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. Clouds darken over Ajay Mishra Teni
Yesterday did not just see FM Nirmala Sitharaman call the Lakhimpur Kheri violence “absolutely condemnable”, becoming the first of Ajay Mishra Teni’s ministerial colleagues to do so. It also saw UP law minister Brijesh Pathak visit the area. While Pathak only visited the families of BJP worker Shubam Mishra and Teni’s driver Hari Om Mishra, he is the first senior BJP leader to do so — albeit ten days after the incident. Are these signs that the opposition’s call for Teni’s sacking is getting closer to being heeded?
Even on the police front, after Teni’s son Ashish appeared to be treated with kids’ gloves in the early days, the investigation seems to be proceeding as per norms. Six persons in total have been arrested by now. The opposition can certainly claim that it is the pressure put by them that is making the difference here. But we know from the past record of highly politicised cases that developments in this case too will need close scrutiny over the long haul, to make sure justice is not perverted. Ideally of course the criminal case and the politics should walk independent paths. But their deep entanglement is undeniable reality.
2.Covaxin junior: Bharat Biotech’s kids’ vaccine is good news. But why is its vaccine for adults yet to get WHO clearance?
Bharat Biotech is on the threshold of becoming the second Indian vaccine maker to receive an emergency use approval in the domestic market for a children’s Covid vaccine. The company’s vaccine, Covaxin, is already in use in the national programme. It’s supplied about 111 million doses, or 11.49% of the overall Covid vaccination coverage. The company’s vaccine for children has received a conditional approval from an expert committee of the drug regulator. The next steps will have to be a final approval and a clearance from the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation to be included in the national programme.
Earlier, Zydus Cadila’s vaccine had been cleared for children above 12. Covaxin, if it gets emergency use clearance, will span the age group 2-18. These developments are timely. India’s Covid vaccination programme has now ensured about 29.2% of the adult population is fully vaccinated. The vaccination rollout prioritised demographics at greater risk. Now, there needs to be a parallel push to vaccinate children. WHO data showed that between December 30, 2019 and September 6, 2021 children up to the age of 15 made up 8% of global cases. Therefore, the Covid containment strategy needs to bring this demographic under a protective umbrella.
That said, the absence of an emergency approval from WHO till date for Covaxin is mystifying. Two vaccines developed by China’s Sinovac and Sinopharm using the same inactivated vaccine platform have got this approval. WHO approval is a prerequisite for other benefits. It opens the door to vaccine passports and also export opportunities. Bharat Biotech needs to get past this hurdle at the earliest by satisfying WHO’s data requirements. Till it happens, it inconveniences millions of Indians who have been vaccinated with Covaxin and may now need to travel for work or to study.
India’s cumulative vaccine coverage is fast approaching the billion doses mark. The ramp-up in production, mainly of Covishield, has helped speed up the pace of vaccination over the last two months. If Covaxin manufacturing is also scaled up faster, it will aid complete normalisation of social interaction in a few months. Indian science has reason to be proud of being one of few countries to develop its own Covid vaccine. The attendant takeaway is that subsequent development and regulatory approvals need a much higher standard of recording data. Drugs and vaccines are an area where India is globally competitive. The stakeholders need to build on this base.
3.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.
4.Beguiling base: On fuel prices and inflation
States and Centre must cut fuel levies to bring down inflation and fuel consumption
The latest sets of data on industrial output and retail inflation are beguilingly heartening, with the former showing a double-digit year-on-year increase in production, and the latter positing a sharp slowdown in price gains. The Index of Industrial Production (IIP) and Consumer Price Index (CPI) figures released on Tuesday show industrial output rose 11.9% in August, while inflation in September slowed by 95 basis points from the preceding month to 4.35%. The numbers seem to indicate a gathering recovery in economic momentum, even as CPI-based inflation eases towards the RBI’s mandated target of 4%. The IIP constituents — mining, manufacturing and electricity — posted appreciable improvements of 23.6%, 9.7% and 16%, respectively. But a closer look shows the production figures were buoyed substantially by the contractions that occurred last year when the economy was still struggling to recover from the first COVID-19 lockdown. The eroded base in the case of the August 2020 IIP data disguises the fact that output actually shrank 0.2% on a month-on-month basis this year with mining and manufacturing, which together account for 94% of the index, posting sequential contractions of 0.8% and 0.5%, respectively. Only consumer non-durables and construction goods posted increases from July. The slowdown in the consumer durables category reflects the lack of demand for white goods amid the pandemic.
