Published : Feb 14, 2003 00:00 IST


The Cover Story ("Globalising resistance", January 31), brought into focus the growth of a unified force in the form of the Asian Social Forum (ASF) and the World Social Forum (WSF) to mobilise people's power against globalisation. This forum could be effective in highlighting the problems of the developing countries and the poor.

But `socialism' as an alternative suggested by Samir Amin is not convincing. Even countries such as China and Russia have adopted the policy of globalisation. In fact, China is the greatest beneficiary of this process. India has to adopt policies of privatisation and liberalisation in the face of the crisis in 1990. The opportunities opened up by globalisation are many. The battle for social progress and economic development has to be fought on domestic and global fronts. The oppression of the weaker sections of society by caste and communal forces has to be stopped. Corruption has to be eradicated so that the benefits of welfare measures reach targeted groups. The right to food and the right to education are to be enforced. Policy initiatives for agriculture and rural development, and schemes such as crop insurance and unemployment dole should be introduced.

A. Jacob Sahayam Karigiri, Tamil NaduThe nuclear command

John Cherian has lucidly explained the formation of the Nuclear Command Structure and the formalisation of India's nuclear doctrine ("The nuclear button", January 31). The Nuclear Command Authority would be responsive and reliable but there are some major lacunae. The Political Council comprises mainly politicians. It has no military officials who could present the military angle to facilitate decision-making. There is a need for a Chief of Defence Staff, who should be the member of this committee. Until the creation of this post, it would be appropriate to have the Chairman, Chief of Staff Committee, as the member of the Political Council. He could represent his own service on the Executive Council. Control structure for the Strategic Forces Command should also be decided on a priority basis to clear the fog. Being a tri-service national force, it could well be directly under the control of the Chief of Defence Staff.

As regards the nuclear doctrine, the government has done well to leave no one in doubt that in the event of a major attack against India or the Indian forces even with chemical or biological weapons, India would retaliate with nuclear weapons. Even the no-first-use policy needs review. There is no point in remaining on high moral platform against an adversary who professes first use. Against such powers too our doctrine should be open-ended, notwithstanding the dangers inherent in such a policy. We need not be apologetic on this issue as national security interests have primacy over moral considerations. The National Security Advisory Board's recommendation on this is timely and must be considered seriously.

Brig V.K. Agrawal (Retd) Dehra Dun* * *

Although belated, the Indian government's decision to establish a nuclear command and control structure is a step in the right direction. India's firm enunciation of the no-first-use policy is in stark contrast to Pakistan's stand. Islamabad's `no' to such a policy has been dictated by its fear of India's superiority in conventional weapons. All countries in the region can breathe a sigh of relief as India's no-first-use policy has been further reinforced by the solemn assurance that it will not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear nations except, of course, when its security is threatened by chemical and biological weapons. This has to be accepted by all concerned as a reasonable caveat.

India's nuclear button will be under civilian control, with the final authority to launch a nuclear weapon resting with the Political Council to be chaired by the Prime Minister. Pakistan's controlling authority is virtually the President who is also the Commander-in-Chief of its armed forces, which in effect means that operating the nuclear button will be the prerogative of the military, despite Pakistan's protestation that the authority rests with "Pakistan's National Command Authority", which includes the Prime Minister. This will be unacceptable to the world community. It is worth recalling that even during the critical periods of the Cold War, the civilian heads of governments of both the U.S. and the Soviet Union retained control of the nuclear weapons, a tradition that is being continued even today.

One would piously wish for a nuclear-free region, free of worries, fears and nightmares. However, it is also time both India and Pakistan reactivated the hotline between the control authorities of both countries in times of crisis.

Kangayam R. Rangaswamy Received by e-mail* * *

`The nuclear button' is fortunately vested with an elected civilian Prime Minister unlike our neighbour's military leader in civilian clothes. Pokhran-II triggered a nuclear arms race with Pakistan. Despite its disadvantages vis-a-vis the defence forces and conventional weaponry, Pakistan became equal in strength as far as nuclear capability was concerned.

A nuclear war is unthinkable. President Musharraf's statement on first use of nuclear devices, despite his claims that he was misquoted, was chilling. An accidental nuclear war may not be possible with a command system in place but a losing side may use its brahmastra, the nuclear weapon, to save itself. Whether it is a tactical nuclear weapon or a big bomb, the consequences of using such weapons could be deadly.

It is not enough to have a pact on no-first-use. The time has come for both countries to work out the modalities of destroying their stockpile of nuclear devices and fission material in the presence of experts from both sides. The subcontinent should be declared a nuclear-free zone.

D.B.N. Murthy BangaloreThe Kelkar report

India is a capitalist economy, which is run by the rich and for the rich, with corporate giants and businessmen influencing the policies of the government to their advantage. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that the government's tax axe is likely to fall on the middle-class salaried taxpayer as per the recommendations of the Vijay Kelkar Committee ("The Kelkar proposals", January 31).

As the salaried class has always been the favourite whipping boy of the Finance Ministry, how can one expect Kelkar to deviate from the standard norms? Moreover, oppression of the weak has become our tradition. The watered down Kelkar Report is anything but pro-poor/pro-middle class as claimed by its author. In fact, it is aimed at pleasing the corporate sector at the expense of the middle class, as observed by Sitaram Yechury, Polit Bureau member of the CPI(M).

It is surprising that at a time when unemployment in various sectors is on the rise owing to retrenchment/early retirement under various schemes and savings have become the need of the hour, the report has recommended the scrapping of standard deduction and tax incentives on all types of small savings except Provident Fund. With interest rates on P.F., bank deposits and monthly income schemes decreasing, the future of the middle class seems to be doomed. With employees now having to opt for early retirement, it would be only fair to exempt the total VRS earnings from income tax as one has to depend on this amount for the rest of his/her life in the absence of proper social security schemes to fall back on.

A look at the income tax structure recommended by the Kelkar Committee makes it clear that the Rs.4 lakh-plus income group will benefit the most. People who have taken housing loans are also in for a big shock as the tax deduction of up to Rs.1.5 lakhs currently being allowed on housing loan repayments a year is proposed to be slashed down to Rs.50,000 a year.

It is good that the BJP has reviewed the recommendations as it knows that with Assembly elections in nine States due this year and the general elections due next year, it cannot afford to antagonise the vast middle-class, which forms the largest chunk of the electorate. In fact, the Finance Ministry, instead of netting the small fish, should adopt ways and means to catch the big fish, that is., the wealthy people like film stars, politicians and big businessmen who evade the tax authorities to the maximum extent.

S. Balakrishnan JamshedpurChild labour

The article "Vulnerable, still" (December 20, 2002) was informative and well-researched. The death of 16 women and children in a fire at a match factory in Tamil Nadu is indeed distressing and highlights the evils of child labour. The employment of minor children in such hazardous industries is condemnable and calls for action under the Child Labour Act. Strenuous efforts are required to eradicate child labour.

Abhijeet D. More NashikConversion debate

It is time Hindu religious leaders and social service organisations came together strongly against all kinds of discrimination against Hindus. The lack of solidarity among Hindus is an open invitation to "poaching" from other religions ("Behind Jayalalithaa's ordinance", November 8, 2002).

The greatest danger to Hinduism comes from within. This is a wonderful opportunity for introspection and for setting things right within the Hindu fold before it is too late. As Swami Vivekananda said, let us now "awake, arise and stop not until the goal is reached". This goal to transform ourselves and Hindu society into a great people can be achieved with a little self-awareness and self-criticism.

Pradeep Desai Chennai
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