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Corporate spies

THE nexus between politicians, corporates and bureaucrats is responsible for the theft of documents from Union Ministries (Cover Story, March 20). The government is run by corporates by proxy. That they are even involved in the selection of Ministers was the inference one made from the Niira Radia tapes.

Sravana Ramachandran

Chennai

The elderly

THE ever-increasing number of older people is more a curse than a boon in developing countries like India (“State of the elderly”, March 20). A few lucky elderly people are able to enjoy their old age. For most, it is nothing but a source of anxiety. Their plight reminds one of the pathetic state of Thomas Wilson in W. Somerset Maugham’s famous story “The Lotus Eater”. About 70 per cent of India’s elderly live in rural areas below the poverty line. They are not capable of earning their livelihood nor are they taken care of by their kith and kin.

Frequent reductions in the rate of interest on bank deposits and for the post office monthly income scheme coupled with the hike in the prices of almost everything have made the life of an old person insecure. The pro-senior citizen steps the government has adopted are not sufficient. The pension for elderly persons living below the poverty line must be increased in tune with inflation. The government and NGOs must set up old age homes that can provide service free of cost to the poor.

Buddhadev Nandi

Bishnupur, West Bengal

Delhi

IN spite of what the BJP and the Congress would have us believe, voters gave an unequivocal verdict in the Delhi elections (“A famous victory in Delhi”, March 6). With the AAP’s stunning comeback victory and the decimation of the two national parties, the faith of Delhiites in Arvind Kejriwal’s democratic approach to governance stand vindicated. Learning from past mistakes, the AAP should act like a ruling dispensation, not like a bunch of activists, set realistic goals for itself and go slow in fulfilling its election promises. It has to be cautious in doling out freebies as they will be a drain on the State’s exchequer.

R. Prabhu Raj

Chennai

THE first time Kejriwal came to power he took the support of the Congress even though he had promised that he would not do so. He also made some decisions fast as if he was in a hurry. The AAP got a clear majority the second time around not because of its work but because of the arrogance of Modi and Amit Shah and their way of doing business and also for choosing Kiran Bedi as the chief ministerial candidate.

Horilal Kanojia

Nasik, Maharashtra

Bigotry

IT is unfortunate that individuals who exercise their fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression continue to be targeted (“Who is the offended?”, March 6). While one was still coming to terms with the brutality of the Charlie Hebdo killings in Paris, one was confronted with the Perumal Murugan case closer home. Shirin Dalvi was the next victim of religious bigotry. Intolerance has been allowed to reach such levels that the hounding of Shirin Dalvi continued even after she had apologised. The disturbing thing in all these sorts of incidents is the inability of the state to condemn those who attack free speech and to bring them to book. The apathy of society is also unacceptable. If this trend continues, we are in danger of evolving into a society that has no room for free thought, expression and discussions and lacks the ability to agree to disagree.

Nivedita Dwivedi

Mumbai

Yoga

ON December 11, 2014, the U.N. General Assembly approved a resolution establishing June 21 as the “International Day of Yoga”, thereby giving yoga international recognition (“Yoga & health”, March 6). It has become popular in the West because of its ability to prevent many lifestyle diseases. There are multiple advantages to practising yoga but its commercialisation should be avoided. Yoga gurus of all shades are flourishing everywhere. Yoga should be a daily habit rather than a fashion statement.

Anil Kumar Yadav

Gangtok, Sikkim

Air pollution

THE fact that the national capital has the dubious distinction of being one of the most air polluted cities in India makes one wonder what our priorities are: to make more cars or to enable more people to breathe clean air (“In search of clean air”, March 6). India has laws against pollution, but these are rarely enforced. Air pollution is mostly due to vehicle emissions followed by industrial emissions and the burning of waste. Delhi was one of the first cities to adopt CNG for buses, taxis and autorickshaws. However, this seems to have had no beneficial effect. Perhaps, the degradation in air quality is due to private vehicles. Emission checks on vehicles are a farce because of poor testing facilities and the fudging of test figures. Fuel adulteration goes on unchecked.

Metro rail holds out the promise of quick and pollution-free travel. Instead of building flyovers , it would be better to invest in introducing/extending metro rail services in big urban centres. Air pollution levels should be monitored and displayed at all important traffic junctions to create better awareness. Daily figures should be published in newspapers and announced on the TV news.

D.B.N. Murthy

Bangalore

India & Sri Lanka

I AM a regular reader of A.G. Noorani’s columns, which I find to be rich in useful historical details. His recent article on India’s record in Sri Lanka (“India’s sordid record”, March 6) seems to be a regrettable exception, and he seems out of his depth in the subject. Important details, far too many to list here, have been left out and the analysis is much oversimplified, with the Sri Lankan national question effectively reduced to a question of terrorism led by V. Prabakaran.

