Chance and change: on Punjab polls

Since the last Assembly election in 2017, Punjab politics has changed considerably, though the issues that throttled the State then continue to do so even now. Unemployment, endemic drug abuse, mafias that control the liquor and sand trade, farm debts, and depleting groundwater are among the haunting problems. In 2017, led by Captain Amarinder Singh, the Congress party came to power with a thumping majority, winning 77 of the 117 Assembly seats. The election saw a triangular fight with a new entrant, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), coming into the State’s political arena. The Congress promises then included punishing the main culprits behind the sacrilege of the Guru Granth Sahib and police firing incidents at Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan in 2015, and the cancellation of ‘faulty’ power purchase agreements, but it could make only limited progress on burning issues. Captain Amarinder was accused of going ‘soft’ on the Badal family that helmed the previous government and continues to control the

Red lines: on China-Lithuania tensions

The European Union (EU) has found itself caught in a bind over the worsening tensions between Lithuania and China. Last week, top EU diplomats met to find a way to de-escalate tensions before a planned EU-China summit, expected in the coming weeks. After a two-day meet of Foreign Ministers in France, the EU’s Foreign Policy Chief, Josep Borrell, said the grouping expressed “solidarity” with Lithuania, which is a member of the EU and NATO. He, however, stopped short of announcing any concrete actions. The EU has watched nervously as one of its members faces the full weight of coercive Chinese diplomacy, even as the grouping keeps one eye on its substantial $828 billion annual trade with Beijing. The tensions began last year after Lithuania announced the setting up of a Taiwanese Representative Office. Such offices are hardly unusual across Europe, or in much of the world. The difference, however, was in the naming. The offices elsewhere are not called Taiwanese but are named, as in New
Editorial

Friend in need: On India-Sri Lanka ties

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s virtual meeting with Sri Lanka’s Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa on Saturday, with an assurance that India will support Sri Lanka “in all possible ways for overcoming the economic and other challenges posed by COVID-19 pandemic”, was significant and timely. A crucial week lies ahead for the Sri Lankan economy, when President Gotabaya Rajapaksa must make a decision on whether to service debts to bonds with an instalment of $500 million due on January 18, or to default for the first time ever, given the island’s precarious finances. Mr. Gotabaya is expected to address Parliament this week on how he will deal with the economic crisis. This includes a credit crunch, a slump in GDP spurred by COVID-19 losses to tourism, exports and remittances, foreign reserves that dwindled from $7.5 bn in 2019 to $1.6 bn in November 2021, and pending debt repayments of more than $7 bn expected in 2022. The most immediate problems come from rising unrest. In the

Editorial

Unconquered: On India’s Test series loss to South Africa

Sport throws up surprises and cricket is not immune to it. The latest twist transpired at Cape Town’s Newlands where South Africa registered a seven-wicket victory in the third Test and won the series 2-1 against India. In recent cricketing history, this was a script-altering moment. India was the fancied team even if it missed the injured duo of Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja. Virat Kohli’s men had a swagger gained from defeating Australia in its backyard and leading 2-1 over England in an unfinished series at the Old Blighty. The loss to New Zealand in the World Test Championship final was deemed an aberration. This squad had quality batters, fearsome pacers, Rishabh Pant’s x-factor and R. Ashwin’s guile. In contrast, South Africa was in transition and after the first Test loss at Centurion, Quinton de Kock prematurely retired. Leading 1-0, India was expected to twist the knife in and win the series, an accomplishment that eluded it since the maiden tour of South Africa in 1992-93.

Editorial

A welcome probe: On PM security breach and propaganda

An impartial inquiry into a politically contested incident is always welcome. Earlier this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s convoy was stranded on a flyover near Ferozepur in Punjab for about 20 minutes. Treating this as a serious security lapse, and taking note of the potential for partisan inquiries, the Supreme Court has appointed its former judge, Justice Indu Malhotra, to lead an inquiry. Other members of the probe committee comprise the DGP of Chandigarh, a senior officer of the National Investigation Agency, the additional DGP (security) of Punjab, and the Registrar-General of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The court official has already secured the records related to the Prime Minister’s tour programme on that day. One hopes the probe, which has been constituted only to avoid one-sided inquiries at the instance of either the Union government or the State government, will give a quietus to the raging political controversy. None will disagree that once the matter was

Space for dreams: On ISRO’s new chief

Trust deficit: On tech platforms and news publishers

Talking to Russia: On Putin and NATO

Bugle for restraint: On scheduling of five Assembly elections

Boosting protection: On COVID-19 vaccination programme

Growth concerns: On economic forecasts amid Omicron surge

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