Print edition : May 22, 1999
BJP-led government

Sukumar Muralidharan's analysis of the 13-month rule of the BJP and its allies ("A roller coaster ride'', May 7) was interesting and thought-provoking.

The BJP and its allies claim that their Government has done so much for India in a short period of time, which others could not do in 50 years. I agree with them. They have caused so much harm to the country in these few months which others could not have done in 50 years. It took Muhammad bin Tughlaq 26 years to implement his five wild projects, whereas the BJP-led government executed two of its projects on a single day (May 11, 1998).

The first was the nuclear tests in Pokhran, which evoked an international outcry and provoked Pakistan to respond with its own nuclear tests. This has brought the two countries closer to a nuclear war. The second despicable act of the Government was to raise the retirement age of government servants from 58 to 60. Surprisingly, there were no major protests against this decision although this decision affected the employment opportunities of millions of youth.

BJP leaders claim that Pokhran-II, Agni-II and Vajpayee's bus ride to Lahore were the three major achievements of the government. No one would say that millions of poor Indians prefer bombs over two meals a day or missiles over a decent house to live in.

Previous governments always kept eradication of poverty their topmost priority even though sometimes they only paid lip-service to this goal. But it would seem that words such as poverty, illiteracy, social welfare and social justice do not exist in the vocabulary of the BJP leaders. They only harp on bombs and missiles and themes of the nation's security and patriotism.

The BJP is a party of the upper castes, upper classes living in urban India. That is why it does not have any inclination to work for the poor. To hide its failure in the social and economic fields, the BJP, helped by a section of the media, is trying to tom-tom its security concerns and patriotic credentials. It does not bother them that India had acquired nuclear capability even before their party came into existence and that the Agni missile is a result of the policies of their predecessors. The real aim of Pokhran-II and Agni-II was not to enhance the security of the country but to provide security to the BJP-led Government.

Vajpayee's bus ride to Lahore was another attempt to create the illusion of an achievement. Things became clear after Agni-II. Is it really possible to exude hostility and friendliness at the same time?

Pramod Kumar Lucknow * * *

It was indeed the "end of an ordeal" for Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee to have got rid of Jayalalitha who had been tormenting him ever since the formation of the coalition government.

April 17, 1999 will be remembered as one of the saddest days in the history of Indian democracy. Vajpayee rightly said: "Just as fish cannot live without water, the Congress party cannot remain without power for long." In its desperate bid to capture power, the Congress(I) joined hands with its sworn enemies. It is a matter of regret that people like Mayawati and Saifuddin Soz have placed their individual interests above the nation's interest. Mayawati's politics of "revenge" does not augur well for the country.

S.Balakrishnan Jamshedpur * * *

The BJP-led Government has done more for the country during its short tenure of 13 months than its predecessor, the Congress(I) which ruled the country for more than 45 years. How long will our countrymen be dazzled by the Mahatma, acquired by "accident" by Sonia Gandhi.

Dr. S.K. Das Dr. M.S. Kataria Surrey, U.K. * * *

The President ought not to have insisted on Vajpayee moving a confidence motion immediately on Jayalalitha withdrawing her support to the government. He should have let the Opposition move a no-confidence motion if they thought the time was ripe and they were prepared to form an alternative government.

Rohan Krishna Chennai * * *

This has reference to "The end of a benighted phase" (May 7). Though, in principle, there is nothing wrong in the press taking sides or playing the role of a constructive opposition, this Editorial article was biased. I admired Frontline when it came out against the Pokhran blasts. You can criticise the BJP for all its wrong policies but do not glorify people like Sonia Gandhi, Jayalalitha and Laloo Prasad Yadav. The Vajpayee Government fell because of the narrow-mindedness of these leaders. As for Sonia Gandhi, she is being projected as a prime ministerial candidate just because she belongs to a family that served (read ruled over) India for long. It is ridiculous that veteran leaders like Sharad Pawar and Pranab Mukherjee have to rely on her charisma. I do not object to Sonia being a foreigner by birth but a person without any political experience aspiring for the Prime Minister's post is unacceptable.

