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This refers to your cover story on climate change and ecological catastrophe (Prelude to an Ending, September 13). The latest report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has had an hair-raising effect on scientists, activists and environmental groups across the world, further confirming their own concerns regarding the disastrous impacts of fast-changing weather conditions and extreme climate-related events such as hurricanes and heat waves. The warnings have been blinking red for a long time, and this report is the latest blaring alarm. Higher global temperatures, melting glaciers and rising sea levels are driven by carbon emissions that are inseparable from the globally-dominant mode of development based on economic growth. One of the big questions posed by world leaders is whether it’s still possible to meet the targets set by the 2015 Paris climate agreement. Most of the biggest economies in the world are not on track to meet those targets because they continue to rely too heavily on fossil fuels, including coal, for electricity, transportation and industry. The IPCC report shows that we are already in the midst of a climate crisis, and that climate-related hazards will only get worse without swift action. The report claims that it is still possible to meet the targets set under the Paris agreement, though it gets more difficult with every passing day. As a global threat, addressing climate change requires international collaboration, and the report asserts that government policies and action can drastically reduce carbon emissions.
Seetharambasaani, Hanamkonda (Telangana)
It’s not just policymakers who are responsible for choosing the destructive path on which we are happily walking even though it will surely end in a blind alley of annihilation. We too are responsible for our lifestyle choices that endanger life on earth. Destruction as ‘development’ continues and we fail to see the writing on the wall. Nature gave us a clear warning in the form of Covid, and worse is sure to come.
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
The IPCC report is frightening, but it is also a grim reminder that all countries must do something concrete to avoid the impending disasters. The situation today is the result of greed. In the name of development, most developed countries have shown utter disregard for the environment. The rich and developed countries must have a greater responsibility to protect the world from the ravages of climate change, as much of their development has been at the cost of the environment. India is also guilty, but it is more a victim than driving force of climate change. It should strike a balance between development and the environment.
D.B. Madan, New Delhi
This refers to your story on the impact of climate change on the Sundarbans (Waves Whisper Closer, September 13). It must serve as an eye-opener for the government and civil society to take steps for conserving and maintaining the pristine glory of this natural ecosystem ravaged by climate change and cyclones, and large-scale migrations. Nearly half of the Ghoramara island has been submerged over the past three decades. Thousands of people had no choice but to leave their villages. Hundreds of villages in the Sunderbans and surrounding areas are on the brink of natural disasters that can set off a train of such environmental time bombs. One thing can be said with certainty: if the Sunderbans deteriorate, Calcutta won’t be far away from destruction. This precarious situation demands emergency actions. At the same time, the ambitious policy of making the region a tourist hotspot must not come at our own peril.
Vijay Singh Adhikari, Nainital
This refers to your story on the ongoing farmers’ protests against new agrarian laws (Raising the Farm Stakes in Poliglot, September 13). It is irresponsible to turn a blind eye to the farmers’ stir. Various excuses are cited—that ‘anti-nationals’ have infiltrated the agitation and are trying to create a mountain of a molehill; that Opposition parties are misleading the agitating farmers for electoral gains, and so on. But the fact is this agitation has been going on for months right under the nose of the central government, which has largely been in denial mode. That’s surely not a sign of astute governance.
George Jacob, Kochi
This refers to your story and column on the Mappila rebellion of 1921 (Subaltern Rebels or Communal Rioters? and Beware of the Victor’s Lies, September 13), which try to provide a balanced view of the rising. It would interest researchers on this topic to know that a documentary was made on it. While collecting material on the era of silent cinema in South India, I came across the reference to this. The British government felt the need to explain the action taken against Mappila rebels to the English and Indian public. In 1921, they made a documentary film, a two-reeler, as an official record, primarily to be shown in England at the Wembley Exhibition. Produced by Major Robinson of the 75th Carnatic Infantry and shot by H. Doveton of Calcutta, the film depicted the refugees, convicted rebels and their weapons “in order to show the brutal and ruthless character of the rebel”. The two photographs of the rebels you have carried are probably from this film. It will be a good idea if the National Film Heritage Mission of the National Film Archives of India organises a search for this film.
