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MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 2, 2013 MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 2, 2013 Much-needed clarity T he Supreme




T he Supreme Court’s categorical ruling that any compromise between victim and perpe- trator in a rape case cannot be grounds for

awarding a lesser prison term is a timely re- statement of a salutary principle in sentencing policy.

It is a reminder of the basic principle that punishment

must be proportional to the gravity of the offence, and that there is no room for extraneous factors, much less something as invidious as a compromise, invariably

arrived at under pressure. Some courts, including the

High Courts, have made use of a proviso in the Indian

Penal Code concerning rape to hand out jail terms less

than the prescribed minimum sentence of seven or 10

years, citing factors such as a compromise between the

rape survivor and the convict or accused, the efflux of

time, claims that the woman is happily married or,

more odiously, that the offender had promised to mar-

ry the target of his predatory crime. Thankfully, the

amendment to criminal law brought in earlier this year

has omitted this proviso to Section 376(2). The Court

has done well to rule out compromises, noting that it

will only be an additional burden on victims. In the last

decade, the Apex Court has repeatedly deprecated the

tendency to take judicial note of purported compro-

mises and reduce sentences given by the trial court for


Shimbhu and Another vs.

Chief Justice P. Sathasivam refers to


State of Haryana,

2011 case in which the Supreme Court itself had

accepted such a compromise, but wisely rules that such

verdicts, which seem to run afoul of sound sentencing

principles, ought to be seen only in the light of the

peculiar facts of those cases and not cited as preceden-

ts. He also strikes a note of caution to subordinate

courts against any casual or cavalier use of judicial

discretion to reduce the quantum of punishment. After

all, as courts have often pointed out, rape is a crime

against society and not merely against an individual.

The restatement of basic principles, often a necessity

in a diverse country, is particularly welcome in the

context of the disturbing frequency with which the

offence of rape hits the headlines today. What another

Bench of the Apex Court noted last month is further

cause for concern: 90 per cent of rape cases in the

country end in acquittal. It has expanded the scope of a

plea for justice on behalf of a gang rape survivor and

sought responses from all State governments on the

question of rehabilitating such victims. While social

conditions vary from State to State, depending on how

entrenched feudal and patriarchal tendencies are in a

particular milieu, the vulnerability of women seems to

be uniformly high.

the vulnerability of women seems to be uniformly high. In the latest judgment in It all

In the latest judgment in

It all

ads up


orget the race for eyeballs, TRPs and “break-

ing news.” The fiercest battle the broadcasting

industry is fighting today is against the Tele-

com Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI),

whose decision last March to enforce a rule limiting

advertisement time on television to 12 minutes-per-

hour has news channels up in arms. Though worried

about the financial implications, the Indian Broad-

casting Foundation, the umbrella industry body, had

initially accepted the directive. Indeed, broadcasters

had signed up to the rule as part of their original

licensing arrangements. Though the regulator allowed


come into compliance, news channels lobbied the gov-

ernment and Information and Broadcasting Minister

Manish Tewari urged an unmoved TRAI to stand down

till digitisation was complete. Citing shrinking reve-

nues due to the ad-cap rule, the channels then moved

the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribu-

nal (TDSAT), which on Friday restrained TRAI from

taking any coercive action for non-compliance.

While TRAI seems to have gone overboard in seeking

criminal prosecution of channels, it would be unfair to

blame it for going by the rule-book. The regulator is

acting on behalf of consumers, who form the silent

majority, rather than the vocal media businesses, which constitute a minority. At stake is not freedom of expression, but the bottom line, which is in trouble because of structural factors. Many news channels have a top-heavy model with distorted salary patterns. News networks have expanded way beyond their means. Their credibility is at an all-time low. A skewed television rating system allowed them to project grea- ter reach than they had; expanding measurement to smaller towns is already reflecting different — and more realistic — viewership patterns. The gloomy eco- nomic environment is not helping. Many channels made a conscious decision to move towards integrated newsrooms to take advantage of technology. To only blame the TRAI decision for recent job-cuts — as is being done to exert pressure on it to pull back — is disingenuous. In the case of one big network, the down- sizing appears to be a result of assertion of control by its new corporate owners. In fact, this issue — of corpo- rate ownership and cross-media holdings — is next on TRAI’s agenda. As the regulator tries to clean up India’s broadcasting space, it should act only after due consul-

tation with all stakeholders. It must also keep off issues

of content. On its part, the government may be keen to

transition period whereby networks could gradually

curry favour with corporate media houses in the elec- tion season. But it would do well to stay out of the

ad-time issue and allow the industry’s regulatory in- stitutions to do their work.

Dialogue is the only option

The only way to weaken anti-India forces in Pakistan is for New Delhi to commit itself clearly and purposefully to a peace process with the democratically elected civilian government there

Satyabrata Pal

T he killing of five jawans

at the Line of Control

(LoC) has once again

hobbled our already

halting progress towards

peace with Pakistan and

shows that our soldiers

have now become hos-

tages to fortune: Pakistani naysayers and their Indian mirror-images know that the easiest way to stop a rapprochement is to kill

an Indian soldier. Under General Kayani, there has been a clear and very obvious shift in the use to which skirmishes at the LoC are being put. Sending infiltrators into Jammu and Kash- mir is of secondary importance; the primary objective is to create incidents that would

nip in the bud any attempt to make peace. In

2008, every public statement by Asif Zardari,

proclaiming his intention to make peace was

followed by an attack on a soft Indian target.

When raids on Indian soldiers at the LoC did

not work, our Embassy in Kabul was at-

tacked, which did derail the process for sev-

eral months. When the leaders nevertheless

met in New York in the autumn and decided

to resume the process, Pakistan’s Inter-Ser-

vices Intelligence (ISI) went further with

Mumbai, attacking it on the evening that its

Foreign Minister arrived in Delhi for talks.

Inverting past practice

Why are terrorists now attacking our

troops at the LoC, when, earlier, infiltrators

tried to evade them? It is because their pri-

mary aim then was to cause turmoil inside

J&K, which could be passed off as local op-

position to Indian rule. By definition, if

armed men were fighting their way in, this

fiction would be hard to maintain. Covering

fire by the Pakistan Army let the infiltrators

get in undetected as our forces kept their

heads down.

The attacks now taking place are an in-

version of earlier practice: the infiltrators

only target an Indian patrol, kill a few and

then retreat into Pakistan-occupied Kash-

mir (PoK). This has nothing to do with keep-

ing the insurgency alive in J&K. These

attacks have a purely political objective, to

create an outrage in India that will force the

government to take a hard line on the Pakis-

tan government.

Why, though, must the Pakistan Army

turn to subterfuge, instead of making its gov-

ernment say that unless Kashmir is settled

on its terms, everything else has to wait? It is

because there are few takers for this line now

wait? It is because there are few takers for this line now in Pakistan. Most Pakistanis

in Pakistan. Most Pakistanis want a normal

relationship with India, and will support

their government on this. The Army fears

peace, except on its terms, but does not want

to be seen as the spoiler. Instead of trying to

mould Pakistani public opinion, therefore, it

is, with great success, moulding ours.

The challenge put by our media to our

government, to decide if it wants dialogue or

security, is the one the Pakistan Army would

like to pose to its people, but now cannot.

There is no choice involved. Every dialogue

between nations is to promote their inter-

ests, which include security. Between nucle-

ar-armed States, which cannot settle their

differences through war, as the United

States and USSR showed, steady dialogue is

the proven way of whittling away at concerns

over security. Dialogue promotes security;

security is not undermined by dialogue.

We have tried coercive belligerence,

which stops short of war, in Operation Pa-

rakram, but this did not pay dividends. After

a year of being Trishanku, we marched our

men back from the border and resumed a

dialogue with Pakistan. That, of course, was

with a general in power, and it will be argued

that a dialogue with a civilian government is

futile as long as its Army calls the shots. It is

true that the Army is still immensely power-

ful, but it no longer has an entirely freehand

vis-à-vis India, as the devious ploys it is using

to block progress show. This is because of the

growing strength of Pakistani democracy.

Consensus for peace

Though we sneer at it, the last two elec-

tions there have been a clear reflection of the

will of the majority. Baiting India was not an

issue in either. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) are publicly committed to improving relations with us. There is an implicit na- tional consensus on this in Pakistan, which

its Army has shown that it cannot ignore, and which we must not. It will still be argued that talking to Pakis- tan after terrorist attacks would be reward- ing it for bad behaviour, and therefore its government must first give assurances that these will stop. This demand is illogical, for three reasons. First, if we believe its Army does not obey its politicians, we cannot ex- pect them to give us these assurances. Predi- cating dialogue on a condition which cannot be met is self-defeating, because the Pakis- tan Army gets its strength from an absence of peace with India. Stasis is what it wants. The more we show that we will press ahead,

and the more this determination is reflected

in practical, tangible benefits for the com-

mon man, the more the Pakistan Army will

be weakened, and the government strength-

ened. It is only then that a civilian govern-

ment there can crack the whip, not now.

Second, if we should not talk to, or do

business with, a government unwilling to

rein in terrorists who operate from its terri-

tory, we should remember that Iqbal Mirchi

lived and died in the United Kingdom and

Dawood Ibrahim spends much of his time in

the UAE. The governments there were in-

sensitive on a matter of the gravest national

importance to us, but we have deepened our

ties with them nevertheless, simply because

that served our interests best. Why should

we make an exception in the case of the

government of Pakistan?

Domestic parallel

Third, we are trying to make peace pre-

cisely because we do not have it. The com-

plete end of violence is the objective we

expect to negotiate. It is unreasonable to

impose as a precondition for a dialogue

something that we hope will be its outcome.

We have not done this in dealing with politi-

cally-driven violence within India. The in-

surgencies in Mizoram, Nagaland, Assam

and Punjab would never have been con-

tained had the government of India not had

the courage to start a political process even

while they continued. Sacrifices had to be

made and lives lost, but the violence was

isolated and neutralised through a political

process which began with a dialogue.

Even now, in Assam, the Bodos whom the

Army and police kill are described in their

reports as cadres of the “NDFB anti-talks

faction.” Our government should look on the

Pakistan Army as the anti-talks faction there, but hold a sustained dialogue with the civilian government. Not talking to it, or

putting the peace process in cold storage, plays into the Pakistan Army’s hands; it does not persuade it to change. We must make it clear to the generals that they cannot stymie progress towards peace. From Rajiv Gandhi’s time, every govern- ment has tried to make peace with Pakistan, but has been thwarted by political problems there. Benazir Bhutto in her first innings was undermined by the Army, using Nawaz Sha- rif; when he saw the light, he was sabotaged by Musharraf, who, however, as President, made a sustained effort with Prime Minis- ters Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh to make peace. That failed at the last gasp when he lost political support in Pakistan. Now, however, between the PPP and the

PML, there is a bipartisan consensus in Pa-

kistan that peace with India is in its interest.

