Letters to the editor

Readers comments: Truth may be plural but alt facts in the US context are plain false

A selection of readers' opinions

Alternative facts

In his opinion piece on the plurality of truth and facts, in reference to the ongoing discord in America, Devdutt Patnaik uses truth and fact interchangeably as he ends the article (“Question for the Alt-Fact world: Why can’t truth be plural?”)

His views on the plurality and infinity of truth are spot on, but he is wrong to tag the idea of alternative fact with his views on different perception of truth. Alternate Fact, as it is being used currently in the political scene in America, is not perceived as a different version or perception of an infinite truth, but that of making up fact.

The anger or backlash against alt fact is because it consists of made fabricated numbers, information and events that cannot be backed by evidence. However, evidence against the alt facts is readily available.

I understand Devdutt’s opinion on the plurality of truth would be sound in reference to his immigration ban or the building of the wall, as these can seem right or wrong depending upon your views on the matter. But the way Trump administration is justifying these actions to the people are fabrications and lies and alternative facts.

Because he doesn’t want a large population of America who are against these decisions on moral grounds to fight him, he is distorting facts so as they would switch their moral ground and easily join him. Because he is also so much in love with himself so needy for love from others to reaffirm his love for himself, he gets anxious at the idea of being disliked by so many people. So he must lie.

Myth-making involves acceptance of a story or vision by a large number of people on whatever personal basis they had for accepting. So, whenever a story, information, vision or propaganda is presented with distorted and fabricated facts with an eye on the prize of majority acceptance, they will be called out because myths are a powerful tool to make people believe and move the country in a desired direction. Hence the charges of myth- making on Donald Trump and his administration. – Bhaskar Deepanju

***

This is an outstanding and brilliant analysis. I think this article can be a “human radicalisation detection diagnostic test” where the respondents’ views and opinions can be quantified on a scale of 10. – Sharique Ahmed

Trouble on two wheels

Such a great idea (“In Kolkata, citizens defy police attempts to squeeze bicycles off the road”). If cycling is promoted, there will be no pollution, no road damage, no bribery and no accidents. People will be healthy as fitness gurus say. All we need is to ban motor vehicles and usher in cycles, rickshaws , hand carts et al. That’s tradition after all! That’s how people have gone to school, never mind if patients are “brought dead “ to hospitals more often than not, or we’ve even carried goods that way. Remember the Mughal rule? Or earlier?

Let’s do this. Right here. Right now. One option ofcourse would be to widen the roads, by acquiring land , breaking down houses, paying people for damages etc just to create cycle lanes. But when that can’t be done and cyclists cannot be made accountable for accidents they cause to others, let’s just swarm our roads with cycles by banning motorised traffic, so our free-wheelers can run in any direction, turn anytime, stop anywhere for a chat or chai or for that all important phone call from the wife. No problem, I’d love to stop driving here anyway.

But can we get our money back and the remainder of the road taxes please? Would you please help us, through your thought provoking, ground breaking articles such as this, so that we can?
Once we’ve done this, just like we did demonetisation, we should expand the concept to other countries, Sydney, for instance, to the benefit to mankind.
Till, then, let’s have policemen doing their jobs in peace. They have enough interference from many walks of life just to do their job.

Cyclists on major roads, or even in lanes and bylanes, pose a challenge to one and all. They’re unaccountable, hence not responsible for accidents they cause onto others. They’re untraceable, so they don’t care a hoot about others safety, but receive public sympathy if anything happens to them, even if they were at fault
Let their be one law and lawmaker on the road unless we can propose a better option. Glorifying the defiance of the law implies a gross insensitivity to taxpayers who are incidentally humans too, and are, at least by law, accountable for their actions. – Satrajit Kanjilal

***

Promoting cycling in cities is good for the environment, no doubt, but in a congested city like Kolkata , where even narrow roads have three lanes of vehicles, there is little space for a cyclist to manoeuvre his vehicle . The fact that the cyclists never wear protective head gear makes them highly vulnerable. Matters worsen because these cyclists cannot afford expensive hospitalisation nor is there any insurance to protect them. Hence, my humble request to the administration is that they continue keeping cyclists off roads. – Soma Dasgupta

For the love of rice

Not so long back, Saturdays in a Bihari household were synonymous khichdi, cooked either for lunch or dinner (“From Kashmir to Karnataka, khichdi is the one true underestimated food of India”). With it, we would have papadum, ghee, curd and pickle. There were many different kinds of khichdis too, and the seasoning would depend on the lentil used. For instance, with masoor or red gram, a seasoning with minced garlic was a must. – Ruchita Sahay

Glass houses

If Narendra Modi’s raincoat jibe at Manmohan singh acceptable, then it may not be unfair to throw barbs at the incumbent prime minister, for example, by saying he was the kind of chief minister who had no bloodstains on him although he led the government in Gujarat when hundreds of innocents were killed (“Watch: How the Congress staged a walkout from the Rajya Sabha after Narendra Modi’s raincoat jibe”). How will he and other BJP MPs take it if someone made such a statement in Parliament? A certain amount of restraint while making comments about others in houses of legislature will be beneficial for the country. – G Ramakrishna

Cut off

People of Manipur are tired of being subjected to economic blockades enforced by certain associations to fulfill their personal demands (“Imphal impasse: Manipur has quietly completed 70 days of blockade, with no end in sight”). There are other democratic ways of protesting and negotiating. Economic blockades are inhuman and barbaric ways.

