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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 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. The clean water and fuel opportunity

Budget 2021 talks of Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban) 2.0, and allocates Rs 1,41,000 crore for wastewater treatment and solid waste management (SWM). The Mihir Shah committee report on water reforms had brought out the startling fact that only 2% of our urban areas have both sewerage systems and sewage treatment plants. The government must draw up multi-year projects for sewage treatment via public-private partnerships (PPP), and also to boost municipal capacity to that end.

India ranks 120th among 122 countries in the water quality index, one significant reason being that we have given short shrift to investments in modern sewage systems for decades. A holistic, integrated approach is clearly required. Take, for instance, SWM. India generated 62 million tonnes of municipal solid waste in 2019, but the vast bulk of it was simply dumped at landfills without any scientific processing and treatment. Worse, given the hugely inadequate capacity in sewage treatment plants, it is par for the course for urban wastewater to simply flow into local water bodies. True, in recent years, there has, indeed, been sharp increases in budgetary outlays for the urban sector both at the Centre and in the states. But there appears to be little or no commensurate improvement in the institutional and financial capacity of local bodies that can purposefully equip them to discharge urban services in an effective and business-like manner.

Hence the need to step up investment in SWM and sewage treatment plants in the PPP mode, to tide over the inefficiencies of urban local bodies, including by way of innovative financing mechanisms such as value capture finance, so as to boost public health. Sewage treatment has synergies with plans to produce biogas and cut methane emission at scale, too.

2.Against senseless e-commerce terms

Certain proposals for a new ecommerce policy, backed by lobby groups, are currently doing the rounds. The government would do well to reject them in the interest of systemic efficiency, promoting small and medium enterprises and defending their interests against the domineering influence of big retailers, and fairness in the treatment of foreign investment in the country. Some of the proposals conflict with the government’s desire to modernise the logistics of agricultural produce, for which it has brought in new farm laws at a significant political cost.

One proposal is to bar companies in which foreign companies that operate ecommerce marketplaces have any economic interest from selling on these marketplaces. Already, the rules cap, at 25% of total sales on the ecommerce platform, the volume of a seller in which a foreign ecommerce platform has a stake. The proposed change would defeat the essential gain for the economy from bringing in organised retail: to enable investment in the facilities and processes of modern logistics. If a foreign retailer is barred altogether from owning any stake in a company that invests in modern logistics to procure, process and sell on the ecommerce platform, that would rule out the possibility of realising the core efficiency that modern retail brings to the table. Unless, of course, retail is understood by policymakers as the science and art of attractive display of merchandise in the store, electronic or physical.

Another proposal is to permit foreign ecommerce firms to invest in logistics operations and to make their services available to one and all at fair and undifferentiated prices. This suffers from two deficiencies. Trade offers different rates to different customers, based on scale and regularity of custom, to begin with. Further, certain activities are too complex to be contracted out without loss of efficiency, and have to be internalised within a firm. This insight was awarded a Nobel prize in economics, and so, perhaps, is too highfalutin to inform government policy.

3.Double vision: Islamabad’s U-turn on trade with India is telling

In a sharp U-turn, Pakistan reversed its proposal to allow import of sugar, cotton and yarn from India within 24 hours of the announcement. Coming on the heels of the February ceasefire agreement between the two countries, the proposal was initially seen as willingness on Islamabad’s part to begin a process of normalisation with New Delhi. But the quick reversal is a symptom of contradictory impulses informing Islamabad’s approach towards India.

On the one hand Beijing is in “wolf warrior” mode, leaning hard on India on the LAC and raising the temperature on Kashmir, which excites certain factions within Pakistan for obvious reasons. These same factions are inclined to think that things are looking Islamabad’s way in Afghanistan, with Taliban gaining ground. But on the other hand, the new Biden administration in the White House looks determined to step up resistance to Beijing’s designs in Asia, and in an ensuing quasi-Cold War situation Pakistan could get stuck like a deer in the headlights. Smarter people in Pakistan realise that placing all their eggs in Beijing’s basket is fraught with high risk, rhetoric about “iron brotherhood” between Pakistan and China notwithstanding.

