The Hindu Editorials Summary

April: 2020






GS-1 Mains

  1. The pandemic has revealed many dimension of Indian society? Discuss in the context of India?
  2. In the present condition the violence against women has increased. Discuss the role and relevance of National Commission for Women (NCW)?
  3. Discuss the major steps taken by the government to tackle the outbreak COVID-19. Criticise it in the context of labours issue?
  4. Violence against women has its roots in Indian social structure. Critically comment on the statement?
  5. Critically comment on the forecast system of India. Discuss its relevance?
  6. The traditional gender role that women play has distinctly affected them in global crisis. Critically comment on the statement?


GS-2 Mains

  1. Discuss the relevance of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)?
  2. The present outbreak has highlighted the different issues relating to the rights and law. Comment?
  3. Discuss the features of democracy, why it has highlighted. Discuss?
  4. Highlight the steps taken by the state governments to tackle the outbreak?
  5. Comment on India’s economic ties with Gulf countries, why the Gulf countries matters to India?
  6. Discuss Disaster Management Act, 2005, in contrast with the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897. In present Indian scenario?
  7. The Pandemic has highlighted the structural changes in the structure of WHO. Elucidate the statement?
  8. Elucidate the anti-defection law, its relevance. Discuss in the recent political crisis?
  9. Discuss the structure of WHO, why the organisation frequently criticised. Comment on the concerns in relation with India?
  10. ‘If WHO has limitations, these have been imposed on it by nations’. If yes/no state your views?
  11. ‘The different diseases on time has great lessons to the world’. Discuss in the context of present geopolitical scenario?
  12. What are the major challenges that South Asia is still facing. The collective co-operation can be its solution discuss in the context of South-Asian nations?
  13. Discuss the Indian Data Protection policy in the context of India?
  14. ‘The issues of Tribe’s and the backward can be tackle by the outer exposure’. Discuss in the context of Apex court’s recent judgement?
  15. Discuss the major concerns about Aarogya Setu App. Point out the challenges?
  16. Towards the curbing of the nuclear arms race, what are major steps has taken by the nations. Why it issue of concern for India?
  17. The recent outbreak of the pandemic has given a new shift to the global geopolitics. State your own point of views about the statement?
  18. The virtual technology has altered the prevailing options. In the recent Indian scenario what are the precautions need to take care. Discuss in the context of Indian Judiciary?
  19. Why the peace of Afganistan matters to South-Asia specially India. Define India’s stand?
  20. Indian Higher Education is from past years a matter of concern, the worldwide ranking of Indian institutes is also a matter of concern. To overcome with these online learning can be a solution or a limited option. Discuss in the Indian Context?


GS-3 Mains

  1. The bad shape of the Indian economy and the precariousness in the lives of millions of people has highlighted in the present scenario. Comment?
  2. Discuss the major steps taken by the government to tackle the outbreak COVID-19. Criticise it in the context of labours issue?
  3. Critically comment on Indian Agriculture sector. How the pandemic has impacted on the sector. Suggest the priority based way forwards?
  4. Critically comment on globalisation, what are the major effects in the Indian Economy it has shown?
  5. The publishers across the world struggled to make a commercially meaningful transition to the digital world. What are the major challenges. Comment?
  6. The issue of migrant workers is posing threat to the Indian economy and growth. How can the nation overcome with this situation?
  7. The virtual technology is not new for the world but the pandemic has created it newly. Discuss the statement?
  8. In the context of India, the economy needs to be re-vital, what are the major challenges and concerns. Comment?
  9. Discuss the challenges related to the Maritime security of Indian Ocean?
  10. What are the reasons of migrant issues, why the issue of migration is in centre of the public discourse?
  11. The state monopoly was replaced by private sector participation. Discuss in the context of Indian Economic Reforms?



























GS-1 Mains

  1. The pandemic has revealed many dimension of Indian society? Discuss in the context of India?


  • If the COVID-19 pandemic lashes India with severity, it will not be just the middle class who will be affected. India’s impoverished millions are likely to overwhelmingly bear the brunt of the suffering which will ensue.
  • The privileged Indian has been comfortable for too long with some of the most unconscionable inequalities in the planet. But with the pandemic, each of these fractures can decimate the survival probabilities and fragile livelihoods of the poor.
  • The measures adopted by the government to stymie the progress of the virus were first to introduce a ‘work from home’ measure, to urge people to wash their hands frequently, physical distancing, and then an unprecedented 21-day lockdown.


  • Public health experts are divided about whether this lockdown was absolutely necessary and indeed implementable.
  • It should have been clear that a total lockdown was possible only for the rich and the middle class with assured incomes during the period, homes with spaces for distancing, health insurance and running water supply.
  • But how can we justify the choice of a strategy which throws the dispossessed, who lack all of the above, to both hunger and infection?
  • When ordering the lockdown, did the government not remember the millions of informal workers and destitute people who would have no work if they stayed home, many of them circular migrants, estimated at 100 million?
  • These include casual daily-wage workers; self-employed people such as rag-pickers, rickshaw pullers and street vendors; and people forced to survive by alms.
  • Many among them are people whose earnings each day barely suffice to enable them to eat and feed their families.
  • Does the government expect them to voluntarily starve and let their children die to prevent the spread of the infection?
  • This crisis of hunger is even more dire for older people without caregivers, and persons with disability.
  • The government also seems to be in amnesia about hundreds of thousands of children, women and men in every city whose only home is the pavement or the dirt patches under bridges.
  • Recorded messages on our phones urge us to wash our hands regularly. We forget, however, that millions live in shanties without water supply, and they buy a pot of water, sometimes for a fifth of their day’s earnings (irregular incomes which are further decimated by the lockdown).
  • Regular cleanliness is a remote luxury beyond their means. We are also advised ‘social distancing’ (physical distancing) and ‘self-isolation’.


  • How is this feasible for large extended families who crowd into narrow single rooms in slums and working-class tenements?
  • Or for the homeless people who have no option except to sleep in overcrowded unsanitary government shelters, veritable breeding centres for infections?
  • Or for destitute people in beggars’ homes? Indeed, prisoners in overcrowded jails? And I cannot forget those confined to detention centres in Assam, which are jails within jails.
  • And then consider the capacity of the health system to deal with the pandemic if (or when) it actually submerges India.
  • India’s investments in public health are among the lowest in the world, and most cities lack any kind of public primary health services.
  • A Jan Swasthya Abhiyan estimate is that a district hospital serving a population of two million may have to serve 20,000 patients, but they are bereft of the beds, personnel and resources to do this.
  • Few have a single ventilator. India’s rich and middle-classes have opted out of public health completely, leaving the poor with unconscionably meagre services.
  • The irony is that a pandemic has been brought into India by people who can afford plane tickets, but while they will buy private health services, the virus will devastate the poor who they infect and who have little access to health care.
  • The Union government has announced a package, including;
    • additional 5 kg grain a month for the next three months under the PDS;
    • ₹500 per month for the next three months for women holding Jan-Dhan Yojana accounts;
    • three months’ pension in advance to nearly three crore widows, senior citizens and the differently-abled; and;
    • ₹2,000 more for MGNREGA workers.
  • If you and I were told that we have to survive on just two days’ salary and 5 kg grain a month, with no health insurance, how would the future look?
  • The visuals of thousands of migrants, suddenly left with no food and work, walking to their homes hundreds of miles away, dodging the police, until the States were ordered to seal their borders, showed clearly that the lockdown is ineffective.


  • Most of the official strategies place the responsibility on the citizen, rather than the state, to fight the pandemic.
  • The state did too little in the months it got before the pandemic reached India for expanding greatly its health infrastructure for testing and treatment.
  • This includes planning operations for food and work; security for the poor; for safe transportation of the poor to their homes; and for special protection for the aged, the disabled, children without care and the destitute.
  • For two months, every household in the informal economy, rural and urban, should be given the equivalent of 25 days’ minimum wages a month until the lockdown continues, and for two months beyond this.
  • Pensions must be doubled and home-delivered in cash. There should be free water tankers supplying water in slum shanties throughout the working days.
  • Governments must double PDS entitlements, which includes protein-rich pulses, and distribute these free at doorsteps.
  • In addition, for homeless children and adults, and single migrants, it is urgent to supply cooked food to all who seek it, and to deliver packed food to the aged and the disabled in their homes using the services of community youth volunteers.
  • To ensure jails are safer, all prison undertrial prisoners, except those charged with the gravest crimes, should be released.
  • Likewise, all those convicted for petty crimes. All residents of beggars’ homes, women’s rescue centres and detention centres should be freed forthwith.


  • India must immediately commit 3% of its GDP for public spending on health services, with the focus on free and universal primary and secondary health care.
  • But since the need is immediate, authorities should follow the example of Spain and New Zealand and nationalise private health care.
  • An ordinance should be passed immediately that no patient should be turned away or charged in any private hospital for diagnosis or treatment of symptoms which could be of COVID-19.
  • While one part of the population enjoys work and nutritional security, health insurance and housing of globally acceptable standards, others survive at the edge of unprotected and uncertain work, abysmal housing without clean water and sanitation, and no assured public health care.
  • Can we resolve to correct this in post-COVID India?
  • Can we at least now make the country more kind, just and equal?
  1. In the present condition the violence against women has increased. Discuss the role and relevance of National Commission for Women (NCW)?


  • In the first week of the lockdown, one of the 257 complaint calls that the National Commission for Women (NCW) received was from a father in Rajasthan who said his daughter was being beaten by her husband and had not been provided food since the lockdown began.
  • The call helps to highlights the plight of many silent sufferers of domestic violence across the world in these times.
  • In China, France, the U.K. and other countries, there have been reports of a significant increase in domestic violence cases since the imposition of lockdowns.
  • These reports highlight the need for Indian authorities to take this issue seriously too.


  • The literature on domestic violence suggests that when men and/or women get employed, domestic violence tends to fall as interactions between couples reduce.
  • Under a lockdown, interaction time has increased and families have been left without access to the outside world.
  • The literature also suggests that violence is a way for the man to assert his notion of masculinity.
  • The current atmosphere of fear, uncertainty, food insecurity, and unemployment may create feelings of inadequacy in men.
  • All these factors are only likely to aggravate tensions at home and make women victims of those tensions.
  • The lack of access to friends, family and support organisations is expected to aggravate the situation for abused women further.


  • The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) data show that 24% of women faced domestic violence in 2015-16 not seeing any reduction since 2005-06.
  • Compared to the survey results, the actual reports of domestic violence to the police are negligible at 58.8/ one lakh women.
  • The disparity between the crimes reported in a survey and registered with the police highlights how women are unlikely to seek help.
  • The more telling statistic from the NFHS data is perhaps that 52% of the surveyed women and 42% of the surveyed men think there is at least one valid reason for wife-beating.
  • This attitude highlights how ingrained and normalised the idea is such that an abused woman should not expect support from others.
  • The NFHS data also highlight how the proportion of women reporting violence is increasing among families with lower wealth.
  • The lockdown due to the pandemic is leading to a substantial negative income shock for everyone.
  • In our interviews with unorganised sector workers, we often heard that women suffered domestic violence coupled with the husband’s alcoholism.
  • The NFHS data also show a high correlation between alcohol intake and domestic violence. Keeping in mind that access to alcohol may be limited in these times, frustration could also lead to abuse.


  • The most important thing that we can do is to acknowledge and accept that domestic violence happens and work to reduce the stigma attached to the victims of such violence.
  • Such support may prompt abused women to seek at least informal means to redress their issues.
  • The NCW has appealed to women to reach out to their nearest police stations or call the State Women’s Commission for support.
  • While this is the least that can be done, there are some other formal means by which we can extend help to women right now.
  • The provision of cash transfers and ration support are likely to sustain the family and also reduce stress in the household leading to lower violence against women.
  • Since the lockdown began, the amount of TV viewing, particularly of news, has increased. Coupled with a lack of other activity, this is an opportune time to improve messaging.
  • The NCW could increase its advertising expenditure on TV to relay messages requesting women to contact the police station for help. The 181 helpline number set up for this reason should remain active, and women should be reminded of this number via TV ads.
  • The government could also send mass SMS messages as it did during the onset of the COVID-19 crisis as most women have access to at least a basic phone.


  • The French government has extended monetary support to organisations fighting this crime.
  • British activists have requested their government to release emergency funds to support organisations that are dealing with domestic violence-related issues.


  • The Indian government should also extend monetary support to such organisations in India rather than rely entirely on ASHA workers on whom the burden of community welfare is already very high.
  • The staff of such organisations should be allowed to travel without being stopped by the police.
  • Studies show that women more than men tend to be affected adversely during epidemics. We need to take these advisories seriously to prevent further widening of the rift between men and women in our society.
  1. Violence against women has its roots in Indian social structure. Critically comment on the statement?


  • It is well-documented that during a war, a natural disaster or a pandemic, women’s bodies bear the worse brunt of the crisis. Domestic violence against women is already widespread and under-reported in India.
  • Now, at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United Nations recognises domestic violence against women as a “shadow pandemic”.


  • The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a huge spike in domestic violence against women in China, Australia, France, the U.K., Spain, and Bangladesh, among others.
  • In India, too, the National Commission for Women has reported a large increase in distress calls from victims of domestic violence since the pandemic broke out.


  • The national strategy against COVID -19 emphasises that home is the safest place to be. Ironically, for domestic violence victims, home is the most unsafe place to be quarantined as they are forced to live with their abusers.
  • Although asking people to stay at home is an effective and welcome anti-COVID-19 strategy, home is not the safe haven it should be for many women because abusers have increased access to their victims and survivors have decreased or no access to resources.
  • Domestic violence can be verbal, financial, psychological and sexual. It includes the abuser withholding financial or medical assistance. Women are most often the caregivers for those quarantined at home and already infected with the virus, which makes them more vulnerable to contracting the disease.


  • Domestic violence is rooted in the inequities of power and control. The abusers feel an enormous loss of power and control over their own lives due to the pandemic. They vent their frustration on the women in the house.
  • Mental health issues arise out of isolation as well as reactive depression, but instead of recognising these issues and seeking help, people become violent.
  • The victims are not only unable to speak out because they are quarantined at home with the perpetrators, but also because the lockdown prevents them from seeking help outside.
  • In Spain and France, women can go to a pharmacy and request a “Mask 19” — a code word that will alert the pharmacist to contact the authorities.
  • Tragically, traditional forms of support are now not available to domestic violence victims. They don’t go to their parental homes for fear of infecting elderly parents. Shelter homes are crowded and so they are vulnerable to greater infection there.
  • The police force is already overburdened with ensuring that people comply with the lockdown. Hospitals do not have the space or time to look at domestic violence cases.


  • Nevertheless, it is vital for policymakers to address the needs of these women who are playing an indispensable role on the front line in the war against COVID-19 — as health workers, sanitation staff, caregivers, scientists, and as long-suffering housewives.
  • Priority measures to help domestic violence victims, without detracting from the overall anti-COVID-19 strategy of lockdown, should be initiated by the government, and steps to protect victims of domestic violence be made a part of overall anti-COVID-19 action plans.


  • UN Women has said that “helplines, psychosocial support and online counselling should be boosted, using technology-based solutions such as SMS, online tools and networks to expand social support, and to reach women with no access to phones or Internet.”
  • Other priorities include a more responsive police force, and other government agencies who are not dismissive of domestic violence complaints.
  • Social media posts mocking and patronising angry or “suffering” men in isolation who are helping in housework should be reported and acted upon.
  • The electronic media can raise awareness in regional language infomercials, since domestic violence is a crime under the Indian Penal Code.
  • SOS messaging to police already exists in several cities, but this should be enhanced with geolocation facilities.
  1. Critically comment on the forecast system of India. Discuss its relevance?


