Drought challenges

Print edition : August 31, 2002

Frontline has gone to the core of the issue ("Drought challenges", August 30). Simply put, an inept government and a corrupt, bungling bureaucracy are bent on destroying the entire country. The politicians are least bothered about the plight of the common man, while the bureaucrats are busy lining their pockets. Such a situation will only lead to a civic breakdown, from which it will be difficult to emerge.

India has the resources and the knowledge to implement effective alternatives to nature's inscrutability. However, this requires a genuine willingness to improve the lot of the nation.

Recently a private television channel reported about a method adopted by the Irrigation Ministry in Kerala to supply water during May 2002 - they were digging borewells in the middle of the river Bharatapuzha, trying to tap its aquifers. Such a grievous folly would only lead to the death of the river. Despite protests from environmental groups, it seems that the action continued.

When will we awake and arise to defend our rights to the resources of our country? When will we stamp out the leeches that haunt our administration?

Rajeev G. Nair United Arab Emirates * * *

The article "The forecasting failure" (August 30) has shown how this year's monsoon has belied the predictions of all agencies, including the India Meteorological Department.

In this context, reference may be made to the Asian Brown Haze, which has been in the news lately. The haze, reported to be 3 km thick and is spread over entire South Asia from Afghanistan to South-East Asia, is said to be composed of a mixture of pollutants, mainly soots, sulphates, nitrates, organic particles, flyash and mineral dust, formed by fossil fuel combustion and rural biomass burning.

Scientists who have been working on the Indian Ocean Experiment for nearly five years found that the pollution blanket was reducing the amount of sunlight hitting the earth's surface by up to 15 per cent. Its heat-absorbing properties were thought to be warming up the lower levels of the atmosphere. The combination of surface cooling and lower atmosphere heating had altered the winter monsoon, leading to a sharp decrease in rainfall over the northwestern areas and producing more rain along the eastern coastline.

The scientists felt that it was no coincidence that Pakistan and northwestern India were hit by droughts in 1999 and 2000 while areas such as Bangladesh, Nepal and northeastern India suffered severe flooding in recent years.

The IMD, whose prediction is based on a 16-parameter Power Regression Model, may perhaps have to consider the inclusion of the effects of the Asian Brown Haze as the 17th parameter in order to increase the accuracy of its prediction.

T.T. Krishnan Received on e-mail Preserving knowledge

The article "Libraries in the global village", (August 30) and the article on the restoration of the collections at the Sundarayya Vignana Kendram (SVK) in Hyderabad which it accompanied were excellent. As the president of the Centre for South Asia Libraries (CSAL), it has been a real privilege for me over the past decades to work together with many wonderful and visionary librarians, scholars and information service professionals in India and the countries of South Asia, who are dedicated to the idea of ensuring that the scholarly world as well as the general public will have unfettered access to the tremendous intellectual output and printed heritage of this region during the long course of its civilisation.

The work of salvaging the historically unique Urdu and Telugu collections at the SVK from the ravages of the flooding there shows how effectively this goal can be served when librarians and scholars from around the world cooperate. The dedicated staff at the SVK, the local workers and volunteers they organised, and the whole national and international community of concerned scholars and librarians came together in a highly inspiring spectacle of feverish activity for a common goal: the preservation of knowledge. Thank you for bringing such important work to the notice of your readers.

I also want to point out two minor errors in the article:

a) My name is David Magier (not James Magier)

b) The first sentence of the last paragraph contains a misquote of mine. The sentence reads, "Magier has argued that the concept of a library has changed in the last century, turning into a 'warehouse of materials' for use by researchers." What I actually said was: "The concept of a library has changed dramatically in the last century, turning from a mere 'warehouse of materials' into a full information service that preserves information in many formats and seeks to make the information as accessible as possible to library patrons and researchers...."

David Magier President of Centre for South Asia Libraries and Director of Area Studies, Columbia University Libraries Received on e-mail

Unheard voices

Harsh Mander's "The broken vessel?" (August 30) was an excellent piece. As a person who travels frequently by train, it was educative for me. The moment the train crosses Vijayawada railway station, the 'Alis' appear. Sometimes we oblige them by paying money to avoid embarrassment. On occasion we have fought with them. On August 16, 2002, we had a tussle on the Chennai-Guwahati Express. Though I had purchased the Frontline issue, I was yet to read it. I felt sorry for the incident after reading the article. If these "unheard voices" are to be heard, there should be reservation for these people in education and employment and also in political positions.

K. Ganesh Virudhunagar, Tamil Nadu Labour reforms

The Second National Commission on Labour (NCL) has, as you pointed out, missed the opportunity to propose useful changes to the industrial relations system and focussed instead on making it easier for employers to retrench workers ("Loaded against labour", August 16).

While flexibility of labour is important for a competitive economy, far more important are the skills and knowledge of the workforce. The government is not investing either in training workers or in the education required to train them. Why should workers invest in their own education? All that employers want is cheap labour, which they can hire and fire at will.

