Editorial 1/ Players’ game
Editorial 2/ Council of blood
Advani and the Americans
Having reached a plateau
Document/ Not much to show for the money spent
Letters to the Editor

 
 
EDITORIAL 1/ PLAYERS’ GAME 
 
 
 
 
A revolution, it is said, is presaged by a binary opposition between “us” and “them”. The differences between the two conflicting parties seem unbridgeable without a major climb-down from one. When such a concession is not forthcoming, a rupture becomes inevitable. The world of cricket is now caught precisely in that cusp. The cricketers, especially the Indian ones, have refused to sign the contract presented to them by the Board of Control for Cricket in India on behalf of the International Cricket Council. This puts in jeopardy next month’s Champions Trophy in Sri Lanka and next year’s world cup in South Africa. The Indian players have rejected the contract because some of the clauses run counter to their individual contracts with advertisers. But players not thus affected have also turned down the contract. There is a general unwillingness among players to sign on the dotted lines of contracts drawn up by the ICC. It is clear that players, irrespective of whether or not they have individual endorsements that are affected by the ICC contract, are unhappy with the ICC’s attempts to serve them a fait accompli in the form of patently unfair contracts. The ICC’s obtuseness has precipitated a polarization that might change the way cricket is organized and managed.

The money that is attracted to cricket is because of the players, especially the popular and the celebrated ones. The thousands who come to the cricket ground and the millions who switch on their television sets to watch a cricket match do so not because it has been organized by the BCCI or the ICC, but because they want to see their favourites and their stars play and perform. The money in cricket is dependent on the players, a Sachin Tendulkar, a Brian Lara, a Steve Waugh, a Shaun Pollock, a Wasim Akram and so on. But the organization and the management of cricket are not in the hands of the players. The various associations — be it the national one or the ICC — are controlled by people who are not always players but are self-styled friends of cricket. Without questioning the bona fides of cricket administrators, the point can be made that they have been somewhat short-sighted in the way they have gone about handling the players in the present conjuncture. The crisis grows out of their hamhandedness.

It could not have been unknown to Mr Michael Speed, Mr Jagmohan Dalmiya and others of their ilk that many players had individual contracts and endorsements. This should have been borne in mind when the ICC drew up its contract. Its failure to do this raises the suspicion that it assumed that it would be able to twist the arms of the players. This is where it reckoned without its host and made the players close ranks. This has precipitated an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation. There is still the possibility, through cautious and sympathetic mediation, of defusing the crisis. If this does not happen and the ICC puts its own interests before that of the players, the latter may be forced to form their own association. That may well be the biggest revolution in cricket since the introduction of over-arm bowling.

   

 
 
EDITORIAL 2/ COUNCIL OF BLOOD 
 
 
 
 
Ethnic harmony was once a major strength of Assamese culture. But the state’s many insurgencies have long replaced it with ethnic rivalries and hatred, which often lead to bloody feuds. There is, therefore, much cause for concern in the escalating animosity between the United Liberation Front of Asom and the Bodo Liberation Tigers over the inclusion of some areas in the Bodoland Territorial Council. The latest spat has been triggered by ULFA’s opposition to the inclusion of Nalbari district and adjoining areas in the BTC. The BLT’s apprehension that this might deepen the ethnic divide in these areas is not without its justification. For several weeks now, Bodo-dominated areas have witnessed not only a propaganda war, but also violent actions by rival groups. The BLT is also right in asserting that the council areas are to be decided, not by the ULFA’s fiat, but through the Bodo leaders’ negotiations with New Delhi and Dispur. It is also intriguing that the ULFA, which wants the whole of Assam to secede from India, is so concerned about the territorial limits of the council. Obviously, it would like Nalbari, where the outfit was born in 1979, to be kept out of the council’s jurisdiction. But that would be denying the Bodos, the majority tribe in the area, their rightful claim to the place.

The Bodos too have a constitutional and moral obligation to ensure that non-Bodos living in the council area do not feel insecure. Bodo atrocities on Santhals in Kokrajhar and other areas in the past were among the worst examples of ethnic cleansing in Assam. Not only Nalbari, but also many other council areas have mixed populations of tribals and non-tribals. The Bodos may have finally got a new council of their own, but it comes with greater responsibilities for them. Among the poorest of the Assamese tribes, they will be even poorer if they use the council to shut out other people from their areas and their lives. That is exactly what the Bodo secessionist group, the National Democratic Front of Bodoland, wants to do by violent means. The BLT and other Bodo organizations need to isolate the NDFB from the people if the council is to succeed.

