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.For an honest broker: On Russia and India-China ties
Any offer from Russia to play the facilitator in talks with China must be scrutinised closely
Days after meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi, Russian President Vladimir Putin held a summit via video conference with Chinese President Xi Jinping. While the two meetings may have focused on bilateral issues, the conversations appear to have overlapped in unusual ways. According to a senior Kremlin official, after discussing with Mr. Modi India’s problems with Chinese aggression, which were raised publicly during the visit by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Mr. Putin “briefed” Mr. Xi on his talks in Delhi. The official then indicated that a trilateral summit of the leaders of Russia, India and China (RIC) could be held in the near future, which would pick up on the Modi-Putin-Xi conversation during an RIC summit on the sidelines of the Osaka G-20 summit in 2019. However, much has occurred between that summit and today. China’s aggression at the Line of Actual Control has dented hopes of peaceful coexistence and growth between the neighbours that had been outlined during the RIC as well as the Modi-Xi Mamallapuram summit, when the leaders last met face to face. Since April 2020, the two leaders have not spoken directly once, and while they have attended the same multilateral summits (BRICS, SCO, G-20, etc.), it would be hard to see them engaging in a face-to-face format unless the situation at the LAC considerably eases. In addition, the RIC summit should not be held before promises made by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in meetings with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar are fulfilled.
While India-Russia defence and bilateral ties have considerably strengthened, especially after the Modi government’s decision to go ahead with its purchase of the S-400 missile defence systems despite the U.S. threat of sanctions, New Delhi must tread cautiously in its trilateral and multilateral cooperation with Moscow and any hint that Russia could play a facilitator of talks with China must be scrutinised closely. Russia and China have consolidated their support for each other in the face of U.S. concerns over Russian action against Ukraine and Chinese action on Taiwan. Russia is also deeply dependent on Chinese investment, particularly in the 30-year $400 billion gas pipeline. On Afghanistan, Russia has shown that it was prepared to cut India out of negotiations held by the Troika plus group with the U.S., China and Pakistan. Any expectation that Mr. Putin could play “honest broker” between Mr. Modi and Mr. Xi must take these factors into account. While India must continue to walk the tightrope between Moscow and Washington, and its partners in Eurasia versus those in the Indo-Pacific, it needs to disentangle these threads from the very potent threat it faces directly and bilaterally from its northern neighbour, where it has little choice but to follow an independent path.
2.When the chips are down: On India’s Semiconductor Mission
The Semiconductor Mission can power the development of the chip and display industry
The Union Cabinet’s decision this week to set aside ₹76,000 crore for supporting the development of a ‘semiconductors and display manufacturing ecosystem’ is a belated but welcome acknowledgment of the strategic significance of integrated circuits, or chips, to a modern economy. The basic building blocks that serve as the heart and brain of all modern electronics and information and communications technology products, the ubiquitous chips are now an integral part of contemporary automobiles, household gadgets such as refrigerators, and essential medical devices such as ECG machines. The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically thrown into sharp relief the vulnerability that a range of manufacturing industries and, by extension, national economies are exposed to in the face of disruptions in the supply of these vital semiconductors. The pandemic-driven push to take sizeable parts of daily economic and essential activity online, or at least digitally enable them, has also highlighted the centrality of the chip-powered computers and smartphones in people’s lives. With the bulk of semiconductor manufacturing and supply capability concentrated in a handful of countries including Taiwan, South Korea, U.S., Japan and, more recently, China, governments worldwide have realised that it is in the national interest to treat chip manufacturing as a strategic imperative. The Cabinet decision to simultaneously establish an India Semiconductor Mission helmed by ‘global industry experts’ to drive long-term strategies for the sustainable development of the chip and display industry is therefore a step in the right direction.
The challenge ahead, however, is fairly daunting. For one, the level of fiscal support currently envisioned is minuscule when one considers the scale of investments typically required to set up manufacturing capacities in the various sub sectors of the semiconductor industry. A semiconductor fabrication facility, or fab, can cost multiples of a billion dollars to set up even on a relatively small scale and lagging by a generation or two behind the latest in technology. Even granting that India’s Production Linked Incentive scheme intends to give only 50% of the cost of setting up at least two greenfield semiconductor fabs by way of fiscal support, not much of the current scheme outlay of approximately $10 billion is likely to be left to support other elements including display fabs, packaging and testing facilities, and chip design centres. Chip fabs are also very thirsty units requiring millions of litres of clean water and extremely stable power supply. It may be best if the new mission focuses fiscal support, for now, on other parts of the chip-making chain including design, where surely India already has considerable talent and experience.
