QExhale: The Best Sunday OpEds & Features, Just for You

QExhale: The Best Sunday OpEds & Features, Just for You

7 min read
Photo: Reuters

1. Across The Aisle: Government proposes, RBI disposes
In his column in the Indian Express, former Finance Minister P Chidambaram questions why Raghuram Rajan and the RBI have backtraced on two major reforms. The first was entrusting the management of domestic debt to an independent agency, the Public Debt Management Agency (PDMA) instead of the RBI. The second was moving the regulation of government securities from the RBI to the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).

QExhale: The Best Sunday OpEds & Features, Just for You

Arun Jaitely had backed both reforms. So why has the RBI backtracked and why has the government not opposed them?

The two proposed reforms were bold steps that would have brightened a mediocre record of the NDA government as it draws close to the completion of one year in office. The Government stood on solid ground. Every committee and commission that had looked into these matters had endorsed the two ideas. The two reforms were consistent with international best practices. The two reforms would not have impacted the average voter and no political capital would have been spent. Yet the Government beat a retreat without an explanation.

2. Fifth Column: Modi’s First Year in Office
Veteran journalist and columnist Tavleen Singh examines PM Narendra Modi’s record a fortnight before he completes a year in office. For her, Modi needs to address and engage with real concerns people have, and not isolate himself from the media. She also points out two areas where the government needs to do more. The first is cracking down on officialdom and reducing the petty corruption and arbitrary exercise of power of the lower bureaucracy. There is also another area he needs to do more in – education and healthcare.

On a personal level I believe that the Prime Minister’s biggest failure in this past year has been his inability to give us at least a hint of new policies in education and healthcare. Massive changes are needed to rectify the harm done over decades because Nehruvian socialist rulers did not even attempt to decolonise mass education. Then there are public health services so abysmal that even the poorest Indians prefer private doctors. Could he not at least have insisted that elected representatives and officials use only public services?

Read the full column from the Indian Express here.

3. Directionless? Learn from Narasimha Rao
In his column in the Times of India, Swaminathan Aiyer takes on some of Arun Shourie’s recent criticisms of PM Modi and shows how Modi can succeed despite inconsistencies if he follows Narasimha Rao’s example.

Shourie says Modi seems keener on managing headlines than policy reform. True, slogans like `Minimum government, maximum governance’, `smart cities’ and `Swachh Bharat’ represent more talk than action. Yet slogans and media management are useful tools, though not vote clinchers. Rao’s “middle path“ was as ambiguous and vague as `minimum govern ment, maximum governance’. Yet Rao succeeded. Bottom line: Modi can succeed despite inconsistencies, provided he overcomes a few key binding constraints on growth. These include land acquisition, the infrastructure mess, bust electricity system and massive red tape.Whether he will achieve all that remains to be seen.

Manmohan Singh (second from R) with PV Narasimha Rao to his left. (Photo Courtesy: Photodivision.gov.in)
Manmohan Singh (second from R) with PV Narasimha Rao to his left. (Photo Courtesy: Photodivision.gov.in)

4. The Bharatiya Big Brother and all His Neighbours
In the aftermath of the Nepal earthquake, Ramchandra Guha examines India’s ‘big brother’ attitude towards its neighbours. The reasons for India’s disputes with China and Pakistan are understandable – they concern borders and territories. But why are our relations with Nepal and Bangladesh souring?

That Bangladesh became a free nation was largely due to Indian help and intervention. The hosting of nine million Bengali refugees in 1970 marks a high point in Indian foreign policy; just as the defeat of the Pakistan Army the following year is the crowning success of Indian military history. Yet it did not take us long to squander the goodwill. The Union government in New Delhi, as well as the state government of West Bengal, took an unyielding line on water disputes. Then New Delhi markedly favoured the Awami League, alienating other important political formations in Bangladesh.‘They [the Indians] just did not understand clean diplomacy,’ wrote BP Koirala in his memoirs. ‘India’s relations with its [smaller] neighbours is its greatest failure in foreign policy,’ wrote Jagat Mehta in his memoirs. Two damning verdicts, one from a long-time friend of India, the other from a longserving Indian diplomat and former foreign secretary.

