Editorial 1/ Half way house
Editorial 2/ Blood sale
Paperless courtroom
Fifth Column/ Whose voice is it on those Tapes?
This above all/ The best way to cure the worst ailments
Letters to the editor

The governor of the Reserve Bank of India believes in surprising people. Post-reforms, Mr Bimal Jalan is entirely right in his argument that there need not be six-monthly credit policies and changes should reflect circumstances. The recent report of the prime minister�s economic advisory council highlighted high interest rates as a constraint and concerns have also been expressed about slowing down in gross domestic product growth. (Forecasts for GDP growth in 2000-2001 are now down to around six per cent.) Following the slashing of interest rates by the United States Federal Reserve Bank in January, there were some expectations about the RBI following suit, a hope that was belied then. But no one expected reduction in the bank rate and cash reserve ratio by half percentage points a fortnight before the budget. The bank rate has been slashed to 7.5 per cent with immediate effect, while CRR cuts will become effective in two equal doses on February 24 and March 10. Each dose of the CRR cut is expected to release Rs 2,050 crore to the commercial banking system and this is welcome because the recent pickup in non-food credit has squeezed bank liquidity and led to some upward pressure on interest rates.

The fallout should be lower deposit rates, lower prime lending rates, reduced rates on personal and home loans and greater credit offtake. While no one can deny the logic of cuts, especially since by the RBI�s own admission inflation is under control, one can quibble about magnitudes. Faced with rupee depreciation against the dollar in July 2000, the bank rate was hiked by one per cent to eight per cent and a new rate of seven per cent was now plausible. In contrast, the CRR was hiked by half a per cent to 8.5 per cent in July and August 2000 and has now declined to earlier levels.

One hopes that RBI will not develop knee-jerk reactions and reverse the cuts if the rupee drops, as had happened in July/August 2000. The more important issue is whether bank rate and CRR cuts are alone enough to drop interest rates. As long as there are high guaranteed rates of return on provident fund and small savings, banks have to compete with these rates for public deposits and the comparison becomes worse if one remembers tax savings on provident fund and small savings. The economic advisory council also highlighted this and if those recommendations are extrapolated, one ought to expect at least one per cent reduction in interest rates for schemes like national savings certificates and post office savings bank in the budget. Unfortunately, such cuts are perceived to be anti-populist. However, if the government is serious about reforms, it needs to tackle populism head on, as it seems to have done in the case of the railways. Perhaps one should also mention the exceedingly high spread between borrowing and lending rates in India, as compared to other countries. This is also due to priority sector lending and inefficiencies in the banking system. While banking is being liberalized, even if the pace is slow, no one has the courage to say that priority sector lending should end and statutory liquidity ratios also slashed. SLRs are nothing but a device available to Central and state governments to preempt resources necessary for private investment. The combined fiscal deficit eats away all financial savings available from the household sector and crowds out private sector investments. These should be next on the agenda for financial sector reform.


It is not a question of whether successive Central and state governments have failed to mitigate the conditions of drought in regions such as Bolangir. The issue is how badly they have failed. For without an abysmal failure, Mr Shyamlal Tandi of Kundabutla village in Bolangir would not have been forced to sell off his six year old daughter to his moneylender in return for Rs 1,500. This was after he was unable to pay off an earlier debt of Rs 3,500. The whole country has been aware of the poverty in the region for years now, and many projects and aid agencies are cited to show how much care is being taken to change the conditions there. The story of Mr Tandi and his wife may be an extreme one, but it typifies all the nightmarish possibilities families as poor as theirs are vulnerable to. A backward classes daily wage earner, Mr Tandi, has been unwell for the last four years and grew worse last December. Evidently the healthcare facilities are none too good. After the birth of his fourth child, Mr Tandi was forced to take loans. This vicious cycle of poverty, ignorance, poor health and a hopeless inability to discern the necessity of birth control could have, if not checked, a painfully tragic ending. Since the couple is back to begging, Mr Tandi�s wife was asked if she would sell another child to keep them afloat. This time, according to her, the answer would be poison.

