Editorial 1 / Wrong tutorial
Editorial 2 / Fire power
Inscrutable confidence
Ffth Column / Grappling with the seige within
A peek into a complex scenario
Survival in an age
Letters to the editor

On paper, the Congress is the only party which has a trained and wellknown economist in a position to guide economic policy. One thinks here, of course, of Mr Manmohan Singh. But by the look of it, Mr Singh has very little influence on Congress thinking on economic policy and economic reforms. What the Congress thinks about the Indian economy and its future was articulated by no less a person than Ms Sonia Gandhi when she chose to speak at the annual session of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry. From all accounts, Ms Gandhi spoke well and with a dash humour but her rhetorical skills did not lead to a clearer understanding of her party�s position on the most vital issue affecting the country�s future. Ms Gandhi reiterated her party�s commitment to reform. But she immediately diluted this commitment by adding the qualifier that reforms had to be pro-poor. This is a throwback to the slogan of reforms with a human face which, in the middle Nineties, had stalled reforms under Mr P.V. Narasimha Rao and had short-circuited the logic of all that Mr Singh had begun. Ms Gandhi is raising this bogey out of political interests. She wants to embarrass the National Democratic Alliance government by showing that its economic policies are not aimed at alleviating poverty. Ms Gandhi told her listeners that her party would not obstruct legislation seen to be in the national interest but as the party in opposition, it was the Congress�s duty to oppose the party in power.

This rhetoric has the virtue of being little more nuanced than the usual arguments that are doled out. But its merit should be measured against the actual record of the Congress. The Congress is opposed to the denationalization of banks and to the rationalization of power in Andhra Pradesh. It stands against the reduction of subsidies. These items add up to opposition to economic reforms. That Ms Gandhi is not looking forwards was obvious from the ridicule she directed at the present government for being obsessed with information technology. She is unaware that IT offers to India a tremendous opportunity to be a world player in software. She also has the mistaken idea that emphasis on IT inevitably leads to a neglect of traditional manufacturing industries. The new can, in fact, complement the old. The two are not necessarily in contention.

What is most important and unfortunate is that the Congress is withdrawing from its own turf. The Congress pioneered economic reforms in India. The prime minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, is in fact following in the Congress� footsteps. He has rushed in where the Congress refuses to tread any more. Not only is Ms Gandhi�s economic thinking misdirected, her political sense is naive. She has failed to capitalize on the fact that Mr Vajpayee is only working on what is the Congress�s agenda. Knowing very well that Mr Vajpayee, for a number of reasons, is hamstrung and incapable of moving fast with reforms, Ms Gandhi should criticize him from her position as the leader of the party which piloted the first phase of reforms. Instead, she has fallen back on a hackneyed and anti-reform populism. Ms Gandhi has in her camp one man who claims to have taught political science in a mofussil college in West Bengal and another who holds degrees in economics from two of the world�s oldest and leading universities. She has chosen the mofussil to the world and politics to economics.


Orders to comply with fire safety norms come cheaper by the dozen. And so they have, so far. But after the devastating fires since Sunday, there has been a slight change of emphasis. The West Bengal government has warned landlords and owners of commercial establishments and old markets that they will have to pay a penalty if they call in firemen to fight fires in these places. The idea is to ensure compliance with fire safety norms, a step that had never been taken earlier. This shift of emphasis, however, implicates both sides � the owner of the marked out buildings and the administration � in the responsibility. This is perfectly fair, given that the negligence has been on both sides too.

