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

We sifted through the weekend opinions section, so you wouldn't have to.

5 min read
The Quint’s curation of the best weekend opinion reads in the newspaper today. Settle back with a cup of tea and enjoy. 

The Grand Closing Down Sale

Former finance Minister P Chidambaram, in a critical take for The Indian Express, flags a slew of concerns pertaining to the new National Monetisation Pipeline (NMP). These range from concerns over the NMP creating monopolies — “or, at best, duopolies” — in key sectors, to the “conspirational manner” in which the Modi government “hatched” this plan.

Pointing out that the United States is deliberating on laws and other measures to contain monopolistic and unfair trade practices, South Korea is cracking down on its chaebols and China is taking action against some of its technology companies, Chidambaram writes:

“The gravest downside will be prices. Once monetised, the PSU will cease to be a price-stabiliser in the market. If there are one or two or even three private players in the sector, there is bound to be price-fixing and cartelisation. We have found this to be true even in a so-called competitive market in cement. The United Kingdom was shaken to find this true in the banking industry. My apprehension is that prices will rise in many sectors.”

India Can Defeat Jihadi Islam

In her column for The Indian Express, Tavleen Singh argues that last week’s deadly bomb explosion in Kabul is “a reminder that India needs to fortify her defences in a region that is becoming increasingly poisoned with violence and hatred.” In the same piece, however, she also welcomes the recently unveiled National Monetisation Policy, dubbing the public sector “a bottomless pit that sucks up money.”

In a bid to keep “jihadist terrorism in Kashmir” at bay, Singh suggests “restoring full statehood, holding elections and making Kashmiris realise that economic prosperity is more useful than religion.” In defence of the NMP she writes:

“The charge that truly astounded me was that the private sector must not be trusted because it created NPAs (non-performing assets) and corruption. Almost every public sector company is an NPA. And, there is no shortage of crooks and corruption.”

The Centrality of OBCs in Indian Politics

Rahul Verma, in his opinion piece for Hindustan Times, argues that moves such as sub-categorisation and a caste census will have a deep, but unpredictable, impact and may potentially “irreversibly change the nature and character of Indian democracy.”

Tracing the political developments that led to the emerging debate on a caste census, he also argues that “it is not clear at the moment who will be the eventual winners and losers from the exercise.” This, as per him, is owing to a range of factors including how political jostling shapes the mechanics of the caste census.

Expressing fears over a caste enumeration in census resulting in “a million mutinies”, Verma also writes:

“This is not to argue that the fear of either should stop the project of bringing the groups, which have not received their fair share, into the mainstream. But it is to recognise that the project of democratising power is often marked by a backlash.”

Afghan or Indian? A Long Identity Battle

Divya Goyal, in an article for The Indian Express, disentangles the identity conundrum often imposed on Afghan Sikhs and Hindus. Many of them assert: “‘We are Afghans’ and not ‘Indians’ or ‘Hindustanis’”, and while their clothes, language, food and culture all bear a distinct Afghan identity, Goyal observes: “The reality is that, like in case of most communities, history is interlinked.”

The author, thereby, delves into their unique identities—reflecting on how several, among them, have had to recently evacuate their homeland—and writes:

“Hindi entered their lives through Bollywood films in the 1980s and 1990s, and many understand the language now, though not all of them can speak it as is believed. Some Afghan Sikhs can read the Gurmukhi Punjabi script but have a strong Afghani lilt. The way they wrap their turbans too is different from Indian Sikhs, and their food, with delicacies such as Ashak and Mantu, has more in common with other Afghan communities than with the cuisine of Punjab.”

Curry Flurry, and a Serving of Humble Pie for Weingarten

Sandip Roy, in an opinion piece for Times of India, pores over the “curry” conflict that has caused much annoyance among Indians and Indian-food-enthusiasts, after Pulitzer-winning columnist Gene Weingarten ranted against the Indian cuisine. Roy also pins blame for oversimplification of Indian food on curry power, and traces the genesis of its popularity to “Victorian memsahibs”.

“Just because the English now go for an Indian at a Bangladeshi-run curry-house, it does not ruin my rogan josh. But it needs to be delinked from curry powder, which might be fine in a Japanese chicken curry or a coronation chicken salad but has nothing to do with a korma or qalia or avial.”

Asset Monetisation — Execution is The Key

TT Ram Mohan, in his piece for The Hindu, states that the government needs an Asset Monetisation Monitoring Authority to evaluate the execution of its Asset Monetisation programme, and that, the programme is fine if executed properly. “That is always a big if,” he adds.

The author also analyses how monetisation through the PPP route is fraught with problems, including how the “life of the asset, when it is returned to the government, may not be long.”

In conclusion, he argues:

“First, a public authority has inherent advantages on the funding side. In general, the economy is best served when public authorities develop infrastructure and monetise these. Second, monetisation through InvITs is likely to prove less of a problem than the PPP route. Third, we are better off monetising under-utilised assets than assets that are well utilised. Fourth, to ensure proper execution, there is a case for independent monitoring of the process.”

Kerala’s Rising COVID-19 Cases Explained

Health economist Rio M John, in a piece for The Hindu, attempts to explain the rise in COVID-19 cases in Kerala, as a majority of newly reported cases in India appear to emerge from the state.

Pointing out that ICMR’s most recent nationwide seroprevalence survey indicates that “Kerala had the highest proportion of the population still unexposed to the virus at that time”, John goes on to talk about a cocktail of factors that may be contributing to the Kerala COVID spike. These include inadequate prevalence of antibodies and the delayed arrival of the Delta variant in the state.

Further, the author, suggests:

“If it cannot handle the impending surge which may potentially see more than 40,000 daily new cases in the immediate term and the associated increased hospitalisations, it may be wise for the State to go in for a complete lockdown for a very short period of one to two weeks to arrest this surge and allow the cases to cool off in the immediate term. In the meantime, the State should make every effort to increase the pace of vaccination, significantly increase testing and tracing efforts so that not many cases go undetected.”

Are We Entering a New Phase of COVID-19?

In his piece for Hindustan Times, Karan Thapar decodes WHO chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan’s remarks on how “India could have reached some sort of stage of endemicity”, as well as the reported (current) nation-wide decrease in COVID positive cases.

“It’s something to cheer about,” Thapar writes as he delves into sunny possibilities of India learning to live with the virus, with far fewer people taking seriously ill.

“Finally, what Swaminathan believes could be happening in India could also be the future that lies ahead for the rest of the world. I’m putting it simply, but not, I hope, simplistically. She believes — actually, the verb she used was hopes — COVID-19 will convert from its present epidemic status to an endemic one, as vaccinations spread across the world and people continue to observe COVID-19-appropriate behaviour.”
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