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

Sacred Aims Aside, It’s Profane Games at CBI

Comparing the drama that unfolded this past week at the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to Netflix’s gritty crime drama Sacred Games, Indraji Hazra in his column in The Times of India, tracks the twists and turns of the case, that has even more loopholes than the average soap opera. With the Congress touting outed chief Alok Verma as a martyr, put on the chopping block for his work on the controversial Rafale deal to Special Director Rakesh Asthana’s alleged reputation as being the CBI’s “mop-up” man, who played his own role in sending Lalu Yadav to prison for the fodder scam in 1997 among a host of other good deeds, the ‘facts’ floating around are neither reliable nor relevant to the greater question of deciding on the CBI’s credibility.

Congress, which has known the functions of the CBI arguably better and longer than even the CBI, has joined cause with Verma, accusing the government of illegally elbowing in to ‘remove’ a CBI chief selected by a collegium. It has also read the court’s decision to put interim director Nageshwar Rao ‘on ice’, as a move against the ‘nefarious institution-destroying’ designs of the Modi government. Which is a bit like accusing Tulsi in Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi of over-acting.So what is the real issue? To find the truth behind corruption charges in the CBI? To return (sic) the agency to its ‘industrious, impartial, honourable’ ways minus its government attack-dog function? With the Central Vigiliance Commission (CVC), the SC should be able to settle the first quiz question soon enough. The second question is a bit trickier.  

Inside Track: Who’s With Whom in This Battle?

With the CBI Wars churning out fresh participants, vested interests and insidious interconnections on a daily basis now, Coomi Kapoor writes that much of the mess is because of police officers in the CBI and other law enforcement agencies, becoming pally with different political camps, in an attempt to render themselves well protected. In her piece in The Indian Express, Kapoor tracks the changing loyalties in the power corridors of the country, through the lens of regional parties in the South, curiously selected spokespersons and legacies claimed post mortem.

Keeping track of who is with whom is difficult, since equations can change. For instance, Karnal Singh, who is stepping down as ED chief, fell out with the government because he supported his powerful junior Rajeshwar Singh, who in turn is friendly with the furloughed CBI chief Alok Verma and some influential politicians.If the CBI’s Rakesh Asthana has the backing of a VVIP from Gujarat, another from the state opposes him. A K Sharma, also a well-networked officer in the CBI who was shunted out, was closer to Verma than Asthana, who is from the same cadre. The Congress, Common Cause and Prashant Bhushan, who once opposed Verma’s appointment as CBI chief, are now fighting for his retention.  

Across the Aisle: Things Fall Apart; the Centre Cannot Hold

Dissecting everything wrong with the Indian economy today, P Chidambaram, in his weekly column for The Indian Express, talks about poorly funded government programmes, the lack of internationally acclaimed economists, the crashing rupee and stock market, among other things. Breaking down all of the issues currently plaguing the economy in concise bullet points, attacking micro and macroeconomic decisions taken by the government, Chidambaram prepares a scathing report card of Modi regime.

There is an old saying ‘Misfortunes don’t come singly’. It seems that the gods are not smiling on the Indian economy. Stock prices have dropped so much that the indices are trading at levels where they were 15 months ago. Foreign Portfolio Investors pulled out Rs 35,460 crore this month until October 25. This year, so far, the outflow has been about Rs 96,000 crore. The rupee was in free fall and, among developing economies, it is one of the worst performing currencies against the US dollar. Farmers are in revolt. The market prices of most agricultural produce are below the declared Minimum Support Prices (MSP).All of the above, and more, will require competent economic advisers and competent economic managers. After the exit of Dr Raghuram Rajan, Dr Arvind Panagariya and Dr Arvind Subramanian, there is no economist of international repute advising the government. Of the economic managers, the less said the better. They are busy defending the indefensible and writing blogs.

‘The India of my dreams’ – an eclectic journey of the mind: Part 3

Discussing the importance of living in a corruption free society and starting with listing India’s poor scores on all indices that measure corruption in the world, Dr Abhishek Manu Singhvi talks about talking less and doing more, to actually combat the ‘evil.’ Listing out seven ways to start fixing the deep-rooted issue, Singhvi draws in his experiences learnt from other countries, reviving the bureacracy side by side and also to use the judiciary to tend to the problem,

During my Cambridge years, we had a student contingent of Singaporeans whom Lee Kwan Yew, first Prime Minister of Singapore, used to send to England and I had many long discussions with them. It is true that the Singapore example is not a transplantable or an easily applicable example in a country the size and diversity of India. But there are many lessons we could learn from that country, which, in the 50s and the 60s was certainly far, far more corrupt than India then was. Singapore transformed itself in less than five to ten years. It achieved this by implementing a few basic rules and making sure that those basic rules were applied

Dear men, Sign up now. YouToo Must Become Part of #MeToo

Calling on men to understand the daily violation in the lives of women they co-exist with, Sagarika Ghose writes in her column for The Times of India that men need to participate in the movement that is blending the divide between urban and rural India, corporate sector to the film industry. Asking them not to hide behind the facade and popular hashtag of #NotAllMen, she invites them to be a part of a revolution that is as important for their futures as those of the women they live and love with.