When the time is propitious, it is tragic that

politics has become so fractious in India that

on a matter of national interest, party politi-

cal differences dominate and inhibit our


Moving ahead

It is important to stress, therefore, that

talking to Pakistan does not mean that we

are soft on it. Trying to make peace with

Pakistan is not a sign of weakness. These are

imperatives, which every government in In-

dia has acknowledged over the last three

decades. The government that comes to

power after the next election will do the

same. It too will try to make peace with

Pakistan. If it does not, it will be abdicating

its responsibility and charting a course that

diverges so completely from its predecessors

that it is unlikely to get broad, political


This government must therefore reach

out to the country and explain why it must

continue to explore options of making peace

with Pakistan. It is a given that if the Prime

Ministers agree to meet at the U.N. General

Assembly, there will be outrages at the LoC

or in India, to torpedo the meeting and en-

sure that, if it does take place, no substantive

discussions are possible. If the Prime Minis-

ters do agree on the next steps, the provoca-

tions will increase. These are inevitable. We

can certainly urge the government of Pakis-

tan to stop these, but should know that, real-

istically, they currently cannot. We must

nevertheless persevere so that they eventu-

ally can.

(Satyabrata Pal is a former High

Commissioner to Pakistan.)


to the

Letters emailed to must carry

the full postal address and the full

name or the name with initials.


Delhi case verdict

been very different.

Anandasubramanian C.P.,


E ffective juvenile laws work in

the U.S. and the U.K. as there

is evidence that there are adequate

monitoring mechanisms, and that

such convicts repent and are

rehabilitated. But, it does not seem

to work in India if statistics are an

indicator. The law needs

amendment in India and must

serve as a deterrent.

Ifthekar Killedar,


C orrection is a subject matter

that concerns the particular

individual but the message from

this verdict does not appear to help

instil fear in juveniles to avoid

succumbing to temptations of the

vulgar and violent kind. However,

the JJB cannot be faulted for the

verdict, the existing laws being

what they are.

Christopher Antony,


I t is regrettable that there is a

demand for greater punishment

for the youth. Three years of a

reformatory term is just. In our

society, such delinquents are

generally shunned by their kith

and kin. Once they finish their

term, there is really no life left for

them. They have to fend for themselves and suffer in silence till the end.

P.S. Gopalan,


In the Rajya Sabha

I t was amusing to read the report (“PM, Jaitley cross swords, Aug.

31) where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, when asked about the missing coal files, said, “I am not the custodian of files of the Ministry of Coal” (Aug.31). Such an evasive reply was not expected from Dr. Singh. Jawaharlal Nehru once said in Parliament that every word the prime minister says is law.

D. Sethuraman,


I nstead of answering questions on how the coal block files went

missing, the government seems to be diverting attention by resorting to word jugglery. As a bench of the Supreme Court has observed, there seems to be an element of foul play (“Is there a bid to destroy coal

T his refers to the reports

“Juvenile gets 3 years in Delhi

gang rape case” & “A shocking

verdict, say parents of Delhi gang

rape victim” (Sept.1). The “juvenile

offender” was the most brutal of

the girl’s attackers. Let us not

forget in a hurry the horrifying

extent of her injuries. In this case,

this boy-man will end up stalking

the streets in another 25 months

while his partners in crime await

the death penalty.

In such extreme cases, it would

be better if the offender is arrested

once again and tried in the regular

court. He should be punished

unless he proves beyond doubt

that he has reformed himself and

has truly repented. The onus must

be on the criminal.

M.V.S. Murthy,


I t is fine that the sentence was

given in accordance with

existing law, but the brutality of

the accused and the borderline age

limit should have been

reconsidered in a broad framework

keeping in mind the growing

involvement of juveniles in all

sorts of crimes. In this particular

case, while a bone test is an

approved method, why was his

school certificate used in

determining his age?

Ikbal Ahmed,

New Delhi

T his verdict is a clear case of why age should not be used as

parameter to decide whether the person is guilty or innocent after committing a despicable act. In the case of juvenile crime, there is a need to reduce the age to 15 from the present 18.

H.P. Murali,


T he accused does not magically become a child when just a few

months or days ahead of his 18th birthday and then, instantly, a full grown adult on his 18th birthday. Biological evolution is gradual and the extent of his crime which led to the death of an innocent girl cannot be excused by strict interpretation of the law. He committed this crime not with his eyes closed. Considering the extent of the crime, he should have been tried as an adult, like they do in other countries. One can only say this: if the victim had been the daughter or sister of a high profile statesman, the result would have


papers, asks judge,” Aug.30). This

appears to be the tactic being

adopted by the scam-tainted UPA

to have us believe that everything

is fine under its dispensation.

V. Padmanabhan,


A s on many occasions in the

past, the Prime Minister has

failed to speak out at the right time. His belated speech was uncharacteristically aggressive and only showed up as an alibi-seeking exercise. Being combative is no

substitute for statesmanship.

T.K.S. Thathachari,


D r. Singh’s speech of indignation cannot be

attributed to anything other than his inability to face the Opposition onslaught, especially when the election is near. How far it will help him is anybody’s guess. Parliamentary disruption and missing files on coal serve only as fillers in the speech.

P.R.V. Raja,


On Syria

A merica’s hegemony threatens to bring about a replay of Iraq

2003 — it has yet to reconcile itself to the concept of “soft power” (Joseph Nye Jr.) One hopes the global community will be able to persuade Mr. Obama to refrain

from commanding an unwarranted

military intervention.

M. Jameel Ahmed,


unwarranted military intervention. M. Jameel Ahmed, Mysore I t is ironic that a recipient of the

I t is ironic that a recipient of the

coveted Nobel Peace Prize will

now be the architect of death and

destruction. Sweden must

immediately recall the award.

Barack Obama must realise that

the unnecessary wars America conducted in West Asia only resulted in great misery, with innumerable lives being lost and properties devastated. There were no weapons of mass destruction. It was not very long ago that Mr. Obama said he admired Mahatma Gandhi as being the votary of peace.

Anand Jha,

New Delhi

C hapter 7 of the U.N. charter which permits military action

“to protect civilians” is glibly invoked as obligating foreign armed intervention, conveniently disregarding the fact that the question of protecting people will arise only if there is continuing and repeated massacres of civilians and not for a one-off incident like Syria. What we are witnessing is once again the roll-out of America’s neo-imperialistic and hegemonic designs in oil-rich West Asia. Mr. Obama is no different from his predecessors.

A.N. Lakshmanan,


Elephant capture

T his refers to the photo feature

(some Tamil Nadu editions,

Aug.31) with the title “Freedom

lost.” The last sentence, that

quoted Mr. G. Janardhanan,

president, Public Awareness

Association of Udhagamandalam,

that “the move to tame the wild

animals amounted to a violation of

wildlife rules” may create a wrong impression. As a former additional principal chief conservator of forests, I have this to say. The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 or the rules framed under the Act do not totally prohibit the capturing of any wild animal or its taming. This is allowed under certain circumstances. This specific instance of translocating the elephants — captured at Tiruvannamalai and then sent to the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve — and domesticating them is governed by Section 11 of the Act. As provided in the proviso 2 to clause (a) of subsection 1 of Section 11 of the Act, the chief wildlife warden can issue an order to keep the captured animals in captivity if he is satisfied that such a captured animal cannot be rehabilitated in the wild and records the reasons in writing for coming to such a decision. I am sure that in this instance too, the chief wildlife warden would have followed the provisions of the Wildlife Act.

K.P.M. Perrumahl,


chief wildlife warden would have followed the provisions of the Wildlife Act. K.P.M. Perrumahl, Coimbatore C



chief wildlife warden would have followed the provisions of the Wildlife Act. K.P.M. Perrumahl, Coimbatore C




TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 3, 2013 TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 3, 2013 Towards a lower trajectory n a


Towards a lower trajectory

n a rare confidence-building exercise, the Prime Minister on Friday assured Parliament that his government would strictly adhere to pre-stated fiscal consolidation norms and was committed toTUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 3, 2013 Towards a lower trajectory putting the economy back on “the path of

putting the economy back on “the path of stable, sus- tainable growth.” The financial markets, which have been under intense pressure, responded positively. Significantly, even the dismal GDP growth figures for the first quarter (April-June) of 2013-14 which were

released by the Central Statistics Office on Friday eve-

ning have not dented the confidence of the financial

markets so far. The only plausible explanation is that

the markets have anticipated the slowdown accurately.

Most forecasts by analysts put growth in a range of

between 4.2 and 4.7 per cent. The true significance of

the 4.4 per cent GDP growth rate lies elsewhere. It is

the lowest quarterly growth rate in four years, and even

more relevantly, reinforces the widely prevalent view

of the economy inexorably moving towards a lower

growth trajectory. During the last quarter of 2012-13,

the growth rate was 4.8 per cent and for the whole year

five per cent. The slowdown is all pervasive and is likely

to extend to the next quarter as well. The full impact of

the rupee depreciation and the collateral damage

caused by the Reserve Bank of India’s monetary tight-

ening will be felt during this period.

There is hardly anything suggesting a significantly

better tomorrow. Agriculture posted a 2.7 per cent

increase and can possibly do better as a bountiful

monsoon leaves its impact. But agriculture has a small

share in the GDP. By contrast, industry has been in the

doldrums, declining by 1.2 per cent over last year. The

contraction in manufacturing (-1.2 per cent) and

mining and quarrying (-2.8 per cent) have been cap-

tured by the monthly industrial output figures. Gross

fixed capital formation has gone down by 1.2 per cent

while private consumption expenditure increased by a

measly 1.6 per cent, thus squeezing the economy from

both sides. Services, the traditional growth driver, in-

creased by a modest 6.6 per cent. Among its compo-

nents, “community, social and personal services,” a

proxy for government spending, posted an impressive

9.4 per cent growth. However, government finances are

under strain — the fiscal deficit data released on the

same day are not at all encouraging — and it is obvious

that this sub-segment will not be able to deliver again

to the same extent. The most telling commentary on

the slowdown is that the Prime Minister’s expectation

of a modest 5.5 per cent growth during the current year

may not materialise, a far cry from the average eight per

cent projected during the 12th Plan (2012-17).

The political overlords of a violent underclass

Skewed growth is pushing the marginalised into the arms of waiting netas who turn them into tools of violence

Rajrishi Singhal

T he rape of a photojour-

nalist in midtown Mum-

bai has revived public

indignation and the de-

bate that followed the

brutal and barbaric rape

of a young Delhi girl in

December 2012. Amidst

much hand-wringing and a rerun of inanities over national television, talking heads seem to have once again missed the central narra- tive — the rising tide of assorted violent acts,

the political patronage (both explicit and implicit) that’s sponsoring it and how rape might be an integral part of this hostile envi- ronment. What’s more, the horrific incidents of rape continue unabated. As India staggers from a semi-feudal so- ciety to one that’s embracing a strange (and hybrid) version of capitalism, violence in its

myriad forms has emerged as the dominant

template. The repertoire of violence has

graduated from booth-capturing during

elections to assassinating political oppo-

nents (including whistle-blowers), from

vandalising art shows to rape and murder.

And the culprits seem to be getting away

each time. While the government continues

to attract a large share of public censure for

its inaction, the blame should ideally lie with

the entire political class. It is this section of

society, and the trajectory of its evolution,

which seems to be strengthening the founda-

tions of violence in our society. Every politi-

cal party today — across all aisles and the

entire spectrum — has to maintain a large

army of warm bodies, described variously as

“lumpen proletariats,” or “lumpens” or “the

underclass,” for implementing its dirty


In simple terms, these are people thought

to inhabit the space below the working class.

