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This refers to your cover package on one year of Galwan (China Gate, June 21), especially the column by Lt Gen (retd) Subrata Saha (Plateau of Bad Faith). The fatal skirmishes a year ago in Galwan valley can be called a watershed moment in Sino-Indian ties. The army build-up to match China in the higher altitudes of eastern Ladakh, the swift occupation of heights to get the necessary bargaining chips in de-escalation talks and economic repercussions of Beijing’s transgressions—all pointed to an unexpected resoluteness from New Delhi, which is no longer willing to ignore PLA’s tactics just to keep the dragon in good humour. While troops on both sides have backed down from their earlier positions, it isn’t clear how things stand now. History proves that Beijing cannot be trusted. With its military and economic clout, China harbours the ambition to become a superpower by dethroning the US. While alliances like QUAD are important, there is only one way to check the belligerence of China in the long term, and that is to make the Indian economy do the talking.
Vijai Pant, On E-Mail
This refers to your cover story on Uttar Pradesh (Road to Delhi Starts from UP, June 14). It is true that assembly elections in UP are very important for the BJP and the party cannot afford to lose. In fact, the UP polls in 2022 will be the semi-finals for the 2024 parliamentary elections as this is the state that sends the most number of MPs to the Lok Sabha. The saffron party’s victories in the 2014 and 2019 general elections were also due to the fact that it won a large number of seats from UP. Chief minister Yogi Adityanath has a good track record. He is an able administrator and has done a lot to develop the state’s economy. However, handling the Covid pandemic has been a challenge for Yogi and he is already facing a lot of flak. Farmers’ protests against the new farm laws, especially in western UP, is another big challenge for him. What’s in his favour is the fact that the Opposition may not be able to mount a united fight against him. So the BJP has the advantage at the moment. In politics, however, the situation can change very rapidly. In the past, UP has thrown up many surprises and 2022 too may bring something unexpected.
D.B. Madan, New Delhi
By sending the highest number of people’s representatives to Parliament, UP has always set the template for general elections. It’s mammoth size and geographical location at the centre of the Hindu heartland, with ripple effects on adjoining states like Bihar, make assembly elections here ‘the mother of all battles’. The UP chief minister has, by now, effortlessly combined his image of Hindutva poster boy with his no-nonsense approach to administration. A slew of welfare measures, a host of development projects and an unrelenting crackdown on people of dubious antecedents have bolstered the image of the firebrand Yogi. And to make things easy for him, a somnolent Opposition has failed to capitalise on his government’s missteps, so much so that even the government’s visible disarray and consequent mounting deaths in the second wave of the pandemic have been given a go by. Realising that the pandemic has left behind unforgiving scars, the Yogi government is more than making up for its earlier tardiness. The ‘love me or hate me’ monk is in election mode and, looking at how things stand, Delhi does not seem too far away.
P. Veejay, On E-Mail
This refers to your story on the Opposition in UP (Safely Cornered Out There, June 14). Are the results of the panchayat elections in UP a premonition of things to come in the assembly elections early next year? Matters have been made worse for the ruling party by its bunglings in dealing with the second wave of the pandemic. No matter how the chief minister defends it, bodies floating in the rivers are some of those unseemly images that will remain etched in people’s memories for long. Add to it the simmering anger of farmers and the bumping off of gangster Vikas Dubey lest he spilled the beans, and the BJP appears beatable, after all. The only catch is that the opposition parties have all gone on leave. Thus, as in the Centre, the TINA (there is no alternative) factor will save the day for the saffron party.
