the fully loaded magazine
This refers to your story on the appointment of Priyanka Gandhi as general secretary in charge of the Congress campaign in eastern Uttar Pradesh (The Queen Gambit, February 4). Priyanka is not only charismatic, but also has a natural connect with ordinary people. Her fluency in Hindi and the unmistakable resemblance with her illustrious grandmother Indira Gandhi would be her strengths in UP. This is bound to enthuse Congress workers across the country and dampen the enthusiasm of BJP cadre. JD(U) vice-president Prashant Kishor aptly described her appointment as “one of the most awaited entries in Indian politics”. Perhaps, she could have made a difference in the 2017 UP elections if she had decided to take the plunge three years ago. Her path won’t be smooth as she has been given charge of a region that has not been a Congress bastion of late, and she would have to take on the BJP’s star campaigner, UP CM Yogi Adityanath, on his home turf.
Bidyut Kumar Chatterjee, Faridabad
To be or not to be—that’s the question on the mind of the aging Rajnikanth (Rajni can, Rajni can’t, Deep Throat, January 28). The huge box-office success of his film Petta, instead of egging him on to politics, has pushed him deeper into filmdom. But, for the first time, Rajni faces a tough challenge from another superstar, Ajith, whose film Viswasam has done equally well at the box-office. I think Rajni must quit films now, at the height of his popularity, as cricketers Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid had done. If Rajni bides his time until the assembly elections in Tamil Nadu, his stock among voters and his fan clubs could go down. It is unclear, however, whether Rajni is simply hoodwinking Tamils by promoting his films in the guise of entering politics. On the flip side, Tamil movie-addicts could be getting more mature and may no longer be enamoured of celluloid heroes desperate to make it to Fort St. George.
R. Narasimhan, Chennai Kangayam
This refers to Prakash Singh’s column Still Loading…Police Reforms (January 21). The British founded India’s police system to keep a tight surveillance over the natives and nip in the bud any opposition to the Raj, and for enforcing the law and maintaining order by regulating the community to strengthen colonial rule. The police continue to have the same attitude. They continue to be loyal to the politicians in power, while doing little to earn people’s trust. Many committees and commissions have been appointed in the past 70 years to study and make recommendations for police reforms, but their reports are always put in cold storage. Their political bosses don’t want to make them a professional force by modernising their functioning and insulating them from extraneous influences. The police are also understaffed, with service conditions not commensurate to the workload. Everybody wants to misuse them to keep opponents subdued. It’s also well-known that the police manipulate evidence, which brings disgrace upon the entire criminal justice system and makes a mockery of democracy and rule of law, putting the life, liberty and other human rights of citizens at risk. No one except us, the people are responsible for such a pitiable condition of the largest democracy.
M.N. Bhartiya, Goa
This refers to Shoot Madi (Jan 28) on shootouts in Bangalore. The pictures shown in the magazine are only of smaller incidents which can happen in other cities of the world too. Bangalore cops have made it a point not to injure criminals fatally. Cops have only shot at the criminals’ legs. You can’t even remotely compare this to the police encounters in UP, which is a chilling bloodbath. I think you have made a mountain out of a molehill.
N. Sridhar, Bangalore
This refers to Not a Place to Breathe (January 21), your story on the use of tear-gas in Kashmir. Kashmir is witnessing the extremes of police atrocity, more ruthless than the British were with Indians during the Raj. It goes without saying that Kashmir has been mishandled for quite a while now, devastating the lives of large numbers of Kashmiris. Kashmiri people want to live in peace without having to face police atrocities and torture on a daily basis. Every problem has a solution, but it cannot be known through the same method of thinking that caused the problem in the first place. Trying to silencing protests by using tear-gas and other repressive methods cannot be part of the solution—we have seen enough of how this is only exacerbating the problem. The imbroglio can be solved only through inclusive dialogue and debate, which must be done before more innocent Kashmiris fall prey to the government’s attempts to curb the protests.
