The Big Story: What, me, strike?

Demonetisation has not been easy on people, especially those who live outside the cushy cashless zones of India’s cities. It has led to serious distress in rural areas. Rating agencies across the board have predicted a sharp drop in India’s Gross Domestic Product this year and there’s no assurance that normalcy will return any time soon. India is hurting, and it shows. Yet, even though this is the result of a massive decision taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and followed up by disastrous implementation, the country’s political Opposition doesn’t seem to know what to do.

They have managed to stall Parliament, sometimes with rather dubious demands, while West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has taken the lead outside. But the attempt to offer a united front on Monday has turned into a shambles as the call for a Bharat bandh quickly became a series of separate strikes.

The Communist parties have planned a 12-hour shutdown in Kerala and Tripura. The Congress initially supported and then turned against the bandh, and instead only promised a Jan Aakrosh demonstration. The Aam Aadmi Party did the same. Banerjee, never one to side with the Communists, has called for people to join her at a rally in Kolkata. The Telangana Rashtra Samiti and the Janata Dal (United) are staying away from it all.

Modi immediately capitalised on this, asking on Sunday whether the Opposition wanted “corruption bandh or a Bharat bandh?” That question hits home even more so because the various parties still aren’t certain what they are demanding from the government. Some want a Joint Parliamentary Committee to look into allegations of leaks of the information, others have demanded an apology from Modi. Talk of a rollback is quietly receding.

Opposition parties, noting the popular support that Modi has managed to generate for the move, have failed entirely at criticising the very basis of demonetisation, even though it is a massive economic shock that might end up doing very little to crack down on black money. Worse, they haven’t even pinned the government down in Parliament and forced Modi to spell out what calculations went into the decision – a crucial matter that will ensure the government doesn’t shift its goalposts later. If you need to see a shambles as bad as the implementation of the demonetisation move, all you have to do is take a look at India’s Opposition.

The Big Scroll: on the day’s biggest story

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  1. Gilles Verniers points out in the Indian Express that politicians in Uttar Pradesh have gotten more diverse based on caste, but much more homogeneous in terms of class, since most are now businessmen-turned-netas.
  2. A leader in Mint calls on India to be much more vocal in its defence of a liberal global order and free trade, even as politics in many major economies has turned inward.
  3. Louise Tillin in The Hindu brings up an important question that hasn’t been carefully examined: What does the unilateral demonetisation move mean for Centre-state relations and “cooperative federalism”?
  4. “More poorly conceptualised, badly implemented and moralistic policy prescriptions will take us back to the Hindu growth rate of 3-4 per cent of the 1970s and 1980s,” writes Ajay Chhibber in the Indian Express. “We thought we were done with that.”
  5. If Ravichandran Ashwin were to retire tomorrow, writes Mukul Kesavan in the Telegraph, he would arguably be the best all-rounder in India’s Test history.


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“So far, health officials have mostly been apathetic to TB and hostile to criticism.

At the National Strategic Plan meeting on October 19 in Delhi, this reporter was asked to leave on the grounds that her presence made the health ministry officials at the event “vulnerable”. They said that it would only be appropriate for the media to report on the TB plan of action after plans were finalised.

On October 28, at the 47th Union World conference on Lung Health at Liverpool in the United Kingdom, global health activists protested the government’s inertia in implementing TB policies. India’s director general of health services Dr Jagdish Prasad called the protestors ‘unstable’.”