Editorial 1 / Taxing problems
Editorial 2 / Excess and ennui
Winning combinations
Fifth Column/ The dark horse who came from nowhere
Lessons from a beastly tale
Discover the new face of terror
Letters to the editor

At a recent meeting with top officials of the central board of direct taxes, the finance minister, Mr Yashwant Sinha, has declared in no uncertain terms that there is no question of reducing the rates of income tax in the next budget. Mr Sinha�s forthright statement may have caused rumblings of discontent. After all, no one likes to pay taxes. There may even be attempts to rationalize the demand for lower tax rates by arguing that the current economic slowdown is caused by a lack of effective demand, and that a tax cut will stimulate demand by increasing disposable income in the hands of the consumers. However, this is a spurious argument.

The government can also increase effective demand by increasing its own expenditure. As a matter of fact, there is a crying need for the government to step up investment in infrastructure. This is required mainly in order to ease up supply constraints � better roads, improved port facilities and so on are crucial inputs for the smooth functioning of the economy. But, of course, higher investment in infrastructure also has a tremendous beneficial effect on the demand side of the economy specially in times of deficient aggregate demand. The construction of new roads will generate additional demand for a whole host of industries including cement which is one of the industries lying in a coma because of deficient demand. The cash-strapped government is in no position to increase expenditure if it gives in to demands for a reduction in tax rates. Since it is a question of choosing between a reduction in tax rates and increase in government expenditure, then the obvious answer is to choose the latter option.

There are also other reasons why Mr Sinha should not succumb to pressures and reduce the level of income tax rates. We are no longer in the regime of absurdly high rates where the highest marginal tax was 97.5 per cent. These rates were bad because they had terrible incentive properties. Tax payers with very high incomes were almost forced to evade taxes. It made sense to risk the small chance of getting caught evading taxes in order to avoid the high rates of taxation. Now that even the highest rate of taxation is quite modest, the incentive to evade taxes is substantially lower. In fact, even by international standards, income tax rates are no longer very high. This raises the inevitable question. Should the government move in the other direction and actually raise income tax rates in order to gather more revenue? The government�s direct tax revenue as a ratio of gross domestic product is actually quite low. This is undesirable for at least two reasons. First, undue reliance on indirect tax rates also impairs the allocative role of taxes. Second, there is also the issue that direct tax rates can be more easily adjusted in order to increase the progressivity of the overall tax regime, thereby ensuring that the relatively more affluent pay proportionately more taxes than the poor. However, despite these reasons, the government should not raise the basic income tax rates at the present juncture. Efforts should be made to increase tax revenue by ensuring greater tax compliance. A careful analysis must also be carried out about the desirability of maintaining the existing exemptions. For instance, income from mutual funds was made tax free a few years ago in order to bail out the UTI. This exemption can now be withdrawn since the UTI is on a sounder footing.    

Politics and minimalism do not go together in the Indian scenario. And this seems to have bred restiveness in some. Recently, around 15 ministers of state met in the capital on the common ground of their discontent with having to sit idle in their offices most of the time. Their cabinet seniors seem to be bad delegators, leaving them feeling humiliatingly redundant. The junior finance minister has been deputed to carry their grievance to the prime minister. It is almost perversely reassuring to see these ministers actually minding being idle. They will probably be regarded as quite absurdly eager by many for whom such inactivity would appear to be a rather delicious prospect.

The unwieldiness of the Indian state is the peculiar outcome of the placatory imperatives of coalition politics and of the rise of the regional parties. The precarious medley of legislators who make up ruling majorities in the state assemblies and the patchwork government at the Centre create a complex system of obligations and rewards, in which ministerial posts become currency for political support. Political, even emotional, blackmail is honed into a fine opportunist strategy, inspiring feats of accommodation. Perhaps the most spectacular instances of burgeoning cabinets is provided by Bihar. Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav�s gift of twenty ministries to his twenty Congress supporters sets a record, matched only by the Bharatiya Janata Party�s playing of the numbers game in Uttar Pradesh. At the Central level, the number of superfluous ministries � steel as well as industries, mining as well as coal � adds to this alarming picture. A thorough streamlining of this cumbersome structure has now become an urgent necessity. The cabinet should be an instrument of good governance, and indiscriminate tokenism � reducing the status of a minister to a gubernatorial figurehead � can only lead to wastefulness, bureaucratic clutter and a general decline in work ethic and accountability. The prime minister should certainly sit up to the feeling of demoralization that these ministers of state have voiced and make sure that a failure of courage, and of political will, do not come in the way of a minimalist state.    

