Editorial 1 / Lost time
Editorial 2 / Dead letter
Excellence in adversity
Fifth Column / Watch out, the chinese have come
Doing things with words
Listen more carefully to the sounding board
Letters to the editor

The minister for information technology, Mr Pramod Mahajan, has announced, at a seminar on information technology and biotechnology in Pune, that the government will review the proposed convergence bill on December 21 and thereafter, place the draft on the internet on December 25 for comments and suggestions. The choice of December 25 is probably coincidental and has nothing to do with the prime minister�s birthday. Once this bill becomes an act, dysfunctional pieces of legislation like the Indian Telegraph Act (1885), the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act (1933) and the Telegraph Wire Unlawful Possession Act (1950) will be repealed and newer statutes like the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act (1995) and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act (1997) will need amendments. In principle, the convergence act should facilitate India�s transition to an IT superpower and after Malaysia, India will be the second country in the world to enact such legislation. While the principle is fine, it is doubtful that the government appreciates the nuances of convergence and nowhere is this clearer than in muddles over the the telecom policy. The global average for teledensity is 14 lines per hundred population, yet the IT superpower boasts of a teledensity of 2.8 per hundred. This is in part due to the Telecom Regulatory of Authority of India not being truly independent and autonomous and government decisions continuing to artificially favour Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited or Mahanagar Telecom Nigam Limited. In part, muddles are also due to various government departments continuing to artificially distinguish between fixed lines, cell connections and internet-based telephony. There have been reports that the latter will soon be opened up. Differences between these exist in licence fees, entry fees, tariffs and revenue sharing arrangements. In an attempt to boost internet penetration, internet service providers need pay a licence fee of only one rupee and there are more than 300 ISPs.

With broadband and voice over the internet technology, coupled with last mile connectivity through cable, dishnet or direct to home telecast, ISPs will soon be able to offer telephone services, thus making basic telephone lines irrelevant. What happens to basic licence holders then? What happens to cell operators, now that basic providers will be allowed to use local loop technology to provide limited mobility services within a 20 kilometre radius? In July 2000, in a fit of euphoria, the prime minister announced that national long distance telephony would be opened up to private players. However, there continues to be confusion about interconnectivity across circles. Even if the same private company has licences in two contiguous circles, calls will have to be mandatorily routed through BSNL, so that BSNL can reap some rent. There is also confusion within a circle, since it is not clear whether payments will be made to the basic licence holder in the circle where the call originates, or to the NLD licence holder. The national highways authority of India gives permission for laying optic fibre backbones along highways and sets ridiculous stipulations about joint implementation plans by private players, even if they happen to be competitors, and timeframes. It is thus not surprising that many multinationals have opted out.

The obvious answer is to harmonize tariffs, revenue sharing arrangements, entry fees and licence fees across the form of delivery and grant a single convergence licence, coupled with moves to make TRAI truly autonomous. Mr Mahajan will argue that this will be done after the convergence bill becomes an act. But why not do it now and why not rehash the national telecom policy of 1999? The world is not going to wait.


It is only a resolution of sorts; the important issues remain unresolved. The nation welcomes the thawing of the 13-day postal freeze. But the lifting of the strike is hardly indicative of a lasting and satisfactory settlement between the unions and the government. The first unions to relent seem to have done so under considerable pressure. It was a threefold measure � the Delhi high court�s setting of a deadline for ending the strike, the Centre�s declaring of the federations� stand as illegal and the threatening rigours of the Essential Services Maintenance Act. The last, in particular, seems to have worked immediately in Delhi. West Bengal and Kerala, where the ESMA could not be invoked, had resisted the lifting of the strike for significantly longer.

Yet, the exact details of the negotiations between the communications minister, Mr Ram Vilas Paswan, and the federations remain unclear. The demands of the regular employees and of the extra-departmental agents, far from being conclusively met, will now be referred to higher grievance redress bodies, like the national anomaly committee and the group of ministers. It is hoped that these negotiations will prove less disruptive. Perhaps the lesson to be learnt is the importance of promptness and clarity of communication. The Centre should make it clear, without hedging and delays, where it will give in and where it will not budge. Matters should not have to come to such a pass for them to be properly thrashed out. India�s postal services need fundamental restructuring and modernization. The urgent need to pull the entire mechanism out of its antiquated grooves might bring about more friction with the postal department�s unwieldy labour force. The unthinking populism that Mr Paswan has shown in other situations may not be the best way to confront such essentials.


