Marks of innocence
Sir — Ramachandra Guha’s “Trade Has No Religion” (Jan 11) was an excellent piece, but merely changing one’s name cannot guarantee one’s safety in an extreme situation. Remember, Suhail Rai in Mr and Mrs Iyer pulled down his pants to save his life' His name doesn’t help. The Jew also knew he could be killed, for though he had a convincing name, he had no foreskin. The Bengali next to him, after announcing his name, proceeded to undress to produce the one irrefutable evidence that would save his life. One’s name, in such situations, has little to do with identity. It is, grotesquely, the appearance of one’s penis that is of prime importance. Now imagine a Hindu youth confronted with a group of Hindu fanatics. He has a very Hindu name but, for some reason, has had himself circumcised. How does he save his life if the killers are not convinced by his name' In India today, everytime someone has his foreskin removed, he runs the gruesome danger of having his head chopped off too.
Mansoor Nazeer, Calcutta
For cardholders only
Sir — L.K. Advani’s proposal of introducing multipurpose identity cards for Indian nationals is a very good idea (“Card Name”, Jan 9). Fifty-five years after independence, India still doesn’t have a strident policy to deal with illegal immigrants. The Congress is largely responsible for this since it did not do anything about the problem when it was in power.
Most illegal immigrants in India are either Pakistani or Bangladeshi. The similarities, in looks and language, helps them to merge with the local populace. The official figures — about 11,500 Pakistanis and 1.5 crore Bangladeshis — may not alarm but add the unofficial numbers and you have something to worry about. These immigrants are a burden on the Indian economy. They not only inflate unemployment statistics but also threaten the nation’s security. Certainly, all of them do not take part in anti-India activities, but a section certainly does — motivated by greed or religious fanaticism. Take Kashmir, where the role of Pakistani infiltrators in the violence cannot be denied. The illegal immigrants from Bangladesh may not be involved in terrorist activities like those from Pakistan, at least for now. But the recent rise of the Inter-Services Intelligence in Bangladesh is quite disturbing for India. A few years ago, the Bharatiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena had tried to force illegal Bangladeshi immigrants to leave Mumbai. But they failed owing to opposition from the Congress and the other so-called secular parties. Let us hope Advani’s initiative does not meet with the same fate.
R.K. Sharma, Kankinara
Sir — L.K. Advani has proposed that foreigners, especially those from Pakistan and Bangladesh, who have overstayed in India in violation of their visas, be located and “thrown out”. This measure, no doubt, is dictated by security considerations. But how are Pakistanis to be deported since India has cut off all road, rail and air links with that country' They could be deported to a third country, but it too may not want to have them. India cannot eat the cake and have it too.
K.R. Rangaswamy, Madison, US
Sir — The presence of so many illegal immigrants in the country is evidence of the inefficiency of our Union and state governments. The recent attacks on Akshardham, the Raghunath temple, Parliament, and so on, show that these unauthorized settlers are helping external terrorists sabotage our country. These illegal immigrants take advantage of our country’s belief in secularism. Besides this, political parties and politicians are more interested in staying in power to care about deporting them. Many a time the political class has helped these settlers by arranging for fake identity cards, passports and other papers for them. One way to bring such people to book is to locate and round up their relatives.
B.S. Ganesh, Bangalore
Sir — It is the former election commissioner, T.N. Seshan, who deserves credit for the idea of an identity card for Indian citizens which prevent illegal immigrants taking advantage of India’s liberal laws. Seshan was criticized then, but states who have been suffering because of the influx of such immigrants are gladly accepting it today. But there remain questions about how fast the system will be implemented. With nine states going to the polls this year, the cards system will need to be implemented fast to avoid future bottlenecks. And may one hope that these multipurpose identity cards will be of better quality than the third-grade electoral identity cards given to citizens earlier.
T.R. Anand, Calcutta
Sir — The dispute over the Himalayan boundary is the reason for tense relations between India and China (“Mind your neighbour’s business”, Dec 25). One solution could be for India to secede Aksai Chin in the west to China, provided the latter disengages from Bara Hoti in the central sector and the Sumdurong Chu-northern Mishmi Hills tract in the eastern sector. This would be difficult, but it could happen if we took the initiative. One advantage of this could be that India could obtain oil and natural gas via a pipeline from Iran and central Asia without the pipeline having to pass through Pakistan.
M.L. Sondhi and Ashok Kapur are also right in fearing that the next Sino-Indian conflict could be over the Indian Ocean. This is exactly what prompted India to set up a modern maritime command centre in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, but we also needs to put in place a treaty with all littoral states. Also, a joint Indo-American fleet strike command, centred at Diego Garcia, would help. The series of combined military exercises conducted by both countries in 2002 could be the precursor of greater cooperation.
But all this could only come about if we have a foreign minister who understands the nuances of modern international relations — which unfortunately we don’t.
Jayanta Kumar Dutt, Calcutta
Figure this out
Sir — Strange indeed are the ways of the income tax department. For an extra salary of just Rs 108, I find I have to pay extra tax of Rs 2,757! In 2002-03, my salary was Rs 150,108. Thus I crossed the Rs 1.5 lakh slab by Rs 108. Which meant standard deduction fell from Rs 30,000 to Rs 25,000 — an extra tax burden of Rs 1,000; and the tax rebate on my savings of Rs 32,517 fell from 20 to 15 per cent — increasing the tax by a further Rs 1,626 . Add 5 per cent surcharge of Rs 131 and the total tax I pay now is Rs 2,757.
Prasenjit Bhakat, Jhargram