It is no use, now that such terrible damage has been wreaked in two old markets and a commercial building, to turn around and accuse firemen and the government of inefficiency, as the Trinamool Congress leader, Ms Mamata Banerjee, and the mayor of Calcutta, Mr Subrata Mukherjee, have done. No doubt the government can be held morally responsible for the condition of some of the older structures in the city. The administration never implemented measures based on reports it had ordered � witness the fate of the last expert panel report on fire safety which had identified 1,000 buildings in Calcutta as fire prone. But the heartening feature this time is that the government is speaking up. Illegal connections for electricity, stocking of inflammable material without adequate safeguards, the refusal to pay for upgradation of safety measures � these are things the owners and traders have to change for themselves. The administration�s commitment to a higher degree of responsibility is allied to this. Committees to probe fires � like the one being set up for the Canning Street market � are not new. Yet there is some hope this time that its findings will not simply gather dust on the shelf. The work of the committee will now be supplemented by an areawise survey of fireprone buildings conducted by the municipal affairs department. What, specifically, the government has taken upon itself by its warning to landlords is a commitment to monitorchanges and implement recommendations. Calcutta might become less inflammable if both sides take their responsibilities seriously.


A new Atal Behari Vajpayee has stepped out of the wings, as one unafraid to tell it the way it is. At the heart of the new, more strident tone of Hindutva�s chief strategist are two inter-related, but distinct, beliefs about the polity. One, that the Bharatiya Janata Party can get away with what it wants. Second, that the allies and the opposition are both divided, weak and inept. The former can do what it likes as long as it keeps off the turf of its regional allies. The partners will squeal a bit, protest a lot and make brave speeches but do no more. They will speak of not ceding an inch but in practice are ready to yield a mile.

Why not, then, push ahead with the programme and policies of a genuine Hindutva government? �Why not, indeed?� one might ask. But this is not an easy question to answer. In fact, all the signals from key allies point in a rather different direction. The premier party, after all, has only 183 seats in the Lok Sabha. When the chips are down, only three parties have an embrace with the saffron lot over the ups and downs of the last four years in Indian politics. The Akali Dal has nowhere else to go and had a foretaste of the electorate�s anger last year in Punjab. George Fernandes, who testified to L.K. Advani�s sorrow as of December 6, 1992, and has forgotten his own emotional speeches on Ayodhya, will stick on. Of his party, one is less sure than before. The Shiv Sena thinks the Advanis and the Vajpayees of the world have gone soft on the minorities, but will play tag. Ram Vilas Paswan and his little Dalit army will wait their turn.

It is difficult, very difficult, for the other allies to stay silent while Vajpayee outplays his home minister with the use of the saffron card. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam faces early assembly polls and is worried about what the 10 per cent of the voters in Tamil Nadu who are Christian or Muslim will do. Mamata Banerjee has similar fears and is distancing herself from her colleagues.

As the only member of Parliament who sat on hunger strike against the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act during the P.V. Narasimha Rao regime, an anti-Hindutva stand would revive old memories of her as a secular crusader. The Telugu Desam Party feels short-changed and is speaking out strongly against the Centre�s stepmotherly attitude to floods and drought in Andhra Pradesh. Add all of these and you get a respectable total of 68 MPs, if the Biju Janata Dal and Om Prakash Chautala�s Haryana Vikas Party are included.

Of course, things are moving faster towards a temple at Ayodhya than many had imagined. A few weeks ago, it seemed a distant dream or nightmare, depending on your point of view. But even the BJP president, Bangaru Laxman, has put away his �let�s be friends with Muslims� speeches and is wagging a finger at the Supreme Court. The prime minister set the ball rolling with a speech in Statten Island where he said he was a swayamsevak first and last. His espousal of the temple as a nationalist cause and his stout defence of his chargesheeted ministers have won him encomiums within the extended family of the saffron brigade. But there seems an irresolvable contradiction between this track and the one charted out in the national agenda of governance.

One seeks to advance an ideologically charged notion of Indian nationhood as inherently Hindu; the other simply side-stepped the issue. It did not discuss the subject but evaded a debate. In 1998, the alliance was less vocal and published no joint manifesto. All that they had was a seat-sharing arrangement. In 1999, there wass no mention at all of the three contentious issues: Article 370, Muslim personal law and Ayodhya. The BJP now wants to revert to part of its 1998 manifesto, but with the allies it stitched together a year later. Should it succeed, the partners might as well become bit players in a saffron-scripted drama. They will be able to speak, but only if they allow themselves to be gagged on the all too wide-ranging issues of �cultural nationalism�.