From the ignorant, sexist remarks spewed by politicians to the fact that not a single huge figure from corporate India has empowered the campaign with a credible voice, she writes about the importance of gender justice.

Indian men, do you want to be militant, muscle-flexing traditionalists, shrieking out a shallow defence of preposterous inequalities and insisting on your right to humiliate and commodify women? Or do you want to be liberal Gandhian cool cats, proud of your best selves, idealistic citizens working for a society based on freedom, dignity and equal space for all? The choice is yours because #MeToo is about YouToo.

Out of my Mind: Lawless lawmen

In his column in The Indian Express, Megnad Desai gives his two cents on one of the most horrific happenings in the recent past, the case of Jamal Khashoggi. With the reassuring takeaway of the pen being feared for being mightier than the sword, there was a crassness and messiness to his death that could have been done away with it.

Pointing out that the ‘érror’ was in getting him murdered outside Saudi Arabia, which could not have been kept a secret in today’s globalized and technology-driven world, a glaring failure has also been the absolute worse cover up job by Saudi authorities when it came to telling a credible story. Saudi Arabia, it seems, has a lot to learn from the Chinese.

The most encouraging aspect of the Khashoggi story is that a single honest journalist was seen as a threat by the Saudi regime. Indeed Khashoggi seemed to create so much fear in the absolute rulers of Saudi Arabia that he had to be killed. The pen is mightier than the sword. Even so, the killing seems to have been a needlessly cruel and messy job. How much must be the anger against Jamal Khashoggi that he was not just shot, nor poisoned. As far as we know, he was hacked to pieces and the body parts were scattered. It is a horrible way of showing hatred for someone who poses a threat by merely writing newspaper columns.If the act had been carried out within Saudi Arabia, no one would have found out. But the irony of globalisation and the power of technology is such that even crime was found out.

What’s Good for Haji Ali Shrine Must be Good for Sabarimala too

In his column in Times of India, Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar writes that the fear of menstruating women by religions is not restricted to Hindus alone but is a common trope in Islam and the Orthodox Christian Church too. Using the example of the Haji Ali shrine in Mumbai that acceded to court opinion and made separate passageways for men and women to the shrine but gave them both access to the sanctum, Aiyar breaks down the duplicity of political parties and their agendas.

Did the dargah or Muslim males in Mumbai form mobs to flout court orders, and keep women out, as at Sabarimala? No, despite much Muslim dismay and wailing about court intrusions into religious matters, the dargah implemented the court instruction on equal treatment of men and women. It created a separate entry path for women but allowed men and women equally into the sanctum. It built a railing keeping both male and female worshippers some distance from the grave itself. Marvel of marvels, Muslim women did not show their breasts, and Muslim men did not leap on them. Peace and harmony returned to the dargah.

A Virus That can Only be Destroyed in Oneself

In his column in The Hindu, Tabish Khair talks about the virulent properties of hatred: how it self-fulfills, good at mutating and recombining to become ever stronger. The fact that it is peddled as a commodity by political parties, only to have it partaken with abandon by the masses.

But he draws a line, unlike the actual biological virus, choosing to hate is a conscious decision to participate. It is worse than a virus because it has no body. To want to destroy hate in others, it must start at home, much like charity.

So, actually, I am unfair to viruses when I claim that hate is a virus. For, if hate is a virus, then it is one that is uniformly deadly, which not all viruses are. Hate, unlike a virus, cannot be seen at all (except in action, where it is monstrously visible as violence) and it cannot be destroyed in others (except by destroying them, which is the only aim of hate and hence an act of hate). Hate can be destroyed only in oneself (by refusing, again and again, to harbour it). This also means that, unlike a virus, hate cannot infect you unless you choose to be infected.All of us need to bear this in mind before we point an easy finger of accusation at some scapegoat or the other. And politicians of all parties need to be reminded of this again and again.  

What about urban cauliflowers?

To end today’s read on a light and breezy note, G Sampath’s satirical piece in The Hindu, compares the present government’s obsession with rooting out urban Naxals to ..wait for it, the crisis of the urban cauliflowers. Using the BJP youth wing’s to be released book about urban Naxals as a starting point, Sampath hilariously claims that every person purchasing a cauliflower is ultimately contributing to the spread of the urban cauliflower operative network, an insidious bunch.

He draws our attention, hilariously, to the dead silence about these cauliflowers in the mainstream media, puppets as they are in the hands of the current administration. Extending the metaphor to urban giraffe, one must read between the lines, not only of his piece but also what the government is trying to do.

I read with much joy and relief that the BJP’s youth wing is planning to bring out a special book on the biggest problem facing the nation today: urban Naxalism. It will be released in March 2019, just before the elections, so that it can be marketed as an election issue.In fact, one of the 56 things I love about our government is that, despite its many alleged failures, it has never wavered in its avowed mission to wipe out urban Naxals. And full marks to it for taking on these pesky termites, for these creatures have single-handedly destroyed the rupee, poisoned our banks with NPAs, and transformed petrol and diesel into investment options.  

. Read more on India by The Quint.RSS & BJP’s Nehru-Netaji ‘Cosplay’: Irony Dies a Thousand DeathsSunday View: The Best Weekend Opinion Reads, Curated Just For You . Read more on India by The Quint.