the fully loaded magazine
This refers to your cover story on vaccine volunteers They Took the Shot for You (January 25). No doubt, it requires lot of courage and conviction to be a trial case for a new vaccine. The result may be positive or negative, or even devastating. Those who volunteered for the trials of the COVID-19 vaccine and took the shot for saving the lives of others are real bravehearts. Mass vaccination drives are going on around the world. In India, Congress leaders were heard asking for PM Narendra Modi and members of his cabinet to get vaccinated first—obviously, to prove that the vaccine is safe. One of the two vaccines produced by Indian drug manufacturers and being used in the immunisation drive is apparently at the stage of clinical trials as those who were given the jab were reportedly made to sign a consent form that said they were participating in a trial. This fact was not given due publicity.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
Clinical trials are the most critical aspect of vaccine development. Adverse reactions cannot be ruled out, especially in the initial stages. Many decades ago, in what came to be known as the Cutter incident, some batches of the polio vaccine made by the Cutter Labs of California—despite passing required safety tests—contained live polio virus. Thousands of people were injected with it. What followed was the worst pharmaceutical disaster in the world, with thousands getting infected with polio and some dying of it. And yet it’s true that vaccines have saved more people than any other medical advancement. It is with this belief that a few people take the risk on behalf of all of us to give each of us a better tomorrow.
Sangita, On E-Mail
This refers to Dash for Cash (January 25), your story on how “digital transactions are yet to break India’s love affair with cash”. Demonetisation, an idiosyncratic move in itself, was thought to be a big leap towards creating a cashless economy, but cash transactions are back with a bigger bang. Not surprisingly, currency with the public is only increasing. India is unlikely to go cashless anytime soon—in fact, very few nations, for example, Germany, have achieved this objective. Even in Japan, despite its advanced economy, only 18 per cent of transactions are cashless. Human beings have been using cash, in one form or another, for millennia. And it remains indispensable for the vast majority in India, especially for small everyday transactions. A majority of cash transactions are legitimate and most people who use cash are law-abiding citizens. We also have major issues related to power, literacy, connectivity and cyber security in our country. Reforms on the scale the government is considering must be sensitive to the needs of low-income households, especially those that are un-banked, and including the young, the elderly and the differently abled.
H.N. Ramakrishna, Bangalore
This refers to your issue of the year on Human Rights (January 18), especially the very appropriately titled essay by Amit Kumar (Camus in Kashmir). The novel coronavirus had most of the world under a lockdown in 2020. For concertina-coiled Kashmir, however, it was no novel situation—just one more curfew, another lockdown. Since the summer of 1989, the once ‘paradise on earth’ has seen no sun. Indeed, its desolate, dark, empty canvas evokes imagery straight out of Albert Camus’s The Plague. But, unlike the nature-induced plague that the French-Algerian author portrays, Kashmir battles out a man-made disaster of constant conflict, fear and uncertainty, where its people are so undone by the epidemic of anxiety that perhaps they have no idea whether human rights even exist in India. Kashmir is a society falling apart, without the comfort of even having a mythical hero like Sisyphus to steer their struggle for justice and human rights. Yes, Camus is in Kashmir, but finds no joy, nor a ray of hope in this arid zone.
Sangeeta Kampani, New Delhi
This refers to Ruben Banerjee’s Our Wronged Rights (From the Editor, January 18). In India at a moment, everyone seems to have got the privilege of taking the side of untruth and making biased comments by targeting PM Narendra Modi and his party, the BJP, indirectly if not directly. The examples that the editor has cited to justify the right to freedom of speech have not gone down well with many of us. A top editor of a national newsmagazine cannot be doing this. I am really unhappy with his views.
Vishwanath Dhotre, On E-Mail
It’s the irony of ironies: an eight-page pull-out advertising the “achievements” of the UP government led by Yogi Adityanath in your issue of the year (Human Rights, January 18), whose cover depicts the state of human rights with blood dripping from barbed wires.
Thankfully, I had the liberty of throwing it in the waste bin!
