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.Af-Pak basket case: ISI’s Taliban will run a country in dire economic straits. Neither it nor its backers have resources
It’s abundantly clear that Taliban’s new ‘interim’ government in Afghanistan has the strong imprint of Pakistan’s military-jihadi complex. The new Afghan leadership structure is sans
non-Taliban members and comes after the recent visit to Kabul of Pakistan’s ISI chief Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, who played peacemaker between different factions. And Mullah Mohammad Hasan Akhund, one of the founding members of the group and the longtime head of its powerful decision-making body Rehbari Shura, isn’t an uninfluential nobody. Expect, therefore, all kinds of bad news.
More so because, many other characters are equally partial to unpleasant methods of ruling a country. Sirajuddin Haqqani of the pro-ISI Haqqani Network will serve as interior minister, Mullah Yaqoob – son of Taliban founder Mullah Omar – will be defence minister. That Abdul Ghani Baradar, head of Doha’s political office, is sidelined says much about this regime. All punditry about a new Taliban was an exercise, it seems, in desperate optimism.
This makes international recognition for the new Taliban regime difficult. But the biggest challenge Taliban will face is in figuring out how to rescue Afghanistan from its present economic hellhole. Inflation has skyrocketed in recent weeks and the US has frozen $9.5 billion in Afghan reserves. Both the World Bank and IMF too have halted their aid and funding programmes for Afghanistan.
Pakistan, for all its influence over Taliban, can hardly financially prop up the new Kabul government given its own dire economic situation and dependence on IMF funding. The big hope for Taliban then is China with the group’s leaders indicating their willingness to join Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative and touting the future development of Afghanistan’s vast mineral resources, including lithium. But neither is China likely to rush into an unstable Afghanistan nor will commercial exploitation of minerals – which in lithium’s case can take up to 16 years – happen in the short term. Unless the Taliban government takes a pragmatic turn and negotiates with the West and India, it’s looking at a humanitarian catastrophe. India should simply, for now, see how all of this plays out.
2.Being nice pays: Social norms influence both a country’s politics and economic performance. Behaviour always matters
Being around people who are nice is a pleasant experience. But how likely are we to bump into people who are nice? A study conducted across a sample of 31 countries, including India, by Dutch academic Niels Van Doesum and his associates came up with interesting results. Japanese top in showing small acts of kindness, described as social mindfulness. Indians came third from the bottom, followed by Turkey and Indonesia. Social mindfulness is a manifestation of broader awareness of people around. This seemingly insignificant thing feeds into the larger foundation of how societies are structured.
A vast body of research in social sciences has shown that culture and norms go a long way in not just influencing the political structure of nations but also economic performance. In politics, the most striking example is the UK. Over eight centuries after the Magna Carta was drawn up, it still doesn’t have a codified constitution. Norms are the invisible bonds that keep the political structure in place. Social norms, a society’s implicit rules about traits such as honesty and work ethic, have a huge influence on economic development. This is one reason why blindly copying “best practices” produces varying results.
Norms are not permanent. Over time, they do change. Many post-World War II economic success stories have been shaped by changing norms as much as right economic policies. Norms that engender trust among constituents of a society significantly influence both economic policies and general laws. A society with a higher level of trust functions with a light-touch economic regulatory structure and largely avoids repressive laws. In this context, it is pertinent that before Adam Smith came up with The Wealth of Nations that provided insights into the role of self-interest in a market economy, he wrote The Theory of Moral Sentiments, which dwelt on human sympathy.
The social mindfulness study is insightful as it studies behaviour when it’s not influenced by incentives or disincentives. It’s the niceness quotient in people. Who doesn’t want to live in a society with a high niceness quotient? It also comes with the additional benefit of a better economic performance.
3.Keep Himachal tourism alive
Tourism contributes roughly 10% to the hill state’s GDP — but if you do the math by including tourism-dependant industries such as public and private transport, adventure sports, restaurants, spas, campsites and spiritual/religious travel, the total share of tourism in Himachal Pradesh’s GDP could exceed 30%.
The takeover notices issued by banks to several Dharamsala hotels due to non-repayment of loans are a harbinger of severest distress for the tourism industry of Himachal Pradesh. Tourism contributes roughly 10% to the hill state’s GDP — but if you do the math by including tourism-dependant industries such as public and private transport, adventure sports, restaurants, spas, campsites and spiritual/religious travel, the total share of tourism in Himachal Pradesh’s GDP could exceed 30%. Indeed, with manufacturing concentrated in one particular region, tourism is the driver of the state’s economy. Government figures show there are more than 3,600 hotels and over 2,100 homestay facilities in the state, but the actual numbers are much higher. The Covid-19 pandemic — with the lockdowns that banned or restricted entry into the state — has wreaked havoc with the economy. In the latest Economic Survey, the state government noted that the arrival of domestic and foreign tourists fell by 81.33% in 2020; and the trade, hotel and restaurant sectors contracted by 9.2% during 2020-21; transport and services incidental to transport had a negative growth of 28%.
Since the Economic Survey was presented in March, the situation has taken a turn for the worse. Cold numbers fail to reveal the human cost of the Covid-caused recession in the tourism industry: Thousands of hotels are locked and face foreclosure, and their staff has been reduced drastically or dismissed; thousands of taxi owners are unable to pay loan instalments and are seeking buyers for their vehicles; small eateries are on the edge of economic doom. The second wave of the pandemic has knocked out the most vulnerable segments in the industry. It’s estimated that over two lakh persons employed in the hotel industry have lost their jobs — and the fear of the third wave looms large.
