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This refers to your cover story The Economy and the Virus (April 6). Our governance model provides for decision-making at the Union level, but the burden of policy execution falls upon states, as healthcare, sanitation, agriculture and public utilities are state subjects. Thus, fiscal federalism, decentralised governance and flexibility to states to meet their needs should be part of the fight against the virus, including coping with the lockdown and managing the economy’s recovery. The Centre must support state governments to ensure that farmers receive a fair price and are able to move their products, especially perishables, to markets. We must realise that the much-neglected panchayat and local officials are key nodes in keeping track of possible cases and the creation of quarantining infrastructure. The success of the lockdown strategy is premised on an unprecedentedly vigorous building up of health infrastructure to fight the pandemic. The commitment by the Centre to infuse an extra Rs 15,000 crore in public healthcare is a step in the right direction.
Deepak Kohli, Lucknow
The pandemic is taking its toll on livelihoods in the informal sector. Staying back in such circumstances and bearing the expenses for rent and food is not a viable option for many. Migrants feel the pinch and they are waiting for an escape route to their native place. But it is not so easy with a lockdown in all states. Besides, alerts have been out for possible large-scale return of migrant workers to their native places—one such warning, for example, was recorded in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district about ‘returnees’ from Kerala.
Gundu K. Maniam, Mumbai
Coronavirus is a single-strand, positive-RNA virus. It has crown-like spikes protruding from its surface resembling the sun’s corona. The spikes affect the way a virus binds to the host cell and infects it. Once inside the host, the virus conjoins with ACE2 receptors, where it creates spikes to interact with the receptor and goes on to use the cell as ‘factory’ for reproduction and propagation. The replication and shedding of the virus in cases where the immune system is unable to prevail over the viral load result in severe acute respiratory syndrome and deprivation of oxygen. While lockdowns help in containment of the spread of the virus, testing, identifying, isolating, tracking and tracing contacts are crucial to ‘extinguishing’ the pandemic. Till scientists succeed in developing vaccines and drugs to save us from the scourge (for which they are burning the midnight oil), we are left with little option but to continue to take precautionary measures.
G. David Milton, Kanyakumari
In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, any initiative to fight the disease is a vibrant step forward. Sharing vital information through reliable sources is one such initiative. At this time, it is important that all political parties come under one umbrella in this fight towards saving humankind. It is the time for action, not criticism. The best ‘medicine’, however, to counter the threat is awareness, remaining calm and staying away from crowds. While governments across the world are taking initiatives to curb the pandemic, it is the responsibility of every individual to be aware of their social commitment. It is not the time for outings; instead, stay indoors to reduce chances of exposure.
Ramachandran Nair, Muscat
The cover story on Kanhaiya (Kunwar Kamunist, March 23) couldn’t have come at a better time. I am fed up seeing politicians and celebrities on the cover day in and day out; Kanhaiya felt like a whiff of fresh air. One may or not agree with his anarchic approach or whimsical ways, but the lad has the confidence and courage to speak his mind. He has a good grasp of the country’s political scenario and his public declamations, even if at times bordering on the comical, do make plenty of sense. His popularity may not win him elections, but we do need the likes of him to keep frontline parties and leaders on their toes. May his tribe increase.
Anil K. Joshi, Almora
Kejriwal granting permission to prosecute Kanhaiya only reinforces the dictum, ‘in politics, there are no permanent friends or foes’. The Delhi CM is coming of age as a politician and Kanhaiya is no longer useful to those who sided with him or a threat to his opponents. Kejriwal distancing himself from Kanhaiya after his victory was a strategic move to strike a balance between left- and right-wing ideologies. Moreover, he is becoming more friendly with the Centre and dropping his earlier confrontational stance. As for Kanhaiya, it is just the beginning of a long, excruciating journey. How far he succeeds in establishing himself as a prominent leader and providing a new outlook to politics would be interesting to see in the years to come.
Jaideep Mittra, Varanasi
This refers to Royal Shift Ruffles The Middle Kingdom (March 23). Scindia’s departure has dealt the grand old party a big blow. Congress is totally cut off from the people and appears to be interested only in waging Twitter wars. Unless citizens close ranks and find alternative ways to assert their rights, the tentacles of authoritarianism are bound to tighten. Congress has to regain its past prestige if it wants to be in the running in future elections. If not, regional parties will become the principal Opposition.
