Editorial 1/ Breach of faith
Editorial 2/ Fall back
Voice of Oxfam
New strategies for old problems
Document/ Spoken words and unheard cries
Letters to the Editor

This then must be rajdharma. The range of possible meanings of most of the prime minister’s public pronouncements is usually infinite. But when Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee instructed Mr Narendra Modi on the latter’s ethical imperatives as chief minister of Gujarat, the classical notion of dharma was given another clever turn of the screw. Mr Modi is now perhaps acting out the nuances of that original injunction in slow and steady instalments. The latest move is a shocking reversal of some of the “promises” made about a month ago in the course of Mr Modi’s “dialogue” with a number of minority leaders. Assurances were given regarding the entire process of rehabilitating those who had survived the genocide — building resettlement sites, rebuilding the plundered mosques. But Mr Modi has summarily refused to make the state accountable on any of these counts in his recent address to the Gujarat Minorities Finance Development Corporation. His government will not be paying for the rebuilding of homes and mosques.

The sheer public brazenness of this declaration is breathtaking. But governance in Gujarat seems to have reached the ideal transparency. Every iniquity is openly played out, in the remarkable absence of any misgivings. This apart, Mr Modi’s latest rationale for deciding against state-funded resettlement is also worth noting. He believes that the state should not be promoting ghettoization “any more”. “Riot” victims must therefore return to their original homes. Seeing this volte face as motivated by vote-bank politics is ugly enough. But what this reveals about the state of the art in Gujarat is perhaps even more dismal. It is not just the Vishwa Hindu Parishad which shudders at the thought of state funds being used to rebuild mosques, but the majority in Gujarat can now get away with vetoing the idea of the displaced being resettled in their vicinity. There is apparently no dearth of land. But nobody wants to undo the achievements of the last couple of months. And on the part of the displaced, the terror must be quite insurmountable. Politically, Mr Modi’s turnaround has also led to divisions and conflict between the minority leaders as well. One of them has placed before his community a vision of breaches healed, in which neighbours who were once unspeakably violent would now actually come to “take them back”. Mr Modi’s law and order brigade has already started the chargesheet ball rolling. But here too the same principle of transparency is making it difficult for his security adviser to ignore the blatant lies in both the Gulbarg Society and the Naroda Patia chargesheets. There is no need for rebuilding and resettling in the state, for Gujarat has already been most heroically rebuilt and resettled.


There is a mild irony in the fact that the first small controversy in the new Uttar Pradesh government should crop up over reservations. The Bharatiya Janata Party is eager to prove its credentials as the born-again backwards champion. But it would seem that the new chief minister, Ms Mayavati, whose Bahujan Samaj Party once made it into history on the backwards vote alone, is throwing a spanner in the BJP’s works. The former chief minister, Mr Rajnath Singh, had proposed reservations for more backward classes and Dalits. Ms Mayavati had stepped into his shoes with the promise that the BSP would uphold his policies. There should not have been any problem in this case. Mr Rajnath Singh had been trying to project a “different” face of the BJP before the assembly elections, knowing that he had to beat the Samajwadi Party and the BSP in the backwards vote bank. The policy should have suited Ms Mayavati. But since the Supreme Court had stayed the proposal, the new chief minister decided to go ahead with the reservations quota without her predecessor’s amendment. Else, she felt, the Dalits and backwards eligible for reservations would continue to be deprived too.

