Editorial 1 / On the Debit side
Editorial 2 / First test
Fictions in the darkness
Fifth Column / How to play the game right
Look back in euphoria
Document / Matching practices with concepts
Letters to the editor

There are limits to the effectiveness of monetary policy and Mr Bimal Jalan can look to Mr Alan Greenspan for support on this score. At least, Mr Greenspan has a fiscal surplus. Mr Jalan has a combined (Centre plus state) fiscal deficit to gross domestic product ratio of 10 per cent plus, ignoring other preemption of funds through the oil pool account, food credit, fertilizer subsidies and state electricity board dues. Barring the expected softer interest rate regime, the Reserve Bank of India could not have done much more than continuing with structural reform, including the prudential norms introduced in 1993. While the cash reserve ratio cut had been expected, the magnitude of 2 per cent was unexpected. The 0.5 per cent cut in the bank rate brings the rate to 6.5 per cent, the lowest since 1973.

The interest (6 per cent now) on cash balances of banks with the RBI has been hiked to the bank rate and exemptions to banks on imposition of CRR on some liabilities have been removed. Banks have the freedom to increase cash credit on working capital limits over Rs 10 crore and can design their own policies on non-performing assets recovery and write-off. The current account facility of banks with the RBI will be rationalized and non-statutory liquidity ratio investments monitored. The RBI has thrown in the caveat that these changes can be reversed if necessary and there is the expectation that there will be greater liquidity and this will provide the kick-start. For example, the cumulative CRR cuts will release Rs 8000 crore into the system. Prime lending rates will drop and so will deposit rates.

However, the kick-start mechanism does not work that simply. First, deposit rate cuts don’t happen instantaneously, since more than 90 per cent of deposits are of the term variety. If banks follow the injunction of credit policy and reduced PLRs, there will be considerable pressure on their spreads, at least in the short term. Second, the presumption that there is a liquidity problem is fallacious. Banks are not short of lendable resources. The problem is that these have resulted in lending to the government, rather than to the commercial sector. It may be recalled that the proposed fiscal responsibility and budget management bill has now gone for a six. Nor is there any great demand for investments in the private sector. Coupled with this is the problem that creditworthy borrowers have recourse to overseas (and cheaper) funds, while relatively non-creditworthy borrowers have turned to banks. This is compounded by the threat of vigilance inquiries and threat of NPAs. While interest rate cuts are no doubt necessary, and real interest rates will continue to be fairly high even after the cuts, they are not sufficient to provide the kick-start. The constraints lie in structural problems elsewhere and the only way to address these is through reforms. The RBI expects a real GDP growth of between 5 to 6 per cent in 2001-02, basing its forecast on improved agriculture sector performance and a stimulus to investments. Actual growth is likely to be closer to 5 per cent. While agriculture will indeed perform better, its value added contribution to growth will not be that high, since input prices have also gone up. Investments are plagued by negative sentiments and the downturn in the business cycle. The credit policy alone cannot reverse this.


A new government’s first steps often show its true colours. The reported harassment of the Hindus in several parts of the country has come as the first major test for Ms Khaleda Zia’s new regime in Bangladesh. The way she tackles the problem will go a long way to show what to expect of her government in other spheres too. Judging by incidents of intimidation of sections of the Hindus preceding the October 1 general election, she should have been prepared for the challenge and therefore expected to have a strategy in place to meet it. The majority of the 13 million-strong minorities in Bangladesh traditionally votes for the Awami League . But once in the saddle, Ms Khaleda Zia cannot afford to treat it as a partisan issue. She is expected to look at it as an issue of governance. At one level, it is a law and order question which requires the government to treat perpetrators of the anti-Hindu violence as criminals. That many of them reportedly belong to her own Bangladesh Nationalist Party makes it even more important for her to act decisively. The four-party alliance led by her won the elections primarily on its pledge to restore “the rule of law”. Protecting the minorities should be an important step towards redeeming that pledge.

