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This refers to your cover story on deepfakes (What the Fake!, September 23). There has been a revolution in lifestyles since computers started doing many of our tasks with accuracy and speed, and without getting tired. Internet and mobile phones help us communicate with people anywhere on this planet. Smartphones also include cameras, radio and tape-recorder, and open the doors to net-banking. But, along with the internet came various kinds of viruses and hacking by those who misused it to serve their interests. The cat is out of the bag. There is fake news everywhere, which is presented as real news and eclipses real news. It is anyway getting hard to differentiate between real news and fake news, and deepfake will take this to new levels altogether. Anything can now be altered and morphed, even video and audio. It is high time we stopped relying on digital and TV news, and reverted to the traditional print media.
M.Y. Shariff, Chennai
This refers to Locked in a Garden of Woes (September 23), your story on the late J. Jayalalitha’s properties. The demise of the AIADMK leader and former chief minister of Tamil Nadu left behind many unresolved issues. There has been no clarity so far on how she wanted her considerable assets to be bequeathed, to whom and in what manner, and whether she has left a will. She was an intelligent person and it is unlikely that she did not pen a testament when she was aware of her deteriorating health.
H.N. Ramakrishna, Bangalore
Sasikala was not only Jayalalitha’s confidante, but also a female Chanakya who controlled the levers of administration during most of Jaya’s rule. True, much of their wealth had been confiscated after a trial court verdict, but Sasikala had independently acquired her own fortune during her long association with Jaya. Even her extended family is so rich that they can start their own political outfit and thumb their nose at the ruling dispensation. But, after her long incarceration in a Bangalore jail, Tamil Nadu CM E. Palaniswami has tried to wriggle out of her control. Another party rebel, T.T.V. Dhinakaran, who commands considerable following among Thevars, is now his own political boss. After the AIADMK’s crushing defeat in the Lok Sabha polls, it is seen to be too weak to take on the formidable DMK. But a never-say-die BJP is planning to use Subramanian Swamy to broker peace with Sasikala, who still commands loyalty from most AIADMK men. They are planning to release Sasikala early to bring various factions of the AIADMK closer together to face the 2021 assembly elections. Sadly however, Amit Shah’s ill-advised one-nation-one-language push could thwart the BJP’s ambition to enlarge its footprint in Tamil Nadu.
Kangayam R. Narasimhan, On E-Mail
Your story Take the Road Taste (September 23) reminded me of mouthwatering stuff—chole bhature, stuffed parantha, pav bhaji, golgappa etc—available on roadsides in almost every town and city across India. It was a delight to find Hazaratganj, a locality in my own city, mentioned alongside Delhi’s Chandni Chowk, Mumbai’s Khau Galli and Calcutta’s Dalhousie. Hygiene of street food handlers and the safety and quality of the food are often questionable. The programme initiated by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to certify select roadside food hubs across the country as clean and safe, after training the street food handlers on good hygiene practices and ensuring food safety while food is prepared and served, is laudable. The food safety status of a hub is audited by the FSSAI before giving it the certificate. Such certified hubs will also attract those who avoid street food due to unhygienic conditions and pay exorbitant prices in restaurants for the same food. The FSSAI has taken up an ambitious and uphill task, but it is worth doing.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
This refers to Shah of the Souda (September 16), your story on the BJP’s game plan to hold on to power in Karnataka. The BJP’s quest to strengthen its organisational setup in the state won’t be easy as its growth in Karnataka has never been organic. There is a need for developing the younger generation of leaders and, in doing so, the BJP has thrown a surprise by naming three deputy CMs and depriving CM B.S. Yediyurappa of full control, unlike in the past. Rumour has it that there is a move to appoint one more deputy CM to pacify another sulking group. With the Supreme Court yet to decide the fate of 17 rebels, there will be a need to accommodate some of them in plum posts. The way things are shaping up, one is reminded of a Hindi movie made in the 1980s where the hero is a barber, ends up as the CM, and appoints every ministerial aspirant as deputy CM. We have to wait for the Supreme Court’s decision to see how many more deputy CMs are appointed in Karnataka.
