Edits In Short: February 4

Didn’t get time to read the edit pages in today’s papers? Don’t worry. We’ve read them for you!

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The Hindu, February 4, 2013

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Wanted: A Verma Ordinance – Editorial

This edit is critical of the ordinance on sexual assault that has been cleared by the Union cabinet. It states that the outcry over the December 16, 2012 gang-rape was in vain if the ordinance that has been passed excludes important aspects of women’s safety like criminalisation of marital rape, prosecution of rape-accused security personnel. The Cabinet’s attitude to the report has been to take up non-controversial clauses but not envisage any change. Though many motions of the report drafted by the committee must be revised, they must not be dismissed altogether. Violence against women has not decreased since the Delhi gang-rape. The government must re-draft a bill and be sincere in its efforts and not unwilling, as this ordinance reflects.

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Watery Mars – Editorial

Research published recently in Geophysical Research letters has shown that in the Noachian period, the environment below the surface of Mars was warmer and wetter with liquid water present at varying depths. The edit feels that though the nature of Mars’ environment is one that is unfavourable to life, experts may find life if they stay focused on the sedimentary rock deposits that today lie exposed in craters. NASA’s Mars rover, Curiosity, is set to drill at four locations to examine the possibility of preceding life on Mars,

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Freed from government, challenged by governance – Main Article

Pulapre Balakrishnan, economist and author, comments on the government’s inadequacy to provide public goods in the country. It says that even in a market economy, the state can control fully the provision of public goods. A failure in the provision of these goods cannot be blamed on market fluctuations, but on the government itself. Despite competitive exports, the account deficits of the country are greater than they were in 1991. Despite all efforts to secure a balance of payments, massive imports of gold and oil ensured that the gap was not bridged. Pulapre feels that infrastructure must be improved to enable manufacturing and “production must take place before export is possible”. Foreign investments are weakening thanks to the arguments that took place on FDI in Parliament and because of the Delhi gang rape, which has conveyed a negative image of India to the global world. The edit calls for a change in mind-set and active participation by the government.

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The Hindustan Times, February 4, 2013

This edit calls the UPA government’s effort to respond to public protests “sluggish”. Referring the public anger concerning the Delhi gang rape, it says that the government was able to compensate for its negligence by appointing the Justice Verma committee that is gathering praise from everywhere. Six days after the report was drafted the government accepted most of its propositions. Emphasis on “most”. It left out important suggestions like criminalising marital rape, reviewing the Armed Forces act, and barring politicians accused of rape from battling elections. This omission, the edit feels, will lead to revolt amongst the people, particularly the middle class.

“The net result of these crucial omissions and no debate is that even though the government has ‘fast-tracked’ the issue, it is once again being accused of not being ‘transparent’ and unilateral. And it cannot blame anyone but itself for such an end result.”

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Cut from the same cloth – Editorial

The edit comments on US president Barack Obama’s determination to address America’s economic weaknesses and social inequities in his coming term. The edit states that in his second term, Obama has put together a foreign policy group that is envisaging a “bring the troops back home” approach regarding Afghanistan. The members include the Secretary of State the Pentagon chief, intelligence head his National Security Adviser. The bureau also suggests that the US should reach out to foes like Iran and North Korea.  The edit feels that this step will hinder India’s strategic interest and also open the gates for an assertive China. The Obama team will see a reduction in America’s overseas influence and will have to make sure that this step is taken peacefully and does not lead to the breakout of conflict.

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An unfinished battle – Editorial

Harsh Mander, Director of the Centre for Equity studies, writes that Parliament in its upcoming session, will finally shape the law that aims to get rid of hunger in the country. The imagined law will create legally binding obligations for the state to ensure food to every citizen who lacks access to adequate nourishment. He feels that it is no surprise that the law has taken four years to even reach here as there is a large number of people who regard it as suspicious and non-implementable. Mander states that the initial PSC proposal for a strong food law has been diluted and weakened. The number that was eligible for grain was brought down to 75% from 90%, and the quantity of grain per individual was also reduced. Children’s rights to food have been further curtailed, and the proposal to support lactating mothers through the stages of breast-feeding has been withdrawn. Mander in his book has argued that the issue of hunger has remained unaddressed and hesitant despite the country’s massive wealth in food resources. Policy makers must remember this is a law, and that if successful, can alter the destinies of millions.

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The Indian Express, February 4, 2013

Boycott politics – Editorial

Express describes BJP’s decision not to talk to home minister Shinde as “petulant”. Since Shinde’s “Hindu terror” remark, BJP has been on the offensive. The edit points out a similar instance in 2011 when BJP refused to engage with Chidambaram for an entire parliamentary session over his alleged involvement in the 2G scam. Congress too has been part of the “politics of boycott” when it had refused to engage with then defence minister George Fernandes. However, it comments that this is not the way for a mature democracy to function and engagement is crucial, especially over difficult issues.

On Shinde’s allegations, it points out that his statement did require more rigour before being uttered, and that evidence has been built up to suggest that “BJP and the Sangh Parivar may be in denial” over alleged acts of terror by Hindu extremists.

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Off the counter – Editorial

The government has added 40 drugs to the list of medicines that cannot be sold over the counter. The edit calls it “a belated attempt to arrest growing antibiotic resistance among patients”. India is becoming a ground zero for strains of drug resistant diseases, to which the habit of popping pills is a major contributor. In fact, all the drugs not mentioned in the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation list can be bought over the counter.

The edit cautions that while including more drugs in the above-mentioned list is a step forward, “without proper enforcement of prescription guidelines for pharmacists and better information for patients, this measure will remain cosmetic.

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Moving to the House – Main Article

Upendra Baxi, professor of law, University of Warwick, and former vice chancellor of Universities of South Gujarat and Delhi, calls the legislative slumber on rape laws “Kumbhkarna-like”. He opines that we will need public acts of indignation to break this sleep and that the framing of the Verma Committee Report got only “grudging cooperation” from the government. It was entirely the fruit of the efforts of the committee members and “generosity” of Gopal Subramaniam.

However, he cautions that the indignation should not be limited to ritual government-bashing and should move from law reform to voter education too. “This means demanding that our political parties commit to a time-bound action programme to end rape cultures in politics and society.

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The Times Of India, February 4, 2013

Ray Of Hope – Editorial

Although the Union cabinet has taken less than 10 days to study the suggestions put forth by the Justice Verma committee and cleared an ordinance, the edit states that “there are dangers in haste as well”. The ordinance fails to encompass the following within its ambit: marital rape as an offence, sexual offences under the Armed forces Special Powers Act, banning politicians charged with sexual crimes, voluntary sex work, ensuring high conviction rate for sexual crimes. It’s a good sign though, the edit feels, that the government is open to consultation and revision of the ordinance.

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Shackling IIMs – Editorial

The edit comments on the proposal in the first draft of the IIM Bill, to form an apex council headed by the Human Resource Development Ministry to manage 13 IIMs. This move, the edit states, seems to have angered faculty and alumni alike. It feels that we should focus more on primary education rather than “tinker” with the IIMs. Such a move threatens to curb the institutions’ autonomy and there is serious possibility that the IIMs will suffer the same fate as the IITs, which through government regulation “have fallen short of their true potential”.

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Exile And The Kingdom – Main Article

Journalist Sidharth Bhatia comments on the lack of tolerance and the ever-increasing fanaticism that plagues Indian society today, with artists and writers feeling increasingly unsafe in their own country – some have been forced into exile while others have imposed it upon themselves. It implores India to show these artists and writers that we respect their freedom of speech and that they don’t need to banish themselves to fulfill their creative aspirations.

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