Happy New Year! Welcome to the first Daily Fix of 2016.
The Daily Fix is Scroll‘s daily compendium of everything you need to know and a little more. On most days you’re likely to get a mix of top headlines of the day, a quick examination of the day’s biggest story, political and policy news that you have to pay attention to and the most interesting op-eds and columns from around the country.
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For the first day of the year, however, instead of the usual Fix, we have a quick rundown of what you should be paying attention to this year.
There are theories that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ascent to the top of Indian politics was not about some grand rightward shift in the Indian body politic. Instead, it was about the economy, stupid. Whether that theory holds water or not, the globe is looking at a difficult year economically, and India is no exception. We may expect to grow faster than most other nations, but India will still be in a difficult space fiscally with worries about whether India Inc is doing better. India needs to settle on some stable economic ground next year.
*The climate and natural disasters
The past year saw both heatwaves that killed thousands of people and torrential rains that caused floods and left entire cities paralysed. A catastrophic earthquake in Nepal also reminded us of how unprepared we are if something of the same magnitude hit India. And it’s not getting better anytime soon. Delhi might be trying to address its woeful air safety record, but the rushed way even that is being attempted is indicative of the entire country’s approach to this challenge. Safe to say India will have to handle more than one natural disaster in 2016.
The Indian Parliament doesn’t work. It does sometimes pass laws, but it barely debates them and the ones that do get through Parliament are usually ones on which parties have already made up their minds over. The structure of Parliament meant that the government was not able to pass either the Land Acquisition amendment this year or the Goods and Services Tax Bill, and that disparity between the two houses is not going to change next year. The Prime Minister ended 2015 asking the Opposition to make a vow to allow Parliament to function. It remains to be seen if any party would be willing to make a promise like that.
*Elections in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Assam and Kerala
Closely related to the question of Parliament functioning is the matter of elections. Four states are set to go to the polls in 2016, all somewhat on India’s periphery. Only in Assam will the Bharatiya Janata Party properly square up against the Congress and even there, a third party could play kingmaker. Meanwhile, regional battles will dominate in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. That said, electioneering always has a disruptive effect across the country and even if ti doesn’t affect the Centre so much, the fate of parties like the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in Tamil Nadu and the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal could have a huge effect on how things work in Delhi.
Yes, yes, it’s only just turned 2016, why are we already talking about 2017? That’s because 2017 brings with it elections in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, which parties will spend all of next year working towards. UP matters in particular because of its massive size and its potential, depending on the fate of the BJP there, to entirely derail Modi’s tenure as prime minister. It’s also prime hunting grounds for those hoping to communally polarise, so it will most certainly be the source of plenty of stories next year.
*Beef & Intolerance (plus immigration?)
These two issues dropped somewhat off the map after the Bihar results were declared, but they continue to simmer in the background and, with plenty of attention on UP expected next year, they aren’t going to disappear either. The more nationalist sections of the ruling party and its larger family saw 2015 as the beginning of an broader attempt to move India rightward and even if Bihar gave that policy something of a beating, it is not going to disappear in 2016. With Assam’s elections coming up, concerns about illegal immigration might also be added to the mix.
*India & Pakistan
Modi managed to flip the script at the end of 2015 by making a last-minute, impromptu visit to Pakistan, suddenly injecting energy both into his flagging prime ministership, his image the world over and India-Pakistan ties which had been stuck in limbo. The visit was actually a prelude to many opportunities for interaction next year, leading up to a South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation in Islamabad in September, which will arrive with plenty of expectations for announcements about the India-Pakistan dialogue process.
We will learn whether the telecom regulator intends to prevent Facebook from expanding its Free Basics program, which many believe to be in violation of net neutrality. But that will most likely be the first in a series of battles about the way the internet expands into the country, fights that will naturally be mirrored by arguments on either side online. The neutrality battle has managed to remain somewhat apolitical in India so far, expect that to potentially change in 2016.
*Rio Olympics 2016
Sure, it’s not the major international sporting event that most Indians pay attention to (the cricket world cup) or the ones that Indians are starting to pay attention to (the football world cup), but it is still the Olympics. Prepare for another year of fretting over the ability of a country the size of India to still win almost nothing at the world’s most prestigious sports and athletic gathering, puncture by a few amazing successes here and there.
*The American election
Sure it matters less to us, but America remains the pre-eminent power even in a somewhat multi-polar world. Moreover, we enjoy paying attention to the country, if only to point to its silliness, and presidential candidate Donald Trump will offer plenty of that over the coming months. Even if the outcome doesn’t have major ramifications right off the bat, we’re still going to spend the next year looking very closely at how things are going to turn out in America.