Sunday View: The Best Weekend Opinion Reads, Curated Just For You
We sifted through the papers to find the best opinion reads so that you won’t have to.
Coercive Federalism on Display
P Chidambaram writes in The Indian Express about how the idea of ‘One Nation, One Everything’ will eventually destroy the country. He writes of how with the Parliament session to begin soon, the first order of business is to alter centre-state relations in key areas with a few ordinances. The theory cuts at the very root of the Constitutionally granted sharing of legislative and executive powers between the states, thus serving a blow to federalism.
I hold the view that Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Acts must be amended from time to time and marketing of agricultural produce must be gradually liberalised. The way to achieve this goal is through model laws and persuasion, not through legislative fiat. Through the Ordinance, the Central government has overridden the state-legislated APMC Acts. The worst affected are Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and any other state that has invested heavily in public procurement and assuring MSP to the farmers. The suspicion is that the Modi government is attempting to implement the controversial recommendations of the Shanta Kumar Committee that will have the effect of diluting public procurement, the public distribution system, the MSP principle and food security.
A Media Lynching
Tavleen Singh writes about how shameful it is to watch famous TV journalists being responsible for the ‘despicable media lynching’ in the case of Rhea Chakraborty. In a column in The Indian Express, she writes how if the media had pressurised the Narcotics Bureau the same way for the arrest of an international drug mafia, at least it would have been taxpayers’ money well used. She points out that it is evident these media persons have become pawns in a political game and those watching these channels are also responsible for the lynching.
But, this mafia is ruthless and brutal, so neither journalists nor officials dare get in its way, leave alone investigate drug trafficking. When anyone has got in the way they have ended up dead along with their families. So, cocaine will continue to be imported from Latin America and heroin and opium-related drugs will continue to be imported across our borders with Pakistan. The only thing that has been achieved by this media lynching of Rhea is that the family of a retired Army officer has been destroyed.As someone who has been in journalism since those ‘dark days of the Emergency’, it saddens me to admit that I have never seen the Indian media behave so shamefully before.
Blond on Blond
Boris Johnson has now tabled a law that would give it the right to waive customs checks and duties without reference to the EU in the event of no deal, which is a breach of international law but the government argues that it is essential to preserve British sovereignty. Mukul Kesavan writes in The Telegraph that it is not a coincidence that Britain and the US today are defined by Johnson’s Brexit and Trump’s project to make America great again. However, their hostility to international obligations that constrain their populist agendas, will pave way for their decline.
Their countries never wholly recovered from the Great Recession and the continuing rise of China over the past dozen years prompted them to disengage from an international order that they no longer dominated. Their shambolic response to Covid-19 and its spread was the coup de grâce. Trump’s withdrawal from the WHO in the wake of the pandemic, accusing it of whitewashing China, and Johnson’s pursuit of a hard, no-deal Brexit are the latest examples of this increasingly disorderly disengagement. It is clarifying that these two men should preside over this time of Western decadence. Johnson is a clown and Trump a huckster, but their narcissism makes dissembling impossible. This is what the Anglosphere looks like when it’s home and not pretending: old, overwhelmingly white people, gathered around blow-dried blond fantasists who promise to turn a fading dominance into go-it-alone glory.
The Quest for Strong Legislative Oversight
Vivek K Agnihotri points out in a column in The Hindustan Times that there were compelling reasons to dispense with Question Hour and curtail Zero Hour, but there are a range of other mechanisms to ensure oversight. These instruments, if used optimally and judiciously, are quite effective in enforcing accountability of the executive.
First and foremost is the notice for calling attention. Through this, a member may call the attention of a minister to any matter of urgent public importance and the minister may make a brief statement in reply. Then, there is the Half-an-Hour Discussion on a question, the reply to which can be oral or written. There is also a provision for Special Mention in the Rajya Sabha (rule 180A-180F) and “Raising a matter which is not a point of order” in the Lok Sabha (rule 377). The latter is a structured device whereby a member may read out or lay on the table a statement on a matter of public importance. The minister concerned, conventionally, responds to it within one month. These instruments, if used optimally and judiciously, are quite effective in enforcing accountability of the executive.
