News & Events
in this section, we are presenting our readers/aspirants compilation of selected editorials of national daily viz. The Hindu, The livemint,The Times of India, Hindustan Times, The Economic Times, PIB etc. This section caters the requirement of Civil Services Mains (GS + Essay) , PCS, HAS Mains (GS + Essay) & others essay writing competition.
1. Negative lessons for the world from the U.S.
The US political establishment faces the delicate task of balancing the need to move forward from a divisive election and hold to account those who attacked American democracy. The first step in this dual act of looking forward and backward will be played out on Capitol Hill. The US Senate is gearing up for US President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial and confirmation of the members of the Biden Administration, besides the incoming administration’s other urgent legislative agenda. We wish them success in this endeavour.
Donald Trump secured his ignominious place in history by being voted out after a single term, losing his party’s hold over the presidency, the House and the Senate, and being the first American president to be impeached twice. The push for impeachment by Democrats led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi is an effort to hold him accountable for his unambiguous efforts to undermine the elections and his encouragement of actions that led to the insurrection at Capitol Hill.
There is little doubt about the part that President Trump played in instigating the insurrectionists, repeatedly calling on them to stop what he called the stealing of the vote. Yet, impeachment is a political rather than a juridical punishment. If the Senate votes in favour, it will bar Trump from future elections. But it could also feed his supporters’ sense of aggrievement. Trump can be punished, but can impeachment extinguish Trumpism?
There is a lesson here for political leadership in other democracies, as well. There are serious long-term consequences of undermining democratic political processes and playing up peoples’ insecurities and fears for the sake of political power. Pursuit of power should not be at the expense of the nation’s unity
2.The needle as the sword & the shield
Roll-out of mass vaccination against Covid-19 marks the beginning of the end of the pandemic and, therefore, of the economic distress caused by it. For every inhabitant of the land to acquire protection, immunisation has to be universal. For the population to acquire herd immunity, which would suffice to halt the spread of the disease within the community, but does not guarantee that everyone would be immune, even if exposed, say, to an infected visitor, an estimated 60-70% of the population would need to be inoculated. Not surprisingly, along with China’s, India’s would be the world’s largest Covid vaccination drive, by far.
The development, testing and approval of multiple vaccines against Sars-Cov-2, the virus causing Covid-19, within one year of its genetic sequence being put out by Chinese scientists, has been a remarkable achievement of technology and global cooperation. Administering the vaccine to billions of people around the world would be a gigantic task of planning, organisation, cooperation, logistics management, record-keeping and database management. The initial experience in India demonstrates our capacity to manage this task reasonably well. Sure, there have been some cases of allergic reactions, but these are relatively few and none has been fatal. While India has prioritised healthcare and frontline workers, other places are following different strategies: Indonesia wants to inoculate working people first, since they are the ones most likely to contract the disease and spread it. New Jersey wants smokers to get the jab before, say, teachers. The results of these different strategies should constantly be monitored.
A word of caution on Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, still in phase 3 clinical trials. The emergent nature of the vaccination task, in the face of new strains that spread faster, has led the authorities to clear its use as a backup in clinical trial mode. No one should be forced to take it. Commercially vital reputations are at stake: India’s drug regulation’s and Bharat Biotech’s. These should not be damaged.
3.Positive start: Focus on scale, speed, choice and communication to bolster India’s vaccination strategy
The calm that marked the start of the anti-Covid vaccination drive was a far cry from the panic and unpreparedness that propelled India into a prolonged nationwide lockdown ten months ago. Tremendous capacity expansion in public health, and the sustained dip in infections since September without a feared second wave, have instilled a measure of assuredness in India’s approach to the disease. While Centre has booked 1.65 crore doses from Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech, with SII reportedly stocking 4-5 crore doses, India appears comfortably placed.
At Saturday’s rate of 1.9 lakh doses administered, it takes nearly three months to extinguish the current booking order. The target of 5,000 vaccination sites with 100 people inoculated daily will scale this to 5 lakh daily shots. Delhi has ambitions of inoculating 1 lakh people daily. Given India’s massive population of 130 crore, Centre, states and vaccine companies face an unenviable task taking the country to herd immunity. Delivering the vaccines free and fast will have greater effect than a financial stimulus at this moment. The psychological effect of rapid mass vaccination could prompt citizens to resume travel, eat and shop outdoors more, send children to school and restart activities that revive the service sector, which accounts for 54% of India’s GDP.
