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

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

7 min read
Keep the <i>chai</i>, forget the paper. Read the best Sunday opinion pieces and editorials from various newspapers.

No Thanks to the Government 

It's been over a year since the pandemic began, and the question of economic recovery is yet to find a sustainable solution. In his column for The Indian Express, P Chidambaram examines the 20.1 per cent growth rate of Gross Domestic Product in the first quarter of 2021-22, calling it a 'statistical illusion'.

"The truth was that the growth rate of GDP in the first quarter of 2021-22 was a statistical illusion because the ‘base’ was an unprecedented low of (-)24.4 per cent in Q1 of 2020-21. It was what Dr Gita Gopinath, Chief Economist of the IMF had, months ago, described as “mathematical growth”."
P Chidambaram

But we must welcome growth, says Chidambaram. Underlining the reason for the rise, he states that it was the people's consumption of goods and services – their 'private final consumption expenditure' – which catalysed the rise.

"There is another final consumption expenditure. It is the government’s. Imagine what would have been the result if government expenditure had kept pace with ‘private final consumption expenditure’. The former declined from Rs 4,42,618 crore in Q1 of last year to Rs 4,21,471 crore this year. The government’s contribution to the Q1 result was, therefore, negative. Nor did the government take effective steps to boost exports, which is one of the four engines of growth. ‘Net Exports’ too declined from Rs 34,071 crore in Q1 of last year to (-) Rs 62,084 crore this year. The growth rate of 20.1 per cent, albeit mathematical, was thanks to the people and no thanks to the government."
P Chidambaram

Dyer Consequence

Days after there was an outrage over the renovation of the Jallianwala Bagh site, Upala Sen, in her column for The Telegraph, looks at other historic sites of collective trauma and the public discord that once surrounded them.

"Traumatic heritage places such as Jallianwala Bagh (India) or Auschwitz-Birkenau (Poland) or the Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Japan) or Robben Island (South Africa) have to negotiate the burden of a traumatic community memory and the responsibility of inserting it into the present, constructively or instructively."
Upala Sen

She writes that human hair is among the things preserved at the concentration camp-turned-memorial and museum at Aushwitz – "The hair at Auschwitz was the harvest from dead prisoners. The memorial’s decision to display nearly two tonnes of human hair met with severe criticism. But in the end, the hair stayed in keeping with the museum philosophy of preserving authenticity, and there it will remain till it disintegrates naturally."

Caste Census is Necessary to Protect the Vulnerable

"The politics of identity and representation are corner stones of not just the legal realm but our wonderful democracy," writes P Wilson in his opinion for The Indian Express.

Reflecting on the exclusion of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in the 2021 Census, Wilson writes:

"It is irrefutable that for OBCs to benefit from specific affirmative action policies, reliable data of their population must exist. Without it, the policy of reservation is not founded on empirical data. It is interesting to note that due to the shunning of this empirical approach by the Centre, the Supreme Court often strikes down reservation policies of states on the ground that it is not based on data."
P Wilson

Hear the Voices of Women of Afghanistan

In the aftermath of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, Lalita Panicker writes on the fate of Afghan women for the Hindustan Times.

Amid "the usual platitudes about how the rights of Afghan women should be at centre of negotiations with the new rulers", Panicker asserts that the militant organisation had been mostly opaque regarding its true intentions.

“Many women’s groups believe that the United Nations and other human rights organisations can push much harder on the issue. Some suggest setting up an international force, somewhat akin to a peacekeeping mission, to attempt to safeguard women’s rights in Afghanistan. It may not work, but there has to be a concerted effort instead of a wait-and-watch approach when women stand to lose all their hard-won gains. World leaders must speak up, wishy-washy statements will not do.”
Lalita Panicker

Sabyasachi, and Defining Appropriation

Upon the release of his first collection for H&M, ‘Wanderlust’, renowned fashion designer Sabyasachi had recently received the public's ire for his 'cheap, digital recreations of ancient Indian craftsmanship.'

Even the Delhi Crafts Council and Crafts Council of India had censured the collaboration, which they said highlighted the real inequality of power, as the artisans who have kept the craft alive in India, lack the means to monetise their skills.

In a column for The Indian Express, Leher Kala argues that when it comes to tracing proprietory rights to historical symbols and motifs, the answers are often evasive.

