Letters | Mar 26, 2007
  • Artless Jugglery
    Mar 26, 2007

    The finance minister has failed to touch several burning issues of the country, much to the disillusionment of the common man (Budget Class Dreams, Mar 12). First and foremost, there isn’t sufficient allotment of funds to the agricultural sector which employs more than 60 per cent of the population. The expectations of the salaried class too have been ignored. And with no strong step taken to curb inflation, this is not a pro-aam admi budget for sure.
    J.V. Narasimha Raju, Vijayawada

    It’s more of an ‘equilibrium’ budget: FM P. Chidambaram has smartly cut tax rates on one side and raised them on the other. Good, there’s more allocation for certain sectors, but we need to monitor the exact spending on the ground.
    Vineet Bhalla, Bhilai

    As an army officer’s wife, I regret to say Budget ’07 hasn’t brought cheer to my family. I wish the FM gave tax respites to army officers—easily the most honest category of taxpayers in the country. An officer holding a post in tough terrains like Siachen or Bumla in Arunachal Pradesh has little time to think of his money. Such being the case, it’s the system that should ensure him a decent family life. Already, an army officer, with no other source of income, cannot send his children to a reputed school apart from army schools. No wonder, businessmen and other high-income groups call the uniformed ‘becharas’.
    Madhu Singh, Ambala Cantt

    Capitalists in India, like anywhere in the world, are keen to guard their own interests (Budget-e-Aam). So, why should they seek dole or incentives from the government? If we fail to feed our fast growing population with our internal resources, the Indian economy will collapse and with it the moneybags. Even their media manipulation skills won’t save them.
    L.K. Balasubramanian, New Jersey

    Shouldn’t good writing first introduce terms in full, with acronyms in brackets, which can be used later in the article? Terms like mat, esops appeared many times in the article but I was at a loss to make out what they meant. I thought your analysis would save time, instead I had to go to the original budget documents!
    Salman Kureishy, Dubai

    Arun Jain’s problem with mat and fbt on esops is understandable but it won’t be wise to overrate the role of IT in the progress of a nation (‘mat on Infotech is Regressive’). Agreed, IT has contributed to earning foreign exchange, but it has caused some structural problems in the process. Like islands of extreme prosperity distorting the price structure in sectors like housing, the apparent good life of IT employees leading to too many people being sucked into that field. Also, undue importance is given to IT (like exemption from strikes) as if all the other sectors are not that important.
    Nitin Thatte, Thane

    Dr M.S. Swaminathan ought to use his standing to push the government towards a new agriculture and rural development strategy for India (A Half-Dug Field). The strategy should be like this: a government-supported think tank should be set up which Dr Swaminathan should himself lead initially. The members should be drawn from all states, and should comprise panels of end-users (farmers) and specialists (from fields like farming, water, land, law, marketing finance).
    Dr G. , Phoenix

    Dr Swaminathan leads the National Commission on Agriculture, which has in fact made more suggestions than he’s mooted in the Outlook column. If only our government had the sense to implement them!
    Ajit Tendulkar, Seattle

    The budgetary provisions for agriculture are undoubtedly half-baked. It puts in question the general belief that our prime minister and finance minister are learned people. I now think it’s better to entrust the work to people like Swaminathan and Dr Amartya Sen.
    Dinesh Kumar, Chandigarh

    Kristen Lindow’s piece, The Good Spendthrift, may be applauded as unrealised reality. For, it’s hard to imagine that any government has decided to spend cash on the poor in a good samaritan spirit.
    Mos Zhimo, Kohima

    All political parties know corruption is the biggest obstacle to the country’s growth, yet they all tend to ignore it (The Noble Ledger). Now, that isn’t surprising, for politicians thrive on corruption. What is baffling is the apparent inability of the media to call the bluff.
    Navdeep Hans, Delhi

    I don’t see much merit in Laveesh Bhandari’s idea to try the dharamkanta system. It may go well with funding small-scale social activities. But I don’t think it would work for colossal social welfare projects that the government undertakes to better the standard of living of the people.
    T. Sathyamurthi, Folsom, US

  • Himalayan Hubris
    Mar 26, 2007

    The BJP has done well in the Punjab and Uttarakhand polls only by riding the wave of negative votes (A Zafran Draught, Mar 12). Disillusioned people go on voting one party to power and pulling down the incumbent in the hope that it’ll do some good. Till now, it has not worked. In Uttarakhand, though B.C. Khanduri has been sworn in as the CM, the other bjp aspirant, Bhagat Singh Koshiyari, is deep in sulk. In Punjab, it remains to be seen how the Akalis and the bjp handle the distribution of portfolios or how the bjp views the disproportionate assets case against Parkash Singh Badal. Will those elected start working now or spend all their time in one-upmanship?
    R.J. Khurana, on e-mail

