trainee5's blog

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 08 April 2020 (Cash less Indians, the new normal, and survival (The Hindu))



Cash less Indians, the new normal, and survival (The Hindu)



Mains Paper 2:National 
Prelims level:Generalised Entropy Index
Mains level:Welfare scheme for the vulnerable sections in India

Context:

  • On April 15, when the 21-day national lockdown imposed by the government ends, it is very likely that the bottom 47 percentile of India’s population will run out of cash. 
  • Estimates are based on the World Bank’s poverty line of $3.2 a day for a lower middle-income country such as India, assuming people are spending just to survive. 
  • It is also likely that the population between the 47th percentile and up to 87th percentile will have only half the cash they had before the lockdown began.
  • What this means, in real terms, is that the poorest 500 million Indians would be out of cash reserves completely by April 15 and another 500 million will be left with just half their reserves. 
  • These findings are part of my ongoing research on mapping inequality in India using demonetisation data.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Bad impact:

  • My findings reveal that the top 1% in India held 62% of all the currency in circulation, whereas the top 0.1% held 33%, a third of ₹17-lakh crore in circulation at the time of demonetisation.
  • In order to estimate cash inequality, I have created a model combining demonetisation and National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) data to which a generalised Pareto interpolation technique was applied to arrive at the cash held by each population group.
  • Many Indians have managed to deal with political and social inequality with their ability to negotiate their freedom using money. 
  • For poor Indians, having cash to pay back money lenders or landlords has meant having the choice between freedom and slavery. Money gives them choice; the freedom not to have their labour exploited.
  • Inequality of cash, a basic economic instrument, gives us a picture of how unequal our society is. The Gini coefficient, a common measure of inequality, of cash holding in India is as high as 0.71, where 0 indicates perfect equality and 1 indicates perfect inequality. 

Cash inequality:

  • Other measurements of inequality such as the Atkinson Index [A(1)=0.624] and the Generalised Entropy Index [GE(1)=3.108] also show a very high inequality of cash holding. This means that in India, cash is heavily concentrated at the top.
  • Even inter-district and intra-district cash inequality is very high. The top 10% districts held 764 times more currency than the bottom 10% districts. It is unsurprising then that the districts at the top are situated in Tier I and II cities. 
  • In fact, the bottom 60 districts, mostly comprising hill and tribal districts, held only 0.2% of all the cash.
  • Also, 60% of all districts analysed, i.e. 359 out of 607 districts in India, reported a Gini coefficient greater than or equal to 0.7, which means that even within districts, cash is concentrated very unequally. 
  • In absolute numbers, there are 10.9 million cash-rich Indians in the top 1%, that is almost equal to the population of Belgium.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Remonetise India:

  • When India begins to pick its pieces together, it will be looking at a grim situation where roughly a whopping one billion people of a population of 1.3 billion will be starting with zero or near zero cash. 
  • Much of this population is engaged in the informal economy; along with cash, they will also lose agency to negotiate for fair wages, decent working conditions, and basic human rights. 
  • Even for the struggling corporate sector, there is no good news. When their operations restart, nearly 50% of consumers will have no money to spend. The Indian economy is very likely to experience multidimensional pressures.
  • Given the dire economic situation, what I would like to propose is this: a social and economic argument to remonetise India. This would mean a direct cash transfer of ₹2.5-lakh crore just to replenish people’s exhausted cash coffers.
  • Previous research has established that up to the 77th percentile population, Indians just consume what they earn. 
  • This also coincides with the findings in the 2016 Economic Survey (which also introduced the concept of Universal Basic Income) that population up to the 77th percentile does not have access to formal loans.
  • The ₹1.7-lakh crore stimulus package announced in India by the Finance Minister is well intentioned but poorly thought out. 
  • The increased entitlements of ration and the supply of free gas cylinders will help to bolster food security. 
  • However, if we consider the cash components such as the increase of ₹20 in Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act wages or the transfer of ₹1,500 over three months via Jan Dhan accounts, it will barely compensate for the forced loss of jobs. 
  • The stimulus package then in no way addresses the imminent liquidity crisis forced upon one billion people.

Why remonetise needed?

  • Inequality reproduces more inequality. If a majority of Indians lose their cash reserves, they will fall into income traps where real wages will diminish and lost wages can only be recovered by longer working hours. 
  • Economist Joseph Stiglitz has argued that that it is not the differences in saving that cause the difference in income but the other way around, where incomes cause the difference in saving.
  • A targeted ₹2.5-lakh crore cash transfer will put money directly in the pockets and purses of the population up to the 87th percentile; ₹1.34 lakh crore will be for the poorest 500 million Indians, whereas ₹1.2-lakh crore will replenish the reduced cash reserves of the rest of the population up till the 87th percentile.
  • Now is the right time for the government to remonetise and make cash available through banks, automated teller machines and treasuries.

Way forward:

  • The government has to overlook its focus on cashless payments because the need of the hour is to allay people’s anxieties. It should remember that in India, we still rely heavily on physical transactions and not cashless payments. 
  • As political philosopher G.A. Cohen said, “Lack of money induces lack of freedom, even if accept the identification of freedom with the absence of interference…money provides freedom because it extinguishes interference with access to goods and services.”

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Online Coaching for UPSC PRE Exam

General Studies Pre. Cum Mains Study Materials

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 08 April 2020 (Democracy should not permit a trade-off (The Hindu))



Democracy should not permit a trade-off (The Hindu)



Mains Paper 2:Polity 
Prelims level:Epidemic Diseases Act
Mains level:Functions and responsibilities for both union and states 

Context:

  • Independent India inherited a legal system which was designed to control the colonised. Caught in the relentless grip of COVID-19, several State governments have invoked the Epidemic Diseases Act, first drafted to deal with bubonic plague that swept Maharashtra in 1897. 
  • The Act prohibited public gatherings, and regulated travel, routine screening, segregation, and quarantine. 

Historical precedent:

  • The government was given enormous powers to control public opinion. Bal Gangadhar Tilak, described as the ‘father of Indian unrest’ by Valentine Chirol of The Times (London) was imprisoned for 18 months. 
  • His newspaper, Kesari, had criticised measures adopted by the government to tackle the epidemic. The law was stark. 
  • It did not establish the right of affected populations to medical treatment, or to care and consideration in times of great stress, anxiety and panic.
  • Silence on these crucial issues bore expected results. In June 1897, the brothers, Damodar Hari Chapekar and Balkrishna Hari Chapekar, assassinated W.C. Rand, the plague commissioner of Poona, and Lieutenant Charles Egerton Ayerst, an officer of the administration. 
  • Both were considered guilty of invading private spaces, and disregarding taboos on entry into the inner domain of households. The two brothers were hanged in the summer of 1899. 
  • The assassination heralded a storm of revolutionary violence that shook the country at the turn of the twentieth century.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Current scenario:

  • Today our world should have been different. 
  • The government could have paid attention to migrant labour when it declared a lockdown on economic activities, roads, public spaces, transport, neighbourhoods and zones in which the unorganised working class ekes out bare subsistence. The result of this slip-up was tragic. 
  • Thousands of workers and their families were forced to exit the city, and begin an onerous trek to their villages. 
  • The unnerving spectacle of a mass of people trudging across State borders carrying pitiful bundles on their heads and little babies in their arms, without food or money, shocked the conscience of humankind. 
  • The neglect of workers upon whose shoulders the Indian economy rests, exposed the class bias of regulations. 
  • Confronted with the unexpected sight of people defying the lockdown, State governments and the Central government rushed to announce remedial measures. The afterthought came too late and gave too little.

Dispensing with rights:

  • On March 31, at a hearing of the Supreme Court of India on two petitions relating to the welfare of migrants, the Central government demanded that the Court should allow the imposition of censorship over media reports on measures adopted by the state. 
  • The government claimed that panic over the migration of thousands of bare-footed people was based on fake news, and that the scale of migration was over-estimated. 
  • Therefore, the Court should support rules that no news will be published or telecast without checking with the Central government. 
  • The plea was rejected, and the Court suggested that responsible journalism should rely on daily official bulletins. Witness the irony. 
  • The government is concerned about reports of involuntary migrations. It is not concerned with the reason why people were forced to walk out of the city in the first place.
  • The issue at hand is not the lockdown or other measures taken by the government. We recognise with great unease that governments easily dispense with basic human rights in the name of managing pandemics. 

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Overreach of power:

  • There is another cause for unease. Admittedly in emergencies governments have to adopt extraordinary measures. 
  • Yet, reports of authoritarian leaders across the world, giving to themselves unprecedented power at the expense of legislatures, judiciaries, the media, civil society, and civil liberties have set off ripples of doubt. 
  • When the disease has run its course, will these leaders abdicate the power they have amassed in the time of the coronavirus? 
  • Will they restore institutions that inspire public confidence, because they act as brakes on the exercise of unbridled power?
  • The prospect seems remote. If democratic India continues to invoke draconian colonial laws that were drafted in another time and for another purpose, why should we expect anything different in the future?
  • On March 16, United Nations human rights experts issued a statement expressing deep concern with the way leaders were amassing power ostensibly for dealing with the pandemic. 
  • The statement urged governments to avoid an ‘overreach’ of security measures when they respond to the coronavirus outbreak. 
  • Emergency powers, the experts insisted, should not be used to quash dissent. More significantly, these measures have to be proportionate, necessary and non-discriminatory. 
  • Some states and security institutions, continued the statement, will find the use of emergency powers attractive because it offers shortcuts. 

