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

We sifted through the papers and curated the best weekend opinion reads so you won’t have to.

6 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>Nothing like your morning cuppa and the weekend’s best reads on a Sunday.  </p></div>

Take Responsibility, Consult, Make Plans

Pointing out that Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his most recent televised address (Monday, 7 June) corrected two mistakes, Finance Minister P Chidambaram, in his column for The Indian Express, casts a retrospective glance at all the mistakes made by the Modi-government in the past 15 months, and writes:

“We must clear the mess and achieve the targets set by epidemiologists and health experts.”

Some of the Centre’s mistakes noted by Chidambaram include ignoring the warning of a second wave, over enthusiasm in protecting the two domestic manufacturers, differential pricing and what the SC pointed out was an “arbitrary and irrational” vaccine policy.

Further, Chidambaram lists out the next steps, that ought to be completed before June 2021. These include:

“Since there is likely to be a shortfall of availability of vaccines against need, the government must publicly declare how it intends to bridge the gap. If the gap is unbridgeable before December 2021, the Central government, in consultation with the state governments, must re-draw the priority of vaccinations.”

Urgent Action Needed

Tavleen Singh, in her column for The Indian Express, draws parallels between UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s attempt to use denial to distract from reality of the devastation wreaked by COVID-19. Singh also stresses on the need for “urgency” to be “injected into this war” and for building rural facilities on a “war footing”. She further laments:

“The truth is that the Prime Minister himself only realised the desperate need for vaccinations after the second COVID wave arrived ferociously, and his first response was a gimmick. He declared that there would be a Vaccination Utsav for four days from 11 April. He boasted that we had defeated the first COVID wave without vaccines. Then he left it to members of his task force to act as spokesmen and all they did was make tall claims about how everyone would be vaccinated by December.”

Singh ends her piece with a warning for the government: BJP will not win the Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh next summer if a third wave ravages the state like the second one did.


The Curzonian Imprint on Indian Foreign Policy

Former US assistant secretary of state A Wess Mitchel, reflects on the conceptualisation of India’s neighbourhood and emphasis on frontiers and integration by India’s 27th viceroy. Mitchel writes, for The Hindustan Times, that in dealing with China, Lord Curzon’s observations can serve as a template for India.

Further, A Wess Mitchel notes that “three tenets of Curzon’s thinking seem especially relevant for India as it finds itself confronted with an aggressive China”. These three consequential tenets by Curzon, Mitchel suggests, are:

India’s security depends upon its ability to exercise influence over a defined geopolitical space beyond its own shores; that India’s main landward attention must be directed to maintaining viable buffer states in adjacent regions and that building influence in these neighbouring spaces required India to offer an attractive commercial and strategic alternative to the charms of its rivals.

“Looking at the map from New Delhi’s perspective, the area that matters most is precisely the space, from Aden to Singapore, which Curzon identified as India’s natural orbis terrarum. Should India fail to prevent China from becoming the dominant power in this space, its role as a global power will be curtailed; should India stretch its ambitions much beyond this region, it is likely to find itself overextended.”
A Wess Mitchell

Doctors vs Ramdev: Need Science, Not Superstition to Fight COVID

Journalist Sagrika Ghose, in her piece for The Times of India, lauds the fast scientific discovery of a COVID vaccine and expresses concern at Health Minister’s mild criticism of Ramdev’s anti-doctor remarks.

Stating that Ramdev hasn’t provided evidence on why he is convinced allopathy doesn’t work, she writes: “Disseminating this kind of ‘anti-science’ mindset is a terrible disservice to India and can lead to people venting irrational rage against medical workers.”

She also, however asks: “But why blame only Baba Ramdev?”

