Sir — I have been extremely surprised, sad and disturbed in the last few weeks as my name has been wrongly mentioned by the print media and television channels in connection with the exhibition of fake Tagore paintings organized by the principal of the Government College of Art and Craft. Such continuous reportage in the media is defamatory and damaging to my reputation as a person of principle and integrity. I would like to mention here that neither the Kolkata International Foundation for Arts, Literature and Culture nor I, as its representative, is in any way connected with the said exhibition. Even printing my name on the exhibition’s invitation card was wrong and done arbitrarily. As far as I know, the initiator and main executor of the exhibition was the principal of the GCAC. I would also like to mention here that collecting and donating one painting believed to be by Tagore cannot amount to organizing the exhibition. It is also a matter of concern that a work of art was presumed genuine and collected. It is also to be noted that I was ill from January 8, 2011 and was out of all activities for the next two months. I have not even seen the exhibition. I really wonder what the reason could be for dragging me into the controversy when I was in no way involved in the organization of the said exhibition. I hope the above explanation will clear misgivings in the mind of the public regarding my alleged involvement in the whole episode.
Jogen Chowdhury, Calcutta
Voice for change
Sir — Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party may have won the recent parliamentary elections but it saw its vote share go down by 15 per cent from the last elections (“Listen carefully”, Dec 14). In an unprecedented show of dissent, thousands of people in Moscow took to the streets after the election results were declared.
Under the circumstances, such discontent is puzzling at first. The Russian economy is healthy in comparison to the debt-ridden economies of the European Union. The Kremlin holds the world’s third- largest foreign currency reserves, Russia is the world’s biggest exporter of energy, and the economy does not run on a budget deficit. The prices of oil and gas remain high, which is beneficial for the country. Taking advantage of this, the Kremlin has splurged in “populist style” — higher pensions, new roads, schools and hospitals.
However, the country faces other worrying problems, including an excessive reliance on energy, a skewed demography because of very low birth rates, a shrinking population and a rapidly failing healthcare system. In spite of lofty promises, the Kremlin does not seem to have done much to address these problems. The Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, has been trying to push a modernization agenda. He urges the diversification of the economy from oil and gas into other industries. Reportedly, this has met with limited success, partly due to the widespread corruption that cripples the country.
Putin has been accused of trading freedom for security. The people of Russia finally seem to have rejected such a government. The current protests and the demand for a re-election seem to echo the mood of the Arab Spring. While this might be worrying for Putin and his colleagues, the situation in Russia is also of international significance.
R. Narayanan, Ghaziabad
Sir — After the recent turmoil in Arab countries like Egypt, Libya, and Syria,unrest has now spread to Russia. Vladimir Putin’s government still seems to carry remnants of Russia’s communist past. Another ‘red’ giant that may be under threat is China. Discontent has already been growing within its borders, as the ethnic clashes with Uighur Muslims proved. If this carries on, all repressive communist regimes could be in danger of internal turmoil.
Arun Malankar, Mumbai
Sir — In his thought-provoking article, “The turmoil within” ( Dec 14), Kanwal Sibal raises questions about the international implications of Pakistan’s troubled future. As Sibal points out, a country shackled to Islamic extremism and a militant polity will not abandon its traditional anti-India stance. This does not bode well for bilateral relations between the two countries.
Having spent 16 years in what was then East Pakistan, I have some knowledge of the power and arrogance of the armed forces that controlled the country. Democratic governments were too short-lived to ensure meaningful public participation in governance. The Hindu minority was treated so badly that it led to a vast influx of refugees into India.Sibal points out that even today the army controls Pakistan’s foreign policy and intervenes in the internal administration. India’s desire to defuse bilateral tensions by granting concessions to Pakistan may be laudable. But such a step would fail to keep the latter under pressure to meet Indian demands. Pakistan, on its part, has done little to reciprocate India’s overtures.
P.B. Saha, Calcutta
Sir — The Supreme Court was correct to observe that the governments of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, currently warring over the Mullaperiyar dam issue, are aggravating matters instead of finding a solution. Leaders like P.J. Joseph, the water resources minister of Kerala and the Tamil leader, Vaiko, have raised a hue and cry. The safety of the dam is vital for everyone in the region, but local leaders are making people panic.