Who will win the next war for India? Will it be the army or the navy or the air force which would provide the decisive victory? These are questions that should exercise those entrusted with the responsibility for the defence of the republic. Going by its past experience, there is good reason to believe that India might fight not one, but three wars and yet not obtain a decisive outcome. One might well ask what would amount to a decisive victory in the next war.

India fought a short campaign to recover the mountain heights in Kargil which had been occupied by the Pakistan army in 1999. That short war cost the country over 600 young lives and many more wounded. It provides an interesting insight into the way the Indian war waging processes operate. The intrusions into Indian territory were detected in early May. The army started responding by closing up to the Pakistani positions within days. It took the government a couple of weeks to respond diplomatically and politically with an integrated plan of action. It took some more weeks before the air force was brought into play. The navy took some more time to get into the act by setting forth on high seas towards Pakistan. No one has explained the reasons for the four separate and disparate wars undertaken � by the army, air force, navy and the foreign office. Did the four separate campaigns combine to obtain a decisive outcome? The Kargil Inquiry Report is silent on it, but its observations on this may well have been deleted by the government in �public interest�.

How was the war in 1971 fought? The air force pulverized the Pakistani aircraft in East Bengal in no time at all. However, it went on to fight and win its own war on the western front. Winning the air war remained its primary goal. In the process, it could not combine its operations with the army towards attaining a decisive outcome on the western front. The major offensives which the army launched into Pakistan got bogged into a slogging set of battles and remained inconclusive until the war ended. The focus of the air force on hitting value targets unrelated to the ground operations left the army�s offensives inadequately supported.

The army was equally to blame for not having planned its campaign jointly with the air force. As a consequence, Pakistan, even when hard pre- ssed, could regroup its forces and block the offensives of the Indian strike corps.

In the 1965 war with Pakistan, the outcome was wholly indecisive. In fact, it allowed both sides to claim a victory of sorts. The air force did a fine job of winning the air war against the Pakistani air force. That effectively left the army on its own against Pakistani air attacks on the troops which had raced to capture substantial territory. The pull back of the Indian forces in the Lahore sector, particularly from the Icchogil canal was entirely due to their not having enough fire support. The army and the air force both failed to plan and fight a joint war.

In 1962, the Indian high command chose not to bring its air arm into battle. This was despite aircraft being available in the eastern theatre, from where they had a clear advantage over the Tibet-based Chinese aircraft. The ostensible reason for this decision was not to make the Indian cities vulnerable to air attacks. No one explained why the Chinese would have attacked Indian cities. The Indian troops fought against heavy military odds when they were left to fight without the support of air force. The navy did its job of protecting the sea lanes and shore installations in 1965. It engaged the Pakistani navy and bombed the shore installations in Karachi during the 1971 war. It was a bold operation, but it did not materially contribute to the outcome of the war that had been decided when the Pakistani army surrendered in Bangladesh. The aircraft carrier did not take part in the war at all because it was undergoing its periodic maintenance.

The foregoing short account adequately shows that the three wings of the defence services fought their own campaigns even as they fought the country�s war. There was not enough coordination to either achieve common politico-military objectives or to ensure the attainment of a particular operational purpose. The results were apparent in the totality of indecisive results obtained in the wars. The land offensives did not make the progress expected of them. The air campaigns attained the limited gains of imposing some damage on the adversary, but made no difference to the land forces campaign. The naval campaigns hit the targets on enemy shores, but played no part in the overall outcome of the war.

