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.Islamic State vs Taliban
No matter who is in power in Kabul, Afghanistan sees little prospect of peace
The suicide attack on a mosque in Kunduz last week, killing at least 50 people, all of them from Afghanistan’s persecuted Shia minority, is a grave reminder that the conflict in the country is far from over. The Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K), the Afghanistan-based arm of the terrorist organisation, has claimed responsibility. The IS’s doctrinal hatred towards the Shias is known. In Iraq and Syria, it systematically targeted Shias, who it calls “rejectionists” of faith, and used such attacks to mobilise the support of Sunni hardliners and trigger sectarian conflicts. The Kunduz blast was the third major attack by the IS since the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul on August 15. Days later, an IS suicide squad attacked Kabul airport when thousands of Afghans were desperately trying to flee the country, killing at least 170 Afghans and 13 American soldiers. On October 3, a bomb targeted a memorial service being held for the mother of the Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, in a Kabul mosque, killing five. All these attacks suggest that the IS-K’s ability to strike has grown. The group, which started operating in Afghanistan’s eastern provinces after it suffered setbacks in Iraq and Syria in 2015-16, is no longer confined to the east.
When the Taliban captured power in 1996, their main promise was to provide security to a people who were living through almost two decades of civil war. The Taliban had taken control of almost 90% of the country and established order through the implementation of their brutal code. This time, the Taliban control almost all of the country, but still struggle to establish order. There have been multiple instances of direct fighting between the Taliban and IS-K jihadists. The Taliban is an enemy for the IS-K, which wants to establish a foothold in Afghanistan exploiting the its sectarian wounds and security vacuum. While both groups have used tactics of terror, the IS-K is a pan-Islamist jihadist outfit, while the Taliban are largely a Pashtun nationalist militancy. The rise of the IS-K poses multiple challenges to the Taliban’s rule over Afghanistan, which many in Afghanistan and Pakistan saw as a solution to the country’s security woes. On one side, their promise to provide security looks hollow. Afghanistan’s cities under the Taliban remain as insecure as they were under the previous Islamic Republic. On the other hand, even if the Taliban, under pressure from Afghanistan’s donors and the public, want to make some concessions on the many restrictions already imposed, they would come under pressure from the more extremist IS-K, which says the Taliban are not Islamic enough. For the people of Afghanistan, who are stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea, the war that started 40 years ago continues, no matter who is in power in Kabul.
2.Jabbing children: On a COVID-19 vaccine for kids
As Covaxin gets closer to approval for children, data transparency is vital
As a milestone, the Subject Expert Committee’s (SEC) recommendation to the Drugs Controller to grant emergency use authorisation (EUA) for Covaxin among children aged 2-18 years, is huge. If the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) goes ahead and grants approval, it will be the first vaccine to be administered to children in India. While one other vaccine, ZyCoV-D, has been granted EUA, it is still to be administered. Trials have started with the Serum Institute’s Covovax for children, extending the timeline of any other COVID-19 vaccine for actual use in children. On the front of it, it seems like a tremendous achievement within a short period. While the data seem to have convinced the SEC that there is cause to make its considered recommendation, none of that is yet in the public domain, at the time of SEC’s announcement. Bharat Biotech presented interim data from the phase II/III trials to the DCGI, as the safety follow-up is longer in this case. One month after the two doses, an immunogenicity check and safety follow up are done, according to reports. The company claimed the data indicated that the vaccine used — the same product and presentation as the adult vaccine — was safe. The two-dose Covaxin was administered to 525 children 28 days apart, after it received the nod to conduct trials on children in May this year. A possibly unintended but welcome outcome of the pandemic is the stress on being transparent about scientific data generated in trials. Data from other vaccine trials have routinely been posted in the public realm, not just with state regulators.
Working on vaccine or drug regimens with children is challenging on many fronts; to start with, it is not merely a case of sizing down adult dosage for children. Children have distinct developmental and physiological differences, and WHO recommends that clinical trials in children are essential to develop age-specific, empirically verified therapies and interventions to determine the best possible treatments for them. Their bodies work in very different ways and they undergo many changes as they grow from infancy towards adolescence and adulthood, calling for age de-escalation studies in trials, beginning with an older age group, and working towards the youngest group. Another question experts are raising is whether the cohort of 525 children is large enough to wing an EUA, or if incremental numbers should be added, given the size of the target paediatric/teen population. Many of these questions are easily addressed with publication of the data. While a recommendation is only that, it has indeed raised extraordinary expectations in the community. The DCGI, as it considers the SEC’s advice, should address the concerns raised, and reinstate the issue of transparency to its rightful place as the cornerstone of scientific temper, besides infusing confidence in the public.
3.LAC, LoC questions: Pakistan and China challenges require working on basics and preparing for the long haul
Two developments in the last 72 hours again highlight the strategic-security challenges India faces along its northern border. On Monday, five army personnel – including a junior commissioned officer – were killed in a gunfight with terrorists in Poonch district. This marks the highest number of casualties suffered by the armed forces in a single encounter in Jammu & Kashmir this year. Coming on the heels of the targeted killings of civilians, the latest incident shows that India needs to be prepared for both conventional and unconventional terror tactics.
