The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Letters to Editor

Different readings

Sir — The article, “The Kannada Tagore” (Oct 14), by Ramachandra Guha was a frivolous piece. There can be no comparison between two talents as diverse as Rabindranath Tagore and Shivarama Karanth. Worse, the article contains some errors. Tagore, for instance, did not teach himself music. He may have been modest about his musical knowledge but he had a solid training under the likes of Yadubhatta and Vishnu Chakraborty, and later his brother, Jyotirindranath Tagore. Also what does Guha mean by quoting H.Y. Sharada Prasad as saying that Tagore “relished” his title of “gurudev” and was something of a “modern day rishi”, who “ gathered followers”' Both Sharada Prasad and Guha do not seem to know that Tagore could not have cared less for honorifics, and he was essentially a loner throughout his life. It will be our loss if we reduce his life to a string of “achievements”, a series of acceptances and rejections of Western awards.

Yours faithfully,
Sanjeeb Mitra, Calcutta

Test case

Sir — Instances of evaluation errors in answerscripts of secondary, higher secondary and under-graduate examinations of the West Bengal boards and Calcutta University had been coming to light regularly for some time. It is thus clear that the changes being contemplated in the evaluation processes is the result of media exposure and judicial intervention, rather than the urge to reform on the part of these educational bodies. The Calcutta University pro-vice-chancellor (academic), Suranjan Das, has claimed that in 15 of the 90 cases filed over the part-II results this year, the courts have ruled in favour of the university. But take the case of 35 part-II examinees this year whose marks for the practical examinations were initially left out of the total and were added only belatedly, after an appeal. What about the expenses incurred and the distress caused to the students' Should not the university be made to pay some damages to these students'

While it is good that the university authorities have said that steps will be taken against those responsible for delays in publishing results, they need to turn their attention to another issue as well. At present, the university allows re-examination for a maximum of two papers only. Is this because the university believes it has a foolproof system which ensures that no more than two papers of an examinee can be incorre-ctly evaluated or does it want to protect the students from the pain of finding that their aggregate marks have gone down as a result of the re-examination'

Calcutta University’s proposal to put in place a transparent evaluation process is welcome. But the circumstances that have led to such proposals are tragic for an university which, not so long ago, had been a pioneer in higher education in India.

Yours faithfully
Manas K. Nag, Calcutta

Sir — After taking steps to make the evaluation process transparent, it would also be nice if Calcutta University officials were to introduce changes in the syllabus in accordance with modern developments. There must be more emphasis on practicals, field studies and research to make studies at the graduation level more attractive. Students must also be encouraged by a more generous marking. A mere 50-60 per cent marks is barely recognized as a good result by other universities in the country or abroad.

Yours faithfully,
Mohammed Asif Iqbal, Calcutta

Sir — Murli Manohar Joshi’s Sarva Siksha Abhiyaan was envisaged as a step to remove illiteracy from the country. Strangely, the West Bengal government has given this well-intentioned scheme the thumbs down (“Bengal cool to Joshi education drive”, Oct 4). Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Uttaranchal and Madhya Pradesh had sent several proposals to the Centre, while our state had only one proposal. It seems that not only does our state government not want to do anything about children’s education, it is also not prepared to let the Centre do anything.

Yours faithfully,
Achyut Kumar Banerjee, Calcutta

Terror tactics

Sir — Ashok Mitra may be right in predicting that India’s defence outlay will go up as a result of the Akshardham attack. Inevitably, this will mean a reduction in spending on crucial sectors like education and health (“Over the borders of sense”, Oct 4). While it is the common people who bear their brunt, terrorist attacks provide a diversion for governments troubled by domestic problems, for instance an ailing economy, natural calamities and so on. Instead of blaming the Centre for its failure to stop the Kargil intrusion or pre-empt the Gujarat riots, the people of India have indulged in Pakistan-bashing. Thus, every terrorist attack has led to further jingoism, which has helped the government garner more support for its proposal to get more armament.

Citizens must ask how far the Centre’s nuclear programme has helped prevent terrorist attacks. The government must be forced to deal with the loopholes in the defence sector, engage in a meaningful dialogue with Pakistan and separatist Kashmiri leaders as well as create adequate social infrastructure.

Yours faithfully,
K. Chatterjee, Sodepur

Sir — Ashok Mitra is mistaken in the belief that terrorism can be eliminated merely by making our borders secure and by making our intelligence agencies more competent. The struggle against terrorism is a more complicated affair. The India-Pakistan border, for example, extends for several thousands of miles and it is impossible to ensure that there is no cross-border infiltration. Mitra must know that even the United States of America, despite its superior intelligence network, has not been able to stop infiltration along the Mexico border. The only way to deal with terrorism is to deprive its proponents of their support base and their resources. Given that terrorists are empowered by their fanaticism, it is all the more important that the government be pragmatic while dealing with them.

Also, even if the Centre were to provide adequate security to Hindu places of worship, as Mitra sarcastically suggests, it would not be able to pre-empt such attacks. Terrorist organizations could easily target any one strategically located temple out of “a million such spots”.

Yours faithfully,
Surajit Basak, Calcutta

Parting shot

Sir — It was with incredulity that I heard an anchor on CNN describe the recent bomb blasts in Bali, Indonesia as the “worst single terrorist act on the Asian continent”. What about the Mumbai bomb blasts of 1993 that maimed the city and killed several hundreds' Or is it a terrorist act only when white people are killed'

Yours faithfully,
Biswapriya Purkayastha, Shillong

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