Sir — The Bharatiya Janata Party seems to be lurching from scandal to scandal. It started with the petrol pumps, then came the allegations of Pramod Mahajan’s involvement in the Shivani Bhatnagar murder case. As if that were not enough, Narendra Modi had to make salacious comments about J.M. Lyngdoh. And now party president, M. Venkaiah Naidu, has been accused of usurping land belonging to the landless in Andhra Pradesh ("Scandals swallow BJP's B-team", Aug 24). For the so-called party with a difference, the rivalries and power-struggles within its top leadership is now, rather embarrassingly, coming to the fore. For example, Bangaru Laxman, who blames Naidu for his ignominous exit after the Tehelka revelations, is supposed to have leaked details of the land-grabbing scandal. The Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, must be relieved. Perhaps now the BJP will think twice before bringing up Bofors everytime it wishes to embarrass her.
Anjali Sharma, Calcutta
Sir — The Regional Engineering College of Durgapur would definitely benefit from being declared a national institute of excellence (“Students pay for minister protest”, Aug 5). The elevation would not only help the Centre further improve the standard of RECs in the country, but it would also give the students, faculty and staff several added facilities. It would mean the Centre would provide 100 per cent grants-in-aid to RECs. Though the state government would not have to pay any grants, students in the state would be benefitted as some amount of seats would be reserved for them. Instead of a BE degree, students would get a BTech degree, at par with the Indian Institutes of Technology. Control by the Centre would also mean less delay in announcement of the results of semester examinations.
Given these advantages, one fails to understand why the government of West Bengal rejected the Centre’s proposal. The argument of the higher education minister, that the state would lose control of the REC after upgradation, is ridiculous. Surely control is not more important than the advantages of getting national status' Understandably, a group of students took out a peace march on August 2, which led to the authorities taking disciplinary action against them. Although the authorities agreed to withdraw the suspension order, such irresponsible behaviour on the part of the government could well compromise the career of students. Given that very few people would have the courage to question the writ of the leftists in Bengal, such incidents are likely to occur again.
D. Chakraborty, Jabalpur
Sir — The recent closure of Presidency College, one of the most prestigious institutions of our country, once again brought to the fore the sinister effect of politics on the education system of West Bengal (“Presidency College falls prey to politics of shutdown”, Aug 23). Thus despite all the government’s talk about educational reforms, the situation remains as bleak as it used to be. This latest incident once again explains the reason for the brain-drain from this state to other states and abroad. Unless this is stopped right now, it will continue to tarnish the image of education in the state.
Indranil Chaudhuri, Calcutta
Sir — It is unfortunate that Presidency College had to be closed down for a day. How could a few boys (hooligans would be a better description) dare to keep the principal gheraoed overnight' Where was the police when this was happening' Even more pathetic is the way the minister for higher education showed his unhappiness with principal’s way of dealing with the affair.
Chaitali Tarafdar, Singapore
Sir — Lately, students appearing for science subjects in the higher secondary examinations of the state board are being asked questions modelled on those asked in the joint entrance examinations. But not all students taking up science are interested in becoming doctors or engineers. Many of them would prefer to enter the teaching profession or do research work. Also, what about students from rural Bengal, most of whom do not appear for the JEE. One can only hope that the West Bengal Council for Higher Secondary Education will realize how students are inconvenienced.
Mita Basu, Calcutta
Sir — Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s acknowledgement that the primary education scenario in the state is dismal is not enough (“Task master”, Aug 19). It must be followed up with corrective action. Past instances have proved that the chief minister has often been manipulated by the appartchiki of Alimuddin Street.
Bhattacharjee had first talked of banning private tuitions nearly a year ago but he has still not been able to enforce it. His government foolishly bla-mes private tuition for the problems in the education system. Translating the chief minister’s vision of free primary education for poor children into reality will be difficult given the corruption in the system. Most likely, the funds earmarked for the scheme of providing free meals to poor school children will be misappropriated.
Aditi Gupta, Calcutta
Sir — It is good that the All India Council of Technical Education has decided to withdraw quotas for non-resident Indian students in all IITs (“NRIs set to lose quota in IITs”, Aug 19). It is amazing that it took the AICTE so many years to realize that this system has compromised the standards of excellence associated with the IITs.
S. Bhattacharjee, Kharagpur
Sir — The rape of a minor girl by a drunk in a Mumbai local train is a shocking reminder of the vulnerability of women in India (“Passengers watch as drunk rapes girl”, Aug 17). Yet, despite the rising incidences of sexual offence against women, the Centre is yet to implement the existing laws to ensure the culprits are punished. After making headlines for a few days, such incidents are conveniently forgotten.
Some blame the police for the failure to prevent crimes against women, while others believe the socio-economic transformation that has taken place in India over the last few years is responsible for such crimes. Studies have demonstrated that most rapists have a disturbed childhood and usually have a history of substance abuse. Education could play a vital role in preventing such crimes. But the attitude of society must change if rape victims are to lead normal lives.
Anindya Dey, Calcutta
Sir — It was shocking that seven men witnessed the brutal rape of a twelve-year old mentally challenged girl in a local train in Mumbai, but none came to her rescue. What explains their strange paralysis' Apparently, even a journalist was witness to this incident and wrote about it the next day. This once again exposes the erosion of values in Indian society.
Shivani Chopra, Calcutta