In the build-up to the ‘Leaders’ Climate Summit’ organised by the United States this week (April 22-23), there has been a flurry of articles about whether India should announce a ‘net-zero’ emissions target, and by when. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 1.5°C report called for global carbon emissions to reach net-zero by 2050, which the pressure cooker of climate diplomacy has quickly transformed into a call for all countries to announce 2050 as the net-zero target year. Yet, global net zero may require some countries reaching net-zero before 2050 in order for others to have some additional time. Since a disproportionate share of the carbon space has been used up by developed countries, it is important that they act boldly at home, to match the vigour of their diplomatic efforts.
Nonetheless, as a climate-vulnerable country, India must also up its game to contribute to limiting global temperature rise, ideally below 1.5°C. While doing so, it should not lose sight of the history of global climate negotiations and its own developmental needs. Though a large country and economy, we are still a very poor country with a significant development deficit — for example, our per-capita carbon emissions are less than half the world average.
What India must do
So, what is the way forward for India? Saying India will take only modest steps until richer countries do more is not viable in the context of a global climate crisis. Yet, announcing an Indian 2050 net-zero commitment risks taking on a much heavier burden of decarbonisation than many wealthier countries, and could seriously compromise India’s development needs.
We suggest a third path, focused on concrete, near-term sectoral transformations through aggressive adoption of technologies that are within our reach, and an earnest effort to avoid high carbon lock-ins. This is best accomplished by focusing on sectoral low-carbon development pathways that combine competitiveness, job-creation, distributional justice and low pollution in key areas where India is already changing rapidly. This approach is directionally consistent with India moving towards net-zero, which should be our long-term objective. Over time, India can and should get more specific about future economy-wide net-zero targets and dates. Here, we detail what such an approach would look like, by laying out the contours of an enhanced national pledge for the electricity sector, to illustrate how it can be both ambitious and in India’s interest. A similar approach should be adopted for other sectors.
De-carbonise power sector
To achieve net-zero emissions, a key piece of the puzzle is to decarbonise the electricity sector, which is the single largest source (about 40%) of India’s greenhouse gas emissions. De-carbonised electricity would also allow India to undertake transformational changes in urbanisation and industrial development, for example by expanding the use of electricity for transport, and by integrating electric systems into urban planning.
So far, our efforts in the electricity sector have focused on expanding renewable electricity capacity, with targets growing by leaps and bounds from 20GW of solar to 175GW of renewable capacity by 2022, further growing to 450GW of renewable capacity by 2030. While useful as a direction of travel, India now needs to shift gears to a comprehensive re-imagination of electricity and its role in our economy and society.
One way to do this is to go beyond expanding renewables to limiting the expansion of coal-based electricity capacity. This will not be easy: coal provides firm, dispatchable power and accounts for roughly 75% of electricity today; supports the economy of key regions; and is tied to sectors such as banking and railways. These connections need to be unravelled to truly shift to a decarbonised future.
Ceiling for coal power
A first, bold, step would be to pledge that India will not grow its coal-fired power capacity beyond what is already announced, and reach peak coal electricity capacity by 2030, while striving to make coal-based generation cleaner and more efficient. There is a strong rationale for this: coal is increasingly uneconomic and phasing it out over time will bring local gains, such as reduced air pollution, aside from climate mitigation. Such a pledge would give full scope for development of renewable energy and storage, and send a strong signal to investors.
A second, necessary step is to create a multi-stakeholder Just Transition Commission representing all levels of government and the affected communities to ensure decent livelihood opportunities beyond coal in India’s coal belt. This is necessary because the transition costs of a brighter low-carbon future should not fall on the backsof India’s poor.
Third, a low-carbon electricity future will not be realised without addressing existing problems of the sector such as the poor finances and management of distribution companies, which requires deep changes and overcoming entrenched interests.
Finally, India will need to work hard to become a leader in technologies of the future such as electricity storage, smart grids, and technologies that enable the electrification of other sectors such as transportation. Through careful partnership with the private sector, including tools such as production-linked incentives, India should use the electricity transition to aim for job creation and global competitiveness in these key areas.
Thus, an electricity-supply focused component of India’s climate pledge could provide the overarching framework to envision and drive transformative change.
