To make a fashion statement
Sir —– Our Marxist leaders never stop trying, do they' Shortly after the chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, came back from Italy trying his best to convince Gucci about the efficacy of setting up a factory in trade union-ridden West Bengal, the Left Front chairman, Biman Bose, is off to Los Angeles to preach Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar to Americans (“Off to LA with jackets in place”, July 2). Why don’t these men realize that their efforts are risible' While Bhattacharjee shamelessly exploited Gucci hospitality to show his foreign trip had been a success, Bose is likely to brandish the same empty promises on the setting up of schools in districts to justify his participation in the three-day jamboree in the United States of America. The foreign trips, apart from giving the leaders a free holiday, seem to be giving them a chance to try out their new wardrobe. Not surprisingly, Bose is expected to don his trousers and jacket with the same enthusiasm as Bhattacharjee. And certainly not because they are “required in America”, but because Alimuddin Street seems more strict about the dress code for its leaders than their political commitment.
J. Sikdar, Calcutta
Food for thought
Sir — There might be abundant buffer stocks of foodgrains in India, as Bhaskar Dutta mentions in “Plenty out of reach” (July 3), but this is not a genuine surplus. The mountains of foodgrains that are paraded as the nation’s evidence of “self-sufficiency” in food has been built up by procuring foodgrains at the ever increasing minimum support price and by keeping a sizeable portion of the population semi-starved as it has no wherewithal to buy the foodgrains for subsistence.
Research has shown that a 10 per cent rise in the minimum support price of wheat and rice leads to a 0.3 per cent fall in the gross domestic product and a 1.5 per cent rise in the aggregate price index. So as the mountain of foodgrains grows in size and relative prices of food become higher, investment in rural infrastructure suffers. The poor’s access to food gets further impaired and rural development programmes suffer. Given the situation, the idea of utilizing overflowing stocks of foodgrains effectively to build up rural infrastructure and ensure food security for the poor seems a paradox.
As Dutta himself mentions, the public distribution system, which is an integral part of India’s policy of ensuring food security to the vulnerable sections of the society, is inadequate. For one, it has an urban orientation and two, it is weakest in states like Bihar, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh where the poverty ratio is high. Moreover, corruption and fraudulent practices have got the better of the system. A large proportion of the foodgrains routed to the PDS at a subsidized price get diverted and resold to the Food Corporation of India as procurement grains. Thus the government frequently pays twice for buying the same stock. The middlemen and corrupt government employees associated with the system of procurement and distribution of foodgrains benefit the most at the cost of the poor. As Dutta suggests, we desperately need to overhaul our food policy. The problem is, nobody knows how.
Jaydev Jana, Calcutta
Sir — Why do people in India have to starve in this land of plenty' The answer is simple. They do not have enough money to buy food. Why do they not have money' That is because most of them are unemployed. Why is it so' Perhaps because labour-intensive technology and the cottage industries of the country are being shown the door. But why' Not even the policymakers have an answer to that.
The government should see that unutilized foodstocks are not consumed by rats or left to rot. Can we please have a vigorous implementation of the food for work programme'
Sujit De, Sodepur
Sir — One hoped to find some solution to the question of why people in a land of plenty should starve in the article written by one of India’s most venerated economists, Bhaskar Dutta. But except for the use of some worn out phrases like raising the purchasing power of people, Dutta shirks from trying to provide an answer. When starvation was looming over the Saharia tribals in Rajasthan, some Sikh religious organizations opened large langars (free kitchens) which provided free food 24 hours a day thus saving hundreds of lives. Understandably, unlike governments, these organizations were guided by compassion rather than economic commissions. It is ironic that these large food stocks, which were created for the very purpose of providing food security during famines or other natural calamities, are now not available to the starving for economic policy reasons.
Raja Sen, Dhanbad
Road to nowhere
Sir — The Telegraph recently asked readers if jaywalking should be punished. Perhaps not. If pedestrians are expected to use pavements for walking, the authorities should first ensure that they exist (in many parts of the city they are non-existent) and then that they are kept free from all kinds of encroachments — not only hawkers, vendors, eateries but also electricity junction boxes, transformers, telephone boxes and traffic signal control towers. If traffic authorities do not keep in mind the interest and safety of the public, they have no right to penalize people.
A. Sengupta, Calcutta
Sir — In Park Street, cars are often kept on the footpath. Traffic officers seem oblivious to the violation. The deplorable condition of the footpaths often make it impossible for the public to walk on them.
S. Mitra, Calcutta
Sir — Most of the traffic signals in Bangalore have a stopwatch that starts a countdown for 90 seconds whenever the lights turn red or green. This system allows drivers to know the exact time they have to wait at crossings. Given the mad rush of traffic in Calcutta, would it not be wise to implement such a system more comprehensively'
B.L. Chandak, Howrah
Sir — The construction of the Chitpur-Cossipore flyover has seriously inconvenienced traffic movement along the Tala bridge. A traffic policeman needs to be immediately deputed in the area.
K.P. Bhattacharya, Calcutta
Sir — Auto-rickshaws never run on meters. Nor is the restriction on the number of passengers they can carry always enforced. Drivers’ unions now arbitrarily fix the rates for the route. Let unmetered auto-rickshaws continue to run on fixed routes, but metered autos should also run.
Shekhar Dey, Calcutta
Sir — Driving at night has become a nightmare. Vehicles ply the roads without any rear lights. Oncoming vehicles never dip their lights. No one seems concerned about punishing errant drivers of public carriers, many of whom drive without licences and registration papers. Unless people decide to cooperate with the police, the situation will not improve.
M.E. Avari, Kodaikanal