A welcome spike: On India’s vaccination record

India began the week with a record, by administering over 8.6 million doses of vaccine on a single day, an impressive feat even from a global perspective. For most of May, India struggled to deliver over 2 million doses a day and beginning June, managed to hike it to over 3 million doses daily. These are substantial numbers, but inadequate, given that the benefits of mass vaccination would be discernible — in terms of reducing hospitalisation and mortality — only after a large percentage of the population is inoculated. By that metric, India is a global laggard with only 17% of the population covered by at least one dose and less than 4% by two. The U.S., in comparison, has inoculated at least 53% and the U.K. 64% with a single dose. In that light, India on a single day being able to administer over twice the previous weeks’ daily average makes plausible the Centre’s aspiration to inoculate all of India’s adult population by the year-end. So far, about 25% of them have been

Policy creep: On e-commerce and overregulation

Barely 11 months after the Government notified the Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020, the Department of Consumer Affairs has mooted a set of sweeping amendments, ostensibly “to protect the interests of consumers... and encourage free and fair competition in the market”. Among them is a norm stipulating the appointment of a chief compliance officer, a nodal contact person for 24x7 coordination with law enforcement agencies, and another requiring e-commerce entities offering imported goods or services to ‘incorporate a filter mechanism to identify goods based on country of origin and suggest alternatives to ensure a fair opportunity to domestic goods’. A third mandates a fall-back liability on online marketplaces in the event of non-delivery of goods or services to the consumer. Registration has also been made mandatory for all e-commerce players; specific ‘flash sales’, including ‘back-to-back’ ones, are set to be banned; and all entities must provide information within
Editorial

A time to give: On ex-gratia compensation to families of COVID-19 victims

The Centre’s stated position before the Supreme Court on paying a standard ex gratia compensation to families of those who died of COVID-19 shows poor appreciation of the fallout of an unprecedented disaster. After initially asserting that such payments were beyond the Government’s fiscal affordability, although there is a provision in the Disaster Management Act for compensation, and externalising the pandemic as a global, ongoing event, the Home Ministry has now averred that the issue was the manner in which funds were to be put to use. Clearly, lack of resources would be a legless argument when the Centre is pursuing expensive redevelopment projects such as the Central Vista. What the Government says it wants to do is to deploy funds in health care, enhance social protection and support economic recovery of affected communities, rather than give one-time compensation payments (₹4 lakh) or notified ex gratia sought by the petitioners. There is nothing wrong in keeping the focus on

Editorial

A perpetual war: On dilemmas of ending U.S's 'forever war' in Afghanistan

The dilemmas of ending the U.S.’s ‘forever war’ appeared to fall heavily upon the shoulders of President Joe Biden, who is now helming his country’s rush for the exit before the self-imposed deadline of September 11, 2021, the 20-year anniversary of the WTC terror attacks. While he clearly signalled his intention to remain engaged with the war-torn country by meeting, in the first instance, Afghanistan’s President, Ashraf Ghani, and Chairman of its High Council for National Reconciliation, Abdullah Abdullah, at the White House this week, the U.S.’s troop withdrawal since May 1, 2021, in a sense signals the opposite intention. There is no mistaking the Taliban’s reaction, especially to Washington’s plan to wind down its Afghan military presence. Ever since February 29, 2020, when the U.S. and the Taliban signed the Doha “agreement for bringing peace” to Afghanistan, Taliban-linked violence has risen steadily, U.S. intelligence reports have assessed that al-Qaeda still has a presence

Editorial

Hope and promise: On Centre’s J&K outreach

Signalling a revival of the political process in Jammu and Kashmir, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has decided to meet 14 party leaders from the Union Territory on June 24. Mr. Modi’s outreach is taking place nearly two years after the State of Jammu and Kashmir was stripped of its special constitutional status and dismembered into two Union Territories through an unprecedented exercise of the Centre’s powers. This demonstrates a desirable flexibility in his approach towards resolving the Kashmir issue. Considering the absence of an agenda for the meeting and the prevailing sense of betrayal among Kashmiris, any hope of a quick resolution to the frozen political questions is not realistic. Discontinuing the special status of Kashmir was a core agenda of Hindutva nationalism for decades, which was achieved after the second parliamentary victory of Mr. Modi in 2019. There has been a concerted campaign to undermine political parties and leaders of the Valley by the BJP and the Centre. Since

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