His concerns are confined to India’s role in certain matters, ignoring important considerations. India had a healthy relation with Sri Lanka at least until 1977. Although annoyed by Sri Lanka’s refusal to side with it in the Sino-Indian conflict, India did not react in a hostile manner.

India had an obligation to address the question of citizenship of Hill Country Tamils (HCT) of Indian origin, who were unjustly deprived of their right to vote and citizenship. India handled the matter with caution and even acted against the interests of the HCT when it signed the Sirima-Shastri Pact of 1964. By the time the historical wrong was set right, over a third of the HCT were packed off to India under pressure from the government in the early 1970s (under the Sirima-Indira Pact, with implications for the ongoing dispute about fishing rights in the Palk Strait) and later anti-Tamil violence.

J.R. Jayewardene (JRJ), for whom Noorani has kind words, was the most reactionary leader of the country and played a key role in wrecking the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact of 1957, which was designed to address the national question. He introduced the constitution of 1978 granting him dictatorial powers, which he used to wreck the national economy by introducing an “Open Economic Policy” before India did and steering the country into the U.S.’ orbit. JRJ fired the first shot to wreck Indo-Lanka relations. He sought to hand over to the U.S. the tank farm in China Bay, adjoining the Trincomalee Harbour; the move was cleverly subverted by Indira Gandhi, who made a bid that the JRJ regime could not formally reject. Indian meddling in Sri Lanka at the time has to be seen in the context of U.S.-Soviet rivalry for global domination and the growing desire of India for global hegemony after successfully intervening in what was East Pakistan.

National oppression in Sri Lanka was on the rise but came to international notice only after the bloody pogrom of July 1983, initiated and even guided initially by JRJ. Contrary to Noorani’s view, neither the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) nor its rivals were quite India’s creations. Like the unwise call for secession in 1976 (inspired by the creation of Bangladesh), militant youth organisations were home-grown products of Sinhala chauvinist oppression. India showed no interest in Sri Lanka’s national question until after 1978, when the government turned a blind eye to some Tamil militant activities in Tamil Nadu. Tamil militants received combat training with the Palestine Liberation Organisation, perhaps facilitated by India, but the Indian government did not take over the project until 1983, when a large number of youth were attracted to the militants in the face of sustained state oppression culminating in genocidal violence.

India cynically took advantage of the genuine grievances of the Tamils of Sri Lanka to use them as its proxies against the Sri Lankan government. Had India not intervened the way it did, Tamil militancy would have grown into the “terrorism” of the kind that the Palestinians, Kashmiris and Turkish Kurds have long been accused of. Credit should go to Prabakaran, who, despite his narrow nationalism, authoritarianism and ruthlessness, saw through India’s expansionist scheme. Noorani is right in arguing that India thoroughly mishandled the problem, partly its creation. But Indian intervention in 1987 was also provoked by the cruelty of the Sri Lankan government, which suffocated the population of the Jaffna peninsula by cutting off supplies of all essentials. India, having walked into a situation, could not retreat. The airdrops followed the blocking of the delivery of relief goods from India by the Sri Lanka Navy. The airdrop was only a warning of what was to follow.

The Indo-Sri Lanka Accord of 1987 was welcomed by all Left and progressive forces in the South, for which they were punished by the Janata Vimukthi Permuna, which killed many progressive and Left leaders and was bitterly anti-Indian until India intervened in support of the Sri Lankan regime from around 2000. Among the accord’s opponents, Sirima Bandaranaike drew attention to the expansionist designs of India that it contained, as did a section of the Left in the North. Another more serious act of Indian meddling that Noorani overlooked is India’s role in 2002-03 to subvert the peace talks between the United National Party government and the LTTE. That was driven by two motives: firstly, preventing the U.S. gaining a political foothold and, secondly, denying the LTTE (Prabakaran in particular) any share in power. The latter obsession led to India’s direct military support for a genocidal war effort under Mahinda Rajapaksa.

India acted the way that any ambitious regional power seeking hegemony would. Sri Lanka slipped up by messing up its non-aligned foreign policy and aggravating the national question to the point of waging war against a nationality. Every opportunity to settle the national question was squandered by government after government so that Sri Lanka’s pathetic record of war crimes and human rights violations is being taken advantage of by the West far more effectively than by India “to bring Sri Lanka into line.” The big loser is Sri Lanka and no less a loser is the Tamil nationality for the folly of its leaders who pinned their faith on India and the West.

S. Sivasegaram

Colombo, Sri Lanka

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