Editorial 1 / Falling stock
Editorial 2 / Run for development
Significant extravaganza
Fifth Column / United colours of the nation
The return of Jayalalithaa
Keep the administrationon its toes
Letters to the editor

No one can blame Mr Yashwant Sinha if he turns his back on the Indian stock market. Less than a fortnight ago, he presented a budget which was acclaimed by almost the entire corporate sector. He laid down a blueprint for second generation reforms, and even went to the extent of proposing very daring labour market reforms. Some have suggested that these reform proposals have to be taken with more than a pinch of salt since the National Democratic Alliance government may lose its nerve at the time of implementation. But Mr Sinha has also included several very concrete gifts to the corporate sector as well as to investors. These include a drastic reduction in the surcharge on income tax as well as a lowering of the dividend tax. The Bombay sensitive index did climb up sharply immediately after the budget. But, the euphoria was shortlived. The downward journey started a couple of days after the budget. By the end of last week, the Sensex had crashed several percentage points below what it was on budget day. Several reasons are said to have caused this fresh crisis. There is of course the current favourite “whipping boy” — the likely recession in the United States economy. What is clear, however, is that the fundamentals of the Indian economy have very little bearing on share prices.

This suggests that the Indian share market remains relatively underdeveloped. In the developed markets, the fundamentals of the economy seem to play a much larger role in determining the general level of share prices. The investing public is also much larger, and more importantly, shareholding is diluted. An important implication is that a few large players cannot unduly influence the behaviour of the market. Naturally, share prices are much less volatile in the developed countries. The immature state of the stock markets in India has several negative implications. Perhaps the most important of these is the lopsided development of the share markets. Prices of an overwhelming majority of stocks remained depressed. This is because the institutional investors typically invest only in the blue chips in category A. There is very little investor interest in the shares of the medium-sized companies. This lack of balance is proving to be rather costly for the corporate sector. The majority of retail investors cannot afford to invest in the costly blue chips. The volatility in prices of large companies also scares them off, since they can incur huge losses if they enter at the wrong time If there is very little prospect of improvement in share values of medium-sized companies, then this class of investors will keep away from the share market completely. This trend will be particularly costly for the small entrepreneurs trying to make a breakthrough into the corporate sector, because unknown companies will not be able to successfully float their new issues.


Development, like spring, is in the air again in Bihar. Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav is talking about it once more. So is Mr Ranjan Yadav, Mr Laloo Yadav’s party colleague, who seems to be emerging as Bihar’s new dissident leader, threatening to split the legendary Yadav hegemony. Mr Ranjan Yadav’s rebel agenda is founded on the idea of transforming Bihar’s image in the eyes of the world, and doing so primarily through development and through reforming its work culture. The first signs of dissidence in the Rashtriya Janata Dal were seen during Mr Laloo Yadav’s Gaon Bachao, Desh Bachao rally last week. Mr Ranjan Yadav is now turning this rural and agrarian theme to his own advantage by touring a number of districts, reminding the people how development has actually been the ploy for a terrible political betrayal. The Messrs Yadav are also engaged — between talking about development and furiously planning their respective strategies — in a debate over the applicability of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar to the current rift within the RJD. Has Mr Ranjan Yadav administered the most unkindest cut of all to his former friend?

Meanwhile, more than 30 people have been killed and about 200 arrested all over Bihar in the last 48 hours. Five have been killed in Patna. Most of this violence has been occasioned by the Holi revelries. But this time, the familiar caste conflicts have taken on a more alarming dimension of armed violence with the widespread use of pipeguns and revolvers. In the Nalanda-Biharsharif area of central Bihar, 150 rounds were fired between the Koeris and the Dhanuks, both backward castes, following a dispute over fishing rights. But caste and occupation, as always in Bihar, are also politically aligned. The Dhanuks are RJD supporters, while the Koeris back the Samata Party and Mr Nitish Kumar. This incident and the Holi-related violence point up the peculiar forms underdevelopment now takes in Bihar, particularly in the backward rural areas. Mr Laloo Yadav and Rabri Devi’s misrule has certainly fostered and exploited these disruptive energies. But Mr Ranjan Yadav’s idea of development could be equally unsuited for the purpose of reining them in. As an educated and largely declassed Yadav, he remains an urban figure, whose achievements have been in the sphere of municipal development in Patna. The advanced civic amenities of Patna’s Rajendranagar embody his notion of development. He would be rather out of touch with the earthier realities of rural and agrarian Bihar, realities that are specially suited to Mr Laloo Yadav’s more naturally grounded cunning. The gathering battle between the two Yadavs is one that is being fought at the level of party and legislature politics. It might occasionally even invoke Shakespeare. But development — making any real difference to that benighted hinterland of caste conflict and armed violence — will have very little to do with it.