Social scientists use the term to describe

anybody who lives outside the pale of the

formal wage-labour system. Disenfran-

chised and conventionally unemployable,

political parties use these people to commit

acts — most of which are outright criminal —

to improve its own popularity and election


Becoming invincible

When utilised by political parties as the

blunt edge of a bludgeon, this section of

society acquires a modicum of invincibility.

Given the large-scale subversion of the po-

lice force by politicians, lumpens have ac-

quired a sense of daredevilry, a brazen

approach to law and order. Immunity from

arrests and indifference towards due process

of law has invested them with a special feel-

ing of invulnerability.

Some of this imperviousness is inevitable

as criminals, or individuals with criminal

accusations, become elected representatives

themselves. This is a disease that afflicts all

political parties. According to the Associ-

ation for Democratic Reforms, 1,448 of In-

dia’s 4,835 MPs and State legislators have

declared criminal cases against them. In fact,

have declared criminal cases against them. In fact, 641 of these 1,448 are facing serious charges

641 of these 1,448 are facing serious charges

like murder, rape and kidnapping.

The violence is also reflective of the push-

ing and jostling for elusive entitlements, a

handmaiden of the stop-go model of devel-

opment pursued by India. Asynchronous de-

velopment of the economy and its

institutions often lead to the privileged sec-

tions of society cornering disproportionate

gains, resulting in discontent among the less

fortunate. This then becomes a fertile hunt-

ing ground for political dividends. As the

economy staggers through a new model of

development without overhauling the out-

dated feudal structure — that still discrimi-

nates on the basis of caste, sex, class —

missed opportunities and unrealised aspira-

tions push many of the deprived into the

arms of opportunist politicians.

Divested of education and employment

opportunities, bereft of basic health facil-

ities, exploited by the powerful and ignored

by society, the underclass can only turn to

political warlords for not only survival but to

also actualise their dreams and aspirations.

They become the shadow army, the heaving



doesn’t want to talk about.

Business Stan-

T.N. Ninan described the men behind


the Delhi rape: “The men who raped and

biographies that are starkly dif-


ferent. Their families may not have been

from backgrounds vastly different from that

of the girl’s father; they too were mostly one

generation removed from villages in North

Indian states. But they fell through the

cracks in the Indian system — cracks that are

so large that they are the system itself.”

To be sure, the combination of economic

prosperity for a select few and abject poverty

for large sections of the population is a guar-

anteed recipe for social combustion. When

privilege, or nepotism, determines access to

scarce resources, conflict is bound to erupt.

Inequality, of any kind, remains the spring-

well for all conflicts.





Writing in the newspaper


Violence is also a way of ensuring mainte- nance of this privilege. On the day of the Mumbai rape incident, a Shiv Sena MLA abused and threatened women employees of

a toll booth in Maharashtra. About a fort-

night ago, Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Nav- nirman Sena party workers beat up North Indian migrant workers in Kolhapur at ran- dom as a protest against the rape of a five- year-old allegedly by a labourer from Jhark- hand. Not very long ago, a fringe, religio-political outfit in Mangalore, Karna- taka, used the excuse of moral offence to

inflict violence against young boys and girls.

A senior police officer in Uttar Pradesh was

shot dead — allegedly by associates of a local

politician — when investigating a land dispute.

Police reforms

If these examples of violence seem ran-

dom and arbitrary, here is the simple truth: if

you can dream up any imaginary offence

against any section of society, contemporary

Indian political grammar gives you the li-

cence to inflict violence against that seg-

ment. In the meantime, certain law officers

and do-gooders wanting to eradicate rape

and sexual crimes from society seem intent

on examining the wrong end of a telescope:

they are contemplating a ban on


What’s even more unfortunate is that the

police look on helplessly, since their career

progression is tied closely to the moods of

political masters orchestrating these unor-

ganised armies. Sometimes, they refuse to

act even against political goons out of power

because who knows what hand will be dealt

during the next election.

There have been numerous suggestions

and various committee reports on how to

reform the police force. The Supreme Court

in 2006 had also suggested seven measures

improve the police force. But like all other


tough decisions, the government swept this

too under the carpet. In addition, lack of

proper investigation and poor documenta-

tion by the police often forces the judiciary

to put criminals back on the streets even

before you can say Amar-Akbar-Anthony. As


result, the fear of law ceases to exist.

Growing intolerance

Another form of violent behaviour is now

finding sanction from political parties across

ideological divides — a new-found love for

banning painters, authors, film-makers, etc.

Political parties find justifications for ban-

ning any art form, using hired goons — who

have perhaps never been acquainted with

the contentious piece of work — to vandalise

and wreak havoc. Recently, supporters of a

right wing party vandalised an art show in

Ahmedabad for exhibiting works of Pakista-

ni artists. A political party has to only utter

indignant statements about any creative

work and a ban is immediately enforced.

Canada-based, Indian-born writer Rohinton

Mistry’s award winning book

was hurriedly removed from Mum-


Such a Long

bai University’s syllabus after similar pro-

tests. Violence takes many forms and unfortunately India has become home to most of these varieties: imported terrorism, domestic violence, female foeticide, armed insurgency, criminal activity, communal acts, oppression (of caste or gender), etc. While politics does have an indirect role in promoting domestic violence or some crimi-

nal activities, its fingerprints are all too vis- ible in all the other forms of violence perpetrated in the country. It’s surprising that a country which gained independence from colonial powers through the instru- ment of non-violence should today exhibit such a preponderance of violence in its daily life. But what is baffling is how, increasingly, rape is committed without any fear of legal reprisal or the extent of punishment that might be meted out. Sample the West Bengal government’s reluctance to prosecute party workers accused of rape. It is therefore not

surprising that increasing incidents of mind-

less violence and sexual assaults are being

reported from across the country. Judicial

commissions and committees are slowly

drawing attention to this aberrant social

phenomenon: political sanction for violence.

Verma report

The Justice Verma Committee castigates

the political class in its report for pandering

to chauvinistic and patently anti-women or-

ganisations (such as

khap panchayats). The

committee also pans the political class for

ignoring the rights of women since Inde-

pendence: “Have we seen an express denun-

ciation by Parliament to deal with offences

against women? Have we seen the political

establishment ever discuss the rights of

women and particularly access of women to

education and such other issues over the last

60 years in Parliament? We find that over

the last 60 years the space and the quantum

of debates which have taken place in Parlia-

ment in respect of women’s welfare has been

extremely inadequate.”

A licence to kill should ideally live only in

fiction. A free hand to maim or murder has

created a fascist mindset, a mental construct

that is at odds with the aspirations of an

ancient civilisation trying to find a place on

the high table of the modern, free world. It is

often argued that the first step in evolving

sustainable solutions probably lies in cre-

ating independent institutions. But, that

might not be enough. As Nobel Prize win-

ning economist and philosopher Amartya

The Idea of Justice,

Sen has said in his book

the existence of democratic institutions is no

guarantee of success. “It depends inescap-

ably on our actual behaviour patterns and

the working of political and social


The first step then might be to provide

everybody with equal opportunity — access

to education, employment, health care, basic

infrastructure (like water or power) — and to

overhaul the political system itself by re-

forming campaign finance.

(Rajrishi Singhal is a Mumbai-based

policy analyst.)


building approvals


maze of procedures, inconsistent processes

and lack of transparency have made the sys-

tem of building approvals inefficient and cor-

rupt. Many construction projects suffer

inordinate delay and cost overruns because of this. It

affects individual home builders and large promoters

alike. Simplifying approvals without compromising the

safety of a structure is a long overdue reform. The

expert committee constituted by the Ministry of Hous-

ing and Urban Poverty Alleviation (MHUPA) has re-

cently proposed solutions to streamline procedures

and fast track construction approvals. Would these

recommendations, coming as they do after previous

unsuccessful attempts, bring about the much-needed

change? A World Bank study in 2012 identified that a

building permit in Indian cities on an average involves

34 procedures and takes about 196 days. In contrast,

Singapore, which is a world leader in best construction

practices, stipulates 11 procedures and takes only 26

days to sanction. Since 2006, various government com-

mittees have looked into this issue and recommended

improvements, but to no avail.

The expert committee constituted by the MHUPA

last year has now come up with three broad categories

of reforms. The first set of recommendations concern

procedures: government agencies have to lay down clear processes with firm time commitment; develop comprehensive building rules that would remove cum- bersome requirements such as obtaining multiple clearances; and reduce the burden on local bodies by permitting qualified personnel to self-certify building plans. The second set of reforms aims at setting up a single window system using information technology for screening building permission applications. The last category is about improving capacities in local bodies. A few cities in India have implemented IT- based automated building approval procedures, but these still do not function as true single window sys- tems as related departments cannot share the informa- tion. They also seem rudimentary when compared with intelligent systems used in places such as Singapore, where builders can get clearances from more than 10 departments by filing a single application. An efficient one-stop solution is possible only when e-governance is fully integrated across different government agen- cies. The emphasis must be on removing various dis- cretionary powers vested with the government. Such provisions not only operate outside the streamlined and automated processes but are also often misused. Self-certification and other recommendations would be meaningful and effective only when there is strong enforcement and zero tolerance of violations. Speedy approval is necessary, but so is organised development.


to the

Letters emailed to must carry

the full postal address and the full


Dealing with


name or the name with initials.

provocations is something no self-

respecting nation will pursue just

because it will help to influence the

internal, political dynamics of the

adversary. If Pakistan’s politicians

are unable to tame their belligerent

and Indophobic army, it is their

problem. The Utopian peace-at-

any-cost policy has outlived its

utility vis-à-vis Pakistan.

V.N. Mukundarajan,


GM crops

I ndian farmers are burdened with

the task of increasing

productivity, keeping in mind a

growing population and limited

natural resources (“Sow the wind,

reap the storm,” Op-Ed, Sept. 2).

We are expected to toil in fields

with outdated technologies and

reap near to no returns for all our

hardship. I say this as secretary-

general of the Consortium of Indian

Farmers Associations. The TEC’s

recommendations are a step

towards ensuring the dark future of

Indian farmers, and we will not

allow this. Farmers’ needs need to

be supported even in the face of such widespread activism and an unreliable policy landscape.

P. Chengal Reddy,

New Delhi

L ast week, Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar spoke

on how cotton boll worm damage was controlled by Bt cotton. Now, 93 per cent of Indian farmers grow it, with: India’s production going up from 137 lakh bales to 352 lakh bales, yield per hectare going up from 191 kg to 491 kg and farmer’s income doubling. But, it took a decade before they could be fully convinced about Bt cotton. As an agronomist, I quite agree with the views in the article that those opposing GM crops ignore scientific evidence of their harmlessness and are depriving the nation of the wider benefits of agro-biotechnology. In 2010, over 148 million hectares of GM crops were grown worldwide with the U.S. in the lead — 66.8 million hectares or 16.5 per cent of its agricultural lands. For India, it was 9.4 million hectares or 5.22 per cent of its land, mostly

T he idea that pursuing peace

talks and continuing

negotiations with Pakistan is the

only way forward and the path that

will help both victim countries

(“Dialogue is the only option,”

editorial page, Sept.2). Warfare will

only lead to destruction and

violence which neither country can

ill-afford. India must now aim to

strengthen democratic forces in

Pakistan. No doubt it will be a very

slow process, with more wounds

being inflicted, but staying the

course will ensure that the peace-

loving tortoise beats the terror-

loving hare.

