The editorial “Behind the S-band spectrum scandal” (Feb. 10) is insightful in its analysis of the infamous allocation of the scarce high-value S-band spectrum. What is most shocking is that such skulduggery, involving a loss of over Rs. 2 lakh crore to the exchequer, has occurred in a premier organisation such as the Indian Space Research Organisation which functions under the very nose of the PMO.
That Prime Minister Manmohan Singh enjoys a clean record of personal integrity is no consolation for his failure to take the cue from well-meaning whistle-blowers in ISRO who said the Antrix-Devas deal must be annulled.
We can only hope that the exposé by The Hindu and Business Line on the scandal involving the Department of Space, under the charge of the Prime Minister himself, will wake him up. Unfortunately, he seems to be in denial, be it with respect to spectrum, the Commonwealth Games or any other scam.
At a time when the public has lost all hopes of fair play and justice, Dr. Singh's silence does not particularly help. Failure to act, and remaining in denial are not expected of a Prime Minister. He needs to speak out — the taxpayers and law-abiding people have a right to be assured that the guilty who profited from their money will not be spared.
From Mahatma Gandhi's vision of Ramrajya, we are rapidly sliding into scam rajya. The volume of the scams is so staggering that it can perhaps find a place in the Guinness book of records. It is certain that if the Antrix-Devas deal is scrapped, Devas will ask for enormous damages from public funds. Why should the nation pay for the misdemeanours of a few officials?
But for the whistleblowers, the S-band scandal would have remained buried under officialese. We should award Bharat Ratna to the whistleblowers and newspapers rendering yeoman service to the nation under great risk.
As a reader of The Hindu for over six decades, I am proud of its consistent high standards. The editorial on the S-band spectrum scandal and the exposé were marvellous. As usual, the newspaper has done full justice in unravelling the matter and presenting a careful and unbiased critique, serving as an eye-opener to not only the readers but also our great nation.
Thanks to a few responsible whistleblowers in ISRO and the ever vigilant newspaper, The Hindu, a further erosion of our national resources has been averted. It is ironical that a deal could have been struck under the very nose of Dr. Singh. Would ISRO — which did not even report the agreement to Dr. Singh — have displayed such gross arrogance but for the scorn shown by him and his LPG coterie towards all regulatory mechanisms? Is not the unrelenting song and dance about the necessity for total decontrol responsible for ISRO's irresponsible action?
The presumptive loss to the exchequer is a whopping Rs. 2 lakh crore. The S-band is a scarce resource, and it ought to be used in the national interest. The idea of leasing such a resource to a private agency without competitive bidding and without informing the PMO, the Cabinet and the Space Commission is unpardonable.
The cleaning act
This refers to the report that Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati's personal security officer wiped the dust off her sandals in Auraiya district recently (Feb. 9). The officer's act is shameful.
The act only reinforces the fact that many bureaucrats, irrespective of their seniority, are willing to do anything to find favour with their political bosses.
Footwear is back in the news. Earlier it made news when it was thrown at persons of importance. Now we have officers cleaning the sandals of their political masters.
The PSO's act was demeaning, disgraceful and inconsistent with democratic values. Why did the Chief Minister, who has risen to the top condemning such demeaning acts and who swears by human dignity, allow it?
It is the moral and legal duty of an elected representative to ensure that no citizen is subjected to an indignity of such a nature.
The incident is just another example of countless instances of shameless sycophancy. During the Emergency, a Chief Minister held an umbrella for the then “crown prince” of the Congress to protect him from inclement weather. Recently, a senior Cabinet Minister said he would be ready to serve his leader as a “chaprasi.” Why is the Auraiya incident surprising?
I agree that there is a well-planned propaganda by vested interests against the use of asbestos (Letters, Feb. 10). In Oman, where I worked as a water engineer for almost three decades, the use of asbestos cement (AC) pipes was banned a few years ago although more than 80 per cent of the existing water distribution network is done through AC pipes. I have not come across a single instance of any health problems caused by AC pipes. There is no argument that inhaling asbestos fibres is dangerous for health. But the AC pipes come with protective coating and there is very little chance of asbestos fibres coming out. Asbestos pipes are cheap and laying them is extremely easy. Similar is the case with asbestos sheet roofing. One of the most admired advantages of asbestos is that it is fire-proof. It is light, comes cheap and fixing it does not need special technical expertise.
Asbestos is an extremely hazardous substance because its fibres which are very small float in the air and get into the lungs. They cannot be expelled and their presence causes mesothilioma, a form of lung cancer; asbestiosis, a form of lung disease, and cancer of gastrointestinal tract. Asbestos is banned in France, Italy, New Zealand, and Japan. Its use is highly regulated in the U.S. and Britain.
Production of asbestos shingles for roof cover is banned in the U.S. Old shingles can be discarded only through hazardous material collections. Workers removing asbestos insulations from heating pipes wear protective clothing to prevent breathing asbestos fibres. Mr. Nicodemus's letter is misleading.
As usual, the Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers Association is engaged in the dissemination of incorrect information, when it says “there is no ban on asbestos in the U.S., Canada, Russia, China, Brazil, etc.” There are other blatant errors in the letter referred to but due to the limitations of space, I will concentrate on this misstatement.
There are de facto bans on the use of asbestos in Canada and the U.S. In 2009, the latest year for which data is available, these countries respectively used 2,528 tonnes/t (Canada exported more asbestos than it produced) and a paltry 783 tonnes. In Brazil, there is asbestos ban in the States of Rio de Janeiro, Pernambuco, Rio Grande do Sul and São Paulo and the Brazilian Environment Ministry and Health Ministry have both banned the use of asbestos in their departments. China has banned the use of all types of asbestos in friction materials in the automobile industry, the import and export of amphibole asbestos (2005) and, as of June 1, 2011, the use of chrysotile asbestos in many asbestos-cement building products under Chinese national standard GB50574-2010.
Coordinator, International Ban Asbestos Secretariat,