Fifth Column: The Price of Hindutva?
Tavleen Singh in her column in The Indian Express advises the Prime Minister to stop mulling over why the grand achievements he spoke of in his speeches in Parliament went unnoticed. She says his chances of winning the next elections are bleak if he doesn’t stop hate crimes in the name of Hindutva, his MPs from spouting rubbish in public and alienating Dalit communities across India in the name of saving cows.
“It does not help that the only serious economic reform we have seen in the past four years has been the implementation of GST, and it has so far been implemented badly. Demonetisation was dramatic disruption rather than an economic reform, and so far it appears to have done more harm to the economy than good. If by now we had seen major reforms like the privatisation at least of unprofitable government hotels and airlines and some attempt at reducing government spending on itself, then it would have been easier to overlook the hatred and hysteria that have spread in the name of Hindutva.”
Across the Aisle: For Healthcare, Budget Gifts a Jumla
P Chindambaram in his column Across The Aisle in The Indian Express critically views the National Health Protection Scheme announced in the Budget recently. He says the ‘unfunded government health jumla’ is a foolish grand scheme proposed without forethought, preparation, or money. What the country needs to do is give attention to child nutrition and health, a sex ratio that will take “many decades” to correct, and get the infant mortality rate to zero.
“Notwithstanding free public hospitals and availability of health insurance, nearly every patient bears, out of his/her pocket, a substantial cost of medical care. The rural population spent (2014 data), on an average, Rs 5,636 for hospitalised treatment in a public hospital and Rs 21,726 in a private hospital. In the case of urban population, the corresponding amounts were Rs 7,670 and Rs 32,375. This and other data give rise to the question whether India’s healthcare system is becoming more and more unequal?”
Out of My Mind: the Padmavati Debacle
In his column in Hindustan Times, Meghnad Desai talks about how the Karni Sena’s illogical Padmavati protests and the blind eye police turned towards the rampaging followers of Baba Ram Rahim, are a reflection of the Government’s cowardice. If this indifference to violence inflicted upon the public is out of fear of alienating votebanks, these groups aren’t going to add many votes. The majority who are inconvenienced are the ones who will take revenge at the EVM, and Modi has to secure the trust of all citizens to win big.
“India is a federal polity and there is not much the Central government can do. But Narendra Modi has to bear in mind that ultimately it is his re-election which is the most important contest in the next 15 months. His usual practice is not to make statements on controversial matters. But during the year when Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh face election, with the general election not far away, this crisis is one that he should not ignore.”
Gender-Friendly Workplace: Let’s Pull Menstruation out of the Realm of Whispers in Uniforms
Rema Rajeshwari in her column Khaki Diaries in Times Of India talks of how the #PadMan challenge has emerged as a poignant commentary on the contemporary reality of menstrual hygiene in India. It is time the country has gender-friendly infrastructure and access to a range of affordable feminine hygiene products, especially to aid those in rural areas and the ones in uniform.
“Specific budgetary allocation must be done uniformly across the country. It has been over 12 years since Gender Budget Statement was first introduced in the Budget. The rationale of Gender Budgeting arises from the recognition of the fact that the national budget impacts various sections of the society differently, through the pattern of resource allocation and priority accorded to competing sectors. The purpose of gender budgeting is to monitor expenditure and public service delivery from a gender perspective, as a means of mainstreaming women’s concerns in all activities and improving their access to public resources. No development can happen if 50% of the population faces menstrual hygiene issues.”
Is Modi of the Right-Wing or Left-Wing? Is That Even a Relevant Question to Ask?
Mark Tully in his column in Hindustan Times talks about how PM Modi’s tenure began by reducing government interference and letting markets control distribution; but after Rahul Gandhi’s “suited and booted” jibe, the government has set about trying to acquire a pro-poor image. He asks the public to see Modi’s policies not through red- or blue-tinted glasses, but rather for how effective they are.
