Letters to the editor

Readers’ comments: Please do not advise the Army on what they should do

Responses to articles on Scroll.in

Military speak

Did General Rawat jump the gun? Veteran General Prakash Menon appears to suggest so, in his laboured treatise on the importance of the armed forces remaining loyal to the Constitution and not subservient to the ruling party (“Indian military must remind politicians that it’s loyal to the Constitution – not the party in power”). This has dangerous implications although it might superficially appear that the author is stating the obvious. He also talks about the Centre being at loggerheads with many state governments and the Army appearing to be in support of the Centre. It is preposterous if not ridiculous to suggest that the Army must constitutionally weigh its actions in such a situation, though Menon is not quite explicit on that point, but the indirect connotation cannot be missed by the reader.

One must understand unambiguously that the armed forces of the Union owe an unwavering allegiance to the party in power and do not enjoy the privilege of interpreting the Constitution when orders are delivered by South Block.This appears to be the season for writers allergic to saffron to see red. General Prakash Menon must rest on his well earned laurels rather than sit in judgement of people currently on the saddle. – Krishnan Bala

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The trash you publish on the Indian Army should be used for packing pakodas. Please do not advise the Army on what they should do. They are far more patriotic than you. – Sanat Samantray

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If service personnel can vote, than what is wrong in them commenting on political parties? – Jyoti Deori

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Why is an apolitical approach insisted upon for the military alone? All government servants should also adhere to that, if that is the logic, since they are supposed to serve all Indians alike. In some states, government servants have unions affiliated to political parties. – Parameswaran TK

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It is a great relief to see that sane elements of the prestigious Indian Army do exist and have a space to air their views. The need for it, caused by the increasing involvement of the institution in murky politics, should never have existed. And that is precisely what General Menon (who is surely only too aware of the great traditions set by legendary military leaders the country has seen) suggests. Let us hope sanity will prevail and the powers that be will see the sense of what the General has said and the dangers that he has pointed to. – Unni

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Too much is being read into the involvement of the military leadership in affairs that are seemingly not in the realm of the country’s overall management, such as Major Gogoi’s decision to use a human shield in Kashmir. Under the current circumstances, this cannot be seen as unacceptable military practice. We need to upgrade our thinking. The situation has arisen because the military leadership has not checked politicians in the past. See what happened in 1962 when the likes of Brij Mohan Kaul and Krishna Menon took the Army and the nation for a ride. Should the Army be reticent just for the sake of being seen as apolitical? That’s a rather silly proposition when the media has become stupid, when political agenda has brought the nation to near grief through loot and plunder and one man trying to set matters right is attacked by thieves. Army personnel are citizens first, soldiers later. – Vinkelkar

Tripura elections

Even after the defeat of his party, Manik Sarkar is a shining star in Indian politics (“Tripura CM Manik Sarkar submits resignation, will continue in office till new government is sworn in”). Only someone of the stature of Lal Bahadur Shastri can match him. He has secured his place in history and future generations will look up to him. – RK Lal

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The BJP has a massive and committed cadre, many of them second or third-generation loyalists. What other party could boast of even one-tenth of such a cadre size? For them, the growth strategy is very simple: lure the masses with icons like Rama, bring innocents to the fold and then play Ravana. – Shareef Hafeez

Preserving an institution

I am a Bharatanatyam dancer, teacher and choreographer and a Kalakshetra alumnus (“Claims about non-veg food, damaged floors are false: Kalakshetra chairman responds to Leela Samson”). Kalakshetra was founded by Rukmini Devi in 1936, with the sole purpose of protecting and imparting knowledge to our younger generation through fine arts and education. Lately, Kalakshetra authorities have been renting out the dance and music classrooms, which are the heart and soul of this temple of the arts. This itself is unethical. I think our honourable chairman does not know what his administration at the Kalakshetra Foundation is doing.

After seeing on Facebook a video and photographs of an event organised by the Reciprocity Foundation, I personally went to the Rukmini Devi College of Fine Arts to find out what really happened. When asked, no staff member was aware of this event until trucks carrying hordes of equipment started coming into campus – where rehearsals for the festival were going on (these are areas where not even bicycles are allowed). Some of the Kalakshetra staff members tried to stop the trucks from entering the classroom areas but they had the permission of the management.

