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

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

7 min read
Hindi Female

Courts Sound the Bell for Liberty

In his column for The Indian Express, P Chidambaram opines that never in the history of India, has the state mobilised all its might to suppress every voice of dissent, be it climate activist Disha Ravi or Dalit rights crusader Nodeep Kaur.

Chidambaram, however, sees a glimmer of hope in the few court hearings that he feels have resisted the ‘bull-headed opposition’ of investigating agencies and have ruled in favour of the same principles of liberty that lay at the heart of India’s freedom struggle.

“I am happy that many more judges are no longer tolerating the bull-headed opposition of the investigating agency and are weighing in favour of liberty. In Varavara Rao, the High Court of Bombay granted the 82-year old poet bail on medical grounds. In Disha Ravi, Judge Rana underlined the essence of democracy: “Difference of opinion, disagreement, divergence, dissent or for that matter even disapprobation are recognized legitimate tools to infuse objectivity in state policies.”
P Chidambaram in The Indian Express.

Who Gets To Decide What Is Legitimate Free Speech - Big Government or Big Tech?

Writing for The Indian Express, Bhaskar Chakravorti looks at the possible reasons the government could provide to back its controversial social media rules, while offering counter-arguments from big-tech companies who may not be all too happy with the provisions that ask social media platforms to be “more responsible and more accountable.”

“One argument for government intervention rests on the presumption that it is never in the commercial interest of Big Tech to remove offensive speech as this content goes viral more readily, bringing in more eyeballs, more data and more advertising revenue. To counter this argument, Big Tech proponents would contend that the companies are getting smarter about the risks of allowing such content on their systems and will inevitably find it in their self-interest to pre-emptively kill it.”
Bhaskar Chakravorti in The Indian Express.

Raising the Bogey of the ‘Foreign Hand’ Feeds Into Modi’s Ultranationalist Narrative

Faced with international criticism over his government’s handling of the farmer’s protest, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s outburst against voices supporting the agitation may have placed him in direct opposition to those who hold enormous sway in the newly-elected Biden administration, writes Arati R Jerath in The Indian Express.

Jerath, however, maintains that by hitting out at activists groups both at home and abroad, PM Modi’s government has attempted to pre-empt a re-run of events that had led the US to prevent the then Gujarat Chief Minister from setting foot on US soil.

“His outburst has pitted him against a section of international opinion that wields influence in the current administration in Washington. These are the lobbies that powered Joe Biden to the White House and many of them are deeply embedded in the Democratic Party. Although Modi has invested considerable time and energy in cultivating western movers and shakers and building his international brand, it seems he has not shaken off the ghosts of the past. The liberal opinion that the Democrats represent is the very opinion he abhors and the one he clashed with many years ago when he was denied a visa to the US as Gujarat chief minister.”
Arati R Jerath in The Indian Express.

Why IAS Needs To Change To IES in Name and Spirit To Propel India Forward

Commenting on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent critique of IAS personnel, Chetan Bhagat, in his column for The Times of India, remarks that while the babus are to be blamed for ‘coasting’, the larger atmosphere in which they operate does not always encourage processive governance.

“Let’s say an IAS officer feels the current website of the public service he works for is terrible. A private firm should be hired to re-do it. What’s the incentive to get this done? Why not just wait (or coast) in your job for three years, until the next posting and promotion, which is essentially guaranteed if no feathers are ruffled. Now, if he were to hire a new private firm, there would be a) a ton of extra work getting approvals b) someone could allege bribes were taken, or maybe bribes are actually taken at some level, c) the website may not turn out as great or may take longer and d) you would be bothering other ‘coasting’ colleagues who hate you now for creating extra work, rather than just waiting it out until the next promotion.”
Chetan Bhagat in The Times of India.

Mass, Volume, Models: Listening To Glaciers

The flash-floods in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli may have brought back the focus on melting of glaciers, but the study of such a phenomenon cannot be undertaken unless there is a “framework of representative glaciers” in the Himalayas, which can only be made possible though a concerted effort between experts from different disciplines, writes HC Nainwal in The Indian Express.

