Editorial 1 / Gone for a six
Editorial 2 / Pay more, get more
When the watchdogs sleep
Fifth Column / Strange Plot for A dialogue repeat
The fire never ceases
Document / Electrifying reforms have a long way to go
Letters to the editor

This financial year, there was a target of Rs 12,000 crore to be garnered through disinvestments. The draft tenth five year plan document was even more ambitious, with an annual target of Rs 16,000 crore. The disinvestment process has been controversial, with considerable opposition from the likes of Mr Sharad Yadav, Mr Ram Vilas Paswan, Mr Manohar Joshi, Mr Ram Naik and Mr Ananth Kumar from within the government, all scared of losing their own turf. These gentlemen have every reason to celebrate, because disinvestments have now clearly gone for a six. If one ignores the oil company type facade of the left hand purchasing what the right hand sells, only two companies have actually changed hands — a bread manufacturer and an aluminium producer. On the former, there is already a preliminary comptroller and auditor-general report castigating the government about valuation and other procedures and once the final report is placed before parliament, the government will have a lot to defend. On the latter, the cabinet has now decided that the Bharat Aluminium Company affair will not be reopened. This assumes significance given the broader cabinet decision of excluding tainted companies from bidding. The Hindujas, Sterlite and Videocon have accordingly been excluded, with the Hindujas interested in Air India and Indian Airlines, Videocon interested in Indian Airlines and Sterlite interested in Hindustan Zinc Limited. But because this exclusion will not be done with retrospective effect, the Balco decision stands.

The resultant situation is a true can of worms, Mr Arun Shourie and Mr Pradip Baijal’s protestations notwithstanding. Both bidders for Indian Airlines have been excluded. Air India has only one bidder left in the shape of Tata-Singapore. With a single bidder, allegations of arbitrariness and non-transparency will fly thick and fast. The criteria used for determining exclusion are extremely subjective and indefensible. Videocon and Sterlite’s alleged offences are economic and technical, the securities and exchange board of India having indicted them for rigging share prices. If this criterion is used for exclusion, there are very few companies in India that would qualify for bidding. Besides, culpability lies with senior management and adequate provisions exist in the Companies Act for punishing guilty directors. By excluding these companies from bidding, the government punishes shareholders for crimes committed by the management. Incidentally, BPL was also indicted by Sebi, but BPL’s bid for Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited has been allowed on the grounds that the group company which was indicted is not the one that is bidding. Does one really believe that the managements of two group companies are independent?

The Hindujas have been excluded because they are security risks and are justifiably upset. If they were not security risks when they were used to build bridges with Mr Tony Blair, how come they are security risks now? Security risk is a dangerous expression to use. By the same token, Mr Amar Singh believes the Tatas should be debarred because of alleged funding of the United Liberation Front of Assam. Mr Priyaranjan Das Munshi believes that no foreign airline (Singapore Airlines) should be allowed. The more general point is the route adopted for disinvestments, which has exclusively focused on strategic sales. Allegations of appropriate valuation and scams have also surfaced in other countries that followed the strategic sale option. It is a moot point whether initial public offers to citizens or workers might have been a better option, even if that meant reduced valuation. At least, that would have diffused the political economy of opposition, which is what the department of disinvestment is up against.


A clear and positive step at long last. And in that much -afflicted sphere of West Bengal life — education. After frenzied discussions, the state government has actually worked out a chart of increases in tuition fees in state-funded universities and colleges. It is useless to repeat that this should, and could, have been done much earlier. It would have contributed to, among other things, the raising of academic standards. But something rational has been done at last, even if it is years and years too late. A step in the right direction, true, but again, not a big enough step. The announced figures of the new fee structure show that there is still a host of invisible subsidies in operation. If the Left Front’s main hesitation was the electorate’s reaction to the fee hike in higher education, and it is being forced by rapidly changing conditions to take the bull by the horns and raise fees anyway, it should have just gone the whole way. An uproar now will make the next step more difficult. It is quite possible that the middle-class members of the electorate are perfectly aware that they are taking advantage of a subsidized higher education system unlike anywhere else in the world, and that the scarce resources should instead be channelled into primary education.

