Editorial 1 / Poverty sums
Editorial 2 / Not a roadshow
Hitting an all time low
Fifth Column / Strategies to stave off adversity
Musings on a shifting faultline
Obscenity lies in the eyes of the beholder
Letters to the editor

The calculation of percentage of population below the poverty line requires the notion of a poverty line, as well as data on expenditure. The poverty line used in India has been criticized as not being broad-based enough, since it incorporates a minimum amount of food required for survival and almost nothing else. There is also the counter-argument that minimum amount of food is based on calorie norms developed in the early Sixties. Because of changes in living condition and demographic shifts, fewer calories are needed now. There is also scepticism about price deflators used to convert a real line into current nominal figures. However, the major problem seems to be about data. Data on expenditure are collected by national sample survey and the NSS has large samples at infrequent intervals. In between, one has thin samples, regarded as unreliable. The last large sample data go back to 1993-94 and hence, arguments about correlation between reforms and poverty reduction have tended to be dysfunctional. The NSS now has a large sample from 1999-2000, divided into four sub-rounds. Understandably, there is curiosity about what these poverty figures, worked out by the planning commission, will show.

Unfortunately, there is a catch. In surveys, households have traditionally been asked about expenditure during the preceding 30-day period. Thirty-day expenditure is difficult to remember and a switch to seven-day, which implies asking households about expenditure during the preceding seven-day period, is sensible. In 1999-2000, households were asked about both seven-day and 30-day expenditure and it is understood that poverty ratios are 23 per cent with seven-day and 26 per cent with 30-day. Having done this, the planning commission has apparently decided to suppress the data and commission a fresh NSS survey, according to newspaper reports.

Apparently, a drop in poverty ratios from 35 per cent in 1993-94 is too much of good news and cannot be accepted unquestioningly. Initially, the objection was about the sequence in which questions were asked. The 30-day question should have been asked first. Otherwise, households would have multiplied the seven-day figure by four to arrive at the 30-day number. This is silly, to say the least. If households can multiply, they can divide as well. In any case, this stipulated sequence was not followed in 10 per cent of samples in the first sub-round. Hence, when the first sub-round processing threw up a poverty ratio of around 27 per cent, questions were asked. Now that all sub-rounds, which do not suffer from this inverted sequence, have thrown up similar figures, the planning commission has come up with another argument. NSS samples have often shown 30-day poverty figures that are double seven-day poverty figures. In the present case, the difference is only three per cent. Hence, there must be something wrong. Poverty ratios must be suppressed and a fresh NSS survey commissioned. This reflects an obsessive mindset that poverty cannot decline and growth cannot increase in India. Overall figures on expenditure are available from the Central Statistical Organization and household-level data from NSS surveys. Aggregated, NSS data should equal CSO figures. But they don�t. If one believes NSS data, including thin samples, total expenditure (and therefore, total income) has declined in India during the Nineties. The problem is that these NSS figures feed into the World Bank system and these are reproduced in world development reports and quoted ad nauseam, without caveats that ought to be attached to surveys in general and thin samples in particular. The entire NSS system cannot be junked. But there is a case for handing of expenditure data and the working out of poverty ratios to an external agency, rather than doing it within the planning commission.


There�s a thing or two the governor of West Bengal, Mr Viren J. Shah, can teach the members of the legislative assembly about high drama. And there is no way that the West Bengal MLAs can match Mr Shah�s finesse. All the governor needed to do was to turn away from his car and walk back to the Raj Bhavan for the attention of all spectators to shift from the howling, leaping, paper-ball throwing, tumbling, grimacing, cavorting opposition MLAs to the man calmly striding home with panting policemen around him. To add salt to the MLAs� wounds, Mr Shah simply used the road, while the most melodramatic of the MLAs had felt the need of some unusual plane to express their feelings � tops of tables, or the bonnet and roof of the governor�s car.

