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.Coming soon: On new censor law
New layers of censorship are a threat to the existing space for public discourse
Film-makers around the world have often made extraordinary efforts to keep cinema alive. Under a repressive regime in Iran, directors such as Abbas Kiarostami, Mohsen Makhmalbaf and Majid Majidi fought for art as a basic social need with films like Where Is the Friend’s Home?, The Cyclist and Children of Heaven. In India, during the Emergency when the government apparatus came down heavily on any criticism, the prints of Amrit Nahata’s political satire Kissa Kursi Ka, filmed in 1975, were destroyed. Even though a revised version was released in 1978, it invited several cuts from the Central Board of Film Certification. For the past few years, the CBFC has objected to the content of several films, ordering cuts. Now, a proposed amendment to the Cinematograph Act, 1952, will make it even more difficult for film-makers to work on thorny or controversial subjects. The draft Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2021, which has been put out for public comments, has a provision that allows the Government to order re-certification of a film already certified by the CBFC. Film-makers argue that the new provision adds one more layer of censorship to the existing process. Already in April, the Government took the ordinance route to scrap the Film Certificate Appellate Tribunal (FCAT), a statutory body set up to hear appeals of film-makers against decisions of the CBFC.
In 2000, the Supreme Court had upheld the verdict of the Karnataka High Court in the K.M. Shankarappa vs Union of India case that the Union government cannot exercise revisional powers in respect of films that are already certified by the CBFC. The draft acknowledges the existing apex court order but has added a new clause: “…that on receipt of any references by the Central government in respect of a film certified for public exhibition, on account of violation of Section 5B(1) of the Act, the Central government may, if it considers it necessary so to do, direct the chairman of the board to re-examine the film”. The provision of Section 5B(1) of the Act, the draft says, is derived from Article 19(2) of the Constitution “which imposes reasonable restrictions upon the freedom of speech and expression in the interests of sovereignty and integrity of India…” New restrictive laws have come into place for over-the-top (OTT) platforms as well. Giving the Government powers to vet content not only curbs freedom of expression but also quells democratic dissent. Fresh barriers to content generation are a threat to the existing space for public discourse and are indicative of the current pressures on freedoms from authoritarian tendencies of the ruling establishment.
2.After a long wait Indians finally have a pathway to mRNA vaccines. Centre must remove remaining obstacles with speed
Two months after the government allowed fast-track authorization of vaccines already cleared by US, UK, EU and Japan’s drug regulators or WHO, an application received from Moderna through their Indian partner Cipla has met with emergency use authorization. They say, better late than never. But the pandemic has shown that every little delay can be deadly.
Moreover, the timeline and numbers for Moderna doses are not available yet. Even more critically, negotiations are still underway on the company getting indemnity in India as it has gotten elsewhere.
The European Commission and US for example had announced various liability waiver clauses with vaccine-makers in 2020 itself.
3.Make a drop count: Southwest monsoon patterns are changing. Implications for farming are huge and worrisome
There’s a lull this week in the progress of the southwest monsoon, the most important feature of India’s climate. Though IMD has forecast a normal monsoon this year, after two successive years of bountiful rainfall, the lull is a cause of concern. A little over 50% of India’s net sown area is under rainfed farming and a large part of the irrigated area depends on groundwater extraction through borewells. Therefore, long-term trends in the southwest monsoon overlap with economic security. In this context, a study last year by IMD on monsoon variability over a 30-year period (1989-2018) is a wakeup call. UP, Bihar and West Bengal are three of five states that have shown a significant decreasing trend in the southwest monsoon.
Water availability is a national challenge. We have 18% of the world’s population with just 4% of freshwater resources. This makes public policy of water use an area of far-reaching impact. Two trends have overwhelmed most other developments. First, inadequacies in public investment and, therefore, delivery of surface irrigation projects like canals have led to a rise in groundwater irrigation through borewells. This has been helped by free electricity for agriculture. Consequently, the share of borewells in irrigation has increased from 1% in 1960-61 to around 64% today. Second, this water use pattern is awfully inefficient. Indian farmers use two to four times more water than their Chinese counterparts to produce a unit of any major food crop.
