Rights of passage
Sir — Nobody is under the illusion that political decisions are meant for the well-being of the people. There are occasions, however, when such decisions benefit the common man, although purely by accident. Sonia Gandhi’s stand to abandon the proposed rail roko programme is a case in point (“Cong rethink on rail roko”, September 3). Experience has taught her that by disrupting communication, a party only earns the disfavour of people. With the assembly polls round the corner, Sonia Gandhi is clearly not willing to take any risks by rubbing popular sentiments the wrong way. But the question that must arise now is: will the people fall for her ultra-considerate gesture, or will they take it as just another pre-election sop' More important, will rival parties try to go one up on her by steering clear of the disruptive modes of political resistance' Whatever it is, a number of commuters can be sure of safe, disruption-free passage for some time to come.
Shilpa Singh, Calcutta
To make a killing
Sir — It is interesting that the Constitution makes room for organizing agriculture and animal husbandry on scientific lines for improving their breeds (“Beefing it up again”, August 30). A strict implementation of animal husbandry on scientific lines would mean discarding an old or diseased animal. A ban on cow slaughter would thus come in the way of following a constitutional provision.
The idea of banning cow slaughter is nothing but a way of upholding the Hindu belief that the cow is a holy animal. The radical Hindu advocates of the ban ought to take a lesson from Nepal, officially a Hindu state, where buffalo meat is a staple food among many Hindus. A practising Hindu like Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar could show the courage to speak up against the excesses of his faith which were impeding the progress of society, why is there such a dearth of reform-minded Hindus today'
Raja Sen, Dhanbad
Sir — “Banning cow slaughter is part of the Hindu community’s internal politics”, says Sunanda K. Datta-Ray in his article, “Beefing it up again”. Instead of dealing with serious issues which plague the country, the obsessive concern for the cow appears ridiculous. The illiterate and god-fearing masses in the rural areas are easy to blackmail with religious issues such as this. The political leaders, finding that illiteracy ultimately works to their advantage, do not try hard enough to spread literacy and education. Most Indians thus still remain illiterate and ignorant, clinging to their folk culture blindly. Datta-Ray is correct in pinpointing that a change in attitude is the foremost requirement of our times.
Indranil Basu, Singapore
Sir — Consensus is something seldom achieved in Indian politics. Thus a bill whose passage depends entirely on consensus, is likely to stay shelved forever. Take the women’s reservation bill for instance. The bill proposing a ban on the slaughter of cows has met with a similar fate (“Cow bill heads for the slaughterhouse”, August 22). With leaders like N. Chandrababu Naidu, Mamata Banerjee, Somnath Chatterjee and others insisting on a consensus, the bill does not look cut out for a successful passage. The anecdote about Mohammed Ali Jinnah in Sunanda K. Datta-Ray’s article points out how the eating of ham did not matter for Jinnah so long as it was kept a secret. Many Hindu beef-eaters do not make a public statement of their gastronomic preference. As long as they do not force others to follow them, why should the self-appointed representatives of Hindus go up in arms against cow-slaughter'
Attacking the food habits of others is a manifestation of a regressive and fascist bent of mind.
Asok Dasgupta, Calcutta
Sir —Very little reason has been provided for proposing the ban on cow slaughter, other than the fact that the animal is held sacred by the Hindus. The terrible treatment meted out to cattle who have outlived their use is not unknown to anyone. And yet, political vested interests continue to lobby in favour of banning cow slaughter without really caring about the animals.
Dhruba Jyoti Sarma, Guwahati
Sir — One of the very few positive results emerging out of the differences of opinion among Indian political leaders has been the stalling of the cow-slaughter legislation.
S. Darwin C. Raj, New Delhi
Sir — Nowhere in its text does the Constitution mention the need to honour majority sentiments and neglect those of the minority. Had the bill proposing a ban on cow-slaughter been passed, it would have brought the leather industry to a standstill. The lack of consensus on the issue is a blessing in disguise for the country and the people.
S. Hussain, Dibrugarh, Assam
Sir — The mobile phone revolution has taken the country virtually by storm. A deluge of mobile phone brands and service providers has flooded the Indian consumer market. The latest player in the market is Reliance, which relaunched its cellular service campaign with much fanfare. Its recent television campaign projects the company as a single uniting force in the country, a thriving and prosperous India.
But reality speaks otherwise. In a country where even after 56 years of independence a sizeable population languishes under the poverty line, attending to the basic human needs of people is more important than “empowering” them with cell phones. Opening doors to private entrepreneurship is all very well, provided the private players are not completely oblivious to the ground realities.
Manaspratim Basu, Calcutta