Editorial 1/ Razor�s edge
Editorial 2/ Day of reckoning
Changes in travel plans
Fifth Column/ Ordinary lives and the peace process
Teach them to spare the rod
On a steady road to reformation
Letters to the editor

It is in the logic of politics that there should be a gap between rhetoric and reality. It is one thing to say that in some pockets of West Bengal, law and order has collapsed. It is quite another to demand that the situation in West Bengal is bad enough to warrant the dismissal of the Left Front government and the imposition of president�s rule. The first statement is based on reality and the latter is sheer rhetoric. Nobody can deny the need and the effectiveness of rhetoric as a weapon in political campaigning. It is essential to create an atmosphere and also to keep the opponent on his toes. Thus nobody will deny to Ms Mamata Banerjee, the Trinamool Congress leader, her right to attack the Left Front government as the perpetrator of violence in the districts and her right to demand that West Bengal be brought under president�s rule. This is a political move designed to make the Left Front uncomfortable. The move has the added advantage of telling Trinamool Congress workers that Ms Banerjee is keen to have the forthcoming assembly elections conducted in conditions that are favourable for the Trinamool Congress. But all these do not add up to a realistic demand for the use of Article 356 of the Co

Violence in the districts of West Bengal as of today is confined to certain areas. The situation in the affected areas is bad: they are the sites of pitched battles between cadres of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Trinamool Congress workers. But this affliction is by no means widespread and universal in the state. Even in Midnapur, the worst affected district, violence holds sway in only a few sub-divisions. There are other very big districts, Burdwan, the two 24 Parganas, Murshidabad, Jalpaiguri and so on, where violence has not escalated. This is why the demand for president�s rule loses its edge. The demand could get validity if it could be shown that violence has engulfed the whole of West Bengal. This is not possible at the level of facts. The cry for president�s rule as the saviour of West Bengal thus remains an effective, if a little obvious, piece of political rhetoric.

Ms Banerjee, before she allows her rhetoric to get the better of her political realism, should consider the consequences of the imposition of president�s rule. One immediate result would be to put the left on a martyr�s pedestal. It would enable the left to project itself as a victim of the Central government�s iniquity. The left, especially the CPI(M), thrives as a victim of discrimination. It is to Ms Banerjee�s advantage not to allow the left to adopt a victim�s posture. From her point of view, it is best to leave the left to suffer the price of incumbency. Rallying her cadres to fight alleged left oppression is one thing but to dislodge it via Article 356 is another. One shows the skills of agitational politics and the other a lack of finesse. Ms Banerjee has already won her laurels as a seasoned and fearless political campaigner. But she should not allow her enthusiasm and her rising popularity to warp her perspective and to overlook the strengths and weaknesses of her enemy. Ms Banerjee has to walk the tight rope with rhetoric on one side and realism on the other. Her use of rhetoric will reveal her campaigning skills and her sense of realism her political acumen.    


Anniversaries are occasions for looking back. The Nagas and the Central government could both do with some hard thinking today. Thirty six years ago, on this day, the Naga National Council, led by A.Z. Phizo, and the Centre had agreed to a truce, hoping that the day would be observed thenceforth as a �day of peace�. Peace has not been the governing principle in the years of killing, abduction, extortion and general civil disruption in Nagaland since then, in spite of the efforts of some Nagas, the church, nongovernmental organizations and the apex body of tribal leaders, the Naga Hoho. The insurgents� ethnic secessionism and the Centre�s incomprehension, inaction and indifference have together created this unfortunate impasse. Intra-ethnic disunity has also been a determining factor. The original NNC has spawned the rival Isak-Muivah and Khaplang factions of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim. The violent strife between these factions has overshadowed every attempt at a peaceful resolution. Since the August 1997 ceasefire between the Centre and the NSCN(IM), 361 people have been killed.

