Editorial 1/ On the list
Editorial 2/ Burnt out ends
A marketing story
Fifth Column/ The way to go about Doha
Mani Talk /Mayhem in Sanchar Bhavan
Document/ Preparing for unrestricted freedom
Letters to the editor

Expansion of the anti-terrorist programme is the only way to tackle the hydra-headed phenomenon. The United States of America�s lengthening of the list of banned organizations reinforces its stated aim of conducting a war against terrorism worldwide, although its immediate targets are al Qaida and Afghanistan. The timing of the expansion is perfect. Doubts about the US�s actual aims are becoming more vocal and some of the US�s allies in its fight against terrorism are a little rest- less. The longer list is a signal of the US�s seriousness of purpose. From that point of view, the inclusion of the Jaish-e-Mohammad and the Lashkar-e-Toiba is of some importance to India. To accept that these two groups are of the same colour as al Qaida is also to accept that terrorism in the US and elsewhere in the West is no different from terrorism in Kashmir. It is equally significant that the list also mentions the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the Babbar Khalsa and the International Sikh Youth Federation. While underlining the US�s good faith, this step is also part of the earlier strategy of choking off terrorist funds.Many of the terrorist groups based in the subcontinent are heavily funded by their supporters settled abroad. This two-pronged attack, if carried through, is likely to be extremely effective.

For India, all this is good news. It is a vindication of all its claims about the terrorist threat within the country, and a mild triumph just before the visit of the Indian prime minister,Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, to Washington. But again, this is just the beginning of the story. The external help that was needed seems to be forthcoming now, and it is for India to make the most of it. At the same time, state and Central governments must now take a clear and consensual stand to tackle terrorism internally. The new Central ordinance against terrorist activities has provoked some states, including West Bengal, and some parties, such as the Congress, into acting rather contrary. West Bengal has proposed an alternative ordinance against organized crime, although that too is unlikely to get through. In other words, the war against terrorism within the country is still in a bit of a mess.Any strict law against terrorism is bound to look draconian, because prevention is as important as penalty. The Bharatiya Janata Party�s credentials regarding minority communities being less than ideal, it is easy to block any ordinance it makes on grounds of potential discrimination. The point is, though, that global terrorism is too great and terrifying a phenomenon at the moment to block laws against it. The rights of suspected terrorists have to be weighed against the rights of endangered civilians. The choice is harsh, but it has to be made. This is the right moment to attack terrorism, because now a large part of the world is determinedly ranged against it. It is up to Indian politicians to make up their minds.


Smoking in public places will be forbidden soon in India. One does not have to be a hardcore cynic to think of the unlikeliness of such a wholesome scenario in actual terms. In urban India, public and personal health, civic sense and human rights . all of which are irrelevant to the issue . have had their official discourses in place for a while now. But this has had very little effect on real behaviour and attitudes. The Supreme Court�s recent directive to the country to issue orders banning smoking in public places will undoubtedly churn up this entire set of issues all over again.Yet, none of these approaches to the problem has succeeded in translating the Court�s and the Central or state governments. attempts to change public opinion and behaviour regarding smoking. If the matter is brought down to its fundamental principles, then the definition of a public place in the ban leaves enough loopholes for it to not make much of a real difference. Leaving restaurants and roads outside such control has therefore managed to leave the major cigarette companies sounding quite unruffled. The directive could remain confined to controls in the realm of advertising, cultural and sports sponsorship and package design, and not transform anything remotely less superficial than these.

