America's war

Print edition : October 13, 2001

The United States reaped what it had sown ("America's War", October 12). It has declared a war against terrorism not on the basis of any principle. It wants to avenge a humiliation. It is the biggest promoter of terrorism in the world.

S. Raghunatha Prabhu Alappuzha, Kerala * * *

The Cover Story put in perspective the dangerous implications of the United States' war on terrorism. The U.S. is enraged by terrorism only when it is itself targeted. But India should utilise the situation to tighten its security mechanism, drive terrorists out of Jammu and Kashmir and build bridges with Pakistan, for durable peace.

World opinion should be mobilised to put an end to state-sponsored terrorism, which has created Frankensteins such as Osama bin Laden. Also, public opinion in the country should be mobilised against fundamentalism, which breeds fanaticism and terrorism. Almost all religions are based on the principle of love. But fundamentalists misinterpret the meaning of religion and unleash hate and terror.

A. Jacob Sahayam Karigiri, Tamil Nadu * * *

This has reference to the editorial "Dangerous implications of America's unjust war". The "Bush doctrine", which is behind the U.S' ultimatum to all countries to decide which side they are on, is only a recycled version of the old doctrine: "Either you are with us or you are with the communists." India, under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru, responded to the old doctrine with political maturity, keeping in mind the national interests. The absence of a leader of the stature of Nehru is reflected in our response to the Bush doctrine.

Have we conducted our foreign relations with dignity and self-respect? The editorial rightly says: "It was pathetic to see the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government offer abject and unconditional cooperation to the United States in its 'global war against terrorism' without so much as being asked and after confessing that it did not know what the U.S' military plans and agenda were." While there can be no two opinions about the need for the international community to unite against international terrorism, India should respond in a fashion befitting a wise and mature democracy. We must avoid any unprincipled collaboration, which runs against our national interests.

Onkar Chopra New Delhi * * *

After the September 11 incidents, the whole world, including the Islamic nations and the U.S., seems to have understood what India has been saying for the past 15 years. The survival of the government in Pakistan depends on the level of terror unleashed in Jammu and Kashmir. The Taliban is the child of Pakistan. But now, owing to pressure from the U.S., Pakistan is forced to act against the Taliban. If it does so, the Taliban will surely attack Pakistan.

Pakistan is now trying to mollify the Taliban, the U.S. and the fundamentalists on its own territory. Now India has a golden opportunity to fight terrorism by giving unconditional logistical support to the U.S. in its war against terrorism. All political parties should wholeheartedly support the government in this.

S.A. Sundaramurthy Tirupur, Tamil Nadu * * *

Except three articles, covering humanitarian, financial and security aspects, all others in the Cover Story feature had a common refrain: the U.S. itself is a terrorist state in that it supports Zionism and has imposed sanctions on Iraq, and the Government of India has gone to the U.S. on bended knees. While all this may be true to a considerable extent, did you have to devote nearly half the issue to a topic that was adequately covered by your one-page editorial?

Chudamani Ratnam Delhi * * *

The world's sole superpower has become the target of terrorism. My sympathies are with the American people in their hour of grief.

Abhijeet D. More Nashik Suicide missions

In the article "A lost battle?" (October 12), R.K. Raghavan correctly described a terrorist as "one in whom the will to live has been 'erased' through incessant indoctrination". The most deplorable aspect of terrorism is the brainwashing of the 'faithful' to make them join suicide squads. The whole world is aghast at the decadence of the clerics who inspire young people to take up suicide missions with the promise of 'paradise' after their "sacrifice".

Kangayam R. Rangaswamy Pennsylvania, U.S. Nuclear power

The article "TAPS at thirty" (October 12) highlights the efforts of Indian engineers and scientists to rejuvenate the old war horse, the Tarapur Atomic Power Station. They deserve kudos.

In ideal operating conditions, the life-span of a nuclear power station is estimated to be about 30 years. Being a first- generation power reactor, TAPS has had a number of equipment and material failures. In spite of these, the nuclear establishment has been operating it by modifying it under the "plant life extension" (PLEX) programme. Their plan to use it for a decade or two more stems out of the belief that nothing will go wrong. But they should realise that the failure of any mechanical contrivance at an inopportune moment will result in complications.

India has gained vast expertise in designing, constructing and operating Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors and it should concentrate on them. One has to assess whether the unit cost of production at TAPS is worth the effort.

A.S. Raj Received on e-mail Caste and race

The World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) had a special significance for India in that it was held in Durban where Mahatma Gandhi staged his first protest against racism and intolerance ("Dilution in Durban", September 28). As a gesture of commitment to Gandhiji's vision, India should have admitted that despite all constitutional guarantees, Dalits do not have the level of freedom that the upper castes enjoy. It should have appealed to the international community to discuss the issue and sought its help to root out caste-based discrimination.

