BJP debacle

Print edition : December 19, 1998

The BJP's crushing defeat in the recent Assembly elections should be an eye-opener to the ruling party and its allies ("A debacle in nine months," December 18). The reason for the defeat may not be just the spiralling prices of essential commodities; factors such as the deep fissures within the BJP, the bickering among the partners of the coalition ruling at the Centre, over-emphasis on the Hindutva agenda and the sense of insecurity created among the minorities as a consequence of statements made by Vishwa Hindu Parishad leaders justifying the rape of nuns in Madhya Pradesh and the Bajrang Dal's fascist attempt to instigate violence against Christian missionaries must also have played a role. Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee may somehow manage to hold on to power but he has no moral right to continue as the people have rejected his Government.

Dr. A.K. Tharien Oddanchatram, Tamil Nadu

Onion and salt, besides Sonia Gandhi's leadership, were more than enough to defeat the BJP in Delhi, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. By now the BJP leadership would have realised that mere oratory and use of colourful words cannot win elections, especially for a ruling party. Jayalalitha and Mamata Banerjee did not act like friends when the BJP was fighting the electoral battle. Perhaps this debacle will be a blessing in disguise for the BJP. It has got enough time to get its act together.

K.S. Rama Iyer Pondicherry

For the common man, controlling the prices of essential commodities such as onions and potatoes is more important than conducting nuclear tests. The BJP must have learnt this lesson in a bitter way now. Although there were adequate warnings of the impending problems on the price front, the Government failed to act.

The internal feuds in the Delhi and Madhya Pradesh units of the BJP have cost it dearly. By fielding young and new candidates, the Congress(I) was able to neutralise the anti-incumbency factor in M.P. The BJP should do serious introspection and draw correct lessons from its defeat in the Assembly elections. Otherwise its political future will become bleak.

L. Rohini Tiruchi, Tamil Nadu

The BJP, which practises its hidden agenda through organisations such as the Bajrang Dal and the VHP, must realise that it is losing the support of a large section of people who stood by it in the last parliamentary elections. Many people voted for the BJP's plank of stability.

But the party took their support for granted. And the people responded by administering it a humiliating defeat in the Assembly elections. The party should now come out from the shell of Hindu nationalism and address the real problems of the people.

Binoy Zacharias Madaliyankal Thodupuzha, Kerala

Female foeticide

It was shocking to learn that the practice of female foeticide is prevalent in some parts of Madurai district, particularly in Usilampatti taluk, despite efforts by the Tamil Nadu Government to end it ("Scanning for death," December 18).

The mushrooming of ultrasound scan centres is a matter of grave concern. If none of the scan centres in Usilampatti is registered with the appropriate authority, why are they allowed to continue?

The authorities concerned should initiate steps to ensure that only registered scan centres function. They should also take stringent action against those who kill female babies.

Mani Natarajan Chennai

The general belief among parents is that a son would take care of them in their old age. This is not true. Once a child is educated and it explores opportunities to build its future, its horizon becomes wider. It matters little whether the child is a girl or a boy. Even a son-in-law may be of help in old age. There are many instances of people adopting female children. Such parents should be given incentives. Concessions and scholarships should be given to children adopted thus.

K.C. Kalkura Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh

The report made painful reading. It sounds horrid that in Tamil Nadu where motherhood is worshipped "girls are born to die, or,... are denied even the chance to be born". If the Government's cradle baby scheme failed, the reasons are not far to seek. The failure was owing to the defects in the system and also human factors. The problem cannot be solved by simply making new laws or changing the existing ones. The emphasis should be on ethics and social reform.

R. Ramasami Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu Energy and environment

Kudos to you for the special feature, "Energy conservation & environment" (December 18). The fact that hydroelectric power is adding only 25 per cent to the total installed capacity shows the neglect of this renewable and clean source of power. Karnataka (in the erstwhile Mysore state) once generated surplus power, with hydel power stations as the major contributors. No doubt hydroelectric power generation depends on the monsoon. But by improving the storage capacity of dams and reservoirs, desilting dams and taking up large-scale afforestation in their catchment areas, it is possible to make power generation less dependent on the monsoon. There is considerable scope for building micro hydel power projects in the hilly areas.

The safety record of our atomic power stations is fair. Now, they account for less than 3 per cent of India's power generation. These stations are the least polluting. The only problem they pose is the disposal of hazardous nuclear waste. But technology is available to deal with this problem. We have the raw material to feed our atomic power stations for centuries, unlike in the case of generation based on coal, whose reserves may get exhausted in another 100 years. Environmentalists oppose the installation of atomic power stations. If the government is open about the safety measures taken, environmentalists as well as the people at large may feel more convinced about safety.

