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.They also serve, stocks that fall
Stock markets have turned volatile, and that is a good thing, and not just because it gives professional traders an opportunity to make money. Yaw-yawing stock prices do the signal service of shocking retail investors out of their starry-eyed daze induced by the sight of their stocks going up and up, like Helium-filled balloons at their children’s birthday parties. Many retail investors have begun to consider themselves market geniuses, who could tell the banks to do rude things with their fixed deposits and measly interest rates while they made merry on the stock market. The several jolts the markets have received in the recent past are a reminder that stocks do not offer a simple way out of investment dilemmas.
The stock market rout last week was the doing of good news. Anticipation of economic recovery on the back of successful vaccination drives and strong stimulus measures have pushed up commodity prices. Some traders dumped bonds to invest in commodities. Others shed bonds in anticipation of inflation and central bank rate action. In either case, as bond prices fell, yields on longer-term bonds went up, even as short-term rates were held down by central banks, steepening the yield curve in consequence. Higher returns on government bonds induce some shift from stocks to bonds, leading to a fall in stock prices. However, subsequent intervention by central bankers like Jerome Powell of the US to assert that they would hold policy rates low until inflation rose above their unmet targets for an extended period has cooled the bond rally. Stock prices have gone up again.
Does this mean that stock prices can go only up? Price-earning ratios are absurdly high and a correction is due, sooner or later. Only professional traders can hope to exit the market at just the right time, before the correction kills their savings. The rest must diversify their investments, not just across industries, but across asset classes. This is the time to innovate saving products that offer a sliver of a portfolio of diverse assets.
2.Covid-19 vaccination: On with jab 2 against the jabberwocky
The second phase of India’s Covid vaccination programme has commenced. The focus is on seniors and those above the age of 45 years with co-morbidities. While the government will continue to provide the vaccine free of cost through the public system, the private sector has been roped in, and can charge a fee of ₹250 per shot — to cover the cost of the vaccine and incidentals.
At the end of the first phase, a total of 1,37,56,940 vaccines were administered to healthcare and frontline workers, inoculating 77% of healthcare workers (88,41,132) and 48% (49,15,808) of frontline worker. The gap in vaccination rates of the two groups does point to the need for greater awareness, especially among those who may not have access to primary knowledge about the vaccine. The picture on vaccine uptake is far from uniform. Thirteen states and UTs such as Bihar, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Odisha, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh reported a vaccination rate of more than 75% among healthcare workers. In six states and UTs, more than 60% of frontline workers have been inoculated. At the other end of the spectrum, in states and UTs such as Punjab, Puducherry and Chandigarh, less than 50% of healthcare workers have been vaccinated, and in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, less than 30% of frontline workers have been vaccinated. The Union and state governments need to determine the causes for the low uptake and address deficiencies to ensure that the second phase has a better turnout.
India is also keeping up its export, grant assistance and its contribution to WHO’s Covax programme, while continuing with its domestic vaccinations. This makes it clear that India is producing enough to meet demand. It must produce more for the world.
3.Fresh start: PM getting his jab and affordable vaccines at nearby hospitals bring back the momentum
In kicking off the third phase of vaccination for senior citizens and those above 45 with comorbidities by getting himself inoculated, PM Modi has given a promising impetus to the pace of vaccination. So far, vaccination hasn’t matched up to India’s immense population challenge but the opening of centres at neighbourhood private hospitals and flexible options for registration can give a big boost. CMs, Union and state ministers, and opposition politicians must also follow suit to trigger a “herd mentality” against vaccine hesitancy. Rope in the celebrities too.
After 42 days of vaccination, India has just dispensed 14 million doses while the cumulative world tally was 240 million doses. The Indian effort really doesn’t do justice to its phenomenal vaccine manufacturing capacity, which could get throttled if the offtake doesn’t improve. Against India administering vaccine doses to 1% of the population, those with comparable vaccine manufacturing capacity like the US and UK have covered 20% and 30% respectively of their population. Since February 13, India’s seven-day rolling average of daily Covid infections has also shown a steady surge, signalling fresh need to ramp up vaccination.
