Across the Aisle: Go Back and Read George Orwell
P Chidambaram in his Sunday column for the Indian Express has vehemently opposed the idea of extending Aadhaar, indiscriminately, to welfare and non-welfare programmes. He begins his argument on the recent dilemma, by tracing the evolution of the idea itself, back to 2009 when it originated, and all the different stages it went through.He speaks of how the current government did a complete U-turn on its previous stance on Aadhaar in 2011, when it wasn’t in power, to it currently extolling its virtues.
While the change of heart was welcome, what one did not expect was that the government would throw all caution to the winds and extend Aadhaar, indiscriminately, to welfare as well as non-welfare programmes. The government has made the possession of Aadhaar practically mandatory to receive benefits or to comply with regulatory laws, thus brazenly disregarding the limits set by the Supreme Court. Aadhaar is now required to file an income-tax return, to get a mobile telephone connection, to receive a university degree and so on. Soon, it is feared, Aadhaar will be mandatory to get a driving licence or an air ticket or even a rail ticket. Will it then be extended to taking health insurance or becoming a member of a library or paying one’s club bills?
Inside Track: Silent Coup
Coomi Kapoor in her column for the Indian Express on Sunday attempts a comprehensive analysis of the current political scenario across various states of the country. She begins with Tamil Nadu, and the likely reunification of the warring AIADMK factions, “with the ‘delinking’ of Sasikala and her nephew TTV Dinakaran from the party, being facilitated by the Modi government”.
The AIADMK MLAs had been apprehensive of their future after the Election Commission froze the party’s symbol and countermanded the R K Nagar by-election. Incriminating ledgers were also seized during income tax raids on the offices of state Health Minister C Vijayabaskar (The ledgers were so incriminatingly precise reportedly because Sasikala in jail had to be kept in the loop). Matters took a turn for the worse when Dinakaran was accused of trying to bribe an EC official. There was very real apprehension that the Central government may impose President’s rule in the state, something every MLA wanted to avoid at all cost. The Paneerselvam camp, with far fewer MLAs, was requested to rejoin the Sasikala group, on the understanding that Sasikala and her family members would be shown the door.
While We Obsess Over Trivia, AI is Coming For Our Jobs
Aakar Patel, in his column ‘Aakarvani’ for the Times of India, tolls a doomsday bell for India in the realm of artificial intelligence and doesn’t mince words about it. This AI, he believes, will be so powerful that it will take over from humankind (which, in turn, will be rendered obsolete). The intelligence, he presumes, will be “Gujarati speaking”, a dig even the most unassuming reader will not miss, and it is a reality soon to be upon us, driven by the “law of exponential growth in information technology”.
Humans are not going to become obsolete overnight: we are going to become obsolete in stages. And those nations that have large populations equipped with few skills are going to become obsolete before others. We have a larger population of unemployed and underemployed women and men than any nation on earth. We have the largest group of people about to enter the working population. And we have fewer resources per capita to skill and equip them for this uncertain future than most nations.
Jinnah’s 2-Nation Theory Triumphs in Kashmir
Sagarika Ghose, in her column ‘Bloody Mary’, for the Times of India, writes a scathing condemnation of the dual treatment meted out to Kashmir and Kashmiris in our current political context; “Kashmir is ours, but Kashmiris are jihadis”, she writes of the common perception. She talks of how the image of a Kashmiri strapped to an army jeep is already “viral”, and how both the army and the protesters have been pushed to the brink and at the point of exhaustion. She believes we have effectively proved Jinnah’s Two-Nation Theory (of Hindus and Muslims being two nations that simply cannot live together) to be true:
In fact, the crisis in Kashmir shows India’s inability to accept real diversity. Muslims are only acceptable when they’re in small numbers, not when they exist in large numbers as in UP or form the majority as in Kashmir. Azaadi’s not a political sentiment anymore but an Islamic identity-centred ideological war against the perceived Hindu Rashtra. Is the ghost of Jinnah having a secret laugh even as Nehru’s project is buried?
Out of My Mind: Two Women
“Today, a fundamental decision is about to be made in France,” writes Meghnad Desai on the impending election in the European country, for his column ‘Out of My Mind’ in the Indian Express. He elaborates on the first round of the presidential election, particularly the candidate from the Extreme Right, Marine Le Pen.
If Marine Le Pen comes first or second, she qualifies for the second and final round a fortnight hence. She may well become the President. This time around the usual parties are much more divided and weaker than they were when her father challenged France. That a west European nation would choose voluntarily a fascist leader is itself a sign of the extent to which normal politics has failed to meet the needs of the people. The most recent terrorist event in Paris may help her win.
The second woman, at the helm of a changing political vortex, is “across the Channel”: Britain’s Theresa May. The latter has called for an election on June 8, considering that Brexit has been a “crisis of self-belief for Britain”.
