Pollution solution

This article has highlighted Delhi’s horrendous problem of air pollution (“The Daily Fix: Banning cars may be impractical but Delhi’s pollution needs a drastic solution”). However, a move to ban private car ownership may not succeed. Instead, it would create a wider controversy in a country of argumentative citizens.

The Delhi government should consider how crowded cities elsewhere have tackled this problem. Middle-class breadwinners commuting between home and workplace in owner-driven cars contribute a large share of city air pollution. When traffic density, which is interlinked with pollution, became horrendous in Singapore many years ago, the government introduced an additional tax for private cars entering the City Centre. Some years later, Hong Kong, then a British colony, introduced a variety of apparently less harsh measures which proved successful.

As a first step, Hong Kong compelled public transport companies to replace their dilapidated vehicles with clean, air-conditioned ones and make them an attractive option to all class of commuters. To attain that, buses also needed to run on schedule, for which was required a reduction in the number of private cars on the road at peak hours. So, a series of economic measures were undertaken, that included moving the revenue-generating parking meters along most streets and prohibiting street-side parking (thus creating a lane for driving). The revenue thus lost was recovered by the higher licensing fee and higher parking fee at multi-storied carparks. Car owners who used to park their cars at street-side parking meters for 50 cents an hour then, needed to pay 25 dollars now to park in a multi-storied park in the City Centre.

In short, instead of banning car ownership or private motoring, daily commute to work in a private car was made unaffordable for most people, with the colony’s financial secretary famously saying that he did not want to see the roads overcrowded with Honda Civic. Additional taxi licenses were issued and taxi stands were set up at strategic locations in the city. This gave the private motorist a luxury option, a hired vehicle which is a shared private car without the burden of the parking fee.

The road congestion thus reduced, buses began running on schedule. To encourage the status-conscious middle-class to use the bus system, the colony’s transport commissioner abandoned his chauffeur-driven official car and began traveling to work and back in public transport bus. Simultaneously, a program to build an underground rail network also began.

Today, Hong Kong has one of the most efficient public transport systems which is being used by all classes of people. There is no traffic jam, and air pollution, mostly swept in by wind from China mainland, is far less than in Delhi.

What Delhi needs is not “a drastic solution” but creative thinking to develop a comprehensive plan. – Viswa Nathan

Meaty issue

The premise of this article is as inane as anything I have read on the Internet (“Why eating mock meat is a moral cop-out for any vegetarian”). The central point of being vegetarian is to recognise that killing animals to fill our stomachs is unnecessary and spare the lives of those animals. Who cares whether the author thinks faux meat is a “shortcut” or “eclipses the moral premise”? It is more than just a shortcut for the chicken, pig, or cow who gets to live. That is the only relevant point. Faux meat does not result in the killing of animals. If that is what it takes to wean those who want to give up actual meat, by all means let them eat faux meat. – Sandeep S


I am in complete agreement with the author about the fact that eating mock meat reeks of the most ludicrous mendacity but I have some serious reservations about the premise of her article. Study after study has shown that there is no scientific evidence to support the assumption that vegetarianism or veganism might be better for the planet. In fact, quite the contrary. Given this fact, the repeated assertion of higher moral, ethical and conscientious ground, stated as “undebatable fact” rather than a personal belief, panders to the very “fake news” environment that the political incumbents in this country thrive on and is a dangerous line of thought, at the very least.

One has grown to expect a certain kind of editorial rigour from the Scroll team and, indeed, 99% of the time one’s hopes aren’t denied. However, a finer sieve is definitely desirable when such currently contentious issues are being written about, albeit obliquely. – Arjun Gourisaria

Statue politics

The statue politics is ludicrous. It has become a craze in India (“‘Unveiling of Sardar Patel statue a stunt’: Opposition parties criticise Narendra Modi and BJP”). Then people start criticising leaders who are long gone. It can only happen in India. There is no need to debate who was greater between Nehru and Patel. Both did yeomen service for the country. Patel was the unifier of India. Nehru was a visionary who industrialised India. Without that foundation and infrastructure, the present development and modernisation would not have been possible. India should be thankful to these and other leaders who worked hard and made this country what it is today. – Mani Seshadri

Ayodhya dispute

The author has cited the SR Bommai vs Union of India judgement of 1994 to buttress his argument that a legislative route to build a Ram temple is a legal impossibility as the state cannot identify with any particular religion (“Ayodhya dispute: Why a legislative route to build a Ram temple is a legal impossibility”). The author also mentions the three principles of the “secular ideals of the Constitution” laid down by the nine judge Constitution Bench in the above case.

One can justifiably argue that the second and third principles have been violated by all governments from day one, but the Supreme Court has so far failed to bell the cat.