C.K. Subramaniam, Navi Mumbai
Dynastic succession has been Congress’s obsession since Independence. It is not surprising, therefore, that a young, ambitious functionary like Jyotiraditya Scindia felt neglected. The scion of the Gwalior royal family who worked hard to install a Congress government in Madhya Pradesh felt suffocated when the post of chief minister or state party president eluded him. And the last straw was when Priyanka Gandhi, a dynast, was chosen over him for Rajya Sabha. BJP is a party where a dynastic tag is not required to occupy top posts like party president or prime minister. It is certainly time for the Congress to sit up and take notice. Not for nothing had the world’s first sociologist Ibn Khaldun said that dynasties rise, beget kingdoms and they decay like all created things.
K.R. Narasimhan, Chennai
This refers to The Sleep Is Showing, Your Honour (March 30). The alacrity with which Justice Gogoi was rewarded with a Rajya Sabha nomination shows that all is not well with our judiciary. Only sometime back, he had rooted for a fiercely independent judiciary, but in his acceptance of this offer, he has ironically silenced his own voice. His slip is akin to the king in Henry V, of whom Shakespeare says: “I think the King is but a man/ His ceremonies laid by, in his nakedness, he is but a man!” Well, now the slip and sleep both show.
Sangeeta Kampani, New Delhi
Profit From Jail Excerpts from a letter Nehru wrote to daughter Indira from prison
This refers to the cover story Hero Or Hype (March 23). Nowadays, Opposition leaders try to become famous by criticising the Prime Minister and his decisions. They relentlessly endeavour to create a third front or fourth front to defeat BJP. Same is the case with Kanhaiya Kumar. After the collapse of communist states across the world, the people of India too have rejected the ideology. The defeat of Kanhaiya in Begusarai against the BJP candidate by a margin of more than four lakh votes instantiates this. Moreover, the charges of sedition are often difficult to substantiate, that is why Kanhaiya is confident of his acquittal. Sometimes, the media exaggerates—this reflects in this cover story too. The media should maintain a balance while reporting about any movement or tenderfoot like Kanhaiya.
Indu Shankar Dube, Varanasi
I was a scholar for years in the vibrant JNU campus and witnessed the seeds of debate, discussion and dissent being sown, growing into a tree of democracy that provides shade to the deprived and disenfranchised. Kanhaiya Kumar is the product of that culture, giving voice to the voiceless.
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
There have been so many presidents of JNU Students’ Union and Kanhaiya was just one of them till he shot to fame for the wrong reasons. After the row at the event on Afzal Guru in February 2016, he started speaking against Modi and his policies. As happens in the case of Modi-baiters, he became the hero of Opposition parties and leftists. For others, he is just a rabble-rouser. It is surprising that Outlook took Kanhaiya to be a leader of such calibre that you dedicated a cover story to him and discussed whether he would be able to prevent a seasoned leader like Nitish Kumar from winning a fourth consecutive election.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
The cover story on Kanhaiya was a waste of space. There were so many important stories that week and you chose one not worth the time and effort.
Harish S., On E-Mail
Kanhaiya is neither hero nor hype; the perception is that he is a great leader in the making. Kanhaiya very aptly said in his interview: “Democracy has been reduced to elections. How to democratise society—what is the process?” No politician thinks of democatising society. The present state of affairs suits them better. The reason is simple, as Osho points out: “The majority consists of fools, utter fools. Beware of the majority. If many people are following a thing, that is enough proof that something is wrong. Truth happens to individuals, not to crowds.” The present majoritarian governments are proof enough of who they are representing—damn fools.
M.N. Bhartiya, Goa
Kanhaiya does not deserve to be on a magazine cover. It looks like you are leaning towards leftist ideas. Mr Banerjee, have you buried the principles with which Outlook was founded?
Vishwanath Dhotre, On E-Mail
The name Kanhaiya instantly evokes a strong spiritual feeling among millions in our nation because Lord Krishna is fondly called by that name. After JNU, Kanhaiya Kumar is now trying to make himself relevant in politics. JNU has become a paradise for so-called deprived students who, on the pretext of getting a degree, enjoy a highly subsidised life. Biharis who vote later this year won’t take much time to choose between a seasoned administrator like Nitish and a novice like Kanhaiya.
