Import of arms: Need for a national debate

For Russia, weapon exports to India have always been highly lucrative and rewarding. A collaboration arrangement with South Africa or any other country may weaken their stranglehold and we may not remain captive market.

With the change of government, ministerial shoulders have been used to fire the first salvo from yet another 155-mm gun to catch up from behind. Sadly these days the children do not pick up the art and craft of war-gaming as in the yore even to fight out of the formidable chakravyuhs.

However, there is need for a meaningful national debate to unravel the mystery behind unabated import of even small arms, lowly bombs, simple rockets, ordinary tanks and field guns. The quality of manpower and facilities in our labs, ordnance factories and the defence PSUs is second to none. There is a need to bring about cultural changes in our defence establishments by the doctrine of excellence, competitiveness and shedding protectionism.

The efficient private sector and educational institutions must be brought into the defence loop by untangling red tape. The day our industrial houses enter the defence sector, including hardcore weaponry, there would be no need to import anything.



India has an impressive track record in niche areas of technology, pharmaceuticals, software, space, power etc., should be exporting rather than importing guns and bombs from countries with primitive technologies. But then, are we really interested in stopping such imports when there are handsome commissions and customary cuts?

Air-Cmde RAGHUBIR SINGH (retd), Pune

Why smoking is bad

This refers to your report "Campaign against consumer exploitation" (July 24) stating that around 2,000 people die because of tobacco use every year in India. In fact, the real situation in India is indeed very bad and needs concerted attention.

It is estimated that between 8,00,000 to 20,00,000 people die only because of smoking related diseases and most of these deaths occur between the ages of 45 and 55. About 80 per cent of the male cardiac patients at any time are identified smokers. In other words, smoking enhances the risk of cardio-vascular diseases by over 20 times. Loss of many productive hours because of tobacco smoking is a well appreciated and understood fact the world over. So it would be more correct to say that around 4,000 people die every day because of smoking in India.

Despite this staggering number of deaths, around 5,000-7,000 youngsters become new consumers of tobacco everyday. The bureaucrats prefer to sit unconcerned in their posh AC offices, sip coffee and work on these statistics. In the light of bureaucratic inaction, the actual implementation of the law (made by the much-abused politicians) remains just of academic interest.


Delightful experience

Aditi Tandon's middle "Going Home to the Valley" (July 28) is a beautiful and poignant piece. The reading has stayed with me as an acute memory and, in my mind, I have travelled to Kheer Bhawani several times during the course of the last few days. This speaks a great deal about the eloquence of the write-up given the fact that in reality, I have never visited Kheer Bhawani.

The write-up has the psychological dimensions of a great poem. The mother-daughter telepathic connection that outlives time and death shines brilliantly through the write-up. A bonding of female kindred spirits and the vision of visiting Kheer Bhawani by a "dunga", a houseboat by night are reminiscent of Marion Zimmer Bradley's powerful work, "The Mists of Avalon". Aditi Tandon has brought Kheer Bhawani to life for me with her powerful and effortless imagery. Reading her write-up has been a truly delightful and soothing experience.

California (USA)

Entrance exams

Entrance examinations for admission to professional colleges have come to stay in this country. But the examinations conducted by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) in the past few years for admission to MBBS/BDS courses were embroiled in controversy for leakage of question papers and unfair conduct.

True, entrance tests have resulted in reducing the use of unfair means in the qualifying examinations. But the leakage of question papers and unfair means have put a question mark over the fairness of these examinations. I offer the following suggestions to ensure fairness, transparency and accountability in the entrance tests:

First, when the entrance examination is over, the candidates should be allowed to take with them the question paper or booklet so that they may assess their score.

Secondly, after the results are declared, answer-key to the questions of this examination should be released in the leading newspapers. By this, the candidates can compare their responses or answers with the answer-key.

And finally, re-evaluation may be allowed. For this, a reasonable period of time should be given to the candidates.


Pay for bandh

This has reference to the editorial "Pay for bandh" (July 26). The fine imposed by the Bombay High Court on the Shiv Sena and the BJP is welcome because these political parties must understand that "bandh" is not the only way to register their protest. The reported loss on this account is Rs 100 crore, which is a very huge amount for a state to bear.

Can't the political parties concerned do it without causing inconvenience, economic damage and depriving daily labourers of their daily bread? Accountability needs to be fixed on the political parties for paralysing normal life in the city and bringing all activities to a grinding halt. We should denounce all forms of bandhs as means for voicing protest.

I trust the Trinamool Congress and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, who have also observed bandhs in their states, will shell out Rs 20 lakh each as compensation.


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