Improve energy services
Enhancing the efficiency of electricity use is an important complement to decarbonising electricity supply. Growing urbanisation and uptake of electricity services offer a good opportunity to shape energy consumption within buildings through proactive measures. Cooling needs are expected to increase rapidly with rising incomes and temperatures. Air conditioners, fans and refrigerators together consume about 60% of the electricity in households. Today, the average fan sold in the market consumes more than twice what an efficient fan does, and an average refrigerator about 35% more. India could set aggressive targets of, say, 80% of air conditioner sales, and 50% of fan and refrigerator sales in 2030, being in the most efficient bracket. In addition to reducing green house gas emissions, this would have the benefit of lowering consumer electricity bills. India can leverage this transition too as an opportunity to become a global leader in production of clean appliances.
Such a sector-by-sector approach, which can and should be developed for other sectors, can demonstrate concrete, yet ambitious, domestic action that sets India on the path toward net zero emissions. It empowers India to insist that developed countries complement their distant net-zero targets by enacting concrete near-term measures that are less reliant on unsure offsets. This approach also allows India to nimbly adapt its sectoral transition plans as technologies mature and enable it to ratchet up its pledges periodically as required by the Paris Agreement.
Going further, India may even consider committing to submit plausible pathways and timelines to achieving net-zero emissions as part of its future pledges. This would allow India adequate time to undertake detailed assessments of its development needs and low-carbon opportunities, the possible pace of technological developments, the seriousness of the net-zero actions by developed countries, and potential geo-political and geo-economic risks of over-dependence on certain countries for technologies or materials. India can also use this period to develop a strategic road map to enhance its own technology and manufacturing competence as part of the global clean energy supply chain, to gain benefits of employment and export revenues. Such an integrated approach, which is ambitious, credible and rooted in our developmental needs — including climate mitigation needs — will represent an ambitious, forward-looking and results-oriented India.
Ashok Sreenivas is a Senior Fellow at Prayas (Energy Group). Navroz K. Dubash is a Professor at the Centre for Policy Research. Rahul Tongia is Senior Fellow at the Centre for Social and Economic Progress
In the April 3 encounter between security forces and the Maoists in Sukma, a Maoist stronghold in Chhattisgarh, 22 jawans were killed — seven from the Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA), a unit of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), and 15 from the Chhattisgarh Police. One CoBRA jawan, Rakeshwar Singh Minhas, who was held hostage by the Maoists, has since been released. This followed a message from the Maoists to a Bijapur-based journalist that mercy would be shown to Mr. Minhas if the government nominated a team of mediators to negotiate his release. A team of local people, who later went deep into the forest area from where the Maoists were operating, spoke to the rebels and prevailed upon them to release the jawan. What persuaded the extremist group to show this gesture after their cruel act of killing the 22 men is anybody’s guess. It was possibly their attempt to broadcast to the world that they are not all that violent or merciless as portrayed by the administration; that they are in fact humane and compassionate, fighting only for a cause.
Determination and tactics
The ease with which the Maoists are able to strike at security forces and indulge in indiscriminate killing from time to time has confounded many analysts. The frequency of attacks may fluctuate depending on the preparedness of the extremists and the strength of the establishment’s retaliation. But the tactics of the Maoists have not changed greatly. They usually spread misinformation about the numbers of Maoists on the ground in a village as well as their location. Communication equipment in the hands of government forces has not greatly improved over the years. Ambushes have, therefore, yielded rich dividends to the rebels. It is an entirely different matter that they have also paid substantially with the lives of their own ranks.
What should surprise an objective observer is the determination displayed by the extremists regardless of the difficulty in periodically replenishing their ranks and keeping them in a reasonable state of morale against great odds. The Maoists can never match the government’s resources and professional prowess. This is despite the assistance they receive in terms of weaponry from various sources. But unconventional wars are not fought merely on the ground; they are battles between minds of steel.
