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At a time when India is continuing its struggle against the second wave of COVID-19, a report released by the Centre for Sustainable Employment at Azim Premji University (APU) revealed that the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic pushed nearly 23 crore Indians into poverty.

The report also highlighted the fact that this disproportionate impact on the poor was the result of the slow recovery of labour market which was hard hit last year because of the nationwide lockdown.

The report under the name ‘State of Working India Report 2021: One Year of COVID’ also stated that since the arrival of the pandemic, rural India witnessed a rise of about 15 percent in poverty while a 20 percent rise was registered in urban areas.

Another shocking observation of the report was that the pandemic enforced these 23 crore Indians to fall below the national minimum wage poverty line. This means that all these individuals are now earning below the national minimum wage threshold of Rs. 375 per day, which was recommended by the Anoop Satpathy committee.

The report noted how crores of Indians lost their jobs during the strict nationwide lockdown in 2020 and that an average household of four members saw their monthly per capita income fall to Rs. 4,979, below the pre-pandemic level of Rs. 5,989 as of October 2020.

In light of the facts, the study also suggested that the decline in aggregate income was majorly due to the reduction in earnings by about 90 percent, while 10 percent was due to loss of employment. This indicated that even though most workers were able to go back to work they had to settle for lower earnings.

The report further highlighted that the pandemic has increased informality as nearly half of formal salaried workers moved into informal work, either as self-employed (30 percent), casual wage (10 percent) or informal salaried (9 percent) workers, between late 2019 and late 2020.

Apart from this, women and younger workers have also been disproportionately affected due to the pandemic.

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Polity

President Joe Biden’s Conversation with the Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen

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President Joe Biden's Conversation with the Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen

President Joe Biden landed in Cambodia on Saturday and supported the ASEAN nations. Before the eagerly anticipated Group of 20 summits next week in Indonesia, where Biden will meet with Xi for the first time in person since he took office, there will be a weekend of meetings in Cambodia. Before meeting with Xi, the president can engage with US allies at the ASEAN summits and the East Asia Summit on Sunday, both in Phnom Penh.

The US-ASEAN Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, which, according to Biden, “will tackle the biggest issues of our time, from climate to health security, defend against the significant threats to rule-based order and threats to the rule of law, and build an Indo-Pacific that’s free and open, stable and prosperous, resilient and secure,” was announced as “another critical step” toward building on the group’s progress during his remarks at the summit. He cited a budget proposal for $850 million in support for Southeast Asia while praising the US’s current financial commitments to ASEAN.

“This is my third journey and third summit, my second in person.” The value reflects the United States’ commitment to our relationship with ASEAN and our dedication to the region’s centrality. The core of the Indo-Pacific strategy of my administration is ASEAN. In his opening remarks to the meeting, Biden said, “And we continue to reinforce our resolve to work in lockstep with an empowered, united ASEAN.”

To build on the ASEAN leaders’ conference in Washington earlier this year, the president’s first meeting in Cambodia was with Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia.

From the beginning of his presidency, Biden “was intent on elevating our engagement in the Indo-Pacific,” according to national security adviser Jake Sullivan, and his attendance at the ASEAN and East Asia summits this weekend will highlight his accomplishments to date, including the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework unveiled earlier this year and security partnership initiatives.

“He’s coming into this series of summits with that track record of success and purpose behind him, and he wants to be able to use the next 36 hours to build on that foundation to move American engagement forward, as well as to deliver several actual, practical initiatives,” Sullivan said.

New initiatives on maritime cooperation, internet connectivity, and economic investment are some of these valuable measures, according to Sullivan. He added that Biden will soon begin a new maritime initiative that will “focus on using radio frequencies from commercial satellites to be able to track dark shipping, illegal and unregulated fishing, and also to improve the capacity of the countries of the region to respond to disasters and humanitarian crises.”

