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ixteen years after Lalu Prasad lost his Chief
Ministership to the Rs. 950 crore Bihar fodder
scam, the ghost has returned to deal him a
second staggering blow. Ironically, the Rash-
triya Janata Dal chiefs conviction, along with 44 oth-
ers, in the Chaibasa treasury case, comes at a time when
his political career appeared to be on the mend. The
Chaibasa case, which is related to the withdrawal from
the State treasury of Rs. 37 crore, is one of six fodder-
related cases against Mr. Prasad and the rst in which
the verdict has been pronounced. The fodder scam was
of epic scale, with a plot so byzantine that it took
investigators years to comprehend the full extent of the
loot, how it was executed and how many people partici-
pated in it. What started as a minor case of embezzle-
ment in the mid-1970s, grew in size over the next two
decades, and nally burst into the open as a huge
scandal involving ministers, bureaucrats and even sec-
tions of the Opposition. The conviction of 45 persons in
just one of the cases is indicative of the size of the theft
and its spread.
The tragedy is all the more for the dazzling start to
Mr. Prasads political career and the promise his ad-
vent held to an underclass crushed by the double bur-
den of poverty and upper caste oppression. Such was
the hopelessness in which Bihar was caught that Mr.
Prasad was able to make a virtue of just the fact that he
had given his people swar (voice). Unfortunately for the
State he ruled, that was all he did. Bihar became a
basket case even as politicians and bureaucrats exploit-
ed its wealth to feather their own nests. In the event,
his fall was as dramatic as his rise. By May 1997, the CBI
had closed in on him, leading to his arrest and removal
from office in July of the same year. What followed was
the bizarre drama of Mr. Prasad installing his wife
Rabri Devi as Chief Minister with her as his proxy. It
was against this backdrop that Nitish Kumar nally
dethroned the man whom he once mentored. Today,
Mr. Kumar himself is in trouble, having exited his
successful alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party.
For Mr. Prasad, the break-up was just the opportunity
he needed to get back into the political reckoning. He
would have likely succeeded in the plan had the UPA
government pushed through the ordinance aimed at
preventing the disqualication of lawmakers. But the
past has a way of catching up. With Rahul Gandhis
public fulminations scuttling the proposed ordinance,
Mr. Prasad has been left with no escape but to face up to
the reality of the conviction and return to a life of
political oblivion.
The ghost
Lalus conviction
he conviction of RJD leader
Lalu Prasad in the fodder
scamhas come at a crucial time.
Justice is one of the key pillars on
which democracy rests. Elected
representatives are drivers of
parliamentary democracy. The
perception that political leaders
can get away with almost anything
undermines peoples faith in
democracy and its institutions.
That the gap between publicly
held beliefs and judicially attested
convictions is narrowing is a
healthy sign for democracy. This
sign, when seen against the
backdrop of the anti-corruption
wave, demand for better
governance, safety for women,
legislation for socio-economic
justice, etc., is enough to offer us
the hope that democracys roots
have been strengthened in India.
Amulya Nidhi,
New Delhi
alu Prasads conviction,
though belated, has raised the
hope that even the mighty cannot
escape the clutches of the law,
however slow the trial process.
There are many leaders like Lalu
Prasad, at the Centre and in the
States, powerful business tycoons,
bureaucrats and others whose
cases are pending in courts. Some
may even die before they are
convicted. But nothing is lost. Lalu
Prasads conviction marks a good
beginning for cleansing public life,
especially politics.
V.S. Ganeshan,
he verdict is late but not too
late. It has, in fact, come at the
right time when the mood of the
whole country is against
corruption. The conviction and
barring of Lalu Prasad from
contesting elections are a
landmark in Indian politics.
Manish Kulkarni,
he verdict is a major blow to
Lalu Prasad. The judgment
has great signicance at a time
when the ruling UPA government
and the BJP are locked in a war of
words over the ordinance with
regard to convicted politicians. It
also sends a strong warning to
corrupt political leaders.
K.A. Solaman,
ow that Lalu Prasad has been
convicted, the UPA
government is most unlikely to go
ahead with the ordinance
protecting criminal MPs. Besides,
Prince Rahul has expressed his
unhappiness over it. Above all, the
nation is in no mood to tolerate
V.S. Ganeshan,
he nation and the Congress,
including its leadership which
had its head buried in the sand all
along, should thank Rahul for his
just-in-time intervention to
scupper the ordinance that could
have protected Lalu Prasad. He
has saved the Congress a huge
A. D. Vasudevan,
hile Lalu Prasads conviction
must be sending shivers
down the spine of many
politicians, it has brought cheer
and hope for the common man.
That said, the Constitution should
be amended to ensure speedy
A.E. Charles,
Peace on LoC
he Prime Ministers of India
and Pakistan should strive to
resolve the tensions along the Line
of Control. Setting up a
mechanismto restore peace and
tranquillity along the Jammu and
Kashmir border will help resolve
the issue. Let us usher in peace,
harmony, brotherhood and
healthy relationship through
bilateral dialogue.
Rambabu Botcha,
New Delhi
he killing of a fellow human
being an Indian, a Pakistani
or any other national is cruel.
When it has become abundantly
clear that the armies of India and
Pakistan have failed to keep the
LoCfree fromtension, why cant
the two countries assign the work
of maintaining ceasere along the
LoCto an international army
under the control and supervision
of the U.N.? Let us not be blinded
by false notions of national honour
and sovereignty. Let us
understand that, for the sake of
saving invaluable lives, no price is
too high, the shedding of false
pride included.
S.P. Asokan,
Big step
he Supreme Courts direction
to the Election Commission
that it introduce the none-of-the-
above option in voting machines is
a big stride towards cleansing the
electoral process. It is a boon to
those who have been disinterested
in exercising their vote.
It has been left to the judiciary
to play the role of our legislature
which is supposed to bring in
political and electoral reforms.
This is perhaps because many
politicians are involved in scams
and have been accused of
Shaikh Jamir Munir,
New Delhi
ur election systeminvolves a
process of electing one
candidate who gets more votes
than the others. In this system,
there is no scope for rejecting all
candidates. The Election
Commission is now readying itself
to include the NOTA option in the
EVMs. But how is it going to
change the election process? The
option will only help us to know
how many voters rejected all the
candidates. The candidate who
gets the highest number of votes
will be declared elected under the
present electoral laws even if 50
per cent of the voters exercise the
no-vote option. Unless the
election rules are changed, the
whole exercise will be rendered
K.V. Ravindran,
ahul Gandhis outburst against
the ordinance seeking to
nullify the Supreme Court verdict
on convicted politicians that it is
complete nonsense which
should be torn up and thrown
away is a gimmick orchestrated
to win peoples condence in the
wake of national outrage against
the ordinance. One doubts the
genuineness of his rebellion since
the Congress vice-president is too
big a person to be kept out of
deliberations on such an
important issue. His utterances in
the press conference and the
manner in which the Congress
manoeuvred a u-turn looked like
scenes froma reality television
show. Our democracy may not be
vibrant but it is amusing and spicy.
Ginny Gold,
New Delhi
ld-timers like me may recall
that Rahul Gandhis great
grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru,
resorted to the use of the very
same word nonsense when
people got on his nerves.
I.S. Kanthimathinathan,
ahuls angry outburst reminds
me of a similar utterance by
Jawaharlal Nehru some 50 years
ago. It was the time the DMK was
pursuing the ideology of Dravida
Nadu comprising all four southern
States. When Nehru was asked
about it, he angrily retorted
Shanthi Vadhiraj,
hile the article The general
and his stink bombs (Sept.
30) comprehensively talks of the
dysfunction in civilian-military
relations, it does not say anything
about the need to rein in
bureaucrats. The bureaucrats who
sit in the offices of the Defence
Ministry need to show more
respect when dealing with their
counterparts fromthe armed
As one who has served in both
the army and in the Central Civil
Services, I have observed that the
restraint shown by military
officers is often taken advantage of
by civil servants.
R. Gopal,
rinath Raghavan is right in
saying Gen. Singh should have
been red by the UPA government
when he went to court on the
question of his extension.
The examples of Weimar
Germany and Pakistan prove that
the military itself is too serious a
matter to be left to the generals.
The Westminster style of
parliamentary democracy can
succeed only if the military is kept
rmly under civilian control.
Anirudh Deshpande,
he army and the civilian
government should trust each
other for the smooth functioning
of democracy.
The lack of responsibility shown
by the government as well as Gen.
Singh can be lethal for democracy.
Prashant Baloda,
to the
Letters emailed to must carry
the full postal address and the full
name or the name with initials.
l-Shababs brazen attack on the Westgate mall
in Nairobi, which killed at least 62 civilians,
reects poorly on the international commu-
nitys efforts to stabilise Somalia. While join-
ing hands to eliminate the Shabab, a terror network
that has fed off a failed state, several African nations
have invited its wrath home. Shabab has become in-
creasingly desperate, and thus dangerous, in the asym-
metric war its diffused cadres have fought since 2008
against the ill-equipped peacekeeping forces of the
African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM). The
al-Qaeda affiliated groups assault on one of the most
affluent and cosmopolitan neighbourhoods in Kenya
may seem audacious but is not surprising. The Kenyan
Defence Forces have faced regular casualties since
launching a bold attack on al-Shababs stronghold in
southern Somalia a couple years ago. The KDF won a
decisive victory in 2012, when it drove the group from
its stronghold and nancial nerve centre in Kismayo
but in hindsight, the jubilation seems premature. Nai-
robi should have heeded the lessons Uganda has learnt
from its protracted involvement with AMISOM. In
2010, al-Shabab had dispatched suicide bombers to
venues in Kampala screening the FIFA World Cup
nal, killing 74 civilians. Those bombings signicantly
reduced the Ugandan appetite for keeping the peace in
Somalia. Now, the Shabab has turned to Kenya in an
effort to intimidate its government and civil society.
President Uhuru Kenyatta, who lost a family mem-
ber to the attack, has responded sternly and sagacious-
ly, emphasising Kenya will not retreat into a closed,
fearful and fractured society. Mr. Kenyatta now needs
to back his words with action. It is Nairobis responsib-
ility to ensure ethnic Somalis in Kenya, who have been
subject to attacks in the past, do not suffer reprisals. As
a major power that plays host to many international
organisations and foreign companies, Kenya must also
take steps to ensure the safety of foreign nationals. The
Shababs latest attack is also a reminder that the gains
Kenya has made in Somalia can only be consolidated if
it pursues a robust domestic counterterrorism policy.
Its border with Somalia, which has also faced its share
of Shabab attacks, is extremely porous; Kenya must
regulate, but not restrict, trans-border movement
through this region. Above all is the imperative to
sustain a strong, U.N.-mandated multilateral presence
in Somalia till the government in Mogadishu can nd
its feet. Kenyas assurance that it will not pull its troops
in light of the mall attack is welcome but it must work
with the Somali government and respect its sovereign
rights. AMISOMs troop-contributing countries, which
do not have the nancial wherewithal to sustain an
indenite military presence, must coordinate their do-
mestic and international efforts to neutralise the Sha-
babs threat.
Lessons from the
Nairobi attack
his is not a comment on
Rohan DSouzas very in-
teresting article in The
Hindu (September 13,
2013), but seeks to pro-
vide a somewhat differ-
ent and supplementary
perspective on both the
Indus Waters Treaty and on the dissatis-
faction with it in Jammu & Kashmir.
The most striking feature of the Indus
Waters Treaty 1960 (IWT) was that it per-
formed a drastic surgery on an integrated
river system, dividing it into two segments,
one for Pakistan and the other for India.
There will be universal agreement that this
was a bad way of dealing with a living, in-
tegral whole. The second striking character-
istic of IWT is that it is overwhelmingly an
engineering document: it was a treaty be-
tween two sets of engineers. It is easy
enough to criticise these features or charac-
teristics, but in doing so we have to avoid the
danger of anachronistic and ahistorical
Second best course
Yes, there is hardly any doubt that the
living, integral, organic whole ought to have
been dealt with as a unity and not cut up into
two segments. As a matter of fact, David
Lilienthal of Tennessee Valley Authority
fame did advocate the joint management of
the total system in an integrated manner,
but such a course was not found practical for
obvious reasons. Giventhe bitterness of Par-
tition, the horrendous bloodshed that fol-
lowed, and the implacable mutual hostility
in which the two new countries were locked,
it would have been nave to expect that they
could jointly, constructively and harmo-
niously manage the Indus systemas a whole.
(Such a possibility might have been difficult
to reconcile with the logic of Partition.)
When the ideal course is not possible, we
have to settle for the second best course, and
that was what the treaty represented. Once
the land was partitioned in 1947, a partition-
ing of the waters was bound to follow, and it
happened in1960. Unfortunately, that histo-
ry continues to plague us. It can hardly be
said that a good, constructive, friendly rela-
tionship prevails between the two countries
today, and that the IWT can now be replaced
by a better and more holistic treaty.
Let me turn now to the other and more
difficult point. All of us agree now that water
is not a matter for engineers alone, and that
it is a complex, multi-dimensional substance
(avoiding the economists language of re-
source) that demands an inter-disciplinary
study. We stress hydrology, ecology, sociol-
ogy, anthropology, economics, law, history,
tradition, custom, culture, and so on. All this
is familiar talk now and is almost becoming
conventional wisdom, but it was quite un-
known in the 1950s when the Indus Waters
Treaty was being formulated and negotiated.
From the advent of modern engineering
with colonial rule up to the 1950s or even
later, water was indeed regarded essentially
a matter for engineers. Even the constitu-
tional entries on water (Entry 17 in the State
list and 56inthe UnionList) show the strong
inuence of engineering thinking. Water use
largely meant irrigation, irrigationmeant ca-
nals, canals meant dams, barrages, weirs,
gates, sluices and so on. It is therefore hardly
surprising that when Partition forced the
two new countries to negotiate a treaty on
the Indus waters, the negotiationwas largely
entrusted to engineers on both sides; and it
must be noted that the two opposing groups
of engineers shared similar orientations, lex-
icons and concerns. Besides, Pakistan was
anxious not only to secure a share of the
waters but also to protect itself against the
twin dangers of denial of water and ooding.
The IWT was thus not merely a water-shar-
ing treaty but also a water-control treaty.
Certainly, the authors of the IWT wanted
the waters used for development but devel-
opment then meant projects for irrigation
and hydroelectric power. Projects were tak-
en to be wholly benign; Environmental Im-
pact Assessments were unknown; the
possible human and social impacts of pro-
jects were even less recognised. The idea of a
minimum or ecological ow would have
been incomprehensible. Naturally, IWT is
silent on these matters. As for climate
change, that concern emerged several dec-
ades later. We must indeed go beyond IWT
today and take these matters on board, but
eventually IWT needs to be replaced by a
very different, holistic, wise and harmonious
treaty. Unfortunately, that will have to wait
for a time when the relations between the
twocountries have ceased tobe pathological.
Let us consider now the strong resent-
ment against the IWT in J&K. There is a
widespread feeling that while negotiating
the treaty with Pakistan, India failed to keep
the interests of J&K in mind. At one stage,
the J&K Assembly even passed a resolution
demanding the scrapping of the treaty.
While one must take note of the negative
feeling about the treaty in J&K, it would be
unfair to say that the Indian negotiators ig-
nored J&K's interests. Water-sharing by it-
self is only a small part of the treaty. The bulk
of the treaty the large and dense annex-
ures and appendices is about Indian pro-
jects on the western rivers, both storage and
run-of-the-river. All those projects will be in
J&K. Therefore, the substantial part of the
negotiation was about projects to be located
inJ&K. How thencananyone say that J&Ks
interests were ignored?
True, while India proposes tobuild a num-
ber of hydroelectric projects on the Jhelum
and the Chenab (and their tributaries) in
J&K, it does not follow that J&K will neces-
sarily benet from those projects. J&K may
well feel that the power generated in the
State will be taken elsewhere for use. Other
States also have similar feelings about pro-
jects in their terrain. This, however, is a
matter between the J&K State and the Gov-
ernment of India; it has nothing to do with
the Indus Treaty.
What puzzles me is the following. When
J&K complains that the treaty prevents it
from utilising the waters that pass through
the State, it appears that it is thinking of the
restrictive provisions that limit the storage
that can be built and impose several strin-
gent conditions even on run-of-the-river
(RoR) projects. India has so far not built the
3.6 MAF of storage that it is allowed to build.
As for RoR projects, despite all the stringent
conditions, it has built or is building several
projects, and is planning a total of 33 pro-
jects. Assuming that the treaty was less re-
strictive, or non-existent, India could
perhaps have built many more projects in
J&K, both storage and RoR. (I amnot going
into the question of whether they would
have beenbuilt by Central or State agencies.)
Is that what the State wants?
Impact on ecology
We are talking about pristine, mountain-
ous, seismically active, and ecologically sen-
sitive areas. Does the State want 50 or 60
dams and reservoirs to be built in this area?
What will such a massive intervention do to
the ecology of the region? Elsewhere in the
country, say in Assam, Kerala, Karnataka,
Odisha, and so on, there are strong move-
ments against hydroelectric projects. A
study has beenundertakenof the cumulative
impacts of a large number of projects on the
Ganga. The recent catastrophic oods in Ut-
tarakhand have been partly attributed to
mismanaged, mis-operated projects. In a re-
cent case, the Supreme court has expressed
concern about the cumulative impact of
many projects on the Alaknanda, the Bhagi-
rathi and on the Ganga as a whole, and has
directed the MoEF as well as the State of
Uttarakhand not to grant any further envi-
ronmental clearance or forest clearance for
any hydroelectric power project in Uttarak-
hand until further orders. Is there no similar
concern in J&K? Are the people of that State
quite easy intheir minds about as many as 33
projects being built on the Jhelumand Che-
nab in their State? Undoubtedly, the energy
needs of the people of the State, wisely esti-
mated, must be met. Are massive dams the
only answer? Assuming that to be the main-
streamview, there must be other voices; but
one does not seemto hear them.
(Ramaswamy R. Iyer is a former Secretary,
Water Resources, Government of India)
An unjustied resentment
Ramaswamy R. Iyer
The 1960 Indus Waters Treaty is not perfect but represents the best that was possible in the circumstances
that prevailed then. It cannot be changed till the time India-Pakistan relations improve
Recover the
he long armof the law has at
last caught up with RJD leader
and Member of Parliament, Lalu
Prasad. But it is not enough to
merely convict the Bihar
strongman. A massive campaign
should be launched to punish
corrupt politicians whose cases
are pending in various courts for
inexorably long periods. Further,
the ends of justice will be met only
when the loss suffered by the state
is recovered at the earliest. The
special CBI courts verdict in the
fodder scamcase has strengthened
the common mans belief that the
judiciary is the saviour of the
K. Chellappan,
he country is euphoric, if not
happy, over the conviction of
45 persons, including Lalu
Prasad, in the Rs 950-crore scam.
We will be dissecting and
debating the development for the
next few days till another piece
of news of similar magnitude is
reported by the media.
What we forget is the money
that has been siphoned off by
scamsters, which has probably
gone into their bank accounts or
to their family members or
benamis in the formof movable
and immovable property. How
are we going to get the money
back into the exchequer?
Durairaj Gopalaswami,
alus conviction should send
the message to the ruling class
that it is only the custodian of
public money and has no right to
appropriate it. Now that the RJD
supremo and his associates are in
jail, how about recovering the
money looted?
S.S. Kaddargi,
he money involved in the
scandal should be recovered
with interest fromthose convicted
in the scam. When a taxpayer
commits a mistake while
submitting his income tax returns,
the government recovers the
difference with penal interest.
K.R.K. Menon,
Impact of verdict
he conviction of Lalu Prasad
has dealt a body blow to the
RJD, a party gasping for
resuscitation. As in 1997, when
Lalu Prasads arrest became
imminent, the party has done
what it does when faced with a
crisis turn to Rabri Devi. What
should worry RJD leaders most is
that neither Rabri nor Tejaswi has
displayed the ability to ll Lalus
shoes. For Nitish Kumar, the
verdict is a shot in the armat a
time when he has lost a bit of his
Padmini Raghavendra,
hile it is a matter of
satisfaction that the law has
caught up with Lalu Prasad, one is
also sorry that a man of great
abilities who rose fromhumble
beginnings to become a great
leader, gave voice to the poor,
unied the backward sections and
Muslims into a solid unit, was
accepted as the unassailable ruler
of Bihar and was hailed as a
management guru for his
achievements as Railway Minister,
should face such a pathetic
situation. But then, someone must
be made a lesson for others who
would be tempted to walk the
same path.
A.N. Lakshmanan,
alus conviction has not come
as a surprise. The judicial
verdict is only a formal
conrmation of a fact. Though the
conviction may act as a deterrent,
it will not by itself put an end to
corruption since corruption is by
top political leaders. Political
parties will have to take the issue
seriously and put up honest
candidates in elections.
N.G.R. Prasad,
he prosecution has done its
job well. As for the promise
held to an underclass crushed by ...
upper caste oppression (The
ghost returns, Oct. 1), self-
appointed caste saviours have
hardly delivered on their lofty
promises anywhere in India. The
poor were often deluded into
believing in the dawn of a utopia
which never materialised. These
leaders used their social identities
for mobilisation of support for the
outts they launched.
I.S. Kanthimathinathan,
he law is gradually catching up
with high-prole leaders
guilty of wrongdoings and
establishing their equality before
law, thanks to an independent
judiciary, a vigilant and assertive
media and an awakened citizenry.
However, our judicial process
which took 17 years to give a
verdict in the fodder scamcase
needs to be fast-tracked.
M.C. Joshi,
Shindes letter
nion Home Minister
Sushilkumar Shindes letter
to the Chief Ministers of all States
asking themto ensure that no
innocent Muslimyouth is wrongly
detained in terror cases (Oct. 1) is
another instance of appeasement
politics in the run-up to the 2014
elections. Such an instruction
fromthe Centre will only
undermine the ght against
Islamist terrorism, which is a
global threat.
Manish Garg,
ote bank politics of the
Congress is now threatening
the principle of equality enshrined
in the Constitution. Our country
paid a heavy price as a result of
such politics when Pakistan was
formed and thousands of Muslims
and Hindus were killed in the
communal conict that followed.
Our politicians should learn from
history. No person should be
wrongfully detained whichever
religion he belongs to.
Yogesh Govindan,
New Delhi
ow can police get information
on terrorists without
interrogation through detention?
Policemen do not just walk into
the house of a terrorist and arrest
him. They rst detain suspects and
question them. Only then will they
know whether the detained
persons are innocent.
J.P. Reddy,
r. Shindes letter is welcome
but the timing is reective of
the dirty tricks played by the
Congress to woo Muslims. As the
2014 general election is drawing
closer, the party wants to ensure
that its traditional vote bank is
retained. If Mr. Shinde is really
serious, he needs to do two
things appoint special courts to
dispose of terror related cases on a
day-to-day basis, and take strict
action against police officials who
are found to have arrested
innocent persons with a
communal mindset.
Syed Sultan Mohiddin,
Aadhaar scheme
lthough there have been
genuine concerns over the
implementation of the Aadhaar
scheme, we should not forget that
the project can change the course
of our nation (Voluntarily
mandatory, Sept. 30). A strong
database systemand the
revolutionary business
intelligence concept can bring in
efficiency, transparency and
There are forces that are bent
on sacking the project due to the
fear of accountability it brings in.
The Supreme Court verdict is a
golden opportunity for them. We,
as responsible citizens, should
stand by UIDAI in this hour of
Krishnamurthy B. Kulkarni,
U.S. shutdown
he shutdown the U.S. is facing
will lead to lakhs of people
losing their employment and
health coverage. It is a signal to
the world that enthusiastic
participation of the working class
is an essential component for the
survival and success of any
economic policy. Workers being
stripped of their employment will
add to the already increasing
unemployment and dwindling
purchasing power of people,
besides affecting the overall micro
and macro economic situation. All
these developments will spell
disaster for dependent countries
like India. Politics, not peoples
welfare, prevails across the world.
A.G. Rajmohan,
t is unfortunate that politics
plays dirty games even in an
advanced country like the U.S.,
putting millions of people in
jeopardy, directly and indirectly.
At a time when many countries are
thinking of adopting the U.S.
governance model, the shutdown
will undermine its credibility.
S. Parthasarathy,
to the
Letters emailed to must carry
the full postal address and the full
name or the name with initials.
ooking for a substantive outcome from every
India-Pakistan meeting has become some-
thing of a habit that both sides could well do
without. This newspaper has long argued that
meetings between the political leaders of the two coun-
tries should be held regularly even if nothing comes out
of them only for the reason that they convey the lead-
erships commitment to peaceful engagement. Over
the last nine years, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
has regrettably kept putting off visiting Pakistan be-
cause it could not be crowned with a momentous an-
nouncement. Last weeks meeting between him and
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should have rightfully
taken place in Islamabad. Still, it is no small achieve-
ment that the Indian side did not back out of the New
York talks given the political pressure to do so, and
considering that on earlier occasions, it has crumbled
under such pressure. Indeed, relations between the
two sides are in such an immature phase that it was just
as well that this summit ended with the modest agree-
ment to safeguard the ceasere through increased eld
level military contacts. It should now be obvious that
normalisation is not going to be achieved over a single
summit. Even though both sides have leaders with a
grand vision of India-Pakistan relations, neither has
the courage or the appetite for a grand bargain. But
uninterrupted dialogue at high levels might lead to
smaller, incremental steps that in turn could result in
improvements on the ground. The new liberalised visa
regime, though still far from liberal or perfect, is the
result of such an incremental process.
Such being the reality, it is entirely commendable
that the two sides reiterated their commitment to the
ceasere, as even this was in grave doubt just a month
ago. Now close to its 10th anniversary, the Line of
Control ceasere has been the most dramatic achieve-
ment of India-Pakistan relations in this century. Aside
from unsoldierly incidents on the LoC emanating from
the Pakistani side, on Indias other concerns terror-
ism directed against it from Pakistan, the snails pace in
prosecuting those involved in the Mumbai attacks
New Delhi must keep the engagement going to ensure
Islamabad delivers on its assurances. With the Taliban
on the ascendant in north-west Pakistan, Prime Minis-
ter Sharif is yet to nd his feet in Islamabad. Eventu-
ally, the best hope for better relations between South
Asias two big countries lies in the strengthening of
Pakistans democracy. Not much is left of his term, but
the Indian Prime Minister should keep his hand of
friendship toward the democratically elected govern-
ment in Islamabad rmly extended.
Not by single
summits alone
panel headed by Raghuram Rajan has recom-
mended a new way of determining the back-
wardness of States for the purpose of deciding
how much each State should receive as its
share of Central funds. States constantly vie with each
other to get more funds from the Centre by simply
claiming that they are more backward than others. The
present exercise began in the backdrop of States like
Bihar, Odisha and Jharkhand arguing that the old ways
of determining the share of Central funds were out-
dated and needed to be reviewed. The Finance Minister
had admitted in Parliament that certain categorisa-
tions were not so relevant today. For instance, India
has historically had special category States, constituted
by the backward hill regions, which also shared in-
ternational borders. These States received higher
grants for development from the beginning of the Five
Year Plan process. But in recent decades, some of these
States like Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and a few
in the North-East have done very well for themselves
and their per capita incomes are twice that of Bihar and
way higher than those of Odisha and Madhya Pradesh.
The Rajan Committee was set up to look at a more
rational way of determining backwardness. It has pro-
posed an index of backwardness comprising 10 equally-
weighted indicators such as monthly per capita expen-
diture, education, health, poverty rate, female literacy,
percentage of SC/ST population and so on. As per this
index, the most developed States are Goa, Kerala, Ta-
mil Nadu, Punjab, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand and Ha-
ryana. The least developed, or most backward, States
are Odisha, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh,
Jharkhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Ut-
tar Pradesh and Rajasthan.
In between the most developed and the least devel-
oped is the middling category where Andhra Pradesh,
Karnataka and Gujarat are placed. If the recommenda-
tions of this Committee are accepted then the transfer
of funds from the Centre to the States will have to
follow a new pattern. So far, the Central assistance to
State plans has been disbursed according to the Gadgil-
Mukherjee formula that gives highest weightage to
population and poverty ratio. The transfer of taxes
from the Central pool is decided every ve years by the
Finance Commission based on another set of criteria.
Then there is the Backward Region Grant Fund under
which special assistance is given to backward areas that
are in need of funds. Any new method of disbursing
funds would be politically fraught because some States
might lose while others gain. So implementing the new
formula will require a lot of political will, which the
current regime cannot muster. The new government
after June 2014 is best placed to examine the imple-
mentation of the new recommendations, if at all.
ill LXII of 2013, namely,
The Representation of
the People (Second
Amendment and Valida-
tion) Bill, 2013 is pending
before Parliament. I ex-
amine here whether the
Bill, when passed as an
Act or its provisions promulgated as anOrdi-
nance, will be unconstitutional or not.
Declared principle
The constitutional principle applicable in
a situation analogous to this has already
been declared ve decades ago in the then
sensational case of K.M. Nanavati vs State of
Bombay (AIR1961 SC112). Mr. Nanavati was
convicted for an offence under Section 302
of the IndianPenal Code. He held a very high
position in the Navy and his services were
considered necessary during the pendency
of his appeal. In the bona de exercise of
power under Article 161 of the Constitution
of India, the Governor of Bombay chose []
to suspend the sentence passed by the High
Court [] until the appeal intended to be
led by him in the Supreme Court against
the conviction and sentence is disposed of
Mr. Nanavati preferred a Special Leave
Petition before the Supreme Court. The Su-
preme Court ruled by a majority of four to
one that both Article 142 and Article 161
being provisions in the Constitution should
be harmoniously interpreted.
[] the order of the Governor granting
suspension of the sentence could only oper-
ate until the matter became sub-judice in
this Court on the ling of the petition for
special leave to appeal. After the ling of
such a petition, this court was seized of the
case, which would be dealt with in accord-
ance with law. It would be for this court []
to pass such orders, as it thinks t, as to
whether the petitioner should be granted
bail or surrender to his sentence or to pass
such other or further orders as this Court
might deemt inall the circumstances of the
Therefore, the exercise of the ordinance-
making power by the President under Arti-
cle 123 of the Constitution of India in the
present case will be unconstitutional. The
proposed amendment to Section 8(4) of the
Representationof People Act, 1951, by way of
Clause 2 of the Bill, provides that the dis-
qualication of an MP/MLA shall not take
effect if an appeal or application for revi-
sion is led in respect of the conviction and
sentence within a period of ninety days from
the date of convictionand suchconvictionor
sentence is stayed by the court.
The proposed amendment to the proviso
to Section 8(4) reads:
Provided that after the date of conviction
and until the date on which the conviction is
set aside by the court, the member shall
neither be entitled to vote nor draw salary
and allowances, but may continue to take
part in the proceedings of the Parliament or
the Legislature of a State, as the case may
No doubt the proviso will operate only
when an appeal or application for revision is
led in respect of such conviction and sen-
tence within a period of 90 days from the
date of conviction and such conviction or
sentence is stayed by the court. Subject to
what conditions the stay will operate is a
matter for the court to decide and the exec-
utive/legislature has no jurisdiction in the
matter. It is exclusively for the court to de-
cide and by way of a legislative device, the
order of the court cannot be modied, var-
ied, or altered as to what restriction will
operate on the right of the member conse-
quent on the order of court staying the con-
viction and/or the sentence. Moreover, in
the event of a stay granted by the court
without any conditions, it will operate
The aforesaid provision interferes with
the power of the court to pass appropriate
orders pending the appeal. Though there is
no similar provision like Article 142 in re-
spect of the High Courts, the position in law
will be the same even in cases of appeals to
the HighCourts, as suchexercise of power by
the legislature would interfere with the judi-
cial powers of the High Courts. Even a con-
stitutional amendment will offend the basic
feature of the Constitution viz., interfering
with the exercise of judicial power.
Suspension of sentence
The exercise of judicial power in suspend-
ing a sentence/quashing by appellate courts
is provided under Section 389 and 482 of the
Criminal Procedure Code respectively.
Therefore, an executive order or an ordi-
nance or even an enactment to such effect
will amount to interfering with the exercise
of judicial power and, hence, will be
In Indira Nehru Gandhi vs Raj Narain
(AIR 1975 SC 1590), under the then existing
practice, a single Judge of the Honble Su-
preme Court exercised powers during vaca-
tion of the court. Honble Mr. Justice V.R.
Krishna Iyer passed interimorders pending
Mrs. Indira Gandhis appeal against the or-
der setting aside her election. The learned
judge beautifully crafted the interimorder to
point out that she had two capacities, one as
the Prime Minister and another as a Member
of Parliament. He ruled that
(iii) The appellant-petitioner [as] Lok
Sabha member, will be entitled to sign the
Register kept in the House for that purpose
and attend the Sessions of the LokSabha, but
she will neither participate in the proceed-
ings in the Lok Sabha nor vote nor draw
remuneration in her capacity as Member of
the Lok Sabha.
(iv) Independently of the restrictions un-
der para III on her Membership of the Lok
Sabha, her rights as Prime Minister or Min-
ister, so long as she lls that office, to speak
in and otherwise take part in the proceed-
ings of either House of Parliament or a joint
sitting of the House (without right to vote)
and to discharge other functions such as are
laid down in Articles 74, 75, 78, 88, etc., or
under any other law, and to draw her salary
as Prime Minister, shall not be affected or
detracted fromon account of the conditions
contained in this stay order.
It may be noted that the court did not
permit her as a Member of Parliament to
even participate in the proceedings. As a
member, she could only sign the register
kept in the House and attend the session.
The Bill and the Ordinance, however, pro-
vide for disqualied members to also take
part in proceedings pending the appeal.
In a particular situation where peculiar
facts demand that in the interest of the na-
tion, if the court is of the opinion that a
disqualied member should be permitted to
vote on a particular motion in the House, it
may permit him/her to vote. This power of
the court is also interfered with by the pro-
posed amendment. There may be special cir-
cumstances like the nature of the offences or
the peculiar facts of the case or the nature of
the subject matter which may have to be
voted in Parliament where the court may
permit voting, akin to how a convicted per-
son undergoing imprisonment may occa-
sionally be released on parole for any good,
compelling reasons.
That the court passes similar orders pend-
ing appeal in election matters is not a good
reason to support the Ordinance/Act as that
is the exercise of judicial power pending ap-
peal which cannot be done by exercise of
executive/legislative power.
The Bill, if enacted as law, and/or the Or-
dinance will also be violative of Article 14 of
the Constitution as being arbitrary, discrim-
inatory and irrational.
(The author is currently a Member of Par-
liament, Rajya Sabha, and former Attorney
General of India)
Measure for unconstitutional measure
K. Parasaran
The ordinance seeking to amend the Representation of the People Act interferes with the
exercise of judicial power
End of ordinance
he UPA government has
decided to withdraw the
ordinance on convicted MPs/
MLAs thanks to Rahul Gandhis
nonsense speech. One wonders
whether the outcome would have
been the same had any other
Congress MP done what Rahul
did. Rahul is only one of the many
Congress MPs. Is the government
run by the Council of Ministers
headed by the Prime Minister or
an MP who happens to be the
vice-president and son of the
Congress president?
J. Nagasubramanian,
hatever is said about the
ordinance withdrawal, the
dignied manner in which Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh
handled the issue deserves praise.
Although the withdrawal of the
ordinance is welcome, Rahul could
have handled it better. He has
provided an opportunity to the
Opposition to criticise the
government and the Prime
Minister. We have to wait and see
whether Rahul will continue to
barge in at meetings to air his
views or assume the mantle of the
partys leadership as a mature
prime ministerial candidate.
G. Venkatakuppuswamy,
ad any other Congress leader
barged into the press meet
conducted by the official Congress
spokesperson and made such a
hard-hitting statement against the
ordinance, he or she would have
been dismissed fromthe party. By
withdrawing the ordinance
cleared by the Cabinet and the
partys core committee, the
government has proved that there
are only two positions in the
Congress party number one and
number two.
S. Kannaki,
sometimes wonder what our
politicians think of us. The UPA
government rst rushed to pass an
ordinance to protect convicted
politicians. When the Prime
Minister was on a foreign visit and
unavailable for comments, the
nations dear son Rahul Gandhi
stepped in to say the ordinance
was nonsense. His mother then
said: We are with the PM. The
truth is Manmohan Singhs tenure
is coming to an end and the
Congress loses nothing by
sidelining him. The next in line,
the prime ministerial candidate,
has to be portrayed as an epitome
of morality.
Pranusha Manthri,
New Delhi
he big farce on the ordinance
has ended with the Cabinet
agreeing to withdraw it. The UPA
government wanted to feel the
pulse of Parliament and the
people, which is why the
ordinance was cleared. The BJP
and other parties opposed it and
the President asked the Home
Minister and the Law Minister to
explain the need for the ordinance.
Sensing trouble, Rahul opposed it
publicly. Now, after a farcical
Cabinet meet, the ordinance
stands withdrawn.
M.M. Kale,
his refers to Dr. Singhs
declaration that he wouldnt
quit over Rahul Gandhis outburst
on the ordinance. Resignation at
the drop of a hat is hardly a
solution to problems. There is
place for dissidence in a
democracy the stronger a
democracy, the louder the voice of
T. Prabakar,
he ordinance episode started
with the intent to save Lalu
Prasad. With the BJPs petition to
the President and his queries on
the ordinance, the issue took a
turn. This script is now all too
familiar, wherein Sonia Gandhi
and Rahul Gandhi take the credit
for everything positive that
happens in the UPA government,
and the Prime Minister and the
Cabinet contend with the negative
fallout. The end of the story is
along predictable lines the
emergence of Rahul Gandhi as the
no-nonsense hero of young India
standing up against the old order.
Hitesh Kumar Waghray,
he optimistic editorial Not by
single summits alone (Oct. 2)
has suggested ways to break
through the vicious cycle that
hampers the India-Pakistan peace
process. New Delhi must keep the
engagement uninterrupted. Only
that can ensure that Islamabad
delivers on its assurances,
especially its commitment to a
ceasere on the Line of Control.
The best hope for better relations
lies in strengthening Pakistans
C.A.C. Murugappan,
eaningful progress in the
India-Pakistan relations has
not taken place even after several
summit level talks in the past. We
can take consolation fromthe fact
that the Prime Ministers of the
two countries rose above
pressures and compulsions to
meet in New York. There is no
alternative to talks and we cannot
afford to get carried away by
Lofty ideals
he metaphor used by Gandhiji
to describe India as a vast
prison (Incarceration as
achievement, Oct. 2) is relevant
even today. While in jail, Bapu did
not want to celebrate his birthday
because people were starving to
death across India. Those were the
lofty ideals associated with the
white garment and the Gandhi
topi. One cringes to see the
margins to which he has been
pushed today.
Col. K.G. Ramesh Kumar (retd.),
he Hindu has paid rich
tributes to the Mahatma by
publishing two articles on the
occasion of his birth anniversary.
The one on non-violence is apt for
the present times. India, the
birthplace of Gandhiji, sees
violence in the name of religion,
caste, etc. Gandhiji proved that
non-violence was a powerful
instrument even in the ght
against the British. The restive
younger generation should learn
fromthe life and ideals of Gandhiji
and realise that the world would
be a better place to live in if
violence is shunned.
A. Michael Dhanaraj,
nion Home Minister Sushil
Kumar Shindes letter to the
States that they should ensure that
no innocent Muslimyouth is
wrongly detained in terror cases is
insensitive and improper. By
singling out Muslims for
preferential treatment, he has
infused a sense of insecurity
among others. No doubt, there are
instances of innocent Muslims
being hounded by police, but what
about the rest who have been
languishing in jails for years for no
fault of theirs?
What Mr. Shinde should do is
create an environment in which
prisoners become aware of their
rights, especially the right to legal
representation. The primary focus
should be on freeing the police
force frompolitical interference.
Let police do their work diligently,
act impartially, and allow courts to
do the rest.
Ganapathi Bhat,
he letter is a classic example of
communalisation of politics.
The Congress seems to be worried
only about Muslimyouth who are
wrongly detained. What about
others who face the brunt of
wrongful detention? Mr. Shindes
direction may well turn out to be a
deterrent for officials
investigating terror-related cases.
K.B. Dessai,
to the
Letters emailed to must carry
the full postal address and the full
name or the name with initials.
ushil Kumar Shinde would help the cause of
Muslims a lot more if he spoke a little less. In
February this year, the Union Home Minister
declaimed on Hindu terror, when the correct
expression should have been Hindutva-linked terror.
The remarks caused an uproar that needlessly returned
attention to Muslim terror, a phrase as offensive and
inaccurate as Hindu terror. There was substance in
what Mr. Shinde meant to convey that a Hindutva
connection had surfaced in some terror acts earlier
attributed to Muslims. But the heat generated by his
comments left no room for a realistic evaluation of the
state of terror investigation in this country. The minis-
ter has now done an encore with his letter to Chief
Ministers cautioning them against wrongful detention
of innocent Muslim youths in the name of ghting
terror. The Bharatiya Janata Party has predictably ac-
cused Mr. Shinde of going against the spirit of the
Constitution and dividing the country on religious
lines. The minister need not have made a case for
innocent Muslims. The cause for justice would have
been fully served even if he had only stressed the need
for impartial and thorough investigation leading up to
efficient and speedy trials. Because this is the key to
ensuring no innocent person is harassed. And this is
also the key to preventing vendetta policing and in-
vestigation against innocent Muslims.
The unfortunate truth is that Muslims are the rst to
be picked up in the aftermath of a terrorist strike.
Anti-terror squads conduct combing operations in
Muslim neighbourhoods and what follows is the by-
now well- documented nightmare of illegal detention,
torture and forced confessions followed by denial of
bail and years in prison. Case after case has ended in
acquittal because of shoddy investigation, of course,
but also often because the terror accused were never
involved in the crime in the rst place. Over the years,
biases have got entrenched in the policing mechanism
which can only be corrected by professionalising in-
vestigation and incorporating forensics and other sci-
entic tools to minimise error and narrow down
suspects. The Supreme Court, in the D.K. Basu case,
laid down detailed guidelines for detention procedures
to reduce the scope of arbitrary arrests and custodial
torture. It should surprise no one that the guidelines
are rarely, if at all, observed. The tragedy with Muslims
is that the system that treats them as suspects is also
conditioned to stymieing measures aimed at their re-
habilitation. What Muslim youth need is genuine
equality before the law, something that is often denied
them. Sadly, Mr. Shindes statement makes it sound as
if they need to be shown some special favour.
Not again,
Mr. Shinde
15-minute telephone call may not seem like
much but when this represents the rst direct
conversation between the Presidents of Iran
and the United States in 34 years, the world is
bound to sit up and take notice. To get a sense of the
historical signicance, consider this: the last time the
highest political executives from the two countries
conversed was in 1979, when Jimmy Carter was U.S.
President and the Shah of Iran had not yet been de-
posed. By all accounts, last weeks chat, which was
conducted through an interpreter, was cordial, with
Barack Obama reportedly expressing deep respect
for the people of Iran, and Hassan Rouhani apparently
calling the U.S. a great nation. While such formal
remarks are common in exchanges between heads of
state or government, the context makes the discussion
a potentially transformative event. The public suspi-
cion and animosity which have obtained between
Washington and Tehran for the past three decades
have been among the major causes of political deadlock
and worse in Central and West Asia, with gross allega-
tions and insults traded to the point where successive
U.S. administrations have often seemed to be about to
attack Iran. While much is yet to be addressed by both
parties even who called whom appears to be unclear
the very fact that the two Presidents talked with each
other must be welcomed.
Both leaders are already facing resistance in their
own countries and the path that lies ahead is difficult.
President Rouhani has indicated his willingness to
meet legitimate western concerns about his countrys
nuclear programme but he will not be able to carry his
own domestic critics unless Mr. Obama can undo a part
of the unilateral sanctions Washington has imposed on
Iran. Early indications are not promising. Not only
does the U.S. President lack the ability to push Con-
gress, many of whose members remain implacably op-
posed to any dealing with the Islamic Republic, but he
himself seems unconvinced of pursuing such a goal.
Indeed, his belief that sanctions have pushed Tehran
towards a more open approach is undercutting the very
logic of dtente before the process has even begun.
Secondly, Irans greatest regional rival, Saudi Arabia,
will be very concerned about the Obama-Rouhani call,
as will Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Israel was informed in advance but Bibi can be counted
upon to try and throw a spanner in the works. To be
sure, Mr. Rouhani faces his own uncertainties too.
Nevertheless, his presidency has created the best
chance in decades to start diminishing the mutual
bitterness that has soured relations between Iran and
the U.S. Having taken a cautious step forward, the U.S.
must not waste this chance.
Dont hang up on
peace, Mr. Obama
he verdict of death for
the bestial gang rape in
Delhi last December is
based on Supreme Court
judgments, which stipu-
late that capital puni-
shment will be imposed
in the rarest of rare
cases, where the communitys collective
conscience is so shocked that it will expect
the holders of the judicial power centre to
inict death penalty because of the abhor-
rent nature of the crime, which would in-
clude the manner of the commission of the
murder, for instance, if it was committed
in an extremely brutal, grotesque, diabolical,
revolting or dastardly manner, or where the
victim was subjected to inhuman acts of
torture or cruelty in order to bring about his
or her death.
There are several dangers in a process in
which a life is taken because that is what the
community wants, as in the Roman amphi-
theatre, where the mob decided if the defeat-
ed gladiator should die. Apart from turning
the judiciary into a khap panchayat, how
does this august fraternity commune with
the community, or divine that its conscience
wants blood? In the 21st century, ooded as
it is with24-hour televisionand social media
on tap, outrage can be manufactured, reality
distorted. Even when, as after the Delhi
crime, the revulsion was real and wide-
spread, how does the judiciary determine
that those who were shocked would only
recover with the deaths of those who had
shocked them? Diplomats, who must assess
the mood of the country they are posted in,
take it as given that the media only partially
reects it, since the strident few drown out
the diffident majority. An Embassy spreads
its tentacles wide, speaking to and gauging
the mood of people in different sectors, lev-
els and locations, to understand what they
really want. No judge can do this. What a
judge takes as the collective conscience of
the community can only be the slant carried
by the media. To base decisions on life and
death on this is injudicious.
Secondly, what is the community whose
conscience the judge must tapintoand chan-
nel into a pronouncement of death? For a
sessions judge, it will presumably be that of
the local community. If that judgment is
overturned on appeal, it can either mean
that the judge had misread that conscience,
or that the High Court felt that the con-
science of the larger community of the State
did not want blood. If the Supreme Court
reinstated the death sentence, this would
presumably mean that the national con-
science was at one with the local, but that of
the State concerned was out of step with
both. Which is the segment of the communi-
ty to whose conscience judges must defer?
Logically, it should be the one most affected,
whichwould imply that no sentence of death
froma sessions court should be overturned.
How does a judge in the State or Central
capital determine that the local community
had not been galvanised into bloodlust?
But what would happen, for instance, in
the cases that should shortly come totrial for
the murders in the recent communal vio-
lence in U.P.? The most appalling cruelty is
committed during communal riots. One of
the criteria invoked in the Delhi judgment to
justify the death sentence, the barbaric and
revolting nature of the murder, would apply.
In these cases, however there would be no
collective conscience to consult, since the
community is split in two. Each half would
demand the death sentence for the murder-
ers fromthe other community, but mournits
own murderers as martyrs if they were
hanged. In these cases, therefore, where one
of the criteria laid down by the Supreme
Court conicts with the other, which will
Nor should we forget that, while the use of
torture to bring about death is rare in crimes
committed by individuals, it is routinely
practised by the army and the paramilitary
in States wracked by political violence. Un-
accounted numbers of Kashmiris disap-
peared into the maws of Papa-II, the
infamous torture chamber run by the para-
military in Srinagar. Those bodies that were
recovered bore marks of the most terrible
torture. Very large numbers disappeared
forever. To say that the collective conscience
of the Kashmiri Muslimcommunity is mere-
ly shocked would be an insult. It has lived
with rage, pain and a searing sense of in-
justice for two decades; its tormenters have
escaped with impunity, because the collec-
tive conscience of the rest of the country has
not even been stirred.
Across our subcontinent, inManipur, sim-
ilar cases abound, including that of Thang-
jam Manorama, taken from her home in
Imphal late at night by a unit of the Assam
Ries, led by two Majors, tortured with a
knife, forced into her genitals in the pres-
ence of her family, tortured even more bru-
tally later, raped and shot. Her body was not
received by dignitaries, it was found lying in
a ditch. There have been many other killings
like this, but this one, like the gang rape case
in Delhi, set off a storm, leading to a naked
protest by Manipuri women in front of the
paramilitary camp. If any crime matched
both the criteria invoked in the Delhi judg-
ment, the bestiality of the murder and the
collective indignation it produced, this one
did. However, the officers and men respon-
sible are immune because the armys Court
of Enquiry held they were all innocent.
Justice not blind
These communities, and the tribals in the
naxal belt, will argue bitterly that justice is
not blind; it sees who you are and where you
come from and, in its scales, the collective
conscience of the community only registers
when it has political weight. If you are a
Kashmiri or a Manipuri, your shock is
One of the crimes that the Supreme Court
has laid downas likely to shock the collective
conscience of the community is a murder
committed in the course of betrayal of the
motherland. It appears murders committed
in its ostensible defence do not shock. Patri-
otismis the last refuge of the serial torturer.
If he walks free, though, why should others
There is a further danger. Because public
opinion is manipulated with modern tech-
nology, the outrage which the judiciary will
interpret as an indignation that must be as-
suaged with blood can only be provoked by
the technically adept, or those withthe mon-
ey to inuence the media. The men sen-
tenced to death in Delhi, and those hanged
over the last year, were mostly from the
poorest and most vulnerable sections of so-
ciety. Neither they nor their families had the
nancial or technical means to harness the
media or the social media in their defence.
There is, therefore, an inevitable class bias
built into a process where a judge pronounc-
es the verdict of deathonthe basis of a public
outpouring of rage, which the accused have
no means of contesting.
The brutality that brings their crimes into
the ambit of the rarest of rare is bred into
their lives. They have gone to bed hungry as
children, suffered illnesses without medi-
cine, defecated in the open, been savaged on
the whims of adults, treated like dirt. Com-
passion has never touched them. Life has
beatensensitivity out of them. Menforced to
live like brutes will kill like brutes. When
these men, societys victims, nd a victim,
they take a lifetimes frustrations out on him
or her. Their murders and rapes are unlikely
to be rened. Their brutality might appal a
court and nauseate the middle class, by
whose standards they are judged, but it is a
product of what the community has made of
them. This is what should shock the collec-
tive conscience of the community.
Lastly, and most troublingly, if a man is to
be hanged because the judge feels that the
collective conscience is so shocked that it
will expect him to inict the death penalty,
cana trial be fair, withthe accused presumed
to be innocent until he is proven guilty? If,
before the trial starts, society has already
made up its mind, in the judges view, that it
will only be satised with the death penalty,
it has also determined who the guilty are. It
is hard to believe that a judge can hear a case
entirely on merits, and take popular senti-
ment into account only at the verdict. Onthe
contrary, if it is now the law that a judge
must impose the death penalty in cases
where he has concluded that the community
demands it, he would be shirking his duty if
he were to absolve the men on trial, denying
the community, whose servant he is, the
satisfaction of a human sacrice.
Whenthe Supreme Court decreed that the
death penalty should be imposed only in the
rarest of rare cases, it tried, humanely and
honourably, to prevent a rash of judicial kill-
ings, but the criteria it has laid down inher-
ently lead to decisions that are, in every
sense, fatally subjective. The road to the gal-
lows might be paved withits good intentions,
but on matters of life and death, the law
cannot be so cruelly awed.
Tarquin, Auden famously wrote, was rav-
ished by his post-coital sadness. Is the com-
munity in India ever choked by a
post-garroting remorse? Conscience is the
uncomfortable reminder that we have done
something wrong.
In a nation that aspires to be a modern
democracy and claims to be a modern in-
carnation of the most ancient living civil-
isation, the death penalty is a barbaric
anomaly. It is time the collective conscience
of the community repudiated it.
(Satyabrata Pal is a Member of the Nation-
al Human Rights Commission. These views
are personal)
Why capital punishment must go
Satyabrata Pal
When a death sentence is given to satisfy the collective conscience of the community, it raises
troubling questions about the fairness of the trial
Lalus sentence
he law has taken its course.
Lalu Prasad has been
sentenced to ve years in prison
for his involvement in the fodder
scam. Although he can appeal the
sentence in higher courts, the
verdict will send strong signals to
the corrupt. The timing of the
conviction is more relevant than
ever before as more and more
scams and scandals surface day in
and day out.
A. Subbalakshmi,
he sentencing of Lalu and
others is the rst remarkable
step towards cleansing politics.
There is a Persian proverb, der
aayad, durust aayad (loosely
translated as better late than
never). Though it took 17 long
years, justice nally caught up
with the former Bihar Chief
Minister. The verdict is a setback
for the RJD as it disqualies him
as legislator. His rather stringent
punishment should serve as a
deterrent to corrupt politicians.
Sumit Paul,
Credibility decit
hat the hurriedly brought in
ordinance to save convicted
legislators was withdrawn equally
hurriedly points to the UPA
governments credibility decit in
ghting criminalisation of politics.
The questions for which there are
no convincing answers are: why
did Rahul Gandhi keep silent till
the ordinance was cleared by the
Cabinet, and spoke up only after
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
left India; what caused his sudden
awakening; and why did he not
show the same zeal in passing the
Lokpal Bill as demanded by
people? Is not the withdrawal of
the ordinance an admission of
guilt by the UPA government?
Venkatesh N. Muttur,
lthough the Cabinets decision
to withdraw the controversial
ordinance is welcome, it sets an
unhealthy precedent as it is the
result of not the public
disapproval of the ordinance but
the Congress vice-presidents
remark that it was nonsense. It
further reinforces the opinion that
the Congress functions on
dynastic affiliations rather than
Alankrita Amrit,
New Delhi
eople, I amsure, are relieved
that Rahul Gandhi applied the
brakes at the right time. Now that
convicted politicians stand to be
disqualied, we can expect themto
be clean. But the smart and
shrewd political class will still nd
ways to escape the dragnet of law
by pressuring, inuencing or
bribing the investigating agencies
and intimidating the victims.
M.Y. Shariff,
he ordinance saga was another
UPA gimmick. Its rejection
shows the governments efforts to
project Rahul Gandhi as a hero
and strengthen his image. While
the U-turn on the ordinance is
welcome, it has also exposed the
shallowness of Indian politics.
Himalay Sharma,
New Delhi
he withdrawal of the
ordinance is timely but it is
also a blow to Dr. Singh, the
Cabinet and the Congress Core
Group which met not once but
twice to approve the ordinance.
Young Rahuls sudden outburst
and his behaviour remind us of
Sanjay Gandhis style of politics.
S.M. Usman,
hat if the conviction of a
legislator is overturned at a
higher court and he is acquitted
honourably? With all his faults,
Lalu Prasad was consistent in his
opposition to communal politics,
gave voice to the less privileged
and made the Indian Railways a
protable proposition. A variant of
fodder scamexists in all the States.
All those pillorying Lalu are only
exposing their hypocrisy. I feel
MPs and MLAs should not be
disqualied till they exhaust all
Baikadi Suryanarayana Rao,
t has become common for
intellectuals to question the
relevance of the death sentence,
whenever the court awards it
(Why capital punishment must
go, Oct. 3). Their main argument
is that the death penalty has failed
to deter people fromcommitting
heinous crimes. Just because a
punishment does not prevent
some perverted criminals from
committing brutal crimes, should
we stop punishing them?
P.V.R. Reddy,
here is nothing in the Delhi
gang rape case verdict to
suggest that the judge awarded the
death penalty only to satisfy the
collective conscience of the
community. I agree we need to
amend age-old laws, develop
scientic methods of investigation
and speed up the justice system.
But when someone is proved
guilty on the basis of strong
evidence, he should be awarded
the maximumpunishment under
the law.
Pardeep Kansal,
atyabrata Pal claims that
people who are victims of
societys inequities are bound to
be brutal in their behaviour. Are
there not millions who face similar
inequities? Are they all taking out
a lifetimes frustrations on their
victims? To claimthat such
brutality nauseates only the
middle class is unacceptable. I am
fairly sure every woman and man
on the streets was just as
nauseated over the Delhi gang
Pavithra Srinivasan
his refers to the contention
that the brutality that brings a
crime into the ambit of the rarest
of rare is bred into the offenders
lives. The justice systemcannot
give a verdict based on the past life
of the accused and their societal
rejection. Courts cannot be lenient
to some offenders because
compassion has never touched
their lives.
Muralidharan Raju Iyer,
he author agrees that the gang
rape was bestial but says men
forced to live like brutes will kill
like brutes. Do all poor people
have a tendency to be brutal? Are
we going to take a lenient view of
heinous crimes on the basis of the
socio-economic conditions of
P. Saseendran,
agree the Delhi gang rape
convicts were products of our
community and did not have a
decent life. But under no
circumstances can the crime they
committed be explained. If it was
true that judges tend to be
inuenced by the collective
conscience of the community, the
juvenile accused would also have
got the death penalty. If the death
penalty is a barbaric anomaly, the
crime and the way it was
committed werent civilised
Shubhda Sharma,
y arguing that the Delhi gang
rape culprits lived in difficult
circumstances and therefore they
were brutal, the author has
overlooked many poor people who
live with human values and morals
in similar circumstances.
Arathy S. Nair,
loathe violence. I consider
vengeance a crude biological
instinct. That said, there is a
distinction between provoked and
unprovoked violence between
communal riots and what
happened in Delhi last year.
Srikant Sekhar Iyer,
person who is guilty of taking
another persons life has no
right to live. This simple fact ought
to rule both governance and law.
Intellectuals whose hearts bleed
for murderers perhaps deserve a
special place in heaven. On earth,
we must uphold order and justice.
S.R. Madhu,
eath is not the answer for a
crime committed by a person.
Most European nations have
realised this. India should take
steps to amend Section 302 of the
Indian Penal Code by abolishing
the death penalty and
incorporating life imprisonment
till death in prison for those
convicted for heinous crimes.
K.V. Ramana Murthy,
ama supporter of capital
punishment in the rarest of rare
crimes but the way India
implements it is wrong. Of late,
media driven trials/ justice are
gaining importance. In
Hyderabad, we saw the elite,
educated class gathering last
December with candles to protest
the Delhi gang rape. But when a
ve-year-old badly injured rape
victimwas brought in to Niloufar
hospital, no candlelight vigil group
came out to support her as there
was no TV coverage. This is India.
