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Op-ed writer Narendra Modi is the new game in town

Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi receives the UN's highest environmental honour 'Champions of The Earth Award' | PTI

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Ever since he came to power, Narendra Modi’s staunch resistance to the media has come to be a defining factor of his tenure. But foreign recognition for the Swachh Bharat Mission, and now most recently his award as a ‘Champion of the Earth’, seems to have changed that.

It’s hard to tell what compelled Modi to pen two op-eds in the same week, the first on Swachh Bharat’s fourth year anniversary (and Gandhi’s birthday), and now today’s, published by both The Indian Express and The Hindu (under different titles, mind you).

Writing, “We need to talk, write, debate, discuss and deliberate as much as possible on questions relating to the environment,” Modi takes a sharp u-turn on his unsaid policy to distance himself from the press… months ahead of the 2019 general elections.

It’s difficult to find the ‘opinion’ among Modi’s unabashedly boastful claims, ranging from Swachh Bharat to the cost of LEDs under the Ujjwala Yojana. About the Ganga, he writes, “The Namami Gange Mission is changing this historical wrong. Emphasis is being given to proper treatment of sewage,” but ThePrint’s extensive reportage on the Ganga knows this not to be true.

He even writes, “The elements of nature are manifestations of divinity,” invoking the Atharva Veda to reinforce his commitment to the environment.

“The world needs to shift to a paradigm of environmental philosophy that is anchored in environmental consciousness rather than merely in government regulations,” he writes, “I assure them all possible support from the Government in their pursuits.”

But reports running parallel to his op-ed beg to differ. On the Express’s front page, a headline reads “National Green Tribunal saw red, Govt plans to ease green norms for realty”.

The NDA government, under the ‘Housing for All’ scheme, is hoping to relax building norms. “Against objections by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), the Union Environment Ministry last week approved changes in the Environment Impact Assessment Notification to exempt realty projects below 50,000 square metres of built-up area from seeking prior environment clearance,” said the report.

The Hindu also runs an op-ed contesting Modi’s claims on cleanliness. On manual scavenging, Kalpana Kannabrian writes, “We struggle against the caricaturing of this extremely stigmatising, violently exploitative and degrading form of forced labour by a government and civil society that showcases empty rhetoric and ceremony around ‘cleanliness’, while decimating an entire class of citizens through callous neglect with impunity.” She further writes, “The sanction for manual scavenging lies at the heart of majoritarian mindsets and structures. It is part of an ideological framework that permeates the institutional apparatus of government.”

In other news, The Times of India reports “Cut-bandhan? No tie-up with Cong for Raj, MP polls: Maya”. Making it to front pages across English language dailies, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati “slammed” the Congress by saying her party will compete in the Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh polls on its own.

According to Hindustan Times, “Her snub to the Congress could also cast a shadow on efforts to forge a Mahagathbandhan (grand alliance) of Opposition parties, including the BSP, Samajwadi Party and the Congress, in the Lok Sabha elections from BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh.”

Prime Time

Is economy the biggest chink in PM Modi’s armour?

India Today anchor Rajdeep Sardesai asked this question on his debate. On 3 October, Indian rupee ended the day at a record closing low of 73.34 per dollar on the back of strong demand for US currency from importers amid rising global oil prices. While BJP spokesperson Narendra Taneja tried to defend the government, Sanjay Jha mentioned rupee’s decline.

Taneja said, “Rupee is strong, nothing has happened to the rupee. It is the dollar which has become stronger.”

Jha argued, “Government has the fundamental right to live in the fool’s paradise. The rupee is the worst performing currency in the Asian market.”

BJP trying to raise Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute to garner votes?

Aaj Tak anchor Anjana Om Kashyap asked this question on her debate. The issue of building the Ram temple in Ayodhya is being raised in a big way before the 2019 general elections. A major meeting of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) will be held in Delhi on 5 October where monks and sages from all over the country will gather and issue a call for building the Ram Temple. While RSS supporter Sangit Ragi said it’s a religious issue, AIMIM leader Waris Pathan said Supreme Court will make its judgment based on facts.

Ragi said, “Building up of Ram Temple is a religious issue, it has nothing to do with politics.”

Pathan said, “The matter is with the court as of now. The court is going to give judgment based on evidence not on religious grounds.”

News it’s kinda cool to know

According to a Firstpost report, a dwarf planet nicknamed the Goblin has been discovered well beyond Pluto. Carnegie Institution for Science’ Scott Sheppard, one of the astronomers who made the discovery, said the Goblin is on the small end for a dwarf planet. It is officially known as 2015 TG387 by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center. This is the third dwarf planet recently found to be orbiting on the frigid fringes of the solar system.