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.Curbs won’t cut it: EC must limit poll rallies, govts must do more testing using dual kit & publish hospital data
The steep daily growth rate of Covid cases in many metro cities all but points to a building third wave. Curbs are being imposed. But citizens are increasingly asking why curbs are only meant for them while political leaders can hold rallies where large, unmasked crowds are the norm, and social distancing is a joke. The price paid by small traders and informal workers in lost earnings should have shamed politicians into making their own sacrifices. But once again we see a cross-party consensus that those who try to win elections must not be inconvenienced, even as some of these same politicians impose curfews and shutdowns.
Election Commission should not be cowed by netas. When it announces the dates for five state elections and Model Code of Conduct kicks in, it should mandate masking at rallies, and put a ceiling on crowd size as well as penalise those who violate these rules. And it must do so irrespective of the party. Also, political parties can combine masking and messaging by free distribution of masks in the colours of their party flag. In assembly elections earlier this year, expenditure declared by top parties exceeded Rs 700 crore (BJP Rs 252 crore, TMC Rs 154 crore, DMK Rs 114 crore, Congress Rs 85 crore, AIADMK Rs 57 crore, Left Rs 45 crore). Free mask distribution at rallies will hardly impact the huge coffers of political parties.
Governments have other crucial jobs. Only 12 lakh tests were conducted nationally on December 29, against an average of 11 lakh daily tests in early December. This, when Omicron is surging. The Centre’s suggestion of dual RT-PCR testing on samples – first with the regular kit, which if positive, should be followed with an S-gene drop testing kit – will help better gauge the Omicron spread and also conserve the currently scarce S-gene drop test kits. But are states following through on this, that’s the question. India’s Omicron number of around 1,000 is most probably a huge undercount, limited by our ability to do genomic sequencing. So, dual RT-PCR is vital.
Alongside detected Covid cases, tracking and publishing hospitalisation data must start immediately. Hospitalisation data like ICU bed occupancy in the early days of a wave will help make informed decisions on potential stress points for the healthcare system. It will also avoid unnecessarily disruptive curbs on livelihoods and economic activities, should Omicron not cause overrunning of health systems. India can’t afford a government failure like we saw during the second wave.
2.Judges & journos: CJI is partly right on the media mixing news and views. But judges should be less prickly too
A healthy relationship between the judiciary and media, two of the four pillars of democracy, is logically necessary for the health of democracy. But what precisely does health mean in this context? Speaking at a journalism awards function Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, who incidentally started his professional career as a journalist, expressed worry about how news and views are being mixed together into a dangerous cocktail today, as also about the “recent trend to sermonise about judgments, and villainise judges”. The separation of news and views is actually an essential guardrail for newspapers, so we couldn’t agree more on this. But on the second point, we urge the judiciary to be less prickly about criticism, including when not just judgments but judges too are criticised.
It is true that the business of “grabbing eyeballs” has caused the same perversions in India as in richer countries, with TV news in particular turning into a performative shriek show, where neutrality is only observed as absence. But although TV screens flash ‘breaking news’ signs ceaselessly and improbably, there are newspapers that put in the journalistic resources, on both reporting and editing sides, to carry out time-consuming, accountability-seeking journalism. This distinction is important whenever the media is being assessed.
Part of the media’s job is to report on and analyse and, in its opinion columns, criticise not just political leaders but all powerful players in the system – from the police to armed forces and judges to corporates. Courts adjudicate on the widest variety of cases of citizen interest, and plenty of reporting and commentary naturally follows. Judges should take criticism as politicians do – it’s a part of their job description in a democracy. And, in the same spirit, the Supreme Court must decriminalise what is termed as ‘scandalising the court’. This provision doesn’t sit well in a democracy.
3.Killing the licence: On NGOs and funding
The Government must give a more transparent account of its actions against NGOs
If the past few years of enhanced measures against non-governmental organisations (NGOs) operating in India had not put enough of a squeeze on them, then the Ministry of Home Affairs’s long-drawn-out process of scrutinising their foreign-funding licences by year-end is sure to do so. Close on the heels of the news that the Missionaries of Charity group had been denied a renewal of its licence under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 (amended in 2020), comes the revelation that more than four-fifths of the applications of the 22,000-plus NGOs that have sought renewal have yet to be scrutinised. Unless the Government extends the deadline by midnight, all of them stand to lose their ability to access international funding in the new year. As experts have explained, the NGOs have to prove not only that the source of funding and their usage of the funds is appropriate but also establish that their work does not qualify as harmful to “public interest” or “national security” — ambiguous terms that are left to MHA officials to define. So, as many as 2,000 NGOs under scrutiny may be denied a renewal of their FCRA licence as the Missionaries of Charity and its roughly 200 homes around the country have been in this round.
