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Of mice and important men

Sir — Rodents, like death, are a great leveller. If they crawl all over the passengers in second-class compartments of Indian trains, they also have no compunctions about cosying up to the VIPs travelling in air-conditioned first class coaches (“Train mice menace under minister feet”, Dec 14). But the poor dears should really have steered clear of the ministers and MPs. For, they can get away only while they try out their tricks on people who pay for their tickets from their own pockets. Certainly not when they play their little games with those whose travel allowances come from the taxpayers’ pockets. Now the rats will be hunted out and evicted from their ancestral property. The operation will be a huge bother for the railways ministry of Nitish Kumar. The moral of the story, of course, is that if the best things in life come free for you — as they do for Indian rats and Indian VIPs — try to be contented with that and do not get in the way of those who enjoy the same privilege.

Yours faithfully,
Snehangshu Mitra, Calcutta


Power games

Sir — Strobe Talbott, in his article, “The axis of irony” (Dec 2), fails to prove that the continuity of American foreign policy responses, especially those that translate into armed interventions in foreign lands, mean the United States of America is continuing to combat the challenges to the world by rogue states. Bill Clinton bombed Yugoslavia to stop the continuing genocide there. The current incumbent, George W. Bush, on the other hand, wants to attack Iraq to gobble up the country solely for US gains. What could be the possible similarity between the two in terms of intent'

Further, Talbott could not convince that Clinton and Bush have the same degree of world approval for their armed strikes. Bush has run the world through the wringer to press his point, even if it is assumed that his cause is not entirely unjust. Clinton practically sailed through his excesses precipitating minimum animosity. His air strike on Bosnia and intervention in Kosovo followed immediately in the wake of Slobodan Milosevic’s most blatant genocidal atrocities on civilians. Bush on the other hand, is late by over a decade, since the US was a close ally of Iraq — which was helping the US fight its proxy war against Iran — when Hussein committed equally abhorrent crimes against his own civilian population. Hence the US could well be considered an accomplice in Hussein’s genocidal crimes. It is ironical therefore that Talbott should now claim credit for the US “providing relief to much of the world”.

Yours faithfully,
Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai


Sir — The US cannot be blamed for waging a war on terrorism in the way it considers right. That Pakistan has ended up as its prime ally in spite of sponsoring terrorism on Indian soil may upset Indians, but the US is fully within its right to view it through the proverbial curate’s eye as “good in parts”. The fact that the Pakistani tiger has cunningly taken the US on its back has not registered with the Indians yet. Moreover, the Indian democracy speaks in many voices, each trying to prove the other wrong.

The Americans can hardly be accused of two-timing India. Their intentions were very clear from the beginning. They openly encouraged India and Pakistan to go to war. The damage it would cause India would be punishment for India’s tacit support for Cuba, Palestine, Iraq, Russia — all the countries which dared to defy the US writ. The Indian folly lay in failing to scratch the surface, even when the government was armtwisted to pay the huge sum demanded by Enron at the time the US power giant was being probed for fraud.

It is useless to castigate the US for looking after the interests of its own people, many of whom, incidentally, are of Indian origin. The Americans are pragmatists. They know who to embrace, and when. They are committed to their kind of realpolitik, unlike India, which criticizes American intentions one moment, and lies prostrate at its feet the very next.

Yours faithfully,
Jyoti Maitra, Calcutta


Health unwise

Sir — Simply spending a large sum of money on programmes is not the solution for the growing AIDS menace in the country. It is more important that people feel free to adopt the prescribed remedies, especially with regard to sexual behaviour. One of the boldest steps taken in this regard has been by the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, N. Chandrababu Naidu. His decision to hang contraceptives at his party meetings and their free distribution at public gatherings will undoubtedly encourage individuals to use them.

Second, stringent laws must be framed with regard to all blood transfers from blood banks, since blood and blood products are responsible for about seven per cent AIDS cases, and the risk of transmission of the virus through blood is as high as 90 per cent.

Yours faithfully,
Amit Seth, Howrah


Sir — Sadly, the health and welfare policies of India are handled by a person more renowned for his shairi and acting than his knowledge and awareness of health issues. The antics of Shatrughan Sinha, in and out of the Lok Sabha, are shameful (“Struggle to diagnose Shotgun ‘flaws’”, Dec 1). Obsessed with his acting prowess, he has managed to annoy doctors at health seminars, be flippant about the AIDS situation in India, miss important appointments and absent himself from Parliament. Since he holds a vital portfolio in the context of India as a developing country, he must either be serious about his responsibilities or renounce his duties. The prime minister should also wake up to the fact that popularity and fame cannot be the criteria for allocating important portfolios to unqualified people.

Yours faithfully,
Rohan Tibrawalla, Iowa, US


Sir — The reports, “Struggle to diagnose Shotgun flaws” (Dec 1) and “Sinha rapped in House” (Dec 3), and the editorial, “Not a moral issue” (Dec 3), illustrate that Shatrughan Sinha is anything but a sincere and hard-working health minister. He should either be transferred to a less important ministry, or shown the door.

Yours faithfully,
M. Das, Jamshedpur


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