Bill of doubleness
Sir — The comment of the parliamentary affairs minister, Sushma Swaraj — “If we are going to see this kind of beimani, there’s no point,” — is significant for the women’s bill (“Women’s bill false dawn”, May 6). The bill which ensures 33 per cent reservation for women in Parliament and assemblies has once again been aborted. The deceit which Swaraj was speaking of has a lot to do with Indian politics, steeped in duplicity and corruption. The reason as to why the passing of the bill was aborted is open to debate. However,it is worth considering the recurrence of corruption at all levels of the polity. Apart from giving another dimension to Indian politics, the bill also highlights the condition of women in our country. The bill would have threatened the hegemony of patriarchy in our country, disturbing the traditional balance of power. As Swaraj noted, “When a vocal section is opposed,we can’t ignore them.” Will this section always resort to such doubleness regarding the rights of women'
Air of panic
Sir — Statements being made by politicians about the relatively low number of the severe acute respiratory syndrome cases miss the point. The problem with SARS is not the risk factor, it is the uncertainty. We can deal with risk. But we do not know much about the disease and thus, the probability of our contracting the disease also remains uncertain. Under these circumstances, rumours rule the day and have serious social and economic consequences. The job of the press and the government is to dispel rumours and assure the people. They could apprise the people of all possible information about SARS.
Unfortunately, the focus seems to have been on publishing the names of those who have been affected by the virus. This can only heighten the stigma attached to the victims who, in their desire to preserve their anonymity and freedom, may choose not to avail themselves of the treatment. This increases the risk of infecting others.
A free flow of accurate information coupled with the commitment to treat victims rather than ostracize them socially can reduce the impact of this impending epidemic. I do not believe that a bureaucracy trained in shirking responsibility will help this process without the active intervention of a free press.
Atin Basu, Lexington, US
Sir — Can we not try a little to prevent the spread of misinformation and rumours about SARS' Only a few days back, a SARS patient was released from a hospital in Calcutta. He is now totally healthy. But his family has refused to take him back. He has virtually become an outcaste. Another family has returned totally cured from a hospital in Mumbai. But people are reported to be avoiding the street where this family lives. This is inevitable in a country like India. But can this be allowed'
The website www.valuelife.info provides a lot of information about SARS and suggests preventive methods.
C.D. Mohatta, Mumbai
Sir — The number of SARS cases is on the rise. However, it is reasonably safe to say that the country is out of danger since no casualty has been reported so far in India. This does not stop one from being apprehensive, keeping in mind the precedent of AIDS, which spread rapidly around the world from the United States of America. Third world countries have become the major victims of AIDS which was originally a first-world disease. If countries like China and Singapore have not been able to check the advance of SARS, how can we rest assured that an ill-equipped India can do it'
Sarit Ray, Calcutta
Sir — The Air India management might have to regret its decision of removing the pilots who refused to fly to the SARS-affected countries (“Pilot’s guild stripped of status”, April 30). Instead of sticking to their rigid stand, they could have given a patient hearing to the guild’s grievances. While the guild was probably wrong in its decision not to fly to the SARS-affected regions, the Air India management should have realized that they could not possibly meet the needs of their customers by carrying out their decision. This has also managed to stoke the debate over the need to privatize Air India to prevent such inconvenience to hapless passengers every time there is a conflict between the management and the pilots’ guild.
Bijoy Ranjan Dey, Tinsukia
Sir — It is good news that the members of the cabin crew of Air India are willing to work despite the ongoing tussle between the management and the pilots refusing to fly to certain countries for fear of contracting SARS. The cabin crew is more susceptible to the disease than the pilots who usually remain confined to their cockpits. Under these circumstances, the stubborn stand of the pilots should draw severe reprimand from the authorities. Merely suspending the protesting pilots from work will be of no use. Their inconsiderate action is not only against national interests, but is also causing severe inconvenience to thousands of passengers every day. Those who have been against the privatization of this national carrier will have revised their opinion in the light of the unprofessional conduct of the pilots.
Govind Das Dujari, Calcutta
Sir — SARS is wreaking havoc in China and the Far East. It is likely to cause greater damage to the global economy than the war in Iraq has. Since prevention is known to be better than cure, this crisis should be handled on a war footing, but sensitively. This is necessary because in third-world countries like India, the public systems normally become alert only when the business and the economy starts feeling the pinch of the crisis.
R.N. Lakhotia, New Delhi
Sir — It is common for the Indian media to focus on the phenomenon of eve-teasing every now and then (“Caution! Men at large!”, May 3). Is it really fair to always talk about eve-teasing' In any case, “eve-teasing” is a term that I have seen used only in India. Teasing on Calcutta streets takes various forms and is by no means reserved exclusively for women. I live on Prem Chand Boral Street, where a bunch of noisy young men tease me and my wife when we return late in the evening. The teasing, which is generally troublesome, is not absent when I happen to walk alone, and reaches nasty proportions when my wife is with me. In the United States of America or in the United Kingdom, the word more commonly used in such cases is “harassment”, which is more apt because it does not discriminate between the genders.
Angshuman Das, Calcutta