Judish Raj,
to the
Letters emailed to must carry
the full postal address and the full
name or the name with initials.
he Reserve Bank of India has taken the high
moral ground in directing commercial banks
to desist from certain pernicious practices,
which, in its view, deter consumer protec-
tion and accounting integrity. At the core of its direc-
tives is the fairly widespread practice of certain banks
which offer retail loans at zero per cent interest to
purchase high value consumer durables such as LCD
TV sets, smart phones, high-end refrigerators and the
like. Arguing that there is no such thing as an interest
free loan, the RBI has laid down guidelines that will
make a large swathe of retail lending by banks more
transparent. Lending banks should use their clout with
the dealers of consumer durables to get the best pos-
sible bargains and, equally importantly, pass on those
benets to their borrowers in a transparent manner.
There are special reasons why such seemingly pedes-
trian advice is warranted. Subvention, a kind of subsidy
that manufacturers offer, as well as a moratorium on
payment, are fairly common practices to boost sales.
There has been a disquieting tendency among banks of
not giving their customers information on the full
extent of these concessions. Even more unacceptable
has been the practice of part-loading these to the in-
terest rate charged to make the latter appear lower.
Banks have now been asked to pass on the benets to
their consumers fully and indiscriminately without
camouaging them in the form of lower interest rates.
Thus a discount on the price should automatically
mean a lower quantum of loan. Repayment of the loan
should commence only after the moratorium period.
Equally undesirable are the related practices of zero
percent EMI schemes on outstanding credit card bal-
ances. Here again, zero interest is a misnomer as bor-
rowers are charged a processing fee. Canons of
transparency require all such fees processing as well
as others to be uniform across all products and
segments. Finally, no fee should be charged on debit
card transactions. The RBI guidelines are welcome
and, in many cases especially relating to credit card
usage, overdue. Transparency in lending is a welcome
trait and the authorities should encourage banks to
move towards complete disclosure. The directive
could, however, deal a deadly blow to consumer dura-
ble sales, which generally peak during the festival sea-
son, just round the corner. Yet, from an overall
perspective, consumer protection is probably more im-
portant than a short-term dip in sales of consumer
durables, which will rebound over time anyway. By
seeking to make expensive products affordable to even
those who cannot really afford it, the zero-interest
schemes, which were not really that, were drawing
consumers into a debt-trap. It is just as well that the
RBI stepped in.
Taking interest
in transparency
he importance of maritime transportation to
Indias economic development cannot be
overstated, given that the country has a coast-
line exceeding 7,550 km. The government -
nally seems to be waking up to the potential that
water-borne transport holds for domestic cargo move-
ment. The Ministry of Shipping has given a llip to
sea-borne domestic trade by allowing vessels that
could hitherto ply only in rivers and other inland wa-
ters to operate in waters along the coast, within a
baseline and where waves do not rise more than two
metres. Coastal shipping offers distinct advantages,
which include lower operating costs and less envi-
ronmental pollution than surface options. The Minis-
trys move follows a series of initiatives easing
restrictions on the sector. The government had earlier
notied all waters within the baseline around the coast
as Internal Waters under the Maritime Zones of India
Act, in order to streamline and regulate shipping traffic
that tended to hug the coast, as also to facilitate the
operation of inland vessels along these waters.
Linking inland water trade and sea trade through
coastal ships could provide alternative means of un-
loading and transporting cargo from ships docked at
sea, to both inland destinations and to smaller ports.
Vessels that are built to meet river-sea requirements
need very little depth to sail and dock. Smaller vessels
can also be built and operated at lower cost. But such
benets can be reaped only if the government provides
logistics support. The development of small ports,
warehousing facilities, and container freight infras-
tructure, as well as inter-modal connectivity, are ex-
tremely important for its success. Fleet strengths will
need to grow: the Indian shipping industry accounts for
just about one per cent of the global eet. Meanwhile,
inland waterways that extend to 14,500 km should be
developed. Indias transport infrastructure requires a
substantial facelift, considering higher than average
traffic growth projected along several industrial corri-
dors. A dynamic system of sea highways connecting a
network of ports along with a sophisticated inland
water transport system could complement the land-
bound transport network. A lot of the production and
consumption centres being land-locked, road trans-
port will continue to serve a crucial role. But the de-
pendence on road and rail could be reduced by
diverting a sizeable chunk of cargo movement to coast-
al shipping. The government must ponder strategies to
effectively develop the coastal shipping industry. A
relatively modest investment with appropriate policy
changes could bring substantial dividends.
For the
next wave
his has been an extraor-
dinary week for United
States-Iran relations,
dramatically overturn-
ing the regional scenario
and holding out prospec-
ts not dreamt of over the
last 35 years.
Presidents Barack Obama and Hassan
Rouhani spoke at the United Nations Gener-
al Assembly on the same day Thursday,
October 24. Mr. Obama assured Iran that his
country was not seeking regime change in
the Islamic Republic, an issue of consider-
able concern to successive Iranian govern-
ments. Mr. Rouhani in his remarks was
conciliatory on the nuclear issue and called
on the United Nations to support a new
project, the World Against Violence and Ex-
tremism WAVE.
Historic conversation
Separately, Iranian Foreign Minister Mo-
hammed Javad Zarif met Secretary of State
John Kerry and the other Ministers of the
P5+1 group on the modalities to pursue their
nuclear dialogue on fast track basis. This
was followed by a historic 15-minute tele-
phonic conversation between Mr. Obama
and Mr. Rouhani. Mr. Obama said he had
conveyed his deep respect for the Iranian
people and believed there was now a new
opportunity to make progress in Tehran.
Mr. Rouhani said there had been a great
deal of progress in reconstructing Irans
global position. Reporting on his dialogue
with Mr. Zarif, Mr. Kerry said he had found
the Iranian presentation very different in
tone and very different in the vision [] with
respect to possibilities of the future.
While the events in New York last week
were dramatic, the ground had been pre-
pared much earlier. The crippling economic
sanctions, interms of whichthere had beena
signicant fall inIranianoil exports and oth-
er serious economic constraints, had cer-
tainly harmed Irans energy and economic
interests and aggravated the sufferings of its
people. But, on the Iranian side, there were
deeper concerns emerging from the coun-
trys longstanding near-isolated status,
which excluded it fromplaying a meaningful
role in the regional geopolitical scenario, in
spite of the countrys geographical space
across the Gulf and Central Asia, its energy
and economic signicance and, above all, its
sense of its own historic importance in the
march of human civilisation. During the Ah-
madinejad presidency, Irans interests had
beenfurther hit, particularly inenergy terms
and in terms of the political scenario that
was witnessing a strong and even aggressive
assertion of Gulf Cooperation Council-led
Sunni competition across West Asia.
Over the last 10 years or so, there has been
an active domestic debate in Iran, with one
group suggesting that the Iranian revolution
was now rmly established in the Republic,
and the country could pursue more accom-
modative policies withcondence to achieve
the role warranted by its history, geography
and resources. This view was best repre-
sented by the Moussavi presidential cam-
paign in 2009. It was challenged by the other
group which believed that the Islamic revo-
lution was still under siege, and any hint of
moderationwould provide anopportunity to
its enemies led by the Great Satan, the
United States, to effect regime change and
overturn the revolution.
As events unfolded in Iran, what could not
be achieved in 2009, when Mahmoud Ah-
madinejad was re-elected in dubious cir-
cumstances, would be realised in 2013. Mr.
Rouhanis victory enabled himto repeatedly
assert in New York that he had the mandate
to pursue moderate policies because he had
the full backing of all three centres of Iran.
From the U.S. point of view, too, several
factors encouraged grasping the Iranian ol-
ive branch. Chief among themwas the perva-
sive war-weariness and the sense that
military solutions to complex problems, at-
tempted in Afghanistan and Iraq, had only
left a legacy of bitterness and national break-
down, as also signicant losses to the U.S.
treasury. In spite of pressures from Israel
and more recently from the GCC, the U.S.
President believed that an assault upon Iran
would hardly curb its nuclear ambitions,
while there could be a wave of war and de-
struction across the Gulf and West Asia.
More recently, the U.S. President had to
cope with pressure to assault Syria. He con-
cluded that this could openone more theatre
of conict for the U.S., with no promise of a
positive outcome. The U.S. decided that dip-
lomatic interventionand dialogue ina multi-
lateral framework would be more effective
to address the Syrianimbroglio, anapproach
that would be greatly facilitated by an open-
ing to an apparently moderate and construc-
tive Iran. Above all, the U.S. could not ignore
the fact that a more stable West Asia would
facilitate the shift of its strategic pivot to the
Asia-Pacic, particularly Northeast Asia.
The thaw in U.S.-Iran relations has not
met with universal applause. Predictably, Is-
raeli Prime Minister Netanyahuhas referred
to Mr. Rouhani as a wolf in sheeps cloth-
ing and has warned the international com-
munity to be wary of the Iranian charm
offensive. The GCC is also alarmed at this
rapprochement: since the commencement
of the Arab Spring, GCC leaders have con-
demned Iran for its interference in their
domestic politics and its imperialist and sec-
tariandesigns inthe region. They are robust-
ly backing the opposition in Syria to effect
regime change there and end Irans strategic
outreach in West Asia and the Mediterrane-
an. They now feel betrayed by the U.S.: Saudi
commentator Abdul Rehman Al-Rashed be-
lieves this initiative will encourage the GCC
countries to embrace new defensive policies
to protect themselves. Another commenta-
tor, Mustafa Al-Ani, has said that the King-
domwill now pursue its interests in Syria by
ignoring U.S. interests, U.S. wishes and U.S.
issues; he ominously concludes: We are
learning fromour enemies now how to treat
the United States.
Israeli opposition to the overture to Iran
could place serious obstacles in the path of
U.S.-Iranties. As it is, the U.S. political estab-
lishment is deeply polarised; in fact, many of
President Obamas enemies on the Repub-
lican right are also close friends of Israel and
readily inuenced by its lobby in Washing-
ton. Republican Representative Eric Cantor
describes Iran as a brutal, repressive theoc-
racy, while Representative Ileana Ros-Leh-
tima calls it a state sponsor of terrorism.
Progress in Saudi-Iran ties
The Saudi position, on the other hand,
could evolve pragmatically in the face of the
new realities, since it would not wish to be
isolated when the U.S. and Iran have better
relations. For instance, the distinguished
Saudi commentator, Jamal Khashoggi,
points out that reconciliationwithIranis in
the interest of everyone we have to look
forward to it more than the Americans. In
his view, the Saudi-Iranian conict is not
inevitable: the rise of Shia fundamentalism
is taking place in tandemwith that of Salast
fundamentalism; these sectarian divisions
should be reconciled, as had been done earli-
er between King Abdullah and President
Rafsanjani. Progress in Saudi-Iran relations
would certainly serve to stabilise the fraught
situation in the Gulf where sectarian differ-
ences have acquired a new sharpness, a ven-
om that could easily outlast the ongoing
strategic competitions between the princi-
pal regional players.
U.S.-Iran rapprochement could in time
prepare the ground for an unprecedented
diplomatic initiative led by the principal
Asian countries China, Japan, Korea and
India all of which have a substantial and
abiding interest in Gulf security, but whose
interests till now have been nudged aside by
the aggressive American hegemonic ap-
proach. This, with Asian propulsion, could
be replaced by a new cooperative security
structure that would bring together on the
same platformall the principal regional and
extra-regional players committed tothe pur-
suit of moderate and accommodative ap-
proaches on the basis of consensually
accepted norms and principles.
As of now, both Presidents, Mr. Obama
and Mr. Rouhani, can be expected to invest a
lot of their time, thinking and prestige in
taking their ties forward, for success would
mean a place in history for one and a place in
the sun for the other.
(The author is a former diplomat. His new
book, The Islamist Challenge in West Asia,
was published last month)
The end of the big chill
Talmiz Ahmad
Athaw in Iran-U.S. relations has the potential to reorient West Asias geopolitics for the better
Telangana issue
he Union Cabinets nod for the
bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh
and creation of a separate State of
Telangana, amid widespread
protests fromthe people of
Seemandhra, is shocking.
Although India calls itself a
democracy, the UPA government
has not taken into account the
views of huge sections even
though they have been agitating
for over 60 days. Even the media
has not taken notice. Is it because
the agitation has been peaceful?
Are Gandhian principles no longer
Without giving any
clarications on river water usage,
projects, capital, etc., how could
the UPA government announce
the bifurcation? And what is the
Antony Committee for?
Gouthami Reddy,
he UPA government has
cleared the creation of a
separate Telangana State without
making any attempt to allay the
fears of the people of Seemandhra
who have been agitating for 65
days. Is this democracy where
the interest of politicians is
nothing more than winning seats;
all the electronic media does is
report the tussle between the
ruling party and the principal
opposition; and the ruling party
ignores a huge section while taking
a decision?
K. Vijayaraghavan,
he Cabinet has done well to
give its seal of approval to the
bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh.
One hopes the UPA government
will be equally rmin allaying the
apprehensions of people belonging
to the Rayalaseema region.
Political calculations deciding
the fate of a State is preposterous,
especially when scores of people
are pouring on to the streets
demanding that the government
listen to them. A responsible
leader should at least call their
representatives for talks.
Lakshmi Swathi Gandham,
he Centre has not paid
attention to the
unprecedented, peaceful agitation
by the people of the Andhra and
Rayalaseema regions. This only
proves that peaceful protests have
no impact.
C.V. Sastry,
ur worst fears have come true.
The phrase residuary State
pierced my heart. People on either
side of the Telangana divide are
fully aware that UPA II went
ahead with its plan of bifurcating
South Indias largest State only to
re-capture power at the Centre in
2014, and certainly not out of love
for the people of Telangana. What
puzzles me is the ease with which
the Cabinet divided the State, like
cutting a birthday cake, without
weighing the pros and cons of such
a drastic decision or allaying the
apprehensions of the people of
Rayalaseema and Andhra regions.
That the Antony Committee was
created only to fool people is now
amply clear.
B.V. Kumar,
he delivery of Telangana is
premature, as the Centre has
failed to realise that the three
regions of Andhra Pradesh are not
ripe for division. While regional
imbalances and lopsided
development are a reality, a well
developed region like Telangana
should not be made a separate
State, leaving behind the most
backward and perennially
drought-hit districts of
Joshua Poldoss,
he UPA government deserves
to be lauded for taking a bold
decision despite resistance from
the people of Seemandhra. The
people of Andhra and
Rayalaseema should accept the
new State. Just as Hyderabad has
been developed, the Andhra region
will also progress in the years to
come. Telugu-speaking people can
show the rest of the country that
despite being divided into
different States, people can mingle
with one another and work
Syed Nissar,
Lessons for Rahul
t is too ambitious to expect
Rahul Gandhi to learn from
leaders like Nehru and Patel
(What the great-grandson didnt
learn, Oct. 4). Rahuls intention in
denouncing the ordinance seeking
to protect convicted legislators
was good though his outburst was
as bad as the ordinance. He indeed
undermined and insulted the
office of Prime Minister.
A good leader is characterised
by his or her ability to speak at the
right place and time. Did Rahul
to the
Letters emailed to must carry
the full postal address and the full
name or the name with initials.
ith the Union Cabinet clearing the bifur-
cation of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana is
one big step closer to realisation. But like
any partition, this too will come with
pain, dislocation, anxiety and anger. A new State might
not have been the best of solutions to address the
inequities of development in the region, but it became
politically inevitable after a prolonged, intense agita-
tion by large sections of the people. Not surprisingly,
the people of coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema have
adopted similar tactics in opposition to the bifurcation,
forcing a shutdown of Seemandhra. Though their
movement has been peaceful, there is a danger of vio-
lence gaining political legitimacy, thanks to the mud-
dled and opportunist thinking of the Congress-led UPA
government at the Centre which rushed to put the
Cabinets seal of approval without bothering to deliber-
ate over proposals to safeguard the legitimate concerns
of Seemandhra. Whether it leaned towards granting
statehood to Telangana, or stepped back in favour of
the status quo, the Centres reasoning and actions
seemed inspired by petty electoral-political calcula-
tions. Depending on the dominant popular mood, the
UPA government has swung one way, then another,
each time lacking the conviction needed to carry a
difficult decision forward.
But now that the creation of Telangana is almost a
fait accompli, those opposed to the bifurcation of And-
hra Pradesh should focus on their specic concerns
such as the status of the capital Hyderabad, the sharing
of Krishna and Godavari waters, free movement of
goods and people between the two States, and the
protection of lives and means of livelihood. The politi-
cal options of those opposed to the new State are rather
limited. Given that the powers are concentrated in the
hands of the Centre when it comes to creation of new
States, much will depend on the attitude of the two
national parties, the Congress and the Bharatiya Jana-
ta Party. Both are now backing the creation of Telanga-
na. Parties covertly or overtly opposed to Telangana
such as the Telugu Desam Party and the YSR Congress
might not be able to inuence the course of events even
if they are elected in large numbers to the State As-
sembly and the Lok Sabha in 2014. The imperative now
is to ensure that the process of bifurcation is smooth,
and that the concerns of coastal Andhra and Rayalasee-
ma are taken into account. Besides allowing for Hyd-
erabad as a shared capital for a period of 10 years, the
Centre must ensure that this city, which remains the
most contentious issue for the two sides, remains ac-
cessible to both Telangana and the residuary Andhra
Pradesh as a source of employment for their people and
revenue generation for their governments. The people
of Seemandhra must press ahead with hope, and not
look back in anger or regret.
Looking ahead
on Telangana
fter a promising start to the presidential elec-
tions in the Maldives, the edgling democracy
is oundering once again. The countrys Su-
preme Court has put on hold indenitely a
run-off that was scheduled for September 28 as it
considers a petition by a candidate eliminated after the
rst round held earlier in the month. Mohammed
Nasheed, who was ousted as President in controversial
circumstances in February 2012, and is a candidate of
the Maldivian Democratic Party, polled 45.45 per cent
of the vote in the rst round, while Abdulla Yaameen, a
candidate of former President Maumoon Abdul
Gayooms Progressive Party of Maldives, was placed a
distant second. Under the Maldivian Constitution,
when no candidate wins more than 50 per cent votes, a
run-off between the rst two candidates must be held
within three weeks. All poll processes have to be com-
pleted, and a new President named by October 10, one
month before the constitutionally mandated day of
assuming office, in this case November 11. More than
100 international observers stationed in the Maldives,
including three of Indias former Chief Election Com-
missioners, commended the poll process and declared
it to be free and fair. While the Supreme Court must
address any grievances over the conduct of the polls,
the delay in deciding the complaint of electoral fraud
has given rise to speculation, rumours and political
tension. It has also given room for doubts about the
genuineness of the complaint.
The situation is especially delicate as the Constitu-
tion makes no provision for a scenario in which an
election is interrupted and the office of the President
cannot be lled by the deadline. The incumbent Presi-
dent Mohamed Waheed Hassan can continue in office
until then with full powers but there is bound to be
uncertainty thereafter. Mr. Nasheed, who is expected
to win the run-off if and when it is held, is under-
standably concerned. The former President believes
Mr. Waheed, who was his Vice-President, was in the
plot to remove him. The MDPs other concern is that in
these elections Mr. Waheed is on the side of the PPM
candidate. Worried about the fall-out of any instability
in the Indian Ocean nation, the international commu-
nity, led by India, has urged that the elections be
completed. Unless the Supreme Court quickly disposes
of the case before it, resolving the complaint to the
satisfaction of all parties to it, and directs the Elections
Commission to complete polling in adherence to the
provisions of the Constitution, the Maldives appears
headed for another spell of instability.
An election,
not foresee the consequences of
his nonsense remark? Or, was
the outburst planned to project
himas the saviour who has an old
head on young shoulders?
A. Jainulabdeen,
tatesmanship is to be imbibed;
it cant be inherited. Look at
the path travelled by Panditji,
Sardar Patel and others like them.
There can never be a comparison
between themand Rahul who has
inherited, not earned, power,
position and authority.
Col. K.G. Ramesh Kumar (retd.),
ehru and Patel belonged to a
generation of the highest
class of leaders. Rahul Gandhi can
never hope to claimNehrus
credentials even remotely. His
frequent outbursts are at best an
outcome of youthful exuberance
with no clear outlook. Backseat
driving by the mother-son duo has
reduced Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh to a
S. Rajagopalan,
ahul Gandhis statement my
words were strong but my
sentiments were right is
reective of the modern trend. It
is, in fact, this attitude that saved
the UPA government frommaking
a disastrous move.
C. Lakshmi Narain,
he article is an excellent piece of
advice to Rahul Gandhi. There
is a lot the young man must learn
fromhis illustrious great
grandfather if he wants to lead the
nation. But he seems to be in a
hurry, in a greater hurry than
Narendra Modi. One cannot blame
himfor this though as it is the
Congress that keeps pampering him.
S. Krishnamurthy,
ahuls outburst at a press
conference and his nonsense
remark were nothing but a drama.
The angry-young-man-act was
directed by the Congress event
managers to show the public that
this man is different fromthe
corrupt system.
Even after being projected as a
future Prime Minister many years
ago, the great-grandson is yet to
qualify the pre-primary stage of
Indian politics. With time running
out, he needed a double promotion.
Vikas Komath,
t is rather sad that we have only
the past to turn to for inspiring
leaders. Civility, transparency and
mutual respect have no place in
public life today. They have been
replaced by power corridors,
cabals and party high commands.
Sardar Patel publicly said Nehru
was his leader even though he had
major differences with Nehru.
There is a lesson for all netas in
Sardar Patels public conduct.
M. Adharsh,
ith technology enabling us
to communicate fast
rather instantaneously we have
drifted fromcommunication
etiquette in our day-to-day lives.
Most of us forget the right of
another to hold the opposite view
on an issue. We need to learn the
art of agreeing to disagree.
M.V. Nagavender Rao,
Death penalty
udges awarded the death
penalty to four convicts in the
Delhi gang rape case to satisfy the
collective conscience of the
community, which evolved as a
result of wide media coverage and
road protests (Why capital
punishment must go, Oct. 3). In
many rape cases, the accused get
away with a lighter punishment,
thanks to judicial delays and
better socio-economic
conditions. Crimes should be
dealt with equally, irrespective of
media coverage, public outrage
and the background of the
J. Sumuki,
he words collective
conscience of the community
have been wrongly interpreted.
Community refers to the whole.
When a person commits a heinous
crime, it is not only the victimwho
is affected. The whole community
feels insecure.
Devi S. Hari,
he Report of the Comp-
troller and Auditor Gen-
eral of India, State
Finances for the year
ended March 2012 (of
the Government of And-
hra Pradesh), records
that there are 56 incom-
plete major irrigation projects in all. More
than half are directed towards coastal And-
hra, and a few to the Rayalaseema region.
The details of the projects are available in
official records and on the State Irrigation
Departments website. Of these, the nancial
status of the Indira Sagar Polavaram is
shown as follows: in 2004, the year of its
commencement, the original estimated
cost of the project (all in crore) was
Rs.10,151.04; the revised cost Rs.16,010.45;
expenditure up to the end of March was
Rs.4,234.18; and, the cost overrun was
Rs.5,859.41. Among other high cost irriga-
tion projects are the Somasila, Indiramma
Flood Flow Canal, Indirasagar Rudramakota
Lift Irrigation Scheme, AMR-SLBC LIS and
the Telugu Ganga project, which has the
highest cost overrun of Rs. 7,747.00 crore.
There are 16 medium irrigation projects
with a total overall cost overrun of Rs.
20,142.06 crore. All these are incomplete
projects. Some are ongoing.
Apportioning of spoils
In the current battle between pro- and
anti-statehood for Telangana, little has been
said or written about the Polavaram dam
(commenced by the late Y.S. Rajasekhara
Reddy, whose regime also gured in the
leaked WikiLeaks cables for the volume of
graft in irrigation projects, with four to ve
companies executing all the projects), con-
sidering that how the spoils of the project are
apportioned is important for bothTelangana
and Andhra, even in the now unlikely event
of a new state not being created.
Along with the Telangana announcement,
the Congress declared Polavarama national
project, thus centrally sanctioning the large-
st displacement (froma single project) of the
tribal populations of three districts. The
maximum submergence will take place in
the Khammam district of Telangana, where
more than 200 of the 276 official (300 un-
official) villages will go under water. The
other two districts are East Godavari and
West Godavari Scheduled Area. Yet, keeping
aside the displacement aspect for the mo-
ment, many other questions arise over the
status and politics of Krishna and Godavari
rivers now and in future. Where does that
leave inter-State Godavari water distribu-
tion? And what will be its likely impact on
the livelihoods of the tribal communities in
the two States?
For the longest time, the Telangana dis-
course revolved around Godavari waters, ir-
rigation, unequal economic development,
farm suicides and the farm debt crisis in
most of its agrarian areas. With the creation
of a State which lies physiographically up-
stream (while benets have owed down-
stream) will the dynamics change and in
what way remains a question. In deciding
allocations of river waters between two
States that had hitherto been two regions,
would it be about water for basics and agri-
culture of small and mediumfarmers of Te-
langana (whose aspirations for statehood
were built on these premises) or for global
industrial regimes in the coastal districts?
In 2010, I found an advertisement (a pull-
out inanEnglishdaily, dated June 30) issued
by the Andhra Pradesh Industrial Infras-
tructure Corporation highlighting the 10
Things Good with Godavari which included
timeless river, rice bowl of south India, rich
agriculture, natural resources access to sea
ports, big players already there, a willing
administration and peaceful politics. The
ad mentioned the big players, including
ONGC, Reliance and Cairn Energy. APIIC
has secured four blocks of oil elds two
offshore and two onshore covering 4,587
sq km The states chief facilitator is the
shaping hand in 300 industrial parks, cov-
ering a cumulative extent of 1.30 lakh acres.
In just the last ve years, APIIC made avail-
able 30,000 acres of land to entrepreneurs,
besides accumulating a land bank of 82,000
To me the APIIC was advertising a future
closely linked to the Polavaram dam with
stakes on Godavari that go way higher than
any of the smaller and incidental issues
raised about small and mediumfarmers rst
or second or third crops. The APIICwas also
talking about anindustrial estate at Velugu-
banda in Rajanagaram mandal , industrial
parks at Peddapuramover 1,100 acres and at
Kakinada over 1,053 acres and modernisa-
tion of the Samalkot canal to cater to the
future needs of industry apart from the
Kakinada Special Economic Zone (that
was coming up) over 10,000 acres in East
Andhra Pradesh Petroleum, Chemicals
and Petrochemicals Investment Region:
This is a specially delineated investment
region of 603.58 sq km for manufacturing
and service facilities for domestic and ex-
port-led production of petroleum, chemicals
and petrochemicals. The Andhra Pradesh
government signed a MoA with the Depart-
ment of Petrochemicals, Government of In-
dia, for this in the year 2009. According to
the official website of the APPCPIR, an in-
vestment of $3.95 billion is being made for
external infrastructure of PCPIR in Andhra
Pradesh. The investments are being made by
the State Government of Andhra Pradesh,
the Central Government of India and private
players It also mentions the major in-
vestors, which include Reliance, Eisai,
Continental Carbon, Velankani, RCL, Natu-
rol, ISPRL, SNF India, Air Liquide, Baker
Hughes, Biocon, Phormozell.
Then there was a connected corporate ed-
ice, called the Visakhapatnam Industrial
Water Supply Project (commissioned in
2004), a rst-of-its-kind dedicated Indus-
trial Water Sector Project which promises
365 days assured industrial water supply
to several mega-infrastructure projects
coming up in the near vicinity [of Visak-
Where will the water come from? From
the Yeleru Left Main Canal from Yeleru
Reservoir (385 MLD); Pipeline from Goda-
vari (385 MLD); Samalkota Canal from Go-
davari (220 MLD); Polavaram Left Main
Canal, which is under execution (1848
MLD) (source:
The entire process of Polavaramdamcon-
struction, including canals, pipelines, etc.,
was almost given away as a largesse by the
State government during YSRs regime to
contractors (though ostensibly through ten-
ders) as packages, now a Telugu term.
Since 2004-05, different stretches of the Po-
lavaram work area, named C-1, C-2 and
so on are under contract, sub-contract or
joint ventures of private rms such as Pro-
gressive Constructions (which, importantly,
was founded by the Congress MP, Kavuri
Sambasiva Rao, who hails from the West
Godavari district). Details of contractors can
be seen on government websites. A study of
the caste, class, and political composition of
the companies to which such public works
are allocated can reveal a few crucial truths.
Considering that the largest beneciaries of
the Polavaram dam will be the industries
along the coastal corridor and the contrac-
tors of the damare mostly fromthat region,
it may be important to look deeper into the
agitationinthe coastal Andhra regionand, to
a lesser extent, in Rayalaseema.
The current nature of resistance to Te-
langana is deeply linked, principally, to the
investments inirrigationand real estate pro-
jects and future access to Godavari waters
for the industrial corridor, on the one hand,
and, on the other, for the middle classes, the
fear of losing urban and globally connected
employment opportunities (apart fromgov-
ernment jobs) in Hyderabad than with the
ideals of unity (samaikyam) or the live-
lihoods of the poorest of the poor. Even the
Telangana camps, including the Telangana
Rashtra Samithi, seemto have sidelined the
issue of the Polavaram dam and its long-
term, irreversible, impact in not only mat-
ters of ecology and environment but also on
what will ultimately remain for the most
marginalised (in either regions, or States)
once the Godavari is apportioned to global
rms in a skewed world economy. Even in
case a Telangana state happens, one does not
know what will be gambled away over this
game of dice.
(The author is an independent journalist
based in Hyderabad awaiting publication of
her book, When Godavari Comes: Peoples
History of a River)
Two states and the Godavari
R. Uma Maheshwari
Andhras resistance to Telangana is linked to future access to the rivers waters on which the coastal regions
industries are heavily dependent
Telangana fallout
he people of Seemandhra are
unhappy with the way the
issue of Andhra Pradeshs
bifurcation has been handled by
the Congress-led UPA
government, the BJP and the
national media (Looking ahead
on Telangana, Oct. 5). Has the
Centre done anything to allay
their apprehensions since its
working committee decided to
carve out a separate State of
Telangana? The editorial
concludes by saying the people of
Seemandhra must press ahead
with hope. What can they hope
for when the government paid no
attention to themeven after they
protested peacefully for over 60
Sastry Gadepalli,
he widespread protests for a
united Andhra Pradesh may or
may not achieve their goal but
they are a slap in the State
leaderships face. The unrest in
Seemandhra should prompt our
countrymen to be alert against
opportunistic, divisive politics of
bifurcation. The people of
Telangana would do well to
remember that a government
which can bifurcate a State today
can divide the States further at a
future date if political expediency
Sambi Reddy Endreddy,
y saying Andhras resistance to
Telangana is linked to the
access to Godavari, the article
Two states and the Godavari
(Oct. 5) has undermined the
peaceful resistance of Seemandhra
people. Their resistance is much
deep rooted and stems froma
number of issues, prominent
among themthe status of
Hyderabad. There are very few
families in Seemandhra whose
family members are not settled in
the city. They sold everything back
home, migrated to Hyderabad
generations ago to eke out a living.
People are genuinely coming on to
the streets and they dont
acknowledge and understand the
issue of sharing Godavari waters.
Prudhvi Vegesna,
he UPA government has
ignored the sentiments of the
people of Seemandhra. It is easy to
divide but difficult to unite people.
I amsure the divisive policies of
the Congress for electoral gains
will land the party in trouble in the
forthcoming elections.
S. Sankaranarayanan,
he word residuary has been
used in media reports while
referring to the status of Andhra
Pradesh after bifurcation. Andhra
Pradesh is the parent State from
which a new State is being carved.
Dubbing it a residuary as if it is a
negligible portion of land is
incorrect. In a chemical process, a
residue indicates a small amount
that remains after the main part is
he Telangana movement
originated in the feeling of
oppression among the people of
the region. The movement has
nally borne fruit with the Union
Cabinet paving the way for the
bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh.
Many people, mostly students,
have sacriced their lives for
statehood for Telangana. There
are social, cultural, economic and
geographical factors involved in
the revolution. The concept of
linguistic States lost impetus the
moment some Hindi-speaking
States were bifurcated.
N.V. Narasimha Rao,
t is time to come to terms with
an independent State of
Telangana and work for the
welfare of all. The Centre should
dismiss the Andhra Pradesh
government before things go out
of hand in Seemandhra. Unruly
protests should be put down
Devulapalli Chakravarty,
he strike by electricity
employees in Seemandhra has
added to the woes of the common
man already reeling under the
impact of forced shutdowns,
traffic blocks, and lack of public
transport buses. With power
supply being disrupted, trains are
being cancelled. Such acts have led
to the eecing of passengers by
private transport operators.
Y. Jagannatham,
he decision to bifurcate
Andhra Pradesh is laudable in
view of the Telangana regions
long-standing demand and the
uncertainty that has prevailed in
the State since December 2009.
The merger of Andhra and
Hyderabad was conditional and
the safeguards provided to the
people of Telangana were brazenly
outed by successive State
governments. A.P.s economic
development failed to translate
into the social integration of
Telangana and Seemandhra
The Samaikhyandhra
protagonists should cooperate in
bringing about a smooth
Karunakar Tadaka,
he government is damned if it
takes a decision, damned if it
doesnt. Telangana became part of
Andhra Pradesh only after 1956.
Its socio-economic condition
reects the unsuccessful journey
of the poverty-stricken region.
The best way to undo the injustice
is to create a separate State which
will lead to more attention and
better governance. Unity lies in
our mindset, not politico-
geographical boundaries.
Ginny Gold,
New Delhi
Death sentence
atyabrata Pal is not
comfortable with the words
collective conscience of the
community used in the Delhi
gang rape case verdict in which
four accused were sentenced to
death (Oct. 3). A sentence is
pronounced as per the Sections of
the Indian Penal Code which
prescribe the punishment for gang
rape, murder, etc. The prosecution
proved its case in the gang rape
case and the judge felt the crime
fell under the rarest of rare
Even if the criminals had
belonged to an affluent
background and knew how to use
the media and social networking
to their advantage, I amsure the
verdict would have been the same
in the circumstances.
T. Kiran Kumari,
mong all three organs of the
government, it is the judiciary
that is working to the satisfaction
of all. Based on the legal maxim,
audi alterampartem(hear the
other side too) the right to a fair
hearing the criminal justice
systemprovides ample and fair
opportunity to the accused. The
fact that some sections of the
media demanded the death
penalty for the Delhi gang rape
convicts could not have affected
the judgment.
Apoorv Joshi,
ver since the controversy over
the former army chief V.K
Singhs date of birth became
public, a battle he eventually lost,
the General, otherwise an
outstanding military officer, has
continued to be in the news. The
latest is his response to The
Hindus coverage (Oct. 5). Without
going into the merits and demerits
of his claim, I feel the General
needs to practise restraint,
particularly in matters of national
interest. He went public on
television channels about the
Indian Armys alleged payments to
politicians in J&K. Even a group of
retired generals debunked his
claim. Whatever the truth, the
General who might have been
privy to certain operations carried
out in national interest, should not
have gone public even after
retirement. His disclosures will
only provide fodder to our enemy
to discredit the functioning of
democratic institutions and
processes in the sensitive State.
S.K. Choudhury,
to the
Letters emailed to must carry
the full postal address and the full
name or the name with initials.
he prohibition imposed on bicycle riding and
use of non-motorised transport in 174 desig-
nated roads of Kolkata during most hours of
the workday or round-the-clock is undemo-
cratic, environmentally retrograde and out of sync with
modern urban transport planning. At a time when
global cities are thinking beyond the car and pop-
ularising shared bicycle systems, the law enforcement
machinery in West Bengals capital has chosen to go the
opposite way, in order to create more space for power-
ed vehicles. The police order on bicycles and non-
motorised vehicles has inicted misery and nancial
pain on tens of thousands of workers who use this
humble mode of transport to go about their job. Many
are involved in the delivery of essential articles such as
milk, letters and medicines. They do not add to the
already unsustainable fuel import bill and cause no
pollution. West Bengal has 11.47 million households
with bicycles as per Census 2011, second only to Uttar
Pradesh, where the gure is nearly double. The impact
of the ban in Kolkata is therefore bound to be stagger-
ing, more so as urban households form almost a fourth
of these families. The outrage in the community over
the intolerant decision and the protests calling for its
revocation are fully justied.
The move to effectively banish the bicycle from large
parts of Calcutta is particularly ironic, since Asansol
was the home of Sen-Raleigh, among the iconic brands
of bicycles made in post-independence India. Bicycles
as a mainstream transport option are under threat
today, as it is difficult and risky to ride them in crowded
cities. This is reected in the dip in the number of
urban households that have one by four percentage
points, to 41.9 per cent, compared to a decade ago. The
National Urban Transport Policy has made little head-
way in addressing the concerns of cyclists and pedestri-
ans. The urban planning record stands in contrast to
what is happening in the developed countries, and even
emerging nations in Latin America. Curitiba in Brazil,
for instance, is creating a microgrid of roads for bicycle
connectivity, to benet workers. New York, with a
history of class conicts in allocation of road space,
has struck a blow for cyclists with the launch of a
bike-sharing programme. Regrettably, none of these
progressive models seems to appeal to Indian pol-
icymakers, who promote car use to the exclusion of
other modes. Even the settled legal principle of pollu-
ter pays has been ignored in Kolkata. The Trinamool
Congress government must remember that there is
powerful symbolism associated with the bicycle world-
wide, as a vehicle of freedom from tyranny. It should
stop oppressing those who impose no costs on the city
and perform an economic function in the greenest
manner possible.
ope Francis may have been an unlikely succes-
sor to Pope Benedict XVI, but he is already
emerging as a remarkable pontiff, one who has
always led a simple life himself, who under-
stands the kinds of lives led by many Roman Catholics,
and who also knows the dangers of a remote clergy
apparently more concerned with specic forms of or-
thodoxy than with the mission of providing a spiritual
space for all of the faithful in our complex and troubled
times. That the Church of Rome faces serious problems
is clear, with declining attendance and a shrinking
priesthood, especially in developed countries, with
widening rifts between followers attitudes in the de-
veloped and developing worlds, and with terrible scan-
dals of child sex abuse, corruption, and incompetence
which would have destroyed many a lesser institution.
The Popes fellow priests probably know that very well,
but the way His Holiness has responded to the sit-
uation is making the world sit up and take note.
In an interview with the Italian Jesuit magazine La
Civilt Cattolica, which has been translated and repub-
lished in the American Jesuit journal America, the
pontiff says the Church is the community of Gods
people. Therefore, one of its rst tasks is to recognise
how human beings understand themselves today.
The Pope had already made waves by replying to a
question on gay priests, Who am I to judge? but now
he has gone further, saying that the Church must not
interfere spiritually in the lives of gays and lesbians
and that priests must not be obsessed with homosex-
uality, abortion, and contraception to the neglect of
their wider mission, which is to proclaim and spread
the saving love of God. Even the way that is done
could be radically reformed; Pope Francis says local
doctrinal issues are best addressed by local bishops
conferences, with the Vatican available for consulta-
tion. Furthermore, the pontiff is clear about a stronger
role for women: the feminine genius is needed wher-
ever we make important decisions. Just as radically,
on September 22, the Pope told 20,000 listeners in
Sardinia that the world must abandon its idolatry of
greed and reform the global nancial system. Signif-
icantly, the Pope has not proposed changing the
churchs line on homosexuality, contraception, and
abortion or on women priests but he has reminded
all the worlds 1.2 billion Catholics that if they do not
end their obsession with those issues and start ac-
knowledging humanity as it is today, the Churchs
moral edice could fall like a house of cards. For
Roman Catholicism, His Holiness may well be a truly
world-historic gure.
faith relevant
here could be more vocal
calls for changes in the
governance of world
trade if the three mega
free trade and invest-
ment agreements under
negotiations get to a suc-
cessful closure. In July
this year, the United States and the Europe-
an Union began negotiating a Trans Atlantic
Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)
which they hope to conclude by 2015. The 28
EUmembers and the U.S. account for half of
world GDP and 30 per cent of world trade in
goods and services. TTIP is projected to add
more than 13 million American and EUjobs.
The Trans Pacic Partnership (TPP) ne-
gotiations among 12 countries including the
U.S., Australia, Canada, Mexico, Malaysia,
Singapore, Vietnam and, most recently, Ja-
pan, have already been under way for over
three years now with the 19th round com-
pleted in Brunei from August 23-30, 2013.
The negotiations are due to conclude this
year. These countries too contribute to
around 38 per cent of world GDP and 25 per
cent of global trade.
Formidable grouping
In March this year, the ASEAN Ten plus
six dialogue partners (Australia, China, In-
dia, Japan, Korea and New Zealand) held
their rst round of negotiations for the Re-
gional Comprehensive Economic Partner-
ship agreement (RCEP) to be concluded by
2015. Covering 45 per cent of world pop-
ulationand a third of world GDP, this too is a
formidable grouping.
The word partnership rather than free
trade in the title of these agreements signi-
es they will go beyond free trade disci-
plines. With many participant countries
already bound by FTAs, or with average
MFN tariffs already low as between EU and
the U.S. who do not have an FTA, there is
limited scope for further liberalisation in
market access except in sensitive areas pre-
viously sheltered fromcompetitionlike agri-
culture, textiles, footwear, automobiles,
government procurement and services.
Apart frombringing down such barriers, ne-
gotiations are to address many behind the
border regulations and standards.
Contrast the above with the Doha Round
of trade negotiations languishing for 12 years
now with no sign of closure. Limited har-
vests being attempted on trade facilitation,
agriculture (specially public stock holding
for food security, an issue of importance to
us) and developing country and LDC related
issues for the Bali Ministerial of WTO in
December 2013 appear to have only even
chances of success. Even the elimination of
agriculture export subsidies by 2013, agreed
to in the 2005 Hong Kong WTO ministerial,
is not likely tobe implemented. Despite peri-
odic assertions by G-20 summit meetings
about the importance of successfully com-
pleting Doha, there is inadequate injection
of political will and energy. Will the new
Director General of WTO, Roberto Azevedo,
be able to rekindle interest and momentum
and help WTO retain primacy? In his inau-
gural speech earlier this month, he called for
success at Bali as vital and for delivering on
Doha to be part of any future agenda.
Many developed country participants
however have made it plain that an objective
inmoving towards the TPPor TTIPis also to
eventually explore if the high standards of
these agreements can be imported into the
WTO corpus. U.S. Vice President Biden has
said our goal is for high standards of Trans
Pacic Partnership to enter the bloodstream
of the global system and improve the rules
and norms. The press statement of EU and
U.S. leaders about the announcement of
TTIPalso talked about the negotiations con-
tributing to the development of global rules.
The U.S. has in fact been promoting com-
petitive trade liberalisation through other
tracks once it became clear the Doha Round
will not include issues like investment, com-
petition policy and government procure-
ment which were dropped fromits agenda at
the Cancun Ministerial in September 2003.
Then U.S. Trade Representative Robert
Zoellick famously wrote in Financial Times
that the key division was between can do
countries and won't do countries and went
on to say we will move towards free trade
with can do countries.
The reality was while Doha was a devel-
opment agenda, domestic agriculture and in-
dustry interests in the U.S. (and in other
developed countries) showed no appetite for
making necessary concessions. Instead, the
game moved towards ensuring that when
emerging economies were showing signs of
rapid growth, developed countries did not
lose the lead. It was time to demand a more
enduring value for technology and IPR. En-
forcement of higher environment and labour
standards was sought to be made a norm
even on a trade platform. More assured ac-
cess for trade and investment was demanded
with rmcommitments about reform.
Secret negotiations
In 2009, the U.S. took hold of an existing
agreement that had only four small mem-
bers (Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singa-
pore) and assumed leadership in making it
deeper in terms of liberalisation, broader in
respect of issues covered (such as on supply
chains, state owned enterprises and regu-
latory coherence) and wider in terms of
membershipunder the banner of TPPwhose
negotiations are now proceeding most secre-
tively. This served several objectives not
least of which was to get a foothold in Asia
where it was getting left out of free trade
deals that had vastly grown in the 1990s and
When the TPP was being marketed as
demonstration of increasing engagement
between the U.S. and Asia, there were wor-
ries across the Atlantic. The U.S. was wary
initially to soundings from EU for a similar
partnership with several pending trade is-
sues between them. But after a study proc-
ess, President Obama and EU leaders
announced the start of negotiations earlier
this year. One round was held in July.
RCEP, the third mega deal that will span
16 countries, including three LDCs, may not
be able to match the ambitions of TPP and
TTIP even as the idea is to signicantly im-
prove over the FTAs that each of the six
partner countries including India have with
ASEANas a whole. Inany case, Environment
and Labour Standards have not been men-
tioned in the Guiding objectives and princi-
ples. It can also be surmised that on issues
like IPRs, it may not go beyond the WTO
balance of commitments. There would also
be special and differential treatment for de-
veloping countries that is absent in TPP.
Impact on Doha outcome
How will these mega deals, if they are
successfully completed, inuence the Doha
outcome? Is India likely to be affected and, if
so, what should be its strategy?
There would be issues of concern in TPP
and TTIP insofar as India is concerned such
as going beyond TRIPs commitments, or
binding commitments on labour and envi-
ronment standards and those which may se-
verely limit policy options at our stage of
development. Trade majors can well present
dressed up disciplines in specic areas in
these mega partnerships for being parachut-
ed into WTO. This is one reason we may
need to carefully focus on RCEP which had
its second round of negotiations from Sep-
tember 23-27, 2013 in Brisbane. The next
round is to be held in Malaysia in January
2014. With the help of ASEAN, who are to
play a lead part in the negotiations, we will
need to ensure that the commitments drawn
stay away fromunreasonable constraining of
policy options even as deeper liberalisation
is attempted. There should also be sufficient
exibility for dealing withsensitive products
and services. With concerns shown by Indi-
an industry about concessions granted in
FTAs already concluded by us, it will be
challenging for our negotiators to deal with
requests that come with a deeper liberal-
isation tag. The inclusion of China in RCEP
with which India has no FTA at present but
with which we already have a large trade
decit also needs factoring in.
But if the negotiations succeed in a bal-
anced outcome, the RCEP approach can be
projected as more worthy of emulation. We
would also need to push for issues of our
interest such as for commitments towards
movement of professionals.
At the First Round of TTIP negotiations,
EUhas argued for specic rules onraw mate-
rials and energy which could address issues
like market access and non-discrimination,
government intervention in price setting of
energy goods and security of supply. Even as
India is not a member of TTIP, such propos-
als need careful examination. The question
alsoarises why similar disciplines should not
be developed for access to technology.
As world trade governance witnesses new
trends, we need to work out an appropriate
negotiating stance for RCEP. We should
have credible options that also enjoy ade-
quate support.
(The writer is a former ambassador to
Three deals that can change the world
V.S. Seshadri
With new trade winds blowing across the globe, India must focus on getting the best out of the Regional
Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement to be concluded by 2015
here are three ways to interpret General Ash-
faq Parvez Kayanis announcement that he
will retire when his extended tenure as Chief
of the Pakistan Army ends on November 29.
First, that he intends to wield power in some other
capacity, such as National Security Adviser. Second,
that he is placing the corporate interest of the military
which cannot afford too long a disruption in its
natural system of succession above the personal. Or
third, that the civilian government of Prime Minister
Nawaz Sharif has made it clear there will be no further
extension. Any which way, his exit is set to be the most
graceful in Pakistans recent history. Six years ago,
General Kayani gave himself the task of rebuilding his
Armys image, severely dented by the unpopularity of
his predecessor, Pervez Musharraf. He succeeded to a
great extent, such that even after Osama bin Laden was
killed in a raid by U.S. commandos in Abbottabad,
nationally little blame attached to the Pakistan Army
for not having discovered the worlds most wanted man
earlier. Under him, the military seemingly distanced
itself from the U.S., its patron-in-chief, while the 2008-
2013 Pakistan Peoples Party government was blamed
for selling out to it. Most of all, General Kayani man-
aged to give the impression of a COAS who, despite the
opportunities thrown at him by an inept government,
stayed away from the temptation to take charge. The
reality, though, is that post-Musharraf, the Army
knows it is not easy to run Pakistan, and that on
matters close to its heart, power can be wielded from
behind the scenes, leaving the civilian rulers to take the
blame when things go wrong.
What General Kayani could not accomplish, howev-
er, was a course correction in the Pakistan Armys
opportunistic outlook towards terrorism. He said often
enough that his countrys main enemies were terror-
ism and the militancy within, but it is under his watch
that the Taliban and Haqqani network have stepped up
their murderous campaign in Afghanistan, the cease-
re along the LoC with India has come under strain,
and groups like the Jamaat-ud-Dawa continue to
thrive. Of course, these squalid tactical pursuits cannot
hide General Kayanis biggest failing: despite its men
and establishments coming under repeated attack by
jihadi groups, the Pakistan military and its leadership
proved incapable of grasping the fundamental reality
that there is no good and bad terrorism but a metasta-
sised malignancy that has to be fought regardless of
whether its target is Pakistan, the U.S., Afghanistan or
India. General Kayanis decision to retire gracefully is
good for democracy and the Pakistan Army. But unless
his successor is willing to grasp this nettle, the cancer of
terror will continue to destroy Pakistan.
A generals
Hasty decision
n order to reap political
dividends, the Congress-led
UPA government has taken a hasty
decision to bifurcate Andhra
Pradesh, and forma separate State
of Telangana. As a result, the
Rayalaseema region is in turmoil.
The saddest part is the Centre
seems unconcerned about the
happenings in the region. People
of all regions should have been
taken into condence before
taking such a major decision. A
few political leaders who decided
the fate of the State did so for
selsh reasons.
B. Madhava Murthy,
he turn of events in Andhra
Pradesh is distressing. That
there are such intense feelings of
hatred and animosity among a
group of people speaking the same
language and sharing a common
culture is unfortunate. It is
difficult to visualise a
normalisation of feelings. Political
leaders are clueless about the
future and are manipulating
people wildly, helped by an over-
aggressive media.
The madness has to stop. Let all
of us politicians, bureaucrats,
policymakers, media,
intelligentsia, and civil society
leaders come together and build
a consensus. A peaceful State is
being systematically destroyed. An
independent State of Telangana
should become a reality but the
issue of Hyderabad and river-
water sharing need to be sorted
out so that peace and happiness
can return. The land, not people,
should be divided.
Pingali Gopal,
he Telangana agitation has
been going on for decades.
With the Cabinet clearing the
bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, the
Samaikyandhra agitation has
gained momentum. Both the
agitations have led to a disruption
of life, closure of schools and
colleges, disruption of power,
damage to public property and so
on. The only way to resolve the
issue is to hold an opinion poll that
can serve as a referendum.
Only political leaders have made
decisions on the issue all these
days as if Telangana is their
business. Let the people of Andhra
Pradesh decide what they want.
Datta Shivane,
he unrest in Seemandhra
refuses to die down. The deep
rooted regional bias which has
crystallised into animosity and
hatred has driven even the
womenfolk to indulge in
aggressive behaviour (Oct. 7),
which is shocking. What an irony
in the land of the Mahatma, who
envisioned empowerment of
A re has been started in
Andhra Pradesh, with all political
parties trying to take advantage
but who will douse it is a million
dollar question.
T. Prabakar,
ulabh International has done a
commendable job by
sponsoring the trip of about 50
Vrindavan widows to Kolkata for
Durga Puja celebrations. It will
surely help to remove the stigma
attached to their status in society.
The aged women need love and
affection to forget their trauma
and lead a peaceful life in the
autumn of their lives. The efforts
of Sulabh International should be
supplemented by more NGOs.
V. Srinivasa Rao,
New Delhi
t was heartening to read that
Vrindavan widows went back to
Kolkata to celebrate the Durga
Puja. The Hindu deserves praise
for its report on the plight of the
widows in Mathuras shelter
homes, which prompted the
Supreme Court to ask SI to look
after them. It is surprising that in
the ultra-modern word, where
human rights are widely talked
about, the plight of the elderly is
P.K. Raman,
Bicycle phobia
he prohibition imposed on the
use of bicycle and non-
motorised vehicles in 174
designated roads of Kolkata in
order to create more space for
powered vehicles (Bicycle
phobia, Oct. 7) is undemocratic. It
violates the fundamental right of
poor citizens running their
business in an eco-friendly
manner. Biking saves money,
reduces stress, and air and noise
pollution. It is an exercise that has
many health benets.
In the U.S., programmes are run
to reward individuals and
businesses for their commitment
to cleaner air, personal health and
use of pedalling energy to create a
more sustainable community. We
should build special roads for
bicycles to encourage cycling.
Harminder Singh,
he move points to the short-
sightedness of West Bengals
policymakers. Cycles are the most
eco-friendly means of transport;
they do not emit fumes. They
occupy very little space on the
roads. They are perhaps the only
solution to congestion on the
Shriyaa Mittal
he cycle is the symbol of the
working class as most of those
who use it are daily wage earners,
security guards, milk vendors,
newspaper hawkers, marginal
farmers and vegetable vendors
who cant afford public transport.
The West Bengal governments
move is absurd. Many European
nations are struggling to make
cycling more popular with
movements like back-to- bicycle.
The charge that bicycles slow
down traffic is baseless.
T. Marx,
he bicycle is the poor mans
vehicle. If people do not
oppose the latest move in Kolkata,
a time will come when pedestrians
will be asked to keep off the roads
during specied hours. Are roads
meant only for the privileged
V. Pandy,
housands will be affected by
the West Bengal governments
decision. Bicycles are the only
solution for the ever increasing
pollution and fuel prices. Not
everyone has the money to buy
motor vehicles or use public
M. Rahul Reddy,
he editorial has rightly
pointed out that bicycles as a
mainstreamtransport option are
under threat today, as it is difficult
and risky to ride themin crowded
cities. The use of the humble
two-wheeler is already restricted
and the trend is set to grow. Soon,
bicycles will go off the roads. It is
ineffective planning that is
responsible for the lack of
adequate space for powered
vehicles. Protests calling for the
revocation of the ban order in
parts of Kolkata are fully justied.
K.S. Thampi,
e are losing most of our
dollar credit to fuel import,
which is making the rupee weaker
against the dollar. The
government should encourage the
use of non-motorised vehicles
rather than ban it.
Kapil Dev Surira,
hen I went to the
International Documentary
FilmFestival in Amsterdam, the
organisers gave me a bicycle after I
registered for the event, with the
note that it would be my
conveyance till the end of the
festival. Even the staff were asked
to use cycles.
K.N.T. Sastry,
to the
Letters emailed to must carry
the full postal address and the full
name or the name with initials.
fter a long and painful period of neglect, India
promises to devote attention to the issue of
preparing all children for primary schooling.
The draft National Early Childhood Care and
Education (ECCE) policy aims to end the current
laissez faire situation that has led to the mushrooming
of expensive crches, play schools, nursery schools and
so on that adhere to no particular standard. On the
other hand, there is the major public programme, the
Integrated Child Development Services with a national
footprint, but patchy outcomes. Policies are only as
good as the institutional arrangements they make and
the devices that they employ to bring about compli-
ance. The ECCE policy talks of covering 158.7 million
children in the 0 to 6 year age group, a category that has
traditionally fallen through the cracks when it comes to
resource support. In spite of sustained economic
growth, the proportion of undernourished children in
2005-06 measured by the National Family Health Sur-
vey-3 was the same as in 1998-99, ample proof that the
fruits of prosperity are being denied to many. It is
crucial, therefore, for a new policy to look at the alloca-
tion of funds carefully, and prevent prot-seeking ac-
tors from skimming off what is meant to create better
anganwadi centres, provide standard materials for a
play-based curriculum and good nutrition. Reliance on
private partners to achieve universal access, equity and
inclusion would be misplaced.
Extensive discussion between the Ministry of Wom-
en and Child Development and the States on the ECCE
policy is essential because the draft envisages a stan-
dardised system for public, private and voluntary sec-
tors. It needs a legal framework that will work
smoothly. That there are challenges is evident from the
nding of the Comptroller and Auditor General that in
13 States, the performance of the ICDS over a ve-year
period from 2006 in the delivery of supplementary
nutrition and pre-school education two key goals
was depressingly poor. Infrastructure was so weak that
52 per cent of the anganwadi centres had no toilet, and
32 per cent no drinking water. That the programme
should languish in spite of the Supreme Courts in-
tervention since 2001 to universalise and upgrade the
ICDS shows deplorable lack of commitment across the
political spectrum. There are some positive elements
to the draft policy, such as prioritising mother tongue
or language spoken at home, followed by exposure to
oral English and national or regional language. In the
main, it does little to assert the right of the child to care
and nutrition, preferring instead to promote, endeav-
our and explore. The nal policy must reect the
national rights-based discourse.
Take childs play
he Rashtriya Swayamse-
vak Sanghs constitution
explicitly states that it
will stay clear of politics.
The constitution itself
was written, in 1949, be-
cause Sardar Vallabhb-
hai Patel would have it
no other way.
The events of 2013 have comprehensively
erased that part of Indias history. The RSS
has takenfull control of the Bharatiya Janata
Party. It has overridden internal opposition
to name the partys prime ministerial candi-
date. No act can be politically more overt
than this.
A mentor
The RSS has always been to the BJP, earli-
er the Jan Sangh, a mentor the latter could
not disobey because the Jan Sangh was
seeded by the RSS whose top pracharaks
(propagandists) formed the new partys in-
tellectual and political capital. In its consti-
tution, the RSS abjures a political role for
itself but permits individual swayamsevaks
to join any political party.
The RSS has used this caveat to place its
representatives in the JS/BJP. From Lal
Krishna Advani to Narendra Modi, every
BJP leader of consequence has been from
the Sanghs deep bosomand each has had to
mandatorily follow a curriculum involving
pilgrimages to the Sangh offices in Delhi and
Nagpur and deferring to the patriarchs
The unstated part of the BJP-RSS rela-
tionship was that the Sangh chief, Sarsangh-
chalak in RSS parlance, himself would not
show his hand. The behind-the-scenes role
for the minder was necessitated both by the
1949 undertaking to Patel and to overcome
the strong political opposition to Hindutva.
The governments of 1977-1979 and 1998-
2004 became possible only because the RSS
agreed to keep out of sight.
The events of 2013 are remarkable for the
reason that the BJPs need for allies has not
translated into the Sangh taking a backseat.
Instead, today more than ever before, the
mentor is in a frontal, commanding role.
A look at recent history will show that the
Sanghs takeover bid started in real earnest
in 2005, following Mr. Advanis visit to Pa-
kistan and his apocalyptical praise of Mo-
hammad Ali Jinnah delivered straight from
the latters mausoleum in Karachi. So livid
was the Sangh at the transgression that it
ordered Mr. Advani removed fromthe presi-
dentship of the BJP. And though Mr. Advani
did become the BJPs prime ministerial can-
didate in 2009, his unique place in the Sangh
was lost forever. The marginalisation of the
ideologue started at that point and has ended
today in his complete isolation.
