Authors: Dhruv Surana and Ravina Sharma*
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is stated to have started from the city of Wuhan, China. As we all know COVID-19 was declared to be a pandemic by the World Health Organisation on 12th March, 2020. The first case of the deadly virus was detected in Kerala, India on 30th January 2020 and since then the numbers have been increasing at a tremendous rate. The Government of India, on anticipating a steep rise in the number of the cases, declared a Lockdown in India in a phased manner bringing the country to an entire standstill with only essential items available for the public at large.
Thereafter on and from 4th May, 2020 the third phase of the lockdown was enforced by the Government of India but with certain relaxations depending upon the zones (Red, Orange and Green) categorized by the Government itself. The positives of the said relaxation were only opening up of private offices with 33% staff to re-start the economy but all other relaxations are creating a situation in which the worse times are yet to be seen.
Two main relaxations given by the Government which in our opinion will result in the elephantine increase in the number of cases are opening of liquor shops and migration of the stranded labour from one state to another. Though both could have been positive if effective steps were taken by the respective State Governments but no such step was taken. On the 4th of May, 2020 itself the long ques outside the liquor shops, violating social distancing, were seen and that would result in the increase of the number of cases. The Government of India has all along asked the public to follow social distancing but the people flouted the same was were standing at not even a feet’s distance from each other. This contagious decease is set to spread with flouting of social distancing. The State Governments have increased the value of liquor by adding cess and other taxes only for the purpose to increase their revenue but are not willing to shut the liquor stores. If increase in Revenue by selling liquor is the only source of income for the State Government, the States should not have closed the liquor shops and would have continued its sale by maintaining social distancing. The Government should have started online delivery of the liquor instead of selling them in the standalone shops. Further, public had been waiting in the ques outside the liquor shops since morning but the Police authorities failed to take any steps to curtail such ques being formed violating the physical distancing. This will only lead to an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in India.
Another blunder made by the Governments was to allow migration of stranded labour from one state to another. The State Governments should have planned a much better and systematic manner for migration of the people in case they were so keen to do so. People have been seen flouting the compulsory quarantine on being migrated. The authorities failed to properly test persons before migrating them. A proper COVID-19 test should have been conducted for all persons wanting to be migrated before migrating them on buses and trains where it is humanly impossible to maintain social distancing. The labour class are the uneducated class and are not much aware about the kind of pandemic COVID-19 is and hence it is not possible to expect from them that they will be maintaining social distancing at all. There have been cases in Orissa where on migration the migrants have run away from the quarantine centres. This only shows the lacuna in the administration of the Government. Migrants sent back to Punjab from Maharashtra have been tested positive on arrival. There are many cases which have been reported where migrants have been tested positive. The State Governments are not conducting proper tests before such migration. In the recent times various persons have been tested positive who are asymptomatic but the State Governments have not yet learnt the lesson and are playing with the lives of the poor migrants. The instant surge in the number of cases where the daily toll was above 3000 cases is not leading to flattening of the curve but only an increase in the curve. The entire purpose of the lockdown will be rendered futile and the country will not be able to win over this pandemic.
Though small in size but having maximum international exposure, Thailand, which was the first country to report COVID-19 outside China on 13th January, 2020 has on date almost won the battle against COVID-19 as the cases being reported per day is only two or three. The citizens of Thailand are maintaining social distancing and hence public transport has re-opened and soon people will be living a normal life free of COVID-19. But unfortunately in India, people are wilfully and happily flouting social distancing and despite the Government’s direction mandating wearing of masks, people are being seen roaming around without wearing the masks. The reluctance of the public at large will act has a hindrance to overcome COVID-19.
It is time when strict measures are taken by the Government to ensure that public maintain social distancing and take steps to ensure that the virus does not spread. With the cases increasing each day, the curve is far from being flattened. The fight against the virus, the lockdown and all efforts taken by the corona warriors will be rendered fruitless and there will be a surge in the number of the cases. Though India was successful in curbing the increase in the cases at the beginning unlike other developed nations but steps like opening the liquor stores for earning revenue will only increase the number of cases.
