Sunday View: The Best Weekend Opinion Reads, Curated Just For You
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Keep the chai, forget the paper. Read the best opinion and editorial articles from across the print media on Sunday View. (Photo: iStock)
Sunday View: The Best Weekend Opinion Reads, Curated Just For You
The Message from the Mersal affair
Sudha G Tilak is here to give a heads up to any political party looking to make inroads into Tamil Nadu. Writing for Hindustan Times , she says they should be prepared to be surrounded by irreverent films, as is the culture and history of the state’s cinema, a pivotal way of social and political expression for decades now. With a quick lesson in Tamil film history, Tilak makes the point that regionalism, anti-Brahmanism and identity politics have been the centre of public discourse in the state since pre-independence which will always reflect in movie scripts and even personal political stances taken by leading Tamil film stars who have a larger-than-life existence for their fans.
Tilak says if Prime Minister Modi intends to take on the Tamil hero who plays Rambo politics, he should be ready for the other side’s army of loyal trolls too.
The strangeness of Tamil cinema’s hero worship could also have been born from the deep-rooted admiration of the disempowered and voiceless for the fiery speeches, hyperbole and muscular articulation of these political stalwarts.MGR did not have the acting chops of Sivaji Ganesan. But while Ganesan failed as a politician, MGR rose to fame as a star and politician and it is said it was due to cultivating his image on screen as a benefactor.Rajinikanth’s “punch dialogues” or loaded comments today are pale imitations of the political oratory of a Karunandihi, Veeramani or a Vai Gopalaswamy. A Tamil man was a hero as long as he was not afraid to comment, be it roars before the cameras or swag before the crowd at a podium. Rajinikanth’s TV speech against Jayalalithaa in 1996 (“If Jayalalithaa is voted back to power, even God cannot save Tamil Nadu”) joins the canon of his “punch dialogues” in movies like Mannan (1992), Muthu (1995) and Padayappa (1999) that trolled Jayalalitha as an authoritarian figure.
Across the Aisle: Ignore Thiruvalluvar at Your Peril
P Chidambaram finds himself quoting Saint Thiruvalluvar in response to the Finance Minister’s latest announcement of providing Rs 2,11,000 crore to re-capitalise public sector banks several more crores to make thousands of kilometers of roads under BharatMala, a new program.
But Chidambaram has some points to make in The Indian Express , and he starts at the very basic facts. India did not grow at 7.5 per cent as stated by the Secretary, Economic Affairs, because if it did it wouldn’t need the crores worth “boost” the government announced. In reality, the quarterly growth rate of the country declined due to a severe lack of private investment, private consumption and exports. Recapitalisation of banks is only a case of Robbing Peter to Pay Peter and it will take years before any of the road projects actually materialise. So what’s all this noise? Jumlon ki baarish, he supposes.
Recapitalisation of banks is good in itself and I welcome it. Due to write-offs, banks’ capital has been reduced. There will be more write-offs as 12 companies have been referred to insolvency resolution and more cases are likely to follow suit. Recapitalisation will help banks maintain their capital adequacy ratio. Banks’ capacity to lend will increase, but that does not mean lending will increase.No entrepreneur believes that the situation today is conducive to start or expand a business. (Notice that the government no longer speaks of ‘ease of doing business’!) Unless private investors discover their appetite for making more investment (including investing their own money and borrowing from banks), merely recapitalising banks will not re-start private investment. The paramount need is to boost investment in small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Banks lend to SMEs only about 10 per cent of their credit needs. Recapitalising banks will make little difference to the dire situation of SMEs.
Bailout to Banks is not Going to Cure Bad Behaviour
S A Aiyar is up next, arguing a similar point in Times of India : recapitalisation of banks is only a palliative and won’t fix the core issue at hand: the inability of government banks to make quick decisions based on excellently detailed project reports, falling for dubious government schemes reminiscent of the infrastructure and industrial loans of the 2000s and giving procedure priority over performance. He goes over Chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian’s four R’s of public sector lending to demonstrate how little will change unless banks dramatically change the way they function: Recognition of bad debts (which RBI has done), Resolution of bad loans (speed and effectiveness of tribunals yet to be seen), Recapitalisation and Reform (of which nothing has been said).