Richa Juyal, Dehradun
Human rights cannot be absolute and unqualified. A citizen has to deserve and earn them by being honest, upright, truthful, non-violent, peace-loving, law-abiding and god-fearing. It may sound unbelievable, but 99 per cent of the citizenry fall in this class. However, while this majority is mute and silent, the remaining one per cent who seek the protection of human rights are mostly undeserving citizens, including terrorists, insurgents, Naxalites/Maoists, and other seditionists and secessionists, who are patronised by suspicious NGOs and activists. The National Human Rights Commission has to be circumspect and courageous enough to refuse to intervene in cases of undeserving petitioners. It has become a fashion to earn the label of “secular, liberal and progressive intellectual” by supporting dubious causes, including sedition and secession. Society, especially the silent majority, has to vigilant and not fall into the trap of anti-national elements. These activists glorify seditious and secessionist activities, and demonise cultural nationalism as communal sectarianism. The country and the society have to nip in the bud the evil designs of anarchists—the Shaheen Bagh protest and the farmers’ siege of Delhi are recent examples of actions that are aimed at plunging the country into chaos and disorder under cover of the exercise of human rights.
Nitin M. Majmudar, Lucknow
This refers to The Insect Apocalypse (January 18). There are many reports on the alarming decline in insect numbers. The contribution of insects to human survival has long been recognised. Our major food crops require pollination and insects play a crucial role in it, making it possible for us to eat many types of fruits, vegetables and other eatables. Insects, including wasps, flies, beetles and butterflies, fertilise many of the 100 crops that provide 90 per cent of the world’s food supplies. If they disappear, ecosystems everywhere will disintegrate. Whether we love them or loathe them, without insects, humans cannot survive because they pollinate more than three-quarters of our crops.
Ramakrishna H., On E-Mail
This refers to Maximum Support Protest (December 21, 2020). It is preposterous to demand repeal of laws passed by Parliament. Let us hope that a day may not come when crooks, history-sheeters and persons with their thumbprints in police records organise a Struggle Committee to demand repeal of the Indian Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure. The majesty, dignity and relevance of Parliament, which is elected by the people through free and fair polls supervised by the Election Commission of India, has to be maintained at all costs. If the government concedes in one case, it will open the floodgates for repeal of laws by other vested interests. Let us hope the government stands firm and does not succumb to the coercive tactics of lumpen elements.
Majmudar N., On E-Mail
This refers to your ‘Issue of the Year’: Human Rights (January 18), which has been found to be a bigger issue than the COVID-19 pandemic. The focal point of a plethora of journalists is that everything has gone topsy-turvy since 2014 when the BJP was voted to power at the Centre and Narendra Modi became PM. ‘Human rights’, however, is not the issue of a single year, but an all-time and complex issue. By the way, letters seems to be the most convenient column to bear the editorial axe whenever there is a special issue.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
This refers to Ruben Banerjee’s Our Wronged Rights (January 18). The editor’s note is compact and comprehensive, mentioning many callous episodes of governance from the recent past. Openly biased and prejudiced against the poor, minorities, workers and dissidents, law enforcement ignores hundreds of wrongs committed by the government’s supporters. The system of justice is not in conformity with principles of fair jurisprudence and equality. The police are more favourable to those in power and more brutal against targeted opponents than they were during British Raj. All constitutional offices have become rubber-stamps of the party in power. The central and state governments have armed themselves with arbitrary powers by enacting draconian laws, the latest being ‘love jihad’ laws prescribing whom to love. Who knows, laws on when to love, where to love and how to love may soon follow!
M.N. Bhartiya, Goa
This refers to A Second Shot at Life (January 4). Ever since Dolly, the sheep, became the first mammal to be cloned 25 years ago, medical science adopted the potential of stem cells. But stem cell transplantation has an innate drawback of unbridled cell multiplication with a potential to cause cancers. Until research categorically proves the safety of stem cell use in healthcare, it ought to be used with caution.
