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.Politics in a pandemic: Strong local narratives are being unleashed. National parties BJP and Congress are on notice
BJP president JP Nadda has exhorted party workers to help people suffering in the pandemic and share in their grief instead of getting embroiled in political slugfests. For a party that doesn’t pull punches against rivals, this would need a marked change in approach. Seven states are headed for assembly elections next year and BJP governs six of these. If anti-incumbency is indeed building up, the goodwill that grassroots cadre can generate will prove critical. The top leadership swinging into damage-control mode without losing any time is also a measure of the party’s vitality. In contrast, Congress, BJP’s primary opponent in six of these states, is missing a regular president and organisationally scattered.
Since the 2019 Lok Sabha victory, strong regional undercurrents have undermined BJP’s attempts to bag more state governments. Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala have reiterated the electorate’s preference for sturdy regional parties. The hurriedly cobbled Maha Vikas Aghadi has weathered Maharashtra’s long-raging pandemic cohesively. Amid this resurgence of regional formations, the UP panchayat polls underscoring Samajwadi Party’s resilience will worry BJP. Negotiating the gathering local political headwinds will be BJP’s primary challenge.
Many Indian families have been affected by loss of lives or livelihoods in this second wave. Welfare schemes and cash handouts will not adequately replace lost earnings. Voter disappointment and powerful experiential collective memories will singe incumbent governments unless the opposition betrays phenomenal incompetence. BJP has narrowing wriggle room but the steady stream of Congress defectors in Gujarat, governed by BJP for 23 years, Goa and Manipur, hardly reassure voters of Congress’s political viability and programme clarity. Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand flip every five years but Congress needs credible replacements for faded satraps Virbhadra Singh and Harish Rawat, with elections turning increasingly presidential.
Punjab, where BJP is a minor player, remains Congress’s to lose. Even here Congress is its own worst enemy, as dissidence resurfaces. For a change, the toolkit controversy saw Congress stoutly defend its narrative. Yet it needs to recognise how BJP is responding promptly to a fast-changing political scenario. As the political ballast of BJP’s post-2014 ascendancy, UP will corner much of the Modi-Shah-Nadda triumvirate and RSS’s attention. In asking local leaders and cadres to step up, BJP is already on the move. The pandemic may be acting as a decentralising force in Indian politics. Will Congress wake up to what BJP may already have sensed?
2.Himalayan blunders: Nepal’s political crisis amid pandemic puts democratic gains under strain
Nepal’s opposition parties have approached the country’s Supreme Court against President Bidya Devi Bhandari’s decision to dissolve the country’s House of Representatives last week. This is the second time in five months that Bhandari has dissolved the House, having last done so in December on PM KP Oli’s recommendation. But that decision was overturned by Nepal’s SC in February.
Then earlier this month Oli lost a vote of confidence but was reappointed as premier even while he was losing support within his own party. With the unified Nepal Communist Party scrapped in March and the Prachanda-led CPN (Maoist Centre) withdrawing support to the government subsequently, Oli’s CPN (UML) was anyway in a minority. In such a scenario, Bhandari should have given more time and consideration to Nepali Congress’s Sher Bahadur Deuba’s claim of majority support. Instead, she chose to ignore the constitutional provisions that allowed government formation from within the sitting Parliament. In fact, an unfortunate impression has now been created that Oli will do whatever it takes to hold onto office with the help of a compliant Bhandari.
This is certainly a setback for Nepal whose transition to a federal democracy has been long and hard. To fortify its democratic gains, Nepal’s institutions must respect democratic ground rules and accept orderly transitions of governments. On India’s part, New Delhi must learn its lessons of 2015 and maintain neutrality in Nepal’s domestic politics. Plus, Nepal today is battling a surge in Covid cases. Reports are coming in of hospitals being overwhelmed by patients, while in scenes reminiscent of several Indian cities, the country is facing its own medical oxygen crunch – even as its Covax vaccines are delayed. A political vacuum in this scenario could be debilitating, so all eyes are on the country’s apex court again.
3.Calibrated closures: On localised lockdowns
With no short road to universal vaccination, lockdowns should be precise and painless
Several States have extended the coronavirus lockdowns beyond May 31, while fresh cases appear to show a downward trend, but India’s COVID-19 battle lacks strategic focus. Although a cessation of activity has been imposed, there is not much clarity on the future threat from virus variants, notably B.1.617 that now has three sub-types and the dominant one, B.1.617.2, is estimated to be 50% more transmissible than another variant of concern, B.1.1.7. Neither is there a road map for vaccine availability ahead, with direct imports by States hitting a roadblock and vague assurances of a domestic ramp-up from July substituting for firm commitments. Some States are unwisely taking the foot off the testing pedal, making it that much harder to map the course of transmission. A miasma of confusion has come to pervade COVID-19 policy, where the Centre no longer has an appetite for leadership, even if it means shunning responsibility for universal vaccination, and the only tool available with States is a lockdown. But as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin has pointed out, a lockdown does not provide a solution, and comes with its own economic side-effects that hit the working class poor the hardest. The time has come for a pandemic policy reset that reflects scientific insight, encourages safe public behaviour through persuasive communication, monitoring, and, importantly, incorporates medical interventions of scale.
