The Cover Story "Uttar Pradesh drama" (September 26) provides an excellent insight into the political manoeuvrings that have muddied the waters in the Gangetic plain.
Ever since the BSP-BJP coalition assumed office in U.P., the BJP had been suffering silently all sorts of humiliations heaped on it by Mayawati. The marriage of convenience, performed with the sole aim of keeping Mulayam Singh out of the reckoning, ended in divorce. The price the BJP paid for the short honeymoon was very high and it was forced to eat humble pie. When the situation reached a point of no return, the unholy alliance was called off. This paved the way for horsetrading and a realignment of political parties.
The BJP in U.P. has been on a downward slide. The party, which has its support base largely among the forward castes such as Thakurs and Brahmins, started losing ground because of its alliance with the BSP, which did not miss even a single opportunity to brand the BJP a `Manuvadi' party. As a result, the BJP slid to the third place. Its experiment with social engineering turned out to be a damp squib. This is a case of "Congressisation of the BJP". The wheel has turned full circle.
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Manipulative politics reigned supreme in Uttar Pradesh. The BSP-BJP coalition came to an end. The leaders fumed at each other for betrayal, and made it possible for Mulayam Singh Yadav to become Chief Minister for the third time. While the veterans are sidelined, rank opportunists are proving lucky in Lucknow. As you have rightly stated, the formation of the Mulayam Singh Yadav government offers a lesson in realpolitik to even the most astute politicians. Survival politics is all that matters.
R. R. SamiTiruvannamalai
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The responsibilities of the new government are truly great. Equally high are the expectations of the people - stability, good governance and welfare. And major political parties have their own calculations. Will these bring any change in the political equations in the next Lok Sabha polls? Will the BJP be able to reap any benefit? How will the coming Assembly elections and their results influence the Congress, which is waiting and watching? What are the prospects of a Third Front on the national scene? How will the new regime affect the Ayodhya issue? How will the `Taj impact' affect the former Chief Minister? The nation is eagerly awaiting the next scene in the country's wide theatre.
A. Jacob SahayamThiruvananthapuram
Labour and liberalisation
The thesis of `integration of world economies on the lines of the WTO' is falling apart owing to the inherent contradictions and exploitative character of the new philosophy of development manifested through the globalisation of trade and communication ("Labour and Liberalisation", September 12). The inevitability factor introduced by globalisation has forced developing countries to be content with the prescription. The weak and dispirited leaderships and the inefficient management of national affairs made the task easy for the `merchants never contented' (MNCs) to secure systematically and strategically the flow of favours to them. The ultimate impact of this prescription contributed to the creation of an environment dominated by economic insecurity, social unrest and political upheavals.
The Cover Story makes a proper assessment of the impact of globalisation and liberalisation mainly on the working class who, in the absence of a wide safety net, finds it difficult even to register an effective protest against the ill-advised policies of the NDA government. The trade unions need to come out from their conventional moulds to match the people's expectations. They have to play a more responsible role as a watchdog of the economic interests of the people in general and workers in particular. The pro-industrialist changes in the Industrial Disputes Act and other labour-related laws certainly are a cause of concern. The public sector undertakings and their workers have been projected as being inimical to economic development, and the policy to deal with them is centred on the flawed thinking that `the early you get rid of them, the better'.
This is the message that the government is giving to the public through its media. The one-time giants of the Indian economy are now branded as white elephants. Public sector inefficiency is attributable more to mismanagement than to workers. But, in the restructuring, the workers are made the targets. The belief that putting the worker at the mercy of the employer will bring in economic development is an illusion.
The functioning of the economy after 1990 has marked a departure from the `Middle Path' (in the form of the mixed economy) and gradually moved towards an extreme, that is, crass capitalism where the market and nothing else rules. The role of the state is being reshaped to fit into the WTO framework, which undoubtedly is proving to be a cumbersome exercise. But the government seems to be committed to making the state slimmer than what it was in the past. The changes in the laws and rules related to industries, labour, patent rights, and so on indicate the government's keenness to shed the extra weight put on in the last 55 years. This extra weight, in the form of subsidies, investment in infrastructure, welfare schemes, investment in key areas of social growth like education and health and so on, means a lot to the common man. All these make a state a welfare state, made of the people, for the people and by the people. This is the ideal and spirit of our Constitution. This is under serious threat.
Further weight reduction measures will marginalise more people in addition to the already marginalised. The statistics regarding the impact of globalisation on the economy indicate that the marginalisation and alienation of the masses has increased. A major solace is the enhanced credibility of India as an investor-friendly destination, which has contributed to the burgeoning of the foreign exchange reserve to around $85 billion.
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The following quote is relevant to the issue of labour and liberalisation, which was masterfully handled in Frontline:
"The attitude of fascism to the question of trade union rights, workers' rights of collective bargaining, and to strikes was the logical outcome of (the) contempt for individual liberty, and an obsession with collective order."
Harwood Brown, the American essayist who made an in-depth study of fascism and fascist techniques, has noted: "One of the first steps which fascism must take in any land to capture and keep power is to disrupt and destroy the labour movement. It must rob trade unions of their power to use strike as a weapon."
Spain's dictator Francisco Franco calls strikes `a crime' and the right to strike as indicative of `the law of jungle and primitive societies'. On the other hand, Samuel Gompers, a prominent leader of the trade union movement in the West, remarked sharply: "Show me the country where there are no strikes, and I will show you that country in which there is no liberty."
