Editorial / Poverty figures
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Since reforms started in 1991, there has been debate about the correlation between reforms and poverty. The correlation between growth and poverty reduction is fairly robust and has been empirically established, both in India and abroad. To the extent reforms stimulated growth, and this is not in doubt, poverty should have declined. The problem is paucity of data. The National Council of Applied Economic Research collects data, but these are not usually used. The standard source is data on expenditure collected by the National Sample Survey, used to compute the percentage of population below the poverty line, or the head count ratio. The poverty line is itself computed on the basis of calorie norms that evolved in the early Sixties and there are criticisms that these are outdated, appropriate price deflators are not used and NSS underestimates expenditure, as compared to overall expenditure figures obtained by the Central Statistical Organization. The more serious problem is that the NSS undertakes large samples only at infrequent intervals and the last large sample was in 1993-94. To expect reforms begun in 1991 to impact on poverty ratios in 1993-94 is unrealistic, apart from the fact that many reforms that alleviate poverty (delivery of primary education, rural roads, rural health care, drinking water, sanitation) haven’t yet happened. Consequently, the favourable impact of reforms on poverty has solely been through growth, the much-maligned trickle down effect.

However, the debate on the link between reforms and poverty has continued, despite poverty of data. Since 1993-94, the NSS has undertaken thin samples, but these are notoriously unreliable. So there were great expectations about what the NSS large sample of 1999-2000 would reveal. But a fresh controversy arose out of the 30-day and seven-day debate. Historically, the NSS has collected data on a 30-day basis. Respondents have been asked what the household expenditure was during the preceding 30-day period. This is felt to be unreliable, since no one remembers expenditure incurred 30 days ago. In seven-day recall, households are asked about expenditure during the preceding seven days. In the 1999-2000 sample round, the NSS sought information on both the 30-day and seven-day bases. Households were to be asked about 30-day expenditure first and about seven-day expenditure subsequently. Otherwise, households would simply multiply the seven-day figure by four to obtain the 30-day figure. So ran the argument. The 1999-2000 round consisted of four sub-rounds and in 10 per cent of cases in the first sub-round the proper sequence was not followed. Why households should be able to multiply and not divide, of course, goes unanswered. On the basis of seven-day figures, the all-India poverty ratio was 23 per cent, while on the basis of 30-day figures, the ratio was 26 per cent. Some refuse to believe that poverty can decline. There were reports that since the proper sequence was not followed in 10 per cent of cases in the first sub-round, the planning commission (which calculates head count ratios on the basis of NSS data) was going to junk the 1999-2000 survey and commission a fresh sample. Thankfully, better sense prevailed and the commission has gone public with 30-day figures. This conclusively establishes that poverty has indeed declined to 26 per cent from 36 per cent in 1993-94, with 27 per cent below the poverty line in rural areas and 23.6 per cent below in urban areas.

More interesting than the all-India figure are the state-level head count ratios. Goa, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and Delhi have head count ratios below 10 per cent. Conversely, Assam, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa have head count ratios above 35 per cent, with West Bengal at 27 per cent. The conventional identification of poverty with BIMARU is no longer valid. Rajasthan, for example, has a head count ratio of only 15 per cent and Madhya Pradesh is also climbing out of the BIMARU fold. States that do well, exhibit growth beyond a minimum threshold. That is the simple message. To the extent reforms stimulate growth, they do help poverty reduction. This proposition now has empirical support.


A major exhibition, like a journey, is an event in space. And as journeys often do, it could change the way we return to and look again at the familiar. It also opens up the possibility of other journeys, in other directions. Also, within the main journey, there could be numberless wanderings — private trails prompted by wayward interests and associations. The first of the three-part exhibition, Art of Bengal: Past and Present, 1850-2000, recently opened in Calcutta, offers all these pleasures, to a greater or lesser extent.

Properly curated exhibitions could lead the viewer along several routes. Most often this is a major “retrospective”, tracing the evolution of a single artist’s vision and craft. This could be an overwhelming experience, subordinating other histories and contexts to the unfolding of an individual genius. A recent Rembrandt exhibition at the National Gallery, London, presented his entire career as building up to the last great self-portraits. Similarly, a Mark Rothko retrospective in Paris showed not only the emergence of Rothko’s own abstract expressionism, but also brought out a more terrifying journey of self-destruction as this personal idiom perfected itself. The larger histories of 17th-century Dutch society and painting and of American expressionism were obscured, in these cases, by the individual stature of Rembrandt and Rothko.

