Indian Express Editorial Analysis
18 May 2020

1) The Taiwan question-


As the World Health Assembly convenes this week virtually, there is a raging(angry) political battle over the question of inviting Taiwan to join the discussion as an observer. The Assembly brings together the ministers from all the member-states of the World Health Organisation.

Proponents(Supporters) point to Taiwan’s success in dealing with the coronavirus and its role in contributing to international cooperation against the COVID challenge.

            What's behind the China-Taiwan divide?

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China, however, has been adamant(firm) in its refusal to let Taiwan attend the meeting. Taiwan points to the fact that it had participated in WHO meetings from 2009 to 2016.

Chinese position on Taiwan’s participation in the WHO deliberations has changed after a pro-independence party was elected to power in 2016. Taiwan argues that the WHO should be focused on promoting global health and it should not exclude an important territorial entity on political considerations.


For Delhi, this is not an abstract debate about Taiwan. India is all set to be elected as the chairman of the executive board of the WHO this week, for the next three years. The board’s responsibility is to advise and facilitate the Assembly’s work.

Taiwan’s participation is likely to come up for discussion at the WHA this week. Many of India’s partners, including the US, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, with whom Delhi has been actively coordinating its international response to the COVID crisis, are calling for Taiwan’s presence in the WHO deliberations. Both India’s Western partners as well as Beijing are said to be pressing India to support their respective positions.

Whatever might be Delhi’s eventual choice on the Taiwan question, it should not be made either out of peevishness(irritation) or fear. For some in Delhi, this is a good moment to pay back China in the same coin.

They point to repeated Chinese efforts in the last few months to get the United Nations Security Council to discuss the Kashmir question. If Beijing does not respect “One India policy”, they ask, why should Delhi blindly follow a “One China” policy?

Others, however, point to the dangers of upsetting China, especially when the bilateral relations are going through a difficult phase and military tensions on the border are rising. These approaches err(be mistaken or incorrect) in one or the other direction.


Delhi has never recognised Taiwan as a separate nation and there is no basis for conflating(combine (two or more sets of information, texts, ideas, etc.) into one) Taipei’s presence as observer at WHO proceedings with India’s consistent “One China” policy. At the same time, Delhi can’t afford to cede(surrender) to Beijing a veto(rejection) over its approach to multilateral issues.

A sensible middle path for India would lie in the apolitical(not political) appreciation of the specific technical issues involved and an objective merit-based decision. Delhi’s decision must be based on a pragmatic(practical) appreciation of issues involved. It must find a middle path.


2) Underwhelming-


Seen against the scale of economic distress, and expectations raised by the prime minister’s announcement of a Rs 20 lakh crore package, the measures announced by the finance minister over the past few days have been underwhelming(fail to impress or make a positive impact), to say the least.

As things stand, the actual and immediate fiscal outgo(outlay of money) works out to just around 1 per cent of GDP — a pittance(very small or inadequate amount of money) — to alleviate(reduce) the distress unfolding across the country.

A crisis of this magnitude(intensity) needs to be tackled at multiple levels — relief for the most vulnerable, support to specific sectors, short-to-medium term measures to boost demand, and structural reforms.

But, so far, the government’s response has centred around only providing some relief measures, extending liquidity to select sectors, and stating its intent to push through contentious(controversial) pieces of reform.

Direct demand-side support has been minimal. This signals a disappointing under-appreciation(under-estimate) of the risks to the economy.




The measures to alleviate(reduce) the suffering of the vulnerable are too little, and in many cases, too late. Expanding the provision of foodgrain through the public distribution system is welcome. But the delay in pushing through the portability(ability to be easily carried or moved) of benefits is not. By the government’s own admission, this process will take months.

Perhaps a better alternative would be to universalise the PDS temporarily. Cash transfers of Rs 500 are simply inadequate to tide over this period of crisis.

The JAM trinity could have also been utilised more effectively, and more imaginatively, to provide short-term income support. And while increasing allocation to MGNREGA is the right step, the number of days of work provided should also have been increased.

Announcements aimed at alleviating(reducing) the pain in other parts of the economy have been too few, comprise largely of contingent(occurring or existing only if (certain circumstances) are the case) liabilities, entail very little actual fiscal outgo.


While government finances are constrained(limited), adherence(sticking) to fiscal conservatism at a time when governments across the world, even those ideologically committed to conservatism, are loosening their purse strings, is a let-down.

(Fiscal conservatism is a political and economic philosophy regarding fiscal policy and fiscal responsibility advocating low taxes, reduced government spending and minimal government debt. Free trade, deregulation of the economy, lower taxes and privatization are the defining qualities of fiscal conservatism)

Considering that, of the four engines of growth, only government spending can drive economic activity as this stage, this was the time to ramp up(increase) spending.

