Editorial 1/ Pardoner�s tale
Editorial 2/ Worthlessness
The feel good factor
Digging into history
A state and a city that couldn�t care less
Fifth column/Why it is so easy to give him a shake
Letters to the Editor

There is little doubt that the manner in which the former president of the United States, Mr Bill Clinton, used his discretionary power of pardon, during his last days in office, was scandalous. Not only did the former president pardon 140 people and reduce the sentence of another 36, an act unprecedented in recent American political history, but there is good evidence to suggest that Mr Clinton also used his discretionary power most inappropriately. Consider the background of some of those who were favoured by Mr Clinton. The best known is the fugitive financier, Mr Marc Rich. In 1983, the billionaire commodities trader fled to Switzerland to avoid prosecution on 51 counts of tax evasion, fraud and violation of a US trade embargo with Iran. Mr Clinton defended his pardon on the grounds that Mr Rich�s charitable work in west Asia had aided the peace process, but could not draw attention away from the fact that the financer�s ex-wife had made substantial donations to the Democratic Party as well as to the Clinton presidential library. Also pardoned was Mr Roger Clinton, the former president�s younger half-brother, for a 1985 cocaine-related offence. Mr Roger Clinton pleaded guilty to the charge and had served more than a year in prison. The presidential pardon erases his criminal record, but he was arrested and charged with drinking and driving in California a month after the pardon. Surely, presidential discretion cannot allow for nepotism.

Equally scandalous is the pardoning of Mr Carlos Vignalihad and Mr Almon Glenn Braswell. Mr Vignalihad, who was serving a sentence for a conspiracy to sell cocaine, was lucky to have in his father a rich and influential leader of the Los Angeles Hispanic community who has made large donations to the Democratic Party. Mr Braswell, a Miami-based businessman, was convicted in 1983 of fraud and perjury in connection with selling a mail-order treatment for baldness. He was pardoned even while the Federal Bureau of Investigation was still investigating his dubious dealings in the past and in the present. More outrageously, Ms Hillary Clinton�s younger brother and a Miami lawyer accepted nearly $400,000 from Mr Braswell and the Vignalihad family to act on their behalf. Quite expectedly, therefore, the US house of representatives government reform committee has begun hearings about the final days of decision-making that led to Mr Clinton�s last-minute pardons. Hopefully, the drama surrounding the pardons will come to an early closure. In many ways, the media attention that has been directed at the pardons is out of proportion to the importance of the issue. But Mr Clinton has a way of staying in the limelight, even when he is out of power. In that sense, the latest Clinton scandal may hurt President George W. Bush, who desperately needs the headlines, more than the former president does.


Every now and then Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and his men go visiting the bereaved, like Victorian ladies with their charity baskets. Ms Samita Roy � whose husband was recently robbed and violently beaten up on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass � was spared the chief minister�s condolences. But as her husband lay dead in the hospital, Ms Roy had to face a barrage of senior police officials and bureaucrats, the former trying to pressure her into admitting that this was merely an accident that proved to be fatal for Gopal Krishna Roy because he and his wife were not wearing helmets. The victims of a brutal crime were suddenly being pushed to admitting offence. But medical evidence has clearly established now that Ms Roy�s bereavement is a direct consequence of a total and shameful failure on the part of the police � and the chief minister who looks after this department � to tackle burgeoning criminal activity in the Bypass area.

Calcutta is supposed to be wooing investors, tourists and the world, and the bypass is the principal connection between the airport and the city. It must be admitted that being robbed and then viciously clobbered, possibly to death, minutes after landing in the city hardly inspires confidence in its investment potentials or in its contemporary glories. The entire bypass area is developing rapidly, and the connection also links the city to other townships. Citizens using the route have now completely given up on expecting any improvement in law and order in the area. They have now identified certain recurring patterns � a general invisibility or ineffectuality occasionally broken by token flurries after unfortunate incidents or around the heralded passing of VIPs. Police cars are supposed to be patrolling the route all night, but they seem to be invariably and conspicuously absent during times of crisis. From time to time, impressive figures are announced regarding the arresting of criminals, but the ganglords seem to be eternally elusive. Many criminals are caught, but the incidents never seem to cease. Most go unrecorded by the police. It takes a great deal of firmness on the part of the locals to get the police to admit that crimes have taken place. There is also an ongoing, and infuriating, uncertainty regarding jurisdiction. Nobody seems to quite know whether it is the state police or the city police who ought to be looking after this stretch. Surely, Mr Bhattacharjee, who has retained his powers over the home (police) ministry, is in a position to clear this up once and for all. Worthlessness seems to have become a chronic condition with the police, resulting in the loss of its credibility in the eyes of those it exists to serve. Trying to cover this up with post hoc, or post mortem, civilities will simply not do any more.


