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.Naturally, selection: On vaccinating the vulnerable in 18+ group
Prioritising the vulnerable in COVID-19 vaccination for 18-plus group is essential
When supply is finite, it is a no-brainer that a burgeoning demand will not be met. Tailoring supply for optimal effect would then be the prudent way ahead, a strategy that the Centre would do well to employ in its COVID-19 vaccination programme. Though the ideal, distant at this stage, is to achieve vaccination of the entire population or enough to create herd immunity, supply considerations will necessarily mean prioritisation of groups for vaccination. While the vaccines have been shown to be effective in preventing death or severe disease by and large, the vaccine’s effect on interrupting or reducing transmission is also an important consideration in deployment. Studies have shown an inverse correlation between vaccinations and infections; a study in Tamil Nadu showed that the percentage of people over 60 years infected in the second wave had come down by 7%, even as the numbers in other age groups rose. This age segment was among the early priority groups for vaccination. With the government opening up vaccinations for all adults, it is imperative that some line list of priority be readied, on the basis of vulnerability and societal role.
Primary among them are people in the services sector — those whose jobs mandate interactions with multiple people. This would include those in banks, delivery agents, transportation staff, store workers, vendors, lawyers and journalists. As States begin free vaccinations for the 18-plus age group, it will be prudent to draw up a priority list even in the 18-44 age category, as Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have done, for instance. While Kerala seeks to prioritise those with co-morbidities, disabilities and 43 categories of field staff of various departments, Karnataka has included 18 categories of people in its priority list for the 18-plus age group — including bank workers, forest department staff and construction workers. Tamil Nadu has determined a broad list of categories including the disabled, vendors, e-commerce staff, pharmacy and grocery store staff, those in the transportation sector, and school and college teachers, besides mediapersons. The Centre, which has assumed a sutradhar’s role in this entire pandemic, must draw up a list of priority categories that each State can then adapt to its local requirements. While lockdowns, in force in most States, will slow down the pace of transmission and give health-care resources a much-needed break, the way ahead is certainly vaccination — and prioritised vaccination. Once vaccine supply picks up, a more expansive first-come, first-served basis, as in the private sector now, can be adopted. Until then, it is the government’s bounden duty to ensure an equitable coverage among vulnerable groups of people who are most at risk, and carry a higher risk of transmission, because of the sheer number of people they interact with daily.
2. Imperious missteps: On Lakshadweep restrictions
The Centre should recall the Lakshadweep Administrator and drop his ill-conceived plans
Lakshadweep, an archipelago of 36 islands totalling 32 square kilometres in the Arabian Sea, has had an idyllic existence as a Union Territory. But no longer, it seems, as the long arm of Delhi is rummaging around the islands these days. Praful K. Patel, a BJP politician from Gujarat, who arrived as Administrator in December, appears determined to upend the landscape and recast the lives of the islanders, around 70,000 of them, all according to his authoritarian imagination. The draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation 2021 gives sweeping powers to the Administrator to take over land and forcibly relocate people, and proposes harsh punishment to those who resist. In other measures, proposed or implemented, the consumption or sale of beef, a part of the food habits of many, could be an offence punishable by seven years in prison; those who have more than two children cannot contest panchayat elections. Anyone could be held in prison without reason up to a year, under a new Goonda Act, in a place that has a very low crime rate. The traditional livelihood of fishing communities has been impeded by mindless regulations that deny them access to coastlines. Their sheds on the coastal areas have been demolished, saying they violated the Coast Guard Act. Dairy farms run by the administration have been shut.
Development, as it is coming, is not a promise, but a serious threat to the people of Lakshadweep and the fragile ecosystem. Mr. Patel is no stranger to controversies. In March, the Mumbai Police named him as an accused in a case related to the death by suicide of seven-time Dadra and Nagar Haveli MP Mohan Delkar. Mr. Patel was named in the suicide note. He is the first politician to become the Administrator. In the last five months, he has demonstrated a unique disregard for the people’s concerns and priorities. In the absence of any administrative rationale or public good in these blatantly arbitrary measures, there are fears of other motivations. Commercial interests could be at play, and the land that inhabitants are forced to part with could be transferred to buyers from outside. There could also be ill-advised political plans to change the demography of the islands. People have risen in protest, but far from listening to them, the Administrator seems insistent on his plans. Rajya Sabha Members from Kerala, K.C. Venugopal of the Congress and Elamaram Kareem of the CPI(M) have in separate letters urged the President to recall the Administrator. The rationale for carving out Union Territories as an administrative unit is to protect the unique cultural and historical situations of their inhabitants. The Centre is inverting its responsibility to protect into a licence to interfere. It must recall the Administrator and reassure the islanders.
3.Widen the net: Woo Pfizer to boost supply, prioritise workers who can’t stay home, recognise CoWin’s limitations
Pfizer’s offer to supply 5 crore doses in July if the Indian government places bulk pre-orders, makes upfront payments and waives indemnity, confronts the Centre with another big change in its vaccination policy. Foreign companies are clearly wary of dealing with India’s state governments. In these circumstances, especially when the second wave has wrecked the economy and extracted an enormous human toll, Pfizer’s demands should be acceded to. The US-UK strategy of bulk pre-orders, upfront payments and indemnity waiver has been repaid by massive scaleup of production capacity and half their populations receiving at least one vaccine dose.
