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Putting up a performance

Sir — The Union food minister, Sharad Yadav, will invite no more than smirks for his latest display of diligence (“Sharad wags finger at FCI”, July 8). The paradox of plenty amid scarcity is typical of the food problem in India. This is not a new phenomenon nor is Yadav unfamiliar with it. Which is why his sudden attempt to haul up the Food Corporation of India officials for negligence of duty sounds unconvincing. His insincerity also becomes evident from the fact that despite, and this by his own admission, the officials having failed to implement the Central orders for over a year, Yadav is merely “warning” them of suspension. Expressing concern about the dismal functioning of the FCI, refusing to take lame excuses from officials for non-performance and zeroing on failure of the state units is all very fine. But they have to be backed up by concrete action. Government employees should be sacked if they fail to perform, and not merely let off with verbal warnings. And the same should hold true for non-performing ministers.

Yours faithfully,
Aashish Majumder, Calcutta


Half-baked efforts

Sir — Though the report, “Gujarat riot case charred” (June 28), has put us all to shame, it was only expected that a case as controversial as the Best Bakery one would end in such a way. The 21 accused were allowed to walk away free by the court, apparently because of “lack of evidence”. What could be farther from the truth' Although the opposition, the national human rights commission and the media are making perfunctory noises about justice being denied to Zahira Sheikh, it is evident that the case will remain unresolved. For only the powerful in Indian society can buy a commodity as precious as justice.

The bakery incident reminds one of the Sikh riots in 1984, where all the accused were subsequently acquitted. Despite the media publicity, the opposition clamour and the NHRC, the riot victims’ families are still awaiting justice. How will things be any different for Zahira'

Yours faithfully,
Jang Bahadur Singh, Jamshedpur


Sir — Given the system of justice, it is too much to expect that the appeal of Zahira Sheikh for a retrial will be entertained. Her promise that she will identify the accused next time comes a little too late. There is hardly any guarantee that she will not be bullied into silence again. Given the credentials of the people who have been party to the massacre, Zahira will be in no position to do anything if a counter case is filed against her for suppression of facts and misleading the judiciary. Perhaps Zahira also needs to be cautious about relying on her celebrity friends too much. These people merely seek the limelight, and their much publicized social activism has little to do with their commitments.

Yours faithfully,
Tapan Pal, Batanagar


Sir — It is unfortunate that the media, the people’s fora, the NHRC and other benevolent organizations could not build enough pressure for a meaningful verdict in the Best Bakery case to come through. Yet given the trauma she has undergone, Zahira Sheikh needed to be given a fresh lease of life. Zahira is lucky to have the support of influential sympathizers, but it is doubtful how long it will last.

Zahira’s turnaround brings a similar case to mind (“ ‘Consensus’ twist to forced marriage”, May 12). One Kanchan Mishra, who had been allegedly abducted and later forced to marry a wanted criminal, Sultan Mian, later told the national commission for women that her marriage had been a “consensual” one. The body had little choice but to instruct the police to release Mishra. A similar situation has happened in Zahira’s case. So long as victims continue to live in fear, they will be denied justice.

Yours faithfully,
Udita Agrawal, New Delhi


CAS in hand

Sir — The information and broadcasting minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, is in an unenviable position. Despite repeatedly asserting that the conditional access system will be introduced from July 15, he has been forced to give in to the staid policy of the National Democratic Alliance. That is roll back the CAS for a few more months and look for some means to stall it, all in the name of the government’s concern for consumers’ interests (“Set-top' Even Sharad is foxed”, July 2).

Prasad cuts a sorry figure in this controversy given the steadfast opposition from all lobbies. Yet the minister had claimed that he had the support of both broadcasters and cable operators. His consternation, coupled with the admission of the consumer affairs minister, Sharad Yadav, that he does not know much about the set top boxes and their availability, only proves that the government is not serious about its job nor is it properly informed about the ground realities. With Atal Bihari Vajpayee changing ministers and their portfolios regularly, poor Prasad seems to have got little chance to do his homework properly.

Yours faithfully,
R.B. Easwaran, Chennai


Sir — It is a pity that the conditional access system is being diluted. It is all the more condemnable because the bill has already been passed by Parliament. In spite of the confusion that prevails over CAS, there can be no doubt that it would have proved beneficial for consumers who now have no option but to accept the fiats of the cable operators. The competition which the new system would have started off would also improve the quality of the programmes aired. But then, the government also has to keep in mind the parliamentary elections.

Yours faithfully,
Jayanta Datta, Chinsurah


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