Sir — Tools like the labour advisory board and the Bonus Act of 1965 in West Bengal have come to be merely will-o’-the-wisps. For useful things like these, in the context of labour-related issues, can have no place where ministers think nothing of disregarding norms. More so, when they have to give a thought to the aggressive trade unions they have been patronizing for years (“Austere Asim preaches puja generosity”, Sept 13). Therefore, it is hardly surprising that when union leaders throw tantrums over the payment of puja bonus, the state finance minister, Asim Dasgupta, can do little but to put all rationality and logic on the back-burner. Thus he has chosen to turn a blind eye to the logic of the Bonus Act — linking the bonus amount to be paid to an employee with the company’s profitability — even if it means that the company has to undergo losses in complying with the minister’s directive. So even as the industry representatives fret and fume, they might also think of using this instance as an example of the state’s interference damaging industry.
Ashish Majumder, Calcutta
Sir — While discussing the ban on cow slaughter and its possible fallouts, Sunanda K. Datta-Ray has mentioned that an official ban may encourage “pernicious social customs like caste persecution, child marriage and widow burning” (“Beefing it up again”, August 30). It is one thing to be against such a ban and quite another to indulge in far-fetched musings. Two of our most ardent opposers of cow slaughter, Dayanand Saraswati and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, were also two of the greatest Hindu reformers of the last century. One can surely expect better from an experienced writer like Datta-Ray.
Gopi Krishna Maliwal, Hong Kong
Sir — Jayalalithaa Jayaram is an unorthodox politician with a solid support-base among the masses. Her impertinence, often called political courage, has been the driving force behind many of her unconventional decisions, for instance, the mass dismissal of government employees recently. The other decision which earned her headlines recently is her condemnation of animal sacrifices in and around temples followed by an injunction of ban. This came almost as a sequel to the Tamil Nadu chief minister’s display of compassion for the temple tuskers in the state. But it appears that her animal rights activism is more a political game rather than an expression of genuine compassion. Why is she insisting on banning animal slaughter in and around temples only and not elsewhere too' Temple-goers, after all, are not the only ones who slaughter animals brutally. How long will leaders like Jayalalithaa fool people with shameless populism'
Tapan Pal, Batanagar
Sir — Why is it so difficult to leave the cow alone' Is it really so necessary to consume its flesh' Isn’t its milk enough' Why don’t we look at the brighter side of things' If we stop having beef, there will be no reason to fear epidemics such as the one caused by the mad-cow disease.
Shiv Shanker Almal, Calcutta
The language bar
Sir — West Bengal could learn a lesson or two from Malaysia where framing its education policy is concerned. In this southeast Asian country, not only is English taught as a subject at the primary level, but subjects like mathematics and science are also taught in the English medium. However, subjects like history and geography continue to be taught in the students’ mother tongue (Malay, Mandarin Chinese, or Tamil, as the case may be). The mother tongue is given as much weight as English. Incidentally, science and mathematics are taught in dual languages at the primary level and with the help of both textbooks and audio-visual aids. All this is being done to make Malaysia’s future generations more competitive in today’s globalized environment, where knowledge-based industries are flourishing. It should also be noted that the Malaysian government has instituted special lucrative pay-scales for teachers of english, mathematics and science.
Indranil Basu, Singapore
Sir — Satyarup Banerjee’s story was both infuriating and moving (“Bengal hides a lapse with a lie”, Sept 4). I escaped the English-teaching policies of the Left Front government by a few years. Having studied in a Bengali-medium school, learning english from Class I did not equip me to face the world. I had to augment my knowledge of English by reading English newspapers and books. My wife, like many others in West Bengal who studied English from Class V, finds it difficult to even converse in English. Both my father and grandfather find it far more comfortable in english than we are. Could the model of English followed during their times have really been as bad as the left has made it out to be'
Somaditya Bandyopadhyay, Crawley, UK
Sir — One of the reasons why Bengal used to be ahead of the rest of India in the pre-independence days is that it had an edge over other the rest in education, specially English education. The report, “English divide runs deep in colleges” (Sept 8), is a sad commentary on the degradation of English education in Bengal since independence. What could be a bigger exercise in futility than to translate scientific terms like oxygen and carbon dioxide into vernacular' There is still time for the government to make amends, so that the youth of the state are not deprived of job opportunities.
C.V.K. Moorthy, Calcutta