3 July 2020: The Hindu Editorial Analysis
1) Core’s contraction: On slowing economy-
The Index of Industrial Production (IIP) is an index for India which details out the growth of various sectors in an economy such as mineral mining, electricity and manufacturing.
- Output in the eight core industries suffered an overall contraction for a third straight month in May.
- It shrinked(decreased) to 23.4%, as the pandemic-induced lockdown kept large parts of the economy shuttered(halted), the Commerce Ministry’s provisional figures show.
PERFORMANCE OF CORE SECTORS:
- Of the eight, all but one posted declines in production compared with a year earlier, with six sectors witnessing double-digit drops.
- Steel and cement were the worst hit, slumping 48.4% and 22.2%, respectively, as construction activity and infrastructure projects remained mostly stalled.
- Refinery products, with the largest weight in the index contributing 28%, contracted 21.3% as the curbs on vehicular movement stymied demand for automobile fuels.
- And crude oil and natural gas continued their slide adding to the problems dogging(harassing) India’s hydrocarbon exploration and production industry.
- Coal production also fell for a second straight month, declining 14%, as the lack of demand for electricity from the nation’s factories depressed power production as well as the need for the key thermal plant fuel.
- Output of electricity fell 15.6%, a slight improvement from April’s 23% slump, aided by the partial easing of restrictions and peak summer consumption by households.
- The only silver lining(comfort) came from the fertilizer industry, as production rose 7.5% reversing the slump seen in the preceding two months and signalling robust activity in the agricultural sector at the start of the kharif season.
- The Finance Ministry had on June 23 cited a near doubling in fertilizer sales in May as indicative of “early green shoots of economic revival”.
- A promising and early start to this year’s monsoon bodes well for the crucial farm income-dependent rural economy.
- The above average quantity and improved spatial distribution of rainfall in June have spurred(encourage) a sharp jump in kharif sowing.
- With the pandemic and the lockdown having sent lakhs of people back to their rural homes from jobs in the cities, a strong uptick in economic activity across the hinterland(remote area) is significant.
- Still, much will depend on the monsoon staying its course.
- Also, there is a danger to the farm sector, especially in western, central and northern India this year from locust swarms.
- The Food and Agriculture Organization had in its June 27 update warned that India would need to remain on high alert through July for the possible arrival of swarms from northern Africa.
- The latest PMI data from researcher IHS Markit also paints a less than promising outlook for manufacturing, which contracted again in June albeit at a softer pace.
- The June survey showed sharp reductions in output, new orders and employment.
- Policymakers must not only contain COVID-19’s tearaway spread but also simultaneously keep economic momentum from sliding further.
- As output and demand slow, India must retain twin focus on the pandemic and economy.
2) Staying alert: On monitoring non-COVID-19 diseases-
GS 2- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health
- The Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) is the backbone of India’s disease monitoring network.
- IDSP is responsible for alerting the Centre and the wider world, on a weekly basis, about the emergence of disease outbreaks, a surge in novel pathogens, the rate of spread and remedial action taken.
DECREASE IN ALERTS:
- On average, there are 30-40 such alerts. However, the advent of COVID-19 appears to have veiled(hidden) the country from any other disease.
- For one, the latest weekly report available on the IDSP website is from Week 12 (March 16-22). It records a mere six outbreaks/disease alerts across the country.
- In the same week last year, there were 17 alerts; in 2018, there were 28; and in 2017, there were 45.
- In Week 11 this year, there were 28 alerts, 12 of which were for COVID-19 and these corresponded to the 110 cases of the disease that were reported in that week of March from when the disease escalated.
- One way to understand this situation is that once COVID-19 was declared a pandemic and a lockdown imposed, the IDSP too went into a ‘new normal’.
- With movement at a standstill, hospitals shut, and only testing and treatment for COVID-19 available at government healthcare facilities, the reporting of other diseases suffered.
- The neglect of other diseases has been independently borne out, for instance, by a reduction in the notifications of fresh tuberculosis infections.
- A general decline in claims under the Ayushman Bharat health insurance scheme was also noticed.
- The other explanation is that akin(related) to a decline in deaths from accidents, the lockdown has contributed to a decline in transmission of contagious diseases.
- Many of the outbreaks that are routinely reported involve pathogens contracted from contaminated water or those airborne that spread through social interaction.
LACK OF PUBLIC UPDATES:
- While the reasons for the decline could be deliberated upon, what is unacceptable is the lack of public updates since March 12.
- The pandemic has taught the world that no modelling can quite forecast the spread of disease and an affliction(harm) that may seem under control one week can quickly be threatening the next week.
- If the country has, as a policy, decided to ‘unlock’ and restore pre-pandemic routines, then this should also apply to routine surveillance for other diseases.
- The IDSP also faces a manpower crunch and, mirroring the experience of public health facilities in other countries, is trying to recruit in the middle of a pandemic.
- It’s debatable how useful this would be to improve COVID-19 surveillance, but it is essential in improving overall surveillance as well as providing timely updates to the public and international health agencies.
