Editorial 1 / Loyal bear
Editorial 2 / Blunkett brides
Arms are not enough
Fifth Column /Planned weakness and other woes
Mani Talk/ Democracy under duress
Letters to the editor

The enduring firmness of Indo-Russian relations was once again demonstrated by the recent visit to India of the Russian deputy prime minister, Mr Ilya Klebanov. It is obvious that there is a convergence of bilateral interests that makes it profitable for both India and Russia to maintain close ties. Both Moscow and New Delhi will benefit from greater policy coordination given the changed international environment after September 11 last year. In this context, Mr Klebanov�s visit was rich in substance and will give a further fillip to bilateral ties. South Block will be especially pleased with the Russian leader�s statements endorsing India�s position on cross-border terrorism. Mr Klebanov stated that Russia �totally agreed� with India that Pakistan had to demonstrate its sincerity on the ground and should act on the list of criminals whose extradition was being sought by India. Mr Klebanov�s words expressing solidarity come just a week after the Russian foreign minister, Mr Igor Ivanov, had asked Pakistan to actively collaborate with India in checking infiltration of terrorists into Jammu and Kashmir. The Russian leader was in India to co-chair the three-day mid-term review meeting of the Indo-Russian inter-governmental commission for military technical cooperation and, understandably, much progress was made on defence-related issues.

Similarly, India and Russia have agreed to produce an advanced, fifth generation fighter aircraft and collaborate in the development of military technology in frontier areas. This should move a purely buyer-seller defence relationship to a higher order where Russia and India can jointly conduct research and development. Although there is some disappointment that the deal on the sale of the Russian aircraft carrier, Admiral Gorshkov, and TU-22 bombers could not be signed during the visit, it is believed that technical discussions have concluded satisfactorily. Significantly, both sides have made no public disclosures about the possibility of an agreement to lease Russian nuclear submarines to India. Quite clearly, the two sides have been tight lipped about cooperation in this area given the likely negative reaction from the United States of America and other powers. The Indian armed forces continue to be heavily dependent on Russia for their military hardware and spares. While it is critical that New Delhi diversify and not remain excessively dependant on one source, it is noteworthy that Russia has, barring a few notable exceptions, remained a reliable partner. It is important, therefore, to sustain the relationship with Moscow which has strategic and commercial benefits and has stood the test of time.


A phrase as innocuous as �white paper� begins to take on sinister undertones when associated with the British home secretary, Mr David Blunkett. His latest communication in that genre seeks to present the outlines of an immigration policy. It also seeks to initiate a rather astonishing discussion. Mr Blunkett wants to re-arrange arranged marriages. It has occurred to him to wonder if arranged marriages could � or rather, should � become a more English affair: �whether more of these could be undertaken within the settled communities here�. In other words, his vision of integration with diversity could be better realized if the subcontinent stopped dumping its useless eligibles, male or female, on Britain. This, he claims, has been prompted by his concern for young Asian women who want to be able to marry men who speak their language (namely English), who have been educated in the same way and have similar social attitudes.

The effrontery of the home secretary�s intrusion into the realm of private choice and consent has been rightly regarded as abhorrent by a wide cross-section of immigrant communities in Britain. Mr Blunkett�s suggestion rests not only on an unsavoury presumption regarding the advisory role of a politician, but also on a confused and ignorant notion of arranged marriages. Reducing the practice to force and fraud, perpetrated only within certain communities, and to do so in the public context of outlining an immigration policy, could result in the worst disruption of mutual trust and respect, on which any attempt at integration must be founded. It is perfectly natural that there should be a debate within civil society on whether arranged marriages are good or bad. Community workers and women�s organizations will remain concerned about and active against such marriages when they turn unpleasant. But this is an entirely different sphere of activity: the married lives of British citizens should lie outside the purview of the home secretary�s official comments. Moreover, Mr Blunkett sees himself as heroically pitted against a form of �reverse racism� which summarily disallows the white middle classes to say or do anything at all that might upset the black or Asian communities. This stance would make perfect sense as one among many in an �open�, democratic society. But delivered to the public as the home secretary�s self-justification, and as part of his credo of British nationhood, it becomes quite another kind of political statement. Mr Blunkett wants applicants for British citizenship to sit English language tests so that they could better �accept British norms�. It is hard to believe that such a person�s comments on arranged marriage would be prompted by pure gallantry.


