Sir — Amidst the deluge of reports in the media on India’s ‘growth and development’ impasse, Sunanda K. Datta-Ray’s article, “Left out in the rain” (July 7) was one that spoke for the aam admi. Datta-Ray’s scathing criticism of the State’s ineptitude in maintaining the basic public services is totally justified.
At a time when the country is witnessing massive powercuts notwithstanding the installation of numerous power plants, when roads connecting the rural hinterlands are littered with potholes that lead to accidents, and when in spite of the common people’s greater access to information, the readership of English newspapers in India is as low as 1.97 per cent, Datta-Ray’s wry observations confirm the readers’ experience of the government’s ineptitude. The rapidly deteriorating postal system and the glaring inefficiency in the management of the Indian Railways, as pointed out by Datta-Ray, add fuel to the fire.
When comparisons in favour of India are being made between our country and the West in terms of the ‘growth’ rate, Datta-Ray’s article raises uncomfortable but vital questions about the state of public life — the conditions under which the majority of Indians struggle for survival. The people at the helm should reflect on these issues instead of chasing dreams that can affect the lives of only a small portion of the population.
Debotosh Chatterjee, Burdwan
Sir — P. Chidambaram’s observation about Bengal’s “culture of violence” has predictably angered the state leadership (“PC and state clash on ‘culture of violence’”, July 6). The leaders of Bengal see in it a design to belittle the state government. Chidambaram’s specific advice to the “so-called educated classes” to stop living in a “fool’s paradise” might also have hurt the sentiments of those who consider themselves to be intellectuals.
However, the harsh truth is that both the government and the civil society have contributed to the atmosphere of violence and disorder that has cast a dark shadow over the state. The past few months have been full of reports on political killings, violence in educational institutions, murders, rapes, extortions and the like. Unfortunately, in most of these cases, either the offenders could not be caught or were released after arrest. These incidents, together with the brash indifference displayed by the administration at times, should have served as a wake-up call for the intelligentsia to register its protest. That did not happen. So the Union home minister had to caution the state administration about the dangers of unchecked violence. The people of Bengal must strongly demand the restoration of the rule of law before the situation goes out of hand. Disorder cannot be permitted to take a permanent seat in society.
Srikanta Bhattacharjee, Calcutta
Sir — In a populous country like India — where people are always trying to win some race or the other and are least bothered about the impact of their inconsiderate behaviour on their fellow citizens — it is wise to teach discipline in school. This might inculcate a sense of civil behaviour in budding citizens (Living with lines”, July 3). In our society, the question of maintaining a “line” cannot be confined to the boundaries of the school. Disorderly queues are a regular feature of counters selling tickets for football or cricket matches, and of some cinema halls.
I recently had a traumatic experience of standing in a chaotic queue at the India-Pakistan international border near Attari and Wagah. Numerous people had gathered there to watch the evening flag-lowering ceremony. Visitors waited for hours in serpentine queues outside the main gate to get a vantage point. There were no guards. Some people, in a bid to jump the line, suddenly forced their way forward, posing a serious threat to the lives of the children and the elderly. The commotion may well have taken the form of a stampede. A daily dose of discipline in schools might well help keep in check such “undesirable instinctive impulses”. But who will line up the thousands who never get a chance to attend school?
Indranil Banerjee, Calcutta