Published : Apr 01, 2000 00:00 IST

Budget 2000

Your editorial "A hail of neoliberal bullets" (March 31) shattered many myths about the Union Budget for 2000-01. The concluding remark that the nation and the people will be the losers is absolutely true. The increase in defence expenditure exceeds the food subsidy cuts. Instead of providing food to the poor the Government seems to be keen on giving arms to the soldiers.

The Finance Minister's announcement that the government's stakes in nationalised banks would be brought down to 33 per cent and that the public sector character of the banks would be maintained is self-contradictory. Reducing the government's stake to 33 per cent is as good as privatising the banks.

S. Raghunatha Prabhu Alappuzha, KeralaGeeta Mukherjee

With the demise of Geeta Mukherjee the country has lost a dedicated leader of the poor ("A committed fighter", March 31).

She devoted her life to the uplift of the weaker sections of society. She has left a void in the Communist Party of India and in the progressive movement in general.

T. Jyothi Kozhikode, KeralaConstitution review

The National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution, led by M.N. Venkatachaliah, must be cautious, for its every move might affect the country's future ("An exercise to watch", March 17). Although it is clarified that the basic structure of the Constitution will not come under review, the exercise itself must be carried out independently, without the influence of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and keeping in view the President's words of caution.

Farooque Sayeed Nasser Bhagalpur, Bihar* * *

Even if we ignore the sceptics, it is difficult to understand what the Government means by a "review". The Constitution has not failed us but we certainly have failed the Constitution. There are some institutional loopholes in our system which our experi enced politicians never fail to exploit. Criminals contest and win elections from inside jails. Who is responsible for this - political parties that give them the ticket, the people who vote for them, or the Constitution which grants them the freedom to contest elections?

The United Kingdom does not have a written Constitution but it is doing very well. The question here is one of will: political and social. We hope that the Commission will suggest concrete steps to plug the loopholes in the system and rid the country of corruption and instability.

Ravinder Saini Hisar, HaryanaRSS agenda

Praful Bidwai deserves praise for his article "Politics and culture as blood sport" (March 17). The Sangh Parivar is pressuring the Government to saffronise the country and the Government has started implementing the "hidden agenda" with the "Constitutio n review" as the first step. K.S. Sudarshan, the new sarsanghchalak of the RSS, has gone one step ahead and demanded that the Constitution be scrapped.

The Sangh Parivar believes that Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has the ability to brainwash his alliance partners. This explains why George Fernandes, who deserted Charan Singh in 1979 over the dual membership issue, is silent on the RSS issue now.

Bidyut Kumar Chatterjee FaridabadGandhi and the RSS

Newspapers have reported (on March 20) that the new RSS chief, K.S. Sudarshan, while addressing a rally in Calcutta, indicated that his organisation would take legal action against those who continue to link it with Mahatma Gandhi's assassination. I thin k he will have to start with Sardar Patel, the first Home Minister of independent India. In a letter dated September 11, 1948 to M.S. Golwalkar, the then chief of the RSS, Patel wrote, referring to the RSS' role in the assassination: "As a final result o f the poison, the country had to suffer the sacrifice of the invaluable life of Gandhiji. Even an iota of the sympathy of the Government, or the people, no more remained for the RSS. In fact, opposition grew. Opposition turned more severe, when the RSS m en expressed joy and distributed sweets after Gandhiji's death. Under these conditions it became inevitable for the Government to take action against the RSS."

Neelima Sharma DelhiGandhi

In his article "The missing laureate" (March 3), Oyvind Tonneson writes that "the Nobel Peace Prize had never been awarded for that sort of struggle." The struggle in question was the Partition and Gandhi's role in it. Prior to making this statement he q uotes The Times of August 15, 1947: if "the gigantic surgical operation constituted by the partition of India has not led to bloodshed of much larger dimensions, Gandhi's teachings, the efforts of his followers and his own presence, should get a s ubstantial part of the credit." So Gandhi's candidature was certainly worthy of consideration.

Why then was Gandhi not actively considered and awarded the prize? To state that "the Nobel Peace Prize had never been awarded for that sort of struggle" is at variance with facts.

Consider this. In 1936, Carlos S. Lamas, Foreign Minister of Argentina, the first person outside the "North" to receive the Peace Prize, received the prize for "ending an earlier war between Paraguay and Bolivia", writes Homer A. Jack ("Why Did Gandhi No t receive the Nobel Peace Prize?" Gandhi Marg, 13, July 1, 1991; p.192.)

The war in question is the Chaco War (1932-35) between Bolivia and Paraguay, a bloody struggle that ended the prolonged period of civilian rule in Bolivia. "The war unleashed a number of social forces and generated a period of intense questioning that cu lminated in revolutionary upheaval in 1952" (The Oxford Companion to Politics of the World, ed. Joel Krieger, p. 83). The key questions are: what precisely was Lamas' role in bringing the war to an end and why did the Norwegian Committee award him the Peace Prize? That there certainly was precedent in awarding the prize to someone who actively played a role, supposedly diplomatic, and stopped hostilities between belligerents is clear.

About the prize being awarded posthumously, Tonneson tells us that: "... under certain circumstances (the prize) could be awarded posthumously. Thus it was possible to give Gandhi the prize." He then writes: "However, Gandhi did not belong to an organisa tion, he left no property behind and no will: who should receive the Prize money?"

