Sunday View: The Best Weekend Opinion Reads, Curated Just For You
We sifted through the papers to find the best opinion reads, so you wouldn't have to.
After 7 Years, Deprivation, Disease & Death
In his column for The Indian Express, Congress leader, P Chidambaram, looks at the terms of NDA I and NDA II, and the socio-economic indicators in the country during this time. Chidambaram says that from malnutrition to healthcare, all indicators have shown a decline - forming the premise for the devastation that the COVID-19 pandemic is causing in the country today.
"Governance — forecasting, scenario-building, planning, activity-mapping, resource allocation, provisioning, coordinating and implementing — has gone back to the primitive days of the chalk and blackboard, typewriter and ITI-made black telephones. The quality of governance has sunk to an abysmal low. The result is what we see around us — deprivation, debt, disease and death. Did the people who voted the government to power in 2019 deserve this? I would say NO."P Chidambaram in The Indian Express
COVID-19: Is This A Political Turning Point?
While the central government is being heavily criticised for its handling of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, it may not be a mandate (just yet) on the popularity of Prime Minister Modi and his government. In their column for The Hindustan Times, Chanakya reminds us how even after demonetisation, massive economic slowdown and the back and forth with the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the BJP's voter base remained intact. He asks, however, if the pandemic could change that.
"The lockdown and migrant crisis was expected to erode the Centre’s credibility — yet, there is little evidence, be it through anecdotal accounts or election results (in Bihar) or surveys (in Bengal) that it dented the PM’s image. The farm agitation was expected to deal a blow to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Yet, perhaps due to its geographical concentration to limited regions, and the mistakes of the movement itself, the party’s base remains largely intact. But the second wave of Covid-19 is, arguably, a political turning point."Chanakya in The Hindustan Times
India Feels Like A Ship That Is Totally Adrift
Tavleen Singh, in her column for The Indian Express, talks about how the Prime Minister and central ministers holding mass election rallies gave the common citizen the impression that the pandemic is over. This manifested in things like thousands attending the Kumbh Mela. Singh says that the government's response to the second COVID-19 wave has only just started, and it will take months before decisions taken now are implemented on the ground. By then, many would have lost their lives.
"So, what should happen now? As a first step the Prime Minister needs to sack the officials in his government whose criminal negligence has put India in intensive care without oxygen. He should then make a new team with all chief ministers in it and take their advice to evolve a new strategy. He should show that he has risen above the partisan politics his supporters continue to show. The most important thing he needs to do is to open the purse strings of Prime Minister Cares and use it, along with that Rs 35,000 crore allocated in the Budget, to vaccinate at least half of our population as soon as possible."Tavleen Singh in The Indian Express
Four Questions On The Vaccine Strategy
The government's vaccine strategy during the pandemic has also been severely criticised. From not allowing vaccination of all adults initially to exporting vaccines when the country faced shortage - a lot of questions have been raised on how the government approached vaccination. In his column for The Hindustan Times, Karan Thapar poses four more questions to the government, in the hope that it'll respond.
"Given that as far back as May or June last year, when Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca were working on a two-dose vaccine, we knew that if 75 percent of the Indian population was to be fully vaccinated, we would need two billion doses. Given that we also knew our total nationwide vaccine-producing capacity could not deliver two billion doses in the required time frame, wasn’t it obvious the government needed to take immediate steps to ramp up our production capacity? This isn’t based on rocket science. Just simple maths."Karan Thapar in The Hindustan Times
It’s Not Just India’s Fight, The World Needs To Pitch In
One of India's many woes amidst the pandemic is that the US has stopped export of raw material needed for the vaccine to India. In her article for The Times Of India, Bhramar Mukherjee, a professor at a US University, says that the global superpower is the only thing that now stands between India and a healthcare disaster. But if that is the case, should we have declared "atmanirbharta" in our fight against the virus?
