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This refers to your cover story Swadeshi Movement Part 2 (October 12). According to the writer, some see PM Narendra Modi’s Aatma Nirbhar Bharat as a 21st-century version of Gandhi’s call to embrace swadeshi, an intoxicating cocktail of nationalism, capitalism and globalisation. Others look at it as a magical melting pot for patriotism, self-confidence and national ambition. It turns out to be a chaotic and confusing blend of beliefs. However, Land of Billion Entrypreneurs in the same package significantly states that a crucial aspect is to fan the business of ideas so that more goods are manufactured in India for Indian consumers and the rest of the world.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
This refers to One Plus One Equals Five (October 12), your story on Jammu and Kashmir’s new language policy. Because of popular demand, the government has decided to add Kashmiri, Dogri and Hindi to Urdu and English in the list of J&K’s official languages. There is now a demand to include Punjabi as well. Will Kashmiris have to learn all these languages? Decisions about languages cannot be forced on people in a multilingual society with its historically complex culture and tradition. Only non-Hindi-speaking people have to bear the burden of three or, in this instance, more than three languages. English and the regional language can more than meet the aspirational needs of citizens. Language chauvinism is counterproductive.
H.N. Ramakrishna, Bangalore
This refers to A Fierce-Eyed Mob, As Gods Wore Blinkers (October 12) on the Supreme Court’s verdict on the demolition of Babri Masjid. As no one killed Jessica Lal, so no one razed Babri Masjid. It perhaps crumbled on account of the movement of tectonic plates, a tornado or a tsunami. Addressing a public gathering in Lucknow the day before the demolition, Atal Behari Vajpayee said the ground had to be levelled for kar seva to be performed. A battery of top leaders made rabble-rousing speeches to instigate the fanatics to bring down the mosque. The then UP CM Kalyan Singh ordered police not to open fire, come what may. It seems he anticipated a situation that would necessitate firing. It is a unique case where a heinous crime was witnessed, photographed and video-graphed, and yet the court said here was no evidence to prove guilt. If there was no prosecutable evidence, the CBI should have filed a closure report or, if the CBI still filed a chargesheet, the court should have discharged the accused persons holding that no prima facie case was made out rather than acquitting them after a meandering trial lasting three decades.
Nitin M. Majmudar, Lucknow
This refers to Rape, a Caste Continuum (October 12). Rape is a grim pointer to how a situation can get out of control when parochial sentiments are left untouched. Rape is almost culturally sanctioned in India. The unspeakable brutality of the gang rape of the 19-year old Dalit girl in Hathras in UP is a symbol of the rot in our system, and a fallout of the collective indifference of the law-enforcing machinery that has engulfed society. What was more horrifying was the manner in which the police cremated the body at midnight in haste without the consent of family members. This is unpardonable by any yardstick. Denying the victim dignity in death and then not allowing family members to have a last look at her body is a crime beyond comprehension.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
The way the UP government and a section of the media are treating the Hathras atrocity is condemnable. A terrible tragedy is made into an opportunity to spin a narrative that suits the ruling dispensation and divert people’s attention away from the dire economic situation in this time of COVID-19 pandemic. It is sad but true that an all-out attempt is being made to blame the rape victim and her family for the cruel fate that befell them. Canards are being peddled to make it appear that the family brought it upon itself. It is clear that the victim and her family are being slandered to thwart the course of justice. The attempt to malign the family in grief exemplifies the extent to which human depravity can descend. Such is the power of caste that the mere fact of the victim being Dalit disqualifies her as a candidate for justice! The ill-concealed alignment of the administration with the privileged caste explains the flat denial of the caste angle to the atrocity and the prompt criminalisation of the protests that followed, despite the vulnerability of Dalit women and the long tradition of the use of rape as a weapon of caste oppression. The introduction of an angle of personal and family rivalry cannot obscure the caste angle. Caste is a daily lived reality in India and cannot be dismissed lightly.
David Milton, Kanyakumari
This refers to your cover story So Shall They Reap (October 5). Strong proponents of the new agriculture sector laws say they will transform agriculture and double farmers’ income. But opposition parties and farmers’ organisations cry foul, raising concerns about the dangers farmers may face from the corporate sector. Indeed, the new laws leave a lot to be desired. With negotiated prices not linked to MSPs, corporates developing their own cartels, open market prices not legally pegged to MSPs and absence of a guarantee for retaining MSPs, middle and small farmers are worried that they may be shortchanged by powerful corporates. Farmers in Punjab and Haryana believe that the Centre would gradually abolish the MSP regime, leaving them at the mercy of large corporate houses. However, the Union agriculture minister has assured that MSPs will continue. While the Congress could not provide MSP for commodities other than paddy and wheat, the BJP has provided it for 20-23 farm products, says the finance minister. The prime minister, who called the new farm laws “historic”, must launch a massive awareness campaign for convincing farmers that the new laws will enable them to sell their products at remunerative prices.
