• Science, Cosmetics and the Art of Politics
    Jul 08, 2002

    Your cover story 10, 9, 8... Kalam (June 24) paints A.P.J. Abdul Kalam as a messiah and a great scientist. The fact is he is a humble human and a great Indian but he is just an engineer who has done no pioneering research nor published any paper in any journal, foreign or Indian. Moreover, he has been chosen by the BJP not only because he is a Muslim but also because he shares L.K. Advani’s worldview. Like him, Kalam believes a nation’s strength is not in its health, education and economy but in its missiles and nuclear warheads. It is to be noted that the President of India is also the supreme commander of the armed forces and there’s no second-guessing his likely action in case of a future Indo-Pak standoff.
    Rakesh Agrawal, Dehra Dun

    From what I have read of your account on APJ, he should be the prime minister and not the president of the country.
    Shiv Rudraksh, Philadelphia, US

    As a Muslim, I’m elated at Dr Kalam’s nomination as president. But the euphoria having passed, I can’t but wonder what message we are trying to send to the world by appointing a ‘figurehead’ when the government does not have a single (true) Muslim minister? And will that improve the lot of Indian Muslims (who are socio-economically reeling under a crisis and who don’t have even a paltry 2 per cent representation in the government)? Are we trying to wash off Gujarat without finding justice for its victims? Or does this show that Muslims can aspire only to decorative positions and not ones of any consequence?
    P.S. Shukoor, Chennai

    Sponsoring Abdul Kalam for presidency is sheer continuance of the politics of placation, minorityism and pseudo-secularism—a dirty game started by the Congress and being played by every political party wanting to grab power.
    H.P. Hande, Bangalore

    Come to think of it, it’s a good trend to have non-political people for posts like the president and vice-president. And now that the ball has been set rolling, it would perhaps be a good thing to have Narayanamurthy as vice-president!
    Madan Bharadwaj, on e-mail

    Many among our social glitterati think that Dr Kalam ought to dye his eyebrows or trim his hair. Haven’t we had enough of cosmetic presidents that we cannot have a man of substance for a change?
    Surya Bala, Calcutta

    When Dr Kalam made his first appearance before the press after being declared the presidential candidate, his pedagogic style invited laughs. Perhaps we are too used to the polished and devious ways of the Indian politician to appreciate this man’s simple ways. He might be nurturing a vision to take this country to the forefront but sadly for him, the post of prime citizen is purely ceremonial and has been reduced to a mere appendage of the political executive. I won’t be surprised to find this ebullient dreamer-doer in great discomfiture in a chair too ornate for him.
    K.C. Manoj, Thiruvananthapuram

    Your listing of Dr Kalam’s failures (Two Out of Five) misses the entire point of why he is most suitable for the post of president. It’s not because of his scientific achievements, his projects or his managerial skills. It’s his sheer commitment, persistence and dedication to the vision of a developed India.
    Nitin Verma, Sunnyvale, California

    Tell me honestly Mr Mehta, would you have published this piece had Dr Abdul Kalam been a candidate of the Left? Dissidence is the hallmark of democracy, but dissent for dissent’s sake is in bad taste.
    Sanjeev Anand, Bangalore

    Why am I not surprised to see Outlook picking on Dr Kalam’s shortcomings? I’d like to ask the Dr Ramana who’s been quoted what he’s doing in Princeton. At least if he didn’t have the will to serve his country, he should desist commenting on others who have chosen to stay behind.
    Thiru Yrayudu, Dorset, UK

    I liked the piece Two Out of Five the best in your entire write-up on Dr Kalam. While Dr Kalam’s dedication, hard work and expertise in technology are to be appreciated, we Indians tend to lose perspective while appraising our heroes. It must be remembered that Kalam’s rather extraordinary belief in indigenous development may have been detrimental to the country’s defence machinery in instances where prudent imports may have reduced the time and snags generally related with the deployment of arms. It is this very reason which led to Kalam being shunted out as defence advisor to the PM on the advice of the service chiefs.
    Arpan Srivastava, Mumbai

    There is a misconception among people that scientists are non-controversial and technology is value-neutral. As former principal scientific advisor to the government and chief proponent and leading member of India’s missile projects and Pokhran-II, Kalam has been a (knowing or unknowing) accomplice in the militaristic and jingoistic agenda of the NDA government. With missile icon Kalam becoming president, India’s image as a beacon light of peace and non-violence is impaired. This land of Buddha and Gandhi surely deserves better.
    K.S. Sundaram, Bangalore

    I respect Dr Kalam for daring to dream. But behind his utopian vision and make-believe fervour lies a dark reality we cannot ignore. Remote-sensing satellites be damned, our telephone and television densities are among the lowest in the world. As for self-reliance, Dr Kalam dangerously slips into the populist domain. It’s common wisdom that mutual exchange is the key to economic prosperity. Let’s cast away our socialistic blinkers and accept that consumerism and mutual exchange are tenets fundamental to human action.
    Vineet Deshpande, Phoenix, Arizona