The second principle cited by the author is that “the state is...also prohibited from identifying itself with or favouring any particular religion” (all emphasis mine). By taking over and managing most temples in the country through the Charitable/ Endowment Departments and temple boards, all the governments can be said to have identified with the Hindu religion. By keeping an arm’s length on the management of churches and mosques, the governments can also be accused of favouring the minority religions and discriminating against the majority religion.

The third principle cited by the author is “secularism under the Indian Constitution means...equal status extended to all religions without any bias in favour of, or discrimination against, any one of them”. The reasoning cited by me on the second principle holds here too.

Therefore, it would be incorrect to selectively interpret the tenets of our Constitution and project a lop-sided view of the meaning of “secular”. – P Raghavendra

Blame game

All Rahul Gandhi is doing is accusing everyone (“After rushing to link CBI chief’s ouster with Rafale, Congress shifts course to target CVC”). The fact is that the Gandhi dynasty is solely responsible for the state we are in today. His dynasty ruled us for 60 years, but behaves as through he will solve all problems in no time if he comes to power. He accuses Modi of not having a tangible policy on Pakistan. The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance’s policy on that country led to Pakistan gifting us 26/11. More than 4 lakh Kashmiri Pandits have been chased out of their legitimate home and are living as refugees in their own country. Why didn’t Rahul Gandhi solve this problem? Why didn’t the Congress pass an agreeable form of One Rank One Pension for servicemen over its 60-year rule? The Congress had made grand announcements of “garibi hatao” and “20-point programme” in the 1970s and ’80s and 38 years down the line, the scion also makes the same promises. His great-grandfather led us to a disastrous defeat at the hands of the Chinese. He also created the festering sore, the Kashmir problem. His grandmother institutionalised corruption. The list is endless. – Ganesh Kini


What kind of story this is? By trying to project all conjectures in the matter, it is like in a television soap. Why we can’t wait for the enquiry deadline set by Supreme Court? Why do we need to add our tidbits to keep it engrossing? – Subramani Gopalakrishnan

Documenting troubles

A large number of legal citizens who have migrated to Assam from other states, especially Bengali- and Hindi-speaking ones, were left out of the National Register of Citizens of India because of the faulty process (“A bureaucrat’s report on Assam’s NRC takes a more hardline stand on migration than political parties”). The election commission failed to provide a voter list of other states. People from other states furnished other documents which could not be verified due to negligence of government authorities.It is hard to find documents after 45 years in government departments. Large scale forgery happened in rural area and Prateek Hajela called his NRC fair in news paper advertisements. Courts cannot deny anyone an opportunity to prove their citizenship using whatever genuine documents they posses. The Assam NRC should not be a tool for identifying locals versus non-locals. The idea is to detect undocumented migrants. The process is not moving in the right direction and will not bear fruit without an agreement with the Bangladesh government. – Nirmal Agarwal


People of the North East have literally seen their lands being taken away. Assam is perennially at a crossroads with her neighbouring states over boundary problems because of the migrants issue. What the bureaucrat has presented is a true picture of the times. The writer has takes a morally correct stand to appear egalitarian, but fails to understand that the things pointed out by the bureaucrat are true and are for an effective NRC exercise. – Tato Payeng

Weak response

Rajinikanth’s phone call to Stalin after the publication of a satirical piece about him in the DMK mouth piece Murasoli is a very weak response which does not befit an ambitious politician (“Rajinikanth calls MK Stalin after stinging column in DMK mouthpiece says actor disrespected fans”). In the absence of a tall leader like Jayalaltihaa, Stalin is currently better placed than any other leader in Tamil Nadu. Therefore, if Rajinikanth wants to make a mark in politics he needs to stand up to Stalin. Wouldn’t the media in Tamil Nadu have given Rajinikanth enough coverage had he responded strongly to Murasoli article? In their lifetimes, MG Ramachandran or Jayalalithaa would have responded with a lot more satire and biting criticism had they been satirised. Rajinikanth missed a golden opportunity to take on Stalin. – P Vijayachandran

Good reason

Thanks for featuring this very important book (“Narendra Dabholkar’s book is a beacon of reason and rationality against the darkness of superstition”). It makes a case for our superstition- ridden society, where the most ridiculous things are accepted as miracles. The book rightly shows that we have stopped reasoning as a society, compelling us to look back to a past where rationality might have prevailed. That is our source of identity, since we have nothing to show for the present.

This is also why we have such huge inferiority complex and constantly try to compare ourselves to other countries, hoping to feel a sense of pride in our present selves.

It is also no wonder that in the West, where rationality prevails, our academicians and scientists excel. This excellence is taken to mean a national achievement, when the nation played no role in that achievement. In fact, the irrational environment in the nation, contrarily, played a role in sending these achievers out.

Increasingly, I find even younger people unquestioningly preferring the security of tradition and religion over pursuit of their personal curiosities to answer their existential and spiritual questions. The effort, it seems, is to revert to the pre-modern while trying to remain modern in other ways. We should be ashamed of ourselves. – Rajratna Jadhav