    How naive can the Congress get to blame its loss in Uttarakhand on price rise? All this state got from the N.D. Tiwari government was five disastrous years of anarchy. In a state known to be peaceful, crime went up. Brahminvaad was promoted and people from the plains were treated badly. Many of us wondered why we fought for a separate state at all. Disappointed by the Congress, we have elected a new regime. Hopefully, it’ll be attentive to people’s needs, re-establish governance, law and order, and get rid of Brahminvaad. A sincere government will always be re-elected. Why can’t politicians imbibe this lesson in foresight?
    Dr V. Verma, Village Astal, Uttarkashi

  • Us Is Not Like US
    Mar 26, 2007

    I am in my first year in the US, having lived in India for the 50-plus years of my life in locales ranging from the villages of Orissa to the bustling metro of Mumbai. Almost the first thing I notice here is the regard people have for law, order and the general public interest. Recently thousands of ordinary Americans assembled in a large garden in Washington DC to protest some aspect of US policy. Not one citizen faced any inconvenience. In India, the Cauvery dispute is a classic example of how people, exhorted by politicians, take to the streets and bring all economic and other essential activity to a halt simply because they can’t stomach the judgement of a lawfully appointed tribunal, appointed with the concurrence of the parties to the dispute. That there is a democratic mode of trying for a redressal—an appeal for reconsideration—does not seem to be relevant. In the US, court judgements are accepted no matter what the impact on one’s fortunes. No vip here gets to cut traffic signals nor is a retinue of fuel-guzzling traffic-stopping cars allowed to strut down roads—these are considered worthy of a Communist country, not one wedded to democracy and equality of people before the law.
    K.R. Ravi, on e-mail

  • Treated Like Rats
    Mar 26, 2007

    Whether it’s guinea pigs or man (For a Few Guineas, Mar 12), the clouds of competition and profit have fogged ethics for conducting research as well as clinical trials. People using animals ruthlessly for research retain that mindset even when they graduate to clinical trials. To me, the illiteracy of the volunteers subjected to clinical trial is not the only matter of concern; due action must be taken to augment the ethical literacy of the conductors of such trials.
    Surachita Majumdar, Delhi

  • Mar 26, 2007

    It was shocking to read Mashelkar’s roundabout admission of plagiarism, ‘Certain inaccuracies have crept in’ (Mar 5). However, this is not the first time such a thing has come to light. In 2004, Mashelkar and Shahid Ali Khan, a former head of the UN World International Properties Organisation, co-wrote a book titled Intellectual Property and Competitive Strategies in the 21st Century. It later turned out that they had lifted almost verbatim from the work of an English expert, Graham Dutfield. Dutfield took up the issue with their publishers but it’s yet to be satisfactorily resolved. Isn’t it the ultimate irony that Mashelkar and Khan should plagiarise in a book on intellectual property?
    D. Thambuswamy, on e-mail

  • Right Said Sayeed
    Mar 26, 2007

    Mufti Mohammed Sayeed is right in demanding the demilitarisation of J&K. He could start with asking for a withdrawal of central security forces protecting him and his family. This would be an example of Kashmiris being a peace-loving people who don’t need protection.
    Udita Agrawal, New Delhi

  • Play Grounded
    Mar 26, 2007

    Thanks for highlighting the issue of child abuse (A Silence So Shrill, Feb 26). The many forms it takes is scary. One example is the emotional abuse at primary schools. Most of the modern, difficult-to-get-your-child-into and, of course, English-medium schools are a Roman arena where children have to fight daily demons. Rules are fine, except they’re followed in letter, not in spirit. No genuine problem—not even a nasty traffic jam— is considered if an otherwise regular child gets late to school. Late is late. Any concession will set a bad example. Genuine medical certificates don’t count either. If your child is too ill to come and write an exam, he or she fails the test. There can be no re-tests. It’s bad for discipline. Schoolteachers routinely ask children to make calendars, photo-frames, pencil boxes, social science charts without teaching them how to. As long as they bring them, it doesn’t matter if it involves parental effort, time and money. One survey at five schools revealed that 93 per cent of children in such ‘elite’ schools are in constant dread of teachers and forbid their parents from speaking up at the farce that is the parent-teacher meeting. The German word Kindergarten means ‘children’s garden’. But children or parents cannot cling to such outdated meanings.
    Achal Nandini, Gorakhpur