Khushdil Singh,

New Delhi

B oth countries have a rich and

common history; fought like

brothers against imperialism, and

then fallen victim to communal

forces. Now, both nations yearn for

peace. India must push ahead with

trade, people-to-people contacts by

road and rail and win the confidence of the democratic government there. Simultaneously, Pakistan must show that it cares and push ahead with enhancing the most favoured nation status.

Kamaldeep Singh,

New Delhi

T he article admits that successive Indian governments

in the last three decades have been trying to talk peace with Pakistan. Despite the failure of the elusive search for harmony, the author has reiterated the banal “there is no substitute to dialogue” argument which rests on a dangerous and untenable premise that it is India’s job to mould public opinion in Pakistan and weaken the Pakistan Army’s influence in policy-making. India has done its part to avert a major conflict on two occasions when it was justified in launching an offensive against terrorists operating from Pakistani soil — after the attack on Parliament and the horror inflicted on Mumbai. No nation is as forgiving of injustice and treachery as India. Unlimited restraint in the face of blatant


under Bt cotton. In spite of

worldwide practical results, the

technical group appointed by the

Supreme Court has chosen to stick

to the indefinite moratorium recommendation it gave on GM crop trials to the Court, which is quite a surprise.

K.V.S. Krishna,


T he writer’s accusation that the Technical Expert Committee is

misleading the Supreme Court is not correct. There is also no clear explanation given as to how it is doing this. One is apprehensive of MNCs as their aim is profit and not welfare. Comparing the methods adopted in China with that in India is also not a right option. The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development report says that we must look to small holder traditional farming to deliver food security. The concerns of activists are also based on scientific evidence and need to be given attention too. Since there is a possibility that GM crops can cause irreversible damage, every step should be taken cautiously.

Ajish Jimmy George,

New Delhi

Curbing fuel use

T he Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister’s idea of

having the sale of petroleum products suspended at night smacks of ignorance and shows a bankruptcy of ideas. He should know that trade and commerce is most active at night. What we need are pragmatic steps to curb automobile use. The ruling elite and Parliamentarians also need to follow this rule.

O.P. Swaminathan,


D ue to the slump in the rupee’s value against the dollar,

imported crude is bound to cost the earth. There are reports that this may be as much as Rs.9,500 crore. Our sugar factories are producing a large quantity of molasses as a by-product. Molasses can be converted into ethanol which could be mixed with petrol. If 10 per cent ethanol is mixed with petrol, it will not only reduce the import bill considerably but also reduce the cost of petrol.

K. Somasundaram,


T he plan only brought a smile to

my face. It is downright foolish.

Shutting down bunks at this hour

will only shut down the country

given that trade thrives at this hour.



hours is one idea that can be

thought of.

Vipin Kumar Nambiar M.K.,


move to increase the price of fuel

varying degrees during these 12

Inimitable Frost

D avid Frost was a legend, popular on both sides of the

Atlantic. He had a knack of asking the beguiling of questions with potentially lethal consequences.

C.G. Kuriakose,


W ho can ever forget the TV host who captured a

President! The secret of his

interviewing style was to put people

at their ease. His relationship with

Al Jazeera also played a crucial part

in establishing the reputation of the

Qatar-owned network as a global news provider which challenges the hegemony of western broadcasters.

Vijay D. Patil,


as a global news provider which challenges the hegemony of western broadcasters. Vijay D. Patil, Pune



as a global news provider which challenges the hegemony of western broadcasters. Vijay D. Patil, Pune




WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 4, 2013 WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 4, 2013 Fuel for thought t really is a


Fuel for thought

t really is a no-brainer. India is grappling with a current account deficit (CAD) of $80 billion that is exerting tremendous pressure on the rupee.

Controlling imports and reducing the trade bal- ance are obviously one of the key strategies for reining in the CAD. Crude oil is the largest component of India’s import bill, accounting for a third of the total. Any attempt to control the CAD should obviously start with reducing the crude oil import bill. Iran, which is

stifled by U.S. financial sanctions, is willing to sell oil to

India in exchange for payment in rupees. What should

the government do? Grab the offer, obviously. Yet,

buckling to unfair pressure from the U.S., the govern-

ment has been cutting down on imports from Iran over

the past three years. As India fell in line with U.S.

sanctions, it reduced its oil imports from Iran from 21.2

million tonnes in 2009-10 to 13.2 million tonnes in

2012-13. In the first five months of this fiscal, the

country imported just two million tonnes of crude oil

from Iran. However, the time has now come for India to

unhitch itself from the American bandwagon and step

up crude imports from Iran in its own interests.

According to a proposal the Petroleum Ministry has

sent to the Prime Minister, the country’s dollar pay-

ments for its oil imports can be brought down by $8.5

billion (almost 10 per cent of the CAD) if it imports as

much oil from Iran as it did in 2012-13, which is another

11 million tonnes. This newspaper argued even at the

time of imposition of sanctions on Iran that succumb-

ing to U.S. pressure would not be in India’s interests.

With Iran offering the comfort of rupee payments

through a bank account with an Indian bank in Kolkata,

India should now push the advantage and maximise its

oil purchases from that country. Such a move will ease

the pressure not just on the current account but also in

the forex market as the oil companies will be buying

that many dollars less. Oil companies are big buyers of

dollars and have the potential to influence the forex

market. Meanwhile, the government’s announcement

that fuel conservation measures will be announced

soon has raised expectations and anxieties equally.

Ideas such as the one to close petrol bunks at night are

not just bad but foolish, and Petroleum Minister Vee-

rappa Moily’s suggestion to that effect caused consid-

erable confusion before he clarified the position on

Monday. The best way to conserve fuel is to raise prices

to market levels, which will hopefully push users to

economise on consumption. The downside though is

that it will have an adverse impact on inflation. Clearly,

the choices are not easy but the government should

keep in mind the interests of the common man while

framing its strategy for fuel conservation.




he case of the 1977-batch Indian Adminis-

trative Service officer, whose compulsory re-

tirement on grounds of disability the

Supreme Court has overturned, sets a strong

precedent on the codification of protections against

contingencies that arise during service. A two-judge

bench upheld Anil Kumar Mahajan’s appeal against an

earlier decision that sought to curtail his tenure by five

years. Interpreting the 1995 law on disabilities, the

bench ruled that those who acquire an impairment

while in service had to be accommodated in a position

appropriate to their current condition. Where such

adjustment was not available, the government was

obliged to retain them in a supernumerary status,

pending the identification of one, until the age of super-

annuation. The message emanating from the judgment

is unambiguous, even if only a fraction of the disabled,

estimated at nearly 10 per cent of India’s population, is

in formal employment. It is relevant no less to the large

numbers rendered severely impaired for life on ac-

count of the notoriously high rates of road accidents,

not to mention industrial mishaps. The verdict also

drives home the necessity, both within the adminis-

tration and beyond, to recognise disability as a dimen-

sion of social diversity. To the extent that this is a relatively new reality, reflected in the workplace and several walks of life, public and private institutions would have to become responsive. It is hard to conceive of a more effective advocacy on disability than policies of accommodation that can potentially counter pre- vailing prejudice and stereotypes. As regards recruitments under the Union Public Service Commission, a number of persons with differ- ent disabilities have begun to join the ranks in recent times. In fact, the question of identification of suitable placements across different services has come into the spotlight, illustrating the need to fashion a comprehen- sive approach on the absorption of new appointees. The landmark verdict, if anything, underscores yet again the urgent need for Parliament to enact fresh legislation in this area. This is imperative following India’s ratification, way back in 2007, of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It is the way forward on extending legal protection for categories of impairments that are not covered under the current law and give fresh impetus to realise the goals of inclusive education. The newly

constituted department of disability affairs in the Min- istry of Social Justice and Empowerment should strive towards bringing the law-making process to fruition at the earliest. For, every single day lost to procedural delays affects the life prospects of millions.


Two-faced in West Asia

President Barack Obama’s case for intervening in Syria is legally weak, internationally divisive and morally hollow

Kanwal Sibal

P resident Obama’s plan to

take military action

against Syria can be legiti-

mately questioned on le-

gal, political and moral

grounds. Syria has not,

strictly speaking, violated

international law in using

chemical weapons against its own popula- tion. It has not signed the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, which Egypt too has not signed and Israel has not yet ratified. Syria adhered to the 1925 Geneva Protocol on Chemical Weapons in 1968, but that instru- ment applies to armed conflict between states, not to use within a country’s borders. Syria has not used or threatened to use chemical weapons against the United States or other western powers. The U.N. Security Council has not passed a resolution author-

ising the use of force against Syria. The right

of self-defence or collective self-defence can-

not therefore be invoked to attack Syria mili-

tarily. The legal case being weak, the U.S. is

accusing Syria of violating the “norms”

against the use of chemical weapons. Vio-

lation of “norms” can invite condemnation or

even non-military sanctions by individual

countries, but not a unilateral military re-

sponse by a third country against an errant

one. The U.S. or the United Kingdom, it can

be argued, have not been designated by the

international community to enforce “norms”

militarily or otherwise on their behalf

against recalcitrant states.


President Obama has announced his read-

iness to act without U.N. Security Council

approval, recalling post-Cold War U.S. uni-

lateralism, an era assumed to be over, not the

least because such unilateralism imposed

forbidding military, political and financial

costs on the U.S. The argument that Russia

and China are responsible for blocking deci-

sions in the Security Council, compelling the

U.S., the U.K. and others to therefore act

alone, implies that non-western P 5 members

have an obligation to always concur with

invariably principled, lawful and construc-

tive U.S. and British positions as against their

own self-serving, morally skewed obstruc-

tionism. Burnt by their experience with the

Libyan resolution which the West exploited

to attack Libya, Russia and China may under-

standably be exceptionally wary on Syria,

given the West’s constant vituperations

against President Assad.

the West’s constant vituperations against President Assad. If the legal case for western intervention is weak,

If the legal case for western intervention is

weak, the political and moral case is full of

contradictions. This is not the first instance

of chemical weapons use in West Asia. They

were used in the Iraq-Iran war and by Iraq

and Syria internally in the past. In all these

cases, no external retribution followed. In

fact, western powers conveniently ignored

these transgressions, and, in the case of Iraq,

Saddam Hussein remained an acceptable in-

terlocutor till the change of political calcula-

tions made him an enemy. The U.S.’s use of

chemical agents in the Vietnam war also

complicates discussions on the moral dimen-

sion of the western position.

