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This is in response to an Outlook Spotlight feature about how the Goa Mining Peoples Front want mining restored in the state (Say Yes To Mining, Feb 18). It’s true that people previously employed in the mining sector are greatly distressed by the closing down of many mining operations. But the Supreme Court directive to curb mining is equally necessary and justifiable, as it’s without a doubt that mining does pollute the environment, and pollutes heavily at that. The issue has to be addressed by the government, lease-holders to mines should act accordingly and a strict check implemented. Meanwhile, outstanding dues of employees have to be settled forthwith.
Lt Col (retd) R. Sinha, Pune
This is with reference to your story on the Manipuri journalist languishing in jail after mere Facebook posts (A Journalist As Breaking News, Feb18). I suggest that state governments approach the central government on a workbook of laws that should govern people’s activities on Facebook. It will make things simpler and citizens will know exactly what kind of post can land them in jail and for how long. The government can post the workbook on Facebook itself and tag all Indian facebookers in one giant post. Had this already been done, Kishorechandra Wangkhem would know when the Manipur government could release him. The poor guy is clueless as of now. Also, the first section of the Facebook law workbook should educate us on what all cannot be said about PM Modi. But try not to make that list too long if possible.
Rohin Gautam, Chandigarh
I refer to The Spirit Unleashed Since 1979 (Feb 18). The article is concise yet comprehensive in its study of the series of events that changed world politics forever. Every time the tale is told, it is impossible to not wonder at how skewed everything we speak about today is—terrorism, fundamentalism and the ‘wars’ on terror. America was a main facilitator of the original global jehad! As the author says, “The jihad, funded by the US and the Kingdom (referring to Saudi Arabia)...was led by the charismatic scion of a leading Saudi merchant family, Osama Bin Laden.” The rest is history.
Refer to Empty Naukri Fair (Feb 18). Remember Surgical Strike—we didn’t see it happening, but it happened. Employment is a bit like that—you may not be able to see the jobs, but jobs are being created by the government. If some people still persist with their pessimism, hear it as the honourable petroleum and natural gas minister bluntly put it: ‘Only the frustrated don’t see the jobs.’
Yasir Imran, Bangalore
This refers to your story on Priyanka Gandhi (The Face for the Other Side of UP, Feb 11).The formal entry of the suave Priyanka into politics may have caused some understandable commotion in the NDA, forcing them to react rather fiercely, but it has also unsettled the fragile stability achieved by the two like-minded parties of the Opposition who have tied up. The timing appears well-strategised to revitalise the sagging morale of Congress leaders and workers in UP, following the pre-poll alliance between the Samajwadi Party and the BSP that left the Congress out. The decision to induct her as general secretary in charge of UP has certainly emboldened ground-level workers to intensify their efforts to regain lost ground. The strategy to strengthen the organisational structure to sort out its existential crisis in UP could be a political compulsion for the Congress at this juncture. But how far this step, which has the potential to cause division of votes and favour the BJP, will prove strategically correct in light of the united mission of the Opposition to dislodge the ruling party at the Centre is what the grand old party of India needs to critically assess.
Jaideep Mittra, Varanasi
BJP’s desperation to win the southern states is forcing them to turn Kerala’s Sabarimala into a southern Ayodhya, but, mark my words, they’ll have egg on their face (BJP’s Southern Discomfort Feb 11).
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
In the interview titled ‘Any Criticism Is Wormwood’, from the issue dated February 25, the name of Sahitya Akademy awardee Assamese litterateur Hiren Gohain was misspelt as Hiren Gogoi. The error is regretted.
Your cover story Where are the Jobs? is well-researched (February 18). I think a large part of the so-called job crisis is because of the demand for government jobs, not jobs per se. It’s clear that demonetisation and GST have added to unemployment, but the consensus on unemployment figures is divided and it looks like political motives are behind this. The CMIE report says 11 million jobs were lost in 2018 alone, while NSSO data say something else. RBI’s KLEMS database shows that around seven lakh jobs were lost in the textiles, textile products and leather sectors during 2014-16. It indicates a situation where the total number of vacancies is much less than the total number of job-seekers in India. The job crisis will surely be on the agenda in the 2019 general elections.
