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 competitions
1.Sanctions and rights: On U.S. move to sanction RAB
The action against RAB should deter overzealous law enforcement agents
The U.S. move to sanction a paramilitary unit in Bangladesh, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), has apparently caught the administration in Dhaka off-guard, prompting a diplomatic pushback including Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen summoning U.S. Ambassador to Dhaka Earl Miller to protest the action. Fresh on the heels of the U.S. President Joe Biden’s Democracy Summit, which Dhaka was not invited to attend, the U.S. Treasury said that as per the allegations made by various NGOs, the RAB and other Bangladeshi law enforcement units were responsible for “more than 600 disappearances since 2009, nearly 600 extrajudicial killings since 2018, and torture”; there were also reports suggesting that the targets of these actions were Opposition party members, journalists, and human rights activists. The sanctions were invoked under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. The RAB is a joint task force founded in 2004. Under the RAB’s mandate of ensuring internal security, intelligence-gathering on criminal activities, and government-directed investigations, principally relating to Bangladesh’s war on drugs, there have been “widespread allegations of serious human rights abuse” by the RAB, to the extent that they threaten U.S. national security interests by undermining the rule of law and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, according to the U.S. Treasury.
The broader picture of the U.S.’s application of sanctions to alleged human rights violators across the globe is that the latest list of allegations includes not just the RAB, but also government officials and administrators in the Xinjiang region of China, where the minority Uighur community is reported to have faced rights violations; citizens of North Korea suspected to be engaged in earning illicit incomes abroad to support the country’s arms trade and Russian institutions that have aided them; two military officials from Sri Lanka alleged to have committed gross rights violations against ethnic Tamils; and Chief Ministers of States in Myanmar who are alleged to have facilitated “ongoing brutal crackdowns against the people of Burma, including children and members of ethnic minority groups.…” A knee-jerk response to such sweeping sanctions is to either question their effectiveness or challenge their moral authority given that minorities in the U.S., such as African-Americans, are also periodically at the receiving end of rights violations. However, given the rampant degree of such violations worldwide, there is a case to be made for any policy by any country that highlights the role of specific individuals alleged to be involved. Especially across South Asia, it might be salutary for the broader cause of human rights if there is a ripple effect of the sanctions on the RAB. Indeed, if this action gives pause for thought to overzealous law enforcement agents who violently act out their prejudices against ethnic or religious minorities, that would be welcome.
2.Last lap: On close races fought at Formula One
Close races are good for Formula One, but not those decided behind closed doors
In what was one of the most closely fought Formula One World Championships for the drivers’ title, 24-year-old Max Verstappen from the Netherlands became the sport’s latest champion in a breathtaking season finale at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday. The Dutchman driving for Red Bull Racing achieved the feat by overtaking his title-rival, Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, on the last lap of the last race of the year in controversial circumstances. Going into the weekend, both drivers had exactly 369.5 points, meaning whoever finished ahead would take the title, a scenario last seen in 1974. Ever since he made his debut as a 17-year-old in 2015, the youngest in the sport’s history, Verstappen has been tipped as a champion in waiting. Widely seen as a generational talent, in his sixth year in the sport, he finally had a car that could compete against Hamilton who has won the last four titles. This season, Verstappen was brutally consistent with 10 race wins and eight second-place finishes out of 22 races. Meanwhile, Hamilton was going for a record eighth drivers’ title, a feat that would have put him ahead of the great Michael Schumacher. For the first 54 laps, it seemed the British driver had the eighth title in his bag after beating pole-sitter Verstappen at the start and controlling the race with almost a 10-second lead.
Four laps from the end, a crash for Williams driver Nicholas Latifi, brought in the safety car that nullified Hamilton’s lead. On the penultimate lap of a 58-lap race, officials from the sport’s governing body, Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), made two decisions that worked to Verstappen’s advantage. Racing resumed for the last lap allowing Verstappen, now on Hamilton’s tail, to attack his rival and pass him to seal the win. The Mercedes team protested the classification of results arguing right procedures were not followed before the race was resumed on the last lap. But in a late-night decision, race stewards dismissed the team’s protests, formally confirming the Dutchman’s first world title. Mercedes has lodged an intent to appeal the stewards’ decision and has three days to decide whether it wants to take it to the FIA’s International Court of Appeal. The controversy has cast a long shadow over what has been one of the closest seasons in recent times with both Verstappen and Hamilton evenly matched. The ad hoc manner in which race officials conducted the final moments of the race has left a sour note, with the final result being decided behind closed doors and still subject to change. The governing body desperately needs to address these inconsistencies before the next year lest it loses the trust of fans as a fair arbiter.
