Editorial 1 / Rushing in
Editorial 2 / Acts for aliens
Mani Talk / Hypocrisy and humbug
Fifth Column / More jobs for the young
Tongue in check
Document /Industrial pockets or pollution zones?
Letters to the editor

The path to political posturing is often paved with good intentions. Mr A.P. J. Abdul Kalam decided to inaugurate his presidential journeys with a visit to Gujarat. His intentions are pious. He wanted to offer his homage to the father of the nation, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, and also to visit the house of his guru and mentor, Vikram Sarabhai. He did visit Naroda Patiya, one of the riot-torn localities. Secularists will argue that the visit could not have been better timed since, according to them and others as well, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the rest of the sangh parivar have caused havoc in Gujarat and made the state the equivalent of India’s killing fields. But from another point of view, it is possible to argue that it would have been better for Mr Kalam to have stayed away from Gujarat under the present circumstances. There is the dignity of the presidential chair to consider. The president of India, as the head of state, has to be above all controversy and political bickering. He cannot even be seen to be touched by the more unseemly side of politics in India. Gujarat is a cauldron of controversy in the present political conjuncture.

The assembly has been dissolved in Gujarat by the chief minister, Mr Narendra Modi. There is a very strong view that holds that the situation in Gujarat is far from normal and so elections should not be held there immediately. Mr Modi and his supporters — and they include the deputy prime minister, Mr L.K. Advani, and Mr Arun Jaitley, one of the general secretaries of the BJP — aver that the situation is normal and, from the BJP point of view, ideally suited for elections. The chief election commissioner, Mr J.M. Lyngdoh, and his team of officials were in Gujarat to see things for themselves. Reports of their experiences and observations suggest a dismal picture of official negligence, cover-up and of dislocation of normal life in large parts of Gujarat. There is the impression that Mr Lyngdoh was not satisfied with what he saw. Mr Jaitley suspects this too, hence his elaborate claims about normalcy in Gujarat and his reminder to the EC about its constitutional obligations. The point of retelling all this is to underline the volatility of the situation in Gujarat and its proneness to erupt into a controversy which the president would have been well-advised to avoid. The proximity to controversy is evident from the fact that 4,000 inmates of Ahmedabad’s largest relief camp went on a hunger strike because of the arrest of Mr Sharif Khan, the camp organizer. Mr Khan was arrested on the apprehension that he might organize a rowdy demonstration during the presidential visit. This could have been avoided if Mr Kalam had stayed away from Gujarat.

There is a very strict code that governs the behaviour of the president of India. This code makes irrelevant the personal predilections and ideology of the individual who is president. This code says that the head of state should be above all controversy. Mr Kalam, during his Gujarat visit, came perilously close to transgressing this code because of his good intentions. He may have pleased the secularists but he has harmed the presidency.


There is little use for laws that cannot be implemented. The Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act, that has been in force in Assam for nearly two decades, exposes the futility of such laws. It was enacted by the Centre to detect and deport “foreigners” from Bangladesh illegally staying in the state. As an integral part of the Assam accord of 1985, which ended five long years of a violent agitation on the foreigners issue, it promised to permanently settle the question that had periodically plunged the state into ethnic and communal flare-ups. But its dismal record forced even the Asom Gana Parishad and the All Assam Students’ Union to demand its repeal, although these two organizations had pioneered the Assam agitation on the issue of illegal migrants. The complicated procedures for identifying a “foreigner” made such a mockery of the law and the tribunals set up under it that even Assam’s governor, LieutenantGeneral S K Sinha, recommended its withdrawal to New Delhi in 1998. That nothing was done to scrap or amend the law has given its opponents yet another opportunity of accusing the Centre of being insensitive to popular sentiments in the northeastern states. New Delhi cannot afford to ignore the issue any longer.

