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The page of Gurcharan Das

9 May 2017

Triple talaq must go, but for real change India needs to become truly modern

Triple talaq is in the news again, and mostly for the wrong reasons. It represents a Muslim husband’s right in Islamic law to dissolve a marriage simply by announcing it to his wife; today, he even does it via an SMS over the cellphone.

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12 April 2017

Why Trump’s pro-war aide quotes the Gita

Most Indians are unaware that Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s chief strategist and member of his national security council, is not only the most powerful person in the White House today but he is also a great admirer of the Bhagavad Gita. Bannon is militarily inclined and believes in waging a holy war against Islam “to establish dharma in the world”. His long-time collaborator Julia Jones says, “He used to talk a lot about dharma — he felt very strongly about dharma… one of the strongest principles throughout the Gita.”

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10 March 2017

Why classic liberals don’t win elections, and populists do

We are in the midst of another election season in India, and each time a poll rolls around, I get depressed at the thought that we are about to elect criminals, corrupt populists, and members of political dynasties rather than upright, independent, reform-minded liberals.

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10 February 2017

The Budget will tell if aspirational Modi is now a populist Modi

The question on our minds is: has the Prime Minister changed? Is Narendra Modi turning populist? We shall have the answer on Wednesday when the finance minister presents the Budget. The nation elected Mr Modi on an aspirational platform of creating jobs, containing inflation, and stopping corruption. Indeed, in the first half of his term, he has pursued responsible policies to meet these goals.

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13 January 2017

As stagnant West gets meaner, rising India spells hope but there’s a big if

2016 was a dreadful year and it is a relief that it’s over. The values I cherish most took a profound battering. As a classic liberal, I want equal rights for all; I reject racial and caste discrimination; I revere religious freedom; I seek a free economy based on competition; and I uphold dissent. These beliefs have been undermined by Donald Trump’s election in America, Britain’s exit from Europe, and rising racism, intolerance and nationalism in the world, including in India where Narendra Modi has made his first big mistake with ill-considered notebandi.

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25 November 2016

When netas see votes in clean air, they’ll cut through the smog

Two apparently unrelated events occured in Delhi in the past few days. In the first, Narendra Modi made a tough, risky move — one of the riskiest in his career — against the long-festering problem of black money. In the second, Arvind Kejriwal was seen floundering as he tried to cope with Delhi’s foul air. What connects the two events is the stark contrast between the decisive action in the case of black money and a sense of helplessness in response to pollution.

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8 November 2016

Beyond the control of scions in India’s family businesses

Indians have a saying that captures the tendency of family businesses to decline over generations: “The life of a business house is 60 years.” This phenomenon was portrayed by the German writer Thomas Mann in Buddenbrooks, his novel about a wealthy merchant family in the city of Lübeck whose business disintegrates as the children lose an appetite for making money.

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25 October 2016

Army’s surgical strikes did more than save India’s izzat

The terrorist killing of sleeping soldiers at Uri on September 18 revolted me. It reminded me of Ashvatthama’s night-time massacre of the sleeping Pandava armies, which turned the mood of the Mahabharata from heroic triumphalism to dark, stoic resignation. Soldiers are ready to give their lives in battle but they don’t expect to die while asleep in peacetime. For ten days I felt uneasy and angry.

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10 October 2016

Saved by the bill? Reform aims to fix India’s medical education

A fresh breeze is blowing in Delhi’s corridors and it could well turn into a squall. It is whooshing about, not in the ministries but in Niti Aayog, which has recently hired 50 professionals, educated at the world’s best universities. The first institution to experience the welcome showers will be medical colleges as part of an overhaul of the (MCI).

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9 September 2016

Independence Day quiz: Are you a patriot or a nationalist?

It was a rare afternoon in Delhi’s August. The rain had stopped and an occasional nimbus cloud punctuated the astonishingly blue sky. A quiet breeze sent me on a walk into Lodhi Gardens on the way to meet an old friend in Khan Market. Our conversation over chai was halting and uneasy and we kept returning to the ill-fated rise of nationalism in the world.

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