Some more girlish talk
Sir — The news that the Centre has decided to give Rs 1,000 to every woman who delivers a girl child at a primary health sub-centre has to be taken with a pinch of salt (“Higher govt cash offer to check female foeticide”, March 11). The Union health minister, Sushma Swaraj, must be really daft to think that the “princely” sum being offered will stop baby girls from being killed and female foetuses from being destroyed. There will still be cases of families accepting the money and killing the baby immediately afterwards. Instead of coming up with new and more impractical ideas, why doesn’t Swaraj try reviving the existing schemes by making them available to the majority of rural women' For all her pious intentions, she has calmly overlooked the fact that even today, the government spends a measly 0.8 per cent of the gross domestic product on health. The welfare of women is inextricably linked to other areas such as health and education. Talking about the former without paying attention to the latter is exactly what political rhetoric is all about.
Kankana Roy, Midnapore
Sir — If the increase in fertilizer and urea prices in this year’s budget had not been rolled back, it would have made life more difficult for farmers (“Urea brigade at Atal door”, March 6). Farmers in India are poorly off already, having to toil very hard for meagre profits. To make matters worse, there are the frequent droughts and floods. Also, the non-remunerative prices of agriculture products do not help. No wonder, many farmers have committed suicide all over the country. It is doubtful whether they would have been able to bear the additional burden of increased fertilizer prices. Critics may point fingers at the finance minister for bowing to political pressure, but it can’t be denied that it was a thoughtful move on his part.
Jayeeta Sarkar, Assam
Sir — Jaswant Singh has several innovative social welfare proposals in his budget — the waiver on tuition fees upto Rs 12,000 for parents with two children, increased deduction on the medical expenses of disabled persons, more rebate for senior citizens and so on. There are also many growth-oriented proposals, like the National Highway Development Project and the National Rail Vikas Yojana.
There might be problems however over the tax on insurance receipts in cases where a single life insurance premium is more than 20 per cent of the sum assured, since many of these policies had been designed keeping in mind the provisions of earlier budgets. The finance minister was prudent enough to amend this provision for only those policies which have been bought on or after April, 2003.
R.N. Lakhotia, New Delhi
Sir — The 10 per cent concession on train tickets for doctors, announced in this year’s rail budget, is ridiculous (“Rail sop for doctors”, Feb 25). Every time a doctor wants to avail himself of the measly discount, he will be faced with the lengthy routine of submitting copies of his MBBS and state medical council registration certificates. It will not be surprising if many doctors do not disclose their identity to avoid all the hassle.
Apparently, the discount is being given to doctors, should the need for their services arise. Also, does this mean that a doctor must always carry around his basic instruments and medicines' Besides, doctors would help people on the train even if they hadn’t been given this concession. It would make more sense if coach attendants or guards are given a medicine kit. This would save both doctors and patients a lot of time and trouble.
P.K. Roy, Durgapur
Sir — There does not appear to be any logic in the massive tax concession Jaswant Singh has allowed Indian cricketers in his budget. As it is, the players earn sizeable fees from the Board of Control for Cricket in India for playing test and one-day matches. Then there are the earnings from advertisement contracts. This exemption will mean the already burdened exchequer will lose out on a rich source of taxes.
R. Sekar, Orissa
Sir — The news report, “Duty cut may not bring back shine back to gold” (March 9), seems to have been written without much research. Its conclusions are not substantiated by quotes from any major bullion importers. The jewellers who have been quoted hardly have any notion of this volatile trade. Of the 737 tonnes of gold consumed in the country in 2002, only 287 tonnes were imported, which is a huge drop from the 537 tonnes imported the year before. This indicates large-scale smuggling from Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh where the gold duty is very low. The finance minister has done well to cut the import duty on gold this time, in the hope that it will check the smugglers and hawalas.
Daman Prakash, Chennai
Sir — The extensive media coverage of AIDS has not been able to do much about the stigma attached to HIV positive people (“HIV siblings left alone in school”, March 1). It is a shame that two young children, Benson and Bency, have been ostracized in their school for being HIV positive, a condition for which they are not responsible. Although this is hardly the ideal solut ion, separate schools for HIV-positive children should be opened, so that they are not denied education and more important, are spared the trauma of being singled out among other children.
Urmila Guha, Burnpur