The Assamese people’s anxiety over illegal migration is not without justification. The influx from the former East Pakistan and then from Bangladesh has not only unsettled the state’s demographic character but has also threatened the communal amity among its multi-ethnic, multi-religious population. While Assam’s political parties are unanimous on the failure of the IMDT Act to serve its purpose, they do not seem to have a convincing alternative to it. To have it replaced with the Foreigners’ Act, which operates elsewhere in the country for detection of illegal migrants, may not be enough. For historical reasons, the influx of such people into Assam acquired a magnitude unmatched in other states. But this could at least satisfy the Assamese that they have the same legal protection as people in other states. Both New Delhi and Dispur have to be cautious, however, about the misuse of any law for detecting illegal settlers in the state. It must not be an instrument for a witch-hunt against any religious or linguistic community.


I once called Jaswant Singh a hypocrite and a humbug on the floor of the Lok Sabha. He got very uptight about it and demanded that I furnish the House with a Hindi translation of the two words. That, of course, was beyond my linguistic skills. But how else would one describe the hypocrisy and humbug of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government at the Centre in its reaction to the expose of murky goings-on in the allotment of petrol pumps?

This lot were once the opposition with a difference. Endless indeed were the lectures we would hear from George Fernandes about Nehru in the first Lok Sabha slinging out a Congress MP because of funny business in the stock market. Then would George lead us through the noble saga of Lal Bahadur Shastri and the railway accident at Ariylaur, to which Shastri reacted by putting in his papers as railways minister. The story would then move on to the Mundhra scandal — exposed, we would be indefatigably reminded, by none other than the son-in-law of the prime minister. The K.D. Malaviya tale would then be dredged up to tell what in a better age was the political punishment for a dodgy consideration of no more than ten thousand rupees. What, by way of rhetorical climax, George would thunder, had become of those high ethical standards?

What, indeed? With his party president filmed in his drawing room directing an (albeit ersatz) arms dealer to pass on two lakh rupees to help defray the expenses of a party convention, George now believes the right place for a minister under investigation by a commission of inquiry is right there in the cabinet room. If consistency is virtue only in an ass, then George is clearly no donkey.

The council of ministers also includes three ministers — beginning with the deputy prime minister and going on to the minister for saffronization, Murli Manohar Joshi, and the delectable sushri sadhvi, Uma Bharti, photographed full frontal hugging Joshi as the Babri masjid came tumbling down — all three of whom will have to file an affidavit in the next elections (if the Supreme Court-directed amendment to the Representation of People Act is passed, as it doubtless will be) confirming that they are facing charges framed in a criminal court over their role in the demolition of a place of worship. The council of ministers also includes one Harin Pathak, minister of state for defence production, up for trial on charges that include murder.

And now we have Ram Naik, the same Ram Naik who served with me in the 1992-93 joint parliamentary committee. Clearly, my BJP colleague was learning extra-mural lessons from the likes of Harshad Mehta who came up before our committee. In company with us were no less than seven ministers of the present council of ministers: Ram Naik at petrol pumps; Yashwant Sinha and Jaswant Singh (interchangeably at finance and external affairs); George and Harin Pathak; Murasoli Maran (who is on record as not having been able to afford a bicycle when he was an adolescent and now presides over a media empire that has, I have read somewhere, an estimated net worth of a thousand crore or more); and, bringing up the rear, the thus far blameless Digvijay Singh, minister of state in the foreign office.

A finer band of men would be difficult to conceive: Ali Baba would have been hard put to find forty better. They concentrated their ire on three Congress ministers of the day. The first, of course, was Manmohan Singh, whom they sternly reprimanded for having thrown out the one-liner that as finance minister he would not lose sleep over the stock market going up or down. The second was B. Shankar-anand who had connived with a public sector bank to submit a bid after what was strictly regarded as closing time. And the third was the hapless Rameshwar Thakur, named because he had circulated some papers only to Congress and not to the non-Congress members of the JPC.

