This is apropos the story of Narendra Modi’s journey to the US to meet Donald Trump for the first time (Travelling With The Prima Donna, Jul 10). It’s said that people must be judged by their actions and not their words. Most of us had hardly set a high bar for the meeting between Modi and Trump. Nothing much came out of it, except for frequent hugs, and over-the-top television coverage in India (most top US channels hardly accorded it much importance). The most tangible consequence of the meeting was the blacklisting of Hizb leader Syed Salahuddin and the common resolve to fight terror. The main Indian take-away from the visit is the assurance that the India-US strategic partnership will survive under this unpredictable US president. They also acknowledged a common maritime threat from China. Finally, would the common pitch on terror compensate for India’s distancing from Iran, China and Russia? Such a plan of action with the US might have set off a churn in India’s relations with other countries.
J. Akshay, Bangalore
This is about Pradeep Magazine’s column on the common Indian’s fantasy involving an India vs Pakistan match (Onfield Nationalism From A Box, Jul 3). Both India and Pakistan are cricket crazy nations; their meetings on the field are charged with extra passion. We may reason that history and unending hostility between the two may have a lot to do with it, but it’s undeniable that a clever media hype to ratchet up TRPs is also a reason. All businesses related to the match, big or small, are the real winners of an India vs Pakistan match.
Vijai Pant, On E-Mail
When BJP president Amit Shah calls Gandhi a ‘chatur (cunning) bania’, it only reveals the sickness of his mind, which is influenced by the philosophy of RSS, which has scorned Gandhi’s legacy time and again. Gandhi is hailed the world over as ‘Mahatma’ with social justice icons such as the late Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela among the ardent followers of his philosophy.
Raj Narasimha, Secunderabad
This refers to What’s In, or Not In, a Name (July 10). These days, a mere name could mean life or death. The ‘Not In My Name’ placards held by members of the urban elite at several places across India in protest against the recent spate of lynchings were just condolence messages for the innocent victims of ‘Hindu jihad’, which draws its force from generations of angst against those who came as ‘invaders’, settled here by ‘trickery’—misusing Indian hospitality and exploiting the weaknesses of the fragmented kingdoms—and started dreaming of making India an exclusive state of their faith. The current episodes of mob violence have created a fear psychosis by first targeting the most vulnerable Muslims, Dalits and women. The future looks bleak unless there is a miracle.
M.N. Bhartiya, Goa
That President Pranab Mukherjee, PM Narendra Modi and even UP CM Yogi Adityanath have taken note of the rising trend of mob lynching and have had to speak about it, really shows how grave the menace of vigilante violence has become. The government should not allow the hallowed ‘people’ to be replaced by the ‘lynch mob’.
KP Rajan, Mumbai
I refuse to give my name to this assault on my country’s pluralist character. Following the country-wide protests by ordinary citizens, the highest authorities spoke on the matter the very next day. Another person was lynched in Jharkhand on that day.
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
This refers to your leader comment Salahuddin and the Mob (July 10), which aptly sums up Pakistan-sponsored terrorism and lynching of hapless Indians in the same breath. To further your point on minorities in India, I want to point out that the Brahmins—a minuscule minority that dominates all spheres of Indian life, including the media—have been creating all sorts of binaries to maintain their stranglehold on other Indians. Thanks to the debates taking place on the social media, their nexus with corporate Banias has been exposed as never before.
Ayushman, On E-Mail
This refers to your 50 years of Naxalbari (April 24) series to commemorate the summer of the ’67 peasant uprising in north Bengal’s Naxalbari village. The articles took me back 40 years, to my PhD days in Visakhapatnam campus of Andhra University. That campus was where I met the budding radicals, who later became top leaders in the Maoist party. Among my friends was a postgraduate student of law. He tried to convince many of us, who had come together in protests against the Emergency, to join the Radical Students Union (RSU). But we disagreed with the RSU’s ideology. RSU was very popular in the Regional Engineering College at Warangal and Osmania University, Hyderabad. A few RSU activists from there had joined postgraduate programmes in our university, mostly in engineering. One of them was Cherukuri Rajkumar, who would be killed in 2010 while pursuing peace talks with the central government. We had arguments on armed movements, which I saw as futile and the others insisted was the need of the hour. There was widespread sympathy for Naxalites killed in cold blood in the Srikakulam forests during the Emergency. I have always believed that all violence is bad, irrespective of the perpetrator and the victim. The radicals believed I was equating violence with resistance to violence.