Sometimes, the path through the display could be thematic. Two recent examples come to mind, both at the National Gallery, London. Shadows, put together by the eminent art historian, E.H. Gombrich, on the use of shadows in European painting; and On Reflection, curated by the famous theatre and opera director, Jonathan Miller, on mirrors in art. What is rare — for practical and bureaucratic reasons — is the bringing together of an entire movement or school of art, with a wide chronological sweep. Only in the permanent displays in the national galleries of major Western cities can such broad historical developments be traced — English Romantic art in the old Tate and in the National, London; French modernism at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris. And this is why Art of Bengal is a major and unique event.

Its sweep of a hundred and fifty years allows it to present a “grand narrative”, even while questioning the possibility of telling such a story about the art of a particular region. What is at stake here is not simply the claims of art history, but also the idea of a regional sensibility. What constitutes the “Bengaliness” of the art of Bengal? Is it a single essence, or a history of continuities as well as breaks, of conflicting values and practices? Moreover, this multi-layered historical framework will put individuals in their places, while allowing for many thematic trails through recurring motifs and images. Will the final impression, then, be one of order, or of anarchy?

The themes of anarchy and order run through the exhibition, embodied in the two goddesses who keep returning in various guises throughout the show — Kali and Mahisasuramardini. A magnificent early rendering of the latter, in oil on canvas, arrests one’s attention at the entrance; and the last exhibit, at the very end of the journey, is a late ink-on-paper image of the same subject by Ramkinkar Baij. The relationship between these two images encapsulates the entire story of the art of Bengal.

The “Early Bengal” oil, part of an important group of paintings in this show, embodies an amazingly inventive confluence, only possible in a colonial milieu, of a traditional and popular Bengali subject, the medium and techniques of Western naturalistic painting, and a Persian strain derived from Mug-hal miniatures. But Ramkinkar takes the same image to the “threshold” of modernity, through a system of lines and strokes that departs from European naturalism towards robust abstraction. In the oil, the worship of the opulently clad and bejewelled devi is a community event, the lovingly depicted human details in the foreground affording a wealth of social history.

Ramkinkar’s icon is cut off from its context of public devotion and becomes part of a secularized modernity. But the oil is a combination of the popular and the fine, of the artist’s fascinating mix of inherited and acquired skills and the owner’s sense of his own powers of acquisition. Ramkinkar’s sketch confronts us with an entirely different conception of “high” art, which draws from the same pool of motifs as the oil does, but gathers up these motifs into an aesthetic self-awareness in which there is no whiff of the bazaar — the world of the Black Town patuas — that energizes the earlier painting.

This movement from a popular, eclectic, market-oriented resourcefulness to a self-consciously individual aesthetic sensibility is, perhaps, this exhibition’s principal theme. The arc of this progress takes in such diverse, yet historically interrelated, practices as the Early Bengal oils, Kalighat pats, Battala woodcuts, Company paintings, academic portraiture, book illustration and pictorial journalism, and finally, the “high” modernism of the Bengal School, arranged around the figure of Abanindranath Tagore. This is not simply a shift from the popular to the fine, or from the religious to the secular. It also traces a range of creative interactions between the national, the Western and the modern. In this, we are continually brought back to the colonial milieu. But the sheer scope of the display, the indomitable vividness of the details complicate what has now become academic orthodoxies in the historical study of colonialism.

An exhibition like this is multi-layered in another sense. It necessarily builds on the work of art historians, pointing up the collaborative nature of such realizations. In a sense, this show can be seen as a wonderfully complex answer to the simple question prefacing Partha Mitter’s classic study of Indian colonial culture: “By responding to Western art does one lose one’s cultural integrity?” Similarly, Tapati Guha-Thakurta’s The Making of a New “Indian” Art becomes another cornerstone of such a curatorial endeavour. The collaboration does not stop here. The curator and the art historian will also have to work with the original owner and the private collector, particularly when Indian red-tape makes it so prohibitively difficult to access and use the archives of the state.

