Feeding on the White House
Sir — Courtesy the Clintons, a former presidency is now a flourishing industry in America (“Recipe for big bucks”, Sept 21). Days after Hillary Clinton came out with her bestseller, Living History, we have The Clinton Presidential Center Cookbook with recipes from people who hardly ever wandered into the kitchen. Yet, much like the staid reminiscences from Hillary, the cookbook is bound to be a much-sought-after product from the Clintons who continue to bask in the limelight long after they said goodbye to the White House. But why the hoopla' Is it because the Clintons are an exceptionally greedy couple who are making the most of their popularity to keep alive their political career' Or is it that the people cannot have enough of a president who did not shy away from becoming a sex symbol while he was in office' Perhaps a bit of both. While the Clintons assure themselves of another political run, their books keep feeding people scraps from the White House kitchen and bedroom.
Jayshree Kundu, Calcutta
Sir — India’s low-key response to the overtures of Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri, the Pakistan foreign minister, and the subsequent scuttling of his proposed visit have suddenly chilled relations between the neighbours (“Snubbed Pak calls off trip”, Sept 19). The incident proves that Indian foreign policy continues to suffer from an alarming lack of vision and occasional bouts of amnesia. It was the Indian prime minister who had called for a resumption of dialogue between the two countries. Yet when the Pakistani foreign minister proposed to personally invite Atal Bihari Vajpayee to the forthcoming summit of the south Asian association for regional cooperation in Islamabad, his Indian counterpart had the temerity to snub him, thereby jeopardizing the entire peace process. New Delhi should first decide whether it wants to solve its problems with Pakistan militarily or through diplomatic channels. Such Indian doublespeak will only add to the confusion.
Jayanta Sen, Calcutta
Sir — One should remember that Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri’s proposed visit coincided with renewed militant activity in Kashmir. Allowing a high-ranking Pakistani delegate to visit India during such a time would have been seen as a sign of weakness on the part of New Delhi. The refusal to play host to Kasuri is also consistent with India’s argument that New Delhi would not initiate bilateral talks with Islamabad unless Pakistan took concrete steps to stop cross-border terrorism in Kashmir. Instead of rebuking the foreign minister, one should applaud his patriotism.
Bholanath Roy, Calcutta
Sir — The prospects of the SAARC summit to be held in Islamabad appear rather bleak given that bilateral relations have suddenly taken a nosedive with India declaring that the Pakistan foreign minister would be “unwelcome” on its soil. The fracas has raised serious doubts about India’s participation in the forthcoming summit. India has boycotted the summit on two occasions in the past. It may have more military and economic might than the other members of the SAARC, but India has no right to belittle the association or use it to push its agenda.
Konkona Mukherjee, Calcutta
Sir — Cocking a snook at its own traditional notion of hospitality, India has decided to remind the Pakistan foreign minister that there are “other diplomatic channels” available for extending an invitation. The manner in which the Indian foreign minister, Yashwant Sinha, has made his point, violates the norms of international diplomacy and shows India in a very poor light. The prime minister’s office should issue a letter of apology to sort out things and re-start the peace process with Pakistan.
T.R. Anand, Calcutta
Sir — The reasons cited by Yashwant Sinha to justify his rebuttal of the Pakistan foreign minister are insubstantial. Countries like Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka did not have any problems hosting the Pakistan foreign minister when he went to deliver his invitations to their respective heads of government. India’s attempts to strike a different pose merely confirm the shortsightedness of its political leadership.
Kalyan Ghosh, Calcutta
Sir — A bunch of corrupt and tactless political leaders is desperately trying to ward off public attention from its numerous failures. Yashwant Sinha’s refusal to host his counterpart is an indication of this.
Biswanath Chakraborty, Calcutta
Sir — The proposed hike in the daily wages of contract labourers is highly inadequate considering the living conditions of these poor people (“Centre lines up minimum wage hike”, Sept 19). The government has never desisted from hiking the salaries of its bloated staff despite the dangers it holds for the economy. Yet, unlike the government employees poor labourers have not been offered a decent pay hike as often. Labourers work harder than government employees and almost never receive pay for overtime. The nexus between government officials and contractors in most of the jobs has made things particularly difficult for the labourer. Contract workers perform dangerous tasks in industries without adequate safety devices, risking their life. Not only should the daily wages be increased more substantially, there should be proper infrastructure to safeguard their rights. The law should be made stringent to address the grievances of a section which is never benefitted by the reforms carried out by the government.
R. Sridhar, Calcutta
Sir — Daily-wage labourers have no work hours, and no other facilities like provident fund, employees’ state insurance, leave wages, bonus, gratuity and so on. For now, the government has washed its hands by increasing the basic minimum wage, but it also has to ensure that this basic minimum is adhered to. The minium wage may now be Rs 70, but it may never be actually paid. The labour market is governed by the dictum “the higher the supply, the lower the demand”. Which means labourers have to be satisfied with whatever is offered. In the end, labour inspectors and employers will determine what the basic wage will be.
Jang Bahadur Singh, Jamshedpur