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

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

6 min read
Keep the chai, forget the paper. Read the best opinion and editorial articles from across the print media on Sunday View.

Selling To Private Traders Or Mandis? Why Farmers Are On The Edge

Rukmini S, in her column for India Today dissects the issues at the heart of the farmer debate. Using data from the National Sample Survey Office, Rukmini analyses the selling practices of farmers, how this differs by state, and the role of ‘mandis’, government agencies and private traders in procurement of commodities. She points out that farmers often sell to private traders, not by ‘active choice’ but because of ‘the non-availability of a local procurement agency is the biggest reason for not selling to a government procurement agency’.

In Bihar, where the APMC Act was scrapped by the JD(U)-BJP government in 2006, the mandi procures just a fraction of the wheat. In Punjab, on the other hand, the mandi dominates. This is a key reason why Punjab’s farmers are leading the protest: in Punjab, the mandi and government agencies still dominate procurement, while in Bihar, the private trader already rules.

Deep Dive | The Long Trail Of Political Violence In West Bengal

Shikha Mukerjee writes for India Today about the recent violent clashes between protestors and the police in West Bengal and says they have been ‘strictly political’ and are ‘not disguised caste or communal tensions. The reputation of the state as highly politically conscious has been earned in blood’. In her deep dive story, Mukerjee talks about movements in the past like ‘The Naxalite Movement’, ‘The Food Movement’, ‘Ek Paisa Andolan’, ‘The Tebhaga Movement’ and she takes readers down the memory lane of some of the most ‘haunting’ incidents of violence that have gripped the state.

By the time in 1967, the Naxalbari movement became a ‘Spring Thunder’ in the description of the Chinese Communist Party and had adopted Mao Zedong’s slogan that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun, the culture of violence as a means of doing politics had embedded itself in West Bengal. Some events, some movements have made a deeper impact than the moments when they occurred.

Chinese Whisper

Upala Sen, in a satire column for Telegraph India writes about how the Indian leaders have gone on record to say ‘Debate, discussion and dissent are essential parts of democracy’, however when the government sees protestors, be it the farmers or the women of Shaheen Bagh, they have reacted by labelling them to be ‘anti-national forces’ or ‘maoist elements’.

It is a lip-sync issue or why else would the deputy chairman of Rajya Sabha Harivansh Narayan Singh hear “ayes” when allies and those in Opposition had called for a clear division (vote) on farm bills? And you might remember how when Shaheen Bagh expressed solidarity with Kashmiri Pandits on January 19, filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri heard it as a celebration of the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley. Lip-sync error explains why no matter what the visual, when the government tunes in to its people, all it hears is not wails of hunger, anxieties over joblessness, clamour for peace, but roars of nationalism. The visuals are of marching migrants, marching and falling by the way, scattered rotis on the rail-tracks, but the voiceover exhorts “atmanirbhar, atmanirbhar”.

The New Normal Is Scary

P Chidambaram, the former Finance minister of India writes for Indian Express about how he finds the ‘new normal’ of India to be ‘scary’. He addresses the recent Love Jihad law where within eleven days, five cases have been registered, seemingly targeting Muslim men. He raises some concerns which he refers to as ‘chilling facts’ where he describes the non appearance of Prime Minister, Narendra Modi for two terms in front the media, the ‘muting of Parliament’, ‘too much democracy’, watchdogs being compromised alongside the media, repealing of inter-faith marriages, inequality to justice in front of the law, suppression of non-profits, intimidation of political adversaries, poets and activists and so on.

Some other new normals send a chill of anxiety or fear or desperation. The new normal in India appears to be that the Prime Minister will complete two terms as head of the government without addressing a single press conference; the right to speak in Parliament or at an all-party meeting will be controlled (and denied) by a finger on a button that will ‘mute’ the microphone; a senior bureaucrat will openly speak of “too much democracy” and will not be admonished; the Special Marriage Act that permits inter-faith marriages will be repealed by stealth and replaced by a law that will punish the man among the inter-faith couple; the government by the majority of elected legislators will turn into majoritarian rule; the media (or the bulk of it) will be taken over or tamed into submission by the ruling party.

