The Hindu, January 11, 2013
Ill-timed but inevitable – Editorial
The edit states that since there has been no rise in basic passenger fares in the Indian Railways for a decade now – an unreasonable and economically unviable situation – the increase in fares was inevitable. It frowns upon the decisions of previous railway ministers not to hike fares.
A rollback, according to the edit, seems unlikely considering that the loss on account of passenger fares was set to reach Rs 25,000 crore this fiscal year and this steep increase will yield Rs 6,600 crore in a full year. It does, however, question the timing of the hike which comes just six weeks before the annual Railway Budget, when fares usually increase.
Figuring out Afghanistan – Editorial
The edit comments on Friday’s meeting between Obama and Hamid Karzai, given the scheduled departure of US troops in 2014. “The realisation, two years ago, that defeating the Taliban was impossible triggered cautious efforts at exploring ways to deal with them politically.” The edit feels that the Taliban’s contempt for any government other than its own was obvious in the previous talks, and all it wants “is a deal with the US for a return to power”.
It is no secret that Pakistan has been playing both sides of the table, “but it is not clear if it realises that any attempt to use its influence with the Taliban to create instability in the neighbourhood after 2014 would rebound on it.” India, the edit states, should definitely flag its concerns.
The Rapist in the mirror – Main Article
Praveen Swami writes a must-read article on what makes rapists. “If we are to combat sexual violence in our cities, it is time to begin discussing the dysfunctions of young urban men.”
Strange behaviour he writes, “always has a context”. Five such contexts suggest themselves as possible keys to the production of India’s urban-male dysfunction. “The consequence is a deep rage that manifests itself in nihilist behaviours.”
First, India’s transforming urban economy has produced a mass of young men with no career prospects who are mainly offered casual work. Second, for a context to hyper-violent masculinity, we must look at culture. Increasingly, cities have no recreational spaces for young men and the street becomes the stage for acting out adulthood, through substance abuse and violence. Third, a number of young men are being brought up by no-parent families. Four, few men have access to a sexual culture which allows them sexual freedoms or choices, a culture they can only watch on television and in public spaces. And last, young men of all classes see women as status-enhancing commodities.
He backs up his points with shocking figures of domestic abuse in India that children (many of them boys) are exposed to. “It is a staggering fact: half of all Indians have encountered abuse before they became adults.” Yet no one does anything to stop it.
He ends by stating that “India needs a masculinity that does not involve violence”. Respect for women can emerge only from a culture that genuinely values rights for all.
The Hindustan Times, January 11, 2013
Putting India back on track – Editorial
The edit comments on the fare hikes which it feels have been in the deep freeze for the past 10 years as Lalu Prasad and then Mamata Banerjee used the Indian Railways as their fiefdom. Over this period, the railways progressively increased their expenditure from Rs 78.7 in 2006-07 to Rs 95 in 2011-12 for every Rs 100 they earned, as freight income kept on subsidising passengers.
Playing politics with fares has brought the Indian Railways to its knees and it’s time we moved beyond this dangerous game. A task force set up to look into the modernisation of the railways estimates the bill over five years will add up to Rs 8,39,000 crore. The edit suggests that the railways and the government could cough up half this amount and the rest can be borrowed or invested by private players.
We must speak up now – Main Article
Rajdeep Sardesai in his piece writes that, “The political survival of people like Akbaruddin Owaisi depends on sharp identity politics. So while they won’t change, we must change the way we deal with them”. Hate-mongers are all the more dangerous now he feels, because they believe that what they say will earn them more voters. They spur other religious hate-mongers on, and the social media amplifies what they say and spread it like wildfire.
Interestingly he feels that the media had no choice but to conduct debates on Owaisi! “Owaisi’s speech went viral on the internet with millions of hits and tweets, almost forcing prime time television to intensely debate it.”
The article has a tip for everyone (Hindu/Muslim liberals, political parties, the Indian State) on how not to encourage these hate-speech makers. But nothing for the media who has made Owaisi a household name.
The Indian Express, January 11, 2013
An Unfair Advantage – Editorial
The edit suggests that the government should stop bailing out Public Sector Banks (PSBs) when the latter need more money. Such as recently, when banks needed money “to meet the regulatory requirements for keeping a higher buffer due to international prudential regulations.”
It goes on to state that banks knew this regulation was coming and so could have got the money in various ways. Since these banks always have recourse to taxpayer’s money they have an unfair advantage, and instead of becoming more profitable and efficient, they keep relying on the government. This must stop.