Protection of rights:

  • There is need to ensure that excessive powers are not hardwired into legal and political systems. 
  • Care should be taken to see that restrictions are narrowly tailored. Governments should deploy the least intrusive method to protects public health. 
  • “We encourage States,” concluded the statement, “to remain steadfast in maintaining a human rights-based approach to regulating this pandemic, in order to facilitate the emergence of healthy societies with rule of law and human rights protections.”
  • The rights experts have good reasons to issue this warning. Around the world, we witness the sorry spectacle of leaders — not precisely known for their commitment to democracy or human rights — steadily unravelling every check on the use of unmitigated power by the executive. 
  • In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is facing court cases for corruption and breach of trust, has closed the judiciary and postponed his own trial. 
  • The government has been given immense powers of surveillance. And a newly constituted Parliament, or Knesset, is not allowed to meet.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

No counter-balancing steps:

  • States are the product of history, composed of layers of meaning some of which have been fashioned for another time. 
  • The nature of the state is historically specific. Yet modern states share a common determination; a ruthless ambition to control the minds and bodies of citizens. 
  • Epidemics provide an opportunity to accomplish precisely this, to do away with inconvenient checks and balances institutionalised in the media, the judiciary, and civil society. The dismantling of constitutions and institutions will have a major impact on societies. 
  • Do decisions to control the pandemic have to be at the expense of human rights and democracy? 
  • On March 6, Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, advised governments to ensure that the measures they adopt to control the virus do not adversely impact people’s lives. 
  • “The most vulnerable and neglected people in society,” she recommended, “must be protected both medically and economically.” She gave sage advice, democracy does not permit trade-offs.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Online Coaching for UPSC PRE Exam

General Studies Pre. Cum Mains Study Materials

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 07 April 2020 (Learn from Singapore (Indian Express))



Learn from Singapore (Indian Express)



Mains Paper 3:Environment 
Prelims level: Singapore’s National Water Agency
Mains level:Water conservations issues and challenges in India 

Context:

  • At the time of its independence, Singapore faced lack of perennial surface water sources, flooding and polluted water ways, limited groundwater availability with a risk of seawater intrusion and dependence on a neighbouring country for drinking water.
  • Turn this vulnerability:
  • Today, Singapore’s diverse water portfolio—four national taps comprising of surface water, recycled water, harnessed rainwater and desalinated water, ensure that the country’s water needs are met sustainably.
  • Indian cities have witnessed unprecedented growth over the past few decades that, in turn, has had a drastic impact on water availability. 

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Key lessons for India:

  • Singapore’ water story offers many valuable lessons that can be learned, contextualised and implemented in Indian cities.
  • Indian cities need to diversify their water resources portfolio. For instance, harnessed rainwater at the catchment scale, collected through a drainage network and stored in 17 reservoirs before being treated and supplied, is one of the four water sources of Singapore. 
  • Few Indian cities have bye-laws that mandate rainwater harvesting. This will need strong legislation and engineering interventions.
  • Recycled water presents itself as an important component of the water portfolio. It is a climate-change resilient water resource, which can be reliably produced using advanced treatment technologies. 
  • In Singapore, recycled water is called NEWater, wherein used water is treated using advanced treatment technologies (combination of micro and ultra-filtration followed by reverse osmosis and UV disinfection) to ensure that the recycled water complies with the highest water quality standards, and is fit for human consumption. 
  • NEWater has a high demand among industries. Additionally, NEWater is also blended with surface water source to augment water supply during droughts.

Uses of sea water:

  • Singapore utilises desalinated sea water as its third source of water. India too has some desalination plants across few coastal cities, and can capitalise Singapore’s strong experience in seawater desalination in bringing down per unit cost of water and developing seawater as a sustainable water source.
  • A long-term Water Master Plan should gain higher importance within the Master Plan of cities. Integrated and long-term water resources’ planning has been Singapore’s strength. 
  • Supported by strong governance, Singapore’s National Water Agency (NWA) judiciously manages the price for its water services, and proactively invests in planning for the future next drop of water. 
  • This is supported by strong public outreach and stakeholder engagement programmes, to bolster the value of water. Indian cities often fail to anticipate water-related issues and are left to react to these.
  • With ageing assets, water theft and non-revenue water, our cities cannot continue to dole out water subsidies, which eventually lead to paucity of funds that could have helped upgrade the water infrastructure.
  • Such cost recovery will help us integrate digital technology into water management. 

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Conclusion: 

  • Indian cities can learn a lot from Singapore, but there is no point blaming them without giving them a fair chance to fight. 
  • If we have any hesitation taking this decision, we can always go back to the wise words of the founding father of Singapore, the late Lee Kuan Yew, ‘Water dominated every other policy. Every other policy had to bend at the knees for water survival’.

Online Coaching for UPSC PRE Exam

General Studies Pre. Cum Mains Study Materials

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 07 April 2020 (Why everyone should wear masks (The Hindu))



Why everyone should wear masks (The Hindu)



Mains Paper 2:Health 
Prelims level: COVID-19 pandemic
Mains level:Universal uses of masks and its significance 

Context:

  • Flattening the epidemic curve (case distribution curve) is the need of the day. On the curve, Y axis and X axis represent case numbers and time, respectively. 
  • A normal epidemic curve is bell-shaped, with an early ascending slope (first phase), a peak (second phase) and a declining slope (third phase). 

Cases in India:

  • The area under the curve represents the total number of cases. India is now in the first phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • A rapid increase in cases will demand far more healthcare facilities than now available. Healthcare facilities were not created in anticipation of a pandemic and are grossly inadequate for India to tackle the first phase. 
  • A flattening of the curve will reduce the demand on beds in intensive care units, respirators, and specialists to manage acute respiratory distress syndrome. 
  • The peak will be dwarfed and come after some breathing time; the pressure will be eased. However, the area under the curve, the total number of cases, whether the curve is bell-shaped or flattened, will be the same. 
  • This crucial information in the epidemiology of the epidemic must be taken into account for planning a response.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Flattening the curve:

  • There are two ways of flattening the curve: imposing a strict lockdown for a number of weeks or use of face masks all the time when outside our homes. 
  • A lockdown physically distances families from each other. The disadvantage is that family members may not be able to keep a physical distance of two meters from one another all the time. 
  • As a result, intra-familial spread occurs and more people are infected at the end of the lockdown than at the beginning. But during a lockdown community transmission is prevented.

Key reasons:

  • There are four reasons for the universal use of masks. 
  • First, any infected person will not infect others because the droplets of fluids that we let out during conversations, coughing or sneezing will be blocked by the mask. 
  • Remember, most infectious people don’t have symptoms, or have mild symptoms, and are unaware that they are infected. 
  • Second, uninfected people will have some protection from droplet infection during interactions with others. For those who wear eyeglasses, there is additional protection from droplets falling on the conjunctiva. When both parties wear masks, the probability of transmission is virtually zero. 
  • Third, the mask-wearers will avoid inserting their fingertips into their nostrils or mouths. 
  • Viruses deposited on surfaces may be carried by hand if we touch such surfaces; if we do not touch our eyes, nostrils or mouth, this mode of transmission is prevented. Fourth, everyone will be reminded all the time that these are abnormal days.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Making your own mask:

  • Taiwan and the Czech Republic depended primarily on universal mask use and slowed down the epidemic. 
  • In the Czech Republic, people made their own masks. Cotton pieces, preferably coarse, three layers, stitched with two straps, make masks of sufficient quality. These masks should cover the nose from just below the eye level and reach and cover the chin. 
  • All adults, and children who are old enough to wear masks, should wear them. At the end of the day, cotton masks can be washed in soapy water and hung to dry for re-use.

Conclusion: 

  • COVID-19 mortality is due to three reasons. Virus virulence is the given and cannot be altered. Co-morbidity (diabetes, chronic diseases) is already prevalent. 
  • Then there is low-quality healthcare. Slowing down the epidemic by imposing a lockdown and ensuring universal mask use gives us the chance to protect people from infection and improve healthcare quality; wherever that was done, the mortality was less than 1%.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Online Coaching for UPSC PRE Exam

General Studies Pre. Cum Mains Study Materials

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 07 April 2020 (Reducing farm distress during a pandemic (The Hindu))



Reducing farm distress during a pandemic (The Hindu)



Mains Paper 3:Economy 
Prelims level: PM-KISAN scheme
Mains level:Farm distress impact on agricultural income 

Context:

  • Social distancing and living under a lockdown appear to be the only effective ways of dealing with the pandemic. 
  • As India lacks the resources to significantly ramp up testing, imposing a lockdown was the government’s preferred option. 
  • Although there is limited evidence to suggest that this strategy may be working in containing the spread of the virus, its after-effects on thousands of migrant workers is already out in the open. 
  • Distrustful of the government’s promise of providing support, most migrant workers decided to walk back to their home States despite efforts by the state machinery to prevent them from moving out.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Impact on agricultural income:

  • Migrants are not the only ones who are facing the after-effects of the lockdown. With the economy coming to a complete halt in most of the informal and formal enterprises in urban areas, the lockdown is also likely to affect the large population in rural areas, a majority of whom are dependent on agriculture.
  • At a time when the rural economy was witnessing declining incomes, both for casual workers and self-employed workers, even before the pandemic broke out, this lockdown is only going to hurt the agricultural economy further. 
  • Even before the lockdown, rural wages were declining in real terms but there were hopes for agricultural incomes rising with food prices rising until January 2020. 
  • However, recent data on prices suggest that the trend is reversing with the decline in agricultural prices in most markets.
  • In the short run, we will likely witness a breakdown of supply chains of agricultural produce with no facilities for transportation of produce. 
  • This is likely to hurt those engaged in the production of fruits and vegetables, which are perishable goods and cannot be stored. With horticultural production exceeding foodgrain production in the last decade, many farmers are likely to face uncertain or no markets for their produce. 
  • Media reports have already confirmed that farmers are finding it difficult to dispose horticultural produce. Some of them have taken the extreme step of destroying their produce.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Short-term impact:

  • Some of the short-term impacts may affect price realisation by farmers but the real worry for farmers is going to be the decline in prices for the majority of agricultural produce. There are already signs of a collapse in agricultural prices, which predates the outbreak of the pandemic.
  • The food price index of the Food and Agricultural Organization, which was showing a rising trend in food prices until January 2020, reported a 1% decline in prices month-on-month in February 2020. This is likely to worsen further, particularly for cash crops. 
  • It is well-known that commercial crop prices follow a similar pattern as other primary commodities, particularly petroleum prices. With the sharp decline in petroleum prices, most of the commercial crops have seen a downward pressure on prices, which is likely to worsen in the coming months. 
  • But even for food grains and other crops, there is likely to be downward pressure on prices due to declining demand. The slowdown in the economy domestically and the expected recession worldwide will contribute to lower demand for agricultural commodities. 
  • At a time when the agricultural sector was already battling declining demand and lower prices, the faint hope of better prices appears unlikely to materialize. 
  • It is the decline in prices which is likely to hurt the income of farmers in the long run more than the short-run supply disruptions and labour shortages.

