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Apropos of Minimal Support Price (July 23), the BJP, which has been at the receiving end of farmers’ protests in several states since coming to power at the Centre, fared badly in Gujarat’s Saurashtra region during last year’s assembly elections, as farmers complained that the government had failed to pay the procurement price. Now, in what is being hyped as a historic deal for farmers, the Modi government seems to have opened its coffers, offering the highest-ever MSP for 14 kharif crops. Though the aim is seemingly to bring small and middle-income farmers into the net of beneficiaries, it’s mostly those who have surplus produce who stand to gain. In most cases, only around 20 per cent of farmers will benefit—and those left out may turn against the government.
Will the Centre’s move to drastically increase the MSP for kharif crops solve the crisis of Indian agriculture ? Coming as it does ahead of crucial state and later parliamentary polls, it might improve the electoral prospects of the ruling party. But alternative avenues of employment in villages and towns ought to be found because agriculture cannot sustain such a huge proportion of the population without causing distress all around.
K.S. Padmanabhan, Chennai
Feet Full of Barbs (July 23) fails to capture the ground realities in AP. It is an open-secret that the YSRCP has a tacit understanding with the ruling BJP, a clear case of quid pro quo. Jaganmohan Reddy is the prime accused in a number of cases pertaining to money laundering and other economic offences, his trusted aide and MP Vijayasai Reddy being the co-accused. Both Jagan and Vijayasai are desperate to wriggle out of the plethora of cases pending against them and are hoping to get a clean chit before the 2019 elections, with the blessings of the ruling party at the Centre. In return, they would help the BJP come back to power by aligning with them after the elections.
The people of AP are furious with the BJP for going back on the promise of financial assistance to the residual state, and allying with them at the present juncture would be suicidal for Jagan’s party. Chandrababu Naidu timed his party’s exit from the NDA so well that the TDP now fancies its chances of coming back to power by cashing in on the anti-BJP sentiment prevalent in AP One would have to be naïve to expect that Jagan’s padayatra , the focus of which is attacking Naidu’s administration, would neutralise all the ill-will he and his party have generated by rubbing shoulders with the BJP and shying away from criticising the NDA government for the stepmotherly treatment the latter has meted out to the people of AP.
Shailendra Dasari, Bellary
Siddhartha Gigoo’s diary (July 16) beautifully brought out the pain of those who try to remain connected to their roots. Wherever one flourishes, the end of the journey is the point whence one started. People are displaced for no fault of theirs. Reading this article, I can feel the pain and agony of all, and I think this is an emotional connection of the unseen.
The Kashmir roundtable, organised by Outlook, was an informative read (The Human on the K-Table, Jul 16). However, after going through the entire package across 22 pages, readers would have been a bit confused—it was a true Babel of opinions and solutions. As I saw it, in the main there were three broad areas of alignment. The moderate view holds that though the Indian Constitution is applicable to J&K, it is only the pre-1953 version of the Constitution. A centrist view says that a plebiscite has to be held as per the UN resolution, with a conviction of its inevitable outcome—that Jammu and Kashmir will be out of Indian control. The extreme view, of course, holds that what is needed is freedom, or azadi, with the chance that it will become a part of Pakistan. Sadly, some of the speakers were just bandying words—deny, defend and defeat; acknowledge, accept and resolve—without clarifying what actually they meant. If this is what emerges from these talks, what outcome can one expect from a conference to solve the complicated issue?
G.L. Karkal, Pune
This is about the interview with Kamalahaasan (‘I am a politiculturist…’, Jul 16). Point is, if Gandhiji were to stand for election in today’s Tamil Nadu, he might lose his deposit! He would have to answer the question: ‘How much money can you spare’? Now, this vote-buying culture has spread to other states too. If Kamal could just remove this burgeoning cash-voter nexus in India, even if he were a political failure, he would have rendered valuable service to the nation. But then, it would take a miracle for one person, that also a political neophyte, to rid India of this blight.
G. Neelakantan, Bangalore
Your cover story, Let’s Talk Kashmir is indeed thought provoking and conclusive (July 16). Kashmir has been ruled by parties like the Congress, National Conference, BJP and PDP since Independence, but no party has actually realised the right course of action to be taken for the sustainability of the region. The draconian AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) has trapped the state in its perennial clutches, layering peoples’ lives and memories with never-ending narratives of violence. It is nothing but a permanent solution to a people’s doom. Lives on either side will continue to be lost when the security forces and the people are at war with each other. First step: we have to revoke AFSPA. Then, the central government should start a conference with political parties, student organisations of Kashmir, separatists, and the other big and small stakeholders to find a way out of this bloody quagmire. If the people of Kashmir demand self-governence, excluding the power of defence and foreign policy and agree to be ruled by tenets of the Indian Constitution, then this must be granted without delay. Only this can begin to quell the problem of militancy. We have to lend a humanitarian hand to the public of Kashmir. Merely criticising militants and killing them equals to working against the spirit of democracy.
