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This refers to your cover story Do-Or-Die (Oct 29). In the forthcoming state assembly elections, the Congress may be able to win in Rajasthan as it may get the advantage of the anti-incumbency factor against the Vasundhararaje government. However, the same cannot be said for Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, where both chief ministers —Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Raman Singh—have completed three terms and, therefore, established their rule well. It is an overstatement that Rahul Gandhi has turned a corner and become a worthwhile contender for 2019. It arises from the media’s urge to have a deserving opposition leader to write about so that reporting politics becomes interesting; it appears rather one-sided currently with no one matching Modi’s level of rhetoric and his towering popularity, even among his critics. Rahul should realise that mere criticism of the prime minister won’t get him anywhere. He should also understand that if the only source of attention for him comes from taking jibes at Modi, he will never become an influential figure. What he is doing day in and day out is using intemperate language against Modi; calling him ‘chor-chowkidar’ and ‘bhrasht’ (corrupt), believing that just by targeting Modi, he can lead his party to victory. Meanwhile, the Congress veteran’s grudge: you give a rally with one lakh people to Rahul, he will pour cold water over it with an insipid, uninspiring speech.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
As reported, Rahul Gandhi is making a lot of noise on the Rafale deal, but he forgets that he also has a case filed against him—the National Herald case. His brother-in-law, Robert Vadra, is under surveillance for illegal land deals. This is only the tip of the iceberg. RaGa should do some introspection. And he should definitely cut the drama in Parliament. Why doesn’t he go to court if there is any doubt?
S.P. Sharma, Mumbai
While one must acknowledge the presence of strong anti-incumbency feelings among the voters of Rajasthan, MP and Chhattisgarh, it’s still uncertain to what extent the INC will leverage these sentiments to gain the decisive edge. The Congress came so close to defeating the BJP in the 2017 Gujarat assembly polls, but their efforts were not enough in the end; the same scenario prevailed in Karnataka. Mayawati ditching them at the last minute, the NCP fielding candidates in a sizeable number of constituencies in MP, and the Samajwadi Party refusing to form an alliance with them have certainly set the Congress back, and could cost them at least one of these states. To re-establish themselves, the Congress should treat these setbacks as opportunities. The senior leadership should make full use of the potential of the young turks, who should be in the forefront, to convert the pent-up frustration of the voters into winning margins. The BJP, who smartly leveraged social media to tilt the scales in their favour in the 2014 general election, may not find it easy to repeat their performance, as the Congress is also gearing up fast in terms of getting through to the voters through social media.
Shailendra Dasari, Ballary
The 135-year-old colossus just can’t be wished away by the whimsy of those rooting for a ‘Congress-mukt’ Bharat. Again, apart from Gandhiji and Nehru, other Congress stalwarts like Sardar Patel, Babasaheb Ambedkar and Netaji Bose are being poached by the Sangh to make up for its lack of true iconic figures. Indians, and they have their faults, are too cunning to be swayed by petty encouragement of communal hatred, casteism and cheap gimmicks like changing names of places. Congress should hold its head high and have faith in itself, for people are by and large disgusted with the misrule of power-crazy leaders who, if voted in again, would ultimately work their way towards changing the secular nature of our Constitution. The impending assembly polls, a precursor to the real show of 2019, are a referendum on the people’s choice between love and hate.
M.N. Bhartiya, Goa
I think ‘abki baar, bhay-mukt sarkar’ is the slogan that can sail the Congress through!
Richa Juyal, Dehradun
If you’ve had your share of Shakespeare like me, it’s hard not to look at Congress president Rahul Gandhi as one of the bard’s tragic heroes (Last Chance? Oct 29). He’s pulled enough Hamlets in the past by not being sure about what to do. He’s been King Leared, with Congress loyalists abandoning ship at crucial moments. There was an inverted Macbeth too. Inverted because it was more of a comedy to see Rahul plant that abrupt hug on Modi in Parliament in the hope of killing the latter’s charm and then wink at a party fellow later about it. A Julius Caeser moment, of course, never really arose since Rahul never got close to any real power.
As for Modi, he invokes more of a ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ sentiment, walking around naked, but in a stately fashion all over the country. The BJP’s blind loyalists and the by now ‘provebial’ Modi bhakts are still singing praises about his biggest blunder—demonetisation, even as economists the world over term it dangerous stupidity. Fuel prices are burning holes in the pockets of citizens, holes which are getting bigger by the day, but the Sangh’s men go around harping about the good their emperor has done for India’s economy. Modi’s PR machinery has stiched many an attractive-sounding scheme for his advertisement: Swachh Bharat, Beti Bachao, Be...you’ve already heard of them, but no one’s seen them. The only twist in the tale here is, all the children have been silenced.
