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Romp with the political animals

Sir — Her office is obviously much too confined a place for Rabri Devi to hold “brainstorming sessions” with her band of Rashtriya Janata Dal workers in order to decide on a course of action for the next bout of assembly elections (“Laloo and flock rack brains in tiger hub”, Feb 15). After all, how could such a meeting be held without involving the party’s 30,000 or more workers, even if it meant running the risk of traumatizing the animals in the forests near Balmikinagar' That the RJD wanted to discuss communalism is good news in a state renowned for the havoc wrought by casteist and communal violence. Not that the RJD wanted to decide how best to stem the advance of the Hindutva brigade — the choice for the opportunist RJD leaders was whether soft Hindutva (whatever that means) or militant secularism would work better in the polls. The sagacious Laloo Prasad Yadav ought to know that it will take more than the magic of Balmikinagar’s sylvan surroundings to restore sanity to his party and state.

Yours faithfully,
Jayati Basu, Ranchi


Standard impurities

Sir — Long before the Centre for Science and Environment investigation, there were reports that bottled mineral water was not as safe as the manufacturers claimed. Just a few months ago, a study by the physiology department of Calcutta University found that mineral water contained microbial impurities and was, at times, even worse than the cheap fruit juices sold by the roadside. Bacteria like Escherichia coli were found in samples of bottled water marketed in Calcutta by well-known companies. In some cases, the microbial level was 60 times higher than the safety limit.

Manufacturers may make tall claims about the purity of their products and investigating teams may make claims and counter-claims, but it is the gullible consumer who continues to drink at his peril. Also local brands constitute a good fraction of the bottled water sold in India. They have greater reach and hence, should also be bro- ught under inspection.

Yours faithfully,
Jaydev Jana, Calcutta


Sir — The editorial, “Water of India” (Feb 9), rightly identifies “the special lower standards that India and Indians accept for themselves in almost every sphere” as a reason for India’s persistent backwardness. The BIS, which sets standards of production and quality in our country, should aim to set higher and stricter standards for our industries. Unfortunately, the BIS and its predecessor, the Indian Standards Institution, have never done this. Recently, the public works department of West Bengal approved the use of a certain material as a waterproofing mixture which has no capacity to prevent water seepage. Bodies like the BIS should either shape up or shut shop. The American or British standards may be adopted with suitable changes, making allo-wances for Indian conditions. This would also be in keeping with the dem- ands of a global market.

Yours faithfully,
Anil K. Kar, Calcutta


Sir — Since drinking water found in most public places in the country is generally unfit for consumption, bottled mineral water is the only alternative to quench one’s thirst when out-doors. One assumed that the Bureau of Indian Standards’ stamp on these bottles was an assurance of quality, but the report, “Pesticide in bottled water, govt stamped” (Feb 5), dispels such notions. It now appears that only natural mineral water is really safe, even though it is not sold by very big companies.

Yours faithfully,
Kabita Roy, Howrah


Sir — It is shocking that all but one of the brands chosen in the CSE study of mineral water contained carcinogens and other impurities that could damage the liver and kidney, besides pesticide levels 79 times higher than permissible limits. What has the Bureau of Indian Standards been doing to check this' It is obvious the chemists and inspectors who are supposed to ensure compliance with standards have not been doing their duty. They should be punished for what amounts to criminal negligence.

Yours faithfully,
Govinda Bakshi, Budge Budge


Sir — Water supplied by the Calcutta municipal corporation now seems to be far safer than the big mineral water brand-names like Bisleri, Kinley, McDowell and so on. Moreover, they are much more expensive. Will consumer protection bodies now take steps to bring these companies to book and arrange for some compensation for those who have already suffered'

Yours faithfully,
Sumant Poddar, Calcutta


Sir — The civic authorities should now also take steps to apprise the people of the quality of the water supplied from Tala tank.

Yours faithfully,
Diptimoy Ghosh, Calcutta


The spoilsports

Sir — What gives the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, the Shiv Sena and other Hindutva outfits the authority to resist the so-called onslaught of Western culture in India (“Culture cops howl as V-Day extends to week”, Feb 13)' When will they stop reminding us of our culture, or the need to preserve our “Indianness” and instead, start addressing the larger issues that affect society' They may be opposed to what they term the commercialization of love, but the general public has no problems with Valentine’s Day.

Yours faithfully,
Rahul Sinha, Berhampore


Sir — Today’s youth is completely caught up with material values, with mobile phones and motorcycles, and this obsession becomes more pronounced in the run-up to Valentine’s Day. They are quite unlike the pre-independence generation which did not care for money or material things at all. Times change after all, but where is this generation headed'

Yours faithfully,
Jitesh Sonee, Calcutta


Sir — Without holding a brief for the Hindutva-parties, there is something really sickening about the Valentine’s Day craze among the youth — the silly stuffed toys, the soppy cards and the still soppier sentiments.

Yours faithfully,
J. Gupta, Calcutta


Sir — All the world loves a lover, or so it is said. But surely not the the so-called culture cops, the Shiv Sena goons, who play spoilsport before every Valentine’s Day. But where was the Shiv sainik’s consideration for Indian culture when Michael Jackson was given a red-carpet welcome in Mumbai and feted at Bal Thackeray’s household' The Shiv Sena has no right, whatsoever, to stop people from doing what they want to do as long as they do not hurt anyone. Instead of trying to save Indian culture, the Shiv Sena should concentrate on improving conditions in Mumbai. The Shiv Sena is essentially a party without any ideology. Its political choices are dictated solely by its desire to grab power. To this end, it constantly devises short-term strategies to draw attention to itself. But it is not so easy to curb cupid. One hopes these guardians of culture soon get tired of doing the same thing every year.

Yours faithfully,
Priyanka Aich, Calcutta


Parting shot

Sir — A general fascination with the fine arts — dance, music, and painting — and sports has led to the mushrooming of schools to train children in these areas. Some of these do not have any credentials and even the ones that do are often no good either. Take one run by a noted Bharatanatyam exponent in south Calcutta. Though the school uses her name to get children admitted, the dancer herself hardly ever teaches the young ones.

In fact, many students who have been in the school for over five years are yet to catch a glimpse of her. All this despite the fact that during the admission, she promised to take at least two classes herself in a month. Classes are taken by lesser known teachers. Exorbitant sums are often demanded on the pretext of organizing dance festivals. Annual certificates are not given to the students and the student may even have to cough up a hefty sum to acquire such a certificate. The accounts of such schools and their founders need to be investigated to prevent such unscrupulous practices.

Yours faithfully,
Shyamal Kr. Ghosh, Calcutta


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