Rangarajan T.S., Bangalore
This refers to Royal Shift Ruffles The Middle Kingdom (March 23). Congress seems to be doing everything to make itself extinct. If the plan is to die, there is no better way to kill it than the course being followed in the past few months. The Congress is not devoid of good leaders, but they simply cannot muster the courage to think beyond the Gandhi family. Whatever its other failings, BJP allows for a degree of internal discussion and dissent. Congress is living in its own cocoon. This is a sad situation for a party once associated with India’s freedom struggle.
Padmini Raghavendra, Secunderabad
Will Jyotiraditya Scindia’s exit lead to a revolt in Congress? Will more leaders emulate him and leave the sinking ship? That will be the case if the party does not correct its style of functioning. It must first resolve the leadership crisis. This decision has to be taken within the family. Then comes the reorganisation and restructuring of the party. The Congress has to fight not only national parties, but also regional forces emerging in many states.
K.S. Jayatheertha, Bangalore
The defection of Jyotiraditya Sinha to BJP shows not only the hunger for trappings of power, but also sends out a clarion call to ‘the grand old party’, which refuses to let go of the Gandhis. That once formidable power centre that has lost relevance and become redundant in India’s radically changed political milieu.
George Jacob, Kochi
There have been no serious attempts by party leaders to break away from the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty’s leadership. Whenever the question of leading the party comes up, why is the focus only on the first family when there is no dearth of talent among the younger generation?
L.J.S. Panesar, On E-Mail
This refers to Curse Of The Coronavirus (March 16). Whispers in political corridors as well as the international media say that the pandemic might have been the result of a failed experiment to create a biological weapon of mass destruction. Unconfirmed reports are pointing fingers to a secret collusion between the ruling clique of a theocratic country and the governments of a couple of nations professing the doctrine of atheism.
Arun Malankar, Mumbai
This refers to Yes, You Are In Queue (March 23). So deep-rooted is the rot in the country’s financial system, there is no knowing when the best in the business would collapse like a house of cards. Till only the other day, Yes Bank was considered one of the better private sector lenders, enjoying enormous goodwill among the public and the financial community. P. Chidambaram says that the mismanagement of financial institutions under the BJP government is responsible. The Congress leader would do well to remember that during his tenure as finance minister, UPA was was embroiled in several scandals. At that time, the Opposition had been proactive in pointing them out. The pot should cease calling the kettle black.
J. Akshobhya, Mysore
Hope above all Excerpts of last letter from Isaac K., a Jewish man, during the Holocaust
This refers to the cover story Panic Corona (March 16). Humanity has encountered many natural and manmade disasters in the past such as earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, floods, hurricanes, fires etc and might face similar disasters in the future too. We are encountering deadly epidemics and pandemics once a year or every couple of years. Then there are the dangers of global warming compounded by air, water and noise pollution. And now, coronavirus. We are responsible for the spread of the virus. Our strange food habits and lifestyles are to blame. Rulers have divided this earth along borders and now we are divided again with the virus, with few willing to travel to another country.
M.Y. Shariff, Chennai
Global health experts have been saying for years that another pandemic with a speed and severity rivalling that of the 1918 Spanish flu was not a matter of if but when. Confirmed cases of coronavirus have been reported on every continent except Antarctica. It is upending world economic growth, fracturing global supply chains, grounding thousands of flights and shutting down borders. Because this virus is so new, experts’ understanding of how it spreads is limited. China is where it began and it has more experience with the disease than any other country. There has also been a focus on basic hygiene, with campaigns to promote practices such as regular hand washing and self-quarantine on potential exposure. This is not the time to promote untested remedies like cow dung, urine etc. There is no cure for this viral infection except one’s strong immunity. India must cooperate with experts around the world to accelerate work on treatments and vaccines. That takes time.
H.N. Ramakrishna, Bangalore
“Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once,” wrote Shakespeare more than 400 years ago. Now, in 2020, the world is scared, full of cowards. In a world of more than seven billion humans, a little under 200,000 people are affected by coronavirus, with fewer than 8,000 deaths. In India, with over 130 crore souls, over 100 have been infected with three deaths at the time of writing this letter. But the world is going helter-skelter, the economy is in doldrums and the virus is infecting primetime news channels as well as the Outlook cover story.
