree to the creation of another power centre, besides the Brettonwoods twins. But, the fact that the UN is thinking in these terms gives hope that the multilateral financial system may be made more democratic.

The UN HDR is usually looked upon as an indicator of where countries stand in the comity of nations. It is important to recognize that notwithstanding our progress during the last few years, we have still a long way to go. Human development is an important goal of all political parties. It is no use ignoring the UN HDR as a mere compilation of statistics. In fact, it indicates a glaring failure in our progress — especially in the improvement of India’s human condition. The path of wisdom is to learn the appropriate lessons from the UN HDR. The improvement of our human development indicators is a challenge, which political masters and economic policy-makers can ignore only at their peril. Increasing failure in human development will surely be a precursor to a failed society.

The author is former governor, Reserve Bank of India


“Lula” is clearly going to win the Brazilian presidency in October, so the crisis in Latin America is going to get much bigger, and soon. In the first televised candidates’ debate in Brazil early this month, his three rivals virtually ignored the Workers’ Party leader, Luis Inacio “Lula” de Silva, recognizing that he has an unbeatable lead in the first round of voting. Instead, they concentrated on attacking each other in the hope of making it through to the second round. But whoever Lula faces in the second round, opinion polls say that he will probably win the presidency. A former trade unionist, Lula swears that he will be a good boy and obey the International Monetary Fund, but nervous foreign investors don’t believe him, and Brazil’s currency has already lost a quarter of its value.

After 20 years, the neo-liberal consensus in Latin America is breaking up. It survived the Mexican financial crisis of 1995 and the Brazilian crisis of 1999, but it is not likely to survive the current political and economic upheavals. Mexico, safely ensconced in the North American Free Trade Area, may escape the coming changes, but almost nowhere else will.

The first sign that the “free markets” ship had sprung a leak was the election of former paratroop colonel, Hugo Chavez, as the president of Venezuela in 1998 on a platform that denounced the local business “oligarchy” and the IMF with equal enthusiasm. Chavez narrowly survived a coup in April that was tacitly backed by the United States of America. Elsewhere in the continent events are spinning out of control.

Market devalued

The ship began to sink when Argentina, long the darling of free-market ideologues, devalued its currency and defaulted on its debt last year. The Argentine peso is down to a quarter of its former value, a large number of people have died in street-riots, the country is running out of respectable politicians willing to accept the presidency, and there is no light visible at the end of the tunnel.

The Argentine financial crisis has dragged in neighbouring countries like Paraguay and Uruguay, both hit by riots and looting, and all of the Andean countries except Chile are being torn by intense confrontations between the haves and have-nots. But Brazil, with almost half the continent’s population, is the place that really counts. The prospect of a left-wing president is panicking foreign investors and threatening to start a far bigger crisis. So where will it all end?

Over the past 20 years, Latin American economic growth has been markedly slower than in the bad old statist days of 1960-1980. The social welfare systems have been trashed and people have grown ever more desperate. They are responding by using the democratic political systems they now possess to demand change.

Reading the signs

The trigger for the current crisis has been not angry locals but foreign investors. They are often berated by analysts for their ignorance: too stupid to tell the difference between Argentina and Brazil, they tend to flee at the first sign of trouble anywhere in the region, taking their money with them. But at the bottom the foreigners are right: the extreme free-market model they thought they were investing in is going belly up.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that these countries are heading back to dictatorship, but it does mean that they will probably bring back some of the protectionist measures that used to cushion local workers and employers from foreign competition. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with that: rich countries preach free trade now, but when they were industrializing themselves, they hid behind high tariff walls.

The problem is that Latin America used to combine protectionism with heavy government regulation and state-owned industries. Then for 20 years it combined deregulated internal markets and privatized industries with wide-open financial markets and an American-style assault on all the social security systems that used to protect the poor. And the $ 64 million question now is whether they will have the wit to combine the good bits from both strategies or whether they will simply fall back on the formula that failed them before.


The World Bank recently threatened to stop funding a primary education programme in Bihar if the government did not finalize the appointment of teachers. Since 1997, the bank has helped run schools under the district primary education programme, for which hundreds of “para teachers” — temporary teachers working mainly in village schools and paid Rs 1,500 a month — were hired. The Bihar government had promised to finalize the appointments by March this year, but failed to keep its word.

The education sector in Bihar has been in the doldrums for years. The Bihar education project was launched in 1991, under a United Nations Children’s Fund grant, to substantially revive the elementary education system in the state. The project laid emphasis on the education of deprived sections of society, such as scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and women. The BEP was later merged with the DPEP for the period 1998-2003.