Gory incidents like the recent one in Chhattisgarh have often led to the quick charge of lack of intelligence and planning on the part of the government, as though intelligence is a piece of cake. The criticism conveniently ignores the ruggedness of the terrain from where the extremists operate and the intoxication that an anti-establishment propaganda offers to almost all members of the group. In our view, if happenings during the past five decades or so are of any indication, one cannot overstate the capacity of the extremists. What works to their advantage is the fact that many States cannot give undivided attention to the task of eradicating extremism. All that the Central and State governments often do to step up their operations is to deploy more policemen and pour in more money and improve technology, but this has an impact only for a short span of time. There is an element of fatigue that afflicts both sides.
Does development help?
A lot of well-meaning people, some of whom are from the five States that are often affected by Maoist fury — Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha and Maharashtra — have ceaselessly put forward the argument that rapid economic development of a region alone would lure people away from extremist ideology. Advocacy in favour of amelioration of living conditions is hard to dismiss. To be fair, the governments involved, both in the States and at the Centre, have taken the plea seriously and implemented several development schemes in these areas. However, this has helped only partially. Andhra Pradesh is perhaps an exception where the magic of development has succeeded, especially in Srikakulam district. Civil servants who have served in that area say a dedicated leadership at the district and grassroots levels is one explanation for this transformation.
Some also say inducting local youth into the security forces helps in fighting the extremists. Over-dependence on Central forces is counterproductive. For able-bodied locals to comprise security forces is commendable. The Greyhounds, raised in Andhra Pradesh in 1989, is an eloquent illustration of this. History will remember the results it produced under the phenomenal leadership of K.S. Vyas, a courageous IPS officer who unfortunately paid with his life for the valour and dynamism that he had displayed.
Whatever is happening in parts of the eastern region of our country should not surprise us. Economic deprivation and religious fundamentalism often hijack the thinking processes of many populations. How else would you explain the savagery that you continually witness in many parts of poverty-afflicted Africa? What about Northern Ireland from where violent disturbances are being reported from time to time owing to the Catholic-Protestant divide? The romance attached to the Maoists is therefore difficult to dislodge. One must also realise that shared ideology and resources by like-minded groups boosts their capabilities.
The objective of the Maoists is to drive a wedge between the security forces and the government so as to sow disaffection against the latter. Another aim is to serve a warning to the government that it has no option but to concede all the demands of the extremists. It is another matter that these demands, such as the formation of a ‘people’s government’, are secessionist in nature, which no constitutionally elected establishment will ever concede.
This is a tricky situation that defies a lasting solution unless the rebels break down from fatigue and suffer from a situation where recruits dwindle. We don’t see this happening in the immediate future. If this assessment proves right, we may see a gradual migration of younger rebels aspiring for a better life going to other parts of the country where there are better educational opportunities. It may start as a trickle but could become a deluge over the next few decades.
R.K.Raghavan is a former Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation and D. Sivanandan is a former Director General of Police of Maharashtra
There is a famous saying, “bad examples serve as good warning signs”. The nation was hoping that after witnessing and experiencing the effects of a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) kits, N-95 masks and HAZMAT suits in the harsh, dreaded summer of March-April 2020, the Central government would take corrective steps and not repeat the mistake of ending up with a lack of supply of oxygen, medicines and of prioritising exports over domestic demands in terms of vaccine availability. However, looking now at the heart-rending and urgent appeals for oxygen supplies and vaccines, and the snail’s pace of the vaccination drive and reports of vaccine shortages, it is clearlydéjà vuin terms of it being sheer mishandling by the event management-obsessed Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government.
However, amid the bad news of rising COVID-19 deaths and dipping resources, India’s young population can heave a sigh of relief that the ruling regime has finally considered the suggestion of the Opposition to look at universal vaccination and woken up to the reality that 80% of the population below 45 years of age, who constitute a large segment of the COVID-19 infected citizenry, needs protection. But, a few questions remain unanswered: why did it take so long to give the green signal for a ‘vaccine for all’ policy? Why do the scales remain tilted in favour of exports over domestic supply? Why did the wise men and women at the helm of affairs not ensure the acquisition and the manufacture of the arsenal of equipment and keep them ready to combat the current catastrophe? Had the government paid heed to saner voices and prepared itself during the last one year for domestic capacity augmentation, may be India would have been in a better position to face the second wave. Now, the bottlenecks in the domestic supply of medicines, oxygen and vaccines have become a major constraint in the fight against COVID-19. In the absence of a steady stream of these key essentials, the ‘liberalised’ vaccination drive runs the risk of becoming another victim of sketchy implementation by the BJP government.
