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Apropos the snippet ‘Don’t Blink’ in the Glitterati column of the June 17 issue of Outlook, it is advisable to stay away from dashing divas. But your delicious descriptions of these ultra-modern hotties have kept me hooked to the magazine for years.
Jyotiranjan Biswal, Durgapur
This refers to Babus who run India (July 3). I am an ordinary citizen who unfortunately disagrees with most of leaders and babus. After reading and seeing differ ent media, citizens like me rue the disheartening aspects of our polity, economy and society. I am compelled to say humbly that the correct expression should have been “Babus, including leaders, who ruin India”. All leaders, including babus, think that they are the ones responsible for uplifting the country, but their actions are leading to India’s downfall.
G.L. Karkal, Pune
This refers to The Mystery of Ratna Bhandar (July 8). I wonder what is so newsworthy in this story. Is this not common in other temples as well as churches and mosques? The only difference is that such stories are not divulged to the public. Surprisingly, the article ends with the statement that some people believe only a CBI enquiry would bring out the truth. Really? Do they believe in such an outcome? In my humble opinion, when people are solely guided by faith, they will not allow any government or institution to reveal the truth to the public. There will no proper investigation into this case; only a make-believe one.
This refers to your cover story on West Bengal (Agni Pariksha, July 1). CM Mamata Banerjee’s political rival is no more the Left Front, but the BJP. No wonder she is holding the party ruling at the Centre and “outsiders” responsible for the growing violence in the state. Her party, which had won 34 of the total 42 Lok Sabha seats in Bengal in 2014, was reduced to 22 in 2019, while the BJP, which drew a blank in 2014, bagged 18 seats this time, with voteshare up to 40.25 per cent from 17 per cent. The major chunk of Left Front votes has shifted to the BJP and the TMC, causing the latter’s voteshare to go up as well. Mamata’s disrespect for the Centre’s authority is against the constitutional scheme of India’s federal structure. She refused to attend a NITI Aayog meeting citing the body’s lack of financial powers and role in supporting state plans. She also opted out of the all-party meet called by PM Narendra Modi on June 19 to discuss several issues, including the ‘one nation, one election’ idea. The Bengal CM asked for a white paper on the idea first. When the Centre issued an advisory to Bengal on the law-and-order situation, she challenged the Centre to issue such an advisory to Uttar Pradesh instead. Meanwhile, TMC MLAs and councillors have been joining the BJP. The assembly polls due in 2021 will be Mamata’s real Agni Pariksha.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
As Bengal witnessed a string of violent clashes in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls, Mamata Banerjee shifted the blame on the BJP. The police turning a blind eye to the violence has been responsible for its escalation. Though hooliganism has long been part of Bengal politics, this is for the first time that it was given a communal tone by both the TMC and the BJP, and people fell prey to it, leading to polarisation of society.
K. R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
Aparna Sen is right when she says, ‘Trinamool failed to bring changes that Bengal’s electorate expected’ (July 1). Sen’s voice carries weight among the Bengali intelligentsia. Now people have seen Mamata Banerjee’s prejudice-ridden rule. The CM should realise this early and check further loss of life and limb, which has become the norm under her leadership.
H.C. Pandey, Delhi
I wish the author of Dry Days (June 24) had turned his attention to Chennai, which is also in the grip of a drought. Due to the neglect of rivers, lakes, wetlands and prime forests in the past three decades, Chennai is parched. The Dravidian parties, busy with other matters, lacked a clear vision to conserve water resources across the state. Houses, colleges and schools were built on water bodies. The DMK famously built the Valluvar Kottam, a familiar landmark on a prime lake in the city. In the past 30 years, key water bodies were not desilted by successive governments. It is even alleged that water bodies were deliberately kept dry to enable the construction mafia to mine sand. Chennai has not seen rain for over 190 days. While people struggle to get a few pails of water, the water mafia uses giant motors to extract water from riverbeds and supplies it to big hotels and businesses. There are no restrictions on mineral water and aerated drink companies. A multi-pronged approach involving the government, people, NGOs and social media can alone check the water mafia and alleviate the acute water scarcity.