The logic was perfect, the glitch lay in the manner of announcing it. Ms Mayavati evidently gave the impression that certain high-powered BJP ministers, including Mr Lalji Tandon and Mr Om Prakash Singh, had suggested or at least supported her decision. In her clarification, however, she blamed the media for distortion of emphasis. But there are too many big men in the UP unit of the BJP for this to pass without ripples. Mr Kalraj Mishra, the state BJP president, has resigned, although not ostensibly for this reason. He has merely suggested that certain BJP leaders have put political ambitions before the party’s interests. His grouse refers back to the division in the party over joining the BSP in coalition. Mr Mishra’s declared reason for resigning is his feeling of responsibility for the BJP’s failure in the assembly elections. What Ms Mayavati has succeeded in doing within a month of her tenure is to introduce, perhaps innocently, a stirring of restlessness and suspicion among the BJP ranks. The new chief minister is on a roll. The BSP has done very well for itself in the byelections. Its most important victory is in the Baheri assembly seat, which it took away from the Samajwadi Party. For Ms Mayavati, this is convincing proof of the Samajwadi Party’s folly in asserting that she had lost the support of the Muslim vote bank by going into partnership with the BJP. Her rivals are all in slight disarray. Even the Congress, although far behind electorally, is fidgety, with its state president going Mr Mishra’s way. It is a good time for Ms Mayavati to consolidate her power.


The world famous nongovernmental organization, Oxfam, reputed for its successful efforts on behalf of the poor and the deprived, has come out with a frank report detailing the ways in which the developed world violates the very principles of fair and free trade which it preaches to others. Oxfam’s honorary president is the well-known Nobel laureate economist, Amartya Kumar Sen, who has contributed an eloquent foreword to the report.

In Oxfam’s view, trade is a better engine of poverty reduction than foreign aid. If the share of developing countries in world exports is increased just by 5 per cent, it would have generated an additional income of $ 350 billion — compared with the annual aid of only $ 50 billion which the developing countries receive today. A global spread of extreme poverty and deprivation in countries outside of the charmed circle will definitely lead to explosive social and political consequences. This should itself be a compelling reason for supporting Oxfam’s plea for fairer trade practices.

The main object of the report is to promote a discussion on the kind of institutional architecture that may best serve the interests of the poor and the deprived of the world. Its basic objective is to combine the great benefits of trade with the overarching need for fairness and equity, admittedly a legitimate concern of the anti-globalization protesters.

In Sen’s words, “global interaction on trade offers a basis for economic progress in the world. Trade, along with migration, communication and dissemination of technology has helped to break the dominance of rampant poverty and prevalence of deprivation that characterizes the world.” While it is true that rising tides lift all boats, some boats rise more than others. The benefits of trade have accrued to some nations much more than the others and many of the poor have been left behind. The Oxfam report believes that “what is needed is to create conditions for a fuller and fairer sharing of the enormous benefits of trade”.

The recent behaviour of the leading developed countries, particularly the United States of America, does not, however, lend support for much hope in this regard. American tariff action imposed on import of steel gives the lie to its proclaimed policy of free trade. Where its own interests are concerned, the US proceeds to act in direct contradiction to its World Trade Organization commitments. Recently, the US federal government has introduced a new legislation providing additional subsidies or support payments to commodity producers — payments which will be increased in proportion to the fall in commodity prices. The impact of these subsidies on world commodity prices can well be imagined, considering the size of US production in relation to the global total.

The developed world’s subsidies for agricultural products alone amount to nearly $365 billion a year. They generate and encourage over-production. Resultant surpluses are dumped on the world market with the help of yet more export subsidies. Both the US and the European Union are guilty of exporting agricultural commodities at prices far lower than their own cost of production.

Oxfam highlights the consequences of this scenario, which leads to continuing low and unstable commodity prices. To avert the resulting misery of countries, which are primarily commodity producers, Oxfam has an interesting suggestion. It is to create a new institution, which has financial mechanisms designed to bring supply back into balance with demand at reasonable price levels. While the suggestion is well-intentioned, one hopes that as in the case of our own Food Corporation of India, it does not get captured by bureaucratic procedures and producer interest and lead to further problems of over-production.

The Oxfam report introduces an interesting index for “double standards” adopted by developed countries. Reduced to essentials, this index compares the level of protection of trade employed by the richest and the most powerful trading nations against exports from developing countries. The double-standards index separ-ately takes into account certain indicators.