India is currently facing the first wave of COVID- 19 and if steps are not taken by the Government of India to curb the spread of COVID-19 at the earliest, India will soon witness the second wave of COVID-19 which is basically the disastrous situation the developed nations are undergoing at present. Corona Virus 2.0 will be worse and our country will find it difficult to face such a situation.
We wish the State Governments in consultation with the Central Government act instantly with such steps that would flatten the curve and take steps without keeping in mind their vote banks. We wish for a COVID-19 free India at the earliest. Stay Home – Stay Safe. Jai Hind.
*Ravina Sharma- Advocate Practicing before the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi and Supreme Court of India and Research Scholar at Ansal University, Gurugram.
Youm-e-Takbeer: When A Responsible Nuclear Power Was Born
Youm-e-Takbeer is a day of greatness when Pakistan already a responsible country was transformed into a strategically mature regional power. It sensibly understood the management and liability of having nuclear weapons for security. Ever since independence, Pakistan is neighbor to a hostile state – India, ruled by extremist Hindutva ideology that has threatened Pakistan’s sovereignty and existence. In 1948, India forcefully occupied Kashmir, Hyderabad, and Junagadh areas by massacring people who did not want to annex with India.
In 1971, Indian subverting and destabilizing activities resulted in disintegration of East Pakistan. India till today is covertly sponsoring terrorism through its agents in Iran and bases in Afghanistan to weaken Pakistan. In 1998, India tested nuclear weapons while openly threatening to sabotage Pakistan. Therefore, on 28 May 1998 Pakistan as a direct response also tested nuclear weapons to deter Indian aggression at any cost. Pakistan annually commemorates this day as the National Science Day and also as a reminder of the struggle and great odds it faced in order to defuse Indian threat.
“If India had not exploded the bomb, Pakistan would not have done so. Once New Delhi did so, we had no choice because of public pressure” – Former Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif.
Acquisition of nuclear deterrence capability was also necessary to project Pakistan’s self-sufficiency in defense against any territorial threat. Pakistan’s nuclear tests made it clear that when it comes to national honor and survival, Pakistan would maintain a balance of power against its adversaries. Indian acquisition of nuclear weapons compelled Pakistan to build its nuclear muscle for improving national security, otherwise it had no intentions to do so. India’s covert pursuit of weapons of mass destruction had drastically heightened the security perception of Pakistan.
South Asian strategic dynamics were changed forever with the advent of nuclear weapons. Former Indian Home Minister L.K. Advani warned Pakistan that it should “realize the change in the geo-strategic situation in the region and the world” and Pakistan must submit to Indian dictation otherwise “will be futile and costly for Pakistan.” So, the hostile hegemonic plan of India had to be neutralized by Pakistan through reciprocating nuclear tests. Since then, nuclear dissuasion has played a critical role in political security and strategic stability of South Asia. It is pertinent to note that Pakistan has always been hesitant to engage in the nuclear weapons race in South Asia.
It is quite obvious that Pakistan’s decision makers are well aware of repercussions of military conflict and escalation as well as nuclear arms race in the region. Pakistan on numerous occasions has bilaterally proposed India to limit the manufacturing or acquisition of nuclear weapons in order to strengthen arms control and disarmament in the region. India, though, has always declined to sign any disarmament or restraint agreement with Pakistan.
So, it is India, which is to be blame for triggering the nuclear arms race in the region. For instance, following are the occasions when Pakistan proposed restraint solutions to India:
1974 – The establishment of a nuclear weapons free zone in south Asia.
1978 – A joint Indo-Pakistan declaration renouncing the acquisition and manufacture of nuclear weapons.
1979 – Mutual inspections of nuclear facilities.
1979 – Simultaneous adherence to the NPT.
1979 – Simultaneous acceptance of full-scope IAEA safeguards.
1987 – An agreement on a bilateral or regional nuclear test ban treaty.
1991 – Commencement of a multilateral conference on the nuclear proliferation in south Asia.
1993 – Creation of a missile-free zone in south Asia.
1998 – A strategic restraint regime aimed at ensuring a nuclear restraint, establishing a conventional balance, and resolution of all disputes between the two countries.
2004 – A joint agreement to reduce the threat of nuclear war and a missile race.