M.Y. Shariff, Chennai
The hair-splitting analysis of veganism, at best a fad, taking up so much space in a popular, prestigious, national weekly like Outlook is slightly unwarranted (The Veganistas, Jan 28). I’m sure there are many things of concern happening in the country that should make the cut for the cover story. If all-inclusive animal food even like milk, fish and eggs etc., are not to be consumed by mankind to avoid cruelty to other living beings, by the same analogy, we must not kill mosquitoes and cockroaches. Even agricultural produce, other than dairy products involves protection from pests by the use of insecticides. If the life on our planet is viewed in a wider, long-term and ‘real’ perspective, veganism is against the supreme law of nature. Bigger fish swallow the smaller ones.
M. N. Bhartiya, Goa
Every other species in the world has its own natural diet but we humans eat a wide variety of food. The environmental impact of meat and dairy production is said to account for 14.5 per cent of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions. This figure is considerably more than the emissions produced by every car, train, aircraft and ship on the planet. Meat and dairy product consumption is not only bad for the animals involved in the process and the environment, but also for public health, as heart disease, obesity, diabetes and cancer rates are on the rise. Researchers have pointed out the economic value of health benefits associated with plant-based diets. Eating plant-based protein results in far fewer greenhouse gas emissions per “protein unit”. In 2006, the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) produced a report, ‘Livestock’s Long Shadow’, estimating that our meat consumption was responsible for 18 per cent of anthropogenic gas emissions, revising it in 2013 to 14.5 per cent, which is still pretty significant. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine says vegetarian diet is the optimal way to meet your nutritional needs. The key to a healthy vegetarian diet or vegan diet is variety—which includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. Going vegan certainly has its benefits and it is not difficult to be one in our country. Interestingly, going vegan has significant benefits on water conservation in a water-stressed country like ours and to save the world as well.
H.M. Ramakrishna, Bangalore
I belong to a Punjabi, meat-consuming family. However, as a kid, I realised that it is just too cruel to kill someone for one’s selfishness and so, I became a vegetarian and have been so for more than two decades. It was just after my class X. Subsequently, I quit leather shoes, wallets and belts. Only this year, have I turned vegan as working closely with dairy companies has made me realise the inherent cruelty of the process of milk procurement.
From personal experience, turning vegan has been a deeply satisfying experience. I also had a chance to visit the Ahimsa fest in December last year which was held in Mumbai, where I came across an entire ecosystem of veganism. It was quite heartening to see that such a lot of entrepreneurs see potential in a vegan society.
Yes, it still is a problem eating out, especially in north Indian restaurants, where dairy manifests itself as cream, curd, cheese, butter and ghee, in almost every dish. Yes, it is tough to say ‘no’ to hosts who serve you non-vegan vegetarian items. Yes, vegan cheese and milk are slightly expensive. But all-in-all, even a more-than-slight interest in this trend can dramatically change lives of millions of animals. Not to mention that it is actually good for the environment, and hence for all of us. So even if veganism is just a fad, or some see scope of making money here, it is actually serving the cause that is at the heart of it.
Mohit Ahuja, Mumbai
If the number of people turning vegetarian is going up across the globe, it is because of the growing awareness about its benefits. Health issues are the primary consideration as vegetarian food is found the best for human health. It is significant that all really big animals are vegetarian—elephant, camel, giraffe, hippo, horse. I read about an interesting sign somewhere that made a distinction between vegetarian and non-vegetarian animals by illustrating vegetarians as sipping water while those licking water are supposed to be non-vegetarians. By this criterion human beings are basically born vegetarian.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
Does that green ‘vegetarian’ dot on all dairy products mean that they’re grown in fields?