Ashim Kumar Chakraborty, Guwahati
There is nothing in the world that can’t be resolved. Like everyone else, the people of Kashmir want to live a life without fear. But the current situation doesn’t allow for even a semblance of normalcy. The needful must be done: isolate and check the elements spreading poison and thwarting peace efforts in the state and strengthen the Kashmiri people through focussed development efforts.
Neeru Mishra, On E-Mail
It’s an open secret that Pakistan remains a key spoiler, encouraging and abetting terrorism in Kashmir. What Kashmir needs is the deepening of democracy, not tactical, cynical political alliances.
Padmini Raghavendra, Secunderabad
Barkha Dutt was an apt facilitator for the Kashmir round table. From her role in the Radia Tapes—none other than Outlook’s legendary founder-editor, Vinod Mehta, confirmed it—to covering the Kargil war, she has covered the whole spectrum in journalism.
Richa Juyal, Dehradun
No wonder that the Kashmir fiasco has worsened under Modi’s governance. The BJP started their alliance with PDP arrogantly, assuming that Kashmir would be an easy target for them. Under former-PM Manmohan Singh, Kashmir was just a problem. But under Modi, it has been cultivated into a leviathan.
T. Santhanam, On E-Mail
The cover story, read with the Homeward diary doesn’t offer an impartial approach. The problem has been created and kept aflame for seven decades by politicians of all shades with the sole intention to gain political mileage. Thousands of precious human lives have been lost and crores of rupees wasted in Kashmir without any tangible benefit to the country as a whole. Moreover, who will listen to your ‘human’ voices in this wilderness!
M.A. Ahad, On E-Mail
The Diary page by Siddhartha Gigoo was an impactful read. It succinctly described the Kashmir situation. If only the armed forces were moved out of the troubled land.
Sankar Ganapathi, Coimbatore
Kashmir is a state which, though very much a part of India, is still alienated because of the sinister nature of geopolitics and the lack of cohesive development. The Kashmiri people, especially the teenagers, are longing for a permanent solution and want a peaceful and prosperous life. But, is the State even listening?
Unless a consensus is reached among all stakeholders for unity and peace, the state of Kashmir will always be an isolated and hostile spot in the country.
The initiatives and actions implemented by successive governments have not reached the core of the issue, where politics is not the key for the people. Almost three decades of insurgency has already claimed the wealth of Kashmir and its people. The lesson learned from the past is that whatever has been done so far was not the right option for settling the issue, and a new formula of open talk, without military intervention, might be helpful in resolving the problems.
Political parties must not consider Kashmir on par with other states in the country. Kashmir has been unique ever since it got assimilated in the Indian nation state. Obviously, Kashmir needs its youth to be educated, cities to be revamped and the basics of common people to be restored. The most challenging part of any dialogue would be to talk to the estranged youth of the state.
Ramachandran Nair, Muscat
‘When will we see the light of our land again’ is the refrain of Kashmiri Pandits who have become permanent refugees in their own land (Valley of no return). Jews who were systematically eliminated during the Holocaust, found a permanent home in Israel under the Belfour Declaration. Kashmiri Pandits are not so lucky. They are still groping for a permanent living place in their own land. Their banishment from the Kashmir Valley in 1989 is one of the worst tragedies India faced since Partition. Political pandits waxing eloquent on winning the hearts and minds of people in Kashmir, couldn’t care less. And successive governments have done nothing for a dignified return of Pandits to their original homes in the Valley. It is lamentable that India’s rule of law and the secular Constitution has failed to rehabilitate this hapless Hindu community in the past 28 years!
Kangayam R. Narasimhan, Chennai
This refers to A Sheet To Excel In (July 16). The actual picture convincingly establishes that Bengal has always been run on a cadre-based mindset. The CPM ruled the state for 35 years with well-entrenched cadre with no “mai ka lal” to disturb it. Thus a dominating pattern was set up when people got the mindset to align with it, at least for the security of life and limb. Now, TMC has strengthened it with minority appeasement, so much so that it has turned to blatant misuse of political power. Hence, the Supreme Court had to intervene in the panchayat elections. This has given the opportunity for the BJP to get into the thick of things in Bengal, something that was unthinkable in the past.
H.C. Pandey, On E-Mail
Let’s also talk to Pakistan about Kashmir, since it has a part of it that we don’t show in our map.
Anil S., Pune
The blessed Kashmir valley has been turned into a cancerous canker spreading undauntedly between India and Pakistan and must be solved for a safe and secure future of more than 1.5 billion people of the two countries. So, your initiative is commendable. But, this is one of the longest surviving disputes of the modern world and this bloody Himalayan battleground needs an out-of-the-box solution.