Further, he added, Biden will also emphasize a “forward-deployed posture” toward regional defense to demonstrate that the US is actively pursuing security cooperation.

Biden also mentioned a brand-new US-ASEAN electric car infrastructure program during his speech.

He described the project as “a collaborative effort to build an integrated electric car ecosystem in Southeast Asia, enabling the region to achieve sustainable energy, economic growth, and ambitious emissions reduction targets.”

Discussions on coordination “to continue to impose costs and build pressure on the junta” will also be centered on Myanmar, which was the subject of a February 2021 coup that ousted the country’s democratically elected government.

Key Highlights

Concerns raised by Biden regarding Chinese activity at the Cambodian Ream Naval Base. The president expressed concern over the circumstances at Ream Naval Base and emphasized the value of complete transparency regarding the PRC (China’s) military activities there.

The US President congratulated Cambodia’s Prime Minister for backing Ukraine at the UN and spoke about the turmoil in military-ruled Myanmar.

President Biden also conveyed his gratitude to Cambodia for supporting resolutions at the UN to defend Ukraine from the brutal assault of Russia.

He thanked Cambodia for holding the ASEAN helm through a trying year.

The leaders “reflection on the historic US-ASEAN Special Summit’s success in Washington, DC and applauded plans to establish a US-ASEAN Comprehensive Strategic Partnership at the annual US-ASEAN Summit later that day.”

Along with the ASEAN Five Point Consensus, they also discussed the crisis in Burma and ASEAN’s reaction, highlighting the international community’s crucial role in restoring of democracy and stability in Burma.

In addition, Biden urged releasing activists like Seng Theory and a dual US-Cambodia citizen arrested on politically motivated allegations. The commitment of the United States to the Cambodian people and their goals for a more wealthy, democratic, and independent nation was reaffirmed by President Biden.

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Why Olaf Scholz, Chancellor of Germany, is sending a message of Independence by visiting China

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Germany Chancellor Olaf Scholz visits China

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was the first G7 head of state to visit China since the outbreak. After the public health crisis, the world changed. The relationship between China and Germany seems to be returning to normal. Since Xi Jinping was re-crowned as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, Scholz is the first prominent European figure to visit China.

Nguyen PhuTrong, the head of the Vietnamese Communist Party, Shehbaz Sharif, and Samia Hassan, the president of Tanzania, arrived in Beijing before Scholz. Given that China’s relations with Europe have deteriorated due to Uyghur human rights in Xinjiang and Chinese support for Russia in the Ukraine conflict, the Scholz visit last week was positive for Beijing.

Germany’s biggest European economy will be even more reliant on China in the first quarter of 2022. During this time, Germany invested €10 billion in China. The amount of bilateral commerce increased by 0.9% to $173.57 billion. Imports from Germany are up 54%. The medium-term ambitions of Germany are in jeopardy due to its 1.9% growth rate.

German investment in China grew by 30% in 2022 despite the Ukraine crisis and criticism of China. A €69.5 billion railway project connecting Tianjin, in North China, and Beijing Daxing International Airport is being financed by KfW (the German state-owned development and investment bank), BASF, Hella, and Robert Bosch. For a total of $17 billion, China is purchasing 140 Airbus planes. Costco, a Chinese shipping business, was permitted to invest in Germany’s busiest port, Hamburg, prior to the visit, but with a smaller share. Additionally, the arrival of Scholz coincided with polarization and deteriorating US-China ties. Due to the Ukraine conflict, Germany soon adopted a similar strategy to the US, breaking its contact with Russia.

It maintains caution regarding China because its economic interests are crucial. Scholz met with PM Modi in Berlin after starting his Asia strategy with a visit to Japan rather than China. Germany’s foreign policy did not give China top priority, but it is nevertheless significant. It looks inconvenient that the visit comes right after the CCP’s 20th National Congress.