But assembly procedure is not a matter of high drama or farce, it is an issue of high seriousness. That Mr Shah quietly deflated the MLAs� protests does not take away from the fact that their protests were untimely and their conduct outrageous. Neither is this the first time that they have been unruly during the governor�s speech. The letter sent to the Congress by the governor�s secretary a few days earlier indirectly warns against such behaviour, since Mr Shah had had a taste of it on the first day of the budget session. This time, the conduct of the Congress and Trinamool Congress MLAs was close to indescribable. The main theme was the demand for president�s rule in the state, punctuated by refusals to listen to a speech that was �full of lies�. The episode was a shocking indicator of the depths to which political life is sinking. The erosion of decorum has been evident in most state assemblies, and Parliament business is held up for days if a section of its members decides to protest. Violation of democratic usage has now become the norm. But that is still no excuse for opposition MLAs in West Bengal to try and go the farthest in this crude game.


The Indian foreign service has become the envy of the world: for the wrong reason. From Australia to Argentina, from Moscow to the backyard island capital of Male, diplomats are beginning to harbour a secret wish to be in the IFS. The reason: you can get away with anything in this elite service provided you know what you want and have the right strings to pull in New Delhi. Not since Rajiv Gandhi arrogated to himself the effrontery to dismiss the foreign secretary, A.P. Venkateswaran, at a nationally televised press conference, has the IFS faced a crisis of confidence of the kind that it is facing now.

Because a few members of the IFS are getting away with anything, in violation of both rules and standards of decency, morale among Indian diplomats is at an all-time low. To say that morale is non-existent in Indian chanceries across the world � not to speak of South Block � would be a more accurate description of Indian diplomacy today. The irony is that such a sorry state of affairs has come about at a time when India, under the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government, has notched up the most impressive foreign policy gains in the country�s half-century-plus of independence.

Worse, it has come under a dispensation in which the prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, has a long and distinguished record in handling external affairs. What is more, in Jaswant Singh, India has a foreign minister with whom his counterparts from Tokyo to Washington feel comfortable. Foreign leaders do not hesitate to admit that Singh is the first Indian foreign minister in a long, long time who can grasp or go beyond the brief prepared by his South Block aides and tell these leaders something that they would want to remember or act upon after a meeting.

It would be logical to ask why anyone should, therefore, complain about morale in the IFS. The work that the diplomats are supposed to do is, after all, being done the way it should be done, the objectives of Indian diplomacy are being achieved: so nothing else should matter. Such an argument is fallacious if the situation in South Block is put in context. The BJP-led government assumed office with unprecedented goodwill among India�s diplomatic personnel.

This columnist cannot help recalling scenes in South Block in the days immediately after December 6, 1992. The P.V. Narasimha Rao government had summoned to New Delhi most of its key ambassadors from their stations, to be briefed on the Ayodhya demolition. A.N. Verma, then principal secretary to the prime minister, was to lend an ear to these ambassadors and brief them on what they should do in the capitals where they were stationed. But days passed, and aptly reflecting the confusion in the Rao government at that time, Verma had no idea of what to tell them. In the absence of any briefing, the envoys huddled in South Block in the rooms of their respective joint secretaries. Naturally, all the talk was about Ayodhya.

Not many of them viewed the events of December 6 through the same prism as their former colleague, Mani Shankar Aiyar, notwithstanding the Congress culture which had been carefully nurtured in the IFS over four decades. Few of them thought India had crossed the Rubicon when the disputed structure at Ayodhya was demolished. Indeed, in discussions off the record, the opinion of the majority of Indian envoys present in South Block in those momentous days converged with those expressed by L.K. Advani. This is not to say that these civil servants were closet BJP men: it is doubtful if many of them would have voted for the BJP had not Vajpayee been the party�s prime ministerial candidate.

But they were pragmatists who wanted to put their best foot forward for India. When the BJP came to power in 1998 and exploded the nuclear bomb, the goodwill in the IFS for the new government turned into pride, in spite of the hostile challenge that Indian envoys faced abroad as a result of Pokhran II.