Richa Juyal, Dehradun
This refers to your cover story on Laloo Prasad Yadav (Down But Not Out, January 21). Laloo’s rustic trappings, easy accessibility and earthy sense of humour endear him to the people of Bihar, regardless of the poor administration, hyperbolically criticised as jungle raj, and widespread corruption during his rule. His Muslim votebank may have been somewhat poached by Nitish Kumar, but the veteran leader continues to have a sizeable following in the state. His failing health, imprisonment and consequent absence from active would be hugely felt, but it would be naive to dismiss his impact in Bihar’s politics due to these dampeners. Moreover, his ‘no airs’ demeanour and amiability across parties and leaders make him an important ‘behind-the-scenes’ player, more so when the election outcome is likely to be fuzzy. It would be too early to write his obituary in Indian politics.
Vijai Pant, On E-Mail
This refers to your cover story on Laloo (Absentee Kingmaker?, Jan 21). I should congratulate Outlook for shamelessly glorifying a most corrupt politician of all times. Even heaviest words like ‘ozymandian pathos’ can’t save Laloo. He is a spent force no one is willing to touch. Though, one should appreciate your enthusiasm in resurrecting whatever can be called Laloo’s legacy.
P.S. My family was your uninterrupted subscriber since your inception, but now they have decided otherwise.
Saroja B., On E-Mail
Even in Bihar, Laloo Prasad is down and out. Totally unnecessary and irrelevant big words, like ‘ozymandian pathos’, can’t save your cover story from being a fool’s dream. The wheels of our judicial course are slow, otherwise, some members of his family should have been with Laloo in jail. Any calculations of vote patterns are of no use.
Bharat Trivedi, Ahmedabad
This refers to your interview with N. Chandrababu Naidu (Space only for two fronts: One for Modi, other against Modi, January 21), which was especially interesting because of his denial of being in the PM race. The BJP debacle in recent assembly elections has inspired many veteran regional leaders to jump into the fray as probable PMs, in the hope that post-election permutations would go in their favour. In Narendra Modi’s wake, current and former CMs of various states aspire to become PM, and Naidu is no exception. This has reduced the general elections to an exercise for the selection of PM rather than the election of MPs. Changing of goalposts according to the situation has become a trait common to leaders of regional and smaller parties not only as a means to enhance their bargaining power, but also to broaden their existing base. In the process, we have come across several phrases—products of past and present political arrangements—such as ‘pre-poll alliance’, ‘post-poll alliance’, ‘grand-alliance’ (mahagathbandhan), ‘federal alliance’, ‘support from outside’ and ‘support for a common minimum programme’. These forms exhibit the flexibility of our political leaders to adapt to various vested interests and act in whichever way suits their goal of holding on to positions of power. Whether this reveals the maturity of our democracy and augurs well for it is anybody’s guess.
Jaideep Mittra, Varanasi
This is with reference to your cover story on shootouts in Bangalore (Shoot Madi!, January 21). Crimes such as theft, burglary, dacoity, chain-snatching, acid-throwing, kidnapping, abduction, rape, murder, smuggling, poaching and lynching happen because authorities are too insensitive, inactive and lackadaisical to nip the crimes and criminals in the bud at the local police station itself. There is no use of tough actions and snap encounters later when the cat is out of the bag and things go out of the police’s control. Governments too use the police to trap their opponents in false and frivolous cases and send them to jail. The numerous encounters in Uttar Pradesh and now in Karnataka remind us of the days of the ruthless British regime, when many were shot without reason, as well as the Emergency years of 1975-77, when many were jailed.
The police should stop dancing to the tunes of the government and using brute force without wisdom. They should resort to encounters only when it is impossible to catch someone alive. The ruling party may rightly get perturbed by the killing of its man in Mandya, and police may legitimately kill criminals in self-defence. But they shouldn’t kill criminals at the throw of a hat, but choose the right tools and preventive sections of law to take sustained action against criminals. After all, criminals multiply in numbers because the police are inactive at the initial stage, when dealing with crimes of a simple nature, and become active only when the criminals become more dangerous and the crimes more heinous.
