AsiaGlobal Voices

Trending Opinions From Across the Region

AsiaGlobal Voices is a curated feed of summaries of opinion articles, columns and editorials published in local languages in media from across Asia.

The publication of AsiaGlobal Voices summaries does not indicate any endorsement by the Asia Global Institute or AsiaGlobal Online of the opinions expressed in them.
It is Time to Open Up – or the Cure Will be Worse Than the Disease
Tuesday, May 5, 2020
It is Time to Open Up – or the Cure Will be Worse Than the Disease

Barkha Dutt, journalist, in her column in Hindustan Times (May 1, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Raam Gottimukkala/Pixabay)

It is Time to Open Up – or the Cure Will be Worse Than the Disease

India has extended the national lockdown with some relaxation. The government should have been more liberal in opening up. Other than districts in severely hit red zones, the rest of the country needed to be given space to breathe again. A greater calamity than Covid-19 – humanitarian, social and economic – is imminent if a uniform lockdown is continued.

This is not to argue that the clampdown and enforced physical distancing did not serve their purpose. The number of infections would have been substantially higher had the decision not been taken to shut down the nation.

But India is a global outlier in the number of fatalities from the pandemic. Whatever the reasons, the death rate is not higher than that of other diseases that claim Indian lives every day.

In the meantime, there are other grave crises emerging. Among them is the lack of access to health care for poor citizens.

The biggest gear shift needed is in that of attitude. While aggressive contact tracing and quarantine are essential, we cannot treat testing positive as a doomsday scenario. We have been shutting down housing societies, hospitals, factories and workplaces if even one person tests positive. If every case triggers panic, we shall never be able to rebuild our lives.

How to kickstart the economy should have all our attention. The biggest flaw in a lockdown is that it quarantines healthy people. What’s needed is not a sledgehammer that clamps down, but a sieve that sifts those who really need medical help from those who can just stay at home.

The lockdown has served its purpose. More of this will be a cure worse than the disease.

It’s Time for PM Modi to Win Back the Trust of Muslims
Wednesday, April 22, 2020
It’s Time for PM Modi to Win Back the Trust of Muslims

Tavleen Singh, journalist, in her column in The Indian Express (April 19, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes

It’s Time for PM Modi to Win Back the Trust of Muslims

On Twitter daily, there are tweets so filled with hatred and venom against Muslims that it is as if the twits who post them truly believe that there would be no pandemic in India if it were not for our Muslim citizens.

Now, it has never been more important for the religious and political leaders of the Muslim community to come forward and stop Muslims from inviting hatred by attacking doctors and nurses. On April 15 in Moradabad, healthcare workers were assaulted when they were checking on people suspected of having the coronavirus. That was sickening.

If there is one good thing that this virus has done, it is that it has put an end to the problems created by the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). It has to stay that way. Never before has India more needed to come together to fight a common enemy. If the Muslims have lost trust in Narendra Modi’s government, and they have, it is time for the prime minister to go out of his way to win back this trust. The battles that lie ahead will not be won if we are distracted by violence, hatred and communal tensions.

All over the world today, prime ministers and presidents face the ultimate test of their leadership. Narendra Modi is no exception. His problems are bigger because he is forced to rely on a bureaucracy devoid of both compassion and competence.

The Coming Coronavirus Shocks
Thursday, April 16, 2020
The Coming Coronavirus Shocks

TJS George, journalist, in his Point of View column in The New Indian Express (April 12, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Khabar Uttarakhand ki)

The Coming Coronavirus Shocks

These days, I feel insignificant as a citizen, looking to politicians as parents and obeying them. We should be happy to do so but they speak in so many tongues. One wants me to do yoga, which will somehow cure all the nation’s ills. Another wants me to know that the coronavirus panic is just a ruling party plot to divert attention away from the riots in Delhi in February.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, meanwhile, says it is important to tackle the spread of pessimism, negativity and rumor. He convened a videoconference with 20-plus editors and print-media owners and asked them to act as a link between the government and the people. But he did not spell out a policy plan or speak in reassuring tones.

