118 years of Trust M A I L B A G THE TRIBUNE
Tuesday, December 8, 1998
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Insurance reforms: unanswered questions

  APROPOS of the editorial “Flip-flop on insurance” (December 3), the author hits the nail on the head while stating that “Opening the insurance sector is not a major policy decision nor does it involve major capital inflow, but it is crucial to reviving the stalled liberalisation process”.

The moot question is: liberalisation for what or for whom? Is it in anyway related to the hefty investments sought from abroad in the areas of infrastructure? Or does it ensure the transfer of state-of-the-art technology in the desired sectors? An honest answer to both these questions would be a resounding “no”.

The only possible result of the reforms in the insurance sector can be what has been aptly described in the editorial as “end(ing) up like the stock bubble, mutual funds, non-banking finance companies... which have collected thousands of crores of rupees and vanished or have defaulted on repayment.”

Whether the BJP and its Finance Minister care for Swadeshi or not, they should do well to comprehend the message sent out by people in the last month’s elections — they are in no mood to put up with mis-governance or play ducks and drakes with national interest. If the leadership does not harken to the pleas for restraint by the veterans of the Opposition with their long years of experience in nurturing the national economy, this may well prove to be their swan song, ill-advised assurances to foreign investors notwithstanding.


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Inadequate punishment

The police in India has earned a bad name for calling names to the suspects and the accused who come into its contact in the course of interrogation and investigation of cases. In other words, addressing rudely to someone is an abuse. It is in this field that field officers of the police have earned notoriety.

Why police officers abuse the riff-raff whom they want to overawe or cow down is a general question which crops up in the minds of peace-loving common people.

Being an old and experienced police officer, I would sincerely admit that it is a way to give vent to our wrath and demonstrate our disapproval of the offence/crime committed by the person who unfortunately comes into our clutches.

Frankly speaking, the prevalent law does not provide any legal method of displaying our displeasure. Mere hand-cuffing or arresting a shady character does not do any harm to him. He must feel small before the aggrieved party and the public in general for the wrong committed by him.

The Indian Penal Code does not provide stringent action or rigorous punishment for crime against an innocent person, etc. For instance, for outraging the modesty of a woman, the punishment provided is two years’ imprisonment, which the hired culprit would love to undergo. But if such an accused is abused in the public and given thrashing in the open he may not dare such an evil adventure in future.

Since filthy language used by the police is being criticised by all and sundry, why are some other deterrent methods not being adopted by the police? It is high time our legislators, who frequently criticise the police for their selfish ends, enact some such laws as can bring this evil to an end.

Ferozeore Cantt

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Why sugar from Pakistan?

This refers to “Sugar that feeds Pak army” “Here and There”, The Tribune, November 30. It is a matter of common knowledge that over the past few years blatant sponsorship of terrorism by Pakistan, in Kashmir and other places in India, has resulted in the gruesome killing of innumerable innocent persons, both civilians and defence personnel. There is absolutely no sign of abatement from their side. On the one hand they pretend to seek peace with India, on the other they openly keep slapping us in the face. In fact, Pakistan supplements its blatant proxy war with a copious dose of anti-India propaganda regularly.

Isn’t it a matter of national shame and intrigue then that instead of being able to control our desire to satiate our sweet tooth, we have rather no qualms in even importing more sugar from those who constantly sing and dance in tune with their rabid propaganda against our country?

Consuming sugar purchased from Pakistan and its army amounts to directly funding the killing of one’s own family members (the Kashmiri people) ! Can’t we do without consuming sugar for a while till our country wards over the present temporary sugar crisis and achieves self-sufficiency? In my opinion, sugar is not an essential commodity that we can’t do without it. Even at the individual level each one of us can shun it momentarily and do our bit towards saving our country’s self-respect, honour and numerous lives.


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Case for food security panel

I welcome the suggestion of the Punjab Food and Supply Minister, Mr M.M. Mittal, for setting up a national food security panel on the lines of the National Security Council. It is the right time for the people in power to think about it, especially when the BJP has lost the Delhi Assembly elections on the issue of the onion price rise. There is a clear message that the public is very sensitive on the price rise, and no government can afford to ignore it. So, a right suggestion has come from the right quarters and at the right time.

There should be a council for reviewing prices, crop failures and food shortages. It should forecast the quantum of the produce of any special crop. Its base should be broadened and it should include the measures to keep a vigil on the activities of the MNCs in the agricultural sector.

Punitive steps should be taken against hoarders and blackmarketeers. The proposed council should be given the responsibility to safeguard our biological diversity. It should look after the interests of agriculturists as well as consumers.


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Postal inconvenience

The residents of Panchkula's Sector 15 had one facility available to them in an otherwise neglected area of the township. It was a centrally located post-office, just opposite the sector market. The post-office had been functioning in a 10-marla residential building for many years.

The other day, however, the residents were aghast to find at about 11 a.m. the furniture of the post-office and other belongings thrown out on the road on the basis of a court order. Surely, the case regarding the vacation of the building would have been going on for some time. The post-office authorities should have taken the necessary steps in advance to acquire on rent some other suitable building. But they did nothing.

The dislocation of the records like investment registers and other important papers will cause much inconvenience to the residents.

It is a pity the government departments hardly think of public service; they are adept in causing inconvenience to the common man. How sad!


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TRAI can get more revenue

The telecommunications pricing proposal by the Telephone Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) as part of its statutory obligation is a welcome departure in two respects from the earlier practice of the Department of Telecommunications. First, TRAI has taken the trouble to consult all the affected persons and the public. DOT used to force the tariff down the throat of the subscribers. Second, there is transparency while secrecy was an obsession with DOT to such an extent that even the Telegraph Rules were not easily available.

The proposal to bring down international tariff is long overdue, is in line with world trends. However, the TRAI proposal requires serious modification in other respects.

Technology everywhere makes it possible to extend the benefit of the phone to a larger number of people at low, affordable cost. The present proposals will make it difficult for small subscribers even to retain their phone.

While calls should be metered by time, there should be three time zones, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., the highest rate of a call every 3 minutes; 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., a call every 6 minutes; and 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., a call every 9 minutes. This will distribute the load over 24 hours, by shifting non-priority calls to easier time zones, and the overall utilisation of the capacity will ensure higher revenues.

Most important, TRAI should recognise the modern trend to treat costs as bifocal. It has ignored consumer costs in dealing with servicing vendors. For instance, MTNL has defaulted in its statutory obligation of providing a telecom directory or uptodate (197) directory information service. As a result, many subscribers waste several calls. Therefore, 10 per cent of the bill should be treated as credit calls. Moreover, the imposition of fines on the vendors for faulty disconnection of lines, dead phones for more than 24 hours and other service lapses should be part of a rational cost structure.



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