   

 
 
ADVANI AND THE AMERICANS 
 
 
BY K.P. NAYAR
 
 
In the annals of international affairs, state or official visits sometimes become significant — even historic — because of their cancellation, or because they simply did not take place in defiance of all logic. The visit to the United States of America of the deputy prime minister, L.K. Advani, was called off last weekend. This is significant for the insights which the decision has provided into the style of functioning of the man who is widely tipped to be the next prime minister of India.

To put such an argument in perspective, it is perhaps necessary to briefly refer to two similar non-visits to the US, which have, understandably, received little publicity in India. Mexico’s president, Vicente Fox, a close friend of the American president, George W. Bush, was to have visited Bush at his holiday ranch in Texas last week. In addition to proclaiming Fox as a friend, Bush has changed America’s priorities in regional diplomacy and made Mexico a more important partner of the US than its northern neighbour, Canada.

But Fox cancelled his visit a few days before it was to take place: he was angry that Texas, the home state of Bush, had executed a Mexican who killed an undercover officer in Texas. The Mexican national was never informed that he had a right to seek Mexico’s assistance in defending himself. Besides, Mexico has no death penalty. Texas, it would seem, revels in carrying out death sentences: if one more execution scheduled for this month-end takes place, the state would have, in 2001 alone, killed four persons for crimes committed when they were less than 18 years old. But by cancelling his visit, Fox was signalling his country’s displeasure over US policies which went well beyond capital punishment. The second non-visit was by the pope himself. John Paul II made high-profile visits to Canada, Mexico and Guate- mala a few weeks ago, but very pointedly skipped the US, causing much talk about the omission on television and other public fora.

This Holy Father is as much a politician as a religious head: he contributed, more than any other contemporary European, to the mission of ending communism in his native Poland and elsewhere in eastern Europe. Skipping the US was his way of telling America that the ongoing, vicious campaign in the US against the Catholic church, ostensibly built around the issue of child abuse by deviant priests, was unacceptable to the Vatican.

The cancellation of the deputy prime minister’s trip has, by no means, been a copybook repetition of either of the two examples cited above. Advani — or India, for that matter — has no serious quarrel with the US as to warrant cancellation of any bilateral visit. The ostensible reason cited in New Delhi on the day Advani’s trip was called off was his pre-occupation with elections in Jammu and Kashmir.

Equally engaging for the deputy prime minister are the developments in Gujarat following the Election Commission’s decision not to have immediate elections in the state. Even if Advani did not represent Gujarat in the Lok Sabha, his role in any follow-up to that decision would be so vital that there is merit in the argument that he should not be away from India for a week or more. But that decision must be weighed against what Advani would have done in the US. If a meeting had been fixed between him and Bush, even if it was a drop in at another meeting as in January, the trip is unlikely to have been cancelled. The decision to call off the trip was, therefore, clearly taken after balancing its pros and cons.

This is commendable — as long as the issue of who exactly does such a balancing is not overlooked. Unlike the visit of the foreign secretary or a cabinet minister, the visit of the second most important person in the cabinet and the heir-apparent has to be viewed in a context which goes beyond the narrow confines of government. Of all the Indians who have travelled to the US in recent years on official business, Advani made the most profound and lasting impression on Americans. His television appearances have been refreshingly different from that of any other Indian minister or official. At his private meetings with American leaders, he made the most persuasive case for India’s interests in Washington, post-September 11.

Of all the meetings which the US secretary of state, Colin Powell, had in New Delhi last month, the discussions with Advani were the most forthright. It was left to Advani to bluntly tell Powell why the so-called assurances freely given by General Pervez Musharraf to everyone from Bush to the British prime minister, Tony Blair, were pat- ently cosmetic. Just as the Americans wanted to make Afghanistan’s transition from a terrorist springboard to a modern, democratic, pluralist state permanent, so did India want to make Musharraf’s metamorphosis from a sponsor of terrorism to a fighter against terror equally permanent.

This, Advani reasoned with Powell, could not be done merely by asking Musharraf to dole out solemn assurances. The general’s assurances about stopping infiltration, closing down the terror camps on territory controlled by Pakistan and sending arms and other reinforcements to terrorists across the border were all reversible, even if he implemented them. Once the Americans turned their backs, Musharraf could easily resume these operations.

