To live with dignity
Sir — It is bad enough to celebrate Pongal without food at home. To add salt to the wound, Amma’s government has hit upon the brilliant idea to launch its free meal scheme on the very day of the festival (“Farmers turn down Jaya free meals”, Jan 17). To the landless and marginal farmers of the Cauvery delta, the scheme is humiliating because the government has done precious little to solve the reason for which they are starving — more water for irrigation — apart from taking the neighbouring state to court. What is worse is that although the water crisis shows no sign of abetting, the government’s bounty has been limited to cover only the festival week. J. Jayalalithaa has been given the treatment she deserved by the thousands who refused to partake of her meal and be party to her design of projecting herself as the annadata. Farmers have justly demonstrated that pride of work and personal dignity matter much more than bowing down before a populist and inefficient government.
S. Samanta, Asansol
Sir — A friend who belonged to the personal staff of Uttar Pradesh’s first chief minister, Govind Ballabh Pant, recounted this story of how Pant insisted on separate accounts for personal and state expenses. Pant once refused to pass a meagre bill for tea and snacks served at an official meeting. Upon being pestered to pass it as an exception, he offered to pay from his own pocket, saying his conscience would not permit him to make the payment from government funds.
Times have changed and so have the people in power, who nowadays think nothing of abusing power and using public money to promote and appropriate fortunes for themselves (“Birthday push for Mayavati”, Jan 9). Take the present UP chief minister, Mayavati, who sanctioned money from the state’s contingency fund for her birthday celebrations. She presented television sets to gram pradhans as gifts, saying it would enable villagers to watch the success of government schemes for the poor. She dedicated the “Ambedkar Smarak” project to the Dalits. Of what use is such ostentation when millions in the state do not have access to the basic amenities' Mayavati would have done better had she diverted the funds to bring relief to the people who needed it most.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
Sir — Indian politicians are having a field day with public money. Be it Mayavati, with a giant cake for her birthday, or L.K. Advani, who will soon be going to Qatar to prove he is not against Islam (“Advani to visit France, Qatar”, Jan 16).
Aparajita Dasgupta, Calcutta
Sir — It has become quite common for politicians to celebrate their birthdays and the marriage of their children on a grand scale. However, this is the first time that government funds and machinery are being openly used for such events. Worse, by selling coupons to raise money for her birthday celebrations, Mayavati seems to have endorsed public loot. The attention of the chief vigilance commissioner should be drawn to such actions since political parties cannot be expected to take action against their leaders.
In this connection, political leaders should also be prevented from unneccesarily projecting their “achievements” through expensive advertisements in newspapers. Take the Union ministry for urban development, which put out two more advertisements on the Delhi metro rail because the first ad released did not carry the picture of the newly appointed metro chief, Madan Lal Khurana. Photographs of politicians in government ads should be banned immediately as these are usually done to get some cheap mileage.
Madhu Agarwal, Delhi
Sir — Reliance Infocomm’s cellular services have been hailed as the mobile phone for the common Indian. But are they really so' A careful look shows that it is not as cheap as is made out to be. How many Indians can afford a one time payment of Rs 21,000 for three years' Even the scheme where you make a down payment of Rs 3,000 and then Rs 600 every month is beyond most Indians. There is really not much to choose between what Reliance is offering and Cellone services of the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited.
Kalyan Ghosh, Calcutta
Sir — The report, “Cell shock in STD calls for Calcutta”, (Jan 4), shows how cell-phone operators have started to take their customers for granted by making baseless promises. How could cellular operators advertise a reduction in long-distance call rates without following through on these promises' Such unethical doings need to be stopped immediately. Worse, inflated bills have become common practice with these cellular operators. When will they understand that goodwill once lost is lost forever'
T.R. Anand, Calcutta
Sir — Income tax authorities should rethink the decision to include ownership of mobile phones as one of the six criteria which makes someone eligible to pay taxes. The mobile is no longer a rich man’s plaything or a luxury item — it is available to anyone who can pay Rs 300 every month. Why, even land lines work out to be more expensive in most cases! At the rate at which Indians are going cellular, it won’t be surprising if cell phones exceed land lines in a few years’ time. But many people will think twice about getting a mobile phone if it means getting into income tax hassles. After all, even many educated people find filing an income tax return an onerous task. Asking for proof of identity and address is a good idea, but why involve income tax'
Arta Mishra, Cuttack
Sir — The photograph of the bull in the midst of a crowd at the Jallikatu festival, which featured on the front page of The Telegraph (Jan 17), is evidence of how most Indian festivals are uncaring of animal rights. Take the ritual sacrifice of animals during festivals. It has now been largely banned, but continues in such famous temples like Kalighat. It is time our piety included a sense of the pain we inflict on animals.
R.S. Sanath, Calcutta
Sir — The photograph of the Jallikattu festival was quite gruesome. It was a reminder of how cheap human life is considered in India. No festival or ritual can play with human life. Who is going to compensate for the lives lost or the injury caused' The government should ban such rituals without delay.
Shailesh Yagnik, Ahmedabad