Apropos your piece on Gandhi (“Sixty-one years after Gandhi”, Mint, 30 January). Saint or tactician, the fact remains that Jawaharlal Nehru turned a blind eye to Gandhi’s views. Gandhi never wanted development at the cost of villages. The Mahatma was a seer with deep understanding of human behaviour, whereas Nehru was an idealist. It is his idealism that was not married to reality that brought about the slow exodus to the cities. This is not to find fault with them, but in the decades that followed, Gandhi has come to be remembered on 30 January and 2 October, when agreeable sounds are made respectfully in his memory.
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Niranjan Rajadhyaksha’s column “The Indian elite in exit mode”, Mint, 28 January, is very relevant in the Indian policymaking context. A question similar to the one he raised also came up in Princeton University economist Avinash Dixit’s seminar paper recently at MEDC. I feel one of the main problems is that a part of the Indian elite, specifically politicians, is not intrinsically committed to improving access to education and also the quality of education because it is not in its interest to do so.
As long as the majority of people have a low level of education or remain illiterate, it makes it easier for the incumbent politicians (many of whom until recently were from the old guard, with backgrounds from political families) to get elected by influencing their voters with superficial improvements in the quality of life of the poor. If the majority of Indians truly receive a good level of education, they would start demanding changes much more vocally and would not be satisfied with the current state of affairs, especially poor physical, educational and health services infrastructure. I suspect most politicians are aware of the dismal state of overall infrastructure and bureaucracy in the country. Incentives matter, though many politicians would make us believe that they don’t.
In “Slumdogs and negative lists”, Mint, 29 January, Ramesh Ramanathan has done a good service by revealing the “pin code bias” practised by bankers in Bangalore, denying banking services in certain areas of that city. This unethical practice is objectionable. Some years ago, the British press noted the practice in some of its general insurance companies of similar exclusion while offering vehicle insurance policies, which the press there termed “postcode bias”. It is only media vigilance which can ensure that such practices are not imported into our country by the financial services industry in its enthusiasm to make maximum profits.
The press in India has been hand in glove with the powers that be in sensationalizing the news as per their agenda and benefit. No wonder that Nithari, the Taj corridor, Mayawati’s assets, Christians in Orissa, Mulayam Singh Yadav’s disproportionate asset case and the Aarushi murder case were used to bring non-United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regimes in the states into disrepute. But when the power equation changed, these news items were conveniently sidelined. So, I agree with you that “bigger political stakes are involved here” in attacks on young people at a pub in Mangalore (“More than Talibanization”, Mint, 28 January). While nobody is defending the assault, Mint and the electronic media are conspicuous in their lack of condemnation of Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot’s initiation of action against “pub culture” and unilateral decision to close liquor shops. Different yardsticks of Talibanization for UPA and non-UPA states?