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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.

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The Final Assault on Constitution

In his weekly column for The Indian Express, senior Congress leader P Chidambaram writes about BJP's "Operation Lotus" ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. "The BJP has unleashed its full arsenal," says the former Union Minister as he details the saffron's party's election strategy which, he alleges, includes "using central investigative agencies against political rivals, encouraging defections, destabilising state governments, and betraying the constitution."

"On top is the huge pile of money collected through the unconstitutional electoral bonds (EB). The truth about the EB — which I had described as legalised bribery — is now in the open. There are several cases where there was a search/arrest, bonds were bought and donated, bonds were encashed and the cases were buried or favours done (licences, contracts). The dates tell the story. A simple straight line will connect the dots. The huge war chest has been deployed through advertisements in newspapers, TV and billboards. BJP is playing on an unlevel playing field."
P Chidambaram
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Truth Pills Needed To Digest the Job Crisis

Senior journalist and author Sutanu Guru, in his column for The New Indian Express, writes about the latest International Labour Organisation report on unemployment in India.

The report stated that youth form nearly 83 percent of the unemployed workforce in India. The study also showed that the number of educated youth among all jobless people has gone up from 54.2 percent to 65.7 percent in 2022. It added that unemployment in India was predominantly a problem among youths, especially youths with a secondary level of education or higher.

"On one side are ferocious critics of the Narendra Modi regime, who insist that India faces a ‘demographic disaster’ due to rising unemployment; the regime’s supporters insist India is reaping a demographic dividend and will continue to do well into the next decade. Realists like this author, who do not allow ideology to dictate opinion, think both are wrong," says Guru.

"The data presented in the ILO report, the recent employees’ provident fund update, and CMIE’s January 2024 report contradict the alarmist stance of the critics. The same dataset also negates the views on the other extreme that deny India’s genuine unemployment crisis. What’s the reality? The most significant data in the ILO report is that the young account for 83 percent of those unemployed in India. For many years, the CMIE has highlighted very high levels of youth unemployment, often putting it above 25 percent. To that extent, only the naïve or the ideologically blind would live in denial."
Sutanu Guru
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Room For Saffron’s Lateral Thinking

In The New Indian Express, Santwana Bhattacharya writes about the Bharatiya Janata Party's target of 370+ seats in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections and the "striking asymmetry" in the geographical distribution of its Lok Sabha holdings.

She argues that the strategists of the saffron party, in the upcoming elections, are keen on this spatial expansion because despite the BJP's mammoth majority in the outgoing House, the presence of entire provinces where it is very nearly non-existent must rankle.

"To reprise, the tactical necessities too are well-recognised. In virtually all its old strongholds, the BJP’s growth has hit the circuit-breaker—it had already filled out its potential to the maximum in 2019. So the only way to hedge against any risk of erosion there was build a buffer stock of new seats. That is, if the party wishes to give itself a guarantee of invincibility in these elections, it has to grow in new regions. But how? That’s the part which gives us a window into how India’s democratic polity is evolving, on a historical plane."
Santwana Bhattacharya
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On Evidence, Policy-Making, and Critiquing It in a Polarised Polity

Days after she stepped down as the Centre for Policy Research (CPR) president, scholar Yamini Aiyar, in the Deccan Herald, writes about what it means to work on policy in a deeply polarised polity.

"But in a polarised polity, where the freedom to critique is shrinking, it is worth asking if this pursuit of relevance via engagement and influence blunts another critical role that evidence, research and policy engagement ought to play -- that of holding the State accountable -- by asking the difficult questions and encouraging active public contestation of ideas. Can research be truly independent if its purpose is to be “relevant” to policy-makers? Does it ensure that the right questions are asked? That evidence is used to foster dialogue and debate in the public sphere?"
Yamini Aiyar
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The Sangeet Kalanidhi and Carnatic Music’s Great Divide

Weighing in on the latest controversy that hit the Carnatic music industry over vocalist TM Krishna being awarded the Sangeet Kalanidhi, an annual title awarded by the Madras Music Academy, Suanshu Khurana in The Indian Express, writes that the opposition from Carnatic vocalists Ranjani-Gayatri and others to T M Krishna’s award is not only misplaced, it underlines the importance of the issues he has raised.

"The difference between the two factions lies in nuance, self-reflection, and the awareness of their own art form’s strengths and follies. While Krishna questioned the Bhumi puja in Ayodhya asking people to “seek the Rama within” and propounding that the Ram that he sings of, one that Tyagaraja venerated, would have been uncomfortable with 'the bloodshed and deaths that preceded the securing of this one specific place in Ayodhya'. Ranjani and Gayatri called it a 'blessed day' and performed in Ayodhya as part of the concerts."
Suanshu Khurana
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Surreal Reality and Reality

Tavleen Singh, in The Indian Express, writes that if Prime Minister Narendra Modi wins a third term, it could be because his vision of the future is that of a developed India by 2047.