The epic clash of 2005, and Mr. Advanis
barely controlled anger at his public sacking
by the minder, are best captured in Mr. Ad-
vanis ownwords. Addressing the concluding
sessionof the partys September 2005 Chen-
nai national executive, Mr. Advani said an
impression had gained ground that his
party could take no decision without the
consent of the RSS : This perception, we
hold, will do no good either to the Party or to
the RSS. The RSS must be concerned that
such a perception will dwarf its greater mis-
sion of man making and nation-building.
Both the RSS and the BJP must consciously
exert to dispel this impression.
Lesser players had clashed with the Sangh
earlier, and paid the price too, but Mr. Ad-
vani was beloved of the Sangh, and among
the early pracharaks sent to the Jan Sangh.
The BJP veteran was blunt when he called
the RSS a busybody; in truth, it had always
been so. What was unprecedented was the
Sanghdivesting a leader of Mr. Advanis stat-
ure and vintage of his presidency.
Seven years on, the Sangh has issued an-
other decree this time to give a leader a
double promotion executed in two stages.
Narendra Modis June 2013 elevation to the
BJPs campaign committee chief, since re-
linquished by him, was followed in Septem-
ber 2013 by his appointment as the partys
prime ministerial candidate. In 2005, the
RSSs role was inferred, with the evidence
coming fromMr. Advani. In 2013, the g leaf
has been cast away.
Mr. Advani, who had resigned from key
party posts protesting Mr. Modis June 2013
elevation to campaign panel chief, climbed
down on the Sanghs orders a fact ac-
knowledged in writing by BJP chief Rajnath
Singh. This was a rst in RSS-BJP history.
Mr. Singhs June 11, 2013 statement to the
media said, Shri Mohan Bhagwat (current
Sarsanghchalak) spoke to Shri Advani and
asked himto respect the BJP Parliamentary
Board (PB) decision and continue to guide
the party in national interest. The BJPs PB
did indeed make a request to Mr. Advani but
from Mr. Bhagwat it was a command. The
words were gentle but the message was not.
Thus, the takeover bid which started in
2005 was full and nal with Mr. Modis pro-
jection as Prime Minister in September
2013. In June 2013, Mr. Advani wanted that
Mr. Modi should not head the campaignpan-
el. That has happened today, proving that the
rst-stage elevation was a ploy aimed at
wearing down internal opposition to Mr.
No politics
Cut to 1949 and the RSSs undertaking to
Patel to write a constitution, which, among
other things, would specify that the Sangh
had no politics and would remaindevoted
purely to cultural work (Article 4(b) of the
RSS constitution; D.R. Goyal, 1979). The
written constitution was Patels pre-condi-
tionfor lifting the banimposed onthe RSS in
the wake of Mahatma Gandhis January 30,
1948 assassination.
Then Sarsanghchalak Madhav Sadashiv
Golwalkar pleaded not guilty and Patel him-
self was clear that the RSS was not involved
in the assassination. He said this in his Feb-
ruary 27, 1948letter toPrime Minister Jawa-
harlal Nehru and reiterated it later too.
However, Patel was strong in the belief that
the Sanghs violent ways contributed to
the climate in which Gandhiji was killed.
Golwalkars telegrams to Nehru and Patel
expressing shock at the murder did not miti-
gate the situation.
The governments ban notication, dated
February 4, 1948, did not implicate the RSS
inGandhijis murder; it infact made nomen-
tion of the murder. The charge in the text
was of violent subversion: ... in practice
members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak
Sangh have not adhered to their professed
ideals (fostering feelings of brotherhood,
love and service among Hindus). Undesir-
able and evendangerous activities have been
carried on by members of the Sangh indi-
vidual members of the Rashtriya Swayam-
sevakSanghhave indulged inacts of violence
involving arson, robbery, dacoity and mur-
der and have collected illicit arms and am-
munition. They have been found circulating
leaets exhorting people to resort to terror-
ist methods, to collect rearms, to create
disaffection against the government and
suborn the police and the military. These
activities have been carried on under a cloak
of secrecy
On November 14, 1948, the Home Minis-
try held by Patel issued a press note which
said Golwalkar wanted the ban lifted with-
out agreeing to the governments demand
that the RSS reformitself. Further, the note
quoted information received from the pro-
vincial governments, which showed that
the activities carried on in various forms and
ways by the people associated with the RSS
tend tobe anti-national and oftensubversive
and violent and that persistent attempts are
being made by the RSS to revive an atmo-
sphere in the country which was productive
of such disastrous consequences in the
Two letters
Prior to this, Patel wrote two signicant
letters. On July 18, 1948, he wrote to Shyama
Prasad Mookherjee, rejecting his defence of
the RSS: The activities of the RSS constitu-
ted a clear threat to the existence of the
Government and State as time has
marched on, the RSS circles are becoming
more deant and are indulging in their sub-
versive activities in an increasing
The letter of September 11, 1948, was to
Golwalkar himself. In this Patel lauded the
RSS for its service to Hindu society even as
he outlined the objectionable part which
arose when they, burning with revenge, be-
gan attacking Mussalmaans Further, As
a nal result of the (communal) poison, the
country had to suffer the sacrice of the
invaluable life of Gandhiji Patel said peo-
ples opposition to the RSS grew when the
RSS men expressed joy and distributed
sweets after Gandhijis death.
So, the charge that led to the ban was not
that the RSS was involved in Gandhijis mur-
der. The charge was of violence and sub-
version. (The Sangh was later formally
cleared of any connection in the murder).
This is what led to Patels pre-condition that
the RSS write a constitution specifying,
among other things, its respect for the Indi-
an ag (the Sangh swears by the Bhagwa
ag), its commitment both to function as an
open and peaceful organisation and to stay
clear of politics. It was a prolonged battle.
Golwalkar resisted writing the constitution
but Patel won out and the ban was lifted on
July 11, 1949.
The RSS has gone back on the promise to
keep off politics.
The forgotten promise of 1949
Vidya Subrahmaniam
The RSS wrote a non-political role for itself as part of an undertaking it gave Sardar Patel. The overt
political role it has assumed in 2013 is a breach of that agreement and its own constitution
hatever the tactical gains from its recent
commando raids on terrorist targets in
Libya and Somalia, the United States
needs to reect on the strategic costs that
such surgical strikes impose on the target countries,
the wider region and, ultimately, on itself. That such
strikes are sometimes successful as with the capture
of Nazih Abdul-Hamed al Ruqai in Libya should not
lure the U.S. or the international community into be-
lieving the war on terror can be won from the skies.
Governments in Yemen, Somalia and Libya have been
struggling to combat al-Qaeda and its affiliates because
they lack the requisite capabilities on the ground to
secure their borders and police their territories. Drone
attacks or covert raids by the U.S. that take out a
terrorist or two will not stem extremist violence in
these countries or make them any less attractive for
terrorist groups. On the contrary, they will foment
further instability and if civilian casualties are in-
volved, resentment against the regime resulting in
safe havens for organisations like al-Qaeda. Whats
more, such strikes leave local and regional govern-
ments to fend against potential retaliation for them-
selves. U.S. efforts, then, should not be aimed at
bypassing these states but at bolstering their counter-
terrorism skills.
It is not a coincidence that the U.S. also nds itself on
a slippery slope, using methods unconstrained by na-
tional law and disrespectful of international law to
pursue national security objectives. During his term,
President Barack Obama has deployed covert military
force with alacrity, whether through drone strikes,
cyber-attacks or Navy SEAL raids. For someone whose
rst campaign promised greater probity in executive
action, Mr. Obama has been content to let the end
justify his means. No matter the intelligence behind
the strikes in Libya, the U.S. ought to have realised the
political cost of staging an attack without the consent
of its internationally recognised government. Tripolis
strong protest against the action of American military
forces underlines a troubling question. If regime
change, Libyan style, has not created a situation in
which the U.S. can operate in tandem with the govern-
ment for a goal that surely both officially subscribe to,
surely there is something seriously wrong with the
wider American approach to the region. Regardless of
his faults, and there were many, the former Libyan
leader Muammar Qadha was at least the master of his
territory. By overthrowing him and destroying all in-
stitutions of national authority, the U.S. and its allies
did al-Qaeda a huge favour. The same mistake is in
danger of being repeated in Syria too.
The wrong way
to ght terror
Chaos in A.P.
o money in ATMs, no water
supply, failed ICUs, no
transport, no fuel & no mobiles
working (Oct. 8) the common
mans misery in Seemandhra is
evident. For whose sake are the
agitators protesting, disrupting
peoples lives? How long can we
tolerate the agony of no work, no
earnings and no basic facilities?
The people of Seemandhra
supporting the agitation for a
united Andhra Pradesh is
understandable but the forced
blackout is unacceptable.
Electricity is the lifeline of the
common man. As the agitators
have succeeded in bringing their
grievances to the attention of the
Centre and the rest of the country,
they should work towards
restoring normality.
J.P. Reddy,
hanks to the Centres decision
to create a separate State of
Telangana, Andhra Pradesh has
descended into chaos. There is
complete failure of the
government machinery, and the
power crisis has hit the people
badly. Patients are the worst
sufferers as hospitals reel under a
complete blackout.
The Centre should impose
Presidents Rule to overcome the
deteriorating situation.
Vijay D. Patil,
he UPA government has
sought to create a separate
State of Telangana not for
administrative convenience but to
concede the demand of the people
belonging to a particular
geographical area.
Since its decision has become
the cause of violent agitation in
another region, it should defer its
implementation. There is no harm
putting Telangana on hold for
some time. It can be implemented
after all stakeholders arrive at a
consensus and the Andhra
Pradesh Assembly recommends
the creation of the new State.
G. Sridharan,
New Delhi
he Congress itself is divided
over the decision to create the
29th State. The party leaders
outside the Telangana region are
supporting the protests for a
united Andhra Pradesh. The
creation of Telangana will result in
the division of assets of Andhra
Pradesh, which cannot be settled
Apportioning river waters,
power, coal and natural resources
will also pose serious challenges.
Another major problemis the
paucity of time before the Lok
Sabha election. The Union Cabinet
should withhold the bifurcation, at
least for the time being.
C. Koshy John,
ndia claims that unity in
diversity is its greatest strength.
But the fact is thousands of
Indians have lost their lives to
conicts caused by diversities.
Violence and bandh in
Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra
have resulted in huge economic
losses. It is very clear that
bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh will
address the interests of one region
and go against those of another.
The Centre should tread
Kamaldeep Singh,
New Delhi
t is quite illogical to divide a
State on the basis of letters
given by a few politicians who did
not visit their constituencies or
meet people to get their views on
the issue. The turmoil in Andhra
Pradesh clearly highlights the
difference of opinion between the
people of Seemandhra and their
elected representatives.
Even now, it is not too late to
take the people of the region into
condence and put the process of
bifurcation on hold. There should
be clarity on water-sharing,
power-sharing and Hyderabad-
S. Praseeda Rani,
t is undeniable that the people
of the Andhra region have
helped in the development of
Hyderabad as well as Telangana. It
is not the people of Telangana but
politicians who are unhappy with
the people of coastal Andhra.
More politicians fromTelangana
want to occupy powerful political
posts. Today, the Seemandhraites
need Telangana for their
The agitation of the past two
months has destroyed their
economy. Political leaders of
Telangana should relent and agree
to keep Andhra Pradesh united
against some major concessions,
including the post of Chief
Minister, if necessary.
M. Ikramulla,
nstead of being a joint capital
for 10 years, Hyderabad should
be a Union Territory. People of
both Telangana and Seemandhra
will then feel secure. All inter-
State rivers should be
This will dispel the fears over
sharing Krishna and Godavari
river waters.
R. Ganesan,
separate State of Telangana
was always a reality as a
majority of political parties
supported it. The people of
Seemandhra should have agitated
for the protection of their rights,
judicious share of resources,
status of Hyderabad, etc., instead
of a united Andhra Pradesh.
Change brings resistance, which is
natural. But it also brings an
opportunity. We must accept the
change and use the opportunity to
develop both Telangana and
Andhra Pradesh.
Vamshi Krishna,
ll these matters have to be
thought of not in terms of
emotion but in terms of calmand
collective thought. And not in
terms of today or tomorrow or the
day after but of what it will mean
to themand the country 10 years
hence, 20 years hence, a hundred
years hence.
Former Prime Minister Indira
Gandhis impassioned observation
in 1972 during the height of Jai
Andhra Agitation makes more
sense today than ever before.
Rajesh Chintamaneni,
1949 & 2013
uch water has owed under
the bridge since 1949 (The
forgotten promise of 1949, Oct.
8). The situation in 1948, following
Mahatma Gandhis assassination,
warranted the banning of the RSS.
But today, the situation is
different. What is wrong in a
Hindu outt espousing the cause
of Hindus? So many Muslim
outts function openly,
supporting the so-called secular
Ramabhadran Narayanan,
ost, if not all, people
involved in the
reprehensible act of 1948 are dead.
We cannot continue to be
prisoners of 1948. Over a period of
60 years, things have changed. The
present day Congress is not the
original Indian National Congress.
Had Sardar Patel been alive today,
even he would have welcomed the
RSS decision of nominating
Narendra Modi as the BJPs prime
ministerial candidate in the
present circumstances.
J.S. Acharya,
he Congress of 1949 is
different fromthe Congress of
2013. What was contemplated
when secularismwas incorporated
in our Constitution has been
abused and reduced to what we
now call vote bank politics. As
one broadly committed to Gandhi-
Nehru ideals, I feel that in the
changed circumstances, the RSS
1949 promise is forgettable.
S. Rajagopalan,
ue to its involvement in
politics, the RSS is getting
isolated fromnot only the
minorities but also educated
Hindus. Its obsession with
Hindutva and inuential politics
serves no purpose, particularly in
a secular country where the BJP
will sooner or later be forced to
sever its connections with the
Sangh. It is unfortunate that an
organisation that was started with
good ideals has turned into a
parochial body.
Lakshmi Swathi Gandham,
hanks to the Congress and its
corruption ridden politics, the
BJP has a good chance of winning
the 2014 elections. This puts
unlimited powers in the hands of
the RSS leaders. I dont know
whomto vote for, a communal
NDA or a corrupt UPA. I hope a
third front will rise in the horizon.
Akand Sitra,
Declining values
ndia is a country known for art,
culture, tradition and, above all,
spiritual and ethical values. People
frommany countries come here
for spiritual development. But
look how the situation has
deteriorated. Swami Nityananda,
Subhash Patri, and now Asaram
Bapu ... all of themare facing
serious allegations of wrongdoing.
While AsaramBapu is in jail on
charges of sexually assaulting a
minor girl, two young girls who are
sisters have accused himand his
son of raping them. Such incidents
lead to a total disbelief in
spiritual leaders. The authorities
must take strong action against
such people if the charges against
themare proved, and put an end to
unethical practices in the name of
A.S. Divya Sudha,
to the
Letters emailed to must carry
the full postal address and the full
name or the name with initials.
ith the Medical Termination of Pregnan-
cy (MTP) Act coming into effect in 1972,
India conveyed a strong message that it
cared for the health of pregnant women
who wanted to safely terminate their pregnancies. Yet,
even four decades later, many women are still unaware
that abortion is legal. Even access to safe abortion
centres is severely restricted, especially in rural areas.
As a result, there is a great mismatch between the
number of abortion seekers and MTP-certied provid-
ers and centres. According to a 2008 study in Contra-
ception journal, nearly three-quarters of
abortion-certied facilities are in the private sector.
Add to this the stigma and discrimination that women
seeking abortion face, and it is not surprising that a
large number of women still turn to unskilled providers
to perform abortions using unsafe methods in un-
suitable settings. In 2010-11, over six lakh abortions
took place in government-approved institutions. The
number of unsafe abortions taking place every year is
not known. According to a 2008 WHO report, about
two thirds of all abortions that take place in the
country are outside authorised health facilities. As a
result, abortions cause an estimated eight per cent of
maternal deaths in India a majority of which are due
to unsafe procedures according to the Registrar
General of Indias data.
To complicate the situation further, the Pre-natal
Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of
Misuse) Act, 1994 meant to prevent sex determination
to avert female foeticide can work at odds with the
MTP Act. It cannot be denied that selective abortion of
girls has been increasing in India. As per 2011 census
data, the sex ratio of girls per 1,000 boys dropped from
927 to 914 during 2001-2010, and from 945 to 927
during 1991-2000. Yet, a long-lasting solution can be
achieved only by bringing about a cultural change and
not by clamping down on abortion services and drug
availability. A holistic approach is needed that will not
lead to more women seeking out unsafe abortion pro-
viders, resulting in an increase in maternal deaths. The
Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012
and the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013 have also
made matters worse for minors seeking abortion ser-
vices. Even if minors indulge in consensual sex, the
resultant pregnancy is presumed to be the result of
rape and doctors may feel obliged to inform the author-
ities. While the 2012 and 2013 Acts have gone to great
lengths to protect the interests of women and minors,
these laws may unwittingly force minors to seek the
services of untrained providers, thus putting their life
in jeopardy. Reducing unsafe abortions will remain a
distant dream if different Acts work at cross purposes.
The right to
safe abortions
he recent NOTA (none of
the above) order of the
Supreme Court makes
for a hat trick of deci-
sions by the judiciary,
striking a blow for elec-
toral reforms. The at-
tempt to reverse one of
them to save MPs found guilty of offences
that would instantaneously unseat them
was thwarted because of public pressure and
the Presidents reported reluctance to sign
the Representation of the People (Amend-
ment and Validation) Ordinance. It is said
that nature abhors vacuum. Inthe face of the
governments reluctance to move ahead in
bringing meaningful electoral reforms, the
courts have had to intervene wherever they
could to give some push to the reforms and
to restore the publics faith in the system.
Governments failure
The NOTA case is a classic example of the
governments failure to do the right thing at
the right time. The Election Commission of
India (ECI) moved the Law Ministry in 2001
for an amendment to the rules to provide for
a button in electronic voting machines in
order to protect the identity and secrecy of a
voter who does not want to vote for any
candidate. That was the equivalent of the
unmarked ballot paper of the earlier era. The
ECI received no response to the proposal for
amending the said rule, although the Minis-
ter incharge needed neither the UnionCabi-
nets nod nor Parliaments assent. In 2004,
the then Chief Election Commissioner, T.S.
Krishnamurthy, reiterated the proposal af-
ter christening the button as none of the
above but, for the rst time, clearly artic-
ulating that it was to to enable a voter to
reject all the candidates, if he chooses so. By
then, the PUCL had already moved the Su-
preme Court inthe matter. The case came up
for hearing in 2009 but in the intervening
years the protagonists for the no vote but-
ton had raised the pitch claiming for it the
attribute of rejection of candidates which it
is not, at least not yet. Presently, it will only
enable a voter not to vote in favour of any
candidate. So the votes recorded against this
buttonwill have the same fate as the invalid
votes of the ballot paper era and would have
no role in determining the winner. With
EVMs, the invalid vote category got elim-
inated as mistakes like wrong marking and
multiple marking became a thing of the past.
Now, with this button that column will come
back to life.
If that be so, is it not a minor matter, a
stormin a tea cup? To answer it, one should
look closely at some pronouncements of the
Supreme Court in this case. It is worthwhile
to note that by the time the matter came up
in the Supreme Court in 2009, the govern-
ment had understood the potential of this
button to create a negative impact in the
short run, leading to the demand for a right
to reject candidates and seek fresh elections.
The government, therefore, reacted
strongly it sought to get the petition dis-
missed outright arguing that since the right
to vote was not a constitutional right but
only a statutory right, the petition led un-
der Article 32 was not maintainable and so
should be thrown out. This led to further
delay in the disposal of the petition as it
awaited the constitution of a larger bench.
The Supreme Court verdict has arrived al-
most a decade after the petition was led, in
favour of the NOTA button but with far-
reaching consequences.
Wider choice for voters
The reactions to this order have been var-
ied. Some have chosen to describe it as a
minor issue, pointing out to the lack of
action to carry out comprehensive electoral
reforms. Some have welcomed it as it may
increase voter turnout, an aspect which the
Supreme Court judges also pointed out.
Some have felt that it will make parties more
responsible, whichwill nominate better can-
didates. The judges themselves pointed out
that it can widen participation and curb im-
personation. A careful reading of the judg-
ment indicates that the judges strove to
make this happen through some deft side-
stepping and innovative interpretation of
past judgments of the Supreme Court and
provisions of the Constitution, onthe nature
of the right to vote, with the sole objective of
giving the voter a wider choice.
To quote fromthe verdict: Democracy is
about choice. This choice can be better ex-
pressed by giving the voters an opportunity
to verbalise themselves unreservedly and by
imposing least restrictions on their ability to
make such a choice. The Supreme Court
was emphatic that the no vote option gives
the voter the right to express his disapproval
with the kind of candidates that are being
put up by the political parties. Going fur-
ther, the judges declared that the provision
of negative voting would be in the interests
of promoting democracy.
This seemingly innocuous judgment to
add a button to the EVM may sound very
plebian but the skilfully worded order has
put a seal of approval on the distinction
made between the right to vote, which it
conrmed was a statutory right, and the act
of exercising that right by the casting of a
vote which it conrmed as a constitutional
right as enshrined in Article 19(1)(a), the
right to freedomof speech and expression. It
then a added a constitutional lustre to nega-
tive voting by declaring not allowing a per-
son to cast vote negatively defeats the very
freedomof expression and the right ensured
in Article 21, i.e., the right to liberty.
The Supreme Courts recognition of neg-
ative voting as a constitutional right is by all
means a giant step forward for the voter.
Civil society has thus won an important and
vital point. From here the next logical step
will be one of raising the status of the button
tothat of negative vote withconsequences,
in other words a vote for rejection of all
candidates, instead of its current status of
merely being no vote or negative vote. This
step would inevitably have to follow if politi-
cal parties do not see the writing on the wall
and belie the expectation that NOTA will
indeed compel the political parties to nomi-
nate a sound candidate, as the Supreme
Court said.
If parties keep imposing tainted candi-
dates on voters or, while selecting candi-
dates, pay scant regard to their performance
or integrity, the electorate can hit back with
NOTA. A time will come with demands for
fresh election with a fresh set of candidates
if, in the rst election, NOTA scores the
highest votes. If that happens, even if the
lawmakers are reluctant, the Supreme Court
may not be unsympathetic given the con-
tours of this judgment. With 12 crore rst
time voters who will have NOTA before
them in the coming election to Parliament,
the stage is set for the electorate to challenge
political parties commitment to decrimina-
lising the legislative bodies. A comprehen-
sive electoral reformis the need of the hour
but if the political class keeps dragging its
feet, courts may be willing to clean the Au-
gean stables. For their part, those who
moved the Supreme Court inthis matter and
other civil society organisations would do
well to educate voters of the power the court
has placed in their hands and let the button
beep louder and speak for them. NOTA will
not remain a small matter for long.
(The writer is former Chief Election Com-
missioner of India)
NOTA small matter, this
N. Gopalaswami
The Supreme Courts recognition of a negative vote as a constitutional right should be followed by
acknowledging it as a rejection of all candidates
oberto Azevdos observation that Indias
food security law may violate its commit-
ments to the World Trade Organization
should not take New Delhi by surprise. If
anything, the government should be thankful the Di-
rector-General who seems apprised of Indias legiti-
mate demand for ensuring food security has
recommended an interim solution until the WTO Min-
isterial Conference in December deliberates this issue.
It was clear from the start that legislating such a mam-
moth undertaking would involve purchasing food grain
from farmers at high prices and selling them through
the Public Distribution System at subsidised rates. Not
only should the needy be provided access to food but
farmers too must be incentivised to produce more
grain to reduce reliance on imports. Both actions, it has
been argued, constitute a type of price support that the
WTO classies as amber box measures considered
to distort production and trade. More specically,
India has to comply with its commitments under the
Aggregate Measurement of Support, which stipulates
a ceiling on domestic subsidies. Mr. Azevdo says the
food security law will breach Indias AMS commit-
ments. For now, the government has sought an inter-
im concession from the WTO to ensure India is not
subject to legal action from other members, especially
the United States and the European Union.
But this is no sustainable solution, and the future of
Indias food security law may well hinge on the out-
come of the WTO ministerial meet in Bali in December.
The G33 group of developing countries with India as
a prominent member has proposed exempting price
support measures aimed at furthering food security
from the purview of their AMS commitments. This
argument, however, has cut no ice at the WTO. In fact,
the West has seized upon the G33s vulnerability, tying
its proposal to the larger, deadlocked discussion on
trade facilitation under the Doha Development
Round. At the Bali Conference, it is likely the U.S. and
EU will push for a grand bargain: lesser import re-
strictions and open markets in developing countries
for exemptions on procuring subsidised food grain.
With no wiggle room to negotiate, Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh signalled Indias readiness to strike
this bargain during his recent visit to Washington. In
an election year, with the Food Security Act touted as a
jewel in its crown, the United Progressive Alliance
cannot afford to be complacent. To protect its food
security law and the promise of adequate nutrition
for the poor it is supposed to deliver the government
must go into a diplomatic overdrive. The aim is to
secure an exemption from AMS limits without conced-
ing too much ground to the West, which is more in-
terested in penetrating the Indian market.
on hunger
No small matter
ets look at the idea of giving
the voter the right to exercise
his/her option to opt for NOTA
(none of the above) on the EVMin
case he/she does not like to vote
for any one (editorial page, NOTA
small matter, this, Oct.9). Earlier,
when voting by stamping on the
ballot paper systemwas in force,
there was full scope to make a vote
invalid by stamping for different
candidates, not stamping it at all,
mutilating the ballot paper, etc.
With the introduction of the
EVMs, invalid votes have been
eliminated. By implementing
NOTA, we will only end up
reintroducing the scope for
legalised invalid votes.
Moreover, it is not a reformat all
nor does it help to strengthen the
democratic fabric.
An in-depth national debate is
called for before clinching the
R. Sampath,
t is indeed disappointing to see
a former CECespousing the
cause of negative voting. It is
certainly not the answer to the
criminalisation of politics nor will
it spur political parties to eld
taint-free candidates. Mr.
Gopalaswamis suggestion to
extend the negative vote concept
to the rejection of all candidates
will seriously impair the
democratic process of elections. It
is also unclear how he came to the
conclusion that all parties will
eld only tainted candidates in a
constituency as only in that
context he implores the voters to
exercise the option of rejection.
J. Anantha Padmanabhan,
hat the quality of candidates
will improve dramatically is
largely misplaced. It may be noted
that the rarely used option 49-0
already exists though one has to
ll up a formin advance and give it
to the electoral officer concerned.
The none of the above option on
the EVMwill only ensure the
secrecy of those who choose that
option and nothing else. Unless all
voters cast their votes using the
option None of the above, fresh
elections cannot be held. What we
need is for each political party to
be more careful in selecting a
candidate who has a clean image
and is committed to serving his/
her people with sincerity and
dedication. The process of
choosing a candidate has to be
more open and democratic and as
far as possible with the
involvement of the stakeholders
the voters.
D.B.N. Murthy,
ven though I applaud the
judicial activismshown by the
apex court in introducing NOTA, I
doubt its practicality. Will the
common man stand in a queue for
six hours so that he can vote for no
one? Those who are too lazy to
vote will continue to be too lazy
not to vote also.
Akand Sitra,
f the NOTA option emerges as
the most resorted to option,
which means that all candidates
have been rejected by the people,
is it not logical to ask the political
parties who elded candidates in
that particular constituency to
bear the cost? I believe this move
will eliminate criminals from
entering the political fray and
political parties fromimposing
persons with dubious credentials
on us.
T. Anand Raj,
he rst challenge however is to
make people aware of how
large a responsibility it is, when
choosing the option. The duty of
NOTA is not as an option but as
deterrence to bad candidature.
Hence, if not responsibly utilised
both by politicians and people
alike, it may add to the problem
rather than the solution.
Harikrishnan D.,
he NOTA votes, unless polled
in large numbers, will not
impact the electoral outcome. In
other words, the NOTA votes will
have the tag of gloried
The NOTA button can become a
game changer in voter
empowerment if the votes polled
under it can be proportionately
reduced fromthe valid votes
recorded in the EVM, depending
on the percentage of votes secured
by each candidate. Naysayers will
have the satisfaction of seeing
their disapproval reected on the
verdict. Unless this is done,
traditional abstainers will keep
indoors on election day. Politics
cannot be rid of criminals through
symbolic gestures.
V.N. Mukundarajan,
he verdict of casting negative
votes will ultimately prove to
be a useless exercise. In the rst
place, very few people would like
to bear the burden of standing in a
queue before the polling booth
only to press the rejection button
to convey that they nd no
candidate of their choice to vote
for. Theyd rather prefer to stay at
home and abstain fromvoting.
Second, in our electoral system,
electorates vote for symbols of
political parties rather than the
man behind the symbol. Finally,
even if voters cast negative votes
in large numbers, in that case too a
candidate whoma majority of
voters dislike must win, of course
with a slender majority.
Ujjal K. Pal,
In turmoil
his refers to the report
Seemandhra still in the dark
as talks fail (Oct.9). Andhra
Pradesh came into being due to
the untiring efforts of stalwarts
fromboth the regions of
Telangana and Andhra realising
their long cherished dreams.
There was a gentlemans
agreement and the fallout is due to
not implementing the same in
right earnestness. It is an irony
that the State came into being in
1956 and the Telangana
protagonists have been claiming
that they have been oppressed and
deprived of their rights for the
past six decades. How is this
possible? Leaders fromboth
regions seemto be antagonistic
towards each other which is
unwarranted. Is it not a fact that
people fromall the three regions
have contributed more or less
equally to the development of
Hyderabad? No one can deny that
Hyderabad is the fulcrumof
Telangana. It is for the Centre to
ensure that the apprehensions of
the people of both regions are
cleared by convening a meeting of
all stakeholders. A little amount of
magnanimity and sacrice is
needed fromboth sides to keep the
State united.
Saahitya Maadhuri Vedula,
t is the UPA that plotted the
path of the missile and
announced the separation of a
united State in order to gain votes
and support in the parliamentary
election in 2014. The missile has
now boomeranged on it. The
option of Presidents Rule is not
the nal solution, which can
happen only through marathon
negotiations. This is the time for
the Prime Minister to prove that
he is a statesman by heading to
Andhra Pradesh and staying there
till things can be sorted out. The
use of Article 356 is totally
unconstitutional. On what
grounds can the Centre impose it?
Avadhoot Gorakhanath Shinde,
New Delhi
Notable gesture
he news report All help to
Vrindavan widows (Oct. 9)
makes fascinating read. Close on
the heels of the promoters of an
organisation helping themtravel
to West Bengal, the follow-up
gesture by the West Bengal Chief
Minister offering all assistance to
rehabilitate themis praiseworthy.
At the time when widows are
treated in an inhuman way by
society, steps like these will go a
long way in ushering in social
How one wishes other State
governments took the cue from
West Bengal.
H.P. Murali,
Physics Nobel
t is unfortunate that S.N. Bose
who rst put forward the idea of
particles giving mass to matter a
century ago has not been
remembered by the world (God
particle theorists get Nobel Prize
in physics, Oct.9).
The scientists who went
forward fromthe prototype of his
theory have won the Nobel.
Satyendranath Bose should be
remembered by his homeland.
The government needs to
recognise his efforts, though
S.G. Raveendranath,
to the
Letters emailed to must carry
the full postal address and the full
name or the name with initials.
fter years of neglect, childhood tuberculosis
which accounts for over six per cent of the
global TB burden is nally getting due atten-
tion. WHOrecently published its rst-ever tar-
geted road map outlining the steps needed to move
towards zero childhood TB deaths. The report comes
close on the heels of the organisation including for the
rst time the estimates of the global TB burden in chil-
drenbelow 15years inits 2012 global tuberculosis report.
Last year also saw childhood TB getting special focus in
the World TB Day theme. Though over half-a-million
new cases are reported every year fromacross the world
in those who are HIV negative, the actual TB burden
must be much higher. The reasons are pretty obvious.
Most of what is reported are only the cases of sputum
smear-positive pulmonary TB. However, sputumsmear-
negative disease is most frequent even in pulmonary TB.
Most often, all cases of extra-pulmonary TBgo unreport-
ed even though this category of TBaccounts for approx-
imately 20-30 per cent. Unlike adolescents, children
under ve may not produce sputumfor examination. In
the absence of sputum samples, there is no highly re-
liable and easily usable diagnostic tool to conrm the
disease, especially in developing countries where TB is
endemic and malnourishment is high. Hence, developing
reliable and affordable tests has become a great research
As a result, high burden countries like India, where
10-20 per cent of all TB occurs in children, need to nd
alternative strategies to target vulnerable children who
are more prone to becoming infected and diseased. Im-
plementing the WHOs close contact screening of chil-
drenunder ve fromhouseholds where anadult has been
newly diagnosed withsputumsmear-positive pulmonary
TB would go a long way in achieving the desired results.
Adults would have spread the infection to children in the
same household before seeking treatment. A clinical
examination of children combined with laboratory con-
rmation in suspicious cases would go a long way in
revealing their TB status. This approach has twin ad-
vantages. While the diseased would be put on treatment
without delay, the asymptomatic children would end up
getting a preventive therapy. A prophylactic treatment
using a single drug isoniazid once daily for six
months would cut down the number of young ones who
may become diseased. It would reduce the TB load and
the mortality rate. Yet, in Indias TBcontrol programme,
contact screening is way down in the priority list. There
are challenges, but training health workers and adopting
minor changes to the existing system alone can yield
good results. Whats the government waiting for?
Dont ignore
the children
month away fromIndia,
without Indian newspa-
pers and television, can
be a deeply detoxifying
experience. Without the
clutter of daily chatter,
the big picture becomes
clearer. The country is in
the mood for change. The status quo is no
longer very inspiring; it does not engage so-
cietys collective attentionand does not even
agitate us enough to look to the political
arena for reassurance.
Just think: for the last 15 years the country
has had just two Prime Ministers. There was
a time between 1996 and 1998 when the
country had four Prime Ministers and we
deeply yearned for stability. In fact, when
it came to power in New Delhi, the Bharatiya
Janata Party (BJP) had even thought of tin-
kering with the Constitution to produce
Collective dissatisfaction
Now we are tired of stability, as we declare
that the stability of old men has not exactly
been the answer to our collective prayers.
Meanwhile the country just gets younger
and younger and a whole generation has
come of age knowing only two Prime
The yearning for change is not against this
or that government; it is a collective dissatis-
factionwith the political class as a whole and
its institutionalised indifference. While we
have empowered our citizens with more and
more rights, talked incessantly of democra-
tization and tirelessly invoked the aamaad-
mi, the gap between the citizens
expectations and satisfaction has only
It is in the nature of political contestation
and its modern techniques of marketing and
persuasion, that we are often lured into be-
lieving that all our accumulated problems
would get resolved overnight if only this or
that person replaces this or that incumbent.
On Modi
Narendra Modi has understood this
yearning for change and is promising a
change from the tired and compromised
United Progressive Alliance (UPA). But he
has already scared sober and sensible middle
class Indians. The country has watched with
apprehension how a provincial and deeply
divisive actor has not only hijacked a nation-
al political party but has also forced one and
all some of themproud and sensitive pub-
lic leaders in the BJP to fall in line with his
However, Mr. Modi may have won a battle
against the BJP, but he has yet to convince
the nationthat he represents the change that
it needs or wants. Inthe process, the BJPhas
made a grand miscalculation: that the Lok
Sabha election would be held in November
2013. It was this miscalculation that pro-
pelled the party's strategy to bring Parlia-
ment to a grinding halt and to frogmarch the
UPA leadership towards a dissolution of the
Lok Sabha and early elections.
That did not happen. And now Mr. Modi
has peaked too early; he is no longer looking
the bright, unsullied, sparkling thing that he
was three months earlier; his model is al-
ready under scrutiny, and is being contested
incity after city, ina thousand conversations
across the land. The feku will not be al-
lowed to get away with half-truths. Indian
democracy has developed a healthy capacity
to see through those who make spurious
To be fair to him, Mr. Modi has not prom-
ised any grand or dramatic departures from
the presumed elements of national consen-
sus. He is only saying he will take forward
the same agenda (including toilets) but with
much greater vigour, greater honesty and
without corruption, compared to the UPA.
He has yet to identify a single programme of
the UPA that he categorically promises to
It may be worth recalling that during the
National Democratic Alliances goldenera,
Atal Bihari Vajpayee never once broke ranks
with national consensus. The only time he
could not live up to the obligations of this
consensus was when he failed to show the
door to the man responsible for the Gujarat
riots in 2002. It was because he failed to
safeguard the basic interests of the Indian
state that the voters showed him the door.
Now the same man who ensured the end of
the Vajpayee era is asking for our indul-
gence, without any of the Vajpayeean
So, the grand question is this: has the
country changed so muchthat it has sudden-
ly become sanguine enough about the Rash-
triya Swayamsevak Sangh to accept its
nominee as Prime Minister?
Arguably, democracies the world over
breed distrust and dissatisfaction with the
government of the day. We in India have
made a habit of changing and challenging
governments every ve years. Indeed the
only exception was when the UPA was voted
back in 2009. That victory had perhaps as
much to do with the UPAs politics of be-
calming the nationand healing our collective
wounds, as with the nature of its opposition.
At nearly 80, L.K. Advani could not be the
answer to a 77-year-old Manmohan Singh.
Mr. Advani was too familiar a face, his pluses
and minuses were all too well known to ap-
propriate the mantle of change. His only
claim to attention was that he was not a
Manmohan Singh. And Dr. Singhs advan-
tage was that he was sought to be replaced by
an Advani.
The Congress and Rahul
And so, in 2014, the country will again
make a choice, and that decision will hinge
on the citizens sense of who can produce a
desirable change without unsettling our es-
tablished sense of comfort and order.
The Congress has a difficult task. It has
been ruling the country for 10 years, with a
governing model that has never fully been
appreciated nor entirely accepted. Its per-
formance, at best, can be described as a
mixed blessing.
It now has to anchor itself in this gather-
ing desire for change. Rahul Gandhi has on
his hands a delicate task: how to put some
distance between the Congress of 2014 and
the UPA of 2004-2014. He began that proc-
ess very clumsily and inelegantly when he
rubbished the criminal ordinance. In the
process, everybody, including his mother,
the Congress president, and the Prime Min-
ister, stands diminished.
This unsteady start can only be a begin-
ning. Mr. Gandhi has to assure the nation
that he is here to stay and has the stamina of
a long-distance runner. So far his leader-
ship has been erratic, at best. Leadership is
not a matter of private convenience, nor is it
a personal hobby to be pursued at random. It
is a lifelong commitment, with both rewards
and frustrations.
And if he is here to stay, the country will
want to know how, if at all, Mr. Gandhi will
be different from his mother and Dr. Man-
mohan Singh. Will he, for example, continue
with A.K. Antony, that king of inertia, as a
senior minister and even more respected a
counsellor? Will he remain in awe of the
Kamal Naths and the Anand Sharmas, of
petty practitioners of petty arrogance? Will
he be able to assure the nation that he will
have no compunctionindiscarding non-per-
forming Congress leaders and their less than
wholesome instincts and tactics?
Onthe other hand, the BJPhas beenout of
power for 10 years now. Addicted as it is to
righteousness, the party has not come to
terms with the loss of 2004; its leaders did
not have the grace to accept the voters
choice; the loss of 2009 only deepened the
bitterness and propelled the party on a path
of unbridled partisanshipand confrontation.
Now, if the Modi-led BJP does not get a
chance to rule, the party could turn its back
on parliamentary democracy, just as the Ja-
na Sangh had done after the 1971 loss.
For now, neither Mr. Modi nor Mr. Gand-
hi has pan-Indian acceptance. Both of them
face twodozencounter-narratives of compe-
tence and performance. A prime ministerial
mascot can only marginally help his party
overcome its organisational inrmities and
its ideological confusion. Yet the country
needs to change out of its current matrix of
too much confrontation and too little har-
mony, too much contestation and too little
consensus, too much institutional overreach
and too little institutional synergy. If we
have to survive as a vibrant nation in an
unforgiving world, then our polity must
change and cure itself of the present fascina-
tion for cultivated divisiveness and joyful
ugliness. The change the country needs is a
rediscovery of inclusiveness, compassion
and harmony as the rst principles of
(Harish Khare is a senior journalist and a
Jawaharlal Nehru Fellow.)
Commandeering change
Harish Khare
With just a lacklustre UPA and a partisan BJP to choose from, the country must vote for inclusiveness,
compassion and harmony in 2014
t is heartening that power
sector employees in coastal
Andhra and Rayalaseema have
called off their strike. Seemandhra
people have shown commendable
restraint and maturity in
exercising their democratic right
to protest. Given the delicate state
of politics over Telangana and the
fragility of the law and order
machinery in Andhra Pradesh, it
was easy for themto cross the
threshold. Let Andhra Pradesh,
which was the rst to get
statehood, also be the rst to
handle the imminent bifurcation
with the sagacity shown by these
R. Narayanan,
he very essence of democracy
lies in peoples will. Public
opinion in Andhra Pradesh seems
to be opposed to bifurcation. The
Centres decision should be put on
hold. Political instability is the last
thing the nation wants after an
economic crisis.
Arun Goyal,
New Delhi
he Patna High Courts verdict
acquitting all 26 accused in
the 1997 case of Laxmanpur Bathe
massacre, in which 58 Dalits were
killed (Oct. 10), is disturbing.
Instances of Dalits being
victimised, ill treated and killed
have become quite frequent in
recent years.
This year marks the 50th
anniversary of the famous I have
a dream speech by Martin Luther
King. I hope Dalits will enjoy the
dignity that is due to them, and
their equality as Indian citizens
will exist not only on paper but in
the real sense of the term.
Leela Kallarackal,
he brutal attack on the
oppressed section was an
unpardonable outrage. How does
one explain the extermination of
58 Dalits on December 1, 1997?
S.V. Venugopalan,
Need for change
ince 1998, the country has been
ruled by the National
Democratic Alliance and the
United Progressive Alliance, not
by the Congress or the Bharatiya
Janata Party. All alliances have
been opportunistic and not based
on principles. The country is
indeed in a mood for change as
asserted by Harish Khare in his
article Commandeering change
(October 10). In 1999, coalition
compulsions forced the BJP to put
aside the Hindutva agenda and it
was good for the nation. The Left
parties kept a check on UPA I in
2004. But in 2009, coalition
dharma forced the Congress into
silence on many issues and, as a
result, the nation has reached a
chaotic state. There was virtually
no governance under UPA II.
Stability means good governance,
not clinging to power. Rahul
Gandhi is elusive till date and
Narendra Modi overreaching. Will
people vote for a single party or
coalition? Does any leader enjoy
peoples all-round support? Will
2014 throw up a fractured verdict
again, forcing the largest single
party to dance to the tunes of
opportunistic politicians? The
scenario is complex, not restricted
to Mr. Modi or Rahul alone.
A. Subbalakshmi,
he country wants a change.
Youth are annoyed at the state
of affairs. Both the major national
parties are least worried about the
welfare of the common man. Their
primary objective is to win the
next Lok Sabha election. People
are fed up with the political class
of all ideologies. Modi versus
Rahul slogan is in the air. Who
will be the next Prime Minister is
the big question that faces the
Param Dev Sharma,
e desperately yearned for
stability between 1996 and
1998 when the country had four
Prime Ministers. Thankfully, we
had a stable government in 1999.
But now the entire scenario is
different. The UPA government
has been ruling the country for
almost 10 years. The country
needs a change. Will the NDA
solve our problems? Should we go
with Mr. Modi, the controversial
leader who says he will take the
UPA agenda forward more
effectively, or with Rahul, the
M. Rahul Reddy,
he country faces an obvious
choice between Mr. Modi and
Rahul in the 2014 election. I ama
student who belongs to the middle
class and Mr. Modi is very popular
among my age group. On the other
hand, Rahul is immature in his
statements and actions.
Apurv Bharti,
No vote
The Supreme Court verdict
directing the Election
Commission to provide the NOTA
(none of the above) button in
electronic voting machines is
another milestone in the countrys
journey towards a full-edged
democracy (NOTA small matter,
this, Oct. 9). It will deter political
parties frompromoting
unscrupulous candidates. But
NOTA cannot restrict their entry;
it can only facilitate the victory of
a less corrupt candidate. The
legislature should enact a law
providing for the right to reject.
Sumeet Mahendra,
New Delhi
OTA is indeed a big step
towards giving people the
right to express their views with
liberty. But it will take some time
before voters realise the power
that comes with NOTA, because
there will be no campaigning for
NOTA and most people do not
know the implications of the
provision. The ECmust take the
initiative so that more people
become aware of the provision.
Pavnesh Singh,
t is futile to expect
improvement overnight in the
overall criminalised scenario of
politics. Indian democracy is still
evolving, and NOTA and
disqualication of convicted MLAs
and MPs are small interventions.
It will be a major embarrassment
to all parties if no candidate froma
constituency wins peoples
condence. That will encourage
the parties to eld candidates with
a cleaner image later, if not in the
immediate future.
Navneet Singh,
OTA will not be useful if the
votes under the category are
treated as invalid. The ECshould
conduct re-elections with a fresh
set of candidates if NOTA votes
cross a certain percentage of the
total votes polled.
Yathirajula Bhanu Chander,
othing is perfect. NOTA is
only one of the ways to curb
criminalisation of politics. The EC
is duty- bound to ensure free and
fair elections and to keep corrupt
politicians fromcoming to power.
NOTA is not a magical wand that
will change the political system; it
is an initiative aimed at cleaning it.
Shaikh Jamir Munir,
New Delhi
OTA cannot be the same as an
invalid vote or abstention.
The voter categorically rejects all
candidates froma constituency,
which means he would prefer to
have no representation in the
Assembly or Parliament. If such
voters account for even ve per
cent, it means they will not have a
representation. Is this acceptable
in a democratic country?
M. Bhimashankar,
he NOTA option is an exercise
in cynicism. Assuming none of
the contestants is good enough,
who will eld a better candidate?
If those in the fray are not
suitable, what prevents the NOTA
votaries fromsetting up their own
candidates who will be acceptable
to all? There is also a possibility of
the uneducated exercising the
NOTA option unintentionally.
Even now a large number of
voters do not cast their votes but
their action is attributed to
voters apathy. The ECs
decision to introduce the NOTA
option in the coming elections to
ve State Assemblies would be a
test case to put at rest the
expectations that many entertain
about the radical changes the
move is supposed to bring about.
People vote for candidates not
because they are able or honest
but on caste and other extraneous
considerations. The pressing need,
therefore, is improvement in the
quality of the electorate.
Jayaprakash Kallurkatte,
he article and many legal
luminaries overlook the fact
that most of the rich and upper
middle classes do not vote. It is so
not because they dislike all
candidates but because they do
not feel obligated. NOTA should,
ergo, be preceded by compulsory
Sweety Gupta,
to the
Letters emailed to must carry
the full postal address and the full
name or the name with initials.
or fans of cricket, particularly those in India,
the world as they knew it for close to 25 years
has changed forever. Sachin Tendulkars deci-
sion to retire after his 200th Test match,
scheduled against West Indies in mid-November,
brings to a close a career like no other. There have been
several exceptional careers in cricket, but save for Don
Bradman there hasnt been a phenomenon in terms
of the collective experience of the artiste like Ten-
dulkar. For long the most startling thing about his
iridescent career was its inevitability. Great deeds were
foretold when he was still a boy, the lofty predictions
scarcely allowing for sports inherent caprice. Gentle-
men, Tendulkar never fails, the late Naren Tamhane is
reported to have said in a selection meeting, when
someone wondered if a 16-year-old should be sent to
Pakistan to face the likes of Imran Khan, Wasim Ak-
ram, and Abdul Quadir. (Waqar Younis made his debut
in the series as well.) And incredibly, almost super-
naturally, beginning with the debut series in 1989, the
master has fullled all but the wildest of predictions.
Until the arrival and establishment of Rahul Dravid,
Tendulkar was Indias lone reference for excellence in
testing conditions abroad. The pressure to succeed
every single time, the claustrophobia that comes with
every little action being scrutinised can scarcely be
conceived. And yet Tendulkar wore it with lightness
and dignity, making brilliance commonplace,
Indeed the essence of Tendulkars greatness lies as
much in his preternatural ability as in his handling the
weight of being crickets biggest icon. For many in
India, Tendulkar was God a statement, from the
evidence of the frenzy he frequently triggered, several
came dangerously close to believing. Certainly much of
Tendulkars batting seemed like a gift from above. But
the impression short-changes him for no one worked
harder to hone natural talent. And no one was less
concerned with his image as a batsman struggling for
touch in England in 2007, he sublimated his ego and
eked out runs. But just as the experts said the newer
version of Tendulkar was effective but unappealing, he
did what great champions do. He challenged popular
perception by reprising later in the year in Australia,
the thrilling, spontaneous style of his early years. At 37,
he had his most fertile year (2010), scoring more than
1500 Test runs and forcing a revision of how both the
great batsman and the old batsman is viewed. Long-
evity is the gold standard of greatness for nothing is left
untested; the arc of Tendulkars career ensures it will
be the new gold standard. In recent years, the national
obsession with him hadnt dimmed, but it had been
distributed among the members of a resurgent Team
India. These next two months will see a return to the
old days, one nal celebration of the Age of Tendulkar.
The legend
bids adieu
ndias external sector which, like the rest of the
economy, has been passing through a bad patch,
has recently found some reasons to cheer. The
Commerce Ministrys trade data for September,
released on Wednesday, showed the merchandise trade
decit narrowing down to a 30-month low of $6.76
billion from $17.5 billion a year earlier and $10.9 billion
in August. Exports grew in double digits for the third
month in succession. Indian goods and commodities
are nding growing acceptance in global markets. The
sharp depreciation of the rupee has boosted the export
competitiveness of a range of products, including engi-
neering goods, textiles and leather. A revival in demand
in Europe and the U.S. traditionally Indias most
important export destinations has certainly helped.
The countrys imports, on the other hand, fell by more
than 18 per cent on a year-on-year basis, to a 30-month
low of $34.43 billion. Imports were lower thanks to
scal and administrative measures to check the inow
of gold. Demand for oil has been lower and the govern-
ment has been taking steps to curb non-essential im-
ports. The lower trade decit gures, if sustained, will
naturally have major implications for the macro econo-
my. This is possibly the best economic news in recent
months and comes at a time when multilateral agencies
such as the IMF and leading brokerages have signif-
icantly lowered Indias growth forecasts for the current
Whether the momentum on the trade front will
continue and revive economic growth remains to be
seen. The improved trade gures, however, do help in
alleviating a key macroeconomic concern getting a
handle on the current account decit. A recent RBI
report on the countrys balance of payments during the
rst quarter of this year (April-June 2013-14) pegged
the CAD at $21.8 billion (or 4.9 per cent) but expected it
to fall from the second quarter onwards on the back of
sharply declining gold imports and improved exports
in select categories. With such expectations material-
ising, many analysts expect the CAD to be contained
within the official target of $70 billion during this year.
The worst might be over for the countrys balance of
payments but it is necessary to look beyond the CAD
and take a holistic view of the external sector. Indias
external debt prole is skewed towards short-term
debt. At repayment time there will be enormous stress.
Second, the current account will remain under pres-
sure because of high coal imports and negligible iron
ore exports. These are structural issues which cannot
be remedied easily.
s there anOrdinary Woman? We
need an image of her, if we have
to negotiate a space of equality
and dignity for the woman. The
judges have created an image of
the Reasonable Man. We have
no image of the Reasonable
Woman or Ordinary Woman in
our judicial pronouncements.
InDothard v. Rawlinson, the questionwas
whether the regulationwhichbarred women
frombeing employed inall-male prisons vio-
lated the right to equality. The U.S. Supreme
Court by a majority upheld the regulation.
Justice Marshall dissented and said: It ap-
pears that the real disqualifying factor in the
Courts view is [t]he employee's very wom-
anhood. [] With all respect, this rationale
regrettably perpetuates one of the most in-
sidious of the old myths about women that
women, wittingly or not, are seductive sex-
ual objects. The judgment itself was a con-
struct of what a woman is, physically less
capable of protecting herself, inherently a
sexual object, and incapable of inspiring or-
der and discipline.
Feminist perspective
We must remember that the lived experi-
ence of the Ordinary Woman and the Ordi-
nary Man is different. This is clear fromthe
speech by Lady Hale, the only woman in the
U.K. Supreme Court. More objective evi-
dence for difference lies in Feminist Judg-
ments, a recent experiment in re-writing a
variety of well-known judgments from a
feminist perspective and seeing what a dif-
ference that can make. [] Women judges
may think that some of the results are only
common sense which just shows how gen-
dered a concept like common sense can be.
It clearly argues the case for inclusiveness
and diversity on the Bench.
This is an extract from the Other Side of
Silence by Urvashi Butalia: Is there such a
thing, then, as a gendered telling of Parti-
tion? I learnt to recognise this in the way
women located, almost immediately, this
major event in the minor keys of their lives.
Fromthe women I learned about the minu-
tiae of their lives, while for the most part
men spoke of the relations between commu-
nities, the broad political realities. We have
been told that discriminating markers like
poverty are gendered, it seems even com-
mon sense and memory are gendered.
That the law which is facially equal kicks
in injustice when it is put in action is some-
thing we recognise too late. Justice Verma
report says: This brings us to the vexed
question that unless and until the state pur-
sues a policy of avowed determination to be
able to correct a historical imbalance in con-
sciousness against women, it will not be pos-
sible for menand indeed womenthemselves,
to view women differently and through the
prismof equality.
A case of sexual harassment once came
before the Madras High Court. The Enquiry
Officer found the delinquent officer guilty.
The High Court exonerated him. The judg-
ment makes certain observations which in-
dicate how the Ordinary Man is constructed
differently from the Ordinary Woman. ...
The delinquent is leading a happy married
life and there was no necessity for him to
solicit sexual favours from anyone, much
less the complainant ... The complainant
lodged the said criminal complaint [] only
to create documentary evidence in her fa-
vour so as to be used in the departmental
proceedings which shows her motivated in-
tentionof achieving her illegal goal of throw-
ing the delinquent officer from his official
position. Going by the judgment, the Ordi-
nary Manis ordinarily faithful. The Ordinary
Woman is ordinarily vengeful. Judicial deci-
sions are not immune from the prism
through which ordinary people are viewed.
Then we have the concept of consent. Un-
less she kicked, scratched and tore, or (as we
have recently heard) called out to her attack-
ers as brothers and pleaded with them to
leave me alone, she has consented. This is
another prole of the Ordinary Woman.
The Ordinary Woman is perceived to
abuse the law. She is bent on wrecking the
home with a false case and recklessly sends
to prison innocent members of her family
including aged mothers-in-law and pregnant
sisters-in-law. These are the spectacles
throughwhichthis Ordinary Womanis seen.
An impression has been created that women
who have no reasonto be aggrieved are abus-
ing the law.
The truth is otherwise. No woman who is
happily married will invoke this provision.
Most women suffer adverse consequences
when they no longer have a spouse, because
of death, divorce or desertion. For this rea-
son, the majority of women in India suffer in
silence within an abusive marriage, even a
severely abusive one.
Section 498A
Those who attack Section 498A of the In-
dian Penal Code which punishes a hus-
band or his relative who subjects a woman to
cruelty use two arguments: it destroys the
family; innocent bystanders are dragged in.
Let us examine the rst argument. What is a
family? It is a fundamental social unit and
each member of the unit has the right to be
safe frominjury being inicted by the other.
If one parent/ spouse systematically inicts
cruelty on the other, to the point there is
danger to life or limb of that member of the
family, then the family has set off on its path
of self-destruction. The destruction did not
commence with the perpetrator, usually the
male, being taken into custody but well be-
fore that. The offence itself is structured ona
destroyed or an about-to-be destroyed fam-
ily. So the statement that the family is de-
stroyed if a complaint is lodged by the
woman under Section 498A is an offence to
her dignity and to her right to live.
A study on 498A in Tamil Nadu was con-
ducted by EKTA, a resource centre for wom-
en. It showed that even if all the cases under
Section 498A, Dowry Prohibition Act and
Section 304B are brought together, each All
WomenPolice Stationinvestigated not more
than two cases per month. Where, then, is
the widespread abuse of Section 498A?
The abused woman will nd it difficult to
secure the necessary evidence, because the
scene of occurrence is within the four
walls of the matrimonial home. So if a case
fails, it is not because the case is false, but
because there are inherent difficulties in the
case going through the whole trial, not least
of which is social pressure. The report
showed that for offences under Section 498
A, arrest of senior citizens was 3.95 per cent.
Sothe parents-in-law were not roped ininall
the cases. Almost all the judicial officers who
were interviewed said that the accusation
that women are using Section 498A to ex-
tract money is not justied. So the image of
the Ordinary Woman with a false case is
Let us visualise the Ordinary Woman. The
Ordinary Woman gets up early and cooks for
the family. She packs food for the children
and her husband. If she works at home, her
strenuous chores begin thereafter. If she
works outside she goes by public transport
and does not want to be touched or mauled
or leered at on the way. At work she wants to
be treated with dignity, and does not walk
about in a state of perpetual consent. She
comes home all tired but generally the Ordi-
nary Womans husband does not share the
house work. So she begins the chores at
home till she is ready to drop asleep. She
wants to be treated with respect by her hus-
band and does not want to be hit. She wishes
to be cordial and friendly with others with-
out being suspected of adultery. She is not a
compulsive liar. She does not readily go to
court. If she does, it is only because she is
aggrieved. She does not complain about her
marriage or her husband unless pushed to it.
She knows that she will be a burden on her
natal family if she returns. She also knows
that if she comes out of the marriage she will
suffer economic disadvantage. So she puts
up with a lot of suffering being aware of her
lifes reality. She does not consent to rape.
She does not ask for it. She does not want
to be abused. She deserves to be safe at home
and outside. She deserves to be treated with
dignity. She deserves a full life. Is that too
much to ask?
(Prabha Sridevan is a former judge of the
Madras High Court. The article is excerpted
fromher keynote address on August 11, 2013
at a conference organised by the Majlis Legal
Centre, a forum for womens rights dis-
course and legal initiatives)
In search of the ordinary woman
Prabha Sridevan
Contrary to the perception that she is vengeful and abuses the law, all she wants is a life of dignity
he dastardly killing of the
principal of a private
engineering college in Tuticorin is
shocking, and shows how
criminalised our college campuses
are. This is not an isolated
instance; similar crimes have been
reported fromacross India but
they do not receive the attention
they deserve.
In most professional colleges,
discipline is unknown and, more
often than not, the head of the
institution is forced to give in to
the unjust demands of students
under duress. College unions and,
in their absence, student leaders
prevent the authorities from
enforcing discipline. It is time
colleges were empowered to
enforce discipline strictly, and
criminals among students weeded
out. There should be strict
monitoring of students who are
suspected of having access to
drugs, liquor and other
contrabands on campuses.
