Editorial 1 / The last ditch
Editorial 2 / Test case
Once the euphoria is over
Fifth column / A thin line between india and myanmar
Ode to the wet wind
Barbarians at the gates of civilization
Letters to the editor

Complacency could well turn out to be Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav�s fatal flaw. The master of extempore antics might have to pull off yet another one to mend the messy consequences of taking one�s last-ditch charisma too much for granted. This time the trouble comes from within. The Rashtriya Janata Dal could split vertically, the numbers in the legislature look ominous and Mr Yadav�s eternal enemy, the saffron Centre, is vengefully zeroing in to exploit this situation in order to topple the decade-long Yadav reign in Bihar. After the ugly business with fodder, handled with the familiar legerdemain, this is, indeed, a major political crisis for Mr Yadav. He has simply not been looking after his partymen well enough. An unwieldy cabinet, held together by the appeasement of ministerial greed and energized by caste allegiances, breeds its peculiar forms of dissidence. And this is what Mr Yadav has failed to pre-empt. The working president of his party has marshalled the RJD dissidents under him and is threatening to sway the numbers against Mr Yadav in the assembly. The plot thickens as the Samata Party, with full backing from leaders within the National Democratic Alliance, gleefully takes it upon itself to assemble the political support for the lead dissident, Mr Ranjan Yadav. The rebels intend to effect a split at both the assembly and the parliamentary levels.

As always in Bihar, the crisis assumes a dizzying absurdity as the situation is reduced to shifting arithmetic. The Messrs Yadav are both playing with time; both are, of course, deeply concerned about none other than the people of Bihar. Mr Laloo Yadav wants to rescue them from the multinationals and fundamentalists; Mr Ranjan Yadav wants to restore the noble principle of �development� as the single, disinterested priority. Yet it remains impossible to imagine either the seven-day wonder, Mr Nitish Kumar, or the suave ideologue, Mr Ranjan Yadav, commanding the sort of support base that Mr Laloo Yadav still enjoys in Bihar. Moreover, any new government in Bihar, though temporarily united by a common enemy, is bound to be a coalition, always already riven by conflicting interests. The same instabilities � born of proliferating ministries dished out to keep hungry allies happy � are going to be perpetuated. But this time there does not seem to be a leader who can summon the cunning, the comedy and the rhetoric to keep an electorate enthralled by a collective illusion of secularized empowerment. This remains Mr Laloo Yadav�s advantage over his busily scheming opponents in this crisis. But with just about enough time left for him to salvage the situation, perhaps with some enormously entertaining sleight of hand, Mr Yadav will have to learn that housekeeping is just as important as mass trickery to keep topsyturvydom going.


Plans to disinvest and privatize are integral to the liberalization project. The state is keen to withdraw its presence and its shadow from business so it is keen to sell off its own stakes in public sector units. This is also one way to raise greater revenue. But in a country like India, with a history of state patronage and of gimcrack socialism, this is easier said than done. Between the desire of the government to sell certain public sector units and its fulfilment, there are innumerable obstacles. The old saying about there being many a slip between the cup and the lip seems to be nowhere more true than in this sphere of public policy and its implementation. The case of Bharat Aluminium Company is an example. The government decided to disinvest and following an orchestrated outcry and various unfounded allegations, it took the matter to Parliament where it won a vote on the matter. One would have thought that the issue was sealed and settled and henceforward the new owners, Sterlite, would run Balco as a private enterprise. But this is to reckon without the power of trade unions. More that 7,000 workers have struck work in protest against privatization in the company�s Korba plant. This has, of course, made the decision to privatize Balco only an idea on a piece of paper. Such is the hold of a defunct ideology that the Balco workers prefer to keep the factory closed than earn a decent wage under a new and enterprising ownership and management.