These include the percentage share of imports from developing countries subject to a tariff of over 15 per cent, the level of farm-producers’ support estimated as a percentage of farm income, the percentage of already restrained imports liberalized by 2002 compared to accepted targets, and the number of anti-dumping investigations instituted against developing countries for the period 1995-2000. The European Union ranks high in this double-standards index due to its peak tariff of 252 per cent, farm-producers’ support of 40 per cent and only 24 per cent of already restrained imports liberalized by 2002.

The US ranks second in the double-standard race with an average tariff rate of 20 per cent, the tariff peak of 121 per cent, producers’ support for farm product of 23 per cent and only 23 per cent of restrained imports liberalized.

Japan is comparatively more liberal and ranks lower in adaptation of double standards, albeit having a tariff wall of 170 per cent on cane sugar and a producers’ support of farm products at 63 per cent. The double-standards index brings out graphically how far rich countries have defaulted in respect of their fair trade commitments to the poorer half of the world.

One may fault Oxfam for believing that public opinion in the developed countries can be influenced to bring about a change in their policies regarding trade. It is true that in this regard Oxfam draws comfort from the successful experience of the recent global campaign for debt relief for highly indebted poor countries, which successfully brought together various public personalities, including film artistes and pop-musicians and led to a decision by developed countries to forgive some of the debt of highly indebted poor countries. It is to be hoped that Oxfam’s belief in the educability of the trade policy-makers in developed countries and further success of efforts to sensitize them turns out to be justified.

Oxfam brings out telling statistics to highlight the wide gap that continues to prevail between rich and poor countries. In the midst of rising wealth generated by world trade, there are still 1.1 billion people surviving on less than $1 per day. The number has not decreased since the Eighties, when liberalization started. In fact, inequalities have widened. Oxfam cites the fact that high income countries with only 14 per cent of the world’s population account for 75 per cent of the world gross domestic product, the same share as in 1980.

This calls for a drastic stepping up of trade liberalization in rich countries. Unfortunately, reform programmes supported by the International Monetary Fund-World Bank had led to many of the poorer countries having to liberalize faster as part of the loan conditions. As a result, poor countries have been opening up their economies more rapidly than the rich. The Oxfam report recommends that the IMF-World Bank programme should not hereafter impose further such loan conditions requiring trade liberalization and that rich countries should reciprocate by faster liberalization that has been already undertaken by developing countries. This recommendation of Oxfam seems to be unrealistic considering the Bretton Woods institutions’ addiction to the Washington Consensus.

The Oxfam report is noteworthy for its emphasis on the role of transnational companies in enforcing fairer labour standards without which foreign direct investment may itself lead to worsening disparities. The International Labour Organization’s capacity to monitor and enforce labour standards should be strengthened.

In particular, Oxfam emphasizes the need to revise the developed countries’ attitude to trade on textiles. As it is, the developed countries have slowed down their liberalization of trade on textiles, contrary to their earlier promise. Having pledged to phase out the multi-fibre agreement, which restricts import of textiles and garments, developed countries have liberalized in fewer than one-quarter of their products for which they had agreed to open their markets.

In particular, the Oxfam report includes special recommendations with regard to employment. It contends that governments should enact and enforce a national employment law consistent with the poor standards of ILO. The ILO’s capacity to monitor and enforce poor labour standards should be strengthened.

The Oxfam report devotes considerable space to the adverse implications of the intellectual property rights segment of the WTO, in particular to the high cost of medicine. It is necessary to plug the loopholes in this arrangement if we are to prevent a further degradation in the health conditions of the poor and the ailing in the poorer countries.

In Oxfam’s view, the WTO, which is one of the youngest international institutions, “has grown old before its time”. This is because, in Oxfam’s view, the membership-driven organization is under a governance system based on a dictatorship of wealth and not of entitlements. Informal power relations in the governing structure reinforce inequalities in negotiating capacity at the WTO.

