Editorial 1/ Stars and stripes
Editorial 2/ God�s own children
Juggling with symbols
Fifth Column/ Haryana chief�s recipe for success
Scattered tribes in search of an identity
Letters to the editor

Even contrarians will concede that there are few relationships that are as critical for India today as the one with the United States. The visit of the prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, is thus, despite the re-scheduling, probably the most significant foreign yatra of his political career. While Vajpayee�s participation in the millennium summit of the United Nations is also of considerable importance, the real substance of the visit lies in the his engagements with various constituents of the American establishment. The US is the only superpower in the international system, and its hegemony is unlikely to be challenged � even by a determined China � in the near future. Additionally, the US has been a key player in the international relations of Asia and will continue to exercise a vital influence on the region in the future as well. Further, the US remains India�s largest trading partner, and is the single most attractive destination for skilled human capital from India. Admittedly, while India and the US, the largest democracies in the world, have often been viewed as natural allies, it is estrangement rather than engagement that seems to have defined relations between New Delhi and Washington over the last 53 years. Is this beginning to change? Strident anti-Americanism remains a feature of Indian public opinion and the US still seems reluctant to accept India�s need for a credible nuclear deterrent. But there are signs of a gradual transformation.

India and the US have sustained a high-level dialogue for nearly two years. During the Kargil war, the US displayed an unprecedented sensitivity to India�s security concerns. New Delhi and Washington, both targets of terrorism, have formed a joint working group on the issue. More professionals from India were given H1B work permits in the US last year than citizens of any other country. Both countries have a stake in the role that China plays in the Asia-Pacific region in the future, and in ensuring that Pakistan does not become a menace in the neighbourhood and beyond. Recall also that the visit of the US president, Bill Clinton, to India earlier this year was a tremendous success. Both the present and the future make the relationship with the US vital for Indian interests. True, Vajpayee will be meeting Clinton when he has a little over four months left in office. But the visit must not be narrowly viewed in terms of engaging the current Democratic administration, nor in terms of short-term gains. The trip must be about engaging the US and cementing the gains that have been made over the past two years.

More specifically, the visit must be viewed in terms of three missions. First, it should be about reaching out to American business. Apart from being the largest source of foreign direct investment, US corporations can become vital political allies if the relationship of mutual dependence that exists can find firmer roots. The example of China is worth considering. An important reason for American reluctance to take a harder stand towards China�s irresponsibility on a score of issues, including their scandalous record on nonproliferation, has been the relationship of enormous economic interdependence. The Vajpayee yatra should also be about reaching out to the policy community, including the lawmakers in Congress. Vajpayee is addressing a joint session of the US Congress, and his speech must reflect the vitality, confidence and the openness of the �new� India, and its willingness to share responsibility in the management of the international system.    

The breed being called �pseudo-secularists� is taking a lot of flak nowadays, especially for discovering communal bias where there is professedly none. But even apart from them, there is a larger swathe of godfearing citizens in the country, which feels wary of the way religion is being given prominence in everyday exchange in India. So the new school curriculum proposed by the National Council for Educational Research and Training might have come as a relief to quite a few. In it, the NCERT has made clear that the fears about the proposed inclusion of �religious education� in the curriculum were unfounded. Mr R.K. Dikshit, a member of the curriculum core group, has distinguished between �religious education� and �education about different religions�, saying that only the latter was included in the curriculum. Not that this was absent from previous curricula, but the new course aims to make knowledge about the teachings and sacred books of the different religions more intensive.

Although the NCERT is projecting this as a way of integrating the various religious communities through a better understanding of one another�s faiths, this exercise is, perhaps, also aimed at damage control. The sporadic roars about �value� education emanating from Bharatiya Janata Party portals, heavily underlined with suggestive references to religious teaching, have gradually sunk into the popular consciousness. The recent revival of the proposal by the minister for human resources development, Mr Murli Manohar Joshi, which identified the primary cause of the unrest of the times with the decline of value-based education and unfamiliarity with religious teaching seemed to augur badly for the new school curriculum. The BJP will not easily outwear its strong Hindu tinge, neither would it want to. When one of its more eminent leaders speaks of religion, all communities expect saffronization. The NCERT curriculum has managed to set this nervousness at rest for the time being.    