Meanwhile, the 13th round of top-level military talks to resolve the India-China standoff along the LAC failed to achieve any momentum with both sides hardening their respective positions. This means the Chinese are unwilling to go beyond the partial disengagement achieved at some friction points earlier this year. From a strategic point of view, the two simultaneous challenges stretch India’s security forces. And given that Pakistan and China have developed an all-weather relationship – strengthened further by the recent US pullout from Afghanistan – the possibility of Islamabad and Beijing tactically collaborating to hem in New Delhi cannot be ruled out.
That said, it must also be clear that the two challenges are operationally different. With Pakistan what works is a solid defensive strategy focussed on preventing infiltration, neutralising terror handlers and de-radicalising local youths, while keeping the option of limited cross-LoC strikes on the table. True, Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan may have emboldened anti-India Pakistani terror groups. But their masterminds in ISI wouldn’t want to undo the ceasefire with India which would force the Pakistani army to relocate assets from its troublesome Afghan border to the LoC.
Therefore, a sensible strategy for India would be to beef up the basics. Improving counter-terror intelligence and physical assets like the LoC fencing – which is annually damaged due to heavy snowfall and suffers bureaucratic delays in requisitioning replacement parts and generator fuel – is the way to go. On China, however, India needs to be resolute and patient. Given the current Chinese government’s nationalist turn and with the Chinese Communist Party’s 20th congress next year, Beijing is unlikely to concede and lose face at the LAC. Here India should continue to work with allies like the US and Quad platform to mount pressure on China, while looking to press the advantage in tactically strong positions – like the Kailash Range – along the LAC. The Sumdorong Chu crisis with China took nine years to resolve. India should be similarly prepared this time.
4.RTI’s slow death: A pathbreaking governance reform is becoming defunct, and all political parties are to blame
Quality of a democracy depends on a lot more than the right to exercise franchise. The Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Constitution has placed the people’s right to information squarely within the ambit of fundamental rights, or Article 19(1)(a). It’s in this backdrop that the enactment of Right to Information in 2005 was hailed as a milestone in strengthening democracy by giving citizens a tool to enforce accountability, particularly of public expenditure. Over its journey of 16 years, however, RTI’s potential has been diluted by insincerity in its implementation.
The latest iteration of citizens’ group Satark Nagrik Sangathan’s annual publication on the state of RTI implementation presents a bleak picture. RTI is overseen by information commissions, both of GoI’s and states’. Cutting across party lines, RTI’s potential is being diluted by delays in appointing both chief information commissioners and information commissioners to relevant bodies. Consequently, there’s a build-up of outstanding cases, which hugely extends the timeline to dispose of them. If this situation persists, it will all but kill RTI even while it remains on the statute books. In fact, SC in a February 2019 judgment warned against this possibility.
Of the 29 commissions studied in the report, three were found to be completely defunct. An example of two states indicates how RTI is being rendered toothless. UP’s commission did not have a head for a full year, while Rajasthan did not appoint one for two years. In Odisha, the disposal of a case, based on the current trend, will take almost seven years. In all, there was a backlog of 2.55 lakh cases on June 30, an increase of almost 11,000 since the year’s start. Maharashtra had the largest number of outstanding cases at 74,240. Indian democracy deserves better. A tool that empowers citizens cannot be allowed to be undermined.
5.In Uttar Pradesh, the SP’s challenge
On Tuesday, the Samajwadi Party (SP) kicked off its campaign for the 2022 assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh with a “Vijay Yatra” from Kanpur; this yatra will, intermittently, continue till the elections and traverse the state
On Tuesday, the Samajwadi Party (SP) kicked off its campaign for the 2022 assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh with a “Vijay Yatra” from Kanpur; this yatra will, intermittently, continue till the elections and traverse the state. As is the norm with political campaigns, since parties believe that projecting the inevitability of their victory and the defeat of their opponent is essential to creating a “hawa” (broadly referring to a political climate in their favour), SP’s leader and former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav said that Yogi Adityanath would be swept away in 2022. But Mr Yadav knows that translating rhetoric into reality will be his biggest political test so far. In 2012, he rode the bicycle (SP’s symbol) as a fresh face, and leveraged the anti-incumbency against Mayawati’s government; but since then, in each election — the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha polls, and the 2017 assembly polls — the SP, under Mr Yadav, has faced a rout.
It has faced a rout simply because the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has overturned the formula that helped Mandal parties across the Hindu heartland ride to power. Be it the SP in UP or Rashtriya Janata Dal in Bihar, the formula was rather simple — pick a dominant backward caste (Yadavs) and promise them political power; ally with Muslims and promise them security; pick influential local political entrepreneurs as candidates who brought wealth and their own caste votes, and the election was sealed. The BJP has effected an electoral revolution by creating a larger sense of Hindu solidarity that spans castes, but doing so through careful multi-caste alliances. So it united upper castes (but with an obvious tilt towards Thakurs) and mobilised non-dominant backward and Dalits in terms of social alliances, stoked the politics of distrust against Muslims, delivered on provision of private goods on a mass scale (houses, gas, toilets), banked on the yearning for strong leadership, exemplified by Narendra Modi and, in UP’s case, Mr Adityanath, and created an organisational machine.