The objective of this third district primary education project was to assist the state in building and strengthening the institutional capacity to ensure that more than 5.5 million school-age children, belonging to socially disadvantaged groups, could complete a five-year primary education cycle of appropriate quality in 17 educationally disadvantaged districts. The project had two other components. One, a focussed teacher training to help build teacher awareness and motivation for alternative classroom practices. And two, to assist in improving the quality and efficiency of instructional materials — textbooks, student workbooks, supplemental readers, teacher guides and other related materials.

Ironically, the appointment of para-teachers runs counter to the DPEP’s longstanding resolve to concentrate on the formal educational system and to improve it with the help of better planning and management. Several DPEP documents have expressed concern over the poor quality of the short-term training provided to para-teachers and also about the quality of their teaching. The very method of their appointment has led to little attention being paid to standard recruitment norms. Despite the phenomenal growth in their number, as seen across several states, classroom activities have been found to be of poorer quality under para-teachers. Low salary and the contractual nature of appointment have been the major source of discontent and lack of motivation among para-teachers.

Perhaps the biggest irony is that the increasing popularity of the para-teacher policy has surfaced at a time when the Union government has commenced devising suitable norms of school-teaching as a profession. The National Council for Teacher Education was specifically set up to debate and decide on appropriate standards of teacher-training, recruitment and supervision. Among the NCTE’s tasks were to check malpractices of private educational entrepreneurs and the poor-quality correspondence programmes for training teachers.

The policy of appointing para-teachers violates the NCTE norms. The procedures used for the localized recruitment of para-teachers and their low salary belie the NCTE’s resolve to raise the status of school teaching by upgrading the various practices associated with it.

The Bihar government has admitted that it does not have the funds to appoint regular teachers in primary schools. In Bihar’s primary and secondary schools there are thousands of vacancies for teachers but the government has been unable to fill the posts, even those under reserved categories. Many schools work with half the required staff. Most schools function with just four teachers where there should be ten.

However, DPEP funds are seen as money that complement state allocations. It remains the state government’s responsibility to fill up existing and new vacancies in state-run schools according to the prevailing norms of recruitment. Several state governments, instead of making full-time appointments as per the norms of permanent service, opt to make contractual appointments at one-fourth or one-fifth the regular salary disbursed from DPEP funds in most cases. In Bihar, para-teachers were hired to fill vacancies in primary schools. Around 31,000 such posts still remain vacant in state-run primary and middle schools in Bihar.

Applicants for teaching vacancies in Bihar need compulsory training and for some time, there have been no trained applicants as all the 11 government teacher-training colleges are shut. Para-teachers fill these vacancies.

Another decision by the state government relaxes the requirement of a compulsory teacher-training degree for applicants in secondary education schools. The task of appointing para-teachers at village schools has been left to the village panchayat samitis.

Starved of funds and adequate manpower, they would now be responsible for the recruitment and appointment of 43,000 para-teachers to meet the shortfall.

As a logical corollary, in the quality and quantity of its schoolteachers, Bihar lags much behind other states. The Bihar primary teachers’ association claims that even available teachers absent themselves from teaching because the government puts them on election duty, census duty or other official work. Schools remain closed for months. Crowded classrooms are evidence of the fact that there are about 10 to 25 per cent schools where the pupil-teacher ratio is above 100. Even in districts covered by the DPEP, more than 25 per cent have no blackboards. This collapse of public education hurts the poorest, especially those making up the category of SCs, a group, which has as high an illiteracy rate as 65 per cent. In five districts — Madhepura, Saharsa, Araria, Purnea and Sitamarhi — less than 10 per cent of the SCs are literate.

Thus, despite the recent initiatives taken in primary education across the country, none of the indicators of educational performance has shown any positive change over the years in Bihar. For all the state government’s tall claims of allotting 25 per cent of its budget to education, one-third of the children in the 6-14 years age-group in Bihar can go to schools. As a government report on state-level education reveals, some 5.8 million of the 16.5 million children in Bihar are not enrolled in schools. Of these, 4.2 million are girls and 1.6 million are boys. Only 10.8 million children are registered in schools across the state. They comprise 7.1 million boys and 3.7 million girls, the report says. Bihar’s literacy rate is 47.53 per cent — among the lowest in India. The dropout rate remains alarming. At the primary level, only 58.95 per cent of the students continue till class V; of this, 31.69 per cent drop out before they reach class VIII. This means that only 13 out of every 100 students who enrol in class I make it to class VIII.

Despite such abysmal statistics, Bihar once had the distinction of starting a non-traditional mass education programme of charwaha vidyalaya — almost 150 such schools were set up in Bihar to provide free education to cattle grazers and others on the margins. A decade later, the movement is nowhere visible — a patent symbol of the deterioration in education.