After a lending spree in the 2000s for infrastructure and industrial projects, almost one-fifth of all public sector bank loans are stressed, and over one-tenth are non-performing (payments are not coming). If banks disclosed in their accounts the full extent of bad debts, the losses would wipe out their equity capital. So, they have resorted to accounting tricks to put off the evil day.They cannot lend more for want of supporting minimum capital required by law. The government rescue will enable them to write off unrecoverable debts, and start lending again. It will also enable zombie companies, whose debts are written off, to invest and grow again. The government hopes this will revive investment and spur the economy.
The Loud Death of Politics
Tabish Khair in The Hindu has a theory about why Indian politics is dying from a lack of original thought and reinvention: because of digitalisation. Khair argues that politics isn’t something static and inevitable in a society, which is why a fixed central faith cannot be the basis of good politics. Its forms need to renegotiated by politicians constantly keeping in mind nuanced matters of society in their full complexity. But this can’t happen in the hyper-speed world of digital information overload where neither quietness exists nor space for politicians to think and understand complex contexts and decide the correct course of politics based on that. Khair is certain it only gets worse from here on till we sit up and realise what all this Twitter is doing to our nation.
From mechanisation to robotisation, there has been a constant trend towards greater speed. This ranges from the speed of communication – compare horses to jets, and letters to emails and tweets – to the speed of the production of goods, information, opinions, etc. The fetishisation of newness – a mantra on both the progressive left and the progressive right – is part of this. And as a reaction to it, in conservative and reactionary circles, we have the fetishisation of the old, the traditional, the customary. Both are wrong.White noisePolitics, in the full sense of the word, should have been able to guard against such fetishisation. It should have been able to examine matters in context, and decide on the correct course – not because it was new or old, but because it was the best at present and sustainable in the future. But how can politics do this if the space for thinking is full of noise – which is what information becomes when it speeds up endlessly?
Gained in Translation: One Big Scandal
Malika Amar Sheikh writes prose a little too cynical for an Indian Express Sunday morning read but can she be blamed? Just look what she notices around herself: People going to work hanging onto an overcrowded local train auto-pilot mode, people engrossed in their phones, murder of kids by parents and the other way around, farmer suicides, political games, flooded cities every few weeks, stampedes, cramped roads and creaking bridges, people owning two cars per household even as a metro functions in the city, children being sold...the list goes on.
Even so, Sheikh says we’re all inhumanely calm, almost robotic, while the only solution is to keep our ears open and the communication going. Don’t go silent, she says.
To murder the ones who raise questions or speak up their ideas and thoughts has become commonplace. And these murderers roam free. Democracy now has an invisible whip and we, the people, have become like monkeys riding bicycles in a stadium, or like lions, tigers, and bears jumping through rings of fire, or like ‘Well of Death’ bike riders. Every day we circle the well of death as we embark on a watch’s wheel of time. We are struggling to balance our lives on the high rope of inflation, performing trapeze acts for work and money. Every day we sit in the cannon of terror and shoot to work —with blinded eyes, we just try to make a mark with the knife of words.
Fifth Column: Why India is Lawless
Dredging up the past in The Indian Express , Tavleen Singh points out that this week marks the 30th anniversary of the violence that followed India’s Gandhi’s assassination and yet, till this date, no officer of the government has been charged with criminal dereliction of duty leading mob violence. Wondering where the root cause lies, Singh surmises that in democratic countries in India it is the police who should hold the ultimate power to impose law and order, if only the politicians spared them from the pressure and decided to dig out reams of Home Ministry reports suggesting ways to give the police more autonomy. With gangsters profiting both out on the streets and within the assemblies from this lawlessness in the country, Singh has little hope for the rule of law. Little, but some, nonetheless.