Kangayam R. Narasimhan, Chennai
Anybody wallowing in wealth and puffed pride is apt to lose sense of reality. The hoi polloi, unable to understand the causes of their misery, attribute it to destiny. Will any politician agitate for the bread (and butter) of the poorest? Development should start from the kitchen. There is little regard for women even though they fetch buckets of water from long distances under the scorching sun.
J.N. Bhartiya, Hyderabad
Mamata Banerjee is the last of the old order that stands against Modi’s New India march.
Manoj S. Kamal, Indore
Refer to Genegeddon (June 24). Extensive genetic research is going on worldwide as scientists have realised that it is the future of medicine. India is an important part of this revolution, given its stupendously diverse gene pool. Researchers and private companies are working to isolate genes in order to use them in tests. Genome editing is a powerful new tool for making precise changes to an organism’s genetic material. Recent scientific advances have made this efficient, precise and flexible with new technologies. Scientists believe that powerful editing procedures could one day prevent people from passing on serious medical conditions to their children. Early testing helps parents in detecting rare diseases and may allow them time to be more prepared for any tragic outcomes. Helping to eliminate the pain and suffering that comes with genetic disorders is as big a step forward as the introduction of vaccines for the elimination of diseases like smallpox. What was once just a sci-fi writer’s dream will be a reality within years, not decades. Growing body parts using gene editing is both exciting and terrifying. And discovering the genetic roots of common diseases like diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and finding cures is the holy grail of modern medicine.
H.N. Ramakrishna, Bengaluru
This refers to the story Lost in the Bheed (June 24). Its slug, ‘Turncoats’, reminded me of an incident 25 years ago when youth had given me the audacity to call a turncoat a turncoat. At a social event in Delhi, a few local politicians were fawning over Shatrughan Sinha, quizzing him about his glamorous life and Bollywood. I interrupted him to ask what made him switch ideologies and parties with such ease. Shatrughan is easy to provoke. Frowning, he asked if I was a scribe. On being told that I wasn’t, he rubbished me as being too young to be forming political opinions. As I didn’t give in to his ‘khamosh’ gestures, Shatrughan stomped out, leaving his plate of food on the table. Early in life, I learnt two vital lessons. One was that women are part of a subaltern social stratum in which they are not supposed to question so-called powerful men on anything, least of all politics. Social conversations should be preferably on soft subjects like wives, children and favourite foods. The second lesson, of course, was to never call a turncoat a turncoat!
Sangeeta Kampani, New Delhi
The BJP’s expanding footfalls across the country is attracting political opportunists in droves. These defectors from other parties are jumping on to the BJP bandwagon to revive their sagging fortunes. However, only those who are able to give heft to the BJP in regions where it still has to gain in organisational strength are given importance; the rest are gradually pushed towards the margins, having served the party’s purpose of weakening the Opposition. Also, the BJP is the political offshoot of the RSS. These turncoats can never get absorbed completely among hardcore RSS adherents who have climbed through the ranks from modest beginnings in the shakhas. They will remain outsiders and bit players.
Vijai Pant, On E-Mail
Apropos of the story on how easy it has become to arrest journalists on the slightest of pretexts (The Ugly Gag Press Order, July 1), it is illuminating that India is ranked 140 out of 180 nations in the press freedom index. It’s a smudge on India’s credentials as the ‘world’s largest democracy’. A gagged press suggets that the government is scared of fearless reportage. That’s toxic for democracy.
George Jacob, Kochi
The unravelling of the BSP-SP alliance was expected, but not that it would happen so soon (Elephants Can’t Cycle, June 24). Mayawati’s decision to contest the bypolls in UP separately shows one of her infamous traits that have gained her a reputation of being self-centred. Through this act, Mayawati tries to show how ruthless a politician she is, compared to the young Akhilesh Yadav. It is also evident that Akhilesh’s political career is at the crossroads after his party’s defeat in three major polls since 2014. It seems Dalit votes were not transferred to the Samajwadi Party and this hurt the SP. Actually, SP voters voted for the BSP candidates, but the Dalit voters did not reciprocate. In a way, the BSP’s not winning more seats is a blessing in disguise for the SP because, if the BJP had fallen short of a simple majority, then Mayawati would not have hesitated to offer support to the Narendra Modi government, and would have extracted her pound of flesh by demanding a major berth in the cabinet at the Centre.