Kamna Chhabra, Gurgaon
This refers to your story on the BJP’s post-election situation in West Bengal (Didi Blows a Cyclone to Delhi, June 14). The way the fight between PM Narendra Modi and CM Mamata Banerjee reached a crescendo at a time when the state is faced with a catastrophe is a consequence of the ego clash between two leaders who seem to have no belief in mutual understanding and civil dialogue. The extreme approach taken by both after the assembly polls is a clear revelation that settling personal scores rather than governance is the priority. Though the Bengal loss has put Modi and Amit Shah on the back foot, the episode of Mamata and her chief secretary keeping the prime minister waiting at the Cyclone Yaas review meeting and then skipping it on flimsy reasons was not only in bad taste, but also shows that tensions have not cooled down even a bit. Meanwhile, rumblings have started in the BJP camp with a few state leaders coming out boldly to question the top party leadership over training guns at Mamata, which can only further imperil Centre-state relations, instead of analysing their defeat and taking steps to rectify their mistakes. At the same time, Mamata seems to have made up her mind to kep defying the Centre. When she asked all Opposition chief ministers to raise their voice without fear against the “autocratic Centre”, she should have thought about how autocratic her own rule in Bengal has been. Both Modi and Mamata need to go the extra mile to patch up their differences instead of crossing swords on every issue, which will ultimately only add to the state’s misery.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
This refers to Livin’ in Tulsa Time in Foreign Hand (June 14). Though Abraham Lincoln legally abolished the institution of slave trade way back in the 19th century, the racial terror of Whites against Blacks and the brutal police murder of George Floyd last year was one of the more recent results of that historic legacy. The history of America’s wealth and power is based on the merciless exploitation of Blacks by Whites. It is in this context that the positive humanitarian message of US President Joe Biden’s Tulsa visit should be understood.
M.N. Bhartiya, Alto-Porvorim (Goa)
This refers to your cover story on India’s Covid vaccination programme The Wandering Needle (June 7). As vaccination is the key means to tackle the country’s worst health crisis in a century, this government’s vaccination policy speaks volumes of its lack of vision. Faced with a massive shortage of vaccines, the ruling party and its supporters first ridiculed Rahul Gandhi’s suggestion to import the doses and accused him of being an agent of foreign companies. And then the government ordered the import of the Sputnik vaccine from Russia. Moreover, when the jabs failed to do their job, first a six-week gap was recommended between two shots, but when the government failed to supply enough doses, the gap was extended to 12 weeks. Even opening vaccination to everyone above 18 years of age was a populist measure that was announced without taking supplies and infrastructure ino account. Little wonder, then, with a minuscule section of the population having got both shots, more and more people are dying while the government plays games with data.
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
There is a surfeit of vaccine-related information in metropolitan cities, while the goings-on in places away from the media glare remain unreported. Kudos to the Outlook team for bringing back stories of the unsung heroes who carry vaccine boxes to far-flung, inaccessible areas. At times, the persuasion undertaken by the relatively unknown vaccination teams, leading by example, to convince people to take the jab also reveals their commitment to the cause. The way the boxes are ferried using multiple means of transportation gives an indication of the enormity of the task. The story was an engrossing read, showing grit, determination and unflinching devotion towards humanity at a time when these qualities are most needed.
With no thought given to the anticipated second wave of the pandemic, we played the good samaritan by taking the lead in supplying vaccines to the world under our ‘Vaccine Maitri’ initiative. Now the ‘pharmacy of the world’ is looking at an ever-widening gap between supply and demand of Covid vaccines. In a panic mode, the government has opened vaccination for everyone above 18, but, like scoring a self-goal, has left the states to fend for themselves. Consequently, there is utter confusion with regard to getting the jabs. The Centre has virtually abdicated its responsibility in the matter, with curfews and lockdowns giving the beleaguered people some respite from the pandemic.
Vipul Pandey, Nainital
The vaccination programme of the central government for the 18-44 group is defective. The Centre should have procured the vaccines from manufacturers and delivered to the state governments. The new policy has made state governments compete with each others for supply of vaccines. Moreover, foreign suppliers like Moderna and Pfizer have declined to deal with the state governments. Many states governments have shut down vaccination centres for the 18-44 group. India has already missed an opportunity of vaccinating a large number of people. The central government says 2 billion doses will be available by December, but that is a mere projection. Until then, vaccine shortage is a certainty. Also, by December, the third wave of the pandemic would have hit us, causing more damage than the second one.
This refers to your special issue on Satyajit Ray (The ‘Normal’ Lens, May 31). It was an impressive effort to pay a fitting tribute to the legendary icon of Indian cinema on his 100th birth anniversary. His unique style left an indelible imprint on the minds of movie-goers not just in India, but also the world over. In fact, he was one of the pioneers who made significant departures from traditional formula-based commercial cinema and evolved a new style of realistic film-making. A rare combination of the traditional spirit and the modern mind remained the hallmark of his films. Ray’s films set him apart from others who went beyond the box office. Akira Kurosawa summed up the true character of the genius when he said: “Not to have seen the cinema of Ray means existing in the world without seeing the sun or the moon.”