What the government can do?

  • While it is clear that agriculture will be affected due to short-term disruptions and the long-term economic impact of the pandemic, there is an opportunity for the government to help farmers through state support. 
  • Political expediency and fiscal concerns led the government to stock up food grains, with the Food Corporation of India (FCI) reporting 77 million tonnes of cereals in stocks as against the buffer requirement of 21 million tonnes as on April 1. 
  • However, with the lockdown forcing a humanitarian crisis and with most migrants heading back to the rural areas, it is also time for the government to release the food stocks through the public distribution system. 
  • The Central government has already announced that for the next three months, 5 kg of free grains will be distributed in addition to what people are entitled to under the National Food Security Act, but this has not yet reached the State governments due to the lockdown. 

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Major schemes:

  • One way of ensuring this is to reduce the input costs through existing schemes of subsidies such as the fertilizer subsidy and through price reduction in petrol/diesel meant for agricultural purposes. 
  • But for the immediate short-term, farmers need to be compensated for the loss of income and the best way to do it is through the PM-KISAN scheme. 
  • Unfortunately, the only announcement in this regard is the disbursal of the first installment of the transfer which is due in April. 
  • However, the scheme only used two-thirds of its budget allocation for 2019, so efforts should be made to not only enhance the coverage monetarily but also include tenant farmers and wage labourers who are as much dependent on agriculture as the land-owning cultivators. 

Conclusion:

  • Such a step is necessary not just for the survival of the agricultural sector but also for the overall economy which is expected to see a sharp slowdown and decline in demand. 
  • While income transfers may not be the best way of supporting the agricultural sector at times like these, they are the best available instruments to raise rural incomes and create demand.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Online Coaching for UPSC PRE Exam

General Studies Pre. Cum Mains Study Materials

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 07 April 2020 (Mockery of justice : On Daniel Pearl murder case acquittals(The Hindu))



Mockery of justice : On Daniel Pearl murder case acquittals(The Hindu)



Mains Paper 2:International 
Prelims level:Daniel Pearl murder case
Mains level:Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure

Context:

  • Thursday’s ruling by the Sindh High Court that overturned the conviction of Omar Saeed Sheikh, and three others, of murdering American journalist Daniel Pearl, for lack of evidence is scandalous in its utter disregard for criminal jurisprudence. 
  • The court observed that no evidence had been brought before it by the prosecution to link any of the four — the others being Fahad Saleem, Syed Salman Saqib and Sheikh Muhammad Adil, whose convictions were similarly overturned — to the killing of Pearl.
  • Pakistan’s commitment to punishing those involved in terror acts remains suspect.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Killing of Pearl:

  • This is sophistry at its best and speaks eloquently of the systematic way the case has been diluted from the beginning. 
  • Pearl, then South Asian Bureau Chief of The Wall Street Journal, was abducted in Karachi in January 2002, in an operation managed by Omar Sheikh, who had demonstrated links to, among others, Pakistani militant groups as well as to al-Qaeda. 
  • Pearl had been baited while investigating links between al-Qaeda and the British ‘Shoe Bomber’ Richard Reid, who tried, in mid-air on a flight, to light explosives in his shoes on December 21, 2001, just two months previously. 
  • Many ransom demands later, a video was handed over on February 21, 2002, wherein Pearl was shown being methodically beheaded with a knife. 
  • When the Americans began to squeeze Pakistan to go after the perpetrators, Omar Sheikh ‘surrendered’ to Ijaz Shah, a former Intelligence Chief, then Home Secretary of Punjab; he is now the country’s Interior Minister. Even more curiously, it was after many days that Sheikh’s arrest was shown.

Pakistan’s record of leniency: 

  • The Sindh government has extended Sheikh’s detention and the provincial prosecutor has said that the High Court ruling will be appealed in the Supreme Court. 
  • But these moves could be aimed at blunting growing international opprobrium, including at the FATF, the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog, that has already put Pakistan on its ‘grey list’, and where India has said it will bring this matter for discussion. 
  • It is likely that once the pressure eases, Sheikh and his cohorts will be let off as has happened with others before them. 
  • Pakistan’s record of leniency on this has been as consistent as it has been alarming. 

IC 814:

  • In 2015, Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, who supervised the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, was released from detention, and remains free. 
  • Just last month, Pakistan’s Economic Affairs Minister Hammad Azhar revealed that Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar had conveniently gone “missing” along with his family. 
  • Masood Azhar, Omar Sheikh, and Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar had been released in exchange for hostages of Flight IC 814 in December 1999 into Taliban/ISI custody in Kandahar. 

Conclusion:

  • Pakistan needs to be persuaded to move beyond tokenism and demonstrate a much higher order of commitment to deal with such terrorists than it has hitherto shown.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Online Coaching for UPSC PRE Exam

General Studies Pre. Cum Mains Study Materials

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 07 April 2020 (Enemy at the gates : On Kerala-Karnataka border row (The Hindu))



Enemy at the gates : On Kerala-Karnataka border row (The Hindu)



Mains Paper 2:Governance 
Prelims level:Kerala Epidemic Diseases Ordinance 2020
Mains level:Inter states disputes relating to health pandemic 

Context:

  • Kerala’s grievance over Karnataka sealing its border to prevent the spread of COVID-19 has brought under focus the extent and the possible limits, of restrictions that may be imposed by the government to deal with a public health emergency. 
  • Kerala High Court directed the Centre to ensure free vehicular movement for those requiring urgent medical treatment on the national highway that connects Kasaragod in Kerala to Mangaluru in Karnataka. 
  • Post it, the Supreme Court too has directed the Centre to confer with the States and formulate the norms for creating a passage at Talapadi, the border. 

Need to open the border:

  • An amicable solution is possibly round the corner, as there are reports of Kasaragod district suffering due to the highway closure. 
  • Many here depend on medical facilities in Mangaluru for emergencies, while others rely on inter-State movement for essential medicines to reach them. These include those battling endosulfan poisoning for many years. 
  • Karnataka’s objection is based on the fact that Kasaragod has Kerala’s largest number of positive cases. It has a reasonable apprehension that allowing vehicles might result in the disease spreading to its territory. 
  • It is clear that those who may travel across the border for urgent medical needs are patients other than those who are pandemic victims. 

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Kerala Epidemic Diseases Ordinance 2020:

  • The Kerala Governor promulgated the ‘Kerala Epidemic Diseases Ordinance, 2020’ to arm itself with extraordinary powers to deal with the pandemic. 
  • One of its clauses says the State can seal its borders for such period as necessary, while another empowers it to restrict the duration of essential or emergency services, including health, food supply and fuel. 
  • Karnataka may have reason to believe that it is equally entitled to seal its borders and restrict essential services. 
  • It is a moot question whether Kerala’s new law would weaken its case that its neighbour cannot shut down its border and deny medical access to its residents. 

Conclusion: 

  • Inter-State migration and quarantine are under the Union List, while the prevention of infectious diseases moving from one State to another is under the Concurrent List. 
  • This can only mean that while States have the power to impose border restrictions, the responsibility to prevent a breakdown of inter-State relations over such disputes is on the Centre.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Online Coaching for UPSC PRE Exam

General Studies Pre. Cum Mains Study Materials

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 06 April 2020 (Do OTT platforms provide more space for sociopolitical content? (The Hindu))



Do OTT platforms provide more space for sociopolitical content? (The Hindu)



Mains Paper 3:Science and Tech 
Prelims level:OTT platforms
Mains level:Impact of OTT platforms in socio-economic scenario 

Context:

  •  With India under a lockdown, and with museums, movie theaters, malls, restaurants and bars closed, people now spend a lot of time watching films and shows on OTT (Over The Top) platforms such as Hotstar, Netflix, and Amazon Prime Video. 
  •  Over the last few years, with OTT platforms providing an opportunity to filmmakers and screenwriters to think and write differently, there has been a significant rise in content on these platforms. 
  •  Filmmakers Anurag Kashyap and Vetrimaaran speak of why these platforms are liberating, and what the digital future looks like, in a conversation moderated by Radhika Santhanam. 

Edited excerpts:

Mr. Kashyap, you said once, “Digital platforms are giving me the freedom and the budget that they won’t give anyone else.” What kind of freedom do these platforms give you? Are you referring to the fact that there is no censorship on these platforms or do you mean freedom even in terms of the subjects you can explore?

