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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.Afghanistan after US Troop Withdrawal

A complete withdrawal of their troops from Afghanistan by the US and its Nato allies, scheduled to take place by the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks of 2001, will concretise America’s shift of policy focus from West Asia to the Indo-Pacific, strengthen the Taliban and proportionately weaken both the Ghani government and the process of building democracy in a country at home with tribal custom, gladden the hearts of Pakistani generals and their Chinese patrons while creating new headaches for New Delhi and Tehran. The US has sacrificed many lives and much treasure to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a launchpad for terror as it had been under the Taliban before the US ousted them. It has decided to cut its losses and leave, with no guarantee that the original aim will continue to be served.

Despite their agreement with the US, the Taliban have failed to severe their ties with al Qaeda. The Taliban control several parts of the country and launch attacks on towns, held by the government and its security forces. According to the US Intelligence Community, the prospects for peace are low and the Taliban are likely to make gains while the Afghan government would struggle to hold fort, once the US and partners withdraw their support on the ground. New Delhi has material concerns about Pakistan using Afghan territory under Taliban sway, whatever the formal government in Kabul, to continue to provide support to terrorist organisations for their activities against India.

India must persuade the US to continue support for Afghan armed forces using remote-controlled drones, besides through supply of real-time intelligence, to help it counter the Taliban. At the same time, New Delhi must prepare to face additional trouble.

2. Not at Kumbh, Make Covid Dip

Manushya sankat mein hai — humanity is in danger. This is a message the Panchayati Niranjani Akhada, one of the three oldest and major sects of Hindu sants and sadhus, has recognised loud and clear, leading to the announcement that its sadhus will be withdrawing from this year’s Kumbh Mela on account of the Covid-19 pandemic. The influential group, comprising at least 13 religious groups, is not short of faith or fervour. But with the death of Nirwani Akhada head Mahamandaleshwar Kapil Dev of Covid-19 on Thursday, the second largest akhada has done the right thing by exiting a super-spreader event.

Religious faith is not necessarily always in opposition to reason — it simply operates on a different belief system. So, for people finding the two coming in conflict over Covid protocols — whether it be in the US where ‘mask-wearing’ has been seen in some quarters as ‘un-Christian,’ or in India, where maintaining physical distancing is seen by some as a strategy to target religious communities — this is a false binary. Instead, any perceived conflict is little else but a cover to be apathetic to a mortal crisis. True faith will also provide the courage to do the right thing.

The Kumbh Mela is, in part, controlled chaos. At a time when every effort should be made to batter down the risk of Covid-spread, such congregations — religious or secular — need to be shut down. Over the last five days, Haridwar has reported 2,167 new cases of Covid. In February 2020, Saudi Arabia closed the two holy sites of Mecca and Medina to not expose Haj pilgrims to Covid. But Uttarakhand authorities don’t seem to have the gumption to announce a Kumbh closedown. One of the prime characteristics of religion is providing its faithful the sense of protection. Within the ambit of that function, keeping Hindus safe during a pandemic includes mortal, physical precautions. The Niranjani Akhada decision is, thus, doubly welcome as it serves both its faithful as well as sets an example for others to follow.

3.Stop spreader rallies: Give us Covid safe polls through the foreseeable future

Surging Covid cases in Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala require the Election Commission to rethink how poll campaigns are conducted for the foreseeable future. Political rallies are the macro campaigning mode of choice for top leaders, often with large crowds bussed in from nearby areas. With the pandemic, it is important to conduct elections – a vital expression of popular democratic will – in the safest way possible. Unfortunately, there has been rampant neglect of Covid appropriate norms, which has hit home now as another deadly Covid wave.

The correlation is stark. Bengal witnessed a 448% jump in active caseload, Tamil Nadu 309% and Kerala 111% over the fortnight ending April 13. At any given time, one or more states are engaged in assembly elections, bypolls or civic body polls – making elections a permanent feature of India’s political landscape. This is where election authorities must intervene more energetically to enforce their own guidelines for Covid appropriate behaviour. Lodging FIRs against rally organisers is ineffectual given the poor prosecution record in poll time offences.