L.J. Singh, On E-Mail
This refers to the story on how the BJP will act decisively in Jammu and Kashmir on various fronts (A Pushy Centre Aims Big, June 24). Indeed, Amit Shah is known for his ‘decisive actions’. His motto is to achieve his ends without bothering for any principles. Military action in Kashmir has lost its edge, accomplishing nothing but sensational headlines and inviting international censure. The new home minister knows that money is more effective than muscle, thus squeezing the organisation where people’s money is held can bring them to their knees. Delimitation of constituencies, trifurcation of J&K and creating Union territories are all ideas to make the people weaker and easier to pit against each other. Shah’s goal is to sort out Kashmir in the next few years to ensure another term for the BJP in 2024.
M.N. Bhartiya, Goa
Taken in its totality, the figure that your cover story on rare genetic diseases in Indians (Genageddon, June 24) is hair raising. As a society, we respond to the situations that surround us—the cases of malignant ailments that affect our near and dear ones, and sometimes, that odd case of a relative-of-a-relative diagnosed with an inexplicable, dangerous disease. So, your worldview automatically prioritises the categories of health dangers out there: cancer is mostly number one, followed by others. Doctors and scientists also work more on finding cures for the high priority diseases.
I had never been confronted with the entirety of rare genetic diseases till now. Seventy million is surely a huge number! It goes to show that even if, as a conglomerate of modern civilizations, we are getting better prepared against the diseases that threaten us, and that if you have more money, you are better equipped to fight the ailments that you can be potentially afflicted with, a part of biological suffering has remained forever arbitrary, not differentiating between the rich and the poor.
Ram Avadheesh, On E-Mail
Refer to Boiled Beans On Toast (June 24). A perennial genius and a liberal to the core, playwright, actor and film-maker Girish Karnad’s death brings down the curtains on a life that was dedicated to art and literature in every possible sense. The success of his play Yayati initiated a journey that saw him pen critically-acclaimed plays, including Hayavadana, often counted among the most important plays post independence. Then, he wrote the screenplays of Kannada films like Samskara and Vamsha Vriksha, co-directed by B.V. Karanth, that ushered in the new wave of Kannada cinema. But for a later generation of film audiences, especially that of Hindi films, he will be known for his acting roles rather than for his great intellectual achievements. By the early part of the millennium, Girish Karnad became a prominent social voices and there was rarely a social cause that he had not commented on. At times, he incurred the wrath of fellow artistes too. Once, for example, he had disparaged Naipaul and Tagore, which prompted a sharp reaction from filmmaker M.S. Sathyu.
J.S. Acharya, Hyderabad
This refers to Elephants Can’t Recycle (June 24). The BJP proved too hot for the SP-BSP alliance in the Lok Sabha polls. BSP chief Mayawati’s decision to sever ties with the SP clearly indicates that the alliance was a non-starter. In fact, the bonhomie between ‘bua-bhatija’ during the campaign was only a farce to cheat the electorate. Therefore, Mayawati’s remarks days after the announcement of Lok Sabha results do not come as a surprise. Similarly, the silence of Akhilesh Yadav indicates that the alliance was a blunder in the first place. All said and done, it is a wake-up call to both parties that voters cannot be taken for granted. Such an alliance among ideologically disparate parties with no common interest or programme just to prevent the BJP from gaining power is not something voters will take to kindly.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
This refers to the column Weapons Of Mass Instruction (June 17). Over the last decade, China has pushed aggressive plans to gain technological dominance. The results can be seen in the global rankings of universities—many Chinese universities feature amongst the best. Indian institutions like the IITs still have a long way to go. For years, employers have lamented that they are unable to recruit people with the right skill-sets. Colleges in India churn out millions of graduates, but not many of them are employable. Experts opine that India must improve the quality of courses and teachers. It must also overcome a culture that values conventional education more than job-oriented vocational training. We need to focus on vocational training. While it is good that many more Indians are going to school than ever before, the level of education remains poor. Government schools are mostly poorly funded and ill-managed. Students from rural areas lack the skills to thrive in today’s technology-driven world. We need to recruit quality teachers by offering attractive salaries and benefits. One wonders what is being done with the funds collected through the education cess. An investment in education is an investment for the future.
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