Sunday View: The Best Weekend Opinion Reads, Curated Just for You

We sifted through the papers to find the best opinion reads so you wouldn't have to.

6 min read
Sunday View: The Best Weekend Opinion Reads, Curated Just for You

Good, Bad, and Doubtful

“Those poor people – the children of a lesser god – have been forgotten by the present government,” writes P Chidambaram in his column for The Indian Express, as he analyses the latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS 5) data. In doing so, he categorised the data into three sets – good news, not-so-good news, and news that raise questions.

The good news he shares, citing the data, includes that India’s population is not growing at an alarming rate anymore, the percentage of children born in an institution had gone up from 78.9 per cent to 88.6 per cent, and more girl children were being welcomed into families. The bad news, alarmingly enough, includes that “after 75 years of Independence, one-half of the population cannot be engaged in jobs and businesses of the 21st century that require higher education, advanced technology, and superior skills”.

The third category has to do with claims such as increase in the percentage of households with "an improved drinking water source" and "improved sanitation facility".

"Thanks to indifferent growth rates, many millions are poor and many may be living in absolute poverty. Let’s take just one indicator, namely, consumption of food. Food is the first charge on a household’s income. If a large proportion of women are anaemic and a significant proportion of children are underweight or anaemic besides many children stunted or wasted, that is due to lack of adequate nutrition. Lack of food, to my mind, is a decisive indicator of poverty.”

Small Things That Matter

In her article for The Indian Express, Tavleen Singh also analyses the NFHS 5 data and points out that 89% of Indian children are malnourished before they reach their second year – only a marginal improvement from the findings five years ago. Dubbing the same “heartbreaking and shameful,” Singh notes that “malnourishment in a child’s most formative months means that they will grow up stunted and unable ever to reach their full potential either physically or mentally”.

“When I asked myself why Narendra Modi who has paid so much attention to rectifying negligence of many kinds during Congress rule, I noticed that Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh were the worst offenders when it came to malnutrition in infants. Clearly, this is something he has never paid attention to. Can we hope that after this latest NFHS report from his own government, he will pay as much attention to malnutrition as he did to sanitation in his first term?”

Singh also goes on to express worry over the garbage mountain that remains on fire in Delhi, spewing poisonous gases into the city’s dangerously polluted air.

The Toxic Glare of Limelight

“…a generation brought up on Instagram sees nothing wrong in compulsively trespassing on the personal space of famous people,” writes Leher Kala in her column for The Indian Express, as she analyses how “it can’t be easy being Rahul Gandhi” and having “your every move dissected (and invariably) criticised in front of all and sundry”.

She also notes that if the Congress was winning elections, Rahul Gandhi’s attendance at a wedding in Nepal wouldn’t be cause for comment, but because they are not, “the expectation is that he should be shamefacedly hanging his head down, in hiding”.

Further pointing out that stardom, acquired or inherited, comes with significant benefits, Kala observes that with the desire of fame so ubiquitous, the society barely acknowledges its serious downsides.

“Ironically enough, the truly famous are ambivalent, rather, distraught, by constant adulation. Taylor Swift has said her greatest wish is to drive around alone. In a poignantly illuminating interview, Britney Spears related how she wore the same clothes every day, hoping that would make her “uninteresting” to paparazzi. Prince Harry fled from England. At the height of their popularity, the Beatles retreated to an ashram in Rishikesh, disillusioned by the hysteria surrounding them. All these people discovered that fame just means you get a lot of (hollow) attention.”

Sedition: Hold the Celebrations. We Need Repeal, Not Just Relief

Stating that we must welcome the measure of relief provided by the Supreme Court for the offence of sedition, but “with caution and critically”, Apar Gupta, in his article for the Times of India addresses the concerns that continue to linger in the aftermath of the apex court order.

These include concerns pertaining to the implementation of the order, and what if government nearly promulgates “a modern mutant with greater harm” in place of the existing legislation.

“This relief will completely fail if sedition is not struck off our statute books by the legislature, failing which by the Supreme Court, in a timely manner. This is important for protecting the democratic rights of every Indian internet user.”

