IS it “ethical” for the Prime Minister to be seen to be endorsing a private company’s services in an advertisement (Cover Story, September 30)? It is known that Prime Minister Modi’s favourites are the Adani and Ambani Groups, but even so how can he have forgotten that he is the country’s “pradhan sewak” and works for the nation, not for Ambani. The big question is, Had Reliance taken permission from the Prime Minister or his office? If yes, then why did Modi choose to endorse the private sector instead of the state-owned BSNL?
Bidyut Kumar Chatterjee, Faridabad, Haryana
WAY back in the 1980s, when Reliance was a budding entity, it was allowed a lot of flexibility for its foray into the polyester business. Its later ventures, in the petrochemical and the oil and gas sectors, were successful mainly because of the patronage it enjoyed from successive political establishments, no matter which party was running them. Policymakers deliberately sidelined BSNL and MTNL, and major private telecom entities have usurped the once pivotal status of the government telecom operators.
One significant benefit of the launch of Reliance Jio may be that other private telecom operators may now (grudgingly) offer their customers VoIP services. TRAI should intervene to prevent private players from forming a cartel and taking consumers for a ride.
S. Murali, Vellore, Tamil Nadu
THE Cover Story was a warning to people at large about insatiable corporate greed. Growth cannot be and should not be at the expense of other players, but what has been happening ever since the so-called liberalisation in the country is nothing but annihilation of those who have been engaged in trade and business for generations. The corporate sector is taking full advantage of the repeal of the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act. A nation of over 1.3 billion people can sustain itself only if its job market is enlarged. But corporate entities have entered the retail trade, which was providing millions with low capital businesses. This cannot be considered growth. Real growth should add on to existing jobs and services. People are being thrown out of their traditional occupations, which is resulting in the increasing poverty of the working class. The time has come for people to boycott goods from the big corporate sector.
S.S. Rajagopalan, Chennai
THE Supreme Court verdict quashing the controversial land acquisition in Singur is significant (“Farmers’ victory”, September 30). It is a victory for the land losers. The court rightly questioned the manner in which over 1,000 acres of fertile land was allotted to Tata Motors. The verdict raises a number of fundamental questions relating to land acquisition by State governments and the Union government in favour of corporate bodies.
Buddhadev Nandi, Bishnupur, West Bengal
IT was wrong of and unacceptable for the writer of the article “Bankruptcy of policy” (September 30) to eulogise the separatists and pin the blame on Delhi when casualties among the Indian forces in the Kashmir Valley are rising. India has explored every opportunity to convince the separatists to take part in talks, but their blunt refusal to even meet the members of an all-party delegation was shocking and shows that they are under the influence of Pakistan. As this is going to lead to more violence in the Valley, it is time for the separatists to not mock the proposal for talks by insisting that Pakistan be included.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad, Telangana
IN the article “Back to square one” (September 16), the Prime Minister was portrayed as no less than a villain for the way he was dealing with the sensitive issue of Kashmir. The article’s only agenda was perhaps to deplore every effort the Central government has been making to curb the prevailing unrest in the Valley. How terrible to call Burhan Wani a youth icon! The majority of Kashmiris want peace, and Burhan Wani is no less a terrorist to them than he is to the rest of the country.
Poornima Singh, Kashipur, Uttarakhand
IN her article “Reaching out” (September 16), Dr Lakshmi Vijayakumar presented the gravity of suicide as a social malady and its multifactorial substrate. She also highlighted the necessity of addressing all these factors to prevent suicide. Many people who attempt suicide have a tendency to seek repeated medical consultations for diverse physical ailments before making the attempt. Often these complaints are associated with sleep disturbances, loss of appetite, tiredness, etc., which could well be somatic features of depression. This aspect goes unrecognised by them, their family members and, worse still, by the primary physicians or specialists they approach. If identified, they can be given effective treatment and taken away from the path of self-harm.
Kerala is the only State where there is a specific suicide control programme. The Directorate of Medical Education initiated the Kerala Integrative Scheme for Intervention in Suicide (KRISIS) in 2003, when the rapidly rising suicide rate in the State was a major public health and social concern. Although it envisaged action in different sectors to handle the causative and contributory factors, it predominantly focusses on training primary care physicians and paramedical personnel in early identification of depression and suicide ideation.
Under the KRISIS project, such training was given to about 500 primary care physicians and some nurses. The rate of suicide in Kerala was above 30 per lakh per year at the launch of KRISIS. It started going down from 2010, reaching 27 in 2014. The KRISIS training would have contributed considerably, though not exclusively, to this. It would be appropriate for other State governments to initiate similar programmes.
