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Withdrawing AFSPA will be fatal

This refers to Lt-Gen Harwant Singh's (retd.) article, “Withdrawing AFSPA” (Nov 3). I fully endorse the writer's views that our military is called to control the situation when things go out of hand of the short-sighted political class and the local administration. The Army has to work in a surcharged and hostile environment. 

To control insurgency it is forced to carry out its operations with an additional responsibility to target hidden terrorists without hurting innocent people. Very often these terrorists hide behind the general public, hit the security forces and unfortunately normal people are caught in the cross-fire, or sometimes wrongly harassed during search operations. 

Since the Army does not have even police powers, it would be impossible for it to operate without the cover of the AFSPA. Counter-insurgency operations are a messy affair and in certain type of encounters, some collateral damage is inevitable.  

The Army has a very good track record of punishing its own troops and officers found guilty of human rights violations, as these acts are unacceptable to it. From 1995 to 2010, out of 1400 such reported cases against military, only 54 had some substance, and 37 officers have been punished.   So, the abrogation or dilution of the provisions of the AFSPA will definitely affect the Army's ability to conduct, efficiently and resolutely, anti-insurgency operations. We must not ignore this fact that our security forces are already working under great stress and any move to dampen their spirit should be opposed by all the patriotic, nationalistic and right-thinking citizens of India.

It is due to the valour and great sacrifices of our armed forces that India has been able to protect its borders while we are surrounded by hostile and unethical neighbours who leave no opportunity to destabilise and disintegrate us. The advocates of human rights of terrorists are not going to fight for us on borders. 


Deaths on roads

The article “Making our roads safe” (Nov. 8) by Deepak Dasgupta is shocking as road fatalities are on the rise.  Besides the loss of lives due to accidents, it has a number of consequences as, in some cases, the whole family is affected because of the death of the earning member.  

Every year the number of road accidents in India remains higher than that in China, where vehicular traffic is the highest in the world.  The lack of speed regulations, drunken driving, fatigue, overloading, use of commercial vehicles for ferrying passengers, poor driving skills, poor road engineering and growing commercial activity along the important roads are some of the main causes for the rising road accidents.   

It is not the police alone that can reduce road accidents: there is need for cooperation among various departments, including the Public Works Department and the Transport Department, to make our roads safer. Police officials maintain that they are only an enforcement agency and can challan people for traffic rule violations that include driving without helmets, faulty registration number plates and driving without a licence or over-speeding and drunken driving. The need of the hour is to strengthen the traffic advisory panels as there is a lack of coordination between various departments dealing with road engineering, road safety, road design, traffic management and traffic regulation. Simply collecting handsome revenue through challans without doing anything for the improvement of road safety rules at the cost of human life is not at all appreciable. That is why in the US, which has one of the best road networks in the world, accidents are very rare.   


Gandhian secularism

In a multi-religious, multi-cultural and multi-lingual society of ours, we can live happily only where all members of society practice tolerance and when neither the executive nor the judiciary interferes in religious matters and the government does not follow any policy which can be detrimental to the religion and culture of a particular community or minority.

Unfortunately, these days some fire-brand leaders are carrying on a ceaseless campaign of hatred.

The best course is to put an end to this campaign of hatred and follow the advice of the Father of the Nation, which is sure to strengthen tolerance — the most distinct feature of our national culture.


Promoting savings

Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in his message on World Thrift Day (October 30) rightly stated that savings provide the necessary resources for development. But do we take right steps to promote savings? Unreasonable upper limits have been imposed by the government beyond which deposits in the Post Office Small Savings Schemes are not allowed.

To promote savings, it is suggested that the upper limit for the PPF or MIS schemes be adequately raised, say to Rs 20 lakh. It would still be better if the upper limit is totally removed. If the government fears that black money holders will take advantage of this, so be it. What can be a better method to convert black money into white money? The small savings schemes may be re-named as the Savings Schemes. The word “small” may be dropped as it is no more relevant under the present high-income scenario. Differential interest rates may be introduced offering a higher rate on small investments up to a reasonably high limit and a lower rate on big deposits (including black money).

The honourable Finance Minister may please consider the suggestions. The measures, if adopted, will bring in thousands of crores of additional funds to the government’s kitty which can be gainfully utilised for development works.

Wg-Cdr CL SEHGAL, Jalandhar

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