Sir — Mark Baird, author of India — Sustaining Reform and Reducing Poverty, must have worked hard on his research into the Indian civil services. But he does not say anything that Indians everywhere always knew (“Few brains, too many hands in babudom”, Sept 16). His observation that the Indian bureaucracy is not “particularly overstaffed” in comparison to other countries will hardly help solve the awful mess that the Centre’s financial status and services delivery systems are in. In pointing out that it is not size alone, but composition and cost that are the real problem, Baird overlooks the fact that our civil services attract some of the best brains in the country. Most of our bureaucrats are more than qualified for the job they do; only, they are content being the puppet in the hands of politicians. One wonders why the World Bank continues to spend its resources in offering constructive suggestions to the Indian government when it well knows that the latter views them with disdain and refuses to change its ways.
Debashish Bose, Calcutta
Sir — The cabinet has once again agreed to a four per cent hike in dearness allowance for Central government employees and dearness relief for pensioners, with effect from July (“Cabinet nod to DA hike plan”, Sept 3). Apparently, this will set back the national exchequer by Rs 973 crore. So why take such a step now, when our fiscal deficit is still quite high'
The prices of oil products have also gone up sharply in the recent past. This has resulted in a sharp rise in the prices of food items and other essential commodities, because of the hike in transportation costs. Unfortunately, barring the few lakh Central government employees who earn lucrative salaries, all others will have a hard time coping with the increased prices. The DA and DR hike has been announced at a time when both the public and private sectors are going through massive retrenchments. No doubt, state government employees will now pressurize the states to announce a similar hike. If the West Bengal government is any indication, the state governments will be only too willing to succumb to such pressures even if they do not have the funds to provide healthcare, education and other basic public services.
Government employees are already a very privileged class, with decent salaries, security in their retired life and numerous perks. Thus the Centre’s only object in raising the DA at this point of time is to appease the employees, with an eye on the imminent elections.
Tamal Basu, Kodalia, Hooghly
Sir — The new contributory scheme cleared by the Union cabinet for Central government employees is an ominous development (“Staff to part-fund new pension plan”, August 24). The government has tried to portray it as a harmless proposal whereby the employees and the government each contribute 10 per cent of the monthly salary and dearness allowance into a pension fund. There will also be a pension regulator to see that the funds are properly channeled. But the news that a part of this pension fund will be invested in the stock markets does not come as a relief to poor employees. After the Unit Trust of India scandal, which happened right under the nose of the securities and exchange board of India, this aspect of the new scheme can only be viewed with suspicion.
Phani Bhushan Saha, Calcutta
Sir — The Indian government’s new pension scheme for Central government employees has the avowed intention of checking a ballooning pension bill. Apparently, this new scheme will have a Central record-keeping and accounting infrastructure. Besides, several posts of pension fund managers will be created, who will be monitored by a pension regulator. This is an expensive exercise and it will not be surprising if the government finds that it is not saving whatever little it had hoped to. In this context, the government should also reconsider the rationality of raising the salaries of Central government employees by leaps and bounds.
A. Majumder, Calcutta
Courage under fire
Sir — Intriguing as the headline, “I am not a victim” (August 31), was, Susama Agarwala’s testimony was unexpectedly disappointing. Agarwala apparently thinks that the fact of her rape was not as important as the issues associated with the incident and she seems to have found numerous sympathizers among the readers of The Telegraph too (“Braveheart”, Sept 4). For Agarwala, her honour may not have lain between her legs, as she puts it. But if it lay in her heart, she could have done better to gather her courage and to ensure that those who wronged her were identified and punished. She chose, instead, to show her sympathy for the rapists, thinking of all the possible socio-economic factors behind their act, and to write a moving article about the incident. Agarwala may not be a victim of rape, but she certainly labours under a misapprehension.
It will take some time for women in our society to be convinced that being raped does not mean losing one’s dignity. But being a martyr and letting the thugs go scot-free certainly entails the loss of dignity in some situations.
Madri Kakoti, Nagaon, Assam
Sir — Susama Agarwala’s courageous account of her rape while on holiday at Ghatsila should make the law-makers in our country sit up and take note. Instead of asking for the death penalty for rapists — a proposal that will hardly serve any purpose — the government should simplify the laws and procedures so that rape victims did not have to run from pillar to post in their quest for justice. Ensuring that no victim is denied justice will be a far more meaningful step than merely passing a law providing for the death penalty for rapists. The latter will not console the victim considering that society is hardly sympathetic to the pain of a rape victim.
Debajyoti Misra, Dibrugarh,
Sir — Susama Agarwala’s account of her rape and her attempts to view it in a broader perspective show her courage and boldness. Her article also brings up some very important issues that our society would much rather not talk about. Agarwala says that she had tried to reason with one of the rapists, begging him not to ruin his future by committing such a crime. This shows that she had correctly analysed some of the factors that make criminals what they are. In a conservative country like India, sexual urges are firmly suppressed with the result that some of the repressed men turn desperate. The government does not improve matters by playing moral policeman. Especially in a society that is in a transitional phase and is slowly opening up to the rest of the world. This explains the police and forensic psychologists’ classification of a rapist as power-assertive, angry, reactionary, and so on (“Break the silence”, Sept 7). These issues must be taken into consideration before the government decides on the death penalty for rapists.
Prasenjit Chowdhury, Asansol
Sir — Susama Agarwala’s courage inspires respect. But the fact that she can treat the subject rationally despite the brutality of the encounter, puts things in a different perspective. Her empathy for the rapists may touch a lot of hearts, but for many women like me, it is unfathomable. Rape may not always take away the victim’s honour, but honour is not the only issue of importance here. A gruesome experience like rape leaves behind a deep, psychological mark and no matter how one may deny it, it scars the victim for life. For this reason, rape ought to be treated at par with manslaughter. It is all very well to try and analyse the socio-economic factors behind the act, but it is equally important to take concrete steps to stop such crimes.
Shampa Choudhuri Ghoshal, Calcutta
Sir — Susama Agarwala’s write-up has important lessons which we must all keep in mind — the most important being that rape is not the end of the world. Society at large can do much to help the victim be more vocal about such a heinous violation of personal freedom.
Ansuman Samantaray, Assam
Sir — Susama Agarwala’s greatest asset has probably been her education, her remarkable capacity for self-assertion and her independence. Besides, her exposure to the West has also contributed to her ability to look a problem in the face and fight back. Most Indian victims of rape or sexual harassment do not have these advantages. A society that is yet to treat women at par with men adds to their woes. It is a pity that there are so few Susama Agarwals in the country today.
Diya Sen, Calcutta