M.K.B. Nambiar,
hat three young men could
murder their principal in cold
blood because he initiated action
against one of themfor
indiscipline is shocking. It is
impossible to believe that students
could actually knife their guru to
death. One wonders where our
student community is headed.
Tharcius S. Fernando,
n the past, education also meant
inculcating moral values. But
nowadays education is more about
teaching fromtextbooks. Parents
also do not expect anything more.
Discipline and morals are given no
M. Mangayarkkarasi,
was shocked to learn that the
horrendous incident took place
in my native district. I have always
cherished the values my school
inculcated in me 20 years ago.
It is clear that the current
education systemhas failed. It has
surrendered its objective of
ennoblement to prots. Movies
which implant gruesome ideas in
the minds of children and adults
are a serious cause for concern.
Beorn Kiruba,
tudents today nd themselves
at a crossroads and, in my
opinion, only parents are to blame
for this. The three students could
not have murdered the principal
in a t of anger. Such vehemence
and violence grow froma tender
age. Unless parents live an
exemplary life and rein in their
erring children, we will continue
to hear such shocking news.
chool education has hit a rock
bottom. With corruption
prevailing in the education
department, teachers who are
supposed to inculcate values in
students are themselves involved
in unethical practices. Few schools
have moral science classes. The
infrastructure in government
institutions is minimal. This
creates a distinction between
students of government schools
and private institutions, putting
tremendous social and mental
pressure on the former.
D. Davidson,
Ordinary woman
he article In search of the
ordinary woman (Oct. 11) is
right in saying an ordinary woman
is normally quiet and docile.
Discrimination stems fromthe
fact that a woman is not
considered a human being. She is a
sexual object, a commodity in the
eyes of men. Parents do not want
to empower their daughters.
Judges are biased in mens favour.
Family may be a fundamental
social unit, but it certainly cannot
be a place where violence and
harassment of women takes place.
It should be a place where love and
joy are shared. Till such time as
the patriarchal mindset changes,
an ordinary woman will remain a
soft target at home, on the way to
work, and in the workplace.
Aarti Verma,
n ordinary woman is much
better than an ordinary man
in terms of perseverance, hard
work, will power and
commitment. We become
aggressive in our thoughts when
crimes against women take place
and discuss the punishment the
perpetrators deserve. But we do
not address the causative factors,
societal mindset being the biggest
among them. Indian society is
reluctant to empower women.
Prashant Katiyar,
ovies and advertisements
use women as glamorous
dolls and commodify themto
make prots. Such portrayal
reinforces the stereotype that
women are born to satisfy the
urges of men. In such a society, a
woman is considered successful
only when she is able to bear the
brunt of cruelty by her own family.
Any law that tries to bring about
social change is prone to be
abused. That must not stop the
state frombringing in the
necessary change in society.
Madhavi Obbani,
uch hype is created in
society and legal circles that
laws are misused by women. In
fact, it is far fromtrue. Even today,
it is the bride whose family pays a
huge dowry. Many cases of
domestic violence start with a
demand for more dowry.
M.V.R. Prasada Rao,
veryone wants women to be
respected and treated with
honour and dignity. But most of us
fail to respect the rights of our life
partners, mothers and daughters.
We treat themas dependents and
a piece of property that can be
used as per our whims. We have a
culture that does not respect an
assertive, independent woman.
A woman who suffers in silence
is more welcome than the one who
severs her relationship with her
abusive marital home. We have
imprisoned women in the so-
called culture of great India.
Chavali Indra Reddy,
ndian women are normally less
proactive due to the fear of
social stigma. Many women do not
know about Section 498A or any
similar law meant to come to their
rescue in times of need. Most
incidents of harassment remain
unaddressed mainly due to the
silence of women or their family
C.P. Velayudhan Nair,
t is well known that women who
actually suffer have no access to
the law. Very few women who
come to the court have genuine
grievances, and a sizeable
proportion involves cases in which
the establishment of guilt remains
As for the argument that arrest
of senior citizens under Section
498A was only 3.95 per cent, at the
preliminary stage of enquiry, all
parents are involved. They have to
undergo equal insult at the hands
of police even if they are not at
Nitin Bhagat,
New Delhi
Adieu, Sachin
f there is one contemporary
Indian who is admired, adored
and appreciated by fellow Indians,
it is Sachin Tendulkar. He
combines his ability with humility
which is why he has a fan following
across not only India but the whole
Napoleon Bonaparte said: Glory
is eeting, but obscurity is forever.
Sachin Tendulkar has proved him
wrong by establishing his glory
forever. His performances on the
cricket eld will be remembered at
all times.
Lakshman Sundar,
achin is certainly the best
cricketer India has produced.
It would not be an exaggeration to
claimthat he is the best player the
world has produced.
More than cricket, what he has
taught Indians is humility.
Neither wealth nor fame that he
achieved at a very young age
affected him.
H.K. Seshadri,
to the
Letters emailed to must carry
the full postal address and the full
name or the name with initials.
n awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the Orga-
nisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weap-
ons, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has given
another leg up to the goal of ridding the world of
weapons of mass destruction. In 2005, the Peace Prize
went to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Though it is tempting to see the 2013 Prize as an
acknowledgement simply of the OPCWs difficult and
ongoing mandate to monitor the destruction of Syrias
chemical munitions, the organisation has done a com-
mendable job since it came into being in 1997 as the
custodian of the Chemical Weapons Convention. As
many as 189 countries are party to the CWCs ban on
chemical munitions; under the treatys terms, they are
obliged to declare and destroy any stockpiles they pos-
sess within a clear timeframe. Unlike the Nuclear Non-
Proliferation Treaty, which gives the United States,
Russia, China, France, and Great Britain special status,
the CWC is non-discriminatory. Unfortunately, as the
Nobel Committee observes in its citation for the
OPCW, certain states have not observed the deadline,
which was April 2012, for destroying their chemical
weapons. This applies especially to the U.S. and Rus-
sia. The U.S. has sought another decade to destroy its
arsenal, while Russia is expected to complete the proc-
ess only by 2018. The irony of thrashing out a deal to
eliminate Syrias CW stocks while lagging behind on
their own commitments must not be lost on both
countries. For its part, India has complied fully with
the treaty, having eliminated its chemical stockpile
four years ago.
Apart from living up to their disarmament commit-
ments, the big powers must also ensure there is no
interference with the OPCWs functioning. The orga-
nisation relies both on technical and diplomatic ex-
pertise to full its objectives. Yet, it has been impeded
by partisan politics in the past: in the run-up to the
illegal U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Bush adminis-
tration managed to oust OPCW Director-General Jos
Maurcio Bustani when it emerged the Brazilian diplo-
mat would stand in its way. Mr. Bustani had sought to
engage Saddam Hussein, with a view to ensuring Iraqs
accession to the CWC. By bottling the OPCW and using
entities like the U.N. Special Commission for Iraq to
further its own interests, the U.S. has done no service to
the goal of eliminating WMDs. The role of the OPCW in
Syria given the limited time it has for its mission
will now be thrown into sharp relief. The stakes are
high and the organisation must be allowed to do its job
without coercion or meddling from outside. The quick
and effective elimination of Syrias chemical weapons
would reinforce the worlds faith in multilateralism
and vindicate the Nobel Committees choice for what is
arguably its most prestigious prize.
Message behind
the Peace Nobel
n carrying on with its one-point agenda of humil-
iating amboyant shuttler G. Jwala, the Bad-
minton Association of India has clearly cut off its
nose to spite its face. Acting in a brazenly au-
tocratic and undemocratic manner, the BAI is con-
templating a life ban on the doubles specialist for
arguing with officials and delaying a tie in the Indian
Badminton League in August. A life ban in sport is
generally reserved for very grave offences. And what
Jwala did as captain of her team was in no way against
the spirit of fair play. The chairman of the BAI Dis-
ciplinary Committee has said the idea of proposing a
life ban was to make Jwala feel apologetic for her
deant stand. Thereafter, the BAI went ahead and
prevented her from playing for a month pending the
verdict of a newly formed three-member committee. A
day before Jwala received relief from the BAI directive
following a Delhi High Court order, the national body
dramatically withdrew her entry from the Denmark
Open. This clandestine move has clearly exposed the
BAIs intent. Many coaches and players have privately
voiced their fears, pointing to the dictatorial manner in
which badminton is being run in the country. The move
to deny Jwala and Ashwini Ponnappa a comeback in
the Denmark Open has only reinforced growing appre-
hensions over the complete lack of integrity and trans-
parency in the way the BAI functions.
If indeed Jwala had committed a series of offences
that warranted nothing less than a life ban, why did the
Disciplinary Committee, in the same breath, suggest
that an apology to the BAI President could exonerate
her? Surely, a word of apology cannot offset the damage
caused by serious wrongdoing, if committed. The con-
tradiction and the intention are glaringly obvious. In
todays world, where players associations run profes-
sional disciplines like golf and tennis, a dictatorial
attitude on the part of officials cannot be allowed to
ruin the careers of players. In this case, besides Jwala,
her doubles partner is also being made to suffer. The
two made India proud by winning medals in the World
championship and Commonwealth Games. If a sports
body can deal with celebrity players in such a blatantly
vindictive manner, the fate of lesser players is not hard
to visualise. It is in the interest of Indian badminton
and indeed sports in India that either the Sports Minis-
try or the judiciary intervenes decisively in the matter.
So glaring is the injustice being perpetrated by the BAI
that the silence of the Sports Minister is baffling, as is
the indifference shown by other mature sports admin-
istrators and personalities in the country.
The persecution
of Jwala
n a society where poverty is far
more common than prosperity,
one would expect the implica-
tions of poverty for education to
be widely recognised. What we
nd, instead, is that poverty is
seldom mentioned directly in
policy documents on education.
Policymakers feel more comfortable using
euphemisms like economically weaker sec-
tions, the marginalised or the deprived
to refer to the poor. No wonder the impact of
poverty on childrens life at school and
learning is understood rather vaguely not
just by educational planners, but teachers
The reason poverty must be treated as a
factor of education arises from a basic in-
compatibility between the two. Education
necessarily demands long-term horizons.
Poverty, on the contrary, compels people to
remain embedded in immediate or short-
term concerns. India has now recognised
eight years of compulsory education as a
right of every child, but endemic poverty and
social inequality are posing tough con-
straints in making this law a reality. Ele-
mentary education by itself means little; it
can only serve as a foundation for further
education over many years. The informal
economy on which the poor survive forces
themto live fromday to day. They want to
but usually fail to plan for the distant
future in which their progeny might reap the
fruits of education. The children belonging
to poor families nd it difficult to cope with
the regularity that schools demand. This is
because hunger, illness and insecurity in-
terrupt their life at home all the time. Their
parents have to use most of their energies in
order to deal with everyday emergencies.
Life under poverty is unpredictable and
prone to sudden losses and traumas. For the
poor, there is no such thing as normalcy.
Anything can happen anytime, and all you
can do is to cope as you suffer. In big cities,
municipal authorities can suddenly clear a
street of food vendors or bulldoze an unau-
thorised colony. Next morning, when a child
fails to be at school or looks subdued, the
teacher shows no curiosity to nd out what
might have happened to the childs father or
mother the previous afternoon. In rural ar-
eas, ood waters can drown hundreds of
houses; yet the school is supposed to func-
tionand cover the prescribed syllabus! Dams
or factories can mean displacement of whole
villages. What will happen to children is the
least important concern for those in charge
of such operations. I once met children in
Manibeli, a village that now lies at the bot-
tom of the Sardar Sarovar dam. They had
gone through the trauma of seeing their own
school vanish under water.
Mid-day meals programme
Poverty also has a corrosive effect on chil-
drens health and mental capacities. Fre-
quent illness, especially on account of
stomach-related problems, is common
among children who live in conditions char-
acterised by poor sanitation. A recent study
has shownhow lthy surroundings, inwhich
faecal material mixes with water and food,
weaken the capacity to absorb nutrition.
Limited resources to eat well and regularly
result in a daily cycle of anxiety and low
energy which translates into poor attention
to the teachers expectations. There cannot
be better evidence of the relationship be-
tween hunger and education than the suc-
cess of the mid-day meals programme. The
fact that this minimalist scheme has actually
improved enrolment and retention proves
how major a role hunger and malnourish-
ment play in pushing children to drop out of
school. Certain State governments have re-
cently administered a dose of deworming
medicine, recognising the prevalence of par-
asites and the impact of this condition on
childrens nutritional status, energy and
Vicious cycle
Poverty often leads to childrens involve-
ment in household work and outside activ-
ities that might augment the familys
income, on top of their school work. The
burdenof responsibilities at home or outside
directly inuences the childs participation
in school life and capacity to full the teach-
ers expectations. Teachers of private
schools where 25 per cent of the seats are
now being given to the economically weak-
er sections (EWS) category seldom know
with clarity what life at home means for
children in this category. Fromlooking after
younger siblings to sweeping the oor and
cooking, an EWS girl often shares major
tasks her mother is supposed to accomplish
on a daily basis. Whether children work at
home or outside, their effort to juggle work-
related responsibilities with classroom rou-
tines makes their life at school porous and
thin. Absence from school or inability to
focus makes a direct impact onperformance.
Once a child starts to lag behind others, he or
she becomes a relevant object of stereotyp-
ing by classmates and teachers. A vicious
cycle sets in. Common stereotypes about the
poor get invoked in the teachers mind and
the childs behaviour resonates and rein-
forces these stereotypes. Some of these ster-
eotypes are rooted in caste-related beliefs or
inreligion. Of course, no principal or teacher
would ever acknowledge being guided by
these stereotypes.
Education alone cannot address poverty.
However, it holds an important place among
the numerous strategies that a welfare state
must adopt to loosen the grip that chronic
poverty has on its victims. A recent British
study led by Anand Mani shows how poverty
saps the energy of its victims. They often fail
to keep up with the effort it takes to avail the
states benets. The daily struggles and anx-
ieties of life reinforce the cycle of ill-health
and missed appointments. In India, the
states efforts are quite oftenmainly symbol-
ic. The distributionof irontablets or syrupto
overcome chronic malnutrition among ado-
lescent girls is a good instance. Had the fa-
mous mid-day meal been aimed at middle
class children, it would have been priced
more realistically. Greater exibility to cope
with price rise would have been permitted.
Schemes for the poor are themselves so ema-
ciated and stiff that they cannot be expected
tomake a signicant difference inthe lives of
their beneciaries.
Nor are strategies to combat poverty suffi-
ciently contextualised or exible. Rigidity
and uniformity are said to be necessary to
avoid corruption and misuse. Even a dis-
tinction as broad as rural and urban is over-
looked when plans to address the
educational problems of poor children are
designed. Whether a school has drowned ina
dam or been blasted by insurgents or it has
been demolished because it was collapsing
anyhow, the officials in charge make no dis-
tinction or nd ways to compensate for the
loss of classes. Children studying in govern-
ment schools are deemed to be poor and,
therefore, unimportant. I remember visiting
a village in Haryana where the children told
me that their best teacher had been trans-
ferred away two months ahead of the annual
examination. All over the country, govern-
ment school children cope with the absence
of their teachers during elections. It is the
children who subsidise the cost of democra-
cy while their parents enthusiastically cast
their vote, hoping that it will lead to im-
provement in their lives.
For better training
Teachers canmake a signicant difference
in the educational experience of poor chil-
dren, but only if their training equips them
with the awareness of what poverty means.
Our training programmes are so wordy and
wasteful, they make no effort to get into
specic issues like poverty. A widespread
belief in the ideology of social Darwinism
prevents teachers from realising that chil-
dren of the poor are like any other group of
children, with individual differences of in-
terest and motivation. According to this ide-
ology, survival is the proof of being the
ttest, hence only the exceptional child from
a poor family is endowed by nature to suc-
ceed. Training courses dont engage with
such attitudes and beliefs. Teachers who
work in mixed classrooms dont expect all
children to succeed in their own different
ways. They focus on the few who look excep-
tional; the rest are believed to lack any po-
tential. It is hardly surprising that the
system of education makes so little impact
on the majority of children from poorer
(The author is professor of education at
Delhi University and a former NCERT direc-
tor. This article is a shorter version of his
silver jubilee lecture at the National Insti-
tute of Open Schooling.)
Where knowledge is poor
Krishna Kumar
The role of education in reducing poverty is widely recognised but our planners are yet to realise how the
impoverished struggle with a learning process that is unresponsive to their needs
Laudable effort
he National Disaster Response
Force, the Centre, the
governments of Andhra Pradesh
and Orissa, and the Indian
Meteorological Department
deserve praise for their
collaborative efforts to save lives
fromthe severe cyclonic storm,
Phailin. We have learnt our
lessons fromthe Uttarakhand
tragedy in which thousands died.
It is clear that sound preparedness
and robust assistance can
minimise the impact of natural
Sumeet Mahendra,
New Delhi
he Centre and the
governments of Andhra
Pradesh and Odisha need to be
complimented on their efforts to
save lives fromthe monster
cyclone. One hopes such
coordination will continue during
reconstruction too, and normality
will be restored at the earliest.
M. Balakrishnan,
an can, at best, predict the
gravity of a natural calamity
with the help of science and
technology, and minimise the
losses. For the rst time in my
memory, all departments, right
fromthe IMD to the government
agencies, the media and NGOs
joined hands to overcome the
situation effectively.
K. Manasa Sanvi,
any television channels
bombarded viewers with the
possible impact of Phailin hours
before its landfall. While the
satellite image showed the cyclone
moving counter-clockwise
which is the case in the northern
hemisphere the graphics in
almost all channels depicted it
moving in the clockwise direction.
Reporters seemed unaware of the
fact that cyclones move in a
clockwise direction in the
southern hemisphere and the
other way round in the northern
hemisphere. Wrong visuals
mislead viewers, especially
students. Accuracy is of prime
V.M. Govind Krishnan,
New Delhi
Falling standards
was appalled on reading the
news that the principal of a
private engineering college in
Tuticorin was murdered by three
students in an act of vengeance.
The students must have held a
grudge against the principal for
some time.
Teaching was once a noble
profession. Teachers not only
imparted knowledge but also
taught moral values to their wards.
But today, thanks to hundreds of
colleges in the country, teaching
has become yet another expedient
to make a living and, in some
cases, swindle money. When
teachers themselves are apathetic
towards their jobs and set bad
examples, students are bound to
become cynical.
D. Venkatramanan,
t is ironical that the incident
took place in a land that
considers teachers god. The
present generation is exposed to
various forms of media, which
have a negative inuence on young
minds. Parents are more
interested in the marks their
children score than in the moral
values they learn.
A.S. Divya Sudha,
ncidents of students
threatening principals and
teachers on phone are common. As
daughter of a principal, I have seen
many incidents which affect the
family too. We have failed to
inculcate moral values in students
through practical acts.
S. Blessy Deborah,
school teacher in Chennai was
stabbed to death by a student
of class nine a few months ago.
Now, it is the gruesome murder of
a principal of an engineering
college by three students. The
attitude of the student community
is disturbing. One feels sorry for
the parents of the three students
who must have worked hard to get
their wards admitted to an
engineering college.
Students are inuenced by lms
which portray ragging as heroism.
The mushrooming of many
engineering colleges and the
lowering of qualifying marks have
led to students with no interest in
the course getting admissions. The
behaviour of our elected
representatives also sets a bad
example to the youth.
V. Pandy,
Poverty &
lthough education is a right, it
still remains a distant dream
for many of Indias children
(Where knowledge is poor, Oct.
12). It is clear that it is not enough
to make laws; they need to be
augmented by more efforts.
Education should be accessible to
all if democracy is to succeed.
Many communities and groups
like disadvantaged castes and
women have been historically
excluded fromeducation.
Devolution of powers is
extremely important to make
education accessible to children.
Administration at the grass roots
should be encouraged. Panchayats
should have the power to decide
whether a piece of land should be
allocated to a power plant, hospital
or elementary school.
Ritvik Chaturvedi,
New Delhi
he article rightly draws
attention to the effects of
poverty on childrens education.
As a teacher, one is continuously
made aware of the educational
disadvantages and disruptions
poor students suffer due to lack of
economic stability and social
security. Unless we have a strong
and universally available state
welfare apparatus, the education
of the working class children will
continue to be sacriced. In all
this, cultural values and pressures
also take a particularly severe toll.
The wilful complicity of the ruling
castes and classes is amply evident
as their domination is derived
frommaintaining economic and
cultural status quo.
Firoz Ahmad,
here is no doubt that the
mid-day meal programme has
improved enrolment and
retention in schools. But many
children continue to be deprived
of primary education due to social
and economic reasons like child
marriage and bonded labour.
The lack of facilities in
government schools, especially for
girls, is another impediment.
Although Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan
and the Rajiv Vidya Mission have
helped to improve infrastructure,
they have not done enough to
meet the expectations of the poor.
Education should be reasonable
and should reect the needs of
Vijaya Kasa,
he article was insightful. Many
teachers do not take the
trouble to understand the plight of
poor children at home. Teachers
posted in rural areas should be
sensitised to the local issues.
Jyothi Panidarapu,
have seen the condition of
village schools where children
go to schools just to get food.
Many middle class families admit
their children in government
schools but send themto private
schools. The children are
registered in government schools
only to get benets.
Shama Khanam,
New Delhi
Peace Nobel
he Norwegian Nobel
Committee has done a
commendable job by selecting the
Organisation for the Prohibition of
Chemical Weapons for the 2013
Peace Nobel for its 16 long years of
struggle to liberate the globe from
the clutches of chemical weapons.
Malala Yousufzai of Pakistan,
who was shot by the Taliban for
expressing her views in favour of
girls education and
empowerment, lost the race. No
doubt, the young girl, currently in
London, deserves a pat on the back
and support for the courage she
displayed. But to win the Nobel
Prize for Peace, one must work
continuously for peace.
Sentiments alone cannot be a
factor in deciding the winner of
the award.
R.S. Shanmuganathan,
t is easy to stand in the crowd,
but it takes courage to stand
alone. This phrase aptly suits
Malala, a brave young girl who
braved terrorists to promote the
cause of girls education. No doubt,
the Peace Nobel has been awarded
to the right organisation. But
Malala was a close contender.
Yashwanth Pulidindi,
y steering clear of the more
popular choices, the Nobel
Peace Prize Committee has raised
the stature of the award after the
beating it took by awarding it to
Barack Obama and the EUin the
By recognising the role OPCW
plays, the Prize also acknowledges
the peace process initiated in
N. Vinayak,
to the
Letters emailed to must carry
the full postal address and the full
name or the name with initials.
hat the prosecution must meet the highest
standards of proof, beyond a reasonable
doubt, is an indispensable condition in the
trial of any criminal case. The benet of doubt
should invariably go to the defendants. As the English
jurist William Blackstone wrote, better that 10 guilty
persons escape than that one innocent suffer. In India,
however, sloppy investigation and shoddy prosecution
have been part of an extremely inefficient and slow
justice delivery system that has allowed conviction
rates to stay at alarmingly low levels. Criminals have
repeatedly gotten away with murder and massacre.
While reinforcing each other, money power and muscle
power have turned out to be among the biggest bene-
ciaries of the doubt perceived by the judiciary. Almost
inevitably, in cases where the victims are poor, landless
peasants and Dalits, the perpetrators have remained
beyond the reach of law. On October 9, the Patna High
Court acquitted all the 26 persons convicted by a lower
court in the 1997 Laxmanpur Bathe case of massacre of
58 Dalits. The judges found the prosecution witnesses
not reliable and gave the benet of doubt to the 16
sentenced to death, and the 10 sentenced to life impris-
onment. If a high-prole case such as the Laxmanpur
Bathe massacre can collapse in this manner, Indias
criminal justice system can infuse little condence in
its people.
Actually, the conviction in the lower court itself
came after the intervention of the High Court, which
expedited the trial more than 11 years after the mas-
sacre. However, the period between the massacre and
the conviction was far from quiet. Both Ranvir Sena, a
private army of upper caste landlords, and Maoist
groups, who mobilised large sections of poor peasants,
including Dalits, carried out a series of attacks and
reprisals in rural Bihar. Not surprisingly, several wit-
nesses in the Laxmanpur Bathe massacre case turned
hostile. To begin with, eye-witnesses to the massacre
were indeed few, as the culprits had come in the dead of
the night and shot everyone they found. The trial court
indeed acquitted 19 of the accused. And while analysing
the motives of the defendants, it had taken into account
not only the specic, known circumstances of the mas-
sacre, but also the history and cycle of violence in the
region. The appellate court, however, chose to ignore
the testimony of the available witnesses. When justice
is not seen as being done in a case of brutal massacre,
Indias under-classes can hardly be blamed for losing
faith in a system that invariably works to the advantage
of the privileged and the powerful. This is a case where
the State must appeal against the High Court order, and
ensure that those found guilty by the trial court are put
away for life.
The doubt of
the benet
ampant encroachment and the misuse and
usurpation of wakf assets representing Is-
lamic religious endowments is the reality
across India. Development of available prop-
erties, often in prime urban locations, has hardly hap-
pened either. The opportunity cost is heavy:
substantial income that these could generate for the
welfare of the community is being foregone or misap-
propriated. A Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha
constituted in 1996 had looked into the working of
State-level wakf boards. The Sachar Committee Report
(2006) advocated a stringent approach to countering
encroachments, and related matters. A Joint Parlia-
mentary Committee that presented its report in Octo-
ber 2008 put forth major suggestions. Four years later,
the Union Ministry of Minorities Affairs directed State
wakf boards to undertake an assets survey and comput-
erise records. Sadly, there was no progress. With the
Wakf (Amendment) Act, 2013 now in place, the pros-
pect of some order evolving in the management of the
more than four lakh registered wakf property parcels
has emerged.
The new Act recognises the failure to maintain even
a basic record of the assets in many States as a principal
malady, and seeks to address it within a proper time-
frame. Under the amended provisions, encroachment
on wakf property has been made a cognisable and
non-bailable offence that could attract up to two years
rigorous imprisonment. The Act puts the onus on State
governments to ensure that wakf boards are set up and
function effectively. Steps to ensure better account-
ability on the part of the boards have been incorporat-
ed. A statutory obligation to ensure ow of information
from State wakf boards and State governments to the
Central Waqf Council has been incorporated. Stricter
provisions have been provided in the amended law to
reclaim property parcels alienated over the years. The
new composition of the Central Wakf Council, includ-
ing four persons with national eminence, to advise
Central and State governments and State wakf boards,
is a prudent one. So is the creation of a Board of
Adjudication. However, the wider interests of the com-
munity, in terms of educational facilities and welfare
provision for instance, should form the cornerstone of
the reform effort, and commercial interest per se
should not take precedence over them. The creation of
a centralised, web-enabled database for use by stake-
holders will improve transparency and efficiencies
and keep vested interests at bay. The principal thrust
should be on ensuring transparency in the adminis-
tration of wakf assets, and the application of the new
law should be done with this in mind.
To secure
wakf wealth
his is the story of a Min-
istry that has simply sat
back and outsourced to
private companies com-
plete charge of both so-
cial responsibilities and
economic development
inthe urbansector. It be-
ganwitha warning that the McKinsey Global
Institute sounded in its Indias Urban
Awakening report. India, it warned, could
catchup withthe rest of the developed world
only if it increased the size and density of its
metro cities by three times, for which it had
to borrow nearly $2.2 trillion (Rs. 125 lakh
crore). The warning made sense to the Min-
istry of Urban Development. We are at a
point where the ratio of urban population
will grow to 50per cent by 2030while 60per
cent of urban people still live in slums.
Planned corridors
If India was to become the worlds second
largest urban market for jobs, it was time to
hurry and notify that recommended nation-
wide web of urban-industrial corridors to
link our metros. The scramble for notied
land would monetise it. The rst of these 19
planned corridors was launched in a tearing
hurry. It links the two great slum cities of
Delhi and Mumbai with a 1500-kilometre
long and 300-kilometre wide dream zone
of cities and factories. Documented by the
Scott Wilson Group, it has been predicted
that one-third of the total population of In-
dia could move into this corridor by 2030
eventhoughit is located inthe most severely
dry region of the country. Water would have
to come frommining the fossil aquifers deep
below the earths surface. The Bayou Corne
sinkhole in Louisiana caused by water
mining into this fossil layer of the earths
crust serves as a grim reminder. Regardless
of such risks, the Cabinet has cleared a bud-
get of $90 billion, in its urgency to urbanise
Pursuing its ticking clock initiatives to ur-
banise, the Ministry directed the Delhi De-
velopment Authority, which in turn
sponsored the National Centre for Applied
Economic Research to tell them how Delhi
could begin to increase its size and density.
The NCAER responded with its ndings in
Land Pooling and Development Models for
Delhi. Its version of land pooling is tweaked
in favour of private land consolidators. The
report is not in the public domain and needs
the RTI to make it accessible.
It inverts the purpose of land pooling
which should normally be done by public
authorities in partnership with small land
owners in four transparent steps:
1. Public authorities assemble small farm-
er land lots into much larger urbanisable
land parcels.
2. They then provide services, master plan
and road infrastructure to all corners of
these assembled land parcels.
3. As compensation, the public authorities
keep between 15-30 per cent of the assem-
bled land parcel for themselves just
enough to sell and fund the cost of providing
the infrastructure, and housing some of the
4. The rest of the assembled land parcel
gets fully planned with infrastructure and is
returned with new title lots to the farmer
owners for sharing amongst them.
The two key words in land pooling should
be social unication and partnership that
enable cohesion of communities while solv-
ing problems of uncertain land titles, access
to urbanservices and provisionof new urban
identities for small landowners living on the
fringes of a city. It is a social measure to be
initiated by the public authorities, mutual
owner associations or public corporations,
and is monitored by a council of owners.
Other countries have done it as a responsible
activity. It can also run into problems as in
Nepal where although done with the best
of intentions and with the help of the Asian
Development Bank protests have stopped
a scheme in the Sundarbapur Basti Project.
Most lucrative model
Land pooling is at best a strategy to help
small farmers and the poor and homeless
who can be given housing by the public au-
thority fromtheir share. Land is at the heart
of it. In Delhi, however, the strategy may
reveal its worst aspects behind the veneer
of social charity is an attempt to harvest rich
prots. The Ministry of Urban Development
commissioned the DDA, which in turn com-
missioned the NCAER to write a recipe to
maximise prots from land pooling. Three
models were considered for protability and
the model that gave the most prot for the
owners was chosen.
Once builders have bought out the farm-
ers, they get termed as owners of the land
and the signicant benets of such a PPP
scheme automatically accrue to them. This
strategy for intense densication of Delhi is
rather unfortunate and will eventually with-
er Delhi since it does not evenhave sufficient
water to cope with its present demands. Del-
hi, in the future, needs to be sustainable, not
just protable. The prospect of builder enti-
ties channelling water from Himachal Pra-
desh for their newly gated communities
seems remote.
Nevertheless, the new law for enabling
land pooling was announced in the Gazette
by the DDA in April this year. Builders as
landowners-in-waiting had become impa-
tient. The entire 1500 square kilometres of
the Delhi State is scheduled to be urbanised
by 2021.The new law has released over 600
sq km for land pooling. Much of this has
already been consolidated through complex
agreements to sell between builders and
farmers based on small bayana deposits
while they wait to become the Developer
Entities whomthe DDA will regard as own-
ers. Under the new law, Developer Entities
cankeep60per cent of the land they consoli-
date (40 per cent in smaller 3-19 hectare
parcels) for building multi-storied gated
communities, commercial shops, malls, etc.,
for sale after putting in the roads and amen-
ities. Fifteen per cent of the land is set aside
for economically weaker sections that cur-
rently constitute 60 per cent of Delhis pop-
ulation. The new law supersedes the 2021
Master Plan and doubles the permissible
built oor area to an FAR of 400. Builder
entities can now build and sell twice the
number of oors that the 2021 Master Plan
had allowed. The DDA is to provide the
roads, external trunk services and master
plan infrastructure.
As the Khemka-Vadra controversy has
shown, land bought from farmers and then
pooled by developers can become a tradable
instrument that passes from owner to own-
er. Agency prots are earned at eachstage for
consolidating, changing the land use and
building the project.
Slum rehabilitation
In response to the urgency of the govern-
ment, early bird land pooling projects have
surfaced and we can understand more clear-
ly what will happen to Delhi. The rst wave
has already hit the desks of the DDA for
approval as slum rehabilitation schemes.
Slum lands have been auctioned through
tenders to the largest eight or nine builders
in the city. The slumdwellers will be moved
to distant transit camps while redevelop-
ment takes place. The builder will build
three components on the slumland. A block
of ats for his private clientele, a shopping
mall with commercial shops and, thirdly,
some densely packed 20 oor blocks for the
sluminhabitants. These too will become our
urban sinkholes. In one such project, 13,000
slum dwellers have been accommodated in
multi-storied blocks that cover 18 per cent of
the ground of their erstwhile slumland while
the balance of the land has been given to 700
clientele buyers, a commercial mall and
shops, leaving the rest for roads, etc. Here
lies the paradox. The very Ministry that
promulgated the 12th Schedule of the 74th
Amendment 21 years ago has ended up
usurping the powers it gave the local bodies.
(Romi Khosla is the chair for the CII Sub-
grouponDelhi 2021 and Advisor to the Delhi
Urban Arts Commission)
Rich harvest in the name of charity
Romi Khosla
Delhis new law on public-private partnership for land development seems tailor-made to suit big builders
and marginalise housing for economically weaker sections
ne positive long-term outcome of the 2004
tsunami that ravaged parts of Indias sea-
board was a heightened awareness of disaster
preparedness and mitigation. Over this past
weekend, while over one crore people in Odisha and
Andhra Pradesh were hit by Cyclone Phailin, the fact
that, prima facie, human casualties were modest in
relation to the scale and extent of the devastation,
testies to not only advances in the science of weather-
mapping and early warning but also the level of prepa-
redness and efficiency in evaluating an impending
threat, and then putting into place the logistics to con-
tain the impact of a natural disaster. Across the two
States, more than a million people were evacuated.
Although formidable relief and rehabilitation challeng-
es lie ahead, in the immediate term, the State and
Central governments ought to ensure food assistance
packages and temporary accommodation arrangements
for those rendered homeless, especially with the ood-
ing of Ganjam and other areas. So far, the agencies
involved have given a good account of themselves. The
Defence Crisis Management Group that coordinated
operations, the National Disaster Relief Force, the Na-
tional Disaster Management Authority, State-level po-
lice and administrative machinery and other agencies
all worked together to contain the fallout. Even ad-
mitting that the October 1999 super cyclone with wind
speeds ranging up to 300 kmph that struck Odisha was
probably the greatest cyclonic disaster recorded in In-
dia in a century, compare the death toll in that round:
officially 9,885 people, possibly more. The cyclone sur-
veillance system of the India Meteorological Depart-
ment had detected the 1999 cyclone all of ve days
before it made landfall, while it was still a low pressure
formation over the Gulf of Siam. In the case of Phailin
also, the IMD agged the crisis ve days in advance.
Evidently, the levels of preparedness were signicantly
different this time round. One thought remains: if only
the IMD and the disaster management agencies had had
their antennae up sufficiently early before tragedy
struck Uttarakhand earlier this year, the extent of hu-
man losses would have been less.
This weekend saw another tragic contrast, signifying
how the law and order machinery is yet to learn lessons
from the past in ensuring crowd management where it
is needed most. A stampede near the iconic Ratangarh
Temple in Madhya Pradeshs Datia district claimed 115
lives, triggered apparently by mere rumours that a
bridge that devotees were crossing was about to col-
lapse. Adding to the sense of irony is the fact that 56
pilgrims had been washed away at the same site in 2006
and it was after that tragedy that the bridge was built.
Clearly, when it comes to proactively preventing man-
made disasters, India has a long, long way to go.
Coping with acts
of God, and men
he death of over 100 people,
many of themwomen and
children, in a stampede at the
Ratangarh Mata Temple in Datia,
Madhya Pradesh, is saddening. In
India, post-disaster response goes
like this a political blame-game;
some compensation for the
victims and their families; a
committee to probe the incident;
and nally its removal fromour
What we need is better planning
in pilgrimage sites where the
chances of an accident are likely.
Instead of looking for who started
the rumour that allegedly led to
the stampede in Datia, the
authorities should improve access
to the temple and have a rescue
teamin place. A standard model of
operation should be developed
Mahendra D. Kamdar,
any disasters involving huge
crowds, including
stampedes, have taken place in the
past but we still have not learnt
the necessary lessons. The
government machinery draws up
policies on paper but they are
hardly implemented. Disaster
management is almost non-
existent. The Madhya Pradesh
tragedy is a classic example of
man-made disaster. Trained
employees, better coordination,
use of technology and spreading
awareness among people can avert
such situations in future.
Kumar Shekhar Jha,
his is the second time tragedy
has struck Datia. In 2006,
more than 50 pilgrims were
washed away after falling into the
same river. Sundays incident
could have been averted had the
administration been more alert in
dealing with a large gathering of
S. Sankaranarayanan,
tampedes have taken place in
different parts of the country
causing hundreds of avoidable
deaths. Most of themhave
happened at religious places on
the eve of festivals or during
festival related activities. The
administration should gear up to
meet the challenges on occasions
when huge crowds are expected to
Sikandar Khatri,
New Delhi
he sorry side of such tragedies
is that they claimthe lives of
heartening is that the devastation
caused by Phailin in terms of
human lives lost has been minimal
compared to the1999 cyclone. I
was posted to an Air Force base in
West Bengal in 1999 and I
contributed in a small measure to
the relief work. I hope what I saw
then some people hoarding
rations and relief material does
not happen now.
Gp Capt
J.R. Arunachalam (retd.),
cyclone and a stampede on
the same day highlighted what
preparedness and the lack of it can
result in. Predictably, all basic
norms of safety were outed in
Datia even though a similar
calamity happened in the exact
spot seven years ago.
Hardly a year passes without a
stampede somewhere in India. But
you would be hard pressed to nd
even a credible study on
stampedes in the Indian context.
Nabakrishna Hazarika,
Justice system
his refers to the editorial The
doubt of the benet (Oct. 14)
on the Patna High Courts
acquittal of all 26 persons
convicted by a lower court for the
1997 Laxmanpur Bathe massacre
in which 58 Dalits were killed. The
statement money power and
muscle power have turned out to
be among the biggest beneciaries
of the doubt perceived by the
judiciary is sweeping in nature.
The judiciary decides a case on the
basis of police investigations and
evidence and records produced
before it.
The judiciary cannot be blamed
for poor or botched-up
N. Swaminathan,
New Delhi
he defect lies with the nature
of the criminal justice system
where the judge plays an umpire
which we inherited fromthe
British. The systemwas evolved
when the subjects were weak and
the rulers oppressive. Now there is
a sea change.
It is time the country changed
over to the French inquisitorial
systemin which the judge plays an
active role. The judge should grill
witnesses who are unwilling to
speak the truth. Let us remember
that justice is the objective of the
legal systemand law is the means
to achieve it.
P.V. Ramana Rao,
he Patna High Court verdict is
a classic case of porous justice
delivery system. Justice should
not be a chimera for the
downtrodden. As Martin Luther
King Jr. said, injustice anywhere is
a threat to justice everywhere.
The common man losing faith in
the justice delivery systemwill
ultimately result in a more
dangerous state of lawlessness.
D.V.G. Sankararao,
to the
Letters emailed to must carry
the full postal address and the full
name or the name with initials.
Andhra Pradesh did a
commendable job of evacuating
lakhs of people to safety and
providing for them.
Sarayu Sankar,
hanks to the advances in
science, we no longer throw
up our hands when we are faced
with natural disasters. We came to
terms with Phailin more easily and
tackled it well to escape its
untamed fury. We did our best
with the available expertise and
resources, and minimised human
Phailin threatened to be a
disaster of apocalyptical
proportions. But the strenuous
efforts made by the Centre, the
States and various agencies paid
off. The people of coastal Odisha
are now faced with the daunting
task of repairing and rebuilding
their lives.
G. David Milton,
his is the time for the nation to
feel proud. The governments
at the Centre and the States
should now focus on the
rehabilitation of lakhs of people
uprooted by the cyclone. It is a
mammoth task and every agencys
coordinated effort is needed to
quicken the process.
Rameeza A. Rasheed,
he after-effects of a cyclone
are devastating and cruel for
persons affected by it. What is
hapless women and children. A
sense of discipline should be
imparted among people who
gather in large numbers so that
untoward incidents can be
Dinesh Kumar,
he Madhya Pradesh
government knew that huge
crowds gather at the temple
during Navratri. Why did it not
take adequate precautions and
deploy more policemen? Worse,
no police officer or administrative
personnel was seen anywhere near
the dead bodies in photographs
and TV visuals.
Avadhoot Gorakhanath Shinde,
New Delhi
t is tragic that a man-made
disaster caused greater havoc
than cyclone Phailin. Stampedes
are not new in India, particularly
during festive occasions. The
location of the Ratangarh temple
and its proximity to a bridge
should have attracted the
attention of officials. The disaster
could have then been avoided.
Lakshmi Swathi Gandham,
was reminded of the stampede
in Keralas Idukki district in
2011which claimed the lives of
more than 100 Sabarimala
pilgrims. The tragedy was declared
a national calamity. It is shocking
to learn that a rumour caused the
Ratangarh stampede. It was a clear
case of dereliction of duty on the
part of the authorities. The
negligence is even more shocking
considering that a tragedy
occurred at the same site in 2006.
A. Jainulabdeen,
requent recurrence of man-
made calamities lowers the
image of the nation, besides
exposing the poor preparedness of
the administration in this age of
technology. The tragedy is blot on
the government of the day.
Nothing is more sacred and
precious than a human life. It
should not be taken for granted by
the administration or fellow
human beings.
D. Manohara Rao,
Tackling Phailin
he Indian Meteorological
Department should be lauded
for predicting Phailins speed and
landfall accurately. The
governments of Odisha and
ongress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has
promised to facilitate a youthful government
at the Centre following the 2014 general elec-
tion. It is a mission none can quarrel with. By
2020 India will be the demographically youngest coun-
try in the world with 64 per cent of its population in the
working age group. It is only in the tness of things that
any incoming government reects the aspirations and
dreams of this section. Talk of a young future govern-
ment is also a shrewd tactic to pull in fence-sitting
rst-time voters. The question to ask is: why has Rahul
woken up to this reality nearly a decade after he himself
entered Parliament with a crop of eager freshers in tow?
The Congresss youth force kindled hopes of regener-
ation in a party that desperately need to let go of its
deadwood. It wasnt anybodys argument that the
younger MPs should commandeer the key ministerial
portfolios which undoubtedly needed to be handled by
men and women of experience. But certainly there was
a case for inducting young talent into the Union Council
of Ministers both to teach the newcomers responsib-
ility and to benet from their fresh, contemporary
thinking. With an average ministerial age of around 61,
the 2004 Manmohan Singh government was a stunning
let down; it could have passed for a retirement home.
As it turned out, Team Rahul was consigned to the
sidelines because of Rahul himself. There was tantalis-
ing mystery around the ambitions of the young leader.
Sonia Gandhis son turned down invitations to join the
government. But because of who he was the deemed
heir-apparent none among the young MPs could
aspire for a serious ministerial job when he didnt want
one for himself. The situation was remedied in UPA-II
with a string of appointments to junior portfolios. But
the young ministers were utilised badly and languished
for lack of guidance and support. Four ministers ac-
counting for an average age of 73 made it to the Cabinet
in the last expansion of the Council of Ministers. The
Labour and Employment Ministry, requiring critical
understanding of strategies for the youth, was assigned
to 86-year-old Sis Ram Ola. Not just this. There is still
no clarity on what role Rahul has envisaged for himself.
Will the UPA go into its third election under the Con-
gress vice-president? Unlikely, given his continuing re-
luctance to shoulder responsibility. Persisting
confusion in this regard can only lead to disillusion-
ment in the party cadre which has got its hopes high on
Rahuls words. At 43, the Congress VP is no spring
chicken and he must make up his mind either way and
quickly if the youthful government is to be formed in
itself an unlikely prospect given the UPAs dismal pro-
spects in key electoral States.
a dream
few years ago, Pakistan
made an extraordinary
proposal to Afghanistan
regarding the extraction
and marketing of Afghan
mineral wealth which is,
according to the United
States Geological Sur-
vey, worth around $1 trillion. It suggested
that an Afghan, Pakistani and Chinese con-
sortiumbe established to undertake this ac-
tivity. It was a serious and thought out
proposal for it was made by a very senior
Pakistani Minister. The Afghans were not
certain if Pakistan had taken China on board
before making the sounding but some in
Kabul saw this as a manifestation of a Sino-
Pakistan nexus on Afghanistan. The Afghans
rejected the Pakistani idea altogether.
Needed, scrutiny
This episode holds a lesson for the Indian
strategic community which is focussed on
U.S. and Pakistans role in Afghanistan. This
is unexceptionable but our security estab-
lishment should also pay close attention to
Chinas policies, both direct and along with
Pakistan, towards Afghanistan as they may
intersect Indian approaches and interests. A
middle official level dialogue between India
and China on Afghanistan has occurred but
far greater scrutiny of Chinese actions is
China has always looked at Afghanistan
with caution and circumspection but never
with indifference; it has actively but quietly
pursued its interests in a country with which
it shares a short boundary in the high moun-
tains at the eastern edge of the Wakhan Cor-
ridor. On the Chinese approach in the 1960s,
the American scholar Dupree notes, the
Chinese moved from behind the bamboo
curtain to woo the Afghans socially, politi-
cally, and, in a lesser degree, economically.
During the Afghan Jehad against the Soviet
presence in Afghanistan, the Chinese sup-
ported the Afghan Mujahideen. Barnett Ru-
bin, an authority on the Afghan Jehad,
writes, the operation was not just a CIA
operation; it was a joint operationof the CIA,
the ISI, the Al Istakhbarat al-Ama (General
Directorate) of Saudi Arabia. The Chinese
were also involved (although they were and
are rather discreet about this). These were
four intelligence agencies that met every
week in Islamabad. A lot of weapons from
China went into Afghanistan as well but
were not paid for by the Chinese.
Ironically, the success of the AfghanJehad
invigorated Chinas main internal security
threat Xinjiangs Uighur militancy and
quest for throwing off the Chinese yoke. In
the 1990s, as the Talibangained strengthand
territory in Afghanistan and as their alliance
with the al-Qaeda deepened they began to
give sanctuary and support to Central Asian
Islamic militant groups and others including
the Uighur groups. It is generally believed
that a thousand Uighur militants came to
Afghanistan but in 2003 a senior Chinese
official gave this writer a much higher gure.
China turned to Pakistan to persuade the
Taliban to expel the Uighur militants from
Afghanistan. The all weather friend inter-
ceded; Chinese officials met senior Taliban
leaders who made promises to rein in the
Uighur militants. The promises were not
kept. Following 9/11, the Taliban were oust-
ed by the Coalition and Northern Alliance
forces in November 2001. They retreated
into Pakistan and the Uighur militants went
with them.
China went along with international ef-
forts on Afghanistan after 9/11 but remained
restrained in its public articulation on the
Taliban and low key in Kabul after the estab-
lishment of the Hamid Karzai led Interim
Administration. On his part, Mr. Karzai be-
gan to assiduously woo China, a courtship he
has continued throughout his presidency.
He visited Beijing in January 2002, ahead of
his visit toIndia whichcame inend February
of that year. Since then he has visited China
on numerous occasions, including for four
state visits; the last was a few weeks ago in
September. Through these years bilateral
ties have been upgraded: from good neigh-
bourly to comprehensive cooperation to
establishing strategic and cooperative part-
nership. Economic relations have been
strengthened with the award of major pro-
jects in the mining and hydrocarbons sec-
tors. Contacts in the security and
intelligence sectors have intensied. A sec-
tion of the Kabul elite is strongly supporting
the Chinese connection and some have de-
veloped economic stakes init. However, Chi-
nas relations with Pakistan, Pakistans
connections with the Taliban and contin-
uing Taliban sympathy for the Uighur cause
complicate the relationship.
Over the past six years, Afghanistan has
provided China with evidence of Pakistans
actions to destabilise Afghanistan. Predict-
ably the Chinese have simply ignored all the
material given to them. In these interactions
Chinas focus has remained on the Uighur
militants. Uighur militancy in Xinjiang has
been vigorous and bloody over the past dec-
ade. China views Afghanistan, according to
Chinese scholar Zhao Huasheng, as anines-
capable part of Xinjiangs security.
Two-pronged approach
Chinas current approach towards con-
taining Uighur militancy is two-pronged:
The effort with the Taliban to expel the
Uighur militants from FATA continues.
Withthis aimthe Chinese have not criticised
the Taliban on any count. Instead they have
said that they are a durable political group
and hence have followed the Pakistan line
and supported a process of reconciliation
between them and the Afghan government.
The Taliban June statement assuring that
they would not allow Afghan territory to be
used against any country would have given
satisfaction to China as it did to the U.S. in
the context of the al-Qaeda.
Secondly, China has focussed on the de-
velopment of Xinjiang as an industrial base
and as a pole in the trade and transit net-
works it is putting in place in Central Asia
and beyond. The Central Asian states have
been co-opted in this grand design. Russia
has not opposed it either. The prospects of
economic benets and an absence of ide-
ological affinity have denied Uighur mili-
tancy sympathy in Central Asian countries
except within Islamist groups in the region.
The ambitious Gwadar-Kashgar Trade
and Transit Corridor Project which China
and Pakistan will undertake has also to be
seen in this context. The project which in-
volves the development of the Gwadar port
and which will no doubt eventually seek to
enmesh Afghanistan has obvious geo-strate-
gic implications for India as it goes ahead
with Iran to develop the Chabahar port and
its links with and through Afghanistan to
Central Asia and beyond.
China is conscious of an inevitable ele-
ment of competitionbetweenthe twotransit
systems. Hence, it is paying close attention
to the Chabahar port and developments in
western Afghanistan, especially around the
Indian-built Zarang-Dilaram Highway that
connects the Chabahar port with the strate-
gic Kabul-Kandahar-Herat Road.
The Aynak Copper mines will be devel-
oped by China at a cost of over $4billion. The
project envisages the construction of a rail-
way to evacuate copper to Xinjiang via Taji-
kistan. It is currently stalled because of
security concerns but it will eventually be
built and will be a model for other mining
projects that will be undertaken by China.
All this will be designed to integrate a major
part of the Afghan mining activity with the
economy of Western China.
China takes a long-term view of its in-
terests but pursues themrelentlessly. It will
do so in Afghanistan too. India has built a
fund of goodwill in Afghanistan through the
example it holds as a democracy as well as its
popular assistance programme. With these
assets it is well placed though it will have to
navigate the next few years through the mi-
neeld of the consequences of the U.S. forces
drawdown. In the long term, India will need
to evolve new strategies to safeguard and
advance its interests in Afghanistan. Mean-
while, it has to make a success of the Hajigak
iron ore project and ensure that transport
systems are established to move the product
through Chabahar.
(The writer is a former ambassador to
The many roads to Kabul
Vivek Katju
China is quietly but surely pursuing its strategic interests in Afghanistan. It is time India worked out
the implications for itself
Temple tragedy
hat was supposed to be a
pilgrimage turned out to be
a nightmare for the 115 people who
were killed and those injured in
the stampede near the Ratangarh
Mata temple in Datia, Madhya
Pradesh. The suspension of top
district officials is welcome but the
move will have an impact on the
way officials function in future, at
least in the short term.
Amulya Venkateshappa,
here should be foolproof
security arrangement in
temples and spots where huge
crowds gather. A standard
operating procedure fromthe
provision of separate entry and
exit points, barricades to regulate
surging crowds, and CCTVs at
vantage points should be in
place. The district administration
should coordinate with all the
agencies responsible for the
smooth conduct of the event.
Datia is not the rst instance of
deaths due to stampede. Similar
incidents have taken place but no
useful lesson has been learnt or
corrective action taken to preclude
such tragedies.
H.P. Murali,
arge congregations call for
pro-active action by the
district administration and temple
authorities. But such action is
never taken and our leaders shed
crocodile tears after a tragedy
occurs. The need of the hour is to
make sure that someone is held
accountable for the loss of lives.
Unless we have punitive measures
in place, we will continue to hear
of accidents caused by official
A. Mohan,
he immediate aftermath of
such tragedies is the tendency
of political parties to score
brownie points over dead bodies.
The administrative apparatus in
India is still to come to grips with
controlling large congregations,
especially in small religious places,
and most of the time it is loathe to
learn and experiment.
Crowd management is an art as
well as a science, and a ne
balance needs to be struck to
prevent lakhs of people fromgoing
out of control. Not every event
witnesses the same turnout, and
the district administration should
have the foresight to comprehend
the days huge crowds are
expected. The provision of smooth
passage for devotees with
adequate barricades is important.
It goes without saying that
deploying adequate police forces
and directing themnot to use
force at the slightest provocation
are important. All States should
chalk out comprehensive plans to
prevent stampedes in temples.
Larger congregations in many
important religious places are
managed without untoward
Ganapathi Bhat,
any letters have appeared on
the Ratangarh tragedy. But
the tendency is to blame only the
authorities. I wonder whether
there is no responsibility on the
part of organisers of such events,
and those who congregate on an
occasion. Isnt it a collective
responsibility? The organisers
should be capable of handling the
crowd that is expected to
converge, with the help of the
authorities. It is also time people
realised the futility of rituals and
crowding a place on a particular
day. Can they not go to the temple
some other day?
B.C.U. Nair,
ou cannot blame people for
their faith but you can always
question the authorities in charge
of maintaining order during
festivals. The rumour which led to
the tragedy in Datia could have
been tackled promptly.
Kushan Dixit,
he unhealthy trend of the
Opposition blaming the ruling
party for disasters and calamities
is on the rise. The latest is the
blame game over the Ratangarh
stampede. It is sad to see even top
political leaders playing politics
over such tragedies. Leaders
should be sensitive to the losses
suffered by people. They should do
what they can to help the
authorities deal with the tragedy.
M. Pradyu Thalikavu,
Justice for the
he article Atrocities that no
longer shock (Oct. 15)
reminded me of one of the
premises in Derrick Jensens book
Endgame, which helps us see that
the very culture or modern
civilisation we are proud of is
based on violence against the
natural world, against women and
the less privileged or the most
vulnerable. The premise is:
Civilization is based on clearly
dened and widely accepted yet
often unarticulated hierarchy.
Violence done by those higher on
the hierarchy to those lower is
nearly always invisible, that is,
unnoticed. When it is noticed, it is
fully rationalized. Violence done
by those lower on the hierarchy to
those higher is unthinkable and
when it does occur is regarded
with shock, horror, and the
fetishization of the victims.
C.V. Sukumaran,
alpana Kannabirans heart
rending narration of the
gruesome massacre of Dalits in
Bihar, and the rank indifference at
all levels of the administration in
handling the case was a grim
reminder of the pattern found in
all cases involving the oppression
of people belonging to the lowest
strata. The mainstreammedia
owes an answer on why and how
the nations conscience is not
shaken by such disturbing crimes
or the acquittal of those convicted
for them. The neo-liberal cultural
orientation has only helped
sharpen social divisions. Age-old
discrimination continues to reect
in the social space. The need of the
hour is committed and consistent
work by progressive forces.
S.V. Venugopalan,
hat 58 people were killed in
the most gruesome manner
and not one accused has been
convicted is unbelievable.
Thousands came to the streets for
a candle light march when a young
woman fromDelhi was gang raped
and killed. But the killing of Dalits
in Laxmanpur-Bathe and the
Patna High Courts recent
acquittal of all those convicted by
a lower court do not seemto have
moved civil society and the media.
How can we blame the
marginalised sections for joining
the ranks of extremists when they
nd they get no justice fromthe
Dayama Harish Kumar,
New Delhi
do not understand why this
matter is not in media focus.
We have gone back to the point
fromwhere we started our journey
towards development.
Laxmanpur-Bathe is a shameful
incident that highlights the failure
of our system. As for the media, it
was busy covering the retirement
of god fromcricket.
Nalin Yadav,
he Patna High Courts verdict
has caused grave injustice to
not only the families of those
killed but also society at large. But
courts can punish the accused only
if foolproof evidence is produced
by investigators and the charges
are proved by the prosecution
beyond reasonable doubt. It suits
everyone in the systemto
approach the Supreme Court and
wait for the nal verdict.
It may not be advantageous to
push for the conviction of the
accused solely for political
compulsions and because the
offence was brutal or on other
assumptions. The law department
must scrutinise the High Court
judgment on the touchstone of
consistency of evidence and
application of law. Instead of
rushing to appeal, the state can
order a reinvestigation, if
Anoop Chitkara,
Attack on liberty
The news of Hindutva vigilantes
targeting Hindu-Muslimcouples
in the Dhule district of
Maharashtra is shocking. How can
anyone stop a young woman from
befriending a man belonging to
another religion? Whatever
happened to liberty and freedom?
Organisations such as the Hindu
Rakshak Samiti take away the
freedomof choice in the name of
religion. They have no right to
threaten Hindu women who have
Muslimfriends or women who
wish to marry Muslimmen. What
is more distressful is that many
parents join hands with Hindutva
groups to combat what they claim
is love jihad. There is an urgent
need for society to rise above the
issues of religion and understand
that India is a secular country.
Ankita Srivastava
he charge by Hindutva forces
that Muslimmen lure Hindu
women into marriage to increase
the population of Muslims is
superuous. Islamis the second
most accepted religion in the
world. It does not need such things
to increase its following.
Moreover, women today are
sensible enough to see through
men seeking to cheat them. Such
men cannot inspire women to give
up everything to marry them.
Kusum Azad,
to the
Letters emailed to must carry
the full postal address and the full
name or the name with initials.
he latest Supreme Court ruling on the rights
of persons with disabilities has struck down
an arbitrary proviso in current government
policy that had become an impediment in the
mandatory reservation of three per cent of jobs for this
important section of the population. In disposing of an
appeal from the Union of India, the court has pro-
nounced that the quota should be computed uniformly
across all grades of employment, thereby removing a
discrepancy in the 2005 government order. That order
restricted reservation in A and B category posts only to
those that have already been identied as appropriate
for the disabled. The question of identication of jobs
has for some time remained a grey area: whether gov-
ernments should rst ascertain the type of work the
disabled can take up and then enforce reservation. The
controversy was settled earlier when the Court ruled
that failure in relation to the former was not a justica-
tion for inaction with respect to the latter. Currently,
the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment un-
dertakes the exercise of job identication every three
years, without restricting the freedom of establish-
ments to recruit disabled persons to work in areas they
deem t.
