Sunday View: The Best Weekend Opinion Reads, Curated Just for You
We sifted through the papers to find the best opinion reads, so you won't have to.
Where is the Alternative?
In her column for The Indian Express, Tavleen Singh opines that despite mismanaging the second COVID wave, where India's healthcare system literally collapsed, and his failure of handling the farmers' protest or winning the farmers' trust, among various other mistakes, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has managed to appear "unscathed at the end of what has been the worst year of his long political career" solely due to a lack of opposition.
"It is remarkable that he has been able to ride out the storms of this year and has come through, if the polls are right, as a man who India's voters still trust more than any other political leader. The failure, as the Chief Minister of West Bengal so vividly pointed out last week, is the failure of the Opposition parties to take advantage of Modi's many serious mistakes. She said that it was important for whoever led the Opposition parties to have the courage to fight, and that the Congress party had shown that not only did it not have any fight left in it but that it had a leader who was always loafing off to some foreign country when he was needed here."Taveleen Singh in The Indian Express
She further states that we need to start asking if we have an Opposition left at all! While she says that "without the Congress party, there can be no real political alternative at the national level", she, however, adds that the Congress party fails to understand how much politics has changed and seems "to be wallowing in its past glories".
Precious Resource in Peril
Meanwhile, writing for The Indian Express, P Chidambaram says while the Central government and its ministers speak ad nauseam "on the threat from Pakistan, hostility of an unnamed neighbour (China), Hindutva, disruption of Parliament, andolan jeevis (perennial protesters), dynastic politics, 70-years-of-no-development, India is a Vishwa Guru", he can't recall any of them speak "of the status of our children, especially the status of our children's health and education".
Chidambaram goes on to share the key findings of the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2021, such as the "steady increase in children taking tuition", children's access to "smartphones" remaining an issue, decrease in "learning support at home as schools reopen" and "a slight increase in learning materials available for children".
He also shares the important findings of the National Family Health Survey-5 (2019-21), such as "the population of three states (also among the poorest)" growing at a higher rate, "sex ratio among children born in the last five years" dropping "inexplicably to 929 (females to males)", the Sanitation, Clean Fuel and Health issues faced by millions of families, Mortality rates still being "unacceptably" high and the "Stunting, Wasting, and Anaemia" remaining grave challenges to children.
He says the two reports have been out in public domain for the last two weeks, whose conclusions, he says, "are depressing", and adds that he "cannot recall the Prime Minister or the Education Minister or the Health Minister speaking on the two subjects."
It will be evident that the most precious resource of any country — children — is neglected in India, and there is scarcely any public discussion on the subject. Even the ministry exclusively set up for their welfare, the Ministry of Women and Child Development, seems to be in deep slumber.P Chidambaram in The Indian Express
He also wonders when the "Prime Minister, the Chief Ministers and the Central and state governments" will spare a thought "and utter a word "about the worrisome state of our children's health and education?"
Denying Munawar Faruqui His Rights
In his column for the Hindustan Times, Karan Thapar says he feels like hanging his head in shame for what has happened to comedian Munawar Faruqui, 12 of whose performances were recently cancelled in the last two months — one in Chhattisgarh, two each in Goa and Maharashtra, and three in Gujarat.
Calling it "nothing short of persecution", he says the governments which have been elected by people to protect their rights, which is their "beholden duty", seemed to have "turned on" the people "like tyrants".
He also negates the claims made by the Bengaluru police, who had stated that many states had "banned his comedy shows". While highlighting the police's incorrect English, Thapar says if Faruqui's shows could create "Low and order problems", wasn't it the police's duty "to ensure this doesn't happen and not allow such threats to negate or, even, curtail the rights of citizens?" He further adds that "the police have failed in their duty". He further states,
"What I find most disillusioning is that while all this was happening, the prime minister kept completely silent. He calls himself our pradhan sewak and has sworn to "do right to all manner of people in accordance with the Constitution and the law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will". Yet, he's permitted the most dreadful wrongs to be done to Faruqui without a murmur of disapproval. And, don't forget, the governments of MP and Karnataka are run by his party."Karan Thapar in Hindustan Times
He finishes his article with a thought, which he, like many of us, can't banish: "Did this happen to Faruqui because he's Muslim?"