  • In the season of the abnormal, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has announced that the monsoon this year would likely be normal. 

Forecast System:

  • The agency follows a two-stage forecast system:
  • Indicating in April whether there are chances of drought or any other anomaly.
  • Then a second update, in late June, with a more granular look at how the monsoon will likely distribute over the country and whether danger signs are imminent. 
  • ‘Normal’ means India will get 100% of its long period average, with a potential 5% error margin. 


  • The IMD’s April forecast is not much to go by especially if the agency declares it ‘normal’ as rarely do weather models catch signs of an impending shortfall or a large excess in April. 
  • Also being a part of a hierarchical government set-up, the agency defaults to being conservative. 
  • For example: In April last year, it said the monsoon would be near normal, an arbitrary category. Private forecasters expected a shortfall, predicated on the development of a future El Niño. The IMD did account for this but said it was unlikely El Niño would strengthen enough to dampen the monsoon. It however kept its estimate on the lower side of ‘normal.’ In the end, India received excess rains, the highest in a quarter century.
  • The April forecast is a vestige of the agency’s reliance on the ‘statistical forecast system’ where values of selected meteorological parameters are recorded until March 31 and permutations of these are computed and compared to the IMD’s archive of weather data.
  • It is also reflective of an era when landline telephones were the state-of-the-art in personal communication. 

Way forward:

  • Along with connectedness, weather forecasting has metamorphosed. 
  • Climate, as well as technological change, allows new weather variables — such as surface temperatures from as remote as the southern Indian Ocean and regular updates from the Pacific Ocean — to be mapped. 
  • Powerful computers mathematically simulate the weather based on these variables and extrapolate onto desired time frames. IMD can incorporate these learning.
  • Using these dynamical models is a change the IMD has incorporated and experimented with for years. 
  • It made two key changes this year: 
  • Reducing the definition of ‘normal’ rainfall by 1 cm, to 88 cm
  • Officially updating monsoon onset and arrival dates for many States.
  • This was long due and constituted acknowledgement of the accumulated impact that global warming has been having on monsoon patterns, particularly for cities and States. 
  • The monsoon was arriving later in many places, had long weak spells, and lingered longer. 


  • These points have already heralded thinking, in the agency, on whether India should move to a new monsoon-accounting calendar instead of the century-long tradition of June-September. This would signal a truly momentous break from the past. It is time for the IMD to incorporate the lessons from the new normals.
  1. The traditional gender role that women play has distinctly affected them in global crisis. Critically comment on the statement?


  • Disproportionate impact of crises on women.


  • While catastrophes affect people at large, the economical, sociological and psychological impact on women is profound.
  • The traditional gender role that women play distinctly affects them in global crises as seen in numerous examples.

Indian Ocean tsunami:

  • In the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the coastlines of countries in the region, including India, were affected and more than 2,00,000 people were killed or listed missing. Nearly a fourth of these were women.
  • The traditional ‘care giver’ role that women play resulted in women staying at homes and getting stranded. Besides, women also lack essential life skills like swimming and climbing.
  • During the recovery phase too when the homeless where placed in camps, reports suggested that women faced many difficulties like abuse by men, hygiene challenges in these camps due to inadequate sanitation facilities, etc.

United States scenario:

  • The United States has a high incidence of tornadoes.
  • Families headed by women are affected the most in times of a natural disaster like tornado.
  • Women often are engaged in sector-specific employment which when impacted result in unemployment.
  • Women are also engaged in post-calamity care, missing job opportunities.
  • Given the prevalence of pay disparity between genders, an economic slowdown in times of a disaster leaves women with additional wage cuts.

COVID-19 pandemic and gender crisis:

Women in health sector:

  • According to World Health Organization data, around 70% of the world’s health workers are women, 79% of nurses are women. India has million-plus accredited social health activist (ASHA) workers who are an integral part of its health system.
  • Health workers in general are highly vulnerable given the high transmissibility of the infection.
  • There have also been reports on attacks while on duty thus impacting their professional safety.

Extra burden:

  • Given the lockdown measures in place, entire families are now together within the limited space of their dwellings.
  • As traditional roleplay is still prevalent in most sections of Indian society, the equal division of household responsibilities among couples is still not observed. Women face substantial household work in addition to their work from home jobs.

Domestic violence:

  • The lower income groups are already facing job losses and anxiety is leading to alcohol consumption, domestic tensions and violence against women.
  • There have been reports of increased domestic violence.
  • According to 2015-16 National Family Health Survey, around 30% of women in the age group of 15 to 49 years face domestic violence. A recent report highlighted how the National Commission for Women has been receiving increased number of complaints.

Health impact:

  • The crisis has led to an increased mental pressure on women, in turn affecting their physical well-being.
  • Women are twice as likely to face depression when compared to men.
  • Hormone-induced depression among women is a key concern. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) among reproductive age groups, pregnancy-related depression conditions, postpartum depression (PPDs) among new mothers as well as premenopausal and menopausal symptoms are common in women, which interferes in their everyday life and relationships. The lockdown is adding more intensity to these conditions.
  • These issues have not received the necessary attention and there is a lack of awareness too.

Way forward:

  • The prevailing data indicates the need to address the gender crisis during and after disasters.

Focussed attention:

  • Be it domestic violence, women’s depression and anxiety-related matters, or their safety while at work, all these issues need to be addressed and responded to.
  • Steps such as roping in non-governmental organisations, psychology students, teachers and volunteers and also using technology platforms would help speed action.
  • The government can assign ASHA workers to specifically address women’s welfare during this pandemic and consider setting up exclusive cells to quickly address women’s health-related issues.

Domestic violence:

  • Even in these disruptive times, women’s safety should become a priority. There is a need for timely and stern action against domestic violence.
  • The police could consider setting up exclusive cells to quickly address domestic violence and have helplines for accessibility.
  • Online counselling for alcoholism in men can play an important role in addressing domestic violence.

Long term measures:

  • It is important to develop a culture of including women’s safety in the planning phase of any crisis management plan.
  • There is a need to change the stereotyping of women’s role in a society.









GS-2 Mains

  1. Discuss the relevance of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)?


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


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.
  • There is no doubt that India will benefit from lower oil prices, if the cost of fuel at the pump is passed on to consumers.
  • It will reduce transportation costs and boost demand. The consumer, however, may not benefit much since the government may choose to use this financial windfall for other purposes, like bailing out banks which have been hollowed out by NPAs to leading Indian companies


  • Can Russia and Saudi Arabia sustain the energy war for long? Unlikely.
  • 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.
  1. The present outbreak has highlighted the different issues relating to the rights and law. Comment?


  • 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 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.
  • It shows that quarantine is a medically accepted mode to reduce community transmission.
  • However, a constructive alternative method of treating patients exposed to infectious diseases is the imperative need in the arena of public health.


  • 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.
  • When an employee of the World Wildlife Federation was diagnosed with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in 1990, he was terminated from service and detained for 64 days in quarantine-like isolation under Goa Public Health (Amendment) Act, 1957 (GPH).
  • The Bombay High Court (1990) felt that solitary detention was a serious infringement of basic human rights guaranteed to the individual, but held that under unusual situations and exceptional exigencies, such isolated detentions are justifiable for the cause of public health.
  • Such isolation, undoubtedly, has several serious consequences. It is an invasion upon the liberty of a person. It can affect a person very adversely in many matters, including economic condition.


  • 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.


  • 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.
  • As per the WHO guidelines, possible quarantine settings are: hotels or dormitories and well-ventilated single rooms or homes, where a distance of at least one metre can be maintained from other members.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S., in its order on quarantine, expressly made it clear (Rule 9) that the people whose right is affected by an order of quarantine by a public health authority have the right to seek judicial review including the right to habeas corpus.
  • Previously, it was in 1900, in response to an outbreak of bubonic plague, that an order of quarantine imposed on a Chinese citizen was struck down by the Federal Court in the U.S. because it was racially motivated and ill-suited to stop the outbreak.
  • 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.


  • 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.

Q. Discuss the features of democracy, why it has highlighted. Discuss?



  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.
  • We bear witness to the fact that a group of helpless workers were hosed down with chemical solutions in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh.
  • The decision to close down an entire country without simultaneously recognising the specificities of Indian society has resulted in brutality and violence.
  • Consider scenes of the police swinging their lathis indiscriminately to punish individuals who are forced to defy the lockdown.


  • 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.


  • 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.
  • In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, notorious for his anti-migrant tirades, has personalised immense power. He now rules by decree. Existing laws and parliamentary oversight have been suspended.
  • In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte has appropriated broad emergency powers in order to take effective decisions to tackle the virus.
  • Again, he is not known for his commitment to civil liberties or to the Constitution. In Chile, the declaration of a ‘state of catastrophe’ has repressed anti-government dissent that has been raging on the streets since last year.


  • 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.
  1. Highlight the steps taken by the state governments to tackle the outbreak?


  • The suspension of the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) for two years to boost the funding available for the COVID-19 fight is a step in the right direction.
  • While taking over MPLADS funds to fight the virus, Centre must allocate judiciously.
  • It may appear at first blush that the decision may undermine the decentralised manner of funding local area development.
  • However, past experience has been that some members do not utilise their full entitlement and that there is a gap between recommendation made by members and implementation by the administration under this scheme.


  • The immediate benefit now is the freeing up of about ₹7,900 crore over a two-year period so that it can be spent on boosting the health infrastructure needed to combat the pandemic.
  • This is the second announcement regarding MPLADS that the Centre has made after the disease outbreak.
  • Last month, it allowed utilisation of MPLADS funds to the extent of at least ₹5lakh by each MP to purchase medical equipment for government hospitals in their constituencies.
  • Many members made immediate use of the one-time dispensation to recommend the procurement of N95 masks, personal protective equipment, and ventilators.
  • Now that the entire scheme has been suspended, the government should ensure that recommendations already made are acted upon immediately.
  • The transfer of these sums to the Consolidated Fund of India would help judicious deployment anywhere in the country, based on an assessment of the varying needs in different regions.
    • It would also redound to the government’s credit if the genuine efforts made by members to help their constituents are not frustrated.
  • It should also see to it that allocations are non-discriminatory.


  • Political reactions indicate that there is considerable disenchantment over the suspension — the ₹5-crore corpus available to each member is a source of much goodwill for elected representatives.
  • Better performing MPs identify and fulfil local development needs with empathy and alacrity.
  • However, there has also been persistent criticism about the scheme’s very nature. A conceptual flaw pointed out by experts is that it goes against the separation of powers.
  • It allows individual legislators to encroach on the planning and implementation duties of the administration.
  • Jurists have pointed out that the Constitution does not confer the power to spend public money on an individual legislator.
  • Experts have called it out for weak monitoring. The Supreme Court, while declining to strike down the scheme, called for a robust accountability regime.


  • MPLADS gives scope for MPs to utilise the funds as a source of patronage that they can dispense at will.
  • The CAG has flagged instances of financial mismanagement and inflation of amounts spent.
  • The Second Administrative Reforms Commission recommended its abrogation altogether, highlighting the problems of the legislator stepping into the shoes of the executive.
  • The current suspension gives some scope for a reconsideration of the scheme in its totality.
  1. Comment on India’s economic ties with Gulf countries, why the Gulf countries matters to India?


  • The Gulf region is at the epicentre of a perfect storm: apart from the COVID-19 pandemic, it also has an oil price meltdown. Although this double jeopardy still has some distance to go before stabilising, given India’s vital relations with the eight Gulf countries, the situation’s impact on bilateral economic ties needs to be anticipated and managed.


  • The region, especially Iran, has been mauled by COVID-19, and the figures are yet to peak. The pandemic has put nearly a third of the world’s population under some form of lockdown curbing the consumption of hydrocarbons, the mainstay of Gulf economies.
  • A Goldman Sachs report published on March 30 estimated that COVID-19 had lowered the world crude consumption by 28 million bpd. The consequent oil glut began depressing the price.
  • The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other crude producers (OPEC+), however, failed to reach a production-curtailing strategy as Saudi Arabia and Russia, the cartel’s two biggest producers, held different views.
  • As a result, OPEC+ unravelled with each producer chasing a higher share in a collapsing market. Consequently, the oil prices went for a tailspin having fallen by 55% during March to an 18-year low on March 30.
  • Though the market has recovered since and a wider production-sharing compromise is in the works, the general outlook remains bleak.


  • In a rare joint statement on March 16, the heads of OPEC and the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned that developing countries’ oil and gas revenues will decline by 50% to 85% in 2020 with potentially far-reaching economic and social consequences.
  • The economic outlook for the Gulf has indeed deteriorated, with Saudi Arabia’s fiscal deficit expected to cross 8% in 2020.
  • The global economy is expected to have a recession induced by COVID-19 this year. Even if it limps back to growth in 2021, the process may be slow and less energy-intensive: national self-reliance on strategic goods such as pharmaceuticals may deter their trade, and the tourism and hospitality sectors, the core of Dubai’s economy, may take much longer to resuscitate.
  • The pandemic has already made this year’s Hajj and Dubai Expo doubtful.


  • India’s economic ties with the Gulf states have two dominant verticals: the economic symbiosis and India’s expatriate community.
  • Bilateral economic ties are strong: the India-Gulf trade stood around $162 billion in 2018-19, being nearly a fifth of India’s global trade.
  • It was dominated by import of crude oil and natural gas worth nearly $75 billion, meeting nearly 65% of India’s total requirements. Some of these countries have large Indian investments and some have planned large investments in India.
  • Second, the number of Indian expatriates in the Gulf states is about nine million, and they remitted nearly $40 billion back home. Both these intertwined pillars of India-Gulf ties have been affected by the recent maelstrom roiling the shared region.
  • India being the world’s third largest importer of crude, a sharp and prolonged decline in oil prices helps its current account.
  • However, this is not an unmitigated blessing. The Gulf’s lower oil revenues also presage decreased bilateral trade and investments as well as expatriates’ remittances — all of them adding to India’s current financial stress.


  • Oil is a cyclic commodity and the Gulf producers have long evolved a pattern to handle its periodic lows. They tend to tighten their belts and dip into their reserves. They also transfer the burden on to the last person in line, viz. the Asian expatriate.
  • The fresh recruitment stops, salaries are either lowered or stalled, taxes raised and localisation drives launched. The net result is that a large number of expatriates return to their homes.
  • This time there is an added complication of the pandemic, to which the Asian expatriates living in densely populated camps are particularly vulnerable.
  • In case the pandemic worsens in the lower Gulf, panic-stricken, wage-deprived Indians may prefer to come back.
  • This would create an exodus of epic proportions, the nearest example being the evacuation of over 1,50,000 Indians from Kuwait in 1990-91, albeit for political reasons, an event that upended India’s economy.
  • Apart from creating a logistical nightmare of transporting millions of expatriates back, they would need to be resettled and re-employed.
  • While hoping that the Gulf states are able to contain the pandemic and the oil shock, India needs to make some contingency plans in consultation with the individual countries.
  • It should do whatever it takes to enhance their capacity to handle COVID-19 cases among the Indian expatriates. India’s missions there also need to monitor the situation and try to avoid panic among its nationals.