There is, then, another question. On how many counts has the government failed? A country in which even one human being is forced into an inhuman state of misery cannot possibly boast of preserving its citizens� fundamental rights, let alone talk about poverty eradication, drought mitigation, improvements in education or healthcare. The role of the moneylender is equally suggestive. He has bought a little girl, apparently unconscious of the law or even the distinction between buying and adoption, and unaware of the incongruity of acquiring a �daughter� through a hard -driven trade bargain. And the little girl in the family, inevitably, is the counter, her fate one more horrific reminder of the real state of the underprivileged woman in the country today.


The object of all governance is the improvement of the quality of life of the people. Quality of life is interlinked with the development of many sectors � economic, social, political, cultural, scientific and managerial. These sectors, in turn, depend on the status of science and technology, the degree of human development and the stability of institutions and structures in society. Thus perceived, governance is a product of several factors rooted in the history, culture and developmental status of a given society.

Governance in India is organized on the basis of democracy and republicanism under the Constitution of India. Political power resides with the people and is exercised through periodical elections to representative legislatures. Administration is carried out by the civil services working under the council of ministers accountable to the legislatures. To ensure that the executive government acts according to the laws of the country, an independent judiciary can review administrative action and compel compliance through writs and orders. Finally, the entire state apparatus is obliged by the Constitution to uphold the basic rights of the people.

An understanding of the system of governance in the country is essential to appreciate the changes which the digital revolution might bring about through what is called �e-governance�.

Without doubt, the information technology which is sweeping across the world and making it smaller is bound to impact on the way we do business, the way we perceive the world outside, the way we govern our institutions and the way we enjoy our leisure. People fear that IT might upset the inherited value system and the moral and ethical codes which they hold dear in their interaction with others. In an age where the human genetic code is open to scientific manipulation and where large scale integrated circuits are revolutionizing electronic and communication technologies, it is not possible to hold on to past value systems and institutional arrangements unless they are perceived necessary by the majority of people for improving the quality of life.

People�s perception and their capacity to adapt to changes are important factors in governance. What are the perceptions of people in respect of governance in contemporary times? First, people perceive the bureaucracy as corrupt and as an agent of exploitation rather than an efficient provider of service. Then they find the administration neither transparent nor responsive and accountable. Also, people perceive the government to be so large that it eats up scarce resources without comparable benefits in improving the quality of life. There is even a perception that today the government itself is part of the problem rather than its solution.

The question is whether �e-governance�, which is emerging, is likely to influence people�s perception and provide solutions to the problems which are seen to have their source in the government. That is, e-governance will grow so that it can bring about greater efficiency and accountability, less corruption, higher transparency and responsiveness in the delivery of services, keeping the focus on people�s quality of life.

In the above context, let me place before you some thoughts on how administration of justice, which is one of the most important concerns of every government, is likely to respond when impacted by e-technology.

Computerization of the registry, record room and court halls has the potential to reduce delay and enhance the quality of justice in many ways. Computers will ease the burden of mounting litigation by simplifying the filing of cases, the management of case flow, monitoring bottlenecks, enabling easy access to the status of litigation, and producing efficient copies of documents whenever needed. Documents are better protected from loss and theft through computerization. They occupy less space and need less people to manage court administration.

This, in turn, guarantees greater transparency, wider access, greater speed, less scope for corruption and ultimately better quality of justice to the litigant public. Paperless courtrooms are a distinct possibility in the future. People can file their petitions and affidavits from their homes, get an acknowledgment electronically, amend or add to the documentation without having to come to the courts, manage electronic movement of documents, and seek dates for hearing at mutually convenient timings.

Legal research through electronic data and processes is more efficient and accurate. Litigants can seek legal advice at little or no cost and get to know the prospects of decisions in their favour on the basis of software developed for the purpose by e-savvy legal experts. Disabled persons and people living in remote areas will be immensely benefited by e-governance of the justice system.

Digital technology has immense potential to change the way evidence is advanced in courts and inferences drawn. With litigation becoming complicated by technological developments, lawyers and judges can no longer afford to perform their roles without sufficient technological expertise.

For example, video-conferencing has become an effective tool for gathering evidence, connecting the judge with evidence located in remote places and in linking the judicial fraternity for consulting each other on technical issues. Very recently, the Calcutta high court has allowed a petition to examine a doctor in the United States by the medical council through the electronic medium.

