No longer such a good idea
Sir — Mamata Banerjee might yet have the last laugh over the Eastern Railway bifurcation fracas (“Missing plaque ammo for Hajipur battle”, Oct 8). First there was the snub the Centre delivered to Nitish Kumar when no cabinet minister attended the formal bifurcation ceremony at Hajipur. Then there was Laloo Prasad Yadav’s very rude dismissal of Kumar’s claim that the Rajdhani Express was the result of sabotage. And now Ram Vilas Paswan’s unwillingness to let Kumar walk away with all the credit for bringing the riches of the railways to the state. Kumar might find Paswan’s claims hard to refute since it was during the latter’s tenure as railways minister that the bifurcation proposal was first mooted — a fact that Paswan intends to make loudly public at a massive rally in Hajipur. Then there is the tussle over the Dhanbad division with neighbouring Jharkhand. At this rate, Kumar might yet rue his own temerity in stirring the hornet’s nest that is Bihar politics.
Rajan Sinha, Jamshedpur
Debar the criminals
Sir — That politics and crime go hand-in-hand is nothing new (“Cabinet push for six-year poll bar on convicts”, Oct 5). But how can a person convicted of murder or rape or even cheating — any crime, that is, that attracts a six year prison term — be allowed to represent the people again' If a trusted household help steals and is sentenced to six or more years in jail, will we allow him to rejoin work after his release' Most likely, we will not allow him anywhere near us. It is all very well to say that everyone deserves a second chance, but how many would act on that principle' So why should the law permit leniency with a legislator' Democracy is being increasingly stretched in our country for the convenience of politicians.
Here are a few suggested amendments to the Representation of People’s Act, if indeed a second chance is to be given to convicted people. If a sitting or past legislator commits a crime, he should be banned from ever taking part in politics or even addressing a political gathering. A person who has been convicted but has never been a legislator, may be given a chance to represent the public, but should be under probation for the first year of his term, and only if he proves capable, should he be allowed to continue. This provision is not for persons who have a long track record of serious criminal activities
In fact, even if legislators are found involved indirectly or are a party to the crime, they should be made to resign from politics and all the perquisites of their position taken away until they come clean. Representing the people requires not only the ability to gather votes but also a sense of responsibility and some wisdom. One way to ensure our representatives have these qualities is to make a basic degree from a recognized university compulsory even before a ticket is given.
N.R. Venkateswaran, Calcutta
Sir — The editorial, “Just conviction” (Oct 7), strikes just the right note of cynicism about our politicians and their lifestyles. When faced with uncomfortable questions on television, our politicians are not ashamed to accept that there are criminals in political parties, but strangely they never do anything to get rid of them. They do not seem to think beyond money and power. And why shouldn’t they' Their future is assured by their children who are groomed to succeed them. Even the few good politicians around cannot be asked to shun their company since the former are needed to regulate them.
Govind Das Dujari, Calcutta
Sir — There is little new in the latest drive to clean up the electoral process. In fact, the existing section 8 of the Representation of People’s Act is better than Sushma Swaraj’s proposed new changes.
Shiv Shanker Almal, Calcutta
Sir — The state electricity regulation commission must be congratulated for its principled stand in taking CESC to the Supreme Court and in winning its case. The apex court is right in saying that CESC must make its plants “economically viable or close them down”.
The court should perhaps also have ordered an independent audit of the company’s accounts. Time and again, CESC has hiked tariffs, citing “operating losses”. And every time, the ruling party in Bengal has agreed to the company’s argument, forgetting that it was elected to power not to protect the interests of a power utility company. Even the West Bengal high court has allowed CESC to raise fares many a time.
If the CESC management feels it is losing money, it should hand over control to others. It should realize that its annual hikes of electricity tariffs for the two million commercial and domestic consumers in and around Calcutta is harmful since low power tariffs will help the economic growth of the state and the nation.
Vandana Agarwal, Calcutta
Sir — CESC has come up with an ingenious ploy to fleece consumers. Meter readings are not taken every month but a bill is presented for the accumulated units of two months. Thus, one is charged according to a higher slab rate (owing to the accrued units of two months), which is unfair. Add to this an ever-changing rate structure and the consumer is left confused and helpless.
Saibal Bose, Calcutta
Sir — Railways buy power from state electricity boards, which source much of their needs from Central power undertakings like the National Thermal Power Corporation. The SEBs charge the railways for power at more than 2-3 times the cost of purchase from Central units. Half of the railways’ fuel bill of Rs 7,000 crore includes electricity charges. If it were to draw power directly from Central undertakings, the railways could save Rs 700 crore a year on its electricity bill. Unfortunately, these simple but important issues do not bother our members of parliament. This will also help reduce the SEBs’ arrears to NTPC and help them manage their tariff structure better and most important, reduce railway freight charges.
C.R. Bhattacharjee, Calcutta