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26.5.21 English Editorials

Several States have extended the coronavirus lockdowns beyond May 31, while fresh cases appear to show a downward trend, but India’s COVID-19 battle lacks strategic focus. Although a cessation of activity has been imposed, there is not much clarity on the future threat from virus variants, notably B.1.617 that now has three sub-types and the dominant one, B.1.617.2, is estimated to be 50% more transmissible than another variant of concern, B.1.1.7. Neither is there a road map for vaccine availability ahead, with direct imports by States hitting a roadblock and vague assurances of a domestic ramp-up from July substituting for firm commitments. Some States are unwisely taking the foot off the testing pedal, making it that much harder to map the course of transmission. A miasma of confusion has come to pervade COVID-19 policy, where the Centre no longer has an appetite for leadership, even if it means shunning responsibility for universal vaccination, and the only tool available with States is a lockdown. But as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin has pointed out, a lockdown does not provide a solution, and comes with its own economic side-effects that hit the working class poor the hardest. The time has come for a pandemic policy reset that reflects scientific insight, encourages safe public behaviour through persuasive communication, monitoring, and, importantly, incorporates medical interventions of scale.

The medium-term outlook does not point to a steep rise in vaccination by the end of the year to cover most of the population, making it imperative for States to prepare for potential future surges. Although claims have been made of a large volume of three vaccines becoming available between August-December, the road to universal immunisation is going to be long. The process is complicated by the finding in Britain that it takes two doses of Covishield for 60% protection against the dominant virus variant that is also found in India; the second dose, therefore, should be administered after eight weeks, not 12 or 16. What States can do immediately is to arrive at a good lockdown protocol, sparing people frequent shocks. Tamil Nadu’s recent move to intensify the lockdown, and, inexplicably, allow even jewellery and clothing shops to open for a day before that, led to massive crowding triggered by induced demand. Clearly, measures to shut down everyday activity lead to fear and panic, and leave less affluent sections, the disabled, migrant workers and many single individuals unable to cope. The golden mean would be to shut all non-essential shops, encourage remote transactions, open street sales and home deliveries, actively monitor compliance with COVID-19 protocols in public places and vaccinate workers in services, including domestic workers, on priority. Free food distribution must be a central feature of lockdowns.

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1.Cessation (N)-the fact of something ending or stopping.

2.Road Map (N)-a plan or strategy intended to achieve a particular goal.

3.Vague (Adj)-not clearly expressed or understood. अस्पष्ट

4.Ramp-Up (N)-a large increase in activity or in the level of something. बढ़ाना

5.Taking The Foot Off The Testing Pedal (Phrase)-to do something with less effort and determination.

6.Miasma (N)-a very unpleasant general feeling.

7.Appetite (N)-a strong desire or liking for something.

8.Shunning (N)-deliberately avoiding; keeping away from or preventing from happening. कन्नी काटना

9.Imperative (N)-an essential or urgent thing. अनिवार्य

10.Compliance (N)-the act of obeying an order, rule, or request. अनुपालन

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🛑It does seem that most if not all global social media giants will miss complying with the new IT rules of intermediaries, which come into effect today. It would be unfortunate if this non-compliance were to trigger a further worsening of the already poor relationship between some social media players and the Government. The new rules were introduced in February. Among other things, they require the bigger social media platforms, which the rules referred to as significant social media intermediaries, to adhere to a vastly tighter set of rules within three months, which ended on May 25. They require these platforms to appoint chief compliance officers, in order to make sure the rules are followed, nodal officers, to coordinate with law enforcement agencies, and grievance officers. Another rule requires messaging platforms such as WhatsApp to trace problematic messages to its originators, raising uneasy questions about how services that are end-to-end encrypted can adhere to this. There are indeed many problems with the new rules, not the least of which is the manner in which they were introduced without much public consultation. There has also been criticism about bringing in a plethora of new rules that ought to be normally triggered only via legislative action.

But non-compliance can only make things worse, especially in a situation in which the relationship between some platforms such as Twitter and the Government seems to have broken down. The latest stand-off between them, over Twitter tagging certain posts by BJP spokespeople as ‘manipulated media’, has even resulted in the Delhi Police visiting the company’s offices. Separately, the Government has been fighting WhatsApp over its new privacy rules. Whatever the back-story, it is important that social media companies fight the new rules in a court of law if they find them to be problematic. The other option, that of engaging with the Government, may not work in these strained times. But stonewalling on the question of compliance can never be justified, even if it is to be assumed that the U.S. Government has their back. Facebook, on its part, has made all the right noises. It has said that it aims to comply with the new rules but also needs to engage with the Government on a few issues. What is important is that the genuine concerns of social media companies are taken on board. Apart from issues about the rules, there have been problems about creating conditions for compliance during the pandemic. As reported by The Hindu, five industry bodies, including the CII, FICCI and the U.S.-India Business Council have sought an extension of 6-12 months for compliance. This is an opportunity for the Government to hear out the industry, and also shed its high-handed way of rule-making.

