No, Prime Minister

By increasing the fuel prices so sharply yet again, the Manmohan Singh Government has taken the most easy way out. If public criticism is taken at any face value, any responsible regime would first address the quantum of domestic duties and taxes imposed by the Government on this product; these account for almost 50 per cent of the current price. But any reduction in the duties and taxes would entail a major job for the bureaucrats as they are the ones who have to find other sources for revenue without seemingly hurting the people. They do not want to create a hard job for themselves and lack of public accountability in our system speaks for this.

In such situations, we need to have ministers with common sense. Railway Minister Lalu Prasad said this once when he handed out a surplus railway budget when it was almost going red. Harping on the rising international prices of crude oil is of no help as it is a reality and every nation has to be prepared for it. It is high time the Prime Minister entrusted the responsible job of this kind to ministers with common sense. The least he can do is reduce the extraordinarily heavy dose of duties and taxes on this product and offset that revenue loss by cutting down the lavish expenditure of ministers and bureaucrats.

T.D. Thampi,

Penguin Books India,

11, Community Centre,

Panchsheel Park, New Delhi.

DTEA clarifies

The Delhi Tamil Education Association (DTEA) is an institution of high repute established as far back as 1923 on a one-teacher-one-student pattern. Today it has seven senior secondary schools in Delhi located at Janakpuri, Moti Bagh, R.K. Puram, Lakshmibai Nagar, Lodhi Estate, Mandir Marg and Pusa Road with nearly 8,000 students and 500 teachers and other staff. It has a glorious past. It has produced top bureaucrats, IAS officers, doctors and engineers. So it was painful for us to read the letter in these columns from T. Subramanian, "Hello, DTEA...." (May 22).

All the allegations contained in that letter are false, contrary to the facts and baseless.

A request has been made to the Delhi Government by Mr. Subramanian to appoint a fact-finding committee to look into all aspects of the functioning of the DTEA management on the allegation that it is not paying its 5 per cent contribution on salary and it has not constituted individual management committees to its schools and also that the academic standards of the schools run by DTEA have deteriorated.

But the State Department of Education knows fully that (i) DTEA is paying its 5 per cent contribution and the DTEA staff are getting their salaries and other benefits; (ii) each branch school under DTEA has an individual management committee constituted as per guidelines given by the Directorate; (iii) the academic standards of the DTEA schools have been very good as the faculty is a team of dedicated teachers having teaching experience of a minimum of six years and a maximum of up to 35 years; (iv) that children belonging to weaker sections of the Tamil community also are getting quality education in the DTEA schools.

More than 131 teaching posts (accumulated during the last six years) are lying vacant and the management has appointed this much number of teachers on an ad hoc basis and is paying them in addition to its 5 per cent contribution.

The management finds it very difficult to meet the ends, the 5 per cent management contribution and the salary for more than 120 ad hoc teachers, with the meagre income which it gets from its parent members.

We have been requesting the Director of Education to issue orders permitting DTEA schools to fill the vacancies at the earliest.

J. Samimalai,

Secretary, Delhi Tamil Education Association (Regd.),

Lodhi Estate,

New Delhi - 110 003.

Why, Ms. Gandhi?

As many as 11,256 posts amounting to 27 per cent of the Army's strength in the rank of Lt.-Col. and below are lying vacant. This shocking information was disclosed in Parliament the other day by Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

The main reason for the shortage is paucity of suitable candidates meeting the criteria for selection. Parents and their children are opting for Civil Services, IIMs, IITs, MBBS, hotel management, fashion technology....The armed forces are no longer the choice of youngsters.

Till today none of our politicians' sons or daughters have opted for a career in the forces. Sonia Gandhi, Sheila Dikshit, Jaswant Singh, Rajesh Pilot, Bhajan Lal, Bansi Lal -- all are guilty as none of them sent their son or daughter to the Army. Why was Rahul Gandhi not asked by Ms. Gandhi to join the Army? Why the sons and daughters of our politicians are to be seen only in politics? Is it the only way to serve the country?

Dr. Naresh Raj,

34, Power Colony,

Patiala - 147 001.

Relief muddle

An English news channel telecast an expose the other day which has all the makings of yet another scam -- misuse of money donated by people towards relief funds. Be it the Kargil conflict, the Gujarat earthquake or the tsunami deluge, people have come forward in large numbers and donated money spontaneously and generously. The amounts thus collected often run into crores.

It, therefore, came as a rude shock to know that this money is not regarded as public money and that no accounts are maintained. What is more, these monies are not even subjected to audit. There is no transparency and the queries under the Right to Information Act have failed to elicit an adequate response from the powers that be.

It is, therefore, reasonable to conclude that most of the funds are being misused and in all probability going into private coffers. Since it is the media [almost all the newspapers and quite a few TV channels] that issue appeals and collect money on behalf of various State governments and the Union Government, it becomes incumbent on them to assume a proactive role on this issue and force the authorities to reveal the details of the funds thus collected. Let us not forget that these are meant to mitigate the sufferings of the stricken in times of calamity and grief.

M.K. Bajaj,

Apartment 4B,

New Generation Apartments,

Zirakpur,

Chandigarh.

Only in India

During my recent visit to the U.S., I hardly ever saw anything mentioned about India in the media there. And here we are, so enamoured of the happenings in other countries! Our newspapers are replete with inconsequential reports about larger-than-life starlets, models and socialites from the West, recounting itsy-bitsy details about their romances, divorces and indiscretions. Such coverage has hardly any educative or healthy recreational content for the readers. Considerations of reciprocity apart, this practice deprives our newspapers of valuable space that could otherwise be utilised profitably to highlight and discuss this country's pressing problems like corruption, poverty and overpopulation.

May I request our media to be more discriminating in the choice of foreign news? It is indeed gratifying that The Hindu is one of the few newspapers in the country that are maintaining a judicious balance in their selection and reporting of national and international news without resorting to cheap gimmicks to increase circulation.

Wing Commander (Retd.) S. C. Kapoor,

E-145, Sector 21,

Jal Vayu Vihar,

Noida - 201 301.

(Letters for this column may be sent by e-mail to wsins@thehindu.co.in. They must carry the full postal address of the writer and should be marked "Reader's Mail".)

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