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

Why bail — even for UAPA and corruption charges — must not be denied

In her column for The Indian Express, advocate Anita Abraham argues that many special laws — such as the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA), the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (NDPS) and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA) — have curtailed the court's discretion to grant bail.

For instance, under Section 37 of the NDPS Act, bail can only be granted to an accused if there are reasonable grounds for believing that the accused is “not guilty” and “he is not likely to commit any offence while on bail”. During a case being heard under one of the special acts last year, the Supreme Court raised an important question:

“What is meant by ‘not guilty’ when all the evidence is not before the court?”

During the hearing, the court observed that the accused had spent over seven years in jail even as the trial had hardly reached the halfway mark. While granting bail, the court noted,“…if trials are not concluded in time, the injustice wrecked on the individual is immeasurable. Jails are overcrowded and their living conditions, more often than not, appalling.”


Watch the elections, you’ll see the chasm that our democracy is unable to cross

In his column for Deccan Herald, TM Krishna writes that it is the indifference of the middle and upper sections of the society towards India's polity that is holding democracy back.

Even amid all the clamour around elections, when political parties make promises of reform, social change, economic progress and also publish a manifesto, how many belonging to the privileged sections bother to read it or follow up on the last, he questions. Naturally then, voting choices are not made for rational reasons. Caste, language and religion become dominant.

"The privileged upper middle class cares a damn about any of this! We are socially secure, economically stable, and culturally dominant. Irrespective of who is in power, our lives go on largely uninterrupted. For us, very little has changed for the worse in the past seventy-plus years. All data, social and economic, point to this fact. Which is probably why the voting percentage of this section is always abysmal."

Why RBI has been wary of declaring an early victory over inflation

In his column for The Indian Express, Dharmakirti Joshi, Chief Economist at CRISIL Ltd, states that India has witnessed growth on key economic indicators in the last fiscal year — GDP data released in February showed the economy grew at 8 percent in the first three quarters of 2023, bringing the overall growth for FY 23 to 7.6 percent.

But, it's not time to celebrate yet for the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) as food and fuel inflation continue to be key causes for worry.

"The latest print for February showed food and non-food inflation were at 8.7 per cent and 2.9 per cent respectively. Core inflation, computed after removing food and fuel from the headline inflation, was at a benign 52-week low of 3.4 per cent. Within food, foodgrain inflation softened somewhat, but vegetables inflation has stayed high and volatile, flaring up to 30.2 per cent in February from 27.1 per cent in January."

Joshi points out that high food inflation not only contributes to weak consumption demand but also affects the lower income groups adversely. Even though the government’s free foodgrain programme provides a cushion to low-income households, an overall reduction in food inflation will bring bigger relief, he argues.


There will be no independent, sovereign Palestine

In his column for The Hindu, former Indian ambassador Chinmaya R Gharekhan argues that it has become increasingly clear that there will be "no independent, sovereign Palestinian state, living side by side with Israel."

He says that despite countries world over repeating the two-state formula, no one in Israel currently supports a Palestinian state because of Hamas' increasing popularity in the West Bank region post-7 October.

"Only if Hamas is totally and effectively eradicated would Israelis be willing to consider the possibility of a Palestinian state. And, the eradication of Hamas is just not going to happen. This means that the war will go on. Rafah will be razed in the process of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) destroying the remaining four battalions of Hamas militia."

Gharekhan warns of dire consequences if the war spreads to nearby nations given Israel’s deadly attacks on Syrian territory including on the Iranian embassy. If Syria and Iran retaliate, there would be tremendous pressure on Egypt, which is to permitting the people from Rafah to enter Egyptian territory even when the IDF invades there.


It’s our democracy, stupid!

In his column for Deccan Herald, author Chandan Gowda reminds that all the cacophony around the Lok Sabha elections — slander, party-hopping, conspiracy theories and fake news — shouldn't distract the voter from the biggest issue this poll season: Electoral Bonds.

The scheme, introduced by them finance minister Arun Jaitley in 2018, had allowed firms to buy unlimited electoral bonds (of up to Rs 1 crore denomination) from the State Bank of India (SBI) and donate them to political parties — all while remaining anonymous. It was struck down by the Supreme Court last month as being "unconstitutional."

