Editorial 1 / Brave New World
Editorial 2 / Nursery trouble
Fastest way to make a billion
Fifth Column / How To Purge the civil service
A failed exchange programme
Properly valuing the poor man�s crops
Letters to the editor

In the beginning was the deed. A committed communist like Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, West Bengal�s chief minister, would uphold such a statement without demur instead of the better known opening line of St John�s gospel. However much the Johannine invocation, �In the beginning was the Word��, goes against Mr Bhattacharjee�s materialist grain, he will have to accept that in his case, deed has followed word. First came the announcement � dare one call it a vision? � of the project to refashion West Bengal. Past mistakes would be undone and the state would be put on the fast track of industrial growth. The prime mover of that growth would be initiatives in information technology, a field in which West Bengal is rich in human capital. There is something appealing in the way Mr Bhattacharjee formulated his agenda for a new and resurgent West Bengal. But an agenda or a vision by itself means nothing in the real world. Words need to be backed by action for an agenda or a vision to acquire public credibility. Mr Bhattacharjee has not been slow to initiate action. In terms of the future perhaps the most important decision he has taken is the one to reintroduce English from class I.

The decision fits into the logic of Mr Bhattacharjee�s vision for a new West Bengal. There can be no argument about the fact that English is West Bengal�s � and India�s � window to the world. The earlier West Bengal�s schoolchildren learn their English alphabets and the rudiments of the language, the quicker will they learn to communicate in English and to access global knowledge. Knowledge of English is absolutely crucial if West Bengal is to take on the mantle of a leader in information technology. Mr Bhattacharjee�s letter to the school education minister, Mr Kanti Biswas, asking him to initiate moves to introduce English from Class I is thus a step in the right direction. The seriousness of the move is evident from the chief minister�s injunction to appoint a multi-member commission to prepare a blueprint for the return of English at the lowest level. Mr Bhattacharjee has thus begun a silent revolution within the policies followed for two decades by the Left Front. The removal of English from the primary level has produced two generations of students who are laggards and out of tune with global currents because their command over English is poor or non-existent. Contrary to left intentions, the anti-English policy has indirectly privileged students from �elite�� English-medium schools who, on the basis of their fluency in English, have enjoyed greater leverage in the job market. If Mr Bhattacharjee�s policy bears fruit, there might be a level playing field in West Bengal in another 20 years� time.

It would appear that Mr Bhattacharjee, on current promise and performance, is all that West Bengal had been waiting for. His new-found confidence may be rooted in the fact that he has the support of his party in many of the things he wants to put in place and to bring about. His success will be dependent on his skills in maintaining this uneasy equation between his good intentions and the machinations of the apparatchiki. The move to reintroduce English will win for Mr Bhattacharjee many new friends and supporters, especially among people who are aspiring to do better in the world than their fathers and grandfathers. The act of learning English may turn out to be more eloquent than present words can articulate.


The kindergarten business could be like any other business in the city. And it is easier to get away with being unscrupulous with children. Calcutta�s burgeoning Montessori trade could do much damage to children, and a local nongovernmental organization has taken upon itself the task of redressing some of these wrongs. The damage could be done at two levels. First, the quality of teaching and care could be substandard and unprofessional, from the lack of an infrastructure for training teachers. Second, the physical conditions in which the children are kept in these schools could be inadequate, causing bodily and mental harm. At both levels, proper training, supervision and regulation are urgently necessary. Hence, a city NGO has filed a public interest litigation against several such schools and a number of other bodies. The range of these bodies shows the number of institutions which could be held accountable for the state of these schools � the department of education, the state government, the local municipality and the Central ministry of education and social welfare. There is a real risk that the NGO�s laudable concern for children might end up in elaborate and ineffectual litigiousness, landing these schools in an unwieldy bureaucratic network of regulatory bodies.

Perhaps the problem cannot be solved through litigation and NGOs should adopt a more radical approach. This should target social, particularly parental, attitudes to early education. The pressures, anxieties and priorities which determine the fate of the city�s more privileged children can only be addressed at this level of a collective mindset. The state must be aware and vigilant, but the real regulatory and authorizing powers should be invested in such specialized bodies as the Montessorians of Calcutta, whose trained inspectors and informed guidelines should have a greater say in determining the status of these schools. But such bodies can function properly only when the users of this service, the parents themselves, ensure that they are getting their money�s worth. They would have to know what they want for their children � a token place in a possibly substandard school for peace of mind, or a healthy education. Litigiousness can only obscure this crucial point.


