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Dying young

Print edition : Oct 07, 2005 T+T-

The Cover Story (September 23) made chilling reading. That the Maharashtra government is unable to accept the truth of deprivation and death and refuses to act is even more shocking.

Bidyut Kumar Chatterjee Faridabad, Haryana* * *

Japanese encephalitis has played havoc with people's lives in eastern Uttar Pradesh. But the State government has failed to consider the gravity of the situation ("An epidemic in Uttar Pradesh", September 23). The State Health Department should have established temporary clinics in the affected areas.

P.K. Srivastava Received on e-mail* * *

It is really sad that the government machinery failed to anticipate the danger of encephalitis epidemic.

Sanjay Arunkumar Nani Daman, Daman* * *

It was yet another shocking and sensitively written Cover Story. The deaths of thousands of children from malnutrition and disease could have been prevented if the government had acted honestly and firmly. We need a comprehensive policy that can stop such deaths.

Akhil Kumar DelhiAnti-Dalit violence

The demon of casteism has defied all attempts to exorcise it. Its latest visitation was at Gohana in Haryana ("Fire of aggression", September 23). Haryana is no stranger to violence against Dalits. In 2002, five Dalits were lynched by a mob in Jhajjar following rumours that they had slaughtered and skinned cows. Then too, the role of the Jat-dominated police force had come into question since the assault on Dalits had taken place in front of a police check-post. There is need for an all-party consensus to tackle this social problem.

J. Akshay SecunderabadScience and society

The Indian scientific community has failed to prevent the mixing up of myths and rituals with their research and professional activities. The write-up of Meera Nanda is a good attempt at unmasking their hypocrisy ("Is India a scientific superpower", September 23). However, bracketing Ayurveda with the so-called Vedic sciences is not correct. Ayurveda is a traditional knowledge system. Its results are repeatable, it is empirically testable and is logical. All the modern knowledge systems are just extensions of ancient or traditional knowledge systems.

K.V. Anilkumar Kanhangad, Kerala* * *

Two questions arise when one reads Meera Nanda's article. What has "science" to do with Akshaya Tritiya child marriages, or why scientists (as opposed to conscientious people in general) have a special responsibility to speak out against it?

As long as space "scientists" do their "space science" right, why should we care what their religious beliefs are? Why should Swami Ramdev not teach whatever his opinions are through whatever medium he chooses?

The Templeton Foundation on its web site declares its goal thus: "To pursue new insights at the boundary between theology and science through a rigorous, open-minded and empirically focussed methodology, drawing together talented representatives from a wide spectrum of fields of expertise". Using "the humble approach", the foundation typically seeks to focus "the methods and resources of scientific inquiry on topical areas which have spiritual and theological significance ranging across the disciplines from cosmology to health care".

Debraj Chakrabarti Received on e-mail* * *

I just want to point out that in her impassioned criticism of "pseudo-science" prevailing in India in the form of astrology, Ayurveda and Swami Ramdev's concoctions, Dr. Nanda has missed some essential points. I do not intend to downplay the success of modern medicine, but there are thousands, if not crores, of people who have suffered because of allopathic medicine and have found respite in alternatives like Ayurveda.

The assumptions and basic principles on which Ayurveda is structured are different from the principles of modern medicine. If modern science uses its own parameters to evaluate Ayurvedic medication or concoctions, obviously they will appear irrational, outrageous and "unscientific". However, if one keeps in mind the underlying principles, everything will make perfect rational sense.

If research has to be carried on in Ayurveda, I urge the scientific community to first study and analyse the basic assumptions made by Ayurveda and then understand its way of diagnosing and curing ailments. After all, science is primarily about open-mindedness and it is dangerous to have the myopia called "scientific outlook". Dr. Nanda's article is forcefully argued and I agree with her on many things. However, I sense a fanaticism towards science in her writing, which is as dangerous as religious fanaticism.

Puneet Gulati SingaporeJudiciary

The recent attempt by some politicians to whip up a `confrontation' with the judiciary over the Supreme Court's order on admissions to private unaided professional colleges should be a matter of concern for all citizens who value the independence and privileged presence of both Parliament and the Supreme Court in the constitutional scheme of things ("A judicial outburst", September 23).

J.S. Acharya HyderabadIndia and Pakistan

In his review article, A.G. Noorani rightly pointed out the follies of the leaders of both India and Pakistan ("History as prison", September 23). As far as India is concerned, it lost millions of dollars on defence expenditure, subsidised provisions for Kashmiris, and on infrastructure that had to be built in an inhospitable terrain.

Had this amount been spent on poor people in Bihar, Orissa or Madhya Pradesh, our ranking on the Human Development Index would have been definitely better.

Sanjay Arun DamanMangal Pandey

The article "An unlikely hero" (September 23) sums up the general disappointment over the film. The Indian film industry is not known for its intelligent film making. Reality is compromised, and perverted imagination thrives. Often the best-made movies are based on history, be it Ben Hur, Gandhi, Ten Commandments, Gladiator, to name a few. These movies pass the test of historical veracity.

Indian movies made on history make compromises to suit the market. The film on Mangal Pandey is the latest of the breed. Earlier examples were movies such as 1921, Kalapani, Ashoka.

