Boria Majumdar | Sports historian and commentator
The Times of India
Majumdar writes that the Supreme Court has been trying to bring transparency and accountability to Indian cricket for the past seven years but today “things actually look worse than they were five years ago”. The recommendations of the Mudgal and the Lodha committees were meant to be implemented by the Committee of Administrators (CoA). But the CoA is leaving office soon, and state elections reveal the persistence of many questionable practices.
In Odisha, a person under CBI scanner has cast a vote for his son as secretary from jail. In another western state, a former office-bearer facing ED inquiry for fraud has appointed his son as secretary. It is probable that after this “cooling off period”, these people will take back these positions from their children, as “power and patronage” is what they’re after.
On the other hand, people like Rahul Dravid, Kapil Dev and Shantha Rangaswamy are held guilty of conflict. “Indian cricket deserves better,” concludes Majumdar.
Rajmohan Gandhi | Historian, biographer and Gandhi’s grandson
Gandhi writes that although M.K. Gandhi was raised in a religious Vaishnava household, he became an atheist in his final school years after reading the Gita, the New Testament and Buddhist and Islamic texts. He remained a “believing, questioning and tolerant Hindu” for the rest of his life.
He believed that “a person of any religious belief…had an equal right to India”, and maintained that “religion was one thing; nationality another”. He felt all names given to god referred the same “supreme being”. The line “Ishwar Allah tere naam” became synonymous with his identity. He turned to religion in order to cope with sorrow, not for a political agenda. In 1947, Gandhi’s colleagues opted for Partition against his advice. He then challenged Muslim leader Jinnah to build Pakistan such that “Gita could be recited side by side with the Qur’an”, and later said that in India too “we shall worship God both as Krishna and Karim”.
Salil Tripathi | London-based writer
In his piece, Tripathi points out how Mahatma Gandhi never sought to be on a pedestal or claimed to be perfect. In Gandhi’s autobiography, he is full of self doubt and is “transparent about his innermost feelings”. Yet, he had a silent greatness about him, writes Tripathi.
Tripathi also mentions how Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ministers often “borrow the Gandhian halo” when they go abroad and have to speak of India’s greatness — see PM Modi’s speech last week in New York. Yet there are some in the BJP that have marred Gandhi’s name, like Pragya Singh Thakur who, despite calling Gandhi’s assassin a patriot, still has a seat in Parliament.
Tripathi, however, expands on Gandhi’s flaws and imperfections, be it his allegedly ‘racist’ views on ethnic Africans, disapproval of inter-caste marriages or parental failures. But, he says, it is easy to criticise the father of the nation “because his followers don’t burn buses or close down cities if someone denigrates” his memory.
Harsh Mander | Human rights worker and activist
The Indian Express
It is clear that the central government, the BJP and the RSS are intent on introducing the Citizen Amendment Bill and come out with NRCs (National Register of Citizens) to fulfill their political agenda, writes Mander. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat assured Hindus to not worry about NRC, but there is now “widespread panic and dread” in Muslim settlements across India, including Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
If passed, the citizenship bill will allow illegal migrants from neighbouring countries of any religious identity apart from Muslims to become Indian citizens, but Muslims who are unable to prove their or their ancestors’ legal entry into the country will be deemed ‘illegal immigrants’. This will mean the NRC will have no impact on non-Muslims, only on Muslims. The moves are in conflict with many constitutional provisions, especially the ‘right to equality’ since non-Muslim legal immigrants will face no legal action and will enjoy “accelerated” citizenship, but not Muslims.
A century ago, the Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS wanted a country where Hindus would dominate and Muslims would be expelled — “their time has come”. But “this will mark the death of India’s secular democratic constitution,” says Mander.
Prabhat Patnaik | Professor Emeritus, Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, JNU
Patnaik writes a scathing piece on how the Modi government uses hyper-nationalism to divert attention from its economic blunders. First, he distinguishes Hindutva nationalism from anti-colonial nationalism in which the former does not comprehend economics and is, therefore, a perfect “ideological prop” for India’s “corporate-financial oligarchy”. It has helped the BJP sidestep the material conditions of ordinary citizens in order to be in “good stead vis-à-vis the corporates” – this is reminiscent of European hyper-nationalism, writes Patnaik. The shift has confused and stunted the Opposition, he adds.
Patnaik predicts the recent tax concessions will only cause aggregate demand to decline followed by investment, sending the economy into “a downward spiral”. Though a global income inequality trend triggered the slowdown, GST and demonetisation worsened it. As long as the Centre flits between hyper-nationalism and pro-corporate economic policies, the “vicious dialectic…will continue until the tide turns”, he says.
TV Mohandas Pai | Chairman, Aarin Capital Partners and Nisha Holla | Technology fellow, C-CAMP
Pai and Holla write on the urgent need to “reap” India’s demographic dividend. They discuss primary school enrollment and state that while India has achieved 100 per cent enrollment, “the number of children enrolled in primary school peaked at 13.98 crore in 2011-12, and has since steadily decreased to 12.91 crore in 2015-16”. This corroborates census data that the percentage of children in the Indian population is declining.
Thus, with number of children reducing and a stagnant workforce, “soon India may have an ageing population supported by a shrinking workforce”. However, the country is also “youngest of the large economies”. Pai and Holla, thus, recommend several ways to use this to our advantage —shift focus to keep children in school, don’t over-budget teacher training, improve higher education, build expertise in “high value-add” industries, provide employment to skilled labour, encourage participation of women and improving vocational and skills training.
Ajay Chibber | Distinguished visiting scholar, Institute of International Economic Policy, George Washington University, US
Chibber writes that the recent corporate tax cuts will take time to translate into new investment and the impact of these cuts will be enhanced if other reforms such as “a more open and competitive trade regime, a less restrictive labour market, reduced cost of credit, better regulation and less red tape, and sufficient infrastructure” accompany it.
A revenue loss of 0.7 per cent of the GDP is expected with these cuts and Chibber recommends “aggressive privatisation of State-owned companies” to tackle this. He further states that the government should not wait for another crisis and introduce bold reforms in the next 3-4 years “to create greater synergy for more investment and job creation”.
These include reforms in agriculture and a new labour policy that removes all restrictions as “they only serve the interests of a tiny minority of largely unproductive workers”. He also recommends increasing India’s share of exports in African and Latin American countries.