News & Events
EDITORIAL TODAY (ENGLISH)
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.India’s mission in the US
Each strand of Indian foreign policy will be on display during Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi’s visit
Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States (US) marks the intersection of multiple strands of Indian foreign policy. The visit has a bilateral component, with the first in-person conversation between PM Modi and President Joe Biden. It has a plurilateral component, with the first in-person summit of the Quad leaders. And it has a multilateral component, as PM Modi moves to New York to address the United Nations (UN) General Assembly. In all forms of engagement, India confronts both an opportunity and a challenge.
On the bilateral front, the strategic embrace with the US is now on firm footing. This is fundamentally driven by the shared concerns on China’s behaviour, which poses a threat to American hegemony globally and Indian security directly. This has translated into deeper defence, security and intelligence cooperation. This does not mean there aren’t differences. India is particularly concerned at the situation in Afghanistan, triggered by the US withdrawal, and Washington’s continued blind spot on Islamabad. India also, while deepening strategic ties, wishes to exercise autonomy in its choices, be it in the form of acquisition of S-400s from Russia or deeper engagement with Iran or having a working relationship with the military regime in Myanmar. It is committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific vision, but would have liked Washington to be more collaborative with other like-minded partners such as Paris on AUKUS. The US is frustrated with what it sees as India’s protectionist attitude on trade, there is a political constituency which is pressuring the Biden administration to actively speak up on the quality of Indian democracy, and climate remains both an area of agreement and differences. None of these issues are insurmountable, but building on the convergence while managing the divergence is important.
2.Assam’s quest for rhino conservation
In the face of the poaching challenge, the Assam government’s decision to publicly burn horns sends out a strong message that the body part has no commercial and medicinal value, and that India values its wildlife heritage
To mark World Rhino Day, the Assam government on Wednesday destroyed nearly 2,500 horns of the one-horned rhinoceros, elephant tusks, and other body parts of other wild animals. The destruction of horns and other animal parts complies with the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, and a later Supreme Court order. While Assam had disposed of horns recovered before 1979, those collected later were at the forest department’s district treasuries after they were recovered from poachers or collected from dead rhinos. In India, one-horned rhinos were declared endangered in 1975, but downgraded to “vulnerable” in 2008. Assam has the largest population of one-horn rhino in the world, numbering about 2,600.Despite the international ban on rhino horn trade since 1977, extensive illegal trade persists through Asia because it is used as an ingredient in traditional medicine in China and some South Asian countries. However, there is no scientific proof of its medical value. Last month, the Assam government said that poachers have killed 22 one-horned rhinos in the state since 2017 and that till June 2021, 644 poachers have been arrested for the crime. In April, Assam successfully increased its rhino population to 3,000 as targeted under Indian Rhino Vision 2020.
In the face of the poaching challenge, the Assam government’s decision to publicly burn horns sends out a strong message that the body part has no commercial and medicinal value, and that India values its wildlife heritage. However, along with strengthening monitoring and law enforcement systems and tackling wildlife trade, Assam needs to restore the quality of rhino habitat and ensure rhino population density and genetic diversity.
3.Left, right and wrong: Savarkar, Golwalkar should be read in universities just as their intellectual polar opposites should be
After wide protests by student unions and others, Kannur University decided to delete readings from RSS and Hindu Mahasabha leaders MS Golwalkar and VD Savarkar that it had recently included in its postgraduate syllabus on politics. Kerala’s CPM-led LDF government had expressed its opposition. Textbook wars are not new, they erupt everywhere in the world. In India, the right-wing claims that the left has had a chokehold over higher education, pre-empting any scholarship with implications that hurt its causes. But it is also true that the Hindu right seems equally determined to erase this legacy.Some institutions have struck down texts that seem to challenge a ‘Hindutva’ storytelling. Examples are AK Ramanujan’s 300 Ramayanas, texts by Mahasweta Devi, Bama and Sukirtharani. There is a politics, a project of shaping and prioritising, in every curriculum. In conflicts over the curriculum, some argue that certain views should be outside the bounds of reasonable discourse. But the Kannur University curriculum was meant for adult postgraduate scholars, not impressionable schoolchildren.
