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The Hindu Editorial Analysis | 19th June’20 | PDF Download

Trump’s ‘America-first’ policy intensifies in an election year

  • Trump’s move to draw down troops from Germany.
  • Under the move, 9,500 American defence personnel, about a quarter of those stationed in Germany — home to the largest contingent of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Europe — would be removed by September.
  • America-first’ foreign policy rooted in a repudiation of multilateralism.
  • The development shows persistent strains in relations between the two countries.

  • The significance of the step may be gauged from the fact that the U.S. Army and Air Force headquarters for Europe and Africa are located in the country, which also hosts major American military training bases.
  • These facilities serve as critical strategic and logistics centres to bolster Washington’s security interests in West Asia and North Africa.
  • Threats from the former Soviet Union during the Cold War.
  • Berlin’s reticence to project strategic power.
  • Non-compliance with NATO’s stipulation to spend 2% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on defence.
  • The pressure Mr Trump has exerted on the bloc has already resulted in substantial increases in expenditure from many member states.
  • Berlin has a huge trade surpluses with Washington
  • Berlin’s backing for the Paris climate deal, the Iran nuclear agreement and even its domestic 2015 policy to let in immigrants have similarly drawn Mr. Trump’s ire.
  • Washington’s former Ambassador to Berlin Richard Grenell remarked that there were costs to U.S. taxpayers from providing security for other countries.
  • Russia under President Vladimir Putin continues to pose a real and present danger to the security of Europe and beyond.
  • A potential beneficiary from this stand-off could be Poland on NATO’s eastern flanks, which spends 2% of its GDP on defence and has earmarked some $48 billion to modernise its armed forces by 2026.
  • The ultra-right government has already signed a contract worth billions of dollars for U.S. Patriot missiles and has expressed interest in the F-35 fighter jets.
  • During the signing of a deal last year for the supply of additional 1000 troops to Warsaw, Mr. Trump indicated that they could be redeployed from Germany.

At the high table

  • India’s election to the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member.
  • Significant diplomatic victory.
  • Indian foreign policy establishment took no chances as the election would be done by secret ballot at the UN General Assembly and two-thirds of the votes were needed for victory.
  • India secured the seat with 184 votes in the 193-strong General Assembly.
  • Mexico, Norway and Ireland were also elected as non-permanent members.
  • India sought the support of member countries by highlighting its commitment to multilateralism and reforms.
  • Ahead of the vote, India had launched a campaign brochure which highlighted its demand for transparency in mandates for UN peacekeeping missions and push for the India-led Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism, and called for joint efforts for UN reform and expansion of the Security Council.
  • A “new orientation for a reformed multilateral system” (NORMS), as laid out by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, would be India’s overall objective during the two-year tenure that will begin next year.
  • Achieving this would depend on how India will conduct diplomacy in the global body, build alliances and raise issues that go beyond the interests of the big five.
  • India has long been of the view that the structure of the UN Security Council doesn’t reflect the realities of the 21st century.
  • The Security Council is one of the most important multilateral decision-making bodies where the contours of global geopolitics are often drawn.
  • India should avoid the temptation of taking sides at a time when the Security Council is getting more and more polarised.
  • UNSC non permanent member
    • External Affairs Ministry today said India’s election as non permanent member of UNSC for term 2021-22 demonstrates the goodwill the country enjoys at the United Nations and the confidence international community has reposed in India’s capability to contribute to the work of the council.
    • Vikas Swarup said India’s presence on the Security Council and performance there over the next two years will underscore the value that a country like India brings to the table and reaffirm credentials to be a permanent member of UNSC.
    • 5S vision – Sammaan, Samvaad, Sahyog, Shanti and Samriddhi.
    • Mr Swarup said India was elected unopposed being the sole candidate for the Asia Pacific seat. He said this was made possible because Afghanistan had withdrawn in India’s favour for which India is thankful towards the Afghanistan government.

Fleecing fuel users

  • In just 12 straight days, India’s state-owned oil marketing companies have raised the retail prices of petrol and diesel by ₹6.55 and ₹7.04 a litre, respectively.
  • Over the same period, the price of Brent crude oil futures, which contributes a fourth to the value of the Indian crude basket, declined by about 3%.
  • Automobile fuels have been targeted for milking revenue.
  • The buildup data shows that Excise Duty, levied by the Centre, and VAT collected by the Delhi government together constituted two-thirds the ₹76.73 pump price of petrol as on June 16.
  • The aim of maximising takings from fuel products to offset shortfalls in other revenue streams can only bear fruit if petrol and diesel offtake remains unaffected and the rising fuel bill doesn’t end up depleting household consumption budgets.
  • Given that diesel is the primary fuel for the vast and essential road freight sector, every incremental addition to haulage costs ends up dampening both the transport industry and wider economic revival.
  • It is imperative that authorities remove the speed breakers on the path back to normalcy.