S. Theodore Baskaran, Bangalore
This refers to your story on the stars of India’s stellar show at the Tokyo Paralympics (Never Out on a Limb, September 13). All of them deserve fulsome praise for their spectacular performance, which is a testimony to their hard work, dedication, determination and persistent effort. This ultimately paid rich dividends and brought cheer to the nation. The fact that the Covid pandemic did not dampen their spirit even a bit is clear proof of their resolve to succeed. The athletes show that physical disability is no bar to take up challenges. Overall, their superb achievement is a proud moment for the nation, to be cherished for a long time to come. Hats off to all the athletes, and kudos to those who made history by their exemplary performance in badminton and shooting, which will be deeply etched in the memory of all sport-lovers.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
This refers to your cover story Remaking of Free India (August 23). Industry, agriculture and the service sector are three engines that drive the economy. Giving equal, sufficient and balanced importance to all three sectors, without ignoring, neglecting or sacrificing one for another, is what keeps the economy afloat and helps to strengthen it. Waiving taxes and debt for corporate firms is just bad governance and bad economic thinking, and no balancing act. ‘Bijli, paani, sadak’ (electricity, water, roads) should be the government’s top priority at all times, though it cannot possibly provide ‘roti, kapda, makaan’ (bread, clothing, housing) to one and all.
M.Y. Shariff, Chennai
This refers to your cover story on Manoj Bajpayee (Method Hero, September 6). Bajpayee is indeed a great actor. The two seasons of The Family Man streaming on Amazon Prime, have made him the No. 1 actor on OTT platforms. He is also very popular on the silver screen. Starting with small roles in movies and television, he made quite a sensation as the gangster Bhiku Mhatre in Ram Gopal Varma’s Satya (1998). It is surprising that this was followed by a lean period during which he got no worthwhile role to play. Then came Prakash Jha’s multistarrer Rajneeti (2010), which catapulted him back to the big league. His role was appreciated by critics and the audience alike. Since then he has not looked back. This year, The Family Man, Silence…Can You Hear It? and Dial 100 have made him a household name. A down-to-earth actor, he does not hestitate to admit that he still calls various directors for work. Because of his qualities, he is liked by people of all age groups.
Manoj Bajpayee dutifully walked the path of method acting laid down by the great late Dilip Saab in Hindi cinema.
Alisha Dutta does a remarkable job in pointing out the growing antipathy of Calcutta’s petty bourgeoisie to the working class (A City Learns to Backpedal, September 6). It is only natural that the traditional means of transport for the working class will be banned on roads like Park Street and Free School Street. As the police officer points out in the story, “VIPs travel on these roads.” By consecrating bits of imperial stone, the Calcutta elite surreptitiously seeks to destroy the livelihoods of thousands of workers. When the present dispensation came to power in the state in 2011, they announced that they wanted to convert Calcutta into London. This ban, first announced in 2014, is a realisation of CM Mamata Banerjee’s plan to further disempower the already reeling proletariat of the city. Dutta’s exposition of this oft-ignored issue is timely and articulate. Significantly, she highlights the fact that even the concept of biking lanes has the potential for exclusivism. The authorities need to frame policies specifically for the creaky, dreary old bicycle, the lifeblood of the Calcutta economy, not the modern, sleek bicycle whose riders often sport colourful helmets. In a city where brazen governmental corruption is accompanied by the increasing disenfranchisement of the ‘petty pleb’, there is little one can really do except voting wisely in the upcoming municipal elections.
Aahir Ghosh, On E-Mail
This refers to First Ask the Students (September 6). With the US-led NATO forces having beaten a hasty retreat from what’s left of Afghanistan, the Taliban recaptured power on the sly, rendering the war-torn country a playing ground for Pakistan, Iran and China, each one trying to extricate the bone they are interested in. While the utmost priority of Pakistan and China would be anti-India operations by ‘cooking terror’ in Afghan ‘kitchens’ with the help of Taliban chefs and Islamic State masterchefs imported from elsewhere, India must take part in the ‘feast’ with great circumspection and diplomatic mettle, and to a great extent, cunning.
