From Jitin Prasada’s exit from the Congress party to how differently the Delhi chief minister and the Union home minister perceive the COVID threat, The Quint's Editor-in-Chief Raghav Bahl shares his views on some recent, and pertinent, developments.
Jitin Prasada’s Exit Like Jagjivan Ram’s, But Different
For everybody who is worked up about another prominent (not “heavyweight”) Congress leader, Jitin Prasada, quitting and joining the BJP, I would recall when the heaviest-weight Cabinet minister, Babu Jagjivan Ram, quit to align with the Janata Party in 1977.
The usually unflappable Indira Gandhi was shell-shocked, as her trusted colleague took an audacious leap to replace her as prime minister (and he would have, but Jayaprakash Narayan picked Morarji Desai, effectively stymying Babuji).
But what several Congress leaders are doing today is a bit of weak-kneed opportunism, exactly opposite to what Jagjivan Ram had done. They are jumping to a crowded, dominant, winning party, which may not have that much use for them. What’s more, they will run into entrenched/competitive BJP leaders on their own turf, who will do everything to neutralise them even further.
But what Jagjivan Ram did was earth-shaking, since he left the dominant, historically victorious party to hitch his wagon to a risky “start up”. That was ambition, audacity, courage.
So, I am not sure how much these quitters will gain, politically. If you don’t believe me, ask the TMC quitters who now have their tails between their legs as they implore Mamata Banerjee to “forgive, forget, and take them back.”
Kejriwal’s Concerns vs Shah’s Confidence: Why Put Sero Surveys on Hold?
Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal says “get ready for the third wave peak of 37,000 infections per day.” Using this number from Delhi, a simple, crude projection would show that the third wave could peak at over 600,000 per day for the fully country. Scary. Likely to trigger panic.
On the other hand, Home Minister Amit Shah is asserting, confidently, that the pandemic is weakening and the government is on top of the crisis.
Stranded in the middle of these contrasting pictures is the hapless citizen, who is swinging from dread to panic to crossed-fingers with furious confusion.
Instead of making contradictory/speculative claims, why don’t our governments launch a large, scientific sero survey to figure out what the exact position on the ground is?
It’s astounding that we have put these surveys on hold at a time this information is critically needed. This is just another awful inconsistency in our pandemic-containment policies.
Online Vaccine Registration Flaws Fixed, But Why the Push for a ‘Pull’ Strategy?
Finally, the ultimate infirmity in our vaccination policy has been removed, ie, compulsory online registration in English. While I have seen several inexplicable/whimsical government policies over the last three decades as a first-generation entrepreneur, this one is easily the most atrocious and unfathomable.
I mean, the BJP’s central and state governments swear by the primacy of Hindi; most regional parties which dominate non-Hindi states are as fervently devoted to their local languages.
So, why was an English website made compulsory? And what about the hundreds of toiling millions who would find it impossible to register digitally?
It was a monstrously wrong policy which was allowed to continue for six months. Thank God it is junked now. But why are we still shy of launching “mobile vaccination camps” for COVID-19 vaccines, where we take the campaign to villages, in a push strategy? Why are we still insisting on a “pull” strategy?
Punjab Tops PGI: Proficiency in English Doesn't Belittle Local Languages
Sadda Punjab has scored 929/1000 to top the Performance Grading Index, or PGI, getting the better of even Kerala! This means Punjab’s schools are the most effective in the country.
Perhaps because the English language has been introduced as a medium of instruction at the primary level.
Finally, some of us are beginning to appreciate and consolidate our natural advantage in English (perhaps the most positive fallout of our otherwise exploitative colonial past).
We must understand that we do NOT belittle our local languages if we build our proficiency in English. Both are important, and any policy which tries to degrade our English language proficiency is highly destructive and short-sighted.
India Should Host Olympics, But Pick Private Sector Over ‘Sarkari Superstructure’
Kudos to Ahmedabad, which has commissioned an exercise to become ready to bid for the Olympics, even though the latest slot open is in 2036.
I really do think India should up its ambition and host the Olympics. It’s not a waste of resources. It builds infrastructure and creates a massive multiplier impact for tourism, media, information technology, digital architecture, and a dozen other sectors.
I would just caveat that like Los Angeles did for its Olympics, by giving the pride of place to the private sector – which actually led to a “profitable Olympics” – India too should rope in the considerable capacity built in our private sector to run the Games, rather than create a “sarkari superstructure” which will be open to inefficiency/corruption/slippages/embarrassment.