One hopes against hope that the clarion call for world trade reform issued by the Oxfam report will be heeded by policy-makers at the multilateral level as well as in the developed countries. While Oxfam has argued rightly that retreat into isolationism would be counter-productive, it emphasizes the need for a new world trade order, grounded in new approaches to rights and responsibilities and in a commitment to make liberalization for the poor. One hopes that the voice of Oxfam will be heard and that India in its interventions in the WTO will use these arguments to fight for a fairer trade regime.

The author is former governor, the Reserve Bank of India    

Every action that India takes in the coming days and weeks should be addressed to its effect on the entire political spectrum both at home and abroad. We disapprove of any misuse of the prescriptology for expression of aggressive attitudes and urges. We are clear and unambiguous in refusing to divert the political and moral resources of our society towards making India another “rogue state”, or to undermine the foundations of “democratic peace”. We do not glorify war, and we regard it as axiomatic that the designers of Indian foreign and defence policies have to work for establishing peace and a just world order. The thesis developed in this article is that Pakistan can be turned around by an optimum combination of force and diplomacy.

India’s relationship with the Pakistan army and the Inter-Services Intelligence is at a turning point. India has specific aims in dealing with Pakistan’s continued support of insurgency after Pervez Musharraf’s January 12 speech, where he promised to rein in Pakistan-sponsored insurgency vis-à-vis India, and it will take skilled use of military pressure as well as diplomacy to turn Musharraf and company around in their thinking and behaviour. India’s aim is not to destroy Pakistan or to acquire its territory, nor to conquer it and to bring 100 million unhappy Pakistanis under Indian domination. The aim is specific — to hold Musharraf to his promise to clamp down on terrorists in Kashmir and in other parts of India.

If Musharraf is unwilling or unable to manage his militants, mullahs and the ISI handlers of the militants, then India may have to complete the job for him, and with the United States of America’s help clean out the neighbourhood of al Qaida network as well. The purpose is morally and strategically justified although the military challenge is a big one. The situation is both high risk and high impact in the sense that the costs to India of inaction now are greater than the costs of a strategy of controlled escalation against Pakistan. Musharraf is now displaying the characteristics of Yasser Arafat. Like Arafat, Musharraf has not kept his promise to clamp down on terrorism. In both cases, the Bush administration has publicly expressed its disappointment with the two leaders. Like the Palestinian Authority, Musharraf’s Pakistan too needs serious internal reforms, accountability, and transparency regarding the work of the secret services. So the choice is stark. Will Musharraf stop grandstanding and check terrorism or will outside forces have to act to clean Pakistan of the terrorist elements? It is unclear if Musharraf is reading the international signals clearly or if the issue will need to be taken to the battlefield.

What is the nature of the problem and the nature and the interests of the players in the current Indo-Pakistan situation ? These must be clearly understood so that India’s military and diplomatic strategy has a precise focus and there is both skilled use as well as skilled non-use of coercive diplomacy to turn Pakistan around to the path of peaceful change. In all there are five players who are involved. The thinking and policy of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the Indian government is the easiest to understand. The emerging Indian view at the level of both state and society is that Pakistanis do not have to like Indians or even have friendly relations, but cross-border terrorism must end so that elections in Kashmir can be conducted peacefully and the killing of innocent civilians is stopped. Although Vajpayee and his government have been under intense internal pressure to fight Pakistan militarily, they have resisted the pressure so far. But there is a sea change in Indian public opinion which now says “enough is enough”. Now there is a consensus in Indian party politics as well as in the thinking of the armed forces about the need to put a stop to terrorism. This is why Vajpayee has not declared war on Pakistan but will not withdraw Indian forces from Pakistan’s borders; and has increased the pressure by the deployment of naval forces off Karachi.