Behind the workers stands the new Congress government of Chhattisgarh. Mr Ajit Jogi, the chief minister of the new state, has come out in favour of the strike and has threatened that the strike will continue till the deal is called off. In fact, many of Mr Jogi�s statements run counter to what is one of the principal responsibilities of a chief minister: the maintenance of law and order. Such a responsibility would dictate that Mr Jogi should disperse the workers and get them back to work so that the plant can resume operations. Instead, Mr Jogi has moved completely in the opposite direction. He has, according to reports, threatened to cut off essential supplies to the plant and cancel the mining leases held by Balco. All this, despite the guarantee that the takeover by Sterlite would not lead to loss of jobs. The experience of Balco is enough to scare off all potential investors, especially those interested in buying up government stakes in public sector units. It is time some people and some political parties realized that the capital required for rejuvenating industrial units held by the government will no longer come from the state exchequer. It will come only from private capitalists. If the latter do not invest the future is doomed. Time is running out for irresponsible trade unionism.


It has taken less than a week for the euphoria over the budget to peter out. Even to begin with, it was by no means roses, roses all the way for the finance minister, Yashwant Sinha. For every bouquet presented to him by captains of industry, he had to suffer the indignity of a brickbat thrown at him by trade unions alarmed at the prospect of thousands of workers losing their jobs if and when the proposed change in the labour laws comes into force.

The mixed reaction is no surprise. The corporate sector was thrilled because of the tax cuts, the lowering of the interest rates and the carrot of a labour policy which will enable units of upto a 1000 workers to lay off surplus staff. But the cash in stock prices dampened its spirit, reminding it that it was by no means immune to the spread effect of any slackening of the economy at the nerve-centre of the global market. The trade unions will, in any case, make life difficult for the government, knowing its record of going back, under duress, on decisions hard to implement. In any case, not many alliance partners want to risk acquiring an anti-working-class image.

Even otherwise, some features of the budget mock the agenda of the ruling coalition. How do cuts in the already meagre earnings of many indigent families, that reduce the interest paid on small savings, tally with the vaunted concern of the alliance partners for those who can hardly eke out just enough to keep body and soul together? Indeed, while chipping away at the subsistence incomes of the poor, the budget provides for freer imports of foreign liquors to cater to the luxury needs of the newly rich spawned by the so-called structural adjustments. Of course, all this does not prevent members of the ruling coalition from calling themselves neo-Gandhians at a time when most ideological labels have lost their meaning and the very language of public discourse has been vandalized by demagogues.

The finance minister is right when he says that bad economics does not make good politics. But has he been able to get this message across to some of his own colleagues in the government? There was no sign in the railway budget of its having reached Mamata Banerjee. Or did the presiding deity at the Rail Bhavan consign it to the wastepaper basket? Why did the prime minister fight shy of making her do something to stop the process of decay of the railway system?

One wishes that some of the finance minister�s budgetary calculations turn out to be correct, that he will be able to reduce the fiscal deficit from 5.1 per cent to 4.7 per cent of the gross national product, somehow contain the inflationary pressure and ensure an economic growth rate of 6.5 per cent to 7 per cent in the next financial year. But there is no convincing evidence in the budget to show that resources on the scale needed to create conditions for a growth rate of 9 per cent over a long period will be forthcoming. As for the grim problem of growing unemployment, the finance minister has maintained a discreet silence.

Yashwant Sinha is justly proud of having had the spunk to go ahead with the second phase of the liberalization programme. He has undertaken to launch a more vigorous privatization drive, which is slated to bring Rs 12,000 crore into the government�s kitty. And he is prepared to stick his neck out in taking on the trade unions in a bid to extend the area in which to try out a hire-and-fire labour policy. Unfortunately, it will be tough going for him on both these fronts.

