An eagle eye view can make states look good, bad and ugly but can’t offer many solutions.
Anil S. Pune
This refers to the book review of Devdutt Pattanaik’s My Hanuman Chalisa by Arshia Sattar (The Mighty Forty, August 7). The popularity and wide appeal of the Chalisa—hymns to the almighty—are a result of their frankness laced with a scientific temper. Everyone craves strength, positive energy, intelligence, knowledge and cure for all bodily ailments and imperfections. The first two couplets of the Chalisa are all about seeking such boons. I fully agree with Sattar’s view. Pattanaik’s far-fetched linkage of the Chalisa, a simple prayer composed by Tulsidas during the 16th century, with Vedism is an attempt to win over the goodwill of those in power.
M.N. Bhartiya, Goa
The update on the India-China impasse on the Doklam crisis was illuminating (Bowl Him A Chinaman, Aug 7). The standoff is now over a month old, but no solution appears to be in sight. Resolving Doklam, dare I say, is more in India’s interest. We have fought a war with the Chinese in 1962, when also we could have solved the issue diplomatically. We must keep that debacle in mind—it sprung largely from our giving asylum to the Dalai Lama, who set up a government-in-exile here, thus antagonising the Chinese. We are running a great risk now by taking a similar stand vis-vis Bhutan. China has already objected to India’s involvement in a matter that concerns it and Bhutan, and says India’s action violates Bhutan’s sovereignty. India should want peace on the China-Bhutan borders without any interference. Indian diplomacy needs to engage intensively with all our neighbouring countries to expose China’s expansionist strategy. We should not try to match their rhetoric with equally strident remarks—on this point this government has done very well. Moreover, the government should take the opposition along in forming a strategy on the Doklam crisis. They should be united in support on the issue, unlike the CPI during the ‘62 war with China.
L.J. Singh, Amritsar
This refers to The Centre Ups the Ante (August 7), your story on the arrests of seven Hurriyat leaders by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). The NIA has claimed that Kashmiri separatists use the Haj subsidy and trade across the LoC to fund extremism in the Valley. How can any government hold talks with those whose sympathies lie with Pakistan-sponsored terrorists and stone-pelters, who want to keep the Valley on the boil? The demand for azadi cannot sit well with the views of New Delhi, which sees J&K as an integral part of India. There can be talks only to dissuade the Hurriyat from raising the demand for azadi and only when there is an atmosphere of peace in the Valley.
Kangayam R. Narasimhan, Chennai
The NIA probe exposing the nexus of terror in the Valley is a major breakthrough. Conversations and confessions on tapes confirm that Pakistan is funding the burning of schools and other subversive activities in Kashmir. I am sure the interrogation of the arrested separatists will expose the larger conspiracy hatched by the Hurriyat along with the Pakistan government. It is time the Centre took stringent measures to uproot terror while invoking its constitutional obligations to restore normalcy by working towards a meaningful solution within a fixed time-frame.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
This refers to your cover story May I Overcharge You? (July 31). I am 83 years old. In May, I chose to close my sav-ings bank account with the State Bank of India because I could not afford to maintain the mandatory minimum balance of Rs 5,000. When the account was closed, I realised the bank had deducted Rs 544.38. Aren’t the public sector banks supposed to be serving the nation, especially the needy such as senior citizens like me?
G.L. Karkal, Pune
This refers to The Casualty Sisters (August 7), your story on the plight of nurses. That they are paid a pittance compared to what doctors earn is only the tip of the iceberg. To the avaricious modern-day business behemoths commonly called hospitals, they are veritable slaves held captive on the excuse of ‘training’. As workers, their wages and work hours are shameful to even mention.
George Jacob, Kochi
The RJD-JD(U) split was predestined. Nitish has betrayed Laloo and left him when the RJD leader needed the CM most to tide over a crisis of graft charges conspired by the BJP. Laloo was at loggerheads with the BJP at the Centre, but never opposed Nitish’s initiatives in Bihar. The coalition government could have resolved differences if the two ruling parties had trust. The break-up shows the state of politics in the country today—pure opportunism.
Janga Bahadur Sunuwar, Jalpaiguri
A cover story on the greed of Indian banks is quite timely (May I Overcharge You?, July 31). When banks were nationalised, little did the common people know that they would overcharge the public while, at the same time, give loan waivers and refunds to favourites—big corporates friendly with the government. People do not keep large sums of money at home for fear of criminals and governmental raiders. And once you put your money in the bank, there are dozens of rules to confuse you and several charges to be paid. The government is actively behind this new drive of banks to overcharge customers. Requiring, under duress, a minimum balance of Rs 5,000 in a ‘savings’ account is tantamount to obtaining a fixed deposit at four per cent interest. Suppose one fails to do so, the banks will go on deducting amounts of money at their discretion. The annual fee for banks is escalating continuously. Initially, the ATM service was free. Subsequently they started charging for it. Service charge was also added as a conk. The banks are responsible only for collecting money. A pinching joke! All this is happening under the nose of the PM. This letter comes from a man who held him in high regard.