The BJP is communal, no doubt. But 'casteism' is as dangerous as communalism.

Atoorva Sinha Lucknow Secularists in Pakistan

A.G.Noorani's article on secularists "in the territories that now comprise Pakistan" suffers from a limited perspective ("Secularists in Pakistan," April 23). Noorani has failed to mention personalities such as Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and Dr. Khan Saheb in the North West Frontier Province, Abdus Samad Khan in Baluchistan and Alla Baksh in Sind, who stood for Hindu-Muslim unity and for a secular definition of nationalism. On the other hand, Noorani cites Jinnah's speech of August 11, 1947 as an expression of his position in favour of a secular state. However, Noorani failed to mention that it was Jinnah who said, in December 1947, that the Pakistani state would be based on Islamic principles. Jinnah also said, in March 1948, that Pakistan represented the unity of the nation and so it must remain. This understanding of nationhood cannot be described as secular by any stretch of the imagination. Moreover, it is noteworthy that this understanding of nationhood does not even represent Pakistani nationalism as such but merely a sectarian nationalism within Pakistan, which left out of its scope even the non-Muslims who inhabited "the territories that now comprise Pakistan".

Logically, this approach and the approach represented, for example, by Advani, fall in the same category and will have to be countered together.

Sucheta Mahajan New Delhi Dyslexia

I read with interest the article on dyslexia ("Coping with a disability", April 23). I wish to compliment you and the author, Asha Krishnakumar, for this well-written and informative piece. There is a great need to educate all on dyslexia, a very serious but hidden disability. As a parent of three daughters with dyslexia and supporting their appropriate education in the U.S. for nearly 25 years I want to make a few observations which may be of interest.

Dyslexia is a specific language learning disability noted all over the world. In most countries the incidence of dyslexia among schoolgoing children is around 10 per cent. It occurs in all socio-economic and cultural settings. There is often a strong familial incidence though the severity of the disability may be variable in different members of a family. The genetics of dyslexia is yet to be well characterised. It is possible that several genes may be involved. Dyslexia is a critical problem in societies where literary skills are crucial to employment and a good standard of living. As we move into a society where information technology is more important than agriculture or unskilled manufacturing processes, dyslexia will become a greater handicapping condition.

The role of a parent is crucial in supporting the education of a youngster with dyslexia. Parents often are the first to suspect that all is not well with their child's ability to read or write. Often this delay is attributed to a variety of reasons and nothing is done to help the child. At times it is the child's teacher in the elementary class who raises concerns about the child's learning style. These early signals are crucial to a child's development and diagnostic and remedial measures should be instituted before the child fails in his/her attempt to learn to read. Every child desires to learn. It is up to the adults to provide adequate and appropriate learning tools for the child to be successful. If this is not done, the child labels himself or herself a failure and gives up trying. It is indeed a much bigger task (and not often successful) to help a high school child with dyslexia who may have a long history of frustration and failures.

It is important to train all teachers - particularly those teaching in the elementary years - on learning disabilities as well as on alternative methods of reading instruction such as those based on multisensory phonetic-based techniques.

It is important that we set high achievement goals for children with dyslexia, which will be commensurate with their interest and desire for striving towards those goals. My eldest daughter with a severe disability is now living, in her own condominium, with support and has a part-time job. My second daughter was able to graduate from college and pursues her career as an artist. Her art is on display in a gallery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My youngest daughter is at present a medical student in the University of Wisconsin, an ambitious but nevertheless attainable pursuit, provided she receives appropriate accommodation both in the institution and the testing processes.

Parents of children with dyslexia need ongoing technical help and emotional support for their advocacy role. It is a life-long task. A parent support group comprising parents of children of different ages and skills, concerned educators, psychologists and students themselves can be very useful. There is indeed some truth in the statement that "it takes a whole village to raise a child".

