COVID-19 has knocked down economies, stranded people, hit education, work and travel, and cut short people’s lives.
At this time, there has been a lot of talk about investing in a “green economy” with more renewables, reduced motorised transport or travel, and more working from home.
In another 15-18months, perhaps with a vaccine in place, the understanding we have gained during the lockdown may be all but forgotten.
The green economy, as promising as it could be to tackle climate change, may leave the discourse on development untouched.
If we want long-lasting and transformationalchanges to connect sustainably with the web of life, we have to think about how we educate ourselves.
We must recognise, at an early age, the interconnectedness of the natural world with our everyday lives, and with the well-being of the planet.
To accomplish that, education in history, geography, economics, biology and chemistry, for example, would have to be very different.
Instead of presenting each discipline as distinct and separate, we ought to integrate their domains with the natural world.
History is set in periods divided by wars and victors, but should include ecological changes to the landscape in a region as part of the lesson.
What were the consequences, for instance, of the British building railways across the country for better extraction of resources?
Trains were earlier powered by wood from deforestation. Where did the wood come from and what was the local effect on people and forestcover?
Similarly, geography must describe the land and the forests, how cities develop and what these changes do to the coast and the hinterland, waterbodies and the commons.
Chemistry could begin with cycles such as the nitrogen, carbon, phosphorus, and watercycles, which link together the biosphere, rocks and minerals.
This type of teaching and learning will not do away with previously taught knowledge.
It introduces a holism where there is reductionism, and the foundation would be the linkages across human and non-human entities.
Such new learning would set the grounds for understanding climate change from rising anthropogenic greenhouse gases.
A significant level of unlearning will have to be done along with new learning.
Curriculum developers will have to restructure and rebuild materials used to impart knowledge.
Unruly Waters: historian Sunil Amrith describes the subcontinent’s history by looking at the rain, rivers and coasts. He writes how water was studied, managed and divided as a result of human activity through political and economic development.
Indica: Pranay Lal teaches geology and natural history simultaneously.
Amitav Ghosh’s The Great Derangement is about imperialism and its role in climate change.
The Gaia hypothesis put forth by James Lovelock is an ecological theory proposing that living creatures and the physical world are in a complex interacting system that maintains equilibrium.
One might imagine the COVID-19 crisis as Gaiagiving us a warning, showing how flimsy human life and the structures we rely upon are.
Unchecked rapaciousness has been unleashed by policies that support “growth at any cost”.
It will ultimately fail since all goods used in any economy arise from the natural world.
Our educational system needs to lay down the bricks for this understanding.
Downing the shutters
The White House has made a proclamation restricting the issuance of non-immigrantworkvisas across the board.
H-1B visa for skilled workers
H-2B visa issued to seasonal workers in the landscaping and hospitality industries
L-1 visa for intra-company transfers
J-1 visa for students on work-study summer programmes
H-4 visa for dependents of H-1B visa holders
The proclamation will enter into force on June 24 and be applicable until the end of the calendar year, which notably includes the November 3 presidential election.
The latest restrictions will not apply to visa-holders who are already within the U.S., or those who are outside it and have already been issued valid visas.
America First: American jobs allegedly being lost to foreign workers.
However, Mr. Trump may find that the blowback from America Inc., the employers of millions of non-immigrant foreign workers, is speedy and savage.
Already Google CEO Sundar Pichai has responded by tweeting, “Immigration has contributed immensely to America’s economic success, making it a global leader in tech, and also Google the company it is today. Disappointed by today’s proclamation — we’ll continue to stand with immigrants and work to expand opportunity for all.”
If more captains of the Fortune 500 companies strike this note of disappointment — and lobby quietly behind closed doors to boost the prospects of Mr. Trump’s rival in the November election, former Democratic Vice-President Joe Biden — this might be the straw that breaks the back of the Trump campaign juggernaut.
The sharp end of military power
In 1962, an uninformed political leadership, dominant Army brass, and diffident Air Force leadership ensured that a reasonably potent offensive element of the Indian Air Force (IAF) watched from the sidelines as the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) rolled into Ladakh and down the Sela Pass into Bomdila.
Then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru baulked at the idea of using the IAF to stem the Chinese tide.
IAF fighter pilots posted at air bases that could impact operations in Ladakh and the TawangSector (Pathankot and Tezpur) recall that they were battle ready and waited for the call to action that never came.
