Sir — What has Mamata Banerjee been up to in the three months that she has been a minister without a ministry' Well its not doing what she does best — throwing tantrums and cursing her detractors (“English season for Mamata”, Dec 3). Apparently, Bengal’s rebel-at-large is spending her days translating her poetry into English and sketching the deity, Ganesh. While it is always good to take a break, even if it is a forced one, Banerjee must not be deceived into thinking that she will ever win any awards for her “creative” output. Considering how she has fallen off the popularity charts in her home state, perhaps Banerjee would have been better off concentrating on politics — putting some semblance of order into the Trinamool Congress and thrashing out strategy for next year’s general elections or bargaining for a plum ministerial post. Banerjee seems to have forgotten that it is action — rather than words — that will get her the votes.
Sumanta Ghosh, Calcutta
Once bitten, twice not shy
Sir — Achin Vanaik is most likely right about the United States of America’s intentions in west Asia (“ There for the long term”, Dec 4). It is clear that US foreign policy has changed from paying lip service to democracy to actually working towards the spread of democracy. Vanaik is also right in that this mission to spread democracy will require winning the allegiance of the ruling elite in the countries of this region. However, I disagree with the author’s position that this is bad. Globalization led by American capital, though imperfect, has reduced poverty around the world in a way that has been unprecedented. Millions of people in India and China are better off now than they could ever have hoped to be under the jackboots of socialism or Marxism. And the argument that democracy, in the American image, is a symbol of cultural hegemony is spurious, at best. The model of American democracy allows and encourages different cultures to flourish. Even in Iraq, where democracy has not taken root till date, the Kurds and Shias enjoy unprecedented cultural freedom thanks to the American “hegemony” that Vanaik so despises. I would rather live in such a “hegemonic” country than in a country that condones ritual stoning or brideburning as cultural “difference”.
Atin Basu, Virginia, US
Sir — Achin Vanaik has correctly identified the US’s main strategy: to achieve global dominance, starting with west Asia. George W. Bush is a scheming politician and his administration is full of hardliners like Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. Bush should remember that he is asking for the impossible if he wants the Iraqis to accept American culture. The return of American soldiers in body bags signals his moral defeat-in-the-making. The US has lost all the sympathy it had earned after 9/11 — look at the rising hatred for everything American. Besides Bush’s popularity is also on the wane, in the US and abroad. His recent cold reception by the British is an indication of this.
Koyel Basu, Calcutta
Sir— Instead of theorizing about the new look US expansionism, eminent writers like Achin Vanaik should analyse the imperial designs of the world’s remaining superpower.
Suryakanti Tarafdar, Calcutta
Trouble on tracks
Sir — Passengers travelling in reserved coaches have a tough time. I was going to New Delhi by the Poorva Express recently, when ticketless passengers started boarding the reserve coach in Bihar. To our disgust, we found there were no ticket-checkers or security personnel on the coach. On the return journey, someone claiming to be an armyman, boarded the compartment with a current ticket which is not eligible under the Tatkal scheme. He started abusing passengers, especially the old and women, in an inebriated state.
Fares are increased in every rail budget, so what is Nitish Kumar doing to ensure the security of passengers in trains passing through Bihar' Also, why are the facilities in trains and stations so abysmal'
Bikram Naskar, South 24 Parganas
Sir —The side berths of second class three-tier sleepers, AC three-tier and two-tier coaches are below standard size. This greatly inconvenience tall passengers. Also, the rattling of doors disturbs passengers travelling on sideberths near the entrance. Doors must be properly designed and fitted with hydraulic stoppers.
A. Chatterjee, Calcutta
Sir — While boarding the Santiniketan Express from Howrah, I found that the reservation chart was in Hindi only, which I could not read. I felt like an illiterate alien in my home state. Will someone tell Nitish Kumar that English and Hindi are associate languages' There can be no going back now on the promise Jawaharlal Nehru made in Parliament that English would continue to be an associate official language of India as long as non-Hindi speakers did not want it to go. Let Kumar first try to Hindi-ize the south of India: if he succeeds in that project, he may try it on the Bengalis.
Undoubtedly, Hindi is one of the great languages of India, and but for those who equate Hindi, Hindu and Hindustan, a variant of Hindi, namely, Hindustani — to which all other north-Indian languages could have contributed — would by now have been our sole lingua franca.
Sunanda Sanyal, Calcutta