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The Hindu Editorial Analysis | 26th June’20 | PDF Download

Senseless deaths

  • The death of a father-son duo arrested for a lockdown violation in Tamil Nadu is distressingly senseless.
  • Both were arrested for allegedly keeping their outlets open after permitted hours at Sattankulam town in Thoothukudi district and remanded to judicial custody.
  • Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court took suo motu cognisance of their death, has decided to monitor the progress of the statutory magisterial probe.
  • It has asked for a status report from the police and also directed that the autopsy be video-graphed.
  • Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami has announced a compensation of ₹10 lakh each, while two sub-inspectors have been suspended and an inspector placed on compulsory wait.
  • Custodial deaths are often the result of the pervasive use of torture in India’s police stations for extracting admissions of crime, but it is not uncommon, regrettably, for the police to use their power and authority to settle personal scores.
  • Their offence would have only attracted Section 188 of IPC (for disobeying the time restrictions ordered by a public servant), but they were also booked under Section 383 (extortion by threat) and Section 506 (ii) (criminal intimidation).
  • It is well known that the police include ‘intimidation’ in the FIR solely to obtain an order of remand, as it is non-bailable, if they are bent upon sending someone to jail.
  • The inclusion of non-bailable sections for a lockdown violation indicates a perverse and prior inclination to harass the two and cause suffering.
  • The top brass of the police too will have to bear responsibility for this atrocity as it indicates a signal failure to lay down norms for policemen on the field to handle lockdown violations with humaneness.

The myopia of 20/20 hindsight

  • We in India, expect perfect powers of prediction in our leaders and decision-makers.
  • When things work out differently, as they often do, because the circumstances have changed, we proceed to flay them for having let the country down.
  • The disengagement of Indian and Pakistan forces from Siachen had been on the agenda of India-Pakistan talks for several years under several governments.
    • The sticking point had been Pakistan’s refusal to agree upon an Actual Ground Position Line from which forces of the two sides would withdraw to new positions, negotiated between the two sides.
  • Disengagement is not surrender.
  • Decisions may still be commended even if they may have turned sour because at the time they were taken, they promised to re-orient India-Pakistan and India-China relations in a positive direction.
  • The tendency to be wise after the event can be very damaging to foreign policy formulation.
  • The fear of being proved wrong may paralyse diplomacy.
  • Just as the India-U.S. partnership today makes sense for India, so did the Indo-Soviet partnership earlier.
  • Despite holding various leaders to account for this or that error of judgement, there has been general acknowledgement that irrespective of their ideological or political persuasion, successive governments have upheld India’s interests firmly and judiciously.
  • It is sad to see that now foreign policy, too, has fallen victim to very narrow and cynical jousting in domestic politics.
  • For example, Pakistan has become a domestic political issue which prevents any kind of sober and well-considered posture towards that neighbouring country. We thus limit our room for manoeuvre.

Why China is being aggressive along the LAC

  • The clashes in Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh have claimed 20 Indian lives, the first incident of fatalities on the India-China border in 45 years.
  • China has revived its claim on the entire Galwan Valley and has asked India to pull back from the areas.
  • Satellite images in the public domain suggest that China has set up defence positions in the valley as well as the disputed “Fingers” of Pangong Tso.
  • Both sides are engaged in a face-off at Hot Springs.
  • Despite multiple rounds of military-level talks, tensions are unlikely to ease given the complexity of the ground situation.
  • 2017, Doklam stand-off hat lasted for more than two months.
  • Then India was very careful not to upset China’s domestic and geopolitical sensitivities.
  • Barring occasional joint statements issued with leaders from the S. and Asia-Pacific countries, reasserting India’s commitment to “freedom of navigation”, India has stayed away from criticising China on controversial topics, whether its “de-radicalisation” camps in Xinjiang, crackdown on protests in Hong Kong, or disputes with Taiwan.

