Slander campaign

Print edition : September 25, 1999

The ongoing electioneering is the most abusive and vulgar in the electoral history of independent India ("Slander campaign", September 24). Populism and political expediency now form the bedrock of electoral politics.

In a parliamentary democracy, electioneering provides an opportunity to the political parties to tell voters about their socio-economic and political agenda and motivate them to participate in the task of combating the problems of the country. But politi cians are using this opportunity only to denigrate individual leaders and thus set a bad precedent for the future. The erosion in the political culture is the result of many political parties giving up their ideological commitment. For them, nothing matt ers except the vote.

Sanjai Kumar Hazaribagh, Bihar Nuclear issues

The articles on nuclear issues (September 10 and September 24) are critical or at least highly sceptical of the draft Indian Nuclear Doctrine. Once a country becomes overtly nuclear and decides to target real or potential adversaries, it is assumed that there is a policy that will make it clear under what conditions nuclear weapons will be used. The five nuclear states have readymade pleas to use their weapons.

In "Questions about capabilities" (September 24), you carried a quote from the Chinese about the danger posed to South Asia's stability by India's nuclear doctrine. In what way does the huge Chinese arsenal contribute to peace and stability in East Asia or the world? How did the Chinese formulate their own nuclear doctrine and in what way is their policy more enlightened and thorough than that of India? The very fact that China tested and produced so many bombs is an indication that it has an intention of using them in certain situations.

Varun Shekhar Islington, Canada India and Israel

The article "India, Israel and Arab fears" (September 24) was thought-provoking. It is not surprising that the government run by the Sangh Parivar, which is guided by an anti-Islamic ideology, extended the hand of friendship to Israel. Policymakers of th e day are taking the country closer to Israel, even though India has traditionally supported the Palestinian cause. Seeking Israeli military help will have dreadful consequences for the Indian subcontinent.

Some people may cite the fact of Arab countries having diplomatic relations with Israel to justify India's ties with Israel. But it is undeniable that people in Arab countries are against their governments' policies in this regard. It is also true that m ost Arab nations support India's position on Kashmir. External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh has himself commended the role of Saudi Arabia in helping solve the Kargil crisis.

Mehaboob Ali Balganur Sindgi, Karnataka Power and politics

This refers to the article on the Dabhol power project ("Dear power," September 10). One of the election promises made by the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance four years ago was that it would throw the project into the Arabian Sea. But its coalition government gav e the go-ahead to the Dabhol Power Company to set up shop "in the interest of the people of Maharashtra".

The argument floated in favour of the construction of 55 flyovers within a span of two years (a world record, perhaps) in Mumbai city was that the flyovers would help streamline vehicular traffic and thus save over Rs.1,000 crores on fuel. A farsighted p lan indeed! But this gain will be offset by the annual loss the Maharashtra Government is expected to incur in the purchase of power from the DPC at a cost of Rs. 5.50 a unit against the agreed cost of Rs. 2.40.

Rajan Ramarao Mumbai Uranium production

In "Villages and woes" (September 10) it is mentioned that the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) has made arrangements to control radon emission, a radioactive gas that is emitted in the process of mining uranium. It has been demonstrated the w orld over that without protective clothing and appropriate masks, which of course are beyond the scope of Indian industry in general, miners are exposed to small quantities of radiation that in course of time will irradiate lung cells. It is estimated th at this results in the death of 50 per cent of people exposed to such radiation. According to Dr. Helen Caldicott, an Australian paediatrician and well-known nuclear activist, this may not happen immediately but after 15 years of the actual period of exp osure.

Technicians who operate x-ray machines wear a lead-lined apron and stand behind a lead screen in order to avoid exposure to radiation. Although the amount of radiation is small in this case, the cumulative effect of regular exposure is harmful and may le ad to cancer in the long run. Doctors from the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre surely know this, but then we are dealing with mere tribal people who are voiceless and are considered expendable. These poor citizens of India who live near the tailing ponds a re exposed every day to small doses of radiation. No wonder they suffer from cancer, blindness, sterility and a host of other diseases that are difficult to treat.

The only way to tackle the problem is to bury the wastes in selected areas, using appropriate methods. But, of course, it is expensive and will cut into the profits of UCIL. A much cheaper option is to relocate the tribal people from their homelands, the ir sacred groves, their burial sites and their habitat. To rephrase Mark Twain, all life is sacred in India, except human life.

Dr. Harikumari John Chennai Islam and journalists

There is a dearth of basic knowledge of Islamic beliefs, Islamic terms and Islamic organisations within the general journalistic community. Journalists tend to use the words jihad, ulema and Shariah as derogatory terms. Their information on Islami c organisations is still worse. Even Frontline is not totally immune to it.

In "Arrest of an ISI gang" (September 10) Tabligh-i-Jamaat has been described as a revanchist organisation, implying that it is a politically motivated extremist organisation. The facts are totally the opposite. (This writer is not a member of Tabligh-i- Jamaat.)

Tabligh-i-Jamaat is a non-political organisation aiming to improve the character and spirituality of Muslims through a six-point programme. Those six points are - renewal of the basic creed of Islam, five-times daily prayers, religious knowledge, sinceri ty, respect of other Muslims and spending money/time/life in the way of Allah.

