15 October 2020: The Indian Express Editorial Analysis
1) Neither letter, nor spirit-
GS 2- Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies
- In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the already strained relations between the governor of the country’s worst-hit state and its chief minister have just become worse.
- Maharashtra governor has turned the Raj Bhavan into a hub of controversy with a series of controversial moves.
- On Monday, Maharashtra governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari wrote a letter to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, taunting him for his decision to keep religious places in the state closed.
- “Religious places in other parts of the country have been open for nearly three months and there are no reports of a surge in COVID cases,” Koshyari wrote.
- Having transgressed(violated) into the executive’s domain, the governor went further.
- “Have you suddenly turned secular yourself, the term you hated,” he asked Thackeray.
- But it’s Koshyari who needs to answer: Does the tone and content of his letter behove(suit) a constitutional functionary?
USING DISCRETIONARY PROVISION:
- Since June, the Unlockdown Guidelines of the Home Ministry have rightly allowed state governments considerable flexibility in deciding the resumption of several activities, including opening places of worship.
- Last month, the Maharashtra government invoked this discretionary provision when it informed the Bombay High Court that reopening religious places, even with safety guidelines, was not a practical solution.
- It cited reports of breach(violation) of safety protocols during the Ganesh Utsav.
- The state government was responding to a petition filed by a Mumbai-based NGO.
- Since then, the demand to reopen religious places in Maharashtra has grown louder, with the main Opposition party, the BJP, leading a state-wide agitation.
- This is a matter where decision-making must be guided by sound administrative protocols and scientific expertise.
- That the governor enclosed in his letter three representations, reportedly from BJP office-bearers, invites serious questions about the continuing politicisation of a high office.
- Koshyari has been an RSS and BJP activist, and his earlier avatar arguably looms large over Monday’s letter.
- Perhaps the Maharashtra governor needs to be reminded of the document he swore allegiance to when he took oath of office on September 5, 2019 — the Constitution.
- Enshrined in its “Preamble” is a word he might disparage(belittle) as a Hindutva follower, but one that propriety demands he accord due respect to — Secularism.
- Perhaps the governor should rewrite his letter to the chief minister, or be persuaded(convinced) to do so.
Governor Koshyari needs to be reminded of document he committed to upholding when he took oath of office.
2) Mehbooba’s challenge-
- The imprisonment(jail) of Mehbooba Mufti, former CM of J&K, and former MP, on August 5, 2019, the day the Centre ushered in sweeping constitutional changes to the state, has come to an end after 14 months.
- As with other political leaders who have been released, no explanation is forthcoming on the grounds of her arrest, the decision to charge her under PSA, and why those charges have been revoked now.
- There is no explanation for why some political workers are still languishing in prisons.
- In the post-Article 370 Jammu & Kashmir, Mufti’s release presents her with new challenges.
- In her first public message, posted on Twitter within hours of her release, she made two points that signal her broad political intent.
- One, she described the changes to J&K’s special status as “unconstitutional, undemocratic and illegal”, and, without explicitly mentioning Article 370 or statehood, or domicile rules, talked about a people’s struggle to reverse the changes.
- Two, she spoke of the larger Kashmir question for which “thousands have sacrificed their lives” — the question that existed before last year’s changes and that has not disappeared since.
- In this sense, she went beyond the two Gupkar declarations, which commit the six signatories — mainstream political parties in J&K — to the demand for restoration of the status quo that existed before August 5, 2019.
- A third Gupkar meeting, to be held on Thursday, may bring more clarity.
- But Mufti has indicated that while she will walk the talk with the rest on the Gupkar common cause, her own political plank remains the resolution of the Kashmir issue itself.
- This is where her politics will be located. But the road ahead for her and the PDP will need to be defined.
- Faced with a shell of the PDP and the newly formed Jammu & Kashmir Apni Party, Mufti seems to have realised that she has no time to lose.
- It may be fair to deduce from her release that the government too has come to terms with the reality that there is no alternative but to go to the people, and deal with the outcomes this throws up.