At another crucial level, the government’s response could have repercussions on Bangladesh’s relations with India because terrorized Hindus might flee across the border in large numbers. Some Hindu fundamentalist outfits in India have lost no time to seize the opportunity and indulge in their jingoistic bluster. It could be an ominous start for her government if Ms Khaleda Zia tries to underplay the seriousness of the problem, as some of her cabinet colleagues have done, describing the complaints about the persecution of the Hindus as “exaggerated and propagandist”. Not only have the Hindus themselves cried foul, several human rights groups in Dhaka have come up with telltale clues to some ugly incidents. The urgency of the matter was underscored also by the fact that the Indian high commissioner in Bangladesh felt it necessary to discuss it with the minister of state for religious affairs, Mr Musharraf Hussein Shahjehan. Ms Khaleds Zia has no option but to win this test in the interest of not only the Hindus but also of Bangladesh and her government.


The novelist and eccentric democrat, E.M. Forster, died at the age of ninety-one in 1970 and has been artificially kept alive ever since then by the heart and lung industry of Merchant & Ivory and Ruth Prawer Jhabwala.

There’s always been something contemporary and alive about Forster as long as anyone can remember, what with his fiction being endlessly prescribed and so firmly wedged in the canon that not even the rampaging postcoloniality of cultural studies has dislodged it. On the contrary, a relatively new biography of Forster by Nicola Bion dredges new material on his life as an active gay, and a recent study by Nick Royle resurrects interest in his work via the deployment of “Queer Theory” — this being one of the newer frameworks to have emerged out of Women’s Studies in the LitCrit smithies.

If a gendered perspective is necessary in order to understand women’s writings as well as women’s views of male writing, it follows that a queer perspective is equally necessary to properly fathom the work of gay writers as well as gay views of straight writers. (“Bi” Theory is bound to be next in the line.) So, even if Forster had been in any danger of being forgotten, his sexuality now ensures the danger has passed.

So, also, it is difficult to believe that Forster was born nearly a century and a quarter ago, that he wrote his first novel about a hundred years back, and that more than seventy-five years have passed since his last, A Passage to India (1924). These might be good enough reasons to remember him and reassess the relevance of his work, but a better — or perhaps worse — has been provided by the recent denunciation of Forster (alongside Joyce and other canonical figures) by V.S. Naipaul. Forster, says Naipaul, never understood India, his Indian novel is rubbish, his interest in the country was limited to the homosexual gratifications provided him by the princely state where he worked as the maharaja’s secretary.

A genuine dislike of Forster’s last novel is fair enough, and in that opinion Naipaul is not alone. Set aside for the moment Sir Vidia’s gratuitous insult to a writer’s intelligence by pointing to his sexual preferences, for to take note of such a slur would be nearly as churlish as asking how a Trinidadian Briton can hope to understand India while being married to a Pakistani.

Perhaps we should be indulgent and gracious, and accept that Naipaul was only being facetious about Forster in the merciless Bloomsbury manner made infamous by Lytton Strachey. Or perhaps we are meant to understand that outrageous outburst and political incorrectness are mere tenets in the Naipaulean vision, within which queer Forster comes off no worse, really, than straight Joyce. Besides, the ad hominem affront provides juice to the gossip column and must be pardoned: the more substantial point remains, which is that not everyone takes to Forster or his Passage. Indians in particular often complain that neither Dr Aziz, the protagonist who serves by and large to represent Islam and the Indian Muslim, nor Professor Godbole, who plays the corresponding role in relation to Hinduism and Hindus, is all that credible even as a fictional character.

Nirad C. Chaudhuri articulated this opinion with customary flamboyance in Passage to England and some of the literary debate around the novel since then has been on the nature and depth of Forster’s engagement with India and Indians. But the vehemence with which Forster’s vision and his fictionalization of the imperial situation have been rubbished by writers like Naipaul and Chaudhuri serve to remind one of the deep discomfort that Forster always caused among Rule Britannia and raj sympathizers, particularly among arch-conservative brown-skinned collaborators who, reversing Tilak, have silently cried, “England is my birthright and I shall have it”. And who, adopting Britain as the Motherland, have lived there as Englishmen manque. And who, throwing stones from their chandeliered glass houses, have of all things sneered at the brown world for being made up of mimic men unsuccessfully attempting to form themselves in the image of departed white men.

