Edits In Short: January 28
The Hindu, January 28, 2013
Padma as patronage – Editorial
Is it possible, this edit wonders, if the Padma awards can ever be controversy-free? The answer unfortunately is no, the latest being the refusal of playback singer S Janaki to accept the award at the age of 74, saying that it was beneath her dignity to refuse it so late in her accomplished career. The awards, the edit comments, are viewed as payment for services rendered to the government, as is obvious with recipients like hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal (awarded for his “key role” in facilitating the India-US civil nuclear agreement), and Chittaranjan Singh Ranawat after his successful knee surgery on AB Vajpayee! It is a sorry state of affairs. Rarely are selection guidelines adhered to by any government in awarding Padmas, and the Awards Committee is habitually overruled.
Insightful and path-breaking – Main Article
Brinda Karat, member of Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India-Marxist, feels that the JS Verma Committee report “is a big step forward in the struggle for women’s right”, but has left some crucial questions unanswered. The report, she writes, has suggested a way out of the thousands of pending rape cases by extending the age of retirement of judges and so on, but made no concrete recommendation regarding time-bound procedures or setting up of fast-track courts.
She also feels that there are enough recommendations made by committees earlier, and though the report has done well on most counts, it is the failure of the government to implement these recommendations that is the main problem. “It (the report) cannot be allowed to meet the same fate as the 15-year-old Women’s Reservation Bill which remains an ornament to be dusted and displayed before every election.”
The Hindustan Times, January 28, 2013
Before the big show begins – Editorial
Forget 2014, the HT edit is of the opinion that the general elections will be fought on the battleground prepared by the state elections of 2013. Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Delhi and Madhya Pradesh are where elections will take place this year. With new leaders in both BJP and the Congress, Rajnath Singh and Rahul Gandhi, the HT edit, as usual, thinks that the BJP has a “a more worrisome task ahead of it”.
Delhi, it pretty much predicts, will go the Congress way (wishful thinking?), in Karnataka the BJP is a mess, while in Madhya Pradesh it might be easier for the party. The rest of the states could go either way. It puts in a good word about Rahul Gandhi, who has suggested that the Congress not impose decisions about the candidates from the top, and recommends that both parties give their regional leaders a free hand for the battle ahead.
It’s primary evidence – Main Article
Krishna Kumar, professor of education at Delhi University and former Director of NCERT, is aghast at Delhi University’s plan to award aspiring elementary school teachers a diploma in two years. “A lack of academic preparedness by teachers seems contrary to the vision of the Right to Education Act (RTE)” writes Kumar, which assumes that teachers must possess an intellectual and emotional maturity when engaging with children’s minds. Something that Kumar obviously thinks will not be possessed by teachers who have to spend only two years on a diploma course.
Kumar also wonders if this move has been made to avoid paying Bachelor of Elementary Education (B.El.Ed.) the same pay as Trained Graduate Teachers (TGT’s) despite B.El.Ed. being a graduate degree. At the moment B.El.Ed.’s are being paid the salaries that primary teachers with only a Class 12 certificate get.
A diploma course Kumar feels will be a setback to RTE and the status and quality of elementary education will take a hit.
Nothing worth noting on voting – Article
Jagdeep S Chhokar, formerly director-in-charge at IIM Ahmedabad and founder member of Association for Democratic Reforms and National Election Watch, writes a telling piece on the unwillingness of politicians to act on electoral reforms to prevent persons with criminal cases pending against them. He writes that when Justice JS Verma Committee report addressed this issue, Law Minister Ashwini Kumar said that he’d asked the Law Commission of India to recommend steps to prevent criminals from being elected to parliament. This Chhokar says “is a clear indication that the government has no intention of doing anything in this regard”!
Why he feels that, is amply clear in the article, which goes on to list the number of panels and commissions who for the past twenty odd years have been recommending the same reforms – without any success. The latest episode in this saga is the letter of the outgoing Election Commissioner, SY Quraishi who wrote to the PM in April, “Though certain minor reforms have been adopted…the substantial ones have been actually left out allowing the allegations that politicians are not keen about the reforms because of their vested interests.”