After the carnage outside the American Center in Calcutta, the chief minister of West Bengal frankly said there had been a �failure� in the security system. Presumably he and senior officers in the state government are assessing the nature of the failure, and working out steps to ensure that such failures do not occur again. The first steps are evident; there are commandos outside the building, as there are outside a number of buildings housing American diplomatic and other offices elsewhere in the country.

From the look of things, these commandos are going to have to stay where they are for a pretty long time. The Calcutta police � and the police forces in other states � are in no condition to replace them, not now, not even after some months. This ought to be clear to those who are deciding on what corrective steps are needed to prevent security �failures� like the one outside the American Center.

It is of course, as we all know, a question of better weapons, but that is obviously only a part of the problem. The basic fact that all of us have to face is that law and order, and the security of buildings and people, is a very costly business. It simply cannot be done on the cheap. Worn out trucks and jeeps, antiquated wireless sets held together with sellotape, guns which belong, more properly, to a museum of ancient and medieval weapons, and all the other hardware that needs to be modernized and upgraded � these, and the hardware the security forces have never had, or have in pitifully small quantities, all these cost a great deal.

There was a time when much was made of the fact that the expenditure on the police was very large, and several schemes for modernization were put off on that account. Those of us who were in the districts then know what it was to have old, wheezing police trucks to break down when they were needed, to be told that radio sets weren�t working, but given the relatively more peaceful times one put up with it as an affliction one just had to live with.

Often, police �assistance� was worse than their neglect. Years ago, when my mother was living in a part of Calcutta, and then went to stay for a while with my brother, I made the mistake of telling the officer in charge of the police station that her small flat was empty, and though there was hardly anything in it, would they please keep an eye on it. The very next week the flat was broken into and my mother�s scanty belongings � some clothing and a few utensils in the kitchen � removed. As I say, those were relatively more peaceful times.

Now, one can reasonably suppose, all that will have to change. One can no longer consider expenditure on re-equipping the police forces excessive; the money has to be found. It is a hard choice, but one that leaves no room for alternatives. If we wish to continue to live in a more or less civil society, then we have to pay for it. But if we get the AK-47s and Uzi machine guns other forces have, night vision goggles, Kevlar bullet proof vests, armoured cars and all the rest of it, will we solve the problem?

Hardly. Equipment is only a part of the terrible problem being faced. The real issue is additional manpower, and two other things above all � training and supervision. What training do our security forces get? Has anyone tried to find out? Apart from a few months parading about and what is still called �musket� practice, what do they get? Are they physically fit and tough? Has their reaction time quickened? Can they face a man with a gun and keep their cool? The questions answer themselves. All over the country one finds the archetypal assistant sub-inspector or sub-inspector of police, preceded by his formidable paunch. Will these men ever be able to handle a situation where split second decisions are needed and quick physical action?

This is what has been neglected for decades. The excuse has always been that chronic shortages have forced officers to use trainees and everyone else in various kinds of assignments. Very few men have actually had two weeks in the year of firing practice, to say nothing of physical conditioning. This is what the government needs to look at. The crucial need is to ensure that the security forces are physically toughened, and trained to react fast and deal with whatever situation they come across without getting hysterical. It is this which is the more expensive part; training means taking men out from their duties to do courses, and courses can last up to a year, if not more. Add to this the other crucial element, supervision. How much of it is there?