The Balco muddle shows that parliamentary approval of a deal is not enough to convince the public that everything is above board in the absence of greater transparency and more stringent procedures for valuation and closer scrutiny of bids. There may be no cause to suspect any foul play in this case. The trouble is that this is not how the government of Chhattisgarh, where one of Balco�s plants is situated, feels about it. Indeed the chief minister, Ajit Jogi, speaks of a huge kickback and has even promised to name the guilty person before a joint parliamentary committee if one is appointed to go into the pros and cons of the deal. Even the Balco workers refuse to buy the government�s story and have gone on strike to register their protest. The charge that the transfer of tribal land is in violation of a Supreme Court judgment adds a new dimension to the controversy.

If this murky affair proves anything, it is that there is something seriously wrong with the rules of the privatization game. If the Balco deal falls through as a result of political wrangles or legal tangles, the prospective buyers of shares in other public sector ventures will be all the more wary, and the total amount received by the government by sale of public sector units may not add up to even half the budgeted sum. There is still enough time to streamline all the procedures and save privatization from turning into a fiasco.

If one main prop of the new phase of the liberalization programme is increasing privatization of public sector units, the other is a more flexible labour policy. As things are, the second, like the first, is beset by uncertainties, putting the whole business in jeopardy. The change in labour policy faces a major political hurdle because the necessary legislation to give it effect will need the approval of both houses of Parliament and the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government does not have a majority in the Rajya Sabha. This is why the finance minister is so keen to secure the cooperation of the Congress and remind it of its moral obligation not to obstruct the passage of a measure which is a logical continuation of the policy initiated by it.

Whether the Congress will earn the hostility of trade unions just to oblige a party which opposed it tooth and nail while it was trying to save the economy from going over the brink, remains to be seen. But during a television discussion on the budget, when Yashwant Sinha talked of the need for a broader consensus, Manmohan Singh asked, sharply, how often the present finance minister sought the advice of his predecessor during the last three years. He had a point, since consensus-building implies mutual trust and frequent exchange of views in search of common ground, particularly with regard to problems permitting no soft options.

In any case, the present government cannot use the Congress as a scapegoat and blame the main opposition party for its own failures to set matters right. The mistakes made by the Congress need to be judged in the light of the policy prescriptions of other groups at the time, that carried the seeds of disruption and would have made the state weaker and more vulnerable to outside pressures. Did not Jayaprakash Narayan for long try to sell General Ayub Khan�s phoney basic democracy as a better system than the one in force here?

The Congress could retain its hegemony for so long only because it was able to resolve the differences between the Centre and the states at the party level, having a sufficiently large, often decisive, presence in every part of the country. Yet, it failed to develop a political culture dynamic enough to take up the challenges of the ongoing technological revolution, and failed to change its economic course even after many of its much less developed neighbours in southeast Asia had forged ahead of it.

It took the government too long to get out of the trap of a measly growth rate of 3.5 per cent a year, which could neither make any dent in mass poverty nor spare enough resources to invest in education and healthcare or in improving the general conditions of living. Ironically enough, the higher growth rate of the reform period has widened, not narrowed, the income disparities not only between regions but also between individuals. Meanwhile, the globalization forces are fragmenting political life in multi-ethnic societies into ever smaller bits and destabilizing governments which are often forced to act against their better judgment under pressure from allies at home and from self-appointed managers of the new world order abroad.

The crucial parts of the economic reforms process cannot but have a rough passage both in and outside Parliament, when so many demagogues, with a say in Central government, are not above using all sorts of devious means to stall changes which go against the grain of their populist thinking or compromise their public image in their regional, communal or caste constituencies. Before the finance minister sets out to build a national consensus on the hard decisions he has taken, he should strive to achieve a greater cohesion in the thinking of the sangh parivar and the ruling alliance. The opposition of the trade union which owes allegiance to his own party, to the proposed change in the labour laws ought to remind him that consensus-building too, like charity, begins at home.