The problems involving the implementation of this ban are obvious in a society like India. Globalized discourses of public awareness regarding health often fit uncomfortably on Indian realities. Ignorance, callousness, apathy, corruption and sheer scale make even the most desperate attempts at addressing more immediate health hazards fall on habitually deaf ears. Air pollution is the great and terrifying example here, and the Supreme Court�s struggles in this sphere are evidence of the resilience, or indifference, with which Indians could, actively and passively, court their own doom. This is reflected not only in civic behaviour, but also in governmental and bureaucratic sloth. An important context to the Supreme Court�s severity is the fate of the impossibly named cigarette and other tobacco products (prohibition of advertisement and regulation of trade and commerce, production, supply and distribution) bill. Introduced in Parliament in March 2001, it has been mired in the standing committee red-tape, in spite of anti-tobacco noises being made by relevant ministers from time to time.West Bengal has also tried getting the smoking ban off the ground since the middle of last year.Urged on by a World Health Organization report on the rise in smoking-related diseases, such attempts ignore such basic Indian specificities as the consumption of tobacco in forms other than cigarettes. Controlling chewing in public places would sound farcically Orwellian. It is laudable to try to stop people from ruining their lungs, but the attempt has to be less shallow than what has been thought of so far.


The Indian economy has since the Eighties moved out of the 3.5 per cent .Hindu. rate of growth of the Fifties and Sixties. But this growth tapered off after 1996-97. The economy started to slow down after 1996-97. In that year the growth was 7.8 per cent while in the next three years it was 4.8, 6.6 and 6.4 per cent. The slowing down was in both agriculture and industry. Services went the opposite way. But the rate of growth in agriculture was much lower, and the decline in growth was of a higher magnitude.

It is evident that the �slowdown. in the Indian economy now in its fifth year, is principally an outcome of the problems of Indian industry, which have reduced its rate of growth. The slowdown in agricultural growth must have had adverse consequences for rural purchasing power.

Within industry the contribution of manufacturing declined more sharply. From 1996-97 to 2000-01, annual average growth was 5.9 per cent for industry and 6.4 per cent for manufacturing. Within manufacturing, registered enterprises made an average annual contribution to the growth of gross domestic product in 1994-95 to 1996-97 of 1.39 per cent while the average between 1997-98 and 2000-01 was 0.43 per cent. The corresponding figures for unregistered enterprises were 0.48 and 0.30 per cent respectively.

Thus registered enterprises, primarily the organized sector,were the major contributors to growth among manufacturing industries, and their contribution to growth fell more sharply after 1996-97 than for unregistered enterprises, primarily small-scale and cottage enterprises. The peak growth of consumer goods production was in 1995-96 when the index showed a growth of 12.8 per cent, being much lower thereafter, though there was an uplift in the last two years. The recovery was primarily due to durables. Non-durables peaked in 1995-96 at 9.8 per cent and were thereafter at lower levels.

It is apparent that industrial growth was driven to a great extent by durables, though in the last year, non-durables seem to be recovering some impetus to growth. Through the Nineties, non-development expenditures of Central and state governments as a proportion of GDP kept rising while development expenditures were falling. This peaked in 1995-96 and has come down each year since. It has affected the growth of rural incomes and employment and the quality and efficiency of the infrastructure, leading to poor productivity growth in Indian industry.

The lack of investment has also adversely affected the generation of new incomes and demand growth in the economy. Capital formation in industry and particularly in manufacturing, drove economic growth in India till 199596, and then tapered off. Substantial additional capacity and modernization took place till 1995-96, and then slowed down. Many studies have shown that industrial capacity was expanded significantly up to that year and subsequent growth has come from using those capacities.

As a result, productivity in Indian industry went up in spasmodic phases. Little effort was made by Indian companies to improve their processes to reduce costs, to improve product design and innovate for differentiation. Research and development expenditures by companies grew between 1986 and 1991 by 7.6 per cent and remained at that rate in later years. As a proportion to sales, research and development expenditures were 0.73 per cent in 1986-91, and 0.70 per cent in 1991-95. Cost reduction through product, process and plant improvements were not a priority with most companies. Nor was there much effort at bold new product innovations. No wonder that margins have been under pressure.

The variations in sales tax rates between states, the high rates in some states, the entry tax or octroi in some important cities, the cascading of taxation at each point of processing and purchase, create massive opportunities for evasion and avoidance. Record keeping and procedures give considerable scope for harassment and corruption. These particularly hurt consumer products that have many more taxable transactions. Reservation for small-scale units is a competitive disadvantage since there are tax concessions available to them. The removal of quantitative restrictions on consumer products, even though customs duties remain high, has opened floodgates to imports that at times are excuses for selling smuggled products free of taxes.The application of various domestic laws to these products is many times not uniform.