Another crucial product of this collaboration is the exhibition catalogue. Bringing together the work of the curator, art historians, social historians, dating experts and biographical researchers, this becomes a contribution to scholarship in its own right, leading to greater access to the images, more research, more exhibitions, more ideas. The impact on actual creative practice is, of course, another crucial question. There were many young art students, at least one rising young artist and one eminent historian at the gallery the day I was there. Fed by and feeding into such an exhibition could be projects like the visual archives being prepared at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta. The Centre hopes to create a digitalized urban history archive of visual materials ranging from prints and paintings to advertisements and photographs. This can only lead to the creation of spaces — outside bureaucracy and institutional possessiveness — for research and pleasurable viewing.

The pleasures afforded by such an exhibition are ultimately immediate and sensuous. And for the Calcuttan, or the Bengali, it is a peculiarly involving experience of re-encountering the familiar as “history”. Ordinary objects like the kulo, the hathpakha, green louvred window-panes, jewellery, the traditional paraphernalia of the shrine-room reappear, transfigured, in a mythological universe, held by a goswami, worn by Annapurna or dangled by a Kalighat Elokeshi. Suddenly the world of everyday objects takes on the aura of icons, implicating the viewer in what is more remotely phrased as “cultural identity”.

A certain kind of memory is also stimulated and linked to larger formations when childhood stories and familiar illustrations — Upendrakishore, Sukumar Roy — are presented to the viewer as “art”. The big-eared demons in the very Breughelian oil, Kali at War, are again encountered elsewhere in the exhibition as the familiar khokkosh in the illustrations to Thakurmar Jhuli. Motifs recur and circulate, constantly crossing the boundaries between popular and fine. The individual chowry, lamp or palanquin bearers depicted by the Karraya painters of the Company School reappear in the processional forms around the Shiva’s marriage and sansar oils.

It is also interesting to trace the evolution of the female face from its origins in the three-eyed and paan-shaped face of Durga. From the Early oils to the Kalighat and Battala images, this face recurs sometimes as the goddess and very often as the dubious and indulged bibi, preventing the babu from writing by covering his eyes from behind. This face is then given a formalized sophistication by Abanindranath’s sister, Sunayani Devi, and then more famously by Jamini Roy. The same face dwindles into a rarefied wanness in the hands of Abanindranath as he distances himself from the available indigenous forms. Rabindranath then invests it with a final mysteriousness. The history of the face from the glowing oils to the high mysteries of Jorasanko portraiture reflects the double alienation of this late art from both the local traditions and from European naturalism.

Moving through this exhibition is also like moving through the cultural topography of the city in and around which the “art of Bengal” burgeoned — from Kalighat and Karraya to Battala and Chitpur. Travelling on the Metro, the other day, from Jatin Das Park to Rabindra Sadan, I realized that I was retracing a version of the route laid out by the exhibition. The murals decorating the J.D. Park tunnel, commemorating Bengali freedom fighters, use the same pictorial language as the Early Bengal Vaishnavite paintings. Bina Das, Khudiram Bose and Jatin Das are depicted exactly as Chaitanya’s goswamis are. The visual idiom of the “Satidaho protha nibaran” tableau at the station and of the Early Bengal “Pindodaan” at Gadadhar’s feet are identical. Then, after getting off at Rabindra Sadan, the traveller is confronted with the arcane whimsy of Tagore’s modernist texts-turning-into-doodles, bizarre faces and bird-like creatures. He realizes then that the confrontation between the “art of Bengal” and the contemporary Calcuttan will inevitably be an interchange between two live entities.



Slim triumph

“My brain’s a dead weight...I just can’t figure out which Spice Girl to impregnate.”

“My earliest memory was raping the baby-sitter when I was 5... she was 15.”

“...that’s the message we deliver to kids. And expect them not to know what a woman’s clitoris is. Of course they gonna know what intercourse is by the time they hit 4th grade...”

“God sent me to piss the world off.”

“You think I give a damn about a Grammy? Half of you critics can’t even stomach me, let alone stand me.”

Sex, drugs, serial killing, rape, “faggot”-baiting — there is nothing that rap star Eminem’s outrageous lyrics does not touch. And yet, every time he has released an album laced with profanity, the sweet tinkle of the cash registers have always triumphed over the muffled voices of protest. The three Grammies he won this Wednesday top an incredible period for the 28-year-old former underground artist.

Last year was definitely the year of Eminem in music circles. By the time 2000 drew to a close all sorts of rumours could be heard about him. One said that he was going to be declared Time magazine’s man of the year. A little later some music sites decided that he had died in a car crash. Both tales, of course, were false. But they were testimony to the ever increasing buzz around Eminem.

