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This refers to your cover story on West Bengal (Agni Pariksha, July 1). CM Mamata Banerjee’s political rival is no more the Left Front, but the BJP. No wonder she is holding the party ruling at the Centre and “outsiders” responsible for the growing violence in the state. Her party, which had won 34 of the total 42 Lok Sabha seats in Bengal in 2014, was reduced to 22 in 2019, while the BJP, which drew a blank in 2014, bagged 18 seats this time, with voteshare up to 40.25 per cent from 17 per cent. The major chunk of Left Front votes has shifted to the BJP and the TMC, causing the latter’s voteshare to go up as well. Mamata’s disrespect for the Centre’s authority is against the constitutional scheme of India’s federal structure. She refused to attend a NITI Aayog meeting citing the body’s lack of financial powers and role in supporting state plans. She also opted out of the all-party meet called by PM Narendra Modi on June 19 to discuss several issues, including the ‘one nation, one election’ idea. The Bengal CM asked for a white paper on the idea first. When the Centre issued an advisory to Bengal on the law-and-order situation, she challenged the Centre to issue such an advisory to Uttar Pradesh instead. Meanwhile, TMC MLAs and councillors have been joining the BJP. The assembly polls due in 2021 will be Mamata’s real Agni Pariksha.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
As Bengal witnessed a string of violent clashes in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls, Mamata Banerjee shifted the blame on the BJP. The police turning a blind eye to the violence has been responsible for its escalation. Though hooliganism has long been part of Bengal politics, this is for the first time that it was given a communal tone by both the TMC and the BJP, and people fell prey to it, leading to polarisation of society.
K. R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
Aparna Sen is right when she says, ‘Trinamool failed to bring changes that Bengal’s electorate expected’ (July 1). Sen’s voice carries weight among the Bengali intelligentsia. Now people have seen Mamata Banerjee’s prejudice-ridden rule. The CM should realise this early and check further loss of life and limb, which has become the norm under her leadership.
H.C. Pandey, Delhi
I wish the author of Dry Days (June 24) had turned his attention to Chennai, which is also in the grip of a drought. Due to the neglect of rivers, lakes, wetlands and prime forests in the past three decades, Chennai is parched. The Dravidian parties, busy with other matters, lacked a clear vision to conserve water resources across the state. Houses, colleges and schools were built on water bodies. The DMK famously built the Valluvar Kottam, a familiar landmark on a prime lake in the city. In the past 30 years, key water bodies were not desilted by successive governments. It is even alleged that water bodies were deliberately kept dry to enable the construction mafia to mine sand. Chennai has not seen rain for over 190 days. While people struggle to get a few pails of water, the water mafia uses giant motors to extract water from riverbeds and supplies it to big hotels and businesses. There are no restrictions on mineral water and aerated drink companies. A multi-pronged approach involving the government, people, NGOs and social media can alone check the water mafia and alleviate the acute water scarcity.
Kangayam R. Narasimhan, Chennai
Anybody wallowing in wealth and puffed pride is apt to lose sense of reality. The hoi polloi, unable to understand the causes of their misery, attribute it to destiny. Will any politician agitate for the bread (and butter) of the poorest? Development should start from the kitchen. There is little regard for women even though they fetch buckets of water from long distances under the scorching sun.
J.N. Bhartiya, Hyderabad
Mamata Banerjee is the last of the old order that stands against Modi’s New India march.
Manoj S. Kamal, Indore
Refer to Genegeddon (June 24). Extensive genetic research is going on worldwide as scientists have realised that it is the future of medicine. India is an important part of this revolution, given its stupendously diverse gene pool. Researchers and private companies are working to isolate genes in order to use them in tests. Genome editing is a powerful new tool for making precise changes to an organism’s genetic material. Recent scientific advances have made this efficient, precise and flexible with new technologies. Scientists believe that powerful editing procedures could one day prevent people from passing on serious medical conditions to their children. Early testing helps parents in detecting rare diseases and may allow them time to be more prepared for any tragic outcomes. Helping to eliminate the pain and suffering that comes with genetic disorders is as big a step forward as the introduction of vaccines for the elimination of diseases like smallpox. What was once just a sci-fi writer’s dream will be a reality within years, not decades. Growing body parts using gene editing is both exciting and terrifying. And discovering the genetic roots of common diseases like diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and finding cures is the holy grail of modern medicine.