George Jacob, Kochi
This refers to MumBye! Hello UP (January 4). Mumbai’s hold over Bollywood is so strong and old that it will not be easy for any other city to replace it. The Maharashtra CM’s fear is misplaced. When Bollywood makes more than 100 Hindi films a year—now there are OTT platforms too and no dearth of content—Mumbai need not worry as more is better for viewers. The Maharashtra government may have political differences with the Uttar Pradesh government, but if Yogi Adityanath plans to make a film city in Noida and pitches it to filmmakers as a world-class film city, then it will be a win-win situation for both producers and viewers. There is no doubt that it has potential to create huge employment opportunities for the people of Uttar Pradesh. The UP CM will have to ensure that he meets all critical stakeholders of the film industry to understand their needs so that the proposed film city really achieves the purpose.
Bal Govind, Noida
This refers to your story on the Congress, Where’s the Party? (January 4). The party’s plight is a matter of concern. The BJP is spreading its footprints and has covered the entire country except Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Western democracies still have their checks and balances as there is a system of two parties that take turns in power. In India, the Congress is the only party that can take on the BJP at the national level. It needs to do something to reinvent itself and revitalise the cadre at the grassroots level.
Rangarajan T.S., Bangalore
This refers to the column Curse of the Light Purse (January 4) by Cdr (retd) K. Ashok Menon. When the agitation for ‘one rank, one pension’ started, most army veterans joined it. We knew the major portion of the defence budget would be eaten up by this, but PM Modi was forced to yield to this demand. Most army personnel retire when they are in the prime of life and end up in other lucrative jobs. For example, the columnist works as a software consultant. Is it too much to expect such veterans to give up at least half of their pension?
S. Sreenivas, Bangalore
This refers to your cover story commemorating the birth of Bangladesh and India’s biggest military win (Victory at Dacca (December 28). It rekindled memories of that cathartic victory. As a school-going teenager growing up on the fringes of a huge cantonment, I remember the euphoria of that historic day. There was jubilation all around; sweets were distributed in our school the following morning. Day after day, large convoys carrying Pakistani POWs would go right past our gate. They were held captive in tents in hurriedly constructed barracks not far from our place. Curious as to how the Pakistani soldiers looked like, we would frequently cycle up to that area. It was heavily guarded like a garrison, cordoned off with meshed wire fencing and revolving flashlights during the night, but we cajoled some guards to let us have a peek. Contrary to our expectation, they looked just like us!
Anil Joshi, Ranikhet
This refers to the column by Tarini Mehta, The Burning Issue (December 28). Stubble burning starts after the harvest season is over and ends up causing severe air pollution in Delhi and the surrounding region. A permanent solution needs to be found. The Centre must look into the Indian Agricultural Research Institute’s (IARI) suggestion of converting stubble to manure using a chemical. Disposal of agricultural waste is a significant challenge in India. For any multipronged approach to work, there needs to be coordination between farmers, scientists, states and the Centre. There seems to be a disconnect among them, worsening the lack of political will to find a solution. The farmers’ protest has complicated the situation further this year. Strict actions against offenders will now be seen as anti-farmer.
L.J. Singh, On E-Mail
This refers to the column (Social Vaccine, December 7) by Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union minister for health, family welfare, science and technology, and earth sciences. 2020 will go down in history as a year of doom and gloom, while 2021 gives new vigour and hope of overcoming the crisis that brought humanity to its knees. The invisible virus led to the explosion of new words like social distancing, lockdown, self-isolation, Work from Home, quarantine and Zoom, which have become part and parcel of life. The rapidity with which COVID-19 engulfed almost all of humanity is unprecedented. Children lost the joy of playing and learning in natural settings. Millions of lives and jobs were lost. Humans, however, have a knack of recovering and bouncing back, and the scientific community and pharma companies across the globe have generated considerable hope by developing vaccines against the virus. Successful administration of the vaccine hinges on its equitable distribution. Another important lesson learnt from the crisis is that development averse to nature is akin to death and destruction.
Vijay Singh Adhikari, Nainital