Tuesday, February 1, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



CPM’s changing profile

THIS refers to the article “CPM’s changing profile: party in search of programme” by Mr K. Gopalakrishanan (The Tribune, December 22, 1999). The article is full of misinformation. It is preposterous to conclude “For, Mr Basu has been the banyan tree in West Bengal under which nothing grows”.

I am of the view that the CPM has marched ahead under the able leadership of Mr Jyoti Basu in Bengal. It is not correct to say that the CPM leadership is nourishing the personality cult in any way. When he expressed his ardent desire to lead the United Front government at the Centre, the party’s Central Committee rejected his offer.

Why did the CPM reject his proposal at that time? The Central Committee knew it well that the party’s strength in

  the Lok Sabha was not as much as could ensure the minimum freedom to Mr Basu to operate in the interest of peasants and workers. It was not “a historic blunder” as Mr Basu had argued. The Central Committee prevailed upon him and he was humble enough to accept the majority decision with grace. If the CPM had ever believed in the personality cult, it would have let him become the Prime Minister of the country.

The presumption that the CPM leadership feels scared because of the political growth of Ms Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal carries an element of overenthusiasm about her so-called bright prospects in state politics.

The CPM is capable of keeping its house in order with or without Mr Basu being there. This revolutionary party does not foster gerntocracy, but it can’t sideline its seniormost and popular leaders because some people feel so in this country. A revolutionary party is not like some firm or company from which employees keep on retiring year after year. Then, revolutionary leaders are not created overnight. They become popular among the masses after long innings and sacrifices. Why should active revolutionaries retire?


Costly edible oil, sugar

The criticism of the increase in import duty on sugar to 40 per cent, based as it is on your assumption of a consequent sugar price rise is a rather hurried surmise, ignoring the factual position and the past experiences of import duty hikes (Editorial: “Costly edible oil, sugar”, January 1).

It is common knowledge that there has been no rise in sugar prices consequent upon the increase in import duty to 40 per cent. Likewise, duty hikes did not cause any price spurt in the past. Rather than propagate a new economic theory altogether, you would do well to accept the normal law of economics applicable not only to the sugar price but also to prices in general. The prices are basically governed by supply and not by pushing up the cost or vice versa. A price rise can occur only if the supplies are restricted, not otherwise.

The country today is faced with the worst glut of sugar. The industry has begun the new crushing season 1999-2000 with a record carry-forward stock of 6.7 million tonnes, at least 2.5 million tonnes above the admitted safety level of stocks of 4.5 million tonnes. This figure exactly correspond with the import of an equal quantity facilitated over the last two years.

The sugar output, as per the current estimate, is poised for a new record. Last year 15.5 million tonnes of sugar was produced while a conservative estimate of output for the current year would be no less than 16.5 million tonnes. Against this, the annual demand for sugar on a liberal scale is reckoned at no more than 15.5 million tonnes, leaving an additional surplus of one million tonnes. If, on top of all this, the government continues to encourage imports as before, the Indian sugar industry, a fairly cost effective operator in the international context, which has already received a beating in the last two years, may reach a point of no return.

Encouragement to highly subsidised dumped imports on a thoroughly discriminatory basis has stifled the consumption of indigenous sugar by as much as 2.5 million tonnes so far. Besides, the indigenous industry is required to supply 40 per cent of the output as levy sugar at prices admittedly 20 per cent below the cost of production for the public distribution system. Under the dual pricing policy, the resultant subsidy has to be recovered by the sale of 60 per cent sugar in the open market, which by the very logic of the policy has to sell at much higher prices than warranted by the average cost.

To ensure the so-called reasonable price level for free sale sugar, the government should also regulate the supply of the commodity in the market through the mechanism of monthly quota releases. By imposing import duty at a low level and allowing importers to sell sugar at will in the premium market, created mainly on the consideration of the supply of levy sugar at subsidised prices, the government has been, so far, following a highly discriminatory policy; giving preference to a foreign produce in the Indian market for inexplicable reasons. No other country in the world follows such a policy. The approach of other countries generally has been to accord a highly preferential treatment to their own industry.

High import duties have been levied by almost all developed economies. The European Union levies an import duty of over 300 per cent while the Americans and the Japanese over 200 per cent. Even Thailand levies import duty at 105 per cent and Brazil 60 per cent. Brazil, Thailand and the European Union account for almost 90 per cent of the total white sugar exports.

Exports are undertaken with the aid of heavy subsidies and not on the basis of cost competitiveness. Such practices are permitted under the Agreement on Agriculture in the WTO, to which India is also a signatory.

Indian representatives perhaps thought that an import duty-bound rate of 150 per cent is sufficient to thwart such practices. But, at home, the grudgingly elephantic movement in the rate of import duty displays utter lack of sensitiveness to a literal massacre of the cost-effective Indian sugar sector.

Large arrears of the payments to be made to sugarcane growers by sugar mills have been caused mainly due to the accumulation of huge stocks with the indigenous industry operating under severe constraints. In such a situation, can you honestly question the statement of the minister that consequent upon the increase in import duty and the reduction in the levy percentage from 40 to 30, the mills will be able to liquidate such arrears?

Indian Sugar Mills Association
New Delhi

Why destroy greenery?

Replacing Chandigarh’s greenery with steel fencing is an another blow to its long preserved beauty. Chandigarh has its own distinction in the whole nation because of its beautiful gardens as well as parks. Unfortunately, this plan will have its negative impact on the distinctive status.

During these years Chandigarh has already suffered major setbacks to keep it clean. For example, Sector 22D once had a huge park where children used to play and adults would go for a walk has been completely taken over by the rehri wallas and trash is dumping all over the place. Can you still call it City Beautiful? If this continues for the next few years Chandigarh will not deserve to be called City Beautiful.

Centreville (USA)
(Received in response to The Tribune’s Internet edition)



Priceless murals

After reading the report “Priceless murals found” (January 17) I have to state that I saw these murals during my field work on November 1, 1971, in connection with my Ph.D. thesis on “Mural paintings in the 19th century Punjab”.

My book, entitled “Wall paintings of Punjab and Haryana”, published in 1985, has reference to this temple on page 36, which reads as under: “The Temple of Raja Sahib Dayal — devoted to Radha and Krishna — stands in Kishankot... Raja Sahib Dayal, the builder of the temple, was the Chief Collector of Customs of the Jalandhar area during the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (according to Gurdaspur District Gazetteer, 1883-84, page 37).

“Here, after crossing a deorhi, one enters a courtyard that leads to the door of the temple built on a square plan having a circumambulatory path around the cella. A portion of the courtyard is roofed: here the Pandit who performs katha and kirtan on occasions sits (according to Pariharan Singh, one of the descendants of Raja Sahib Dayal).

“All the walls of the temple including those of the courtyard and the deorhi, were originally embellished with frescoes. Only 25 paintings portraying mostly Hindu themes have survived... Some of the panels of paintings ... depict life-sized figures. The paintings appear to have been painted early in the second half of the 19th century.”

I still have 17 black and white negatives in my possession of the murals exposed on November 1, 1971.



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