Yashwant Sinha has finally delivered in his fourth budget. He has presented an extremely credible budget while maintaining continuity with his previous ones. Since 1991, when the reform process started, the budget has been serving two purposes. First, it is a statement of the government�s accounts, generating the usual apprehensions about tax increases. Second, it has also become a policy statement, giving rise to expectations about future reforms. The 2001-02 budget delivers on both these counts. Some have hailed it as the best budget in the last 10 years. Stock markets have reacted positively. This has not happened after his last three budgets, and clearly reflects the general mood of the nation.

Expectations were not very high from this budget. The economy seemed unable to get above the 6 per cent growth path. The earthquake in Gujarat necessitated an additional income tax surcharge of 2 per cent. Disinvestment in the public sector was stalled with the government mired in the Bharat Aluminium Company controversy. Industry was clamouring for more protection in the wake of the approaching World Trade Organization deadlines. It seemed impossible for the finance minister to address and deliver on all these fronts. However, he seems to have done the impossible � pleasing most, with the possible exception of the Left Front.

The most pressing need is to achieve a sustained higher rate of growth of the economy. At a time when we are trying to reduce the size of the public sector, this growth has to be generated in the private sector and essentially fuelled by industry. The budget addresses this issue head on. First, the cut in interest rates on small savings should percolate into lending rates as well. This will translate into a lower cost of funds for industry, encouraging private investment. This is especially important in the current scenario with the economy bound by its WTO obligations. The real interest rate in India has been unusually high given our stable single-digit rates of inflation and high lending rates, which in turn are dictated by the high deposit rates fixed by the government. A lower real cost of funds, more in line with other economies, will not only provide the much needed boost to investment but will also help make Indian industry more competitive globally.

Second, the tax holidays given to infrastructure should also give an impetus to growth. One of the most serious bottlenecks to sustained growth has been the lack of adequate infrastructure. Part of the problem is that this sector, as in other developing economies, has been dominated by the public sector. With development, investments in this sector should have become profitable for the private sector, allowing the government to phase out its presence. However, this has not happened given the huge subsidies implicit in the pricing of infrastructure facilities, be it power, roads or telecom. The tax holiday proposed on infrastructure projects will attract private investment only if such investment is seen to be profitable. The finance minister has addressed this issue for the first time in the 2001-02 budget by talking about user charges.

Third, the government has finally started tackling the issue of labour laws. Lack of an exit policy has led to a relatively high cost of industrial labour, among other things. This has resulted in industry adopting capital intensive techniques, in a capital-scarce economy, leading to obvious distortions. In the 2001-02 budget a beginning has been made by increasing the limit to 1000 workers in Article 5B of the Industrial Disputes Act and at least talking about amending the contract labour laws.

Finally, by doing away with all the old income tax surcharges and at the same time reducing the dividend tax the finance minister has improved the bottom line for industry. He has delivered the so-called �feel good factor�.

What about the finance minister�s bottom line? Fiscal consolidation is one of the major things achieved in the budget. The target of keeping the fiscal deficit to 5.1 per cent of the gross domestic product has been met. This has been done mainly through a cut in expenditures, while maintaining revenues. Total expenditure has been cut by almost 1 per cent. However, when one looks at what expenditures have been reduced, the picture is not as rosy as it seems. While non-plan expenditure has been cut by 0.4 per cent, plan expenditure has been reduced by 2.1 per cent. An even more distressing situation emerges when we look at capital versus revenue expenditures. Capital expenditures are down by 9.4 per cent and revenue expenditures grew by 0.9 per cent. One has to wonder about the merits of a fiscal discipline attained through cuts in developmental expenditure.

In 2001-02, the finance minister has promised to bring down the fiscal deficit further to 4.7 per cent of the GDP. He is planning to do this by enhanced tax revenues keeping expenditure growth at modest levels. While total expenditure is expected to grow by about 11 per cent over the previous budget, revenue receipts are projected to grow by almost 14 per cent. The figures look even more encouraging when we look at plan and non-plan expenditures. Plan expenditure is budgeted to grow at 13.6 per cent while non-plan expenditure at 9.9 per cent. However, the estimates of plan expenditure include the Rs 5,000 crore that will come from the disinvestment proceeds. If that amount is not forthcoming, as is likely to be the case, then plan expenditure growth is budgeted at 7.9 per cent, which is significantly below that budgeted for non-plan expenditures. Further, it is more than likely that plan expenditure may actually get cut to balance the excessive increases in non-plan expenditure, as has been the situation between 1997-98 and 1999-00.