Dr K.A. Kumar, Thiruvananthapuram
THIS is with reference to the article on Sumantra Chattarji’s work at the NCBS (“A great divide”, September 16). Chattarji talks about the worldwide “cultural divide” between the psychiatric-genetic community and neuroscientists. The cognitive model that he recommends is from optogenetics, which is likely to shed light on the “causal aberrations” in cases of depression, fear, addiction, autism, parkinsonism and epilepsy by making them more transparent than the current functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and trancranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). So the actual divide is between neuroscientists (call them “cognitive neuroscientists”) and medical scientists who know only psychiatry (and not cognitive psychiatry) where no integration is evident. It is not so clear how the new experimental design will succeed in integrating the divide in the face of serious limitations (as Karl Deisseroth conceded). In particular, it cannot yield nomological relation with exceptionless scientific causal laws. In cognitive neuroscience a big gap in understanding the adjective “cognitive” remains in India. One wonders whether the new design will also be subjected to scientific evaluation, especially in the context of India where it is only in its infancy. The recent DST Cognitive Science Initiative lies dormant and is almost wound up at present.
A. Kanthamani, Cognitive Science Group, Kozhikode, Kerala
FRONTLINE’S discussion on the mental health situation in the country was comprehensive. One hopes that the pending Mental Health Care Bill will prove beneficial to the families in tears now.
Sasisekhar Menon, Ernakulam, Kerala
THIS is with regard to the article “Institutional inadequacies” (September 16). I would like to bring to your notice the author’s baseless, false allegations maligning the name of the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), Kilpauk.
1. On Page 18, the writer stated that “male warders are in charge of female wards leading to multiple problems including sexual harassment”. This is a baseless, irresponsible and false allegation. As a person involved in the delivery of mental health care for more than nine years in the IMH, I strongly condemn these lines, which are a figment of his imagination. Did he contact any of the hospital authorities when he was writing the article? If no, why did he not do so?
2. There are a lot of voluntary omissions of various historical events. There was no mention of the MoU signed by the government of Tamil Nadu and The Banyan that resulted in the “dumping” of loads of, mostly north Indian, patients. Eventually, the onus was on the IMH to evaluate, treat, care, trace the addresses and relocate them. Why did the author conceal the fact that the MoU was the main reason for the huge inpatient census between 2005 and 2009? How did the IMH relocate the patients without the help of The Banyan? How was the patient census reduced to below 1,000? None of these issues was addressed by the writer.
3. The statement on page 19 that the “institute did not have the resources or the manpower to track down the families” is false. With the available resources, we have relocated hundreds of patients each year to various villages all over India. The official record of the number of discharges made is available with the IMH office.
4. If the writer wanted to establish the superiority of The Banyan Model, it is up to him to do so. Glorifying “the other” model by painting the existing model black is unacceptable. No doubt the existing mental health care delivery by the IMH needs critical evaluation, but that should be done in an unbiased manner so that the result of the analysis strengthens the public sector hospitals’ infrastructure and improves the care delivery.
Dr Aravindan Sivakumar, Psychiatrist, Senior Civil Assistant Surgeon,
Institute of Mental Health, Kilpauk, Chennai
Associate Editor R.K. Radhakrishnan writes:
1. On page 18, I have said: “One informed source spoke about male warders being placed in charge of female wards, leading to multiple problems, including sexual harassment.” In his letter, Dr Aravindan Sivakumar left out my attribution to an informed source.
As a journalist who has worked in Chennai for over two and a half decades, first in The Hindu and later in Frontline, I have visited the IMH several times since 1992 and written in The Hindu about its various aspects. This article is about institutional inadequacies in India, and apart from talking to competent authorities, I relied on the reports of various credible organisations in India: the 2016 Mental Health Report, the 2014 Human Rights Watch Report, the NHRC-NIMHANS report of 1996, the NHRC report on “Care and Treatment in Mental Health Institutions: Some Glimpses in the Recent Period, 2012”, the NHRC’s interim observations in 2004, the report of the Directorate General of Health, the 2009 PIL relating to the IMH, and the State Mental Health Rules, 1990. I also quote an informed source on certain aspects. Hence my comment was not a figment of my imagination.
2. I am aware of almost all the problems relating to the IMH in this period, and as a journalist, I had also investigated many of them. Events and incidents are recalled and reproduced to meet the scope and requirements of the article. The theme of this article, which was part of a whole Cover Story devoted to the complex issue of dealing with mental health in India, was to capture the problems in a public institutional set-up.
3. As a public-spirited person, I have also been involved in this process and am aware of what tracking involves. An institution like the IMH just cannot do this to scale.
4. There is no attempt at glorification of one model, and this is not a public sector vs private sector fight, as is evident from the content and thrust of the Cover Story. The attempt was to showcase models that work and to highlight models that need to be fine-tuned.
THE growing incidence of acid attacks in India is a grim pointer to the lack of effective deterrents (“Acid victims”, September 16). The protracted judicial process and the poor conviction rate have exacerbated the situation, making India a country with one of the highest number of acid attacks in the world. More than the gravity of the punishment, it is the swiftness and certainty of its implementation that can contain such heinous criminal assaults. The life-long trauma of the victims could be assuaged to some extent if the perpetrators get prompt retribution through the law, apart from providing the victims rehabilitation opportunities.
Ayyasseri Raveendranath, Aranmula, Kerala