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.A case of no case: on sedition case against Aisha Sultana
The trend of imputing seditious design to criticism of the government is disturbing
The sedition case against Lakshadweep film-maker Aisha Sultana has all the undesirable indicators of the misuse of the penal provision: intolerance towards any strident criticism of policy, tendency to discern non-existent threats to the state and deliberate resort to it despite the absence of any ingredient of the offence. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the Kerala High Court has granted her anticipatory bail mainly on the ground that neither Section 124A, which penalises seditious speech or writing, nor Section 153B, which seeks to punish imputations against national integration, is attracted. There may be some cause for those in the Lakshadweep administration to feel aggrieved that the film-maker, in the course of a heated discussion on the policy changes sought to be brought about by the Administrator, accused the authorities of unleashing a “bioweapon” against the people by relaxing quarantine rules for those entering Lakshadweep. However, as the court has rightly pointed out, there is nothing in use of the term that tended to create disaffection against the government or incite the people against it. It ought to have been clear to everyone except the administration, its police and the BJP functionary who complained against her speech that there was no malice or motive to subvert the government established by law. Of course, it is noteworthy that the police did not rush to arrest her, but only issued a notice to her to appear before the police to explain her remarks, indicating that there may not have been a threat of arrest.
Yet, the very institution of the case is questionable. It is disconcerting that courts are repeatedly called upon to reiterate that strong speech or writing against government policy is not enough to book someone for sedition, and that only incitement to violence or an inclination to cause public disorder amounts to such an offence. The court considered the political context in which the vehement criticism of the administration has come about. There is much debate about the administrative changes introduced by the Administrator, Praful Khoda Patel, since he assumed office last December. The context, indeed, was the criticism of the modified operating procedure, under which the mandatory provision for quarantining visitors to Lakshadweep was given up. Many attribute the exponential rise in COVID-19 cases to this modification. Another Bench of the High Court has stayed the administration’s order to close down dairy farms run by the Animal Husbandry Department and remove meat from the menu for school mid-day meals. When controversial orders are made, they do have a propensity to attract vehement protests and strident criticism. Unfortunately, the tendency to accuse critics and detractors of having a design to provoke disaffection against the government is spreading among authorities across the country. It is clear the problem lies in the continuance of questionable provisions such as the one on sedition on the statute book.
2.War of words: On Twitter’s blocking of Ravi Shankar Prasad account
The Government should require Twitter to follow rules, but not be vindictive for political reasons
IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad’s censure of Twitter, after it temporarily blocked his account upon receiving a notice for copyright violation last week, is valid, but only to an extent. Mr. Prasad was right in calling out Twitter, as he did over a series of tweets, for not giving him prior notice of the blocking, as required by India’s IT Act rules. The blocking was triggered because Twitter had reportedly received a notice for violations under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), filed by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, the content in question being A.R. Rahman’s song ‘Maa Tujhe Salaam’. Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, who is also the Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, replied to Mr. Prasad, saying he had a similar experience. “Locking is a foolish response to a DMCA notice; disabling the video (which they’ve now done) should be enough,” Mr. Tharoor wrote. Having raised the issue, however, Mr. Prasad went on a needless attempt to make the issue look more than what it really is. One of his tweets in this regard was this: “It is apparent that my statements calling out the high handedness and arbitrary actions of Twitter, particularly sharing the clips of my interviews to TV channels and its powerful impact, have clearly ruffled its feathers.”
It is quite likely that this is just a case of a global platform struggling to adhere to the laws of multiple jurisdictions where it has substantial interests. Mr. Tharoor’s point in this regard needs highlighting. He tweeted, “But getting a notice from a UK-based organisation, citing @Twitter’s role as a ‘service provider’ under a US law, points to the challenges of @TwitterIndia’s operations in India.” Nothing more needs to be read into it. Mr. Prasad’s outburst is a pointer to the level of deterioration in the relationship between Twitter and the Indian Government. Their already strained relationship has worsened further after Twitter’s defiance in not accepting all of the Government’s takedown requests from time to time. The problematic new IT rules have also contributed to this unease. But then Twitter also has to share some blame. It has opened itself up to attacks from all sides because of its inability to pull down or label problematic content consistently. It has also come across as being indifferent in adhering to the requirements of the new IT rules, including the timely appointment of a grievance officer. On the other hand, it would be best for the Government to just let the rules do the talking rather than take every opportunity to raise the pitch. This only makes it look inefficient and cantankerous.
3.More can be done: For GoI’s economic package to make a difference, demand needs a fiscal stimulus
The second wave of Covid-19 abruptly cut short a nascent economic recovery and introduced uncertainty. In this backdrop, GoI has been urged by many, including RBI’s monetary policy committee, to extend fiscal support. FM Sitharaman yesterday announced a Rs 6.28 lakh crore package of measures. Unfortunately, it’s underwhelming. A large part of it is a set of reforms measures spread out over five years. Some of it are procedural changes in existing schemes and measures that had been announced earlier. The core of the package is premised on banks willing to step up lending with government-backed guarantees. When seen in its entirety, this package will not be enough to offset the uncertainty and boost flagging consumption.
