Contraction slows: On signs of economic recovery

The latest data on output at the eight core industries point to tentative signs that the pandemic-spurred economic contraction may have begun to bottom out. Commerce Ministry provisional figures show that while overall production at the infrastructure industries extended their year-on-year decline to a fourth straight month in June, shrinking 15%, the pace at which activity contracted slowed for a second consecutive month following April’s precipitous 37% plunge. The sector-wise performance also affirms that the gradual reopening since June appears to have helped tease back some smattering of demand in the economy. Of the seven industries that extended their contractions, only coal shrank at a faster pace (-15.5%) than in May, when production had declined 14%. Refinery products, the largest weight on the index contributing 28%, shrank 8.9% marking an improvement from the 21.3% contraction seen the previous month. The lifting of restrictions on inter and intra-State movement of persons

Fraudulent claims: On Trump’s poll delay talk

President Donald Trump imperilled the confidence of his fellow citizens in the November 2020 U.S. presidential election, when he asked via Twitter whether he ought to postpone it due to concerns surrounding the possibility of fraud owing to mail-in voting. This form of voting, which includes absentee voting but can include broader measures for voting via the postal system, is expected to occur on a large scale owing to social distancing measures necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. His tweet has raised a furore, with speculation that the President may be toying with the idea of delaying the democratic exercise beyond November 3 after trailing his Democratic challenger, former Vice-President Joe Biden, in the opinion polls. The U.S. elections, the dates for which are fixed by federal statute through Congress, have never in history been delayed, including during the Civil War era and the World Wars. Further, five States offer universal mail-in voting to all their registered voters.

Towards a new normal: On Unlock 3

The Centre has announced further relaxations in the lockdown that began on March 25 to combat the COVID-19 pandemic although the numbers are unrelenting. The third phase will now take effect from August 5. At nearly 17 lakh, India stood third among countries with the highest number of cases; a third of these cases are currently active. With over 36,000 deaths, India’s case fatality rate of 2.16% is relatively low. The possibility of wider prevalence indicated in serology surveys in Delhi and Mumbai suggests that the death rate could be even lower than current estimations. The disease spread has been uneven within the country. The responses of States and cities have also remained inconsistent. Along with the number of cases, overworked health-care professionals experiencing fatigue and the public showing impatience with restrictions are also on the rise. This is not a pleasant mix of circumstances, and utmost vigil must continue. By now, it is also evident that complete


War and talks: On Taliban ceasefire

The Taliban’s decision to cease fire for three days during Id-ul-Adha has come as a relief for Afghans who have seen unabated violence despite a peace agreement between the insurgents and the U.S. This is the third official respite since the war started in 2001. In June 2018 and May this year, the Taliban had briefly ended hostilities to mark the end of the holy month of Ramzan. On both occasions, it refused to extend the ceasefire, returning to war as soon as the celebrations were over. This time, however, hopes are high that the truce could be extended as Kabul and the insurgents are preparing to launch the intra-Afghan talks that were promised in the U.S.-Taliban deal. According to the pact, talks were to begin in March. But both sides failed to reach an agreement on prisoner exchange, which the U.S. had agreed with the Taliban. The insurgents complained that the government was not complying with the terms of the agreement, while officials of the Ashraf Ghani administration


A long road: On National Education Policy 2020

The National Education Policy 2020 announced by the Ministry of Human Resource Development sets for itself the goal of transforming the system to meet the needs of 21st Century India. In a federal system, any educational reform can be implemented only with support from the States, and the Centre has the giant task of building a consensus on the many ambitious plans. The policy, inter alia, aims to eliminate problems of pedagogy, structural inequities, access asymmetries and rampant commercialisation. The NEP 2020 is the first omnibus policy after the one issued in 1986, and it has to contend with multiple crises in the system. It is no secret that primary schools record shockingly poor literacy and numeracy outcomes, dropout levels in middle and secondary schools are significant, and the higher education system has generally failed to meet the aspirations for multi-disciplinary programmes. In structural terms, the NEP’s measures to introduce early childhood education from age 3, offer

Banking on serology: On seroprevalence studies

Trouble in Nepal: On Nepal Communist Party factional fight

Fall from grace: On Malaysian ex-PM Najib Razak

In reverse gear: on draft EIA notification

Sudan’s troubles

Scandalising as contempt: On proceedings against Prashant Bhushan

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