Editorial 1/ Road to ruin
Editorial 2/ Kitted out
The price of inefficiency
Fifth Column/ How green was our planet
All in a day�s play
Document/ Lending them a sympathetic ear
Letters to the editor

There is indeed some genuine scepticism about the quality of price data and the aggregation process used to compute the wholesale price index or the three variants of the consumer price index. In addition, CPI is more relevant for consumer-price inflation. But since CPI data come with a greater lag, headlines on inflation use WPI. And this is WPI on point-to-point basis, because annualized figures are only available later. Point-to-point inflation is a function of price levels prevailing on that precise date one year ago. Despite these caveats, there is no denying that inflation is at extremely low levels. Manufactured prices, which account for 64 per cent of the weight, are under check and so are primary articles accounting for another 22 per cent. The remainder is fuel, power and lubricants, sometimes characterized by administered prices, and these have also not increased. Hence, inflation is not a problem. The Reserve Bank of India�s recent report on currency and finance suggests that there is a growth-inflation trade-off and that government expenditure is the key to restoring a growth stimulus. It is legitimate to argue that growth is the problem, while inflation is not. However, the argument that there is a growth-inflation trade-off needs to be taken with a pinch of salt, since empirical evidence is not robust enough. And bags of salt are needed for the jump that Keynesian solutions are required. First, if inflation is low and government figures are believed, there is no reason why real rates of interest should stand at 10 per cent, even in a capital-scarce country.

In other words, there is scope for sharper reductions in the bank rate. It is indeed the case that slackening investment is a problem. However, public investment has flagged since 1991. What is new is the slackening of private investment. Given excess capacity and slowdown, there may not be enough demand for investment, and banks refusing to lend is also a problem. But there is no denying that interest rates are too high. This is not surprising because household sector financial savings account for 13 per cent of the gross domestic product. Centre plus state fiscal deficits add up to 11 per cent of GDP and the government pre-empts more funds through the oil pool account, and food and fertilizer schemes.

The Keynesian solution of government expenditure was proposed in economies that ran balanced budgets, not in economies that had such high deficits. While it is true that one should not make a fetish out of the fiscal deficit and the quality of the deficit is more important than its quantity, the present composition of the deficit does not inspire confidence in government expenditure-type solutions. The deficit is eaten up in unproductive revenue expenditure. In states, where most social and physical infrastructure spending should originate, 75 to 80 per cent is eaten up in wages and salaries. At the Centre, there are unproductive schemes and money allocated for capital expenditure is not spent. There is gloom. But if the government tries to step up its expenditure to get out of the gloom, there will be disaster.


The relationship between law, science and society could be fraught with problems. In India, the progress of medical technology could be harnessed to some of the most regressive social attitudes. And female foeticide is perhaps the most grim example of this. The entire issue has been reopened recently by the West Bengal state commission for women, which has called for a modernization of the existing Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation, Prevention and Misuse) Act, implemented in 1996. This has been prompted by an advertisement in an English daily for a sex determination �kit� which could be used at home without any medical supervision. This method, claims the advertisement, manipulates the fertilization process in order to create the desired sex. This has slipped through a loophole in the PNDT Act which disallows the advertising of sex determination methods at the pre-natal stage, when the test is performed on an already formed foetus. In this case, the method claimed to intervene at the pre-conception stage, which is why the advertisement was technically not illegal. The state commission for women has rightly demanded the updating of the act to include this particular technique, even if doctors have doubted its authenticity.

That a degree of public ingeniousness is being employed to look for loopholes in the act shows the continuing prevalence of a deeply rooted gender bias in Indian society. The latest census report has shown an alarming decline in the sex ratio in the 0-6 age group. The exceptions to this are Kerala, Lakshwadeep, Tripura, Mizoram and Sikkim, all of which, except Tripura, are high literacy pockets. Conversely, the sex ratio decline is most prominent in the high per capita income areas of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi. This has prompted the Sikh clergy to issue a hukumnama punishing female foeticide with excommunication. But since the inception of the PNDT Act there has not been a single case filed for its violation. An evil that is inextricably linked to poverty, illiteracy and every conceivable form of social disadvantage cannot be tackled purely through the law. The commission for women will have to devise inclusive programmes around its very relevant focus on the female child so as to bring together the legal, the technological and the societal in taking on this problem.