The Andhra Pradesh high court has allowed the examination of witnesses with the accused remaining in jail but participating in the trial through close circuit television. Judges are able to appreciate technical and scientific evidence by consulting electronically the expert witnesses without their presence in court and observing what they do and how they do in their laboratories through the video screen. All these are potentially capable of reducing the time taken and enhancing the efficiency of judicial institutions to the advantage of the litigant public.

Again, trials in future can become close to real-life situation with prospects of computer-generated evidence replacing paper documents and eyewitnesses. The scene of crime can be re-created in every detail giving the judge, prosecutor and defence counsel the benefit of understanding what happened and how. This is particularly beneficial to litigations involving an air crash, a shipwreck, a hotel fire, a multiple road accident or a gas tragedy like that in Bhopal.

It is impossible for the human mind to comprehend complex fact situations involving multiple technologies unless assisted by equally advanced technologies capable of re-creating the experience. This is what computer generated electronic evidence can offer for investigation and trial. Forensic sciences would become a powerful tool to prevent the depredations of cyber criminals.

E-governance may help in saving costs and time; but brings problems of its own. The new technology has led to an information glut which, in turn, has brought about more confusion. It threatens our ability to be informed because it is constantly expanding. Furthermore, it increases the already existing divisions and inequalities in society by enabling those in power to improve their positions and those who are not, left with diminished power of being in control of their own lives. There is a danger of erosion in social cohesion and national solidarity. IT has tremendous power to become exploitative in societies where knowledge is still the monopoly of a few and education is not available to many.

If not properly organized, the infinite possibilities for good governance in the new technology can bring its own share of problems in administration too, including administration of justice. What happens to people�s right to privacy when all types of information concerning their health, litigation and economic status are available on the internet? If copying becomes easy and cheap, how will you protect ownership rights over them? If digital signatures including those of judges are open to manipulation and reproduction, what is the security of the rights and duties involved?

When cyber crimes can be committed with impunity from one�s own home in any part of the world, what about jurisdictional issues relating to prosecution and trial? Detection will become difficult and enforcement costs considerable. These are powerful challenges coming in the way of the adoption of the new technology in governance. Perhaps scientists will find solution tomorrow and allow the technology its onward march.

Digital technology and the resultant information and communication revolution are indeed potentially capable of doing good, but the transition is difficult and painful for a country like India. Perhaps industry, commerce, defence, education, health and scientific research will be among the important sectors which will go for the new technology in the beginning. The rest of governance may have to wait till the people are prepared to absorb the change and are in a position to make use of it, without being overwhelmed.

The author is vice-chancellor, West Bengal University of Juridical Sciences, Calcutta


One difference is that Richard Nixon just forgot the tapes were running, whereas Ukraine�s president, Leonid Kuchma, didn�t even know they were there. Another is that Watergate was just burglary, whereas Kuchma is accused of having a journalist murdered.

�There is a false impression in the West that Ukraine is more liberal and democratic that Russia or Belarus,� said Ruslan Gurevoi, a Ukrainian journalist, who fled to Moscow after his lawyer was shot dead. �In fact, Ukraine is a good deal worse.� If the evidence about the murder of Georgy Gongadze on the Kuchma tapes is true, it is very much worse: journalists get killed in Moscow and Minsk too, but not � so far as is known � on the president�s personal orders.

Gongadze was well known in Ukraine for crticizing Kuchma in his muck-raking internet newspaper, Ukrainska Pravda, but given how few Ukrainians can afford to use a computer, he was more a nuisance than a serious threat to Kuchma�s power. Yet he was abducted on the way home from a friend�s place in Kiev last September. He was found headless, on November 3, in a grave just outside the capital.The grave was so shallow that one arm was sticking up above the ground. Either Gongadze�s killers were clumsy, or they wanted him to be found and identified.

Hamhanded killers

This is now Kuchma�s line of defence: he did talk about having Go- ngadze abducted, and giggled when told he had disappeared, but that somebody who knew his conversations were being secretly recorded did the killing to frame him.