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Anurag Kashyap:

  •  The kind of freedom I’m getting on OTT platforms is the kind of freedom that Vetri demands and takes [even otherwise] — he brings sociopolitical content into every film, which is alien to Hindi films. 
  •  For the [theatre-going] audience, the moment anything becomes sociopolitical, they stay away from it. And it becomes increasingly difficult to find money for such films. 
  •  For example, when I made Mukkabaaz, I could not find money for it for two years because of the subject and because of the rural... The actor was also [not mainstream]. But now I’m doing a new film for Netflix, Choked, which deals with sociopolitical content and has Roshan Mathew and SaiyamiKher. 
  •  I am getting the right amount of money for it and I can say what I want to say. So, it’s not just about censorship; it’s about the multi-fold pressures [that come with theatrical films and don’t come with OTT]. 
  •  First, there’s the producer who says there is no audience. Stars don’t want to do anything political because they want to keep safe. Your budget is cut down. Then because the film is not high-profile, I generally try to send it to some festival so that it gets some kind of a profile. 
  •  With OTT platforms I don’t feel like I’m making something for TV, I’m just making my film. People are choosing to watch it on an OTT platform and I have the budget and freedom to do what I like.

Mr. Vetrimaaran, you’ve often said that cinema is a dying art. Today, more people are watching cinema than ever before because of digital platforms. They also watch different kinds of cinema – Tamil, Malayalam, Korean, etc. These platforms also provide an opportunity to create different content. So, isn’t cinema thriving more than ever before and haven’t digital platforms, as a medium, been one of the reasons for that?

Vetrimaaran:

  •  When I said cinema, I mentioned cinema in the theatre, experience-giving cinema. I did not mean cinema as a language or medium. That medium that you go and watch on, the big screen, that is a dying art. Because, if you see the last six-seven years, whatever made headlines in terms of big money in Hollywood was a superhero film. 
  •  I don’t find any art in these films. Also, in the Indian scenario, you have a Baahubali doing big numbers, but how does it matter to a common man or his problems? 
  •  So, the representation of the common man has been taken out of the theatre-going experience. You need a superstar or a superhero film to make people go to the theatres.
  • But today a lot of people do go and watch films like Vada Chennai and KaakaMuttai or Badhaai Ho and Article 15. And Asuran was Dhanush’s top-grossing film.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Vetrimaaran:

  •  Sometimes it happens. But predominantly it is more hero-driven. Also, for the kinds of films that I make, I have an actor like Dhanush to support me, which makes it easier for me. 
  •  At any point, when I say, I have a story to say, he says, okay, I will back you, you do the film you want to do. And he has a considerably good market. I can have a good budget. And I’m able to do the film.
  •  Asuran, I feel, if you take out all the sociopolitical factors in it, deep down you see a Baashha-like idea. So, that way after my first film, Asuran was the next film I made that centred on one particular character and the journey of that character. So, it was a hero film. 
  •  All the other films are not typically hero films. So, I feel, the more the star value of the film or the more visually exciting the film, those are the films that predominantly make money and are backed by investors. 
  •  If you want to make serious films, they have questions to ask you such as, how will I get back the money?
  •  Now, with the advent of OTT platforms, it is the golden era of the screenwriter. We have always been curtailed by writing for a two-and-a-half-hour film. I had five-and-a-half-hours of [script] for Vada Chennai. But I could only show 2 hours and 39 minutes. That is a major limitation. 
  •  When it comes to OTT, you have the liberty to write as much as you can imagine and as much as the budget you can get allows. I’ve done a 30-minute film for Netflix; it’s part of an anthology. And when I made it, I realised how liberated Anurag must be feeling. 
  •  I did not have any kind of pressure. When I’m editing for a theatrical film, I think every minute, how will the audience react to this scene, is the length enough, should I reduce it, add some more? 
  •  I keep someone else in mind when I’m making a theatrical film. For this one I didn’t have anyone in mind; I just wanted to make a film. I wanted to bring out something and I did that without any pressure. I have never been as relaxed in an edit room as I was while making this.

You spoke of investors. Is there any interference from these platforms when you pitch an idea to them?

Anurag Kashyap:

  •  I have never faced any interference. They always give you feedback, but they always leave it to you. It’s also something you earn over a period of time. So far, I have had a very good time. 
  •  [For theatrical films], I have always faced prejudice from the distributors. They say people don’t want to watch what you’re doing. But I know that people do watch my films. 
  •  The only difference is that people watch it later, whereas for a distributor, the first three days are what matter at the box office. 
  •  Most of my audience is an educated, working audience and not those who line up on Fridays and Saturdays to watch a film the way people line up to watch a Salman Khan or Shah Rukh Khan film. My audience watches my films at their own time.
  •  What has happened with OTT is that my old films, like That Girl in Yellow Boots, got an audience much after they were released. It translates very well for me because I get direct feedback, which puts me in a much better space... 
  •  Platforms let me be because they know that whether it’s my politics or it’s what I’m trying to say, people are responding to it, reacting to it and engaging with it. So, they let me be because they have data and all that.

What kind of feedback do you get from people?

Anurag Kashyap:

  •  For example, with Ghost Stories, there was a bad backlash in India, but I had the freedom to do something I had never done before. The feedback that I got from the genre audience from around the world was very encouraging, constructive. This makes you better and sharper as a filmmaker.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Mr. Vetrimaaran, why do you think the Tamil film industry’s foray into this has been slow?

Vetrimaaran:

  •  When it comes to Tamil, the problem is marketing. The kind of stories I want to tell on OTT require a certain budget. But OTT platforms have a limited budget for a limited market like Tamil. 
  •  The primary target for a Tamil original film or a series would be the Tamil audiences worldwide. And then they would be looking at other international viewership, so they have limited investments. 
  •  Now they are opening up, coming up with some good budgets. I have been wanting to do the prequel to Vada Chennai as a series. I’ve been talking to a lot of people… they felt the budget was too much, now they’re able to give it.

Are well-known actors more willing now to do digital content?

Anurag Kashyap:

  •  A lot of them are, not everyone. Actors who are having a good run in the box office are not ready to act in films or a series made for digital platforms. They are willing to produce it, but not willing to act in these yet.

Vetrimaaran:

  •  This space is for women actors who have the potential to be stars in the box office industry as well, but they’re given more space here. 
  •  For theatrical films, mostly you end up writing for men. Here I would like to write stories with more women characters — women with proper representation. 
  •  Not every star wants to be in an original. They want to have a theatrical release and then they want to be in digital.

Mr. Kashyap, what do you find fulfilling on these platforms in a way that the theatre experience doesn’t give you? And what do you find challenging?

Anurag Kashyap:

  •  The biggest problem I have faced as a filmmaker is that they don’t let me explore subjects that matter to me: sexuality, religion and politics. These are the three big nos for the cinema experience. But Netflix doesn’t shy away from that. 
  •  Second, I can tell the whole story. I don’t have to censor it. I can tell a story for seven hours. If Sacred Games was a movie, it would have been about Nawaz [Nawazuddin Siddiqui] and Saif [Ali Khan], but on Netflix, I could flesh out characters like Bunty, Kukkoo and Subhadra.
  •  There is no difficulty, but the only aspiration it doesn’t cater to is that we all want to see things on the big screen. But that’s a choice we make.

Vetrimaaran:

  •  For the liberty that’s given there, this is a small compromise.

Anurag Kashyap:

  •  In the U.S., Netflix films get a limited theatrical release. It doesn’t happen here — not because Netflix doesn’t want to do it but because exhibitors don’t want to support it.
  • Vetrimaaran:
  •  If you have a bigger star in it, it may happen. Regarding subjects, I would like to explore the same topics, especially politics and policies. The anti-people policies, like what’s happening in Tamil Nadu, and how they affect the common man.

What is the immediate future like in terms of content?

Vetrimaaran:

  •  The theatrical experience is going to become more and more shallow and momentary [in terms of Tamil]: there will be 10 heroes and 25 directors to cater to the audience. And all the others will have to move to these platforms and start making films with the content that we want to discuss. 
  •  The only problem is when you put it out in the theatre, the common man comes face-to- face with it. With OTT it’s a choice. It’s like going to a library and reading a book instead of reading a daily that gets delivered at home. 
  •  We make films that we want the common man to watch, but it’ll take time to take it to him. That’s a small setback. He has to watch it on his mobile phone where he’d rather watch YouTube than Amazon or Netflix.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Online Coaching for UPSC PRE Exam

General Studies Pre. Cum Mains Study Materials

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 06 April 2020 (A million and counting: On global coronavirus spread(The Hindu))



A million and counting : On global coronavirus spread(The Hindu)



Mains Paper 2:International 
Prelims level:SARS-CoV-2
Mains level:On global coronavirus spread

Context:

  • On April 2, the number of novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) infections in 181 countries/regions crossed one million, and deaths passed 50,000. 
  • On April 3, the total number of cases and deaths stood at 10,39,166 and 55,092, respectively. 
  • With 2,45,646 cases, the U.S. accounts for 24% of the global total, while Italy, with 13,915 deaths, has over 26% of total mortality. 
  • Four countries — the U.S., Italy, Spain and Germany — have more cases reported than China. 

Time taken:

  • The exponential increase becomes striking considering that the time taken to report 1,00,000 more cases has been reducing. 
  • If it took 12 days to double to 2,00,000, it took just three days each to cross 0.3 and 0.4 million. 
  • Thereafter, 0.1 million more cases have been reported every two days except on two occasions — the increase from 0.6 million to 0.7 million and 0.9 million to 1 million happened in a single day. 
  • Yet, the cases reported so far might be a small percentage of the actual numbers in mostcountries. The main limiting factor in knowing the true spread has been the restricted number of tests done in most countries, India included. 

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Under reporting:

  • Besides missing out those exhibiting mild symptoms and under-reporting by countries, the actual number of infections might be manifold higher as most countries have not made attempts to test those who do not show symptoms. 
  • There is accumulating evidence suggesting that a “substantial fraction” of people infected with the virus are asymptomatic. 
  • For instance, in South Korea, more than 20% of asymptomatic cases did not develop symptoms during hospitalisation. 
  • If in Italy the virus was spreading silently for about 50 days before the first case was reported on February 20, in Iceland, nearly half of the 20% who tested positive for the virus were either asymptomatic or showed only mild symptoms. 

