Editorial 1/ Hollow Promise
Editorial 2/ Sound of Violation
Growing beyond the fold
Fifth Column/ Longer arm of a bad law
When the surface is designed to divide
Letters to the Editor

It is unlikely that the call by Jammu and Kashmir�s umbrellaseparatist alliance, the All Parties Hurriy at Conference, for a comprehensive ceasefire in the state will lead to a deescalation in violence. For one, the Pakistanbased United Jihad Council has rejected the call. Most militant groups that operate in the state are members of the UJC. For another, the APHC�s decision has been challenged by at least one key member: the Ja maateIslami�s leader, Mr Ali Shah Geelani, who has publicly distanced himself from the alliance�s latest ini tiative. In any case, the ceasefire was linked to two other conditions that have virtually no chance of being ful filled. The APHC has demanded the start of a trilateral dialogue between the representatives of the Kashmiri people and the governments of India and Pakistan. The organization also wanted an agreement between all three negotiating parties on a time frame for the resolution of the dispute over Kashmir. Under the circumstances, it does seem, that the decision by the APHC to put forward a moderate stance is clearly a tactic to prevent its total po litical marginalization. It is well known that the APHC has been rapidly losing political ground in the state. In deed, by its unwillingness to condemn violence by mili tants, it was clearly out of touch with the bulk of Kash miri public opinion and the allpervasive sentiment in the region against violence

New Delhi�s own initiatives in Kashmir have also not led to a breakthrough. While there seems to be a new re solve within the Central government to combat militan cy in the state, it is still not clear whether there is a well thought out long term plan to restore peace in Jammu and Kashmir. Indeed, the last year has demonstrated that ad hocism has continued to define New Delhi�s policies to wards the state. Policies are often initiated on the basis of insufficient evidence, and imaginative measures are rarely given enough time to bear results. The unilateral ceasefire announced last November was implemented halfheartedly and was abandoned without a careful eval uation of the adverse impact that the decision would have on popular opinion. It is also clear that the Agra summit was conducted without much preparation and New Delhi�s invitation to Mr Pervez Musharraf was not root ed in an adequate understanding of Pakistan�s percep tions. It is, of course, imperative that the security forces reestablish their authority, but it is equally important for New Delhi to articulate a series of policy initiatives that can win back the confidence of the people in Indian democracy and just governance. In his New Year mes sage last year, the Indian prime minister, Atal Bihari Vaj payee had written: .In our search for a lasting solution to the Kashmir problem, both in its external and internal dimensions, we shall not traverse solely on the beaten track of the past.. It is time to translate the promise of these .musings. into longterm policy initiatives to wards Jammu and Kashmir.


Failure by itself is bad enough, but failure after suc cess is rather worse. But that is exactly what the po lice, the state government and the pollution control board are having to confront after Diwali. The strict con trols that had been put on sound pollution with the threat of serious penalties at their violation have each been ig nored, quite systematically in some areas in and around Calcutta. Not only was the sound of crackers far above the prescribed 65 decibel level, there was an abundance of forbidden fireworks like chocolate bombs and double bombs. The fact that they were being sold at all, and in areas not checked out by the police, is an alarming por tent. Apart from the sound of crackers, the sound of mi crophones blaring on long after the curfew hour, and of musical programmes held in or before Kali Puja pandals made a joke of the state PCB�s strictures. The other viola tion concerned lighting. In many cases, illicit connec tions were behind the dazzle and glitter of the pandals.