Disinvestment in public sector units in 2001-02 is targeted to fetch Rs 12,000 crore. Of this, Rs 7,000 crore is to be used for re-structuring the PSUs and the remaining Rs 5,000 crore is slated for additional plan allocation for the social infrastructure sectors. In 1999-00 the government raised Rs 2,500 crore which was 25 per cent of its target. The same situation holds for 2000-01. However, the Rs 2,500 crore ostensibly raised in the current year includes the proceeds from Bharat Aluminium Company, which may or may not come about. In 2001-02, three major PSUs are up for privatization � Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited, Air India and Maruti Udyog Limited. The valuation issues are likely to be even more complex for these enterprises. If the government keeps to its earlier achievement levels and manages to raise Rs 4,000 crore, where is this money first going to be used? Re-structuring of PSUs is essential if the government is serious about its divestment programme. On the other hand, no one can deny the importance of the social infrastructure, which always ends up bearing the brunt of fiscal discipline in the face of expenditure over-runs in other areas.

Notwithstanding all this, the 2001-02 budget has addressed policy issues which have until now been considered taboo and to that extent broken a lot of barriers. However, whether this budget will go down in history, as the precursor of the second generation of reforms, is completely dependent on the implementation of the promises made in it. First, the ruling coalition government has to get it passed in Parliament. Second, 2001-02 is an election year. This will create problems with different parties pursuing agenda which are likely to yield the maximum votes and which do not necessarily coincide with national interests. Sinha has taken some tough decisions and now he has to show his calibre by standing by them in the face of all the opposition that they are likely to generate.

The author is an economist with the Society for Economic and Financial Analysis and teaches at the Indian Statistical Institute, New Delhi


People, in general, have only a cursory interest in geology. The geological timespan of 4,000 million years is too vast for human comprehension. How minerals were formed in the cauldron of nature, or how the civilization will survive if non-renewable resources are depleted, are issues which hardly evoke any interest. People are blissfully oblivious to mighty forces like the one which caused the Himalayan uplift, until a catastrophic earthquake, as the one in Bhuj, shakes the foundation of their very existence. In an age when people are interested only in selling or chasing dreams, geology has no takers. However, as the Geological Survey of India completes 150 years of service, it is time to look at some of its accomplishments.

The GSI, one of the oldest surveys of the world, played a key role in the development of the science of geology in India. The present history of geological research in the country started from the time of the East India Company, when vast areas of India began to be explored in a systematic manner for the first time. This was done mainly by amateur geologists attached to the army or with the Survey of India. The Asiatic Society played a significant role in preserving their records and collections before the birth of the GSI.

The economic compulsion for extending steam navigation prompted the government to set up a coal committee in 1836 and with it, the idea of the GSI was conceived. Thomas Oldham joined the organization on March 5, 1851, marking the beginning of geological research in India.

The geologists, in the first 50 years, made seminal contributions. H.B. Medlicott was the first person to propose the concept of the Gondwana system, a hallmark in geological research. In the Himalayas, geologists observed highly deformed rocks sitting on young rocks. Was this �grand inversion�? In the 20th century, geologists established that due to tectonic forces huge blocks were uprooted from their root zones and thrust over the younger rocks. The idea of tectonic plates developed much later.

The early geologists performed their assigned duty of investigating into the coal resources to run the railways. Oldham wanted to induct Indians in the survey, but the absence of proper teaching facilities was a major hindrance. Oldham�s successor, Medlicott, however had strong reservations about the induction of Indians. P.N. Bose and P.N. Dutta, who were subsequently appointed, faced stiff opposition. To meet the demand of trained manpower, Thomas Holland set up the geology department at Presidency College, Calcutta. This was the first step towards complete Indianization of the GSI in 1951.

In the next 50 years monumental work in the field of economic geology built up the geological database on which the future mining and mineral-based industries developed. The fall of Burma and Malaya made the government conscious of the strategic importance of minerals. That led to the setting up of the utilization branch in the GSI in 1942. The GSI became involved not only in mineral exploration but also in actual mining. Iron and steel, copper, zinc and aluminium industries were set up during that period.