PM Modi recently lauded Himachal Pradesh for becoming the ‘champion’ in the fight against the pandemic by achieving the target of 100% first dose vaccination against Covid-19. However, the state and the Centre need to chalk out a comprehensive plan to prop up the tourism sector. The hotel and transport sectors seek relaxation in loan repayment terms — for the sake of keeping the driver of the state’s economy alive, the government must look at the issue sympathetically and provide relief.
3.Taliban’s true colours
The Taliban’s moderate façade has crumbled overnight with their announcement of a hardline interim government in Afghanistan. The all-male Cabinet features UN-designated terrorist Sirajuddin Haqqani, who has a $10-million US bounty on his head, as the interior minister. Sirajuddin is the son of warlord Jalaluddin Haqqani, who founded the Haqqani Network (HQN) — an insurgent group based in North Waziristan, Pakistan. Sirajuddin’s uncle Khalil Haqqani has been appointed as the acting minister for refugees. In 2012, the US had designated the HQN as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation because of its links with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda and its role in attacks on US military personnel and civilians as well as on western interests in Afghanistan. The HQN also figures on the UN sanctions list under Resolution 1267, wherein it is described as a group ‘responsible for suicide attacks and targeted assassinations as well as kidnappings in Kabul and other provinces of Afghanistan’. With their patronage of this entity, the Taliban have cocked a snook not only at the US but also at the international community.
The HQN’s ties with the Pakistani security establishment are an open secret. The group is counted among the major proxies that are backed by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in the Af-Pak region. Sirajuddin’s elevation has clearly revealed Pakistan’s influence on the Taliban’s decision-making. The government formation has ruffled many feathers in America, with the Republican Study Committee, the largest conservative caucus in the US House of Representatives, calling it ‘a government of terrorists, by the terrorists, and for the terrorists.’
The developments make it imperative for India to up the ante against Pakistan’s interference in Afghanistan and engage more cautiously with the unreliable Taliban. The upcoming summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in Tajikistan offers New Delhi an opportunity to call out Islamabad for its machinations that threaten to destabilise the entire region.
4.The new Afghan government
The Taliban has formalised its military takeover of Afghanistan, and the de facto control it has exercised over the Afghan State since August 15, with the announcement of a new interim government
The Taliban has formalised its military takeover of Afghanistan, and the de facto control it has exercised over the Afghan State since August 15, with the announcement of a new interim government. The all-male, Pashtun-dominated set-up, where the key axis of power revolves around military commanders with ties with the Pakistani Deep State, is a clear message from the Taliban to the rest of the world. The talk of an inclusive government was just that, talk; the Taliban remains exclusivist, on ethnic, gender, and, of course, religious lines; it remains committed to the politics of violence, given the seamless fusion of terror groups and designated terrorists in the formal power structure; and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) will continue to have a substantial say — if not an outright veto — on the Afghan State’s orientation, especially with regard to internal security, intelligence, defence and foreign policy.
Unfortunately, the world is divided. There is Pakistan, which is delighted at the turn of events, even if this is interspersed with concerns about whether Kabul will eventually assert a higher degree of autonomy than the ISI would like. There is China, which is primarily keen on ensuring that its periphery remains safe and it can use the Afghan geography for its neo-imperial projects under the garb of enhancing connectivity. There is the United States, shocked at the speed with which the arrangement it created collapsed in Kabul, but torn between seeing the Taliban as an ally in the battle against Islamic State-Khorasan and opposition to the values and possible threat the Taliban and its affiliates represent. Among regional countries, some such as Qatar and Turkey, are more willing to do business with Afghanistan. Others such as Iran retain strong channels of communication with the Taliban but remain concerned about the impact of its rule on the Shia population in the Iran-Afghanistan borderland.
5.India confronts increased rain-deficiency, climate migration
Several climate crisis-related studies have said that droughts will increase in northwest and peninsular India. This will affect agricultural output and also the lives of those involved in the sector
Around 29% of India’s geographical area is undergoing a spell of dry weather, according to the drought tracker of the Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar, released on Monday. The tracker captures rainfall patterns and found that till September 4, there were no drought-like conditions in about 71% of the country, but that the remaining parts face rain deficiency. Almost all of Gujarat, western Odisha, eastern West Bengal, Bundelkhand in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, and districts in the Northeast face drought-like conditions.
Alarmingly, the situation this year is different from September 4, 2020, when only 9% of India had dry weather or drought-like conditions. In India, states follow a three-step approach to declare drought. The first is to look at rainfall deviation and dry spell. The next is to look at four impact indicators (agriculture, vegetation indices based on remote sensing, soil moisture and hydrology). The third involves ground surveys to make a final determination of drought.
Several climate crisis-related studies have said that droughts will increase in northwest and peninsular India. This will affect agricultural output and also the lives of those involved in the sector. Such conditions will induce internal migration. A 2020 World Bank report on migration patterns has warned that the climate crisis-led migration in India could treble by 2050. This hasn’t drawn adequate attention in political discourse and public policy. But India needs to be prepared for rain deficiency in more parts of the country, invest in research, and address the issue of climate migration, including creating an accessible and effective social security safety net for climate migrants.