If India is to trust Musharraf or resume a bilateral dialogue with Pakistan with any seriousness even approaching the spirit of Lahore, the general had to do something that was irreversible, something which would convince India of Islamabad’s commitment to abjuring terrorism as an instrument of state policy. When Powell asked Advani what such irreversible action could be, he reverted to the theme of his discussions in Washington in January. Hand over the criminals on India’s list: if Musharraf did that, not only would that handover be irreversible it will also speak volumes for Musharraf’s conviction that terrorism must be fought everywhere and in every form.

Powell spoke to correspondents accompanying him on his Asian trip once on his way to New Delhi. He spoke to them again on board his special aircraft as it was winging its way from Islamabad to Bangkok. There was a perceptible change not only in the content of Powell’s briefing, but also in its tone as he outlined the objectives of America’s south Asian diplomacy on his way to Bangkok. That change was partly brought about by the clarity with which Advani explained India’s options on resuming a dialogue with Pakistan, the elections in Kashmir and other related issues.

If only Advani had not cancelled his US trip which was to begin on Thursday, he would have had an opportunity to follow up on what he did during Powell’s stay in New Delhi. The programme which the Indian embassy in Washington and the consulates in New York and San Francisco were putting together for the deputy prime minister would have brought him face-to-face with some of the most respected names in “Track-II” of foreign policy.

Institutional memory — not just public memory — is very short in America. With a global agenda which presses for attention, even think-tanks in the US are often burdened by competing claims for their involvement from Mexico to Madagascar and from Newfoundland to New Delhi. It is a nice feeling to sit back in New Delhi and reminisce about what a wonderful job Advani did back in January. It is an altogether different thing to follow up on that success by constantly adding new inputs to it. Advani’s visit, had it taken place, would have provided an opportunity to build on the foundations which he laid in January.

Unfortunately, civil servants who weigh the pros and cons of such visits have a tendency to look at their effectiveness through the narrow prism of government-to-government relations. They also want to play safe and avoid criticisms of the kind which surfaced in India last week that Advani would not meet anyone even half as high in the US hierarchy as Bush. Such an analysis is counter-productive, especially in the US, where the government is not monolithic. Policy decisions in America are the result of compromises, bargaining and pressures by interest groups, brought about ultimately by a desire for consensus, euphemistically known in Washington as bi-partisanship.

Spared of the pressures of government-level meetings, Advani would have had a chance to contribute to India’s case to this process had he visited America this week. It is time India took a leaf out of Israel’s book in this regard: leaders as prominent as Shimon Peres visit the US leaving Washington out of their itinerary and meeting just American Jews or other Americans who have no direct role in government, but are able to influence decisions. Advani would have to stand up to bureaucrats who would argue against this approach if he is to produce results for India in Washington in the long run.

There is a final argument which should have weighed in favour of his visit. The prime minister and other leaders who come on official visits to the US never have enough time for the Indian community in the US. One reception by the Indian ambassador is tagged on to the programme, but the struggle for invitations to that reception alone is proof of how inadequate that one event usually is for Indian-Americans.

Everyone who matters in the US from Bush and his predecessor, Bill Clinton, downwards has acknowledged the new influence of the Indian-American community in their midst. What they cannot acknowledge in public is the role which the community has increasingly played in shaping US policy towards India. As the heir-apparent to the prime minister, Advani would be making a costly political mistake if he did not pay enough attention to this community and concentrated only on the government instead.

   

 
 
HAVING REACHED A PLATEAU 
 
 
BY M.L. SONDHI AND ASHOK KAPUR
 
 
It is probably time to revisit India’s Tibet policy. This is because it was framed in the context of the situation in the Fifties. Major changes have occurred since then in China’s Tibet policy and China’s India policy, all of which indicate that the legal and the policy framework of the Fifties is no longer relevant. Over the years, India’s Tibet policy has come to represent its neglect and indifference towards Tibet, which is physically and culturally close to India, and whose territory possesses a lot of strategic importance. The policy, which is far from being one of active engagement, indicates that India is not only a reluctant power, but in the case of Tibet, it is also a paralysed giant.

