Ravidas, faith, power
Pratap Bhanu Mehta | Contributing editor
The Indian Express
Mehta writes about the huge Dalit protests over the demolition of a temple dedicated to Sant Ravidas in New Delhi. The moment reveals the magnitude of the Ravidas movement and offers an opportunity for mobilisation for new Dalit leaders like Chandrashekhar Azad.
It also shows that “alternatives for Dalits are not just Westernisation or Sanskritisation” but the long, traditional intellectual movements in the community centered around the likes of Valmiki, Kabir and Ravidas. Most importantly, it begs the question — “whose faith will be privileged in the public sphere?”
There are two ironies in the Ravidas debate. First, he was a strong critic of caste and called for “abolition of all social distinction”, but is now being heralded as a sectarian leader. Second, he was a critic of orthodoxy and religious practices, and was against different tribes. But today, there exist only tribes based on divinity.“Brace yourself for more conflict on faith,” warns Mehta.
The anger of New India
Ajay Gudavarthy | Assistant professor, Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University
Gudavarthy writes that the two important aspects of Indian democracy in the last three decades have been minimising poverty and “the breakdown of patron-client relation”, due to economic reform and socio-political movements, respectively. But even as a “new middle class” has emerged, patronage systems within the Dalits and the dominance of English-educated and Hindu elites still continue.
Old regimes or systems of politics have come to be considered illegitimate be it Nehruvian secularism or the Left movement. Activists, independent media houses, NGOs and lawyers have all come to signify social privilege — hence acquire tags such as “Khan Market gang” and “Lutyens’ Delhi”, he writes.
Right-wing politics, which previously didn’t manage to capture widespread public imagination, has now become a means to articulate “systemic anger” against structural inequalities around caste and religion. “Intolerance” has become a way to “reclaim lost space” and forge a new sense of belonging, as secularism and social justice are equated to privilege and elitism.
India needs a “third democratic upsurge”, suggests Gudavarthy, that can channel the motivations of aspirational groups in more “democratic and inclusive” ways.
What Modi needs to do next in J&K
T.K.A. Nair | Principal secretary & adviser to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
With the legitimacy of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 set to be deliberated upon in the Supreme Court, Nair writes the repercussions continue to be felt in Kashmir and New Delhi. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi has assured that there will be “restoration of normalcy, early assembly elections and full statehood to J&K”, public opinion continues to be polarised between celebrations or mourning over “the murder of democracy” even as Kashmiris live in paranoia and violence, writes Nair.
If the top court does uphold the move, several questions about Kashmir’s integration will arise.
Nair suggests some steps to the Centre to win the support of J&K’s people. First, the government needs to remove all the current restrictions. Second, “free and fair elections” need to be held soon, followed by the installation of an elected government without “manipulations” and “horse-trading”. Third, J&K’s full statehood needs to be restored, even as the Union government funds development in the state.
The Modi government also needs to take charge of “safeguarding” the state against infiltration and cross-border threats.
Export focus fine but there’s more to growth
Akhilesh Tilotia | Author, The Making of India
The Financial Express
Tilotia provides details of Vietnam’s export story, arguing that trade is just one of the ways for achieving growth. While Vietnam’s exports have increased from $150 billion in fiscal 2014 to $244 billion in 2018, its GDP over the same period has only increased from $186 billion to $245 billion. Vietnam’s spectacular growth in exports has not led to a corresponding growth in GDP because in the same period Vietnam’s imports have also gone significantly up, he writes.
However, more impressive than Vietnam’s growth in exports is the increase in its trade to GDP ratio from 1.54 to 1.93 between FY14 to FY18. Tilotia argues that the “increase in overall trade to GDP ratio is an important entry point for any country before it starts to build an ecosystem of forward and backward linkages in any industry”.
He recommends that there are other faster ways to build scale like identifying sectors with growth potential — renewables, electronic vehicles, etc. — “to frontload investments in them”.
Flood policy needs complete overhaul
Mihir Shah | Distinguished professor, Shiv Nadar University & former member, Planning Commission
Shah elaborates on the problems associated with India’s flood policy, writing that the major focus has been on engineering solutions like embankments. India’s flood management approach can be traced to the colonial period.
Despite continued construction of embankments, India’s flood prone area has increased “because embankments end up obstructing natural drainages and impede natural building up of river deltas and floodplains”. The problem of floods has also been aggravated in urban areas due to the “destruction of natural pathways of water through the city towards the river or the sea”.
To develop a better flood management approach, Shah suggests going back to the fundamentals of science and acknowledging the “inter-connectedness of different elements in the water cycle”.
Take a Break, Explore India
Neeraj Kaushal | Professor, social policy, Columbia University, US
The Economic Times
Noting the contribution of domestic tourists to India’s GDP, Kaushal writes that between 2000 and 2018, domestic tourist visits have grown almost nine-fold from 220 million to 1.82 billion. A high proportion of this is religious tourism but it doesn’t matter as far as impacting GDP is concerned. Foreign tourist arrivals, meanwhile, have shown only a modest increase, from six million in 2000 to 24.7 million in 2016.
She argues that in household budgets, tourism related expenditure is seen as consumption and not investment even though considerable research now shows that “vacations improve productivity, increase creativity, reduce stress and improve mental health”.
Indian tourism has vast untapped potential as we get only a small pie of global tourists, writes Kaushal.
Increasing investment to stimulate growth
Rangarajan | Former chairman, Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council & former RBI governor
D.K. Srivastava | Former director, Madras School of Economics
Rangarajan and Srivastava write that India’s slowdown has two components — a short run cyclical slowdown reflected in the significant fall in demand and the “more serious long-term fall in investment and savings rates”. They argue that attention must be paid to both cyclical and structural factors in order to revive growth.
From 2011-12 onwards, “the savings rate of the private corporate sector increased, reducing its dependence on the surplus savings of the household sector”. As a result, the surplus savings of the household sector are now available for the public sector, they write.
The Reserve Bank of India’s recent rate cuts should be accompanied with a fiscal push. However, any increase in government expenditure “has to be directed towards an increase in investment expenditure”.
On the structural reform front, the duo suggests that “the government should actually move towards reducing the revenue deficit to zero”.