A woman fetches water from a small tank outside her house in Beed district, Maharashtra| Photo: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg
A woman fetches water from a small tank (Representational image) | Photo: Dhiraj Singh | Bloomberg
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Minding the gaps in India’s data infrastructure 

Sonalde Desai | Professor of Sociology, University of Maryland

The Hindu

When it comes to quantifying poverty or GDP growth, a country’s data infrastructure needs to be of a certain level for the evaluation of public policies, writes Desai. In her piece, she celebrates 25 years of the National Family Health Surveys (NFHS) but also raises a concern – “will deteriorating data quality… lead evidence-based policy development astray?” Poor data quality on contraceptive use in the NFHS of 2015-16 is one such example, she adds.

Desai argues that “partisan bickering” usually sidetracks the discussions on data collection systems and despite a massive data demand in modern India, the existing statistical infrastructure prevents the completion of even “traditional tasks”. Surveys need to be more realistic and make use of creative methodologies, she writes, and large sample sizes at district levels can actually hamper data quality. Better training of field investigators, adapting to “changing institutional and technological environment for data collection” and establishing better research units and research design are also required.

Let’s go with the Jal Shakti flow 

Ashok Malik | Policy advisor

The Economic Times

“Water will be the Modi administration’s true revolution”, if the conservation efforts by the Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) succeed,” writes Malik. He begins with a statistical warning that India may be on the brink of becoming a water-scarce country “for the first time in its 5,000-year history”. Unequal access to water is a major part of the problem, he writes, which is why JJM’s aim to provide piped water to 180 million rural households is crucial.

Malik traces Prime Minister Modi’s “intense engagement with water as a policy issue” since his days as Gujarat’s chief minister. He credits Modi with helping set up the “pioneering state water grid that covers three-fourths of Gujarat” and using these strategies to scale up JJM. The mission will focus on recharge, distribution and decentralisation of water sources that will be designed for village-level ownership, he explains. Compulsory participation of women in water management is another “exciting” goal of the mission.

A case against judicial recusal

Vanshaj Ravi Jain | DPhil candidate and Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford

The Hindu 

The Supreme Court has found itself “mired in criticism” over the recusal of Justice Arun Mishra, writes Jain. In 2013, Mishra’s ruling established the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, however, the following year a three-judge bench “departed from this interpretation”. In order to resolve the conflict between these two judgement, another three-judge bench was constituted led by Justice Mishra himself.

Jain notes that in this instance there is an “apparent bias” against Justice Mishra wherein “a reasonable, fair-minded observer would believe that there is a possibility that the judge is biased.” However, he writes that judges are expected to bring an “open” mind to the case not an “empty” one and “are permitted to have pre-existing opinions on legal issues they decide”. Further, Justice Mishra does not use “uncompromising” or “injudicious language” to indicate any biases.

Jain argues that there is also no evidence to indicate that he won’t “change his mind” over the course of the proceedings and therefore, states that such a recusal would “set a dangerous precedent for future litigants to cherry-pick their benches”.

In search of a conservative Indian 

Gurcharan Das | Author and former CEO of Procter & Gamble, India

The Times of India 

Das writes that democracies, other than India, “offer a choice” between conservatives and liberals due to their two-party system. However, he observes, that many Indians “feel left out” since some of them are “deeply religious” but don’t want a “Hindu Rashtra”. In fact, they “prefer ‘Indian’ nationalism over ‘Hindu’ nationalism.”

Das writes that we don’t “hear voices” of “moderate Hindus or Muslims” in “contemporary Indian public life”. They are “drowned” by the “shrill sounds” of Hindu nationalists. He suggests that “conservative intellectuals” could help BJP “modernise its ideology” and “shed its divisive majoritarian mindset”.

Our “best hope” is the “spread of conservative ideals within two national parties” which could lead to a “softer” and “more inclusive” BJP while at the same time a “more market friendly” Congress, he writes. In conclusion, Das recommends that the “conservative ideal of modernising tradition” is “worth embracing” in a “deeply traditional society” like India.

India’s One-China policy is flawed 

Tenzin Tsundue | Tibetan writer and activist

Hindustan Times 

The “real issue” between India and China is the “70 years of Chinese occupation of Tibet” and “its dangers to India”. Tsundue highlights that the “current narrative” in India is only “concerned with the China border”.

India is “often stumped” when China claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of “South Tibet” but, Tsundue argues that India can’t “validate” its claims over Arunachal without “recognising the historical independence of Tibet”.

India and China “formulated” the One-China and One-India policy that he calls “lopsided diplomacy” since India “has to remain silent on 60% of contested area under China’s territorial control”.

He contends that the BJP has a “unique opportunity” to carry out Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s “policy statement” advising Nehru to “support Tibet”. He writes that “whether China quits Tibet or not,” “China is now stuck with us on our path to freedom”.

Defenders need defending 

Apoorvanand | Teaches at Delhi University

The Indian Express

For decades, some people have “defended the rights” of those who had “no resources to stand against the might of the society and state”, writes Apoorvanand. However, he states, “that time seems to be over” and it is the defenders who “need to be defended”.

He highlights CBI’s call to the Supreme Court to “remove the shield of protection” that the Bombay High Court had given to Indira Jaisingh and Anand Grover and asks – “have they [Jaisingh and Grover] even shown an inclination to evade the law?”

He argues that the case is not one where Jaisingh and Grover’s “good deeds become the arguments against the CBI taking away their protection” but involves “a basic constitutional principle… [that] we have a right against self incrimination.”

“One must remember that without any questioning and human rights, democracy would turn hollow,” writes Apoorvanand.

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