J. Jayalalitha’s powers were so absolute that her death leaves a leadership vacuum, potent enough to endanger her party’s future and send Tamil Nadu politics into disarray (The Arrival of Cyclone Chinna Amma, Dec 26). For now, Sasikala is likely to firmly sit on the AIADMK throne. Yet there are issues. The first could be over acquiring Jaya’s property—in the absence of a will. Two, Sasikala’s close relatives, already in powerful positions, may dig their claws deeper into the state’s administration. All this, when many in the 1.5-crore cadre party are boiling with anger about an ‘outsider’ having replaced ‘Amma’.
J. Akshay, Bangalore
On the night of November 8, when the PM came on TV and announced demonetisation, it sounded like a sumptuous dinner for us honest people. Fifty days thence, the nation is suffering from indigestion. Small and medium enterprises bear the brunt of the demonetisation flu (Anxieties of a Scattered Industry, Dec 26). Had the government employed renowned economists as chefs when cooking the note-ban meal, perhaps we could have avoided the extreme distaste.
K.P. Rajan, Mumbai
If Mohandas Gandhi and Hitler can co-exist in the same era, why can't BDSM and the Khap?
Rajneesh Batra, New Delhi
I read your cover story regarding the stent industry, cardiology and the currently ‘under fire’ profession of doctors (Heart For Mart’s Sake, Dec 26). So you decided to portray one face of the profession. And I appreciate that you did it with sincerity. The same sincerity with which some of us (believe me a significant number as against the 10 per cent you decided to quote as per someone’s remark) work day in and day out.
I’m a 28-year-old resident cardiologist. I’m currently at the junior-most level of this lofty pyramid. We have 70-year-old consultants still learning and trying to master this ever-dynamic branch. I stay thousands of kilometres away from my family—my wife and one-and-a-half-year-old kid—so that I can get better at what I have always loved—cardiology. I have been a good student all along and I could have chosen any field of study, but I chose cardiology because it’s challenging; you have to take decisions in a fraction of a second. And it pains me when you decide to put forth only the dark side of the profession, saying, ‘only 10 per cent of cardiologists don’t take bribes’.
Doctors are also part of the society. And when the moral fabric of society gets corrupted, they cannot remain untouched. In that moment of professional brilliance, when we have to put together all our knowledge and experience to take a call, the only assurance we have is the faith of the patient and relatives. I’m fortunate to be working with a set of dedicated doctors who are devoted to their patients. I hope you also plan to focus on this determination in one of your next cover stories, so that the next time we are taking a split-second decision, we have the faith of our patients.
Anurag Bahekar, On E-Mail
Introduction of the stent in the treatment of coronary artery disease (CAD) revolutionised cardiac treatment. Earlier it was very costly and involved a long duration of hospitalisation as the cumbersome procedure of open heart surgery, which is now done in very rare cases, had to be carried out. DraftCraft founder Gajanan Khergamer’s view that the need for angioplasty arises only in certain circumstances, and that the patient should decide whether to go for it after being provided the complete information by the doctor, is problematic. It is only after the patient is on the operating table that the cardiologist decides whether angioplasty is needed or not, so there is no opportunity for the patient to think upon obtaining a second opinion.
However, a case like that of Shirin Syed’s father tells a different story. The reliable test to diagnose artery blockage is angiography but the doctors diagnosed three blockades and prescribed angioplasty without an angiography. They then placed one stent but billed her for two. Certainly, these doctors and hospitals need to be de-licensed and sued. The article has exposed the big racket. Unaware patients who have no option or alternative other than private hospitals, as the government hospitals in the country are few and very overcrowded, are being fleeced. The Delhi High Court’s order for fixing the MRP on every cardiac stent is a step in the right direction. It is also desirable to fix a standard rate for the procedure of angioplasty for private hospitals.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
It is unfortunate that corruption is rampant even in what is called the ‘most noble profession’. Forget stents, malpractice in medicine finds its way even at the most basic level. Often, medicines are prescribed to patients unnecessarily just to get small cuts from the manufacturers. But do politicians seem to think that the answer to all our woes lies in a silly move called demonetisation.