Kangayam R. Narasimhan, Chennai
This refers to Andhra Pradesh CM Requests Bharat Ratna for S.P. Balasubrahmanyam (September 28). To paraphrase Einstein’s encomiums unto Gandhi would be to sum up S.P. Balasubrahmanyam (SPB), the legendary singer who left us all recently: “Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in voice and words walked through the Indian film industry.” Such was the many-splendoured personality that this singing sensation from the Telugu land was! Forty thousand songs in multiple languages, dubbing, compering, mimicking to music direction and production spans his unparalleled and prodigious oeuvre, delivered with elan! Will we ever see such a protean artiste again? Never wouldn’t be a hyperbole! For, the flow of eternal time offers only occasionally its choicest of gifts to delight mankind, of which SPB was one, released on the canvas of arts, but withdrawn in 2020, as good things cannot last forever. His exhilaratingly vibrant and stunningly ever-youthful voice and sparkling personality—comprising a cheerful mien, dignified conduct, witty and sensible speech, philanthropic sensitivity towards various causes and, above all, an extraordinary capacity to take everyone along for 50 years in an industry where professional longevity and relationships are generally short—are something only a singularly blessed soul can achieve in his lifetime! The Gaana-Gaandharva richly deserves a Bharat Ratna!
C.V. Krishna Manoj, Hyderabad
This refers to A Leap Over the Wall’ (October 5). With its humongous population, the nation was a sitting duck to COVID-19. Almost nine months have gone by. We are still groping for effective treatment options and a vaccine hasn’t emerged. The only option is to religiously deny the virus entry into our bodies by stringently following social distancing, wearing masks and observing hand hygiene.
George Jacob, Kochi
In the story Casteaways in our October 19, 2020 edition, an inadvertent mistake was made while referring to RLD leader Ajit Singh. We regret the error.
This refers to your cover story So Shall They Reap (October 5). The primary reason for the protest by farmers is lack of trust in big businessmen and, to some extent, in their political masters. They are afraid of being taken for a ride under the garb of pro-farmer reforms. Farming is not merely a business; it is a way of life that nurtures the social roots of people in the villages. When we eat food, we remember the farmer as the provider, not some corporate house. Let’s understand the sentiment behind former PM Lal Bahadur Shastri’s slogan ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan’, and value the farmers as our ‘agri-soldiers’. Let’s not put them at the mercy of businessmen, and ruin their way of life.
Colonel R.D. Singh, Ambala Cantt
The three agriculture bills brought by the Narendra Modi government will open up the agriculture sector to free-market forces, make it easier for farmers to sell their produce directly to private buyers and enter into a farming contract with private entities. “For decades, the Indian farmer was bound by various constraints and bullied by middlemen. The bills passed by Parliament liberate the farmers from such adversities,” PM Modi tweeted. The opposition Congress, however, has called the bills “black” and “pro-corporate”, with its top leader Rahul Gandhi accusing Modi of “making farmers ‘slaves’ of the capitalists”. Farmers are saying that the government has left them at the mercy of big corporates and were on the roads on September 25 protesting against the bills. The BJP’s oldest NDA ally, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), has snapped ties with the ruling party over the issue. SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal’s wife Harsimrat Kaur Badal has quit the Union cabinet, alleging that the bills will “destroy” the agriculture sector in Punjab. An agri-expert has been quoted as saying that there are serious deficiencies in the way the bills have been drafted; they are meant for the agri-business companies, not for the farmers and enough has not been done to ensure that farmers’ interests are not sacrificed. Another expert view is that there is a lack of regulatory oversight, and that the bills are putting farmers in the hands of private players without any safeguards in terms of price-setting. Farmers suspect that the government will eventually dismantle the state procurement system (APMC mandi) and the MSP regime on which many of them depend. The PM and his cabinet ministers are yet to allay this fear in Parliament.
Agriculture is the base of the Indian economy. Farmers always suffered from the vagaries of nature. Feudal lords and moneylenders never allowed them to get rid of poverty. After the abolition of the zamindari system and consolidation of small agricultural holdings, industrial production got a boost. The new farm bills are flamboyant and misleading. As they become laws, it will take some years for their real effects to become visible. Though it appears farmers will be able to sell their produce anywhere to anyone, they will ultimately fall into the lap of corporates and multinationals. The agreements to purchase standing crops with small advances and assurances to pick up the produce at the harvesting sites, invariably with arbitration clauses, will open the floodgates for litigation in which farmers won’t be able to match the legal services and expertise at the disposal of corporates. Corporates, particularly with a chain of retail marketing and food processing units, will come up with modern storage facilities, and the dilapidated godowns of the Food Corporation of India may become shelters for cattle. All this will eventually benefit only the industrialists and multinationals, not the grower or the consumer.
M.N. Bhartiya, Goa
If the existing laws, rules and system are so good that they should not be modified, then why is it that even after 73 years since independence, farmers are still poor and perpetually in debt, with thousands committing suicide every year? Further, what is now proposed is only an additional option to farmers, while retaining the existing system of APMC mandis and MSP. So how are the reforms bad? Several states like Bihar and Gujarat have already carried our modifications without any protests. Why is the Congress protesting when the BJP has brought in the same reforms that the grand old party had promised in its 2019 Lok Sabha election manifesto?