- The pandemic needs serious focus, but India cannot afford to ignore other killers.
- The focus on COVID-19 shouldn't come at the expense of monitoring other diseases.
3) In an uncertain world, a seat at the global high table-
- India will be back in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for a two-year term beginning January 1, 2021 at a critical time in the history of the UN.
- It is hoped that by then COVID-19 will have subsided, a U.S. President will have been elected, and the contours(outline) of a new world order may have emerged.
- India is serving for the eighth time and has a record of contributing to some of the seminal(important) resolutions of the UNSC.
- As a consequence of the long debate on the expansion of the UNSC, many countries which have never served on the Council have begun to claim their turn.
- Earlier, India, Japan, Pakistan and some others used to get elected more frequently.
- Compared to the retiring members, the newly elected members are more politically significant.
- India’s reputation for taking balanced positions and consensus building will be welcomed by the other members.
ALL ABOUT THE CONTEST:
- The basic contest for the non-permanent seats takes place in the respective regional groups and their sub-groups.
- Voting in the General Assembly is to fulfil the requirement of countries having to secure a two-thirds majority of the member states.
- If there is regional endorsement, all countries, except those with any grievance(complaint) against the candidates, vote for them and they sail through easily.
- But regional endorsement is becoming difficult as countries inscribe their names years in advance and those squatting countries have to be persuaded to vacate the place through various means.
- Last time, it was Kazakhstan which vacated the place for India; this time, it was Afghanistan.
- India could not have got the endorsement without such gestures from friendly countries.
- It must have taken some deft activity by our mission to accomplish these feats.
- Voting in the General Assembly is not without its own excitement. The two-thirds majority is assured, but the competition is to secure all the votes cast.
- But no one gets that as the ballot is secret and adversaries may vote against the candidates.
- For instance, out of the 192 votes cast, India got 184 and no one will ever know the eight countries that did not vote for India.
- But it is a matter of concern that there are so many countries with grievances against India.
- In the order of the number of votes received by each one, the countries elected were Mexico, India, Norway, Ireland and Kenya.
- Since there was no endorsement in the African Group, Kenya had to go for a second round against Djibouti.
- Kenya was the favourite of the West and Djibouti was supported by China and the Islamic states.
- In the Western European and Others Group, Canada lost to Ireland in a contentious contest.
- One special feature this year was the COVID-19 effect.
- Ambassadors were allowed to enter the General Assembly Hall one by one to cast their ballots instead of the simultaneous voting that usually takes place.
- The campaign was also unconventional — it took place through Zoom conversations and the sharing of brochures and pamphlets rather than through meetings at bars and restaurants serving haute cuisine around the UN.
- The candidates may also have saved money as this is normally an occasion for splurging.
INDIA’S ROLE IN SHAPING WORLD ORDER:
- Though India’s success was assured, the new Permanent Representative of India, produced an impressive multimedia presentation with memories of India’s sterling role in the annals of the UN.
- Asked for his reaction to the victory, he said, “In the COVID and the post-COVID world, India will continue to provide leadership and a new orientation for a reformed multilateral system.”
- How far the UN will be able to reform itself in the new situation remains uncertain.
- The expected changes after 9/11 never materialised because of vested interests and traditional positions.
- The UN did not succeed in either defining terrorism or in adopting the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.
- Counter-terrorism will be one of the highest priorities for India at the UNSC.
- India’s election as a non-permanent member has understandably ignited the hope that its quest for permanent membership of the Council may succeed.
- Nothing is farther from the truth.
- Operating within the provisions of the Charter is one thing and seeking to amend the Charter to add new permanent members is quite another.
- The debate has thrown up many ideas, but till today, none of the proposals has the possibility of securing two-thirds majority of the General Assembly and the votes of the five permanent members.
- It is fairly certain that no expansion of the permanent members will take place under the existing provisions of the Charter.
- We may blame the permanent members for being adamant about protecting their privileged positions, but the fact is that a majority of the UN members are against the privileges of the permanent members, particularly the veto.
- India’s performance in the Council may earn it respect, but it will not lead to its elevation to permanent membership as the opposition to any expansion is not India-specific.
- India will have a higher profile at the UN for the next two years as the non-permanent members have a collective veto over every resolution in the Council.
- Permanent members can prevent adoption of resolutions by themselves, but they need at least nine votes to get a resolution passed.
- India will also have a rare peep into the consultations chamber of the UNSC, which is closed to non-members of the Council.
- It is there that hard negotiations take place without any public record, characterised by arm-twisting and threats of veto.
- The pressure of work of the mission will also increase because India will get involved in many issues in which it may not have any direct interest.
- Since India does not have a veto, it shall have to proceed cautiously not to offend anyone, lest they should go against it when a matter of vital interest for the country comes up in the Council.
- India’s mission in New York has earned a reputation that it is next only to the permanent members in influence.
- But whether it will be able to deal with traditional challenges in novel ways will depend on the turns and twists in an uncertain world.