Published : Jan 31, 2003 00:00 IST


"Disinvestment discord" (Cover Story, January 17) highlights the difference of opinion within the Cabinet and in the Opposition on the Union government's disinvestment move with respect to BPCL and HPCL. It also provides an impetus to the policy itself. But should we not learn from the failures of the Soviet Union and the successes of the Chinese policy? It may be wiser to assess the pros and cons of the same as an economic policy rather than politicising it. Loss-making PSUs are a big drain on the economy of almost all the States as well as the Centre. Then the question turns to profit-making PSUs. But a decision has to be made one way or other. Disinvestment should bring about a change of management to make the companies more efficient and productive. It can bring prices of products down, benefiting consumers. And the share value may go up, to the advantage of shareholders.

The next question is about the method to be adopted. The transaction should be transparent. Strategic sale may bring more money. But `share issue privatisation' may promote equity culture among small investors and a sense of ownership among the public. If small investors are not able to contribute fully, as a midway policy, the balance could be sold through strategic sale.

A. Jacob Sahayam Karigiri, Tamil Nadu* * *

Is it not evident that a PSU will only be successful if there is no pressure from the governing party? Judging by the nature of our politicians, with what hope should a PSU be allowed to waste taxpayers' money. Can Frontline name a single successful country built on PSUs? One or two successful examples do not make up for hundreds of loss-making units. Besides, does the Government of India really need to be in the business of manufacturing soaps? Would it not be better if it focusses on education and health care?

How much employment can PSUs generate in a nation of a billion people? Even the most successful PSUs have workforces that are more or less constant. Most PSUs for a long time did not have a single competitor. When there is only one provider of goods, it will naturally rule the markets. As for Mysore Soaps & Detergents, why did the company not compete better when other brands were introduced into the market? The very politicians you berate the government for disinvestment were in charge when the PSUs had a monopoly. They had no vision then and do not have one now.

Trust the people to make decisions to better their own lives.

Arvind Narayanaswamy Received on e-mailWar-mongering

The article "Countdown to war" (January 17) is mild in its approach to the Israeli-led war on Iraq. First, the United States and Britain have been continually bombing and blockading Iraq for the past 12 years. Secondly, the real reason for the impending war is that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his ilk are incensed by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein for granting a solatium of $25,000 to the family of each Palestinian freedom fighter who dies in action. There are five million Jews in the U.S. and they are among the wealthiest in the world.

The right-wing Jewish lobby has allied itself with right-wing Christian fundamentalist groups. Today the right-wing Jewish lobby is so strong in the U.S. that it ensures that Israel is given over $2 billion a year as military aid. Initially it may be given as a loan, but the debt is invariably forgiven in subsequent budgets. One study showed that Israel costs the U.S. Treasury about $7 billion a year.

The Israeli control of the U.S. government is so strong that President Bush's statements on West Asia are merely a paraphrase of Israeli's statements. Elliot Abrams, the Director of Middle East Policy, is one of many Israelis in high U.S. government posts. Jews anywhere in the world are Israeli nationals, regardless of whether they are Israeli citizens or not. Israel is the mahout that controls the U.S. elephant. Once this basic truth is understood, a lot of missing pieces in the jigsaw puzzle will fall into place. Israel is ruled by the right-wing, which wishes to replicate the Kingdom of David and Solomon. If possible, it will go even beyond that. At the entrance to the Knesset is carved in stone the motto of Israel: "My power shall extend from the Nile to the Euphrates."

By itself, Israel cannot do much to endanger world peace. But it has captured the U.S. And therein lies all the war-mongering.

Joseph Thomas New DelhiGujarat elections

This has reference to the article "The spoiler in Gujarat" (January 17). In constituencies like Dhrangadhara, Wankaner and Jamjodhpur, where the voter turnout was over 70 per cent, the BJP did not do remarkably well. In Wankaner, if the NCP had not come in the way, the Congress(I) would indeed have emerged victorious. In over 30 constituencies the Congress(I) lost narrowly. In 17 constituencies, the NCP or the S.P. acted as the spoiler, or else the Congress(I) would have probably won. Had this happened, the BJP's tally of seats would have been a lot smaller, and the outcome would not have been something for the saffron parties to crow about.

A look at the election results shows that only two independents won, although independents as a whole took away a crucial 5 per cent of the total votes polled. As for parties other than the Congress(I) and the BJP, they did not even get 1 per cent of the votes. If soft Hindutva was so appealing, then the NDA's allies should have done respectably well. After all, their entire existence in the national alliance at the Centre is based on soft Hindutva.

S.S. Almal KolkataFascist culture

As a Hindu who has been brought up on the principles of tolerance and goodwill towards other religions, which is the essence of Hinduism, I am astonished at the amount of hatred that is bred among people in the name of religion. Why are these fascist organisations - the VHP, the RSS, the Bajrang Dal, the Shiv Sena, to name a few - bent on making us feel ashamed of the identity that we have been proud of for so long? To misinterpret religion and mislead people is all that the leaders of these organisations have been doing. And our respected government is more than happy to bow before them, while the common man suffers.

What can we students look forward to as we prepare to enter the mainstream world with paths washed with the blood of innocent people, limbs strewn around and the feeling that at the next step someone may knife you because his brother was eliminated the previous day? What kind of India are we inheriting?

