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. India emerges rare vaccine globalist
Even as many parts of the world easily given to preachy championship of free trade and human rights stumble about in the quagmire of vaccine nationalism, India has quietly gone about selling and gifting Covid vaccines from its production facilities across the globe in a sterling display of international solidarity. The domestic demand of inoculating a huge population notwithstanding, India has not shied away from providing developing countries vaccine doses as grant assistance, the most recent being the gift of 200,000 doses for the UN peacekeeping force. At the last count, India has sent out some 23 million doses of the vaccine, of which 7 million have been supplied gratis.
Unlike several other countries, New Delhi has not placed any export controls on domestically produced vaccines, which has meant that the commercial delivery of vaccines to other countries has not been impeded. The grant assistance component of India’s Maitri (vaccine friendship) programme has been focused on the neighbourhood, Africa and the Caribbean. China and Russia have focused on supplying doses to the oil-producing Middle Eastern countries and eastern Europe. The G-7, which met virtually on Friday, reaffirmed its support to the World Health Organization’s Covax facility that is supposed to ensure delivery of vaccines to developing countries.
The G-7, chaired by the UK this year, must work with India to ensure that poor countries are able to inoculate their people. Given the rise of new strains of the virus, there is a race to inoculate the world. India too must step up domestic production of the vaccines, and its efforts to develop new vaccines and therapeutics that are effective against the newer variants of the virus
2.The importance of cultivating reform
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was spot on when he said that the Rs 65,000-70,000 crore India spends on edible oil imports is money that could go to the country’s farmers. He also urged the states to encourage crops that suit their agroclimatic conditions and to build the infrastructure farmers need. In fact, if the Centre had acted on these insights before amending the farm bills, a lot of the farmer angst could have been avoided, and reform of agriculture away from excess production of grain to crops in short supply, such as edible oil seeds and pulses, could be accomplished without friction. Reform of something as complex as agriculture, after all, is a process and not just a question of changing some rules and laws.
The PM did well, too, to emphasise the role of physical infrastructure in enhancing the farmers’ income. Farmers need roads to carry their produce to the market. Climate-controlled storage and refrigerated fleets of trucks and rail cars are essential for reducing the wastage/spoilage of fresh produce and achieving greater levels of farm exports. It is surprising, however, that the PM did not emphasise the importance of political courage in carrying out farm sector reform. A vibrant agro-processing industry not far removed from the site of production — just as Amul’s milk processing plants are available within a few hours’ distance from milk collection centres — is a key ingredient of doubling farmers’ incomes. Some rudimentary agro-processing has been commonplace since Neolithic times. However, modern agro-processing calls for a steady supply of stable power. Even after drawing power lines to rural areas, power during the daytime remains unpredictable. Ending the political culture of patronising power theft and free, unmetered connections is the cornerstone of the needed power reform. The lead for this must come from the top.
A stable foreign trade regime for farm produce, functional forward markets, and genuine and transparent risk-transfer mechanisms are also with the Centre. It must walk the talk on these fronts.
3. Regulate gatekeepers: Learn from Australian effort to reform the asymmetry between Big Tech and news media
A conversation last week between the prime ministers of India and Australia encapsulated a far-reaching development in the regulation of technology and social media companies. Australia’s Scott Morrison discussed with Narendra Modi a legislative bill being considered there: News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code, which aims to correct the power asymmetry between companies such as Google and Facebook, and news media. This intervention is not an isolated instance. Across democracies, legislatures are trying to find ways to curb the power of Big Tech. This is a watershed moment.
Between the US and EU, Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple have faced recent investigations into potential abuse of monopoly power. EU in December introduced a legislative proposal to regulate “gatekeepers” such as Google to curb unfair competition. The Australian initiative needs to be seen in this context. In December 2017, the Australian government asked its competition commission to conduct an inquiry into digital platforms with special focus on news and journalism. The inquiry concluded that digital platforms are not the “dumb pipes” they profess to be. This description is wholly inconsistent with their revenue models that depend on opaque algorithms to monetise data.
