News & Events
In this section, we are presenting our raders/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. A credible probe: On Supreme Court verdict on Pegasus row
The Supreme Court order instituting an independent probe into the possible use of Israeli spyware Pegasus is an effective intervention to protect citizens from unlawful surveillance, as well as a stern rebuff to the Government’s attempt to cover up the issue by using the bogey of ‘national security’. It was clear from day one, following the revelations that nearly 300 of some 50,000 phone numbers allegedly identified for surveillance belonged to Indians, that the Government would choose to brazen it out rather than hold or facilitate a credible inquiry. Ultimately, its tactic of sticking to a blanket denial of any wrongdoing, without acknowledging whether or not the spyware was available to government agencies, failed. The 46-page order by a Bench headed by the Chief Justice of India, N.V. Ramana, stands out for the enunciation of two clear principles: that surveillance, or even the knowledge that one could be spied upon, affects the way individuals exercise their rights, warranting the Court’s intervention; and that there is no omnibus prohibition on judicial review merely because the spectre of national security is being raised. The Court deemed unacceptable the Government’s refusal to shed any light on a controversy that involves possible violation of citizens’ rights and made it clear that national security considerations cannot be used by the state “to get a free pass”. The Court has approached the issue as one that raises an “Orwellian concern”, recognising that intrusive surveillance not only violates the right to privacy but also has a chilling effect on the freedom of the press.
When damning revelations emerged that many phones of journalists, activists and even doctors and court staff were targets of military-grade spyware designed not only to grab data but also take control of devices, the Government ought to have responded, as some nations did, with alarm and alacrity. Instead, it resorted to a bald claim that illegal surveillance is not possible in India, and that the disclosure of whether or not a particular software suite was used by its agencies would compromise national security. The Court is right in making it plain that any such concern or claim of immunity ought to have been substantiated on affidavit. What is quite appalling is that the Government was unwilling even to disclose what action had been taken after it admitted in Parliament in 2019 that it was aware of some WhatsApp users being targeted by Pegasus. Its offer of ordering an inquiry on its own has been rightly rejected by the Court — it would command little credibility. The Court-supervised panel appears to have the required expertise and independence, but its success in unravelling the truth may depend on how much information it can extract from the Government and its surveillance agencies. For its part, the Government would do well to depart from its record of obfuscation and stonewalling and cooperate with the inquiry.
2. A world minus ads: On social media outrage and brand campaigns
Social media outrage against brand campaigns is fuelled by intolerance to progressive values
In a land of matchless diversity, where 138 crore people live, it is perhaps not surprising that social conflicts run along several lines including caste, class, gender, language and religion. Deepening fault lines touch every part of life, and advertising, which at a basic level nudges a consumer to make a purchasing decision but also does social messaging, is learning it the hard way. With the start of the festival season, at least two companies, Fabindia and Dabur, have had to pull out ads days after the launch for “offending sentiments” and huge social media outrage. In the case of Fabindia, people protested against the use of the words “Jashn-e-riwaaz” for a new collection of clothes ahead of Deepavali. The brand later clarified that all its products in “Jashn-e-riwaaz” are “a celebration of Indian traditions” and that its Deepavali collection was yet to be launched. Yet it chose to withdraw the ad. BJP MP Tejasvi Surya led the campaign against Fabindia calling for an economic boycott; a hashtag #NoBindiNoBusiness also did the rounds, in protest against the models in the ad without bindis. Dabur’s Fem brand had to pull out a Karwa Chauth ad which showed a same-sex couple observing the rituals. A Ceat ad featuring Aamir Khan asking people not to burst crackers on the roads too upset the right wing which said it should have also addressed the “problem of blocking roads” for namaz.
While advertisements which do not stick to the script can be a breath of fresh air, there are some which miss the mark completely with the messaging. So, if Shah Rukh Khan’s latest Cadbury ad urging people to buy from small kirana shops this Deepavali is making the right noises, Kent RO’s atta and bread maker ad last year and its tone-deaf portrayal of house-helps was decried. Tanishq, a jewellery brand co-owned by the Tatas, had to withdraw an ad last year that showed a Muslim family organising Hindu baby shower rituals for their Hindu daughter-in-law. It got vitriolic comments with some accusing the Tatas of promoting “Love Jihad”. Congress MP Shashi Tharoor and others were aghast that a symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity could irk a section of people. They cried foul that nuance was getting lost in the cacophony of perceived hurt sentiments. If advertising is about selling a product, no company will willingly put out a campaign that may hurt its brand. The messaging must be sensitive, and that comes when a marketing team has its ear to the ground. It is nothing unusual for some ad campaigns to fail. But, worryingly, many brands have had to withdraw their campaign material after manufactured social media outrage that was fed by intolerance of progressive values and religious bigotry of the worst order.