The extensive press coverage of the speeches of the new president of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Bangaru Laxman, has mostly focussed on his overtures to the minorities. Within the sangh family, it is reaching out to Dalits and other socially disadvantaged but politically aware strata that has attracted attention. Hot on the heels of an appeal to party workers to reach out to Muslim voters across India, he has clarified that the joint agenda of the ruling coalition is sacrosanct. For the record, the new party chief has assured the editor of Panchajanya, the organ of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh that the disha or direction of the movement for Hindutva has not changed; only the means and approaches have to suit the times we live in.

Little is likely to come of his appeals. Significant elite Muslims have become the movement�s mascots: the apolitical scientist, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam or the fiercely saffron Sikander Bakht, a long time fellow-traveller of the saffron combine. But in the recent controversies over Bal Thackeray�s arrest, not one voice in the larger party backed the moves for arraigning him before the law. Even as toothless a body as the national commission on minorities, after its reconstitution by L.K. Advani, has been bold enough to be highly critical. In the spotlight was the country�s only cent per cent saffron government in Gujarat for its poor track record on the right of citizens from religious minorities to live without fear. And just in case anyone missed it, the party has reiterated that issues like that of the Ram temple are on the shelf: they have not been renounced in any way.

On the issue of its affiliation to a composite culture or pluralism, the party perforce has to sing a tune very different from the one that comes naturally to its lips. Two decades ago, long before the issues of Ayodhya or personal civil law became major planks in mass politics of the Hindutva variety, Advani made a significant admission to the very same journal Laxman recently spoke with. �In India, a party based on ideology can at the most come to power in a small area...The appeal (of the BJP) increased to the extent ideology got diluted. Wherever the ideology was strong its appeal diminished.�

In that crucial phase after its rebirth as a separate political entity the party had placed more emphasis on issues on which it could make common cause with other parties. Governance, corruption and the economy took precedence with the manifesto even talking in Congress-like terms of India�s composite culture.

The phase lasted just under a decade, after which a very different focus emerged. Yet when push came to shove, the earlier line was the only one that took it towards power. But there have been important lines of continuity amidst the changes. The fraternal organizations are the ones who test the waters before the party wing takes up an issue. So it was with the Ram temple and may well be with the conversion question in future.

The differences between then and now are notable. The BJP has been the largest presence in three successive Lok Sabhas, in each of which it has formed a government at the head of multi-party coalitions. The compulsions of politics force it to eschew its own distinctive platform. But the continuing disarray of the premier opposition party will mean that elements within its own extended family will be the ones to raise voices of disquiet if not dissent. They are emboldened by the realization that as and when the alliance comes apart, even if years from now, the party will have to turn to its more militant front outfits for a return to source.

But in the internal assessments of the saffron combine, it is the other dimension of the Laxman candidacy that has been given more emphasis. Social cleavages on caste lines have been a far more insuperable problem for the votaries of Hindutva than secular critics. Political assertion of recently enfranchised and socially aware groups constitutes both a threat and a challenge for the leadership of the party. Over the last decade, the party has made significant inroads among both Dalits and adivasis. In the Lok Sabha alone, there are now 30 members of parliament in the BJP ranks from the Hindi belt who hail from these sections of society. By comparison, the old umbrella party, the Congress has only 8 such MPs. Laxman, though he is a Telugu, is a fluent Hindi speaker and can be relied upon to try to consolidate the base of such groups within the party framework.

Whether this will work wonders is another matter altogether. Post-poll surveys by the Centre for Study of Developing Societies illumine a critical aspect of Dalit attitudes to the saffron party. Just about one in six actually stamped the lotus symbol. Undoubtedly, the old days of savarna dominance are numbered, but the influx of Dalits has not been so high as to change its character in toto.

The bid to annex B.R. Ambedkar to the Hindutva pantheon is also being made with an eye to the future. Dalits not only comprise 16 per cent of the electorate, but in several states they have also made headway in politics and in the bureaucracy. Turnout in the polls has gone up dramatically as has the fierce defence of the right to exercise their franchise without fear or favour. Only very concrete changes will satisfy them, not mere gestures.

Symbolic moves are too important to be dismissed, but what impact they have on the ground depends on the extent to which words are matched by deeds. But the symbolism of the ruling formation abounds in irony. The country�s leading Ambedkar-basher, Arun Shourie, is a minister even as his party pays homage to the dead leader as a role model. In Uttar Pradesh, where one in four Dalits in the country reside, the governor, Suraj Bhan, has cast doubts on official claims of a decline in attacks on Dalits.

