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

Read the best opinion and editorial articles from across the print media on Sunday View. 

8 min read
Nothing like your morning cuppa and a newspaper on a Sunday. 

Fifth Column: Only One Bank Robber?

In her column for The Indian Express, Tavleen Singh writes that the officials who facilitated the Rs 11,400 crore PNB scam have largely remained faceless, even as dauntless reporters were sent to hunt down Nirav Modi in New York (where he is supposed to be hiding).

“Well done my fellow hacks but why do we see so little effort to uncover the whereabouts of the men who made it possible for Modi to become so amazingly rich?Why do we know nothing about how he managed to fool the officials of the Punjab National Bank into giving him so much money?” she writes in Fifth Column.

Singh suspects that there is more than the involvement of “one or two lowly bank officials” in the scam. She even questions why Prime Minister Narendra Modi has done nothing to “privatise banks that should have been privatised long ago”.

“Is it not time that we started investigating what our officials get up to and examine their lifestyles with at least half the assiduous attention we have paid to the life of Nirav Modi in the past week?” Singh asks.

Across the Aisle: What Happened to Indradhanush?

“Are public sector banks (PSBs) wanted or not wanted?” P Chidambaram asks in Across The Aisle — his column for The Indian Express. Noting the contribution of PSBs to banking in rural areas, providing agricultural credit, extending loans to women’s self-help groups, pioneering financial inclusion, Chidambaram writes that these banks have also fallen short on “many financial ratios, market capitalisation, and management competence”.

The scandal involving the Punjab National Bank (PNB) has revived the demand for privatisation as part of comprehensive banking sector reforms…It would be incorrect to say that the troubles of PSBs began with the NDA government, but it is fair to ask what has the NDA government done, since 2014, to improve governance of banks,” he writes.

Chidambaram argues that soon after assuming office, the NDA government separated the offices of Chairperson and Managing Director of a PSB and even made arbitrary transfers among chairpersons. He further argues that PNB received only Rs 4,714 crores in 2014-15 despite being promised Rs 5,473 even as the NDA government “fussed over recapitalisation of banks.

“The massive fraud in PNB, and perhaps in other banks too, indicates that little has changed in the systems of PSBs. After Indradhanush the government got into the habit of announcing reforms that were nothing more than attractive slogans and acronyms. So, we have EASE (Enhanced Access and Service Excellence) and a ‘Seven-pronged Approach’. No one knows if Indradhanush was fired at all or it misfired!” he concludes.

The Truth About The ‘Snub’ to Trudeau

Karan Thapar tries to analyse the facts about whether or not the Modi government intentionally snubbed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during his week long visit to India, in his column for the Hindustan Times.

He notes that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was not only absent when Trudeau landed in India, but also didn’t send any prominent cabinet minister to receive the Trudeau family.

“Instead, the government was represented by a mere minister of state and a pretty unknown one at that, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat,” he writes. Morever, on his visits to Agra and Ahmedabad, the Chief Minister of the respective states made no effort to meet him. The most surprising factor, Thapar writes, was PM Modi’s failure to tweet a welcome for Trudeau.

“But was it a failure? Surely not? It has to be deliberate. These things don’t just happen by accident. They are intended. And there was a message behind it, may be not crystal clear but suggestive. But then that’s more powerful because it can be interpreted in many ways,” he concludes.

How The Suffragettes Influenced Mahatma Gandhi

Ramachandra Guha writes about the impact the suffragettes had on Mahatma Gandhi and thereby also on the Indian masses, in his column for the Hindustan Times. Taking notes from history, he writes that Gandhi’s visits to London in 1906 and 1909 had coincided with street protests by the women activists. Having witnessed the way the suffragettes who often came from established families would court arrests, Gandhi was left visibly impressed.

“If even women display such courage,” Gandhi had remarked, “will the Transvaal Indians fail in their duty and be afraid of gaol? Or would they rather consider the gaol a palace and readily go there?”

Although he criticised the violent means that the suffragettes resorted to sometimes, his admiration for their fearless spirit remained unchanged, Guha writes.

“The struggle of the suffragettes and the suffragists may largely be a British story. However, it influenced the techniques of protest used by Gandhi in South Africa, and it also influenced his decision, when back in his homeland, to support the Congress’s commitment to universal adult franchise when the country became free,” Guha remarked.

Will the NiMo Case Fizzle Out Like Many Others?

SA Iyer raises concerns about the loopholes of India’s banking systems that has been exposed as the PNB and the Rotomac scams were unearthed in the past few weeks. In Swaminomics - his column for the Times of India, Iyer writes that the responsibility of Rs 11,400 crore Nirav Modi scam or the Rs 3,000 crore Rotomac scam lies with both the current and the former Finance Ministers and also the RBI.

Iyer also holds the chairman and the board of PNB accountable for their negligence.

“Worse, the PNB management failed miserably to follow anti-corruption guidelines on staff rotation. No manager is supposed to stay in a post for more than three years. The fact that a crooked deputy manager, Gokulnath Shetty, managed to stay in his post for seven years and keep rolling over loans to Modi without collateral, is outrageous. Did Shetty have political godfathers who helped him escape the normal rotational rules? That cries out for investigation,” he writes.