A few years ago, all this would have been considered normal. But the remarkable success the administration has achieved in the last two years in reducing sound pol lution makes this year�s failure rather striking. Besides, the discipline and comparative quietness with which Durga Puja was conducted this year gave reason to hope that such success had come to stay. The violations point up a number of things. In the first place, they are viola tions of a court directive, because it is the green bench of the Calcutta high court, besides the Supreme Court, which had come down heavily on sound pollution. Sec ond, the last two years and this year�s Durga Puja show that it is possible to implement these instructions, and the PCB and the police can do so if they so desire. It is dif ficult to understand what went wrong.The obvious laxity in those responsible for implementation of the rules and of doling out penalties during Diwali may have been a re sult of complacency. This is not an unfamiliar response, particularly in West Bengal. The problem is that the se cret of success in any disciplinary movement lies in un relenting vigilance till that particular discipline becomes a habit. Calcutta and its surroundings are still far from that happy state as far as sound pollution is concerned. The administration simply cannot afford to sit back now. Besides, there is popular awareness and support for the campaign to reduce sound pollution. By slackening, the police and the government will lose the popular sup port they have in the matter. Reducing sound pollution depends heavily on people�s awareness. Diluting it will put the process back further. Unless the decline is re versed, it will be possible to believe again that Calcutta can never change.


Individuals and families create all business. As it grows, the family finds it increasingly difficult to find talent from within the family to run it, and to attract able people from outside the family, who find that they can rise only so far and no further in the business. Increasingly, the out siders who stay remain because they are diffident about surviving in the rough world outside and prefer the shelter of the family, under which their task is mainly to carry out instructions. Risk taking, innovation, opportunities to make big mistakes, all the characteris tics of entrepreneurship, are reserved for the family. The transition from fa mily control to public and shareholder control marks the movement from small and medium enterprises to large ones.

The premier business school in Eu rope, the International Institute for Management Development, selected the Murugappa Group this year, and its chairman till recently, M.V. Subiah, for an award for familyrun business. This is an old business family of South India, which after losing large investments in trade and real estate in Burma and Ma laysia, entered into manufacturing in vestments in India. A lowprofile and co nservative group, it started manufactur ing bicycles in an integrated operation that made almost everything that was re quired, from steel tubes to bicycle chains.

The operations were spread over many companies, each company having a male member of the family heading it. Unlike others in western and northern India, they did not borrow heavily for ex pansion and so their stake remained high. From the Seventies, when he began to exercise responsibility, Subiah developed the reputation of being a tough nononsense manager, delibera tive and firm on implementing a plan of action. The group expanded into new areas, mostly unsuccessfully, presum ably to give opportunity to the younger members of the family. Over time, the group exited from them. In the Eighties, the group got control of E.I.D. Parry, an old and highly diversified British com pany. Not only were its shares still quot ed on the London Stock Exchange, its managers followed the work culture and hierarchy of the British era.

Initially run by employee managers who could not turn it around, Subiah took over and brought his resultori ented nononsense approach to it. Soon, it was the flagship of the group. He in ducted highly qualified and experienced managers to run the different parts of this very diverse business, paid them well, but demanded results. It was possi bly this experience that convinced him to expand the supply of top managers from outside the family into the rest of the group. Today the family has dis tanced itself from operations and even from direction of the whole group, keep ing a mentoring role for itself.

There are other familycontrolled en terprises that are handing over to em ployees. However, most continue to de pend on the family for talent. At a confer ence on corporate governance in 1998, N.R. Narayanamurthy of Infosys, refer ring to his son, said, .Just by virtue of his being my son, I don.t think he has a right to be the chairman.. Rahul Bajaj responded that competence was vital today and if his son lost wealth for the family, the son would have to answer for that. Bajaj today is desperately trying to regain its position as the foremost two wheeler manufacturer in India, not hav ing invested in development and brand building when it was at the top.

Another lowprofile familycon trolled group, the Munjals, has taken over the position. They have other fami ly members in top positions and the com pany�s future success will be tested when the founder hands over. The Mun jals invested heavily in design and devel opment with Japanese collaboration, and into building their brands.TVS (ear lier also Suzuki) is run by the founder but with no other family member in it. How much real authority is invested in the managers is uncertain.

There is no doubting that the best run companies look for talent wherever it is available, not merely from within the family. The days when family mem bers had to be given top corporate posi tions so that they could live well are gone. Taxation is far lower and dividend income on shareholdings should keep families in comfort without their being active in the business. Businesses today are trying to replicate the conditions that enable family members to make mistakes and to learn from them, and to share experience.