Read the full article in the Hindustan Times.

5. Salman is the Reel Hero but Dinesh Patkar’s the Real One
In the light of a temporary respite from the High Court, Shobha De looks at Salman Khan’s almost god-like status for his fans. But the real hero, is Dinesh Patkar, the constable who gave testimony against the star.

In all the high-pitched brouhaha surrounding the Salman Khan case, it is important to acknowledge the exemplary commitment to the job shown by an assistant sub-inspector of police at the Bandra police station -Dinesh M Patkar. The case would have collapsed much earlier had crucial missing documents (56 out of 63) not been traced by Patkar and his team. Very few people know what Patkar looks like, and not many care either. But his diligence goes to show how one honest cop can change the course of a key criminal investigation. Patkar was doing his job -sure. Nobody will give him a medal, baksheesh or remember him. But to me, he is a real hero. If India had more Dinesh Patkars, perhaps other cases would enjoy a significantly different fate.

Read the full piece in the Times of India here.

Indian President Pranab Mukherjee with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. (Photo: AP screengrab)
Indian President Pranab Mukherjee with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. (Photo: AP screengrab)

6. Walls of Srinagar Get a Splash of Life

With brushes and buckets in their hands, a group of six Fine Arts students from Kashmir University have begun a unique project commissioned by the municipal corporation — paint murals on the city’s walls to “fill the blank spaces” and “highlight Kashmiri culture”. They started just 11 days ago, and the first two murals are already complete on the road to the Srinagar International Airport — they depict rural life; a third that’s coming up shows the interiors of a typical Kashmiri house.

Read the full article in the Indian Express.

7. On Victory Day in Moscow, Indian Soldiers Make a Point
While many western nations have boycotted the celebrations of the end of World War Two in Moscow to protest Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, both India and China were present.

While India’s presence has raised some eyebrows in the Western diplomatic community, the Indian strategic establishment says that New Delhi has been represented previously as well — Prime Minister Manmohan Singh attended the 60th anniversary in 2005 and Mukherjee, in his earlier avatar as external affairs minister, had attended the 50th anniversary. Officials underline the fact that this should not be seen as an endorsement of Russian actions in Ukraine, since India did not support Russia at the United Nations on the issue.

Read the full story in the Indian Express.

8. Drafting Error Means Rajya Sabha has to Pass Boundary Bill Again

Five days after the Upper House passed the bill to implement the historic Land Boundary Agreement between India and Bangladesh on Wednesday, the Upper House will again have to pass the bill on Monday. The reason: embarrassing drafting mistake by officials in not incorporating amendments in the bill passed by the Rajya Sabha while formally sending it to the Lower House for the latter’s consideration and passage.

Read the full story in the Hindustan Times.

9. Sperm Cells Grown in Lab: Scientists

Human sperm cells have been grown in a laboratory for the first time, in a breakthrough that could lead to a treatment for male infertility, scientists have claimed. A French firm said it had successfully produced sperm from basic reproduction cells - a process which takes around 72 days inside the human body. The research has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal and experts greeted the news with caution. However, if proven the achievement would be a significant breakthrough. The Kallistem laboratory in Lyon said its finding “paves the way for innovative therapies to preserve and restore male fertility”.

Read the full story in The Telegraph.

10. Far from the Madding Crowd
The Hindu looks at a series of young people that have left mainstream careers to chart their own path in the world. From Puja Anand, the CEO of a learning solutions company who now teaches conversational english in a village to Nachiappan Ramanathan an artist who chose to return to his village to become a farmer.

11. This Mother’s Day Think out of the Box, Make Her Day
Don’t just go for the same old ideas. This Mother’s Day, go that extra mile. Go old school and give her a vintage board game. And don’t just buy her a card, write to her from the heart.

Read the full Hindustan Times story here.

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