�Idiocy,� responds Oleksandr Moroz, leader of the opposition Socialist Party and a man seen as incorruptible even in the vicious world of Ukrainian politics. It was Moroz who received in November some 300 hours of tapes secretly recorded by former presidential bodyguard, Mikola Melnychenko, of the Ukrainian secret service.

Moroz then released the 11 excerpts in which Kuchma, his chief of staff, Vladimir Litvin, and interior minister, Yury Kravchenko, discuss the �Gongadze problem�. In none of them does Kuchma directly order Gongadze�s death, so it is technically possible that Kuchma�s enemies did the killing to cast blame on him. But it�s also possible that Kuchma gave the actual order in another room, and that the thugs who carried it out were hamhanded incompetents.

This is the sort of case where Occam�s razor comes in handy: unless there is strong evidence to the contrary, the simpler explanation is always preferable. Besides, Kuchma�s government acted guiltily from the moment the body was found. First, the general prosecutor, Mykhailo Potebenko, said the tapes were fake, and refused to let Gongadze�s wife see the body.

Shoddy defence

Then he said that even if the tapes were genuine, they could not be used as evidence as they were obtained illegally. (Melnychenko, horrified at what the president and his cronies were discussing, had hidden the recorder under a sofa in Kuchma�s office). Then Potebenko ordered Melnychenko�s arrest, whereupon the latter prudently fled to Prague. But deputy general prosecutor, Oleksy Bahanets, admi- tted recently that Kuchma and his aides have now conceded that it is their voices on the tapes. They claim that their taped conversations have been altered so that they seem to be discussing election rigging, bribes, and murder. But now there are daily demonstrations in Kiev demanding Kuchma�s impeachment.

A tent city of protesters has appeared on Kiev�s main shopping street and the normally fractious Ukrainian opposition parties have united in a drive to evict Kuchma from power and bring him to trial. But Kuchma, whom the West supported as a staunchly anti-communist candidate in the 1999 election, is hinting that he may have to cosy up to the Russians if his Western friends don�t back him.

But Russia is neither communist nor the West�s enemy, and there is no obvious reason the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, who was recently in Kiev, should back Kuchma either. Ukraine, with 50 million people and huge resources, is one of the most important countries in Europe, but it is not Kuchma�s personal property. Indeed, there is a good chance that Ukrainian democracy, as young and as tainted by corruption as it is, can sort this problem out by itself.


Most educated Indians are one-track bores: they have very little interest in anything besides their professions. Lawyers can only talk about law cases they have argued, ill-tempered judges and their own legal acumen. Doctors have hardly any topic in mind besides medicine and cases they have treated. Bureaucrats talk only about the travails of civil service and ministers they have to serve. Politicians talk only about political factions and the wretched state of the country.

Even journalists who we expect to be well-read are usually illiterate when it comes to other subjects like literature, art, music, religion or nature. Educated Indians have few social graces. Go to any party and you will notice that to start with everyone is either silent or talking in whispers about others present. We make poor conversationalists because we have little to converse about.

Dr G. Lakshmipathi of Coimbatore agrees with me. He has a sense of humour, spares no one and takes a swipe at all forms of healing: allopathy, naturopathy, acupuncture, yoga, urine, aroma and music therapies. At the same time he writes of common ailments like chronic constipation, flatulence, sex malfunctions down to the art of dying. Thus he manages to combine information with amusement. This makes his compilation of articles, Ha, Ha, Therapy very pleasant reading.

Since eating too little, too much or the wrong kind of food is the primary cause of many ailments, the doctor quotes an ancient text in support:

Eka bukho maha yogi (the man who eats one a day is a great yogi)

Dwi bukho maha bhogi (the man who eats twice a day, an epicurean),

Thri bukho maha rogi (the man who eats thrice a day, is a sick man.),

Chatur bukho maha drohi (the man who eats four times a day is a saboteur.)

Most Indian believe that while vegetarian food is satvik (pure), meat is tamsik (impure). As a matter of fact, flesh is easier to digest than vegetables. Sir Robert Hutchison, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, was of the opinion that �vegetarianism is harmless enough, though it is apt to fill a man with wind and self-righteousness.

