Letters to the editor

Readers’ comments: Mumbai stampede is just a part of the larger problem of public infrastructure

A selection of readers’ opinions.

Crush hour

This article doesn’t speak about illegal hawkers and kabutarkhanas that occupy public places like pavements,footpaths, stations, bus stands and the like (“The Mumbai rail stampede was waiting to happen. Here’s how we can prevent a similar tragedy”). Because of illegal encroachment, which is tacitly supported by civic officials and corporators, pedestrians are left with hardly any place to walk. Simply making Mumbai hawker-free will decongest this city considerably, but it is unlikely to happen because civic officials and corporators will lose out on the extra income they can get through bribes. – Anand Mugad

***

There should be three to five wide bridges at all the railway stations, each linked by an escalator as well as staircase. There should also be sheds outside all platforms where people can take shelter from heavy rains. Trains should run as per schedule and railway authorities should be deployed to manage large crowds, at least during peak hours. – Teju Kamble

***

Coaches can be increased and double-decker trains can be introduced. Those travelling the entire route or a long part of it could be seated at the top. There should also be more ventilation in the trains. – Shoaib Khan

***

Over the last decade, fares were not raised for populist reasons, so facilities never improved. But instead of believing that one needs to pay more to get more, people want things at the lowest price and are willing to tolerate bad quality. Poor maintenance is also attributed to less revenue. – Shrikant Mahajan

***

The pictures of this tragedy say it all. Shame on the government for not addressing this situation in major cities. The Mumbai incident is just a part of a bigger problem. The government could make cuts elsewhere but fixing public transportation should be made a priority. – Ahmed

Letting students down

The Vice Chancellor of the Benaras Hindu University has failed to stand by and protect his wards (“‘This was a simple case of eve-teasing’: Watch the BHU VC playing down the molestation on campus”). He has shown no empathy towards women students and an incident like molestation on campus should have seen swift and prompt action.

Instead of doing that, he demeaned himself and his post by ineptly mouthing inanities about the harassment his women students faced. He sullied his reputation even more by unleashing the Uttar Pradesh police on women who were peacefully protesting for a just cause. He has proved himself to be an aberration as an academician, because a good value-driven teacher should be a mentor and protector to students, rather than one who throws them to the wolves. Sadly, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath has again resorted to obfuscation and dissembling after the BHU fiasco, as he had done with the Gorakhpur hospital tragedy. – Vinod Kumar B

In danger

This is nothing but false propaganda by a few journalists who claim to be free thinkers but are full of hate for the BJP and its leaders (“Journalists in Delhi-NCR receive identical messages threatening them with Gauri Lankesh’s fate”). Everyday, most print and TV media voice opinions against Modi, but there is no censorship or blocking of the news. But the Indian media, in the name of press freedom, occasionally lets objectivity go for a toss. It will be good for the press to look inwards.

Statehood demand

It is high time Bengalis had their own strong mouthpiece to air the justified demands of Indian Bengalis, which none of the political parties in the state have managed to do (“The Daily Fix: West Bengal must ensure Gorkha rights even though the agitation has ended”). Some national parties like the BJP are in fact traditionally anti-Bengali and reflect the millennium old imperial attitude of North Indian Brahminical societies.

The Gorkhaland demand, if granted, will open the Pandora’s box. Hundreds of demands for such micro-states will crop up all over India. Will the Centre or state be able to handle this?

Gorkhas themselves will suffer far worse if a party like Gorkha Janmukti Morcha is made to rule the new state.

As long as Darjeeling remains a part of West Bengal they should learn Bengali. The demand is absolutely justified as it is a state language and a must to get jobs in the plains. If Bengalis can learn Hindi, why can’t Gorkhas learn Bengali? – Anindya Dasgupta

Cracking the code

Maybe the supply for Java tech resources is in abundance and a popular choice for many (“It’s time Indian IT institutions let go of outdated coding languages like Java”). For instance, Android is also in Java as Google that is a better choice for application development). The language you use to demonstrate coding skills is not giving much importance in job interviews too, I have found. Understanding the fundamentals is most important. – Shiva Kumar

***

You’ve got it wrong. Java and C++ are the core languages that build the foundations for a programmer. If you only learn the other languages mentioned in the article, you’ll be not much more than an on-paper programmer who can build things quickly but has no idea if it will be efficient or scalable. Core computer science skills should be there focus. If you know the core skills and languages you can learn any other language or technology easily on the job. – Dhyanesh

***

The use of the word “outdated” for languages like C, C++ and Java is wrong. Yes, the emphasis now has to be more on functional programming than imperative programming, but that does not make these languages outdated.
Java, for example, has added a lot of functional features in its recent updated versions. Languages like Clojure, Scala etc rely on Java libraries and to be effective in any of the Java virtual machine-based scripting languages you have to be comfortable with Java. C++ is still a language of choice for building user interfaces, image processing, computer vision, etc. Our operation systems are still written in C and so are most of the embedded systems. There is surely a need to focus more of functional languages but imperative languages are here to stay. – Taha Hafeez Siddiqi

***

I thank the author for raising an important issue. However, the C language, however redundant it may seem, is more important than any of the other imperative programming languages. Python, Java, JavaScript etc use it extensively. In fact every new language makes a fair effort to be compatible with C programmes, including Python, UNIX and Linux kernel. Google’s core and critical software is written in C/C++. The list goes on.

