Indian Express Editorial Analysis
25 May 2020

1) Unquiet front-


CONTEXT:

  • As tensions between the Indian and Chinese armed forces mount(increase) in eastern Ladakh, Delhi and Beijing seem to be hurtling(speeding) towards a fourth military crisis on their long and contested northern border.
  • The resolution of the last three crises — at Depsang plain in northern Ladakh during 2013, Chumar in eastern Ladakh in 2014, and Doklam on the east at Bhutan’s border with China in 2017—required ever-higher political intervention.
  • Prime Minister Li Keqiang’s visit to India in 2013 and President Xi Jinping’s trip to India in 2014 helped lower the military temperature at Depsang and Chumar respectively.
  • A series of high-level meetings between Modi and Xi at various multilateral settings in 2017 provided the necessary political push to disentangle(disengage) the conflict that lasted 73 days at Doklam.
  • Two summit-level retreats between Modi and Xi — at Wuhan in 2018 and near Chennai in 2019 — raised expectations for more enduring(lasting) solutions.
  • Those hopes have not so far translated into effective agreements to manage the new normal on the Sino-Indian frontier(border).

 

THREE FEATURES DEFINE THE NEW NORMAL:

  • In the past, the divergent(different) perceptions of the Line of Actual Control meant “incursions(invasions)” across the other’s claim line were common but not threatening. Since the late 1980s, Delhi and Beijing had crafted a series of protocols to address these incursions.
  • Second, these protocols are unable to cope with the new dynamic marked by more vigorous(strict) patrolling by the two armed forces and more frequent and intense face-offs between them, thanks to the modernisation of military capabilities and transport infrastructure on both sides of the disputed border.
  • Finally, the diminishing(reducing) trust between Delhi and Beijing amid the widening template of economic and political conflict threatens the capacity of the two security establishments to manage crises.

THREE URGENT IMPERATIVES:

  • Reports in this newspaper in the last few days on the geographic scope and depth of the incursions, and the intensity of troop concentration, suggest there is a danger of the current face-off in eastern Ladakh becoming a bigger military confrontation.
  • First, PM Modi must take the Opposition political parties into confidence on the nature of the crisis.
  • Second, is the need for an early political consultation between Delhi and Beijing on exploring ways to end the stand-off. Reports that Chinese troops are sitting on Indian territory underline the importance of restoring status quo ante(the previously existing state of affairs); this is unlikely to be achieved at the local level.
  • Finally, a renewed effort at resolving the conflict over the boundary dispute must necessarily complement the management of frequent crises on the Indian frontier with China.

DELHI’S PROPOSAL:

  • In recent years, Delhi has often proposed that the two countries must begin the clarification of the Line of Actual Control on an urgent basis. That would pave the way for a political settlement of the boundary dispute.
  • China would be wise to take a fresh look at its position instead of risking a prolonged(longing) confrontation with India and a deepening chill(severity) in bilateral relations.
  • CONCLUSION:
  • Waning(reducing) trust erodes India, China capacities to manage Ladakh face-off. Beijing must back off, sensible diplomacy is needed.

 

2) Ease of learning-


CONTEXT:

  • The central Home Ministry is yet to issue a timeline for the reopening of schools and for almost two months now, the classroom has been virtual.
  • School education has been jolted(shook) out of its conventional ways by an unprecedented disruption.
  • Many other countries embraced(welcomed) massive open online courses (MOOCs) years ago, and it shouldn’t have taken a global pandemic to force Indian education to go online.
  • But on the digital superhighway, as a series in this newspaper showed, mileage(reach) varies in a country with a yawning(huge) digital divide and no social security architecture.

 

TWO AXES:

  • The level of success, across classes and income levels, is determined by two axes – the ease of digital access and the ability of parents to support learning at home.
  • Earlier, enterprising children could succeed despite the poverty and illiteracy of parents because the classroom provided an enabling environment.
  • But now the poor are disconnected and irrespective of background, some children cannot relate to the online classroom, and many more are losing out on midday meals.
  • If education remains online-only, millions could suffer a loss of opportunity, at the expense of future national productivity.

 

IMPORTANCE OF PHYSICAL CLASSROOM:

  • The physical classroom does not only impart(provide) the syllabus. Children are also socialised, and there is an element of sport and play.
  • However, while Pythagoras’ theorem and Eratosthenes’ sieve may be readily transmitted in the digital classroom, the matrix for socialisation is not replicated on an LCD screen.
  • Parents have felt pressed, too, having to support their children’s classes while working from home themselves.
  • Now that they are returning to the workplace, without reliable daycare facilities, both work and schooling could be compromised.
  • Also, in the public interest, medical professionals in the UK and Europe argue that the role of children in transmission must be understood to arrive at a full epidemiological picture, and this can only happen when schools reopen.

NAVODAYA VIDYALAYA SAMITI:

  • The Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti has approached the Ministry of Human Resource Development, and other educational organisations await instructions from state governments.
  • Schools may reopen in a staggered manner, with hygiene and distancing protocols in place, and induction should be contingent(conditional) on testing.
  • Perhaps residential institutions like the Navodayas should lead, since they can seal the perimeter and do not run the continuing risk of spreading presented by daily student traffic.

WAY FORWARD:

  • The Centre should issue a timeline soon, because as in other spheres, despite the virus, life must go on in the classroom — with maximum caution.
  • It shouldn’t have taken a global pandemic for Indian education to explore online teaching and learning. Challenges lie ahead.

