THE demise of Chief Minister Jayalalithaa has signalled the end of an era in Dravidian politics and her legacy is a mixed one (Cover Story, January 6). A shrewd politician, an able administrator, a brilliant orator and a master strategist who was called the “iron lady” of Tamil Nadu politics, she was instrumental in steering the AIADMK to great heights. A darling of the masses who was handpicked by her mentor, the late M.G. Ramachandran, Jayalalithaa’s hallmark was her ability to maintain a close rapport with the party cadre at the grass-roots level and the masses.
She was a practitioner of pragmatic politics who played her cards close to her chest. Her indomitable will, steely determination and never-say-die attitude in tackling numerous adversities in life, both political and personal, were acknowledged and appreciated by her ardent supporters, critics and her political adversaries as well. Perhaps no other contemporary mass leader commanded awe and respect as she did.
That said, she was also perceived as an authoritarian who stifled inner-party democracy and promoted sycophancy, thereby preventing the emergence of an effective second-rung of leadership within the party. Love her or hate her but no one could ignore her.
B. Suresh Kumar, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu
THE death of Jayalalithaa, popularly and affectionately known as Amma, has saddened the hearts of her innumerable fans and admirers, especially the downtrodden. Amma shone in whatever line she chose—acting as well as politics. She acted in 140 films, including “Izzat” opposite the popular hero Dharmendra. As a politician, her life was dedicated to the welfare of Tamil Nadu and its people. After ascending the throne of Chief Minister in 1991, she never looked back except for a brief period when she was imprisoned on corruption charges, but that did not deter her. She remained cheerful and championed the cause of the people until her last breath.
Jayant Mukherjee, Kolkata
THE Cover Story presented the life of Jayalalithaa without any malice. Her early life was a mixture of achievements and disappointments. A lonely childhood influenced her attitude to life. She was not a believer in democracy. Many of her decisions were not based on sound reasoning. The introduction of English medium in government schools from class I onwards went against the recommendations of expert committees. Not a single teacher’s post was created to teach the subjects in the English medium. As all the teachers in most government schools had studied in Tamil medium, they are struggling with English technical terms. Universities without Vice-Chancellors, government colleges and schools without heads and classrooms without teachers speak of her neglect of public education. The situation is similar in many other departments. She could have really made Tamil Nadu exemplary in many respects. UNICEF had prepared two documents in the early 1990s, one a Strategic Plan of Action for implementing Education for All, 2000, and a Ten Year Plan for the Child. Both documents were considered unique and were commended at the national level. But none of the recommendations was implemented. I was part of those two exercises.
S.S. Rajagopalan, Chennai
JAYALALITHAA owes her rise to the strength of her character. The people of Tamil Nadu gave her mandates repeatedly because of the welfare programmes initiated by her. But failing to nominate a political successor was one of her major failures.
A.J. Rangarajan, Chennai
JAYALALITHAA did not hesitate to show her real face to the world unlike most politicians, who have a different image behind their public persona (“The star, the actor & the woman”, January 6). She was successful in her public endeavours. Moreover, she was a messiah for the poor people in her State. She has set an example, proving that one can achieve whatever one wishes to with determination and effort.
Mahesh Kapasi, New Delhi
JAYALALITHAA, who strode the political arena of Tamil Nadu like a colossus for more than four decades, owed her success to her mentor M.G. Ramachandran. She commanded unflinching loyalty from party workers and brooked no dissent from either the Ministers or the party’s top functionaries. Like her mentor, she maintained the patriarchal structure of the AIADMK and the number of women inducted as Ministers or legislators did not make a mark. Her ability to spring back from political setbacks was phenomenal. Although she kept away from the public gaze, her welfare measures to alleviate the hardships of people from the lower strata of society catapulted her to the position of a demigod. However, she did not bother to develop a strong second-rung leadership, which may lead to a crisis in the party in future.
N.C. Sreedharan, Kannur, Kerala
THE passing away of Jayalalithaa has left a deep void in Tamil Nadu politics which is very difficult to fill. In the absence of a dynamic successor in the party, its fate hangs in the balance. A multi-dimensional personality, she faced great challenges with courage during the three decades of her political career and came out successful each time.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad, Telangana
DEMONETISATION was the reason for the death of more than 80 persons (Cover Story, December 23). The photograph of a 74-year-old man who received help when he fainted after standing in a queue for hours was poignant. I am 71 years old and nine ATMs within a radius of one kilometre from my house are dry. When I last tried to withdraw money from an ATM on December 1, I met with an accident and fractured my left hand besides sustaining other injuries. I was not able to withdraw money and have ended up losing several thousands to the doctor. It is pathetic to see Modi trying to look like a martyr who overlooked the interests of his party for the larger national good. Why cannot he acknowledge his blunder and apologise to the people for the misery he has inflicted on them? Why is he and the Bharatiya Janata Party shirking a debate on the issue in Parliament? What is he afraid of?