Seen in the context of IMD’s finding that highly populated eastern states are recording dwindling returns from the southwest monsoon, such a farming model is unsustainable. Changes will include rethinking how policies in areas such as electricity are made. Electricity is an input everywhere and it can’t be put in a policy silo. A poorly framed power policy can have large negative externalities. Simultaneously, Indian agriculture needs to adopt newer, less water-intensive technologies faster. India’s water challenge is not insurmountable. It needs a doubling down on efforts such as the ongoing GoI scheme to incentivise the use of micro irrigation measures that use water more efficiently. We need more out of each drop.
4.Flying terror: On drone attacks
International cooperation is a must in combating new modes of terror attacks
The use of drones to attack an Indian Air Force base in Jammu on June 27-28 brought to the fore a troubling, though not unanticipated, new mode of terrorism for the country. Though there were no casualties at the base, the fact that there were at least two more subsequent attempts to use drones to attack military targets points to the future of terrorism. The use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), autonomous weapons systems and robotic soldiers by states in warfare and policing has raised moral and practical questions that remain unresolved. Non-state actors have caught up quickly. In 2018, Syrian rebels used homemade drones to attack Russian military bases in Syria; later, the same year, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro had a narrow escape after a drone flying towards him exploded a short distance away. In 2019, Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for bombing Saudi oil installations using drones. New modes of sabotage and violence enabled by technology reduce costs and risk of identification for terrorists while increasing their efficacy. Simultaneously, security agencies would find conventional tools redundant in combating terrorism. Terrorism may not even require organisations, as individuals with sufficient motivation and skills can carry out such attacks and remain under the radar like the drones they use. The existing international framework for controlling the proliferation of technology that can be weaponised, such as the Wassenaar Arrangement and Missile Technology Control Regime, is also largely useless in the emerging scenario.
States including India have sought to deal with terrorism with a combination of stringent laws, invasive surveillance, harsher policing and offensives against other countries that support terrorist groups. This approach has only had limited success in ensuring peace anywhere while the human and material costs have been high. The exponential proliferation of new technologies and Artificial Intelligence, vertically and horizontally, will make the task of combating terror even more challenging. The Jammu drone attack, Indian authorities reportedly suspect, was carried out by the Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is patronised by Pakistan. The same group was behind the 2008 Mumbai terror attack in which perpetrators came by boats from Pakistan. India has tried to punish Pakistan for its support to terror groups in recent years which has shown some success. The entry of drones calls for a more complex response to terrorism. Terror groups do capitalise on state patronage but technology too is enabling them to be autonomous in an unprecedented fashion. From turning passenger planes into missiles in 2001, terrorism has come a long way, and one cannot foresee where it will go next. Enhanced international cooperation and consensus on the development and deployment of technologies are required to deal with the challenge. India can and must take an active role in the process.
5. Reimagining the frontier
An inclusive vision, which sees border regions and people as central rather than peripheral, and focuses on improving their lives through better connectivity, is ethically right and politically wise. And it is also a smart security strategy. Don’t let Beijing’s hypocrisy come in the way
In keeping with the government’s focus on infrastructure upgradation and modernisation in border areas, especially with China, defence minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated 63 bridges across eight states and Union Territories on Monday. He was present in Leh in person, and was joined virtually by chief ministers and top officials of all states which border China. Earlier this month, Mr Singh inaugurated 12 other bridges constructed by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO). In his remarks, the minister emphasised both the developmental and strategic value of these bridges, and lauded BRO — an unsung pillar of India’s security apparatus — for its work.
It is now clear that India’s defence establishment will not let China’s sensitivities deter it from proceeding with its border plans, and rightly so. Some analysts believe that India’s efforts to upgrade its infrastructure led to increased Chinese incursions across the Line of Actual Control over the past decade. Irrespective of whether this is a dominant or minor factor in China’s calculations, the simple fact is that Beijing’s position is hypocritical. It has, over a much longer period than India, ramped up border infra and accrued tactical benefits. Misguided by an insecure strategic mindset that saw border roads and bridges as somehow enabling enemy troop mobilisation, and constrained by resources, India left its border areas under-developed and isolated for way too long. Delhi has been correcting this approach in recent decades, especially under the Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi-led governments, and must continue to do so.