The country was almost equally divided between those who want to stay in the European Union and those who want to leave. The leavers are anti-Establishment. Here again there is a sense of malaise. The political system may have failed the public. The difference is that extremist parties have no chance of winning. UKIP, the party of Brexit, has lost every by-election since the Referendum. Even the Labour Party expects massive losses. The front-runner is the Conservative Party, which is expected to emerge with a larger majority, one hundred plus rather than the 17 at present.
Low Turnout in Srinagar Bypoll, Army Videos: Are We on the Brink of Losing Kashmir?
Karan Thapar, in his column for the Hindustan Times, begins with a statement made by former Home Minister P Chidambaram, who stated that “we are on the brink of losing Kashmir”. One can call it either a “disturbing exaggeration” or understand the possibility that Chidambaram was simply drawing attention to the crisis in Kashmir. Thapar goes on to elaborate, starting with the sorry turnout at the Srinagar by-election. He wonders if the “just 7.14% turnout” can really enable Farooq Abdullah to claim to have a popular mandate?
On the original day of voting the turnout was just 7.14%. When re-polling was done it collapsed to 2 %. But beyond the percentages the details are more shocking. Of a total of 35,619 voters only 709 actually voted when re-polling was held. In fact, no voting took place in 27 out of 38 booths. Not surprisingly, this led the Election Commission to postpone the Anatnag by-poll but many questioned why it did not postpone the Srinagar by-election as well? After all, that was the advice of the Home Ministry in Delhi and the desperate plea of all political parties in Srinagar..
Desi is as Desi Does: The Brotherhood of the Balti
As summer rapidly approaches and makes its way across the parched earth of Delhi, Mukul Kesavan writes a delightful, anecdotal take on a desi favourite, the balti, and its indispensable joys during the summer, for The Telegraph. He begins on a wistful note, as he ruminates on all the many things that define “what it is to be desi” for someone, from being apologetic for stepping on paper, either accidentally or otherwise, to using a mug or lota for one’s morning ablutions. The balti is a similarly integral part of Kesavan’s desi-ness.
Those baltis were heavy things; hefted by a child they felt half-full when empty. Filled, they couldn’t be carried, they had to be pushed. The sound of thin metal dragged over cement floors made chalk on board seem mellow. The lota was beautiful in contrast, all yellow brass and buttery edges. The dings and dents that bent the light on its surface made it precious in a delicately weathered way.
Dude, Your Phone’s Smarter Than You
Mrs Funnybones does it again. Twinkle Khanna, in her riotously funny column for the Times of India, this Sunday, takes on the mighty friend and nemesis: the smartphone. In a delightfully sassy piece, she first elucidates the many reasons one needs to be able to read names and numbers, once she receives calls and messages from an unknown woman who is certain Khanna is out to get her husband! The phone fiasco is quickly remedied and followed up with a more ‘national outrage’ story, with Khanna bemoaning the country’s obsession with the Snapchat CEO.
Sane voices try intervening, ‘Calm down folks, this is a statement made by a disgruntled ex-employee attributing it to the CEO!’ But they are drowned out in a roar, ‘Chup kar, uninstall Snapdeal!’ And, ‘But Bhaisaab it is Snapchat not Snapdeal!’ is met with bursts of ‘Don’t teach us, all snap snap same same!’ I have a feeling that Ketu is traveling through Snapdeal’s astrological chart because for no fault of theirs, irate Indians had earlier uninstalled the app when their then brand ambassador Aamir Khan voiced his views on intolerance in the country.
Of Edicts Then and Now
Ruchir Joshi, in his Sunday column for The Hindu, writes a powerful piece on the debate of “standing up for the national anthem”, a narrative that he laces with personal anecdotes as passed on to him by his parents, both participants in India’s freedom struggle. Joshi begins by drawing a poignant sketch of the time his father had to go into hiding in the 1940s right after he espoused Gandhi’s ‘Quit India’ movement, and consequently ‘lay low’ in Mount Abu. It was in this delightful little hill station, that Joshi’s father would often run into trouble with the imperialists for not standing up when the Union Jack fluttered on screen before a movie. When a ruckus ensued, Joshi senior was told that he needn’t stand for it, to avoid further trouble.
My parents, and millions of others, did not fight for a country where a person can be beaten up by vigilantes, jailed, or even fined for not standing up for the national anthem. That was the kind of Empire from which they were trying to break free. If I feel the flag is currently being misused by the army or the government, I have a right to not salute it; if I perceive it as such, I have a right to sit out the static anthem dance of pseudo-patriotism. If I don’t want to say “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”, or “Jai Hind”, or even “Long Live the Secular Republic of India”, I’m within my rights to refuse and the law is obliged to protect me. Or it should be.
From The Quint:
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