Print edition : October 07, 2011

THE articles on Capitalism under siege (Cover Story, September 9) were really illuminating. At present, the right-wing political leadership has thrown away the Keynesian weapon of state spending. Perhaps, it does not fear the socialist challenge. The issue is think of an alternative to the capitalist order, which breeds inequality, provides uneven free spaces to different classes and sells civil rights at a price. A socialist alternative that does not have the stigma of dictatorship by a few needs to be envisaged. Albert Einstein visualised such an alternative in his famous essay Why Socialism? in the inaugural issue of Monthly Review, in 1949.

Capitalism is under siege. But the struggle for an alternative needs a direction. Otherwise, chaos inviting repression and authoritarianism removing even the semblance of democracy may be the result.

R. Mohan Thiruvananthapuram Corruption

IN the avoidable skirmishes between the Government of India and Anna Hazare and his associates, the nation saw 12 days of high drama and a flurry of low blows (Cover Story, September 23). The challenge is to firm up an effective Lokpal Bill with safeguards to prevent its misuse. While views and counter-views will continue to be aired about the methods used by Hazare to make the lawmakers forge an effective anti-corruption law, he has released a genie (the will of the people) that cannot be put back in the bottle.

Meghana M. Newcastle upon Tyne U.K.

AT last, the riveting 12-day standoff between the Anna Hazare-led campaign and the government, which brought the nation to a standstill, eased off after a day of competitive grandstanding and hard back-room bargaining. By accepting Team Anna's suggestions, Parliament has accepted the will of the angered street.

J. Akshay Secunderabad

AS rightly pointed out by the former Lok Sabha Secretary-General Subash Kashyap, the government has not conceded anything but has conveyed a sugar-coated sense-of-the-House resolution to the Standing Committee. If the intention of the government was to clear the logjam once and for all and usher in good governance with total transparency, the treasury and opposition benches could have risen to the occasion and passed the Bill in a joint session of Parliament without referring it to the Standing Committee.

I feel that the resolution gave the government a much-needed breather and that it is too early to predict how long the truce reached between the political class and civil society will last.

Ettirankandath Krishnadas Palakkad, Kerala

AS the Cover Story noted, no matter how much support Hazare has been able to muster, nothing places him above the Constitution, which makes it clear that Bills have to be passed according to the terms and wishes of Parliament (Fuzzy movement, September 23). Activists cannot push a Bill down Parliament's throat. Also, Team Anna's version of the Bill has impractical provisions in it and cannot be accepted without debate. Hazare's method of going on indefinite fasts to get the Lokpal Bill passed is undemocratic.

Ritvik Chaturvedi New Delhi

THE means used by Hazare's anti-corruption movement are both praiseworthy and dangerous (Rallying forces, September 9).

It is praiseworthy in that it generated a mass movement against corruption.

It is dangerous because any unconscious deviation from the proper path of the movement may lead to unrest in the country. A formidable number of people all over the country believe in Anna, so he should not do anything that may force people to resort to violence. He should be more flexible in his approach to the government.

Niloy Kumar Roy Kolkata West Bengal

THERE is little to commend the West Bengal government's decision to change the State's name to Paschimbanga (New old name, September 23). Those who do not speak Bengali will need to learn how to spell Paschimbanga and say Poschimbongo (by learning the art of placing o at the right places) if the all-party decision is taken to its logical end.

Now will Bengalis be known as Bongolis or Poschimbongolis? Paschimbanga is already used in formal Bengali correspondence as well as popular conversations.

East and West Bengal ceased to be relevant the day the country was partitioned. The name of the State could well have been changed to Bengal.

J.S. Acharya Hyderabad

THE West Bengal government's move to change the State's name on the grounds of alphabetical adavantage at government meetings/seminars is ridiculous. A State is judged by its performance and not by its name. States such as Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnatata and Haryana also do not come first alphabetically but are considered far more developed than West Bengal. The sudden move has hurt the sentiments of the intelligentsia. The real need of the hour is to find solutions to burning issues such as unemployment and poverty. The change of name is irrelevant and illogical and should be reconsidered.