Vijay Singh Adhikari, Nainital
This refers to your Poliglot item The Peeculiar Corona Ark (June 7). Surely, households battling coronavirus in the city of Bhopal have not bought into the “magical remedy’ championed by their honourable MP. In a nutshell, this is the tragedy of India where science, in order to march ahead, also has to fight the peddling of misinformation on ‘cures for all afflictions’. If the country has to be free from disease, poverty and superstition, then the only way is promotion of science. We are unfortunately mixing up anecdotal remedies, fables and myths, and passing it off as science. India should invest more in strengthening its base of science and technology.
H.N. Ramakrishna, Bangalore
This refers to your Poliglot item Bye Bye Big Boss (May 31). Kamal Haasan is a self-made intellectual. He speaks Tamil in a manner that is hard to follow. Many of his films are difficult to understand at first viewing. He is wont to interfere in the director’s domain when he plays the role of a hero. As Kamal continued in the same vein in politics too, it is not surprising that many top functionaries of his party have walked out on him citing lack of democracy in the party and its poor showing in the assembly election. Leaders deserting fledgling parties, however, is not an uncommon phenomenon. They are just opportunists looking for a shortcut to becoming MLAs. The biggest blunder Kamal made was to rely more on cash-rich sponsors than on his adoring fans. It is not the end of the road, though, for a talented politician like him. Rome was not built in a day. He must pursue politics, not as part-time vocation, but as full-time preoccupation, and soldier on.
Kangayam R. Narasimhan, Chennai
Your story Cuisine Egalite (June 7) focuses on a special problem faced by the elderly living alone, and talks of an empathetic solution. The breaking up of the joint family system, with offspring pursuing careers at far-off places away from their parents, has created a need for regular supply of well-cooked food for the nourishment and contentment of senior citizens living alone or with their spouses in urban areas where every home is an island in a concrete jungle. Shopping and cooking are off their routine for lack of mobility and energy. A few lucky ones get good domestic help on a part-time basis. The oily, spicy, high-calorie food home-delivered by restaurants cannot be consumed regularly and is not good for digestion. Home chefs, who cook hygienically and supply wholesome food in personalised tiffin style, fill up this vacuum. The assurance that their food is blended with the spice of love becomes the best tonic in old age.
This refers to Ray of Hope, the column by renowned actress Sharmila Tagore in your cover story package on Satyajit Ray (Reflections: Satyajit Ray@100, May 31). In the labyrinth of hopelessness today, the legendary film-maker Satyajit Ray, who was also a writer, cinematographer and musician, is indeed a ray of hope. He spread humanity, vision and a dream through his films, be it the famous Pather Panchali, Charulata, Ghare-Baire, Mahanagar, or even the TV series Sadgati. There was indeed light at the end of the tunnel, and it came from the rays that Ray spread. Wish he was spreading those rays now, when there is nothing but darkness in India.
This refers to Ray of Hope by Sharmila Tagore. I agree with her that it is wonderful to read about the truly versatile Satyajit Ray in his birth centenary year, a refreshing change amidst the gloom and doom of the pandemic. Ray was a man who could conjure real-life characters, people we could easily relate to. It was made possible due to his deep understanding of the transformations in society, with his intense imagination bringing the world alive on celluloid. Those were the times when films were made not with the box office in mind, but to show the mirror to society. And to do this, here was a man who could wear different hats with ease, without compromising on his class. His oeuvre covers different genres with Ray’s indelible stamp on each.
This refers to your cover story on the central government’s handling of the Covid pandemic (Missing, May 24). What is missing, in fact, is Outlook’s much-esteemed balance and objectivity. Covid is an entirely new challenge to the health infrastructure of not only developing countries, but also of developed ones. The loud protestations by a section of the media that India has the highest number of infections, that beds are not available in hospitals, that patients die due to lack of oxygen etc are overdone. The one factor that distinguishes India’s Covid management from other countries is its huge population. The virus is chameleon-like in its mutations and attempts by experts to predict their true behaviour have been largely futile. Be that as it may, India developed two indigenous vaccines in nine months, which has been administered to crores of people. The Covid curve is flattening in many states due to the Herculean efforts put in by both the central and the state governments. The best option available to naysayers is to extend their cooperation, sympathy and support to their own government that is burning its midnight oil to contain the pandemic.
