Rot in the system
Sir — The transfer-for-cash scandal involving two bureaucrats, Anurag Vardhan and R.Perumalswamy, and a minister, Gingee Ramachandran has merely added to the list of scandals in India (“Minister quits in transfer-for-cash scandal”, May 24). The novelty of this particular case is that it has shown another way in which money can be made in high places. Also that with the unfolding of each scandal, the number of beneficiaries are increasing. That people make use of their power to earn some extra bucks is an old story now. Only the modus operandi and the amount of money involved in each unfolding scandal are new. In the Vardhan case, the sleuths alleged that the 4 lakh rupees recovered from R. Perumalswamy, Ramachandran’s personal assistant, was only the first instalment. It is more than obvious that it must be the loopholes in the administrative system which are helping the seeds of corruption to germinate into giant trees.
Sriya Choudhury, Calcutta
Sir — By mid July all pay-channel viewers in India will have to install set-top-boxes to view their favourite channels. The conditional access system which will come into effect in a couple of months will change the satellite television scene in the country. The viewers will have to buy the set-top boxes costing between Rs 3,000 and Rs 7,000 and also pay a specified sum for each of the pay channels, or for a “bouquet”. The government has got the CAS bill passed in Parliament, with an aim to check the large-scale evasion of payment to the channel-owners by the local cable service operators.
The principle of the bill is indeed laudable. But the concept of bouquets is nothing but a way of trapping viewers, because in paying for a bouquet, the viewer almost always has to pay for channels he wants and those he does not. Why should the viewers be conned in this way' Why should an elderly couple have to opt and pay for a cartoon channel meant for children' This definitely goes against the principle of free trade. The CAS bill has enough loopholes to give rise to such a situation. Taking these problems into account, the government must take immediate steps to dismantle the so-called bouquets and ask the channels to sell the flowers separately. The rates of individual channels can also be fixed accordingly. The interests of the viewers should be more important than those of the channel-owners.
Govind Das Dujari, Calcutta
Sir — While the future is looking bleak for cable-channels viewers in the country with the passing of the CAS bill, we have an interesting development taking place in the field of what was considered to be a dead medium — the radio. In Delhi, and in the others metros, more and more FM channels are being introduced and these have already replaced the medium-wave as the preferred band. Apart from the two earlier FM channels we now have as many as five or six which are vying for the listeners’ attention. There are now ample opportunities for entertainment. With the favourites of the past being revived, the FM is definitely making a revolutionary comeback.
Udita Agrawal, Delhi
Sir — I have two television sets in my house. Does that mean that I need to buy two such boxes costing nearly Rs 10,000' The fact that we have become completely addicted to the television is being used by the government and the channel-owners to take the viewers for a ride. Set-top boxes not only entail an initial cost but also a recurring expenditure, which will increase with time. Viewers should strictly abstain from buying these set-top boxes and protest against the CAS.
Dilip Kumar Basu, Calcutta
Sir — A form is being circulated by our local cable operator, Orbit Vision, demanding money for set-top boxes. The form states “I will pay the necessary amount for the same as and when required by you.” Taking such authority from the customers is illegal. The incident has been reported to the Shyampukur police station, but no action has been taken so far. The operator also threatens subscribers with disconnecting their cable connection and forfeiting the deposited amount if the blank demand is not signed. This kind of illegal action should be taken care of immediately.
Ranjan Ganguly, Calcutta
Sir — Transacting with British Airways, one of the most popular airlines operating in Calcutta, is a nightmare for travel agencies which do the ticketing on behalf of the airlines. Often, the airlines office in the city does not give correct and timely information. The perpetually busy telephone lines add to the problem. And the airlines office staff have adopted an easy way out. They ask for a requisition to be faxed to them even if it is for petty queries. This is too much for the smaller agencies.
Also, where offices worldwide are working overtime in the face of a recession, the Calcutta office works from 9 am till 4 pm, with a two-hour lunch break. This maybe an in-house policy, but an agent needs to work at least till 6 pm as most of the corporate bookings are made quite late. Sometimes the travel agents are debited for travel taxes in the UK. But if the same passenger had obtained the tickets from BA itself, the airlines would have had to bear the expense. The agents could serve their clients better with a little more cooperation from the airline.
Dibyendu Ghosh, Calcutta