George Jacob, Kochi
This refers to your interview with geostrategy expert and former intelligence officer Anand Arni (‘India Shouldn’t Be in a Hurry to Do Business with Taliban’, September 6). A few days after Taliban took control of Kabul, key members of the group issued a statement that they will not do any trade with India. But within days, Taliban changed its mind and expressed keen interest to do trade and business with India through Pakistan. The rider “through Pakistan” has raised doubts about its sincerity. As the move appeared sinister with an ulterior motive, the offer was simply unacceptable to India. Taliban’s top leadership in Doha also said India is an important country and that they want to have friendly relations, thereby hinting that they value India’s contribution in development projects over the past two decades. Even though Taliban’s warm gesture towards India after taking full control of Kabul should be appreciated, India need to adopt a wait-and-watch approach by first studying the pros and cons in depth before arriving at any decision. As resumption of trade ties with Kabul is directly linked to recognition of the Taliban regime, New Delhi cannot take a hasty decision and repent later. It needs to keep a close watch on the situation as it unfolds and then take a conscious decision in the larger interest of the nation.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
This refers to the column Great Wall to Leap Over (August 30) by Michael Kugelman. For China, the void created with the exit of the US from Afghanistan is an attractive prospect, largely because it can give access to an estimated $1 trillion untapped mineral deposits, including metals such as lithium, iron, copper and cobalt. China could focus on investing in infrastructure projects like the Belt Road Initiative or to develop a copper mine in Afghanistan. It could even sign a multibillion-dollar deal with Iran. But it will face an extremely insecure and volatile environment even if it gets Taliban’s support for its projects. History tell us that no single group has ever been in full control of the entire territory of Afghanistan. Can that change now? It’s unlikely.
H.N. Ramakrishna, Bangalore
This refers to Curious Case of Caste Census (September 6). What we need the most is accurate and timely household data. We have not had a proper estimate of poverty in many years, and policies are being based on a rather old database. Improving the existing database is more crucial than a caste census. Poor data hurts efforts to design welfare programmes. If caste is related to deprivation, counting the really deprived is more important than identifying everyone’s caste.
Lal Singh, Amritsar
In Beware of the Victor’s Lies (September 13), Kerala Legislative Assembly speaker M.B. Rajesh’s column on the Malabar rebellion of 1921, it was wrongly mentioned that Variamkunnath Haji, a popular leader of the revolt, declared his vision of Malayala Rajyam in a letter to the editor of The Hindu. In that letter, which is in the public domain, Haji wrote about Hindu-Muslim amity. The error is regretted.
This refers to your cover story on Afghanistan (20 Years Fell Like Nine-Pins, August 30). The ease with which the Taliban fighters were able to run over one city after another and take total control of the landlocked country has startled the whole world. The hasty and undignified exit of the US has thrown the whole region into turmoil. Pakistan seems to be in the driver’s seat and India has every reason to be wary of the developments. Though realpolitik demands the Taliban mellow down from their earlier ferocious avatar to be accepted by all, this is a tall order for an extremist organisation that swears by the Sharia. The ruthlessness that the Taliban had shown at the turn of the century while ruling Afghanistan is fresh in everyone’s mind. Taliban representatives talk of forgiveness and peace, but they could just be trying to fool the international community about their intentions. Meanwhile, the average Afghani lives in dread of the reign of terror waiting to unfold.
