Sunday View: The Best Weekend Opinion Reads, Curated Just For You
We sifted through the papers and found the best opinion reads, so that you wouldn’t have to.
Modi 2.0: Successes, Defects and a Challenge
Losing three state elections did not affect Prime Minister Modi's popularity, and he enjoyed great political and ideological success in the first year of his second term. But, there were questions about the robustness of institutions, social harmony and economic management during the same period. Chanakya in his column for The Hindustan Times argues that despite the successes and defeats, Prime Minister Modi's legacy will be determined by how he handles the coronavirus pandemic.
India faces a triple challenge now. On the health front, cases are continuing to rise — and the health infrastructure is under strain. On the economic front, the Indian economy is set to contract, which will leave many businesses unviable, and deepen poverty. And on the humanitarian front, as the migrant worker crisis revealed, India’s poorest will have to face the worst consequences of the crisis. How Narendra Modi migrates these challenges and helps India revive is the key question for 2024.
Negativity is Good
The Solicitor General of India’s statements in the Supreme Court have done the Prime Minister more harm than any news report on the plight of the migrant labourers. By calling journalists ‘prophet of doom’, on behalf of his client, the Prime Minister, SG Tushar Mehta showed arrogant contempt for those who have suffered, writes Tavleen Singh in her column for The Indian Express.
Narendra Modi has always prided himself on being a man of the people. One reason why he was able to win the trust of those millions of Indians who voted to give him a second term is because he was seen as someone who cared for ordinary people. And, not as someone who belonged to the privileged elite cocooned in that enclave of political power reviled by Modi’s supporters as ‘Lootyens Delhi.’ But, ever since this pandemic, it has become more and more evident that the men who constitute the political elite in his ‘new’ India are as drunk with power as the old elite once was.
Out of My Mind: China’s war on India
In his column for The Indian Express Meghnad Desai raises a question that has perplexed many - why Xi Jinping is engaging in conflicts on three fronts even as the world is struggling to cope with the pandemic? The answer lies in Chinese nationalism. Arguing that China is trying to reposition itself globally, Desai writes the conflict with India will not be isolated this time, it will be part of a global Cold War.
Xi is playing for high stakes for another major plank in Chinese nationalism. This is the idea that China has to regain its pole position in the world — Middle Earth — as it was till the 17th century. This requires China to be the top economic and military power. In technology, China has already outstripped US as the Huawei controversy shows. US wants to fight China on that front through sanctions in cooperation with Europe.
Let the Economy Open. Don’t Micro-manage Lockdown Exit
The crowd outside alcohol shops is an indication that people may violate rules now that the lockdown has been eased, but that doesn’t mean that the State should prescribe how many people should be there in a cab, writes Prakhar Misra in his article for The Times of India. He argues that instead of micromanaging the economy, the State should focus on communicating effectively about coronavirus.
The economy is a complex beast, and Covid-19 rules have had some unintended consequences. Factories have not been able to restart because their dealers are not allowed to open. Further, even those that restart manufacturing see ad-hoc closures due to positive cases being found in adjacent villages, or due to closure of warehouses of big clients like Indian Railways.
How Laughter got me Through the Lockdown
Humour helped the country cope with one of the strictest lockdowns in the world. In his latest column for The Hindustan Times, with the assumption that this is the end of lockdown, Karan Thapar looks at lockdown lingo, aphorisms and Lav Agarwal.
Now we, in India, are a lot kinder than the Brits. We only make fun of our government in private. In public or in print, we say the nicest things. The Brits might admire Boris Johnson in private but in public they call him Bojoker. So here’s a satirical collection of statements illustrating how the British interpreted the confused and mangled advice Bojoker’s government thrust at them.
Labour Laws and the Muffled voices of 93%
In the context of several BJP ruled states suspending labour laws, Suraj Yengde, in his column for The Indian Express, looks how the labour class is being denied their social security in the time of coronavirus. He adds that labour classes, many of whom died on the highways, are mostly Dalits and Adivasis.
Historically, labour laws were never fully implemented by private firms. The organised sector managed to surpass regulations by hiring workers without contract while the babus sniffed the favours. So the problem that we are staring at right now is about India’s 93% labour force that is beyond the ambit of formal legal labour protection.
Sentinel on the qui vive
“Over the years, the Supreme Court, like any other institution and like in any other country, stumbled on occasion, but quickly lifted itself, dusted the sand, and strode like a colossus,” writes P Chidambaram in his column for The Indian Express. He writes that the Supreme Court’s resolve will be tested repeatedly in the coming days, and it is essential that it remains unflinching.
Chief Justice Patanjali Sastri, speaking for a Constitution Bench of five judges, wrote: “If, then, the courts in this country face up to such important and none too easy task, it is not out of any desire to tilt at legislative authority in a crusader’s spirit, but in discharge of a duty plainly laid upon them by the Constitution. This is especially true as regards the ‘fundamental rights’ as to which this Court has been assigned the role of a sentinel on the qui vive.”
Quarantine: An Excuse for Autocracy?
Rudraneil Sengupta, in his article for The Hindustan Times, sheds light on the draconian quarantine rules at various government sports facilities, where players are not even allowed to run on the track. Some of India’s top athletes have been confined to their room even though institutes like SAI are secure environments, he writes.
Perhaps our sports administrators are unaware that muscles weaken when there is no input from exercise. Muscle memory — another term for the sport-specific skills that athletes work so hard to acquire — begins to fade. Cardiovascular fitness goes even quicker than muscle strength, dropping by as much as a quarter in the space of four weeks, without training.
So what Exactly Does China Want? It’s not Conflict, but Concessions
As the world looks at a post-COVID, US-led alliance where India would play a significant role, China wants to send a strong message. In his column for The Times of India, Probal Dasgupta writes that China is looking at tactical gains over India than gaining physical territory.
Since 2000s, border protocols set in place have enabled India and China to resolve multiple standoffs. Its interesting that more number of standoffs have occurred after agreement on protocols, which means both countries are aware of the levers to pull back from the edge. The standoff in Ladakh may look grave and the increase in Chinese troops, said to be in thousands, has sparked frenzied commentary. China could convert this into a dispute with a long standoff that deflects global attention. At worst, it can end in a local skirmish, but it’s not expected to turn into a large-scale conflict. At this stage, with the world at its throat, China simply can’t afford war.
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