 

3) Power of Partnerships-


CONTEXT:

  • Everybody agrees that we are living through unprecedented(never happened before) times. The nature and scale of the crisis which the COVID-19 pandemic has led to is unparalleled.
  • In such a scenario, solutions are unlikely to come from past experiences or best practices.
  • The biggest source of strength now is the partnerships we have built over the years.
  • The situation at hand calls for stakeholders to come together, work side by side and support each other.
  • This is precisely what one of the Empowered Groups created by the government for comprehensive action and integrated response to contain the pandemic has been doing since it was formed.

MANDATE OF EMPOWERED GROUPS:

  • The mandate of the group is to coordinate with three key stakeholders — NGOs, the private sector, and international development organisations — and help them in charting the best course of action.
  • The fight against COVID-19 needed as many hands as were available. The job was too big for the government to handle alone.
  • The strategy was to leverage vertical and horizontal partnerships: Vertical partnerships, which the stakeholders have built within their organisations and horizontal partnerships, which the government has institutionalised with stakeholders.
  • The group itself is a partnership as its members are from eight different government ministries/organisations.

USEFULNESS OF NGO’s:

 

  • The NGOs, given their deep connect with spatial and sectoral issues, were a natural partner in this endeavour.
  • There is nobody better placed than the NGOs to understand the pulse at the grassroots and engage closely with communities.
  • Around 92,000 organisations were urged to partner with district administrations and contribute to the response efforts.
  • Chief Secretaries of all states were requested to engage NGOs in relief and response efforts and designate state and district nodal officers to coordinate with them.
  • The approach was to leverage(take advantage) the strength and reach of the local NGOs in identifying priority areas for action and avoid duplicity of efforts.

CONTRIBUTION OF NGO’s:

  • The response from NGOs was heart-warming.
  • They have been actively setting up community kitchens, creating awareness about prevention, and physical distancing, providing shelter to the homeless, the daily wage workers, supporting government efforts in setting up health camps and in deputing volunteers to deliver services to the elderly, persons with disabilities, children, and others.
  • An outstanding contribution of NGOs was in developing communication strategies in different vernaculars(language or dialect spoken by the ordinary people in a particular country or region) which went a long way in taking awareness measures to the community level.
  • Akshaya Patra, Rama Krishna Mission, Tata Trusts, Piramal Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Action Aid, International Red Cross Society, Prayas, Help-age India, SEWA, Sulabh International, Charities Aid Foundation of India, Gaudia Math, Bachpan Bachao Andolan, the Salvation Army, and Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India are some partners who have embodied(included) the whole-of-society approach in COVID-19 response management.

PROMISING RESULTS:

  • The crisis has brought out the best in the start-up space. Many of them have risen to the occasion and accelerated the development of low cost, scalable, and quick solutions.
  • AgVa accelerated the development of ventilators which are low-cost, mobile, low on power consumption and require minimal training for operators.
  • Biodesign has developed a robotic product called ResperAid, which enables mechanised use of manual ventilators.
  • Kaaenaat has developed highly portable ventilators which can be used to serve two patients simultaneously and has a built-in battery, oxygen concentrator, and steriliser cabinet.
  • The products of a few non-ventilator start-ups too came to the aid of the COVID-19 fighting machinery.
  • The AI-enabled analysis of chest X-Rays developed by Qure.ai enables large-scale screening to identify potential cases.
  • GIS and geo-fencing technologies by Dronamaps enabled information cluster strategies for hotspots.
  • AI-powered online doctor consultation and telemedicine platform by Mfine connects diagnostics labs and pharmacies with doctors and patients.
  • The AI-enabled thermal imaging camera developed by Staqu facilitated large-scale screening at low cost.
  • These developments strengthen the argument that low-cost and scalable solutions designed and developed domestically must drive our country’s transformation.

POWER OF PARTNERSHIPS:

  • The manner in which stakeholders have responded to the pandemic reinforces(strengthens) the power of partnerships. In fact, they have operated through partnerships.
  • The NGO leaderships created momentum throughout their networks and delivered the much needed response. They also brought to the attention of the group the problems from the grassroots.
  • Multiple agencies of international development organisations designed and executed joint response initiatives, leveraging their presence across the country.
  • The coalitions which industry organisations such as CII, FICCI, and NASSCOM have built over the years brought people and resources together, identified problems at multiple levels, channelised ideas and solutions and facilitated innovations.
  • The role played by the government has been facilitative in nature, which was based on the institutional and informal partnerships built with the three groups of stakeholders over the years.

ADAPTIVENESS OF INDIAN INDUSTRY:

  • Where do we stand today?
  • Until three months ago, not a single N95 mask or personal protective equipment (PPE) was manufactured in India.
  • Today, we have 104 domestic firms making PPEs and four manufacturing N95 masks. Over 2.6 lakh PPEs and two lakh N95 masks are being manufactured in India, daily.
  • Domestic manufacturing of ventilators has strengthened manifold — orders for more than 59,000 units have been placed with nine manufacturers.
  • While this shows the adaptiveness of Indian industry, the shift to domestic production must happen on a larger scale for a wider set of sectors in the long run, as envisioned(imagined) by Make in India.

BACKBONE OF CITIZEN’s INTEREST:

  • Civil society, and voluntary and non-government organisations constitute the backbone of the collective articulation of citizen interest in a democracy.
  • As facilitators, mediators, and advocators of this interest, they have put people before everything else during this crisis.
  • Their resource limitations did not slow them down in reaching to those in vulnerable situations.
  • The support provided by NGOs to government initiatives has been timely and invaluable, and their commitment unshaken. They also have worked hand-in-hand with the private sector.

CONCLUSION:

  • We are certain that the vertical and horizontal partnerships built over the decades and strengthened during the joint fight against this pandemic will deliver greater results in times to come.