In the following 50 years, technological development revolutionized the capabilities of geological research. Universities and scientific institutes also played a significant role in research activities. The idea of tectonic plates developed through actual monitoring of plate movements and changed many erstwhile concepts of geological evolution. The study of micro-fossils and other evidence of life processes through the high magnification microscope have given us many new insights. Study of the mega structures with the help of satellite images, study of the interior of the earth with the help of seismic waves and deep geophysical probing have helped in improving the understanding of the interior of the earth.

After independence, the GSI stood as the vanguard of national development. On the basis of the work done by the GSI, the public sector was given a commanding role and all the major mineral sectors, except coal, were nationalized. Organizations like the Indian Bureau of Mines, Oil and Natural Gas Commission, Atomic Mineral Division nucleated from the GSI. New organizations like the Hindusthan Copper Limited, Hindusthan Zinc Limited, Bharat Aluminium Company and other companies were formed to take over the development of minerals from the GSI.

In the Seventies, there was great concern worldwide for the possible depletion of non-renewable resources, which created a vigorous quest for land-bed resources, as well as a scramble for sea-bed resources. The concept of the exclusive economic zone was evolved. India gained a �pioneer investor status� for the future exploration of deep sea resources. The marine wing was developed within the GSI later to meet the new challenge.

Since independence, the highest priority was given to the development of multipurpose projects and ground water. Without the geological inputs from the GSI, many ambitious projects like the Bhakra Nangal would not have come up. After the Rio summit, geo-environmental studies also became topmost priority with the GSI.

Due to the vigorous efforts of the GSI and the members of its extended family, India has become self-sufficient in terms of many major mineral commodities. Since 1990, the government initiated the process of denationalization of the mineral sector and many national and international players have joined the fray to accelerate the pace of mineral exploration. During the last 150 years of geological research, and the last 50 years of developmental planning, the nation has traversed a long distance, but there is a lot left to do.

All over the world we are now witnessing a rethinking of the role of geological research. The main focus of the developed countries is on the techniques of sustaining development. The issue is different in India. The mission should be to develop without causing irreversible damage to the environment. That is what makes the role of geologists more relevant today.


The collective efforts of the state government, the political leaders and other eminent personalities of West Bengal were responsible for a change in the name of our city from Calcutta to Kolkata. One wonders how this change in name will benefit the people of this city or will improve the existing system of education, the appalling lack of medical facilities, or bring down the rate of illiteracy and corruption. Had a fraction of these efforts been channelized for the cause of the disabled in our state, the whole scenario would have been different.

It must have been shameful for the state health department when a letter was published recently in a leading national daily about a disabled child not being able to get admission into any government hospital. It is unthinkable that such an incident should happen in a state whose citizens boast of being culturally superior to that of others.

If the change in name does not get reflected in the social structure, does it continue to have any meaning? Fanaticism of any kind, either in the name of religion or in the form of caste prejudice or regionalism, that had led to the altering of the names of the two other metropolitan cities, is thankfully absent here.

Our society�s apathy towards the physically disabled is hard to understand given that there are instances of such people assuming positions of power in our ancient texts and scriptures.

Given that our culture teaches us to respect our elders and show compassion towards the less fortunate, it is difficult to understand why disabled people do not get the respect that they deserve as human beings. Countries like Nepal have made special arrangements for the disabled and most of their cities have footpaths with ramps for wheelchair users. In Malaysia, public toilets are constructed keeping in mind the special needs of the disabled. In China, taxis have auditory meters for the blind. India, however, lags far behind its south eastern counterparts when it comes to making arrangements that benefit the disabled.

Unlike the people of Kerala, those of West Bengal have done very little for the disabled. Organizations working with the disabled along with their relatives and well-wishers took to the streets in Kerala to campaign for the rights of the disabled and even filed a public interest litigation to protest against the denial of the basic rights expected of a civilized society.

Unfortunately, very few non-governmental organizations have taken the initiative to do anything for the disabled in our state. Pressure groups should be created to exert pressure on the state government so that it is forced to think of taking measures that would benefit the disabled.

If we can mobilize public opinion and change the name of our city, surely we can take steps to construct ramps? The state should make provisions in the next budget to make sure that these steps are taken. Only then will we have something to boast about.


The sudden fall of the 11 month old United Front of Manipur government, led by W. Nipamacha Singh, once again shows the organic weakness of the Indian political system. Singh�s government abruptly lost its majority as a number of legislators from the Manipur State Congress Party, which is an ally, defected to the opposite camp. Yet, in the last elections, Nipamacha�s coalition government had secured an absolute majority in the 60-member house.