Today�s commemoration of the original truce will be particularly eclipsed by the failure of the recent prospect of a ceasefire between these two factions. The NSCN(IM) has refused the Khaplang truce offer. The reason behind this refusal points to what makes the peace process impossibly problematic. In its bid to be recognized as a legitimate political entity, the NSCN(IM) wants the Naga ethnic identity to be extended to all the Naga-dominated areas in the neighbouring states like Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Their territorial claims even extend to Naga-occupied Myanmar. There is, in these claims, a complete unconcern for what the people of these states might want. The NSCN(IM) demands that the ceasefire must extend beyond Nagaland to these other states, coercing their security forces into a truce with the militants operating in their territory. The Khaplang attempt at becoming part of the negotiations with the Centre � and of the spoils of future sovereignty � has therefore been indefinitely foiled yet again. Meanwhile, subsequent anniversaries of an increasingly illusory vision of peace can only mark Nagaland�s descent into civil, economic and political dysfunction.    

Between the day the prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, left the Bharatiya Janata Party�s national council meeting complaining of ill-health and the eve of his departure for New York, there have been marathon discussions at the highest levels of government about his itinerary in the United States. Apart from officials of the prime minister�s office , the ministry of external affairs and members of the �advance party� for his trip, which earlier visited the US, these discussions have included doctors consulted by the prime minister�s household, and at times, the Indian missions in Washington, New York and San Francisco.

Vajpayee�s trip to the west coast was obviously the first casualty of his illness; officials found it the easiest to dispense with. There were proposals during these meetings that the prime minister should cancel all his official engagements in the Big Apple, just have his medical check-up in New York and then turn up in Washington for his meetings in the White House and on Capitol Hill.

Two suggestions were made. One was to have the external affairs minister, Jaswant Singh, address the United Nation�s millennium summit on behalf of Vajpayee. The other was to send the vice-president, Krishan Kant, in place of the prime minister. Singh had addressed the UN general assembly last year as Vajpayee was busy with the election campaign for the Lok Sabha and had created an extremely favourable impression on the world body�s biggest annual event. He succeeded in projecting a new face for India � decisive on foreign policy, committed on security issues, reformist in matters relating to the economy and promising in the area of governance.

Singh also convinced the West that India was no longer obsessed with its baggage of non-alignment, G-77 and crusades on behalf of the third world: it was important to do so in the changed circumstances of a unipolar world. At the same time, the external affairs minister did some plainspeaking with his colleagues in the non-aligned movement and the G-77. He told these third world dinosaurs that unless they changed, they would become irrelevant. That too was another essential first from India.

Indeed, Singh left behind an impression in New York that perhaps it is better to have the external affairs minister address the UN every year rather than the prime minister. Because the latter is besieged by a host of demands during the short trip: demands on behalf of the Indian community, associates of the ruling party, religious and spiritual-cum-academic organizations like the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, the ambassador�s reception where every Indian who is someone in the New York-New Jersey area wants to be seen with an external affairs minister who is articulate and knows what he is talking about.

With Singh, there is no such handicap. He can straightaway get down to work the moment he lands at John F. Kennedy airport and get more work done throughout the visit. There is, of course, the problem of protocol and there will be few meetings, if at all, with other heads of state or government. But given the pace of exchanges in New Delhi in the last one year, does it really matter that there is no opportunity for such meetings in New York?

The proposal to have the external affairs minister speak at the millennium summit, therefore, found favour during discussions in New Delhi, but that was not the case with the idea of sending the vice-president to New York. Of course, Kant was more than willing to take the �trouble� of going all the way to New York. Indeed, sources not altogether charitable to Kant say the idea had its origins in 6, Maulana Azad Road, the residence of the vice-president.

But it is an open secret on Raisina Hill that any proposal to send the vice-president abroad immediately sends a shiver down South Block�s spine. Kant�s overseas trips so far bear comparison only with the infamous foreign jaunts made by Devi Lal, the Haryanvi patriarch, when he was number two in V.P. Singh�s government a decade ago. Notwithstanding Kant�s image as a life-long Gandhian in percept and practice, Kant�s office invariably comes up with a long list of demands � starting with the unerring demand for an Air India Jumbo for the vice-president�s travels.