Wars are waged to obtain territorial gains with which to impose conditions on the adversary. That will be the essential requirement if India is forced to go to war again. If that objective is to be achieved, all efforts need to be directed towards the success of land battles. Land battles are the building blocks of war. They are the inescapable requirements of success. If at the end of a war an air campaign is won and land battles are left undecided, the net outcome would be a defeat. A naval campaign success without victories on the land will also bring about a national defeat. There is therefore need to ponder what constitutes success in a war these days.

Success in a war would be measured by the combined outcome of the army, air and naval campaigns. That outcome should leave the victor in a position to demand compliance from the adversary on the conditions or demands imposed at the end of the war. That position of dominance also ensures that international pressures can be held off until the political objectives are gained. Wars in future are now to be conducted in ever shorter time periods and under very closely controlled conditions. The presence of nuclear weapons on the scene makes it even more necessary to obtain the ends of a war quickly, without crossing the adversary�s tolerance thresholds. What this entails is clarity in deciding the political military objectives of a war, the creation of numerical and material superiority at the point of decision and the termination of war before the nuclear thresholds are reached.

It is apparent that the days of slow tempo to war waging are over. An uncertain outcome at the end of it will amount to a defeat. Worse still, it would bring in its wake an adverse international response whose effects will be longlasting. Victory in the next war would be gained by a closely integrated campaign based on the closest cooperation between the three defence forces. A war fought together by the three defence services can still be won. Three wars fought separately by the services will assuredly gain defeat. In these circumstances to believe that any single service can win the war on its own would be folly. A belief that any service can look at war on its own terms would be a greater folly. It is time to bring about a greater than ever joint approach to fighting wars.

The joint nature of future war demands that a joint services headquarters is needed in India. It then follows that the ministry of defence and the three service headquarters be restructured to fulfil the requirement. That needs a full time chairman of the joint chiefs of staff as in the United States or a chief of defence staff as in Britain. The coordination of security analysis for the cabinet requires that the national security advisor be capable of doing this full time work, without doubling as the prime minister�s principal secretary. Such recommendations are in the pipeline from the task forces appointed by the government after the Kargil Inquiry Report was made public. It now remains to be seen if the government can bring itself to implement the recommendations.

The author is director, Delhi Policy Group and former director-general, military operations    

Alejandro Toledo, the man who would have won the Peruvian election last spring if the president, Alberto Fujimori, had not cheated at every stage of the process, got it exactly right: �Alberto Fujimori�s government will be illegitimate, a source of permanent instability, and I don�t think it can last more than six to twelve months.�

Well, it�s gone. Only six months after he dragged Peru through a huge political crisis in order to win an illegal third term as president, Fujimori has phoned home from Japan to say that he has resigned. In fact, he is probably going to stay in Japan. If he went home, he might end up in jail.

Alberto Fujimori is not a nice man, but he was not your classic Latin American strongman, either. The son of Japanese immigrants to Peru, he came out of nowhere, the darkest of dark horses, to win the presidency in the 1990 election � and took over an impoverished country reeling from the twin scourges of hyper-inflation and a savage guerilla insurgency.

He beat them both and won the gratitude of poor Peruvians who were the chief victims of both phenomena. As one of the protesters at his inauguration for a third term last July said: �If he had gone in 1995, he�d have been remembered as Peru�s best president in history.�

Right hand monster

Fujimori�s key instrument in defeating the guerrillas was a disgraced ex-army officer called Vladimiro Montesinos who created and ran the National Intelligence Service, locally SIN. With a ruthless combination of blackmail, bribery and torture, Montesinos won the intelligence war that is the heart of any guerrilla struggle.

Only a quarter of the 4,000 people who were �disappeared� by the army were killed after Fujimori came to power in 1990, but they included the key leaders of Shining Path. By 1992, the organization�s founder and guiding spirit, Abimael Guzman, was captured and jailed for life. Fujimori also ended the economic chaos of the Eighties by savage cuts in government spending, and in 1995 a grateful nation voted him a second term by a landslide majority.

