Sir — Be it Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring or a self-portrait by Vincent van Gogh, subjects with sombre faces are not uncommon in portraits. Their sombre aura was the result of smiling being frowned upon as facetious. This has changed with the advent of selfie cameras, which have led more people to feel inclined to flash their pearly whites. However, maintaining a clean set of teeth can be an arduous task. As a result, many have started availing of smile makeover surgeries. The boom in cosmetic dentistry is an aspect of this worrying trend. While smiling accentuates a person’s appearance, one wonders whether such medical procedures can actually lift people from depression owing to the steep costs of dental care.
Sharmishtha Dhali, Calcutta
Sir — It is heartening that internet facilities have finally been restored in Manipur. This comes five months after the suspension of the services owing to ethnic violence which erupted on May 4 (“Internet fully restored in Manipur”, Sept 24). A ban on communication services has a crippling effect on the economy and causes severe hardship to people, especially students and work-from-home professionals. The suspension of internet services led many to migrate to neighbouring states.
The Centre’s proclivity of resorting to internet shutdowns, allegedly as a policing tool meant for curbing fake news, is worrying. In fact, data suggest that India imposed the highest number of internet shutdowns in the world in 2022. The cessation of internet services in Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370 lasted for 552 days. The Supreme Court had rightly stated that indefinite suspension of the internet goes against freedom of speech. This must be adhered to by the government at all costs.
Khokan Das, Calcutta
Sir — After over 140 days since internet services were suspended in strife-torn Manipur, they were finally restored in the state in view of the marked drop in incidents of violence and improvement in the law and order situation. This comes as a good news for Manipuris after a significant period of time. Now that the internet services have been restored, the government should remain alert for troublemakers to prevent any re-escalation of violence.
H.K. Isha’ati, Mumbai
Sir — Rabindranath Tagore emphasised that Indians should embrace the best of global standards as well as traditional Indian values in his vision for a free exchange of thoughts and cultures (“A different peace”, Sept 23). This philosophy became the driving force behind the founding of Santiniketan and the Visva-Bharati University. It is thus disheartening to witness divisive forces attempt to denigrate the poet’s noble vision. Instead of claiming credit for Santiniketan being listed as a Unesco World Heritage site, it would be instructive for the Bharatiya Janata Party to follow the ideals of Tagore.
The hounding of the Nobel laureate, Amartya Sen, by the university authorities is antithetical to Tagore’s liberal vision. That the authorities have been blatantly toeing the line of a right-wing dispensation stands in stark contrast to Tagore’s vehement opposition to crude nationalism.
Kajal Chatterjee, Calcutta
Sir — According to the State of Working India 2023 report, 42.3% of graduates under the age of 25 are unemployed. This is perhaps because most students tend to opt for higher education instead of seeking employment immediately after graduation. It must be noted that the rate of unemployment has been falling steadily since 2020.
Short-term certificate courses rarely provide prospective career opportunities. The authorities should align graduate courses in terms of students’ requirements.
Dattaprasad Shirodkar, Mumbai
Raise the bar
Sir — Most of the government-aided schools in West Bengal have been witnessing a decline in enrolment (“Campaign for legacy school”, Sept 24). This is because parents are not convinced about the quality of education provided in these schools.
Further, most of these state-aided schools lack modern infrastructure and facilities. As a result, parents are being increasingly lured away by private, English-medium institutions, which tend to promise world-class amenities. The government must ensure quality education in state schools.
Shyamal Thakur, East Burdwan
Sir — The National Medical Council’s decision to reduce the eligibility criteria for admission to postgraduate medical and dental courses to zero percentile is unwarranted. Such a move seems to have stemmed from the large number of vacancies in these courses. This justifies the arguments against the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test.
NEET has been reduced to a mere profit-making machine for private coaching centres. Another major concern is the increasing number of suicide cases among medical aspirants. The government must consider the concerns of both the Opposition and parents of students and discontinue the entrance exam.
M.C. Vijay Shankar, Chennai
Sir — Durga Puja is less than a month away. As a result, markets across the city have been witnessing an increase in the footfall of shoppers (“Stalls to malls, early signs of Puja shopping”, Sept 25). But it is also true that the excitement surrounding the purchase of new attires is diminishing gradually owing to the rising trend of round-the-year marketing.
Sourish Misra, Calcutta