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NC Top Opinions: A Hug Runs Through It; Starvation Deaths In 2018 And More

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

  • Kargil Diwas is a reminder of our unfinished project of achieving jointness in the military

Sudarshan Shrikhande writes in his column for The Print that we must celebrate the 19th anniversary of the Kargil War and the tactical valour displayed by Indian soldiers and unit-level leaders in retaking Kargil heights. But we must also rue the slow progress we have made towards ‘jointness’ or cross-service cooperation in the armed forces. 

With excellent intentions, we set up a tri-services joint academy (the National Defence Academy) very soon after Independence, a joint staff college (the Defence Services Staff College), the National Defence College, and a college of defence management. Apart from these, there are several joint courses and capsules of smaller durations. Yet, while no major nation has as much joint training and professional military education inputs as India, we have fallen short of delivering jointness in terms of outcome.

Each country will have to develop models for jointness that are likely to better suit its need for favourable war-fighting outcomes. Joint theatres were made by the Russia (and erstwhile USSR) along its territorial expanse, like in China. At this stage, they do not have theatres on a global canvas like the US. So, in our own contiguous geo-strategic environment and ‘island chains’ much thinking has gone into creating ITCs. I would prefer to call them joint theatre commands (JTC) and would want that the integration of command and control be centred in Delhi with a reconfigured integrated defence staff headquarters and single service HQs.

There never will be a rosily perfect time for these changes, but it is never too late or too early for jointness at the outcomes end.

  • Expensive technologies cannot solve India’s waste problem

In her column for Hindustan TimesManshi Asher writes that the core question India needs to address: how to reduce the generation of waste in an economy, which thrives on spiraling consumption and production. To tackle this challenge, several Indian municipalities have invested in smart bins. While Bangalore, Raipur, Dehradun and Dharamsala have already installed these bins, Chennai, Surat, Mumbai, Chandigarh are all set do the same.  

Unfortunately, these bins don’t contribute much to managing municipal waste because there’s no segregation at source — household or commercial. So having two bins does not serve any purpose as users/collectors dump mixed garbage in them. Moreover, in most cities, the waste finally goes to landfills or dumping grounds without any processing.

Dharamshala, which made to the smart city list in 2016, initially planned to install 225 bins. So far the municipal corporation has installed about 70 bins at the cost of Rs 7 crore. However, a city that has only one disposal site and is yet to plan the setting up of a waste processing unit, it makes little sense to spend crores on the new bins.

Instead of these expensive bins, the government must initiate other steps: segregation and processing, organising and capacity building of citizens and waste handlers, and come up with a strong regulatory system. The core question of how to reduce the generation of waste in an economy that thrives on spiralling consumption and production, will also need to be faced sooner or later.

  • What Scams Were to the Congress, Lynchings Will Be to the BJP

Lynching has become the leitmotif of the last four years, ever since the Narendra Modi government came to power, writes Sidharth Bhatia in his column for The Wire. He says that just as ‘scam’ is the word that will forever be associated with the second iteration of the Manmohan Singh-led UPA, looking back, the one ‘standout feature’ of recent years has been lynching.

Consider how various senior members of the BJP and the larger Sangh parivar have reacted to such incidents. Right from the first major incident, the brutal lynching of Akhlaq Khan, caught and thrashed for keeping beef in his fridge, the alleged criminals have more often received the unstinted and open support of senior, elected officials of the ruling party. 

The media hasn’t helped with its absurdly false equivalence that damns all parties as being guilty. Watch any television ‘debate’, in which the most outrageous extremists will be on the panel balanced by an ‘objective’ journalist or analyst, and it ends with more sound than light on the matter. Can there be two opinions about the killing of a helpless man by a mob? Is there any ambiguity about what the lynchings are all about? Giving a platform to hate mongers, whether they scream or sound more reasonable – with the ‘right’ accents too – is a travesty of the professional mantra that all sides of a story need to be heard. It normalises even a heinous act like lynching.

Even if the BJP does come back with or without the same leader, for a long time to come, its rule will be remembered as the era of lynchings.

  • A hug runs through it

Mrinal Pande writes in an article for The Indian Express that power is generally all high seriousness in Delhi, bereft of levity or inquisitiveness, let alone physical proximity among human beings. No wonder the TV channels, their audience and social media can’t get enough of the rare spectacle that unfolded in Parliament during the recent debate on a no-confidence motion.

A question to ponder: Why should old taboos on physical intermingling across gender, caste, class, community or language lines continue within Parliament? Why should thou shalt not try to touch a VIP without prior intimation and clearance, be supported in the name of securing safe spaces? How come the Indian state has allowed various clans, tribes and khap panchayats to enforce borders to inhibit freedom of speech and mobility, particularly of women? How come our electoral politics, instead of challenging these unconstitutional bans and borders, treats caste/clan/tribe leaders as heads of little republics and uses them to capture vote banks?

This is perhaps why a parliamentarian hugging the supreme leader of the ruling dispensation threw open a once impermeable and heavy curtain. And when that happened, despite the stiff corset of the BJP’s power, the media and young viewers realised how they, India’s young, may still salvage and usher into Parliament a spontaneity at once youthful and warm, uninhibited by the chilling atmosphere of a historic red stone building.

  • Starvation deaths in 2018

Sections of the media and political establishment find it unthinkable that a person can die of starvation in India, writes Vikram Patel in his column for The Indian Express. He says that the assumption, within a certain section, is that no one can die of hunger in this land of plenty and that government largesse ensures there is food in every belly. The very mention of the word “starvation” is enough to evoke hysterical reactions from our news anchors.

This unseemly debate of whether people die of hunger or illness baffles those who can enjoy the luxury of digging into their generous serving of munchies. Starvation deaths in 2018? How absurd in a country which, we were recently informed, is the fastest-growing economy in the world. A country where surplus grain is eaten by rats. Hunger deaths are an evil from our colonial past. And the media hoopla over one death would surely indicate that such incidents were rare. To the well-heeled, it seems that India has, in fact, conquered hunger.

But the truth is somewhat more disturbing, for there is no debate at all about the fact that India is home to the largest number of malnourished people in the world. About a third of our children are stunted: As the word implies, their bodies (and, indeed, their brains) are less developed than they should be for their age. And there is one overwhelming reason for this damning observation: They have gone to bed, day after day, month after month, without enough food.

Child dies because he or she is too weak from hunger, which has depleted the body of the necessary biological potions that would have staved off these diseases.

In other words, the child died of hunger.

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