Whether or not one agrees with Savarkar or Golwalkar, their ideas are now alive in this country. Excising them from the curriculum serves no purpose. Contextualising and engaging with their ideas is more useful even for those who oppose them. In India, historical figures tend to become larger than life, to be idealised or shunned. We personalise and glorify. But including someone in a curriculum is to grapple with their thoughts, see them respond to their situations, the historical currents that produced them, their human compromises and subterfuges. Reading texts of all shades can lead young people to see the many-sidedness of anyone held up as a Great Man, whether by the right or the left, or even by centrists, who often falsely claim to have no biases. Savarkar and Golwalkar should be read, just as their polar intellectual opposites should be.
4.Ever risky China: Market tremors following realtor Evergrande’s problems show again why Beijing needs to be transparent
Jittery global financial markets are glued to events in China. Property developer Evergrande Group, a colossus with liabilities of about $304 billion, is due to make a repayment on its debt. Speculation about the true state of Evergrande’s financial health has already rocked major financial markets. We may get to know just a little more.There are three strands key to this story. Evergrande encapsulates cronyism with Chinese characteristics. Its 25-year journey began with the opening up of housing to private ownership in the backdrop of rapid urbanisation that accompanied a scorching pace of economic growth. Close ties between the company’s founders and the Communist Party were the norm. The spinoff was that it paved the way for faster growth through access to a state-dominated financial system, characterised by a high degree of financial repression. Evergrande also branched into unrelated areas – pig farming, electric vehicles and the inevitable football team (Guangzhou FC).Second, Evergrande’s debt fuelled growth depended on robust private demand for housing; about 60% of China’s population is urban. Once growth slowed, cracks showed up across sectors. IMF’s December 2020 country report on China warned the highly indebted property sector posed financial stability risks. Weak demand could push down property prices, which would stress debt servicing. China’s central bank then took the precautionary measure of tightening debt flow to property developers, which further exposed Evergrande’s fragile foundation. The third strand is where the potential for contagion lies. IMF said that property developers had 12% of China’s corporate debt and a “significant” percentage of foreign debt.
China is the world’s second largest economy, after the US. With a GDP of $14.7 trillion, it contributes 17% of the global GDP and has an outsize impact through trade and financial flows. That’s why Evergrande’s financial health matters. The problem here is that the world does not know enough about the state of the health of China’s financial sector. This is highly risky in an interconnected world. China’s opacity in many matters is a global risk in and of itself.Separately, Evergrande forefronts the hidden financial stability risks of the liquidity waves unleashed by leading central banks. The search for yield has lowered credit appraisal standards. Hence, markets are back to wondering if Evergrande is TBTF (too big to fail)? But with China there’s nothing clearly discernible, adding to uncertainty.
5.A village is sensitised
How an SC toddler’s ‘temple run’ catalysed equality
At times, small and innocent incidents become the catalyst for a big desirable change, which may have been elusive earlier. The eventual morphing of some ugly developments following a two-year-old toddler’s ‘temple run’ into a happy outcome is one such heartwarmingly poignant case. It has served to sensitise the child’s village against oppressive practices based on caste that are, sadly, still prevalent in our society. The unfolding of the events has the stamp of a firmly entrenched, but illegal, order being challenged by an awakened class of people. Lending the defiance more weight and legitimacy is the fact that this awakened class comprises not just people of the lower classes but also broad-minded sections from the upper castes who believe in the equality and oneness of human beings. The nudge by a swift law-enforcement process sealed the matter.
So, the story goes thus: the child’s father takes him to pray at a temple in their village (Miyapur in Karnataka’s Koppal district) to celebrate his second birthday on September 4. Not realising that being a member of the SC community, he is allowed to pray only from outside, the excited boy runs inside the temple. Some elders are horrified. They impose a fine of Rs 23,000 on the family for the transgression. This amount is needed for the ‘purification rituals’ to clean the temple. Perhaps, that was the standard procedure. But not this time! Many villagers from across the social strata supported the family as it pleaded for help. The authorities too were alerted. Officials from the police, revenue and social welfare departments swooped on the village and admonished the accused. They were warned of legal action if this practice reeking of bigotry and outlawed untouchability was repeated. Accepting the apology of the high caste accused, the family too refused to lodge any complaint. By September 21, Miyapur was a picture of perfect harmony and equality among its residents.If every village is transformed thus, the country would be rid of its abhorrent caste-based divide that is exploited by the political class.
