Sir — Heaven help Calcuttans from the grand plans of the civic administration — the Metro Railway under the Hooghly, fast-track flyovers, retail malls, underground parking lots, open-air theatres and even a sculpture park (“Cash signal for Metro under Hooghly” and “Rat resort to plaza park” Sept 8). Remember how long it took the entire Metro passage to come up' And how it destroyed forever Chittaranjan Avenue, the city’s main north-south corridor. For the past two years now, commuters have had to live with the chaos occasioned by the construction of five flyovers all over the city. And going by the state of the Gariahat and A.J.C. Bose Road flyovers, matters won’t be improve even after all the construction activity is over. Really, the civic administration should first learn to manage the existing infrastructure before taking up such expensive “beautification” projects. One must learn to walk first before one can run.
G. Adhikari, Calcutta
Sir — One can appreciate the fact that not having studied English from the primary classes can be a huge handicap. But it is difficult to accept that a student who scored 82 per cent in English in the higher secondary examinations had to leave a reputed institution because he was unable to follow the lectures in English (“Topper falls victim to no-English policy”, Sept 3).
After my matriculation in the late Forties, I got admitted to St Xavier’s College in Calcutta. In those days, most teachers were foreigners, that is, Jesuit priests. A large number of students came from the districts and also from East Bengal where most of the teaching was conducted in Bengali. We had a lot of difficulty initially in following the lectures, specially by the foreigners. But unlike Satyarup Banerjee, none had “to pack his bags”. I am sure the Ramakrishna Mission at Narendrapur does not have any foreigner in its faculty.
Why put the entire blame on the government’s education policy' The casual approach to studies by the students today and the lenient marking process are equally to blame. The desire of the Ramakrishna Mission management “to prepare the students to face the world” is praiseworthy. Banerjee should have stuck on and tried to make up for the deficiencies in his earlier education.
Having taught in colleges for years, I have seen the sad condition of students who do not know English well. But given the immense deterioration in the standard of education today, I doubt whether these students would be able to construct grammatically correct sentences in good Bengali.
Samindra Mohan Roy, Calcutta
Sir — It is funny to find Pabitra Sarkar telling the teachers of Ramakrishna Mission, Narendrapur, how to run their school. The mission-run schools are centres of excellence of international repute; their achievements cannot be paralleled by any government-run school. They do not need government-backed academicians like Sarkar, little known beyond the state, to interfere in their running.
Tapan Pal, Batanagar
Sir — Satyarup Banerjee is the product of the ill-conceived education policy followed by the Left Front, which left a student unable to read or write English properly even after years of studying the language. Mugging a few pages of textbooks prescribed in the syllabus does not equip students to face the larger world. Professionally, a lot depends on the skill with which an individual can articulate his views in English, the medium of communication worldwide.
Pabitra Sarkar’s exhortation to the Ramakrishna Mission, Narendrapur, to include Bengali as one of the mediums of instruction at the higher secondary level, is an example of the ham-handedness of those in authority. Banerjee’s fate is the result of the sort of suggestion made by Sarkar.
Tuhin Subhra Dey, Hooghly
Sir — Satyarup Banerjee is not alone — there are many like him in this state. The syllabus of the West Bengal board is so structured that there is a huge leap in standards from the secondary to the higher secondary level. Students from vernacular-medium schools who have done very well in the Madhyamik examinations face many problems as a result of the “no-English policy”. This is not only true for English but also for the science subjects. The lectures are in English, and students who have spent 11 years in a Bengali- or Hindi-medium school have no idea how to cope. Moreover, two years is too short a time to complete the vast higher secondary syllabus set by the council.
Dipankar Bera, Howrah
Sir — Satyarup Banerjee’s fate should act as an eyeopener for policy-makers who have denied students a knowledge of English. The West Bengal government has done well to reverse its policy from 2000 and re-introduce English from class I. However, students should also try in their own way to improve their knowledge of the language, without simply blaming the authorities. “Self help is always the best help” and they should begin by reading books written in English. This will take care of the problem of a poor vocabulary which troubles the students more than anything else. Simply ruing one’s lot is not a solution to the problem. Good students like Banerjee should think of this as a challenge.
Kamal Taparia, New York
Sir — West Bengal has never been one to market itself, which is one of the reasons states with far meagre resources (intellectual, material and natural) have left it behind in the path of development. This is why the initiative to market the Durga Puja to the world should be welcomed (“Packaged panorama of pujas”, August 29). The Puja is a unique event and it is time it achieved the popularity denied it for long, owing to the neglect of the government and the citizens of the city. If the Oktoberfest held during the same time in Germany can attract thousands from all corners of the world, then the Pujas will definitely attract some to Bengal. If in 2003 there are 70 enthusiasts then in 2004 there will be more. Economically too, promoting puja tourism makes excellent sense. The state is being projected as an ideal destination for industrial activities. But in this age of services, tourism ranks high as an important revenue-generating activity.
Simanti Banerjee, Calcutta
Sir — With the festival season round the corner, the administration in Calcutta must wake up to the threat of heightened terrorist activities. One method to ensure greater safety is for taxi drivers and bus conductors, along with the police, to be authorized to check the luggage of anyone they find suspicious.
Govind Das Dujari, Calcutta