Udetanshu DelhiHindutva's triumph

Hindutva is old wine now (Cover Story, January 3). The new bottle is `cultural nationalism'. The BJP is not in favour of Hindutva with intolerance and extremism, says the president of the party. In the past five decades the ideals of the Sangh Parivar have worn different cloaks including `one-nation, one-culture, one-people', `true secularism', `Hindu Rashtra', `Hindutva' and now `cultural nationalism'. One has not seen societal upliftment as a theme from this outfit. Controversial issues, and not compromise, form the core of its many campaigns.

The Sangh Parivar did not subscribe to Mahatma Gandhi's ideals of an independent India during the freedom struggle, but now seizes every opportunity to invoke the name and ideals of the man who never thought of an independent India only for Hindus.

The latest is `justice for all and appeasement of none'. The party is unambiguously `appeasing' 22 other political parties with Ministries in the Central government. Appeasement need not be only to the followers of another religion. A drain by any other name will smell as obnoxious. The cultural nationalism includes calling unprintable names of leaders of opposing political parties. Searching for the elusive `pride' is yet another mirage.

Does such an attitude show a semblance of a progressive knowledge society or even a developing one that competes in the global arena?

B.G. Prakash Bangalore* * *

What Gujarat desperately needs now is upliftment in the social welfare conditions of the disheartened minorities. But the vicious circle, with an obdurate attitude and Hindutva doxology, has dragged a prosperous State to dourness.

Arvinth Singaram CoimbatoreReality check

N. Ram's article in Frontline (January 17), on the peace process in Sri Lanka was an eye-opener to me. We read reports of a breakthrough: on the one side, the principle of internal self-determination has been accepted, while the other side has agreed that this will be based on a federal structure within a united Sri Lanka. By applying his "reality check", Ram has shown what a long way we have still to go, and the many roadblocks on the way. I share his hope that all reasonable people of goodwill may work to ensure - against the heavy odds - that these talks may not end in disaster, and that Sri Lanka is not pushed back into a no-win war.

C.V. Narasimhan ChennaiThe dress code

It is horrifying to learn that Rajouri is witnessing Talibanisation ("Clocks and daggers", January 17). What is worse is that Mufti Mohammed Sayeed has not spoken up against the diktat of the terrorists. On the contrary he does not find anything wrong with women wearing burqa, for the reason that parents feel happy when they see their daughters dressed modestly. He has not even deplored the terrorists' dress code for teachers. If the Chief Minister does not do so, how can one expect other parties to rise against the fundamentalist forces? The day is not far, when emboldened by the silent support of the ruling dispensation in the name of Islam, terrorists would debar girls from going to schools and colleges, thereafter debar them from taking up employment, and concurrently ask for the closure of cinema halls, stop all entertainment activities and ask for the implementation of Islamic laws, just as they did in Afghanistan.

The Mufti must realise that any pusillanimity in handling terrorism would spell disaster for Jammu and Kashmir. There is only one way of dealing with the terrorists: that is, come down hard on them, and the earlier he does so, the better it will be for the State.

If the Mufti hopes that his soft-handed approach will see some sort of reciprocation, he will come a cropper. In fact he may end up nullifying whatever the security forces achieved in the past decade. He must keep the dagger of POTA dangling over the heads of the militants as a deterrent.

Brig. V.K. Agrawal (retd) Dehra DunAbu Abraham

Abu Abraham is no more. Our society is the lesser for it. It is a comment on our times that except for cursory pieces, no incisive analyses have appeared in print, both in English and Malayalam. It is in this context that R. Krishnakumar's tribute (January 3) evokes admiration. Abu embodied the lost ideals of the Nehruvian Age - the resplendent dawn of our independent republic. These were an unflinching commitment to secular principles, faith in constitutional and democratic polity, a staunch anti-imperialist stance and, above all, the advocacy of the anti-war cause. Abu's last published column, in the daily Deshabhimani, the Sunday prior to his death, bears testimony to the last quality.

The return of this global citizen, who could have made home anywhere, to his native Kerala was also entirely in character. This was an antithesis to the prevailing phenomena of overseas funding of spurious nationalism, experienced vicariously, and virulent parochial tendencies, which mark our hurtling descent to a theocratic state. That the media in Kerala, except for Mathrubhumi Weekly and Deshabhimani, did not afford creative outlet for Abu exposes the pedestrian nature of current journalistic practices. Nor was Abu much in demand as a public speaker. The magnitude of the opportunity that we lost can be grasped from a single cartoon during the saturation bombing of Iraq by the U.S. at the height of the Kuwait crisis. It has an Iraqi girl looking up and wondering, `Mother, is it the roar of American planes?' The woman, with face cast down and not interrupting the scouring of vessels, replies: "No my dear, that is Gorbachev snoring." In its twinning of the encompassing geo-political scenario and affirmation of Chaplinesque humanity, it is quintessential Abu. His passion for championing democratic rights made him take an uncompromising stand against the Emergency. A facet often glossed over is the felicity of his language, pared down to elemental elegance.

Now, as the sun seems to be prematurely setting on our cherished notions of a secular, democratic and constitutional republic, let us salute the master, who always stood with the forces of the light. The best way of keeping faith with this agnostic would be by furthering the ideological causes he held dear to his heart.

Sudhir D. KozhikodeAIDS figures

The figures being projected by external agencies or individuals such as Bill Gates on the number of AIDS patients in India suggest that insurmountable disaster looms if we do not oblige the self-appointed do-gooders ("The two faces of Mr. Gates", December 20, 2002).

This is not to discount the severity of the problem but to remind ourselves that we have to be watchful about the spurt in the number of empathisers and the timing of their doles.

Vissa Venkata Sundar New Delhi
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