GoI’s policy approach since last year has been to let the banks do the heavy lifting. In line with this approach, Rs 2.67 lakh crore of new package is built around the hope that banks will lend to Covid-affected businesses and others when backed by guarantees. The guarantee aims to lower the lending risks of banks. This approach has so far not yielded satisfactory results. Bank credit over the last year has grown just 5.7% and lags the 9.7% growth in deposits. This was the case even before the second wave hit us. Banks are simply not deploying enough of the money coming their way. An environment of risk aversion has neutralised the efficacy of monetary measures.
This leaves GoI as the one controlling the economic levers that can make a difference. Urban poor need urgent fiscal support through cash transfers. GoI has a pipeline of infrastructure projects. Executing them with fiscal support will provide the stimulus in the form of a surge in spending. This is the only way to create a virtuous cycle as contracts to private firms will have a positive impact on jobs and aggregate demand. A delay will create permanent damage as some firms may never recover from two shocks in 15 months. Vaccination and speed are essential for recovery. Offering free visas to foreign tourists as the FM did yesterday can work only when there’s normalcy.
4.Get the jab done: Are there renewed worries on vax production? A mediocre July performance will up the pressure hugely
Daily vaccinations surpassed 60 lakh doses on five days last week demonstrating India’s systemic capabilities in mass immunisation. Even 1-1.5 crore shots daily looks possible if production scales up. On June 21, when 90.86 lakh were jabbed, CoWin recorded 80 lakh registrations, signifying that digital divides can be overcome. Walk-ins account for 78% vaccinations now. But supply worries remain. GoI’s affidavit in SC affirming vaccination for all adults this year estimates availability of 51.6 crore doses by July and another 135 crore till December. For July, Centre has allocated 12 crore doses to states. But this translates to just 40 lakh jabs daily, woefully short of the daily 80 lakh needed to meet the December target. Recall MP alone did 17 lakh doses on June 21.
The US and UK, after single-dosing at least 50% of their entire population, have dramatically reduced death counts. But infection persistence is becoming a worry here. A state like Kerala with a good public health system, where citizens are likely to self-report symptoms, has plateaued at 10,000 daily infections despite two months of lockdown. Maharashtra is again reimposing curbs as the Delta plus numbers spike. Both economy and public health need sustained high-vaccination rate.
There are other gaps appearing. States without big hospital chains are upset over private vaccination skewing in favour of metro cities. They have a point. Perhaps, states can offer interest-free loans to help private hospital associations or consortiums to make bulk procurement. Private sector’s 25% share means 3 crore doses in July. More private jabs allow states to target free vaccines effectively, besides easing GoI’s fiscal burden.
Covaxin is another worry. Centre is banking on 40 crore Covaxin and 45 crore Covishield doses in August-December. Against expectations of delivering 11 crore doses till July, only 3.86 crore Covaxin shots have materialised. From a 12% market share till date it must hit 30% from August. That will be a heroic ramp up. But heroes are in short supply. So, government should focus on Zydus Cadila, Biological E and SII-Novavax vaccines as fallback options. India can’t afford another vaccine slump.
5.The dangers of anti-science, anti-vaccine propaganda
Eligible citizens, young and old, must take both jabs and encourage others as well. Unfortunately, scientific reality hasn’t deterred some public figures from acting irresponsibly
India has a singular mission over the next year — vaccinating the population against Covid-19. Universal vaccination is the only way to save lives, prevent future waves, revive economic growth, send children to school, resume social interactions and defeat the pandemic. Eligible citizens, young and old, must take both jabs and encourage others as well.
Unfortunately, scientific reality hasn’t deterred some public figures from acting irresponsibly. A primary example is lawyer, Prashant Bhushan, who has been consistently advising against vaccines on Twitter. With 2.2 million Twitter followers, his disregard for science can potentially sway fence-sitters who are hesitant to take vaccines to follow suit. Misinformation about the effectiveness of vaccines foments hesitancy at a time when various studies point to this being a significant barrier to the fight against Covid-19. There is little to distinguish Mr Bhushan and Ram Kisan Yadav (Baba Ramdev) who have both peddled misinformation about vaccines, revealing that the anti-science impulse in India makes strange bedfellows.
Vaccination is not legally mandatory. Therefore, an individual can choose not to take the jab. But unless it is on medical advice, this would be self-defeating. Those actively campaigning against vaccination pose a threat to public health. Citizens should also remember that vaccination certificates will be crucial to return to a new normal, from accessing public spaces to travel. Not getting vaccinated would not only risk one’s life but also prevent returning to a pre-Covid-19 life. Influencers should take the jab, and if they don’t want to do so, at least stop commenting on issues they know little about.