3.Mix & match vaxes: If the critical question for boosters is what vaccine to use, govt has new challenges to handle
Two key issues appear to be emerging in GoI’s consideration of a booster dose: When to start administering them, and which vaccines to use. The UK is warning of a “tidal wave” of Omicron cases and has advanced its booster shot targets for adults from January-end to this month’s end. India must also show greater urgency, recalling the horrifying devastation wreaked by the Delta variant in April and May. It has nearly 5 crore citizens – 2.7 crore of them in the high-exposure or vulnerable category like healthcare workers and senior citizens – whose duration since second dosing range between 6 and 10 months
The question of which vaccine to boost with is more complex. In countries recommending boosters, Pfizer’s mRNA has become the booster of choice. There is apprehension that a viral vector vaccine like Covishield won’t offer the same protection as a booster to those already jabbed with it twice. Covishield was administered to 90% of Indian adults and its ample stocks were expected to help India’s booster effort. Meanwhile, Covaxin third dose trial results are expected shortly. If NTAGI, the apex technical advisory group with the mandate to recommend boosters, rules out Covishield as a booster for those already dosed twice with it, the focus will automatically shift to other vaccines and their production capacities.
Here, several locally produced candidates are in the fray but only two have secured emergency use authorisation so far: Covaxin and ZyCov-D. The third candidate Covovax is manufactured in India by SII, is already being exported, and has done well in a major UK mix-and-match study with the AstraZeneca vaccine (Covishield). There’s also Bharat Biotech’s intranasal vaccine, Corbevax, for which GoI has reserved 30 crore doses, and Gennova’s mRNA vaccine in various stages of Phase 2/3 trials.
Alongside these Phase 3 trials, GoI must concurrently initiate their mix-and-match studies with Covishield and Covaxin. Given the likelihood of the Covid vaccine becoming an annual affair like the flu shot and the vaccine bouquet poised to grow even larger, India has to develop its research capabilities in mix-and-match studies. India’s vaccination effort is entering a new trajectory – and it’s not getting any easier.
4.Telling questions: Even with a plan to reduce the stress of board exams, CBSE finds a way to increase it
In a rare turn of events, a CBSE exam question raised cries of “shame” in Parliament yesterday. Drawing the government’s attention to “the nationwide outrage regarding a shockingly regressive passage” that featured in a Class X exam, Congress president Sonia Gandhi read out parts of it. Its gist is that “subordination” of wife once taught “children and servants” to know their place but her “emancipation” has now destroyed discipline in homes. CBSE has responded by first dropping this set of questions and next saying that it will set up an expert committee to review and strengthen the paper-setting process. This must happen quickly, the findings must be made public, and the follow-up action must look credible.
The pandemic-led disruption two summers in a row saw students waiting week to month to know whether exams would be held. There was a further anxious wait to know how evaluation would be done. CBSE did right to minimise uncertainties for the 2021-22 academic session by splitting it into two terms, the first of which is being assessed now in a multiple-choice format. But the pileup of complaints indicates that its exam-setters have fallen short of the challenge.
The board’s walkback on the gender passage above, as also on a question about Gujarat riots earlier, have grabbed the most attention. But beyond these there has been a spate of grammatical errors, incorrect or even missing questions, wrong answer keys, and other glitches. In one case the CBSE controller responded to criticism by saying that “the options were a bit tricky, but not confusing.” Such quibbling suggests wilful misunderstanding of the objective test format. Us adults have failed to vaccinate the children, open schools for them or give them mid-day meals. Now, badly framed exam questions are another source of anxiety.
Of the over 60 boards in the country, CBSE accreditation is near the top. Why aren’t these obvious lapses detected in the review process? How robust is the process that selects question-setters? In case of egregious goof-ups, how is accountability fixed? CBSE has many questions to answer – and they are all grammatically correct, sensible ones.
5. CBSE: Education in India must be progressive
How was a passage that is sexist, demeaning towards women, and (in the pursuit of knowledge) factually inaccurate, part of a central board exam?
Education is the foundation that a civilised society is built on, with the quality of education directly linked to a country’s growth. And it is in this pursuit that the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) found itself under fire on Friday. In the reading section of a class 10 exam held on December 11, passages (which students were to read and tick the right answers) were full of controversial statements that relegated women to subservient roles within the household, and even went so far as to blame feminism for indisciplined children. On Monday, CBSE issued a statement dropping the passage, awarding full marks to all students for the passage, and announced, later in the day, that it is setting up an expert committee to review the mistake — a move that seemed to be driven by the outrage generated by the passage, and accusations that CBSE was misogynistic and gender-insensitive. Congress president Sonia Gandhi even raised this issue in Parliament, asking the Centre and CBSE to apologise.
The issue boils down to this: How was a passage that is sexist, demeaning towards women, and (in the pursuit of knowledge) factually inaccurate, part of an exam? The ministry of education and CBSE have their work cut out for them: While conducting a thorough review is essential, it must also be reiterated — especially to young students — that these are not social norms that a progressive country such as India adheres to — or even agrees with. In the long-term, paying more attention to detail, especially regarding gender-sensitive issues, is needed. Education has the ability to help India move away from outdated patriarchal practices. For the women of tomorrow to know that they are equals to men, the foundation must be laid in school.