I felt that the Reciprocity Foundation rented our well-kept gardens, classrooms and the banyan tree (which was planted by Rukmini Devi) area for their commercial trade fair by saying it was a festival promoting organic food, yoga and Pranayama. In fact, they had stalls promoting real estate, home loans, clothes, vegetables, video games and the like. There were empty plastic bottles everywhere. The rubbish was not cleared till the next day (Monday – a class day). Is this the way to use a fine arts institution of national importance? I believe they destroyed the peace and harmony of our prestigious institution by entertaining 6,000-odd visitors who walked into the dance and music classrooms with shoes to visit the stalls. Organisers claim that the banyan tree was not violated. Isn’t walking into the banyan tree area (a place for prayer) with shoes on a violation and a case of complete disregard and disrespect?

They would have understood this fact if they were true practitioners of yoga and meditation. To manage such a large number of people, what were the safety measures taken? The Kalakshetra management cannot claim to know or not know what happened at this event as there was absolutely no supervision. It is sad to know that the management has become so callous and disrespectful of Rukmini Devi’s ideas of nurturing the fine arts and Education. Kalakshetra was never a money-making institution.

The chairman says the campus was given out on rent to the same organisation last year by the former director. This was in May 2017 during the summer holidays when there were no students or staff on campus to witness what happened, so the management got away with it. Why did Kalakshetra not think of renting out some other area of our huge campus for a festival of this kind? As a Kalakshetra alumnus, I request a detailed inquiry into this matter, the findings of which should be made public to be fair to all parties.

Sadly, but in truth, an IAS officer nor a mere graduate will never understand how to lead, preserve or take forward Rukmini Devi’s vision for Kalakshetra the way a member of the institute will. The day the government understands this is the day our beloved Kalakshetra can be saved. – PT Narendran

Bad loans

Just as Mallya was allowed to leave the country, Lalit Modi, another fugitive from justice, is also comfortably ensconced in London (“Home Ministry orders Immigration Bureau to not allow wilful defaulters to flee India: Report”). External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj went to the extent of requesting the British government to issue him a visa to Spain. When the lid was blown, Swaraj claimed to have interceded on humanitarian grounds. She did not explain why she had not publicly made the request to the British government. The truth is evident to all but those who do not wish to see it: regardless of which party is in power, the nexus between crooked businessmen and the government is alive and kicking. What the government is attempting is nothing more than damage control. – Daniel S Mahanty

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I don’t understand why Narendra Modi should be blamed for the misdeeds of Nirav Modi or Vijay Mallya (“From Karti Chidambaram to Economic Offenders Bill: Can BJP change the Nirav Modi scam narrative?”). Did he request banks to give them loans? This is a case relating to the system and people in banks and corporations. What is the way to deal with dishonesty if it is so widespread and deep-rooted? Despite all preventive steps taken by the government, businessmen, assisted by financial experts, auditors and consultants, prepare to cross any hurdle created by the authorities. Can the Opposition and ruling politicians agree on finding an effective solution? I doubt they will, as they themselves are indirectly involved and are beneficiaries of such frauds. – Indra Sharma

Cheating alert

Every private school in Bengaluru follows strict rules during exams to prevent cheating (“Uttar Pradesh government is itself responsible for the cheating racket it is trying to fix”). Jackets are not allowed, students can only wear sweaters without pockets, digital watches are banned, only school socks are permitted and bathroom use is disallowed during the exam (in case of medical reasons, the student can go, accompanied by a teacher). Only if such rules are applied can you prevent cheating. Else, Uttar Pradesh will remain troubled and in turn the whole nation will continue to face problems. – Madhu Singh

Pitch report

Ravi Shastri sounds like the present-day politicians (“‘Sometimes you feel people are happy when you lose’: Ravi Shastri lays into critics”). The media and cricket followers have every right to express their opinions. Some erstwhile cricketers have voiced dismay over some of the decisions that led to the Test series defeat. There is nothing wrong with that. Critics do not become anti-national just because their views do not fall in line with the establishment. It is time for Shastri to grow up. We will continue to praise the team when it does well and criticise it when it performs poorly, especially when team selection lacks credibility. – Chandra Narasimhaiah

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Taking criticism

I am writing to you as a fan of cricket and of Scroll.in. Between a World Cup and Test series wins in Australia, England, South Africa and New Zealand, I have realised that the latter is more prestigious (“Ravi Shastri should know that criticism does not mean people want this Indian team to lose”). There is a new World Cup winner every four years, but decades pass before a single team goes on to win Test series in all four countries. Expecting Team India to get that record in their first attempt would be unfair, so let us wait a bit more.

