Film over their eyes
Sir — What has Aishwarya Rai done in the few years of her acting career to deserve a place on the elite jury of the Cannes film festival (“Cannes calls Ash on its jury”, April 10)' She has played stereotyped roles in a few multi-crore-budget commercial films, where the stress has been on glamour and opulence rather than on conveying a social message or telling a good story. More important, none of these films have created even a ripple in the international arena, with the exception of Devdas, which grabbed attention only because of its huge budget. Cannes may be a feather in Rai’s cap, but she certainly is not one in theirs.
Shreya Biswas, Calcutta
Sir — The frequent crashes of the MiG fighter aircraft into populated areas have not only made the safety record of the Indian air force an issue but also raised serious questions about the design deficiencies in the country’s oldest warhorses.
There is no doubt that the government is trying to phase out the tired aircraft. But there is no explanation about why the procurement of trainer aircraft, the advanced jet trainers, is being delayed for over two decades now. Because of the absence of the AJTs, the air force was forced to convert two squadrons of the oldest MiG fighters into jet trainer aircraft. This neither made the training safe nor reduced accidents.
There have been over 350 crashes involving these aircraft in the last 13 years, with over 130 pilots losing their lives. The MiG-21 and its variants constitute roughly half of the IAF fleet and are regarded now as “flying coffins” because of its high accident rate. The year 2002-03 alone accounts for the loss of 10 such aircraft. The latest accident in Baldevnagar near Chandigarh, when a MiG aircraft crashed into a milk plant, shows how grim the situation is (“MiG crashes again”, April 8). Advanced jet trainers will also help bridge the void in different training levels by providing a slow and steady transition from the Kirans to the MiGs.
The delay could be because of the paucity of funds. But Britain (Hawk) and the Czech Republic (L-159B) have already offered to provide the Indian air force with the latest technology. And if reports are to be believed, both the aircraft have been examined and approved by Indian officials as they met all the standard requirements for a supersonic trainer. The defence budget for this year has also earmarked specific allocations for these.
Time is running out for the government to wake up to the seriousness of the issue and convert its words into action.
Sajid Wasi, New Delhi
Sir — The frequent mishaps of MiG fighter aircraft of the Indian air force send a clear message to the defence establishment of the country. The technical competence of the aircraft is no match for the technology of stealth bombers and remote planes. Besides the lives of young pilots, these old aircraft also endanger the lives of civilians, owing to their frequent crashes in residential areas. The MiGs should be grounded with immediate effect.
R. Sekar, Angul
Sir — The recent Union government initiative to prevent persons with more than two children from contesting elections is a well thought out decision. This, if implemented sincerely, will immediately change the political scene in the country, making way for the more responsible among the netas. To put a check on the dirty vote-bank politics that is practised now, voting rights may also be restricted to persons adopting the two-child norm. This will improve the quality of our democracy.
B.S. Ganesh, Bangalore
Sir — There is a rather funny aspect to the recent Central proposal to bar politicians with more than two children from contesting elections. With most politicians trying to push their sons and daughters into active politics — meaning arranging for election tickets for them — this provision would ensure that there are no more than two children of each politician that a party has to bear on its shoulders.
K. Gopal, Chennai