Sir — It is disgraceful that the chief minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, has endorsed the decision to allow only 13 newspapers to be offered to readers in state-funded libraries (“Library nanny, give us daily good news”, March 29). The newspapers that have got the library services department’s approval are known for their support to the present dispensation at Writers’ Buildings. The banishment of other widely-circulated dailies from libraries and reading rooms across the state shows that Banerjee will tolerate no criticism of her government. I would not be surprised if this sort of censoring becomes more widespread in the future. It is evident that the Trinamul Congress does not want citizens to be aware of any development that tarnishes its image as a party for the people.
This decision will have long-term repercussions. The government cannot cover up the truth by banning certain newspapers from libraries, since there are many more regular readers of these dailies all over the state. Moreover, this move will jeopardize the government’s ability to gauge public reactions to events. This will result in inaction on the part of the government, and that may not be its intention at all. Censure by newspapers should be welcomed by the government as constructive criticism.
Debanjan Mukherjee, Calcutta
Sir — A number of leading Bengali dailies and most widely read English dailies that the government thinks are “published or purported to be published by any political party” will no longer be kept in state libraries, in order to “develop free thinking among the masses”. It is, therefore, ironic that among the newspapers available to readers in libraries are Sangbad Pratidin, and a Hindi daily, Sanmarg. The former is owned by Srinjoy Ghosh, who was elected to the Rajya Sabha on a TMC ticket, as was its associate editor, Kunal Ghosh. The editors of Sanmarg and the Urdu daily, Akhbar-e-Mashriq, Vivek Gupta and Nadimul Haque respectively, are also in the Rajya Sabha on TMC tickets. One wonders if the current state of affairs is the paribartan the TMC promised to usher in. The opposition parties and the Congress have branded this move as undemocratic.
Wazir Hossain, Calcutta
Sir — The decision to remove certain newspapers from state-run libraries is a blatant attempt to clamp down on the freedom of the press. Mamata Banerjee’s government should do its job instead of trying to curb free speech. If the chief minister is serious about good governance, she should take criticisms of her government in the right spirit and try to improve its administrative performance. Intolerance is the hallmark of autocracy. The TMC must realize that winning absolute majority does not mean it can rule the state; it can only govern it. It is obvious that Banerjee wants people to read only those papers that openly support her government, or do not criticize it. It has taken Banerjee only 10 months to became as dictatorial as her predecessors from the Left Front. One hopes that better sense will prevail in the end.
Pradyot Datta, Bankura
Sir — The government’s resolution to banish all but 13 newspapers from state libraries across West Bengal is a danger sign. This might be the first of many steps to curb dissenting voices and the freedom of the press. Moreover, the government’s decision to delegate some crucial responsibilities handled by zilla parishads to relevant district magistrates reveals its disdain for democratic institutions (“Not local rule”, March 28). People cutting across classes and political affiliations should strongly protest against such attempts to silence dissent. This appalling trend must be nipped in the bud.
Anil Kumar Choudhury, Kalyani
Sir — Democracy in West Bengal is taking a real beating — even the right to read newspapers of one’s choice is being curtailed. The chief minister ratified the decision to allow only 13 dailies in state libraries, and reportedly said that everything was done according to government policy. It is interesting to note that the dailies that the government has approved of are not free of political affiliations; many of them have undeniable links to the TMC.
Amlan Kusum Chakraborty, Calcutta