Editorial 1/ Terror strike
Editorial 2/ Just too much
Getting Saddam
Win some, lose some
Document/ Who will look after those students?
Fifth Column/ Under the shadow of the gun
Letters to the editor

A defenceless people living at the mercy of ruthless militants whom the government seems powerless to fight. That pretty much sums up the state of affairs in Tripura. Monday’s mayhem at Hirapur only shows how far things have worsened in the state. That the unfortunate victims of the militants’ strike this time were a truckload of policemen is symbolic of the collapse of security in the state. And the fact that the policemen were forced to travel the way they did because of a shortage of vehicles shows the pathetic inadequacy of the government’s preparedness to meet the challenge. It is easy to imagine the common people’s feeling of helplessness if even specially trained policemen are reduced to sitting ducks for the rebels. The ease with which the militants mowed down the victims and walked away with their weapons cannot do the sagging morale of both the people and the police-force any good. The militants, however, pose a bigger threat to the administration. Their killing sprees are actually aimed at striking such terror in the people’s minds that it will paralyse their normal lives. The problem is that they have succeeded in doing precisely this in large parts of the state. In forested and less accessible areas, they have forced government offices, schools and banks to close down. Whatever else runs there does so only at the mercy of the rebels who kill, extort money and impose their own rules with impunity. The result is Tripura’s further slide into anarchy and economic backwardness.

The ruling Left Front’s response to such killings has become an inane ritual. It calls a bandh and reiterates its demand for more paramilitary forces from the Centre. There is also the usual blame-game between the Marxists and the opposition alliance of the Congress and the Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura. Sadly, insurgency and mainstream politics in Tripura have often drawn succour from each other. If the National Liberation Front of Tripura is accused of getting undercover support from some opposition groups, the Marxists too are known to have used the All Tripura Tiger Force to reap narrow gains. It is time all these parties took an unambiguous stand against the curse of militancy. The militant groups in Tripura, unlike their counterparts in Nagaland and Assam, have no pretence to ideologies. They are hellbent on inciting the tribals against their non-tribal compatriots. Political parties must realize that this is a trap that can ensnare them all. But the principal responsibility for eliminating the rebels must lie with the government. The earlier strategy of wooing the rebels back to normal life has not helped matters. No one can deny the justification for more Central forces in the state. But the state government must act firmly against the rebels, keeping politics away.


Patna-Tamoli village is in for a bad time. The political affairs committee of the Madhya Pradesh government has decided not to allot this village in the Panna district any financial aid for the next two years and to ask the Centre to do the same. Patna-Tamoli had watched as Kuttu Bai, a 65-year-old widow, immolated herself on her husband’s pyre. As if this were not bad enough, villagers beat up the policemen who tried to stop Kuttu Bai from getting on the pyre and reportedly celebrated after the gruesome event. Penalties are obviously necessary, but the state government’s decision smacks more of frustration and anger than of justice. In the first place, crime has to be brought home to particular individuals, and there are different laws under which these individuals may be charged. Penalizing a community for the crime of a few individuals is playing ducks and drakes with the rule of law. True, the state government’s decision has nothing to do with law directly. But it is a fall-out of the villagers’ refusal to speak up to the police, and it violates a principle at the basis of the conception of justice. Charging government employees and panchayat members with dereliction of duty might be seen as a measure to compel greater accountability, but it is dou-btful whether the heavy hand of the law will smooth away conflict between an imposed sense of duty and old beliefs, superstition and strong local loyalties.