Dinesh Kumar, Chandigarh
Medical devices form the major profitable part of the massive pharmaceutical sector. We need to find a fair way of determining the value of new gadgets and make them affordable. Over the years, pressure has been built for disclosure of payments to providers from companies that manufacture drugs, medical devices and other healthcare supplies in the US and other developed nations. Patients pay through their nose and often run out of their life savings in buying life-sustaining devices. There is such less knowledge about what the prices of these devices should be that one is never sure if the hospitals or doctors are overcharging for these products.
H.N. Ramakrishna, Bangalore
Freebies were something J. Jayalalitha came up with all the time, yet her rule saw Tamil Nadu progressing as an industrial state (The Worshipful Leader, Dec 12). On the one hand, the chief minister doled out a slew of populist schemes; on the other, her state rose in social advancement indices. All this despite the fact that she was actually a reluctant politician. “I hate politics, but MGR forced me into it,” Jayalalitha once famously said. At one stage, she almost quit the field—only to come back with unflagging energy. The feud she had with MGR’s wife Janaki Ramachandran, apparently, made her tougher.
Buddhadev Nandi, Bishnupur
Not just these heartless cardiac profiteers, the entire medical system needs to be 'stented'.
George Jacob, Kochi
Apropos Thevar Vs Thevar (Dec 19), the term ‘Mannargudi mafia’ gained currency during the first term of Jayalalitha and refers to the vast clan of Sasikala, who hails from Mannargudi, a small town in Tamil Nadu. In the past, Sasikala might have promoted the cause of her relations and her friends in the party, but she herself has never been in the limelight except as Jayalalitha’s trusted lieutenant. She has not delivered a single speech so far in public, nor is much known about her life. The AIADMK is in power for another four years and all the key players must be hoping to gain maximum control of the party. Sasikala’s share in any deal to follow will be much less than what it would have been during Jayalalitha’s lifetime. Till the 2021 assembly elections, the party may well wilt away for the lack of a charismatic leader, which Sasikala is most unlikely to turn into even by that time.
P. Arihant, Secunderabad
This is regarding the cover story Heart Attack, The Cardiac Crooks published in your esteemed magazine’s weekly edition dated December 26. The correspondent for the story met me some time back in order to understand the reason why NPPA was not fixing the ceiling prices of cardiac stent when it has been included in the NLEM (National List of Essential Medicines) by the Health Ministry. I simply explained to the correspondent the procedure that the NPPA fixes ceiling of an essential drug only when the drug is notified by the Department of Pharmaceuticals as part of Schedule 1 of DPCO, 2013, and that the DoP notification is awaited in this regard. The following quote by the correspondent is a misrepresentation of facts, “The official says the issue has not been addressed by the DoP despite the NPPA having sent two expert panel committee reports on the pricing mechanism for stents.”
“According to procedure, two committees chaired by a group of experts filed recommendations four months ago but the NPPA’s hands are tied until the DoP puts stents under Schedule 1 of the NLEM for us to start price control.”
There are no such references sent by the NPPA or any other expert committee to the DoP and this assertion is factually wrong. This, apart from being factually incorrect, is also unethical since it gives the impression as if I’m criticising the fact that it has not yet been notified by the DoP.
Last but not least, the reporter has also misquoted my designation as 'director'. I happen to hold the post of the chairman of the NPPA and not ‘director’.
Bhupendra Singh (Chairman, NPPA), New Delhi
This is about the story on the AgustaWestland scam (The Tail Rotor Is Up, Dec 26). I think former air chief S.P. Tyagi had been arrested for the sole purpose of implicating the Gandhi family. Modi aims to finish off the Congress and he will go to any extent to ensure that. Rahul Gandhi knows this, and this finds expression in his rant against Modi, who he accuses of being ‘personally corrupt’. He had never opened his mouth despite so many scams in the past; now he is desperate because he knows Modi won’t let him go.
Nasar Ahmed, Karikkudi
I think the Indian defence sector has become an easy pasture for earning money through illegal means. Right from 1948, the sector has been beset with scams—helicopters, jeeps, artillery pieces...you name it. Top serving officers, who are expected to instil integrity in their juniors, are implicated in all this. A nexus between politicians and the bureaucracy, together with our lengthy, cumbersome judicial system, ensures that the guilty are rarely brought to justice. Unless such swindlers are swiftly brought to book, the scourge of scams can never be eradicated. At the same time, attention should be given to domestic production of military hardware so that we’re not so dependent on foreign procurement.
Lt Col (retd) Ranjit Sinha, CalcuttaTyagi’s arrest by the CBI is consistent with defence minister Manohar Parrikar’s promise that the probe in the AgustaWestland kickbacks won’t go the Bofors way. A Milan court has already accused middleman Michel James of dealing with and bribing important Indians to swing the deal. According to the Enforcement Directorate, a maze of companies was formed to channel the money against fabricated invoices to companies in Mauritius and Tunisia. Even former defence minister A.K. Antony admitted that bribes were given in the chopper deal. The crucial question is, if bribes were paid and the contract cancelled, why did the CBI close the case in July 2015? The Italian court has already punished several bribe-givers. Our government must also arrest all those cheats who have no qualms in endangering the country’s security. Former chief election commissioner T.N. Seshan rightly commented that every square inch of our country is corrupt!
B.N., On E-Mail
The story on Donald Trump’s appointment of Rex Tillerson as secretary of state was a good read (If Not A Kiss, A Bear Hug, Dec 26). While Tillerson’s ‘friendship’ with Vladimir Putin may cause some concern, there are some positives in his appointment. Three of his supporters are highly respected moderate Republicans. Tillerson’s name was first suggested by Robert Gates, who was secretary of defence under George Bush as well as under Obama. He was also strongly endorsed by two former secretaries of state, James Baker and Condoleezza Rice. Moreover, his appointment caused many of us to heave a sigh of relief, because we did not have to worry about right-wing hardliners like Rudy Giuliani and John Bolton heading the state department.
The feature on R. Ashwin’s superb performance was timely—soon after, he was anointed ICC’s Player of the Year, as also Test Cricketer of the Year (A Chevalier Among Twirlymen, Dec 26). By recording an emphatic win at the Chepauk in the fifth Test, India turned the tables to its advantage. In fact, England lost momentum right in the first Test in Rajkot, when India forced a draw against all odds after losing the first four wickets in a heap. England lacked penetrative bowling and paid a heavy price for that in the series. Thereafter, they just appeared lost. Jadeja’s ten-wicket haul and huge innings by both K.L. Rahul and Karun Nair just nailed the coffin of the English team in Chennai. Kohli hit 655 runs in the series, and the prolific Ashwin got 28 scalps, not to speak of some excellent lower-order batting.
C.K. Subramaniam, Sanpada
What is required is not a Bastar battalion, but a better battalion (‘Bastar Battalion of youth will win Anti-Maoist War’, Dec 26). Raising a more efficient security force can ensure the preservation of tribal rights and boost the basic development of the insurgency-hit belt of Chhattisgarh. Such a battalion should also be able to tackle the region’s mineral mafia.
V.N.K. Murti, Pattambi
This refers to Anxieties of a Scattered Industry (December 26), your story on the impact of going cashless on small-scale industry. So many days after demonetisation was announced, there is still insufficient cash available at the banks and ATMs. It is only in India that honest citizens are made to beg for their money, kept in good faith with the banks. People across the country are facing problems in meeting their daily needs. Cashless society is a western concept that is perhaps not practical for India. Moreover, demonetisation has not reduced corruption, which is clear from the piles of black money in Rs 2,000 notes being unearthed every other day.
Mahesh Kumar, New Delhi
Demonetisation of currency notes triggered a financial quake, but failed to build anew a chaste and fecund economic ground for the benefit of all. The worst hit are the deprived sections of people. The mandarins of political parties are, as a rule, public servants and donations to them are like bribes to ensure future benefits. If such donations are allowed, all public servants should be entitled to receive gifts in cash or kind. There’s always a motive behind every charity. Even if black money is curtailed for now, it is bound to rise like a phoenix from its ashes, for the simple reason that black taxation and black money are twins fathered by a maverick government with dubious intentions.
J.N. Bhartiya, Hyderabad
This refers to your story Chances of Lightning…or Just Thunder (December 26). Rahul Gandhi has still not realised that he has become a laughing stock. No one is taking him seriously, including his own Congress party. Whenever he opens his mouth, the real stalwarts in the party work overtime to justify his blabbering, knowing fully well they are trying to defend the indefensible. As someone has put it succinctly, the most difficult job in the world is that of Rahul Gandhi’s security personnel: even when the whole world is laughing at his gaffe, they have to remain serious.