Comparing Egypt and Syria

The contrast between the West’s approach

to the latest developments in Egypt and the

turmoil in Syria is politically telling. The Syr-

ian government cannot be forgiven because it

forcibly suppressed peaceful demonstrations

in favour of democracy, rejected the dynam-

ics of the so-called Arab Spring and created

conditions for civil strife. In western eyes

this makes their intervention and that of

Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey against the

Syrian government politically and morally

defensible. Key western leaders have de- clared time and again that President Assad must and will go, as if they must decide the political fortunes of a foreign head of state in

his own country. To oust him, they have bolstered the rebels politically and militarily. However, concerns about al-Qaeda linked extremist religious organisations gaining ground in Syria is conflicting with the goal of breaking Iran’s nexus with Syria and the Hezbollah in the interest of Israel’s security, and this is causing some confusion and shak- iness in western strategy. In Egypt’s case, when peaceful demonstra- tions demanding the reinstatement of a dem- ocratically elected leader have been brutally suppressed by the Egyptian military, causing more casualties than the number of gas at- tack victims in Damascus, the U.S. condones it as an action to safeguard democracy. The U.S. countenanced the overthrow of Presi- dent Mubarak; it supported the Arab Spring

street activists as harbingers of democracy; it

backed the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to

power through democratic elections, seeing

in this emergence of political Islam a solution

to the conundrum of marrying Islam with

western-style democracy; it has now sup-

ported the overthrow of Morsi through a

military coup. This extraordinary political

flexibility in dealing with developments in

Egypt, guided less by principles than by com-

pulsions of self-interest, is notably absent in

the case of Syria. What adds to the irony is

that though the Arab Spring is dead, Presi-

dent Assad is still being punished for reject-

ing that phenomenon in a country where the

Muslim Brotherhood has been traditionally

highly radical and the danger of sectarian

strife in its religiously diverse society, large

sections of which are attached to secularism,

is most acute.


U.S. leaders are convinced that the Assad

government is guilty of the gas attack based

on evidence they claim to possess. They are

satisfied with that evidence and do not think

that leaders of other major countries need to

be satisfied too, even when the latter have

serious concerns about armed action in an

already highly combustible region, with a po-

tentially grave fallout elsewhere. The U.S.

leaders want others to accept what they say

at face value, despite their credibility in such

matters being especially low after the lies

purveyed about Saddam Hussein’s non-ex-

istent chemical weapons to justify the war

against Iraq. It is discomforting to hear Sec-

retary Kerry speak with such certitude and

vehemence about Assad’s guilt even before the U.N. inspectors have completed their groundwork and delivered their report to the U.N. Secretary-General. It is noteworthy that after the first chem- ical attack in Syria purportedly from rebel positions, the Syrian government asked the U.N. Security Council in March to send an investigation team, a move apparently blocked by the U.S. for five months as it sought the extension of the team’s mandate to the whole of Syria. The U.N. team that has just concluded its work was in Syria in re- sponse to Syria’s initial request. That the second attack on August 21 coincided with the arrival of this team speaks for itself. No wonder President Putin has called the accu- sations against the Syrian government “utter nonsense” and has asked the U.S. share the evidence at its disposal.

Politically convenient

U.S. leaders argue that the U.N. team’s

mandate is only to verify whether chemical

weapons have been used, not who used them,

and that, in any case, Syrian bombardments

of the site where they were used will destroy

any remaining evidence. They are apparently

pre-empting the U.N. report and making it

irrelevant to their decision to take military

action. Such a posture strengthens suspi-

cions that having drawn a redline which

seems to have been breached — even though

it is unclear by whom — President Obama is

under pressure to act to assert America’s

global leadership. Holding the Syrian govern-

ment responsible is politically convenient as

it supports the strategy of ousting Assad,

whereas holding the al-Qaeda linked rebel

group Al Nusra responsible — which, inci-

dentally, was caught in Turkey in May with

two kilos of sarin gas — will upturn the entire

western strategy in Syria.

Why the U.S. President is prepared to

strike at Syria alone even as his principal

acolyte has been tripped by a parliamentary

vote in his own country is baffling. Its experi-

ence in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as in

Libya should have counselled extreme cau-

tion in getting embroiled in another conflict

in the Islamic world. The human cost of west-

ern interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and

Libya have been enormous but are being

overlooked in the political calculus under-

lying an attack on Syria. The absurdity of

causing humanitarian mayhem in the name

of humanitarian action should not escape

politicians who are Nobel peace laureates.

(Kanwal Sibal is a former Foreign



to the


Letters emailed to must carry

the full postal address and the full

name or the name with initials.

Overlords and

the underclass

T he functioning of democratic

institutions between 1952 to

1966 negates the conclusion of Dr.

Amartya Sen that such institutions

in this democracy are no guarantee

for success. No Chief Minister

would even think of recommending

action against a party worker for

having committed a crime.

A solution to this lies in placing

the entire police force under an

independent central police

commission, on the lines of the

Central Election Commission.

Reforming campaign finances will

no doubt help eliminate money

power but not muscle power.

Another solution can be the

temporary suspension of the

electoral process, which is the root

cause of all these problems, for a

period of five years, impose

President’s rule and then have a

central police commission clean

things up.

J.F. Dawson,


I ndia’s pro-rich policies since

1991 have ruined even the

concept of equal opportunity.

Corporate servile policies have

pauperised sustainable village

economies and pushed a large

number of underprivileged youth

into becoming anti-social

elements. If the Supreme Court

has observed that 90 per cent of

rape cases end in acquittal it

means that there is something terribly wrong with our justice system as far as sexual violence is concerned. In a civilised world, the sex ratio is 940 females to

1,000 males. The ratio among the “uncivilised” Dongriya Kondh tribal people is 1,352 females to 1,000 males, and there is no sexual violence among them.

C.V. Sukumaran,


A ttributing crimes against women to the poor underclass

is egregious. Portraying them as mindless instruments in the hands of the political class is not only insulting but also unjustifiable. That rape as an atrocity committed by the poor against the middle class and the elite is a kind of stereotyping that cannot be allowed. Crimes such as these cannot be pinned to a particular class or social background. These crimes are committed by men who see women as a mere sexual object or by someone who never respects women as equals. Such a mentality is created by our so-called culture

and this patriarchal society.

Bipin T.V.,


P ainting our political leaders as

the primary reason behind all

violence seems a little exaggerated.

It is true that irrespective of the

party, some politicians try to reap

dividends out of the

disenfranchised and unemployed

underclass. The creation of

independent institutions and equal

opportunities are good solutions.

The writer seems to forget that

politicians are also a cross-section

or representation of our society.

Anuroop Sunny,


NSA surveillance

T he revelations by Glenn

Greenwald about the NSA

monitoring the Brazilian President

(Sept. 3) are a cause for anguish.

That India is the U.S.’s target 3 is

shocking. America has lied to the

world about its activities. The

developed world should think in

terms of imposing sanctions on the

U.S. It may be difficult, but worth a

try. This kind of bullying has to


T. Anand Raj,


I t was amusing to read that India

is placed at number 3 behind

Brazil and Egypt in a group of

countries which are being closely

monitored by the U.S. and labelled as a “challenge.” Too presumptuous to be called a friend, too preposterous to be called an enemy and too pathetic to be called a problem.

Col. C.V. Venugopalan (retd.),


On GM crops

A person needs a deep understanding of genetics to

appreciate the subject of GM crops (Op-Ed, Sept. 2). Only a few will realise that genetical modifications in the lab is a hastening of the process of evolution. Not many may appreciate that our wheat and rice have come from a chance crossing between wild grasses which took a long time for it to happen. Leapfrogging over the process of evolution by GM technology is the way to food security. It is amazing to note that the expert committee appointed by the Supreme Court gave a contrarian view.

V. Rajan,



U sing GM technology in cotton

and other such inedible

staples is fine. But when it comes to

edible crops, let us wait, watch,

research and do lab-to-land tests

for a few decades instead of gulping

down what MNCs want us to

believe and consume. When

mutations take place over the

centuries (during evolution), how

can we be certain that studies/

research conducted in the last two

decades can prove that everything

is hunky-dory?

M.M.R. Athreya,


A s a fellow scientist and a molecular biologist, I found Dr.

Padmanaban’s framing of the GM debate as science vs. antiscience to be a deeply polarised perspective that is by now comically clichéd. He appears to be unaware that there is a global movement of scientists and science-based organisations such as the Union for Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the Council for Responsible Genetics (CRG) that have opposed GM plants for a variety of scientific reasons. GM crop developers have been talking about developing crops with higher nutrition, the ability to fix nitrogen and with other improved traits for close to two decades but have failed to produce these. Until now, what we have are plants that express pesticide genes, Bt-toxin, and plants that are resistant to weedkillers (primarily glyphosate and glufosinate). These represent about 95 per cent of

commercialised GM plants, with the remainder being minor crops engineered for traits such as virus

resistance. The predominant

application of this technology has

been resistant crops that promote

the sale of biotech/chemical

company’s chemicals while paying

lip service to altruistic motives like

increasing yields to feed the world.

If one systematically reviews the

literature, at the very least, one

must acknowledge that there is

“controversy” in the scientific

literature regarding the health and

environmental safety of GMOs, and

an even closer look exposes the fact

that the papers that fail to find

problems with GMOs almost always are from authors with associations with the biotechnology industry, while those that expose problems are typically from scientists that are independent of such influences. It is the consensus of the organic farming movement around the world that GMOs are not compatible with organic farming. Furthermore, international reports such as The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) strongly question the utility of genetic engineered crops in meeting the challenges of the vast majority of farmers around the world and providing food security. Instead of attempting to solve every problem with this one technology, it would make sense to ask the question, “what is the most effective, simplest, most elegant approach to the problem?” It is surprising for one of India’s respected scientists to be advocating abdication of food security of the nation to multinational corporations. Without food security, there is no

national security, no national


Sujatha Byravan,


M asanobu Fukuoka’s

experience with natural

farming is in his book The One-

Straw Revolution, which Indian

scientists must read and use to

challenge in open debate if they

support GM crops for India.

V.J. Nambiar,


The last word

T his is with reference to the letter writers (Aug.29-30) on

poet Subramania Bharati and the issue of food security. I am afraid that the second writer (Aug.30) has given a free rein to his imagination in interpreting the quote. Thanjavur Tamil University’s research edition on Bharathiar has the referred line which is: “Thani oruvanukku unavillayenil jagaththinai azhiththiduvom.” This can only be translated as “We will destroy the (whole) world (universe) if there is no food for even one individual.” There is no mention of ploughing the whole world and flooding it with food, even in the next lines. I think the writer mixed up “azhiththal” which means “destroying” and “uzhuthal” which means “ploughing.” Injustices made poet Bharati very angry and if he said “we will destroy the world,” that’s what he meant.