The other important question in the instant case was
whether quotas should be computed against vacancies
that arise from time to time, or with respect to the total
strength of the cadre. Signicantly, the Supreme Court
has interpreted the relevant provision in the 1995 Per-
sons with Disabilities Act as pertaining only to the
lling up of vacancies, whereas the Delhi High Court
had earlier opined that the quota should be computed
for the total strength of the cadre. Going beyond the
current ruling, it is essential that the legal and adminis-
trative approach to disability in India be brought in line
with enlightened global norms. The principles of non-
discrimination and equality of opportunities should be
codied unambiguously and implemented as part of
official policy, thereby setting an example for the pri-
vate sector. The expansion of employment prospects
for the disabled is closely linked to the spread of educa-
tional opportunities and the removal of physical and
attitudinal barriers that prevent the disabled from real-
ising their potential. The impediments to secure em-
ployment for the disabled are not vastly different from
those that hamper the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled
Tribes and Other Backward Classes. The one area that
is perhaps the most critical to the advancement of the
disabled is improvements in access to the built-envi-
ronment, public transport and pedestrian pathways.
The notorious inaction on the part of governments is
due in no small measure to the absence of penal provi-
sions for non-implementation of the 1995 law.
Levelling the
playing eld
here is little to be surprised about in the
parting of ways between the Bharti group and
Walmart from their joint venture. Walmart
was increasingly chang over the mandatory
local sourcing norms for retailers which it said were
impractical and impossible to meet. The joint venture
for cash-and-carry wholesale business with Bharti was
going nowhere with just 20 stores operational even as
Bharti raced away setting up over 200 Easyday retail
stores independently. Not helping matters was the
allegation of bribery and lobbying against Walmart,
which is now under investigation. With the raison
detre of the joint venture setting up retail branded
stores falling through, the marriage was headed one
way only: divorce. In the event, the separation seems to
be in their best mutual interests. Walmart, which
seems to have placed its retail ambitions in deep freeze,
will now take control of the BestPrice Modern whole-
sale cash-and-carry business where 100 per cent FDI is
allowed, while Bharti is free to focus on its own retail
business and possibly even look for other partners.
With elections round the corner and the issue of FDI in
retail being a contentious one, Walmart appears to
have realised that the local sourcing norms are unlikely
to be relaxed any time soon. And with the FDI norms
allowing it full ownership of the wholesale business, it
has chosen the next best option.
The Bharti-Walmart split is yet another example in a
laundry-list of high-prole joint ventures that fell apart
simply because the binding force was nothing more
than mere expediency. In post-liberalisation India, lo-
cal partners were sought out by foreign companies as
escorts to guide them through the maze of rules and
regulations governing business in this country. With
minor equity stakes in the joint ventures, the Indian
partners got little in return, thus making the ventures
unbalanced from the start. The one joint venture that
was different was the one between the Hero group and
Honda, which proved to be very successful but even
this partnership split over conicting ambitions of the
partners. In the equal joint venture Bharti-Walmart,
the Bharti groups utility was in pushing through regu-
latory approvals, installing the back-end infrastructure
including nalising store locations and in studying the
market. These are not small competencies for a partner
to bring to the table. Foreign companies seeking to do
business in India, however, see these as necessary only
till the business is established after which the partners
are considered dispensable. The only way for Indian
companies to combat this is to insist on technology
transfer to the joint venture which will result in cre-
ation of intellectual capital within the country.
very time the late Y.S.
Rajasekhara Reddy
came calling on Manmo-
han Singh, the Prime
Minister had a standard
welcome line for the vis-
iting Chief Minister of
Andhra Pradesh. Wel-
come Dr. Reddy, he would say with a warm
smile, We are here because you are there!
The Prime Ministers reference was to the
fact that the Congress was able to return to
power in New Delhi in 2004 because of Red-
dys sweeping victory in Andhra Pradesh.
Enthusing his party cadre with a padayatra
across the State, YSR, as he is popularly re-
ferred to, mobilised peasant anger against
the Telugu Desam Party and took the Con-
gresss tally in the Lok Sabha up froma mere
ve in 1999 to 29 in 2004. In 2009, he helped
the Congress return to power in Hyderabad
and Delhi, improving the tally of MPs from
his State to 33.
The question today, it seems, is if the next
Prime Minister would feel so obliged to the
victors of the forthcoming polls in the Te-
langana, Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema
regions of the State. The historic decision on
the dissolution of Indias rst linguistic
State, it appears, has been taken with that
question in mind.
The partys calculations
The Congress partys managers have con-
vinced themselves that they have a win-win
formula. In the Telangana region, not only
would the Congress win enough seats on its
own but it imagines the Telangana Rashtra
Samiti would lend its weight to a Congress
Prime Minster in Delhi. In the Seemandhra
region, the party hopes that Jaganmohan
Reddy, the prodigal son of its former leader,
will in the end support Rahul Gandhi. There
is, no doubt, longstanding support and sym-
pathy for the Congress in Telangana has
been refurbished with this decision. But
would the regions voters trust it any more
than the TRS or other parties that have been
more consistent in their support for a sep-
arate Telangana?
Will the States voters reward or punish
the Congress for the games its national lead-
ership has played with the Telugu people
over the past decade? Behind the faade of
unity and party loyalty in Delhi, most MPs
fromthe State are either nervous or frustrat-
ed. Some are seething with impotent rage
over the way in which they have been taken
for granted and their people let down. They
deserve no public sympathy as long as they
sticktothe loaves of office and their Lutyens
bungalows, threatening to resign but never
doing so.
The manner in which the Congress and
the Central government virtually subverted
the Justice Srikrishna Committee report,
the duplicitous stand of so many Delhi lead-
ers on the division of Andhra Pradesh, in-
cluding of many members of the recently
constituted Group of Ministers (GoM) on
Telangana, the inability of members of the
UnionCouncil of Ministers fromthe State to
stand up and be heard either in their own
constituencies or in Delhi, and the ip-ops
of the Union Home Ministry, have all served
to undermine the trust that the Telugus had
reposed in two successive elections in the
This GoM on Telangana ought to have
been constituted long ago to examine the
recommendations of the Srikrishna Com-
mittee and, on that basis, map out a planned
way ahead for the State. The Srikrishna
Committee report was fair and objective and
competently written, barring the silly secret
chapter that served to subvert the reports
legitimacy. The Central government ought
to have started a public debate based on that
report and arrived at a consensual map for
the road ahead that would have reassured all
sections of society the States aspiring
middle classes, students looking for local
educational opportunities, government ser-
vants worried about their relocation, farm-
ers anxious about water supply, and
investors with high stakes in the future of
the emerging metropolis of
This is no ordinary State with acres of
wasteland to be divided and distributed.
Andhra Pradesh was one of Indias rising
States of the last three decades. The GoM
would then have re-assured all sections that
none of their long-term interests would be
harmed. An all-party group on the Srikrish-
na report would have smoothened the
The Congresss attempt to gain political
mileage fromsuch a historic decision lies at
the root of the public anger sweeping parts of
Andhra Pradesh. It is not clear if the affec-
tion of the people of Telangana will be won
even as the disaffection of the people of See-
mandhra has been earned. Heavens would
not have fallenif the Congress had rst artic-
ulated its own vision for Telangana, for See-
maandhra and for Hyderabad and then
re-assured all that the interests of those resi-
dent in Hyderabad and those aspiring to be
so resident would not be harmed by whatev-
er administrative solution was going to be
Even the Partition of India was planned
with greater care by a colonial government
than this haphazard and utterly insensitive
handling of the division of a premier State of
the Union.
The GoM, constituted inthe wake of wide-
spread anger against the central Congress
leaderships lackadaisical approach to the
States future, will nd it difficult to earn the
trust of the Telugu people of Telangana
and Seemandhra. A government that has
been in power, as Dr. Singh would put it to
YSR, because of the affection of the Telugus
across two elections, today stands accused of
taking a historic decision to suit its electoral
calculations rather than the best interests of
the Telugu people as a whole.
I was a critic of the separatist agitation,
having participated in it as a student in the
early 1970s, not because I did not empathise
with the agitations demands and the ag-
itators grievances in fact I share them
both but because I believed statehood
would not help a future political leadership
in the Telangana region address the genuine
grievances and needs of the regions de-
prived people. Much water has owed down
the Godavari and the Krishna.
Cost-benet analysis
The deed is done and I respect the popular
sentiment in Telangana. Historians and po-
litical analysts will, however, debate for dec-
ades the costs and benets of not just the
decision, for the Telugu people and for the
Indian Union, but of the manner in which it
has been arrived at. Politicians will know
sooner who would benet fromthe decision.
More than a hundred years ago, towards
the end of the 19th Century, the greatest
Telugu playwright Guruzada Apparao, a
master of wit, wisdomand satire and a social
reformer to boot, wrote a the famous play,
Kanyasulkam, in which Madhuravani, the
young concubine, accuses her lover, Rama-
panthulu, the village karanam, of fraud
when he says he can x a persons horoscope
to ensure a matrimonial alliance. In Velch-
eru Narayan Raos English translation, Ra-
mapanthulu replies, Call it politics.
Whats the difference? asks
If a person trusts you and you deceive
him, it is fraud. If a person doesnt trust you,
its politics.
Why dont youjust say, says Madhurava-
ni, its fraud if someone else does it and
politics if you do it? Its all lies anyway.
Ramapanthulu, dismissive of her moralising,
tells her she is ignorant of the subtleties of
What subtleties of dharma explain the
short-termismthat has come to dene a his-
toric decisionrelated tothe future of a State?
In Guruzadas play, the tale ends in an
unexpected way with Girisam, the novels
playboy and conman, exclaiming, Damn it,
the story has taken a wrong turn!
Will those be the Congress leaderships
famous last words?
(The writer is Director for Geo-economics
and Strategy, International Institute for
Strategic Studies and Hon. Senior Fellow,
Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi)
Bird in hand, now two in the bush
Sanjaya Baru
The Congresss brazen attempt to score political points through the division of Andhra Pradesh has undermined
the trust Telugus have reposed in it for years
hat a learned man like Sanjaya
Baru should treat the
demerger of Telangana in such
supercial and monochromatic
terms of political calculus, glossing
over the history and injustices that
have been done to Telangana over
the last 60 years, is unfortunate
(Bird in hand, now two in the
bush, Oct. 16).
This is yet another instance of
intellectuals writing against the
aspirations of the people of
Telangana. There has been a
systematic denigration of the
Telangana region by Seemandhra
politicians but it has not been
covered by the media. We hope
that at least after the new State
comes into existence, we will not
have to listen to pathetic
Vishweshwer Mangalapalli,
he Congress might have
decided to bifurcate Andhra
Pradesh for political reasons but it
does not matter to the people of
Telangana. The State had to be
divided at one time or the other,
irrespective of the party in power
at the Centre, because people in
the Telangana region have been
ghting for a separate State for 60
years. The Congress may not come
to the power for a third successive
time but people will remember
that statehood was granted to
Telangana when the party was in
Jeeguru Aditya,
he Congress promised a
separate State to the people of
Telangana in 2004. YSRwas part
of it. That he opposed it later is
another matter. As for scoring
political points, a political party
aims at reaping benets. The
decision to bifurcate Andhra
Pradesh is not against the
Constitution, which provides for
the creation of new States.
Gotham Sirasani,
he decision to bifurcate
Andhra Pradesh not only
undermines the trust of Telugus in
the Congress but also betrays the
mandate given to it. It is most
unfortunate that a historic
decision of this magnitude has
been taken by the party with
disdain for the people who have
stood behind it for years.
V. Krishnamohan,
he article has passionately
exposed the fraud committed
by the Congress leadership on
Telugus, with the tacit connivance
of MPs fromAndhra Pradesh.
Hemasagar Poldoss,
he Congress is bound to be
routed in Seemandhra in the
coming elections. Although
Andhra Pradesh was instrumental
in the formation of UPA 1 and 2,
the people of the State have always
received a secondary treatment in
the allocation of projects,
especially in the railway budget.
By deciding to bifurcate the State,
the Congress has alienated itself
further and indeed lost the trust
people reposed in it in 2004 and
S. Gopal,
ven after the division, the
Congress may not gain much
in Telangana. It will be a total
washout for the party in
Seemandhra. Both the YSRCand
the TRS have been at loggerheads
with the Congress for quite some
he writer has aptly quoted
fromKanyasulkam. The
division of a State should be based
on administrative reasons,
regional development and future
survivability, not sentiments.
The Congress should not take a
call on the division without
consulting experts on economy,
security and development and, of
course, other political parties.
Makireddi Sai,
he Srikrishna Committee
report should have been
widely discussed, debated and
understood. Effective strategies
should have been evolved for the
development of the
underdeveloped regions in Andhra
Unless the political systemand
bureaucracy are clean,
accountable and professional and
revive good old values, people will
never get their due share of
development, whether they are in
a small or big State.
B.H. Sridhar,
RSS debate
he debate on the RSS ban was
truly informative (The RSS
ban, and how it was reversed, Oct.
16). Vidya Subrahmaniams
response to S. Gurumurthy was
spot on. Right-wing organisations
are masters in the art of tweaking
historical facts to their advantage.
The practical wisdomof Sardar
Patel who tried to subsume the
RSS within the Congress to
contain its activities should not be
interpreted as tacit support for the
No microscopic study is needed
to see that the RSS has never
delivered on the promises that
really mattered abjuring secrecy
and restraining fromviolence.
M. Balamurali,
he question is not whether the
lifting of the ban on the RSS
was conditional or unconditional
but whether the RSS decided to
stay apolitical or not. It
encouraged members of all
political parties to join the
organisation promising that it was
apolitical in nature and a cultural
front that believed in Hindu
nationalism. This way it sought to
deect the governments attention
away fromits activities. The last
60 years of its existence clearly
reveal that it has an agenda that it
does share in public. But its
activities expose its designs.
It is clear that the RSS directs
the BJP. The fact that L.K. Advani
was dumped in favour of Narendra
Modi despite being considered the
tallest leader in the BJP exposes
its false claims of being apolitical.
K. Baskar,
s Subrahmaniamis quite
right when she says Patel
had a complex relationship with
the RSS. The Sangh and
commentators like Mr.
Gurumurthy conveniently sweep
this fact under the carpet to claim
that Patel was a supporter of the
It is an open secret that the BJP
is tied to the apron strings of the
RSS. For all political purposes, the
RSS uses the BJP as a facade for
achieving political power by proxy.
S. Balu,
verybody will agree that the
RSS has never entered direct
politics. It cannot be concluded
that the organisation wants to
make a backdoor entry into
politics or orchestrate the
developments in the BJP. It only
acts as a catalyst.
Ramanathapuram S. Narayanan,
alpana Kannabiran has
presented the ground reality of
Dalit India that remains on the
margins even 65 years after
independence (Atrocities that no
longer shock, Oct. 15). It is
disheartening to see Dalits carrying
on their war of independence
against their people in their own
country. As pointed out by Ms
Kannabiran, there was no outrage
over Khairlanji, Karamchedu and
Laxmanpur-Bathe or, for that
matter, Kilvenmani (Nagapattinam,
Tamil Nadu) where 44 Dalits,
including women and children, were
burnt to death by local landlords in
India is still reluctant to treat
Dalits as humans; may be this is the
reason the state does not consider
Dalit rights human rights. Although
constitutional guarantees exist on
paper, officials implementing them
belong to the upper caste in the
executive, legislative and judicial
departments. This is perhaps why
there is no conviction even in an
open, clear case of atrocity against
S. Kaliaperumal,
hile we raise a hue and cry
over incidents of
discrimination in western
countries and call themracism, we
have not bothered to pay attention
to the burning issue of caste
violence back home. People who
indulge in hate speech, casteist
attacks and destruction of
property are given protection with
taxpayers money.
The judiciary is the only beacon
of hope for the marginalised
sections. Justice should not only
be done, but should also be seen to
be done.
B. Asokan,
ntrenched bias and prejudices
against Dalits is the reason
their ght against injustice
continues to remain arduous and
long. While Dalits have managed
to improve their economic and
political status owing to
independent Indias policy of
reservation in education and
employment, their social status
leaves a lot to be desired. Concrete
and time- bound measures to
remove the ills afflicting our
criminal justice systembrooks no
M. Jeyaram,
to the
Letters emailed to must carry
the full postal address and the full
name or the name with initials.
ecently released census gures on urban
slums reveal two distressing facts. First, that
Indian cities are amongst the most unequal
and least inclusive in the world. Second, the
enumeration of the urban poor and their places of
habitation are grossly incomplete and thus inaccurate.
Data from 2,613 of the 4,041 statutory towns show that
the population living in slums has increased by 25 per
cent in the last decade, reaching 65.4 million in 2011.
The gures would have been much higher and the
disparity would have appeared even wider had the
enumeration been diligent and complete. Other esti-
mates place the population living in slums at over 90
million. It would be incorrect to attribute migration as
the principal reason for the increase in slums. As the
expert group on urban poverty and slums for the formu-
lation of the Twelfth Five-Year Plan has clearly stated,
their proliferation is a result of the failure of housing
policies. For instance, the interest subsidy scheme,
which is meant to provide nancial assistance to lower
income groups to secure housing and enable construc-
tion of three lakh units, has so far reached only 13,485
beneciaries. Similarly, many State governments have
failed to implement the National Urban Housing and
Habitat Policys recommendation to allocate 15 per cent
of land in residential projects for housing the poor.
The census also discloses another disquieting fact.
Though there are more than 13.7 million households
living in abysmal conditions, States have formally noti-
ed only about a third of them as slums. This leaves a
large number of others in a more vulnerable condition:
health and sanitation facilities hardly reach non-noti-
ed slums, and they are prone to forced eviction. In situ
rehabilitation of existing slums without any discrimi-
nation is imperative. Following the failure of many
earlier schemes, the government launched a new one
entitled Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) in 2011. RAY has
promised slum free cities in future, and commits to
rehabilitate existing slum dwellers in the same place
where they are living, provide secure tenure and im-
prove access to services and sanitation. The State gov-
ernments should implement this ambitious scheme
across cities without delay and dilution. The key chal-
lenge is to provide serviced land for social housing.
Realising this, the National Advisory Council, in its
suggestion to improve RAY, has recommended that
cities should earmark about 25 to 40 per cent of land in
their development plans for social housing. Without
this important measure, it would be difficult to prevent
the formation of new slums. Sustainable and equitable
urban development is possible only when our cities
adequately address the issue of housing the poor.
he decision to award this years Man Booker
Prize to the virtually unknown 28-year-old
New Zealand writer Eleanor Catton for her
door-stopper of a novel, The Luminaries, is as
much a recognition of a new voice as proof that the
Booker judges capacity to surprise remains undimin-
ished. In a year when the critics and bookies were
rooting for one of the shortest novels in contention
the British writer Jim Graces Harvest they went and
chose the longest (The Luminaries clocks in at 832
pages) and the most formally structured contender. Yet
in the past they have gone for novels that were so brief
(Ian McEwans On Chesil Beach and Julian Barness
The Sense of an Ending) that many questioned whether
they could be considered as novels at all. Two years ago,
there was a huge row when one of the judges suggested
that for him a book needed to zip along to pass the
selection test, prompting criticism that the prize had
dumbed down with readability taking precedence
over artistic achievement. This years choice is a ri-
poste to critics on both counts. Good literature tran-
scends considerations of structure and size. Robert
Macfarlane, chairman of the judges, described The Lu-
minaries as a dazzling book, vast without being spraw-
ling. Hailed as a compelling thriller, it is set against
the background of the 19th century New Zealand gold
rush. The story is told through a complicated plot struc-
ture divided into 12 zodiac-themed chapters, each de-
creasing in length in conjunction with the lunar cycle.
Judges acknowledged that readers needed to make a
huge investment in getting to grips with it, but the
effort was worth it.
At 28, Catton is the youngest ever writer to win the
Booker, beating Ben Okri, who was 32 when he won it
for The Famished Road in 1991. It is after 28 years that a
New Zealander has won the prize since Keri Hulme got
it for The Bone People in 1985. That was a controversial
choice, still cited after so many years as an example of
the Bookers eccentric ways. Perhaps no other litera-
ry prize is scrutinised as closely as Booker amid persist-
ent rumours about its imminent death. Consistently,
however, it has always proved its critics wrong, demon-
strating that even after 45 years, there is still life left in
the old beast. In India, there will be disappointment
that Jhumpa Lahiris The Lowland missed out and
elsewhere too, critics will carp that their favourite was
ignored. But thats the beauty of Booker its unpre-
dictability. From next year, the prize will be open to
American and other writers with British publishers,
making the competition tougher and adding to the
drama that has become so much a part of one of the
English-speaking worlds most storied prizes for
A prize for
weighty prose
he cyclical shake-up of
Tamil politics that ac-
companies each election
seems to have begun
early this time. Whilst
we may still see parties
jumping ship and chang-
ing alliances in the im-
mediate run-up to the polls, there has been a
lot of jostling for position already. Following
a recent meeting of the All Community Fed-
eration, for example, The Hindu reported
one leader as saying that constituents of the
Federation would never ever support the
Dravidian parties as it was because of their
rule that casteism continued to survive in
some form in Tamil Nadu. The irony of a
collection of caste-based parties pointing
the nger of blame at others was clearly lost
on P.T. Arasakumar, leader of the National
Forward Bloc. Likewise, the claim to repre-
sent all communities by a front that has
been running a campaign against inter-caste
marriages and seeking amendments to the
Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes
(Prevention of Atrocities) Act, is laughable.
At least, it would be laughable if it did not
have such deleterious consequences for so-
cial and community relations in the State.
Politicisation of caste
Once hailed for its progressive anti-caste
politics, Tamil Nadu has more recently been
associated with the politicisation of caste. In
2006, Vaasanthi the former editor of India
Todays Tamil edition observed that ev-
ery section of society now clings to its caste
label with pride. With a caste-based political
party being born every day, each group is in
the need of political protectionand asserting
its identity.
Several new caste-based parties and fronts
have emerged since that statement was
made. Were such organisations limited to
the symbolic realm and focused upon the
rediscovery of caste histories and identities
that have beensubsumed withinthe rhetoric
of Dravidian politics, they might merit little
more than a footnote in discussions of Tamil
politics. Unfortunately, the assertion of
caste pride is built on an exaggerated sense
of superiority and entitlement that views the
upward mobility of lower caste groups with
When 300 Dalit homes were torched in
November 2012 following a cross-caste mar-
riage, many analysts were puzzled that such
violence should occur in the State that fos-
tered Dravidianism and championed cross-
caste and secular weddings. The truth is that
the radical edge of Dravidian ideology was
blunted even before the Dravida Munnetra
Kazhagam rst took power. Dravidian par-
ties have used a rhetorical emphasis on Ta-
mil nationalism and language to avoid
enacting politically sensitive election pledg-
es on land reform, dowry and caste. As Na-
rendra Subramanians (1999) book Ethnicity
and Populist Mobilization makes clear, the
Dravidian parties revolved around a cluster
of socially dominant castes. It has taken the
emergence of caste based parties to open up
Tamil politics to new categories. Thevar and
Vanniyar parties succeeded in wresting con-
cessions from the state. They have also en-
sured caste-based representation regardless
of which party wins anelectionbecause both
the DMK and the All-India Dravida Mun-
netra Kazhagam are acutely sensitive to
caste when selecting candidates. Despite the
rise of Dalit parties, however, the continuing
under-representation of Dalit politicians in
Cabinets and ministry portfolios questions
the pluralismof the Dravidian parties.
Despite this, Dravidian parties still secure
cross-caste support and Tamil nationalism
retains the capacity to unite competing caste
parties. Both the DMK and the AIADMK are
adept at keeping different castes on board
through a variety of material and symbolic
means. Whilst the perception that the Dalit
vote is split may mean less attention is fo-
cused on them, the rise of autonomous Dalit
parties has led others to pay lip service (at
least) to their concerns. Jayalalithaa, thus,
recently, clamped down on the Pattali Mak-
kal Katchi following Dalit-Vanniyar clashes
and also spoke up in favour of Dalit Chris-
tians. Through judicious interventions of
this nature and through wider welfare pro-
grammes, the Dravidian parties have suc-
cessfully managed to act as catch-all parties.
Caste concerns, thus, must be repeatedly
politicised by those wishing to make electo-
ral capital out of them. We would argue that
this is what we are witnessing in the current
mobilisation of intermediate castes.
Escape from patronage
Several factors feed into the emergence of
the All Community Federation. The rst is-
sue is the long-running sore for intermediate
castes that is the Prevention of Atrocities
Act. Whilst conviction rates remain pitifully
low, the existence of the Act and the provi-
sions within it have served to curb some of
the worst excesses of the dominant castes.
Worst still, from their perspective, the Act
has emboldened subordinate groups to ght
back and mobilise against forms of dom-
ination. In this process they have been aided
by a number of government initiatives that
have reduced the dependency of lower
castes: Mahatma Gandhi National Rural
Employment Guarantee Act and the public
distribution system. For all the aws in the
functioning of the MGNREGA many docu-
mented in this paper Dalits have seized on
the opportunity to work for the government
rather than relying upon the seasonal occu-
pation provided by landlords. When allied to
the provision of free or cheap rice (albeit
sometimes of poor quality), Dalit house-
holds have been able to escape long-term
patterns of domination and patronage.
Operating in parallel to the above are pat-
terns of migration to cities, other States or
other countries. All have dramatically un-
dercut the dominance of the intermediate
castes and challenged their self-image as be-
nevolent overlords. Faced by a decline in
their authority, intermediate castes across
the State have resorted to counter-mobil-
isation built on a narrative of reverse-cas-
teism. Such groups, in other words, rally
members by accusing Dalits of misusing the
PoA Act, receiving preferential treatment,
and instigating cross-caste marriages. This
last point in particular is important. Numer-
ous studies (see for example the May 4, 2013
issue of Economic and Political Weekly)
note how caste and patriarchy are inter-
twined through the concept of honour. Giv-
en the importance of chastity and endogamy
tothe maintenance of caste boundaries, such
honour hinges on the behaviour of women.
Caste honour, here, depends on the ability of
caste men to protect and control caste
Honour, we should note, is also a relation-
al concept that requires others against
whom a group may be compared. The oth-
ers for intermediate castes are not Brah-
mins whose dominance inspired the
non-Brahmin movement in the early part of
the 20th Century, but the Dalit castes who
have hitherto propped up the caste hierar-
chy. What has happened in the past few
years, we would argue, is that the combina-
tion of factors serving to reduce the depend-
ency of Dalits has engendered a crisis of
masculinity amongst intermediate caste
men that nds its expression in the cam-
paigns against (the very small number of)
cross-caste marriages. In other words, the
mobilisation by intermediate castes led by
Dr. Ramadoss is geared towards the consoli-
dation of caste interests rather than their
dissolution. Whilst they are right to empha-
sise that Dravidianism has failed to tackle
casteism, we should not be fooled by the
name they have adopted. The All Communi-
ty Federation is not an attempt to revive the
radical anti-caste ideology of Periyar so
much as an attempt to revive the agging
fortunes of once-dominant castes.
(H. Gorringe and D. Karthikeyanare inthe
University of Edinburgh)
A new churning in the caste cauldron
H. Gorringe & D. Karthikeyan
Ahead of next years elections, Tamil Nadu is witnessing an early mobilisation and assertion of identity by
intermediate groups such as Vanniyars towards reviving their agging political fortunes
What about PM?
ver since the 2G spectrumand
the Coalgate scambroke,
there were attempts to make
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
accountable. But his silence,
coupled with a stout defence by
the loyalist brigade surrounding
him, thwarted all attempts by the
Opposition to nail him. The
revelation by the retired Coal
Secretary, P.C. Parakh against
whomthe CBI has led an FIRin
the coal blocks allocation case
that Dr. Singh approved his
recommendation to allocate a
block to Hindlaco implicates the
Prime Minister. Can Dr. Singh
wriggle out again?
H.R. Bapu Satyanarayana,
t is not only ironical but a total
travesty of justice that the CBI
should have hastened to book a
case of criminal conspiracy against
Mr. Parakh, the man who made
out a strong case for adopting the
auction route to ensure greater
transparency. A review of an
earlier policy decision, on a
representation fromthe Aditya
Birla Group duly forwarded by the
PMOto the Coal Ministry, by
itself, cannot and must not form
the basis of accusing Mr. Parakh of
hatching a criminal conspiracy.
The former Coal Secretary is right
in saying if he is liable, there is no
reason why, for the same reason,
the Prime Minister who held the
Coal portfolio and took the nal
decision should not be accused of
similar charges.
S.K. Choudhury,
he CBIs inability to get to the
bottomof the coal block
allocation scamhas been squarely
exposed by its latest FIRnaming
Kumar MangalamBirla and Mr.
Parakh as accused in the case. By
implicating Mr. Parakh who
vociferously objected to the awed
coal block allocation policy, the
CBI has lent itself to allegations of
favouring the PMO.
K.S. Jayatheertha,
Division of A.P.
any elders like me feel sad
that a few politicians in
Andhra Pradesh have fomented
dissension and hate among people
speaking the same language
without consideration for long-
termconsequences (Bird in hand,
now two in the bush, Oct. 16).
This has been happening for more
than 10 years. Had similar efforts
been made to sort out the reasons
for discord on all the issues being
aired now, they could have been
sorted out amicably.
M. Rama Krishna Rao,
political drama is being
enacted by Congress leaders
in the Seemandhra region. Their
so-called deance of the party high
command appears to be a
smokescreen as, day after day,
many of themare falling in line.
The least they can do is declare
publicly that they are for the
bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh and
spare the people the ordeals of the
prolonged strike. The UPA
government at the Centre is
apathetic to disputes that are
likely to arise between Telangana
and Seemandhra over river-water
sharing and other issues.
P.S.S. Murthy,
he Union Ministers of
Seemandhra adopted an
aggressive posture for short-term
political gains after they found
that the general public of the
region was not in favour of
bifurcation. It seems good sense
has at last dawned on them. The
creation of Telangana has now
become inevitable for better or
for worse. It is the duty of the
Union Ministers and MPs, as
representatives of people, to
explain the situation and gain
their cooperation.
Bernard Thangasamy,
Caste cauldron
t is a sad reality that divisive
politics over the years has
eroded Dravidian principles, and
the core ideology of Periyar E.V.
Ramasamys movement has
become a casualty of caste-based
politics in Tamil Nadu (A new
churning in the caste cauldron,
Oct. 17). The movement sought to
create an inclusive, peace-loving
and development oriented State
for the uplift of the marginalised
sections. But Tamil Nadu today is
witnessing a rift among
communities, leading to
disharmony and loss of lives.
S. Siddharth Samson,
amil Nadu has always been in
the forefront of movements
aiming at radical transformation
of society. But it is an irony that
caste is playing a dominant role in
the State. Many political parties
have mushroomed on the basis of
caste identity, each one of them
trying to carve out its sphere of
inuence. But such parties tend to
align with dominant political
parties for want of numbers, thus
losing their separate identity.
A. Michael Dhanaraj,
aste-based political parties
pay only lip service to the
uplift of the marginalised. They
consolidate caste-based identities,
making discrimination stronger.
Laws cannot be effective. Peoples
mindset should change.
This can happen only through
quality education for all and the
empowerment of Dalits.
Sweety Gupta,
he failure of the Dravidian
movement in Tamil Nadu is
perhaps best exemplied by the
fact that political contestation is
still articulated and carried out on
caste lines. The Dravidian parties
are controlled by dominant caste
Hindus. The PMK, with its newly
consolidated All Community
Federation, has been changing
colour every now and then, unable
to come up with a coherent
ideology and a rmorganisation.
The Dravidian movement
sought to establish a reverse
discrimination regime, not an
anti-caste, liberal, rational social
order. Many OBCgroups that
constituted the movement were in
the forefront of physical
intimidation and violence against
Dalits and continue to be so. Social
mobility of Dalits has created a rift
between themand caste Hindus.
Status assertion of Dalits vis--vis
the dominant castes is another
reason for the outbreak of caste
conicts and in such conicts, the
local police and the Dravidian
parties side with the dominant
The movement failed to develop
into a pan non-Brahmin
movement and became
fragmented because of the
exclusion of the lower castes.
Since the 1990s, Tamil Nadu has
witnessed a spurt of violence
against Dalits perpetrated largely
by the backward castes, which
claimvictimhood under Brahmins
but also turn oppressors of Dalits.
T. Marx,
hatever the criticismof the
free supply of food grains,
saris and dhoties and the 100-days
employment guaranteed under
MGNREGA, the schemes have
certainly contributed towards
freeing the landless Dalits from
the tyranny of the land-owning
intermediate castes. They have
reduced the availability of Dalits
as captive labour force.
The intermediate castes enjoyed
the right to insult, ill-treat and
intimidate Dalits all along. They
misused the law with the help of
police to foist cases on Dalits who
mustered the courage to resist
their tyranny.
The intermediate castes, who
were used to having Dalits
working on their elds and doing
menial jobs, including scavenging,
removal of carcasses of cattle, and
beating drums at funerals, are
alarmed at the changing scenario.
This is what has prompted the
Anaithu Samudaya Periyakkam
(All Community Federation) to
K.P.M. Perrumahl,
n the early years of
independence, Tamil Nadu
politics was inuenced by regional
and linguistic nationalism. The
Dravidian self-respect movement
was a virulent anti-Brahmin
movement. The Dravidian parties
dominated Tamil Nadu politics
and soon came to power. Caste-
based parties like the PMK
enjoyed a modest electoral success
but ate into the DMK and the
AIADMK vote banks. The two big
parties subsumed the small game
players with some success. But the
small but well-knit organisations
smelt the success of independent
caste identities and realised that
they could forma formidable force
if they competed as a united front.
Col. C.V. Venugopalan (retd.),
Patel & RSS
hether it is L.K. Advani or
Narendra Modi, leaders of
the BJP fancy being compared to
Sardar Patel rather than Savarkar
or Golwalkar. Similarly Mr.
Vajpayee liked being compared to
Jawaharlal Nehru rather than
Shyama Prasad Mookerjee. This is
proof enough that the ideology of
the Sangh is not acceptable to the
majority of Hindus.
If Patel had some sympathy for
the Sangh, it was because of his
magnanimity. The fact the he
remained a Congressman and an
ardent disciple of Mahatma
Gandhi till his last breath should
not be lost sight of. The RSS
leaders claimthe legacy of Netaji
Subhas Chandra Bose and Bhagat
Singh also when it suits them.
Baikadi Suryanarayana Rao,
to the
Letters emailed to must carry
the full postal address and the full
name or the name with initials.
he Union Ministry of Labour has done well to
raise the salary cap for availing Employees
State Insurance (ESI) to Rs.25,000. While the
move is expected to expand coverage to an
additional ve million workers and their dependents,
this is still small comfort in a country where barely
three per cent of the workforce enjoys any social pro-
tection. The evolution of ESI has been characterised by
an accent on widening its reach across various cate-
gories of industry and geographic regions. For instance,
the relevant 1948 Factories Act originally applied to
non-seasonal factories that employed 10 or more per-
sons. Over the years, transport undertakings, hospitals,
newspapers, the hospitality industry and educational
institutions have been brought within its ambit. The
2010 amendments raised the age ceiling for depend-
ents of employees to 25 years. They even envisage the
provision of medical benets under the ESI to workers
in the informal sector that is, those outside the
current employer/employee contributory system. The
need to enlarge the scope of medical services can hard-
ly be overstated in an economy where the overwhelm-
ing proportion of the workforce remains outside the
formal sector. Moreover, out of pocket expenditure on
health, at 67 per cent of Indias total spending on health
as per the Planning Commission gures, is the highest
in the world. Critics of the latest revision of eligibility
for ESI cover must appreciate that any reduction in
medical expenses is a potential boost for consumer
Of course, any contributory provisioning of medical
treatment is at best a short-term solution in a largely
poor country. The Union government has already com-
mitted to enhancing its plan and non-plan expenditure
on health to 2.5 per cent of GDP. Moving quickly from
this, India must adopt a system of universal health
coverage that is entirely tax-funded and cashless at
delivery, as recommended by the Planning Commis-
sions High Level Expert Group. Its watershed 2011
report advocates a comprehensive approach to health
care that transcends conventional forms of illness re-
sponse and insurance schemes that divert huge re-
sources into expensive hospitalised treatment. The
emphasis is instead on prevention, primary care and
augmenting the social determinants of health such as
basic sanitation, clean drinking water, minimum wages
and primary education. Signicant among the HLEGs
recommendations are the merger of the National Rural
Health Mission and the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yoja-
na into the UHC to better advance their social ob-
jectives. A healthy population is critical to realise the
collective dream of making India an economic power-
house. UHC is much more than a means to that end.
Healthcare for
Indias workers
he latest standoff between the British Parlia-
ment and the press goes to the heart of what
democracy means. On October 11, the David
Cameron government published a revised
version of a draft royal charter that would create a
press regulator; the move was prompted partly by Lord
Justice Levesons November 2012 recommendation,
following a two-year inquiry into press methods, of an
independent regulator. The proposal also arose in part
from the fact that sections of the press had used hack-
ing and even bribery in pursuit of stories. In addition,
the existing body, the Press Complaints Commission,
had failed to restrain the worst excesses or to give
satisfactory redress to victims of press wrongs. Public
suspicion, provoked by the revelation that journalists
had hacked the mobile telephone of murdered school-
girl Milly Dowler and left messages to suggest that she
was still alive, deepened further as the closeness of
editors and owners to senior politicians emerged.
In response, many newspaper groups have proposed
their own draft charter, involving an Independent
Press Standards Organisation. There would be no lay
membership and no compulsory arbitration; mass
complaints would be accepted only over any sub-
stantial public interest; the regulator could not direct
apologies or remedies. Amendments would require not
a two-thirds majority in Parliament but a unanimous
vote among the members of a recognition panel, the
regulatory board, and the boards of all the trade associ-
ations. The Guardian and the Independent have so far
not signed up to either proposal, and there is some
animosity among media bodies themselves. The Daily
Mail and the Murdoch-owned Sun, interpreting a re-
cent speech by the MI5 director-general, Andrew Park-
er, have attacked the Guardian for publishing the U.S.
whistleblower, Edward Snowdens revelations; that
may be a form of retaliation because the Guardian
broke the phone-hacking story, which caused the clo-
sure of the News of the World. Furthermore, some
papers may bring cases in the European Court of Hu-
man Rights over parts of the parliamentary draft. Cru-
cially, the press is not rejecting regulation; negotiations
continue. In many other countries, including the U.S.
and India, such state-driven regulation of the media
would be considered a gross violation of democratic
principles, not to speak of being unconstitutional. Tak-
ing advantage of the unscrupulous and even illegal
conduct of a section of the press, the Cameron govern-
ment has brought all British newspapers to the edge of
a dangerous precipice. If they go down, the domino
effect can only be imagined as other states seek to
impose their own versions of a regulated press.
A dangerous
ike millions of people liv-
ing in Indian cities, my
home is next to a ganda
nallah. Only an embank-
ment separates my neigh-
bourhood from the
sluggishstreamof sewage.
On summer evenings, the
nallah announces itself with a stench that
inltrates our ats, a bouquet of rotten-egg
hydrogen sulphide and methane. Brass
lamps and bronze idols are tarnished within
a day of being polished. Fridges and air-
conditioners need to have their refrigerant
gases replaced every year because of leaking
pipes. If noxious fumes from the nallah can
corrode metal, we wonder what they are
doing to the soft tissue of our lungs.
Problems like these are now being ad-
dressed by government initiatives to cover
up the nallahs. This has already happened in
Delhis affluent Defence Colony, while work
is under way on Kushak Nallah in central-
south Delhi and the Shahdara drain in east
Delhi. The earthen bed and sides of the nal-
lahs are being concretised and the top paved
over. The covered area is to be used for
road-widening, parking lots and shops.
Many neighbourhood associations support
these projects as a solution to a long-stand-
ing problem that mars their quality of life
and lowers property values. However, in-
stead of improving their environs, covering
up nallahs is likely to make their life much
Ecological crisis
Concretising the channel of a nallah
means that it can no longer replenish
groundwater. Covering it makes it harder to
remove debris and sludge. During the mon-
soons, constricted ow results in backed up
drains and ooding. Reduced oxygenation
causes more gaseous emissions, increasing
the stink. Many nallahs are lined with trees
and shrubs that shelter wildlife. Walking
along my nallah once, I was surprised by a
raucous party of Grey Hornbills stripping
the gs off a peepal tree. But when the vege-
tation is cleared to enable construction, pre-
cious green spaces get decimated. As the
environmental NGO, Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan,
has argued in a case being heard by the Na-
tional Green Tribunal, covering nallahs is a
decided misstep, one that will take the city
further down the path of ecological crisis.
Understanding the landscape
How do we then deal with the polluting
presence of the nallah next door? This prob-
lem requires not kneejerk solutions but an
understanding of the natural landscape
which the city inhabits. Most nallahs were
once seasonal streams that followed the lay
of the land, owing into lakes and rivers. The
nallah near my home was a channel of the
Sahibi river, connecting the Najafgarh jheel
(lake) in west Delhi to the river Yamuna. It
absorbed monsoon overow, irrigated crops
and provided drinking water. So did the
Kushak Nallah, a tributary of the Yamuna
which was dammed at Satpula in the 14th
century by the Tughlaqs. After Independ-
ence, as the city grew bigger and denser,
public sanitation projects installed under-
ground sewers that debouched into these
water bodies. Today, the Najafgarh jheel has
vanished and the nallah that owed from it
has become one of Delhis three major sew-
age canals, carrying the combined liquid lth
of west and north Delhi to the river Yamuna.
Even in municipal plans, these streams
were not originally designated for carrying
sewage. They were meant to be stormwater
drains, bearing runoff fromthe rains, just as
they had done over the centuries. But the
signal failure of the authorities to treat the
sewage generated by this city of 14 million
has led to the nallahs being hijacked for this
purpose. A performance audit by the Comp-
troller and Auditor General earlier this year
reported that the Delhi Jal Board collected
and treated only 54 per cent of the 680 MGD
(milliongallons per day) sewage produced by
the city. Almost half of the sewage in the city
ows untreated through 350 km of nallahs
into the Yamuna, turning this once-beauti-
ful river intoa black, stinking sheet of sludge.
In theory, Delhi has been building sewage
treatment plants (STPs) and now has in-
stalled capacity to treat 543 MGD of waste.
However, all these plants work below capac-
ity because the Jal Board did not simultane-
ously build the sewers to carry the waste to
the plants. Without these connecting pipes,
the STPs are slowly rusting away a plant in
Ghitorni built in 1997 has not worked for a
single day, another in Rohini works to 5 per
cent capacity while untreated sewage con-
tinues to ow through the nallahs. To this
day, Delhi has no comprehensive sewage
management plan. In 2008, the Delhi Jal
Board launched an ambitious plan to build
interceptor sewers along the Najafgarh,
Shahdara and supplementary nallahs to
catch the ow from subsidiary drains and
deliver it to STPs but ve years and Rs 1,978
crore later, there is little to show for it. In-
stead, the authorities are steaming ahead
with Operation Cover-up.
Tragically, this is being done at a time
when cities around the world are waking up
to the wisdom of restoring covered streams
to life. The Fleet, Londons lost river, was a
sewer with oating carcasses of dead dogs in
the 18th century before it was covered in the
19th. After clean-up, it is now being uncov-
ered as an urban green channel. Seouls Che-
onggyecheon restoration project turned a
neglected streamcovered by a highway into
a popular recreationarea, a place where resi-
dents and visitors stroll along its cascading
channel, ankle-wading inits cool ow during
the hot months. Philadelphia has made
streamdaylighting its official policy, bring-
ing waterways that were buried in pipes to
the surface, restoring streams to their ood-
plains and improving their capacity to re-
charge groundwater. A stream running
through a cityscape can be a delight, a cool
green tunnel with footpaths and bicycle
trails, where birdcalls and owing water pro-
vide a calming respite from urban conges-
tion and cacophony.
Public scandal
This ecological vision is not difficult to
realise in Indian cities if we resolve to tackle
the challenge of sewage treatment head on.
The neglect of sewage in India is a public
scandal, one in which all citizens, especially
those who live in developed colonies, are
complicit. Unlike encroachments on lakes
and tanks for which we can blame greedy
real estate developers, the pollution of water
bodies is the direct result of our indifference
to the fate of our lth. We ush it away and
forget about it. Yet public campaigns to save
water bodies in Hyderabad, Bangalore, Jai-
salmer and Jaipur have found that it is not
enoughto protect the lake or tank alone. The
streams in its catchment that feed it must
also be revived. Only when we stop pouring
sewage into themcan we start the process of
restoring the ecological well-being of urban
As towns grow into cities and cities morph
intometropolises, urbanecology seems tobe
losing ground to urgent demands for im-
proved infrastructure. Covering and concre-
tising nallahs to build roads and parking lots
may seem like an improvement. But it goes
against the grain of a guiding principle that
the New Orleans and Mumbai disasters
should have etched indelibly into our memo-
ry: cities are embedded in a natural land-
scape. Artefacts of human ingenuity and
organisation they may be, but they can en-
dure and afford a good life to all citizens only
when they respect the ecological systems of
which they are part.
(Amita Baviskar is an environmental
No covering up this mess
Amita Baviskar
Contrary to global efforts at restoring covered streams, the Delhi governments initiative to concretise
and pave nallas is a misstep that will increase drainage problems and destroy vegetation
Blame game
n the Coalgate issue, the UPA
government has repeatedly
said it has nothing to hide. One
who guards the lake need not
declare every now and then that he
has not tasted the waters. Just
because Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh is deemed to be
honest, he need not be certied as
being above board on all issues.
Now that the former Coal
Secretary, P.C. Parakh, has said
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
is equally accountable in allocating
a coal block to Hindalco, the blame
game will soon peter out and none
will be held liable. Already,
Commerce and Industry Minister
Anand Sharma has admonished
the CBI for naming Kumar
MangalamBirla in the scam. The
smoke will soon die down.
Sivamani Vasudevan,
hat the entire business
community and the
Commerce Minister have joined
hands to oppose the CBI after it
led an FIRagainst the former
Coal Secretary and Mr. Birla in the
Coalgate scamis surprising. It
amounts to a subversion of
investigation which is being
monitored by the Supreme Court.
R. Srinivasan,
he CBI has named only the
former Coal Secretary and Mr.
Birla, a beneciary, in its FIRas if
the Prime Minister had no role to
play in allotting the coal block. Is it
K.M. Lakshmana Rao,
r. Singh will remain the most
hounded Prime Minister. The
latest issue haunting himis the
coal scam. It is amazing that he
still continues in office, thanks to
his loyalty to the Nehru-Gandhi
family. It is a pity that morality in
politics has plumbed to
unimaginable depths.
V.S. Ganeshan,
t is disgusting to see officials
responsible for implementing
the law and government policies
running for cover and shifting
the blame for their actions to
Ministers. It is natural for
Ministers, MLAs and MPs, who
are elected representatives, to be
approached by private
companies and individuals for
recommendations. It is the duty
of officials who are vested with
powers to follow the rule book.
If, as Mr. Parakh argues, the
Prime Minister is equally
accountable as he approved the
coal block allocation to Hindalco,
what was the need for a screening
committee? Bureaucrats are duty-
bound to follow the rules, not act
as rubber stamps of Ministers.
Ministers and governments come
and go but civil servants are the
pillars of the system.
K.N. Bhagavan,
Caste conicts
t is very true that the Dravidian
parties for that matter all
political parties of Tamil Nadu
have been paying only lip service
to the cause of Dalits (A new
churning in the caste cauldron,
Oct. 17). This is evident fromthe
socio-economic condition of
PMK leader S. Ramadoss has
taken the initiative to formthe All
Community Federation with the
2014 election in mind. He knows
that going it alone in the election
is risky. He has, therefore,
assumed the role of championing
the interests of the intermediate
P. Saravanan,
t is a fact that the Scheduled
Castes and Scheduled Tribes
(Prevention of Atrocities) Act has
been misused against many
innocent people. This explains the
acquittal of many of those arrested
under the Act.
I appreciate Dr. Ramadoss for
his bold stand of opposing the Act.
V. Balakrishnan,
Futile act
hat the government is engaged
in a futile act of excavation in
the Unnao district of Uttar
Pradesh, allegedly because a priest
dreamt about gold treasure buried
under the earth, is shameful.
With such superstitious people
at the helm, how we can expect
rationalismto grow?
Rajdeep Singh,
T tangle
hen, in 1984, the
democratically elected NTR
government of Andhra Pradesh
was dismissed in the most
unceremonious manner, there was
a mass movement demanding that
power be restored to him. Prime
Minister Indira Gandhi saw the
writing on the wall and got the
decision to dismiss the
government reversed.
The Congress should similarly
respect the public opinion against
the division of the State and roll
back its decision to bifurcate
Andhra Pradesh. Reversing a
decision which is against the
larger public interest needs
tremendous courage. It will only
enhance the prestige of the party.
Bh. Subrahmanyam,
he demand for a separate state
of Telangana has existed for
the last 60 years. It came from
those who struggled and fought
against injustice. Many people
have sacriced their lives for the
With the Congress deciding to
grant statehood to Telangana, the
people of Seemandhra have
started an agitation for a united
Andhra Pradesh. It is the
politicians, bureaucrats and
capitalists of the region who are
exploiting the agitation for their
Samala Rajendra Prasad,
Messy affair
he solution to stinky drains
lies in screening and treating
effluents before they enter the
drains (No covering up this
mess, Oct. 18). It requires careful
design, proper engineering, and
detailed attention to the collection
and treatment of water-borne
waste in catchments.
Municipalities and public works
departments the world over
performthis task.
Concrete stormchannels that
were built in the past are being
converted to natural soft channels
to control ooding and improve
ground water recharge. The hasty
decision to concretise kilometres
of drains is short-sighted and
Ashok B. Lall,
New Delhi
oncretising nallahs is not a
practical solution as lack of
seepage will lead to ooding at
endpoints. However, paving over
is a reasonable option provided
ample cross-section is available to
ush out blocks and some sections
are left open for inspection.
D. Harikrishnan,
he Cooumriver in Chennai
was once a source of drinking
water and it ferried people across.
But today it is in a dismal state.
Urbanisation and dense
population in cities and
metropolises are the main causes
for the mess.
The problemcan be solved by
improving infrastructure and
employment opportunities in
rural areas. At the same time, we
should understand that it is not
just the governments duty to
protect the environment. Citizens
must also respect the ecological
C. Dhanashekar,
On stampedes
t was not only administrative
failure that was evident in Datia
and Kumbh but also the failure of
people to adapt and evolve with
time. Religious extravaganzas
become irrelevant with time but
we are very slow in realising this.
Religion should be seen as a means
to developing spiritual
relationship between the self and
god. We should not cling to
outdated traditions for eternity.
Abhishek Kunal,
isasters occur at places of
worship due to huge
gatherings of people and the
failure of government agencies to
take appropriate crowd control
measures. There is, however,
another aspect that bears
mention. Pilgrims gather at places
of worship to observe rituals,
make offerings, do pujas, etc., to
appease god.
Ahambrhmasmi is the
essence of Hindu religion. God is
nowhere but in the self. Salvation
or moksh is a state of mind. To
attain such a state, practise
meditation and yoga. The
conquest of mind is the greatest
C. Subrahmanyan,
to the
Letters emailed to must carry
the full postal address and the full
name or the name with initials.
ours before a seismic payments-default
emanating from the United States was
about to rock global nancial markets, the
small coterie of ultra-conservatives in the
House of Representatives holding America hostage to
debt-ceiling negotiations blinked. The eleventh-hour
Republican surrender on Wednesday night may have
saved Washington from the ugly economic backlash of
national insolvency, but it came too late for nearly
800,000 furloughed workers who forfeited their pay
for the previous 16 days of unavoidable federal govern-
ment shutdown. It was also too late for the limping,
post-recession economy, which took a $24 billion-hit
and had its annualised GDP trimmed by as much as one
percentage point. A fuming President Barack Obama,
who refused to reprise his 2011 approach of yielding
concessions in exchange for a debt-ceiling hike, de-
scribed the Republican blockade as ransom demands
and extortion. He is right to do so. Underscoring their
credentials for reckless adventurism, the anti-Obama-
care crusaders in the House failed to win all but a single
minor amendment to the game-changing healthcare
reform policy of 2010, an anti-fraud measure requiring
stricter vetting of income qualications for those par-
ticipating in the insurance exchanges established un-
der the Affordable Care Act.
However for the people of the United States, there
can be only one thing worse than a crisis of this magni-
tude a second such crisis four months down the road.
There is indeed a serious risk of the same events recur-
ring on January 15, when funding for the government
will again dry up, and it could reach its climax by
February 7, when the U.S. Treasury's borrowing au-
thority will expire. Facing mid-term elections next
November, will the Tea Party and far-right conserva-
tives in the House push this country to the brink again?
While the passage of time will make it harder to derail
Mr. Obamas consolidation of his second-term legacy,
the countervailing force is the philosophical metamor-
phosis of the Republican Party, a steady drift to the
right. Exacerbating this trend is the steady loss of
mainstream Republican control over the extremist in-
surrection within their ranks, a phenomenon plainly
demonstrated by their inability to end the shutdown
sooner. Although Senate Minority Leader Mitch
McConnell poetically assured his constituents that his
party wouldnt go in for an encore performance next
year because there is no education in the second kick
of a mule, his words must sound hollow to millions of
middle class families in the country who felt the pinch
of Washingtons paralysis and certainly to an incred-
ulous world audience that was readying itself for an-
other made-in-America economic debacle.
doesnt pay
he declining fortunes of many bird species in
India, and the likelihood that some of the
critically endangered ones would barely exist
in a small part of their historical range in
coming years call for a serious review of conservation
efforts. There are 145 avian species in the country
facing various levels of threat according to a list com-
piled for the current year by IUCN, an international
conservation organisation. Among the birds that face a
bleak future is the great Indian bustard. By some esti-
mates, less than 250 representatives of this heavy,
terrestrial species survive today. Research insight
points to the peculiarities of its grassland habitat,
growing pressures from cattle grazing and expanding
farming activity as signicant causes for its depletion.
The Bombay Natural History Society, after a lot of
study, has expressed worry at the lack of a comprehen-
sive approach to conservation. A comeback for the
great Indian bustard, as well as the lesser orican and
Bengal orican belonging to the same family, will now
depend on a conservation programme that is based in
science and quickly builds community support. Rajas-
than has the largest known population of the great
Indian bustard and has done well to allocate resources
to aid a dedicated effort.
The priorities for the handful of States where the
species still exists are clear. Maharashtra, Madhya Pra-
desh, Gujarat, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh have to
contend with the fact that the great Indian bustard
does not conne itself to a protected area, and often
ies into community lands. Competition from cattle
for the grasses here brings the bird in conict with
humans, often with tragic results. A fodder supply
scheme to spare the grassland and thus aid the bustard
will go a long way in the restoration of bird populations
and insect diversity, which are inter-linked. Forest
officials in Karnataka and elsewhere have also un-
wisely changed the open landscape into plantations of
exotic tree species, dealing a blow to the bird. The
mistake has been realised in Nannaj sanctuary of Mah-
arashtra, and bustards have reappeared in areas where
the trees have been removed; unregulated tourism,
however, continues to be an impediment here. There is
apprehension that the new law on land acquisition may
work against grassland birds, since cultivated lands are
eligible for higher compensation, and farmers may re-
move grasses. This is not an insurmountable obstacle,
and those areas hosting the great Indian bustard and
other wildlife can be classied separately, and farmers
compensated through alternative mechanisms. Ulti-
mately, a landscape approach to conservation is what
can save Indias critically endangered wildlife.
ince 2005, the Central gov-
ernment has given signi-
cant amounts of money to
the States to improve condi-
tions for the countrys urban
poor, rst under the Jawa-
harlal Nehru National Ur-
ban Renewal Mission
(JNNURM) and more recently through the
slow-moving Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY). Un-
fortunately, very few studies have looked at
how effective these programmes have been
inachieving their objectives. Our researchin
Chennai suggests that money from the
JNNURM did not effectively address the
needs of the citys most vulnerable residents.
How could this happen in a programme
explicitly designed for this purpose, and in a
State known for its generosity to the poor?
This is because Chennai faces a problem
common to many cities across India: it has
two tiers of slums those with official gov-
ernment recognition and those without, and
the JNNURM did not push cities hard
enough to directly intervene in slum areas
without recognition.
No action since 1985
According to the Tamil Nadu SlumClear-
ance Act of 1971, the government is supposed
to identify slums, officially recognise them
as slums, and then improve these areas. As
soon as the Act was passed, the Board identi-
ed and recognised 1,202 slums in Chennai,
and added another 17 slums to the list in
1985. All of these slums were improved in
situ, either by building tenements or by pro-
viding basic services. However, in a sharp
break with this progressive history towards
the urban poor, not a single new slum has
been officially recognised in the city since
In the nearly three decades that have
passed, hundreds of new slums have come up
inthe city. Unfortunately, because the Tamil
Nadu Slum Clearance Act states that you
must recognise a slum before you can in-
tervene in it, government programmes to
increase access to services for the poor, in-
cluding the JNNURM, have not directly in-
tervened in these areas with predictably
tragic results. Very little reliable informa-
tion actually exists about these unrecog-
nised slums but we found one study on them
commissioned by the Tamil Nadu Slum
Clearance Board in 2002. The study found a
total of 444 unrecognised slums within the
Chennai Metropolitan Area, with nearly half
a million residents at the time, and an aver-
age of 620 people relying on a single public
water facility in unrecognised slums within
the city, far more than the normof 75 people
per water facility. Such numbers are shame-
ful. What they show is that these unrecog-
nised slums have effectively become an
invisible Chennai, not counted in the official
statistics of slum-dwellers used in the Mas-
ter Plan and by the Slum Clearance Board,
and largely ignored by the service provision
Indirect response
The governments only response to such
slums has been indirect. Rather than recog-
nising themand improving residents access
to services, the Board has constructed large-
scale resettlement colonies on the outskirts
of the city on land it already owns in Sem-
menchery, Kannagi Nagar, and now in Pe-
rumbakkam. Unrecognised slums, since
they have no land rights, are regularly evic-
ted, and eligible families (those with the re-
quired paperwork) are housed in the
resettlement colonies. In fact, more than 75
per cent of spending for the urban poor un-
der the JNNURMhas gone towards building
these colonies, and recent news reports sug-
gest that the Slum Clearance Board is plan-
ning to build a total of 1,25,000 such units
across the State, in part with funding from
Poor policy
However, this response is inadequate.
Both the media and civil society organisa-
tions have documented the extreme trauma
faced by families evicted to these colonies.