Asymptomatic reports:

  • The South China Morning Post said more than 43,000 people in China who tested positive by end-February were asymptomatic and unreported. 
  • Since April 1, China has been reporting new cases that are asymptomatic. China’s National Health Commission reports that as on March 31 there have been 1,541 asymptomatic cases. 
  • The World Health Organisation maintains that the virus mainly spreads through droplets and contact with contaminated surfaces, and the risk of getting infected by an asymptomatic person is “very low”. 
  • In India, it is important to test travellers and trace and monitor their contacts. Otherwise, there remains the risk of continued spread once the lockdown is withdrawn.

Conclusion:

  • The global spread of the virus is continuing despite mitigation efforts.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Online Coaching for UPSC PRE Exam

General Studies Pre. Cum Mains Study Materials

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 06 April 2020 (Only through the prism of science (The Hindu))



Only through the prism of science (The Hindu) 



Mains Paper 3:Science and Tech 
Prelims level:COVID-19
Mains level:Principle of collective consciousness on COVID-19

Context:

  • On Friday, April 3, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made his third COVID-19 address to the nation. To raise the people’s morale, Mr. Modi asked them to light up candles, diyas (lamps), torchlights and mobile flashlights for 9 minutes at 9 p.m. this Sunday. 
  • Soon after his address, the citizens outreach portal of the Government of India tweeted a video explaining the ‘science’ behind the Prime Minister’s request.
  • The video had a former president of the Indian Medical Association claiming that the request was based on a yogic ‘principle of collective consciousness’. 
  • The doctor said that if the people collectively thought that they would not be afflicted by the coronavirus, then their collective consciousness would ensure that this happens. 
  • This, he said, was based on a ‘quantum principle’. The tweet was soon deleted. But the incident shows how pseudoscience may be endangering India’s public health policy at this critical moment.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Need for scientific temper:

  • At no point in its modern history has India needed its people as now to urgently understand how microbiology impacts public health. 
  • The Central and State governments are making huge efforts to give us a crash course on the spread and arrest of COVID-19. 
  • But in our country, the Prime Minister’s voice on national issues carries the most weight. In this hour of national crisis, India needs its top leader to make the people realize why science has no substitute in battling the virus. 
  • How has Mr. Modi fared as a promoter of scientific temper?
  • In October 2014, the Prime Minister made two claims linking cutting-edge life sciences to Indian myths, including the Mahabharata. 
  • In a speech delivered in Hindi, he said that Karna’s birth was a result of stem cell science and technology. 
  • He also said that the world’s first plastic surgery was performed on Ganesha, giving the deity his elephant head. And, he made these remarks while inaugurating a hospital in Mumbai.

Invoking Mahabharata:

  • On March 25 this year, a day after announcing the national lockdown, Mr. Modi interacted with the residents of Varanasi. 
  • Invoking the Mahabharata again, he told them that the Mahabharata war was won in 18 days and India would win its war against the virus in 21. 
  • In his English translation of the epic, Bibek Debroy, the Chair of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister, doubts that the war of the scale described in the epic took place. Or that “miraculous weapons and chariots were the norm”.
  • The Prime Minister’s 2014 remarks mixed up science and mythology, and sent out the following public message: our epics are historical truths; the fantasies within them are records of our ancient accomplishments in cutting-edge science and technology;  And since the ‘knowledge’ they contain has come down to us as part of our unbroken tradition, our indigenous wisdom can solve the problems that the life sciences currently face. 
  • One wonders how those who believed his 2014 remarks would have responded to his projection of winning the war against the pandemic in 2020.
  • Since Mr. Modi’s 2014 remarks, a number of Central and State leaders as well as lawmakers belonging to his party have peddled pseudoscience and untenable claims that fracture the backbone of the life sciences. 

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Dispelling the darkness:

  • It is not surprising therefore that a ‘theory’ that sound vibrations kill the virus recently found a large number of takers. 
  • Nothing but the acceptance of this myth masquerading as science explains the outrageous interpretation of the Prime Minister’s call to thank the nation’s essential service providers with applause, bell-ringing and banging of metal thalis (plates). 
  • Several groups of people hit the streets on the evening of March 22 to ‘celebrate’ the ‘Janata Curfew’. They practised intense social proximity and banged metal utensils merrily and mercilessly. Did these actions increase the danger of the community spread of the virus? 
  • If they did not, then why did the Prime Minister tweet the next day that many people had not taken the lockdown seriously?
  • Mr. Modi did not ask people to erupt on the streets and endanger public health. However, it is not implausible that it happened because his message was interpreted by groups of people influenced by the present anti-science ecosystem. 
  • Dozens of pseudoscientific solutions to the pandemic are floating within this ecosystem. 
  • After Mr. Modi’s Friday morning address, claims about the prowess of light to fight the virus have begun circulating on social media. 

Conclusion:

  • The Prime Minister has for years had the authority to crack down on this ecosystem. We would have been better placed in the fight against COVID-19 had he done so.
  • And thus, the challenge: we are confronting a pandemic that only science and technology can fight in an ecosystem rife with belief in pseudoscience. 
  • The 20th century philosophers of science, Karl Popper and Imre Lakatos, argued that pseudoscience was a great danger to liberal societies. 
  • We can only hope that it is not irreversibly damaging India’s public health in this moment of crisis.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Online Coaching for UPSC PRE Exam

General Studies Pre. Cum Mains Study Materials

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 06 April 2020 (Light and sound: On Narendra Modi’s 9-minute light ceremony (The Hindu))



Light and sound: On Narendra Modi’s 9-minute light ceremony (The Hindu)



Mains Paper 2: National 
Prelims level:9-minute light ceremony
Mains level:Social issues 

Context:

  • Full of sound and piety but signifying little, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s third and latest address to the nation on the COVID-19 pandemic hardly calmed frayed nerves. 
  • Anxieties among the sections of society:
  • Anxieties triggered by the pandemic are on the rise among all sections of society. The lockdown enforced on March 24 has brought the economy to a halt: small businesses are bleeding, and companies are scurrying to keep their heads above water. 
  • Migrant labourers are stranded and hungry; health workers and security personnel are already stretched. 
  • The extent of the pandemic itself remains uncertain, meanwhile. It is only natural that 130 crore Indians, the audience that the Prime Minister calls out to in all his speeches, have a lot of angst regarding all this. 

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Lack of accountability:

  • Chief executives of many democracies have personally addressed the people with detailed and material plans of action since the outbreak. 
  • They have also kept the interaction alive, and two-way. The political leadership at the Centre has largely remained aloof. Mr. Modi himself continues with his monologues, shunning all questions.
  • Rhetoric to rally the nation in a moment of crisis can actually do good. Unifying and galvanising the country is very critical in combating the pandemic. 
  • To the extent that it sought to achieve those goals, the Prime Minister’s message was purposeful. But gong and cymbals that drown out substantive conversations can be counterproductive. 
  • If the pandemic itself was not mind-boggling enough, now the country has a unique puzzle to resolve — which is about the nine-minute light ceremony at 9 p.m. on Sunday, April 5, that the Prime Minister has called for. 
  • Unsurprisingly, an industry has instantly sprung up online interpreting the choice of number nine as a stroke of celestial genius, forcing the Press Information Bureau to issue a clarification. 
  • “Don’t fall for the rumours and unscientific reasoning on the appeal for lighting diya…,” it said. The Prime Minister himself has repeatedly asked people to stay away from rumours and misinformation about the pandemic, and rely only on trusted media platforms. 

Conclusion:

  • Mr. Modi has a formidable following among the Indian public and his words carry weight. But no country can talk its way out of a pandemic and an economic collapse. 
  • If words are all one has, the virus is not going to be kind. Nor is an economy going to stop its free fall at the sight of candles. 
  • Symbolism is infused with meaning only through corresponding action. Symbolism has its place, but it must be part of a sustainable action plan.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Online Coaching for UPSC PRE Exam

General Studies Pre. Cum Mains Study Materials

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 06 April 2020 (Time for India Inc to step up (Indian Express))



Time for India Inc to step up (Indian Express)



Mains Paper 4:Ethics 
Prelims level:Personal Protective Equipment
Mains level:Corporate social responsibility to address the pandemic 

Context:

  • The coronavirus pandemic has brought about a moment that has no precedence in our lifetime. 

Background: 

  • We are dealing with a situation that is fast-evolving, and merits our immediate attention and action. 
  • Time has arrived to bring all our resources to the public square and to collectively resist and take affirmative action against the fallout from the pandemic. 
  • In peace time, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is seen as doing some social good somewhere. 
  • If it is done well, and in compliance with the government guidelines, it is seen as having accomplished its mission. 
  • In war time though, as is the case now, CSR needs to acquire a new sense of urgency and indeed responsibility.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

CSR activities done: 

  • The finance minister announced that CSR funds can be spent on activities related to addressing Covid-19 impact. 
  • Even before this announcement was made on March 23, we saw some examples of benevolent individual corporate leaders offering resources to combat Covid-19. 
  • Anand Mahindra, the chief of automobile giant Mahindra has offered to convert Mahindra Resorts into care facilities for Covid-19 patients. Anil Agarwal, the chief of the natural resources conglomerate Vedanta has pledged 100 crore for the fight against Covid-19. 
  • Reliance has set up a 100-bed hospital in Mumbai and offered healthcare facilities through Jio platform and free fuel for emergency vehicles.

