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30th April – Editorials/Opinions Analyses


  1. Afghan peace and India’s elbow room
  2. Limitations of online learning
  3. COVID-19 A greater impact on women
  4. Strategic Shift – Reserving Healthcare for those who need it most


Focus: GS-II International Relations

Why in news?

  • Earlier in April, the United Nations Secretariat held a meeting of what it calls the “6+2+1” group on regional efforts to support peace in Afghanistan.
  • This “6+2+1” group includes six neighbouring countries: China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan; global players the United States and Russia, and Afghanistan itself.
  • India was conspicuous by its absence from the meeting on April 16, given its historical and strategic ties with Afghanistan, but not for the first time.

Left out, but some recovery

  • In 2020, the reason given for keeping India out of regional discussions on Afghanistan was ostensibly that it holds no “boundary” with Afghanistan, however the reason could be the fact that: India has never announced its support for the U.S.-Taliban peace process.
  • When excluded in 2001 and 2010 in separate incidents however, India fought back its exclusion successfully.
  • In 2011, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Afghanistan President Karzai signed the historic Strategic Partnership Agreement, which was Afghanistan’s first such agreement with any country.

New Delhi’s stand

  • As planners in South Block now consider their next steps in Afghanistan, they must fight back against the idea that any lasting solution in Afghanistan can be discussed without India in the room, while also studying the reasons for such exclusions.
  • India’s resistance to publicly talking to the Taliban has made it an awkward interlocutor at any table.
  • India’s position that only an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, and Afghan-controlled process can be allowed is a principled one, but has no takers.
  • The U.S.-Taliban peace deal means that the Taliban, which has not let up on violent attacks on the Afghan Army, will become more potent as the U.S. withdraws soldiers from the country, and will hold more sway in the inter-Afghan process as well, as the U.S. withdraws funding for the government in Kabul.
  • India’s presence inside Afghanistan, which has been painstakingly built up since 2001, is being threatened anew by terror groups such as the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), believed to be backed by Pakistan’s establishment.

What dents India’s goodwill?

  • The building blocks of that goodwill are India’s assistance in infrastructure projects, health care, education, trade and food security, and also in the liberal access to Afghans to study, train and work in India.
  • India’s example as a pluralistic, inclusive democracy also inspires many.
  • Afghanistan’s majority-Muslim citizens, many of whom have treated India as a second home, have felt cut out of the move to offer fast track citizenship to only Afghan minorities, as much as they have by reports of anti-Muslim rhetoric and incidents of violence in India.
  • India’s assistance of more than $3 billion in projects, trade of about $1 billion, a $20 billion projected development expenditure of an alternate route through Chabahar, as well as its support to the Afghan National Army, bureaucrats, doctors and other professionals for training in India should assure it a leading position in Afghanistan’s regional formulation.
  • It would be a mistake, at this point, to tie all India’s support in only to Kabul or the Ghani government; the government must strive to endure that its aid and assistance is broad-based, particularly during the novel coronavirus pandemic to centres outside the capital, even if some lie in areas held by the Taliban.

Read More About the U.S. – Taliban Deal at:

Read More About India’s Concerns with the U.S. – Taliban deal at:

Way Forward: Making a leap

  • India must also pursue opportunities to fulfil its role in the peace efforts in Afghanistan, starting with efforts to bridge the Ghani-Abdullah divide, and bringing together other major leaders with whom India has built ties for decades.
  • An understanding between Iran and the U.S. on Afghanistan is necessary for lasting peace as well, and India could play a mediatory part, as it did in order for the Chabahar project.
  • New Delhi should use the United Nations’s call for a pause in conflicts during the novel coronavirus pandemic, to ensure a hold on hostilities with Pakistan.
  • If there is one lesson that the the U.S.-Taliban talks have imparted, it is that both have found it necessary to come to the table for talks on Afghanistan’s future.
  • For India, given its abiding interest in Afghanistan’s success and traditional warmth for its people, making that leap should be a bit easier.
  • Above all, the government must consider the appointment of a special envoy, as it has been done in the past, to deal with its efforts in Afghanistan, which need both diplomatic agility and a firmness of purpose at a watershed moment in that country’s history.

-Source: The Hindu


Focus: GS-III Science and Technology

Why in news?

  • Universities and colleges were in the middle of the second semester of their academic year when the lockdown was enforced.
  • A few universities made hasty arrangements for teachers to continue to hold their classes virtually through video conferencing services such as Zoom.
  • The transition to virtual modes was relatively less difficult for those institutions that had, even prior to the lockdown, adopted learning management system platforms like Blackboard or Moodle.
  • All the above were well-meaning attempts, albeit somewhat impromptu, to keep the core educational processes going through this period.