By all recent operational assessments including one by the Harvard Kennedy School, the IAFcurrently enjoys both a qualitative and quantitative advantage over the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) across the LAC.
It’s fighter fleet of 4th Generation Aircraft (Su-30 MKIs, Mirage-2000s and MiG-29s) are superior in almost every respect to the PLAAF’s J-10s, J-11s and SU-30 MKKs.
The IAF has more operational bases than the PLAAF close to the LAC.
There is reasonable redundancy and survivability to withstand an initial attack on IAF bases by the PLA Rocket Force (PLARF).
There are, however, two areas of concern.
A strong ground-based air defence network strung up by the PLAAF in Tibet comprising the S-300, S-400 and HQ-9 systems that the IAF will have to contest during its offensive operations.
The advantage that the PLAAF has in long-range air delivered cruise missiles (500-3,000 km) from the H-6 bomber. As compared to this, the IAF’s Su-30 MKI has just been cleared to carry the BrahMos land attack cruise missile with a range of 300 km which could be a significant force multiplier against targets in Aksai Chin and Tibet.
The other area of significant advantage enjoyed by the IAF is in the aerial mobility department where the IAF transport fleet of C-17s, Il-76s, An-32s and C-130s are as proficient in diverse roles as the best air forces in the world.
Whether it is rapid troop induction into major bases or at Advance Landing Grounds like DBO, Nyoma or Mechuka, or inter-valley transfer and insertion of special forces with helicopters like the recently inducted Chinooks and the versatile Mi-17 series, these are areas that will provide great confidence to the Indian Army.
After initial setbacks in Afghanistan, the U.S. Army has figured out a way to exploit the lethal firepower of the Apache Attack Helicopter at altitudes of 12,000-14,000 feet. It would be reasonable to expect that the IAF’s Apaches would add significant firepower in Ladakh.
Unless there is vision and an acceptance of the importance of air power in what has been till now a significantly land-centric operational philosophy across the LAC, there is a clear and present danger.
In the next decade or so, the IAF will lose its competitive advantage with the PLAAF as the latter has invested heavily in modernisation and is continuing to do so.
On the other hand, with deep budgetary cuts and the likelihood of the slowing down of the induction of cutting-edge platforms and weapon systems, the choice is not about what the IAF wants but what the country needs in the prevailing complex security environment.
Air power represents the sharp end of contemporary military power. We need to ensure that it does not get blunt.
Crop of ironies
It is ironic that it took a devastating pandemic to force the government’s hand for long-overdue agrarian reforms.
Amendments have been made to the Essential Commodities Act, 1955.
The Finance Minister has urged States to dismantle the Agricultural Produce Market Committees.
Several long-term changes have been made to the agricultural sector, such as fair pricing and e-trading, along with liquidity measures.
The Centre has also encouraged the State governments to adopt three model laws on contract farming, agricultural land leasing, and marketing.
These developments came as the Indian agriculture sector was impacted by lockdowns across States following the COVID-19 outbreak.
Migrant farm workers fled the fields en masse, unable to sustain their livelihoods.
Many remained hungry even as the Food Corporation of India’s godowns overflowed with grain stock at three times the buffer stock norms.
It is an irony that many migrants to the cities who come fromfarming backgrounds sought the city for a better life but it is the same cities and their employers that have forced them to return to their homes.
What India has been witnessing over the past few months is a historic reverse migration.
It is an irony that the very people who ensure food security in this nation are being made to go hungry now.
It is equally an irony that the lockdown was imposed to contain COVID-19 but migration of the poor and vulnerable might be taking the virus to the hinterland of India.
While the concept of One Nation, One Ration Card has potential, people are concerned about immediate relief for the hungry.
India has always struggled to fill the gap between policy prescriptions andimplementation.
Just as rabi crops were set to be harvested, unseasonal rain and hail arrived at the beginning of the year.
Parts of the country reeled under a pernicious locust invasion.
The Reserve Bank of India announced an extension of the moratorium on loan EMIs by three months, but given that many farmers rely on a system of informalborrowing, this negates the intended effect.
The government has also hiked the MSP of 14 kharif crops, but some argue that this may not offer the intended extent of relief due to a lack of manpower, working capital, machinery (stuck in other States) and storage.
Steps that economists suggest are to switch from cash to food crops.
Listen to the Prime Minister’s ‘go local’ message and invest in redirecting supply chains locally.
Increase government allocations to poor farmers through the PM KISAN scheme by including everyone, even those who do not own land.