Need collective efforts from both sides: 

  • While these individual efforts are laudable, we need to nevertheless give serious thought as to how we can collectively add value to the overall societal effort to combat the virus impact.
  • We need to now apply all the strategic thinking we teach in our business schools. 
  • We need to collectively identify our priorities first and then see where the resources are to be deployed. 
  • The government will do what it normally does in its own way. The corporate sector can bring its unique way of doing things albeit in a strategic way. 
  • The corporate sector is good at innovation. This is their forte and must be exercised at this moment. Here are some of the key priorities that need urgent addressing and more importantly funds.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Increase testing capacities: 

  • We just have 118 government labs and 12 private labs. Many of them are still equipping themselves. 
  • This is one critical gap where CSR can contribute very effectively. 
  • Start-ups such as Mylab Discovery Solutions that are making indigenous test kits is a case in point. 
  • They may have secured the funding for development but lack the resources to scale it to areas where they are needed the most. 
  • In the North-Eastern region (NER), for a population of over 50 million there are just eight labs, and half of them are in Assam. 
  • The state of Bihar has nearly 100 million people, but there is just one lab in Patna. 
  • With the lockdown in place it is not easy to send samples from Sikkim to Guwahati. It will be weeks before the results come. 
  • We need mobile testing labs and deploy them in large numbers. For epidemiological reasons also, a mobile testing lab has many advantages. 
  • CSR is quick and an effective instrument to ensure that this happens.

Procurement of Personal Protective Equipment:

  • The second area of intervention is addressing the severe shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). 
  • This shortage has the serious risk of healthcare workers getting exposed to the virus. 
  • More than 12% of all those who are infected and indeed dying are healthcare workers in Spain. They have just run out of all PPEs. 

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Way forward:

  • We are dealing with a potential disaster scenario and we need to work on a war footing to resolve the issues and increase the manufacturing and supply of PPE wherever it is needed. 
  • CSR can ensure that enough supplies reach these epicentres to protect our health and front-line workers.
  • It is equally important for CSR to reach out to the most vulnerable sections of our society with an emergency basic income. 
  • Cash relief to those who are daily wage earners and must stay home due to lockdown can get the priority. This is to ensure that no one dies of hunger.

Conclusion: 

  • Corporates can start this at least in their own catchment areas where they are working. 
  • The challenge here is to design a fool-proof and leak-proof method of transferring cash to people in need.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Online Coaching for UPSC PRE Exam

General Studies Pre. Cum Mains Study Materials

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 04 April 2020 (Threat to cancer patients from coronavirus (Indian Express))



Threat to cancer patients from coronavirus (Indian Express)



Mains Paper 2:National 
Prelims level:Cancer patients
Mains level:Threat to cancer patients from coronavirus

Context:

  • The number of people infected with COVID-19 across the world has now reached a million. It is well known now that while people of all age groups are vulnerable to infection from the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the people likely to develop severe COVID-19 are those above the age of 60 years.
  • Especially vulnerable are those people who have comorbidities such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease and cancer.
  • For some cancer patients receiving treatment, the global pandemic poses a different set of challenges, even if they do not have COVID-19. Here’s a look at some of those challenges and how doctors and cancer specialists have been advised to alter treatments during this time.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Are cancer patients at higher risk of developing serious illness due to COVID-19?

  • Yes, a subset of cancer patients are more vulnerable to developing serious illness due to COVID-19. 
  • This subset includes people with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy, those undergoing radical radiotherapy for lung cancer, people with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma (at any stage of treatment), those getting immunotherapy or antibody treatments for cancer, those having other types of targetted cancer treatments which may affect the immune system and cancer patients who have undergone bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last six months or who are still taking immunosuppressive drugs.
  • Further, a cancer patient who is over the age of 60 and has comorbodities such as cardiovascular or respiratory issues will also be especially vulnerable to illness due to COVID-19. 
  • As per a recent analysis of patients in Italy, 20 percent of those who died in the country had active cancer.

Why are cancer patients more vulnerable to Covid-19?

  • Some cancer patients are more vulnerable because of their weakened immune systems. The immune system has an important role to play to fight off infection or repair an injured tissue. 
  • With COVID-19 as well, the role of the immune system is to try and fight off the virus. 
  • The immune system should not be overstimulated so as to cause hyper inflammation caused when more than necessary number of white blood cells are deployed by the immune system, which can lead to sepsis or even death. The immune system should also not be weak that it is unable to fight off the infection.
  • Some cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy might weaken the immune system of the patient, since such treatments can stop the bone marrow from making enough white blood cells.
  • Due to this, the immune system is weakened, reducing the person’s ability to fight off infection.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

What about cancer patients who do not have COVID-19?

  • The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) has placed guidelines for treatment of cancer patients who do not have COVID-19. 
  • These guidelines state that cancer patients may need to consider if the risks of beginning or continuing their cancer treatment could outweigh the benefits, since patients receiving therapies are more at risk from becoming seriously ill if they were to contract COVID-19. 
  • When deciding on whether a particular cancer treatment should be undertaken, doctors may also take into account the exposure of the patient to the virus during hospital visits.

Way ahead:

  • Further doctors dealing with cancer patients will also have to consider the overall impact of the coronavirus on health services, Cancer Research UK points out. For example, it’s likely that there will be staff and bed shortages. 
  • This means they might need to delay or rearrange treatments. Because of this, they might need to prioritise some treatments over others.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Online Coaching for UPSC PRE Exam

General Studies Pre. Cum Mains Study Materials

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 04 April 2020 (Quarantine and the law (The Hindu))



Quarantine and the law (The Hindu)



Mains Paper 2:Polity 
Prelims level:Quarantine
Mains level:Quarantine and its Judicial review 

Context:

  • It was about 196 years ago (1824) that the U.S. Supreme Court, in an en banc sitting led by Chief Justice John Marshall, affirmed the powers of the state to enact quarantine laws and impose health regulations. 
  • The world has since faced many health emergencies caused by dangerous diseases. This virus crisis is also not new.

Quarantine:

  • Quarantine is considered the oldest mechanism to reduce the rapid spread of bacterial infections and viral onslaughts. 
  • It has been legally sanctioned by all jurisdictions in the world for the maintenance of public health and to control the transmission of diseases. 
  • Since ancient times, societies have practised isolation, and imposed a ban on travel or transport and resorted to maritime quarantine of persons.
  • These measures were often forcibly enforced to prevent or reduce the wider spread of disease and to safeguard the health of citizens not yet exposed to such diseases. 
  • In the list of diseases that may require quarantine, issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome that can go on to become pandemic has been recently added to the existing ones — cholera, diphtheria, infectious tuberculosis, plague, smallpox, yellow fever and viral hemorrhagic fever. 

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Trentino to Quarantine:

  • The first law on medical isolation was passed by the Great Council in 1377, when the plague was rapidly ruining European countries. Detention for medical reasons was justified and disobedience made a punishable offence. 
  • The law prescribed isolation for 30 days, called a ‘trentino’. Subsequently, many countries adopted similar laws to protect the people. 
  • When the duration of isolation was enhanced to 40 days, the name also changed to ‘quarantine’ by adopting the Latin quadraginta, which referred to a 40-day detention placed on ships.
  • In common parlance, ‘quarantine’ and ‘isolation’ are used interchangeably, but they convey two different meanings and are two different mechanisms in public health practice. 
  • Quarantine is imposed to separate and restrict the movement of persons, who may have been exposed to infectious disease, but not yet known to be ill. 
  • But, isolation is a complete separation from others of a person known or reasonably believed to be infected with communicable diseases.
  • The current COVID-19 crisis, with its closure of shops, academic institutions and postponement of public examinations, has put the people in a de facto quarantine. Nonetheless, the question whether a public authority or state can promulgate an order for quarantine is a legal issue.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Individual rights:

  • But in matters involving a threat to the health of the community, individual rights have to be balanced with public interest. 
  • In fact, individual liberty and public health are not opposed to each other but are well in accord. The reason assigned by the High Court to uphold the quarantine was that even if there was a conflict between the right of an individual and public interest, the former must yield to the latter.
  • In 2014, Kaci Hickox, a nurse and health worker who voluntarily rendered service to Ebola patients and returned to New Jersey, was quarantined in the U.S.
  • It was opposed by her peers serving in public health. But the dreadful consequences of the disease, and the possibility of its spreading at an alarming rate, made the forcible isolation rational and reasonable.
  • In India, the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, a law of colonial vintage, empowers the state to take special measures, including inspection of passengers, segregation of people and other special steps for the better prevention of the spread of dangerous diseases. 
  • It was amended in 1956 to confer powers upon the Central government to prescribe regulations or impose restrictions in the whole or any parts of India to control and prevent the outbreak of hazardous diseases. 
  • Quarantine is not an alien concept or strange action and it has been invoked several times during the bizarre situations caused by the cholera, smallpox, plague and other diseases in India.

Judicial review:

  • The Director of World Health Organization (WHO) on March 30 determined that the outbreak of COVID-19 constitutes a public health emergency of international concern and issued interim guidance for quarantines of individuals. 
  • The guidance permitted the restriction of activities by separation of persons who are not ill, but who may have been exposed to an infectious disease within the legal framework of the International Health Regulations (2005). 
  • It also distinguished quarantine from isolation, which is the separation of ill or infected persons from others, so as to prevent this spread of infection or contamination. 

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Way forward: 

  • Therefore, courts have exercised their jurisdiction and powers to review and reverse quarantine orders.
  • The Supreme Court suo motu took cognisance of fears over the COVID-19 pandemic affecting overcrowded prisons in India, on March 16. 
  • The difficulties in observing social distancing among prison inmates, where the occupancy rate is at 117.6%, were highlighted and directions issued to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in prisons in India.
  • The setting up of isolation cells within prisons across Kerala, and the decision of the Tihar Jail authorities to screen new inmates and put them in different wards for three days are appreciated as reasonable preventive measures. 
  • Further, notices were issued to all States to deal with the present health crisis in prisons and juvenile observation homes.