Vinod C. Dixit, On E-Mail
The job market is caught up in the rough trough of Modi’s many policies such as Make in India, Startup India and Skill India. These have hardly made any visible impact on the job situation around the country. Though initiated with the best of intentions, these schemes look hollow if the economy is snail-paced, keeping job-seekers jobless. Unemployment was overlooked in the interim budget. How painful! When jobs in the government sector are shrinking day by day and the private sector remains immobile, self-employment is the best foot forward. To cast aside employment pessimism, the ruling BJP-led NDA or any other aspiring party should come up with a genuine manifesto aiming to revive the job market.
Sanjeev Gupta, Perth, Australia
I read Empty Naukri Fair with much interest and have come to the following inferences. The suppressed NSSO report on employment in India bears some deeply worrying evidence apart from the rising unemployment rate. One such is the decline in the labour force participation rate, which measures the ratio of people employed or actively seeking employment to the total working age population. The ratio includes those already working in the formal or informal sector, including professionals and the self-employed. Hence, those not counted in the numerator would be the ones not seeking employment opportunities. These would include a discouraged working force, homemakers/housewives, and, of course, retired Indians and youngsters.
Approximately three-fourths of the male working age population is included in the labour force participation rate, while only a quarter of working age females are employed or actively seeking employment. This obviously is of concern since India is supposed to have a demographic dividend with a large proportion of youngsters entering the labour market. Among those who have some sort of employment, about 80 per cent are in the informal sector with hardly any job security or retirement benefits. Looking at the big picture in India, there is evidently an employment crisis, and the BJP-led government’s decision to put the report on hold won’t change that. Tweaking data will not change the grave situation. The Centre is sitting on a potentially inflammable social problem, which may flare into a major issue in future.
Ashim Kumar Chakraborty, Guwahati
The job situation in India is indeed grim. And yet we are touted to be the fastest growing economy in the world. The fact is there is a slowdown in non-agricultural jobs. Educated youth are turning to agriculture for sustenance, a retrogressive step. Meanwhile, government economists repeatedly deny the crisis. Unemployed youth are political fodder for various parties. But, instead of acknowledging the problem, we are busy defending an indefensible situation. We the citizens are lost somewhere in the labyrinth of figures.
Sangeeta Kampani, New Delhi
Cambridge English Dictionary defines job as “the regular work a person does to earn money”. But what we mean by job is regular service (naukri) in the public or private sector, and that’s a problem. Surely, there is a crisis of such jobs, but not of jobs as per the dictionary definition. PM Narendra Modi was much ridiculed by opposition parties for saying that those who sell pakodas outside offices and earn Rs 200 a day are not jobless. Former finance minister P. Chidambaram reacted by saying that if selling pakodas is a ‘job’, even begging is a job. Can there be a more silly comment? It was an insult to millions of self-employed people who earn their livelihood in so many ways, including selling pakodas or peanuts. They are all doing some job by the dictionary definition. Given the population of India, a situation where most of the unemployed get naukri is almost impossible, but the majority can be self-employed by their own resources, and the rest through government schemes that provide them finance on easy terms to start their work. The government has to play its role in the generation of self-employment.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
This refers to your interview with Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan (‘Only the frustrated don’t see the jobs’, February 18). There is no reliable data to back his assertion that “there are jobs in the country”, but my memories convince me that there was a lot more unemployment in the 1950s when I graduated. Only government jobs were available as the corporate sector was practically not there. Employable youth not averse to manual work do not remain unemployed, though they may feel underemployed. There are opportunities galore for enterprising persons. PM Modi once famously described the opportunities with the example of people frying pakoras by the roadside. But others look for cushy jobs, and when they don’t find any, the Opposition gets a chance to question the government’s performance on the job front. This government, which fired the imagination of young people by promising the creation of millions of jobs during the 2014 election campaign, has now made them suspicious by holding back the report on jobs prepared by a government agency.