Fleet reviews are part of the ceremonial tradition of navies across the globe. Traditionally, the Indian navy used to hold a review once during the tenure of the president who is the supreme commander of the armed forces, although none has been conducted since 1989. The eighth review recently concluded in Mumbai was special in more ways than one. It was the first international fleet review to be held in the sub- continent to mark the golden jubilee of the Indian republic and had as its theme “Building bridges of friendship”. Of the 70 ships that took part, 25 were foreign warships belonging to navies of 19 countries and in all there were 30 foreign naval delegations to join the associated activities. One of these activities was a seminar on “Maritime power-challenges in the 21st century”.

The fact that chiefs of many navies personally led their delegations adds weight to the view that in the maritime community, the event drew worldwide attention. Contrary to the official view that China withdrew because its ships were due to call later, chances are that China by its refusal was conveying its own concern on a future clash of maritime interests in the Indian Ocean. For obvious reasons, Pakistan was not invited.

From accounts in the media it is evident that the hard work put in by the Indian navy was duly rewarded by the wide international representation and the excellent organization of a major event such as this. Comments on the event, however, have varied widely. While some have dubbed the event as mere extravaganza, others have called it a diplomatic event shorn of military significance. There are those that have commented that the Indian navy has come of age and this was its way of flexing its maritime muscles and putting on show its power-projection capabilities.

Such diverse comments do not do justice either to the Indian navy or indeed to the foreign participants. Senior military brass, and more so at chiefs levels, do not have the luxury of time to spend days gracing military ceremonials in far off lands or seas. Indeed, exchange visits are selective and planned with meticulous care to derive maximum benefits. Undoubtedly, just beneath the surface of naval pomp and pageantry there was the far more subtle and strategic import of the event, that of India’s maritime capability, intentions and future direction.

Foreign delegations would have been keenly interested in understanding the Indian navy’s perception of its role and capabilities to determine how this would have an impact on the interests or responses of their respective navies and governments. The Indian navy, on the other hand, was interested not only in externally showcasing its own hardware and capabilities for due deterrent or co-operative efforts on the international seas, but also to internally highlight its prolonged neglect at the hands of successive governments.

Why, one could ask, this sudden interest in Indian maritime capability and potential? In fairness to the Indian navy this has been its long-standing demand. It is an undeniable fact that India has a coastline of 7,600 kilometres, an exclusive economic zone covering 3 million square km within which lie vast commercial assets like oil, fisheries and minerals and island territories both in the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. Vast amount of trade passes through sea-lanes in India’s maritime backyard introducing problems of piracy, illegal arms and drug trafficking and the very security of these lanes.

Historically, had India been a strong maritime power, European countries would not have found it easy to enter India and later colonize other littoral states. Viewed in this background, K.M. Pannikar’s observation that “whoever controls the Indian Ocean controls India” merits attention by national security planners. Not surprisingly, there are countries that prefer not to call the Indian Ocean by this name because of its Indian connotation!

As a prelude to the IFR, the Navy Foundation organized a seminar titled “Maritime dimensions of India’s security” in early January. The foundation is an organization of naval officers established for the revival of maritime interest in the country and to generate awareness of the role and importance of the navy. The following quote from the defence minister’s inaugural address at the seminar must therefore have been music to the organizer’s ears. “India’s sea borders are an open invitation to subvert India’s security. The national leadership in the country has shown callous indifference to the issue in the past. It is a shocking revelation that threats from the seas had not figured in the nation’s leadership even once in the 50 years of our freedom...While the army and air force had received some degree of national attention, the navy’s profile was beyond the imagination of the people. The navy has always got the ‘Cinderella treatment’.”