    Apropos Nuked by the Mandate, the Left parties have been steadily losing ground in the mainstream political establishment. We all know the CPI(M) has been derecognised as a national political party by the Election Commission. They object to Dr Kalam’s lack of a legal, political, constitutional background but what has been the contribution of those who had it and did nothing for society? All they did was indulge in rowdyism and looting of this country. In fact, it’s a welcome proposition not to have politicians eligible for presidentship.
    Bhaskar Venkat, Bangalore

    "BJP wants to whitewash Gujarat," says Sitaram Yechury. He seems absolutely clueless. Has he ever contested in an election and won? No, like his colleagues in the CPI(M), he has only one agenda and that is oppose whatever the BJP/NDA does. The BJP is not always right but jokers like Surjeet and Co should realise that they will never rise to power.
    Lenin Babu, St Catharines, Canada

    The Left parties now have nothing but nuisance value and are a drain on the exchequer. Somnath Chatterjee’s observation that Kalam’s knowledge is limited only to science and does not extend to an understanding of the Constitution makes me wonder how well it is understood by the likes of the Rabri Devis and Laloo Yadavs. When Communism has vanished in most of the countries, including in its place of birth, we have to put up with not one but two strains of it. Let Surjeet unite the Communists first and then talk of a third or fourth front.
    D.V. Madhava Rao, Chennai

    It’s heartening to see that at last the Left in general and the CPI(M) in particular has understood the hoax that is Mulayam. He is against the "dynastic rule" of the Congress but fields his own son as a Lok Sabha candidate. He is against the "fascist BJP" but refuses to support a true anti-communalism crusader like Capt Lakshmi Sahgal against the missile man and former contributor to an RSS magazine. Mulayam is a samajwadi but chooses to ignore Capt Lakshmi’s struggle for the socialist cause. His heart bleeds for the Muslims but he gets selective amnesia when he forgets it was the same Kalam who refused to utter a single word against the Gujarat genocide. I could go on...
    Rajarshi Sengupta, Calcutta

    Every political party wants a consensus on the presidential candidate. But all of them, and especially the Communist parties which constitute less than 10 per cent of the electoral college, want the ruling alliance to accept their choice as consensus and not the other way around. The ruling party has effectively called their bluff. Yet the Communists, instead of beating a tactical retreat, are going on the offensive, which has only isolated them from the rest of the Opposition.
    K.S. Ramesh, Mumbai

    I absolutely agree with Sitaram Yechury. The BJP is playing with the secular fabric of the country. It might adopt Abdul Kalam as presidential candidate to underline its secular credentials but the fact remains that when it comes to the crunch its ethics and politics are dictated by the Sangh parivar. And Gujarat was a prime example.
    Zuber Jafri, Audubon, US

    Dr Kalam is no doubt a man of high merit, but he is definitely not fit for the post of president since he lacks constitutional knowledge and requisite political experience.
    Chandrika Rao, Bangalore

    Given today’s political situation, a physicist specialising in chaos theory would be better suited for the post of president!
    Dev Kumar Vasudevan, on e- mail

  • All in the Cards
    Jul 08, 2002

    The inconsistency of the World Cup referees has left me wondering if each referee has a different set of rules for each game (Man in the Middle, June 24). I wish the matter is debated among World Cup officials and appropriate action taken to retain the splendour of the game.
    L. Tia Amri, Nagaland

  • Minnows in the War
    Jul 08, 2002

    I was shocked to read Life in Mined Fields (June 17). That the government has conveniently rendered thousands of hapless villagers homeless and not compensated them justly for arrogating their property only exposes its sheer lack of concern and ineptitude. These villagers should blame the NDA for their predicament as much as they blame Pakistan’s duplicitous president, for if the latter has inevitably delayed a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue, the former has done nothing but sit on its hands. The government boasts of a multitude of funds from which to compensate victims. The right thing for it is to do this without further delay. I laud Outlook for bringing to the fore facts that otherwise get obliterated by the so-called greater concerns.
    Kanishka Gupta, on e-mail

  • Hold That Trigger
    Jul 08, 2002

    Nuclear strategies are a highly technical area best left to scientists and experts. Yet you have scared the public with your alarmist story on the possible use of tactical nuclear weapons (TNWs) by Pakistan (Small But Scary, June 10). It’s true that TNWs of a scale as small as 0.2 to 1 kiloton can be used by Pakistan to destroy parts of Indian armoured formations. However, weapons which pass for "strategic" in the India-Pakistan context are small enough to be used tactically in this day and age. The weapons referred to as strategic in the Cold War context were of the megaton class. Indo-Pak strategic weapons by comparison have less than one-hundredth the power of current US strategic weaponry and can only take out 5-6 square miles. Clearly, Indian strategic nuclear weapons also have purely military uses which would make TNW use by Pakistan forbidding to say the least.
    Rahul Malhotra, Austin, Texas