“The headline-grabbing budget announcement of the world’s largest health insurance scheme, 500 million poor and vulnerable people to receive what the PM has described as “robust health-care”, has enabled the Opposition to revive the ideological Right versus Left argument.The Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, the Congress’ Ghulam Nabi Azad, attacked the health scheme as “only benefitting insurance companies”, and said, “the Centre should focus on building more government hospitals to provide effective treatment to the poor”. But the situation is not as clear cut as that.”
Why Did India Deny Australian Radio Legend Phillip Adams a Visa?
Ramachandra Guha in his column in Hindustan Times questions why the government didn’t grant the popular journalist Phillip Adams of ABC’s ‘Late Night Live’ radio programme a Visa. There is speculation that it could be because the TV channel arm had recently done a documentary on the Adanis using illegal tax havens to minimise their tax liabilities in Australia. In any case, it cannot be the job of the Government to carry on a vendetta on behalf of a private company, he states.
“The Adanis have recourse to the law in Australia; let them sue the ABC for defamation if they so desire. Such capricious behaviour adversely affects our relations with a country with whom we have good ties and wish for even better ties. But, beyond India-Australia relations, it also calls into question our credibility as a democracy. Are we so thin-skinned, so paranoid, so insecure, that we cannot even allow a 78-year-old Australian carrying nothing more dangerous than a tape recorder to travel across India? I would hope not.”
Love in the Time of Anti-Romeo Squads
Karan Thapar in his column in Hindustan Times talks about how love jihad and the exertions of Yogi’s anti-Romeo squads have suppressed Indians’ ardour and shackled their romance. With an average of six cases a day, the squads have straitjacketed passion and love – what this country had always given freedom to.
“Of course. I’ve got an admirer. I wonder who it is?” This was too much for Nisha. “It’s me, you idiot! Who else would send you a red rose on Valentine’s Day?” While I recovered from shock, Nisha picked up the phone to share the story with all our friends. The joke was at my expense but I was grateful for the earlier six hours of thrill and sweet anticipation. It’s this innocent fun the Yogi and love jihad have put an end to. When you worry about the consequence you lose the desire to woo. When the police are on vigil adolescent flirtation flies out of the window. Oh dear, what a joyless world we’ve become.”
Humans Are Not the Only Animals Who Know of Democracy
In her column in Hindustan Times, Sandhya Ramesh talks about how several species might not have elected leaders, but they sure do vote. Voting has been observed for routine decision-making such as the direction to move in or the place to camp at.
“These hyena-like animals move in packs and vote to decide when to hunt. When one of the dogs thinks it’s time to hunt, he sneezes. A supporter would also sneeze to indicate his favour for hunting. As more dogs join in sneezing, the pack needs to decide whether to hunt or not. If there’s a majority, they hunt. Older, stronger male dogs need to sneeze only once or twice, while weak, smaller dogs need to sneeze repeatedly to signal their hunger. Many a time, the weaklings are vetoed with silence overruling tiny sneezes.”
Do You Date for Love or Sex?
Pooja Bedi in her column Heartchakra in The Indian Express questions the New-Gen perception of love. She asks if people in today’s era view dating as hunting or as a journey to finding love? With more and more people, especially the younger generation having no patience to invest energy or time in a relationship, the equation of love leading to marriage has absolutely changed and pre-marital and casual sex have become a norm.
“If you haven’t kissed by the 3rd date, “it’s not happening, move on”! If you kiss, but don’t have sex by the 8th date, “dump it, move on”!! If you’ve had sex, but start sensing friction, “it’s getting messy, chuck it, and move on”! The concept of falling in love and nurturing relationships seems almost redundant. People declare “love” on day 3 and “not my type” on day 6. It’s an era of instant gratification. It was once said, “A woman needs to fall in love to have sex, and a man needs to have sex to fall in love”. It’s a very clichéd “woman is ruled by her heart and a man by his balls” kind of quote. But the fact is all that has clearly changed and an increasing number of men and women today are on dating apps like Tinder, and it’s not about finding love.”