India versus the world
To avoid this, decision makers must hunker down to give wings to the vaccination drive and ensure maximum factory output to achieve maximum coverage. According to information available in the public domain, India lags behind the world average of doses administered per one lakh population. Out of the population of 136 crore Indians, approximately only one crore have got both doses. With less than 8% of the population vaccinated so far, India is way behind in terms of vaccination speed and coverage. Israel has vaccinated 61.8% of its population while it is 39.2% in America. Countries such as the Seychelles and Bhutan have vaccinated 67.4% and 62% of their population, respectively. The vaccination percentage in India is behind even Morocco, where 12.6% of the population have been vaccinated. To make matters worse, several State governments, including worst-hit Maharashtra, are facing shortages; in fact, vaccination has been halted at several centres across the country. This needs to change if India has to come out of the tailspin induced by the COVID-19 storm.
Engage with the U.S.
The vaccine manufacturers, specifically the Serum Institute of India, has already raised a red flag over the shortage of raw materials to produce the vaccine due to export ban imposed by the United States Government invoking the U.S. Defense Production Act, 1950. Last year, India exported more than 50 million hydroxychloroquine tablets to the U.S. Therefore, the Ministry of External Affairs should not waste any more time in getting the U.S. embargo lifted by encashing the goodwill of medicine diplomacy and showing no hesitancy in seeking a return of the favour. An ‘out of stock’ vaccine scenario is not only weakening India’s fight against COVID-19 but is also leading to the erosion of public confidence in the government’s containment strategy.
In addition, for the purposes of ensuring that young India and the less privileged sections of our society are not deprived of vaccination, financial deterrents need to be removed. First, States are struggling with their finances and lakhs of crores of their Goods and Services Tax dues are pending with the Centre. These dues should be cleared so that direct purchasing from the manufacturers does not have an additional burden. Second, a pricing cap should be imposed considering that unemployment is at a 45-year-high, affecting youth, and free vaccination should be made available to the weaker sections of society.
Vaccine diplomacy can wait
Another aspect which requires a rethink is India’s global commitment to vaccine, medicine diplomacyvis-à-visour domestic requirements. While it is true that the pandemic of the magnitude of COVID-19 has expanded the role of nation-states to fight the virus at the global level, the national priorities and lives of their own people demand the highest priority of governments to focus on domestic needs. As per the Government’s reply in the Rajya Sabha (March 17, 2021), a total of 7.06 crore doses of COVID-19 vaccines were supplied to the States and Union Territories; whereas, during the same period, 5.96 crore doses of vaccines were exported to 74 countries. According to the latest figure of the Ministry of External Affairs, 6.60 crore doses of vaccines have been exported out of India, as on April 19, 2021, which includes supplies in the form of ‘grants-in-aid’, commercial sales and under GAVI’s COVAX facility. Similarly, during the last six months, 11 lakh remdesivir injections were exported without considering the imminent domestic demand at a time when scientists had warned about a severe second wave in India. Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan made a statement in Parliament that vaccines are not being exported ‘at the expense of Indians’ — but the numbers speak for themselves. Clearly, it is time to balance out the equation. By not addressing the supply issue seriously, euphemistically speaking, the BJP government is locking up the fire brigade stations despite seeing the wildfire spread. Vaccine diplomacy can and should wait till the entire population of India is vaccinated.
Last, and most importantly, the government machinery needs to shift gear from fighting the political Opposition to fighting COVID-19. By ridiculing the constructive suggestions of Opposition leaders such as Dr. Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi and then implementing them the very next day only exposes the BJP’s brand of low politics. For the sake of upholding the spirit of cooperative federalism, the Centre must shed its policy of “credit is mine and crisis is yours” and follow the motto of “we shall fight it together”. True “Utsav” will only be witnessed when a majority of Indians stand vaccinated and no patient dies as a result of a shortage of hospital beds, oxygen cylinders and/or unaffordable injections.
