This refers to your cover story on vaccine volunteers They Took the Shot for You (January 25). No doubt, it requires lot of courage and conviction to be a trial case for a new vaccine. The result may be positive or negative, or even devastating. Those who volunteered for the trials of the COVID-19 vaccine and took the shot for saving the lives of others are real bravehearts. Mass vaccination drives are going on around the world. In India, Congress leaders were heard asking for PM Narendra Modi and members of his cabinet to get vaccinated first—obviously, to prove that the vaccine is safe. One of the two vaccines produced by Indian drug manufacturers and being used in the immunisation drive is apparently at the stage of clinical trials as those who were given the jab were reportedly made to sign a consent form that said they were participating in a trial. This fact was not given due publicity.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
Clinical trials are the most critical aspect of vaccine development. Adverse reactions cannot be ruled out, especially in the initial stages. Many decades ago, in what came to be known as the Cutter incident, some batches of the polio vaccine made by the Cutter Labs of California—despite passing required safety tests—contained live polio virus. Thousands of people were injected with it. What followed was the worst pharmaceutical disaster in the world, with thousands getting infected with polio and some dying of it. And yet it’s true that vaccines have saved more people than any other medical advancement. It is with this belief that a few people take the risk on behalf of all of us to give each of us a better tomorrow.
Sangita, On E-Mail
This refers to Dash for Cash (January 25), your story on how “digital transactions are yet to break India’s love affair with cash”. Demonetisation, an idiosyncratic move in itself, was thought to be a big leap towards creating a cashless economy, but cash transactions are back with a bigger bang. Not surprisingly, currency with the public is only increasing. India is unlikely to go cashless anytime soon—in fact, very few nations, for example, Germany, have achieved this objective. Even in Japan, despite its advanced economy, only 18 per cent of transactions are cashless. Human beings have been using cash, in one form or another, for millennia. And it remains indispensable for the vast majority in India, especially for small everyday transactions. A majority of cash transactions are legitimate and most people who use cash are law-abiding citizens. We also have major issues related to power, literacy, connectivity and cyber security in our country. Reforms on the scale the government is considering must be sensitive to the needs of low-income households, especially those that are un-banked, and including the young, the elderly and the differently abled.
H.N. Ramakrishna, Bangalore
This refers to your issue of the year on Human Rights (January 18), especially the very appropriately titled essay by Amit Kumar (Camus in Kashmir). The novel coronavirus had most of the world under a lockdown in 2020. For concertina-coiled Kashmir, however, it was no novel situation—just one more curfew, another lockdown. Since the summer of 1989, the once ‘paradise on earth’ has seen no sun. Indeed, its desolate, dark, empty canvas evokes imagery straight out of Albert Camus’s The Plague. But, unlike the nature-induced plague that the French-Algerian author portrays, Kashmir battles out a man-made disaster of constant conflict, fear and uncertainty, where its people are so undone by the epidemic of anxiety that perhaps they have no idea whether human rights even exist in India. Kashmir is a society falling apart, without the comfort of even having a mythical hero like Sisyphus to steer their struggle for justice and human rights. Yes, Camus is in Kashmir, but finds no joy, nor a ray of hope in this arid zone.
Sangeeta Kampani, New Delhi
This refers to Ruben Banerjee’s Our Wronged Rights (From the Editor, January 18). In India at a moment, everyone seems to have got the privilege of taking the side of untruth and making biased comments by targeting PM Narendra Modi and his party, the BJP, indirectly if not directly. The examples that the editor has cited to justify the right to freedom of speech have not gone down well with many of us. A top editor of a national newsmagazine cannot be doing this. I am really unhappy with his views.
Vishwanath Dhotre, On E-Mail
It’s the irony of ironies: an eight-page pull-out advertising the “achievements” of the UP government led by Yogi Adityanath in your issue of the year (Human Rights, January 18), whose cover depicts the state of human rights with blood dripping from barbed wires.
Thankfully, I had the liberty of throwing it in the waste bin!
Richa Juyal, Dehradun
Human rights cannot be absolute and unqualified. A citizen has to deserve and earn them by being honest, upright, truthful, non-violent, peace-loving, law-abiding and god-fearing. It may sound unbelievable, but 99 per cent of the citizenry fall in this class. However, while this majority is mute and silent, the remaining one per cent who seek the protection of human rights are mostly undeserving citizens, including terrorists, insurgents, Naxalites/Maoists, and other seditionists and secessionists, who are patronised by suspicious NGOs and activists. The National Human Rights Commission has to be circumspect and courageous enough to refuse to intervene in cases of undeserving petitioners. It has become a fashion to earn the label of “secular, liberal and progressive intellectual” by supporting dubious causes, including sedition and secession. Society, especially the silent majority, has to vigilant and not fall into the trap of anti-national elements. These activists glorify seditious and secessionist activities, and demonise cultural nationalism as communal sectarianism. The country and the society have to nip in the bud the evil designs of anarchists—the Shaheen Bagh protest and the farmers’ siege of Delhi are recent examples of actions that are aimed at plunging the country into chaos and disorder under cover of the exercise of human rights.
Nitin M. Majmudar, Lucknow
This refers to The Insect Apocalypse (January 18). There are many reports on the alarming decline in insect numbers. The contribution of insects to human survival has long been recognised. Our major food crops require pollination and insects play a crucial role in it, making it possible for us to eat many types of fruits, vegetables and other eatables. Insects, including wasps, flies, beetles and butterflies, fertilise many of the 100 crops that provide 90 per cent of the world’s food supplies. If they disappear, ecosystems everywhere will disintegrate. Whether we love them or loathe them, without insects, humans cannot survive because they pollinate more than three-quarters of our crops.
Ramakrishna H., On E-Mail
This refers to Maximum Support Protest (December 21, 2020). It is preposterous to demand repeal of laws passed by Parliament. Let us hope that a day may not come when crooks, history-sheeters and persons with their thumbprints in police records organise a Struggle Committee to demand repeal of the Indian Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure. The majesty, dignity and relevance of Parliament, which is elected by the people through free and fair polls supervised by the Election Commission of India, has to be maintained at all costs. If the government concedes in one case, it will open the floodgates for repeal of laws by other vested interests. Let us hope the government stands firm and does not succumb to the coercive tactics of lumpen elements.
Majmudar N., On E-Mail