J.N. Bhartiya, Hyderabad
The burden of ‘Jan Dhan’, and the humongous NPAs (Non-performing asset), has been put on the shoulders of unsuspecting customers. The globalisation policies prescribe the deregulation and merger of banks to wriggle out of the burden of NPAs, which are off-shoots of the reluctance of dithering corporate houses to repay their loans. Ironically, the NDA is treading on the economic path of the UPA. Should not the Centre pay heed to the alarm raised by the CAG, which suggested recovery of loans worth Rs 6 lakh crore from eight business houses? The plea for waiver of farmers’ loans gathers dust; while corporates exploit the chinks in the banking system. When neighbouring countries like Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh can list loan defaulters in their system, why can’t we? The burden of numerous service charges on customers is wholly unjustifiable and the banks need to revisit their options in order to remain trustworthy.
C. Chandrasekaran, Madurai
Is the Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana compulsory for all bank account holders? If not then how come some nationalised banks are debiting savings bank accounts of their customers by Rs 12 every year without any written consent of their account holders? This is illegal. Imagine how much Rs 12 from each of millions of account holders would amount to! All account holders must get back this money with interest. This is a dangerous practice. Usually, most account holders are either unaware of such charges they are paying to the bank or they tend to ignore such levies. But, banks can make crores out of such charges and they have no right to do so. It amounts to fraud.
Mahesh Kumar, New Delhi
People cannot do without banking services and that gives the banks a handle to exploit the compulsion and dictate terms. They are bent upon milking ordinary bank customers. It is not only one Mani Shekhar Jha, who needs to withdraw money several times in a month for his small business; there are millions of savings account holders of various social categories who withdraw small amounts of money many times in a month as and when the need arises. Now, the bank tells that the account holder can withdraw his own money up to a maximum of four times free of charge in a month and would be penalised by a hefty sum of more than Rs 150 for each subsequent withdrawal. What other option does the customer then have except to unnecessarily withdraw amounts in excess to his need of the moment and keep the money in his pocket. This defeats the very purpose of having a savings bank account? Another assault on savings bank account holders is forcing them to keep a substantial amount of money locked with the banks as minimum balance while the government has floated zero-balance Jan Dhan accounts. The changes in the terms and conditions of banking services are arbitrary. So is the increase in charges of various banking services. Savings bank account holders lodge their money with the banks at around four per cent interest rate while the banks go ahead and lend this money at around double the interest rate. Why should ordinary customers be made to compensate for the costs incurred on Jan Dhan accounts and various loan frauds of the banks, which have resulted in mind-boggling cumulative unrecoverable non performing assets (NPAs) of Rs 6.06 lakh crore in case of 21 PSU banks!
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
It’s an open secret that banks are unscrupulously fixing low rates of interest and high service charges with the tacit consent of the RBI and the government. Banks are squeezing the customer to offset the huge losses caused by bad, irrecoverable loans. They are benefiting dishonest borrowers at the cost of public funds. Otherwise there is sufficient margin in cost of deposits and earnings from loans to meet overheads and keep them viable. There is corruption and political nepotism at the stages of sanctioning big loans to corporates. Loans worth thousands of crores have been given out in this way and much of that money has culminated in NPAs and bad debts. Such loans are closed by one-time settlements under some schemes of the RBI. Defaulters get concessions by bargaining with the banks to close their overdue loan accounts. All this happens with the government being in the know of things. This is a glaring example as to how the dishonest get rewarded in our country at the cost of the common people.
Banks, the most unbankable institutions today, can conveniently be renamed ‘pranks’.
Rajneesh Batra, New Delhi
Your coverage of modern trends and challenges in Indian sculpting was comprehensive, but I wish to add two names to the list of artists you mentioned (Book of Stones, July 31). One is Meera Mukherjee (1923-98), who used the traditional Dokra technique of metal casting and rural life as themes. The other is Subrata Basu, whose works in bronze and other traditional materials feature content that is spiritual and poetic. His recent works—’Matsya Urvashi’ on the banks of the Ganga, ‘Grazing Cows’ and ‘Busy Squirrel’, at the Indian Council of Cultural Relations— have lit up the locations in Calcutta.
Sunipa Basu, Santiniketan
I refer to the article on the stalled Adi Ganga project (River Of No Return, July 31). It’s true that the project is a sham. We still remember when BJP minister Uma Bharati launched the ‘Namami Gange’ project with great fanfare, with the blessings of the PM Narendra Modi who had contested in 2014 from Varanasi. What happened to that great Ganga action plan? The same question can be asked of the Adi Ganga project in Calcutta. This shows how the government is high on rhetoric and low on delivery. The various ambitious components of the master plan, like the National Ganga Monitoring Centre, improvised methods for last rites, Char Dham Yatra/Ganga Safar visits, conservation of flora and fauna, conservation of biodiversity and the Ganga Knowledge Centre are either lying inert, or exist only on paper.
Rajiv Boolchand Jain, Delhi
The Adi Ganga, including and connected to the Tolly Nullah and the Govindapur creek, was enlarged during the 16th/17th century so that boats carrying merchandise can sail right into the rapidly expanding city of Calcutta. Over a period of 300 years, the Adi Ganga, which flows past the Kalighat temple, and where hundreds bathe every day, has become the dumping ground of refuse and filth. A government plan to clean up the river is there, but is stuck in the deadening litigation and politics of clearing the slums and other encroachments necessary for the task.