Vathsala Vijayakumar


angry and if he said “we will destroy the world,” that’s what he meant. Vathsala Vijayakumar



angry and if he said “we will destroy the world,” that’s what he meant. Vathsala Vijayakumar




THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 5, 2013 THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 5, 2013 Fallen God T he 10-page




T he 10-page resignation letter of suspended Gujarat cadre IPS officer D.G. Vanzara — one among over 30 policemen currently in jail in

connection with a chain of post-2002 en- counter murders — is so much a case of damning with ‘high’ praise that on a first reading it could be misun- derstood as a defence of Narendra Modi and his gov- ernment. The letter is, indeed, worded in a manner to

suggest that the chief recipient of Mr. Vanzara’s ire is

Modi-confidant and BJP general secretary Amit Shah

who, with his “evil influence,” usurped the Chief Minis-

ter’s “eyes and ears.” Mr. Modi himself is described by

Mr. Vanzara, who was Deputy Inspector-General of

Police until his 2007 arrest, as “a God” whom he

adored. The one-time celebrated top cop also fully

justifies the liquidation of terror suspects as a neces-

sary outcome of the Gujarat government’s “pro-active

policy of zero tolerance for terrorism.” However, the

deceptive eulogy is merely a cover for a full-blown

attack on Mr. Modi, whom Mr. Vanzara accuses of

“marching towards Delhi” without a thought to the

jailed police officers who merely followed the Chief

Minister’s orders; if anything, Mr, Modi owed a “debt”

to the officers whose actions “endowed him with the

halo of a brave Chief Minister among a galaxy of other


The mocking and sarcasm do not stop here. Arguing

that those at the helm of decision-making too needed to

be put in jail for pursuing a “conscious” policy of “al-

leged fake-encounters,” Mr. Vanzara suggests that the

Gujarat government shift its offices to the prisons

where the arrested policemen languished. So what is

the real message in the letter? To start off, it exposes

the deep schism between the Modi administration and

its own police force. The sense of betrayal so acutely

evident in Mr. Vanzara’s long lament comes from the

differential treatment given to the police officers and

Mr. Shah, who is himself an accused in two cases of

encounter killings. The Gujarat government secured

the release on bail of Mr. Shah while the officers were

left to their own devices. More seriously for the State

government, Mr. Vanzara confirms that suspected ter-

rorists were killed under orders from the highest quar-

ters. The accused officer, of course, puts a veneer of

patriotism on the murders, insisting that but for the

systematic purging of the suspects, Gujarat would have

become another Kashmir. But no civilised country can

permit the extra-judicial killing of its citizens, which is

why Mr. Vanzara is cooling his heels in jail. The desper-

ate police officer’s lament that he was merely following

orders will not get him off the hook. But it does leave

Mr. Modi and his government with much to answer for.

leave Mr. Modi and his government with much to answer for. A profoundly B just order

A profoundly


just order

y recalling its directions and declarations is-

sued a year ago on the appointment of In-

formation Commissioners under the Right to

Information Act, the Supreme Court has en-

sured that there will be no frustrating complications in

the working of this path-breaking law. The court’s

determination in a review petition that Information

Commissions do not exercise judicial powers and in

fact discharge administrative functions confirms what

the RTI community has emphasised all along — that

the elegant law is designed to minimise discretionary

interpretation and exempts only a select list of subjects

from disclosure. Moreover, the Commissions are not

tribunals or bodies to which judicial powers have been

transferred. The RTI Act does not, therefore, have to

mandate appointment of judicially independent offi-

cers such as sitting or former judges, in the interests of

separation of powers. This wise judgment has used the

opportunity provided by the review petition to correct

an error of law. The simplicity of the Act is preserved,

and Information Commissions must now dedicate

themselves to the task of breaking down barriers erect-

ed by vested interests to frustrate RTI applicants.

It is unavoidable that a far-going law such as the RTI Act is frequently subjected to challenge by powerful lobbies. Hearteningly, it has survived largely intact thus far, and draws a groundswell of support every time there is an attempt to dilute it. The proposal to amend it with the sole intention of annulling an order of the Central Information Commission bringing political parties under its ambit has led to significant citizen mobilisation against the move. This is not to say that nothing can be done to improve the Act’s working. As the court has pointed out, there are occasions when the Information Commissions are called upon to decide the limits of transparency and protect the privacy of individuals. This has led to orders that may appear to go beyond the provisions of the law. The only test to be met in such circumstances is that of public interest, and Commissioners with a distinguished record in the social sector would find no difficulty in arriving at a decision. Regrettably, the Centre and the States have not been neutral about choosing people for the job. As the court has pointed out, people from various dis- ciplines such as law, science, social service, journalism, and administration with undisputed eminence must be selected. Naturally, this means widening the gene pool

beyond former bureaucrats and establishment loyal- ists. That the process must be open to scrutiny has been reiterated by the Supreme Court and it will doubtless be closely monitored by a rights-conscious citizenry.

Let’s not miss the big picture

India should do all it can to resolve contentious issues with Bangladesh in order to strengthen the hands of the secular Sheikh Hasina government

Kamal Davar

A mong all our neighbours,

the nation whose birth is

indelibly linked to India

is Bangladesh. That this

nation, uniquely in the

Islamic world, is strug-

gling to be a modern sec-

ular state, has always

acknowledged India’s support for its inde- pendence from Pakistan and now looks for- ward to developing an all encompassing positive relationship with us is inexplicably underplayed in this country.

Economic & political linkages

For long, India has looked at the West as

the centre of gravity of its strategic interests,

but to little avail. Our much heralded ‘Look

East Policy,’ though initiated in 1993 by the

late Narasimha Rao when he was Prime Min-

ister, has only received some impetus. Ban-

gladesh is a natural pillar of this policy, be as

it can a ‘bridge’ to economic and political

linkages with South East Asia and beyond. A

friendly Bangladesh that ensures no anti-

India terror or insurgent activities can be

carried out from its soil unlike in the past

will substantially assist India in handling

security problems in some of its restive

north-east States. Importantly, a ‘neutral’

Bangladesh also ensures containment of an

assertive China in this region, including

along the strategic sea-lanes of the Bay of


Since Sheikh Hasina and her Awami

League came to power five years ago, there

has been tremendous goodwill for India in

Bangladesh. In December, she faces a bitter

general election in which her adversaries are

the congenitally anti-India Islamic funda-

mentalists. That India has a stake in the

victory of secular forces in Bangladesh is a

factor it can disregard only at its peril.

It is accepted by all that Sheikh Hasina has

largely delivered on Indian security con-

cerns by cracking down on terrorism direct-

ed against India from Bangladeshi soil.

Additionally, the current government is do-

ing its utmost to keep Islamic fundamental-

ism in Bangladesh, represented by the likes

of Harkat-al-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), the re-

cently banned political outfit Jamaat-e-Isla-

mi, others like Hefajat-e-Islam, Jagrata

Muslim Janata, and HUJI-B whose links to

al Qaeda are well known, at bay at some cost

to the Awami League rank and file.

It must also be noted that when India’s

President Pranab Mukherjee recently vis-

ited Bangladesh, the other prime ministerial

recently vis- ited Bangladesh, the other prime ministerial aspirant in Dhaka, Begum Khaleda Zia, whose Bangladesh

aspirant in Dhaka, Begum Khaleda Zia,

whose Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)

is known to encourage anti-India senti-

ments and has traditionally colluded with

fundamentalists in the past, did not bother

to meet him. Electoral battle-lines between

the two parties in Bangladesh are also drawn

over their regional priorities.

Unfortunately, there exist many conten-

tious issues between the two countries, pri-

marily in the division of common river

waters. Not surprising considering we share

54 trans-boundary rivers, big and small! In

1996, the sharing of the Ganga waters was

successfully agreed upon between the two

nations. However, the major area of dispute

has been India’s construction and operation

of the Farakka Barrage to increase water

supply to the river Hooghly. Bangladesh

complains that it does not get a fair share of

the water in the dry season and some of its

areas get flooded when India releases excess

waters during the monsoons. In addition,

the sharing of the waters of the Teesta river

is being vehemently opposed by India’s West

Bengal government though many Indian se-

curity and water experts in that State em-

pathise with Bangladesh’s stand. The

sluggish execution of the Tipaimukh hydro-

electric project on the Barak River in Bangla-

desh is another problem area. Prime

Minister Manmohan Singh has, however,

graciously offered a reasonable partnership

stake in this project to Bangladesh.

Then, there is the land corridor that India

wants through Bangladesh, to connect West

Bengal to the north-eastern States. Right

now, the only land connection between

these two parts of India is the 20 to 25 km

wide Siliguri corridor (also known as India’s

Chicken Neck). It appears that Bangladesh

will grant this only after it gets its demand of

water requirements. Importantly, its inter-

nal political situation has to ease enough for

Dhaka to make such a concession to India.

India’s other concern is the issue of the

continuing huge influx of undocumented

Bangladesh migrants through a 4000 km-

long porous international border, and de-

spite a crackdown by the Sheikh Hasina gov-

ernment, the continuing presence of

anti-India forces across the border. Prob-

lems like trade imbalances and tariff barriers

between the two nations are easily surmoun-

table and India providing some business in-

centives recently to Bangladesh have been


One other issue that could have been

solved, but has been allowed to fester, is

India’s inability to ratify the protocol to the

Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) of 1974

with Bangladesh. Under this, 161 adversely

held small enclaves are to be exchanged by the two countries; 7,100 acres of land will be transferred to India and nearly 17,000 acres go to Bangladesh. The Union Cabinet had in February 2013 approved the draft LBA Bill for introduction in the monsoon session of Parliament for ratification of the swap deal. However, West Bengal Chief Minister Ma- mata Banerjee and the BJP have strongly opposed this deal much to the discomfiture of the Centre and annoyance of the Bangla- desh government.

Legitimate demand

Overall, India has to consider if West Ben- gal, under Ms Banerjee, is unnecessarily spoiling the relationship between the two nations by putting spokes in New Delhi’s efforts to address Bangladesh’s legitimate

demands. If this continues, India risks mis-

sing the larger picture. Even West Bengal

economists lament that their government’s

failure to view the big picture and ‘putting

politics before development’ has prevented

the State from becoming India’s gateway to

South East Asia and the Far East as a whole.

That the Centre could have taken more ef-

forts to bring the West Bengal Chief Minister

on board prior to the Prime Minister’s Ban-

gladesh visit is another story.

Addressing a dialogue organised recently

by two think tanks of the two nations in New

Delhi, Bangladesh High Commissioner to

India Tariq Karim succinctly pointed out

that “India’s growth is Bangladesh’s growth

because Bangladesh can grow only when In-

dia grows.” He reminded his Indian audience

of President Pranab Mukherjee’s observa-

tion that the “agenda for the future for both

the countries has to be sub-regional.”

India-Bangladesh relations have more

than an academic strategic content. In the

long run, India’s national interests primarily

lie towards and beyond its eastern flanks to

South East Asia and the new geographical

and strategic construct namely Indo-Pacific

Asia. India thus needs to strengthen the vari-

ous regional groupings in this region like the

ASEAN and the BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal

Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and

Economic Cooperation). Importantly, by

pragmatically reaching out to Bangladesh

now, it will be able to strengthen the secular

democratic forces in Islamic Bangladesh to

our east — an imperative which must always

be borne in our strategic formulations, for

let us never forget that towards our western

flank violent Islamic fundamentalism is on

an alarming ascendant.

(Lt Gen Davar was India’s first Chief of the

Defence Intelligence Agency and Deputy

Chief of the Integrated Defence Staff)


to the


Too late

Letters emailed to must carry

the full postal address and the full

name or the name with initials.

M r. Vanzara has set the cat

among the pigeons with his

resignation letter in which he has

blamed his political bosses,

particularly Mr. Modi and Amit

Shah, for the encounter killings.

Aside from providing ammunition

to the Congress to target the

Gujarat Chief Minister, Mr.

Vanzara’s missive has enough

potential to open a fresh can of

worms. The probability of

someone like the DIG turning

approver should send shivers

down the spine of BJP stalwarts

whose culpability in the encounter

killings has been reported by the

media for quite some time now.

C.V. Aravind,


the media for quite some time now. C.V. Aravind, Bangalore T he jailed ‘encounter’ specialist has

T he jailed ‘encounter’ specialist

has spilled the beans and

opened a horror-filled can of

worms. The amazing run of

successful interceptions and

encounter killings of ‘terrorists

out to kill Narendra Modi’ was too

good to be true. They were cold-

blooded murders and wanton

killings of the minorities,

perpetrated to please the bosses.

