Grim picture; Dubious logic; Publicity stunt; Forgotten lesson
- Published 4.06.18
• Sir - Most schools in the rural and suburban areas of West Bengal are in a pitiable state. They often lack basic amenities like blackboards and desks. Even the washrooms are generally grubby. It is indeed unfortunate that children have to attend classes amidst such unpleasant surroundings. What should also not escape notice is that a majority of these students come from underprivileged backgrounds: not all parents can afford fancy private schools. By not providing the requisite infrastructure for education in these areas, what kind of message does the government want to send across to the masses?
• Sir - The assertion of the Union home minister, Rajnath Singh, that minorities are safe in India does not appear to be correct ("All in faith", May 28). Especially, in view of the fact that members of minority faiths have often been targeted by Hindutva groups in recent years. Singh made the comment while responding to the controversy over a letter written by the archbishop of Delhi archdiocese, Anil Joseph Couto. The archbishop had asked churches based in the national capital to begin a prayer campaign ahead of the next general elections.
The call to prayer for peace before elections is not an unusual request and has been made in the past as well. But, this time, some members of the Bharatiya Janata Party and other right-wing organizations chose to severely criticize Couto for the letter. In the past, the chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Mohan Bhagwat, had alleged that there was an ulterior motive behind Mother Teresa's charitable work. It is little wonder then that the Hindutva brigade found fault with Couto.
• Sir - More than 18 people have died in Kerala after being infected by the nipah virus. The steady rise in the death toll is a cause of concern. In the beginning, many had suggested that the virus had been spread by fruit bats. However, samples of fruit bats from the affected region have tested negative for the virus. This has deepened the mystery over the infections, leading to panic among the people - not just in Kerala but also in other states. Therefore, the West Bengal government is right in making arrangements to tackle nipah. The ID Hospital in Calcutta has been asked to stay prepared in case of an outbreak in the state. However, one wonders why the Mamata Banerjee-led government did not show similar alacrity in taking on the scourge of dengue last year. The administration should have kept residents informed about the spread of the vector-borne disease. On the contrary, it allegedly tried to hush up any news related to dengue that might have given the government a bad name.
M. Roy Chowdhury,
• Sir - The article, "Two anniversaries" (May 28), by Manini Chatterjee was incisive. One cannot deny the fact that in the last four years, the Narendra Modi-led government has made India's presence felt in the international arena through intelligent diplomacy. However, whether that has translated into greater foreign investments for the country is debatable. As far as welfare schemes are concerned, the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana and the Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana are welcome initiatives. But there is not much to cheer about on the job front. Further, farm woes are spiralling out of control and the banking sector has lost much of its credibility. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, therefore, has its task cut out before the next general elections. That the BJP has won only five Lok Sabha by-elections since sweeping to power in 2014 is viewed by many as a measure of things to come.
In such a scenario, the party would do well to tone down its strident majoritarianism in order to attract more allies in the future.
• Sir - Manini Chatterjee has rightly pointed out that the BJP had became a sort of political pariah following the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992. Most parties started avoiding the BJP after some leaders of the saffron party were seen to be participating in the destruction of the 16th-century shrine. This was the reason why the BJP government in 1996 could not last more than 13 days in office. The BJP was the largest party in the Lok Sabha with 161 seats, yet it could not muster enough support from other parties to continue in government. This forced the then party leadership to change its ways: the BJP under Atal Bihari Vajpayee became a moderate outfit. The change of strategy worked well and the party returned to power within a couple of years. Thereafter, the BJP headed the first non-Congress government at the Centre that completed a full term.
Now it seems that the BJP, under Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, has again fallen back on the divisive agenda. Given that the Opposition is coming together to counter the BJP, as it happened in Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh recently, the party must reconsider its policy. There is no guarantee that the BJP will always win an absolute majority in Parliament on its own, like it did in 2014.