News & Events
In this section, we are presenting our readers/aspirants compilation of selected editorials of national daily viz. The Hindu, The live mint,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.
- Uncommon readiness for normal monsoon
It’s significant that the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has forecast “normal” rains during the upcoming monsoon season, with precipitation “most likely to be” 96-104% of the long period average. A normal monsoon would dampen inflationary expectations, boost agricultural production and step up rural demand, in the backdrop of pandemic-induced constraints on economic output. But the variation in rainfall patterns has gone up and the frequency of major floods seems to have increased, which, in turn, calls for a series of preparatory measures nationally.
Sea surface temperatures over the Pacific and Indian oceans are known to strongly influence the monsoons. For instance, El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is an irregular cycle of change in wind and sea surface temperatures over the tropical eastern Pacific, and the IMD forecast does mention neutral ENSO conditions prevailing. But variability in rainfall is now widespread, which calls for proactive policy like rainwater harvesting and check dams to duly recharge groundwater; 60% of districts face depletion of groundwater, which provides for much of our irrigation and most drinking water needs. Flood management systems and protocols need revamping too. There is no reason why floods must take a heavy toll on lives and livestock, damage crops and over 1.25 lakh houses annually.
Hence the need to shore up resources to improve drainage, remove congestion in rivers, and take other structural and non-structural measures. Further, indiscriminate encroachment of floodplains and water bodies and routine lack of maintenance of drainage infrastructure add up to make urban flooding grow ever more severe. Rational pricing of water is an under-utilised tool of water management.
- Mobilising nation against COVID-19
The prime minister has given a call to mobilise all national resources to increase the supply of vaccines. This is welcome. Indian pharmaceutical companies that can produce vaccines and their ingredients should be identified, and the government should fund them to make the investments needed in fresh capacity, as it has done in the case of Bharat Biotech and Covaxin. There is little reason to limit the production of Covaxin to Bharat Biotech. Ideally, the government should buy out its intellectual property and license any decent biotech facility capable of producing the vaccine to join the effort to scale up production. It is not just Indians who rely on vaccine production in the country. India is, by far, the largest supplier of vaccines to the Covax programme that has committed to meet some 27% of the vaccine requirements of the poorest countries.
While the rich countries have been focusing on vaccinating their own populations, the virus has been mutating in the unvaccinated parts of the world. Mutant strains against which the present lot of vaccines offer little protection could circulate back to the rich world and create another wave of disease and economic disruption. It is vital to inoculate the entire world, even if it is difficult for politicians to explain to their voters why they bother about vaccinating people in other countries. Covid vaccine manufacture and distribution entails 20 ingredients, and some essential kit. These are produced, for the most part, in the US and the EU. The US has banned export of these ingredients, crimping vaccine production in India. India must bring diplomatic pressure to bear on the US government to remove its export restrictions. At the same time, it should encourage domestic production of vaccine ingredients. The government must also work out models and modules for improvised hospitals for Covid care, including oxygen delivery systems simpler than ventilators. Covid-appropriate behaviour should get more than lip service.
- Tame the bulge: A hard lockdown would be disastrous for the economy, but cases can’t be allowed to grow at the current pace
India’s Covid caseload reaching alarming proportions – daily cases have hit the 2.6 lakh mark with the number of daily deaths reaching 1,493 – there is an urgent need to strike a balance between pandemic mitigation efforts and public activities. While restrictions on movement and businesses are already in place across districts and cities in the country, a return to the hard lockdown of last year would be disastrous for the economy. The country can ill afford another economic blow, especially since it has hardly recovered from the previous one.
At the same time, it’s also clear that Covid cases can’t be allowed to grow at the current pace. The healthcare infrastructure is again stretched in several states and cities with hospital beds and oxygen supply turning dicey. In such a scenario, the minimum that authorities must do is prevent potential super spreader events at all costs. Which is why the ongoing Kumbh Mela and the Bengal assembly polls must be seen in the context of the current extraordinary circumstances.
It’s welcome that after PM Modi’s call for observing the Kumbh symbolically from hereon, Juna akhada – the largest of the 13 sects of seers in the country – decided to pull out of the religious festival. With lakhs thronging to Haridwar, 1,700 tested Covid positive last week with Mahanirvani akhada’s head even dying from the disease. And with devotees going back to their home states after a dip in the Ganga, there’s a serious risk they will become Covid carriers to interior hamlets of the country. Thus, curtailing the Kumbh and saving lives of devotees must become priority.
