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Apropos of your cover package on former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee (A Permanent Pause, Aug 27), with Vajpayee’s passing the era of clean politics, mutual respect, trust, and consensus in politics has gone forever. In his speech in the Lok Sabha on his 13-day government losing a trust motion by a single vote, he said that he could not indulge in unfair means to retain power and resigned. No other party was willing to support his government at that time. Subsequently, other parties supported him in a second stint, this time for 13 months. Managing a 24-party coalition for the full term of his third government was no less than miraculous. In one of his poems, Vajpayee has said that he would return, but we all know that it is only a one-way journey. The void created by his departure is forever. Respectful tributes!
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
True statesman, gentleman, great orator, consensus builder, a true democrat, all adjectives are small words for Atal Behari Vajpayee. The true barometer of the success of a politician is how he or she is accepted beyond the party line, and that is where he has no parallel. After his death, it’s Indian politics which has become poorer. He could be remembered for many things, but at the top of the list would be the nuclear test at Pokhran, his engagement with Pakistan, the Golden Quadrilateral, Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana and the Kisan credit card. He carried on the spirit of economic reforms introduced by the P.V. Narasimha Rao government. The disinvestment in BALCO, Hindustan Zinc, Indian Petrochemicals and VSNL must be mentioned, as well as how VSNL’s monopoly on international telephony was then ended. And on the social front, there was Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. Today’s politicians would do well to watch his old videos of parliamentary debate and learn how to behave and function in Parliament.
Bal Govind, Noida
Atal Behari Vajpayee was a marvel, who so effortlessly stepped across the Lakshman rekha of party propriety and ideology, and yet garnered all-round respectability. During his political life, he evoked two dominant reactions— some described him as the ‘right man in the wrong party’ while others argued that his ‘moderate face’ had helped the BJP acquire legitimacy. For someone who had joined active politics back in 1951 upon the founding of the Jana Sangh, and who had suffered several rejections at the ballot box, he showed not a trace of bitterness. He retained equanimity in defeat and victory, never giving up and, eventually, in the late ’90s, he tasted power. That Vajpayee was a democrat to the core was strikingly manifest when he accepted with grace the fall of his government by one vote in 1996. He returned with a bigger mandate and enjoyed a cordial relationship with the Opposition between 1999 and 2004, a miracle when seen in the context of the antagonism today. In Parliament, too, Opposition leaders never fought shy of showing their respect for Vajpayee. The only regret would be that Vajpayee entered South Block 10 years too late, when his health was already on the decline.
J.S. Acharya, Hyderabad
Indian politicians are not particularly well known for their sense of humour. Karunanidhi, however, was an exception (Episodes from the Script, Aug 20). A few years ago, when he had undergone spinal surgery, the doctors had directed the attendant nurse not to give him any water, on medical grounds. When he woke up, the first thing Karunanidhi asked for was a glass of water. When the nurse politely refused, he immediately asked her, “Are you from Karnataka?”
M. Mustafa, Bangalore
Apropos of Self Care In A Blinding State (Aug 13), you have a lot of sympathy for the victims of pellet guns in Kashmir. Kindly ask the victims what they were doing on the streets. See the picture on the other side: a CRPF jawan from a small village in western UP or Bihar surrounded by a mob baying for his blood!
Rajiv Chopra, Jammu
The condition of child shelters in India would make a Dickens novel appear cheerful.
Padmini Raghavendra, Secunderabad
With reference to Hell Is Here (Aug 27), at this stage it is clear that merely making laws can never create a secure social environment for women and children. Therefore, unorthodox measures are needed to create exemplars and deterrents, such as separate fast-track courts for cases of sexual crime, and placing NGOs under the strict vigil of district authorities. Governments should also change the concept of transferring errant government officials; instead, the officials’ services should be terminated.
Indu S. Dube, Varanasi
Some blame for the rampant abuse that goes on in these shelter homes should also be laid at the doors of the people’s representatives—our members of Parliament. Some time back, Maneka Gandhi, minister for women and child development, wrote to all Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha MPs, asking them to visit such shelters in their constituencies periodically. But it appears hardly any of them heeded her advice. Had they taken it seriously, incidents such as Muzaffarpur and Deoria might have been averted. The attitude of our representatives remains condemnable, even though there has been uproar in Parliament during the monsoon session about these two shelters.
P.S. Kaur, On E-Mail
I wonder why the TISS team led by Mohammad Tariq is apparently not being considered for any awards. In spite of obvious obstacles, they managed to bring out the rot in shelter homes.
Krishnan, On E-Mail
I refer to Swing On The Silk Route (Aug 27). It is true that no nation invests enormous amounts in another country for benign reasons. The stakes are high for China, as this corridor will provide easy access towards safeguarding vital flows of oil from the Gulf nations and eventually a naval base—although China denies any military role for the corridor project. The major complaint that Pakistanis have about this project is the lack of transparency on the financial implications; they question the need for secrecy. Some even suggest that it is a rebranded East India Company. For India to trade with Pakistan, CPEC is not a prerequisite. There is the port at Karachi and many cross-border overland and train routes. China did invite India to be part of this project, and India was right in rejecting the offer as the road passes through turbulent areas of Balochistan and Xinjiang. Additionally, CPEC passes through the disputed territory of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and India signing up to it would amount to legally accepting the infringements made by both Pakistan and China. China’s long-term geostrategy for the past two decades has been to displace the US by becoming the major regional power and trading partner. The belt and road project is designed to create part of the physical connections by way of ports and military alliances, as a recent Pentagon report suggests.
H.N. Ramakrishna, Bangalore
I write this letter without much hope that it will be published, for fairly obvious reasons.
In 2001, in the middle of the third Vajpayee ministry, Outlook published a story—Rigging the PMO (March 5, 2001). This caused so much consternation in the government that a series of income tax raids was launched on the premises of Outlook, as the magazine’s founder-editor Vinod Mehta recounts in his book, Lucknow Boy: A Memoir.
What confuses me, therefore, is the complete omission of the affair in your latest issue (as far as I can tell). Either the story was false, in which case it is most disappointing that Outlook has not yet issued a retraction, or, for some reason, it was seen as too insignificant to report. I should think that a crackdown on press freedom of this sort is exactly the sort of thing that Outlook would dredge up and remind an Indian public that increasingly wishes to ignore such matters.
I cannot blame you for picking your battles, or even throwing in the towel; I have been fortunate enough to avoid even having to make such difficult choices. Present conditions are not particularly conducive to good journalism. But the omission was, nevertheless, a disappointment.
Joshua Loo, London
With reference to Music In The Plural (Aug 20), T.M. Krishna is a unique musician who has gone beyond the canons and boundaries of music to demonstrate and illustrate democracy as the voice of many, and who stands apart from other musicians past and present. He is grounded in democratic values as well as music, a rare combination. In the midst of curbs on free thinking and free speech, and of pseudo-nationalism and authoritarian rule trying to dismantle old institutions and values, he has endeavoured to think and speak freely through music, and also describe what democracy, plurality, inclusiveness and brotherhood mean. His listeners have caught on, realising that there is no way other than holding on to democratic norms for the good of the nation. He is a lone and silent crusader against the ruthless forces of religious, social and political marginality, bigotry, oppression, suppression, subjugation and persecution, but his is a powerful voice through the medium of music, through which he will keep the flock of saner minds—the majority—together to defeat the right-wing elements who are hell-bent on dividing the hearts of the people and destroying the fabric of this ancient country in a matter of years. Words can move mountains, and music has greater reach still. It is hoped that his music and his message will not prove futile.
M.Y. Sharif, Chennai
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