This refers to your cover story on the 2017 budget, Hinterland In Sight (Feb 13). Like every year’s budget, this one also had its hits and misses. It’s the first time in the last 20 years that taxes on individual incomes have been reduced, a move that should be welcomed by the middle class. Affordable housing has been a much discussed issue but it is only now, when the 2017 budget has given it infrastructure status, that it will witness some momentum. It is a well-known fact that the real estate sector has been languishing at the bottom of the graphs. Some of the changes suggested in the budget should help it revive. Other positive signs are the tax reduction for the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) sector up to a certain turn over and the extension of tax holidays for start-ups. Now, in order to bring change, the government shall have to revive the stalled projects. Regular monitoring of expenses on infrastructure and greater accountability will have to be a must. But despite the overall balanced nature of this budget, it was strange that the finance minister did not speak a word on cash demonetisation and its impact on the people of India.
Bal Govind, Noida
It’s high time the government shifted its focus to the development of rural India. This budget seems to have done a lot more than previous budgets for the majority living in the interiors of the country. Strangely, after all the budget talk that dominated all media discussions and reports in the country, it seems that people have forgotten about demonetisation, which had only recently triggered a panic among the people. What happened to the promised eradication of black money? Nonetheless, at least this budget has been a forward looking one. However, the most disappointing aspect of the budget for me is the complete silence on NRIs, who do a lot to sustain India’s economy. Since he took over, Prime Minister Modi has toured the entire world and acknowledged the diaspora like no other leader ever has. Their concerns also deserved some space in the country’s budget.
R.N., On E-mail
With regard to income tax, this budget has failed to live up to expectations. The financial hardships of the tax-paying middle class are not accounted for in any way. The tax exemption limit has not been raised to a suitable amount—a minor relief of five per cent for an income of up to Rs 5 lakh following a reduction in tax rate from 10 per cent to five per cent is inadequate. Senior citizens will not get the full benefit of this. They need relief under TDS (tax deducted at source) rules as they are the ones who need the most cash in hand to cope with the current inflationary trends. Also, from now on, the maximum donation receivable from an unknown source by a political party will be decreased to Rs 2,000 from Rs 20,000. Pray, what is the logic behind merely reducing this amount? In a populous country like ours, it is not at all difficult for political parties to solve the problem by merely increasing the number of donations on paper. The amount should have been made zero, or the donations made completely transparent, only then would it have made even a modicum of sense.
Mahesh Kumar, New Delhi
The budget did not disclose the extent to which the currency will be inflated, so that we could sort out the reality camouflaged by the haze of jugglery of words and bikini statistics. I have a hunch the value of money will go down, thereby escalating the value of per capita income etc, but yielding nothing to the hoi polloi. Why have political parties been allowed to accept Rs 2,000 in cash? The BJP should have adopted the ‘less cash’ it is enforcing upon the country!
J.N. Bhartiya, Hyderabad
The Modi government’s 2017 budget is somewhat historic in the sense that, firstly, the colonial tradition of presenting the budget on the last working day of February has been done away with, and secondly, another colonial practice, that of presenting a separate budget for the Railways, has also been stopped. Finance minister Arun Jaitley’s speech left the opposition disarmed, with nothing to raise objection to. Maintaining balance between relief and reform, rural and urban, small and big, this growth-oriented, futuristic budget is, in all senses, a no-nonsense budget.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
Finance minister Arun Jaitley has made only half-hearted efforts to alleviate the pains of demonetisation in this budget. When he was in the opposition, he would vehemently criticise UPA’s budgets, demanding more for the senior citizens and salaried classes. Now, as FM, he has himself ignored these very categories in all his budgets so far.
L.J. Singh, Amritsar
A jugglery of figures and melodramatic media analysis—the budget 2017 in a nutshell.
George Jacob, Kochi
This refers to your story on Donald Trump’s immigration policy (Pastures Less Green, February 13). The president of the United States has been endowed with ‘executive privilege’ to withhold information from the public, the Congress and even the courts for the sake of ‘national security’ and diplomatic interests. With a Seattle judge placing a temporary restraining order on Trump’s travel ban on citizens of seven, mainly Muslim, countries and the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco refusing to overturn the verdict, the stage is set for a face-off between the new government and the judiciary. Blaming immigrants for joblessness in the US is not a solution. It is plain reactionary and can only lead to more hatred among the nations. But is anyone listening?