Is this not political malice? The Complete Covid Chargesheet by the learned Shashi Tharoor misses the fact that our prime minister is working day and night to support the state governments in Covid management. It is there for all to see. A scholar like Tharoor should stop blaming the prime minister unnecessarily, and simply focus on his passion for writing fiction and non-fiction.The charges against the government that it left citizens to fend for themselves are completely bogus. The central government has structured a well-designed programme for fighting this Covid menace and the end results are very exciting. This type of chargesheet war is not proper in this most alarming period. The need of the hour is long-term vision and concrete solutions to fight the pandemic, and the government is not leaving any stone unturned to end this great global menace.
Ashok Sharma, Patna
The Narendra Modi government surely has to take the blame in totality, even though the state governments too have to take the onus of providing speedy relief to the masses, especially the rural population that is not even fully aware of the magnitude of the pandemic. The BJP has so many members in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. Quite a few of them hold ministerial positions. They should all go to their constituencies and coordinate with local municipal councillors, corporators and MLAs in ensuring that there is proper execution of plans to combat the pandemic. These elected representatives should bear in mind that they have to face the voters soon.
Rangarajan T.S., Bangalore
To its credit, the BJP has shown the propriety to forgo grand celebrations of the seventh anniversary of its assumption of power with Narendra Modi at the helm at this time of the pandemic. Now the party has reason to be in a pensive mood and ruminate over the cumulative effect of the Modi government’s acts of commission and omission on the lives of people and the resultant erosion in its popular support. There were great expectations when the party rode to power in 2014. Many people took Modi at his word when he promised ‘vikas’ (progress) and ‘acchhe din’ (good days). They even fondly believed that he would transform India into the land of milk and honey. But the seven years of his reign saw expectations waning and disillusionment waxing. His government’s policies have caused severe economic distress and manufactured social strife. The country would have been better without demonetisation, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the new farm laws.
It is axiomatic that leadership matters in a crisis situation. The Covid crisis has come as a real test of Modi’s mettle. Even his ardent supporters would hesitate to claim that Modi has risen to the task of mounting a robust response to the pandemic. The failure of leadership to combat Covid as it should be by a leader worth his salt is manifest in the exacerbation of the scourge and concomitant suffering. Modi kept himself aloof from the people in a time of great distress. He was seen feeding pigeons and peacocks in the salubrious lawns of his residence when migrant workers were desperately trudging on the national highways to prolong their survival. His leadership has come into question in the wake of oxygen and vaccine shortages. Now the attempt to pass the buck to state governments is an admission of his helplessness. His inadequacies as a leader have left the country in a morass and his cultivated larger-than-life image in tatters. Support for him is fraying at the edges. The absence of a more capable leader as prime minister is now widely felt.
G. David Milton, Maruthancode (Tamil Nadu)
This refers to Poison Dart from a Sting (May 31), your story on how the “Narada scam rolls on like a train wreck”. When the Narada sting entrapped a few Trinamool leaders, Mamata Banerjee alleged it was a smear scam and vendetta-driven politics of persecution. An FIR was registered by the CBI in 2017 against 12 persons for criminal conspiracy, and four Trinamool leaders were arrested in 2021. The CBI special court granted them bail, but the Calcutta High Court stayed it and converted it into house-arrest. The CBI preferred an appeal in the Supreme Court and, finding the atmosphere not favourable, withdrew it later. This shows how our criminal justice system, instead of holding anyone accountable, drags on whimsically by fits and starts as per the political strategies of those in power. Raking up the pending investigation just when the Trinamool-led Bengal government is at the threshold of a new term—despite Modi making the assembly polls a matter of personal prestige—is meant to divert public attention from the mess that is the Centre’s Covid management, besides diminishing Mamata’s crowning victory. No action against anyone who deserted the Trinamool before the elections speaks of the CBI’s partisanship.