The medium-term outlook does not point to a steep rise in vaccination by the end of the year to cover most of the population, making it imperative for States to prepare for potential future surges. Although claims have been made of a large volume of three vaccines becoming available between August-December, the road to universal immunisation is going to be long. The process is complicated by the finding in Britain that it takes two doses of Covishield for 60% protection against the dominant virus variant that is also found in India; the second dose, therefore, should be administered after eight weeks, not 12 or 16. What States can do immediately is to arrive at a good lockdown protocol, sparing people frequent shocks. Tamil Nadu’s recent move to intensify the lockdown, and, inexplicably, allow even jewellery and clothing shops to open for a day before that, led to massive crowding triggered by induced demand. Clearly, measures to shut down everyday activity lead to fear and panic, and leave less affluent sections, the disabled, migrant workers and many single individuals unable to cope. The golden mean would be to shut all non-essential shops, encourage remote transactions, open street sales and home deliveries, actively monitor compliance with COVID-19 protocols in public places and vaccinate workers in services, including domestic workers, on priority. Free food distribution must be a central feature of lockdowns.
4. Rules and rulers: On social media curbs
The Govt. must hear out the social media industry, and shed its arbitrary rule-making
It does seem that most if not all global social media giants will miss complying with the new IT rules of intermediaries, which come into effect today. It would be unfortunate if this non-compliance were to trigger a further worsening of the already poor relationship between some social media players and the Government. The new rules were introduced in February. Among other things, they require the bigger social media platforms, which the rules referred to as significant social media intermediaries, to adhere to a vastly tighter set of rules within three months, which ended on May 25. They require these platforms to appoint chief compliance officers, in order to make sure the rules are followed, nodal officers, to coordinate with law enforcement agencies, and grievance officers. Another rule requires messaging platforms such as WhatsApp to trace problematic messages to its originators, raising uneasy questions about how services that are end-to-end encrypted can adhere to this. There are indeed many problems with the new rules, not the least of which is the manner in which they were introduced without much public consultation. There has also been criticism about bringing in a plethora of new rules that ought to be normally triggered only via legislative action.
But non-compliance can only make things worse, especially in a situation in which the relationship between some platforms such as Twitter and the Government seems to have broken down. The latest stand-off between them, over Twitter tagging certain posts by BJP spokespeople as ‘manipulated media’, has even resulted in the Delhi Police visiting the company’s offices. Separately, the Government has been fighting WhatsApp over its new privacy rules. Whatever the back-story, it is important that social media companies fight the new rules in a court of law if they find them to be problematic. The other option, that of engaging with the Government, may not work in these strained times. But stonewalling on the question of compliance can never be justified, even if it is to be assumed that the U.S. Government has their back. Facebook, on its part, has made all the right noises. It has said that it aims to comply with the new rules but also needs to engage with the Government on a few issues. What is important is that the genuine concerns of social media companies are taken on board. Apart from issues about the rules, there have been problems about creating conditions for compliance during the pandemic. As reported by The Hindu, five industry bodies, including the CII, FICCI and the U.S.-India Business Council have sought an extension of 6-12 months for compliance. This is an opportunity for the Government to hear out the industry, and also shed its high-handed way of rule-making.
5. On Twitter, a self-goal
On Monday night, two teams of the special cell of Delhi Police “visited” the offices of Twitter India in Delhi and Gurugram
On Monday night, two teams of the special cell of Delhi Police “visited” the offices of Twitter India in Delhi and Gurugram. The objective was to ostensibly give a notice to the company, and seek an explanation for why it tagged a tweet by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson, Sambit Patra, as “manipulated media”. The tweet in question concerns a “toolkit”, outlining how the government can be cornered for its management of the pandemic. The BJP has claimed that this is a Congress party document, which shows how the Opposition is cynically leveraging a human tragedy. The Congress has rejected the allegation, acknowledged that parts of it were genuine while alleging the more controversial parts were fake, and filed a police complaint for forgery. AltNews, a fact-checking site, based on a study of the metadata, has corroborated the Congress’s version, and there has been no evidence forthcoming on the entire document’s authenticity. Twitter then tagged the tweet as “manipulated” (which means the media in question was altered).
There is the larger question on whether Twitter’s action of taking such calls affects its status as an intermediary. It does, after all, look like an editorial call that a media company may make.