Are the right type of men and women being inducted into the higher bureaucracy?
Is there any mid-career review of their performance, so that the misfits and the dishonest are weeded out?
Evaluating civil service recruits for their intelligence and integrity is a difficult exercise.
We are too diverse a nation.
When my generation made a bid for selection in the 1960s, we were just about 15,000to20,000 candidates in the race for the same number of openings.
There was also no preliminary examination which now cruelly eliminates a majority of applicants.
The current stiff process of selection induces many of us in my age group to believe that most of us would not have passed muster under the present scheme of the examination.
Success stories of disadvantaged members of society such as these candidates should help to dilute the age-oldprejudice against those who are challenged.
My reservation is mainly on account of the two major charges levelled against the higher civil services, especially the Indian Administrative Service and the Indian Police Service (IPS) wherever we go within the country.
These are to do with the glaring insensitivity tothepoor citizen and the greed that still afflicts a segment of the civil service.
The District Collector and the DistrictSuperintendentofPolice are the two powerful and visible symbols of the administration.
There are 739 districts in India and as many Collectors and SPs.
If a Collector and an SP are inaccessible (as is the case in most of our districts) it shows the whole administration in a bad light.
This unfortunate situation is exacerbated by the fact that officials at the lower levels of the bureaucracy are either insensitiveordemandillegal gratification to provide a service which is the fundamental right of every citizen.
In spite of admirable reforms, major and tiny, brought about by the present central government, the common belief is that very few things get done at the bottom of the pyramid of government without greasing somebody’s palm.
There are more than 15,000policestations in the country.
A police station has become an institution that is shunned by the law-abidingcitizen.
Wherever they see injustice or violence against unsuspecting citizens, it will be for them to rise in protest and instil sense in their subordinate ranks as well as their supervisors.
We have a large core of enlightened senior IPS officers who can mould the character of the new entrants.
If they do not play this desperately needed role, they will have betrayed the confidence that the father of the civil service, Sardar Vallabhai Patel, reposed in the IPS and the IAS.
Isolating China, as proposition and the reality
2nd Aug, Military Commanders of India and China met
This meeting did not produce any breakthrough, and the situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Ladakh sector thus remains essentially unchanged.
A return to the status quo ante prior to May this year, is nowhere in sight.
War of words
MEA: “the state of the border and the future of our ties (with China) cannot be separated. That is the reality.”
China: “were on its side of the traditional customary boundary line”.
Then China talked about J&Kstatus.
After years of cooperating with one another, the U.S. and China are currently at the stage of confrontation, with both seeking allies to join their camps.
Beijing’s virtual takeover of Hong Kong, paying scant regard to the concept of ‘one country two systems’, has only confirmed what had long been known about China’s intentions under Mr. Xi.
China’s rampant land grab in the South China Sea.
In the 1970s, China grabbed control over the ParacelIslands from Vietnam.
In the 1990s, it occupied Mischief Reef in the SpratlyIslands, an area of the South China Sea that the Philippines had always considered its territory.
In the 21st Century, China has continued with the same tactics of taking control over territories belonging to smaller neighbours; one which attracted international attention was the Scarborough Shoal confrontation in 2012, when Chinese Marine Surveillance Ships came into direct confrontation with the Philippine Navy.
Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia and SouthKorea have all complained about China’s menacing postures in their vicinity.
China’sfavourite approach, it would seem, has been unilateralism rather than compromise, when dealing with its smaller neighbours.
China seems confident that its stranglehold on the global economy ensures that it does not face any real challenge.
It is thus more than evident that few nations across the world are willing to risk China’s ire because of strong economic ties that have been forged over the years.
Economicties are proving way stronger than military and strategic ones.
Even in Asia, while a majority of ASEANcountries have grave concerns about China’s predatory tactics, with the ASEAN having become one of China’sbiggest trading partners, it adopts a default position. viz., “not to take sides”.
India is finding many of its traditional friends being less than helpful.
In July, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi organised a virtual meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Nepal, Afghanistan and Pakistan,.
Here, he proposed taking forward an economic corridor plan with Nepal, styled as the Trans-Himalayan Multi-Dimensional Connectivity Network, and expanding the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to Afghanistan, touting benefits of new economic corridors on the lines of the CPEC.
Iran and China are reported to be currently pursuing an economic and security partnership.
Geo-balancingis not happening to China’s disadvantage.
The virus has been spreading with renewed vitality.
Need of the hour: large-scale testing, tracing and isolation of the infected and their contacts
It took 168days to reach one million cases on July 16, it took just 21 days to double to two million on August 6
Deaths: increased from 25,599 on July 16 to 41,641 on August 6.