Modern India has always been known as one of the two most populous countries on earth, the other being, of course, China. For many years, however, even when India was undivided, it was second to China by a comfortable margin. But things are changing and, at least over the last forty years, changing rapidly. India is catching up with its gigantic neighbour.

The office of the registrar-general and census commissioner has recently published its paper I of 2001 giving the first provisional population totals estimated from the Census of India, 2001, concluded in early March.The Census 2001, paper I, says, �India became only the second country in the world after China to officially cross the one billion mark. It is certainly most unlikely that in the history of mankind any country other than India and China would be shaping the lives and future of over a billion people�.

If one sees in this a quiet sense of chauvinism, that could be excused and it passes soon. The burden of overpopulation seldom remains for long out of the Indian demographer�s universe of discourse, the credit side of being a very large nation being routinely dismissed as too insignificant by the Indians. This is perhaps a pragmatic view to be taken for India, because there has almost always been a basic difference between the ways the two largest nations of the world have looked at, or been affected by, the population question over the last forty years.

China, for example, has been able to do two opposite kinds of things at the same time during this period. On the one hand, it has used the credit side of populousness to the full, whether in its human-wall military strategy, in the great diversification of its productive activity, or in the recent, prompt and successful entry of its scientific manpower into many modern hi-tech areas. On the other hand, it has also most successfully brought about drastic reductions in its rate of growth of population over a relatively short period.

India has never been able, perhaps not even tried, to enjoy the statistical or probabilistic advantages of being endowed with a mammoth population base as its neighbour has. In many sports and in all forms of athletics, for example, China�s ability to draw on these advantages is startlingly clear. In table tennis, for instance, as one of China�s sports officials recently complained, the big problem was now to choose from dozens a small group that would represent it internationally. India has faced no such problem in any sphere of life so far, not even in football, a discipline it tried to master for over a century.

Somehow, India has always only felt the pressure of population, and since the census of 1961, the pressure has been mounting. India has never been able to get any mileage out of a normally distributed population and from the operation of the law of large numbers. Apart from not being able to get much out of the credit side of our very large population base whether in building football teams or Nobel prize winners, we do not also seem to be always ready to read through fully what the numbers have to say on the debit side. Since comparisons with our gigantic neighbour is in any case inevitable, let me stick to it.

To be able to publish paper I of Census 2001 within a month of completing the massive census operations was indeed a feat that deserves only to be commended by all. Moreover, the registrar general is probably right in claiming that the census of 2001 was in several ways historically an important point of departure. For example, one can discern in it an operationally more meaningful approach to gender issues which is revealed in at least two modifications to the questions canvassed: age at marriage has been collected for males also for the first time in this census; and the number of children born alive to currently married women during the last one year has been collected for male and female children separately.

The responses to these will no doubt give crucial benchmark data on the gender question for all subsequent studies. Having said all this, however, there is a small but crucial area where social scientists will find some of the observations made in paper I too ready and pat. This is the area of deciding what numbers we really have to worry about most, in the context of the India-China comparison of demographic profiles.

The comparison with China in the census paper, however, falls short for quite a different reason when it goes on to say, �In 1950, China with 22 per cent share of the world population, led the scene, followed by India which had a share of 14.2 per cent. It is now estimated that by 2050, India will most likely overtake China to become the most populous country in the world with 17.2 per cent population living here�. This statement is, of course, valid as far as it goes, but it is also liable to mislead. It might imply that India still has almost fifty years to catch up (in the wrong sense) with China demographically. People might even be misled into thinking that we have got these fifty years, thanks to our great efforts towards, and relative success in, curbing population growth.

In China, there are 238 million children in the age group of 5-14 years, according to the census of 2000. India has about 239 million in the same age group according to the census of 2001. Considering the possible underestimation in both the countries, we could say that we have practically caught up with them now, as many of us had feared. India, as of now, has, or will very soon have, the largest child population in the whole world. We will not have to wait for fifty years to achieve that distinction.

Finally, the grim truth is that by far the largest part of the child-component of the population has been well looked after in terms of primary health and schooling in China over the last few decades, and a very large part of it in India, more than half of it, has remained grossly neglected, undernourished and unschooled, over all these fifty years. Their future, plainly bleak, or at least undetermined through the sheer apathy (or worse) of an uncomprehending nation, should be our main worry.

