Letters on May 1 Issue

Letters on May 1 Issue
On Populist Politics

This is with reference to Rudrangshu Mukherjee’s critical assessment of Partha Chatterjee’s reading of populist politics, with special emphasis on India (May 1, 2020).

The unique signature of populist politics lies in the fact that it gives farewell to the prevailing paradigms of liberal and Marxist politics. The rise of populist leaders in communist-ruled states may be thought of as examples of ‘Left’ populism. Paradoxically, the famous statement of The Communist Manifesto --“All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned…”— carries the signature of contemporary populism, obviously in a completely different sense.

The making /unmaking of laws plays a significant role in majoritarian populist politics in contemporary India. The recent abrogation of Article 370 of our Constitution and passing of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), 2019, bear testimony to it.

Arup Kumar Sen, Kolkata
A seminal exploration of possibilities

This is with reference to Asim Ali's discourse 'We are the True Inheritors of the Nationalist Legacy!' (April 17, 2020). His exploration of emancipatory possibilities of the Shaheen Bagh movement is a seminal one. He sees new pathways of Indian politics: "The politically committed Hindus who participated in these protests must now take the message of Shaheen Bagh to their own spaces, to their housing colonies, offices, and families". Asim Ali's imagination of post-Shaheen Bagh "progressive" politics reminds us of the possibilities of the "Non-Party Political Process" imagined by Rajni Kothari.

Arup Kumar Sen, Kolkata
A crisp analysis of indigenous R&D

The article 'Train 18 and Before: Indigenous High Technology Research in India' (April 24) by Sunil Mani and Chidambaran G. Iyer provides a crisp analysis of what ails indigenous innovations in India.

It throws light on a key factor that may help in explaining why India is lagging behind. It gives the examples of Integrated Coach Factory (ICF) and C-DOT where vigilance enquiries affected the momentum and focus of R&D. ICF’s apparent tweaking of tender requirements should have been appreciated to the extent that it was establishing a linkage with another established Indian innovative supplier that is supplying products that are at par with foreign suppliers in terms of quality parameters. Such linkages would create innovation multiplier effects and enterprises would start spending more on R&D.

Like the vigilance cases in these two cases, many Indian firms are reported to have faced harassment by tax officials when they claimed concessions under the  R&D incentive schemes of the Government of India. While accountability needs to be ensured and corruption prevented, an overdrive of vigilance can make innovators complacent. These two cases also show a lack of vision of our policymakers to promote innovation in key sectors by strengthening the innovation capabilities of PSEs and then making them establish linkages with firms in the private sector.

Reji Joseph, Delhi
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