Rain havoc

Published : Sep 09, 2005 00:00 IST

The deluge in Mumbai has exposed the harsh reality that successive governments have only created chaos in the name of development ("High water and hell", August 26).

Dhirendra MishraAllahabad

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As an ex-weatherman I found R. Ramachandran's well-researched article informative ("Lessons not learnt", August 26). After a detailed analysis of past rainfall events and the previous day's indications, the author admits that the mesoscale vortex (over a stretch of 25 km) that caused the unprecedented rainfall could not have been seen in the usual weather charts in advance nor could have been predicted by computer techniques. But he blames the Indian Meteorological Department for the disaster.

The author wonders why the IMD could not predict the unprecedented downpour on the basis of observations of rainfall every 15 minutes in the late afternoon. To warn whom? Already 39 cm of rain had fallen between 2-30 p.m. and 5-30 p.m. (this information would have reached Colaba only by 5-45 p.m. at the earliest); and the water level was waist-deep in the suburbs, immobilising all transport. I learnt that mandatory warnings were indeed issued on time to top officials in the State government, All India Radio and Doordarshan. If the disaster management system of the city administration had not already swung into action, it is not clear how more warnings could have helped the marooned citizens.

It is evident from the other articles in the feature that the absence of a disaster management plan and a series of developmental blunders were at the root of the problem.

D.V. SubramanianDirector (Retd.),Indian Meteorological Service,Chennai

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The Prime Minister and the Chief Minister have been dreaming of converting Mumbai into a Manhattan or a Shanghai. Yet Mumbai continues to remain devoid of basic civic facilities. The government must realise that the skyscrapers and shopping malls alone do not make a city eligible for international status. It should also be able to withstand the effects of a natural calamity.

P.K. SrivatsaGhaziabad, Uttar Pradesh

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The Mumbai floods have resulted in a loss of crores of rupees. But Mumbaikars will recover fast. The spirit of bhaichara (brotherhood) was evident during the crisis.

Mahesh KapasiNew Delhi

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The failure of Reliance proves that privatisation is not the panacea for the power sector.

A. Jacob SahayamThiruvananthapuram


A.G. Noorani's impeccably researched two-part article on Mohammed Ali Jinnah ("Jinnah in Indian history", August 12 and "Assessing Jinnah", August 26) was a thrilling read. However, he tends to be a bit harsh on Nehru.

Rohit ChhiberJaipur

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No doubt Jinnah shined as a secular nationalist between 1906 and 1939, both in the Central legislature and outside. But he continued to remain a part of the Muslim League, which was born with a fundamentalist agenda.

"Both spurned Jinnah", says Noorani, referring to Gandhi and Nehru. But as late as in 1944, Gandhi held marathon talks with Jinnah to find a solution to the communal problem, at one point even offering the premiership of the would-be free nation.

Communists, liberals, Ambedkar and Subhash Bose had differences with Gandhi and the Congress on the methods of struggle. But that did not make, say, Ambedkar propose a two-nation theory asking for a separate country for Dalits!

Had not Jinnah - the nationalist of the 1920s - seen the horrors of communal politics in the Moplah revolt of 1919 and the Delhi riots of 1923-24?

Also, his espousal of the cause of "Muslim nation" within the Indian nation was antithetic to everything that Gandhi and Nehru stood for.

For Gandhi and Nehru, the problem of poverty, social and educational backwardness were "secular" interests of all Indians, irrespective of religion.

S. RaghuramNew Delhi

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The Indian freedom struggle is valued immensely by every citizen for all the right reasons. A true understanding of the founding fathers, including their shortcomings, is important for the true learning of history. Independent researchers such as Noorani perform this valuable service and encourage others, especially academics, to look critically into the past.

Siva BalasubramanianWashington D.C.


Apropos the articles "Target, trade unionism" and "For a `New Deal' for labour" (August 26), what happened in Gurgaon is one of the ill-effects of globalisation. In the era of globalisation, foreign investors are given preferential treatment while labour is considered a dispensable commodity.

The authorities who support the Honda company should remember that labour repression will lead to low productivity and harm sustained development.

The police's role in this incident was reprehensible.

S. Raghunatha PrabhuAlappuzha, Kerala

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The Gurgaon incident is an eye-opener. Apart from highlighting the barbaric behaviour of the police forces in India, it exposes the lack of a transparent dispute settlement mechanism within private companies. The arbitrary decisions of private managements force workers to resort to aggressive methods of agitation. Mindlessness on the part of the police makes the situation volatile.

Arvind K. PandeyBhavapur, Allahabad


Jayati Ghosh's column ("The content of school education", August 26) has rightly focussed on the quality of school textbooks. A few years back a book prescribed in one of the most prestigious schools mentioned that Madurai was the capital of the Chola empire.