Lt Col Ranjit Sinha (retd), Delhi
Waterbodies in India, like seas, rivers, lakes and ponds are treated as sacred and holy. Ironically, as part of religious rituals, they are wantonly used as garbage dumps. Even otherwise, the pressure of a city’s waste is always heaped upon its river. We rarely treat water bodies as the source of the life-sustaining nectar that they are. If there is no awareness, there’s no point in using tax-payers’ money in making a show of cleaning these up. What we actually need is a campaign for educating people in conservation. Until then, the fate of our rivers remains doomed.
K.P. Rajan, Mumbai
I must thank Outlook for the story on vinyl records (Putting the Record Straight, July 31). It opened within me the sluice gates of nostalgic memories of film music that, till the late ‘80s, was available only on vinyl LPs run on 33 rpm or 45 rpm EP discs. Today, a 15-year-old would take an LP to be an ancient predecessor of the floppy disc, that is if he knows at all what a floppy disc is. In these hyper-digital times, I doubt if vinyls would truly undergo a revival, as your story suggests. Regrettably, those wonderful machines like Garard (Germany), Philips and HMV (Indian), died of obsolescence for want of a stylus here or a differential pulley there. But by god, what music it was!
Mohan Singh, Amritsar
This is apropos the editiorial comment on Mayawati (Dump The Diva, July 31). It is mentioned that the Congress tried its best to nominate social worker Bezwada Wilson to the Rajya Sabha, so why didn’t it? Under the Congress, many people, such as Nargis, Javed Akhtar, Rekha and Sachin Tendulkar have been nominated to the upper house over the years. So, if it really wanted, it could have nominated Wilson easily. Further, though there is the customary reference to Akhlaq and Rohith Vemula in your comment, there is no mention of Prasanth Devadiga from the Dakshina Kannada district of Karnataka or Sharath Madiwala, who were lynched in Congress-ruled Karnataka, or the RSS workers killed in Kerala. Has the writer deliberately not mentioned these cases? Because it’s difficult to miss them since everybody knows about them.
Hemanth D. Pai, Bangalore
Mayawati does not have enough MLAs to get herself re-nominated to the RS after her recent resignation. But her act of parliamentary rebellion is bound to give her more options. She can always take the support of RJD chief Laloo Yadav, a staunch opponent of the BJP, who has wholeheartedly supported her move.
Buddhadev Nandi, Bishnupur
Mayawati’s dramatic resignation from Parliament is a well-planned political masterstroke that, all the same, shows the BSP supremo’s desperation to remain relevant (Exeunt For The Next Act, July 31). Even if she was allowed more time to speak in the House, the member would have tried some other trick to be in the spotlight. Her party fared poorly in the UP elections this summer, but Mayawati is still the most recognised face of Dalits, who prefer a fighter as their leader—and she is that and much more. She has her share of political miscalculations; her coalition once with the BJP did tar her identity. Yet, it’s not yet time to write off the intrepid neta.
Mayawati’s latest round of theatrics bordered on the burlesque. The Rajya Sabha Chair did allow her to speak; only cautioned her against breaching the three-minute slot. The BSP member continued with her anti-BJP diatribe, inviting warning: “You cannot monopolise (the proceedings); others have to be accommodated.” The Chair suggested Mayawati to seek a discussion on the issue, to which the treasury benches said they were ready. Yet, Mayawati claimed her voice was being muzzled—and walked out in a huff, loudly announcing her resignation. As if she was quitting some village panchayat!
Col C.V. Venugopalan (retd), Palakkad
Going by the luxuries that ‘VIP’ prisoners like V.K. Sasikala and Abdul Karim Telgi enjoy, it’s clear the country’s jails are a world with their own ecosystem (Behind Bars, You Get Sushi, July 31). Shocking that, there is even a rate card for the comforts, ranging from a beedi to drugs and cell phones to protection from gangs. The brazen manner in which the moneyed spend life behind bars negates the very spirit of the punishment. India definitely needs honest officials.
J.S. Acharya, Hyderabad
Your story reminded me of Charles Sobhraj and the serial killer’s escape from Delhi’s Tihar jail in 1986. The Indian-origin French was so popular with the jailors that he could throw them a party where he served them sweets laced with sleeping pills, and walked out of the prison.
Hilary Pais, Bangalore
Whatever happens in a prison only mirrors what happens in our society in general. The only difference is that in jail, everyone, from the rich to the poor, are in captivity. Otherwise, there are special luxury cells for the rich that cost a bomb, just like there are gated colonies for the rich in the city or havelis for the rural rich. Then there is the difference in nutrition, the poor inmates have to make do with watery dal and hard rotis, getting hardly any protein just as in society where the nutrition needs of the poor are not met with, while the rich eat well. Also, it’s wealth that decides who gets to go on ‘foreign’ trips—the rich can pay to be taken out of jail for shopping and sight-seeing, while the poor are hardly given even parole.
Rahul Sinha, Mumbai
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