The Hindu Editorial Analysis
06 March 2020

1) Read them the riot act: On police inaction during Delhi violence


  • CONTEXT:
  • As smoke thins out and facts emerge, the role of the Delhi Police during the communal violence that gripped the north-eastern parts of the city from February 24 to 26 turns out to be disturbing and chilling.
  • The circumstances and origins of the violence are important, but what is of utmost urgency for the rule of law is the behaviour of the police and other arms of the state.
  • The catalogue of infractions by the Delhi Police, unearthed by media platforms and civil society groups, is long and detailed.

 

  • BEHAVIOUR OF THE POLICE:
  • In one case, Faizan, a 23-year-old Muslim man, was seen in a video being beaten by the police who were forcing him to sing the national anthem.
  • Illegally detained for over 36 hours, denied medical attention and released with his body turned blue, according to his mother, Faizan died.
  • It took the intervention of the Delhi High Court for the police to give protection to victims as they were transported from an inadequate facility to a government hospital.
  • Videos of personnel in uniform actively participating in violence, and smashing CCTV cameras installed by the Delhi government, have emerged. All these incidents require detailed investigation.
  • The Delhi Police also came under attack by mobs; one of their men was lost, and several were injured.
  • But that is no reason to excuse their failure to ensure public order in a riot situation.
  • Even after the global spotlight on their blatant partisanship during the days of the ugly violence, the Delhi Police have chosen to brazen it out.
  • Not only have FIRs not been filed against four BJP leaders who were clearly instigating violence, there were more mobs roaming the heart of the capital city, unchallenged by the police in the days following the riots.
  • Meanwhile, the police sought action against social activist Harsh Mander, whose speech on peaceful protest and communal harmony was presented to the Supreme Court as incitement to violence.

  • APATHY FROM CENTRAL AND DELHI GOVT:
  • Far from taking the officials to task and pinpointing individual accountability, the Central and Delhi governments have either remained quiet or come out in support of them.
  • The responses of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Union Home Minister Amit Shah to the violence emboldened the mob and condoned police partisanship.
  • Had there been timely and impartial assertion of political or judicial authority over the police as they drifted from one excess to the more egregious next over the last three months, Delhi would not have fallen into this furnace.

 

  • CONCLUSION:
  • There can be no further loss of time in acting against the perpetrators of violence and those who miserably failed in their duty.
  • India needs an assurance that its security forces will uphold the rule of law at all costs, and not allow themselves to be manipulated by those aligned with the ruling establishment.
  • Those responsible for dereliction of duty in the Delhi Police should face action.

 

2) Truly Malay: On Mahatir’s legacy


  • CONTEXT:
  • The drama behind the developments that catapulted Muhyiddin Yassin to Malaysia’s premiership could go on, unless his predecessor Mahathir Mohamad decides to call it quits.
  • But Mr. Mahathir, who resigned last week, seems no less determined to fight on than when he staged a spectacular comeback as Premier in 2018 after spending nearly two decades in political retirement.

 

  • ALLIANCE:
  • On that occasion, Mr. Mahathir forged the Pakatan Harapan (PH), a multiethnic coalition, with his erstwhile arch-rival Anwar Ibrahim.
  • The sole mission of that alliance was to remove the government of United Malay National Organisation (UMNO), the party of Malay nationalism which was at the time embroiled in a multibillion-dollar scandal.
  • But the PH collapsed last week when some splinter groups tried to form an alliance with UMNO, leading to Mr. Mahathir’s resignation.
  • But as soon as Mr. Muhyiddin, Interior Minister in the previous administration, was sworn in as the new Premier on Sunday, his ex-boss challenged the legitimacy of his appointment.
  • While claiming the support of 112 MPs in Kuala Lumpur’s 222 member legislature, Mr. Mahathir has also objected to Mr.
  • Muhyiddin taking the support of the UMNO. Given the UMNO’s overt assertion of Malaysia’s majority Muslim interests, Mr. Mahathir’s claim appeared to resonate among sections of the country’s diverse ethnic minorities.

 

  • VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE:
  • Meanwhile, the PH is organising roadshows to explain to supporters and voters the events that led to the breakup of the coalition, ahead of its attempt to move a vote of no confidence in Mr. Muhyiddin’s leadership.
  • But the plan could hit a roadblock following the Speaker’s announcement on Wednesday of postponement of the next parliamentary session until May.
  • But Mr. Mahathir’s capacity to convert the coming weeks to his advantage cannot be underestimated.
  • Few would have taken seriously his launch of a comeback bid in 2017, when he aligned with Mr. Anwar, his one-time protege whom he had incarcerated on politically motivated charges of sodomy in the 1990s.
  • Crucially, the latter appears to stand by his mentor now, even though the promise of being handed the baton has not materialised so far.
  • Conversely, gains from the byelections last year are bound to renew the Opposition’s hopes to consolidate its position.

 

  • WAY FORWARD:
  • The prevailing uncertainty could also distract attention away from Malaysia’s economic priorities.
  • Equally, the revival of the old narrative to privilege the country’s Muslim majority would prove detrimental to its plural ethos.
  • As he constitutes a new Cabinet, Prime Minister Muhyiddin would do well to build on the inclusive legacy of the past two years.
  • At the same time, Mr. Mahathir might ponder the democratic case in making way for a successor.

 

3) An unrest, a slowdown and a health epidemic


  • CONTEXT:
  • India faces imminent danger from the trinity of social disharmony, economic slowdown and a global health epidemic.
  • Social unrest and economic ruin are self-inflicted while the health contagion of COVID-19 disease, caused by the novel coronavirus, is an external shock.
  • This potent combination of risks may not only rupture the soul of India but also diminish our global standing as an economic and democratic power in the world.