M.N. Bhartiya, Goa
The cover story on paucity of jobs in India was timely (Empty Naukri Fair). Any inconvenient data on jobs is either ignored or edited out by the government. The fact that over three million jobs were lost due to demonetisation alone is swept under the carpet. Hasty GST implementation too shut down many SMEs due to compliance issues. Statistical skullduggery to paint a rosy picture of the economy will not change the reality.
Let us not forget that the erstwhile USSR had tried this for years, fooling its people and the world, and the consequences are well known. Indians have to be given accurate figures for how many jobs have been created and where, in BJP-ruled states or elsewhere. Our country is one of the fastest growing economies, but one that is not creating enough jobs, let alone good jobs. I wonder what use is the nation’s much-vaunted ‘demographic dividend’ if the government can’t create enough jobs, or if educational institutions can’t make youth employable. The aspirations of the youth need to be met soon. Instead of wasting millions on statues and temples, money should be spent on creating employment.
H.N. Ramakrishna, Bangalore
Who says no jobs; defend the PM hard enough on social media and you can be a certified troll.
Anil S., Pune
Your story on freedom fighters, the last of a fine generation, was really good (Last of the Nation’s First, February 11). The lives they lead are an example to us, and we are scarcely aware of these proud, self-abnegating men and women who fought so we can be free. They should be brought into focus, for us to heed feelings like one of them expressed—that contemporary India, where money and pelf matter more than law and principles, is not the kind of country they fought for. In Vellalur, near Coimbatore, I met a man aged 102, who gave all his freedom fighter’s pension to a trust. He used to visit the bank every day of the month, clad in a dhoti and with a towel on his shoulder. We should take the cue from them and unite to dispel corruption and greed from our polity. On unity, too, that generation can teach us a thing or two.
Indhu Prakash, Coimbatore
West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee raised a huge cry over the CBI team in Calcutta wanting to interrogate police commissioner Rajiv Kumar, because he knew too much about TMC’s involvement in the multi-crore Saradha scam (Centre Stage Esplanade, February 18).
Mamata blocked the CBI team as she feared Kumar would spill the beans about the missing files that conclusively prove the hand of top TMC leaders in cheating lakhs of poor investors. Her actions were not only condemnable, but unlawful as well.
Just by calling it vendetta politics and blaming PM Modi by enacting a high-pitch drama was not proper at all. Instead of cooperating with the CBI, Mamata took refuge in the practices of her street-fighting days. Irony is that the perpetrator of these unconstitutional acts claimed to be doing it to save the Constitution.
The fact that her acts were volubly supported by other opposition parties shows that none of them want the truth to come out.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
The item ‘Plenty Problem’ (Deep Throat, February 25) wrongly mentions Krishnagiri as the Lok Sabha constituency represented by deputy speaker M. Thambidurai. He represents Karur. The error is regretted.
This is with reference to your cover story Deccan Can They? (Feb 11). BJP’S north Indian roots, its overwhelmingly Hindutva image, lack of regional leadership down south and the mistrust the party carries among the people of the south are hurdles which will not be easy for the saffron party to surmount, irrespective of its focussed southward push. The only way forward for BJP is to groom leaders, bolster its organisational structure in the south, stitch umbrella alliances with regional parties and, most of all, dilute its strong Hindutva image. A long-term strategy with loads of patience is the need of the hour for this party which has always been in fast forward mode.
Vijai Pant, On E-mail
The BJP, by its very nature, is prone to rub the Tamils the wrong way. The party has failed to read the pulse of the people over a raft of issues such as the Salem-Chennai green corridor project, oil and natural gas exploration and the neutrino project. The common refrain is that PM Modi does not want to give Tamils what they want, but thrusts down their throats what they don’t want. We ask for a halt to Karnataka’s plan to build a new dam across river Cauvery at Meketadu but what we get in return is the neutrino project—a wild goose chase for God’s particle! The political untouchability practised against the saffron outfit by the Dravidian majors and half-a-dozen fringe groups runs so deep that they don’t lose opportunities for blaming the BJP for anything going wrong in Tamil Nadu. AIADMK’s Namadu MGR has blamed the BJP for its failures to act on promises like providing two crore jobs a year or giving Rs15 lakh to each citizen from the black money retrieved from safe havens abroad. BJP’s corruption outcry has few takers because corruption is never a major issue in a state that has gained notoriety for scientific corruption, and where most people sell their ballots for a price. Amid all these conundrums it is surprising how the BJP is pushing for a coalition with strange bed fellows like the AIADMK—T.T.V. Dinakaran or PMK—to fight the Lok Sabha polls.
