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

Citizenship Legally Weaponised

In this week’s column for The Indian Express, Tavleen Singh delves into the real purpose of the Citizen Amendment Bill (CAB). Singh says that the BJP’s repeated assertion that the CAB will remove Muslim “termites” from the country leaves no doubt about the real purpose of the bill.

"Last week, while campaigning in Jharkhand, he once more made his speech threatening “termites”. It made me happy to see that there was no response from the crowd. Not even when he asked why “Rahul baba” was so upset that he was showing undue concern. “Where will they go, what will they eat, how will they live, Rahul baba asks. I ask him, are they your cousins?”. Rahul Gandhi and Mayawati are right to publicly oppose a law that seeks to leave it in the hands of petty officials to determine who has a right to be Indian and who not. Most of the “termites” that Shah so despises are very poor people who usually do not have documents to prove if they are Indian or not. They will now be at the mercy of officials who more often than not will use the law as a new source of inhumane extortion.  " - Tavleen Singh in The Indian ExpressThe CAB-NRC Package Is Flawed And Dangerous

In this week’s column for the The Hindustan Times, Chanakya too talks about the CAB and how the BJP is trying to manage its modalities such that their promise of protecting all Hindu (and non-Muslim) refugees in India can be achieved. The NRC in Assam, which was done without a CAB, saw many Hindus excluded from the final list, which has had bad political repercussions for the BJP in places like Bengal. But in a secular country, where religion has never been the reason for citizenship, can it now be a reason for citizenship discrimination?

" In Assam in particular, the BJP converted what was an essentially anti-immigrant sentiment to an anti-Muslim sentiment and cheered on the NRC process. But when the outcome emerged, the calculations went awry. Far too many Hindus were out of the register. CAB provided a solution to this problem.But promising this led to an additional complexity. Northeastern states were furious, for the resentment there remains deep against “outsiders” of all religions. They began fearing an influx of more migrants, especially from Bangladesh. It was to address this discontent that the BJP has introduced the set of exemptions in the new draft bill. In this way, it hopes to strike a balance. Keep the core of the CAB intact, but also assure the northeast — where the BJP is now politically dominant — that it will not be burdened.  " - Chanakya in The Hindustan TimesDon’t Expect The Poor To Sacrifice For Climate Change

In his column for The Times Of India, Swaminathan Aiyar argues that the burden of sacrifice to deal with climate change cannot fall on the poor. Public agitations due to hike in taxes across the world have shown that while poorer people may understand the implications of climate change, they expect others to pay for it as their social and monetary greivances are already too high. What is the solution? Read Aiyar’s article to find out.

"Ironically, the conference was to be in Chile, but the venue had to be shifted to Madrid when riots paralysed Chile after it raised public transit fares by just 3.75%. Earlier, riots paralysed France after fuel price hikes of less than 5%. In Iran, over 1,000 people were killed in riots after a big petrol price hike. Massive protests make it politically impossible to raise fuel taxes enough to meet emission targets. One solution is to make fuel taxes revenue-neutral: higher carbon taxes are not kept by governments but returned to citizens as a universal cash refund or cut in other taxes.Why has this not happened? First, opposition parties swear to reverse big fuel taxes, so citizens simply do not accept the urgency of IPCC targets. Second, even efficient administrations (which are rare) face administrative and financial hurdles in collecting and redistributing carbon taxes. Third, citizens in many countries (including India) do not trust governments to honestly return higher fuel taxes without leakages and bribes. Indeed, most governments lack administrative capacity, and millions of citizens lack bank accounts.Poorer people often know little about climate change or are sceptical of experts. When this is true of the US, why expect any better in poor countries that trust politicians and experts even less? Besides, even if India meets its emission targets, this will be useless unless all other countries meet theirs, which is not happening. The biggest carbon emitter, the USA, has opted out of the Paris Agreement. So, why should Indians make useless sacrifices?  " - Swaminathan Aiyar in The Times Of IndiaMission 80-80-80: A Five-Step Roadmap For Cutting Pollution

Arunabha Ghosh, in his piece for The Times Of India, talks about another climate-change problem that has dominated headlines in India for the last few years- air pollution. In his article, Ghosh suggest a new motto to tackle air pollution in India- 80-80-80. That is, reduce pollution by 80 percent in 80 Indian cities by 2027, which is going to be India’s 80th year of Independence. Ghosh delineates a five-step plan to achieve the same.

"Mission 80-80-80 is possible if the public gets involved. Citizens must realise that air pollution will not disappear overnight. But the least that they deserve is the identification, reporting and elimination of grievous violations. They must also ask if strategic plans have been developed, if prioritised actions are afoot, if capacity has increased, and if there is accountability for failure. Then collective apathy might dissipate, giving way to a collective demand — and collective action — for clean air. We must start by asking hard questions — and demanding answers." - Arunabha Ghosh in The Times Of India.India’s Forest Guards, The Unsung Climate Warriors

Keeping with climate change, read this important piece by Kumkum Dasgupta, in The Hindustan Times, where she talks about India’s real climate heroes- its forest guards. Indian forest guards face poachers’ bullets and threats on a regular basis while on the job, however the recognition they get for their work is dismal.

