Pranab Mukherjee at RSS

It is very clear that the Congress overreacted over Pranab Mukherjee’s decision to preside over an RSS function (“What the Nagpur speech taught us: Congress doesn’t know how to handle Pranab Mukherjee”). Had they ignored the event or played it down, the electronic media would not have found the grist for their mill and an opportunity to churn the story round and round.

In all this, the biggest beneficiary is Pranab Mukherjee, who has no doubt decided to carve out his own path. At the heart of it could also be a sense of betrayal at being denied the prime minister’s post, thanks to the Gandhis, who perhaps rightly realised that he would not be as pliant as Manmohan Singh. It would not be surprising for the former president to be harbouring leadership ambitions and this could be termed a smart move. After all in politics, there are no permanent enemies nor friends and everybody is an opportunist. If Karunanidhi and Deve Gowda, who are older than Pranab Mukherjee, are still loath to hand over the reins to the next in line, why should Pranabda be blamed for wishing to stay relevant? – Melanie P Kumar


It is unfortunate that the former President of India should first be asked to justify his decision to attend an event and thereafter be advised on what he should say there. As if this elder statesman of the country needed any coaching in that regard.

Citizen Mukherjee (as the ex-President now prefers to be known) has upheld the highest traditions of Indian ethos through his display of tolerance in listening to different points of view, even if not necessarily agreeing to them. His decision to attend the RSS event is befitting of a former head of state of a mature democracy where engagement through dialogue with all shades of opinion has always been the right way of conducting public affairs. – Sumali Moitra


Big goals

This article begins on a very disturbing note: the journalist talking to businessmen seems to be suggesting that they should not vote for the BJP because they have to pay GST (“Analysis: Citizen Pranab Mukherjee has shown he still wants to be India’s prime minister). Aren’t citizens supposed to pay taxes? I do and always have. But I suppose the Indian businessman has never been encouraged to be honest and so when he is finally forced to, by the system, our honourable journalists ask him to vote for people who would allow him to be corrupt. So when journalists talk down to politicians, isn’t it the pot calling the kettle black? I think as a nation we have reached our nadir. Caste and cow are more important than upholding honest simple values. – Sheila Bhattacharya

Editor’s note: This is an obvious misinterpreation of the piece.


Mukherjee is missing his days as president and had been wanting to come back into the public space for a while. He is a disloyal Congressman. He was not good as finance minister too, he had made quite a few mistakes. – Nusrat Khan

Press freedom

I stand by media units like yours and journalists like Barkha Dutt and Ravish Kumar for representing what journalism ought to be (“‘I was told not to do journalism till 2019’: Watch Barkha Dutt speak about bids to intimidate her”). More such journalists should come forward and then more people like me would stand by their side to get the country out of this crisis. – Moni Das


Her fear confirms that she always practiced negative journalism. All political parties are in the business of creating fear and using it to undermine people who oppose them. But Barkha Dutt has created hate in the name of journalism. The job of a journalist is to present news in a neutral manner. But her presentation has always been biased. – Ashish Mukherjee


Journalism today is not what it is supposed to be. It has become partisan, with no sign of neutrality. I am disheartened when I see young journalists behave as though they are experts in everything. If journalists continue shoring up the image of certain parties in the name of journalism, they will be in the same situation as Barkha Dutt today. – Ashok Mukharji

Saving the planet

This is a beautiful message! It’s very true, why clean up only when the waste turns into pollution (“India’s waste crisis: Clean-up drives are not the solution – they only address visual pollution”)? Recycling and up-cycling should be the norm everywhere. I hope the author’s message will be heard by those in power. Pollution is killing us all and we need to take a pledge to use less plastic. The government should create recycling facilities and help all those organisations that recycle. It should also promote local farming. The planet’s future is at stake and as French President Macron said, there is no planet B! – Sara Carriere


Bioplastic use

We read your articles for an independent point of view. But while publishing scientific articles, please be circumspect (“As bioplastics get popular in India, a more genuine green choice is to boot out plastic altogether”). Science is not untouched by politics. We share Bharati Chaturvedi’s point of view on reducing single-use plastic. But there is a scientific point of view about photogradable plastic

Chaturvedi says about photo-degradable plastic: “I have quite a few such bags tied to my balcony. I put them there in July 2016 and they are still intact, capable of causing all the harm traditional plastics do”.