A firm principle of merit plus income should be enough to decide which students get the benefit of lower fees. At the same time, the state would need to oversee the setting-up of higher level vocational and technical education centres, so that students not interested in purely academic degrees are not left at a loose end. All this time, the low fees allowed a lot of young people to get enrolled and mark time till they got a job. It is to be hoped that the new fee structure will mark the beginning of a full programme of rationalization of the education system.


The Vajpayee government did not have to work hard to earn the dubious distinction of being a rollback regime. It acquired the knack of backtracking on a policy decision pretty quickly whenever a powerful ally threatened to make things too hot for it as part of the logic of coalition politics. That the flip-flop in its conduct of business has become more pronounced of late cannot however be ascribed entirely to growing differences between the National Democratic Alliance partners or squabbles within the sangh parivar. The latter provides most of the cadre the prime minister’s party needs to extend its base where possible or check the rot where it is being eroded. The flip-flop is also partly a result of increased popular opposition to some of its major policy decisions.

If the Tehelka tapes exposed how the leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party was as vulnerable to the lure of crooked money as any other group, the new securities scandal showed that the government had been quite impervious to the lessons of a similar scam over eight years ago. There had been no check on misusing staggering amounts of public money for gambling in shares. Only the cast of stars was different this time. If Harshad Mehta was the central figure in the previous scandal, Ketan Parekh is the hero in the new murky affair. In the second case of fraudulence, as in the first, no one in the government was curious to find out in good time where the big money involved in the orgy of speculation came from.

The sleeping watchdogs did wake up with a start when the scandal exploded in the government’s face. But as soon as the commotion was over they went back to their kennels for a well-deserved rest. Perhaps they were all snoring when they were again jolted out of their slumber by the decision of the Unit Trust of India to freeze for six months the sale or repurchase of US-64 units, the biggest mutual fund in the country.

Since UTI was under the control of the finance ministry, the public took it for granted that investment under the US-64 scheme was as safe as deposits in a nationalized bank, and the shock it suffered was therefore all the more devastating. Many wondered whether it was just an accident that while millions of investors were taken by surprise, several corporate bodies had sold large parts of their holdings of US-64 units in the preceding months when the going was good.

The finance minister has been honest enough to admit that the buck stops right at his desk. What is incredible is that he had no idea of what was coming. Does a body like UTI enjoy such complete autonomy that it could take, entirely on its own, a decision liable to erode the people’s trust in all government-run financial institutions? In any case, the finance ministry cannot say it had not been warned much earlier. After all it was not long ago that it had to undertake an operation to bail out the same institution. It knew that, contrary to the practice in its early years, it had acquired too large a stake in the equity of several corporations. Why did the ministry fail to keep a closer watch on the investment pattern of US-64 funds and make it safer?

The finance minister has promised to set up a commission to look into the causes of what has brought UTI to the present sorry pass. But as the public knows too well by now, such inquires, far from serving as a goad to urgent corrective action, become an excuse for inaction and a means of muffling public criticism. The stark facts in UTI’s case are already well known. The mistake was in its pattern of investment which led to a drastic fall in the value of its assets.

It will never be known with certainty whether there was any hanky-panky in the purchase of certain stocks, or leaks of information to certain corporate executives . Since UTI’s investment portfolio was no secret, and the corporations concerned had enough means of their own to know that the current valuations of the UTI’s assets would make it well-nigh impossible to sustain the repurchase price at Rs 13.50 per unit, they sold their holdings in good time.

What the government has to worry about most now is the impact of the sharp fall in the value of US-64 units on the rest of the economy, which is already reeling under a recession far more serious than what the finance minister, Yashwant Sinha, bargained for in his budget speech. The sharp decline in the rate of industrial growth has indeed made all his projections for the current years go awry. The demand for many goods is much slacker than last year. The state of the infrastructure is getting steadily worse, with the railways, the ports, the power industry and the road building programme all badly in need of investment on a massive scale that is nowhere in sight. Even the privatization programme is proceeding far more slowly than the government envisaged.