The problem was that the monster he had created wouldn�t go away. Montesinos sat at the centre of his web, silent and invisible, controlling the military, the judiciary, and the tame Congress with his bribes and his blackmail, and tucking a fortune away for himself. And since this hidden empire could only survive so long as Fujimori stayed in power, he couldn�t be allowed to quit.

Cheap sentiments

There is no evidence that Fujimori had grown weary of power, but Peru�s constitution clearly forbids a third term as president. Would Fujimori have put himself and Peru through the grotesque manipulations necessary to get round that fact � including firing three judges who said he couldn�t change the constitution, and holding an election where the votes cast outnumbered the voters by 1.5 million � if Montesinos hadn�t insisted on it? Nobody knows.

In the end it bought Montesinos little time, for in September, a tape came out that showed him bribing an opposition member of the newly elected Congress to defect to Fujimori�s party. Fujimori�s response was to pull the whole temple down around his ears. He fired Montesinos and closed down SIN. He cut his term short and decreed fresh election in April in which he would not run. He replaced the three armed forces chiefs (all thought to be Montesinos�s men). And then he left the country.

What drove him to do all this? The Canadian diplomat, Peter Boehm, who has been the special envoy of the Organization of American States to Peru during this year�s crisis, suggests that he was looking for a face-saving way to undo some of the damage his reputation has suffered. He paraphrases Fujimori�s position this way: �I�m a Spanish-speaking politician in Latin America, but my entire background is Japanese. I was raised in that culture. My duty and my sense of honour are foremost.�

High-flown sentiments from a man who often behaved like a cheap thug, and whose right hand man was a corrupt and murderous monster. On the other hand, even gangsters in Japan have a Japanese sense of honour. At any rate, he�s gone, and the forthcoming elections will bring Alejandro Toledo to power just one year behind schedule.    

The brutal murder of the tigress, Sakhi, in Hyderabad zoo, once one of the country�s best, has made people in high places sit up and take notice. The Andhra Pradesh chief minister, N. Chandrababu Naidu, condemned it as �an inhuman act�. The prime minister has called for a special report from the Union ministry of environment and forests.

The killing was to obtain the skin of the tigress for a macabre Tantric ritual. Not so long ago, many princes competed with each other to kill 108 tigers, the figure being equal to the number of rosary beads on a rudraksha mala. The demand for the skins and claws still exists and is supplied by a clandestine trade. It is the animals in the wild, and not ones in captivity, that have borne the brunt of the onslaught. The returns are so lucrative and the enforcement systems often so porous that there have been many suggestions to revamp the entire protective network.

One suggestion is to simply break up the existing ministry at the federal level, and separate the functions of protection of forests and wildlife from that of clearances and pollution control. A vast swathe of India, nearly 600,000 square kilometres in all, is today under the control of the forest department. A smaller share of that, about one in four hectares is under the umbrella of wildlife sanctuaries and national parks. The problem today is that the protectors are often rendered ineffective. Hence, it will take more than periodic shock treatment from New Delhi or the state capitals to get them to deliver results.

The proposal made by the tiger expert and wildlife writer, Valmik Thapar, has many takers. It even finds constituency among some dedicated officials. One point they all stress is a valid one. The very network that preserved the green cover, with its flora and fauna, over many decades is now coming apart.

All the infirmities in the system are not administrative or legal. There is a serious, crippling shortage of resources. In half a dozen tiger reserves, one of two posts is unfilled due to the revenue deficit of state governments. Many reserve forests are being stripped of their assets at a rate that prevents any serious bid for renewal. It is an open secret that there are bids in several states for the most lucrative posts, with many men in office conniving with those who break the law.

In one wellknown case in Madhya Pradesh, half a million mature sal trees were felled and carted to the market, ostensibly to prevent the spread of an insect epidemic. Even a committee of scientists and foresters was sought to be browbeaten to endorse the official line. Clear-cutting was only halted by the courts. The case deserves a mention for two reasons. Officials in major positions violated their own department�s guidelines on how to control a pest; secondly, they proceeded to use the excuse of an epidemic to open up the forest as a whole.

