Choose victims with care
Sir — The Centre’s initiative to issue voters’ identity cards to the entire population has been fraught with insurmountable difficulties. The states are unlikely to have any better luck (“States agree to identity cards”, Jan 8). But it is quite apparent that the targets of this exercise are “Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Afghans”. The effort to throw out this formidably large group, even if it is arguably quite necessary, may produce sharp retaliatory action. To whip up politically favourable passions is understandable. One hopes that the same people are around to face the consequences too.
S. Banerjee, New Delhi
Turn it off
Sir — The West Bengal government’s new year gift to the people — a tax on drinking water — has only dampened spirits. Nothing can be more draconian than taxing something nature itself provides, especially in a country where the poor cannot even afford two square meals a day.
While thousands of our villages still do not get adequate supply of potable water, in cities, water flows out continuously from the road-side taps. Who is to pay for such mindless waste' There is also no guarantee about the quality of water distributed, since every year scores fall victim to water-borne diseases. A state that can do nothing to mitigate arsenic poisoning has no right to levy a tax on water. If the government finds the subsidy for supplying water too heavy a burden, it could tax those who use water for business purposes.
Sankar Lal Singh, Calcutta
Sir — The increase in trade licence fee proposed by the mayor, Subrata Mukherjee, is a retrograde step. The fee might be a nominal sum of Rs 10 only, but the municipal corporation charges businesses a large sum for the removal of solid wastes and other fees for making non-residential use of premises. The municipality has also started collecting an application processing fee of Rs 100 from April 1, 2002, the legality of which is doubtful.
Trade licences serve no purpose other than to help maintain a centralized record of commercial activities under the municipality area. Also, any further increase in fees will be counter-productive since it will mean the mayor’s laudable plans to reduce the corporation’s extra staff will come to naught.
Jagdish Kumar, Calcutta
Woe on wheels
Sir — The physically handicapped can get wheelchairs from licensed porters at the Howrah station at a nominal price. But these chairs are often in terrible condition, sometimes with the wheels missing. As a result, the porter has to use his own strength to move the chair. This is an extremely uncomfortable experience for the person sitting on the chair which runs a fairly good chance of overturning. My wife last month was provided a wheelchair which had no tyres and had to run on the bare rims. The chair was replaced, but with one which was in a similar condition. The station superintendent should get the chairs changed to prevent any accidents in the future.
Gopal Das Bhartia,
Sir — Our recent travel on the Geetanjali Express turned out to be a nightmare. Passengers without reservation invaded the compartments soon after the train left Dadar. They were followed by hordes of hawkers. The passengers were not even spared a visit by eunuchs who extorted alms in their characteristic style. Attempts to seek help from the railway staff, who were incidentally without identity tags, proved futile. Is it too much to expect a good journey on trains that charge such a high fare'
Raj Deep Lahiri, Calcutta
Sir — The demolition of the Babri Masjid has already been turned into a national event, evident every year on December 6. This year we may see February 27, the day of the Godhra carnage, turning into another such occasion. When do we stop taking advantage of such tragedies'
Vinoy Kumar Sinha, Ranchi