Outlook’s cover story on the threat and impact of the coronavirus pandemic was well-balanced. Greater than the loss of life or getting infected, coronavirus has certainly had a far greater negative impact on people’s wallets. The whole globe is reeling under fear and an economic slowdown is setting in. With millions of jobs at risk globally as well as high inflation, the consequence on human lives would be far greater than the virus itself. Information is power and sadly, despite being educated, many fall prey to social media posts that spread misinformation. These have to be restricted. Health, as this global pandemic shows us, is wealth, and it is time to make every effort to prevent the infection from spreading in public places and offices. Prevention is better than cure; so we must take all the precautions recommended by WHO.
Ramani S., Mumbai
The coronavirus outbreak has triggered an information explosion, making it tough for the masses to separate facts from myths. The central and state governments need to conduct an intensive awareness campaign to counter misinformation. People spreading canards about magic remedies or other methods to cure coronavirus should be officially exposed to public ridicule. At the individual level, it’s all about sticking to the basics: washing hands with an antiseptic handwash and maintaining safe distance from infected persons—in short, preferring the namaskar instead of the handshake.
P. Arihanth, Secunderabad
The outbreak of coronavirus in China shook the world due to its adverse impact on the global economy. Many Indians returning from abroad and suspected to have contracted the virus have been put under intensive medicare and strict observation. State governments are fighting the crisis by coming out with dos and don’ts to allay apprehensions. But fear still lurks in the minds of people due to lack of full-scale and effective preventive measures at the ground level. The COVID-19 outbreak is a stern warning to the central and state governments to ramp up the public healthcare system by going beyond providing medical treatment—information dissemination, community outreach, training, stockpiling medicines and protective equipment and spreading awareness through mass media to strictly adhere to habits like cleaning hands and avoid bodily touch while speaking with others. It is essential to build trust and confidence in these times.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
With people travelling all over the world, the scourge of COVID-19 has spread rapidly from Wuhan to Iran, S. Korea, Italy and beyond. A Chinese whistleblower doctor who had forewarned of the possible outbreak was threatened by the police not to spread the news. But when the ominous wake-up call finally came, Xi Jinping acted on a war footing. He built makeshift hospitals in an unbelievably record time. But there is no need to panic. The corona crisis should be turned into an opportunity to increase India’s testing facilities and upgrade disease-surveillance systems to be able to tackle even more virulent viruses in the future.
Kangayam R. Narasimhan, Chennai
This refers to Yes, You Are In Queue (March 23). SBI will pump public money to reimburse the money Yes Bank has looted from the public. On top of that, the government has the gumption to say people’s money in the bank is safe. It is like giving a hungry dog its own tail to eat. How long will the government patronise conmen and fool people? Such robbery has been happening since long. Unfortunately, Outlook does not express the truth boldly. I had developed a fondness for this magazine as my grandson studied in La Martiniere College for Boys, Lucknow, where Vinod Mehta was also a student. Alas, our weak media has transformed democracy to autocracy pacing towards anarchy.
Jagdishwar Bhartiya, Hyderabad
This refers to Onus Is On Women (March 9). Women have been at the forefront when it comes to defending the country. In 1857, Rani Lakshmibai broke the shackles of patriarchy and fought bravely to preserve and uphold the dignity of the kingdom of Jhansi. Despite making tall claims on gender equality, we fail miserably in most cases such as dearth of women in the judiciary, police, defence, jurisprudence etc. Let’s strive towards building a level playing field. The Supreme Court judgment bringing women on a par with their male counterparts in the army will definitely augur well and serve as a moral boost for women who aspire to join the military.
Vijay Adhikari, Nainital
This refers to the story on Prashant Kishor (To Be His Own Man, March 2). The government, whether in states or at the Centre, consists of politicians only out to make money, irrespective of the party they belong to. Then come contractors who take up infrastructure projects worth crores of rupees. There is no time-bound execution of projects and no accountability as costs keep escalating. Western economies have skilled professionals who ensure completion of contracts in a specified time with thorough transparency. Prashant Kishor is strongly advocating for these professionals by espousing lateral entry in crucial ministerial professions.
