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Frontline Volume 16 - Issue 26, Dec. 11 - 24, 1999
India's National Magazine on
from the publishers of THE HINDU

Table of Contents



The picture feature on Orissa ("After the storm," December 10) depicted the tragedy better than any number of words could.

A.D. More

* * *

My heart goes out to the victims of the 'super cyclone' in Orissa ("Killer cyclone," November 26). We must appreciate the Army and the Air Force for having played a leading role in the relief work.

It is rather unfortunate that a tragedy of such magnitude has been politicised. The BJP president's statement criticising the Congress government's "inefficiency" in tackling the situation appears to be politically motivated. We have to respond to the si tuation as one nation. Also, it should be declared a national calamity.

Onkar Chopra
New Delhi


In the Special Feature on AIDS prevention and control (December 10), the articles and the interview with Dr. P. Krishnamurthy, Project Director, AIDS Prevention and Control Project, were informative and educative. In this context, it is to be noted that when there is no known cure for AIDS in the allopathy system, alternative medicine does have a positive answer.

K. Ramadoss


Implementing the concept of e-governance without a proper infrastructure is like putting the cart before the horse ("Towards e-governance," December 10). For instance, often the telephone lines are so bad that even a simple e-mail cannot be transmitted o r received in one attempt. The service providers of e-mail and the Internet have still a long way to go before they can offer quality service consistently. Another neglected area is the training of computer operators.

The people want quick redress of their grievances. How does e-governance change the situation if we continue with the same old systems and bureaucratic practices? We should not go overboard in introducing e-governance, which will be a drain on our resour ces. Instead, the concept should be introduced gradually and effectively.

D.B.N. Murthy


It is clear that former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had a hand in the Bofors scandal ("Know Your Bofors", November 26). The whole country is waiting to know who the culprits are. If the truth comes out, the credit must go to the CBI and the press.

S. Thamizhselvan
Karuppampulam, Tamil Nadu

* * *

The picture on the cover is not that of a Bofors gun. You ought to know your Bofors too.

R.P. Agarwal
Received on e-mail


The findings of the committee set up by the Tamil Nadu Government ("Denial of rights," November 26) should serve as an eye-opener to all those entrusted with the task of implementing the reservations system for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The committee's report confirms the fact that the benefit of reservations does not reach these sections as per the legal provisions. It also negates the government's line of thinking that reservations alone can put an end to the social discrimination and exploitation of the S.Cs and S.Ts. There is need to set up a national-level commission to go into the issue.

Sanjai Kumar
Hazaribagh, Bihar

Saffron education

The tactics of Human Resource Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi of packing important academic institutions with RSS men ("Agendas and appointments," November 26) must be a matter of concern to all those who take pride in calling ours a pluralistic tradition.

The basic aim of the BJP-led Government in this game is to rewrite history in its own perspective and present it as the real thing to the younger generation. The BJP has already done this in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. As many as 13,000 Vidya Bharti sch ools, controlled by the RSS, inculcate "Bharatiya culture" in the youth.

The NCERT, which used to evaluate textbooks and which had once criticised the Vidya Bharti's choice of books for their 'communal approach', is now headed by a member of the Sangh Parivar. I request Murli Manohar Joshi not to steal from children their inn ocence and open-mindedness which alone will help them make India great in the 21st century.

Ahmad Ali
Unsar, Uttar Pradesh

The Pope in India

The Pope made it clear that his goal is the evangelisation of Asia. This was stated in the document "Ecclesia in Asia", issued during his visit. However, your report (''The Pope in India'' November 26) ignores this and, instead, calls such "interpretatio n" of his visit (as if an interpretation was needed) mischievous. I think that even the Vatican would have trouble agreeing with the writer's innovative spin.

Prashant Rao
Michigan, U.S.

* * *

It is not as if only Asia needs a large infusion of evangalisation as exhorted by the Pope. In the United States, attendance in the churches of various denominations is rapidly declining and some of them have even closed down. This has alarmed philanthro pic Christian institutions such as the Arthur DeMoss Foundation, which has spent about $25 million in the past one year distributing booklets free of cost to people living in a country which is basically Christian.

Most organised religions are on the decline in many parts of the world as religion is becoming increasingly personal and non-denominational. The Pope has done his job exceedingly well, for which he is widely admired.

Kangayam R. Rangaswamy
North Carolina, U.S.

* * *

It is time the right to convert to any faith, an inalienable right under the Constitution, is debated in our secular nation. If conversion was a taboo right from the beginning of human evolution, religions would not have evolved and we all would be only practising animism. Religion has evolved for the better. As a result, civilisation has progressed more in certain parts of the world than others. India has evolved now into a semi-modern society because of education. Like Europe, it will one day evolve i nto a modern society whose religious values will naturally undergo a change for the better - a superior religion and a superior civilisation. If Hinduism does not evolve to meet this social and spiritual progress, it will naturally become obsolete like m any European cults of yesteryear.

R. K. Anand

Christian population

The article "A numbers game" (December 10) sheds light on the issue of religious conversions.