- That is a good sign. It also possibly comes out of the realisation in the Home Ministry that Kashmir needs real politics.
- Militancy in the Valley has shown no sign of disappearing, indications are that it remains an attractive option for youth.
- Farooq Abdullah’s vehement(strong) denunciation(disagreement) of Delhi, and his grandstanding on how China might help Kashmir win back special status, has taken the government by surprise.
- Delhi may hope that Mufti might be able to rechannel the mainstream. Mufti herself has kept the door tantalisingly open to all possibilities.
- The first clues could come with the elections in J&K to 13,000 vacant panchayat seats, which are likely to be held before the end of this year.
- Mehbooba Mufti's release is belated(late) and welcome.
- Much depends on how she finds way forward for herself and PDP in Kashmir’s new reality.
3) The Race to the Finish Line-
- When will this pandemic come to an end? Or more precisely, what will it take to end this pandemic.
- And while the question seems simple enough, unfortunately, there are no easy answers.
- It is difficult to predict a decisive “end” to a disease that we’re still learning new things about every day.
- However, one thing that has become abundantly clear through this crisis is that diseases like COVID-19 do not respect borders.
- It can take only a few months for a health emergency in one country to become a global crisis on a scale we have never seen before.
- This re-emphasises the point that unless we take everyone along on our race to the finish line, no one is safe.
- Collaboration is going to be the cornerstone of a strategy that can potentially end this pandemic.
- This is true not just at the individual level but also at the global level where scientists, experts and countries must work together to come up with unique and innovative solutions to help mitigate this crisis.
- This is especially true when it comes to the development of a potential vaccine against COVID-19.
- Scientists worldwide are now working together to develop an effective vaccine that could stop this deadly virus.
- Thankfully, there has been promising news, and many are hopeful that a vaccine could be well on its way.
- Globally 42 vaccines are in various phases of clinical trials. In India, there are over three vaccine candidates at advanced stages of development.
- One of them, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine or ChAdOx1 — in Phase 3 human trial — is supported by the Serum Institute of India.
- Indigenous vaccines like COVAXIN (developed by Bharat Biotech and ICMR) and ZyCoV-D (developed by Zydus Cadila) are in Phase 2/3 trials.
- No matter when and where a vaccine is developed, India is bound to play a pivotal role.
- This is not surprising since for many years we have been at the forefront of vaccine development and delivery globally.
- India is one of the largest manufacturers of vaccines in the world in terms of volume.
- Our vaccines are more often than not more affordable than others in the market.
- For instance, the indigenous rotavirus vaccines developed by India cost less than a dollar a dose, thus ensuring that more people around the globe have access to these life-saving tools.
- Approximately 70% of vaccines for low and middle income countries are manufactured in India and delivered through partnerships with UNICEF and Gavi.
- Partnerships — such as the Grand Challenges India — are also playing a crucial role in accelerating research, developing new tools, and driving continued progress in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Partnerships earlier have led to innovations like the Electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network (eVIN) — an indigenously developed technology, developed in partnership with UNDP, has revolutionised vaccine distribution and supply.
- Such partnerships have immense potential in delivering a COVID-19 vaccine, not just in India but across the world. Of course, public health wins are never easy.
- These innovations and best practices have been built over the years — through multiple experiments and creating a culture that embraces the learning opportunity that failure brings.
- It took several failures and multiple near-perfect solutions to finally arrive at something that could ease the whole country’s vaccine distribution process.
- The same principle can be applied to vaccines.
- While we are hopeful that we will find a solution to the problem called COVID-19, it will undoubtedly take more than just one try to get it right.
- Despite the ongoing challenges that the pandemic has thrown up, one can be hopeful.
- Thanks to the groundwork laid in recent years, we have made a lot of progress to streamline research processes and develop novel vaccine platforms.
- Governments, private sector companies, multilateral institutions and civil society organisations are all trying to find a solution.
- However, there is one conclusive answer for reducing the impact of the next health catastrophe.
- We need to forge long-term partnerships and increase R&D investments as they will determine the scientific tools at our disposal when faced with future pandemics and other global health emergencies.