The BJP is at a crucial juncture in its history. At times, it appears to be trying to square a circle. It wants the colours of pluralism, but will not part with its saffron badge. Social empowerment is in, but the upper strata are also to be mollified. Both tasks tax the skills of the best of tightrope walkers. Power is a great leveller in disputes: placements in culture, education and the media can be used to mollify the faithful cadres. In turn, loyalists entrenched in office develop an interest in not rocking the boat.

The problem is that the larger the party has grown, the challenges within have multiplied. The compulsions of office prevent radical departures in policy. The allies watch hawk-like in their zeal for signs of a saffron bid for overwhelming dominance. Following the line of least resistance is the only option available to a multi-party coalition in a large federal country. There is no danger to the government as an entity from within, but there is a very real chance of a drift. As it sails into waters it is unfamiliar with, the BJP may end up a party without a clear sense of direction.

It is unable to even speak on the symbols of Hindutva, like Ayodhya, and is opening doors to dialogue with armed groups in Kashmir with whom no government in New Delhi has ever spoken. �Social engineering� is hardly a tool that can wish away such dilemmas, but it appears central to the BJP�s attempt to come to grips with a situation that at times looks beyond control. Life for Laxman will be all about living on the razor�s edge.

The author is an independent researcher on ecology and political affairs and former fellow, Nehru Museum Library, New Delhi    

The Haryana chief minister, Om Prakash Chautala, has never had it so good. When he took over on July 24 last year, little did he know that he would be able to survive a year, especially with the former chief minister and Haryana strongman, Bhajan Lal, breathing down his neck and trying to wean away Indian National Lok Dal legislators from day one. Incidentally, Bhajan Lal has now warned that he will become chief minister soon.

But Chautala has surprised even his staunch supporters by hanging on to the chief minister�s chair with the promise to last his entire term for the first time. Political pundits who had predicted that Chautala will go as he has been doing during his earlier terms have been proved woefully wrong.

What has been Chautala�s recipe for success? His earlier tenures had been riddled with controversies with the Meham massacre in the Eighties on top of the list. But one of the major achievements of the Chautala-led government this time has been its ability to steer clear of controversies.

Despite tremendous pressure to either lower electricity rates or even provide it free to farmers, the chief minister has time and again reminded the people that power can never be provided free and if Haryana is to develop, they will have to pay for it, perhaps even absorb a high tariff. Despite his firm stance regarding power, people continue to throng his meetings.

Supreme leader

Ruling the state with a small cabinet and keeping his flock together has not come easily to Chautala. Perhaps that explains why he went overboard to welcome the ousted Fiji president, Mahendra Chaudhry, who hails from Bahujamalpur village in Rohtak. Chautala, despite being a Jat, does not enjoy a wide following in the community.

The hype generated over Chaudhry as a son of Haryana is being seen as a ploy to woo the Jats, who have switched over to the Bharatiya Janata Party. The move was made with an eye to the next polls � four years away or even earlier, depending on the political situation in the state.

The Haryana chief minister, with a majority for his party in the assembly, has now targetted the BJP � which fought the polls as an ally of the INLD � by stating that the controversy generated by the saffron party over the sales tax hike portends ill for the state.

The statement has made BJP leaders both in New Delhi and the state � see red, but they can only squirm. After all, in Haryana today, Chautala is supreme. BJP leaders at the Centre, party leaders whisper, want to keep Chautala happy. And he knows that. Government officials whisper that the brain behind N. Chandrababu Naidu�s decision to get together states which have received fewer funds this year from the Centre to put pressure on the BJP-led government to hike the amount was Chautala�s. One of the major highlights of the Chautala government has been its industrial and information technology policy.

Firming up policy

On the controversial river waters dispute with Punjab, Chautala said that the groundwork was being prepared by both state governments to bring to an end the dispute. While Chautala has the right to beat his own drum the way he wants to, he too has earned his fair share of criticism. Opposition leaders and even some party legislators criticized Chautala�s style of unilateral functioning, although the state finance minister, Sampat Singh, denied that the chief minister sought no one�s advice on policy

The opposition, however, is not amused. The government will not last another six months, declares Bhajan Lal, who has even appointed a shadow cabinet to oversee the work of ministers. Efforts are also on by the BJP to pressurize the prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, to force Chautala to provide the saffron party more say in running the state despite not being part of the government.

