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Populism is not the best medicine

Sir — It is apparent that the state health minister, Surya Kanta Mishra, is keen to avoid controversies after the hospital scandals that hounded him last year. Hence his prompt direction — as soon as the opposition made complaining noises — to government hospitals to enable patients to purchase medicines in the premises without having to go outside (“Mishra drugs whip on hospitals”, March 27). This sounds like the answer to all the problems, till one spots the loopholes in the plan. For starters, it is impossible that the 286 different kinds of medicines that the hospitals are required to stock can cover all the ailments. Besides, when it is well known that a majority of these 286 are not in stock in most hospitals, it is a far-fetched directive to rural hospitals to stock an additional 127 kinds. Mishra has claimed that he will not tolerate doctors forcing patients to buy medicines from stores outside the hospital, but has so far not uttered a word about bringing these errant doctors to book. So what does all this amount to in the end' An overdose of populism, which can not heal the real ailments of the state’s health system.

Yours faithfully,
Kishori Pattanaik, Calcutta


Ugly premonitions

Sir — The cold-blooded murder of Haren Pandya, the Bharatiya Janata Party leader and former minister in Gujarat, gives the impression of one’s worst fears coming true about the future of Gujarat. A state which was once one of the most peaceful and prosperous in India has now become one of the most notorious. The Hindutva brigade is largely responsible for the current state of affairs. The pre- and post-Godhra incidents have sullied the image of the state almost beyond repair. And yet, Narendra Modi, the chief minister during the Godhra carnage, has retained power by winning the assembly elections in December. His election speeches smacked of arrogance and he repeatedly displayed contempt for the minorities and claimed that they were unwanted in India.

Where did Pandya stand in this scheme of things' He took an active part in leading Hindu mobs against the minorities during the pogrom, if reports are to be believed. But he fell out with Modi soon after, so much so that Modi persuaded the BJP high command to deny Pandya an election ticket, and himself withdrew the security cover allotted to Pandya.

Only an impartial inquiry will reveal whether Pandya’s murder was pre-meditated and what role, if any, Modi had to play in it. Unless some strong action is taken in Gujarat, it may become too late to check its decline. However much Modi may woo industrialists to the state and industrial barons prostrate before him shamelessly, public confidence, especially of the minorities, is shaken too badly to be taken in by such gestures.

Yours faithfully,
S. Ram, Calcutta


Sir — Haren Pandya was one of the promising leaders of the younger breed. He earned the love and admiration of the people. He also happened to be well-educated unlike most of the current crop of political leaders. It spoke very highly of his dedication to his party when he chose to stick to it despite being humiliated and denied a ticket by Narendra Modi before the assembly elections. It is unfortunate that in the last couple of years, the nation has lost several promising young leaders such as P.R. Kumaramangalam, Rajesh Pilot and Madhavrao Scindia.

Considering the recent history of enmity between Pandya and the Gujarat chief minister, the Union government should initiate a Central-level probe into the death.

Yours faithfully,
Madhu Agrawal, Delhi


Sir — A day after the brutal massacre of Pandits in Jammu and Kashmir, the former home minister of Gujarat, Haren Pandya, was shot at point blank range by unidentified assailants. The intelligence department has, almost predictably, suspected links between Pandya’s killing and the Kashmir massacre. In the communally-charged situation of the country, there is no alternative to alertness and constant vigil to prevent such incidents.

Yours faithfully,
V.A. Gopala, Bangalore


Qualified to fight

Sir — The Supreme Court’s ruling on poll reforms is most certainly welcome (“SC thrusts poll reforms on govt”, March 14). But it is not clear why the apex court has not taken up the issue of educational qualifications of a candidate who wants to contest elections. We have members of parliament who can only put their thumb impression where signatures are required and a chief minister who put down good cooking as her qualification. It is unreasonable to waive the educational qualification requirement for electoral candidates where a minimum educational qualification is mandatory for even the post of a peon or a constable. The minimum qualification for a candidate contesting the elections should be graduation.

The Election Commission should also make provisions to prevent horsetrading which seems to gain popularity in Indian politics with each passing day. Also, if a first-time elected candidate is not offered a place in the cabinet for a minimum of five years, it might help him focus better on issues at hand and check horse-trading.

Yours faithfully,
Ratan Gupta, Calcutta


Sir — It is interesting that the BJP chose to veto the clause of educational qualification and two others while other parties had no objection to these. These are little things which go to show the problems embedded in a group of persons trying to impose checks and balances on their own activities. It might already perhaps be too late to reform the legislative culture of our country.

But the initiative was welcome nonetheless. It did make the people feel that there was going to be a change in the familiar scenario where people had little option but to elect candidates whose unscrupulousness and corruption were out in the open. The Supreme Court’s order will hopefully help us exercise our right to vote in a more judicious manner.

Yours faithfully,
Diptimoy Ghosh, Calcutta


Sir — Members of a democratic society need to be adequately informed in order to choose their representatives intelligently. It has been said that the Supreme Court’s judgment is an encroachment on the authority of the legislature by the judiciary. But what about the counter-argument that the Supreme Court has only tried to ensure the citizen’s right to information'

Politicians and parliamentarians could really do with some monitoring, if some of the recent instances of unparliamentary behaviour are anything to go by. Parliamentary proceedings are disrupted with unfailing regularity, and except for a few old-timers, few members of the house seem to have any regard for the person sitting in the speaker’s chair. Discipline among politicians and transparency in elections will go a long way towards building a clean governmental set up.

Yours faithfully,
Dinabandhu Mukherjee, Calcutta


Mostly unfair

Sir — The unfair criticism of Sourav Ganguly during the World Cup is only an instance of the recent attacks of the media on celebrities of Bengali origin. Despite his pragmatic and selfless captaincy, which took India as far as the finals, every decision of his was derided and ridiculed, and few words of praise came his way when the same decisions bore fruit. Bipasha Basu, another Bengali star, suffered a similar fate. Although her film, Raaz, was a superhit last year, all the awards functions dumped it unceremoniously, choosing Devdas and even flops like Khushi instead, and heroines of lesser mettle like Kareina Kapoor and Aishwarya Rai over her. In this connection, the hugely popular soaps by Ekta Kapoor must be mentioned, since they specialize in ridiculing Bengali social traditions and even insinuate that Bengalis perform black magic. The English media from Bengal should take a strong stand against this.

Yours faithfully,
Pratim Guha Biswas, Noida


Sir — Sourav Ganguly’s reward for scoring brilliant centuries against Kenya in the super-six and semi-final games in the World Cup was to be derided by an international cricket portal as a “minnows-basher”. This is not merely bad reporting, but also defamation and deliberate improper presentation of fact. How could the reporter forget that in the super-six match, India were 24 for 3 when Ganguly launched his rescue act' Besides, after making it to the last four, Kenya does not deserve the tag of “minnows” any more.

Yours faithfully,
Malay Kumar Kar Ray, Oxford


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