Sir — The parading of Bachal Ramji and the arrest of Charan Singh, an “Indian terrorist”, by the Pakistani police appear to be nothing more than the Pervez Musharraf regime’s desperate attempt to undermine India’s credibility before the world (“Pakistan parades India bomber”, Oct 1). One however expected the Pakistani authorities to come up with something more concrete. It is hard to believe that Ramji could have been given extensive training in explosives in just 15 days by the Research and Analysis Wing. Given that the nabbing of these “militants” with clear Indian links followed less than a week after India alleged that the gunmen involved in the Swaminarayan temple attack were Pakistan-sponsored, the arrests were evidently not just a coincidence. By claiming that Singh had planned to sabotage the forthcoming general elections in Pakistan, the political leadership next door seems to be giving a reply to India’s allegation of cross-border terrorism.
Amaresh Sen, Calcutta
Sir — Brinda Karat’s argument that dowry is related to structural inequalities in our society, that have been generated by capitalism in its neo-liberal form, is hardly justified (“Liberalized oppression”, Sept 25). Dowry, which is undoubtedly a form of coercion, is absent in capitalist societies. Although most capitalist societies have many limitations, they nevertheless give birth to enlightened ideas of reform, provide better education to their members and promote a rationalist utilitarian psychology. Dowry is a unique feature of our traditional society. A combination of historical and socio-political factors has been responsible for the survival and spread of dowry in Indian society. Blaming class, caste and gender inequalities for the existence of this practice will not suffice.
It is interesting that Karat has questioned the role of political parties in the fight against dowry. Casteism is rampant in most political parties, including the left. Top positions in the Communist Party of India (Marxist), be it in West Bengal or in Kerala, are occupied by higher castes. The present crop of communist leaders has no drive for reform. That women’s uplift does not concern them is obvious from the fact that there are only 4 female ministers out of a total strength of 47 in the West Bengal cabinet. Karat would perhaps be surprised to know that according to the findings of the 2001 census, there are 41,487,694 males and 38,733,477 women in West Bengal. Has the CPI(M) done anything to safeguard women’s rights in society'
Surajit Basak, Calcutta
Sir — In certain tribal communities in Jhargram (Midnapore), a dowry is paid not from the bride’s side but from that of the groom. If the parents of the bride are found to have encouraged the groom’s family to accept dowry or if a dowry is demanded from the groom’s parents, both families are debarred from society and are harassed by their neighbours. So strong is the sanction against giving or receiving dowry that no one dares to ask for it. However, given that most people from these communities are illiterate, other types of violence against the woman/bride are visible.
Sometimes, dowry is voluntarily offered by the parents of the girl, especially when she is either not educated or not good-looking, or if they consider her to be a liability. Some fathers-in-law offer dowry to the groom with the intention of making the latter a willing ghar-jamai. In rural Orissa, I have seen a father pay as much as Rs 40, 000 to Rs 50,000 as dowry in order to get his daughter married to a government servant with a permanent job. Although certain affluent and educated families have made their reservations against dowry known by refusing to pay or accept it, the practice has become rampant among villagers and the uneducated, given the rising unemployment. Karat is right in pointing out that things are not likely to change unless political parties are willing to make anti-dowry movements a part of their political agenda. Also, given the prevalence of this system in Indian society, the first step towards its abolition would be mobilization of public opinion against it.
Diptimoy Ghosh, Calcutta
On a fast track
Sir — Although New Delhi is the capital of the country, its transport system, as in other metropolitan cities like Calcutta, Mumbai and Bangalore, has been pretty dismal for various reasons. Keeping up with the population boom, the number of vehicles has also multiplied over the years, resulting in ugly traffic snarls. The inauguration of the Delhi Metro Railways is welcome under the circumstances. After the project is fully completed, an estimated 2,600 buses would be taken off the road, which will save Rs 500 crore every year.
The Delhi Metro Railways is said to have several firsts to its credit. Of the 240 fully vestibuled coaches (for 60 trains), 60 will be manufactured in Korea and the remaining in India, with progressive indigenization. These will substantially reduce noise and air pollution levels and improve the quality of life in the city. The railway’s electrically powered trains with advanced passenger information display and public address systems will make the Delhi Metro among the best in the world.
D.V. Vamsee Krishna, Bhubaneswar
Sir —While Delhi is getting a new Metro service, the Calcutta Metro Railways, once considered to be the pride of the city, is facing a severe crisis. Two factors have affected the functioning of the railway most. Everyday, Calcutta receives large numbers of people from the suburbs. While the Howrah station acts as an entry point for all those who come from the Howrah, Hooghly and Midnapore districts, Sealdah (North and South), Dumdum, Ultadanga, Jadavpur and Ballygunge act as entry and exit points for people coming from the South and North 24 Parganas. Unfortunately, the Metro service only caters to the needs of those who enter the city from the Sealdah (North) section.
The Metro Railways has incurred heavy losses owing to the fact that it has not been running to its maximum capacity. It is therefore imperative that the Metro is extended to Garia. The Garia station could become an important connecting point, enabling people from the southern suburbs to avail the services. Apart from this, the Metro also needs to develop an east-west corridor, starting from the interiors of Howrah and then moving to Salt Lake and Rajarhat via Howrah station, BBD Bag, Esplanade and Moulali. The Esplanade station would then act as a junction between the two routes so that people coming from one route could get off at Esplanade and use the other. This will help ease the traffic situation in the city, lessen vehicular pollution and save oil.
Subhasis Saha, Calcutta