Yet the media chiefs were enamored by the PM’s gesture and agreed to publish only “inspiring and positive stories”. Said one owner of the opportunity to interact with the prime minister: “We were privileged.” In which other country could the media be more cooperative?

Some are predicting that the US will suffer its worst recession in history. When the US economy goes into recession, everybody is affected. One estimate has the global economy shrinking by 1.5 percent in 2020. The negative impact on economies will be prolonged. This will require social adjustments. But how many societies are ready?

Religion has been a factor in this crisis. Crowds have defied common sense. I hope God blesses the careless and careful equally.

Industries are reeling. The entertainment sector has come to a halt. Retail shopping has been disrupted. Experts warn of an unforeseen consequence – mental health problems – mainly because of the strain of unemployment, especially if people are without a job for a long time. For the poor, the future is grim. 

The Age of the Neoliberal Virus
Tuesday, March 24, 2020
The Age of the Neoliberal Virus

Tabish Khair, novelist and academic resident in Denmark, in The Hindu (March 24, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: SISTEMA 12)

The Age of the Neoliberal Virus

The coronavirus is the world’s first neoliberal virus. This is because of how governments around the world – even in the better social welfare capitalist states in Europe such as Denmark – have confronted it. While countries have shut down, other necessary measures have not been implemented. 

One of the most crucial is testing. This is a neoliberal response even in places with good healthcare systems. The burden of stopping the virus is being passed on to ordinary citizens who must isolate themselves while the government issues directives but spends as little as possible. This is not a surprise. Whenever corporations or banks have stumbled, governments have pumped money into them, while cutting public services including healthcare and research. This is happening again.

Rumors have it that the virus scare in China, combined with the racism in the West when anything bad happens in non-white nations, sent American and European investors into a panic. They sold shares in Chinese companies, which were then snapped up by the Chinese government and Chinese investors. Now, with China apparently in control of the virus, it would seem that they have gained more control of their economy too. Meanwhile, after briefings on the coronavirus, American legislators unloaded shares before the US market fell. Once again, this points to a neoliberal virus.

The UK openly conceded that many old people would need to die before the virus is brought under control. Politicians backtracked, saying they were doing their duty but not lying to the people. But were they? Or were they influenced by neoliberal logic that financial value is the only value that matters?

Get on Top of the Learning Curve – Don’t Dilute the National Education Policy
Friday, March 20, 2020
Get on Top of the Learning Curve – Don’t Dilute the National Education Policy

Azim Premji, Founder Chairman, Wipro Ltd, in The Economic Times (March 18, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes

Get on Top of the Learning Curve – Don’t Dilute the National Education Policy

Education is the key to empowerment of girls and the fulfilment of their dreams. A good education is a powerful force that contributes to making our society more just, equitable, humane and sustainable. 

Over the past 20 years, India has made real progress in education. Government schools are accessible to almost all villages, with primary schools usually within walking distance. Primary enrolment is nearly universal, with gender parity of early classes. The thinking on education has become more progressive.

We urgently need to develop and adopt a new comprehensive policy framework for education. An excellent move in this direction is the draft National Education Policy (NEP) unveiled in May 2019. This laid out a comprehensive, nuanced and integrated road map for the transformation Indian education.

It recommends access to high-quality public education as the way forward and calls for substantial increase in investment to enable this expansion and improve public education at all levels. Vibrant, high-quality and equitable public education will be the foundation of Indian society.

As the NEP outlines, India should strive to attain high-quality early childhood care and education and ensure that every student achieves age-appropriate levels of development in their first five years of school. Curricula and teaching frameworks should be redesigned. There should be significant investment to ensure equitable inclusion of disadvantaged groups. Well trained teachers must be at the center of the education system. 

A new institutional architecture for higher education is needed, with some consolidation of universities and colleges. The NEP requires regulatory reform of higher education to ensure that institutions have greater autonomy that enables them to improve quality.

The final NEP should not be diluted from the carefully formulated draft that includes bold, progressive measures. These must not be sacrificed at the altar of expediency or extraneous compulsion.