The Rafale deal has been the subject of heated claims and counter-claims. The government has rejected the Opposition’s claim that the deal with France to purchase 36 jets was tainted by crony capitalism. The Hindu published this editorial on September 24, three days after former French President Hollande claimed that the Indian government suggested industrialist Anil Ambani’s company as the offset partner for the €7.87-billion deal.
A regulatory filing at the stock exchanges by Punjab National Bank unveiled a ₹11,500-crore fraud perpetrated by diamantaire Nirav Modi, allegedly in collusion with bank officials at a South Mumbai branch. This editorial delves deep into the banker-borrower nexus that is often blamed for problems in the banking system.
January 2018 witnessed an unprecedented press conference. Four senior judges of the Supreme Court met the press after submitting a letter to the then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra. The senior judges claimed the administration of the Supreme Court was not in order and accused Chief Justice Misra of selectively assigning cases and thus hinting that he was misusing his role as the ‘master of the roster.’ The Hindu published the editorial the next day, terming the press conference “both momentous and unfortunate” and called for a collective introspection. It was the only editorial published on that day.
During the Monsoon Session of Parliament, the Centre brought a Bill to amend the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act as several Dalit groups across the country were angered by its “dilution” due to safeguards introduced by the Supreme Court. The apex court had issued a slew of guidelines to protect public servants and private employees from arbitrary arrests under the Atrocities Act. The government introduced the Bill to set the record straight. While welcoming the amendments, this editorial pointed out that the judgment didn’t alter or read down any of the key provisions of the Act. However, the procedures laid down by the top court could result in the perception that it was introducing norms to prevent quick action on complaints.
In a landmark verdict, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court not only approved passive euthanasia but also gave legal status to ‘advance directives’, popularly known as the living will. While the government was in favour of passive euthanasia for terminally ill patients, it opposed the advance directives. The editorial welcomes the verdict and goes on to say the advance directive only reflects the patient’s autonomy and does not amount to a recognition of a wish to die.
The government’s policy think-tank NITI Aayog released the Health Index report for the first time and Kerala, Punjab and Tamil Nadu took the top ranks. Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh were at the bottom of the list. The editorial highlighted the obvious fact that was not mentioned in the NITI Aayog report — the States with a record of investment in literacy, nutrition and primary healthcare have achieved high scores.
In the beginning of 2018, the Union government decided to allow 49% foreign stake in Air India, thus setting the stage for its privatisation. Another key decision was to dilute the local sourcing norms for 100% FDI in Single Brand Retail Trading. The Hindu’s editorial in January pointed out that the road map for the sale of Air India was ambiguous, and that the decision on FDI in retail should have been taken in 2015 itself. As the year comes to an end, the public carrier is yet to get a suitable offer from any private player. Swedish furniture firm IKEA opened its first Indian store later in the year, taking the ‘automatic’ route of FDI in retail.
The Supreme Court, in February, approved a slightly modified version of the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal’s plan to distribute Cauvery water among the riparian States. The editorial not only welcomed the verdict, but also pointed out that the Centre ought to have done more to end the decades long dispute. “It will be unfortunate if the States and the Centre are reluctant to accept this verdict and refuse to acknowledge its finality,” the editorial said.
Nearly 32 years after the Assam Accord was signed, the first draft of an updated National Register of Citizens (NRC) for the State was published at midnight on December 31, 2017. It listed 1.90 crore out of the 3.29 crore applicants as citizens. The draft of Assam’s National Register of Citizens is a first step, but it opens up concerns, said the editorial. True to the words, over 40 lakh people were excluded in the final draft leading to a huge uproar. The Centre gave time till the year-end to file objections and has now extended it by another six months.
On February 1, 2018, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley presented the last full-fledged Budget of the NDA government. While his earlier budgets focused on fiscal prudence, this one was more about populism. The editorial analysed Mr. Jaitley budget summed it up as thus: “Overall, the Budget has a sense of direction that is difficult to find fault with.”