The author is professor emeritus of economics, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi


The traditional view of civil servants in relation to their ministers is that these men advise, ministers decide; Parliament approves, civil servants execute. This view implies that officials are politically �neutral�. Such a model is based on the principle that ministers are elected and civil servants are permanently employed to use their expertise in executing decisions.

The role of the civil servant is to ensure the rule of law. But political neutrality becomes difficult to maintain when ministers want them to translate their political objectives. To save their skin, ministers often claim that they were wrongly informed or were not properly briefed by bureaucrats.

The notion of a committed bureaucracy, which runs counter to political neutrality, first gained currency during Indira Gandhi�s regime when civil servants were plainly told to either serve her party�s interests or to get out. The usual method of dangling carrots in matters of appointment, posting and promotion was followed. Since then, no party in power has acted otherwise. In the process, the administrative services have lost much of their credibility and their upright officers have suffered.

The consequence of this is manifest in the negative public perception of the bureaucracy. At every level, civil servants are found to be taking orders from local or zonal or district committees of the party in power. This is why the administration cannot ensure a level playing field for all contesting parties during elections.

Systemic variation

The British civil service, which conforms to Max Weber�s ideal model, recruits to senior administrative posts like under-secretary or permanent secretary on the basis of performance. However, consultation among the head of the civil service, senior ministers and the prime minister is a must. Politics plays a marginal role in the process. But in the Margaret Thatcher regime, many permanent secretaries were replaced by more politically supportive officials.

In the United States, the administrative system involves a much larger number of political executives appointed directly by politicians. Recent presidents have chosen officials whom they can trust and who are more sympathetic to their political and ideological positions. But the congress scrutinizes the presidential nominations and its powers are so extensive that its prior opinion determines the acceptability of nominees.

The German system of appointment allows for great political intervention, with ministers having the power to remove senior administrators. New ministers can change top civil servants although consultation does take place through personnel councils. In Sweden, civil servants are not expected to be politically neutral. In fact, they often launch their political careers later in life.

An eye on the men

India has a centralized civil service where recruitment lies in the hands of the Union and state public service commissions. Recruitments have always been fair and on the basis of competitive examinations. But appointments, postings and promotions, controlled by the personnel department, are often politically manipulated. The �yes ministers� are rewarded while those who disagree are made to pay.

The present system can be reformed by appointing a legislative authority over the civil service. A select committee of Parliament or state legislature comprising members of both the ruling party and the opposition may be constituted to go into the postings and promotions. The committee�s recommendations shall be binding on the ministers, including the chief ministers and the prime minister. It could also evaluate the performance of the senior officials on a quarterly basis. A senior opposition member shall be the chairman of this committee.

The measure will serve two purposes. First, the opposition, which never fails to accuse the ruling party of political bias, will be silenced. Second, since the chance of pressuring bureaucrats under this policy will be minimal, their neutrality will be for real. Ministers may not like the curtailment of most of their powers and privileges. But the policy, if implemented, will uphold the integrity of the civil service and also make it more accountable to the people through the elected representatives.


I t is not enough merely to make a disparaging remark about Dhaniram Baruah, the doctor whose claim to fame is his expertise in performing xenotransplantation. Rather, it is with serious caution that one should regard his contention of having made phenomenal progress in animal-to-human grafting of organs.

The last time this maverick doctor from Assam undertook such a surgery, he landed in jail. The law found him guilty of �unreasonable medical intervention carried out in contravention of prescribed medico-legal tenets as well as ethics�. According to the latest reports, Baruah has embarked on a resurgent plan to set up a �super, super-speciality hospital� near Guwahati to further his �dream� of xenotransplantation.

Theoretically, the task Baruah has cut out for himself is something elemental to human progress. It hinges on the need for development and advancement of knowledge. If, indeed, it becomes possible for humans to discard worn-out or diseased organs like a pair of disposable contact lenses, mankind will have made a big stride. And progress, especially in the field of science and technology, cannot be made without experimentation. That is how most breakthroughs have been achieved in the past.

So what kind of a judgment should one reserve for Baruah? There is very little doubt on this score. It should be one of unequivocal contempt, without even giving the doctor the benefit of an afterthought. This is not only because Baruah showed little scientific temper in his last surgery but also because of the fact that the doctor is a victim of delusions rooted in dogmas.