There is a strange blindness in the attitude of the government of Mr Digvijay Singh. The kind of backwardness that is at issue in an incident of sati can only be removed over a period of time by steady and consistent development. Stopping financial aid means stalling development, that is, casting a whole village into even murkier depths of poverty and superstition. Kuttu Bai’s death suggests that Mr Singh’s efforts at developing the state have not had the desired effect everywhere or in the same degree. Patna-Tamoli is located in a belt which is traditionally backward, especially in matters such as sati. Ignoring the root of the problem will simply increase it. A village cannot be punished because it has not lived up to the state administration’s idea of how villagers in the 21st century should behave. Deep-embedded socio-economic problems have never been resolved by either the law or by the state’s punitive action. If people are scared to speak up, it is pointless to frighten them further. Instead of working as a deterrent, this kind of action is likely to push underground the whole phenomenon of sati and other rites frowned upon by the administration. This time, there were people in the village who informed the police before the event. Next time, in Patna-Tamoli and elsewhere, there may not even be that warning.


This can happen only in America. A public debate is currently raging in Washington on whether and how to invade Iraq in order to get rid of Saddam Hussein. No one is alleging that the Iraqi dictator has attacked, or plans an imminent attack, on the United States of America. The doctrine of self-defence is not being invoked, nor is there any intention of approaching the United Nations security council for a prior mandate. Any other government openly debating an invasion in such circumstances would draw upon itself the wrath of the international community. Being the sole superpower, the US is an exception.

The objectives of the contemplated operation are to effect a “regime change” and to thereby ensure that Iraq gives up its alleged programme of building weapons of mass destruction. A number of military options have been presented for this purpose, envisaging troop deployments ranging from 70,000 to 250,000. The most recently unveiled invasion plan envisages an “inside-out” approach. Instead of launching an invasion across Iraq’s land borders as in the 1991 Kuwait war, this plan calls for commencing operations with a direct attack on Baghdad and one or two other vital targets, before fanning out towards the borders.

The vast gap in military power between the US and its potential targets virtually ensures that American casualties will be minimal. As it did earlier in Yugoslavia and Afghanistan, the US would fight a war against Iraq with precision-guided weapons launched from great heights or distances, well outside the range of Iraqi firepower. Present day American military operations bear a closer resemblance to a shikar than to traditional warfare. From aerial machans well outside the enemy’s reach, American soldiers hunt down the enemy without exposing themselves to serious risk.

Never before in history has there been greater disparity between rival armies. Even in the colonial wars of 19th century Africa , in which tribal warriors armed with spears or bows and arrows were pitted against European armies equipped with modern firearms, there was always the element of battle and combat in which a chance arrow or well-directed spear could find a target in the stronger force.

There can be no question, therefore, that the US will gain a speedy military victory. The questions that critics are raising concern the political outcome of the war. Who will replace Saddam in Baghdad? Will it be a case of one unsavoury dictator following another? Will a regime installed by America survive an early US withdrawal? After the Iraqi army is destroyed, who will guarantee the country’s territorial borders against possible threats from its neighbours, Iran and Syria? What effect will the war have on oil prices?

America’s allies, with the single exception of Britain, have expressed deep misgivings about the political fall-out of a war against Iraq. They fear that in the absence of real progress towards meeting the demand for an independent state of Palestine, a strike against an Arab country would lead to a serious anti-Western backlash throughout west Asia. The New York Times quotes a French official as saying that the “important thing is to build a coalition for peace in the Middle East, not to build a coalition for war in Iraq”.

There are good reasons for the greater European sensitivity towards Arab opinion. Europe adjoins west Asia and there are sizeable Arab immigrant communities in many west European countries. An explosion of anti-Western sentiment in west Asia could easily lead to terrorist violence in Europe. “We will be directly hurt if there is a miscalculation,” the German foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, observed in a recent interview.

Like the Europeans, America’s regional partners in the Gulf are apprehensive about a war against Iraq in the absence of prior progress on the Palestine issue. They fear a powerful domestic backlash not only against the West but also against regimes deemed to be subservient to the West. The fact that the US is expected to use bases in the Gulf in any operations against Iraq adds to the alarm of these countries.

In the final analysis, the Gulf states will probably succumb to American pressure to join an anti-Saddam coalition. This will not be the case with the European allies. Deeply concerned over the political fallout of a war against an Arab country and resentful over the tendency of their senior American partner to take unilateral decisions, these countries (with the previously noted exception of Britain) will be wary of joining the US-led coalition.