Similarly, the long-drawn Bengal election is proving to be another Covid unsafe event with political parties holding large rallies with little safety protocols. The first 15 days of the month have already seen new Covid cases in the state rise to 49,970 with 151 fatalities. Although the Election Commission has rejected the proposal of clubbing the remaining three phases of the election, saying such a move will be unfair to the candidates in these rounds, the proposal needs to be relooked. After all, a majority of the seats have already finished polling while many in the remaining three phases are located in urban areas like Kolkata. Hence, conducting these phases in one shot is both possible and preferable to temporary curbs like restricting campaigning between 7 to 10pm. Again, these are extraordinary circumstances that demand authorities and the public adapt to the new normal.
4.Economy matters: India’s Indo-Pacific horizons will be determined by its economic vibrancy
Foreign minister S Jaishankar, in a recent public engagement, made a couple of observations about the Indo-Pacific. One, we are in the midst of a return to history as in an earlier seamless era Indo-Pacific was largely about trading. Two, from the Indian standpoint the Indo-Pacific is a clear message that it will not be constrained between Malacca Straits and the Gulf of Aden. India’s interests extend further. Jaishankar’s observations provide a glimpse into the Modi government’s horizons, which is not self-limiting. It’s welcome. The hard part is realising this goal.
The reference to a seamless era is a good entry point. Trade was always the primary thread that connected this region. In the contemporary world, economic clout counts for more than anything else. A country’s influence is tied to the vibrancy of its economy. Six years ago, the finance ministry’s annual Economic Survey explored this point. It concluded that a country’s hard and soft power arise from a “war-chest” of foreign exchange reserves as it creates geo-political influence.
China was posited as an example of a country that used its economic depth to further its strategic goals. It had even become a lender of last resort to governments in financial trouble. In a fluid post-Cold War era, most coalitions are underpinned by economic interests. That’s clear even from India’s experience over the last three decades. There is no substitute for a robust economic performance. For example, as the only major economy to record an expansion in GDP in 2020, China is well placed to further its goals. India’s vision of the Indo-Pacific is laudable. But to see it through, every arm of the government needs to pull in unison to push the economy ahead and put it on a path of durable growth.
5.Covid-19: The nation is at war
One of India’s most respected army chiefs, who led the country to victory in Kargil, General Ved Malik, tweeted on Sunday morning, “Our nation is at war.” On Saturday, more than twice the number of Indians died due to Covid-19 than were killed in action in Kargil. As General Malik said, “Is the nation focused on this war? Election rallies, faith events, farmer agitation, in-fighting over resources going on…wake up India.” The appeal comes in the wake of India confronting an unprecedented second wave of Covid-19 infections — hitting a record number of cases and deaths every day, even as there is an acute shortage of everything from hospital beds to oxygen to medicines to vaccines.
Covid-19 has come home to India’s urban centres, to middle class homes, to the elite, to the working class, in ways that diminish what happened last year when the pandemic first struck. There’s a waiting list everywhere and for everything — for tests, admission to hospitals, even at crematoriums and graveyards (with on-ground reports suggesting a disjunction between official fatality figures and these). And there is a shortage of everything — oxygen, ICU beds, and remdesivir. And everywhere and for everything, getting care has become dependent on who you know, as public health systems collapse, automatically excluding the majority.
It did not have to be this way. The government may have made an error of judgment in not anticipating the intensity of the second wave, though there were adequate warnings. But, the current situation does highlight a clear policy failure on varied counts — from not using the past year to boost India’s health infrastructure enough to deal with current numbers to slipping into business-as-usual mode when it came to events (including large elections), from a painfully slow rollout of the vaccination (only absolute numbers as a proportion of the population, not relative to the rest of the world, matter here) to the delay in imposing curbs. What’s important now is to fix the crisis, and be prepared in case there is another wave after this one (remember the United State’s third wave was its worst, although it came before the vaccine drive began). This requires the State to pump all its resources into beat the second wave. It is war, and nothing short of a war effort is needed