The key factor in development, just about everybody agrees, is a literate population. Even prime ministers of this country, barring possibly the single exception of Indira Gandhi, have, one after another, stressed the point. None of them has followed the precept though. China could wipe out illiteracy in the post-revolution phase within a bare decade. Fidel Castro�s Cuba has raised the level of literacy from 20 per cent during Fulgencio Batista�s time to 90 per cent now. Even Nicaragua, during the Sandinista quinquennium, succeeded to do the trick, lifting the literacy level from five per cent to 80 per cent. After 53 years of independence, the level of literacy in India still wobbles around 50 per cent; the state of women is far, far worse.

That apart, several levels of illiteracy abound. Going by the kind of news and pseudo-news they print day after day, it will be a strain to describe most of our newspapers as literate of any description. But, then, why exclusively blame the newspapers? In this politics-minded nation, newspapers follow the culture of the political tribe. The manner our legislators conduct themselves and our administrations make money through the coarsest means should be convincing evidence that it would be unfair to expect a different norm from the media. The politicians and administrators get away with murder, so too do the newspapers. It is not done to be one-eyed jacks.

Our universities and educational institutions of other species too loll in a comparable cesspool of vulgarity and illiteracy. A large cross-section of universities have, in any case, constituted a pocket borough for unscrupulous ministers and parliamentarians, what they dole out is not knowledge of any species, but drivel.

With a mostly illiterate crowd exercising the reins of power, nearly every facet of society is on a downward slide. Mediocrity becomes the principal characteristic of daily living. Perhaps not even mediocrity, inferiority of a much worse variety captures the commanding heights of civil society; when the commanding heights sneeze, the power valleys catch influenza.

A quiet, diminutive man, P.K. Ghosh, who passed away in Calcutta a fortnight ago, spelled a different universe. He was a literature buff. After completing his studies, he could not make up his mind whether to devote himself to teaching, or migrate elsewhere. For a number of years, Ghosh perambulated here and there. Fairly late in life, he chose to set up a printing press, the money for which was provided by affluent relatives. It was a printing press of the ordinary mould, and yet with a difference.

At the time he interested himself in the printing business, the country was backward in all senses. The letterpress was the staple means of type-setting; lithography, linocut, offset and gravure printing were vaguely known to the trade, but the totality of the situation in the country had to be taken into account. The level of national literacy was, at that stage, less than 30 per cent. The demand for books � mostly textbooks to cater to school, college and university education � was extremely limited. Serious literature was read by not even one per cent of the population. Besides, that market was divided into publications in twenty-odd languages.

Ghosh�s Eastend Press catered, by choice, exclusively to printing in English. It was therefore an additionally constricted territory. Ghosh was nonetheless not deterred. It was a crude, lustreless society, quality was not on the premium. But, for Ghosh, printing was as much a mission as a profession. He would � he did not have the least doubt in his mind � insist on advancing the cause of quality and quality alone.

A couple of decades, and he revolutionized letterpress printing in the country. The relatives who had originally financed him had meanwhile suffered financial vicissitudes. He, therefore, was not able to arrange the resources necessary for crossing over to either linotype or offset printing, and who does not know, the banks in the country are an exceedingly retrograde, reactionary lot, with imagination completely banished from their tills.

What was a constraint P.K. Ghosh turned into an advantage. He picked his types with meticulous care, visiting smithies and forgemen in remote Calcutta slums, spending hours with them, advising and exchanging information and suggestions. Beautiful type-sets were the result. That was his way out since funds were limited; moreover, imports were difficult because of foreign exchange restrictions.

But the search for quality types was only the beginning. He would economize on other raw materials too, he would improvise on equipment, he would himself labour for long hours inside the dingy printing press arena, soiling his hands, encouraging his workers to do better and still better. That was however only one aspect of his missionary zeal. He would choose the manuscripts he would agree to print with great discrimination. Run-of-the-mill publishers he would politely turn away. He would also refuse to accept indifferent texts which established publishers would sometimes like to palm off on him. In that sense, he was a snob. He would have regular arrangements with only a few publishing firms, whom he would pick with care. But, then again, he would not deal with the firms alone. If he had respect and regard for the scholastic attainments of an individual author, he would go out of his way to print his books.