In his book, Defending India, published in 1999, the then deputy chairman, planning commission, and now the foreign minister, Jaswant Singh, had said, “Today, the Indian navy faces a crisis in terms of its rapidly declining force levels, lack of sufficient funding and limited warship construction programmes, all of which directly affect its operational preparedness”.

Navies and perceptive security planners of the world, many of whom were present during the IFR, are not oblivious to the maritime challenges facing India and the continued neglect of both the Indian navy and the poor Indian maritime infrastructure of ports and shipbuilding. What interests them is how Indian security planners propose to respond to these challenges, because no matter whether these responses are positive or negative, they will have a corresponding impact on their own maritime interests and responsibilities.

It is fortunate for the future of our maritime interests that two senior cabinet ministers, both members of the cabinet committee on security and the national security council (which alas seems to have been put in cold storage), have highlighted the neglect of the Indian navy in terms of force levels, modernization and budgetary support. But in all fairness to previous governments, the neglect has not been due to what one commentator has described as the unfamiliarity of post-independence north Indian policy-makers with India’s sea frontiers. On the contrary, it has been the perennial difficulty of sharing the limited affordable defence budget. With border disputes with both Pakistan and China, it has been expedient for the government of the day to give priority to the army and the air force.

The challenge dictated by demands of cost-effective defence is for Indian security planners to arrive at an integrated national security policy from which should flow integrated service doctrines, roles and missions. In the absence of such a policy and the corresponding institution of joint defence staff headquarters, the three services plan threats, responses and make their re-equipment plans largely in isolation. By attempting to prepare for force projection, sea control and sea denial within a limited defence budget, the Indian navy can only spread its resources too thin. The situation with the other two services is no different.

Far from the shores of Mumbai, if the message of the IFR percolating to security planners in Delhi is that with our present archaic higher defence organization and absence of integrated defence planning, there will continue to be Kargils and the Cinderella treatment meted out to one or the other service, then the IFR would have served the cause of national security. Foreign delegations compiling debriefs for their own security planners would no doubt reflect on these structural weaknesses before showering praise on the Indian navy’s pageantry and organization.

The author is a retired air marshal of the Indian air force    

Arousing the government was probably the last thing on Malini Ramani’s mind as she sashayed down the catwalk wearing a cocktail dress made out of the Indian tricolour. But that is what it did. Following the outrage it sparked off, a Central committee was formed and it is now ready to submit a report on the “correct” use of the national flag. The contents of the “flag code” have not been made public yet, but it is likely that the familiar saffron-white-green will forever be banished from a number of items ranging from cocktails to cocktail dresses.

This, surely, will take away some colour from the lives of sensualists with a patriotic bent of mind. As things stand, the Union home ministry’s response to the Malini Ramani episode looks a bit antiquated. At a time of high-pitched liberalization, when beauty queens are paraded as national emblems and Fashion TV has been allowed to enter homes, this fuss over a model’s dress is nothing but a knee-jerk reaction to the unsettling winds of change. Market reforms work upon the subterranean layers of our consciousness and drive away defunct values and attitudes, sowing seeds of the new. If Cola comes, can “cola-nization” of the mind be far behind?

This was illustrated during the Kargil war by Captain Vikram Batra. When he intoned the famous slogan of a soft drink company before the television cameras, and smiled his way to martyrdom, he unwittingly yoked fervent nationalism with market fundamentalism. Malini Ramani, dressed up in the national tricolour, is, in a way, the other side of the same coin.

Soft drink patriots

A nation, Homi Bhaba has said, is a narration. In the case of India, the nation is a palimpsest. When India was conceived as a republic, its founding fathers interpolated their thesis into this living narration. More than 50 years later, it has turned out to be a smudgy subtext of appeasement and confrontation. Nothing illustrates this better than our national flag, whose design and colour scheme are still glossed over in school textbooks. A student learns that the three colours in our national flag represent three spiritual attitudes in the great Indian tradition, until the day the myth explodes on his face.

