Sunday View: The Best Weekend Opinion Reads, Curated Just For You

We sifted through the Sunday papers to find the best opinion reads, so you won't have to.

Published
India
8 min read
The best opinion pieces from across newspapers this Sunday, curated just for you.   
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Inside Track: 2020 May Have Been Disastrous For India, But Not For Modi’s Own Image

We begin 2021 in the face of what now seems like a never-ending pandemic that has led to the collapse of the Indian economy, as farmer protests intensify across the country. But, in spite of the disastrous year, Prime Minister Modi's popularity may not have taken a hit. Coomi Kapoor explains, in a different-from-usual column, for The Indian Express.

Modi’s image as a strong and resolute leader means he resists bending or backtracking. He has been fairly successful in handling the fallout of the abrogation of Article 370, introducing the Citizenship (Amendment) Act with an obvious anti-minority agenda, and stigmatising Hindu-Muslim marriages as “love jihad”. Despite the economic meltdown, the government continues with its extravagant and ambitious Central Vista project, which will change the face of the Capital. Very rarely has the PM blinked. One occasion was the belated permission to migrant labour to return home after ignoring their heartrending plight for weeks. Initially, concerned citizens and NGOs alone extended help, or the desperate migrants pluckily undertook the long journey home on foot. Finally officialdom was shamed into arranging transportation for those stranded in the strict, long-stretched-out lockdown. The latest challenge is whether Modi can press ahead with long overdue agricultural reforms in the face of a formidable organised protest. The PM does not want to be perceived as anti-farmer. A major setback this year was the stealthy Chinese incursion into eastern Ladakh, leading to a continuing standoff at the border.
Coomi Kapoor in The Indian Express

Using Hateful Labels To Split Society Is Being The Real Tukde Tukde Gang

Of all the things 2020 will be remembered for, one will be how the year saw unadulterated hate on display, not just in India but also across the world. In her piece for The Times Of India, Sagarika Ghose hopes that in 2021, general public discourse will be devoid of hateful labels.

Shouldn’t those who divide young married couples on the basis of religion be called the tukde tukde gang? A Moradabad interfaith couple who was on its way to get their marriage registered when they were accosted by alleged Bajrang Dal activists who heckled them, videotaped them and turned them over to the police, even though the woman kept insisting that she had married and converted of her own free will. Another UP teenager was arrested for going for a walk with a friend from a different religion. Young lovers unite the nation through bonds of love, those who attempt to forcibly break up harmonious relationships on grounds of religion are surely the real tukde tukde gang.
Sagarika Ghose in The Times Of India

Something Fundamental Changed For The Worse In India In The Year Just Ended

In her column for The Indian Express, Tavleen Singh says that a lot of things took a plunge for the worse in India in 2020. And no, most of them have nothing to do with the pandemic. From massive anti-CAA protests that started the year to the farmer protests that it ended with, read to find out why Singh thinks that the year fundamentally changed India.

We have also become used to the idea that the Indian State has the absolute right to crush dissent no matter how brutally this is done. We know now that the Dalit teenager from Hathras was gangraped by the four men she named before dying. Charges have been brought against them. But, since her battered, broken body was burned in the dead of night without funeral rites, Yogi Adityanath’s officials were able (with the help of the media) to perpetuate for the longest time the lie that she was killed by her brother in an ‘honour’ killing. Those who dissented were charged with being part of an international conspiracy of ‘leftists and liberals’ to defame India’s fair name.
Tavleen Singh in The Indian Express

The Baaghis Of Bharat & Their Love Stories

How frightened must one be of love to enact laws to monitor it? In her column for The Indian Express, Shalini Langer talks about the anti-conversion law in Uttar Pradesh that may soon be enacted in other states, and says that in spite of love being forbidden, it is what will ultimately win.

We all know love of that kind. Those of us of an older vintage — pre-mobile phones and pre-Uber, pre-spare family cars and pre-dating apps — more than others. Love for us was tricky territory, to be navigated at own peril, overcoming mundane odds, too mundane for even a notable mention. So, it’s with wonder then that we can but view the Rashids and the Pinkis of Uttar Pradesh, fighting for their love against not just their families, societies or the dime-a-dozen Hindu outfits, but also the might of Yogi Adityanath’s Uttar Pradesh. It’s a state that unerringly finds a cause for itself that has nothing to do with its status as among the worst faring on all indices.
Shalini Langer in The Indian Express

In Defence Of Reformed Capitalism

The farmers' protests across the country against the new agricultural reforms have started a debate on how corporate capital should interact with private capital. In their piece for The Hindustan Times, Chanakya tries to understand if this interaction can be completely stalled in a growing democracy, fostered by "Indian capitalism".

