VOTE WAS AGAINST INCUMBENTS

It is too specious to assume that the recent Indian polls were against the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), and neither were they in favor of the Congress. Note that the Congress won only 142 out of the 417 seats it contested, while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 135 out of 365. People conveniently forget this fact. The vote has been purely against incumbency, and to discourage parties from getting huge majorities to run roughshod over national policy.

The Congress party and its opportunistic Left allies came together solely to gain the spoils of power, and will take the country down a disastrous path again. If the Congress party was indeed inclusive and pro-poor, how come the maximum number of communal riots took place during its reign, and also in the states ruled by the Congress, and India remained so poor while they were in power that the country had to mortgage its gold in the United Kingdom to pay for its imports?

The BJP-led NDA was responsible for increase in infrastructure in overall development, and for raising the quality of life in India. They also provided true secular governance. But they were also guilty of being oriented towards a market economy that needed to be tempered with equal emphasis on rural development.

What gladdens my heart is that Manmohan Singh and P. Chidambaram can be expected to continue economic reforms. That is the only positive outcome of the recent elections.

Vivek Prabhu, via the Internet

SEPARATE THE EXECUTIVE AND LEGISLATURE

The anti-incumbency results of the Indian elections show the frustration of voters who have to choose between the devil and the deep sea. The political system in India tends to favor the least favorable. The nexus between the politicians and the bureaucrats makes it worse.

A remedy seems to lie in following the advice of Rajaji (C. Rajagopalachari), the elder statesman at the time of Independence, who suggested that politicians should be kept out of the Secretariat. The executive and the legislative branches have to be kept apart. Furthermore, in keeping with India’s own ancient tradition of nava ratna, the best available talent should be used to run the government. This would be possible if the president and the governors wake up from their slumber palaces and insist, in keeping with their constitutional responsibility to appoint the cabinet, that the best are selected to do the job. This may sound somewhat presidential, but may turn out to be the best way to provide good governance to the people of India.

Srinivas Chari, Downey, Calif.

PRISONER ABUSE WIDESPREAD

As the world recoils in horror at the images of prisoner abuse in Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan, and Iraq, it has become evident that these crimes were committed with the full knowledge and approval of the U.S. Administration. Contrary to official reports, attempting to dismiss the charges as the errant behavior of a few rogue guards, the practice of prisoner abuse is systemic and widespread.

The International Red Cross estimates that 90 percent of all detainees are innocent! Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and a recent, scathing United Nations report on prisoner abuse have added to the chorus of worldwide condemnation of torture. The London Observer, and the Canadian magazine, Macleans, uncovered dozens of videotapes of U.S. guards engaged in brutal attacks on Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistani, and Iraqi prisoners. These include severe beatings, exposure to extreme temperatures, photographed standing naked for 10-12 hours in 120 degree F temperatures, sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation, caging prisoners and bombarding them with stones and rocks, forcing them to roll in mud, and brutal raping of Iraqi women. Many detainees have died and many have become permanently disabled.

The Extreme Reaction Force (ERF) of the U.S. military is responsible for training prison guards on torture techniques. This clearly implies that torture is now official U.S. policy. According the New Yorker magazine, the policy of torture was put in place by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld “to encourage physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners.” This behavior does not bode well for captured U.S. soldiers who can expect little mercy from their captors.

We are clearly losing the moral high ground when U.S. prison guards ape the despicable behavior of Saddam Hussein. I urge readers to contact their elected representatives and demand the immediate cessation of all acts of torture, and the resignation of Rumsfeld and other U.S. officials who condoned prisoner abuse.

Jagjit Singh, Palo Alto, Calif.

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