Enter the villain
Sir — Donald Rumsfeld may be looking for his place in history, by slowly pushing the world into the third major conflagration after World War II (“Rumsfeld turns attention to Korea”, April 23). Like the Iraq operation, the American intervention in Korea, if Rumsfeld can talk the president into it, will probably make him the most powerful man in the universe after George W. Bush. But history will remember him only as a war-monger and the killer of millions. As in Iraq, Rumsfeld is thinking of involving another major regional power to share the sins of the United States of America. Like all careful operators, he needs an alibi. But Korea, with its nukes at the ready, may find friends where Iraq did not. And the landing of US troops in Korea could spark off a major conflict whereupon it would be necessary for each country in the world to choose between the two sides — the allied aggressors or the allied defenders.
M. Chatterjee, Calcutta
Sir — Ever since the severe acute respiratory syndrome was detected in the neighbouring southeast Asian countries, the Indian government has been assuring its citizens that proper screening is being undertaken at all airports and other transit points to identify and quarantine the infected persons (“Virus touches shore at tourist hotspot”, April 18). We were made to believe that competent doctors with latest information on the disease were on their toes. But the reality is that incoming passengers were mostly made to fill up a questionnaire in most airports and no proper medical check ups were conducted on them.
Now that the country has reported several SARS cases, it has become obvious that the continuous claims of the government about proper screening are hollow. Moreover, the government has been lackadaisical in its approach towards making the general population aware about the symptoms and prevention of the disease. The result is that most of the information available to the public on SARS is a concoction of half-truths that is devoid of any medical basis. This creates unnecessary panic in the minds of people and makes overseas tourists sceptical. On the whole, the absence of authentic official information will lead to useless speculation about the disease that might prove ruinous for the economy in the long run.
The danger lies in the fact that India is a country that is poorly equipped in medical facilities. If SARS takes the form of an epidemic, it will be catastrophic, especially in states like Bihar where even basic medical infrastructure is non-existent. To prevent SARS from spreading, the government must immediately adopt stringent measures of screening at all transit points. Infected persons must be quarantined and the Union health ministry must issue a public notice in all forms of media with detailed information about the disease. Also, the National Institute of Communicable Diseases must communicate with the World Health Organization to stay informed about the latest developments on SARS.
A. Biswas, Calcutta
Sir — The report, “Virus touches shore at tourist hotspot”, will add to the SARS scare in India. The health ministry needs to spell out clearly what it is doing to stop the spread of the dreaded disease. The mere “advice” to SARS infected patients to stay indoors obviously will not work. They need to be quarantined stringently for the sake of the nation. The health ministry also needs to constantly keep in touch with WHO to know the medicines that are being tried out and the possible cure for the disease.
T.R. Anand, Calcutta
Sir — Julie D’Silva, the woman infected with SARS who went ahead to have her wedding, has committed a crime (“Virus bride courts epidemic”, April 23). She not only used the escape hatch to evade the quarantine and go to the wedding, thus making the whole wedding party vulnerable to SARS, but in her highly irresponsible act she has shown complete disregard for the interests of the nation. Our health authorities are reputed world-wide for their slack health standards. This event once again demonstrated the dangers of such slackness. Despite knowing that a single mistake of theirs could lead to an epidemic, the authorities of the Pune hospital where Julie was quarantined let her go without as much as raising a heckle. A SARS-free-India could have attracted the huge foreign investments that go to the SARS-hit economic giants in our neighbourhood. It could have boosted tourism and other services industries. In fact, SARS did provide a chance to India to make up for lost time and opportunities. But all that might remain a dream only because Julie and her family did not stop to think of the larger consequences of their act.
Saptak Guha Majumdar, Calcutta
Sir — The report, “AI curtails flights to Singapore” (April 20), shows that the armtwisting tactic of the Indian Pilot Guild has made Air India suspend its flights to Singapore from Hyderabad and Delhi. The move does not speak highly about the collective mindset of our commercial pilots. Every vocation has some occupational hazards, and each vocation teaches its adherents to take the risks. If our pilots decline to fly to destinations on the slightest pretext, as in the case of Singapore and Kuwait, this reveals their poor self-esteem and low motivation, if not outright cowardice.
Operating flights with executive pilots not affiliated with the guild is no solution such problems. Air India should make efforts to discipline its workforce instead. With such eccentric workforce, Air India will lose its competitive edge and customers’ loyalty. The sentiment of Air India being the national carrier will not cut much ice then.
Tapan Pal, Batanagar
Sir — The editorial, “Flag fetish” (April 10), rightly advices that a mature democracy ought to rise above tokenism. It is tragic that instead of concentrating on the more pressing issues, the government should waste its time on symbolism. A number of punishments have been listed in the event of any dishonour shown to the flag and the anthem. Yet, the government fails to show the same enthusiasm in punishing the sponsors of bonded and child labour.
An efficient judiciary would go a long way in augmenting the honour of the country than the fluttering of the flag atop courts. The zealous waving of the flag has emerged as the epitome of patriotism. Thus while the rowdyism of the crowd waving the flag after India’s victory in a cricket match gets social sanction, the nationalism of their critics are questioned.
Kajal Chatterjee, Sodepur