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Editorial Today (English)

in this section, we are presenting our readers/aspirants compilation of selected editorials of national daily viz. The Hindu, The livemint,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.Privatisation Serves A Public Purpose

 The finance minister’s budget speech was unabashedly bold on strategic sale and privatisation of central public sector enterprises (CPSEs). The FM did state that a ‘bare minimum’ of CPSEs would operate in four strategic sectors and the rest privatised, and all CPSEs in non-strategic areas would be privatised.

The welcome divestment strategy makes perfect sense, policy designed as it is to better leverage private sector efficiency, provide resources for developmental purposes and generally redeploy valuable assets earning suboptimal returns.

The fact is that CPSEs post modest returns on equity, over two-thirds of profits of CPSEs are confined to just three sectors, petroleum, coal and power; over 150 CPSEs incur huge losses amounting to Rs 45,000 crore annually. The political class must reach a clear consensus on privatisation and wider shareholding in public sector assets, even as CPSEs step up their productivity levels with transparent board-managed corporate governance. In tandem, the Centre must reach out to CPSE trade unions and communicate that greater investment space for the private sector is for the greater good.

The disinvestment target for next fiscal,  Rs 1.75 lakh crore, seems daunting, but note that divestment of BPCL, Air India, Shipping Corporation of India, IDBI Bank and Container Corporation, among others, is a carry-over from this pandemic-affected fiscal, and so can well be expected to be completed soon. Two public sector banks and one public sector general insurance company will also be privatised. The Centre’s resolve to form a special purpose vehicle for unlocking asset value in CPSEs, like real estate, is sensible, as would timely closure of sick and loss-making units. Privatisation serves a public purpose.

2.Health: Bold Steps In a Long Journey

The long overdue attention to health in Budget 2021 is welcome, even if no surprise, given the context of Covid. Of note is the systems approach adopted by the government. Health is not just about clinics, hospitals, labs, doctors and medical personnel; it is also about nutrition, sanitation, general cleanliness, clean air and water.

The budget focuses on building capacity and promoting wellbeing. The task ahead is to ensure that these plans are carried through. The pandemic underscores the importance of investing in health — public expenditure was 1.29% of GDP in 2019-20, lagging not just developed countries but the Brics nations as well. The gap reflects in both health infrastructure and outcomes.

Budget 2021seeks to correct that — an increase in outlay, 137% over the last year’s allocation for health and well-being, including a one-off outlay of Rs 35,000 crore for vaccines and a near-fourfold increase in the outlay on water and sanitation.

The Centre’s decision to fund capacity-building at primary, secondary and tertiary levels (allocating Rs 64,180 crore over six years) will provide the basis for a healthcare system that can deal with emerging diseases. This plan must take on board the existing capacities, including in the private sector. India’s experience with the Covid pandemic underscores the importance of prevention. In a country of the size and wide diversity as well as huge disparities of India, focusing on well-being or preventing the occurrence of disease is equally critical. Improved sanitation, access to potable water, clean air and better nutrition help minimise the occurrence of comorbidities that make the population vulnerable.

Strengthening Mission Poshan, particularly in the 112 aspirational districts, will help improve health outcomes as well as productivity of the population in these areas. Dealing with air pollution, waste management, bioremediation of legacy dump sites and vehicle scrapping as health issues is an important change in approach and will make a difference in implementation.

3. Look to private: More people in India visit private healthcare facilities. Mobilise them for Covid vaccination

Three weeks into the anti-Covid vaccination drive, the challenges are becoming obvious. Vaccinating the 30 crore priority group of health and frontline workers, senior citizens, and those with comorbidities by July with 60 crore doses requires 33 lakh daily inoculations. On Monday and Tuesday, the number of daily inoculations hovered near 2 lakh after consecutive peaks of 5 lakh last Thursday and Friday. A private market for vaccines and mobilising the child vaccination infrastructure will enable the required rapid scale-up.

NSO 2017-18 data indicates that just 30% of patients go to government facilities for treatments against 40% to private doctors/ clinics and 23% to private hospitals. A significant chunk of this private capacity can be requisitioned for the Covid vaccination effort. On Day 1 of the ongoing National Polio Immunisation Drive, 89 lakh children were administered oral drops involving 12 lakh vaccinators and 1.8 lakh supervisors. Admittedly, polio campaign logistics are far simpler. But time is of the essence in defanging the novel coronavirus.

All spare capacity, including in 30,000 primary health centres, must be leveraged. Otherwise new mutations, some of which reportedly dodge the antibodies produced by prior infection and vaccination, could pose fresh problems. These can reverse India’s current advantage of reducing active caseload. High efficacy results from Sputnik V trials, the fourth vaccine being manufactured in India, portend more vaccine stocks. This is yet another cue to scale up. Moreover, adverse vaccination events have been few till date. Comparing India’s inoculation numbers with other nations won’t help; India has the world’s largest population other than China. Private enterprise can be the force multiplier here. With middling turnout at many vaccination sites, opening vaccination to the general public resolves unutilised capacity.

