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.Reading Bhagwat: RSS chief said some right things. But let’s not miss the possible realpolitik context
Mohan Bhagwat’s remarks downplaying religious divides and foregrounding a national identity were made to an audience – RSS’s Muslim Rashtriya Manch – that perhaps got what it wanted to hear. But the RSS chief’s observations that the “DNA of all Indians is the same, irrespective of religion,” his critique of incidents of lynching, and his emphasis on the primacy of the rule of law are nonetheless important – because of two reasons.
First, his speech comes at a time when costs of division and social strife are becoming even more as the economy struggles to recover from two Covid waves. If you are any kind of proud Indian you should know that the source of national power and prestige is economic growth, size of the economy and living standards. On all these, India has been long underperforming. Meanwhile, public energies are wasted on CAA, various state interfaith marriage laws, frivolous sedition and UAPA cases, and Centre-state conflicts. Preoccupation with the polarised, long-winded Bengal elections that distracted national attention from a gathering second Covid wave should have been a wakeup call. But it hasn’t quite worked out that way. Bhagwat’s speech is a useful contribution to this discussion.
Second, the RSS chief’s soothing words can be read in the context of electoral political challenges for BJP. To get back to Bengal, the result was particularly unsettling for BJP because the Muslim vote deserted Congress and CPM en masse and consolidated behind TMC. Fast forward to UP. What happens if in assembly elections in that crucial state next year, UP’s 19% Muslim population rallies behind only one opposition party? Such a tactical mobilisation, combined with all challenges incumbency brings, can be worrisome for BJP. The less collectively angry Muslims feel towards BJP, the less the chance of en bloc tactical voting. Nationally, too, BJP would prefer the Muslim vote to be diffused. Post-poll surveys in 2019 indicated that minority support for BJP hasn’t increased and there was greater Muslim vote consolidation favouring the leading opposition party in each state.
Bhagwat’s speech was welcome. But read it in the context of evolving strategies of India’s most sharply election-focussed party.
2.Wildly disruptive: Diversion of natural habitat for projects cannot become a fairly routine event. Consequences are enormous
As statistics go, this one is wild. TOI reports that in 2020, the standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) approved the diversion of as much as 1,792 hectares of wildlife habitat. The data is from a study carried out by the non-profit organisation Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (LIFE). It raises several questions, of which the most interesting is this: How can so much wildlife habitat area be given over to project work in a year when site visits, considered absolutely critical for such clearances, were severely restricted?
Most of the diversion is for linear projects such as roads, railways and transmission lines. These cause direct loss of habitat and also reduce the landscape’s capacity to sustain wildlife. For example, multiple diversions approved within Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park will impact several species such as tiger, panther, bison, sloth bear, barking deer and wild dog in eco-sensitive Western Ghats. The LIFE study also finds that in some cases diversions were approved without indicating the specific area. And only one project has been rejected in the past three years.
All of this seems to point to at best extreme laxity on the part of NBWL, which should really err on the side of caution when it comes to project clearances. At around 4.9% of India’s geographical expanse, its protected areas – including national parks and wildlife sanctuaries – are anyway seriously short of the globally recognised Aichi Biodiversity Target of 17%. And let’s remember, Indian PAs’ effectiveness in preventing forest loss has been poor as compared to countries like Mexico and Thailand. Plus, even the small proportion that’s protected has taken decades to secure. On such a narrow base, NBWL’s seemingly cavalier attitude can have a disproportionately large impact.
The issue, of course, is not wildlife vs roads, trains and electricity. India needs plenty more of the latter. But it needn’t come at a steep cost to natural habitats. Alternative, less disruptive routes for these projects can be found. GoI must tell NBWL to work on that basis.