This dismal scenario poses a stark contrast to that in Rajasthan, where literacy rate in 2001 jumped to 61.03 per cent from 38.55 per cent in 1991, though it is yet lower than the all-India average of 65.38 per cent. In 1991, only Bihar had a lower literacy rate than Rajasthan, but in 2001 Rajasthan is ahead of Uttar Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand and Bihar. Among females, it has a literacy rate of 44.34 per cent against the all-India average of 54.16 per cent, yet the state recorded the highest percentage point increase in female literacy. All this has been thanks to non-governmental organizations and civil society interventions, exemplified by programmes such as Janshala, that has recently won worldwide accolades for bringing education within the reach of “out-of-school” young girls. No such luck in Bihar though.


With a view to ensuring socio-economic development of scheduled caste and scheduled tribe communities, the state government introduced special component plan and tribal sub-plan which were being supplemented by the government of India in the shape of special Central assistance for implementation of community development programmes/ family-orien- ted income generating schemes.

According to the 1991 census, SC and ST population in the state were 160.81 lakh and 38.09 lakh representing 24 per cent and 6 per cent of the total population of the state respectively. The SCP and TSP were the two main development plans, covering family-oriented income generating schemes, community development schemes, various educational schemes and infrastructural development schemes implemented by the backward classes welfare department. For the schemes under different sectors, that is agriculture and allied activities, rural development and employment, irrigation and flood control, energy, transport, industry and so on implemented by other departments, funds were to be quantified for SCP...and TSP...against the state plan budgetary outlay of the respective departments.

Department of BCW... being the nodal department, was to monitor the progress of the schemes taken up by its directorate and other executing agencies, project officer-cum-district welfare officer/backward classes welfare officer of the district, zilla parishad, block development/executive officer of panchayat samiti and participating banks were also responsible for the implementation of various schemes.

Records of the BCW department, its directorate and 5 district, that is Bankura, Bardhaman, Cooch Behar, Medinipur and South 24 Parganas from 1996-97 to 2000-2001 were test-checked between February 2001 and April 2001. These districts had a total SC and ST population of 69.95 lakh (43 per cent) and 14.39 lakh (38 per cent) of the total SC and ST population of the state. Total expenditure on the activities of the department during 1996-97 to 1999-2001 was Rs 791.63 crore against an allotment of Rs 812.90 crore, including Rs 280.72 crore received from the government of India under SCA...

Of Rs 791.63 crore spent during 1996-2001, Rs 510.91 crore of state funds was mainly spent on educational schemes (Rs 245.60 crore), tribal area sub-plan (Rs 64.45 crore), general administration (Rs 67.09 crore) and different infrastructure works under BMS and other schemes (Rs 69.06 crore).

Out of Rs 280.72 crore (Rs 193.50 crore for SCP and Rs 87.22 crore for TSP) being SCA received from the Central government during 1996-2001, Rs 256.16 crore (after deducting administrative expenses of Rs 0.04 crore) were deposited in deposit account of the West Bengal Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Development and Finance Corporation maintained at the pay and accounts officer, Calcutta. The balance of Rs 24.52 crore was drawn by WBSCSTDFC by submitting bills to the pay and accounts officer, Calcutta and kept in the savings bank accounts. Besides, Rs 41.64 crore under different heads received from the BCW department by the corporation was also credited in its deposit account during 1996-2001.

Against Rs 355.01 crore available in the deposit account of WBSCSTDFC during 1996-2001 (including Rs 57.21 crore as opening balance at the start of 1996-97) assistant secretary, department of BCW released Rs 285.75 crore to implementing agencies leaving a balance of Rs 69.26 crore at the end of March 2001, of which Rs 14.45 crore related to the years 1989 to 1995. Further, out of the fund received from the government, WBSCSTDFC parked, without concurrence of the government, Rs 127.65 crore meant for implementing the schemes for the benefit of the weaker sections in short term deposits as of March 31, 2001.

Contrary to the government of India’s directives (October 1998), SCA funds of Rs 130.14 crore received from the GOI were not transferred to the account of WBSCSTDFC promptly by the BCW department. The delay in transfer ranged between 3 to 12 months from the date of their sanctions during 1996-2000. Further, due to late receipt of suitable directives from BCW department, the release of funds (Rs 159.25 crore) to the executing agencies from the deposit account was also delayed by WBSCSTDFC for 3 to 23 months for implementation of the schemes during 1996-2000. The delay on both the counts adversely affected the timely completion of the schemes. Such delays were not monitored by the government and no responsibility was fixed for such inordinate delays.

To obtain funds for SCA grants from the Centre, the state government had to forward utilization certificates to the GOI. Scrutiny revealed that UC for SCA funds amounting to Rs 191.17 crore were forwarded during 1996-2000 to the GOI though funds were either not allotted to the implementing agencies or UCs were awaited from them.

Thus, incorrect utilization certificates, indicating inflated figures of actual expenditure were submitted by the government.

