Protest in Jantar Mantar against lynchings | Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint
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Reading 1919 in 2019

Pratap Bhanu Mehta | Contributing editor, The Indian Express
The Indian Express

Mehta writes how 100 years ago Max Weber had published ‘Politics as a Vocation’ in July 1919, delivered as a lecture to Free Students Union at the University of Munich after Germany’s defeat in World War I. Weber’s description of the world is similar to our present one, prompting us to ask “what is the form of political action available when constitutional forms are decimated”. “When the application of brute force becomes the norm and the purpose of politics becomes a periodic diversion to keep us enthralled?” He questions what “ends” could we attach ourselves to when so many organisations like parties are dead and collective action unity seems to be hampered by big challenges. Weber gives no answers, but perhaps Gandhi had some. Rather than focusing on what party or ideology one belonged to in times of crisis, Gandhi questioned what made political action truly credible in the eyes of others. Weber clarified one thing – “heroism and dignity of politics will lie in exactly the fact that we don’t know all the answers, till we try”.

In hate crime fight, a voice still feeble

Harsh Mander | Human rights worker, writer and teacher
The Hindu

Taking a cue from US, the Indian Parliament needs to recognise hate killings as an act of terror, writes Mander. India should look at the US which took 100 years to approve a bill making lynching a federal crime and described it as “the ultimate expression of racism”. Our Parliament too needs to recognise that lynching is “a biased-motivated act of terror” and “ultimate expression of communal hatred”.

Videos of mob lynching shared on social media suggest that in India lynching has become a “performative act of hate violence” used as a tool to incite fear. Earlier this month, the Uttar Pradesh Law Commission (UPLC) recommended drafting an anti-lynching law, taking a cue from Manipur’s anti-lynching law. Both laws have clauses holding police officers guilty if they fail to prevent lynching or protect victims, and has recommendations for prevention. Mandar concludes by wondering if Yogi Adityanath and Home Minister Amit Shah, who now heads an anti-lynching committee, will propose similar laws against lynching that punish public officials who fail their duties and also offer comprehensive reparation.

What customers really want : Cashbacks and deep discounts can only go so far

Ronnie Screwvala | Entrepreneur and philantrophist
The Times of India

Screwvala writes about how a study by IBM Institute and Oxford Economics done two years ago that found that 90 per cent of startups fail within five years of opening shop. Recent reports say that the five best funded startups, including Paytm, Flipkart and Zomato, lost more than a billion dollars, combined, in 2018. As ‘running out cash’ and ‘no market need’ prove to be reasons why startups fail, a mindless chase is futile.

The area really needing innovation is CX, customer experience, to “understand customers’ complaint points and technologies that will resolve them”. He states that loyalty cannot be bought with discounts and cashbacks alone, and limited resources should be invested in customer experience rather than to buy new customers. A feature like the Uber app’s spotlight, aimed at helping the driver and customer find each other in a crowd, is the “kind of innovation that will assure loyalty and rich dividends in the long run”.

When another bill sparked competitive communalism

Arif Mohammad Khan | Former Union minister
The Hindustan Times

Khan writes about how “The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights On Divorce) Bill” was introduced in the Lok Sabha with the intention to reverse the judgment of the Supreme Court given in the Shah Bano case—and its impact is felt even today. Upon reaching an agreement with the Personal Law Board, Rajiv Gandhi had announced that a bill would be passed to reverse the Supreme Court judgement. Amidst strong backlash, former Supreme Court judge V.R. Krishna Iyer warned that “appeasing the Muslim Personal Law Board would alienate ‘Vishwa Hindu’ incendiaries”. Gandhi then looked for a balancing act, settling upon Ayodhaya and swiftly ordering for the gates of the disputed structure to be unlocked.

Hindu devotees were joyous but Gandhi maintained that he had informed all Muslim leaders about the removal of locks. Gandhi’s deal made with the Muslim board never made it to writing, but India still struggles with the communal divisions and tensions of 1986. In conclusion, Khan quotes a poet saying, “History has seen the times when blunders were committed by moments and consequences were borne by centuries”.

Who’s Afraid of Sovereign Bonds?

Soumya Kanti Ghosh | The writer is group chief economic adviser, State Bank of India
The Economic Times

Soumya Kanti Ghosh disagrees with some of the criticism leveled against the government’s plans of issuing sovereign bonds. He writes that the debate on India’s need for a sovereign bond should start by accepting that “it has historically been a capital-starved country”.

He argues that while some commentators are saying successive governments in the past consciously chose to keep sovereign debt at 3.8 per cent of the GDP, it is “perplexing why India could not forcefully take advantage of such a favourable disposition”. He also writes that India’s comparison with other South American and Asian countries is unfair as India’s macro numbers are better.

Similarly, contrary to those who argue that authorities should just increase the current ceiling on FPIs in government rupee bonds as its impact is the same as issuing sovereign bonds, he argues that the two are completely different things. Issuing sovereign bonds will enable the private sector, if required, to borrow domestically, he writes. He concludes by saying that we should “face issues with solutions, and not only dismissals”.

Why behavioural change in this country is such a complex task

Biju Dominic | Chief executive officer of Final Mile Consulting, a behaviour architecture firm

Biju Dominic demonstrates the difficulties which exist in bringing about behavioural change in India. He writes that Indians have developed strong beliefs over centuries. For instance, cleanliness has over time become a very integral part of Indian culture, and that’s why many Indians are “uncomfortable about having a place of defecation close to the kitchen”. He cites his own studies to argue that this factor is a bigger barrier to the use of toilets than any lack of awareness about germs.

He also argues that in India wrong behaviour in many cases has become the social norm. Humans have a propensity to follow the majority behaviour, and in India most behavioural change initiatives attempt to establish minority behaviour as a social norm, he adds.

Lastly, he argues that common citizens in India don’t have an emotional connection with the government, and consider cheating it as justified.

Cutting extortionate levies is not a bailout

Mahesh Uppal | The author is Director, Com First (India) and specialises in telecom regulation and policy
The Financial Express

Mahesh Uppal makes a case for lower penalties on companies in the telecom sector. He also advocates a lower reserve price for the 5G auction. He writes that the Digital Communications Commission (DCC) had made similar requests in the past, both of which the TRAI declined.

He also writes how it is incorrect to assume that these demands amount to a bailout. First, he argues that the matter of penalties is still in court and has “little to do with a bailout”.

Second, many experts have raised questions about the way in which TRAI arrived at its reserve price. He writes that the approach to reserve prices is “worrying” since markets should be allowed to “discover the correct price”. He adds that 5G is an important part of India’s national agenda and to ensure its faster deployment rules should “not deter investors”.

He also writes that if the auction isn’t well designed, then India risks missing the 5G boat.

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