Open the schools

India continues to record over 2,80,000 cases every day, which on its own is an uncomfortable statistic. These are not too far from that observed during the second wave and it is understandable why State administrators continue to impose lockdowns. However, numbers are meaningless without context and the data from States show that what was most feared about Omicron — an upsurge of hospitalisations and indiscriminate mortality — has not come to pass. The States that are in the throes of the wave now report, on average, that more than 95% of their available beds are unoccupied. By no means does this suggest that an Omicron infection is mild or that those vaccinated can be assured of pre-2020 nonchalance. However, the evidence is unequivocal that the odds of requiring hospitalisation are low in the doubly vaccinated and the vaccines, so far, continue to deliver on their promise of staving off severe illness. These observations are no doubt accounted for by various State governments which

Wrong route: On Kerala Lok Ayukta law

The Kerala government’s proposal to amend its Lok Ayukta Act through an ordinance appears questionable and hasty. Even though the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government is citing legal opinion to justify the proposed amendments, it does give an impression that it is in an unseemly hurry to remove the finality attached to a provision that allows the anti-corruption judicial body to direct a public servant to vacate office, if an allegation is substantiated. The criticism by the Opposition that the change may dilute the Lok Ayukta law appears valid, as Section 14 of the Lok Ayukta Act is its most stringent provision. Both the Congress-led United Democratic Front and the BJP have appealed to the Governor not to promulgate the ordinance cleared by the Cabinet. Opposition parties have suggested that the proposal may be linked to ongoing inquiries by the Lok Ayukta against members of the Cabinet. Also, the present regime has been adversely affected by this particular provision. In April

Keeping faith: On people-to-people initiatives and India-Pakistan ties

At a time when most other India-Pakistan exchanges are suspended, even a simple proposal by the Pakistan Hindu Council, forwarded by Pakistan to India, to allow pilgrims of both countries to travel by air to avoid cumbersome journeys seems a leap. Islamabad-Delhi ties now are possibly at their worst ever in peace times, with no political dialogue at a bilateral or multilateral level for over five years. After many terror attacks, India has stopped normal communications and cultural exchanges, and after the Government’s moves on Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan stopped all trade ties. Both sides have downsized their diplomatic missions. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has ensured that the borders have been virtually sealed for two years, with few direct routes operating between them. Even the movement of pilgrims may have been cancelled but for the conscious attempt by the two governments to make an exception for faith-based travel — as was done for the Kartarpur


Taxing drama: On retroactive tax disputes

In what should be the last act of a long and winding tax dispute drama, British firm Cairn Energy has said it has concluded all steps prescribed by the Indian government in order to be eligible for the refund of a contentious retroactive tax levy. The firm, now rechristened as Capricorn Energy, expects to get back ₹7,900 crore. Cairn Energy was the second major firm pursued by the I-T Department for taxes it believed had accrued in the past, using retro-active legislative changes introduced in the 2012 Budget by then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. The original target for this move, that has sharply dented India’s credibility, was Vodafone, which had secured a Supreme Court verdict against the tax department’s demands for past transactions. Empowered to dig up similar transactions, involving the indirect transfer of assets situated in India, the I-T Department had, since 2014, pursued Cairn over a group restructuring undertaken in 2006, culminating in a tax demand of as much


For a civic solidarity: On citizenship for the Chakma/Hajong people

The NHRC has done the right thing in directing the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Arunachal Pradesh government to submit an action taken report against the racial profiling and relocation of the Chakma and Hajong communities in the northeastern State. They had fled their homes in the Chittagong Hill Tracts in erstwhile East Pakistan (present-day Bangladesh) after losing land to the construction of the Kaptai dam on the Karnaphuli river in the early 1960s. They had sought asylum in India and were settled in relief camps in Arunachal Pradesh. Since then they have been well integrated in villages in the southern and south-eastern parts of the State. In 2015, the Supreme Court directed the State to grant them citizenship, but this had not yet been implemented. In a judgment in 1996, the Court had stated that the “life and personal liberty of every Chakma residing within the State shall be protected”. In light of these orders and given that most of the Chakma/Hajong community members were

Coup in Burkina Faso

In conjunction: On evolution of democratic society

Not mild for all: On community transmission of Omicron

Wrong remedy: On IAS, IPS deputation rule changes

Himalayan questions: On environment and Uttarakhand polls

Court and compensation: On ex gratia to kin of COVID-19 victims

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