Plague Perils Letter from Petrarch lamenting the Black Death circa 1348
The cover story on the Delhi riots (Everyone A Nero, March 9) has three articles. Common among all three is blaming Kapil Mishra for unleashing hate through a provocative speech and holding him responsible for the bloodshed. If his statement deserves this importance, then what is to be made of speeches by the Owaisi brothers, the ‘tukde tukde’ gang and their likes? Anti-CAA demonstrations are also mentioned a number of times in all three articles. The point is that there are vested interests working tirelessly to distort facts about CAA and fool gullible people. It is they who have built up this frenzy, which culminated in the unfortunate events in Delhi. Thirdly, there is the figure of Delhi CM Kejriwal, who enjoyed the show from the sidelines without any accountability after his massive election victory. He’s only interested in doling out freebies and blaming the Centre for every unfortunate incident. If the CM has no role in governing the state and yet enjoys the perks that come with the post, then it’s best to bring the capital directly under the Centre.
Vasudha Saralaya, Mangalore
It is clear that the incidents were a well-organised attack by armed gangs from outside, with some support from local politicians and criminals to send a threatening message to anti-NRC/CAA protestors. All involved in these riots are experienced criminals—maybe the same who wrought havoc in JNU and Jamia, which has led to more than two months of peaceful protests in Shaheen Bagh. There cannot be any greater travesty of truth than to say the riots were spontaneous. The tragedy is that responsibility cannot be easily pinned upon certain people. Politicians are shedding crocodile tears and busy abusing each other. Perhaps the tragedy could have been averted if the constitutionality of the NRC and CAA, a very sensitive issue, had been decided as soon as the petitions were filed. People’s frustration is mounting and instead of addressing the root issue, the judiciary seems more concerned about getting Shaheen Bagh protestors to clear the road.
The bloodshed and mayhem in the capital has sent shock waves across the country. Looks like history has repeated itself after the Gujarat riots in 2002. I understand that one of the first to be killed was a 41-year-old Delhi Police head constable and that miscreants threw acid at three cops from a terrace. It now seems that neither side was innocent—both anti- and pro-CAA protestors were involved. The police are also partially to blame. Given that the communal riots were extremely well-organised, I wonder what was the motive behind it—was it to embarrass the Modi government during the visit of the US President? If so, who was behind the effort? Or was it to vitiate the situation in the national capital? And who could gain from that? These are tough, inconvenient questions.
Reservation for Muslims in schools and colleges is unfair and immoral in secular India. There are madrasas all over India, why is reservation required? Also, the Owaisi brothers and Waris Pathan must be arrested.
Tusar Kanti Kar, Howrah
Your coverage of the Delhi riots is understandably restrained and yet incisive, and as a regular reader of Outlook, I appreciate this. Keeping in mind the Supreme Court’s observations on what constitutes an act of sedition—addressing the state machinery or others using the language of threats that can be construed as a trigger for violence—BJP leader Kapil Mishra is the guilty party. He exhorted the police to vacate the site of an anti-CAA protest or else…. What happened thereafter is a natural corollary to the hate speeches made earlier by top leaders. Justice Murlidhar was not amused at the “appropriate” time argument of the government vis-a-vis taking action against the guilty parties. Then came the hilarious theory of the “conducive” moment (by the solicitor general) when FIRs can be registered against hate speeches. The government has now got a four-week reprieve. No wonder the speaker of Lok Sabha also told members on March 3 to discuss the Delhi situation after celebrating Holi. How long will justice be deferred for?
Lalit Mohan Sharma, Dharamshala
Thank you for the cover story The Great Media Divide (March 2). It is important at this juncture because a vital pillar of the nation— fearless, independent media—is slowly crumbling under pressure and greed. Professionalism is dissipating as many journalists now seek to please those in power. Interestingly, journalists were invited to Rashtrapati Bhavan during Trump’s banquet even as Sonia Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal were left out.
Ripu Singh, On E-Mail
The divide between people supporting the government and those opposing its policies has sharpened. This has become more evident since the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A, and enactment of CAA. Obviously, journalists too appear divided, with one group siding with the government and the other criticising it. Whether this is an indicator of growing maturity of our democracy or the liberty that we enjoy in it is difficult to say. Where the common man has immense faith in journalists for exposing the shortcomings of the government, the grouping of journalists espousing a certain ideology is certainly unfortunate. Though it is a challenging task to remain independent without falling prey to vested interests, it is extremely important for our nation.