If these would have been photo-degradable, the bags would have fragmented into small pieces but not bio-degraded. Bio-degradation is the process of consumption by microbes. It’s a simple yet most accurate definition. We do not endorse photo-degradable plastics as we are into biodegradable plastics. – Pranay Kumar


As rightly said, our lifestyles are leading to pollution. Although plastic has revolutionised packaging, it is avoidable in many cases. We can start reducing plastic use, if not eliminate it. To begin with, gated communities can be fitted with vending machines for toothpastes, vegetable oils, and other FMCG goods to avoid the need for packaging. We pay more for packaging than for the material. There are many other ways to reduce the plastic menace. – Srivathsan R

Political debut

Over the last two decades, we have turned politicians into cult leaders (“Rajinikanth’s Thoothukudi visit is a self-inflicted blow to his political career in Tamil Nadu”). Now that we have charismatic people like Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan entering politics, we should make best use of this chance. What is wrong in what Rajinikanth said? He condemns the use of force as well as anarchy in the name of protest. He did not justify police firing. How can police restrain a large crowd heading to damage the collector’s office or residences of employees?

In the history of Indian politics, charisma has been prime capital for political parties. Many leaders were pawns in the hands of their parties. It is not yet clear if the emerging leaders will leverage their charisma for personal gains. But let us give them the benefit of doubt. Hopefully, Haasan and Rajini will prioritise governance. So, we should not inundate them with comments questioning their credibility. – K Ravishankar


It was not a self-inflicted blow. His film is going to be released soon, so he wanted to go on marketing expedition combined with a goodwill visit to Thoothukudi victims. As luck would have it, he failed in both through his inappropriate words and actions. He should understand that politics and business cannot be combined that easily. You cannot fool too many people for too long. – PD Amarnath


What Rajinikanth said is absolutely correct. These fringe units were in hibernation during Jayalalithaa’s rule. After her demise they have become active and are indulging in anti-national activities. The violent protests at Thoothukudi are a glaring example of these fringe units. Unless stern action is taken, Tamil Nadu will be destroyed. – Jayakumar Subramaniam


Rajinikanth is ideologically a pauper. MGR and Jayalalitha made it to the top because they could keep the masses under their spell by retaining their film persona even when they traversed the political terrain. Minus the actor’s persona and without the power of eloquence, Rajinikanth will find the going to be tough in Tamil Nadu politics. The way he was rebuked by a victim of police firing in Thoothukudi and criticised for his “anti-social” remarks shows his limitations as a politician. A superstar can make it to the top in films with punch lines coined by skillful script writers. But no script writer will be available to Rajinikanth to respond to tricky political situations. – P Vijayachandn ran

West Bengal simmering

This is generally a well-researched and accurate article, but a central feature of the current scenario has been omitted – that is, the hydra-headed monster of violence brought into Bengal by the BJP’s shadowy arms and very deep pockets (“What makes the politics of West Bengal so violent?”). These include, but are not limited to, the Bajrang Dal continuously attempting to stir up riots, turning Dalits against Mulsims, armed mobile gangs parading through minority areas to intimidate, a lie and hate-creating machinery on social media, a supporting smear campaign in the media, and now, actual contract killings, using a time-tested formula deployed in Gujarat (cases in point being Sohrabuddin Sheikh, Haren Pandya and Ishrat Jahan).

Whether the BJP’s massive dirty tricks network will succeed in Bengal by touting its regressive Gujarat model and influencing the notoriously ignorant and undemocratic elite remains to be seen. Currently, the main bulwark against the party is the array of -Keynesian-style programmes for universalising primary health, education, basic nutrition and technical training, which the Trinamool Congress has put in place. The chief minister herself oversees these broad-based development programmes, unprecedented in Bengal’s history in terms of scope.

All of this brings an entirely new dimension to the issue of violence in your article, including an open threat of a BJP takeover, in line with the lurch towards democratic authoritarianism across the world. This was formerly rampant in Latin America, and has been spread by neo-liberal institutions and the elites who benefit from such policies to central Asia and eastern Europe since the 1990s. In the US and western Europe, these policies have, post-1980, once again massively enriched the super-rich and marginally expanded the upper middle-class while destroying the middle- and lower-middle classes built up by Keynesian policies in a manner that Keynes himself had analysed in his writings about the 1920s. Hence these essentially feudal policies are now being pushed and extended using massive fake news networks and corruption of political and judicial institutions in the US. India is seeing a mirror image of this, including electoral bonds, corruption of the judiciary, and various other features perfected in Gujarat. The violent arms of the BJP are central to this effort everywhere in India, and particularly in Bengal at present. – Sudipto Roy Choudhury

The West Bengal chief minister often criticises the BJP as a communal party that is dividing Hindus and Muslims. Isn’t she herself a communal party leader, always appeasing the Muslim community? Her communal vote bank politics incite frequent riots and split the two communities. – Subrata Datta