3.Emission impossible: One state scrapping old cars is bad policy
Beginning 2022, the Delhi government will de-register diesel vehicles that have completed 10 years. The announcement is to give effect to an old order of the National Green Tribunal that was reiterated over three years ago by the Supreme Court. However, all is not lost for many vehicle owners who will be affected. If the vehicle is not over 15 years old, they can get a no-objection certificate from Delhi and have it registered in a neighbouring state. That may not help improve Delhi’s air quality but it serves to highlight the inconsistencies in the system to prevent air pollution.
An effective regulatory framework is sharply focussed on the overarching goal and the target that realises it. In the case of vehicular pollution, the only thing that matters is tailpipe emission, not the age of a vehicle. This should be the focus of the exercise to improve air quality in India. This step needs to be complemented by a national approach as state boundaries are irrelevant to the problem. A policy to tackle air quality that targets anything other than tailpipe emission will lead to distortions in the market for used vehicles without realising the overarching goal.
India notified a national vehicle scrapping policy in September. It relies on incentives to phase out old vehicles. GoI in Parliament has said that the policy’s aims include taking “unfit polluting vehicles” off the road. Mission creep of policy goals dilutes their efficacy. India does need to get unfit and polluting vehicles off its road. The best way to do it is to focus on tailpipe emissions and make it mandatory for older vehicles to undergo periodic fitness checks. None of these measures will work unless enforcement is strict. The approach, therefore, should be to tightly align a policy goal and the attendant measure.
4.Crisis in nursing: Skill shortage is global, solution has to be local
Who vaccinated you? Who provides the bulk of the care if you are hospitalised? Nurses are the lynchpin of our healthcare system but they just don’t get their due. To illustrate, the Lok Sabha this year saw 31 questions about doctors, including about violence against them, their mental wellbeing, shortages and deaths. Nurses suffer similar issues but they merited a grand total of one question. We learn from the answer that India has 1.79 nurses per 1,000 population, 46% less than the WHO norm. Topped with 21 months of non-stop pandemic work, this is a recipe for exhaustion.
Burnout has caused serious nurse shortages in many parts of the world. In the US Kentucky’s governor has actually declared a nurse staffing emergency, with an action plan to increase the state’s nursing students rapidly. Rich countries also have the option of importing nurses, with India being a top global exporter. Unattractive working conditions at home mean our nurses migrate eagerly. That most of them are women is not incidental to why they are underpaid and undervalued.
Beds and doctors cannot treat patients by themselves. It follows that India must reform outdated systems of professional governance as also the Indian Nursing Council Act of 1947 and increase investments in nursing education. But young people will be incentivised to train for the profession only if they see it being treated respectfully and remunerated fairly.
5.Cleaning up Delhi-NCR’s air
The Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday expressed satisfaction over the measures taken by the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) to control air pollution in Delhi-National Capital Region (Delhi-NCR), even as it directed the body to invite suggestions from the public and experts to find a “long-term solution”. Solicitor-general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre and CAQM, told the court that an expert committee is working to find a solution so that kneejerk reactions do not become the annual response.
While SC’s push for a long-term anti-pollution strategy is welcome, the executive (the Delhi government, and the Centre) should have ideally taken this decision years ago. Scientific evidence has been piling up on Delhi-NCR’s dire air situation. According to IQAir AirVisual’s 2019 World Air Quality Report, 21 of the world’s 30 cities with the worst levels of air pollution are in India; six Indian cities are in the top 10; and among all Indian cities, some of the worst levels of air pollution are seen in Delhi-NCR every year. The city’s average levels of the most dangerous airborne particles, PM2.5, are 14 times the World Health Organization’s recommended limit. To date, actions have been reactive and do not protect the poorest or effect structural change. The focus revolves around a ban on fireworks and stubble burning, while the inability to monitor and control exemplifies the lack of a cohesive action plan, political will, and weak governance systems. Meanwhile, there is no plan to deal with what is actually a much larger issue — Delhi’s air is always bad, with spikes in pollutants that make it worse during winter.