The Daily Fix

The Daily Fix: Modi's cynical app survey betrays the government's insensitivity on demonetisation

Everything you need to know for the day (and a little more).

The Big Story: Poll vault

The idea that the government will listen to the people is one of the hallmarks of democracy. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s plan to demonetise old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes enters its third week, though, a remarkable sense of obduracy seems to have gripped his government. Even as the administration has ignored the massive inconveniences that the plan has caused, a badly executed survey conducted on Narendra Modi’s smart phone app rubbed salt into the wounds. The results of the survey released on Wednesday show overwhelming support for the decision.

Given that only 17% of Indians have access to smart phones, the survey ab initio targetted a micro, unrepresentative segment of India’s population. Moreover, the survey was replete with leading questions and a multiple-choice questionnaire that often did not even give users the chance to disagree with the plan.

Naturally, this led to some gentle mocking on Twitter as here:

But this isn’t a laughing matter. The Modi government is actually using the results of this survey to claim validation for its demonetisation programme. On Wednesday, the Prime Minister put out the results, neatly patting himself on the back. Ninety per cent of the people who took the survey had supported the decision, said the Prime Minister.

The survey only goes to show how tone deaf the Modi government has been of late. It has even treated the deaths that have resulted due to its sudden demonetisation with insensitivity. In another demonstration of his lack of empathy, the prime minister cracked a joke about wedding parties stuck for cash, though this has caused great anguish to couples in the middle of the marriage season. Besides, there has also been little political management of the difficuties faced by farmers as they try to sow their rabi crop.

Given the evident problems that demonetisation has caused, slowing down the economcy at least for the short term, a healing touch is required urgently. The nation needs real leadership, not gamed, self-congratulatory surveys.

The Big Scroll

Ten questions Modi really should have asked in his demonetisation survey

Political Picks

  1. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is hoping the threat of war will compel Pakistan to leash the terrorists it has let out of their pens. But both sides seem determined not to blink first.      
  2. Exchanging Rs 1 crore for a 30% cut: Turning black into white is now a lucrative business      
  3. The formation of Telangana has been beneficial for its chief minister but not so much for the Osmania University students that led the fight for statehood.      
  4. In India, skin colour is tied to the caste system, says study.      

Punditry

  1. As India undergoes the world’s biggest currency overhaul in decades, central bank Governor Urjit Patel has been noticeably absent, write Brishti Beniwal and Anirban Nag in Bloomberg.      
  2. It’s time to assess the impact of the surgical strikes, writes Harinder Baweja in the Hindustan Times.      
  3. Writing in the New York Times, Gregor Aisch, Adam Pearce and Bryant Rousseau try and evaluate just how far Europe is swinging to the Right.      

Giggle

Don’t Miss

Tamil Nadu’s schools are in crisis (but nobody is talking about it), reports M Rajshekhar.

One unusual pattern appears when looking at the number of marks scored by students taking the exams. One would expect a bell curve here – in any test, some students fare very poorly and some very well, and many average. So, a graph showing the number of students and their scores should be slim at either end – the high and low scorers – and thick in the middle.

But that is not how these charts look. A total of 10,23,566 students sat for the tenth standard board exams this year in Tamil Nadu.

In the maths graph, the curve rises slowly till the score of 20 and then falls again, so much so that no student achieves 33 or 34. But then, as many as 111,776 students score 35 – the passing grade. This is followed by another steep fall, and then almost a plateau. About 12,880 students score 98. And, then finally, there is a second, smaller spike, as 18,754 students get 100 marks.

Subscribe to “The Daily Fix” by either downloading Scroll’s Android app or opting for it to be delivered to your mailbox.

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Do you really need to use that plastic straw?

The hazards of single-use plastic items, and what to use instead.

In June 2018, a distressed whale in Thailand made headlines around the world. After an autopsy it’s cause of death was determined to be more than 80 plastic bags it had ingested. The pictures caused great concern and brought into focus the urgency of the fight against single-use plastic. This term refers to use-and-throw plastic products that are designed for one-time use, such as takeaway spoons and forks, polythene bags styrofoam cups etc. In its report on single-use plastics, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has described how single-use plastics have a far-reaching impact in the environment.

Dense quantity of plastic litter means sights such as the distressed whale in Thailand aren’t uncommon. Plastic products have been found in the airways and stomachs of hundreds of marine and land species. Plastic bags, especially, confuse turtles who mistake them for jellyfish - their food. They can even exacerbate health crises, such as a malarial outbreak, by clogging sewers and creating ideal conditions for vector-borne diseases to thrive. In 1988, poor drainage made worse by plastic clogging contributed to the devastating Bangladesh floods in which two-thirds of the country was submerged.

Plastic litter can, moreover, cause physiological harm. Burning plastic waste for cooking fuel and in open air pits releases harmful gases in the air, contributing to poor air quality especially in poorer countries where these practices are common. But plastic needn’t even be burned to cause physiological harm. The toxic chemical additives in the manufacturing process of plastics remain in animal tissue, which is then consumed by humans. These highly toxic and carcinogenic substances (benzene, styrene etc.) can cause damage to nervous systems, lungs and reproductive organs.

The European Commission recently released a list of top 10 single-use plastic items that it plans to ban in the near future. These items are ubiquitous as trash across the world’s beaches, even the pristine, seemingly untouched ones. Some of them, such as styrofoam cups, take up to a 1,000 years to photodegrade (the breakdown of substances by exposure to UV and infrared rays from sunlight), disintegrating into microplastics, another health hazard.

More than 60 countries have introduced levies and bans to discourage the use of single-use plastics. Morocco and Rwanda have emerged as inspiring success stories of such policies. Rwanda, in fact, is now among the cleanest countries on Earth. In India, Maharashtra became the 18th state to effect a ban on disposable plastic items in March 2018. Now India plans to replicate the decision on a national level, aiming to eliminate single-use plastics entirely by 2022. While government efforts are important to encourage industries to redesign their production methods, individuals too can take steps to minimise their consumption, and littering, of single-use plastics. Most of these actions are low on effort, but can cause a significant reduction in plastic waste in the environment, if the return of Olive Ridley turtles to a Mumbai beach are anything to go by.

To know more about the single-use plastics problem, visit Planet or Plastic portal, National Geographic’s multi-year effort to raise awareness about the global plastic trash crisis. From microplastics in cosmetics to haunting art on plastic pollution, Planet or Plastic is a comprehensive resource on the problem. You can take the pledge to reduce your use of single-use plastics, here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of National Geographic, and not by the Scroll editorial team.