The Indian Express, January 28, 2013
As chill sets in – Editorial
In light of the ban by southern states’ on the movie Vishwaroopam and the complaint registered against Ashis Nandy for his statements at the Jaipur Literature Fest, the edit ominously warns that laws meant for social justice are being made a tool of intimidation. It ends with saying that when politicians become “cheerleaders of intimidation… the republic is in trouble indeed”.
Recovery ahead – Editorial
The IMF has predicted a reversal of the global economic slide and a growth of 5.9% for India in 2013. That is marginally higher than the 6% it had predicted in October 2012. The edit finds it a little surprising that despite all our policy reforms, the IMF doesn’t have higher hopes from us. It concedes though, that “policy reform takes time to have an impact on business sentiment”. It ends with its usual editorial stricture that it is important India doesn’t show an “anti-investment stance” as it could imperil the stability it has seen in the past three months.
The sun and the moon – Editorial
The edit comments on ISRO’s agenda for the next five years, which it sees as a welcome sign of the space research agency “dreaming big”. It says that apart from commercial and exploratory missions, “scientific research for its own sake” should be part of the organisation’s mission statement. Given NASA’s budget cuts, the Express sees potential for space research organisations from India and China to step up, and says “it stands to reason that ISRO be encouraged to dream big”.
Call it censorship, not social justice – Op-Ed
Yogendra Yadav, senior fellow at the Centre for Study of Developing Societies, comes to the defence of a senior honorary fellow from his centre – Ashis Nandy. He explains his reading of Nandy’s stance – that while upper caste leaders can get away with corruption because they resort to it in subtle forms, lower caste leaders’ whole political careers are put at risk when they indulge in corruption. Yadav doesn’t agree with Nandy but says that it is certainly not a casteist slur that Nandy made.
Yadav adds that it’s sad that irony, wit and satire are disappearing from public life (in the name of social justice), and the media can’t see a complex argument for what it is.
“The real tragedy is that the leaders and friends of the Dalit-bahujan movement find it difficult to distinguish between their friends and foes, between what works for and what works against them.”
The Times Of India, January 28, 2013
Room at the Top – Editorial
The TOI edit feels that the Congress and the BJP should either find a new candidate who can be promoted confidently or come clean with the Rahul-versus-Modi contest that many have predicted for the next general election. While Narendra Modi and the newly appointed Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi are emerging as the key faces of the two major political parties, they haven’t been portrayed as prime ministerial candidates. Diffidence in backing their leaders is common to both parties comments the edit, and should be done away with.
Ban Contagion – Editorial
With Kamal Haasan’s film Vishwaroopam taken off theatres in Tamil Nadu and later in Karnataka, the edit comments on the growing divide between the Indian polity and civil society.
Whether it’s the demand for safer public spaces for women, the muzzling of writers, the persecution of Ashis Nandy, who is being threatened with arrest due to controversial remarks made by him at the Jaipur Literature Festival, or ordinary citizens having to go to jail for posting comments/cartoons on social media websites; the signs are everywhere. If such high levels of intolerance persist, the edit feels that India may see itself face-to-face with a full-blown political emergency.
An Open Letter to Rahul Gandhi – Main Article
Novelist Chetan Bhagat writes an open letter to Rahul Gandhi imploring him to pioneer change in the country and to translate talk into action. At the same time he questions Rahul’s ability to be able to take action against those causing the national enormous damage, be it friends and family or those who will help him win seats. Some of the changes proposed by Bhagat in his letter are – to cut politician-industrialist ties, create new job opportunities through economic reforms, encourage business by creating a level playing field, end corruption, and talk to the people.
Here’s a sample from the letter: “Is there no hope then? Yes there is. You can create change, but it cannot be sudden. You will have nudge people towards change. Bad doesn’t become good overnight. Bad becomes slightly less bad, then better and better until transformed into good.” Another bestseller coming up!