  • In the longer run, it is quite clear that we need to find new drivers for the India-Gulf synergy.
  • This search could begin with cooperation in healthcare and gradually extend outward towards pharmaceutical research and production, petrochemical complexes, building infrastructure in India and in third countries, agriculture, education and skilling as well as the economic activities in bilateral free zones created along our Arabian Sea coast eventually leading to an India-Gulf Cooperation Council Free Trade Area.
  • Only then would we have sufficiently diversified the India-Gulf economic ties to protect them from such shocks.
  1. Discuss Disaster Management Act, 2005, in contrast with the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897. In present Indian scenario?


  • Over the course of the last few weeks, as we have found ourselves in the throes of a pandemic, one of the striking features of governance has been the signal role played by State Chief Ministers across India.
  • Even before the Union government invoked the Disaster Management Act, 2005, many State governments triggered the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, and installed a series of measures to combat what was then an oncoming onslaught of COVID-19.
  • These actions have not always been perfect. Some of them have even disproportionately trenched upon basic civil liberties. But, by and large, they have been tailored to the reality faced on the ground by the respective governments.
  • States such as Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, and Karnataka have shaped their policies to address their direct, local concerns. They have communicated these decisions to the public with clarity and consideration, helping, in the process, to lay out a broad framework for the nation.
  • In doing so, they have acted not merely as “laboratories of democracy”, to paraphrase the former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, but also as founts of reasoned authority.


  • Equally, though, as much as State governments have taken up positions of leadership, they have repeatedly found themselves throttled by the limitations of the extant federal arrangement.
  • Yamini Aiyar and Mekhala Krishnamurthy of the Centre for Policy Research have pointed out at least three specific limitations.
    • One, the inability of States to access funds and thereby structure their own welfare packages.
    • Two, the curbs imposed by a public finance management system that is mired in officialdom. This has prevented States from easily and swiftly making payments for the purchase of health-care apparatus such as ventilators and personal protective equipment.
    • Three, the colossal disruption of supply chains not only of essential goods and services but also of other systems of production and distribution, which has placed States in a position of grave economic uncertainty.
  • As Ms. Aiyar and Ms. Krishnamurthy argue, these limitations demonstrate an urgent need to decentralise administration, where States — and local bodies acting through such governments — are allowed greater managerial freedom.
  • Under such a model, the Union government will command less but coordinate more.


  • There are varying accounts of what Indian federalism truly demands. But what is manifest from a reading of the Constitution is that it creates two distinct levels of government: one at the Centre and the other at each of the States.
  • The Seventh Schedule to the Constitution divides responsibilities between these two layers. The Union government is tasked with matters of national importance, such as foreign affairs, defence, and airways.
    • But the responsibilities vested with the States are no less important. Issues concerning public health and sanitation, agriculture, public order, and police, among other things, have each been assigned to State governments. In these domains, the States’ power is plenary.
  • This federal architecture is fortified by a bicameral Parliament. Significantly, this bicameralism is not achieved through a simple demarcation of two separate houses, but through a creation of two distinct chambers that choose their members differently:
    • a House of the People [Lok Sabha] comprising directly elected representatives and a Council of States [Rajya Sabha] comprising members elected by the legislatures of the States.


  • In formulating this scheme of equal partnership, the framers were also conscious of a need to make States financially autonomous. To that end, when they divided the power to tax between the two layers of government they took care to ensure that the authority of the Union and the States did not overlap.
  • Therefore, while the Centre, for example, was accorded the power to tax all income other than agricultural income and to levy indirect taxes in the form of customs and excise duties, the sole power to tax the sale of goods and the entry of goods into a State was vested in the State governments.
  • The underlying rationale was simple: States had to be guaranteed fiscal dominion to enable them to mould their policies according to the needs of their people.
  • Despite this plainly drawn arrangement, the history of our constitutional practice has been something of a paradox.
  • It is invariably at the level of the States that real development has fructified, but the Union has repeatedly displayed a desire to treat States, as the Supreme Court said in S.R. Bommai v. Union of India, as mere “appendages of the Centre”.
  • Time and again, efforts have been made to centralise financial and administrative power, to take away from the States their ability to act independently and freely.
  • As Christophe Jaffrelot and Sanskruthi Kalyankar have shown, as Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi rallied against these attempts.
    • So much so that an undertaking to decentralise power and steer a new era of Centre-State cooperation became a leitmotif of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s campaign for the 2014 elections.
  • Among other things, in its manifesto, the party promised to create a-
    • “Team India” that will “not be limited to the Prime Minister led team sitting in Delhi,” but that “will also include Chief Ministers and other functionaries as equal partners”; to place “centre-state relations on an even keel”; and to “ensure fiscal autonomy of the States”.


  • Some efforts have no doubt been made to this end. But they have been ostensible, at best. Consider the widely hailed decision to accept the 14th Finance Commission’s recommendation for an increase in the share of the States in total tax revenues from 32% to 42%.
  • While, in theory, this ought to have enabled the States to significantly increase their own spending, in reality, as a paper authored by Amar Nath H.K. and Alka Singh of the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy suggests, this has not happened.
  • Gains made by the States, as the paper underlines, have been entirely offset by a simultaneous decline in share of grants and by a concomitant increase in the States’ own contribution towards expenditures on centrally sponsored schemes.
  • Other measures have proved still more destructive. Notably, the creation of a Goods and Services Tax regime, which far from achieving its core purpose of uniformity has rendered nugatory the internal sovereignty vested in the States.
  • By striking at the Constitution’s federal edifice, it has made the very survival of the States dependent on the grace of the Union.
  • The tension today is so palpable that a number of States are reported to have written to the Union Finance Ministry highlighting that more than four months’ worth of Goods and Services Tax compensation to the States — reportedly totalling about a sum of ₹40,000 crore — remains unreleased.
  • MONEY BILL- The Union government’s centralising instinct, though, has not been restricted to matters of finance. It has also introduced a slew of legislation as money bills, in a bid to bypass the Rajya Sabha’s sanction, even though these laws scarcely fit the constitutional definition.
  • Similarly, the role of the Governors has been weaponised to consolidate political power. But perhaps most egregious among the moves made is the gutting of Article 370 and the division of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories without securing consent from the State Legislative Assembly.


  • To be sure, this impulse to appropriate authority is not in any way unique to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s command.
  • Congress-led governments of the past have also been susceptible to such motives. But perhaps a crisis of the kind that COVID-19 has wrought will show us that India needs greater decentralisation of power; that administration through a single central executive unit is unsuited to its diverse and heterogeneous polity.
  • We cannot continue to regard the intricate niceties of our federal structure as a nettlesome trifle. In seeing it thus, we are reducing the promise of Article 1 of the Constitution, of an India that is a Union of States, to an illusory dream.


  1. The Pandemic has highlighted the structural changes in the structure of WHO. Elucidate the statement?


  • US President Donald Trump has instructed his administration to halt funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Where does WHO get its funding from?

It is funded by a large number of countries, philanthropic organisations, United Nations organisations, etc.

  • According to information uploaded by WHO, voluntary donations from member states (such as the US) contribute 35.41%, assessed contributions are 15.66%, philanthropic organisations account for 9.33%, UN organisations contribute about 8.1%; the rest comes from myriad sources.
  • The US contributes almost 15% of the WHO’s total funding and almost 31% of the member states’ donations, the largest chunk in both cases.
  • India contributes 1% of member states’ donations.
  • Countries decide how much they pay and may also choose not to.

What does the WHO do with its funds?

The WHO is involved in various programmes.

  • For example, in 2018-19, 19.36% (about $1 bn) was spent on polio eradication, 8.77% on increasing access to essential health and nutrition services, 7% on vaccine preventable diseases and about 4.36% on prevention and control of outbreaks.
  • The African countries received $1.6 bn for WHO projects; and South East Asia (including India) received $375 mn.
  • India is a member state of the WHO South East Asia Region. The Americas received $62.2 mn for WHO projects. That is where most of WHO funding comes from and the least of it goes.

How does WHO prioritise spending?

  • The annual programme of work is passed by WHO’s decision-making body, the World Health Assembly.
  • It is attended by delegates from all member states and focuses on a specific health agenda prepared by the Executive Board.
  • The main functions of the Assembly, held annually in Geneva, are to determine WHO policies, appoint the Director-General, supervise financial policies, and review and approve the proposed programme budget.
  • The decision on which country gets how much depends on the situation in the countries.

What is the basis of criticism the WHO faces from various countries?

  • While most countries closed down air travel at the first stage, the WHO for a long time took a stand against travel and trade restrictions on China. On January 30, WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the WHO opposed such an idea.
  • The International Health Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee urged countries to be prepared, but the Committee did not recommend any travel or trade restriction based on the current information available.
  • According to senior officials in the National Centre for Disease Control, in January when cases were piling up in China, there was a meeting in Delhi in which WHO officials brushed aside government concerns saying “there is no human to human transmission”.

Trump, at a White House news conference, said the WHO had “failed in its basic duty and it must be held accountable.” He said the group had promoted China’s “disinformation” about the virus that likely led to a wider outbreak of the virus than otherwise would have occurred.


  • Halting funding at a crucial time will not only impact the functioning of the global body but also hurt humanity.
  • Many low and middle-income countries that look up to WHO for guidance and advice, and even for essentials such as testing kits and masks, will be badly hit for no fault of theirs.
  • When solidarity and unmitigated support from every member-state is necessary to win the war against the virus, withholding funding will not be in the best interest of any country, the U.S. included.

WHO has guided the immunization programmes in several countries

  • It has been at the forefront of the fight against several diseases, with notable successes such as eradicating smallpox globally and eliminating polio in several parts of the world.
  • It has helped draw up agendas on mental health.
  • It has persuaded its members to sign landmark conventions on tobacco-control.
  • In the past three decades, the WHO has helped nations frame strategies during outbreaks such as Zika, Ebola and HIV/AIDS.
  • The agency’s role in developing a vaccine against Ebola, in fact, illuminates one of its key advantages – no other health outfit can bring together scientists, industry, regulators and governments during a public health emergency as rapidly as the WHO.

This means the global agency’s decades-long work in low and middle-income countries and its robust understanding of a variety of cultural contexts mean that an empowered WHO holds the key to protecting the interests of the poor and most vulnerable countries during the pandemic.


  • Therefore, blaming and withholding WHO funding can have disastrous outcomes.
  • The right step would be to address failures due to lapse or other reasons, not in the mid of the pandemic but once the issue settles.


  1. Elucidate the anti-defection law, its relevance. Discuss in the recent political crisis?


  • The Editorial talks about how States have managed to bypass the anti-defection law and toppling elected governments – pointing to the political crisis in Madhya Pradesh just as India was about to go for a lockdown in its efforts to contain the Coronavirus Pandemic. 

New method of bypassing the anti-defection law:

The Karnataka example:

  • The Congress-JD(S) government was brought down in 2019, with 17 MLAs of the ruling coalition resigning and joining the BJP. 
  • Under this novel method, a set of legislators of the party in power are made to resign from the Assembly to reduce the total strength of the House enough for the other party to cross the halfway mark to form government. 
  • This method of mass defection circumvents the provisions of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution (better known as the anti-defection law) that prescribes the grounds for disqualification of legislators: 
  • Voluntarily giving up party membership 
  • Voting or abstaining to vote against party directions etc. 
  • Though resignation is not mentioned as a ground for disqualification, the Speaker in Karnataka disqualified them for the rest of the Assembly’s term, thereby barring them from contesting the by-polls. 
  • While the Supreme Court upheld the disqualification, it stuck down the bar from contesting by-polls. 
  • In the ensuing by-elections, the members who resigned were then fielded as BJP candidates (most of whom have been re-elected in the case of Karnataka).

In Madhya Pradesh, since the Speaker has accepted the resignation of the MLAs, the defectors can in any case contest the by-polls.


  • The recurrence of this model of defection in Madhya Pradesh as well, signals the exploitation of the inherent weaknesses of the anti-defection law. 
  • While solo legislators jumping ship might have reduced now, “horse-trading” persists.
  •  This threatens the underpinnings of India’s electoral democracy since such surreptitious capture of power essentially betrays the people’s mandate in a general election.
  •  Further, as the by-polls are held after the alternate political formation has assumed office, the turncoats now have an upper-hand in the election as members of the ruling dispensation.
  • The constitutionality of the Tenth Schedule was challenged for violating the Basic Structure of Constitution with regard to parliamentary democracy and free speech.
  • But the Supreme Court in Kihoto Hollohan v. Zachillhu (1992) in a 3-2 verdict upheld the law while reserving the right of judicial review of the Speaker’s decision.

Way forward:

  • In this context, it is important to examine whether the anti-defection law fulfils any purpose. 
  • This law raises fundamental concerns regarding the role of a legislator in a parliamentary democracy. 
  • It denies the legislator the right to take a principled position on a policy matter and reduces her to an involuntary supporter of the whims of party bosses. 
  • The anti-defection law, on the one hand, severely restricts the freedom of a legislator and makes her a slave of party whips. 
  • On the other hand, it has not been able to meet its primary objective of preventing horse-trading and continues to be circumvented to bring down elected governments. 
  • This calls for reforms that address concerns at both ends of the spectrum.
  • For addressing the first issue, as the Dinesh Goswami Committee also suggested, the scope of the binding whip should be restricted to a vote of confidence.
  • For addressing the second issue, it is best to institutionalise the Karnataka Speaker’s decision to bar the defected members from contesting in the ensuing by-poll, if not for a longer period, and thereby disincentivise MLAs from jumping ship.
  • These reforms would require a constitutional amendment to the Tenth Schedule, an uphill task under the current circumstances. 
  • Beyond institutional fixes, there is a need for popular articulation of an ethical politics that causes the public to shun such political manoeuvres.


  1. Discuss the structure of WHO, why the organisation frequently criticised. Comment on the concerns in relation with India?


  • The U.S. halting its funding of the World Health Organization (WHO).


  • The U.S. President has criticized World Health Organization (WHO) for its handling of the COVID-19 Pandemic and has alleged that the organisation was “very China centric”.
  • The WHO has been accused of mismanaging the COVID-19 crisis and failing to vet information and share it in a timely and transparent manner.
  • The U.S. president has halted funding to the WHO pending a review.


The World Health Organization:

  • WHO is a United Nations agency created in 1948 to coordinate and direct the UN’s global health efforts.
  • It is headquartered in Geneva.
  • The WHO plays a crucial role in the domain of public health.
    • Given the many public health efforts going around the world, it helps co-ordinate such efforts.
    • It collects data, reports, evidences, best practices and shares the same among the global community thus helping enhance the effectiveness of such efforts. It processes available medical information and compiles and provides resource to everyone.
    • It also provides important guidelines regarding travel restrictions and patient care, which serves as an important source for medical professionals.

Criticism of WHO’s handling of the Pandemic:

Failed to live up to its expectations:

  • The main role of the WHO is to monitor world health situation and prevent health outbreaks. In this respect it has definitely failed to live up to its responsibilities.
  • The WHO took time till the middle of January, 2020 to suggest human-to-human transmission of the virus, toeing the China line for the first few weeks.
  • Despite various reports from other countries on the high human to human transmission of the COVID-19, the WHO delayed declaring it as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern which could have helped the countries prepare for a possible large scale spread of the disease.
  • The WHO failed to be proactive and had repeatedly claimed that the situation seemed to be in control.
  • Only after global spread and things went out of control did the WHO declare COVID-19 as a pandemic. It failed to alert the global community.