In a multi-religious, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual society, symbols and icons do matter. It is like a forest in a state of delicate equilibrium, where trails and territories are marked out by pheromones, where colours and patterns submit to the art of camouflage.

This knowledge will be borne home by the older streets of an Indian city inhabited by different communities. The facade of a building, the smell wafting out of a kitchen, the little icons painted on doorheads, and other details will narrate a tale of preserved identities and coexistence.

Flagging morals

Harmony, in this case, does not mean subsuming the identities into one dominant image, but rather a celebration of the separateness and of the freedom it entails. The market forces understand this best. That is why a popular brand of hair oil uses differently coloured bottles, one saffron and one green, adroitly retailed at shops located in different areas of the same city.

These same market forces dance tango with nationalist passions. More than sex and violence, patriotism has sold countless Hindi movies. In N. Chandra’s film, Pratighaat, the plot becomes an excuse for depicting a raw violence culminating in the stripping of the heroine by hoodlums. As the lady sits nude, with her back to the camera — a source of the film’s commercial appeal — in comes a lunatic carrying a national flag and covers her.

The use of the tricolour works as a tour de force here: it adds an emotional dimension to the incoherent images of violence, hoodwinks the censor board and gives the viewers their money’s worth.

From covering the modesty of an outraged woman to accentuating the curves of a fashion model, the Indian national flag has travelled a long way during this last decade of reforms and liberalization. On the one hand, multinational companies are desperately seeking a desi persona; on the other hand, there is an effort to package our country and sell it to the market. Selling fashion models neatly wrapped in the national tricolour is not bad, provided we don’t sell our nation along with them.


At Calcutta in December 1997, on the occasion of the launching of the Trinamool Congress, my opening sentence was that the destiny of India lay in the hands of three women: Sonia Gandhi, J. Jayalalithaa and Mamata Banerjee.

It was not obvious that I had a point. Six years after her husband’s tragic assassination, Sonia Gandhi was still shying away from politics. Jayalalithaa was in the political wilderness, reduced from Empress of Tamil Nadu to having virtually no seats for her party in the state assembly and widely believed to be just one conviction from prison in any one of the 47 cases filed against her. Mamata had only that day broken from her parent party and apart from Calcutta South, no one really knew how her fledgling party would fare.

About ten minutes after I finished speaking, history started fulfilling my predictions. An enterprising TV reporter snaked a mike up to me on the podium. I signaled to her that in the massive crowd and the roaring noise, I could not make out a word of the question she was asking. Helpfully, she wrote down her solitary query and it was passed slowly to me, hand to hand. The note read that the Congress spokesman had just announced that Sonia Gandhi had made her jump and would be campaigning for the Congress. Thathasthu.

I need hardly to recount to a Telegraph readership the saga of Mamata Banerjee’s rise to giant-killer. I would like to say, however, that the same evening I spoke at length to the editor of a prominent Bengali journal. He said Mamata had captured West Bengal’s imagination more than Jyoti Basu at his height, more even, he said, than Shyama Prasad Mookerjee in his heyday. The editor said he would go so far as to say that the only parallel he could think of was Subhas Chandra Bose. Excessive hype, I thought, and just one man’s opinion, however highly respected and well-informed. But whether or not she proves the pollsters right and scores the upset of the century, there is no denying that she is the focus of West Bengal’s disillusionment with a quarter century of the Left Front.

And Jayalalithaa. What a consummate politician! Just as Indira Gandhi was written off in 1977, so was she in 1996. Not only was her party all but eliminated at the polls, she lost her own seat. Her allies, the Congress, were demolished. Her sworn enemy, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, zoomed to the most notable resurrection since the phoenix rose from the ashes. Not only was she utterly abandoned, public opinion widely believed that the cases against her were open and shut. The special courts set up to try her were reminiscent of the Shah commission and other commissions spawned by Morarji Desai and Charan Singh. The chief minister, M. Karunanidhi, waited for the panchayat and municipal elections, held six months after Jayalalithaa’s crushing assembly and Lok Sabha defeat, to confirm her political elimination. Then he went for the jugular, first orchestrating raids on her personal residences to show her up as a Tamilian Imelda Marcos, then getting her jailed on judicial remand.

