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This refers to the cover story Dragon At The Door (June 29). With the PLA having made inroads deep into the disputed areas along the LAC, the Indian army faces a formidable challenge. Restoring the status quo would test the Indian government’s negotiation skills. The muscular nationalism that the BJP swears by is at stake. The brutal killings of 20 soldiers have pushed Modi into a corner—some retaliation alone can save his image of a strong, decisive leader. Comparisons with Pakistan are obvious, but Modi knows that China is no Pakistan. The pros and cons will have to be weighed carefully before the next move. The blame for this situation rests with the Indian government. There were reports of China intruding into Ladakh since March, but there was no urgency to deal with the matter. The recent bloody fracas has led both countries to harden their positions, so chances of escalation cannot be ruled out.
Vijai Pant, On E-Mail
India has always tried to be accommodative and friendly with China, while China has been belligerent. The story goes back to the great betrayal of 1962. In light of the violent clashes between Indian and Chinese soldiers in Ladakh, India extending undeserved hospitality to Xi Jinping in 2014 seems foolish. Besides claiming Indian territories, China has been supporting Pakistan. It has also emboldened Nepal, an old friend of India, to stake claim on Indian territory. Tension-free relations with an expansionist China is just wishful thinking—New Delhi must be practical. India’s China policy and ties with Taiwan need to be reset. Strategic support for the ongoing movements in Tibet and Hong Kong against Beijing is another option.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
The boycott of China-made goods may not hurt for now, but India needs to become self-reliant regardless. Many nations are taking similar actions as they do not want to be dependent on China. Some are ensuring that their supply chains are more diversified. If India has to protect its indigenous industries and jobs, it has to take a pragmatic stand by imposing duties on Chinese imports, just as Trump did. Trade is a powerful instrument. Global Times, the voice of the Chinese Communist Party, is alarmed at the rising calls for a boycott. India is a big market. It should weaponise trade as China often does. With the pandemic, the world’s backlash against China is picking up momentum.
H.N. Ramakrishna, Bangalore
Routine Chinese transgressions into Indian territory were a premeditated act. China’s devious way of skirting the agreement of no firearms by using barbed wire and rods was barbaric. It thinks that by aggressively pursuing military options and passively pursuing economic interests through state-sponsored companies, it might become powerful. But it is mistaken. The world is slowly but surely recognising its misguided plans. India must respond both with short- and long-term strategies to counter their plans.
Ashok Goswami, Mumbai
China’s strategy is to periodically annex small portions of Indian territory through stealth and deceit. Now, in the guise of doing military exercises in the Tibetan plateau, it has intruded into eastern Ladakh. In its eagerness to please China, India lacked the will to question the transgressions and relied merely on diplomacy. It is also intriguing that both Ajit Doval and Bipin Rawat are keeping a low profile at this critical hour. However, India’s military capabilities have grown manifold over the past decades and China must pay now for the martyrdom of 20 Indian soldiers. Besides boycotting Chinese goods and cancelling major business contracts, India must upgrade its diplomatic ties with Taiwan. The LAC is 3,448km long and it is uncertain where the Chinese will intrude next. So, to counter more incursions across international borders in Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, India must intensify patrolling in these areas.
R. Narasimhan, Chennai Kangayam
This refers to The Trunk Call Is An SOS (June 15). Just about everybody partook in the furore over the inadvertent killing of a pregnant elephant in Kerala. However, most of them turn a blind eye to the horrendous plight of emaciated street animals. During the lockdown, thousands of cattle were abandoned, unfed and uncared for. But in a country where we forced lakhs of people to walk back home without food or water, what else can we expect? As for wild animals, stringent laws alone cannot provide succour to them when we keep destroying their habitats for mining and industries.
M. Haseen Ahmed, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
This refers to Small Scale, Mega Mess (June 15). The lockdown has been a double whammy for MSMEs. Their working capital has been wiped out and workers have left at a time when businesses are reopening. When they should have gone home, they were forced to stay put and when the nation started opening, they were allowed to go back. The government’s stimulus package seems good, but whether it will reach MSMEs is the question. Unless the government ensures proper delivery and implementation, chances are that MSMEs may not be able to turn around.