The process culminated in the legislative effort to force digital platforms to enter into contracts to share revenue with news platforms. It is an overdue step. Journalism is a public good and a pillar of democracy. Digital platforms piggyback on its content without sharing the associated costs. The subsequent diversion of advertising revenue has undermined traditional media, particularly regional newspapers. Australia is intervening to restore balance between digital and news platforms, which is indeed the right way forward. But the tactics will vary across democracies.
India presents a unique media market which reflects the country’s diversity. For example, media platforms span multiple languages. Therefore, while the Australian development is of special importance to India, it need not provide an ideal template for the way forward. What is a greater lesson is the attempt to change the existing rules of the game which if left unchecked will undermine democracy. Digital platforms have brought about huge social gains by democratising access. However, their growing size and revenue models have also had adverse effects, such as spread of fake news. It is this fallout that governments are trying to mitigate, to safeguard democracy. But the way in which Facebook abruptly blocked news on its site in Australia, impacting emergency services as well, underlines how ruthlessly Big Tech will resist change.
4. Impurity of tongue: Language of mother, father, foreigner, let our children flourish in all of them
International Mother Language Day is celebrated on February 21 to mark the centrality of multilingualism for building an inclusive world, where no child is left behind. With its richness of languages, nowhere is this simultaneously cognitive and romantic project more valid than in India. But while we absolutely must help diversity thrive, that cannot be by any narrow orthodoxy. Parents today are making widely varying language choices for their children, depending upon their different circumstances and desires. Policymakers should not make the mistake of foreclosing any of the choices.
The medium of instruction often comes under flint-eyed scrutiny, in dogmatic campaigns for the mother tongue. But quite apart from the penchant of mother tongue pushing policymakers to send their own children to English medium schools, there are many couples who do not share the same language, and many more who speak different dialects. In such cases why should mother’s tongue get a sexist legup on father’s? Growing millions of parents are also migrants, and they have excellent grounds for schooling their children in the language of a larger belonging and upward mobility, which is usually English in our country.
Psychologist Daniel Kahneman has posited two general systems of thinking, in which the more effortful one is better at higher reasoning, and research has shown that it is this “slow thinking” that is activated by speaking a foreign language. To be clear, this means more analytical thought and less unthinking emotion. In another field of research, linguistic demographers find that bilingualism is now the condition of over half the world’s population. So after diversity, there is hybridity. Much more than us, our children will inhabit multiple languages. We have to understand all this in terms of gains, not loss. Help doors open for them, whichever way they turn.
5. Providing migrant workers a political voice
Niti Aayog has formulated a draft national policy on migrant workers. According to a report in The Indian Express, the policy, prepared in consultation with seven ministries, civil society organisations, and international institutions, proposes instituting mechanisms to “enable voting” for migrant workers because their political inclusion will enhance political accountability. It also suggests setting up inter-state coordination mechanisms between states to facilitate migrant movement; making migrant wings a part of labour departments; and getting source states and destination states to work with each other.
The migrant crisis, triggered by the lockdown imposed to curb the spread of the pandemic, saw, according to official figures, over 10 million migrant workers returning home. The pandemic also revealed the fact that the Indian State doesn’t have adequate data and information about this large pool of citizens. This was quite astonishing since migration has been an integral component of India’s political economy, and the presence of migrant workers routinely places additional demands on basic infrastructure in destination towns and cities.
The Niti Aayog draft, which will now be sent to the labour ministry, en route to Cabinet and Parliament, has several excellent workable ideas. A key issue is creating political incentives — the fact that migrants are spread out, and may not end up voting in either source or destination states, means that they have often been underestimated as a political constituency. Enabling their political voice will be key to making them effective stakeholders and forcing the system to take their interests on board. The economy has been opening up and many migrant workers have started going back to their jobs, but this issue must not be relegated to the margins. It’s time migrant workers get the respect, protection and rights they are entitled to as citizens.