For P.K. Ghosh was no ordinary printer. He kept abreast of the latest developments in printing technology. He might have been bound by the bondage of the letterpress, but he knew everything about the nuances of editing and production. He knew which type-face and type-size went with what kind of publication. While printing, he would see to it that the impression of ink was even, and the spacing between words was punctiliously measured. He also knew where and how to break up a particular word which could not be accommodated in full in the left-over length of a given line.

These were, however, only artifices of bare printing. P.K. Ghosh was not an ordinary printer. He was, at the same time, an editor, an adviser and a scholar rolled into one. He would not flinch from admonishing the author of a manuscript if the style happened to be slipshod or verbose. On many occasions, he would teach an aspiring, or even an established, writer the etiquette of style. To a university teacher with scholastic pretensions, he would explain in what cases the spelling had to be �Shakespearean� and where it would be �Shakespearian�. He had enough idea in regard to the potential market for a publication and would advise the publishers accordingly. He would also advise them as well as the author on what would be the appropriate title for an intended publication.

It would be inexcusable not to mention the rounds and rounds of proof-reading he would compel himself to undergo and compel the authors as well. He was nonetheless generous enough not to charge any extra fees for such additional proof-reading. He was perfectly aware that it was his own reputation he was protecting and his own pride he was nurturing.

The Eastend Press was a small concern and Ghosh would agree to print only a limited number of works every year. The business was not money-spinning in any sense, but it satisfied his love for quality. It was an underdeveloped country. Calcutta, in the post-independence period, was already a backwater, perhaps even an academic backwater. But Ghosh wanted to prove a point: even within the humble parameter that he controlled, even in the descending darkness encircling him, it was possible to display excellence and perform well. His reputation spread beyond the country; even foreign publishers, including the Clarendon Press, wanted him to print their books. He did, but he was not an ambitious man in the monetary sense. He was choosy, even as his publishers chose him. It was, therefore, a great communion.

Neither India nor its rulers were aware of it, but Ghosh made the country proud. The books and other publications he printed, the letterpress notwithstanding, had been recognized over the years as extraordinarily superior creations. P.K. Ghosh did not make money; he still had a sense of fulfilment. As the years rolled, he watched the printing technology pass him by, even as the book fairs did. He knew the days of the Eastend Press were numbered. It did not however diminish his quota of satisfaction. At least in a little corner of this odd, haggard society of ours, he had established the sovereign domain of quality; quality was the only thing he dealt with.

Not just the computer revolution in printing technology, but a family tragedy too wore him down in recent years. In early December, this man, Prabhat Kumar Ghosh, died in his Calcutta house quietly, as quietly as he had lived. Only one newspaper in the city took notice of the fact, at the bottom of the seventh column on the sixth page, in barely five lines. P.K. Ghosh, a great printer, a great scholar and a man proud of his literacy, had done his duty by this country and by the world. He has now disappeared. The rest will be silence.


Lately, there has been a hue and cry about whether we should remain silent spectators to the fact that China is flooding Indian markets with cheap goods. If we look through the myopic perspective of the ordinary consumer, it is a big relief that Indian consumers are finally getting goods of sufficiently satisfactory quality at reasonable prices. For instance, the price of foreign compact fluorescent lamps is less than half the price of Indian lamps made under well-established brandnames and of comparable quality.

Naturally, Indians are finding it more sensible to opt for these high quality and cheap consumer goods being supplied by China and other countries and are refusing to buy substandard Indian ones.

Under these circumstances, it is understandable that the various industries are alarmed by a sudden loss of their markets and possible bankruptcy. A dispassionate analysis would suggest that in an age when there has been a tremendous explosion of communications technology, the world is shrinking and progressively becoming a single, unified market. No country can reasonably expect to perpetuate their closed door policies in the changing scheme of things. But a change in policies must be judiciously planned and systematically implemented. In the Indian case, this has not happened.

Sensible options

Consumers are fast becoming aware of the availability of various alternatives to choose from while buying. They are also being increasingly exposed to efficiency and quality that foreign companies provide in terms of both goods and services.

India�s traditional manufacturing industries have been reaping profits at the cost of both the consumers and the workers till the early Sixties. This was the time when the workers started to get organized under the banners of various trade unions and finally began to take some assertive stances.

The early Nineties saw the beginning of a new era of so-called liberalization. A majority of the non-left parties in tandem with numerous industrial associations and some rightwing economists began supporting the idea of globalization.