Mumbai Bholey Bhardwaj
Bravo Salik Ahmad! The column on the web Dear Editor, I Disagree With Your ‘Both-Sides’ Journalism (June 17) is on point. For some time now, I have been wondering whether it’s the same Outlook magazine of Vinod Mehta that I used to read. In the name of ‘both-sides’ journalism, inveterate liars have been peddling their hate-filled propaganda on the magazine’s pages.
Bhaskar P., Bangalore
Surviving in Bollywood requires more than talent, especially for those who are outsiders like Sushant Singh Rajput (No One’s Godson, June 29). A master of his craft, he portrayed sensitive characters in reel life. In real life, unfortunately, Bollywood demands a thick skin to successfully negotiate the ups and downs of one’s career. Sushant wasn’t that type. He was a deep thinker, a loner away from the petty politicking of the film industry. Despite his acting skills, new projects were hard to come by, pushing him into depression. The film industry, instead of understanding his predicament, showed its callousness with unforgiving crass remarks against the actor.
Kamna Chhabra, Gurgaon
This refers to the special issue COVID-19: All We Know, All We Don’t (June 22). The contention that the lockdown averted greater mortality is not convincing. The declaration of the complete lockdown with four hours notice on March 24 was the Centre’s unilateral decision—chief ministers and Opposition parties were not consulted and its impact was not considered. It was a shock for the nation, just like demonetisation. The matter could have been handled in a more democratic manner. There should have been consultations with all stakeholders. Stranded people should have been given a chance to reach their destinations. The Opposition and experts should have got an opportunity to make suggestions. After all, the sky was not falling. Arranging speedy tests on a war footing should have been given the top priority in the first stage of contagion. If these measures were taken, the honest, hardworking masses, nicknamed ‘migrants’, would have suffered less. The whole issue was dealt with in a shoddy manner. Our rulers wrought huge human and economic losses to flatter their egos.
M.N. Bhartiya, Goa
Dancing Plums Excerpts of a letter Norman Maclean wrote to an editor at Alfred A. Knopf. In 1975, the publisher had accepted his manuscript, only to later reject it. In 1981, when the editor expressed interest in his forthcoming book, Maclean wrote this response.
Your special issue on COVID-19 (All We Know. All We Don’t, June 22) is comprehensive, but did little to clear the air about how to deal with the pandemic. Stories like Does India not have a milder epidemic? and Asymptomatics: Can they infect? left the questions unanswered. Agreed that the virus is still in the process of unravelling itself—it is not following a fixed pattern across the world and there are many unknowns—but busting the growing myths associated with the disease that cause unreasonable fear and panic would have served us better, rather than knowing about the presence of zillions of viruses on earth. Eventually, the issue didn’t turn out to be the informative and exciting read that the cover promised.
This refers to the cover story Can Indian Become China 2.0? (June 15). It is merely a fantasy to think of India as the China of the post-COVID-19 world. Despite the reduction in trade deficit with China by $10 billion to $53 billion in 2018-19, it remains high. Even the Sardar Patel statue was made in China. It spends 2.19 per cent of its GDP on R&D, whereas India spends a meagre 0.85 per cent! This reflects in their institutions. China has about 2,000 universities, out of which eight are listed among the world’s top 200, whereas India has 836 universities and none of those found a place in the prestigious list. On top of that, this government is determined to destroy India’s best: JNU. Transnational companies go to countries with greater ease of doing business, not where hate, animosity and mayhem are the order of the day. This reflects on the silken streets of India, where millions of tired, wounded and frustrated souls are limping back to their villages. Such a shameful spectacle was not visible in China!
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
China’s disastrous incursions into Indian territory were imminent. These prove that it cannot be trusted. Now that Chinese bellicosity has come out in the open, we cannot rely on peace talks to improve our relationship. China might be superior in military strength, but India is also strong. It could not force India into submission and was surprised at the quick mobilisation of troops along the LAC. However, both countries must realise that we need each other—neither can afford friction. No one wants wars, which are extremely destructive. Both countries should take immediate steps to end the conflict.
Ramani Subramaniam, Navi Mumbai
This refers to your snippet on Corona Devi (Worship Goes Viral, Mixed Shots, June 22). It was fun reading about the new goddess in Bihar. Today, amid the gloom and challenges that we face, daily routines, companionship and gossip—all those immeasurable things that make life interesting—have gone for a six, causing anxiety. Temple visits are not just to appease gods. It is a wholesome package of worship, social contact, tasty treats—a pleasant excursion before one returns to the drudgeries of life. I wish these devotees well on their visit to their new deity. I hope Corona Devi will provide succour to them and keep them sane.
