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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.Ethanol in fuel a transient high

The timeline for blending of ethanol in automotive fuel up to 20% has been moved to 2025, from 2030. And this year’s target is 8.5%. The way forward is to step up usage of biomass, agricultural residue and municipal solid waste as feedstock for ethanol, so as to gainfully reduce crude oil imports, cut down on tailpipe emissions and also boost our energy security in the bargain.

However, there is an ongoing change in the technoeconomic paradigm in transport and mobility away from the internal combustion engine, and towards electric vehicles, which can only accelerate. So, while 20% blending of ethanol with petrol can make economic and ecological sense in the here and now, it cannot really be a long-term solution to shore up energy supply.

Yet, it is notable that ethanol blending has picked up speed lately. Back in 2019, the blending rate was about 5.8%, up from less than 1% in 2014, against a target of 5%. The aim now is to go for 10% blending by 2022, by using damaged broken grain, rice straw and biomass generally as ethanol feedstock, although the bulk of ethanol production today is very much a by-product of the sugar industry.

And, sugarcane is hugely water-intensive; stepping up cane output is clearly avoidable in water-stressed India. Hence the need to innovate and use new enzymes to produce syngas from biomass that can then be used to make ethanol, or produce hydrogen, the promising new sustainable, green, non-polluting energy source of the future. Bioethanol can be a huge economic opportunity.

For 20% ethanol blending by 2025, 1,000 crore litres would be needed, which, at current prices, would be worth Rs 60,000-65,000 crore. It also has the potential to put paid to crop residue burning, a source of air pollution.

2.Moscow, New Delhi in a changing world

The wolves are full and the sheep, intact — that Russian saying about reconciling seemingly contradictory goals fits the foreign policy challenge before India and Russia, as they renew tried and tested bilateral relations, even as India meshes into the Quad, along with the US, Japan and Australia, to keep the Indo-Pacific tranquil, and Russia draws closer to China.

The challenge is less daunting than it might appear at first blush. As India’s policy shifts from non-aligned to multi-aligned, traditional ties will have to be recast. The past should inform policy, not block its evolution. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s two-day visit to India is part of the evolution of what has been a long and time-tested relationship.

That Lavrov’s visit overlapped with that of former US Secretary of State and now Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Change John Kerry encapsulates the transition of India’s foreign policy. The India-Russia relationship must be able to factor in the changing context and requirements of both countries. Russia’s reservations about India participation in the Quad, or India’s concerns about Russia’s cosiness with China, must be understood in context.

Moscow must understand that the changing geopolitical dynamics of the region will find expression in India’s strategic choices. Likewise, New Delhi, too, must factor in the narrowing of choices for Moscow in the face of financial pressures from the West. Yet, the basic fabric of the relationship has not changed. India has stood its ground against US pressure, to drop, for example, India’s purchase of the S-400 missile defence system. Strategic relationships are not zero-sum games; rather, they are partnerships for, rather than against, something. Strategic partnerships with other countries must not be seen as undermining the time-tested India-Russia relationship. The two countries must deepen their partnerships in existing areas of nuclear and space technologies, defence, and add new areas arising out of challenges such as climate change.

3.Heed the exodus: Lockdown hypocrisies are brutal to migrant workers

Officials must note the flight of migrant workers from cities where mobility curbs have been imposed. This signals another round of acute economic distress unless irrational curbs that do little to stop Covid aren’t dismantled. Unlike last year’s massive exodus following the nationwide lockdown announcement, the current outpouring is smaller. But it’s incumbent upon governments to closely monitor the situation and prevent a replay. Workplace closures render poor migrant workers’ continuance in cities untenable. With trust quotient already running low, misinformation among them could also be rife.

In the name of suppressing Covid, economic activity is getting stigmatised even as political gatherings get a free pass. States like Tamil Nadu and Kerala have announced tighter restrictions just after elections in which leading politicians and their party workers roamed the land unmasked. EC’s eight-phase Bengal election seems another unmitigated disaster. Ordinary people must now pay the price for irresponsible politicking. Another double standard is allowing large, crowded, unmasked religious congregations while the economy is treated as dispensable.

Prioritisation of politicking and religion over livelihoods, without the luxury of the liberal stimulus cheques that accompany lockdowns in the West or massive vaccine outreach, is cruel and irrational. The migrant worker is the first casualty; the middle class and businesses will follow too if “corona curfews” continue. A Niti Aayog draft national policy on migrant workers, after last year’s bitter experience, emphasised approaches to integrate them into social and official consciousness. Despite contributing immensely in states where they earn livelihoods and send remittances to, migrants get scarce political recognition or social support nets at either end. Lockdowns are a new affront to their self-worth. Fight the Covid second wave through masking, testing, vaccinating and ramping up critical care facilities, instead of trampling upon the dignity of labour.

4.A sorry sight: Sofagate cuts deep for women up against boys’ clubs

A diplomatic mishap dubbed ‘sofagate’ has escalated this week. A video that went viral showed Ursula von der Leyen, first female head of the European Commission, blindsided by the fact that there was only one other seat in a meeting with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Her teammate Charles Michel, head of the European Council, slid into that one seat like it was the most natural thing in the world. She stood there surprised, then sat on an adjoining sofa as flashbulbs clicked around the two men.

While gaffes are often blown out of proportion in social media, this rebuff cut deeper. The experience of being slighted and sidelined touched a chord with many women. Professional life often still works like a boys’ club – the informal chumminess that subtly excludes women, the networks where notes are exchanged. Meetings are marked by this discrimination too, as popular words like mansplaining and manterrupting suggest. Men claim the centre, and transact with each other, consigning women to the margins.

This sense of secondariness is all too real for women, but seeing it in action at the level of global diplomacy – the most intentional, most choreographed of arenas – was startling. The Turkish side has blamed EU instructions for the seating arrangement. Certainly, Michel’s easy placing of himself above his female colleague suggested lack of solidarity within the EU administration. Scapegoating one or the other man is not the point, giving women equal space and equal say is.

5. The forest fires in Uttarakhand | HT Editorial

Uttarakhand is battling one of the worst episodes of forest fires since it became a separate state in 2000. According to the state forest department, there have been 989 fire incidents between October 1, 2020 and April 4, 2021, destroying around 1,297.43 hectares of rich, biodiverse forests. Taking suo moto cognisance of the calamity, the Uttarakhand High Court, on Tuesday, asked the senior-most forest official of the state to explain the preparedness of the department and measures that have been taken over the years to control fires, and asked the state government to explore the possibility of using artificial rain to douse forest fires, and directed it to extinguish the fires in two weeks. Since 2000, forest fires have affected over 48,000 hectares in the state. According to India’s State of Forest Report 2019, over 30,000 incidents of forest fires were reported in the country in 2019.

Forest fires are not unusual in Uttarakhand, or, for that matter, in any jungle. In Uttarakhand, it usually begins in mid-February, when the trees shed dry leaves and the soil loses moisture due to a rise in temperature, and continues till mid-June. But this year, the situation has been different because of two reasons. One, the lack of adequate rainfall in the winter, leading to dry soil, and, second, the higher-than-expected temperature in March and April, both indicating the impact of the climate crisis. The change in the weather pattern, however, is not always the only reason for forest fires. They are also caused when locals clear land, or by farming-related activities, or sometimes sheer carelessness. A Forest Survey of India study states that over 95% of fire incidents are of anthropogenic origin.


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