This refers to your story on the role of Jats in protests against the new farm laws (Running on Jat Fuel, February 15). The central government has lost a lot of friends, thanks to the agitation that seems to drag on forever. Besides the Jats, whose disillusionment might leave the BJP’s ballot box lighter, the government has had the international community of activists and democratic governments casting sidelong glances of suspicion at India’s democratic credentials and commitment to freedom of expression.
George Jacob, Kochi
Just like his father, Rakesh Tikait is standing like a rock for his fellow farmers and the Jat community. He symbolises the Jats—simple, hard-working souls who turn into warriors when challenged, fearing nothing. He has mobilised the whole community across North India, sending a message of unity among the agri-soldiers to fight for their rights. They don’t look at farming in terms of business, but as a way of life. For a businessman, everything revolves around money. For a farmer, whose son may also be in uniform, tilling the land is a form of worship, and the hearth in his house lights the soul of India. A farmer must be understood. He is not a labourer, but the producer of our food. What happened at Red Fort was uncalled for, but let us not allow that event to serve as blinkers obstructing our perspectives on what the farmers are protesting against. The government will do well to look at the larger picture and explore ways to end the agitation.
R.D. Singh, Ambala Cantt
This refers to Chetan Mahajan’s column on how the “Chamoli carnage is a repeat reminder of perils springing from man’s attempts to alter the natural flow of things in a fragile land” (The Condammed Space, February 22). After one of the worst Himalayan disasters in June 2013 in Kedarnath valley, Uttarakhand has met another disaster of monumental magnitude in Chamoli district due to the Nandadevi glacier-burst. Environmentalists have been persistently warning against disturbing the delicate ecology of the Himalayan region, but in vain. It is being said that locals and environmentalists had been protesting against two hydel projects that severely compromised the region’s ecology and have now been washed off in the floods that followed the glacier-burst. The columnist points out that no committee was set up after the Kedarnath floods to find ways to prevent a future disaster. Environment and social impact assessments of hydropower projects are never an accurate account of the likely impacts, and no project has ever been rejected by the expert appraisal committee on river valley projects, the ministry of environment and forests or the judiciary in spite of numerous such cases being brought before them. Warnings of disasters of even bigger magnitude are coming from environmentalists if things continue to go the way they are going. It is time for the government to wake up and behave responsibly.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
This refers to your story on the military coup in Myanmar (The Coup Clutch Clan, February 15). The army seizing power by mounting a coup within two months of a popular government taking over the reins of Myanmar tells the sad tale of a country where democracy is still a far cry. In fact, the army has been ruling the country for most of the period right from its independence in 1948, interspersed by brief spells of civilian rule. The unlawful detention of leaders of the National League for Democracy (NLD), including Aung San Suu Kyi, by the army is an enormous setback because it clearly reveals that the Burmese army has always wanted a party backed by it to be at the helm of affairs. The army’s action shows that it does not respect people’s will, and that it will push the country into chaos and confusion. China is likely to take a plunge in the choppy waters of Myanmar to reap advantages for itself. India should join other countries and try to stop Myanmar from falling into China’s trap.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
This refers to your story on the impending disinvestment of Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) (Policy for Shifting Weight, February 15). Before privatising LIC, the government must consider the consequences on policyholders, who are the biggest stakeholders. Others stakeholders such as insurance agents and employees exist because of the policyholders and not the other way around. The immediate fallout will be a fall in the bonus amount that is paid by LIC. At present, policyholders are paid 95 per cent of profits as bonus. This amount will be decreased to 90 per cent. In order to compensate the policyholders, LIC must give preferential allotment to them in the IPO, and reserve 10-15 per cent for them. In addition, the government should make sure that price per share is not too high and within the reach of retail investors. If the price per share is too high, then the basic objective of privatisation may be defeated and large investors may corner the shares, reinforcing the fear that the government works for big business houses.
D.B. Madan, New Delhi
Your story on routine denial of bail (To Be Punished Until Proven Innocent, February 15) boldly exposes the malfunctioning of our courts at the expense of the civil liberties of those incarcerated on suspicion. As a ruling party that hopes to win elections again and again cannot afford the reputation of being autocratic, is the reporter aware that he could be hauled up for ‘sedition’ for the crime of being truthful, like many others before him?
“Jail is an exception; bail is the rule” is a lofty principle of criminal jurisprudence that has so far benefited only the rich and famous, the high and mighty. Even if they go to jail, they get themselves shifted to five-star hospitals with unlimited access to visitors day and night. If this principle were applied universally, then Indian prisons would not have had tens of thousands of undertrial, mostly from poor and underprivileged backgrounds. Often they do not have access to legal aid simply because they cannot afford the fees charged by lawyers. And when they get free legal aid, they are advised to plead guilty and undergo imprisonment if they want to be out of jail early. In most of these cases, the undertrial spends a longer spell in prison than their likely imprisonment if convicted. They should be released on a personal bond of a nominal amount and summoned when their case comes up for a trial. This will considerably reduce overcrowding in our jails, which are basically meant for convicts, not undertrials. But these days 90 per cent of the inmates are undertrials. This situation needs to be rectified at the earliest. It is the Supreme Court’s constitutional obligation to uphold the citizen’s rights and pass suitable orders.
Nitin M. Majmudar, Lucknow