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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.End Ad-Hocism In Hydrocarbons

The upstream oil sector requires focused policy attention and tax rationalisation. Back in 2015, PM Modi had called for 10% reduction of oil imports by 2022, but, in fact, our import dependency is at a record 84.5%, amidst declining domestic crude production. Oil production is the highest taxed sector, with the government take at 60%.

The heavy tax regime seems to have stultified output in what is a hugely capital-intensive segment. Worse, policy flip-flops appear to have stymied interest of global oil majors in Indian oil and gas blocks. The tax regime for pre-NELP, or New Exploration Licensing Policy, conceptualised in 1997-98 and implemented in 1999, seems particularly usurious, never mind that it has led to India’s biggest oil find in over three decades, in Barmer, Rajasthan, operated by Cairn India.

In fact, Cairn accounts for 25% of all domestic oil output. However, with global oil prices range-bound around $50 a barrel, and Cairn’s opex now in the $10-12/b range, the 60% government take can well affect ongoing operations and further reduce oil production.

The way ahead, surely, is to do away with the cess on domestic crude output, which is a steep 20% for pre-NELP blocks. By removing the cess, field investment and oil output would rise, and given the high government take, actually result in higher revenues too. The production sharing contract (PSC) for Barmer, signed in 1995 or so, promised the same tax regime for future gas finds.

But since then, the government has jacked up the tax rate to 60%, which really amounts to retrospective tax. Predictability in the policy regime is of vital import in oil. Worse, formal extension of PSC in Barmer has not quite taken place, stalling further credit. This crimps domestic oil output.

2. Don’t Fetishise Finished Goods

The budget reportedly proposes to give India’s time-honoured fetish for finished goods a booster shot, by increasing the import tariff differentials between raw materials and intermediates, and between intermediates and finished goods. The notion that such an overhaul of the customs duty will encourage domestic value addition is flawed.

What matters, what produces jobs, generates incomes and pays taxes is value addition, not the line of production in which the value is generated. And there is no reason to privilege value addition in one line of production over another. Excessive protection for finished goods and low to negative protection for inputs together create a disincentive to make components here. Components of mobile phones, for example, are already in short supply, hurting plans of domestic phone makers. Any contrived value addition behind high tariff walls is wholly sub-optimal.

The average tariff of 14% now is way too high and the slide towards greater protection in the recent past must be reversed. So, the case to re-start reforms to lower customs duty that began in 1991 but got stalled after 2007-08 is compelling. The aim should be to have a uniform import duty of 5% on raw materials, intermediates and final products to provide all lines of value addition the same effective rate of protection.

Knowledge-intensive production is, more often than not, in components — the processor, the chipset, the radio, the screen, the hardened glass, the camera and the software in a phone — than in the finished good. Disincentivising production of components to promote value addition in the final stage of putting all the components together is a sign of low ambition in mastering technologically sophisticated production. A reduction in import duties across the board is what is needed to make India a low-cost producer and an attractive base for export production. It will also help reduce inflation and enable the RBI to cut interest rates and improve the competitiveness industry. This is the right way to an ‘atmanirbhar’ India.

3. Honouring netaji: Heroes defy neat categorisations. Politicians need to address contemporary challenges

The unsavoury developments during the 124th birth anniversary celebration of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in Kolkata last week encapsulate some disappointing dimensions of contemporary Indian politics. Just as West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee was to address the gathering, a section of the crowd chanted Jai Shri Ram. Given the occasion and the bitter rivalry between TMC and BJP in the state, the chants can be construed as unwarranted political sloganeering. In addition, the disagreements between the state and the Centre on other aspects of the anniversary celebration marred an important occasion.

It’s not uncommon for political parties to appropriate figures whose appeal transcends narrow boundaries. But in the process hugely consequential figures are pigeonholed to fit contemporary agendas. Bose, like his peers, was a complex personality. The relationships of his era also defy neat categorisation. The sharp differences between Bose and Gandhi are well documented. But that didn’t prevent Bose, commander of the Indian National Army, from naming two brigades after Gandhi and Nehru. He also addressed Gandhi as the “Father of our Nation” in a radio broadcast in July 1944. The relationship between stalwarts of the freedom struggle was many layered.