Lathering themselves into a fine froth over these delinquencies, the JPC delivered itself of these immortal lines, the very resonance of which carries the inimitable baritone of our present finance minister, Jaswant Singh: “If a system be devoid of the moral quotient, of a commonsense appreciation of right from wrong, of a sense of public duty when entrusted with public funds, then it cannot work.” Ram Naik, are you listening? Moreover, rejecting the then finance minister’s plea that the “FM cannot be held responsible for administrative failures or management deficiencies,” the present finance minister and his cohorts thundered, “Such a distinction cannot be sustained by the constitutional jurisprudence under which the parliamentary system works. The principle of constructive ministerial responsibility is equally applicable to other departments and ministries.” Such as Ram Naik’s ministry of petroleum and natural gas? Would the hon’ble finance minister not agree that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander?

I remember — how can I ever forget? — these seven noble champions of morality in politics. So total was their dedication to cleanliness in public life that when the JPC report came up for discussion in Parliament, Ram Naik and Murasoli Maran, Yashwant and Jaswant, George and Digvijay, and Harin Pathak disrupted the proceedings for weeks until they got the heads of Shankaranand and Thakur. Now, the same Seven Samurai cling like limpets to their chairs. The post-resignation job I would suggest for Ram Naik is the Fevicol ad: he could show his rear-end stuck to a ministerial gaddi!

We have no right to expect any better of them. For having got the heads of Thakur and Shankaranand, they went on a 13-day dharna in the well of the House to demand Sukh Ram’s sacking. However, P.V. Narasimha Rao had by then grown back his missing back-bone, and Sukh Ram remained at communications till the end of that government. Nemesis struck later, when three crore came tumbling out of his puja room. At this, Sukh Ram was hounded out of the Congress — and into the waiting arms of the BJP.

Is this not the most venal government the world has seen since Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos?


The massive unemployment in India is a matter of concern not only for job-seekers and students but also for government and society. This is mainly because unemployment causes frustration, and a frustrated person is a potential threat to social order and harmony. Thus it is not surprising that more and more unemployed youths — even educated ones — are taking to crime.

All our five-year plans have expressed concern over unemployment and many proposals have been designed to generate more jobs. But despite all the promises, claims and plans, unemployment has been increasing, and fast.

The causes of growing unemployment are population growth and technology. The adverse effects of a high population growth rate on the employment situation in villages, where agriculture is the principal source of income, are obvious. Since the cultivable land remains constant, only a certain number of persons can be employed. Any more that leads to hidden unemployment.

Technology, which aims to replace or minimize human labour, also leads to unemployment. Take the impact of computerization. While a new technology does open up new employment opportunities, these are often fewer than the jobs made redundant by it.

Wayward numbers

Thus, population control and the right choice of technologies are the two factors that can help reduce unemployment, which, in turn, is the only way to alleviate poverty. Given India’s increasing integration into the world economy, the country has had no choice but to introduce modern technology which require less labour. Thus labour-intensive small scale industries, which were earlier protected from competition, are now finding it difficult to survive.

The employment rate has been declining over the last few years, according to the National Sample Survey reports for the years 1993-94 and 1999-2000. While overall employment grew by about one per cent per annum during this period, the population grew by about two per cent per annum, leading to an effective rise in numbers as well as rate of unemployment.

The government’s various poverty alleviation measures have not helped matters. Most of these are mired in corruption or end up being mere doles, and that too, occasional ones. But doles have limited utility as instruments of poverty alleviation. Neither do they assuage the frustration of the unemployed youth, nor are they economically viable in a developing country like India.

Population control is the other way to reduce unemployment. But even here the government’s dismal record is well-known. Family planning programmes were first undertaken in India in 1951 and huge sums of money have been spent on them, but they don’t seem to have worked.

Tough measures

The main hurdles to the success of these programmes in India are poverty, a high infant mortality rate, lack of education (not mere literacy), preference for the male child, communal-and caste-based politics, people’s apathy, lack of political will, non-participation of men in family planning measures, religious taboos and an unrealistic national population policy.

