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.

6 min read

Pivot to the Bottom 50 Percent

Congress leader P Chidambaram, in his column for The Indian Express, opines that the Indian economy has let down the bottom 50 percent of the population, comprising the poor and lower middle class. Offering a contrarian view, he says that India becoming a USD 5 trillion dollar economy is a "meaningless goal post," and that "the distribution of income and wealth, the sustainability of the growth model, and the impact on the environment" are more economically significant.

"The increase in the wealth of the country, under the prevailing policies, goes largely to the top 50 per cent. No political party has re-set its policies to benefit the bottom 50 per cent. My pitch at the Raipur session of the All India Congress Committee that concluded last week was to reiterate the party's commitment to an open, competitive, and liberal economy (in order to create wealth) and for the Congress party to embrace the bottom 50 per cent of the population as its core constituency."
P Chidambaram, for The Indian Express

Sing Is King: A Nutty Way To Solve India’s Protein Problem

Nobel Prize-winning economist Abhijit Banerjee, for The Times of India, explores his father's theory that meat consumption and being a good fast bowler are correlated. Examining why India is the stunting and wasting capital of the world, he argues that more than inequality or genetics, the crux of the matter is that Indians "get too many of our calories from grains, and too little from proteins."

"In West Africa, peanuts are that source of protein. In much of India, peanuts are what we eat while waiting for better things. Changing dietary attitudes is not easy – especially for those who are not addicted to Masterchef Australia – but perhaps public feeding programs (say, during social or religious celebrations) offer an opportunity. My taste for the wonderful thick Punjabi dals, to take an example, came out of visits to a langarkhana at a nearby gurdwara."
Abhijit Banerjee, for The Times of India

A Dying Democracy?

Tavleen Singh, in her column for The Indian Express, takes issue with the fact that Rahul Gandhi was delivering a speech at a business school in Cambridge University when the election results for Tripura, Meghalaya, and Nagaland came in. Questioning why the Congress leader was not around to examine the party's failure in the elections, she further says that one of the ways in which Prime Minister Modi has managed to woo the Northeast is by "bringing modernity to a region that was once famous for violent secessionist movements."

"If the Congress Party's most important leader had not trotted off to give a lecture in some foreign college, he would have been sitting with his workers and asking for honest introspection. If this had been the practice since the party lost the general election in 2014, it is possible that by now Congress would have evolved a strategy to win elections. Rahul Gandhi likes to dwell on the death of democracy but appears not to notice that one of the most important things in democracies is the ability to win elections."
Tavleen Singh, for The Indian Express

Royalty's Losing Currency, Not Just for Filthy Lucre

As Australia looks to swap out the portrait of Queen Elizabeth on the country's five-dollar note, columnist Jug Suraiya, for Economic Times, asserts that King Charles not being represented on Australian currency is indication of "the curtain coming down on the British crown ruling the 'roo in the land of Waltzing Matilda." He further suggests that the move is actually a "blessing in disguise" – for Buckingham Palace.

"Clandestine dealings that cash facilitates have earned currency the coinage of 'dirty money'. But money can be dirty in more ways than the metaphoric. Championing Rogoff's crusade for a cashless society, Scientific American has made out a case for money-laundering of the benefic sort: currency notes, particularly those of small denominations that are likely to undergo more usage by way of hand-to-hand exchanges, should be washed regularly to decontaminate them from all manner of pathogens."
Jug Suraiya, for Economic Times

How Indian Colleges Can Step Up Efforts To Prevent Campus Suicides

Commenting on the recent spate of suicides at premier academic campuses in India, former IIT Delhi director V Ramgopal Rao, for The Times of India, outlines what can be done to prevent them. Increasing the strength of teachers, providing a sense of community and belonging, eliminating the stigma about mental health, and hiring more student counsellors are a few pointers that have been laid out.

"It is high time our students in premier institutions come out of their narrow social circles. For example, helping those who are underprivileged, helping a small shopkeeper go online, teaching in a school meant for underprivileged children and basically, knowing the suffering of people outside of their small social circles will go a long way in addressing this problem."
V Ramgopal Rao, for The Times of India

Past and Present Taint Keeps Opposition Divided

In his piece for The New Indian Express, journalist Prabhu Chawla criticises Opposition parties for failing to bury the hatchet and not putting up a united front when the CBI arrested AAP leader Manish Sisodia. He argues that this is in contrast to what happened during the Emergency, when "the entire non-Congress opposition dumped their ideological predilections and set aside enmities to defenestrate the powerful prime minister Indira Gandhi and her party from the halls of absolute power."

"Since politics cannot be done sans money, Modi has destroyed the opposition’s gravy train. His strategy is to keep the opposition from closing ranks on a single issue like the BJP did the Congress in 2014. Natch, Mamata Banerjee wouldn’t seek support from the Left or the Congress even when a dozen of her party’s leaders are in jail or face prosecution. Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao hates to deal with the Congress when his own daughter is facing probes. Arvind Kejriwal and Rahul Gandhi abhor each other more than they hate Modi. Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati wouldn’t break bread with each other even when the ED and the CBI are sniffing out their past records and deals."
Prabhu Chawla, for The New Indian Express

States Investor Summits: Between Promise and Realities

Shankkar Aiyar, in his column for The New Indian Express, scrutinises the phenomenon of state investment summits. He describes the events as having the "countenance of rock concerts," and goes on to add that they are an "important constituent of the political narrative." However, Aiyar also observes the extent to which these summits lead to investments on the ground.

"The past need not be a prologue for the future. The declarations made at investor summits of 2022 and thus far in 2023 suggest that MoUs promising investments of 60 lakh crore have been inked. For sure, not all promises will come through but embedded in the landscape of MoUs is the potential for engineering growth. India’s GDP is effectively the sum of the growth produced by the states. The critical factors of productivity – land and labour – fall under the jurisdiction of the states and a large part of the regulatory cholesterol, the permission raj, is located in the states. The gap between promise and performance is defined by the sloth that has stalled reforms."
Shankkar Aiyar, for The New Indian Express

Then and Now

Writing for The Telegraph, columnist Mukul Kesavan outlines a few transformations that Test cricket in India has undergone since the time he began following touring teams nearly 60 years ago. He suggests that India's cricketing public has it better now due to improvements in television coverage of Test matches. Match commentary has also received an upgrade since ex-players like Ravi Shastri, Sunil Gavaskar, and Sanjay Manjrekar have stepped into the box, he adds.

"Indian Test cricket today is better in nearly every way than it was sixty years ago. The players are fitter, better paid and probably just better than their predecessors. I like to think that the great B.S. Chandrasekhar, who made his debut in the ’64 series, would make it to an all-time Indian XI but I suspect the weight of wickets racked up by Anil Kumble and a batting average of under 5 might sink his case."
Mukul Kesavan, for The Telegraph

Better Never Than Late

Ahead of National Procrastination Week, film director Leher Kala discusses why almost all Indians are "chronic latecomers" in her piece for The Indian Express. She says that being fashionably late is a thing of the past and offers, as proof, the recent incident in which Swedish tennis legend Björn Borg refused to wait at an event for Karnataka Chief Minister Bommai, who was running late.

"In Delhi, if you invite someone for dinner at 8.30, they'll show up at 9.30 without an apology. If you ask what made them late, they have no answer. One hour here or there is culturally acceptable, so it is difficult to even gauge what lateness is anymore. Timeliness, rather the lack of it, is a source of great conflict in a marriage because typically, one person is still shuffling around while the other is out of the door."
Leher Kala, for The Indian Express
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