Sir — What could be more damning for West Bengal than “Vivek runs to Mumbai and Ash’s doctor” (July 18)' Calcutta’s bridges and flyovers are proving to be attractive sites physically, but are failing to inspire confidence among people or foreign investors, much less in the minds of the highest paid cinestars of the country. That is why despite being assured of the best medical help, the Oberois could not trust the city to carry out a seemingly risk-free operation on their actor son, Vivek. Remember the calamity that had befallen the more ordinary Patel family when they trusted the Seth Sukhlal Karnani Memorial Hospital to conduct a similar operation on their 17-year-old son, Rajnees' There is a discreet message that the Oberoi accident conveys to the leftist government of the state. A mere facelift is not sufficient guarantee for better governance. Star performers and star investors also need to get the aroma of a strong commitment on the part of the government.
B. Chatterjee, Calcutta
Sir — I disagree with the editorial, “Apparent drop” (July 16), which attributes India’s slipping from the 124th to the 127th position in the United Nations human development report to the inclusion of two more countries. The addition of a few countries to the list does not mean India has to fall further behind three more countries. The editorial also argues that India is not sub-Saharan Africa and that liberalization has reduced poverty and improved educational indicators. But the fact is that India actually fares far worse than a sub-Saharan country like Botswana in the 2003 HDR. Disinvestment and the large-scale retrenchment of workers in the government sector under the pretext of liberalization have turned out to be counter-productive and this has manifested itself in the dismal performance of India in the HDR. The Indian government seems more committed to the forces of globalization than fulfilling its social responsibility. It is probably because of this attitude that Sri Lanka, a country poorer than India, is placed higher than it in the HDR.
The disinvestment policy is ill-suited to India, particularly because it negates the concept of a welfare state which is enshrined in the Constitution. It is the government’s duty to feed the poor and to create employment. Even a capitalist country like the United States of America has to follow these basic principles of governance. That is why its unemployed receive a handsome allowance from the state. India does not provide such social security although it has a meagre 58 per cent employment ratio. The Indian government has to balance its policies if it wishes to rise in the human development index.
Sujit De, Sodepur
Sir — The facts that emerge from the human development index are shocking. India’s performance with regard to health and women’s empowerment have been particularly bad. A developing country like India needs to spend a lot on the health sector. But public funds are either wasted or inefficiently utilized. The situation is particularly bad in the rural areas. Women’s empowerment in a country where female foeticide and infanticide continue unabated remains a dream. Modern technology is being used to determine the sex of the unborn baby and subsequently kill the female foetus. This is the reason the male-female ratio is so dismal in India. The raging debate in Parliament over reservations for women also indicate that the Indian mindset has remained unchanged despite increase in literacy rate and betterment of economic conditions in the new millennium.
Ratnanka Bhattacharya, Calcutta
Sir — The human development report shows that life is getting better in India, but also warns about India being the world’s hungriest nation. Hunger is the natural corollary of India’s failed family planning programme. It is a matter of concern that while the educated voluntarily adopt small-family norms, the poor and the illiterate continue to produce more and more children for their economic security. With no education and privilege the latter always end up on the wrong side of the law. This trend may prove disastrous when one small section of the “haves” find themselves outnumbered by a larger section of the lawless “have-nots”.
India should follow China as role model and make the two-children norm compulsory by legislation so that a woman going for a second delivery is automatically sterilized in government and private hospitals. There should be disincentives like cancellation of promotion for people with large families and incentives for those who have a small one.
Subhash Chandra Agrawal, Delhi
Sir — In spite of getting substantial loans from foreign donors and aid agencies, India has performed badly in the matters of handling the basic needs of its population. What is most pitiable is its policy of building buffer stocks of grains while it miserably fails to face the problem of hunger. No wonder India today has the distinction of being home to the largest number of hungry people (about 233 million). India’s performance in spreading literacy is also far from satisfactory. It is surprising that out of 115 million children who do not attend school in poor countries, 40 per cent belong to India. Although the infant mortality rate has come down to 10 per cent from 12 per cent, this is no indicator that India’s healthcare has improved. Poverty and illiteracy continue to remain India’s central problems.
B.S. Ganesh, Bangalore