Moreover, to be a genuine programmar one should have a fair understanding of Assembly language (at least what it is and how does it work). C gives you the insight into that level. It let’s you know what is under the hood. And with time everyone realises that C is nothing more than a convenient way to write Assembly programs.

I was also surprised to see Lisp in the list of new languages. It is in fact is the oldest of almost every computer language. Haskell could have been the appropriate choice in this category. – Anshuman

***

Harishankar Karunanidhi misses the wood for the trees. Attributing the crisis in Computer Science education to the choice of “outdated” programming languages taught in IT institutions is akin to saying bad drivers are produced because driving schools use Maruti 800s to learn on instead of Teslas. Knowing how to drive well is different from knowing how to drive a particular car. In conflating the two, Karunanidhi misdiagnoses the problem.

Switching to newer programming languages as Karunanidhi advocates does not mean programmers automatically become better programmers. That will require a more fundamental re-examination of how the conceptual underpinnings of computer programming are taught, and how good practice is transmitted. – Amit Garde

Battle ready

The author is making a mountain out of a molehill (“No garbage duties please: India must deploy its Armed Forces personnel for combat alone”). What the defence minister probably meant was that the armed forces personnel cared more about the country than the ordinary citizen whose disdainful treatment of public property needs no elaboration. Further, the author is showing his political bias by citing examples of alleged impropriety in the use of the resources of the Armed Forces by the current regime, thereby silently suggesting that there were no improprieties during the earlier non-BJP regimes.

The author is wrong to suggest that “Crucially, repeated and unnecessary attempts to commandeer the services of Army personnel....not only undermines the Army’s prestige in public eyes...” It actually enhances their prestige because it reveals the civilian authorities’ inadequacies and incompetency in handling situations – natural or man-made.

Again, if one of the reasons for our defeat in the 1962 war with China was “troop labour” what explains our armed forces’ victories in the Indo-Pakistan wars of 1965, 1971 and 1999? Does the author imply that during all those intervening years the Armed Forces were only ‘training and retraining’?

More to the point, the active personnel strength of the Indian Army alone is around 12 to 14 lakhs. How many are being roped in for performing civilian tasks? I’m sure it is miniscule. And as pointed out by the author himself “no more than one in four soldiers actually fired their weapon while in battle” during the two world wars.

Finally, although I agree with the author that the Armed Forces should be involved in civilian duties only as an instrument of last resort, the ordinary citizen, in times of emergency, has only the Armed Forces to look up to for succor when the civil institutions falter and fail to render timely help. – P Raghavendra

***

We are right to say that Indian Army’s first duty is defend the nation in combat. But to claim that the army should be used only for combat is to set a wrong example. Cleanliness is the duty of every human being and in difficult terrain or harsh conditions the army will be specially equipped to help out. As a child brought up in cantonments I have seen how the Army used to keep all it surroundings clean and no job was considered menial. – Darshan Kaarki

***

This article is well appreciated. I hope it brings some sense to untrained and insensitive political minds, and especially to the defence minister. – HR Surray

Land divided

The demand of the Dogras of Jammu that the birthday of the late Maharaja Hari Singh be declared a state holiday in Jammu and Kashmir is unjustified (“Broken promises: Why the BJP is facing anger in Jammu from its supporters”). Hari Singh has unpopular in the Kashmir valley and in Ladakh as well. He may be popular among some Dogras on the basis of caste identity, but we must not forget that he was against the freedom movement, was inimical to the New Kashmir movement led by the Sheikh Abdullah and dithering in the matter of accession to the Union of India until the circumstances compelled him to sign the instrument of accession.

The objective of a section of the Dogras, abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution, is unachievable in the present circumstances. They acted foolishly by voting for the BJP in the last elections on the hope that they could delete Article 370. Even Home Minister Rajnath Singh, after meeting the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, had to announce that there was no question of abrogating the Article. Grabbing power and retaining it are two different things. The floodgates cannot be opened to the moneyed many outside the state who would be too willing to buy the lands and orchards of the Kashmir valley at any price.

The capitalist class of India has already usurped the lands and other natural resources of advasis in several parts of India, throwing all the Constitutional and legal provisions to the winds in collusion with the political powers of the day. The Sardar Sarovar Project, actually intended to benefit the landed class of Gujarat, specially Saurashtra, is a standing monument to the exploitation of the poor adivasis of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

The brave people of Kashmir valley will never permit these outside exploitative elements to succeed in their nefarious game. – CB Tripathi

Political upheaval

Mukul Roy is an efficient grassroots leader and knows how to a party can come to power (“News analysis: Trinamool leader Mukul Roy’s exit will not help the BJP much in West Bengal”). He should be made the head of the West Bengal unit of BJP in place of Dilip Ghosh, who is an inefficient leader. – Pradip Roy

Master of the art

Thank you for this wonderful article on Naseeruddin Shah (“The draw of a Naseeruddin Shah performance is that it never feels like one”). I remember seeing Nishant when it first came out in 1975 and was really impressed by it. But on reading your article, I saw it again and I agree with all the praise you have showered on it. The acting and direction are brilliant and not at all dated.

I also loved the music and told composer Vanraj Bhatia, who is my uncle, as much. However, I am not quite sure about the ending of the film. – Manju Sampat

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