Germany confronting China alone has angered Europe. Germany rejected the joint Scholz-Macron visit. The visit by Scholz and a corporate delegation demonstrates a duplication of Angela Merkel’s approach. German businesses, which are already suffering from the epidemic, the energy crisis, and the break from Russia, according to the ruling SPD, cannot afford to decouple from China. The German Foreign Ministry criticizes China’s human rights record and is developing a new China strategy to counter the systemic rivalry that the EU anticipated.

The Scholz visit revealed strategic independence in Germany. When viewed from the perspective of German relations with Russia, the same autonomy is apparent.

If Germany sways away for its own reasons, how will it continue to lead Europe? Scholz needed to pull many savvy rabbits out of his Beijing visit if he wanted to position Germany and potentially Europe as independent players in the inevitable US-China polarization.

Scholz provided background information for his visit in an opinion piece that was published in the FAZ the day before. Since Merkel’s most recent trip to China in 2019, he admitted that the world had undergone significant upheaval. It was crucial to have a face-to-face meeting with Xi in order to address the world’s unresolved problems, not because he intended to carry on as normal. China had seen a major upheaval. The German approach had to adapt as well because China had changed.

Additionally, the world had changed. Russia posed a menace that needed Chinese assistance to counter. China was reminded of its unique duty to uphold the UN Charter’s ideals and exert influence over Russia as a permanent member of the UN Security Council. This is similar to what China claims about Russia in its Global Security Initiative, which it has yet to put into action. Scholz talked about the necessity of increasing Germany’s partnerships and the multipolarity of the world.

Berlin works with various partners because he does not want to see blocs reemerge. China shouldn’t be left alone, and a Chinese-dominated world system cannot be cozy. Germany and Europe continue to value China as a trading partner. Berlin didn’t want to cut its ties with it. With China, Germany would want more parity and economic diversification. When it came to rare earth, cutting-edge technologies, or raw resources, “risky dependencies” had grown. German enterprises were developing different supply chains. China and Germany will now look for a differentiated basis for trade and investment. Instead of “protectionism and withdrawal,” Germany prefers diversity and strengthening.

Scholz’s fourth goal was that the disparities between China and Germany, notably those involving political and civil rights, including in Xinjiang, could not be overlooked. Scholz stated that while Germany adheres to the One-China policy, any change to Taiwan’s status must be peaceful and reached via mutual consent.

Germany’s China policy, according to Scholz, will be effective if it is in line with European policy. In his opinion, there were various areas where China should have a role, including dealing with the G 20, the SDGs, and other things. Before his visit, he consulted with the EU, French President Macron, and the US.

The Chinese readout supports the majority of what Scholz claimed. To preserve Germany’s strategic autonomy, Xi is courting it. Despite Scholz’s concerns, it stated that “there should be no self-imposed constraints or unrealistic expectations” and publicly disregarded the Taiwan and Xinjiang issues.

This visit is significant because Germany has again demonstrated its desire for strategic independence from the US. Before the Ukraine crisis, which caused them all to flee in the wake of NATO and US leadership, the German coalition and other German and European nations had this as their top priority. Europe is suffering from sanctions and a diminished energy supply due to the standoff in the Ukraine conflict. Despite resistance from within Germany and outside Europe, Germany appears prepared to continue its relationship with China. It must protect its economic growth against the ravages of conflict.

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Elections in Nepal Are Crucial For India As Xi Jinping is Growing Interest in South Asia

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election in nepal crucial for india

In a recent essay published in The Kathmandu Post, China’s departing ambassador to Nepal, HouYanqi, mentioned the forthcoming parliamentary elections and expressed the hope that bilateral relations will “continue to achieve new levels.”

It was clear from Beijing’s overt indication that it wanted to maintain strong bilateral relations irrespective of the outcome. Since China has a lot riding on the election results on November 20, India, Nepal’s other prominent neighbor, agrees.

