Look Down as We Fly to the Moon
Writing for The Indian Express, Tavleen Singh opines that there's plenty of blame to go around for the "reckless urbanization" that led to severe waterlogging in parts of Delhi, including the Red Fort area. She not only directs her criticism at elected and unelected officials but also rails against environmental activists for not taking up "serious but less sexy issues" as well as political columnists (such as herself) for neglecting to write about unplanned urbanisation.
"As I watched the launch of Chandrayaan-3, the question that troubled me was why we can dream of an Indian flag being planted someday on the moon can we not dream of building beautiful, planned cities. If ancient Indians could build proper drainage systems in Mohenjodaro more than five centuries ago, why do we seem so incapable of building proper drainage in our modern cities? Why do we seem incapable of desilting the Yamuna so that what happened last week should never happen again?"Tavleen Singh, for The Indian Express
The Right Rises
Former foreign secretary Krishnan Srinivasan writes for The Telegraph about the strong revival of far-right parties in modern Europe. From Poland to Austria to France to even the "once Hitlerite" Germany, Srinivasan says that right-wing forces of various hues are beating back old revulsions and finding acceptance by contesting on issues such as "free market economics, mercantilism, restrictions on immigration, financial policies to benefit the rich and the super-rich, and the ascendency of monopolistic oligarchs."
"Europe’s rise of the far-Right can be attributed to dissatisfaction with the political mainstream and the apprehension of an uncertain future. Many in Europe are attracted by the straight-speaking of the far-Right and there is frustration that traditional politicians have no answers to issues linked to identity, fear of open borders, and an erosion of traditional values, or, in economics, the rejection of globalisation and the fears for social justice. Overall, the feeling exists that present governments can no longer be entrusted with the future destination."Krishnan Srinivasan, for The Telegraph
Equality, Adversity and Diversity
Congress leader P Chidambaram, in his column for The Indian Express, sees a lesson for India in the US Supreme Court's landmark ruling that overturned the law on race-based college admissions, particularly on judges' preferences and predispositions. He advises against the "pre-Collegium position of empowering the Executive (prime minister) to select judges" but also says that "reserving the power exclusively to the Collegium" has led to diversity and representation on the Court becoming major casualties.
"The judgement in the Harvard and UNC cases illustrates the danger of conferring the power to select judges on the political executive. A President whose party controls the Senate can appoint any one as a Judge as long as the nominee shares the ideology of the President's political party. Thrown out of the window are the fundamental principles of the Constitution, Constitutional history and morality, precedents, evolution of public opinion and, above all, current ethos and wishes of the majority of the people."P Chidambaram, for The Indian Express
Oppenheimer, the Bhagavad Gita and a Secret Message to Nehru
In his piece for The Times of India, author Nikhil Menon discusses Robert Oppenheimer's lesser-known connections with India and its first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. He mentions that Nehru had extended an invitation to Oppenheimer to come to India after the latter's "downfall", even offering the possibility of immigration.
"Oppenheimer knew of Nehru’s reputation as a postcolonial statesman who was publicly aghast at the human toll of atomic weapons. They had even met the previous year, when Nehru visited Princeton University, and was a lunch guest (along with Albert Einstein) of Oppenheimer. Nehru responded to Pandit’s letter saying that the Indian government didn’t propose to take any step regarding thorium. Pointedly concealing the identity of their informant, he continued: “I do not know if it will be possible for you to arrange a casual meeting with the person who sent you the message…so that you may have a personal talk.” Ambassador Pandit’s papers don’t reveal more."Nikhil Menon, for The Times of India
Does the Anti-Defection Law Silence Voice of Democracy?
In his piece for the Deccan Chronicle, Congress leader Manish Tewari writes on the latest political fiasco in Maharashtra, after Ajit Pawar turned against his uncle Sharad Pawar of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). Tewari says that this is yet another opportunity to examine the "obsolete nature of the anti-defection law" and question its relevance.
"While a representative is elected by the little person who stands in a long line in the blazing sun or pouring rain once in five years, the legislative life of that representative is run by the party that gave him the ubiquitous ‘ticket’ to run for elections. When I entered the hallowed portals of the Parliament, the first private member’s bill that I had moved was to relax the archaic and rigid nature of the 10th Schedule. The bill proposed to moderate the powers of the whip and ensure that the whip only be used as an instrument to prevent situations where the stability of government would get impacted."Manish Tewari, for Deccan Chronicle
In her column for The Indian Express, journalist Coomi Kapoor offers an overview of what the BJP is up to in various states such as Telangana, Maharashtra, and West Bengal. Talking about the influence of politics in cricket, she explains why players from Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh are migrating to "greener pastures."
"Politics and cricket is a common cocktail. Ravi Bishnoi who played for his home state Rajasthan till last year got caught in the crossfire between cricket and politics. Vaibhav Gehlot, the Rajasthan Cricket Association president and Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot's son, wanted him to accompany Rahul Gandhi on his Bharat Jodo Yatra. Bishnoi declined fearing the wrath of Jay Shah but found himself out of the Rajasthan Ranji trophy. He shifted to Gujarat for the current season and was picked for the West Indies tour."Coomi Kapoor, for The Indian Express
Writing for The Statesman, former Lieutenant Governor of Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Puducherry Bhopinder Singh highlights the recent tensions between India and Nepal. He also proposes a gentler approach to diplomatic outreach and the treatment of neighbouring countries as equals.
"Often the domestic politics and passions of Indian politics spill over into the consciousness of neighbouring countries like Bangladesh which ends up inadvertently strengthening the cause of their anti-India opposition parties like the Jamaat-e-Islami. Somewhere there is a need for a gentler touch of diplomatic outreach and treatment as equals (as perceived to be denied by many across borders). The bravado and assertion that galvanises internal politics in India needs to be tempered with dignity and without suggestions of interest in external politics, as small flare-ups like the recent Nepal incident are telling of consequences that India could face, going forward."(Retd) Lt Gen Bhopinder Singh, for The Statesman
Urban Flooding Not Going Away, But We Can Rise Above It
In The Times of India, NITI Aayog official Devashish Dhar discusses the long-standing relationship between cities and water resources, focusing on the issue of urban floods faced by cities like Delhi in India. He says that the challenge of urban floods is not new and needs to be understood within the broader context of urbanisation over thousands of years.
"In terms of deficit and probable solutions, the least talked about urban infrastructure is a universal stormwater drainage network. We need to make quick strides in providing this network. Most importantly, the stormwater drainage network cannot be similar to/shared with the sewage network because both have different kinds of pollutants, viscosity, and contamination and need different kinds of treatment before they are released into water bodies. Second, we need to do a better job of mundane work of maintenance such as desilting of drainage networks and reservoirs and proactive solid waste management."Devashish Dhar, for The Times of India
Upala Sen of The Telegraph explores the controversy surrounding Anupam Kher being cast as Rabindranath Tagore. She references historical examples of actors playing revered figures to argue that Kher or anyone else should be able to play Tagore on the big screen, adding that the poet himself would have likely had a light-hearted perspective on the matter.
"If it is tricky to play god; it is even trickier to play those considered god-like for a variety of things. What is it that makes a producer or director cast someone to play Khudiram or Subhas Chandra Bose? Is it physical likeness alone, or is it spiritual alignment? Does race matter? And what about personal belief? And what if no box is ticked except the one for effort to channel? Nelson Mandela himself decided that Morgan Freeman should play him. And while Freeman may not have got the accent right, most people say that he approximated the essence of Madiba."Upala Sen, for The Telegraph