Sir — It speaks volumes of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s self-importance that he “cold-shouldered” an invitation by Bill Gates to attend a chief ministers’ meeting during the latter’s visit to India (“Red ring for software Goliath & David”, Nov 20). However much Bhattacharjee may like to think it was Gates who is the loser, it was nothing but cutting the nose to spite the face. For one,Microsoft is too big to care much whether one tiny state uses its operating system, no matter how severe a beating it is taking from rival Linux. Two, Gates was not here on company business and the least Bhattacharjee could have done was troop over to the capital to meet him. You never know, a courtesy call could well lead to business. But maybe, our left leaders only conduct business in foreign countries. Perhaps, they feel that investments can only be drawn to the state when they travel to New York, Tokyo and other glamorous capitals at taxpayers’ expense.
R. Menon, Ranchi
Not by the book
Sir — Academicians will surely be shocked at the news that some universities were asked by the University Grants Commission to buy a book on the prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee (“Varsity sees saffron in UGC move”, Nov 18). The UGC chairman, Arun Nigavekar, apparently felt that the book, which contains nearly 1,400 photographs of various events in Vajpayee’s life, was valuable “reference material”. But with so many pictures, how much space does the book have left for printed matter' And why should cash-strapped universities spend as much as Rs 4,000 for a coffee-table book'
Not too long ago, the National Council for Educational Research and Training was accused of giving in to the ideological leanings of the party in power. And now we have a reputed educationist like Nigavekar pushing a book on Vajpayee. What is education in our country coming to'
S. Ali, Hyderabad
Sir — The unseemly controversy over the new NCERT syllabus, with some historians claiming it contains distortions and others claiming that it sets right untruths present in earlier textbooks compiled by left scholars, raises doubts about whether anyone is interested any more in providing an education free of political slant (“Fiddling with knowledge”, Nov 7). An ideal education system for India is one which will help develop livelihood skills and foster awareness of national heritage and the achievements of human civilization, as well as scientific outlook, commitment to patriotism, democracy, secularism and social justice — the ideals enunciated in the preamble to the Constitution. The moral and intellectual outlook of the people has suffered as a result of this politicization of education. And this is new — never before has the education system, from the primary to university level, been so amenable to the dictates of the party in power. This has resulted in snuffing out independent thinking and the spirit of debate — the backbone of a nation. In fact, it is only teachers who are relatively free of political rigidity and the desire for personal benefit, can impart spiritual lessons.
Niloy Sinha, Azimganj
Sir — Why cannot our politicians leave the education system well alone' It is the tendency to drag politics into everything that has become the bane of institutions in India. And in this, the saffron parties are not the only culprits; as Bhaskar Ghose points out, our leftists are no better.
Rahul Sinha, Berhampore
Sir — Bhaskar Ghose is right in saying that learning should be kept away from politics and politicians, but what about students’ unions in colleges and universities which disrupt the working of these institutions' English medium schools, which are rarely influenced by governments, are free of these. Also, instead of fighting over what should be included in the syllabus, shouldn’t the government prioritize universal primary education'
Bhupendra Nath Bose, Calcutta
Sir — Whatever be the pious objectives mouthed by the Left Front government, militant trade unionism has already sounded the death knell of industry in Bengal. Take the recent manhandling of an assistant general manager of the Durgapur steel plant by workers affiliated to the Centre for Indian Trade Union, which affected production in the factory.
The West Bengal government should take stringent action against all trade union leaders who impede work. Instances of the government letting disruptions by trade union members go unpunished are far too many to inspire the industry or investors. How will the chief minister’s dream of taking the state to the pinnacle of industrial success be realized unless a suitable work atmosphere is created'
Saikat Saha, Calcutta
Sir — It is sad to see members of a communist party abandon the dream of an egalitarian society and integrate with an exploitative market economy. They try to convince workers that capital is a necessary partner of labour in the creation of wealth.
Left leaders today seem bent on destroying the labour movement. They demand that labour should kowtow to the dictates of the global economy. By allowing unemployment to grow, they try to break up militancy and weaken the unions. They also try to rescind the legal privileges of trade unions. If this is the attitude of the left, what better can be expected of the saffronites'
Surajit Basak, Calcutta
Die for a cause
Sir — What was Jayant Chitale’s motive in setting up a Hindustan Atma Ghataki Pathak (Indian suicide squad) (“Cause suicide squad, goal army”, Nov 16)' For the Indian army fighting to defend the country, every operation is a suicide mission. What is the difference between the army and the proposed “suicide squad”'
Nayantee Baroowa, New Delhi
Sir — Rumours that Jayant Chitale had an eye on a Shiv Sena ticket to fight the assembly elections is a pointer to his real intention behind setting up the Hindustan Atma Ghataki Pathak. So much for patriotism.
S. Tajuddin, Hyderabad
The report, “Gujarat cloud on Oxford lecture” (Nov 21), incorrectly mentions that the Oxford Islamic Centre is headed by Khaliq Ahmad Nizami. It is actually headed by Farhan Nizami. The error is regretted.
— The editor