If anyone has inherited the journalistic mantle of Kipling and modified it to suit his own time, it is Naipaul. And if this is so, the fact of the matter is that Forster, who in most senses turned the Kiplingesque view of imperial India on its head, possessed in abundance an attribute that Naipaul cultivatedly lacks: a sympathetic, generous, liberal and humane view of people in general and Indians in particular.

To what extent does a historian really understand the period he writes about, how well can an anthropologist really understand a tribe in the limited course of fieldwork, how much do writers who put people and civilizations into their fictions and travelogues really know about the areas they flit through or traverse? These philosophical questions on the discursive nature of truth in literature and social science cause endless debates, varieties of opinion, conflicts and controversies; they do not lead to some ultimate truth on the matter.

Orwell points out in his essay on Kipling that though Kipling was much trumpeted as the poet who truly understood Anglo-India, the actual Anglo-Indians who ruled the country said he had no understanding of the country whatsoever.

In Indian history, to give another example, the dominant view of nationalism was for many years that it was the product of disaffection among educated elites who had failed to get incorporated into the imperial system. Indian nationalist historians overturned this “Namierite” Cambridge argument by showing a different ground reality in which ideology and idealism, rather than petty personal gain, were the “real” motives that drove nationalists. The Subalternist historians then subverted this view of nationalism by showing its insensitivity and opportunism in relation to workers, peasants, tribals, women and the other communities that remained subordinate or marginalized.

Or take anthropology. For many years it seemed well established that the culturalist, Margaret Mead, had got hold of the truth about the Samoans and shown that gender roles were culturally constructed rather than genetically given. But then the anthropologist, Derek Freeman, came along and queered her pitch by saying she hadn’t understood the natives at all, she’d only idealized them because they’d been good to her. The world of anthropology is currently awash with academics who believe Freeman always had it in for Mead, and that it was she rather than he who truly understood the communities upon whom they had both cast their short-term gaze.

Cut from these scenarios to Naipaul’s view of Forster and we’re getting somewhat nearer the ephemeral truth.

In his brilliant essay, titled “Naipaul’s India and Mine”, Nissim Ezekiel offers a memorable comparison between the famous “Marabar Caves” scene as dramatized by Forster and as it might have been dramatized by Naipaul: “Adela accuses Aziz of having tried to rape her. Later she confesses that her behaviour was like that of certain women who honestly believe they have received offers of marriage when none were intended…Naipaul…dealing with the same material, would probably relate how an Indian took two English ladies to see some caves and tried to rape one of them there. It would not be an implausible story, only an appalling one…I am not in fact doubting his [Naipaul’s] veracity, only his approach towards the discovery of the truth.”

The Forsterian approach, with which Ezekiel is implicitly in sympathy, is inevitably dated and old-fashioned in some of its specificities, but it shows an appealingly feminized sort of sensitivity to personal suffering irrespective of nationality, it shows up the colour of racism by its refusal to suck up to the authority of the dominant white male, and it does all this in a prose that can be as poetic as it is subtle.

It seems rather a pity that the new Nobel laureate does not have much time for these substantial virtues.


The United States of America’s war on terrorism is too narrow in focus. Its first priority seems to be its only priority: it is only interested in destroying the base and hideouts of Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. What is even worse is that in the pursuit of this priority, it is inflicting immense suffering on civilians who have practically no connection with it. The US also seems eager to implement its plan to establish a large military presence in central Asia which would help it consolidate its military presence in west Asia.

Such a presence would enable the US to control vital oil supplies and therefore prevent countries like China and India from accessing them. As the lone superpower in a unipolar world, it would be able to determine the way in which the entire world would develop.

This does not however mean that the US was not forced to undertake a serious offensive against terrorism in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. It is indeed ironic that it has been forced to take action against those forces which were its own creation. It has been forced to lead a global attack on one of the most famous terrorist organizations in the world. It is doing so to protect its own interests.

Terror tactics

There can be no doubt in anyone’s mind that what bin Laden has done, is doing and has promised to do in the future are against the interests of the US as well as against those of India. This important aspect of the present conflict should not be overlooked.

The Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government has tried to downplay the US’s persistence with its policy of global domination and has even sought to participate in the US-led battle against terrorism. India hopes that by doing so, it will be able to outdo Pakistan in winning favours from the US.

India’s dreams of a closer relationship with the US is only an illusion. In fact, its closeness to the US will only be manipulated by Washington which will try and use this oppportunity to play the role of a mediator in the Kashmir dispute.

As a result, the BJP and its allies have kept quiet and refused to comment on the more sinister aspects of the US action.

The BJP, as a party, has come to represent communal politics. It no doubt hopes to benefit from the impression created by the media in the US that most Muslims are supporters of terrorism. Leading publicists of the BJP, have been proclaiming that while not all Muslims are terrorists, all terrorists are Muslims. Television, too, has played its part in creating such an impression.

Straight talk

The left and its allies have been guilty of not doing anything to protest against the pro-US policies of the BJP. They have directed their arguments against the hegemonic designs of the US which is not only absurd but can do a great deal of harm. The terrorist danger to the world, including to our country, is being downplayed.

The left and its ally, the Samajwadi Party, are under the impression that they would alienate the Muslim community if they were to criticize bin Laden and the al- Qaida. This is another error in judgment that puts them in the same league as the BJP.

It would be pertinent to point out in this context that a large percentage of Muslims, especially young people, have been swept away by a wave of anti-Americanism. This does not mean that the left and its allies should keep quiet about the danger and horror that bin Laden represents. One must remember that he is not just an enemy of the US but also an enemy of Islam. The defeat of bin Laden will ultimately result in the defeat of the US.

The left, too, can play an important part in the battle against terrorism once it is able to get rid of its mistaken notion that doing so might alienate the Muslims.

The present political scenario in the country could well be exploited by fundamentalists belonging to both the Hindu and Muslim communities to spark off communal riots. There have also been too many provocative and inflammatory statements made by political leaders at the grassroots level, as well as to the press.

The Congress must initiate a campaign to counter the possible fallout of this crisis. It must also alert the nation to the dangers of communal polarization.


Communist or socialist parties anywhere in the world claim to be parties of the future. It is another matter that many critics saw no future for many of these parties of the future. In fact, one of the strongest ever communist parties — of the former Soviet Union — now has only a past. But getting the past right is often a true guide for the present and a hope for the future. Last week’s celebrations of the 81st anniversary of the first communist party in India, which the West Bengal unit of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) organized in Calcutta and elsewhere, once again begged old questions about historical accuracy.

Obviously, the party took the 1920 meeting of the third Communist International at Tashkent as the year of its founding. True, an Indian communist centre was set up under M N Roy at the Tashkent meeting. But debates raged within the latter-day Indian communist parties over whether it was truly the beginning. E.M.S. Namboodiripad was not sure even a few years before his death.

In his 1994 book, The Communist Party in Kerala, he wrote, “The first effort to form a leading central body was in fact made outside India — in the Soviet city of Tashkent. Participants in that initial effort in 1920 were a group of Indian émigré revolutionaries who received guidance and support from the Communist International. However, the International did not accord the new body the status of a full partner in the organization, giving it only consultative status, since there were other émigré groups who could not be persuaded to work with the Tashkent group.”

One can let the historical hair-splitting pass. More to the point was the CPI(M)’s analysis of the present state of the party’s health. One would have thought that the 81st anniversary celebrations would be an occasion for much breast-beating and introspection into the blunders of the past. Instead, the CPI(M)’s West Bengal secretary, Anil Biswas, gave the impression that the party had been on the right track, barring minor aberrations among ideological unfaithfuls. Expectedly, he talked of the Left Front’s unbroken rule of 24 years in West Bengal as the high point of the communist movement in India. This, he claimed, had inspired left and democratic forces in the rest of the country. “The party’s correct ideological position, strategies and the Left Front rule in West Bengal,” according to him, “have raised the party’s prestige in international spheres as well.”