Contrary to what is often believed in India, corporate capitalism can even aid, rather than weaken, democracy. Take the United States (US). The authoritarian turn under President Donald Trump was fiercely resisted in the US not just because of its longer history of democratic institutions and stronger constitutional protection for free speech, but also because of the strength and resilience of American capitalism. Capital was not beholden to the State; key companies in the private sector (including some big tech firms) were able to resist Trump administration diktats and stood in favour of democratic restoration; the media could take a strong position because capital was autonomous of the State; and the right to work of those against the government did not get jeopardised. The role of capitalism in resisting the overreach of the State is often underestimated.
Chanakya in The Hindustan Times

Paying Every Indian 5,000 Can Be The Fiscal Fix To Make 2021 Really Happy

Since we spent most of 2020 in economic gloom, author Chetan Bhagat, in his column for The Times Of India, suggests a new scheme to encourage Indians. And what better name for it than 'Protsahan', meaning 'encouragement' in Hindi?

If we want the economy to bounce back, we need to create massive, immediate consumption. Here’s a proposed plan called ‘Protsahan’ (which means stimulus/encouragement in Hindi) to give Rs 5,000 per person to every Indian, which they must spend within the next 12 months. This could amount to around Rs 20,000 per household. This substantial amount could not only help people tide over the tough times, but also give a massive push to our economy. But some might say: where do we have this kind of money? What will it do to our deficit position? And will it be worth it? The answers to all these good questions are a resounding ‘yes’! We can do this and yes, it will be completely worth it. For this we will need to understand the proposed Protsahan scheme and go through some numbers. This scheme will enable every Indian with a legitimate ID to get cash vouchers of Rs 5,000, to be spent within the next 12 months. Children under 18 can get half the amount, saving some costs, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s keep it the same amount for this article. These Protsahan vouchers can be digital (preferred) or physical (can be issued as special notes with an expiry date). Do note that these should be given to every Indian, as figuring out who needs it more will be a far more cumbersome and time-consuming exercise. The well-off can obviously forgo these vouchers or give them to those who need it more, but they will be offered to everyone.
Chetan Bhagat in The Times Of India

Big Pharma Has Reinforced Its Saviour Image

Just by virtue of the fact that most people will pay anything to get their hands on a life-saving drug, pharmaceutical companies across the world have garnered a bad name over the years. In 2020, however, by producing the COVID-19 vaccine within a matter of months, these companies may have won back some brownie points, says Swaminathan Aiyar, in his column for The Times Of India.

The hated drug industry has just performed a miracle, producing several different vaccines against Covid in a few months. It had proved impossible to develop any vaccine at all for several viruses, including AIDS. When Covid struck, sober specialists noted that new vaccines took at least five years to be created, tested and approved. Bill Gates said we would be lucky to get an anti-Covid vaccine in 18 months. Yet in less than a year, vaccines galore have emerged. Russia and China were among the first to create and approve their own vaccines. Western experts cautioned that these countries had not followed all the usual safety protocols. However, it can make sense to shorten test procedures to expedite a vaccine that could save millions of lives. Pfizer and Moderna in the US have produced vaccines following the usual protocols and are ready for mass vaccination. AstraZeneca and Oxford University have developed a different vaccine which — at the insistence of Oxford University — will be sold at just $3-4 per dose in poor countries. This vaccine can be stored at 2 to 7 degrees Celsius in ordinary refrigerators, making it suitable for poor countries like India lacking the super-cooling facilities required by the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Maybe half the population of most countries will be vaccinated by late 2021, slashing further transmission of Covid. Gradually, people will resume travel, office meetings, social gatherings and tourism.
Swaminathan Aiyar in The Times Of India

A Robust Public Broadcaster Can Guard Against Anti-vaccine Rumours

2021 will (hopefully) be the year of the vaccine. In his piece for The Hindustan Times, Mark Tully warns that lack of control over public information regarding the vaccine can be detrimental to universal vaccination.

A recent article in The Guardian by the former editor Alan Rusbridger criticising the government for its hostility to the BBC highlighted the importance of public service broadcasting in combating Covid-19. Rusbridger said, “We are drowning in a world of information chaos with many surveys showing a public no longer knowing who to trust. The middle of a pandemic where real lives depend on the supply of widely-available information is an odd time to be playing up the possibility of destroying the very basis of our most used and trusted public service news service”. Rusbridger pointed out that a survey by Ofcom, the broadcasting regulator, showed 90 percent of the population still used the BBC for news. But the government is threatening to undermine the BBC’s funding by making it no longer a criminal offence to avoid buying a television licence. Prime Minister Boris Johnson was backing a renowned opponent of the BBC for appointment as its chairman until the critic withdrew from the field.
Mark Tully in The Hindustan Times

Goodbye To All That? I’m Not So Sure

With the "new normal" now becoming the only normal, question is, is it really all that bad? Well, Karan Thapar doesn't seem to think so. In his column for The Hindustan Times, Thapar lists out a bunch of habits acquired in the pandemic year that he may want to continue with for the rest of his life!

There are also a few lockdown habits I want to preserve. Whilst I’m happy to escape the Zoom barbershop, I would quite like to stay on in the Zoom cocktail lounge. The latter gave each of us the opportunity to slip away without seeming rude. I often did! That’s so much better than being trapped at a drinks party by someone you can’t stand. And let’s not forget home delivery. Who wants to go shopping when a mere phone call and credit card can ensure everything you want is delivered to your doorstep?
Karan Thapar in The Hindustan Times

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