A US-led war against Saddam would have major implications for India. In the first place, it would weaken and draw attention away from the US-led war against terrorism. Washington may divert military, political and economic assets from the anti-terrorist campaign in order to accommodate new priorities in the Gulf. Moreover, Arab support for the coalition would be greatly diminished. To a lesser extent, this may also be true of other countries where pan-Islamic sentiment is strong.

Pakistan will figure prominently among the countries in which pan- Islamic sentiment will generate a powerful anti-Western wave. The Musharraf regime will come under strong public pressure to distance itself from the US. There could well be a negative fallout for US-Pakistan ties. This could cut both ways for India. On the one hand, Pakistan would cease to enjoy the privileged position of a front-line state in the war against terrorism but, on the other hand, it would diminish the capacity of the US to exercise a restraining influence on Pakistan’s sponsorship of cross-border terrorism.

Finally, a war against Iraq is bound to have an impact on oil prices. After Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, the price of oil shot up from $15 a barrel to $40 by October and prices remained high for more than a year. It is difficult to anticipate the extent of market reaction since it is heavily influenced by psychological factors. Much will also depend upon the way in which the US utilizes its vast strategic petroleum reserve. It would help to stabilize oil prices if it is known in advance that the US will draw upon the reserve to make up for any loss of production caused by military operations.

Washington has yet to decide whether it will launch a war against Saddam but the possibility of a new conflict in India’s neighbourhood is sufficiently real to warrant some diplomatic steps on our part. In the course of our regular dialogue with Washington, we should share with our American friends our concern that a new conflict in the Gulf would have a negative effect on the war against terrorism, as well as a destabilizing economic impact because of the oil factor. It will be unrealistic to expect that our representations alone would materially influence Washington’s decision on launching a war; but we can certainly hope that some steps will be taken to assuage concerns that are widely shared by America’s other friends in Asia.

The author is former ambassador to the European Union and China


Globalization is coming under increasing attack from many quarters. Green peace activists, trade unions and radical students have formed alliances to stage violent protests against the trinity of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and World Trade Organization — the prime movers of globalization. In popular imagery, monopoly capitalism, in the guise of globalization, is seen to wreak havoc among the poor of the developing world with the help of multinational corporations.

Among academic economists there are still unresolved debates on the implications of globalization for the developing world. The most lethal ammunition against globalization is the allegation that there has been an explosive rise in inequality and poverty in the last three decades or so — the era of renewed globalization. Listen to the highly influential United Nations human development report, 1999: “In 1960, the 20 per cent of the world’s people in the richest countries had 30 times the income of the poorest 20 per cent. In 1997, 74 times as much. This continues the trend of two centuries. Some have predicted convergence, but the past decade has shown increasing concentration of income among people, corporations and countries.” So, globalization, if anything, has worsened the trend of rising global inequality.

But this finding has been questioned by one recent paper (April 2002) by Sala-i-Martin of the National Bureau of Economic Research, a respected independent research organization in the United States of America. He has raised doubts about the methods used by HDR, and in the process has drawn attention to something quite interesting and relevant to countries like India.

The HDR researchers arrived at their conclusion in three steps. First, they concluded that income inequality has increased within countries. Second, that inequality has gone up between countries as well. These two, in turn, led them to conclude that the inequality in the world as a whole is rising.

Martin broadly agrees with the first finding. However, he finds from the same UN data base that inequality has also gone down in some emergent globalizers like South Korea, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Mexico and Turkey over the years.

On the second stage, Martin corroborates the story of widening disparity across countries. But he points out that the “explosive” rise in disparity between the world’s rich and the poor as described in the quoted passage from HDR, 1999, is valid only when incomes of different countries are compared using the market exchange rate. If, instead, one uses the purchasing-power-parity exchange rate — which, according to economists, better measures the relative cost of buying the same basket of goods in different countries and hence gives a better measure of the relative standard of living — the rise in disparity would be much less. The ratio of income of the world’s richest 20 per cent to that of the poorest 20 per cent would be 11 in 1960, 16 in 1980 and 15 in 1997, rather than the HDR figures of 30 in 1960 and 74 in 1997.

