the fully loaded magazine
This refers to A Sunny Electric Dream, your cover story on the future of energy (Nov 27). Electric power is a basic need, which is mainly generated by coal and fossil fuel and partly by hydro, wind, gas and nuclear power. The reserves of coal and fossil fuel are not infinite and will be exhausted one day or the other. Besides this, thermal and fossil fuel power generation plants create environmental pollution and climatic problems. Nuclear power generation also needs raw material and has its own security problems. The only eternal source of power is the Sun. Solar power will outlast even humankind, so no need to worry here.
It’s good to know that India’s focus on solar-power has been fast developing. From 2014 to 2017, there has been a massive increase in the country’s cumulative capacity to harness the power of the Sun. This has given the country’s poor rate of rural electrification a boost by generating off-grid solar power for local energy needs. The solar energy system provides reliable electricity for lighting and other domestic use to people even in the remotest regions and that too at a nominal recurring cost. In January 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President François Hollande laid the foundation stone for the headquarters of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) in Gurgaon. The alliance of countries was announced at the Paris climate conference (COP21) in December 2015, which adopted the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal. The climate summit hoped to reduce production and development costs and facilitate the increased deployment of solar technologies to poor and remote regions. It is encouraging to know that the lithium-ion battery could soon power our homes, cars, and offices as well.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
Plants have been using sunlight as a source of energy for millions of years. Remember, the process of photosynthesis helps plants in preparing their food. Man might have looked up at the Sun and prayed that one day its light would also become a source of energy and would provide electricity, run electric motors and even sail motor boats. Man’s prayers have turned his dreams into reality. Solar energy is now increasingly used to run factories, move vehicles, cultivate lands and extend facilities for irrigation.
There seems to be no limit to the possibilities of utilising solar energy in different fields of industry. Solar power, which directly converts heat energy to electricity, will be the chief source of energy for people all over the world in the time to come. In fact, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the destiny of the human race solely depends on this alternative.
M.K. Somanatha Panicker, Alappuzha
It’s good knowing that these rays of hope will not harm the world once the fuel runs out.
Anil S., Pune
This refers to the article on the possible elevation of Rahul Gandhi to the post of the Congress president (Zeno’s Paradox, Nov 27). It’s unfortunate that India’s Grand Old Party is unsure about its leadership at the time of the assembly elections. Rahul, who carries the hopes and aspirations of millions of Congress supporters, seems to have gained political maturity of late and seems to be the right person to lead the party and its allies in the next general elections. It’s high time Congress elders shelved their rifts and conflicts and plumped for Rahul. It’s important for the Congress to have a dynamic young leader like Rahul; if it happens before the Gujarat elections, it may prove significant. The Congress may believe that due to disaffection over demonetisation and GST, it will have a walk-over in the next parliamentary polls. That would be a grave miscalculation—the Congress needs hard ground-work and a tough and resilient group of allies if they are to challenge the BJP in the near future.
P.A. Jacob, Muscat
The Congress is trying to lay the roadmap by elevating Rahul Gandhi for the post of the party president. A move that has been whispered about in these past five years is suddenly fast-tracked. But the move has come at the wrong time, and may backfire in the final analysis if the Congress faces the same situation of not getting enough votes in Gujarat and remains third or fourth in the final tally. And the change may not be enough to revitalise the party. Rahul would be the sixth person from the dynasty to hold the post. Point is, in today’s India, the Congress needs to see beyond the dynasty. There are a number of Congress seniors with greater capability, but a large section would only have the Gandhis. The Congress is clearly applying outdated and out-moded methods. Why else would they try to promote an under-performer?