In a piquant irony, Islamabad may well want to look for a non-aligned space as a Cold War-like situation develops, even as India becomes a frontier state and is willy nilly forced to choose sides as a powerful Beijing steps up pressure on it. Pakistan’s economy has been hurting due to its investment in jihad, linked to its anti-India posture. Inflation jumped to 9.1% in March; if sugar imports from India had gone ahead it would have slashed prices by up to 20% for Pakistani households. There is thus a strong logic for normalising ties with India. Delhi must watch carefully which way the Pakistani elite is inclining, and respond accordingly.

4.Better Instinct: When Sharon Stone said no to shame

Sharon Stone is 63 years old. Three decades ago the Basic Instinct role propelled her into the Hollywood A+ league and she has stayed a global superstar. It is unsurprising then that her memoir, with intimate renderings of a painfully gendered workplace, is attracting attention. Critics see the genre as a monster of narcissism and self-aggrandisement. But memoirs, diaries and autobiographies can also make visible life of the shadows, put a mirror to culture, and light the path for unwary new travellers.

For example, these days sex scenes in dramas and movies are sometimes anchored by intimacy directors whose job is to make sure that actors feel secure and respected. When Stone shares how the most famous scene from Basic Instinct happened, how her trust was abused and how it nearly broke her, except she asserted agency and refused to be shamed, not only would it resonate with too many actors around the world, it should also activate several to be more assertive, in demanding workplace safety and equality.

As the #MeToo movement made clear, no single moment of reckoning will magically clean the Augean stables. But all of it begins with someone speaking up. So a special shout-out to the women of the Indian film industry, especially those who have worked long enough to see change on their watch – tell us about your experiences. We will listen and learn and be stronger in battling for equal pay, equal opportunities.

5. Delhi must impose curbs

India is in the middle of another big surge in Covid-19 infections. On Thursday, it saw 81,413 new cases, the highest since October 1. Maharashtra had 43,183 infections, the highest ever in the state. Out of this, Mumbai alone saw 8,646 cases, the highest ever for any city in the country in a single day so far. The state also had a seven-day average of 36,476 cases, against the first wave peak of 22,148. In Delhi, too, the signs were alarming. It registered 2,790 cases on Thursday, up from 1,819 the day before, and this went up to 3,594 on Friday — a 119-day high. The spike led chief minister (CM) Arvind Kejriwal to acknowledge that the Capital is witnessing its fourth wave.

Both the State and citizens are responsible for the situation. Vaccination began on January 16 but three precious months have been inadequately utilised, and the Centre has slipped by not approving more vaccines and not opening it up to all adults. Citizens, for their part, have been reckless. Markets are crowded; people are jostling for space in bars and restaurants; the big fat Indian wedding is back; and thousands are marking festivals together. While vaccination must expand and eligible citizens must take the jab, there is no substitute for Covid-appropriate behaviour. And if citizens are unwilling to exercise caution, the administration must put restrictions in place. Hard lockdowns are not the answer, but states and cities need to impose curbs based on data and science. Pune has done it this week – albeit a tad too late – by closing down bars, restaurants, and hotels, and prohibiting or restricting public events. Mumbai has put curbs too, including a night curfew and a bar on public gatherings of more than five people. But this came too late as well. On Friday, CM Uddhav Thackeray acknowledged that the second wave was more severe than the first, and warned citizens of the possibility of a full lockdown in two days.

Delhi had an opportunity to be proactive instead of reactive, and get ahead of the curve. But by refusing to introduce any curbs, and only banking on vaccination and medical infrastructure, the city runs the risk of going down Maharashtra’s path. Governments are understandably cautious because of the economic implications of restrictions, but an unchecked public health crisis will end up taking a much heavier toll. Greater citizen responsibility, aided by the State’s diktat if necessary, and aggressive vaccination, is the only way out. Delhi can still set things right if it acts fast.

 

 

 

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