Kudos to your team for having put together a brilliant Cover Story on the tsunami and its victims ("Rebuilding lives", January 20). The need of the hour is to help victims regain what they have lost.
Chandni TyagiNew Delhi
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India's initial response was marked by confusion. After the initial hiccups and politics, a massive relief and rehabilitation has taken off. To prevent such disasters, the government should intensify research on earthquakes, tsunamis and cyclones.
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Though Japan, Australia and the United States were not affected by the earthquake and tsunami, scientists in these countries closely monitored and studied the phenomena. It is not clear what prevented Indian scientists from doing so. We have hundreds of scientific institutions in different parts of the country but, ironically, people perish owing to the inadequacy of scientific information.
S. PrakashMutharasanallur, Tamil Nadu
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Individual acts of heroism, collective efforts that saved lives, nations coming together in the relief efforts are signs of hope. As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh observed, this adversity has to be converted into an opportunity. Proper rehabilitation with a plan to lift affected people above the poverty line is necessary. Non-governmental organisations and religious organisations have to join the government in this task.
A. Jacob SahayamThiruvananthapuram
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V.S. Sambandan's reports on the aftermath of the tsunami disaster in Sri Lanka leave an indelible impression on our minds. Many jobs in the sea-based economy might have been lost permanently, including those in the tourism industry. Sri Lanka needs massive assistance in its rehabilitation efforts. India, which provided relief on a massive scale, should help Sri Lanka in this gigantic task.
Kangayam R. RangaswamyWisconsin, United StatesNripen Chakraborty
This refers to the obituary on Nripen Chakraborty ("One of a rare breed", January 28). The country has lost an honest politician. Most of the Marxist leaders remain committed to a clean public life and Nripen was a role model to them.
HariVirudhunagar, Tamil Nadu
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Nripen had a deep commitment to education and scholarship, though his formal education was limited. Here is an incident narrated to me by the former science correspondent of Desher Katha, who himself is a doctorate in physics:
The correspondent once requested Nripen to write a science article. "What shall I write on, Master? What have you planned" Nripen asked him. The correspondent replied that he was planning an article on Van Mahotsav and the World Environment Day. Nripen agreed and his article was published under the pseudonym Arup Roy. The correspondent told me that he had never seen article on the subject that could surpass Nripen's. It showed his intimate knowledge of the forests and hills of Tripura, the lives of its people, and his plans for the development of the State.
S. ChatterjeeBangaloreP.V. Narasimha Rao
The obituary on P.V. Narasimha Rao, the great scholar-cum-statesman, was well written ("A scholar and a politician", January 14). Narasimha Rao was a scholarly Prime Minister who would be compared to Jawaharlal Nehru. While the latter had a great legacy to fall back on, Narasimha Rao had a rural background.
Asha Krishnakumar's informative article raises some serious issues concerning genetic engineering of rice ("Celebrating rice", January 28). Putting genes from species of organisms like viruses, bacteria, and non-food plants into a food crop like rice is another serious unknown for the environment. These foreign genes will transfer through pollen to wild relatives of rice that harbour genetic diversity, often with unknown consequences.
The vaunted regulatory system in the United Stated that is often put forth as a model for assessing the safety of GE crops is seriously flawed. It has been criticised in a series of recent reports by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and by major environmental groups, as having numerous inadequacies. And the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not even approve the safety of GE foods, but instead has a voluntary system of review that is cursory at best, and where the food safety tests are designed and performed by the companies that stand to benefit from the commercialisation of GE crops.
Perhaps the biggest problem for both farmers and the environment is that GE crops are designed to be used in oversimplified industrial agriculture systems that do not promote sound agroecological principles. In the biggest GE crop, Roundup Ready herbicide-resistant soybeans, that oversimplification is leading to increasing numbers of resistant weeds that can no longer be controlled by the herbicide. A single resistant weed called horseweed now covers millions of acres after just five years.
Finally, GE research is very expensive, and the resources could be better spent on sound ecological approaches to agriculture. And often GE does not even work. For example, after 10 years and millions of dollars of research on GE virus resistant sweet potato in Kenya that was supposed to be a boon for farmers, it was found the GE crop was a failure because the complexity of virus types was not taken into account. In the U.S., there have been over 10,000 field trials of GE crops over 18 years, with hundreds of genes, but just a few (herbicide resistance and Bt insect resistance) have been successful.
Before the world hands over the future of its seed supply to a few multinational corporations and other large institutions, the consequences and alternatives should be carefully considered.
Doug Gurian-ShermanSenior ScientistCentre for Food SafetyWashington, D.C.Correction:
J.N. Dixit was Acting High Commissioner, and not High Commissioner, to Bangladesh, as mentioned in his obituary by John Cherian ("A diplomat and a strategist", January 28). As National Security Adviser to the Prime Minister, his duties included interacting with the External Affairs Ministry, and not monitoring the Ministry's activities. The errors are regretted.