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This refers to your cover Story, The Rs 41,000 Crore Trick Called IMFL (March 6). Whisky is not everyone’s drink, but milk is the feed equally of babies, children, the young, and the old. India is a country where spurious milk, containing urea, detergents and other ingredients injurious to health, is supplied under tags like ‘pure’ and ‘healthy’. The milk may be from bovines that are administered the banned drug oxytocin, which induces extra (if not abnormal) lactation but also has severely harmful effects: on the health of the animals it is injected into, as also that of humans who consume the milk. Polished fruits and coloured vegetables containing harmful chemicals are openly sold in the market. There is a big racket in even medicines. You have no way to distinguish whether the medicine you are taking, prescribed by your doctor and purchased from the medicine shop, is genuine or fake. Given this dismal scenario all around (and all of this is an open secret among Indians), it doesn’t seem like a big deal that Indian spirits are nothing more than fakes and your blended IMFL whisky is nothing but desi daru.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
Indians drink to get drunk. The day we start drinking to taste, the liquor norms will change accordingly.
Sanjiv Gupta, Perth
It is said that in India anything is possible. Turning desi daru into ‘whisky’ or ‘brandy’ is just one of the tricks used by the industry-government combine to fool people into buying inferior products. Millions of people consume IMFL as if it is a fashionable thing to do!
Dinesh Kumar, Chandigarh
A report in The Guardian says, “Scotch whisky exports rose by 3.1 per cent in the first six months of 2016, driven by booming demand in India, a market that should be a top trade priority for Britain as it prepares to leave the EU, according to the whisky trade body.” Your cover story revelations on IMFL may further boost these British exports. Back home, with people willing to stand in serpentine queues before liquor shops across the country for their daily quota of that precious ‘golden liquid’, more water will be turned to wine due to the lack of government regulations and corruption. To all the readers who enjoy a drink once in a while, I raise my glass.
George Jacob, London
In the light of your cover story, shouldn’t the acronym IMFL be revisited and expanded to ‘India Makes Foolish Libations’ now?
Rajneesh Batra, New Delhi
I am baffled by the very oxymoron IMFL. In Canada too they make whisky, brandy and rum. But they never say Canada made foreign liquor. Why does this happen only in India? Perhaps, we are yet to come out of the colonial hangover.
V.N.K. Murti, Pattambi
We just want to get drunk, be it whisky, rum, vodka or simply ‘desi daaru’ in that bottle!
Richa Juyal, Dehradun
This refers to your story Barrels Deter Goodwill Goal (March 6) on the army’s efforts to win Kashmiri hearts. Militancy has now taken a serious turn in the Valley with the locals standing in the way of military operations against militants. They also pelt stones at soldiers. The army is perfectly capable of ending militancy, but only with the help of the state government and the local people. This means a political settlement is necessary for a lasting peace. As the army is trained to do something else, not propagate sadbhavana, some say such exercises are a waste of money and fail to win over the locals. To win over the locals, the security forces have to be withdrawn, but then, who will guarantee that the militants won’t resume their activities in such a scenario?
Lt Col (retd) Ranjit Sinha, Pune
I feel the army chief was right in saying that pelting stones at the armed forces is an ‘anti-national’ activity—and will count as such anywhere in the world. Those who throw stones at soldiers effectively denounce their own citizenship. The army retaliating through pellets and bullets is a valid response. The Kashmir imbroglio has become a Gordian knot and has to be cut a la Alexander the Great. A weak-kneed policy will not result in any solution.
J.N. Bhartiya, Hyderabad
The army chief’s stern warning to the separatists and their supporters against interfering in counter-terrorism operations finds favour with me. Finding fault with the army chief’s statement, as some regional parties and national-level opposition parties are doing, would help Pakistan foment more unrest in the Valley. The nation cannot watch silently when the army chief’s statement is belittled to appease demographies. The opposition parties must uphold India’s secular fabric by denouncing retaliation by separatists in the name of azadi and supporting the army’s activities.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
This refers to Misery After Master Strike (March 6), excerpted from The Crisis of 1974: Railway Strike and the Rank and File by Ranabir Samaddar. My grandfather, who retired from the railways as a head fitter in 1979, had not joined the 1974 strike. As a result, he was heckled by the strikers and honoured with the “loyal employee” peerage. This made it easy for my father to get a railway job in 1982, even though grandpa’s younger brother and my father’s elder brother had both joined the 1974 strike.
N.M. Mallick, Burdwan
This refers to Manoj Joshi’s column Hammer Of Authority (February 20) on how “the Indian military is its own police and judge”. The columnist correctly writes that the Army Act, 1950, is a successor of the 1911 Indian Army Act—itself a response to the 1857 mutiny in which the British almost lost their empire. They observed there was no mutiny in the Punjab Frontier Force that had a provision of summary court-martial, and that the 1,39,000 sepoys of the Bengal Native Army revolted to a man!