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1.Plethora (N)-an excess. अधिकता

2.Stand-Off (N)-a situation in which agreement in an argument does not seem possible. गतिरोध

3.Stonewalling (N)-stalling or delaying especially by refusing to answer questions or cooperate. असहयोग, अवरोध

4.Compliance (N)-the act of obeying an order, rule, or request. अनुपालन

5.Taken On Board (Phrase)-to understand or accept an idea or a piece of information.

6.High-Handed (Adj)-using power or authority without considering the feelings of others.

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🛑CISF chief Subodh Kumar Jaiswal appointed CBI director for two years

Press Trust of India | 25/05/2021 | 9 hours ago


Senior IPS officer Subodh Kumar Jaiswal was on Tuesday appointed as the new CBI chief for two years, according to a personnel ministry order.

A 1985-batch Indian Police Service (IPS) officer of Maharashtra cadre, Jaiswal is currently the director general of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF).

A Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led three-member selection committee had on Monday shortlisted his name for the post.

Jaiswal has been appointed as the director, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for a period of two years, the ministry order said.

He has also served as Maharashtra's director general of police in the past.

🛑RBI restricting 10-year liquidity to better manage yields: Experts

Anup Roy | 25/05/2021 | 10 hours ago


The bond market seems to have reconciled with the fact that no matter what the inflation print, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) will keep the 10-year bond yields below 6 per cent, say experts.


To that effect, the central bank seems to have trained its focus on the 10-year bond, mopping up most of it to create a liquidity shortage in the market of that particular paper. Such constricted liquidity helps drive yields even with relatively lower value of transactions.


In declared secondary market operations, through government securities acquisition programme (G-SAP) or open market operations (OMOs), the RBI has purchased Rs 41,451 crore of the 10-year paper, out of the outstanding stock of Rs 91,270 crore. The central bank also does anonymous purchases from the market. Bond dealers say the RBI, through a clutch of nationalised banks, could be regularly picking up the 10-year bond.


The RBI has made no secret of its preference for targeting the 10-year bond. It is the benchmark for many products, is the most traded paper in the market, and even the corporate sector raises bonds making the 10-year government securities as the benchmark.


The RBI, in the past, has made clear its preference for keeping yields soft. It also sees the 10-year bond as an important benchmark, and that can explain the penchant for controlling the yields by controlling the supply of the paper, say bond dealers.


“The RBI has probably focused on the 10-year because the maximum volume and liquidity is in this paper. The rest of the curve is expected to align with the 10-year movement. However, going ahead, once around 40-50 per cent of the adult population gets vaccinated and green shoots are visible on the growth front, the RBI is expected to focus on inflation and accordingly policy response will be visible,” said Marzban Irani, chief investment officer, fixed income at LIC Mutual Fund.


The central bank does pick up other bonds too, but the focus on 10-year has brought in certain complacency in the minds of the market participants. The Wholesale Price Index rose to 10.49 per cent in April 2021, which is more than a decade high, but largely owing to a base effect, while the Consumer Price Index (CPI)-based retail inflation was at 4.29 per cent in the same month.


“Even if the RBI has been targeting the 10-year, the market as a whole is factoring that in their expectations and pricing the rest of the curve accordingly,” said Badrish Kulhalli, fund manager at HDFC Standard Life.


“Papers with a slightly lower maturity are trading at significantly higher yields than the 10-year bond. So, the 10-year bond may be at very rich levels, but that does not cause any significant impact on the rest of the curve. The objective of holding it low is to signal a continued low yield regime. As long as the RBI is willing to use its balance sheet for holding yields low, they will stay low,” Kulhalli said.


The feeling in the market, though, is that no matter what the inflation numbers, the RBI will chip in to bring down the yields.


“There is a complete ignorance and denial of inflation risk premia by the market, there was not even a bout of volatility during the day WPI clocked a decadal high. Given the pandemic condition, rate has to be low and supportive, but complete ignorance of high inflation amid inflation targeting framework is no less worrisome,” said Soumyajit Niyogi, associate director at India Ratings and Research.


The RBI is not alone in targeting the yields though. The Bank of Japan (BoJ) does it already. However, there is a qualitative difference.


“What BoJ, ECB have been doing is explicit target of specific yield and what we are doing is implicit targeting. The difference in approach is basically owing to BoP structure and inflationary conditions. Those nations are mostly suppliers of capital and have long been into the deflationary era, we are just opposite,” Niyogi said. RBI’s purchase of the benchmark 10-year bond (5.85% coupon)* G-SAPMay 20, 20218,345 croreOMOMay 06, 202110,000 croreG-SAPApr 15, 20217,511 croreOMOMar 25, 20214,103 croreOMOMar 18, 20215,024 croreOMOMar 10, 20216,468 croreTotal 41,451 crore * Total Outstanding stock: Rs 91,270.508 crore G-SAP = Government Securities Acquisition Programme OMO = Open Market Operations

With thanks to original source


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