From what one sees of the Delhi police, hardly any. No time, that�s what everyone says. But there simply must be time. The best trained man will function at his best if he knows he is being watched by an officer who will not be satisfied with second rate work. This is, of course, true of every aspect of government�s functioning, but in so far as the police forces are concerned it really is a matter of life and death. This does not cost money; it costs in terms of commitment and an unswerving determination to do one�s job as best as one can. This can only come from motivation, and it does not help when policemen are organized in karmachari sanghs or whatever else they are called.

The time for all such sangathans or organizations, be they set up by the leftists or the sangh parivar, is now over. There is a new kind of enemy about; one that is not merely well armed but very well organized, and physically in better shape than the police. They melt into the surging masses in each of our cities, and carefully plan their operations. It is they who have the element of surprise working for them, and will continue to have it for a long long time. What are the karmachari sanghs going to do to counteract them? Organize a demonstration? Or maybe a bandh?

The political executive and policy makers have to face up to this new reality. Admitting failure after a terrible outrage is not enough; the whole system needs to be looked at and assessed dispassionately without bringing any ideological baggage into the process. If this leads to concrete, uncompromising action, then one may see a change, not immediately, or, indeed, in a few months; but after a year or two. Given the decades of neglect and politicization that has corroded the vitals of the system, that is not a long time.

But the time to set all this in motion is now. Not just in West Bengal, but in all states where complacency and politics have made the police effete, lazy and ineffective. We desperately need security in society, and that is what they cannot give us, not yet. But they can; it�s not impossible. The money can be found, the training arranged, discipline tightened, and the semi-political associations and unions dismantled. All it needs, from the top down, is determination and perseverance.

The author is former secretary, ministry of information and broadcasting


Dark clouds continue to hover over the Indian economy. The gross domestic product growth for the first quarter of the current fiscal year was released recently. The 4.4 per cent growth of GDP during the first quarter against 6.1 per cent during the same period last year, shows the inherent weakness of the Indian economy. This is despite the fact that a growth of over 6 per cent had been predicted by Indian economists and planners. Ignoring the decreasing GDP, Indian economists continue with their prediction of over 8 per cent growth in the next five-year plans. The problem lies in defective planning and implementation and an ignorance of ground realities about agrarian India.

It is obvious that economic experts in our country and government bodies like the Planning Commission and the Reserve Bank of India are still hopeful that the situation will change during the following quarters. But even a well-distributed monsoon cannot revive the economy, unless attention is paid to the agricultural sector as a whole.

While Indian farmers continue to face economic hardship, government expenditure remains high. Despite their hard work, farmers are often not able to get back even the cost of production.

Move it down

Unfortunately, most economic policies in our country have been anti-agricultural in nature. It is true that the growth of industries and the service sectors has a positive effect on the growth of the agricultural sector. But unless the benefits of the growth percolate to the agrarians, no sustainable development is possible.

The Indian farmer is trapped in a vicious cycle of natural calamity, bumper production and a bad market. It was only last year that there were suicide and starvation deaths, while surplus foodgrains rotted in government godowns. That the economic condition of the Indian farmer has not improved is evident from the fact that the per capita availability of foodgrain came down from 180 kilogrammes per year in 1995 to 167.2 kg per year in 2000.

Further, the increase in the wages of agricultural labourers is not proportional to the rate of growth of foodgrain production in the last decade. Nor has capital formation from the agricultural sector been at par with other sectors. The share of agriculture in the country�s GDP has now been reduced from one third to one-fourth.

Most policymakers forget that theories applicable to the industrial and service sectors are not suitable for agriculture. That is probably why agricultural and rural development works have ended with a term subsidy and almost all rural development programmes introduced since independence have failed.

Problem of plenty

Most warehouses and godowns are filled with stocks from previous years that have not been utilized yet through the public distribution system. Despite the existence of a buffer stock, poor procurement by the government has affected the market. This excess has been created to please the rich farmers of Haryana, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh. What is disturbing is that an estimated 107 million tonnes of foodgrains has not created a surplus in the economy.

