Playing a rebel
Sir — It goes without saying that Aishwarya Rai’s “rising” against the fee structure in Bollywood is bound to earn her a lot of bad press and negative rating in India where female actors still get the worst deal and are expected to bear with it, silently (“Aishwarya dropped over Rising fees”, Nov 15). The huge difference in the pay of the hero, Aamir Khan, who is supposed to get Rs 7 crore, and Rai, who would have made a niggardly Rs 1.5 crore, should make the hiatus obvious. Rai’s Indian agent, Hari Singh, has already started cribbing about how Rai, at the instance of her foreign agent, is trying to cash in on her “international” status. In other words, Rai has already started to be portrayed as a greedy and opportunistic actress. But women in India may have a lot to thank Rai for. She protests if her man treats her badly, she protests, too, if her almost all-male production group decides to take her for a ride.
J. Acharya, Calcutta
Trouble is still brewing
Sir — The violence in Dalgaon should make senior leaders of the Left Front sit up and introspect on its policy of tolerating and encouraging the local mafia, especially in the tea gardens, just to preserve its votebank (“Job backlash burns 19 to death”, Nov 7). These men run their self-styled administration in the guise of trade union leaders or as functionaries at the panchayat level. They are fearless creatures as they know that the local police would never have the audacity to register a complaint against, leave alone take action, so long as they enjoyed political backing. The common people, naturally, find themselves in a peculiar position without knowing where to turn to. Lack of faith in the police and judicial system are an eventual corollary. The violence was an expression of this disillusion. If the Left Front allows the situation to continue in north Bengal, Tarakeshwar Lohar’s house may not be the last one to burn.
Asit Kumar Mitra, Calcutta
Sir — Some cynics in Bengal may agree that it is a good thing that the notorious Tarakeshwar Lohar was not killed by the angry mob (“Hard fall for friend in need”, Nov 10). Else, West Bengal would have seen one more stone erected somewhere in Dalgaon with an engraved message reading “Comrade Tarakeshwar, tomakay amraa bhooli ni, bhoolbo na”. Knowing full well the real nature of such “comrades”, such blatant displays of solidarity are really sickening.
C.K. Das, Hakimpara, Siliguri
Sir — Tea-growing is a seasonal activity and the cropping period is coming to a close. Normally, at this time of the year the producers are flush with funds and stocks with which they can meet the labour wages for the off-season and carry out necessary maintenance activities. Because of the four-year downturn, most producers are now in a hand to mouth situation. They are looking at the winter with a sense of deep foreboding and disquiet. Disputes, lockouts and violence over statutory dues can be expected.
There were recent proposals to reduce the burden of social cost on the tea industry and to put a moratorium on the recovery of bank loans. The state governments of Assam and West Bengal must impress upon the Centre that if the required package for the industry is not released soon, more lawlessness and acts of desperation can be expected in the region.
P. Agarwal, via email
Sir — The tea industry sustains almost the whole of north Bengal single-handedly and thus naturally invites intervention from the party in power. The corruption this entails has led to the impoverishment of the local population. The government might be making a lot of noises at the moment but it should delve into the problem ailing the tea industry and north Bengal more seriously. North Bengal has immense potential for tourism, too. The two industries, if properly developed, could provide the people employment and also ease tension in the area.
Dipankar Bera, Howrah
Sir — The mob violence that burnt alive 19 labourers in Dalgaon has become part of the political culture in West Bengal. As is its wont, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has flatly denied responsibility for perpetrating the incident. Perhaps the party should realize that the public has long stopped believing in its pious platitudes.
Sunil Kumar Pal, London
Sir — The massacre at the tea gardens in Dalgaon clearly shows how power and political patronage can corrupt a person. How can a trade union leader, who is supposed to be the voice of the labour, do a volte face and turn to exploiting labour' Tarakeshwar Lohar’s behaviour is clearly indicative of the attitude that has become the bane of other trade union leaders like him in West Bengal and elsewhere in the country.
Sudarsan Nandi, Rangamati,
Sir — The situation in West Bengal has deteriorated so much that the administration is now a mere puppet in the hands of the party workers. Even appointments in the tea industry are now in the hands of the ruling party. The employment scene is already abysmal in West Bengal. The problem is bound to aggravate.
Debayan Sarkhel, via email