India has vast and growing need for energy. This is a function of our size and economic growth. A substantial portion of our population still uses non-commercial energy like branches of trees, dried leaves and shrubs, cow dung and so on. With prosperity they will move increasingly to commercial sources like kerosene, electricity, gas, and so on, which are more convenient and non-polluting.

Our electricity system is in a financial mess. Last year, the deficits of state-owned electricity undertakings amounted to half the revenue deficits of state governments. Electricity is undermining the responsibility of governments for the welfare of its people, by starving resources to expenditures on other infrastructure including health, education, nutrition, and so on.

The Central government has tried to clean the balance sheets of state electricity undertakings of the mountain of outstanding payments due from them to the National Thermal Power Corporation, railways, coal, and so on, by securitizing them, without being certain that the populism and inefficiencies that caused these overdue payments will now be removed. It is not as if there are no remedies. The telecommunications scenario in India has been transformed within the last two years. Rates have fallen dramatically, and the falls continue. Availability and quality have improved. It is competition to the entrenched monopoly of government-owned companies that has achieved this result.

It could happen in the energy markets as well. We must be clear that competition does not necessarily mean privatization. It does require that the operators work for their customers, improving profits and ensuring growth. Cost-plus pricing as in fertilizers and electricity is completely inconsistent with a competitive situation.

In the case of electricity, generation has been a government monopoly for almost fifty years, though recently generation has been opened to private investment but with the concurrence of the state governments concerned. Transmission and distribution remain state monopolies, except in a few places like Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Calcutta. The state regulators of electricity could push for competition. But state governments have been reluctant to even allow captive generation for fear of losing the only well-paying customers that they have. Others whose consumption is constantly increasing from state electricity boards, like domestic consumers and farmers, pay tariffs that are well below the costs of supplying them, unless they get it free (Tamil Nadu), or steal it.

The solution for electricity in the absence of radical state electricity reforms is to free captive generation, allow open access to anyone to transmission for a fee to be set by regulators, permit trading per rules to be set out by regulators, and allow anyone to supply electricity to bulk consumers. This will squeeze the SEBs but it will enable bulk consumers like railways and industry to be competitive and not get swallowed by new foreign entrants. In this way competition at least for bulk supplies will enable their electricity prices to be more reasonable than they are.

Another factor that can help reduce energy prices is the dismantling of administered prices for the oil and gas sector. This is a major step, though it will be less fruitful than it can be in the absence of similar reform in the electricity and fertilizer sectors, the two main consumers of oil and gas. The absence of reform in the coal sector is another factor that keeps energy prices at high levels. Coal is the only energy resource in which we have abundant supplies and which will remain our main energy source for some time. But it is inefficiently run; supplies variable quality and prices are kept high because of the high costs due to inefficiency. The only available solution, on which government places great faith, is the imminent opening of the sector to private investment.

Gas has been the fastest growing energy source in India in recent years, and mostly from imports. It is set to grow even faster with the commissioning of three liquefied natural gas terminals on the west coast, and the prospect of the ample reserves of gas in Bangladesh being sold to India and transported by a pipeline. This competition among different sources of supply including domestic gas from the Oil and Natural Gas Commission or the Gas Authority of India Limited should lead to improved prices for customers. Since the biggest customers are in electricity and fertilizers, their raw material costs could fall, with similar effects on end electricity prices.

There is little prospect of energy prices coming down in the near future. This is because of the lack of will among state governments, and the hypocrisy of political parties that prevents them from selling state government finances down the populist drain. At the same time, many decisions remain to be taken before even the prospects of lower oil and gas prices fructify.

At present we have Gail owning almost all pipelines and also as the supplier of gas. These are inconsistent roles because the pipeline is a natural monopoly and the owner of pipelines who supplies the oil or gas has the opportunity for price exploitation. There is also the issue of opening investments in pipelines freely to private investment. There is need for a regulator (though government seems to prefer having at least two for oil and gas). The question of how much authority to cede from government to this independent regulator is still to be decided. Ideally we must have all licensing tariffs at all points up to the end consumer, despatch priorities and schedules, access to pipelines, standards for safety, service and quality, being decided in a transparent and openly consultative basis, and not behind the closed doors of government offices.

If subsidies to users like electricity, fertilizers, farmers and some domestic consumers are to continue, the costs must be borne entirely by government budgets and not by the suppliers. They must be paid in cash, not in bonds with a mythical future time when they will be redeemed (which is what government is now doing as it dismantles the administered pricing mechanism and the related oil pool account which is in substantial deficit).