Salami slice strategy

  • One popular argument is that China’s move, driven by local factors such as India’s infrastructure upgrade and its decision to change the status of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, was reckless.
  • For some square kilometres of land, this argument goes, China has lost India strategically, to the West.
  • Several experts have claimed that the tensions on the border are driving India deeper into a strategic embrace with the S. But it’s not as simple as it seems.
  • There is a clear shift in Chinese foreign policy post the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • This is seen in China’s rising tensions with the U.S., its threats against Taiwan, repeated naval incidents in the South China Sea, and a new security law for Hong Kong.
  • The tensions along the LAC are part of this shift. To understand this shift, one has to get a sense of the sources of China’s conduct.
  • Today’s China is an ambitious rising power which wants to reorient the global order.
  • Unlike the Soviet Union of the 1940s (in the early stages of the Cold War), China is not an ideological state that intends to export communism to other countries.
  • But like the Soviet Union of the post-war world, China is the new superpower on the rise.
  • When it was rising, China had adopted different tactical positions — “hide your capacity and bide your time”, “peaceful rise” or “peaceful development”. That era is over.
  • Under President Xi Jinping, the Chinese think they have arrived.
  • With the global economy in the doldrums, globalisation in an irrecoverable crisis accentuated by the COVID-19 outbreak, and the U.S. under an isolationist President taking the most aggressive position towards China since Richard Nixon, Beijing believes the global order is at a breaking point.
  • It is fighting back through what game theorists call “salami tactics” — where a dominant power attempts to establish its hegemony piece by piece.
  • India is one slice in this salami slice strategy.
  • China doesn’t see India as a ‘swing state’ any more. It sees India as an ally-in-progress of the U.S.
  • Its actions were not reckless, taken at the risk of losing India strategically. Its actions are a result of what it perceives as a strategic loss that has already happened.
  • This is a message not just to India, but to a host of China’s rivals that are teaming up and eager to recruit India to the club.
  • The Indian economy was in trouble even before COVID-19 struck the country, slowing down its rise.
  • Even in Afghanistan, where Pakistan, China, Russia and the U.S. are involved in the transition process, India is out.

Drug abuse amidst pandemic

  • More people are using drugs, and more illicit drugs are available than ever.
  • The COVID-19 crisis has exposed our fragility, with health systems strained and social safety nets stretched to the limit.
  • We have been here before. In the global recession that followed the 2008 financial crisis, drug users sought out cheaper synthetic substances and patterns of use shifted towards injecting drugs, while governments reduced budgets to deal with drug-related problems.
  • Vulnerable and marginalised groups, youth, women and the poor have been harmed the most.
  • Now facing the gravest socio-economic crisis in generations, governments cannot afford to ignore the dangers illicit drugs pose to public health and safety.
  • All over the world, the risks and consequences of drug use are worsened by poverty, limited opportunities for education and jobs, stigma and social exclusion, which in turn helps to deepen inequalities, moving us further away from achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • One out of three drug users is a woman but women represent only one out of five people in treatment.
  • People in prison settings, minorities, immigrants and displaced people also face barriers to treatment due to discrimination and stigma.
  • Around 269 million people used drugs in 2018, up 30% from 2009, with adolescents and young adults accounting for the largest share of users.
  • At the same time, more than 80% of the world’s population, mostly living in low- and middle-income countries, are deprived of access to controlled drugs for pain relief and other essential medical uses.
  • Development assistance dedicated to drug control fell by some 90% between 2000-2017.
  • Leaving no one behind requires greater investment in evidence-based prevention, as well as treatment and other services for drug use disorders, HIV, hepatitis C and other infections.
  • We need international cooperation to increase access to controlled drugs for medical purposes, while preventing diversion and abuse, and to strengthen law enforcement action to dismantle the transnational organised crime networks.

