Anything for a beautiful face
Sir — Nafisa Ali is famous — for no better reason, it seems, than for being famous. Which is why her’s is the face that accompanied the report, “Mobbed, Modi shows ‘civilized’ face” (Nov 25). A one-time Miss India and a one-film wonder, Ali has by some strange luck transformed into a roving activist. If she is not heckling Modi, then she is playing with poor street children on the lawns of a 5-star hotel — all in the full glare of the cameras, of course. The rise of page three and the need to attract readers to the metro supplements all major newspapers have started, with celebrity blow-ups, may explain why we see so much of Ali lately. And no one’s complaining, since Ali — greying hair and all — is stunningly beautiful. Even Narendra Modi is not immune to persuasion from a beautiful face — which is why the butcher of Gujarat, who had brazened out protests by far more redoubtable opponents, expressed “regret” for last year’s carnage after the protest from Ali. Is Ali flattered'
Kamala Basu, Calcutta
States at war
Sir — The violence in Assam and Bihar over the Railway Recruitment Board examinations, which now seems to have assumed the proportions of a regional war, is the result of years of nepotism and corruption in the recruitment process of the railways, perpetrated by several railway ministers. While A.B.A. Gani Khan Chawdhry boasted of having given rail jobs to thousands of Bengalis, K.C. Lenka, when he was railway minister, ensured that 90 per cent of jobs in the railways — from doctors to Railway Police Force personnel — went to Oriyas only. The ministers from Bihar were notorious for nepotism. A few years ago, the list of successful candidates for the posts of gangmen was withheld at the last minute in Kharagpur, allegedly because Mamata Banerjee smelt a conspiracy to exclude Bengalis. Such blatant regionalism in the recruitment process is bound to infuriate and alienate candidates from the Northeast, because they have few political masters to take care of their interests.
The railways can play a vital role in aiding national integration, being India’s biggest employer. All examinations for recruitment into the railways should be conducted centrally, irrespective of the zone where vacancies arise, and under a panel comprising of non-political eminent people from every region of the nation to ensure that only the deserving get jobs.
Shivaji Moitra, via email
Sir — The editorial, “Outside Logic” (Nov 19), on the situation in Assam presents a wrong picture. It terms the protests arising out of the continuous harassment of and assault on train passengers of the north-eastern region in Bihar, as “parochial” and equates it with the anti-foreigners movement of the Eighties. But the facts are just the opposite. Assam has a sizeable Bihari population and people from outside the state have been earning their livelihood in the state for years. It need hardly be said that the North-east is a backward region with much unemployment. Naturally, the youth of the region looked to the railways as a prime employer. The present situation has its roots in certain events of December 1988, when the Guwahati unit of the All Assam Students’ Union held a 7-day rail roko demanding reservation of jobs for locals in the Indian Railways. At a meeting between the AASU, the railways and the Assam government in Dispur, the railway officials said that 50 per cent of Group D posts were filled by casual workers and the remaining 50 per cent, from the local employment exchanges. They promised that once all casual workers were made permanent, all recruitment for Group D posts would be made from the local employment exchanges. They also agreed to refer the AASU demand for 80 per cent reservation of posts in the Group C category to the railway ministry. But the promises were never fulfilled and the policy of exploiting the region in terms of jobs continued for the last one-and-half decades. This is not “xenophobic” politics. The Assamese are only reminding the government that tall claims and false promises will not do.
Dwaipayan Bora, Duliajan
Sir — It was Jawaharlal Nehru who injected the tunnel vision of Indian leaders that Bhaskar Ghose mentions in “Not just a lesson in geography (Nov 20). Nehru’s India comprised Kashmir, Delhi and Allahabad. He could not or did not want to see anything beyond this. His arrogant handling of A.Z. Phizo started the Naga insurgency, a problem that gradually engulfed the whole region. His refusal to set up a proper physical barrier along the India-East Pakistan border opened a floodgate of illegal immigrants into the North-east. Worse, he made no efforts to build the infrastructure that is needed for development. Nehru’s attitude has been emulated by successive Central governments. North-east India requires a separate Central ministry altogether which reports directly to the prime minister, with the responsibility of rejuvenating the industry and providing employment. This will take care of the insurgency problem. Besides, greater interaction with the rest of India should be encouraged to eradicate the alienation that has taken root among citizens in the North-east.
J.K. Dutt, Calcutta
Sir — Passengers passing through Bihar have always had harrowing tales to narrate. Hoodlums often force passengers with valid reservations out of their seats. The railway authorities and the law and order machinery of Bihar have failed to put a stop to this for several years. The manhandling of a few girl students from West Bengal studying in the Capital in a train passing through Bihar has not been erased completely from public memory. Diverting all important trains from Bihar may be considered if such attacks continue and people from other states are victimized in this region.
Subhajit Ghosh, Shillong
Sir — The rape of a Naga girl and the molestation and stripping of a Mizo girl on trains in Bihar raise several important questions. One, why did the hooligans feel the need to sexually assault the hapless women' Why are women always the victims of sexual assault, as part of a larger violence' Two, the attacks could not have occurred without at least the tacit consent of the Bihar government. This is borne out by the fact that the police refused to even register first information reports and merely advised the complainants to leave Bihar as soon as possible. And yet they were prompt in arresting a few “looters” when the pressure grew. This suggests that they knew all along who was responsible, because the affected passengers obviously would not have been able to identify them by name. Also, why is it that the railway authorities did not think of providing security on the trains till well after the event' Soon, women will fear to venture through these parts even if accompanied. And all this in a state nominally led by a woman.
Mercy Uriah, Shillong