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.How to increase vaccine supplies
Getting at least two-thirds of the population immunised, and fast, is the surest way to beat back the pandemic. Life in Israel, which has vaccinated about 90% of its adult population, is back to normal. While it is not clear what percentage of the population has to be immunised to acquire herd immunity, it is unlikely to be below two-thirds. Vaccinating people below this threshold is good for protecting individuals but not good enough to protect the community. Vaccinating a lot of people might even induce imprudent behaviour, as people acquire a false sense of security and abandon Covid precautions such as masking and physical distancing.
How do we acquire the billions of doses required to vaccinate two-thirds of the domestic population and of the global population (it is vital to contain the virus before it mutates among the unvaccinated billions into variants, against which vaccines prove impotent)? Imports are only a tiny part of the solution. The world does not have the capacity to produce the roughly 13 billion doses required to inoculate two-thirds of the global population of 7.8 billion. India, traditionally the world’s largest producer of vaccines by volume, will have to set up the needed capacity and mass-produce low-cost vaccines to meet domestic and global needs. It will mean setting up not only additional vaccine capacity but also additional capacity to manufacture vaccine ingredients, delivery mechanisms and vaccine manufacturing kit, and transferring the knowhow to fresh capacities.
While India pursues its demand, raised along with South Africa, for World Trade Organisation members to waive Covid treatment-related intellectual property rights (IPRs), it can act domestically. The government should buy out the IP of Covaxin, the vaccine jointly developed by Bharat Biotech, ICMR and NIV, and throw open access to its knowhow to the world, and encourage a variety of new vaccine makers in India to produce that vaccine, acknowledged by US pandemic expert Dr Anthony Fauci as being effective against India’s double mutant strain.
2.Bad Banks: Not by sovereign guarantee
A sovereign guarantee for the security receipts issued by the bad bank being set up to buy out the bad loans weighing down the books and ability of public sector banks (PSBs) is not germane to successful working of the proposal. Rather, three other factors would make or break a bad bank. One is expertise in the bad bank to resolve bad loans or run debtor companies that are in a position to operate. Another is the wherewithal to perform the role of patient capital. The third factor is independent valuation of the assets being transferred.
The bulk of the capital for the bad bank should come from the banks themselves, so that the gains from resolution would also come back to the banks, apart from the sale price of the bad assets. However, the government could also contribute some seed capital. Rightly, RBI, which supports the proposed bad bank, also underscores the need for a well-capitalised entity to strengthen asset resolution. The sale of non-performing assets (NPAs) will make space for PSBs to lend without being burdened by these bad loans, and when the assets underlying these loans are resolved, the bank will reap profits. However, the need is to ensure that the valuation of assets is done by third parties (read: audit firms) in order to shield bank managers from any arbitrary criminalisation of NPA sales. Bankers fear haircuts on sale of bad assets: these might be construed as mala fide moves. Reassurance is possible if third parties determine the value of the assets to be transferred, attested subsequently by a reviewer, another audit firm.
Such arm’s-length pricing and an oversight committee will reassure bankers, and help protect them from charges of causing loss to the exchequer. This is what will make a bad bank succeed.
- Reimagine elections: EC must learn the right lessons from Bengal, TN, Kerala’s Covid graphs
With high courts slamming Covid safety guideline violations, Election Commission of India must devise a new normal for elections. On Tuesday, Allahabad HC sought UP state election commission’s response on the death of 135 government employees deployed for four phase panchayat polls. Earlier, Madras and Calcutta HCs had castigated EC for lax enforcement of its own Covid norms in the Tamil Nadu and Bengal elections.
Stung badly, EC has banned victory rallies on May 2. Protocol violations, starting from leaders addressing large rallies unmasked, were too glaring to escape judicial scrutiny. EC has harped on successful social distancing by creating more polling booths but unrestricted campaigning and longwinding phases have dented its credibility. Alarming Covid surges in Bengal, TN and Kerala testify to the damage wreaked. Bengal’s daily Covid cases have spiked 40-fold since the first phase of polling on March 27 and Kolkata’s test positivity rate is worryingly 50%; 8-phase polling was EC’s terrible mistake. Kerala’s downward trajectory has reversed sharply post election day on April 6. TN’s graph is similar with cases rising steadily since mid-March, just as campaigning heated up.