What has not been highlighted so far is that
building resettlement colonies is just poor
policymaking. Resettlement housing is ex-
pensive: according topolicy notes, costs have
increased from Rs. 4.5 lakh to 7.5 lakh per
house over the last few years, and building
homes for all the 100,000 odd families iden-
tied in unrecognised slums in the 2002
report alone would cost the city more than
Moreover, many residents do not seemto
want such housing: news reports nd that
nearly 20 per cent of allotted homes in Kan-
nagi Nagar are vacant and 50 per cent of the
original beneciaries are no longer living in
Most importantly, building adequate
amounts of resettlement housing to house
all slum-dwellers will simply take too long.
Based on the SlumClearance Boards rate of
construction so far, building housing for all
the families in unrecognised slums identi-
ed in 2002 alone would take 40 years, and
there would be even more families now.
Must these families be denied their basic
dignity for so long?
Reasonable strategy
A far more reasonable strategy would be to
once again implement the Tamil Nadu Slum
Clearance Act in the spirit that it was writ-
ten, and start to recognise slums and im-
prove themin situ.
Government officials frequently cite the
lack of land in central city areas to justify the
absence of slumrecognition in the last three
decades. But the 2002 study highlighted an-
other extraordinary fact: all the unrecog-
nised slums in the Chennai Metropolitan
Area at the time together only took up 4.8 sq
km, just 1.1 per cent of the area of the ex-
panded Chennai Corporation. Even if some
resettlement is required, Right to Informa-
tion Act petitions have revealed that there
are nearly 11 square kilometres of unused
land available under the Urban Land Ceiling
Act in small pockets all over the city so that
slum-dwellers can be resettled nearby,
avoiding the trauma of far-away
Lack of political will
Clearly, what the city lacks is not land but
political will. In the early 1970s, when the
Board was rst created, the State govern-
ment passed orders transferring the land on
which slums sat to the Slum Clearance
Board. The massive allocations under the
JNNURMfor the urban poor were an oppor-
tunity tocreate the political will for transfer-
ring land to slum-dwellers once again, but
the Central government chose to fund reset-
tlement colonies instead. Unless the Central
government uses programmes like the
JNNURMand RAY to incentivise State and
city governments to intervene directly in
unrecognised slums, it will risk leaving hun-
dreds of thousands of residents without ba-
sic services for decades to come.
(The authors are researchers at the Trans-
parent Chennai project at the Institute for
Financial Management and Research)
Indias invisible population
Nithya V. Raman & Priti Narayan
Denying basic amenities to residents of unrecognised slums is an affront to their dignity; resettling them
fails to address their concerns and is unviable nancially
Treasure hunt
igging for dream gold (Oct.
20) at the Daundiya Kheda
village in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh, is
the hottest news now. I do not
want to say whether it was correct
on the part of the Archaeological
Survey of India to go for
excavation based on the dreamof a
priest. The Geological Survey of
India has claimed that the
excavation was planned after it
noted the presence of some
metallic object in the fort built by
Raja RamBaksh Singh.
It is not clear whether the
presence of the metallic object was
noted before or after the dream. If
it was noted earlier, why didnt the
government start the excavation
immediately? Why did it opt for
the exercise after the priest
claimed the king visited himin his
R. Ambujam,
he treasure hunt in a ruined
fort is nothing short of
absurdity. Nobody in the ASI has
as yet explained what hard
evidence there was, apart fromthe
miraculous vision of the priest, to
embark on a deployment of its
forces and resources.
The spectacle of crowds
thronging to watch the tamasha,
which included a solemn puja
presided over by the ASI, would
turn the stomach of anyone who
knows that the Constitution asks
Indians to cultivate a scientic
Vasantha Surya
New Delhi
re we living in the medieval
times? A priest says a king
appeared in his dreamand told
himthat 1000 tonnes of gold
(fromwhere did he get the exact
number, one wonders) lie buried
under a fort and the ASI starts
digging to retrieve it. The whole
world must be laughing at us.
If another priest claims that a
Viceroy of the old British empire
appeared in his dreamand told
himsome treasure was lying
under Rashtrapati Bhavan, will
the government direct the ASI to
demolish it to retrieve the
P. Gireesan,
amglad the ASI has come into
the picture. Or else, the entire
area would have been lled with pits
and the fort destroyed by greedy
people looking for the treasure. The
area is at least in safe hands.
G. Amarnath Reddy,
riedrich Kekules dreamwas
the basis for discovering the
ring structure of Benzene. Maths
wizard Ramanujan credits
Goddess Namagiri with visiting
himin his dreams and solving
mathematics problems. There are
many more such instances.
In a nation which is gripped by
electoral madness, caste wars and
communal skirmishes, we will
probably be better off sleeping for
longer hours and having more
R. Kailasnath,
mbarking on a gold expedition
based on a priests vague
dreamwithout any scientic basis
was the last thing expected of the
ASI. With the scientic expertise
available to us, it is bizarre to
imagine a government
organisation promoting
T. Arun Chandran,
Khap diktats
was shocked on reading that
some khap panchayats of
Haryana have imposed a dress
code for girls and appointed men
to watch and report on those who
violate the code (Jeans, mobiles
and khap panchayats, Oct. 19).
The State should take stringent
action to curb the tendency of
khap panchayats to issue such
unreasonable diktats. The
argument that womens attire
provokes men to commit crimes
against themis unacceptable in a
civilised society. It is a sick mind
that prompts men to commit
crimes against women.
Harneet Singh,
New Delhi
he charge by khap panchayats
of Haryana that girls are
agents who pollute society and
bring a bad name to the
community marks a new low in
our social discourse. While India is
trying to move towards equality,
the khaps are forcing the country
to move backwards.
Girls and women in other States
dress more liberally and use a
mobile phone but the ever-
increasing diktats in khap States
have forced girls there to keep off
such immoral activities. Yet
honour killings are on the rise.
Supanpreet K. Ramana,
hap panchayats fail to
understand that India is a
democracy which guarantees
freedomto its citizens. The
Constitution upholds the principle
of equality and prohibits gender-
based discrimination. There are
khaps that work to eliminate
social evils such as female
foeticide, dowry, and domestic
violence but, sadly, they are very
few in number.
Manisha Malik,
New Delhi
orcing young women to adhere
to a certain dress code not just
amounts to depriving themof
their fundamental rights. It also
shows khap leaders as parallel
lawmakers and adjudicators. They
commit gruesome atrocities on
those who defy their diktats. Time
and again, we are cruelly reminded
that there still exists a wide
ideological gulf between modern
Indian society and khap leaders.
Shubhda Sharma,
Glorious bustards
he great Indian bustard was
once SalimAlis candidate for
national bird. The bird is now
facing a bleak future. The most
common bird sighted on the elds
of Haryana, Rajasthan and
Madhya Pradesh once, the bustard
is now difficult to spot. The loss of
habitat is one of the prime reasons
for its disappearance but other
reasons include poaching for meat
and sport. Conservation efforts
need to be scaled up. They should
actively involve the community.
Pakistan should also be involved in
conservation efforts. It will make
no sense if the birds are protected
here and killed across the border.
Prerna Sharma,
andscape approach is a holistic
one. Only this can reduce
human-animal conict, garner
local support for conservation
efforts and save the endangered
species fromextinction.
V. Chaitra Gowda,
t would be futile to embrace a
single conservation maximin a
country as diverse as India.
Different kinds of animals need
different environments for their
existence. Adoption of situation-
specic approaches can help
reduce the list of endangered
Geethu Issac,
he non-recognition of new
slums is a serious problemfor
the urban poor (Indias invisible
population, Oct. 19). It leads to
lack of basic services like drinking
water, electricity and education
along with security issues.
Resettlement is not a good idea
because it has a huge social impact
on those living in slums for years.
Mahendra Nath Gorle,
he governments plan to
uproot the urban poor and
relocate themto resettlement
areas is no solution. The focus
should be on recognising new
slums and equipping themwith
basic amenities.
Anubha Chaudhary,
New Delhi
o scheme can be successful
unless the growing invisible
population in slums is controlled.
The PURA (Provision of Urban
Amenities in Rural Areas) model
of development should be given as
much importance as JNNURM
and RAY. If implemented well,
PURA will curb migration from
villages to cities.
Goutham Sirasani,
to the
Letters emailed to must carry
the full postal address and the full
name or the name with initials.
he Prime Minister has stepped into the ring
line by coming out in support of former Union
Coal Secretary P.C. Parakh named by the
Central Bureau of Investigation in an FIR
which hints at possible illegality in the way a coal mine
share was allotted to the private rm Hindalco but he
has done so fully condent that nothing criminal will
emerge about the 2005 allotment made when he was
heading the Coal Ministry. The CBI led the FIR be-
cause it is suspicious of the manner in which the deci-
sion of a screening committee to reject Hindalcos
request for the Talabira II mine in Odhisa was later
reversed. While it is unwise to prejudge the merits of a
case that the Supreme Court will no doubt closely
monitor, the system of allotment that the Prime Minis-
ter presided over for years surely cannot escape in-
dictment. Indeed, if one carefully studies the sequence
of events rst a categorical rejection, then re-exam-
ination after the Odisha Chief Minister pleads Hindal-
cos case, leading to clearance of the coal mine share
what becomes apparent is that there was really no
rule-based allocation policy.
The entire coal allocation process was mired in ar-
bitrariness on the part of both the Central and State
governments. Since mining is a State subject, States
would send a list of recommendations to the Centre to
be examined by the screening committee set up by the
Coal Ministry. The ministry in turn would send the
nal list of allottees back to the State government
concerned for signing mining lease agreements. This
arbitrary procedure seems tailor-made for rent seek-
ers, many of whom had never seen a coal mine in their
lives but who bought blocks only to sell them at high
premia. In short, the political class at the Centre and
the States colluded with private businesses to parcel
out a scarce resource with scant regard for revenue and
equity. Allotments depended simply on a companys
ability to have its letters read and acted upon. The
Prime Minister may feel condent about defending the
specic allocation to Hindalco, whose promoter, Ku-
mar Mangalam Birla, has also been named in the FIR,
but he and the Chief Ministers of coal-rich States like
Odhisa, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh
will have nowhere to hide if all the arbitrariness and
rent-seeking spawned by this irrational coal allocation
policy were to be comprehensively documented. It is
this callous, and indeed cynical, approach to policy-
making which mars the investment climate much more
than the mention of Mr. Birlas name in a CBI com-
plaint. There are interesting parallels between the allo-
cation of spectrum and coal, where the complicity of
the political class and businesses was total. In this
respect, one nds the collective outrage expressed by
the business community over one of its own being
named in an FIR somewhat misplaced. Big business too
needs to look at the ugliness within.
Out of the
darkness, light
eginning next week, the Supreme Court is
expected to consider the pleas of 18 prisoners
on death row, whose mercy petitions have all
been rejected by the President of India. The
Court has assigned itself a limited mandate: the cases
will be reviewed primarily on the basis of Rashtrapati
Bhavans delay in acting on the clemency pleas. At the
heart of the matter is a classic tussle between the
executive and the judiciary. The Supreme Court, by
commuting the death sentence in some or all cases, will
send a strong signal to the government that its errant
treatment of mercy petitions can no longer continue.
Already, the Court has expressed its displeasure at the
hasty manner in which Afzal Guru was executed, with-
out providing his relatives an opportunity to meet
[him] for one last time. The government in turn will
argue the presidential power of pardon sanctioned
by Article 72 of the Constitution is beyond the
Courts scrutiny. The stakes are high: how the Court
disposes of these pleas could well determine the fate of
A.G. Perarivalan and two others convicted in the Rajiv
Gandhi assassination case. The trio were made to wait
for a staggering 11 years before their clemency pleas
were considered and rejected by then President
Pratibha Patil.
If it institutes a larger bench to hear these pleas, the
Supreme Court will embark on an unprecedented exer-
cise that will reinvigorate the national debate on the
death penalty. Chief Justice P. Sathasivam must be
commended for following through on his call for au-
thoritative pronouncements on hangings and mercy
petitions. Beyond the issue of delay, human rights
advocates will doubtless use this platform to highlight
how clemency pleas have been turned down without
due consideration. The Court itself has opened the
door for this argument through its decision in Sushil
Sharma v. State of N.C.T. of Delhi. If, as the Court has
held, the possibility of reformation is indeed a criterion
to determine if a case falls within the rarest of the
rare category, is it not the governments imperative to
consider the conduct of death row prisoners? Nothing
can make for a more powerful case to abolish the
retributive practice of death sentences than the refor-
mation of individuals convicted of heinous crimes. Our
prison system is notorious for spawning recidivism. If
prisoners can not only survive a tortuous wait on death
row thanks to government indecisiveness but are
found to have emerged the better, the Supreme Court
should not hesitate to commute their sentences.
Rarest of rare
ast week, world leaders
concerned about econom-
ic development got to-
gether at the
International Monetary
Fund, and gave a series of
most instructive inter-
views. Our Finance Min-
ister, P. Chidambaram, said that his problem
was the slowing down of Indias economic
growth and reduction in government reve-
nues. The Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey,
though, struck a different note. He empha-
sised that the quality of economic growth
was a very signicant issue, and that the
growth must be environmentally and social-
ly sustainable.
Goa project
Recent developments in the context of
mining in Goa have reinforced questions as
to whether India is on a path of socially and
environmentally sustainable development,
and if the fundamental rights of our citizens,
including the right to livelihood, are being
respected. This is brought out by Justice
Shah Commissions Report stating that
no inspection was carried out of iron ore
mines... resulting intofear-free environment
which has caused loss to the ecology, envi-
ronment, agriculture, ground water, natural
streams, ponds, rivers, biodiversity, etc.
The fear-free environment that the report
talks about is not one that is enjoyed by the
people, but by the mining industry support-
ed by all arms of the state. A striking example
of this has been the attack on Nilesh Gaon-
kar, a tribal activist of Cauvrem village, in
May 2011.
It was developments like these that
prompted the government of Goa to ask me
to oversee a project to assess the quality of
the Environmental Impact Assessments
(EIA), compliance with Environment Clear-
ance (EC) conditions and the adequacy of
the Environmental Management Plans
(EMP) with respect to mines in operation in
Goa. These are tools in our armoury to en-
sure that none of our developmental inter-
ventions has unacceptably large or avoidable
negative impacts, that the most desirable
alternatives are selected and the projects
managed efficiently. Enjoying full cooper-
ationof the State governmental agencies, the
mine management as well as the people, we
had at our disposal a complete set of EIA-
EC-EMPs for 79 mines then in operation.
The study was conducted in an open, trans-
parent and participatory manner involving a
wide range of stakeholders and extensive
eld visits.
Regrettably, we nd that the EIA-EC-
EMP process is being implemented in a very
restricted framework of the project propo-
nents getting the legally mandated clear-
ances as quickly and with as little effort or
involvement of society at large, as possible.
As a result, there are serious deciencies in
the EIAs with deliberate misrepresentations
of facts relating to vital issues such as water
and biodiversity resources and livelihood
support systems of local people inpractically
every single exercise. For instance, the EIA
for mines adjoining village Rivona claimed
that agriculture is characterised by depend-
ence on monsoons as irrigation facilities are
available for only one per cent of the land.
When the community members disputed
this and requested the Agriculture Depart-
ment to independently verify the facts, the
latter reported that Rivona has extensive
irrigated agriculture and horticulture with
its own perennial irrigation systems based
on over 30 natural springs, all of which
would be affected by mining.
Issues brushed aside
Public hearings are a vital and legally man-
datory component of the EIA process com-
plementing the consultants report, as it is
the local community who have deep knowl-
edge of the local environment and a genuine
concern for its preservation. The people in-
variably raise important issues, but these are
quite improperly brushed aside. For in-
stance, the Kushavati Bachao Andolan
pointed out in writing that the Hunantlo
Dongar manganese mine near Columba vil-
lage lies on the bank of a major rivulet of
river Kushavati; this important fact was still
left out of the nal EIA. To be effective,
public hearings are required by law to be
held at the project site. However, this is
routinely violated and in 95 out of 96 cases,
the hearings were held in district or taluka
What we experience are not isolated, but
cumulative impacts. Thus, 100 trucks plying
with ore fromone mine may be quite accept-
able, but when thousands of trucks from
several mines start plying onthe same roads,
this can lead to horrible traffic jams and
accidents. Indeed this has been one of the
bitterest complaints of the people of Goa.
The EIA process has so far uniformly ne-
glected cumulative impacts. Furthermore,
the exercises are conned to the narrow lim-
its of the leases and immediate vicinity, and
ignore pervasive impacts such as on rivers of
Goa. Mining has now been suspended since
June 2012 as a consequence of the Justice
Shah Commission reporting large-scale ir-
regularities amounting to Rs.35,000 crore.
With this withdrawal of mining impacts, the
sheries as well as shell-sheries of the riv-
ers have registered a remarkable recovery
with the waters becoming clearer and the
bottom dwelling organisms freed of sedi-
ment settling on them. Simultaneously, the
estuarine brackish water land bunds are no
longer suffering breakages as no waves are
being created by large ore barges plying in
the rivers. Not a single EIA has considered
many such signicant, widespread impacts.
In consequence, as the Shah Commission
emphasised, there has been substantial
damage to the environment of the State as a
whole and its ecological assets far beyond
the mining area.
Again, as the Shah Commission has high-
lighted, there has been no inspection and
hence no monitoring of management of the
mines. This has meant little serious efforts at
mitigation of adverse impacts. To the con-
trary, there are examples of deliberate ne-
glect. Thus a deep mine near Pissurlem
village has punctured the aquifer and
drained away all ground water with the re-
sultant serious loss of agricultural produc-
tivity. Yet, the water being collected in the
mine pit is being pumped out and deliberate-
ly let out to the river through a long pipeline
despite farmers pleading that it be made
available for irrigating their dried-up farms.
What is clearly needed is to inject into the
systemways of ensuring that justice is done
to the larger social objectives that the EIA-
EC-EMPprocess has beendesigned to serve.
This calls for ensuring transparency, ac-
countability and effective social participa-
tion. Our democracy has ensured that there
are excellent provisions for bringing this
about, provisions such as the 73rd and 74th
amendments to the Constitution that assign
a signicant role tolocal self-governments in
the planning and implementation of devel-
opmental activities and the management of
natural resources within their jurisdiction,
and the Biological Diversity Act that assigns
a signicant role tolocal self-governments in
the documentation and management of the
biodiversity resources within their
Nowhere in the world have governments
taken steps on their own to protect the envi-
ronment until public pressure has forced
them to do so. This is easier in egalitarian
societies such as Japan or the Scandinavian
countries, but more difficult in countries
withstratied societies suchas India. But we
do have a vibrant democracy and it is a most
positive sign that the government of Goa
asked us to objectively assess the situation
and the Goangovernment, the mining indus-
try and the people all extended their full
cooperation. Our report, the rst such com-
prehensive study of the process in India, and
as far as I know, anywhere in the world,
would hopefully serve to better informpeo-
ple, who will then pressure the government
to take effective steps in the direction of the
public good. I, for one, remain optimistic.
(Madhav Gadgil was onthe WesternGhats
Ecology Expert Panel)
Digging up the dirt
Madhav Gadgil
Mining companies have received favourable impact assessments even as they do great damage to
the environment because regulators are willing to look the other way
rchaeologists and treasure hunters go back a
long way. Both in real life and in popular
culture, they have often been inseparable, if
not one and the same. Heinrich Schliemann,
who dug up Priams treasure in the 19th century,
loved gold as much as he did excavation. Action lm
hero Indiana Jones, in movies set in the rst half of the
20th century, was both a professor in archaeology and
an adventurer in search of lost relics. Last week, the
Archaeological Survey of India gave cause for much
mirth and some puzzlement as it began excavation
work in search of gold at the ruins of a fort of Raja Ram
Baksh Singh in the Buxar area after the head priest of
the Shobhan Temple in Unnao, Shobhan Sarkar,
claimed he was informed in his dream of a treasure of
gold at the site by the Raja. Folklore, maps, diaries, and
fragments of documents have all triggered treasure
hunts in real life and in novels and movies, but the
dreams of a sadhu have never been known to form the
stuff of archaeological activities. After criticism from
allies and Opposition parties for ordering excavation
work on the basis of such intangibles, and for encourag-
ing superstition and undermining science, the Central
government seems to have persuaded the ASI to issue a
rejoinder. ASI officials now claim the excavation is
being undertaken on the basis of scientic reports and
the historical importance of the site. Apparently, pre-
liminary investigations of the Geological Survey of In-
dia indicated the presence of non-conducting metals or
alloys at the site.
But, the clarication raises more questions than it
answers. Whether or not the digging was based on
unveriable dreams or on measurable scientic data,
the excavation at the fort site was given extraordinary
priority by the ASI, acting on the orders of the Union
Culture Ministry. Actually, matters gathered pace after
Union Minister of State for Food Processing Charan
Das Mahant met the sadhu. Mr. Mahant was reported
as saying that the sadhu had told him that the gold
reserves were so huge that they could come in handy at
a time when there is a crisis with the rupee. The
Union Minister said he had written about this to the
Prime Minister, the Finance Minister, the Home Min-
ister, the Mines Minister and to the ASI and the GSI. He
had also informed Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and
Rahul Gandhi. That the preliminary ndings of the GSI
could raise the interest levels of the ASI in this manner
is rather surprising. Surely, the sadhu and Mr. Mahant
will be feted and felicitated for their efforts if gold is
indeed found at the fort site. But if the gold hunt turns
out to be futile and the dig unearths little of archaeolog-
ical signicance, the ASIs credibility will stand greatly
A golden
Gold hunt
do not think the Geological
Survey of India or the
Archaeological Survey of India
would have started excavations at
the fort of Raja RamBaksh Singh
in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh, merely
on the basis of a priests dream.
As a former scientist who has
worked with one of them, I know
for sure that before any
excavation, apart fromdetailed
surveys on land morphology and
historical and archaeological
evidence, detailed sub-surface
studies using geophysical
soundings are carried out to
conrmthe presence of any
anomaly at depth.
Such surveys indicate the
presence of material of high
density or conductivity, but
cannot conrmwhether it is gold
or some other metal. The priests
dreamis perhaps an afterthought
meant to take credit for any
possible ndings of a treasure.
K.V. Ravindran,
t is not clear whether the ASI
was driven by the seers dream
or a preliminary scientic survey.
But the fact that a seer is asserting
the presence of gold beneath the
ground despite knowing that the
failure to trace the metal will end
his godly career inspires great
condence and curiosity in people.
Success in Unnao will bolster the
image of India as a land of
mysticismbut a failure could be
the last nail on the coffin of
godmen culture.
Ginny Gold,
New Delhi
scientic temper means
checking the veracity of every
claimmade; it does not mean
rejecting outright whatever
cannot trace its source to a
laboratory. India is a land of saints
and seers (including dubious
Let the ASI nish excavating the
site. Why should we jump the gun
and say the move encourages
superstition? To be fair to the ASI,
it started to dig only after the
Geological Survey of India
conrmed the presence of metal in
the fort. There may be interesting
nds, if not gold.
C. Chandramouli,
ad the rumour about a sadhu
dreaming about hidden gold
under a structure been believed by
a few, there would have been a
meant to preserve both.
Avadhoot Gorakhanath Shinde,
New Delhi
Khap panchayats
he diktats of khap panchayats
play havoc with the lives of
young girls many have even
taken their lives due to threats and
humiliation. It is sad that
governments at the Centre and the
States are silent and allow the
khaps to function even though
their decrees are against the law
and the will of society.
Curbing the fundamental rights
of young women through diktats
on what to wear, what to carry and
with whomto speak is nothing less
than torture in a condemned cell.
It is time the governments came
down heavily on khaps before they
spread their tentacles across the
K.R. Srinivasan,
do not understand what we,
Indians, want. On the one hand,
we want to become a modern
society like the U.S. and the U.K.
and, on the other, we tell girls
what to do, what to wear and what
not to wear. This is shameful.
India is the largest democracy in
which every citizen is supposed to
have the right to equality. Really?
Are men ever told how to dress?
Praveen Kumar Nag,
New Delhi
ama former resident of
Bangalore now living in
England. I make regular trips to
Bangalore. I have been following
news of violence against women
and suicides by young women.
Parents should empower their
daughters stop treating them
like second class citizens.
The entertainment industry has
a lot to answer for. I watch
television soaps in Hindi and
Malayalamand the recurring
theme is violence against women.
This desensitises people who
begin to feel that violence against
women is a routine matter, not a
shameful occurrence. India needs
to update its moral and personal
attitudes along with its IT and
material skills.
Prema Taylor,
alwar kameez has given way to
sleeveless and leggings. It is
not bad but look at the changing
mindset. In earlier days, T-shirts
were plain or with designs. These
days they are scribbled all over. I
have seen teenage girls wearing
T-shirts with words like you and
me, just cool. I think every girl
has the right to look nice and clean
but she should not provoke. Moral
policing? So be it.
R. Ganesh,
Death penalty
esides raising the hackles of
victims families, the editorial
Rarest of rare opportunities
(Oct. 21) is bound to disturb the
eternal sleep of the victims of the
horrendous crimes perpetrated by
the prisoners on death row
awaiting the Supreme Court
hearing on their pleas for
commutation on the basis of the
delay in dealing with their
clemency petitions. Some of the
condemned prisoners were
involved in TADA related cases.
Signicantly, the Supreme Court
ruled in the Bhullar case that a
delay cannot be a ground for
commuting the death sentence in
the case of those convicted for
terror acts. It would be double
whammy for the kin of the victims
if the prisoners are not hanged.
How can one possibly know that
the convicts have emerged the
better? Retribution, not
reformation, is the need of the
hour. To quote J. Budziszewski:
Society is justly ordered when
each person receives what is due
to him. Crime disturbs this just
order, for the criminal takes from
people their lives, peace, liberties,
and worldly goods in order to give
himself undeserved benets.
Deserved punishment protects
society morally by restoring this
just order, making the wrongdoer
pay a price equivalent to the harm
he has done. This is retribution,
not to be confused with revenge,
which is guided by a different
M. Jameel Ahmed,
he editorial was excellent.
When all is said and done, in
determining the rarest of rare
case, there is an element of
subjectivity involved. The death
penalty should be removed from
the statute book.
S.S. Mani,
to the
Letters emailed to must carry
the full postal address and the full
name or the name with initials.
gold rush to excavate the imagined
bounty. The law and order
situation would have gone out of
control. The ASI has done the
right thing by undertaking the
excavation work under police
protection so that the rumours
could be set at rest once and for
all. The ASI may unearth artefacts
such as bones, pottery and
implements to determine if an
earlier civilisation inhabited
D.B.N. Murthy,
Ecology &
he article Digging up the dirt
(Oct. 21) was timely. The
corrupt manner in which the
Andhra Pradesh Environmental
Impact Assessment Authority and
the Expert Appraisal Committees
function with respect to the silicon
mines in Nellore is there for all to
Companies start mining much
before getting permission. The
authorities appoint a committee
and visit the site. Without even
informing the locals, they make
illegal mining legal.
G.V. Nagarajarao,
ustainable development is
often heard in discussion
circles, not in government
corridors. There is less concern
and action frompeople who
control the levers of power.
Industries without care for the
environment are encouraged and
The political class, through
benamis, is behind most of the
illegal and anti-ecological
industrial units. Asking those in
power to stop or reduce steps that
harmthe environment is like
expecting the predator to save the
prey. We need sustained public
pressure to keep those who
destroy the environment at bay.
A. Prabaharan,
evelopment and ecological
sustainability can go hand in
hand only when there is a political
will to ensure both. A developing
country like India cannot neglect
While the focus on only the
environment will harm
development and obstruct
economic growth, the focus on
development alone will ruin the
ecology. The Environment Impact
Assessment is the golden mean
n forcing the cancellation of the presidential
polls a second time, the Maldives government
has proved to be at best an inept bystander and at
worst a willing collaborator. The Waheed admin-
istration has not only prevented the Maldivian people
from exercising their franchise, but also stands in di-
rect contempt of the original Supreme Court order that
required elections to be held before October 20.
Strangely, even the Court did not deem it t to take
cognisance of the blatant outing of its order by the
executive, the very arm tasked with administering the
polls. It is impossible to miss the pattern: there were no
major complaints of voter list tampering till the results
came out on the night of September 7; the rst complai-
nant who approached the Court was a trailing candi-
date Qasim Ibrahim, who is a member of the powerful
Judicial Services Commission. Based on questionable
evidence, the Supreme Court annulled the polls and
ordered fresh elections. It also set clear guidelines, one
of which related to approval of electoral rolls by the
candidates. This effectively gave candidates the right to
veto the polls. President Mohamed Waheed sworn in
under controversial circumstances after Mohamed
Nasheed resigned on February 7, 2012 cannot ab-
dicate responsibility for the Maldivian Police Service
forcibly blocking Election Commission personnel from
moving out poll-related material on the morning of
October 19, when the elections were scheduled. Surely,
Dr. Waheed, a career diplomat who retired from the
United Nations, should be aware of the dangerous
consequences of one arm of the state acting unilateral-
ly and unconstitutionally.
The Maldives, which elected its rst President in a
multi-party election in 2008, has been at a standstill
ever since Mr. Nasheed resigned. The country appears
too polarised to be able to complete the poll process
ahead of November 11, the constitutionally mandated
date for a new President to be sworn in. The comple-
tion of the poll process is especially important to India,
which has longstanding ties with the Maldives. Whats
more, New Delhi attributes great strategic importance
to the archipelago of about 1200 islands that straddles
the eastern shipping routes. In the words of Indias
Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh, what affects Mal-
dives affects us. President Waheeds assertions that he
will endeavour to hold polls within the stipulated date
has cut no ice with anyone. With a leader who has lost
credibility, and two candidates Gasim Ibrahim and
Abdulla Yameen who appear bent on subverting the
democratic process, the Maldives needs the support
and guidance of the international community.
Troubling times
in Maldives
few months ago, the
most optimistic observ-
ers of international poli-
tics were not willing to
hedge their bets on the
Doha Development
Round at the World
Trade Organisation. The
Doha Round negotiations have been stalled
for more than a decade now the West
would like developing countries to remove
import barriers while India, Brazil and Chi-
na want the United States and the European
Union to reduce the massive subsidies they
provide to rich farmers. Neither side has
conceded ground on its claims. But at the
Bali Ministerial Conference this December,
the U.S. will use a trump card to have its way
with India and other emerging markets: our
food security legislation. On the pretext of
allowing Indias food security law to exist
alongside its commitments to the WTO, the
U.S. has wrested an in-principle agreement
from New Delhi on the issue of trade facil-
itation. In other words, India has agreed to
greater market access for western compa-
nies in order to ensure the survival of the
Food Security Act.
Import facilitation
Late last year, Indias Permanent Repre-
sentative to the WTO in Geneva went on
record to say trade facilitation [] is noth-
ing but import facilitation. The overall gain
for developing countries fromsuchaddition-
al trade will be next to nothing, said Am-
bassador Jayant Dasgupta. He also
acknowledged that the West had fallen back
on its promise to help improve the export
capability of emerging markets. The whole
mantra of trade facilitation, Mr. Dasgupta
went on to observe, was [] please open up
[your markets]. Dont ask for anything in
return. Its good for you.
Yet, last week, Union Trade Minister
Anand Sharma suggested there should not
be any confusion on trade facilitation be-
cause we are in favour (of the same). What
changed in the course of a year? The United
Progressive Alliance, desperate to ensure
that the Food Security Act does not fall foul
of Indias commitments under the WTO
Agreement on Agriculture (AoA), has cur-
ried favour with the Obama administration.
The U.S. which runs one of the largest
domestic food aid programmes in the world
has steadfastly opposed plans by devel-
oping countries to provide food security to
their poor. Now it is using the AoA topushits
objectives under the trade facilitation
agenda at Bali. During his recent visit, Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh sought to extract
an assurance fromPresident Barack Obama
that the U.S. would not oppose Indias food
security scheme. Mr. Sharmas remarks
themselves came after WTO Director-Gen-
eral Roberto Azevedo casually observed that
the Food Security Act may run into trouble
with our AoA commitments.
Room for concern
But the governments piecemeal attempt
to resolve this issue bilaterally (with the
U.S.) leaves much room for concern. For
starters, the Obama administration is driv-
ing a hard bargain: there is noreasonwhy the
UPA should trade food security for market
access, because India has a legitimate case
under the AoA. Second, without an amend-
ment to the AoA, any ad hoc solution is
subject to the whims of U.S. foreign policy.
The UPA seems content to see the food secu-
rity scheme just through to 2014, in time for
the election. Third, abandoning the case of
the developing world to shore up its own
food security law will reect poorly on Indi-
an diplomacy.
The proposal to categorise higher-than-
normal procurement prices for the pur-
pose of ensuring food security as a permit-
ted agri-subsidy was mooted by the G33 last
year. The G33 proposal was based on a sim-
ple premise: food security schemes needed
massive quantities of grain and farmers had
to be offered attractive prices if they were to
sell their produce to governments. But the
WTO Agreement on Agriculture unfairly
casts such procurement prices as trade-dis-
torting. The WTO imposes a cap on the
price support that countries can provide for
an agricultural product, known as the Ag-
gregate Measurement of Support (AMS).
Mathematically, AMS is the difference be-
tween the procurement price and a xed,
external reference price for a product, say
rice, multiplied by its total domestic
The AMS rule is patently unfair because
the external reference price is pegged to
the 1986-88 levels. There is abundant litera-
ture to conclude that world food prices were
low during the late 1980s on account of mas-
sive dumping of food grain by U.S. and Eu-
ropean companies on foreign markets. It is
farcical to expect developing countries
whose agricultural sectors were no doubt
adversely affected by dumping to base
their support for farmers on such manip-
ulated prices.
Whats more, market price support in it-
self is no effective marker of trade protec-
tionism. Jacques Berthelot, a French
agricultural economist, has highlighted how
the U.S., the European Union and Japan
simply slashed their procurement prices on
paper during the 1990s without reducing any
of the subsidies they grant to richfarmers. In
defence, the West has facetiously argued
that farm aid decoupled from production
and instead contingent on a farmers main-
taining her land in good condition is per-
mitted under the AoA. India, on the other
hand, has adhered to both the letter and
spirit of the AoA, reducing its agri-tariffs
progressively. In objecting to Indias food
security legislationonaccount of higher pro-
curement prices, the U.S. has made it clear
that needy citizens in the West are more
equal than others.
Since the AMS rule has found its way to
the AoA, however, there is no alternative for
the G33 but to negotiate its amendment. For
India and other developing countries, the de
minimis AMS is capped at 10 per cent of the
total value of production. For the most part
of the last two decades, as economist Muni-
samy Gopinath observes, Indias support
prices for farmers has been lower than the
external reference price. But withthe advent
of the food security legislation and a general
rise in food prices (after adjusting for in-
ation), there is little doubt that India will
breach this ceiling in 2012-13.
Re-interpretation sought
To prevent this situation, our WTOrepre-
sentatives have sought a modest re-inter-
pretation of the AoA annex to peg the
external reference price fromthe 1986-88
levels to current global prices. The other
option, according to Ambassador Dasgupta,
is to have a deator mechanismto compen-
sate for excessive rates of ination. The
G33s original proposal still remains our best
shot at ensuring food security. But the UPA
government has instead opted for an inter-
im solution an invocation of the AoAs
Peace Clause which entails requesting the
West to desist frominitiating legal proceed-
ings against India. Inother words, this politi-
cally tempered proposal is an admission that
Indias food security law violates the WTO
It is unclear whether the Peace Clause
proposal is supported by all members of the
G33. Since India has thrown its weight be-
hind this rarely-invoked measure, the mood
at the WTO, as one diplomat told Bridges
Weekly, seems to be that the only game in
town for the G33 proposal is a peace clause.
New Delhis objective is clear: remove all
hurdles that stand in the way of the Food
Security Act for now. In its election rush, the
government is sacricing the sovereign right
of India and the developing world to provide
food to their needy on a sustainable basis.
The U.S. has seized this vulnerability to ex-
tract concessions on the trade facilitation
front. A Faustian bargain, if there ever was
A pound of esh to feed the poor
Arun Mohan Sukumar
Realising that New Delhi needs to clear its food security legislation at the WTO in time for the election, the West
has sought increased market access in return for temporary relief
rime Minister Manmohan Singhs unsuccess-
ful efforts at nalising the agreement for reac-
tors 3 and 4 of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power
Plant with Russia underscore an important
lesson: foreign policy begins at home. While Dr. Singh
would have liked to ink the agreement during his Mos-
cow visit, the fact remains concerns regarding suppli-
ers liability are nowhere close to being sorted out.
Indias civil nuclear liability law which bears the right
of recourse against suppliers has weighed heavily on
the negotiations. The Russians want the original In-
tergovernmental Agreement regarding Units 1 and 2
grandfathered into the new one. This would render
the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL)
liable for damage resulting from an accident. Although
India initially insisted rightly in our opinion that
the domestic liability regime govern the new agree-
ment, subsequent signals emanating from New Delhi
have been confusing. Last year, the Department of
Atomic Energy suggested that rules regarding suppli-
ers liability will not apply to the agreement for reactors
3 and 4. The DAEs remarks invited the attention of the
Prime Minister himself, who sought to clarify its posi-
tion. The PM intervened knowing full well that any
concessional treatment to Russia on this count would
trigger similar demands from France and the United
States. Under the circumstances, Moscow will likely
raise the reactor prices.
Meanwhile, both governments have held up Unit 1s
synchronisation with the regional power grid as testi-
mony to their robust strategic relationship. Dr. Singhs
assurance that negotiations will be completed within
the earliest possible timeframe is welcome. But to ar-
rive at a deal that assuages Russias concerns on suppli-
ers liability, the government needs to foster greater
domestic dialogue on the intrinsically connected issue
of safety. The Supreme Courts green signal earlier this
year to commissioning KKNP came with several ca-
veats. Periodic safety reviews, as the Court mandated,
can only be effective if the regulatory body that oversees
the process is independent. Given the concerns ex-
pressed about the Atomic Energy Regulatory Bodys
functioning, it is unrealistic to expect a groundswell of
support for the Prime Ministers vision for Kudanku-
lam. The Public Accounts Committee has gone so far as
to say the AERB has remained [] a mere subordinate
authority with powers delegated to it by the Central
government. If the government wishes to seal the deal
for Units 3 and 4, it needs to take the public and the
government of Tamil Nadu into condence. As he nears
the end of his second, and probably last, term as PM, Dr.
Singhs foreign policy legacy will be conditioned by
domestic support, not by his personal equations with
foreign leaders.
Sorting out
nuclear liability
Useless exercise
he Archaeological Survey of
Indias digging-for-gold
exercise in a village in Unnao,
Uttar Pradesh, following a priests
claimthat Raja RamBaksh Singh
visited himin his dreamand
informed himof the 1000 tonnes
of gold lying underneath his
dilapidated fort, is absurd (A
golden dream, Oct. 22).
Is it not a bizarre and useless
exercise? It is a pity that in the age
of advanced science and
technology, superstitions play an
important role in our country.
Such a wasteful act only shows
that it is easy to eliminate
ignorance but difficult to eradicate
erroneously held beliefs. What is
the guarantee that if the gold is
retrieved, a sizeable amount will
not go into the kitty of our greedy
R. Sivakumar,
here is no dearth of babas and
superstitions in India. Many
follow themblindly; some are even
prepared to jump into the re.
However, the government itself
participating in the excavation of
gold not on the basis of logic,
rationale or research but on the
basis of a priests dreamis
What kind of message does the
government want to convey to
society, especially the unemployed
youth? Should they rely on
windfall instead of human labour
and hard work? Kshirasagara
Balaji Rao,
he ASI should encourage spirit
of enquiry. What every Indian
must mourn is the loss of a
scientic temper. Whether gold is
found is irrelevant.
Ramesh Raj Katta,
t is possible that the priest
conveniently dreamt of the
hidden treasure or that the story
was made up and circulated after
the ASI began its excavation. A
senior official is reported to have
rubbished the claimof a dream
having forced the organisation
into action. Which is not to say
that our modern, secular state
institutions are above following
such a lead. In fact, the public
expression of surprise and outrage
is strange given that most of the
State run institutions, including
those in the service of science,
have established a culture and
regime of superstitious and
sectarian customs serviced
necessarily through a priestly class
and it is diligently followed by the
highest functionaries on various
public occasions.
Firoz Ahmad,
hanks to the 1000-tonnes-
the rather obscure organisation,
ASI, has captured peoples
imagination. Seldomare the
excavations carried out with
absolute certainty of a nd. Let us
not be so sceptical about the ASIs
efforts. The haste is probably to
prevent the locals fromindulging
in crude excavation practices that
can destroy the fort itself.
Let us drop the gold angle for a
while. I amsure there is plenty of
drama left with all the credit-
taking and blame-game to follow
once the excavations are over.
Pranav Shekhar,
New Delhi
Firing along LoC
nprovoked ring continues
unabated and villagers near
the LoCare moving out.
Unperturbed over what is
happening, India has been issuing
statements saying it is a minor
skirmish but Omar Abdullah,
Jammu and Kashmir Chief
Minister, wants the government to
take up the issue strongly with
What is the use of deploying the
army or other forces on the border
if they cannot stop the shelling?
They should act fast. Action
speaks louder than words.
V. Kumar,
t is a matter of serious concern
that Pakistani troops attacked
14 Indian posts and civilian areas
with mortar shells (Oct. 20). The
picture of a wounded livestock and
a civilian showing the splintered
pieces of mortar was shocking.
People living near the border areas
are cursed as they have to bear the
brunt of such attacks. Mr.
Abdullahs suggestion should be
considered seriously it is the
urgent need of the hour.
Mukesh Kumar Singh,
Its property now
his refers to the report that in
parts of Haryana, khap
panchayats are against daughters
inheriting property and do
everything possible to deprive
women of their right to inherit. It
cites the case of a woman who has
led a case against her father.
Fighting for ancestral property
may be justied. But how far is it
right to force a man, who has spent
a lifetime on acquiring his
property, to part with it during his
lifetime? Doesnt he have the right
to enjoy his assets as long as he
E. Vamshi Krishna Reddy,
New Delhi
hap panchayats or similar
institutions working across
the country are an impediment to
inclusive democracy and
development. They are extra-
constitutional bodies which
shackle women. It is due to the
khap panchayats that there is a
decline in the child sex ratio and
women are oppressed. The need of
the hour is to take stringent steps
to eliminate khap panchayats.
Tariq Ahmad Lone,
New Delhi
ne wonders whether
democracy functions in
Haryana. The diktats of khap
panchayats are undemocratic,
illegal and uncivilised. That the
law-enforcing agencies have failed
to rein in this organised
goondaismis astonishing.
S. Lakshman,
he exercise of the right to
inheritance is hardly
empowerment. Women act under
pressure. Any property gained
fromthe father often ends up
being transferred to the husband.
The law is used as another tool to
extract dowry. The khap
panchayats are right in opposing
To ght social evils, we need to
understand the actual social
reality. Looking as issues through
theoretical constructs like
patriarchy or laws which have
innumerable loopholes will vitiate
the debate and create more
confusion instead of offering a
Prince Kadyan,
Wilfully blind
he article A pound of esh to
feed the poor (Oct. 22) and
the editorial Trading on hunger
(Oct. 10), offer a good overview of
the issues involved. It is time to
acknowledge that WTOis nothing
but an old colonial devil in a new
bottle. The restrictive panoply of
trade agreements which it
oversees like the Agreement on
Agriculture (AoA), are a Gordian
knot that binds our farmers. While
an advanced nation like the U.S.
protests against the measures in
our food security law which help
our farmers to some extent, it is
wilfully blind to the subsidy
provided by its own farmbill to
not just rich farmers but also
major agribusiness corporations.
This gives an unfair advantage to
the corporations to dump their
products and wipe out many
small-scale farmers.
G. Parameswaran,
to the
Letters emailed to must carry
the full postal address and the full
name or the name with initials.
he passage of the long-pending Pension Fund
Regulatory and Development Authority
(PFRDA) Bill confers several benets to the
organised pension sector. In a country with
very few social security schemes for senior citizens,
there has been a pressing need to introduce new pen-
sion schemes as well as expand the coverage of existing
ones. An empowered PFRDA it did not have a statu-
tory status when it was set up in August 2003 through
an executive order can more effectively regulate the
nascent industry, protect its subscribers, attract in-
vestors including from abroad, improve data collection
and dissemination through the central record keeping
agency (CRA) and, in general, help grow the industry.
The National Pension System (NPS), which was rolled
out in 2004 by the newly set up PFRDA, has emerged as
the only signicant pension scheme outside those oper-
ated by the Employees Provident Fund Organisation
(EPFO). Despite a record of reasonable success, it is in
for a major overhaul. Beginning 2004, the NPS was rst
thrown open to new government employees. Many
State governments have since come on board, clearly
motivated by the fact that the NPS operates on the basis
of a dened contribution by its members as opposed to
dened benets under the EPFO. For cash strapped
governments, the scal benets of migrating to the new
scheme are huge. The NPS covers employees of public
sector undertakings, private rms and even those in the
unorganised sector.
With a large captive clientele in the region of 50 lakh
subscribers and a corpus of Rs.35,000 crore that dou-
bles itself every year, the NPS should have made a more
signicant impact on the pension and related sectors
than it has. Part of the reason might lie in its near
monopoly status which did not encourage innovation
and marketing. The PFRDA, now with a legal status, is
in a much better position to encourage new schemes
tailored to suit specic requirements. The new legisla-
tion will facilitate foreign direct investment in the pen-
sion sector. The extent of such investment will be
aligned to those obtaining in the insurance sector. Even
before the new legislation, a few leading global pension
funds had set up shop in India and in a regulated
environment their numbers will increase. However,
very different from insurance, the pension sector does
not require large investments from abroad. More than a
word of caution is necessary in propagating market
based schemes involving equity investment. It is pru-
dent to peg the limit on equity investment to the exist-
ing not more than 50% of the corpus of any fund. Where
allowed, prospective subscribers must be warned of the
risks through a comprehensive education programme.
with caution
he last 20 years have
seen considerable pro-
gress on abolition of the
death penalty. The grow-
ing global trend towards
abolition is by far encou-
raging. Approximately
150 of the 193 member-
states of the United Nations have abolished
the death penalty or introduced a moratori-
umeither in law or in practice.
The cruel, inhuman and degrading puni-
shment a colonial importation imposed
upon indigenous justice systems is cer-
tainly a blot on progressive and civilised so-
cieties. Portugal, a former colonial power,
was the rst in Europe to end the death
penalty in 1976. While the francophone as
well as Commonwealth countries lag behind
in abolishing the anachronistic and barbaric
form of punishment, the lusophone coun-
tries abolished the capital punishment inlaw
in the 1990s.
Restrictive use
Although the death penalty is not out-
lawed, international law advocates restric-
tive use and propounds a policy directionnot
to delay or prevent the abolition. The wil-
lingness of states to ratify and commit them-
selves to international legal obligations
prohibiting capital punishment is steadily
growing. Today, more than 80 countries are
party to specialised international treaties,
including the International Convention on
Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the
Optional Protocol to the International Con-
vention on Civil and Political Rights as well
as regional instruments including Protocol
No 6 and Protocol No 13 of the European
Convention on Human Rights, and Protocol
to the American Convention on Human
Rights which calls for abolition of the death
penalty. Further, international criminal tri-
bunals established by the United Nations for
the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Le-
one, Lebanon as well as the International
Criminal Court exclude the death penalty as
a punishment.
Countries in South and Central America
were pioneers in abolishing the death penal-
ty. A majority of the countries there are
either abolitionists or abolitionists for ordi-
nary crimes except Guatemala (a retention-
ist) and Cuba, which has reported no
execution since 2003. Cuba also abstained
fromthe recent U.N. Resolution calling for a
Moratorium on the use of Death Penalty.
The English speaking Caribbean countries
are largely de facto abolitionists as no
executions have been carried out over 10
years. For example, in Antigua and Barbuda,
the last execution was in 1989; Barbados
1984; Belize 1989; Dominica 1986; and Saint
Lucia 1995. While the statistics are reveal-
ing, some states claim that their failure to
carry out executions does not manifest any
change in their policy.
The road to abolition of the death penalty
in the United States is rather long. Among
the 32 States that allow the death penalty,
there is a stark difference in enthusiasmand
application as some States overuse and oth-
ers barely use it. Although the overall num-
ber of death sentences issued has declined
(98 in 1999 to 37 in 2008, and 46 in 2010 to
43 in 2011), it remains to be seen if the U.S.
will abolish capital punishment and cham-
pion worldwide abolition.
Undisputed leader
Europe, on the other hand, is clearly the
undisputed leader with Belarus being the
only retentionist in the continent. The Eu-
ropean Unions guidelines categorically
state that abolition of the death penalty con-
tributes to enhancement of human dignity
and progressive development of human
Countries in Africa and Asia minus the
Pacic Island states show a mixed landscape
of retentionists, abolitionists and de facto
abolitionists. As in other regions, some
countries inthese two regions also fall under
the de facto abolitionist category where
there has been no execution for over 10
years. For example: in Ghana the last execu-
tion was carried out in 1993; Kenya-1987;
Malawi-1992; Swaziland1989; Brunei Da-
russalam-1957; the Maldives-1952; and Sri
The lowest common denominators in the
two regions tend to represent different legal
systems, traditions, cultures and religious
backgrounds. While some of the retentionist
countries have neither abolished nor re-
frained from applying the death penalty,
some noteworthy efforts have been made
towards restricting it. For instance, the Afri-
can Commission on Human and Peoples
Rights set up a Working Group that recom-
mended that the case of the abolitionists is
more compelling than that of the
Grim statistics
The statistics on retentionist countries in
Asia is rather grimas the highest number of
executions has been recorded in China, the
Islamic Republic of Iran, the Democratic Re-
public of Korea, Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia
and Vietnam. Nevertheless, there has been
some welcome development in the region
that includes China passing a law aimed at
removing the death penalty for 12 non-vio-
lent economic crimes, amending its criminal
procedure law to include a rigorous review
process of capital cases including recording
of interrogations, introducing mandatory
appellate hearings and enhancing access to
legal aid. The Islamic Republic of Iran decid-
ed not to award the death penalty to juve-
niles below 18 who commit offences under
the categories of Hudud and Qisas.
On the legislative front, some remarkable
decisions include those in Indian courts
declaring that the mandatory death penalty
for drug trafficking and under the Arms Act
1959 is unconstitutional; and the courts of
Bangladesh which declared that the manda-
tory imposition of the death penalty with no
consideration for personal circumstances or
circumstances of a particular offence was
unconstitutional. Singapore recently an-
nounced a reformof its legislation providing
for the mandatory death penalty for drug-
related offences.
Some Asian countries have also shifted
gear as depicted in the voting patterns in the
U.N. General Assembly Resolutions calling
for a Moratoriumon the use of Death Penal-
ty. Inthe rst resolutionintroduced in2007,
a vote of 104 in favour to 54 against with 29
abstentions was recorded. In 2008, it was a
vote of 106 in favour to 46 against, with 34
abstentions, and in the most recent resolu-
tion in 2012, a vote of 111 in favour to 41
against, 34 abstentions was recorded.
It is pertinent to note that the overall
trend in the General Assembly resolutions
indicates a steady increase of countries vot-
ing infavour and a sharp decline of countries
voting against the Resolution. In the Asian
context, for example, Mongolia voted against
in2008but infavour in2012; Thailand voted
against in 2007 but abstained in 2012; and
Indonesia and the Maldives voted against in
2008 but abstained in 2012.
The Pacic Island states are largely aboli-
tionist or abolitionist in practice/abolition-
ist for all crimes. Whilst there is political will
towards abolition, some of the Small Island
States lack the resources required to report
on or implement international conventions.
For instance, although Kiribati, Solomon Is-
lands and Tuvalu abolished the death penal-
ty in the 1970s, they have not ratied the
ICCPR and its Optional Protocol as re-
sources are a real and pressing concern.
Consensus among the international com-
munity on universal abolition of the death
penalty is clearly looking forward and it is
just about time the handful of retentionist
countries garnered the momentum and
showed leadership in ending the collective
embarrassment. The use of the death penal-
ty undermines human dignity, there exists
noconclusive evidence of its deterrent value,
and miscarriage of justice leading to its im-
position is irreversible and irreparable.
Repressive tool
The abolitionist movement has made re-
markable strides in moving the death penal-
ty debate beyond arguments of sovereignty;
it has established that the death penalty,
however administered, is a repressive tool of
the criminal justice system and violates in-
ternationally accepted human rights stan-
dards of right to life.
While all stakeholders inthe international
community should continue their collective
and sustained efforts, it is important to re-
member that political will and the leader-
ship of the government and its
parliamentarians remain pivotal in abolish-
ing the remnants of colonial barbarism, and
in entrenching a justice system that is civ-
ilised and reformative. South African judge
Justice Chaskalson, in his historic opinion
banning the death penalty in his country,
remarked that the right to life and dignity
are the most important of all human rights
and this must be demonstrated by the state
in everything it does, including the way it
punishes criminals.
(The writer is an analyst in law, public
policy and international affairs. Previously
Human Rights Officer at the Common-
wealth Secretariat, London, she is now an
advocate practising in the Madurai Bench of
the Madras High Court)
A blot on progressive societies
Monica Vincent
The use of the death penalty undermines human dignity; there exists no conclusive evidence of its deterrent
value; and miscarriage of justice leading to its imposition is irreversible and irreparable
hat the Congress and one of its potential al-
lies, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, were among
the rst to see their members disqualied
from Parliament following conviction in cor-
ruption cases is only incidental. After the Supreme
Court struck down Section 8(4) of the Representation
of the People Act which gave convicted sitting Mem-
bers of Parliament protection from immediate dis-
qualication, the real surprise was the disintegration of
an emerging consensus among the political class
against the judgment. As public opinion seemed to
weigh against politicians seeking the cover and comfort
of legal delays, the main opposition, the Bharatiya
Janata Party, broke ranks. And soon enough, not to be
left behind, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi
came out and rubbished the nonsense ordinance that
sought to allow convicted persons to continue as MPs
or legislators if their sentence was stayed by an appel-
late court within 90 days. From then on, the race was
for reclaiming the high moral ground. With its image at
stake, there was little chance of Rashid Masood and
RJD chief Lalu Prasad guring in the political calcula-
tions of the Congress. The withdrawal of the ordinance
might indeed have worsened the ties with the RJD, but
the Congress was certainly looking at the bigger pic-
ture, and not just Bihar. Winning voter goodwill, even if
only to a limited extent, was more important than
stitching together an alliance with one party. Instead of
having to be defensive on what could have turned out to
be an important electoral issue, the Congress was hop-
ing to project Mr. Gandhi as a representative of the
youth who could feel the pulse of the people very well.
That the Manmohan Singh government was made to
look silly for having tried to push through an ordinance
of this nature seemed a small price to pay in the face of
potential gains for the Congress as a party.
In any case, the failure of the UPA government to
come to the aid of Lalu Prasad need not foreclose all
possibility of a Congress-RJD tie-up. After all, electoral
strategies are not based on personal likes or dislikes.
What matters is whether the two parties need each
other in Bihar. At the moment, the alliance options of
the Congress seem to be wider than that of the RJD.
With the break-up of the alliance between the Janata
Dal (United) and the BJP, the JD (U) too is looking for
friends to make up for the shortfall. Even if there is
some public sympathy for a former chief minister going
to jail, this is unlikely to be a major electoral factor. The
Congress did well in backing itself, and not a discred-
ited ally. For the party, a lot was gained in withdrawing
the hurriedly-framed ordinance, and little seems to
have been lost in Bihar.
Choosing image
over alliance
rticle 75 (3) of the Constitution
provides that the Council of Min-
isters shall be collectively respon-
sible to the House of People. This
provision is the cornerstone of one of the
most important functions of the Union Leg-
islature, namely, legislative oversight of ex-
ecutive functioning. The Constitution, by
making this provision, has empowered the
legislature, the House of People, to hold the
executive accountable for its acts of omis-
sion and commission, to monitor the actions
of the executive with a view to ensuring that
they are being carried out effectively and
according to the legislative intent, in the
main to ensure economic empowerment of
the common people, and also to establish
norms for participative democracy.
Rules of procedure
There are provisions in the rules of proce-
dure and conditions of business in the Lok
Sabha that empower members to ask a Min-
ister questions onall aspects of the function-
ing of the Ministry under him; give notice of
an adjournment motion on a matter of ur-
gent public importance of recent occurrence
involving responsibility of the Government
of India; or give notice of (a) resolutions (b)
motions (c) short-duration discussions and
(d) calling attention to discuss matters per-
taining to executive functioning.
Besides, there are other parliamentary de-
vices under which rules matters may be
brought to the notice of the government by
members demanding action. Then there are
parliamentary committees which examine
bills referred to themand scrutinise the de-
mand for grants of all
All this would appear to paint a rosy pic-
ture that the principle of executive respon-
sibility towards Parliament, enshrined inthe
Constitution, is a reality. But, unfortunately,
the actuality is far fromreality.
The fair play of the functioning of Parlia-
ment can be ensured only if the government
willingly subjects itself to legislative scruti-
ny. Also, members must be proactively vigi-
lant and must utilise all opportunities to
bring the government to book whenever and
wherever it is found to be wanting. But un-
fortunately, neither the government nor the
members discharge their duties in the man-
ner they are called upon to do.
Most lamentably, the parliamentary sys-
temin the country is on the decline not only
at the Centre but also in the States. Parlia-
ment is bypassed. Parliamentary scrutiny is
avoided. The duration of the sessions is on
the decline. Interruptions are on the rise.
Answers to questions are unsatisfactory and
incomplete. It is easier to extract full and fair
information through the Right to Informa-
tion Act than by raising questions in Parlia-
ment. Even a short-duration discussion or
calling attention motion does not yield
On important executive decisions, Parlia-
ments sanction is not needed. The UPA gov-
ernment implemented the Aadhaar card but
it does not enjoy any legislative sanction. A
few years ago, a unanimous resolution was
passed in the Lok Sabha calling upon the
government to take effective measures to
contain price rise. It did not implement the
resolution. The members also could not haul
upthe executive for the failure. While Parlia-
ment is ignored by the government, mem-
bers are not vigilant enough to enforce their
Parliamentary oversight of the budgetary
process has immensely weakened, leading to
the executive wielding disproportionate
power and acquiring clout over the process.
There is no pre-budget scrutiny as inthe U.S.
Congress. Supplementary demands for
grants are not referred to the Standing Com-
mittees. Nor are their recommendations
binding on the government they are mere-
ly an academic exercise. The demand for
grants by most of the Ministries is guillo-
tined without any discussion. The time allot-
ted for a discussion on the Finance Bill and
demands for grants is not adequate. Even
after the budget is passed, the government is
authorised to withdraw money from the
Consolidated Fund of India, the allocation is
changed, reduced, even withheld. In the cur-
rent year, the government pruned the bud-
get expenditure by at least Rs. 50,000 crore
inthe name of scal discipline, inviolationof
parliamentary mandate.