Strategy to enhance enrolment?

  • It was reported that online education was likely to be adopted as a strategy to enhance the gross enrolment ratio in higher education.
  • This prompts several questions about the appropriateness of what may well be an effective contingency measure to tide over the pandemic crisis to be deployed as a long-term strategy for enhancing enrolment in higher education.

What about those who are on the margins?

  • Higher education today has an unprecedented influx of students who are first-generation aspirants – who have no cultural capital to bank on while struggling their way through college.
  • The margins would have to negotiate through language and social barriers.
  • These students are also from the other side of the digital divide which makes them vulnerable to a double disadvantage if digital modes become the mainstay of education.
  • It is therefore necessary to think deeply and gather research-based evidences on the extent to which online education can be deployed to help enhance the access and success rates.

What learning involves?

  • Acquisition of given knowledge that can be transmitted didactically by a teacher or a text constitutes only one minor segment of curricular content. It is this segment that is largely amenable to online and digital forms of transaction.
  • Learning in Higher Education involves development of analytical and other intellectual skills, the ability to critically deconstruct and evaluate given knowledge, and the creativity to make new connections and syntheses.
  • It also means to acquire practical skills, explore, inquire, seek solutions to complex problems, learn to work in teams and more.
  • All these by and large assume direct human engagement – not just teacher-student interaction, but also peer interactions, including informal ones.
  • However, when we attempt to build this on an Online platform it gets collapsed into largely information-based content when transacted through standard and uniform structures of teaching-learning and examination.


Online learning needs to be understood as one strand in a complex tapestry of curricular communication that may still assign an important central role to direct human engagement and social learning.

-Source: The Hindu


Focus: GS-II Social Justice

Introduction: Inequality exposed

  • The pandemic is exposing and exploiting inequalities of all kinds, including gender inequality.
  • The Lockdowns increase the risk of violence towards women trapped with abusive partners.
  • Recent weeks have seen an alarming global surge in domestic violence while support services for women at risk face cuts and closures.
  • The threat to women’s rights and freedoms posed by COVID-19 goes far beyond physical violence. The deep economic downturn accompanying the pandemic is likely to have a distinctly female face.
  • Many women face a huge increase in care work due to school closures, overwhelmed health systems, and the increased needs of older people.
  • Entrenched inequality also means that while women make up 70% of healthcare workers, they are vastly outnumbered by men in healthcare management, and comprise just one in every 10 political leaders worldwide – which harms us all.

Things that can be done to help

  • Every country can take action by moving services online, expanding domestic violence shelters and designating them as essential, and increasing support to front line organisations.
  • The United Nations’ partnership with the European Union, the Spotlight Initiative, is working with governments in more than 25 countries on these and similar measures, and stands ready to expand its support.
  • We need women at the table when decisions are taken on this pandemic, to prevent worst-case scenarios like a second spike in infections, labour shortages, and even social unrest.
  • Women in insecure jobs urgently need basic social protections, from health insurance to paid sick leave, childcare, income protection and unemployment benefits.
  • The unpaid domestic work that women do must be included in economic metrics and decision-making. We will all gain from working arrangements that recognise people’s caring responsibilities, and from inclusive economic models that value work at home.

-Source: The Hindu


Focus: GS-III Disaster Management


In a containment strategy tweak, those with a mild form of the disease, or are pre-symptomatic, would have the option of home quarantining. But their homes ought to have self-isolation facilities, a full-time caregiver, and daily health-status reports given to the district surveillance officer.

Why is such a move done?

  • The Health Ministry has not explained what prompted this relative relaxation. Anecdotal evidence suggests doctors and health-care workers have been disproportionately vulnerable to the infection and a single case leads to entire hospitals being shut down.
  • Allowing home quarantine could be seen as health authorities inferring that quarantining in public facilities posed more risks.
  • The pre-symptomatic (mild illness) and the asymptomatic (no signs) did not benefit from treatment and were potent virus spreaders, and therefore endangered the staff and health workers. They also stretched State resources in maintenance.
  • Among those who tested positive, there were two pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic for every symptomatic.
  • The disease spread, it appears, is now beyond the ability of the state to contain, by quarantine, and it was far more prudent to fortify health workers and hospitals with the best facilities available to handle patients.

-Source: The Hindu

December 2023