Environmental catastrophe in Uttarakhand
SIR, ~ The death toll in the “Himalayan tsunami” will be much higher than what has been claimed by the government.  An estimated 70,000 are still missing. Many more may have been buried under the debris or washed away by the waves. This is Nature&’s  fury against the systematic destruction of the eco-system. It is terribly unfortunate that thousands of tourists had gone to Uttarakhand despite the onset of the monsoon. This is the worst time of the year to visit the hills.
The fledgling state is yet to put in place a disaster management mechanism. At another remove, the land mafia is very active. Constructions are coming up alongside the river banks and after clearing the forest areas. The dams across the Alakananda river have had a tectonic effect. This is clear from the frequent landslides and floods.
The houses and apartment buildings that have come up on the banks of the river need to be relocated. Admittedly, this is a virtually impossible task. In the first place, the building plans ought not to have been sanctioned by the government. The Uttarakhand disaster is nothing short of an environmental catastrophe.
yours, etc., bidyut kumar chatterjee, faridabad, 21 june.

Use UAVs
SIR, ~ Now that a large number of survivors have been rescued from Uttarakhand, UAVs should be used to locate more people in the less conspicuous areas.
I would request the Prime Minister to kindly act as a facilitator in this complicated administrative task.
yours, etc., mukulesh mitra, new delhi, 21 june.

Howrah by-election
SIR, ~ The Lok Sabha by-election in Howrah was an acid test for Mamata Banerjee on several counts. First, the Trinamul Congress fought the election on its own. Second, there was a strong anti-incumbency wave, rooted in disenchantment both in urban and rural areas. Third, the Saradha chit fund scam had posed a threat to Trinamul Congress’ poll prospects. Fourth, the fiasco over the forthcoming panchayat election has created another crisis for the government. The CPI-M could not take advantage of the situation. Their once aggressive election machinery cut no ice and Mamata Banerjee sailed through to victory, if with a reduced margin. Her governance was on test in this by-election. The CPI-M missed the bus and will have to wait till the 2014 parliamentary election to prove its worth.
yours, etc., rama pada ghosh, howrah, 7 june.

NCC training
SIR, ~ With reference to the article, “My tryst with the NCC” (8 May), my experience with NCC training has been memorable. This enabled me to  join the  Army, as a commissioned officer. I suggest that all able-bodied school and college students, with a robust mind and matching physical stamina, should do a course in NCC training, regardless of whether they opt for the  armed forces a career.
During my six years as a student of Scottish Church College, Kolkata, and Jadavpur University&’s Engineering College, I was a member of the  University Training Corps, later rechristened as the National Cadet Corp. Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was also a member of the UTC.
The training was imparted on Wednesday and Sundays, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. respectively at the ITF ground om the Maidan. The programme, both theoretical and practical, was conducted by an infantry unit of the army. One day, we were privileged to have the Governor-General of India, C Rajagopalachari, as a guest. He did not approve of the bayonet-charge on dummies ~ “I would not like young boys to practise killing human beings; this well leave a bad  impression on the young mind”.
yours, etc., lt. col. p m mukherji, v s m (retd), kolkata, 12 june.

Baroness Thatcher
SIR, ~ Your references to Baroness Thatcher&’s interest in India and its affairs reminds me of her professed childhood ambition to serve the British empire by joining the Indian Civil Service (“The Path to Power”). The Baroness was wisely dissuaded from taking this course by her father who realised that the Indian Civil Service would not last until she was ready to join it.
yours, etc., i p singh roy, kolkata, 16 june.