Print edition : September 15, 2001

Kudremukh Iron Ore Company Limited (KIOCL) has wreaked havoc on the Western Ghats ("Kudremukh concerns", September 14). The shape of the hills has been altered irretrievably and surface and underground water has been contaminated. The mining activity has dealt a severe blow to the flora and fauna of the Malnad forests. Some of the evergreen forests are lost for ever.

The sooner KIOCL stops its mining activities, the better. What the country has earned by way of foreign exchange from the export of iron pellets is nothing compared to the long-term loss of natural wealth.

The State and the Central governments should not renew the licence for mining. The KIOCL infrastructure may be used to set up small-scale units that are eco-friendly.

D.B.N. Murthy Bangalore AGP and scandals

This has reference to "The AGP and some scandals" (September 14). There are countless cases of bigamy going unnoticed in India. Prafulla Kumar Mahanta being a public figure, his act of bigamy has received media attention. This a one more example of mud-slinging in politics.

Tapan Chakraborty Mumbai Animal protection

The article "A campaign to protect animals" (September 14) was informative. The plight of animals in India is indeed alarming. The manner in which they are treated and slaughtered deserves condemnation. Protection of animals must get top priority and there should be norms governing their slaughter.

Abhijeet D. More Nashik Drug trials

The case of drug trials at the Regional Cancer Centre, Thiruvananthapuram, is disturbing ("Drug trials and ethics", August 31). Some scientists, in connivance with medical institutions, are vying with one another and employing unethical methods to develop drugs for cancer and make huge profits. The erring scientists and their accomplices should be punished for exploiting innocent people.

G.E.M. Manoharan Coimbatore Secular education

The Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (Sahmat) needs to be congratulated on having taken the initiative to organise a major convention in New Delhi against the communalisation of education ("Secular challenge", August 31). The concern expressed by the participants is shared by all right-thinking people of India. It is sad that institutions responsible for shaping the content of education are sought to be influenced by the Sangh Parivar. "Value Education" is a euphemism for religious education. The participation of the Education Ministers of nine States and Union Territories added significance to the convention.

In the monsoon session of Parliament, some allies of the Bharatiya Janata Party joined the Opposition in warning the Union government that mixing religion and education would have dangerous repercussions. The decision to introduce astrology and Vedic science as subjects of study at the university level too came under attack.

The scientific community has expressed its concern and apprehensions in this regard. Its views must be given due importance in formulating education policy.

Onkar Chopra New Delhi * * *

The BJP-led government's propaganda equating Indian nationalism with Hinduism is akin to Hitler's propaganda equating German nationalism with Nazism. Like the Nazi government, the NDA government has been using all sorts of methods - such as the distortion of historical facts and the introduction of Hinduism-oriented courses - to legitimise Hindutva.

At this juncture, all secular and democratic political parties, organisations of women and students and the intelligentsia must come forward to resist any move that might ruin the federal polity and the secular character of our country. The Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (Sahmat) has taken a positive initiative to expose the motives behind the NDA government's education policy. The spirit of the Sahmat convention has to be sustained to save our country from the claws of Hindutva ideologues.

A.S.M. Khairuzzaman Lanka, Assam Reservation in Parliament

The reservations expressed by some Members of Parliament about the proposed move to lift the freeze on the number of Lok Sabha and Assembly seats reserved for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes sound justified ("A Bill with limitations", August 31).

The Constitution (91st Amendment) Bill seeks to freeze until 2026 the total number of seats in the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies and the number of Lok Sabha seats from each State. This is to motivate State governments to pursue the goal of stabilising the population. If the same logic is applied to different communities, the number of seats reserved for the Scheduled Castes in the Lok Sabha should also be frozen. But it is going to be increased from 81 to 88. Although the move is unfair, no political party is making it an issue.

The provision for reservations was incorporated in the Constitution as a temporary measure. But the extent of reservation has been increased and its timeframe has been extended. As it is politically impossible to stop reservations at one go, they must be gradually withdrawn. Increasing the number of reserved seats in Parliament will take the country backward.

Avuthu Srihari Secunderabad The right to dissent

Arundhati Roy and Medha Patkar should be commended for asserting their right to dissent. The Supreme Court had in a majority judgment ruled in favour of increasing the height of the Sardar Sarovar dam. There were judges of the same Bench who did not agree with that judgment. If the Supreme Court Judges have the right to dissent, why is it denied to ordinary citizens?

The right to dissent is sacred in a democratic society. In fact, it is a prerequisite for such a society. It is the freedom of the opposition and not the ruling party that proves the democratic credentials of any civil society. Indeed it is the ruling party's foremost responsibility to see that the opposition functions freely and fearlessly. During the Emergency, the Congress failed in this litmus test, and it is still paying the price for it.

In the Narmada cases, even the majority Judges went by the letter and spirit of the law. If the law is inadequate to protect the legitimate needs and rights of citizens, it should be amended or changed. The judiciary cannot do this. Only the people can change the law through Parliament.