Of these , only three — poverty, high infant mortality rate and lack of education — can be solved by development, which is supposed to be the best contraceptive. The rest are “non-developmental” and can only be removed by “extra-developmental” efforts, like incentives to limit the family. But do our political parties and the government have the will to take corrective steps? Especially since development alone will no longer suffice to control population growth, India’s population has become an insurmountable impediment to development.

Given this scenario, isn’t it mystifying that while capital and markets are being globalized under the new world economic order, labour is being kept confined within the boundaries of nations? But international agencies are known for their myopia.

For example, the United Nations development programme and the UN population fund insist that the only measure that will bring down the population is development. They have threatened to withdraw financial assistance if hard measures like disincentives are used. Now is that fair or logical?


A recent educational survey in England, conducted by the History Today Foundation, has unearthed a disturbing fact: Cambridge University is admitting students who, bright as they are, cannot construct coherent essays or write grammatical English. In this season of college admissions and results publications, this piece of news automatically makes one think about the reality closer home. If a similar survey is carried out among thousands of undergraduate students in the 400 odd colleges in West Bengal, what kind of picture will emerge? How proficient will they turn out to be in their mother tongue?

Before attempting an answer, let us take a quick look at the issue. One of the most controversial chapters of the Left Front’s 25 year-old rule of the state relates to its language policy at the primary level. Interestingly, while a hue and cry has been raised about the importance of English in the curriculum, a deep-seated smugness has always greeted matters relating to the mother tongue. “Let us take care of the English, the Bengali can take care of itself” — this has been the attitude of most Bengali parents.

For nearly two decades, the framers of our language policy and their supporters have parroted a line from Tagore — Mother tongue is like mother’s milk. But, just as mother’s milk is an uncertain commodity in a society where prenatal healthcare is pitiful, proficiency in mother tongue, too, cannot be guaranteed unless there is an active effort and a sound policy. Unfortunately, not much has been done in this field except for some cosmetic changes from time to time, like inserting a poem here or dropping a prose there in the language syllabus, or making a 50-mark vernacular paper mandatory at the undergraduate level.

The result is there for all to see and can be attested by teachers and examiners whose job it is to dig their way through mountains of answer scripts annually. It is this — among the thousands of Bengali youth who duly graduate from our colleges and universities every year, most cannot construct coherent essays or write clear and correct Bengali. Their vernacular proficiency is, to put it bluntly, simply atrocious.

This must be a most disquieting phenomenon with long-term consequences. But let us first take a closer look at the problem and how a conspiracy of apathy and silence surrounds it. While one in every three candidates fails in the higher secondary examination, at the undergraduate and graduate level examinations conducted by the universities, the rate of failure is less than ten in every hundred. Even so it would be difficult to find candidates who have failed due to their lack of proficiency in the mother tongue, which is the medium of most answer scripts. The vernacular and English language papers, each carrying only 50 marks, are taken as a kind of joke by all concerned as most colleges do not have classrooms large enough to accommodate all the students of science or the humanities. After these two papers have been made compulsory, examiners and tabulators are instructed not to “victimize” a candidate by failing him.

Ultimately, who becomes the real “victim” is anybody’s guess. But the apathy and neglect of the language is reflected in the subject papers, where acres upon acres of muddy, turgid prose bristle with grammatical and spelling errors. Although extensive answering by rote makes it very difficult to gauge an examinee’s own power of expression, the crisis is most acute in the humanities and social sciences. A history or a political science answer script typically consists of 25 to 30 pages of rushed penmanship where the job of the examiner is to scrounge for scraps of recycled knowledge amid the regurgitated trash. The most glaring casualties in the whole exercise are clarity of thought and concise expression.

Our educational policy-makers, especially the West Bengal council of higher secondary education, have found a shortcut out of this mess. Plans are afoot to phase out subjects like history and political science in state-run institutions and open more self-financing courses in computer science and hotel management. Whether the state’s objective should be to produce only programmers and managers at the cost of core subjects in the social sciences (especially at a time of great social upheavals when we need more experts to study them and make better blueprints of the future), is a matter of a larger debate. But one thing that cannot be disputed is the primacy of language in a society that hinges on communication.