"It now appears that several companies bought Electoral Bonds after ED raids on them or to lobby for government contracts. In further proof of the blatant abuse of government power, the Finance Ministry forced the SBI in 2018 to let the BJP its Electoral Bonds worth Rs 10 crore after they had expired (the Electoral Bonds had to be encashed within 15 days of their purchase by the donor, as per the rules set by the BJP government itself)."

He adds that the electoral bonds were a way for the ruling party to ensure greater financial might for itself than the opposition parties, and that the BJP-led government at the Centre has lost credibility to run the country for another term.


Lucknow lessons, and the maze of public relief

In his column for The Times of India, Nobel-winning economist Abhijeet Banerjee draws attention to the long-ongoing debate on 'how to ensure that charity was also good economics’ using the lore of the construction of the Imambaras in Lucknow and how it ensured that the poor (and the upper-middle class) found work to be able to buy food with dignity in the 18th Century.

"MGNREGA, of course, is modelled exactly on the public works of the earlier periods, though Lord Auckland would have surely thought it was too generous. Perhaps as a result, it works. At the same time, our governments are still all too concerned with ensuring that only the truly desperate, prepared to navigate the bureaucratic mazes and not be discouraged by the many engineered dead-ends, get benefits."

Banerjee argues relaxing the rules a bit so as not to exclude those in real need, and even try to be respectful of the beneficiary’s humanity.


New York Times vs OpenAI: Is there a case for copyright?

In her column for The Indian Express, senior Supreme Court advocate Menaka Guruswami takes our attention to a high-profile case wherein the New York Times sued OpenAI and Microsoft for copyright infringement.

The reputed American newspaper told the court that they were unable to enjoy the “fruits of their labour and investment” even as Microsoft’s valuation has grown to a trillion dollars while that of OpenAI’s ChatGPT’s has grown to $90 billion.

"The NYT’s petition includes extracts from searches conducted on ChatGPT, and Bing Chat (Microsofts’ GenerativeAI) that are alleged to throw up NYT articles verbatim. Importantly, the petition for the NYT, while arguing that it has lost billions of dollars, does not ask for a specific amount for damages. It does ask for an injunction to stop the alleged unlawful conduct from continuing."

In response, Microsoft compared the lawsuit to the one waged by the Motion Picture Association of America and Hollywood against the VCR (Video Cassette Recorder) and stated that: “The (US Supreme) Court rejected the alarmism and voted for technological innovation and consumer choice."


Piketty’s wrong again. We should be happy India is creating billionaires

In his column for The Times of India, author Nitin Pai argues that India's policymakers need now worry about inequality and focus on the challenge to create opportunities and how to increase productivity — and, thus, incomes — in agriculture, low-skilled manufacturing and urban services.

Pai argues that Thomas Piketty's new report titled ‘Income and Wealth Inequality in India, 1922-2023: The Rise of the Billionaire Raj’ "advertises" how contemporary India is more unequal than the British Raj and the post-Independence socialist era.

"We should worry if rich are getting richer at the cost of the poor. This does not appear to be the case in India. There is no data to show this. But one look at our streets will reveal more than the data would: for, there are no mass protests. What we have instead are people hurrying about their jobs or looking for opportunities."

Pai added that one should be happy that India is creating new billionaires and public policy should ensure that market power is not concentrated, and that big money does not mix with politics in corrupt ways.


At the core of elections is the idea of the public

In his column for Hindustan Times, author Sundar Sarukkai asserts that even as the Lok Sabha elections are set to begin, in what is being touted as the largest democratic exercise in the world, yet the Indian public does not possess the means (let alone power) to access public institutions that stand for democracy.

" We do not have the power to stop the blatant misuse of government wealth as well as public institutions for the personal benefit of politicians and their family members. So, what power do people really have through this act of voting?

The author recalls BR Ambedkar's principles of fraternity and that while liberty and equality are important principles of democracy, it is only fraternity or maitri that holds these two together.


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