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.Losing time: On delay in formation of Cabinet in Puducherry
Puducherry needs a full-fledged government as coronavirus cases rise
The delay in the formation of the Ministry in Puducherry does not appear to be merely because Chief Minister N. Rangasamy was indisposed for some days. He took charge on May 7 before taking ill; he has now recovered from COVID-19, but there is no word on Cabinet expansion. The delay is a reflection of the uneasy relationship between Mr. Rangasamy’s N.R. Congress, and its ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has been paying special attention to the Union Territory to become a major force. On the face of it, the delay is because of the Chief Minister’s hospitalisation and his home quarantine, which was over on Sunday (May 23). But his illness did not come in the way of the Centre making three BJP members nominated legislators of the Assembly. One reason that is holding up Ministry formation is the BJP’s demand for the Deputy Chief Minister’s post and a few ministerial berths, as stated by Union Minister of State for Home Affairs G. Kishan Reddy, one of the point persons of the BJP for Puducherry. But it was evident that Mr. Rangasamy was not too enthused by the national party’s proposals. A few days before assuming office, he was on record to say that there was no precedent of Puducherry having had a Deputy Chief Minister, but would consider the matter if the Centre created such a post. However hard it may be for him, Mr. Rangasamy has to contend with the reality that the BJP’s strength in the Assembly is just one short of his party’s 10, after the nomination of the three MLAs. Lieutenant Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan, on May 21, appointed K. Lakshminarayanan as the pro-tem Speaker of the Assembly, paving the way for the early swearing-in of MLAs.
However, what bothers the people of the Union Territory — it has a population of about 12.5 lakh (2011 Census) — is that there is no full-fledged elected government in place during a raging COVID-19 pandemic. Between May 8, the day after Mr. Rangasamy became Chief Minister, and May 24, the number of active cases went up by 2,250; the total number of active cases stood at 15,835 on Monday. In this period, the toll rose by almost 50% and as on Monday, 1,382 persons have died since the outbreak of the pandemic. Puducherry does need a vibrant and imaginative Health Minister to beat the virus. This is also an opportunity for the N.R. Congress and the BJP to set aside their differences and show that they have genuine concern for the welfare of the people by forming the Council of Ministers at the earliest. This is no time for procrastination.
2.Character challenge: On GoI’s directive to Twitter
The Centre’s directive to Twitter to remove ‘manipulated media’ tag on posts is illegal
The Government of India’s directive to microblogging platform Twitter that it remove the label ‘manipulated media’ from certain posts shared by functionaries of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), including Union Ministers, has no legal leg to stand on. But it reveals that the Government of India is willing to go to any lengths to empower BJP functionaries to tarnish political opponents and misinform the public. The BJP functionaries circulated on Twitter what they called a ‘toolkit’ prepared by the Congress to disparage the government. The Congress has filed a police complaint that the BJP functionaries forged a document that does not exist. It has also written to Twitter to permanently suspend the accounts of those who circulated the forged documents. There is indeed a document that the Congress prepared on the opportunity costs of the Central Vista project for its internal use. The one circulated by the BJP leaders included additional pages on COVID-19. The BJP has failed to provide the digital footprint, or the copies, of what it calls the COVID-19 toolkit. There is no evidence that the Congress has done anything in the toolkit which was supposedly prepared in May; but the toolkit proposes courses of action that have already happened in April, an analysis by fact-checking platform AltNews has revealed. Toolkits are meant to be about coordinating future actions on social media, and not cataloguing past events. When challenged on facts, a BJP propagandist revealed the identity of a woman who was involved in the Central Vista research, leading to her bullying by cyber mobs.
Twitter has not complied with the Centre’s directive, and at least six handles of BJP functionaries now have posts with the tag ‘manipulated media’. The reasoning behind the directive, in the absence of any legal provision to cite, by the Government of India is baffling. It has argued that the labelling was a “prejudged, prejudiced and a deliberate attempt to colour the investigation by local law enforcement agency”. By this metric, a private company must allow what it has determined as problematic content, until a state agency concurs. Twitter has a publicised policy that it may label tweets that include media that have been deceptively altered or fabricated. It could use its own mechanism or use third party services to make that determination. Twitter is a private entity whose relationship with users is guided by its terms of services. The IT Act that empowers the government to regulate content does not give it the power to order the removal of a label. Additionally, the government move raises serious concerns regarding arbitrary censorship and transparency. The Centre’s desperation to control any discussion on its failures, and shift the focus on to the Opposition is leading to such situations that embarrass a democracy. Rather than intimidate a private company, the BJP and the Centre should discipline its functionaries into more civility and truthfulness in their engagement with critics.