75 Years Later, the Quest to Understand Partition
In his column for the Hindustan Times, Atul Mishra talks about his new book The Sovereign Lives of India and Pakistan, where he examines "what Partition represented, why it came about, and how it has impacted the lives of India and Pakistan as both States and societies."
"Partition emerged on the horizon of South Asia's politics in the final decade of colonial rule. It was held by its proponents, principally the Muslim League led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, as the solution to the likelihood of Muslims finding themselves at the mercy of a central Indian government dominated by Hindus once the British left. Jinnah appeared to believe that creating one or more Muslim homelands in the regions where Muslims formed a majority would address the problem substantially, if not completely. To make his case unassailable, Jinnah adopted the 'two-nation' thesis, which had crystallised in the 1920s, and claimed that the subcontinent's Muslims constituted a separate nation who had the right to establish their own homelands. The Congress-led Indian nationalists expectedly and vehemently disagreed with the 'two-nation' thesis. However, some of them—notably C Rajagopalachari and Mahatma Gandhi—were willing to address the concerns that had led Jinnah to demand separate Muslim states. Based on a formula by Rajaji, the Mahatma in 1944 agreed to the possibility of a limited Partition on the basis of territorial rather than national self-determination, provided the people of the regions in contention had the final say on the separation."Atul Mishra in the Hindustan Times
He further says that Partition had become "unavoidable only in early 1947 and "was a practical measure undertaken to arrest regional anarchy." He adds that Partition was "deeply unsatisfactory for all the parties concerned and left India and Pakistan three new problems: "Territorial contestation, minorities vulnerable to enraged or predatory majorities, and discord over national identity."
In his column for The Telegraph, Mukul Kesavan opines that we have normalised the pandemic simply by regular bureaucracy. Our first instinct, at least of the middle class, was to isolate ourselves from the masses and try to ride out the pandemic. He compares the middle class to the Britishers during the Raj. They attempted to isolate themselves in their summer homes but soon realised that if you live in a country, you have to immunise the entire population to save yourself.
"Pollution, climate change and this plague, triplets birthed by the Great Acceleration, teach us that prosperity, postcodes and geographical distance can't protect us from harm. For the most part, we seem unwilling to learn this lesson. South Africa was embargoed for giving the world early warning of Omicron. The variant found its way to every continent despite this, but the rational justification — that the countries red-listing South Africa were buying time — is an excuse. Behind it lies the stubborn, self-interested belief that rich countries can spend and safeguard their way through this catastrophe."Mukul Kesavan in The Telegraph
He says Indians are busy buying second homes in less-congested places to escape the pandemic. But he add that the reality is that the coronavirus pandemic is just a trailer and that climate change will wreak "world-deranging" havoc if we don't come together as common humanity to do something substantial about it.
Life at 50… One Twirl at a Time
In her column for The Indian Express, Rinku Ghosh, talks about the blood-rush and excitement she has found in her Kathak class. She is a fresher surrounded by young students excited to put their best foot forward or by septuagenarians who are reclaiming their passion for dance. She talks about her love for dance and painting, drama and writing. But, while she got exposed to it all, she left dance behind for a more "sound" career choice. She says:
"Those days, our choices were idealistic than being either oriented or driven. And adulting during the post-liberalisation years meant that the world had opened up and had to be gulped down ravenously. Then there was the sun-kissed warmth of a family life. Suffice to say,I gave up on dance. Mid-life and mid-career, when life still seems to be a work in progress, having ducked a curve ball or two, I've realised that mine needed to be leavened by a dollop of passion. Many suggested story-telling, painting, pottery, all supposedly in the realm of suitability. What if dance happens to be my new-found moment of self-expression? Fulfilment?"Rinku Ghosh in The Indian Express
She then goes on to talk about her inspirations, who motivated her at the age of 50 to pursue her passion—the first being Narayan who taught her the subtleties and the nuances of Kathak. And Bhavini, a mass-communication student who gave up the sound career choice and went after dance -- her passion. She, however, fell on stage and was told she would not be able to dance again. But, with sheer willpower and desire, Bhavini proved them wrong. Ghosh ends by saying that it took her time to escape her own biases to follow her passion finally.