Despite broadly agreeing with the first two steps, Martin argues that the third step does not necessarily follow. His basic objection to the HDR methodology is that while measuring the growth in global inequality, it is giving the same weightage to the growth in per capita income in a very populous country like China or India as also to that in a small country like Nepal or the Fiji island. To the HDR researchers, China or India is a data point, as much as Nepal or Fiji. Martin thinks this is not right.

But suppose the per capita income of some 40 per cent of the world population (as China and India combined) has moved closer to the per capita income of the rich countries? Then, despite inequality rising within these poor countries and the income gap widening between the rich and a large number of smaller poor countries, inequality between the rich and the poor in global population may go down.

In other words, if individuals rather than countries were given the same weight while drawing the global picture, we may see a fall in global inequality. This is not a hypothetical academic exercise. Martin believes, on the basis of his data analysis, that this is precisely what has happened. China, and to some extent India, because of their higher growth rates in the post-reform periods, are primarily responsible for this cheerful picture.

What should we conclude from this? After Martin’s analysis, the statistical link between inequality and globalization seems at best tenuous. It depends on what measure of global inequality is chosen by the observer as the most relevant. Therefore, it becomes all the more important to understand the processes through which globalization may increase or decrease poverty and inequality.

By the way, poverty and inequality may very well move in opposite directions. In fact, the poverty ratio (percentage of people below the poverty line) has clearly gone down while interpersonal and inter-regional inequality has unambiguously gone up in post-reform China. Both tendencies are byproducts of the globalization process. The same is broadly true in post-liberalization India, though the picture is somewhat less clear cut.

At the global level, Martin’s estimated income distribution implies that the percentage of people with income of less than a dollar a day has gone down from about 20 per cent in 1974 to about 5 per cent in 1998. Even the absolute number of poor people has fallen by some 40 million over the same period, despite rising global population. So, even if global inequality may have gone up according to some measures, global poverty has clearly fallen over the past four decades.

Globalization basically opens up more opportunities for those — such as software engineers — who are in a position to make use of them. Clearly, a poor person with little or no income or marketable assets, including skills for which there is a market demand, cannot benefit simply because market opportunities are expanding. On the contrary, the switch to market-linked prices for food distributed through fair price shops or medical services provided by state-run hospitals or basic education provided in state-aided schools may worsen his standard of living further. Globalization must be supplemented by a more activist and efficient state — helped by NGOs, democratic organizations and pressure groups — shifting its energy and resources to lift more and more people permanently from poverty and providing them basic needs at affordable prices.

One final implication of Martin’s analysis. Once the per capita income of some of the most populous poor countries like China, India or Indonesia moves closer to that of the rich countries, the global inequality may start to go up again. This is because these countries would no longer be the poorest. The poorest countries would predominantly be the stagnant sub-Saharan African countries. In fact, today 95 per cent of the global poor live in Africa. The income gap between the richest and the poorest in the world, according to Martin’s measure, would then increase. The success of globalization in some formerly poor countries may worsen the subsequent global inequality.


For construction of 62 Central hostels for scheduled caste and scheduled tribe students in different districts, a sum of Rs 6.46 crore, being 50 per cent share of the costs, was received as Central assistance during the period from 1990-91 to 1999-2000. The entire amount was routed through the deposit account of the West Bengal Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Development and Finance Corporation.

Out of these 62, 14 SC and 11 ST hostels were completed at a cost of Rs 4.23 crore, and the construction work of 3 SC and 7 ST hostels estimated at Rs 2.61 crore was in progress, as of March 2001. Construction work of 27 hostels (SC:16 and ST:11) involving estimated cost of Rs 6.12 crore could not be started due to non-availability of land and non-preparation of revised estimates by the department/district authorities. Non-construction of hostel buildings thus deprived 2,712 SC and ST students of hostel facilities.

