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. Vaccinate faster: Global data shows that inoculation is the quickest way to bend the pandemic curve
In some welcome news, a new UK government study has found that two doses from either the Oxford-AstraZeneca or the Pfizer vaccine are over 80% effective in preventing infection from the B.1.617.2 variant of Covid-19 first discovered in India. The findings are said to be based on data from Public Health England and are pertinent for India since the B.1.617 variant – of which B.1.617.2 is a subtype – is said to have played a big role in the ongoing second wave in the country. Plus, the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab has been the mainstay of India’s vaccination programme so far, being manufactured as Covishield by the Serum Institute. Therefore, continuing to ramp up the production and delivery of vaccines is important to not just bring the current surge under control, but also to provide protection against subsequent waves.
Vaccination is even more urgently needed given that the death rate from the pandemic has risen sharply this month. In fact, Delhi registered the highest case fatality rate (CFR) among bigger states at 2.54%. Over the same period, the national CFR has risen to 1.17% from 0.73% recorded in April. Thus, combining the latest efficacy data from UK, and the fact that vaccination is proven to prevent severe illness and mortality, it is increasingly clear that vaccines are our main tool to fight this pandemic.
In this regard, it is welcome that the government has reversed its earlier policy and allowed private and state entities to vaccinate not just employees but also their dependent family members. It will be recalled that the government had allowed workplace vaccination by encouraging employers to tie up with hospitals to vaccinate their staff. But keeping employees’ kin out of the programme did not make sense as the same mechanism could be used to increase vaccination outreach. In fact, allowing family members of staff may boost workplace vaccination as companies can now scale up vaccine orders and make this delivery pipeline more robust.
The Covid virus has proven itself to be capable of multiple mutations in a very short period of time. Some of these variants are already demonstrating immunity escape capabilities. Evidence that the virus is evolving also comes from Vietnam where the 14-day quarantine protocol has been revised upwards after Covid positive patients were found to infect others late in their disease. Meanwhile, Taiwan’s recent Covid surge shows strict border management too has its limits, while India’s ongoing local lockdowns hurt economic recovery. Thus, only faster vaccination can curb the pandemic and keep economic growth afloat.
2.Chipko’s relevance: Present-day activists have much to learn from Sunderlal Bahuguna’s life and Chipko
In November, UK and Italy will co-host a global climate conference called COP26. One of the goals of the meet is to persuade all countries to work towards reducing net emissions of greenhouse gases caused by human activity to zero by 2050. A pathway to the goal up for discussion revolves around ways to curtail deforestation. A global summit in 2021 which plans to discuss deforestation highlights how far ahead of its time was the Chipko movement, spearheaded by Sunderlal Bahuguna who passed away last week.
Chipko was a product of the restless 1970s, though the seeds were sown earlier. It’s arguably the most impactful environment movement India has witnessed in recent memory. What makes it unique is that the call to action was not top down, catalysed by complex science. It was a grassroots movement in Uttarakhand where the forest became the focal point of both environment and livelihood issues. If Bahuguna and his associate Chandi Prasad Bhatt were the faces of the movement that began in March 1973, its durability and impact came from villagers in the Himalayas, particularly women. Lived experience of villagers was the motive force of the Chipko movement.
The environmental damage wrought by deforestation in the Himalayas is not in question. But the lessons continue to be ignored. Bahuguna, who was noted for his aphorisms, observed “ecology is permanent economy”. The increasing incidence of extreme climate events are extracting an escalating economic cost. Development versus environment is a false argument. They are intertwined. As the global movement towards leaving behind this false binary gains momentum, India needs to revisit the lessons of the Chipko movement. So should representatives at COP26. Chipko had an impact because the environmental home truths overwhelmed political differences. Progress in the fight against climate change needs the same spirit.
3.End the farm agitation, now
Last week, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, representing a set of farm unions, wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It placed the onus of resuming dialogue to end the farm agitation on him, while sticking to its demand for the repeal of farm laws and a legal guarantee of minimum support prices (MSP). On Saturday, agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar said that the unions should either accept the government’s offer to suspend the farm laws for 18 months or come up with an alternative proposal for talks to resume, and again rejected the demand for the repeal of laws.
May 26 marks six months of the farm agitation. The movement is a classic example of how a grassroots struggle can lose its way because of rigidity and the absence of sound political leadership. It succeeded in bringing issues of India’s political economy, especially the transition in agriculture, to the forefront; it raised genuine questions about the process through which farm laws were pushed through in Parliament; it represented a moment of mass assertion in politics and pushed the government onto the defensive; and it drew international solidarity.
But farm leaders failed to capitalise on their own political success. On January 26, elements within the movement turned violent, tarring India’s Republic Day celebrations. The unions refused to acknowledge that the government was willing to introduce a set of amendments to address their concerns, not wholly but substantially. They did not take up the government’s reasonable offer of the suspension of laws — an 18-month suspension effectively means the laws are unlikely to come into force during the term of the current Lok Sabha. They imposed impossible demands such as a legal guarantee for MSP, which will have inflationary consequences. And most fatally, they have continued mass protests even as the second wave has devastated lives in Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and west UP — and these political congregations would have played a role in spreading the infection, putting at risk the lives of farmers, their families, community, and society at large. With the Centre reiterating that its offer is on the table, the farm unions must accept the 18-month suspension of laws, end their agitation, explain to their own base why maximalism won’t work, focus on the pandemic, and engage in consultations to improve the legal framework over the next year-and-a-half. Instead of intensifying protests, it would be wiser to use the six-month landmark to move beyond the politics of agitation.