It was her being put in the clink that sparked her political renaissance. While editorialists exulted at her receiving her just desserts, the ordinary voter was more concerned over press reports of her conditions in confinement. Was this the way to treat a woman? And so what if she had more silk sarees and capes and chappals than the ordinary run of humanity? Had she not been since the age of 16 the brightest star of the Tamil silver screen?

The political fall-out of jailing her became evident a few weeks later at the Pudukottai assembly bye-election of February 1997. The DMK candidate who had won overwhelmingly in April 1996 had passed away. The state was less than a year from the previous general election and only weeks beyond Jayalalithaa’s release. Nevertheless, Karunanidhi was not prepared to treat lightly even a solitary bye-election to a house where he controlled some 95 per cent of the seats. He flung himself into the fray, personally spending days touring it end to end. His ally, the Tamil Maanila Congress, was equally determined to repeat the electoral triumph of the previous year. Pudukottai is wedged between G.K. Moopanar’s home turf of Thanjavur district and P. Chidambaram’s Sivaganga. Chidambaram’s juggernaut rolled into Pudukottai to the aid of his coalition’s candidate.

Jayalalithaa, not to be left behind and always one for a good go at the hustings whatever the outcome, announced that she was personally coming to the constituency to show everyone what was what. Then she fell ill, too ill to move out of her beloved Poes Garden residence at Chennai, then under threat of attachment by Chidambaram’s revenue sleuths (which she considers the lowest blow of them all). Her minions went into the campaign — but an All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam campaign without Amma is like a banquet without salt. Her candidate was dismissed as an ill-starred write off. He lost. The DMK won. But the margin of victory had been slashed to a sliver. Jayalalithaa was back in play.

She has never looked back. From that one narrow defeat, she went on in December 1997 to ditch a Congress which was unable to make up its mind and into a thoroughly unlikely alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party, the only party in Tamil Nadu with a smaller electoral base than the Congress. And then, in February-March 1998, brought her alliance to an electoral triumph which no one, literally not one political commentator, anticipated, a victory that escaped even the exit-poll pandits. The national consequence was Atal Bihari Vajpayee as prime minister.

It took but hours for Vajpayee to learn that Jayalalithaa had placed upon his head a crown of thorns. She made him PM. She then unmade him. The elections of 1999 did not give her victory, but no one any more was writing her off as a political dinosaur or dismissing the AIADMK as Jurassic Park. Indeed, the most significant result of 1999 was neither who won nor who lost, but who, in electoral terms, was wiped out. That was the alliance cobbled together as a third front by the Tamil Maanila Congress. It lost in 233 of Tamil Nadu’s 234 assembly segments.

However, the fine print of the results read that if one added the AIADMK alliance vote to the TMC alliance vote, the combined votes exceed the DMK alliance vote in as many as 150 of the 234 assembly segments. Jayalalithaa immediately read the writing on the wall. So did G.K. Moopanar. Decades of mutual disaffection were pragmatically buried. Within days of the TMC being electorally wiped out, Tamil Nadu’s most open secret was that the assembly elections would see an AIADMK-TMC tie-up, with the Congress in tow.

What no one foresaw was that Jayalalithaa would leap also in a quite different direction. The Pattali Makkal Katchi made its debut in the Union government as a minor National Democratic Alliance partner. For a groupuscule of little consequence it was an astonishing vindication of party leader S. Ramadoss’s messianic belief in himself as the South’s Man of Destiny. Having secured his perch in Delhi, the betting would have been, had a bet been taken, that the PMK would be the last to leave the NDA. In the event, it was the first. Jayalalithaa’s siren call wrecked the Vajpayee ship worse than Ulysses’! She has now stitched together the most colourful rainbow coalition in the history of Indian democracy (and added an additional “a” to the spelling of her name for good luck). She will win 234 of 234 seats. Wanna bet?


Calamities, natural and man-made, have always dogged India. In the recent past, there have been the Kargil war, the super-cyclone in Orissa, and the earthquake in Gujarat. There have also been man-made tragedies like aeroplane hijacking, strikes, riots and so on.

