Hafta letters: Lessons from Taiwan, supporting the media, in favour of Central Vista project

NL subscribers get back with bouquets and brickbats!

ByNL Team
Hafta letters: Lessons from Taiwan, supporting the media, in favour of Central Vista project
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I can't help but point out that Abhinandan's comment in Hafta 269 — that Covid-19 is a strain for coronavirus — is incorrect. Covid-19 is the name given to the disease.

Mahendra Varma


Hello Newslaundry Hafta team,

I'll make this short. I am sick of everyone just talking of Singapore and sometimes South Korea as being the great examples of containing coronairus. Nobody ever talks of Taiwan which first noticed something was wrong and even warned the WHO, only to be ignored. And they have done a stellar job. Only about 50 cases to begin with, and as of today 298 with two deaths.

How have they managed it? The biggest reason is that they are a robust democracy unlike China, whose government suppressed information about the virus, and even now, you can't really believe their numbers. There are other reasons of course, like how their government is run by competent people, the president has a PhD from LSE, and her vice-president is an epidemiologist who had handled the SARS epidemic, and they have a Minister for Digital Affairs, Audrey Tang, who is very accomplished (and incidentally the first transwoman to have a ministerial position anywhere in the world).

All this to say: that this is how they roll, despite not being as rich as the US or UK. So of course they have done better than them.

I live between Taiwan and India, and I can see how differently both the countries have handled the pandemic. You all have said everything there is to say about the incompetence and venality of the powers that be in India, but I hope you will do a piece comparing the two countries.

We have much to learn from this scrappy little nation adrift in the Pacific, so please stop looking to Singapore like every other NRI uncle-ji who just LURVES authoritarianism because that is of course what we need; what they quaintly call "discipline." Someone, I think it was Raman Sir said something to that effect (though much more nuanced, because, well, it's Raman Sir!). No, Indians don't need discipline, they need a functioning government. Basically if you treat people like shit, they behave like it.

Anyway rant over. Thank you for your stellar work.

Shashwati Talukdar



I wanted to write in to vehemently rebut the point made one of the letters in the previous Hafta.

I do not think that if you move away from a country that you stop contributing to their media. I have moved away from India and am currently in the US but I feel it is imperative to support any and all true information gatherers in this day and age or, as you would say, pay to keep all news free!! Specially in India, where democracy itself is threatened by lack of information and deliberate propaganda by mainstream media houses, which have systematically brainwashed people.

This leads me to lament on the atomised nature of our society where we construct borders around us at different levels of religion, state, nation, continent, even species; all of this only helps fuel our apathy to other beings and creatures that share this earth with us.

So, I think we should contribute to any and all free media and also to any causes around the world and across species, wherever it is most required. This apathy, I think, has also led us here to the Covid-19 crisis where humans have no bounds to their consumption. The hoarding did not begin now after the virus hit, but we have hoarded resources forever, indiscriminately.

In reply to your questions about NGOs and when to bring it up, I guess the answer is always! The kind of draconian measures taken against NGOs and civil rights activists, in my opinion, is unprecedented and completely undemocratic.

Also, a request from you to share links by NGOs or other organisations for contributing to daily wage laborers and others in need in India during this crisis, as I think India is horribly under-prepared and is gonna be hit bad. I do not want to contribute to the PM Relief fund as I think the Indian government is not an entity I have been able to trust, please let me know if I am wrong.

Thanks and keep up the great, great work,

Ayush Ayyangar



It's me again, who begins each mail with a request to not to identify me by my name if you read this on the Hafta.

Just a view on the Rajpath redevelopment plan:

A large number of ministries are housed in the buildings which exist currently on the Central Vista. These ministries have expanded in size and manpower since Independence as the country’s population has grown.

Today, these government employees find themselves extremely cramped for space within the colonial-era buildings which are not efficient on use of space. They also have huge maintenance and electricity bills (due to retro-fitting of ACs) for these colonial structures. The requirement of redeveloping this entire area and constructing multi-storey office spaces, which are efficient in use of space, and greener in their usage of electricity, has been a long-standing one and has originated not from the elite but from the lower level working staff who want a better work environment for themselves.

The whole plan would also bring in jobs for constructions workers. Hence, I completely support this redevelopment plan.

As far as the criticism that the government is going ahead with the plan despite the coronavirus outbreak: It is merely coincidental that the government notification for the Vista redevelopment plan came out when the corona outbreak had occurred. The process for the notification would have started many months back when no one had even heard of corona. Your criticism of the timings of the notification may, therefore, not be justified at this stage.

Hope your NL Sena project looks at these aspects too in greater detail before coming to a simple conclusion that the entire plan is a sham.


Addicted to Hafta since twenty seventeen.



Please do not identify me by my name if you read this email on Hafta.

Multiple thoughts raced through my mind this week as I was listening to Hafta. I have a comment on every aspect of your discussion but I will restrict myself to a perspective on the corona pandemic:

India’s response to the pandemic has been superlative and very effective so far. When the pandemic began, the disease was restricted to the affluent class who could afford air travel. Had the government not put in all the measures it did, it would have spread very fast from the "classes" to the "masses", and that’s where our problem lies. Till date, there seems to be no spread from the foreign travelling businessman to his driver who would have taken it to his chawl in Dharavi.

However, the community spread can still happen and that’s where the healthcare machinery is working overtime. The aim is to (a) prevent the spread to the community (hence the lockdown), and (b) prepare to handle it once it spreads. I am privy to a large number of measures that are already being put in place (across country, states and ministries) to handle the crisis if widespread community spread does take place. There is no doubt that the worst is yet to come. Hopefully the timebomb of community spread we are sitting on will not explode.

It may have been a good thing for us that Dec-Jan-Feb was a lean period for Indian air travellers, owing to the closing of the academic session and exam season. Our natural immunity (owing to our wonderful health and sanitation countrywide) may also have contributed. The hypothesis floating around that malaria endemicity has contributed to this immunity may not be far-fetched.

World over, no country saw this coming. Every country had to change their strategy as each day unfolded. India too has had to change its strategy continually as the situation unfolded. Hence your criticism of the government on their handling is, I think, unfounded.

Good strategy, effective restrictions imposed early, lean season of air travel, better immunity, or maybe just plain luck; whatever may be the reason, we are in a better situation so far than many developed nations. Lets hope we stay so because, god save this country if there were a few carriers in the sea of humanity that moved out of the capital over the weekend into the hinterland!!!

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