Sunday, July 21, 2024

Of irresponsible driving


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Apropos the letter by DM Pariat on irresponsible driving (ST June 24, 2024) I can’t help but pen down some of my own thoughts. It was a coincidence that on the same morning, while dropping my son to school, I witnessed a two-wheeler forcibly overtaking another two-wheeler which was, at that moment itself, overtaking another car; almost resulting in a pile-up. The reckless irresponsible rider then had the audacity to get off his scooty and face up to the other protesting rider, violently berating him instead, looking like he was ready to start a fight. I put in a word, tried telling the chap he was in the wrong and was shocked by his response. He tried to justify himself by saying he was in a big hurry. I didn’t try to prolong the conversation, as I was in a hurry to drop my son to school. It occurred to me again, as it does almost daily, that we all seem to forget there are rules of the road we are supposed to abide by, regardless of any urgency we find ourselves in. Everyone seems to think they are the only ones in a hurry and other road users should give way, not bothering to consider the chaos that would ensue should everyone try to force everyone else out of their way.
There had been, not so long back, some tough talk from the police department about coming down heavily on traffic rules violators. It was just that, just talk. Apart from some punitive action taken against a small number of violators, by and large, nothing significant has been done against the multitude who behave like the road is their personal playground or racetrack and people’s lives are cheap enough playthings, accident victims mere statistics conveniently forgotten in time. But then, this inaction by the police is very much understandable. Imagine the position policemen find themselves in. On one hand, they are directed to act against violators, while on the other hand, the moment they take action they are bound to encounter violators who are well- heeled and well connected, in which scenario one phone call would suffice to get them off scot-free, with the ‘erring’ policemen being reprimanded and advised to ‘step lightly’. I know this sweeping statement is going to raise some hackles, but we all know this is the ground reality prevailing.
So, now it would be interesting to observe the direction in which this blatant disregard for the rule of law is taking us. Ironically enough, we all still pay lip service to the necessity of teaching our children to be law-abiding and disciplined. What hypocrites we are!
Yours etc.,
Donboklang Dohling,
Via email

Let truth alone triumph

My son and I had been co-learners of the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) textbooks for twelve long years. The journey was from April 2003 to March 2015. Many a time, I thought of conveying my heartfelt thanks to the advisers for the NCERT textbooks, especially for the social science books for speaking truth to power.
Hence I am pained at reading reports about pruning of the NCERT textbooks. Chapters on LK Advani’s 1990 Rath Yatra and the 2002 Gujarat riots were deleted. Chapters on Mughal kings and the reference to the force behind the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi have also been removed. The class XII political science textbook refers to the Babri Masjid only as a “three-domed structure,” built at the birthplace of Lord Ram.
When as a reader of the book, I feel annoyed for such uncalled for surgery on textbooks, it can be understood how much pain the advisors of the books must have undergone. The pain led the chief advisers for the NCERT textbooks, political analysts Yogendra Yadav and Suhas Palshikar to request the NCERT chief to remove their names from the textbooks. They disagreed with the changes made under their advisory roles and threatened legal action if their names were not removed.
Hiding the truth is against our national motto. The national motto of India is Satyameva Jayate (truth alone triumphs). This mantra from Mundaka Upanishad is inscribed at the base of the Lion Capital of Ashoka. It is an integral part of the Indian national emblem. This emblem along with the words “Satyameva Jayate” is a part of all Indian currency and national documents.
School textbooks should inspire critical thinking. It is dangerous for future citizens of our country if ideological propaganda replaces historical facts. The logic to cut short textbooks to give not just Covid period specific but permanent relief to students does not hold water for two reasons. First, this has distorted history. Second, this logic sounds like the argument used by the diamond king in Satyajit Ray’s film, Hirak Rajar Deshe (Kingdom of Diamonds), “There is no limit to knowledge/ So it is meaningless to try to know.”
Initially, I did not bother about the surgery on school textbooks as I thought that it was a Covid-19 specific decision to give relief to students as they could not physically attend school. Interestingly, a series of surgeries on the NCERT textbooks have been taking place after the Covid period instead of bringing back the deleted chapters.
Similarly, the Railway ministry had me fooled when it withdrew concessions in train fares for senior citizens after a countrywide lockdown was announced due to Covid-19 on March 20, 2020. Previously, the Railways used to offer 50 per cent concession to female and 40 per cent to male senior citizen passengers on train fares. I thought the decision was taken to discourage senior citizens from travelling during the Covid period. But senior citizens have not got back the concessions they used to get in train fares even after Covid.
Now, let us get back to the NCERT surgery and the argument that textbooks, even for the class XII students, should be free from violence and hatred.
The Holocaust is an extreme example of hate and violence. Students are being taught about the Holocaust all over the world so as not to spread violence and hatred but to use the knowledge as an antidote to violence and hatred. This is absolutely necessary to stop a repeat of the tragedy.
Yours etc.,
Sujit De,

Election of Speaker

The front-page news “VPP MP to skip LS Speaker’s election” made interesting reading. CK Nayak’s report says that “the election of the Speaker – a first in Independent India,” is incorrect as the election for the Speaker’s post have been held thrice before — the first time in 1952, when there was a contest between GV Mavalankar and Shankar Shantaram, then in 1967 between Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy and Opposition candidates Shankar Shantaram More, Tenniti Vishwanathan, Jagannatharao Joshi, and then in 1976, during the Emergency between Baliram Bhagat and Jagannath Rao. In all three cases, the ruling party’s nominees, Mavalankar, Bhagat and Reddy, emerged victorious. But to uphold impartiality in a Parliamentary democracy, Dr Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy resigned from the Party. In fact, the Speaker of the 18th Lok Sabha, Om Birla, the MP from Kota should emulate what Reddy did in 1967.
Yours etc;
VK Lyngdoh,
Via email


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