A section of the public strongly feels that the Supreme Court judgment is insensitive to the legitimate rights and needs of people affected by the Narmada project. As detailed in the article "Of contempt and legitimate dissent" (August 31), many people who criticised the courts in the past were sentenced to jail terms. In some of these cases, the criticisms were within the boundaries of legitimate dissent. The courts are part of a greater democratic set-up, where the will of the people is supreme. As rightly described by Arundhati Roy, any action that is contrary to this is an insult to the citizen.

P.J.J. Antony Jubail, Saudi Arabia The Nizam's jewels

This is with reference to the article "The Nizam's jewels" (August 3).

We would have expected an article in a magazine of standing like yours to reflect an adequate awareness of the facts and circumstances that eventually led to the acquisition of the exquisite art collection of the Nizam's Trust by the Government of India. On behalf of the HEH The Nizam's Jewellery Trust, I would like to draw your attention to the following points to enable you to publish the correct version in the interest of truth and fairness, and bring into proper focus the part played by the trustees of the HEH The Nizam's Jewellery Trust.

1. The references made in the article to a certain official of the National Museum, Dr. Sihare, seem to bestow on him a degree of importance not warranted by the facts of the case. In fact, this official placed hurdles in the way by lending support to a public interest petition filed in the Supreme Court by certain interested parties claiming that the jewellery was not the personal property of the Nizam. Frivolous as it was, the case was dismissed by the Supreme Court after a number of hearings, but it caused delay.

2. The sequence of events leading to the purchase of the art collection by the Government of India would bring into the correct perspective the positive role played, more than anyone else, by the Trustees of the HEH The Nizam's Jewellery Trust. As early as July 1972, the trustees wrote to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi offering the exquisite art collection consisting of 173 items of jewellery to the Government of India so that it could be retained within the country as a part of our national heritage. On the basis of the recommendations made by several expert committees, the Government of India decided to buy only a few selected items which were the cream of the collection. This, however, did not materialise owing to the intervention proceedings in the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, in March 1978, the Government of India informed the trustees that it was not interested in the purchase of the art collection. As a result, the trustees held an auction in 1979 under the supervision of the Finance Secretary, Government of India. Before the bid by a foreign buyer could be accepted, the auction was cancelled by an order from Prime Minister Charan Singh. The trustees once again displayed a constructive attitude by agreeing to accept arbitration under a compromise agreement with the Government of India. After protracted proceedings before the arbiter and the Supreme Court, the government finally acquired the art collection by paying a compensation of Rs.218 crores in terms of the arbitration award - a figure very much below its value in the international market then.

3. The caption for the photograph of the Nizam on page 99 is inaccurate. The children in the photograph are the sons of the Nizam - Prince Azam Jah Bahadur and Prince Moazzam Jah Bahadur - and not, as mentioned in the caption, Prince Mukarram Jah and Prince Muffakham Jah, who are the grandsons of the Nizam. The caption skips an entire generation in one sweep.

It would be clear from the above statements that the trustees played a key role in the implementation of the compromise agreement. The trustees were conscious of their first responsibilities to the beneficiaries to get a full and fair price for the items and to do so without delay. They sought to achieve this while also acting in the national interest at every stage of the case. Motivated by this desire, the trustees offered the collection to the government for purchase so that it could remain in the country as a part of the national heritage.

M.A. Hadi Trustee, HEH The Nizam's Jewellery Trust Hyderabad

Legal reforms

In a well-written article, R.K. Raghavan describes with precision the various dimensions to the killing of Phoolan Devi ("Fundamental issues", August 31).

Legal reforms are delayed by successive governments. Media reports put the total number of cases pending in Indian courts at 24 million. The average time taken to settle a case is 20 years. As such, hard evidence against the culprits in a case is difficult to come by and the delay makes the task even more difficult. Taking advantage of the loopholes or the lack of evidence, offenders often go scot-free. In the process, victims are denied justice and, worse, sometimes innocents find themselves in jail. In order to keep pace with the changing times and also give timely justice to the citizens, legal reforms are the need of the hour.

As far as VIP security is concerned, each VIP is bound by certain security protocols, which may be ignored at their own peril. Phoolan Devi ignored them. Indira Gandhi was reported to have been advised to replace her personal security guards after Operation Bluestar. She did not do so, and the consequence was swift and telling.

The most vital aspect of this debate is the protection of those who are supposedly being victimised - Phoolan Devi, for instance. It is time to come down heavily on those playing havoc with the social fabric of India.

Ravi Kumar Mangalam Delhi Jnanpith Award

The article on the life and works of Indira Goswami (Mamoni Raisom Goswami), the narrator of the joys and sufferings of the people of South Kamrup in Assam ("The texture of life", August 31) was timely. The Jnanpith Award for her is well-deserved. We are proud of her.

Hafiz Ahmed Dipanjali Goswami Amranga, Assam Economics

Referring to the forays being made by the new development economics, Jayati Ghosh suggests that a better way of expending intellectual energy might be to develop alternative ways of addressing the still fascinating and relevant issues of growth, development, structural change and inequality in all economies, especially those not characterised as "developed" ("A focussed revival", August 31). She says that such alternatives would give greater precedence to the role of history, to the interplay of political and social forces with economic institutions and processes and to the class interests and distributional conflicts which reflect and determine economic patterns.