Eminem, like many before him, has also successfully muddied the lines between race and culture. In fact, music critics say that he is increasingly being seen as a hip-hop version of Elvis — a white kid who sneaks up quietly and then steals the black street sound, and then goes on to sell more records than any black artist ever. Before Eminem happened, no hip-hop fan worth his salt would be caught dead listening to white rap. Now, many are listening to nothing else. The sale of his last album, Marshall Mathers, stands at 10 million, making it the largest selling rap album of all time. Sales are sure to get a further boost in the aftermath of the Grammy awards.

His zingy personal life has added to his anarchist charm. In June last year, he was charged for pointing a gun at Douglas Dail, a member of rap group Insane Clown Posse. Just a day earlier he had been charged with carrying an unlicensed weapon. The week before that he had threatened a barman who had been seen kissing his wife, Kimberley Mathers, outside a Detroit night club. (He has filed for divorce since.)

A little before that, Eminem’s mother, Debbie Mathers-Briggs, filed a lawsuit against her son. She alleged that her son had slandered her in numerous broadcast and print interviews, by saying that she was an unstable drug user. (In his songs he has character assassinated everyone, from his mother to Christina Aguilera.)

But all this has done little harm to his career. A summer tour of the US last year sold out in no time at all. In fact, the more people protested against his political incorrectness, the more popular he became. “Eminem’s defence of his lyrics is that he makes use of fictional characters who only speak their mind. We don’t think that’s a viable defence for homophobia,” railed Steve Spurgeon, Director of Communications for Glaad, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

“People confuse the lyrics for me speaking my mind. I don’t agree with that lifestyle, but if that lifestyle is for you, then it’s your business,” replied Eminem. It was an uncharacteristically sedate and well thought out quote. But very soon Eminem reverted back to his old style. “Never take ecstasy, beer, bacardi, weed, pepto bismol, vivarin, tums, tagamet hb, xanax and valium in the same day. It makes it difficult to sleep at night,” he told an interviewer as way of friendly advice last year.

If Eminem has attracted attention, it is also because he talks openly about the white underclass, the class he was born in. “Why is it so hard for people to believe that white people are poor? I wouldn’t say I lived in a ghetto, I’d say I lived in the hood,” he said once.

He grew up in Warren, a seedy suburb on the outskirts of Detroit. He has no recollection of his father but sure remembers the hard times he had to face because of an unemployed mother. “We just kept moving back and forth because my mother never had a job. We kept getting kicked out of every house we were in. I believe six months was the longest we ever lived in a house,” he says.

Detroit with its huge black population was a fertile ground for rap music. A young Eminem (known as Marshall Mathers then) soon got attracted to the underground music scene. In no time at all he began making a mark in the local scene, excelling at local competitions where he had to trade and battle rhymes against competitors.

Buoyed by his success, he quickly cobbled together an album called Infinite. It was a complete washout. But luck intervened at this point. A demo tape sent to a Los Angeles radio station ended up with rap producer Dr Dre — mentor of star rappers Ice Cube and Snoop Doggy Dogg. Eminem was quickly signed up with his label Aftermath and the new album called The Slim Shady LP (Slim Shady was also the name he went under for a while before becoming Eminem) logged sales of over three million. Accolades and controversies followed in equal measure.

But more important to Eminem and his burgeoning career, rock magazines such as Rolling Stone and Spin quickly anointed him as a “white-trash poet”.

It was around this time that Eminem distinguished himself as a guru of niche marketing. “The US pop industry is currently obsessed with the teenage market,” says Rolling Stone writer David Fricke. It is musicians like Eminem who have held out against this homogeneous genre of music.

He went out of his way to be offensive and politically incorrect, in contrast to the legions of syrupy boy and girl bands flooding the music shops. Eminem might come across as a nihilist in his records but on stage he is a good old crowd pleaser. Few escape his funny and wild rage though — from his mother to the “bitches” who throng to his concerts and cheer his every threat. But Eminem is market savvy enough to draw the line at racism. He knows deep down that he is a white rapper who has fought hard to earn the respect of the rap community. And any instinct for self-preservation will always triumph over shock value.

Eminem’s cause has been helped by the US music industry which has backed him all the way. Many rap writers view this treatment as evidence of the industry’s racism. “As a white rapper, he’s no threat...Black rappers are seen as revolutionaries — remember that the FBI in 1990 issued a warning against Niggaz with Attitude, citing the group as a threat to national security. Eminem? He’s just a pop star,” says Nelson George, author of Hip Hop America. “Yes, he is coarse and violent. But he’s also indicative of white American suburban teenagers,” says Harry Allen, one-time member of rap group Public Enemy.