The BJP move is being looked upon with suspicion by Chautala and there is a distinct possibility that once Chautala is able to wean away Jats from the saffron party, he will not hesitate to sever his relationship with the party. The smile that Chautala is sporting these days despite a painful leg injury does not portend well for his detractors. His eyes are set on the chief minister�s chair for a longer period now.    

In India, insurgencies divide themselves into four broad types. These are often overlapping and contending categories. The first has roots in a colonial legacy of disputes, best exemplified by the Kashmir insurgency. The second, ideology-inspired insurgencies like that of the armed Naxalite movements. The third type is founded on classic factors like economic backwardness and underdevelopment. The United Liberation Front of Asom is an archetype of this category.

The Naga insurgency fits into the fourth groove: insurgency stemming from �temperamental ethnicity�. The Bodo impasse in Assam also has similar connotations. Initially, the Bodos said they wanted a �homeland�: a term with a marked emotive content, indicating a �feeling of homelessness�.

The Naga crisis is an ethnic construct. It resulted not so much from the need to preserve the ethnic character of the Nagas than from a fear of its extinction. On the basis of their Mongoloid stock, the Nagas considered themselves different from the Aryans. Therefore, they were reluctant to remain with the heartland fearing persecution and extinction. This is the crux of the Naga imbroglio. Ethnic paranoia, whipped up into a full-blown political agenda, is the soul of insurgency in Nagaland.

The Naga ethnicity is subject to the dynamics of evolution. The Nagas are not a single tribe but comprise several cognate sub-tribes and clans like Angamis, Kacha Naga, Ao, Kalyo Kengu and Semas, among others. These sub-tribes have often jostled with one another to assert themselves much in the same way as India�s princely states fought� a pointer to the fact that the Naga tribe was continuously evolving.

The census of 1991 lists 35 Naga subtribes and reports that 17 of them are in the state of Nagaland and the rest scattered across the lower reaches of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and the bordering Myanmar.

What sets apart separatism in Nagaland from other movements in the Northeast, particularly the ULFA in Assam or the resurgent Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council in Meghalaya, is the fact that there has never been a time during the history of Indian independence when the Nagas considered themselves Indian first and Naga later. This is probably the reason why it is called the �mother of all insurgencies�.

The root of the problem is deeply embedded in the pre-independence period when a group of 20 Nagas belonging to the Naga Club petitioned the Simon commission against including the Nagas in the proposed reformed scheme of India. The memo was submitted to Clement Atlee on his visit to Kohima on January 10, 1929 (the text is kept with the Naga Literature Society in Mokokchung). The Naga Club comprised the cream of the Naga intelligentsia which later became the Naga National Council, which then produced the two breakaway factions of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim.

This historical background has often been used by the Nagas to legitimize their stand. The ULFA movement is a corollary to this. The birth of ULFA is at best described as a case of belated inspiration from the legendary Naga insurgent, A.Z. Phizo (1900-1990). Phizo can be attributed with having singlehandedly shaped the greater Naga ethnic consciousness and identity. He was a hardliner and the fact that he prevailed over moderates changed the entire course of the Naga destiny. There were moderates too, or should we say less paranoid ones, who identified themselves with the ethos of the pan-Indian history.

But Phizo wiped out the moderates with shrewd political manoeuvres. Phizo walked out of the NNC in 1949 but made a resurgent comeback when he defeated T. Aliba Imti, a moderate, to lead the NNC as its president.

The NNC had now become a separatist body with secession as its only agenda. That Phizo was leading the NNC had its advantages. From the erstwhile Naga Club formed in 1918 for mainly administrative purposes comprising village headmen, the organization subsequently underwent thorough politicization under Phizo which culminated in the demand for an independent state on August 14, 1947. The date is particularly significant because Phizo knew a delay in the declaration could have delegitimized the demand for independence.

The fact that the Nagas were, in fact, treated with some degree of alienation legitimizing their separatist stance cannot be wished away. The Hydell agreement gave 10 years of self-rule for them. But this was unilaterally scrapped by India to wrest full control. This is a wound that is still fresh. The Nagas still feel let down by this forceful cohesion.