6.Status quo ante: On Canada elections
Voters backed Trudeau, but took a dim view of his decision to call the snap election
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had framed the September 20 Parliamentary election as Canada’s “pivotal moment”. Two years into the four-year term of his minority government, he dissolved Parliament and called the snap election hoping that Canadians would give him an absolute majority. However, Mr. Trudeau must be both relieved and disappointed with the preliminary results. His Liberal Party got the most seats in Parliament, at 158, just one more than what they won in the 2019 vote, but well short of a majority of 170 seats. To continue to stay in power, the Liberals will have to depend on smaller parties. The Conservatives, who under the leadership of Erin O’Toole took a moderate position on contentious issues from carbon tax to a ban on assault rifles, failed to make any gain. His plan was to reach out to the voters beyond the Conservative base and take on the liberals on policy specifics rather than on ideology. They secured 119 seats, down from 121 in 2019. While the centre-left New Democrats, led by Jagmeet Singh, won 25 seats, one more than in the last vote, the Bloc Québécois, which backs Quebec independence, took 34 seats, a gain of two. Mr. Singh, whose party backed Mr. Trudeau’s minority government after the 2019 election, has hinted that he would continue to support the Liberals.
Mr. Trudeau, son of the former Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, took over the party’s reins in 2013 at a time when the liberal prospects were dim. But a young Mr. Trudeau not only revived the Liberal Party but also led it to a surprise election victory in 2015. He has remained the most influential voice in Canada’s political landscape. In 2019, he secured victory but without an absolute majority, which forced him to seek the support of the New Democrats. Poll numbers for the Liberals soared after the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. By calling the snap election, Mr. Trudeau’s plan was to turn those numbers into actual votes and win a fresh four-year term with a clear majority. But the decision to call a mid-term election was controversial. His rivals called him a political opportunist who had pushed the country into an expensive election — at C$600 million, it is the most expensive in its history — in the midst of the COVID scare. Voter turnout, at 58.44%, was the lowest ever. In the end, the voters backed Mr. Trudeau’s government but stopped short of endorsing his political gamble. Having led the party to three back-to-back victories, he is the undisputed leader of the Liberals. He should focus on the art of coalition politics, finding common ground with the New Democrats for his progressive legislative agenda and providing stable governance to tackle Canada’s myriad problems, from the COVID challenge to the climate crisis.
7.A time to introspect: On Centre-State dialogue and GST
More Centre-State deliberations needed with GST regime at a critical turning point
At its first physical meeting during the pandemic, the GST Council approved a flurry of changes. Concessional tax rates on vital COVID-19 equipment such as oxygen concentrators will lapse on September 30, while the lower rates on medicines were extended till December. Whatever the pace of vaccination, there are no signs the virus and its variants would be extinct on New Year’s Day, so the Council could have taken a more considerate view on pandemic essentials. Tax rate tweaks were okayed for an eclectic range of sectors with long-pending course correction on inverted duty structures plaguing several items, including footwear and textiles. The semblance of clarity brought in on a much-disputed issue — the definition of an intermediary — is welcome, for it was hurting several sectors, including IT services exports. Double taxation on the import of leased aircraft goes. Food delivery services players shall be made liable to collect and remit taxes instead of the restaurants. One awaits the fine print to assess the impact on consumers and smaller outlets. The plan to tax coconut oil as a personal care item at 18% for pack sizes below one litre and retain the 5% rate on edible oils for larger packs, has been held back for study, and will hopefully be shelved for good.
These pluses and minuses aside, two things stand out for Indian consumers — the Council’s firm dismissal of any shift of petroleum products to GST to lower the tax burden and the fact that GST cess on automobiles, tobacco and aerated drinks will now be levied till April 2026, not June 2022 as originally envisaged. While the Council may have discussed petro products only briefly to comply with a Kerala High Court order, consumers who need some relief on fuel prices — irrespective of who cuts taxes — may have held misplaced hopes. If the Government really wants a consumption rebound that may reignite private investments, the Centre and States must begin talks on rationalising fuel taxes. The Finance Minister has often expressed the worry: ‘What if we cut taxes and States do not’. Perhaps, a compact could be arrived at, so both give up a little revenue to spur spending. A similar dialogue is needed for an honest review of the GST regime’s progress and the way ahead. With just nine more months of assured compensation for States, they are worried about revenue streams falling off the cliff thereafter. Their pleas for an extension in the compensation period have met with stern diffidence and the argument that GST revenues are below expectations. Two ministerial groups have been tasked to augment revenues using technology and rate rationalisations. The Centre need not wait for their reports to hold a special Council meeting to discuss States’ compensation concerns, as had been promised. At this juncture, the Council should be a forum for empathetic contemplation, not fractious friction.