Heal the mind
Sir — Pictures of Ali Ismail Abbas and Ahmed Mohammed Hamza, the two Iraqi children undergoing treatment at a London hospital, have been widely circulated (“Ali bears no grudges”, August 12). What the Tony Blair government fails to comprehend is that mental scars, unlike physical wounds, take a longer time to heal. One of the biggest aspects of human conflict is the mental trauma which children have to undergo. The experience of witnessing death, pain and displacement is immensely disturbing. The recent war will affect Iraqi children for years to come. Both the British and the American government should support and sponsor not only the physical but also the psychological rehabilitation of Iraqi children more extensively. This would erase the bitter feelings which these children harbour towards the Western allies. It would also serve as a goodwill gesture and consolidate the fragile ties between the surrogate American leadership in Iraq and the Iraqi population.
Sunil Deb, Calcutta
Sir — Every Indian should agree with the Supreme Court’s observation that government employees and people who render essential services have no fundamental right to go on strike (“SC strikes blow for citizens’ rights”, August 7). A major reason for the abysmal state of our country is rampant trade unionism and the habit of striking work at the drop of a hat. The court is absolutely right in deciding that government employees have no moral and ethical right to organize a strike because the “fundamental right” of an individual or a small section of the people can never be superior to the rights of the entire society. A strike by transport workers can paralyse the normal functioning of an entire city. Indeed, strikes organized by the medical community are clear violations of the Hippocratic oath it undertakes at the beginning of service. The apex court’s judgment will bring positive changes in our lives if it is implemented.
Kunal Saha, Columbus, US
Sir — The “illegality” of strikes is a more pertinent point for public concerns than the private sector. The reasons are simple. In the profit-oriented private sector, organizations can declare a lock-out if they are unable to meet employees’ demands. They also have the option of declaring themselves bankrupt and shutting down. Also, there is the option of other units taking over the functions of a unit which has shut down or has suspended operations for a while. Government organizations, particularly, administrative departments have no such option. If government employees go on strike, there is no other agency or organization to which people can turn to, or which can make up for the non-delivery of services. The government neither runs for profit nor can it declare itself bankrupt. It is strange that in no strike undertaken by government employees has any political party tried to discuss the rights of common citizens vis-à-vis those of the striking employees.
C.B.S. Venkataramana, Hyderabad
Sir — One cannot but praise the manner in which J. Jayalalithaa has rebuffed the overt blackmailing tactics adopted by the striking state employees in Tamil Nadu. Since India achieved independence, the bloated public sector, which boasts of low productivity but high salaries, has been an impediment to the overall development of the country. The apex court’s judgment not only lends credence to the initiative taken by Jayalalithaa, but also ensures that the arm-twisting policies of the trade unions will now become a thing of the past. As is their wont, Marxists will try to defy the judgment. But it is for the respective state governments to tackle the red menace. Under no circumstances should they compromise on public interest.
Tapan Das Gupta, Calcutta
Sir — The apex court of India has taken some path-breaking judgments. Its latest on striking government employees offer some hope at last to the long-suffering law-abiding tax payer.
Sir — The Supreme Court’s decision to remove the legal cover on bandhs has been a rap on the knuckles of our decadent trade union leadership. Instead of reacting to the decision adversely, trade unions should do some serious soul- searching. Some introspection would allow them to play a more fruitful role in society.
L.Y. Rao, Mumbai
Sir — The Supreme Court has rightly pointed out that public interests cannot be sacrificed at the altar of the “fundamental right” to strike being claimed by the public servants. Government employees across the country have the reputation of being an inefficient, corrupt and uncaring lot. Taking job security for granted, these people have held the nation to ransom on numerous occasions in the past. However, I do not expect the mandarins at Alimuddin street to use this opportunity to discipline their recalcitrant employees. They have been solely responsible for introducing the “no-duties-only-rights work culture” which has pushed the state towards economic stagnation. The law, however, will certainly help other progressive states to improve their work culture.
R.B. Easwaran, Chennai
Sir —The motor vehicles tax proposed by the West Bengal government is both disproportionate and irrational. Calcutta’s roads — pot-holed, freely used by more than 15-year old vehicles in contravention of court order, lawless mini-buses, taxis and auto-rickshaws and constantly blocked by endless political allies — do not justify the unusually high tax. Or does the government mean to say that private car owners use a different set of roads that warrant such preposterous taxation' Even recently, the state government failed to raise bus and taxi fares, let alone increase the taxes which had been proposed.
Certain steps can be taken. First, all vehicles which cost within Rs 5 lakh and have 1,400 cc engines, should have a reasonable tax levied at the time of registration which is comparable to that levied in other metropolises. Those who buy second-hand cars should be levied three-fourths of the initial tax. No additional tax should be put on air-conditioning. Second, all vehicles above this category should have a higher tax structure. Third, public carriers should come under a separate tax levy since they are used for commercial purposes. It should be kept in mind that it is the rich who own expensive cars, not the middle classes who spend their life’s savings to buy a car to ferry their children to school or their elderly parents to hospital.
R. Datta, Calcutta