Even in the chaos caused by so-called socialism and as it gets dismantled, we can see some ways to bring down energy prices. The basis must be the maximum opportunities for trading to take place even if it is in limited segments of the markets, like bulk consumers for electricity. The principle of separating monopoly carriers from ownership and supply of the gas, oil or electricity must be strictly followed, along with the principle of open access to such transportation (pipelines, transmission lines, and so on). There must be freedom of entry for generators and suppliers. Regulators who are independent and function transparently are an essential pre-condition to trading and competition. Prices should not be based on allowing all costs as pass-through, as at present. Where there is a risk due to exchange rate variation in the case of foreign capital or imported products, the risk must be borne by the importer through hedging or some other means.

However, energy costs cannot come down to those who today are heavily subsidized namely, domestic consumers, farmers and thieves from industries (large and small), commercial establishments, rich and poor households and others. Prices for them have to go up and come closer to the costs of supplying them. At the same time the topsy-turvy world we have today in which larger consumption leads to increasing prices instead of lower prices, must change, to follow the rules of economics and the market. As a consumer becomes more important to a supplier, the supplier must use all the means at his command including price discounts, to retain that consumer.

The task of dismantling the mistakes of a government-controlled economy is a complex one. We cannot postpone it any longer.

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


Global warming, the phenomenon wherein the earth�s temperature registers a small but regular increase, has become a cause for much concern in recent years. Alarming tales abound about its effects � rising sea levels inundating low lying islands, disruption of agriculture in tropical and sub-tropical regions, resulting in food security problems, acid rain, land degradation, extinction of species, and so on. The World Health Organization estimates that 60-90 per cent of cancers are environmentally induced.

Global warming is caused by greenhouse gases, which allow short-wavelength radiation from the sun to pass through into the earth�s atmosphere, but which absorb the infra-red rays radiated by the earth. This leads to a build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere which heats up the earth.

Another factor causing global warming is the depletion of the ozone layer. The presence of ozone is necessary in the stratosphere to keep out ultraviolet radiation, excessive exposure to which causes skin cancers and reduces crop yields. The chemicals implicated in ozone depletion are halogen compounds called chlorofluorocarbons which become unstable in sunlight and react with ozone to form new compounds.

Clean concerns

These are universal concerns that transcend national boundaries. International environmental norms are increasingly veering towards the dictum �think global, act national�, and supporting local initiatives on health and environmental problems.

In India, clean air legislation has been unable to check the proliferation of toxic substances, and a separate legislation is needed to fill the gaps. For example, consumer product safety legislation has jurisdiction over certain toxic substances but addresses human safety issues only in using the products, leaving out environmental questions entirely.

Laws in the United States of America are more definite. The definition of hazardous chemicals in that country includes specific references to carcinogens, reproductive toxins, agents which act on the blood generating system and damage the lungs, skin, eyes or mucous membranes. The US federal cancer policy advocates that exposure to carcinogens be reduced to zero, or as close as feasible. If safer substitutes are available, they should be used.

New developments in biotechnology promise many wonders, such as a cure for cancer and other diseases, but not all of them are beneficial. World opinion is increasingly starting to appreciate the harmful effects of pesticides, herbicides and other chemical substances and demanding they be replaced with bio-fertilizers and bio-pesticides. The international export market now insists on green labels and logos indicating method of production.

Firm resolution

Heightened environment consciousness is also reflected in the multiplicity of international covenants and bodies that have jurisdiction over this subject. The first of these were the two United Nations general assembly resolutions of December 3, 1968 and December 15, 1969. The first UN conference on human environment. was held in Stockholm in 1972 and led to the establishment of the UN Environment Programme. The first earth summit was held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and resulted in �agenda 21�, an action blueprint for the planet.

The Global Environment Facility funds national activities in several areas of environmental concern. There is also the Convention to Combat Desertification, 1996, which implements programmes on dryland management and drought mitigation.

Besides these, there are the UN framework convention on climate chance, which combats carbon emissions, and the convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora, 1973, working to prevent loss of bio-diversity. There is also the international Tropical Timber Agreement, 1983, which seeks to regulate the timber industry in the context of its impact on the environment and economy of the producing region.

Comprehensive and effective in themselves, all these measures together seek to synchronize global activities to ensure we continue to live in health and happiness.


At a time of such tension in the relationship between East and West in the real world, it would be irresponsible for any of us to promote misunderstanding, even if it only applies to the cricket field.