Sided with Chinese:

  • The initial reports about COVID-19 were suppressed by China. The Whistle blower doctor was arrested on charges on spreading rumours. China failed to inform the other countries of the seriousness of the epidemic.
  • WHO ignored important reports on the transmission of the disease and even condemned efforts from other countries to ban air travel from China.
  • It is in this respect that the WHO has been blamed for siding with China.

Counter arguments:

  • Several public health academics have argued that the U.S. president’s criticism of the organisation is misplaced.

Previous role:

  • The WHO has done commendably well previously. Its handling of SARS, ebola, polio etc is an example.

Low budget:

  • The WHO budget is low. This makes it ill-equipped to effectively fulfill its wide mandate and responsibilities.

Concerns in WHO functioning:

  • The context in which WHO functions limits its effectiveness.
  • WHO has no authority over its 194-member countries and, as is typical for UN agencies, depends on member contributions to carry out its work.
  • As is often the case with UN agencies, WHO is not immune to political motivations and an inertia that often comes with large bureaucracies.

Limitations of a multilateral body:

  • WHO is a multilateral body charged with global health. It is only as good as its member nations.
  • Some countries are stepping back from responsibility under the WHO framework.
  • A few governments have also reduced their budgetary support to the WHO, which has forced the WHO to mobilize private contributions to support its activities. This is not a good development for a multilateral organization mandated to play a crucial role.
  • WHO is dependent on countries for giving information. It is possible that China could have given wrong information to WHO.

Pandemic unprecedented:

  • The present COVID-19 Pandemic is unprecedented when compared to previous pandemics like the Spanish flu. The increased movement and interactions among human beings with increased globalization has led to the unprecedented spread of the disease.

Concerns about the halting of funding by U.S.:

  • The U.S. is the WHO’s largest contributor. For the 2018 and 2019 biennium, the U.S. contributed about 20% of WHO’s budget. The funding freeze is highly likely to negatively impact WHO’s functioning for a short while at least, given the significant contribution the U.S. makes.
  • The major share of the U.S. programmatic funding went towards polio eradication ($158 million), increasing access to essential health and human services ($100 million) and vaccine-preventable disease ($44 million). The fund freeze can undermine previous progress in public health.


  • WHO would have to work with its partners to fill any financial gaps that arise to ensure that its work continues uninterrupted.


  1. If WHO has limitations, these have been imposed on it by nations’. If yes/no state your views?


  • The World Health Organization (WHO) is facing criticism over its initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic and a funding cut from the United States.
  • Shashi Tharoor, a former Under Secretary General of the United Nations, in an interview, has analyzed the situation.

Challenges faced by WHO:

  • Even though the WHO’s response to the pandemic has been less than satisfactory, it would not be right to blame the WHO alone given the challenges faced by the organization.

Lack of autonomy:

  • One of the institutional challenges for a UN body like WHO is that it tends to be obliged to its most powerful member states due to the following reasons:
  • The head of the organization of most UN agencies is elected with the support of powerful member states. As a result he/she does not enjoy independence and autonomy.
  • The present Director General of WHO is a former Ethiopian health minister. Generally, the WHO Director General used to be someone from the medical community, but this time around, a politician helped by Chinese support, has been selected to the top post of the WHO.
  • The powerful member states contribute a major share of the organization’s budget.
  • The powerful member states expect UN agencies to be bound to their interests for the most part. This leads to a lack of enough independence and autonomy for these agencies and thus impacts their functionality and effectiveness.

Dependant on member nations:

  • WHO, like many other UN agencies, is mainly dependent on member nation contributions for its budgetary expenses. The WHO has a wide mandate and responsibilities, and the lack of sufficient resources and budget limits its operations.
  • WHO and most UN agencies are reliant on the information they receive from member states as the organization itself cannot afford to set up a parallel base in the countries.
  • Even in the case of the current COVID-19, the principal fault may be with China and not the WHO for the lack of appropriate and timely information on the pandemic.


Funding cut:

  • The U.S. contributes a substantial amount to the WHO budget. The recent decision to withhold funding would severely limit the WHO’s ability to act in these critical times.

Fall of multilateralism:

  • There has been an increasing trend of countries turning inward. There are definite signs of a resurgence of national sovereignty over multilateralism.
  • This will impede collaboration and throw up more barriers in the global efforts and subsequently limit the effectiveness of such efforts.

Way forward:

  • WHO is part of the United Nations framework and is one of its specialized agencies. Given the important role played by it, it needs to be strengthened further.

Recognition of the limitations:

  • The pandemic has brought about an awareness of the limitations of global institutions.
  • The WHO has limitations. There is a need to recognise that these are limitations that governments have imposed upon it given that it is still dependent on member states.


Increased autonomy:

  • The world needs institutions of greater independence for everyone’s collective interest. There is a need to reform the existing institutions, to give them that independence.
  • The policy to have a single, non-renewable term for maybe six or seven years, rather than two terms of five which is the normal practice, might give the elected leaders of these organizations the authority to take certain independent actions.

Increased transparency:

  • There is a need for increased transparency in its functioning.
  • There should be better information flow between the WHO and its member nations. All members should have access to authentic and timely information.

Increased funding:

  • Given the inadequate budgetary support, there is a need for increased funding. This can come through compulsory state support or could come through private sector funding. International institutions, like the World Bank, need to support WHO through sufficient budgets.

Involving experts:

  • The specialized agencies of the UN like WHO should have a higher representation of the medical community. They should also involve scientists and experts across disciplines to work together.

India’s role:

  • India must play a role in defying the current impulse of inward looking and drawing away from multilateralism. India should play a leading role in reviving and reforming the international organization.
  • India’s call for strengthening the WHO in the recently held virtual G-20 summit is a move in this direction.


  • The world needs to be more ready next time around to face such pandemics. A multilateral organization would play a pivotal role in leading the fight against global issues like a pandemic.
  • Multilateralism should strengthen and not fall at this crucial juncture.


  1. ‘The different diseases on time has great lessons to the world’. Discuss in the context of present geopolitical scenario?


Social Vaccine

  • A social vaccine is a metaphor for a series of social and behavioural measures that governments can use to raise public consciousness about unhealthy situations through social mobilisation.
  • Social mobilisation can empower populations to resist unhealthy practices, increase resilience, and foster advocacy for change.
  • This can drive political will to take action in the interests of society and hold governments accountable to address the social determinants of health by adopting progressive socio-economic policies and regulatory mechanisms that promote health equity and reduce vulnerability to disease.

How it helps?

  • When applied to pandemics, the effectiveness of a social vaccine is determined by the extent of dissemination and uptake of accurate information about personal infection risk and methods to reduce the risk through consistent core messages disseminated through a variety of means.
  • A social vaccine addresses barriers and facilitators of behaviour change, whether attitudinal, social, cultural, or economic, and supplements Information, Education, and Communication (IEC) with targeted Social and Behaviour Change Communication (SBCC) strategies.


  • Uganda and Thailand used these strategies effectively during the HIV/AIDS pandemic to bring down the incidence of HIV infection, before Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Treatment (HAART) was introduced in 1995.
  • They demonstrated how an effective social vaccine helped “flatten the curve” till effective treatments were discovered that dramatically reduced mortality, viral loads and infection transmission.

Lessons from the HIV pandemic

  1. Timeline of HIV/AIDS
  • The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) that causes the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is believed to have made the zoonotic jump from monkeys through chimpanzees to humans in Africa as early as the 1920s, but the HIV/AIDS epidemic was detected in 1981 and was a pandemic by 1985.
  • From 1981 till 2018, around 74.9 (range: 58.3 to 98.1) million people worldwide were HIV-infected, and around 32.0 (range: 23.6 to 43.8) million died (43%, range: 41 to 45%) from AIDS-related illnesses.
  • The early years of the HIV/AIDS pandemic were also a time of global panic. The cause was unknown (till 1984) and diagnostic tests were unavailable (till 1985). Since there was no treatment, a diagnosis of HIV infection was a death sentence.
  1. The stigma of HIV/AIDS
  • Widespread fears of contagion rendered many infected people homeless and unemployed. Many were denied access to care.
  • Shame, discrimination and violence towards infected individuals, their families, social groups (sex-workers, gay men, drug users, truck drivers, migrants), and even health workers, were common.
  • Criminalising sex-work and injecting drug use followed.
  • Conspiracy theories, misinformation and unproven remedies were widely propagated.
  • The blame game targeted world leaders and international agencies. The preparedness of health systems, societal prejudices and socio-economic inequities were starkly exposed.
  1. Preventive strategy
  • The core preventive messages involved being faithful to one sexual partner or 100% condom use during sexual intercourse outside stable relationships; resisting peer-pressure for risky behaviours, and harm reduction for intravenous drug use.
  • These measures conflicted with prevailing cultural, social, religious, behavioural and legal norms.
  • IEC and SBCC activities targeted (and partnered) individuals, families, community leaders, peer-led community networks and social and health systems to change attitudes and behaviours. Religious and community leaders were key change agents.
  • For example, the Catholic Church in Uganda did not initially support promoting condoms for safe sex since its use prevents life.
  • After large numbers of people died of AIDS, their tacit acknowledgment that their religion did not preclude the use of condoms to prevent death was an important turning point.
  • Thailand pioneered the effective use of social marketing of condoms for safe sex and used humour to defuse social taboos about publicly discussing sex.

These strategies and advocacy against stigma and discrimination were successfully adapted in India.

How it can work in the present scenario?

  • The core infection-control messages are available from official sources.
    • Maintaining physical distancing in social situations (unless impossible) and
    • Wearing cloth masks or facial coverings in public (especially where distancing is impossible) by 100% of the people (and 100% of the time) is key to preventing infection along with regular disinfection of oneself and one’s surroundings.
  • People are more likely to practise these behaviours if all leaders (without exception) promote them publicly and consistently, the whole community believes in their importance, and if proper information, support, and materials are available and accessible.
  • A social vaccine also requires people to hold leaders accountable to invest in:
    • rapidly scaling-up testing;
    • meeting the basic and economic needs of vulnerable sections;
    • providing psychological support where needed;
    • not communalising or politicising the pandemic;
    • providing adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to front-line workers in health, sanitation, transport and other essential services; and
    • not compromising the privacy and dignity of infected individuals and their families in the interest of public health.


  • Coercive or punitive methods are invariably counter-productive, as was seen with HIV/AIDS.
  • There is still no biomedical vaccine for HIV/AIDS. Considering the limited efficacy and uptake of influenza vaccines, vaccines for SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 may not provide a panacea.
  • Thus, the components of the social vaccine should be in place before relaxing or lifting the lockdown.


  1. What are the major challenges that South Asia is still facing. The collective co-operation can be its solution discuss in the context of South-Asian nations?


  • World Bank report on the impact of COVID-19 in the South Asia region.


  • South Asia as a region has done comparatively better in terms of containing the health impact of the novel coronavirus. The World Bank has endorsed India’s strict 40-day lockdown, which other South Asian countries have followed in varying degrees.
  • However, the World Bank report predicts a ‘dire’ situation for South Asia due to the economic impact of the measures to counter the novel coronavirus pandemic.
  • The restrictions on movement and lockdown measures have led to sharp declines in exports, and have disrupted global value chains. There has been a sharp decline in domestic tourism and hospitality services.
  • Given the global nature of the crisis, the pandemic has also deteriorated investment sentiment, and caused the reversal of capital flows from the developing economies. There has also been the trend of reduced remittances.

Economic impact:

  • The eight SAARC countries (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Maldives and Sri Lanka) would experience their worst economic performance in 40 years, with at least half of them falling into a deep recession.
  • The forecast for the South Asian economy in the WB report is in the range of 1.8% – 2.8%. The upper and lower bounds are based on two scenarios, one with a two-month lockdown of advanced economies, the other with a four-month lockdown of the economies. This would mark a significant drop from the present growth rate of 6.3%.
  • The impact could be even bigger given the uncertainty over the lifting of the lockdown measures and reviving of economic activities. A prolonged lockdown of South Asian economies with an extended lockdown for three months and a more partial lockdown in subsequent quarters may cause negative growth for the region, with a contraction of about 1%.

Major Challenges:

Food security:

  • Disruptions in the supply chain and panic buying can lead to price spikes.
  • The lockdown deprives the most vulnerable people of their income. The loss of income of many informal workers due to lockdown can limit their ability to buy food. This can lead to food shortages for the most vulnerable.
  • Most of the countries have resorted to the banning of food exports from their domestic territories. This could exacerbate the crisis by disrupting the food supply chains of the world.

Vulnerable sections:

  • Containment of the pandemic is especially challenging among slum dwellers, domestic migrant workers and refugees. These sections bear a higher burden of the economic impact of lockdowns.

Migrant crisis:

  • The pandemic will cause a global recession. This, along with the sharp drop in oil prices, will lead to high layoffs in the West Asian region. It is likely that migrant workers, especially in the Gulf countries, will return home after the lockdown restrictions are released.
  • The inbound reverse migrants will need to find work at home and will indeed compete with domestic migrant workers.
  • This will change the labour market and add to the domestic migrant labour crisis in India.

Decreased remittances:

  • Most South Asian nations depend on migrant remittances. This plays a substantial role in the development of the nations. India receives the largest amount of remittances in the world and other economies in South Asia like Bangladesh and Pakistan are also dependant on migrant remittances.
  • The global recession and layoffs would impact the inward remittances.

Loss of jobs:

  • The WB report identifies the service sector as the worst hit. Tourism and hospitality sectors have come to a complete standstill and have resulted in substantial pay cuts and job losses.

Way forward:

Food security:

  • The governments should focus on the aspect of food security along with health security.
  • There is a need to release the strategic food reserves being held by government agencies.

Vulnerable sections:

  • The government must ensure sufficient distribution of food resources to the most vulnerable. It has to be complemented with temporary work programmes.
  • Managing migrant returns (both internal and external migrants) must be a major priority for the region.

Generating employment:

  • The government must consider starting temporary work programmes to ensure income avenues for the vulnerable.
  • The temporary work programme could focus on food delivery, production of protective equipment, disinfection of public spaces and on the testing and tracing system.
  • Governments would have to consider new ways to regenerate employment in the sector most affected by the current crisis.
  • Tourism will not return to normal till effective vaccines become widely available. However, there will be demand for safe tourism and health and wellness tourism. Governments and businesses may consider revaluating their products and business models to adapt to the changed condition.
  • The government will have to look at other prospective sectors to generate new employment The government should consider policies to help such sectors grow.
  • The post-pandemic era would witness higher demand for digital services like remote learning or other remote services and for delivery of e-commerce sales.
  • The government should create conditions under which the economy can be reopened and should play an active role in job creation.


  1. Discuss the Indian Data Protection policy in the context of India?


  • Aarogya Setu, contact tracing app in India.


Threat of spurt in cases:

  • Despite the possibility of the lockdown being lifted in the coming days, the threat of COVID-19 will continue.
  • Studies say that there will be multiple waves of infection following the first wave.
  • To protect large swathes of the population from possible exposure to infection, the movement of individuals will have to be regulated. The government will have to ensure epidemic surveillance.

Aarogya setu app:

  • Governments around the world are using contact-tracing as a means to improve their situational awareness to manage the COVID-19 pandemic. The Indian Government’s Aarogya Setu App follows the same trajectory.
  • The Aarogya Setu app is designed to enable users who have come in contact with COVID-19 positive patients to be notified, traced and suitably supported.


