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Refer to Click G for media monopoly (Jan 22). Like social media, Google is now an inextricable part of our digital lives. It is an encyclopaedia on any subject on the earth. The mammoth search engine is considered to be extremely reliable by most internet users. It is almost the world’s search engine by default. Google has made all sorts of information easily available for the masses. Gmail is also the most widely used address for e-mails in the world. So, even though it’s growing power over people might spark worry, Google is unavoidable.
Mahesh Kapasi, New Delhi
Your cover story is a disappointment for the regular reader of Outlook. For most of them, Google is just a default browser which provides information about anything under the sun from A to Z for free. It is a tour de force in the new digital world, its influence having grown tremendously with time. Outlook has brought some very good stories of common interest on malpractices in healthcare services in the recent past. But this here is a technically overloaded story about a phenomenon everyone is more or less aware of.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
The article on the profiteering by private hospitals (Misery As A Terrific Biz Opportunity, Jan 15) was a very good one. But the editorial (The New VC, Jan 15) has some issues with it. The idea of “why do private hospitals charge for failure” is a dangerous one. In a profession contingent on so many eventualities, how do you define ‘failure’? One regularly needs to do a city-wise comparison of healthcare charges, including medicines. The government can make it mandatory for private hospitals to share the fees/charges matrix with it. An impartial media organisation like Outlook can compare and keep publishing them citywise. Again, it will be very diffficult to define what is “unwanted, illogical and extremely expensive” in medical services. The truth is, unless government hospitals improve hugely in quality, private hospitals will always walk away with anything. Only if patients have comparable services at reasonable prices will they question private hospitals. Private hospitals are like five-star hotels these days—the fact is that good doctors want to get paid handsomely, and only such ‘expensive’ hospitals can afford them. And you can’t stop professionals from being paid handsomely. Yes, there is a superb case that most items in a typical hospital bill need some kind of regulation, which requires some kind of standard matrix. But do we remain a democracy if we start doing this? The different rates for the ‘insured’ and the ‘uninsured’ are however indefensible.
Shilpeen Majumdar, On E-Mail
I work for a corporate hospital and like any other profession, we too have our share of black sheep, and I don’t attempt to defend them. The Medical Council of India, which was supposed to be the inbuilt internal mechanism to check out such misdeeds, itself became corrupted, with successive health ministries turning a blind eye to—and sometimes even patronising—such misadventures. But there is another side to this. Doctors in general have played a positive role in nation-building. The sharp rise in life expectancy in India, from 32 in 1947 to 70 today, is just one example of the sterling work put in by the medical profession. I am sure you are aware of the cost of setting up a good hospital and if corporates are doing it themselves, they need to be compensated. That some of them are overdoing it certainly needs to be decried, but painting the entire profession as manned by a bunch of thugs is as unfair as terming all journalists as practising yellow journalism. And the argument that money should be returned if a patient dies is grossly illogical too. Will you ask lawyers to return their fees if they lose cases? Also, people are forced to come to private hospitals in many cases because the government has not given them an alternative. Furthermore, look at the rise of medical tourism in India and the direct and indirect jobs which this industry (health and pharmaceuticals) provides. We must be realistic and acknowledge that good healthcare costs money in today’s world.
From quirk to comfort to necessity, the Google bubble has grown to engulf us all.
Anil S., Pune
The effort by an entrepreneur-innovator like Arunachalam Muruganantham on women’s healthcare is commendable. And it is great that Bollywood artistes are publicising his work (Bleeding Heart, Murugan’s Pads, Jan 22). Similar bids for menstrual pads have been conducted by Goonj, a non-profit organisation. The group collects donated clothes, selects cotton fabrics and then soaks, washes and dries them before sending them for hooks or buttons to be removed. Then the cloth pieces are ironed to remove moisture and cut to standard size. Sanitary napkins are made from the processed clothes and cost just Rs 2 a piece. Goonj also spreads awareness programmes for its product by holding meetings in the rural belts of the country.
Richa Juyal, Dehradun
This refers to the Reporter’s Case diary (Jan 22). It is highly unfortunate that an FIR has been filed against The Tribune reporter Rachna Khaira for highlighting the loopholes in the Aadhaar scheme. The reporter acted as she did so that the government would be able to address the issues and make the scheme as foolproof as possible. We are in serious trouble if such data can be bought for a paltry sum and misused. Instead of making it an ego issue, the UIDAI should acknowledge the problems. The UIDAI must apologise and withdraw the FIR against the reporter. The Union government should actually be thanking and rewarding this journalist.
Bal Govind, Noida
Aadhaar fails all the tests of a democratic setup, including the basic right to personal space. If bank funds are misappropriated, how are account holders responsible, and why do they need Aadhaar? Why is it required for phone connections? Even KYC is irrelevant. Then again, the government seems to have written off those without an address. Does the Government wish to oblige the internet and mobile service providers? Sending coercive messages regarding Aadhaar linking is not very democratic. Aadhaar will only make people more vulnerable to cyber-terrorism. Mahatma Gandhi once said: “I look upon an increase of the power of the State with the greatest fear, because although while apparently doing good by minimising exploitation, it does the greatest harm to mankind by destroying individuality, which lies at the root of all progress.” The BJP was against Aadhaar when it was not in power, now it is doing the opposite.
M. Kumar, New Delhi
Apropos of the Reporter’s Case diary (January 22), W.T. Stead, editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, exposed the trafficking of women in England by “buying” a girl and producing her before the public in 1885, almost 100 years before Ashwini Sarin achieved his own scoop (1981).