The Indian government and Air India have very strict guidelines for releasing 747s for VVIP flights. And irritated protocol officials in South Block have always stuck to the letter of the rules in denying Jumbos to Kant�s entourage. But more embarrassing than the demand for bigger aircraft have been the missives from 6, Maulana Azad Road that the vice-president wants to visit more than one country whenever he undertakes a foreign trip. Such requests invariably put MEA�s protocol officials and others in South Block in charge of regions being visited by the vice-president in a fix: they cannot thrust India�s vice-president on an unwilling or reluctant host government.

Those who have known Kant for long say that he is completely innocent of these excesses, that he does not even know about these. They blame these on his staff who have a fascination for foreign travel and all things that are un-Gandhian. But that is no excuse and these lapses can scarcely be overlooked. Perhaps they are also a reflection of the fact that Kant is the last vestige in office in New Delhi of the so-called �third front�, the motley group which did more damage to India�s polity than did all politicians together in the last five decades. So, when the proposal was made that Kant should take Vajpayee�s place in New York, MEA officials in charge of VVIP travel and the millen-nium summit prepared for the worst.

But the two proposals for substantially changing the prime minister�s programme in the Big Apple did not go far because Indian officials in New York accredited to the UN told South Block that the world body does not take kindly to any change of speakers at summits and the general assembly. They convinced New Delhi that even with a clipped itinerary, the prime minister should address the millennium summit. This was just as well. Because, unlike the various jamborees which have given the UN a bad name over the years, the millennium as-sembly holds out promise.

Veterans at the UN involved in preparations for the millennium summit recall, sometimes with nostalgia, how half a century ago, the annual meetings of the general assembly had to adjourn by a certain deadline. Delegates to the assembly had to pack up and leave New York for their home countries by the last voyage of RMS Queen Mary, the Cunard luxury liner crossing the Atlantic, and the onset of the east coast�s harsh winter. But no more.

Similarly, the general assembly of those days had a mere one third of its present membership. The world body, though, has not changed in structure or decisionmaking in proportion to the metamorphosis within itself. Kofi Annan, the secretary-general who has been an insider in the UN for a quarter of a century has proved himself a harbinger of change, and in his own words, �the millennium summit offers the world�s leaders an unparalleled opportunity to reshape the UN well into the 21st century, enabling it to make a real and measurable difference to people�s lives�.

In deciding that New Delhi should play by the UN�s rules and ensuring that he attends the summit this week, a major consideration in South Block has been the realization that the UN is the only body of its kind with universal membership and scope, bringing within its fold an unprecedented diversity of human endeavour. It is this realization that has persuaded South Block to commit troops in Sierra Leone and Lebanon � not to speak of other places � despite heavy odds. It is this realization that is behind New Delhi�s determination to make its timely payments to the UN�s budget even as rich countries such as the US have a big backlog of arrears in their financial contributions.

The experience after the Pokhran-II nuclear tests two years ago made the BJP-led government realize that in the changed unipolar world, India has no friends it could rely on and that India needed to create its own inherent strength at international fora to replace the illusory worth of non-alignment and the like. In fact, in the general assembly, India is the only country without a base or following of its own. The Arabs and other Muslim countries have the Organization of Islamic Conference bloc of 53 states, the southeast Asians have the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the West has the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and a host of other alliances. Why even the Latin Americans have the Mercosur and the Andean Community while the Africans have the Organization of African Unity.

Yes, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation is there, but more often than not, it is a forum for making India its whipping boy, an organization where India is an object of envy for other members. Vajpayee�s effort in attending the millennium summit would be to start a process where the India of the 21st century can use the UN to make new friends and influence people all over again, after the collapse of the post-World War II order.    

September 13 has been cited as the date when Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian (National) Authority he hectors over will declare the independent state of Palestine. After the Camp David II talks between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, Ehud Barak and Arafat, broke down in July despite the mediation offered by the United States, Arafat is reported to have returned to a jubilant Arab populace. His refusal to give up any claims on Jerusalem � which he sees as the future capital for the independent state of Palestine � propelled his popularity with the Palestinians to dizzying heights.

