• The Commoners’ Wail
    May 22, 2017

    I write in response to Outlook’s cover story on the Aam Admi Party and Arvind Kejriwal (Error in the Machine? May 8). One of the disappointing things about AAP is its utter inflexibility. The BJP, the party ruling the MCD, discarded the non-­performing old set in a tacit admission of non-performance, fielded fresh faces and yet swept the civic polls. Why? People who had experienced the way AAP performed realised that the cure offered was worse than the disease.


    K. Suresh, Bangalore


    According to your cover story, AAP did a lot more good than other parties and the media circus is to blame for the BJP’s succes. And yet the writer attacks Kejriwal too. Indians want transparency in government, and that is AAP’s USP. If the people fall prey to media man­ipulation, AAP can do nothing about it. People don’t want development; they want sugar-coated promises. They are ready to trade their hunger, suffering and injustice with illusions of grandeur. Let them face it now.


    Nasar Ahmed, Karikkudi


    AAP’s severe drubbing at the MCD polls shows that Kejriwal is no match for PM Narendra Modi’s charisma. That Kejriwal refuses to accept the verdict shows he will never learn his lessons. AAP couldn’t connect with the people in the past two years, and failed to build mass campaigns on civic issues. Besides blaming ‘faulty’ EVMs for their dismal show in Punjab, Goa and MCD and throwing darts at the PM, Kejriwal has precious little to say.


    K.R. Srini­vasan, Secunderabad


    One mistake Kejriwal made was in starting a political party without realising that “to succeed in politics, it is often necessary to rise above one’s principles”. He promises to eradicate corruption, but every action he took towards that end has ­invited an opposite, negative reaction. All his ministers were street-fighters, and messed it up in governance when made ministers.


    A.S. Raj, On E-Mail


    The BJP’s strategy of ­beating 10 years of non-performance has paid off. Kejriwal ignored basic ­duties in Delhi to indulge in flights of fancy in Goa and Punjab. Looking within is not an AAP quality as blaming or accusing others is part of its DNA.


    Padmini Rag­havendra, Secunderabad


    Kejriwal and AAP represent the disappointment of an electorate that yearned for cleaner, more accountable politics. The recent turn of events, however, seems to mark the beginning of the end of that dream.


    George Jacob, Kochi


    Except for reverses in Delhi and Bihar, PM Modi has perfected his technique of harvesting votes. The most significant point made by the Delhi voter was the rout of the Congress. AAP comes across as little more than a one-election wonder.


    J. Akshay, Bangalore


    AAP tried to run before it could learn how to walk. Little wonder it fell down flat. The rookie party started paying more attention to political expediency than to probity. Kejriwal brought some ref­orms in power and water tariffs, but this was small change compared to the high exp­ectations from him. When all Kejriwal did was snort and cry—about the L-G, the Centre, Modi and about EVMs—people had a second, hard look at their idol and AAP’s downhill walk in terms of perceptions began. Kejriwal should do a course correction and become the humble, sensitive person he was, not the dictatorial know-all he has become.


    Rakesh Agarwal, Dehradun


    In 2015, AAP denounced the VIP culture, and yet its ministers soon embraced the same ­culture wholeheartedly. Many members of the party, born out of the anti-­corruption movement, were booked for corruption. Still, the leaders defended the erring members. Many upright founding members, like Prashant Bhushan, were thrown out because they dared to voice dissent and demanded debate. AAP ­became a one-man party where only Kejriwal’s writ runs. Instead of governing Delhi properly, he was only interested in increasing his tally in other states, but to no avail. MCD results are an indication of people’s disillusionment.


    M.C. Joshi, Lucknow


    That the BJP’s performance in the MCD has been pathetic is to say the least. AAP’s undoing has been their playing the victim card throughout their charge in Delhi, though, admittedly, the Centre did make things tough for them. As for the Con­gress, they should seriously look at a change in leadership. Let us hope the MCD does something tangible this time, instead of being bogged down in fights and controversies at the citizen’s cost.


    Pradeep Mathur, Delhi


    Kejriwal was not undone by EVMs, but by his own faults. He was the only vote-catcher in AAP, but voters saw him concentrate on everything else but Delhi. AAP focused on the negatives of opponents rather than the good work it did.There was also a rift within AAP and it was unable to present a new narrative, while bijli, paani and anti-corruption have become stale and unattractive.