The Vaccines That Could Use A Shot In The Arm

Clara Ferreira Marques makes a strong case in her article for theBloombergQuint about the lack of trust in the medical fraternity and international governments for China and Russia’s COVID-19 vaccines. She says that although the vaccines have received government backing and ‘promotion’, the rush for results and vaccinations without sufficient data or human trials have ‘not translated into impressive diplomatic or domestic wins’. She suggests a little more transparency, and a lot more data is required to tackle this distrust.

Russia and China are already reaching much of the developing world with their easier-to-store and likely cheaper vaccines. Beijing has joined Covax, the WHO-backed scheme to distribute shots. Alibaba’s logistics arm, for example, has already established a cold chain route to Addis Ababa. Russian officials say orders have been placed for 1.2 billion doses. Humankind needs as much success as it can muster. It just needs a little more data too.

Dalits And The Oppressions Within

Suraj Yengde, author of Caste Matters writes in the Indian Express about the Dalit community being accused of ‘patriarchal tendencies’ and ‘the treatment of women’, and how ‘woke politics rests on finding identities more devastating as a precursor to granting Dalits their legitimacy’. He reiterates that an urban Dalits have access to Western vocabularies to document their experience, unlike their rural dwelling counterpart.

Are Dalit males in as much of a position to dominate as others, or is their domination derived from caste-victimhood locked in vicious Brahminical patriarchy? If that is the case, why not have Brahmin patriarchy, Baniya patriarchy, Kshatriya patriarchy, Shudra patriarchy as a canon of investigation, and not single out Dalit patriarchy as a theory? Dalit patriarchy, in fact, is a summation of caste, class, and gendered beingness.

The Rise Of Uddhav Thackeray, The Accidental Chief Minister

Rajdeep Sardesai, in his article for The Scroll writes about Maharashtra’s Chief Minister, and president of Shiv Sena party, Uddhav Thackeray. He says, “a year after Maharashtra’s three-wheeler coalition assumed power, Uddhav Thackeray has not only stayed afloat – he is a leader transformed”. Sardesai brings out past allegations against the CM for being an ‘invisible leader’, but says he has now come across as a ‘compassionate leader in Covid times’,

Since Uddhav Thackeray had no administrative experience while heading a three-party government comprising several senior, ambitious politicians made it even more difficult to see how he could survive, leave aside succeed. Having controversially broken ties with his longstanding ally, the BJP, Thackeray’s anointment was made amidst unusual turbulence in Maharashtra’s traditionally calm political waters. The storms are still gathering in the Arabian Sea but the man who was seemingly doomed to be swept away by the BJP’s rising tide has actually managed to stay afloat so far.

Atal-Advani: The Jugalbandi In The BJP

Karan Thapar, in his latest column for Hindustan Times dissects Vinay Sitapati’s book on Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani. The book, titled ‘Jugalbandi’, according to Thapar shows the supposedly ‘revealing, disillusioning and possibly, controversial’ aspects of their relationship and individual personalities. Thapar also says that the two leaders always ‘stradled the political consciousness’ for his generation, always being ‘heroes or villains but never non-entities.

“Today we identify the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with Narendra Modi and Amit Shah”, says Thapar.

If this is Vinay Sitapati’s conclusion, many I’m sure would agree: “The result is that Modi-Shah are more ruthless to political opponents than Vajpayee-Advani ever were”. He quotes Advani’s blog to take this point tellingly further. “In our conception of Indian nationalism we have never regarded those who disagree with us politically as anti-national”. On the other hand, Narendra Modi’s great strength is what Sitapati calls “an almost mystical connect with the voter”. His opponents in the Opposition may not like this but, if they’re honest, they can’t deny it. It could be a lot harder to overturn than Vajpayee’s charm.

India’s Ordeal By Fire: The Country Comes Through 2020 With Renewed Confidence, A Harder Resolve And Determined Direction

Ashok Malik writes for the Times of India in retrospect to the year of 2020 and the ‘ordeal by fire’ that India has survived. He believes the nation has come out stronger with a harder resolve having reckoned with a pandemic, its economic consequences, the Ladakh standoff, cyclones among other challenges.

A country perilously short of medical supplies in early 2020 today has over 100 companies making PPEs and about 50 making ventilators. It manufactures enough N-95 masks for not just local use but also export. Entrepreneurial energies that drove this effort need to be nurtured.
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