The act of verification requires time

The Readers’ Editor’s office requires effort and expertise to verify arguments and counterarguments
What are the issues that a Readers’ Editor can address and what are the issues that are beyond his remit? The fine line between acting responsibly and overreach is clear to all the three concerned parties: readers, the editorial staff, and the Readers’ Editor. Readers recognise that the Readers’ Editor’s role is strictly limited to post-publication, but they have an ambiguous idea when it comes to his right to reply On July 9, The Hindu published an article titled “Taking a myopic view of foreign-made generic drugs” by Srividhya Ragavan, Professor of Law at Texas A&M University School of Law, on the opinion page. The article looked at how the U.S. is using the Ranbaxy experience as an excuse to deny access to lifesaving medication to productive workforces. Dinesh Thakur, a public health activist and blogger, wanted the newspaper to publish a rebuttal. He marked it to both the editorial team and the Readers’ Editor office on July 10. However, he withdrew his rejoinder on July 12 saying he was disappointed that the editorial team did not indicate whether his article would be published or not. Mr. Thakur failed to recognise the fact that rebuttals need careful analysis. It takes time to examine the points made. Further, it is only fair to check with the original author for her response. The Readers’ Editor’s office only facilitates a dialogue between the reader and the editorial team, it does not interfere in the editorial selection process. Mr. Thakur withdrew his submission without giving adequate time to the editorial team to either examine his counterarguments or get Ms. Ragavan’s response. When parts of north India were flooded last week and this week, Kanak Mani Dixit, founding editor of Himal Southasian and a regular contributor to this newspaper, drew our attention to some very important facts. He pointed out that there are no significant dams in Nepal with ‘open sluice gates’ to send floodwaters to Bihar or Uttar Pradesh. He said that the two barrages on rivers Kosi and Gandaki near the India-Nepal border are operated by Indian authorities. And that there is only one relatively small reservoir in Nepal, Kulekhani. For nearly three decades, Indian leaders have been blaming Nepal for floods in north India, especially in Bihar and U.P. Even a statesman like Atal Bihari Vajpayee believed in this allegation. During his 1998 tour of flooded eastern U.P., Vajpayee remarked in Lucknow that Nepal was responsible for the floods. Most news channels reported that Nepal had released 3,50,000 cusecs from its dams. Ajaya Dixit, a water resources expert and a member of the Nepal Water Conservation Foundation based in Kathmandu, pointed out that the politics of blaming Nepal began in the colonial era when Sir Claude Inglis, the director of the Central Irrigation and Hydrodynamic Research Station at Poona, attributed floods in the Kosi river to hill farmers cutting trees, as early as 1941. Mr. Dixit explained the causes for floods in the plains of Bihar. He meticulously explained that the real issue is not what is stored upstream but with the drainage congestion downstream. Bihar’s embankments stretching over 3,000 km have made more land susceptible to floods than what they were meant to do — provide deliverance from the annual inundation. Both the cases — one about Indian-made generic drugs and the other about the floods in north India — draw our attention to the act of verification amidst conflicting claims. A Readers’ Editor’s verdict is an act of validation. It recognises that verification requires not only effort and expertise but also time.

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