Musharraf and his military colleagues form the second group of key players. Musharraf can manage the top generals of the army and the ISI machinery, but he lacks links with the ISI rank and file and with the local ISI commanders who have the ability to sneak in militants into Kashmir and other parts of India. Note that the ISI handlers of the militants have links with the terror networks which extend from al Qaida in the Pakistan-Afghanistan sector to Kashmir but Musharraf and his colleagues do not. For instance, Musharraf did not authorize the December 13 attack on Parliament. The ISI-managed terror network neither wants an Indo-Pakistan deal, nor does it want the US-Pakistan militaries to neutralize the al Qaida network in the North West Frontier Province. This network has repeatedly escalated militancy in Kashmir and in India when there is a senior US official visiting the region, when Kashmir elections are announced, and when India-Pakistan diplomatic deals are under consideration. The militants do not want elections in Kashmir because they are not willing to take the test at the ballot box. (The Islamic parties are also not successful in winning elections in Pakistan). The rhetoric about free elections in Kashmir coming from the Pakistan army and the militants is ironic because Pakistan’s military regime has made nonsense of democracy in Pakistan and the militants have a vested interest in continuing with militancy.

China is the third major player. It has injected itself into Pakistani military thinking and diplomacy because its links with Pakistan give it a leverage with India, or so Beijing thinks. Recently, China inserted itself in the Indo-Pak confrontation by offering support to Pakistan. This could mean a vague promise as in the case of the 1965 and the 1971 wars, or it could be a promise of more arms supplies, or an offer of military action in the Himalayas, or there could be a Chinese nuclear guarantee to Pakistan. A Chinese nuclear guarantee would be an interesting gesture because it could imply that Pakistan cannot be expected to fight with its nuclear arsenal despite its publicized missile tests. It could also be an empty gesture because India’s no-first-strike policy would rule out Indian initiation of a nuclear exchange. China has a spoiler’s role. It is not in its interest to have a bilateral Indo-Pakistan deal (which would minimize its leverage vis-à-vis India through Pakistan). Continued militancy in Kashmir also suits China because it keeps India off balance.

The fourth player, the US, is now seriously engaged in the region because the issue of nuclear war attracts its attention, and because there is a convergence in American and Indian thinking that Musharraf is not serious either about weeding out al Qaida or about checking Kashmiri terrorism. Now that al Qaida operatives are active in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, there is a stronger convergence of interest between the US and India to deal with the problem collectively rather than to treat them as two separate military theatres. America is now helping manage the Indo-Pak confrontation by staying engaged, by urging both sides to avoid war, by publicly recognizing the Indian case against Pakistan-sponsored terrorism, by strengthening Indian military capacity through a supply of modern equipment.

The US wants a negotiated Indo-Pak settlement which neither the ISI, nor the militants nor China, want. The role of the United Kingdom is somewhat ambivalent on the Kashmir issue. British sympathies are with their Pakistani and Kashmiri constituents, who contribute handsomely to the Labour Party, and historically, UK has shown dedication to the two-nation theory. But to maintain its special position with the US, it is also opposed to international terrorism. British foreign secretary, Jack Straw, was assertive in his opposition to terrorism in Kashmir and recognizes that Pakistan must do much more to end it.

Finally, Kofi Annan is the fifth player. He recites the old mantra about restraint but he is as irrelevant to the present situation as the United Nations military observers are to the line of control. The situation in the subcontinent has three centres of gravity. The first one is the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, which harbours the al Qaida network. This is a point of friction between American and al Qaida forces, and between America and Musharraf, whose cooperation is less than complete.

The second centre of gravity is Kashmir, where the friction is between Indian and Pakistani forces as well as between American and Pakistani diplomacy. Here, the US has tilted towards India and there is a clear understanding of Indian compulsions and aims. These two centres have now come together because of the penetration of al Qaida agents into Kashmir and because the Pakistan government harbours them in PoK.

The third centre of gravity is within the Pakistani power structure and the decision-making loop. This concerns the faultline between Musharraf and his colleagues on the one hand (who claim to oppose terrorism) and the ISI handlers of the militants and the Islamic groups and their supporters in the junior ranks of the Pakistan army (who promote terrorism and Kashmiri liberation).