The prime reason why the doctor�s ideas harbour on the brink of the bizarre is because xenotransplantation is one genre of medical science which has been almost relegated to the backburner by some of the most advanced research institutes in favour of a more viable option � genetic engineering. Xenotransplantation turned out to be an unviable proposition. Moreover, most countries have a legal bar on the performance of such surgeries.

In fact, even human-to-human grafting of organs is not completely safe because the human body is highly sensitive. It has an inherent tendency to reject alien organs, even if it belongs to a human donor. Little wonder that when a patient is lucky enough to get a matching kidney, he needs to take immuno-suppressants throughout his life so that the transplanted organ is not repulsed. Innumerable scientists across the world are busy researching on human-to-human transplantation before they can even think of graduating to animal-to-human ones.

Medical science was once revolutionized through the use of antibiotics. They began to be called the �magic pills�. Later, the focus shifted to the role of surgery when it was found that antibiotics were not the panacea doctors were looking for. Scientists are now trying to get to the root of all ailments through what is called genetic engineering.

When Baruah created �history� in 1997, he had done what his saner counterparts elsewhere in the country and the world could not even think of. In a quaint village near Guwahati, he transplanted the heart and the entire lungs of a pig (which he claimed was specially reared, but this was later found to be untrue) to a terminally-ill cardiac patient, Purno Saikia, from upper Assam. The patient convulsed because of severe auto-immune-related reactions. The beastly organs that were inserted into his body triggered off serious infections. Baruah had a bright idea to counter the devastating effects � he pumped six litres of pig�s blood into Saikia�s body, hoping that this would help his immune system accept the vastly-different organs.

The operation theatre was a dingy room that did not even have an air-conditioner. Adjacent to it was a pig sty where pathogens bred freely. But somehow, the doctor hoped providence would lend a little help to the operation to make Saikia survive. Survive he did, but reportedly for a few hours only. The doctor however declared that his patient survived for seven days before he died. And that he claimed to be his feat. But his patient�s relatives, deposing before a probe panel, claimed that they were informed of Saikia�s death much later.

The erstwhile health minister in the Asom Gana Parishad-led government who was himself a doctor, instituted a high-level probe into the operation. The probe, conducted by senior specialists from the state-owned Guwahati Medical College Hospital, revealed what was expected. While carrying out the operation, Baruah had paid scant regard to medical ethics. Not only that, he performed it by completely overruling medical reason and developments recorded in this field so far.

It becomes imperative to reflect on the attitude of the government because any research of this magnitude relies on state patronage. While most regimes among the world�s advanced countries are far less tolerant towards xenotransplantation, the Assam government has stated that it would welcome Baruah�s initiative.

The present health minister, Bhumidar Barman, also a doctor, was quoted as saying that the Assam government would like Baruah to �first try his experiments on animals�. Does the health minister realize that when we talk of xenotransplantation, we talk of animal-to-human and not animal-to-animal transfer of organs? It is not veterinary science that Baruah deals with.

The entire story is also a commentary on the establishment�s temperament. There are regimes in the world that have banned xenotransplantation. Yet, here we have a section of the media which supports Baruah�s ideas. This is because in a democracy like ours, freedom of expression does not always go hand in hand with the corresponding responsibilities. Baruah, for this section of the media, is a mirage of a hope who it thinks will bring laurels for the state which is yet to produce a scientist of international fame.

The fact that some foreign companies are also ready to channel money into the proposed hospital is not surprising. When the countries of origin of the respective multinational companies do not encourage such researches, Assam is a good alternative for them. How many global pharmaceutical MNCs are interested in funding pioneering research on Indian soil, one may ask?

Society�s abiding reliance on development is one of the features of civilization. This is true of all societies and of all peoples. Concepts for development may be borrowed as in the case of the kind of research Baruah plans to undertake.

If Baruah�s endeavour hinges on development, he must accept a cardinal rule � one has to be aware of how a more advanced society has handled the problem. Baruah neither takes lessons from the experiences of others nor does he start from where his forerunners have left in this journey into terra incognita. His research is not pioneering for the simple reason that he is driven by a passion that is selfish rather than by a scientific temper or reason.


To ensure food security, nutrition security has been compromised to a great extent in India. A close scrutiny of the Indian food policy reveals that to meet an �open� hunger, the �hidden� hunger of millions has remained unmet. India boasts of self-sufficiency in foodgrains production. But this has been achieved through the pursuit of exploitative agricultural practices in the name of the green revolution, which laid emphasis on the production of two water-intensive crops � rice and wheat.