S.R. Gadicherla, Bangalore
Deepfake has become deep enough to sell like hot cakes in this era of Godi media.
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
Congratulations for taking up the issue of Uniform Civil Code (1 Code Fits All?, September 9) and initiating a debate at the national level. Now that the Supreme Court has castigated successive governments for not looking at Article 44 of the Constitution, the BJP government has been further empowered to take up the matter. It was neither the intention of those who enacted the Constitution nor the contention of those in power today to impose the laws governing Hindus on people of other faiths. The best way is to appoint a committee of experts to go into the issue and draft a common code taking the best from laws applicable to various religious communities, and then put it up for debate. This should have been done in the 1950s, soon after the country became a republic. The constituent assembly erred in declaring secularism as its policy, yet allowing religious laws to exist. One wonders why Jawaharlal Nehru, a champion of secularism, allowed the codification of Hindu laws. Indian secularism is a sham in the absence of secular laws. The Uniform Civil Code is necessary for making India a truly secular nation in principle and practice.
Duggaraju Srinivasa Rao, Vijayawada
This refers to the column by Lawngtlai deputy commissioner Shashanka Ala on a school-farming initiative that has contributed to reducing malnutrition in Mizoram (Let Them Eat Fruit, September 23). I would like to thank all those under whose effort and guidance the fight against malnutrition in Mizoram has been possible. In fact, this is a lesson for other states to follow. If a small state with limited resources can eradicate malnutrition, there is no reason why other states cannot do the same. As India seeks all-round development, it is necessary to eradicate malnutrition, which is linked to poverty. No real development is possible if the people are not healthy.
Ranjit Sinha, New Delhi
This refers to The Demon on My Palm (September 16), your story on digital disorders. The way we are obsessed with our cellphones and its deadly ramifications are a cause of worry. Alarm bells are ringing, but the mobile malaise is still to be recognised as a malady and treated like one. The unfortunate part is that despite knowing the bewitching charm of the smartphone, we are doing nothing to get out of its thrall. On the contrary, parents take pride in their little ones knowing more than them about the different apps on the mobile.
Phone manufacturers feed on our insatiable hunger for ‘selfies’ and come up with more efficient cameras. It is not just that we are narcissistic, but we also exhibit that narcissism in as many weird manners as can be, oblivious to our own safety and that of others. The device that was supposed to simply connect us on the go has so many fascinating add-ons now that we have literally succumbed to its temptations.
Vijai Pant, On E-Mail
This refers to Title Suit vs Forgotten Crime (September 9). While the Babri demolition case is nowhere near closure, the BJP has moved on quite a distance. PM Narendra Modi has emerged much stronger after his party’s stunning victory in the 2019 general elections. This has given him enough boldness to carry out his reform agenda in several areas. The pace of reforms is also faster, going by the budget and the vision he revealed in his Independence Day speech. His team was already in place and he has also been making plans for his second term even before the 2019 polls, confident of his victory. At the party level, Modi 2.0 has achieved most of the core agenda of the BJP. Besides triple talaq, the abrogation of Article 370 pertaining to special status for Jammu and Kashmir and the related Article 35-A were indeed bold steps. It was the surprise element and meticulous planning, implemented by Union home minister Amit Shah that worked in Modi’s favour. A total of 30 bills were passed in a very productive Parliament session. On the security side, anti-terror laws have been tightened. Labour reforms, strong laws against frauds and death penalty for child sexual assault are other measures.
The most important miss, however, is the economy. Several indicators, including the slump in the auto sales, rail freight, consumption of petroleum products, domestic air travel and imports, clearly show a slowdown. Another miss is the National Register of Citizens issue. The mess has caused embarrassment. While 100 days are not enough to assess the Modi government’s performance, but it has certainly done more in the first 100 days of his second term than in his first.
J.S. Acharya, Hyderabad
The cover of September 16 issue was a photograph of a 2018 sculpture in Amsterdam called Absorbed by Light designed by Gali May Lucas and executed by Karoline Hinz. It was widely circulated on social media as Addiction. We regret not putting the credit for the photograph.