I would offer the following solution: Both the Indian and Pakistani parts of Kashmir should be merged into one and made an independent country. Citizens of India and Pakistan will have the right to visit, work and live there without a visa or permit, very much like it happens in the EU. But they will not be allowed to buy land and settle down. Both India and Pakistan must take the guarantee of its defence and this independent country of Kashmir will have no army of its own. People from the rest of the world would go to this real paradise on earth and tourists, consultants and NGO workers who would get visa on arrival.
The remaining Jammu and Ladakh regions of the present-day J&K can become two small, separate states. I know this is wishful thinking. But, a wish is greater than a grudge that has become perpetual between the two neighbours. And, just think of the money both the underdeveloped and rather poor countries can save that they can use to meet basic health, education and livelihood needs of their hapless children instead of spending all that money on defence.
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
This plate of ours is adorned with seven plus colours (What’s On Our Plate? July 9), a reflection of our composite, plural and all-accepting culture, as people celebrate culinary delights from various religions, castes and regions. The availability of food largely determines the food choices of a region—Brahmins from the hill and coastal regions are non-vegetarians and you can find vegetarian Christians and Muslims from grain-producing plains.
Food, like music, art, language and literature, cannot be uniformly imposed and like the ongoing attempts to iron out our diversity, is bound to fall flat in our country.
Our current busy and stressful lifestyles have aided the rise of the massive fast foods industry. We pick up junk food for ease and palatability, making it a regular part of our diet unwittingly. Calories, fat, cholesterol aren’t innocuous things anymore, the kind of diseases they can give you over the years makes them modern-day food monsters, haunting the bodies of people consuming them. The popular ‘happy meals’ at big fast-food joints are the opposite of healthy, no wonder they come up with attractive toys to lure the kids in almost a devilish plan. Among the so-called ‘modern’ foods, we need to remind ourselves repeatedly to grab only the nutritious food. To curb burgeoning waistlines and reduce the nation’s medical expenditure, many countries like France, Norway, Japan, Mexico etc have introduced higher taxes on foods with high sugars and saturated fats. Australia too is considering to reduce sugar by 20 per cent in foods loaded with this ‘poison’. Can India follow suit on such foods uniformly at the national level? Moreover, as we saw in the case of cold drinks, standards of the same multinational junk-food companies is different in India than the West. Here, the stuff is supposed to be even more sinister. I appreciate Outlook for running a cover story on nutrition and I wish to coin a cautionary slogan conscientiously: ‘Mind Your Bite’!
Sanjiv Gupta, Perth, Australia
I remember heart attack being an old-age thing. You were considered to be in the danger zone post-60 only in the past. Terrifyingly, the fatal stroke in less discriminatory now, with increasing cases of youngsters, between ages 20 and 40, getting heart attacks. One of the main reasons cited for it by medical experts is unhealthy food habits. Food charts of some families shown in your report reveal that fruits, vegetables, milk, and milk products are either too little in quantity or absent in the daily diet of most of families in India. Consuming fast food and street food is also common. Very few have the sense of a balanced diet and the vital role of the food we take in order to keep our body healthy and fit. I don’t think that nutritionist Ishi Khosla’s 12-item prescription for everyday is followed in any family. ‘Health is Wealth’ is the evergreen adage. Where does that health come from? From what we have on our plate.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
The cuisines of India are as rich as its languages, let’s learn to eat each other’s food too.
Shashwat Deb, On E-Mail
Refer to Babus Versus Idiot Savants (July 9). The lateral entry of babus into the senior levels of bureaucracy may prove to be a good idea. Most bureaucrats are generalists, but now policy-making and implementation increasingly need specialists. Although it is an initial offering for only 10 posts in areas such as finances, agricultural, revenue, environment and renewable energy, the move could be a significant step towards fulfilling the longstanding need for domain specialists in positions crucial to policy-making and the implementation of government schemes. The generalist bureaucrat was suited to the times when the state was the nerve centre of economy. But as the state started yielding to the market, it became quite apparent,that a senior bureaucrat must not only shepherd a complicated government apparatus, he/she must also regulate the private sector. In the past, the UPA government had also appointed non-bureaucrats specialists like Nandan Nilekani to head the UIDAI and the economist Montek Singh Ahluwalia as Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission.
P L Singh, On E-Mail
This is apropos the touching story about real-life heroes (Bonds Beyond the Red Tape, Jul 9) making a difference to far-flung lives. I need to applaud the writers for highlighting the dedicated service of G. Bhagawan, a teacher at a government school in Tamil Nadu’s Thiruvallur district, ‘People’s DGP’ Rupin Sharma in Nagaland, Kailash Chandra Das, who works at a health centre in Odisha and sub-inspector Gagandeep Singh of Uttarakhand, who saved a Muslim man from a mob last month. It’s only through their dedication to duty, sense of selfless service, motivation and determination that they have been able to find a place in people’s hearts. Outlook must publish more such inspiring stories.
Jayanta Topadar, Dhemaji, Assam
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
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