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Lift the ban on cotton export

This refers to the news report, Ban on cotton export may cost farmers dear (July 13). Last year, the rise in price of cotton gave farmers high returns and encouraged them to cultivate cotton on a much larger area. Farmers in the Malwa belt have partially stopped repeated plantation of paddy and shown deep interest in cotton cultivation. A bumper cotton crop is expected this year. This trend of cotton cultivation may continue if the farmers benefit from it. But if the ban on export of cotton continues and is not lifted before the arrival of fresh cotton, the price of the commodity will definitely come down and harm the farmers.

In any case, the trend of diversification of crops should be encouraged. The soil loses its fertility with repeated paddy plantation, excess use of water and fertilisers. There is a need to bring back its fertility. Cotton crop also saves water, electricity, fertilisers and diesel.

Besides, the villagers, especially those who cannot afford gas cylinders, largely use dry cotton plants as firewood. Many vegetables of daily use can also be cultivated along with cotton crop. The ban on cotton export must therefore be lifted as early as possible.

Dr KAMALJEET KAUR SEKHON, Assistant Professor, Khalsa College, Patiala

Political negotiations

The President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, has reacted sensibly to the killing of his half brother Ahmed Wali Karzai (the editorial, “Killing in Kandahar”, July 15). President Karzai knows that this is the time to be cautious. With the US deciding to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and beginning negotiations with Taliban leaders, the whole political landscape in Afghanistan is heading for a change. If the President chooses to condemn the Talibans for their dastardly act, it might derail the efforts to negotiate for peace in the country.

The Americans have understood that there is no way they can defeat the Talibans. It is a war they are unlikely to win. Technology alone cannot win wars and the Americans have found it more than once.

In this backdrop, President Karzai knows that it will be foolish to expect anything from the US. The only way out is for him to ask leaders of various Taliban factions to come together and talk for some kind of agreement acceptable to all of them. This requires that one forgets one’s personal losses and looks ahead for establishing peace in the country.

As the editorial rightly points out that Ahmed Wali Karzai was an influential figure in that part of the country. His close proximity to the US made it easier for President Karzai to hold talks with the Americans and ask for assistance whenever needed. Moreover, Wali Karzai being a powerful figure had his own supporters. So the President would always seek his advice in crucial political matters.

President Karzai will do well to invite Taliban leaders for negotiations and not depend very heavily on the US and its Western allies. Some workable solution has to be found that will be acceptable to all stakeholders. Pakistan cannot be kept out of the negotiations. The President may have to make more sacrifices before peace gets a chance in Afghanistan.


Education policy

The editorial, “Govt schools in neglect”, (July 15), has rightly highlighted the utter neglect of primary and secondary schools in India. Though the editorial talks about the problems prevalent in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and Jammu and Kashmir, the situation is not much different in most of the other states.

It is unfortunate that we do not give the kind of importance to primary education as is required. While we talk so much about the Right to Education, it alone is not going to solve the problem. One can very well imagine the condition of those schools, which have only one teacher. It seems more of a mockery of education than any real intent.

The editorial points out that we have several unemployed teachers seeking jobs. We also have a situation where schools do not have even a single teacher. Education ministers prefer to ignore these issues. It is difficult to understand why nothing has been done to solve these problems.

Education does not get the priority it deserves. It will be more appropriate to say that primary and secondary schools are the most neglected in India. Private schools with the aim of making profits have increased the cost of primary education. One does not need to go anywhere else to find it out. One can find such schools in any city of India. One wonders if the government’s dream of ensuring the Right to Education for all children can ever be fulfilled.

The quality of education is another matter of concern. In schools with a single teacher, one can hardly conceive of any good quality teaching.

Then there are schools with inadequate infrastructure and unqualified teachers. One can solve these problems not by framing another education policy but by implementing the existing one effectively. This is mostly not done. The government will do well to implement the existing one in the right spirit.


Mid-day meal

This refers to the editorial, “Unfit for consumption: Mid-day meals pose a challenge” (July 16). It was shocking to know that students fell ill after consuming mid-day meal in which a lizard was found. It is not a single incident of its kind. In fact, such incidents take place quite frequently. What is even more shocking is that these incidents are not confined to any one state or region. These incidents clearly show that the authorities concerned are least bothered about the serious consequences of their carelessness.

The Cooked Mid-Day Meal Scheme was started to improve the nutritional status of children. It also aims at encouraging children from disadvantaged sections to come to school regularly. While the scheme has succeeded in bringing more students to school than was possible earlier, the quality of food served to them continues to be a matter of concern.

The logistical problems pointed out by the editorial such as absence of cooks, kitchen sheds and stores can easily be solved if the authorities wake up. Moreover, asking teachers to assist in cooking is inappropriate. One wonders what kind of a solution is this!

All government schemes suffer from lack of supervision and accountability. If nothing is done to improve the quality of food served to children, the scheme may eventually fail in attracting more children to schools.




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