With last fiscal’s IIP numbers showing output rebounding in September-October 2020, and some industrial sectors, including automobile manufacturing, hit this year by raw material shortages and logistic constraints, it is hard to see production sustaining the pace of growth. Inflation too has benefited from the elevated levels in the year-earlier period when the headline reading had accelerated to 7.3% in September 2020, and subsequently touched 7.6% last October. The CPI data mask the real extent of price pressures across major product categories. Undermining nutritional security especially among the sizeable number who have suffered job or income cuts, key protein sources including meat and fish and pulses and products recorded provisional inflation of 7.99% and 8.75%, respectively, while the vital cooking medium of oils and fats saw price gains accelerate to a punishing 34.2%. Transport and communication, which captures pump prices of petrol and diesel, also stayed stuck close to double digits at 9.5%. With global crude oil ruling near three-year highs, unless the Central and State governments deign to respond to the RBI’s entreaties and cut fuel levies, there is little scope for inflation easing by much in this category. The coal crisis that is roiling power output is sure to also ripple across sectors and undermine price stability unless policy makers intervene post haste.
5.Aiding Afghans: On G20 meeting on Afghanistan
aIndia could contribute to international agencies working with displaced Afghans
At a meeting of countries with the world’s highest GDPs — the G20 — Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke about the looming humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, especially as winter nears. He also called for the international community to provide Afghanistan with “immediate and unhindered access to humanitarian assistance”. The meeting came as the UNHCR published a new appeal for funds, with a report that half the population (more than 20 million people) are in need of “lifesaving humanitarian assistance”, and the UN has received only 35% of the funds needed for its relief operations. As a result of the Taliban takeover, most direct aid to the Afghan government has dried up; its reserves have been frozen by the U.S., making it impossible for salaries to be paid. The Taliban government’s refusal to allow women to work and its stopping girls from schooling have made the situation more dire. While recognition of the Taliban and any governmental engagement is a long way off, the world is faced with the stark choice on how to ensure Afghanistan does not suffer further. At the summit, the EU committed $1.15 billion for Afghanistan and neighbouring countries where refugees have fled, while other countries including the U.S. and China pledged $1.1 billion at a donor conference in Geneva last month. India has not announced any monetary or food assistance.
The PM’s words are a welcome sign that the Government remains seized of the welfare of ordinary Afghans even as New Delhi has closed its embassy but maintains only a limited exchange with Taliban officials in Doha. Given the manner of the Taliban’s takeover in August, with support from Pakistan, maintaining links with terror groups including those that target India leaves the Government hard put to increase its engagement, or to send aid directly to the new regime. But India could contribute to international agencies that are working with displaced Afghans, particularly for about one million children at the risk of starvation. It could also help Iran and the Central Asian states that are housing refugees with monetary assistance. The Government could also consider liberalising its visa regime for Afghans, which at the moment has cancelled all prior visas to Afghan nationals, and is releasing very few e-visas for Afghans desperate to travel here. As a goodwill gesture, India could once again send food aid, including wheat, grain, fortified biscuits and other packaged food, directly to Kabul. Clearly, the imperative to act is now, at what the UN Secretary General has called a “make or break” moment for the Afghan people, and to heed the warning that if the international community, which includes a regional leader like India, does not help stave off the unfolding humanitarian crisis, not only Afghans but also the rest of the world will pay a “heavy price”.