Sir — France elected the socialist leader, Francois Hollande, as its new president. He has replaced Nicolas Sarkozy (“Sarkozy out as France turns Left and against austerity”, May 7). Europe is going through a terrible time. Every country in the European Union, barring Germany, is finding it difficult to recover from the economic crisis. France’s budget deficit is huge. The expenditure required to run the country must be contained. If this does not happen, no one can stop France’s debts from escalating further.
Mukul Ranjan Chakraborty, Calcutta
Sir — The presidential election in France has adhered to a familiar pattern. Capitalism and socialism have taken turns to plague the nation. The rise and the fall of the Roman empire and of the erstwhile Soviet Union, as well as the emergence of a totalitarian China, are all part of this familiar cycle. The welfare states in Europe are on the verge of a collapse. France’s economy has not managed to avert the economic crisis sweeping across Europe. It has veered towards the left now. Often, welfare support is treated as a right. Nations that fail to grow economically while maintaining a welfare state model think that the easiest thing to do is to resort to leftist ideology. In India, too, unsustainable welfare plans are in place.
R. Narayanan, Ghaziabad
Sir — The Supreme Court has directed the government to phase out the subsidy for Haj pilgrims over a period of 10 years (“SC orders Haj subsidy phase-out”, May 9). The money thus saved can be used more effectively to improve the lot of the Muslim community.
Two crucial things need to be considered in the light of the apex court’s directive — the faith of the Muslims and the need for the community’s social and economic development. A vast majority of Muslims cannot afford to make the Haj pilgrimage, but wish to do so at least once in their lives. Whether matters of religious faith are more important than education and development cannot be debated simplistically. Irrespective of the Haj subsidy, funds need to be allocated for the community’s development. With economic prosperity, many Muslims may be able to afford the pilgrimage on their own. Government funds and schemes meant for appeasing sectarian sentiments cannot benefit any community. The Muslim community must make a concerted effort to better its lot. The Supreme Court’s directive is praiseworthy, but it will not be easy to implement in a complex, diverse country like India. After all, India is still struggling to come to terms with the Babri Masjid controversy, reservations, discrimination on the basis of religion and communal riots.
Zulfikhar Akram, Bangalore
Sir — The apex court’s directive to the Centre to progressively phase out the Haj subsidy is welcome. It cannot be denied that the subsidy was often misused. However, 10 years is too long a period over which the subsidy is to be phased out. It would perhaps be better if it were done away with immediately. It is not right to grant any sort of subsidy to a particular community in a secular nation.
Gururajan Ramachandran, Ooty
Sir — Mukul Kesavan’s article, “Remembrance of things past” (May 6), made for a delightful read. Reliving the past and the memories associated with childhood can be pleasurable for both the author and his reader. I belong to the same generation as Kesavan. I, too, am tempted to share memories of some things that meant the world to us when we were young.
There was a brand of chewing gum called Chiclets at that time, and bottles of Tata shampoo. Back in the day when dental care had not achieved the importance it has today, we relished the fresh taste of the chewing gum. My siblings and I derived great pleasure in shaking the bottles of Tata shampoo and working up a froth. But the most exciting thing was an attractive set of colourful felt pens, usually owned by a classmate who had received the coveted thing from a relative living abroad. Scented erasers were a rage as well. The next generation, belonging to a post-liberalization era, has grown up on a diet of gadgets and gizmos. These young people have not experienced the pleasures that we discovered in the simple things in life.
Ajanta Paul, Calcutta