 

  • COMMUNAL TENSIONS IN DELHI:
  • Delhi has been subjected to extreme violence over the past few weeks. We have lost nearly 50 of our fellow Indians for no reason. Several hundred people have suffered injuries.
  • Communal tensions have been stoked and flames of religious intolerance fanned by unruly sections of our society, including the political class.
  • University campuses, public places and private homes are bearing the brunt of communal outbursts of violence, reminiscent of the dark periods in India’s history.
  • Institutions of law and order have abandoned their dharma to protect citizens. Institutions of justice and the fourth pillar of democracy, the media, have also failed us.

  • CHARRED SOUL OF THE NATION:
  • With no checks, the fire of social tensions is rapidly spreading across the nation and threatens to char the soul of our nation.
  • It can only be extinguished by the same people that lit it.
  • It is both futile and puerile to point to past instances of such violence in India’s history to justify the present violence in the country.
  • Every act of sectarian violence is a blemish on Mahatma Gandhi’s India.
  • Just in a matter of few years, India has slid rapidly from being a global showcase of a model of economic development through liberal democratic methods to a strife ridden majoritarian state in economic despair.
  • At a time when our economy is floundering, the impact of such social unrest will only exacerbate the economic slowdown.
  • It is now well accepted that the scourge of India’s economy currently is the lack of new investment by the private sector.
  • Investors, industrialists and entrepreneurs are unwilling to undertake new projects and have lost their risk appetite.
  • Social disruptions and communal tensions only compound their fears and risk aversion.
  • Social harmony, the bedrock of economic development, is now under peril.
  • No amount of tweaking of tax rates, showering of corporate incentives or goading will propel Indian or foreign businesses to invest, when the risk of eruption of sudden violence in one’s neighbourhood looms large.
  • Lack of investment means lack of jobs and incomes, which, in turn, means lack of consumption and demand in the economy.
  • A lack of demand will only further suppress private investments. This is the vicious cycle that our economy is stuck in.

 

  • SELF-INFLICTED WOES:
  • Adding to these self-inflicted woes is the real threat of the COVID-19 epidemic that has originated in China.
  • It is still unclear how far this global health hazard will spread and impact the world. But it is very clear that we should be fully prepared and ready to counter it.
  • A health epidemic is one of the most dangerous threats that a nation can face.
  • It is imperative that all of us collectively prepare to face this threat.
  • We have not faced a public health crisis in contemporary times at the scale that the current crisis threatens to unfold.
  • It is therefore important to launch a full-scale, mission-mode operation to counter this threat immediately.

 

  • DEALING WITH COVID-19:
  • Nations across the world have sprung into action to contain the impact of this epidemic.
  • China is walling off major cities and public places. Italy is shutting down schools.
  • America has embarked aggressively both to quarantine people as well as hasten research efforts to find a cure.
  • Many other nations have announced various measures to address this issue. India too must act swiftly and announce a mission critical team that will be tasked with addressing the issue.
  • There could be some best practices we can adopt from other nations.
  • Regardless of whether this virus will enter our shores on a large scale or not, it is now evident that the economic impact of COVID-19 will be very big.

 

  • WORLD BANK and OECD:
  • International bodies such as the World Bank and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have already pronounced a sharp slowdown in global economic growth.
  • There are reports that China’s economy may even contract, which, if it happens, will be the first time since the Cultural Revolution of the 1970s.
  • China today accounts for nearly a fifth of the global economy and a tenth of India’s external trade.
  • The forecast for the world economy is quite dire. This is sure to impact India’s economic situation too.
  • Millions of small and medium businesses in India that account for more than three-quarters of all formal employment are part of the global supply chain.
  • In such an integrated global economy, the COVID-19 crisis can further slow India’s GDP growth by half to one percentage point, other things being constant.
  • India’s economic growth was already tepid and this external health shock is bound to make things much worse.

 

  • BRINGING IN REFORMS:
  • Government must quickly embark on a three point plan.
  • First, it should focus all energies and efforts on containing the COVID-19 threat and prepare adequately.
  • Two, it should withdraw or amend the Citizenship Act, end the toxic social climate and foster national unity.
  • Three, it should put together a detailed and meticulous fiscal stimulus plan to boost consumption demand and revive the economy.

 

  • CONTINGENCY PLAN:
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi must convince the nation, not merely through words but by deeds, that he is cognizant of the dangers we face and reassure the nation that he can help us tide over this as smoothly as we can.
  • He must immediately provide details of the contingency plan for the threat of the COVID-19 scare.
  • A moment of deep crisis can also be a moment of great opportunity.
  • I recall that in 1991, India and the world faced a similar grave economic crisis, with a balance of payments crisis in India and a global recession caused by rising oil prices due to the Gulf War.
  • But we were able to successfully turn this into an opportunity to reinvigorate the economy through drastic reforms.
  • Similarly, the virus contagion and the slowing down of China can potentially open up an opportunity for India to unleash second -generation reforms.
    • To become a larger player in the global economy and vastly improve prosperity levels for hundreds of millions of Indians.
  • To achieve that, we must first rise above divisive ideology, petty politics and respect institutional salience.

 

  • WAY FORWARD:
  • The truth is that the current situation is very grim and morose. The India that we know and cherish is slipping away fast.
  • Wilfully stoked communal tensions, gross economic mismanagement and an external health shock are threatening to derail India’s progress and standing.
  • It is time to confront the harsh reality of the grave risks we face as a nation and address them squarely and sufficiently.