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.Hat-trick: On Mamata Banerjee’s third term
The onus is on Ms. Banerjee to end violence and triumphalism of her supporters
Mamata Banerjee was sworn in as Chief Minister of West Bengal for a third consecutive term on Wednesday, following the resounding victory of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) in the Assembly election. The TMC has won 213 seats, compared to 77 won by its principal challenger the BJP. The TMC’s 47.9% vote share is an all time high for any party, and nearly 10 percentage points more than that of the BJP. The Left-Congress alliance drew a blank, another first in the electoral history of the State. The sheen of the TMC’s astounding success has been somewhat dimmed by violence, attributed largely to its cadres, that has claimed at least 14 lives since the counting of votes on Sunday. True, TMC workers have also been killed, but as the ruling party, the onus is on it to end the violence. It is reassuring that Ms. Banerjee has promised after taking oath that ending the violence and controlling the pandemic were her priorities. She must not read this colossal mandate as a public endorsement or even tolerance of the grass-roots ferocity and authoritarianism that have become hallmarks of her party. Ms. Banerjee’s personal responsibility is high considering that people reposed their trust in her despite the high-handedness of local TMC leaders. The burden on her is heavy, and she has a tough act to do in reining in her own party.
As much as the Bengal verdict is in favour of the TMC, it is also against the BJP which did not want to take an organic route to emerge as a natural party of governance in Bengal. Without a party organisation and mass leaders, it engineered defections, tried brazen communal polarisation and misused central agencies, as it went for the jugular. Its bombast and hubris were out of touch with the sensibilities of Bengalis. Its growth from three seats in 2016 to its current tally is impressive. The BJP must now pause and rethink its strategy for the path ahead. Its attempts to give a communal colour to condemnable political violence indicates that the BJP is not open to that. If it wants to be a truly national party, the BJP must be respectful of India’s regional, religious and cultural diversities. The Congress and the CPI(M) that sought to overcome their failure to build a programmatic politics through opportunistic alliances, including with the communal Indian Secular Front, must also now learn that there are no short cuts in politics. With the TMC reigning supreme, and the BJP falling short in understanding the State, the Opposition space can still be fought for. To reclaim relevance, these parties need to replace their current leaders, do some honest soul searching, and build a new politics.
2.A lending hand: On RBI and the second wave
The RBI has signalled it is aware of the burden on health-care providers during this period
The Reserve Bank of India’s move on Wednesday to step in and join the fight against the second wave of the pandemic through the announcement of measures aimed at alleviating any financing constraint for those impacted, including the health-care sector, State governments and the public, is a welcome and timely intervention. The furious pace at which new COVID-19 infections and fatalities have been mounting in recent weeks has not only overwhelmed the nation’s health infrastructure but has begun to significantly impair economic activity, just as the economy appeared to have turned the corner from last year’s debilitating contraction. “The fresh crisis is still unfolding,” Governor Shaktikanta Das said in his unscheduled address, acknowledging the challenge ahead. Stressing that it is imperative to both save lives and restore livelihoods, Mr. Das proposed a calibrated response, mooting a ₹50,000 crore term liquidity facility to boost credit availability for ramping up COVID-related health-care infrastructure and services. Lenders have been urged to expedite lending under this ‘priority sector’ classified scheme to entities including vaccine manufacturers, hospitals, pathology labs, suppliers of oxygen and ventilators, importers of COVID-related drugs and logistics firms. And although Mr. Das said the scheme would also cover patients requiring treatment, he failed to spell out how those most in need of financial assistance to cover their surging medical bills could borrow the funds. In directing the flow of credit to the sector most in focus at the moment, the RBI has signalled it is cognisant of the burden on health-care and allied providers. However, how much lending capital-stressed banks would be willing to write into their ‘COVID loan books’ remains to be seen.
The central bank’s focus on small borrowers including unorganised businesses and MSM enterprises, both through enhanced provision of credit via small finance banks and a fresh resolution framework for existing borrowings, is also heartening as these economic participants were already among the worst-hit during last year’s contraction. However, the norms laid down for resolution including the proviso that only those borrowers who had not already availed of restructuring assistance and whose loans were ‘standard’ as on March 31, 2021, would be eligible for fresh resolution lays an onerous burden on those that the RBI itself admits are the ‘most vulnerable’. Mr. Das was also unreasonably sanguine about the economic impact of the second wave, even as he granted that “high frequency indicators are emitting mixed signals”. The RBI’s position that the dent to aggregate demand is likely to be only moderate is based on the fact that so far this year, the restrictions to contain the spread of the virus have been largely localised. With more and more voices from the Opposition to top industry groups urging a nationwide lockdown to break the chain of transmission, Mr. Das may need to very quickly revisit his assumptions.