The government has so got used to living in a world of make-believe that it makes many wonder whether it has lost all contact with the ground realities. On present showing, the country will be lucky if it achieves a rate of growth of even 5 per cent this year. But this has not prevented the planning commission from setting a target of 8 per cent for the next year. If the prime minister puts imagination in control, there will be nothing to prevent the country from improving even on China’s record.

None of these ploys can bring any comfort to the millions of poor and middle class people who bought US-64 units for Rs 13 or 14 per unit. Whatever the upshot, they will lose a fairly large chunk of their savings. This can only add to the prevailing gloom in a situation in which tens of thousands have lost their jobs because competition with imported goods has forced many small-scale units based on outmoded technologies which employed them to close down. The coming months may indeed see many more job losses. The mismanagement of the economy, judging from recent trends, is matched by what can only be called political skulduggery. How else to explain the gross mishandling of the Manipur crisis?

In a bid not to alienate the Samata Party, the Central government stubbornly set its face against any change in the chief minister’s post to reflect the new balance of power in the state assembly. The resulting bad blood between the local units of different parties led to mayhem in the small state. Violent mobs set fire to the assembly building and most of the legislators went into hiding to save their skin. And when things at last began to settle down, the state was again thrown into turbulence by a move which made many fear that part of Manipur’s territory might be transferred to Nagaland. Why should the people of a state in a region plagued by a host of insurgencies be made to pay so heavy a price for the exigencies of coalition politics at the Centre?

It is easy to understand the compulsions of the NDA in keeping its door open not only for the entry of newcomers but also for the re-entry of those who left it for one reason or another. But does the government have no idea of the costs in terms of loss of moral authority or encouraging free movement across party borders in search of greener pastures? Why keep up the pretence of a commitment to the NDA agenda when every party in the ruling coalition is busy feathering its own small or large nest? This kind of politics spells non-governance just when what the country needs is more effective governance.

The public can only hope that the story on the economic front, with a spell of high spirits followed by widespread anxiety and low morale, will not be repeated at the summit meeting between the Indian prime minister and the president of Pakistan due to take place at Agra on Sunday. Though it was not told what made New Delhi change its earlier stand that there could be no meaningful talks unless Pakistan first put a stop to cross-border terrorism, it welcomed the invitation to General Musharraf despite lurking doubts about the sincerity of the general who masterminded the Kargil operation and made no secret of his opposition to the Lahore declaration.

As it happens, the chill winds are blowing from Pakistan because of its insistence on inviting the Hurriyat leaders to the reception held by its envoy. This is so that the leaders could meet the visiting president, despite the host country’s wish to the contrary. Also, the Pakistan foreign minister’s anti-India tirade last week seems to have queered the pitch for building up mutual trust between the two estranged neighbours, essential to a genuine search for peace in an area which has suffered the ravages of terrorism for over a decade.

Though the prospects of a propitious start look bleak at the moment, people here are keeping their fingers crossed. Maybe the Pakistani president’s stance during the meeting with the Indian prime minister will turn out to be more positive than the drift of those coming from Islamabad.


Formulating his theory on plot in drama, Aristotle wrote in Poetics, “Probable impossibilities are to be preferred to improbable possibilities.” But in the theatre of politics it is always the other way round. Each new episode stretches the limits of the possible and by the time we move on to the next act, the hero and the villain have swapped places.

At the height of the Kargil war, our floundering intelligence wing bugged a telephone conversation between Pervez Musharraf and his subordinate exchanging details of the infiltration. Caught on the wrong foot after the Lahore declaration, the mandarins at Delhi were then trying to pass Kargil off as a misadventure that the Pakistan army has foisted upon its civilian government. As the head of his country’s defence services, Musharraf was automatically the chief offender and he was projected here as such. Two years and a bloodless coup later, he is coming to India as the supreme head of the Islamic republic of Pakistan.

From a rogue general to the president as state guest: the metamorphosis defies the Aristotelian theory of drama. For Atal Bihari Vajpayee, though, the role is cast in the strict classical mould.

