The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Letters to Editor

Not very sporting

Sir — Benares will never be the same again, nor will a substantial part of Uttar Pradesh. The decision of the Wrestling Federation of India to ban kusti on the mud is not only obnoxious but also pernicious (“Mud-wrestling on the mat”, Jan 13). For one, it can be guaranteed that the federation will never be able to live up to its promise of providing mats to the innumerable akharas that dot the Hindi hinterland. And two, it is risible that the federation should consider the mat the last word in wrestling. Who will teach the gurus in akharas the technique needed to fight on the mat so that they in turn can teach their disciples the art' Besides, why should the federation even consider wasting its precious resources on providing a utility that will remain folded up in a corner in most wrestling clubs. Kusti is indispensable to the curriculum of physical training in the Indian countryside. And it will continue to be practised there the way it has been so long, ban or no ban.

Yours faithfully,
J. Acharya, Calcutta

Health hazard

Sir — The report, “Sushma ad jolt to AIDS project” (Jan 11), brings to light the ignorance of our political leaders about health issues. Sushma Swaraj seems to have little idea about the AIDS epidemic that seriously threatens India. The principal mode of transmission of the disease here is through unprotected heterosexual contact between partners who do not know each other’s HIV status. In a country where the literacy rate is still abysmally low, the best way to educate the public about the potential dangers of AIDS is through advertisements in the media. There is no place for medieval sentiments about sex when it comes to AIDS.

The notion that condom advertisements promote promiscuity is without any merit. Several studies in America have shown that educating the ignorant and young about the use of condoms does not necessarily encourage them to have more sex. On the contrary, it promotes safe sex and often leads to abstinence. Several high schools in the United States of America, especially in areas with higher rates of HIV incidence, have even started distributing free condoms to students. By blocking the condom ads, Swaraj cannot stop people from having sex. She will only assist the disease from spreading faster.

Apart from promoting the use of condoms, the Indian government and other social organizations should also try to educate the public on other relevant aspects of the HIV infection. Unfortunately, the media also seems to be largely ignorant about the true nature of the disease. AIDS occurs only in the final stages of the HIV infection. The asymptomatic stages pose the real threat to society since an infected person can transmit the virus to another either through sexual contact or through blood transfusions. Instead of pulling the plug on condom ads, the broadcasting minister should enforce responsible reporting by the media.

Yours faithfully,
Kunal Saha, Ohio, US

Sir — As the overseer of the national media, Sushma Swaraj has the onerous task of seeing to it that the people of this country get the right information, about the world, about the nation and about more immediate concerns like health. The former view is already skewed, thanks to decades of government control. And now the government, more so its saffron clique, brings to public viewing its juvenile ideas about morality and health. The harm this time is unimaginable given the crucial role safe sex has in the campaign against AIDS.

The government prescription against condom advertisement points to its continuing control over public choice. Cigarette and liquor advertisements have already been banned on grounds of public health. Shouldn’t condom advertisements be allowed to be aired on the same excuse' Besides, in this age of liberalization, why should the government still dictate what the public should view and what individuals may choose'

Yours faithfully,
M. Chatterjee, Calcutta

Sir — Sushma Swaraj has voiced the right concern with regard to condom advertisements. If such advertisements are at all aired, they should be done minus the suggestive gestures which are sometimes very embarrassing. Take the recent advertisement of a major brand of condoms, for example, which shows a nurse plunging a pen in and out of its cover.

Like liquor and cigarette brands, only the brands of condoms should be advertised. The government should also find ways to limit advertisements of sanitary napkins which are at times too gross to be viewed with the family.

Yours faithfully,
Mita Aditya, Calcutta

Sir — The recent landmark judgment of the Delhi high court, asking the government to resume the supply of condoms to sex workers in the capital’s redlight areas, should serve as an eye opener to the inefficient administrators of the capital (“Court order for free condoms”, Dec 7). Despite generous help from the West, including the recent aid and visit by the Microsoft boss, Bill Gates, the government remains unmoved. India is sitting on a time bomb. In the next few years, AIDS is likely to become the most common communicable disease in the country. The School of Tropical Medicine in Calcutta is now having to turn away patients who come from remote areas of districts like Murshidabad and Nadia, for the lack of Elisa test kits. One can only imagine the spread of the disease.

Yours faithfully,
Mohan Lal Sarkar, Budge Budge

Sir — The apex court’s ruling that a prospective bride and bridegroom have the right to know each other’s HIV status is justified (“Seal on HIV test before marriage”, Jan 3). An HIV positive patient who marries a girl or boy by suppressing his or her disease should be deemed a criminal.

Yours faithfully,
Govinda Bakshi, Budge Budge

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