3.Heavy weight: On Punjab political crisis
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh is facing a crisis born out of his very success
The crisis in the Congress in Punjab has been smouldering beneath the surface for a long time, before the current eruption. Until a few months ago, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had appeared invincible and poised to lead the party to a second consecutive victory in the Assembly election due early next year. Rebel leader Navjot Singh Sidhu’s relentless open battle against the Chief Minister has now cast a long shadow on the party’s prospects. Mr. Sidhu, a party hopper driven by personal ambition, has by default become the champion of the resentment among party MLAs and workers against the Chief Minister’s unilateralism. Mr. Singh was the sole architect of the Congress victory in 2017. After winning 77 of the State’s 117 Assembly seats then, its victory march continued through the 2019 Lok Sabha and local body elections. But a streak of arrogance probably disconnected him from some sections of the party. His very strength — he is head and shoulders above any alternative, including Mr. Sidhu, within the Congress — seems to have opened up a weakness: so sure of his own indispensability, he had little time or patience for some of those in the lower rungs of the party. Congress MLAs complain of humiliation at the hand of bureaucrats and found their lives overshadowed by the giant figure of Mr. Singh.
Also, the performance of the Government is coming under scrutiny too. High power tariffs, power cuts, a high unemployment rate and unchecked drug trafficking have exposed the chinks in the armour of the Chief Minister. Faced with bad options, the Congress central leadership appointed a committee headed by Mallikarjun Kharge. It met with around 150 party leaders and submitted a report but that has only opened a Pandora’s box. The Chief Minister took the committee deliberations as a slight, and his detractors, as an open season. Meanwhile, the unmistakable, though oblique, endorsement of Mr. Sidhu by the Gandhi family has complicated the scene further. The former cricketer is a recent entrant in Congress, after a cushy stopover in the BJP as Member of Parliament and contemplating a detour to the Aam Aadmi Party. As a life-long careerist with a reputation for a short temper, he is hardly the leader that critics of the Chief Minister yearn for. Punjab politics is in a churn due to the farmer agitation and an ongoing realignment of political forces. The SAD and BSP have formed a new alliance, and the BJP is left alone. Agitating farmers may have political plans in the coming months. The Congress central leadership and Mr. Singh must work together than at cross purposes to bring order within the party, so that the Government can steer the State’s progress without the dramatic distractions.
4.Trump again: on charging of Trump Organization
The fraud charges are an opportunity for the GOP to find new leadership
The Trump Organization, the company owned by former U.S. President Donald Trump, has been charged by authorities in New York state on 15 felony counts including for committing a scheme to defraud, conspiracy, grand larceny, criminal tax fraud and falsifying business records. Prosecutors have also brought charges against a “sweeping and audacious” fraudulent scheme involving the firm’s CFO taking more than $1.7 million in undeclared remuneration from the company for personal expenses. While Mr. Trump has not been charged in this legal salvo, it is possible that that might happen in the future, should the investigation determine that he engaged in criminal conduct. Already, Mr. Trump’s name was mentioned at several points in the indictment and the evidence at hand appeared to show that as the former CEO of the company, the 45th President of the U.S. had signed some of the illegal compensation cheques in the 15-year tax fraud scheme. There are also indications that the indictment might be the tip of the iceberg in relation to the extent of the New York District Attorney’s investigation of the corporate practices of Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization. In May 2021, legal filings in New York revealed that the office of the DA, Cyrus Vance, was arguing in court that Mr. Trump’s accountants were required to produce eight years of his personal and corporate tax returns in compliance with a grand jury subpoena. This hinted that what was originally suspected to be an inquiry into illicit payments made by Mr. Trump’s associates, prior to the 2016 presidential election, to two women who said they had affairs with Mr. Trump, had expanded into a far-reaching investigation relating to bank and insurance fraud.
While Mr. Trump has characteristically attacked the ongoing indictment and broader case as a “political Witch Hunt by the Radical Left Democrats,” there is no escaping the reality that if the charges stick and the investigation continues to broaden its scope, he will be hobbled by a political distraction should he attempt a second presidential run in 2024. There have been troubling questions about his business activities ever since he entered office, including, given that his real estate holdings were used for U.S. government activities, whether he was in violation of the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The larger question, however, is the one facing the Republican Party as such: when the next presidential election rolls around, will it continue to place its faith in a man who despite claiming to be an outsider to Washington politics is evidently no different from any run-of-the-mill plutocrat or any networked member of corporate elite bent on maximising personal gain no matter the social cost? Should they do so for want of real leadership within their ranks, that would be a sad commentary on the state of and prospects for the conservative movement in the country.