No important political leader has visited Myanmar in the last 13 years. During this period of New Delhi�s isolation, the Chinese have expanded their influence and Myanmar�s foreign policy is now being drafted in Beijing. The strategic importance of this country � which shares a border stretching for about 1,600 kilometres with sensitive Indian states like Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram, as well as Bangladesh � has been lost over the years. Yet it was in Myanmar that the Indian troops fought many battles against the Japanese during the World War II.

The visit of the Indian foreign minister, Jaswant Singh, to Myanmar, in early February, along with a large delegation of representatives from the eastern states, though much delayed, is a step in the right direction. It is imperative that the Indo-Myanmar interaction should not end with the opening of the Tamu-Kalewa road, now that the government has gained the necessary mileage from its inauguration. Myanmar�s growing closeness with China and the initiatives that the Americans have taken to restore democracy in that country, could well turn it into a battleground between the two.

Junta�s b�te noir

Myanmar faces several crucial issues in the near future. The leader of the National League for Democracy and the military junta�s b�te noir, Aung San Suu Kyi, wants the military to quit and democracy established in its place. Therefore, she continues to be the chief obstacle to the future ambitions of the erstwhile state law and order restoration council which has now been renamed as the state peace and development council.

The problems faced by Myanmar�s military junta are innumerable � the continuing insurgency and pro-democracy movements in the country, the threat of an election under the supervision of the United Nations, the redrafting of the constitution to enable the military rulers retain a tight grip on the country, foreign pressure and allegations of human rights violations.

Suu Kyi, who was placed under house arrest from 1989 to 1995, has been detained from time to time by the military for short intervals of time. The SPDC is yet to decide whether to charge her or set her free. Suu Kyi has also been given the option of leaving Myanmar for good, a choice she is unlikely to make given that she enjoys tremendous international support and sympathy. Suu Kyi, the winner of the 1991 Nobel prize for peace, will probably go on to stay in her country.

Closed to the world

The military too is becoming stronger. With a state-controlled media and stringent laws, it now has better control over the country. Foreign investment is coming into the country in the form of joint ventures and business investments. The armed forces too have been expanding with massive arms supplies pouring in from Beijing, in accordance with a Sino-Myanmar agreement signed in the early Nineties. It is likely that the Myanmarese army will become as dependent on Chinese defence hardware as Pakistan�s is today.

The lack of any free flow of information from Myanmar to the outside world, makes things even more difficult for the SPDC and only serves to tarnish its image in the international community. According to an Amnesty International report released some time back, life in Myanmar is characterized by fear, intimidation and widespread human rights violations.

It is in this context that the United States sees a role for India in its foreign policy. India should be prepared to see fresh initiatives by the US to ensure the restoration of democracy in Myanmar. It is very likely that there may be pressure on the SPDC to let Suu Kyi stay on in the country and permit her to campaign for the elections. Realizing the possibility of such a scenario, the military has embarked on a plan to pre-empt this by redrafting the constitution. This tool has been used to delay elections on one pretext or another.

From the Indian point of view, it is unbelievable that no Indian dignitary has visited Yangon since Rajiv Gandhi�s visit to the city in 1987. Cooperation between Myanmar and India would have helped the latter control illicit drug trade across its borders as well as put an end to the smuggling of arms to the United Liberation Front of Asom and other terrorist outfits, thereby controlling terrorism.


It�s that time of year when talk in Delhi turns to the weather. The roundabouts in Lutyens�s capital are lurid with spring flowers and English medium schoolchildren have begun to shed the blazers and anoraks of winter. In Chittaranjan Park, shivering probashees, hold out longer: sweaters and balaclavas linger till Holi. Even if Holi happens on a chilly day, Delhiwallahs perspire dogmatically from that day on because they�ve learnt from their mothers that summer begins with Holi. They also believe that summer in the rest of India begins with Holi. The woman on Star News keeps harping on differences in temperature but these, Delhi�s citizens believe, should be understood as regional variations, aberrant departures from the unitary norm. Just as the Founding Fathers chose to have one Indian Standard Time (when India was large enough to fit in three different time zones), they also decreed in a little known annexure to the Meteorological Schedule of the Constitution, that seasons were a Central subject.