As is clear from this, the agenda of the Tabligh-i-Jamaat consist of the spiritual improvement of Muslims. It is not a political organisation. It even draws criticism from some other Muslim organisations which think that it is too moderate and that it is not doing missionary work among non-Muslims. It is an open organisation and has organised large annual international gatherings, many of them in India. The temporary association of some lumpen elements should not be used as an excuse to tarnish its imag e.

Mohammed Ayub Ali Khan Chicago Ban on smoking

The judgment of the Kerala High Court directing the State Government to enforce Section 278 of the Indian Penal Code to prevent smoking in public places is commendable ("Smokers under siege," September 10). The level of social awareness of the people of Kerala has prevented them from resorting to any agitation against this because prevention of smoking will affect the beedi and cigarette industries.

S. Muthuswamy Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu Pakistan's claim

Pakistan's demand for compensation for the loss of its maritime surveillance aircraft, which was shot down by a MiG-21 aircraft of the Indian Air Force last month ("A confrontation in the Kutch," September 10) cannot be accepted. The Pakistani plane intr uded into Indian air space. If India is to pay compensation for it, then Pakistan will have to compensate India for the losses incurred owing to acts of terrorism abetted by it in Jammu and Kashmir.

N. Vijayaraghavan Chennai Dowry deaths

Parvathi Menon's report "Dowry deaths in Bangalore" (August 27) speak volumes of the neglect of women in this country. It reflects a gradual erosion of our values. This attitude to women also runs counter to the objective of empowering women. Despite leg al safeguards, violence against women has assumed alarming proportions. The question is where exactly we have gone wrong and what must be done to root out this evil.

It is agonising to note that even educated women are victims of this trend. The apathy of the government, the inability of the judiciary to deal firmly with the criminals and the hypocrisy of the police force - all have contributed to the worsening of th e situation.

The situation demands a dispassionate analysis. A mass movement is needed to combat the problem.

Shahnaz Begum Darbhanga, Bihar Plantation workers

This has reference to the article "A bitter harvest" (August 27).

It appears that unfortunately, communication was not established between the author and our management and therefore the article missed the point of view of the management. We would, therefore, wish to focus on the following facts so that your readers ca n get a just and balanced perspective:

1. The various allegations made by J. Hemachandran, president, CITU, Tamil Nadu, against us are totally false. All along, he has not only been an active party in wage negotiations between the Planters' Association of Tamilnadu and various industry unions , but was also a signatory to all the settlements. Having agreed on the wages, he cannot now question the fairness of the wages.

2. In all its 134 years of existence, the Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation Ltd. has strictly adhered to the provisions of legislative acts including the Plantation Labour Act, 1951. Our workforce is provided with housing, perquisites, retirement benefit s, holidays, free medical care, creches with free food for children, conservancy and sanitation, etc., in conformity with the Act.

3. The photograph published with the article depicts an illegal attachment to the existing housing provided and is not officially allowed. This is why it appears shabby. The management did not remove this illegal extension even though it should have, pur ely on humanitarian considerations.

4. The accusation that workload has increased over the years is baseless. All the daily tasks or specified output are determined by mutual consent on lines similar to other estates.

5. The call for a three-fold increase in wages is unreasonable, unaffordable and uneconomical. Factors such as global competitiveness, free markets and the possible onslaught of low-cost imports from Sri Lanka and Kenya do not allow any further increase in wages. India's plantation industry is one of the most manpower-intensive ones. It will face a bleak future if economics is mixed with politics. The wage levels and welfare benefits provided to plantation workers in Tamil Nadu are superior to those in the rest of the country and amongst the highest in the world.

6. The estate colonies are essentially private housing colonies and not public places. Thus they are bound by rules and regulations of employment and prevailing standing orders. The workers' benefits accrue according to contractual obligations. Under the Plantation Labour Act, there is no provision for making available kitchen gardens and cattle rearing facilities.

7. The annual production of the Singampatti Group is 2 million kg and not 8 million kg as indicated. Likewise, the annual coffee production of this group is between 15,000 and 20,000 kg and not 1 million kg.

Arun C. Vakil Chief of Public Relations and Corporate Communication, The Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation Limited, Mumbai


It is a shame that former Army Commanders such as Lt.-Gen. Moti Dar should be speaking against the very establishment that nurtured them, while glorifying their own era in the service ("The Army leadership has been politicised", August 27).

Will someone please remind the former Vice-Chief of the Army Staff of the intrusion of "Dalunag" when he was a Brigade Major at Kargil (1967-71)? Commanders like him are very much to blame for the state of the Army today. While at the helm, they never to ok any steps to improve the forces. Owing to the self-gratifying life-styles of some senior officers, junior officers lost respect for their seniors. These are the reasons behind the fall in the morale of the armed forces.

It is ridiculous to compare the situation in the valley in 1983 to the present-day situation. There was hardly any insurgency then. The role of the Army has changed in many ways since then. Moti Dar should look back and ask himself: how much of all this did his generation anticipate? And if it did, what did it do about it?

Col. Kadan (retd.) New Delhi Correction

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