Transport trouble

Rarely does one find themselves on the side of a Mumbai municipal corporation bureaucrat (“‘A service, not an enterprise’: Privatising Mumbai’s BEST buses means unraveling a system that works”). In this case, I agree with the municipal corporation, though only partially. BEST should be privatised fully, not partially. Partial privatisation is like our mixed economy model, which became a mixed up model. BEST will be go the same way.

I too have very fond memories of BEST and was proud of it. But the service that was once the best in the country is now a shadow of its former self. Things reached this stage because of BEST’s ownership and management structure. The government, and therefore, we the people, are the owners, and management is bureaucracy. This means everyone owns it and everyone is responsible. Or, in other words, no one owns it and no one is responsible.

In our quest for socialism, we have forgotten the key element that markets and competition bring to the table: innovation, differentiation, marketing and most importantly, financial discipline. Let us accept that BEST lacked in all four.

Wherever people have a choice between selecting a government organisation or a private one, they choose the latter, be it in airlines, telecom or media. Employees of failed organisations will suffer. Yes there will be job losses, but today BEST employees do not receive salaries on time. After BMC gives money to BEST, will the management improve? Just look at roads of Mumbai, monetarily a bottomless pit. So even money is not going to be the solution.

Privatisation may not be a panacea for all ills in the country, but in some cases it is the alternative that has to be explored. It has worked well for many sectors. What is needed is a clear-cut public transport regulatory framework for private sector participation. Let the debate be on what the regulatory framework should be. – Manish Shah


I appreciate BEST buses as they are one of the cheapest and best means of transport in Mumbai. But the quality of the service is falling. Earlier, conductors and drivers would be very cordial with passengers and always ready to help. Now, that is increasingly not the case, though there are exceptions. For example, earlier, I would often see conductors offering seats to senior citizens and persons with disabilities. Drivers would stop buses for senior citizen and conductors would not ring the bell, signalling that the driver could start the bus, until all the passengers had entered. There were also fewer squabbles with conductors over change, and the buses were clean and tidy. Now, all this has changed. I have also noticed instances of buses speeding and driving rashly. n view of all this, the service should be privatised and the union should be banned. – Xavier Fernandes


We, the citizens, are taxpayers and deserve the right to good public transport. Our job is to contribute to the country and the city and the government’s job is to develop quality public facilities, among other things. Let Mumbai remain a cosmopolitan city. Let BEST stay, it is the best transport system in the country. – Jamie Khalidi

Vajpayee’s legacy

It was so healing to read dear Vinod Mehta’s piece on AB Vajpayee in the midst of this euphoria over him (“Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his Achilles heel: Excerpts from Vinod Mehta’s memoirs”). Vajpayee was deeply blemished, a weak man, but climbed to the top as so many corrupt as well as megalomaniac men have in India. It’s sad for India, which is such a remarkable nation of worthy, bright and idealistic people.

His oratory got him these accolades and indeed, to watch him deliver a speech was truly seductive, with flourishes of the head and hand and that very special lisp of Atal Behari’s voice. But while he is no worse than many of our leaders and prime ministers, he certainly does not deserve the overarching praise and respect that we see pouring out after his death. I prefer a Karunanidhi or a Jayalalithaa any day.

The other thing that I notice and abhor is the North Indianness of all this sycophancy. And yet, since Delhi is the capital, it goes every where. I wish Rajaji’s idea of a South as an independent nation could have taken off. We would be less myopic. – Devaki Jain

Tracking a deluge

The funds raised by the union ministry are not enough (“Kerala hopes to raise borrowing limit to collect Rs 10,500 crore for flood restoration work”). Lakhs of people are still unable to meet even basic needs right now. Rather than discussing the politics of the issue, the media should try to communicate the seriousness of the disaster and insist that central ministry increase relief funds. – Aleena Joshy


Our hearts and prayers go out to Kerala and its people. May those who died rest in peace. We must keep praying for better conditions for the great people of Kerala. – Ahmed

Dam trouble

If Keralites think that the Mullaperiyar Dam is structurally unsafe, it has been established that there is no problem in raising the level up to 152 feet (“In the midst of intense deluge, Kerala and Tamil Nadu CMs squabble about Mullaperiyar dam operations”). Next, the contention is that area where the dam is built is prone to earthquakes. But quakes can happen anywhere and natural disasters are under no one’s control, as the state has seen with the massive floods.