  • There have been legitimate concerns regarding several aspects of the app:

Data protection:

  • The app has been criticized for not complying with data protection principles of data minimisation, purpose limitation, transparency and accountability, all of which are crucial to protecting the privacy of its users.

Data minimization:

  • There are concerns about Aarogya Setu’s use of location data via GPS trails in addition to Bluetooth.
  • This deviates from “privacy-focused global standards”, which are restricted to Bluetooth-based technology, which can match devices by not revealing the exact location. Bluetooth is preferred from a privacy-respecting perspective.

Purpose limitation:

  • According to the app’s privacy policy, the personal data of its users is allowed for disclosure to the government to provide it with the necessary details for carrying out medical and administrative interventions necessary in relation to COVID-19. The privacy policy does not exactly state the grounds for disclosure of user’s data. Such vague articulation weakens the app’s purpose limitation.
  • The app’s privacy policy does not specify which departments or ministry or officials will have access to data. This lack of specificity adds to the concerns of overreach.
  • In China, a similar phone app was started as a voluntary service for informing users of their potential exposure to infected persons, but soon began to be used as an e-pass for allowing access to public transport. There are concerns that India might follow the same.

Lack of transparency:

  • According to the privacy policy, the government is at a liberty to revise the terms of the privacy policy at its discretion without notifying its users. The existing users of the app could be subject to changed service terms without their informed consent.
  • The fluid terms of service affects the transparency and accountability of the system.

State surveillance:

  • Given the fundamental transformation in the role of the state in regulating society in the present crisis situation, there are concerns that the app could lead to an increased risk of institutionalised surveillance of individuals.
  • The design of the app raises concerns of the dangers of its misuse to carry out surveillance of users.
  • India lacks a comprehensive data protection or surveillance law.

Threat to fundamental rights:

Freedom of movement:

  • Some reports suggest that the government is considering using the app as a criterion for restricting users’ movement.

Right to life:

  • The potential restriction on freedom of movement will have considerable impact on an individual’s access to basic government benefits and services, thus endangering citizens’ right to life.
  • The resultant impact will be disproportionately higher on the most vulnerable sections of the society.
  • There are also the risks of misidentification (or a false-positive) which could unfairly impact people’s civil liberties.

Right to autonomy and privacy:

  • Citizens may be forced to download the app to be able to access basic amenities and services. Citizens could be forced to give up their right to autonomy and privacy in exchange for government benefits.

Arguments in favour of the app:

International experience:

  • Similar contact tracing apps in countries such as China, Singapore and Taiwan have been a major contributing factor in their success in limiting the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The utility of such contact tracing has been proved beyond doubt by the experience in these nations.

Safety features:

  • The app’s privacy policy says that the data would be used by the Government of India in anonymized, aggregated datasets as per international best practices.
  • The government has repeatedly insisted that all the data collected by the app would reside within the device locally and only in certain conditions (exceptions) the information could be uploaded to a cloud server.

Unprecedented situation:

  • The world is passing through an unprecedented public health emergency – the spread of the novel coronavirus has infected more than 2 million people and claimed more than 1,50,00 lives.
  • The rapid spread and severity of the coronavirus have shattered our assumptions about politics, society, economics and international relations. It has raised certain ethical and philosophical questions. These unprecedented times require changed perspectives with respect to privacy norms as well.

Post lockdown phase:

  • Once the lockdown is lifted, the risk of increased infections will increase exponentially and the app could not only help its users plan their commute, route of travel or place of travel as per the risk involved but also help the government in contact tracing.

Utility of the app:

  • The data generated by the app’s users (in aggregated, anonymized form) would play a role in aiding the government make policy interventions: specifically, managing the eventual removal of the ongoing lockdown.
  • These datasets could help generate reports, heat maps, and other statistical visualisations for the purpose of monitoring the pandemic.

Way forward:

Statutory backing:

  • The concerns of mass surveillance, disproportionate restrictions of fundamental rights, and privacy concerns impose several limitations on fundamental rights.
  • As per the settled legal principle that any limitation of fundamental rights must be implemented only through a law pursuing legitimate state interest, it is imperative that the Aaorgya Setu app is implemented only through law.
  • Such a law will not only subject government actions to limitations but will also facilitate its constitutional scrutiny.

Adopting international best practice:

  • The TraceTogether app framework (Singapore) is touted as being a fine balance between privacy rights and public health needs and could act as a guiding light to India’s own efforts in this direction.
  • In Singapore, the ministry of health has access to data of its contact-tracing app and decision-making powers. The law also clearly states the purpose of the data as directed towards disease control and spread.


  1. ‘The issues of Tribe’s and the backward can be tackle by the outer exposure’. Discuss in the context of Apex court’s recent judgement?


  • Recently, a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court (SC) held it unconstitutional to provide 100% reservation for tribal teachers in schools located in Scheduled Areas across the country.


  • The Constitution Bench held that 100% reservation is discriminatory and impermissible.
  • It asserted that the opportunity of public employment is not the prerogative of a few.
  • A 100% reservation to the Scheduled Tribes has deprived Scheduled Castes and Other Backward Classes also of their due representation. Hence would impinge upon the right of open category.
  • The court referred to the Indira Sawhney judgment, which caps reservation at 50%.


  • The Andhra Pradesh (A.P) state government’s original orders of 1986, and thereafter, subsequent orders in 2000, was because of its own rationale. 
    • In January 2000, the then Governor of undivided Andhra Pradesh had passed an order giving 100% quota to ST candidates for teaching posts in scheduled areas.
    • The court therefore held that creation of 100 per cent reservation through the government order was akin to making a new law and Schedule V only allows the Governor to not apply or apply a law to a scheduled area with modifications. It does not allow the Governor to make a new law altogether.
    • The Supreme Court ruled that the Governor’s powers under para 5 of Schedule V are subject to the fundamental rights guaranteed under Part III of the Constitution.
  • It found that there was chronic absenteeism among teachers who did not belong to those remote areas where the schools were located. 
  • The state government’s solution of drafting only members of the local tribes was not a viable solution.
  • It could have come up with other incentives to ensure the attendance of teachers.
  • Andhra Pradesh has a local area system of recruitment to public services. The President, under Article 371D, has issued orders that a resident of a district/zone cannot apply to another district/zone for appointment. 
  • Thus, the 100% quota deprived residents of the Scheduled Areas of any opportunity to apply for teaching posts.
  • It is still a matter of debate whether the ceiling has innate sanctity, but it is clear that wherever it is imperative that the 50% cap be breached, a special case must be made for it. 
  • However, attention must not be diverted from the fact that there is a continuing need for a significant quota for STs, especially those living in areas under the Fifth Schedule special dispensation.
  • In this backdrop, it is somewhat disappointing that courts tend to record obiter dicta advocating a revision of the list of SCs and STs. 
  • An orbiter dictum is a judge’s expression of opinion uttered in court or in a written judgement, but not essential to the decision and therefore not legally binding as a precedent.
  • The power to amend the lists notified by the President is not in dispute. However, it is somewhat uncharitable to say that the advanced and affluent sections within SCs and STs are cornering all benefits and do not permit any trickle-down. 

Significance of the Judgement:

  • The SC is right in considering cent per cent reservation as anathema to the constitutional scheme of equality even if it is for the objective of providing representation to historically deprived sections. 
  • The verdict must not be considered as against affirmative programmes as such, but as a caution against implementing them in a manner detrimental to the rest of society.  
  • 100% reservations is arbitrary and violative of provisions of Articles 14 (equality before law), 15(1) (discrimination against citizens) and 16 (equal opportunity) of the Constitution.
  • Equality of opportunity and pursuit of choice under Article 51A cannot be deprived of unjustly and arbitrarily.


  • Affirmative action loses its meaning if it does not leave the door slightly ajar for open competition. 
  • Dr. B.R. Ambedkar observed during the debate in the Constituent Assembly on the equality clause, that any reservation normally ought to be for a minority of seats. This is one of the points often urged in favour of the 50% cap imposed by the Court on total reservation, albeit with some allowance for relaxation in special circumstances. 
  • “Citizens have equal rights, and the total exclusion of others by creating an opportunity for one class is not contemplated by the founding fathers of the Constitution of India,” Justice Mishra.
  1. Discuss the major concerns about Aarogya Setu App. Point out the challenges?


  • The launch of AarogyaSetu app.


  • The AarogyaSetu app, developed by the National Informatics Centre, under the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology, is the main contact tracing technology being endorsed by the Central Government.
  • It has become one of the most downloaded apps globally, and has crossed the 75 million mark.


Working of the app:

  • The app is designed to keep track of other AarogyaSetu users that a person came in contact with, and alerts him or her if any of the contacts tests positive for COVID-19.
  • The app uses the phone’s Bluetooth and GPS capabilities. The app will keep a record of all other AarogyaSetu users that it detected nearby using Bluetooth, and also a GPS log of all the places that the device had been at 15-minute intervals.
  • While registering, the app collects a set of personal information such as name, sex, age, phone number, current location and travel history that is uploaded to government servers, which then generates a unique digital identity for that user.
  • When the Bluetooths of two AarogyaSetu users identify each other out, this unique digital identity is exchanged along with the time and location of the meeting.
  • When an app user tests positive, all unique digital identities in his or her records get an alert on the risk they face and instructions on self-isolation and next steps.


  • The success of the AarogyaSetu app is people dependent. It needs widespread usage and self-reporting to be effective.
  • The total number of users of the app is bound to be only a small subset of smartphone owners in India, and there are bound to be variations in the levels of self-reporting.
  • Digital divide is a major concern in India.

Privacy concerns:

Lack of a privacy law in India:

  • Currently, there is no legislation that spells out in detail how the online privacy of Indians is to be protected. AarogyaSetu app users accept the privacy policy provided by the government without any legal protection.

Vague privacy policy:

  • The privacy policy of the app in vaguely worded.
  • As per the policy, “persons carrying out medical and administrative interventions necessary in relation to COVID-19” will have access to the data.
  • There seems to be no clear cut regulation on use of the data which could lead to inter-departmental exchanges of people’s personal information.

Breach of confidentiality:

  • The unique digital identity in AarogyaSetu is a static number, which increases the probability of identity breaches. A better approach would be the usage of constantly-changing digital identification keys.

Excess data being collected:

  • AarogyaSetu uses both Bluetooth and GPS reference points. Other apps such as TraceTogether use only Bluetooth. The abundance of data collected may be potentially problematic.

Way forward:

  • The best practices could be adopted from other similar apps in use worldwide like Google and Apple’s joint contact tracing technology and TraceTogether app of Singapore.


  1. Towards the curbing of the nuclear arms race, what are major steps has taken by the nations. Why it issue of concern for India?


  • A recent report by the U.S. State Department claimed that China has been carrying out nuclear testing against the provisions of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).


Partial Test-Ban Treaty (PTBT):

  • The ban on nuclear testing is seen as a necessary first step towards curbing the nuclear arms race.
  • In successful negotiations, a Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT) was concluded in 1963 banning underwater and atmospheric tests.
  • However, this was not sufficient as the PTBT only drove testing underground and didn’t decrease testing. Cold War politics led to continued testing by the nations, with the U.S. and Russia accounting for the most number of tests.

Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT):

  • The CTBT negotiations began in Geneva in 1994.
  • By 1994, global politics had changed dramatically. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or the USSR, broke up. The Cold War had ended and the nuclear arms race between the erstwhile USSR and the U.S. was over. In 1991, Russia declared a unilateral moratorium on testing, followed by the U.S. in 1992.
  • The negotiations over the CTBT were often contentious.
    • France and China continued testing, claiming that they had conducted far fewer tests and needed to validate new designs since the CTBT did not imply an end to nuclear deterrence.
    • France and the U.S. proposed a CTBT that would permit testing at a low threshold. Civil society and the non-nuclear weapon states reacted negatively to such an idea and it was dropped.
    • After India’s proposals for anchoring the CTBT in a disarmament framework did not find acceptance, in June 1996, India announced its decision to withdraw from the negotiations.
  • Eventually, the idea of defining the “comprehensive test ban” as a “zero yield” test ban that would prohibit supercritical hydro-nuclear tests was accepted by the negotiating parties and adopted subsequently.
  • The CTBT was adopted by a majority vote and opened for signature.
  • The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO), the international organisation to verify the CTBT was established in Vienna. It runs an elaborate verification system built around a network of over 325 seismic, radionuclide, infrasound and hydroacoustic (underwater) monitoring stations.

Concerns with CTBT:

CTBT lacks legal authority:

  • Of the 44 listed countries whose ratification is necessary for the treaty to enter into force as per the “entry-into-force” provisions, only 36 have ratified the treaty until now.
  • China, Egypt, Iran, Israel and the U.S. have signed but not ratified. China maintains that it will only ratify it after the U.S. does.
  • In addition, North Korea, India and Pakistan are the three who have not signed. All three have also undertaken tests after 1996; India and Pakistan in May 1998 and North Korea six times between 2006 and 2017.
  • The CTBT has, therefore, not entered into force and lacks legal authority.

Unequal provisions:

  • The current provisions of CTBT only appear to strengthen the inequality in terms of nuclear arms possession between the haves and have-nots.
  • Though the best way to verify a comprehensive test ban would have been to permanently shut down all test sites, the idea was not acceptable to the nuclear weapon states.
  • The treaty does not try to address the inequality by measures like disarmament. Despite well-intended proposals from some negotiating countries like India, the CTBT could not anchor itself in a disarmament framework.

Ineffective provisions:

  • The idea of defining the “comprehensive test ban” as a “zero yield” test ban only prohibited supercritical hydro-nuclear tests and not sub-critical hydrodynamic nuclear tests. This served only U.S. interests and helped it secure unipolar supremacy.
  • The CTBT prohibits all parties from carrying out any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion without clearly defining or elaborating the terms.

Threat of a new nuclear arms race:

Changes in global politics and tensions:

  • The U.S.’s unipolar moment seems to be ending with the emergence of a multilateral order.
  • There would be a strategic competition among major powers. The U.S. now identifies Russia and China as challengers to its position.
  • The U.S.’s tensions with China are already high with trade and technology disputes, militarisation in the South China Sea and most recently, with the novel coronavirus pandemic.
  • The sanctions imposed on Russia by the U.S. and its allies, and its increasing isolation seem to be drawing Russia closer to China.
  • The Cold War rivalry was already visible when the nuclear arms race began in the 1950s. New rivalries in the global politics may lead to a similar arms race in current times.

Arms race:


  • The U.S.’s Nuclear Posture Review notes that the U.S. faces new nuclear threats because both Russia and China are increasing their reliance on nuclear weapons and calls for expanding the role of nuclear weapons and maintaining a more usable and diversified nuclear arsenal.
  • The U.S. administration has embarked on a 30-year modernisation plan for its nuclear arsenal. It’s readiness at its nuclear test sites (Nevada test site) is being enhanced to permit resumption of testing at six months notice.

Russia and China:

  • Russia and China have been concerned about the U.S.’s growing technological lead particularly in missile defence and conventional global precision-strike capabilities and have begun expanding their defence capabilities.
  • Russia has been developing hypersonic delivery systems while China has been working on a modernisation programme to enhance the survivability of its arsenal.
  • Both Russia and China are investing heavily in offensive cyber capabilities.