The slowdown in the world economy has adversely affected both the developed and the developing countries. Given that India has a high percentage of agricultural workers (70 per cent), it can, together with China, afford to call the shots in global food production. The development of eco-friendly products for the consumer should also be encouraged.

The government could, however, take a few steps to revive this sector. No subsidy, in any form, should be encouraged. Emphasis should be laid on the quality of farm produce and there should be a norm for the standardization of farm products. The government should also provide assistance or result-oriented subsidies for the marketing of agricultural products in the domestic market as well as abroad. Subsidy, however, is a must for any agricultural activity performed in the dry and poverty-ridden areas. Once these steps are taken, the agricultural sector in the country will gain in confidence, and the GDP will increase in no time.


The National Democratic Alliance, which claims in Delhi to be a leading partner in the international coalition against terrorism, is hand in glove with the banned National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) in the elections currently taking place to the Manipur Vidhan Sabha. In the hills seats, the NSCN(I-M) is demanding of the electorate, under threat of the gun, that it vote for the Bharatiya Janata Party in some seats and for the Samata Party in others. In the valley, terrorists and extortionists of all hues and description are jointly terrorizing the population to vote for any party other than the Congress.

They are going to this length and trouble because they know that short of a bullet to their heads, the people of Manipur, fed up with the combination of NDA and regional parties who made a mess of the last assembly � resulting in this mid-term poll � would of their own volition wish to vote the Congress back to power. Thus the selective armed attacks on Congress candidates constitute a kind of left-handed compliment to the Congress, a recognition that the Congress is the preferred choice in this election.

The operations of these terrorist groups are no clandestine secret. The underground in Manipur operates overground. The numerous groups are well-known and well-recognized. Their leaders live mostly in the capital city of Imphal or at district headquarters in the hills. The administration knows exactly who they are and what they are up to. But they will not act, they say, until formal police complaints are lodged. And formal complaints are not lodged because every Manipuri knows the writ of the government does not run beyond the secretariat. If he lodges a complaint, he or his family members will be killed while the state stands by wringing its hands in impotent despair. If the state will not safeguard the individual, how can the individual comply with the procedures? Thus, the state and the terrorist are in mutual accord: the terrorist is free to act against the complainant and the state will do nothing until a formal complaint is lodged � and, even then, who knows to what effect?

Yet, in nine months of president�s rule, a euphemism for rule from Delhi by Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani, nothing � absolutely nothing � has been done, not even since September 11, to prosecute the war against terrorism in Manipur. The very questions which the government of India is putting to the government of Pakistan are being put by the people of Manipur to the government of India. The authorities in the state are exactly as aware of the whereabouts of their resident terrorists as Pakistan is about Dawood Ibrahim. And the government of India is doing exactly as little about these terrorists as Pakistan is doing about Tiger Memon. Indeed, what is happening in Manipur is even worse than what is happening in Pakistan. For President Pervez Musharraf is not asking the Jaish-e-Mohammed to help him win elections. In Manipur, the nefarious nexus between the BJP and the Samata Party, severally and jointly, on the one hand, and the NSCN (I-M) plus assorted terrorist groups, on the other, is as clear as the blue skies in the February spring. For consider.

Under the eyes of the administration, all Naga candidates are summoned to Dimapur, Nagaland, by the NSCN (I-M) on January 19, 2002, immediately after the filing of nominations. They go because they do not dare disobey a summons from this banned underground organization. They do not dare because they know the state administration can do nothing to protect them and prefers to turn a blind eye to what is happening under its unseeing eyes. In Dimapur, the candidates are held by armed militants, released to take part in the scrutiny, and re-summoned immediately thereafter to Dimapur. There, at pistol point, the Congress candidates for 41-Chandel and 42-Tegnoupal are forced to sign the withdrawal forms. This is not asked of the candidates of the BJP and the Samata Party. Indeed, according to an affidavit filed by L. Benjamin, the Congress candidate for Chandel, the withdrawal form was personally carried to Chandel by the BJP candidate, B.D. Behring, and submitted to the returning officer by Behring�s proposer.