About a week ago, on the day Musharraf anointed himself the president of Pakistan, our prime minister made a courtesy phone call where he addressed the general as “Mr.President”, a full six hours before the swearing-in.

Not for all folks

Vajpayee’s enthusiasm, it seemed, was prompted by an anxiety to give the summit some authoritative weight — the elected head of one country meeting the constitutional head of another. Or, perhaps, he was attempting an atonement of the intelligence lapse that punctured the Lahore bus diplomacy. The same tragic light that had suffused the scene when Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif hugged on the Wagah border on a February morning, while on the heights of Kargil Pakistan army men were sneaking into Indian posts, had fallen upon the tragic protagonists in classical drama, from Agamemnon to Jason, as they had proudly walked offstage to meet their terrible fate.

Error of judgment, betrayal, guilt, atonement — all coordinates of a plot of doom. By elevating himself two notches above Vajpayee on the eve of their meeting, Musharraf has deprived Vajpayee a repeat of that tragic hug. Now protocol would stand between Vajpayee and the president of Pakistan and preempt any folksy gesture.

Musharraf has already sounded a no-nonsense, business-like note by urging Vajpayee to tone down rhetoric on the eve of the summit. But in a dialogue like this, rhetoric is the mainstay. In fact political summits are part of the heritage of the Cold War era when the two superpowers had locked horns in an eternalized moment of frozen hatred. A diplomatic dialogue is given historical importance from a belief in a world order where all the fuzzy issues involving two states can be transmuted through language, where sufferings of millions or the ego of a few can be filtered through a metaphor or punctuation mark.

Shot through with irony

Twenty-nine years ago, on a rainswept July afternoon in Shimla, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Indira Gandhi signed the Shimla agreement. The amity and good sense preserved in the words of that paper evaporated long before the two leaders met their gruesome deaths. For long, the language used by the two countries has been one of deceit and hatred and guns and explosives. It is the language of the Cold War crime novel, not the sublime diction of classical drama.

A few days from now, another July afternoon will see Musharraf and Vajpayee step out with a piece of paper, with perhaps the domes of the Taj Mahal behind them, claiming in their own ways the making or unmaking of history. Even if the talks fail, their tryst with history has been assured by the choice of venue, the home of the most historic monument in this subcontinent. Taj Mahal, is not only India’s best-selling icon in the West, but also a masterpiece of Islamic architecture. As a backdrop it has something for both Vajpayee and Musharraf. For the people of Kashmir though, whose future in the valley hinges on the summit, the mise-en-scene has an ironic dimension. The city of Agra was built by the emperor Akbar who, two decades later, conquered Kashmir and ushered in four centuries of subjugation under different rulers.


There is a deceptive calm in Manipur today. Partly, and only partly, enforced by hours of curfew, life seems to be approaching normality. The spate of protests and demonstrations which had once exploded in Imphal is now simmering. The odd sit-in demonstration, largely being orchestrated to keep up the pressure on the Centre, can still be witnessed in the Meitei- dominated valley areas of the state.

But the mood, in the wake of the announcement of the prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, of a review of its decision to extend the Naga ceasefire outside the boundaries of Nagaland is one of watchful expectation.

For, central to people on either side of the communal divide is what the review of the ceasefire decision would finally amount to. For the Meiteis, the Vaishnavite Hindus who dominate the valley and the state, anything short of a withdrawal of the ceasefire to the confines of Nagaland could well lead to another conflagration which in June had taken 13 lives and reduced to ashes the state assembly and a host of other public buildings.

For the Nagas, especially the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah), which had brokered the ceasefire deal with Delhi, the extension of the ceasefire boundary to the Naga inhabited parts of Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam is essential to keep the peace process moving. Any decision now by the Centre to pull back on its commitment on the ceasefire issue could well lead to the insurgents picking up their guns again.

This, in fact, has been made abundantly clear in the NSCN (I-M)’s recent statement which iterated that the outfit would put up a “far bigger resistance (compared to that of the Meiteis) if New Delhi betrays the Nagas once again”. It even warned that “we will be back to square one” if the Nagas are denied the land “which historically belongs to us”.

