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.
1.Lockdown risks spreading disease
Delhi, Maharashtra and Rajasthan have announced lockdowns, in an effort to stem a rising tide of Covid-19 infections. Lockdown, however, is not a magic bullet. Micro-containment of Covid-afflicted households, responsible Covid-appropriate behaviour, stepped up vaccination and measures to reduce crowding, such as extending the hours for which shops stay open and running extra buses, and clear, calm communication of policies and the logic behind them would work better.
The farmers protesting at Delhi’s borders should disperse now, contracting or spreading Covid will not help their cause. All such congregations and rallies must cease and disband. Once again, the lockdown has triggered an exodus of migrant workers. It is mystifying how the lessons of last year’s blundering have not been learnt. When a lockdown is announced, provision must be made to take care of migrant workers, most of whom depend on daily earnings, and struggle to pay for food and accommodation when the opportunity to work is lost. When migrant workers leave cities now, they could well carry with them mutant variants of the virus back into the hinterland. It is not enough to make appeals to them. They must be shown the colour of the state’s compassion, and educated on the risk they pose to their loved ones by untimely return to their native places.
Greater communication of reliable information on action that can be taken at the individual level to guard against Covid is vital. The utility of Vitamin D and C intake, breathing techniques that improve blood oxygenation, fitness-inducing exercise, steam inhalation — dissemination of science is important. That would include addressing vaccine hesitancy, still prevalent among sizeable sections.
2.Do not neglect anti-Covid drugs
Even as public attention and policy have been focused on Covid vaccines, it is vital not to ignore developments in the ongoing effort to find treatments for some or all of the problems created by the coronavirus, Sars-Cov-2. India should put in place a policy framework that would allow import and swift local manufacture of the more promising drug developments. Monoclonal antibodies developed by Regeneron, the drug that Donald Trump received when he contracted Covid, and, also, in parallel, by Eli Lilly, have received emergency use authorisation from the US Food and Drug Administration. There is every reason to make such advances in Covid treatment available in India as well.
Repurposing of existing drugs, whose safety for human consumption has been tried and tested, has received a big boost in the context of Covid treatment. Remdesivir, for example, is such a repurposed drug, although its utility is limited. Some new antiviral drugs have been developed as well and their manufacturers claim they hold much promise. Merck’s, as MSD in India, Molnupiravir and Pfizer’s protease inhibitor are undergoing clinical trials in the US. An Indian biotech company, Fermenta Biotech, says it has developed a novel and more cost-effective way of producing Molnupiravir. Such developments are most welcome and deserve encouragement by the government.
If the cost of acquiring a licence from the patent-holder threatens to make the drug unaffordable by the mass market, the government should not hesitate to issue a compulsory licence on affordable terms to the company. As the virus continues to mutate, vaccines developed for previous versions might cease to be effective. Antiviral drugs are, therefore, gaining in importance, with every passing day. India must step up research in this area, including in repurposing extant drugs and exploring the antiviral properties of traditional medicines. At the same time, policies to import and licence domestic production of drugs found effective abroad must be framed and put in place, without any delay.
3. 18 and eligible: Young India will get welcome access to vaccines, supply side will have to keep up
Centre’s approval for inoculating everyone over 18 from May 1 marks a welcome change in the vaccination strategy. Government has also recognised the merit in facilitating a private market for vaccines. It has left 50% of the vaccine supply to state governments, employers and private hospitals to procure directly from pharma companies. Concurrently, it has loosened purse strings by sanctioning advance funds of Rs 3,000 crore to Serum Institute and Rs 1,500 crore for Bharat Biotech. Combined with the green signal to all foreign vaccines that credibly passed Phase 3 trials elsewhere, these measures can give an impetus to vaccination and goad pharma companies to escalate local production and expedite imports.
In other measures necessary to increase supply, India must keep prodding the US to carve out exceptions in the wartime powers invoked under the Defense Production Act that deny Indian companies raw materials for vaccines. The Biden administration looks comfortably placed to meet its goal of rapidly inoculating all of the US – with vaccines now open to everyone above 16 years – and mustn’t disable similar efforts underway in India.