Seetharambasaani, Hanamkonda (Telangana)
Though Trump’s order may sound like it is against Muslims, he has only banned citizens of certain countries for a certain period of time for purely security reasons. The US has a heterogeneous population comprising of people from varied religious and ethnic backgrounds, all of whom have contributed to making America what it is today. Banning immigration of people from any one community is, therefore, not in the interest of American society. Fighting terrorism needs the participation of all and no community should see counter-terrorist measures as an attack on itself.
Lt Col (retd) Ranjit Sinha, Pune
On reading your story on J&K’s decision to commemorate Maharaja Hari Singh’s birth anniversary (A Monarch in Praise and Loathing, February 13), I can’t help pointing out that my knowledge of Kashmir’s history is quite contrary to the viewpoint given in the article. I choose to believe that Abdul Qadir was not of Kashmiri ethnicity but an absconder from the Swat region, who rallied people for jehad against the king of Kashmir. Only short-sighted and delusional people do not believe that the 1931 agitation against the king was merely a cover for pillage and victimising people from a particular community. The article incorrectly goes on to say that all Kashmiris—Muslims, Hindus and people from Jammu, Gilgit and Ladakh—were part of the uprising.
Ankush Poddar, Calcutta
After reading the interview with the so-called former Kerala Law Academy principal Dr P. Lekshmi Nair (‘I was the one who moved court in 2014 to get an order...., Feb 20), I was ashamed that she belonged to ‘God’s Own Country’! Ms Nair is an arrogant woman; furthermore, she has political backing. I strongly doubt her claim that the state can’t stand her being “bold and smart”. Her high-handed behaviour as principal is already well-known in the state. It shows a great lack of common sense on her part, something that disqualifies her from being in the chair of principal of an institution, especially a place that teaches law. All these years, as seen on television, Ms Nair was perceived in a different way in Kerala. I suppose political muscle and money, quite shamefully, have wrought a change in her behaviour. The Law Academy incident is a commentary on the management of private institutions in Kerala, and how they are influenced by political parties. This trend needs to change.
Ramachandran Nair, Oman
Apropos Who Awaits the Native’s Return? (February 6), your story on the J&K assembly’s resolution on the Pandits’ return, I believe the Pandits were thrown out of the Valley as part of a deal struck during V.P. Singh’s reign as India’s prime minister, to get the sister of the current J&K CM released from her abductors. Now the BJP regime wants to settle the Pandits in the Valley in order to change its demographics. They have even proposed settling ‘sainik colonies’ (of retired soldiers) there. But how many Pandits really want to return to a life of uncertainty? The larger conflict is rooted in Pakistan’s claim that India illegally occupies Kashmir and the US’s ambition to create a vassal state with its own flag and constitution, even though a Russian veto in the UN Security Council had stalled, once and for all, the old resolution on Kashmir’s right to self-determination.
K. Shirasagar, Hyderabad
Your stories on the run-up to the assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh (Feb 6), Uttarakhand, Punjab and Goa (Feb 13) were done well. Opinion polls are a lucrative business today. Vested interests motivate the media to twist the facts, with most media owned by people closely aligned to political parties. Outlook comes across as a rare exception. This time, the Congress and the BJP are contesting elections in a do-or-die mode. Their stakes are high; it concerns their very survival. Other parties are proprietary or partnership concerns of Machiavellis hungry for power, and they will have to disappear eventually in a fast-maturing democracy. Too many buttons on the EVMs confuse the voters, so we either get a fractured mandate or one like 2014 in which just 31 per cent votes secured a majority. The people are restless and want things to change. They don’t care for this or that ‘ism’, but only for their own and their children’s welfare. This election season will be a trendsetter for 2019 and a turning point, good or bad, for our liberties and development.
M.N. Bhartiya, Goa
I write about the article on the BCCI’s SC-appointed administrators (Gang of Four Leads the Charge, Feb 13). The appointment of an auditor (Vinod Rai), historian (Ramachandra Guha) and a banker (Vikram Limaye) to run the BCCI (the other member is cricketer Diana Edulji) is a perfect example of the saying, ’a square peg in a round hole’. Granted, these are eminent people, but not in cricket. I don’t think cricket lovers will be able to digest this potpourri.