Clear thinking and precise expression are not only critical in a networked global order, but they are also the key components of a democracy. Democracy cannot function properly unless the people can engage in polemics and discourses, and also voice their needs and grievances through effective language. The very word, “parliament”, the seat of democracy, has its origin in the Old French word “parlement”, meaning “speaking”.

That way, Laloo Prasad Yadav putting to good use the colourful resources of his rustic mother tongue in the upper house of parliament is surely a hallmark of Indian democracy, whatever cynical twist one would like to add to it. On a more serious note, we may look to the history of neighbouring Bangladesh, where the struggle for freedom and democracy was born out of a movement for the right to mother tongue.

As the study in England shows, the neglect of the written language is a universal phenomenon in a world where image and icon dominate every aspect of life. In a society like ours, the problem is compounded by the neglect and decay of the vernacular. Bengali is one of the more prominent languages in the subcontinent, spoken by 70 million people in West Bengal alone. But in a state where only 5.4 per cent of the population in the relevant age group complete matriculation, this fact alone cannot guarantee the vitality of its written form. Bengali has recently been made the official language in state government offices and institutions. Unfortunately, at the ground level, the circulars and notices are often so obtuse and Sanskritized that one needs to re-translate them into English in order to comprehend the underlying messages. The move is a welcome step, nevertheless, as it would empower the rural populace in their dealings with the state.

But for such an empowerment to really take off, things should begin at the classroom level. People connected with the teaching-learning process must realize that it is not enough to know something; one must be able to express his knowledge effectively in clear and correct language. Mother tongue can be akin to mother’s milk, but just as a lactating mother needs the necessary nutrients, the language too needs the passion and planning that are its due. Otherwise, the society will decay into a colony of malnourished humans, physically weak and linguistically stunted.


Indian Iron and Steel Company, Burnpur and Kulti units: the Burnpur unit of IISCo, engaged in production of different steel materials, has all along failed to meet emission standards during 1999 and 2000. The concentration of suspended particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide in the ambient air was also higher than the standard set for residential areas. Similar was the case with the Kulti unit. Here too the concentration of SPM in September 2000 was 988.32 mg/Nm3. The government stated (July 2001) that the company was directed to take steps for compliance with pollution norms.

The Haldia-Bankura-Purulia industrial zone, particularly Haldia, is a fast developing industrial area where several chemical manufacturing units and thermal power plants are the major sources of pollution. About 509 units (red-252, orange-189 and green-68) are located in this area. There was a public agitation in July 2000 against a chemical company (Hind Chemicals Limited) which discharged toxic gaseous effluents that caused destruction of agricultural products. The pollution status of some of the units are as under:

Thermal power stations —

both Kolaghat Thermal Power Station and Santaldih Thermal Power Station were operating in this zone with shorter stack heights and consistently failed to maintain pollution standards. The concentration of SPM in the stack emission of KTPS ranged between 10,647 mg/Nm3 (6,998 per cent) and 16,310 mg/Nm3 (10,767 per cent) during July 2000, against the permissible limit of 150 mg/Nm3, while the same for STPS ranged between 712.56 mg/Nm3 (375 per cent) and 9,495 mg/NM3 (6,230 per cent) during 1999 and 2000.

Ash ponds at the KTPS were inadequate and the frequent overflowing of ash slurry resulted in the deterioration of water quality and siltation of the recipient water bodies (Medinipur and Denun canal). There were several complaints from the public about the degradation of water quality which was being used for agricultural purposes. A surprise check by the Central Pollution Control Board revealed that the ash ponds were filled up and ash slurry was being discharged into the Kadma river. The government stated (July 2001) that KTPS had submitted an action plan for upgradation of its Pollution Control System by 2003.