The immediate reaction of the administration to any unforeseen crisis or calamity is mostly ad hoc. The instinctive response of bureaucrats is to call meetings, and await instructions from higher-ups. There is a lack of proper management and coordination. Relief and rescue work proceed amidst chaos. Political functionaries and administrative authorities are blamed for their ineptitude and the lessons learnt are invariably forgotten after the crisis blows over.

There is a need to institutionalize the administrative response to a crisis. This will ensure that the crisis management systems are tested in real life situations from time to time and are kept functional. However, the mechanism should not be invoked so often that it falls in a rut.

War time exercises

Government departments have wartime procedures — the activities various agencies will take up in the event of a war — so that the administration may be run even in abnormal times. However, as wars are fought rarely, there is little scope to test if the systems are in place. Since the disruptions caused by calamities have the same effect as those of war, the wartime procedures should be standardized to include the eventualities of natural and manmade calamities. The procedures should be evolved not only at the state level, but even at the district, block and city levels.

Private funding and involvement of non-governmental organizations are now important factors in relief and rescue operations. However, private contributions in relief and rescue operations are sometimes treated informally by the administration. This may create a lack of confidence among the donors about their contributions reaching the right persons.

Damage control

The present procedures assume that the government machinery will manage the expenditures within the budgetary allocations and will confine themselves to government resources. Therefore, anybody wanting to contribute to relief operations has to route his contribution through government funds. But it takes longer for these funds to reach the grassroots level. There is often improper delegation of financial and administrative powers. The authorities at the grassroots level have to await sanctions from their higher-ups. Disrupted communication at such times also cause delays.

Often it is a crisis that brings about improvement in the sluggish bureaucracy. It may facilitate the evolution of effective and flexible responsive systems of crisis management. Lack of the necessary infrastructure to combat a crisis may inflict more damage to life and property than those inflicted by the calamities themselves.



Pitched too high

Sir — “Ranatunga beats up schoolboys” (March 5) brings out a paradox. Arjuna Ranatunga and Aravinda De Silva are two of the most respected cricketers in Sri Lanka, especially after they put their country on cricket’s world map with the World Cup win in 1996. This win gave a fresh impetus to the development of cricket in the island country — one result of which is the pursuit of the game by youngsters on makeshift pitches wherever a patch of green is available. It is strange that Ranatunga, who led the cricket revolution in his country, should beat up young children for hitting their cricket ball into his home. The incident is a valuable pointer to the troubled urban existence in the subcontinent. Cricket is primarily a game with an urban following in this part of the world. But the increasing congestion in the cities has left little room for youngsters to practise this sport. Ranatunga, rather than cricket’s well-wisher, seems to have acted on the instincts of the house-owning city-dweller.
Yours faithfully,
Rajan Kumar, via email

Dismal prognosis

Sir — Dipankar Gupta’s article, “Medical famine” (March 9), warns us about a great man-made tragedy in the making. That the treatment of cancer is expensive and beyond the reach of most Indians is just one part of the pathetic story. The story is going to get more heartrending once India goes ahead and signs the trade related aspects of intellectual property rights and the patent bill. More than 80 per cent Indians will not be able to afford even the basic allopathic drugs as the prices of these will go through the roof. Pakistan is already facing such a situation. Pakistanis are being forced to switch over to homeopathic and herbal formulations.

Incidentally, Indian policy-makers and their families are mostly treated for free under Central government health schemes and they do not have to pay for their medical expenses as long as they live. Other than well-to-do businessmen, industrialists and corporate executives, few can afford medical insurance policies. Unfortunately, policies in India seem to be framed keeping the wealthy minority of the population in mind. At present, given the existence of the drug pricing policy worldwide, some of the un-insured citizens of poor countries can still hope to afford proper treatment. Once the patent bill is passed, most of them will have to go without treatment and even curable ailments like tuberculosis, diabetes, ulcers and malaria will become killers.

