We live in times where hatred has engulfed all sense of humanity; victims are mere pawns.
Deepa Shekhawat, On E-Mail
The editorial comment, Till Messiah Come, Again, and the cover story, specially Harsh Mander’s interview: ‘Not Sick, We’re Intoxicated, It Is Like A Heroin High On Hatred’, will not touch the hardened sensibilities of those leaders who have donned blinkers to see nothing else except the path for success of their own political careers at whatever cost to the country (April 30). The open endorsement of a majoritarian politics by the government is the reason attributed by Mander for the speedy spread of this horrendous cancer. Political leadership, of whatever colour, cannot escape their responsibility for nurturing hatred by dividing the people in the name of religion, citing distorted facts. The looming danger is of such a great magnitude that the coming back of one Mahatma Gandhi will not make any difference unless all those still little conscious of human values get up boldly to save humanism through the route of the rule of law as per the Constitution. But that sacrosanct document too has practically collapsed due to the poisoning of the justice system at the roots, hence, rather than a messiah, we need an awakening of the people.
M.N. Bhartiya, Goa
After a string of victories in UP, Gujarat and the Northeast, the Karnataka polls will be fought very fiercely by the BJP to regain its toehold in the South. The EC must strictly adhere to the vote-count procedure in order to put to rest all fears of tampering in these polls. While Congress wants to halt the BJP at all costs in the state, a third contestant, the HD (Deve Gowda) father-son duo of the JD(S), will fight for political relevance. The Congress seems to be playing the identity and sub-nationalist card by portraying the BJP as a party that wants to impose Hindi in the state. Current CM Siddaramaiah has aggressively promoted Kannada and has even unveiled a separate state flag to make a point to the BJP. On the other hand, the BJP is relying on the Hindutva-influenced vote and has blamed the Congress for trying to divide the Hindu community, namely—the Lingayats and the Veerashaivas. It’s going to be a nail-biting election, only time will tell the winner.
L.J. Singh, On E-Mail
This is about Outlook’s interview with former attorney-general Soli Sorabjee (Impeachment of CJI is nonsensical...., Apr 30). Even before the ink dried on the latest issue of your magazine and this interview, which dealt with the move by seven opposition parties to impeach the CJI, the event became a closed chapter before it reached the reader. The chairman of the Rajya Sabha had to cut down his trip to Hyderabad, rush back and hold urgent talks with the Attorney-General and other eminent jurists before he rejected the opposition motion. We only hope the same sense of exigency visits the millions of cases that are stuck in courts all over India, bringing some cheer to the hoi polloi.
N. Venkataraman, Hyderabad
Of the three pillars of government, it is the judiciary in which people have the greatest faith. It is the Supreme Court which delivered the judgment to protect the basic structure of our Constitution and the fundamental rights of our people. It breathed life into Article 21 by expanding the meaning of the words ‘right to life’. The opposition might not like some SC decisions, as in the matter of Justice Loya, but they can’t expect the court to deliver judgements that would always warm the cockles of their hearts. The judiciary’s integrity has already been compromised by the ill-advised move of the four seniormost judges who went public pointing fingers at the CJI. But with the CJI retiring shortly and with the more sensitive cases like Aadhaar and Ram Janmabhoomi coming before them, the opposition is just scared that the judgments could go in the BJP’s favour. The judiciary is the strongest pillar of our democracy, and the opposition must refrain from demonising it.
Kangayam R. Narasimhan, On E-Mail
At one level, the attempt to impeach the CJI should be looked into and not be dismissed out of hand on principle, as seems to have been done. The more the concentration of power and the wider the latitude of discretion, the higher the chance of corruption seeping into the system. None of the four estates can be unquestionably deemed sacrosanct unless so felt on the touchstone of common sense. Our founding fathers wisely evolved a system of checks and balances, yet that is under threat by dark forces who are out to compromise it on every occasion. It is ideally the job of the media to chastise erratic persons and institutions, but, often plagued by fear or greed, they do little. Much of what is rotten in governance is due to lack of accountability at all levels.
J.N. Bhartiya, Hyderabad
A desperate Congress party is fast losing the little credibility it is left with; the recent fiasco over the attempted impeachment of the CJI is another move that backfired. The judiciary must not be touched sans strong evidence by any party. It is the judiciary that checks the alleged wrongs of a ruling government, is independent and has not lost credibility in the eyes of the public yet. To regain its political credentials, the Congress should adopt an ‘attack less, build more’ attitude. If it keeps going with blinders after the party at the Centre, it will only end up giving political advantage to its opponents.