And this obsession with globalization was accompanied by covert attempts to misdirect trade unionism into the intricacies of regionalism and communalism. In the absence of any proper ideological cohesion and of any secure political leadership, these misdirections have, to a large extent, been successfully conducted.


India, with its multicultural society, has its own difficulties that have to be dealt with in a way that is sensitive to Indian realities. Economic development here has to be conducted on completely different lines and not on the basis of traditional Western models. A model aimed at providing social stability in terms of employment for the masses and other similar considerations have to be kept in mind.

In the new economic model, with the advent of information technology, a new class has emerged, which, on the one hand has taken wages in some sectors to dizzying levels, and on the other, has reduced the growth of employment for the middle classes. Thus, globalization has had different effects on the different economic classes in India. In the course of this new obsession, policies have been randomly formulated and indiscriminately implemented.

For example, even profitable concerns have allured their employees into the new lucrative voluntary retirement schemes. The result has been that competent people are taking advantage of this and leaving their jobs for better ones.

Other sectors of the economy have also suffered because of the lack of foresight in policy formulation. For instance, if one looks at the non-performing assets of the nationalized banks, it will be clear that nationalized banks have been systematically looted to facilitate profits for large corporate houses.

The enthusiasm about the government�s globalization policy had initially been welcomed with euphoria by many industries. But now, when these industries have faced the onslaught of globalization in their own backyards, in the form of Chinese products, they are once again pleading the Indian government for protectionism and a reverse swing into older policies. This hypocrisy is unpardonable.


As a late autumn sun warms the red tiles of G�nter Grass�s getaway in Casais, Portugal, northern Germany could not seem farther away. Yet, even in this isolated corner of southern Portugal, where the author escaped a year ago to prepare his Nobel address to the Swedish Academy, where he vacations every summer with his grandchildren, where he now fills his afternoons painting watercolours, Grass never quite leaves Germany. His �strenuous homeland,� as he likes to call it, is the principal theme of his literature. It is his favourite topic of conversation. It is also the frequent target of his wrath.

Germany, of course, is no less haunted by Grass. Since the publication of The Tin Drum in 1959 turned him into a household name at the age of 32, he has gone out of his way to lecture, even hector, his fellow Germans on their past and present failings. He has done so in novels, plays and essays as well as in political speeches and newspaper articles. And all too often he has said what many people did not want to hear.

When his latest novel, Ein Weites Feld, was published in German in 1995, he provoked a fresh scandal by portraying German unification in 1990 as West Germany�s de facto occupation of East Germany. Naturally, Grass was unrepentant. Attacks on the book � including a photograph on the cover of Der Spiegel, the mass circulation news weekly, showing a wellknown literary critic tearing up the novel � helped sales reach 350,000 in one year. Five years later, with the book finally appearing in the United States under the title Too Far Afield, this 1999 Nobel laureate in literature feels further vindicated: he believes that time has proved him right.

�The reality is much darker than I presented it,� said Grass, peering over half-moon glasses and puffing on his trademark pipe. �The wall has gone, but Germany is still divided. People in the East were happy in 1989 when the wall came down, but then the West Germans arrived like colonizers. They didn�t accept that the East Germans had a different biography, that they had gone from Hitler to Stalin, that they had never had a democratic experience.�

�They had to live their own lives,� he went on. �But West Germans said, �Forget about it. It was all a mistake. Now do as we did in the West and you will be happy.� But we didn�t know each other and we still don�t know each other. The ignorance in the West makes it very difficult. Further, West Germany now owns East Germany. This is a terrible kind of colonization, and it will go on. So what I try to show in my novel is how it began, its criminal beginnings.�

In its central political message, the 658-page book targets Treuhand, the government body charged with privatizing or shutting down thousands of East German companies after unification. Translated in English as the Handover Trust, it is presented in Too Far Afield as a heartless instrument of capitalism that put millions of East Germans out of work and handed over the economic remnants of the communist regime to avaricious West German investors. �Treuhand worked for four years without any democratic control,� Grass said.

The novel�s literary embrace, however, is far wider. At one level, it tells its story through two former East German government workers: Theo Wuttke, erudite, eccentric and dreamy, who had been a guide and a lecturer at the cultural union; and Ludwig Hoftaller, Wuttke�s �day-and-night shadow�, who had worked as a spy for the Stasi. Both now 70, they end up with jobs in the Handover Trust.