Instead, the government tried to block any discussion on the issue on the grounds that caste-based discrimination was an internal matter of the country - a stand that liberal, democratic forces could not support. This stand was, however, not unexpected, given the fact that the government is led by the BJP, which came to power cashing in on the support of the upper castes. Surprisingly, Dalit leaders such as Ram Vilas Paswan maintained silence over the issue.

Dalits must not lose heart. Instead of forming unprincipled caste-based political parties, they should organise themselves into a broad, non-political platform comprising all those who stand for humanitarian causes and fight for their social, political and economic rights.

A.S.M. Khairuzzaman Lanka, Assam AIDS

The review of the book Sex, Lies and AIDS is more impassioned than reasoned ("The AIDS challenge", September 28). The estimate that AIDS will kill 300,000 Indians in 2001 is a grossly inflated one, which will create a scare and perhaps attract more funds. According to the National AIDS Control Organisation functioning under the Ministry of Health, at the most 50,000 people will die of AIDS. Even this figure needs to be subjected to critical scrutiny. The author should have explained how he arrived at the figure 300,000.

The reviewer has made an unfortunate comparison between AIDS and Kargil, but why has he not mentioned the number of people who die of hepatitis or even malaria in India? These are much bigger scourges than AIDS. Omitted also is the fact that a large sum of money is spent on fighting AIDS and only a meagre amount is allocated to tackle even more deadly diseases.

The author claims to have seen several hundred HIV-positive men and women in the Imphal jail. There are only two such patients - a man and a woman - in that jail. There were 12 earlier. And they are imprisoned not because they are victims of HIV but because they were involved in criminal offences such as drug peddling and theft. If any prisoner is found to be AIDS-afflicted, the authorities move the court in order to enable their release. The courts have released such persons.

There is much sense in the book, but that is eclipsed by exaggerations.

Romesh Bhattacharji Gwalior Capital concerns

In "Capital concerns" (September 28), Jayati Ghosh rightly pointed to the government's failure to bring down the real interest rates despite financial reforms.

The banking sector is responsible for this to a certain extent. The banks have failed to attract small investors and borrowers. Instead they concentrate on big industrial houses or influential individuals. Small borrowers seldom default on repayment, unlike many big industrialists, who are mainly responsible for the accumulation of non-performing assets. A huge potential remains untapped in the rural areas. The common man finds it easier to take loans from individuals at high rates, and this has affected the banking sector adversely. The government should take measures to bring transparency, accessibility and accountability to its functioning.

Jagpal Singh Faridabad, Haryana Drugs and profits

The designs of multinationals to exploit the situation arising out of the changes made in the Indian Patent Act, 1970, in pursuance of the World Trade Organisation agreement is well analysed in the article "The addictions of drug companies" (August 17).

In this context, two points are highly relevant for India: 1. Antibiotic, antifungal, anthelmintic and anti-infective drugs that are newly patented and costly are not being used only in cases where the resistant strains have developed. A powerful propaganda machinery of the multinationals has pushed out of the market, by resorting to unethical methods, the off-patented, low-cost medicines that are commonly used. And the government, with its policy of deregulation, remains a silent spectator. 2. Market forces would compel indigenous manufacturers further to stop production of commonly used low-cost medicines by effecting an artificial decline in market demands. As a result, affordable medicines would become scarcer.

The government should ensure the production, promotion and distribution of such medicines in the market. The National Federation of Sales Representatives' Unions (NFSRU) demands the total revival of Indian Drugs and Pharmaceuticals Ltd. (IDPL) and Hindustan Antibiotics Ltd (HAL), the public sector undertakings that have been declared sick. It submitted a memorandum containing nearly one lakh signatures to the Prime Minister in support of the demand. Pursuant to its demand, 108 Members of Parliament, cutting across party lines, submitted a memorandum to the government. On August 30, 2001, the NFSRU presented to the Prime Minister letters written by about 5,000 doctors from different States demanding the revival of IDPL and HAL. But the Central government does not seem to have realised the social significance of reviving them.

C.K. Sanyal National Federation of Sales Representatives' Unions Mumbai

Sri Lanka

This refers to "Survival stakes" (September 28). The author finds fault with the Sri Lankan President for having forged a temporary alliance with the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), which she had accused of being the perpetrator of the murder of her husband. But the author finds it reasonable for the People's Alliance to strike a deal with the United National Party (UNP), which engineered the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. While the UNP amended the Constitution to the disadvantage of the parliamentary system, the JVP has agreed to support the President on condition that she would freeze constitutional reforms. The JVP has warned the government against a sell-out to the World Trade Organisation. The UNP undermined every effort made by the President to arrive at an agreement with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. In fact, the UNP moved a no-confidence motion against her government, which lost its majority in Parliament owing to its fight against corruption.

All help should be extended to the Chandrika Kumaratunga government, which in its previous term, brought down considerably the percentage of people living below the poverty line and the rate of unemployment. It has proved that it is a pro-people government and accorded topmost priority to the resolution of the ethnic conflict.

Sunil Baran Chakraborty Bidhan Nagar, West Bengal

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