The attempt is to develop entrepre neurial ability among employee man agers. But in familyrun businesses it is more difficult to develop among family members a sense that others might have better ideas.Arrogance is a weakness in many family businesses. In the famous words of Henry Ford III when he sacked Lee Iacocca, who had made Ford into a thriving empire, .Remember whose name is on the gate?. There is the story in the automotive industry of the family member who sacked the brightest man ager that he had done so because the manager did not automatically agree with the boss. The manager went on to join the competition and play havoc in the market with his previous company.

It is said that a family business rarely survives its third generation. By that time the vision, enterprise, ability to work hard, suffer hardships, the steely determination to succeed, have become diluted by automatic authority and easy living. The intelligent family will proba bly put its scions on a loose rein and let them choose whatever career they wish. If it is the family business, they have to be suitable for it.

One has to merely look at the dom inant names in Indian business twenty years ago that did not do so, to recognize the truth of this com ment. No one today is .born to rule. a business or anything else. There is no longer .a divine right. to do so. When India tried it as a country, we got the .Hindu. rate of growth of 3.5 per cent for three decades, the Emergency, over seas adventures and spendthrift habits with our foreign exchange reserves. When businesses try it, they die. We must join IMD in saluting the Murugap pa Group and Subiah. They have shown courage in withdrawing themselves from active roles in the business started by their fathers and grandfathers.Will they be able to stay away from it? Or will they, like the latest Mr Ford, find excuses to don the mantle once again?

It is at this point that we must note the relevance of the discussions on cor porate governance in India. Families in India rarely own all the shares in the businesses that they control. They are using public money from shareholders and through borrowings. With only a proportion of shares owned by them, they are able to exercise control. Many times, this is at the expense of the other shareholders.

There are innumerable companies that in Rajiv Gandhi.s words .are sick, but their owners (i.e. those controlling them) are not.. By promoting trans parency and maximum, if not full, dis closure, good corporate governance pre vents this exploitation of the others whose money is also in the business. These remarks are as relevant for gov ernmentowned enterprises.At least the family has a vested interest in the sur vival and growth of their business.

The civil servant and the politician, who take the place of the family, do not have any such longterm stake. Their interests are shortterm, for the duration that they have the responsi bility. Since they also control govern ment policy, they are able many times to show performance by giving the state owned enterprises special privileges. The lack of a real sense of the responsi bility and accountability of ownership is the single most important argument for privatization.

Families are as much the foundation of societies as they are of enterprises. But they must not be allowed to use their positions purely for their selfish advan tage.Nor must anyone else.

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


An upsurge in terrorist activ ities coupled with an in crease in crossborder ter rorism and militancy in different parts of the country have necessi tated the promulgation of the pre vention of terrorism ordinance. The draft bill, if passed by both houses of parliament in the winter session, will be a substitute for the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act which has lapsed.

The ordinance defines terror ism as an act that involves the use of weapons of mass destruction, re sulting in death and injury to peo ple or the loss or damage of proper ty or the disruption of essential supplies and services. The maxi mum punishment for committing a terrorist act is death while the min imum is five years imprisonment. The police can detain a person for a period of three months without charging him and without a trial.

Organizations found guilty of raising money to facilitate terror ism will also come under the purview of this act. The govern ment will be empowered to seize the properties of terrorist outfits and their members. The act also makes it mandatory for a person possessing knowledge about a ter rorist activity to disclose all such information to the police. Failure to do so is punishable by imprison ment for three years or a fine. Fur ther, any confession made before the police will be admissible in a court of law.

Unsafe provisions

There are certain builtin safe guards in the act that are aimed to prevent its misuse in the hands of law enforcement agencies. First, only a police officer above the rank of a deputy superintendent of po lice can arrest a person accused under this act.A report of the ar rest will also have to be sent to the director general of police and the review committee comprising of home and law secretaries, all of whom will determine the validity of the arrest. Moreover, confes sions made before the police will have to be recorded by a magistrate. These safeguards are, however, in adequate and the act may well be misused by the police to extract confessions from the accused.