“Over the years, many politicians have confused medicine with mythology and science with superstition. Minister Shripad Naik once said yoga could cure cancer, while MP Sadhvi Pragya Thakur declared that cow urine could cure COVI(D, although she was herself airlifted from Bhopal to a speciality Mumbai hospital for treatment. PM Modi cited Ganesha as an example of plastic surgery existing in ancient times…”

Noting that yoga and Ayurveda can co-exist with allopathy, and even complement each other, Ghose further states: “This is not the time for prime time ‘babagiri’ or ‘anti-science’ diatribes against doctors, but a time to stand with our corona warriors.”


Post-COVID-19, Women and The Green Economy

Pointing out that women are most affected by the climate crisis, Lalita Panicker, in an article for The Hindustan Times, laments that they have little voice in shaping the response to the crisis. “Nor are they considered an integral component of the transition that must be made to a green economy,” she writes.

“In the post-COVID-19 economy, there must also be greater focus on encouraging the participation of women in green industries. The renewable energy sector, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi has steadfastly promoted, should involve more women. This will not only empower them but also create economic value.”

Panicker also goes on to point out that one of the ways in which women’s role in agriculture, at least, can be reimagined in a post-pandemic world, is by encouraging support groups through the still robust panchayati raj system.

“Even as India has done well in recognising the climate crisis and working towards meeting its Paris obligations, it has been relatively slow in recognising the gender dimension of climate,” observes the author.


30 Years Ago, 90 Mins That Changed India’s History

Senior Journalist P Raman, in an article for The Indian Express, recalls the crucial 90 minutes that paved the way for India’s historic decision to liberalise the economy, 30 years ago. On 20 June 1991, the then PM designate Narasimha Rao, in “a most dramatic setting”, gave the go-ahead for accepting a controversial IMF loan, thereby, setting the wheels of a tectonic change in motion. P Raman also spells out the reasons for Narsimha Rao’s nod:

“Rao was told that foreign exchange reserves had dipped to Rs 2,500 crore, only enough to meet three months’ imports. This forced the Finance Ministry to pawn 47 tonnes of confiscated (smuggled) gold lying in SBI’s vaults. Rating agencies had also downgraded India to the ‘dangerous’ level. External debt was about 22% of GDP and internal public debt 56%.”

Further, the author writes about how Manmohan Singh was brought into the picture – an offer that he did not take very seriously at first – and a handwritten note that he passed on to Rao once he was on board.


Congress Should Take Note: People Don’t Quit Parties, They Quit Bosses

In the wake of Jitin Prasada’s highly publicised shift from the Congress party to the BJP, former Congress spokesperson Sanjay Jha, in an article for The Times of India, draws parallels between the Congress party and corporate firms. People leave a corporate firm “because of their bosses”, states Sanjay Jha and claims that is the reason why “trouble is brewing in Rajasthan and Punjab”.

Further noting that India is a “political duopoly”, Jha writes:

“Political organisations like corporate entities are built on their people. In Big Tech firms like Facebook and Apple for example, there is paranoia about losing your best talent to your cut-throat competitor. The Congress, on the other hand, appears blasé about losing its acclaimed leaders to its only pan-Indian opponent.”

Jha also suggests that the Congress party should either pick a non-Gandhian leader with unequivocal support of the Gandhis, or hand the reins to Priyanka Gandhi Vadra “who has both fortitude and chutzpah”.


Setting off Into a Brave New World

In her column for The Indian Express, Leher Kala writes about Goa Law Minister’s acknowledgement of a sudden spike in divorce cases filed between 2020 and 2021 and observes how that may not be such a bad thing. Sharing that “it’s safe to presume that the unprecedented stress has caused havoc in all kinds of relationships”, Kala notes that “adversity is fuelling change”.

She also points out that while the “dizzying pace of city life” keeps one from ruminating about the quality of our interactions, the pandemic has turned us all into quasi practitioners of “vipassana” meditation, pushing us to introspect.

“The cynical scoff at the idea that the battering the world has taken will have a lasting impact. When something like oxygen could become a luxury overnight, it would be a real pity if these brutal COVID lessons are forgotten and life goes back to exactly what it was before.”

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