One day the radicals arranged a wonderful performance by balladeer Gaddar, which showed a mirror to society and drew a lot from folklore. The students loved it, but not many joined the RSU. I reasoned that they were not joining the movement because of many questions on their minds, which the leaders had been leaving unanswered. I put forward some questions that are just as relevant today. First, is there any model state in the world where the people are not complaining of exploitation? The number of deaths due to the State in China is higher than the number of Maoists the police kill in India. At least in India, we have an independent judiciary and a civil society that are allowed to question illegal detention and execution without trial. So how can Maoists claim to create a ‘new world’?
And if this ‘new world’ does emerge, will there be no policing? Will it be a society without caste, religion and gender distinction? Who will own the property? How will people be paid for their work? Who will allot the work? From where will he derive that authority? From the gun or from the gang? There was no answer except a reiteration that the new system will be much better than the existing system—no different from what is always claimed in the pre-poll manifesto of any opposition party. Maoists are dissidents in the existing democratic set-up. As dissidents, they are harassed, hounded, jailed and even eliminated cruelly. Supposing the regime changes and the Maoists set up their administration, will they treat dissidents any better than Maoists are treated now?
Duggaraju Srinivasa Rao, Vijayawada
Anything that is acquired for a monetary consideration is a commercial transaction and is bound by some legality (Installing The End Of Privacy, July 3). How can these app providers claim legal immunity when they are involved in snooping on people’s personal data, which they even sell to other corporates without the knowledge of the customer! However weak the law may be, its non-compliance is still illegal. Laws do not become inoperative simply because a particular set of terms and conditions are tweaked by the service providers.
V.N. Ramaswamy, Hyderabad
The health segment (July 3) looked well conceived, carrying interesting facts. The write-ups are a must-read for city people, where health often gets neglected due to little leisure hours (when there is immense stress at workplace) and when food is largely non-traditional and its intake is erratic. All this, amid a sedentary lifestyle with inadequate sleep. Hope it will give a wake-up call to those who think wealth is health.
Kamal Anil Kapadia, Mumbai
President Pranab Mukherjee called the GST a “disruptive change”, but this isn’t the first such experience from the Modi government (The Taxmen Strike At 12, July 10). Last year, demonetisation saw people having had to beg to get their own money from banks. Now, the GST is yet to show any beneficial results, amid angry response from political parties and traders. The most notable effect of this tax has been it having divided the Opposition, which will prove a boon for the BJP and bane for the Congress.
L.J. Singh, Amritsar
It is surprising the media hasn’t highlighted the concerns of senior citizens over the skyrocketing taxes on their annual health insurance premium. While anti-GST protests gain steam in many industries, the elderly have nowhere to go to represent their grievances. The GST on health insurance premium for senior citizens was already 15 per cent; the GST regime has pegged it at 18 per cent. The government has perhaps forgotten that there are a large number of senior citizens not covered by pension and healthcare benefits that people who worked for the government enjoy.
Kangayam R. Narasimhan, Chennai
This refers to your cover story on farmers’ crisis (Middle Earth Moguls, July 03). I live in East Bardhaman district in West Bengal which is known for its ample rice production. Here, rice producers are forced to hold distress sales. In 2011, when Mamata Banerjee’s TMC came to power, the government announced building of ‘Krishak Mandis’ in every block in order to help farmers out by eliminating middlemen. Some mandis were indeed built, but they are lying vacant. There is no effort by the government to buy crops directly from the farmers. Middlemen or the mahajans still rule the roost.
Niamul Hossain Mallick, Bardhaman
Many things are responsible for the current farmer crisis India is facing. The situation got aggravated because the government broke its promise of fixing minimum support prices for farmers. Moreover, the much-hyped demonetisation drive of the PM resulted in the collapse of farm produce prices. At the time of demonetisation, many farmers were ready with their produce but found no buyers as everyone’s cash had been forcefully drained out. Two months ago, the government informed the Supreme Court that despite a multi-dimensional approach to improve income and social security of farmers, over 12,000 suicides were reported in the agricultural sector every year since 2013. Even in such an emergency situation, the government hasn’t adopted the Dr Swaminathan Committee report, which has made several recommendations to address the problems of poor farmers.
Bidyut Kumar Chatterjee, Faridabad
Are we to believe that the plight of Indian farmers remains unknown to the Prime Minister or the finance minister? Or is it that no one has any solution to offer! Today, farmers across the country seem to suffer from a similar kind of exploitation that the skilled labourer undergoes. In that case also, the middle men gobble up a huge chunk leaving the creator with mere pittance. We never tire of shouting ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan’, but even as farmers die daily, hardly anything is done to address their plight. The situation is dire, the government needs to think quickly and creatively, otherwise more and more lives will be lost.