During the current one-day series, when England were in Calcutta, they were accused of being imperialistic, or supremacist, in their attitude. The first piece of evidence cited was England�s complaint about the state of the nets at the Calcutta Cricket and Football Club, where they practised.

The second piece of evidence was England�s complaint about the umpiring during the day/night international at the Eden Gardens.

England certainly did complain. But as a journalist who has followed every England tour, except one, for the last 25 years, I cannot accept the charge that they did so because of an imperialist, or supremacist, attitude. They did so pragmatically, and simply because there was cause for complaint.

Now I would accept that the attitude of England cricket teams in the past has been wrong. On all too many tours of India, and Pakistan, England teams have thought themselves superior. An England bowler, who has just had his leg before wicket appeal turned down, could be seen to roll his eyes and laugh behind the umpire�s back to convey his belief that the umpire was incompetent. England became very skilled at conveying absolute incredulity at decisions by Indian and Pakistani umpires without crossing the border into outright dissent.

Off the field too, the attitude of the English was often all wrong. They could be insular, blinkered, parochial in their outlook on Indian life, sniggering at strange names or habits, anchored in the belief that West is Best, unable to comprehend any other way. The old English professional cricketer, brought up on beer and chips, thought any other way was inferior if it did not feature beer and chips.

But those times have passed in English cricket, I adamantly believe (which is not to say that they might not return). The present England team under Nasser Hussain is being criticized for the sins of its predecessors. It is these predecessors who should have been called imperialist in their attitude � but they seldom were, as India used to be, perhaps, too deferential then. There is no reason however to direct this criticism at the current England team, as I hope to show. Two wrongs never did make a right.

The team which Hussain has captained since 1999 is an earnest, modest, one. For a start, as everyone could point out, they have a lot to be modest about. Their hard work has brought some success in test cricket, notably the series wins in Pakistan and Sri Lanka last winter, but in one-day cricket, they have nothing to be proud of � and they know it.

England�s win in Cuttack was only their fifth in one-day internationals against proper opposition (that is, against test-playing countries other than Zimbabwe and Bangladesh) since the start of the 1999 World Cup. That makes an amazing run of non-success, but it has been disguised by the fact that England have played Zimbabwe 14 times over that period, and won 12 times. These cheap victories allowed us to think England were not too bad at one-day cricket, but Hussain and the team�s coach, Duncan Fletcher, have not been fooled.

As Hussain is contracted to write for the same newspaper as I, the Sunday Telegraph in London, and he sometimes needs some �ghosting� assistance when he is too busy to write his column himself, I am in a position to vouch that he is not the slightest bit supremacist in his attitude. He is not being diplomatic when he says England are bad at one-day cricket, although he is a diplomat, and a clever strategist too. He is simply telling everyone the straightforward truth.

Indeed, if Hussain can be criticized, it would be for being too deferential and humble in his attitude, not assertive enough. His awe, and the awe of the other England players, of Sachin Tendulkar is palpable. Of course Tendulkar deserves the highest respect, but it can go too far. He is human, as any videotape of his innings in the Mohali test will confirm. The England seamers made the ball bounce and got it to move away a touch on that pitch; and Tendulkar played and missed more than most of the Indian batsmen, not less. But that weakness against the moving ball landing just outside offstump � common to every batsman that ever existed � seems to have been forgotten. Tendulkar has run riot in the opening overs of India�s one-day innings partly because England are a little awestruck.

It is not only Tendulkar either. In another of his press statements, Hussain said, with reference to V.V.S. Laxman, that during the test series he would wake every day not knowing which Indian batsman might score 281. It is taking conspiracy theory too far to think that such a statement was double-bluff designed to lull the opposition: if it had come from Steve Waugh, perhaps yes, but not Hussain. What Hussain says simply reveals an attitude which is very aware of the shortcomings of English cricket, and very respectful of the achievements of others.

So it was that England complained about the practice nets in Calcutta because they were dangerous: a ball could be hit through the netting and hurt people in the neighbouring net. England complained about the umpiring in the day/nighter because S.K. Sharma�s performance was completely inadequate. Before he gave Marcus Trescothick lbw to a ball pitching well outside legstump, he called two no-balls which the television replays showed were not no-balls at all. Any umpire can make a bad decision, and must be allowed one once in a while. S.K. Sharma�s lbw verdict was not bad, it was a shocker which betrayed little or no understanding of the game�s geometry.

