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

This Was Not Gandhi’s Idea of Khadi

Jaya Jaitley, in a column for The Indian Express, delves into Prime Minister Narendra Modi's invocation of khadi and other cottage industries on the occasion on Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary and notes how Khadi's politically charged history has corrupted the cloth's production today.

In place of Gandhi's idea surrounding the cloth – which was 'for all citizens to produce it freely and wear it proudly' – Jaitley underlines the emergence of 'police state for the khadi sector, full of acts and rules that put production in a straitjacket.'

There are so many restrictions that most producers have no incentive and many small bodies are unable to pay Rs 50,000 for certification. It is shocking that KVIC has filed more than 1,000 cases against establishments for using the word “khadi” even as a part of a descriptive sentence. KVIC may wish that fabric that has not been hand-spun or handwoven should not be passed off as khadi but in many cases the certification process itself creates a problem.
Jaya Jaitley, The Indian Express

The Gandhian in the West: Badshah Khan

In her Gandhi Jayanti column for the Hindustan Times, Sifra Lentin shifts the spotlight towards Mahatma Gandhi’s greatest follower — Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, also known as Badshah Khan.

In the context of the ongoing Afghan humanitarian crisis, Lentin asserts that it is Khan's 'universal, inclusive and humanistic interpretation' of the Quran which bring his relevance into sharp focus today.

Badshah Khan is known as Frontier Gandhi, a name he disregarded believing there was only one Gandhi. But what really captures the essence of this great man is the name Islamic Gandhi. It is a term increasingly used by contemporary scholars to exemplify that Islamic jihad is not violent if interpreted the Badshah Khan way. Khan demonstrated that truth and non-violence, revived by Gandhi as the spiritual core of India’s struggle for freedom, was, in fact, the essence of the Holy Koran. He then took it upon himself to popularise non-violence among his people – the Pathans, whether Muslim, Hindu or Sikh. In his own words: “It is my inmost conviction that Islam is amal, yakeen, muhabbat (selfless work, faith and love).”
Sifra Lentin, Hindustan Times

The Case of the Missing Jobs

"A ship on a course, even without a firm hand at the wheel, will, under normal circumstances, sail forward," notes former finance minister P Chidambaram in his column for The Indian Express.

Analysing jobs and joblessness since the final year of the UPA government before the BJP rose to power, Chidambaram opines that while the number of firms employing 10 or more persons has seen an ascent since 2013-2014, the government is still destitute of any credibility in terms of its promise to create 2 crore jobs a year.

A few days ago, the Ministry of Labour and Employment released a report on a survey of firms employing 10 or more workers in nine sectors that account for 85 per cent of the total employment (the formal sector). The report concluded that total employment stood at 3.08 crore as against 2.37 crore in 2013-14 (Sixth Economic Census), that is an increase of 71 lakh jobs in seven years. Extrapolating the number to cover other sectors, the increase would be, at most, 84 lakh jobs. The report appears not to have covered the informal sector or the farm sector. The report claims “most impressive growth” ranging from 22 per cent (manufacturing) to 68 per cent (transport) to 152 per cent (IT/BPO) — but, remember, all of this adds up to only 71 lakh jobs!
P Chidambaram, the Indian Express

A perusal of data from other sources, namely the employment-unemployment data gathered and published by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), adds to depressing conclusions, Chidambaram notes.

No More ‘High Command’, Please

In her article for The Indian Express, Tavleen Singh reflects on the dangerously feudal structures that Indian political parties continue to rest on, and the sycophancy and hero worship that validate these frameworks.

No political party is in greater danger of being destroyed by its ‘high command’ than the Congress, but it seems unable to save itself. The ‘high command’ is currently a triumvirate and the oldest member of it is rarely seen these days. She is rumoured to be in poor health. So, it is Sonia Gandhi’s children who make political decisions now, and with the careless insouciance of spoilt heirs. Neither of them has shown the ability to win state or general elections for their party either on their own steam or because of the charisma of the family name, but they are today more powerful than any other leaders in our oldest political party. It was they who decided, one fine morning, that the Chief Minister of Punjab was a liability and had to go.
Tavleen Singh, the Indian Express

Indian Soft Power Needs to go Beyond Bollywood and Food

Arguing that India needs to adopt a more holistic view of soft power, Swapan Dasgupta, in his article of The Times of India glances at Sarat Chandra Das's journey through Tibet, and his acquired influence in the region.