Very compact and precisely summarised. I have been staying in Gujarat since birth and residents of the state are least concerned about politics. The article has failed to mention the flamboyant pseudo-secularism adopted by every government in West Bengal. The vote bank politics have sapped the life out of Bengal. Despite NOTA, if an inefficient government is elected, then the famed elite of West Bengal need to give their choices a second thought. Goons can prevent other candidates from contesting but cannot prevent the free will of the voters. – Gautam Datta


This is a good article on the Bengal violence. The real matter is that violence is propagated because funds are not properly used and the panchayat system fails to check these incidents. Local goons corner funds meant for development. Nothing good will happen until the Supreme Court intervenes. – Snehasish Ghosh

Shillong violence

I disagree with the author. I found the article one-sided, biased towards non-tribal people (“Khasi-Sikh clash shows Shillong remains a communal tinderbox, driven by tribal angst”). Her point of view is like that of the mainstream Indian media. Tribals never indulge in violence unless pushed against the wall. The riot in Agartala in 2016 was also blamed on the tribals even though they were not at fault. That’s because the media lacks representation of tribal communities. – Lincoln Murasingh


This is a very good reporting. So far no one was forthcoming on the issues involved in this incident. Shillong is a beautiful place and everyone should enjoy living there, but this bug of indigenous people vs outsiders is biting hard. – Karamjeet Singh


A very thought-provoking article on the Dalit Sikhs of Shillong
(“Shillong: Why a tiff between Sikhs and Khasis escalated into violence, fuelled by Whatsapp rumours”) I wonder how many of our politicians and local leaders know or care about them and their history, their plight and the service they had rendered in the region at a time when the local populace had not bothered about sanitation.

After reading this and as an old resident of Shillong, I recollect fondly one of our sweepers, who used to be the headman of the Sweepers’ Colony. His name was Chameli and old residents will remember a fair, colourfully attired and turban-clad man who would greet everyone he met with a “Salaam Sarkar”. He died at the ripe old age of 90 or so and we would see him regularly while growing up as he used to reside in our compound. We never thought of it as peculiar since he had been serving since the days of my grandfather (1920s), or wondered why he hardly ever stayed in the colony. He was given a separate room here and would wake up at 4 am and finish sweeping the entire area. I remember the compound and bathrooms being spotless.

We had numerous dogs and he was also assigned the job of cooking their food and bathing them. He used to go to Guwahati every Saturday to visit the Kamakhya Temple. He was accorded a higher status as he was the headman for some years and used to have a few relatives in the colony and would visit it occasionally.

When he died sometime in the winter of 1990, I visited the area and donated money for his cremation. That was the first and last time I’ve been to Punjabi Lane. I was greeted with great respect there and will cherish those memories forever.

The current situation in Shillong makes me sad. Have we failed to recognise this marginalised group of people as humans, being so utterly consumed in ourselves and our development? As a society, is it not our responsibility to help them to develop on a par with the rest of the country? Why are we so consumed by caste, class and religion?

A solution is required very soon, and I’m not talking about just relocation but a long-term plan to help a community that has served the inhabitants of Shillong and parts of Assam for over a century and a half. We detest menial or unclean labour but these people have toiled day and night just to keep the streets, public toilets and morgues in hospitals clean and hygienic. I’m sure they too don’t enjoy this work but do they have a choice?

It’s time we grow up and discard our differences because we have contributed to this current problem.Violence is never the solution to any problem and I urge the local leaders, Municipal board, heads of departments and the NGOs to lend an impartial ear to this long-pending social issue. – Pragya Deb Burman

Online learning

I agree with most of what has been said in this detailed and well-researched article about online courses (“India’s top universities can now offer full degree programmes online – but there are concerns”). But one important facet overlooked by both online as well as regular education in India is an industry focus. No amount of excellent multi-disciplinary courses and exams are useful, as the industry doesn’t respect mere academic knowledge. – Shripad Vaidya


Online higher education courses are offered in advanced countries to meet the emerging demands of the job market as well as to help those who wish to update their skills and competencies. More importantly, the higher education sector is always on the lookout for technological advancements that will help them cut capital costs and also reach out to a large number of diverse groups who are essentially self motivated. One more important factor is the tech-savvy nature of students who are sufficiently oriented to pedagogic demands of online teaching and learning. However, in the Indian context, offering online higher education for the purpose of expansion and for increasing gross enrolment ratio will not only make a mockery of online education but also will end up delivering a mutated form of learning. This will further complicate the mess and chaos in higher education. It is therefore necessary to allow only select universities and institutions to offer select programmes on a pilot basis and upscale them later. An assessment of the preparedness of the providers and receivers of online education may give useful hints to the government. – Usha Devi Mysore Rajagopal