Kangayam R. Narasimhan, Chennai
Political vocabulary is developed over decades and can only be used effectively if those being addressed are in on the words and phrases. The BJP simply hasn’t one for the south. The Ram mandir catchphrase may still stir up an agenda storm in the northern mainlands but speeches down south are nuanced and local. And identities in the southern states are more confident about their origins and evolution, so, a broad-based, flimsy Hindutva bid just doesn’t get you the mandate. Even the carefully crafted cult of Modi finds little resonance here. The BJP needs to visibly change its positions while campaigning in states like Tamil Nadu and Kerala. But then, that would need them to get rid of the arrogance they have accumulated from an anti-Congress wave in the last five years or so.
Shailesh Kumar, ON E-MAIL
The southern palate is too diverse to be coloured a single shade of coercive saffron.
This refers to The Face For The Other Side Of U.P. (Feb 11). The Congress remains a fringe player in the politics of the most populous state in the country. It seems to be trailing far behind the SP-BSP alliance and BJP in UP. Having said that, by sending Priyanka Gandhi to UP east, the Congress has pitched her directly against both the CM and the PM—both have won from this belt. Though she may not be able to fetch her party their old bastion back, she can definitely put a dent in the hopes of the SP-BSP alliance and ruling BJP in that region. Till date, she has restricted herself to her mother and brother’s constituencies, but now she will have to dig deep into dirty politics and prove that she can be a serious contender in future. And, mind you, she is no small fish.
Bal Govind, Noida
The Congress under Rahul Gandhi is still struggling to come to grips, but Priyanka’s entry into politics should give a fillip to the rank and file of the party and enthuse them to work with greater vigour in UP. As general secretary UP east, she has a tough task cut-out ahead of her. Her oratory skills and mass appeal appear to have a greater edge than Rahul’s.
Indian politics undoubtedly tends to be red in tooth and claw come election time. These days the only debate that is reverberating in the corridors of power concerns is Priyanka Gandhi’s sudden entry into politics. While the BJP, as expected, is busy unleashing a stream of vitriol against the Congress by invoking the dynasty trope, a frisson of hope and euphoria has gripped the Congress.
After being hung out to dry by the SP-BSP alliance, the Congress has had no option but to fall back on the charismatic Priyanka. It is obvious that she has been made to draw the short straw, being asked to take charge of a tough and volatile eastern UP to improve the political fortunes of the party. Priyanka is no babe in the woods in matters political as she has campaigned successfully in previous elections for the party. Now having decided to cross the rubicon, Priyanka has to punch above her weight to take the fight to the opposition led by BJP and SP-BSP alliance. At the same time, while Priyanka is personally incorruptible and enjoys a relatively clean image, her husband Robert Vadra’s involvement in dubious business deals can become an albatross around her neck. Can she turn things around in what looks to be one of the most tough and nerve-wracking election battles of UP in recent times?
Aditya Mukherjee, New Delhi
So, has Congress eventually realised that it will take more than a Rahul Gandhi to revive itself in a state widely believed to hold the key to Raisina Hill. Either way, it is an admission that the party stands virtually decimated in UP, and is so politically distraught that it has been pressured into playing its last “Gandhi card” to ward off being reduced to a marginal player. Whether the Congress president’s “front foot strategy” and Priyanka’s entry actually revives the party’s prospects are the big imponderable of the 2019 election. However, the BJP has certainly been impacted, its revival of the ‘dynasty’ criticism proves precisely that.
K.S. Jayatheertha, Bangalore
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