Why 26/11 Required a Kinetic Response
In his column for The Asian Age, Manish Tewari talks about his recently released book -- 10 Flash Points 20 Years National Security Situations that Impacted India -- which has caused a stir among the ruling government. He quotes paragraphs from his book that talk about the non-coercive strategy that the government of the time took after 26/11 and the more tactical response that was taken recently with the post-Uri surgical strikes in 2016 and Jaba hilltop in Balakot in 2019.
"It is evident that post 26/11, the Indian objectives had taken a drastic turn towards non-coercive diplomacy. Such an approach, therefore, lacks even the aspect of deterrence and is more difficult to execute. Moreover, it becomes difficult if not impossible to assuage inflamed public emotions that then rightly believe that no cost is being imposed on the belligerents for their murderous depredations. Such an approach naturally then lent itself to the 'soft on terror' cliché that stuck to the then UPA government like a noxious epithet for the remaining part of its first and second term. It is these reasons and, above all, the imperatives of political messaging for the current dispensation that since the September 2016 Uri attack, the policy of strategic restraint has given way to more tactical and forward-leaning responses."Manish Tewari in The Asian Age
However, he explains that these paragraphs simply indicate myriad themes in the book. The book dives into various incidents such as the success of the Kargil War, the ignominious IC-814 hijack, the terror attack on the Jammu & Kashmir Assembly, the Indian Parliament, and the Kaluchak terror attack. It also looks into India's relationship with China. He ends the column by saying that the book is not meant to praise one tactic over another. It only raises serious questions about how the country should have dealt with 26/11 and if the policy of strategic restraint has ever been successful in the case of Pakistan.
The Crisis in SAU is a Symbol of the Crisis of SAARC
Prabhash Ranjan, in his column for the Hindustan Times, talks about a 1997 report prepared by a group of eminent persons of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), which had envisioned that "South Asia will become a free trade area by 2010, a customs union by 2015, and an economic union by 2020".
"Today, 36 years after SAARC came into existence, and 24 years after the GEP report, SAARC's lofty goals of economic integration remain a pipedream. The South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) agreement that came about in 2004 has been a spectacular failure," he says.
"The roots of this economic debacle lie in the political dysfunctionality of SAARC, especially in the last five years. Pakistan has often played the role of an obstructionist in SAARC, blocking key proposals such as the motor vehicles agreement — aimed at bolstering regional connectivity — at the 2014 SAARC summit. However, the biggest damage to SAARC was caused by the deepening hostility between India and Pakistan. Pakistan has failed to act against terrorism emanating from its soil, one of India's key demands. Since 2014, despite its potential, no SAARC summit has taken place, leaving the organisation rudderless."Prabhash Ranjan in the Hindustan Times
He says the future of SAARC and specialised bodies such as South Asian University (SAU) is directly proportional to India's political interest and that it is in the nation's national interest to resurrect "SAARC and its specialist bodies, and not let its equation with Pakistan undermine an important international organisation".
As Omicron Hits, Sifting 1,400 Samples, and More
In his column for The Indian Express, Dr Rajesh Karyakarte, who is the Maharashtra coordinator for genome sequencing, HoD, Microbiology, at BJ Government Medical College and Sassoon Hospital, Pune, mentions how they collected and distributed 1,400 Covid samples that had tested positive in October and November to various INSACOG labs in Pune and rule out the Omicron variant after South Africa first detected the variant of concern with whole-genome sequencing.
He further mentions that sequencing and analysing genomic data would be required to fully understand the spread and evolution of SARS-CoV2 virus and tackle its future spread.
"The study of accumulated mutations in the viral genomes will help us compare virus samples and lineages to understand if local outbreaks are caused by the transmission of single or multiple lineages. Analysis of SARS-CoV2 genome sequences is important to understand how the virus evolved and also further assess whether these mutations influence transmission, clinical outcomes, severity or if they may impact public health intervention measures and vaccines."Dr Rajesh Karyakarte in The Indian Express
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