Mahesh Kumar, On E-Mail
It should be clear by now to the public that the judiciary is under great stress and its independence is under threat as never before. This is the moment of truth for the judiciary, the Bar and the wider society on what they do to ‘forestall’ the government from undermining the powers of the country’s top court. The members of the judiciary are obliged to resist the government’s attempts at riding roughshod over the institution. Needless to say, the reduction of the apex court’s independent status to a wing, an extension or an appendage of the government will imperil democracy.
Chief Justice Dipak Misra’s near-endorsement of the government’s return of the Collegium proposal with respect to Justice K.M. Joseph’s elevation as an SC judge lends credence to the perception that he is playing second fiddle to the government for reasons best known to him. He stopped short of saying that the government has the right of veto. The press conference held by four senior judges-cum-members of the Collegium earlier this year expressing concern for the judiciary and the impeachment motion moved by Opposition MPs and its subsequent disallowal by Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu are disturbing truths.
The ostensible reasons offered for not promoting Justice Joseph are not convincing. It is well known that he quashed the imposition of President’s rule in Uttarakhand in 2016, an act that was ‘unpalatable’ to the BJP. The ‘pick-and-choose’ policy in the appointment of judges to the apex court will invite the charge of favouritism and cause irreparable damage to the country’s most sacrosanct institution. The Collegium should show strength of character, resend its recommendation to the government and assert its authority to appoint judges.
G. David Milton, Maruthancode
In the US and Japan, people segregate garbage into three categories: decaying garbage, plastic and metal. They tie these up in separate bags and keep them outside their homes to be picked up by garbage vans (The Mountains We Make, April 23). But scientific waste management is still a far cry in a land that swears by the Swachh Bharat slogan. Factors like rapid economic growth, the population explosion, the consumption boom, corruption, a lack of civic sense, and poor governance have contributed immeasurably to the problem in India. But with technological advances, there are now machines that can recycle waste and convert it into energy. Chennai alone generates more than 5,000 tonnes of garbage per day, and this can be converted into fuel through the plasma gasification and vitrification process, a technology developed by NASA. Under this technology, segregation of waste at source is not necessary. It is a complete recycling process that does not generate any harmful by-products, says US-based Solena Fuels, which represents NASA and is eager to enter into public-private partnerships with governments in India. Japan’s technology for recycling garbage should also be studied by state governments in order to stop this constantly ticking time-bomb.
Kangayam R. Narasimhan, Chennai
“Prodigality is the spirit of the era. Historians, I suspect, may allude to this as the Throwaway Age”, wrote eminent American social writer Vance Packard long ago about his own country in his thought-provoking book The Waste Makers. India seems to be not far from realising this, given the enormity of our garbage menace, with only 25 per cent of the garbage collected being processed and the rest ending up in disposal sites; salvaging from the latter, the humble rag-picker has been eking out a livelihood and ameliorating the problem.
Unrecycled plastic and aluminium foil packaging waste is contributing to mountains of trash. My local kirana shopwallah rues that he wastes Rs 3,600 a month to buy plastic packaging for his customers, with zero return on investment either in the form of a plastic fee or the bags themselves being returned!
Either we strictly enforce “Extended Producer Responsibility”, or ban plastic carry bags as did Kenya and Rwanda recently; for the latter, we need the discipline to use reusable cloth carry bags, water bottles, biodegradable disposables (from palash, areca nut leaves, bagasse). More importantly, we must segregate and compost organic waste at the source, i.e the household/ community level (e.g. Alappuzha, Panaji, Mysore and Bobbili), so that only non-biodegradable wastes would be left to garbage collection; this could then be recycled for road laying, pyrolytic oil generation or replacing coke in steelmaking (using waste tyres) . Short of taking these measures, no Swachh Bharat mission can ever purify our country!