The police acted with gross

savagery and with scant regard for

the law and human rights.

It is frightening to learn that

these murders were committed by

the police as part of the Gujarat government’s ‘conscious policy,’ formulated at the very top as claimed by Mr. Vanzara in his letter. The one-time blue-eyed boy of Mr. Shah and Mr. Modi is obviously a broken and discredited man facing an uncertain future.

A. Kutub Shamshudin,


T he media has been consistently reporting that the

real culprits in the encounter cases were the political masters who ordered them. The long arm of the law may take time to reach

the real culprits and bring them to justice. Worse, the culprits may escape the law. Our system will improve only if people in authority treat the Constitution, not politicians, as god and become the foot soldiers of the public. Had Mr. Vanzara shown some grit when he was asked to bend the rules, he could have saved many lives and avoided imprisonment. Thousands of IAS and IPS officers having proximity to their political masters will be

doing a favour to themselves and

I t is clear from the outburst of

DIG D.G. Vanzara, who has

been in jail for almost seven years

in connection with a chain of

encounter killings in Gujarat, that

he did not discharge his duty as

per the law — as a responsible IPS

officer. He carried out the

“encounters” because his political

superiors told him to do so with no

regard for the right or wrong of his

actions. What was the

he expected for implementing

what he calls the “conscious

policy” of the Narendra Modi

government? Why did he carry out

the dastardly acts, knowing full

well that he was acting against the


quid pro





B laming the Modi government

for his wrong-doings is a much

belated afterthought and a

politically motivated move. What

prevented Mr. Vanzra from

refusing to obey an order that was

illegal and unethical? There is

every reason to believe that the

frustrated officer is playing to the

gallery of Narendra Modi’s

political rivals.

Ettirankandath Krishnadas,


M r. Vanzara’s outburst hardly comes as a surprise. Was he

so naïve as to toe the “conscious policy” of the Modi government? When it suited his career ambitions, he took orders from his political bosses without protesting. And now that he is facing the music for his actions, he accuses the Modi government of framing police officials in encounter cases. If he was upright, he should have refused to listen to his political masters. There are many officers who do not buckle under pressure or yield to the temptations of power and pelf.

Sivamani Vasudevan,


T he timing of Mr. Vanzara’s resignation and accusations,

after almost seven years of his arrest, raises serious doubts. One wonders whether the news deserved front page coverage.

M. Swaminathan,



the country if they learn the right

lessons from this episode.

C.K. Saseendran,


M r. Vanzara’s resignation letter has exposed the

Gujarat government. It is clear that the government was in active collusion with the police in the grisly drama of “encounters” to gain political mileage. Mr. Vanzara’s claim that he and his fellow officers were only following the conscious policy of the government is shocking.

J. Anantha Padmanabhan,


Syrian crisis

T he United States does not seem to have learnt anything

from its experience in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan (“Two-faced in West Asia,” September 4). It would do well to remember the past and abandon its policy of one-upmanship in world affairs. Gone are the days when it bullied nations for support. It is crucial to strengthen the United Nations to handle the Syrian crisis.

A. Prabaharan,


T he article rightly argues that

the U.S. and the U.K. have not

been designated by the

international community to

enforce “norms” on its behalf.

Russia and China should be firm in

condemning the attitude of the U.S. West Asia too must be united in facing the challenge. What is happening to Syria today may happen to Jordan or Saudi Arabia one day.

P.K. Raman,


T he double standard adopted by

the U.S. on Syria is despicable.

It is a clear case of self-interest in the name of concern for democracy. India’s stand against military intervention in Syria is welcome. It proves that New Delhi is not bound by U.S. interests.

C.T. Arun,


T he Syrian crisis reminds us of the U.S. misadventure in Iraq.

Regional groupings like BRICS and the Arab League should strongly oppose any action that is not approved by the U.N. Security Council.

Dipankar Baidya,


Political overlords

R ajrishi Singhal has clearly

explained the reasons behind

recent violent crimes (“The

political overlords of a violent

underclass,” September 3). It is shocking to note that 1,448 representatives of people have declared criminal cases against them. Alcohol and movies contribute a lot to violence against women. Why not curb alcohol production and strictly censor movies?

N. Sundara Ramaiah,


P olitics breeds corruption and violence is its essential tool to

perpetuate depravity. The acts of violence against women cannot be viewed as isolated events in a society that has normalised exploitation and discrimination of the weaker sections. Though the number of registered cases against sexual abuse has increased, there is no sign of stringent punishment. Economic disparity has been long stated as the root cause of violence. The truth left untold is that such inequalities have been instilled and entrenched in the system.

Lakshmi Prabha,


untold is that such inequalities have been instilled and entrenched in the system. Lakshmi Prabha, Hyderabad



untold is that such inequalities have been instilled and entrenched in the system. Lakshmi Prabha, Hyderabad




FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 6, 2013 FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 6, 2013 Governor’s first day t isn’t


Governor’s first day

t isn’t surprising that the markets have reacted favourably to Raghuram Rajan’s first day in of- fice as governor of the Reserve Bank of India.

Somewhat uncharitably, the RBI under outgoing governor D. Subbarao was seen as market unfriendly — totally focussed on inflation without heeding growth

considerations, besides not being able to contain the rupee’s fall. Thursday’s rise in the value of the Sensex and the rupee suggests market intermediaries expect a

change in approach. However, for all the positive vibes

the new governor appears to have created, Dr. Rajan is

bound to be wary of the reception he has received.

True, he does bring impressive credentials to what is

arguably one of the toughest jobs in the economic

management of the country today. But, as he himself

has warned on many occasions, there is no magic wand

that can wave away the country’s economic woes. The

slowdown in GDP growth, the erosion of business and

consumer confidence and above all, the falling rupee,

have deeper structural causes that cannot be addressed

overnight. Under the circumstances, as any Chicago-

trained economist knows only too well, irrational ex-

pectations can be counter-productive.

Many analysts have commented favourably on the

speed with which Dr. Rajan has got down to work. The

agenda he revealed at his first press conference is

impressive but the fact is that some of those are in-

cremental steps which would have been taken anyway,

probably at a slower pace. For instance, the issuance of

new bank licences was already on the cards. Some of

the major steps aimed at reorienting the banking struc-

ture are already engaging the RBI. These include set-

ting up niche banks for, say, infrastructure, retail and

investment banking. CPI-linked inflation bonds as an

alternative to gold savings are not a novel idea, but it is

good that they figure in the new governor’s short-term

agenda. Proposals to deepen financial markets through

innovative instruments such as cash-settled 10-year

interest rate futures and the dematting of trade receiv-

ables are welcome. Small steps such as these can make a

big difference. The focus on improving the efficiency of

the recovery system and the clear warning to promo-

ters that they cannot use the banking system to recap-

italise their failed ventures send a clear signal to

deviant corporate borrowers. On the bigger issue of

monetary policy objectives, Dr. Rajan has highlighted

the importance of inflation targeting: monetary stabil-

ity and preserving the value of the rupee will be key

goals. The emphasis might vary but the overall ob-

jectives are the same. The new governor needs to har-

ness his great skills at communication to carry the

markets and, equally important, the government.


Justice and

the juvenile

alls to dilute the Juvenile Justice Act in light

of what is perceived as lenient punishment to

the juvenile offender in the Delhi gang rape

case are understandable but misplaced. The

crime shook the country’s conscience, brought forth an

unprecedented outpouring of anger and triggered col-

lective introspection on the safety of women and girls.

But even though there is a view that the young per-

petrator has been able to get away lightly, this is not

reason enough to question or do away with the princi-

ples underlying juvenile justice. Separate legislation

has existed in many countries around the world since

the early 20th century for the care and protection of

children, including child offenders. The present system

in India was introduced by a 1986 Act and improved

upon in 2000. The JJ Act, 2000, a progressive legisla-

tion, replaced the regular judicial process with a

reformatory regime, favouring supervised probation or

stay in an observation home over imprisonment. The

law tries to reform a young offender’s conduct rather

than confine him for decades in a prison with adult

criminals, which only works to fan recidivist


While refusing to allow the Delhi gang rape juvenile

offender to be tried as an adult, the Supreme Court

pointed out in its order that underage crime still forms only a tiny percentage of the large body of crime in the country. However, merely going through a differential process for juvenile offenders is not enough. It is obvi- ous that the social contract underlying a lenient regime requires equal attention to be paid to the design and implementation of a proper rehabilitation process. So- ciety will only countenance shielding young offenders guilty of great brutality from the rigours of adult justice if it is confident that they will indeed benefit from the rehabilitative approach to juvenile justice. In India, we need to guard against the complacent belief that a stint in a remand home is enough for their rehabilitation. The atmosphere in many such facilities is not condu- cive for reformation, and in fact may toughen or en- trench criminal propensities. The system should not end up creating a new underclass that combines a sense of triumph over avoiding a prison term after commit- ting heinous crimes, with the psychological effects of staying under bleak, hope-denying conditions. Making juvenile correctional facilities more humane is one part of the answer. But to address the need for propor-

tionality — not so much in punishment as in the neces- sity of socio-psychological repair — when a young offender commits truly heinous crimes, a longer period of sustained counselling and rehabilitation ought to be an essential part of the juvenile justice process even after the maximum period of remand is over.


Charge of the unenlightened brigade

Jagdish Bhagwati’s attacks on Amartya Sen are based on a series of misattributions and obscure the real issues on which the two economists differ

A.K. Shiva Kumar

R ich and lively public de-

bates are the raison

d’être of any democracy.

But the recent attacks

by Professor Jagdish

Bhagwati on Dr. Amar-

tya Sen confound the re-

al issues on which Sen

and Bhagwati differ. Bhagwati tries to position himself as a proponent of growth that would benefit the poor through later redistribution. In con- trast, Sen is portrayed as being anti-growth, and as advocating only for “redistributing” the meagre resources that are available. This is a complete misdiagnosis, based on a num- ber of serious misattributions.

Instrument for progress

First, Sen has never denounced economic

growth. On the contrary, he has repeatedly

argued for the importance of economic

growth as an instrument for economic pro-

gress (but not as an end in itself), beginning

with his first publication, in the


Journal of Economics

ly, in

1989, Jean Drèze and Sen outline in some

detail the strategy of “growth-mediated se-

curity,” which calls for promoting economic

growth and directing the greater general af-

fluence and also larger public revenues to

combat deprivation and enhance health care



and education. In a recent interview to

in 1957. More recent-

Hunger and Public Action, published in

Jonathan Derbyshire, Sen has reaf-

firmed his position: “Economic growth is

important precisely because it can help peo-

ple to lead better lives. But to take growth

itself to be a fetishistic object of admiration

is part of the problem. I think we have to

understand that, ultimately, not having an

educated, healthy population is not only bad

for well-being but also bad, in the long run,

for sustaining our economic growth.” Sen

has never been against growth in general,

but has shown the inadequacy of the type of

growth that fails to improve the lives of ordi-

nary people.