Siliguri-Jalpaiguri industrial zone — the units falling under this grossly polluting category were engaged in production of super phosphate and sulphuric acid. In the process of production, sulphur is burnt in the air resulting in huge emission of sulphur dioxide. Considering the pollution potential, this type of industry is not allowed to operate in residential areas. The unit, however, started business in the residential area of Rajgunj in Jalpaiguri district in January 1991 in the name of Sundarban Fertilisers Limited for the production of single super phosphate and was renamed as Teesta Agro Industries in 1995. It started production of sulphuric acid without obtaining a no objection certificate from the board.

On the basis of several public complaints, the board conducted an inspection (September 28, 1999) and found that the unit was operating without any valid permission from the board and without adopting any pollution control system. In February 2000, the unit for the first time applied for consent to operate which was granted in June 2000 with the condition that the PCS must be completed within December 2000. The bank guarantee for Rs 1 lakh, submitted by the unit for maintaining a time-bound programme for installation of the PCS, expired in March 2001 and was not renewed though the installation was not completed. Scrutiny revealed that the unit was discharging sulphur dioxide, ranging between 972.6 mg/Nm3 and 1,291.5 mg/Nm3, much beyond the permissible limit of 150 mg/Nm3.

The government stated (July 2001) that as the unit complied with the load-based standard of 4 kg per tonne, the bank guarantee was released (May 2001). But the action taken by the board is not tenable as the unit, even while complying with load-based standard, failed to comply with the concentration based standard of 150 mg/Nm3.

To be concluded



When defence is an offence

Sir — The statement made by the deputy prime minister, L.K. Advani — that different yardsticks are being used for different states — indicates that the Bharatiya Janata Party will do everything in its power to ensure that Gujarat goes to polls at the earliest (“Lyngdoh attacks, Advani defends”, Aug 11). That elections are the last thing on the minds of the riot victims, most of whom have lost their home and families in the violence that continues to simmer, has been wilfully ignored by the party. With Atal Bihari Vajpayee slowly distancing himself from party affairs and the recent reorganization in the party that has reaffirmed Advani’s pre-eminence in the BJP, it is doubtful whether the grievances of the victims will be heard at all. One shudders to think of a scenario in which Narendra Modi comes back to power in Gujarat and Advani becomes the next prime minister of India. Needless to say, there will be as many riots as there will be rath yatras then.

Yours faithfully,
Gautam Moulik, Calcutta

Death sentence

Sir — The report, “Suffocation deaths in police gas chamber” (Aug 2), does not come as a surprise. Given that the police are a part of a system that thrives on unbridled hypocrisy, corruption and tokenism, it seems almost natural that they should have asked for Rs 40 for a glass of water from a man dying of thirst. Needless to say, the suspension of six police officers is no guarantee that things will improve.

A maze of investigations stretching over a long period of time would dim public memory of this incident and the culprits would go scot-free by greasing the palms of the political bosses. What is even more unfortunate is that every time such an incident occurs, there is a deliberate attempt either to hush up matters or to let the offenders get away with the lightest punishment possible. The corruption in the police force leaves honest officers with no choice but to remain silent even when they witness injustice. It is time the administration realized that such incidents undermine the authority of the government and earn the state a bad name.

Yours faithfully,
Rudrasish Datta, Howrah

Sir — That the state judicial department chose to ignore the Malda district judge’s report that warned of a tragedy if the building housing the district court and the judicial lock-up was not repaired, speaks volumes about its callousness (“Lock-up horror alert on deaf ears”, Aug 7). Despite the warning, the department did not ask the government to sanction the construction of a new court building, nor did it take any step to renovate the existing one. This tragedy could have been avoided had the government taken the district judge’s report seriously. More shocking is the realization that with court rooms and judicial lock-ups in other districts in equally abysmal condition, there are more tragedies waiting to happen.

