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The Hindu Analysis Free PDF Download

Date: 12 October 2020

Manipulating Minds

  • US Congressional report - anti-competitive practices of big technology companies
  • The Social Dilemma - social media companies are subverting human minds and society
  • Big tech companies - enjoy greater power over their users than any other commercial entity in recent history.
  • High influence - least regulated
  • Marriage of technology evolution with psychological insights
  • Society is setting great store by hypernationalism, populism and ethnic supremacism after decades of dominance of ideas like democracy, equality and fraternity.
  • Gen-Z has known no other world but this.
  • An anxious, distrustful, withdrawn generation portends great chaos
  • Arguably, the changes happened too fast for governments to respond.
  • The 2018 EU General Data Protection Regulation, with norms like protecting the “vital interests of data subjects” and other individuals, offer solid templates for social media regulation.
  • Supreme Court ruled privacy to be a fundamental right in India
  • Besides, social media is also an information broadcaster like mainstream media.
  • Parity demands the same media regulations and responsibilities applying to both.
  • Letting tech companies escape regulation makes a mockery of competition and media laws besides endangering individual and social well-being.

Food for peace

  • Nobel Peace Prize - World Food Programme
  • For WFP’s contribution to combating hunger in conflict and disaster-struck sites.
  • The Norwegian Nobel Committee took note of the WFP’s life-saving role in the year of the pandemic, staving off catastrophes of hunger in Yemen, Congo, Nigeria, South Sudan and Burkina Faso.
    • Syria, an estimated 4.6 million people survive on food aid.
  • The Prize is a fitting tribute to the aid workers who brave hazardous conditions to reach starving people in theatres of war, civil strife and natural disasters, moving food on aircraft, trucks and even all-terrain amphibious vehicles.
  • The decision to honour the WFP echoes the advice of another peace laureate from 1949, Lord John Boyd Orr, the first head of the FAO, that peace cannot be built on empty stomachs.
  • Clearly, without stronger commitment from the big powers, the challenge to feed the millions who suffer acute hunger due to conflict and failed agriculture can never be met.
  • WFP’s funding gap of $4.1 billion
  • SDG 2 - achieving zero hunger by 2030
  • Resolve festering armed conflict - mitigate carbon emissions early and avert effects on agriculture from disastrous climate events.
  • This is a time for the world’s big powers to strengthen the UN system, espousing fraternity, shunning militarism, greening economies and resolving conflicts in the true spirit of the Peace Prize.

Pandemics and the collective consciousness

  • 11 March 2020 – WHO assessed COVID-19 to be a pandemic
  • The impact of the Spanish Flu of 1918-1920 globally, but especially on India.
  • Certainly, no elder, who was an adult during the influenza, ever mentioned that it had caused millions of deaths.
  • Nor, more significantly, did any textbook of Indian history focus on the great influenza or mention the enormous number of people who had died when it struck India.
  • Autobiography of Kailas Nath Katju
    • “Just as we were leaving Rau (a place near Indore in Madhya Pradesh; grandmother and he returned to Allahabad in the autumn of 1918 after spending a few months in Rau), the great influenza epidemic of 1918 began to afflict India. It was a veritable scourge, in six weeks, it was estimated six million people died of it. It made no distinction between rich and poor, prince and peasant, men and women. It swept the whole country like wildfire, and the number of persons who suffered from the disease must have exceeded crores. By the mercy of God, while all around there were any number of cases, none in our household at 15 Albert Road, suffered from it. It was a great blessing.”
  • It is now believed that it led to around 17 million deaths in India before it was over.
  • Remarkably, this enormous toll in human lives which amounted to around 5% of the then Indian population is not a part of the Indian consciousness.
  • It has sunk almost without a trace amidst the events surrounding the anti-Rowlatt Act agitation, the massacre at Jallianwala Bagh and the Non-Cooperation Movement.
  • Jawaharlal Nehru’s biography written over an eight-month period from June 1934 illustrates how the ravages of the great influenza had quickly faded from national memory.
  • It did so in the rest of the world too.
  • The great influenza interested only epidemiologists and medical historians; it was from the 1990s that experts from other disciplines started to seriously study it.
  • Covid-19 may eventually be remembered more for its economic and political impact than the deaths on its account.
  • Trump and his wife, Melania, are Covid-19 positive - history records the fate of leaders in battles won and lost, not the countless unknown who perished in it.
  • Why did the great influenza not remain in the human consciousness?