Residents of the state have to help the Centre. If they are concerned about damage, then they should construct walls to protect their homes. But what I am seeing is intolerance towards the neighbouring state. How then will the younger generation believe ours to be one nation? Our country leaders should put aside personal gain and have a vision for the welfare of the country. – Arul Kavi

United we stand

Caste and religious divisions are so embedded into our society and it is surprising to see people forget these and celebrate festivals together (“At this Kerala mosque housing Muslims and Hindus displaced by floods, Eid is a celebration of unity”). This shows that adversity can being out the best in people and gives rise to hope that we may finally realise that the beliefs that divide us are often irrational. This will help us move past these divisions and accept each other. It’s high time we reevaluate our moral codes. – Amogh Rayanker

Citizenship exercise

At the outset, let me state that I am an Assamese Hindu who has grown up in Assam, living a life that has been affected by the stories of Assam Agitation and the NRC (“NRC: Tested frequently since Partition, the Indian theory of citizenship has faltered once again”). It’s a moment of anxiety and scepticism shared by my fellow Assamese Muslim friends. Now, when after three decades a process has been devised by the topmost institutions of this country, it’s profoundly unfortunate that some academic from Delhi express their personal fears on a reliable platform like

His arguments are neither well-researched nor analytical and would have limited resonance with the situation in Assam. The example of the relatives of former President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed being left out from the NRC has been oft-repeared, conveniently forgetting that there are Hindu names too that have been missed.

I urge the editorial team at to avoid publishing such unfair and biased articles that add t the confusion and scepticism, especially if the writer is disconnected from the goings-on in the state.

Please scratch the surface, ask questions, meet more people in Assam, understand them and then write on the issue. – Sinmoy Lahkar


I strongly object the use of term “Assamese chauvinism” in this article. For the last many decades, a sizable portion fighting for a Assamese nation-state which was taken over by British through the Yandabo treaty of 1826 , so if we refer to history, we need to take this into account and date the struggle to that day. Also we don’t have a landlord system in Assam and this article has been written by a professor Delhi is based on misinterpreted facts about a region that has remained pluralistic secular and has accepted everybody equally. But the state cannot open its doors to outsider that outnumber residents and lose it’s socio-political and economic identity. – Rituraj Dewan


How long you will continue publishing articles that denigrate the legal, transparent and Supreme Court-monitored process of preparing a National Register of Citizens for Assam? The process has nothing to do with religion, language, profession, or expertise. It is simply meant to find out who came to the state from Bangladesh after March 24, 1971. Nothing else matters. The Assamese simply ignore such biased and motivated writings. – Basanta Deka


The referendum in Sylhet was an important exercise in self-determination with international repercussions (“NRC debate: How the 1947 Sylhet partition led to Assam’s politics of the foreigner”). It was one of the few cases of a direct mandate in favor of Partition. The referendum was not in favour of a theocracy. Both the leaderships of India and Pakistan were committed to democracy at the time. Pakistan continued to be a largely secular state at its founding.

Since this article has touched on this rarely publicised yet important event in history, it is necessary to respect the sanctity of an electoral process. If you are to question the credibility of an electoral process, then allegations should be credibly substantiated. The referendum is of historical importance to the emergence of Bangladesh and the integrity of its territorial sovereignty.
I may also note that there are allegations of intimidation by the Congress. The larger picture is that such allegations do not seem to have affected the outcome of the referendum.

Seventy-one years after partition, our common democratic and constitutional values should unite us. In the face of matters such as the NRC, Bangladesh and India should work together in the spirit of common values and democratic solidarity to bring about a resolution that does not discriminate against four million people.