Unable to roll up the remaining Bengal phases into one big election day and considering the egregious violations so far, the least EC can do is cancel all physical political rallies now, going beyond limiting them to certain hours of the day or passing the buck to district election officers. The alternative – recurring super spreader rallies – has become morally untenable amid mounting loss of lives. UP’s panchayat elections while caseloads are mushrooming across its big cities could fan the pandemic deep into the interiors. Current national surge could recede, only to be followed by more variants and waves. This necessitates a thorough shift to safe political mobilisations. Business as usual is an unaffordable luxury until this virus is conclusively tamed.

4. Dancing in scrubs: India’s Janakis are crushing the trolls

Amidst Covid gloom one thing that has brought cheer is healthcare workers showing off their dancing skills across the globe. To lift their own spirits and those of patients, doctors and nurses have been grooving to peppy numbers making for even peppier social media videos. So when Janaki Omkumar and Naveen Razak, medical students at Kerala’s Thrissur Medical College, jived to the classic Boney M track Rasputin, it not only became an instant sensation but again proved that MBBS aspirants are more than just nerds.

But alas, ugly goblins lurk around the corner of every post and they simply couldn’t resist targeting the dancing duo with their bile. And patriarchal tropes are usually their weapon of choice. So Janaki’s parents were warned about her pirouetting with a boy from another religion with the term ‘dance jihad’ being introduced to social media lexicon.

But Janaki has refused to let the hate affect her and chooses to focus on the compliments and praises which anyway outnumber the negative posts. It’s ironic that at a time when India’s women healthcare workers are on the frontlines of fighting Covid, a fun dance video featuring a female medical student would be a problem for some. Truth is women healthcare workers continue to be invisibilised. So when Janaki put on her dancing shoes, she was too conspicuous for trolls. Corona warriors are not just tough men in scrubs, they can also have long hair tied in a scrunchy and groove to Boney M.

5. Delhi’s Afghan dilemma

For India, the paradox of the unfolding situation in Afghanistan is stark — and geopolitically painful. Few countries are as deeply affected by developments in Afghanistan as India. There is geographical proximity; there is the ideological outlook of the Taliban and its close association with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI); there is the history of Afghanistan having been used to stir up instability in India, with groups and radical Islamists on both sides of the Durand Line responsible for terror attacks on Indian soil, especially in Kashmir through the 1990s. And there is the experience of having seen what an unfriendly regime in Kabul can do — most visibly, in 1999, when IC-814 was hijacked and then flown to Kandahar, under sympathetic ISI-Taliban gaze, forcing India to give up terrorists who continue to engage in terror and destruction two decades later.

Yet, India’s ability to influence developments in Afghanistan is exceptionally limited — especially since the United States (US) decided it was time to go home and, a tad too enthusiastically, gave a resurgent Taliban a seat at the negotiating table. With President Joe Biden declaring that troops will come back home by September 11 — two decades since the attack which led to the war in Afghanistan — the Taliban just has to wait it out and will exercise power in Kabul, much to the glee of its handlers in Rawalpindi.

India recognises the new reality, and has a seat on the table. But it is acutely conscious, as Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat said at the Raisina Dialogue, that US withdrawal could lead to a vacuum, filled by disruptors. The disruptors, the Taliban internally and Pakistan externally, will become decisive players in Kabul — with a fair degree of backing from China and Russia, as the US retreats even more and the current Afghan government struggles to retain its legitimacy and power. India can sound the warning bells, but has to deal with reality as it exists. To begin with, this will require narrowing down its interests to a core principle — there must be no security threat to Indian interests if the Taliban comes to power. But conveying this message only to external interlocutors won’t suffice. Delhi now needs to formally talk to the Taliban, and leverage its equity in Afghanistan — influence with the elite and popularity with the people — to drive home the message that the Afghanistan of 2020s must not be the Afghanistan of 1990s.

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