C.V. Krishna Manoj, Hyderabad
It appears that there is no viable solution for solid waste management in Delhi—every scheme is deficient in some way. The three major landfills are overflowing, having exceeded their permissible parameters. The original idea behind creating these was to burn the waste in a furnace to produce electricity. Though Delhi has three waste-to-energy plants near these landfills, they have reportedly been lying almost idle since the trifurcation of the MCD in 2012, with no means available to manage them. Environmentalists find burning this waste ecologically hazardous. Then, there are researchers and specialists suggesting a method followed by several countries: the use of incineration plants that burn the waste to ash, which is then sold and put to other uses. According to one scientist, this method, which would reduce the volume of waste by over 70 per cent, is impossible to implement until the waste is segregated into dry and wet. This segregation has to be done at the source, and that is next to impossible in India. Waste-management is not Delhi’s problem alone, but one affecting the whole country. Alappuzha in Kerala is an exception (Clean Up After Yourselves)—and behind its transformation was the unrelenting T.M. Thomas Isaac, who spearheaded the movement. Millions of Isaacs are needed to transform India into a clean country.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
It is very unfortunate that other than a few flashy slogans and campaigns, we are completely unprepared for managing waste. This issue is as important as food. And must we showcase these eyesores and stench generators in visible proximity of our high rise structures or at the entry points of metropolises? There are solutions for waste management. As mentioned in your cover story, the effort has to begin from citizens who should mandatorily segregate waste. If spraying bioculture on smaller heaps of well screened bio waste turns it into soil-like matter, the same method can be applied later to the bigger mounds of waste.
Mohan Singh, Amritsar
In Bangalore, we face the dual problem of garbage piles and polluted lakes. A telling monument of the collective apathy of Bangaloreans, both citizens and municipal bodies, is the once pristine Bellandur lake, which froths and fumes, as if in disgust, due to pollution. It even bursts into flames, literally, with a potent mix of domestic industrial waste acting as fuel. Waste segregation at the source is half of the solution and proper long-term planning with corruption-free disposal of waste by the authorities is the other half. We must all wake up or be ready to be buried under these mountains of doom. The Alappuzha model is worth emulating and citizens there deserve a standing ovation.
Pradeep Baid, Bangalore
My family has subscribed to Outlook for years…since I was a school kid. I enjoy reading the magazine very much, but is it necessary to pack it in a plastic packet? For someone who uses zero plastic, I find this a nuisance (and the Earth does too, trust me). The only plastic in my house is from Outlook. I subscribe to other magazines too. None of them come packed in plastic, including those that come from abroad. I could read the magazine online too, and avoid getting the plastic, but then I like to have a physical copy, like all magazine lovers.
Ierene Francis, Bangalore
These topless towers of refuse sentry-ing the capital are testament to India’s growth story.
Satindra Paul Singh, On E-Mail
This is with reference to your editorial comment (Gandhi’s Spectacles, April 23), Gandhi’s advice for the maintenance of sanitation and equality in society—that we should all ‘become’ bhangis—proves his shrewdness, as he never wanted to offend the majority of non-untouchables by stating the truth that we all are all rotten at heart. We hire others to clean our toilets. We claim to be human beings, but don’t understand the ABCD of humanity when we consider our own brethren to be untouchable. The only way left to understand the equality and dignity of labour and the practice of untouchability is to clean the toilets and handle others’ shit. Only then may we be better placed to talk about sanitation and equality in society.
It is curious that the BJP in Karnataka is finding it tough to take advantage of the anti-incumbency factor in the Congress-ruled state ahead of next month’s polls (Not Exactly Virgin Soil To Plough, Apr 23). What’s more, the saffron party is facing a strong challenge even from the JD(S). While the Congress is boasting about its welfare schemes under CM Siddaramaiah (accused of maintaining poor law and order), Deve Gowda’s JD(S) is projecting farmers’ issues, loan waivers and the Cauvery water-sharing problem as the main poll-time questions. The BJP has been harping on the issues of corruption and ‘appeasement politics’ in reference to the Congress’s proposal to recognise Lingayats as a minority religion. Karnataka seems set to get a hung assembly this time.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
It’s a no-holds-barred battle. It’s vital for the Congress to retain power—to show that the party, at the national level, is on a comeback trail under the new president, Rahul Gandhi. For the BJP, of course, a victory in Karnataka can help show that the party has a flag flying high in a southern state as well. But then the CM seems to be outshining the BJP in the campaign. If an array of welfare schemes has been his highlight, the proposal to grant the Lingayats minority status seems to be further working to his party’s benefit.