The influence of Nepal, which is geographically positioned between the two Asian superpowers, has been the subject of a high-stakes power struggle between them. They both want a “friendly” administration in Kathmandu in a few weeks.

However, Nepal’s elections are just some of the ones being watched closely by China and India. The US is similarly interested in the outcome, given its fierce regional competition with China.

The US spent significant diplomatic capital over the past year to ensure Kathmandu agreed to its own $500 million Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) agreement that calls for constructing roads and energy infrastructure in Nepal. This was done to counter China’s multi-billion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in the Indo-Pacific, which Nepal has endorsed.

Though on the surface, Washington’s State Partnership Programme (SPP) appeared to entail the Nepal Army collaborating with the Utah State National Guard on “humanitarian and disaster management” issues, Kathmandu has been unable to join. However, the SPP has a hidden military purpose and the goal of bringing Nepal on board with the American Indo-Pacific strategy.

Once elections for the 275-member House of Representatives (PratinidhiSabha) and its seven provincial assemblies are complete, New Delhi, Beijing, and Washington will all seek a government in Kathmandu that will protect, if not advance, their strategic interests.

Two erratic electoral coalitions have been established for the time being, with the same old, senile warhorses vying for the position of prime minister. Current Nepali Congress leader SherBahadurDeuba leads one alliance, while former PM K P Sharma Oli of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist leads the other.

Given that Nepalese leaders are motivated more by political expediency and opportunism than by ideology, it is not surprising that Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the leader of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre), who was formerly a member of the grand Communist alliance, is now a member of the coalition led by Deuba.

Also Read: A Cruel Birth of Bangladesh – Book Review

Madhav Kumar Nepal, another former prime minister, is also a member of the ruling coalition. After criticizing Oli’s authoritarian behavior, he broke up his relationship with him last year, dividing the CPN-UML. He is presently the leader of Nepal’s newly established Communist Party (Unified Socialist).

A stable Nepali administration that prioritizes its strategic interests is essential for India. However, stability is unlikely to even in the following administration, given the infamy. Nepalese politicians have amassed due to their unquenchable quest for power and the prime ministership.

In addition to causing severe political turmoil within Nepal to ensure his government’s survival, pro-China Oli’s tenure as prime minister caused New Delhi some difficulty. He ferociously incited nationalist feelings, even changing Nepal’s map, sparking a response to the Kalapani territorial dispute with India. As a result, under his leadership, relations between New Delhi and Kathmandu were considerably chilly.

Following Deuba’s appointment as PM in July of last year, who was seen as being pro-India, there was a thaw. Although a coalition administration would make his position shaky as well, New Delhi would likely gamble on Deuba returning to lead the government.

India, which historically regarded Nepal as its backyard because of its connections to civilization and culture and its physical proximity, has seen its influence there fade even as China has made significant gains, luring the nation with its resources and building projects.

Even more, concerning for India is the fact that Beijing has established strong bonds not just with the Communist parties but also with Nepalese leaders who cross party lines. Therefore, the outcome of the election is much more vital for New Delhi.

The fact that the outgoing Chinese envoy publicly attempted to serve as a “peace-maker” to keep the feuding factions of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) united when Oli was prime minister two years ago provides evidence of the extent to which Chinese influence has permeated Nepal’s political system.

Beijing exerted much effort to bring the Communist parties—the Oli-led CPN-UML and the Dahal-led CPN (Maoist Centre)—together. India is well aware that China will continue its efforts to make sure the Communist-led coalition wins, even though this front collapsed due to the fierce struggle for dominance between Oli and Dahal. New Delhi will be crossing its fingers in the hopes that the new political climate in Kathmandu will be stable and advantageous.

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Polity

How Does Poverty Impact Education of Children?