But the novel also works on other levels. Wuttke, for instance, is not only an expert on the 19th-century historian and novelist, Theodor Fontane (who is referred to here only as �The Immortal�), but he also identifies with Fontane to the point of being known as Fonty and of frequently reliving this writer�s life. Hoftaller�s personality, on the other hand, merges with that of Tallhover, a 19th-century spy for the Prussian empire and its successor, the Second Reich.

Grass, in turn, uses Fontane-Wuttke and Tallhover-Hoftaller and their collective memories to lead readers through Germany�s convulsed history from its first unification in 1871 to its second unification in 1990. Some of this is symbolized by the Treuhand headquarters in former East Berlin. Built for the Nazis� air ministry, it was called the House of Ministries under communism and, after Treuhand had done its work, it became the country�s new finance ministry.

Reviewing Too Far Afield in The New York Times Book Review on November 5, James Sheehan described it as �a quieter, gentler book� than The Tin Drum and �far more interesting and accessible� than Grass�s �self-indulgent� novels of the Seventies and the Eighties. �It is the work of a seasoned craftsman,� he wrote, �certain of what he wants to do, completely in control of his gifts.�

At centrestage throughout the book is Berlin, a city that was home to Grass for 35 years until he moved to L�beck, a northern city, in 1995. During his long years in West Berlin, he rarely visited the East. He was declared persona non grata there after the publication of his 1966 play, The Plebeians Rehearse the Uprising, about the 1956 workers� revolt in East Berlin. Then, when the wall came down, he immediately began travelling in East Germany.

�I had always believed in the possibility of unification, but from the beginning, I said we have to go slowly and carefully�, he recalled. �But Helmut Kohl was interested only in winning the 1990 election. East Germany had paid more for the lost war than West Germany. We had the Marshall Plan, freedom, a mild occupation. They had the Soviet Union. We had to share the burden. But Kohl was afraid of raising taxes. So we destroyed the East German economy.�

Even here, sipping white wine on the shaded terrace of his Portuguese home, this writer never lets go. He denounces Germany for turning away asylum-seekers. He accuses mainstream German politicians of encouraging the extreme right by criticizing immigration from the third world. He also worries that younger German writers do not speak out. �The line for young writers is, �Don�t touch politics��, he said. ��Only tell your story. Look to American literature.� Many young writers are influenced by American writers, not always the best. And they are afraid to touch political problems. Then they are astonished when they are victims of political developments. For me, politics is a terribly important part of reality. If I ignore it, that is also a political action.�

Unlike many younger writers, of course, Grass has had his own life shaped � or rather misshapen � by politics. Born in 1927 in the port of Danzig (now Gdansk in Poland), he was 12 when the city was incorporated into the Third Reich in 1939. Like other children, he was a member of the Hitler Youth and, at 16, was recruited into the army, only to be captured in 1945 and held prisoner for almost a year. He was then released into a devastated Germany.

His first dream was to become a sculptor, but when he sought entry into the fine arts academy in D�sseldorf, a friendly professor told him to return a year or two later. �The school had no coal for heating, so he told me to find a job as a stone mason,� Grass recalled. �It was very good advice: not to begin with artwork but with gravestones. They are always needed. Also, the farmers would pay for the gravestones with potatoes or half a pig, so we had food.�

Finally he was able to study art, first in D�sseldorf, then in Berlin, where he joined an avant garde circle known as Gruppe 47. It was also in Berlin that Grass first tried his hand at poetry.

�Then one of the older writers of Gruppe 47 said to me, �You have to stop playing the artist, you have to be confronted with some resistance to find what you really have to write about� �, Grass said. �I told him about my background in Danzig and he said, �Write about it.� I had never thought about writing a novel. It will be my first and last novel, I presumed.�

The result was the picaresque novel, The Tin Drum, which, with his subsequent Cat and Mouse and Dog Years, became known as the Danzig trilogy and established Grass as the foremost German writer of his generation. No less significantly, in The Tin Drum � through the testimony of three-year-old Oskar Matzerah, who stopped growing � Grass revived the spectre of the Nazi years in a Germany that was eager to forget.

