Published : Aug 15, 2003 00:00 IST

The Cover Story ("A new phase of adventurism", August 1) brought into focus the Hindu chauvinist politics played by the Sangh Parivar, pressuring the Vajpayee government to enact a law on construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya. Even the Kanchi Sankaracharya's advice was pooh-poohed.

Legislation on the Ayodhya issue will only add to the injury inflicted on our secular sovereign democracy. Religious leaders have every right to solve the temple issue, but not at the cost of national unity. Unfortunately, they bring religion into politics, jeopardising Indian civilisation that transcends religions.

R.R. SamiThiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu

Noon-meal controversy

Caste prejudices have reared their ugly head even in a relatively advanced and prosperous district like Mandya in Karnataka as reflected in the article "Untouchable lunch?" (August 1).

The views expressed by a person quoted in the report - that they had preserved their caste tradition for hundreds of years and would not break it - is an affront to the secular fabric of our society and goes against the constitutional safeguards guaranteed to all citizens. The attempt is to suppress and keep Dalits in bondage and slavery.

This discriminatory tendency of the upper caste people should be put down by initiating legal action against them.

G.E.M. ManoharanCoimbatore, Tamil Nadu

Best Bakery case

Our criminal justice system failed miserably to identify and punish the guilty in the Best Bakery case ("Cases of injustice", August 1). This emphasises the need for a serious consideration of the recommendation of the V.S. Malimath Committee to change the concept of "proof beyond reasonable doubt".

The Code of Criminal Procedure, it seems, aims to protect the interest of the accused at the cost of truth. Retrial of a case can be ordered by higher courts only under extraordinary circumstances and not on the ground that a witness has lied.

V.K. Sathyavan NairKottayam, Kerala

Bhisham Sahni

"A life of commitment" (August 1) highlighted Bhisham Sahni's struggle to achieve social, political and economic equality. His death is a loss to the cultural and literary world of India. To honour him, a cultural centre should be named after him.

Bidyut Kumar ChatterjeeFaridabad, Uttar Pradesh

The railways

Attention of the Ministry of Railways has been drawn to the news item "A poor track record" (August 1) in your esteemed fortnightly and I am desired to clarify that `human error' causing accidents on Indian Railways is divided in two parts, that is, `failure of railway staff' and `failure of persons other than railway staff'; the latter primarily occurs owing to negligence of road users while negotiating unmanned level crossings.

It is incorrect to state that after the derailment of the Howrah-New Delhi 2301 Up Rajdhani Express, near Gaya in September 2002, Railways Minister Nitish Kumar trotted out the theory of sabotage. To set the record straight, it was Commissioner of Railway Safety, Eastern Circle, who, in his preliminary report as well as final inquiry report, established the cause of the accident as sabotage. No such cause as `engineering failure' has been established in the inquiry report. The Commissioner of Railway Safety has clearly stated that the track and bridge were in perfect order. The same bridge was repaired and is functioning well with maximum permissible speed of trains over it.

As regards derailment of the Karwar-Mumbai Central `holiday special' on the Konkan Railway on June 22, 2003, your reporter has chosen the phrase `nature fury' and has ascribed the words to Nitish Kumar. At no stage has the Minister ascribed the cause to `natural causes'. The accident occurred owing to falling of boulders and obstruction of the track just ahead of the speeding train. Commissioner of Railway Safety, Western Circle is investigating the accident.

As for the accident caused by the derailment and subsequent collision near Khanna in Punjab in 1998, it is being inquired into by the Justice Garg Commission, whose report is awaited.

It has been made clear in the `White Paper on Safety on Indian Railways' that age alone does not make a railway bridge unsafe, and there is a sound bridge management system in place, which is being upgraded.

Over 90 per cent of the recommendations made by the Commissioner of Railway Safety are accepted and implemented by the Indian Railways. Some recommendations do not get accepted owing to problems of feasibility and non-availability of appropriate and cost-effective technology.

Mechanisation, modernisation, import and upgradation of technology are a continuous process on the Indian Railways and new technological devices are being inducted into the system in various segments of activities.

M.Y. SiddiquiDirector, Public RelationsMinistry of RailwaysNew Delhi

The occupation of Iraq

Praful Bidwai is right that it would have been immoral and politically disastrous for India to send troops in support of a project for Empire. ("Courting disaster in Iraq", July 18). In our decision to say an emphatic no to Uncle Sam, for once the billion-strong Indians stood their ground.

U.S. President George Bush had decreed that Saddam Hussein must go. Saddam disappeared but did not go. Bush decreed that Liberian President Charles Taylor should go. He has agreed to go in exile. Bush's next target was President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe "for a return to democracy in that country." His next target could be Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for his "inability to send troops to Iraq".

However, we can heave a sigh of relief, for Americans want Bush himself to go for his reprehensible misadventure in Iraq based on "faulty intelligence". Let's hope the Americans succeed in ousting Bush before he makes his next move on the global chessboard.

K.P. RajanMumbai

* * *

The war in Iraq will result in a greater anti-Americanism around the world, although no nation can challenge the United States militarily and economically in the near future.

The ideological mission was clear when America was reluctantly drawn into the two World Wars. It could also justify its participation in the Cold War. Its participation in the wars in the Gulf, Kosovo or Afghanistan in the post-Cold War era was also justifiable.

Arab masses are unified by Islam in the first place and by Arab nationalism in the second. Each and every nation is angry with America for its flagrant violation of the United Nations charter. Anti-American demonstrations are taking place mainly in Amman, Cairo and cities with a large population of Palestinians. Massive peace rallies have been staged successfully in Europe, Australia and North America, which indicate the strong opposition to the new face of colonialism.