The government is incompetent but you can’t hold Manipur’s citizens to ransom like this. The hill district have many people of ethnicities, including Nagas, Kukis and many others, so how come all hill districts belong to Nagas? It belong to all the people residing there. Backed by NSCN insurgents, the United Naga Council has political motives and wants to destroy the integrity of the state and to create their dominance over other ethnicities.

Dividing the hill terrain will only bring good administration and development. No land is been snatched from anyone. They should demand development and good governance, insteading of playing politics. Many Adivasi groups have been forced to join Naga groups since the past many years just to make the tribe more powerful.

In the history of Manipur, the term Naga is in fact very new. Some people saw the need of creating a stronger ethnic community to show their dominance. That’s when “Nagas” came into existence. We have had numerous tribes living together in Manipur from ancient times . and there were no problems until recently, when clashes between Nagas and Kukis erupted in the state in the ’90s. There will be peace every where if we citizens of Manipur stay together. – Anita Devi

Leadership crisis

I find it difficult to accept TM Krishna’s statement that we don’t like Sasikala because she is not cultured or convent educated (“The TM Krishna column: What our disdain towards Sasikala tells us about ourselves”). By that logic, OPS is equally uncultured!

Villagers as well as so-called educated urbanites say that Paneerselvam is more competent and Sasikala, who is also very corrupt and backed by a mafia.

I don’t think this is merely the case of the middle-class being hypocritical. But I agree there is political apathy among us, as we are busy chasing money. – Seetha Ananthasivan

Big city perils

This was a nice and informative article on a techie’s murder and Pune’s IT hub (“Behind Pune techie’s murder, a tale of an IT hub’s unplanned growth and uneasy coexistence of worlds”). The reasoning that there is a cultural clash between orthodox tradition and neo-liberal modernity imposed by unplanned, utterly thoughtless development was well brought out. Since the analysis was against the backdrop of the recent tragic death of an innocent, I strongly feel that another angle could have been picked up and developed further, which is that no security apparatus is fool-proof.

All the internal and external security elements mentioned in your article do not account for the danger created by the company’s work culture. Apparently, the victim had mentioned on several prior instances that she was being asked to report to work late and on holidays, which are periods when there is mostly just a skeleton staff and therefore a wider opportunity for motivated aggressors who are savvy enough to defeat internal security mechanism such as coded entry or CCTV scans of an area.

Why is it that employees are forced to work from the office during late hours and holidays when it is crystal clear that phone conferences and shared projects can be done from the safety of their homes? Why are there no corporate policies that would protect employees from being exposed to questionable work place safety by managers who may have a grudge?
Why are contractors with questionable hiring practices selected as service providers?
What sort of verification is performed of the contractor’s employee-vetting practices?

Finally, why does the media feel their role is fulfilled by merely reporting such incidents? Why do they not revisit past cases to review outcomes or make a noise when such cases are allowed to drag on or abandoned?
Public memory is very short and the media should take up the responsibility role of refreshing it. Otherwise, the media too is culpable in the poor state of law enforcement as well as administrative and corporate leadership in the country. – Abhijit

***

This is a well researched and well written article. I have seen Pune’s Hinjewadi suburb grow and know first hand that there is a refusal to f integrating with locals.Every local there is not a goon and if you grow but keep the local community out, something is bound to simmer.

The basic issue not addressed is public transport. City is grown rapidly but basic issue will remain.

Innocent children from all over India come here to work and make a living, not to get killed. A national authority is needed that monitors the IT industry.

I remember the name of each and every youngster in this sector who has been murdered in the city. This letter has been written by a father who waited at home praying for his daughter to come home safe. – Sadanand

Fact check

This is by far the most ignorant text a so-called human rights lawyer could write (“Sex work or slavery?: Why human rights discourse is no longer a tool for liberation”). It totally neglects the history as well as the content of the universal declaration of human rights.

Whenever you see pictures of its declaration, you see Eleanor Roosevelt – obviously a woman – and it was developed by the United Nations included not just Western nations, but also the Eastern block and the Third World.

If the author had really read those rights properly, she would know they don’t only include individual rights but also rights saying that everyone has the right to gain profit from society’s progress – which is especially aimed at the poor.