3. Protect students: Don’t risk lives for Class 12 boards. Focus on innovating pathways to higher education
India’s devastating Covid second wave has served a bitter lesson against complacent attitudes, including those that allowed mass gatherings. This lesson should shape all decision-making in the foreseeable future. Currently, Centre is involved in deliberations with states on deciding the modalities for conducting Class 12 CBSE board exams. Two options have been presented: One proposes regular exams only for the major subjects in August. The second option moots short duration tests involving multiple choice and short answer questions in two phases over July and August, recognising varying regional spread of the pandemic.
However, both options detain students in exam halls in an indoor setting: 180 minutes for option A and 90 minutes for option B. So both carry the risk of indoor exposure to the virus. The latest government scientific advisory even warns of aerosol spread up to 10 metres. Nor are the Class 12 students vaccinated. Many parents haven’t got jabs either. Experts worry the next wave could predominantly hit schoolgoers for these reasons. Heed their advice and avert potential superspreader events in this demographic.
Understandably, students are anxious about future prospects in the absence of exams. It is indeed critical that fair internal assessment procedures be devised instead. And scores in Class 12 boards are not the only gateway to higher education. In a situation where these scores cannot help in rational, comparative assessments, the onus falls on higher education institutions to reimagine admission processes. Some institutions have successfully conducted online entrance tests and interviews to select students. Such capabilities must be explored across the board. With the window for students pursuing international admissions also narrowing, CBSE must act fast. Uncertainty multiplies anxiety.
At least two states are open to conducting exams if students are vaccinated. There is no unanimity here: Some states want physical exams when the Covid situation improves, others like Maharashtra oppose the exam route. Basing decisions on the second wave’s downward trend is also dangerous given the risks posed by mutations and the largely unquantified rural outbreak. Maharashtra’s Amaravati district, which signalled the second wave in February, is encountering a Covid upswing again. India is still detecting 2 lakh-plus cases daily, over two times higher than the first wave’s peak. If July or August coincide with another wave, the whole process could be vitiated, prolonging the agony for students. If exams trigger Covid clusters, that isn’t good either. Prioritise lives over exams. Decide wisely.
4. Lawlessness in the sky: Belarus sets a wrong precedent by forcibly landing a commercial jet for political reasons
Bad precedents can be contagious. The world witnessed one on Sunday involving a commercial airline. A Ryanair flight from Athens, Greece, was headed towards Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital. The route involved flying over Belarus which shares a border with Lithuania. What’s clear is that while the plane was in Belarus airspace, the country’s ATC notified it of a potential security threat. It was diverted to Minsk in Belarus. The threat turned out to be false and when the jet was allowed to fly out a few hours later, not all passengers were on board.
Roman Protasevich, a journalist from Belarus and a critic of the country’s regime who has been living in exile for a couple of years, had been detained. It was an extraordinary sequence of events which led to strong reactions. Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, termed it a “hijacking”. The US government said the flight’s diversion was forced. There’s a political context. President Aleksander Lukashenko of Belarus has been in office since 1994. His victory in last year’s election was controversial, with the opposition accusing him of rigging it. EU had imposed sanctions following the election.
The crucial fact is that the diversion of a commercial flight resulted in Protasevich being detained. Whatever the charges against him in Belarus, this sets a precedent on what state actors can do. International commercial air travel is guided by the Chicago Convention. It’s one of the many frameworks that make international cooperation for collective gain possible. If state actors begin to sidestep these frameworks in pursuit of domestic goals, it will undermine a rules-based international order. If Sunday’s action has no consequence, there is little to prevent another such incident. The last two decades have seen big powers follow the path of unilateralism when it suits them. That’s been contagious.
5. From Belarus, a threat to global media freedom
Across the world, illiberal regimes have found new ways to exert pressure on the media — from directly threatening the lives of journalists to deploying more subtle forms of pressure On Sunday, Belarus’s government, under its authoritarian leader, Aleksandr G Lukashenko, in an audacious move, warned an airline passing through its skies that it faced a bomb threat. It then sent a military jet to get the plane to land in Belarus’s capital, Minsk. No bomb was found, and it turned out that the objective was never to secure the plane. It was to arrest a passenger, a dissident journalist, Roman Protasevich, who was picked up by authorities and taken into custody.
Across the world, illiberal regimes have found new ways to exert pressure on the media — from directly threatening the lives of journalists to deploying more subtle forms of pressure. But Belarus’s action, supported by Russia, is outrageous by any standards. Mr Protasevich, an editor of a Telegram channel, one of the few platforms where criticism of the regime can still be articulated, was living in exile in Lithuania and now stares at the possibility of 12 years in prison. The arrest violates the letter and spirit of the universal declaration of human rights; the “apparent forced landing”, is, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization, a violation of the Chicago Convention which governs international aviation; and European leaders and the United States have strongly condemned the move, with governments terming it variously as “state hijacking”, “act of state terrorism”, “abhorrent”, and calling for a unified response.