On the same day, Barak, on his return to Tel Aviv, was faced with sharp criticism. He made the proper noises and lamented: �I left knowing full well that there would not be peace at any price, but that there could not be peace without paying a price that may be heart-wrenching and difficult to accept.�

On September 13, 1993, a historic accord was signed between the Israelis and the Palestinian Liberation Organization for the granting of self-rule to the Palestinians of Jericho and Gaza. The signing of the accord was preceded by mutual recognition between the PLO and Israel. The then Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, pledged to negotiate peace with the PLO as the representative body of the Palestinians. Arafat affirmed that those provisions of the Palestinian Covenant, which denied Israel�s right to exist, would no longer be valid. But, the famous handshake between Rabin and Arafat sealed nothing, certainly not the trajectory of west Asian politics.

Fragile negotiations

This was followed by the signing of the Israeli-PLO accord in Cairo, on May 4, 1994, launching Palestinian self-rule in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank town of Jericho. Self-rule implied that there would be a withdrawal of Israeli troops.

Unfortunately, even today, the peace process remains as fragile as ever. Some analysts argue that the fastidious civility and circuitous rhetoric of the Arabs clash with the head-strong individualism, and simplicity (which even borders on arrogance) of the Jews.

Whatever causes the mutual suspicion, the inescapable reality is that more than 150,000 Jews continue to live in fortified settlements on the West Bank, which they call Judea and Samaria. Many of the settlers have deep religious inspirations and believe that they have a duty to reclaim the historic land of Israel. They live among two million Palestinians, most of whom, in turn, live under the amorphous and perforated umbrella of the Palestinian Authority rule.

The settlers, backed by the Israeli right-wing insist on staying. The Palestinians want them to leave as soon as possible. In recent times there has been speculation about an organized mass action which would be designed to overwhelm the occupants and drive them out of the disputed territory. The Israeli defence forces have been placed on a high state of alert in order to protect the settlements.

Area of darkness

The original peace accord, secretly negotiated in Oslo, implicitly assigned the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to the Palestinians, but was unpardonably vague about final borders. The Palestinians stubbornly demand that all the territory captured by Israel in the Six Day war should be returned to them. The Israelis, predictably, refuse to entertain this idea.

Yasser Arafat has repeatedly pledged to establish a sovereign state, with or without Israeli approval. This time too his decision has put the Israelis on guard. Arafat has his own troops but the formidable Israeli army can pulverize these forces in a few days.

Notwithstanding an innate pomposity in Arafat�s latest decision, it is unlikely that there will be any largescale conflict between the parties on or after the September 13 declaration (if there is one). The troublesome prospect is that there will continue to be low scale clashes between separate Israeli and Palestinian quasi-militant or even civilian groupings.

This is likely to beget a tempered intervention by defence forces and a recurrent series of daily bloodshed. Arafat and Barak will conceivably not lose their positions of power and media coverage. What will happen is that the average Palestinian or Jewish settler will find it increasingly harder to guarantee himself and his family life for another day.    

One important function of the national human rights commission is outlined in section 12 A of the Protection of Human Rights Act under which it was set up in 1993. This is to enquire into the violation of human rights and abetment thereof or negligence in the prevention of such violation by a public servant. Among the numerous complaints received, a large number is on human rights violations by the police. Such complaints jumped from 31,299 in 1997-98 to 54,236 in 1999. Though not all, some of these are cases of serious human rights violations, which include arbitrary arrest, implication in false cases, misconduct and misbehaviour towards women and custodial violence.

One important instruction of the NHRC is that custody deaths should be reported to it within 24 hours. Failure to do so will lead to a presumption that the authorities are trying to suppress facts. In 1997-98, 193 cases of custodial deaths were reported. All may not have been because of police torture. But in many there have been misuse of force by the police.

In a number of serious offences where authority was misused, the NHRC has had to order investigation by its own staff. This is in accordance with section 11(1)(B) of the Protection of Human Rights Act, which orders such an investigative body to be constituted under an officer not below the rank of the director general of police and such other officers.