Moreover, the latest Covid wave is hospitalising more young people globally than the first waves. In Brazil a majority of those in ICUs are now 40 or younger. In India the age profile of people getting infected remains mostly unchanged but there is some uptick in severity of disease among younger persons. The transmissibility and lethality of mutated strains is a strong reason to quickly protect younger persons with vaccines.
Amid genuine concerns about how the extra demand from the younger populace will be serviced, it is a promising sign that the 45+ age group has enthusiastically responded since their eligibility on April 1. 4.2 crore people in the 45-60 age group have received first shots already while the 60+ age group has logged only 4.7 crore first doses since March 1. Following the WHO expert panel’s recommendation of an 8-12 weeks gap between two Covishield doses (India’s norm is 4-8 weeks now) can delay second dosing and allow more people their first shots and gain partial immunity in the process. Johnson & Johnson’s application for Phase 3 trials and import licence for its single-shot vaccine is also before the drugs regulator now. Right policies implemented right will give India’s youth reason for cheer.
4. Cyber armour: When data breaches are suspected, potential victims need to be informed right away
Two recent reports of alleged data breaches in firms that may have led to theft of consumer data highlight the loopholes in India’s legal safeguards. Last month, mobile wallet firm Mobikwik had to deal with charges that consumer data had been stolen after a breach. The firm denied this but was ordered by RBI to conduct a forensic audit. Now, pizza brand Domino’s faces the same allegation which it’s denied. Such reports are not uncommon.
Government records show that cybercrimes are on the rise. In 2019, registered cases more than doubled to 44,546 over a two-year period. On data breaches, Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) says they increased from five in 2018 to 36 last year. Two factors make redressal both urgent and challenging. Digitalisation is shifting more economic transactions online. It opens up an entirely new dimension in terms of security as cybercrime is not constrained by borders. Legal safeguards in this space need to be mindful that the Supreme Court has upheld the right to privacy as fundamental. The existing umbrella legislation was introduced over two decades ago and needs to be replaced with a personal data protection law.
Government introduced a data protection bill in Parliament in 2019. Presently, it’s being scrutinised by a parliamentary committee. The bill has a drawback in relation to protecting consumer privacy in case of a data breach. A firm that has been breached will inform the regulator who will then decide if the owners of the data need to be informed. This aspect relegates the victim in the overall scheme of things. This approach needs to change. Personal data is sacrosanct. That should be the central pillar of a legal safeguard. With or without a law, potential victims need to be informed right away. It’s only fair and limits damage.
5. The migrant crisis needs attention now
The pandemic has been brutal for all, but it has been the most brutal for India’s poorest working citizens. Last year, India pledged that the migrant workers would never to have to go through the same human suffering again. It is time to redeem that pledge.
Restrictions imposed to curb the spread of Covid-19 infections have sparked the exit of migrant workers from cities, yet again. On Monday, thousands of migrant workers crowded Delhi’s interstate bus terminals. This happened even after Delhi’s chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s appeal to them to stay on, and promise that the government will address their needs. Similar stories of reverse migration are being reported from across the country, even as industries and traders have expressed their concerns over its economic consequences.
While the scale of the departure of workers is not like the exodus of last year, yet, the fact that migrants have been quick to move out, even at the cost of their health, shows their lack of faith in the Indian State. The government has failed to set up a strong social security net for migrant workers, despite serious proposals on the table. Niti Aayog’s 2021 policy framework on migrant labour has a range of workable recommendations. These include developing a central database for migrants; setting up a social security safety net — health cards, access to schools, extension of public distribution system (PDS) services, and provision of psycho-social assistance and adequate housing, among other steps.
While the pandemic presents a massive logistical challenge, and many of these recommendations may need time to be operationalised, the State must do all it can to prevent humanitarian distress. It must consider universalising PDS, expanding the rural employment guarantee scheme to urban areas, and providing direct cash transfers. The pandemic has been brutal for all, but it has been the most brutal for India’s poorest working citizens. Last year, India pledged that the migrant workers would never have to go through the same human suffering again. It is time to redeem that pledge.