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.

6 min read
Keep the <i>chai</i>, forget the paper. Read the best Sunday opinion pieces and editorials from various newspapers.

Fooling All the People All the Time

Like demonetisation and the economic mismanagement since 2017, the two farm Bills that will become law will debilitate the Indian farming community and the agricultural economy, writes P Chidambaram in The Indian Express. While the government needs to be establishing thousands of markets in the country and stipulating that in every transaction in the market, a price not less than MSP is paid, the Modi government has weakened the safety net (of MSP) and diluted public procurement.

Farmers are protesting on the streets because they fear that the MSP will be done away with. State governments are worried that Public Procurement and PDS will be jeopardised. Once the three pillars of food security are undermined, the food security system that is being created under the National Food Security Act, 2013, will collapse. The Modi government’s laws do not create thousands of alternative markets. Instead, they will allow contract farming and open the door for the entry of corporates and, eventually, cartels. Against such powerful purchasers, the small/medium farmers would not have equal bargaining or contracting power and the convoluted dispute resolution mechanism, under the new laws, will ruin the farmer.

Five Factors Which Could Shape the Bihar Poll Results

The probability of the NDA suffering a setback in the 2020 elections is far lower than what it was in 2015, writes Chanakya. In a column in Hindustan Times, he explains how part of the Muslim vote bank can return to a JD(U)-led NDA again, how the pandemic will affect voter turnout and if the economic stress will translate into anti-incumbency.

The state has also suffered among the biggest shocks to remittances due to the high share of migrant workers in its population. A 2018 World Bank paper by Gaurav Nayyar and Kyoung Yang Kim found that migrant remittances had a share of 35% in Bihar’s gross state domestic product (GSDP) and positively affected consumption at the household level. While the central government has made a host of pre-poll announcements, regarding development projects in the state, nothing radical was done on the welfare front. Will these factors generate tailwinds for anti-incumbency? We will only know the answer on 10 November.

Farm Laws to Bring More Freedom, and Better Prices

S A Aiyar clarifies fake news associated with the farm Bills saying freedom will not mean the end of government procurement at MSPs. He suggests in his column in The Times of India that the way forward is for groups of farmers to strike contracts with agro-processors as contract farming will create scale economies for farmers and ensure a minimum price.

Some politicians think government procurement of all farm produce at a high price is the solution. However, global experience shows that if the government-guaranteed price is above international levels, this will induce a glut for which there is neither domestic nor foreign demand. The European Union used to have high farm support prices that created mountains of unsold meat and butter and lakes of milk, which were ultimately sold at a huge loss to the Soviet Union. Now the EU has shifted mainly to direct income support for farmers.

Inside Track: Missing in Action

Coomi Kapoor writes in The Indian Express on the Congress party re-organisation, where Mukul Wasnik was appointed to the powerful six-member committee which takes decisions in Sonia’s absence, how the involvement of Enforcement Directorate in the case of journalist Rajeev Sharma, could go the Sushant case way, Rajesh Khullar, Principal Secretary to the Haryana Chief Minister has been selected as Executive Director of the World Bank, how the young recruits of IPAC have been responsible for controversial tweets and how the short Monsoon Session of Parliament saw several prominent MPs missing.

Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared in the two Houses briefly at the beginning and end of the Session. Amit Shah stayed away throughout because of health reasons. Rahul Gandhi sought leave of absence to accompany his mother for her much-delayed annual check-up to the US. Sonia Gandhi’s appointment with doctors was fixed in advance and Priyanka Vadra could not escort her mother since she was in quarantine after a domestic help in her household contracted Covid-19. Other missing MPs included Manmohan Singh, Ambika Soni, P Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal and Minister Ram Vilas Paswan.

Vultures All

Tavleen Singh expresses absolute disappointment with the prime time media coverage of the Sushant Rajput case involving big names in Bollywood reportedly using drugs. In a column in The Indian Express, she questions why the NCB made private conversations on private cellphones public, and that if they believed these conversations will stand as evidence in a court of law, then it should be the court passing judgement, not media channels.

