No question of guilt
Sir — Time and tide may wait for none, but the tide, for sure, changes with time. That explains the swinging fortunes of Gingee Ramachandran, the former minister of state for finance (“BJP speaks up for Gingee”, Sept 9). Unfortunately, time does not seem to bestow wisdom upon our politicians. Look at how the Bharatiya Janata Party president, M. Venkaiah Naidu, has tried to justify Ramachandran’s reinduction into the Union cabinet saying it was a “healthy precedent” for ministers against whom corruption charges were levelled to first resign and then be made ministers after the charges are proved false. How convenient! After all no one should know better than Naidu that absolving a guilty politician or bureaucrat is a piece of cake for those in power. So will Naidu’s next course of action be to haul up the Central Bureau of Investigation for having the audacity to level “false” charges against the “innocent” Ramachandran'
Nandini Ghosh, Calcutta
Sir — In his eagerness to run down India’s economic performance, it seems Ashok Mitra did not even bother to check his facts. In his article, “Dog day afternoon” (Sept 5), he claims official data supports his contention that, “Domestic investment in all the sectors taken together is less than Rs 10,000 crore. Since the GDP is currently hovering around one million crore, not even one per cent of the GDP is being set aside for industrial capital formation.”
Domestic investment, by itself, is a vague term. It is not clear whether Mitra includes both private and public investment. Be that as it may, take the narrowest category — gross fixed capital formation by the private corporate sector (this excludes unincorporated enterprises). In 2001-02, this investment, according to the Central Statistical Organization, was Rs 106,188 crore. By no stretch of the imagination could investment have fallen by 90 per cent in one year to Rs 10,000 crore, the figure Mitra quotes. In fact, private estimates even suggest that investment increased significantly in 2002-03. Mitra does not even get the gross domestic product figure right. For 2002-03, the CSO pegs GDP at Rs 22,42,463 crore. Investment as a percentage of GDP is thus more than 5 per cent and not less than 1 per cent as Mitra pronounces.
Portending an imminent east-Asian-style crisis in India is a case of imagining ghosts where none exist. East Asian countries before the 1997-98 crisis had capital account convertibility, which India does not yet have. Besides they were operating on lesser foreign currency reserves than India has at the moment. There are other important differences. While India has countless problems, political, social, and economic, no one can deny that India’s recent economic performance and its near-term prospects look good. To argue otherwise, using wrong data, is churlish, to say the least.
Srinivas Thiruvadanthai, New York
Sir — Ashok Mitra’s assessment of the Indian economy may be correct to some extent, but he is unduly apprehensive about investible funds getting diverted to speculation. The argument that foreign institutional investors may try and manipulate the stock exchange by tinkering with share prices is a trifle far-fetched. The securities and exchange board of India is a respectable monitoring agency. It may have slipped up a few times in the past but that is all the more reason to believe that it will perform its duties well this time.
Rajeev Bagra, Hooghly
Poison in the air
Sir — India has very high levels of pesticide contamination, although pesticide use in our country is quite low at 0.45 kilograms per hectare on an average (“Water poison eats scientists’ guts”, August 23). Compare this with the 1-12 kg per hectare used in countries like the United States of America, Korea and Japan. Large-scale and injudicious use of pesticides in agriculture has resulted in them entering the food chain through contaminated cereals, vegetables, fish, honey, oil. Farmers in many parts of the country rub DDT on cattle to protect them from scabies and to keep flies away. There have been reports of fishermen contaminating river water with pesticides so that fish can be easily caught downstream. Even mother’s milk is not free of contamination — a non-governmental organization has revealed that mother’s milk in India has among the highest DDT levels in the world. No wonder, pesticides have become less effective. Pesticide-users, mostly illiterate farmers, need to be made aware of the adverse consequences of such abuse of pesticides.
Jaydev Jana, Calcutta
Sir — It is shocking to learn that agricultural scientists have knowingly kept silent about the dangerous levels of pesticides in water used in the country. Both surface and ground water are continually being contaminated as a result of ill-conceived municipal waste disposal systems and emissions from factories. Then there is also the persistent exposure to organic pollutants by way of pesticide residues in food. As a result, heavy metals like lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, copper, zinc and chromium are getting deposited in the environment.
While arsenic- and cadmium-poisoning may cause cancer, mercury is sometimes responsible for genetic problems and mutations, and copper, lead and mercury have been associated with brain and bone damage.
Mohan Lal Sarkar, Budge Budge
Sir — Those who are horrified by the reports of the presence of alarming levels of pesticides in the water in our country should take heart. Adulteration of food and water is not a new phenomenon in India, and the internal systems of most Indians would surely have adjusted to it by now.
Besides, these reports must be taken with a pinch of salt. Had the problem been as acute as the report makes it out to be, scientists and agriculturists would not have remained silent for so long. Also, had it been so very significant, the authorities would not have allowed it to pass without taking any stringent action.
Diptimoy Ghosh, Calcutta