Then came Kargil and Indian diplomats did a commendable job of not only making India�s version of events heard, but also accepted in the most unlikely capitals of the world. If the line of control in Kashmir � which is merely a euphemism for the ceasefire line � is today accepted by all the leading members of the international community as sacrosanct, much of the credit for this goes to the IFS. What is it, then, that turned a situation tailor-made for success so sour and so suddenly? Why is it that rules in South Block are being flouted as never before, rendering administration virtually redundant?

To start with, the government got carried away by the successes it has had with the Clinton administration in Washington and at the United Nations in New York. No doubt, the way the Vajpayee government turned around its nuclear policy both in Washington and in New York should go down in the history of diplomacy as a lesson for future generations of mandarins. And these twin-successes had a chain reaction in other capitals as far as the nuclear issue was concerned.

But this success, it turns out, has been achieved at a great cost and South Block is now paying for it. The Vajpayee government paid so much attention to New York and Washington that it completely neglected the rest of the world. Notwithstanding the successful spin that the ministry of external affairs has given to its various foreign policy initiatives in the media, South Block�s dealings with the world outside White House and the UN headquarters in the post Pokhran II phase has been sorely devoid of vision.

A former prime minister, whose record in foreign policy is outstanding, recently compared his achievements to those of the BJP-led government in a conversation with this columnist. �When I achieved something in external affairs�, he said, �I always underplayed that success. But this government, even when it has nothing to show, tom-toms everything as an unprecedented achievement�. This ex-prime minister reflected, with the wisdom of hindsight, that perhaps his policy was politically unwise, but he had no doubt at all that he was morally right and was acting in the best interests of the country.

The gradual erosion of its vision after overcoming the Pokhran II challenge, indeed, the complete absence of policy deprived the IFS of the motivation and zeal with which India�s diplomatic personnel had begun its engagement of the BJP�s South Block. The turning point came when the Vajpayee government surrendered to terrorists in Kandahar: This surrender shattered the illusion in Indian chanceries across the world that the government led by the BJP was any different from its predecessors. The next and more recent turning point was the choice of the new foreign secretary. The political leadership had the opportunity to stem the rot and arrest the slide by bringing in as the head of the IFS someone who had the vision and the experience to restore morale among its diplomats and impart a sense of purpose to the functioning of South Block.

Moreover, with a large number of retirements, the government had a rare chance to refashion the MEA in a new image. The opportunity to do the former was lost when Vajpayee and Singh gave in to political correctness and decided that discretion was the better part of valour in taking on a discontented section of the IFS. The latter effort became a non-starter when senior diplomats, reading the writing on the wall, resolved that they would not move to Delhi and be tainted by working under a foreign secretary, who is easily the most ill-equipped in the entire history of the IFS for the job. Even a cursory look at her curriculum vitae will show that there are joint secretary level officers in the MEA who have done more substantive work than the incoming foreign secretary.

Who knows, now that the challenge of nuclearization is behind it, the government perhaps wants to reduce the MEA to a mere passport-issuing post. After all, the new foreign secretary�s expertise has been in the passport office, the coordination division and the Kuwait compensation cell where she spent the bulk of her time in Delhi.

If only the prime minister�s office had taken the unconventional, but wise, step of talking to the staff at the Indian embassy in Dublin, where she is currently posted, it would not have succumbed to the temptation to be politically correct in making Chokila Iyer the head of IFS. Since her appointment was out of the blue, virtually every Indian mission has been tapping its counterpart in Dublin in recent weeks to find out what stuff the new foreign secretary is made of.

The stories that have been told have caused unease in the IFS. If someone who cannot manage a small mission in Dublin can successfully run South Block and its 120-plus missions abroad for the next 13 months � not to mention the challenge of interacting with the rest of the Indian government and key foreign countries � it will be a miracle that deserves unalloyed praise.


After a prolonged struggle, spreading over more than half a century, Jharkhand was finally formed on November 15, 2000 and became the 28th state of the India. There have been massive revolts by Hos, Santhals and Mundas against their rulers in the 19th century as well � but all, as was to be expected, ended with limited concessions to them.

Although these historic events occurred sporadically and at different places, there was a common underlying factor: this was the tribals� strong desire to run their own affairs rather than letting others do it. Unlike the previous revolts, the Jharkhand movement succeeded because it was conducted by the concerned tribal groups unitedly and with tenacity.

Continuation of the solidarity which eventually gave them a state is the key to the realization of their hopes. The main communities forming the tribal society therefore need to support the government constructively in the development of policies and avoid irresponsible games of power in order to enable the state government to function satisfactorily.

Hos, Santhals, Mundas and others are living together as their ancestors did for centuries with no record of discord among them. They have similar ways of life and cultural patterns. There is also little difference in their spoken language which makes them understand each other well. This indicates that they can easily cohabit in the new state of Jharkhand.

Learn and live

But, for Jharkhand to reach a parity with the rest of the Indian states, the government in power has to address some of the urgent needs of the people. Identification of these tasks is the first step to this end.

Education is one of the few areas where the government cannot afford to delay making policy decisions, particularly with respect to the medium of instruction that is to be used in schools and colleges. Decisions are required now � taken later, they will foment unnecessary social discontent.

Ideally, there is no alternative to receiving education in one�s mother tongue up to, say, the secondary, level. At present, the medium of instruction is non-tribal, a language which is foreign to most beginners. The tribal students are thus immediately put at a disadvantage.

Another area which needs attention is forestry. The present body of laws of the forest is harsh to the vast majority of the tribal people who depend heavily on it for their livelihood. Access to forests is not as easy as it was in the past. Collection of firewood, seeds, fruits, medicinal plants and materials for the construction of houses is now restricted. Often authorities deal harshly with innocent people on the basis of alleged violation of forest laws. Therefore forestry laws need urgent review to remove some of these anti-tribal rules so that living is easier for these people.

Healthy survival

Meanwhile, alienation of the tribal people from their lands remains a problem. Even though the Chhotanagpur Tenancy Act prohibits the transfer of immovable property, a large portion of agricultural lands are passed on to �outsiders� like moneylenders and traders. This is done under the guise of the alleged inability of the indigenous people to repay debts. Industrialization, which brought outsiders in large numbers to the area, aggravated the situation even more. Urgent steps are necessary to identify the lands which are being illegally transferred.

Again, the general health of tribal people could not be worse. The people have continued with traditional medication which hardly works. Their lack of education and of access to medical facilities and healthcare units makes the scenario even worse. Tuberculosis is widespread among them. Skin diseases are equally extensive and continue to affect more and more people. A large number of tribal mothers die at childbirth. Many children die of dehydration as a result of diarrhoea and other gastric problems in tribal villages.

To fight these circumstances the state must act with full responsibility. Dissension and conflict among the tribal people will only adversely affect the work intended for their development. It will be an act of wisdom on their part to maintain a common Jharkhand identity and to serve the new state well for the creation of which many people sacrificed their lives and many more faced untold sufferings.


It was surprising that the prime minister�s �Musings from Kumarakom� was discussed flippantly by the secularist forces. Issues raised by him were lost in the midst of speculation on the selective distribution of his article among the national and regional dailies. Thus, it was not the content but trivial issues which preoccupied the media. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was not pricked by conscience at Kumarakom. But his �musings� represent his vision of a new India. Never before in his public life had he reacted to the media�s view of his personal convictions. Vajpayee has refused to be ideologically hijacked by the secularists, who have been trying to get him to rein in and ruin the sangh parivar.

He has categorically expressed his feelings about the role of a secularist media that carries apocryphal stories about his relationship with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. His call to resolve the most disputed issue � the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya � presumably shows his intention of re-initiating a dialogue.

The most noteworthy aspect of his arguments on Ayodhya is that it is free from hypocrisy and ambiguity. His depiction of the Ayodhya movement as representing national sentiment does not signify endorsement of the demolition of the disputed structure. The demolition incident in 1992 was akin to the Chauri Chaura incident in the United Provinces during the non-cooperation movement in 1922 when 22 policemen were burnt alive.