"To appreciate the work of the guards, one needs to understand the why natural resources are important. A report by the ministry of environment says India’s forests absorb 11.25% of greenhouse gases, which are responsible for the climate crisis. And emissions are increasing every year. According to a recent World Meteorological Organization report, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases reached a new high in 2018. In such a scenario, the role of forests, and forest guards, is critical, as the climate catastrophe singes everyone. And, these hardened footsoldiers just don’t protect forests and wildlife on the land, but also India’s marine resources such as corals. These corals are the breeding grounds of fish, a livelihood source for thousands of people. If you are keen to watch the astonishing range of roles that forest guards play to keep our wild areas intact and the challenging conditions they work in, then do watch Krishnendu Bose’s six-part series, Heroes of The Wild Frontiers." - Kumkum Dasgupta in The Hindustan TimesCan UK Bear More Of Brexit Debate?

Lord Meghnad Desai, in his column for The Indian Express, talks about the upcoming British elections and discusses the various electoral possibilities. These possibilities also reflect the various possibilities of Britain’s Brexit deal. But the question is, how much more debate on Brexit can Britain bear?

"Brexit is the central topic. The Conservative Party has been deeply divided over the question, but right now Johnson is asking for a large vote ‘to get Brexit done’. He has negotiated a deal and he needs a comfortable majority to get it through the House of Commons. Johnson’s gamble is that after two-and-a-half years of debate, voters are fed up with the Brexit issue and want it settled, whatever the deal.The Liberal Democrats are a Remain Party but they are unlikely to get more than 40 seats. The Labour is divided as it has both Leave and Remain voting seats. They are seeking to win and, if they do, renegotiate a deal more friendly to the EU and have a second referendum to get it approved. The Labour wants to get the Remain voters as well as the Leave voters. But by the time the Labour has negotiated a new deal, a whole year may have passed.  " - Lord Meghnad Desai in The Indian ExpressHow The UK Election Resembles India’s Poll

In his piece for The Hindustan Times, Mark Tully talks about the UK elections too, but focuses of the similarities between these elections and India’s recent general election. Two similarities stand out- first, both elections were/ are being fought with nationalism as a key electoral agenda. Second, like Modi’s personality cult, Boris Johnson too is depending on his won charisma than his party’s policies to win him the elections. There are some crucial differences too. Read the article to find out.

"There are, of course, differences between the Indian and British elections. One is that the British candidates do submit themselves to extensive and intensive scrutiny by the Press and the public. They hold press conferences, give interviews and answer questions from the public on radio and television shows. In India, leaders are not as accountable. There is also a difference in the gaps between the ideologies of the parties in the British and Indian elections. The role of religion divides Congress and the BJP. Economics divides the Labour and Conservatives. The improbability of finding the colossal sums required to finance Corbyn’s old-fashioned socialism has helped Johnson keep the election focused on Brexit. The populist Johnson wants his victory to be as impressive as possible. He is unhappy that almost a third of British voters didn’t bother to turn out to vote in the last three elections." - Mark Tully in The Hindustan TimesYour Brain On Rape, Murder, Outrage

In her guest column for The Times Of India, Rega Jha, former Editor-in-Chief of Buzzfeed India, talks about how the human mind, especially the Indian mind, deals with the news of rape. Jha talks about how as a journalist, her response to these incidents would be clinical and focused on how to “cover” such an event. That came with the guilty realisation that the propensity of people to react to negative news is more than that of them to react to positive news. A realisation proved true by research. This, Jha says, is why it is also really important to examine the effect that such news has on our mental health.

"In 2014, researchers at McGill University found that most of us are inclined to pay more attention to negative news stories than positive ones. They wondered if it might be an evolutionary tic — that we’re most vigilant about information that threatens our survival and safety. Scaring a reader means hooking them. Hence the classic journalism dictum: “If it bleeds, it leads.” With so many outlets in competition, news sources rile us up with shocking headlines, flames licking the bottom of the screen, dramatic music, shouting anchors, horrific images of violence, bloodshed, and cruelty, to win our attention. Guess who loses?Unsurprisingly, being plugged into 24-hour cycles of dramatised brutality isn’t good for our minds. Studies have found correlations between excessive news consumption and heightened anxiety about calamities, and between exposure to violent media and stress, anxiety, and PTSD. One psychologist told Huffington Post that after seeing disturbing images, we “are more likely to pick out things in our environment that are potentially negative or threatening.”  " - Regha Jha in The Times Of IndiaInside Track: How To Lose Friends

What is a Sunday without your weekly dose of political gossip, courtesy Coomi Kapoor. In this week’s column for The Indian Express, Kapoor talks about how the BJP now lack friendly intermediaries who can negotiate with the Shiv Sena, Jairam Ramesh’s lost cellphone, cancellation of an event by a powerful right-wing think tank that was to host Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksha, and what we’ve all been waiting to know- was Sharad Pawar involved in Ajit Pawar’s apparent back-stabbing of the NCP in Maharashtra?

"The Pawar family’s much-publicised display of trust and affection for Ajit Pawar, who was said to have stabbed them in the back, has raised eyebrows. It appears that Sharad Pawar, in fact, asked Ajit to explore the possibility of a tie-up with former BJP chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. The NCP patriarch was in no hurry to form a government in Maharashtra and was simply testing the waters to find out from which camp the NCP could secure a better deal. Ajit and several other MLAs believed that they had more to gain from allying with the BJP than being part of a shaky three-party coalition. While Pawar waffled and procrastinated, Ajit presented his uncle with a fait accompli.  " - Coomi Kapoor in The Indian ExpressMore From The Quint:

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