India and the US now need to manage all three centres of gravity through concerted military and diplomatic communications. India also has other options. A naval blockade of Karachi could injure Pakistan’s economy and it is doubtful if China can supply Pakistan with the goods it needs. (China could not do this with Nepal when India banned trade with Nepal). But unless the Pakistani military and intelligence machinery recognizes that the costs of supporting terrorism outweigh the costs of ending it, a change in the three centres of gravity is not possible. The central aim of Indian military and diplomatic strategy or Indian coercive diplomacy now is to significantly alter the matrix of Pakistani calculations so that they favour internal development and internal reforms within Pakistan which is in the country’s best long term interest.

M.L. Sondhi is co-chairperson, Centre for the Study of National Security, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Ashok Kapur is chairman, department of political science, University of Waterloo, Canada


The fact-finding team found compelling evidence of the most extreme form of sexual violence against women during the first few days of the carnage — in Ahmedabad on February 28 and March 1 and in rural areas upto March 3, 2002. The testimonies point to brutal and depraved forms of violence. The violence against minorities was pre-planned, organized and targetted. In every instance of large-scale mob violence against the community in general, there was a regular pattern of violence against women. Given that the data on crimes against women has not been systematically collected, it is impossible to ascertain the extent of the outrage. We believe, however, that crimes against women have been grossly under-reported. For instance, in Panchmahals district, only one rape FIR has been filed, though we heard of many other cases. There has been a complete invisibilization of the issue of sexual violence in the media.

The situation is compounded by the apathy of law-enforcement agencies and the indifference of political representatives. In our interview with Maya Kodnani, the Bharatiya Janata Party member of legislative assembly from Naroda Patia, from where several brutal gangrapes and rapes of minor girls have been reported, we found that she was indifferent, complacent and even bemused. When questioned about the reported rapes, she said, “Achha, kya ye sach hai? (Is this true?) [One policeman mentioned this to me but he had not seen anything.] She had not taken the trouble to investigate further, and clearly indicated no intent to do so.

Given the gravity of the situation, it is incomprehensible that until the writing of this report the national commission for women, mandated as the apex body for the protection of women’s rights guaranteed under the Constitution, had not visited the state. This indicates a complete institutional breakdown as far as issues such as violence against women are concerned. As the district collector of Panchmahals clearly told us, “Maintaining law and order is my primary concern. It is not possible for me to look into cases of sexual violence. If something is brought to my notice…I can take action, but nothing more than that. NGOs should take on this job. I would welcome their involvement.”

During our visit to the camps, we were besieged with detailed testimonies from rape victims and from eyewitnesses — both activists and family members who witnessed the crime. For instance, in the short time we spent at Halol camp (Panchmahals district) we were able to get information about four incidents of rape. The fact-finding team also saw video footage where women spoke of witnessing rapes...

Sexual violence and the media:

In many ways women have been the central characters in the Gujarat carnage, and their bodies the battleground. The Gujarati vernacular press has been the agent provocateur. The story starts with Godhra, where out of the 58 Hindus burnt, 26 were women and 14 children. But to really arouse the passions of the Hindu mob, death is not enough. Far worse than death is the rape of Hindu women — for it is in and on the bodies of these women that the izzat (honour) of the community is vested. So on February 28, Sandesh, a leading Gujarati daily, in addition to reporting the Godhra tragedy in provocative language, also ran a story on page 1 saying, “Ten to 15 Hindu women were dragged away by a fanatic mob from the railway compartment”.

The same story was repeated on page 16 with the heading, “Mob dragged away 8-10 women into the slums”. The story was entirely false. The police denied the incident, and other newspapers, including the Times of India could not find confirmation of this news. A day later, on March 1, 2002, Sandesh carried a follow-up to this false story on page 16 with the heading — “Out of kidnapped young ladies from Sabarmati Express, dead bodies of two women recovered — breasts of women were cut off”. Violation of Hindu honour was now compounded by extreme sexual violence and bestiality. Both the abduction and the cutting of breasts were lies — totally baseless stories, which were denied by the police.