When the returning officer refused to accept the withdrawal form of the Congress candidate from the proposer of the rival BJP candidate, NSCN (I-M) militants arrived at Benjamin�s residence and threatened the family with dire consequences if Benjamin did not arrive in person in Chandel. Faced with this grim choice between his candidacy and his family, Benjamin arrived post-haste from his hiding place in Imphal and, according to him, submitted the form knowing full well that this did not count as the last moment for the presentation of withdrawals had passed.

The withdrawal form of the other Congress candidate from the neighbouring Tegnoupal constituency was merely faxed from Dimapur, Nagaland, to Chandel, Manipur. The candidate has sworn on oath that his signature on the letter authorizing his proposer to submit the withdrawal form was forged.

Thereafter, on January 31, V.S. Atem, chairman of the steering committee of the NSCN (I-M), an organization formally banned by Advani�s home ministry, summons a meeting at the Viewlands Baptist Church in Ukhrul, headquarters of the district that goes by the same name, where the BJP candidate is Danny Shaiza, son of a former chief minister, and the very distinguished gathering, comprising NGOs, church leaders and other local worthies, is asked to vote against the Congress and specifically to support the BJP, whose leader, prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, had met the NSCN (I-M) leaders in Osaka, Japan, the previous month. What, one wonders, did they discuss? Terrorist support to NDA candidates?

Following the January 31 meeting, noted NSCN (I-M) cadres, including Lightson, Ngathingkhiu and Joseph, have, under the eyes of a quiescent and impotent administration, closed down the election offices at Phungyar, Kamjong and Kasom of the veteran Congress leader, Rishang Keishing, and warned him and his colleagues against venturing out to canvass for votes. Rishang has refused to submit to the threat and announced that he is beginning his campaign in the hills as soon as the campaign in the valley ends today, February 12.

The latest outrage is a meeting called by the United Naga Council in the district headquarters of Senapati, right under the nose of the district administration (now reporting to a BJP home minister at the Centre) at which, in a patently illegal manner, all candidates (other than the octogenarian Rishang, who was not invited because it is known that he has consistently refused for half a century to bend his knees before insolent might) are forced to sign a pledge promising to �resign from the legislative assembly if called upon by the Naga people under the aegis of the United Naga Council�. This is democracy under duress � and the home minister is doing nothing about it beyond securing partisan advantage from banned organizations for his own and George Fernandes�s candidates. Is this not remarkably similar to Osama bin Laden�s support to the taliban?



Re: Article titled Mani Talk: �Mayhem in Sanchar Bhavan�, published on November 6, 2001, received from Mr Sanjiv Sen, advocate, Supreme Court, counsel for MTNL and Mr Tapan Sikdar, minister of state (communications)

After issue of letter of intent in the MLDN Tender of MTNL, a complaint was received by an MP bringing out shortcoming in the bid of M/s Alcatel and an enquiry was ordered. The matter was thoroughly examined in the first instance by the Telecom Engineering Centre, an independent body under DOT, Government of India. They opined that the bid of M/s Alcatel was not technically compliant as inadequacies were found in the bid.

The matter was re-examined by a High Powered committee consisting of 2 technical members and one finance member from the board of MTNL. The Committee also concluded that M/s Alcatel�s bid was not fully compliant in relation to technical requirements.

Legal opinion was thereafter sought from the Learned Attorney General of India. The Learned AG opined that such technical experts had held Alcatel�s bid to be technically non-compliant it would be appropriate to re-tender. He further opined that it would not be in public interest to award the contract to Alcatel (since their bid was technically non-compliant) not to ITI-Tellabs (since their offer was substantially higher than Alcatel�s).