But it is still unclear what makes the prime minister so confident of himself. Perhaps it is the relative weaknesses of various alliance partners who face challenges of their own. Many are at loggerheads with a common adversary, the Congress. Some like the Trinamool Congress may have to sacrifice a slice of power at the Centre if they were to part. Others face an uncertain future in the post-National Democratic Alliance phase.

Further, there seems no other card the BJP has left to play in the run-up to the elections in Uttar Pradesh. There are the pressures from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad led by a man whose organizational energy and zeal more than matches that of the BJP. The temple issue has the added advantage of papering over all the divides in the party, of caste and class, personality and community. Taking a leaf out of the book of the Congress minister, Buta Singh, the VHP will probably commence construction adjacent to the disputed site. They will create a fait accompli just as the shilanyas of November 1989 created one.

Far from moderates and extremists being at loggerheads, each of these is essential for the success of the game plan. One will keep us all talking, while the other goes to work. And the umbrella of state power in the national capital and in Lucknow will keep out any troublemakers who interfere. The timing and nature of such action is still unknown, but it is clearly on the anvil, and will provoke a response across the spectrum.

In the process, there will be three casualties. The governments in Lucknow and New Delhi are unlikely to outlast such a dramatic event. Further, contrary to confident predictions of a surge in the BJP�s own vote bank, bereft of its allies, it will be out of the reckoning in several states that have enabled it to arrive at its present tally.

Finally, the India of 2001 may be very different from the one in which the rath yatra traversed the roads from Somnath to Ayodhya. The party, too, has now been in power and will be weighed not only in the name of Ram but also with its own record in office. Price rises and power shortages, water scarcity and the state of agriculture, urban decay and the shrinkage of manufactures will all work their way into the debate. Ram, the party imagines, will cure all. But the card may fall flat on the face, leaving a smaller, depleted party, while other players seize the opportunity.

Is all this idle talk? Well, not entirely. After all, few had anticipated the demolition of December 6, 1992, and even then the immediate fallout of the agitation for the BJP was negative. But then the party is not a classic right of centre formation wedded to free markets. Nor is it in transition, whatever well-wishers may say, from a party associated with a movement into a force for order able to abide by the rules of the game. It is still the wing of a movement whose fount lies in Nagpur. There is nothing shadowy about all this. The present course of events followed the huge shakha of the RSS at Agra, and the call to fight anti-Hindu forces made from that platform.

As long as they eschewed extreme positions, the BJP and its leaders could keep the allies with them. Now, the drift has begun and unless arrested, it can have only one outcome. In the new showdown, the party will emerge more isolated than before. And the temple card may be the catalyst to unify and energize an opposition that has been divided for so long.

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

Expediency sports multifarious garbs for politicians, especially in states like Manipur, where a constitutional deadlock is fairly routine. The scenario today is particularly unenviable. The nine month old W. Nipamacha Singh government is in dire straits, not only politically, but financially and administratively as well.

The chief minister has to literally keep his flock together by locking them up in his own home to check defections. Manipur�s coffers are so depleted that government staff are not being paid their salaries. Even the governor, Ved Marwah, whose salary is paid by the Centre, has gone unpaid since November, like the chief minister, Nipamacha, his ministers and even the bureaucrats.

The Centre is in no mood to relent since the state has run up an overdraft touching Rs 500 crore. Despite this, Nipamacha flew his ministers to Calcutta recently to keep them away from the lure of the opposition which is out to unseat the present government.

It takes no great stretch of imagination to realize where the money has gone. A recent report to Union home minister, L.K. Advani, has alleged that ministers and politicians were floating nongovernmental organizations to divert a sizeable chunk of government funds. Secondly, contracts are brazenly �gifted� to militants or their intermediaries, who use these sums to further their own ends. So the Union finance ministry has now stopped all allocations, even security-related reimbursements to the state.

Crown of thorns

To compound matters, even the police forces took to rebellion. Over the past fortnight, battalion after battalion of Manipur Rifles went on strike till they were assured of payment of arrears and dues amo- unting to several crores of rupees.