In an effort to implement its "hidden agenda", the Sangh Parivar, with the support of a section of the media, seeks to distort history and facts. The graphics showing the decadal growth in population establishes the fact that the hue and cry over conver sions is but much ado about nothing. In a context in which Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee himself called for a national debate on conversions, the figures provided in the article should be an eye-opener to everyone.

Justin Jayaraj
Kozhikode, Kerala


Julius Nyerere ("A socialist and a visionary," November 19) believed in world peace, African unity and the welfare of the underdog. One of his great accomplishments was to have kept Tanzania united under one-party rule with no internal strifes. The count ry achieved more than 80 per cent literacy. And with aid from Scandinavian countries he completed a number of power and water supply schemes, besides establishing a rail link to the Zambian copper belt in record time with China's help. The employment of Indian, Canadian and European teachers enabled the country to impart modern education at the school and university level.

A high level of economic development was offset by a costly war with Idi Amin, rehabilitation of refugees from Rwanda and military help to southern neighbours like Angola and Mozambique. The new capital project was also one, with a high cost. Revenue col lection was poor in all the nationalised properties.

Nyerere's personal integrity was remarkable. As a President, he stayed in a small cottage by the side of the presidential palace, rather than in the palace itself.

B. Ramachandran

Diesel prices

The government is grappling with the problem of deficit in the oil pool account. Tinkering with the price of kerosene would hit the poor directly, while increasing the price of petrol and diesel would fuel inflation, again affecting the poor besides the affluent. The one product where the price hike will not hit the poor is LPG. Your story ("The burden of diesel price," November 19) says that the demand for LPG is likely to touch 7.9 million tonnes by 2002. This works out to some 411 million household c ylinders. The subsidy for LPG is a whopping Rs. 140 a cylinder. If this subsidy is totally withdrawn, the savings will amount to Rs. 57.5 billions (Rs. 5,750 crores). This is the most humane solution that will leave the poor unscathed and help contain in flation. LPG users, who generally belong to a higher economic stratum, will be able take this hike in their stride.

As for the adulteration with subsidised kerosene of other petroproducts by unscrupulous dealers, petrochemical engineers should think of some distinct colouring agent or flavour that would enable even untrained people to detect adulteration.

R. Rajaraman


M.U. Purohit, Consulting Engineer, Sardar Sarovar Project, has criticised H.M. Desarda and "those who campaign against the so-called unsustainable development of natural resources", whom he patronisingly calls well-meaning activists ("Of development and deprivation," November 19).

Purohit accuses Arundhati Roy of exaggerating the number of victims of large dam projects. Surjit Bhalla, he says, has 'proved' that dams have displaced only five to eight million people in India. The Sardar Sarovar Project itself will take the land of a t least 3.2 lakh people, many of them tribal people. It would help Purohit if he reads the report of the Morse Commission of the World Bank, whose study of the rehabilitation problem and the dam's disastrous effects is more thorough and independent than that the three State governments concerned have ever attempted.

The government's land-for-land rehabilitation programme has been deceitful. The people of Gadher, for example, were taken to a prospective site for resettlement. The land they saw was flat. It had water nearby, the soil was rich, banana trees grew all ar ound. The government assured them that it would build a school and a health centre, lay roads and provide electricity and water. The people signed on the dotted line. But when the day came to move, they were taken to a different site, an expanse of waste land, with no water source. And, of course, no health centre, no school.

Secondly, the projected costs and benefits of the dam had been fudged. Even the water potential was heavily exaggerated. World Bank experts reported that the project would be able to deliver only half as much irrigation water as had been stated, and that the dam would silt up twice as fast as was being assumed. The costs projected ignore the rise in salinity in the river's lower reaches, destroying one of India's most lucrative fishing grounds. The World Bank also reported a rise in the incidence of mal aria. The project was "taking malaria to the doorsteps of the villagers", it said.

Shockingly, Purohit asserts: "All the affected families need not necessarily be displaced. In fact, of the 33,014 affected families in Madhya Pradesh, 18,890 have opted to stay on as they will only be temporarily affected by flood backwaters. They need t o be only temporarily shifted to nearby higher ground when such floods occur." In her 1996 book Masters of Illusion, Catherine Caulfield writes: "The progress of such schemes as Sardar Sarovar is entirely rational in view of the opportunities they present for their backers to enrich themselves at the public's expense... Engineers and bureaucrats can look forward to kickbacks from those whose land they overvalue for compensation purposes or purchase at inflated prices to resell to oustees, as well as from contractors who increase their profit margins by using shoddy materials or simply not doing the work at all."

J.B. D'Souza


"Another America" (November 19) gave a matter-of-fact account of the situation in a much-acclaimed 'utopia'. However, the problems mentioned are not exclusively American. Any state's success depends on the extent of employment generation, which alone can eradicate poverty and give a sense of belonging to the people. One per cent of the population holding 40 per cent of the national wealth is not a problem as long as every citizen is assured of a job. No economic system in the world seems to have realise d this.

Pushpendra Singh
Rewa, Madhya Pradesh

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