Preventing acts of vandalism

Historians can do one thing that even God cannot. They can re-write history. Perhaps that is the reason why God tolerates them in the first place. God might but society does not. At least not as much tolerance as historians might expect. This often results in the kind of unfortunate vandalism that we witnessed at Pune where goons destroyed important historical artefacts at the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute. Even more ironically, they did so in protest against a book which actually says many good things about Shivaji!

So what should the historian do? Merely reiterate the myths in which society already believes? Hold a mirror and show all the beauty spots and warts that might exist? Fiddle around with social memories in order to fulfil contemporary political agendas? Or merely entertain people by narrating stories from the past?

There has been much debate on all these issues. However, one of the most widely accepted reasons among historians themselves is that they, by examining the past, try to help society take an informed decision about the future. This was fine so long changes were slow and there seemed to be a consensus about the directions in which change was happening. But today when the pace of change has increased considerably and it seems to be in directions unthought of ever before historians need to rethink their role in society. Merely trying to be agents of revolutionary change would not do any more.

After they have become clear in their own minds about their role vis-à-vis society, it is important that historians also make an effort to reach out to the public in order to educate them about the strength and limitations of the historical enterprise.

M. RAJIVLOCHAN, History Dept., Panjab University, Chandigarh



Call for missile talks

In his article “Call for Indo-Pak missile talks” (Jan 3), Gen. Ashok Mehta (retd) has very lucidly explained the essential nature of the missile assets of a state. While in the case of another Indo-Pak showdown only conventional missile would be used, the special ones will only avert a full-scale war and act as our insurance policies even against China.

However, with economic progress taking the front seat (at least in India and China), the new emphasis will be towards industrial development, not military build-up. The youth in general in this region are beginning to understand the double-edged sword of inter-state hostility and the futility of non-cooperation. Hence, the situation may soon be the one similar to the post-Cold War disarmament in the west, when nuclear warheads and missiles, which were never used, were only dismantled.




Crop diversification

Mr. Raman Mohan's article on “Crop diversification in Haryana” (Jan 5) proves that the State government, the Agriculture Department and the universities have not done good homework as Punjab has done. The Punjab government, for instance, set up a committee under the chairmanship of Dr S.S. Johl, accepted its recommendations and forwarded the same to the Centre for consideration and implementation. In Haryana, however, neither the Agriculture Department nor the agricultural universities are serious about crop diversification.

Statements in newspapers are not enough. What is required is the change of crop pattern behaviour of the farmers through appropriate technology. Crop diversification will succeed if the farmers are educated through the print and electronic media. More important, experts should go to the field and convince the farmers about the benefits of crop diversification by organising demonstration classes and exhibitions. Funds from the Centre alone won’t help. The change has to be put in the minds of the farmers. Farmers need smooth marketing of the diversified crops which may help meet the input costs and ensure good returns.


Bitter experience

I had a bitter experience while travelling by Jet Airways recently from Delhi to Hyderabad by its 5.50-am flight. My valuables were stolen from my checked in baggage. The baggage contained, among other things, Samsung cell phone (make N500); keys of drawer, bike and house locks; and other articles like deodorant. When I asked for the complaint book, Jet Airways staff at Hyderabad flatly refused to give it and instead took my complaint on a plain paper.

Though they promised to get back to me within hours to take action and compensate for the valuables that I had lost, they did not provide me with a single update on my complaint. For your reference, my Ticket No. is 589:4270:332:730:6 and bag tag No. 910675200 9w827/30D.

PUNEET, Hyderabad

Checking foeticide

Despite the enactment of the Pre-Natal Diagnosis Act, female foeticide continues in Punjab with impunity. Midwives at village and block levels continue to conduct illegal abortions in the villages. Doctors still carry with them mobile ultrasound machines in far-flung areas and indulge in the heinous act of aborting female foetuses.

These days, a girl child is considered inauspicious as they are thought to be some one else’s property and a burden on parents. But is it possible for the progeny to succeed or move without the help of women? Napoleon Bonaparte aptly said, “Give me good mothers and I will give a you a good nation”.

As female foeticide is a heinous crime, those indulging in this should be awarded death punishment. Death penalty will indeed act as a strong deterrent. At the same time, surprise raids should also be conducted in private nursing homes, villages etc. to bring to book those indulging in female foeticide.


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