Bidyut Kumar Chatterjee, Faridabad, Haryana
WHILE Narendra Modi’s idea of mopping up black money and checking corruption was laudable, the note ban was like carpet-bombing of 99 per cent of honest people. By demonetising Rs.15 lakh crore in one fell swoop the government made almost the whole nation cashless (“Digital dreams”, January 6). Before turning India digital, Modi should not have made people cashless, for it is only when people have cash that they can think of going digital and thereafter cashless and not the reverse. Remember, we are a developing nation and not a developed one.
K.P. Rajan, Mumbai
INSTEAD of drawing meaningless parallels between the Japanese tsunami and his own demonetisation plan as the Prime Minister did in Japan, he should acknowledge that not enough preparation went into the implementation.
Of what use are Rs.2,000 notes? Most of us need smaller amounts for everyday expenses. No one is willing to accept such notes. Surely, common sense dictates that more Rs.100 and Rs.500 notes be printed and disbursed fast. Who will compensate the families of those who lost their lives while standing in queue to get their own money?
Nabeel Sidheeq, Kozikode, Kerala
WHILE the objectives of Modi seem well-intentioned, the manner in which his government wants to transform India overnight into a digital economy is shabby. Leaving aside the question of who the real beneficiaries of this move are, it is the common people who are most affected. Even after 45 days of the demonetisation announcement, they have to stand in long queues to withdraw their own money. For a digital economy to work, the country needs good and consistent connectivity. At present there is a great disparity in connectivity levels and it is so poor in rural areas that making an e-payment is impossible. Also, what about the security of data for individuals and business concerns? A study by two universities in the United States has revealed that India is one of the countries most vulnerable to cyber attacks. Without proper planning the whole exercise has only managed to trouble the public and lose voters for the ruling party at the Centre.
T.S.N. Rao, Bheemavaram, Andhra Pradesh
PLAYING the national anthem in cinema halls was made mandatory many years ago but that order was withdrawn subsequently (“Patriotism, by order”, January 6). One wonders why it has been brought back. The national anthem is played in most public functions. Schools too play the national anthem and the state anthem during functions. It will be interesting to see whether this rule is enforced by the management of a cinema hall or left to individuals and vigilante groups to ensure compliance. Such an element of coercion is against the freedom of an individual. Love and respect for one’s country, the national anthem and the national flag has to come from within. Patriotism cannot be enforced by a judicial order, however justified the judges’ intentions are.
D.B.N. Murthy, Bengaluru
IT is high time that India spoke up for the rights of the Rohingya refugees in Myanmar (“State Slaughter”, January 6). India has robust civil rights groups, a powerful press, and a society interested in its neighbours. We saw them taking issue with Myanmar when Aung San Suu Kyi was put under house arrest by the Myanmarese junta. Thousands of Rohingya refugees are living in India. A balance needs to be struck between India’s economic and political interests in Myanmar, in order to help the Rohingyas. This is what is expected from an aspiring South Asian power.
Deendayal M. Lulla, Mumbai
WITH the death of Fidel Castro we have lost one of the greatest revolutionary figures of the 20th century (“Valediction for the commandant”, December 23). He will be remembered for emancipating Cuba from the U.S.-backed authoritarian ruler Fulgencio Batista. From then on, the U.S. administration tried to dethrone and assassinate him innumerable times. He once remarked: “If surviving assassination attempts were an Olympic event, I would win the gold medal.” However, nothing could subdue his indomitable courage. Castro’s concern was not only confined to the welfare of Cubans but also extended to the poor, the depressed and the deprived in Latin America, Africa and Asia. He will be remembered not only for his revolutionary activities but also for Cuba’s enviable record in health care, education, women’s empowerment and social welfare measures.
Buddhadev Nandi, Bishnupur, West Bengal
The Supreme Court’s judgment upholding equal pay for equal work is a huge relief for contract employees (“End of wage disparities?” December 9). But the job security of such workers is a problem now. Labour laws in our country are patchy and the chances of such employees getting fired are high. So, implementation of this judgment should be closely monitored by the Supreme Court.
V. Arul Daniel, Gobichettipalayam, Tamil Nadu