Saturday, March 10, 2001,
Chandigarh, India



Yashwant Sinha’s Budget

THE editorial ‘Reformer Sinha in full bloom’ (March 1) holds that Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha “is totally different from Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee”. With elections round the corner, Ms Banerjee announced a number of new railway lines and projects for West Bengal with her eyes on the Writers Building in Kolkata.

She forgot that 470 railway accidents had occurred last year, that 17,000 kilometres of rail track needed immediate replacement, And that 5,500 rail bridges needed urgent repairs. If we have Mamatas as Rail Mantris we will never be able to lay our hands on Rs 15,000 crore needed over the next five years for safety-related measures.

The lady thought of the Assembly elections while Mr Yashwant Sinha’s focus was on the nation’s needs. He has given 13.84 per cent more for defence, and withdrawn all surcharges except the 2 per cent surcharge for the Gujarat earthquake relief. But one does not understand why Mr Sinha has been so cruel to government employees. The Provident Fund will now earn 9.5 per cent interest as will their small savings.

S. S. JAIN, Chandigarh


Unfair to senior citizens: The Finance Minister has tried to simplify the Income Tax structure by abolishing surcharge, and by removing discretionary powers of officers to levy penalties. But he has been unfair to senior citizens to lower to Rs 2500 the limit for TDS on interest paid by banks. More than 3500 amendments to the IT Act passed four decades ago with 139 categories of exemptions, call for a new simplified IT Act. Agricultural income may be taxed, now that this sector will be gaining from economic liberalisation.

Interest rates on savings accounts and fixed deposits in nationalised banks should be rationalised.


Middle class to suffer: The Finance Minister has made the industry, capital markets and the Agricultural sector happy. But all this has been done at the cost of the middle class and salaried persons. No support or social security has been provided to the citizens in terms of health, education or old age. The middle class and the salaried class save through small saving schemes and PPF/PF. These savings are for the education of children, security in old age and health care. The Finance Minister has slashed the interest rates on all these savings thereby rendering the common man helpless.


Game shows

The mad race of game shows such as “Kaun Banega Crorepati”, “Jeeto Chhapar Phar Ke”, etc currently shown on different TV channels has not only distorted the concept of entertainment but also harmed the studies of children.

Such programmes with their lure of easy money, discourage hard work and obviously amount to gambling. Parents have often complained that children are ignoring their studies and if they read anything at all, it is only general knowledge.

These programmes certainly violate the provisions of some Acts such Prize Competition Act, the Cable Network Regulation Act etc.

The Information and Broadcasting Minister who has initiated steps to ban vulgar advertisements on the TV should also order a ban on such programmes.


Lesson from Seattle

Indian states that fall in the high seismic zone should take a cue from Seattle which was recently rocked by a high intensity earthquake. Despite an intensity of 6.8 on the Richter scale, no major loss of property or human life was reported, thanks to the building safety code introduced in Seattle 20 years ago.

If the Gujarat government and other states have real concern for Kutch, they should come up with similar building by-laws to make buildings earthquake resistant. Corrupt officials who collude with builders to flout building laws should be strictly dealt with. A plan should be evolved to pull down decrepit structures and raise earthquake-proof buildings in their place.

We should try to pre-empt such calamities rather than reacting to these.

S. K. SHARMA, Zirakpur

Isolated Mulla

Isolation from the rest of the world has driven the Afghan Mulla, Mohammad Omar, to despair and to ‘inspire’ the Taliban to indulge in the worst kind of icono-terrorism the world has ever seen. This will only perpetuate the isolation and ostracism of Afghanistan.

What now remains for the rest of the world to consider is the nature of punishment to be meted out to the Taliban who are practising the worst form of religious extremism devoid of spirituality.

The Taliban Mulla has gone against the Koranic injunction of showing tolerance towards other religious faiths. He has committed an act of blasphemy which is defined as “profane or contemptuous speech, writing, or action concerning God or anything held as divine” — not just what the Mulla holds sacred.

Muslim religious heads in India and other countries should consider issuing a suitable Fatwa against the Afghan Mulla who has committed an act of blasphemy.


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