    C.V. Venugopalan, Palakkad


    AAP has made much headway in a short span of time—government in Delhi and a good showing in Punjab. In comparison, the BJP took a much longer time to establish itself. Like any other party, AAP too has made mistakes. Like any other leader, Kejriwal too offered development and good governance, but for over-activism and vigilantism in the ­beginning, and controversies over fake degrees, sleazy videos and extortion charges involving ministers later. Who else is a sacred cow in Indian politics? Once he got into politics, Kejriwal too was tarred in the deep muck.


    M.Y. Shariff, Chennai


    This refers to ‘Criticising Modi constantly did not make good politics’ by AAP candidate Abhinav Mishra, who lost the municipal election from Ward 57, Rohini. It seems Arvind Kejriwal forgot that punching ‘Hit Me’ sandbags can never win you a real medal.


    RB, On E-Mail


    This refers to Done In By More Theatrics Than Action. Free water and cheap electricity mean loss of revenue. Combined with so much money spent on self-advertisement, this ­ensured AAP was left with no money to fulfil any other promises.


    P.B. Joshipura, Suffolk (Virginia, US)

  • One-Liner
    May 22, 2017

    Voters can’t be bought with ‘alms’ anymore, but won over by strengthening their ‘arms’.


    Rajneesh Batra, New Delhi

  • Trash Par Excellence
    May 22, 2017

    This refers to Six Point Nothing (May 8) by Sachin Nirmala Narayanan. I have read every book penned by Chetan Bhagat and make it a point to never miss his column. Yes, he writes trash and loves populism as much as our politicians do. His last two books have ­invited controversy, with allegations of plagiarism. He is an ‘inspirational’ writer with a big ego, and whether or not you include him in a syllabus, he has already made his mark as the ‘best trash writer in India’.


    V.N.K. Murti Pattambi, Pattambi


    What about the allegations of plagiarism levelled by a woman writer against Chetan Bhagat? She ­alleged that Bhagat copied the main theme and substantial content from her already published short story. Bhagat has refuted the allegation and called it unfounded, but he has not challenged it in a court of law. The woman writer, on the other hand, has given a full account of why and how she has made the allegation. If there is smoke, there must be a fire.


    Parshuram Gautampurkar, Sawai Madhopur

  • May 22, 2017

    Apropos Red Bumps on the Highway, May 8, I penned this poem:


    They flocked together
    In hoards and droves
    Pouncing upon
    Unsuspecting soldiers
    They let their bullets out
    All the army men succumbed
    To the Maoists
    Who felt they had won their battle
    A battle that left
    Children orphaned
    You women widowed
    Fathers having to bury their sons
    Mothers drowned in tears
    Weeping and sobbing
    Crying their hearts out
    And more importantly a battle
    That wiped out humanity
    From the face of the earth


    Alok Vinod Kulkarni, Hubli

  • May 22, 2017

    This refers to A Girl, A Basketball, A Stone (May 8) on the students’ protests in Kashmir. What is the state government doing? One day they allow schools, colleges and shops to open and the next day they impose curfew because of the violence that ensues. The students must be feeling that the government treats them callously. The government doesn’t seem to know how to work for its own interests. No wonder the people are no longer taking it seriously.


    Aditya Mookerjee, Belgaum


    Social media is being used to spread misinformation, and that is turning Kashmiri youngsters into radical Islamic extremists. There should be no doubt over the fact that Kashmiris are not fighting for independence but the rule of Islam. Pakistan will fight India to the last Kashmiri.


    Rajiv Chopra, Jammu

  • May 22, 2017

    Dear Editor, Outlook


    The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) would like to highlight that ‘Free’ Vaccines Aren’t Free of the Foreign Hand (April 17) by Arushi Bedi lacks substantive facts and has several inaccuracies.  India’s Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP) is the government’s initiative to provide free immunisation to all children. India has been able to eliminate polio and maternal and neonatal tetanus in large part due to the critical intervention of vaccines. As a key element of the national child survival strategy, the UIP has contributed to the highest ever decadal decline in infant and child mortality rates in India, by averting deaths and illnesses caused by vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs). Every episode of a disease such as pneumonia, diarrhoea or meningitis in a child can cause long-term sequelae like cognitive and motor impairment, stunting and disability. As per the article, despite the vaccines available under the UIP, 5 lakh children die from VPDs every year, which means a child dies every minute. This makes the role of vaccines, including newer ones, even more important. In fact, there are still more vaccines that should be made available to every child in the country.


