27/3/2020 : The Hindu Editorials Notes Summary : Mains Sure Shot
Note – Today there are two important articles – one on coronavirus and the other on attack on minorities in Afghanistan.
- Both the topics have been extensively covered. The following are some additional points:
- Also refer to the articles of 21st August, 3rd January and 20th February.
The present situation:
- The IS, which is concentrated in the eastern parts of Afghanistan, carried out several attacks in the past targeting the country’s minorities. But, in recent months, the jihadist group suffered setbacks in the wake of sustained military operations by both Afghan and U.S. troops.
- So the attack on a gurdwara in Kabul on March 25 that killed at least 25 people, mostly members of Afghanistan’s persecuted Sikh minority, is a barefaced attempt by the Islamic State (IS) to revive its fortunes in the country at a time when it is politically divided and the peace process (between the U.S. and Taliban) is hamstrung by the Taliban’s continuing violence.
- On the administrative side, Afghanistan now has two governments, one led by Ashraf Ghani, who was declared winner of the September presidential election, and the other by Abdullah Abdullah, who has disputed the results and formed a rival administration. The peace agreement reached between the Taliban and the U.S. failed to bring any halt to violence, with the insurgents and the government not being able to reach an understanding even on a prisoner swap.
- Besides, the country has also seen a jump in the number of SARS-CoV-2 infections, with the Herat Province, which shares a border with Iran, emerging as the epicentre.
The significance of the attack:
- By attacking the gurdwara and an adjacent housing complex, the IS has not just terrified the country’s minorities further, but sent a message to the Afghan authorities that it remains a potent security threat.
- Afghanistan has too many problems, ranging from terrorism to the breakdown of the administration, which demands absolute resolve from the government.
- But, unfortunately, the country’s political leadership appears to be concerned less about resolving any of them than about keeping power.
- The leadership should realise the magnitude of this crisis, and take a united approach to tackle it. It should kick-start the peace process with the Taliban, fight the IS cells more aggressively and work towards at least ensuring the minimum rights of its citizens guaranteed by the constitution.
Note – There is another article on coronavirus outbreak. This too has been covered from all possible angles. The following are the additional points:
- The government has decided to give ₹1,70,000-crore relief package — Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) — towards alleviating the distress caused to vulnerable sections of the population by the 21-day lockdown imposed to combat the spread of the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2).
- It covers various sections of the vulnerable, ranging from farmers and women Jan Dhan account holders, to organised sector workers, to the most important of all — healthcare workers, who will now get a sizeable insurance cover of ₹50 lakh. The doubling of foodgrain allocation offered free is a good idea that privileges the hungry poor over rodents and pests devouring the stocks in Food Corporation of India godowns. So is the move to provide free cooking gas refills to the underprivileged who are part of the PM Ujjwala scheme.
- The offer to pay both employer and employee contributions to the Provident Fund for very small business enterprises is welcome and will offer relief to those businesses that have been forced to shut down operations, and also to employees earning small salaries for whom the PF deduction may hurt at this point in time.
- The effort appears to be to keep the funding within the budget as much as possible and retain control over the deficit. For instance, the PM Kisan transfer has been already budgeted for and the increase in MGNREGA wages can also be accommodated within the budget. Ditto with the Jan Dhan account transfer of ₹500 per month for the next three months which will cost the government ₹30,450 crore. It is possible to argue here that the transfer could have been a little more generous — at least ₹1,000 a month. The government may have wanted to stay within the budget for now.
Overall/ to conclude:
- At some point soon, the government will have to break the fiscal deficit shackles. Also, it needs the financial bandwidth to support businesses in trouble. In fact, ideally the government ought to have announced a relief package for the corporate sector and the middle class along with the PMGKY. It should now turn its focus towards businesses that are running out of cash and may soon default on even salaries and statutory commitments if relief is not given.
- There are enough ideas to borrow from others such as the U.S. which is in the process of finalising a $2 trillion package. Part II of the economic relief package should not be delayed beyond the next couple of days.