In the meantime, M/s Alcatel moved the Hon�ble Delhi High Court by a Writ Petition. The entire matter was put up to the Board of MTNL along with the Legal opinions. The Board accepted the technical opinions and the opinion of the Attorney General and decided to scrap the tender. In view of the above, the learned Single Judge by judgment dated 11.5.2001 dismissed the Writ Petition as infructous.

Alcatel�s appeal was dismissed by the Division Bench by Judgment dated 1.6.2001. The Hon�ble Division Bench upheld the action of MTNL in scrapping the tender. The Hon�ble Court held that the purchaser cannot be compelled to purchase an article from a supplier, especially when the purchaser finds, the article, not suitable for its requirements. The fact that Alcatel�s bid was deficient was also noticed.

Thus the entire action of the Ministry of Communications and MTNL have been approved and upheld by the Hon�ble Delhi High Court. One of the options put forward by the Hon�ble Minister of State (Communications), Mr Tapan Sikdar was to go in for re-tendering. The reason for putting forward this option was that on the one hand, the country ought not to be saddled with inferior technology as was sought to be done by the deficient bid put forward by M/s Alcatel and on the other hand, MTNL ought not to pay too high a price for the products as was being offered by the L2 bidder M/s ITI-Tellabs. Thus neither bids were suitable. The suggestion to opt for re-tendering was entirely in public interest and such suggestion was only ratified by the Learned Attorney General but also found approval and was confirmed by the Board of MTNL and later by the Hon�ble Delhi High Court.


Since the publication of the Article under the title, �Mayhem in Sanchar Bhavan�, in the column, �Mani Talk� by Mani Shankar Aiyar on November 6, 2001, �The Telegraph� has had access to further information on matters referred to in the article.

In the light of such information, �The Telegraph� regrets the publication of the article and also expresses its regret to Mr Tapan Sikdar, Union Minister of State (Communications).

The Editor



Retort of the native

Sir � Could one expect anything less from the lead actor and producer of Lagaan? Aamir Khan has apparently rejected the lead role in Andrew Lloyd Webber�s Bombay Dreams because the musical did not show the �real Mumbai� and was instead �a British look at Mumbai� (�Aamir passes up London role�, Feb 9). It is hard to imagine that this is the case. A.R. Rahman and Meera Syal can both be expected to have maintained an �Indian� perspective when writing the show. Perhaps Khan was referring to the current British love of all things Asian in popular culture. That interest does not extend to the geneologies of Bollywood, although the British audience would probably like watching a real-life singing and dancing Bollywood star. Such an idea, at least in the language of Lagaan, is a return of sorts to the spectacle of the performing native, and is abhorrent to Lagaan�s hero. But with Khan�s decision, the opportunity of breaking such stereotypes has been lost. Indeed, he seems to increasingly resemble the stereotype he played in Lagaan.

Yours faithfully,
Jay Mehrotra, Calcutta

Firing blank shots

Sir � Notwithstanding Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee�s refutation of the media�s interpretations of his comments following the terrorist attack on the American Center, it is unfortunate that madrasahs should have come up while discussing the involvement of the Inter-Services Intelligence in West Bengal. In his initial speeches after the incident, he had declared the ISI to be responsible (�Buddha speaks in Advani language�, Jan 24). Yet the only significant reform he has suggested seems to be against madrasahs. This has allowed for just the sort of simplistic connection that appeals to certain types of Hindu fundamentalists.

Bhattacharjee has apologized for some of the insinuations he made (�Text changes, content stays� Feb 9). But why is he persisting in targeting madrasahs, especially given that the American Center attack appears to have been carried out by petty underworld dons with only the most cursory of links with Islamic terrorists. There are just as many �Hindu� terrorists in India as there are Muslim, and yet Hindu religious institutes � pathshalas, vidyalayas, gurukuls and maths � are not closely supervised.

