Print edition : November 27, 1999

This has reference to the Cover Story "Know your Bofors" (November 26). The only legitimate concern of the Indian government in the Bofors affair could be whether it got the guns at the price it was prepared to pay. What AB Bofors did with the millions t hat accrued to it through the deal with India should not have been the government's concern at all. Moreover, payment of commissions is a long-established and widely prevalent practice.

It was the parties and politicians opposed to Rajiv Gandhi who have tried to make much of his decision to go ahead with the Bofors gun deal in spite of the then Army chief's opinion that the contract should be cancelled if the company refused to furnish the names of the middlemen. The superb performance of the Bofors gun in the Kargil War proved that Rajiv Gandhi was right.

K. Kumara Sekhar Eluru, Andhra Pradesh Cyclone havoc

"Killer cyclone" (November 26) gave a graphic account of the tremendous loss in terms of human lives, livestock and damage to infrastructure in Orissa. It will take years and thousands of crores of rupees to bring back normalcy to the devastated areas. T he nation has responded to the disaster in a half-hearted measure, though. However, the relief materials and the money should reach the affected people. Politics should be kept out when the nation faces a tragedy of such magnitude.

The Orissa Government and the Centre should think of long-term measures to cope with cyclones.

D.B.N. Murthy Bangalore Kannur violence

Political violence in Kannur district has a long history ("Blood and tears in Kannur", November 26). When the Praja Socialist Party (PSP) was formed in the 1950s under the leadership of P.R. Kurup, there were clashes between the workers of the PSP and t he undivided Communist Party in the Panoor area of Thalassery taluk. Later, in the 1970s, the district witnessed clashes between CPI(M) and Congress workers. During the same period, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Jan Sangh achieved some presence in the area. Although these organisations are not strong numerically, their cadres, who receive physical training, are active.

All political parties have to share the blame for the recent developments. Now each party is trying to bring the villages under its control. Some attempts are made to establish peace, but these are confined to top political leaders. Unless party leaders at lower levels are involved, the situation in the district will remain the same.

P. Sreedharan Chittariparamba, Kerala Auschwitz and Pokhran

I was surprised to read the concluding paragraphs of the article "Auschwitz, Pokhran and beyond" (November 19). I do not think that the Nazi killing fields, the use of the atom bomb on Japan and Pokhran-II are objects of comparison. The author does menti on the difference between the first two, although he proceeds to ignore the difference later.

More disturbing is his claim that the people, the Government and the nuclear establishment in India are dehumanising the decision to go nuclear and the terrible consequences of doing so. We do happen to be surrounded by countries which do not value much the freedom of the people of India. Past events have shown that we cannot rely on the United Nations or the United States to defend our borders and our values. The author quotes Gandhi: "Will it restore to him (the poorest and the most helpless person) c ontrol over his life and destiny?" I think the nuclear test will help the poorest person pursue his dreams.

Bhaskar S. Manda Received on e-mail Rajaji

This has reference to the article "In the cause of peace" (November 19) by C.V. Narasimhan, former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations. It made interesting reading, especially the reference to former Governor-General C. Rajagopalachari and his visit to the United States to meet President John F. Kennedy. Just after Rajaji met the President, reporters asked him whether the talk was fruitful. The reply was: "Well, I can't say as it is only the beginning of a long process and at the moment I can only say the talk was flowerful and it may take quite some time to bear fruit."

It would also be of interest to recall that in 1967, at the initiative of Narasimhan, the queen of Indian music, M.S. Subbulakshmi, gave a musical performance at the United Nations. She sang a beautiful and meaningful song composed by Rajaji.

R. Daniel Jayakumar Nellikuppam, Tamil Nadu George Fernandes

In the article "The meaning of George Fernandes" (November 5) the author seems to be too harsh on the Defence Minister. It is not unethical for anyone to harbour ambitions. Every writer or scientist wants to win the Nobel Prize, just as every politician dreams of becoming Prime Minister. By aligning his party with the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Samata Party leader served the cause of secularism. This is evident from the fact that the BJP has adopted the National Democratic Alliance's (NDA) manifesto in which there is no place for issues such as the Ram temple, abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution and a common civil code. The extent of success achieved in this direction can be gauged by the fact that the Farooq Abdulla-led National Conference is now a partner in the Vajpayee Government.

George Fernandes' views on the threat from China were right but they could have been expressed in diplomatic language. George Fernandes is a great parliamentatian and an eloquent public speaker.

George Fernandes has been a doughty opponent of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty's rule. He believes that dynasties and democracy do not go together. However, history will not condone George Fernandes for shifting his loyalty to Charan Singh immediately after de fending Morarji Desai's government in the Lok Sabha in 1979.

Prem Behari Lucknow Foreign funds

I do not normally respond to Praful Bidwai's tendentious articles. However, this time I shall, for he states that the "Hindutva campaign against 'foreign' funds would have sounded a little less biased and outrageous had the BJP, its cohorts and its gover nment had consistent standards" ("Stifling dissent and debate", November 5). Is this not true for most, if not all, of his arguments? Additionally, since Lalita Ramdas ("Letters", November 5) and others call for a public debate as to what constitutes "po litical" action and what is "social" action, let us have one.