To put it mildly, the claim sounds extraordinarily facetious. A true introspection would have confronted the party with the simple question as to why, despite its 24-year rule in West Bengal, it has failed to spread the message even in neighbouring states, let alone farther afield in the country. Biswas knows the party has grappled with the problem for many years. Party literature has long talked of the “spread effect” — from one area of influence to vast areas of weakness and nonexistence. Way back in 1978, the “strategy” for growth in Hindi-speaking states was a major concern at the Salkia plenum of the CPI(M). True, the party, which was recognized by only the Romanian communist party at its birth in 1964, now has “fraternal relationships” with scores of communist parties in the world. But that merely means inviting and getting some foreign communist/socialist delegates to the party congresses.

The fact of the matter seems to be quite the contrary of Biswas’s self-congratulatory picture. The communist movement in India today is a pale shadow of what it once was even after one adds up the influence of the underground parties like the Peoples War Group and the Marxist Coordination Centre to that of the Communist Party of India and the CPI(M). In fact, the long reign of the left in West Bengal and tiny Tripura, coupled with its periodic successes in Kerala, tend to eclipse the vast areas of darkness for the left across the country.

Contrast this with the past when the undivided communist party was a major political force in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Punjab, Bihar, Assam and even Manipur in addition to their traditional strongholds of West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura.

While the first communist government in India was formed in Kerala in 1959, the CPI came close to winning the polls in Andhra Pradesh in the first assembly elections in 1952. The present strength of the communist and other left parties in the Lok Sabha is a misleading guide because the bulk is from West Bengal and Kerala. When, in 1952, the CPI had 18 members in the Lok Sabha, they were spread over a larger number of states. It was the same for the left blocs of 27 and 31 in 1957 and 1962, respectively. The left’s highest tally was 54 — once in 1980 and again in 1989. But even these pickings were mostly from West Bengal and Kerala. In the 1999 parliamentary polls, the left tally stood at 42, of which the CPI(M) got 33. West Bengal gave the Marxists 21, Kerala eight and Tripura two. Bihar and Tamil Nadu gave one each, courtesy Laloo Prasad Yadav and J. Jayalalitha.

Facts therefore show that the communist parties today do not exist as significant political forces outside West Bengal and Kerala. Tripura has become almost an extension of West Bengal after successive waves of Bengali refugees swamped the native tribal population. Exclude Kerala and you have primarily a Bengali party — a far cry from the time when communist movements won hearts, members and sympathizers far and wide.

The fault, say CPI(M) leaders, lies, not with their party, but with the CPI that weakened the communist movement because of its wrong policies. The CPI disagrees and points out that the Marxists have actually adopted many of the old CPI positions on which they once broke away from the parent party. The Naxalite groups accuse both the CPI and the CPI(M) of abandoning “revolution” and surrendering to parliamentary “distortions”.

Together, they all present the pathetic spectacle of trying to enlarge their areas of influence by hanging on to the coat-tails of Jayalalitha or M. Karunanidhi in Tamil Nadu, some Telugu Desam faction in Andhra Pradesh, Laloo Prasad Yadav in Bihar, Asom Gana Parishad in Assam, Mulayam Singh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh, in seemingly endless turns and twists of “tactics”. Their moment of glory comes in times of weak coalitions at the Centre when they hope to be tails wagging the bigger-party heads.

To be fair to Biswas, Telengana, Tebhaga, Mopla or the Punnapra-Vayalar revolts are the legends on which communists in India built themselves. But that also is at the root of larger failures. Local insurrections remain just that. Building up national movements is a different matter. Among other things it requires the party to change with the times. The Chinese Communist Party, for instance, is embracing sweeping changes, the latest of which is Jiang Zemin’s stunning proposal that the party membership be thrown open to the national bourgeoisie. The Chinese party will discuss the proposal at its congress next year. But then 81 years on, Indian communist parties pathetically remain parties of the past. Unless they change fast, even their present could look like borrowed time.


For collaboration with and commitments from industry the corporate sector and industry could, for instance, take on the challenge of strengthening the management information systems in the seven most deficient states, at primary health centre and sub-centre levels. Introduce electronic data entry machines to lighten the tedious work load of auxilliary nurse midwives and the multi-purpose workers at sub-centres and the doctors at the primary health centres, while enabling wider coverage and outreach.

Collaborate with non-government sectors in running professionally sound advertisement and marketing campaigns for products and services, targeting all segments of the population, from village level upwards, in other words, strengthen advocacy and IEC, including social marketing of contraceptives.