Every religious group has its place of worship and institutions for religious instruction, which may or may not be linked with fundamentalism. If fundamentalism is the most divisive force in our society today, then Bhattacharjee should not have labelled madrasahs alone as �anti-national�. Far from being anti-nationalist, madrasahs have played a considerable role in the freedom struggle. Deobandi ulemas stood shoulder to shoulder with other leading freedom fighters. Many of them were close to both Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. There were others who travelled widely in Europe, soliciting support for the Indian cause. Unfortunately, this part of history is not recollected the way it should be.

The mushrooming of madrasahs as also places of worship during the last decade is not difficult to understand. There has been a huge growth in population, but with no corresponding growth in the number of secular schools. If Bhattacharjee truly wants to address the issue of fundamentalism in West Bengal he should ensure that every child has the option of secular education. And if he insists on persecuting madrasahs, he must take the same action against Hindu educational institutions. Only then can he gain the trust of the Muslim population in the state and ensure that his party remains in power.

Yours faithfully,
Ruby Nishat, Bangalore
Sir � I was delighted to see that Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has the strength of his convictions (�Text changes, content stays�). Though he has apologized for the unwanted baiting of the Muslim community through some of his remarks, he nonetheless insists that madrasahs be regulated. This has demonstrated his respect for minority groups and has also shown his ability to carry with him the politburo which has been concerned with threats from the Muslim community. Bhattacharjee is rapidly emerging as the leader India needs at this moment of crisis.

Yours faithfully,
Manosh Chowdary, Calcutta

Your life or mine

Sir � There are a number of reasons euthanasia has not yet been legalized in poor countries like India (�It�s my life�, Jan 19). There are cultural reasons, which restrict its practise. Our poor health care system also does not guarantee that the provision will not be misused. But the government must not forget that sometimes some cases become exceptional. The traditional religious caveat of god teaching us through suffering would make little sense in case of someone suffering from a terminal illness.

Nevertheless, one would do well to remember that euthanasia was an accepted practice in ancient Greek and Roman societies. They considered it unfair to force people to suffer through the terminal stages of incurable diseases. Suicide was thought of as a mistake which caused the spiritual stagnation of the individual. Anyone who had not been successful in a suicide attempt would be recommended for treatment. Maybe, our modern and insensitive Indian laws regarding euthanasia and suicide should learn from this past wisdom.

Yours faithfully,
Indrani Bhattacharya, Howrah

Sir � The recent report on euthanasia rightly pointed out that at present only 10 per cent of the Indian population might expect to receive health care of any sort. The debate on euthanasia is largely a superfluous one, compared to the issues of health care and education for a majority of India�s citizens. It takes a certain amount of money to be kept alive against one�s will. If switching off a life support machine allows resources to be saved and channelled back into the national health care programmes, then we should welcome it.

Yours faithfully,
Akhilesh Majhi, Calcutta

Parting shot

Sir � Not far from Chennai, on the broad gauge line to Arkonam, lies the small town by the name Thirunindravur, famous for its ancient temple of Lord Shiva. The also houses a shrine dedicated to a saint called Poosalar. According to Tamil sacred lore, Poosalar, a great devotee of Shiva, wanted to build a temple for god. However, lacking the material means, he went about building it brick by brick in his own mind and heart. It so happened that the king of the land also built a temple for Shiva at the same time, some distance away. When the time came for dedicating the temples, Shiva apparently preferred to honour his saintly devotee by his personal presence, rather than the king.

Looking inward rather than outward has been the hallmark of Hinduism. But we are now witnessing the sad spectacle of renewed threats from sadhus trying to build the Ram temple in Ayodhya by the March 12 deadline (�Sadhus sting �ungrateful� BJP on temple�, Feb 10). These religious men should probably be reminded that according to the scriptures, three prerequisites are needed to complete a task successfully: effort, timing and divine help. The sadhus will succeed only in the first, because the timing will never be right.

Yours faithfully,
Kangayam R. Rangaswamy, Durham, US

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