Market failure: On agriculture sector reforms

The ambitious initiative of the Narendra Modi government to bring about far-reaching reform in agriculture has run into severe weather, mainly over fears that the free market philosophy at its core could spell the end of MSPs for produce that has so far been centrally procured by the government. An allied party’s Minister, Harsimrat Kaur Badal (Akali Dal) has resigned in protest, and there is a strong pushback from farmers against three Bills that seek to replace ordinances issued in June, on key aspects of the farm economy — trade in agricultural commodities, price assurance, farm services including contracts, and stock limits for essential commodities. The opposition to the Bills, particularly on trade, flows from the position, articulated by Punjab, that agriculture and markets are State subjects, and there should be no tinkering with the MSP and Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMC), that form the backbone of existing trading arrangements. Several States have already

Continuity in change: On Japan’s new PM

Less than a month after his sudden announcement that he would step down due to health reasons, Japan’s longest serving Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, 65, has passed on the baton to his long-term associate, Yoshihide Suga, 71. Mr. Suga promises continuity rather than change as he takes the reins. His choice is itself an indicator of that continuity: he has been Chief Cabinet Secretary since 2012, as well as the top spokesperson and a key implementer of Mr. Abe’s policies. An elected MP since 1996, Mr. Suga was Minister of State for Internal Affairs and Communications during Mr. Abe’s previous tenure in 2006-07. In his press conference after winning the leadership of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party this week, Mr. Suga said his goal is to continue with Mr. Abe’s policies and complete his goals, particularly the tasks of reviving the economy and controlling the COVID-19 pandemic. He has also retained Mr. Abe’s key cabinet choices which include the Finance, Foreign and Environment

Need for caution: On Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine

Russia’s candidate vaccine for COVID-19 appears to have found a midwife in India. The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which is piloting the Sputnik V vaccine, has announced a partnership with the Hyderabad-based Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories to conduct a Phase-3 trial, or large multi-location human trials here. Were the candidate vaccine, developed by Russia’s Gamaleya, to prove safe and efficacious, the RDIF would supply 100 million doses through its partnership with Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories. However, there is no agreement to manufacture the vaccine here unlike the deal between the Pune-based Serum Institute of India and the United Kingdom-based AstraZeneca, for the Oxford University-developed ChAdOx1 vaccine. Sputnik V is being developed as a two-dose vaccine on a human adenovirus vaccine platform. Several vaccines that are in development are also being deployed on similar platforms, and the evidence so far is that none of these has been commercially approved for use in humans


A push for reform: On UN reforms

As the United Nations commences the 75th session of the General Assembly, the need for internal reforms to suit the 21st century could not be starker. Volkan Bozkir, the Turkish diplomat and politician who is the incoming president of the UNGA, has voiced concern that the structure of the 15-member Security Council ought to be more democratic and representative. But action has been long overdue on the demand, especially from the so-called Group of 4 (G4) countries — Brazil, Germany, India and Japan — which advocate a permanent seat for all of them. Meanwhile, the veto powers that the UNSC’s five permanent members enjoy is an anachronism in this age. This instrument is often wielded as a blunt weapon to shore up their geopolitical interests, regardless of the disastrous consequences for the victims of armed conflict. The push for reform gathered momentum following the unilateral declaration of war by the United States and the United Kingdom, against Iraq, in 2003. The General Assembly’s


Stop press: On blanket gag order against the media

A blanket gag order against the media is often fraught with serious consequences for both free speech and the citizen’s right to receive information. Orders by different courts, restraining the media from reporting on particular cases or programmes from being telecast, have drawn attention this week to questions of prior restraint, media freedom and the right of people facing investigation to a fair trial. A quite unusual and legally questionable decision has been the interim order of the Andhra Pradesh High Court imposing a ban on the media, and even social media, from mentioning anything in relation to an FIR filed by the police against a former Advocate General of the State and others. It is unusual in the sense that there appears to be no material to justify such censorship other than an allegation by the petitioner that it is a “foisted” case. It is also accompanied by an order staying the investigation itself. It is indeed open to a High Court to grant a stay on investigation in

New order in West Asia: On Abraham Accords

Ill-advised move: on threat of contempt proceedings against Suriya

Venus in focus

The second chair: On Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker

Long haul ahead: On demand-supportive fiscal policies

Glimmer of hope: On India-China five-point consensus

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