Similarly, the number of deaths per day has also been rising; it crossed the 1,000mark on August 9.
Till mid-July, the daily fresh cases reported were well under 35,000 but increased to over 50,000 since July 29 and have been staying above 60,000 since August 6.
Since August 3, India has been reporting the most cases in the world, surpassing the U.S.
The low daily testing numbers are also reflected in low tests (over 14,000) per million population.
After Delhi, Karnataka and AndhraPradesh too have increased the number of rapid antigen tests done each day. The low sensitivity of this test might help in reducing the test positivity rate, as seen in Delhi, but may not actually help in containment.
If the ICMRshares only the data on the number of tests done each day, neither the States nor the Health Ministry provide a break-up of different tests and the number of positive results through each method, making the data not very useful.
Though Kerala has reported only over 35,500 cases so far, the compulsion to ramp up testing cannot be overemphasised, particularly in districts where community transmission has been documented.
Andhra Pradesh (over 2,35,525) and Karnataka (1,78,087), which initially appeared to have contained the spread, have the third and fourth highest number of cases, respectively, in India.
Aggressive testing through fever clinics in Chennai helped halve the number of daily fresh cases to 1,100-1,200, and further reduction became possible in the last few days.
The renewed commitment to trace contacts, including non-family members, in Chennai since July has helped in knocking down the numbers to below 1,000.
After putting up a good show initially, contact tracing has been nearly absent since mid-May in some States, one of the reasons why cases spiked and spread.
After the mega cities, a spike is now seen in the smaller cities in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra.
The daily confirmed cases and deaths in Gujarat and Telangana during the pandemic give an impression that the States’ priority is to manage the data. This does not augur well for India.
The shocking deaths of at least 19 people in special facilities for COVID-19 management in Vijayawada and Ahmedabad have exposed the deep rot in regulatory processes for institutional and commercial building safety.
While 11 died in the Andhra Pradesh incident, where a hotel had been taken over by a private hospital to run a COVID-19 care centre, nine patients perished in the blaze in a Gujarat hospital intensive care unit (ICU).
In a familiar pattern, civic and fire authorities who were expected to monitor the safety of such buildings have sought to pin responsibility for the carnage on the owners of the properties.
This is clearly untenable, as the Supreme Court of India observed about a decade ago in the Uphaar cinema fire tragedy case in Delhi, pulling up authorities including the Union Home Ministry for abdicating responsibility and passing the buck on to the management of the institution.
If smoke alarms and sprinkler systems, along with local fire-fighting aids are available, loss of life can be eliminated.
Evacuation systems for ICU patients need to be part of the building design.
Schemes introduced to regularise building violations are clearly anti-social in character.
The WHO’s relevance is fading
With regional offices in six geographical regions and country offices across 150 countries, the WHO was expected to play the dual role of a think tank and oversee global responses to public health emergencies.
It was reported that the earliest COVID-19 positive case in China was reported in November, but China informed the WHO about the disease only in January.
With the WHO country representative stationed in Beijing, it is unlikely that widespread transmission went unnoticed.
Then, even though confirmed cases were reported from Japan, SouthKorea, Taiwan and the U.S. in January, the WHO continued to downplay the severity of the virus.
It took some inexplicable decisions and actions such as declaring the pandemic as a public health emergency of international concern only on January 30 and ignoring Taiwan’s hints of human-to-human transmission and requests on sharing “relevant information”.
Further, the WHO went on to praise China’s response to the pandemic.
WHO was severely criticised for its poor handling of the Ebola outbreak in 2014 as well.
Director General Tedros Adhanom has been criticised for his leadership abilities during this pandemic.
WHO is funded through assessed contributions made by the member states and voluntarycontributions from member states and privatedonors.
While the WHO has failed in arresting the pandemic, governments across the globe are equally responsible for their inept handling and ill-preparedness.
Over 15.35 lakh people recovered from COVID-19 in country so far
Week-long partial lockdown imposed in Andaman and Nicobar Islands from today
PM Modi advocates for extensive use of innovative technologies for improving weather forecast, warning systems
Lebanon's PM Hassan Diab resigns following public outrage over major blast in Beirut last week
Bangladesh govt orders strict implementation of mask wearing in public places
President Kovind congratulates M. Venkaiah Naidu on completing 3 years as Vice President
Expert Committee on Vaccine Administration to meet tomorrow
Central team visits Telangana, reviews COVID-19 management in state
EPFO ensures hassle free service delivery through UMANG app during COVID-19 pandemic
Petroleum and Natural Gas Ministry observes World Biofuel Day