In contrast, India has single-dosed 11% of its population. Instead of indemnifying companies for vaccines that passed rigorous trials amid a public health emergency, governments must cover treatment costs and shoulder legal liabilities for adverse events. Pfizer’s offer will help Centre in its goal of procuring 51 crore doses before August and another 216 crore by December. Given the gaping demand-supply mismatch – in National Health Authority chief RS Sharma’s telling, each vaccine dose had 6.5 claimants on CoWin, down from 1:11 last week – every additional jab matters. Vaccine procurement is the wrong place to apply Atmanirbhar.
The demand-supply mismatch is despite CoWin excluding citizens on the wrong side of India’s great digital divide. Nearly 59 crore people fall in the 18-44 age group but just 9 crore in this demographic have registered on CoWin platform. Meanwhile, 8 crore of the 23 crore CoWin-registered citizens haven’t received their first shots even as Centre insists that 1.77 crore doses are available with states. After Covishield’s 12-16 week gap kicked in, over 90% of those getting the vaccines now are first dosers. But to make a big difference, prioritising first dosers must accommodate socio-economic realities.
Smartphone penetration touched a 50-crore user base by 2019 but CoWin isn’t accessible to a critical mass of workers. While the complex nationwide vaccination does need digital technology, ongoing strategies to enrol digitally excluded citizens are key. A large demographic includes factory workers, delivery executives, cabbies and a great many other urban and suburban occupations that keep the economy moving. Unsafe working environments have led to avoidable infections and workplace closures, delaying economic revival. These groups must be enrolled in the Centre’s priority group so that its 50% quota in vaccine allotments, when passed on to state governments, cuts across class, digital and urban-rural divides.
4.Rights, responsibilities: Social media platforms can no longer be given special rights over content
Yesterday, rules that aim to limit the nature of content that social media platforms such as Facebook can allow came into force. These rules, Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Media Ethics Code) Rules, were notified by the government in February. The key provisions are that a platform shall not allow itself to be used as a tool to violate any law in force, or undermine India’s sovereignty and carry something obviously false.
This development shouldn’t be seen in isolation. What’s happening in India is part of a global trend. In the internet’s nascent stage, platforms were given immunity from liability by the US for content posted by users. This law, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, provided a global template and opened up space for contemporary tech giants. In other words, the playing field was deliberately kept uneven between mainstream media and social media, allowing the latter to gobble up the former’s space and hurting credible journalism and news dissemination.
Social media platforms are hugely influential today, but still wish to function within a legislative framework of rights without responsibilities. This is no longer tenable. Tech giants are under pressure even in the US where the relevance of Section 230 is being questioned by lawmakers. Content moderation already takes place using sophisticated technology. It’s clear that means are not the issue. The era of privileges without responsibilities and of uneven playing fields is over. For its part, the government too needs to step into the modern era by liberalising laws on content, equally for both mainstream and social media. For a start, senseless colonial era laws on sedition must be repealed forthwith. The Delhi police swoop on Twitter offices in India, after the latter exercised its editorial discretion by tagging some tweets by governing party members, sends exactly the wrong message in this regard.
- A message from India’s coastline
A week after Cyclone Tauktae wreaked havoc across the west coast of India, Cyclone Yaas made landfall in Odisha on the east coast on Wednesday
A week after Cyclone Tauktae wreaked havoc across the west coast of India, Cyclone Yaas made landfall in Odisha on the east coast on Wednesday. It then moved northwards and lay centred over northern coastal Odisha, but affected parts of Jharkhand and West Bengal. Like Tauktae, Yaas also intensified rapidly. This, meteorologists and climate scientists said, can be linked to the climate crisis. Indian seas have been exceptionally warm, much warmer than usual, this year. Yaas and Tauktae were preceded by high sea surface temperatures reaching 31-32°C, making atmospheric and ocean conditions favourable for the frequent formation of cyclones and their rapid intensification. This phenomenon, which will become a lot more frequent this century due to the climate crisis, will impact rainfall, cause destruction due to floods and gusty winds, and affect the scale and pace of the evacuation process needed to rescue lives.
The impact of the climate crisis on India is well-documented in scientific literature, and the spate of extreme weather conditions — heat/cold waves, floods, cyclones — that the country has witnessed in the last few years only confirms these warnings. India was the seventh most-affected by the devastating impact of the climate crisis globally in 2019, according to the Global Climate Risk Index 2021. India must focus on nature-based solutions (for example, restoring mangroves to reduce the impact of waves and storm surge on the shoreline to prevent flooding and preserving wetlands, forests and floodplains) to reduce disaster risk. It must also ensure that both existing and new infrastructure is climate-resilient. This means mainstreaming efforts to strengthen the resilience of urban systems by identifying disaster risks, enhancing structural resilience, and improve regulation and governance processes to manage risks.