    All vaccine introductions are based on the public health need of the country; this is in turn based on the disease burden as identified through multiple data sources, such as Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP), Central Bureau of Health Intelligence (CBHI), disease burden surveys and research studies. Reviewing disease burden literature and, in some instances, conducting surveys are integral to the process utilised by the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) while considering the proposed new vaccines for the UIP. India’s immunisation programme, unlike that of many other developing countries, is a domestically-funded programme; 93 per cent of the budget is provided by the Government of India and the nation is transitioning away from funding from external agencies. The decision-making process for vaccine introduction is carried out by Indian scientists and public health experts. While doing so, they consider technical evidence and policy analyses from India and around the world.


    In terms of vaccine production, more than 70 per cent of the global vaccine req­-uirement worldwide is currently being met by Indian vaccine manufacturers. The public sector units in the country have been refurbished and are manufacturing the diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus (DPT) and tetanus toxoid vaccines (TT) used in the national immunisation programme. To ensure vaccine security in the country, the government has sanctioned an integrated vaccine complex in Chengulput, Tamil Nadu, which is likely to soon produce new vaccines.


    The Government of India places the health, safety and well-being of its women and children over and above anything else and is committed to making every effort for ensuring the same. The UIP began with only six vaccines. Over the years, more vaccines such as pentavalent vaccine, inactivated polio vaccine (IPV), rotavirus vaccine (RVV) and measles-rubella (MR) vaccine have been added to the programme. All these vaccines have been available in the private sector for many years, not only in India, but also across the world. While these vaccines in the private sector were accessible to only those who could afford them, by making them available under the UIP, the government is ensuring equitable access to those who need them the most, i.e. the underprivileged and underserved.


    The article also speaks about “adverse events following immunisation” (AEFIs) on account of the pentavalent vaccine. It is important to understand that AEFIs include ANY adverse event that occurs after a vaccine has been administered, even though the event may not necessarily be related to the vaccine. Following rigorous evaluation of the causes of death by the country’s AEFI committee, which is chaired by independent national experts on the subject, hardly any deaths following pentavalent vaccine administration were found to be attributable to the vaccine. The MoHFW continues to improve AEFI surveillance through training and capacity-building of healthcare workers, which increases reporting of AEFIs.


    It is important to reiterate that many diseases have been eradicated or eliminated—including smallpox, polio, and maternal and neonatal tetanus—in large part due to vaccines. Your article misrepresents facts and figures, unnecessarily creating doubts in the minds of parents and caregivers, raising questions on an immunisation programme that saves millions of lives. The UIP is one of the largest of its kind in the world in terms of number of beneficiaries reached, quantity of vaccines used, number of immunisation sessions organised, geographical spread and diversity of the areas covered. The media plays a critical role in any public health initiative and we hope that reputed media houses such as yours will continue to partner with the government to ensure that our country’s commitment to child health is matched with action for every child, everywhere, and that news articles are based on facts and refrain from misinformation.


    Dr Manisha Verma


    Director (media and communications), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, ­Govern­ment of India


    The correspondent replies:


    All facts and figures mentioned in the article have been vetted by multiple sources. While vaccines are the most cost-effective method to prevent diseases, the public should be made aware of their efficacy and who is supplying them. The data for adverse events following immunisation for the pentavalent vaccine has been obtained from government sources through RTI queries. The information on disease burden for diseases for which vaccines have been introduced under the UIP has also been obtained through government sources and experts on the NTAGI panel.

  • A Class Apart
    May 22, 2017

    This refers to your obit on Vinod Khanna (Agent Vinod, May 8). Vinod leaves ­behind a void that can’t be filled. His performances in Bollywood movies, esp­ecially in the 1970s, were a class apart. Film buffs won’t forget him soon.