Thank you for highlighting concerns about online education. There are various dubious institutions that are taking students for a ride by issuing fake diplomas and certificates.Their advertisements are breathtaking and they highlight affiliations to universities or institutions, which are difficult for students to verify. The author’s views on Swayam drew my attention. Being from the field of education, I am appalled as I believed a country can forge ahead only when the people are literate and well educated. – Sima Sarkar

Climate change signs

The studies on glacier retreat need to take into consideration the geographical and geomorphological set up of the area (“Tracking climate change: Scientists confirm massive retreat of Pindari glacier in the Himalayas”). The ice streams that flow up to the snout need to be studied as their catchment area differs and the accumulated snow in the catchment adds up or is a factor for the flow of Glacier. Hence, the lower part shows variation. Moreover, the ice-flow over the steep gradient got thinner, which leads to stagnant ice in lower reaches. The scientist from the other institution quoted in the article has rightly pointed out the shortcomings in the interpretation. When we need to talk of the Himalayas we need to consider a holistic approach rather than glaciers on the edge of the ranges. – CV Sangewar

Across the border

The author’s understanding of the way history is taught in India is vastly flawed to say the least (“Pakistan merging its tribal areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is a good time to debate our colonial past”). I do not have much insight into the education system of Pakistan and hence am basing my views on the information provided by the author himself. According to the author, history is taught in Pakistan from an anti-India point of view, with a distortion of facts. The author should read the history textbooks in India to draw conclusions about our country. My recollection of history studied in school was that it was very neutral and did not talk about Pakistan except in the context of the freedom struggle and Partition, which was rightly described as a tragedy. I do not recollect any instance of a country being demonised in our history textbooks, least of all Pakistan. The daily life of most Indians does not revolve around Pakistan or its policies. – Pragnya

Reading room

I am so impressed by Arun Singh’s achievement (“Meet the 17-year-old student behind Bhopal’s two-month-long Agatha Christie Crime Festival”). Having been a devoted reader of Agatha Christie’s books and an ardent fan for over 50 years, it is heartwarming to know that this youngster has provided many others an opportunity to know about the Queen of Crime. I am from Mysore and I hope this movement will catch on in this city too. – Nalini Singh

India today

As someone who has travelled extensively across India, I must confess I have encountered these stiff views (“The TM Krishna column: Regional and cultural differences may well protect India from majoritarianism”). Fortunately, I am fluent in many languages of our country and have overcome linguistic barriers. Our present government, through its many actions, is not making the language factor any better. By aggressively pushing Hindi, it is only making people more protective of their mother tongues, which is good and we should thank the present administration for that. BJP leaders seem to overlook that vast sections of our country are multilingual, pluralistic and do not comprehend the language. Non-Hindi speaking people should not feel disadvantaged. The liberal leaders within the BJP will hopefully prevail and that switch over to Hindi should be slow, keeping in mind, past experience as well as the unity in diversity of our nation.

According to UNESCO’s latest Global Education Monitoring Report, regional languages have a significant effect on education. UNESCO has categorically cautioned against hegemonic assertions of a national language in multi-ethnic societies. India is a multi-lingual nation, which is a great blessing. But a point to ponder over is the contribution of India in creating new knowledge. How much new knowledge has been created by us in India’s languages? Much of that contribution is in English. Let us not emphasise one language over the many others our nation is blessed with. – HN Ramakrishna


TM Krishna touches upon how the multiplicity of identities, regional and linguistic, creates a sense of us versus other between people. While dwelling on this, he says the silver lining is that this acts as a bulwark against majoritarianism. As someone who unites people with the universal language of music, his article touches the right chord on the need for people to respect each other’s identities and cultures.

However, it is important not to feel despondent towards people who do not see you as one of them. One should empathise with them that they did not have the opportunity to see oneness in all. Also, one should accept that ethnocentrism is an evolutionary trait and it takes time for humans to transcend boundaries. Others should not be judged based on short interactions. Also, strong identities in terms of language, state or religion are not a danger in themselves. When they are pure, they create a sense of fraternity with fellow humans and lay the foundation for brotherhood at a larger level, such as within a nation or as global citizens. What is dangerous is when identities create antagonism or aversion towards the other.

India truly stands for Unity in Diversity. The fluidity in languages, dialects across federal boundaries, the relative peace despite the thousands of identities living here is testimony to this. At the same time, there should be a constant effort by the government, artists, writers, teachers, parents and the media to create an atmosphere where differences are understood and respected. The unique and the common cultural strands across societies, and the local, regional, national, global identities can all co-exist. It is not the obliteration of identities, but the reverence towards the other that will make this a wonderful world. – Arun G