The import of extremely low-priced products from China created panic for a while among domestic manufacturers. These products had reduced costs and prices by offering products obviously inferior to the higher priced ones sold in India. A pencil battery retailing for Rs 2 gave less life than ones selling for much higher prices made in India. Such lowvalue products do have a place in the Indian market.They are affordable and the consumer knows that they are not of the composition and quality of much higher priced products. But they enable satisfaction of the aspiration to consume of those who would not otherwise be able to.

Our manufacturers are brought up on the principle that you offer the consumer the best product and with the most frills. Price is not believed to be a constraint. While this may be true for households with high disposable incomes, it is not true for the majority of the Indian market, especially those I have categorized in defining the pyramid Indian market structure as destitute, aspirants and climbers. These are the huge potential mass markets and will over time graduate to higher quality and higher priced products. There are serious marketing challenges here. They need to be tackled.

The mindset of Indian companies was formed by over forty years of industrial licensing which limited production capacities. In addition there was the influence of multinational companies that brought their mindset that value was more important than price, and that product features would attract consumers more than low prices. This has limited application in markets in which prospective consumers in the mass market have severe limitations on the price they can pay per unit. Capacity limitations made premium products the appropriate response.

We find it difficult to consciously reduce features, and even value in products, so as to give the mass-market consumer what he can afford, even if it does not have the features and the life of more expensive alternative offerings.

There is also a churning going on among brands. The competition to take away shares from the leaders is fierce. What may be new since the mid-Nineties is the greater willingness of consumers to switch, and to do so more often. The consumer in India may be recognizing that what most brands offer in functionality is not very different from one another, and therefore they are willing to try another brand, especially when there is a tempting promotional offer.

However, consumer durables have been able to reverse the trend because of sound brand building, product redesign, cost reduction programmes, wellthought out pricing, special promotions and expanding reach into markets. Nondurable consumer goods have been at this for longer and enjoy higher levels of penetration into socio economic classes as well as into rural India. Even among fast moving consumer goods there are brands that have bucked the trend towards slowing down. Extending reach, intensifying usage and a strong brand identity are key factors leading to such success.

Promotions have become a common strategy. They usually have a defensive purpose to take away share from others or prevent them from taking away yours. Promotions could dilute brand identity. When consumers are prone to roam the market switching brands, brand building is most vital. Companies have to recognize the nature and composition of Indian markets and design products and marketing strategies to suit them. China seems to have done it successfully and may now be attempting to apply its lessons to countries like India.

The author is former director general, National Council for Applied Economic Research rao_l@vsnl.net


The World Trade Organization ministerial meet at Doha next month is an opportunity for developing countries to seize the initiative and make development a basic framework in global trade negotiations Often the WTO is seen as a platform where the developed world dangles carrots to the third world and reaps benefits such as unrestricted access to third world markets, outflow of capital, among other iniquitous phenomena.

That the developed world has been able to make the WTO its playground is partly because of dissipation in the ranks of the developing countries. Instead of holding their own, developing countries have allowed WTO�s agenda to be set by the developed countries, as was the case in Seattle last year. The meet at Doha gives developing countries a chance to invoke development as central to their concerns and a powerful framework for all trade negotiations.

All trade-related deliberations should be guided by the ultimate goal of sustainable economic development. This is not to say that developing countries can shirk domestic reform, but that the North�s raising tariff and non-tariff barriers means far more to the South than is the case vice-versa. International trading and financial conditions must be conducive for developing countries to realize their potential, and they must be able to exploit the global market for exporting goods and services that they have comparative advantage in.

Broad alliances

Tariff and non-tariff barriers affect the economic performance of developing countries as they stifle natural structural transformation, thereby limiting or completely stopping the relocation of industries and activities to regions and countries having cost advantages. The impact of this slow structural transformation is severe in developing countries because of the smaller size of the economy and the dependence on advanced countries for finance, technology and human resources.