Conclusion:

  • Quarantine rooms may have strong closed doors or may be water and air tight compartments, but the rays of justice from the courtrooms have the powers to intrude in them.
  • Of course, under the sun every object is subject to judicial review and quarantine orders are not exempted from it.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Online Coaching for UPSC PRE Exam

General Studies Pre. Cum Mains Study Materials

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 04 April 2020 (Looking east to contain COVID-19 (The Hindu))



Looking east to contain COVID-19 (The Hindu)



Mains Paper 2:International 
Prelims level:COVID-19
Mains level:COVID-19 preventive measures taken by eastern countries 

Context:

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s extraordinary decision to impose a nationwide lockdown for three weeks to contain COVID-19 is without precedent. 
  • Even at the peak of the outbreak — and lockdowns — in China, 600 million fewer people were confined to their homes. 

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Decision – A welcome one:

  • Overall, the decision is a welcome one, but it should have almost certainly been taken much earlier — even if the true fatality rate of SARS-CoV-2 turns out to be orders of magnitude smaller.
  • An extreme restriction on population movement is not a silver bullet, however. Like border shutdowns, it can buy time to slow down the spread of the virus but not eliminate it altogether. 
  • To eliminate the virus, community transmission must be prevented. Key to such transmission prevention is (early) detection and, thereafter, aggressive and systematic quarantining. 
  • Given India’s slow start on the diagnostic and detection front, it is all the more urgent that the government ramp up its act on the isolation and quarantining front.
  • Lessons from the successful prevention and containment strategies employed by South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and China are instructive here. 
  • Following the outbreak, each of the first four went their own way on border controls. 
  • While Singapore barred the entry of all visitors from mainland China, South Korea continued to receive 20,000 visitors from China even at the peak of the outbreak, limiting arrivals only from Hubei province and its capital Wuhan.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Breaking the chain:

  • Yet all four countries did two things that were key to breaking the chain of transmission. First, each instituted a widespread and rigorous regime of early testing and contact tracing. South Korea has conducted 4,31,743 diagnostic tests. 
  • Each confirmed patient’s contacts were then exhaustively traced and offered free testing. This has been reflected in unusually low fatality rates. 
  • Second, all four deployed information and communication technology to trace contacts, keep track of aggregations of movement, and provide real-time notifications on virus spread. Taiwan set the bar here. 
  • After integrating its public health databases with border controls, household registry and the national identification system, it linked private mobile phones to the government’s epidemic control centre, enabling enforcement of quarantine. 
  • As a result, the rate of local transmission cases to imported infections is among the lowest in the world.
  • The case of China may be more relevant to India given the somewhat similar capacity shortfalls, its forthwith sealing off of whole population centres and, most importantly, the fact that community transmission had already exploded before authorities had a firm handle on the spread. Quarantining was key in China. 
  • Makeshift hospitals, schools, hotels, etc. were re-purposed as quarantine centres on an industrial scale to house all but the most severe and critical cases (who were hospitalised). 

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Three lessons:

  • As India looks ahead, three lessons are key. 
  • First, the government must stay prepared to re-purpose existing facilities and massively scale up its quarantine square footage. 
  • Next, without detection and patient classification, there can be no intelligent quarantining; the government must use the interval to get its act together on testing. 
  • The tide in Wuhan was only turned after testing was expanded from the low hundreds in end-January to the several thousand by mid-February. 
  • Finally, it is time for India to avert its perennial Westward gaze. Many of the most innovative deployment of ideas and systems are being birthed right here to India’s east.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Online Coaching for UPSC PRE Exam

General Studies Pre. Cum Mains Study Materials

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 04 April 2020 (Break from tradition : On Wimbledon cancellation (The Hindu))



Break from tradition : On Wimbledon cancellation (The Hindu)



Mains Paper 2:International 
Prelims level:Wimbledon
Mains level:Impact of Wimbledon cancellation 

Context:

  • A yellow ball glides past the net, the players grunt, the grass twitches and under azure blue skies, the applause from the stands ranges from the muted to the ecstatic. 
  • Wimbledon is tennis at its best, and it remains the sport’s holy grail, blending history and nostalgia with a massive global fan base. 
  • There are the other Grand Slam Opens — French, U.S. and Australian — but Wimbledon towers above all. 

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Impact of Wimbledon: 

  • Geographically fused to London, Wimbledon’s appeal is truly universal. 
  • It is a feel-good genie let loose every year during the British summer, while cricket provides an echo from Lord’s and other grounds across England.
  • Last year, while Wimbledon uncorked its magic at The Championships as it is formally called, the cricket World Cup raced towards its climax. It was a sporting high and life was good. 
  • But since then, much water has flowed down the Thames and humankind is at another point, struggling to cope with the coronavirus pandemic that brooks no borders, weakening bodies and even pausing the most elementary of courtesies — the good old handshake, as social distancing is the preventive norm. 
  • When life is in peril, indulgences vanish, albeit for a while, and close on the heels of the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics to next year, Wimbledon too bit the dust. The announcement on Wednesday evoked one word from Roger Federer: “devastated!”

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Denouement:

  • The denouement wasn’t a surprise and this perhaps is the new-normal where what is often taken for granted can no longer be presumed permanent. 
  • Still, this is heartbreak for the die-hards, who will be forced to discard their annual rituals specific to Wimbledon. 
  • The debates, about who is greater among Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf and Serena Williams or reliving the fabled rivalries: Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe; Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker; Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi; and the current one among Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, can wait. 
  • Wimbledon had even elevated strawberries and cream into a rarefied zone and those pink-paper reports on how many kilograms were consumed near the courts, will also have to wait for another year. 
  • This might sound trivial, but to the centre court faithful, this was tradition not to be messed with, just like the all-white attire that players donned and the courtesy of taking a bow when royalty turned up in the audience. 

Conclusion: 

  • With the French Open rescheduled from May to September and the US Open authorities insisting that the event will stick to its August start, tennis fans have some room for hope. Still, Federer will be on the cusp of 40 when Wimbledon resumes next year and Serena would be 39. Will the legends last till then? Only time will tell.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Online Coaching for UPSC PRE Exam

General Studies Pre. Cum Mains Study Materials

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 04 April 2020 (Safe forests, safe people: On diseases of animal origin (The Hindu))



Safe forests, safe people: On diseases of animal origin (The Hindu)



Mains Paper 3:Environment 
Prelims level:SARS-CoV-2 virus
Mains level:Key factors for spreading vulnerability contagion

Context:

  • The rapid spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus across the world has focused attention on the seemingly invisible processes that help pathogens originally found in wild animals make the leap to humans. 
  • Diseases of animal origin such as Ebola, HIV, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, bird flu and swine flu have raised alarm over potential pandemics in recent years, and the COVID-19 pandemic has confirmed the worst fears of scientists. 

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Key factors: 

  • The contagion, thought to have originated in a wet market that kept live animals in Wuhan, China, points to many underlying factors.
  • The destruction of forests and trapping or farming of wild species has brought these animals closer to humans, and the viruses they harbour find ready hosts in domestic animals, moving to humans. 
  • There is concern also about rising economic activity, such as road building and mining cutting through forests, bringing more people in close contact with animals.
  • Another dimension is the global trade in wild species — in Wuhan, they reportedly ranged from wolf pups to rats, civets and foxes, among others — and their sale in markets along with domestic animals. 

Valuable ecosystem:

  • The well-documented histories of the lethal Nipah and Hendra viruses, involving transfer from bats to pigs in the former, and bats to horses in the latter, underscore the value of maintaining viable ecosystems, and eliminating the need for wild bats to colonise human surroundings.
  • Biodiversity in forests harmlessly retains dangerous viruses and other pathogens among a vast pool of wild animals, away from people. 
  • What this phenomenon makes clear is that governments should stop viewing undisturbed landscapes as an impediment to economic growth. 
  • As COVID-19 has proved, these short-term high growth trajectories can come to an abrupt halt with a pandemic. 
  • Such a terrible outcome could be witnessed again, potentially caused by reckless exploitation of the environment. 

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Government’s apathy: 

  • In spite of repeated warnings of crippling pandemics waiting in the wings, governments paid little attention.
  • Now, a novel virus that can move effortlessly from human to human has found a large reservoir of hosts in a globalised world. 
  • Unlike previous epidemics, the latest one has extracted a staggering toll, killing people, forcing a lockdown and causing economic devastation. 
  • This should serve as a dire warning to the government that hasty permissions granted for new roads, dams, mines and power projects in already enfeebled forests can unleash more scourges. 
  • It would do well to roll back its dilution of the environmental clearance system, strengthen it with a mandate to the States, and leave protected areas to scientific experts. 

Conclusion: 

  • There is mounting evidence that environmental protection confers health protection. 
  • Pristine forests with diverse species keep viruses virtually bottled up, out of man’s way. They should be left undisturbed.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Online Coaching for UPSC PRE Exam

General Studies Pre. Cum Mains Study Materials

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 03 April 2020 (The battle to set oil prices (The Hindu))



The battle to set oil prices (The Hindu)



Mains Paper 2: International 
Prelims level: Rosneft
Mains level:  Downfall of oil prices economic impact 

Context:

  • The global economy, grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, is now facing an energy war, with crude oil prices crashing in the international market. 