The incorporation of soft power into traditional diplomacy is welcome. Yet, India’s approach suffers an inherent shortcoming: it is principally based on an export strategy — the transmission of Indian culture overseas. What has been significantly lacking is what Das achieved in the 1880s — the showcasing of India as a nursery of global knowledge. Despite the loss of Empire, both Britain and France have supplemented their traditional soft power strengths with their roles as vibrant intellectual centres of other cultures. Economic pressures have resulted in a truncation of European priorities, but the intellectual hold of its soft power institutions can’t be underestimated. As for the US, its well-endowed universities, museums and think tanks prompt global admiration and envy.
Swapan Dasgupta, Times of India

Caste System: Hindus Must Reflect, Drive Change

In an article for The Indian Express, professor Anantanand Rambachan meditates on the discomfort upon encountering the gulf between his view of Hinduism and the oppression perpetuated by his religion.

Recognising the significance of social change in this context, he iterates, "There can be no genuine dismantling of the structures of caste without the willingness of Hindus to move from defensive justification to radical self-criticism."

The repudiation of religious teachings and practices that justify caste must be complemented by Hindu support for policies that redress economic and other disadvantages. There is a direct relationship between regarding some bodies more worthy than others and unequal access to goods and opportunities. The affirmation of a Hindu theology of human equality and dignity, grounded in the teaching that the divine exists equally and identically in everyone, is fundamental for the work of social change and structural transformation.
Anantanand Rambachan, The Indian Express

Deshbhakti: Can Patriotism be Invoked?

Commenting on Arvind Kejriwal's introduction of a 'Deshbhakti curriculum' in Delhi government schools, Leher Kala, in her column for The Indian Express, argues that there can be something deeply enriching about a nuanced curriculum about India's past.

However, she writes, with chapters titled 'Deshbhakti: My Country, My Pride’, reality indicates that the course may prove to be hopelessly banal.

There is something fundamentally self-defeating about making patriotism mandatory because, like parenting, it’s an emotion that occurs naturally from within. Some years back the Supreme Court passed the law that the National Anthem be played before the screening of films in cinema halls. It didn’t work. Personally, I love Jana Gana Mana, but being compelled to stand in a dark movie theatre where people are constantly shuffling in and out was not conducive to experiencing intense love for my country. Eventually, most of the states decided to make the playing of Jana Gana Mana optional. The exercise wasn’t entirely pointless either, as it stirred debate on whether there is any value in these public displays of patriotic virtue.
Leher Kala, The Indian Express

Crumpled Spaces

In a piece for The Telegraph, Saikat Majumder ruminates over the coalescing of our work, school and comfort spaces over a year after COVID-19 struck people's lives and completely altered them.

Pandemic-era space sharing tells me there is only one thing more important than concentration. Distraction. For those of us lucky enough to hold on to life and livelihood these last couple of years, what have we lost? Life itself: the touch of air on an unmasked face, the joys of recreational travel, the frustrating thrill of a crowded Puja pandal, whiling away time in a pub or a teashop with strangers without fear in our lungs. If you’ve been lucky enough to continue working, work is all you’ve got, because Zoom meetings and classes do not even require climbing the stairs or taking a break in the cafeteria, or smiling at a stranger in the elevator — the odd punctuation marks of living that we now know used to make up a life.
Saikat Majumder, in The Telegraph

Why Fears of Rising Muslim Population, Immigration are False

Debunking the communally charged claims of the 'threat' of a proliferating Muslim population, Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar, in his article for The Times of India, writes that the increase of 4.4 per cent share of Muslim population in the past six decades has been very gradual.

Aiyar notes that rising incomes have led to decreasing fertility in nations across the world, including India, and observes that since muslims are more economically backward, they will therefore take more time to reach the fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman.

The Pew Centre notes that the fertility gap between Muslims and Hindus was 1.1 children in 1992, and has more than halved to 0.5 children in 2015. If this trend continues, the gap should disappear altogether in a little over two decades. In short, there is no threat whatsoever to the huge preponderance of Hindus in India.
Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar, The Times of India

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