Who is the author of the above long quote? L.K. Advani, the Union Home Minister. (In his April 1976 anti-emergency pamphlet "Anatomy of fascism", appended to his A Prisoner's Scrap Book (Hind Pocket Books, 1978) recently reprinted.)
Of course, like all politicians (including such greats as Rajaji and Nehru), Advaniji would not like now to be reminded of what he thought and wrote before reaching the gaddi. But should not at least the Supreme Court Judges be informed of basic concepts like the above? Probably we get the legislative, executive and judiciary we deserve.
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I appreciate the efforts you have made to bring out the pathetic situation of the working class, particularly in Tamil Nadu after the strike by the government employees and teachers. You have done a yeoman service by publishing the Cover Story at the appropriate time, particularly when farmers, weavers and organised and unorganised workers are struggling to face the onslaught of liberalisation/globalisation.
It is time for all political parties, intellectuals and the media to debate thoroughly the subject and arrive at a consensus to bring in legislation to safeguard the rights of the working class, instead of bringing in labour reforms that will give more teeth to the capitalists.
This is in reference to the article "Charting a course" (September 26). Reports about the Tamil cause and the plight of the island nation, appearing in the magazine with unflinching regularity, underscore the readers' interest and your commitment.
Having been at loggerheads with each other for too long, the government cannot expect an about-turn in the attitude of the separatists to settle for an integral state. If they can hammer out a federal structure, so much the better for the state. A struggle of this nature cannot be neglected by any government, whatever the peace dividends; neither can the government try for a quick-fix solution lest it should backfire. If the situation so demands, let there be a clear division within the federal structure. The future of the system of administration would depend on the level of interaction necessitated by the economic, social and cultural needs of the people of the island. If the focus is back on development and progress, the fissiparous tendencies will dissipate and business and commerce will flourish in the region.
Jayaram PudusseriReceived on e-mail
Did the Indian government ever pondered over the following facts before rolling out the red carpet for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon? It is no secret that the Israeli repression against the Palestinian struggle has risen like never before and the U.S.-proposed road map has become a non-starter. Ariel Sharon has shown contempt for the human rights of the Palestinians. As if his decision to construct security roads, watchtowers and concrete `apartheid wall" (that will isolate Israel from the West Bank, and also cut off the biggest Palestinian habitation from the historic East Jerusalem) was not enough, the Israel Parliament passed a law that forces Palestinians marrying Israelis to live separate lives or leave Israel. Is it not racism? It also prohibits West Bank and Gaza Palestinians who marry Israeli Arabs from obtaining Israeli residence permits.
Ariel Sharon has been found guilty of killing thousands of Palestinians in 1982 and is regarded as a war criminal. He has also opposed Palestinian statehood and the Oslo accords. His dislike for the U.N. and international laws is well known. How can Israel be called a democratic country when it has made Yasser Arafat, the leader of the Palestinian people, a hostage in his own country, and when millions of Palestinian citizens are in refugee camps in countries bordering Israel, without any voting rights to elect the Israeli government? Palestinian prisoners are kept blindfolded in windowless cells in contravention of international law. In view of all these, Israel should not be called a democratic country but a racist, theocratic state. Finally, the doctrine of a U.S.-Israel-India axis does not make any sense because the U.S. and Israel are themselves guilty of terrorism by their atrocities in the Arab world, particularly in Palestine, while India is a victim of terrorism.
Amjad K. MarufReceived on e-mail
Delhi as capital
The point of view in support of the need to change the capital was perfectly timed ("Capital concerns", September 12). Delhi is one of the biggest slums of the world. Delhi is good only as far as the VIP and embassy areas are counted. About its police, the less said, the better. (The night before the letter was written, a policeman shot dead a truck driver.) The residents are becoming more and more impatient and insensitive.
In the era of info-tech facilities, at least decentralisation can be tried. The Ministries apart from Home and Defence may be shifted elsewhere.
World-class infrastructure should be provided, which can help develop small satellite cities. It is always easy to maintain civic facilities and policing in small cities.
This has reference to "A blow for federalism" (September 26). The misuse of Article 356 has led state leaders to press for its deletion from the Constitution. The total absence of such a provision will be hazardous to the unity of the nation. After the creation of Pakistan, M.A. Jinnah was asked whether Pakistan was too small in comparison to India for it to survive for long. Jinnah laughed and reportedly said to this effect: You are right in a literal sense. India is not a nation. It is state of nation. Each State in India will suppose itself as a nation in the drift of time. The nation will soon undergo balkanisation due to language, caste, culture, etc. The States will quarrel with each other and the Central government will be ineffective. Pakistan will control and manage its affair. Though it is small, it will be in the driver's seat in the subcontinent in future.
If the animosity between two States and the States and the Centre about water, electricity, financial backlog, etc. persists, Jinnah might be proved right. The backward and developed parts of each State are quarrelling with each other. You should discuss this subject in the context of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and so on.
The story "Killing for caste honour" (September 12) was horrifying and stunning. Although we have entered the 21st century, the demarcation between the upper and lower castes still exists. This has been hampering the growth of our society. Mahatma Gandhi sacrificed a part of his life for the abolition of untouchability and the distinction between the upper and lower castes. But his principle of equality has remained confined to books and ceremonies.
Bijoy Raj GuhaJabalpur