...Rs 5 crore (Rs 2 crore in 1997-98 and Rs 3 crore in 1998-99) was received from the government of India in March 1998 and March 1999 for construction of 5 residential schools specially for students of three primitive tribal communities under Article 275(I) of the Constitution, in the state. These were lying in the deposit account of the WBSCSTDFC as of March 2001 and no effective action was taken except preparation of plan and estimates for only one school by the backward classes welfare department. While the tribal students were deprived of schooling facilities, the funds kept in the deposit account helped the government.

In respect of the SC and ST students pursuing studies in the secondary stages (Class V to Class X) the government of West Bengal introduced (1979) four schemes namely, books grants and examination fees, grants for hostel charges (accounts for most of the funds), grant for maintenance charges and compulsory charges (ST students only).

Scrutiny of records of five test-checked districts revea-led that during 1996-2001, the government, as per requirements of the district authorities, sanctioned Rs 97.77 crore, of which Rs 93.57 crore was spent leaving a balance of Rs 4.20 crore, as of March 2001. Of the balance, Rs 0.82 crore was drawn in advance and Rs 3.38 crore was surrendered due to incorrect assessment by district authorities.

Scrutiny revealed that despite investment of Rs 16.94 crore towards various scholarships between 1995-2000, 3.75 lakh out of 25.33 lakh students pursuing studies at secondary level dropped out in various stages. Further, defalcation of Rs 4.60 lakh pertaining to “maintenance charges of SC students” was noticed till 1999-2000 in one block in South 24 Parganas.

Against the total allotment of Rs 25.81 crore in these districts (relevant records of South 24 Parganas districts were not produced to auditors) during 1996-97 to 2000-01 for payment of post-matric scholarship, Rs 23.59 crore was paid leading to an unspent balance/surrender of fund of Rs 2.22 crore. Further, of Rs 23.59 crore placed in 470 bank branches during 1996-2001 for disbursement of scholarships, only 23 disbursement certificates involving Rs 0.15 crore were received...Chances of mis-utiliz- ation and non-disbursement or delayed disbursement and so on could not be ruled out.

The scheme for payment of scholarships to SC and ST students studying in post-matric stages funded by the government of India, was to be implemented by the...BCW department. The rates were revised by the government of India in October 1995 but delay by the district authorit-ies to give effect to the revised rates from April 1997 resulted in depriving 21,311 students in Bankura, Bardhaman and Medinipur of the benefits of enhanced scholarships amo-unting to Rs 78.17 lakh.

To be concluded


It is sad that the All Parties Hurriyat Conference is unwilling to take part in the forthcoming assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir. Of course, it has a point. Ten elections in fifty years have not taken the state any closer to peace. According to the APHC, the problems plaguing the state may be political, but not necessarily electoral. However, it appears to be losing sight of the fact that the elections in September-October 2002 are not going to be just any other election. The ground realities as well as the attitudes of the government and that of the entire world community have changed.

Never were the people of Jammu and Kashmir, especially those in the Valley, so exhausted with the bloodshed and so eager for peace. Never were sizeable sections of terrorists so keen on leaving their past behind to recover power and influence by joining the mainstream. Never was the world community, especially the United States of America, so keen on elections in Jammu and Kashmir. And therefore, never was the government of India so keen on holding truly credible elections, with the maximum of popular participation, as it is today.

It is only the hardcore militants, represented by the United Jihad Council, and their mentors across the border who are oppos-ed to the polls and are determined to wreck it through violence.


Even after the murder of Abdul Ghani Lone, the principle advocate of conciliation among the Hurriyat leaders, many were not deterred. They publicly expressed their resentment at the diktats from across the line of control. The well-know Shia cleric, Maulana Abbas Ansari, said, “The gun is no solution to the Kashmir problem, because it is a political dispute requiring negotiations.” Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, former chairman of the APHC, too asserted, “We cannot be tamed by such threats.” Shabir Shah is not averse to taking part in elections either, if they are preceded by a meaningful dialogue, which will be a face-saving device. Sajjad Lone has even asked Hurriyat leaders not to lay down too many pre-conditions.

