Sunday, 23 January, 2022
HomeThoughtShotNayantara Sahgal says 'storytelling' has overrun reality, S.Y. Quraishi on simultaneous elections

Nayantara Sahgal says ‘storytelling’ has overrun reality, S.Y. Quraishi on simultaneous elections

The best of the day’s opinion, chosen and curated by ThePrint’s top editors.

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Once upon a time, a nation

Nayantara Sahgal | Novelist and a commentator
The Indian Express

The author says she was not surprised by the 2019 election results after she read Jason Stanley’s writings, a Yale philosophy professor. She describes the process whereby a country’s shifts to right-wing extremism, highlighted by Stanley in his books – How Propaganda Works and How Fascism Works. In the first step, she mentions, the “majority community is made to feel threatened and victimised by minority groups”. Step two involves creating the notion that “the nation is in danger from the designs of its internal and external enemies”. This process leads to a complete disappearance of truth.

She argues that this formula closely resembles the path India has followed since 2014. Assassination of writers and arrests of journalists corroborate this. Similarly, issues such as unemployment and rural and urban distress have faded into the background. “Storytelling has taken precedence over reality,” she warns.

An idea whose time may not have come

S. Y. Quraishi | Former Chief Election Commissioner of India and author
The Hindu

Quraishi discusses the concept of simultaneous elections with respect to PM Modi’s ‘one nation, one election’ idea. He believes that the idea is “worth debating” as several issues crop up when the country is in frequent election mode – parties spend “obscene amounts of money”, routine functioning of the government and civil life gets affected, social evils such as casteism and communalism crop up. However, he wonders about the modalities: if the Lok Sabha was prematurely dissolved in the event of ‘one nation, one election’ will all the state assemblies also have to be dissolved? Quraishi suggests two remedies for issues arising out of frequent elections – put a cap on money spent by parties during elections and reduction of poll period from two-three months to 20-35 days.

No country for doctors? Assaults on healthcare workers are spreading, make it a non-bailable offence?

Ramakanta Panda | Cardiac surgeon, heads of the Asian Heart Institute, Mumbai
The Times of India

Panda condemns the violence on two junior doctors in Kolkata and highlights challenges that healthcare workers have to face. He writes that physicians often work under “tremendous pressure”, public hospitals operate with “massive workloads” and junior doctors live in “sub-human conditions”. He applauds health minister Harsh Vardhan’s response to the assault and the subsequent doctors’ strikes across the country. He insists that the suggestion offered by the government’s inter-ministerial committee, set up in 2015, to have a central act in order to make assault against healthcare workers a non-bailable offence be “enacted into law immediately”. Eighteen states have passed laws protecting doctors and healthcare workers against violence since 2007 but Panda says their “enforcement is questionable” and so we need to “move in that direction”.

The rise of JP Nadda from a student leader to the BJP’s working president

K.S. Tomar | Senior journalist based in Shimla
Hindustan Times

Tomar writes on the rise of J.P. Nadda from an RSS worker, leader of its students’ wing, to ultimately becoming the working president of BJP today. He says Nadda’s calm reaction when Jai Ram Thakur was made Himachal Pradesh CM in 2017, instead of him, made the BJP reaffirm faith in him. He also mentions that political observers believe Modi and Shah, known for strategising “much in advance”, were planning Anurag Singh Thakur’s induction in the Cabinet, while also planning to create a larger space for Nadda in the organisation. This, Tomar says, is evident from how Thakur received a call from the PMO and Shah while Nadda didn’t. But Nadda was given an important task of ensuring BJP’s victory in UP in the 2019 general elections. Tomar says that Nadda’s challenges include handling the RSS agenda for the Ram Temple in Ayodhya and planning the “election strategy” to ensure BJP’s win in the forthcoming assembly polls in – Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Haryana.

The Hong Kong question

Thomas Abraham | Former editor of the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong
The Indian Express

Abraham shares his insights into the protests in Hong Kong to the proposed extradition bill that has now been shelved. He says the current spate of protests will gradually subside but are likely to resurface in the future. With the people of Hong Kong distancing themselves, “both culturally and politically”, from Mainland China, the latter will find it difficult to “contend with an ungovernable city”, he writes. The biggest threat that people in Hong Kong feel they will face is the “slow, creeping absorption into the larger fabric of Communist China”. He believes China cannot use the tool of “repression” in Hong Kong’s case. So the “sensible option” is to let Hong Kong “run its own affairs” instead of forcing it to integrate into Mainland China.

