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This plate of ours is adorned with seven plus colours (What’s On Our Plate? July 9), a reflection of our composite, plural and all-accepting culture, as people celebrate culinary delights from various religions, castes and regions. The availability of food largely determines the food choices of a region—Brahmins from the hill and coastal regions are non-vegetarians and you can find vegetarian Christians and Muslims from grain-producing plains.
Food, like music, art, language and literature, cannot be uniformly imposed and like the ongoing attempts to iron out our diversity, is bound to fall flat in our country.
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
Our current busy and stressful lifestyles have aided the rise of the massive fast foods industry. We pick up junk food for ease and palatability, making it a regular part of our diet unwittingly. Calories, fat, cholesterol aren’t innocuous things anymore, the kind of diseases they can give you over the years makes them modern-day food monsters, haunting the bodies of people consuming them. The popular ‘happy meals’ at big fast-food joints are the opposite of healthy, no wonder they come up with attractive toys to lure the kids in almost a devilish plan. Among the so-called ‘modern’ foods, we need to remind ourselves repeatedly to grab only the nutritious food. To curb burgeoning waistlines and reduce the nation’s medical expenditure, many countries like France, Norway, Japan, Mexico etc have introduced higher taxes on foods with high sugars and saturated fats. Australia too is considering to reduce sugar by 20 per cent in foods loaded with this ‘poison’. Can India follow suit on such foods uniformly at the national level? Moreover, as we saw in the case of cold drinks, standards of the same multinational junk-food companies is different in India than the West. Here, the stuff is supposed to be even more sinister. I appreciate Outlook for running a cover story on nutrition and I wish to coin a cautionary slogan conscientiously: ‘Mind Your Bite’!
Sanjiv Gupta, Perth, Australia
I remember heart attack being an old-age thing. You were considered to be in the danger zone post-60 only in the past. Terrifyingly, the fatal stroke in less discriminatory now, with increasing cases of youngsters, between ages 20 and 40, getting heart attacks. One of the main reasons cited for it by medical experts is unhealthy food habits. Food charts of some families shown in your report reveal that fruits, vegetables, milk, and milk products are either too little in quantity or absent in the daily diet of most of families in India. Consuming fast food and street food is also common. Very few have the sense of a balanced diet and the vital role of the food we take in order to keep our body healthy and fit. I don’t think that nutritionist Ishi Khosla’s 12-item prescription for everyday is followed in any family. ‘Health is Wealth’ is the evergreen adage. Where does that health come from? From what we have on our plate.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
The cuisines of India are as rich as its languages, let’s learn to eat each other’s food too.
Shashwat Deb, On E-Mail
Refer to Babus Versus Idiot Savants (July 9). The lateral entry of babus into the senior levels of bureaucracy may prove to be a good idea. Most bureaucrats are generalists, but now policy-making and implementation increasingly need specialists. Although it is an initial offering for only 10 posts in areas such as finances, agricultural, revenue, environment and renewable energy, the move could be a significant step towards fulfilling the longstanding need for domain specialists in positions crucial to policy-making and the implementation of government schemes. The generalist bureaucrat was suited to the times when the state was the nerve centre of economy. But as the state started yielding to the market, it became quite apparent,that a senior bureaucrat must not only shepherd a complicated government apparatus, he/she must also regulate the private sector. In the past, the UPA government had also appointed non-bureaucrats specialists like Nandan Nilekani to head the UIDAI and the economist Montek Singh Ahluwalia as Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission.
P L Singh, On E-Mail
This is apropos the touching story about real-life heroes (Bonds Beyond the Red Tape, Jul 9) making a difference to far-flung lives. I need to applaud the writers for highlighting the dedicated service of G. Bhagawan, a teacher at a government school in Tamil Nadu’s Thiruvallur district, ‘People’s DGP’ Rupin Sharma in Nagaland, Kailash Chandra Das, who works at a health centre in Odisha and sub-inspector Gagandeep Singh of Uttarakhand, who saved a Muslim man from a mob last month. It’s only through their dedication to duty, sense of selfless service, motivation and determination that they have been able to find a place in people’s hearts. Outlook must publish more such inspiring stories.
Jayanta Topadar, Dhemaji, Assam
To Hack a Smart City (July 9) is an eye-opener to all that we do in the name of development, for which future generations will curse us. While the PM promotes yoga for good health, is there anywhere in the NCR except his residence where one can breathe fresh air? More trees are needed in this city plagued by pollution, but instead more projects to build up the concrete jungle are set to take a toll on Delhi’s tree population. And this is nothing new—the felling of 1,713 trees at Pragati Maidan was approved earlier. NBCC chairperson A.K. Mittal sought to reassure people by saying that “We plan to start compensatory planting in these places as soon as the construction work is over, and make them lush green like at New Moti Bagh.” A simple question to Mr Mittal: is he unaware of how many years it took for those trees to grow to their present level? Until the new trees grow, will the aam aadmi enjoy the pollution in the affected area?
Bidyut Kumar Chatterjee, Faridabad
After his re-election, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has emerged as Turkey’s president, head of government and head of the ruling party (A Turkish Rondo, July 9). Though he’s seen as the strongest Turkish leader since Ataturk, comparisons should end there. Ataturk was fiercely wedded to modernity, denounced fanaticism as an obstacle to progress and advocated secularism. By contrast, Erdogan has pushed in Islamists in leading Turkish institutions, while carrying on a purge of professionals allegedly close to exiled Islamic preacher Fetullah Gulen, including assault on the free press. He has also sold a leading media group to a crony. Turkish people would rather follow news on social media than believe pro-government media outlets. The Turkish economy is in the doldrums; inflation is high and its currency unsteady. The country badly needs to boost trade and investment. Worse, Turkish cities are open to attack by Kurdish separatists. Despite all this, the US and Russia court Erdogan.