Since then, Grass�s life has consisted of a long battle against political amnesia. He accepts his own guilt for the past (�I belonged to the Hitler Youth and I believed in its aims up to the end of the war��) but recognizes that a problem arises with many young Germans. �I see this with my own children and grandchildren�, he said. �I tell them, �You are not guilty, but you have to take care that things like that never happen again.� That�s all. And that�s enough. They have the memory.�

In the angry debate that preceded the recent decision to build a Holocaust memorial in Berlin, unsurprisingly, Grass also had an opinion: he was opposed to a memorial dedicated only to Hitler�s Jewish victims. �They are separating the Jews, just as the Nazis did�, he said, �It is a mistake. There should be a memorial to all the victims of the Nazis; Jews, of course, but also 500,000 gypsies, hundreds of thousands of Poles and Russians, everyone.�

Ever the maverick, always the outsider, Grass is, of course, used to being impugned. �It�s fun for some critics to attack me�, he said with a chuckle. Indeed, when he finally won the Nobel prize in literature (he had long been a contender), it was also read as an endorsement of his political bluntness. �In public debate, he is a source of strength and of irritation�, the Swedish Academy noted admiringly.

For Grass, though, the Nobel prize was a reward for a lifetime of writing, from The Tin Drum to Too Far Afield. Further, he observed, he has always firmly rejected the idea that a writer can serve as a nation�s conscience.

�You cannot delegate your conscience to writers or anyone else�, he said, �I don�t speak out because I am a writer. My profession is a writer, but I speak out because I am a citizen. I think the Weimar Republic collapsed and the Nazis took over in 1933 because there were not enough citizens. That�s the lesson I have learned. Citizens cannot leave politics just to politicians.�


Calcutta once produced the best brains in the country and represented the nation abroad. But over the past decade there has been a gradual downslide in West Bengal�s education scenario. A recent report on the state�s secondary board of education reflects the appalling condition and highlights why people are losing faith in the education system.

The report states that many renowned schools of Calcutta are switching over to Indian council of secondary education and central board of secondary education affiliations from the West Bengal board of secondary education. Not that the school authorities are keen on this change. They are being compelled to do so by the students who feel that the state board is too backdated and that they need an immediate change to compete with students from the rest of the country. More and more students are now opting to move to other states after their class X examinations. Those who stay back prefer a board that is accepted globally and prepares students for technical and competitive examinations.

Results of various competitive examinations at the all-India level also show that students from West Bengal have fared poorly over the past few years.

Poor show

This is not their fault. If a student is not equipped enough to handle the examinations, it is the system of education in the state that is to blame. This holds especially true for the West Bengal secondary board which encourages a form of teaching that misses out on the basics and loses particularity.

Famous city schools that feature in the Madhyamik merit list every year feel the time has come for a change. As students in one such school, which gives them the option to choose between the WBBSE and ICSE, invariably opt for the latter, the authorities have given up the former. Thus students have sent out a clear message. The state board should think over its shortcomings. The reasons for this attitude are not difficult to assess. The syllabi are dated and has not been revised for years. Even the books do not include recent topics. This is more true for the science stream where new discoveries are being made every other day.

Views also change with time. Yet students under the West Bengal board still have to mug up old theories. For example global issues like cloning, AIDS, new viruses and bacteria are missing in the biology syllabus. But questions in most competitive exams refer to these recent issues.

Question hour

The syllabus also lacks versatility. Students are kept in the dark on subjects like economics, civics and literature till class X.

The way of answering questions leaves much to be expected. Questions of competitive exams are focussed on particular subjects and are usually of the objective or multiple choice type. However, the state board prefers essay type answers. A student is frequently asked to write a note on the freedom struggle of India or on the life and works of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. He can easily be less informed than those who have to answer 10 separate objective questions on the same topics.

Another major problem is the English syllabus. Even in classes IX and X, the subject is taught in a vague manner. Knowledge on the subject can never be thorough unless a student takes the trouble of reading literature on his own. Improper grasp over the English language makes it difficult for the student to understand other subjects properly. Most of the texts in science are written in English.

If the WBBSE continues with this obsolete system of education, the students of the state will continue to suffer and lose out to others in the rat race ahead.



