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.

7 min read
Hindi Female

Democracy deserves a festival

In this article for The Indian Express, former finance minister P Chidambaram critiques the shortcomings in the manner in which elections are conducted in India. Chidambaram’s critique comes days ahead of the expected announcement of the 2024 Lok Sabha election dates. The Congress leader dissects the issues particularly around the usual number of polling phases, the discriminatory rules applied by Chief Electoral Officers, and the role of money in elections. Chidambaram makes the case for a more compressed election schedule, emphasising that polling should ideally take place on one or two days in each state.

“In 2019, the polling dates were stretched over 39 days from April 11 to May 19. Polling was held in seven phases in Bihar (40 seats), Uttar Pradesh (80) and West Bengal (42). Tamil Nadu & Puducherry (39+1) have about the same number of constituencies as Bihar and West Bengal, yet polling took place on one day. Why should polling be done on four dates in Madhya Pradesh which has only 29 constituencies? U. P. has twice the number of Tamil Nadu; why should polling be done on seven dates?” 
-P Chidambaram, The Indian Express

Congress faced with make or break elections

In this article in the The New Indian Express, author Shankkar Aiyar discusses the Congress party's declining electoral fortunes and the need for a strategic overhaul for it to remain relevant in Indian politics. The article highlights the significance of several state elections as a litmus test for the Congress party's future, emphasizing the need for effective leadership, organizational reforms, and coherent messaging to connect with voters. The article underscores the critical make-or-break juncture the Congress is facing ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

“Critical to the context is the dysfunction at the core of the party and its organisation. In the past, the exit of Congressmen was driven by ambitions to launch their own party. That is no longer the cause. In the past decade, Congress leaders—much like those who migrated to Hannibal’s ranks during his campaign against Rome—have defected to be on the winning side. This week saw even those who have never been elected by popular vote queuing up to join the BJP.”
-Shankkar Aiyar, The New Indian Express

The continuing battle for bread and peace

The article in the Hindustan Times, by author Lalita Panicker, reflects on the origins of International Women’s Day (IWD) stemming from the Great October Revolution, emphasising the initial demand for food as a basic need for women's equality. The piece underscores the prevalence of food insecurity among women in India, where 18 per cent of women of reproductive age are underweight. While governments have brought out targeted interventions to tackle undernutrition, what the state needs to do address the social environments and gender disparities within households, the piece argues.

“India has implemented targeted interventions that address malnutrition in women and adolescent girls through programmes like Anaemia Mukt Bharat and POSHAN 2.0. However, it is important to remember that malnutrition in women is also influenced by social environments. There is a need to integrate a robust gender lens in communities along with awareness-building exercises. In addition to promoting good nutritional practices, addressing social customs and practices that discriminate against women within households is important."
-Lalita Panicker, Hindustan Times

Prosperity is good, poverty horrible 

The article by author Tavleen Singh in The Indian Express discusses the recent pre-wedding celebrations of business tycoon Mukesh Ambani's son, Anant Ambani, and the opulence surrounding it. Singh writes that she was delighted to see the unapologetic and extravagant displays of wealth at the wedding celebrations, given that there was a time in India when only poverty was revered, prosperity wasn’t. Singh argues that such an unabashed celebration of wealth is a reflection of the aspirational India of today.

“It is my considered view that no country becomes prosperous if it does not celebrate prosperity. In the India in which I grew up and began my career as a journalist, we celebrated poverty. Never wealth. The shabby condition of our cities and the squalor of our villages were justified by our political leaders as inevitable since we were a poor country. They loved showing that they revered the poor and hated the rich. They did not dare admit that it was because of their economic policies that millions of Indians had remained mired in extreme poverty for so long.” 
-Tavleen Singh, The Indian Express

The art and craft of deploying AI responsibly

In this article for the Deccan Herald, author Gopichand Katragadda discusses the recent announcement by the Minister of State for IT & Electronics, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, requiring Artificial Intelligence (AI) platforms to obtain a permit to operate within India. The article explores how other nations like Japan and the United States have all had to come up with certain laws and norms to govern AI platforms and companies, given the inherent risk they carry in disrupting privacy, employment, and decision-making processes.