K.P. Rajan, Mumbai
I read the cover story on Shahrukh Khan (The Khanate Without End, Feb 6) with great interest. But SRK, the seller of fairness creams for men can never be an icon like Meryl Streep, Richard Gere or even Leonardo Di Caprio.
Rakesh Agarwal, Dehradun
I noticed some errors in Outlook’s otherwise well-written cover story on Shahrukh Khan. On Page 59, first para, ‘work’ has been misspelt. On page 60, third para, Aamir is spelt as ‘Amir’. Such errors are jarring to the eye. Hope this is noted.
Rini Sinha, On e-mail
This is about Talmiz Ahmad’s review of Pankaj Mishra’s new book, Age of Anger (The Wrath of Our World, Feb 6). Mishra has been an apologist of Islamic fundamentalism for a long time now. Religious fundamentalists have refused to look within themselves, and have just blamed their troubles on the historic wrongs committed by the West. The United States is also to be blamed to the extent that they had forged the Faustian bargain of support with the Saudi royal family, which had been the centre of so much fundamentalism in many ways.
Rajiv Chopra, Jammu
Outlook’s excellent report on brothels (The Cruel Business of Brothels, Feb 6) correctly points out that without the connivance of the police, local administration and leaders with traffickers, prostitution and brothels cannot just exist. But I couldn’t fathom why the article fails to mention the one essential link in the whole trade—the male customer. Like in any trade, whenever there is a demand for a ‘product’ or service, some ‘entrepreneur’ meets it by supplying the same. Is it wrong to say males are responsible for perpetuating this dehumanising business?
G.L. Karkal, Pune
I would like to thank Outlook for bringing into focus a most relevant chapter of our independence movement related to Bose in the story Nehru, Netaji, Car and Envy (Feb 6). There are enough signs that Bose may not have died in a plane crash at Taihoku in 1945; the government seems to have deliberately obfuscated the truth, fearful it may just shake our accepted versions of history. Considering the fact that Bose would certainly have not been alive now, there should be no reason for secrecy. Also, it is distressing that we don’t have a detailed history of lesser-known freedom fighters. A few were given ‘tamrapatras’ in recognition of the sacrifices they made, but they are not remembered in any other way.
R.S., On E-Mail
This is with reference to Eleven Firm Against Invaders (Jan 9). Among the current stalwarts in the Indian cricket team, the case of Ashwin seems to me to be special—a bowler who’s a darling of the crowd after a long time, a bowler who has steadilly improved his gritty batting. Ashwin is now a force to reckon with. The tally of 250 wickets and more in 45 Tests is not a small achievement; it is a testament of his immense variety as a spinner. His dismissals of Kumar Sangakkara, Ken Williamson and Joe Root will not be forgotten. It is refreshing to see such a talented bowler in cricket after a long time.
C.K. Subramaniam, Mumbai
We have been receiving a fair number of complaints regarding the font size of the printed articles in Outlook. Readers have been experiencing difficulty in the most basic relationship they have with a magazine—the act of reading. Beginning this week, we have decided to increase the font size to ease your reading experience. Happy Outlooking!—Editor
This is with reference to your cover story on Shahrukh Khan (The Khanate Without End, Feb 6). Shahrukh is ruling tinsel town because of sheer hard work and devotion. He is a fine actor, as he has proven time and again by acting in both formula and non-formula films, and he stays away from major controversies. There are other top actors as well—the tough and controversial Salman Khan, the creative master Aamir, the energetic and young Ranveer Singh, Hrithik Roshan, Ranbir Kapoor and the veteran Sanjay Dutt—who have left a mark in Bollywood, but there seems to be something special about Shahrukh.
M.Y. Shariff, Chennai
Until a few years ago, SRK was the greatest entertainer after Amitabh Bachchan. Like any star, it seems that age is finally catching upon him and he needs to rejig his yesteryear magic, particularly because many of his recent films haven’t really been box-office gold as compared to those of his contemporary actors. He still has ardent fans in large numbers who swear by his acting finesse, but they feel disappointed when his films flop. May be his age and time demand that he should focus more on the quality of the script rather than the number of the films he can handle simultaneously.
Sanjiv Gupta, PerthWith the three Khans—Shahrukh, Aamir and Salman—virtually ruling the industry, Bollywood may aptly be called ‘Khandaan’. Each of these actors has a unique forte and has been holding the Bollywood fort for over two decades now.
Rajneesh Batra, New Delhi
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