K.R. Narasimhan, Chennai
This refers to Sin In The Box (June 9). Two incidents connected to sexual abuse by a bunch of orthodox priests and a bishop in Kerala have recently come to light. These reported cases could well be only the tip of the iceberg. Sexual abuse by ‘men of God’ should not be hushed up. Catholic priests and Bishops are human like the rest of us, let’s bring them down from the pedestal. They are not asexual to not need some sexual outlet. Repression breeds perversions.
The priests involved in the sex scandal are said to have taken advantage of a housewife’s confessions. The sacrament of confession gives the priest information about personal transgressions and can be used for prurient pleasure. Hearing confessions remains the exclusive preserve of priests. A thought: nuns could have been allowed to perform the penance for women. The theological explanation for women devotees confessing to priests and not to nuns is not enunciated adequately.
G. David Milton, Maruthancode, Tamil Nadu
Apropos of Sin in the Box (July 9), it is disturbing to read about this alleged exploitation of a woman parishioner by five priests of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, as well as a nun alleging rape by a bishop. In light of these serious allegations, it is incumbent on both churches to cooperate with the investigating agencies to ensure that truth prevails. It is a pity that a lady has to fight a long battle to get this out in public. We have heard many other stories of nuns’ suffering as well. Any criminal case should be dealt with and cleared by the law of the land. Hiding it in the local law and only saying that canonical procedures have been complied with has no merit under our Constitution. Ideally, both the law of the land and canon law should have been taken up. A crime is a crime, whether it is from a Christian religious figure or a Hindu or a Muslim or any other religion. I hope a thorough investigation happens and the truth comes out, and anyone found guilty is duly punished. Finally, it would be pertinent to know whether the church authorities themselves approached the investigative agencies on their own. If not, would it not amount to a cover-up?
J. Akshay, On E-Mail
This refers to Shiv Visvanathan’s analysis of the crude obscenities that punctuate routine reportage of narratives of violence (Listeneres Peddling Narratives of Violence, Jul 9). Only after the police shoot dead 13 Indian citizens do you hear about a protest that kept brewing for a hundred days. Hasn’t Noam Chomsky spoken about how the UN is controlled by the corporate world? Sterlite of Vedanta must be held to account. However, once normalcy is restored, the larger issue is promptly forgotten by the media. Such atrocities do irreparable damage to the polity.
Lalit Mohan Sharma, Dharamshala
Can you translate Shiv Visvanathan’s article in Greek on the Thoothukudi tragedy into English next time?
Krishnan S., On E-Mail
I refer to What’s Tamil for Lèse-Majesté (July 9). This rarely-used section of the IPC, enacted in colonial times, has no place in India’s modern democratic society. Such laws should be repealed. The office of governor is another colonial legacy that continues to be inhabited by the colonial proconsuls of the present ruling elite. One wonders why the governors and lieutenant-governors appointed by the present administration seem unable to get along with non-BJP state governments. Such actions by constitutional authorities will only usher in the twilight of our democracy and not as guardrails, when our position on the democracy index is already slipping. The relevance of this archaic institution needs to be re-evaluated. The pomp and panoply of this office can be dispensed with, saving considerable resources.
H.N. Ramakrishna, Bangalore
This refers to This Tank is Unstoppable (July 9). The Salman Khan juggernaut continues to roll its way through the people’s heart. While some critics and purists may pooh-pooh his movies, which cash in on his macho appeal without much thematic substance, the 52-year-old actor’s unmatched charisma and flamboyance remain the driving force behind the success of his movies. Even the likes of Amitabh Bachchan found the going tough at the box office when he was playing a hero after 50. But Salman has turned even the age trope upside down by getting cast in roles opposite actresses half his age even today. The audiences have wholeheartedly accepted the ageless Salman Khan in these roles and he still has a huge fan following. He is the modern day Gatsby, oozing oodles of swagger and chutzpah.
Aditya Mukherjee, On E-Mail
Are we expected to celebrate GST’s anniversary (GST or GST’N! July 2) It is no innovative approach to taxation, it’s the old wine in the same old bottle, only, they’ve put a pretty label on it. It’s only ‘one nation one tax’ in name, with different tax slabs for different goods. Pray, what are “sin goods”, what is this free market morality? Small and mid-size traders are still grappling with this tax and the GST brigade is roaming around, keen to extract its ‘pound of flesh’ from businesses. This Shylockian approach of the government has made a mockery of federalism, twisting the internal economics of states in true big vbrother style. But what can one expect. The GST is a rock compared to the Tughlaqian mountain of demonetisation that made the yoke of this country groan under its callous weight.
J. Kishore, Hyderabad
Refer to A People’s Final Draft (July 2). The piece leaves many questions unanswered. It delineates mainly the fear of alienation among Muslims and is silent on the actual problem: Following the NRC’s publication, the Centre will pass the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016, in the coming session of the Parliament. It would enable India to issue citizenship to the persecuted minorities of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, which is vehemently opposed by much of the Assamese community in the Brahmaputra valley, and supported by a large number in Barak valley. Since the 1960s, there have been agitations against the presence of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, leading up to the Assam Accord.
Our family has been living in Assam since 1951. My father’s name is in the 1956 NRC, but using his legacy data we failed to get listed in the first draft of this NRC (December 31, 2017). Eight members of the family are waiting for publication of the second list. Bengali Hindus have maintained their culture, language and identity, but they have also nourished Assamese culture and language. Bengali Muslims too have adopted it. But political leaders of all shades are trying to sabotage peaceful coexistence of different caste, creeds and languages in Assam.
A.K. Chakraborty, Guwahati
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