Will a new deemed ministry be able to prevent such acts? The very system of preventive action to protect the biological integrity of ecologically critical tracts is now facilitating their exploitation. It is true that the separation of two functions of protection and clearance would be a positive measure. The former would involve keeping nature intact in a smaller space, the latter the overseeing of activities that might be destructive, but can be carried out in a planned manner in areas less ecologically valuable.

But beyond this, it is difficult to see how the kind of forces undercutting conservation would be tamed through such steps. Bold as they seem at first sight, they fall far short on two counts.

One, there is an assumption that the federal government can and will stand above special interest groups. The recent past suggests just the reverse. This summer, the prime minister�s office intervened in a major case in the Kudremukh National Park in Karnataka. The state government was asked to ensure that the notification of the park exclude the mining leases in the area. This, at the precise moment when the leases were due to expire and the soil, land and water could be restored to health. Last year, the prime minister was to lay a foundation stone for a dam within the Great Himalayan National Park in Himachal Pradesh. Though the ceremony was postponed on account of the Kargil conflict, the point is that there is participation in undoing the protective measures from the highest level. National parks cover less then one per cent of the land area and are created through legal enactment. But what is one to do when the lawmakers turn lawbreakers?

Two, there is still a reluctance among many wildlife experts to take the next logical step, towards seeing people who live in and around natural areas as better custodians than distant governments. Several local initiatives have been the decisive element in protecting local ecosystems.

There is, of course, one common thread linking together such grassroots groups. Many activists, who now campaign against poachers and work to create non-violent vigilante forces against the timber mafia, began on a different note. Rajendra Singh in Alwar worked with the renewal of water sources in the parched thorn forests of the Aravallis for two decades. It was only then that he began with struggles against illegal mining and action to save the local wildlife. Similarly, in the Biligiri Rangaswamy hills in Karnataka, Dr Sudrashan�s organization had an impressive track record of healthcare, and only then took up the questions of conservation in association with the Sholiga tribals.

India is vast, and there are few such dedicated groups. But where they do exist, they have first won the trust of the people through difficult, but essential, social work and progressed to wildlife and related conservation issues through that route.

The question ought to be a different one from the one posed by proponents of further ministerial tinkering. How can we learn from and facilitate such initiatives? These can supplant, supplement or at least monitor the efficacy of the crumbling protective network we have today. This would also prevent activists of whatever ilk � rural or urban, social worker or wildlife enthusiast � becoming merely a Trojan Horse for bureaucrats who are ever willing to press for more powers, jobs and funds. It would further help sustain alliances between those farsighted enough to care for nature and those who stand to lose the most from its immediate destruction. Such efforts are now at an embryonic stage but have immense potential.

That there is a crisis is not in doubt. But it is unclear how more powers � and that too, vested in the Union government � can stem the tide. One reason such rampant violations are possible is the poverty and backwardness of the hill and forest areas that contain forests or shelter wildlife. The zamindari of the forest department cannot be protection in itself. In recent years, forest protection committees have managed large areas of degraded forest with some degree of success. These allow for fruits, leaves, lops and tops and twigs to be harvested while limiting those activities that may harm regeneration. Such models cannot be mechanically reproduced in wildlife sanctuaries, much less in national parks. But the spirit does need acknowledgement.

India�s wildlife will be safe only if people on the forest floor have a chance to be partners in its protection. The challenge ahead is not to plug holes in the existing system of governance, but in working towards a new, better way. Proposals to revamp at the top may be considered, but the real change will only come from below.    

Gary Delapenta fell in love with Brandi Barber. When his romantic advances were rejected, he took to the internet for revenge. Using Brandi�s name, address and telephone number, he went into electronic chatrooms and revealed details about her home security system in order to get even with her. Brandi began to receive thousands of phone calls. Strange men started showing up at her doorstep in the dead of night wanting to fulfil her �fantasies�.