J.C. Bhalla, Chandigarh
This refers to Bureau of Implosions. The tussle between the two seniormost CBI officials is not new. It started when the CVC panel cleared Rakesh Asthana’s promotion despite objections from CBI Director Alok Verma. The pair have been at loggerheads ever since. It would be an understatement to say that this issue has led to a huge embarrassment for the CBI. The bureau anyhow has the reputation of playing into the hands of ruling regime, and such an issue further damages its reputation beyond repair. Though the ruling party has said that if will ensure that reputation and public trust in the CBI remains intact, it does not look like it will be able to do so, especially as Mr Asthana is considered close to the ruling party. So it’s better that the SC intervene and set the CBI’s house in order without any delay. The government should allow only meritorious appointments to set the record straight and for that to happen police reform is the need of the hour as corruption has become the middle name for police personnel in general. So the government must take corrective actions at the earliest.
Bal Govind, Noida
When the Supreme Court compared the CBI to a caged parrot, it did not elaborate on what it really meant. Now, it’s for the people to interpret the phrase. It is well known that for every trick performed by a parrot it is amply rewarded by its masters. The quid pro quo arrangement for the CBI was probably there since the beginning, working admirably, like a well oiled machine. Hence, scams and scandals involving high profile individuals never reached their logical finality. During the process of investigation, making statements like “noose round the neck”, “fool proof clinching evidence”, “open and shut case” etc, were all empty rhetoric to fool the public. This ‘Corrupt Bureau of Individuals’ has now come into the open. Is it because there was a misunderstanding in sharing the booty?
Ashok Raipet, Secunderabad
The premier probe agency in the country—the last resort to solve cases—finds itself caught in a whirlpool of accusations, with its own seniormost officers sniping at each other. While the episode may present itself to Subhash Ghai or Prakash Jha as a plot ripe for the screen, it has left citizens like me wondering if we are, after all, a banana republic, or indeed a nation competing with China and the US. Modi has a lot at stake; these issues are going to singe him in the hot summer of 2019.
The country’s security is the soul of any democratic setup. This simple piece of human psychology once inculcated patriotism in every officer who served in that institution. High-performing officers who had integrity, honesty and empathy were once appointed to the agency. But politics became a profession instead of a sacred mission, bureaucracy turned into a political tool, and the credibility of the institution was lost as officers enjoying political patronage fought among themselves for primacy. The new wave of allegations has exposed the government’s inept handling of l’affaire CBI, with the visibility of the battle lines bringing its credibility to a nadir. The nation’s security setup is badly degraded, and it’s high time that the home and defence ministries came under the direct administration of the President, who is the supreme commander of the armed forces.
Seetharam Basaani, Hanamkonda
This is really an institutional mess—the biggest casualty has been the CBI itself. The filing of counter-complaints by Verma and Asthana against each other, and the arrest of a junior CBI official in this regard, has brought no honour to the agency. It has merely dragged it further into the mud. Earlier, even in the worst of times, its reputation was never shredded as is happening now. And if this were not enough, now the CVC has also been dragged into the sordid affair, drawing a fresh glare on his own controversial appointment. Investigating agencies should never be the government’s pets—but then, it is unlikely that any reform on this front would be endorsed by either the BJP or the Congress, the principal parties that have benefited from being the CBI’s master.
J.S. Acharya, Hyderabad
Your analytical story (Imagine There is No Migrant, Oct 29) perfectly depicts the woes of migrants throughout India. Truly, it is not only poor folk who face this sort of treatment; some cold shoulder is shown to all migrants, as ‘outsiders’ across the socio-economic classes. So-called guardians of local culture often set upon them for some trivial reason—a minor incident, blown up, ignites the fire which the local population then feeds, giving free rein to violence, blaming migrants for all their troubles. Ironically all this happens in a country we tout as the ‘world’s largest democracy’, incidents against fellow Indians take place when the merits of ‘unity in diversity’ are drummed into every child. Why, then, should we cry foul when Indians face racial discrimination in a foreign country? Once we had gone out for lunch in Bangalore, again a showpiece ‘cosmopolitan’ city of new India. A local politician’s car hit one of us. When we complained to the driver, a mob of 50, including women, quickly gathered, who then proceeded to abuse us ‘north Indians’ for the trouble, saying we were destroying Kannada culture and causing unemployment. We called the police, but in vain. We had to leave the place apologising to them without any fault of ours, before any of us got seriously injured. During this Durga Puja too, some locals vandalised a pandal set up by migrants. If incidents like this continue, our beautiful country will lose its unity.
Minati Pradhan, Bangalore
Apropos of The Courts Went Tantri (Oct 22), I would like to comment that the court has very correctly ruled that women should be allowed to visit Sabarimala temple. The embargo imposed was illogical and intruded into the individual’s liberty of worship. It seems to have been created by a few self-interested persons for their own benefit. Religion is not partial, and hence this is also against religious tenets. Despite the renaissance started by Lord William Bentinck, Raja Rammohan Roy and other such personalities, the menace of superstition is not fully eradicated, and both the government and civil society should make all efforts to combat it.
