Trail of blood; Alarm bells; Parting shot; Unkind treatment; Toxic breath; Strange plea

Read more

  • Published 5.06.18

Trail of blood

• Sir - A bear was shot dead after it had gone missing from its enclosure in a zoo in Germany. Instances of authorities killing animals that escape from zoos are not uncommon. The most tragic among these was the slaughter of several animals - tigers, lions and grizzly bears - by armed deputies in Ohio some years ago. Human negligence leads to animals escaping their cages. The fugitives species - some of them are critically endangered - pay for the callousness of the staff with their lives. Would it not be better to tranquillize runaways instead of shooting them dead?

Tathagata Barui,

South 24 Parganas

Alarm bells

• Sir - If smoking and the use of tobacco products are to be successfully combated, then Indian society needs to go beyond observing ceremonial 'no tobacco' days ("Smoking harmful? Ignorance is bliss", May 31). As matters stand in India, children as young as 10 years of age can easily buy cigarettes or other tobacco products. Adults routinely send the kids in the family to their neighbourhood 'corner shops' to buy cigarettes for them. The sellers in question also do not seem to have any qualms about handing the products over to children. This absence of a sense of responsibility is shameful. They seem to have no fear of being prosecuted under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003, and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, both of which outline stringent punishments for people who sell tobacco products or cigarettes to minors.

Pouches of raw khaini rarely carry any statutory warnings about its use; on the rare occasion that they do, the warnings are in tiny, English font, thus making it impossible for a vast majority of the population to read. Cigarette packets bear pictorial warnings, but pan masala, which is also injurious to health, is often endorsed by Bollywood celebrities. In the light of this, the observation of anti-tobacco days seems hollow.

Ajay Jha,


• Sir - It is alarming that only 69 per cent of the Indian respondents to a survey conducted by the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World were aware of the ill effects of smoking. The remaining 31 per cent that does not know how harmful smoking is forms a rather sizeable section of the population.

The numbers ought not to be so high, especially since anti-smoking campaigns have been carried out for decades. For a long time, cigarette cartons used to merely carry a statutory warning that smoking is injurious to health. In recent years, however, cigarette packets bear horrifying visuals of diseases caused by smoking. Anti-smoking advertisements are even shown in cinema halls before the screening of a film. However, it seems that these campaigns have largely failed. But why is this so? Could it be because they could not extend their reach beyond cities and towns, as a result of which the rural population is still not aware of the destruction wrought by tobacco usage?

Village-specific campaigns in local languages should be undertaken to raise awareness. The health ministries at the Centre and in the states should work towards addressing this problem.

Another disappointing discovery made by the survey is that over half of India's smokers have tried to quit, but failed. The dependence on nicotine is difficult to kick. This reminds one of Mark Twain's famous quote: "Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I've done it thousands of times."

Anjan Majumdar,


• Sir - It was disheartening to read that Indians are neither aware of the adverse affects of tobacco, nor willing to admit that they are addicted to it. Commuters on local trains who smoke are mainly made up of educated office-goers. Yet, they violate the COTPA.

The authorities at all railway stations across the country must be made to issue repeated warnings of hefty fines in case of violations. Educated people who smoke in public places and on modes of public transport must be strictly penalized.

Basudeb Dutta,


Parting shot

• Sir - It is often reported in the media that the Calcutta Municipal Corporation is set to repair a particular dug-up footpath in the city. It is heartening that the CMC is doing this - it is a boon for hapless pedestrians who often have to negotiate footpaths that have been left in an excavated state. Pavements are often dug up for repair and maintenance of utilities such as telecom lines and water pipes that lie underground. However, once the work is done, the stones or soil that were dug up are either left as they are, or sloppily put back in place. It remains like this for months on end before any permanent restoration work is started - if it is started at all.

The CMC should insist that the company that digs up the footpath must restore it to its original condition. The corporation must also have its own facilities for taking up small cases of restoration; for bigger projects, it can hire contractors. At the end of the day, pedestrians must be protected from the injury and death that can result from walking on badly-lit, dug-up footpaths.