"Suggesting Sabyasachi cashed in on the intellectual property of a community disregards a fundamental truth, that all art is appropriation of some kind. I am writing in a language that isn’t my own. My opinions are influenced by the books I read, the movies I watch and my experiences with the people I meet. Besides, it must be said, in the digital age, access to information has made it impossible to be truly original. We have no choice but to abandon notions of singular ownership of any aesthetic or style; the role of the artist is to find something new to say, after sifting through the reams available already."
Leher Kala

She adds, "In the long run, censoring the exploration of myriad cultures by outsiders won’t promote social justice but it will stifle creativity."


Hindutva is Not Hindu Modernity; It is Populism

"Apologists for Islamism, extreme nationalism or Hindutva alike often gratuitously speak the language of modernity," Says Zia Haq in an article for the Hindustan Times.

Writing in response to an article by Abhinav Prakash Singh – Why Hindutva is Hindu modernity – Haq argues that the present non-liberal social order brought forth by Hindutva is not a distortion of Hindutva, but its truest expression.

"The social contract within the ambit of modernity is mediated by citizenship, which is the highest legal status of an individual. Hindutva by contrast, as propounded by Savarkar and being practised today, is a non-liberal social order presaged on race, culture, and faith, arching high over secular citizenship, an integral aspect of modernity."
Zia Haq

She adds, "Hindutva prescribes limits to who a Hindu could be; modernity prescribes no specifications on who a member of modern society could be."

End of Empire Building? Not So Fast. There Are New Twists to the Great Game

With many hypothesising a momentous shift in the world's perception of the United States after its debacle in Afghanistan, Swapan Dasgupta, in his article for Times of India, travels across the Atlantic to eastern shores, and opines that this may not be the 'end of empires' many think it to be.

"It would be hasty to jump to the conclusion that the Age of Empire is firmly behind us. The determined hegemonism that is the hallmark of China is an unending source of worry. With the grandiose Belt and Road project likely to get a big boost in Afghanistan, the balance of power in Asia is certain to tilt in Beijing’s favour in the short term. China’s empire-building doesn’t involve military expeditions — not yet — but in terms of its ability to undermine national sovereignty with its economic muscle power, Beijing has shown doggedness and determination. The growing strategic convergence between a China trying to be the global top dog and Vladimir Putin’s Russia that wants to reclaim the influence of the erstwhile Soviet Union in Eastern Europe and Central Asia has added a new twist to the Great Game."
Swapan Dasgupta

Elucidating further on shifting power balances, he adds, "What warrants concern is the possibility of the emergence of an Islamic bloc transcending sectarian schisms and committed to a jihad that seeks to upstage westernised elites with a socially conservative, populist leadership guided by clerics. Such a phenomenon can even create upheavals in Bangladesh, Indonesia and Malaysia, not to mention Central Asia. It will also leave its mark on India."

Nehru Had His Faults but he Can't be Erased From History

In her article for The Times of India, Sagarika Ghose weighs in on the controversy sparked by the poster released by Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) on 75 years of India’s independence. Nehru had been left out from a notice depicting the heroes of 1947.

On this, she opines, "Nehru looms so gigantically over post-Independence India that those who want to fundamentally reshape the republic itself seek to knock him off his pedestal and throw mud at him."

Expounding on this 'reshaping of the republic', she argues that as India enters its 76th year of Independence, historical figures should be treated as beings who contributed to the making of our nation, instead of mere figures in an ideological battleground.

"Our bitterly politicised and polarised public life today is the reason why we are unable to view past leaders as complex human beings with multi-layered personas; we only see them only as caricatures of present-day politics. The Congress’s Mani Shankar Aiyar once objected to Port Blair airport being renamed Savarkar airport, when the Hindutva ideologue did endure a tortuous prison term in the Andamans and is a forebear of rightwing politics. Such tactics serve only to demonise Savarkar, rather than expressing healthy disagreement with him. By contrast, in a letter of condolence, Indira Gandhi, described Savarkar as a “remarkable son of India,” notwithstanding sharp differences with his ideology."
Sagarika Ghose

Bring on the Bulldozers Against the Towers of Corruption

Last week, the Supreme Court of India upheld an Allahabad High Court order directing the demolition of Supertech's twin towers in Noida for violating building by-laws. In a column for The New Indian Express, Gurbir Singh refers to the ruling as a 'small glimmer of hope'.

"In a country where the construction industry functions with scant regard for the law, making an example of lawbreakers is necessary. The former chairman of Maharashtra’s Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA), Gautam Chatterjee, once quipped: “A law works if there is 90% compliance and the violators are 10%. If it is the other way round, it won’t work.”
Gurbir Singh

He adds, "The Supertech case has highlighted that while builders are the known villains and are put in the firing line, the layers of officials who sanctioned their illegal plans melt into the shadow."

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