Ineffectiveness of treaties:

  • The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, an arms control treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union, banning all of the land-based ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and missile launchers in the short medium and intermediate-range has ended with both countries opting out of it.
  • The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) limits U.S. and Russian arsenals but will expire in 2021 and the U.S. President has already indicated that the U.S. does not plan to extend it.
  • The U.S. administration has expressed its desire to bring China into nuclear arms control talks. However, China has denied any such possibility by pointing to the fact that the U.S. and Russia still account for over 90% of the global nuclear arsenals.

U.S. claims:

  • A report issued by the United States State Department on “Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Non-proliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments (Compliance Report)” has raised concerns that China might be conducting nuclear tests with low yields at its Lop Nur test site, in violation of its Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).
  • The U.S. report also claims that Russia has conducted nuclear weapons experiments that produced a nuclear yield and were inconsistent with the ‘zero yield’ understanding underlying the CTBT.
  • Russia and China have rejected the U.S.’s claims, but with growing rivalry among major powers, the report is a likely harbinger of a new nuclear arms race.
  • Resumption of nuclear testing may signal the end of CTBT, marking the beginnings of a new nuclear arms race.


  1. The recent outbreak of the pandemic has given a new shift to the global geopolitics. State your own point of views about the statement?


  • COVID-19 is set to drastically alter geopolitics and human society.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented and has led to radical uncertainty. COVID-19 would change the world and reshape the human society.

Changes in global relations:

Threat of Deglobalization:

  • The pandemic will impact human values and conduct.
  • The diminution in human values could have a negative impact on the concept of an international community. Each nation would tend to look inwards, concentrating on its narrowly defined national interests rather than looking for cooperation and collaboration with other countries.

International Institutions under fire:

  • Existing international institutions such as the United Nations, the United Nations Security Council and the World Health Organization (WHO) are being blamed of having failed to measure up to the challenge posed by the pandemic.
    • The UN Security Council has not been able to take any concrete action in dealing with the situation.
    • WHO has been blamed of being China-centric. WHO’s underestimation and inaction during the initial phase could have amplified the pandemic to such large scales.
    • The UN and other global organizations have not been able to ensure a common vision or approach among the many nations. They have failed to ensure cooperation and collaboration among its members.
  • That prestigious global institutions are under attack, even in such critical times, speaks about the mood prevailing across the world.

Economic shock:

  • Given the disruption in the global economy, the World Bank has predicted negative growth for most nations. India’s growth forecast for the current fiscal year has been estimated at 1.5% to 2.8%.
  • Globalization, global trade and global value chains have been a major cohesive force in integrating the world. Contraction of the economy and the loss of millions of jobs across all segments will complicate the situation.

China’s dominance:

  • Far-reaching changes due to the pandemic can be anticipated in the realm of geo-economics and geopolitics.

Geo-economical change:

  • China, which is already one of the most prominent nations of the world and an important player in international institutions, could grow even stronger.
  • China is considered indispensable as the world’s supplier of manufactured goods.
  • China now seeks to benefit from its early recovery from the pandemic to take advantage of the problems of the rest of the world, by using its manufacturing capability to its geo-economic advantage.
  • The current pandemic could hollow out the financial viability of many companies, institutions and banks across the world. There are reports of China’s intentions to acquire financial assets and stakes in banks and companies across the world, taking advantage of the scaled-down value of their assets.
  • China is poised to dominate the global economy.

Geo-political changes:

  • By offering medical aid and other essential supplies to several Asian and African countries during the current pandemic threat, China would gain a geopolitical advantage by its action.
  • China with its Belt and Road Initiative, which seeks to combine regional connectivity alongside gaining a virtual economic and substantial stranglehold across Asia, is ostensibly preparing the way for a China-centric multilateral globalisation framework.

Anti-China sentiments:

  • There have been calls for holding China responsible for its mismanagement of the epidemic and failure to inform the world of the threat of COVID-19.
  • Given the threat of Chinese take-over of fragile firms and banks, the clamour against China’s hostile takeover bids is becoming stronger. Several countries, apart from India, such as Australia and Germany, have begun to restrict Chinese foreign direct investment in companies and financial institutions in their countries, recognising the inherent danger of a possible Chinese hostile takeover of their critical assets.

A faltering West:

  • COVID-19 would effectively change the existing global order that has existed since the late 1940s. The geopolitical fallout of this pandemic could be the decreased dominance of the west.
  • The U.S. has been weakened economically and politically due to COVID-19. The U.S.’s capacity to play a critical role in world affairs seems to have diminished. The United States will be compelled to cede ground to the rising Chinese power.
  • The Brexit came as a body blow to the EU. Europe too has been badly affected by the pandemic. Germany which has played a major role in promoting EU is turning inwards. Both France and a post-Brexit United Kingdom will also be focusing more on domestic issues. Europe, in the short and medium term, will prove incapable of defining and defending its common interests, leaving it with very little influence in world affairs.

West Asia:

  • In West Asia, both Saudi Arabia and Iran are set to face difficult times.
  • The oil price meltdown will aggravate an already difficult situation across the region.
  • Given Israel’s non-dependency on oil and it being relatively less impacted due to the pandemic, it might emerge stronger out of the pandemic.

Effect on India:

  • The economic downturn might reduce India’s room for manoeuvring in global affairs.
  • The increasing Chinese investment in South Asia could see its influence grow in the South Asian region and diminish India’s influence in the region.
  • India’s leverage in West Asia will suffer due to the declining oil prices.
  • The large Indian expatriate community in West Asia would be severely affected and may seek repatriation back to India. This would substantially reduce the inflow of foreign funds to India from the region.

Changes in human society:

  • There would be fundamental alterations in governance and political management.
  • The role of the state as an enforcer of public good will become greatly enhanced. The limits on the role of the state would reduce. Various legislations of yesteryears which were perceived to be anachronistic in a modern democratic set-up would find increased use.
  • Many nations are showing a willingness to sacrifice personal liberties in favour of greater state control. Post COVID-19, the world may have to pay a heavy price in terms of loss of liberty. An omnipotent state could well become a reality.


  1. The virtual technology has altered the prevailing options. In the recent Indian scenario what are the precautions need to take care. Discuss in the context of Indian Judiciary?


  • Amidst the national lockdown, the Supreme Court and several other courts have been holding virtual proceedings.


Virtual proceedings:

  • Given the national lockdown in place, the Judiciary has resorted to virtual court proceedings. This is of significance because it ensures that the courts are open even during a national lockdown so that access to justice is not denied to anyone, and also helps maintain physical distancing.
  • A three-judge Bench headed by the CJI has ratified the validity of virtual judicial proceedings and has laid down broad norms for courts using video-conferencing.


Idea of open courts:

  • There have been concerns being expressed on if virtual courts would become the “new normal” and mark a move away from the idea of open courts.
  • This would inhibit the presence of lawyers and litigants in the judicial process.
  • Citing earlier judgments on the importance of open court hearings, the Supreme Court Bar Association has requested that the use of video conferencing should be limited to the duration of the current crisis, and should not replace open court hearings.


  • Open court hearings should be restored at the earliest.

Live streaming:

  • The proceedings held virtually may also be streamed live so that access is not limited to the lawyers concerned, but is also available to the litigants and the public.
  • The issue of limited media access can also be resolved through live-streaming.

Improving judicial process:

  • As the use of technology is stepped up, courts should consider steps that will speed up the judicial process and reduce courtroom crowding.
    • In the lower courts, evidence could be recorded, with the consent of parties, by virtual means.
    • In the higher courts, a system based on advance submission of written briefs and allocation of time slots for oral arguments can be put in place.
  • The opportunity provided by the current crisis to improve the judicial process must be utilized well.


  1. Why the peace of Afganistan matters to South-Asia specially India. Define India’s stand?


  • Recently, the United Nations Secretariat held a meeting of what it calls the “6+2+1” group on regional efforts to support peace in Afghanistan, a group that includes six neighbouring countries: China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan; global players, the United States and Russia, and Afghanistan itself.
  • India was conspicuous by its absence from the meeting, given its historical and strategic ties with Afghanistan, but not for the first time.


  • In December 2001, the Indian team led by special envoy Satinder Lambah arrived in Germany to find no reservations had been made for them at the official venue (where the famous Bonn Agreement was negotiated).
  • In January 2010, India was invited to attend the “London Conference” on Afghanistan, but left out of the room during a crucial meeting that decided on opening talks with the Taliban.
  • In 2020, the reason given for keeping India out of regional discussions on Afghanistan was ostensibly that it holds no boundary with Afghanistan; but in fact it is because New Delhi has never announced its support for the U.S.-Taliban peace process.
  • In both 2001 and 2010, however, India fought back its exclusion successfully.
    • At the Bonn Agreement, Ambassador Lambah was widely credited for ensuring that Northern Alliance leaders came to a consensus to accept Hamid Karzai as the Chairman of the interim arrangement that replaced the Taliban regime.
    • After the 2010 conference, New Delhi redoubled its efforts with Kabul, and in 2011, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Afghanistan President Karzai signed the historic Strategic Partnership Agreement, which was Afghanistan’s first such agreement with any country.

India’s stand:

  • As India now consider its next steps in Afghanistan, it must fight back against the idea that any lasting solution in Afghanistan can be discussed without India in the room, while also studying the reasons for such exclusions.
    • India’s resistance to publicly talking to the Taliban has made it an awkward interlocutor at any table.
    • Its position that only an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, and Afghan-controlled process can be allowed is a principled one, but has no takers.
  • Kabul, or the Ashraf Ghani government does not lead, own or control the reconciliation process today, comprising the U.S.-Taliban negotiation for an American troops withdrawal, and intra-Afghan talks on power sharing.
  • The U.S.-Taliban peace deal means that the Taliban, which has not let up on violent attacks on the Afghan Army, will become more potent as the U.S. withdraws soldiers from the country, and will hold more sway in the inter-Afghan process as well, as the U.S. withdraws funding for the government in Kabul.

Way forward:

Controversy over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act:

  • The building blocks of India’s goodwill are its assistance in infrastructure projects, health care, education, trade and food security, and also in the liberal access for Afghans to study, train and work in India.
  • Above all, it is India’s example as a pluralistic, inclusive democracy that inspires many.
  • Afghanistan’s majority-Muslim citizens, many of whom have treated India as a second home, have felt cut out of the move to offer fast track citizenship to only Afghan minorities, as much as they have by reports of anti-Muslim rhetoric and incidents of violence in India.
  • The government of India must consider the damage done to the vast reservoir of goodwill India enjoys in Afghanistan because of the controversy over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.

Financial Assistance:

  • India must move swiftly to regain the upper hand in the narrative in Afghanistan.
  • India’s assistance of more than $3 billion in projects, trade of about $1 billion, a $20 billion projected development expenditure of an alternate route through Chabahar, as well as its support to the Afghan National Army, bureaucrats, doctors and other professionals for training in India should assure it a leading position in Afghanistan’s regional formulation.
  • Three major projects: the Afghan Parliament, the Zaranj-Delaram Highway, and the Afghanistan-India Friendship Dam (Salma dam), along with hundreds of small development projects (of schools, hospitals and water projects) have cemented that position in Afghan hearts nationwide, regardless of Pakistan’s attempts to undermine that position, particularly in the South.
  • India must strive to endure that its aid and assistance is broad-based, particularly during the novel coronavirus pandemic to centres outside the capital, even if some lie in areas held by the Taliban.

India’s presence in Afghanistan:

  • India’s presence inside Afghanistan, which has been painstakingly built up since 2001, is being threatened anew by terror groups such as the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), believed to be backed by Pakistan’s establishment.
  • Intercepts showed that the brutal attack, in March 2020, that killed 25 at a gurudwara in Kabul was meant for the embassy in Kabul.
  • A full security reassessment is still under way for both Indian consulates.
  • India’s diplomatic strength in Afghanistan should not appear to be in retreat just when it is needed the most.

India must fulfil its role in the peace efforts in Afghanistan:

  • India must also pursue opportunities to fulfil its role in the peace efforts in Afghanistan, starting with efforts to bridge the Ghani-Abdullah divide, and bringing together other major leaders with whom India has built ties for decades.
  • An understanding between Iran and the U.S. on Afghanistan is necessary for lasting peace as well, and India could play a mediatory part, as it did in order for the Chabahar project.
  • India should use the United Nations’s call for a pause in conflicts during the novel coronavirus pandemic, to ensure a hold on hostilities with Pakistan.

Appointment of a special envoy:

  • Above all, the government must consider the appointment of a special envoy, as it has been done in the past, to deal with its efforts in Afghanistan.
  • There is a need for both diplomatic agility and a firmness of purpose at a watershed moment in that country’s history.


  1. Indian Higher Education is from past years a matter of concern, the worldwide ranking of Indian institutes is also a matter of concern. To overcome with these online learning can be a solution or a limited option. Discuss in the Indian Context?


  • With India under lockdown in its desperate attempt to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, there is anxiety with respect to academics particularly among the graduating batches of students.
  • This editorial analyses whether digital forms of learning are effective for Higher Educational Institutions and courses.


  • With universities and colleges in the middle of the second semester of their academic year, there have been attempts from individual teachers to keep their students engaged.
  • Well-meaning attempts have been made to keep the core educational processes going through this period.
    1. A few universities made arrangements for teachers to hold their classes virtually through video conferencing services such as Zoom.
  • The transition to virtual modes was relatively less difficult for those institutions that had, even prior to the lockdown, adopted learning management system platforms.


  • A recent report quoted the UGC Chairman saying that, in order to maintain social distancing, e-education was the only way out.
    1. This was clearly meant to prepare the higher education community for the exigencies of an extended period of closure of campuses.
    2. Even when the lockdown gets lifted eventually, it is not likely that the government would allow large congregations in restricted physical spaces, including campuses.
  • He was also quoted as saying that online education was likely to be adopted as a strategy to enhance the gross enrolment ratio in higher education.
  • This prompts many questions about the appropriateness of the contingency measure being deployed as a long-term strategy for enhancing enrolment in higher education.
    1. How far will online education help support greater access to and success in higher education among those who are on the margins?
    2. How equipped are digital forms of education to support the depth and diversity of learning in higher education?
    3. Is there an unstated motivation for this shift in strategy?
  • Institutions of open and distance learning (ODL), established during the mid-1960s to 1980s, were a consequence of explorations for less expensive models for provisioning access to higher education.
  • ODL may also have been considered by governments at that time as a safe strategy (in the light of instances of campus turbulence) for managing mass aspirations for higher education without necessarily effecting large congregations on campuses.
  • It is worth pondering upon whether there is a similar motivation behind the enthusiasm for online education.

Limitations of online learning with respect to Higher Education:

  • Access is not merely enrolment. Higher education has an influx of students who are first-generation aspirants. For them, access also includes effective participation in curricular processes, which includes negotiating through language and social barriers.
  • A number of students are also from the other side of the digital divide which makes them vulnerable to a double disadvantage if digital modes become the mainstay of education.
  • Unless consistent hand-holding and backstopping is ensured, there could be a tendency to remain on the margins and eventually drop out or fail.

What learning involves?

  • Learning, in higher education means much more than acquisition of given knowledge that can be transmitted didactically by a teacher or a text. It constitutes only one minor segment of curricular content.
  • Learning involves development of analytical and other intellectual skills, the ability to critically deconstruct and evaluate given knowledge, and the creativity to make new connections and syntheses.
  • It also means to acquire practical skills, inquire, seek solutions to complex problems, and learn to work in teams.
  • All these assume direct human engagement – not just teacher-student interaction, but also peer interactions.
  • Arguably, some of this can, to some extent, be built on to a digital platform.
  • However, deconstructing given knowledge in relative isolation is never the same as doing it in a group.