Instead of placating the hurt sentiments and making them feel at home, the administration systematically sty-mied all possibilities of bringing about a sense of belonging in the Nagas.

Speaking in generic terms, the history of governance of the northeastern tribes has always been against their assimilation into the pan-Indian ethos. Administrative legislation like the Inner line Regulation in 1873 barred the entry of outsiders into the Naga hills. The Home Rule regime kept the Nagas outside the purview of the provincial Congress government that was headed by Gopinath Bordoloi.

The Assam Frontier Tracts Resolution, 1880, made general laws redundant vis-�-vis the Nagas. These were undoubtedly British instruments to divide and rule. The Englishman, Michael Scott, a member of Nehru�s Naga peace mission along with Jayaprakash Narayan and Bimala Prasad Chaliha, made a startling disclosure in the London New Statesman. It says, �We cannot evade our responsibility for the present tragedy...It was Britain�s imperial policy which kept Nagaland isolated from India�. This follows that there was very little understanding and exchange of ideas.

The worst that could happen was the dismantling of the Indian frontier administration service to carve out the present Indian administrative service. The IFAS officers were understanding and sensitive to tribal issues. But the IAS administrators seemed to ride roughshod over the tribals.

Policy formulation continues to be shoddy. The latest wedge between the Centre and the NSCN (Isak-Muivah) in the recent Bangkok conclave is the inclusion of Naga-inhabited areas outside Nagaland under the purview of the cease fire.

The Centre is not ready to extend the ceasefire to Manipur�s Ukhrul, Senapati and Tamenglong districts, fearing this would strengthen the NSCN (I-M) stand. But the fact that the Naga diaspora is a crucial component of the greater tribal ethos cannot be ignored.

The Manipur districts are dominated by Tangkhul Nagas and the jailed insurgent leader, Thuingaleng Muivah is a Tangkhul. Swaraj Kaushal, former Central negotiator, has caused irreparable damage by constantly downplaying the Naga diaspora. In fact, this was the cause of his face-off with the prime minister, A.B. Vajpayee, leading to his exit from the Naga peace process.

It will take more than the existing truce to resolve the Naga impasse. Cradled in an emotional bedrock, it demands redressal of misplaced sentiments.

Theoretically speaking, most nations, including the United States, which witnessed 50 years of internal strife, have passed through discontents in its ethnic cauldron. �The state matures through civil wars,� Stalin had once said. It is in India�s interest to look at the Naga imbroglio in this perspective.    


Still enthroned

Sir � So there are more treasures lying in J. Jayalalitha�s backyard (�London hotel trail leads sleuths to Jaya�, Sept 3)? Years ago, when vigilance unearthed mounds of gold inside the puratchi thalaivi�s house, along with the enormous real estate, the people of the country shuddered to think of the level of corruption that had enabled the accumulation of such fabulous wealth. The two London hotels, valued at several hundred crore, once again reminds us of what goes on in the name of governance in India. What is ironic is despite this truth that stares at your face, our political leaders remain unfazed. Except for the irritating court appearances which Jayalalitha has had to put up with, there is no indication her political fortune or her popularity has taken a downslide. She is still courted as enthusiastically as before by the Congress and the people of the state hold her as the inevitable trump card against the present regime. With gifts like these on the platter, should she be blamed for being greedy?
Yours faithfully,
Jai Acharya, Calcutta

Court trouble

Sir � The Supreme Court�s indictment of the Karnataka government for the latter�s inability to handle the situation regarding Veerappan should be extolled (�Catch bandit or quit, says SC� Sept 2). Its statement, that the government should quit and make room for another, should make the chief minister, S.M. Krishna, take a more serious look at the matter. After all, the Supreme Court�s comment about the Karnataka government�s negligence in not apprehending Veerappan for eight long years is justified, and reflects the voice of the common man. This must have brought the executive to its senses. It has always opted for short-cut solutions without thinking in terms of the interests of the nation.

Going by past records, governments, both at the Centre and the states, have given in to the blackmailing tactics adopted by criminals. How could the Karnataka government have even conceived of releasing the criminals retained under Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act and the National Security Act in exchange of the film actor, Raj Kumar?