Ruben Banerjee’s editorial introduction (Twice Orphaned) to your cover story The Empire of Cruelty (May 24) may not rub off on the Narendra Modi regime, but your readers welcome it as a sort of open letter to the PM.
R.M.S. Kannan, On E-Mail
This refers to The Complete Covid Chargesheet by Shashi Tharoor, who voices the disappointment of commoners regarding the manner in which the Centre has been tackling the Covid crisis. True to its working style, the BJP is trying to wrest back the narrative, this time not from the Opposition, but from the suffering masses. Despite the resources at the saffron party’s command, this won’t be easy—the countless many who have lost their near and dear ones to Covid won’t easily forget the bunglings of the hubristic leadership at the Centre. When it comes to life and death, public memory doesn’t get easily erased.
Vijai Pant, On E-Mail
The truth about the mismanagement of the pandemic by “the PM who cares” is obviously the theme of your cover story, duly supported with facts and figures. The only exceptions are the “super-truths” articulated by Vijay Chauthaiwale (The People’s Prime Minister) in defence of the regime. There is hardly anybody left whose sensitivities were left unhurt by Covid and Ruben Banerjee’s pain in Twice Orphaned would resonate with many. True, it’s easy to hurl the sharpest criticism at the ruling dispensation when the pandemic is at its peak and causing unimaginable devastation, but that doesn’t mean the criticism is undeserved. When the magnitude of the human tragedy in the offing had become clear, those in power should have taken all their critics, the Opposition and experts into confidence for jointly planning a comprehensive response to the pandemic’s second wave. It is never too late to correct the course of horrible blunders that led to unpardonable shortages and black-marketing of oxygen, hospital beds and vaccines, which made people to die like flies. An honest apology to the people and seeking everyone’s open-hearted cooperation can still salvage the reputation of those responsible for the untold miseries of the faceless multitudes.
M.N. Bhartiya, Alto-Porvorim (Goa)
Yes, this is indeed an “empire of cruelty”, presided over by somebody who once roared in an election rally in UP: “If every village has a kabristaan (graveyard), shouldn’t there be a shamshaan (cremation ground)?” The people clapped. The vision has been realised now with corpses flowing down the holy Ganga and the sheer scale of Covid deaths erasing lines separating shamshaan from kabristaan. Meanwhile, loyalists and subordinates are busy undercounting the dead, to hide the extent of this empire. We, the people, have nothing to complain about as we have finally got what we deserved.
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
This refers to Shashi Tharoor’s The Complete Covid Chargesheet against the government. Clearly, for our government, it has been politics over pandemic. Its shortsightedness, hubris, poor planning and poorer strategy in dealing with this colossal tragedy is for all of us to see and suffer. However, the chargesheet falls short on two points. One is on the role of the Opposition—its inability to measure up to this extraordinary situation, its utter vacuity and lack of purpose. Even though the country is facing its worst disaster, the Opposition lies in stupor—vanquished, without a vision or a plan. The second failure is ours—we, the people, who not only flout rules, but also take pride in doing so. An adversary as potent as the virus can’t be fought by a nation that prioritises ceremony over calamity. So we are in it together and the chargesheet needs to include us all for abdicating our collective responsibility, and the Opposition, in particular, for being in perpetual hibernation. That probably would complete the chargesheet. No doubt, the buck must stop at the government, for the leadership owes us the final answer on why things went so horribly wrong.
Sangeeta Kampani, New Delhi
After it handled the first wave of Covid in a fair and just manner, it was expected that the Centre would not rest until we overcome the pandemic. However, it chose to bask in the glow of its success and failed to take cognisance of warnings from experts, who pointed out as far back as December last year that the pandemic’s second wave would be more severe. This shows that we are high on slogans, but poor in learning to rectify our mistakes. The way the Centre conducted itself reveals the deep rot that has set in. The crumbling of medical infrastructure due to lack of oxygen, beds, critical care medicines and facilities, and, above all, shortage of vaccination is due to the Centre utterly miscalculating the extent of the calamity and then failing to take corrective steps on a war-footing. All it needs to do now is to take all stakeholders into confidence for framing an effective long-term policy response that combines best practices for overcoming all the shortcomings and pitfalls.