Abhimanyu K., New Delhi
I think it was from the March 16 issue onwards that COVID-19 began appearing on the cover of Outlook. A lot has been said about the disease during these three months. Now, a study of the Indian Council of Medical Research suggests that the lockdown shifted the peak of the pandemic by an estimated 34 to 76 days, which might now be in mid-November.
I have a complaint regarding the Letters section. You first slashed it by half—from four pages to two—and with your editorial obstinacy, refused to accommodate the request of readers to revert to the old page count. Outlook was a magazine where I never had to worry about the size of my letters. I felt free to express my view in as many words I wanted and the letters were published. Those days, however, are gone. Many letters are now pruned drastically and are often not published. The column has lost its sheen after the unimpressive redesign last year. From the Daak Room has further eaten up the space. The old letters featured in Daak Room may have archival value, but they must be published separately. The long letter written in 1918 by a man in Plymouth, USA, during the Spanish flu has consumed about half a page in the June 22 issue. So many topical letters could have been accommodated instead of that!
This refers to your write-up on Basu Chatterjee (Middling Perfection, June 22). Indeed, nobody celebrated the middle class—its overseers and office clerks, its primary teachers and supervisors, its scores of ordinary folk and their uncomplicated joys—like Basu Chatterjee did. He was a master of middle-class minutiae and his movies had none of the staleness or tropes of regular Bollywood fare. That was a time in cinema when stories would revolve around either ‘Paatal Lok’ or ‘Swarg Lok’. It goes to Basu da’s credit that he brought in people from ‘Dharti Lok’ with their first rush of love, their first raise, their tight budgets and all those consequential and inconsequential moments that lend colour and gravitas to life. He truly was a raconteur for the common person, depicting them beyond black and white. RIP Basu da!
Sangeeta Kampani, New Delhi
This refers to Balloting A Pandemic (June 22). The Bihar elections will be the first democratic exercise after the pandemic. The COVID-19 scare could see the implementation of many precautionary measures that could disrupt campaigning. With spectacular showmanship difficult to achieve due to the restrictions, poll expenditure could be drastically reduced. This could give rise to a level playing field and offset the advantages of parties with overflowing coffers. It would be interesting to see if caste arithmetic still play a dominant role in the selection and victory of candidates. All in all, the elections will be interesting to follow.
Kamna Chhabra, Gurgaon
Translated excerpts of a letter Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, wrote to her first husband’s brother six hours before her beheading. Her first cousin, Elizabeth I, Queen of England from 1558-1603, had her executed.
This refers to your cover story COVID-19: All We Know, All We Don’t (June 22). Did the lockdown work? That is a million-dollar question. It was supposed to slow down and eventually stop the spread of the disease and give the government time to bolster healthcare services. Some might say that without the lockdown, there might have been millions of cases instead of the three lakh or so right now. However, the answer is that the government has failed on both counts. It hoped that by locking people, cases would be confined, but it did not take any proactive action alongside. It failed to ramp up testing, which is a vital tool to stop the spread of the pandemic. But in the first 45 days, the number of tests did not touch even a lakh. Many people who had symptoms were advised to remain at home, but neither they nor their family members were tested. This was a grave error. The US has conducted almost eight million tests, while India’s figures remain dismal. Our broken healthcare system remains a hindrance. We spurned the opportunity to contain the virus during the lockdown and still seem to rely more on divine intervention rather than strategic planning.
The Black Death of 1347, in which a third of Europe’s population perished, is a grim reminder of the upheavals that turned highly stratified medieval society upside down, adversely affecting the fortunes of Europe’s wealthy landowners. The novel coronavirus could become a game changer too. The post-liberalisation period saw market-driven reforms, but the poor remained largely invisible. Even the media and mainstream cinema catered to the upwardly mobile urban middle class. As the pandemic deepens the economic crisis, the value of migrant labourers’ work and their indispensability is dawning upon us. As economic activities resume, their services are required to boost the economy. So, immediate succour and monetary benefits are the need of the hour to win their trust and support, Otherwise, who knows what chaos will follow?
Vijay Adhikari, Nainital
Company Call Letter from Emily Eden (1797-1869) to a friend. She was an English poet and novelist who wrote an account of her travels in India.