One way to go about Doha would be to form broad alliances of developing countries and interests within these countries. Here a cue can be taken from the North. The transatlantic economic partnership and transatlantic business dialogue, for example, are trying to bridge the gap between the United States of America and the European Union on trade-related issues. Under the auspices of the TEP, an .early warning mechanism. gives officials on both sides a .heads-up. when potentially sensitive legislation is being considered that might have a negative impact on bilateral trade. There is no such forum among the developing countries.

Another major problem area for developing countries is that of the so-called .new issues.. These issues, as stated in the Singapore, Geneva and draft Seattle ministerial declarations, include trade and competition policy, transparency in government procurement, trade and investment, electronic commerce and trade facilitation.

Contentious areas

For example, on the issue of linking child labour and environment with trade, one needs to be mindful of the magnitude of the problem. Many economists have indicated that the WTO is not the right forum to discuss many of these issues. It is not something that can be eliminated as long as poverty is a major problem. Child labour problem is very much a developmental issue.

The two areas where negotiations are delicately poised are talks on agriculture and services.While the South is being pressurized to open its markets to all agricultural products and abandon subsidies, the record of developed countries suggests that they have substantially deviated from their commitment to provide market access to developing countries and reducing domestic subsidies.

The other contentious area is services. Several countries have expressed apprehension about the way liberalization of services proceeded. Market access commitments made by high income countries tend to be restrictive with respect to activities where developing countries have comparative advantage. In the area of professional services, entry is restricted to specialists and higher-level management, effectively limiting the scope for cross-border trade in services.

Development needs of developing countries must be made the central focus of WTO trade negotiations. All trade proposals have to be evaluated in this context.


Since neither the Americans nor I seem to be able to do anything about Osama bin Laden, I turn with some relief, after writing about nothing but Afghanistan since September 11, to a domestic issue which has been bothering me for some months. It concerns a tender for the managed leased line data network of the Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited, opened at the end of July last year, in which three companies put in their bids: Alcatel, the French major, and two public sector units with Ms Tellabs of the United States of America as their collaborator. The French bid was about half that of the second lowest bidder and way below the third. After technical evaluation and due financial process, the chairman of MTNL authorized in September 2000 the issue of a letter of intent to Alcatel.

At about the time this decision was being taken, a member of parliament wrote to the minister for communications enclosing a note, which he said was from the chairman of the public sector unit which had come in second, alleging that the Alcatel offer was technically non-compliant with the tender specifications. On learning of this, the chairman of the PSU concerned wrote to the chairman, MTNL, denouncing the note as a forgery and pointing to the note not being signed.That, one would have imagined, would have been the end of that.

But, no, at this point enter Tapan Sikdar, minister of state for communications. His private secretary sent for senior MTNL officials and ordered that not until the government�s Telecom Engineering Centre had examined the technical compliance of the Alcatel bid with the tender specifications should the matter be proceeded with further. TEC pointed to some ambiguities . rectifiable through negotiations before the conversion of the letter of intent into a firm purchase order . but their overall assessment was that Alcatel had .complied all the clauses without specifying any deviation. and .complied all special conditions of the tender and the schedule of requirement. as well as �subsequent clarifications given by MTNL, unconditionally.. (The dreadful English proves I have not made up the quotes!)

Sikdar, however, was not satisfied. He insisted that the Alcatel bid be once again evaluated technically within MTNL. Meanwhile, the chairmanship of MTNL had changed and the new chairman consented to do so. He set up a committee headed by MTNL�s director (finance). Curious. As the point at issue was technical, not financial, the committee should have been headed by its director (technical). But the technical director was sidelined. The committee pointed to certain ambiguities in the Alcatel offer and Sikdar seized the opportunity to secure the approval of the additional solicitor general to negotiate a price reduction with the second bidder, although the chief vigilance commissioner�s guidelines explicitly insist that no negotiations be held with anyone but the lowest bidder.

