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Blame it on the officers

Sir — This is not the first time N. Chandrababu Naidu’s noble intentions have been derailed by hitches. But this time it is helpless school children who are at the receiving end (“Sick or starving after showcase midday meal”, Dec 3). Even worse, the hitch comes right at the beginning of a programme that was being hailed as a landmark scheme — feeding poor children in the villages to encourage them to go to schools. The education officials of Shadnagar could not have been serious about their job for they gave lame excuses when hauled up by the chief minister. It is impossible to believe that they lacked the foresight to arrange for extra food in case of exigencies. Besides, how can they explain the use of sub-standard foodgrains to prepare a meal for children' But then, why should they be blamed all the time' Is it not a part of the chief minister’s duty to account for such deficiencies while making his grand plans'

Yours faithfully,
Joydeep Das, Bangalore


Look within

Sir — The year 2002 was marked by never-ending violence in various forms. The high point was, of course, the fact that a government implicated in the Gujarat violence was voted back to power by an overwhelming majority. Those who cherish secular values see no way to stop the march of communalism and religious hatred.

The editorial, “Look forward without hope” (Dec 29), correctly identifies the Bharatiya Janata Party and its sangh parivar fellows as the face of the growing religious intolerance in the country. Politicians have long used religion to further their interests but the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s agenda, centred around Hindutva, reeks of cultural extremism. Gujarat has travelled a long way from Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi to the sectarian politics of Narendra Modi. If the latter manages to get an upper hand — as he seems to be doing — it will make the grand vision of India as a modern democracy remain a distant dream. Ordinary citizens should own up to their responsibility to preserve the unity and integrity of the nation.

Yours faithfully,
Niloy Sinha, Azimganj


Sir — Instead of shedding tears over the verdict of the Gujarat elections, it may be worthwhile for self-styled secularists to do a little introspection (“Looking back in anger”, Dec 28). Secularism has become a by-word for appeasing minority communities. On the one hand, its votaries do not want a law banning religious conversion; on the other, they have no problems with the allowances made for minorities, be it in the matter of reservations or haj subsidies. Immigrants from Bangladesh and Pakistan have found shelter here — but has anyone considered what reception Hindu refugees get in these countries. What use is our secularism then' Instead of looking back in anger, the secularists need to look back with a sense of remorse.

Yours faithfully,
Sunita Gupta, Calcutta


Sir— The ideology of Hindutva, or at least what the BJP and the VHP make it out to be, lacks the very essence of Hinduism — love and respect for all, non-violence, and tolerance. To them, Hindutva is simply hatred for the minorities. Praveen Togadia, the VHP’s general secretary, recently claimed that his outfit had plans to make the plight of Muslims in India as pitiable as that of Hindus in Pakistan. What will he do with the president of India then, who is also a Muslim'

Yours faithfully,
Sameer Bhatt, Chattisgarh


Sir — We are students of universities in West Bengal and we are distressed at the manner in which communal hatred was used to settle political scores and fashion a victory in the Gujarat assembly elections. It was unprecedented in the history of post-independence India. The BJP and the sangh parivar, in accordance with a well thought-out plan, have manipulated the people into voting along religious lines.

Now, we fear that communities will be polarized increasingly along religious lines. Communal riots and the hatred they lead to are usually put behind once the people have come to their senses. But this time, it seems this will not happen. The campaign to spread hatred has been planned for too long and with too much care. The unprecedented victory of the BJP in the polls shows that this is already happening. The elections may have been free, but we refuse to believe that the verdict it threw up is indicative of the people’s will. We await the day when people regain their sanity and establish a political system which will work towards the welfare of all.

Yours faithfully,
Parimal Ghosh and nine others, Calcutta


Sir — Ashok Mitra is justifiably concerned at the future of the nation in the wake of the BJP’s victory in Gujarat (“The worst case scenario”, Dec 27). Mitra is also right to point out the failure of the Congress to work out a campaign to defend secularism.

It must be said, however, that Indians are by and large a tolerant race and hence secularism is relevant in the country even today. There has been a sharp rise in extremist activities globally in recent times, spearheaded, coincidentally perhaps, by a particular community. This has provided the BJP with the material to strengthen its base by warning of a Hindu backlash.

Hopefully, all good sense has not deserted the electorate. The BJP once had only two seats in the Lok Sabha and there is no guarantee that history will not repeat itself.

Yours faithfully,
Pabitra Kumar Das, Calcutta


Troubled waters

Sir — The report, “Tourists endanger Chilka dolphins”, (Dec 30), says that the Chilka has been “recently” recognized by the Ramsar Convention as a wetland of international importance. This is not true. The Chilka was designated a Ramsar site way back on October 1, 1981, along with the Keoladeo-Ghana National Park, Bharatpur. Many wetlands in India have since been included in the Ramsar list and many others are awaiting inclusion. The conferring of Ramsar status should have meant better protection for Chilka’s biodiversity. But lately, the Orissa government has irresponsibly given the go-ahead to mechanized tourist boats and fishing trawlers to ply on the Chilka, endangering the dolphins.

Yours faithfully,
Asok Kumar Bhattacharya, Calcutta


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