End of innocence
Sir — The photograph of the young participant at the regional round of the television dance competiton, Boogie Woogie, embodies all that is wrong with the “Bollywood-culture” that has gripped the country (The Telegraph, page 9, Sept 23). Music or dance — it seems as if the country has no glorious tradition of performing arts save the bawdy hotch-potch that the Hindi film industry in Mumbai dishes out. Post-modernists might sanctify Hindi films as popular culture and indeed, one can’t deny that Bollywood products are very much the product of their times. But what is especially worrying is what this “Bollywood culture”, beamed day in and day out into our living rooms, is doing to children. They seem especially vulnerable, taking great joy in imitating the dances, the dialogues, the mannerisms. The children of course are oblivious to how grotesque these very-adult emotions and gestures look on them. But what about the audiences and parents'
P.C. Banerjee, Calcutta
Sir — The Supreme Court verdict, upholding the new syllabus published by the National Council of Educational Research and Training, will help overhaul the outdated education system (“Court seal on Joshi’s syllabus”, Sept 13). The present education system is the legacy of Lord Macaulay. Designed to produce a generation of clerks schooled in Western ways and faithful to the British, Macaulay’s system sidelined all references to the high points of Indian history. Instead, it attributed all major developments in civilization and scientific innovations to the West, thereby inspiring admiration for the West in Indian students.
The Supreme Court’s verdict will be welcomed by all those who agree that India’s public life has reached the depths of immorality. Value education is very necessary today, and where needed must be enforced with an iron hand. All criticism of these much-needed improvements, on the grounds that they are an attempt to “saffronize” education, are obviously politically motivated and must be shrugged off. Today’s youth must be made aware of our culture and the values that have been handed down by philosophers and thinkers down the ages. Inculcating right values in the youth — the leaders of tomorrow — will help provide clean and accountable governments in the future. Character-building is, in effect, nation-building, and this exercise should have received the first priority after independence.
D. Tapkire, Mumbai
Sir — The Supreme Court’s endorsement of the new NCERT syllabus is indeed disappointing (“Sangh crows over syllabus victory”, Sep 14 ). Including religion in the syllabus is a dangerous ploy because what is “dharma” to one may be “adharma” to another. Students may mug up whatever information their text-books contain but the sangh parivar should realize that not all opinions are formed by reading books. One hopes students will have the better sense not to limit their knowledge to their text-books alone.
Aparajita Dasgupta, Calcutta
Sir — There is a problem in teaching “Ram Rahim ek hai” as part of an exercise in “value education” to children, who are very literal-minded on the whole. Today’s children, especially, who can see religious communities in open strife, are hardly likely to buy that doctrine. Surely they should be spared having to discover later in life that what they have been taught is only an illusion' They can see for themselves that values like secularism and tolerance are endangered today.
Instead, authorities could introduce free midday meals once a week, the menu of which would include a wide variety of cuisines from all over the country. This might be a novel way of teaching children that all religious and regional differences need not be bad.
Meher Engineer, Calcutta
Sir — K.B. Sahay is right in saying that sophisticated technologies are not for a poor country like India (“The poor showing continues”, Sept 16). In the economically prosperous West, technology does not have as adverse an impact since the educated masses can adapt to change. Even when retrenchment does take place, there are doles to help people make ends meet. But in India, the lack of labour-intensive technologies have aggravated the problem of unemployment by leading to more retrenchments and fewer recruitments.
The modern technology-led growth can benefit only a few. Worse, it widens the gulf between the rich and poor. This is what happened in Argentina, where the economy collapsed and the people took to the streets, looting shops. The government should devote its energies to eradicating poverty and illiteracy and improving the people’s standard of living. Technological progress can come later.
K. Chatterjee, Sodepur
Sir — It is true that in the past hundred years, India’s population density has increased from 77 to 324 per square kilometre. But population growth alone cannot explain India’s vast poverty and unemployment. While a density of 324 makes us press the panic button, the Netherlands is doing very well with a density of 468. Yet, Netherlands is placed 8th in the Human Development Report, 2002, whereas India is 124th, out of 173 countries. It is faulty government policies and not the size of the population that is the cause of poverty and unemployment. Nepal, which has a much smaller population than India, ranks 142 and Sierra Leone with a lesser density of population ranks 173. Efforts must be made to weed out corruption and get rid of faulty policies that have forced the poor in India to fall back on mango kernel while huge quantities of grain rot in granaries.
Sujit De, Sodepur
Sir — The Church of England’s opposition to yoga because of its Hindu origin is deplorable (“Secular hardsell for Yoga in UK”, Sep 22). What, then, of the many Christian influences in non-Christian countries' For example, the cross of the Red Cross symbolizes Christianity. Why can not we have a “red circle” for non-Christian, non-Muslim countries' Also, Sunday, the first day of the week, should be a working day. It will be more secular to have a weekly off on Saturdays, the last day of the week.
Sunita Gupta, Calcutta