H.N. Ramakrishna, Bengaluru
This refers to the story Lost in the Bheed (June 24). Its slug, ‘Turncoats’, reminded me of an incident 25 years ago when youth had given me the audacity to call a turncoat a turncoat. At a social event in Delhi, a few local politicians were fawning over Shatrughan Sinha, quizzing him about his glamorous life and Bollywood. I interrupted him to ask what made him switch ideologies and parties with such ease. Shatrughan is easy to provoke. Frowning, he asked if I was a scribe. On being told that I wasn’t, he rubbished me as being too young to be forming political opinions. As I didn’t give in to his ‘khamosh’ gestures, Shatrughan stomped out, leaving his plate of food on the table. Early in life, I learnt two vital lessons. One was that women are part of a subaltern social stratum in which they are not supposed to question so-called powerful men on anything, least of all politics. Social conversations should be preferably on soft subjects like wives, children and favourite foods. The second lesson, of course, was to never call a turncoat a turncoat!
Sangeeta Kampani, New Delhi
The BJP’s expanding footfalls across the country is attracting political opportunists in droves. These defectors from other parties are jumping on to the BJP bandwagon to revive their sagging fortunes. However, only those who are able to give heft to the BJP in regions where it still has to gain in organisational strength are given importance; the rest are gradually pushed towards the margins, having served the party’s purpose of weakening the Opposition. Also, the BJP is the political offshoot of the RSS. These turncoats can never get absorbed completely among hardcore RSS adherents who have climbed through the ranks from modest beginnings in the shakhas. They will remain outsiders and bit players.
Vijai Pant, On E-Mail
Apropos of the story on how easy it has become to arrest journalists on the slightest of pretexts (The Ugly Gag Press Order, July 1), it is illuminating that India is ranked 140 out of 180 nations in the press freedom index. It’s a smudge on India’s credentials as the ‘world’s largest democracy’. A gagged press suggets that the government is scared of fearless reportage. That’s toxic for democracy.
George Jacob, Kochi
The unravelling of the BSP-SP alliance was expected, but not that it would happen so soon (Elephants Can’t Cycle, June 24). Mayawati’s decision to contest the bypolls in UP separately shows one of her infamous traits that have gained her a reputation of being self-centred. Through this act, Mayawati tries to show how ruthless a politician she is, compared to the young Akhilesh Yadav. It is also evident that Akhilesh’s political career is at the crossroads after his party’s defeat in three major polls since 2014. It seems Dalit votes were not transferred to the Samajwadi Party and this hurt the SP. Actually, SP voters voted for the BSP candidates, but the Dalit voters did not reciprocate. In a way, the BSP’s not winning more seats is a blessing in disguise for the SP because, if the BJP had fallen short of a simple majority, then Mayawati would not have hesitated to offer support to the Narendra Modi government, and would have extracted her pound of flesh by demanding a major berth in the cabinet at the Centre.
L.J. Singh, On E-Mail
This refers to the story on how the BJP will act decisively in Jammu and Kashmir on various fronts (A Pushy Centre Aims Big, June 24). Indeed, Amit Shah is known for his ‘decisive actions’. His motto is to achieve his ends without bothering for any principles. Military action in Kashmir has lost its edge, accomplishing nothing but sensational headlines and inviting international censure. The new home minister knows that money is more effective than muscle, thus squeezing the organisation where people’s money is held can bring them to their knees. Delimitation of constituencies, trifurcation of J&K and creating Union territories are all ideas to make the people weaker and easier to pit against each other. Shah’s goal is to sort out Kashmir in the next few years to ensure another term for the BJP in 2024.
M.N. Bhartiya, Goa