He asks if these scams will also fizzle out like the older Bofors scam or the Jain hawala case.

It’s Time Bollywood Had a Black Panther Moment About Invisible India

Aakar Patel writes that beyond the mainstream cultures in India, a majority of others have largely stayed in the shadows as alien cultures even as they continue to thrive alongside the popular cultures.

“Something has been occurring to me. What is Adivasi food? Surely they cannot be making palak paneer and tandoori chicken. What is an Adivasi wedding ceremony? Is it a ritual? Is there an Adivasi divorce? What connects the Gujarati Adivasi culturally to the one in Chhattisgarh? Are they endogamous like the rest of us? The fact is that most Indians don’t know the answers. Do we care about them? When I say that ‘we’ are not aware, I am not talking about the unwashed. I’m referring to us, me and you,” he writes in his column for Times of India.

Noting that Gujaratis who are only 5% of the population as compared to Dalits (more than 16%), Muslims (more than 14%) and Adivasis (more than 8%) get more representation. “And of course the idea of ‘Gujarati’ we hold is limited to vegetarian Hindu merchants,” he humorously adds.

He writes that India should have its own Black Panther moment and try to show the cultures that its largely stayed away from.

“In 2018 we remain where we were, and this is remarkable given that we are talking about four-tenths of our nation. Their stories and their cultures are as important and as interesting as that of the other six-tenths,” he says.

Why Protectionism is a Return to Bad Economics

Rupa Subramanya says that Narendra Modi’s “Minimum government, maximum governance” has turned out to be just another catchy campaign slogan.

In a column for Hindustan Times, citing the example of the price control amounting to 85% imposed on the original price on coronary stents, Subramanya writes, the result has been exactly as predicted — “a hike in prices by hospitals for the overall surgical procedure, shortage of stents in the market, a big drop of foreign direct investment in this sector, with no actual gain for the supposed beneficiaries, the patients.”

“Most recently the Union Budget’s explicit turn back towards import substitution with across the board tariffs on everything from kites and candles to electronic equipment, ended a 20-year trend of liberalising trade, which had given Indian consumers greater variety at much lower cost. Open ended protection never accomplishes its goals, and only leaves a perpetually inefficient domestic industry, large losses to consumers and to other sectors that use the now costlier products as inputs, and a permanently distorted economy,” she writes.

She also talks about Modi abandoning his goal to generate large scale labour intensive manufacturing.

“The Make In India scheme has failed thus far to turn India into a global or even regional manufacturing hub but Modi seems to have shifted the terms of the debate and embraced the Swadeshi notion that any occupation, even a poorly paying and unproductive one, constitutes a “job”,” she writes. 

North Indians: Stay Away!

Vir Sanghvi writes that he was taken aback by the statements made by Goa’s Town and Country Planning Minister, Vijai Sardesai against domestic tourists.

Complaining about the North India tourists, Sardesai had said he did not want “another Haryana in Goa”.

In his column for Hindustan Times, Sanghvi criticised the “classist” and “ethnically-offensive” comment, but also mentions his surprise as an “astonishingly large number of people” agreed with Sardesai.

Sanghvi says, “It is not clear why but locals all over Asia are like Sardesai in that they seem to prefer white tourists to all other kinds.”

“Nearly everywhere you go in Asia – even in such cities as Singapore which are dominated by ethnic Chinese – you will hear complaints about tourists from Mainland China. They are rude, they are pushy, they have no culture, they are dirty – the complaints will keep coming,” he writes.

Selected vs Elected

Ashish Khaitan writes about the asymmetric division of powers between “the elected and the selected” in the capital in his column for The Indian Express.

“In practical terms, it vests the LG with absolute powers without corresponding accountability and leaves the elected chief minister faced with complete responsibility but without requisite powers,” Khaitan writes in his column for The Indian Express, asking that if the previous government could work with that, why can’t Kejriwal.

The answer, he writes, lies in the series of orders issued by the present central government after the inauguration of the AAP government in February 2015. A Chief Minister is dependent on his Chief Secretary for governance and delivery. The free hand that Sheila Dikshit had in picking the CS in both the UPA and the NDA rule was snatched away when it came to the AAP government, Khaitan explains.

“But within three months of the AAP coming to power, the MHA, vide a notification dated May 21, 2015, added a fourth subject, “Services”, to the existing list of three subjects of Public Order, Police and Land which were already reserved with the Centre. Through a judgment on August 4, 2016, the Delhi High Court upheld the notification, ruling that “Services” was outside the domain of Delhi government. Hence, the elected executive in Delhi doesn’t have even a modicum of control or authority over government employees,” Khaitan writes.

“The Delhi government’s petition challenging the Centre’s notifications was heard by a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in December 2017. The order is since reserved. The very concept of parliamentary democracy is at stake. The current imbroglio is only a manifestation of a deep-rooted malaise,” he opines.

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