Virat Kohli’s team is going to play against Australia in that country for the second time. If they don’t win this Test series, we can either criticise them or keep our expectations realistic. If they win two Test series out of these three, I won’t hesitate to call them the best Indian Test team ever, or even the best Indian cricket team ever.

Speaking of the response of Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri to the media, we should understand that both are very emotional and aggressive and have been redefining the traditions of Indian cricket. So, the media cannot expect them to respond like MS Dhoni, John Wright or Gary Kirsten. – Monarch Nayak

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This post describes Ravi Shastri’s nature. Indeed, critics are never far from a team when the team carries the expectations of 1.5 billion people with them. However, Indian cricket lovers who criticise India after every loss should also understand that our team cannot win every single time. Nevertheless, the Indian cricket team revolves around the tactics, game-plan and attitude of the captain and the coach and hence, Shastri should try to take the crticism as a guideline and move on. – Bimarsh Adhikari

Preserving history

I am shocked to hear that the Gurusadey Museum could shut down (“If this rare Kolkata museum shuts down, Bengal will lose a part of its soul”)! I visited this unique and fascinating place some years back. There are so many Bengalis in India and abroad who are proud of their unique culture. How is it possible that there is no way to find money to keep the museum running? – Catherine Simonnet

River row

When reading the judgement on the Cauvery river, I learnt that the judges had considered 10 thousand million cubic feet of groundwater while calculating the water at Tamil Nadu’s disposal and deciding its share to Karnataka (“Cauvery water dispute: Supreme Court reduces Tamil Nadu’s share, increases Karnataka’s”). This pained me a lot. Groundwater storage is dynamic and seasonal. It is a replenishable resource.

If there is no recharge because of lack of rainfall and if we withdraw 10 TMC from the ground, what will happen if we need to pump water? Seawater will enter the area meant for groundwater and it will become saline. If the pumping continues, the deltaic groundwater will become saline. Has anyone pointed this out to the court?

If this water is drawn, the impact on the groundwater ecosystem will be catastrophic. – A Rajamohamed

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The increased allocation of water to Karnataka comes as a bitter pill for Tamil Nadu, which has always had no considerations for groundwater resources. It has been callously encroaching on large surface water bodies in major cities including Chennai for housing and institutional purposes. Though the measure is a bit coercive, it will teach the government to save every drop of water and prompt denizens to treat water as precious. BB Trivedi

Canada-India ties

Sociology professor Paramjit Singh Judge seems to have a limited understanding of US law enforcement and a rather simplistic explanation of politics and law in Canada (“‘Khalistanis are also in US, but India can’t snub Trump as it did Trudeau’: Sikh diaspora scholar”). He doesn’t know that the United States is 100% with India on anti-terrorism and that includes the Khalistan movement. Any wrong move on the part of Sikhs will be put on notice.

Some Canadian Sikhs acted openly and with impunity while plotting the Air India flight bombing and many other activities, obviously encouraged by a lack of action from the Canadian government. Even after Talwinder Singh Parmar was found to be the alleged mastermind of the bombing, Canada did not hand him over to India. They also botched the investigation and failed to deliver justice to the families of the victims. Such a thing is not possible in the United States. India is justified in treating the Canadian prime minister the way it did. It will remind him of his shortcomings for a long time. There are many Hindus in Canada and if they unite and vote against Trudeau, his party will change its tune fast. – Andy Mital

Identity project

Biometric authentication need not be only through fingerprints; it can be done with an iris scan as well (“Aadhaar: In the world’s biggest biometric ID experiment, many have fallen through the gaps”). But most places where biometric authentication for Aadhar is done rely on fingerprint scanners, resulting in exclusion. The process may never be foolproof, but for Aadhaar, biometric authentication should include all forms of verification and not just fingerprints. This can help reduce the cracks in the system. – Prembahadur

