Across the Aisle: Want Managers, Not Just Watchmen
Taking off on PM Modi prefixing "chowkidar" to his name, P Chidambaram argues in The Indian Express, that with increasing evidence on rising unemployment and farmers' distress, India needs "competent economic managers" and not watchmen.
“The evidence on unemployment is mounting with every passing day. The shocking story of the National Sample Survey Office is well known despite the media blacking it out. The NSSO conducts a Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS). The previous survey was conducted in 2011-12 and another survey was conducted in 2017-18. The last report was approved by the National Statistics Commission in December 2018, but the BJP government has withheld the release. Protesting against the suppression of the report, Mr P C Mohanan and Ms J V Meenakshi, the two remaining non-government members of the Commission, resigned in January 2019. There has not been a word of explanation from the government.”
India Needs More Jailed Crooks, Not More Watchmen
In a line of argument similar to P Chidambaram, Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar writes in the Times of India, how the Modi government has missed an opportunity to use digital technology and implement police reforms to strengthen the justice system. He argues that doing this would have enabled "quick jailing of crooks" and led to significant arrests of people mired in corruption.
“India has 28 million pending cases in the lower courts, 3.2 million in the high courts, and 54,000 in the Supreme Court. Modi has done nothing to accelerate justice. The UN norm is 50 judges per million population, but India is nowhere near that, and vacancies are so widespread that Justice VV Rao once estimated actual filled posts at barely 10 judges per million population. The police are understaffed, undertrained and corrupt. The Supreme Court in the Prakash Singh case laid down a set of rules for police reform, but the states have found ways to avoid implementation.”
Why Modi Appeals to Both Techies and the 131 CAs Who Took on 108 Economists
Writing for the Times of India, Swapan Dasgupta argues that the recent protest by CAs in India against the economists for their "politically motivated attempts to discredit India and dent its credibility" is reflective of two Indias. On one hand, he argues, are the "so-called liberals" who are enthusiastic about ending Modi rule and for whom, the "idea of India" is in conflict with the "other idea of India." Dasgupta argues that this liberal echo-chamber is contrasted by the "chowkidar army and fraternity of bhakts" who believe that under PM Modi, India can achieve greatness.
“Secondly, with rapid economic growth and prosperity — a process that began in 1991 — the world of Hindu traditionalism has experienced a dramatic change. The most important of these has been the expansion of the middle classes resulting from increased opportunities. A neo-Hindu middle class that combines livelihood in the ‘modern’ professions and a commitment to technology with an adherence to traditional values and robust nationalism, has emerged and grown in self-confidence. Modi is an expression of this phenomenon and appeals to both the aspirational techies of Bengaluru and the 131 chartered accountants who decried 108 economists for their “politically motivated attempts to discredit India and dent its credibility.”
Out of My Mind: Cong Chances in a Three-Cornered Fight
Writing for The Indian Express, Lord Meghnad Desai, in his column "Out of My Mind", writes that the biggest surprise of the 2019 election campaign has been the failure of the Grand Alliance to emerge and Congress' role in it.
He argues that we might have a three-cornered contest on our hands for the General Election: BJP, Congress with its select partners, and an anti-BJP coalition of regional parties.
“The surprise in the campaign is the failure of the Grand Alliance to emerge. In Uttar Pradesh, the SP-BSP bandhan will run against the Congress as well as the BJP. In Delhi, AAP will do the same. In Bihar, the Congress played hardball with the RJD and in West Bengal, the Congress and CPM have decided to go their own ways. Only in the south has the Congress agreed to join with the JD(S) in Karnataka and the DMK in Tamil Nadu. What is going on? My best guess is that Rahul Gandhi has decided the Congress has to go it alone if it is to recover its position as the top party. The decision is a risky one.”
The Goan Connection I Had with Parrikar
Reminiscing over his memories of the late Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, Karan Thapar writes in the Hindustan Times about how Parrikar used to call him the "son-in-law" of Goa and was unfailingly kind and polite when the two met — once over a meal of prawns, which Thapar was allergic to, and coffee, which Parrikar insisted was better than the "dreadful Nescafe they drink in North India!"