A time to universalise PDS

  • The Public Distribution System has played an important role in providing relief to people in the aftermath of the national lockdown.
  • With COVID-19 cases increasing and the economy continuing to be in a downturn, some corrective measures need to be put in place to ensure that there are no exclusions and that this basic support of subsidised foodgrains reaches everybody preventing large-scale hunger and starvation.
  • Despite gaps, the PDS is one of the most effective instruments to reach people in the current situation.
  • The COVID-19 survey conducted by the Azim Premji University found that during the lockdown,
    • 89 per cent of rural and 69 per cent of urban respondents reported that they were able to get foodgrains from a government ration shop compared to only 30 per cent of households saying that they received the Jan Dhan transfer.
  • Under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), about 60 per cent of the current population has priority ration cards while some states such as Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have additional coverage which they support through their own budgets.
  • Providing an additional 5 kg of foodgrains and 1 kg of pulses for free under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PM-GKAY) was only for the 81 crore individuals who are currently covered by the NFSA, and later as part of the Atmanirbhar package, another 8 crore migrants have been included.
  • However, there are still many who are left out of the food security net.
  • Just to fulfil the NFSA requirement of 67 per cent, the updated population estimates of 2020 must be used in place of the current 2011 numbers.
  • Moreover, in the present crisis where many have lost their livelihoods, the requirement would be much more.
  • Unfortunately, the government has not made the PDS universal.
  • There is no announcement of extending the relief measures from July onwards, ignoring the continuing despair in rural and urban areas.
  • What is disturbing is that in the middle of the current crisis some are now calling for a massive downsizing of the PDS and a shift to cash transfers in place of foodgrains.
  • This debate has been going on for some time, and such a policy direction has also been reiterated in the Economic Survey 2019-20 to reduce the fiscal burden posed by the food subsidy.
  • It is to contain the fiscal deficit that the government is reluctant to expand the PDS despite burgeoning stocks.
  • Cash transfers are an important form of welfare provision, especially through schemes such as old age, widow and disability pensions and maternity entitlements.
  • The amounts given under these transfers are woefully inadequate. But to argue for the PDS to be replaced by cash transfers would be erroneous and misplaced in the current context.
  • Cash transfers cannot be a substitute for the provision of subsidised foodgrains.
  • There are a higher number of fair price shops than bank branches and although most people now have a bank account, many of these accounts are dormant and the transaction costs of withdrawing the cash are high.
  • Going by the experience of other cash transfer schemes in India, it can be safely said that these will not be inflation-indexed and thus their real value will keep decreasing, which is not the case with food transfers.
  • It is absolutely unethical to have stocks lying in public godowns while people are going hungry.
  • Currently, there are more than 100 million tonnes in the FCI godowns, more than enough to meet the present NFSA requirements for a year.
  • With the next kharif harvest in five months, the government is running out of storage space.
  • The last time there were such high stocks in the godowns, in 2001-02, they were given away at BPL prices to exporters while many parts of the country were facing hunger and starvation.
  • We are yet again faced with a situation of excess stocks and people in distress. Unfortunately, it seems like we will once again make the same mistakes.

NEWS

  • Central Team to visit Gujarat, Maharashtra and Telangana from tomorrow to review COVID-19 situation.
  • Over 75 Lakh COVID 19 test conducted across the country; Recovery Rate improves to 57.43 percent.
  • India slams China for violating peace agreements and deploying large number of troops along the LAC in Ladakh.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi to launch Atmanirbhar Uttar Pradesh Rozgar Abhiyan tomorrow through video conferencing.
  • CBSE cancels remaining Class 10th and 12th examinations scheduled from July 1 to 15.
  • In Bihar, 83 people killed in lightning and rain related incidents today.
  • In Jammu and Kashmir, two LeT terrorists killed in encounter at Sopore in Baramulla district.
  • Serological survey to determine spread of coronavirus in Delhi begins today covering 20,000 people
  • All regular train services to remain canceled till August 12; All 230 special trains to continue to operate.
  • June 26 observed as International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.
  • Terror financing watchdog FATF decides to continue Pakistan in Grey List.

 

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