Mediation in the age of COVID-19

  • Justice must not only seem to be done, but judges must also be seen while they are engaged in the task of doing it.
  • Deprived of their natural setting of the courtroom, judges and lawyers have fallen back to talk of virtual courts, so that the bare essential is achieved — the judge being able to hear the particular lawyer.
  • All other features of the courtroom are eschewed, and thus an essentially public setting is converted to a closed door one. It is, and will remain, unsatisfactory.
  • Mediation is the polar opposite of the court process.
  • It tries to achieve consensus between parties to come to an amicable agreement, rather than the win-lose verdict of the adversarial system.
  • At its core is confidential discussion between mediator and parties, and between mediator and individual parties.
  • As much as the essential attribute of the formal justice system is the open courtroom hearing, mediation’s essence is closed door communication with its guarantee of confidentiality.
  • Legislation has given it the legal structure and safeguards, and provided the assurance that the courts will implement mediation agreements.
  • India’s judges have been enthusiastic embracers of this process.
  • Lawyers, steeped in adversarial ways, have surprisingly warmed up to a system which is its antithesis.

Convenient and cost-effective

  • Online mediation will enable the mediator and the parties to assemble together, each on their computer screens perhaps hundreds of miles away.
  • Discussion can be guided, giving parties and lawyers the opportunity to put forth their views.
  • When separate meetings are required, the mediator can, at the click of a button, move the other party and its lawyer to another virtual room.
  • The great advantage of online mediation is that it is convenient, cost-effective and an efficient use of time.
  • Confidentiality can be compromised since hearings could be recorded; service providers have to be vigilant, and rules will have to penalise participants for breach.
  • Technical glitches have to be minimised, and Internet services must gear up for providing screen clarity and uninterrupted feed.
  • But above all, there is the apprehension that online communication will exclude the underprivileged, those who cannot afford access to Internet or do not have the capacity or assistance to use it.

Remember Li Wenliang

  • Supreme Court has slammed Delhi government for disciplinary action against a whistleblowing health worker who revealed dead bodies lying unattended in a patient ward at the capital city’s largest Covid care hospital.
  • Though SC advised government to not shoot the messenger, similar official responses are common across the country.
  • Health workers cannot be accused of workplace indiscipline in such cases where silence puts their lives and public health at risk.
  • Governments are wary of the public embarrassment stemming from such exposes. But the poor state of public health leaves no room for coverups any longer.
  • Recall that it was only after doctors and nurses raged against the shortage of PPE kits and masks that production was ramped up.
  • We in India mustn’t forget the huge price paid by the world for China’s misfired silencing of Dr Li Wenliang.
  • The Indian way is to encourage criticism and respond proactively to shortcomings.
  • Health workers demanding better amenities from authorities are doing all of us a huge favour.
  • The pandemic is overrunning public health systems but government is the only institution in society with the resources to avert a collapse.
  • Bureaucracies aren’t particularly sensitive to the travails of other sections of society.
  • Many health workers are overworked, underpaid and under great mental stress because of the fear of infection and concomitant health risks.
  • The  even extends to private doctors hesitating to write prescriptions for coronavirus tests fearing government ire over “frivolous” testing.