Everything in India is national � including the weather. Meteorologists believe in a travelling cloud called the monsoon which waters the whole country. This is not an adult or plausible belief, but like the IAS probationer�s Bharat darshan, it is a valuable, unitary idea which helps us believe in India.

The monsoon is an annual fiction that dates back, not surprisingly, to the eighteen hundreds, the century which produced the world�s most durable realist fictions like War and Peace and the Indian census. The monsoon, therefore, is actually a colonial story. We simply inherited it during the transfer of power and harnessed it to the nationalist cause.

The British needed a pan-Indian rain cloud for their own purposes. Since it was necessary for them to believe that India was socially and politically divided, they looked to nature for ideas which would make their dominions cohere. Now there isn�t much about the map of India (physical) that suggests unity in diversity � stuck for ideas, the English fell back upon the weather. Mausam became monsoon and India became the Land of Monsoon Rain, a wonderful imaginative flight that gave Jaisalmer and Cherrapunji a climate in common.

Here it�s important to acknowledge the influence of the Romantics, especially P.B. Shelley�s �Ode to the West Wind�. If you stop to think about it, it�s a bizarre title � only a culture submerged by the weather could produce a poem like that. The point to remember is that when the English invented the monsoon they had a lot of experience in invoking winds for metaphorical purposes. But they also knew that to get people to believe in this state-sponsored monsoon they needed paperwork. So they set up meteorological offices and began to measure rainfall, to calculate average precipitation, to produce documentary proof of the monsoon�s reality, to compose their statistical Ode to the Wet Wind.

vIronically, their success in selling the idea destroyed the raj. Early Congress sessions, revisionist historians have established, were peopled by bhadralok discussing the weather. In the beginning, this amounted to no more than babus imitating their betters, but once they internalized the idea of the monsoon and realized that rain in India was national not parochial, they moved from local self-government to swaraj in a single bound. The bhadralok�s attachment to umbrellas is to be understood as a patriotic reflex, the umbrella here signifying the imminence of the nation, symbolized by that itinerant, India-spanning raincloud, the monsoon.

Over the years, meteorologists developed and refined an itinerary for the monsoon�s Bharat darshan. Thus, we in Delhi know that the monsoon stops over at the end of June. Of course it doesn�t. Anyone who has lived three years in Delhi knows that. In 1987 it didn�t come at all. But since there�s a date to go by we accept that �it� is �late�. The monsoon�s schedule works in exactly the same way as the Indian Railways� timetable � if the Avadh-Assam Mail hasn�t turned up four days after it was meant to, we don�t question its existence: we simply look at the scheduled time of arrival in our Bradshaws and conclude that it�s ninety-six hours late. And just as it is unheard of for a train to arrive before its time, when it rains in Delhi before the end of June, no matter how hard and how long, it can only be a pre-monsoon �shower�. And sometimes the weatherman announces the monsoon has broken before it rains. Like all entrenched monopolies, the Met Office has succumbed to dogma, to monsoonist orthodoxy.

It�s time to repudiate the monsoon, to grow up. As a colonial, pre-industrial ploy to integrate the subcontinent it has served its turn; we now have Akashvani, Doordarshan, the Indian Railways, the postal system and the Unit Trust. We can still celebrate the rains; people celebrate Christmas without believing in Santa. It�s time to take a more federal view of Indian rainfall, to accept the regional autonomy of precipitation. We must stop tracking this mythical beast via satellite pictures; it�s like looking for ghosts with infra-red binoculars. It�s undignified; posterity will laugh at our weathermen, the history of science will lump them with UFO-spotters and Eric Von Daniken.