Lt Col (Rtd) Ranjit Sinha, Pune
This refers to Life On Rent, your story on this new trend that I am quite familiar with (Nov 5). It’s fascinating as well as unsettling to know that even pets and boyfriends are available on rent these days. This shows how rapidly our experience of living in the city is changing. If the situation is such now, what does the future hold for us? Will feelings be commodified too? Will we be able to buy the right brand of love and will it give us happiness? These are some of the questions we need to seriously think about. Even though it was reverse psychology advertising, credit card company Mastercard said the right thing: “There are some things money can’t buy...”
Jatin Kumar, Delhi
It makes sense to rent out certain services that people are in need of but can’t afford. In Bangalore, you can rent a perfectly functional office space at a decent price. It works for a freelancer like me, who needs to hit the desk once in a while in order to meet deadlines. Before such services existed, people like me had to go to coffee shops and pay an exorbitant amount for unwanted coffee cups just because we needed to use their WiFi and wanted to sit in an air-conditioned place to finish work. You could also buy just one coffee and sit for hours on end. But that meant getting stared at by the staff and that would affect your concentration. The times I’ve done that solo cup routine, I have felt extremely sheepish.
Aravind R., Bangalore
This refers to Ale And Arty (Oct 29). All these fancy beers entering the Indian market! This is a heartening story. But they will be restricted to a niche market and they will stay off the highways for two reasons. One reason is the price of these beers, of course. It’s usually way higher than our regular beers. The other reason is the potency factor. For purely utilitarian reasons, India has evolved into a country of ‘strong beer’ drinkers. Scout the highways, and you will see the Godfathers, the Zingaros and the Haywards ruling the scene. Having said that, I’d love to try each of these new ales on the market.
In the issue Turnquotes (Nov 12), the article #WhoToo? carried a picture of the wrong Bhanwari Devi. The picture on the left (above) shows the woman referred to in the article, while the one on the right is the one that was carried by mistake. The error is regretted.
This refers to No Means No, your cover story on the #MeToo movement that has hopefully jolted many institutions out of their comfort zones. Emboldened by support by largely women on social media, India’s victims of sexual misconduct are baring their old scars to expose the men who had earlier escaped unscathed in the oppressively patriarchal setups they were functioning. Today, women are not tolerating inappropriate behaviour or sexual misconduct or gender stereotyping, and the onus is now on the employers and the management to ensure that there is no sexual harassment at the workplace. This is surely a positive movement.
Padmini Raghavendra, On E-Mail
The #MeToo movement has entered India with a bang. Thus far, the media and the entertainment industry seem to be its focus; not that other places are teeming with saints for men. Several women have accused well-placed persons in both these sectors by calling them out on social media. Some accused have reacted with silence, others have denied the charges, pleading innocence and, in some cases, they have ascribed ulterior motives to the accusers. It is appalling that some of the accusations of this #MeToo campaign predate the implementation of the Visakha guidelines whereby most organisations are supposed to have a committee in place to examine charges of sexual misconduct.
Meghana A., On E-Mail
Yes, when a woman says no, it means no: the message is loud and clear, a clarion call given by a few daring women. It reconfirmed the misogynist character of society. And no sphere is untouched, be it the film industry, media, politics or art. The movement has made it clear that sexual harassment is no longer just a women’s problem.
This MeToo mission in India has exposed many gods having feet of clay. Now, this movement must progress beyond social media and the cities as there are the small towns and vernacular media where things may be worse.
Rakesh Agarwal, Dehradun
This predatory culture looks like an epidemic that has suddenly erupted. It is not so. This culture was always there, even during the times of the great epics. We read instances of harassment in Ramayana and the Mahabharata. This “rape culture” has been endemic throughout history. Removing one M.J. Akbar from his position of power won’t civilise this rotten culture. The only way to stop this is for the victim to expose the predator.
Col (retd) C.V. Venugopalan, Palakkad
It is better we segregate men and women in all workplaces and institutions and ensure that nothing goes amiss anywhere as free interactions will make misdemeanours possible. The warning bell has rung. Better segregate than sorry.
T. Santhanam, On E-Mail
Imagine the plight of the survivors before a #MeToo movement was made possible by social media: no place for them to even express their anguish. I applaud the women for sharing their #MeToo stories and exposing the predators. Why are women objectivised in our society so routinely? Where is the culture we so highly talk about? We need to change the overall mentality of the people and it has to happen at home. We need to educate and train our boys to respect women. We need better laws and good corporate governance around this and I know many companies are now taking these seriously. Also, would any women be punished if one goes through a false complain to frame a man? All the same, it requires guts to complain and hats off to everyone who has complained and participated in the campaign. Let’s see how much action is taken against those named by women in this movement.