For both India and Pakistan the policy line on Iraq is to be on the right side of the U.S. There is widespread support for Saddam Hussain, against his removal, among the average Pakistanis and also among the religious organisations. As far as India is concerned, it is on the side of the U.S. since the time of former U.S. President Bill Clinton's visit. Both India and Pakistan are treading cautiously on the issue of sending troops to Iraq, with both the countries ensuring that they do not get on the wrong side of the U.S.

S. MuraliVellore, Tamil Nadu

Shyama Prasad Mookerjee

In his column in the July 18 issue ("Threat to the Taj") Natwar Singh says that "the 50th anniversary of the death [June 23, 1953] of Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookerjee went unnoticed by the BJP". The fact is that the BJP did observe his martyrdom and organised a massive rally on June 23 at the Zanana Park, Jammu. This rally attracted nationwide attention and the print and electronic media gave it extensive coverage. This rally was attended by over 10,000 people, notwithstanding the fact that the Jammu region then was reeling under a heat wave.

The rally was addressed by BJP national president M. Venkaiah Naidu, and other senior leaders, including State president Dr. Nirmal Singh and Minister of State for Defence Prof. Chaman Lal Gupta.

On the occasion, the people took the pledge that they would sacrifice their all to accomplish what was dear to Shyama Prasad Mookerjee. The BJP had decided to organise a rally and other programmes, including an impressive blood donation camp and a number of chabeels and langars in Jammu and Kashmir because this is the land of Shyama Prasad Mookerjee's martyrdom.

Prof. Hari OmSpokesperson, J&K BJP


This is in reference to the articles on MTNL-Delhi ("Focus: MTNL-Delhi", July 18). While there is no doubt that MTNL-Delhi has come a long way since its inception in 1986, in terms of the multitude of value-added services offered to its customers, the ground reality is that the reliability of the basic landline telephone network of MTNL-Delhi is still abysmal.

K.H. Khan, Executive Director of MTNL-Delhi, may claim that various steps have been taken for customer satisfaction. Pray how many are really operational in practice? An ordinary MTNL customer in Delhi can give you the true picture of the hassles a common man has to go through to get a telephone connection, to keep it operational, to pay the telephone bill (which often do not come on time, if it comes at all) and so on. Greasing the palms of the lineman to keep one's telephone operational is a way of life that a customer has to accept unquestioningly. Unless one has political or bureaucratic contacts, or plenty of money to keep the lineman happy, having an MTNL telephone connection in Delhi can be more of a curse than a blessing.

Dr. A. Basureceived by e-mail

Kargil `heroes'

Your expose of senior officers in "Kargil 1999" ("General suspects", July 4) reinforces the view that there are no good or bad troops but only good or bad officers. Our troops and young officers are without doubt the best in the world. The Indian Army's reputation that young officers display physical courage and lead from the front is proved by the unusually high battle casualty rate of officers compared to that of any other army. However, not much can be said for very senior officers, who were also once young officers, because they are expected to display moral rather than physical courage.

Physical and moral courage are different things, and in order to understand them in a military context, Norman Dixon's book The Psychology of Military Incompetence is a must-read for all those in military service and civilians who care for their army. Though the book concerns the British military of the Second World War and earlier, read between the lines the names of some of our own Generals of the military operations of 1962 onwards to Kargil 1999.

Maj.-Gen. S.G. Vombatkere (retd.)Mysore

Cauvery dispute

In the article "Growing trust" (July 4) the Cauvery dispute has been well covered.

While the emphasis is on the agricultural stagnation in the delta area, I would like to point out that the water flowing in the Cauvery river till the tail-end has to be maintained, even if it is only a trickle, as the water table has to be sustained.

We had been to the villages of Tiruchi and Thanjavur districts recently and were shocked to find that well water had fallen to a depth of 36 feet. The villagers were struggling to get water in the nearby borewell. Plants had withered as water ponds had dried up. Indiscriminate drawal of water through borewells and sand quarrying of the riverbed has pushed the water table to a level that will affect the mere sustenance of the people, leave alone agricultural needs. A couple of years back, with water flowing in Cauvery, the water level in the wells used to be six to 10 feet and we had to use de-watering pumps while digging to lay the foundation for buildings or other constructions. Let us fight with Karnataka for water lest the southern peninsula should become a desert soon.

M. SubramanianChennai


The article `Decade of decentralisation' by Prabhat Datta (August 1) mentions that village education committees under the District Primary Education Programme (DPEP) have been set up at the behest of the British government's Department for International Development (DFID). This is factually incorrect. The Programme of Action 1992, of the National Policy on Education 1986 of the Government of India, states in para 23.3.10: "Under the Constitution Amendment Bill, Panchayats will be formed for a village or a group of villages. The Panchayats will have elected representatives. Besides each Panchayat may constitute a Village Education Committee (VEC), which would be responsible for administration of the delegated programmes in the field of education at village level."

The DFID had no role at any stage in this decision of the government.

Charlotte Seymour-SmithMinister (Development) andHead, DFID, India

Correction: In the article "A decade of decentralisation" (August 1), a sentence in the fifth paragraph reads: "By the 73rd Amendment it is mandatory that panchayat elections be held at the time of general elections." The correct position is that under the Act, panchayat elections have to be held at regular intervals. Another sentence says that "panchayat elections were completed in West Bengal, Bihar and Assam after a series of legal battles". The inclusion of West Bengal was an inadvertent error.

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