In short, they would settle for nothing other than a recognition by the Centre that the Naga inhabited areas of the adjoining states are, in effect, an extension of Nagaland, or Nagalim as they now want their homeland to be called.

This is the fear that haunts the Meiteis today. They see the Centre’s decision to extend the ceasefire as a tacit approval of this very demand of the Nagas. The next step, as the Meiteis see it, would be a further bifurcation of Manipur, a “surrender” of the four hill districts of their state to “outsiders”.

They fear that just as Tuensang division was added to Nagaland from Arunachal Pradesh (then the North East Frontier Agency) and Dimapur and Rangapara areas “annexed” from Assam, Manipur’s hill districts of Ukhrul, Senapati, Chandal and Tamenglong would soon be a part of Naga territory.

This fear has been fuelled not just by the demands of the Naga insurgents, but by an unanimous resolution passed in the Nagaland assembly in 1994 which called for the “integration” of the four hill districts into Nagaland. This had triggered panic among the Meiteis, with delegations of their representatives visiting New Delhi to thwart any such move.

But as in most parts of the Northeast, there is another sphere of resistance to the ceasefire extension that the Centre would have to contend with: from the Meitei underground. In the initial days after the June 18 conflagration in Imphal, there were intelligence reports to suggest that certain Meitei insurgent outfits had extended support to the overground “resistance groups” in their battle to protect the territorial integrity of Manipur.

But even besides this, in the complex world of insurgency, where factions of the Meitei underground are today hand-in-glove with the Naga insurgents, there is expected to be a realignment of forces. There is already a resurgence in Meitei insurgency with the call to “unite for Manipuri nationalism” getting shriller. But there is every possibility of Meitei groups, now operating in tandem with the NSCN (I-M), breaking away to consolidate the ranks of the United National Liberation Front, a Meitei outfit which has made known its opposition to the Nagas.

What, perhaps, will help this process is the projected scenario that in case the ceasefire extension is not withdrawn, Naga insurgents will roam around freely in Manipur, as is the case in Nagaland today, while Meitei insurgents will be hunted by the security forces.

There is yet another sideshow being played out in the hill districts of crisis-ridden Manipur today which has been overshadowed by the larger conflict between the Meiteis and the Nagas. This is the battle for Lebensraum between the Nagas and the Kukis, whose positions have become markedly antagonistic in recent years.

Even as the call for a “greater Nagalim” has been getting strident over the years, the Kukis, discounting other smaller tribes like the Paites, have been getting increasingly insecure. Getting pushed out of the space that they share with the Nagas through repeated attacks on them by the NSCN in recent years, the Kukis, too, have armed themselves to resist what they perceive as an effort at “ethnic cleansing”.

As of now, there is a fragile peace between the two communities. But in the months to follow this could well shatter as the Kukis have also joined in the protests against the ceasefire extension. With 11 members in the assembly, as opposed to the nine that the Nagas have in the state legislature, few in the Kuki community are in a mood to be quietly dominated by the Nagas.

So, where does all this lead Manipur to? Will Manipur continue to burn with solutions to the enthic tangle continuing to elude it?

No one, today, is coming forward to venture a guess. But from somewhere in the valley there is a voice that is rising, appealing to the people to give their heated sentiments a rest and listen to reason. The tentative solution that is being offered in the spirit of “give and take” is let the perimeters of the ceasefire be extended, but build in a constitutional safeguard to ensure that the boundaries of the state are not redrawn.

In fact, increasing sections of the Meitei intelligentsia are now calling for an amendment to Article 3 of the Constitution. They are demanding that it be made mandatory for the state assembly to ratify any change in the state’s boundary, instead of only the two houses of Parliament.

There are too many larger constitutional questions involved in this and any headway in this direction is not likely to take place in a hurry. Till then, the Centre has to put the lid on the can of worms it has opened to maintain a semblance of peace in Manipur.

You win some, you lose some. In multi-ethnic Manipur, where the Centre’s decision to extend the Naga ceasefire has opened up a Pandora’s box, pitting one community against the other, it is anybody’s guess which one Delhi will win over. But after Vajpayee’s announcement of a review of its decision, the odds are on Delhi losing all.