Second, he has consistently argued that

economic growth is an important means of

development but the intrinsic ends or goals

of development have to be more than simply

Development as

material advancement. His

opens with the following sentenc-

es: “Development can be seen, it is argued

here, as a process of expanding the real free-


doms that people enjoy. Focusing on human

freedoms contrasts with narrower views of

development, such as identifying develop-

narrower views of development, such as identifying develop- ment with the growth of gross national prod-

ment with the growth of gross national prod-

uct, or with the rise in personal incomes, or

with industrialization, or with technological

advance, or with social modernization.

Growth of GNP or of individual incomes can,

of course, be very important as means to

expanding the freedoms enjoyed by the

members of the society … Viewing devel-

opment in terms of expanding substantive

freedoms directs attention to the ends that

make development important, rather than

merely to some of the means that, inter alia,

play a prominent role in the process.”

Education and nutrition

Third, Sen has consistently championed

health, education and nutrition because they

are intrinsically significant as well as an im-

portant means to boost economic growth.

There is, in fact, no contradiction here: the

advancement of human capability is both a

part of enhancement of human freedom and

well-being and a significant way of promot-

ing and sustaining high levels of economic

growth. An educated and healthy labour

force is both a contributor to good human

living and freedom, and to advancing and

sustaining a dynamic and expanding econo-

my. In their recent book,

ry: India and its Contradictions,

Drèze and

An Uncertain Glo-

Sen note: “It is necessary to recognize the

role of growth in facilitating development in

the form of enhancing human lives and free-

doms, but it is also necessary in this context

to appreciate how growth possibilities of a

country depend in turn on the advancement

of human capabilities (through education,

health care and other facilities), in which the state can play a constructive role.” Fourth, Sen is not against the “provision by the private sector” of “food, education and health” to the deprived. Nor has he ever said or let alone “insisted” that “the government alone must provide them,” as Bhagwati claims. Drèze and Sen discuss in An Un- certain Glory, the limitations of an exclusive reliance on private markets for promoting human development. “[A]symmetric infor- mation between buyers and sellers, and more generally a lack of adequate knowledge on the part of the uninformed patients or customers limits their ability to choose sen- sibly and opens them up to exploitative prac- tices. The drive for private profits can diverge from the goals of social welfare.

Since profitability is conditional on the abil-

ity of the purchaser, or the consumer, to pay,

private profits can often be a very inadequate

guide to the priorities of public need.” At the

same time, they discuss the importance of

improving the delivery and reach of public

services and suggest various ways of promot-

ing accountability and efficiency in govern-

mental operations (which is an important

focus of their joint book). To take state ac-

tion to be hopelessly doomed and neglecting

the means of bettering them, which often

masquerade as “realism,” is, in fact, a resig-

nation to the lethargy of doing nothing. It is a

“smugness based on cynicism,” as Sen said in

a public speech in Delhi.

Health care

Fifth, while acknowledging that private

schools offer a legitimate alternative, Drèze

and Sen argue that this “cannot in any way,

take over the role that state schools are

meant to play and have played in the educa-

tional transformation of most countries.”

Worldwide experience has demonstrated

the power of public education in equitable

educational development. There are at least

four problems with private schools: afforda-

bility; asymmetry in information and knowl-

edge of families and students; insufficient

competition even from government schools;

and the externalities of school education as

well as indivisibilities of acquired knowl-

edge. Similarly, health is also a case of “asym-

metric information.” Given that patients

generally know much less than the doctors

about what they are suffering from and what

the best treatment is, the possibility of se-

vere exploitation of patients by profit-seek-

ing private providers is a real danger. And

quite often it is also the actual experience of

vulnerable people.

Drèze and Sen point out that given the limitations of market arrangements and of private insurance in the field of health care, public provision of health services has an important foundational role to play in the realisation of universal health coverage (as it has done in nearly every country in the world that has achieved universality of health cov- erage). They draw attention to the fact that “India has moved towards reliance on pri- vate health care without developing the solid rock of support of basic public health facil- ities that has been the basis of almost every successful health transition in the history of the world — from Britain to Japan, from China to Brazil, from South Korea to Costa Rica.” They argue that transforming India’s health care system to fulfil the commitment to universal health coverage would require,

first of all: “to stop believing, against all em-

pirical evidence, that India’s transition from

poor health to good health could be easily

achieved through private health care and

insurance. This recognition does not, of

course, imply that there is no role at all for

the private sector in health. Most health care

systems in the world have space for private

provision, and there is no compelling reason

for India to dispense with it.”

Kerala model

Drèze and Sen acknowledge and appre-

ciate the contribution made by the “plentiful

presence of the private sector in medicine in

Kerala today.” But they also point out that

Kerala’s health transition started with a

commitment by the State to universal cov-

erage. It was only later that the private sec-

tor in health became a major contributor to

the health care of the people in Kerala —

supported by the rapid growth in incomes

(closely related to the expansion of human

capabilities). They go on to draw an impor-

tant lesson. “There is a world of difference,”

according to Drèze and Sen, “between (1)

allowing — and even encouraging — the aux-

iliary facilities of private health care to en-

rich a reasonably well-functioning state

system (as happened in Kerala), and (2) try-

ing to rely on private health care when the

state provides very little in terms of health

facilities (as in many other states, particular-

ly in north India).”

Sometimes, heat can generate more

smoke than light, obscuring the real issues

that need to be discussed. Endless repetition

of confused — and false — attributions can-

not alter the nature of the real questions that

have to be faced.

(A.K. Shiva Kumar is a development econ-

omist and lives in New Delhi.)


to the


Letters emailed to must carry

the full postal address and the full

name or the name with initials.

Vanzara’s god

T rigger-happy policemen,

euphemistically called

“encounter specialists,” always say

they acted on the orders of their

“bosses” when the law eventually

catches up with them (“Fallen

God,” Sept. 5). IPS officer D.G.

Vanzara claims that he and his

officers were only following the

Gujarat government’s “conscious

policy” of encounters. Surely, he

must have known that he was

extinguishing innocent lives for

the sake of his “god”?

Had the law not caught up with

him and had he been rewarded

suitably by his “god,” would he

have offered to resign as he is

doing now?

S. Devarajan,


A mbitious officers want

promotions, honours, and

post-retirement benefits. To

achieve this, they are ready to

execute any order from their

political masters, many of whom

have criminal cases pending

against them.

The only way to nail the real

culprits of the 2002 Gujarat riots

and what followed is trial by the

International Court of Justice.

Ahamad Fuad,


W hile a policy of “zero tolerance for terrorism” is

welcome, no one can justify fake encounters in the name of security. As a senior police officer, it was Mr. Vanzara’s duty to implement the government’s

policy according to the law. He should have respected the Constitution, not his political masters. He appears to have carried out instructions due to lack of courage or selfish interests.

P.R.V. Raja,


T he revelations by the suspended IPS officer have

exposed the nexus between politicians and police officers in Gujarat. Dastardly acts of violence by the state stand in stark contrast to the inspiring ideals which radiate from the land of Mahatma Gandhi. I take solace in the fact that truth has triumphed. The battered inner voice of the officer has finally spoken.

Ginny Gold,

New Delhi

A genuine encounter happens;

it is not staged. If orders are

obtained before an encounter or if

senior police officers are vested

with the power to decide on

encounters as a matter of policy,

there is sufficient basis for civil

society to suspect extra-judicial


Unfortunately in India, the

meaning of “encounter” has

undergone a change. The news of

an “encounter” is no longer a

sensation. In fact, there are public

demands for the “encounter” of

rapists and other perpetrators of

heinous crimes against women

and children.


S. Prakasa Rao,


B laming Mr. Modi for the

post-2002 encounter killings

is unfair. Extra-judicial killings

take place in almost all the States.

There are trained “encounter

specialists” everywhere.

If such killings are acceptable in

the interest of national security

elsewhere, why single out Gujarat?




Challenging task

T he new RBI Governor,

Raghuram Rajan, seems keen

on introducing a new philosophy

in the central bank’s functioning. Besides being a reputed economist, he brings with him a fund of knowledge, and international exposure and experience. The government must use more such people in other sectors too.

R.V.L.N.R.G. Prasad,


M r. Rajan has an uphill task ahead. He will have to

correct the economy mismanaged by those who have taken all major decisions keeping political considerations in mind. The volume of non-performing assets has grown in nationalised banks due to indiscriminate lending, unhealthy competition, lack of proper verification and absence of close monitoring of big borrower accounts. Much of what the new RBI Governor can achieve will also depend on the government that comes to power in 2014.

Karavadi Raghava Rao,



Climate change

E ven if one were to accept the

claim by the U.N.

Intergovernmental Panel on

Climate Change that the “Earth is

warming up but not as rapidly as

predicted” (Sept. 5), the grim

reality is that the damage caused

by global warming is irreversible.

Mindless exploitation of natural resources and excessive dependence on fossil fuels have made sustainable economic development elusive.

M. Jeyaram,


economic development elusive. M. Jeyaram, Sholavandan G lobal warming may not be happening as rapidly as

G lobal warming may not be happening as rapidly as

predicted but the reality is it is happening and will have an adverse impact on humans. The fact that the warming rate has slowed down does not mean it has stopped. We have been filling the atmosphere with carbon dioxide — by burning fossil fuels that were once below the Earth’s surface. With the world’s population projected to reach nine billion by 2050, there will be major changes in the carbon cycle, food availability, etc.

H.N. Ramakrishna,


Foreign policy

L t. Gen. Kamal Davar has rightly pointed out to the need

for India to strengthen the hands

of the Sheikh Hasina government

in Bangladesh (Sept. 5). Our stakes

are high in Bangladesh from both

the security and development

points of view.

But, ironically, our foreign

policy is guided by State

governments to score political

points — this is true of issues

involving both Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

Abhishek Tariyal,

Dehra Dun

I ndia must use all its resources to maintain a balanced

relationship with all its neighbours, including Bangladesh. Dhaka assumes greater significance as it is a gateway to peace and tranquillity in the north-east.

V. Senthil Prabhu,


D uring my recent visit to Dhaka, many people told me

that they saw Sheikh Hasina’s government as being overtly friendly with India with little or no reciprocation from India. The crackdown on the Jamaat- e-Islami is also seen there as something done to appease India. New Delhi must ensure that, unlike in Sri Lanka, it gets its priorities right in Bangladesh.

Kartik Narayan,



W e uphold that the principle

of social responsibility for

all scientific effort, individual or

corporate, is equally consistent

with individual freedom and that

the quest for knowledge and truth

cannot be reconciled with any

dogma. We also note that Article

51A(h) of the Constitution of India reads: (citizens have a duty) to develop the scientific temper and the spirit of inquiry and reform. It is against this background that we note with horror the wilful murder of rationalist Dr. Narendra Dabholkar, MBBS, who spent

much of his Gandhian life for the cause of rationalist thought and action through his Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti. He stood against superstition and black magic, and attempted to bring into law the Anti-Jaadu Tona Bill (Anti-Black Magic Bill), one that allows for the constitutional freedom of worship but is against fraudulent practices. We send our sympathy to the Dabholkar family, and wish to express our deep sense of shock, condemn such acts of terrorism and urge the government to take exemplary steps so that such incidents never occur.

Prof. T.V. Ramakrishnan,


Prof. D. Balasubramanian,


& Prof. M. Vijayan,


Prof. T.V. Ramakrishnan, Varanasi, Prof. D. Balasubramanian, Hyderabad, & Prof. M. Vijayan, Bangalore C M Y