On the question of reforms, the announcements so far mostly spell out the government’s intent. Surely, for issues that have been on the policy agenda for years, the details of what is being done, and how, should have been worked out by now.

All this only suggests that the 50-day lockdown period has not been effectively used by the government to firm up its plans.


As this health crisis is likely to play out over the coming months, there is an argument for the government to keep the power dry(being alert) — for the unknown unknowns that may yet come.

But, on the other hand, the longer the delays in dealing with the problems, the more severe will be the consequences, and greater the intervention needed.

This pandemic has led to both demand and supply side shocks. Given the scale of disruption(disorder), far greater policy support is required than has been visible over the last five days.

Government response to economic distress caused and accentuated(make more noticeable or prominent) by coronavirus crisis needs to be far bolder than it is.


3) Conversations on sexual violence need to acknowledge root of the problem-


Why does the #Boislockerroom incident come as a surprise to so many? It is, in fact, of a piece with the larger narrative that justifies violence against women in India, one which has been around for centuries.

(Boislockerroom incident- )

In arguably India’s greatest epic, the Mahabharata, Draupadi’s relatives and elders stood by and watched as she was molested(harassed) by a brother-in-law.



This culture of permissiveness(great or excessive freedom of behaviour) with respect to violence against women continues to this day. Ask any young woman about her school days and she will recount episodes of “eve teasing(making of unwanted sexual remarks or advances by a man to a woman in a public place” on the way back home as an anecdote(hort amusing or interesting story about a real incident or person, almost as though such behaviour has been normalised.

Stalking(follow or approach stealthily) is equated with “love”, in society and popular culture, and is often not even recognised as a problem.

In our families, the tropes(figurative or metaphorical use of a word or expression) of our traditions, “jeejas” having “little fun” with their “saalis” is almost normal.

Incidents like the Bois Locker Room, rather than evidence of perverted(characterized by sexually abnormal and unacceptable practices or tendencies) tendencies, are an expression of this culture on the one hand, and the lack of openness and conversations on the other.

The fact that minors were sharing images of women being raped and of girls they knew speaks to the warped(abnormal or strange) ideas around sexual relations and the opposite sex.


An attempt at a serious discussion on violence against women elicits(brings) strong reactions like calls for castrating(remove the testicles of (a male animal or man) the rapists, stoning them to death, capital punishment and worse.

But try talking about rapes within households, by so-called “protectors” — brothers, fathers, grandfathers and male in-laws — and people become uncomfortable.

“Bahus” are required to be modest in front of their “jeths” and “sasurs”, young girls are taught to mind their fathers and brothers. Men try to cover the bodies of the women of the house not only to protect them from those “outside’’ but also those “inside”.

All this is, in fact, a subliminal(hidden) acknowledgment of the demons lurking(hiding) in our homes. But there is no open discussion.


In February, there was news of a grandfather and an uncle raping a minor girl in Andhra Pradesh. An 18-year-old was raped by her father and cousin repeatedly in Bhopal. A similar incident occurred in Odisha last year. These stories did not spark outrage or lead to conversations that cases with strangers as perpetrators(one who does crime) do. The discussion is at the top of the taboo (social or religious custom prohibiting or restricting a particular practice or forbidding association with a particular person, place, or thing) charts.

The Bois Locker Room also opens a window to a crisis of individuality and masculinity. In a social setup where personal achievement is defined by materialistic gains, jobs or one’s ability to fit into pre-decided parameters, self-worth and moral achievement lose importance.

Slut-shaming(the action or fact of stigmatizing a woman for engaging in behaviour judged to be promiscuous or sexually provocative) and bragging(exhibiting or characterized by excessive pride or boastfulness) about their ability to rape seems to almost provide a warped sense of self-worth among these boys.

In a country where mothers take pride in their aggressive and spoilt sons, male sexual aggression becomes a virtue(a quality) rather than insecurity about their virility(quality of having strength, energy, and a strong sex drive; manliness).

Too often, matters of sexuality are dismissed or rationalised(justified) as stemming(coming in) from natural “urges”.


It is high time that we acknowledge the monsters in the darkest corners of our minds and inside our homes. Parents need to talk with their sons and daughters about the issues openly.

There is a need to recognise and address the sexuality and desires of growing children. This also calls for a shift in the paradigm of sex education in India which, in the rare instances that it does take place, is largely limited to “Good Touch-Bad Touch’’.

There should be a focus on the sexual needs of adolescents(teenager) and the inquisitiveness(curiousness) of children. They should be guided about what can and cannot be pursued and why.

Most of all, this conversation needs to acknowledge the root of the problem, and begin at home.