Thus it is neither a matter of pride nor of shame. The indices of mass mobilization and sentiments on Ayodhya are indicative of its importance in the Hindu psyche. That was plausibly a reason for the Congress governments both at the Centre and in the state to unlock the disputed structure in Ayodhya for puja and darshan, and subsequently permit shilanyas for the proposed temple.

By reinvigorating the debate on the Somnath temple, Vajpayee has pointed out the paradigmatic fault line in our dominant ideological discourse since independence. When the question of the construction of the Somnath temple was raised, Nehru described it as a �revivalist� agenda which was unlikely to be countenanced by the majority of his cabinet colleagues as well as by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Rajendra Prasad. The decision to renovate the temple in Somnath emanated as a cabinet decision.

Rajendra Prasad, who repeatedly demurred Nehru�s advice not to inaugurate the temple ceremony at Somnath on May 11,1951, described the Somnath temple as a symbol of the �wealth, faith and culture of India� and emphatically declared that the inauguration was not a drift away from secularism at all. Pluralism is not a modern phenomenon in India, but is rooted in the cultural and religious ethos of the nation. For Prasad, �this faith and conviction impelled India to adopt the policy of secularism and to give an assurance that there shall be no discrimination on grounds of religion.�

The �minority rule� of Muslims before the advent of the British in India was used by the Muslim League to embolden Muslim sentiments against the threat of the �Congress raj�, regarded as synonymous to �Hindu domination�. The �two nation� theory was a repudiation of India�s existence as an ancient nation and culture as its basis of unity. Which is why in July 1947, The Dawn, the Muslim League mouthpiece, objected to the recitation of the Quran in Gandhi�s prayer meetings as �unIslamic�.

Islam in Indonesia acknowledged the pre-Islamic ethnic culture and was assimilated into indigenous values and traditions. The obsession with minority rule over the majority among the Mughal rulers, the divide-and-rule policy of the colonial masters and now the vote-bank politics of the secularist forces have hindered this process of evolution and assimilation in India. Thus Vajpayee�s reference to the Somnath temple is pertinent. A non-Hindu cannot dissociate himself from the nation�s cultural legacy and history. Wasn�t the destruction of the Somnath or Ram temple in Ayodhya an attack on religious tolerance?

National sentiment can not be evaluated on the basis of the minorities or the majority. It is the sum total of sentiments of the people whose roots lie in the culture and ethos of the nation. It can only be measured qualitatively. Secularism is not merely the coexistence of different religions and cultures as autonomous zones in the life of a nation. The creation of new identities and cultural philosophies should be concomitant to a process of assimilation. The two processes should be interdependent and intertwined.

It is a proactive minorityism that has proved detrimental to the process of national integration more than anything else. Vajpayee�s musings has congruity with the views on secularism of Prasad or K.M. Munshi . Both acknowledged India�s identity as an ancient nation and predicted that even religious contributions and symbols would become part of its cultural heritage. As Vajpayee muses, �Few can deny that Ram occupies an exalted place in India�s culture. He is one of the most respected symbols of our national ethos.�

The Nehruvian paradigm has restricted its discourse to the so called �minority sentiment�. Any question which has been related to India�s ancient past become untouchable issues in this discourse. Thus, Indianization of minorities does not mean �Hinduization�. Secularism demands a reciprocal relationship between the majority and the minorities.

Political parties, particularly the Congress, are not forthright in their cultural philosophy. The Congress�s concept of secularism is a colonial hangover. Unless it stops deriving its mental energy and ideological moorings from the Indian left it is unlikely to be regenerated within Indian politics. A section of the media with a definite ideological mission has been ceaselessly trying to embarrass the government and its allies. Therefore it ferrets out a controversy every day regarding the sangh parivar.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad should not err by rejecting the prime minister�s appeal. It should redraw its strategy and remake its image as a constructive religious outfit instead of being trapped by the secularists, whose only interest is to consolidate the minority vote bank. Vajpayee�s musings are also indicative of a paradigmatic shift of the Indian state away from the Nehruvian position.

