Open with caution: On Unlock 1

It is a truth universally acknowledged now that the severe restrictions to contain COVID-19 produced traumatic displacement of the weakest sections, while the check on infection spread was modest. The Centre’s move for a phased unlocking of public activity after the rigorous lockdown since March 25 sets the stage for people to resume their jobs and undertake some travel. The ‘Unlock 1’ plan should ensure a careful restarting of activities, the most important of which is the delivery of goods and everyday services, including health services unrelated to COVID-19 infections. Latest data since the virus surfaced in the country show that 13 cities, including some of the biggest metros, host 70% of the cases, and many of the earlier restrictions will continue there. Retaining curbs on big gatherings, such as in religious places, is reasonable, given the history of these sites unwittingly becoming super spreaders. But States must show diligence in actively testing and quarantining

Land of the unfree: On U.S. unrest

If ever there were a doubt that racism in the U.S. had outlived eight years under former President Barack Obama, the events of this week, including protests following the death of an African-American, George Floyd, in police action in Minneapolis, Minnesota, have set them to rest. Even as rallies and police crackdowns engulfed a wide swathe of American metros, President Donald Trump inserted himself into the controversy and triggered a broader debate on censorship of posts by social media platforms. On Friday, Twitter masked and attached a caution note to a tweet by Mr. Trump for “glorifying violence”. In that tweet he had labelled protesters calling for action against police for Floyd’s death “THUGS”, adding “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”, a reference to a threat by a police chief, who in 1967 declared “war” and vowed violent revenge on African-Americans in Miami Beach. As outrage spread across social media, Mr. Trump appeared to dial down his rhetoric subsequently,

Awful silence: On India-China standoff

Nearly a month after the first skirmishes on the LAC between Indian and Chinese soldiers were reported, the situation on the ground still appears to be tense. While there has been no official explanation of what has happened there since May 5, the day the first clash at Pangong Tso (lake) was reported, there is enough information to conclude that this is the most serious such standoff India and China have seen in years. As reported by The Hindu, sources say that the number of Chinese soldiers, the aggression with which they have dealt with Indian soldiers, as well as the number of points of conflict, indicate strategised action by Chinese commanders. While both governments have been careful to keep the tone of their comments sober, the fact that both sides have repeatedly mentioned that talks are on is also proof of an ongoing situation. A full de-escalation will entail soldiers being able to return to their normal LAC patrols, something military officers say will probably need a


Belated, but welcome: On Supreme Court move on migrant workers

It is a matter of relief that the Supreme Court has at last taken cognisance of the plight of millions of inter-State workers looking for transport home and relief from the unrelenting misery unleashed on them by the lockdown. A three-judge Bench has initiated suo motu proceedings based on media reports and representations from senior advocates, observing that there have been inadequacies and lapses on the part of the Centre and States in dealing with the crisis faced by workers. It need not have come to this. This could have taken place seven or eight weeks earlier, when petitions were filed before the top court on behalf of those left in the lurch across India after the Centre announced a lockdown, with just four hours’ notice. With a kind of self-effacement and self-abnegation not in keeping with its institutional history, the Court had then accepted the government’s sweeping claim that there were no migrants on the roads any more, and that the initial exodus of workers from cities


Export blocks: On India’s trade amid the pandemic

Official trade data for April, released at the mid-point of the Finance Ministry’s five-tranche package to salvage the economy in the throes of a pandemic-induced lockdown, was the grimmest in over two decades. Merchandise exports had collapsed by over 60% and imports contracted only slightly less. Only two of India’s 30 biggest export products clocked positive growth — iron ore and pharmaceuticals, the latter by just a quarter of a percent. Thanks to the sharp dip in global oil prices, higher volumes of petroleum exports didn’t help much in value terms. The trade collapse was not surprising as the spate of national lockdowns around the world have not only dented demand and investment, but also severely disrupted global supply chains and shipping routes. India’s exports, however, were already in a free fall. The government’s economic stimulus package in totality offered several reform commitments, improvements in the ease of doing business along with some forbearance and a few sops for

A brewing storm: On Trump vs Twitter

The swarm: On locust attack

Rising tide: On return of protests in Hong Kong

Early take-off: On resumption of air travel

Batting for free speech: On filing of defamation cases against press

For farms and farmers: on launching of Rajiv Gandhi Kisan Nyay Yojana

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