  • Curricular knowledge has a tendency to adjust its own contours according to the mode of transaction and the focus of evaluation.
  • It gets collapsed into largely information-based content when transacted through standard structures of teaching-learning and examination.
  • While digital forms of learning have the potential to enable students to pursue independent learning, conventional and digital forms of education should not be considered mutually exclusive.
  • Online learning needs to be understood as one strand in a complex tapestry of curricular communication that may still assign an important central role to direct human engagement and social learning.
  • It is therefore necessary to think deeply and gather research-based evidence on the extent to which online education can be deployed to help enhance the access and success rates.





GS-3 Mains

  1. The bad shape of the Indian economy and the precariousness in the lives of millions of people has highlighted in the present scenario. Comment?


  • 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.


  • 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 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. 
    • They studied the systems of governance in many countries and examined how long-term planning fits in them.
  • China, whose remarkable economic progress can provide some lessons for planners everywhere, received special attention.
  • With their insights, they have proposed a few changes to constitutional structures in California.


  • 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?
  • Indeed, this was the question that several State Chief Ministers had raised during the UPA-II period.
  • States who were becoming self-sufficient in their resources questioned the value they were getting from their interactions with the Planning Commission.
  • They said the Commission was out of touch with their ground realities and had little experience of how to get things done to produce outcomes.
  • Moreover, it was becoming apparent that the model based on which the Commission seemed to been forming its advice was inadequate.


  • 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.
  • Therefore, a healthy global system must help its weaker members to become stronger. Another feature of complex systems with many interacting forces is that the forces combine in unique ways in different parts of the system.
  • For example, the conditions of livelihoods, the natural environment, and infrastructure, combine in different ways in different localities and States. Therefore, systems solutions must be local too.


  • 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.
  1. Discuss the major steps taken by the government to tackle the outbreak COVID-19. Criticise it in the context of labours issue?


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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).
  • Suspected patients and close contacts were kept separately within these makeshift quarantine centres too.
  • As a ‘Chinese wall’ was constructed between the infected and the uninfected, the chain of transmission began to be cut.
  • A comparable patient classification system, with mild and asymptomatic cases confined to ‘residential treatment facilities was also employed by South Korea.


  • 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.
  1. Critically comment on Indian Agriculture sector. How the pandemic has impacted on the sector. Suggest the priority based way forwards?


  • 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.


  • 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.
  • There will also be short-term impacts on foodgrains and other rabi crops that were ready to be harvested at the beginning of April. In some cases, harvesting may be postponed but it is difficult to do so beyond a week or a fortnight.
  • While the government has exempted operation of agricultural markets and mandis from the lockdown, it will be difficult for farmers to harvest the agricultural produce in the surplus States of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh in the absence of migrant labourers.
  • Even if standing crop is harvested, April is the labour-intensive month. Labourers are required for packing, processing, transporting and selling the produce. This year is expected to register a record in the production of cereals, pulses, cotton and oilseeds.
  • Most of these are labour-intensive crops and the absence of working labourers during the harvest and post-harvest season is likely to affect the prospect of higher incomes in agriculture.


  • 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.


  • 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.
  • While this may free up FCI godowns to some extent, it will be prudent to extend the scheme to all residents, particularly migrants who may not be able to avail of free grain in urban areas.
  • While raising procurements is desirable and may be necessary for the forthcoming rabi crops, the state is also expected to intervene and assure remunerative incomes to farmers.


  • 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.


  • 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.
  1. Critically comment on globalisation, what are the major effects in the Indian Economy it has shown?


  • COVID-19 will fundamentally transform the world as we know it: the world order, its balance of power, traditional conceptions of national security, and the future of globalisation.
  • The lethal combination of an interconnected world and a deadly virus without a cure is taking humanity into uncharted waters. When we emerge from the lockdown, we must be ready to confront new political and social realities.


  • The rampant spread of COVID-19 is also a failure of the contemporary world order and its institutions.
  • The contemporary global order, whatever remains of the institutions created by the victors of World War II, was a hegemonic exercise meant to deal with isolated political and military crises and not serve humanity at large.
  • COVID-19 has exposed this as well as the worst nativist tendencies of the global leadership in the face of a major crisis. That the United Nations Security Council took so long to meet (that too inconclusively) to discuss the pandemic is a ringing testimony to the UN’s insignificance.


  • Regional institutions haven’t fared any better. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s SAARC initiative, curiously resurrecting a practically dead institution, was short-lived.
  • The EU, the most progressive post-national regional arrangement, stood clueless when the virus spread like wildfire in Europe. Its member states turned inward for solutions: self-help, not regional coordination, was their first instinct. Brussels is the loser.
  • All this is indicative of a deeper malaise: the global institutional framework is unrepresentative, a pawn in the hands of the great powers, cash-strapped, and its agenda is focused on high-table security issues.
  • The global institutional architecture of the 1940s cannot help humanity face the challenges of the 2020s. Nothing less than a new social contract between states and the international system can save our future.


  • One country that is likely to come out stronger from this crisis is China. Reports indicate that China has now managed the outbreak of COVID-19, and its industrial production is recovering even as that of every other country is taking a hit.
  • The oil price slump will make its recovery even faster. When the greatest military power found itself in denial mode and the members of the EU were looking after their own interests, China appeared to use its manufacturing power to its geopolitical advantage.
  • Beijing has offered medical aid and expertise to those in need; it has increased cooperation with its arch-rival Japan; and President Xi Jinping spoke to the UN Secretary General on how the international community can fight the virus.
  • Its richest man, Jack Ma, has spearheaded the private sector’s fight against COVID-19. The Chinese propaganda machinery will magnify this. Chinese actions are a smart economic investment for geopolitical gains.
  • This will aid Beijing’s claims to global leadership, push Huawei 5G trials as a side bargain, and showcase how the Belt and Road Initiative is the future of global connectivity. COVID-19 will further push the international system into a world with Chinese characteristics.


  • Neoliberal economic globalisation will have taken a major beating in the wake of the pandemic. Economists are warning of a global recession. Even as the virus is pushing back the ‘successes’ of neoliberal globalisation, globalisation’s political counterpart is found wanting in dealing with the situation.
  • The first instinct of every major economy was to close borders, look inwards and localise. The pre-existing structural weakness of the global order and the COVID-19 shock will further feed states’ protectionist tendencies fueled by hypernationalism.
  • A more inclusive global political and economic order is unlikely any time soon, if ever. Instead, as former National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon warns, “we are headed for a poorer, meaner, and smaller world.”
  • The ability of big corporations to dictate the production, stocks, supply chains and backup plans will be limited by increased state intervention to avoid unpredictable supply sources, avoid geopolitically sensitive zones, and national demands for emergency reserves.
  • The profits of big corporations will reduce, and the demand for stability will increase.


  • Some would gladly argue all this could potentially mean a retreat from hyperglobalisation and its attendant flaws. However, the assumption that COVID-19 will bring about a more balanced and inclusive form of economic and political globalisation is perhaps misplaced.
  • State intervention in economic matters and protectionism are the easy way out, and that’s precisely what states will do once the crisis is over. It would be return of the ‘Licence Raj’ through the backdoor, not a push for inclusive and responsible globalisation with its associated political benefits.
  • The state has failed in its inability to save us from the pandemic notwithstanding its tall claims about national security preparedness. And yet, the state has returned, with more power, legitimacy and surveillance technologies.
  • In fact, the nervous citizenry will want the state to be omnipresent and omnipotent, no matter the consequences. The state, which was losing its influence to global economic forces, will return as the last refuge of the people in the coming age of mass disruption.
  • With the severe beating that globalisation has taken, state-led models of globalisation and economic development would be preferred over (big) corporates-led globalisation. Will this enable some positive controls over the inherent deficiencies of globalisation?
  • We will have to wait and see. But the more important question is whether the state has any incentive to take on big capital.
  • Given the symbiotic relationship between the state and big capital, states have become used to protecting the interests of their corporations, often at the cost of the general public.
  • Consider, for instance, that the first response of many Western states was to protect their capital markets than be concerned about public health.


  • Yet another undesirable outcome of the pandemic would be a spike in various forms of discrimination. Globally, societies could become more self-seeking and inward-looking leading to further pushback against liberal policies regarding migration and refugees.
  • New questions are likely to be asked about the source of goods. More stringent imposition of phytosanitary measures by advanced states on products emanating from the less developed countries might become the new normal.
  • Lockdowns and travel restrictions could potentially legitimise the rhetoric around border walls in more conservative countries. Tragically, therefore, while one answer to global pandemics is political globalisation, COVID-19 might further limit it.


  • Within India too, there could be a trend towards discrimination, with ‘social distancing’ producing undesirable social practices. That a Manipuri woman was spat on in Delhi by a man who called her “coronavirus”, and gated communities have discriminated against those in COVID-19 quarantine, indicate a new age of discrimination.
  • Puritan claims based on birth and class and the associated declarations about hygiene could become sharper. The more the virus persists, the deeper such practices would get. We already know what these practices feel like; it can only get worse from here.
  1. The publishers across the world struggled to make a commercially meaningful transition to the digital world. What are the major challenges. Comment?


  • Last week’s ruling by France’s competition regulator that Google must pay news publishers and agencies for re-use of their content marks a significant turn in what has been a see-saw battle between European regulators and publishers on the one hand and the tech giant on the other.
  • How this ends and what this leads to could set the template for not just the news industry in France and Europe but also the rest of the world. For the time being, the ruling gives the beleaguered news industry in France a rare edge in its dealings with the tech giant.


  • Over the last two decades, even as publishers across the world struggled to make a commercially meaningful transition to the digital world, Google became the primary gateway for readers.
  • While this worked well for the readers and for Google, which as a result could build a mammoth advertising business, it never worked well enough for news publishers, notwithstanding the increase in traffic they experienced.
  • Many publishers are, hence, now in a position where they can neither let go of their dependence on the tech giant nor make monetary sense from this arrangement.
  • Also, individually, they are too small to challenge Google’s might. It is by recognising the skewed nature of this copyright marketplace that the European legislators amended rules in April last year — something which France then gave force to in July.


  • The genesis of the order by the French competition regulator was a complaint filed against Google by unions representing publishers.
  • They charged Google with abusing its dominant position in response to the law, which seeks to create fairer grounds of negotiation. This it does by allowing for the possibility of publishers to be paid for article extracts picked up by aggregators.
  • The complaint was that Google, on the grounds of complying with the new law, decided it would not display the extracts and other elements unless publishers authorise free usage.
  • The regulator said it found that Google’s practices “were likely to constitute an abuse of a dominant position, and caused serious and immediate harm to the press sector.” It could be argued that the French case will do little to shake up the existing framework.


  • Previous legislative attempts by other European Union constituents, such as Germany and Spain, to allow for such extracts to be monetised by publishers have proved counterproductive. For instance, Google ended up shutting down its news service in Spain.
  • But the French attempt promises to end differently. That is because, built in in the regulator’s order is a requirement that negotiations “effectively result in a proposal for remuneration from Google.” Where will this go from here? Publishers across the world will be watching.
  • The French template for the search engine paying for reuse of news holds promise.
  1. The issue of migrant workers is posing threat to the Indian economy and growth. How can the nation overcome with this situation?


The vast majority of migrant workers stranded in West Asia who are on subsistence wages are facing a tough situation in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. From the little information available, it appears that Indians are badly hit by the disease.

Workers in West Asia:

  • Around eight million people in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries constitute a unique cohort among Indian diaspora communities around the world.
  • Around 50% of them are unskilled.
  • Another 30% are semi-skilled.
  • Only a small minority of 20% of them are skilled and lucratively employed.
  • But all these migrant workers together form the backbone of India’s ties with the region.
  • Their contribution of nearly 40% of the total foreign exchange remittances to India is critical to its economy.
  • Their labour is vital for the GCC economy.
  • With no option of assimilation into their host countries, their link to the home country remains intact, unlike Indian immigrants to the West.


  • The vast majority of migrant workers in West Asia are facing a tough situation in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Vast sectors of the economy are shut, rendering many of them jobless. Thousands are without documentation.
  • Living and working conditions make it extremely difficult for them to practise social distancing or get treatment if infected.
  • Many of them suffer from pre-existing medical conditions and are used to procuring medicines from India, which is now impossible.
  • Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha being important transits for international travel, thousands of Indian travellers are also stuck in the region.

Way forward:

  • Prime Minister has nurtured good relations with all rulers of the region but the ongoing crisis is testing the endurance of India’s ties with some of the GCC countries.
  • The UAE Government has said it might revise current partnerships concerning labour relations with nations refusing to cooperate with measures to repatriate private sector expatriates who wish to return home.
  • The country’s ambassador to India has promised that only those who are tested negative for the virus would be repatriated.
  • Some of these migrants want to be evacuated, while many might want to remain where they are.
  • The Chief Minister of Kerala, which is home to more than two million Indian immigrants in the Gulf, has said the State is prepared to receive returnees and provide them care.
  • Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Punjab have a significant number of people in the Gulf.
  • The Centre must take the initiative to bring together State governments, and work out arrangements with national governments in the region in a manner acceptable to all.
  • India cannot abandon them to their helpless fate. It must work closely with governments of the region to bring them aid.


  1. The virtual technology is not new for the world but the pandemic has created it newly. Discuss the statement?


  • The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to the understanding of the myriad ways in which available technologies have not been put to better use, and presented people with multiple opportunities to harness these devices, techniques and methods to get on with life in the time of lockdown.
  • The Editorial explains how Telemedicine can help reach patients where access to medical care is difficult.

Use of Technology:

  • Technology remains one of the very few devices left to fight COVID-19 with.
  • It is clear that technology will serve humanity at one of its darkest moments; whether it is using state-of-the-art technology in the discovery of cures or vaccines, or traditional technology services to enhance health care and consultations, or even tools that keep people at home occupied/productive.
  • Among the primary uses is telemedicine, rendered inevitable now, due to a freeze on movement.
  • Telemedicine refers to the practice of caring for patients remotely when the provider and patient are not physically present with each other. Modern technology has enabled doctors to consult patients by using video-conferencing tools.


  • Telemedicine Society of India has for long been battling to use the technology in its complete arc to reach remote areas in India.
  • It was way back in 2000 that telemedicine was first employed in India, but the progress has been excruciatingly slow, until the pandemic.
  • The medical community was only held back by the lack of legislation to enable tele consultations. For, no sooner was the policy announced than hospitals and clinicians hurried to jump onto the bandwagon, advertising contact information for patients.
  • The Centre’s recent guidelines allowing for widespread use of telemedicine services came as an encouragement for the telehealth crusaders in the country.
  • This move finds consonance with the rest of the world where several nations have deployed telemedicine to reach people who have been unable to come to hospital, to reduce footfalls in hospitals, and to even provide medical and mental health counselling to countless people.


  • The advantages are peculiar in the current context, when putting distance between people is paramount.
  • Tele consultations are of paramount importance when health care professionals and patients may have to be quarantined.
  • The advancement of telecommunication capabilities over the years has made the transmission of images and sound files (heart and lung sounds, coughs) faster and simpler.
  • Pilot telemedicine experiments in ophthalmology and psychiatry have proven to be of immense benefit to the communities.


  • Confidential medical information can be leaked through faulty electronic systems.
  • Virtual clinical treatment decreases human interaction among healthcare professionals and patients and that increases the risk of error in clinical services.
  • Low quality of health informatics records, like, X-ray or other images, clinical progress reports, etc. run the risk of faulty clinical treatment.
  • Low internet speed or server problems may come in the way of effective diagnosis, prescription and treatment.


