Sir — In the recent spat between the Republicans and the Democrats over the easing of fiscal problems, Barack Obama made it amply clear that he, as the president of the United States of America, does not favour the idea of relying solely on spending cuts to solve the fiscal problem (“Razor’s edge”, Jan 4). Obama is in favour of a balanced approach, and intends to raise taxes. The Republicans, however, were opposed to the idea of increasing taxes. Obama’s fiscal cliff bill, which has now been made into law, raised taxes on individuals and families with an annual income of more than $450,000 by 4.6 per cent. But the bill did not propose any concrete cuts on expenditure.
The US president has to realize that tax increases are hardly a proper solution to the fiscal problem. Rather than burdening the people with heavier taxes, the president must concentrate on other measures to keep debt under control. One way to solve the debt problem could be to reduce the autonomy of the Federal Reserve. The Nobel laureate, Joseph Stiglitz, raised this point recently at the C.D. Deshmukh memorial lecture. He warned about a “conflict of interest” when an independent, non-elected body is given the power to bail out banks. The US Fed has bailed out many big banks in the recent past. Stiglitz accused the Fed of being accountable only to Wall Street. So, its decisions may have affected the economy. The US government could automatically gain greater control over the economy if it could rein in the Fed. Obama should give this matter a serious thought since, as the editorial rightly points out, “When the world’s largest economy... falls off a cliff, it drags the rest of the world over too.”
Ashish Kabra, Hindmotor, Hooghly
Sir — The Aadhar direct cash transfer scheme has taken off from January 1, 2013 in 20 districts of nine states (“Too soon”, Jan 3). The problem in implementing this programme has to do with the difficulty of ensuring that the beneficiaries have both Aadhar cards and bank accounts. This can prove to be a major hurdle.
Banking facilities are scarce in rural areas. The Saral Money scheme — by means of which the unique identification project aims to facilitate the opening of bank accounts through private agencies — also gives rise to several problems. For one, it will create a new breed of clerks on whom poor, illiterate villagers will have to be dependent for obtaining the benefits they are entitled to. This may give rise to the exchange of bribes, and hence more corruption. So the Congress’s plan of making India prosperous seems to have limited scope. It is doubtful how far the cash transfer programme through Aadhar cards will benefit the aam admi.
However, the Reserve Bank of India’s proposal to enable petrol pumps and kirana stores to function as micro-ATMs is a good idea. These micro-ATMs can be involved in the cash transfer mechanism. Even this system may have loopholes, but it is likely to be less complicated and more effective. The glitches can be identified once the system starts working.
The funny thing is that our government ignores the usefulness of kirana stores when it comes to promoting foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail. But the same government has no qualms in using these stores to aid the implementation of its cash transfer scheme.
S. Kamat, Bardez, Goa
Sir — The true face of the Congress has been revealed in connection to the implementation of the direct cash transfer scheme. This project has been put into action hastily and with little preparation because it is only a ploy to win votes just before the upcoming elections. The prime minister and the Congress president seem to be very happy about the fact that 21 crore Aadhar cards have been issued. But they are simply ignorant or apathetic about the problems that ordinary citizens face even when trying to get a ration card. The common people will face similar issues while obtaining Aadhar cards and opening bank accounts.
I personally went to the State Bank of India seven times just to add the name of my wife to my pension account. I applied for the Aadhar card along with three members of my family in April 2012. We had our photos and fingerprints taken. But we have not received the cards as yet. When such is the condition of execution, one does feel a bit sceptical about the scheme. One even fears that this scheme will turn out to be another pretext to cover up the misuse of public funds.
M.M. Kale, Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh
Sir — The Catholic church in Kerala has decided to introduce sex education into its catechism curriculum. This is a welcome step, provided it reduces sex-related abuses in the community. However, it would be difficult for Catholic priests and nuns, who practise celibacy, to take sex education classes. There is also the risk of religious values clouding the minds of those imparting such education. This will confuse and misguide the students.
Sex-education classes should be handled by psychologists under the guidance of the church. And the church authorities must step out of the orthodoxy of Christian concepts of sexuality, and strive to impart the kind of education that will help the students lead a healthy life.
K.A. Solaman, Alappuzha, Kerala