Bose was anything but sectarian in his views. The landmark INA trial in November 1945, which catalysed patriotic fervour, had Hindu, Muslim and Sikh soldiers facing the charge of treason. It’s important to keep in mind that the positions adopted by many stalwarts belonged to an era guided by goals and constraints far removed from what India faces today. Any policy position that governments adopt today must be defended in a contemporary context. Invoking the rhetoric of a bygone age isn’t adequate to justify or reject policies in contemporary India. Context matters and trade-offs faced by leaders change over time.

All of this is relevant in the context of political campaigning in Bengal ahead of the assembly elections. The campaigning has been characterised by an appeal to emotions. None of the contenders appear keen on discussing substantive issues. This is unfortunate, because till the early 1980s Bengal was one of India’s most industrialised states. It’s also known as the home of the Bengal Renaissance. If India is to transition to rapid economic growth, Bengal has to be integral to the effort. If political parties want to honour Bose’s legacy, they should channel campaigning towards issues relevant to the state’s future.

4.Vaccine diplomacy: Unlike Chinese candidates, India can supply safe, affordable jabs for the world

As vaccination against Covid-19 gains steam across the world – around 61.11million vaccine doses have been administered globally – the battle for soft power in the form of vaccine diplomacy too is gaining pace. This mirrors the mask diplomacy seen in an earlier phase of the pandemic. China, which may have unleashed Covid-19 on the world due to its opacity, is trying hard to salvage its image and project itself as a health saviour by supplying Chinese vaccines to developing countries. It makes no secret of using the strategy to expand its global influence as part of its ‘Health Silk Road Initiative’.

But vaccine diplomacy is where India has a clear edge. After all, even before the pandemic hit, India was meeting 62% of the global demand for vaccines. Therefore, with its own vaccination drive kicking off this month, New Delhi’s decision to give millions of doses of Covid vaccine to South Asian neighbours is smart strategy. India has already initiated vaccine grants with 2 million doses for Bangladesh, a million for Nepal and 150,000 and 100,000 respectively for Bhutan and the Maldives. Plus, early commercial supplies of the Serum Institute produced Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine have been cleared for Brazil and Morocco.

Meanwhile, the US just joined the multilateral COVAX facility that aims to distribute vaccines equitably to the poorest nations. US’s participation will be a huge resource boost for COVAX, which in turn will free up many developing countries – particularly in Africa — from making Faustian deals with China to secure vaccines. In that sense, the US and India should team up to provide safe and affordable Covid vaccines to the world to counter China’s cynical vaccine diplomacy. Besides, Chinese vaccines lack transparency. Covid vaccination must be driven by trust. And India as the pharmacy of the world is well positioned to deliver.

5.India’s vaccine diplomacy | HT Editorial

India started its vaccination drive against Covid-19 on January 16

India started its vaccination drive against Covid-19 on January 16. But even as it prepares to equip its citizens against the virus that has devastated lives and livelihoods, over the past week, India has proactively sent vaccine supplies, as grant, to its neighbours and friends. Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Mauritius, Myanmar, and Seychelles have already received vaccine doses, in varying quantities, while Sri Lanka and Afghanistan are expected to get these soon. There are also commercial supplies that have made available to Brazil and Morocco — even as other countries have reached out for assistance.

India’s Vaccine Maitri, as the initiative has come to be known, is one of the most humane and diplomatically astute moves by the government on the foreign policy front in recent times. It fits into Narendra Modi’s declared policy of neighbourhood first. It is no secret that ties with smaller neighbours have gone through ups and downs, often due to the policy approach adopted by these neighbouring countries vis-à-vis China and due to internal political salience of the nationalist card, which often translates into criticising India. But Delhi — by providing the most important public good possible at this time in history — has scored in generating goodwill not just among governments, but most importantly, citizens, both in the immediate vicinity and extended neighbourhood. The message is simple — when there is a crisis, India is there to help.

The fact that India has been the first responder also helps it score — in terms of real geopolitical signalling — over China — which has faced issues with its own vaccine. This helps dispel the impression of New Delhi as a laggard and counters the often exaggerated spin of Beijing as having all the answers. The praise Delhi has got from others, from the World Health Organization to the State Department of the United States, is further boost to India’s soft power. By being a responsible power, empathetic to the needs of people beyond its borders, ready to help even as it faces its own crises, in a tough region, India has served itself — and the wider region of South Asia and Indian Ocean — well. The government must be applauded for this imaginative diplomacy, aided in no small measure by the structural advantage of being the world’s pharmacy.

 

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