The jugglery of statistics in parliamentary
papers is bewildering. More is covered up
than what is on paper. While presenting a
budget, the government gives a gure known
as budgetary estimate for all departments. In
the middle of the year, it is changed to re-
vised estimates. It may be less or more than
the budgetary estimate. Only at the close of
the nancial year, would we come to know
what the actual expenditure is but there is
hardly any scrutiny of the actual spending.
There is wide variation among the three g-
ures and they are manipulated by the exec-
utive to suit its political convenience, in
disregard for the interests of the margin-
alised sections.
No discussion
The political standard of the members has
declined miserably; apathy towards parlia-
mentary discussion is palpable. While mem-
bers of the British Parliament forced the
government to change its policy on Syria, in
India there is no such parliamentary device
to force our government to change its pol-
icies. Strategic policies are not discussed.
The resource policy of the country, the min-
eral policy, the power policy, nothing is ever
discussed. It is the executive that decides.
There are members who have not spoken
even once in the House. Seventy six out of
543 members of the Lok Sabha have court
cases pending against them. About 58 per
cent of the Lok Sabha members are crorepa-
tis. A large number of persons who have
entered Parliament have not been political
activists at all. We see more and more of the
propertied class, businessmen and former
bureaucrats entering Parliament. Parlia-
mentarianismis looked upon more as a pro-
fession, unrelated to the discharge of a
patriotic duty.
If the Indian parliamentary system is
weakened, the political system will be in
jeopardy. In South Asia, only the Indian de-
mocracy is a little deep-rooted. But if the
decline of the parliamentary systemcontin-
ues unabated, if the executive becomes reck-
less, if public opinion is ignored, if fruitful
democracy and participatory system are
lamentably overpowered, the country will be
in peril. Let the country take note of the
impending disaster and look for the remedy.
(The writer is Member of Parliament.)
Trying times for parliamentary system
Gurudas Das Gupta
The legislature is bypassed; interruptions
are on the rise; answers to questions are
unsatisfactory; and the political standards
of members have deteriorated.
The disqualication of RJD leader
Lalu Prasad and the Janata Dal
(United)s Jagadish Sharma from
the Lok Sabha in view of their
conviction in the Chaibasa
Treasury case is welcome. We can
now hope that the Supreme Court
ruling that Section 8 (4) of the
Representation of the People Act
1951 (whichallowed convicted MPs
and MLAs to continue in their
posts, provided they appealed
against their conviction in higher
courts within three months of the
date of judgment) is ultra vires
will decriminalise and purge
politics of its excesses.
Vishnu Gunneri,
The disqualication of Mr. Prasad
and Mr. Sharma has proved that
none is above the law. The
Supreme Courts judgment
declaring Section 8 (4) of the RPA
ultra vires was a landmark. The
court has reinforced its position as
the supreme guardian of law.
M.Y. Shariff,
That three MPs, including the
Rajya Sabhas Rashid Masood, have
been disqualied after their
conviction in corruption cases
shows Indian democracys
potential for self-correction,
although the welcome change
came through judicial
intervention. It remains to be seen
whether the disqualication will
force a change in the behaviour of
political parties when they select
candidates for the next general
As the law stands today, those
facing serious criminal charges are
not barred from contesting
elections. Nor are many voters
bothered about the criminal
background of candidates. Unless
people send out a strong message
that they prefer lawmakers with a
clean track record, political parties
will continue to eld tainted
candidates who have a high
winnability quotient on account of
considerations like caste, religion,
money and muscle power.
V.N. Mukundarajan
The disqualication of the
convicted MPs is a much needed
step towards cleansing our politics.
However, it may turninto a tool for
witch-hunting in the hands of the
Purva Garg,
New Delhi
Onion prices
Tears are rolling down peoples
cheeks not because they are
peeling onions but because they
are shocked at the sky-rocketing
prices of the bulb. Flawed policies
and faltering farmpractices cause a
shortage in the market every
alternate year. Hoarding adds to
peoples woes. Knee-jerk reactions
like importing or banning exports
will not address the problem
holistically. Tomatoes and
potatoes, too, share the same fate
every alternate year. In Tamil,
insignicant things are referred to
as onions. Tamilians may have to
change the usage and respect
onions as gold.
Sivamani Vasudevan,
The supply of onions from the
suburbs has declined, which is one
of the reasons the prices have shot
up. Hoarding of vegetables and the
recent hike in petrol and diesel
prices are also the cause for price
hike. Moreover, vegetables rot
during monsoon. The common
man is wondering how to deal with
the sudden rise in the prices of
onion. The Congress-led UPA
government has proved ineffective
on all fronts as it is busy addressing
scams involving its Ministers.
Jayanthy S. Maniam,
I am unable to understand the
media fuss over onion prices.
Onion is not an essential
commodity like rice and wheat.
Some communities do not eat
onions at all. If people stop buying
onions for a while, hoarders will
release the commodity. Everything
needs peoples cooperation. The
media should stop sensationalising
the issue.
Of dreams & gold
Many readers have commented
that the ASIs excavationfor gold in
Unnao, Uttar Pradesh following
a priests claim that Raja Ram
Baksh Singh appeared in his dream
and told him that 1000 tonnes of
gold lie beneath his fort has kept
the locals and other elements away
from the area. Law and order, and
protection of private and heritage
properties are police functions, not
the ASIs.
If there was an apprehension
that unscrupulous elements would
dig the site, police protection could
have been provided. Experts could
have then conducted a scientic
study and taken the decision to dig.
That way, the ASI could have
avoided the charge that it has
encouraged superstition.
Th. Luwangamba,
New Delhi
The discovery of the organic
structure of Benzene (C6H6) and
the invention of the sewing needle
were based on clues obtained in
dreams; the creation of Dr Jekyll
and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis
Stevenson was based on a dream;
the famous Devils Note was
composed on the basis of a dream;
Abraham Lincoln is supposed to
have foreseenhis deathina strange
dream; in the Old Testament, the
Pharaoh of Egypt was forewarned
of a drought in a dream that was
divinely interpreted by Joseph. All
dreams may not come true. But a
few dreams do provide hints of
events that follow.
R. Sridhar,
Death penalty
The death penalty, though archaic,
is relevant today (A blot on
progressive societies, Oct. 23). It
is reserved for heinous and
diabolical crimes. Advocating the
human rights and dignity of the
perpetrators of heinous crimes
somehow implies that their rights
are more important than the rights
of the victim and the collective
conscience of society. The death
penalty is the ultimate and the
most potent deterrent available to
any criminal justice system. The
retention of this deterrence is
necessary, under astute
Debashish Lahiri,
New Delhi
I started my legal career by moving
bail in a murder case. When my
office clerk was shot dead, I was
appointed the special prosecutor in
the case. Much later, after I left to
join lms, my one-time junior was
killed on the road leading to
Paramakudi courts.
I practised law in Mudukulatur
where ve people were shot dead
by police in 1957. I had appeared
for three of them in murder cases
in committal proceedings. I was
just 27 but I felt that at least three
of the ve who were gunned down
were a threat to life and safety. It
takes time to learn ethical and
moral realities meant for the
betterment of society.
We avoid committing crimes due
to the fear of punishment. At least
ve per cent of our populationdoes
not commit murder due to the fear
of death. It would be wise to leave
the law as it is to keep the number
of murders under control.
S. Charuhasan,
When we argue for the abolition of
capital punishment in the name of
progressiveness, we should
understand that in the same
progressive society, women are
gang raped and terror attacks
killing innocent people take place.
Society has a right to punish a
person who disturbs the social
order brutally. An eye for an eye
may turnthe whole world blind but
in the name of dignity of life, we
should not become blind to the
plight of victims who die for no
fault of theirs.
Deba Prasad Bhanja,
Monica Vincent has analysed the
death penalty in great depth. The
article is good to read from the
point of view of offenders
sentenced to death. But the article
has not seen matters from the
point of view of victims and their
The death penalty infuses fear
and brings down the crime rate.
The argument that the right to life
and dignity are the most important
of all human rights holds good for
victims too.
Ramabhadran Narayanan,
The elimination of capital
punishment fromthe statute books
of European countries cannot be a
sound reason for abolishing it in
Asian countries. At a time when
there is a growing trend in hired
killings, honour killings, crime
against women and sexual abuse of
children, we should retain the
death penalty.
It is worth remembering the
innocent victims of crime while
propagating the human rights of
condemned offenders.
S. Pon Senthil Kumaran,
The article was an excellent
overview of the state of death
penalty worldwide. It ends with a
brief quote by Justice Arthur
The judgment from which it is
taken is the State v. Makwanyane
and Another (June 1995) case, one
of the greatest on death penalty
jurisprudence worldwide. Another
great judge whose
pronouncements in that case are
worth reading is the late Justice
Ismael Mahomed.
N. Jayaram,
Letters emailed to must carry the full
postal address and the full name or the name with initials.
alks between Iran and the G6 countries the
United States, Russia, China, Germany,
France, and Britain in Geneva on October
15 and 16 concluded, as expected, with no
clear breakthrough but with another Geneva meeting
scheduled for November 7 and 8. The delegations,
respectively led by European Union Foreign Affairs
chief Catherine Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister
Javad Zarif, issued a joint statement that an Iranian
plan for negotiation was followed by in-depth bilater-
al and joint consultations. The reasons for this cautious
optimism are largely but not solely instrumental.
Western sanctions have hit Iran hard, and many other
countries have imposed their own under threat of U.S.
sanctions against themselves. On the western side,
President Barack Obama needs a foreign policy suc-
cess, for which Iran offers better prospects than do
Israel-Palestine, Syria, or Egypt. Both Iran and the G6
are offering various inducements, with Iran reportedly
willing to accept stronger inspection powers for the
International Atomic Energy Authority, to suspend
production of 20 per cent enriched uranium, and to
negotiate on the number of centrifuges it uses for
enrichment. The U.S. can offer to unblock tens of
billions of dollars Iran has in accounts around the
world; in September the European Court of Justice
ruled several EU-based freezes illegal, and the West
could lift sanctions on medical supplies, aircraft spare
parts, and travel by Iranian citizens.
The West, however, faces greater obstacles than Iran
does. President Hassan Rouhani is facing some domes-
tic opposition to better relations with the West but
seems to have the support of the countrys spiritual
leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, while the Obama ad-
ministration has to surmount U.S. Congress hostility to
Iran; Zionist inuence on the legislature is so strong
that Mr. Obama could lose control over this area of
foreign policy. Worse still, many Gulf states and Israel
will do all they can to wreck a Tehran-G6 deal. Wiki-
leaked cables quote Arab leaders as saying Irans nucle-
ar programme must be stopped by all means available
and describing Iranian leaders in highly abusive terms.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for his
part, calls Mr. Rouhani a wolf in sheeps clothing and
demands paralysing sanctions, which he thinks will
fail without a serious U.S. threat of attack. According to
an Israeli official, Gulf states even send Washington
messages through Israel. Mr. Obama, however, has at
least partly moved from armed intervention towards
diplomacy, and Iran has openly rejected nuclear weap-
ons since 2005. Whatever the pressures on them, nei-
ther the U.S. nor Iran must abandon these principles.
plus principle
he Border Defence Cooperation Agreement
signed during Prime Minister Manmohan
Singhs visit to China is without doubt a con-
structive step towards resolving the bounda-
ry dispute. The BDCA itself is not a game-changer: it
simply reinforces the basic international norm that
countries ought to settle differences through peaceful
means. Specically, the Agreement adds to the existing
layer of condence-building measures through ag
meetings, joint military patrols, and periodic high-level
interaction. The BDCA nevertheless indicates both
New Delhi and Beijing have accorded high priority to
preventing hostile incidents along the Line of Actual
Control. That Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Dr.
Singh have exchanged visits within six months of the
incident reects this fact. The Chinese intrusion and
subsequent withdrawal from the Depsang plain earlier
this year provided the impetus to BDCA negotiations,
and prompted serious introspection on the effective-
ness of the Working Mechanism on Border Affairs. By
opting for a tempered Agreement though, Dr. Singh has
chosen to play his hand cautiously in an election year.
The BJP, which facetiously claimed the government
has ceded territory to China, would do well to acknowl-
edge the spirit with which former Prime Minister Atal
Bihari Vajpayee established the Special Representative
mechanism on border talks during his 2003 Beijing
The ultimate objective of nalising an LAC accept-
able to both countries is still some distance away. With
no clear understanding of how the other perceives the
Line, and China preferring status quo along the
boundary, the onus will be on India to seize the initia-
tive. Preparing the framework for a lasting settlement
is important: that said, India-China ties cannot be
hostage to the boundary dispute. It is unfortunate
but entirely predictable that plans to usher in a
liberal visa regime were shelved owing to the contro-
versy over China handing out stapled visas to two
athletes from Arunachal Pradesh. The stapled visa is-
sue has assumed dangerous proportions. It cannot be
allowed to eclipse the need for greater cooperation,
particularly in the elds of trade and tourism. While
making the case for robust engagement at the Strategic
Economic Dialogue scheduled for next month, India
must also ensure our exporters gain a stronger foothold
in the Chinese market. Whether it is on the strategic or
the commercial side, both governments can only reap
the benets of cooperation through constant dialogue.
In snuffing out old theories of alliance and contain-
ment, Dr. Singh has rightly emphasised a workman-
like approach to dealing with this important
the border
n Tuesday night, suicide bombers
and gunmen attacked Iraqi check-
points along Highway 11, which
runs from Baghdad to Syria via
Ramadi. They bombed the checkpoint at
Rutba as well as points just west of Ramadi.
Thirty-seven people were killed in these at-
tacks, a majority of them security officers.
Highway 11 is Iraqs southern route into Sy-
ria. The other road fromBaghdad to Syria is
Highway 12, which runs fromRamadi north-
wards to the towns of Anan and Rawah,
along the Euphrates River and into the Syr-
ian city of Raqqa. Last week, gunmen of the
Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS)
attacked the towns of Anan and Rawah, de-
stroying a bridge and trying to destroy the
electricity transmission towers. The Iraqi
army was able to deter the ISIS attack on
Rawah, and so held off ISISs attempt to take
the towns that would give it effective control
of Highway 12. Iraqs Deputy Prime Minister
Saleh al-Mutlaq said that last weeks attack
was a hopeless attempt by al Qaeda [ISIS] to
establish a foothold in Iraq. It seems likely
that ISIS decided to try and take Highway 11
after its attack on Highway 12 was repulsed.
Over the past month, ISIS has made re-
markable gains. Its operation, named Ex-
punging Filth, has either expelled or
absorbed the Free Syrian Army units along
the spine of northern Syria. The Syrian-
Turkish border town of Azaz has been in
ISIS hands for a month. Since April, ISIS
began to draw in all the smaller Sala fac-
tions, including Jabhat al-Nusra (not always
without rivalry) and parts of Ahrar as-Sham
(whose commander, Abu Obeida al-Bin-
nishi, ISIS killed in September). A new re-
port from the International Crisis Group
fromOctober 17 notes that ISIS is now the
most powerful group in northern and east-
ern Syria and was beneting fromcontrol of
oil elds. Analyst Aymenn Jawad al-Tami-
mi says that ISIS cannot be shaken from its
strongholds in the north and east by any
combination of FSA and its allies. Indeed,
over the past few months, the ISIS has se-
verely degraded the capacity of the Free Syr-
ian Army, having killed one of its important
battalion chiefs Kamal Hamami in July and
having drawn in many of its local level ght-
ers. The Free Syrian Army is no longer a
serious threat to the Syrian government.
Deplorable situation
The main secular voice of this uprising in
Syria, Yassin al Haj Saleh, who was under-
ground in Syria during the civil war, ed the
country on October 12. In an open letter,
Farewell to Syria, for a while, Mr. Saleh
wrote that the city of his birth, Raqqa, had
been taken over by the spectres of horror of
our childhood, the ghouls. The situation in
Raqqa, Mr. Saleh writes, is deplorable. It was
hard to watch strangers oppress it and rule
the fates of its people, conscating public
property, destroying a statue of Haroun al-
Rashid or desecrating a church, taking peo-
ple into custody where they disappeared in
their prisons. Mr. Salehs departure indi-
cates that things are worse there than they
were this summer when researcher Yasser
Munif travelled in the north and found that
in Raqqa people are more and more critical
of the ISIS and al Nusra. It appears that the
space for that internal criticism of ISIS is
now narrower. Billboards promoting the
views of ISIS are legion across Raqqa, with
intimations that the rivalry between the var-
ious Islamist factions is at mute. As el-Tami-
mi notes, in public rallies ags of both ISIS
and Jabhat al-Nusra y side by side.
In July 2013, ISIS led a mass jailbreak
from Iraqs Abu Ghraib to free 500 prison-
ers. The group used an array of car bombs,
suicide bombers and gunmen in that oper-
ation. ISIS directed these ghters toward the
Iraqi-Syria border, where they hope to take
control of the crossing points as part of their
attempt to form a corridor that runs from
Ramadi to Tripoli in northern Lebanon (a
clash in the city killed a 13-year-old boy on
October 23). The attacks of the night of Oc-
tober 22 are part of this scenario.
ISIS and its formof radicalismare a prod-
uct of Saudi Arabian and Qatari nancing of
the rebellion. Money from the Gulf Arabs
alongside foreign ghters and a motivated
group of Syrian ghters have given ISIS the
advantage. At the same time, as Saudi and
Qatari money has allowed its proxies to have
the upper hand against other rebels on the
battleeld, Saudi and Qatari inuence has
prevented unity and an agenda to develop
among the political leadership of the rebel-
lion. Over three years, the National Council
for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition
Forces (the SNC) has been unable to draft a
clear programme for Syria. Its absence is not
a sign of lack of imagination, but of the sub-
ordination of the SNC to the petty ghts
among its Gulf Arab benefactors. The SNC
stumbled when it essentially allowed a pal-
ace coup to remove Moaz al-Khatib fromhis
post. After much inghting, the SNC nally
appointed Ahmad Saleh Touma as its prime
minister. Ghassan Hitto resigned because he
was seen to be too close to the tarnished star
of Qatar. The current president is Ahmad
Jarba, closely linked to the Saudi govern-
ment. By late September, the Islamists re-
jected the SNC. The leader of the Tawhid
Brigade from Aleppo, Abdul Qader Saleh,
intimated on Twitter that they would con-
sider forming an Islamic alliance (al-tahaluf
al-islami). Scholar Aron Lund suggests that
the Islamists have not gone beyond this sug-
gestion. The marks of Gulf Arab inghting
are all over the Coalition, much to its
Saudi agenda
Despite the gains in northern Syria by
ISIS, Saudi Arabias agenda for the country is
blocked. In the absence of foreign interven-
tion, ISIS is not going to be able to overthrow
the government in Damascus which is one
reason it has moved to seize Syrian border
posts (with Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq). A
dangerous confrontation is likely in the
Western Ghouta region near Damascus, but
this is not going tolead toany major strategic
advance for anyone. It will be a bloodbath
with no substantial gain, as so much of this
war has become. Unable to move to the cen-
tre, ISIS claims the margins of Syria. Saudi
Arabia expected the U.S. to bomb Syria in
September, weaken the Assad regime and
allow its proxies to seize power (Saudi Ara-
bia is also disappointed that the U.S. has
accepted the Iranian overtures for talks).
With no clear road to Damascus, ISIS has
turned to nihilistic violence in the regions it
controls not quite the outcome hoped for
by Saudi Arabia. That is the reason Saudi
Arabias liaison to the Syrian rebels, Prince
Bandar bin Sultan, made his remarks about
reassessing the U.S.-Saudi relationship, and
this is why Saudi Arabia refused to take the
U.N. Security Council seat it had just won.
Saudi Arabia backed the Talibaninthe 1990s
thinking the groupwould moderate its ideol-
ogy over time. Nothing like that happened. It
seems that the Kingdom is willing to make
the same wager in Syria, despite the adverse
historical record.
Violence such as what broke out on Octo-
ber 22 night has become commonplace in
Iraq, with several thousand killed this year
(almost 500 this month alone). The Syrian
war, blocked into a tragic stalemate, has
moved into Iraq, a country already battered
by war and devastation in its recent history.
Here the faces that hardenbehind a mask of
gloom as Syrian poet Adonis put it, watch
civilisations crumble for the cheap ambi-
tions of geo-politics. The shadow of al-Qaeda
settles into Iraq and Syria, hardening the
faces of ordinary Syrians and Iraqis further.
The entry of a full-blown ISIS assault in
Lebanon cannot be far, as the ghting in
Tripoli and on the border towns suggests.
Talk of ceaseres and negotiations in Gene-
va is distant from the desolation that has
come to envelop the roads that link Beirut to
Baghdad, a journey that could have been
made in some peace a century ago but is now
tormented with guns and frustration.
(Vijay Prashad is the Edward Said Chair at
the AmericanUniversity of Beirut, Lebanon)
Al-Qaedas corridor through Syria
Vijay Prashad
It is no longer the Free Syrian Army but
the radical Islamic State of Iraq and
al-Shams that is a serious threat to the
Assad government
I was amused on reading Rahul
Gandhis statement in Rajasthan
that the Congress unites and the
BJPdivides people (October 24), in
view of what the Congress has done
in Andhra Pradesh. Everybody
knows that it is political parties
that divide people on the basis of
caste, community, religion, region,
urban-rural and so on. All
agitations and campaigns are
initiated, nurtured, sponsored and
sustained by politicians and
political parties.
K. Venkata Rao,
Rahul Gandhis emotional pitch
referring to his grandmothers and
fathers assassinations and saying
even he may be targeted was
obviously meant to gain sympathy.
Such tactics may boomerang on
him. It is evident that Rahul lacks
leadership qualities. He is unable
to come up with a political agenda
to shape Indias future. All he does
is to chant the same old mantra
of accusing the BJP of dividing the
country on communal lines.
Rahuls desperate attempt to sway
people with his emotional rhetoric
falls at.
H.R. Bapu Satyanarayana,
Rahul appears to be confused. That
a Prime Minister aspirant should
make an emotional speech,
referring to his relatives, during
electioneering, instead of talking
about the problems and issues
facing the country, is surprising.
His partys declining popularity
seems to have made himdesperate.
P. Raghunath,
Rahul might have mentioned his
grandmothers killing to create a
sympathy wave. Instead of trying
to garner support by attacking the
BJP, it may be more useful if he
tells us what he intends doing
about corruption and scams that
have tarnished the image of his
E. Rajakumar
Rahuls claim that he too may be
killed one day like his father and
grandmother was a poor strategy.
He had nothing to say on the rising
prices, ination, poor growth rate
and a host of problems the aam
aadmi is facing, or the strategy to
tackle them. The Congress vice-
president is yet to mature as a
leader. It is time his advisers woke
S.V. Venkatakrishnan,
Onion satyagraha
Onionis not a long-lasting product.
It cannot be hoarded for months.
If, for a few weeks, we can refrain
frombuying onions, the prices will
automatically fall. Let us sacrice
onions for a while. By buying them
at such high rates, we only boost
the prots of hoarders.
Annapurna M. Sanjeev,
The soaring price of onion is
causing great hardship to the poor.
There are strong reasons tosuspect
that the increase is not entirely
because of too much rain. A
conspiracy between corrupt
politicians and unscrupulous
traders seems to be a plausible
cause. Onion is necessary but not
essential. The Jaincuisine does not
include onions and garlic, like the
shojin-ryori cuisine of Japan. We
can start an onion satyagraha. Let
us resolve not to buy it for a few
days. The price will come down
P. Bhattacharyya,
The time has come for people to
protest against the abnormal
prices of onions. I request the
public to boycott its purchase for
one or two months. Unless we
adopt such tactics, we will achieve
nothing. Politicians get
commissions on exports and
imports. Only you and I suffer.
Y.P. Reddy,
The consumption of onions may
vary in different parts of the
country but it is essential for
cooking. Merchants always blame
too much rain or no rain for
scarcity but the soaring prices are
the result of hoarding.
Governments do virtually nothing
against hoarders for obvious
C. George Varghese,
A reader has claimed that onion is
not an essential commodity (Oct.
24). He has perhaps not travelled
out of Tamil Nadu. Onion is as
important as wheat and rice in
north India. In 1998, onion prices
cost the BJP an election.
V.P. Rejeesh,
Trying times indeed
The issues raised by Gurudas Das
Gupta in the article Trying times
for parliamentary system (Oct.
24) are familiar to all those who
follow the Lok Sabha proceedings
on television.
Over the last two decades, the
Opposition has followed an
agitational approach more for the
grandstanding effect rather than
for taking the government to task
by informed criticism. As a result,
not only has Parliaments true
purpose not been achieved but
people at large have started losing
respect for the institution. Public
opinion must be mobilised to make
elected representatives behave
Udaya Bose,
Mr. Das Gupta has rightly summed
up his excellent article with a
categorical statement that
parliamentarianismis looked upon
more as a profession, unrelated to
the discharge of a patriotic duty.
Such a thought-provoking write-
up from a knowledgeable
parliamentarian was long overdue.
It is for voters to send deserving,
non-corrupt candidates to
Parliament and State legislatures.
S. Vaithianathan,
The article is a wake-up call for
those who want Parliament to
function better. The executive has
rendered Parliament
dysfunctional. The quality of
parliamentarians which existed in
the years immediately after
independence is absent today. The
judiciary had to intervene to
uphold the sanctity of the great
P. Rajamony Iyer,
The arguments could have been
bolstered with prescriptions for
strengthening Parliaments
functioning. Our MPs have
forgotten that they are primarily
accountable to people. There is no
reason the ruling party MPs should
always vote in favour of the
government or blindly defend its
T.K.S. Thathachari,
The article is a must-read for young
parliamentarians. The veteran
MPs prognosis was excellent. But
remedies are nowhere to be seen
on the horizon. The Union Cabinet
is collectively responsible not to
Parliament but the Nehru-Gandhi
family. The biggest threat to
democracy and participatory
system is the spread of dynastic
politics across the country.
Manohar Alembath,
All the points raised by Mr. Das
Gupta are well known to civil
society too, thanks to the telecast
of parliamentary procedures.
Empty seats during the afternoon,
the dull expression on the faces of
those present, absence of quality
debates on matters of national
importance, the total silence of
many new and young members, the
Oppositions aggressive behaviour
during some sessions, the
Speakers helplessness to control
unruly members and endless
adjournments with least care for
the time and money lost all these
are there for everyone to see.
Rameeza A. Rasheed,
Death penalty
It is not the severity of punishment
but its inevitability that acts as a
deterrent to any crime. We
regularly read about criminals who
have three or four murder cases
pending against them. They roam
around freely committing more
crimes with impunity. This is
because they know that evenif they
are caught, they can escape
punishment by using the loopholes
in the law. This is also the reason
relatives of some victims kill the
accused when they come out on
K. Vasantha,
Much has been written about the
need to abolish the death penalty.
It is argued that there exists no
conclusive evidence of its
deterrent value and that the
punishment is an affront to human
If the criminal has been
identied beyond doubt and shows
little remorse, the benet of
withholding the ultimate
punishment is debatable. What
should be ensured is there is no
miscarriage of justice.
M. Prema,
Letters emailed to must carry the full
postal address and the full name or the name with initials. T
he International Agency for Research on Can-
cer, a specialised arm of the World Health
Organisation, has sounded an alert for pol-
icymakers with its conclusion that there is
sufficient evidence now on outdoor air pollution as a
cause of lung cancer. A separate evaluation of partic-
ulate matter in the air has led to its classication also as
a Group 1 pollutant, indicating rm evidence of can-
cer-causing properties. Given that rapidly industri-
alising countries including India have signicant levels
of air pollution, the conclusions of the IARC call for
close study and an effective response. The burden of
cancers, including lung cancer, in the country is stag-
gering. In April, the Union Health and Family Welfare
Ministry said the number of people living with cancer
in India stood at 28,20,179 during 2012, and 4,89,875
people died of the disease. Any reduction in the in-
cidence of cancer will therefore have substantial bene-
ts, avoiding staggering costs both to the citizen and
the economy. Thus far, air pollution has been known to
have a denite impact on respiratory and heart disease,
but its link to cancer has now been evaluated through
research across continents.
Mitigation of air pollution from key sources such as
transport, coal-based power generation, industrial
emissions, and cooking using biomass needs sustained
policy action. As scientic publications from IARC
point out, developing countries are encountering in-
creasing vehicular traffic, which is concentrated in
urban areas. This has led to higher exposure to large
particulates and sulphur dioxide for millions. It would
help clean up the air if taxation policies make it easier
to maintain vehicles better, and strict enforcement of
pollution control ensures that emissions are well under
check. A replacement policy for older vehicles that
includes incentives will go a long way in curbing pollu-
tion, as will the expansion of public transport and
options such as cycling. It is also worth pointing out
that the IARC recently referred to the paucity of data
on smaller particulates in the air, which is hampering
the study of their impact on health. Considering its
importance, the programme to assess the threat from
particulates in select cities should be intensied and
expanded to all towns with a million-plus population.
On the question of reducing the harm caused by open
burning of biomass for cooking, the Centre has a plan to
distribute improved cookstoves during the Twelfth
Plan. The latest evidence on the pollution-cancer link
should encourage the government to widely license the
production of these stoves, and make them affordable
enough for all families in need.
Cutting pollution
and cancer
n calling for a complete boycott of the Com-
monwealth Heads of Government Meeting in
Colombo next month, the Tamil Nadu govern-
ment has lost a great opportunity to help cali-
brate Indias Sri Lanka policy. For starters, it seems
unlikely that New Delhi will stay away from CHOGM:
with President Mahinda Rajapaksa nally coming
through on his promise to hold the Northern Provincial
Council elections, it would be unwise for India to dis-
engage with his government at this critical juncture.
The NPC election was a legitimate exercise that saw the
Tamil National Alliance emerge victorious. India
should now insist on Colombo devolving power to the
Council in line with the 13th Amendment. Given the
Rajapaksa regimes reluctance to hand over policing
and land acquisition powers to the NPC, the devolution
process is going to be difficult and protracted. Rather
than boycotting CHOGM and thus giving Colombo a
big stick to beat down the legitimate aspirations of Sri
Lankan Tamils India must continue to channel its
diplomatic energies towards a constitutional settle-
ment. The Tamil Nadu government and Legislative
Assembly should have encouraged the Centre to facil-
itate such an outcome.
With each passing episode that requires it to take a
tough decision on Sri Lanka be it attending CHOGM
or voting against the regime at the U.N. Human Rights
Council New Delhi must wonder why it has been
drawn to a corner. The United Progressive Alliance has
itself to blame after it sheltered the Rajapaksa govern-
ment through the nal stages of its war against the
LTTE and immediately thereafter, without demanding
any responsibility for post-war reconstruction in re-
turn. With the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam as a key
coalition ally then, the Congress could well have fore-
seen the perils of dancing dangerously close to Col-
ombo. Now the government nds itself battered by
populism in Tamil Nadu ahead of the general election,
with little wiggle room for constructive diplomacy.
CHOGM will not be the last balancing act that the UPA
will have to pull before heading to the polls in March
next year, the UNHRC will likely discuss and vote on
Sri Lankas dismal human rights record, drawing atten-
tion to Indias policies again. For now, the Centre has
no option but to bite the bullet. Whether political
parties in India and Sri Lanka want it to stay away from
the Commonwealth summit, New Delhi should be
aware that its continued engagement with Colombo is
indispensable to a sustainable and fair settlement of
the Tamil question.
Engaging for a
fair settlement
he emerging signicance of devel-
oping countries, which gathered
momentum after 1980, is begin-
ning to shift the balance of power
in the world economy. It could lead to a
profound transformation in the next 25
years. This unfolding reality must be situat-
ed in the historical perspective of de-indus-
trialisation and industrialisation in the
developing world over the past two
In the mid-18th century, similarities be-
tween Europe and Asia were far more signif-
icant than the differences. Indeed,
demography, technology and institutions
were broadly comparable. And, in 1750, Asia,
Africa and Latin America accounted for al-
most three-fourths of manufacturing pro-
duction in the world economy. Much of it
was located in Asia with a concentration in
China and India.
Profound inuence
The Industrial Revolution in Britain dur-
ing the late 18th century, which spread to
Europe over the next 50 years, exercised a
profound inuence on the shape of things to
come. Yet, in 1820, less than 200 years ago,
Asia, Africa and Latin America still account-
ed for almost two-thirds of the worlds man-
ufacturing production. China and India were
the manufacturing hubs that contributed 50
per cent of world industrial production even
in 1820.
The revolutionary changes inthe methods
of manufacturing unleashed by the Industri-
al Revolution transformed economic life, as
industrialisation spread to Europe yielding
sharp increases in productivity, output and
incomes. It also led to the demise of tradi-
tional industries in Asia, particularly in Chi-
na and India, reducing their skill levels and
technological capabilities over time.
Between 1830 and 1913, the share of Asia,
Africa and Latin America in world manu-
facturing production, attributable mostly to
Asia, inparticular China and India, collapsed
from 60 per cent to 7.5 per cent, while the
share of Europe, North America and Japan
rose from40per cent to 92.5 per cent, to stay
at these levels until 1950. The industrial-
isation of Western Europe and the de-indus-
trialisation of Asia during the 19th century
were two sides of the same coin.
It led to the Great Specialization, which
meant Western Europe, followed by the
United States, produced manufactured
goods while Asia, Africa and Latin America
produced primary commodities. This cre-
ated and embedded a division of labour be-
tween countries that was unequal in its
consequences for development. The process
was reinforced by the politics of imperialism
that imposed free trade, and the economics
of the transport revolution which disman-
tled the natural protectionprovided by geog-
raphy implicit in distance and time, to
hasten the process of de-industrialisation in
Asia with a devastating impact on China and
For developing countries of the world
economy, 1950 was perhaps an important
turning point. It was the beginning of the
post-colonial era as newly independent
countries, to begin with in Asia and some-
what later in Africa, sought to catch up in
terms of industrialisation and development.
In retrospect, it is clear that there was a
signicant catch-up in industrialisation for
the developing world as a whole, beginning
around 1950 that gathered momentum in
the early-1970s. Structural changes in the
composition of output and employment,
which led to a decline in the share of agricul-
ture with an increase in the shares of indus-
try and services, were an important factor
underlying this process.
There was a dramatic transformation in
just four decades from 1970 to 2010. The
share of developing countries in world man-
ufacturing value-added jumped from 13 per
cent to 41 per cent in current prices. In 2010,
it was close to the level that existed around
1850. Similarly, their share in world exports
of manufactures rose from7 per cent in 1970
to 40 per cent in 2010. Industrialisation also
led to pronounced changes in the composi-
tion of their trade as the share of primary
commodities and resource-based products
fell while the share of manufactures (partic-
ularly medium-technology and high-tech-
nology goods) rose in both exports and
The observed outcome in terms of indus-
trial production was attributable, in impor-
tant part, to development strategies and
economic policies in the post-colonial era
that created the initial conditions and laid
the essential foundation in countries which
were latecomers to industrialisation. The
import substitution-led strategies of indus-
trialisation, much maligned by orthodoxy
that was concerned with comparative statics
rather than economic dynamics, performed
a critical role in this process of catch-up.
Of course, a complete explanation would
be far more complex as it would need to
recognise specicities and nuances. All the
same, it is clear that the role of the state in
evolving policies, developing institutions
and making strategic interventions, whether
as a catalyst or leader, was also central to the
process. Indeed, even among the small East
Asiancountries success stories that ortho-
doxy portrayed as role models of markets
and openness development was more
about the visible hand of the state rather
thanthe invisible hand of the market, partic-
ularly in South Korea and Taiwan but per-
haps even in Singapore.
Thus, industrialisation was not so much
about getting-prices-right as it was about
getting-state-intervention-right. Indeed, it
is plausible to suggest that, for a time it
might even have been about getting-prices-
wrong. It may be argued that state interven-
tion in the form of industrial policy should
recognise and exploit potential comparative
advantage, but it is just as plausible to argue
that instead of climbing the ladder step by
step it could be rewarding to jump some
steps in deance of what comparative ad-
vantage might be at the time. In either case,
state intervention is critical.
Apart from an extensive role for govern-
ments, the use of borrowed technologies, an
intense process of learning, the creation of
managerial capabilities in individuals and
technological capabilities in rms, and the
nurturing of entrepreneurs and rms in dif-
ferent types of enterprises were important
factors underlying the catch-up in industri-
alisation. The creation of initial conditions
was followed by a period of learning to in-
dustrialise so that outcomes in industrial-
isation surfaced with a time lag. This
accounts for the acceleration in growth of
manufacturing output that became visible in
the early 1970s.
Clearly, it was not the magic of markets
that produced the sudden spurt in industri-
alisation. It came fromthe foundations that
were laid in the preceding quarter century.
In this context, it is important to note that
much the same can be said about the now
industrialised countries, where industrial
protection and state intervention were just
as important at earlier stages of their devel-
opment when they were latecomers to
However, this industrialisation was most
uneven between regions. Asia led the proc-
ess in terms of structural change, share in
industrial production, rising manufactured
exports and changing patterns of trade,
while Latin America witnessed relatively lit-
tle change and Africa made almost no
The catch-up in industrialisation was un-
even not only among regions but also be-
tween countries within regions. There was a
high degree of concentration among a few:
Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Mexico in Latin
America; China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia,
South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Turkey
inAsia; and Egypt and SouthAfrica inAfrica.
These countries could be described as the
Next-14. The emerging signicance of Chi-
na in the Next-14 is particularly striking.
Of course, there is enormous diversity
within the few, reected in their size, their
engagement with the world economy, and
industrialisation. Yet, it is possible to group
them into clusters based on similarities in
terms of geography, size, economic charac-
teristics and development models. These
clusters suggest such a wide range of attri-
butes that most developing countries would
have something in common with at least one
if not a few of them. The Next-14 had even
more incommonacross clusters. Initial con-
ditions, enabling institutions and supportive
governments were the factors that put them
onthe path to industrialisation. Hence, their
experience carries valuable lessons for other
countries that follow in their footsteps as
latecomers to industrialisation.
(The author is Emeritus Professor of Eco-
nomics at Jawaharlal Nehru University and
former Vice-Chancellor of the University of
Delhi. His latest book, Catch Up: Developing
Countries in the World Economy, has just
been published by Oxford University Press,
Catch-up in industrialisation
Deepak Nayyar
It was the visible hand of the state rather
than the invisible hand of the market that
helped the developing world catch up with
the industrialised countries
Assembly resolution
The Tamil Nadu Assembly has
done the right thing by passing a
resolution calling upon the Centre
to boycott the Commonwealth
Heads of Government Meeting to
be held in Sri Lanka. The war
crimes issue has been sidelined by
Colombo. By boycotting the meet,
New Delhi will send a clear
message that it will not
compromise on the rights of Sri
Lankan Tamils.
Poovanna Kuttetira,
The resolution no doubt reects
the anguish of the people of Tamil
Nadu at the ill-treatment of Sri
Lankan Tamils. But India should
not take the decision to boycott the
CHOGM meet in Colombo. It will
rob New Delhi of an opportunity to
address the issue at an
international forum.
Arulur N. Balasubramanian,
The resolution will in no way help
the hapless Tamils of the island
nation. The Tamils of the Northern
Province have voted the Tamil
National Alliance to power, and the
responsibility to negotiate with the
Sri Lankan government rests with
the popular government.
J. Anantha Padmanabhan,
The LTTE and its slain leader V.
Prabakaranare more to blame than
Colombo for the plight of Sri
Lankan Tamils.
Instead of digging up graves and
searching for skeletons, the right
thing to do at this juncture is to
urge Sri Lanka to speed up the
process of reconciliation and do
everything possible to create
goodwill and brotherhood between
the Sinhalese and Tamils so that
they canlive inpeace and harmony.
S.P. Asokan,
Sound suggestion
Former CBI director R.K.
Raghavans suggestion to civil
servants to reduce their stand in
writing in a le, however
distasteful the opinion, is sound
and, in fact, practical (The CBI
and the bureaucrat, Oct. 25). As he
says, a considerable majority of
officers are honest and have
nothing tofear. This is the way bold
decisions can be made on crucial
issues leading to national gain. In
the coal block allocation case,
Prime Minister ManmohanSinghs
stand is eminently laudable and a
great reassurance to honest civil
N.S. Chakravarthy,
One hopes top bureaucrats will
heed Mr. Raghavans advice and
record not only their views on
policy matters but also the
instructions they receive from
their political masters frankly and
fearlessly on les. That way,
neither former bureaucrats nor
whistleblowers will be in trouble.
Some time ago, the former Union
Home Secretary, G.K. Pillai,
recalled the advice of Jawaharlal
Nehru and Sardar Patel to civil
servants to record their views
fearlessly and frankly on any issue.
Prasad Malladi,
If all IASand IPSofficers across the
country refuse to carry out illegal,
improper and biased orders, their
political bosses cannot do anything
except transferring them out. If
their successors follow the same
policy, politicians will soon be
G.M. Rama Rao,
The civil service was intended to be
an independent service which
could offer an honest and unbiased
opinion. Unfortunately, it is
neither independent nor
anonymous any more. Officers are
very much in the public eye. As for
giving unbiased views, it is more an
exception than a rule. The lot of
honest IAS officers is traumatic.
H.R. Bapu Satyanarayana,
Rahuls claim
Rahul Gandhis claim that the
Congress unites and the BJP
divides people is yet another
instance of BJP-bashing. The
attempt to rake up the all-too-
familiar secular-communal
debate can only be construed as
one last ditch effort to revive the
UPA governments sagging image
before the 2014 elections.
Recalling the sacrices of his father
and grandmother will cut little ice
with people; it is a desperate,
diversionary tactic to cover up
rampant corruption under UPA II.
It is time the Congress vice
president realised that the
common mans priorities have
always been his bread and butter
issues, not emotional ones.
B. Suresh Kumar,
Rahul must take his speeches to
greater heights and lace themwith
humour, punch, wit and a bit of
rhetoric. At the moment, he sounds
J.V. Reddy,
It appears that Rahul is yet to learn
more before he can condently
take on the Opposition. He needs
to have a glimpse of the outside
world to understand peoples
plight and suffering. His outburst
against the BJP shows he is
insecure. The trauma he
underwent after his grandmother's
assassination and his dislike of
spinach could have been reserved
for inclusion in his autobiography.
K.V. Raghuram,
Rahul has shed his boyish image
and come of age. The underrated
Nehru-Gandhi scion is fast
emerging as a pivot of secular
forces. He has come to represent a
secular, all-inclusive vision of
India. If his speeches are anything
to go by, he shows signs of rising to
the challenge mounted by the BJP
and Narendra Modi to the
countrys secular ethos. He is right
in saying that the BJP is dividing
the country on religious lines.
G. David Milton,
Wake-up call
The article Trying times for
parliamentary system (Oct. 24) is
a timely admonishment of the
people of India and its
parliamentarians. The country has
seen repeated interruptions and
washed-out sessions resulting in
bills being passed without
One hopes the article will serve
as a reminder to all to strive
towards strengthening
parliamentary democracy, earned
by our forefathers after a long-
drawn struggle.
Shekhar Chandra,
New Delhi
The sorry state of affairs prevailing
in Parliament has been clearly
exposed. Vital issues are seldom
discussed and pandemonium is
often witnessed. The blame rests
on both the government and the
MPs for their failure to discharge
their duties honestly.
The apparent inertia of the
supreme constitutional body can
be changed only if our elected
representatives do sincere soul-
searching and voice public opinion
more effectively.
B. Gurumurthy,
Manna Dey
The passing of playback singer
Manna Dey is a great loss to music
lovers, especially old-timers. His
unique voice and excellent
rendering of songs will be etched in
our memory forever.
Unfortunately, Manna Dey did not
get the place he richly deserved.
R. Madhavan,
The mark that Manna Dey left in
the world of Indian music is
indelible. His voice will live on in
the number of golden melodies
immortalised by him.
C. Krishnakumar,
Raags and taals came effortlessly to
Manna Dey. He remained an
unknown and unsung hero as far as
the younger generation was
But senior citizens remember
the legendary singer who stood out
from his contemporaries. His
songs, melancholic or otherwise,
will never fade away.
Ashok Jayaram,
Manna Deys songs inspired the
young and the old. He was a
versatile singer with command
over many languages. His death is
indeed a great loss to the music
Supti Chakravorty,
The legendary Manna Dey could
sing all kinds of songs reecting
different moods. Whether it was
philosophy (aayo kahan se
Ghansyam; nadiya chale chale re
dhara), friendship (yaari hai imaan
mera), romance (pyar hua iqrar
hua; ae meri johra jabeen),
patriotism (ae mere pyare watan),
prayer (tu pyar ka sagar hai), slice
of life (zindagi kaisi hai paheli)
Manna da excelled in everything.
Rajnish Singh,
Letters emailed to must carry the full
postal address and the full name or the name with initials.
he humble onion is in the news yet again.
Prices of the staple vegetable have been rising
in recent days across the country, especially
in Delhi where it touched Rs.100 a kg on
Wednesday. It was only two months ago, in August,
that onion prices shot past the Rs.60 a kg mark, forcing
the government to take steps to discourage exports
while simultaneously arranging to import the bulb
from Egypt and China. The government raised the
minimum export price rst to $650 a tonne and later to
$900 a tonne in September when prevailing global
prices were less than $500 a tonne, making it virtually
impossible for traders to export. That calmed prices
down a bit, but they have now rebounded and this is
attributed to lower-than-expected harvest due to an
extended monsoon that damaged crops in the main
producing region in Maharashtra. The State accounts
for 30 per cent of onion production in the country.
Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma is on
record as saying that hoarding by traders is a major
reason for the sudden spike in prices. Indeed, it is the
price of not just onion but also other staple vegetables
such as potato and tomato that has been rising in recent
days. Interestingly, the price rise has been the highest
in the national capital where elections are just round
the corner, bringing back memories of 1998 when the
BJP government in Delhi lost power on the issue of
rising onion prices.
Going by the large differential between wholesale
and retail prices the latter is at least 50 per cent more
than the former there appears to be some merit in
the hoarding argument though the original shortage
might have been set off by a genuine fall in harvest.
Reform of procurement practices and agricultural
marketing is long overdue. Given that it is a State
subject, the Centre circulated a model of amendments
to the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee Act
a decade ago, but only a few States have amended the
Act Delhi is not one of them. Among other things,
these amendments aimed at reducing the dominance of
the wholesaler in the marketing chain. The govern-
ment needs to act quickly to rein in the price spike in
the three staple vegetables, not just because its electo-
ral fortunes are at stake but also because of the negative
impact it will have on food ination. High onion prices
were a prime factor in pushing food ination to 18.4 per
cent in September, and going by current indications,
the picture may not be very different when the October
data come in. The Reserve Bank of India will be watch-
ing the trends closely. Given the ination scenario, it is
quite likely that the central bank will be forced to hike
rates again, which is not good news for borrowers and
the larger economy.
Slipping on
onion prices
he manner in which leaders of the principal
political parties have traded allegations in the
last few days over the tragedy of the Muzza-
farnagar communal clashes reects an in-
creasing trend of competitive irresponsibility. This
latest round started with the Congress vice-president,
Rahul Gandhis reckless comments that some of the
Muzaffarnagar riot victims were being cultivated by
Pakistans Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. He
quoted Indian intelligence sources; this was a grave
impropriety in itself, raising the disturbing question as
to how a person outside government could have had
privileged intelligence briengs. More damagingly, his
words have had the effect of questioning the national
loyalty of Muslims. As is well known, the minority
community has been subjected to periodic tests of its
loyalty, especially during election campaigns when
competitive communalism is on the ascendant. As the
Sachar Committee report on the status of Muslims
pointed out, the community carries the double burden
of having to prove its loyalty to this country while being
subjected to the unfair perception that it is the recip-
ient of policies of appeasement by political parties.
Presumably, Mr. Gandhi meant to draw attention
only to the unaddressed sufferings of Muslims post the
communal riots in Muzaffarnagar and highlight their
vulnerability. Yet, by his awkward and ill-thought con-
ceptualisation of this concern, he ended up offending
the sensibilities of the very community he was trying to
reach out to in the context of the upcoming elections to
ve State Assemblies. The BJPs prime ministerial can-
didate, Narendra Modis attempts to capitalise on Mr.
Gandhis egregious mistake seemed to be designed to
underscore the theme of the national security risk by
his repeated references to this theme. While seeming
to be sympathetic, Mr. Modis expressed outrage over
the remarks appeared synthetic. The credibility gap for
Mr Modis secular credentials remains a challenge that
he needs to overcome. His overture to Muslims is seen
as less about inclusiveness and more designed to break
down the resistance of secular forces in the larger
national arena. Some months ago, a participant at one
of Mr. Modis Muslim outreach programmes pointed to
the paradox of the BJPs website continuing to carry
literature suggesting that Muslims carried divided loy-
alties. The BJP has still to remove the offensive materi-
al. Trading of charges is a part of election discourse. But
surely Mr. Gandhi and Mr. Modi need to be aware of the
dangers of crossing the line on such emotive and poten-
tially explosive issues as national security and Muslim
patriotism. This country requires a constructive debate
especially during these crucial elections, on critical
issues of livelihood and development, and could do
without such debilitating arguments that take the dis-
course nowhere.
Regrettable and
he decision to divide Andhra Pra-
desh raises important questions
about federalism and the nations
future. This is the rst time inIndia
that a state is sought to be divided without
the consent of the State legislature, and
without a negotiated settlement among
stakeholders and regions, and in the face of
public opposition.
All major federal democracies have in
their Constitutions the provisionthat a state
cannot be divided or merged with another
state without its prior consent. This is the
essence of federalism.
Article 3
Indias Constitution-makers gave much
thought to the issue of formation of new
states and reorganisation of states. The
Drafting Committee and the Constituent As-
sembly were aware of the circumstances
prevailing at that time. India witnessed Par-
tition, accompanied by violence, bloodshed,
and forced mass migration. In addition,
there were several kinds of States Parts A,
B and C and there was need to reorganise
all states and integrate the 552 princely
states. If the consent of every State or Unit
was a precondition to altering the boundary,
reorganisationwould have become anexcru-
ciatingly difficult exercise. Consequently,
the nal text of Article 3 as promulgated
provided for the Presidents recommenda-
tion and ascertaining the views of the state
concerned both with respect to the proposal
to introduce the Bill and with respect to the
provisions thereof.
Our nation-builders were wise in drafting
the Constitution to suit our requirements.
More important, successive governments
have wisely applied Article 3 in dealing with
states. While prior consent of the state was
not necessary under the Constitution, in
practice every state has been formed with
prior consent, in most cases after a detailed,
impartial examination by an independent
commission. Only in the case of Punjab,
there was no legislature at the time of divid-
ing the State in 1966. But there was a broad
consensus among stakeholders and no
So far, Parliament and governments have
acted with restraint and wisdom in dealing
with boundary issues and formation of
states. They rejected the notion that any-
thing could be done to alter boundaries, pro-
vided it is not expressly prohibited by the
Constitution. While prior consent of the
state legislature is not mandatory, in prac-
tice care has beentakento obtainconsent, or
to act only on the express request of the
state. The 1956 reorganisation was based on
the fundamental principle of language; there
was broad national consensus on the issue.
Articles 3 & 4 in their present form are
enabling provisions empowering Parliament
to act in an exceptional situation when na-
tional interest warrants it, or to settle mar-
ginal boundary disputes between states
when they are recalcitrant and efforts to
reconcile differences and arrive at a settle-
ment fail. The framers of the Constitution
did not intend to give Parliament arbitrary
powers to redraw boundaries; nor did suc-
cessive Parliaments and governments act
unilaterally or arbitrarily without consent,
broad consensus or negotiated settlement.
Even after 1987, in every case of state
formation, the consent of the state legisla-
ture was obtained. The broader principle of
federalism and the willing consent of con-
stituent units and their people has been
deemed to be necessary before a state is
formed or a territory merged, unless over-
whelming national interest demands action
by Parliament. The procedure was observed
in creating Jharkhand, Uttaranchal and
Chhattisgarh in 2000.
Dr. Ambedkar said in his reply to the de-
bate in the Constituent Assembly on states
rights: The charge is that the Centre has
been given the power to override the States.
This charge must be admitted. But before
condemning the Constitution for containing
such overriding powers, certain consider-
ations must be borne in mind. The rst is
that these overriding powers do not formthe
normal feature of the Constitution. Their
use and operation are expressly conned to
emergencies only.
It is this spirit that informed the actions of
the Union government and Parliament over
the past six decades. There were blemishes
in the application of Article 356 earlier. But
over the past two decades Indian federalism
has matured a great deal. The Supreme
Court, in Bommai (1994), made Article 356
more or less a dead letter as Dr. Ambed-
kar had hoped. Though the Finance Com-
missions recommendations are not binding
on Parliament and government, those of ev-
ery Finance Commission in respect of devo-
lution of resources have been accepted and
implemented. Since the report of the Tenth
Finance Commission, there has beengreater
transparency in devolution: most of the tax
revenues of the Union are being treated as
the divisible pool, and a xed proportionof it
is shared with states as decided by the Fi-
nance Commission. States are now more in
control of their economic future.
Limited sovereignty
This does not mean states can act as they
please, or that their territorial integrity is
inviolable. There is one nation and one citi-
zenship, and the nations territorial integrity
is paramount. However, within that over-
arching framework, states exercise limited
sovereignty, and the federal spirit informs
the operation of the Constitution. The Con-
stitution did not intend to make India a
unitary country with states functioning as
municipalities, their survival dependent on
the will and whimof the Union government.
Nor did the operation of our Constitution
over the past 63 years suggest a de facto
unitary state. In fact, federalism has been
deepening in India, in keeping with global
The determined efforts of the Union gov-
ernment and its oft-repeated declarations
that Andhra Pradesh will be divided irre-
spective of the legislatures views, pose a
grave danger to federalism and unity. And-
hra Pradesh was formed with the prior con-
sent of the Andhra State Legislature, and the
Hyderabad State Legislature. When two
popular movements for the states division
were launched in the three regions in
Telangana in1969-70, and inCoastal Andhra
and Rayalaseema in 1972-73 the Union
government encouraged all regions to arrive
at a negotiated settlement. Corresponding
constitutional provisions were put in place
to safeguard the interests of all regions. An
explicit and implicit compact was made by
the Union with the people of Andhra Pra-
desh to the effect that the State would re-
main united. It is on this basis that people
migrated ona large scale to the other regions
and to the capital, Hyderabad, and built their
lives, livelihoods and the States economy. In
this backdrop, any redrawing of boundaries
would need another agreement arrived at by
the affected parties through patient negotia-
tion. The Unionhas a seminal role inhelping
reconcile conicting interests harmonious-
ly. Parliament can act only on the basis of
such an agreement, consensus and consent.
Any other approach would be ham-handed,
arbitrary and uneven, and run counter to the
principles and practice of federalismas they
have evolved under Indian conditions.
The way the President and Parliament
handle the Andhra Pradesh issue will, in a
fundamental sense, shape the future of the
Union itself. This is a dening moment not
for Andhra Pradeshalone, but for our federal
Constitution and India itself.
If such an arbitrary decision becomes a
precedent, any and every state could be di-
vided or boundaries altered without con-
sent, and without a negotiated settlement,
that will effectively convert states into mu-
nicipalities, and India into a unitary state.
Neither the Constitution-makers nor na-
tion-builders intended such an outcome.
And Indias future will be in peril if such an
effort is made to make the nation effectively
unitary at this stage.
Incritical moments like this the President
and Parliament have to act with restraint,
foresight and wisdom. The President is not
only the head of the Republic, he is also a
part of Parliament. The President is elected
by members of both Houses as well as mem-
bers of State Assemblies. In a fundamental
sense the President represents the nation
both Union and states and is the nal
defender of the Constitution and federalism
along with the Supreme Court. This is there-
fore a t case where the President should
exercise his constitutional duty independ-
ently before recommending introduction of
any Bill to divide the State of Andhra
Leaders of parliamentary parties too
should act with clarity and wisdom, and with
the knowledge that division of a state with-
out its consent and a negotiated settlement
among all stake-holders converts the nation
effectively into a unitary one. Every state
will, in future, be vulnerable to unilateral
action for short-termelectoral expediency.
The Constitution, the President, Parlia-
ment and the political parties will be put to a
severe test in this case, and the way they
respond to this challenge will shape the fu-
ture of our Republic, and the future of feder-
alismin India.
(The writer is president of the Lok Satta
Party. He is at
A challenge to Indian federalism
Jayaprakash Narayan
The efforts of the Union government to
divide Andhra Pradesh irrespective of
the State legislatures views, pose a grave
danger to federalism and unity.
This refers to the report that the
Supreme Court has awarded a
compensation of Rs. 5.96 crore,
payable by AMRI Hospitals and
three doctors, to Dr. Kunal Saha,
whose wife died following faulty
treatment in 1998. The U.S.-based
doctor has said the verdict will
raise the value of human life. On
the other hand, it will drive
hospitals across the country into
panic mode. There will be an
increase in the number of
unnecessary tests, paperwork, and
references to superspecialists even
in simple cases.
Except in clear-cut cases such as
operating on the wrong side,
leaving a swab or instrument at the
surgery site, giving obviously
contraindicated drugs, and
allowing a patient to die
unattended, it is impossible to
declare a doctor negligent. From
paper and electronic records, one
cannot prove negligence
conclusively. Since all medical
professionals experience such an
unexpected turn of events, they
hesitate to accuse others. This is
portrayed as protectionism by
What the public, media and
intellectuals do not understand is
that the humanbody is aninnitely
complex biological system. It is
difficult for even a superspecialist
with years of experience to
anticipate unexpected
Dr. S. Sundararajan,
Prescribing an overdose of
medicine can be termed poor
judgment, not negligence.
Moreover, technical opinions vary
on what constitutes an overdose.
The patient and her husband were
qualied medical doctors. It is a
pity that they did not suspect
overdose of a strong medicine and
question its administration.
J.F. Dawson,
Doctors are bound to view the
verdict with consternation. But
they should not panic and turn
overcautious to protect themselves
from litigation. It is not the
intention of patients, their family
or courts to harass doctors. Law
suits are initiated only in cases
where wilful negligence is
suspected. A doctor-patient
relationship based on mutual trust
and respect is the best guarantee
against litigation when things go
T.K.S. Thathachari,
For persons like my mother and I,
both victims of careless treatment,
the judgment comes as a whiff of
fresh air. Rampant poverty,
inadequate medical facilities and
lack of awareness result inthe poor
approaching unqualied and ill-
trained doctors. Even branded and
elite hospitals cannot be trusted as
there have been reports of medical
negligence there. For a surgeon, it
may just be a wrong incision. But it
is a lifetime of suffering and misery
for the patient.