Interestingly, R. Koijam, who has formed the new cabinet is the 24th chief minister of Manipur. But he too is in a difficult situation given his differences with the other coalition partners over the expansion of the cabinet. This might be the beginning of another phase of uncertainty in the state.

But Manipur is not an isolated case. In fact, such instances have become common in today�s politics. The basic cause of this instability lies in the constitutional arrangement. India, following the British model, has accepted the cabinet system of government which makes the cabinet legally accountable to the legislature. Article 164(2) states �the council of ministers shall be collectively responsible to the legislative assembly of the state�. If the government loses majority in the assembly, the chief minister has to step down.

However, some other developments can threaten the position of the chief minister. First, his party may bring him down by changing its leader. For example, P.C. Ghose, the former chief minister of West Bengal, had to give way to B.C. Roy as the legislative party changed its leader in 1948. A split in the party may also mean the ouster of the chief minister if it reduces the cabinet to a minority.

Chronic problem

If a big partner or an ally in a coalition parts company, the government may suffer a crisis in its numerical strength, in which case the chief minister may have to resign. Also, when allies withdraw their support from outside to a minority government, it entails an untimely dismissal of the cabinet. Finally, when the chief minister is imposed from outside, without the prior consent of the parliamentary party of the state, he may have to resign if local resentment continues.

For example, in 1989, Om Prakash Chautala, son of the then deputy prime minister, Devi Lal, was foisted on Haryana as chief minister, though the state�s parliamentary party objected to it. But soon after a showdown he was replaced by Benarasi Das.

The chronic instability of the polity probably began in 1967 when non-Congress governments came to power in eight states of the country. However, deeprooted suspicion and rivalry among the constituent members soon threatened the governments. A slight change in inter-party relations brought about sudden changes in chief ministers. In Orissa, 16 cabinets were formed in 16 months. A similar situation occurred in some of the other states. The unhappy trend continues.

Failed experiment

It can be argued therefore that the Westminster model has not worked for the country. While accepting the model, B.R. Ambedkar, chief architect of the Constitution, had claimed that it combined stability with responsibility. He emphasised that the cabinet would be responsible to the popular chamber and at the same time, the majority support would ensure the stability of the cabinet. But while the United Kingdom has developed a bi-party system in order to strengthen the model, India labours under a multi-party chaos. Moreover, lack of party discipline and personal integrity have hamstrung the British model in our country.

The government�s accountability to the assembly often destroys its stability. Unless a chief minister can adroitly manage the Centre, the governor, the party, the allies and the opposition at the same time, he cannot expect to hold his position for long. The situation is particularly bad in a coalition government. The chief minister has to pander to his allies and prevail over his party legislators.

With the decline of the Congress monolith, the situation in India has worsened. A heterogenous coalition often takes over the reins, but its inherent disagreements break it up. Politics today is a game of opportunism. The chief minister sits under the sword of Damocles and becomes, like Nipamacha Singh, the scapegoat of a diseased democracy.



Yet another assault

Sir � �Sangh outfit gun for film and funds� (Mar 2) is yet another sick reminder of the presence of communal organizations like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal in our society. Their claim that Bollywood films like Chori Chori Chupke Chupke are invariably sponsored by mafia money has some basis. In fact, this is quite well-known and those among us who are lenient, can write off the big ruckus as another little stunt being pulled off by these people. But the talk about the withdrawal of the haj subsidy is a direct and unpardonable assault on Muslims. Only condemning this will not be enough. All the democratic forces in the country should come down heavily on these organizations now. Next we will hear them sending out mass extermination orders against all those communities towards whom they feel animosity. If this country has to retain any semblance of individual rights, a suitable forum should be organized at once. Something that will fight them politically and legally.
Yours faithfully,
Ronojoy Chatterjee, via email

Misplaced sarcasm

Sir � Mani Shankar Aiyar probably thinks that sarcasm is a substitute for sense (�Not disinvestment again, please� Feb 26). The majority of public sector units in India are cesspools of mismanagement, sloth and corruption, sitting on vast assets created by enormous expenditure of taxpayers� money.

They bring neither cost-effective goods nor customer-friendly services to their customers. Few earn profits, or are capable of earning in future returns that would justify the heavy investments made in them.

Under the leadership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Arun Shourie and his co-workers are doing a signal service to the entire nation (including the employees of public sector units like Bharat Aluminium Company) by transferring these white elephants to the hands of capable businessmen in an open and transparent manner so that they may be rejuvenated and run in an efficient, customer-friendly manner. The country needed such a policy desperately. Only those public sector employees who do not carry out their share of the unit�s work need to worry; all the others will be benefited by the change.