NEWS

  • Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan
    • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will launch Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan on Saturday.
    • Aims: to provide livelihood opportunities to the returnee migrant workers and rural citizens.
    • The campaign will be launched from Telihar village at Beldaur Block in Khagaria district of Bihar.
    • Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Rojgar Yojana with an outlay of  50 thousand crore rupees will cover 116 districts in six States, namely Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Rajasthan.
    • The Centre and State governments have meticulously mapped the skill sets of the migrant workers who have returned in large numbers to the 116 districts.
    • The Finance Minister said, everyone who needs an assignment in these districts will be given work under the Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan.
    • Ms Sitharaman said, the campaign will involve intensified and focused implementation of 25 different types of works to provide employment to the migrant workers and create infrastructure in the rural regions of the country.
    • The Minister said, nearly 25 schemes of the Central government are being brought together under Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan for 116 districts.
    • She said, the objectives under these schemes will be achieved within 125 days, by offering work to migrant workers and rural citizens.
  • Auction of 41 coal mines for commercial mining
    • India is a nation with the world’s fourth largest reserves.
    • India should be world’s biggest coal exporter considering size of reserves.
    • Irony: India has the fourth largest coal reserve in the world, is the second largest producer in the world, but is also the second largest coal importer.
    • Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India has taken the big decision to fully open the coal and mining sector for competition, capital, participation, and technology.
    • Addressing the launching of auction of 41 coal mines for commercial mining via video conference, Mr Modi said a major step has been taken today to make India self-reliant in the energy sector.
    • Reforms in coal sector are a great way to make Eastern and Central India, and the tribal belt the pillars of development.
    • Reforms and investment in this sector will play a huge role in making lives easy for the poor and tribal people.
    • Mr Modi said the commercial coal block auction is a win win for industry users. He said new resources will open up and states will get more revenue and employment.
    • The Prime Minister also said government has set a target to gasify around 100 million tonnes of coal by 2030. He said four projects have been identified for this and about 20 thousand crores will be invested in them.
    • The Army has clarified that there are no Indian troops missing in action at Galwan.
    • The Army sources clarified this following an article published in New York Times making such claim on the India-China face off.
  • Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India
    • Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India, DFCCIL has decided to terminate the contract with Beijing National Railway Research and Design Institute of Signal and Communication Group limited.
    • In a statement, DFCCIL said, the contract has been terminated due to poor performance of the company.
    • In 2016, the Chinese company had won the contract to install signalling system and telecommunications work in over 400-kilometre long rail lines of  Kanpur-Deen Dayal Upadhyay section.
    • DFCCIL said, despite the passage of four years there is only 20 per cent progress in the work. Non availability of their engineer and authorised personnels at site was serious constraint.
    • The physical work also could not progress as they have no tie up with local agencies.
  • Rapid antigen COVID-19 tests
    • The Centre has planned to conduct six lakh rapid antigen COVID-19 tests in Delhi at 169 new facilities.
    • Minister of State for Home, G Kishan Reddy said 50 thousand kits procured from South Korea have been sent to these 169 testing centers in the city.
    • He also said the central government is going to provide 500 additional ventilators and 650 ambulances to hospitals in Delhi.
    • The move came in the wake of spike in number of coronavirus cases in the national capital over the past few days.
    • The Minister said, people living in containment zones and relatives of the positive cases can go for test in any of these centers.
    • He said, 277 crore rupees have been given to Delhi government by the Centre for equipments besides other assistance to fight against COVID-19.
    • Mr Reddy asserted that Centre is committed to contain the spread of the virus and provide health care facilities in Delhi.
    • Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur is going to produce 25 thousand N95 and N99 grade face masks per day to contribute to the country’s collective effort to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • This is a first-of-its-kind initiative by any IIT or a Technology Business Incubator of an academic institution of India.
    • The production unit at IIT Kanpur was inaugurated today and its capacity is soon going to increase 30 thousand masks per day.
    • The masks will be manufactured in the premises of IIT Kanpur’s business incubator by a company, E-Spin Nanotech in collaboration with  Indeema Fibres.
    • The company will be manufacturing both N95 and N99 SWASA masks.
    • The masks will be available to the general public at a very affordable price and  the masks will be available on the company’s website as well as many of the prominent e-commerce platforms.
    • Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) has launched a mobile application “Air-Venti” to help residents in the city to know about the availability of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds and Ventilators in both government and private hospitals around them.
    • Octaware Technologies Limited, in partnership with Probity Soft Pvt Ltd, has developed this mobile application for MCGM and the data regarding the ICU beds and Ventilators vacant status is d continuously.
    • Mayor Kishori Pednekar told media persons that the app is connected to the dashboard of the city’s disaster control room and its link can also be accessed through the Mumbai civic body’s app.
    • The ‘Air-Venti’ app can be downloaded through the Google Play Store.
    • As of today, under the Vande Bharat Mission, 2 lakh 50 thousand 87 Indians have returned. 21 percent of these returnees are migrant workers.
    • More than 75 thousand Indians have returned through land border immigration checkpoints from Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh.
    • Mr Srivastava said about 4 lakh 50 thousand people have registered their request with Indian Missions abroad for repatriation to India on compelling grounds.
    • Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari has expressed confidence that India will become a manufacturing hub for Electric Vehicles in the next five years.
    • He said, the government is trying to extend best possible concessions to this sector, and has lowered the GST on electrical vehicles to 12 per cent.
    • The Minister was addressing a webinar on India’s Electric Vehicle Roadmap post-COVID-19 today.

 

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