Yours faithfully,
K.K. Navada, Calcutta

Sir — Dipankar Gupta pithily highlights the plight of cancer patients who are unable to pay for the necessary drugs, even though such drugs are available in the local market. His comparison of this phenomenon with man-made famines is also apt. The extent to which human agency is involved in creating this medical famine in Calcutta is astounding. Years ago, a doctor caring for cancer patients in a Calcutta hospital asked me to supply drugs to the poor patients in his care, since neither the government of West Bengal nor the patients’ families had sufficient funds. The difficulties associated with raising funds in India were understandable. Donations were raised abroad by the support groups of the organization I work for — Calcutta Rescue.

But it was impossible to persuade the authorities in New Delhi to allow this funding into India. Since 1989, I have been applying for permission under the Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Act, and since 1995, Calcutta Rescue has spent millions in lawyers’ fees trying to obtain a recommendation from the law courts that we be granted the necessary FCRA registration. The courts allow us to bring in donations that make up a proportion of our budget, but not enough for the cost of treatment of many special category patients, including cancer patients. Our astronomical legal expenses to get this far would have been better used on patients who are dying for lack of funds.

What we could bring in on court orders was limited.There was not enough for the special categories of patients approaching us for help — cancer, cardiac surgery, multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, diabetes and thalassaemia. Now we turn away, among others, childhood leukaemia patients (who would, as Gupta says, have excellent prognosis if treated) because of the funds spent on litigation.

The scenario is more grave than what Gupta describes. He believes that the impoverished cancer patients are the most acute expression of this “medical famine”. But an even more acute expression can be found among the multi-drug resistant TB patients. They are excluded from the directly observed treatment-short course programme conducted by the World Health Organization for TB, where drugs are supplied free. Calcutta Rescue is the DOTS agency for Calcutta Ward 3. We applied in vain to WHO in New Delhi for drugs for these TB cases. The average cost of treatment is Rs 3,500 per month for about 18 months. More than Rs 335,000 was raised in a sponsored swim in London last month — enough to treat five of the 15 such TB patients currently on our waiting list. Students at Westminster school in London raised the equivalent of Rs 33,500 at their recent concert for these patients. An employee at Bloomberg’s merchant bank in London offered his entire bonus for this purpose and his boss doubled the donation, to total the equivalent of Rs 67,000. So in London now we have funds to treat seven such TB patients but cannot bring in the donations until the Central government grants FCRA registration to Calcutta Rescue. Impoverished cancer patients may be ignored by the bourgeoisie. They may die largely unnoticed. The tragedy of multi-drug resistant TB is that, like AIDS, it will spread and devastate all but the richest patients. But is anyone listening? Does anyone care?

Yours faithfully,
Jack Preger, Calcutta

Dress, decoded

Sir — It was heartening to read the report, “Cleanup bill for dirty.com” (March 5). The efforts of Sumitra Mahajan, minister for women and child development, to ban the indecent exposure of women on the internet and on television will go a long way in ensuring that families can watch TV together without being either embarrassed or disgusted. It is unbelievable how the so-called modern woman of today feels no shame and chooses to dress in a manner that is aimed at titillating men. This sort of dressing is often passed off as fashion. If the government amends the Indecent Exposure of Women (Prohibition) Act, it will be able to ban advertisements that objectify women and thereby demean them.
Yours faithfully,
Diptimoy Ghosh, Calcutta

Sir — Every day, the newspaper gives us a horrific picture of violence against women. It is disappointing that such atrocities continue unabated despite protests from different women’s groups and other welfare organizations.

But are men responsible for this violence? History would indicate that men have more often than not protected women and acted as their benefactors. If men have prevented women from stepping out of their homes it is only because they have been driven by the latter’s best interests. Women have failed to understand this. Liberation for women has only resulted in more nudity on TV and a rise in the number of fashion shows and beauty contests. What most liberated women fail to realize is that nature intended the two sexes to be different from each other. While some women are at par with their male counterparts, others are not. Moreover, women themselves are, to a great extent, responsible for the atrocities against their sex. For example, it is the mother-in-law who is usually the main instigator in most bride-burning cases. Hindi films have also done their bit to encourage violence against women. Actresses today wear provocative clothes and often encourage women from ordinary families to do the same.

Yours faithfully,
S. Jamal Ahmad, Patna

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