Gautam Bhatia | Advocate
Gautam Bhatia talks about the mixed response regarding the Supreme Court’s judgment on the communications clampdown in Kashmir. He says that “the plight of Kashmirs deprived of essential access to the internet for months on end remained unaddressed” since it was left to be reviewed by a government committee.
However, the apex court judgement set out two crucial legal principles, he says.
The first was that freedom of speech and expression, and freedom of trade and commerce through the internet, are constitutionally protected rights. Therefore, “depriving people of their access to the internet amounts to depriving them of their fundamental rights”.
The second crucial legal principle was that the constitutional validity of an internet shutdown has to be adjudicated in accordance with the doctrine of proportionality.
These two legal principles “sets the ground for future — and indeed, present — challenges to the epidemic of internet shutdowns that is taking place all over India,” writes Bhatia.
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On Kashmir, he concludes by saying that the government will review all the orders on the basis of which the shutdown was imposed, and if the clampdown persists, the matter will be back in court.
Mahesh Rangarajan | Professor of history and environmental studies at Ashoka University
Rangarajan writes that the author of A Letter from India, Edward J. Thompson, found “men like Jawaharlal Nehru” more “receptive to the need to protect the natural heritage of India” than Mahatma Gandhi. Even though the “saga of Asia’s last lions would have well and truly ended that winter of 1947-48”, Nehru “made sure none was shot”.
The lions had been “symbols of power of a Sunni Muslim dynasty of Pathans”. However, in 1947-48, Junagadh witnessed a “tussle between India and Pakistan”. Although, the ruler fled “not all of the old legacies were dismantled”.
Rangarajan argues that this “ability to accept something from another era as a symbol was to be central to not just the ethos of nature but to the nature of statecraft”. These lions became the state animal of Gujarat.
There was “more to the struggle for freedom then than an aspiration for power”. Rangarajan states that “the dream of freedom was for a country, a home for and of all”. This is why the “battle lines of today resonate with historical precedents”. He maintains that “to deny anyone refuge on merely grounds of faith will mean the unravelling of India”.
Looking ugliness in the eye: Deepika Padukone, women’s agency, and the female body in films and outside
Sharmistha Gooptu | Film historian and author
The Times of India
Gooptu says for the first time in the history of mainstream cinema the audience looks at a female protagonist “who is defined by her facial disfiguration…and the ugliness…that confronts us is not Malti’s acid burnt face but the ugliness of an underbelly of our society”. This is a reference to the film Chhapaak, starring Deepika Padukone as Malti, the victim of an acid attack.
However, there is a beauty that comes from shedding fear. The fear of sexual violence, physical impairment and societal contempt. As news of sexual violence continues to make headlines, the onus is on popular media, film, television and other platforms to find greater acceptance of those who have battled sexual violence, harassment and abuse.
Gooptu writes: “Popular media has the power to affect sentient and perceptions, to produce a sense of identification and empathy, like with Malti of Chhapaak. And when that happens sans beautification or any kind of compensatory sugarcoating it serves its purpose.”
Hayaat Fatemah | Studies history and literature at Aligarh Muslim University
The Indian Express
On the slogan “Tera mera rishta kya, La Ilaha IlAllah” raised at protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor who condemned it as Islamic extremism in a tweet, Fatemah writes that one “can only expect to gain the support of the majority by making this a secular movement”. Her piece was in response to Irena Akbar’s article ‘Why I protest as a Muslim’.
The movement, she says, is not equivalent to leaving her Muslim identity at home but to create a space where non-Muslims can raise the same slogans along with Muslims.
“When we raise a slogan where we assert that there is no God but Allah… we automatically alienate the people who do not believe in our Allah,” she says.
It does not threaten pluralism or diversity, asserts Fatemah, but excludes other communities who have been fighting with Muslims, as Indians, against the current regime. She then says that as the CAA targets Muslims, the first defence is that it is unconstitutional which in itself makes it a “nationwide crisis” since the Constitution is for all.
The movement cannot be restricted to only Muslims. Fatemah says that Akbar’s invocation of Hannah Arendt’s statement — “If one is attacked as a Jew, one must defend oneself as a Jew. Not as a German” — questions the citizenship of a Muslim, not their religious identity.
She concludes by saying that it is important to not contribute to the “further othering” of Muslims and “making the communal divide more prominent will only benefit the BJP and RSS that thrive on communal animosity”.
Madan Sabnavis | Chief Economist, CARE Ratings
The Financial Express
Sabnavis discusses what the spike in global oil prices — due to the “recent imbroglio in Iran” — means for India. The rise has been $70 per barrel, with panic striking stock and forex markets.
He first observes that petrol and diesel prices in India have increased immediately “as there is no subsidy element and the pricing system is on a daily basis”. A 10 per cent increase in crude oil prices can potentially lead to an one per cent increase in WPI inflation since the direct weight is lower at 2.4 per cent for CPI.
“The inflation impact is moderate even though this would be affecting households directly,” he explains. If trends go higher than $65/barrel, the phenomenon will likely be a factor in FY21 budgetary numbers, he writes.
Since excise duties on petrol and diesel prices are “outside the ambit of the GST”, the oil price spike means there is “a lot of revenue to be earned” by the GoI, he adds.
The increase in prices won’t have a massive impact on the trade deficit as alternative fuels like CNG are gaining popularity in Indian markets, explains Sabnavis.
Abheek Barua | Chief economist, HDFC Bank
Sakshi Gupta | Senior economist, HDFC Bank
The Economic Times
Barua and Gupta discuss expenditure compression as part of GoI’s “long strategy” to address the fiscal deficit (FD). So far, the “stage seems set for a large overrun in the fiscal deficit from the budget target of 3.3 per cent of GDP”, they write.
FD is currently running at 115 per cent of the budget target, with direct tax collections growing at a measly 2.7 per cent between April and November”, they write.
GST collections have to “clock ₹1.1 trillion monthly in the last quarter (January-March)” in order to meet indirect tax targets, the writers explain.
Expenditure cutbacks will prevent GoI from allowing FD to stray significantly from the target. The “lion’s share” of cutbacks “is likely to come in ministries that have underspent so far this year”, they explain.
“The axe hasn’t yet fallen heavily on GoI’s capital spending” and RBI’s surplus transfer to GoI of ₹58,000 crore on top of the budgeted ₹90,000 crore will act as an “additional fiscal cushion this year”, they say.
Lowering borrowings from the bond market could also be a solution but have the potential to “shrink demand further”, say the writers.
Sunita Narain | Writer, Centre for Science and Environment
Narain cricitises the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) for not just failing to address the “massive issue of human migration” but also internal relocation.
Indians are moving from villages to cities and to a new country “for work and livelihood” and now with climate change, “the number of distressed and displaced will increase”, she explains.
The International Organisation for Migration categorises this as a “new displacement” in which 60 per cent of cases are “triggered by weather-related disasters” such as storms, floods and droughts.
She describes climate change as a “tipping point” since the poor already live on the margins and when they move to cities and countries “there is tension between ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’, she explains.
Immigrants are “already defining politics in most parts of the world” like Europe’s fear of “boat people” and US President Trump’s plans to build a wall between the US and Mexico, she explains.
India must “build local economies so that people do not have to leave” and roll back on “a divisive agenda on migration” to address this issue, concludes Narain.
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