India Needs a Refined Toolkit to Manage China
Given the complex nature of the India-China relations post the Ladakh 2020 incident, it is essential that India ‘manages’ China, ensures peace and also focusses on its own domestic development goals. Chanakya writes in Hindustan Times that first we need to build our internal economic and military capabilities, work on making the Indian market lucrative for a global audience, address domestic social unrest, cement international partnerships, ensure better relations with the neighbour countries and play on China’s internal weaknesses.
India hosts the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan government-in-exile, and hundreds of thousands of Tibetans. But India continues to insist that this is not a political act and, too often, reiterates its recognition of Tibet as a part of China. With this mixed approach, India earns China’s wrath, but it doesn’t earn Tibetan goodwill either, and its own ability to embarrass Beijing shrinks. Instead, a consistent policy with the following elements — a formal announcement that India will respect the Dalai Lama’s wishes on his succession, outreach to all Tibetan sects and political streams, and advocacy of their political and cultural rights — is important. China has made it clear that it does not respect India’s sensitivities on Kashmir or Arunachal Pradesh; Tibet must be the riposte. On this metric, the government’s policy is an enigma.
Inside Track: Artful Czar
Coomi Kapoor writes in The Indian Express on anecdotes from retired diplomat Pascal Alan Nazareth’s autobiography, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s son Raihan Rajiv Vadra, how the Parliament session is going to begin with no question hour and how the cultural czar in the Modi government is retired culture secretary Raghavendra Singh, who is now the CEO of Development of Museums and Cultural Spaces.
It is a strange new Parliament which begins on Monday. No question hour, alternating four-hour sessions daily for the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha, and MPs to be spread over seats in both the Houses and the visitors’ galleries. Even Central Hall will seat Lok Sabha MPs. Only 39 journalists will be permitted in the press galleries and except for seven they will rotate daily. Despite the precautions and compulsory Covid tests, threat of infection looms. Already 50 Parliament staff members have tested positive.
March of Time
In the light of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) to dig up a time capsule from 1877, Upala Sen writes in The Telegraph about the controversy around the time capsule that was buried by then prime minister Indira Gandhi at the Red Fort. She was criticised for making it a ploy to tell future generations untruths of glory about herself and her family, instead of the proposed intent.
And now there is talk of a time capsule being placed at the Ram Temple construction site in Ayodhya, 2,000 feet into the earth. While there have been reports of denials, Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust member Kameshwar Chaupal did say that a time capsule will enable someone interested in the temple’s history to get “only facts related to the place”. Here’s hoping in some future some facts will be closer to the surface.
Pay Heed to the Voice of David Attenborough, Writes Mark Tully
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had called the renowned naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough “the voice of nature” while presenting him the Indira Gandhi Award for Peace, Disarmament and Development. Mark Tully writes in Hindustan Times about the talk by Attenborough on India as our country has 15 out of 20 of the world’s most polluted cities and is threatened by spreading deserts, rising sea levels and floods caused by deforestation and melting Himalayan glaciers. He urged voters to ensure that the current government and future governments are internationalist in their outlook when it comes to saving the planet.
Attenborough’s message for India and the world was stark. “Humans have overrun the planet,” he warned and pointed out that there are now three times as many people on earth as when he was born 93 years ago. The consequences for the natural world have been, he said, “devastating”. He listed some of those consequences. “Half the tropical forests have been felled, half the coral reefs, one of the richest environments in the sea and the nursery for oceanic fish, are dead. We have scoured the seas with such technical skills and ingenuity that we have annihilated entire fish populations.”
What Passes and What Does Not
Sankarshan Thakur penned a thought-provoking piece in The Telegraph on what did we do to earn this Earth. Now with all the wrongdoings that have been done to this Earth, we have become responsible for the planet’s groans and ugliness.
Call it revenge. Call it reprisal. Call it correction. It has come from what we did not do right. We must understand this, though at the best of times and the worst of times and the times that lie betwixt, we do not understand. Or refuse to. We must understand actions have consequences. Try spitting into the sky and wait for what happens next. Or try spitting into the ground. Oh no, no, please do not. That now is by law forbidden and it has finite financial consequences for you and infinite epidemiological consequences for others. Please don’t spit. It will pass. I promise.
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