  • Mar 26, 2007

    Can we Indians expect anything good from this third-rate Congress government? Since the cbi director cannot make a move without Madam Sonia’s permission—whose proximity to Mr Q is well-known—getting Q back to India is utopian optimism. The taxpayer’s money will be squandered on some nincompoop in the cbi going on a Latin American junket and returning, not with Q, but with goodies for his family. And the joke is that the cbi is asking for extradition when the same agency sometime back informed the Crown Court in England that there was no case pending against Q which resulted in the de-freezing of his accounts. What is the use of extraditing him to India if they can’t convict him here? Abu Salem is yet to be proven guilty in many cases; it will be the same with Q.
    Shiv Kumar, Mumbai

  • Street Named Desire
    Mar 26, 2007

    Being born in a family which can’t stop talking about ‘the days that were’ in Calcutta, I was delighted to read your article on the return of nightlife at Park Street (A Street Awakes, Mar 12). Long after they left, the whiff of the British Raj still permeated Calcutta’s balmy evenings. Flury’s, Moulin Rouge, Blue Fox, Peter Cat provided you the choicest Continental delicacies you could dream of. And there was Pam Crain, the diva who ruled the nightlife at Park Street. Her golden voice belting out the chartbusters of Britain and America charmed a generation of young Bengalis. Her version of Que Sera Sera was such a hit that she cut an LP with hmv. But the turbulent ’70s put an end to all that. Crain, it was heard, left for Australia. It was not until 2003 that she was heard of again in Kolkata—the politically correct rechristened version of Calcutta. I couldn’t go for her concert in June 2003, but I did hear it was a hit. Oh Calcutta!
    Biswa P. Chatterji, Mumbai

  • Errata
    Mar 26, 2007

    We jumped the gun! In the card of matches for India and other key ones at the icc World Cup, released with Outlook last week, we assumed the top-ranked teams will all make it to the Super Eights. A number of readers have pointed out that cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties and we can’t make such certain assumptions. The error is regretted.

  • Razor-Sharp Pensman
    Mar 26, 2007

    Vinod Mehta is right. They don’t make editors like Sham Lal any more (Editors Then, Editors Now, Mar 12). Instead the media is obsessed with sensational, attention-grabbing quickies. They engage you for the moment, but fade away almost as fast. Once there was a rush to buy different magazines, now different magazines rush after readers with marketing gimmicks—something that was unheard of in the past.
    Khaleelur Rahman, Chennai

    It appears not to have occurred to Vinod Mehta to ponder why his magazine, and his own appearances on TV displaying mesmerising pedestrianism, are a million miles removed from the standards he drools over in his eulogy to Sham Lal. Could someone not whisper a word or two in the man’s ear?
    K. Kitchlu, Mysore

    Thank God there are still some people who miss the intellectual, cultured and erudite editors of the ‘70s.
    Ramana Murthy, Hyderabad

    In the passing away of Sham Lal, the world has lost the Bhishma Pitamaha of journalism and the country an intellectual of rare vintage. He was an unusual type of scholar, whose academic career was brilliant and who laid the foundations not only of ripe and meticulous scholarship but of precise and persuasive use of the English language. He used that language as a tool of analysis and of effective argument. His distinguished editorship of the Times of India for 11 years bore the great impress of a remarkable and cultured mind—quick in perception, broad in vision, fresh in approach. Those of us who’ve read ToI for six decades will recall his inspiring pieces written under the pen-name Adib. While he refused to pen his memoirs, he did bring out two books, A Hundred Encounters and Indian Reality. Both reveal his mastery of both Indian philosophy and Western thought. I do recall happily several encounters with him in the Strand Book Stall—where the Three Musketeers of Indian journalism—Sham Lal, Laxman and Inder Malhotra would spend an hour or so discussing and selecting gems from that mecca of good books.
    P.P. Ramachandran, Mumbai

    Enough, Mr Mehta! On the pretext of paying Sham Lal a tribute, the opportunist in you uses the occasion to indulge in some self-praise. All the sprinkling of anecdotes have you as a mandatory co-presence. Tut, tut Vinod. They don’t make editors like Sham Lal any more. One only has to look at you to realise that.
    Harsh Rai Puri, Bhopal

    Like Vinod, I too was terrified of driving. But I persevered and now am able to drive without fear. The more one drives, the better one gets. Try it, Mr Mehta. It will open up a whole new world for you. You will not need to depend on the driver any more.
    R. Raja, Trivandrum

    Good to know Vinod Mehta is at least not driving while trying to win the rat race.
    Ashok Mathur, Delhi

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