Negotiations with the second lowest bidder did lead to a reduction in prices but only by about Rs 30 crore, leaving the price still some Rs 40 crore higher than Alcatel�s offer. The new chairman of MTNL, therefore, decided to reconfirm the decision taken by his predecessor and went ahead with negotiating with Alcatel the terms for the conversion of the letter of intent into a purchase order, particular attention being paid to resolving the technical ambiguities to which the TEC and the MTNL committee had drawn attention.

This infuriated Sikdar, who asked his additional private secretary to send for MTNL�s general manager (telecommunications).Two meetings were held on Gandhiji�s martyrdom day 2001, the first a oneon-one between the APS and the GM, the second at which two other persons were present, one a representative of the US collaborator, Tellabs (but, significantly, not the principal bidder) and the other the managing director of a laminating and packaging company who had nothing to do with telecommunications beyond, it appears, a personal acquaintance with the minister of state. Please note that this meeting took place on the eve of a crucial assembly election in the minister�s home state. Sheer coincidence? However that may be, MTNL�s general manager stood his ground and refused to be browbeaten by the minister or his staff or his friends.

Bloodied but unbowed, Sikdar had the matter referred to the telecom commission. There, member (finance) recorded in writing his reasoned arguments for the minister to desist from interfering in the commercial transactions of this navratna. In particular, he cautioned against going to the rashtrapati for a presidential directive. The minister was, however, unstoppable. He vented his fury on the member, besides ordering an investigation into the alleged criminal collaboration between MTNL and the telecom commission, on the one hand, and Alcatel, on the other, in considering placing the order upon the bidder whose bid was at least Rs 40 crore lower than any other on offer.

Meanwhile, Alcatel made the mistake of pre-empting the outcome of the tussle by taking the issue to court. The MTNL board was, therefore, convened on March 19, 2001.They decided unanimously to endorse the chairman�s decision to convert the letter of intent into a firm purchase order, keeping in mind that Alcatel had cleared the residual technical ambiguities. Infuriated, Sikdar took this to his ministerial superior, Ram Vilas Paswan, who, in the manner of Pontius Pilate, washed his hands of the affair, saying the MTNL board might meet again to take .an appropriate decision.. It did, and instead of either reconfirming or rejecting its decision, decided by a bare majority to seek the solicitor general�s advice on how to tackle the matter in court.

Unsurprisingly, the Delhi high court held that if MTNL had technical doubts about the bid it was not obliged to convert the letter of intent into a purchase order. But did MTNL have any such technical doubts? None, or at any rate none that were not rectifiable, it would appear from the record.The doubts were the minister�s, growing less out of his technical expertise, of which he has little or none, than his super-patriotism,which would entitle him to the hero�s role in any remake of Indian.

For good governance, clean and transparent, the question is whether ministers should lean on public sector navratnas to take decisions against the grain of their own technical and financial judgment. That is the .impropriety leading perhaps to corruption. with which I charged the minister in Parliament in the last session. If he thinks the storm has blown over, he is mistaken. I am giving him a month�s notice through this column to prepare for the resumption of the debate in the next session.


For getting Indian industry ready for the phaseout of quantitative restrictions and the multi-fiber arrangement as part of its World Trade Organization commitments, India has agreed to phase out all QRs on imports (except those imposed on strategic or environmental grounds) .The Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (as the MFA is now called) is scheduled to end in 2005. Is industry ready for the increased competitive pressure, domestically and internationally, that this will entail? There are a wide variety of industries that are very competitive, and can hold their own in any market. But there are many, such as some of the capital-intensive, continuous process industries, that may be less able to compete with imports. With trade liberalization, there is bound to be some restructuring of industry, with resources being drawn away from import-substituting to exporting industries. Domestic rigidities and policy distortions need to be phased out to enable domestic industry to compete more effectively. As discussed earlier, these would include the need to deal with labour markets, small-scale reservation, and tariff and non-tariff barriers. Unless these are dealt with expeditiously, Indian firms will increasingly have to compete with imports that are not subject to such constraints...