Vikram Ramakrishnan, ChennaiReligion

The interview with Prof. Fr. Francis X. Clooney, S.J. ("I am evangelising Christians", September 23), is one of the best reads that I have had for many years. It brings out the human potential of the highest order lucidly. I followed up by reading more about Clooney and can unhesitatingly state that we have one of the greatest of Acharyas in him in modern times. A rare individual, an eminent scholar and spiritual seeker beyond compare, he shows the path towards sanity for us.

Soundararajan Srinivasa Received on e-mailKatrina

Whatever the reason - lack of preparedness, shocking indifference or callous delay - the fact remains, to quote The New York Times, that for nearly a week America had "to confront the fact that it is stuck with leaders who neither know, nor care, how to lead" ("Katrina's fury", September 23). It is clear, as witnessed and alleged in New Orleans that the federal officials associated with the disaster management agency were too lax in their response because the victims were impoverished blacks and the have-nots of the U.S. The US administration is as flawed, if not more flawed, as governments elsewhere.

A. Megha Hyderabad* * *

The calamity that hit the city of New Orleans has been aptly cited as one of the most punishing catastrophes ever to hit the U.S. It is surprising beyond one's belief that from Iraq to New Orleans, America is humbled by its failures. It shows that American politics is tilted in favour of the rich.

R.R. Sami Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu* * *

Even though it was clear that the hurricane would hit the coast in four days, the death and destruction could not be prevented. The worst affected was New Orleans, a city below sea level, in Louisiana.

Jayaprakash T.V. Palakkad* * *

The tsunami is a rare phenomenon in the Indian Ocean, as compared to the hurricanes of the Pacific. Therefore, while the predicament of Asian countries caught unawares by the tsunami which struck last year was understandable, the U.S.' vulnerability to natural calamities is not. That the deluge in New Orleans was principally caused by as trivial a cause as breaching of the levees undermines the U.S.' claim to superpower status.

Syed Sultan Mohiddin Cuddapah, Andhra PradeshBooks

Having read the books, The Trial of Bhagat Singh and Islam & Jihad by A.G. Noorani, which now form a part of my small collection of books, I can well imagine how interesting and informative his latest book, Indian Political Trials: 1775-1947, will be ("Historic Trials", September 23). Noorani's extensive research into the subjects and simple manner of presenting things have made his books a `must read'.

S. Balakrishnan JamshedpurICHR

With reference to the story about D. Bandyopadhyay's report on the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), it should be made clear that ICHR has not so far received the report in question, and Frontline is its only source of knowledge about the reported contents ("Stifled by saffron agenda" August 12).

Assuming that Frontline's information about Bandyopadhyay's report is correct, the Council would like to point out that had relevant queries been addressed to it (the Council received none) some of the misapprehensions contained in the report might not have been entertained at all. The project `Archaeology and Tradition' was launched at the initiative of the ICHR itself, and professor D.N. Tripathi was requested by the then Chairman to be its Director in a purely honorary capacity. All expenditure on it was duly audited and no irregularity was found. Under this project, a seminar on the homeland of the Indo-European Languages and Cultures was held on January 7-9, 2002, to which eminent scholars of different views were invited and the volume containing research papers from contrary views was published in December 2004.

When Professor Tripathi was appointed Chairman of the Council, he relinquished his honorary position as Director of the `Archaeology and Tradition' project. The project has not been abandoned, but only kept in abeyance until a scholar of repute can be identified by the Council to take charge of it.

Inquiry reports are usually expected to look only at the grey areas. So there should perhaps be no grouse that the present one is apparently silent on so much that has been done after Professor Tripathi took charge as Chairman of the ICHR.

The prestigious `Towards Freedom' project has been revived and two of its blocked volumes (by Professors Sumit Sarkar and K.N. Panikkar) have been released for publication. Work has started again on "the Dictionary of Epigraphic Terms" and "Economic History of Colonial India" projects.

The Council's publication programme is in full swing, and the entire system of grants-in-aid has been made more transparent to eliminate the role of subjectivity and bias as far as possible. The Council would certainly invite suggestions for improvement from all quarters, for it has never claimed perfection.

Deputy Director (Research) ICHRNuclear issues

T.S. Subramanian's interview with Dr. Anil Kakodkar ("It is a reciprocal arrangement", September 9) surprisingly did not raise the important issue of nuclear waste and how it will be handled if there is a proliferation of nuclear power plants in India. The waste issue is a nasty technical and political problem that has not been resolved even in the United States, which has a vast experience of over 100 nuclear power plants. Given the population density in India and the yet-to-be-fully-upgraded infrastructure, one must necessarily be cautious before embracing nuclear power in a big way, its superficial benefits notwithstanding.

Muthian Gunasekaran Los Angeles, CaliforniaEducation

Jayati Ghosh's article, "The content of school education", has a logical inconsistency. The writer, on the one hand, finds it disturbing that the proposed National Curriculum Framework tends to denigrate the role of textbooks and instead emphasises "local knowledge" and teaching based on personal experience.

On the other hand, she writes about a report from Madhya Pradesh arguing that there is a connection between dropout rates among students of low economic backgrounds and the fact that there is little in textbooks for them to relate to or understand.

Arif N. Samma Shimla