2006 – A prohibition on development of missile defense systems, and restraint in deployment of nuclear weapons and missiles.
2011 – Again a Strategic Nuclear Restraint Regime (SNRR) pertain to Missile Restraint, Peaceful Resolution of Conflict and Conventional Balance.
2016 – A bilateral arrangement on non-testing of nuclear weapons.
These propositions, however, were met with cold feet by India, which not only decreased nuclear weapons control possibilities in the region, but also pressured Pakistan to enter the nuclear arms race. Unlike India, Pakistan has no offensive strategic approach or aggressive hegemonic design rather, its nuclear capability is purely defensive. A nuclear conscious Pakistan has a strong understanding of the sensitivities involved in military adventurism.
Youm-e-Takbeer has helped Pakistani leaders in making wise decisions to consistently support nuclear nonproliferation. Pakistani scientists and engineers have employed research and development of nuclear technology for peaceful uses. For instance, power generation, agriculture, medicine, and environment. Pakistan believes in peaceful coexistence and as a responsible nuclear country, it has put serious efforts to settle longstanding disputes. If the international community would force India to follow the same, South Asia could not go into nuclear brinkmanship.
The U.S Lauded Pakistan’s Assistance in Fighting COVID-19
The United States has thanked Pakistan for its donation of protective gear and surgical masks to support the fight against coronavirus. In a Tweet, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appreciated Pakistan’s goodwill donation of surgical masks and protective suits to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He said this delivery is a symbol of Pak-US solidarity in the fight against COVID-19 and termed it a “partnership for the prosperity of the two countries.”
Meanwhile, the US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Alice Wells, in her tweet, also expressed gratitude to Pakistan for the goodwill donation. She said our countries’ health partnership and the coordinated response would help defeat this virus and rebuild our prosperity.
Earlier, the consignment of Personal Protective Equipment from Pakistan via a C-130 flight from Islamabad landed at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland. The equipment was also handed over to the US Federal Emergency Management Agency for onward delivery to the US armed forces.
Pakistan values its Seven Decades-long friendship with the US. Although, it is meager Medical Supplies, yet as a token of friendships values a lot. Pakistan is also facing a huge challenge of the outbreak, and the rapid growth is alarming in Pakistan. Nevertheless, Pakistan is a responsible nation and always willing to share its part of responsibility in any part of the World. Either it is a natural disaster or warlike disaster, Pakistan always played its role on the front line as a volunteer. Pakistan is a country with the highest number of philanthropists per million population.
The US was one of the few first countries that recognized Pakistan in 1947 after getting independence from British rule. Pakistan was a close ally with the US in the cold war era and the Afghan War. Pakistan was a frontline ally with the US in its War on terror. Pakistan enjoyed non-NATO close ally status. Definitely, Pakistan was also beneficiary of US AID and assistance. Either it was on Economic front, or S&T, Defense or Education, Military or civilian, Agriculture or Industry, almost all areas witnessed the US assistance in the past. The US is a major trading partner with Pakistan too.
Pakistan has no objection if the US changed its priorities and aligned itself with India. The US is aiming to strengthen India to counter China, but India used all of the American assistance to counter Pakistan. The US may keep balance and restrict its assistance to India to a condition not to use against Pakistan. There can be designed a monitoring and tracking system to check that American assistance is not used against Pakistan directly or indirectly. A close monitoring system may be deployed on India and verifiable by any third party. I believe “there is the way if there is a will.”
Prime Minister Imran Khan is a visionary leader and peace-loving in nature. His declared-policy to be a partner in peace with any country in any part of the World is well appreciated widely. Pakistan was a victim of the Afghan War for the last four decades and learned a bitter lesson. War means disaster; War means a net loss of human lives and economy; War means no victory for either side. Pakistan will be no longer partner wth any one in War with any country.
Pakistan’s strategic location, where it connects almost half of the World and at the major trade route – Middle-East to rest of the World, is vital for maintaining peace and stability of this region as well as the whole World. Pakistan is a nation of 220 Million, with its 70% population of youth under the age of 40 years. Pakistan is a resilient nation and can survive under any circumstances.