The rash promulgation of the POTO cannot be justified on grounds of national security. There is no reason why the bill cannot be delayed beyond the winter session of Parliament. Any legislation that seeks to override ordinary crimi nal law and legal procedures should go through careful scrutiny before it is passed. It is astonishing that the government should try to pass this law without developing a consensus on the issue.

One must remember too that be fore it was withdrawn in 1995, the TADA had been in force for eight years. During that period, as many as 70,036 people were detained under it. Not even one per cent was convicted. In fact, the state with the highest number of TADA cases was neither Punjab, nor Jammu and Kashmir but Gujarat. The act was also used against minorities.

Look before we leap

Further, the argument that other democracies like the United States of America and Britain have laws that deal with terrorism is not ten able given that a law that reverses the onus of proof from the prosecu tion to the accused is likely to be misused. Such laws only succeed in arming the police with enormous powers that curb the rights of the citizens. That the police in our country do not command much credibility makes matters worse.

Moreover, once the ordinance comes into force, reporters would be forced to reveal their sources. In other words, a journalist may be jailed for talking to a member of a banned organization.

It is ironical that the Bharatiya Janata Partyled government should try to pass a legislation that bears a strong resemblance to the TADA,which the party had vehe mently opposed in 1994. The func tion of the review committee also seems to be ornamental, as there is no provision for the accused to make a representation before it. That the new law is nothing more than a preventive detention meas ure says very little in its favour.

Ultimately, the question that we need to ask ourselves is whether we need this law. Both Andhra Prad esh and Tripura,which have been troubled by militancy, are not in favour of such a harsh measure. No law, no matter how effective, can annihilate terrorism. The govern ment should have concentrated its efforts on streamlining the criminal justice system before thinking of passing an antiterror ordinance.


The briskness with which the new police commissioner, H.T. San gliana, has banned cycles from Bangalore�s .Main Street., Ma hatma Gandhi Road, only adds to the brutalities that pass in the name of traffic control and management. Where the .car is king., cows, pedestrians and cyclists are in tolerable impediments, and along with jutkas and bullock carts are condemned to lead a precarious life outside the city�s central busi ness districts. This is one more step towards making a Singapore of Bangalore.

There is no old middle class Bangalorean who does not recall the time before traffic, when cars were few and far between, and walking was an unmatched pleasure. There is no new middle class Bangalorean for whom the state of the city roads is not the cause for .bitterness. about the state of this otherwise charming city. With the opening of the sec ond flyover and most of the ring road in Ban galore, there were rising hopes among some sections of the riding public in Bangalore that these abominable traffic conditions would be transformed.

The news that about 90 central roads are now going to be made one way streets must somewhat dampen their ardour. For too many people who have grown up in Banga lore, the proposed one way systems are a dis orienting experience, and render the city even more unfamiliar. The highpitched de mands for better roads have yielded little; if unwarranted profits and bribes were once cornered by small time contractors and petty politicians, today big companies and state level politicians enjoy even larger profits and bribes for the same indifferent product.

Time wounds all heels in this city.Roads in Bangalore seem to have taken on a scan dalous life of their own, stubbornly resisting repair efforts and impeding mobility rather than enhancing it. Bad roads have become a metaphor for corruption, for the impossibili ty of being .modern., and for the intractable problems posed by legal claims over land use in the city. In all this, the venal politician and his/her contractor are easily blamed.

There is the mistaken belief among the sections clamouring for immediate relief that improving the road surface will increase mobility, improve traffic conditions and re duce accident rates. What remains largely unquestioned is the need for intensified (pri vate) automobilization of a society that is wretchedly unequal and unjust, and where the majority of road users are pedestrians, cyclists, and bus riders, not car owners. Pleas that focus on the road as primary make road users into a secondary concern.