Next week marks the anniversary of one of the worst episodes of politicians colluding with the police and officials to allow the massacre of innocent Indian citizens. As has happened in this coming week for more than 30 years, the newspapers will be filled with commemorative advertisements remembering Indira Gandhi on her death anniversary. But, the murder of more than 3,000 Sikhs in the days that followed her assassination will go un-mourned. Is this because it shames us to remember that this pogrom was organised by ‘secular’ Congress politicians to avenge the murder of their leader? As someone who was in Delhi in those terrible days, I find it hard to forget those piles of burned bodies lying in the streets, those burned out husks of trucks on roads leading out of the city with corpses in rigor mortis at the wheel.
Out of my Mind: A Costly Utopia
Meghnad Desai, in The Indian Express , writes about the influence of the Soviet model of economic development on India, which in his opinion, held India back for almost half a century while nations nation Singapore and South Korea sashayed ahead. The same can be seen in the case of China which also tried to copy the Soviet model and then failed colossally, leading to the deaths of 40 million people in the world’s biggest famine. Even Putin has disowned the Bolshevik Revolution or the beginning of the Communist Revolution. Then how is it that China managed to turn their ship around so fantastically while India remains stuck in an economic model largely unsuited to her?
India has had prominent Communist politicians. In 1952, the CPI was the largest party in Opposition in the Lok Sabha. The party enjoyed much support thanks to many of its members in cinema and theatre, universities and the arts. But it was disastrous politically. It always relied slavishly on advice from abroad — London, Moscow or Beijing. The party split not for any domestic reason but because of Russia-China differences. Neither in Kerala nor in West Bengal could the party generate economic growth. Its 35-year rule in West Bengal was a washout. The third Communist party, the Naxalite, is also not likely to remove anyone’s poverty any time soon. India’s Communist parties never won national power and did not do as much damage to the economy as their Russian counterparts did. The Congress learnt the wrong lessons and did the damage instead.
Tipu Sultan was no Freedom Fighter
R Sampath delivers a quick history lesson in The New Indian Express for the sake of Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on the bloodshed carried on by Mysore’s Tipu Sultan, in the hopes he will stop extolling the virtues of a violent expansionist. He says political vendetta to want to spite BJP aside, stirring the communal cauldron by hosting official functions in the memory of Tipu Sultan is Siddaramaiah’s attempt at rewriting history to suit his convenience, which Sampath refuses to let him have easy.
The Karnataka CM is eulogising Tipu who was squarely guided by selfish motives in his so-called ‘freedom fight’ against the British rule. The very fact that Pakistan has christened at least three of its war ships as PNS Tipu Sultan speaks volumes of his ‘secular’ credentials. If Pakistan and the Congress party were to share a ‘secular icon’ in Tipu Sultan for their own reasons, they certainly have the right and no one can stop them from doing so.As for the BJP, it has valid, genuine and sensible reasons to keep away from Tipu Jayanti celebrations, as otherwise it will amount to compromising its known consistent stand against Tipu Sultan.
Inside Track: Major Goof-Up
You can always count on Coomi Kapoor coming through every Sunday with a fresh batch of gossip and behind-the-scenes information from the hallowed halls of the Indian parliament. This week look out for unmissable details in The Indian Express on Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani’s makeover, Congress’ new social media cell and it’s head and President Ram Nath Kovind’s fondness for Tipu Sultan!
The latest Indian naval ship, INS Kiltan, was commissioned by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in Visakhapatnam earlier this month. It is very different from its predecessor ship of the same name, now de-commissioned. The first Kiltan, commissioned in 1969, was built almost entirely by the Soviets. In the new ship, over 80 per cent has been through indigenous efforts. This includes the entire process of training, building, fitting and the innovative use of carbon composites for the super structure. A woman prime minister, Indira Gandhi, was in power when the old Kiltan was commissioned, a woman defence minister is in the saddle when the new ship was commissioned.
From The Quint: