Another meaningless war
Sir — It is obvious that the United States of America is not going to rest until it wages yet another war to oust the Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein, from power (“Bush’s new Osama is Saddam”, Aug 21). After all, Hussein was the US’s number one enemy before its preoccupation with Osama bin Laden and Operation Enduring Freedom. Despite its claims to the contrary, the American “war against terrorism” has been nothing but a resounding flop, with the superpower failing to catch bin Laden or the other big guns of the al Qaida, alive or dead. Hence the US needs another war to make up for its loss of face. Given George W. Bush’s insistence that Iraq is continuing to produce weapons of mass destruction and the fear and paranoia among Americans since September 11, the American president may well succeed in pushing the world towards another war despite the opposition from most of America’s European allies. One can only hope that Bush is prepared for another Vietnam.
Arunava Chatterjee, Calcutta
Sir — Atal Bihari Vajpayee may have found the answer to the question he poses in his poem, “Satta”, “Did nothing bind them to those who died'”, after he became the prime minister (“Power, poetry and blood”, Aug 14). Vajpayee watched silently while Gujarat burnt in what was perhaps independent India’s worst communal riots. The so-called “liberal” face of the Bharatiya Janata Party visited Gujarat a full month after the carnage. Though he expressed his anguish and even asked the chief minister, Narendra Modi, to perform his raj dharma, a week later he changed his tune and advised the minority community to learn how to “adjust” with the majority community for its own safety. In contrast, the chairman of the national human rights commission, J.S. Verma, who visited Gujarat a few days later, indicted the state government for its inaction in no uncertain terms.
The Election Commission team which paid a visit to the state, followed by the chief election commissioner himself, was scathing in its condemnation of officials in the state. When J.M. Lyngdoh refused to hold elections until the situation improved, the BJP began maligning him unfairly.
The last person to visit the state was the president of India and the BJP hoped that he would give the state government a good conduct certificate that would neutralize the adverse comments made by others. After all, the new president had been supported by it. But even A.P.J. Abdul Kalam disappointed. All this time Vajpayee remained silent. Perhaps he has found the answer to his question — no we are not bound to those who were killed.
Dandeswar Saikia, Tezpur
Sir — Article 174(I) of the Constitution says unequivocally that the EC has the right to decide on all matters relating to elections. Thus J.M. Lyngdoh was well within his rights to conclude that the situation in Gujarat was not conducive for polls. But the BJP is still not abashed and Arun Jaitley has gone on the offensive against the EC. The BJP should accept the EC’s ruling and desist from contesting it in court. Elections in Gujarat must be postponed until the situation in the state improves. Perhaps Atal Bihari Vajpayee should go re-read his poem, “Satta”. Maybe that will stop him from playing with the lives of people in Gujarat.
Sumant Poddar, Calcutta
Sir — In its desperation to conduct elections in Gujarat, now that the communal riots in the state have helped the party consolidate the Hindu vote, the BJP has not even desisted from using the president of India (“Centre goes to court via Kalam”, August 19). Every political party, except for the BJP and its allies in the National Democratic Alliance, has said that this is not the right time to hold polls in Gujarat. How much more blood will be shed before the ruling alliance finally gets the message' Yes, the BJP is right when it says that it is different from the Congress — what the Congress could not do in all its years in power, the BJP has done in five years. Look at its achievements — the petrol pump scandal, murder allegations against a minister, the Tehelka scandal. The sooner this government is removed the better for the people of the country.
Kalyan Ghosh, Calcutta
Sir — The proposed ban on gutkha and pan masala is an overreaction (“The big fight”, Aug 11). While no one can contest the undeniable medical evidence that links the chewing of tobacco products with oral submucous fibrosis and oral cancer, smoking of tobacco is a far greater health hazard. There is very little one can do if the person chewing gutkha is an adult who knows of its effects on his health. All that the state can do is refuse subsidized medical treatment to patients suffering from diseases caused by chewing tobacco. This might also discourage the habit among children.
Smoking also harms non-smokers who become victims of passive smoking. Although the Supreme Court has banned smoking in public places, this move has not deterred most smokers. Why is the government action limited to a ban on chewing tobacco and not on smoking' Could this be because the chewing lobby is not as powerful as the smokers lobby'
Tapan Pal, Batanagar
Sir — Although the Supreme Court has issued notices to the Centre on the basis of a petition seeking a nationwide ban on all tobacco products, such a ban will not really prevent people, especially teenagers, who are addicted to gutkha or pan. After all, habits cannot be altered suddenly just because a ban has been imposed. Addicts will get their fix anyway they can, most likely from the illegal market.
Gutkha has become extremely popular with teenagers in the last few years. Stalls have sprung up in every nook and corner, even in remote villages. Instead of imposing an outright ban on tobacco products, the government should launch an awareness campaign against the use of tobacco.
Shiv Kumar Pandey, Calcutta
Sir — “The big fight” was a timely article on the advantages and disadvantages of banning gutkha and pan masala. It was frightening to read that some youngsters consume five to 15 pouches of gutkha every day. Although the government is well aware that chewing tobacco causes oral cancer, it is silent because it earns large revenues from the sale of tobacco products.
Thus the Supreme Court’s move to impose a nationwide ban on gutkha is welcome. Chewing tobacco has already been banned in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. It is high time other states too took the initiative to ban it. The government should provide financial help to tobacco growers and encourage them to switch to other cash crops.
Manoranjan Das, Jamshedpur