P. Suryanarayana, On E-Mail
Bitcoin became one of the parking zones of hard cash, sucked out due to the demonetisation drive (Black Stash of Secret Money, Jan 22). Outlook is giving an analysis on a matter, wherein the writer himself is stating that RBI has shown concerns and is sceptical about such virtual currencies. If it was an ‘advertorial’, I would have understood, but an article under the banner of ‘Outlook’! Investments in Bitcoins have increased manifold over the past year. Zebpay, BTCXIndia, Cyperplat and Unocoin are the agencies involved in this illegal money laundering exercise.
There is no owner of Bitcoin and every investment is on faith. It has no regulatory control and only a front end to convert black money into white (BMW). Indian citizens are investing heavily in Bitcoins to remit money to their accounts through an external channel. It’s interesting to note that Zebpay has a turnover of over Rs 1500 crore, and still does not pay any taxes in this country. Bitcoins have turned into a safe havens for hawala money. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has taken a close look at this trend. His ministry now needs to spell out rules so that money is not used for terror activities. It is difficult to understand how transactions for overseas accounts are being done online through the banking system, where KYC details are clearly noted. People need to know that these are high-risk transactions. It will not be out of place to mention here that Outlook was never known to promote ‘fly-by-night’ investments. A news article is fine, but not such frenzy, that readers get enticed into investing in such schemes, where there is no documentation or even a record of the transaction!
Rajiv Boolchand Jain, New Delhi
“Despite Sholingur, Srirangapatna, Wayanad and Koregaon, the Dalits were classified as non-martial by the British, thereby blocking their social mobility, something that was possible in an earlier era without enumerators and census,” you argue in your editorial comment (Why Not Srirangapatna? Jan 22). People are not blind today, nor were they in ancient or medieval India. Most people always knew the caste of those they had to interact with. Nobody depends on enumerators and the census for that. By any standard, British rule was the best that could happen to Dalits. Caste Hindus would not care for Dalits if not for British education as well as the introduction of electoral politics, which made inclusion of Dalits in the Hindu category important to keep the Muslims behind in terms of numbers.
Vijay Kartheek Meruga, On E-Mail
Your editorial comment is a daring attempt to raise some empirical truths. Dr Ambedkar may have been correct to project the valour of Mahars of the Bombay Native Infantry of the British East Company in the Koregaon battle against the Peshwa, to prove to his community that Mahars were not cowards, but courageous people. Mahatma Gandhi did the same in the First World War by recruiting Indians for the British. But the Whites never documented it as bravery. Western civilisation always treated the Blacks of South Africa as half-animals, hunted down Native Americans and wiped out the aborigines in Australia. To the Western mind, the Dalit was in the same plane as other Hindus. Dalit soldiers were mere tools to oppress the people of India. To tell it otherwise is a disservice to history and to the Dalits. The only exception may be the Kurichiyas of the Wayanad forests, who fought with the Pazhassi Raja against the British. There were innumerable rebels and reformers in different parts of India from the lower castes—Ravidas, Surdas, Ramdas, Akka Mahadevi, Kabir, Ayyankali, Mahatma Phule, Poiykayil Appachan, Sree Narayana Guru et al. Why can’t we project their fighting spirit and reformative zeal, instead of the Dalits in the British army?
It’s true the Dalits today are challenging the hegemony of the Marathas, Jats, Rajputs and other caste Hindus. If this uprising is woven into an all-India network of Dalits, Adivasis, poor Muslims and other like-minded people, it can dislodge the divisive might of the Sangh Parivar’s Hindutva, for which Muslims, Gandhians and liberal intellectuals are the “other”.
K. Aravindakshan, Thrissur
This is perhaps the first time I am in agreement with the views expressed in your editorial comment. It makes no sense to celebrate the victory of the British over Indian kings as it is well known that they deployed the divide-and-rule policy effectively to rule India for nearly 200 years. The travesty is that even after independence and despite the intentions of the founding fathers of the Constitution to move towards a casteless society, our politicians are bent on perpetuating the caste system to reap political benefits. The silver lining is that the younger generation is not very particular about the caste factor as the steep rise in inter-caste marriages indicates.
Hemanth D. Pai, Bangalore
Despite knowing there would be a huge gathering of around 10 lakh Dalits at Koregaon near Pune to commemorate the Peshwa army’s defeat, and that it could brew trouble, it is shocking that adequate forces were not deployed to control the crowd. It’s distressing that the Congress and other opposition groups found an opportunity to try to consolidate some Dalit votes even from this incident. Nonetheless, it was the abject failure of the chief minister to take adequate measures which led to the untoward incident and the subsequent protests that paralysed normal life in Mumbai, Pune and other parts of Maharashtra. The judicial probe and CID inquiry should find out the names of people or organisations responsible for the mischief.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
Your editorial comment avoids the basic question about the socio-economic status of Dalits in the present context. Do you think the caste system is dead and gone because of economic development? The protests are events where resourceless victims of the caste system gather to find strength within themselves. If you don’t want them to gather together and protest, then liberate them from the shackles of caste. The so-called mainstream media, which, in fact, is Brahminical in nature, hardly cares for the interest of Dalits. And when they try to assert themselves, demanding their constitutional rights, including the right to live with dignity, they are called names! Haven’t our freedom fighters used myths for awakening the masses against the Britishers? Mahatma Gandhi, the tallest of them all, mobilised people using the mythical Ram Rajya, where a Shudra called Shambuk was beheaded by the epic hero for the sin of gaining knowledge. In the battle between the feudal Peshwa and the capitalist Britishers, the latter were bound to win due to their superior scientific knowledge and techniques. By glorifying the Peshwa regime the upper castes indirectly glorify the caste system. Therefore, the victims of caste have the right to gather and protest. Needless to say, history and its interpretations are subject to methodological differences and hence we find multiple variations of the ‘same’ history!
Shuddhodan Aher, Mumbai
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