The fact-finding team was told that later Sandesh did publish a small retraction, buried in some corner of its pages. But the damage had been done. The murder and rape of Hindu women, emblazoned in banner headlines across the vernacular press became the excuse, the emotional rallying point, the justification for brutalizing Muslim women and children in ways not ever seen in earlier communal carnages. Unhonne hamari auraton aur bachchon par hamla kiya hai. Badla to lena tha (They have attacked our women and children, we had to take revenge) — goes the sentiment of the angry Hindu. The newspaper literally became a weapon of war. According to a series of eyewitness accounts from Naroda Patia, the mobs who attacked Muslim shops, homes and brutalized Muslim women and children were brandishing in their hands not only swords and stones, but copies of the Sandesh with the Godhra attack as the banner headline, shouting “Khoon ka badla khoon” (blood for blood).

To be concluded



Time to change the guards

Guards of dishonour Sir — Just when the rest of the world was heaving a sigh of relief after months of intense crisis in west Asia, the suicide car bombing by the Palestinians and the subsequent Israeli retaliation have got alarm bells ringing once again (“Arafat defiant after Israel reprisal attack”, June 6). That the Palestinians have of late almost always launched the first strikes against Israel strengthens the belief that they are fast losing their patience. The failure of Yasser Arafat to check the violence and the increasing aggression of Shimon Peres reveals that a peaceful dialogue mediated by a third party is no longer a viable option. In all probability, a change in the leadership on both sides could prove more effective in bringing the situation under control. Arafat and Peres are leaving their people with no other alternative but to reach out for each others’ throats. A constructive intervention from the United States of America would benefit suffering civilians who are mere pawns in the hands of ruthless leaders like Arafat and Peres.
Yours faithfully,
Arti Sharma, Calcutta

Crude crisis

Sir — The recent hike in petroleum prices is most unreasonable as it puts severe pressure on the common man who is already reeling under the effects of various policies introduced by the National Democratic Alliance government, such as the drastic reduction of interest rates on bank and post office deposits (“Petroleum prices up”, June 4).

This considerable rise in petroleum prices will percolate down to affect the prices of all essential products and push up the cost of living. It will also result in tension between different political parties and trade unions of the country who will demand a raise in salary and transport charges. The government, in the latter case, may give in since a prolonged agitation in the transport sector will spell doom for the economy. But once prices go up, they never come down. Even when there is a reduction in crude prices in the international market, the government does not bother to reduce the price of petroleum products in the domestic market.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s “party with a difference” has brought untold misery to senior citizens and the salaried class. One hopes that wise counsel prevails and the Bharatiya Janata Party pays more attention to good governance.

Yours faithfully,
B.S. Ganesh, Bangalore

Sir — It is shocking to learn that oil companies have decided to cut short supply of petrol and diesel to petrol pumps just when the price of these commodities had gone up (“Price hike debut in dry pumps”, June 4). No tankers apparently moved into petrol pumps from June 1 to June 3. The Central government undertaking companies waited for the new price to be introduced before supplying even a drop of oil to the pumping stations. The companies thus benefited by millions of rupees at the cost of our inconvenience. The supplies, as argued by the companies, were held up to prevent hoarding by dealers. But the government action could serve as inspiration to blackmarketeers.

Yours faithfully,
Sabyasachi Chatterjee, Calcutta

Sir — The hike in the prices of petroleum products will bring with it a plethora of woes ranging from fare hikes to bandhs in protest, all resulting in the disruption of public life. The government should concentrate on creating awareness on how to save fuel and energy or on educating people on ways of reducing pollution. This way we could reduce our expenses on petroleum products and in the long run help lower the associated costs. Is anybody listening?