India needs to reverse this self-inflicted paralysis and shape a policy which engages China and the world community, as also Tibetans themselves, on the Tibetan question. Changing circumstances, especially China’s policies towards India and Tibet since the late Fifties, demand that India reverses its Nehruvian attitude of neglect of Tibet and do something to preserve a foundation of Buddhism. There is little point in restoring Buddha’s statues in Afgha-nistan and calling for a movement for the preservation of world cultural heritage, if Tibet’s identity as a fountain of modern Buddhism is not preserved as well.

Two points merit attention. First, peace and security are indivisible. One cannot expect to have peace on the India-China border if there is tension and instability in Tibet as a result of China’s policy of demographic engineering — there has been a massive import of the Han population into Tibet. This is aggravated by the decimation of Tibetan culture, and the development of Tibet as China’s strategic frontier in relation to India and central Asia.

Second, there is a lack of trust because of China’s non-implementation of the key principles in the Sino-Indian agreement on Tibet and in Chinese promises to Tibetans. Trust cannot be built on broken promises. China constantly advertises its policy of peace and security, which has to be built on trust and transparency, in its speeches in the West and in its publications meant for Western readers. But transparency and trust stem from adherence to certain standards of action and common obligations. China’s record shows no such standard.

The Sino-Indian agreement on Tibet, which Jawaharlal Nehru signed, had a number of formulations which were tied to the 17 point agreement between China and the Tibetan government. One, Tibet was deemed to be a nominal part of China. Two, it would have minimal interference and minimal military presence from the People’s Republic of China. Three, China acknowledged the existence of a “Tibetan government”— a separate legal entity even though it was described as a local government. Four, Article 4 of the agreement noted that the “central authorities will not alter the existing political system in Tibet” and it will not alter the established status, functions and powers of the dalai lama. All these provisions have been broken by the Chinese authorities. Moreover, the Sino-Indian agreement of 1954 lapsed in 1962. So India’s Tibet policy does not have a legal framework any longer.

Beijing’s new security concept and worldview points to a better international situation. Ironically, this has been accompanied by regional tension which has necessitated Chinese military presence and modernization.

Notwithstanding its presentation to the Western audience, China does not match its rhetoric with policy where its south Asian policies are concerned. For example, there is little transparency in its relations with the Indian subcontinent and its operations in the Indian Ocean area. China has shown its indifference towards India in public because for some reason Beijing’s strategists do not believe that the government of India has staying power and an ability to lead. India is seen as reactive, and merely a follower in south Asia and in Asia.

On its part, the government of India has not been able to create situations advantageous to itself because of its excessive faith in peaceful diplomacy which is facilitated by a culture of thinking inside the box. Thus diplomacy is seen to belong entirely to the ministry of external affairs and matters of warfare are seen to belong to the ministry of defence and so on. This culture of compartmentalized thinking and turf protection facilitates Beijing and its lobbyists’ ability to manipulate affairs to keep the Indians boxed in.

An integrated perspective requires assessment of the nodal points or points of friction which affect the relationship between India and China. There are four nodal points. The first concerns Pakistan, China’s nuclear and missile aid to which has been well-documented by the government of the United States of America and its academic practitioners. This shows China’s evasion and denial of its own policy of peace in aiding Muslim countries which are now associated with the promotion of terrorism. Pakistan comes in this category along with Algeria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. All these countries have reportedly received significant amounts of Chinese missile and nuclear aid.

This is the “Confucian-Islamic connection” which US experts like Samuel Huntington and others have begun to analyse. There is no transparency in such military transactions as far as China is concerned. There is also a conspiracy of silence among lobbyists in the US and international organizations like the United Nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency. This is probably because for these institutions, the political and trade links with China are more important than military transparency or non-proliferation.

The second nodal point concerns Myanmar, where Chinese military and commercial links are meant to project Chinese power into the Bay of Bengal and to build a Chinese gateway. There is no military transparency in this area as well. The third point of friction is the Himalayan region, of which Tibet, along with Nepal and Bhutan, is a crucial part. Here too there is no transparency in Chinese motives and policies. The fourth nodal point lies in Beijing’s inspired lobbying activities within India which amount to dangerous interference in internal affairs of India.