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Impact of poverty on child education

One of the main areas where family incomes have an impact is educational outcomes. As seen by school readiness assessments, children from low-income homes frequently begin school behind their counterparts from more affluent families. Along with neighborhood factors and social networks, poverty’s occurrence, depth, duration, and timeliness impact a child’s educational success. However, interventions conducted in Canada and abroad have demonstrated that the impacts of poverty can be diminished by employing long-lasting solutions. In primary care settings, pediatricians and family physicians have numerous possibilities to influence student’s preparation for school and academic achievement. In addition to food, shelter, and clothing, education is one of the necessities of modern existence. 

The Indian Constitution has given everyone the right to live honorably and with dignity toward all citizens. The State has been taking several actions to guarantee this fundamental right.  The universalization of free and obligatory primary education for all children of school age is one of them—additionally, the right to adhere to and spread faith and religion. In contrast, formal education is a means of guaranteeing the right to live with honor and dignity. In a multireligious secular nation like ours, the latter is a prerequisite environment—to practice and spread the faith of one’s own free will.

Impact of Childhood Poverty on Student’s Education and Their Life Trajectory

Education is a potent weapon for combating poverty and unemployment, enhancing nutritional and health standards, and reaching environmental protection. The formal education system recognizes primary education as a fundamental human right and essential for each person’s personal and social growth. A catalyst is provided by education. It causes changes in society’s economy, culture, and technology. It is said to be the most crucial method of improving one’s characteristics, overcoming obstacles, and seizing further possibilities for long-lasting well-being enhancement. Many individuals are impacted by poverty. But it might be argued that kids are most affected by poverty. And with 1.21 billion people on the planet, children in India who live below the poverty line will undoubtedly suffer the consequences. 

Poverty not only hinders a child’s growth but also negatively impacts a child’s educational performance and a lack of access to moral guidance and a moral framework. In the earliest years of life, poverty affects a child’s development and educational outcomes directly and indirectly through mediated, regulated, and transactional processes. In the United States and increasingly developing nations, it has been acknowledged that school readiness, or a child’s capacity to use and benefit from education, plays a unique role in helping people transcend poverty. Although it is a crucial component, a strategy to reduce poverty must include numerous other elements, such as better opportunity frameworks and family empowerment.

How Does Poverty Impact Education of Children in India

India, which now has the world’s third-largest purchasing power parity economy, has been an urban-cantered, industrializing nation since its independence in 1947. Over the last 25 years, India has been noted for its significant economic growth, which looks to continue for the 2017 -2018 fiscal year with an expected growth rate of 7.2 percent. While India has maintained much financial success, many failures and weaknesses still debilitate the nation’s full potential. For example, the poverty rate in India has been less severe in recent years, but there is still much room for improvement.

According to the World Bank’s definition of extreme poverty in 2016, 270 million Indians made ends meet on $1.90 or less daily. Eighty percent of those affected by these circumstances resided in rural India, where everyday work is the primary source of income for the populace. Despite what would have appeared to be an economic boom over the previous 25 years, most growth has been in cities where the software development centers of huge international businesses like IBM and Microsoft are located. Economic growth does not appear to solve the problems of extreme poverty in the manner a neoliberal system would, given the gap between urban and rural living.

Even if educational advancements have not been exclusively responsible for India’s decline in extreme poverty over the past 20 years, the country’s poverty rate has been significantly impacted by investments made in improving the country’s primary education. Despite India’s low literacy and education rates compared to other countries, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) has made significant strides recently and expanded its reach to all of India’s districts. According to a recent assessment, there is no teaching activity and low student progression rates in half of India’s government institutions. Promoting high-quality education is necessary if the country is to alleviate extreme poverty truly.

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Defence

“Let people eat cake” says Pakistan Navy

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In 1789 during yet another famine in France, the princess Marie Antoinette upon being told that the peasants had no bread, is said to have replied with frivolous disregard for the starving peasants with the words “Let them eat cake”. Today, the condition of the Pakistani citizens is quite similar to the French peasants of 1789.