Colonial days

This is a perfect response to those hankering for a benign and nostalgic vision of the coloniser in black boots, red coats, guns and whips (“Empire of ethics: Studying UK’s colonial past through an ethical lens legitimises a slippery slope”). It’s like starting to dig for gems in the fetid and gangrenous flesh of a culture, through this project – ethics of empire. – Anil Pandya

Food cultures

I found the article about a podcast that views race and culture through the lens of food to be interesting (“Curry with a dash of racism: This podcast breaks down issues of race and gender through food”). As a white third or fourth generation citizen of mixed European and American descent, I can certainly relate to differences between the generic “white” food culture that has evolved in the United States over the past two centuries and food cultures from countries where eating has evolved over millenia to become an integral part of life and identity.

White people don’t care about food, eating is not a part of our culture or identity, and the foods available in Northern America are predominantly foods of convenience for a population that has not existed long enough to develop a cuisine. The “white” immigrants to the United States mostly came from countries that are fairly far north and had limited agricultural advancements such as spices, fruits, or vegetables. This didn’t change in the pioneer era, especially in parts of the country such as the Midwest, where the growing season is only three months long and there were no native domesticated agricultural species other than corn prior to settlement only a couple of hundred years ago. And certainly there were no fruit trees, or spice producing plants. People grew up with seasonal berries, grains and meats. Nothing special, just protein and calories. Yes, food was very plain. Strongly seasoned food was unheard of, mainly due to complete absence of natively grown spices.

Enter people from ancient cultures and places with a rainy season and dry season instead of a nine-month winter, and there are different and unique food choices available, assuming the produce can somehow be shipped to areas where only corn and soybeans thrive. Enter low cost airfare and import of spices from abroad. Indian and Asian and Mexican cuisines are the primary imported cooking styles, and these have been thoroughly embraced by Americans of all colour, even in the Midwest regions.

I am married to a Chinese immigrant and my brother is married to an Indian immigrant. I must say that Asians do not have adventurous taste buds. The Asians in my life love to insult “white people” food and accuse us of lacking diversity in our meals. But I also notice that they are not very eager to eat food that is not from their culture. For example, my husband prefers southern Chinese food just like mom used to make (and doesn’t even like northern Chinese food). Similarly, my sister-in-law can often be found eating at Indian restaurants after work, or basically just eating her own Indian food. I am a typical white American who will eat food from any cuisine, even though I am constantly insulted while at ethnic restaurants. “White people can’t eat spicy food” (not true), “White people only eat McDonald’s” or “White lady, don’t give her chopsticks”, which happens every time I go to eat.

So I do disagree that there exists a white cuisine in America (the US is only 200 years old, and the food in the United States is exclusively immigrant food unless you eat corn and buffalo meat) and that food racism is primarily a “white people” thing. – Amy Chai

State finances

What is new in this? The issue had been taken up umpteen times by Kerala both officially and informally from the 1970s (“Why the DMK thinks the 15th Finance Commission will be unfair to South India”). The writers in Scroll.in seem to not do any research as a rule, since they seem to have an axe to grind.

Unlike many of the larger states Kerala had little Central investment. The policies of the Kerala government, except in the social sector, were largely outdated. The reduction in population growth did have a serious impact on the state’s resources though it was compensated by burgeoning sales tax collections, but the squandering of resources did not help. Tamil Nadu, on the other had, was a comparative late comer but like Maharashtra, it had the unfair advantage of being home to the registered headquarters of large commercial enterprises, which collected taxes all over India with obvious implications to its share.

Did anyone write about the virtually ill-gotten gains of states like Tamil Nadu with their share of Central taxes? There are also major leakages in expenditure. While waste and corruption has become rife in Kerala in the last couple of decades, Tamil Nadu has become a byword for corruption and there is little to show for the expenditure except for freebies. It is time to look at the picture in context and stop publishing misleading articles of this kind. – Srirangachary Varadachary

Being the change

I salute the Kerala Startup mission and the students for taking this step (“Kerala engineers who developed robot to clean manholes are on a mission to end manual scavenging”). It is great that the mission is encouraging students to put into action what they have learnt for the betterment of humanity. I am sure these students and political leaders who supported this initiative will be a great motivation to others. – Savio Kiran George

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