Such suspicions arise because BJP spokesmen popped up on every primetime show to make it clear that at the highest echelons of the government of India there was support for this ‘cleanup’ in Bollywood. Some of these spokesmen adopted tones of deep disapproval as they pontificated on how people who were role models for India’s youth should not indulge in breaking the law. When it was pointed out that in most cases the only evidence that they did actually break the law were WhatsApp chats, they said, as if they had inside knowledge, that the NCB was hauling actresses in for questioning because it hoped through them to get to the big dealers. Really?

Novel Immortality

On account of a childhood friend’s death due to COVID-19, Mukul Kesavan writes about how there will be no brick-and-mortar memorials for the victims of the novel coronavirus, but their lives will be commemorated online. In a column in The Telegraph, he writes how the internet has helped us stay connected to people we haven’t spoken to in decades, in a haphazard way.

One of the tragedies of the pre-digital world was that as we left our youth behind, we mislaid, irrevocably, most of the people that we once knew. Unless we were freakishly diligent letter-writers, we shed memories, names, friends and faces as we grew older, and not always because we wanted to. It was a kind of autobiographical impoverishment that we accepted as inevitable. But thanks to the internet and information-hoovering sites like Facebook that have designs on us, we now seed ourselves online. We are linked by listservs and Twitter feeds and WhatsApp groups; we are Friends with perfect strangers, we are Followers with Followers.

Stopping a COVID-19 Generation of Stunted Children Essential

Sanchita Sharma recounts the early days of lockdown which were a nightmare, as take-home rations were stopped completely. This pandemic highlighted that millions of India’s poor are dependant on rice, wheat and dal (lentils) given under the public distribution system. In a column in Hindustan Times, she writes that the way to supercharge supplementation is by fortification, which can be done at the smallest self-help group level with standardization and training.

Under the take-home ration programme, energy-dense micronutrient fortified extruded blended food (Balbhog) is given to children between the ages of seven months and three years (seven packets to normal weight, 10 for severe underweight) to meet their nutritional requirements. Initiatives such as these have helped bring down stunting (low height for age) from 48% in 2005-06 to 34.7% in 2018, and a close to 10% decline in underweight children, with 33.4 per cent children recorded as underweight in 2018.But with 50 million children remaining stunted (low height for age), India still accounts for a third of the global burden of childhood stunting.

Oh, but Did You Know This About Him?

Upala Sen writes in a column in The Telegraph about how she has never been fond of cooking but that doesn’t mean she has not been food philandering on Swiggy. She lists perfectly divine ways of cooking the very virtuous ilish and how most often people ruin its character by adding too many ingredients.

It is not about texture. It is about character. It is about differences. In a film starring Uttam Kumar, would you need a second hero? Even if you did, would you cast Ranveer Singh? But what do the ilish-begun brigade know of such nuances.Someone will say, “Throw in potatoes with the aubergine.” They won’t even specify what cut. (Shudder, shudder.) Another will post a photograph and there’ll be potol or pointed gourd in it. Someone else will quote unverified in-laws and suggest adding pumpkin and cucumber. And before you know it, Uttam Kumar is in the middle of the floating vegetable mart of Patuli.

Police Should Evoke Trust, Not Fear

Karan Thapar writes about the way in which the Delhi police has been dealing with students, especially Muslims in connection with the February riots. In a column in Hindustan Times, he writes how Indian policemen evoke suspicion and fear as their judgement is heavily influenced by politics.

For us in India, it’s hard to believe policemen can be liked. Our experience makes that impossible to accept. Yet with a little conscious effort things can change. Sharma told me the first step is to isolate the police from political interference. But that’s not all. The constables who man local police stations and are, therefore, the first point of contact of the people with the police must be taught to be friendly, effective and polite.
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