"We need to solidify our alliance with international partners to get through this catastrophe. This collaboration can take place in various direct and indirect ways, starting from negotiating supply of oxygen cylinders, pulse oximeters, medications, airlifting of oxygen generation plants to address the immediate crisis or through setting up a robust and scalable infrastructure for genomic sequencing integrated with epidemiologic surveillance. Some of these efforts are already underway. Sharing sequencing and individual level clinical and vaccination data in real time with global consortiums much more extensively and nimbly will help advance our understanding of the disease and the emerging variants. Assistance can be sought to secure shipments of rapid home self-tests for Covid-19, the one manufactured by Abbott is currently available in US retail stores. These tests are affordable, accurate and fast and will help us circumvent the RT-PCR testing bottleneck. Now that EUA has been granted to internationally approved vaccines, collaboration is needed to secure as many doses as quickly as possible."Bhramar Mukherjee in The Times Of India
Why Our Tired Abhinetas And Netas Need A Maldives Vacay
Not all our celebrities (or netas) can be a Sonu Sood. So, says Shobhaa De in her column for The Times Of India, don't chastise our stars for holidaying in Maldives and posting tone-deaf pictures of it on social media amidst a pandemic. After all this time, it is not shocking and they honestly don't know any better.
"Famous holiday makers are living it up on those photogenic atolls, and it is really mean of people to criticise bechara film stars for being so insensitive, while India continues to top covid charts. Why grudge them these small indulgences? Their money, their holiday. What are they supposed to do? Not everyone is Sonu Sood. With shooting cancelled, and all entertainment at a standstill, our stars don’t want to waste their bikini bods. Understandable! The best selfies are shot in heavenly Maldives. Seeing those loved up pics, for a brief few seconds, we also experience a vicarious thrill and imagine we are right there on a pristine private beach by day, and gazing at the stars by night. Yoga on the sand!! A swim with friendly dolphins! Escapism is not a crime. So to all those party poopers singing, ‘Munni Badnaam Hui, Maldives tere liye...” Come on, get a life! Oops —wrong word —life. Did you just say, ‘Oxygen?”Shobhaa De in The Times Of India
The Contours Of The Bengal Battle
Moving to some political news now. The month-long West Bengal election is soon drawing to an end with two phases of polling to go. Next Sunday, we'll know who will form government in the state. In his article for The Hindustan Times, Mark Tully talks about the battle of identities that has been pushed by both the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the state, making it the narrative-builder this election. In this contest between the Bengali identity and the Hindu identity, which will come out on top?
"The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) campaign has been fronted by star campaigners from Delhi — Prime Minister Narendra Modi, home minister Amit Shah, party chief JP Nadda, and Union minister Smriti Irani, the only one to speak Bengali. So notable has the been absence of the state BJP that party leaders from Delhi have had to assure crowds that the chief minister will be Bengali if the party wins. The BJP’s dependence on Delhi campaigners has enabled chief minister (CM) Mamta Banerjee to play the Bengali card, for all its worth, and attack the BJP as a party of outsiders. She believes she can win because Bengalis have a strong sense of their identity, and a long record of voting for staunchly Bengali leaders and parties, whatever their political hue."Mark Tully in The Hindustan Times
Bribe Case To Declaring Donor, Full Circle For JMM
Recently, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), the ruling party in Jharkhand, chose to go public about the electoral bond donation of 1 crore rupees that it received from aluminium manufacturing company, Hindalco. In her column for The Indian Express, Neerja Chowdhury profiles the JMM, which was once at the centre of one of the country's most high-profile cases of political bribery, and its journey to this point.
"The famed ‘JMM case’, which went on for years, had far reaching ramifications. It had involved payment of bribes to JMM and other MPs by the then prime minister P V Narasimha Rao in order to cobble together a majority. The 1991 elections had thrown up a hung Parliament, with the Congress emerging as the single largest party. Narasimha Rao went on to form the government, with the support of regional parties. Till 1993, he was ably managing the minority government he headed. The temptation to acquire a majority became compelling in mid-1993 and the Congress’s “experts in realpolitik” were drafted to break both the JMM and the Janata Dal headed by Ajit Singh. The JMM affair robbed Narasimha Rao of legitimacy."Neerja Chowdhury in The Indian Express
Rediscovering The Kindness Of Strangers & The Comfort Of Cats
And finally, we leave you this Sunday with the only positive takeaway from the pandemic - the realisation that the internet can be a good force. Read Sandip Roy's article in The Times Of India on how he's braving the COVID-19 gloom with help from kind strangers and the affection of animals. We hope you find a cute cat video to cheer you up today.
Stay healthy, stay safe!
"For thousands of desperate Indians looking for oxygen, beds, meal delivery for Covid patients Twitter has been their unlikely knight in shining armour. The information may not always be accurate or up to date but at a time when politicians only seem callously worried about election rally sizes, that concern counts for something. At least someone out there genuinely feels your pain and tries to help beyond platitudes and sermons." The internet has provided another source of solace, one that I would have sneered at a year ago — cute cat and dog videos."Sandip Roy in The Times Of India
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