So instead of attacking these rights and the discourse behind it, implying they are some kind of postcolonial invention, she rather fight its violations and abuses (such as slavery, obviously). If we undermine the human rights (including economical human rights, which already exist!), letting governments crack down on them and ridiculing them, it’s especially the poor and the modern slaves who are doomed.
Of course you can have a different opinion on what the declarations impose on sex work. You can say they abolish slavery, so they protect trafficked people, but you can also say they protect sex workers in their employment.
A different interpretation of what their impact on sex work is should not make you try to destroy Human Rights as a whole. Your article is absolutely counterproductive. – Michael Rapp

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content  BY 

As India turns 70, London School of Economics asks some provocative questions

Is India ready to become a global superpower?

Meaningful changes have always been driven by the right, but inconvenient questions. As India completes 70 years of its sovereign journey, we could do two things – celebrate, pay our token tributes and move on, or take the time to reflect and assess if our course needs correction. The ‘India @ 70: LSE India Summit’, the annual flagship summit of the LSE (London School of Economics) South Asia Centre, is posing some fundamental but complex questions that define our future direction as a nation. Through an honest debate – built on new research, applied knowledge and ground realities – with an eclectic mix of thought leaders and industry stalwarts, this summit hopes to create a thought-provoking discourse.

From how relevant (or irrelevant) is our constitutional framework, to how we can beat the global one-upmanship games, from how sincere are business houses in their social responsibility endeavours to why water is so crucial to our very existence as a strong nation, these are some crucial questions that the event will throw up and face head-on, even as it commemorates the 70th anniversary of India’s independence.

Is it time to re-look at constitution and citizenship in India?

The Constitution of India is fundamental to the country’s identity as a democratic power. But notwithstanding its historical authority, is it perhaps time to examine its relevance? The Constitution was drafted at a time when independent India was still a young entity. So granting overwhelming powers to the government may have helped during the early years. But in the current times, they may prove to be more discriminatory than egalitarian. Our constitution borrowed laws from other countries and continues to retain them, while the origin countries have updated them since then. So, do we need a complete overhaul of the constitution? An expert panel led by Dr Mukulika Banerjee of LSE, including political and economic commentator S Gurumurthy, Madhav Khosla of Columbia University, Niraja Gopal Jayal of JNU, Chintan Chandrachud the author of the book Balanced Constitutionalism and sociologist, legal researcher and Director of Council for Social Development Kalpana Kannabiran will seek answers to this.

Is CSR simply forced philanthropy?

While India pioneered the mandatory minimum CSR spend, has it succeeded in driving impact? Corporate social responsibility has many dynamics at play. Are CSR initiatives mere tokenism for compliance? Despite government guidelines and directives, are CSR activities well-thought out initiatives, which are monitored and measured for impact? The CSR stipulations have also spawned the proliferation of ambiguous NGOs. The session, ‘Does forced philanthropy work – CSR in India?” will raise these questions of intent, ethics and integrity. It will be moderated by Professor Harry Barkema and have industry veterans such as Mukund Rajan (Chairman, Tata Council for Community Initiatives), Onkar S Kanwar (Chairman and CEO, Apollo Tyres), Anu Aga (former Chairman, Thermax) and Rahul Bajaj (Chairman, Bajaj Group) on the panel.

Can India punch above its weight to be considered on par with other super-powers?

At 70, can India mobilize its strengths and galvanize into the role of a serious power player on the global stage? The question is related to the whole new perception of India as a dominant power in South Asia rather than as a Third World country, enabled by our foreign policies, defense strategies and a buoyant economy. The country’s status abroad is key in its emergence as a heavyweight but the foreign service officers’ cadre no longer draws top talent. Is India equipped right for its aspirations? The ‘India Abroad: From Third World to Regional Power’ panel will explore India’s foreign policy with Ashley Tellis, Meera Shankar (Former Foreign Secretary), Kanwal Sibal (Former Foreign Secretary), Jayant Prasad and Rakesh Sood.

Are we under-estimating how critical water is in India’s race ahead?

At no other time has water as a natural resource assumed such a big significance. Studies estimate that by 2025 the country will become ‘water–stressed’. While water has been the bone of contention between states and controlling access to water, a source for political power, has water security received the due attention in economic policies and development plans? Relevant to the central issue of water security is also the issue of ‘virtual water’. Virtual water corresponds to the water content (used) in goods and services, bulk of which is in food grains. Through food grain exports, India is a large virtual net exporter of water. In 2014-15, just through export of rice, India exported 10 trillion litres of virtual water. With India’s water security looking grim, are we making the right economic choices? Acclaimed author and academic from the Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi, Amita Bavisar will moderate the session ‘Does India need virtual water?’

Delve into this rich confluence of ideas and more at the ‘India @ 70: LSE India Summit’, presented by Apollo Tyres in association with the British Council and organized by Teamworks Arts during March 29-31, 2017 at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi. To catch ‘India @ 70’ live online, register here.

At the venue, you could also visit the Partition Museum. Dedicated to the memory of one of the most conflict-ridden chapters in our country’s history, the museum will exhibit a unique archive of rare photographs, letters, press reports and audio recordings from The Partition Museum, Amritsar.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Teamwork Arts and not by the Scroll editorial team.