Ensure timely availability of seeds and fertilizers for the next season by roping in gram sabhas to verify claimants.
Involve Farmer Producer Organisations in the process to ensure the safeguarding of farmers’ rights.
The world observed World Hunger Day on May 28, 2020. India was ranked 102 out of 117 qualifying countries on the Global Hunger Index.
Although agriculture accounts for around 17% of India’s GDP, nearly 50% of the country’s population depends on farm-based income.
The Prime Minister’s vision for doubling farmers’ income in two years seems a distant dream in the wake of the pandemic.
Climate scientists warn about climate change.
The resilience of Indian farmers has meant that the nation was fed even through multiple lockdowns.
Now, it is our turn to give them a brighter day.
Russia-India-China- RIC trilateral Foreign Minister's Video Conference
India has said that respecting the international law, recognizing legitimate interests of partners, supporting multilateralism and promoting common good are the only ways of building a durable world order.
External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar said that this Special Meeting reiterates India's belief in the time-tested principles of international relations.
"The challenge today is not just one of concepts and norms, but equally of their practice.The leading voices of the world must be exemplars in every way. Respecting international law, recognizing the legitimate interests of partners, supporting multilateralism and promoting common good are the only way of building a durable world order.“
Dr Jaishankar said the United Nations began with 50 members and today it has 193.
He said UN's decision making surely cannot continue to be in denial of this fact. He said Russia, India and China have been active participants in shaping the global agenda and it is India’s hope that RIC will also now converge on the value of reformed multilateralism.
Dr Jaishankar said the victory over Nazism and Fascism in the second world war was achieved through sacrifices across many theatres by many countries.
"India made a significant contribution, with 2.3 million of its citizens under arms and 14 million more participating in war production. Indian blood was shed at the battlefields of the world, from Tobruk, El Alamein and Montecassino, to Singapore, Kohima and Borneo."
India – China
India and China have reached a consensus to disengage in the Eastern Ladakh sector.
In the Corps Commander level talks between India and China at Moldo, both sides agreed to disengage from all friction areas.
Modalities for disengagement from all friction areas in Eastern Ladakh were discussed and will be taken forward by both sides.
The marathon meeting continued for nearly twelve hours in Moldo on the Chinese side of Line of Actual Control (LAC) to defuse tensions at the Eastern Ladakh sector.
This was the second meeting between the two sides.
They had met on June 6th also and agreed to disengage at multiple locations.
But the event on June 15th, violent clashes took place and casualties from both sides which India termed it as a premeditated action by the Chinese troops.
Chief of Army Staff General MM Narwane reached Leh on a Two day visit to Ladakh.
Army General is visiting Leh for the second time after the recent stand-off at Line of Actual Control in Eastern Ladakh.
On his arrival General Narwane visited Army Hospital in LEH to interact with the injured Soldiers in Galwan stand-off.
He enquired about their well being and treatment at the hospital.
This was a morale boosting interaction for the gallant soldiers.
Later in the evening, General Narwane met Ladakh MP Jamyang Tsering Namgyal at the Hall of Fame in LEH.
General MM Narwane will have series of meetings with local Army officials today
The Government today said that the recovery rate of Covid-19 reached 56.37 per cent in the country and a total of two lakh 48 thousand 190 people have been cured so far.
PM-CARES Fund Trust
The PM-CARES Fund Trust has allocated two thousand crore rupees for supply of 50 thousand ‘Made-in-India’ ventilators to government run COVID hospitals in all States and Union Territories.
In addition, one thousand crore rupees have been allocated for the welfare of migrant labourers.
Out of the 50 thousand ventilators, 30 thousand ventilators are being manufactured by Bharat Electronics Limited.
Two thousand 923 ventilators have been manufactured so far and out of which, one thousand 340 ventilators have already been delivered to the States and Union Territories.
These ventilators have been supplied to Maharashtra, Delhi, Gujarat, Bihar, Karnataka and Rajasthan.
By the end of this month, additional 14 thousand ventilators will be delivered to all the States and Union Territories.
In addition, one thousand crore rupees have already been released to States and Union Territories for welfare of the migrant labourers.
This assistance will be used for arranging accommodation, food, medical treatment and transportation of the migrants. Larger portion of the fund was allocated to Maharashtra followed by Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
181 crore rupees were released to Maharashtra, 103 crore rupees to Uttar Pradesh and 83 crores to Tamil Nadu. Grants were also realised to Gujarat, Delhi, West Bengal, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Karnataka.