Orissa was the first state to take bold steps for reform in the power sector. The key features for the power sector reforms included withdrawal of the state government for operation and management of utilities and cessation of government subsidy, subvention and loans, tariff rationalization linked to operational parameters, corporatization and privatization of generation and distribution and establishment of independent regulatory authority with an overall objective of reducing the transmission and distribution losses of 42 per cent in Orissa to at least A-1 level of 20 per cent by the end of 2002. In these lines, the state government has taken steps to dismantle the erstwhile Orissa state electricity board with effect from April 1, 1995. Generation of electricity and distribution have been separated. While the generation of hydropower has been entrusted to Orissa Hydro Power Corporation, generation of thermal power is the responsibility of Orissa Power Generation Corporation, where 49 per cent of government equity has already been disinvested. The function of Grid Corporation of India Limited has been confined to supply of power to AES and the three distribution companies, that is, Central Electric Supply Company, North Eastern Electric Supply Company of Orissa Limited and Southern Electric Supply Company (BSES companies), who are responsible for the supply of electricity and collecting the revenue from the customers.

Now a time has come to critically evaluate the achievement made through power sector reform. The objective of power sector reform was to make power available to the industries and the consumers at a competitive price and at the same time to reduce the dependence on the state government. This was laudable with the intention that companies will arrange their private capital to augment the loan from the World Bank on state government guarantee but that has not yet materialized. The uninterrupted power supply by system improvement which was another objective has totally failed. The companies, after the lapse of a long period, also have not yet opened escrow wet accounts to the certification of GRIDCO and have not affected regular payment of power charges to GRIDCO. However, on insistence of the state government the distributing companies will open wet escrow accounts by March this year. CESCO has done it. Others are in the process. Neither have the consumers so far benefited nor the state government. The total investment in GRIDCO upto 1999-2000 is Rs 2,964.66 crore, out of which investment by the state government was Rs 768.71 crore, which consists of paid-up capital of Rs 489.16 crore, and loan of Rs 279.55 crore. The rest, Rs 2,195.95 crore, is the term loan from other financial institutions. Despite heavy investment, the GRIDCO is incurring losses from year to year and the cumulative loss upto 1999-2000 is Rs 1,171.76 crore....

It appears that Orissa power sector restructuring and reform is an example of poor performance and ineffective operationalization which needs a lot of corrective measures. Till date the chronic problems (i.e. energy theft and realization of revenues etc) are not properly addressed, although we have passed five years of reform....

The state government is committed to reforms in the power sector, but a serious and critical review is absolutely necessary to ensure that corrective measures are taken expeditiously to put the reform on the desired path so that basic objectives are achieved soon.



Borderline case

Sir — The Agra summit has become lopsided even before it started. The mushy, badly-timed congratulatory message from India on Pervez Musharraf’s becoming president, the Taj from every room (even the bath of the great general) and the nine-course meal are all very fine. But one only hopes that Atal Bihari Vajpayee in his zest to throw open his heart does not throw away the summit altogether (“Atal throws open check-points”, July 10). The fear becomes a bit nagging because Pakistan has so far made no attempt to reciprocate the good-neighbourliness. A recent incident in Pakistan where a renowned singer was forced to stop singing an Indian song shows the mood is foul on the other side of the border. The hawks are watching every move of Musharraf, so he knows he cannot yield an inch to Indians. Which all means it is status quo for Pakistan, with or without a summit. Vajpayee’s opening of the border will in fact grant the Pakistanis another bonus. It might have a chance to make its Kargil adventure a success this time.

Yours faithfully,
Jayant Sinha, Calcutta

Sex in the classroom

Sir —This is in connection to Aveek Sen’s article “Measure for Measure” (July 8). The otherwise incisive dig at straightforward political correctness is marred by an unnecessary personal attack on Paul de Man. Sen may have branded de Man “damaged and presumably damaging archangel” for two reasons.