  • For a Peace JV
    Jul 08, 2002

    Rajinder Puri does hit Bull’s Eye (June 24) when he suggests that only a SAARC confederation can help solve the Kashmir problem. Even our home minister Advani has been saying the same thing—that a SAARC confederation will help solve a lot of the subcontinent’s economic and political woes. The proposal though will remain only a dream till sane pacifists across the border in Pakistan also start thinking on the same lines.
    Hiro Bachani, Mumbai

  • What Vaz that Again?
    Jul 08, 2002

    Fr Valeriano Vaz’s statement in the article Feni, Vidi, Vici Again (June 17) that "over 3,000 names, mostly of Christians, were missing" seems to be a calculation based on the number of voters in earlier electoral rolls. This is unmindful of the fact that the rolls were not revised for several years, that several families have shifted to Dona Paula, Taleigaon, Merces, etc where a number of residential colonies have sprung up, that many government servants from Altino and Patto have either retired or been transferred and that several flats are now lying vacant. No doubt, several names are missing but it’s not due to any manipulation. Electoral rolls are prepared by the Election Commission; objections thereto are invited after keeping draft rolls for inspection by the public and names can be enrolled prior to the date for filing nomination. Instead of levelling wild accusations, Fr Vaz ought to have redressed his grievance before the Election Commission.
    Sanjay S. Usgaonker, BJP council, Goa

  • Much Maligned Malana
    Jul 08, 2002

    This is apropos The Skunk Invasion (June 24). "Religion is the opium of the masses," said Karl Marx in A Criticism of Hegelian Philosophy. This is literally true in the Valley of Gods which is now turning into a Valley of Drugs. The Lord Jamlu of Malana, which separates Malanis from other Kulluites and protects them, has earned the land the sobriquet of "a place of refuge". I hope he also protects them from the evil of this lucrative trade. As a proud Himachali filmmaker based in Mumbai who has spent four years among the Malanis and made a film titled Malana—In Search of... (which went on to win the national award), it hurts to read about them and do nothing. Does your and my job end only with the article and a film?
    Vivek Mohan, Mumbai

  • Due for a Shrink Trip
    Jul 08, 2002

    Madhu Trehan hits the nail on the head (Looking for Closure, June 24). Given his split personality (one in front of the world community and the other before his own countrymen), Musharraf does need a psychiatrist. Meanwhile, people from both sides can build on their shared culture.
    Irfan Iqbal Gheta, Bangalor

  • Ticking Moment
    Jul 08, 2002

    The hullabaloo over the Time article on the PM made me read the original. Apart from some unsavoury personal remarks, I found nothing really objectionable. On the other hand, Perry speaks well of Vajpayee as a moderate and praises his peace initiative. Journals like Time do not spare even their own leaders, sometimes shredding them to the bone. We too should respond to criticism maturely.
    V. Srinivas, Nagpur

  • Looking Themselves
    Jul 08, 2002

    In the film Gandhi, Ben Kingsley looked like Gandhi. Whereas in the films on Bhagat Singh, despite the moustaches, Ajay Devgan looks like Ajay Devgan and Bobby Deol like Bobby Deol rather than the Bhagat Singh we know from old photographs.
    H.S. Hanspal, New Delhi

  • Praise Be For A.R.
    Jul 08, 2002

    Why is Sanjay Suri so reluctant to give A.R. Rahman his due (Eastman Color on West End, June 24)? And when he does give it grudgingly, he wonders if it’s not owing to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s influence. An Indian residing in London, I saw Bombay Dreams and thought it was brilliant, regardless of whether it does well in the long run or not.
    M.G. Sen, London

  • Changed Lilt
    Jul 08, 2002

    I remember the time when the BJP fought the elections with the catchy slogan, "Appeasement of none. Justice to All". Today, the party is in total disarray in spite of being in power because it is trying to appease one and all without giving justice to anyone. The party should change its slogan to, "Appeasement of all. Justice to none".
    K. Vaiphei, on e-mail

  • High Time
    Jul 08, 2002

    Apropos the news item, "CBI raids Tehelka’s office", when are the BJP’s offices going to be raided?
    Rhea Mathur, on e-mail

  • On a Merciless Perry-Go-Round
    Jul 08, 2002

    The government’s harassment of Time magazine reporter Alex Perry for his article Asleep at the Wheel? is nothing short of shameful. Whether or not Perry’s article was in bad taste is not the question, although I would add that making snide observations about the "personal lives" of public figures is an old and necessary journalistic tradition. (Khushwant Singh made a career out of it and surely Vajpayee’s drinking habits are less embarrassing than Morarji Desai’s.) The question is whether the government in a democratic society, backed up by a semi-official party apparatus and even sections of the media, has the right to retaliate in this manner against a member of the press. This may be in line with the Indian fondness for banning things we do not like (Deepa Mehta’s films, Salman Rushdie’s books, Valentine’s Day cards), but it is not in line with the letter or the spirit of the Constitution. Freedom of speech means nothing if unpopular speech is not protected.
    Satadru Sen, St Louis, Missouri



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