What we have witnessed in the past two decades in Bangalore is neither unique nor exceptional in the history of automobiliza tion of societies. Even the solutions seem to follow the tried and tested routes. Roads too narrow to take private car traffic? Remove the sidewalk. Not enough parking? Use the footpath. Too much traffic on certain routes at peak hours? Make them into one way sys tems. Introduce grade separators. Throw a ring road as a girdle around the vastly ex panding city. Ban slow moving vehicles from using certain roads. And for those who still talk about Mass Rapid Transit, build up the dream of an elevated rail system which can only be realized if large tracts of land are thrown in as an incentive for the developer. Meanwhile, Mysore will soon be another Bangalore layout, thanks to the proposed BangaloreMysore infrastructure corridor which will reduce travel time between the cities to an hour.

There is only cold comfort in such sug gestions, since the expressway may be ready only 13 years from now,well after many of us, not to speak of our vehicles, have passed on. This too, only if the state govern ment is determined to wear down the grow ing opposition to what is clearly an unjust and unviable scheme.The Karnataka govern ment, according to the public works minister, Dharam Singh, has handed over .5000 acres of land at a nominal rate, granted duty ex emption of 58 crores and is seeking Central clearance for 168 acres of forest land.: all this and more promised to an infrastructure com pany whose eyes gleam and mouth waters at the prospect of the five exclusive townships it plans to build along the expressway.

The dispossessed farmers meanwhile will be paid according to the .revenue code., mea gre compensation for rich irrigated lands. All this sacrifice to .save Bangalore., and for a barricaded toll road which will force farmers on either side of the road to trek long dis tances for the simplest daily needs.

What is disturbing is the ease with which planners, corporate groups and private vehi cleowning citizens concur that .the car is king., so that an increasing number of roads and highways must be sin gle purpose routes, reducing the multipurpose uses to which most Indian roads are currently put. Not only is there money to be made, but prestige and short term po litical mileage to be gained from such infrastructure schemes. Critics of such schemes will be dismissed as those who are bent on pre venting the Singaporization of Bangalore, killjoys who are repulsed by good clean progress.

How many of those who admire the spanking clean environment of Singapore will admit that facilities for mass rapid tran sit in that citystate are combined with severe disincentives to private car ownership and usage? Cars are heavily taxed (150 per cent), licences issued to the highest bidder and entering certain zones at peak hours is possible only at a formi dable price. (That there are innumerable cars despite this battery of disincen tives is a sign of much high er material standards.)

The example of the gas chamber called Delhi should be a good enough answer to those who seek flyovers as solutions to traffic problems. But there are excellent examples from elsewhere. Despite the speed with which flyovers and ring roads are constructed in major Chinese cities, stud ies reveal that far from improving travelling times and quality of life, the increase in road capacity actually induces greater private ve hicle usage, and increases travel times.

For instance, road area in Shanghai has been increased by 42 per cent between 1991 and 1997, and 400 roads have been designated as one way streets; yet the 1.3 mil lion vehicles only achieve speeds of 16 kilo metres per hour in peak hours. The compara ble rates for Beijing (1.2 million vehicles, 119 flyovers and 202 overpasses) are 1319 kmph; for Guangzhou, (vehicles 1 million) on cer tain trunk routes, 1821 kmph; for Shenzen (250,000 vehicles, 139 km of highways) 20 kmph. In other words, when all our flyovers, ring roads and one ways streets are in place, we will need to develop attitude, Road Zen in stead of Road Rage, perhaps, towards spend ing long hours in our vehicles.

The cost effectiveness and wisdom of metro rail and elevated rail projects have been repeatedly questioned, and doubts cast on whether they relieve congestion or de crease private vehicle usage. A recent thesis by Sanjeev Aundhe amply demonstrates this. Yet these gleaming dreams exert such a pow erful hold on our imaginations that they cast in the shadow the more achievable, afford able example of Curitiba in Brazil,which has developed an enviable public transport sys tem using buses at a fraction of the cost of ex pensive metro rail projects.

