Sir — The prime minister, Manmohan Singh, has admitted that malnutrition among children is a “national shame” (“Malnutrition a matter of shame, says PM”, Jan 11). He said this after a new survey found that 42 per cent children under five were underweight in India — a nation which boasts of a high level of growth. Countries with much lower levels of GDP have wiped out this stigma. But India lacks the political will to address this problem since children’s distress cannot topple any government. They are not voters.
N.K. Das Gupta, Calcutta
Sir — A controversy is brewing over the scheduled visit of Salman Rushdie, the eminent India-born British novelist, to India (“Don’t need visa to visit, Rushdie” Jan 11). Rushdie is scheduled to visit India to participate in the Jaipur Literature Festival along with a galaxy of other novelists. Dar-ul Uloom Deoband, the Islamic seminary, has demanded that the Central government debar the entry of Rushdie, whose novel, The Satanic Verses, had outraged the Muslim world, resulting in the novel being banned in India in 1988. However, over time, the agitated nerves of the protesters have calmed and Rushdie, who had to remain underground for several years, is leading a normal life at present. He has visited India several times since then and even participated in the Jaipur Literature Festival in 2007, without inviting any protest. Therefore, the cause of the recent flare up is not clear.
It seems that the forthcoming polls in five states, especially in Uttar Pradesh, have some thing to do with the development. Perhaps the issue has been brought to the forefront keeping in mind the sizeable Muslim population of UP whose voting pattern might tilt the balance of power in the state. India, which is avowedly a secular nation, has already disgraced itself by being amenable to such irresponsible and fundamentalist demands on earlier occasions. Rushdie is not coming to India to preach religious values, but to participate in a literary event. No political or religious issue should mar the event. The United Progressive Alliance government, which has already burnt its fingers by mishandling several issues in the recent past, should not allow a further infringement of the hallowed tenets of the Constitution by giving in to the Dar-ul Uloom Deoband’s demand.
S. Bhattacharjee, Calcutta
Sir — I am astounded at the way education has been politicized in Bengal (“College rules”, Jan 9). When I was a student, colleges were simply places where one went to study, and teachers were everything to us. We had to attend their lectures to score well in examinations. If the teacher was not good enough, we would take a nap inside the classroom, but never thought of beating him or her up.
I am amazed at the recent incident in Raiganj College, where students affiliated to a particular political party has committed the condemnable act of beating up the principal because they were prevented from filling up nomination papers. The students could have gone to his office to discuss the problem. They could make such a show of might because they are confident of their power, which stems from their political affiliation.
The chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, has to go a long way if she wants to rid Bengal of this curse. But first of all, she will have to bring about a slew of changes within her own party.
Ashish Kabra, Hindmotor, Hooghly