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.

6 min read
Nothing like your morning cuppa and a newspaper on a Sunday. 

The Uncertainty Over Vaccine Authorisation

As India prepares to launch its vaccination drive on 16 January, journalist Karan Thapar writes about the concerns raised by vaccine scientists on the emergency-use clearance for Covaxin. In his latest column in the Hindustan Times, he talks about his interaction with virologist Gagandeep Kang and the concerns over Covaxin.

She says the precedent set by the Ebola and Nipah vaccines, which were cleared without completing Phase 3 trials and obtaining efficacy data, does not apply to Covid-19. This is both because of differences in their mortality rates as well as the fact we have other licenced products to tackle Covid-19. “I would ask why would you want to give a vaccine without efficacy emergency-use authorisation in these circumstances?” she asks.
Karan Thapar in the Hindustan Times.

America’s Democratic Decay Under Trump

Milan Vaishnav in his column for the Hindustan Times writes that a mere turning of pages on a calendar could not erase the “noxious forces which have come to infect America’s body politic”. According to him, American democracy can be an ally to those fighting for freedom and liberty in their own countries, but there is little to revel in the recent developments.

There is a degree of schadenfreude easily discernible among some in India now that the US, quick to lecture others on their democratic travails, has become the poster-child for democratic decay. There’s undeniably much truth in the idea that Americans have a penchant for overlooking their foibles while harping on the very same infirmities when they crop up elsewhere.
Milan Vaishnav in the Indian Express.

The New Indian

Impressed by how America’s judges, election officials and its media stood up to Donald Trump, following the events at US’s Capitol Hill, Tavleen Singh in her column in the Indian Express says that America put itself through one of the hardest tests of democracy and won. But would we be able to say the same in India about our institutions if put through such a test?’ she asks.

The most distinctive feature of the ‘new Indian’ is that he believes that criticism of the Modi government amounts to an attack on India. They make this clear every time they tweet their support of the man they consider ‘the best prime minister India has ever had’. They hope he continues to rule long after 2024 and that he then appoints Yogi Adityanath as his successor. In the eyes of many Modi supporters, Yogi is already more of a leader than he is because he is a ‘stronger’ Hindu.
Talveen Singh in The Indian Express.

Pandemic, Vaccine and Controversy

Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram, in his column for the Indian Express, calls the controversy over Covaxin needless. According to him, development of Covaxin, which is a 100 per cent Indian product, is a proud moment for India. Talking about the concerns raised over the haste in granting approval, he says desperate situations may require desperate remedies.

There is no evidence that Covaxin is harmful. The trials, so far, have qualified the vaccine on immunogenicity and safety. No adverse reports on efficacy have been received. We should collectively hope that Covaxin will complete Phase III clinical trials by the end of January and the results will be evaluated by March.
P Chidambaram in the Indian Express.

Will Work-From-Home Give a Boost to Female Employment?

Swaminathan Aiyar in his column in the Times of India talks about how working from home could reverse the dramatic crash in the female labour-force participation rate. He argues that the ability to work from home, using Zoom, Google groups and other teleconferencing facilities could enable women to work from home on par with men, with no social stigma or lack of safety.

A global map displaying female participation will show that by far the lowest rates lie in a mostly Muslim belt stretching from Morocco across north Africa and the Middle East to north India. The Islamic culture that discourages female education, employment and outside work has affected north Indian Hindu culture too. I have seen microfinance groups in UP where every woman covered her face with her pallu, very unlike the open faces you see in Kerala or Tamil Nadu. In north India, women are considered fair prey for men if they roam outside their houses, especially at late hours.
Swaminathan Aiyar in the Times of India.

Chandrabhagabai, my Grandma and Guide

Suraj Yengde’s latest column in the Indian Express is a tribute to his late grandmother - Chandrabhagabai. As a woman born in a family of landless labourers, she grew up in a time when her community was not even given water with respect by those from the upper castes. Yengde writes that a tribute to her life by her grandson, that too in English, appearing in the international press, is indeed a marvel for the Dalit community.

She was born to a family of landless labourers, Hanumante. She was disciplined into the caste codes early on. “We were taught not to touch the food and water pots of the higher castes”, grandma reminisced. “We were never given water with respect. They would pour the water from top.” Grandma worked as a child labourer in the fields of Maratha landowners. Her family would make 25 paise per day during the harvest season. She never went to school.
Suraj Yengde in the Indian Express.

Shantiniketan: Making of a University Town

In the run-up to the West Bengal Assembly Elections, Visva-Bharati university wrote to the state government alleging that 77 plots of land on the Shantiniketan premises over the years had been wrongly recorded in the name of private parties, one of them being Economist Amartya Sen, a strong critic of the BJP government. In a column in the Indian Express Amitava Chakraborty argues that the land row is politically motivated.

“Tagore wanted scholars and prominent people to reside in Shantiniketan to spread his ideology. The process of giving houses or leasing out land was started by him through the Shantiniketan Ashramic Trust. However, it was informal in nature. The formal leasing of land was started by Visva-Bharati in 1948 and continued until the 1960s,” says Dhrubajyoti Nandi, an ­author based in Shantiniketan.
Amitava Chakraborty in the Indian Express.

Why Indians Shouldn’t Gloat Over US disarray

What happened in the US might feel shocking but it is not so surprising, and Indians should gloat at our own peril, writes Sandip Roy in the column for the Times of India. While the US will have to live with photos of policemen taking selfies with members of the mob looting the Capitol building, the Indian police have been accused often of watching passively when people were being beaten up by goons, he points out.

Some scream double standards because they feel those who expressed solidarity with Citizenship Amendment Act protesters and farmers have no moral right to condemn the DC mob. But many Citizenship Act protesters were reading the preamble to the Constitution, not mugging for selfies with souvenirs looted from the offices of their elected representatives. The right to protest in Shaheen Bagh is not the same as the right to storm Parliament. Most pertinently, it was the President of the United States himself who cried havoc and let slip these dogs of war when he told belligerent supporters “We’re going to walk down, and I’ll be there with you.”
Sandip Roy in The Times of India.

As Bengal Polls near, Expect Political Football Over Netaji’s 125th Birth Anniversary

Nothing in India is ever free from partisan politics, more so in West Bengal, writes Swapan Dasgupta in the Times of India. According to him, the approaching assembly election in West Bengal is likely to convert the 125th birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra into a game of political football.

Modi’s credentials in this regard are impressive. For a start, he facilitated the declassification of all government files on the touchy issue of Netaji’s disappearance after 1945. These papers should have been released for public access in a routine way after the lapse of 30 years but were held back by nervous politicians. This move triggered conspiracy theories and added to the conviction that Nehru and his successors had much to hide about the fate of Netaji. In releasing the papers, Modi may have disappointed those who expected something explosive to emerge, but at least he removed the unnecessary veil of secrecy.
Swapan Dasgupta in the Times of India.
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