Rice and wheat need more inputs, but prove less nutritious than the coarse cereals grown in the rain-fed areas of the country. The green revolution has left a trail of ecological hazards � depletion of soil nutrients, biodiversity and underground water; resurgence of pests and plant diseases; creation of salinity and waterlogging; contamination of food and water with pesticide residues. The policy has, in the long run, made agriculture unsustainable. While it is true that it has enabled us to tackle open hunger appreciably, it has also left the country with widespread undernourishment.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, about 204 million Indians are undernourished. The rate of malnutrition in Indian children and women is among the highest in the world, half the children under five are malnourished, and 30 per cent of newborns are underweight.

Cereal killers

Such widespread undernourishment may be attributed to the failure of the green revolution to bring under its umbrella the vulnerable sections of the Indian population living in the arid, semi-arid and hilly areas. These places suffer from a scarcity of water and the farmers living there can hardly afford the costly inputs required for the cultivation of the cereals endorsed by the green revolution � rice and wheat. Coarse cereals, like maize, barley, jowar, bajra and ragi, play a crucial role in providing sustenance for the poor people of these regions and also serve as insurance against the vagaries of climatic conditions. Farming of these crops covers around 65 per cent of the rain-fed agricultural lands where the concentration of the poor is very high. These cereals also provide fodder for the livestock.

But policy-makers have shown a blinkered attitude towards the �poor man�s crops�. As a result, they have been deprived of the boons of the green revolution. While irrigated areas produce around two tonnes of foodgrains per hectare, the average productivity in rain-fed areas is merely 0.7 to 0.8 tonnes per hectare. In 1996-98, 32.7 million tonnes of coarse grains were grown in 31.6 million hectares of land in the country. This comprised 17 per cent of the total foodgrains production for those years.

Coarser the better

Nutritionally, coarse cereals are superior to both rice and wheat. Micronutrients � especially calcium, phosphorus and iron � are abundant in most of the coarse cereals. Pearl millets contain a high percentage of protein, fat and minerals, especially calcium.

Maize, for instance, is a very important coarse cereal which has multiple uses. Its yield per hectare is the highest among coarse cereals. During the last drought in 1987, this crop saved the poor of Bihar. In fact, the Nobel laureate, Norman E. Borlaug, had once said that while the last two decades saw the revolution in the cultivation of rice and wheat, the next few decades will be known as the maize era.

Coarse cereals possess properties which could be used for the processing and preparation of other value-added foods. If proper exploratory studies are undertaken, in the near future, the poor man�s cereals could certainly become the rich man�s favourite food.



View to a kill

Sir � There are many things wrong with the judicial murder of the Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh. It is not just that the Federal Bureau of Investigation suppressed evidence pointing to a conspiracy behind the bombing (it couldn�t have been the work of just one man) and that no time was given to McVeigh�s legal team to examine the evidence. Still less convincing is the eye-for-an-eye philosophy which allows survivors and relatives of the victims to watch McVeigh�s execution, surely an act that would elicit vehement protest from America�s human rights bodies had it occurred in any of the �less civilized� parts of the world. Different laws seem to exist for mass-murderers depending on the citizenship of their victims. Remember William Calley? He killed hundreds of Vietnamese civilians in 1968 in MaiLai, yet got away with a nominal prison time. But McVeigh dared to target Americans. Ironically, it is McVeigh who comes off best, having had the dignity to call off the farce of an appeal process doomed to failure.

Yours faithfully,
Biswapriya Purkayastha, via email

A royal ending

Sir � The gruesome massacre in the royal family of Nepal and the events that followed thereafter have left us dazed. I have felt through my interactions with the people of the country over the past three years that the royal family is held in high esteem. The king was looked upon as an avatar of Vishnu and was always addressed with great respect as �His Majesty� or �maharajadhiraj�. The situation in Nepal has deteriorated particularly over the last one year. Maoist insurgency has been rocking the nation, resulting in bandhs, closure of schools, extortion of money from the big business houses, the killing of police personnel and so on.

The Koirala government has been facing charges of corruption and bribery. People who were disillusioned by these happenings often spoke against the Maoists, the government, the opposition parties, but never against the royal family. In fact, they could be heard saying that they were better off under absolute monarchy and would be happy if the king was assured absolute powers again.

