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The page of Gurcharan Das

29 April 2021

Can Covid shift our politics? It’s a national emergency now. Let it bring to an end our Age of Hatred

The dreaded second wave of the coronavirus has created a national emergency. You’d think it would have united our republic, but India remains hopelessly divided. A straightforward problem of vaccinating our people becomes the subject of political football. While aam admi scrambles helplessly from hospital to hospital in search of oxygen, a bed, a ventilator, our political parties behave like prehistoric tribes, fighting elections as though they are battles for extinction. They don’t even share a common vocabulary to empathise in this Age of Hatred.

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30 March 2021

A tale of two heroes: An Ashoka University donor on the challenges of doing good in today’s world

Pratap Bhanu Mehta, professor of political science and a passionate critic of the government, resigned from Ashoka University last week because he felt he’d become a ‘political liability’. The media has portrayed it as a morality tale of good versus evil but, in fact, it’s a tragedy.

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13 November 2020

Doing good in India gets harder: Philanthropy should be regulated by an independent regulator, not by the home ministry

Indira Gandhi’s Emergency was a tragedy in modern India’s history. A second tragedy was not to have undone the terrible laws enacted during the Emergency. One of these is the Foreign Contributions (Regulations) Act or FCRA, which was amended last month and has become more draconian.

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30 September 2020

India’s language conundrum: The National Education Policy has skirted elegantly a political minefield. But the obstacle is the teacher

In 1947, a weary Britain packed up and left India, leaving behind absent-mindedly the English language and a headache for Indians. Ever since, we’ve been quarrelling over the place of English in our lives, particularly in what language to teach our children. The latest to join the debate is the National Education Policy (NEP), which to its credit, has skirted elegantly a political minefield, coming up with an answer that has satisfied almost everyone, offending only those who insisted on being offended. But the obstacle is the teacher.

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2 August 2020

One and a half cheers: National Education Policy promises much, but fails to come to grips with India’s education crisis

There is so much good in the recently announced National Education Policy (NEP) that it seems churlish to point out its failings. It will receive well deserved applause. However, the truth is that it has failed to come to grips with the crisis in Indian education. I will focus only on schooling, the crucial foundation of the edifice. Instead of three cheers, I am afraid I can only offer it one and a half.

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21 April 2020

India faces sophie’s choice: The government’s tragic lockdown dilemma is that it has to pick between lives

The old idea that civilisation is destroyed from within, not from without, has been turned upside down. In just a few weeks a virus ten-thousandth of a millimetre in diameter has spread around the world like wildfire from a market in Wuhan, to threaten our civilised order. How we respond to the moral dilemmas raised by Covid-19 will reflect on our values and the number of lives we save.

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14 February 2020

India is free, its schools are not – Reform must have two legs: Autonomy for private schools and quality for government schools

Another Republic Day has come and gone, with an unhappy reminder of the tragic gap between our aspirations and the harsh reality. For 70 years we have wanted our children to grow up into free thinking, confident and innovative Indians. But our education system has done everything possible to disempower them. It is a heart breaking sight to see long lines of parents waiting year after year to get their child into a decent school. Most of them are doomed to failure as there aren’t enough places in good schools.

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15 January 2020

And now, the good news: Pessimism isn’t warranted. If you can take the long view, the world is getting better

At the beginning of a new decade when so many are feeling so glum, Matt Ridley comes up with the astonishing claim that the past decade was one of the best. “We are living through the greatest improvement in human living standards in history,” he writes in UK’s Spectator. “Extreme poverty has fallen below 10% of the world’s population for the first time… child mortality has fallen to record low levels; famine virtually went extinct; malaria, polio and heart disease are all in decline….”

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4 December 2019

Ten steps to $5 trillion: Lesson from RCEP fiasco is that India must execute bold reforms to become competitive

November 4, 2019 was a sad day. Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided to walk out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations at the eleventh-hour, admitting that India couldn’t compete with Asia, especially China. It was a big and painful decision as this is no ordinary trade agreement.

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29 October 2019

In search of a conservative Indian: We are drowned today by the shrill noises from Hindu nationalists and left secularists

The precipitous decline of Congress worries many Indians who believe that choice and a responsible opposition are important. Democracies elsewhere offer a choice between liberals and conservatives through a two-party system. Liberals prefer modernity while conservatives favour tradition and continuity; liberals want rapid change, conservatives prefer it to be gradual. Conservatives tend to be more nationalistic, religious and market oriented; liberals are more secular and oriented to social welfare. It isn’t easy to transpose these terms to India but it can serve a useful purpose.

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