    Mahesh Kapasi, New Delhi

  • In-House Balladeer
    May 22, 2017

    This refers to The Balladeer’s Mutiny (April 24). People like Gaddar should be in Parliament. As an eloquent speaker who has worked long among the poor in Telangana, he can espouse their cause and represent their aspirations.


    Jugal Kishore, Hyderabad

  • May 22, 2017

    This ref­ers to Cures That Make a Big Killing (May 8). Longevity has increased with phenomenal advances in medical science. But, at the same time, corruption at various levels of healthcare has also grown by leaps and bounds. The doctor’s profession has become a means of making money, so the rogues among them do not hesitate to prescribe useless or even spurious medicines. Hospital managements do not care to provide the basic minimum amenities and charge exorbitant fees at every stage of treatment. In that backdrop, the West Bengal CM ’s recent efforts to shake up the health sector in the state are laudable.


    Ranjit Sinha, New Delhi

  • Affordable Drugs
    May 22, 2017

    This refers to your story on the proposal to make generic drugs mandatory for prescription (Needed: Pills for People, April 30). According to the American medical journal JAMA, using generic drugs from the same class as a branded drug could have saved over $70 billion dollars in the period 2010-12. In the US, nearly 80 per cent of prescriptions are for generic drugs. Quality generic drugs will help make healthcare more affor­da­ble to the poor in India.


    H.N. Ramakrishna, Michigan

  • Hunt Together
    May 22, 2017

    The recent ambush on CRPF by Maoists in Sukma reinforces the inability of the Chhattisgarh and central governments to contain the insurgency (Red Bumps on the Highway, May 8). Leaders issue statements condemning such “dastardly” incidents, while the rebels continue with their violent acts. It’s high time concerted efforts were made to combat the menace.


    K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad

  • May 22, 2017

    The Supreme Court has allowed Salman Khurshid to assist it in hearing a batch of pleas challenging the constitutional validity of ­triple talaq (Veil Can’t Hide This Sorrow, May 1). Apparently, the apex court has not been fully apprised about the Congress leader whose pro-Muslim bias is likely to make him pander only to the Muslim vote-bank.


    Rotten Lal, On E-Mail

  • May 22, 2017

    If over 9 lakh posts for teachers are vacant in government schools across the country, more than 96,000 schools have only one teacher each and 7.41 lakh teachers have little or no training in teaching methods, then one can imagine the educational quality of a whole generation (A Child Isn’t Just a Number, April 17). Let’s first talk of ­improving basic education before charting out grander plans in higher education. The country needs to have a strong base to realise tall ideas.


    G.L. Karkal, Pune

  • Illogical Take
    May 22, 2017

    Piety does not kill. On the contrary, it supports, sustains and protects life (Piety Kills, May 1). The problem is not in being pious or being vegetarian. Food preferences are a matter of ­region more than religion—Kashmiri Pandits eat meat, Bengali Brahmins eat fish etc. You write, “There is no conclusive ­evidence to prove that ­vegetarians live longer and are better people.” Well, yes. But there is also no conclusive evidence to the contrary. “Haven’t we read that Hitler was a vegetarian and a teetotaller?” you ask. True, but then we have also read Stalin was a non-vegetarian. So were Timur the Lame, Genghis Khan, the Mongol ruler’s grandson Halaku, Mahmud Ghazni, Nadir Shah, Aurangzeb and now leaders of Taliban and ISIS. On the other hand, there have been great men among vegetarians too, such as Mahavira, Guru Nanak and Mahatma Gandhi.


    What we are witnessing today is not a clash between vegetarianism and non-vegetarianism. Instead it is a fight between fringe elements promoting one or the other. The real villain is bigotry that breeds hatred.


    Niti Paul Mehta, New Delhi

  • May 15, 2017

    When millions of people in India—from grandchildren to grandparents, fair-skinned to dark-skinned and rich to the poor—are ­obsessed with a biased, skin-deep beauty and use fairness products, I don’t ­understand why there is a hue and cry over the use of fairness creams (Ugly Fraud In Fairness Trade, May 1). We know this bias well. Fairness cream users experience psychological benefits—the placebo effect. In a country obsessed with fairness due to multiple factors, why not let the users of such products feel good about themselves after their acts of cosmetic consumerism. When Bollywood celebrities ­endorse these products, doesn’t it send the message that such products help consumers look like them. And everyone wants to look like them. The only thing is, manufacturers of fairness creams shouldn’t be allowed to take customers for a ride with false claims of guaranteed fairness.