As far as not giving the award posthumously, Prof. Irwin Abrams comments in his book The Nobel Peace Prize and the Laureates (Boston: G.K.Hall, 1988): "Whereas in 1948 the Committee had finally decided not to give posthumous awards to Gandhi and P rince Bernadotte, this time the members had no hesitation in granting (Dag) Hammarskjold (the U.N. Secretary-General who died in then Northern Rhodesia in 1961 during a peacekeeping mission) the award." (ibid. p. 181, quoted in Jack, Gandhi Marg, p. 194).

Gandhi certainly did not belong to any organisation, though he started a few remarkable ones which most certainly could have been considered, given their exemplary work in the country. The question is why does someone like Tonneson, a responsible and inf ormed journalist, with access to the archival records of the Nobel Foundation, not tell us about the politics of being and not being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize? Here I shall not go into the question of how other Nobel Prize awards from Sweden are awar ded.

I hope I have raised enough doubts to question the veracity of Tonneson's statement: "Thus it seems that the hypothesis that the Committee's omission of Gandhi was due to its members' not wanting to provoke British authorities, may be rejected.''

Prof. Vivek Pinto TokyoMuseums

Thank you for highlighting various aspects of the international seminar on museums ("For museums with life", March 31). I would like to add some more facts. The International Seminar on Museums, Culture and Development was jointly organised by the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya (IGRMS) and the Regional Museum of Natural History (RMNH) for the International Council of Museum's (ICOM) Asia Pacific Organisation (ASPAC).

As a member of the International Board of the Committee for Education and Cultural Action (CECA) of the ICOM, I was one of the coordinators of the seminar. A pre-seminar workshop for young museologists and students of museology was organised at the RMNH, which was attended by most of the delegates. As far as the museum movement in South Asia is concerned, this was a landmark event.

The importance of museums as centres of learning for community education, which is emerging as an important activity for museums, was discussed at the special interest session on museum education organised at the RMNH. The major stakeholders (schoolteach ers) for museums in India interacted with the delegates of the seminar. A major recommendation of the seminar was that a National Commission on Museums be set up in India.

Dr. B.Venugopal Co-coordinator of the South Asia Seminar on Museums, Regional Museum of Natural History (Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India) Bhopal

Population policy

This refers to the well-researched article "A new population policy" (March 17).

It is rightly pointed out by the authors that the population problem can be diagnosed only by looking at the real needs of the people. Family planning should be considered one of the real needs.

The upward trend of population is posing a threat to the well-being of the country. India's population has almost more than doubled after Independence and may grow four-fold if the birth rate is not checked. The Government's strategy should concentrate o n rural areas where the majority of the population lives. More family planning centres should be opened in villages. Medical graduates should be compelled to work at least for a year in a village family planning centre before they are given their final d egree. They should be given more facilities to work in villages.

Any action to check the growing population will be meaningless without attacking the problem of illiteracy.

Vinod C. Dixit AhmedabadThe Kargil report

The K. Subrahmanyam Committee report on the Kargil War is a clear whitewash of the dereliction of duty on the part of the high-ups ("Blaming it on intelligence", March 17). Citing intelligence failure is a safe way out because for the common people, inte lligence is an abstract entity, which cannot be identified, let alone condemned. The guilty are thus hidden from the public eye.

The intelligence agencies seem to be too busy with their mutual rivalries to notice Pakistani intrusion. It is the primary role of the Army to protect the country from external aggression. But the Subrahmanyam Committee could not have blamed the Army whe n it is known that young officers and jawans fought heroic battles to drive the enemy out. The chief of the Intelligence Bureau had written to the Prime Minister about the Kargil intrusion, and the latter took no action. But can the committee blame the P rime Minister?

No unmanned aircraft or observation satellite is needed to see vast areas being occupied by the Pakistani troops. If shepherds could find troop movements, Army patrols too could have done it. And if the weather was too inclement for patrol, the air obser vation helicopter units of the Army could have been deployed.

N. Kunju DelhiBig dams

"The cost of living'' (February 18) by Arundhati Roy made me think about the real costs of big dams. We must always stand by people who are fighting against big dams such as the Sardar Sarovar Dam. Arundhati Roy has rightly said that "big dams are monume nts to corruption".

I want to draw the attention of concerned people to two projects being undertaken by the North-Eastern Electric Power Corporation. The 405 MW Ranganadi Dam in Arunachal Pradesh was originally conceived in 1976 and its foundation stone was laid by Prime M inister Rajiv Gandhi in 1988. The initial cost of the dam was estimated at Rs.360.12 crores in February 1986. But it was revised to Rs.774.12 crores in February 1993. This almost doubled to Rs.1,479.63 crores in July 1999. The dam is likely to be commiss ioned in 2001. I do not know the actual number of people to be displaced.

Work on the 1,500 MW Barak dam at Tipai Muk in Manipur is likely to begin in 2002. The cost of the dam is likely to be about Rs.6,000 crores. The height of the dam will be 162 metres and there is a provision to increase the height by 2.5 metres.

Debabrata Deb Karimganj, Assam- Editor, Frontline
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