Friends in need: On BJP and Opposition unity

Talk of any political realignment is unseasonal, considering the fact that the next general election is due only in 2024 and the BJP is entrenched in the government. A gathering of political leaders, activists and scholars convened by Trinamool Congress leader Yashwant Sinha on Tuesday, however, was preceded by a lot of speculation about the emergence of a ‘third’ front, opposed to the BJP and sidelining the Congress. The Rashtra Manch is not intended to be a third front according to its organisers, but that does not mean the end of an exploratory politics ahead of 2024. In fact, most parties have reasons to think and act towards a new alternative to the BJP. For one, serial governance failures and missteps have made the current moment the most vulnerable for the BJP since 2014. The Congress does challenge the BJP at an ideational level, but the electoral victories over it in recent months were by regional parties such as the TMC, the DMK and the Left. While Rahul Gandhi has a

Engage Iran: On U.S. blocking Iran-linked websites

The U.S.’s decision to block dozens of Iran-linked websites at a time when both countries are trying to revive the nuclear deal is unnecessary provocation. The U.S. has accused the sites, including Iran’s state-owned Press TV, of spreading disinformation. In the past, the U.S. had cracked down on Chinese and Iranian media over similar allegations. The move comes days after Iran elected Ebrahim Raisi, a hardline cleric, as President. The election of Mr. Raisi, who has been sanctioned by the U.S. for his alleged role in the execution of political prisoners and other rights violations, has already escalated tensions between the two countries. Iran’s sharp response to the move on the websites, has been that the U.S. was trying to “muzzle free speech”. Even if one ignores Iran’s rhetoric, the U.S.’s move hardly serves its declared purpose of fighting disinformation. When America seized the website of the semi-official Iranian news agency, Fars, in 2018, it switched to an Iranian domain and

A welcome spike: On India’s vaccination record

India began the week with a record, by administering over 8.6 million doses of vaccine on a single day, an impressive feat even from a global perspective. For most of May, India struggled to deliver over 2 million doses a day and beginning June, managed to hike it to over 3 million doses daily. These are substantial numbers, but inadequate, given that the benefits of mass vaccination would be discernible — in terms of reducing hospitalisation and mortality — only after a large percentage of the population is inoculated. By that metric, India is a global laggard with only 17% of the population covered by at least one dose and less than 4% by two. The U.S., in comparison, has inoculated at least 53% and the U.K. 64% with a single dose. In that light, India on a single day being able to administer over twice the previous weeks’ daily average makes plausible the Centre’s aspiration to inoculate all of India’s adult population by the year-end. So far, about 25% of them have been


Policy creep: On e-commerce and overregulation

Barely 11 months after the Government notified the Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020, the Department of Consumer Affairs has mooted a set of sweeping amendments, ostensibly “to protect the interests of consumers... and encourage free and fair competition in the market”. Among them is a norm stipulating the appointment of a chief compliance officer, a nodal contact person for 24x7 coordination with law enforcement agencies, and another requiring e-commerce entities offering imported goods or services to ‘incorporate a filter mechanism to identify goods based on country of origin and suggest alternatives to ensure a fair opportunity to domestic goods’. A third mandates a fall-back liability on online marketplaces in the event of non-delivery of goods or services to the consumer. Registration has also been made mandatory for all e-commerce players; specific ‘flash sales’, including ‘back-to-back’ ones, are set to be banned; and all entities must provide information within


A time to give: On ex-gratia compensation to families of COVID-19 victims

The Centre’s stated position before the Supreme Court on paying a standard ex gratia compensation to families of those who died of COVID-19 shows poor appreciation of the fallout of an unprecedented disaster. After initially asserting that such payments were beyond the Government’s fiscal affordability, although there is a provision in the Disaster Management Act for compensation, and externalising the pandemic as a global, ongoing event, the Home Ministry has now averred that the issue was the manner in which funds were to be put to use. Clearly, lack of resources would be a legless argument when the Centre is pursuing expensive redevelopment projects such as the Central Vista. What the Government says it wants to do is to deploy funds in health care, enhance social protection and support economic recovery of affected communities, rather than give one-time compensation payments (₹4 lakh) or notified ex gratia sought by the petitioners. There is nothing wrong in keeping the focus on

A perpetual war: On dilemmas of ending U.S's 'forever war' in Afghanistan

Hope and promise: On Centre’s J&K outreach

The rise of Raisi: On Iran’s new President

Reverse migration: On the politics of defections

Old and slow: On World Test Championship

Terrorising dissent: On bail for student activists

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