T. Santhanam, On E-Mail
It’s high time the government came out with a sensible policy to protect the interest of the suffering farmers. Simply giving loan waivers will not help. Waivers can can’t address the larger problems that plague the farm sector. Without a proper vision, the old story will recur.
Arthur Fernandes, Pune
I would like to comment that though India is recognised as an agriculture-based country, farming being the main contributor to the national GDP, Indian farmers are stricken by grave problems. The nature of farming involves taking of loans in order to expand business. While the relatively advanced farmers take loans from public and private banks, a large number of small-scale farmers have to take loans from money lenders at high interest rates. In addition to this, farmers also have to be at the mercy of nature, with calamities such as floods and drought hitting their crops. Finally, after battling all these odds, farmers have to sell their produce at minimal prices to middlemen.
Lt Col Ranjit Sinha (Retd), New Delhi
If each day multiple farmers commit suicide, how come it’s not a national emergency yet?
Anish Dutta, On E-Mail
Sometime ago, a reader wrote in this section that most letters to the Outlook editor come from a few regulars. Well, it’s the content that is important; not the sender’s name, right? If the matter is worthy, then the letter merits publication! In any case, two letters by the same writer in one edition appear with one carrying the full name and place; the other just his/her initials and saying it came over email. It’s a harmless practice with the copy desk.
It is true that there is a class who regularly write letters despite them seldom getting published. None does it for money; no letter-writer gets even a free copy of the newspaper or magazine. It is another matter the same letter sometimes gets printed in other publications, as the writer sends the mail to more than one media house. That is also legitimate: at the end of the day you are contributing to public opinion, which is essential in a democracy.
Letter writing can sometimes have dangerous consequences: one can get marked. I find it strange that some publications, after regularly publishing letters, suddenly stop the column.
Mahesh Kapasi, On E-Mail
The interview with Khudan Mullick, who, with a few of his comrades, had gone and met Mao Zedong in 1968 was illuminating (‘Mao said...India, China, June 26). Yes, the Naxalbari uprising was a lost chance—India would have changed had it succeeded. The wave radiating out of north Bengal had picked up momentum in distant Punjab, where it fell into the hands of the Akali feudals, who hijacked it to suit their purpose. The movement fizzled out, only to provide the Khalsas a religious pedestal as well as permanent political seats.
Mohan Singh, Amritsar
The BJP duo of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah fazed the Opposition on the ruling party’s presidential candidate to the extent that the Congress and others had to play the game on parochial terms, limiting their choice to a Dalit (Race beyond Raisina, July 3). All the same, Ram Nath Kovind would just be a ‘yes man’ at the Rashtrapati Bhavan like Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed was in the mid-1970s, as the BJP has already succeeded in creating a fear psychosis like it was during the days of Emergency.
Kovind’s name stunned the BJP circles more than it shook the Opposition. More than his anonymity, it is the nominee’s lack of saffron history that has dismayed sections in the party. That said, the BJP’s choice of a Muslim (Abdul Kalam) in 2002, and of a Dalit now for the President’s post, underlines the party’s realisation of the need for a reorientation of its outlook. It has been a case of tokenism from the Opposition, too, which is fielding Meira Kumar. The significant aspect of the ensuing battle is how caste has become the defining feature of present-day politics.
Padmini Raghavendra, Secunderabad
Except on two points, I agree with the forthright leader comment (Our Opposition, Jul 3). It’s true that politics of the Dalit votebank pushed Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson Gopalkrishna Gandhi out of the presidential race. To even consider Meira Kumar or Prakash Ambedkar—people born with silver spoons in their mouths—as Dalit candidates smacks of political, intellectual and moral bankruptcy. I disagree with your contention that parties that can’t even define their ideology coalesce only when they are probed by the investigative agencies. No, their primary concern is acquiring power, after which they get everything—immunity, prestige and pelf. I also disagree with your opinion that Capt Lakshmi Sahgal was better choice for a president than A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. If elected, Capt Sahgal would just have been one of our presidents. But Kalam, the scientist and the visionary, is the only ‘people’s president’ the country ever had.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
Politicians come together to protect only their existence; nothing else matters. The editor rightly states that their primary concern is immunity from prosecution. It seems that the politics of Opposition is just a game of ‘friends with benefits’. Actually they’ve already surrendered before the shrewd politics of the BJP. Meira Kumar’s appeal to heed “the inner voice of conscience” will have no effect. Conscience is rarely found here.
Amrit Prem, Delhi
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