Yours faithfully
Alok Sarkar, Calcutta

Sir � It is becoming impossible to build a consensus among the heterogeneous groups in the National Democratic Alliance government. The latest example is the issue of the disinvestment of the Balco. The Telugu Desam Party being a member of the NDA, should have refrained from joining the opposition bandwagon.

The NDA government claims that it wants to be more transparent in governing. Then what is its haste in selling 51 per cent of its stake in Balco? It could have waited for some more time, till a suitable price was offered for it. The communist leaders, alleging that the government is selling its stake in Balco for too low a price, want the government to involve some global experts to value the assets of the company.

But this is an unfair demand, since divestment is an internal affair and at no cost should foreign valuers be involved in it. Can�t our own experts be trusted to make a correct valuation? However, the NDA government must ensure that such deals are made transparent so that there is no room for the opposition to rake up a controversy.

Yours faithfully,
V.A. Gopala, Bangalore

Sir � No sooner is there someone finally trying to get the economy moving on the right track than there are people like Mani Shankar Aiyar who find this completely unacceptable. Decades of economic growth have been lost because of the conservative economic policies of the Congress, which has Aiyar tied to its little finger. If Aiyar or his colleague, Madhav Rao Scindia, really thinks that Balco�s value is higher than what Sterlite has offered for it, they can try to buy the company and sell it at a higher price for an instant, risk-free profit.

Yours faithfully,
Gopi Krishna Maliwal, via email

Sir � The editorial, �Beyond myopia� (Feb 28), rightly supports the proposal of disinvesting Balco. Maintaining law and order, ensuring overall growth of the country and preventing malpractice are the primary responsibilities of the government. Service, industries, trade and commerce are best left to the private players, with the government playing the role of facilitator. It is unfortunate that the Congress, which initiated the reform process, is itself obstructing it by opposing the disinvestment proposal of Balco. It is difficult to encourage private participation in Indian industry if political opposition comes in the way in this manner.

Yours faithfully,
C.R. Bhattacharjee, Calcutta

Many faces of terror

Sir � The taliban is an assortment of mindless people. The destruction of the statues of Buddha (�Taliban turn guns on Buddha�, Mar 3) in Bamiyan shows the utter disregard they have for the values that most people of the subcontinent share. An already traumatized world did not need the taliban to upset any hope of peace. As an Indian and a Muslim, I should like to formally condemn this act and state that I find no justification for it. This is a flagrant violation of the tenets of Islam which unequivocally states that there should be no compulsion in religion and which automatically implies that those of other faiths should be left alone and unharmed. Actions such as this will only encourage militant forces around the world and create further anarchy. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad has already issued threats, and although they have not specified against whom this response will be targeted, the implications are obvious.

Every right-minded individual should condemn this event. The taliban, by indulging in such behaviour, has committed political suicide. There is no place for this sort of fundamentalism in today�s world and the sooner these people realize this the better it will be for all of us. All governments which encourage fundamentalist thinking and actions in order to achieve short-term goals should be aware that such actions will boomerang against them in the end.

Yours faithfully,
Jawaid Quddus, Michigan, US

Sir � A fine example has been set by the United Kingdom by the ban imposed on the terrorist outfits seeking shelter in that country. (�Delhi heat on Pak after Blair terror ban�, Mar 2.) If other major countries follow the UK, it will become easy to fight terrorism.

Several dreaded outfits like the Lashkar-e-Toiba had established their offices in England. They were able to collect money and manpower through these offices. Because of the British intervention, these bases will be lost. The new government in the United States should now learn from Blair�s example.

Yours faithfully,
Priyank Sinha, Calcutta

Sir � The army and the Radhabinod Koijam government have taken a bold step by announcing a unilateral ceasefire for 15 days and one month respectively in Manipur (�Outfit rejects Holi truce�, Mar 2). If the army and the government are sincere in their actions, a positive result is expected in the peace process. The Centre is also expected to announce a unilateral ceasefire in all the insurgency-stricken regions of the Northeast as a peace initiative.

The home minister has rightly said that the militancy problems in Jammu and Kashmir and in the Northeast are very different. One is state-sponsored terrorism while the other is the result of prolonged negligence by the Centre. The time has come for the Centre to rescue the Northeast from becoming a permanent battle field.

Yours faithfully,
Ratan K., via email

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