Eminem has an answer for all his critics. “The kids listening to my music get the joke,” Eminem told Rolling Stonelast August. “They can tell when I’m serious and when I’m not. They can tell the entertainment of it,” he said.

There was much grumbling about Eminem missing out on the album of the year Grammy this week. Mentor Dr Dre even suggested that the star was robbed of the big prize. But the Grammys have missed rewarding all the major moments of music industry like the birth of rock ‘n’ roll, the British invasion of the 1960s and punk in the seventies. Awards were belatedly given to Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones. “Grammy history is filled with stunning weird stuff like this,” one music executive said. By that yardstick, Eminem is sure to have a swell future as the newest star of rap.



Its all in the mind

Has there ever been a man happy in exile? No. Then why should Pranab Mukherjee be in the news all over again? That is because his unhappiness seems to be directly proportional to the distance he travels away from the Congress headquarters. His experience in West Bengal has clearly been bitter. The assembly elections are just round the corner and the party is in tatters. Days ago, he found the party appoint a much junior Kamal Nath as AICC general secretary, making it impossible for him to talk to newsmen without grimacing and shouting that they should now hound Kamal Nath with their queries. And now he finds his travels to the distant South — to drive a bargain with the lady of Poes Garden — as unproductive as his sojourn in his home state. For one, the pro-alliance Ghulam Nabi Azad, general secretary in charge of Tamil Nadu, would have had the final say in the matter. But the blow came from the lady herself. When Pranabda was in Chennai recently to talk to Amma for the second time, Jayalalitha asked him flatly, “So, Mr Mukherjee, which seats does the Congress want?” Mr Mukherjee apparently didn’t have a clue. An annoyed Amma has allegedly decided to give the party only a limited number of seats and deny it the chief ministership of Pondicherry. Does she want Pranab to sink into a depression?

Shadow lines

Once bitten, twice shy — although there are still doubts if the BJP actually bit Mamata Banerjee’s bait hard enough the first time she threatened to resign — the railways minister has singularly failed in her attempts to leave the Rail Bhawan for good. Which means she will have to do what she has to — that is present the rail budget on Monday. Her only escape from being in a fix lies in presenting a soft budget and that is what she has been working overtime to ensure. Despite the PM-speak about the need for a hard budget, didi is unwilling to buckle down.She has met the PM and the finance minister several times over to discuss her budget and convince them that this is not the right time to squeeze the people. One person who has added to her troubles is Rakesh Mohan, chairman of the railway restructuring committee, who is trying his utmost to push hard measures. When didi went to meet Yashwant Sinha recently to argue her case, she was shocked to find Mohan comfortably seated. Before she hit the roof, she managed to put in, “I want to have a one to one talk with you” to Sinha. Mohan had to leave, but his shadow might be there in the budget on Monday.

Spot the thief

Tit for tat. The Bharatiya Janata Party is delighted over the defection of Puttu Awasthi, a Congress MLA from Uttar Pradesh, who was close to Jitendra Prasada. Puttu, besides adding his weight to the party, has apparently magnanimously offered his Hydergarh seat to the Uttar Pradesh chief minister, Rajnath Singh. Rajnath might not after all avail of Puttu’s hospitality, but the switch has been a lucky face-saver for the party. It is being seen as an answer to Ajit Jogi’s masterstroke in Chhattisgarh, where the chief minister has managed to wean away a BJP MLA who offered his Marwahi seat to Jogi. The Chhattisgarh BJP unit had a terrible time in trying to pitch a suitable candidate against Jogi. The BJP central leadership in fact had reportedly even ordered an inquiry into how Jogi had managed to poach on the BJP MLA. Is the Uttar Pradesh episode an exercise of that trade secret?

Grand dreams of a grand dame

Jawaharlal Nehru was not the last person to dream of India. He has serious competition from the deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha, Najma Heptullah. The lady has grand plans for the Parliament library complex. She wants the entire area around Parliament to be declared a pedestrian zone and vehicular traffic to be stopped at Rafi Marg on one side, Patel Chowk on the other. In her scheme of things, the entire area will have lush green lawns, interspersed with flower beds and beautiful statues (of politicians, presumably?). Typically of politicians, the lesser mortals don’t matter if it is not election time. Naturally, no thought has been spared for the babus working in neighbouring offices who will have to walk miles each day to reach their place of work. Heptullah has other ideas as well. She has apparently also suggested a glass dome on top of the library as in the German parliament. But a glass dome in New Delhi with its mercury soaring to 48 degrees Celsius in summer and that too in zone five in terms of seismic sensitivity? Does she need to be shaken and stirred?