Contrary to the Government’s defence that it is only following accounting and audit procedures, it seems clear that organisations that have particularly faced the Modi government’s ire are those that work in specific “sensitive areas”: pollution and climate change issues, human rights, child labour and human slavery, health and religious NGOs, particularly Christian and Islamic charities. Prominent names among nearly 20,000 NGOs to have lost their foreign-funding licences since 2014 include Amnesty International, Greenpeace India, People’s Watch, European Climate Foundation, Compassion International and the Gates Foundation-backed Public Health Foundation of India. If the Government has ample evidence to prove that Indians are better off without the work of these internationally renowned organisations, then it has yet to show it. It is time the Government gives a more transparent account of its actions against NGOs, which at present appear to mirror those in China and Russia which have used their NGO laws to shut down dissent and criticism. The actions in India over “foreign hand” concerns seem more hypocritical given the relative ease with which political parties are able to access foreign funds for their campaigns through electoral bonds, under the same FCRA that seeks to restrict funds to NGOs. At a time when India is facing the crippling effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and a long-term economic crisis, the Government’s moves that have resulted in an estimated 30% drop in international non-profit contributions, only hurt the poorest and most vulnerable recipients of philanthropic efforts, particularly those by NGOs working in areas where government aid fails to reach.
4.Ground to dust: England’s failure at the Ashes
England’s failure to make a contest of the Ashes spotlights its cricket structure
Ever since the maiden Test at Melbourne during March 1877, cricketing history always had a special place for the Ashes, the series that involves England and Australia, the rivals from that inaugural joust. The series-nomenclature Ashes was coined by a British newspaper in 1882 and that term and the trophy, the urn, have become part of sporting folklore. England lost the 1877 game and cut to the present, Old Blighty suffered defeat yet again at Melbourne to hand over the current Ashes at 0-3 to host Australia while two Tests still remain in the series. The juxtaposition of history and the present may seem like a one-way street but the Ashes remains far from it with Australia having won 34 and England 32 through a series that has attained mythical proportions over the decades. However, recent history would vouch for Australia’s dominance with the Ashes being snapped up in 2017 and 2019, and the latest result too favours the former colony while the mother-country is resigned to eating humble pie. The three defeats in consecutive Tests have shown England in poor light. The will to fight seems to have declined and Joe Root’s men have been tagged as the worst tourists to land in Australia and as it has been pointed out, all that the host needed was just 12 days to seize the urn.
There have been times when England looked anaemic, especially in the contests in the 1980s against the marauding West Indians. To those tales of ignominy, cricket’s birthplace has added the latest chapter. England’s batting has leant on Root while his colleagues fell with tentative feet, itchy hands and an insipid mind. With the batters failing, England’s attack has struggled to mount pressure. And when the bowlers did strike with James Anderson belying his 39 summers and clocking a masterly spell in Melbourne, the England batters failed to offer support and Australia won by an innings and 14 runs. Debutant Scott Boland’s six for seven in the second innings further reiterated Australia’s talent base and its strong domestic structure while England was left to ponder about its County circuit. That an injured Josh Hazlewood was not missed spoke volumes about the inherent strengths within the Aussie pace-pack. Boland showed that at 32, hope could still float for the committed athlete. That he is the second after Jason Gillespie to emerge from the aboriginal community to turn out for the Australian men’s Test team also revealed cricket’s democratic footprint. Before the series, Australia seemed unsettled having lost its regular captain Tim Paine to a hushed-up scandal. But in Pat Cummins, the Aussies have found a calm skipper, and with England in disarray, the Ashes will stay in the southern hemisphere.
5. The cost of extreme weather events
The report focuses on financial impact — usually more in richer countries because of higher property values and greater insurance coverage
A report by Christian Aid, Counting the cost 2021: A year of climate breakdown, has identified 15 of the most destructive climate disasters of the year and their financial costs. Released on December 27, the report says that the top 10 most expensive events cost over $1.5 billion with Hurricane Ida in the United States topping the list at $65 billion. Four of the 10 events occurred in Asia. Cyclones Yaas and Tauktae — both hit India — ranked 4th and 5th, accounting for $3 billion and $1.5 billion respectively. These estimates are based on insured losses, which means the actual costs could be much higher.
The report focuses on financial impact — usually more in richer countries because of higher property values and greater insurance coverage. But the real impact is more severe and intergenerational for poorer countries (which contribute little to the climate crisis), and on their marginalised groups that faced food insecurity, mass displacement, and loss of life and property. The pandemic only made it more challenging for them. For instance, when cyclone Yaas hit India, shelters could not be fully used because of social distancing.a