Perhaps the NLC should have taken a look at how Pakistan has decided to overhaul its labour laws. The declared aim of its exercise is that the labour laws should reflect the International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions, which Pakistan has ratified, including seven so-called core human rights standards - a better record than India. Trade unions and employers have been fully involved in the exercise.

In Bangladesh, too, a draft labour code is about to be sent to the Cabinet, which, while not perfect, consolidates the many laws dating from the British and Pakistan eras and provides clear rights.

India needs modern labour laws, based on human rights, with a properly resourced labour inspectorate, under independent control. Stronger, not weaker, unions are needed to enforce rights. Otherwise, the lot of workers - especially the unorganised sections - will continue to be miserable. And cheap Indian labour will remain uncompetitive internationally - the opposite of what the government wants.

Stirling Smith Labour and Society International Bolton, England

Governed, it is

As a long-time reader of Frontline and an admirer of India and most things Indian, I was shocked and dismayed by the misquote of the U.S. Declaration of Independence that appeared in the August 16, 2002, issue. In the column by K. Natwar Singh entitled "A study of John Adams," the opening words of the Declaration are (mis)quoted as:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, and among those are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. To secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the Government."

The last word should have been "governed," not "government". As almost any schoolchild in the U.S. (and maybe even in India) can tell you, in this country, the American people rule; it is government of the people, by the people and for the people; the government is the servant of the people.

Would you do all Americans a favour and correct this error?

Frederick D. Mackie, Received or e-mail

The reader is right. The typographical error is regretted.

Disability and despair

As a disabled visitor to India, I was pleased to see Frontline trying to raise awareness about disabled people in India ("At the precipice of despair", August 2).

In India, I myself have suffered the social stigma of having a physical disability. I am constantly stared at or ignored, owing to the people's attitude towards my disability.

I have travelled extensively throughout India and the only disabled people I seem to come into contact with are beggars. I have often wondered: where are the disabled people? Would I be correct in assuming that the disabled people of India are locked away indoors from everyday life owing to the "social embarrassments" they might cause, not 'only in rural areas' but also among the middle class people in the towns and cities.

I am lucky enough to live in Europe, where a disabled person can live a normal, healthy life and will easily be accepted into society. Unfortunately, India has a long way to go before this becomes possible.

I would like to convey my admiration to the disabled researchers who helped compile the report.

Rachel Poll England Godhra and after

The report of the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) on the Godhra incident has exposed the claims made by Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, immediately after the carnage that it was a planned act by the minorities with support from Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence ("The facts from Godhra", August 2).

The report proves that the fire in the S-6 bogie of Sabarmati Express was caused by pouring some inflammable material inside. The same type of inflammable material was later reportedly used by the Sangh Parivar for arson in the houses and establishments of members of the minority community. The way Advani cursorily rejected the FCL report shows the complicity of the Sangh Parivar in creating Godhra.

Though five months have passed since Godhra, neither the Central government nor the State government has come out with any proof for the complicity of the ISI or any other organisation. The FIR itself avoids any such allegation. This too shows that Advani and Modi had no proof to substantiate their allegations.

The FSL report strengthens the belief that Godhra was the result of a conspiracy by the Sangh Parivar. It created Godhra to facilitate the planned ethnic cleansing in Gujarat.

It will be foolish to think that the Sangh Parivar will change track because of these exposures.

The latest revelation on Godhra and the communal pogrom in Gujarat show how dangerous the fascist threat is. Even the ruling class parties in the Opposition do not realise this threat, as proved by their support to the National Democratic Alliance nominee for the presidency. The Left should play an effective role in beating back this threat.

Tuhin Deb Bhopal * * *

It was shocking to read the article, which threw light on the conspiracy that would pave the way for an exodus of a group of Indian citizens, only because they believe in a different 'dharma', the exact meaning of religion.

N. Sreekumar Alappuzha, Kerala A photo feast

The photographs of international personalities by T.S. Satyan gave me immense joy. The photo features in various issues of Frontline (May 24, June 21, and July 19) brought out his unique technique and style.

If Raman Effect gave an impetus to colouring psychology and threw new light on natural objects, Satyajit Ray's blend of serious cinematography, music and fine art called up his deep association with Nandlal Bose at Shantiniketan. R.K. Narayan's glorious moments explored his artful gestures of humour in the Indian idiom.

It is hoped that Frontline will do a photo feature on the valley of Kashmir, incorporating old photographs going back 100 years taken by Britishers as well as Indian photojournalists and lying in various private or public collections.

Tariq Kabuli Srinagar The stars and the dons

I enjoyed reading "The stars and the dons" (August 30). I wish the writer had adopted a more assertive position with a strong signal to the public to demand that law enforcement be carried out firmly in order to assure that those engaged in maintaining contacts with the dark forces inimical to the nation's interests are brought to justice. Instead, the writer throws up his hands with an advice that folks in the street better accept the current nature of the bollywood-mafia linkage. A very sad approach, to say the least.

Avinas K. Rangra Alpine, Texas, U.S.
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