Provide markets to sustain the income-generating activities from village levels upwards. In turn, this will ensure consistent motivation among the community for pursuing health and education related community activities.

Help promote transportation to remote and inaccessible areas upto village levels. This will greatly assist the coverage and outreach of social marketing of products and services.

The social responsibility of the corporate sector in industry must, at the very minimum, extend to providing preventive reproductive and child healthcare for its own employees (if more than 100 workers are engaged).

Create a national network consisting of voluntary, public, private and non-government health centres, identified by a common logo, for delivering reproductive and child health services, free to any client. The provider will be compensated for the service provided, on the basis of a coupon system, duly counter-signed by the beneficiary and paid for by a system that will be fully articulated. The compensation will be identical to providers, across all sectors. The end user exercises choices in the source of service delivery. A committee of management experts will be set up to devise ways of ensuring that this system is not abused.

Form a consortium of the voluntary sector, and the private corporate sector to aid government in the provision and outreach of basic reproductive and child health care and basic education.

In the area of basic education, set up privately run/managed primary schools for children up to age 14-15. Alternately, if the schools are set up/managed by the panchayat, the private corporate sector could provide the mid-day meals, the text-books and/or the uniforms.

For mainstreaming Indian systems of medicine and homeopathy, provide appropriate training and orientation in respect of the RCH programme for the institutionally qualified ISMH medical practitioners (already educated in midwifery, obstetrics and gynaecology over 5-1/2 years), and utilize their services to fill in gaps in manpower at appropriate levels in the health infrastructure, and at subcentres and primary health centres, as necessary.

Utilize the ISMH institutions, dispensaries and hospitals for health and population programmes. Disseminate the tried and tested concepts and practices of the indigenous systems of medicine, together with ISMH medication at village maternity huts and at household levels for ante-natal and post-natal care, besides nurture of the newborn.

Utilize the services of ISMH “barefoot doctors” after appropriate training and orientation towards providing advocacy and counselling for disseminating supplies and equipment, and as depot holders at village levels. For contraceptive technology and research on RCH, government will encourage, support and advance the pursuit of medical and social science research on reproductive and child health, in consultation with ICMR and the network of academic and research institutions.

The International Institute of Population Sciences and the Population Research Centres will continue to review programme and monitoring indicators to ensure their continued relevance to strategic goals. Government will restructure the Population Research Centres, if necessary.

Standards for clinical and non-clinical interventions will be issued and regularly reviewed. A constant review and evaluation of the community needs assessment approach will be pursued to align programme delivery with good management practices and with newly emerging technologies.

To be concluded



Wartime screen

Sir — There is an inescapable sense of deja vu in watching a war film when one’s country is actually at war (“Gung-ho soldiers fade away from silver screen”, Oct 17). Not knowing whether audiences in the United States of America would be willing to watch the on-screen heroics of their favourite Hollywood stars, most producers have postponed the release of the war films that were lined up for this autumn. While some directors feel that the audience would much rather watch real footage of allied bombing in Afghanistan, others are of the opinion that it would be risky to release a film like Buffalo Soldiers, as it deals with corruption and drug-dealing in the American military, a plot that may not appeal to moviegoers at the moment. One is however reminded of a time when war was so much simpler and when Hollywood masters like Michael Curtiz made blockbuster war movies during World War II. Celebrated Hollywood classics like Casablanca were made while the war was going on and successfully captured the excitement and tension of that period.

Yours faithfully,
Indira Srivastava, via email


Sir — The editorial, “Making the Nobel noble”(Oct 15), has hit the nail upon the head by pointing out the irony that is implicit in the United Nations being awarded the Nobel peace prize this year at a time the world is at war. Like its predecessor, the League of Nations, the UN has not been very successful in its role as the mediator of disputes. Even though it was successful in ensuring peace in Somalia, Haiti and Cambodia, it has been a failure in west Asia. It has also not been able to prevent countries like the United States of America and Russia from amassing weapons of mass destruction.