3.Rescue plan: Leverage global cooperation on vaccines, strengthen local disease surveillance
US support for temporary waiver of patent protections for Covid-19 vaccines signals welcome recognition that much greater global cooperation is needed to halt the pandemic. While the West has booked most of the doses to be produced in the near future, India’s deadly second wave has revived the debate on patent waivers, compulsory licensing, and technology transfers to address developing countries’ needs. Urgent and liberal actions on these issues are critical to scaling up global manufacturing capacity. It should help that most Covid-19 vaccines have fructified through significant public funding, even as ongoing virus mutations underline the dangers of delaying global herd immunity.
The brutal second wave has also left India struggling to live up to its billing as the world’s most dependable vaccine maker. On Wednesday, India could only administer around 19 lakh doses, reflecting constrained supplies from both Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech. This is amid a desperate scramble by state governments to secure more doses and many of them are postponing vaccination plans for the 18-44 age group. While working to improve vaccine supply, India must rectify other shortcomings as well. Access to testing remains difficult. Oxygen scarcity and poor supply chain management, which had first manifested during the peak of the first wave in September, shouldn’t have recurred either.
Government’s principal scientific advisor warning of a third wave calls for immediate strategic responses, rather than down the line. A comprehensive exercise to identify virus strains in circulation and understand their epidemiological characteristics must take place now. Valuable evidence will be lost otherwise. Severity of disease in younger people, reinfections, infection of those fully inoculated, contraction of infection by those following lockdown norms, false negatives in RT-PCR tests etc, all require more scientific study than is taking place at present. Pending clarity on these issues and mutations in general, there are sharp differences in treatment protocols over plasma therapy, remdesivir, CT scans, steroids and other silver bullet remedies that only aggravate public agony.
Politicking too detracts from India’s real problems. MP Tejasvi Surya’s tack of storming into a war room alleging a scam in bed allotments by inexplicably reading out names of 17 Muslim employees, set back triaging work at a time Bengaluru was recording India’s highest active caseload among all cities. The pandemic has laid bare the dangers of populism. Even as global cooperation warms up, India must do everything domestically possible to halt the pandemic.
4.Taking temperature: UP panchayat poll results give SP hope, but it can’t bank on just that
The recently conducted UP panchayat polls certainly give BJP cause for reflection. Although such polls aren’t usually contested on party symbols, the state BJP this time declared a list of candidates for the 3,050 zila panchayat ward member seats. Data available till Wednesday suggested it was trailing the opposition SP, with BSP in third place and Congress a distant fourth. Plus, BJP suffered setbacks in Prayagraj, Ayodhya, Varanasi and Mathura while only just holding on to CM Adityanath’s bastion of Gorakhpur.
While these poll results can’t be seen as definitive proof of pro- or anti-incumbency, they do signify a political churn. And with the mother of all electoral prizes, the UP assembly polls, slated for next year, the governing BJP would do well to take corrective action. True, BJP had come third in the 2015-16 panchayat polls in UP and gone on to win a massive majority in the 2017 state assembly election. But the political context has changed considerably given the Covid pandemic. In fact, the conduct of the panchayat polls itself was a highly risky affair with claims being made of many succumbing to Covid on poll duty.
The second Covid wave has stretched UP’s healthcare infrastructure painfully thin, with infections and deaths rising even as vaccination and testing remain suboptimal. But this doesn’t mean automatic advantage for SP. While SP chief Akhilesh Yadav today can be said to be fully in control of his party, he hasn’t offered an alternative vision for the state. In the 2017 polls, SP’s tie-up with Congress cost it dearly, showing that simple poll alliances and caste calculations won’t be enough to halt the BJP electoral juggernaut. A positive governance narrative along with mass outreach including Covid relief is needed from the opposition trying to counter Adityanath’s and PM Modi’s popularity in UP.
5. The economic impact of Covid-19
Poverty has increased, jobs and income have dipped. The second wave of the pandemic will deepen distress in the country
The second wave of Covid-19 infections is bound to have an adverse impact on the economy. While Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor Shaktikanta Das has said that its economic impact will not be as severe as that of the first wave, private forecasters are beginning to factor in the effects. For example, S&P Global Ratings has slashed its GDP forecast for 2021-22 from 11% to 9.8%. Such projections, if true, will mute the V-shaped recovery that the government was banking on.
But it is important to go beyond the headline GDP numbers. Azim Premji University’s latest State of Working India report, which was released on May 5, makes a convincing case about the pandemic’s regressive impact — it has affected the poor more than the rich — on jobs and incomes. According to the report, 230 million people fell below the income poverty line (at a minimum wage of ₹375 per day) due to the pandemic. Had the pandemic not happened, according to the report, 50 million people would have come above the poverty line. The report also shows that employment recovery has stagnated at a lower benchmark than pre-pandemic levels, and even when jobs were restored, there has been a fall in quality of employment or incomes. These findings align with anecdotal accounts of the post-pandemic recovery being profit- rather than wage-led. They also underline the threat of prolonged demand headwinds for the economy.