For example, textiles and garments, one of India�s most important industries, faces several opportunities as well as threats. Opportunities will open up as developing country exports will no longer be subject to quotas after 2005. However, this also means that the most competitive suppliers will ease out those who had survived only because of the quotas. India stands to make substantial gains provided it creates the right policy environment . including dereservation of garments for exclusive small scale industrial production, a flexible labour policy with safeguards, removal of policy bias against synthetic fibres, automatic approval of foreign direct investment in garments upto 51 per cent foreign equity.On the other hand, slow/lack of action on these issues could mean not only a loss of export markets, but also increasing import penetration in the textiles and garments industries.

The pressure is already being felt. Partly because of having to cope with continuing domestic policy distortions in the face of increasing competition, Indian firms have successfully lobbied for a significant increase in the use of antidumping. More importantly, a response that deals with India�s own structural policies will yield greater dividends than one which seeks to finetune the AD system. A system that responds to the increasing competition from imports... by trying to create an environment for quicker and more flexible responses . by, for example, making labour laws less rigid, improving bankruptcy and foreclosure, and not bailing out industries or sectors that are in trouble . should in the longer run make the economy less vulnerable to competition. Of course, these responses will have to be accompanied by a much improved system of re-training, lay-off compensation schemes, and so on, to take care of the sectors that will be affected.On the other hand, a response that involves substantial use of protection, will, as seen above, increase the anti-export bias and reduce exports, render related industries less competitive, induce retaliatory protection amongst trading partners, and eventually lead to a higher cost and more vulnerable economy.

In this context, further analytical work on options before India... would help India make more informed and strategic choices. Policy making would also benefit from... analysis of the linkages between growth, exports and imports, labour demand, and education.

For improving labour market flexibility: any strategy to improve the condition of the poor hinges on improving the labour market, since income from work and quality of work are the main determinants of the living conditions of the poor... India is endowed with an abundant and technologically skilled (especially engineers and scientists) labour force, and is ranked first among 53 countries for both these criteria in the global competitiveness report, 1998. However, India�s labour market is ranked 45th for degree of labour market flexibility in the GCR, 1998. Rigidities include rigidities in the deployment of human resources, in work practices and in wages. Various studies suggest that such rigidities constrain the effective redeployment of labour during the process of adjustment to changes in demand and technology, and more importantly, act as a disincentive towards future employment creation, i.e. there appears to be a tradeoff between creating better paying, low turnover jobs and the overall creation of good jobs . The industrial relations scenario,as reflected by man-days lost due to strikes and lockouts, has been confrontational as compared to international standards. However, industrial relations have been improving significantly . man-days lost fell from an average 28.6 million per annum over 1989-92 to 17.1 million per annum in the post-reform period of 1993-98.




All they can do is fumble

Sir . It has been a nightmarish fortnight for the Indian home ministry (.Delhi�s bungles, Abu to Nadeem., Oct 31). Not that anyone else can be blamed for the bad time. The incompetence of the government was proved by the drama involving the alleged detention of the Mumbai don,Abu Salem, in a Sharjah hotel.The only excuse our government could think of is that the United Arab Emirates was not co-operative. This does not hold water because this farce clearly shows that New Delhi has chosen to keep silent on this issue. They failed to give ample evidence to make a case for Salem�s arrest, wanted for several heinous crimes, including the Mumbai blasts. To make matters worse, a London court has directed the Indian government to pay a huge compensation to Nadeem, believed to have links with Salem. These embarrassing events could have been avoided if the authorities had put diplomatic pressure on the respective foreign governments. However, committing a faux pas is not new with New Delhi: the Kandahar episode says it all.
Yours faithfully,
U. Saha, via email

Wrong service

Sir . The boycott of goods and services has been an age-old form of protest in any democratic society, and India is no exception. This is a permissible means of protest and is not illegal. The unfortunate event in Malegaon, involving the policemen who tried to stop Muslim demonstrators from distributing some antiAmerican leaflets is outrageous (.AntiUS bloodspill in India., Oct 28). This should be condemned.More so,when the sangh parivar can get away with not just boycotting but physically attacking American-owned firms such as Pepsi and McDonald�s.