This refers to the article The Neta Script Alliance (Jan 28), on the recent trend of political biopics. The last I remember of Anupam Kher the actor is from pre-2014. Since the last general election, he has come up more as a supporter of PM Modi and a consistent lambaster of those dissenters branded ‘anti-national’ by the media and the government. I used to like his histrionics on screen. He had a nice touch to whatever roles he undertook. And without any personal context of the actor, one could interpret him like one should all actors, based on their skill and screen presence. Now, the story has changed too much. In The Accidental Prime Minister, he’s caricaturing a figure he has mocked and derided many times off screen—ex-PM Manmohan Singh. Sadly, a decent actor has made an exit to make way for a propagandist.
Ashok Kartik, Mumbai
This is with reference to your cover story Down But Not Out (Jan 12), which characterises the politics of the veteran Laloo Prasad Yadav with much precision. Such leaders are the product of our typical socio-economically disparate society which is communal and has a multi-layered caste system at its core. This clash and struggle of identities provides ample space for leaders like Laloo to capitalise on electoral opportunities. That said, it wouldn’t be fair to make Laloo an exception as there are several such leaders in our country’s political landscape. History is witness, political leaders who were almost paupers at the time of the JP (Jaiprakash) movement in 1977—the Emergency years—have since gone on to amass a fortune after getting into power with various portfolios in the ministry. Leaders like Laloo Prasad Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav , Ram Vilas, Paswan , the late Charan Singh, to name a few, who once were severe critics of the dynastic rule of the Congress have emerged as cult figures and built empires and dynasties of their own. Laloo’s legacy may enable his party to get an edge over other contesting parties this time, but just how long can the winning streak created by one man continue?
Laloo Prasad Yadav was elected as the first president of RJD and remained so till his final conviction in the fodder scam case and life-time imprisonment which forced him out of active politics. He ruled Bihar for three consecutive terms leading his party to victory in elections by his caste (Yadavs) and community (Muslim) equation and the alleged game of booth-manipulation. With regular incidents of crime including kidnapping and murders, his rule was generally termed as ‘jungle-raj’. He joined the Congress-led UPA and became the railway minister. His tenure was known for experiments like serving tea in kulhars in trains and for setting up a one-man commission to virtually give a twist to the case of the burning alive of 59 karsevaks in the Sabarmati Express in Godhra.
His party remained a regional entity with no presence outside Bihar. He was not a kingmaker but himself the king of Bihar in his heydays. However, he can no more become king, and probably even kingmaker, irrespective of whether he is present or absent. If your question—will Laloo be the absentee Kingmaker of 2019?—relates to the national elections, he was never kingmaker at the national level anyway. By the way, Laloo got invited to the IIM talks, even film shoots, for his jokes, jibes and comic timing rather than his intellect.
The scope of Laloo’s legacy can be seen in him being politically relavant even in prison.
Sushant Vishnu, On E-Mail
Politicians in Tamil Nadu have no interest in solving the deep mystery surrounding Jayalalitha’s death (Death Be Not Silent, Jan 21). They would want to keep the pot boiling to be able to maintain Jaya’s votebank intact. The inquiry commission appointed by the ruling elite has also tied itself in knots, trying to fathom the circumstances leading to Jaya’s death. Medical experts, however, would unanimously agree that the quality of treatment received by the former CM in Chennai was excellent. Justice Arumugaswamy will have to go by doctors’ reports in the end. However, the medical treatment received by Jaya inside her Poes Garden residence is a mystery to most people. The CBI can alone probe the allegedly dire events that took place there before she was hospitalised. Security guards, cooks, nurses and attendants present during those crucial days in the house must be closely investigated. What’s also shady and mysterious is that her own blood relations were not allowed to see her during her 75-day stay at the hospital. Besides, the CBI must also probe why CCTV cameras were switched off in her hospital ward as well as in her residence.
Kangayam R. Narasimhan, Chennai
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