To be concluded



Mission impossible

Sir — Why is Pranab Mukherjee so hell-bent on burning his fingers again(“Pranab push for joint stir with Mamata”, Aug 17)? By this time he should have known that no political party in West Bengal can possibly have a “joint” move with Mamata Banerjee. The last time the Congress took such a ridiculous decision was during the 2001 assembly polls in West Bengal, when the haggling over fielding of candidates dashed whatever hopes Mukherjee had held of putting up a united front. That this former finance minister continues to insist on the impossible is probably on the prompting of 10, Janpath, which has much to gain from the Trinamool Congress’s return to its fold. Ironically, Mukherjee, despite continuing to be foisted on a faction-ridden Bengal Congress as its head, is completely out of sync with local politics. Otherwise, he could have seen that the Trinamoolis and the Congresswallahs work at cross-purposes. If he doesn’t understand how, he needs only to ask Somen Mitra.
Yours faithfully,
J. Acharya, Calcutta

Pressing issue

Sir — The arrest of the Tehelka journalist, Aniruddh Bahal, proves once again that freedom of press does not exist in India and that media exposure of corruption in high office has become a futile exercise (“Tehelka tastes Emergency knock”, Aug 8). But must the Emergency be referred to every time a journalist is harassed? One, the Emergency was an aberration and two, Indira Gandhi later apologized for imposing press censorship. The Emergency is long over, but journalists continue to be persecuted. Perhaps this is the result of the lack of unity in the media since a few top editors are loathe to antagonize the government.
Yours faithfully,
Sudarsan Sengupta, Calcutta

Sir — It is shocking to know that despite the presence of the national human rights commission, Kumar Badal was stripped and humiliated in jail (“Tehelka reporter stripped in jail”, Aug 12). But Tehelka has only itself to blame for this turn of events.

In recent years, the media have taken to unorthodox methods to unearth information. Take for example the match-fixing scandal where Manoj Prabhakar was asked to record his conversations with other cricketers and celebrities secretly.

The methods tehelka.com adopted to expose corruption in arms deals cannot be called journalism — it was yellow journalism or simply put, blackmail. The then president of the party that dominates the Central coalition was made to look like a fool.

The defence minister was projected as a person who was either stupid or cunning enough to pretend not to know what was happening in his house. No wonder the suspicion that the real intention of tehelka.com was to destabilize the government and to make money out of its expose has gained ground. Now the tables have been turned — the government is stable now and the news portal is bankrupt.

Yours faithfully,
M.R. Sridharan, Kanpur

Sir — By its puerile persecution of tehelka.com and its reporters, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee regime is once again ignoring the message and shooting the messenger. Ironically, an army court martial found the accused officers guilty on the basis of the same tapes that the Bharatiya Janata Party and Samata Party insist were “doctored”.

Yours faithfully,
Biswapriya Purkayastha, Shillong

Sir — If Tarun J. Tejpal loses his court battle, the people of India stand to lose and the politics of corruption stands to gain. As the many scandals, from Bofors to the recent one involving allotment of petrol pumps, show, politicians — no matter which party or ideology they may subscribe to — are united in defending their selfish interests. The people and progress do not figure in their scheme at all. It is time citizens of this country came together to protect themselves from the machinations of politicians. And the first step in this is to express solidarity with Tehelka.

Yours faithfully,
Sukumar Roy, Kharagpur

Sir — One had the impression that journalists were a united lot. Which is why it is mystifying to see that they have chosen to either keep mum or underplay the Tehelka episode when they know full well that the news portal is being harassed by law-enforcement agencies who are openly flouting all norms. Yet the media invariably raises a ruckus everytime a reporter is arrested or a camera crew is beaten up.

The Tehelka revelations have exposed a rot that is corroding our political system. But this aspect of the issue seems to have completely eluded the debate which has decided to focus merely on how and why the Tehelka scandal came to be.

Yours faithfully,
Arta Mishra, Cuttack

Not a fine balance

Sir — S. Venkitaramanan advises Indian policymakers to learn from the accounting practices scandal in the United States of America which has jeopardized the interests of small investors (“A faulty model”, Aug 5). But in India, politicians are policymakers. Many of them are dishonest and lack even the most basic knowledge of money matters. Thus, very little can be done in India about doctored balance sheets.
Yours faithfully,
C.R. Bhattacharjee, Calcutta

Sir — The report, “Corporate war echo in House”(July 24), says Essar Oil Limited misused the proceeds of a public issue and cheated small investors. But EOL has said that the allegations of the legislators are baseless. The company issued share-cum-debentures of Rs 19,000 in 1994. It promised to pay an interest of 12 per cent per annum on the debenture. But EOL seems no longer interested in the project for which it raised money. Further, it has also stopped payment of interest on the debentures from 1998. Regulatory bodies like the securities and exchange board of India have also turned a blind eye to the suffering of small investors.

Yours faithfully,
S. K. Majumdar, Ranchi

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