3. GoI needs to play a role in helping Covaxin get international regulatory approval
The process of getting regulatory clearances for India’s indigenous Covid vaccine, Covaxin, is at a puzzling stage. While Bharat Biotech, the vaccine manufacturer, has been unable to present a strong enough case for an emergency approval by WHO, the recent conditional clearance by the CDC in the US has added to mystery around Covaxin’s international approval.
As reported in Times of India, CDC’s approval is unclear on whether it covers all people who have been administered Covaxin or only those who got it as participants in clinical trials.
At this point, GoI has to get a grip on the situation. Covaxin is GoI’s intellectual property as it was developed by the National Institute of Virology. The Supreme Court was informed by GoI that it receives royalty from the sale of Covaxin.
The delay in international regulatory clearance has a negative impact on India’s vaccination campaign, people who have been administered Covaxin and need to travel, and the country’s vaccine industry.
GoI needs to step in to get to the bottom of the problem here. It’s in our larger interest.
4. Privacy & security: SC makes a forceful intervention on Pegasus. Its expert committee has the right remit
In giving a clear direction to an expert committee constituted by it to expeditiously probe the Pegasus issue, the Supreme Court bench headed by CJI NV Ramana made a giant intervention for the citizen’s right to privacy. The court disagreed with GoI’s arguments that sought exemption from judicial review by citing “national security”. SC took note that GoI couldn’t cogently explain how answering questions on Pegasus would endanger national security. Its observations highlighted again the importance of finding out whether Pegasus was used with official sanction against citizens. Significantly, SC said widespread surveillance also deters journalists, who have to protect their sources, from doing their job.
Pegasus when lodged in target phones can access data, eavesdrop on conversations and allegedly even perform malicious implants. This is an entirely different order of surveillance from phone tapping. Therefore, the expert committee’s terms of reference rightly include investigating whether Pegasus was planted in phones of Indian citizens for surveillance, identifying those surveilled, establish if any government agency acquired the spyware, and whether lawful procedures were followed for operating it.
Petitioners to SC weren’t opposed to surveillance in national interest and said they wanted no information affecting national security. Though GoI argued revelations would hamper national security, significantly it didn’t claim any right to surveillance even when national security or interest isn’t involved. Relying on this, the court inferred a “broad consensus” that unauthorised surveillance of citizens for reasons other than national security would be illegal and objectionable.
While admitting limited scope for judicial review in matters of national security, SC also concluded that this doesn’t entitle the state to “a free pass” every time the spectre of national security is raised: “National security cannot be the bugbear that the judiciary shies away from, by virtue of its mere mentioning.” In effect, SC has underscored that individual rights aren’t extinguished merely because the state claims national security threats.
The expert committee must also propose more vigorous safeguards to improve existing laws and procedures for surveillance. The Telegraph Act on phone wiretaps and Information Technology Act on interception of electronic devices suffer from the infirmity of civil bureaucracy signing off on each other’s requests. Judicial oversight would enable a measure of independent checks and balances. As malware turns ever more insidious and governments more tech-savvy, the kind of intervention SC did is just what India needs to build a system that offers meaningful protection of the fundamental right to privacy while not compromising national security imperatives.
5. Hearts and minds: In Kashmir, the key goal for govt is to win popular support. Police action should factor this in
Following India’s loss to Pakistan on Sunday’s T20 cricket match, some students in two medical colleges in Srinagar allegedly raised slogans in support of Pakistan. It led the police to register two cases against them under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. So, let us, first, make an obvious point: Pakistan’s military-jihadi complex is a threat to India, but a few people in India supporting Pakistan in cricket – especially when they played so well – isn’t. Then comes the question whether this was a spontaneous response on those students’ part or was it a result of a larger ‘plan’ or ‘plot’ to ‘instigate trouble’ in a state where trouble is never in short supply.
If it was the former, applying UAPA, a controversial and draconian law meant to deal with terror, is a clear case of over-reach. If it was the latter, careful and credible investigation needs to be done to substantiate the police’s theory. This investigation must be seen to establish that something other than supporting a cricket team was at play. Minus that, any police action will not only violate the principle of personal liberty, it will also ironically make the state’s job of winning hearts and minds in J&K even more difficult than it already is.
It is in the interest of those who wish India harm that the popular narrative in Kashmir sees the Indian state as an unfair, overbearing entity. Making jobs and government benefits a part of possible penal action feeds into this narrative. India’s firm goal in Kashmir is to integrate the Valley into mainstream, while battling every dirty trick that Pakistan’s terror planners come up with. To do that the state must not only fight terrorists but also be smart and sensitive while dealing with locals.