Yours faithfully,
Asheem Kapoor, Calcutta

Winner takes all

Sir — The Indian cricket team at last has something to celebrate, having won the one-day international series against the West Indies (“Something to take home”, June 4). Owing to the football world cup fever, the Indian success went relatively unnoticed. Nevertheless, the Indians managed to put up a tremendous show. Today, test matches seem have become irrelevant with one-dayers fitting the fast paced lifestyle of the present generation. Much like cricket, the games of table tennis and badminton too have undergone change to keep up with the times. However, it should be kept in mind that despite their popularity, one-dayers are like popular commercial cinema, whereas test matches are like art movies that can be appreciated only by a select audience.
Yours faithfully,
A.K. Ghosh, Ranchi

Sir — India’s tour of the West Indies came to an end with its victory in the final and decisive one-day match. The series win in the one-dayers must have been a consolation for losing the test series. This tour has had its moments of glory and disappointments. But overall, India can be said to have performed well. The most satisfying performance has been that of the Indian skipper, Sourav Ganguly. The captain seems to have come of age both as the skipper and as a player. He has instilled a sense of aggression among Indian players. In this series he led from the front. He maintained his cool even in crunch situations and played responsibly. If the Indian team puts up a similar performance in England, Ganguly can fulfil his dream of bringing India its overseas victory after more than a decade.

Yours faithfully,
Anuj Roy, Calcutta

Sir — The one-day international series victory over West Indies cannot be regarded as a consolation for India. Everyone is full of praise for Sachin Tendulkar, who played with an injured shoulder. Tendulkar’s performance has been commendable and he is undoubtedly one of the greatest batsman of our times. But it is Sourav Ganguly who should have got the credit for his mature captaincy. The test match series should be forgotten at the earliest. Indians did not play to their full potential and the result was but obvious.

Yours faithfully,
Sumant Poddar, Calcutta

Off the track

Sir — The Howrah-Rampurhat intercity express does not stop at Suri, an important station and the headquarter of the district of Birbhum. It thus deprives the people of the region of the benefits of a direct linkage with Calcutta. The railway authorities should change the route of this train so that it can connect the steel city of Durgapur, the town of Panagarh, the railway township of Andal, Bakreshwar and Suri to Rampurhat via the commercially important town of Sainthia. This will put an end to the long-standing grievances of commuters in the region.
Yours faithfully,
J.N. Mishra, Suri

Sir — We are students of the Howrah Zilla school and most of us travel by the EMU train service between Uluberia and Howrah. For a long time we have been facing a lot of difficulty while travelling back home since we cannot avail the service of the M-45 Up Howrah-Mecheda local. Although one can board the K-131 Up Howrah-Kharagpur local after a 30-minute wait, overcrowded compartments almost suffocate passengers. Besides, this particular train stops at few stations, which adds to the woes of daily commuters. Long hours of travelling curtail the time available for study. The Southeastern Railways should introduce an extra EMU train service for students so that travelling become a less arduous task for us.

Yours faithfully,
Priyabrata Shit, Howrah

Sir — To improve upon the chaotic situation at the Howrah station, the railway authorities should adopt measures similar to those adopted by the Indian Airlines. First, the permissive weight of luggage per passenger should be specified on the ticket itself and prohibitive penal charges be levied for excess weight.

Second, excess baggage should be dumped in the luggage van. Weighing scales should be set up on the platform and luggage weighed should have an “OK” tag fixed on them. This will deter people from carrying excess weight and compel them to report early for the journey. This experiment can be tried out initially with airconditioned coaches, where people pay through their noses for some comfort.

Moreover, other than the passengers no one else should be allowed to board the coaches at the station, except in the case of handicapped and senior citizens. These steps will spruce up the overall ambience and can even generate additional revenue. The moot question is, can the authorities be brave enough to mount such an operation?

Yours faithfully,
Anand K. Jhunjhunwala, Calcutta

Sir —Travellers at the Howrah station face innumerable difficulties among which water scarcity is one. Taps installed at various platforms in the station are either defective or the source of water is not pure. Most of the defective taps splash water, which leaves the commuter drenched and as thirsty as before. The authorities should take prompt action and replace the defective taps.

Yours faithfully,
Sumit Kumar Das, Calcutta

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