From India recording 8.5 million vaccinations on Yoga Day to the Opposition's conspicuous silence on Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, The Quint's Editor-in-Chief Raghav Bahl shares his views on some recent, and pertinent, developments.
Spectacular 8.5 Million Jabs on Yoga Day; But Will the Govt Keep it Up?
India sprang an unusual surprise by nearly trebling its daily vaccination rate on the first day that its “new” policy regime kicked in – from a tame average of 2.5-3 million per day, we spurted to 8.5 million on International Yoga Day.
Prime Minister Modi was quick to tweet about this exceptional milestone, while his ministers went ballistic, claiming it to be a world record.
Well, somebody forgot to tell them to add a caveat, ie, “in the free world,” because good ole’ China has been hitting a daily average of 15 million plus for several weeks now. So, yes, we’ve created a “world record,” provided you efface China’s map from the globe.
Also, just as the accolades hit a crescendo, credible information emerged which showed how the headline-creating event may have been orchestrated. Why?
Because five BJP-ruled states had slowed down their vaccination programs for a week, thereby hoarding doses which were then administered in “campaign mode” on 21 June to rig up the numbers for a “world record.”
Carping critics could haul the government for “moral hazard,” as the planned slowdown meant that hundreds of thousands of deserving people were deliberately denied the vaccine for a few days, exposing them to illness and death.
Be that as it may, I guess the government plumped for a “dramatic demonstration effect” to snap out of a struggling effort.
To that extent, this could energise the sluggish vaccination drive, provided we have enough vaccines.
The truth is that to maintain the 8-million-a-day rate, we would need 250 million vaccine doses in July. By the government’s own admission, only 135 million doses will be supplied, effectively scaling down the daily average to half, ie about 4.4 million per day, and not the spectacular 8.5 million achieved on Yoga Day.
So, after the feel-good theatrics are done and over, it’s critical to double down to the grungy task of manufacturing or importing 300 million doses every month. Only then will we get the bragging rights to a “genuine” world record!
Opposition’s Conspicuous Silence on Article 370
Prime Minister Modi’s Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) peace overture is gaining traction, with key political opponents agreeing to engage in the process. And conspicuously, everybody’s silent on the demand to restore the special status that was earlier guaranteed under Article 370.
This is politically significant, because if you were to rewind to 2019, these leaders were “adamant” that they would settle for nothing less than a “full restoration of the earlier special status.”
Now, however, there is a not-so-subtle pivot towards the “sole” demand for a “full statehood,” ie Article 370 seems to have been silently abandoned by those who were once unwilling to give an inch?
Even Mehbooba Mufti, the most strident outlier, seems to have fallen in line on this one. Why?
I guess, after months in custody, they’ve read the writing on the wall. Especially, since the Supreme Court, by admitting but then refusing to hear the case challenging the constitutionality of how Article 370 was abrogated, has also, in a sense, delivered the judgment via its resolute muteness on the issue.
So, with an unyielding Union government and SC, and an ambiguous Congress and Left parties, the death of Article 370 has been accepted as a fait accompli by everybody.
“Let’s move forward and get full statehood” has become the rallying slogan. Perhaps that’s politically convenient and sensible. You can either dig in and fight a thankless battle of attrition – something that modern day Indian politicians are not quite cut out for – or you can, well, get back into the legislature and political office. What the heck, it’s only a “slightly” diminished status!
The Curious Case of Carlyle’s Attempted Acquisition of PNB Housing Bank
Carlyle’s attempted acquisition of PNB Housing Bank is becoming curiouser and curiouser. It baffles me that an “indirect public sector company” could have mounted such a daring initiative without taking the government, its indirect parent, on board.
Since when have our public sector banks become so autonomous that they could hive off a critical subsidiary into private hands without Raisina Hills’ nod? So now it’s critical for the Board of PNB Housing Bank to come clean.
Do the Articles enjoin that preferential equity shares shall be issued only at a fair valuation? In which case, the SEBI-mandated formula only provides the legal floor price under which shares could not be issued, but the real price would have to be determined by a fair valuation.
In any case, even if such a provision is not hard-coded into the Articles, the fact is that the Board has to take a professional “fairness opinion” on any acquisition bid, which would certainly include a control premium in the calculation. Why did the Board not do that? Worse, were the Carlyle-related directors allowed to vote on this transaction, despite their conflict of interest?
If yes, then the whole deal fails to pass the “smell test”. It may be prudent to be wiser in hindsight, accept the infringements, and re-launch the transaction with proper checks, balances, and governance practices.
Enid Blyton’s Racism, Iconic Songs & ‘Sexism’: Not Correct, But Context Matters
Can you even begin to imagine your childhood without Enid Blyton’s 700 books? Gosh, would we have gotten through those long summer holiday afternoons without devouring her adventurous tales? But now, this redoubtable lady is getting severe flak for being “racist” and “xenophobic.”
For example, in Little Black Doll, her Sambo was accepted only once the “ugly black face” is washed “clean” by rain. In today’s world, she would rightly be ostracised and shamed for such writing.
But remember, this was written over one hundred years ago, in a different world, which had a million “acceptable infirmities” by the social mores that existed then. That does not make it correct or inoffensive, but at least provides a context.
Closer home, I’ve often wondered about the iconic song from the 1970s, ‘Kabhi Kabhi mere dil mein khayal aata hai.’ It was feted as the epitome of romance, the work of a genius.
But listen closely to the lyrics: “ki yeh badan yeh nigahein meri amanat hain… ki yeh honth or yeh bahein meri amanat hain”. Read it again. “Her (my lover’s) body and eyes, and also her lips and arms, are my precious inheritance/property.”
Yes, if ever a woman has been “objectified” by today’s standards, it’s in this song. She is being called an “amanat,” a piece of precious property, an inheritance, mere chattel. If it had been written today, it would have surely gotten banned, perhaps faced black flags and FIRs. But in that era, it was celebrated as pristine poetry, by men and women.
That’s what I meant. Different times. Different world. Different context.
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