Chitra Rugmini, Bhandup
There is unwarranted media hype about Rahul Gandhi’s elevation, an internal affair of a 133-year-old party that is anyway almost a sinking ship. The days of maharajas and princes are all gone, yet Rahul is being treated like a ‘yuvraj’. No wonder the BJP makes much of it. The Congress needs a more pragmatic, bold, intrepid and uninhibited leader who will not antagonise the old hags in the party, induct new blood to strengthen its base and restore its old legacy. Rahul, a part-time politician who is not sufficiently mature—as his tone, tenor and body language explain—is incapable of taking on strong BJP leaders like Modi and Amit Shah. Indeed, he doesn’t fit well into the Congress president’s shoes. The party now needs someone with acumen and shrewdness to resurrect the party from the quagmire it finds itself in. For whatever reasons, Rahul wasn’t urged to plunge headlong into politics, nor to upgrade himself. Sonia Gandhi was busy keeping the flock together and save the party. Other senior Congressmen were self-centred—they just looked after themselves rather well. With Sonia probably retiring on health grounds, the party will suffer from a leadership crisis, and will be driven to the brink. Now is the time for a charismatic leader like Nehru or Rajiv, or a strong one like Indira, who could take great risks in the face of danger. The Congress old guard have tasted power for decades; it’s time now for them to concentrate on rebuilding the party and mentor young talent. Rahul, too, needs to tap his hidden potential to the maximum and evolve a carefully crafted strategy. Lastly, a disparaging, contemptuous way of looking at the BJP will not work. There is much the Congress can learn from the BJP and the RSS, especially in matters of organisation and winning polls.
M.Y. Shariff, Chennai
Rahul Gandhi’s anointing has been put off year after year, and for good reason too, for the Congress party is in a shambles for the past few years after suffering consecutive electoral defeats. We’ve noticed that every time the Congress lost an election in the past few years, the party sycophants close ranks to protect Rahul. And since the Gujarat elections will, as usual, turn out to be a damp squib for the Congress, party elders don’t want Rahul to take over. A good leader can actually accept defeat with grace and learn from it, but Rahul doesn’t have it in him to turn defeat into an advantage. What an irony—decades come and go but the forty-plus princeling is still a work-in-progress.
Bal Govind, Noida
This refers to Riding, But Not Into The Sunset (Nov 27). The article has a lot of informative facts, and it’s truly not in a good spirit that Dhoni has been criticised. He still has the potential and determination to play a match-winning innings. As for Sunil, I would like to give interesting facts. In his last ten ODIs he scored 495 runs, which included only a single century, at an average of 49.5. He was the highest aggregate Indian run-scorer in the Reliance Cup with 300 runs under his belt. He averaged 65 in his last ten test innings, more than his career average. His last test innings of 96 is considered to have been out of this world, and in his last first class match he scored 188; this was at Lords against the MCC, and earned him the best batsman of the match award. Is there any other retired batsman as consistent in his last 10 innings on any format? The cricketing world was shocked when Sunny announced his retirement despite having at least 2-3 years of international cricket left in him.
Jerome Andrade, Belgaum
Thanks for publishing my letter on the football special issue (Foootie Days, Letters, Nov 27). But the letter had a mistake—it said the 1911 Shield-winning Mohun Bagan team’s only booted footballer, the Rev. Sudhir Chatterjee, discovered the future great Chuni Goswami. Actually, Goswami was discovered on the patchy turf of south Calcutta’s Deshapriya Park by the late boxer-cum-footballer Balaidas Chatterjee—a Mohun Bagan great himself. In 1946, when he was only eight, Goswami was abosrbed in Bagan’s junior team. Goswami first played for the senior team in 1954, and spent the rest of his playing days donning the green and maroon jersey till his retirement in 1968. This great athlete also played in the Ranji Trophy for Bengal. Interestingly, the best striker in Asia in 1962, Goswami refused a chance to join Tottenham Hotspur in England, as he ‘enjoyed being a star in India’.