Cricket offers better ways of describing Indian rainfall than our meteorologists do. Rain clouds in Bombay are professionals: once they take guard, they�re orthodox, consistent and prolific. They stay in and go on and on. Delhi�s clouds will gather a dozen times without scoring. When they do rain, it�s for all of fifteen minutes. Amateurs, every one of them: showy part-timers, deservedly extinct.


The ruling taliban of Afghanistan have put themselves beyond the pale of civilization by their decision to destroy the two ancient rock-cut Buddhas at Bamiyan, along with other pre-Islamic artefacts which depict the human figure.

The Kabul Museum has probably the richest collection of Gandhara art in the world. The art combines a unique fusion of European and Indian styles. The cloak of the Buddha, for instance, is like a Greek robe and some of his features are distinctly European.

There have been reports that small Buddha statues and other figures of the Gandhara period have turned up in salesrooms in London, New York and Japan. Since they were never catalogued, they can easily be sold, undetected. They must have been smuggled out of Afghanistan and it is quite likely that the taliban, which has plenty of arms but is short of cash, had a hand in it.

Many countries, including predominantly Buddhist nations like Japan and Thailand, have condemned the taliban�s move and pleaded with it to desist from destroying what is not only the heritage of Afghanistan, but that of the world. But given the mood the taliban is in, it is unlikely that it is going to listen to reason.

Even Pakistan�s appeal, which came rather late in the day, seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Though it seemed that the taliban earlier wanted some degree of international acceptance, now it seems beyond caring. The only factor which might sway it is a substantial amount of money for the art it intends to destroy. This could come from rich Western museums or from international rganizations.

But why are some fundamentalist Muslims so strongly opposed to art, especially when it does not slight their religion? This kind of fanaticism has been so strong in the past that thousands of temples and sculptures have been destroyed or defaced, especially in north India by the Muslim invaders. When they reached southern India, their fanatical zeal had been somewhat tempered, or perhaps they had become more appreciative of non-Muslim art and culture. Which explains why quite a few southern temples have been spared. Jain temples, like the ones at Mount Abu and Ranakpur also escaped destruction, partly because of their remote locations.

Along with other countries, India has also formally protested against the taliban�s actions, to the extent of stating that it would be willing to take whatever the taliban is planning to destroy. But that is hardly practical. The giant Buddhas for example cannot be saved this way. Also, the taliban is unlikely to �gift� the collection at the Kabul Museum, or whatever remains of it, to India, a country which does not even recognize the regime.

The external affairs minister, Jaswant Singh, might have explained India�s stand on the issue while going through the motions in Parliament. But let him not forget that the Bharatiya Janata Party too has its version of the taliban among its ranks. The destruction of the Babri Masjid � and the proposed destruction of other mosques that supposedly lie on top of ancient Hindu temples � is not essentially different from the actions of the taliban in Afghanistan.



Who will bell the cats?

Sir � Evidently, the political cat and mouse game is still on in Mumbai (�Court to record Dutt statement on blasts�, March 6). Eight years after the serial blasts, several years after Sunjay Dutt�s imprisonment, the concrete evidence of the Sri Krishna commission report and the ban on the TADA itself, the Maharashtra government is yet to give up on the farce of putting to trial the men behind the 1993 massacre. The Congress-Nationalist Congress Party alliance in power is as little committed to bringing the criminals to book as the previous Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party government. Why do statements of the accused need to be recorded again after the �marathon� trial involving them has already concluded in September last year? Why can�t the government hurry with the penalization instead of wasting time in useless paperwork? Is it to keep its political rivals on tenterhooks for a little longer, while lip service is paid to the cause of the victims?
Yours faithfully,
Jayanta Acharya, Calcutta

Talking heads

Sir � The report, �Christian panel issues legal notice over census� (Feb) makes obvious that census 2001 will be conducted on the basis of clauses which are discriminatory, to say the least. The census stipulates that those to be listed as scheduled castes must be only Hindus, Sikhs or Buddhists. Yet the government for all these years had made no effort to let it be known that the SCs were restricted to these three communities only. It is quite obvious that the government of India has no intention of making the right to freedom of religion a workable reality. As the government is in the process of conducting a census, one will know the exact number of people within a particular caste group.

