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Are we expected to celebrate GST’s anniversary (GST or GST’N! July 2) It is no innovative approach to taxation, it’s the old wine in the same old bottle, only, they’ve put a pretty label on it. It’s only ‘one nation one tax’ in name, with different tax slabs for different goods. Pray, what are “sin goods”, what is this free market morality? Small and mid-size traders are still grappling with this tax and the GST brigade is roaming around, keen to extract its ‘pound of flesh’ from businesses. This Shylockian approach of the government has made a mockery of federalism, twisting the internal economics of states in true big vbrother style. But what can one expect. The GST is a rock compared to the Tughlaqian mountain of demonetisation that made the yoke of this country groan under its callous weight.
J. Kishore, Hyderabad
Refer to A People’s Final Draft (July 2). The piece leaves many questions unanswered. It delineates mainly the fear of alienation among Muslims and is silent on the actual problem: Following the NRC’s publication, the Centre will pass the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016, in the coming session of the Parliament. It would enable India to issue citizenship to the persecuted minorities of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, which is vehemently opposed by much of the Assamese community in the Brahmaputra valley, and supported by a large number in Barak valley. Since the 1960s, there have been agitations against the presence of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, leading up to the Assam Accord.
Our family has been living in Assam since 1951. My father’s name is in the 1956 NRC, but using his legacy data we failed to get listed in the first draft of this NRC (December 31, 2017). Eight members of the family are waiting for publication of the second list. Bengali Hindus have maintained their culture, language and identity, but they have also nourished Assamese culture and language. Bengali Muslims too have adopted it. But political leaders of all shades are trying to sabotage peaceful coexistence of different caste, creeds and languages in Assam.
A.K. Chakraborty, Guwahati
This refers to your cover story Child Care on Oxygen (July 2). We are extremely vocal about healthcare but haven’t made even minimum progress in the area. Healthcare for children and women should be a top priority. The appalling child mortality rate of India should be reason enough to step up child healthcare, especially in rural areas, but, as your story reveals, the situation is very dire. These days, many a ‘multispeciality hospital’ is part of the urban skyline, its sky-high treatment rates wholly out of the reach of the common man. Sometimes, modern diagnostic gadgets make their way to the rural landscape, through the WHO or as a rare fulfilment of a neta’s tall promise, yet due to lack of adequate doctors in villages, they are of little use. Our doctors are averse to working in villages, socialism is long gone. Therefore, we need a new model—better incentives to make doctors work in rural areas. A recent study found that one doctor is available for 1,668 people in India. Even when it comes to health expenses, India spends much less than other countries.
Lt Col (retd) Ranjit Sinha, Calcutta
From Gorakhpur to Nashik, from Calcutta to Kolar and from Cuttack to Bhuj, our children are dying as policymakers pay scant regard to issues that really matter. We spend just around 1 per cent of our GDP on health and around 3.5 on education. This is reflected in primary healthcare, hospitals and nursing homes operating without doctors, nurses, para-medical staff and equipment, forcing people to take recourse to private hospitals for whom medicate care, including that of hapless children, is just a business to mint money.
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
The lack of infrastructure in the Indian healthcare sector is appalling. Hospitals in rural areas do not even have adequate manpower. Even the handful of doctors in rural areas have no choice but to forego conducting important tests simply because the necessary equipment is unavailable. The fact that the health of citizens means little to political leaders was highlighted when almost 300 children died in August last year at a medical college hospital in Gorakhpur.
J. Akshobhya, On E-Mail
The primary healthcare map is shamefully littered with casualties due to institutional negligence. Obviously, no lessons have been learnt from the Gorakhpur tragedy. Public healthcare is in a pathetic condition due to various reasons and corruption in hospital-related supplies is one of them. According to a media report, the company which used to supply oxygen cylinders to the BRD hospital had stopped supplies as its bills worth Rs 63 lakhs had not been cleared since November 23, 2016. According to some reports, hospital authorities allegedly asked for a 12 per cent commission, as against the 10 per cent earlier given, to clear the company’s bill. This caused the disruption in oxygen cylinder supplies. The Modi government has come up with an ambitious healthcare program for the poor—Ayushman Bharat—an insurance scheme which aims to cover as much as 10 crore families to take care of almost all of their secondary and most tertiary healthcare procedures. It would be the biggest such in the world. Will it be successful? The genuine implementation on the ground for such a programme will be a big challenge for the government.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
This is with reference to the cover story Childcare on Oxygen (July 2). Neglect on the part of medical staff is an important factor. It came to light last year when Salome Karwah, the Liberian nurse who was named Time magazine’s person of the year in 2014 for her efforts to combat Ebola, died from childbirth-related complications due to the attitude of doctors and nurses who might mistakenly have believed that Ebola survivors could still transmit the virus. And in India, it has been claimed that a woman was accidentally burned to death in a funeral pyre after doctors had wrongly pronounced her dead hours earlier. She showed no signs of life thereafter but an autopsy showed charred particles in her windpipe and lungs, say police, which would not have been present if she had not been breathing. Other doctors later determined that the cause of death was not a lung infection but was in fact ‘shock caused by being burned alive’. This was a living illustration of doctors’ impropriety, and the vulnerable healthcare system will not be fixed until doctors accept noblesse oblige.
Seetharam Basaani, Hanamkonda
The alarming infant mortality rate is an indication that UP needs a far more mature healthcare system with professionals who are capable of managing critical situations. The system needs to be further filtered into rural areas where people are unaware of basic health precautions. Some of India’s western and northeastern states are badly off due to the absence proper educational and healthcare practices. It would be good if they could initiate joint missions with the help of other states that are doing better in health indicators.
Ramachandran Nair, Muscat
It seems ‘new’ India keeps building optimism on weak foundations, such as primary healthcare.
Rahul Pradhan, On E-Mail
This is about Outlook Editor Ruben Banerjee’s immensely enjoyable, even if painfully relatable, Travail Diary (July 2). A victim of similarly harrowing congestion woes, his experience of driving 240 kms from Delhi to Rishikesh during the peak summer season has not surprised me. Unfortunately, highway logic has come to demand that during the tourist season, busy people in need for some peace and quiet should not visit places like Rishikesh, which is on India’s frenetic religious map. If they do, they should be prepared to face the music of endless honking and traffic pile ups. The use of the term ‘atithi devo bhava’ in tourist literature is just a business cliché. North Indian hill stations are at their best when visited during the off-season.
M.N. Bhartiya, Goa
Outlook’s World Cup special issue (Let’s Football, June 25) was interesting, especially the article charting the Indian football fan (Gali Gali Football Shootball). But the ongoing World Cup has brought out the one reality: “Kicking a ball around is an instinctive urge of all humans.” India perhaps is not in this grid, because it has surrendered its soul to cricket. Kerala is an exception. During World Cups, the state goes into a frenzy. Vehicles and houses are painted in colours of their favourite teams, usually Brazil and Argentina. But then, adverse reactions from fans can be extreme. For example, Dinu Alex, an Argentinian fan, committed suicide, dejected after his team’s defeat against Croatia.
C.V. Venugopalan, Palakkad
Since its introduction, a large number of common people have been suffering from GST (GST Or GSN’T, July 2). Recently, a woman who took a gold loan told me that on redeeming her jewels she wasn’t only paying interest for the loan, but also the GST on the interest amount. Not only that, the late fee for the delayed payment of premium also attracts GST. Can the government not exempt all interest collection from GST?
L. Samraj, Chennai
Unfortunately, there was no discussion on how GST impacted government revenues in your GST package. GST was brought in to bring more people in the tax net, so that the Centre could garner more revenues at a moderate rate. This crucial point was just not covered.
Sumeet Mishra, On E-Mail
This refers to your story on the fall of the Jammu and Kashmir government (Abandoned in Lotus Time, July 2). I am sure it was with an eye on the 2019 general elections and its core constituency of voters in the rest of the country that the BJP decided to walk out of its ruling coalition with the PDP. The BJP probably outdid its ally by pulling out on its own terms—the PDP was perhaps planning to not go along with the BJP in the 2019 polls, possibly also because of the Kathua rape and murder case. The saffron party’s decision to take the initiative in parting ways might be politically smart, but it could also turn the simmering ‘Delhi-Kashmir divide’ into a direct Kashmir versus Delhi conflict. Perhaps, that was the intention.
J.S. Acharya, On E-Mail
After the ceasefire experiment ended in a failure, the BJP took a bold step to end the untenable alliance with the PDP after a rollercoaster ride for three years. There is no doubt the PDP paid a heavy price for overlooking the BJP in the decision-making process, and for being a thorn in its side on many crucial issues such as uniform civil code, tackling stone-pelters and withdrawal of cases against them, going soft on Hurriyat and the Rohingya refugees. The BJP also accused CM Mehbooba Mufti of not doing enough to curb terrorism, violence and radicalisation, leading to deterioration of the security situation. The murders of the politically moderate senior journalist Shujaat Bhukari and an armyman became the last straw in the unholy alliance. The BJP gave up power in the national interest. Better late than never, the rocky relationship coming to an end earlier than expected comes as a great relief to many of us. The Centre must give a free hard to the security forces to go all out to liquidate the terrorists so that the security situation improves, bringing peace to the Valley.
K.R. Srinivasan, Hyderabad
This refers to your story on the missing key to the inner chamber of the Ratna Bhandar of the Shree Jagannath Temple in Puri (Lay of the Lost, June 25). You brought up an important issue that was brushed under the carpet for a long time. It is obvious there is no transparency in the temple management on the size of the wealth in the Ratna Bhandar. The tussle between the government and the Daitapati Niyog for authority and control of the hidden wealth is not likely to end soon. Appointment of a high-level committee to inspect, document and maintain the wealth with complete transparency will ease the minds of millions of Jagannath devotees.
Minati Pradhan, Bangalore
There’s no spectacle to match the football world cup. Till July 15, it’s going to be a carnival in Moscow, and by extension, the world over. I savoured every moment of the opening ceremony at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. The tournament’s appeal is so overwhelming that Russia’s strained relations with the West temporarily seem like a thing of the past.
Pardon the eugenic tone of a football lover, but the 736 players participating in the world cup are few of the best of our species—in fitness, skill and determination. History is in the making here, with every deft touch that finds the net. Every world cup, we viewers hope for the epic—the challenge throwing up a Pele or a Maradona among the current soccer stars. As in life, moments of ecstasy and despair are inevitable in the tournament. Sport and life are so intertwined to each other.
G. David Milton, Maruthancode, Tamil Nadu
When will India play the football world cup? The Sports Authority of India should leave no stone unturned in getting us to feature in the next cup in Qatar in 2022.
Coming to the current tournament, it’s shocking that Lionel Messi’s Argentine team could not break debutants Iceland’s iceberg on June 16. Messi had half-a-dozen opportunities to score goals but failed miserably. He missed a penalty! Iceland’s team, wonderful to see all their names ending with ‘son’, deserves kudos for its stunning display. It’s all the more heartening that Iceland, the least populated nation among the 32 countries vying for the world cup, could prove its mettle in the very first encounter.
K.P. Rajan, Mumbai
This refers to The Keeper There Wasn’t’ (June 25) a vivid narrative of cricket shadowing football. Football was played by the lower classes in dusty fields, cricket emerged as a more expensive sport played by the sophisticated class that felt proud of identifying with anything ‘foreign’. Jawaharlal Nehru’s patriotism had a western shade to it—he was, after all, going for ‘modernity’. The Indian princely classes were always eager to get British patronage and no wonder, they patronised Cricket. Aamir Khan’s Lagaan comes to mind—a classic film portraying the political dynamics of the sport under the British Raj.
As a lover of the beautiful game, I was overjoyed on receiving your 2018 football World Cup special. The article on the Indian audiences of the world cup, Gali Gali Football Shootball, and the book extract titled The Keeper There Wasn’t, were especially interesting reads. Indian football legend P.K. Banerjee’s ‘Football Diary’ reminded me of the time I happened to meet him. I met Mr Banerjee in Calcutta on a July evening in 1961. He was riding cycle at the Red Road (now Gostha Pal road) when I saw him. Later, he talked to me and even gave me an autograph.
I can completely empathise with Mr Banerjee on the sad state of affairs in Indian football. In 1950, as there was just one slot from Asia, the Indian Football team automatically earned a spot at the world cup as Philippines, Indonesia and Burma withdrew before the qualification round. The popular belief is that India did not play in the 1950 football World Cup as they did not want to wear boots. But the late Sailen Manna (one of India’s best defenders who was in the squad at that time) says that it was because the All India Football Federation was not taking the world cup as seriously as the Olympics.
Bidyut Kumar Chatterjee, Faridabad
The world cup has been my excuse to suspend existential boredom for a month since 1998.
Praful Brar, New Delhi
With reference to Nimble of Feet (June 18), if there really is a mystical harmonious place called Shangri-La, it is not likely to be found in India. PM Modi attracted widespread attention with his speech at the dialogue in Singapore, and notably said that the summit showed that when nations stand on the side of principles, not behind one power or the other, they earn the respect of the world community and a voice in international affairs. In a strong message against protectionism, Modi rightly said that countries would find solutions not behind walls of protection but by embracing change, and that India stands for an open and stable international trade regime. In the closing passages of his speech, he said, “We are inheritors of Vedanta philosophy that believes in essential oneness of all, and celebrates unity in diversity. This is the foundation for our civilisational ethos of pluralism, co-existence, openness and dialogue.”