During the colonial period and in the years following Independence until the nationalisation of textbooks the Board of Secondary Education used to form a committee to review books published by private publishers and accord approval for prescription by schools. Books were scrutinised for factual errors and printing mistakes. Books with even one factual error were rejected outright and up to five printing mistakes were permitted on condition that corrections were made before the book was released to schools. The list of approved books was gazetted. Good quality books were in the market though publishers used to adopt dubious means to get their books prescribed, especially in District Board schools where they got bulk orders.

Schools affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education prescribed the books published by the National Council of Educational Research and Training for many years until private publications came into the market. Only Kendriya Vidyalayas follow NCERT books nowadays.

S.S. RajagopalanChennai


The irony of the situation where economic growth does not mean progress for the masses is brought out vividly with unimpeachable facts and figures by Era Sezhiyan ("Budget for whom?" August 26). That the expenditure of around 5.4 per cent of gross domestic product on social sectors has remained static in the past 15 years when the total expenditure has grown by 3.6 per cent reflects the hypocrisy of the various governments that have proclaimed eradication of illiteracy and provision of health care for all as their goals. The need of the hour is to reappraise national priorities, commit ourselves to the goals of total literacy, employment and health care and get rid of the obsession with the policies of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation.

Kasim SaitChennai

India and the U.S.

The Cover Story feature ("Deals and doubts" by John Cherian and "Behind the bargain" by R. Ramachandran, August 12) would serve to shape public opinion as the articles were fearless, vigorous and unprejudiced.

The U.S. is adopting a "carrot and stick" policy so far as our nuclear programme is concerned. It knows very well that the concepts of "atoms for peace" and "atoms for war" are Siamese twins. Supplying nuclear fuel to the vintage Tarapur Atomic Power Station (1969) after a series of modifications to extend its lifetime is like providing fodder to a dying horse. This apart, the ultimate aim of the U.S. is to bring almost all the civilian nuclear power stations under the inspection regime of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which means that we have no control over our spent fuel. This involves acceptance of fissile material capping for any purpose, including the fast breeder reactor programme.

A.S. RajReceived on e-mail

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C.P. Chandrasekhar's article "Giving more taking less" was interesting, factual and authentic. The U.S seems to have benefited much more than India from Manmohan Singh's visit. It has been a known fact that U.S. looks after its commercial business and contracts before thinking of other countries.

S.P. SharmaMumbai

Saffron agenda

I am a great admirer of your magazine, because it is critical as well as constructive. The articles are well-researched and focus on issues that receive relatively less attention in the media, such as gender justice, social justice and ecology. However, I was disappointed by the article "Stifled by saffron agenda" (August 12), especially its section on the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla. First of all, it is a sign of poor journalism to rely on a single source of information, especially the report of a one-member committee. The author should at least have got information from those concerned.

The fact that the same committee examined the affairs of two institutions, the Indian Council for Historical Research and the IIAS, does not justify the decision to put them at par.

Being extremely sensitive to issues such as fundamentalism and fascism, we have not found any trace of "saffronisation" at the IIAS during the tenure of Prof. G.C. Pande as Chairman. He is not only a deep scholar, but he encouraged the Fellows in all kinds of topics and approaches, without interfering in their or trying to impose his views. It was shocking that his tenure was terminated abruptly just four months before its expiry.

Criticism of the collaboration of the IIAS with other institutions such as the Centre for the Study for Civilisations, the Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan and the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies sounds strange, when these institutions are doing valuable work in their respective fields and are not politicised as such. Besides, the project of "Study on Indian Civilisation" was centred on editing and translating classical texts. The value of such publications is never time-bound, unlike secondary texts which become dated. If there can be prestigious series of classical Indian texts such as the Harvard Oriental Series or the Sacred Books of the East, why cannot another such important series come under the aegis of the IIAS?

Criticisms of the absence of the Director without mentioning that she had the difficult task of pursuing the case of the Institute at the Supreme Court, and her great success in winning the case in favour of the Institute, so that it can remain at its traditional and dignified location in Shimla, is biased, to say the least.

The photo of Prof. G.C. Pande garlanding the image of Saraswati seems to suggest that such an act of devotion goes against the secular ethos. What about garlanding photos and statues of politicians at public functions? Are they holier than the goddess of learning?

The most self-contradictory statement is the recommendation "to strengthen the autonomy of these bodies and help them inure themselves from political interference." It should be clear that such interference may come from the Right or Left, and autonomy means freedom from both.

The report wants to invite "public debate" on the issue. But for such a debate to have a factual basis, another view of the situation of the IIAS should be placed before the public, from the side of a Fellow working there.

Prof. Bettina BaumerProf. R.N. Misra,Fellows, IIASShimla

Parvathi Menon writes:

A public debate with "another view" on the situation in the IIAS, as Bettina Baumer and R.N. Misra have suggested, is a welcome idea. For it to be productive, however, the authors must first read the report by the Bandyopadyaya Committee, with its solid evidentiary basis for the conclusions it arrives at. It is now a public document, which it was not when I reported on it.

Photo credit: The photograph on the cover of the issue dated August 26 was taken by Vivek Bendre.

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