The Cover Story ("Is India shining?" March 12) was virtually a review of the performance of the Indian economy during the post-liberalisation period. It is wonderful to see a popular fortnightly bringing out such an incisive analysis of the economy.
G. Suresh DhasChennai
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The Cover Story highlighted the hidden social costs of the economic reforms. As long as the evils of casteism, corruption, illiteracy, unemployment and, above all, unequal distribution of wealth exist, the country will remain backward. The taxpayers' money spent on the "feel good" propaganda could be utilised for the development of backward districts such as Kalahandi and Bolangir. Kudos to Frontline for making this a collector's issue with valuable facts and figures.
Bidyut Kumar ChatterjeeFaridabad
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One of the NDA leaders recently contended that the India Shining campaign was not a pre-election exercise, but was an effort to make people aware of their country's development in different sectors. This, he said, would "add to the national confidence". Today, after more than 50 years of Independence, when many Indian villages still go without basic amenities, the "feel good" campaign will not find many takers, especially among the poor, and the educated middle class which has developed immunity to such pre-election claims.
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The Cover Story made it clear that India is shining only for 10 per cent of its population. The pictures reveal the extent of economic disparity. Who is responsible for this? The BJP would blame the 40-odd-year rule of the Congress(I) at the Centre and in the States and the Congress(I) would cite as the reason the NDA's five-year tenure at the Centre.
We have achieved success in the field of information technology, improved the national highways, built up huge forex reserves and so on. But these achievements are unable to change the fate of about 50 per cent of the population. We hope the next government will work for the uplift of the deprived sections of society, especially those in the rural sector. Only then will a majority of the people feel good.
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The India Shining campaign paints a rosy picture about the economy. The sight of the cell phone-wielding middle class makes us believe that we are now living in a new India where poverty and unemployment no longer exist. All this euphoria will fade away if we look beneath the gloss.
Take the case of the handloom industry. It is in the news more for weavers' suicides than for the industry's strengths. What explains this crisis?
In 1991, when India entered the liberalisation phase under the guidance of the International Monetary Fund, the government, in its drive to increase export earnings, liberalised yarn and cotton exports. Unfortunately, this was at the cost of local yarn requirements, which caused a dearth of yarn of specific counts in the domestic market. The government has passed a hank yarn obligation (HYO) order stipulating that spinning mills pack 50 per cent of their produce in the form of hanks (since the handloom weavers use yarn in the form of hanks and not cones). However, several loopholes were noticed and exploited on the field.
In last 10 years over 400 mills across the country have been shut down and of the existing 129 independent and cooperative mills 95 mills were declared sick and were exempted from hank yarn obligation. The quantum to be packed under the HYO is also being gradually decreased. Very often this hank yarn was directed towards powerlooms where it was rewound into cones and used for powerloom weaving. In order to curb these malpractices and leakage of yarn to non-handloom beneficiaries, the government imposed 9.2 per cent excise duty on hank yarn. The imposition of excise duty and paucity of raw materials in the local market have pushed up the prices of hank yarn, and this, instead of getting absorbed into the product's final price, squeezed the wages of the weavers. The modest increase in the final price has created an impression among the public that handlooms are highly priced.
On the marketing front, presently the sale of handloom is dominated by master weavers and some state-sponsored apex bodies of cooperatives. The actual weaver has little information about the market and its preferences. The decline in wages and the uncertainty of employment are forcing weavers to shift to other means of livelihood.
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In his article "The feel good factory" P. Sanath has ignored the fact that the average Indian has, in the last 15 years, achieved a higher standard of living and has more access to education, healthcare and other opportunities for development. Instead, the focus of the article is narrow - on what it has not achieved.
E. JehangirCumbria, United Kingdom
CBI and national security
R.K. Raghavan's article is topical and deserves the law-makers' attention ("CBI and national security", March 12). The CBI is overburdened and lacks adequate staff despite the fact that it has had brilliant and non-controversial Directors.
The battle lines
The Cover Story article "The battle lines" (March 12) lays bare the game plan of the NDA government. It appears that our politicians and political parties (especially those in power) have no "principles" and wish to retain power at all costs defying the adage "circumstances should never alter principles". The BJP are trying to find a shortcut to power. But, as the saying goes, a shortcut is sometimes the longest distance between two points.
Lt. Col. Onkar Chopra (Retd)Abohar, Punjab
I appreciate the rejoinder given by Prof. Anthony Walker to the writer on the website regarding the Todas ("The truth about the Todas", March 12). The informative article has appeared at a time when the doyen of Toda studies, Prof. M.B. Emeneau, is celebrating his 100th birthday (March 2004).
Rev. Philip K. MulleyConoor, Tamil Nadu