Sunday View: The Best Weekend Opinion Reads, Curated Just For You
We sifted through the papers and found the best opinion reads, so you wouldn’t have to.
An Ill-Advised Attempt To Fudge The Numbers And Present A So-called ‘Budget For Growth’ Is Unpardonable
In P Chidambaram’s column for The Indian Express, he talks about Nirmala Sitharaman’s Budget 2020-2021 and tells the reader that “due to incompetent management, the economy is at the same level as it was three years ago”.
He writes that the Finance Minister refused to entertain Chidambaram’s argument that the budget projections lacked credibility. The numbers were optimistic and ambitious since the “GDP growth had slowed down for seven successive quarters (4 quarters of 2018-19 and 3 quarters of 2019-20) and was poised to slide further in Q4 of 2019-20”, writes Chidambaram.
Budget numbers are indeed estimates; estimates can go wrong despite well-founded assumptions. I must nevertheless point out that an ill-advised attempt to fudge the numbers and present a so-called ‘budget for growth’ is unpardonable. It is the people that will pay a heavy price.
Have A Dialogue With Young Dissenters, Don’t Jail Them
“If the youth are not allowed to think, read or write freely, how will they learn? As long as there is no violence, strongly espousing any anti-government ideology is not a crime”, writes Sagarika Ghosh in her column for The Times of India.
“Today young, educated, outspoken women like climate activist Disha Ravi, Pinjra Tod feminists Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal, and student activist Gulfisha Fatima are being imprisoned under harsh laws like sedition or the draconian anti-terror law, UAPA. These women are taking up from where their predecessors — such as 1940s women freedom fighters or 1970s Left activists — left off. They are pushing the boundaries of freedom even further”, Ghosh writes.
“Beti bachao, beti padhao” is a touted slogan of the Modi government. Yet there seems to be a furious backlash against the ‘padhi-likhi betis’ who are unafraid to campaign for their beliefs. A self-confident state would engage with these young dissenters, and only a paranoid regime would demonise them as the ‘enemy.’ A dialogue, not a jail term, with Disha should be the toolkit for a ‘new’ India.
Migrant Protection: Biden Takes Challenge
Makhan Saikia writes in The Pioneer how “Joe Biden has inherited a largely “Divided America”. Although the Biden Administration has tried to reposition America at the heart of globality, the wounds of the Trump days would take longer than what Biden and the liberals are expecting”.
“The US Government only decides how many people are allowed to request asylum each day. But the disheartening fact is that on some particular days, the US officials do not call anyone for processing their applications in certain locations. This uncertain wait today is prolonging and the migrants have to experience the worst of the tragedies at times.”, writes Saikia.
The steady flow of immigrants leaving these North Central American countries simply reflect the grim realities of life for millions of children and their families. The root causes of this pervasive migration are manifold: crushing poverty, endemic crime, environmental crises, gang-related violence, extortion, high rates of domestic violence, sexual abuse of girls and forced recruitment in various street gangs. Besides, many of the horrific tales of migration are accompanied with the realities of scarce social services and very limited opportunities to learn or to earn a decent living
Hope Against Hope
“As someone convinced that India would have eliminated extreme poverty decades ago if we had allowed a real market economy to grow, instead of sticking to the Nehruvian socialist path, I believed Modi deserved a chance”, writes Tavleen Singh in her column for The Indian Express.
Singh used to be an ardent supporter of Modi for the economic ideas he espoused, pushing the idea of India as a “real market economy to grow, instead of sticking to the Nehruvian socialist path”. However, upon analysing the state of India’s economy, Singh writes that Modi backtracked because “he did not think the people were ready for a drastic change of direction, or because Rahul Gandhi’s jibe about him running a ‘suit-boot ki sarkar’ hit where it was meant to”.
Why is the retroactive tax still around? Why are officials still being allowed to come up with regulation after regulation? Why do the rules for doing business change on the whims of petty officials? The Prime Minister needs to ask these questions and the most important question he needs to ask is why, if he has done so many economic reforms, do we not yet see the kind of optimism and hope that spread across India after the reforms of 1991? Why do we see no sign yet of the dramatic changes that resulted from those reforms?
How Chant Of Jai Shri Ram Became A Subaltern War Cry In Bengal
“The forthcoming West Bengal Assembly election promises to be one of the most bitterly contested battles in recent times. The BJP, once a fringe player in the state, has mounted a sustained offensive against Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (AITC), with the once-powerful CPM playing spoiler”, Swapan Dasgupta writes in his column for The Times of India.