A watt saved is a watt generated. But there is a lack of concern for saving energy. For example, more cars and two-wheelers are being produced while buses, which can improve the mass transport systems in urban centres, are slow in coming. Use of electric trolley buses and battery-driven vehicles would reduce pollution. A system integrating air, rail, road and sea transport systems would be cost-effective and fuel-saving. It does not make sense to put more trucks on the roads to carry goods over long distances when there is an extensive railway network. But the railways should become efficient. Similarly, air travel for short distances can be avoided if only the railway system can provide faster and more convenient schedules.

Our energy planners have a blinkered vision. Very little is done to enhance capacity by building projects using renewable sources of energy such as biogas and solar, wave and wind energy. Lakhs of Indian villages are electrified but at what cost? A cheaper alternative would be to encourage community use of biogas so that the demand for firewood and kerosene comes down. Domestic power supply can be improved through a combination of biogas, solar and wind energy. The use of renewable fuels like methanol in motor vehicles will reduce dependence on crude oil.

The industry must get more incentives to replace ageing and fuel-inefficient equipment and machinery. This will save costs in the long run. Similarly, a system of high tariffs, above a base level of power consumption, will induce organisations to think of conservation of electricity.

D.B.N. Murthy Bangalore Bangladesh

The coverage of the trial and punishment of the killers of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was excellent ("Historic verdict in Bangladesh," December 4). Of particular interest were Kabir Chowdhury's article "The hero of the liberation war" and the reflections of Samar Sen. More than 25 years have passed since Bangladesh was liberated.

The majority of the population of a country choosing to secede and ethnicity replacing national identity constituted a unique phenomenon in the case of Bangladesh.

The raison d'etre of this dramatic development was that the people of East Pakistan felt that the size of their economy was only half of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the then West Pakistan. However, even now the GDP of Bangladesh, whose area is about one-fifth of that of Pakistan, is about $30 billion while Pakistan's GDP is over $60 billion. Anyway, Bangladesh is now no longer a basket case and its relations with India are being rewritten on the drawing board of economics.

Prem Behari Lucknow

It was a moving story of a people's long march for justice. I salute Sheikh Hasina for having maintained a distinction between her roles as Prime Minister and as daughter. That she achieved this is clear from the fact that she waited for the long judicial process to get over before punishing the guilty. The agony faced by her during this period could be imagined.

If she could empathise with the agony of a common Bangladeshi with the same spirit, the country will one day remember her as the daughter of Bangladesh.

Rahul Dutta Lucknow LTTE

This has reference to "LTTE in South Africa-I" (December 4). The LTTE may be a terrorist organisation but the fact that it resurrects after every defeat and spreads its tentacles all over the world shows that it is a major political and military force that cannot be ignored. The hostility between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan Government has resulted in the massacre of a large number of innocent Sri Lankan citizens. An accord (similar to the land-for-peace deal between Israel and Palestine) between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan Government, guaranteed by the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation or the Non-Aligned Movement, is the need of the hour.

S. Raghunatha Prabhu Alappuzha, Kerala Immunology

The report on the world meet on immunology ("Breakthroughs and challenges," November 21) was a true reflection of the event. I was one of those unfortunate delegates who witnessed the chaos that reigned supreme at the venue and failed to present their views. The congress was indeed a national disgrace and a colossal failure, with no tangible benefits to the country.

Dr. B.V. Shenoi Kolar Gold Fields, Karnataka A rejoinder

I have just seen the book review by Vijay Prashad in your magazine ("Readymade ideas," November 20) and must register my strong objection. It distorts the facts about the negotiations for possible Johns Hopkins University involvement in an Asian Institute of Public Health in Kerala. The proposal was initiated by the Government of Kerala. Preliminary negotiations had barely begun and Johns Hopkins was seeking the advice of alumni in a meeting last December when negative rumours appeared in publications in India, particularly about my involvement. At the meeting I met in a press conference with over 20 investigative journalists in Thiruvananthapuram for more than two hours to discuss the speculations. They said they needed to know the facts because government officials in Delhi and Kerala had said there was no basis for the rumours. I answered all questions forthrightly and without ambiguity, showing that the rumours were false.

In summary, I was never "asked to leave the country" as alleged by Vijay Prashad. There were no "mysterious circumstances" related to Johns Hopkins projects in 1974 since all U.S. projects were terminated after the U.S. tilt to Pakistan during the Bangladesh war. I strongly opposed the U.S. tilt and joined demonstrations against it in the U.S. I continued to work in India extensively with old colleagues and students until I moved to Beijing as UNICEF Represen-tative in China from 1984 to 1987.

I have never had any association with the CIA. I have spoken strongly and worked directly against all efforts to impose U.S. interests where they would interfere with local social or economic development and basic human rights. I have not worked for any international corporation or pharmaceutical companies. I have consistently been against current trends towards globalisation or "academic colonialism". I have devoted my life to working with many organisations devoted to service for people in greatest need. Having been born in India and having worked mostly in the villages, it is extremely painful and destructive to have such gross distortions of fact as this book review presents.

Carl E. Taylor Professor Emeritus School of Hygiene and Public Health, Department of International Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland

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