I am pleased that governments of Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra have legislation recognising dyslexia and allow certain accommodation in school board examinations. (The term "accommodation" is more appropriate than the term "concession". I have myopia and as a student in school wore corrective glasses. I did not feel that I was being given a "concession".) Taped books, calculators, computers, note takers, and extended time for testing are all adaptive tools and should be a part of the education process.

While I commend the pioneering work done by several remedial centres in Chennai on educating children with dyslexia, I think this can only be considered a good beginning. Every school, private or public, should have the ability to diagnose and provide adequate support for children with disabilities of all kinds. Expense is always a problem. In the state of Wisconsin, there is an ongoing debate, at times vociferous and emotionally charged, on how to pay for the increasing costs of educating children with special needs. These are by and large social issues.

I am convinced that educating a child with special needs is very cost-effective. In the absence of such education, one must consider the lost wages and taxes, and the expenditure that would be incurred in dealing with youth and adults with learning disablity who often end up in the country's jails and correction facilities.

Your article mentions several successful persons who had dyslexia. An individual with dyslexia can indeed be very successful and productive if there is adequate support for his/her education. There is a view that Akbar, considered to be India's most enlightened ruler, might have had dyslexia. He kept himself very well informed by his Ministers who were the most knowledgeable and educated people of the time!

Dr. A.V.Moorthy Madison, U.S. A statement

We, fellows of The Transnational Institute, scholars and activists from different parts of the world, strongly condemn the systematic harassment of journalists, specifically those who have been opposing the nuclearisation of Pakistan. We are deeply concerned at the recent spate of abductions and arrests of senior journalists like Najam Sethi and the ransacking of the house of Imtiaz Alam, a noted columnist. We demand the immediate release of Sethi.

We also condemn the decision of the Pakistani and Indian governments to celebrate the anniversary of the nuclear tests conducted by them on May 11 and 28 last year. We call upon the two governments to refrain from proceeding with nuclear and missile development. We demand that the five official nuclear weapons states immediately initiate negotiations on complete nuclear disarmament in accordance with their obligation under Article 6 of the NPT, the mandate of the World court and the repeated request of the U.N. General Assembly.

Signed by:

Susan George (France), Peter Weiss (U.S.), Hilary Wainright (U.K.), Walden Bello (Philippines), John Cavanagh (U.S.), Karamat Ali (Pakistan), Amrita Chhachhi (India), Ari Sitas (South Africa), Theo Roncken (Bolivia), Karel Koster (Netherlands), Danial Chavez (Uruguay), Roger van Zwanenburg (Britain), Daphne Wysham (U.S.), Dot Keet (South Africa), Phyllis Bennis (U.S.), Praful Bidwai (India), Harsh Kapoor (India), Howard Wachtel (U.S.), Joel Rocamora (Philippines), Alex Weldhof (Netherlands), Pauline Tiffen (U.K.), Marieme Helie-Lucas (Algeria), Ricardo Soberon (Peru), Coletta Youngers (U.S.), Margarita Nanda Schulz (Argentina), Martin Jelsma (Netherlands), Oronto Douglas (Nigeria), Tom Blickman (Netherlands), Mariano Aguirre (Spain), James Early (U.S.), Cristine Estrada (Spain)

A letter from the Editor

Dear reader,

The COVID-19-induced lockdown and the absolute necessity for human beings to maintain a physical distance from one another in order to contain the pandemic has changed our lives in unimaginable ways. The print medium all over the world is no exception.

As the distribution of printed copies is unlikely to resume any time soon, Frontline will come to you only through the digital platform until the return of normality. The resources needed to keep up the good work that Frontline has been doing for the past 35 years and more are immense. It is a long journey indeed. Readers who have been part of this journey are our source of strength.

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R. Vijaya Sankar

Editor, Frontline

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