Scrap RBI’s monetary policy panel or give it a dual mandate

R. Jagannathan | Editorial director, ‘Swarajya’ magazine

Jagannathan argues that RBI’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) should either be disbanded or its mandate expanded, from its present inflation-only target, to include responsibility for growth as well. While not accepting Arvind Subramanian’s claim of GDP overestimation by as much as 2.5 per cent, he argues that if indeed there has been some overestimation of India’s GDP, as accepted by most economists, then it’s a case of monetary policy gone “horrendously wrong”. If growth rate has been slower than claimed, then monetary policy should have been disbanded much earlier, he says.

He also argues that the MPC cannot be credited for low inflation. Low inflation has been achieved through food and fuel prices which are not affected by interest rates. He suggests that Indian monetary and fiscal policy should be in sync and its separation, which works in the West, is “wholly unsuited to India at this stage of development”. The MPC with its inflation-only mandate has made the possible slowdown worse. The situation would have been better had the MPC been targeting not just say a 4 per cent inflation but also a 6 per cent growth.

How to avoid the middle income trap

Navroz K Dubash | Professor, Centre for Policy Research
Hindustan Times

In this piece, the author cautions India against falling into a middle-income trap. Defining middle income trap as a situation where “growth is undercut by the changes it induces, such as East Asia’s low-wage labour-led growth undercut by rising wages,” he identifies inefficient use of natural resources and growing pollution levels as the two likely causes for such a risk in India’s case. He also discusses ideas for land, air and water reforms to prevent falling into this middle income trap.

Citing his CPR colleague Namita Wahi, he labels India’s land acquisition framework, with an estimated 102 laws, as a major problem. “Bridging separate rural and urban land use issues, reducing administrative fragmentation and enabling transparency” are some of the reforms he suggests.

To solve the crisis of air pollution, he suggests revamping the Ujjwala scheme to provide sustained LPG, improved standards of fuel quality, investments in public transport, upgradation of pollution control boards and stronger regulatory institutions.

For India’s water crisis, he suggests making a National Water Framework bill – “a single unifying frame of reference for water policy”. Additionally, he suggests taking the Model Groundwater (Sustainable Management) Bill forward in all states.

GDP calculation: Is the CSO right in its approach?

Madan Sabnavis | Chief economist, CARE Ratings
The Financial Express

The author says that while it is difficult to reconcile India’s recent GDP numbers with other indicators such as industrial growth, the calculation methodology itself, subscribing to global standards, cannot be debated.

He questions Arvind Subramanian’s use of a regression approach for GDP estimation, calling it “too facile” and full of “dangers of oversimplification”. Additionally, he mentions that most of the 17 variables used by Subramanian are already a part of GDP estimation, and the data for some of them also comes from CSO. He also mentions that all the 17 variables are from the organised sector, and ignore the unorganised sector which constitute 40-50% of the economy.

He argues that the economic survey which Subramanian wrote as CEA presented an optimistic picture of the Indian economy. But the recent turnabout of his views makes it difficult to believe which version is correct. The government should, therefore, have a confidentiality-like clause to prevent people from talking about their subjects of expertise post tenure.

India’s adult children

Parthasarathi Shome |Chairman, International Tax Research and Analysis Foundation (ITRAF), Bengaluru, and visiting fellow, London School of Economics
Business Standard

Based on the 2019 report of ‘Save the Children’, Shome says that “globally nearly 700 million children enter adulthood before experiencing or ending childhood”. He discusses India’s performance on early end-of-childhood criteria in a cross-country context, comparing it with seven other nations – China, Bangladesh, Brazil, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The criteria is comprised of eight indicators such as under-five mortality, malnutrition causing stunting, exclusion from primary and secondary school and child labour.

He highlights that India’s 2019 score stands at 769 out of a maximum 1000, and the country ranks 113 among 176 countries in 2019. It performs better than Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal but trails the other four, with China and Sri Lanka leading with scores of over 900. India’s score has improved by 137 points, from 632 to 769, in the 2000-19 period. Bangladesh and Nepal made higher improvements with score changes of 153 and 142 respectively in this period.

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