The Bharatiya Jana Sangh/BJP was formed not as a religious party; but it was, in a way, the reincarnation of Bal Gangadhar Tilak�s Congress. It posits cultural nationalism as the basis of the Indian state and national identity. Its success is likely to make the concept of secularism more meaningful and germane to this notion of cultural nationalism. It would not be an exaggeration to say that his musings are a quest for a new India, for a new consensus that corrects the Nehruvian model of culture and economics.


One of the proposals at the first meeting of the task force on women and children, held in New Delhi in September 2000, was that a set of guidelines should be issued to the censor board to check the wrongful portrayal of women in films. Also the national film festival in 2001 should focus on women and institute a separate award for a film or documentary on women or made by women.

The prime objective of such a proposal is to create awareness and build an atmosphere conducive to the development of self-confidence and assertiveness among women. Given the escalation of violence against women and the existing gender inequalities in access to resources, the decision to observe 2001 as the year of the empowerment of women has been welcomed all over the country. It may be recalled that some months ago top religious leaders belonging to all major faiths had urged the government to take immediate steps to check violence and obscenity in the print and electronic media and in films. A voluntary organization called Forum Against Obscenity was also launched for this purpose.

Image control

Despite the law against obscenity, Indian women continue to be projected as sex objects in TV serials, films and the print media. Lack of protests from any section of society makes matters worse. The national commission for women has expressed its concern for the welfare of women and has called for an immediate stop to the denigration of Indian women.

The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act of 1986 which prohibits the sale, distribution and circulation of any books or pamphlets that depict women obscenely has not imposed any strict censorship on Indian cinema. The term �indecent representation�of women has been defined as the depiction of a woman�s body in a manner that may be deemed indecent or derogatory, or is likely to deprave, corrupt or injure the public morality of any person or persons of any class or group.

If we are to take this definition seriously, then the majority of Indian films and TV serials should have been booked under this law. It is interesting that sections 292, 293 and 294 of the Indian Penal Code deal with obscenity. The Constitution had not only provided equal rights for men and women but had also made special provisions for women. Indian cinema has failed to depict the changes in the position of the Indian woman. Instead of using films to educate society, filmmakers in India have indulged in sensationalism and obscenity. A strict code of conduct for films and television will go a long way in putting an end to all this.



Too long a dry run

Sir � The Orissa chief minister, Naveen Patnaik, has inaugurated Operation Trishna, which aims at providing drinking water in Kalahandi, Bolangir, Sonepur and other districts (�Naveen waters parched districts�, Jan 20). Apparently, a total of more than 3,000 tubewells will have to be built to bring relief to the drought affected regions of the state. One wonders if this isn�t very late. Over 80 per cent of the groundwater is used by farmers to water the crops. The rest is used for drinking and so on. This year, because of the drought, all the water has been used for irrigation and there is virtually nothing to drink. If the state is in such a hapless condition that 24 out of 32 districts have faced droughts this year, and millions are facing starvation, why has the government not acted in advance? Why should a situation as bad as this arise at all? What was the state doing when the groundwater level actually started sinking? The state in India should take precautionary steps before the people face such adversities.
Yours faithfully,
Shyamal Debnath, via email

Focus Nepal

Sir � The report, �Mountains and molehills� (Jan 7), has been written with a very limited view of the problem. There is no doubt about the growing �anti-India� feeling in the minds of the Nepalese, especially those below 40 years of age. The resentment has grown over the past decades and not only because India is big and Nepal is small. Neither has it grown out of the inferiority complex of Nepalese serving Indian homes as bawarchis or guards. It is also not only because of the few derogatory remarks Indian politicians have made recently. It is a much more complex problem.

India does demonstrate a big brother attitude towards Nepal which it is unable to do in case of its other neighbours, even Bhutan. What has India been able to do about the United Liberation Front of Asom camps in Bhutan? The problem is that India suffers from an inferiority complex in the global perspective and uses Nepal to boost its ego. Indian officials, politicians as well as celebrities look down on the Nepalese.