A. Gupta,
A weakregulatory regime has led to
the rise in the unholy nexus among
doctors, hospitals and diagnostic
services. Patients are at the mercy
of a venal system with few
alternatives. Given the technical
nature of the medical profession,
acts of omission and commission
need to be veried by fellow
doctors who hardly ever support
patients. Besides, patients fear that
they will not get treatment if they
report malpractice. In such a
scenario, it is the duty of the
system to protect the patients.
Hefty compensation for proven
cases of medical negligence is a
useful way of balancing the power
equation between health service
providers and common people.
Bhagwan Thadani,
India & CHOGM
It has been more than four years
since the civil war in Sri Lanka
ended. Elections have been held to
the Northern Provincial Council
and the Tamil National Alliance
has been voted to power. This
signals the dawn of a new era in the
life of Sri Lankan Tamils.
This is not the time to talk about
rights abuses during the last phase
of the Eelam war, and cite it as a
reason to boycott the CHOGM
summit in Colombo. We have been
holding an olive branch to Pakistan
even after a number of terror
strikes on our soil and border
violations, resulting in the killing
of our soldiers. Why make an
exception and invite Colombos
displeasure and wrath at a crucial
A. Michael Dhanaraj,
All political parties of Tamil Nadu
are opposed to Indias
participation in the CHOGM
summit, as reected in the
unanimous resolution passed by
the Assembly. Sri Lanka is not an
enemy country, nor is the meeting
bilateral. By boycotting CHOGM,
India will lose an opportunity to
raise the Sri Lankan Tamils
problems, including the allegations
of rights violations during the civil
war against the LTTE, on an
international forum. Besides, India
has the responsibility to maintain
cordial relations with its
T.S. Satyavenkata
Ceasere violation
Repeated ceasere violations by
Pakistan along the Line of Control
in Jammu and Kashmir are an
open invitation to war. Indias
cautious response shows that it is a
peace-loving nation. At the same
time, it should realise that the main
cause of conict between the two
countries is Kashmir. It should,
therefore, try to resolve the issue.
Tariq Ahmad Lone,
Union Home Minister
Sushilkumar Shinde has declared
that the Indian forces have been
asked to give a tting reply to
unprovoked incidents of ring
from across the border. Everyone
knows what his statement implies.
The stern action that is
envisaged is a strongly worded
protest. Even if matters escalate,
our troops may be asked to offer
resistance that is just necessary to
keep the inltrators off. One
cannot expect any concrete action
fromthe Indian side.
Jorhat Singh,
Rights activists cry hoarse over
rights violations in Jammu and
Kashmir and demand repeal of
AFSPA. But no human rights
organisation seems to understand
the plight of the army or local
police. One policeman was brutally
killed by a mob and no politician
condemned the brutal act.
Raghvendra Kumar,
Matter of concern
The issues raised by Gurudas Das
Gupta are a matter for serious
concern (Trying times for
parliamentary system, Oct. 24).
As voters, we elect representatives
more on party lines than on the
basis of individual ability and
character. Once elected, they
become puppets in the hands of
their parties. They are not
answerable to the electorate. The
presence of too many parties has
played havoc with our
parliamentary system.
A. Subbalakshmi,
In the name of the larger good
and to get short-term electoral
gains, the executive cannot behave
in an I-can-and-so-I-will manner.
It is a pity that there is no
bipartisanattitude among MPs and
they are unable to question the
decisions of the government.
Kesav Sundar Patnaik,
This is indeed the time for our
representatives to do something to
restore peoples faithinthe system.
Mr. Das Gupta should ensure that
his party does not give ticket to
anyone witha criminal background
to contest the 2014 election and
extends support for creation of a
strong Lokpal.
Arun Kant,
New Delhi
Letters emailed to must carry the full
postal address and the full name or the name with initials.
he revelation that the Pakistan establishment
not only knew in advance but had also en-
dorsed drone strikes by the U.S. on its territo-
ry has knocked the stuffing out of Prime
Minister Nawaz Sharifs U.S. visit. It is fairly obvious
why classied Central Intelligence Agency documents
on the strikes were leaked to the Washington Post
while Mr. Sharif was in the U.S. This was his rst
meeting with President Barack Obama after assuming
charge as Prime Minister in June. Mr. Sharif would
have used this visit to demand greater parity in U.S.-
Pakistan relations. Drone strikes along Pakistans
north-western border were a hot-button issue during
the parliamentary elections, and there was enormous
pressure on the Prime Minister to call out this vio-
lation of sovereignty. In addition, Mr. Sharif hoped to
elicit a favourable statement from the Obama adminis-
tration on Kashmir. While the U.S.-Pakistan Joint
Statement does allude to the need for uninterrupted
dialogue on all outstanding issues between India and
Pakistan, there is little else that Mr. Sharif can take
comfort from. If anything, the Posts expos allowed
the U.S. to blunt criticism from the Prime Minister and
make it appear that drones were a mutually deter-
mined counterterrorism measure.
The leak of CIA documents has ensured the U.S.
retains the upper hand in its strained relationship with
Pakistan ahead of NATOs troop withdrawal from Af-
ghanistan. Drone strikes and covert military oper-
ations which require a pliant administration in
Islamabad will continue to be a key instrument of
U.S. policy after 2014. The U.S. would also like to see
the Sharif government rein in its plans to pursue
peace talks with the Tehreek-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan.
The proposal to negotiate with the TTP has found
support across Pakistans political spectrum but serves
little purpose other than to strengthen extremists
hands. President Obamas seeking an explanation from
Mr. Sharif on the delay in trying the 26/11 Mumbai
attack suspects must be viewed in this context. Al-
though India and the U.S. share a goal in nudging
Pakistan to ght terrorism, New Delhi should not
hedge its bets on President Obamas words. Mr. Sharifs
visit passed by without so much a murmur from the
U.S. on the killing of Indian soldiers at the Line of
Control this August. Whether on Kashmir or counter-
terrorism, the subcontinents interests are best served
by sustained bilateral dialogue: if Pakistan would do
well to stop pretending the U.S. is an honest broker,
India must not base its policies on Washingtons.
Not much
he revelations last week, based on classied
National Security Agency documents, that
the United States spied on 35 heads of state
have left the Obama administration deeply
embarrassed and running for diplomatic cover. The
White House, which casually dismissed the NSAs sur-
veillance programme as routine espionage, is nding
it harder and harder to ward off the intensifying crit-
icism of its long reach. With the latest disclosures that
the U.S. tapped the phones of crucial allies such as the
German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, a defensive Obama
administration has been hard put to explain to its allies
how spying among friends was justiable. If America
has been able to sustain its virtual global hegemony for
over half a century, it is in no small measure due to the
cooperation that Washington D.C. enjoys from govern-
ments abroad whether dictatorial regimes or democ-
racies. In its lack of hesitation in spying on its closest
partners, Americas self-image as the leading democra-
cy championing individual freedoms has been severely
dented. The basis of U.S. soft power a commitment
to the rule of law and open societies has lost moral
credibility in the light of its efforts to tap phone calls,
e-mails and Skype conversations across the globe. That
NSA officials were able to lean on diplomats to demand
correspondence details of world leaders and monitor
their communication without White House approval,
highlights the entrenchment of the surveillance state.
India has chosen not to join the chorus of protests
emanating from the international community. As with
its response to previous revelations by Edward Snow-
den, it appears that the UPA government is disinclined
to allow this issue to cast a shadow on its emerging
strategic equation with the U.S. New Delhis response
has been that there is no concern the Prime Minis-
ters office has been spied on because Manmohan Singh
does not use a mobile phone or have an e-mail ac-
count. Meanwhile, another emerging power, Brazil,
has intensied its diplomatic pitch in targeting U.S.
surveillance: President Dilma Rouseffs government
will soon introduce a co-sponsored resolution to this
effect at the General Assembly. With a view to reducing
the U.S.s control over the Web, Brazil has also offered
to host a summit in 2014 on internet governance, with
the help of the Internet Corporation for Assigned
Names and Numbers (ICANN). Just as Brazil has made
it clear to the U.S. that its government must be treated
with respect, as should the privacy of its citizens, India
should send a strong signal to the U.S. of its disapproval
of these reprehensible tactics that in effect violate the
countrys sovereignty.
The spying
n the rst line of his rst speech on
Indian foreign policy in 1946, Indias
soon-to-be rst Prime Minister, Jawa-
harlal Nehru, pledged to adhere to the
principle of full participation in interna-
tional conferences. Nehru was referring to
the fact that India, which was still not a full
member of multilateral forums, would no
longer be a colonial dependent nation. De-
spite the different context today, it is that
speech of Nehrus made in the Constituent
Assembly, that Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh must pay heed to as he makes his
decision on whether to travel to Colombo
next monthfor the CommonwealthHeads of
Government Meet.
Demonstrating commitment
First things rst. CHOGMis not an indis-
pensible part of the Prime Ministers agenda.
In the past, the Prime Minister has request-
ed the Vice-President or the External Affairs
Minister to officiate on his behalf, with very
little negative impact. But the events leading
up to this summit are what make it imper-
ative for himtoattend. Not for the Common-
wealth organisation. Not even for Sri Lanka,
or the fate of India-Sri Lanka ties, although
they will be dealt a decisive blow if Dr. Singh
decides to skip the visit. It is necessary for
the Indian Prime Minister to attend the
meet, in order to show Indias commitment
to its own foreign policy principles. None of
these principles is set in stone, but they have
been the base on which Indias image in the
world has been built.
To begin with, there is the principle of
supporting neighbours. Ina speechtoIndian
Foreign Service probationers in June 2008,
Dr. Singh said: The most important aspect
of our foreign policy is our management of
our relations with our neighbours. [] We
dont know adequately enough of what goes
on in our neighbourhood. And many a times
our own thinking about these countries is
inuenced excessively by western percep-
tions of what is going on in these countries.
Some would argue that Indias thinking on
Sri Lankan human rights violations is, in
fact, educated by western countries. In the
past two years, India has voted at the United
Nations Human Rights Council against Sri
Lanka on the basis of U.S. resolutions. West-
ern organisations like Amnesty Internation-
al and Human Rights Watch are the main
accusers in this regard, and the U.S.s neigh-
bour, Canada, remains the only country that
has heeded their call to boycott CHOGMso
far. In an interview to the CNN-IBNchannel
last week, Sri Lankas High Commissioner
said: Sri Lanka would be going ahead host-
ing the conference and we are happy at the
level of participation that we have. It will be
those who do not participate who will be
isolated, not those who are participating.
While India need not worry about being iso-
lated if it takes a principled stand, the ques-
tion whether in fact only principles will be
the ones that will be cast aside is important.
After all, the Prime Minister has always
made a point of attending multilateral fo-
rums when they are held in the subconti-
nent. He has done this in the past despite
outstanding bilateral issues with the host
country. Within two years of the Parliament
attack and Operation Parakram, for exam-
ple, Prime Minister Vajpayee travelled to
Islamabad for the SAARC summit, and just
three months after the end of the war against
the LTTE in May 2009, when most of the
human rights excesses occurred, Dr. Singh
attended the SAARCsummit inColombo. To
not go now would be a departure from his
own practice of continuing to engage at the
highest level with neighbours, ignoring calls
to the contrary from the Opposition and
others within the country.
Terror, a major plank
Terror is another major foreign policy
plank for India, and the Prime Minister must
consider the inconsistent message that his
government would be sending out on this
issue. On the one hand, Dr. Singh has made
strong statements at the U.N. on Pakistans
refusal to cooperate in shutting down terror
camps operating from its territory. On the
other hand, if one follows the logic of the
Tamil Nadu Assembly resolution last week,
it is for the offences committed during the
shutting down of LTTE terror camps that
India must penalise Sri Lanka. The war on
the LTTE was something India assisted Sri
Lanka with at the time, especially given the
LTTEs record of killing former Prime Min-
ister Rajiv Gandhi and many other Indians.
Indias case has already been weakened by
the governments failure to keep its prom-
ises to Bangladesh where in return for the
SheikhHasina governments actions inshut-
ting down HuJI terror camps, handing over
more than 20 terrorists to India, and ending
cross-border ring, New Delhi hasnt yet rat-
ied the Land Border Agreement or the
Teesta water settlement. The immediate vic-
tim may be Ms. Hasina, who could lose the
election to her anti-India rivals Khaleda Zia
and the Jamaat-e-Islami. But inthe long run,
India will lose too, and may face another
cycle of militancy being fomented in Bangla-
InTamil Nadu, there are worrying signs of
the resurgence of the LTTE and Sri Lankan
separatist Tamil groups like the Transna-
tional Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE)
that will eventually turn on India as well. In
September this year, Tamil Nadus Q
branch said it arrested members of a sleeper
cell of the LTTEinPammal, including senior
cadre responsible for recruiting Tamil youth
as well as men with training in explosives.
The dangers for India are obvious, but it is
also important to study where the harbour-
ing of such groups is in direct contravention
of Indias Panchsheel principles that advo-
cate non-interference in each others in-
ternal affairs.
Support for democracy
There is also the long-held principle of
supporting democratic forces in our foreign
policy. So far, Indias concerns about the
plight of Sri Lankan Tamils post-war have
been informed by the Tamil National Alli-
ance, formerly a separatist oppositiongroup,
which joined the political mainstreamin Sri
Lanka. In the elections held in the Northern
Province this year, where a massive 68 per
cent turned out to vote, it is the TNA that
won a clear victory, defeating President Ra-
japaksas candidates, but proving in the
process that the elections held were fair. At a
time when the newly sworn-in Provincial
Chief Minister, C.V. Wigneswaran, has re-
jected calls to boycott the Colombo
CHOGM, and expressed hopes that Dr.
Singh will attend, it will be hard to explain
that Indias concerns for Sri Lankan Tamils
outweigh the concerns of their own demo-
cratically elected government. One of the
sore points for Indias relations with its oth-
er island neighbour, the Maldives, was that
New Delhi ignored the pleas of Mohammad
Nasheeds elected government when it was
ousted. Two years later, India has lost inu-
ence among all the political players there as a
result of straying fromthe democratic prin-
ciple, and even a visit by Foreign Secretary
Sujatha Singh there last month did not suc-
ceed in ensuring elections.
Finally, there is the principle that Indias
foreign policy is the prerogative of the Cen-
tre, not the State. In the last four years, since
the end of the war, India has been a key
partner in Sri Lankas reconstruction proc-
ess. It has achieved some success in provid-
ing homes to IDPs (Internally Displaced
Persons), building power and railway infras-
tructure, and nudging the Sri Lankan gov-
ernment on the elections in the Northern
Province as well as onimplementing the 13th
Amendment. Despite this high level of en-
gagement from the Union government, it
would seemcontradictory and counter-pro-
ductive for the Prime Minister now to refuse
to attend the Commonwealth meeting, bow-
ing solely to pressure from the Tamil Nadu
With six months or so to go for general
elections, eachstepthe Prime Minister takes
today on the international stage will be seen
in the context of the legacy he bequeaths on
Indias foreign policy. Going to Sri Lanka
would then be a reaffirmation of the rst
principles of Indias foreign policy that he
has so often spoken of. It is equally signif-
icant, if coincidental, that Nehru outlined
the Doctrine of Panchsheel that has guided
Indias dealings with the world, at the Asian
Prime Ministers Conference nearly 60years
ago, in a city none other than Colombo.
(Suhasini Haidar is a television journalist
who covers foreign policy issues.)
The case for making it to Colombo
Suhasini Haidar
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should
attend CHOGM and reaffirm the rst
principles of Indias foreign policy that he
has so often spoken of.
Patna blasts
The serial blasts in Patnas Gandhi
Maidan and railway station, hours
before Narendra Modis rally,
reinforce the need to strengthen
security measures in and around
the country. With the general
election round the corner, political
activities are bound to gain
momentum. Unscrupulous
elements looking to destroy peace
will do everything they can to
disturb communal harmony.
People too should remain vigilant.
Dinesh Kumar,
The blasts were aimed at
disrupting our democratic process
and creating a fear psychosis.
Fortunately, people did not panic.
It is the duty of the security
agencies tosanitise anarea before a
political rally or large gathering
takes place.
The run-up to the elections to
ve State Assemblies and the Lok
Sabha is crucial. Besides providing
adequate security at rallies and
meetings, the government has a
duty to make the common man feel
safe when he ventures outside his
Velpula Ramanujam,
New Delhi
The bomb blasts may be the
handiwork of terrorists or other
vested interests. But this is
certainly not the time for our
politicians to jump to conclusions
and indulge in mud-slinging. They
should sink their differences and
condemn the dastardly act in one
voice. It is shuddering to imagine
the repercussions of a bomb attack
on a leader of Narendra Modis
M. Somasekhar Prasad,
A.P. & federalism
By arguing that the Centres efforts
to bifurcate Andhra Pradesh,
irrespective of the State
legislatures views, pose a danger to
federalism (A challenge to Indian
federalism, Oct. 28), Jayaprakash
Narayan has overlooked the fact
that the struggle for Telangana is
six decades old. Most members of
the State legislature belong to
Seemandhra. How can one expect
themto approve a separate state of
The emotional divisionof people
in Andhra Pradesh is complete;
there is no point in forcing themto
live together by talking about
federalism and other technical
M.V. Nagavender Rao,
All political parties of Andhra
Pradesh, big and small, have
supported the formation of a
separate state of Telangana over
the last 30 years orally and in
writing. But when the Centre made
the nal decision and the process
of division was set in motion, the
same parties went back on their
commitment. How is that justied?
M.M. Ram Athreya,
The decision to carve out an
independent state of Telangana
was not made overnight or without
any consensus. It may be
motivated by political
considerations but it is certainly
not a challenge to federalism.
There was a consistent demand
from the TRS for a debate in the
State legislature which did not
As for the formation of Andhra
Pradesh, caste played a major role.
There was no referendum in the
Telangana region. A look at the
history of the State will show that
only dominant castes have
beneted fromthe Telugu State.
Chetan Kathi,
The article was timely, detailing
the constitutional procedure to be
followed before the bifurcation of a
state. Obtaining the consent of a
majority of Andhra Pradesh
legislators is no doubt a necessity.
N.S.R. Murthy,
The arbitrary decision to create
new boundaries among people has
exposed the Centres opportunism.
Is it not too late to talk of
federalism and the role of
N. Venugopal Rao,
It is Parliaments prerogative to
alter the boundaries of a state or
forma new state.
However, fromthe timing of the
Telangana decision, it is clear that
political opportunism, not the
spirit of federalism, is at play here.
Aneesh Hegde,
While Muslims are justied in
taking umbrage over Rahul
Gandhis unsubstantiated claim
that Pakistans ISI is attempting to
radicalise Muslim youth affected
by the Muzaffarnagar riots
(Regrettable and irresponsible,
Oct. 28), one is certainly amused
over the crocodile tears being
shed for them by Mr. Modi. One
cant but recall Mr. Modis
handling of the 2002 Gujarat riots.
The then Prime Minister Vajpayee
had to remind him of his raj
Shahabuddin Nadeem,
The editorial rightly highlighted
the gross mishandling of the
Muzaffarnagar communal riots by
political parties. The ruling
Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh
was not brave enoughtoact quickly
to bring the situation under
control. All the so-called leaders
played politics over the communal
N. Venkata Sai Praveen,
It is most unfortunate that a simple
remark is being blown out of
proportion and interpreted in
many ways. It is clear that Rahul
wanted to caution the
establishment about the fallout of
the Muzaffarnagar riots. A shing
expedition by the ISI cannot be
ruled out in a highly charged
atmosphere. Communal unrest
provides an ideal hunting ground
for disgruntled elements.
A. Thirugnanasambantham,
Medical negligence
Thanks to the increasing
proliferation of medical
institutions and the absence of an
effective regulatory mechanism,
medical negligence goes virtually
unchallenged in India, resulting in
damage to precious lives.
In the wake of such a disturbing
scenario, the Supreme Court
judgment awarding a huge
compensation of Rs. 5.96 crore
payable by AMRI hospitals and
three doctors to a U.S.-based
doctor whose wife died following
faulty treatment will surely send a
clear message. Another area that
needs to be looked into is the
prescription of new drugs to
unsuspecting patients. The nexus
of medical representatives working
for multinational institutions and
doctors needs to be brought under
the scanner.
Madhusree Guha,
It is not enough to grant monetary
compensation to victims of
medical negligence. Hospitals and
doctors should be tried under the
relevant law. The medical
professionis noble and prestigious.
But it has become increasingly
Dr. Kunal Saha has shown the
way. But everyone is not Dr. Saha
who had enough condence and
education on medical science
most important, economic support
to ght it out in court. A large
number of poor, illiterate people
who rush for better treatment to
private hospitals become victims of
greed and irresponsibility. If
consumer protection forums, the
local administration and courts
can play an active role in coming to
their rescue, ordinary people will
be beneted.
Uttam K. Bhowmik,
Dr. Saha needs to be appreciated
for his perseverance in taking the
case to the highest court and
getting a landmark judgment. It
has certainly enhanced the value of
human life. The fear of Dr. S.
Sundararajan (Letters, Oct. 28)
that such verdicts will make
doctors order more tests and
increase the cost of treatment is
unfounded. A competent and
honest doctor would know when to
ask for a test and when not to.
If doctors ask patients to go for
more tests, many of them
unnecessary, it is not because they
want to be careful and rule out
certain conditions; it is because
they want to enrich themselves.
Labs and scan centres in Tiruchi
and Chennai that do not provide a
cut to the doctor can be counted on
our ngers.
S. Pushpavanam,
The Institute of Medicine (U.S.)
denes a medical error or adverse
effect or event as an injury caused
by medical or surgical
management rather than the
underlying illness of the patient.
Once the errors are recognised,
their causes should be analysed so
that preventive measures can be
taken. A system should be evolved
so that all medical errors can be
reported to a body of medical
experts in every State through the
State Medical Council. This will
improve the quality of medical
Dr. L.T. Arasu,
Letters emailed to must carry the full
postal address and the full name or the name with initials.
settlement arrived at by JPMorgan Chase,
one of the worlds largest banks, with state
and federal authorities in the U.S. over its role
in selling mortgage-backed securities in 2008
has wide-ranging implications. Leading nancial in-
stitutions on Wall Street and elsewhere in the devel-
oped world were complicit in selling securities based
on home loans, many of them of dubious quality. These
were bundled together through complex procedures
and then parcelled out into marketable instruments.
The complexity of these instruments was such that in
many cases even the creators of these securitised paper
were unaware of where the risks would lie. Rating
agencies were also complicit in giving investment
grade ratings to these securities which were at the
heart of the nancial crisis in 2008. Far from being
conned to the U.S. housing sector, the crisis soon
morphed into a global economic crisis of unpreceden-
ted dimensions, the consequences of which are still
being felt. The JPMorgan case was the rst to reach
conclusion after a special task office was set up in 2012
by an administration constantly harangued for not
holding Wall Street to account for the nancial crisis.
The settlement envisages a ne of $13 billion to be paid
by JPMorgan, in return getting a reprieve from all civil
proceedings, though not from criminal charges. The
bank is also expected to acknowledge some wrong-
doing, which might open up possibilities of private
Among the important messages that the settlement
conveys is that even an institution of the size and
stature of JPMorgan can be proceeded against. There
have been serious debates among regulators over tak-
ing punitive action against banks that are too big to
fail, on the ground that such action may lead to a
general loss of condence in the nancial system. On
the other hand, there is a view that the feeble puni-
shment meted out so far will not be a deterrent against
future transgressions. The JPMorgan settlement is ex-
pected to set a precedent for similar actions against big
banks and rating agencies that are expected to follow.
The fact that most of the irregularities occurred in the
books of Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual, two
troubled institutions that JPMorgan was nudged to
take over by the authorities in 2008, has not been seen
as a mitigating factor. For India, where there is more
than a hint of throwing open the nancial sector to
foreign banks, there are lessons to be learnt. Despite
their size and legacy, some of these iconic institutions
have not acquitted themselves creditably in their own
countries. Some of their practices such as those that
precipitated the 2008 crisis must be strongly dis-
couraged in their Indian operations.
ntirely in line with market expectations, the
Reserve Bank of India in its second quarter
review of monetary policy has hiked the pol-
icy repo rate by 0.25 percentage points to 7.75
per cent and reduced the marginal standing facility
(MSF) rate by an identical margin to 8.75 per cent.
While the cash reserve ratio (CRR) has been left un-
changed, the Bank has addressed liquidity concerns by
doubling the quantum of funds through term repos of 7
days and 14 days tenor. This facility has been intro-
duced very recently and has been seen as a big step
forward in the evolution of the short-term money mar-
ket. The difference between the repo rate and MSF rate
has been brought down to one percentage point and
this marks the attainment of one of the important
stages in the normalisation of monetary policy. As part
of the extraordinary measures introduced in July to
arrest the rupees decline the MSF was hiked and made
the reference point for short-term interest rates. With
the rupee now stabilising, the RBI has thought it t to
revert to its traditional monetary policy stance of tar-
geting ination without compromising on genuine
credit needs of industry, relying primarily on the short-
term policy rate. The hike in the repo rate indicates the
Banks concerns over the persistently high ination as
reected in both the WPI and CPI. Ination expecta-
tions remain high partly due to the ongoing adjustment
in fuel prices. Quite signicantly, retail ination is
expected to remain around or even over 9 per cent
having risen sharply across food and non-food items
including services. This could indicate further rate
hikes in the near future.
The central bank had downgraded its growth projec-
tion for 2013-14 to 5 per cent from 5.5 per cent. Even
this is higher than practically all other forecasts, by
both private and multilateral agencies including the
IMF. Economic growth during the rst quarter (April-
June) has been just 4.4 per cent. Both the government
and the RBI hope that the second half of the year will be
much better on the back of good monsoons. The ex-
ternal economy which has been under stress has re-
ceived some good news more recently. Exports have
improved over the last two months to a large extent
reaping the benets of rupee depreciation and along
with a contraction in non-oil import demand helped in
narrowing the merchandise trade decit. This has very
favourable implications for the current account decit
which is expected to be much lower than feared until
recently. Among the important non-monetary mea-
sures announced, the proposal to introduce retail in-
ation indexed securities is a welcome development. If
properly designed, it should help in mobilising house-
hold savings for productive investment.
A nuanced
he revelations in the Guardian,
based on documents leaked by the
former United States security offi-
cial Edward Snowden, that the Na-
tional Security Agency (NSA) had monitored
the phone calls and other electronic commu-
nications of at least 35 world leaders and
read internet rms colossal data stores in
addition to monitoring hundreds of millions
of telephone calls, have exposed certain
facts. These are that even elected heads of
government probably have no idea what
their respective countries security services
are doing, that those services seem to con-
sider themselves above any law and not an-
swerable to anybody, and that the elected
assemblies which are meant to hold the ex-
ecutive branch of the state to account have
completely failed to do anything of the kind
in respect of security agencies.
Too little, too late
In that light, the October 28 statement by
Senator Dianne Feinstein, Chair of the Unit-
ed States Senate Intelligence Committee,
that she is totally opposed to the U.S. prac-
tice of spying on allies and calling for a total
review of all countries surveillance pro-
grammes may be the right thing to say, but
until then Ms Feinstein had defended mass
surveillance. And the statement constitutes
too little and comes too late; it may even
become part of what looks like a frantic at-
tempt by the Obama administration to di-
vert attention fromother major issues.
The sheer scale of even the known surveil-
lance is breathtaking. For over a decade, the
NSA intercepted German Chancellor Angela
Merkels phone. In one month, the NSA
monitored 60 million e-mails of all kinds in
Spain. France is also a victim; 70 million
French citizens phone records were tapped
in one 30-day period, and the phones of
senior European Union officials were
bugged. Relations between Washington and
those three EU countries, all NATO allies of
the U.S., are now as fraught as they have ever
been. Germany and Spain summoned the
respective U.S. ambassadors to express their
anger. French President Franois Hollande
is collaborating with Ms Merkel on a draft
code of conduct for NSA operations in EU.
Needless to say, telecommunications cor-
porates are as deeply involved as the security
agencies; they have in fact cooperated will-
ingly. The NSA has directly read the data
banks and servers of nine internet rms in-
cluding Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and
Yahoo, to track online communication in its
Prism surveillance programme. In the U.K.,
the IT corporates willing cooperation went
far beyond legal requirements, and the Brit-
ish Government Communications Head-
quarters, GCHQ, now fears that publicity
over this will hit the corporates brand repu-
tations meaning, obviously, their prots.
U.K. law bans proting froma crime.
Among the security bodies, the GCHQhas
fought very hard toprevent its methods from
being admitted as evidence in court, not be-
cause there is an intrinsic threat to security
but because the agency fears above all that it
would then face legal challenges over the
privacy clauses in the Human Rights Act; it
already faces potential challenges in the Eu-
ropeanCourt of HumanRights. Its record on
this is hardly inspiring; in 2009, together
with the other agencies MI5 and MI6, it
succeeded in blocking the Labour govern-
ments attempts to make its methods admis-
sible in court. As it is, the CIA shares
intelligence with MI6, but the latter is, ac-
cording to former British Cabinet Secretary
Lord Butler, perhaps not permitted to
share it with other British bodies, presum-
ably including the U.K.s sovereign body,
Parliament. Other security agencies, too,
may have formed their own international
networks far away from the nuisance of
democratic accountability.
Matters could, however, have been even
worse, at least on present evidence. Former
MI5 officer Peter Wright, who published his
memoirs in Australia to avoid prosecution
by the U.K., revealed in the late-1980s that
during the 1970s, MI5 had systematically
tried to destabilise Labour governments.
Unlike Mr Snowden, who has always said he
does not want to be a citizen of a country
which spies illegally on its own citizens, Mr
Wright apparently wrote his book inrevenge
over a pension row with his former
Damage-limitation exercise
Yet, instead of admitting their errors and
accepting genuine democratic oversight, se-
curity agencies around the world are trying
desperately to ward off reform and make
sure that as few of their illegalities as pos-
sible see the light of day. On November 11,
Barack Obama is to receive a review of NSA
activities, but the review panel includes for-
mer security officials, and only part of its
contents are likely to be made available to
Congress, despite Ms Feinsteins call for the
Senate Intelligence Committee to be fully
informed about the intelligence services
work; Alan Grayson, a member of the House
of Representatives, calls current Congres-
sional oversight of the NSA a joke. In the
U.K., GCHQ has used politicians well-dis-
posed to it to defend the security service in
media interviews. In any case, most of the
promises of reform only address the ques-
tionof how the U.S. agencies behave towards
Washingtons allies, and the forthcoming re-
view could well be no more than a damage-
limitation exercise.
Furthermore, the politicians own con-
duct over security agencies is hardly a model
of democratic transparency and account-
ability, and is riddled with contradictions.
The Senate Intelligence Committee is erce-
ly supportive of the NSA, and British Prime
Minister David Cameronhas said that public
debate on the issue could harm British na-
tional security even though U.S. National
Intelligence director James Clapper himself
said a public discussion was needed. In Ger-
many, Ms Merkel has been derided for not
condemning the NSAs activities when the
revelations emerged, and for getting angry
only when it turned out that the U.S. had
tapped her own phone conversations for 10
years or more.
The increasingly important and severe-
ly neglected political issue in all this, how-
ever, is the apparently complete collapse of
executive control over and legislative over-
sight of intelligence and security depart-
ments in any number of impeccably
democratically constituted countries. While
the executives concerned seemto have or to
want no knowledge of what the security
agencies are doing or of how they do it, elect-
ed assemblies are apparently completely dis-
connected from any serious or substantive
access to the security agencies, which as we
now know routinely breakthe law and spy on
the very citizens who elect the representa-
tives themselves. In some countries India
is one there is no procedure at all for
legislative oversight of intelligence bodies;
the Intelligence Bureau (IB) used to report
solely to the Prime Minister, and did not
start reporting even to the Home Minister
until P. Chidambaramwas appointed to that
post in November 2008. There seems to be
no question for the foreseeable future of the
IBs being accountable even to an appropri-
ate committee of Parliament.
This goes far beyond the usual calcula-
tions of the risks of excessive surveillance
against the possible benets in terms of se-
curity. It is infact anissue of a different kind,
because in what may be an inevitable proc-
ess, the security agencies themselves on
the evidence come to believe that they are
unquestionably right, and that they are im-
mune to all accountability. That such agen-
cies knowingly get involved in political
suppression is no secret; even the officially
sanctioned history of MI5 documents that
bodys part in subverting socialist move-
ments in France in the 1920s, and in co-
opting private businesses for espionage on
behalf of the U.K., not only against the Soviet
Union but also against independence move-
ments in the then British Empire.
It is therefore no surprise that todays
security agencies, with no political check
upon themand judicial restraint apparently
easily bypassed, come to see all humanity as
not only suspect but automatically guilty.
They may well lose all sense even of the
possibility of criteria for justied and legiti-
mate suspicion; to them, again on the evi-
dence of the agencies conduct, all seven
billion of us are guilty because we exist. This
looks very much like a doctrine of Original
Sin, but the agencies are not high priests of
the Spanish Inquisition. They are rather a
modern-day cyber-Taliban. It may be impos-
sible to tame this kind of monster, but it can
be shackled though only by transparent
and open democracy.
Seven billion people, seven billion terrorists
Arvind Sivaramakrishnan
While executives seem to have no
knowledge of what the security agencies
do, elected assemblies are even more
disconnected from access
NOTA option
The Election Commissions
clarication that if the number of
voters exercising the none-of-the-
above option in the electronic
voting machines or ballot papers
exceeds the votes polled by any of
the candidates, the candidate with
the highest number of votes will be
declared elected (Oct. 29) is
disappointing. It has dampened the
hopes of the electorate.
When the Supreme Court
directed the Election Commission
to provide the option in EVMs, one
thought it would bring about
sweeping changes in our political
scene, and all parties would be
forced to eld good candidates. But
the power given to the voter by
NOTA has been virtually negated
by the Election Commission. The
Supreme Court should intervene
and come out with a clarication
on its ruling.
S.V. Venkatakrishnan,
The Election Commissions
clarication renders NOTA
useless. All that the voters can do is
express their dissatisfaction over
the candidates elded from a
constituency. Suitable
amendments should be brought in
to give enough respect and effect to
the sentiments expressed by voters
opting for NOTA. This may not
bring about a drastic change but it
will mark the beginning of our
journey towards strengthening
A.G. Rajmohan,
The Election Commissions
clarication contradicts the
purpose of NOTA.
If NOTA is going to make no
difference to the election outcome,
the spirit of the court verdict will
stand nullied.
J.J. Vellara,
NOTA will be effective only if it
results in no candidate getting
elected from a constituency if the
number of no-vote is more thanthe
votes cast infavour of anyone. Only
then will political parties think
twice before nominating
Anilkumar Kurup,
If most voters exercise the no-vote
option, how can a candidate be
declared elected? It is tantamount
to declaring NOTA votes invalid,
which denitely would not have
been the intent of the Supreme
Court when it gave its ruling in the
C.H. Mahadevan,
The very purpose of NOTA is to
compel political parties to eld
good, acceptable candidates in the
election. But after the Election
Commissions clarication, one
wonders what the purpose of
providing the NOTA button in the
EVMs is.
Gurrala Ramamohan,
What a waste!
Sense seems to have nally
prevailed and truth dawned on the
Archaeological Survey of India.
Officials have conrmed that no
gold was found fromthe excavation
of the fort of Raja RamBaksh Singh
in Unnao. Priest Shoban Sarkar
took the entire country for a ride.
Taxpayers hard-earned money has
been wasted. That the excavation
made the country a butt of ridicule
is obvious to all. The government
must take a cue fromthe laughable
episode and be wary of prophesies
and dreams.
Sumit Paul,
One hopes the secular UPA
government would have learnt a
lesson or two from the episode.
One also hopes it will not venture
to undertake any operation on the
basis of dreams.
Vathsala Jayaraman,
Commonwealth meet
Suhasini Haidar has aptly put forth
her arguments on why Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh should
attend the Commonwealth Heads
of Government Meet in Sri Lanka
(The case for making it to
Colombo, Oct. 29). Indias foreign
policy objective of improving ties
with its neighbours cannot be
accomplished by staying away
from important global platforms.
India needs to work with Sri Lanka
for the institutionalised devolution
of powers to Tamils in the island
nation. Rather than turning away
from the problem, New Delhi
should prevail upon Colombo to
make concrete progress on
reconciliation and political
Paridhi Gupta,
Indias foreign policy on Sri Lanka
has always been determined by
Tamil Nadu. The foreign policy of a
country should not come under
pressure from a State or province.
Dr. Singh should attend the
CHOGM summit in the national
A. Venkata Ramana Reddy,
The CHOGM summit has become
controversial because of its venue.
But it also presents an opportunity
for India to nudge Sri Lanka to
speed up relief and rehabilitation
of Tamils there. New Delhi should
continue to engage with Colombo
and the new Tamil leadership in
the Northern Province.
S. Siddharth Samson,
India has an image of a friendly
nation. It should live up to that
image. Sri Lanka is one of our
closest neighbours.
India has played a decisive role
in the rehabilitation process of Sri
Lankan Tamils and the elections in
the Northern Province elections.
The Prime Ministers absence from
the summit will have a great impact
on the friendly ties between the
two nations.
Vindhya Nupur,
New Delhi
India will not gain anything by
staying away fromCHOGM. Onthe
other hand, by engaging Sri Lanka,
we cantry and nd a solutionto the
problemfaced by our shermen at
the hands of the Sri Lankan navy.
An unfriendly attitude towards Sri
Lanka will push it to build stronger
ties with China and Pakistan.
S. Pon Senthil Kumaran,
The Tamil Nadu Assembly, which
passed a resolution calling upon
the Centre to boycott the CHOGM
summit, is also a democratically
elected body. That the article has
not spoken about the massive
rights violations committed by the
Sri Lankan government during the
last phase of Eelam war is
The elections in the Northern
Province were held to hoodwink
the international community. The
provincial government hardly has
any power. Moreover, the TNA
itself has called for a boycott of
CHOGM. The sentiments of the
people of an entire State cannot be
ignored in the name of rst
principles of foreign policy.
Seenivasan Venkatasamy,
Telangana issue
The article A challenge to Indian
federalism by Jayaprakash
Narayan has expressed a critical
view on the action initiated for the
bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh. A
federation is a compact between
political units that surrender
individual sovereignty to a central
authority but retain limited
powers. The issue of a separate
Telangana remained unresolved all
these years. The situation now
warrants the demerger of
Telangana with Hyderabad as its
capital fromAndhra Pradeshand
the same has been initiated by the
UPA government after taking
consent from all the principal
stakeholders, that is, political
parties representing all regions of
the State.
No doubt Andhra Pradesh was
formed with the prior consent of
the Andhra legislature and the
Hyderabad legislature. But the
erstwhile state of Hyderabad
comprising the Telangana region
was merged with Andhra Pradesh
on a conditional basis in 1956. The
constitutional provisions failed to
unite the State subsequently.
P. Narahari,
Instead of creating challenging
situations for Indian federalismby
implementing the arbitrary
decision to bifurcate Andhra
Pradesh, the Centre should make
efforts to bring about conciliation
among stakeholders on both sides.
The Congress should realise its
responsibility towards the nations
long-term interests which are
being sacriced for short-term
political benets.
C. Kasipathi,
Mr. Narayan seems to be making a
last ditch effort to stop the
inevitable that is, the formation
of an independent state of
In the process, he has
conveniently overlooked the
almost 60-year-old struggle of the
people of the region carried out in
spite of violent suppression.
Mohd Abdul Sattar,
Letters emailed to must carry the full
postal address and the full name or the name with initials.
ne hundred and fty-seven human clinical
trials were approved last year while just ve
managed to pass muster this year. The differ-
entiating factor was this: the trials cleared
last year by the Drug Controller General of India were
on the recommendation of only the New Drug Advisory
Committee, while the ve cleared this year went
through the new three-tier regulatory regime that
came into effect this January following the Supreme
Courts directive. If any, the huge difference in the
number of approved trials clearly reects how a radical
shift in priority placing the well-being of volunteers
and benets to the medical needs of the country much
higher than the interests of pharmaceutical companies
has drastically cut down the number of eligible trials.
There can be no better proof that till the court in-
tervened, permission to conduct clinical trials was
granted with scant regard to volunteers welfare or the
real benets to people at large. Also, no regulation
worth the name existed in checking the clinical trials
racket that was creating havoc in the country.
Therefore, the courts directive to reassess the 157
trials using the stringent regulatory norms should be
welcomed. It should not come as a surprise if only a
fraction of these trials approved last year passes
Even if the directive is seen as increasing the regu-
latory uncertainty and furthering losses to the clinical
trials business, there can be no question of compromis-
ing human safety, and treating poor, illiterate people as
guinea pigs. The clinical trials business in India is
estimated to be worth around Rs.3,000 crore and is
expected to double in the next few years. With its huge
population, diversity, medical expertise and low cost,
India may be a hub for trials. Tragically, it is the huge
nancial potential that the industry promises and oth-
er gains that have led to this unsatisfactory state and
the refusal by the government to clean up its act. For
instance, the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules of 1945 were
only recently amended to compensate participants in
case of injury or death. As a result, only a fraction of
those who died or had an injury were compensated.
Nearly 2,650 people died during clinical trials between
2005 and 2012; about 80 deaths were directly attribut-
able to them. Similarly, nearly 12,000 serious adverse
events (excluding death) were reported during the
same period, and around 500 were directly caused by
the trials. Conducting human clinical trials is absolute-
ly necessary even if animal trial results are promising.
But human safety is supreme, and the apex court has
rightly ensured that it would remain so.
the system
he multiple explosions that occurred in Bodh
Gaya in July 2013 may have caught the ad-
ministration in Bihar by surprise, but there is
no acceptable explanation for the Nitish Ku-
mar governments evident failure to anticipate the se-
curity risks and take pre-emptive steps to sanitise the
venue ahead of the serial blasts in Patna on October 27.
Given that the threat perception is high for Gujarat
Chief Minister Narendra Modi, it stands to reason that
strong and foolproof security should have been provid-
ed for a rally he was to address. Time and again in the
aftermath of such incidents, there has been a pattern of
post-facto nger-pointing, with the Union government
saying it had sent out alerts on possible attacks, and the
State government concerned denying having received
any, or claiming that any input received was non-
specic. But this is no excuse. For over two decades,
since the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi during an elec-
tion rally in 1991, the police and intelligence agencies
follow a basic security regimen of controlling access,
sanitising venues and screening the crowds. Barricad-
ing of venues and deploying doorframe and hand-held
metal detectors are routine precautionary measures.
Unfortunately, if the Central security agencies are
right, these elementary steps were not taken by the
Bihar police. Most of the explosions took place in and
around Gandhi Maidan, the venue of the public meet-
ing, and several bombs were defused there, indicating
that no systematic sweep had been done. Evidently, the
police had not fully secured the venue in advance, or
screened visitors.
Predictably, the BJP has sought to make political
capital out of the blasts, losing no time in accusing the
Nitish Kumar regime of deliberately adopting a casual
approach to security. The party did not call off the rally
after the rst of the blasts, claiming that there would
have been panic had Mr. Modi not addressed it. Mr.
Kumar has said security arrangements were indeed in
place and that there was no intelligence input to act on.
The police now appear to have ample information on
an Indian Mujahideen module suspected to be in-
volved; arrests and seizures have been quick. It is not
enough for State governments to wait for hard in-
telligence to formulate a proactive and pre-emptive
strategy to eliminate security risks. Both the Centre
and the States must evolve specic security strategies
and evolve better coordination of intelligence-sharing,
in fact even institutionalise mechanisms for intelli-
gence and security coordination. With elections round
the corner, it is becoming imperative to focus sharply
on this issue of ensuring security for leaders who have
begun intensive election campaigns.
A palpable
ittingly or unwittingly, Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh
gave twodifferent meanings to
handshakes when he visited
Moscow and Beijing last week. At the Mos-
cow State Institute of International Rela-
tions, Dr. Singh said on October 21: Every
handshake reveals the warmth of the ties
between our two people. Together, they cre-
ate an unmatched platform for the future.
Two days later, in Beijing, the Prime Minis-
ter said after talks with Premier Li Keqiang:
We account for 2.5 billion people. When
India and China shake hands, the world
takes notice.
The rst handshake referred to the com-
fort of a strategic relationship that had de-
ned Indias diplomacy over the years; the
second placed India and China inthe domain
of re-emerged nations, whose import the
world is still contending with.
At a time when considerable time and en-
ergy are being expended in pushing China
and India to take the stage as rivals, the
repeated contacts between the two coun-
tries take some of the sting out of this narra-
tive. With the United States keen on curbing
Chinese inuence, India is seen as the obvi-
ous counter-weight to China, a prospect Del-
hi has rejected time and again in public. In
nuanced references, Dr. Singh made it plain
last week that the India-Russia handshake
was time-tested; the one withChina was new
and continued toattract global attentiongiv-
en the economic strength of the two Asian
The Prime Ministers two terms at the
helm will be known for a strategic embrace
of the U.S. and its policies, but his praise for
Russia and what it had done for India was
generous and full-throated. India has bene-
ted enormously from Russian support in
every aspect of Indias national development
efforts be it the development of heavy
industry, the power sector, our space pro-
gramme or... our defence needs... Russia has
stood by India at moments of great interna-
tional challenge, when our own resources
were limited and our friends were few... it is
this last fact that Indians will never forget,
Dr. Singh said.
Special and privileged
Referring to the relationship with Russia
as special and privileged, the Prime Minister
was generous inhis praise for Moscow. Rus-
sia offered us partnership in nuclear energy
when the world still shunned nuclear com-
merce with us. I take particular joy in in-
forming this august audience that the rst
unit of the Kudankulam nuclear power
plant, built with Russian assistance, went
critical in July this year and that the second
one should be commissioned early next year.
The Indian oil company ONGCs largest
overseas presence is in Russia, he stressed.
Beyond the comfort zone of Russia, the
Prime Minister, who ew to Beijing from
Moscow, reected a new condence when it
came to raising difficult issues in public with
China. Given that this was his third meeting
in 2013 with the top Chinese leadership, his
comments should silence some of his harsh,
hawkish critics at home.
After listing a host of common concerns
and the need for a joint approach, Dr. Singh
possibly became the rst Indian leader to
put his concerns to the Chinese publicly on
Chinese soil. Usually, these concerns are
placed off-the-record to accompanying Indi-
an mediapersons.
Naturally, there are also concerns on
both sides whether it is incidents in the
border region, trans-border rivers or trade
imbalances. Our recent experiences have
shown that these issues can become impedi-
ments to the full exploitationof the opportu-
nities for bilateral and multilateral
cooperation between India and China..., he
said at the Chinese Communist Partys cen-
tral party school.
So, recent tensions on the India-China
boundary, concerns about Chinese activity
on the Yarlung Zangbo-Brahmaputra river
system, as well as issues of trade imbalance
gured in these full-spectrumremarks.
Beyond bilateralism
Going beyond the pure bilateral domain,
Dr. Singh spoke about the need to put in
place a rule-based security architecture
which, he hoped, would promote security
and stability inthe larger Asia-Pacic region.
Above all, India and China need a stable,
secure and prosperous Asia-Pacic region.
The centre of gravity of global opportunities
and challenges is shifting to this region. In
the coming decades, China and India, to-
gether with the United States, Japan, Korea
and the ASEAN community, will be among
the largest economies in the world.
In an obvious reference to Chinas many
unresolved maritime disputes with its
neighbours, Dr. Singh said: While this re-
gion embodies unparalleled dynamism and
hope, it is also one with unsettled questions
and unresolved disputes. It will be in our
mutual interest to work for a cooperative,
inclusive and rule-based security architec-
ture that enhances our collective security
and regional and global stability.
A job politely but directly done. There was
no anger here, just an expression of concern.
Given Indias and Chinas high stakes in
peace and stability, raising concerns before a
key audience in China is surely something
that Indians concerned about China should
Setting out a larger strategic direction for
bilateral relations, Dr. Singh said: More
thanever before, the world needs bothcoun-
tries to prosper together. We were not des-
tined to be rivals, and we should show
determination to become partners. Our fu-
ture should be dened by cooperation and
not by confrontation. It will not be easy, but
we must spare no effort.
After visits to the U.S., Russia and China,
the Prime Ministers high noon of foreign
policy is, clearly, coming to a close. The in-
tent of his remarks in Russia and China
could well indicate his desire to spell out his
legacy, and a direction for the future. While
he fanned the warmth and strength of In-
dias relationship with Russia, Dr. Singh also
conveyed a solid message that our ties with
China can continue to grow if impediments
are dealt with speedily. A clearer message to
China and its leadership could not have been
As India hurtles to a fractious and noisy
election, Dr. Singhs China visit has passed
without cries of a sell-out fromthe princi-
pal opposition, whose interest in global poli-
tics and bilateral relations appears tobe both
selective and limited. At a time when Rus-
sian and Indian leaders meet annually in
Moscow or New Delhi, and there are repeat-
ed bilateral interactions with the Chinese,
there is need to move beyond immediate
outcomes in the form of agreements in as-
sessing the quality of bilateral relationships.
Not a dampener
Although hopes of a possible deal on Ku-
dankulam getting two additional Russian
nuclear reactors were raised before Dr.
Singh left for Moscow, in the end these did
not materialise. Given the complex and tor-
tuous nature of concerns surrounding any
new deal, the lack of agreement hardly
comes as a surprise. In a situation where
both Russia and India remain engaged in
dialogue, the inability to reach an agreement
should not come as a dampener.
The media, perhaps, need to shed its ob-
sessionwiththe immediate inIndias deal-
ings with key nations and instead look at the
long-term trajectory of relations with these
countries. Engagement, it seems, is going to
be a continuous process. Days after Dr. Singh
concluded his visit to Russia and China,
there will be a dialogue of Russia-India-Chi-
na Foreign Ministers on the sidelines of the
Asem (Asia-Europe Meeting) Foreign Min-
isters meeting in New Delhi on November
10-11, another sign of consistent
That is the nature of modern-day diplo-
macy. Its never-ending.
To my mind, the tone and tenor of Dr.
Singhs comments in Moscow and China
should act as a guiding principle for his
(Amit Baruah is an independent, Delhi-
based journalist, who has worked with The
Hindu, HindustanTimes and BBC. He canbe
reached at
A tale of two handshakes
Amit Baruah
While the Prime Minister fanned the
warmth and strength of Indias relationship
with Russia, he also conveyed the message
that ties with China can continue to grow if
impediments are dealt with speedily
Patel, BJP & Congress
The reference to Sardar Patel by
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra
Modi in Ahmedabad on Tuesday
was no doubt a political gimmick.
But nobody can deny that India
would have been different had
Patel beenthe countrys rst Prime
Minister. Dynastic rule in the
Congress could have been avoided
and many issues like Kashmir
might not have existed.
V. Tilak Subramanian,
No doubt, Patel was a great leader
and his contribution to the
unication of India was
monumental. But he was not a
mass leader like Mahatma Gandhi
and Jawaharlal Nehru. In 1947,
India needed a mass leader to bring
people together. When Nehru died,
the whole nation felt it had lost a
friend, philosopher and guide.
There might have been some
aws in the way Nehru handled
Kashmir and some other issues but
none could match him in his
leadership qualities.
B. Sathyanarayanan,
All our leaders of the post-
Independence era inspired people
and contributed to nation-building
in their own way. Patel, Nehru and
several others were exemplary in
accommodating the views and
interests of even the Opposition.
Our present leaders should follow
their predecessors principles in
letter and in spirit instead of
ghting over trivial issues.
G. Vamsee Prateek,
We have seldom heard the
Congress praising Sardar Patel so
much. Althoughmany people know
that he was a Congressman, his
differences with Nehru are far
more public than his allegiance to
Nehru and the Congress. That is
the reason the Congress did not
claim his association so strongly
Abhishek Kunal,
Indias destiny would have indeed
been different had Sardar Patel
been the rst Prime Minister.
Jawaharlal Nehru and Patel were
personalities apart. While Nehru
spent much of his time between
London and Moscow, the Sardar
was busy solving the problems of a
nascent country. Nehru was much
annoyed by the forceful methods
used by Patel in integrating the
princely states with the Indian
S.S. Kaddargi,
We, the citizens, have inherited the
legacy of our leaders and want to
coexist peacefully, irrespective of
our religion and caste. Let us hope
God will bestow wisdom and
maturity on our leaders so that we
can live in peace, happiness and
T. Ramaswamy,
JPC report
The report of the Joint
Parliamentary Committee on the
allocation and pricing of telecom
licences and 2G, rubbishing the
CAGs presumptive loss theory
(Oct. 30), is hardly surprising. The
JPC wanted to give a clean chit to
the UPA government and prove the
CAGs ndings wrong. Many
questions remain unanswered.
Why, for instance, was the former
Telecom Minister, A. Raja, not
given a hearing even though he
insisted on deposing?
B. Harish,
New Delhi
The nal report of the JPCon 2G is
yet another instance that proves
that the entire exercise was futile
and a waste of taxpayers hard-
earned money. While the purpose
of setting up a JPCis to protect the
interest of the nation, from the
manner in which the report was
nalised, it appears that it was a
blatant attempt to give a clean chit
to all those accused of beneting
fromthe scam.
Ettirankandath Krishnadas,
No-vote option
While the Supreme Courts
direction to the Election
Commission that it include the
none-of-the-above option in
electronic voting machines made
NOTA a positive exercise to
express dissatisfaction with
candidates elded by political
parties, the Election Commission
has brought things tosquare one by
clarifying that the candidate
polling the highest number of votes
will be declared elected,
notwithstanding the number of
NOTA votes polled.
Theoretically, a candidate
securing one vote against 10 lakh
NOTA votes will be declared the
winner. Is this democracy? A
mechanism must be developed to
accommodate the implication of
Ikbal Ahmed,
The Supreme Court pointed out
that NOTA would ensure better
voter turnout. But the Election
Commission has rendered NOTA
ineffective by clarifying that the
candidate getting the highest
number of votes will be declared
the winner. Why should those who
wish to express their
dissatisfaction with the candidates
take the trouble of going to the
polling booth? They might as well
sit at home and enjoy the holiday.
Ram Gulrajani,
When the Supreme Court gave its
verdict on NOTA, the country
thought a key electoral reformhad
been ushered in. It was felt the
reform would put a check on
political parties selection of
After the clarication by the
Election Commission, can we
expect voters to come all the way to
the polling booth just to express
their dissatisfaction despite
knowing that it will not matter in
any way? NOTA should be made
functional in the true sense.
J. Keerthi,
The Election Commissions
clarication does not render the
NOTA option useless. If we have a
larger number of citizens
participating in the elections and
the majority exercises the no-vote
option, the elected candidate will
know that she has won despite
peoples lack of trust in her. This
will force her to duly perform the
duties of an elected representative.
Yashaswi M. Gundi,
If all candidates from a
constituency are rejected, what is
to be done? Will a new set of
candidates be acceptable? It might
not be possible at all. Moreover,
NOTA might be the winner in
several constituencies if voters
cannot choose a candidate or a
party. The Election Commissions
decision is pragmatic.
A.V. Narayanan,
Folding hands
All right-thinking people and
rationalists should salute Sanjay
Salve of Nasik who has won a legal
battle against his school which
denied him a higher pay scale
because he refused to fold his
hands at prayer time (Folding of
hands at prayer in schools not
mandatory, Oct. 30). Think of the
ordeal he must have undergone
from 2008 at workplace and home
in the course of his ght to
uphold his principles. I also salute
the Bombay High Court for ruling
in his favour. A non-believer has an
equal right to practise his thinking.
Although the court has ruled inMr.
Salves favour, I hope he will
reconsider his decision of not
folding his hands during prayer.
Young minds are inuenced by
their teachers behaviour rather
than their teaching in classrooms.
A teacher should keep his personal
beliefs to himself. Children learn
more by what they see than what
they listen.
D. Praveen Kumar,
Welcome verdict
Judgments like the Supreme
Courts award of Rs. 5.96 crore to a
U.S.-based doctor payable by the
Kolkata-based AMRI Hospitals
and three doctors for medical
negligence are rare. While Kunal
Saha succeeded in his efforts, the
aam aadmi who loses his relatives
to medical negligence is unlikely to
This may be due to ignorance,
lack of economic support or family
support, or even fear of prolonged
legal hassles. This is more true
when the ght is against a
corporate hospital.
Kala Chary,
The IndianMedical Council should
have a disciplinary wing to deal
with patients grievances to build
condence in the medical system
just as the Bar Council of India has
a mechanism to deal strictly with
erring advocates.
Alphonse William,
Letters emailed to must carry the full
postal address and the full name or the name with initials.
ith property prices spiralling and supply
constricted, renting a house has become
as difficult as owning one. Existing pol-
icies which primarily focus on increasing
home ownership have not addressed this issue ade-
quately and do not offer enough relief for those who
depend on rental housing. Hence, when the Ministry of
Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation recently pub-
lished its task force recommendations to spur growth
of rental housing, understandably it raised expecta-
tions. The task force has come up with a legislative
framework and a set of incentives to facilitate more
investment and improve supply, but it is unclear how
the proposed benets would effectively reach those in
need. The task force has argued that restrictive rent
control legislation and low rental yields have kept
about 11 million houses, which are now vacant and
locked up, away from the rental market. To encourage
property owners to deploy more houses for rental pur-
poses, it has recommended amendments to the rent
control Act and suggested that the government should
discontinue the practice of arbitrating rents. Another
important recommendation is to treat rental housing
as a non-commercial activity and direct authorities to
lower property tax and service charges on them. The
idea is that this would have a cascading effect and
increase rental yield, which in turn would bring more
investment in rental housing.
In principle, this is a welcome move. The govern-
ment should ensure that nancial incentives are given
only to housing units that are less than 60 sq m in area,
assuming the threshold size for an affordable house.
The success of this measure would depend on the
adequate availability of such smaller dwelling units in
the housing market. The task force has also suggested
that the government should encourage private compa-
nies, which together employ about 11.5 million work-
ers, to provide rental housing for their employees. The
money invested in this should be admissible under
corporate social responsibility expenditure. This ap-
pears like a productive measure, but it carries the
danger of being misused to create luxury assets and
large dwelling units. The policy should unambiguously
focus on producing affordable rental houses. It is im-
portant to amend legislation to take care of property
owners concerns, but it should also factor in tenants
interests. Measures such as protection of tenancy de-
posits, as advocated by the Tenant Charter in England,
must nd a place in the regulatory framework. The
state should make efforts to encourage more rst-time
home-buyers. For this, it is not enough to implement
schemes such as Rent to Own; incentives for buying
second and third homes should also be reduced.
A roof
to rent