Hemanth D. Pai, Bangalore
This refers to ‘From the Daak Room’ (Letters, October 5), which made for a very refreshing read. Leonardo da Vinci’s job application revealed his true polymath credentials. A painter, draftsman, sculptor, architect, builder and engineer, his genius epitomised the Renaissance humanist ideal. The man known for creating Mona Lisa was also the designer of a flying machine 400 years before the Wright brothers achieved the first sustained flight. Leonardo truly fused science and art to create works that have become part of humanity’s story.
Sangeeta Kampani, New Delhi
This refers to Uneasy Tango of Big Ambitions (September 21). The dragon seems to be on an expansionist mode, with its recent incursions into Indian territory, apart from its ambitious ways in Taiwan and Tibet. Its influence even had an all-time friend in Nepal turn inimical towards India. India needs to retort by striking where it hurts the dragon the most by throttling it economically. The Centre has done well by banning Chinese apps.
This refers to Job We Met, Online (September 21). The Delhi government’s job portal is unnecessary as so many other portals are already available. It has also spent a lot of money on popularising the portal through advertisements in newspapers and hoardings. That money could have been used to create jobs.
D.B. Madan, New Delhi
Damned Spellings Back in 2012, Chris Hardwick (of The Nerdist podcast) tried to coax Tom Hanks into appearing on his show by sending him a rare 1934 Smith Corona typewriter. Hanks, an avid typewriter collector, sent back this letter to Chris.
This refers to So Shall You Reap (October 5), your cover story on the three agri reform bills brought by the Narendra Modi government. These new laws open the agriculture sector to free-market forces, make it easier for farmers to sell their produce directly to private buyers and enter into a contract with private companies. Defending the move, PM Modi tweeted: “For decades, the Indian farmer was bound by various constraints and bullied by middlemen. The bills passed by Parliament liberate the farmers from such adversities.” The Congress, however, has called the bills “pro-corporate”, with Rahul Gandhi accusing Modi of “making farmers ‘slaves’ of the capitalists…” Farmers are also saying that the government has left them at the mercy of big corporations. They were on the roads on September 25 in protest against the new legislation. An agriculture expert has been quoted as saying that there are serious deficiencies in the way the bills have been drafted, that they are meant for agri-business companies and not farmers, and that not enough has been done to ensure farmers’ interests are not sacrificed. Another view is that there is a lack of regulatory oversight and the bills are putting farmers into the hands of private players without any safeguards and regulations in terms of price-setting. Farmers fear that the government will eventually dismantle the state procurement and MSP systems on which they depend, even though the PM and other ministers have firmly said outside Parliament that they will continue. Let the PM declare this in Parliament and modify the bills if necessary.
Misinformation is being spread in the country by some people that farmers will not get the right price for their produce. The BJP-led government is committed to helping farmers get fair prices for their produce, and soon they will be able to sell anywhere in the country without any restrictions. The new bills are for the benefit of farmers, who will be free from brokers and get more options and opportunities to sell their produce. These bills have come as a protective shield for them. Yet, some people are protesting for the sake of protest.
Akhila Gopalan, Mumbai
This refers to Weed or Weedout (September 28), your cover story on drugs abuse in Bollywood and elsewhere. The film industry is a cutthroat business that demands a thick skin of anybody who wishes to become successful. But that’s not the whole story. Across India, around 3.1 crore people use cannabis in various forms. Even educational institutions are not safe. Over the past 30 years, illegal drugs trafficking has become a global epidemic, permeating into nearly every cultural and social class.
Seetharambasaani, Hanamkonda (Telangana)
Millions of sadhus, devotees, tourists and students are wedded to a weed in India and can’t visualise their lives without it. I can vouch from my own experience as I grew up in the city of Lord Shiva—Varanasi—where smoking ganja and drinking bhang was a daily affair as they are considered the deity’s sacred prasad. As students, we openly consumed it, sitting on the ghats of the Ganga. It is laughable to see actor Rhea Chakraborty being arrested and the media going all crazy about it in service of the ruling party’s agenda to win the Bihar election. Never mind the tonnes of drugs openly produced, sold and consumed from the lanes of Varanasi to the valley of Kulu-Manali and the desert of Jaisalmer.
Rakesh Agarwal, Dehradun
While high society is now joyfully groping in the darkness of materialism, some sections of misled youth are using intoxicants to fulfil their longing for a quick high. Well, drugs in various combinations and with numerous names have penetrated our society so deeply that government agencies and its police forces are practically caught between the devil and the deep sea. With cutting-edge technology at our command, the jaws of the menace have more teeth and look more ferocious. There are countless mothers who have been constantly tormented by their drug-dependent adolescent children. Many worried parents and police officers complain that lawyers cleverly use the loopholes in the NDPS Act to save peddlers and traffickers. Don’t the lawyers know that peddlers usually entice our unsuspecting children with doses of opium first and then push them into the pit of no return? Do they have no children at home who might end up learning the dangerous habit from such peddlers?
Salil Gewali, Shillong