She writes, "As the general elections approach nearer, he (Modi) repeats this more and more because he senses that voters find the idea inspirational. If Rahul Gandhi looks as if he is unlikely to prevent the Congress Party from losing a third general election, it is because during his recently ended Nyaya Yatra, he has talked mostly about poverty and caste. Indians at the bottom of the heap are those he hopes to appeal to, but they already know more about degradation and poverty than he ever will."

"When Raghuram Rajan said last week that Indians must stop believing the ‘hype’, he came under a fusillade of barbs from Modi’s army of social media warriors. He was just a ‘parachute economist’ they sneered and should mind his own business. What nobody appeared to notice was that he had made an important point that we should pay attention to. The former Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, and currently Rahul Gandhi’s unofficial economic advisor, said that until more was invested in improving the school system, it was reckless to think of India as a fully developed country in twenty years. He pointed out that more than twenty percent of our schoolchildren dropout before high school and that the literacy rate in tiny Vietnam is higher than India."
Tavleen Singh
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Sonam Wangchuk’s Himalayan Blunder!

Senior journalist Ranjona Banerji, in The Asian Age, writes about the looming crisis in India's Himalayan region and activist Sonam Wangchuk's 21-day climate fast in Ladakh.

"Sonam Wangchuk fasted to draw attention to the ravages of climate change particularly on the Himalayan region, to demand statehood for Ladakh and to stop the destruction of the mountains by unscrupulous corporates and developers. On every count, as you can see, Wangchuk stood, or rather lay down without food, for what no one wants to really know about India," writes Banerji.

"...scientists have studied the Himalayan region — and am sure you now wonder, as you should, as to how they got permission — and they have found that not only is a year-long drought imminent if global temperatures rise by three degrees, but that India’s food security is at risk. Over 50 per cent of the land in India is likely to experience drought for the next 30 years. In addition, erratic rainfall patterns have already badly affected India’s farmers. You remember them? They keep trying to march here and there in the hope someone might listen to them. Like Wangchuk, they meet the sound of silence."
Ranjona Banerji
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Sadhguru’s Health Crisis and the Blend of Traditional and Modern Medicine

Former Member of Parliament and author Pavan K Varma, in his column in the Hindustan Times, writes about Sadhguru's successful recovery from brain surgery using allopathic methods and how it underscores the importance of choosing the right treatment based on circumstances.

Varma writes, "Sadhguru is recovering well, with all his faculties intact, and his eloquence and wit unimpaired. However, his recourse to allopathic treatment triggered a rather distasteful debate on social media. Many people sneered that a man who was dismissive of modern medicine and propagated Ayurveda and Siddha remedies for health had to, when seriously unwell, find a cure in the same allopathic system he decried."

"Sadhguru has praised Ayurveda, but never excluded the relevance of allopathy. It is true that for chronic ailments, allopathy sometimes has limited remedies. Ayurveda, one of the most ancient sciences, has cures based on treating the body as a holistic entity, where often, the underlying cause of a disease has its roots in maladies seemingly unrelated to what may appear as the obvious reason. I have myself experienced a good Ayurveda physician accurately diagnosing a problem by only intently feeling the pulse."
Pavan K Varma
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What a Hit Film Can Teach Us About Saving Our Hill Stations

In The Times of India, Rajni George, editor and writer at the Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre, weighs in on how movies such as ‘Manjummel Boys’ — a recent Malayalam blockbuster about friendship in the face of life-threatening adversity — and their impact on hill stations like Kodaikanal.

"There is a tradition of films set in Indian hill stations, prior to the more contemporary move to European locations, offering opportunities for romance, showing off winter clothing, flights of fancy and social experimentation," George writes.

"Growing up in Kodaikanal in the 1980s, we encountered stars while they were making films like ‘Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar’ around the lake; bumped into them at dinner while on excursions to Ooty; cheered when the line ‘Chalo, hum Kodaikanal jayegi!’ appeared in Waheeda Rahman’s Ram Aur Shyam. Countless Tamil films like Gunaa – the Kamal Hasan-starrer which MB references as a sort of spiritual predecessor–used Kodaikanal as a beautiful, primal setting in their narrative. The caves, in both films, are mysterious, haunting, awe-inspiring. They also sound a warning."
Rajni George
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