It may be objectionable to distribute leaflets carrying the pictures of Osama bin Laden but this does not justify the killing of seven civilians by the police. The police are accountable to the people for inciting a riot. The state government should take note of this and severe punishment should be swiftly meted out against the culprits to ensure that such incidents do not recur.

Yours faithfully,
Biswapriya Purkayastha, via email �

Sir . The Malegaon incident shows the partisan attitude of the army and the police towards the minority communities in India. If the police had dealt with the protestors in a more sensible way then the riot could have been easily prevented. Surprisingly, protestors belonging to the organizations of the Bajrang Dal and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh do not face the same degree of persecution as their Muslim counterparts.

The interesting point is that demonstrators belonging to different communities are determined to lash out at multinational companies owned by the United States of America and Britain. Be it the sangh parivar or the Muslim organizations, their goal is the same . to strike a blow at the economy of the Western powers.However, the effectiveness of this strategy is questionable.

Yours faithfully,
Saikat Majumdar, Calcutta �

Sir . It is disappointing to see that Indians cannot take an objective point of view on such a sensitive issue as communalism. They are either trying to prove that there is no fault with the Hindu fundamentalists or that all faults lie solely with them. The alleged deletion of names of voters from the minority voters. list in Uttar Pradesh was severely criticized by the media. But the alleged harassment of the Hindus in Bangladesh is not finding enough coverage. Although the Indian government occasionally undertakes strategies to appease the minorities, it often overlooks incidents such as the one in Malegaon. One should be bold enough to call a spade a spade, be it Afghanistan, Kashmir, or Bangladesh.

Yours faithfully,
M. Dasgupta, via email

Arts of destruction

Sir . I was horrified to hear of the destruction of part of the cenotaph monument by a speeding bus (.Fallen soldier�s head retrieved., Nov 3) . The statue of the soldier is, though built by the British, also a tribute to our own soldiers who died in World War I. The episode is a potent symbol of our disrespect for our history and architectural heritage, and its encroachment by a mindless and dangerous contemporaneity. Cannot something be done to make our roads safe and our buildings and monuments secure? The Calcutta Municipal Corporation�s heritage board should prosecute whoever is guilty of this destruction.
Yours faithfully,
Manosh Gupta, via email

Sir . Two acquaintances of mine from Assam visited Calcutta recently, and went to see the University of Calcutta and Presidency College. Many leaders of Assam studied in these two seats of learning. Many from my state still respect them as sacred alma maters. It was a shock to my acqaintances to find these famous sites of learning in the congested shambles of College Street. The once soothing College Square Park has been turned virtually into a jail yard, walled in on all sides by hawkers.

I can only agree with the disgust that was expressed in a recent editorial about the condition in and around our roads (.Driven to death,. Oct 1). Spitting straight on the road, gossiping on the pathways blocking movement, haphazard parking, arrogance of bus conductors, of rickshaw pullers, of Howrah porters or of the office babus, and hawkers creeping up the sides of buildings, are some of the many symptoms of decline appearing everywhere in the city.

Yours faithfully,
A.T. Chakraverty, Calcutta

Sir .I recently visited the restoration project being carried out by the Ramakrishna Mission on Vivekananda�s house. The work suggests a future for the older buildings of Calcutta, even those that seem beyond repair,when money is sensitively spent. It was a pleasure to see craftsmen using Indian construction techniques. I was not so impressed, however, by the large modern building the mission has commissioned on adjacent land,which can be seen towering over Vivekananda�s house from its courtyard. Is this perhaps to suggest the ironic foil of monstrous modern construction, against the art used in restoring old buildings?

Yours faithfully,
Ramol Sarker, South 24 Parganas

Parting shot

Sir . If the poor Afghans are dying because of the US-led bombing, so are the Kashmiris, as a result of the so-called jihad being waged for the past decade. The women of Kashmir are one of the worst victims of this. Even children are not spared from rape. It is surprising to see clerics and spiritual leaders sanctify such activities by other names. Sadly, Kashmir has ceased to be a paradise any more.
Yours faithfully,
Neha Chowdhury, Chandannagore

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