The serosurvey indicating 56% of Delhiites – over 1 crore people – with antibodies raises questions about containment measures like masking, testing, tracing and lockdowns. While India scaled up testing, masking was a perennial shortcoming. Such high seroprevalence may explain fewer fresh infections, but the longevity of antibodies and immunity remains unknown. Given the massive effort behind these serosurveys, epidemiological data on asymptomatic cases, instances of “Long Covid” and correlation with risk factors like age, comorbidities, etc, must be collected too. Those surveyed earlier must be retested for antibody persistence. Expending energies and capacity smartly will prevent a resurgence of the current pandemic, while helping the country prepare for the next one.

4.Rihanna you da one: She brought India’s farmers under her umbrella. But it was in a hopeless place

The farmers’ movement has found its Momala. She is sequinned, stilettoed, and has an operatic moral compass. When Rihanna, she of over 100 million followers worldwide, tweeted, “Why aren’t we talking about this?! #FarmersProtest,” that was impactful enough, taking the Indian farmers to so many places they had never gone before. But all credit also to our resident ‘revolver rani’, Kangana Ranaut, who amplified the original tweet with lots of figmental and smutty compost, including the sensational claim that the protests are a plot to make India “a Chinese colony much like USA.” Lols.

If she pays attention to this cockeyed theory, the chilled Barbadian would likely dismiss it with a grin, “Love the way you lie.” But desi twitterati won’t cool it. After all, candy crush is nothing to celebrity crush, by which you now carve your likes, dislikes, selfies, shelfies, bedrooms, bathrooms, really the list is unending. Your idol shapes your life. Like the Rihanna song goes, “You can stand under my umbrella, ella, ella, eh, eh, eh,” the idol promises. Don’t think for yourself, let the idol tell you what to think.  Budget in one soundbite, policy in a tweet, and philosophy reduced to meme.

There is a deep intolerance inherent in such barricades of the mind. Right-wing trolls have unleashed a racist, sexist, communal frenzy against Rihanna. There is reductiveness on the other side too, although nowhere near as foul and vomitty, where the popstar has been overnight elevated into Khaleesi, dragon mother safeguarding India’s farmers. And India’s foreign ministry has done itself no favours by thin-skinnedly wading into this flamefest. To get an educated and balanced perspective on farm reforms, triggersome Twitter is the wrong place. It’s where you go to put yourself “four, five seconds from wildin.”

5. On global criticism, tread with caution | HT Editorial

The farm protests have captured global attention, with a set of political, cultural, and environmental figures — including the popular artiste, Rihanna, the fourth-most followed person on Twitter — tweeting their solidarity with the protests. This has led the ministry of external affairs (MEA) to issue a statement, blaming “vested interest groups” and pointing to the evolution of the farm laws, the need to see protests within the framework of India’s democratic structure, the efforts made to reach an agreement with farm groups, and the violence on Republic Day. This is unusual simply because the government usually ignores comments from non-State actors.

There are two distinct issues here. The first is the international solidarity that the movement has been able to generate, either due to the Sikh diaspora’s network, the larger mobilisation by liberal, left, and human rights groups, or the nature of the international media’s coverage of the protests. At a time when it is not unusual for narratives to be controlled through influencer networks and IT cells — and India is no stranger to either — it is entirely possible (no matter what the probability) that at least some of these displays of solidarity have been engineered.

But irrespective of the causes and the merits of the criticism (or the merits of the underlying protest), the fact is that it erodes India’s soft power and image as a democracy. The government will have to recognise the intricate ways in which domestic developments intersect with global politics, especially at a time when social media has disproportionate power in shaping perception. The most substantive and effective way in which the Indian State can respond is by strengthening its own democratic framework and reiterating its commitment to individual liberty and the right to dissent, in principle and practice. Rihanna, for instance, with over 100 million followers on Twitter is unlikely to be cowed down by a troll army, or fears of falling sales of her music in India.

The second issue is the ability of this criticism — confined at the moment to private, even if influential, citizens in the West — to become a matter of inter-State deliberations. This is where the MEA’s statement comes in. It can be read as an attempt to both counter what the government sees as “propaganda” to discredit India, and an effort to pre-empt foreign governments from being guided by the social media storm. It is unlikely that foreign governments, particularly the US, will, even if they issue token statements, make it a top diplomatic issue. But what is clear is that India, because of the ideological and economic shifts underway in the country and the subsequent polarisation, will face questions.

 

 

 

 

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