Ashok Kumar Ghosh,


Unkind treatment

• Sir — The resignation of Baijayant Panda, who is a member of parliament, from the Biju Janata Dal has created a turmoil in state politics (“Suspended Odisha MP Baijayant Panda quits BJD”, May 28). Panda’s resignation follows a bitter and protracted dispute with the party leadership. The proverbial last straw was the decision of the chief minister, Naveen Patnaik, to not pay Panda a visit following the death of his father. 

The exit of Panda from the BJD has triggered speculations of him joining the Bharatiya Janata Party. For his part, the Lok Sabha MP has also been heaping praise on the prime minister, Narendra Modi, for some time. However, a few Congressmen remain equally hopeful that Panda might join their ranks. Political observers believe that the resignation will have a major impact on Odisha’s politics. 

Samarendra Mishra, 

• Sir — Although the Kendrapara MP, Baijayant Panda, was not in the good books of Naveen Patnaik for the last few months, the chief minister should have paid a visit to Panda’s residence upon hearing about the death of Bansidhar Panda. Given the cordial relations between the two families in the past, Patnaik could have paid his respects to the departed soul. Further, Bansidhar Panda was not just the father of a party MP but also a well-known industrialist from the state. Other top leaders of the BJD also stayed away from the funeral. This naturally hurt Baijayant Panda’s 

Aniket Mohanty, 

• Sir — The resignation of Baijayant Panda from the BJD is a fallout of months of bitter feud between the Lok Sabha MP and the party supremo, Naveen Patnaik. However, what really prompted Baijayant Panda to part ways was the absence of BJD leaders at his father’s funeral. The manner in which party functionaries turned their back on him during his hour of crisis was uncalled for. 

Anandjit Patnaik, 

• Sir — Baijayant Panda’s exit from the BJD does not augur well for the ruling party. First of all, the Lok Sabha MP should not have been suspended from the party. He worked tirelessly for the development of his constituency. Baijayant Panda extensively toured Kendrapara and covered almost all gram panchayats falling within the ambit of his constituency. He made good use of his MP local area development fund to mitigate drinking water crisis in the region. It is unfortunate that the BJD leadership treated such a hardworking politician poorly. 

Madhusudan Mohapatra, 

• Sir — Baijayant Panda has extensively toured his constituency. However, this was just a publicity stunt to be in the limelight. He made a mistake by keeping away from ordinary party workers. He had to pay a heavy political price for this. 

Nandan Biswal, 

Toxic breath

• Sir — Air pollution has reached a dangerous level in Patna, Gaya and Muzaffarpur. Although the state government has shown promptness in this regard, the steps taken are inadequate. It is difficult to understand why old, polluting buses are still allowed to ply in Patna. Pollution checks in the city are rare. The government should promote the use of battery-driven autorickshaws instead of the ones running on fuel.

Trees are often cut down indiscriminately in the name of development. For example, trees were felled in front of Patna Women’s College to widen roads. But development and environmental concerns should go hand in hand. The government must make it mandatory for developers to leave space for trees within premises. Plantation drives could help improve the situation. Stringent laws should be enforced to promote a healthier air quality.

S. Kumar, 

Strange plea

• Sir — Tejashwi Yadav, the leader of the Opposition in Bihar, met the governor to stake claim to form the government as the Rashtriya Janata Dal is the single largest party in the state. He made this demand after the Karnataka incident where the governor had first invited the Bharatiya Janata Party — it had won the highest number of seats in the recent assembly elections — to form the government.

Tejashwi may be right technically but his demand seems childish on practical grounds. If he is confident that he has the strength of numbers to replace the Nitish Kumar-led government, he should move a no-confidence motion against it. But he will not do so because he knows that the numbers elude him. After the break-up of the Grand Alliance, the then governor had called Nitish Kumar to form the government again because it was clear that the Janata Dal (United) and the BJP had the numbers. 

The party with the largest number of seats need not form the government always. Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s first tenure as prime minister that lasted for just 13 days is a case in point.

Sampat Kumar,