    K.P. Rajan, Mumbai


    The various fairness creams flooding the Indian market account for big business. Through aggressive advertisement techniques, companies play on the insecurities of people affected by a generally racist society to reap profit. It is probably time people see through these false claims of manufacturers and also realise the harmful effects these creams have on the skin. Delhi law student Paras Jain has rightly brought the consumer forum to the fore.


    Lt Col (retd) Ranjit Sinha, New Delhi


    Our obsession with white skin happened long before the British came here. It comes from a deep-seated prejudice against imagined non-Brahmin characteristics. This dichotomy is clearly visible in the depiction of rakshasas in the TV show adaptations of India’s great epics. More recently, we have seen the extent of racism of Indians in the attacks on African students in Noida. According to a ruling party politician’s comment recently, fair-skinned Indians have been ‘tolerating’ their dark-skinned countrymen from the South for this long.


    But these are well-known facts. What is heartbreaking is that celebrities like megastar Shahrukh Khan are endorsing these fairness creams just to make a fast buck. Even the so-called soc­ially conscious women actors such as Deepika Padukone, Sonam Kapoor and Vidya Balan have joined the mad race.


    Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun


    Beauty is only skin deep. As Mahatma Gandhi said, ‘Beauty lies not in complexion but in truth alone.’ As a concept, beauty ref­ers not only to external physical features but also to the mind, character, behaviour and mannerisms of the individuals. Physical beauty is but a passing phenomenon; therefore, it makes little sense for anyone endowed with such beauty to be proud and arrogant. It is even more absurd that within this glorification of physical beauty, there is a preference in our society for the fair-skinned. What is more, there’s an ent­ire market aggressively pushing this idea of beauty past the masses and a horde of celebrities helping this market in doing that. People are tired and weary of countless misleading advertisements they are bombarded with on a daily basis. There is an urgent need to stop this ­insensitive and extensive exploitation of gullible consumers.


    M.Y. Shariff, Chennai


    It is difficult to see any logic in this article or in the arguments of fairness cream critics. Every product is sold on the premise of some psychological gain. Many SUVs are sold to people who are made to think they are ‘sporty’ vehicles, but they are just oversized ­dangerous cars. Diamonds are sold on the premise that they are a ‘woman’s best friends’. Overpriced coffee is sold on the premise of experience…the list goes on. So why single out the fairness creams? It’s not about what products do or don’t do, it’s about the mental satisfaction they provide. Your writers just don’t understand marketing, it seems.


    Dinesh Kumar, Chandigarh


    Your article on fairness creams reminded me of something a relative of mine said when she was looking for a bride for her son. ‘I would like a fair girl for my boy,’ she said. Why? Their family is well educated and I thought they would know better. But, this bias is too deep-rooted, just open a matrimonial page of any Indian newspaper to see how vehemently people are obsessed with fair brides and grooms. Or just open the morning papers to see columns of fairness products with taglines such as—‘the world is not fair, but you be fair.’ Apart from the prejudice inherent in these ads, these products don’t even do what they claim to. It makes me wonder whether advertisements are not pre-checked by the Advertisement Standards Council of India (ASCI). Are ASCI standards not being properly applied to advertisements before they are released on mass media? And these are not marginal products; these are brands endorsed by top Bollywood celebrities. Remember the Maggi ban! Many celebs were ­endorsing that product too!


    Kamal Anil Kapadia, Mumbai


    The vast Indian market is flooded with beauty products and the revenue they earn and the spending on their advertisements are in billions. Fairness cream products form a big chunk of this market and the sales show that they attract people of all age groups. Earlier, the fairness factor was there for specific products—the fairness creams. But eventually, when companies realised it was a hit, it spread to face washes and anti-aging creams. Then celebrities like Shahrukh Khan started endorsing these products and they reached new heights and attained more ­legitimacy. But these products don’t do what they claim to, as mentioned in your article. That amounts to misleading consumers. Unfortunately, in India, there is not much awareness ­regarding ­consumer rights.


    Ramachandran Nair, Oman

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