One can sympathise with people who suffer from constipation but few can resist guffawing with laughter when someone is unable to contain wind in the belly and lets is out nosily. Dr Lakshmipathi quotes a popular limerick:

There was this girl from Saragota
Who was widely renowned as a
Her deafening reports
At the New Delhi sports
Led to a hue and cry to deporter!

Come to think of it, a doctor who wants to win the confidence of the patient cannot afford to be a jovial fellow.

Though laughter is known to be the best medicine, a medicine man must not occasion mirth. Samuel Johnson was of the opinion:

�A successful doctor needs three things. A top hat to give him authority. A paunch to give him dignity, and piles to give him an anxious expression.�

I don�t know how Dr Lakshmipathi looks like, but he must be great company.

A nose for politics

Almost every Indian who migrates to the United States or Canada does better than he or she would have done if he or she had stayed on in India. They excel in studies and become top earners in the country of their domicile. Some earn recognition as writers, some become millionaires, a few get elected to the congress or the senate, become ministers of government and one has even become the prime minister of a large province. There are not many examples of all members of one family doing well in their own fields of interest.

I came across one which has done so. Mrs Jagdish Singh, who was visiting Delhi to attend a marriage, told me about her family.

Jagdish was born in a lower middle class family of village, Haveli Chobdar (district Batala). After getting a degree from Baring Christian College, she got a diploma from the YMCA, Madras. She married Amarjit Singh and with their infant daughters migrated to the United States in the early Sixties. They made their home in Virginia where they had four more daughters.

Every one of them went to college and after graduating got into business or politics. Jagdish, the mother, involved herself in organising social and cultural activities of emigrants from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Burma. Last year she was nominated by a Pakistani organisation and won the Martin Luther King award for social service. Her fourth daughter, Shamina, has made it in a big way. After taking a bachelor�s degree in political science from Old Dominion University in 1991, she became an active member of the Democratic Party and canvassed for the party candidate in national elections. In 1999, she was picked to be executive director of the White House initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to advise President Bill Clinton.

�Since the type of initiative was brand new and had to build from the ground up, I think they were trying to find someone crazy enough to take it on, but also someone who had many of the skills I had developed through the years,� she said. She developed close relationship with the president�s wife, Hillary Clinton.

Now that the Clintons are out of the White House, so is Shamina Singh. But like them, she is not out of politics and is in the running for mayor of a small town in Virginia and then upwards to higher places. In America, if you have something in you, you can get anywhere. Shamina has a lot of aspirations to fulfil.

Dipping in and out of sin

I have sinned all my life,
If you don�t believe me ask my wife,
Indulged in treachery, lechery, fraud,
Ask my wife because she is a truthful lady
She�ll tell you how I am mean and greedy
And how I have missed the one and only
Of washing my sins, as she has given me a
And along with Sushma Swaraj and Sonia
Has gone to sangam to have a Holy Dip.
She is bound to rise politically
And becomes a minister, may be
And be earthquake-free
While I stand here high and dry
And for at least twelve years cry
While she with all the past ones gone
Is free to commit any new sin
And once again the holy pardon win
And justly scoff
At the missed opportunity of her worse half,
Will you please speak on my behalf?


Stand up and be counted

Sir � The Russian head of defence, Leonid Ivashov, is deftly manoeuvering a tense situation by offering protection to Europe from a surprise nuclear attack at a much lower cost than the American alternative (�Russia test-fires missiles, offers Euro defence shield�, Feb 17) . Meanwhile, the new president of the United States, George W. Bush, has started bombarding Iraq and making tall claims about the National Missile Defence. Under the circumstances, India has much to worry about in the new leadership of the US. While Russia and China are trying their best to oppose these moves, which are obviously aimed at achieving military dominance all over the globe, India should make it clear that it is not going to tolerate diplomatic slander from the US and get clubbed together with nations held as rogue states in the American perception. The comments of the American secretary of defence, Donald Rumsfeld, on News Hour With Jim Lehrer, have not helped matters and this should be made plain.
Yours faithfully,
Saikat Roy Choudhury, via email