Gasputa writes that “although the outcome of this election will not have a direct bearing on national politics, it has the potential of recalibrating regional politics.” He adds that “to view the dramatic emergence of Jai Sri Ram in the political battlefields of Bengal as evidence of the same Hindutva that overwhelmed the Hindi belt is tempting, but not necessarily accurate. There is no evidence to suggest that Hindu Bengal has abruptly witnessed a spectacular rise in religiosity. “
Unlike northern and western India where the Ayodhya temple movement and the associated cry of Jai Sri Ram defined popular consciousness after 1988, Bengal was left largely untouched by the rise of assertive Hindu nationalism. In a state dominated by chants of either Inquilab Zindabad or Vande Mataram, there seemed no space for Jai Sri Ram. On its part, the Bengali intelligentsia with its self-image of being progressive turned up its nose at the chant. Jai Sri Ram was associated with the ‘regressive’ politics of the cow belt and deemed unworthy of the Bengali cultural inheritance.
Accusations Against Tandav Are More Than Mere Language
“It is to be hoped that since higher reasoning is a hallmark of the human species, there’s only so much post-truth discourse a nation will take before rebelling”, writes Leher Kala for her column with The Indian Express. Kala writes that “in 2020, the government brought streaming platforms under the purview of the I & B Ministry and Tandav has the dubious distinction of being the first OTT show to face course correction”.
“The accusations against Tandav are more than mere language: that it denigrates Hindu gods, promotes communal hatred and is anti-Dalit. But one has to wonder if it’s the recreation of contemporary protest movements (reminiscent of JNU) that might be the cause of ire”, writes Kala.
There are two issues that demand urgent attention with regard to film and TV censorship. Firstly, is public interest served when the men and women who write these shows — creating content by tapping into the realities around them — told that their ideas don’t deserve to be seen? This refusal to acknowledge the complexities within society via storylines of caste atrocities and gender crimes obscures television’s other responsibility besides entertainment, which is not to present just one view as the absolute truth. Secondly, what option is the permanently infantilized Indian left with — must we obediently keel over and give ourselves up to intellectual conformity — and let the State decide what we wear, watch, eat and say?
Wrong Path: Ghulam Nabi Azad's Exit From Rajya Sabha
“The exit of the veteran Congress leader, Ghulam Nabi Azad, from the Rajya Sabha has reignited unrest within the party as one section — infamous as the Group of 23 — believes the truce worked out by Sonia Gandhi in December has been violated”, writes the Editorial Board in The Telegraph.
“There are murmurs in the party that the efforts at reconciliation have stopped and the leaders of this group face discrimination at different levels on a daily basis. The level of distrust and bitterness between these leaders and the new coterie is so high that any unity of purpose is impossible”, adds the column.
They feel that the leadership and its “current advisers” should have anticipated this situation and brought Azad to the Rajya Sabha from Rajasthan instead of the general-secretary in charge of the organization, KC Venugopal, who could have been nominated from his home state, Kerala, in April. One leader said, “Azad is too dignified to ask anything for himself but the party leadership could still bring him to Rajya Sabha from Kerala.” This, however, will not be of much help as Azad cannot return as leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha because Mallikarjun Kharge has already been appointed to that post.
Sexual Harassment At Workplace Remains A Problem Of Institutions, Not Individuals
“The Ramani verdict is a huge moral vindication of the #MeToo movement, and will, hopefully, serve to deter powerful men from using the defamation law to silence survivors. But we are still very far away from ensuring workplaces free of sexual harassment for every woman, every transperson”, writes Kavita Krishnan for The Indian Express.
Kavita Krishnan writes about how the verdict “vindicated Ramani and, by implication, the other women who had variously come forward to accuse Akbar of sexual violence, by accepting Ramani’s truth as a defence to the charge of defamation. The verdict’s reasoning for accepting Ramani’s and Wahab’s testimonies as truthful is vindication for scores of women”.
Institutional mechanisms have systemically failed to protect women or provide justice, the verdict reasoned, and, therefore, survivors are justified in sharing their testimonies on media or social media platforms as a form of self-defence. This insightful reasoning is possibly the most significant and precious part of the verdict.
Indian Response Is As Comic As Greta’s follies
“Hilariously, climate activist Greta Thunberg supports India’s farmer agitation. The farmers demand government guarantees for a farming system that is environmentally ruinous and emits colossal carbon. The government’s appropriate response to Thunberg should be “how dare you!”, writes SA Aiyar for The Times of India.
“Instead, the government has invented an elaborate international conspiracy theory, linking Thunberg, pop star Rihanna, and hundreds of activists, Indian and international, with Khalistani terrorists seeking a Sikh state. This is as comic as Thunberg’s follies.
The government says activists are using a “toolkit” to spread their message, making this sound like a dreaded instrument of sedition. Sorry, toolkits simply provide background information, talking points, ideas for mobilisation, catchy slogans and hashtags”, writes SA Aiyar.
Young activists — such as Disha Ravi, a climate campaigner who edited and shared Thunberg’s “toolkit” on social media — are being arrested for somehow being linked to Khalistanis. India’s laws on sedition and unlawful activities have long been misused to harass dissenters. In addition, India is making a fool of itself internationally by linking climate activists with Khalistanis through toolkits in the social media. Every extremist group tries to cash in on existing agitations. Khalistanis support the farm agitation and toolkits for their private ends. That does not make the whole agitation Khalistani.
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