A lie of epic proportions
Sir — Very few Indians need to be informed about the Ramayana, especially those trying to make a film on the epic. Therefore, it is amusing that the Vishwa Hindu Parishad should think that it needed to remind people (read Salman Khan and his production unit) that it would not stand Hindu gods being laughed at (“For VHP, Salman’s okay, fun is not”, July 19). Why do the saffronites suspect that the Khans have such ignoble intentions' Only because they are Muslims' The VHP, undoubtedly, has gone on an overdrive. Otherwise, it would not suppose that Khan would risk his life and limb trying to make a comedy out of the Ramayana. So deepset are the fears of this apparently Muslim conspiracy against the epic that the Shiv Sena has also declared that if Muslims play Hindu gods, Hindus should also be allowed to play the Prophet. Why this terrible insecurity among Hindu politicians when generations of filmgoers have had no qualms worshipping Muslim actors playing “Hindu” roles'
Jayati Basu, Ranchi
Sir — The chief minister of West Bengal is right in retaliating against the observations of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, but only insofar as the prime minister was wrong in his choice of the forum, time and occasion to make his opinion known (“Atal asks, Buddha attacks,” July 18). But Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee cannot claim that Vajpayee was unjustified in criticizing West Bengal. Howsoever the chief minister may try to defend left rule in the state, it is a fact that leftist politics has been responsible in transforming Bengal from an industrial hub to one of economic chaos. Even today, Bhattacharjee shows the same dogmatism which has ruined Bengal when he openly refuses to comply with World Bank guidelines.
Bhattacharjee should also stop harping on Bengal’s heightened “political consciousness”, exemplified possibly by the bandh call of the Socialist Unity Centre of India on August 21. The chief minister may endorse Vajpayee’s suggestion that Bengal shore up its work culture, but what has Bhattacharjee done to tame the unruly trade unions of the state' And before he rattles off figures about Bengal’s economic performance, the chief minister should probably take a closer look at the workings of his finance minister to ascertain why people find it so difficult to believe the figures for Bengal’s annual per capita income and state’s gross domestic product.
Kalyan Ghosh, Calcutta
Sir — Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is right in defending the state and its culture. Whatever the conditions in West Bengal, the prime minister had no right to comment on the state, especially since his government has not done much to help Bengal out of the “morass”. Has the Bharatiya Janata Party government ever tried to keep businesses in West Bengal' Take the jute industry for example. Had it received some financial support from the Centre, unemployment in Bengal would not have been so severe.
The explanation for the Centre’s step-motherly attitude towards West Bengal can be found in the fact that ruling parties in the Centre, be it the Congress or the Bharatiya Janata Party, have never found a footing as strong as the left in the state. Which is why the Centre has always turned its attention to states governed by the ruling party at the Centre.
Sumant Poddar, Calcutta
Sir — Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has betrayed the hopes of most Bengalis who had believed he would be able to turn the state’s fortunes around. Bhattacharjee may not believe the state has “slid into a morass”, but facts suggest otherwise. Take the Sahagunj factory of Dunlop India Limited which was closed down in February 2001. Efforts to revive the company or work things out with the labour unions have been half-hearted. The chief minister may be aware that the factory’s workers have not been paid gratuity and the company’s share of their provident fund, leave alone six months’ wages prior to closure. Even the statutory bonus for the previous year was not paid. It is a shame that Bhattacharjee should be declaring the government’s noble intentions without bothering to look into the plight of poor workers in the state. Does the frequency of suicides in and around Sahagunj not affect him in the least'
Dipak Majumdar, Hooghly
Sir — What does Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee mean when he says that the state is still suffering from the “pains” it received from the Babri Masjid and Ayodhya incidents' What have these issues got to do with Bengal’s economic backwardness' I have spent nearly five years in Calcutta, trying to revive a major multinational corporation that was on the verge of closure. From my experience, I can say that the biggest problem Bengal faces today is one of attitude. The poor work culture, the chaos on the streets and militant trade unionism are the result of the “only rights and no duties” attitude that has been drilled into people’s heads all through the 25-years of communist rule. Bhattacharjee should try to rein in the government workforce (perhaps he can learn a lesson or two from J. Jayalalithaa) and the trade unions. Nobody is questioning Bengal’s rich legacy in “culture, intellect, creativity”, but Bhattacharjee has to realize that without change and improvisation, they can become hurdles in the path of progress.
R.B. Easwaran, Chennai
Sir — The state government has done only one thing sincerely in all these years — that is developing a culture suited to the Marxists. Welfare of the state and its people was always a secondary option. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had better live up to his words that “Bengal will show the way”. The people of this state are waiting eagerly to see how he saves us from the mess that he has been party to.
Govinda Bakshi, Budge Budge
Sir — Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee may exude a lot of confidence when he defends his state and party, but he is not exactly a free agent of progress. He still cannot go beyond the diktats of his predecessor, whose pet slogan about a step-motherly Centre continues to embarrass. Instead of taking umbrage at the Centre, Bengal should try to salvage its lost reputation, particularly in education and healthcare, where it has traditional expertise and aptitude. A flow of students and patients to West Bengal from other states will shore up confidence and gradually bring in the much- -sought-after investment.
Susenjit Guha, Calcutta
Sir — As a veteran politician and prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee should have known the reasons for Bengal’s economic impoverishment. For one, Bengal has been providing shelter to innumerable refugees since independence. Certain Central decisions have definitely gone against Bengal’s advantage like the freight equalization in coal and steel which brought the state on par with its competitors in other regions. Yet no such decision was taken with respect to cotton grown mostly in western India and which fed Bengal’s cotton industries. The cotton textile industry here naturally turned sick. There were other decisions too, like the shifting of the head office of the State Bank of India and Life Insurance Corporation of India to Mumbai from Calcutta. Then there was the foreign exchange regulations act which caught some unscrupulous traders in the dragnet but also destroyed some industries run by them like Dunlop. There was no left government in Bengal then to counter these moves.
P. Chakravarty, Calcutta