Kamal Anil Kapadia, Bombay
As an Indian, I am a staunch supporter of the #MeToo movement and I’m happy to see it gathering the required momentum. But at the same time, I am horrified to see how futile statements are being made against names just for cheap publicity and vendetta. Some people also have random stories to throw on their social platforms accusing and defaming reputed individuals. #MeToo initially began to expose a few monsters, but the movement is now being diluted by some not-so-convincing testimonies.
Rakesh Suri, On E-Mail
It is alleged that lyricist Vairamuthu expected a woman singer to come to a hotel and ‘cooperate’ with him. If Chinmayi has kept quiet all this while, it is simply because Kollywood is traditionally dominated by men and she could in no way have prevailed against an influential man like Vairamuthu. Complaints by women about sexual harassment must not be dismissed as mere witch hunt to defame the well-established, but must be pursued to their logical conclusion.
Kangayam R. Narasimhan, Chennai
Many hear some of the stories and exclaim “them too”, but they know it was the case all along.
Anil S., Pune
#MeToo has finally taken the lid off what we all have been a little reluctant to believe and accept: that exploitation of film actresses in Bollywood is an open secret just as in Hollywood. Tanushree Datta deserves kudos for going out on a limb by narrating her ordeal on the sets of Horn Ok Pleassss ten years ago. Her revelations about being sexually harassed by Nana Patekar have sent shockwaves through the film industry. And as these priapic men get their comeuppance, her exemplary sangfroid in sticking to her version despite being slapped with legal notices is a clear indication that her pugnacious spirit refuses to be cowed down as she doesn’t want other budding actresses in Bollywood to be put through the wringer like her. The fact that only a couple of actors and actresses have spoken up for Tanushree goes to show that there is a lack of seriousness in realising the gravity of the situation and unless this chalta hai attitude is not jettisoned, vulnerable young actresses would remain at the receiving end of sexual exploitation. It is a fact that producers and directors often try to dangle film offers in front of aspiring actresses accompanied by indecent proposals. Already, Tanushree’s statement has opened the sluice gate of more revelations of victimisation faced by scribes and TV serial directors. Even some seasoned and famous journalists have been caught with their pants down following allegations by women scribes of predatory behaviour. It is heartening to note that women from various professions are no longer ready to maintain a stoic Meena Kumari-like silence and would rather call out potential stalkers and predators trying to misuse their authority. Simone De Beauvoir rightly said, “Only when a woman decides to display her mettle and audacious gumption, society gets to know of her intent.’’
Aditya Mukherjee, Delhi
This refers to your story from Gujarat, Imagine There Is No Migrant (October 29). The exodus of migrant workers, following an alleged rape in Gujarat for which a migrant worker was arrested, is in tune with the fissiparous trends threatening to disintegrate India. With the nation in economic and political doldrums, the need of the hour is to infuse cohesion, not dissolution. Assaults on workers from other states are frequently reported. The rift is widening as lust for offices of profit encourages parochial camaraderie for garnering votes.
J.N. Bhartiya, Hyderabad
It is a sad reflection of our divisive times that the horrendous rape of a toddler blew up into an avoidable polarising issue in Gujarat. Worked up over the crime against the child, members of her community chose to direct their anger on the whole migrant community to which the accused belonged, rather than seeking justice for the victim. The attempt to whip up hostility against migrant workers in Gujarat is a classic case of bad politics and bad economics. It is shameful, indeed, that Indians moving to other states endure the same discrimination and racism that accompanies them when they migrate to another country.
Sporadic violence on migrant workers from the Hindi-speaking belt in several parts of Gujarat, leading to an exodus from the state goes against the tenets of the Constitution, which clearly states that every Indian has the right to work and settle in any place of his/her choice in the country. The government must act firmly against the perpetrators so to instil confidence in workers and prevent them from leaving Gujarat when free movement of skilled workmen and artisans is giving a fillip to the state’s economic growth.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
Apropos of The Courts Went Tantri (Oct 22). The religious belief that menstruating women are somehow impure was based on total ignorance, and it is certainly not valid in today’s environment of available sanitary facilities. The Supreme Court has merely corrected this anomaly, since traditions that become irrelevant with time must necessarily be changed. Motivated and superstition-based agitations must be curbed by countering them with reasoning. While the BJP government at the Centre has accepted the Supreme Court’s verdict, it is simultaneously encouraging its state unit in Kerala to object—all for petty electoral gains and to embarrass the state government, which is keen to implement the verdict. This is highly unethical on the part of the BJP.
D.V.R. Rao, Pune
In the story League Of Ms Muscles (Oct 29) Yashmeen Chauhan’s name was mistakenly written as ‘Yashmeen Chauhan Manak’, the error is regretted. Also, she doesn’t have a daughter.
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