Bidyut Kumar Chatterjee, Faridabad
Apropos of Chandy to the Left, Chandy... (Nov 27), when former CM Oommen Chandy was embroiled in the solar scam, the Left parties left no stone unturned in their quest to blacken his face and embarrass him. Now, as a similar fate befalls its own minister Thomas Chandy, the Pinarayi Vijayan goverment is left in a catch-22 situation by the minister resigning on corruption charges without a second thought. It is baffling that Vijayan left it up to the minister himself and the party leadership to make the call even after the CBI had upped the ante.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
This refers to your editorial comment Suffocatingly, Yours (Nov 27). The smog in Delhi stays longer due to lack of wind in winter. Though there is smog over the entire Gangetic plain, its severity is much less. This leads to only one conclusion: that the cause of smog is in the city itself. The need of the hour is to be honest and face the facts. Stop blaming poor farmers and everything else like dust storms. If one looks at the pollution map, it is clear that outside the metropolis, the smog is comparatively less.
T. Nayak, Washington
Given the chronic air pollution in Delhi, the city is likely to meet the fate of Beijing, where ‘bottled air’, sourced from the Rocky Mountains in Canada, is being sold! The three chief and perennial causes behind the problem are automobile pollution, industrial emissions and crop-stubble burning. Environmentalists have consistently recommended that the problem of automobile pollution can be solved by promoting public transport. Well-intentioned endeavours like the odd-even scheme are, at best, emergency measures. Earlier, CNG buses were brought in with some success. But the overall impact of these measures has proved little. Switching to the cleaner BS-VI grade of fuel should be pursued with the urgency it deserves.
Paddy stubble is not useful as fodder because of its high silica content, unlike wheat stubble, which is 70 per cent useful. This is where the problem arises. The farmer has to clear the paddy stubble from the fields within the short gap between the kharif and rabi season—i.e., in November. With no better option, the farmers have been resorting to the fast but environmentally disastrous solution of incinerating the stubble, which not only destroys beneficial soil microbes and lowers soil fertility, but also gravely pollutes the air. The ‘Happy Seeder’ machines, which chop and spread the paddy stubble so it turns into mulch, are good but costly solutions. When a mere matchstick is doing the trick, what incentive does a farmer have to adopt such options? Moreover, Delhi’s stock of these machines is found to be grossly inadequate and needs to be augmented and made affordable for renting. There is scope for green entrepreneurship in this, which should be encouraged.
C.V. Krishna Manoj, Hyderabad
Environmentalists say that if stern steps are not taken now, Delhi and other Indian cities will face something similar to London’s 1952 air pollution disaster, when nearly 12,000 Londoners died due to the ill-effects of smog. Recently, AIIMS director Randip Guleria made this comparison to draw attention to the fact that the UK had then passed the Clean Air Act, beginning the shift away from coal-based fuels. The suggestion from IIT Kanpur on artificial rain by cloud seeding is best suited to control this annual crisis in Delhi/NCR. It would be quite expensive, but the cost can be recovered by levying more green tax on heavy vehicles. In any case, radical measures will have to be taken to make conditions liveable again in the hazy capital.
P. Lal Singh, On E-Mail
I have said this before and am repeating myself. Deep Throat is followed by readers to actually learn some inside news or masala. If such news is hard to come by, please do not carry this column (either for a week, or permanently). Avoid inane and meaningless prattle.
Rajan Narasimhan, Bangalore
This refers to Noida to Islamabad (November 27). “The other plus that Pakistan has is the English language”—If you say the word ‘plus’, it implies that India lacks this skill whereas Pakistan has it. However, India and Pakistan both have the same skill. You need to understand what you are going to write before you write something. This is the worst article I have ever read!
Suresh Vemuri, On E-Mail
Khichdi should anyway have not been our national dish, for the name itself implies something hotchpotch (Khichdi of Pulkistan, Nov 13). For instance, the Morarji Desai cabinet of 1977. Why not idli, I wonder. It’s simple, tasty and healthy—not like your masala dosa that is so full of potatoes, which can upset your belly. Well, given that your editor is a Malayali, even puttu from his state is not a bad idea. I really like that Kerala item that comes out from a cylinder, steaming—and is served along with that hot curry of peas. Yummy yummy!
Vimal Kumar, Hyderabad