The order of the apex court bench, that these prisoners should not be released till the petition, filed by the father of the police officer who was killed by Veerappan�s gang, is disposed of, can also be appreciated. The chief ministers of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu argued that any delay in the release of Raj Kumar could lead to renewed ethnic violence in Bangalore. One might have thought that the direction of the apex court might have caused a serious threat to the Karnataka government. Instead, Krishna has chosen not to pay much heed to it. He has even commented that such �arguments and counter-arguments do take place�.

It is sad that the government refuses to acknowledge its incompetence. The president has often expressed concern over the criminalization of politics in this country. The judiciary has a significant role to play in breaking this nexus. One hopes that the hostage is released, but not at the expense of setting free a large number of criminals. Only time will prove how effective the Supreme Court�s statement is in preventing politicians from buckling under the unjust demands of criminals.

Yours faithfully,
Sujit Kumar Sarkar, Calcutta

Sir � The oral statement by the Supreme Court criticizing the Karnataka government encroaches upon the powers of the state, namely, the law and order. The government of Karnataka might have been entirely wrong in its approach to the Veerappan issue. Nonetheless, the apex court�s remark will only go on to confuse people on what the powers of the judiciary are. Also, law enforcement has been a failure in several states. What about the mass killings in Bihar and more recently, in West Bengal? Why has the apex court not intervened in these cases? In spite of the fact that the Karnataka government has shown a lackadaisical attitude in handling the situation, it does not mean that the government, which is elected by the people through polls, should be dissolved in haste.

Yours faithfully,
Binoy Chatterjee, Howrah

Sir � It is unfortunate that the editorial, �Hard Talk� (Sept 4), suggests that the Supreme Court, an institution with fixed areas of functioning, should not, ideally, have asked the present Karnataka government to make way for another that might be more successful in nabbing the forest brigand, Veerappan. In fact, the country should have a law preventing the release of criminals in incidents of kidnapping. If criminals retained under TADA are released, it will confirm the allegation that the country takes a soft stand when it comes to its treatment of �well-known� and �established� criminals.

Already, the government�s compassionate attitude towards criminals is adding to the misery of law abiding citizens. If the government allows prisoners detained under TADA to go scot free, surely the judiciary has the right to intervene? After all, people look upto the Supreme Court in times of crises. The recent comment of the court is thus realistic. It is also intended to maintain a balance among the wings of our democratic structure.

Yours faithfully,
B.C. Dutta,Calcutta

Boy wonder

Sir � Why bother about the birth of a boy to Priyanka Gandhi (�Cong looks for luck in baby boy�, Aug 30)? Earlier, there were speculations in the media on the sex of the child. Now the media is reporting what the astrologers have predicted about the future of the child. Also, the tussle between the Vadras and the Nehru-Gandhi families on the naming of the child seems to have attracted the media�s attention. This kind of journalism should be avoided. The issue should not have received this kind of attention. Why prioritize such a trivial issue, when it is more important to reflect on how the Congress can be resuscitated? In the absence of prominent leaders, one might speculate whether Priyanka Gandhi might take up the reins of the party, but is it not too early to mourn the astrologers� prediction that chances of her son pursuing a career in politics are remote?

Yours faithfully,
Aloke Thakur, Calcutta

Sir � What does it matter to the common man whether Priyanka Gandhi has given birth to a male child or a female one (�Congress in labour on baby false alarm�, Aug 25)? This is probably important only to the handful of Congressmen � so much so that they even had a bet on the issue. Maybe the birth of this child will come to be known as a historic incident. Why don�t people feel that ordinary births might on be more miraculous than the �historic� ones?

Yours faithfully,
Shakti Prakash De, Darbhanga

Sir � Should we suspect Congressmen of a sense of humour? A certain self-mocking wryness seems evident in their celebrations over Priyanka Gandhi�s son. Otherwise their comments and the ecstatic exchanges of sweets would take on a grotesque colouring.

Yours faithfully,
Ruchira Sinha, Calcutta

Parting shot

Sir � Both Central as well as state governments are still ritually following the old custom that whenever the president , the prime minister or the chief minister travels abroad, all the cabinet ministers and other senior officers go to the airport to see them off or to receive them. This waste of valuable time of the government ministers and senior officials ought to be stopped.

Yours faithfully,
Prem Chand Mohta, Calcutta

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