Bus to nowhere
Sir — What is West Bengal’s transport minister, Subhas Chakraborty, trying to achieve by proposing to lease out damaged state buses to unemployed youths (“Subhas cites Asim as roadblock”, July 14)' He is correct to the extent that this will provide employment to some young men. But is it really feasible for these unemployed persons to pay for leasing damaged buses and then spend more money on repairs' If they really had that much capital, wouldn’t they be able to start a business on their own' The only sector Chakraborty’s plan will benefit is the state transport corporation which can increase its revenue in the process. Besides, at a time when the rest of the country is trying to switch over to newer, less-polluting vehicles, is Chakraborty acting responsibly by planning to bring back the smoke-belching behemoths into use' By accusing Asim Dasgupta of blocking important projects, Chakraborty is clearly trying to divert media attention from his dubious plan.
Namrata Pathak, Calcutta
Minister’s day out
Sir — That long stretches of the rail lines in many parts of the country have not been inspected for years will not exactly delight the average Indian train passenger. On top of this, it has been revealed that the drivers are either drunk or too tired most of the time at night (“For Nitish Kumar, every day is a miracle”, July 14). In the workshop convened by the railways minister, railways staff have alleged that understaffing is the prime cause of non-inspection. But the idea that gangmen, who do the bulk of the track inspection, should be recruited from the local villages because they find it difficult to pass the written recruitment examinations is quite absurd. What is the guarantee that these local recruits will have any regard for the safety standards and will take their jobs more seriously than the rest'
Drunken drivers ought to be dealt with an iron hand. Nitish Kumar is supposed to have suggested that drivers and gangmen over 50 years should consider voluntary retirement as a precautionary measure against accidents. He is absolutely right in his suggestion.
Kaushik Guha, Calcutta
Sir — The facts which emerged from the two-day railway safety workshop in New Delhi easily makes one wonder why train accidents do not occur more frequently than they do now. The sooner passengers realize that they are being shortchanged by the railways in spite of paying increased fares every year, the better.
Severe laxity in essential maintenance work, corruption, alcoholism and so on have crept into the system over a period of time and and cannot be wished away overnight. The most important questions now are: what actions are being taken by the department after this revelation, and when will the plans to overhaul the railway operations be actually implemented with special importance given to safety'
Somnath Lahiri, Memphis, US
Sir — Although the photograph of Nitish Kumar looking at an employee found sleeping during working hours made it to newspapers, dereliction of duty by government employees is nothing new (“Nitish sniffs & finds rail stinks”, July 9). Government services in India have come to be associated with employees who drag their feet, are inactive and lazy and think nothing about shirking duty. Small wonder then there is such a scramble to bag a government job. Besides, government jobs also provide ample scope for earning under the table. If the railways minister thinks that he is awarding exemplary punishment to Ganga Lakra, the commercial supervisor of the parcel department at the Patna station, by suspending him, then he is mistaken. If Nitish Kumar had cared to inspect thoroughly, more than half of the railways employees would be without their jobs today.
Jang Bahadur Singh, Jamshedpur
Cup of cheer
Sir — The Indian hockey team deserves more than a pat in the back for its spectacular performance at the Hamburg Masters tournament in Germany recently (“India champions in Hamburg”, June 30 ). The victory comes close on the heels of India’s victory in the three-nation meet in Australia a fortnight ago. India’s performance against some of the top teams of the world has been remarkable because the Indian players have not crumbled under pressure, as they did in the past.
It is important to ensure that the performance can be matched and bettered in the upcoming tournaments. The team-members should be handsomely rewarded, with at least a quarter or more of what their counterparts in the Indian cricket team get.
The current hockey team is made up of some of the most talented players in the history of Indian hockey. They have the potential to vie for the gold medal at the 2004 Olympics.
E.M. Adithyan, Edapal, Kerala
Sir — The Indian Hockey Federation has been looking for a sponsor after Castrol pulled out. The search seems to have come to an end with Sahara India taking on the new role (“IHF gets new sponsor”, July 10). It was beginning to appear that only the Indian cricket team is worthy of getting sponsors. Let us hope India is not on its way to becoming a one-sport nation.
Alekhya Chakrabarty, Calcutta
Sir — The Wimbledon championships 2003 will be remembered for long by tennis lovers in India (“India high on Paes, Sania double treat”, July 7). No less than two Indians featured in two of the finals, and both emerged winners. Both Leander Paes and Sania Mirza have won in the doubles events, which demand greater skill, reflex and application than singles matches. From India’s point of view, Mirza has been the biggest discovery of the tournament. She joins the tennis scenario where one was beginning to get a sense of void, with both Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi past their prime. Mirza will need to be closely watched. She could also give a boost to the women’s game in India where, after Nirupama Vaidyanathan, there has not been any new talent to write home about.
N.G. Haksi, Ranchi