Jayant Mukherjee Kolkata Mercy petition

THE article Uncertain mercy (September 9) only proves that in spite of the Supreme Court confirming a death sentence, successive Presidents have delayed for an indefinite period taking decisions on mercy petitions. The idea seems to be to pass the buck. The government should set a time limit for Presidents to decide on mercy petitions.

Ramesh Kotian Udupi, Karnataka RTI

AS a student who just finished her Class XII CBSE examinations this March, I welcome the judgment of the Supreme Court that allows students to inspect their answer sheets under the Right to Information Act (Correcting a practice, September 9). Henceforth, all students in India can heave a sigh of relief as examiners will have to be meticulous and sincere in their evaluation of answer sheets.

Salini Johnson Thiruvananthapuram Satyagraha

A.G. NOORANI warns us of being unsafe and unhistorical to cite the Gandhian precedent before independence (Gandhi's no to satyagraha, August 26). Noorani has tried to establish that both Gandhiji and B.R. Ambedkar were against satyagraha in the post-Independence era. Gandhiji was perhaps more conscious of the dangers of being misunderstood and misrepresented by his readers and others. Books of his original writings carry a note To The Reader originally written by him in his journal ( Harijan, 29-4-1933, page 2). It says: I am not at all concerned with appearing to be consistent. When anybody finds any inconsistency between any two writings of mine, if he has still faith in my sanity, he would do well to choose the later of the two on the same subject.

To be safe and historical, I would like to start from Gandhi's martyrdom so that nothing remains later than that. Gandhi gave Pyarelalji a new draft Constitution for the Congress that he had prepared the previous day. The struggle for the ascendancy of civil over military power is bound to take place in India's progress towards its democratic goal. The draft contained this prediction. We can easily imagine the nature of the struggle that Gandhi had imagined. It would have been fought through peaceful and pure means. Gandhiji observed a fast (a mode of satyagraha) on Independence Day. He was asked whether he would leave politics after August 15, 1947. Gandhiji replied, In the first instance there is no freedom approaching the Kingdom of God. We seem to be as far from it as ever. And in any case the life of the millions is my politics from which I dare not free myself without denying my life work and God. That my politics may take a different turn is quite possible. But that will be determined by circumstances ( Harijan, 17-8-1947, page 281).

His last two post-Independence fasts, in Kolkata and Delhi respectively, were in the wake of communal violence after Partition. Jawaharlal Nehru and Vallabhbhai Patel were in the saddle of power. Noorani is known for his writings on communalism and should not deny Gandhiji's contribution through these two fasts and ultimately by his utmost sacrifice. Gandhiji's speeches and writings on satyagraha have been sanctified by his righteous practice and suffering the consequences of breaking unjust laws. Moreover, they are written for all time. His incisive logic is unanswerable.

Gandhiji has made it amply clear that he believed in the supremacy of the people. In his famous booklet Constructive Programme: Its meaning and place, he elaborated his vision in clear terms: The truth is that power resides in the people and it is entrusted for the time being to those whom they may choose as their representatives. Parliaments have no power or even existence independently of the people. Civil Disobedience is the storehouse of power.

Ambedkar delineated how fundamental rights can be effective. He said: Rights are protected not by law but by the social and moral conscience of society. The social and moral conscience of the Indian people protected these fundamental rights when they got an opportunity to choose between democracy and dictatorship in the 1977 general elections. In spite of all the infighting in the Janata Party, its government should be remembered for the historical amendment it made to the Constitution to make internal emergency next to impossible.

The right to undertake civil disobedience, or satyagraha, in any parliamentary democracy by a citizen is a fundamental right. To criticise this right is to negate the basic democratic system.

Aflatoon Varanasi CORRECTION

The picture printed across pages 68 and 69 with the article Marvellous forms (September 9) is that of a flatid planthopper, and not that of a treehopper.


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