The thrust of his "vitriolic attack" on the Government action of issuing notices under a "technical provision of some enactment like the FCRA" (laws are mere technical provisions!) is that it is an assault on democracy, the freedom of speech and so on. T he action of the non-governmental organisations (NGOs)/civil society organisations (CSOs) was not "political" but "social" and in consonance with the fundamental duties prescribed under Article 51 (a) of the Constitution. Is not compliance with such a "t echnical provision", passed under the Constitution, part of the duties of Indian citizens? The courts should have been approached had there been any discrimination in the application of the laws of the land and/or if compliance with an enactment like the FCRA was in conflict with the provisions of the Constitution.

The article says that the funds (of CSOs/NGOs) are "earmarked for specific projects" and are "not easily divertible". It also says that these organisations are accountable to the "donors". Does it then mean that the funds for sponsoring these advertiseme nts of Communalism Combat had been earmarked by their (foreign) donors? If "foreign funds" have not been used in the advertisement campaigns as claimed, it can very easily be proved since everything is accounted for. Thereafter, the only fact that would remain to be examined would be whether the campaigners were motivated by partisan concerns or social concerns.

Undoubtedly, the advertisements were one-sided. If the concerns were social, the advertisements should not have stopped at just highlighting the views of the Sangh Parivar on women. It should also have informed the general public about the views of the u lema on women (as mentioned in the book The World of Fatwas D Shariah in Action). And please let me know whether the instances highlighted in the book are not "factual" and if any rebuttal of this book exists. If the fight was for equality and non -discrimination, why should Muslim women be discriminated against wholly and solely in obtaining maintenance under the amended Criminal Procedure Code? Subsidising pilgrims of a particular religion with public money is surely not the way to practise secu larism, especially when such facilities are not granted to other religious groups D be it Hindus or Christians, Sikhs or Jews. Here is one instance where the "fundamental right" of "non-discrimination" has been violated.

The taxman, Vishwa Bandhu Gupta, was not transferred by the BJP. Neither was the BJP in power when the funds allegedly flowed into the coffers of the Sangh Parivar. Why should the present Government be faulted for the inaction of its (secularist) predece ssors?

While mentioning the 16-year financial inflows from VHP- America to India, Bidwai neglects to mention how much money the Church and Church-based organisations have received from the U.S. and other countries. In addition, one is left to guess as to just h ow much European Union contribution of 4 per cent to Church-based groups in India amounts to. Given the widespread "fame" (dare I say it, notoriety) achieved by the Sangh Parivar, I fail to understand why it is reasonable to assume that the E.U. will con tribute, in a major way, to "non-Christian, especially Hindutva oriented, organisations". What exactly is the E.U.'s benefit? Is Bidwai also equating all non-Christian CSOs/NGOs with Hindutva-oriented organisations?

Outlook (February 22, 1999) published a list of top 25 recipients of foreign funds for the year 1996-97. Ten Christian organisations included in that list received as much as Rs.209 crores, if not more, in a single year. Assuming that the inflows to these 10 organisations have remained constant, they would have received at least Rs.3,344 crores in 16 years. Compare this figure with the figure quoted for the VHP (Rs.5,300 crores). The number of Christian organisations is many, many times more than just ten. An estimate puts the inflow of funds for the Church and Church-based organisations at Rs.2,000 crores annually. The point I wish to highlight is the quantum of inflow of funds and the power it generates (regardless of its use or abuse).

It will be appropriate to apply the same standards used against Hindutva to the deeds (and misdeeds) of certain non-Sangh Parivar groups which also arrogate to themselves the right to proscribe and prescribe as to what is permissible and impermissible un der the aegis of secularism and democracy. It is also not amiss to oppose, with the same strength of heart and mind, non-Hindutva organisations that publish abusive, offensive and insulting tracts. This is important if one wishes to remain credible as we ll as impartial.

K.M. Vasudevan Delhi M.S. Swaminathan

I thank you for publishing an Update on the world-famous scientist Dr. M.S. Swaminathan's achievements and contribution to Indian agriculture ("Honour for M.S. Swaminathan", September 10). You could have added that he merits the Nobel Prize (for Peace) f or his achievement and dedication to the agricultural revolution.

N. Sivasankaran Nilakkottai, Tamil Nadu Nobel Prize

In my article on Robert Mundell ("Between Monetarism and Keynesianism", November 26), the following sentence appears: "Marcus Fleming is on the staff of the International Monetary Fund." This sentence was not in my original article and I protest against its addition at the editing stage, especially because Marcus Fleming died in 1976.

Prabhat Patnaik New Delhi

The author's original reference to one of Robert Mundell's striking results also being "arrived at by J. Marcus Fleming of the IMF staff" was mistakenly and unjustifiably rewritten on the Frontline desk as stated above. The error is regretted. - Edito r, Frontline.

Victory margin

The article on the election verdict in West Bengal ("Patterns and pointers" November 5) mentioned that Mamata Banerjee's victory margin of 2.14 lakh votes in South Calcutta was the highest in the State. This is wrong. Nikhilananda Sor of the CPI(M) won b y a margin of over three lakh votes from the Burdwan Lok Sabha constituency. His victory margin is actually the second highest in the country, next to Sonia Gandhi's in Amethi.

Also, the Trinamul Congress has not captured Serampur as reported; it only retained the seat.

Basab Basak Burdwan, West Bengal Correction:

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