Sir — The proposition of the United Progressive Alliance to place a 5-7 per cent cess on the corporate sector for social development is novel (“Centre weighs social development cess for firms”, June 28). There has been a lot of hype lately about how well “India Inc.” has been doing. However, the very idea of corporate social responsibility — giving back value-added services and facilities to the society from which the corporate sector derives its sustenance — is still quite alien. If the cess is agreed upon finally, it will be like a forced acknowledgement by the private sector of its responsibility to contribute to social development. However, there are two doubts which persist. The special department to be created within the social welfare ministry for this purpose will drain the government of funds. Besides, cess collections will go into the Consolidated Fund of India. It is difficult to believe that this money, as part of this fund, will be used exclusively for social development, since the fund is supposed to be available for a wide range of uses.
Kankana Roy, Calcutta
Not by the book
Sir — It is difficult to understand why the West Bengal state education department wants to throttle the efforts to spread quality education (“Bar on books beyond syllabus”, June 23). Its directive to stop using books other than the ones prescribed is puzzling as the directive has been given to five schools only. It is important to provide students a strong foundation in order to prepare them for competition, and these five schools in Balurghat seemed to be doing just that. If the state believes in ensuring proper education for all children, the education department must lift this strange ban immediately.
Sayan Banerjee, Calcutta
Sir — The state education department in West Bengal seems to be emulating the saffron parties with its decision to prevent five private schools in Balurghat from following text-books of their choice. This is unwarranted. The parents have declared their confidence in the teachers, whom they have entrusted their children’s education with. What objection can the authorities possibly have to an improvement in the quality of teaching' Do they really believe that some selected extra reading will be harmful for the students'
Saptarshi Mukherjee, Calcutta
Sir — I agree with Jyoti Punwani that it is necessary to go through the history text books being taught in our schools and change them where required (“Unlearn the texts”, May 28). But she should perhaps explain why she objects to the Mughals being termed as foreign invaders. Does the term not apply to them'
A government-appointed panel should go through the textbooks of all subjects and classes, and publish lists of errors where necessary. A reputed school in Calcutta goes by recent editions of a geography book that had been originally printed in 1982, and which says that South Africa is ruled by the British even today. Worse still, a student I know was rebuked after pointing out the mistake.
M. Pillai, Calcutta
Sir — The new Central government has taken upon itself the task of “detoxifying” history books whose content had been tampered with by the previous government. It is remarkable how promptly the committee appointed for this purpose has submitted its report.
Dropati Agrawal, Noida
Sir — Ravi Vyas’s article, “Textbook case” (June 11), is ill-informed. Can a single textbook be relevant for urban and rural students; average, medium or bright students; students coming from different family backgrounds, cultures, regions and languages' The reason for the proliferation of cheap guides and notes is only one — the single text-book situation.
Why do academics and decisionmakers in the country want our children to suffer from saffronization, congressization, communistization and other political evils' Let the school boards and education department prepare the curriculum and leave it to private initiative to make the books available in time. There are more important things the government should turn its attention to — provision of drinking water, medical facilities and civic amenities, which are ceremoniously mentioned just before elections to get votes and cheat people.
Coming to the question of the role of private publishers, there is a 15,000-strong publishing fraternity in the country who are fully prepared to take on the challenge of printing new books in time based on the new syllabus. They have new techniques in hand, automatic high-speed printing machines at their disposal and above all, the support of the scholarship and experience of many authors in the country. Open competition will bring down the prices of books and the best books will stay in the market.
Vyas talks of 2 lakh copies. This is a very small number. The private publishers in Uttar Pradesh alone are supplying at least fifty times more books for students of Class IX-XII for a variety of subjects.
Anand Bhushan, president, The Federation of Indian Publishers, New Delhi
Sir — Environmentalists are right in saying that the new three-storeyed building which will come up in the premises of the Victoria Memorial will result in visual pollution (“Marble neighbour for Victoria Memorial”, June 13). The very thought of such a structure is as repulsive as that of one coming up near the Taj Mahal.
If the panel set up by the Calcutta high court was meant to suggest ways of improving the environment of the memorial, was there no other way to do this' There was a purpose behind the big lawns and water bodies around the original building. This was done not simply for beautifying the locale, but also with the intention of preventing any other structure from coming up around its immediate surroundings.
Govind Das Dujari, Calcutta
Sir — It is unlikely that a new “visitors’ centre” on the grounds of the Victoria Memorial will draw more crowds. The typical visitor to the memorial has a certain profile, and it is unlikely that it will be suitable to have a bookshop and a cafeteria there. Is it really worth spending Rs 40 crore on another worthless construction'
Amrita Basu, Kharagpur