Vaccines with a global common good guarantee

  • COVID-19 does not discriminate.
  • Quarantines, lockdowns, hygiene measures and social distancing
  • Countries are haemorrhaging cash in efforts to ease the economic standstill created by COVID-19.
  • And as the costs rise, the patience of their populations is waning from fear, uncertainty, and economic collapse.

A vaccine as a global common good.

  • Remarkably and what is encouraging, there are many promising candidates already, several of which are entering the essential phase-3 clinical trials.
  • Right behind the race for the vaccine is the other race — the one to develop proven therapeutics (medicines) that can ease the burden on those struck by COVID-19.
  • Being more cost effective than medicine, vaccines provide a method of prevention.
  • But an effective vaccine cannot be truly effective and humane until all communities are reached without discrimination.
  • What will the post-COVID-19 world look like?
  • A rich world that is protected, locking out the vast and potentially infectious populations of the poor countries? Or will it be one that shares the therapeutics and the vaccines with the poor?
  • The successful eradication of major diseases such as smallpox or polio required a global effort and the availability of vaccines to all who needed it anywhere in the world.
  • When Dr. Jonas Salk came up with a polio vaccine that was approved for the general population to use, he refused to patent it.
  • When asked who owns the patent, his answer was this. “Well, the people, I would say,” he told journalist Edward R. Murrow in 1955. “There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”
  • Already, many Nobel Laureates and global personalities have signed on to an Appeal to Declare the COVID 19 Vaccines as a Global Common Good
  • We now urge all the countries of the world to unite to pass a resolution at the United Nations to make novel coronavirus vaccines as a product
  • without any commercial ownership to turn this collective wish into reality.

Ending conflict in the Caucasus

  • The military confrontation between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
  • Ceasefire was established in 1994
  • Confrontation reflects the failure of the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
  • Co-chaired by Russia, France and the U.S., the Minsk Group put forward in 2007 the Madrid Principles as the basis for the formulation of a peace treaty between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
  • Nagorno-Karabakh is part of Azerbaijan, but its population is majority Armenian
  • As the Soviet Union saw increasing tensions in its constituent republics in the 1980s, Nagorno-Karabakh voted to become part of Armenia - sparking a war which stopped with a ceasefire in 1994.
  • Since then, Nagorno-Karabakh has remained part of Azerbaijan, but is controlled by separatist ethnic Armenians backed by the Armenian government.
  • Negotiations over decades, mediated by international powers, have never resulted in a peace treaty
  • Drawn from the 1975 Helsinki Final Act principles, signed at the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, they provided for a prohibition on the use of force, respect for territorial integrity, and recognition of the equal right to self-determination.
  • In concrete terms, the Madrid Principles envisaged the demilitarisation of Nagorno-Karabakh, the Armenian majority region that seceded from Azerbaijan towards the end of the Soviet Union, and the gradual liberation of Azerbaijani territory that Armenia had occupied in the 1991-94 war.
  • Significantly, these steps are consistent with the UN Security Council’s 1993 resolutions, calling for the unconditional withdrawal of Armenian occupying forces from Azerbaijan.
  • In the current hostilities, the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, has asserted the country’s long-standing claim over the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, ruling out any dialogue with Armenia until the government there offered an apology.
  • Russian response to the hostilities has so far been muted.
  • The U.S. is all but absent from the picture.
  • Difficult as this process may appear, there is no better starting point than the reasonable framework outlined in the Madrid Principles.


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