Sir — Clare Short, formerly international department secretary in Tony Blair’s government, could not be as naive as she would have us believe (“Short quits over Blair’s ‘shameful behaviour’”, May 13). The “centralization” of power, the lack of debate, accountability and transparency she has objected to were an unavoidable corollary to the trajectory the United Kingdom set itself on with its Iraq policy. She could not but have seen it before her nation went to war with Iraq. Yet, she deliberately chose to keep quiet when she needed to shout the most, refused to resign and allowed Tony Blair to sail smoothly with the crucial parliamentary resolution on the war. Her resignation now on the plea that she has been double-crossed by the prime minister who reneged on his promises about the United Nation’s role in Iraq’s rehabilitation seems ridiculous. Did Short really believe the UN still has a role to play in the world anymore'
S. Sasanka, Calcutta
Sir — The picture of the child bride and groom on the front page of The Telegraph (May 6) gives the real picture of India. Which century are we living in really' In spite of it being banned by law, child-marriages are commonplace not only in Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh, but also other places in the country. Why do politicians continue to make false claims of having wiped out this social evil despite the evidence flying in their faces' Probably the worst thing is that government officials, particularly senior police officers, allow the crime to continue under their very nose. It is strange that child marriages should be common in Guna district which supposedly has one of the most pragmatic and educated of parliamentarians, Jyotiraditya Scindia. Why cannot politicians like Scindia use their influence to eradicate this social curse'
The report once again shows that the Sharda Act and the Child Marriage Restraint Act have remained on paper. Discoveries such as this will probably draw some socially active women to the districts. But such activism, other than adding to newsprint, will contribute scarcely little. Practices such as child marriage have to be removed from the roots. And this requires not only greater social awareness through education, but also economic empowerment. The government should turn its attention to such crucial social issues instead of getting worked up about how to get global.
Sumant Poddar, Calcutta
Sir — The juxtaposition of the report, “Breast milk is must, but…” with the picture of the child couple shows the futility of social legislation. It is important to pass laws to remove social evils, but these laws have to be followed up. For example, smoking has been prohibited in public places and vehicles, but the government has not bothered to implement it properly. Similarly, there are laws that are supposed to combat child marriage, but have they been ever seriously implemented' The legislation to make breast-feeding will meet with the same fate. That is unless the government commits itself to its role of a watchdog.
Abhijit Mitra, Kharagpur
Sir — If it is news of child marriage one morning, there is news of women being sold openly among the Bhils in Gowari village of Madhya Pradesh the other day. Last year another village in Madhya Pradesh, Panna, was made infamous by the sati of Kutti Bai, the 65 year old who threw herself on her husband’s pyre. With such incidents taking place almost daily, is there any chance India will be taken seriously by world powers as the favourite destination for their investments'
Sanchari Deb, Calcutta
Sir — Child-marriage, in microcosm, reflects the status in which women continue to be held in a male dominated society like India’s. It is precisely because the girl child is considered to be a burden that little girls get married off. The other crimes at the extreme ends of the same spectrum are female foeticide and dowry-deaths. Women in India deserve to be protected by law. Since the women reservation bill will never be allowed to be passed in Parliament, the Supreme Court should devise ways to rescue them.
Madhu Agrawal, Delhi
Sir — I do not understand the logic behind the decision of the West Bengal transport minister, Subhas Chakraborty, who is trying to bring down the bus fare hike only at the initial stage, but not the “subsequent stages” (Bus fares to be cut in all fairness”, May 9). This only makes it evident that the minister is clearly in favour of the transport owners. But as a minister, Chakraborty should do what is just and in the interest of the public. Please do not force commuters to seek judicial redress, Mr Chakraborty.
Dolon Chattopadhyay, Calcutta
Sir — Hikes in bus fares with every increase in petrol or diesel prices is unfair. If there is a one rupee hike, bus owners raise fares by a rupee. Suppose a bus needs 50 litres of petrol or diesel every day. With a price hike in diesel, he would be paying Rs 50 more. But he would be earning Rs 500 from 500 passengers who board the bus and thereby profit Rs 450 from each ride.
Indranil Mandal, Calcutta