Sir — Why does V.P. Singh coming out in support of Sonia Gandhi come as no surprise (“Rajiv tormentor campaigns for ‘Indian’ Sonia”, Nov 7)' The former prime minister has always been a master of doublespeak. A former maharaja of Mandu, he fashioned himself as a champion of the lower castes and made political capital out of Mandal, not caring that he was sending the nation into a tizzy and changing the political equations forever. Despite his high moral stand, he had no compunctions getting the government to spend crores on his treatment abroad. Notwithstanding his having renounced political life, Singh quite relishes his role of political guru. Time and again he makes statements to the media which stir the political waters. Even among the general run of hypocrite politicians, Singh is an exception. Sonia Gandhi would do well without such “support”. After all, with friends like these she doesn’t need enemies.
J. Mukherjee, Calcutta
Sir — Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani are playing a political game by tinkering with the haj pilgrimage regulations. At this late hour, when we are already into Ramadan month and most Muslims have made their haj plans, the withdrawal of the subsidy to all income tax-payers, all those who are not travelling for the first time or have not opted for accomodation arranged by the Haj Committee, seems deliberately designed to create mischief and provoke. Especially since, the arbitrary changes have been made without taking into confidence any representative of the 150 million Muslims of India. After all, the haj is one of the most important religious duties of Muslims.
If the government intended to reform the process with the objective of facilitating the travel of haj pilgrims, it should have espoused a more transparent process. While the economy is being privatized, why are Muslim pilgrims being subjected to such harsh measures' Is this the price of going easy on the Babri Masjid imbroglio' Or is it to win votes in the coming assembly elections'
Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai
Sir — The decision of the government to fix air fares for haj piligrims at Rs 12,000 is unjust since the so-called subsidy is notional not actual (“Fare subsidy for haj pilgrims”, Nov 16). The normal return fare from Mumbai to Jeddah is around Rs 20,000, but the chartered flight costs much less. AirIndia should not tax hapless piligrims just because under the haj legislation, it has the monopoly to ferry passengers.
M. Akhtar, Hyderabad
Sir — How can the Indian government, which calls itself “secular”, grant subsidies to haj pilgrims. The Constitution assures equality of all citizens, but the haj subsidy is a discrimination in favour of the Muslims, since no such subsidy is given to citizens of other religions. I am surprised that the opposition, declared champions of secularism, are keeping quite on this issue, which will definitely give a fillip to the Hindu extremists.
C.V.K. Moorthy, Calcutta
Bus to nowhere
Sir — The West Bengal government has been trying to present itself as information technology-friendly state and improve its economy piggybacking on the recent business process outsourcing boom. But the state cabinet does not seem serious about it. To develop BPO in West Bengal one has to have the infrastructure in place — something the government seems oblivious to.
Though most of the BPO and IT-enabled services companies are located in Sector V of Salt Lake, there is little means of communication to and from this place to the rest of Calcutta and its outskirts when the offices start or end. Most of these companies run in shifts — 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So the morning-shift employees working there need to reach office by 6 in the morning and the afternoon-shift workers leave office at 10 at night. At both these times, there is hardly any transport available.
Being a daily commuter to Sector V from Garia, I have found that two or three empty buses jostle with each other during the day, but in the early morning buses, or after 10:30 pm, there are no buses. Most state buses do not enter Sector V and as a result autorickshaws, private buses, private transport companies with chartered Sumos and buses do a booming business.
As a result, the companies who face trouble getting their employees to office in time, they arrange for transport for them. This proves quite costly and is, in fact, a major deterrent to investors wanting to set up offices there.
The ministries of IT and transport should sit together to work out a hasslefree transport system for the employees of Sector V.
Saibal Bishnu, Calcutta
Sir — The students of the Bengal Institute of Technology have a long-standing demand for bus-stops in front of their two college buildings, located on the Basanti highway. The deputy director of operations has already issued the requisitory order, but the stop is yet to materialize. Students of BIT face a lot of difficulty reaching college on time as a result. The transport minister and the chief minister must do all they can to fulfil the students’ demand.
Ananya Banerjee, Bhagar, South 24 Paraganas