Sir — Ashok Mitra’s article, “Pretence stays king” (April 6), is full of biased ideas and shallow knowledge. Mitra has found fault with all the policies of the Central government. His contention is that in India “…it is less than patriotic to ask too many questions ...for defence and security.” I think we have a free Parliament and free press that allow opponents such as Mitra to voice their opinions.
Mitra’s view hold true for his model state, China, which spends approximately $107 billion on defence compared to an estimated 41.3 billion rupees spent by India. Mitra feels that the Rs 70,000 crore spent on food subsidy every year is a wastage of “precious public money”, but, surprisingly, laments the reduction in fertilizer subsidy. Mitra has also talked about the animal spirit. Perhaps he is not aware that it is the animal spirit of the people that helps generate wealth in a country that is taxed by the politicians in the name of social service.
Asoke C. Banerjee, Calcutta
Sir — The likes of Ashok Mitra have always considered institutions such as the Indian army to be a waste of valuable resources. This is evident from his criticism of the budget for its allocations to the armed forces. Communists in India consider the Chinese military to be the only useful army in the world. They think that deploying the Indian army along the Chinese border is a waste of public money. Indian communists allegedly did not see anything wrong in China attacking India in 1962. Perhaps the mindset of the current crop of communist leaders remains the same. This is why Mitra sees no threat from the Chinese on India’s northeastern border. Maybe he is of the opinion that the Indian army would hardly be able to contain an attack by China and that India might as well save money by not modernizing its army. Moreover, what is the point of sacrificing young lives for a lost cause?
As far as tensions on India’s western borders are concerned, they are possibly a hype created by overzealous ‘right-wing Hindus’. Surely, the wars that India has fought with Pakistan were due to misunderstandings created by right-wing Hindu extremists? Was the war in Kargil fought for the ‘realization of justified and legitimate aspirations of the Kashmiri people’ then? Perhaps it would be a good idea for India to hand over Kashmir to Pakistan and withdraw its army from the western front. There would be peace thereafter on that front until Pakistan starts demanding other territories in India.
Mamata Banerjee notwithstanding, India has had no serious disputes with Bangladesh yet. Bangladesh wants some more land and more water from the Ganges. India should oblige the country and dole out these small favours. Such a step should pacify our neighbour. Then there would be no need to maintain an army in the east as well. This will help India save millions.
The money saved can then be distributed in the form of hefty allowances among politicians, who are always hungry for wealth and power. The government employees should be given their share as well, as per the recommendations of pay commissions. Thereafter, whatever is left can then be distributed among poor villagers who are party workers.
Sanjay Sharma, Calcutta
Sir — The editorial, “Not enough” (April 4), assesses the chief minister’s bold attempt to amend the West Bengal Land Reforms Act, 1955. But the government considered passing the bill in the state assembly without taking due cognizance of the need to free the land from the shackles of outdated laws. Banerjee is clearly caught in a dilemma: she is against the forceful acquisition of land but has to meet the needs of industry. One possible solution can be to buy land at the market rate. But this could give rise to problems as well.
The ownership of land in West Bengal is fragmented, thus making it difficult to buy large tracts. Archaic laws in the state are another hindrance. Consequently, the government cannot buy land even if it has the purchasing power. Neither can it give companies adequate land to set up new industries.
The editorial correctly points out that the principal factor behind Banerjee’s victory over the Left Front was her opposition towards the acquisition of agricultural land.
Her opposition relied on populist principles — agricultural land would not be used for setting up industry and the government would acquire land to facilitate new businesses.This left industrialists with no alternative but to buy land directly from the farmer. They were forced to take recourse to the second option, given the fragmented land holdings in the state and the complications in the ownership-tenancy rights. It is time Banerjee takes stock of her actions and works towards the betterment of the state.
P.B. Saha, Calcutta
Sir — The report in The Telegraph (“Economist leaves”, April 9) that I had left the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in Kozhikode “in a huff” is without any basis. Because of a medical emergency in my family, I had sought and obtained, even before going to Kozhikode, the approval of the general secretary of the party for leaving the Congress midway, at the time I did.
Prabhat Patnaik, Delhi