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Planning Commission

THE new institution that is to replace the Planning Commission will only bring old levels of growth and development, and India will become a manufacturing hub only if its policies are formulated and planned well and it is administered well (Cover Story, September 19).

Planning or no planning, one is reminded of this quote from Norman Vincent Peale: “Become a possibilitarian. No matter how dark things seem to be or actually are, raise your sights and see the possibilities—always see them, for they’re always there.”

A.J. Rangarajan, Chennai

Natwar Singh

K.P. FABIAN’S review of Natwar Singh’s autobiography has by far been the best one, especially because it puts on record that the book has enduring historical value and that the narrative is illuminating (“Bitter truths”, September 19). The book is also refreshingly candid, even about Jawaharlal Nehru.

Natwar Singh writes well and can very well be forgiven for saying: “No one could edit my book.” But what about copy-editing? And checking facts, dates, days and names? The narrative is marred by a plethora of errors, which are inexplicable and, frankly, infuriating.

The reviewer was overly kind in pointing out only two of them, on page 269 and on page 248. In order to put the record straight, at least the most glaring errors need to be pointed out: 1. If Priyanka called on Natwar Singh on May 6, it was Tuesday, not Sunday as he says (page xii). 2. There is confusion between a plebiscite and an election (page 116). 3. After the 1980 election, Indira Gandhi became Prime Minister on January 14, 1980, not January 24 (page 185). 4. The two seats that the BJP won in the 1984 election were not those contested by A.B. Vajpayee and L.K. Advani (page 237). Indeed, Vajpayee famously lost from Gwalior and Advani was a member of the Rajya Sabha and did not contest. 5. Chandra Shekhar resigned as Prime Minister in March 1991 and not on June 21 (page 285); of course, as usual, he continued as caretaker Prime Minister until the elections were over and P.V. Narasimha Rao took charge, on June 21, 1991.

Then, there are the almost shocking errors of English: particularly the wrong use—and, sometimes, also non-use—of the definite article.

Sharadchandra Panse, Pune

Pakistan

INDIA rightly called off the scheduled Foreign Secretary-level talks with Pakistan when its envoy met with Kashmir separatists (“Back to square one”, September 19). Also, Pakistan is continuing its attacks along the LoC.

The policy of the Indian government with regard to Pakistan has always been to encourage trade to improve relations. Will Pakistan ever stop terrorism against India? Right now, its attitude and actions are not encouraging. All its good words are in theory only to make a show to the world that it supports peace in the region. The truth is otherwise.

There is no hope that Pakistan will improve and want to strengthen its relationship with India. As Modi said, Pakistan is engaged in a proxy war with India.

Mahesh Kumar, New Delhi

ON August 14, when Nawaz Sharif stressed his country’s support to the Kashmir cause, he confirmed where his priorities lay.

By inviting Nawaz Sharif to his swearing-in ceremony, Narendra Modi did his bit and indirectly told Pakistan that he was ready to begin afresh on bilateral relations, but Pakistan kept violating the ceasefire. If it keeps killing Indian soldiers and still expects India to remain silent and keep working for peace, the Pakistan government must be living in a fool’s paradise. Critics might say that calling off the talks between the Foreign Secretaries was an extreme step, but what other option did Modi have?

Bal Govind, Noida, Uttar Pradesh

West Asia

THE beheading of the photojournalist James Foley by the Islamic State was a chilling and barbaric act that is unacceptable in civilised society (“War without end”, September 19). Such acts challenge the West to change its attitude towards West Asia and other countries. It is high time the West desisted from the politics of destabilisation and from meddling in the internal affairs of West Asian states.

K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad, Telangana

Madras to Chennai

THE articles and the illustrations in the commemorative issue of Frontline (September 5) were interesting and evocative. Devoting the entire magazine to the history, heritage and culture of Madras was a thoughtful gesture. Obviously, much work went into its production for which readers like me will always be grateful to the editor and his team. The issue is a collector’s item.

R. Soundararajan, Nagapattinam, Tamil Nadu

THE Chennai at 375 issue and the correspondence it has inspired among readers has mostly missed the fact that the name Chennai has coexisted with that of Madras for over a century. The city has always been known as Chennai in Tamil, especially in formal literature, magazines and newspapers. I attach a scanned image of a page of an issue of “Swadesamitran” of November 10, 1946, to prove my point though given time I can produce similar evidence from an earlier past as well. (The appeal at the bottom of the page to prospective subscribers clearly gives the address of the magazine as Chennai.) I am no admirer of the practice of renaming cities, but in the case of Madras, it was not, strictly speaking, renamed. Instead, the city was given its Tamil name to the exclusion of the English version when the official name change took place.