Of the four nodal points, the parameters of Chinese actions are known and predictable in the case of Pakistan and Myanmar. There is a manageable pattern of engagement as far as India is concerned. In both these sets of countries, China’s leverage is limited and it is not in the driver’s seat. China’s equations are completely different in the Tibetan region where its dealings are the least transparent and so are its military-political intentions. Unlike in Pakistan and Myanmar where China can neither initiate military conflict, nor maintain it or end it, China can do whatever it wishes in Tibet. After the dalai lama, China will have even more leverage to alter the political structure and spiritual leanings of Tibet. The world community and India are complicit in this rape of Tibet’s identity and autonomy because of narrow self-interests and expediency . Humanitarian principles no longer seem to play a part here.

China’s Tibet policy as well as its policy towards India is a part of the Chinese military diplomacy that is targetted at the US and its strategic partners in Asia. According to new American assessments, the broad belief among many Chinese strategists and military authors writing for Chinese audiences is that the US forces will one day be vulnerable to the Chinese strategy of deception. In other words, China’s worldview and strategy favour an eventual military action in relation to the US and its regional enemies in Asia which include Japan and India.

All this clearly requires a consolidation of its military position in Tibet and the other nodal points. The character of the four nodal points and their importance for India require a fundamental change in Indian thinking about Tibet and an awareness that Tibet is a cultural as well as a strategic issue for it.

M.L. Sondhi is director, Institute for Asia-Pacific Security Ashok Kapur is professor and chair-person, department of political science, University of Waterloo, Canada

   

 
 
DOCUMENT/ NOT MUCH TO SHOW FOR THE MONEY SPENT 
 
 
 
 
Banks were to play a vital role by effective participation and monitoring at all levels for successful implementation of schemes. Besides, the West Bengal Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Development and Finance Corporation was also to see that money disbursed to the weaker sections through banks was gainfully utilized. A test-check of records of 74 participating bank branches in five districts relating to implementation of family-oriented schemes revealed the following irregularities.

In 22 bank branches, 2,400 beneficiaries refunded the bank loan component of Rs 1.24 crore in lump either on the same date or within 20 months from the date of disbursement of the project cost of Rs 2.57 crore against the repayment schedule of 40 to 60 monthly instalments.

In 23 bank branches, a portion of 1,011 projects involving Rs 103 crore were kept in term deposit/fixed deposit accounts by the beneficiaries without utilizing the fund and repaid the bank loan amount (Rs 0.45 crore) fully or partly on maturity.

The above facts indicated that the participating banks effectively arranged for repayment of loans without implementing the projects so as to show improvement in recovery position of outstanding bank loans. Thus, the government subsidy of Rs 1.79 crore failed to generate any useful economic activity.

Total project cost comprising subsidy, margin money loan and bank loan is required to be paid to the beneficiaries for successful implementation of the project but it was observed that in 414 cases, Rs 30.47 lakh were disbursed by 20 bank branches against a project cost of Rs 44.93 lakh resulting in short-disbursement of project cost by Rs 14.46 lakh.

Moreover, excess adjustment of subsidy and margin money of Rs 4.59 lakh was made due to non-disbursement of the full amount of the bank loan component.

In 25 cases out of a project cost of Rs 2.31 lakh, subsidy and margin money of Rs 1.23 lakh were released by five bank branches without disbursement of the bank loan.

In 2 banks, against project cost of Rs 6.36 lakh, banks disbursed Rs 3.02 lakh and started receipt of repayment of loans in instalment from the beneficiaries before disbursement of full amount of the project cost.

In spite of holding undisbursed subsidy of Rs 3.28 lakh and margin money of Rs 0.45 lakh since 1994-95, one bank in Medinipur district failed to release the project cost involving Rs 5.74 lakh including bank loan in 159 cases sanctioned during 1996-97. Thus the beneficiaries were either not encouraged or keen to initiate their projects with the amount disbursed, and instead deposited the amount in savings or term deposit accounts from which bank loans were paid on maturity. As a result, no projects were taken up in these cases and income generation schemes were not implemented though funds were available for that purpose.

Projects were to be chosen keeping in view the profile of beneficiary families, considering their need, aptitude and available local resources. Backward and forward linkages namely, supply of necessary inputs, training, rendering extension services, marketing support, and so on were also to be provided in coordination with other departments/organizations for sustenance of the projects. But, a test-check showed that un-viable projects were selected.