This is not a page out of a thriller or a Hollywood blockbuster. This is known as cyber stalking � the digital cousin of an old terror, stalking. Cyber stalkers harness the enormous power of the internet to weave a web of terror around their victims. Its manifestations include threats, sending obscene emails, spreading vicious lies about the victims� lives and electronic sabotage like �email bombs�. Netizens are vulnerable to cyber stalkers in three ways � live chat or internet relay chat, message boards and news groups and email box. Hi-tech stalkers often hide behind false addresses and names and even impersonate other people to evade detection.

Unknown sender

In 1996, United States secret service agents showed up at the Pittsburg-based EnvironLink Network with a copy of a death threat sent to President Bill Clinton via email. It turned out that someone was impersonating the user.

In order to survive stiff competition, corporate organizations are going online. Many companies give their employees internet access. Unfortunately, this has resulted in the misuse of corporate resources for electronic harassment.

Two sisters recently filed a harassment suit against the Intel Corporation. The suit alleges that the sisters were victimized by a colleague when one sister refused to date him. Among other things, the accused accessed the victim�s personal files, monitored her email to find her whereabouts and began to stalk her.

Nailing cyber stalkers is a difficult exercise. A stalker may post a controversial or enticing message on the bulletin board resulting in subsequent responses being sent to the victim. Each message, whether from the actual offender or others, usually has a devastating effect on the victim�s psyche. The lack of direct contact between the cyber stalker and the victim makes it difficult for the authorities to identify, locate and arrest the culprit.

Plug loopholes

Most law enforcers are unaware of the problem. India does not have laws that explicitly cover cyber stalking. Recently, the Delhi police were thrown into a quandary when they had to arrest a person alleged to be cyber stalking a woman. Though this man was booked under section 509 of the Indian Penal Code, none of the conditions stipulated in the said section covered cyber stalking. The much hyped information technology bill 2000 is silent in this regard.

The internet has become a major addition to the stalker�s arsenal. It gives him an almost impenetrable anonymity. He also does not need to physically confront the victim. The US justice department has a few suggestions for people who use the internet. They should pick up electronic names that are gender neutral. Users should never use their real names. Meeting an online acquaintance is not a good idea. If a situation gets out of hand, one should immediately go to the police. All hostile communications should be saved as evidence.    


Deep cleanse

Sir � The steps taken the prime minister in cleaning up the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, where the director himself is allegedly corrupt, raise enormous hopes (�Clean up�, Nov 24). At last, there seems to be some seriousness at the top level about curbing corruption. However, a strict audit as follow up needs to be conducted and vigilance cases on corruption brought under investigation without delay. Also, chargesheets need to be framed in the relevant cases and the cases disposed in departmental courts in a regular manner. This has to be done objectively at the departmental level, while the overall progress is monitored by the ministry concerned and the prime minister�s office. Unless there is a punishment or acquittal within six months, it will be difficult to curb the menace. Similar action is called for at the state level for an effective surveillance. The state vigilance wings however show no signs of being alert on this front as political patronage and bureaucratic favour continue to be active.
Yours faithfully
C.R. Bhattacharjee, Calcutta

Two gods with one stone

Sir � It was irritating to read about the Vishwa Hindu Parishad�s new game (�Foiled VHP eyes Advani�s gate�, Nov 15). One can�t help marvelling at the energy that these men have. As if the Ramjanmabhoomi case, the demolition of the Babri Masjid, the Kashi, Mathura controversies were not enough. Now they have come up with a new claim of having a temple in the place of the Quwwat-ul-Islam . What is most intriguing is the ease with which these people always manage to discover a temple in the major masjids.

Why is the law invariably nebulous in these matters? Why can�t we have clear-cut principles on the basis of which we can assess the claims of the VHP? These men have the audacity to plan a yagna within a masjid�s premises. Whatever happened to secularism?

Yours faithfully,
Sanjib Dasgupta, via email

Sir � Our schoolbooks teach us that India is a conglomeration of different peoples and religions. We imagine ourselves to be the most tolerant people. However, the media gives us an indication of the real picture. According to �Foiled VHP eyes Advani gate�, the VHP claims the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque was built on 27 Hindu and Jain temples. The report brings back memories of the Babri Masjid demolition. It is about time we mustered up the strength to confront such fanaticism before it destroys us completely.

