For the love of the river
Sir — The love of hogging the limelight is not new in politics. The Rashtriya Janata Dal chief, Laloo Prasad Yadav, has thought of a new role for himself. His role model is none but the mythical Bhagirath, who had managed to bring down the Ganga, entangled in the locks of Lord Shiva in the Himalayas, to the plains through his prayers (“Laloo prays to bring Ganga to Patna”, July 3). Laloo Yadav’s histrionic skills have never been in question, and have come in particularly handy when the trishul-wielding saffron brigade needed to be taken on. In the latest case, however, his motive escapes reason. Will Laloo’s project — of bringing the Ganga closer to Patna via a seven-kilometre-long channel — serve any real purpose' With the monsoons already having set in, any earthwork will be futile; a shower will easily wash away whatever little work is done. It will end up being a monumental waste of money and energy. It is here, of course, that Laloo Yadav’s acting skills might be of help — in inducing the people of Bihar to suspend their disbelief and ignore the absurdity of the plan.
Nabanita Gupta, Calcutta
Leather cannot weather
Sir — The West Bengal chief minister’s latest gaffe cannot be excused as a result of a communication gap during his three-day tour of Italy (“Gucci tramples Buddha business claim”, July 1). Far from it, the incident only goes to highlight what an unintelligent person Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee really is. It is possible that in his desperation to woo investors to his state and boost his image, he read the tour that Gucci officials were kind enough to organize around their factory as their eagerness to invest in West Bengal. He failed to see that the gesture stemmed from courtesy and nothing else. After all, who in his right senses would want to invest here, especially if his business is prospering elsewhere'
In sharp contrast to Bhattacharjee’s enthusiasm for foreign investment is his lack of interest, even neglect, of the once-flourishing jute industry in the state. The chief minister would do well to scale down his aspirations and look for more practical solutions to the state’s investment problems. It is time he and his men were a little more honest to the people, to themselves, and to their commitments.
Sumant Poddar, Calcutta
Sir — What the managing director of the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation has observed about the West Bengal Incentive Scheme 2000 is true and predictable (“Govt faces incentive crunch”, June 21). This scheme has lured many investors to the state and now the government discovers that it is unable to make cash pay-outs to the investors as it had earlier promised.
When the state government had announced the scheme, was it unaware about its financial capabilities, or had it been over-optimistic' As it happens, small entrepreneurs like me have been left in the lurch. Ours is a sick unit and we had applied in May 2001 to the industrial reconstruction department for subsidies and incentives under the announced scheme. We were qualifying all the requirements too. The IRD had processed our case and recommended the release of funds to the concerned ministry. Schemes for modernization and revival of our unit had already been drawn up and discussed with other parties. The IRD has now informed us verbally that the finance ministry is not releasing funds for our case as it feels that the unit can be revived without government support and that the scarce resources of the government should not be frittered away. What are we supposed to do now' How does the government expect to gain the confidence of potential and existing investors with such deceptive and fraudulent short-term schemes'
Suresh Mintri, Ahmadpur, Birbhum
Sir — The chief minister’s ecstacy over leather, Italy and Gucci has translated to zero gain for the state. It is not a new phenomenon, though, since we have got used to the Marxist rulers trying over the last 25 years to get the big bucks to West Bengal and take it past all other states.
Gucci is an upmarket manufacturer and exporter of leather goods with a tried and tested market for many years, certainly not in need of West Bengal’s poor infrastructure and low-cost labour to stay afloat. The prices of Gucci products are several times higher than that of Indian leather goods. They are anything but meant for middle-class Bengalis. Calcutta once pioneered leather goods manufacture and export in India. The leather goods fair, Lexpo, used to draw foreign buyers till recently. Like all good things, Bengal has lost its glory to Chennai and Kanpur. Outside manufacturers are aware of this, and do not mind paying a little more for the better infrastructure outside Bengal. So leave alone Gucci, even the lesser brand names would not think of landing here to invest.
Susenjit Guha, Calcutta
Fat into fire
Sir — Of late, the concern about obesity and the urge to get rid of the extra pounds has become an obsession with the youth. Slimming clinics and manufacturers of dietary supplements are having a field day as a result. This kind of attitude towards obesity creates a psychological pressure on individuals who have a few extra pounds on their body. Further, disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa starts affecting the health and wellbeing of young people. While anorexics starve themselves, bulimics indulge in binge eating, following it with self-induced vomiting or excessive use of laxatives. Both disorders stem from dissatisfaction with one’s personal appearance and efforts to emulate the thin look promoted by the media and endorsed by society.
Masood Md Sohail, Calcutta
Sir — The obese and not-so-obese people these days are lapping up the weight reducing pills or drinks which have flooded the market. The companies producing these promote them through multi-level marketing. Often, presentable men and women are found standing at street corners and distributing leaflets extolling the virtues of the weight-reduction and nutrition products. People are invited to join the sales team with the assurance of making a fast buck sitting in their homes. Newspapers and periodicals carry advertisements featuring these products which promise astounding results. Ask anyone who has been through the regimen, and you will know that these wonder drugs are mostly bogus, and often have dangerous side-effects. The experience of the television actress, Andrea De Cruz, who had consumed Chinese-made Slim 10 diet pills, should put everyone on guard (“Diet pills of deadly impact”, June 24). She has been told that she will never be able to conceive as a result of taking these pills.
The best way to reduce weight would be to follow a strict diet regimen, coupled with regular walking and exercises. There is no short cut to slimming. The diet pills and drinks may seem to be living up to the promises initially, but in the long run, could have deleterious effects on the biological system. The World Health Organization should see to it that people are not duped into buying them.
S. Ram, Calcutta
Sir — It is in the nature of politicians to prioritize development over environmental concerns. The East-West corridor project undertaken by the National Highways Authority completely disregards environmental interests (“Clash of interests chokes corridor”, June 18). The plan proposed by the NHA runs through forests, tea estates and flood-prone farmland. The highway will bring economic benefit for the Dooars, the Terai region and Sikkim, but at the cost of the environment. Is the NHA unaware of the damage it will do to the ecological balance' And what about the wild life in the region'
Nelson A. Petrie, Siliguri
Sir — The West Bengal Trees (Protection and Conservation in Non-Forest areas) Act 2003, is an illustration of the indifference of the state government to the environment (“Dead wood”, June 26). The area under forest cover is gradually diminishing owing to rampant felling of trees. This has been happening only because officers in charge of forest areas are not interested in discharging their duties properly. There is much talk about saving and caring for the environment, but the government’s policy on the felling of trees only prove the falsity of such claims. Environmental activists should try more actively to combat such a menace.
Naren Sen, Howrah