Despite Saturday’s positive vibes and the inspired idea to begin with health workers that boosts confidence among the masses, the Covaxin rollout without efficacy data has stirred unease. Given the comfortable Covishield stock position, inordinate hurry to approve Covaxin has clouded the stupendous Bharat Biotech-ICMR-NIV effort to develop an indigeneous vaccine in quick time. Choice on vaccines will ease this simmering scepticism. Though authorities were relieved that adverse reactions were few so far, they must be on guard as social media driven misinformation can distort this reality, rapidly and imperceptibly.
The Co-WIN digital platform glitches that forced Maharashtra to suspend vaccination for two days demand firming up alternative offline strategies too. Undoubtedly, Co-WIN’s facilities like text messages alerting registered recipients of vaccination due date and confirmation of inoculation are handy tools. But the priority is to vaccinate fast and this cannot be delayed by ancillary technological failures. India’s population size, socio-economic diversity and dominance of private healthcare necessitates developing a vaccine market. Allowing private healthcare providers to inoculate citizens and widening the bouquet by inviting those vaccines securing approval in the US, EU and UK to manufacture for India will take us faster to safe harbour.
4.Zombie law: Sec 66A’s curious afterlife makes the case for police independence and legal literacy
In a bemusing revelation, at least 799 cases are still pending against people under the scrapped Section 66A of the Information Technology Act. It will be recalled that Sec 66A was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2015. But the findings published by digital advocacy group Internet Freedom Foundation in collaboration with Civic Data Lab, covering 11 states, show that 1,307 cases were registered even after the apex court declared the law unconstitutional. Sec 66A was found to be an impediment to free speech – and therefore against the right to freedom of expression – as it penalised offensive messages online while failing to define offensiveness. This led to widespread misuse, with police booking people for criticising those in political authority.
That the police continue to apply the statute despite it being nullified by the apex court shows legal illiteracy on the part of law enforcers. In fact, in order to please their political masters the police often blindly take recourse to draconian provisions without realising their validity or scope. In the same vein as Sec 66A, the police have also been guilty of liberally using the draconian National Security Act and sedition charges to curb dissent and curry favour with ruling parties and social groups linked to them. This, despite SC guidelines protecting free speech against draconian legal provisions.
The solution lies in professionalising police forces and making them independent of political influence. Police reforms have been pending for ages, with appointments and transfers of officers still dictated by political preferences. In an effective democracy the police need to be a strong, independent institution. For inspiration, look to law enforcement in the US where those involved in the Capitol riot are being identified and arrested despite being supporters of President Donald Trump.
5.Under Biden, the rise of Indian-Americans
With Joe Biden set to take over as the President of the United States (US) this week, a key feature of his appointments — Mr Biden has filled his key positions with capable individuals unlike Donald Trump — is that close to two dozen Indian-Americans find a place in the top echelons of the administration. According to a news report, Mr Biden has appointed at least 20 Indian-Americans, with 17 of them in White House positions — 13 of the 20 also happen to be women.
Leading the charge, is of, course Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris. But from finance and management to health, law to press relations, foreign policy to national security, those who trace their roots to India have found space. This is indeed a reflection of how well the Indian-Americans (who constitute about 1% of the population) has done in their new homeland. It is a reflection of their educational levels, political engagement, and the harmonious ties between India and the US that none of these appointments have raised any eyebrows.
But even as India takes justifiable pride in the achievements of these individuals, it is important to remember that all those who are in the new administration are American citizens. Their first loyalty is to the US Constitution and US national interests, as defined by the president who has appointed them. Yes, their presence will enhance an understanding of India in the administration and is symbolic of close ties. But these individuals have their own varied political and social influences and worldviews. India would do well to cultivate them, as it would cultivate any US official at high levels, but respect their identity beyond their Indian roots.