  • Telemedicine’s time is finally here. While unleashing the full potential of telemedicine to help people, experts and government agencies must be mindful of the possible inadequacies of the medium, and securing sensitive medical information; such cognisance should guide the use of the technology.
  • Telemedicine system requires tough legal regulation to prevent unauthorized and illegal service providers in this sector.


  1. In the context of India, the economy needs to be re-vital, what are the major challenges and concerns. Comment?


A blueprint to revive the economy

  • The Editorial touches upon how saving lives and protecting livelihoods can be achieved through a smart lockdown and careful economic management.
  • It gives the details of a carefully crafted economic proposal for consideration of the Indian government in the current situation where every sector of the economy in every nation has come to a screeching halt and the phrase ‘Greater Depression’, (being used by most of the economists) highlights the gravity of the humanitarian and economic crisis confronting the world today.


Demand, supply challenges:

  • First, it is important to diagnose the scale of the economic crisis accurately. The economic crisis needs a demand side and a supply side response.
  • It is morally imperative that the miseries of the poor and vulnerable must be addressed immediately by providing money as well as food.
  • The bottom half of all households (13 crore out of 26 crore families) must be given ₹5,000 per family in their bank account. This will cost a maximum of ₹65,000 crore.
  • The list of households and the bank details (largely Aadhaar-seeded) are available in the government’s various schemes such as PMJAY and MGNREGA. Besides, the States have their ‘below poverty line’ lists.
  • Further, depending on the need, these families can be given ₹3,000 each. This will cost an additional ₹39,000 crore.
  • Scholars like Jean Dreze have observed that it is food that people need most urgently. India has far in excess of the buffer stock requirement.
  • The government must universalise food distribution immediately, to remove identity requirements.
  • It should work with State governments to rush supplies to every ration shop so that every family gets free grain.
  • For ensuring livelihood support, the district collectors should be given the freedom to start and expand works under MGNREGA.
  • If work cannot be given for some reason, 10 days’ wages every month should be paid to the registered MGNREGA workers until the scheme is resumed.
  • Economists Amartya Sen, Raghuram Rajan and Abhijit Banerjee have also called for urgent implementation of these measures.
  • The next step is to resume commercial activities, which can be done by re-opening the economy gradually.
  • The Central and State governments must work in tandem to identify COVID-19 hotspots, preferably at the level of the block/mandal and not just at the district level.
  • This can be done with the help of public health experts and epidemiologists through strategic testing.

Planning ahead:

  • Guidelines must be expanded to permit all economic activity (with a few exceptions) in non-hotspot areas.
  • There is a need to at least, boost local economic activity.
  • The new guidelines permit agricultural activity during the Rabi harvest season. This is a step in the right direction.
  • Mass rapid transit as well as private transport must be gradually opened in non-hotspot areas, as availability of labour would be crucial for commercial and agricultural activities.
  • Continuous testing and monitoring will be needed as new areas may turn into hotspots and hotspots may become non-hotspots.

Funding the revival:

  • The other essential ingredient for resumption of economic activity is access to capital, especially working capital.
  • The government must step in to provide credit guarantees that can incentivise banks to SMEs. Since,
  • a majority of the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) would have run out of cash and lost significant revenues.
  • no bank is likely to lend to them.
  • the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has already instructed banks to issue a moratorium on loan obligations for three months. If needed, this can be extended.
  • For the formal sector, the idea is for the government to help formal sector businesses to keep workers on their payroll without resorting to retrenchment or lay-offs.
  • The 2017-18 Economic Survey estimated, using the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO)data set, that there are 40 million employees earning less than ₹15,000 per month who are employed in firms registered under the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
  • The government could fund their employers to pay them for one or two months. This can be implemented using data from the EPFO and GST databases.
  • Capital must be made available liberally to sectors such as tourism and manufacturing, which need specific interventions.
  • India must do whatever it takes through export incentives and strategic use of foreign exchange reserves to capitalise on the export opportunity arising out of this crisis and stimulate exports dramatically over the next few years.
  • Exports can be the key to jobs for hundreds of millions of skilled and unskilled workers, as it was during the boom years 2004-2010.
  • Fiscal stimulus measures on the demand and supply side must be supplemented by monetary stimulus from the RBI with re-designed measures such as moratorium, loan forgiveness, regulatory forbearance, revised NPA regulations and easing the cycle of credit flow.


  • It is estimated that the total fiscal package for revival and recovery will cost ₹5-6 lakh crore. That amount is available.
  • The Centre and the States have a total expenditure budget of over ₹70 lakh crore for 2020-21.
  • The Centre alone has budgeted to spend ₹4 lakh crore on capital expenditure this fiscal year. In a crisis, much of the capital expenditure may not be possible at all, and even if it is, must be deferred to the next fiscal year.
  • Besides, more savings can be identified by eliminating wasteful expenditure.
  • Further, the Centre can borrow money during times like this without crowding out private investment or pushing up interest rates.
  • As a final resort, the government can monetise part of additional deficit, otherwise known as printing money.


  1. Discuss the challenges related to the Maritime security of Indian Ocean?


  • India has been recently granted observer status in the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC).


Indian Ocean Commission:

  • The Indian Ocean Commission is an intergovernmental organisation founded in 1982. It is headquartered in Ebene, Mauritius.
  • It comprises of five small-island states in the Western Indian Ocean: the Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Reunion (a French department), and Seychelles.
  • Over the years, the IOC has emerged as an active and trusted regional actor, working in and for the Western Indian Ocean and implementing a range of projects.


Maritime security in Indian Ocean:

  • Despite the high-level counter-piracy presence of naval forces from the EU, the Combined Maritime Forces, and Independent Forces in the Indian Ocean region, maritime crime is still prevalent in the region.
  • The counter-piracy response off the coast of Somalia delivered unprecedented regional and international cooperation in the domain of maritime security. However, it resulted in multiple players, the duplication of actions, and regional dependence on international navies.
  • The countries in the region still face issues in policing and patrolling their often enormous Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs).

IOC efforts:

Regional Maritime security architecture:

  • The IOC has demonstrated leadership in the maritime security domain and has made impressive progress in the design and implementation of a regional maritime security architecture in the Western Indian Ocean.
  • In 2012, the IOC, in collaboration with other regional organisations, launched the MASE Programme to promote Maritime Security in Eastern and Southern Africa and Indian Ocean.
  • Under MASE, the IOC has established a mechanism for surveillance and control of the Western Indian Ocean with two regional centres.
  • The Regional Maritime Information Fusion Centre (RMIFC), based in Madagascar, and the Regional Coordination Operations Centre (RCOC), based in Seychelles.
  • The system is designed to deepen maritime domain awareness by monitoring maritime activities and promoting information sharing and exchange. Based on the information available there would be joint or jointly coordinated interventions at sea.
  • The multilateral maritime security architecture has produced a sub-regional view of maritime security problems and has resulted in local ownership of actions towards workable and sustainable solutions to improve maritime control and surveillance.

Promoting collaboration in the region:

  • The IOC has wielded a disproportionate degree of convening power.
  • In 2018 and 2019, serving as the Chair of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS), the IOC held ministerial meetings on maritime security in the Western Indian Ocean, drawing state representations from the region plus major powers such as India, the EU, the U.S., the U.K., Australia, and Russia.
  • These meetings resulted in formal declarations, facilitated convergence around common, sub-region-specific definitions of maritime security threats and the legal way of dealing with them.

Mutually beneficial association:

  • Following a request from India, the IOC granted observer status to India at the Commission’s 34th Council of Ministers.
  • The involvement of India in IOC can be a mutually beneficial relationship for the IOC member nations and India.

India’s interests:

Maritime security:

  • As a major stakeholder in the Indian Ocean with maritime security high on the agenda, India has been pursuing its interests and tackling maritime security challenges in the region.
  • Maritime security is a prominent feature of India’s relations with Indian Ocean littoral states.
  • India could use the information available though the Regional Maritime Information Fusion centre to increase its maritime awareness in the region and can supplement the capacity of India’s own Information Fusion Centre.
  • The maritime security architecture being propounded by the IOC presents workable and sustainable solutions to improve maritime control and surveillance. The regional coordination and local successes at curbing maritime threats will have broader security dividends for the Indian Ocean space.
  • The regional maritime security architecture with support from naval powers like India can deliver an urgently needed deterrent against unabating maritime crime at sea.

Regional diplomacy:

  • India has, till recently, limited itself to bilateral cooperation in the Indian Ocean region. The observer status in IOC offers an opportunity for India to engage constructively with the member nations of IOC.
  • The membership would allow India to strengthen its relations and influence in the strategic Indian Ocean region.

IOC’s interests:

  • The IOC requires support from regional actors like India. Nearly all littoral states in the Western Indian Ocean need assistance in developing their maritime domain awareness and in building capacity to patrol their EEZs.
  • With its observer status, India could extend its expertise to the region, supplement the RMIFC through India’s extensive satellite system and establish links with its own Information Fusion Centre.

Way forward:

India’s approach:

  • India has repeatedly stated its strategic vision for the Indian Ocean based on Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) approach.
  • India’s SAGAR vision is intended to be more consultative, democratic and equitable in dealing with smaller but equally significant countries in the region.
  • SAGAR seeks to differentiate India’s leadership from the modus operandi of other regionally active major powers focussing on creating spheres of influence in the region. This will help reassure littoral states as India’s maritime influence grows.


  1. What are the reasons of migrant issues, why the issue of migration is in centre of the public discourse?


  • Internal migration in India.


  • Seasonal migration is an important issue of our time and the COVID-19 crisis has brought the issue of migration to the centre stage of public discourse due to the following reasons:

High number of migrants:

  • The numbers of internal migrants are high.
    • The number of internal migrants in India was 450 million as per the most recent 2011 census. This marks an increase of 45% over the 309 million recorded in 2001. This far exceeds the population growth rate of 18% across 2001-2011. Internal migrants as a percentage of population increased from 30% in 2001 to 37% in 2011.
  • About 12% of internal migration in India is inter-state.
    • The source states for these migrants are the states with relatively low economic and social development. The four states, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh accounted for 50% of India’s total inter-state migrants.
    • The destination states are the relatively developed states. Maharashtra, Delhi, Gujarat, Kerala house a large number of the country’s inter-state migrants.
  • Bihar with a population of about 123 million has an estimated 10 million migrants, with 3 million of them being inter-State migrants. It also involves a substantial number of seasonal migrants.
  • Ensuring the return of such a large number of migrants during a crisis can be a logistical improbability.

Public health:

  • In the case of epidemics, the exodus of seasonal migrants creates apprehensions about the spread of the disease and runs counterproductive to the very purpose of a lockdown.

Impact on destination centres:

  • India’s economy, particularly of the growth centres, depends on the services of migrant workers. Sectors such as construction, garment manufacturing, mining, and agriculture would come to a standstill without them.
  • One of the biggest challenges after the lockdown is lifted will be to bring back the migrants to restart these sectors.

Impact on source states:

  • The return of migrants to their home states leads to an economic shock in the source States.
  • Given the lack of compensatory sources of livelihood in these source states, the poor States may find it difficult to sustain themselves without the remittances. This will not only cause demand side setbacks but also impact nutrition, health, education and the well-being of the older population.

Vulnerability of the migrants:

Subsistence living:

  • Most of the migrant labourers are dependent on daily wages. Working from home or getting paid leave is not an option for such labourers.
  • A substantial proportion of these internal migrants involve the seasonal migrants who move in search of jobs during the lean activity period in their home states.
  • The low wages they earn for their work and also the family’s dependency on the daily income does not allow these daily-wage earners to stay at a destination without work.


  • The harsh working and living conditions of migrants defy the very idea of decent work and general security that these migrants come seeking. Lack of sanitation, hygiene, safe drinking water, health services, social security measures, and affordable housing have resulted in a low quality of life.
    • A considerable number of workers live within the manufacturing units or at work sites. Any lockdown results in loss of their accommodation too.
    • Slums and slum-like colonies are breeding grounds of ailments and communicable diseases.
    • The cramped living and working spaces do not allow the people living in these areas to practise social distancing.

Limitations of the relief package:

  • The 1.70 lakh crore relief package announced by the Central government comes as a welcome relief. However, despite the government’s good intentions, the package may not benefit seasonal migrants.
    • Those migrants who are unable to return home and are not ration cardholders in the cities where they are stationed will not benefit from additional free foodgrains under the PDS.
    • They cannot avail of increased MGNREGA wages until they go back home.
    • As many seasonal migrants are landless or marginal farmers, they will not benefit from the grant to landholders.
  • The seasonal migrant workforce may remain largely deprived of the benefits under the present package at their destination places.

Way forward:

  • The state could work out a strategy of addressing immediate distress conditions and simultaneously initiating long-term measures to bring structural changes in the policy towards migrants and the informal sector.
  • The aim should not focus on limiting migration but should focus on limiting push migration and encouraging pull migration.
    • Pull factors attract migrants to an area (area of destination) like, employment and higher educational opportunities, higher wages and better working conditions and facilities.
    • The push factors are poverty, lack of work opportunities, unemployment and underdevelopment, poor economic conditions, lack of opportunities, exhaustion of natural resources and natural calamities, scarcity of cultivated land, inequitable land distribution, low agricultural productivity, etc.
  • The government policy measures should also focus towards the social inclusion of internal migrants in India.


  1. The state monopoly was replaced by private sector participation. Discuss in the context of Indian Economic Reforms?


  • The economic reforms that kick-started in the 1990s opened the doors of the Indian economy. State monopoly was replaced by private sector participation.
  • Public health and education were two areas in which India took a decisive turn in the 1990s and were opened up for private enterprise.
  • This was viewed as a major policy reform, a necessary part of the bigger package of economic reforms.

Public-Private Partnership

  • The State began regulating the private sector by issuing rules to comply by and took a back seat. Villages were no more regarded viable as sites of public investment. Its infrastructure suffered. Chronic shortage of functionaries became the norm and the major sufferers were the villagers.
  • This lack of investment led to many villagers migrating from the rural set up to the urban areas.
    • The service providers and the administrators felt providing basic amenities such as running water, electricity and jobs to rural people becomes easier if they move to a city.
  • This kind of thinking had considerable academic support. They argued that agriculture, the main resource of livelihood in the countryside, was no longer profitable enough to attract the young.
  • Welfare state activities were gradually withdrawn and doles were provided in the form of subsistence-level provision of food, literacy and disease control.
    • Special measures were also designed to select the ‘best’ among rural children and make them competitive enough to survive in the urban world that was treated as mainstream.

As we begin to imagine the post-coronavirus scenario, a key question to contemplate is whether we should revisit the policies put in place during the 1990s.

Imbalance and invisibility

  • This general framework justified discriminatory funding in every sphere, including health and education. No serious public investment could be made in villages. Even as medical education and teacher training became increasingly privatised, the availability of qualified doctors and teachers willing to work in villages dwindled.
  • In the city where these villagers had lived for years, they were part of the informal economy which offers no protection against exigencies. The new urban architecture denies them visibility too.

Privatisation denies access to the most vulnerable

  • Most vulnerable (the old and sick) are most dependent on public healthcare systems.
  • Privatization and introduction of market-like instruments in healthcare make necessary care accessibility dependent on one’s capacity to pay and perpetuate inequalities in health and in access to healthcare services.








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