Everyone with some political influence in Kashmir knows that a fresh wind is blowing. Even the common man wants to be more than a passive onlooker, and sometimes a victim, of the havoc that bombs and bullets are causing. When some APHC leaders met US embassy officials in New Delhi recently — the US sees the APHC as a viable third force in the valley — they were firmly told that those who shy away from the elections had no future. So, most Hurriyat and other separatist leaders want to stage a comeback — after all, many of them were legislators and ministers in the past — instead of rotting in jails.

Dire threats

What stops them from agreeing to participate in the elections is the fear of the gun, which many of them have wielded or encouraged in the past. Whatever they say in public, they are afraid of the threat from across the LoC; the murder of Lone only proved that the agents of the Inter-Services Intelligence still have the power to silence an inconvenient voice. But the common man wants the elections and so the APHC has decided not to actively campaign for a poll boycott.

While on the one hand, the APHC doesn’t know what to do, on the other, it is also aware it has a fairly strong bargaining position. The West recognizes it and wants it to take part in the elections, because if the APHC boycotts them, the polls will be meaningless for the Indian government. They probably feel that by refusing to take part, they may succeed in extorting a few concessions which will help them face the electorate. Thus the government must ensure mass participation by releasing all political prisoners, ensuring the security of both candidates and voters, and make conciliatory gestures to appease the Hurriyat.

The APHC leaders too should bend a little to accept the Centre’s offer. Kashmir yearns for change, and the proposed elections offer an opportunity for that. Those interested in the welfare of Kashmir should realize that it is the battle of the ballot that will shape the fate of the people, and that shying away from it will be both cowardly and politically suicidal.



No free kicks please

Sir — Steve Waugh, Ricky Martin, Melanie Griffith and now David Beckham, besides the undying love of Mother Teresa — does Bengal really need all of it to send its children to school (“Beckham and boys kick for Bengal”, Aug 20)? In “A few primary concerns”, (Aug 19), Anuradha Kumar showed how foreign financial assistance has provided an excuse for the Bihar government to almost completely withdraw from the primary education scene. Citing its bankruptcy, the Bihar government is reportedly using World Bank funds and assistance from United Nations agencies to recruit temporary teachers — who have a measly salary and very little commitment to their job — in complete contradiction to the terms of these education programmes. The scene is unlikely to be very different in West Bengal where the recent comptroller and auditor general’s report has already shown how Central funds have been embezzled. Beckham be warned!
Yours faithfully,
J. Sengupta, Calcutta

Lost case

Sir — Madhu Sharma, wife of the accused inspector general, R.K. Sharma, must be cursing herself now. Her public pronouncements have seemingly got her nowhere. They have not got the flashy Bharatiya Janata Party minister for parliamentary affairs, Pramod Mahajan, into jail. Her accusations have not been able to save her husband from prosecution, nor have they got the Central Bureau of Investigation into the scene or the human rights commission to protect her family. Worse, they have set off search teams hounding for the police officer and stripped him of whatever political protection he might have had. But does Madhu Sharma deserve to be written off? Her allegations of the minister having fathered Shivani Bhatnagar’s child may not be true, but does that mean the minister was not involved with the journalist? Why have the police taken seriously Mahajan’s claim of not having had a relationship with Bhatnagar?

It is clearly evident, as things now stand, that it is Sharma who will get the boot. One wishes Madhu Sharma had been less hysterical and a little more careful about whom she bad-mouthed on television.