The average cost of projects undertaken in five districts during 1996-97 and 1997-98 ranged between Rs 4,560 and Rs 10,426 which affected the chances of the project to generate income as well as utilization of fund. The WBSCSTDFC’s instruction (June 1999) to district managers to sponsor special component plan and tribal sub plan cases at an optimum project cost of Rs 18,000 for FO schemes, fixed by District Rural Development Agency based on the 1998-99 price index, so that the project could generate additional income to enable the beneficiaries to cross the poverty line, were ignored with the average cost of projects implemented during 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 being Rs 9,169 and Rs 11,445 respectively.

Audit scrutiny of the projects undertaken during 1999-2001 revealed that 54,729 projects valued at Rs 54.42 crore were not economically viable as the project cost was less than Rs 18,000 in each case and was thus, unsuitable to generate additional income for the beneficiaries to cross the poverty line...

Timely repayment of margin money loans were important for recycling of funds. The participating banks were primarily responsible for disbursing funds placed by WBSCSTDFC to the beneficiaries and for recovery of margin money loans along with interest thereon at the rate of 4 per cent per annum. Besides, for regular inspections/visits to be made by the bank and the corporation, the bank branches would send a list of the loanees and amount due one month before the instalment fell due to the DM, WBSCSTDFC. The district managers, in co-ordination with the district magistrate and panchayat samitis were to make repayment drives till the instalments were recovered. Scrutiny revealed that of Rs 33.14 crore overdue margin money loans, only Rs 8.34 crore (ranging between 19-30 per cent) could be recovered till March 31, 2000.

Ineffective monitoring and follow-up action by the district administration and failure of banks to effect recovery led to poor recovery of margin money loans.

To be concluded

   

 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

Ammunition which misfired

Sir — Should we hope that the murders in Dhupguri will force Alimuddin Street to eat its words about the inefficacy of the Prevention of Organized Crime Act in West Bengal (“Attack ammo for Buddha law”, Aug 19)? Maybe not. For one, this is not the first time that party leaders have fallen prey to marauding militants. And as the statements of the party bigwigs immediately after the incident indicate, the party already believes that it is all the fault of the police, which supposedly should have provided more protection to the threatened party leaders of north Bengal. That is also something Alimuddin Street would try to convince its het up leaders in Dhupguri and elsewhere in Bengal of. It would beat around the bush, talk about the need for more police action, border security and negotiations with neighbouring countries — without once bringing up Poca. Why? Is it because the left is worried about the human rights violations it would entail (the Malda lockup deaths do not indicate that), or is it because the ordination of Poca would paint the red with the same brush as the saffron?
Yours faithfully,
J. Acharya, Calcutta

No one loves the rain

Sir — Farmers on parched fields with gaping cracks, looking skyward in the expectation of a few drops of rain. The picture is heart-rending, but a familiar one. Although droughts visit certain parts of the country quite regularly, we have none but ourselves to blame for undermining the importance of rain water in times of heavy rainfall. The Central government’s approach to drought is, at best, ad hoc, and is limited to doling out paltry sums to the affected regions and, perhaps, waiving interest on loans. It is time the government took serious steps to check the run-off of ground water and to promote rain water harvesting at the grassroots level to minimize the losses during droughts. Overflowing granaries can be of little consolation to farmers caught in the twin traps of debt and drought.
Yours faithfully,
Rudrasish Datta, Howrah

Sir — What can one say about economists like Bibek Debroy except that, like most others, he too loves a good drought. It gives him an opportunity to lay out, like newly acquired clothes, his new theories on the country’s economic growth. It was clear from “Wishing for a drought” (Aug 20) that nothing else matters as long as India’s gross domestic product meets its projected target. If ten million people were to die of starvation tomorrow, Debroy would still warn us against giving in to “hype”, as long as the GDP was on track.

Economics is admittedly about facts and figures, but like all social sciences, it is a study of the living conditions of people. Whom would a rising GDP help if most people were dying in the drought? Would Debroy care to ponder?

Yours faithfully,
Shukla Acharya, Calcutta

Sir — Debates in Parliament about the drought situation in several parts of the country have focussed on the need for urgent action in different areas such as agriculture, irrigation, distribution of foodgrains and so on. However, there is still a month of monsoon left, and some spells of rain can still make up for the losses and help the sowing of rabi crops.

It is sad that while countries in the West have successfully experimented with artificial rainmaking, in India, an economy dependent on agriculture, few such experiments have been conducted. The scientific community of the country might take up such projects and determine the feasibility of such techniques in combating droughts.

