L E T T E R S    T O    T H E    E D I T O R

Give priority to disaster management

THE Naina Devi temple tragedy is not the first incident of stampede-related tragedy in India where blind aastha (faith), religious saints, babas and gurus, illiteracy and ignorance, crime and corruption go unchecked.

Such tragedies have also occurred from time to time during Kumbh melas at Hardwar, Prayag and other religious places. Unfortunately, however, while thousands of lives have been lost over the years in such tragedies, no lessons have been learnt.

After the stampede at Naina Devi temple volunteers of sewa samitis and the SGPC made laudable efforts to provide timely help to the victims and their families. But it should not be forgotten that the major responsibility lies with the temple organisation and government machinery as these are the bodies that collect money through donations and taxes respectively.


Sadly, there were no disaster management measures in Naina Devi on that fateful day. So much so that no stretcher or first aid was available in the nearby primary health centre. Lack of medical aid aggravated the situation and resulted in several deaths. In all, 147 people died and 300 injured.

It is the foremost duty of the government, shrine boards and the public in general to take effective remedial measures and timely steps to prevent such mishaps.

The announcement of Rs one lakh as compensation, etc is no solution. Rather it is a cruel joke to suppress the government’s own guilt and duties. Urgent and effective solutions are required to tackle tragic incidents wherein ‘aastha’, ‘dharma’ and government functionaries are involved. These incidents can’t be taken lightly.

To begin with, all religious places in India should be registered and brought under the purview of income-tax. Secondly, 70 per cent income of the registered shrines should be diverted for the welfare and disaster management measures required for the pilgrims.

Thirdly, at the time of important fairs in a year, the shrine boards should take steps to ensure safety and should get the help of local, tehsil and district authorities as also the civic machinery to maintain law and order and provide medical and civic amenities to the devotees.

A. L. KATYAL, Chandigarh

Bold writing

Khushwant Singh, in his column (Sat Extra, Aug 9), has written about Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan’s book You Are Here. Meenakshi is the daughter of an IAS officer who happens to be Khushwant Singh’s friend.

Meenakshi has presented a very bold writing in her book. She has written about teenagers who have dated (opposite sex) and lost their virginity before reaching the age of 15 years. Though personally, I found Meenakshi’s account of willingly surrendering her virginity hard to believe, I have been very much impressed with her bold disclosures.


Need to make administration responsive

Light of freedom” by Jagmohan (Perspective, Aug 17) was a thought-provoking piece that endeavoured to fix a new tryst with India’s destiny.

The write-up provides an insight into “the agonising reality” of our nation since Independence. Irrespective of their lofty claims and rhetoric, it is our politicians who are to blame for the mess in which we find ourselves today.

The inconvenient truth is that today we stand lower than even Ethiopia in under-nourishment of children. This should touch the heart of every self-respecting Indian.

Our track record in other fields like health, education, sports, alleviation of poverty, corruption, fight against terrorism, etc. is poorer than many underdeveloped countries. If we want to regain our rightful place in the comity of nations, we have to work hard to overcome these challenges.

The dismal drama in Parliament on July 22, 2008 speaks volumes about our political immaturity. Similar unruly behaviour is often replicated in the state legislatures. This leads to corruption and poor governance.

Conventionally, our politicians indulge in petty politics that divides and weakens the country. They must vigorously “debate and legislate”, which is their primary role. They must follow politics of consensus rather than of confrontation.

We urgently need all round reforms, more importantly in schools, hospitals, agriculture, employment, women’s empowerment, connectivity in remote areas
et al. Our administration has to be made more efficient, responsive, transparent
and accountable.

Our political leaders must rise above narrow considerations of caste, region, religion, etc. and work whole-heartedly for making India strong, stable and prosperous. We have literally many “...miles to go…” before we can catch up with rest of the world!


For heart’s sake

Khuswant Singh’s write up “Meat of the matter” (Saturday Extra, Aug 9) is outdated and opinionated. People across the world are turning vegetarian for the sake of their hearts and intestine.

According to a study by the President of the Physician Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, men who ate three ounces and women who ate two ounces of meat daily increased their risk of developing colon cancer by 29 per cent.

Dr Neel Barnard said, “To ward off colon cancer, dump meat from your diet. You
will also be protecting yourself against other cancers, heart disease, diabetes
and stokes”.

Even fish is not safe as they absorb toxic chemicals from the water around them and the scare of bird flu etc has made poultry meat, too, unsafe.

Moreover, in India, these animals are treated cruelly. Before being slaughtered they suffer the horrors of factory farming, severe overcrowding etc. They live and die in a most horrifying manner.

Meat animals are auctioned in animal fairs, marched at a trot for days together till they collapse, crammed into trucks and are slaughtered with blunt knives. Can a person eating cruely-sourced food like meat be compassionate and kind-hearted?



It is not surprising that Harihar Swrup, in his article ‘Omar: Face of modern India’ (Perspective, Aug 3), declared his admiration for Omar Abdullah’s speech on the day of the trust vote. A section of the media routinely turn a blind eye to the doublespeak of Kashmir politicians.

Shockingly, the civil society has chosen to overlook Omar Abdullah’s war cry that the land for pilgrims would be handed over to the Amarnath Shrine Board over his dead body implying that the Valley belonged to the followers of a particular faith only.

K.L. KAMLESH, Amritsar

Modi’s indifference

I was shocked to learn from Kuldip Nayar’s write-up “Communal divide” (Perspective, June 29) that “even six years after the 2002 carnage in Gujarat, the line drawn with blood between Hindus and Muslims remains distinct”. This does not bode well for a secular democracy like ours.

Chief Minister Narendra Modi has been indifferent to the woes of Muslims so much so that instead of feeling guilty about his failure to quell the violence and bringing the culprits to book, he performed a ‘Gaurav yatra’ and indulged in an anti-Muslim tirade. Even the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had said that he was pained at the Gujarat carnage.



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