“I first met him in the early 2000s when he was chief minister of Goa and my colleague and former producer, Ashok Upadhyay, invited him to be a guest on the BBC programme, Question Time India. We were recording at Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) auditorium and I walked up to greet him as his car drove in.“I know your secret,” he said with a large smile as we shook hands. I was quite taken aback. Parrikar laughed. He knew he had me stumped. “I know about your Goan connection.” Parrikar did not reveal how he had found out that my late wife, Nisha, was Goan. But I was rather chuffed that he had made the effort.”
Fifth Column: No Justice yet for Pehlu Khan
Last week, Tavleen Singh visited Behror in Rajasthan where Pehlu Khan was beaten to death two years ago. She writes of her conversation with Khan's family in The Indian Express, and how they are still waiting for compensation and some semblance of justice.
While people in Behror spoke of the "Modi wave," Singh writes that she hopes that if PM Modi comes back to power, then Pehlu Khan's killers are jailed.
“Arif, a scrawny young man who was with his father when they were attacked, spoke in an emotionless voice. “We cannot go to Behror. Last time we tried to go for a hearing, gunmen fired at our car in Neemrana. They warned us not to try going any further. So our lawyer is now trying to get the case transferred to Alwar.” In the same emotionless voice he told me what happened on April 1, 2017, when they were stopped by cow vigilantes in Behror. “We had two cows and two calves in the truck… and papers to show that they were bought at the cattle fair in Jaipur. They tore the papers up and looked at my father’s beard and said you are Muslims. Then they started beating us with hockey sticks and belts. They said they were from the Bajrang Dal. They beat us so badly that I am still in pain. There was so much blood in my eyes that I could not see.”
Quality over Quantity in Politics and Government
In the Hindustan Times, Mark Tully writes of India's cynicism — in voters and politicians — and analyses whether a committed socialist or a committed capitalist government is the cure to it. However, he concludes that irrespective of ideology, it is imperative that the next government in India is dedicated to governance.
“So does India need a committed socialist or a committed capitalist with an ambitious vision? Most readers of this column would probably say India has had more than enough of committed socialism. In my lifetime, I have twice seen ambitious visions being taken too far in Britain. Clement Atlee, Britain’s first post-war prime minister, was a socialist visionary but his vision was taken too far, making governments local as well as national and the trade unions too powerful. The crisis that eventually resulted led to the backlash of Margaret Thatcher’s radical capitalist vision. The unfortunate results of that being taken too far are all too obvious in today’s income inequality and environmental degradation.”
Abusing Mimi and Nusrat
Veteran Bengali journalist Ajanta Sinha writes in the column "Lost in Translation" in The Indian Express on the outrage and the disgusting tenor of attacks on actresses Mimi and Nusrat contesting from West Bengal in the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha elections. She writes that actors joining politics is nothing new, from Jayalalithaa to Sunil Dutt. However, she adds, the focus of the coverage of Mimi and Nusrat's entry into politics on their "sex appeal" and "unsuitability" is reflective of a vulgar mindset.
“Therefore, there’s no reason to assume that a few ignorant old-school voters, aghast at the thought of two young, glamourous “heroines” running for Parliament, were spearheading the outrage. Though that outrage in itself would be illogical. The more disgusting, and dangerous, fact of the matter lies in the foul language and tone of the attacks against the two women, from apparently aware, socially conscious individuals. It is as though Mimi and Nusrat have successfully unlocked the floodgates of ugliness, crudity and meanness hidden in the dark depths of our refined minds.”
Celebrating Club Cricket in Bengaluru
Writing in the Hindustan Times, historian Ramachandra Guha writes on the centenary of the Bangalore United Cricket Club (BUCC), his memories of the club, and how under the stewardship of Keki Tarapore, the BUCC nurtured some of India's finest cricketing talent, including Rahul Dravid.
“Growing up, I was taught to regard BUCC and Swastic Union as bitter rivals. Our hostility to Swastic was undisguised and total. On the other hand, our attitude towards BUCC was more ambivalent. Of course, we always wanted to beat them on the field; but we nonetheless retained a deep fondness for the club’s moving spirit, a man named Keki Tarapore. Our family home in Bengaluru was in Jayamahal Extension. Living in the same locality was a certain Syed Mujtaba Hussain Kirmani. I grew up hearing stories of how Kiri learnt to keep wickets in our colony’s park, using a brick in either hand; and how it was Keki Tarapore who bought him his first gloves, took him to the BUCC, and made him a Test player.”
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