How true and appropriate will those words be if they are addressed to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Bajrang Dal, the Ram Sena, Hanuman Sena, the anti-Romeo squads and some ministers who reject this ‘path of wisdom’. It will be a great service to our nation if our prime minister delivers his Shangri-La speech in India itself.
Lal Singh, Amritsar
History is not the exclusive proprietor of barbarity Digital Bombs of Mob Violence (June 25). We often throw the word ‘uncivilised’ to mean something not in sync with the modern condition. Look around you—is it really so? The new wave of barbarity that currently holds sway in India will debunk all convenient assumptions. Brutal lynchings spurred by nothing concrete but accumulated and fanned hate have become the order of the day. Murder by mobs functioning under the term ‘gaurakshak’ have already become the norm. They no longer shock the collective conscience. The ‘child abductor’ lynchings stirred something in us because they are a new phenomenon. It won’t be surprising if another similar incident exhausts news value beyond the reportage pages of newspapers. Such is the nature of news, it renders repeated incidents mundane. But nothing gets lost altogether. Only, the violence shifts to the background. And as we continue to build our lives in the foreground, a disturbing hum continues to haunt our existence.
Vinod Kumar, Mumbai
This refers to Autumnal Thaw: An Open Script (June 25). It is disheartening to note that Shujaat Bhukari, who was working on bringing peace back to the Valley, was killed. But this is not the first time a journalist has been murdered for fair reporting. Reporting the truth is becoming most dangerous—but this also proves again that the pen is mightier than the sword.
Mahesh Kapasi, On E-Mail
The unilateral ceasefire during the month of Ramzan wreaked havoc in Kashmir. Thankfully, it has been abandoned, but it exposed the inanity of the move for amity in the face of the perpetual hostility of communal marauders in Pakistan and their hirelings in India. The Kashmir government is bereft of moral authority with so many people killed by militants notwithstanding the sacred fast under the ceasefire’s protective cover. But deferring military action—a real possibility—to the eve of the 2019 elections in order to garner votes shows a lack of humaneness and a surfeit of Machiavellianism. We need a bold and straightforward government to deal with the Kashmir issue.
J.N. Bhartiya, Hyderabad
After the attacks on the eve of Eid, the Centre was justified in not extending the Ramzan ceasefire and having the security forces resume operations. Pakistan-backed militants have hijacked the Kashmir peace agenda and sabotage every effort for peace in the Valley. Home Minister Rajnath Singh during his recent visit said the government was ready for dialogue with anyone and everyone, including the separatists, but the separatists have their own conditions for dialogue that cannot be acceptable to any government in Delhi. The situation is quite murky and the question—will it all end in dialogue?—has no answer for now. However, Kashmir cannot be left at the mercy of jackboots, separatists and militants forever. Firm and decisive action is needed.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
This refers to Digital Bombs of Mob violence (June 25). I would like to add a few more words regarding the inhuman, barbaric killings of Abhijit Nath and Nilotpal Das of Guwahati. Superstition is an omnipresent societal curse in Assam. Assam has seen plenty of deaths of men and women in the name of black magic and witchcraft. Widows and old people are known to be targets of mob violence in Assam after being tagged child lifters and black magic practitioners by people who were after their properties.
Ashim Kumar Chakraborty, Guwahati
The mad mob violence and the barbarous instant lynching of suspected accused or innocents by unruly mobs has become a day-to-day narrative of Indian society. It is shameful and shocking. The saner people across the country are wondering whether India is returning to the stone age, when anyone could kill anybody. Child-lifting is a serious issue but the absurd nature of the lynchings merely based on social media rumours is crazy. When there is a government and police in place, shouldn’t ‘suspects’ identified by the public be first handed over to police for investigation? Or is there no law and order left in the land? The police cannot just blame social media. It should be held accountable for its inaction, apathy and lackadaisical approach to serious and heinous crimes. There is no use of running after the horse after it has bolted and no use of making arrests long after the precious lives of people have been lost. Unless the police assert themselves, unless people fear and respect the law, nothing can change. It is no wonder that we will continue to hear horrific and spine-chilling news of such unfortunate lynchings in the future too.
M.Y. Shariff, Chennai
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