Experiments with film – Editorial
Kamal Haasan’s experiment to release his film Vishwaroopam on cable and DTH hours after its theatrical release was stalled by theatre owners. The edit suggests that had Haasan’s move been implemented, it could have opened another revenue stream for the industry, which is not new to experiments and has done so in the past as well. Eg – releasing cheap VCDs and DVDs of films soon after their theatrical release to beat video piracy.
It ends by stating that the rejection of this new idea is disappointing.
The Tocqueville paradox – Main Article
Chinese politics is entering an interesting phase. Minxin Pei, a professor of government and non-resident senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the US, says it is a Tocqueville paradox. Based on Alexis de Tocqueville’s book – The Old Regime and the French Revolution, a classic on the causes of the French Revolution, the paradox is that “a repressive regime runs greater risks of being overthrown when it tries to reform itself’”.
It is easy to see why this resonates with China, especially in light of the recent strike by journalists over the censoring of a New Year’s editorial in the Southern Weekend newspaper. As the new Chinese leadership has been pushing a reformist agenda, it will find itself in similar paradoxes, and with the state showing some let-up in repression the people are likely to tolerate existing repression even less.
The interesting political upheavals this throws up are also within the Communist Party, as the hardliners would be waiting to pounce on their chance to get back to the old, hard ways. But if the Chinese leadership wants to prove its credibility as an open-minded, reformist one, it will have to persist with reforms and risk a Chinese style “glasnost” thus endangering its own survival.
The in-betweeners – Article
Sandeep Dwivedi, Express columnist, talks about the “in-betweeners” in the Indian cricket team. These are cricketers from the generation of Sehwag, Yuvraj, Harbhajan, Zaheer who broke into the team when stalwarts like Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dravid, Laxman, Srinath and Kumble were around, and the team had opened its doors to foreign coaches, bringing in fresh ideas.
In came Dhoni, who was kind of an outsider, but had a swagger “that could make the stalwarts, from both sides, edgy”. When the time came for captaincy, he was chosen over the “in-betweeners”.
Now as the captaincy debates begin again, the “in-betweeners” are unfortunately not in the running as they are dealing with their own form and fitness battles. Dwivedi ends by saying that this doesn’t mean that their contributions will not be acknowledged. Just that, “they will be remembered as soldiers with a chestful of medals, not the path-breaking generals that they could have been.”
The Times of India, January 11, 2013
Back On Track – Editorial
The piece is a comment on the hike in passenger fares announced by Railway Minister, Pawan Kumar Bansal. This, it feels, is a smart move to improve railway finances which dwindled under surging fuel costs, wage bills, transport costs thereby marring the competitiveness of the industry.
Indian Railways still run at the maximum speed of 130 km per hour, with outmoded signaling and safety equipment, worn out coaches, poor passenger facilities and lack of safety personnel.
Opposition parties lamenting the increase in fares should note that further delay would hurt passenger safety. Furthermore, railway trade unions had demanded a fare hike last year. The edit recommends that the hike in fares be followed up with measures to boost private investment.
On The Brink – Editorial
The spate of clashes between Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress and the opposition CPM point to West Bengal’s “culture of lawlessness”.
“On Sunday, 70-year-old CPM leader Rezzak Mollah was allegedly thrashed by Arabul Islam, a local Trinamool leader, in South 24 Parganas. Two days later, Trinamool and CPM supporters fought each other with guns and bombs, leaving at least 40 people injured and scores of vehicles torched. Senior Trinamool ministers Partha Chatterjee and Madan Mitra further stoked tension by praising Islam as the party’s ‘fighting leader’. Mitra even said that if Mamata gave her permission, the Trinamool could ‘wipe out the CPM in five minutes.’”
The CM’s silence is seen as a sign of her approval of her party’s misdemeanour. Seems like Banerjee needs to take immediate steps to better the situation if she wants to retain her supporters.
Song Sangh Blue – Main Article
The main opposition party of India, the BJP, can’t seem to decide whether we live in modern times or are still stuck in the Stone Age, writes Rupa Sengupta.
While, the BJP spokespersons have been quick to rebuke spiritual guru Asaram Bapu, others are still busy blaming Western culture or propagating redundant ideas of women being kitchen-bound or killing time with obscure arguments like “rapes of grown-ups but not minors is ‘understandable’”.
Further, the writer recalls L K Advani’s Jinnah episode which she feels sheds light upon how the BJP changed after Atal Bihari Vajpayee whose “effectiveness stemmed from keeping the sangh parivar at bay”, and states that Nitin Gadkari remains BJP chief because he is said to have RSS backing.
The BJP, the writer opines, puts hurdles in the way of reforms, is internally factioned and politically appears confused. In comparison to the Congress, it seems “churlish”. She seems to have forgotten about Abhijt Mukherjee.
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