Jaiveer Shergill is a Supreme Court lawyer and National Spokesperson, the Indian National Congress
Last year, as the pandemic disrupted our lives, bureaucrats and administrators associated with educational institutions released a flood of notifications and circulars. Supposedly designed to enable academic activity, these orders disregarded the distress experienced by the academic community. The unrealistic ‘one order fits all’ approach established the distress as a new feature of educational institutions. The biggest failure of the administrative response was that instead of helping institutions, faculty and students overcome the uncertainties, the focus was on unnecessary bureaucratic centralisation.
The second wave, occurring at a time when students in schools and higher educational institutions transition from one level to another, has exposed the administrative inadequacies of the past year. It was obvious that the pandemic would disrupt the academic schedule for more than two years. As we return to ask the same questions from 2020 in 2021, such as those about the end and commencement of academic terms, we need to accept that the past criticisms of these administrative actions were justified.
A lost opportunity
The pandemic offered an opportunity to initiate sustainable reforms in the structure of the academic term and the nature of continuous assessment. It provided an opportunity to work with teachers to address their concerns, encourage better student-teacher interactions, and develop a better framework to determine the qualificatory grade for students to move to the next stage of study. But instead, the administrator’s rigid insistence on rote learning, refusal to recognise the fact that marks obtained in exams are not the only markers of a student’s capabilities, and reluctance to engage with fellow academicians and teachers to nurture academic engagement became a source of public distress.
The exam system, which has been crying out for significant overhaul, could have been reformed. We needed to reduce the pressure on our students and discourage them from memorising to prepare for set and repetitive exam questions. Attention should have been given to continuous assessment and evaluation of students. A system geared to assess the students’ understanding rather than ability to memorise and reproduce should have been in place.
The revised academic calendars introduced in 2020 not only undermined proper and constructive academic interaction between teachers and students but also exposed everyone to new levels of distress. While teachers conducted online classes daily, administrators were obsessed with monitoring them and showed scant interest in enquiring about the health and difficulties of their colleagues and staff. They failed to consider initiatives to assess the mental health of teachers, non-teaching staff and students. At times it seemed as if they did not fully understand the qualitative and operational differences between online and offline classes. The government and its academic bureaucracy forced upon us archaic academic visions that exposed their outdated understanding of technology and their lack of understanding of the contemporary challenges of classroom interactions.
The way forward
There is a pressing need for bureaucratic administrators to consult academic stakeholders and find a way forward. It is time for institutions to reconsider their approach towards exams and grading. We need to introspect on the objectives of stressful final exams, consider alternative forms of assessment for promoting students, and explore innovative ways for evaluating the teaching and learning process. School boards and universities need to alter the pattern of question papers. We need to make academic evaluation more rigorous and sustainable, reduce the number of questions to be attempted, and encourage students to write imaginatively. The idea of open book examinations needs to be developed.
The next few weeks will be a testing time for decision-makers in educational institutions. They will need to display administrative acumen and show willingness to learn from mistakes. The bureaucracy must recognise that universities and schools have their own academic considerations and that the standardisation of academic requirements, calendars, and teaching and learning processes are not feasible. Administrators of educational institutions should seize the initiative from the government, avoid short-sighted decisions, and decentralise decision-making. The decisions we take should not be knee-jerk responses such as cancelling and/or postponing exams and remaining fixated with the completion of the academic term; they should help secure the academic future for students, teachers and institutions.
Mahesh Gopalan is Assistant Professor, Department of History, St. Stephen’s College, University of Delhi
India is seeing a second wave of COVID-19 cases. However, this time we have diagnostic tools to tackle the infection, our healthcare workers are better equipped and more informed about the virus, and we have vaccines to counter the pandemic.
Benefits of vaccines
Yet I get several calls a day from concerned friends and relatives on which vaccine is better or if they should take the vaccine at all. My answer to most of them is simple — a resounding yes! Vaccines are one of the most important public health tools we have to mitigate the impact of infectious diseases. While some vaccines prevent infections from gaining a foothold in our body, others reduce the severity of illnesses. Currently available COVID-19 vaccines belong to the second category: they are disease modifying vaccines.