One example would demonstrate this. In September 1999, before the South Asian Federation games at Kathmandu, there was a car rally organized by the SAF games committee. One technical expert who had come from India was a former bureaucrat. During the prize distribution ceremony, the expert from India told the audience that the Nepalese know nothing, let alone car rallies, �but we are there to help them learn�. The president of the Federation of Motor Sports in India, who was there, tried to play this down. But the damage had been done.

The deep-rooted frustration in the Nepalese is there to stay unless corrective measures are taken. Nepal is sandwiched between two big countries which want to control its fate. China has infiltrated its Maoist movement. And India controls its presence on Nepalese soil through the Reserve Bank of India which controls the exchange rate and economy and the Calcutta Port which is the lifeline of Nepal�s supplies.

No doubt India is close to Nepal in cultural, linguistic and political terms. But there is a difference between hegemony and brotherliness. The Hrithik Roshan episode may be manipulated by anti-Indian forces, which are at present working overtime inside Nepal. But they could find a perfect ground in the psyche of the Nepalese. This is the time for some introspection in India.

Yours faithfully,
Rabi Kumar Amatya, Kathmandu

Politics is no sport

Sir � The Nationalist Congress Party must be celebrating the election of Sharad Pawar as president of the Mumbai Cricket Association (�Pawar wins cricket crown�, Jan 20). This is because the defeat of the former Indian captain and manager, Ajit Wadekar, is being seen as a defeat of the Shiv Sena, which reportedly backed the latter. This may be good news for the NCP. The political rivalry between the two parties is bad news. The alleged attack on Wadekar�s driver by the Pawar camp is just one example of the level to which the the political contest can sink. And this might be just the beginning.

Besides being a prestigious organization, the Mumbai Cricket Association has been a distinguished contributor to Indian cricket. If the organization is politicized, Indian cricket will not remain unaffected. Given the penalties matchfixing has extracted, cricket can do without further problems arising out of politicking. Hopefully, the new president will keep that in mind.

Yours faithfully,
R.K. Sharma, via email

Sir � Sporting clubs in India attract men from a wide range of fields. There are former bureaucrats like K.P.S. Gill, businessmen like Jagmohan Dalmiya, and politicians like Priya Ranjan Das Munshi and Sharad Pawar leading sporting bodies. The question should not be why �self-important politicians� should run associations, but why members allow such men to dominate the show (�Queering the pitch�, Jan 20). For example, couldn�t members of the Mumbai Cricket Association have prevented funds from being wasted in court battles between politicians fighting over their turfs?

Power hungry men will invariably want to control sports which has such a wide reach. Only those associated directly with sports should hold posts in sporting associations.

Yours faithfully,
J. Sen, Calcutta

Sir � The report, �Political battle on cricket pitch� (Jan 19), suggests that politics in India has begun to dominate every aspect of life. The unhealthy politics that was evident in the elections to the Mumbai Cricket Association is unimaginable. Members of the association should understand that the organization exists for the development of the most popular sport in India, not in order to concentrate political power in the hands of individuals. They should see the president does not exploit his position politically.

It is also surprising why Pawar should be suddenly interested in a cricket organization. He should remember being a politician does not qualify him to head a cricket organization.

Yours faithfully
Rajarshi Ghosh, Calcutta

Sir � After parting ways with the Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party chief, Sharad Pawar, seems to have enough time to spare for managing the affairs of a cricket association. What other reason could he have for staking claim to the presidentship of the Mumbai Cricket Association? It is also evident that Pawar is feeling left out of national politics and hence by the media. His locking horns with Ajit Wadekar was probably one way to bounce back into the limelight.

Pawar is reported to have said that his political position will help in the effective running of the sports organization. Will it not be better if this political heavyweight uses his power in releasing Mumbai from the clutches of the mafia and the underworld?

Yours faithfully,
Kabita Sharma, Kankinara

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