The desperate economic conditions in Pakistan and the impact of floods has led the Finance Ministry to issue directives for implementing strict austerity measures for year 2022 – 2023. These measures aim to curtail operating expenditure and reduce the economic burden of the people.

However, it seems that these directives never reached their Navy.

Very recently, Pakistan Navy Ships Shamsheer and Nasr visited Yokosuka Port in Japan with an aim to participate in the International Fleet Review. In much contrast to the government verdict of “no unnecessary expenditure”, the visit was neither mandatory nor of importance. However much to the citizen’s dismay, neither the empty coffers nor the grave economic situation of the people seemed to deter the Navy from going on a tourism cum shopping spree.

Pakistan Navy Ships visit Yokosuka Port in Japan

In economically stable conditions, a Naval ship’s visit to a foreign port would have been welcomed by the citizens. However the economic burden posed by  these activities have quadrupled the fear of a complete breakdown of society. While the cost of fuel for such a long voyage is in itself a huge deterrent, the fact that the ships will be stopping at almost five to seven countries during the futile passage, has made matters worse.

Monetary Implications of this cruise

Let’s look at the basic requirement of a naval voyage. The mandatory requirements include buying stores, fuel/lubricants, undertaking necessary repairs, paying the crew in international currency etc. But is this all? Definitely not. Each stop at a foreign port will require a mandatory interaction with the diplomats, exchange of gifts, parties with great pomp and show to announce the naval ships’ arrival, preparation of native cuisines etc.…The expenditure is definitely mind boggling.

Who is paying for this?

All this is paid through already depleting foreign reserves. Therefore understandably, if news of such frivolous expenditure, especially in these trying times were to reach the general public there would be a furore, and a well justified one. But Pakistan’s Navy has been clever, or at least it thinks it has been.

Where normally, all port visits are turned to a media circus by the Navy, this time not a single press release is available on the open media. Why? Because of a stringent gag order on issuing media bites by the government. The Navy has warned cruising ships to conduct events without the presence of press. The aim apparently is to prevent citizens from becoming aware of this trip to Japan. Pakistan’s naval commanders seem to be relying on their belief (definitely flawed and misguided) that – ordinary Pakistani citizen are like the proverbial ostrich with its head buried in the sand – what it cannot see, does not exist!

In today’s world where information travels faster than light – there are enough people who monitor everything. Which is why hiding the journey of two huge warships was definitely worthless. As soon as a local net-hawker identified the movement of the naval ships – the world and entire Pakistan was made aware of the secret journey.  The Maverick could not outfox these people.

Frivolous Spending in Desperate Times

While one may still be able to find an excuse for Navy’s foreign visits, but what about the inflating expenditure on the procurement and projects, which are of no immediate importance? As pointed out by social media users a few days earlier, the Pakistan navy has been planning to procure four Frigates (each from Turkey and China), four to eight Corvettes (from the Netherlands), eight submarines (from China) and almost ten new aircraft for its maritime fleet.

Which brings a very interesting scenario to light – the huge lack of communication between the Pakistan’s government and its navy. On one hand the government has been insisting on cutting down operating costs and even travel/fuel usage by every ministry and service, but on the other, the Armed Forces are on a shopping spree. And whose money are these forces using?  The question that the citizens of Pakistan need to ask is despite the mushrooming economic crisis, why is there a need to undertake such frivolous expenditure/cruises? And if they are really necessary, why the extra effort to hide it?

Many Pakistanis have already started asking such questions, a mass outcry is not far. And while the Pak armed forces especially its navy may pretend to be blissfully unaware of their countrymen’s plight, they must realize that secret voyages will not help the deplorable situation of their country and their fellow countrymen.

 

This article has been contributed by Commander Abhishek Rathi (Retd), Indian Naval Officer

Commander Abhishek Rathi (Retd) is a retired executive officer and holds an experience of commanding two naval warships. He has a keen interest in maritime history and technology. The officer is also an avid nature photographer and likes traveling all across India for it.

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