Despite the data, many argue against blaming elections for Covid surges. Though Bihar is cited, elections there happened after the first Covid wave had mysteriously ebbed after peaking in mid-September. Even the Maharashtra surge from February cannot deny a causal link with elections: There were panchayat polls in January. The science is clear: Large gatherings are super-spreader threats. Respecting the science would offer no room for allowing religious or political gatherings, whatever the populist compulsions. India’s electoral democracy has to continue functioning but from now on this must be without mass physical mobilisations.
Just as ordinary people have learnt to work from home and refashion social interactions, EC and political parties must reinvent electioneering. If EC strictly bans rallies, no political party or top neta would dare violate such a stricture made in public interest. The Constitution has granted EC functional autonomy for precisely this reason. EC cannot police every violation but it can certainly throttle the big rallies, as was belatedly attempted in Bengal. Virtual rallies, junked in Bihar before the idea could gain critical mass, must become the norm. Short campaigning windows and single-phase polling are also needed. With elections a recurring feature, EC must play its part in preventing third and fourth waves, even as stock is taken of how much elections contributed to the grievous current wave.
4.Lost generation? An uptick in child marriages is another indicator of Covid setting back social progress
While the ongoing Covid surge is certainly posing a health crisis of historic proportions for the country, it could also be unravelling decades of social progress on many fronts. Children are particularly vulnerable. The lockdown last year saw schools shut and vital nutrition and immunisation schemes take a massive hit. This has already set back India’s malnutrition eradication goals while making children more vulnerable to preventable diseases. Then, as reports from Jaipur to Mysuru suggest, pandemic-induced poverty and unemployment are leading to a sharp rise in child marriages.
Creating social consensus against child marriage has taken the combined and dedicated effort of civil society and government bodies. But as they have dropped out of education and as family incomes have shrunk, the idea of girl children being liabilities has gained ground again. There is data suggesting that as compared to 2019, there had been an increase of more than 33% in the number of child marriages between June and October 2020. Similarly, there is evidence to suggest that cases of child trafficking and child labour too increased in the wake of last year’s lockdowns. And the second wave would be taking a renewed toll right now.
Additionally, the frequent closure of schools has exacerbated the inequalities inherent in our education system. The shift to study from home has revealed huge technological divides with underprivileged students failing to adapt to the new normal. Taken together, all these inequities mean that we are potentially looking at a lost generation of youth that simply won’t be able to achieve the desired development markers. And this in turn is bound to impact our economy and society negatively in the years ahead, adding to our demographic time bomb. After tackling the current health emergency, governments must quickly refocus energies on rescuing the children who have been left behind.
5. Tackling the issue of biomedical waste | HT Editorial
The Noida Authority in the Delhi-National Capital Region has put up 500 red-coloured bins at city markets, cremation grounds, and other sites to dispose of Covid-19 waste such as masks, gloves and personal protective equipment (PPE) kits. According to the authority’s estimate, Noida is producing at least 70 kg of biomedical waste a day. This is one example of a wider challenge posed by the pandemic — of tackling Covid-19 waste.
According to a Central Pollution Control Board report, released in November 2020, India generated around 33,000 tonnes of Covid-19 biomedical waste between April and November. Before the pandemic, regular biomedical waste generation in India was at 610 MT per day, but now, the waste has gone up to 765.5 MT per day. While Maharashtra has been the biggest contributor to biomedical waste, not a surprise given it has had the highest number of cases nationally, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi also figure among the top 10 waste generators.
The pandemic has exposed India’s broken system of biomedical waste management. If this waste is not managed scientifically, it can cause great harm to the environment and to human health. It is imperative to define Covid-19 waste; identify different types of waste generators; launch a large-scale campaign for awareness related to PPE usage. Urban local bodies must provide separate waste bins, and push citizens to segregate waste at source. The government must also augment the capacities of biomedical treatment units with appropriate monitoring strategies and work with all stakeholders — doctors, innovators and medical items and equipment manufacturers — to come up with a plan to reduce the waste burden.