Sir — It is strange that a significant development next door has been overshadowed by the rumblings beyond the Chinese wall. As “Benazir agrees to back cleric as PM” (Nov 6) confirms, Pervez Musharraf might have a tough time ahead with the opposition slowly crystallizing into a united front against him. Both Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif will be fighting the war against him by proxy through Fazlur Rehman, the prime minister designate of the new coalition. Which means there will be a sharper pitch on Kashmir, since that is the only way Musharraf will, and can, fight back.
M. Chatterjee, Calcutta
Food for thought
Sir — The pain of penury is obviously the sole responsibility of the penniless. The Supreme Court ruling, which declares that the state administration will be held responsible for starvation deaths, is pointless (“SC ruling”, Oct 30). The Rajasthan deaths are another episode in a continuing story of poverty. Only the media this time has hit upon some more facts and figures.
Just as in Bihar and Orissa, where the administration denied the cause of death to have been starvation, Ashok Gehlot, the Rajasthan chief minister, has also denied starvation to have caused the deaths in Dang. Therein lies the problem. There is no way one can prove death by starvation if the civil administration decides to put a lid on the matter. Civil surgeons and district commissioners will never certify any death has been caused by hunger. For example, when two children died recently in the Keonjhar district of Orissa, the local administration argued that the mother had been lying when she claimed that the two had starved to death.
This is our democracy, where the executive and the legislature constantly try to evade their liabilities. The Supreme Court ruling will remain good on paper.
Jang Bahadur Singh, Jamshedpur
Sir — There is no doubt that the Rajasthan government is desperately trying to cover up the starvation deaths in the state (“Starvation salvo at govt”, Oct 26). The deaths in Rajasthan were caused by malnutrition over a long period of time. What is the use of boasting about bulging foreign exchange reserves and overflowing food stocks when our countrymen die in such disgraceful manner' If the World Trade Organization rules are proving to be an impediment in the distribution of food stocks, the government should dispense with them.
Govind Das Dujari, Calcutta
Sir — With regard to “Two trains a few metres from collision” (Oct 25), on the incident at Bhaluka Road near Malda, the Northeastern Frontier Railway clarifies that due to some problems in the signalling system, an indication of run-through was conveyed to the driver of 5623 Up Cochin Express. The starter signal and advance starter signal were in the “on” position showing red, hence the driver of 5623 Up applied the brakes and stopped the train which could be controlled after about two coaches had already passed the starter signal.
The driver also got the message asking him to stop, on his walkie-talkie from the station master of Bhaluka Road. Since the train had passed the starter signal in the “on” position, it was pushed back to bring it within the starter signal at 20.54 hours. 3142 Dn Teesta-Torsha Express, which was waiting for despatch from Milangarh, started at 21.00 hours and was received at Bhaluka Road at 21.06 hours on proper signals.
There was never an occasion for these two trains to come on the same line and face each other within a distance of 25 to 30 metres, as reported. 5623 Up was planned to be received on line no. 2 and the route was set correctly and the train was received on line no. 2 itself. 3142 Dn was planned to be received on line no. 1 and was received on the proper line with proper signals.
There were two stop signals between each of the two trains to control them. It was not an “averted collision” as has been reported. It was a case of the driver passing a signal showing “danger”. A team of officials was immediately pressed into service to identify the cause of the misleading indication, which has completed its job and suitable action taken.
Nripen Bhattacharyya, public relations officer, N.F. Railway, Guwahati