Although the chief minister of West Bengal, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, has made all the right noises about punishing the guilty, the government has not taken any action against the Malda superintendent of police or the court inspector who should have shifted some of the accused to another room. Yet, as a corrective measures, the government should have been more stringent in its disciplinary action.

Yours faithfully,
Uma Chakraborty, Calcutta

Sir — One cannot help feeling that The Telegraph has been unfair in apportioning responsibility for the tragedy at Malda. The policemen in charge of the judicial lock-up were no doubt guilty of misconduct. However, one must also take into account the fact that the incident occurred in a judicial lock-up and not in a police lock-up, which means that the state judicial officials cannot escape responsibility. Also, what about the state administration which had been alerted about this particular lock-up about two months ago but took no remedial action? Surely, subordinate police officers are not the only ones who should be taken to task for dereliction of duty?

Yours faithfully,
M. Mukherjee, Calcutta

Sir — The editorial, “Death chamber” (Aug 6), examines the circumstances that led to the death of Anish Das and Nimai Ghosh in a judicial lock-up a few days ago. It is shameful that despite being a signatory to innumerable treaties on human rights, India remains so callous about its abusive setup. It goes without saying that the “brutality is sustained at different levels”. Which is all the more reason why the government action should not have stopped at the suspension of the six policemen on duty.

Yours faithfully,
Pranit Gupta, Malda

Right match

Sir — The matchmaking show on television hosted by film-actress-on-the-wane, Madhuri Dixit, has turned out to be only what it deserved to be — an unsalvageable flop. But the very fact that such programmes can be aired at all shows that Indian television is going the way of the American kitsch (“No match for moms-in-law”, Aug 10). It would not be surprising if an Indian version of the Jerry Springer show, complete with participants literally tearing each other’s hair out, were scheduled to be put up next.

Yours faithfully,
Biswapriya Purkayastha, Shillong

Sir — The report, “No match for moms-in-law”, seems a bit harsh in its criticism of Madhuri Dixit’s new show, Kahin Naa Kahin Koi Hai. Granted that Dixit, despite her effervescence and charm, is no Amitabh Bachchan, but there are innumerable viewers in this country who would tune in just to catch a glimpse of her. Also, the show should not be compared to Kaun Banega Crorepati, given that it is not a game show. The target audience is also different. For one, the show is definitely not going to be popular among children. The low ratings for the first week do not necessarily mean that the show is a flop.

One cannot help feeling however that the channel airing the show should have been more aggressive while marketing it. An aggressive publicity campaign — and that could be launched even now — would have gone a long way in boosting the ratings.

Yours faithfully,
Mithai Sengupta, Calcutta

Beauty conscious

Sir — The report, “Beauty which hurts” (July 21), has touched upon a very important issue. In this era of satellite television and multinational companies, slim is beautiful not just in the West, but also in India. However, as studies conducted in different parts of the world have revealed, such beauty comes at a price. Yukta Mookhey’s experience merely reinforces this truth. The strict diet regime that has helped the beauty queen shed the extra kilos has also made her bones brittle.

An overemphasis on physical attributes has prompted women to go in for cosmetic surgery. Advertisements that encourage the so-called “sexy” look have made matters worse for women susceptible to such messages. One hopes that Yukta Mookhey’s belated realization — that there is more to life than being beautiful and having a perfect figure — will discourage Indian girls from aiming for the same. Women celebrities from all walks of life should take the initiative to launch a world-wide campaign against the thin look.

Yours faithfully,
Sujit De, Sodepur

Sir — Pakistan’s human rights record has always been dismal. The report, “150 rapes in 182 days” (July 23), shows that the situation has deteriorated. Out of the 150 cases reported from southern Punjab in the first six months of this year, complaints were lodged in only 141 cases, and the police were unable to catch the culprits in most instances. The poor media coverage of such crimes in Pakistan makes matters worse. In the absence of proper laws to safeguard the rights of women, there is hardly much the human rights commission of Pakistan can do.

Yours faithfully,
Diptimoy Ghosh, Calcutta

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