In recent years, the UN has become a puppet in the hands of the US, which has used its influence as the world’s only superpower. It is difficult to understand the rationale behind awarding the peace prize to the UN when it has been unable to stop the outbreak of yet another war. The terrorist attacks on New York and Washington cannot justify the US’s strikes on Afghanistan which are causing the deaths of civilians. It is high time that the UN stops playing the role of a passive spectator and starts taking a more active part in resolving international disputes.

Yours faithfully,
Raza Kamal, Gaya

Sir — It is unfortunate that the centenary Nobel peace prize should be awarded to the UN and its secretary general, Kofi Annan, for working for “a better organized and more peaceful world”. Given that the UN has failed to prevent any of the wars that have broken out over the last few years, the award should have gone to a more deserving individual or organization. In recent years, the UN has had an abysmal record in mediating international disputes. It was unable to prevent the Iraq-Iran war or the Kuwait war and to bring about a peaceful resolution of the west Asia dispute.

It would be worthwhile to remember that the UN was born in the aftermath of World War II and was supposed to prevent the arbitrary exercise of powers by the dominant countries so that the world is not cursed by another Adolf Hitler. However, the UN was a complete failure in this regard and was also unable to prevent an arms race between the US and the Soviet Union. The unbridled growth of the powers of the US which is now talking of the use of space as a military zone, will only push the world towards another world war.

As pointed out by the editorial, “Making the Nobel noble”, the politicization of the peace prize is obvious from the fact that the 1994 award was given to Yizyak Rabin, Yasser Arafat and Shimon Peres despite the fact that the conflict between Israel and Palestine was far from over then as now. No one will question Kofi Annan’s sincerity or his commitment to peace but it is difficult not to express one’s surprise nonetheless. One could also ask the question whether Annan’s commitment to peace could in any way be more important than the non-violent struggle initiated by one Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi who did not receive the Nobel prize, even though Martin Luther King Jr, who considered him to be his mentor, did.

Until the UN is freed from the control exercised by the five permanent member-countries, it will never be able to act impartially during an international crisis. The entry of non-permanent members to the security council would bring about a balance of power in the UN and would ensure that the more powerful members are not able to ride roughshod over the less powerful ones.

Yours faithfully,
Asoka Kumar Addya, Puri

Money run

Sir — Bhaskar Dutta in his article, “Inaction and half measures” (Oct 10), has rightly pointed out that the lack of a central initiative to revive the ailing Indian economy has been responsible for the current state of affairs. It is also disturbing that since the global slowdown almost a year ago, the Indian economy has not regained its earlier position of strength.

Yet the National Democratic Alliance government has done nothing to deal with this situation. Despite its promise to initiate labour sector reforms it has come up with nothing. The government’s failure to reduce the burgeoning fiscal deficit and its inability to introduce second generation reforms is another setback for the economy. Even though the Indian prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, is at present talking of taking measures that would jump-start the economy, it is difficult not to take his words without a pinch of salt.

What is deeply worrying is that the prime minister has been talking about additional investments in the public sector, namely in railways, airport projects, national highways and other infrastructure projects.

As has been pointed out by Dutta, public investment will encourage the growth of employment opportunities. However, such a plan can only be successful if private investors are willing to come forward to invest in these projects. That is unlikely, given that the present state of the economy has driven away most potential investors who are unwilling to take any risks.

Yours faithfully,
Niloy Sinha, Azimganj

Sir — Why should anyone believe the Indian prime minister when he says that the government will revive the ailing Indian economy by introducing large-scale investments in the public sector and in infrastructure building? After all, the government has not kept its other promises — the failure to introduce labour reforms is one such notable failure. The government can hardly claim its innocence by saying that it was not aware of the slowdown in the Indian economy.

The Vajpayee government’s inertia could have a lot to do with the innumerable scandals that occurred during the past year. The government’s ineptitude in dealing with these crises, most of them involving crores of rupees, raises serious doubts about its overall competence in dealing with financial issues. As mentioned by the finance minister in his budget speech, the government could raise this money from disinvestment. That option seems unavailable at the moment given that the disinvestment exercise was a failure the first time round. It is unlikely therefore that the government will be able to deliver what the prime minister had so glibly promised.

Yours faithfully,
Mita Bharghav, Calcutta

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