G. David Milton, Maruthancode
This refers to Gandhi’s Spectacles, your comment (April 23). Gandhi was a master at practising the politics of symbolism. Realising the potential of the symbolic for influencing a humongous mass of people entrapped in different kinds of oppressions, the Mahatma devised a symbol for each of the nation’s problems. He had the charkha for self sufficiency, the broom for self-sanitation and an orange juice cure for Ambedkar’s ‘rebellion’. But, I dare say, for all the Mahatma’s saintliness, he was a shrewd politician. Symbols can only get you so far. When it comes to the problem of manual scavenging and garbage disposal, symbols have taken us nowhere. In fact, inspired by the power of Gandhi’s successful symbolism, Modi has taken charge of the broom, cleaning dry leaves and chips packets for photo ops. The real shit always remains hidden. It is not Gandhi we must turn to with regard to the current problem—it is Ambedkar’s rationalism and humanism we must revisit. Symbols only give a convenient illusion of solving problems; we need to be logical and rational to achieve real results
Anil S., Pune
Outlook’s story on the recent communal clashes in Bengal over the Ram Navami celebrations (At The Fire Ceremonies, Apr 16) highlights a dangerous situation. As Indians, we don’t have time to lose, knowing that in the past we have done a shoddy job of stemming the rot of communalism. Or is it that in today’s India it’s tough to form the obvious consensus on these matters? Queering the pitch are the political parties who, oblivious of the fact that it’s secularism that makes India stand out amidst a fraught South Asia, use such nefarious means to divide the populace into convenient votebanks. Unless we fight this with all our power, suffering will be our handmaiden.
Sheikh Hyder Ali, Pune
The story The Funny Bone of Grey Matters (April 23) about director Abhinay Deo was a nice read. He really is a director of witty realism. Some more pictures and some bits on his personal life would have added more value to the story. But I think the picture of actor Irrfan Khan in the top-right corner of the issue’s cover was somewhat misleading. It gave the impression that there was a story of Irrfan in the magazine. Irrfan is a big star and an actor par excellence; a separate story on him would be welcome.
Minati Pradhan, On E-Mail
This refers to Just Pass the Wine, Comrades (April 23), your story on poll violence in Bengal. Elections are the bedrock of democracy. Free and fair polls are necessary for the formation of a truly representative government. But in Bengal, we see ruling party goons targeting opposition candidates in a bid to intimidate them. If this is not proof enough of a breakdown of law and order, then what is? Even journalists have not been spared by the Trinamool Congress. And the police are mere pawns in the hands of the ruling party. One has heard of farcical elections being organised in banana republics and under dictatorial regimes. What is happening in Bengal today is not much different. It is quite apparent that democracy is under threat in the state. The conditions were bad during the days of the Left Front as well. I had expected the Trinamool to behave differently in power, but it is aping the ways of the Left. It is anybody’s guess, then, how free and fair the panchayat elections will be.
J.S. Acharya, Hyderabad
This is about the story on Nepal prime minister Oli’s visit to New Delhi and the efforts on both sides to ease the tensions that had soured relations (Apr 16, The Old Sport of Goodwill Hunting). It’s in India’s interest to build a constructive friendship with Nepal based on sovereign equality. Even if Oli is seen as pro-China, his visit should be seen as an opportunity. India’s security-driven foreign policy forgets one thing—that ‘China card’ diplomacy by its neighbours has its limits. Nepal, fearful of its large southern neighbour’s long reach, may want to keep India at arm’s length, but would eventually come to see its much larger northern neighbour’s machinations as a greater threat. Thus India has to be proactive too—if China builds a hydroelectric project in Nepal, India should be interested in buying the power generated. If there are lessons from India’s engagement with Nepal over the last four years, it is not to make crude demands for loyalty based on size, but to acknowledge the agency of a sovereign nation and offer friendship based on equality.
M.S. Khokhar, On E-Mail
Outlook’s cover story on fake news being generated on social media platforms like Twitter (Malice As News, Mar 26) couldn’t have come at a better time. When John Swinton, who had been chief of staff of The New York Times in the 1860s, was asked to give a toast on ‘free press’ at the New York Press Club, he stated: “There is no such thing, at this date in America, as an independent press. You know it and I know it. There is not one of you who dares to write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinion out of the paper I am connected with.” “The business of journalists,” he continued in the same scathing vein, “is to destroy truth; to lie outright; to pervert; to vilify; to fawn at the feet of Mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread.” Does this ring a bell in today’s India? If it does, even partially, what’s the point in castigating the common man who vents on Twitter and insists he’s not telling lies?J. Akshobhya, Mysore
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