Footnote/ Get ready before you go

All shaken up and stirred. The West Bengal BJP unit got ticked off by the Union home minister, LK Advani, recently for their cavalier attitude towards the forthcoming elections in the state. Advani was in Calcutta for few hours the other day to pay his respects to Indrajit Gupta. Despite the busy schedule, Advani made it a point to inquire about organizational matters in the party and found to his dismay that the unit hadn’t even done the groundwork for the big battle ahead. When party managers, including the state unit chief, Asim Ghosh, tried telling him that they were waiting for the return of the Trinamool Congress leader, Mamata Banerjee, to work on the joint manifesto, Advani reportedly flared up. “Do your job first,” is what he told the leaders. Quite right. While the ruling Left Front appears all set for the elections and is about to announce its list of nominees soon, the BJP seems to be lagging far behind. The party is in disarray and dissidents are always threatening a showdown. The central leadership will reportedly be sending Kailashpati Mishra, a senior leader to sort things out soon. Will that be soon enough?    


One party too many

Sir — Its a no-holds-barred round of mud-slinging and Anuradha Putatunda, wife of Samir Putatunda, obviously took a potshot at the most obvious target (“Rebels rue ‘Basu’ failure”, Feb 21). The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has suddenly become a party of self-seekers and conspirators and “committed” communists like the Putatundas wish to be no part of it. Fair enough. The problem is that the Party for Democratic Socialism, the one husband has joined and wife might jump into anyday, is trying as hard as any other party in the state to corner some 10 seats in the coming elections which will take it closer to the power points, or give it the lever to bargain. If that’s not “self-interest”, what is?
Yours faithfully,
Jyotish Chatterjee, Calcutta

Refashioning Indi

Sir — I am perturbed by the report, “FTV sheds lingerie for swadeshi colours” (Feb 21). I am 73 and have no inhibitions about declaring that I enjoyed watching the FTV programmes, including the “underwear shows, cabarets and some New Year shows”. It is futile on the part of the minister of information and broadcasting to clamp down on the channel. In post-independent India, there are large sections of people with enough money to watch live shows where the female body is just as exposed.

No one can deny the aesthetic appeal of the female form. The temple sculptures of India are a celebration of this. Soon after independence, the government of India had made picture reels on the Khajuraho temples, which were shown prior to the screening of any film. These documentaries have gone a long way in enhancing India’s appeal abroad.

If the minister is so intent on setting her own moral standards, let her sevaks demolish the sculpted figures on the temples of Khajuraho, Konark and several other places in India. The Kumbh mela came with its display of naked Naga sanyasins. Doesn’t this nakedness pique Sushma Swaraj’s highly refined sense of aesthetics as well?

Yours faithfully,
Arabinda Bose, Calcutta

Sir — The efforts of the information and broadcasting ministry to stop the airing of FTV is a totally unilateral and undemocratic decision. The National Democratic Alliance government, specially the sangh brothers of the leading Bharatiya Janata Party, seem to be hellbent on “rescuing” India from so-called Western influences.The antics in Uttar Pradesh regarding girls wearing jeans, protests against New Year’s Day celebrations and the like are glaring examples of governance by intimidation.

The Indian citizen is mature enough to decide what he wants to watch and celebrate.Do these cultural guardians believe they can further Indian heritage and tradition by shutting out the rest of the world? Indian culture is a wonderful, many-splendoured collection of diverse religions and traditions. Let us not destroy it in our petty interests.

Yours faithfully,
Saptarshi Bhose, via email

Sir — It is rather amusing that officials from FTV had to come down from France to meet Sushma Swaraj to discuss the modalities regarding the dress code on FTV. This apparently was to prevent damages to the Indian ethos. What is surprising is that in a majority of the beauty contests held in the country, contestants wear dresses that can any day rival those worn by models on the FTV. And such contests are held every second day in most of the big cities of the country. Is it not quite pointless to rage against FTV then?

Yours faithfully,
A.S. Mehta, Calcutta

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