Sir — The legendary sitar exponent, Pandit Ravi Shankar, rightly declined the newly-instituted Banga Bibhushan award that the chief minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, wanted to confer on him (“Ravi Shankar declines award”, May 21). Banerjee seems to have hastily drawn up a huge list of people to whom she wanted to give the new award. This has led to another controversy, because she has clubbed the likes of Ravi Shankar, who is internationally respected and has won awards all over the world, with people who are a generation or two younger than him. This speaks volumes about Banerjee’s understanding of culture. At one go, she seems to have chosen everybody in West Bengal who has contributed to the state’s cultural vibrancy for the award. I wonder whether she will have anybody left to bestow the honour on next year.
I hope that Ravi Shankar’s refusal of the award will help Banerjee realize that it is time for her to stop resorting to political gimmicks. She must remember that Ravi Shankar is not a part of West Bengal’s electorate; nor is it likely that he will extend his support to her party at the time of the next assembly elections. She cannot go on claiming that West Bengal is the “cultural capital of the world” — Satyajit Ray was the sole recipient of an Academy Award from the state.
Banerjee cannot keep squandering public money on expensive, gimmicky awards in order to satisfy her whims. She should concentrate on industrialization and good, violence-free governance in the state. If she really wants to honour personalities who have contributed to the state’s cultural growth, she should help the families of the many former filmmakers, painters and musicians who are living in poverty. It would be good for her image if she helped those who really need her assistance, without expecting anything in return.
Subhankar Mukherjee, Borehat, Burdwan
Sir — Mamata Banerjee arranged a grand felicitation ceremony at the Netaji Indoor Stadium on the day her government completed a year in office. Pandit Ravi Shankar declined the Banga Bibhushan award, which was also being given to many other personalities from different fields. Ravi Shankar is undisputedly far above others in his field, both in terms of his age and achievement. Banerjee could have honoured him with another award, one that would have been appropriate for someone of his stature.
The information and cultural affairs department, which had organized the event, could have advised Banerjee to invite the sitar maestro to another event in order to honour him suitably.
Benu Kumar Bose, Calcutta
Sir — It is a good thing that Ravi Shankar did not accept the Banga Bibhushan award. He must have saved the cash-strapped state of Bengal a large sum of money. Perhaps that money would now be used for the treatment of patients suffering from hooch poisoning. No one should dispute the belief that Bengal is the world’s cultural capital. Citizens should not worry about the fact that Bengal is turning into a laughing stock.
Sumantra Chanda, Santiniketan
Sir — The editorial, “Easy fix” (May 21), made for an interesting read. It is true that most doctors have illegible handwriting, which becomes evident when they write prescriptions for their patients. This does not apply to all doctors. But most men and women of medicine who practice privately — irrespective of whether they have got MBBS degrees or are specialists — display a peculiar antipathy to good handwriting or to developing the habit of writing legibly.
These doctors seem to forget that ordinary people come to them for treatment, pay them money and often trust them with their lives. The former do not seem to realize how dangerous the consequences of their illegible handwriting can be. It was a shocking revelation that wrong readings of prescriptions cause 7,000 deaths each year in the United States of America. Such statistics ought to urge the Indian Medical Association into making it compulsory for those practicing medicine to develop legible handwriting, leaving no room for careless chemists to read the prescriptions wrong.
Dilip Kumar Kar, Pabitrapara, Jalpaiguri