The police never appreciate investigations into complaints by any outside agency. Even senior officers feel police misconduct can be controlled only through strict internal regulation. But experience has shown exclusive reliance on internal regulation is unsufficient. That is why civilian oversight is found to be crucial, although substantiating charges against the police often becomes difficult.

The NHRC has been very particular about cases against the police. There has always been an effort to carry the police leadership. The commission has often asked the state criminal investigation department to take the case and report to the commission.

One such case was the custodial death of Atal Bihari Mishra, a student of the Benaras Hindu University in Ballia. Initially, the police tried to pass off the death as caused by a bomb attack by hoodlums on the vehicle he was travelling in. Investigations by the commission revealed Mishra was implicated in a false case and tortured to death because of political differences between his father and a local politician of the then ruling party in Uttar Pradesh.

At the instance of the commission, the state CID submitted a chargesheet against 19 police officers including the SP. The commission directed the state government to pay interim compensation to Mishra�s father as well. The government however declared that since the case was pending in court, compliance with the recommendations could be possible only after the police officials were found guilty.

The commission pointed out to the government that award of interim relief under section 18 of the act is not dependent on the establishment of culpability of the public servant. The remedy is �independent of such pettifoggeries�. To provide �interim relief� only after guilt was proved would nullify the humanism the statute sought to enshrine. The UP government paid the compensation.

In another unfortunate case of one Usman Ansari of Nagpur, the NHRC had to intervene as senior police officials were trying to cover up the misdeeds of their subordinates. Hamida Begum alleged that her husband, Ansari, was forcibly taken away by police constables to prepare food for a party organized to celebrate the promotion of the head constable. Next morning, the dead body of Ansari was found on the road near the place the party was held.

The director general of Maharashtra police informed the commission that the case was closed by the state CID as nobody could give definite evidence. The commission investigations found the state CID report unsatisfactory. A scuffle had taken place between the deceased and some policemen at the party, and Ansari had suffered injury to his skull from which he died. Death was not caused by a road accident. The commission asked the state government to get the matter investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation and pay a compensation of two lakh rupees to the next of kin of the victim.

Another investigation into the killing of a businessman at Ranchi had a salutary impact. Reeta Dhawan complained that the Maruti van in which her husband was returning from Varanasi in December 1993, was surrounded by six policemen. They demanded one lakh rupees and on being refused, shot Dhawan at point blank range. A criminal case was started. The police officers were first suspended, then convicted and sentenced to death.

The commission also ordered a compensation of Rs 10 lakhs. The state government however stated that since the culprits had been convicted and sentenced to death, the payment of the compensation would be a financial burden for the state. The commission disagreed. The establishment of the culpability of public servants in a criminal trial and their conviction do not put at rest the claim for compensation or immediate relief to the dependents of the victims. Culpability of public servants also cannot absolve the state of its liability of compensation. The state government complied with the recommendations.

In another case concerning the highhandedness of the provincial armed constabulary at Varanasi, the commission took suo motu cognizance of a newspaper report to initiate investigation. This established that PAC personnel had confined and then assaulted a group of students who had gathered to felicitate a friend on his academic achievement.

The state CID took up the issue and chargesheeted 28 PAC personnel. The commission recommended interim relief taking into account the nature of attack, the medical treatment and the violation of integrity of the person. The UP government has since confirmed that the money has been sanctioned.

The NHRC is also bothered about irregularities in post-mortem reports. In a number of instances the reports have appeared to have been doctored or inordinately delayed. If doctors, on whose opinion the reports depend, are intimidated, there can be total miscarriage of justice. The commission has therefore recommended that video recording of post-mortem examinations be sent to the NHRC for scrutiny. Twenty two states and Union territories have accepted the recommendations. The commission is also pressing for the adoption of a model autopsy form, which has been agreed upon by 17 states and Union territories.

Increasing violence in the lock-up has made the commission decide that its officers will pay regular visits to any jail or institution under state government control where persons are detained or lodged for purposes of treatment, reformation or protection. Its officers will also study living conditions and make recommendations. Twenty six states and Union territories have agreed to allow NHRC officials into the police lock-up. The commission is pursuing the matter with Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur and the Union territories of Daman and Diu, which are yet to respond.