The English do make mistakes of their own: the sledging by Andrew Flintoff during the Chennai match deserved the match referee�s unofficial warning and must not be repeated by any England player in this series. A one-off blast in the heat of a very humid moment during a tight match has to be permissible, but not continuous sledging like Flintoff�s. But believe me, it was done through an excess of competitive keenness, or a lack of manners, not out of a sense of superiority.

�By their fruits we shall know them.� So let us judge each case � whether Indian or English � on its merits, without prejudice. There are misunderstandings enough in the world without adding to them.

The author is cricket correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph, London


The representatives of Sakshi have come forward with as many as 14 recommendations proposing amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Evidence Act.

4.2. Addition of sub-sections (3) to (5) in section 160, CrPC. The 84th report of the Law Commission had recommended that sub-sections (3) to (7) be added in section 160. Instead of paraphrasing the reasons given in the 84th report in our own words, it would be appropriate to set out paragraphs 3.11 to 3.15 of that report below:

3.11 Reporting and Investigation. � These matters concern the arrest and detention of women in general. We now deal with certain matters peculiar to women who are victims of sexual offences. Women who have been raped are reluctant to report it, partly because of the embarrassment of discussing the details with male policemen, and partly because of the very fear of even more painful humiliation of being a witness in court.

They get scared and become confused when, in the strange environment of the courtroom, they have to conduct themselves in a manner foreign to their custom and under a restraint not conducive to clear and coherent thought or free expression.

3.12 Investigation by female police � no statutory change recommended. A woman is often discouraged from pressing a charge of rape or other sexual offence by the fact that she usually encounters only male police and prosecution officers. It is presumably for this reason that it has been suggested that the investigation of such offences should be done by women police officers only.

We would be happy if the questioning of female victims of sexual offences would be done by women police officers only. We are not, however, inclined to recommend a statutory provision in this regard. A mandatory provision to that effect may prove to be unworkable. The number of women police officers in rural areas is very small.

Even in urban areas, unless a centralized cell (with the status of a police station) is created for investigation into sexual offences against women, such a provision may not be practicable.

We regard this difficulty as a transient one. An all-out effort for the recruitment of sufficient number of women police officers, who could be drafted for the police duties of interrogation and investigation, should be made.

3.13 Till then, in metropolitan cities or big cities where there are sufficient number of women police officers, a practice should be established that women police officers alone investigate sexual offences and interrogate the victim.

We are, therefore, not in favour of any statutory provision being made in this respect, subject to what we are recommending in the next paragraph.

3.14 The practice as suggested above could be adopted in metropolitan areas and big cities. But there is one matter which is of importance for the whole country. It is necessary that in the case of girls below a certain age, say, below 12 years, who are victims of rape, there should be a statutory provision to ensure that the girl must be interrogated only by a woman. A woman police officer would be preferable. But, if a woman police officer is not available, an alternative procedure as detailed below should be followed.

...Where a woman police officer is not available, the officer in charge of the police station should forward a list of questions to a qualified female (we shall suggest details later) who would, after recording the information as ascertained from the child victim, return the papers to the officer in charge of the police station. If necessary, further questions to be put to the child may be sent by the police to the interrogator.

For the present, this procedure may be applied to female victims below 12 years. It could later be utilized for child witnesses in general, if found practicable. The �qualified female� whom we have in mind should be one who is a social worker belonging to a recognized social organization. If she possesses some knowledge of law and procedure, it would be all the more useful, but that need not be a statutory requirement.

To be concluded



Town of sorrow

Sir � The report, �Mother returns, every evening� (Jan 26), was deeply poignant and shocking. It�s been a year since the devastating earthquake in Gujarat killed more than 20,000 people and left thousands homeless. Despite the flow of funds and foreign aid, the streets of Bhuj are still littered with debris, and the state government is yet to finalize a plan for rebuilding the town. While the homeless continue to live in shelters and the children attend makeshift schools, politicians seem perfectly content in indulging in sentimental but meaningless gestures like the lighting of a thousand candles to mourn the tragedy. As is usually the case in India, the absence of laws vis-�-vis foreign aid and the lackadaisical attitude of the Centre are usually exploited by vested interests who make money out of human tragedy. Be it the Bhopal gas tragedy in the Eighties or the more recent Orissa floods, only a small percentage of the victims have benefited from aid that has flowed in from different parts of the world.
Yours faithfully,
Nita Gupta, via email

Crime at the door

Sir � The attack on policemen in front of the American Center poses a serious question about the capability of the Calcutta police force as well as the security arrangements undertaken by the West Bengal government. What can policemen armed with only lathis and .303 rifles, which don�t work, do against assailants who can fire 54 rounds of ammunition from their AK-47s in just 40 seconds? The timing, modus operandi and the target of the strike followed by Aftab Ansari�s call to the media point to the fact that it was indeed a revenge killing and the American Center was not the target of the strike. Even the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is investigating the matter, has ruled out a terrorist strike.