Vijai Pant, On E-Mail
The disruption of a legitimate government in Afghanistan by tyrannical forces of the Taliban presents a great challenge to democratic forces, and appears to be a major threat to world peace and stability. This could alter the regional balance of power beyond recognition if timely and appropriate steps are not taken. Atrocities inflicted on women, children, minorities and civil society are a clear testimony of the Taliban’s evil designs. They have moulded Sharia laws to suit their authoritarian regime. Taliban rule is all that 20 years of the US-led ‘War on Terror’ has achieved in Afghanistan. There is need for international consensus to end the undemocratic Taliban regime as a threat to democracy anywhere is a threat to democracy everywhere. If there can be a united front against global terrorism, then this is an opportune moment, but a polarised world with vested interests would never allow this to happen. China, Russia, Pakistan, Iran, Qatar and other countries will enhance their areas of influence by establishing links with the Taliban.
Vijay Adhikari, Nainital
Taliban’s takeover of Kabul and the sudden upheaval the nation is facing even as the world watches helplessly clearly reveals that Afghanistan is headed back to dark days. Panic reigns supreme as Afghans make desperate bids to escape from the heartless Taliban, who are known to rule brutally. The fact that Islamabad has given shelter and supported the Taliban at every stage for so long is the reason why it could survive during its two-decades war with the US forces. Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan endorsed the Taliban the moment it took control of Kabul, revealing that Pakistan supports terror without any remorse. With China also commending the Taliban and expressing its willingness to work with them on a long-term basis, and Russia hinting at talks, there is every possibility that other countries may follow suit to strike deals with the Taliban in future. As the US has frozen Afghanistan’s foreign currency assets and gold, and the IMF has frozen its credit line to the country, Afghanistan is financially in dire straits. Under these circumstances, it is going to be an uphill task for the Taliban to run the country. Now that Afghanistan is left with no option but to tap its mineral resources, China can bankroll the economy in return for mining rights because that serves its long-term business interests. Taliban will be unable to refuse the terms and conditions imposed by China.
Afghanistan has been a graveyard of empires. No wonder the Americans have beaten a hasty retreat, handing the country back to the Taliban. The second coming of the Taliban has been violent, destroying the legitimacy of a lawfully elected government. More than 3 lakh Afghans have been internally displaced in the past three months. Taliban says it will respect women’s rights, but only within the framework of Sharia laws. News of summary executions belie the Taliban leadership’s assertions that they believe in peaceful negotiations in order to form an inclusive government comprising all stakeholders. As negotiation involves sharing power, the Taliban, who believe in monopoly of power, may not be ready for all that it entails. If the Taliban really care for legitimacy, they must first contest democratic elections and win the confidence of the Afghan people. With two warlords in Panjshir valley mounting a challenge to the Taliban takeover, Afghanistan could soon slide into civil war.
Kangayam R. Narasimhan, Chennai
The colourful photograph of the Kalashnikov-toting, smiling Taliban fighter hides the grey, obscure picture of capitalist plunder of the national assets of this war-wrecked country. There would be two sides to any picture truly depicting the reality of Afghanistan: the fundamentalist, obscurantist and irredentist Taliban on the front, and the hypocritical and selfish capitalist West on the back.
Your cover story sent shivers down the spine. The fact that a Taliban takeover was just around the corner was obvious after the Doha meetings, even as the world powers chose to look the other way. However, what puzzles me no end is the way the Afghan forces, reportedly trained by US for decades and equipped with the most lethal weaponry and sophisticated gadgets, threw the towel in the ring at the proverbial drop of the hat. They simply had no stomach for a fight. Such an ignominious capitulation! Reports of the beleaguered president fleeing his distressed motherland, which he had lorded over for so long, with plane-loads of cash, have rendered the situation even more precarious.
Anil Joshi, Ranikhet
This refers to your story on India’s dismal show in shooting and archery at the Olympics in Tokyo (Broken Arrow, August 30). A medal in the Olympics is the ultimate goal that any sportsperson strives for. Consequently, there is tremendous pressure too, and this pressure to perform increases when the participants perform consistently well in other events. This happened with our shooters and archers. They could not soak the pressure and crumbled. As for the lure of the lucre being the driving force for governing bodies and coaches, these too must have diverted the focus of putting the nation first while having their proteges take part in international events like the Olympics.
Kamna Chhabra, Gurgaon