The NHRC is urging police administration in the states to set up a human rights cell in the police headquarters to serve as the main link between the police and the NHRC. The police complaints authority will be there for oversight, to ensure human rights training and sensitization of the forces, and to promote awareness.

The commission strongly feels the need for systemic reforms of the police. It has been urging the implementation of the national police commission�s recommendations for insulating the police against external pressures and influence. In the Prakash Singh versus Union of India case, in which the commission has implicated itself as a party, it has highlighted this need in a comprehensive affidavit. The verdict of the Supreme Court in this case will have an important bearing on police reform and help the police uphold law and protect human rights with greater efficiency.    

The formation of the World Trade Organization was aimed at benefiting the developed, developing and the underdeveloped countries. Recently, leaders of the group of 15 countries expressed their concern over the growing economic imbalance between the developed and the less developed countries. Most leaders felt that rapid globalization has aggravated inequalities. Some economists warned against pitfalls of the rapid opening up of domestic market and globalization. They also cautioned against the withdrawal of subsidies by governments.

In India, enough tears have been shed in the name of the rural poor over the last four decades. �Garibi hatao� was the slogan of the Seventies. The Eighties saw massive poverty alleviation programmes. From the Nineties, the commitment to eliminate poverty became more serious following the economic reforms. Ironically, the poor are becoming poorer.

Bad show

During the first three decades of the planning period, the gross domestic product was between three to 3.5 per cent. The inflation rate was high and job growth low. Despite the higher rate of subsidies, low income and high inflation could not have benefited the poor. Budget deficits increased while a closed economy prevented private and foreign investment from bailing out the government. Borrowing funds at steep interest rates was the only way out.

The economic situation justified reforms. But have the reforms succeeded in alleviating rural poverty? This is not easy to answer. But it is agreed that higher growth in the GDP, moderate inflationary pressure in the post-reform years worked in favour of the poor.

Happy ending

Consumption has increased no doubt. But this is for premium products which were beyond the reach of people. In rural India, the penetration of these products are low, but the change in infrastructure has increased accessibility to these. The hitherto untapped rural market is improving as rising income levels have increased affordability. So economic reforms have made a vital positive change in a short period.

It is true that economic reforms has affected urban India more than rural India. There is no indication of the rise of wage rates in agriculture. Though this may have been because of low agricultural growth in the last two years, the average labour wage growth does not show any real economic prosperity of rural India. But this is no reason to shed tears. Private and foreign investment in core sectors will ultimately leave enough funds with the government to invest in rural development. New entrepreneurs will arrive and private companies will pour money to cater to the growing rural market. A sea change in employment patterns in rural India will drive forward production. This accelerated growth will be the most important effect of the economic reforms.    


Politics of shamelessness

Sir � Most members of parliament share this uncanny habit of indulging in unlawful activities and getting away with it. Only a few months ago, some Bihar MPs forced an Indian Airlines pilot to change the flight�s route, inconveniencing the other passengers. Recently, Jagannath Mallik, Lok Sabha member from Jajpur, while submitting a visa application for a visit to the United States, agreed, for the payment of Rs 6 lakhs, to indicate the names of two students as his children (�Baby boom on MP�s US visa application�, Aug 25). What he did not reckon with was the toughness of the US visa officials. Not surprisingly, Mallik later denied the charge entirely. The speaker of the Lok Sabha, G.M.C. Balayogi, was being naive if he thought his gentle admonition � �It is all the more shameful that the fraud was committed by a member of parliament� � would be of any use. Hasn�t he been in politics long enough to know that �shame� is not a word that exists in the Indian politician�s dictionary?
Yours truly,
Santanu Ganguly, Calcutta

Uncertain emergence

Sir � Mamata Banerjee�s rise on the political horizon of West Bengal has been meteoric. But it is high time she got a grip on herself. An odd electoral success or failure quickly goes to her head. Besides, unlike the other leading political parties, her party does not have any ideology, vision or programme.