Yours faithfully,
N. Chatterjee, Calcutta

Sir — It is ironical that although the BJP came to power riding on Ram, it will be one insignificant mortal, Shivani Bhatnagar, who will now bring it down. For a Central cabinet minister’s name to be associated with a murder conspiracy is a serious threat to both the party and the government. There is no reason to suspect Madhu Sharma’s allegations of a liaison between the minister and the principal correspondent of a major national daily. Ministers invariably take advantage of their position and Pramod Mahajan could have done the same. R.K. Sharma, who probably served as the go-between, is unfortunately having to face much of the brunt. If Mahajan is innocent, he should take the DNA test and submit to questioning by the CBI. An acquittal in this case will bring him more publicity and honour. If the BJP continues to shield him, it will pave the way for its own demise.

Yours faithfully,
H. Kalsi, New Jersey

Sir — With the alleged involvement of the flamboyant BJP minister, Pramod Mahajan, in the Shivani Bhatnagar case makes, the party has come in the grip of a series of scandals. It is a pity that L.K. Advani still boasts of the BJP as being a party with a difference. Yes, the saffronites are different. Even the Congress governments, accused of corruption repeatedly, did not have a leader who could boast of the party despite the series of exposures in cases that have stripped both the government and the party of the last shred of dignity.

Yours faithfully,
Dhrubajyoti Ray, Hooghly

Sir — It is appalling to note that the Congress is playing its role as the opposition party without as much as a thought to what its action might do to the country. The demand for the dismissal of Pramod Mahajan is preposterous, especially since someone extremely close to the accused in the Shivani Bhatnagar murder case is making the allegations. Moreover, the Delhi Police have absolved all politicians in the case. The opposition should work as a cohesive unit and stop politicizing every issue that comes its way to gain political mileage. It is a shame that the monsoon session in Parliament had to be called off ahead of schedule because of the unruly behaviour of the parliamentarians.

Yours faithfully,
Indrajit Bose, Cuttack

The past haunts

Sir — Free India got its first sati in 1987 when Roop Kanwar leapt into the funeral pyre of her husband in Rajasthan. After that the country had to wait for 12 long years for the next sati in Uttar Pradesh, where Charan Shah jumped into the fire. Less than three years later, India has its third sati. Thanks to the sangh parivar, India is progressing by leaps and bounds.

While the directive principles of state policy hold that providing free and compulsory primary education is a must for the government, this has remained a distant dream for India’s children. Successive governments have done little to foster the spirit of humanism or a scientific temper among the people. What is worse, the current crop of leaders is emphasizing astrology and vaastu. New courses in the university curriculum should henceforth preach the glory of sati.

Yours faithfully,
Sujit De, Sodepur

Sir — With the episodes of Roop Kanwar and Charan Shah still fresh in public memory, one is shocked by the glorification of another macabre incidence of sati, of 65-year-old Kuttu Bai in a village in Madhya Pradesh. It is a national shame that a custom abolished in 1829 should be repeated even now. Gone are the days of social reformers like Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar or Raja Rammohan Roy. The country desperately needs such spirited leadership.

Yours faithfully,
Sasanka Sekhar Adhikary, Hooghly

Sir — The practice of sati is undoubtedly an anachronism (“Sati in Panna, shielded by the faithful and witnessed by sons”, Aug 7). The sati in Madhya Pradesh will send a wrong signal to the world about the extent to which religious fanaticism has come to influence public life in India. But the real cause lies deeper. The incident displays the ignorance borne out of illiteracy and backwardness.

Yours faithfully,
Indranil Chaudhuri, Calcutta

Sir — One is glad to know that the police actually tried to stop the sati in Patna-Tamoli and political leaders have also raised a voice against this custom in the assembly. Elsewhere in the nation, though, similar acts go on unchecked. In the Kultora village near Asansol, a 13 year old boy was reported to have his head chopped off by a priest to propitiate the goddess, Kali. Is there a solution to this?

Yours faithfully,
B.S. Ganesh, Bangalore


Sir — The editorial, “Players’ game” (Aug 21), referred to the chief executive officer of the International Cricket Council as Michael Speed instead of Malcolm Speed. The error is regretted.
— The editor

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