Sunday View: The Best Weekend Op-Eds Curated Just For You
Here’s a collection of the best opinion reads curated especially for you, in Sunday View.
Lift the Veil, Hold a Debate
India and the USA signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) last week and P Chidambaram, in his weekly column, Across the Aisle, asks which of the two nations is more likely to call upon the other for the logistics assistance the agreement outlines. He poses some questions about how likely India is to carry out operations – defence or humanitarian – far from its borders and how much support the USA can provide closer home in South Asia. He draws the conclusion that while LEMOA may not be a military pact, as emphasised by both Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, it certainly is more than just a handshake between two countries.
Only time will tell which side calls upon the other side to provide logistics support and how often. That the US has entered into one hundred such agreements and India has signed its first such agreement is sufficient indication of who needs it more!
English vs Mother Tongue: A Tough Question
In a country where linguistic differences were the original basis for administrative state borders, the question of whether education should be in the mother tongue or English remains unsolved. Aakar Patel, in light of four recent news items that he lists out, takes up Prime Minister Modi’s proposed solution to this question which is to teach some subjects in the mother tongue and others in English. But while Patel considers this an elegant solution, he also acknowledges that the problem itself is unlikely to go away soon.
...the question of who will teach children English is also unanswered because it is a language very few Indians know well enough to teach. Certainly we do not have the millions of qualified individuals required. As I said earlier, it is a difficult question to answer. This problem will remain with us for a very long time because we are the only major nation whose elite speaks a language that is a foreign tongue.
(Source: The Asian Age)
Name Change Admits a Reality: There’s No Rewind to One Bengal
Unlike India’s Partition in the West, where those who left their homelands behind to settle in India knew in their hearts that there was no return, the Partition in the East was treated with ambivalence, writes Swapan Dasgupta. There was a belief that East Pakistan was a temporary aberration and that Partition would be reversed at some point. This meant that the influx of minorities from East Pakistan and even Bangladesh after 1971 was not treated as a serious refugee problem that needed a solution of rehabilitation. He writes that with Mamata Banerjee’s decision to rename West Bengal to drop the directional prefix, it’s become clear that there’s no going back.
It is this ambivalence and the unreal hope that the refugees would return to their ancestral homes that defined Bengali attitudes to East Pakistan and, subsequently, Bangladesh. The post-Independence Congress leadership also looked on the ‘Bangal’ influx with wariness, seeing the refugees as political fodder for the Left parties. It was only a handful of far-sighted leaders such as Shyama Prasad Mookerjee — who led the movement to prevent Kolkata and the western districts from becoming a part of East Pakistan — that recognised that the Partition was irreversible. Consequently, the myth of West Bengal as only a wing of a composite Sonar Bangla was artificially kept alive but for no apparent reason.
Kashmir Needs a Solution: Reach out to All
If the violence of “2010 was a long period of unrest, 2016 is an uprising”, according to this Sunday’s op-ed written under the pseudonym Chanakya. Indicating that the violence in Kashmir is not because of the death of Burhan Wani and that the incident only acted as a trigger for what is a complete breakdown of trust between the Valley and New Delhi, the author goes on to say that the issue of Kashmir is being mishandled and there needs to be an urgent rethink of how Kashmir can be given more autonomy without threatening India’s sovereignty.
For too long, Kashmiris believed that the Centre would address their grievances politically. They believed that in 2008, when civilians were killed, and again in 2010, when 116 young persons were killed. For too long, Kashmiris have lived in the hope that New Delhi would pay attention to the reasons for their alienation; for why they continue to suffer in one of the most militarised zones in the world. There was a glimmer of hope in 2010, when the Centre had tried to address the anger then by sending a team of interlocutors, who painstakingly spoke to several stakeholders and turned in a report that referred to Kashmir as a “dispute”. No one, however, paid attention to the recommendations in the interlocutors’ report and this time, New Delhi responded by raising the issue of Balochistan.