Most of the leaders within the Trinamool Congress have not had any direct experience of the freedom struggle. Banerjee�s only desire is to capture the Writers� Buildings, a dream that would require maturity and political sagacity to become reality.

The violence she has been unleashing in West Bengal can easily boomerang and hasten her downfall. She should remember that her party was born out of political opportunism.

Yours faithfully,
A.K. Banerjee, Calcutta

Sir � Mamata Banerjee�s rally on July 21 in Esplanade and another one on September 3 were impressive. The massive crowd the July rally attracted continued in spite of it raining throughout the day. This is an indication of the kind of popularity Banerjee currently enjoys.

From the popular verdict in the recent municipal elections and Lok Sabha byelections, it appears that the majority of the populace wants her to become the chief minister of West Bengal. Despite the popular enthusiasm, it is irresponsible of her to stage such rallies so frequently, and often on a working day at busy junctions like Esplanade. Such disruptions, she seems to have realized, will do her no good. Hence, the recent rally on a Sunday.

Yours faithfully,
Suman Kumar Chakraborti, Calcutta

Sir � Mamata Banerjee can be safely counted on to pull a surprise every time she convenes a rally. This time, on September 3, it was the offer to resign from the Central cabinet, acknowledging her failure to protect the lives of hundreds of party workers in the districts of West Bengal. No doubt the offer was dramatic. But to the discerning, it was also tantamount to Banerjee admitting that the party she leads had a role to play in the recent spate of killings. How much longer is the drama of surprises going to continue?

Yours faithfully,
R.K. Sarkar, Calcutta

Hard work

Sir � Nayana Sen�s story is moving (�Too high a price for tuition�, Aug 24). Early in the article, it is mentioned that the name of the victim has been changed to protect her identity. Later in the same article it was mentioned that: �The superintendent of police, Howrah, Surajit Kar Purakayastha, said that since Nayana�s father, Ranjit, (surname withheld to protect her identity) had served well at Golabari police station, he would look into ways of helping her lead a normal life.�

This gives the impression that �Ranjit� is the true name of the girl�s father. But, it does not take the brains of a rocket scientist to figure out that there cannot be too many Ranjits who were sub-inspectors at the Golabari police station and who died recently. If so, has Nayana�s identity been protected?

Yours faithfully,
S.K. Bhaumik, via email

Sir � Hats off to Nayana! She has set an example for many girls of this city. Very often we see girls from affluent homes neglecting their studies. They are under the impression that the men of the house are the bread earners and that they will not have to do any work. This is especially true of West Bengal where women are a privileged class.

Yours faithfully,
Ruchina Ghose, Jamshedpur

Sir � Nayana could very well have done some other kind of job and arranged for her tuition fees. What would a man in her place do? Many mothers take up arduous work such as working as a maid servant and earn their children�s tuition fees.

Yours faithfully,
Biren Saha, Titagarh

Sir � Mithun Chakraborty�s emergence as a real life hero and benefactor of the distressed is quite overwhelming. His timely payment of income tax, his adoption of a girl child and now this incident with Nayana has boosted his image and endeared him to all.

Yours faithfully,
Md. Ayub Ansari, Jagatdal

Sir � Mithun Chakraborty�s gesture towards Nayana is touching. But such gestures are not the prerogative of only celebrities like Chakraborty. Many others feel the urgent need to help people like Nayana. But just wishing to do so does not help. They should do something about it.

Yours faithfully,
Raju Felix Crasta, East Singhbhum

Sir � Nayana�s struggle for survival is something that most Calcuttans support. Although some may not be in favour of her profession, we should derive inspiration from the way she confronted her circumstances.

Yours faithfully,
Deb Dulal Pandey, Kalyangram, North 24 Parganas

Sir � I must congratulate The Telegraph for highlighting the plight of an 18 year old girl. This was instrumental in bringing the matter to the notice of the filmstar, Mithun Chakraborty.

Yours faithfully,
Amal Ghosh,via email

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