It’s important to understand that a vaccinated individual can contract SARS-CoV-2, and without getting noticeably ill, can pass it on to other susceptible individuals. That is why face masks should be worn even after one receives the COVID-19 vaccine. While at individual and community levels, COVID-19 vaccines can save lives, replacement of non-COVID-19 healthcare services at government and private facilities due to rising demand for COVID-19 care can also be avoided through rapid vaccination drives.
Yet, despite such direct and indirect benefits of COVID-19 vaccines, many are still hesitant to accept these life-saving scientific interventions. This phenomenon, vaccine hesitancy, is defined by the World Health Organization as a reluctance or refusal to be vaccinated and is one of the top threats to global health. It is a complex phenomenon for which there are no easy answers — hesitancy is often extremely localised to region and sociocultural contexts.
This is not new. Reluctance to vaccinate has had detrimental impacts on public health in the past. Hesitancy was observed in Britain around vaccination against whooping cough in the 1970s and 1980s, and against measles in 1990. Hesitancy around the HPV vaccine in Japan and tetanus toxoid in Kenya has also been recorded. In India, too, there was hesitancy during the polio vaccination campaign. But mothers of the polio-affected children acted as agents for social change and paved the way for India reaching polio-free status.
But today’s digital age has given vaccine hesitancy new momentum. In this age of surplus information, outbreaks of misinformation, spread through social and digital media channels, have the potential to significantly impact public health. India is particularly vulnerable to this challenge because we are increasingly moving towards consumption of news and information online and through social channels. This kind of misinformation, when directed towards public health programmes such as immunisation, can adversely impact public trust, especially through an ‘echo chamber’ effect.
There cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach to vaccine hesitancy, but some things have worked in the past. Key among them is building public trust through clear and transparent communication. We need to equip ourselves as well as healthcare professionals and frontline workers with the information needed to counter misinformation. The messenger is also as important as the message. Garnering the support of trusted local and community voices can build credibility and address region- and community-specific needs and remove hesitancy. Seeding positive messages proactively in the community and on social platforms and demonstrating positive behaviour change, instead of countering rumours once they circulate, have also been shown to combat hesitancy. Above all, we need to understand and address our community’s concerns with empathy, because this is not just about the COVID-19 pandemic; it is about public trust in vaccines as a whole. Only when we as a community trust that vaccines work can we mobilise, protect those who cannot be vaccinated and take a giant step towards a healthier world.
Samiran Panda is Head, Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases, ICMR
A combination of panic, public pressure and comprehension of the magnitude of the crisis that India is in seems to have prompted the Centre to authorise vaccines to anyone above 18 and give States more control over procurement. This is despite the problems in scaling up production, and in the supply and management of vaccines amid the surge in cases. The step could not have been easy to take. For one, the processes initiated by the government in early January to expand India’s manufacturing capacity were under the assumption that it would be at least August before vaccines could be fully opened up for all. In December, it was announced that India’s priority would be to fully inoculate 300 million of the most vulnerable. Given that about 127 million doses have been administered, including a section of those above 45 without underlying health conditions, around 17 million have been fully inoculated — or about 5% of the intended beneficiaries. At the optimistic rate of three million doses a day, it would take at least 260 days from today for every adult to get at least a single shot.
Eight months ago, India had begun a decline in daily infections to the extent that by January, India’s leadership itself — going by its own policy actions — believed that a devastating second wave was unlikely. There is no other explanation why India, following the example of the U.S. and the U.K., did not tie up orders to inoculate most of its adults within this year. India also applied different standards: waiving critical trials for Covaxin, but having stringent requirements for foreign companies. The supply lines are thus inadequate. The second wave, the hospitalisation and medical-oxygen crisis, have derailed all previously laid out plans. Opening up vaccines for all on May 1 and letting States negotiate deals with manufacturers does sound like the government is ‘listening to the people’, but given the background of supply constraints until June, there is a likelihood that the story of ‘vaccine shortage’ will surface more acutely. Leading international vaccinators such as Pfizer and Moderna have supply commitments already tied up and it is unclear if merely the policy move of liberalising vaccine supply will leave States in India with the finances and negotiating power to procure enough stocks of vaccines. Moreover, given that this is the hottest month in India, lockdowns are resurfacing in cities, and no end is in sight for the second wave, the logistics of administration will continue to be challenging. It was always going to be impossible to rapidly inoculate a nation of a billion. But chaos and confusion, which now seem inevitable, could have been averted with some foresight and planning. Pragmatism and preparedness should replace hope that runs on nothing more than hype.
