Modi’s Leadership Failures
In her column for The Indian Express, senior journalist Tavleen Singh reasons why the second anniversary of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's second term went almost unnoticed, without effusive praise in the media.
“This has turned out to be the year in which Narendra Modi ran out of luck and leadership. Could this be the reason why the second anniversary of his second term went almost unnoticed last week?”
Referring to herself as a former 'Modi bhakt', Singh revisits the Prime Minister's handling of Kashmir post abrogation of Article 370, protests over the passage of Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the Delhi riots, migrant crisis during the first wave of COVID-19 in March 2020, and the farmers' protest against the new controversial farm laws.
"When the death toll was remarkably low and our fragile health system held up, Modi took full credit for having shown decisive and exemplary leadership," Singh writes on the government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic. She then points out how Prime Minister Modi along with several other BJP ministers was campaigning for elections in West Bengal, when India was staring at a deadly second wave of COVID-19.
She sums up her argument by saying that this "without question has been the worst year of Modi’s political career" and there is nothing to celebrate.
Why We Should Stop Putting Women on Trial in Sexual Assault Cases
"How far we haven’t come. For all the supposed awakening that #MeToo was, here we are with the same moth-eaten script that casts women as liars when they report rape," writes Amulya Gopalakrishnan, in her column for The Times of India.
Gopalakrishnan states that the Goa court judgment that acquitted former Tehelka editor Tarun Tejpal of sexually assaulting a junior colleague is a "classic specimen of victim-shaming".
“Society cues us to see rape from a patriarchal perspective, as a raid on some imagined purity rather than an attack on a woman’s command over herself. If she suffers violent injuries or dies, there is outrage. If the victim has higher status than the rapist, the rage is unhinged. But if she doesn’t fit these bills, sexual assault is seen as less of a shame, and less of a crime.”
While pointing out the problems with using a woman’s behaviour or personal life to undermine her case and other lapses in the judgment, Gopalakrishnan details how in the Mathura rape judgment in 1979, policemen who raped an adivasi woman in custody were let off because the victim was “habituated to sex”.
When Familiarity Breeds Joy
What happens when a wrong turn down Delhi’s desolate roads leads one to the historic space around the wide and leafy India Gate hexagon? In her column for The Indian Express, Leher Kala, takes readers down the memory lane as she writes about the Central Vista project.
Kala goes on to mention how India’s colonial past resurfaces in this "small stretch of perfection" and argues that heritage is not simply a structure but our collective memories and associations with it.
“It can’t be a coincidence that the most popular apocalyptic films like Godzilla and GI Joe blow up iconic architecture like the Eiffel Tower, to emphasise disaster, in a most visceral way. It’s to make the point that civilisation, as we know it, is perpetually under threat.”
She further elaborates how, worldwide, destruction of old buildings is associated with countries at war where the social order has collapsed.
Across the Aisle: A Bigger Calamity Awaits Us
As India continues to grapple with a deadly second wave of COVID-19, former Union Minister, P Chidambaram writes in The Indian Express:
“There is one thing about the future that is no longer uncertain. It is about the economic condition of the people of the country. It will be worse than it should be, inequality will increase and the vast majority of the people will be poorer, deeper in debt and unhappy.”
Stating that loss of jobs will mean loss of income/wages, Chidambaram says, "The RBI’s bulletin for May 2021 speaks of a demand shock, reduction of discretionary spending, and inventory accumulation."
He further draws from the NSO estimates of GDP to highlight that the best we can do is to assume zero growth in 2021-22 and hope for a better ultimate outcome.
Twada Privacy Privacy, Sadda Privacy?
Explaining the privacy tussle between WhatsApp and the Government of India, Upala Sen, in her column for The Telegraph writes:
“It is hilarious because on one end of this privacy tussle is the Facebook-owned messaging platform, all sanctimonious, invoking right to privacy. And on the other end is the ruling BJP, demanding a change in the way the app is encrypted, all in the name of cracking down on fake news.”
Sen invokes the fictional character of Reverend Mother Naseem – who could enter her daughter's dreams at will, in Salman Rushdie's novel Midnight’s Children – to talk about end-to-end encryption.
She also details several instances where both Facebook and the Government of India have come under fire for violating privacy of users.
Why We Still Don’t Know How Many, and Who Exactly Died of COVID in India
"The all-cause-mortality data from India has always been imperfect even before the pandemic, with a large proportion of deaths not medically reported, particularly deaths that happen outside healthcare facilities and in rural areas," writes Bhramar Mukherjee in The Times of India.
The writer – professor and Chair of Biostatistics at the University of Michigan School of Public Health – along with a bunch of other modelers, started tracking the pandemic trajectory in India.
Stressing on how extreme paucity of data from India is leading to tremendous uncertainty around projection estimates related to COVID-19, Mukherjee writes:
“Good models need good data, and we have operated under extreme data paucity from India leading to tremendous uncertainty around projection estimates, which are key for informing policy recommendations as well as to gauge healthcare resource needs, for example, the quantum of oxygen needed across India.”
After All This, Will Our Kids Be the Same?
Shalini Langer, in The Indian Express, writes about the impact of COVID-19 on children:
“In this second wave of the pandemic, getting out of the house has got tougher and tougher. Every time one does so, telling oneself one can’t be more secure after a double dose of vaccine and two masks, the silence hits. Where have the kids gone?”
Drawing from her own experiences, Langer asks if the kids who emerge from COVID-ravaged homes, after having seen death up close, will be the same as "the kids we know"?
"As doors are slammed on them, maybe the kids have learnt not to be kids. Some too quickly, some too cruelly, and some too wisely," she writes.
It Is TimeTo Revive MPLADS, It Will Help Citizens
As the second wave of COVID-19 continues to ravage India, with experts predicting a third wave, Manoj Kumar Jha, in his column for Hindustan Times, argues that it has become critical for the government to restore Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS), besides adopting a model of genuine decentralised decision-making, needed for local and rural COVID-19 relief measures.
“Suspending MPLADS has left parliamentarians bereft of an instrument in exercising their autonomy and foresight needed in alleviating the impact of the current pandemic.”
Jha mentions that there is a popular misconception about the funds — it almost appears to some that this is akin to a personal fund that MPs only use for political patronage or personal benefit.
He goes on to state that through timely MPLADS disbursement, elected representatives can recommend priority areas of work and local concerns to the district authorities, according to their understanding and feedback.
India’s Vaccine Policy Requires Transparency
In his column for the Hindustan Times, Karan Thapar sheds light on the need for transparency in India's vaccine policy. Quoting a recent study by Public Health England (PHE), which assesses the effectiveness of the Pfizer and the AstraZeneca vaccine, known in India as Covishield, against the B.1.617.2 variant of the coronavirus, Thapar emphasises on the need for our leading virologists and vaccine scientists to discuss and debate this matter.
“The PHE study shows that in the case of B.1.617.2, whilst two doses of the Pfizer vaccine are 88% effective, two doses of AstraZeneca – that’s our Covishield – are only 60% effective. That’s a huge difference of 28%. Does this suggest AstraZeneca/Covishield is an inferior vaccine compared to Pfizer, at least in terms of battling B.1.617.2?”
Citing examples of America’s Center for Disease Control holding its discussions in public and in Britain, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, Thapar asks, 'Why are experts in India forced into silence?'