Gupta also notes that the rise in sedition cases in India could be linked to increase in internet access.

View: Roll up for the Taj Mystery Tour

Indrajit Hazara, in an opinion piece for The Economic Times, takes a deep dive into the purported mysteries surrounding the Taj Mahal – and the Stonehenge, Bermuda Triangle, Loch Ness by extension.

He does this in the wake of the Allahabad High Court’s recent dismissal of the PIL filed by Rajneesh Singh, BJP youth-media-in-charge in Ayodhya, seeking an Archeological Survey of India led fact-finding commission to "clear all doubts among the people regarding the presence of Hindu idols in the locked rooms".

So what does the author of this piece ponder over, as he flags – on a more serious note – the terrible losses that Taj has suffered owing to COVID related curbs?

“Are there Hindu idols locked up behind those Taj doors? Was 'Mumtaz Mahal' (no relation to Taj Mahal) a cover-up by Shah Jahan to tuck away his father's lover Anarkali, whom Jahangir had given the new identity Noor Jahan after Akbar's death? Were the Mughals aliens from Central Asia who assimilated in Hindustan like the Borg, the cybernetic organisms in Star Trek?”

MSU, Where Freedom Was Once a Lived Reality

In the aftermath of the recent controversy that erupted in Vadodara’s Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda (MSUB) over a piece of afterwork by a fine-arts student – a purportedly “objectionable” depiction of Hindu Gods and the Ashoka Pillar, Leena Mishra reminisces over her time at the university – “memories of a free and happy space”.

But she also recalls how in 2007, a similar row had erupted over an artwork and the artist in question was made to leave the university without a degree and with two criminal cases against him.

Quoting from an academic catalogue on the university’s site, which says that “emphasis is laid on creative identity of students and teachers to foster an approach to the study and practice of art which is inquiring, experimental, and research minded,” Mishra writes in The Indian Express:

“But with every clash, every assault on creativity such as the recent one, that space for “experimental and research-minded” art shrinks somewhat.”

“Leading artistes who have been associated with the FFA since its inception in 1950 as one of independent India’s first and finest schools of art, find these episodes “painful”…They talk wistfully of a time when the late N S Bendre, who taught painting at the faculty, set up the ‘Baroda Group’ in 1956, thus shaping a generation of artistes known for their “regional modernism,” who stood out from among their peers who had trained in British-era Indian art schools.”

For Those Who Don’t Read

In an article for The New Indian Express, Sathya Saran ponders over how reading has been relegated to the only-if-you-must category. This, the author opines, is owing to the fact that reading is an active past time and the “offerings of the visual, moving media are pre-packaged and ready to assimilate by the simple osmosis of staring at a screen”.

“Yet, there is hope for the word. Audio books read out with adequate emotion and feeling by modulated voices can yet create magic, and the word wield its power over the mind. And as long as words, regardless of language, can spin out phrases, concepts, images and expressions, language will thrive.”

In Search of a House for Mr Wrong Caste

Pointing out that, according to a joint study by Savitribai Phule Pune University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and the Indian Institute of Dalit Studies, 22.3 per cent of forward caste (FC) Hindus own 41 per cent of the country’s wealth and that the rental housing market in so-called “good neighbourhoods” in urban India continues to be dominated by FCs, Mukkera Rahul Swaero shared his own experience of house-hunting in an article for The Indian Express.

“I left with a sense of fear and repeatedly looked at details on my Aadhaar card to ensure that my caste was not mentioned on it,” Swaero wrote as he described how the landlords he encountered only wanted to rent to Brahmins.

“My search continued and the general trend became obvious soon. First, I would be asked if I am a Hindu and then there would be follow-up questions about my food habits. Some were less subtle, and asked directly: ‘Kaunsa jaati hai tumhara (What is your caste)?’. I also had trouble answering questions about my ‘gotra’. In one instance, after a conversation about my native place and marital status, I said I am a Christian when the landlord asked me about my caste. Soon he said that he had already rented the house to a Brahmin family.”
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