Marxists like Somnath Chatterjee who raised a hue and cry in Parliament for the Centre�s alleged intelligence failure on December 13, should realize that their own government has proved a worse failure. The way the policemen ran for cover during the strike shows that they have a long way to go before they can emulate the bold stand taken by the guards at Parliament. Although the chief minister of West Bengal, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, has admitted to the security lapse on the part of the government, Chatterjee and other leftists are trying to ignore this truth.

Ansari�s threats should be taken seriously and preventive measures taken. The recent attempt to blow up the Birsa Munda Central Jail at Ranchi should also not be treated in isolation. Police forces, not only in West Bengal, but throughout India, should be modernized and equipped with the latest weapons and facilities to track down criminals. Importance should be given to physical training. Filling up vacant posts on a priority basis, raising salaries and limiting duty hours, rewarding personnel who do extraordinary work, organizing seminars where they can interact with common people will help boost their morale and make them more accessible to the public.

It was sad to learn that Motilal Yadav, a passer-by who was injured in the shoot-out, was the last to be operated upon because of the delay in getting clearance from the Shakespeare Sarani police station. The news that a wounded constable was dumped on the hospital floor is also unfortunate. The step-motherly attitude of the government towards low-ranking officers and the common man only demoralizes the people of the state.

Yours faithfully,
Srinivasan Balakrishnan, Jamshedpur

Sir � The Telegraph seems to have gone overboard in its coverage of the �terrorist attack� outside the American Center in Calcutta on January 22. It was equally disconcerting to read Seema Sirohi�s perspective on the incident which would have been more suited to a high school magazine than to a newspaper that claims to be �unputdownable�. The front pages of any newspaper should describe the incidents that have taken place and should refrain from commenting on them. It is the responsibility of the media to present a realistic and truthful picture to the public.

By blowing the event out of proportion, The Telegraph has sacrificed objectivity at the altar of meaningless sensationalism. The event is simple enough � a Dubai-based gangster�s reaction to the death of his colleague in police custody. While the incidents are undoubtedly shocking, they are not really very different from other politically-motivated murders that have become an intrinsic part of Marxist West Bengal. The average Calcuttan is well aware of terrorism and there is hardly any need to emphasize this with a three-line headline. One question though � is there any need to unload rifles when they are being exchanged?

What should have made headlines however is the nexus between politicians, their pet criminals, and the corrupt police force which has now been exposed. One should refrain from blaming Pakistan for this incident.

Yours faithfully,
P. K. Sandell, Calcutta

Sir � The attack on the police picket outside the American Center should not surprise anyone. Twenty-four years of Marxist rule in West Bengal has transformed the state into a safe haven for criminals. Even though the Central intelligence agencies had been warning the state government against such an attack, it did not pay much attention.

Encouraging the growth of trade unionism in the police force was the first step towards the present decline. The way the police officers reacted to the situation speaks of their incompetence. Can the people of this state sleep in peace knowing that the law enforcers will not able to protect them?

In a panel discussion on the Star News channel on December 13, Somnath Chatterjee had attacked Pramod Mahajan and had asked him to explain the obvious intelligence failure of the Central government and its inept handling of the attack on the Indian Parliament. It is not surprising to find that Chatterjee has smelt a Central government conspiracy in this incident too.

Yours faithfully,
Amar Lahiri Majumdar, Calcutta

Sir � The gruesome incident outside the American Center has exposed the state government�s ineffectiveness in handling modern crime. While most states have already equipped their police force with sophisticated weapons to deal with terrorism, policemen in our state continue to carry outdated guns. That the policemen stationed outside the American Center have to deal with very little other than a few incidents of crowd violence does not excuse the sheer helplessness of the force in the face of the attack. Does Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee still think that our state is an oasis of peace?

Yours faithfully,
Kaustav Sinha Ray, Calcutta

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