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Calcutta Diary

The Calcutta Book Fair is now a formidable institution and has completed a quarter of a century's existence. It draws participants from across the country and sometimes from overseas as well. Even so it is an overwhelmingly Bengali affair.

Calcutta Diary

The people in Buenos Aires and other towns and cities in the Argentine Republic have rolled into the streets with their pots and pans and sticks and umbrellas and faced police batons and tear gas shells and flying bullets because they have a tolerance level which is different from ours. We are hungrier than they, more emaciated, with less health care and with perceptibly less clothing and other protection against the elements. Compared to the Argentinians the level of tolerance in our case is pronouncedly on a higher plateau. The wretched categories in India have a level of consciousness, or of awareness, of a low order.

Calcutta Diary

The temptation to create a Pakistan and, by implication, a Muslim phobia was indeed very great. The stability of the government at the centre is crucially dependent upon the outcome of the assembly elections. For should the BJP fare badly, the rats will desert the sinking NDA ship in scampering hurry. The anti-Pakistan frenzy has also been helpful in quelling the reverberations of the Tehelka and coffins scandals. But the flip side of the strategic design is not easily avoidable: to achieve a strictly domestic objective, one still needs to lodge an appeal with a distant uncle.

Calcutta Diary

The Republic of Argentina has proved the point. It is not necessarily TINA. There can be an alternative, there is an alternative. Suppose, way back in 1991, the Indian ruling class, instead of capitulating, had defaulted on the country's external debt commitments, India need not have gone down either.

Calcutta Diary

The architects of national decisions that matters have actually played themselves into an impossible corner. They must eat the cake and have it too; they must cultivate democratic pretensions and yet be impatient with democratic opposition. An impasse of this nature inevitably leads to the mindless acceptance of the proposition: my anti-terrorism is superior to yours. It is then a smooth passage to the brilliant corollary that if my police are nincompoops, I must have legislation which decrees detention sans trial.

Calcutta Diary

Substitution of sales taxation by value added tax, it is being claimed, will reduce distortions in the economy caused by multiple rates of taxation of inputs and help the establishment of an integrated national market. What a pipe-dream. A seemingly fractured market which nonetheless promotes faster and more balanced development is to be preferred any day to an arrangement where the national market is technically integrated and yet overwhelmingly unfriendly to growth. Who will tell that though to the docile chief ministers and state finance ministers who have volunteered to sign their own death warrants?

Calcutta Diary

The time for celebrations was also the time for remembrance, or should have been the time for remembrance. On the day the Calcutta Film Festival was inaugurated, Karuna Banerjee passed away. In their ceaseless round of film-hopping, few people noticed, or bothered. Karuna who?

Calcutta Diary

The two amendments proposed to the Representation of the Peoples Act requiring open voting by members of state assemblies while electing members of the Rajya Sabha and dispensing with the residential provision for election to the Rajya Sabha are an invocation of, and tribute to, national corruption.

Calcutta Diary

Having surrendered to pax Americana, dear prime minister, you have few options left. The Indian economy is in the direst possible mess. The only way you can salvage the situation is to appeal to president Bush's sense of philanthropy. If the price for this munificence is Kashmir and full-scale Yankee arbitration over the disputed territory, we Indians have to go along. Beggars cannot simultaneously be choosers.

Calcutta Diary

In the fiftieth year since the commencement of the republican Constitution, India is safely re-established as an impeccable feudal realm. The Gwalior funeral merely confirmed the reality of Indian democracy doubling up as a feudal oligarchy.

Calcutta Diary

In this hysteria time, not one thought has been spared for the handful of people constituting the suicide squads who took over the planes and deployed them as missiles for destroying the Pentagon and the twin towers of the World Trade Centre. Technically, they are mass murderers. But, in their own manner, they were patriots of the first water, who had the grit and courage to sacrifice their lives for the cause they believed in.

Calcutta Diary

An honourable judge of the Supreme Court has recently observed that the Constitution is more important than a popular mandate. That is all very well, but is the Constitution more important than the mandate of the World Trade Organisation? This is a tough nut to crack, and one the authorities are most reluctant to crack on their own.

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