Never-ending debate...

Updated: May 24 2005, 05:30am hrs
Apropos Malavika Singh’s article ‘Big cats on the brink of extinction’ (May 23). She attacks the “reluctance” of supporters of the forest rights Bill to “debate.” Is Ms Singh aware that this debate has been going on since 1876, when the British government itself witnessed a fierce debate among officials on whether or not to recognise community rights Or that in 1990, the ministry of environment and forests triggered another debate when it passed guidelines that said much the same thing as the current law Or that lakhs of people are being evicted over the past three years as this matter is debated in the SC
How long must the poorest of our citizens wait for their rights to be recognised, in the name of “debate” The legal process cannot come to a halt while Ms Singh and others catch up with a century-long history of, yes, debate.
Shankar Gopalakrishnan

Maruti divestment
As the dust on the controversial sale of The Centaur settles down, one cannot but help reflect on the one sale which did not evoke any controversy, viz Maruti Udyog Limited (MUL). It is, therefore, worthwhile to recount that the government in the case of MUL divested its equity in three stages in favour of Suzuki Motor Company (SMC), increasing SMC’s stake from 26% to 40%, then from 40% to 50% and finally from 50% to 55%. After that, the government off-loaded a part of its remaining shares to the public through a much celebrated IPO.
The government got a good deal. In the third stage, the government got Rs 1,000 crore for a mere 5%, as it involved ceding management control. Also, the IPO fetched a good amount.
But in this isolated success story of divestment, the unwritten tale of the union employees struggling to retain their rights has not been properly chronicled. For instance, the Union government wrote to every member of Parliament, explaining the long-term financial benefits emanating from a fully depreciated plant producing the same vehicle for two decades.
Such knowledge becoming available in the public domain could thus not allow a farcical evaluation, as has happened in the case of Modern Foods/Balco and The Centaur. The government got rewarded, but the union leaders were victimised. And around 50 of them are still struggling to get justice through the labour courts.
A few officers, caught between loyalty to the Government of India vis-a-vis Suzuki Motor Corporation, were forced to resign. While some other focussed officials got extended tenures and post-retirement advisory posts in the company.
Hari Parmeshwar

So what’s new
Apropos the article ‘Widening the base’ (May 22) which talks about FMCGs looking beyond urban centres to boost bottomlines. While working for the public sector Union Bank in the early 70s, we used to do this regularly, with considerable success. Unfortunately, being a public sector bank, the media did not pay much attention.
SN Surkund