Yours faithfully,
Samita Chatterjee, Calcutta

Sir � The Telegraph appears to have an antipathy towards the sangh parivar. Therefore, it was amusing to see the headline, �Caring face of Advani� (Nov 18). But the mystery of this strange compliment to the arch enemy of India�s �secularism� was solved when one finished reading the first paragraph of the report. The writer has condescended to call Advani a �caring� person simply because the supposedly �pro-active� home minister is willing to hand over hard-earned Indian money to the government of Myanmar for the upkeep of the mausoleum of Bahadur Shah Zafar, Delhi�s last Mughal emperor. One wonders whether this kind of attention would be paid if Advani had provided government funds for the upkeep of the tombs of Shivaji or Maharana Pratap.

Yours faithfully,
Pankaj Anand, New York City, US

Sir � The assertion of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief, K.S. Sudarshan, that the Christian missionaries were using the northeastern states as �strategic areas� to work against India is not without any basis. The mushrooming of Christian missionaries and churches, especially in these areas, point to the nefarious designs of these people. He is also right in calling for an Indianization of Islam and Christianity. These minority communities have always resisted assimilation into the majority culture.

Moreover, what is wrong with the home minister, L.K. Advani, attending an RSS meeting and proclaiming his Hindu identity? We don�t object when the Europeans flaunt their Graeco-Roman heritage. If countries like Germany can have the Christian Democrats forming a political party, surely there is nothing wrong in our having political parties based on religious convictions.

Yours faithfully,
Santosh Kumar Sharma, Kharagpur

Sir � K.S. Sudarshan is always seen wearing a belt. One hopes it is not made of leather. That would be scandalous because no self-respecting Hindu should be caught wearing anything made from cowhide.

Yours faithfully,
G. D�Campo, Burdwan

Set the records straight

Sir � The report, �Dalmia looks for fresh targets� (Nov 2), contains serious misquotations that have grave legal consequences. I wish to clarify the matter and put the record straight.

First, I never said, �They are arguing over facts with me. I feel I did not need to disclose my buying GESCO shares from people whose assets I have been managing as I eventually brought down my holding limit below five per cent within the stipulated period.� We never crossed the five per cent limit at any point of time before October 13. Once we crossed the five per cent limit on that day, we ensured that we informed the company about it as envisaged under the takeover code.

Second, it has been clearly mentioned in our public announcement document that Renaissance was formed with the objective of owning, constructing, developing, improving, managing and operating of commercial and residential complexes, multiplex plazas and business centres and also for making direct and indirect acquisitions of real estate properties. I had mentioned to the writers that Renaissance was formed to explore opportunities in the real estate development arena. Stating that �it was formed for the very purpose of mounting takeover raids� is a gross misrepresentation of facts.

Yours faithfully,
Abhishek Dalmia, via email

Jayanta Roy Chowdhury and Raja Ghoshal reply:

We don�t feel we have misquoted Abhishek Dalmia. However, he seems to have drawn the wrong inferences from the report. He did say that Renaissance Estates Limited had been formed partly to get into the property development business and partly to acquire under its fold other businesses. He never said REL was formed with the sole purpose of mounting a raid on GESCO, nor have we said so.

Second, on the issue of the breach of the five per cent equity acquisition cap, we have not said anywhere that he breached the cap before October 13, the day he disclosed his takeover bid. However, Dalmia seems to have inferred we may be suggesting so.

Dalmia has, after writing the letter, also clarified by telephone to us that he was perhaps unable to explain the technical fine points of this position, which is why there might have been some confusion over the issue. That might, indeed, be the case.

For your information

Sir � The caption accompanying the photograph on page six of the November 19 issue of The Telegraph unintentionally contained wrong information, which can be quite misleading. The Spastics Society of Eastern India has been renamed Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy, with its headquarters in Taratolla, Calcutta. We have 19 affiliate organizations all over India and work very closely with our district partners in all the 17 districts of West Bengal. The information will help us and the public for better and effective communication.

Yours faithfully,
Subhra Chatterjee, head, communication services, Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy

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