Yours faithfully,
U.S. De, Pune

Sir — Grants-in-aid and subsidies provided by the government on account of floods, droughts and earthquakes hardly ever reach the affected people. Rajiv Gandhi took great pains to visit the grassroots, and his startled conclusion was that only 10 paise out of a rupee trickles down to victims of natural calamities — the rest is usurped by middlemen. There is no doubt that relief packages for the drought-affected people will meet with the same fate.

The delayed monsoon has no doubt damaged the kharif crop, but it will prove useful for crops like bajra, maize and animal livestock. The monsoon is still in the process of intensifying, and is most likely to raise ground-water tables. The country has huge food stocks in its godowns which could very well be used to prevent the thousands of drought-hit people from starving. These avenues must be considered before granting financial assistance because the money goes out of the public exchequer and into the pockets of middle-level bureaucrats and politicians.

Yours faithfully,
Samir Banerjee, New Delhi

Sir — During the rainy season, water from elevated areas is allowed to flow into drains. If this is stored in small ponds, the water could be used to develop green parks. This would help improve ground-water levels in the country. Cities like New Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Bangalore and Calcutta, which face acute water shortage, would greatly benefit from this.

Yours faithfully,
P.V. Madhu, Secunderabad

Decisive policy

Sir — Babulal Marandi, the chief minister of Jharkhand, has been accused of fomenting unrest with his domicile policy. But has anyone considered the fact that there would never have been any need for reservations had the tribals, the real sons of the soil, been awarded their rightful place in society? More than 50 years of independence have not been enough to extricate the tribals from the vicious cycle of poverty. At the root of their tragedy lies their exploitation by outsiders who have also used to their advantage the abundant natural resources in the area. It is only natural that the tribals harbour a deep-rooted hatred of the migrants, who are in a majority. It is this resentment that Marandi is out to exploit for electoral gains.

There is a lesson to be learnt from the events in Jharkhand. There are no restrictions on the movement of citizens anywhere in the country, but for peaceful coexistence the settlers must always be respectful of the culture of the ethnic group of the region they are settling in.

Yours faithfully,
Kajal Chatterjee, Sodepur

Sir — The whole of Jharkhand, especially Ranchi, is in turmoil. The scenario, after the July 24 riots between the pro- and anti-domicile factions in which five persons were killed, is quite different from what prevailed before (“Requiem for Ranchi”, Aug 8). A fear psychosis, distrust among people, and a sense of frustration have taken over the people in this state. Real development of the state will depend on, apart from other factors, the growth of industry. But already a few notable industrial houses, which were planning to open shop here, have backed off. Who stands to lose? The people at the helm of affairs should look afar. Also, the Central government should send a joint team here to instill confidence in the people. Only then can the people of Jharkhand forget the 7/24 carnage as a bad dream.

Yours faithfully,
A.K. Ghosh, Ranchi

Sir — Jharkhand was formed with the express purpose of giving back to the indigenous people what is their due. In undivided Bihar, all the government jobs would go to the non-adivasis. Adivasis had less than one per cent of the jobs. The proposed domicile policy will change this, particularly in the third and fourth grade of government service. In fact, the policy should be extended to the educational sector as well.

Yours faithfully,
R. Chandramoli, Jamshedpur

Striking gold

Sir — The victory of the Indian football team in the LG cup in Vietnam should lead to some introspection (“India emerges champions”, Aug 11). Are not sports-lovers in India much too carried away with the game of cricket, which is not much of a draw internationally? Sponsors have hyped cricket to such levels that it is difficult to look at other sports. But doesn’t a cricket match take up the whole day? Are not our cricketers, who invariably fail to deliver when not on home soil, terribly over-rated? Also, are they not grossly over-paid for not doing all that much? Besides, as recent controversies showed, much of the game is fixed.

Football deserves more hype than that accorded to cricket. In the last world cup, we saw how Asian countries gave the soccer superpowers a run for their money. Cannot India do the same? The sports ministry needs to wake up and try attracting more sponsors to improve the sports infrastructure in the country.

Yours faithfully,
Asoke Sinha, Andal

Sir — India has scored major victories in the sports arena, internationally. The LG football cup in Vietnam is another acquisition. It will help boost the confidence of footballers before the Asian games and improve India’s position in the Fifa rankings. Can we now hope that Indians will show interest in sports other than cricket?

Yours faithfully
Rajarshi Ghosh, Calcutta

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