In Himachal Pradesh ASHA workers are playing a significant role in containing the Corona pandemic.
They are not only helping to detect people with ILI (influenza-like illness) symptoms, but also motivating the people to strictly follow quarantine norms.
The state government has decided to give 2000 rupees per month as an incentive for the month of June and July to all ASHA workers across the state.
Chief Minister Jairam Thakur said Himachal Pradesh has effectively fought COVID-19 and the ASHA workers in the State have played a key role in controlling the virus infection.
He said the State Government has succeeded in checking community spread and credit of this goes to the ASHA Workers.
Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme
Public and Private Sectors banks have sanctioned loans worth over 79 thousand crore rupees so far under the Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme.
Out of which more than 35 thousand crore rupees has already been disbursed.
The Scheme was launched by the Government to provide relief to the MSME sector by incentivizing member lending institutions to provide additional credit of upto three lakh crore at low interest to enable MSME to meet their operational requirements during Covid-19 crisis.
Finance Ministry said, the interventions by Government for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, MSMEs, have been gaining rapid traction.
The top lenders under the Scheme are SBI, HDFC Bank, Bank of Baroda, Punjab National Bank and Canara Bank.
The Ministry said, this has helped 19 lakh MSMEs and other businesses restart their businesses post the lockdown.
Rajnath Singh’s Russia visit
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh who is on a three day visit to Russia today said that Moscow has assured Delhi that ongoing contracts will be maintained.
Talking to media after meeting Russian Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Yury Borisov, Mr. Singh said that he has been assured that the contracts will not be just maintained but in a number of cases will be taken forward in a shorter time.
In a series of tweets, Mr Singh said that the discussion with the Deputy Prime Minister was very positive and productive and all the proposals have received positive response from the Russian side.
Mr Singh said, he is in Moscow at the invitation of the Russian Ministry of Defence to attend the 75th Anniversary of Victory Day Parade which is the most auspicious occasion for Russia and also significant for the whole world.
Mr Singh said, he looks forward to participating in the 75th Victory Parade today.
He said, Indian soldiers participated in the war effort in the millions and suffered immense causalities. He said, it is a great honor that an Indian Military contingent will be marching in the Red Square tomorrow.
In the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, two Terrorists have been gunned down by security forces in an exchange of fire with terrorists in Bandzoo area of South Kashmir's Pulwama district yesterday morning.
According to police, a joint team of Pulwama Police, Army and CRPF launched a Cordon and Search Operation based on specific intelligence input about the presence of terrorists in Bandzoo area.
A Senior Police Officer said that the joint team eliminated TWO terrorists.
One CRPF personnel was also martyred in the operation. Two AK 47 Rifles have been recovered from the encounter site.
The identity of the slain terrorist is being ascertained.
This was the 11th encounter in South Kashmir this month in which 34 terrorists have been killed so far.
Jammu and Kashmir DGP Dilbagh Singh today said that Jaish-e-Mohammad was again planning to carry Improvised Explosive Device attacks on security forces in Kashmir, J&K but security forces are fully ready to tackle any eventuality.
Ministry of AYUSH on Patanjali Ayurved Ltd
The Ministry of AYUSH has asked the Patanjali Ayurved Ltd to provide at the earliest, details like the name and composition of the medicines being claimed for COVID treatment.
The AYUSH Ministry has asked it to provide details of hospitals where the research study was conducted for COVID-19, protocol, sample size, Institutional Ethics Committee clearance, CTRI registration and results data of the study.
It has directed the Company to stop advertising and publicizing such claims till the issue is duly examined.
Ministry has also requested the concerned State Licensing Authority of Uttarakhand Government to provide copies of license and product approval details of the Ayurvedic medicines being claimed for the treatment of COVID -19.
The Government has decided that Muslims from India will not go to Saudi Arabia to perform Haj due to Corona pandemic.
Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi today informed that he received a phone call from Haj & Umrah Minister of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Dr. Mohammad Saleh bin Taher Benten suggesting not to send Haj pilgrims from India this year.
Mr Naqvi said that the entire world is facing challenges posed by the pandemic and Saudi Arabia has also been affected by it.
He said that 2 lakh 13,000 applications had been received for Haj 2020.
The minister said, the process has been started today to immediately refund the full amount of money deposited by the applicants without any deduction.