No production cuts:

  • Crude oil prices tanked, as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its alliance partners failed to reach any consensus on cutting back production to levels that would enable prices to remain stable. 
  • The U.S., as the largest oil producer today, has stayed away from the OPEC-plus arrangement, hoping that production cuts by OPEC-plus countries will help it increase its market share.
  • Russia refused any production cuts, unleashing an energy war with Saudi Arabia. 
  • There has been a spectacular fall of around 30% in crude oil prices. 
  • The International Energy Agency (IEA) has scaled down global demand for oil, a move not taken by the energy watchdog since 2009. 
  • Demand for oil had already weakened owing to the global economic slowdown, and this weakening has become more pronounced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has hit China’s economy and reduced consumption by the world’s largest importer.
  • Russia’s decision to reject any production cuts is driven directly by its strategy of denying market share to American shale oil producers. 
  • The latter rely on higher prices in the range of $50-$60 to remain profitable because of higher production costs. At $31 per barrel, not more than five American shale oil producers can remain profitable.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Sanctions on rosneft:

  • Russia also remains resentful of sanctions imposed on Rosneft, which is building the gas pipeline project Nord Stream 2 across the Baltic Sea, carrying Siberian gas to Germany, a major consumer. 
  • This pipeline was delayed due to opposition from Denmark’s environmental activists and could not be completed before the U.S. sanctions kicked in. 
  • Moscow has accused Washington of using geopolitical tools for commercial reasons. 
  • Russia had promised to retaliate at a time of its own choosing. The energy war over prices is Russia’s revenge, to cripple the American shale oil industry. 
  • President Donald Trump has scrambled to put together a rescue package for the shale oil companies. 
  • Russia is also signaling to Saudi Arabia that its American patrons can do little to protect its oil interests and it would be prudent for Saudi Arabia to reach some understanding with Russia. 
  • Both Saudi Arabia and Russia depend heavily on oil revenues — upwards of 80% of export revenues accrue from crude oil. 
  • Both are also fighting to retain market share. It has been reported that Saudi Arabia has agreed to supply crude oil at lower rates to refiners in India and China, two primary customers, but refused to supply to other refiners in Asia. This will impact on India’s oil procurement from the U.S.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Benefit to importing countries:

  • Lower crude oil prices are not necessarily bad news for oil importing countries like India, which is the world’s third-largest importer of crude oil and the fourth largest importer of LNG. 
  • There are, however, collateral adverse consequences like the battering of the stock markets worldwide. 
  • The global economy, already impacted by President Donald Trump’s trade war with China and other countries, including India, and the COVID-19 pandemic, may find lower energy costs helpful in overall growth.
  • From a high of $147 per barrel in 2008, crude oil prices have fallen to around $24 per barrel and may even go further southwards. 
  • India, with 80% of its energy requirements met by imports from the international market, stands to save ₹10,700 crores for every $1 drop in prices. 
  • While this may help manage the current account deficit, fiscal deficit and inflation, there are non-oil related collateral factors that can cause countervailing adverse economic impact.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Conclusion:

  • Saudi Arabia’s production cost is the cheapest in the world and it can ramp up production to around 12 million barrels a day. By offering discounts, it can undercut other producers, including Russia. Domestic considerations also matter.
  • Meanwhile, oil importing countries, like India, can enjoy a breather and cushion the adverse impact of COVID-19 and other factors.

Online Coaching for UPSC PRE Exam

General Studies Pre. Cum Mains Study Materials

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 03 April 2020 (Thinking national, acting local (The Hindu))



Thinking national, acting local (The Hindu)



Mains Paper 2: Governance 
Prelims level: SARS-CoV-2
Mains level:  National planning for combating pandemic 

Context:

  • The attack by the SARS-CoV-2 virus has highlighted, once again, both the bad shape of the Indian economy and the precariousness in the lives of millions of people. 
  • Citizens have been ordered to stay in their homes to prevent the pandemic. 
  • But many have no homes. They are being urged to wash their hands frequently, when many do not have access to enough clean water to drink. 
  • The public health system is woefully inadequate. GDP growth rates may have been good for sometime. But many systems in the country are fragile.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Failure of planning institutions:

  • National planning, by whatever name it is called (Planning Commission or NITI Aayog), has failed to produce all-round development of India’s economy so far. An all-round plan for recovery from the pandemic is required. 
  • As Einstein said, “you cannot solve intractable problems with the same thinking that produced the problems”. Therefore, it is time to consider the weakness in India’s national planning.
  • Any planning institution in a federal and democratic system faces two basic challenges when it comes to performing a long-term role — a constitutional challenge, and the challenge of competence.

The constitutional question:

  • The fundamental issues a national plan must address, such as the condition of the environment, the shape of the economy, and pace of human development, need consistent action over decades. 
  • Therefore, policies must continue beyond the terms of governments that change in shorter spans in electoral democracies. 
  • Moreover, if the planning body does not have constitutional status independent from that of the government, it will be forced to bend to the will of the latter. Planning in China does not face this disruption.
  • Short-termism in policymaking is a weakness of electoral democracies everywhere, as citizens of California have realised. 
  • California is suffering from great environmental stress. 
  • Its vaunted public education system has been underfunded for years. A group of concerned citizens in California, convened by the Berggruen Institute, formed a Think Long Committee.  

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Inefficacy of long-term planning:

  • Debates have begun amongst economists about the inefficacy of long-term planning in India and the performance of NITI Aayog. 
  • They say that planning is weak when planners do not have the powers to allocate money for national priorities, which NITI Aayog does not have. 
  • They forget that the Planning Commission had such powers and yet was considered ineffective in bringing about all-round progress.
  • Moreover, they glide over constitutional issues in granting powers to institutions that allocate public money in democracies. 
  • A fundamental principle of democratic governance is that the power to allocate public money must be supervised by elected representatives. 
  • Therefore, a planning body that allocates money must be backed by a constitutional charter, and also accountable to Parliament.
  • India’s national planning process must address the constitutional relationship between the Centre and the States. In India’s constitutional structure, elected governments in the States are accountable to the people. 
  • They are expected to improve human development, create infrastructure, and make it easy to do business in the State. They must manage their financial resources efficiently and balance their budgets. 
  • Constitutionally established Finance Commissions determine the sharing of Centrally raised resources with the States. What then is the role of a national planning commission?

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Need for competence:

  • Whether a planning institution allocates money, or advises others how to, it must have the necessary competence. 
  • A national planning institution must guide all-round progress. It must assist in achieving not just faster GDP growth, but also more socially inclusive, and more environmentally sustainable growth. For this, it needs a good model in which societal and environmental forces are within the model. 
  • Economists who have been advising policymakers do not have comprehensive models of socio-environmental systems. 
  • Their models are inadequate even to explain economic growth, because they have not incorporated the implications of economic growth on inequality, for example, which has become a contentious issue.
  • An economy is a complex system, which sits within an even larger and more complex system of human society and the natural environment. 
  • The globalisation agenda has been driven by an economic agenda, with policies promoting global trade and finance to maximise global economic output. 
  • It has paid too little attention to the impact of the ‘GDP agenda’ on the well-being of communities where employment declines when production moves to lower cost sources elsewhere. Or to the total environmental impact of global supply chains. Now the system is reacting and stalling globalisation.
  • A feature of complex systems, in which all the parts are connected, is that the system cannot be healthy if any part becomes very sick — even if the others are in robust health. Even if all other organs in a human body are functioning, if one fails, the whole-body dies. 

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Way forward:

  • These insights into systems structures, as well as considerations of democratic governance in which governance should be devolved to national governments, and, within them, to State governments, and even to the third tier of city and district governance, have implications for the role and competencies of a national planning institution for India. 
  • It must be a systems reformer, not fund allocator. And a force for persuasion, not control centre. Because its role must be to promote local systems solutions to national problems.
  • A planning institution must be a systems reformer and a force of persuasion, not just a control centre.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Online Coaching for UPSC PRE Exam

General Studies Pre. Cum Mains Study Materials

THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 03 April 2020 (Beyond the blame game: On the Tablighi Jamaat episode (The Hindu))



Beyond the blame game: On the Tablighi Jamaat episode (The Hindu)



Mains Paper 2: National 
Prelims level: Tablighi Jamaat
Mains level:  Social issue 

Context:

  • Nizamuddin in Delhi has turned into a large cluster of novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) cases after a big religious congregation was held in mid-March by the Tablighi Jamaat at the Alami Markaz Banglewali Masjid. 
  • More than 400 people showing symptoms have been hospitalised in Delhi alone and nearly 240 have tested positive; at least 10 have died. 
  • The spectre of large-scale community spread by a few hundred attendees from different States cannot be ruled out. 

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Health emergency:

  • That the three-day event began on a day when the Health Ministry said that it did not consider the novel coronavirus as a health emergency despite 81 cases being reported cannot be an excuse. 
  • After all, WHO had called COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11. The organisers should have been very much aware that a similar congregation organised by them in Malaysia in end-February led to a spike in cases there and the attendees had carried the virus to other countries. 
  • But the Delhi government is equally culpable as nothing was done to stop such a meeting except issuing an order on March 13 prohibiting the assembly of more than 200 people. 
  • What prevented the State government from following the Centre’s March 6 advice to States to avoid or postpone mass gatherings till the pandemic was contained? 

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Spread of virus:

  • But India failed despite being aware how global congregations — some linked to religion — had led to an alarming spread of the virus, examples being the large outbreaks in South Korea, Singapore, southern Italy and Spain.
  • States that already have cases with a link to the Nizamuddin event should now use the lockdown period to actively engage in finding everyone who has attended the event, trace their contacts, quarantine, test and treat them without losing time. 
  • Both South Korea and Singapore have demonstrated how meticulous tracing of contacts of a church event, isolation and aggressive testing helped prevent the highly infectious virus from spreading widely in the community. 

Conclusion:

  • Ideally, the remaining period of the shutdown should be used to expand the testing to at least limited community level to find every suspected case linked to the attendee. 
  • The last thing that India can afford in the war against the virus is the disease acquiring a religious or class colour. 
  • Community leaders have been irresponsible, but those in the government have been lax too.
  • India must use the lockdown for full contact tracing, especially after the Nizamuddin scare

CLICK HERE FOR FULL EDITORIAL (Only for Course Members)

Online Coaching for UPSC PRE Exam

General Studies Pre. Cum Mains Study Materials

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - trainee5's blog