Catch �em now

Sir � The arrest of Nazim Hassan Rizvi, the producer of the film, Chori Chori Chupke Chupke, has formally exposed something that was common knowledge, the nexus between the Mumbai film industry and the underworld (�Film producer with mob link arrested, murder plot cracked�, Dec 14 ). Filmmaking is a business of staggering size from the point of view of the amount of money that goes into it, and it is anybody�s guess where this money comes from. That three of the top stars of Mumbai filmdom are on the hit list of the underworld is frightening news. Apparently, anyone who refuses to act in accordance with the wishes of the underworld bosses has to pay for it, as Rakesh Roshan found out in January this year. Although Rizvi has been booked under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act, it is doubtful whether justice will be done, given the size and weight of the underworld circle. The existence of this law will not help unless a fullfledged investigation is carried out to nab the underworld bosses.
Yours faithfully,
Anjana Mitra, Calcutta

Secular games

Sir � Viewed against the backdrop of the forthcoming assembly elections in West Bengal, the Trinamool Congress leader, Mamata Banerjee, seems to be pinning her hopes on the minority votebank to make it to the chief minister�s chair (�Mamata to keep BJP on toes�, Dec 17). Her attempts to convince the Muslim community of her leanings in the iftar party organized by Sultan Ahmed by saying she will disapprove of any endeavour relating to the building of the Ram mandir in Ayodhya is an addition to the list of her desperate efforts to coax this vote bank.

However, her calculations may not work according to her expectations. Trying to get too close to a particular section of the society may take her far away from the others. Her recent announcement that she will provide reservations for the minorities (if she comes into power) and her complete disregard for the Constitution are surprising.

It is clear that occupying the Writers� Buildings was always the ultimate dream for Banerjee. But she will not be able to capture it with minority votes alone. West Bengal does have a large number of Muslim voters. But she should not forget that other parties in the state would also work hard to woo the same voters. A division of votes is bound to occur.

As far as secular pretensions are concerned, there seems to be not much difference between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Trinamool Congress. If the BJP is furthering Hindutva, then the Trinamool Congress is also nurturing Islam for the sake of politics. The repeated attempts to please the Muslim community have ruined the secular image of Banerjee�s party. To regain it, Banerjee must think over her strategy.

Yours faithfully,
Rajesh Kumar Sharma, Kankinara

Sir � The so-called secular parties are talking too much about the minority community. Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal are going for the assembly elections soon. So, Muslims in these states are being targeted as prospective voters. Is there any party to talk in favour of majority community? Remember, Dalits, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and other backward classes too come under the umbrella of the majority community.

Can one really divide the society into majority and minority communities on the basis of religion in a secular set up? Projecting a section of society as minority or majority is anti-secular and anti-constitutional. Pseudo-secular forces revive the Ayodhya issue every year in December just to keep their vote banks intact. Democracy represents the majority, but pseudo-secular politicians want it to stand for the minority.

Yours faithfully,
V.A. Gopala, Bangalore

Sir � We have the prime minister and the leader of the opposition competing with each other to regale Muslims at the end of the month of Ramadan with sumptuous food. We have a cabinet minister hollering her offers to the community if it gives its votes to her. Do the politicians take Muslims for a pack of hungry animals? When will they stop taking the community for granted?

Yours faithfully,
M. Khan, Calcutta

Bank muddle

Sir � There are serious protests in the Congress against the broadening of equity base of banks where management would rest with the government. But politicians are yet to spell out their apprehensions in clear terms. A few within the party support the cause of restructuring capital base with finances coming from private sources. The majority is now active in blocking all attempts of the government in this regard. One of the many factors for the ill health of nationalized banks is attributable to politicians� organizing of �loan melas� for distributing public money. This is a squandering of public money.
Yours faithfully,
C.R. Bhattacharjee, Calcutta

Sir � It causes deep concern among employees of public sector banks to see their unions and associations not having the courage to challenge the government with regard to privatization or voluntary retirement schemes. Strikes only harm the common man and not the government. This weakness is preventing the government from reviewing the matter seriously.

For the last few years, union leaders have always dithered over taking the ultimate step of going on an indefinite strike. Yet other unions, such as that of the postal and telecommunications department, have opted for hard measures to force the government to rethink.

This clearly shows that the unions are stooges of the government. In fact an opinion poll among employees who have been forced to take the VRS will reveal how little they appreciate the services rendered by the unions of which they have been members.

Yours faithfully
Krishna Kumar, Chennai

Just a party

Sir � In The Telegraph, a bit of gossip appeared about my �haranguing� the guests at a dinner party regarding a public interest litigation for Ajay Jadeja (�Coming to his rescue�, Dec 17). I wish to make it absolutely clear that I did no such thing. If a pleasant social evening with friends I have known for many years, long before anyone became the so-called �beautiful people� of Delhi, gets converted into lies and gossip by journalists who were not even at the dinner, it only goes to show how sick our socializing and the media have become.
Yours faithfully,
Jaya Jaitly, New Delhi

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