Pakistan wanted to keep traditional friendship with the US and strongly wish an early resumption. Pakistan wanted to contribute its potential to global peace and stability. In the past, especially in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, Pakistan kept close alliance with the US while maintaining its strategic relations with China. I hope the US may not object to Pakistan’s strategic interest with China or Russia while restoring traditional friendship with Pakistan.
The Need for Pakistan’s Digitalisation Policy
Change is the only constant and one has to keep evolving through new trends in order to compete with the changing dynamics of the world. There is no denying the fact that any country’s economic growth is now directly linked to one factor i.e., adoption of information and communications technology. The adoption of digitalisation is the new reality where majority of population has access to mobile phones and internet than to basic necessities of life. Digitalisation is not a choice, it is the need of the hour, therefore, the governments are now determining their policies and strategies for digitalising every sector, to promote and strengthen their socio-economic fabric.
Keeping in view the current scenario, the COVID-19 has had a major impact on almost all socio-economic sectors, the digital world has never been more important than it is today, Digitalisation is the new normal where consumers are buying everything online whether it is to buy groceries and essentials or to socialise and virtually reach with friends and family. During this critical time, many of these adoptions will persist long even after the situation has stabilised.
Globally countries are adopting new ways through digitalisation to ease the life of their citizens by providing them with improved and rapid amenities. The access to free internet services made it possible to pave the way for effective digitalization. An exponential increase is observed in the number of internet providers and consumers which demonstrates that the world is adapting with the concept of digitalization. It is witnessed that the developed countries has already shifted all their services from the outdated ways to online portals to facilitate the masses. In recent years, Pakistan is also evolving its IT sector promptly by introducing the latest technological mechanisms in the country.
The present government has taken up the task to digitalize the entire country and is working hard to create an e-governance system to bring down corruption, to ensure accountability process and also to augment the productivity in the country. The government has been taking great strides in the advancement of technology- from the Mohafiz app to digitizing the Postal service and the introduction of Tax Asaan mobile app which provides taxpayers with quick access of verification features like active Taxpayers list (ATL), NTN/STRN inquiry and exemption certificate etc. and many more. The PTI government has been proactive in the inclusion of technology within various segments and has also launched the online FIR system where people can submit their complaints online, and will be facilitated by government officials.
Nevertheless one might assume that digitalisation and government don’t blend,but in reality this fusion is helping the government agencies and officials to represent their agendas and administrative progress directly to the people through social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc.).Perhaps the defined role of government social media accounts is to serve as a source of unrestricted updates. This includes everything from present initiatives to upcoming policy reforms and breaking news. Therefore, news should be a foundation of your content strategy as a government account. For instance, we are currently seeing social media crisis management in action for government organisations, including real-time updates in response to COVID-19. This illustrates that social media actually serves as a first hand source of information and provides people with timely updates. This is the brilliance of digitalisation and government that the voters and opposition are already there and the government has only one job that is to publish content which engages the attention from the public. This also suggests educating your followers by clarifying potential misinformation, keeping in view the fact that how quickly fabricated content can spread through social media, the government accounts serve as an important source for authentic information.
Statically, as per Pakistan’s Digital2020 Report, Feb 2020: there were 76.38 million internet users in Pakistan in January 2020 which illustrates that the number of internet users has increased by 11 million (+17%) between 2019 and 2020 and internet penetration in Pakistan stood at 35%. As far as the social media users in Pakistan are concerned, the number has increased by 2.4 million (+7.0%) between April 2019 and January 2020 which shows that there were 37.00 million social media users in Pakistan in January 2020 and the penetration rate stood at 17%.The source of this penetration depends widely on mobile connections in Pakistan. Reportedly, there were 164.9 million mobile connections in Pakistan in January 2020. The number of mobile connections increased by 9.6 million (+6.2%) between January 2019 and January 2020. Surprisingly, the number of mobile connections in Pakistan was equivalent to 75% of the total population in January, 2020.
With these growth trends projected to persist in the future, Pakistan is dire need of a comprehensive ‘Digitalisation Policy’. There should be a policy that must be implemented in its true spirits, and the government should devise an efficient monitoring mechanism to evaluate the vitality of that policy.
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