Spirit of give and take
Sir — There is no need to be overly enthusiastic about the breakthrough in the peace talks between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the Sri Lankan government (“Breakthrough on Tamil autonomy at talks”, Dec 6). Though the LTTE has given up on its demand for eelam, it remains to be seen whether the two sides can sustain the peace initiative in the coming months. The earlier attempts to talk peace, which ended spectacularly in disaster, should act as a cautionary tale. The prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was instrumental in negotiating the ceasefire, now has the difficult task of securing the support of the opposition parties in order to affect sweeping constitutional changes. The LTTE chief, V. Prabhakaran, too will have to teach his battle-hardened group how to live and let live in peace. Both sides must be willing to forgive and forget past wrongs, and most important, realize that compromising on certain issues instead of sticking rigidly to their stands, will in the ultimate analysis work out for the good of the people.
Debanjana Dutta, Calcutta
Sir — Is Vladimir Putin, who was in India recently, a friend or a businessman' The report, “Putin piles pressure on Pakistan” (Nov 5), seems to indicate that he is a bit of both. Certainly, Putin has kept up with tradition in trying to convince New Delhi that Russia is one of India’s strongest allies. The two countries have also finalized agreements covering science, technology, telecommunications and banking in addition to signing the Delhi declaration. Putin has also supported India’s pursuit of a security council membership.
But Putin’s statements are best taken with a pinch of salt. Why should the media be reading so much into Putin’s condemnation of cross-border terrorism when he is nowhere close to even asking the United States of America to declare Pakistan a terrorist state. That would be proof of Russia’s sincerity. It is also difficult to be enthusiastic about Indo-Russian cooperation since the Russian economy is yet to recover after the fall of communism. Russia now needs regular doses of US aid and is in no position to help India much. That the US was able to have its way vis-à-vis the resolution on Iraq is proof of Russia’s declining position in the present unipolar world order.
Jang Bahadur Singh, Jamshedpur
Sir — As minister-in-waiting, Vasundhara Raje, should have reached the airport well before the aircraft of the Russian president landed. The same holds true for Kanwal Sibal, the foreign secretary. Raje’s claims that she was held up in Parliament and was later caught in rush hour traffic, and Sibal’s that he got late briefing the prime minister on Putin’s visit, are nothing but excuses. It shows how both took their responsibilities very casually. That Sibal and Raje managed to jostle up the reception line in time to greet the Russian premier does not compensate for the break in protocol.
Govind Das Dujari, Calcutta
Sir — As the editorial, “Close interest” (Dec 6), points out, Vladimir Putin’s recent visit to India was a reaffirmation of the friendly relations between the two countries. Despite the improvement in relations with the US, India still leans heavily on Russia for its defence needs.
Russia has always supported India, unlike the US which continues to help Pakistan while claiming to be India’s friend. But Putin’s emphatic support of India’s position on cross-border terrorism should not be interpreted as a step towards forming an India-Russia-China axis. Relations between India and China are at best lukewarm. Besides, the latter has hegemonic designs of its own and is not likely to be open to the idea of such a partnership. India, too, would not want to run the risk of jeopardizing its relations with the US.
Diya Mitra, Calcutta
No free meal
Sir — The Centre’s decision to release grants to the Indian Institutes of Technology only if they spend 50 per cent of the money on research is laudable (“Joshi term for IIT funds”, Dec 3). Hopefully, such a directive will ensure that at least some of the grants comes the way of research scholars in the IITs who are paid a measly sum now. Research scholars are expected to take classes, and hence the disparity in pay with the professors — who are highly-paid — does not make sense.
There is a dearth of quality research in the country. Since researchers are poorly paid in India, most scholars prefer to go abroad. Further, many IIT professors steer clear of research and are more comfortable teaching. They will now be forced to channelize their energies into research. Such a step will also help these institutes of excellence become financially independent.
Abhijit Mitra, Kharagpur
Sir — One hopes Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is successful in abolishing the caste-based quota system for admissions into institutions of higher education (“Buddha merit mantra to terminate quota raj”, Nov 16). Owing to reservations, a meritorious person from the upper castes may find himself superseded by a less-deserving backward class candidate. This happens both in the case of admission to schools and colleges and in government service. Sacrificing merit has disastrous consequences on the standard of education. Besides, such policies do not help promote social justice — they only give rise to resentment and ill-feeling. Reservation amounts to making the present generation of upper caste candidates pay for the misdeeds of their ancestors — which is unfair
Bhattacharjee’s suggestion that reservations should depend on economic status and not caste thus makes a lot of sense. While some seats may be reserved for the backward classes at the school level, all reservations should be abolished from higher education and government jobs.
Kajal Chatterjee, Calcutta
Sir — The chief minister of West Bengal, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, may be apologetic about the state’s mid-day meal scheme and feel that it needs revamping if it is to attract more students to schools in the villages, but the practice of distributing rice among primary school students once a month hardly qualifies as a “mid-day meal scheme” (“Private course for colleges”, Nov 15). It can best be described as a free ration regime. Even if the student attends school just once a month, on the day the free rice is to be distributed, he gets his quota. Such a scheme will not do — the government must set about improving the existing infrastructure so that a proper mid-day meal can be introduced for poor students on a regular basis.
Sujit De, Sodepur
Sir — With a smiling Lata Mangeshkar on the front page, most readers of The Telegraph will have overlooked the report, “Rajya Sabha leave after rap for Lata Mangeshkar” (Nov 29). Shirking her social and constitutional responsibilities so blatantly did not become the venerable singer. How could she come to Calcutta to attend the inauguration of Dona Ganguly’s dance school when she had absented herself from the Rajya Sabha pleading ill health, and had even sought permission to remain absent for the entire winter session' If she was not interested in becoming a member, she should have declined the president’s offer. There are many others who would have done a better job.
Subhadip Pal, Calcutta
Sir — That Lata Mangeshkar has no interest in politics is obvious from her poor attendance in the Rajya Sabha. Perhaps Mangeshkar should discuss with the upper house chairperson, Najma Heptullah, the possibility of her vacating the seat before the end of her term so that the president can nominate someone else in her place.
S. Dutta Roy, Calcutta