A monk comes to serve
Sir — The sangh parivar cannot but love the Madhya Pradesh chief minister, Digvijay Singh. Like Shankersinh Vaghela in Gujarat, Singh is walking on exactly the same path that the parivar would have him traverse. Be it Swami Vivekananda, the saffronites have got Singh to talk about Hindutva already. And the distance between a revivalist Vivekananda and a radical V.D. Savarkar cannot be too long. Which is why Singh is now nitpicking about the land available to pilgrims at the simhastha fair sponsored by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, when he should be talking about carrying forward his successful experiment with panchayats in his state. As in Gujarat, the Bharatiya Janata Party is forcing the Congress to fight the electoral battle on its own terms. Naturally, the “hand of god” is being sought so ardently. The Congress is competing with the BJP in seeking out gurus and babas. Swami Vivekananda will only add to the variety. It is tragic that the selflessness of this great reformer and activist is being used to serve the selfish ends of both Singh and Uma Bharti.
T. Chatterjee, Calcutta
Sir — What is the use of making pious announcements about the reintroduction of English when the West Bengal government actually has no intention of following the suggestions made by the committee set up to look into school education reforms (“‘Opinion’ favours English in Class I”, Jan 1)' Would it not have been better for students of West Bengal had Ranju Gopal Mukherjee and his team categorically recommended the class in which the teaching of English should restart' The term “opinion” depicts the helplessness of the committee. It shows that either the committee was set up without being conferred with enough authority or the Left Front government formed the committee just for the sake of setting it up. This is not the first time the government has realized its mistake of throwing out English from the primary classes. The truth must have dawned immediately after the abolition of the language at this level. That is why from time to time the government has reviewed its decision. This is also the reason the entry of English has been shifted from the class VI to class III.
The experiment with the late start of English has failed totally. Students were initially unable to cope with the standard of the papers set in the Madhya- mik examinations. The West Bengal board of secondary education did manage to reduce the students’ burden by setting comparatively easy papers in English. But was this the only feasible solution to a totally self-created problem' Given the syllabi of the other central boards, the government should not only recommence English from class I but also revamp it.
Rajesh Kumar Sharma,
Sir — It is good news that the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government has started taking steps to reintroduce English in class I after a lapse of almost 24 years (“English set for full return”, Dec 31). English has become as much an Indian language as any other and we need to stake a claim to it as such. It is no longer a language exclusive to the British or to others in the English- speaking world. A friend of mine living in London even wondered why the people of India still refer to English as a foreign language since more people speak English in India than in any other country in the world. It is true that except for Hindi, English holds the distinction of being the second most popular language in India. Accepting it and giving it the place it deserves would give Calcutta the headstart it needs.
Meher H. Mehta, Calcutta
Sir — It is a relief that Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has prevailed over his party in the complicated issue of the reintroduction of the English language without causing too much dissension. The teaching of English from class I would not only promote better writing and communication skills in English, but it would also give students of the state a level playing field with students of other states where English is regarded as a major language. It would be even better if the language were introduced at the nursery level. A sound grasp of the language would cause less disappointment in the secondary and higher secondary examinations in which the English language paper often becomes a stumbling block for students.
T.R. Anand, Calcutta
Sir — If the state government reconsiders the introduction of English, it should also think over its decision to make the facility to read, write and speak Bengali a must for students sitting in the West Bengal public service commission examinations. The policy is discriminatory, particularly for Urdu-speaking minorities. Their presence in the government services is already deplorable. The policy would only make it worse.
Mohammed Moinuddin, Calcutta
Sir — The news that human beings are being cloned comes as a shock. Till now, cloned animals have not been successfully tested for physical or mental defects. Without such crucial tests, how could humanity go ahead with the cloning of man' The human race has proved more sensitive to congenital and hereditary problems than animals. The likely effects of the experiment going wrong will thus be more disastrous. The emphasis on cloning may even jeo-pardize more necessary research like organ-transplantation in human beings.
The human products of cloning may eventually form a creed of their own and be regarded as creations of crazy scientists. The fight for cloning and euthanasia, by going against nature, will cause a setback to the progress of mankind.
Partha Sen, Calcutta
Sir — There is hardly any need to panic at or condemn the efforts of the American company, Clonaid, at producing the first cloned human being. This is a revolutionary achievement in fertility research and should therefore be welcomed. A ban on such research will only drive the scientists underground, and thereby pose a greater risk to the welfare of humankind. The development should be allowed to proceed at its natural pace.
The mixed success of the experiment with cloning does not meant the whole idea is faulty. Science will gradually arrive at a positive destination. The first step on the moon was also taken in the midst of a lot of scepticism. Without more experimentation with cloning human beings, the science cannot limit its deficiencies or work towards the welfare of humanity.
Jang Bahadur Singh, Jamshedpur
Sir — The reported birth of the first human clone on December 27, 2002, is another of the wonders of science. But will this development positively affect mankind' There are other doubts that need to be cleared before the rat race gets more serious. Will the clone of Einstein be exactly like the real Einstein'
Jayeeta Sarkar, Guwahati
Sir — Cloning has opened up an entirely new vista to man. What we are forgetting is that there will also be a time when we will see hardcore criminals like Osama bin Laden being cloned. Given that bin Laden has already become a legend in his lifetime, one should not be surprised if efforts are already being made to clone him.
Bijoy Ranjan Dey, Tinsukia
Sir — On December 17, 2002, I, along with my brother and sister-in-law boarded the Kanchankanya Express for New Jalpaiguri. Among our co-passengers in the AC three-tier compartment was a group of three men — a reporter from a renowned national daily, a cameraman and a businessman. After we had retired, I was awoken by the sound of my brother shouting. To my horror, I found the reporter, intoxicated and undressed, standing in front of our berth and making indecent gestures. The reporter moved away only after being severely reprimanded, and went to sleep. Next morning we found his companions steadfastly defending him. They admitted that he had made a mistake and that he should apologize. But the reporter was nowhere to be seen. At New Jalpaiguri, his companions carried his luggage and disembarked from the train. Journalists are supposed to expose others, but then who exposes him'
Bhaswati Chowdhury, Calcutta