S. Sreenivas, Bangalore
Why is Rahul Gandhi insisting on revealing details of his corruption allegations against PM Narendra Modi only in Parliament and not outside? The public has the right to know what is going on behind the scenes and so Rahul’s hesitation could suggest that his allegations are wild and baseless.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
This refers to your cover story (The Worshipful Leader, Dec 19). Jayalalitha Jayaram, six-term CM of Tamil Nadu, was not only a Kannadiga, but also a Brahmin. It is curious how the Dravidian parties, which came to power partly because of their anti-Brahmin stand, accepted a Kannadiga Brahmin woman as their supreme leader.
Bidyut Kumar Chaterjee, Faridabad
Jayalalitha was a shrewd politician who managed to garner and sustain a tremendous populist appeal despite having been charged with corruption. She managed to connect with the masses because of the various welfare schemes that were started during her tenures as CM. The best homage her party, AIADMK, can give to her is to keep rolling out such schemes for the poor from the lower strata of the state.
Sanjiv Gupta, Perth
When her mentor MGR died in 1987, Jayalalitha was waiting in the wings to don his mantle. She soon established a stronghold over the AIADMK and became its supreme leader. Unfortunately, the Jayalalitha years were marked by autocracy, secrecy, corruption and nepotism, repression of the media, defamation cases against critics and unabashed sycophancy that fanned her personality cult. Given the fact that for decades, Tamil Nadu was ruled by cult personalities, Jayalalitha’s death throws up a pressing question: can the AIADMK come up with another figure to match the stature of MGR or Jayalalitha? It can be seen that Jayalalitha herself did not groom a second line of leadership.
J.S. Acharya, Hyderabad
It goes without saying that politics will never be the same in Tamil Nadu after Jayalalitha’s demise. The one thing her successor O. Panneerselvam is known for is his unflinching loyalty to Amma, as Jayalalitha was endearingly referred to by her supporters. For him, the stint as CM will be an ordeal by fire. Hailing from the Thevar community, Panneerselvam may face some rebellion from the Gounder MLAs in the AIADMK. Finally, Tamil Nadu has come out of the personality cult phenomenon; it urgently needs some clean governance now. This will only happen if the new CM can step out of Jayalalitha’s shadow and end the coterie raj that has been the norm in the party for so long.
K.S. Padmanabhan, Medavakkam
When O. Panneerselvam was made chief minister of Tamil Nadu for 396 days in two spells during Jayalalitha’s absence in the past, he had done well. There were neither corruption complaints nor law and order problems. After Jayalalitha’s death, many feared there would be violence at her funeral, but OPS managed the event exceedingly well and it went off smoothly. Although not a cult figure, OPS will have to step into Jayalalitha’s shoes and keep the AIADMK order in the state intact. But Sasikala Natarajan will eventually edge OPS to become CM herself.
Kangayam R. Narasimhan, Chennai
It’s a well known fact that the public in Tamil Nadu has been in awe of its actors-turned politicians. However, it’s unlikely that the kind of adulation Jayalalitha got shall be bestowed on anyone else ever again. In any case, there aren’t many cine stars entering politics now nor is there a credible second in command in the AIADMK.
Deepak Kher, Pune
Jayalalitha was a reluctant entrant in both film and politics. She had confessed in an interview, “I hate cinema, but my mother forced me into film; I hate politics, but MGR forced me into politics.” But she proved her merits in both the fields. And in politics, she proved to be a natural leader, one who controlled AIADMK with an iron grip. Her political voyage was not smooth. She was pulled down and assaulted from the gun-carriage carrying MGR’s mortal remains by actor Deepan, the son of the younger brother of Janaki Ramachandran. But she kept going. In 1991, she became the youngest chief minister of Tamil Nadu. Her next rough phase came in 1996 when she had to go to jail. She had even decided on quitting politics. But as fate would have it, she returned, even stronger than before. Despite being charged with corruption, Jayalalitha managed to gain immense popularity with the masses. Her 18 populist schemes shot up her popularity like anything. Her death has left many of her supporters feeling orphaned. For those aware of the power of her personality cult, the effect her demise has had on people is hardly surprising.
Few know Jayalalitha was an avid reader. She was an admirer of P.G. Wodehouse and perhaps she had a liking for Bertie Wooster’s stern aunt. I found her use of language fascinating. Her retort to the Karnataka government over the Cauvery water-sharing issue comes to mind: “Tamil Nadu cannot be treated as the drainage outlet of Karnataka,” she had said.
Abhinav R., Bangalore
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