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NC suggestions: The Best Opinion Pieces Of The Day

Here's a curation of the opinion pieces that caught our attention today

It’s time to think twice before using the ‘proud Indian’ tag

Priya Ramani writes in her column for The Mint that  in an age when there are attempts to redefine what it means to be Indian, it’s time to think twice before tagging yourself a Proud Indian. Do you really want to be a cheerleader in New India?

“I am a proud Indian and that will never change.” I was taken aback by the certainty underlined in Priyanka Chopra’s statement after she was attacked for offending the sentiments of India’s endangered majority in an episode of her low-rated television show Quantico earlier this month. Amongst the film fraternity, it’s usually Akshay Kumar, producer and actor in his own brand of jingoistic cinema, who trends #ProudToBeIndian before a film release. In the post-truth world, it seems only fitting that Kumar, Bollywood’s most feted Proud Indian, is not actually an Indian citizen. He’s Canadian.

I can think of half-a-dozen emotions that more accurately describe the experience of being Indian today. Guilt, for our privileges that most Indians don’t have access to; disgust that nearly 18 million of the world’s 45.8 million modern-day slaves live in our country; despair that three in four Indian women don’t work; anger that we can’t even guarantee an abuse-free childhood to one in every two little Indians; shame that we haven’t yet managed to do away with the practice of manual scavenging; disappointment with all the friends and family who have displayed their bigoted selves in these past few years; empathy for everyone who has faced hate; and admiration for those who have stood up to hate.

Above all, in this arena of emotions, fear and hope wrestle to determine what comes next while pride watches silently.

Will women lose another choice?

In his column for Mumbai MirrorDushyant writes We must allow people to punish women for being women because if we try to stop this, people may punish them more. We must let one wrong persist because if we try to fix it, another wrong may be committed. If these statements sound absurd to you, keep reading.

The Maternity (Amendment) Act, 2017, among other things, increases the duration of paid maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks. The crucial reform is aimed at helping women remain in the workforce after giving birth. But a study has now suggested that the rule change may lead to fewer women being hired or retained, at least in the short term. The logic being that if companies are forced to give extended maternity leave to women, they may simply stop employing or retaining them. The study has rekindled the debate on whether women should (and this bears repetition) continue to lose out for being women.

For the sake of argument, let us assume that women collectively gave up maternity leave. Would that end the discrimination at the workplace? No. Ever since society has become more sensitive to violence against women, laws have been strengthened and companies have been ordered to set up prevention of sexual harassment committees, I have been hearing some people say: “We don’t want to hire women because they file sexual harassment cases.” So now, women must choose between working and childbirth, and between being unemployed and being sexually harassed. Scratch that, women don’t get to choose much anyway.

Reducing maternity leave will not lead to more women in the workforce. What we need to do is make gender based discrimination illegal and costly (in terms of court-imposed damages).

For the Media to Regain Credibility, the Business of News Needs to Change

Commenting on the credibility of ‘fourth pillar of democracy’ after the Cobrapost revelations, Deepanshu Mohan writes in his column for The Wire that with the exception of a few fearless journalists, English and vernacular news platforms, mainstream journalism continues to witness a deeply troubling transition, from being the vanguard of democratic values to being one of the principal threats to them.

To get a perspective on this troubling transition, it is vital to study the changing dynamics of the news business in India as part of a global phenomenon. A number of variables can be considered responsible for the rapid dissolution of professional attitudes in journalistic practices and its ethics: rating-sensitive television news; circulation wars among competing newspapers; and high transaction and signalling costs in adapting to a digitally powered media space are a few worth mentioning here.

A core problem at the heart of this remains directly concerned with a misaligned revenue-incentive structure. This structure has taken over by virtue of a neoliberal consensus between private-run news agencies, emerging from countries like the US and flowing to others (including India), where private investment in the media market share remains greater than the public sector owned media spaces.

Without the right structure of incentives and revenue, the social trust embedded in journalistic integrity – most essential to safeguarding democratic values – is likely to be irretrievable.

In 2018, the 1992 test

Seema Chishti says in her article for The Indian Express today that many of those charged in the Babri Masjid demolition case are lawmakers. That’s what makes the case a litmus test for rule of law in the country.

With an important set of accused in the case either powerful in the government or close to government circles, the resolution of the Babri Masjid demolition case will be a test for legal processes in the country. In 1992, as communal riots broke out on a scale not witnessed since the Partition, India’s claims about being inclusive and modern seemed boastful. Riots and unrest continued — even if spasmodically at some places — till the Mumbai riots of 1993. It was a moment of reckoning for India’s post-Partition generations. This is what makes the 1992 moment important.

There are many principled arguments about the damage that is inflicted on democracy when the fringe becomes the law. But the matter is also germane to a basic question centred around the rule of law — how it deals with the politically powerful.  So, even if those charged with the destruction of the Babri Masjid have the popular mandate, the law must act against them if they are found guilty in a criminal case. How India acts in 2018 with respect to what happened in 1992 is an important test for its democracy.

Will the Maharashtra plastic ban choke on its reliance on criminal penalties?

Nishant Gokhale analyses the recent plastic ban in Maharashtra, imposed by the state government in his article for Scroll.in. He writes while the government’s stated intention to protect the environment as well as human and animal health is laudable, it has caused panic among people who have been left guessing about the scope and consequences of the ban.

The plastic ban has been adopted through a notification issued on March 23 under a 2006 state law known as the Maharashtra Non-Biodegradable Garbage (Control) Act. What is striking about the notification is its textual inconsistency. While at times it is painstakingly detailed, at other times it is perilously casual in its wording. The notification relates to “manufacture, usage, transport, distribution, wholesale & retail sale and storage, import” and is broadly applicable to all public places in the state and to all individuals and companies. Plastic bags and disposable plastic and thermocol products are covered and it also includes single-use plastic containers and cutlery, plastic wrapping and liquid containers. The definition then ambiguously and abruptly ends with the term “etc.”, leaving seemingly endless discretion in the hands of those tasked with enforcing the law.

To make matters worse, numerous exceptions strain at the law’s coherence. Speciality plastic is permitted for milk and agricultural inputs but curiously, no plastic is permitted for fish or meat or other dairy products. Recyclable plastic is permitted for wrapping manufactured products or where it is “integral to manufacture” without clarifying what industries it would exempt.

Despite the government’s commendable aim to mitigate the harm caused by plastic pollution, its implementation seems to be little more than a squandered opportunity to address a pressing problem. Rather than designing a responsive and effective policy, the government appears to have tried to achieve compliance by bludgeoning its citizenry with the blunt instrument of criminal law.

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