The ruling coalition already faces a no-confidence motion, tabled on December 1. In a bizarre interplay of events, the opposition is doing to Nipamacha what he had done to his predecessor over disqualification of defectors. The assembly was adjourned sine die following clashes in the house over the no-trust vote, and Nipamacha�s desperate pleas to the governor to prorogue the house have gone unheeded. The speaker has sided with the opposition in postponing the vote, thereby multiplying the ruling side�s worries.

Already, three ministers have defected to the opposition camp and the speaker has disqualified the horticulture minister. Eight more former defectors (now in Nipamacha�s camp) could meet with the same fate. It is here that money-power comes into play, since legislators floor-cross with impunity.

Distant deliverance

Human rights activists and meira paibis (women�s bodies) are on the warpath seeking withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. They have threatened to close down all government offices from today. Traders are also up in arms following Sunday night�s killing of non-Manipuri businessmen in the Thoubal district amid allegations of a politician-militant nexus.

It is therefore not surprising that the Centre is considering imposition of president�s rule. While this will offer no solution to the problem of militancy ravaging the state, it will give the elected members a scope to realign forces (and funds). Nipamacha still has a majority: 35 members in a 60 member house. Imposing Article 356 and keeping the assembly in animated suspension would not be a novelty in a state where Central rule has been clamped on six occasions, even when the ruling side enjoyed a distinct majority.

However, the decision of the Congress legislature party leader, Radhabinod Koijam, to rush to New Delhi to urge Sonia Gandhi not to oppose any move to impose president�s rule smacks of duplicity. Although the Congress is unlikely to emerge as beneficiaries of this move, the party is willing to join hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party to oust the government.

As a last-gasp damage control exercise, the deputy chief minister, Chandramani Singh, is lobbying in New Delhi for an �expenditure commission�� while the governor has been summoned by the Union home ministry for his views on the prevailing chaos. In Imphal, Nipamacha is crying himself hoarse for a trial of strength tomorrow, but whatever its outcome, Manipur�s deliverance from the throes of this upheaval will come after Parliament�s winter session ends.


In Daphne du Maurier�s novel, Rebecca, the deceased wife of the owner of the estate cast her powerful shadow over what happened after the widower had brought home a second and bashful wife, �feeling woefully inferior to the predecessor and desperately eager to please�. The novel and the Hitchcock-made film based on it proved so compelling that when somebody, though physically absent, made his presence felt in later developments, the syndrome came to be termed the �Rebecca complex�.

In the just-concluded parliamentary and presidential elections of Ghana, a similar syndrome seems to have been at play. This may be christened the Kwame complex, after Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana�s first president, whose fiery leadership earned Ghana, the first black independent country of Africa, world attention.

Three of the seven parties that contested the elections swore by Kwame Nkrumah�s legacy, thus illustrating the Kwame complex. Between them they took over the name of Nkrumah�s party, the Convention People�s Party, his motto � �Forward ever, backward never� � and the electoral symbol, a cock. Yet failing to fight the elections in concert, together they could muster just above five per cent of the votes � a fact that reminds us that even a compelling charisma has its limits. Understandably to young voters, jobs are more important than the memory of the powerful presence of Nkrumah, who stayed around till 1966 when he was overthrown by a military coup.

The fragmented Kwame complex did not constitute the principal focus of the opposition to the ruling party, the National Democratic Congress. The mantle fell on the New Patriotic Party whose leader, John Agyekum Kufuor, just missed the 51 per cent mark in the elections that would have given him a straight victory. Like the Nkrumahite parties, NPP also looked back to the past, but to a different rallying point, to J.B. Danquah, a liberal intellectual whose claim to leadership was demolished by Nkrumah�s radicalism on the eve of independence.

Pitted against Kufuor was John Atta Mills, the prot�g� of Jerry Rawlings, the outgoing president. Starting life as an academic, Atta Mills later joined the public service and was picked up as vice-president by Rawlings. To the extrovert Ghanaians, the style of the intellectual vice-president, said to be �a man with the demeanour of a parson�, might have appeared too insipid next to the flamboyance of Rawlings. The Economist sums up the latter as �a colourful fellow of uncertain temper� (who) �has beaten up his ministers, and fallen on his knees in front of crowds�.

Rawlings was born in 1947. His mother was from the Ewe ethnic community and his father was a Scotsman. Jerry joined the air force as a cadet at an young age. After an earlier coup that failed, in June 1979, Rawlings and his friends finally toppled the ruling Supreme Military Council that had on its turn ousted Nkrumah in 1966. The coup leaders had eight generals, including three former military rulers, executed by the firing squad on charges of corruption.

From June to September 1979, Rawlings ruled Ghana at the head of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council. He ceded power to an elected civilian regime that lasted until Rawlings�s second successful coup staged on the New Year�s Eve, 1981.

Rawlings legitimized his rule through general elections in 1992 and 1996, although his detractors allege that the voting on both occasions was rigged. His actions against corrupt leaders and officials, euphemistically called �house cleaning�, drew popular applause, so much so that he was hailed as a �hero, lord, saviour, and Junior Jesus (sic)�.

In the early days of their rule, Rawlings and his colleagues used a lot of socialist rhetoric. �They wore sandals made from car tyres, says an observer, and applauded Che Guevara. Later, with the decline of international communism, Rawlings increasingly leaned on the West.

�I don�t know any law,� he is supposed to have said on a pragmatic note, �and I don�t understand economics, but I know it when my stomach is empty.� Analysts say that in search of the wherewithal to satisfy hunger, Jerry managed an uncanny diplomatic balance between the Nigerian dictator, Sani Abacha, the Libyan leader, Muammar Qaddafi, the United States president, Bill Clinton, and the queen of England. Friends admired his instinct for survival, and attributed it not merely to his sixth sense, but also to what they called �an extra pair of nostrils�.

Without substantial difference in ideology and programme, Atta Mills and Kufuor, both inducted into politics from the legal profession and neither being a fiery orator, fought a neck and neck battle, called by the media as �the battle of the two bores�. Obviously, this was with reference to the grandiosity of Nkrumah in the Fifties and the Sixties, and of Rawlings during the last two decades.

Kufuor, probably the lesser of the two bores, was helped in his campaign by the government�s mismanagement of the country�s economy with inflation running at 35 per cent and a low rate of economic growth. Eventually, he clinched a narrow win with just one less than half of the 200 parliamentary seats, and slightly below 49 per cent of the presidential votes. This means that he will have to prove himself in the presidential run-off due to be held on December 28.

There is some suspicion that Rawlings may hold an ambivalent attitude to the idea of giving up power. At a pre-electoral public meeting, he reportedly said that the country�s constitution is not after all a Bible. He would do well to remember that unfortunately for him, the constitution does not allow a third term for the president. Rawlings has already completed two terms as president.

What is more, the man Rawlings might have liked to use as a proxy, Atta Mills, is unlikely to win in the run-off, because four of the five remaining �no-hoper� candidates have urged their supporters to vote for Kufuor in the second round. However, the resourceful Rawlings may think of other ways of influencing the course of events in Ghana.

In fact his powerful presence behind the scene may in future give rise to a fresh syndrome � the Jerry complex. Already the sprouting Jerry complex can claim partial responsibility for the defeat of the NDC�s presidential candidate because Rawlings�s campaign for Atta Mills created, unwittingly, the confusing impression that he in fact was the candidate. It is reported that feeling disappointed that the ballot paper did not carry Rawlings�s picture, many supporters of the NDC did not vote correctly.

Complexes can surface inexorably; but powerful personalities often lend weight to their emergence. With Ghana reaching a historic turning-point, one has to assess the relative weight of Rawlings in power and Rawlings out of power.

In the words of Gyimah Boadi, a political analyst, �I believe there is a lot to love Rawlings for and there is also a lot to hate him for and the two are in some sort of a balance. I think as far as the public is concerned what will happen to Rawlings out of power has a lot more to do with what Rawlings himself does out of power�.


A few days back, a 30 year old woman died of hunger in the Bolangir district of Orissa. The state is well known for starvation deaths. That does not mean such incidents do not happen elsewhere in the country. They usually occur among the poorest of the rural population and go unreported. It is difficult for these people to attract media attention. Moreover, local administrations also downplay the starvation deaths for fear of political repercussions.

Droughts are believed to be responsible for the deaths. This is only partially true. Droughts do push poor rural families into tighter corners. Low levels of farm produce make it impossible for producing families to stock enough for household consumption. Besides, families do not have surplus grains to sell in the market. But crop failures are not exclusive to droughts and other natural calamities.

Good to eat

People die from hunger because they are unable to procure food. One reason could be shortage in supply. Another, more likely reason, is the availability of food at unaffordable prices. The market mechanism in Indian agriculture does not always ensure availability of adequate consumable foodgrain at reasonable prices for people who produce it.

Droughts create food shortages in particular areas. Migration is always possible. Access to food would still depend on the migrators� ability to pay. A higher demand for food would raise its price and an irregular supply because of a bad distribution would further push prices up. Survival would depend entirely on purchasing powers and with official relief arriving late, there would be less chance of survival.

Food shortages, caused by natural disasters cannot result in deaths if people can afford food at higher prices. This is impossible for low-income rural families who produce mostly for self-consumption. Their failure to produce commercially limits their purchasing power. Even without natural calamities, marginal families find themselves precariously placed.

Death still stalks

Crop failures can take place for a number of reasons. Small farmers usually produce a single crop like rice or wheat. Thus they can�t stock their own produce for consumption. Even non-subsistence and cash crops suffer from fluctuations in demand. If small farmers face a difficult market in one season, they get marginalized. They do not have enough money to buy their own foodgrain. Neither do they have resources to commence the coming harvest.

India is not very sensitive to the plight of its less-privileged dependents. Crop failures and their effects on income and consumption could have been avoided had there been alternative earning opportunities. The Bengal Famine of 1942 was a catastrophe caused by the callous management of an insensitive colonial regime. Five decades later people continue to starve to death. Irrespective of calamities, poverty goes on claiming its victims.



No tongue for accusation

Sir � The photo caption (Page 7, Dec 17) reported that the tongue of a Trinamool Congress supporter, Gour Khara, has been slashed in a political clash. This heinous crime was allegedly committed by Communist Party of India (Marxist) supporters. Amazingly, the news is not very shocking because political murders have become a regular feature in West Bengal. The state secretary of the CPI(M), Anil Biswas, has reportedly said that a person of a �normal frame of mind� cannot commit such a barbaric crime. He believes that there is no such person associated with his party. He has said that if the names of such culprits are given to him, he will arrange for their expulsion from his party. This was probably the reason why the assailants did not take any chances and rendered Khara speechless for the rest of his life. But Biswas�s duty does not end with these promised expulsions. The criminals should be accorded exemplary punishment regardless of which political party they owe their allegiance to.
Yours faithfully,
Sujit Kumar Sarkar, Calcutta

Doing justice

Sir � In a recent judgment, the Delhi high court is reported to have directed the Election Commission to compulsorily provide information to voters through the media about the criminal background of the candidates contesting parliamentary or assembly elections. This is a laudable step. The court apparently has also directed the commission to supply related information regarding assets possessed by candidates and their dependent relatives, educational qualifications of the candidates and whether the candidate is accused of any offence. This is necessary to enable the voter to assess the suitability of the candidate.

It is unfortunate that in spite of having a large number of parties which claim to protect the rights of people, the judiciary has to step in to uphold the rights of the common man. It is ironical that in a country where even a candidate for the lowest paid government job has to furnish several details to enable assessment of his candidature, electoral candidates, who eventually become lawmakers, are not required to give full information about themselves.

The EC should make a standard format for all the relevant details. Another thing which should be made mandatory is that all recognized political parties should submit audited accounts every year and any voter should be entitled to get a copy of it at a nominal fee. In addition, the ruling party should account for its performance and give reasons for its non-performance. This will stop populist, unrealistic promises being made to voters on the eve of the polls.

Yours faithfully,
E.M. Adithyan, Edapal, Kerala

Sir � Article 45 of the Constitution says, �The State shall endeavour to provide, within a period of 10 years from the commencement of this constitution, for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of 14 years.� Normally, the development of primary education should be the main concern of any responsible government. It is unfortunate that the government of India and various state governments have ignored the provision despite the article clearly directing the state for its implementation by January 26, 1960.

The lukewarm response of the government to this article is prompted by the notion that Article 45 is non-justiciable and non-enforceable by any court of law because it forms part of Part IV of the Constitution that enshrines the directive principles of state policy. But the Constitution clearly sets the time limit for the implementation of this article.

The judiciary should step in and remind the executive that the non-justiciable and non-enforceable features were limited to a period of 10 years during which the state was required to work for the implementation of the article. That period has expired. Thereafter, like any other fundamental right, it is both justiciable and enforceable in the court of law.

Yours faithfully,
Shital Kumar Jain, Varanasi

Sir � The higher judiciary recently ruled that lawyers would have to pay damages to clients if they suffer loss because of the non-appearance of striking lawyers. But what about damages caused to litigants due to the inefficient working of courts? Certified copies of documents are often not available on specified dates. There are other anomalies as well which need to be looked into. Lawyer-client agreement on fees and the agreed mode of payment should be entered in the file. Lawyers should be dutybound to attest or verify for clients, thereby abolishing the outdated system which requires oath commissioners or other professionals to attest. Lawyers also use legal loopholes to make money at the cost of their clients. This should be stopped.

Yours faithfully,
Subhash Chandra Agrawal, Dariba

Unfair deal

Sir � A few points need to be made with reference to Bhaskar Ghose�s �Eclipse of the dispossessed� (Dec 7). Everyone agrees that the cricketers needed to be punished. What is surprising is the gradation in punishments. All the players have been acussed of matchfixing but only some have been actually punished. Available proof seems to have been the main criterion for deciding on the punishment. But no one can be only partially guilty in the eyes of law.

More important, the administrators should be probed. The administrators have not faced a ball in their life. They are in their positions in their capacity either as politicians, industralists or businessmen. The Board of Control for Cricket in India is run by people who should be running their industrial houses. Why can�t the BCCI be left to cricketers?

The Central Bureau of Investigation should question the BCCI about its role in the sordid affair. Why was it blissfully asleep when matches were being fixed? If it claims to be ignorant of the goings on, the administrators need to be punished for their lapse. If they knew what was going on, they need to be punished all the same. Another thing. Why did the Chandrachud report on matchfixing say that �everything is happy and gay�? If the judiciary misleads people there is little one can expect from lesser bodies.

Yours faithfully,
Shailesh Dewasthaly, via email

Sir � With the punishment of the guilty cricketers, the chapter on match-fixing in Indian cricket has come to a close. The job is however only half done. The authorities must take the necessary steps to ensure that no player, manager or coach is involved in matchfixing in the future. Players should not be allowed to use mobile phones in the pavilion or in their dressing rooms. Only authorized personnel should be permitted inside the dressing room.

The Union minister for sports, Uma Bharti, has rightly suggested that there are issues relating to both corruption and cricket that remain unresolved. Penalizing a few cricketers may deter others from indulging in matchfixing but this will not solve the problem. It is time that we delve a little deeper to understand what made players like Mohammed Azharuddin and Hansie Cronje fix matches or accept bribes.

Yours faithfully,
D.V. Vamsee Krishna, Bhubaneswar

Sir � The Constitution envisages equality before law. However, keeping in view the punishments handed out to the cricketers guilty of matchfixing, it seems that the theory of equality might have been overlooked. The life ban on Ajay Sharma, Mohammed Azharuddin and Manoj Prabhakar have little practical value. It is only in the case of Ajay Jadeja, who had �a few years of cricket left in him�, that the ban holds some meaning. For the rest it is like dismissing a retired employee from the designation that he has ceased to hold. Let the guilty be fairly punished.

Yours faithfully,
Bedashruti Mitra, Raigarh

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