One, for the latter’s presumed anti-semitism shored up from his wartime journalism in the newspaper Le Soir. There is a whole parasitic industry thriving on that, an industry busy connecting deconstruction with relativism and anti-semitism. But it is mostly not pedagogy; it is gossip. One would do well to read at least the collection Responses On Paul de Man’s Wartime Journalism (edited by Werner Hamacher , Neil Hertz and Thomas Keenan) to get a balanced idea about the subject. It could also be rewarding if one is able to take the strains of delving into de Man’s own essay, “Excuses”, on Jean Jacques Rousseau’s “Confessions” (from Allegories of Reading).

But this leads to the other possibility that might have led Sen to insinuate that it amounts to mental ravishing, “mindfucking” of oneself if one engages in de Man pedagogy. This might stem from a general distrust of deconstruction as a philosophic tool (I assume here that Sen is aware of the deconstructive tradition at least going back to Parmenides and that he is also aware of the third-rate translations of some of the schools’ major works). If it is so, then it is lazy scholarship to shrug off pedagogical possibilities on the ground of being arcane.

I admire Sen’s writings and hence am disturbed to see him fall into the trap that liberal humanists like him should avoid: relating personal invectives while making a precise and logical point. Mindfucking, in the context of sexual harassment, is a subtle point. Invoking de Man as an example is not.

Yours faithfully,
Gabbar Singh, via email

Sir — Aveek Sen discusses some finer points about sexual relationships in the academia in “Measure For Measure”. One wonders though why suddenly he goes off track to attack Paul de Man. Is it because the author does not like the Yale school deconstructionists’ treatment of English romanticism? Or is it de Man’s language or better still, his pro-Nazi past? Also, the Harvard law school is (and by extension the university itself) is made out to be some sort of exception from the “obtuse, literal minded puritanism” of the general American academia. The Harvard law school’s sexual harassment guidelines do not suffice to prove this point.

Yours faithfully,
M.O. Gambo, Shillong

Sir — Aveek Sen’s article dealing with sexual harassment in the academia was entertaining, yet thought-provoking. The Birkbeck policy mentioned in the article is too tolerant and forgiving. It is necessary to legislate and curb some of the human sexual instincts in the academic realm, or academic performance would be in jeopardy.

I am reminded of an incident which took place in the University of Calcutta. An eminent professor was discovered in a compromising position with a female colleague. When he was called up to explain his aberrant conduct, he maintained that people like himself were capable of realizing the beatitude of extra-mundane existence. Should we then condone the moral peccadilloes of scholars and teachers or condemn them for their moral lapses?

Yours faithfully,
Debal Kumar Chakravarti, Calcutta

Power less

Sir — According to the report, “Wet coal turns too hot for NTPC” (July 10), a major part of the recent power shortage in West Bengal has been caused by wet coal. Moisture in coal is certainly a major factor in reducing electrical output from power stations. This is because some of the energy released by the burning coal has to go into evaporating the water in it rather than being converted to electricity. But the authorities should have known that stockpiled coal could get wet in the monsoons. The average annual rainfall, mostly in the monsoon, in West Bengal is typically 1.5 metres and higher near the coast. There could be a variation up to 50 per cent from the average and it could also rain continuously for days. To build a coal-fired power station without taking this into account seems incredible.

There are ways of managing moisture in coal both at the mine and at the power station. Covered, properly designed draining patios for at least a sufficient part of the stockpile could be arranged. This could be combined with proper stockpile management by blending the drier coal with coal from uncovered storage areas to provide acceptable moisture levels which is the usual technique. The power crisis is yet another example of the troubles faced by the people of this country. This too, in most cases, can be avoided with foresight and good management.

Yours faithfully,
David Williams, Sydney, Australia

Sir — Given the present power scenario, augmentation of installed capacities in states has to be made more effective. In this context, the idea of encouraging captive power is logical. But can state governments support such captive generation of power from coal or other fuels? If this option is workable, it will be a big boost for industry which has been suffering from the high price and low quality of power from the grids. Power could also be exported to other states during the lean season.

Yours faithfully,
C.R. Bhattacharjee, Calcutta

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