“The recent incident involving controversial responses from an AI platform about Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlights a critical junction in AI governance. More concerning was that the same platform provided well-moderated responses for similar queries about other global leaders. The announcement by the Minister of State for IT & Electronics, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, requiring AI platforms to obtain a permit to operate within India, points to a growing concern over the unchecked proliferation of AI technologies.” 
-Gopichand Katragadda, Deccan Herald

E-2024: Do or die for state satraps

In this article for The New Indian Express, senior journalist Prabhu Chawla explores the challenges facing regional parties in the country, ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

The article delves into the significance of regional political parties in the general elections, emphasising the pivotal role they play in shaping India's political landscape. The article discusses the increasing prominence of regional parties and their leaders, who have emerged as formidable players in national politics and how there is a need for them to now prioritise strategic alliances and popular support to secure electoral success.

“In the absence of a combative national party, it is left to the opposition’s regional rajas to halt the Modi juggernaut in their own fiefdoms or face extinction. Elections 2024 concerns not just Modi 3.0, but also the political permanence of the regional ideologies of Mamata Banerjee, Sharad Pawar, M K Stalin, Siddaramaiah and Revanth Reddy. Yadav scions Akhilesh and Tejashwi must prove they are worthy successors of their legendary paters who straddled their states like colossuses and played important roles in the making and unmaking of prime ministers.”
-Prabhu Chawla, The New Indian Express

Can Dalit food ever be Satvik?

Author Devdutt Pattanaik, in this article for the Deccan Herald, explores the concept of "satvik" food within the context of Dalit cuisine. Pattanaik discusses how traditional Hindu food practices often exclude Dalits, from participating fully in religious rituals and societal norms. The author questions whether Dalit food can ever be considered "satvik", as it has historically been associated with impurity due to caste discrimination. Pattanaik delves into growing political movements to reclaim Dalit cuisine and challenge caste-based food practices.

"Imagine a meal made of coagulated blood cooked with oil, salt and chillies, or a meal of the flesh of rats, or the flesh of a dead, not slaughtered, animal. Or imagine a meal which contains the brain, intestines and trotters of a goat or a sheep or a meal involving dried flesh of cattle or pig. Some of these could be delicacies in Christian and Muslim households, in Europe and America, in Africa and China, but not in ‘upper’ caste elite Hindu households. This is Dalit food, eaten for centuries by many, not all, communities who identify as Dalit."
-Devdutt Pattanaik, Deccan Herald

A big event in India’s nuclear journey passed off quietly. Just as well

In this article for the Deccan Herald, author S Raghotham notes how little attention was paid to the recent successful test-firing of the Agni Prime missile, including by PM Modi. But this isn’t a critique of the barely existent celebrations around the missile as the subdued response may have been intentional, given the sensitivities surrounding nuclear issues, the author writes. Raghotham emphaises the need for a balanced approach to India's nuclear strategy, taking into account both deterrence requirements and diplomatic considerations.

“A most significant event took place in the country last week, but with almost no attention paid to it – probably because the Prime Minister did not make a big deal of it. He came, he saw, he left, apparently all in 45 minutes. Fittingly appropriate, I must say, considering what it was all about. It was the “commencement of core loading of the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR)”. In simple terms, the operators of this nuclear reactor, PFBR, began to load fuel into the reactor and switched it on – and they will slowly crank it up over some months to ‘criticality’, when they can be sure that a sustainable fission chain has been set off and the reactor can run and produce power.”
-S Raghotham, Deccan Herald

Chamkila and songs of resistance in Punjab

In this article in The Indian Express, journalist Manraj Grewal Sharma explores the long history of resistance songs written and sung in the fields of Punjab over the decades. The article, which comes ahead of director Imtiaz Ali's forthcoming film 'Chamkila', is a homage to Amar Singh Chamkila, a Punjabi pop-star who was shot dead in 1988. Since then, several Punjabi writers, musicians and artists have been killed for their unwavering quest for a more egalitarian state.

"But these killing failed to silence the voices of peace and sanity. Poets, writers and playwrights continued to pen their agony, targeting both the militants and the state repression that followed. As Manjit Tiwana, a Sahitya Akademi award winner, wrote: What times are these, Sitting on the threshold of it, We ask the whereabouts of our home."
-Manraj Grewal Sharma, The Indian Express

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