Creatures of habit
Sir — Political leaders are wont to first make a mess of things and then take years cleaning it up. The Left Front government had encouraged refugees and the poor, homeless migrants from other states, to settle down in certain pockets of the city, calculating that these settlers would vote for it ever after, in gratitude. That such settlements would make some roads inaccessible, as also make the city infamous for being filthy, did not bother the left at that time. But it could not shut its eyes to the disapproval of the middle classes — its other large constituency — and so, from time to time, eviction drives like Operation Sunshine had to be launched. Most of these were mere window-dressing since, sooner rather than later, the settlers would return to where they had been evicted from. Things are not likely to be any different this time round too (“Payloaders crush bonfire revolt”, Dec 11). The government should realize that it is always easier to form a habit than it is to break one.
Mohua Gupta, Calcutta
Killer at large
Sir— The death of H. Nagappa reflects badly on the governments of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu as well as the Centre (“Captive dead, Veerappan stokes embers”, Dec 9). Is it not ironical that our home minister, L.K. Advani, who is ever ready to scour the world for criminals armed with red corner notices, has been unable to catch a notorious criminal like Veerappan in his own backyard' The home minister is known for making hasty, ill-considered statements during crises. He is perhaps the most inefficient home minister India has ever had.
Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai
Sir— H. Nagappa’s death could have been averted, had the Karnataka government acted prudently and expeditiously by sending Kolathur Mani as an emissary to Veerappan. Mani, who is in jail for his connections with Tamil separatists, had played a key role during the Raj Kumar kidnapping drama two years ago. Compared to its prompt response then, the government’s attitude has been rather laid-back this time. Now that Veerappan has managed to successfully elude the special task force set up to capture him, perhaps the Centre should seek foreign expertise for the task'
R. Sekar, Angul
Sir— Even if one were to believe Veerappan’s claim that he did not kill H. Nagappa, it is still difficult to excuse the incompetence of the STF, especially formed to apprehend the sandalwood smuggler. That a delicate hostage situation once again ended in disaster speaks volumes about the need for well-trained negotiators who can handle such crises. In at least two instances in recent times — the kidnapping of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s daughter in the late Eighties and the hijacking of an Indian Airlines’ flight from Kathmandu to Kandahar in December 1999 — the government of India surrendered tamely to the demands of the terrorists. In the Raj Kumar kidnapping case too, the government agreed to release prisoners from Mysore jail; also, allegedly, crores changed hands. No doubt, by agreeing to his demands then, the government had emboldened Veerappan to try out his methods again.
The government must realize that to negotiate with hostage-takers is to merely play into their hands. It should instead declare that it will not negotiate with terrorists, hostage-takers or hijackers, but will do all it can to rescue the victims. The daring rescue of hostages from a Moscow theatre is an example Indian authorities could take lessons from.
C.V.K. Moorthy, Sandur
Sir— Veerappan is frequently described in the media as a sandalwood smuggler. But he is much more than that — he is a criminal and a terrorist.
A society which cannot punish criminals has to pay the price of being blackmailed by them. This is the price Veerappan has been extracting. It is not enough to blame the police and government for their failures — our criminal justice system, which is completely ineffectual when it comes to prosecuting the rich and powerful, is also to blame. Then there are the procedural delays. Unless we find a way to punish criminals, be it Veerappan or those responsible for the Gujarat pogrom, the country may well disintegrate.
Shailesh Gandhi, Mumbai
Sir— The unfortunate death of H. Nagappa raises more questions than it answers. One, why was the hostage killed suddenly and was he killed in an encounter with the STF' Why was the Nakkeeran editor, R. Gopal, not involved this time as before' What about the clearly discernible political hand in the game of hide and seek being played by Veerappan'
Sumant Poddar, Calcutta
Sir— On October 3, 2002, I sent Rs 300, via speed post, from the Tollygunge post office to my granddaughter in Guwahati for her birthday on October 10. However, when I called to wish her on her birthday, I was shocked to learn that the money had not reached her. Is this the “speed” the postal department takes so much pride in'
Paramesh Chandra Mukherjee, Calcutta
Sir — In this age of the internet, there continue to be people who prefer to communicate through letters. It is the cheapest mode of communication, accessible to all classes of people. I have a few good friends with whom I communicate regularly through letters. Unfortunately, owing to the pathetic state of the postal services, we rarely receive the letters sent to us. Naturally, this has led to misunderstandings on several occasions. Must we now give up writing letters'
Sir — If the news of one actor’s divorce suit graces the front page (“It’s Lagaan to end an innings”, Dec 9), the back page is devoted to another’s shooting stint in Darjeeling (“Fans muscle into Shah Rukh’s brawn tryst”, Dec 9) — what a collossal waste of precious newsprint. On the other hand, the demise of such household names as Annada Shankar Roy, Kanika Bandopadhyay and Basanta Chowdhury were mentioned only in passing. Must a newspaper always cater to the lowest common denominator'
Kajal Chatterjee, Sodepur