Published : Jun 01, 2012 00:00 IST



WHATEVER one has seen in past 11 months of Mamata Banerjee at the helm of affairs in West Bengal is not encouraging (Cover Story, May 18). Either power has gone to her head or she is getting poor advice from so-called well-wishers. She must not forget that nowadays voters cannot be taken for a ride. She should be seen as one who has development, growth and prosperity on her agenda and nothing else. She should not waste the opportunity she has been given.

THE Cover Story uncovered the reign of intolerance in West Bengal under Mamata Banerjee. Her authoritarianism stands exposed. Her banning certain newspapers from public libraries and the arrest of Prof. Ambikesh Mahapatra will only reduce her popularity. Mamata Banerjee appears not to have learnt any lessons from history. Other leaders in the past have experienced political setbacks after antagonising the media.

The best part of the Cover Story was the wonderful cartoon by Surendra. Will Mamata Banerjee now nurse ill-will against him and Frontline because of it?

ALL street agitators cannot become visionary leaders. Mamata Banerjee appears to have only a one-point agenda: extinguishing Marxism from West Bengal. Democracy is in peril in the State. While the CPI(M) followed the culture of intimidation and elimination of their political adversaries in the State, Mamata Banerjee has gone one step further, and the present state of affairs reminds one of the Emergency. She is autocratic and unpredictable.

In the past she aligned herself with the National Democratic Alliance (NDA); now she is with the United Progressive Alliance (UPA). Those who sympathise with the Maoists will probably now be regretting supporting Mamata Banerjee as she belittled them after assuming power. Both the NDA and the UPA are to be blamed equally for giving her political space to grow.

BLIND opposition to the opinions of other parties can never strengthen democracy. For the good of the people, a government must consider every worthwhile policy. According to Mamata Banerjee, all the policies adopted by the previous government are wrong. She has the final say in every decision even if it harms the people's interests. She is surrounded by those who do not have courage to state their own opinions. If a government is run like a one-man army, how can there be democracy?

THE people of West Bengal brought the Trinamool Congress to power hoping for a change but are now feeling frustrated by the government's actions, which are as whimsical as they are disgraceful. Democracy offers scope for a spectrum of opinions. Valid criticism provides the government an opportunity to rectify wrong policies.

WHILE there has been little improvement in the fourth most populous State of India, Mamata Banerjee's authoritarianism and arrogance are coming to the fore. Every problem she encounters is blamed on the 34-year-old Left rule.

THE Cover Story gives the real story of West Bengal. The Chief Minister complimented herself on having already achieved 90 per cent of what she had promised to do in five years. But after my recent visit to Kolkata and other places in the State, I cannot agree with her self-certificate. The people want to know whether her promises also included banning certain newspapers from public libraries, rewriting of history books and a ban on social mixing? Did she promise that cartoonists and professors would be arrested? Did she promise that dedicated IPS officers would be unceremoniously transferred?


THE Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act (Postcards from the margins, May 18). But only 10 States have so far notified the rules with respect to the Act. The government should send a strong message to the other States.

There is a shortfall in the country of around 14 lakh teachers, which is something the government must look into. On the one hand, the private sector should be encouraged to play a larger role in the country's educational system. And on the other, the public sector should be given a new lease of life because it provides affordable education to many students.

THE idea of the right to education is noble, yet neither the government nor schools have cared to make it a reality. Education cannot be a right reserved for the socially and economically privileged. Schools may make some initial noises about suffering losses, but the fact is that those operating on commercial lines will pass the burden on to paying students. This will be a cross-subsidy in a very direct way, which is good in that there will be less transaction losses.

The issue of reserving seats in schools for the poor is getting far more attention than it should for it is only a very small part of the Act. Eighty per cent of all elementary schools in the country are government run, and 87 per cent of them are in the rural areas, where a majority of the people are impoverished. So the debate only relates to one-fourth of the seats in the remaining 13-20 per cent of schools. Improving government schools is the real solution.

THE Supreme Court has decided in favour of 25 per cent reservation in all schools for economically disadvantaged students. The intention is good, but its application for private unaided schools is questionable. This decision will have a direct financial implication on parents as the expenses for the 25 per cent will ultimately be borne by the parents of the rest of the students. Not all these parents may be able or willing to contribute towards this cause. Social responsibility cannot be thrust upon anyone.

IF India is serious about universal education, the government must commit the outlay necessary for the education sector's development. Funds can be found immediately by scrapping the proposed food subsidy, which is redundant because the Planning Commission says Rs.28 a day is enough for a person to be above the poverty line. The corruption-ridden Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme must be wound up.

Indians want empowerment, not doles.UNCTAD

RAUL PREBISCH, the founding Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), visualised that it would protect the interests of the Global South and facilitate North-South dialogue and South-South cooperation (Northern spider, May 18). It was expected to lead to a new international economic order. In its first two decades there was a ray of hope that this could be achieved. However, it failed to implement the so-called objectives the Doha Development Round. UNCTAD should try to democratise the World Bank and the IMF. It should field its candidate for the post of director general of the WTO. That is the only way to protect the trade interests of the UNCTAD nations.


IT is heartening that India was able to successfully test-fire the ICBM Agni-V (New firepower, May 18). This is the result of years of dedicated effort put in by a team of DRDO scientists, for which it needs to be congratulated. However, it is not enough for India to stop with just developing Agni-V. It has to be ensured that the missile goes into production and is handed over to the armed forces at the earliest.

S. Balakrishnan Jamshedpur, Jharkhand

THE test-firing of Agni-V is a move towards self-sufficiency in defence. But that is not enough. One of the main sources of corruption and the huge quantities of black money stashed abroad is the import of arms. India has the dubious distinction of being the world's largest importer of arms.

Arms purchases involve greasing the palms of middlemen and bribing those who take the decision to purchase. India cannot dream of becoming a superpower with imported arms.

Ode case

THE conviction of 23 accused in the infamous Ode case can be considered a rarest of rare conviction (Semblance of justice, May 4). This judgment will certainly serve as a deterrent. In India, the conviction rate in such crimes involving mobs is low since in most such cases the accused get the benefit of the doubt due to lack of evidence or thanks to the unprofessionalism of the investigating agencies. To this extent, the Ode case is likely to serve the cause of riot victims in the future. However, the closure report of the investigating agency in the infamous Gulberg Society case does not inspire confidence as it gives a long rope to those responsible for ensuring law and order. It effectively absolved forever those in power of their responsibility.


In the essay "Origins of Indian Communism" (May 18), the caption for the picture of S.A. Dange on page 93 wrongly mentions S.S. Mirajkar, instead of Ajoy Ghosh, as being close to Dange.


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