V. Ramnarayan, Chennai

THE commemorative issue was a fitting tribute to a great city from where the British Empire in India literally grew. The city has contributed to English education but without losing the beauty of Indian culture as it has preserved and nurtured Bharatanatyam dance (a few photographs of this would have been icing on the cake) and Carnatic vocal and instrumental music. It has done yeomen service to the nation by gifting it a large number of social reformers and freedom fighters. The fact that Chennai has maintained most of its colonial structures makes it a unique city. The issue’s rare black-and-white photographs make it a treasure for students of history and urban sociology.

G. Anuplal, Bangalore

THE issue of Frontline dated September 19 was interesting. But no history of Madras would be complete without a mention of the landmark Madras Medical College (MMC) and Government General Hospital (GGH).

In 1835, along with the Calcutta Medical College (which for administrative reasons was opened five days before the MMC was), the MMC was the first medical college to be established in India. The GGH will turn 350 years old this November and deserves a separate article.

The MMC has numerous firsts to its credit, including the following: 1. the first woman doctor of the English-speaking world; 2. the first woman doctor of independent India; and 3. the first woman doctor of Sri Lanka.

The first X-ray machine in the entire South-East Asian region was installed in the GGH and the MMC in 1900 (just five years after its invention). I am an alumnus (year of 1975) and at present a faculty member of the MMC.

Dr V.K Ramadesikan, Chennai

THE Chennai at 375 issue was super! Even though I am a senior citizen, I was unaware of many things about the city, perhaps, the only one in the world where the old mixes with the new in an admirable way. It is the only city in India to feature on an international list of places that must be visited. The only thing Chennai lacks is Bangalore-type weather. I do not think that anywhere else in the world it would be possible to find cities like Bangalore and Chennai, with almost a crore population each, within 350 kilometres of each other.

G. Neelakantan, Bangalore

I FELT really sad when I read the Chennai at 375 issue. We, the people of Andhra Pradesh, lost the city for the sake of our State. At the same time, we miss the Chennai culture. The Madras of old looked like a foreign country. If Andhra Pradesh were united, I may not have felt so bad. But now we have lost Chennai and Hyderabad.

K.S. Venkateswara Rao, Narsipatnam, Visakhapatnam district, Andhra Pradesh

THE Chennai at 375 issue is a treasure house of information about the origin, growth and development of the city and its institutions and the problems it has been facing. To tell the history of a vibrant city in about 150 pages is not easy, and there are bound to be omissions. As an alumnus of Teachers’ College, Saidapet, I felt sorry that no mention was made of the oldest teacher education institution east of the Suez, as its prospectus used to say. Although some of the landmark events of the 20th century such as the Simon Commission boycott and the anti-Hindi agitation could have been covered a bit more, on the whole the issue was rich in material, interestingly told.

S.S. Rajagopalan, Chennai

CONGRATULATIONS on the commemorative issue. At the same time, let me point out an aspect of the city that was ignored in it. These following personalities lived and died in Chennai and contributed to its fame: C. Rajagopalachari, Periyar E.V.R. Ramasami, Thiru Vi Ka, Maraimalai Adigal, Sir A.R. Mudaliar, Dr A.L. Mudaliar, M.P. Sivagnanam, P. Ramamurthi, T.T. Krishnamachari, P.V. Rajamannar, M.S. Subbulakshmi and Sivaji Ganesan.

N. Dharmarajan, Sivaganga, Tamil Nadu

THE commemorative issue was informative and worth reading. On page 7, I noticed a small mistake. A caption said that Chandragiri Fort was now in Tirupati district of Andhra Pradesh; it is actually in Chittoor district.

P. Kurmeswararao, Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh

TODAY’S Chennai is too aggressive, crowded and congested and highly polluted. Some people even consider the city uninhabitable.

B.B.C. Chandrasekar, Madurai, Tamil Nadu

THE name Madras is 1,400 years old. The original name was Madrasapattinam, similar to Visakapattinam, Masoolipattinam and Nagapattinam, a seaport. Why was it called Madrasapattinam? Across Asia, madrasa is the name for an education centre. Muslims from the west and east visited Kancheepuram and their port of arrival was this land, so it was aptly named a university port aka Madrasa pattinam. North Indians refer to all people from southern India as Madrasi referring to scholars from the South since in the olden days labourers did not migrate, only educated people did. Why not celebrate Chennai day instead of Madras day?

Santhosh Mathew Veranani, Puducherry

Labour

THE curse of human bondage in one form or another is found in varying degrees all over the world, and the article “Of human bondage” (August 8) highlighted the phenomena in West Asia. The exploitation of immigrants can take the form of low wages, cruel working conditions, sometimes beatings and verbal and physical abuse. In some countries, passports and work permits are also confiscated. This situation is due mostly to unregulated and unscrupulous brokers and employment agents in India and in the host countries. As India, particularly the State of Kerala, receives a huge amount of money in foreign exchange because of immigrant workers, it is the country’s responsibility to ensure that there is a secured procedure to protect their interests. Similarly, the host countries should tighten their laws to provide immigrant workers sufficient protection and adopt fair labour practices.

S.D. Jadeja, Ahmedabad, Gujarat

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