Rajiv Chopra, Jammu
When Lance Naik Roy Mathew (in pic) from Kollam, Kerala, paid with his life for featuring in a sting operation carried out to expose the ‘sahayak’ system in the army, I was reminded of your cover story Shooting the Brother (Feb 20). There is no way to verify whether Mathew indeed took his own life because he felt guilty of having let down his superior officers. It is sad that a soldier from a humble background had to become a casualty of the media’s high-risk intervention to expose the orderly system (the “buddy” system is a misnomer as the practice is always one-way service and never mutual help). Soldiers go through an identity crisis when they double up as domestic help. Some army officers think the sahayak system is no big deal as the lower-rung soldiers usually come from humble family and social backgrounds. The tragedy is that a poor family in Kollam had to lose their dear one to the media’s efforts to highlight the prevalence of the slavery-like practice in the army. We hope that no one in the army meets Mathew’s fate anymore.
G. David Milton, Kanyakumari
Outlook’s report on the opportunities in East Africa is apt (A Surti on Lake Victoria, Mar 6). India has a very old and time-tested trade relation with African nations—especially Rwanda, Uganda and other nations around Lake Victoria. The sheer number of expat Indians bears testimony to that. Let’s not forget, a crucial seed of Indian independence was sown in South Africa.
LCRS, On E-Mail
Outlook’s story on the dominance of spin in the long, ongoing home Test season was interesting (Wrist, Finger and Revolution, Mar 6). Indian pitches are anyway conducive to spin bowling and we’ve had tailor-made wickets to support spinners right from 1971. Touring teams have often vented their frustration about this. Our medium-pacers creating big cracks near the crease for spinners to exploit is an old Indian rope trick. This time, the Pune pitch—later rated ‘poor’—came of greater help to the Aussies, unlike the notorious Mumbai pitch in the past. The message is clear—we overdo everything. Saying that, the Pune pitch certainly wasn’t ‘unplayable’. The ball did turn from day one, but the Aussies did cross 250 in both innings. In fact, one reason why late-bloomer O’Keefe turned lethal was that he wasn’t turning it square like Jadeja, but just enough to take the edge or go straight on to trap the hapless Indians LBW.
C.K. Subramaniam, Mumbai
The poll report from central and eastern UP was quite comprehensive (Currents Beneath PM’s Kashi, Mar 6). But then, I suspect there is a smirk on Modi’s face when he reads such reports. The EVMs all seem to be compromised and Modi will win all elections henceforth.
Nasar Ahmed, Karikkudi
This is about Outlook’s cover story about the new Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka (Obverse of the Coin, Feb 27). Former Infosys CEO V. Balakrishnan’s observations (‘Come clean on all allegations’) about the response of the Infosys board to the concerns raised by its founder N.R. Narayana Murthy means that the board is at the receiving end. The general policy drift at the IT giant is worrisome not only to the promoters and founders but also to its investors. Balakrishnan is not wrong in suggesting that the firm should put the probe report on complaints regarding governance in the public domain and provide it to shareholders. If there are mistakes, the board must admit it.
M.C.J., On E-Mail
I am not a management expert. But, after seeing what’s happened in Tata Sons and now Infosys—where promoters have questioned a professionally appointed chairman, and called into question the wisdom of decisions by the management and board—I won’t be surprised if such trends aren’t confined to only a few companies. In fact, this might be the norm in all promoter-started firms. I know that there are several stakeholders in firms—shareholders, suppliers of raw material, employees, consumers, working capital suppliers, the state governments, etc. But it is shocking that lavish severance packages are given to CEOs, while all other workers are mostly advised to work hard. Will any expert be kind enough to enlighten readers on the rationale of the above practices?
G.L. Karkal, Pune
This is about the edit (Kshatriya CEO?, Feb 27) on casteism in modern India. Truly, in spite of political parties trying desperately to woo voters on the basis of caste, it is becoming more futile by the year. Brahmins today marry non-Brahmins, Kshatriyas marry Vaishyas...a gentle revolution is taking place all over the country. And India’s mixed workplaces are at the centre of all mixed marriages. But what would be the caste of the children born of such mixed unions? A cashless society might by a pipe dream, but a casteless society may be knocking at our doors!
G. Neelakantan, Bangalore
This refers to the story on fighting poverty, Garibi Hatao, Now Out Of Silos (Feb 27). Apparently, Indira Gandhi’s slogan ‘garibi hatao’ has made a comeback. But three-and-a-half decades ought to have been a long enough time in which to make a larger dent in poverty than we have. Gender inequality, limited access to credit, lack of quality healthcare and education have posed a massive challenge for rural women. Women are strong contributors to the economy. If anything has to be done at all, they have to be empowered in order to end hunger and poverty.
Vinod C. Dixit, Ahmedabad
I write apropos the story about tackling and doing business with China while taking into account its close ties with Pakistan (Xi Stoops To Conquer, Feb 27). Every move by India, and concerted attempts by many in the UN security council, to bring Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar to account, is being thwarted by China, which wields the veto power. China has also been blocking attempts by India to get a permanent seat in the UNSC. This despite the fact that China got a seat due to Nehru’s benevolence in the first place. All this has confirmed that China is officially Asia’s bully state.
P.K. Hanspaul, Batala
This refers to Sordid Twist in the Script (March 6). It is a national shame that the Kerala cine-world is replete with beasts, sharks and leeches who prey on female artistes. There have been attempts to abduct and molest the artistes, many of which go unreported. But the same is the case outside Kerala too and what happened in Kochi only reflected that larger reality. Women who join the field do so to make money and become famous, not to sign away their right to live as they want to and decide what is good for them.
M.Y. Shariff, Chennai