No peace pipe

Sir � It is good to see that the Centre has finally woken up to the adverse effects of smoking (�Bill battles tobacco terror�, Feb 7). The Union health minister, C.P. Thakur, had a big role to play in formulating the government�s policy on tobacco. The ban on smoking in public places is a boon for passive smokers who run the risk of contracting cancer for no fault of their own. A big question mark now hangs over the effective implementation of the ban, since it is not uncommon to find people openly lighting up in �no smoking� zones. The government should also look into the alarming rise in gutkha chewing, especially among young people.
Yours faithfully,
Manoranjan Das, Jamshedpur

Sir � The Central government�s move to put an end to smoking in public places and sponsorship of sports events by tobacco companies has drawn a battle line between consumers and non-consumers of tobacco. It is true that most smokers today possess full knowledge of the health risks they take by consuming tobacco. The government�s decision to issue a clampdown on public smoking is welcome because it will benefit passive smokers enormously.

However, the same cannot be said about the prohibition of tobacco advertisements and sponsorship. From the promotion of these products, the government earns nearly Rs 5,552 crore as excise. Can it ever be possible for Yashwant Sinha�s ministry to raise such a large amount by other means? Also, this is unlikely to stop people from buying cigarettes. This is hardly the right way to curb the tobacco menace.

Yours faithfully,
Abhijit Roy, Jamshedpur

Sir � There are reasons to think that the government�s recently imposed restrictions on the consumption of tobacco have not been properly thought through. There is no doubt that nicotine hastens the hardening of arteries and that the tar in the cigarette paper induces cancer. But tobacco is not the only source of damage to health. Even milk has been found to cause narrowing of arteries with cholesterol coating. Red meat causes heart problems.

The government should have considered that several farmers depend on tobacco farming for their livelihood. The industry is the government�s second largest single source of revenue. This is apart from the patronage the industry gives to Indian sports.

Yours faithfully,
Prafull Goradia, Baroda

Sir � The report, �ITC pullout burns hole in tennis� (Feb 10), has shown how the ITC has protected its business interests in the wake of the government�s ban on smoking. By immediately deciding not to sponsor sporting events like tennis, cricket and golf, the company has pre-empted criticism from the government which could easily have damaged its image and goodwill.

Given the popularity of sports like tennis and cricket in India, one cannot help feeling it is a pity that the ITC should withdraw from sports sponsorship.

Yours faithfully,
T.R. Anand, Budge Budge

Sir � Cricket has lost one of its major sponsors since ITC announced its decision not to sponsor cricket and other sporting events (�ITC stubs out sports sponsorship�, Feb 9). However, the decision to ban smoking should have been taken a long time ago.

The next logical move should be aimed at preventing liquor companies from sponsoring soccer games. Despite the initial problems, the organizers will be able to find suitable sponsors for cricket and tennis. Cricketers and soccer players should do what they can to express their support to the government on this.

Yours faithfully,
A.F. Kamruddin Ahmed, Hooghly

Sir � I agree with the views expressed in the editorial, �That deadly puff� (Feb 10), that a ban on smoking might reduce passive smoking but in the process, it may encourage other forms of addiction. If the government is really keen on creating an awareness about health among the masses, then, along with the ban on smoking, it should also impose bans on the consumption of liquor and drugs.

Yours faithfully,
Urmila Guha, Burnpur

Stop, don�t run

Sir � This is to set the record straight about the news report, �Newspapers hawkers lathicharged at Howrah station� (Feb 8). That the railway police force lathicharged newspapers hawkers at Howrah station is absolutely incorrect. There was no lathicharge at all. Neither was there any injury to one or more individuals.

Some altercations took place between RPF jawans and unauthorized vendors on the morning of February 8 when the jawans were directed to clear the passenger pathway which was blocked by some vendors at the station.

Yours faithfully,
K. Mukhopadhyaya, chief public relations officer, Eastern Railways

Sir � The Eastern Railways issued an advertisement asking people to be careful while crossing tracks during fog at unmanned railway crossings. The railway minister should arrange for the construction of electronically controlled automatic gates, operated by timer switches. This will improve safety levels.

Yours faithfully,
Rajeev Goenka, Calcutta

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