The decision by 12 of Europe’s biggest football clubs to unveil a plan to launch The Super League, a multi-billion-dollar tournament to be played largely among a closed group of 20 teams has thrown the European game into turmoil. Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur from England, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid from Spain, and Juventus, Internazionale and AC Milan from Italy have come together for an initiative “to put the game on a sustainable footing”. But the principal aim seems to be to upend the Champions League, the crown jewel among all competitions managed by European football’s governing body UEFA. That the announcement came just a day prior to UEFA announcing a reformatted Champions League starting from 2024 is no coincidence. The Super League will inevitably damage the domestic leagues in each of the countries. Currently, league positions decide who qualifies for the Champions League, whereas in the proposed competition, the permanent members are under no risk of missing out, and are guaranteed a steady stream of revenue. According to one report, each founding member is assured of a whopping $400 million in exchange for a mere commitment to establish a “sustainable financial foundation”. This certainly appeals to clubs struggling to balance their books in the wake of COVID-19.
This use of a football club as mere for-profit business is the crux. Traditionally, clubs considered themselves to be public-spirited entities. Meaningful competition among them was seen as a meritocratic exercise. But with leagues increasingly awash with hedge fund money and handouts from oligarchies, outfits are answerable more to investors and shareholders than actual supporters. In such a scenario, unpredictability can be anathema and the Super League seeks to eliminate that. Understandably, fans are displeased. Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool manager, even claimed to have been kept in the dark. UEFA, desperate to protect its turf, has threatened to bar Super League players from its flagship events like Euros. FIFA bemoaned a “closed league”, but stopped short of announcing sanctions. The Premier League, Spain’s La Liga and Italy’s Serie A are open to expelling teams, while British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has issued a stern warning. However, this is no endorsement of UEFA’s new Champions League format, in which the number of games has nearly doubled and the additional revenue is sure to skew the domestic leagues further in favour of a few teams. Juventus has won the Serie A nine times in a row; Bayern Munich (Germany) and Paris Saint-Germain (France), both of whom have not signed up for the Super League, have been equally dominant. None of this feels like competitive sport. European football needs a rethink.
We publish elsewhere an extract from theTimeson the dangers to civilisation involved in the continuance of corporal punishment in our schools. The resort to violence in setting children right must be admitted on all hands to be a confession of failure on the teacher’s part in his attempt at reform with other and better methods of chastisement. No doubt it serves to some as a convenient, though not always an effective short-cut in the classroom to get over some difficulty, save prestige or establish discipline. In some cases, it may be, according to a few, the only way to avert dangerous mischief or persistent disobedience. But the other and more important fact cannot be ignored that the remedy is of a temporary and invariably of a superficial nature. It leaves the root cause of the trouble, which is most psychological and organic in the pupil’s nature, unaltered and achieves its effects by brutal intimidation and physical force. Added to this ultimate futility is the moral degeneracy engendered in the impressionable mind of children by the apparent triumph of violence and the consequent necessity therefore in human relations.
Port of Spain, April 20: India registered its first ever rubber victory against the West Indies at the Queen’s Park Oval here yesterday when the fifth and final test ended in a draw. A large crowd gathered below the players’ balcony and cheered the Indians after the match concluded on an exciting note.
Sobers, the West Indies skipper, congratulated his Indian counterpart, Wadekar on his victory and his splendid generalship, at the end of the match. He said India’s superiority had a lot to do with Wadekar’s plan of attack again the West Indies left-handers on whom the team’s batting was based. “This was one of the hardest series I have ever played,” he said.
Commenting on the performance of India’s opening batsman Gavaskar, who aggregated 774 runs in four Tests, Sobers said “he is a tremendous player.” The final Test saw a dramatic finish. The West Indies batsmen chasing a target of 262 runs in 155 minutes lost eight wickets for 165 runs when stumps were drawn. Final scores: India: 360 and 427; West Indies: 526 and 165 for eight.