In Bangalore, nearly 60 per cent of trips are made on buses which account for less than two per cent of the vehicles on the road. Will the better road surface improve the con ditions of travel of this mass of bus users in the absence of systemic changes at other lev els? Will improved road surfaces place pedes trians and bicyclists on a safer plane? Is it so disgraceful to speak of the rights of nonmo torized vehicle users, who brave the greatest risks on our roads today?

The roads are an expression of the deep and systematic divisions of our society and perhaps the only encounter that many people have with the inequalities of our soci ety: riding in airconditioned comfort be tween airconditioned home and office, there is a brief encounter with the tedium of the road surface.

Some years ago, several chief executive of ficers of major companies at Electronic City on Hosur Road made a spectacle of repairing the road, and successfully drew attention to their commuting plight. Yet the latest crop of information technology companies who are held up as exemplars of good civic sense themselves add to the problem on Bangalore roads. There is widespread use of residential accommodation by small companies who clog small streets with their hire purchase ve hicles.

One of the newest and more menacing problems in the city today is the private bus operator who serves the new industries on the outskirts of the city, but enjoys rentfree parking on city roads and empty lots at night, even in residential areas.The privatized solu tion to the problem of transport thus relieves the company of its liabilities and transfers it on to the general public, while keeping the shining image of the good citizen intact. But the image of the city is not made up of road surfaces alone:we must be as ashamed by the sight of men and women who hang from every bus door on their way to work, humili ated by the sight of children who dart be tween speeding vehicles to cross the road, and angered at the sight of the bicycle rider poised between two moving vehicles.

Speaking of images brings to mind a late 19th century map of Bangalore whose most important feature was the dense blue network of tanks and connecting veins(tank systems), dotted with vineyards and gardens. Today the dominant coordi nates of the faceless urban sprawl called Ban galore are the roads: arterial roads, ring roads and highways, as well as crosses and mains, speaking of a new organization of so cial and economic space in the city. But the city is far too complex a space to be subordi nated to a system of roads through which some people have unrestricted ease of mo tion, at the expense of other people�s lives and livelihoods.



The politics of gas

Sir . It is heartening to see that the public in Bangladesh is react ing to news of gas exports to India with as much ignorance and prej udice as we would in a similar situation vis�vis Pakistan. Last Thursday, the Left Democratic Front in Bangladesh declared a strike to protest against Friday�s talks between India and Pakistan (.Strike over Bangla gas plans., Nov 16). Schools and businesses closed in Dhaka and some 60 other towns and cities. Rusty Antican, an executive of the com pany that plans to export the gas, had earlier made a revenue estimate that might have been expected to cut through the vagueness of .national interests.: $ 3.7 billion for the Bangladesh government. But the strike has gone ahead. All this might re mind one of our equally trenchant trade unions during the controversy of the Great Eastern Hotel�s takeover by the French company, Accor. Happily our current gov ernment has realized some of the financial benefits of private investment. Let us hope Bangladesh can also depoliticize its economics.
Yours faithfully,
Aveek Gupta, via email

And the talk was good

Sir . I was delighted with the outcome of the recently concluded World Trade talks in Doha (.Govt claims more give than take at Doha., Nov 17). Unlike the debacle of Seattle, two years ago,when developing countries walked away from the negotiating table, Doha saw construc tive alliances made to offset the bullying tactics of the industrialized nations. With assistance from South Africa and Brazil, India made significant gains on the issues of intellectual property. It was agreed that the patenting of drugs would become part of a flexible system where research costs will be reimbursed, but only to the extent where the developing nations. production of lifesaving drugs will not be jeopardized. Although this was more a recognition of the current status quo, its official stamp suggests that developing countries. concerns have achieved a new legitimacy.

The Union commerce minister, Mura soli Maran, also led a 12nation struggle against the European Union�s insistence that the next round of talks include a new range of issues. These include protecting investment, assuring the equal applica tion of competition, and the making of government procurement more transpar ent. The EU is widely seen by developing countries as trying to complicate and ob struct constructive dialogue on the issues already under negotiation . like the sen sitive subject of the subsidies used by the developed countries for agriculture and textiles. After the extension of talks by two days Maran had to settle for a veto clause on the new topics, and France was allowed to add wording to the agreement that would sufficiently blur any future demands for the abolition of its current agricultural subsidies.