An Ideological War
Taking on the trade unions that organised a Bharat Bandh last week and calling their leaders “aged socialists”, Tavleen Singh urges Prime Minister Narendra Modi to go ahead and carry out the reforms that these leaders have already accused him of undertaking like changing labour laws and privatising public sector companies. Calling them remnants of India’s socialist past she adds the hope that their actions do not make the Prime Minister more timid about economic reforms than he has already been.
So what is the Prime Minister afraid of? Why does he not go full steam ahead with doing the things he is already being accused of? I understand that the NITI Aayog has prepared a list of public sector companies that need to be sold before they become even more unprofitable. Why is this list not being acted on? The Government of India owns not just unprofitable companies but vast tracts of unprofitable land in the most expensive parts of our cities. If commercial use were made of this land, there would be enough money to fund all the Prime Minister’s dreams of ‘smart’ cities and model villages.
We Must Be Able to Handle the Sharifs on Our Own
Raising Pakistan as the first issue in talks with the USA makes India look weak, writes Karan Thapar. While India’s laundry list of issues with Pakistan is worth discussing with the US, giving the image that the country can handle itself makes it more likely to be seen as a valid contender for the United Nations Security Council seat that it has been eyeing as well as a seat at the power table in global politics. Thapar suggests that Prime Minister Modi not follow in the footsteps of his predecessors in this particular regard.
The amount of time and effort our governments devote to complaining about Pakistan to American interlocutors and the sense of achievement we feel when they nod in agreement diminish us. I’m not saying we don’t have cause to complain. We definitely do. But to go on and on does more than draw attention to the problem. It reveals our lack of capacity to handle it and our dependence on the United States.
Sindhu, Sakshi, Dipa Are Champs but Don’t Use Them to Skirt the Real Issues
Indian sportswomen have not won because of empowerment but despite the system, writes Sagarika Ghose. The victories of women achievers are used as feel-good stories to highlight how far women have come when, in reality, they haven’t reached these heights because of the help they received from society or the government but despite the two through their grit and perseverance. She adds that while on the one hand glossy stories of women’s achievements keep us captivated, on the other khap panchayats still continue and strong women in the workplace are still cast as “pushy b@#$%s”.
We celebrate sportswomen but there’s a tidal wave of misogyny on social media. We mark Women’s Day but repeatedly hear new strictures on women’s clothes and duties. Except for Sikhs and Jains, child sex ratios are at their lowest since 1961.
Who is Afraid of the RSS?
Laying out a ‘non-Congress’ history of the RSS movement, Meghnad Desai writes that while the organisation was crucial for the BJP during its growth, the political party no longer needs its parental guidance. He adds that the RSS is a hierarchical and undemocratic movement that cannot handle social equality or gender justice.
The RSS and CPI were founded in the same year, 1925, but somehow the RSS has waxed while the CPI has waned. Both were set up on the lines of European movements. The RSS chose its uniform of khaki shirt and half pants, copying the Congress uniform for its volunteers. The RSS was non-political and did not display religion as much as the Hindu Mahasabha did. Its growth for the first 20 years was modest, but in the Bihar earthquake its voluntary work was remarkable.
Robots Likely to Worsen Shortage of Good Jobs
The Indian workforce is expanding but formal sector jobs are not and the job explosion that Prime Minister Modi promised in his election campaign has not yet happened, writes Swaminathan Aiyar. Laying out the worsening situation in terms of jobs, he adds that while Arvind Panagariya, chief of Niti Aayog, believes that jobs in labour-intensive sectors like garments and shoes will come to India, the country’s labour laws and poor infrastructure act as impediments. But amid all this, the biggest threat comes from automation which has already begun to threaten jobs in the US. This means workers now need high skills, flexibility and adaptability, which India’s workforce lacks as of now.
Its (India’s) educational system is dismal at every level. Without fixing that, the skilling problem cannot be overcome just by apprenticeships or vocational training. Millions of youths today go to useless universities, obtain useless degrees, and so cannot find the white collar jobs they desire. An explosion of private engineering colleges has tripled total seats to almost 1.5 million in the last decade. But their quality is so pathetic that the IT industry says hardly one-tenth of graduates are employable.
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