These perceptions are unexceptionable by and large. It needs to be pointed out that since the mid-1980s, and particularly since the 1990s, independent think tanks and departments of economics in some universities in the West have actively taken up in-depth studies to promote non-orthodox economics of the genre mentioned by Jayati Ghosh. A representative list of such institutions is given in Real Life Economics - Understanding Wealth Creation (edited by Paul Ekins and Manfred Max Neef, and published by Routledge, London, and New York). Wolfgang Sachs, Amitai Etzioni, Herman Daly, Mark Lutz, Ian Miles, Anizur Rehman and Ponna Wiagnaraga are some of the political and development economists of the alternative typology.

It also bears mention that although Amartya Sen was awarded the Nobel Prize for his exceptionally exclusive contributions to welfare economics, providing/restoring ethical focus, his latest book Development as Freedom tends to be a foray into alternative economics (divorced in some measure from the mainstream classical and neo-classical economics as also Marxian Economics), which is essentially humanistic in content and character.

K. John Mammen Thiruvananthapuram DPEP

Dr. Anita Rampal's article "An educative experience" (August 17) on the District Primary Education Programme (DPEP) in Kerala is a far cry from the reality. She seems to be blissfully unaware of the fact that the DPEP is now on in all the districts of Kerala. To begin with it was introduced in the three districts of Malappuram, Wayanad and Kasaragod in 1994 by the then United Democratic Front government led by A.K. Antony. The Left Democratic Front Ministry, which was recently voted out of power, was widely expected to discontinue the World Bank-funded DPEP. But, to the consternation of many, it implemented the programme all over the State with added vigour and enthusiasm. Now the new Education Minister, Nalakathu Soopy, in consultation with well-known educationists and heeding popular voices of dissent, has decided to ease out the DPEP. And there is a point.

As N.A. Karim, a prominent dissenter, has pointed out, a great mistake of the DPEP is that it sought to do away in one day with a system that had been in force for decades. Not that the age-old system should have been left undisturbed. The change should have been brought about in stages, based on a curriculum and a syllabus most suited to the nation's needs. Most government-run and aided schools, in which the programme was introduced, are in a pathetic condition, with leaking roofs, inadequately furnished classrooms, and a class of teachers not willing to take the DPEP to fruition. Making matters worse is the fact that a great number of those who attend these schools are poor children. They certainly find it difficult to adjust to the new programme. True, some children who are naturally quick learners will show good results. But they will show the same results whatever may be the programme they are exposed to. My own children are studying under the DPEP, and I am for changes with respect to the contents of the textbooks, the methods of teaching, the method evaluation, and so on.

Strangely, one finds the children of those who clamour for the DPEP attending English-medium schools; they include the children of certain regional leaders of the progressive movement, the Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad, and many DPEP teachers.

The team, of which Anita Rampal was a part, was shown around a select few of the DPEP and non-DPEP schools by the very same agency implementing the programme, namely the Primary Education Society of Kerala (PEDSK). No wonder, here is the voice of the master.

K.M. Ajir Kutty Edava, Kerala * * *

The article "Abandoning a reform measure" (August 3) praises the DPEP and expresses concern about its future under the United Democratic Front. In the last two years several articles have appeared in magazines and newspapers about the DPEP, highlighting its innovative features.

I do not live in Kerala, nor do I have a first-hand experience of this programme. However, I have discussed it with relatives and friends whose children study in DPEP schools. The impression I got was that many parents were initially enthused by the reform measures, expecting that the promised changes would improve the standard of education, which was on the decline. Then, disillusionment set in. They were shocked to find that their wards were not learning even what they used to learn earlier. The textbooks were full of comic stuff, there was no evaluation, and reading and writing practice was inadequate - these were some of their complaints against the new system.

They were not amused by the queer experiments that were being carried out on their children.

I found on the Internet that similar projects were on in many countries, mostly in the Third World. What surprised me more was the frequency with which catch phrases such as 'learn how to learn', 'child-centred activity-based pedagogy' and 'joyful learning', which were supposed to have an indigenous origin, kept popping up in World Bank documents published much in advance of the implementation of the programme in Kerala.

A question naturally came to my mind: Why should the World Bank, a financial agency whose humanitarian credentials have often been questioned, be so concerned about primary education in India? It provides a loan of Rs.40 crores to a district under this programme. The Bank is not exactly known for its generosity and kindness. The point is that the World Bank does not stop with merely financing the DPEP. It dictates what is to be done. It aims to restructure and change the educational system in such a way as to suit the needs of those who will gain most from a new globalised economic system. This is clear from the policy documents of the World Bank. Reports from Latin American countries where such educational reforms were carried out reveal that these have adversely affected the public education system and led to the privatisation of education. After all, all-out privatisation, including that of social welfare institutions, is one of the thrusts of the globalisation-liberalisation policy.

I feel that this reform measure, aided massively by the Bank, may not be as innocuous as it appears to be. We must critically examine this programme without getting carried away by its catchy terminology. It is true that our education system needs to be reformed but that is not a task to be left to the World Bank.

George Joseph Kalpakkam, Tamil Nadu
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