Crime and punishment
Sir — Has the law finally caught up with Amarmani Tripathi (“Red carpet in jail or out”, Sept 25)' Have all those machinations — all those faxes Madhumita Shukla’s family sent to the police and media to deny Tripathi had anything to do with the murder, the switching of loyalties after Mayavati’s government fell, and so on — come to naught' It may be cynicism, provoked by the number of criminals in high office who seem to get away, but it is difficult to see in the minister’s arrest the fulfilment of the dictum: murder will out. Look at how Mulayam Singh Yadav has promised to stay by his “friend” and how Tripathi has been allowed a cellphone and even his supporters inside the prison. It is a sad commentary on the state of the Indian democracy, but with his arrest Tripathi’s case has been kept on a slow simmer. The heat will be turned on high every time it serves the political purpose of whoever is in power — be it Yadav or Mayavati.
B. Bhattacharya, Calcutta
The unequal meet
Sir — For the developing countries, the World Trade Organization has come to stand for “world torture organization”. From the day it was formed, the developed nations have dictated terms at the WTO while the rest of the world remained servile. But of late, the third world seems to have woken up to its follies and has been quite vocal in its demand for transparency and a more egalitarian trade order. This trend crystallized at the WTO’s fifth ministerial meet at Cancun which, quite predictably, ended inconclusively (“Rich-poor split sinks trade talks”, Sept 16). But on the positive side, the group of 22 nations emerged as an influential group of third world countries who made it clear that they will no longer forego their interests. The cooperation among developing countries may perhaps be an indication of a change in the current trade regime. The economies of these countries have immense potential and they form a huge market. They should thus seriously consider strengthening ties between themselves.
Jang Bahadur Singh, Jamshedpur
Sir — Knowing the mindset of the leaders of developed countries, it is no surprise that the WTO’s fifth ministerial meet at Cancun ended without any agreement being signed. It is clear that the rich countries intend to continue with the massive subsidies for their agricultural products, so that they can flood the markets of developing nations with them. The tough stand taken by the Indian commerce minister, Arun Jaitley, deserves praise. Our national income and gross domestic product continue to be dependant on agriculture. India just cannot afford to toe the line of rich countries anymore — it would amount to killing our farmers.
India has been steadily opening up its economy to the rest of the world. This has rightly been done in phases and the developed world, especially the United States of America and the European Union, must not pressurize us to remove all barriers to trade when they themselves continue with formidable tariffs on exports. They cannot ignore the fact that millions in the developing countries will gain if they agreed to lower their tariffs.
Tapan Das Gupta, Calcutta
Sir — For the developing nations, united under the G-22 banner at Cancun, a bad deal was as good as no deal at all. The WTO has a chequered history. It began life as the general agreement on tariffs and trade, which was created after World War II when the advanced nations, particularly the US, did not know what to do with the massive industrial capacity they had created during the war. This surplus needed outlets and developing countries were the obvious target. The GATT became a convenient forum for industrialized nations to arm-twist the weaker countries, including India. This continued even after the WTO came into being. But third world countries have started protesting against these inequalities, as was seen at Cancun. Surely, the US and the EU realize that they cannot pursue their own agenda at the WTO.
Kangayam R. Rangaswamy, Madison, US
Sir — Such is Ashok Mitra’s bias that he even finds things to criticize in the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government’s stern position against developed countries at the WTO ministerial meet held at Cancun (“Tidings from Cancun”, Sept 19). According to Mitra, India could not dare to break ranks as China and Brazil, both ruled by left parties, led the way in the G-22.
India took a leading role in forming the G-22 group and Arun Jaitley, the commerce minister, vocally resisted pressure from the developed countries and insisted that subsidy and agriculture should be discussed first. Much before the Cancun conference, India prepared the ground by holding talks with the commerce ministers of Brazil and Malaysia. China’s presence in the G-22 did give it weight, but India’s role cannot be disregarded altogether.
India industry, under the pressures of globalization, has improved its product line and is offering internationally-comparable products at competitive prices. An instance is the Tatas’ tie-up with Rover to supply small cars in England. Maruti cars are quite popular in Scandinavian countries. Exports of garments, leather products, jewellery, and so on have increased substantially. In addition, there is the export of services in information technology-related business like call-centres.
The reins of the WTO may pass into the hands of developing countries, led by the likes of China, India, Malaysia, Brazil and others, sometime soon. The Cancun ministerial meet is an indication of this.
Tamal Basu, Kodalia, Hooghly
Sir — From Seattle to Doha to Cancun (with Singapore in the background), India has progressively emerged as a strong rallying point for developing nations. The spirited arguments of the Indian commerce minister exposed the disparities between the rich and poor countries over the issue of agricultural subsidies. The wealthy north American and European countries have, over the years, used the WTO as a tool to exploit poor countries. With protests brewing up, the richer nations are at a cross-roads. This is the achievement of the Cancun conference.
Phani Bhusan Saha, Durgapur