It is, however, the developing coun tries. ability to work together, to insist on future agendas,which I take to be a con siderable success.We are finally using our numerical superiority in the 140 member body to reflect our views. And this situation can only be strengthened by the recent inclusion of China. In this context we don.t need to see China as a threat. Rather, they are new allies to help India in her battle against the strangle hold of the industrialized nations.

Yours faithfully,
Sudipa Chakraborty, Calcutta

Sir . I would like to congratulate India�s commerce minister, Murasoli Maran, on his exemplary leadership at the latest talks of the World Trade Orga nization at Doha. Are we seeing the sort of leadership by Maran that might make him the Bharatiya Janata Party�s best hope for winning the next national elec tions? In Doha, he extracted from the in dustrialized nations a vital concession that the issues of investment and compe tition could be vetoed by any single na tion at the next round of talks in two years.

I read in your newspaper that Atal Bi hari Vajpayee was feted in London (.Lady and Miss at Atal durbar., Nov 14). But whilst Vajpayee was acting the pea cock, Maran was taking the offensive, looking at how the Kyoto Protocol . that great bane of the industrialized nations . might affect future WTO talks. Let Vaj payee be wary of this tiger.

Yours faithfully
Sourav Bose, Darjeeling

Sir . May I applaud the Congress�s in sistence that the government publish a white paper on the recent WTO negotia tions? Greater transparency is always welcome. I only hope the Congress is not making gesture politics to dampen what was otherwise a successful round of talks for India.

Yours faithfully
Tapas Mukherjee, Calcutta

Festive thoughts

Sir . In response to your article, .Mar ket forces sneak into Puja pandals. (Oct 26), I would suggest that introducing tick ets and guestcards for the pandals for next year�s pujas will lead to utter chaos, commotion and pandemonium. This has been suggested by such luminaries as the minister in charge of the fire service and the police commissioner. I certainly don.t expect to see these gentlemen queuing for tickets. They probably won.t be idle though . they.ll have to cope with the stampedes.
Yours faithfully
Dipankar Das, Calcutta

Sir . I would be delighted at the impo sition of fares for pandals only if the spir it of holiday generosity is remembered. We must not let the money disappear into the deep pockets of the puja committees, especially of the larger pandals,which are already receiving large amounts of corporate sponsorship.Why not give the money to relief funds, or announce a .special cause. for that year�s puja? This year the plight of Afghan refugees or the displaced families from Bangladesh would have been particularly appropri ate. If the pandals were to shrink in size a little because of money given for a good reason our hearts would only grow the more.Maybe this scheme could extended to all our festivals.

Yours faithfully,
Samindra Gopal Mitra, Calcutta

Sir . Seeing the expression of happi ness on Afghan faces after Diwali (photo graph on page 4, Nov 15) made me feel that the spirit of the celebration in India had briefly skipped a few time zones and countries. It reminded me of the 1977 elections when India reacted against the oppression of the Emergency and threw out the Congress regime. That was also a time when the holiday spirit prevailed. Now let us give to the people of Afghanistan the gift of democracy and a degree of secularism, to keep their own sense of celebration alive.

Yours faithfully,
V.A. Gopala, Bangalore

Sir . We have holidays to satisfy Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Jain, Sikh, Christian and Parsi sentiments. Un doubtedly, this is the biggest achievement since our Independence. Even the most developed nations cannot boast of such an achievement. The United States of America has many races and religions, but it has only four or five holidays every year. It does not have even a single Christ ian holiday. Offices do not close for Easter or Good Friday.

The only holidays are for Indepen dence Day, Thanksgiving, Labour Day, Memorial Day and New Year.We certain ly have a leisurely way to secularism and socialism!

Yours faithfully,
Bobby Srinivas, Nagpur

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