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To Hack a Smart City (July 9) is an eye-opener to all that we do in the name of development, for which future generations will curse us. While the PM promotes yoga for good health, is there anywhere in the NCR except his residence where one can breathe fresh air? More trees are needed in this city plagued by pollution, but instead more projects to build up the concrete jungle are set to take a toll on Delhi’s tree population. And this is nothing new—the felling of 1,713 trees at Pragati Maidan was approved earlier. NBCC chairperson A.K. Mittal sought to reassure people by saying that “We plan to start compensatory planting in these places as soon as the construction work is over, and make them lush green like at New Moti Bagh.” A simple question to Mr Mittal: is he unaware of how many years it took for those trees to grow to their present level? Until the new trees grow, will the aam aadmi enjoy the pollution in the affected area?
Bidyut Kumar Chatterjee, Faridabad
After his re-election, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has emerged as Turkey’s president, head of government and head of the ruling party (A Turkish Rondo, July 9). Though he’s seen as the strongest Turkish leader since Ataturk, comparisons should end there. Ataturk was fiercely wedded to modernity, denounced fanaticism as an obstacle to progress and advocated secularism. By contrast, Erdogan has pushed in Islamists in leading Turkish institutions, while carrying on a purge of professionals allegedly close to exiled Islamic preacher Fetullah Gulen, including assault on the free press. He has also sold a leading media group to a crony. Turkish people would rather follow news on social media than believe pro-government media outlets. The Turkish economy is in the doldrums; inflation is high and its currency unsteady. The country badly needs to boost trade and investment. Worse, Turkish cities are open to attack by Kurdish separatists. Despite all this, the US and Russia court Erdogan.
K.R. Narasimhan, Chennai
This refers to Sin In The Box (June 9). Two incidents connected to sexual abuse by a bunch of orthodox priests and a bishop in Kerala have recently come to light. These reported cases could well be only the tip of the iceberg. Sexual abuse by ‘men of God’ should not be hushed up. Catholic priests and Bishops are human like the rest of us, let’s bring them down from the pedestal. They are not asexual to not need some sexual outlet. Repression breeds perversions.
The priests involved in the sex scandal are said to have taken advantage of a housewife’s confessions. The sacrament of confession gives the priest information about personal transgressions and can be used for prurient pleasure. Hearing confessions remains the exclusive preserve of priests. A thought: nuns could have been allowed to perform the penance for women. The theological explanation for women devotees confessing to priests and not to nuns is not enunciated adequately.
G. David Milton, Maruthancode, Tamil Nadu
Apropos of Sin in the Box (July 9), it is disturbing to read about this alleged exploitation of a woman parishioner by five priests of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, as well as a nun alleging rape by a bishop. In light of these serious allegations, it is incumbent on both churches to cooperate with the investigating agencies to ensure that truth prevails. It is a pity that a lady has to fight a long battle to get this out in public. We have heard many other stories of nuns’ suffering as well. Any criminal case should be dealt with and cleared by the law of the land. Hiding it in the local law and only saying that canonical procedures have been complied with has no merit under our Constitution. Ideally, both the law of the land and canon law should have been taken up. A crime is a crime, whether it is from a Christian religious figure or a Hindu or a Muslim or any other religion. I hope a thorough investigation happens and the truth comes out, and anyone found guilty is duly punished. Finally, it would be pertinent to know whether the church authorities themselves approached the investigative agencies on their own. If not, would it not amount to a cover-up?
J. Akshay, On E-Mail
This refers to Shiv Visvanathan’s analysis of the crude obscenities that punctuate routine reportage of narratives of violence (Listeneres Peddling Narratives of Violence, Jul 9). Only after the police shoot dead 13 Indian citizens do you hear about a protest that kept brewing for a hundred days. Hasn’t Noam Chomsky spoken about how the UN is controlled by the corporate world? Sterlite of Vedanta must be held to account. However, once normalcy is restored, the larger issue is promptly forgotten by the media. Such atrocities do irreparable damage to the polity.
Lalit Mohan Sharma, Dharamshala
Can you translate Shiv Visvanathan’s article in Greek on the Thoothukudi tragedy into English next time?
Krishnan S., On E-Mail
I refer to What’s Tamil for Lèse-Majesté (July 9). This rarely-used section of the IPC, enacted in colonial times, has no place in India’s modern democratic society. Such laws should be repealed. The office of governor is another colonial legacy that continues to be inhabited by the colonial proconsuls of the present ruling elite. One wonders why the governors and lieutenant-governors appointed by the present administration seem unable to get along with non-BJP state governments. Such actions by constitutional authorities will only usher in the twilight of our democracy and not as guardrails, when our position on the democracy index is already slipping. The relevance of this archaic institution needs to be re-evaluated. The pomp and panoply of this office can be dispensed with, saving considerable resources.
H.N. Ramakrishna, Bangalore
This refers to This Tank is Unstoppable (July 9). The Salman Khan juggernaut continues to roll its way through the people’s heart. While some critics and purists may pooh-pooh his movies, which cash in on his macho appeal without much thematic substance, the 52-year-old actor’s unmatched charisma and flamboyance remain the driving force behind the success of his movies. Even the likes of Amitabh Bachchan found the going tough at the box office when he was playing a hero after 50. But Salman has turned even the age trope upside down by getting cast in roles opposite actresses half his age even today. The audiences have wholeheartedly accepted the ageless Salman Khan in these roles and he still has a huge fan following. He is the modern day Gatsby, oozing oodles of swagger and chutzpah.
Aditya Mukherjee, On E-Mail
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
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