The government should allow these people to profess any religion of their choice while giving them the facilities due to SCs. It is unfair to discriminate against some because they have converted to Christianity. There is also no need for Hindu fundamentalists to talk in terms of �converted� or not, as all Indian Christians are indigenous to the country, unlike the Parsees or Iranian refugees who live in their own diaspora in India.

The Indian government must remove the discriminatory clauses in the census and amend the presidential orders 13 and 106, as was done in the case of Sikhs and Buddhists. The minorities commission should also refer the discriminatory clauses and the presidential orders to the government and the human rights commission.

Yours faithfully,
Tony Fernandes, Mumbai

Sir � The government ought to know on what particular information the emphasis of the study should be placed since the welfare of its population is inevitably linked to the census report (�Right to count�, Feb 15). The report should be comprehensive enough for the authorities to deduce the plight of specific groups of people so that future development can be planned systematically.

It is important to be able to learn from the census how many people live below the poverty line and how many are illiterates. Having procured the data, the Centre should not sit on it, nor should the government try to impress the media by elaborating on the efforts put in by the officials engaged in the operation and the difficulties they had to face in conducting the census.

Yours faithfully,
K.R. Venkatasubramanian, Calcutta

Sir � The counting part of the 14th census finished on February 28. Yet it is surprising to find that innumerable houses in the city were not covered by the enumerators. On several instances, enumerators were deliberately shut out by the people themselves. If this is the situation in the metropolis, are there any doubts about how the operation was conducted in the villages?

Yours faithfully,
S. Chatterjee, Calcutta

Sir � Sreyashi Dastidar in �What�s work got to do with it?� (March 6) rightly highlights the hypocrisy of the Indian state. If such a substantial section of the Indian population like the sex workers is ignored by the state, and worse, put under a false category, one can well understand the worth of the census. Given the ideological position of the present government, who knows, the census figures might in the end be doctored to suit its political calculations.

Yours faithfully,
T.K. Sinha, Calcutta

Sir � When asked for a copy of the details we had supplied to the enumerator on our household, the enumerator declared that the census form was �confidential�. It is indefensible that the census authorities should have refused to supply a copy of the forms filled in to the citizen or the family concerned, and when specifically asked for.

Yours faithfully,
Norma Louis, Mumbai

Retired unhurt

Sir � About 70,000 employees in the banking sector are retiring from service after accepting the voluntary retirement scheme with a compensation package of about Rs 5,000 crore in total. In addition, the government is considering a VRS for its own employees that may result in a lakh employees deciding to quit services with a total compensation of more than Rs 8,000 crore.

Of this workforce, several thousand will get into other jobs with a salary, some will try their hand in business, industrial and service sectors with part of their compensation amount. The remaining will invest in long-term retirement schemes.

With these people, a total amount of Rs 13,000 crore will enter the market by way of compensation. This will have its impact on the volume of money circulation. With a sagging growth rate that has currently come down to six per cent, such an acceleration of money supply will not augur well for the economy. With stiff competition from international companies, if industries, business and service sectors in the country fail to make their mark, the rate of economic growth will further slow down.

Yours faithfully,
P.N. Pal, Calcutta

Sir � Pensioners have repeatedly complained of delay in pension disbursements. Pension accounts are transaction accounts and should not be treated as regular accounts by the banks. There are no service charges involved in these. Except the month of April, pensions should be given before the end of the month. The payment should be spread over a period of up to four last working days of the month.

The details of the phasing out for now are left to branch managers of public sector banks to suit local requirements. However, a transparent system should be evolved with the modalities prominently displayed or publicized.

Yours faithfully,
M.R. Pai, Mumbai

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