Sunday View: The Best Weekend Opinion Reads, Curated Just For You
We sifted through the papers to find the best opinion reads, so you won't have to.
The Greater Catastrophe
As India's vaccination numbers hit a record high, there was a fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic that was invisible to the naked eye. That fallout was the education of children, says P Chidambaram, in his piece for The Indian Express.
"Urban families with young children know that keeping the children within the confines of the home was a challenge; rural families, after the first few months, simply let them roam the village streets and fields. All families were gripped by the fear of falling sick. They survived the first phase of fear without much thought to absence of school for their children. But as the weeks became months and months became a year, and the enforced absence from school has stretched into the second year, the families are gripped by panic."P Chidambaram in The Indian Express
CMs Should Stop Dragging Their Feet On School Opening
In his column for The Times Of India, Swaminathan Aiyar talks about another, very visible, fallout for children's education due to the pandemic - the unfair digital divide. In this context, he says that states should expedite the process of re-opening schools in order to save generations from falling into the pit of illiteracy.
"Young children have not just failed to learn for 500 days but forgotten what they knew earlier, and many have lapsed into illiteracy. The problem is worse for the poor, in rural areas, Dalits, and tribals. The well-off have managed with private tutors and online help. This has worsened disparities and robbed the masses of gaining the ability to rise. A new survey report titled ‘Locked out — Emergency Report of School Education’ by Jean Dreze, Reetika Khera, Nirali Bakhla and Vipul Paikra, shows that 97 percent of parents in rural households want school re-opening, not to mention educators and economists. Yet chief ministers have dragged their feet."Swaminathan Aiyar in The Times Of India
Bridging The Gap Between The Sciences And Arts
In this piece for The Hindustan Times, Mark Tully talks about how the Indian education system, like many across the world, has straitjacketed the science and humanities streams, causing students of one to miss out on the wonders of the other.
"India’s education has been consistently criticised for being too narrowly focused and competitive. There is, inevitably, a tendency in an educational system as competitive as India’s for teachers to concentrate on the subjects their pupils are going to be examined on. This widens the gap between the arts and the sciences. Students pursuing liberal arts don’t get an appreciation of the beauty of math, and science students are not presented with the great questions of life addressed by philosophers down the ages."Mark Tully in The Hindustan Times
Marks Boom And Killing Cut-Offs: Time To Rexamine Exam System
What even is a 99 percent plus college cut-off? In her column for The Times of India, Anita Rampal restarts an age-old debate on the Indian exam system and its ludicrous marking scheme.
"Perhaps the Boards, knowing that the majority had no access to education, did not wish to ‘fail’ or hold back students. This may be an important consideration for an unprecedented year, but the questionable doling out of marks has been happening for many years now, without improving the quality of learning for the majority, and needs to be seriously addressed before the examination system completely loses its relevance. This year there’s another catch. At Delhi University, there are 69,554 seats on offer through what is called the ‘merit-based’ admission process. This central university draws students from different Boards and from across the country who aspire to study in this central university. The first ‘cut-offs’ for undergraduate courses are predicted to be staggering, with many crossing 97 percent (an aggregate of a student’s best four subjects) and very few close to 90 percent. In some courses, seats are expected to get filled as soon as the first list is out, but for others, through further lists, the cut-off is still expected to remain unreasonably high."Anita Rampal in The Times Of India
About 5 crore postcards are scheduled to be sent out on Prime Minister Modi's birthday next week with a "thank you note" for helping the poor, among other things. In her column for The Indian Express, Tavleen Singh asks why this would be required if a Prime Minister - any Prime Minister - has an approval rating of over 70 percent.
"After brooding over this question for a longish while I concluded that it could be because someone in the PMO has finally dared draw his attention to some ground realities. These realities are harsh. Last week the farmers’ protest, that has now gone on for nearly a year, gathered steam and Rakesh Tikait reminded a vast gathering of angry farmers of an old slogan from his father’s time ‘Allah-u-Akbar, Har Har Mahadev’. The reason why alarm bells would have gone off in BJP circles is because this is a clear sign that Muslims and Jats in western Uttar Pradesh have given up the hostilities of the past few years and renewed their friendship. Not good news for the BJP, with elections for the state Assembly due in less than six months."Tavleen Singh in The Indian Express
9/11: How Spies Shaped The War Against Terror
In their piece for the The Hindustan Times, journalists and film-makers, Adrian Levy and Kathy Scott Stark, talk about the world post 9/11. One where the capabilities of various intelligence agencies have ballooned, but "facts" remain as elusive as ever.
"Terror proliferated because of these misfiring wars, whose conduct was distorted by politicians, with civilians now targeted wholesale, many of these massacres perpetrated by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi whose foot soldiers in Iraq merged with Baathists to quit foxholes for a terror State. The Caliphate was penetrated by spies in the West and the Gulf and pushed back by US clients, especially the Kurds. However, an alarm was set off by Edward Snowden who showed us that another cost was that hyper-invasive collection methods shredded surveillance laws."Adrian Levy and Kathy Scott Stark in The Hindustan Times
Inside Track: Ides of March
In her weekly dose of political gossip, Coomi Kapoor gives us the deets on the BJP's dilemma in the upcoming set of assembly elections in 2022, how Kabir Bedi was "pals" with Rajiv and Sanjay Gandhi and a "slight hiccup" at Sonia Gandhi's opposition meet. Read her column in The Indian Express.
"At Sonia Gandhi’s virtual meeting with 19 Opposition leaders last month to chalk out a strategy to fight the BJP in the 2024 general election, there was a slight hiccup when she asked Sitaram Yechury to initiate the talks. The TMC’s Mamata Banerjee objected and suggested that a seasoned leader like Sharad Pawar should start the discussions. Apart from Banerjee, Yechury’s increasing influence over Gandhi is not to the liking of either the Congress or CPI(M). Usually, it is Jairam Ramesh who handles drafting of speeches and party memoranda for Gandhi and he is unlikely to appreciate an outsider sharing his role. The CPI(M), meanwhile, feels that Yechury should utilise his talents in first putting his own house in order."Coomi Kapoor in The Indian Express
A Troubling Account Of Prejudice In Court
In his column for The Hindustan Times, Karan Thapar discusses a recent judgement of the Allahabad High Court on a case where a Muslim man was booked for cow slaughter. Thapar explains why the court's observations in this case are particularly troubling for Indian democracy and the country's secular fabric.
"The cow must be declared [a] national animal and protection of cows must be a fundamental right of Hindus.” That, I presume, is the core of his thinking. Justice Yadav then adds “the right to eat beef can never be considered a fundamental right.” Why, you might ask? The judge does not explain. You get the feeling this is the personal view of a devout cow-worshipping Hindu being imposed upon a secular country, and in a case where the bail petition was filed by a Muslim."Karan Thapar in The Hindustan Times
For Ganpati Sirji, A Laundry List Of Obstacles To Solve
And finally, as Ganpati makes his way to our homes, Shobhaa De hands him a long list of all the things that need his blessing this year, in her column for The Times Of India.
"Dear Ganeshji, Sorry boss, but you will have to work overtime this year and remove hazaar obstacles on a top priority basis. Forget big, big global problems such as solving the Taliban issue which has turned out to be far trickier than even the US President Joe Biden imagined. But do drum some sense into the prime minister of our neighbouring country. Shri Imran Khan thinks he has staged a political coup by cosying up to the Taliban. Please whisper ‘As if….!” into his ear. And while you are at it, let the Chinese Premier also know that we know his game plan! Kya samajhte hai apne aap ko, yeh dono!"Shobhaa De for The Times Of India
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