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Furore Over Languages

Chetan Bhagat | Bestselling author and newspaper columnist
The Times of India

Bhagat argues that the furore over the three-language formula in the draft National Education Policy (NEP) is unwarranted. The draft is an excellent document, which makes valuable suggestions to transform India’s education — however, the political storm over the language formula shifted the focus away from some of the draft’s important provisions.

He says the three-language formula suggests that a student learns three languages — English, the regional language of the state where the school is situated and a different Indian language. He thinks such a move will promote Indian languages, improve national integration and also accord a language skill to people that may come in handy if they migrate for jobs.

However, he does acknowledge that the draft erred by recommending Hindi as the third language in South India. “To even suggest that people in the south must learn Hindi…does a disservice to Hindi, to the south and of course to NEP,” he says.

Lastly, he says that a North Indian might benefit more from learning Tamil than Sanskrit.

Bollywood sheds its caste blind spot

Swara Bhasker | Award-winning Bollywood actor
Hindustan Times

Bhasker calls Article 15 the “bravest mainstream Bollywood film of the decade”. She says one of the film’s major successes is that it “represent[s] almost all the major ideological viewpoints and small details of power play in the daily business of living within an unequal social structure.”

She says the film also incorporates a number of recent controversial incidents in such a way that they can’t be whitewashed. She finds the public floggings of the Dalit men in the movie reflective of the Una lynchings, and a character’s last voiceover reminds her of Rohith Vemula’s suicide note.

She says Article 15 gives her hope for Bollywood, and “for, every Kabir Singh, there is also an Article 15”.

Shah’s Valley challenge: Avoid unilateral forced constitutional measures

Amitabh Mattoo | Author, most recently, of ‘Empowering Youth of Jammu & Kashmir: Education, Engagement and Employability’
Hindustan Times

Mattoo says Jammu and Kashmir is at the top of Home Minister Amit Shah’s agenda. He writes that Shah’s greatest challenge lies in ensuring that the problem is addressed not through unilaterally forced constitutional measures, but by ensuring that people of J&K themselves realise the benefits of greater integration.

For him, Shah’s Kashmir doctrine has six elements. First, there should be no compromise with terrorism or anyone who advocates it. Second, to put an end to the politics of entitlement of politicians, the media and bureaucrats. Third, to ensure free and fair elections at every level and strengthening democracy. Fourth, to expedite development of institutions of academic excellence and to provide skilled employment to youths. Fifth, to ensure that the feeling of discrimination in Jammu and Ladakh is reduced and Kashmiri Pandits return. Lastly, to have a dialogue with anyone who is ready to give up violence.

On the water front

Ashok Gulati | Infosys Chair Professor for Agriculture at ICRIER
The Indian Express

In his piece, Gulati attempts to answer how India reached its present water crisis and how it can be resolved. First, he says the majority of the freshwater resources in our country are used for irrigation. And unless this sector becomes more efficient in its water usage, the present situation is unlikely to change. Second, he says around half of India’s gross cropped area is irrigated, and groundwater is one of the major sources of this irrigation.

The policy of free power supply for irrigation also contributes to excessive groundwater usage, he writes. Growing water-intensive crops like paddy and sugarcane also contributes to the problem.

He recommends that as a way out of this problem, farmers should be given monetary rewards for saving power and water for irrigation. There should also be an income support for crops that require less water, he says.

Reinforcing caste hierarchies

Ashwini Deshpande | Professor of Economics, Ashoka University
The Hindu

Deshpande argues that by announcing inclusion of Marathas into the Socially and Educationally Backward Communities (SEBC), the Maharashtra government has given in to the demands of a powerful caste group. He says the demand for reservations by rich agricultural groups such as Marathas and Jats should be seen as a desire for a stable source of livelihood given that traditional sources of livelihood are becoming fragile due to the agrarian crisis.

The author uses the India Human Development Survey to conclude that “in most of the crucial socio-economic indicators, the Marathas are second only to Brahmins in the State [Maharashtra], and are significantly better off than all other social groups”.

The author adds that extending quota benefits to rich and powerful groups will mean that the share of truly disadvantaged groups is further reduced in the already shrinking entitlement pie.

Devaluing budgets

Shreekant Sambrani | An economist
Business Standard

Sambrani is critical of Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s decision to not include expenditure and revenue numbers in her budget speech and says that Budget 2019-20 does not “even make the pretense to be the financial statement the Constitution enjoins it to be”. He points out that the lowering of the revenue estimate is an “implicit admission of the slowdown” and needs to be analysed. He says the Modi government with its numbers in the Lok Sabha knows that it can pass anything it wants. He calls it a “travesty of accountability, tantamount to maximum government, governance be damned”.

India must resist the lure of excessive financialisation

V. Anantha Nageswaran | Dean of IFMR Graduate School of Business (Krea University)
Mint

Nageswaran writes on how with some proposals presented in the Budget, the government may have “unwittingly rendered itself potentially vulnerable to incurring the wrath of the bond market down the road”.

Nageswaran points out that through its Budget announcements, “India has resorted to financial liberalisation and trade restrictions”, adding that this is the exact opposite of what a country with weak export potential and vulnerability to swings in external capital flows should do. He also says issuing sovereign bonds to foreign lenders is not a better alternative.

He writes how India should be more open to foreign trade than foreign finance.

Budget unlikely to lift the farm sector

G Chandrashekhar | Commodities market specialist
Business Line

The author argues that the Budget proposals are unlikely to address the ongoing agrarian crisis characterised by falling incomes, weather risks, and weak sentiment. He says the Budget has made a slew of announcements, but there is little by way of action plan or timeline for implementation.

He adds the attempt to promote zero-budget farming is regressive and points out that the dole under the PM Kisan scheme is unlikely to bring about a dramatic transformation in agriculture. He writes that ideally the finance and agricultural ministers should have laid down the roadmap for the government’s policy, investment and research strategy for the sector.

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