The PM being administered Covaxin was another highlight of yesterday. Covaxin’s rollout without waiting for its Phase 3 trial results had caused much dismay. Until last week, 1.2 million Covaxin doses (SII’s Covishield has accounted for 90% of doses) have been administered with no reports of serious adverse events. While the PM factor will help, Covaxin also needs proactive release of interim data from Phase 3 trials and more studies proving effectiveness against new coronavirus strains. Concurrently, state governments must also do rigorous genome sequencing as part of surveillance efforts.
India’s vaccination strategy is very closely intertwined to its economic fortunes. A GDP contraction of 8% in 2020-21 requires a big bounceback in the new year. To recover lost ground, the services sector accounting for 50% of India’s GDP needs a confident restart. But restrictions on interstate movement in response to February’s Covid surge are symptomatic of persisting jitters. Only rapid vaccination will enable a more confident economy. Industry mavens are proposing an intensive 3-4 month vaccination effort that can cover 70% of the population. All the ingredients that can make this happen – more vaccine approvals, more manufacturing capacity, an open vaccine market and more private vaccination centres – can translate into a big 2021 GDP bump.
4.Temper expectations: Presence of non-state actors poses a significant challenge to the Indo-Pak ceasefire
An al-Qaida offshoot in the Kashmir Valley has expressed its displeasure at the ceasefire agreement announced last week by India and Pakistan at the LoC and other sectors. The group has termed it as an act of betrayal. This speaks to how the resilience of the ceasefire agreement between the two countries will be tested by non-state actors.
The ceasefire is indeed a significant development. It’s come after three consecutive years of increase in ceasefire violations. In 2020, there were 5,133 violations, an increase of over a 100% since 2018. These violations have resulted in regular fatalities, with government data indicating that 70 civilians have died in India in the last three years. Moreover, the respite on the western border is helpful when the disengagement negotiations on the LAC with China are underway. One of the positive features of the current ceasefire is that it appears to have the backing of the Pakistan army and the joint statement said that existing mechanisms will be used to resolve any “unforeseen situation or misunderstanding”.
But none of these features insulate the process from terror groups who have arisen in the wake of Pakistan’s strategic approach of using them to further its aims. This risk makes it prudent not to let expectations run away after last week’s announcement. A ceasefire is welcome but the history of the bilateral relationship has been characterised by sharp swings from euphoria to an experience of utter betrayal. Even now, far from indicating that Pakistan is willing to give up terrorism as an instrument of state policy, PM Imran Khan has said that the onus is on India to create an “enabling environment for further progress”. While being “cautiously optimistic” is understandable, India’s guard must stay solidly up.
5.Boosting cyber capabilities
A suspected Chinese cyber campaign began targeting critical Indian infrastructure assets sometime in the middle of 2020, American cyber intelligence company Recorded Future said. First reported by The New York Times, the company’s analysis identified a sophisticated campaign by actors who used tools and digital infrastructure that has independently been attributed to China-linked cyber offensives. According to the company, the campaign was designed to intrude into the electricity infras-tructure, including the main load dispatch centres that hold up India’s power grid. One of these centres, in Maharashtra, suffered an outage in October 2020, which is being investigated.
Government officials suggested a cyberattack , much less one by a nation-State, was not responsible for the outage that cut power to India’s financial capital for up to 12 hours. But they received inputs of a campaign targeting such utilities. This is often the nature of an attack of this kind — it is hard to investigate and harder still to conclusively attribute. And this opaqueness has been leveraged by nations to send adversaries a message. The United States (US), Russia, Israel and China have been behind such attacks in the past. In most, the targets have been critical public utilities and sensitive industries such as financial institutions and government assets. The first known cyberattack on a power grid was, in fact, attributed to Russian actors who took Ukrainian electricity infrastructure offline for one to six hours