People in Nepal are finding it difficult to come to terms with the mysterious circumstances in which their royals have been slain. Their anguish is understandable. It will take a long time for normalcy to return to this Himalayan kingdom. The people cannot be taken for granted and kept in the dark for long. It is imperative now that the authorities come out with the truth about the entire episode. This will ensure their own survival in future and win them back the faith of the people.

Yours faithfully,
Baljeet Kalha, via email

Sir � The arrest of Yubharaj Ghimire, the editor of Kantipur, and his associates is an extremely unfortunate incident for those who believe in the �freedom of the press�. This once again proves how those in power try to �gag� the press for reporting or publishing something that doesn�t please them.

Freedom of the press is essential for a democracy. The press acts as a link between the people and the government, making the flow of information possible from both sides. The press plays a significant role in shaping and moulding �public opinion� � necessary for the effective functioning of a democracy.

However, it is also important for the press to be �fair and responsible� while carrying on with its duties. It has to act as a watchdog and should ensure the participation and involvement of the people in the country�s development. What needs to be discerned in the case of Nepal is whether what was published really amounted to sedition. If the editor and the reporters have been fair, sincere and responsible in their acts, then the media all over the world should condemn the Nepalese government for acting in such a manner and should come to the rescue of those arrested.

Yours faithfully,
Sumati Yengkhom, Howrah

Sir � The actual reason behind the brutal killings in the royal family of Nepal may never see the light of the day. This, despite King Gyanendra�s decision to allow the investigating committee into the palace to witness the site of the massacre and to interrogate the people present in the palace at the time.This is only an attempt to allay the suspicions of the people of Nepal and to lend some credibility to the investigation.The royal family has bought enough time to tamper with the proof available to fix the real culprit.

The elected government of Nepal should have been involved in the affair to ensure a fair judgment on the situation. Otherwise, the entire probe appears to be a facade. The blame for the events will be foisted on the dead prince, Dipendra. The story that has come out so far, through witness accounts, seems too good to be true.

Yours faithfully,
Harmeet Singh Chawla, Haldia

In the line of fire

Sir � A lot of comments have been made in the media regarding the ceasefire in Nagaland which is supposed to expire on July 31. The people of the region, and those of Manipur in particular, are extremely concerned that the end of the ceasefire will bring with it violence and bloodshed again. There are several questions which crop up with regard to the Centre and its attitude to the northeastern states.

First, why is the government always ready to concede to the irrational demands of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah)? Second, does the government realize that it is being partial to a particular insurgent group at the cost of the sentiments of the people of another state? Third, are the Indian forces not strong enough to suppress a handful of insurgents? Fourth, why should the demand of the extension of the territorial boundary of the state come to the negotiating table?

There are also other questions troubling the minds of the people of the region. Did the home ministry deliberately generate such a state of political uncertainty to create a conducive ground for the imposition of president�s rule in Manipur to meet the demands of the NSCN(I-M)? What would be the Centre�s response if a civil war-like situation emerges as a result of the injustice meted out to the people of the region?

Yours faithfully
R.S. Aribam, Imphal

Sir � The NSCN(I-M) has repeatedly threatened to call off the four-year-old ceasefire in Nagaland while accusing the Indian government of failing to extend the peace process beyond the state. Many political parties and non-governmental organizations have appealed to the insurgents to reconsider their decision in the interests of the Naga people, who also wish that the ceasefire continues.

There is one other thing that must be considered. Around 70 per cent of the total Naga population in India are found outside Nagaland. The present ceasefire therefore needs to cover all Naga inhabited areas in India.

Yours faithfully,
Lhipenyi, Dimapur

Island in the sun

Sir � The rantings of Mani Shankar Aiyar in �Return to serendipity� (June 5), are shameless. If Sri Lanka is in a mess, a large credit for this goes to his party�s leaders, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, whose policies were responsible for the deaths of innumerable innocent people in that hapless country. And Aiyar has the temerity to blame the Bharatiya Janata Party for it all.

Yours faithfully,
Gopi Krishna Maliwal, via email

Sir � Mani Shankar Aiyar�s analysis of the Sri Lankan crisis makes it obvious that the Congress has, after all this time, realized it is best to stay away from India�s southern neighbour. That is why Aiyar hedges around India�s involvement in Chandrika Kumaratunga�s efforts at bringing peace in this strife-torn region. India should, he says, extend its helping hand only if the parties involved in the crisis want its participation. That�s a far cry from India�s policy on Sri Lanka during the Rajiv Gandhi regime.

Yours faithfully,
J. Chakraborty, Calcutta

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