“What is also required is better coordination between the different teams working on the Himalayan glaciers. As I mentioned earlier, glaciology is multidisciplinary. There are lots of different agencies involved, and often they work separately. What we need is that every project or scientific group should complement the works of the others. There is a need to establish a National Institute of Glaciology to study all aspects of Himalayan glaciers in a very holistic manner.”
HC Nainwal in The Indian Express.

Time To ‘Sudhhrao’ Mumbaikars, or Else, We Are Sunk!

As Maharashtra reports over 8,000 fresh cases of COVID-19 on a daily basis, and as several districts in the state go under lockdown, Shobhaa De, in her column for the Times of India, urges Mumbaikars to follow health guidelines seriously.

Flagging loopholes in the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine, De notes that the vaccine roll-out will be of little use if an efficient system is not put into place.

“A daily tally of 1,167 cases and 4 deaths. Like the authorities are saying, it’s make or break over the next 10 days. Some building societies have been the naughtiest. 22,976 maskless Mumbaikars were fined in a single day, with the BMC recovering Rs 45.95 lakhs in fines. But we still have not sudhraaoed. How stupid are we? You know things are critical when Mumbai’s iconic Oval Maidan is declared out of bounds by BMC.”
Shobhaa De in The Times of India.

It Makes Sense To Export, Not Scrap Old Cars

Arguing that scrapping old vehicles often make older cars unaffordable for those with a budget, while having no significant impact on car-sales in the long run, Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar, in his column for the Times of India says that refurbishing old vehicles, along with an option to export them could be a far more effective policy than incentivizing scrapping.

“Ideally the government should incentivise a scheme by auto companies to refurbish old vehicles to pass emission standards and give new buyers a limited warranty. This will improve the longevity of vehicles in India and conserve scarce capital in a poor country. Refurbished, warrantied vehicles have a thriving market even in the US.Such refurbished vehicles will be especially attractive for export to other developing countries. Even un-refurbished vehicles will have an export market, as was proved by the German experience in 2009. This will export pollution to other low-intensity countries, reducing the problem in India. It will not reduce global carbon emissions, but old vehicles are tiny contributors to that global problem.”
Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar in the Times of India.

She Said: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Penning her thoughts on problems associated with ascribing good and bad qualities to women, based solely on the accepted societal ideals, Shalini Langer, in her column for The Indian Express, asks that in labelling every girl who is found dead in the fields as ‘innocent,’ are we “aligning with the “protectors” rewriting her story?”

“From deep inside the ground, do you feel their silent screams now rustling through the fields, past mud lanes, open drains, unfriendly doors, and bursting into their home, burrowing into the hearts of their mothers, trying to prise some lips, some eyes open? Do you hear them anguished as their short lives are rearranged — with every bucket of water thrown on a blood stain, every call record erased, every witness silenced?Do you notice what’s emerging in its place — the “good” girls, who stopped studying as they wanted to help at home; the “good” girls, who loved cooking, embroidering, babysitting; the “good” girls, who knew of a world different from this (from TV, from the men of their house, the relatives who came visiting from town), but who never aspired for the same; the “good” girls who never complained. For, “bad” girls leave everyone very, very uncomfortable. In the arts, they are the “wronged” ones entitled to seek their justice, or driven by misplaced love. They are either Kaushalya or Kaikeyi. The delicious promise of a rare film like Ishqiya, where Divya Balan seduced (and, gasp, went further than that) two friends, one much older, was squandered by its finale.”
Shalini Langer in The Indian Express.

New Normal Days

While online classes may have worked for some and helped education from coming to a complete halt, it has definitely come as a boon for the government which has been cutting public university funding over the last few years by saving on teacher recruitment and physical infrastructure, writes Mukul Kesavan for The Telegraph.

“Virtual teaching driven by Massive Open Online Courses has been the fantasy solution to undesirable university expenditure for some time now. The online experiment forced on us by Covid makes this fantasy seem plausible. In my gloomier moments, I see a future where the public university is merged with remote learning programmes to create a hybrid where the physical infrastructure of the university is confined to its administrators while the actual business of teaching and learning happens in an anonymous online wasteland underwritten by Google Meet. We must hope this never comes to pass but given the hostility of the Indian State towards free thinking public universities, this is likely to be the direction of travel.”
Mukul Kesavan in The Telegraph.

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