Notwithstanding this minor issue with the referendum in the piece, the rest of the article was thoroughly insightful. However, the roots of the anti-Bengali prejudice do not stem from the referendum but go back further to Assamese resistance to colonial rule. – Umran Chowdhury

Old ghosts

Why should Rahul Gandhi seek forgiveness from Sri Lankan Tamils (“Rahul Gandhi has forgiven LTTE’s Prabhakaran. When will he seek forgiveness from Sri Lankan Tamils?”)? He was a child at the time in question. If the Congress- led government whose prime minister happened to be his father, took a decision at that time, can Rahul Gandhi be blamed? I am disappointed to see that the otherwise high editorial standards maintained by did not call out such specious reasoning. This sort of thing perpetuates endless revenge-mongering. – Nirmala Bhide

Rafale deal

It’s amazing how Defence Minister Nirmala Seetharam is avoiding disclosing the revised price of the Rafale aircraft by invoking the secrecy clause in the deal signed by France and India (“Rafale explainer: Is India paying more for the fighter jet than it would have under UPA?”). Citing security implications, technical aspects and operational capabilities can be kept secret. But to take shelter under the clause not to disclose the price is suspicious indeed! The public has the right to know the cost of the fighter jet. After all, it is the taxpayer’s money that is involved. This secrecy will only strengthen suspicions that there is something to hide. – Albert Colaco

Adivasi rights

The keen interest of the secretary of the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes and the initiatives taken by him are laudable (“‘Government and industry take Adivasis’ land for development projects but ignore their interests’”). It is rare to find an officer so involved in the lives of Adivasis. They are the most oppressed people, especially considering they are supposed to be the original inhabitants of this land.

On a trip to Tadoba a few years ago, I was told that the government’s rules for forest protection involve displacing tribal people from forests so that there are no humans in protected reserves. This is clearly a copy of the Western model. While logically this may seem to be correct, the West does not have communities who have lived for thousands of years within dense forests. The relationship of such communities with forests is symbiotic. They take what they need from the forests and are in no way responsible for the destruction of green cover.

This displacement process involves giving them a small piece of land for a house along with a few lakh rupees. The alien concept of money and the ways of modern urban living has resulted in their lives and livelihood being squandered away.
Where once they lived comfortably in forests for many generations, today they live in dire poverty. Meanwhile, the real culprits continue to increase their wealth undaunted, in collusion with politicians.

As a result, industrialisation that has caused forests to be torn down is making such tribal people the victims. This is unfair. The initiatives taken by the secretary are to be seen in this context. I wish his vision of sensitising the forest administration and of standing for the rights of tribal people endures even after his term ends. – Rajratna Jadhav

Valley violence

Those who condemn the Indian Army personnel who fire at stone pelters in self defence while answering the call of duty should try to serve in Kashmir (“In Kashmir, bravery award for controversial officer is met with outrage”). I would have called them human rights activists had they criticised militants for shooting and killing an unarmed Army jawan, Aurangzeb, who was in fact a Kashmir resident. This incident showed that the agitators are misguided people trying to create lawlessness in the Valley. – Ashwani Nauriyal

Changes in Cuba

Your title is completely false. I am one of the 50,000 repatriated Cuban Americans who bought my house six years ago in my native Havana (“Communist Cuba has recognised private home ownership for first time since the revolution”). I left for the US as an eight year old in 1961. I am a retired CA lawyer who sued lawyers for malpractice and a full-time property law professor at Tulane and four other law schools. The Revolution only confiscated the homes of home owners, like my parents who had a mansion next to the Bacardis, who abandoned their property after 11 months (like adverse possession of idle land in the US) and only 10% of private homes were abandoned and confiscated by the Cuban government. So, 90% of private homes in Cuba were never confiscated by the Revolution and are still owned are private and still owned by private individual Cubans like me.

I used to teach my first year law students in America owning that your home is really owning a bundle of rights (You can live in your home or possession, you can rent your home, you can trade your home, you can leave it your kids or friends.
The only thing the Cuban government did not allow these private home owners to do is to buy and sell private homes until about six years ago.) There is no title insurance, but there is registered title where you can go to court in Cuba and enforce all the same rights you can in the US and other Western countries by showing that you are the registered title holder.
Please correct this so your readers get the truth about Cuba and its Revolution. – Manuel Ramos

Asian Games

Abhishek Verma has shown that hard work and honesty are crucial to success (“Asian Games: Meet Abhishek Verma, a hobby shooter turned professional shooter and a Asiad medallist”). By winning a bronze at the Asian Games, he has emerged as a role model for youngsters. – Sanjay Verma