The Hindu Editorial – 1, August –  2017

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a) Dangerous escalation: On Russia’s expulsion U.S. staff:

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to cut the U.S. diplomatic presence in the country by 755 signals a serious escalation in tensions between the two superpowers. His move came three days after the U.S. Senate passed a sanctions Bill targeting Moscow and allies. The scale of the cut is unprecedented and is comparable to the shutdown of the American diplomatic mission in Russia after the 1917 Bolshevik revolution. The decision also signals that Mr. Putin, who had pinned hopes on the Donald Trump administration to improve ties, is losing heart about such a reset. When Barack Obama expelled Russian diplomats in the last leg of his presidency over Moscow’s alleged interference in the presidential election, Mr. Putin did not retaliate, apparently hoping to strike a new beginning with the incoming administration. During his campaign, Mr. Trump himself had expressed interest in building stronger ties with Moscow. But despite Mr. Trump’s overtures, the U.S. establishment has continued to take a hard-line position towards Moscow. While the investigation into the allegations of Russia’s election-time interference is still under way, Congress went ahead preparing the sanctions Bill. Passed by both Houses of Congress with a near-total majority, the Bill also seeks to limit Mr. Trump’s ability to suspend or lift sanctions on Russia. After the White House said the President would sign the Bill, Moscow retaliated. The new sanctions will add to Russia’s economic troubles at a time it is already battling sanctions imposed by Europe and the U.S., and dealing with a commodities meltdown. Mr. Putin could impose counter-sanctions, but the chances of winning a trade war with the world’s largest economy are slim. Hence, Russia’s formal declaration of a diplomatic war to show that it can hurt America’s geopolitical interests elsewhere. Whenever Russia and the U.S. joined hands to address the world’s pressing problems in recent years, there were results. The Iran nuclear deal is one example. The Trump administration’s willingness to work with the Russians in Syria has also helped calm parts of the war-ravaged country. The ceasefire brokered by Moscow and Washington between the Syrian regime and rebels in July is still holding, raising hopes for a sustainable political solution to the crisis. Besides, if the U.S. wants to address the North Korean nuclear crisis diplomatically, which is perhaps the biggest foreign policy challenge before the Trump administration today, it could do with Russia’s help. Russia is also crucial to stabilising Afghanistan, where it is reportedly arming the Taliban. But instead of expanding their cooperation and addressing these challenges as responsible global leaders, the nuclear-armed powers seem to have fallen into the old Cold War-era spiral of irrational mutual hostility.

b) Washed out: On the floods in eastern and western India:

The floods that have ravaged parts of eastern and western India, leaving at least 600 people dead and displacing thousands, highlight the need for a massive capacity-building programme to deal with frequent, destructive weather events. A monsoon deluge is not an uncommon occurrence in the subcontinent, and there is considerable variability in the duration and frequency of rainfall in different regions. Moreover, there is a clear trend of even drought-prone regions in Gujarat and Rajasthan encountering floods, in addition to the traditional axis covering States along the Brahmaputra and the Ganga. What people in the flood-hit regions expect of governments is speedy relief and rehabilitation. Alleviating financial losses is crucial for a return to normality, and the Centre has announced a solatium for the next of kin of those who have died. But there are other actions people need on the ground: short-term housing, food, safe water, access to health care and protection for women, children and the elderly. Given the weak foundations of social support in policymaking, these factors have an aggravated impact during natural calamities. It is dismaying that some States have not been able to use disaster relief funds as intended, and the Centre has asked them to set off the unutilised portion when making fresh claims. Such a wrangle is unseemly at a time when people need relief. Catastrophic events, such as the Chennai flood of 2015, also necessitate a review of the protocol followed by State governments in controlling flows from dams and reservoirs. Apparently, much of the waters that have inundated parts of Jalore in Rajasthan flowed from a dam that was opened to relieve pressure, catching many by surprise. A review of the deployment of National Disaster Response Force teams near waterbodies and their experience, together with data compiled by the Central Water Commission, is bound to reveal the hotspots where better management and, perhaps, additional reservoirs, can mitigate damage. Such studies should not be delayed, considering that official data put together by the Centre show that even in the past four years, between 1,000 and 2,100 people have died annually, while losses to crops, public utilities and houses touched Rs. 33,000 crore in one of the years. Governments cannot legitimately expect that people with marginal incomes will take calamitous losses in their stride, with neither social support nor financial instruments available to rebuild lives. Sustained economic growth needs action on both fronts. It is essential also to look at the public health dimension: many without the coping capacity develop mental health issues including post-traumatic stress disorder in the wake of such catastrophes, and need counselling. A vigorous monsoon is vital for the economy, but governments should be prepared to deal with the consequences of excess rainfall.

Words/ Vocabulary

1) Unprecedented

Meaning: Never done or known before.

Example: The government took the unprecedented step of releasing confidential correspondence.

Synonyms: Unequalled, Remarkable

Antonyms: Normal, Common

2) Allegations

Meaning: A claim or assertion that someone has done something illegal or wrong, typically one made without proof.

Example: He made allegations of corruption against the administration.

Synonyms: Claim, Assertion

3) Retaliated

Meaning: Make an attack in return for a similar attack.

Example: The blow stung and she retaliated immediately.

Synonyms: Respond, React

4) Irrational

Meaning: Not logical or reasonable.

Example: Irrational feelings of hostility.

Synonyms: Unreasonable, Illogical

Antonyms: Rational, Logical

5) Hostility

Meaning: Hostile behaviour; unfriendliness or opposition.

Example: Their hostility to all outsiders.

Synonyms: Bitterness, Malice

Antonyms: Friendliness, Approval

6) Ravaged

Meaning: Severely damaged; devastated.

Example: He hopes to visit his ravaged homeland.

Synonyms: Destroy, Devastate

Antonyms: Saved, Preserved

7) Destructive

Meaning: Causing great and irreparable damage.

Example: The destructive power of weapons.

Synonyms: Devastating, Disastrous

Antonyms: Creative, Non-violent

8) Rehabilitation

Meaning: To return something to a good condition.

Example: We need to replace or rehabilitate the bridge.

Synonyms: Heal, Redeem

9) Aggravated

Meaning: To make a bad situation worse.

Example: Attempts to restrict parking in the city centre have further aggravated the problem of traffic congestion.

Synonyms: Degrade, Decline

Antonyms: Help, Alleviate

10) Dismaying

Meaning: Cause (someone) to feel concern and distress.

Example: They were dismayed by the U-turn in policy.

Synonyms: Horrify, Shake

Antonyms: Encourage, Please

11) Wrangle

Meaning: A dispute or argument, typically one that is long and complicated.

Example: An insurance wrangle is holding up compensation payments.

Synonyms: Argument, Dispute

Antonyms: Agreement

12) Catastrophic

Meaning: Extremely unfortunate or unsuccessful.

Example: Catastrophic mismanagement of the economy.

Synonyms: Disastrous, Grievous

Antonyms: Fortunate, Beneficial

13) Necessitate

Meaning: Make (something) necessary as a result or consequence.

Example: A cut which necessitated eighteen stitches.

Synonyms: Needed

14) Inundated

Meaning: Overwhelm (someone) with things or people to be dealt with.

Example: We’ve been inundated with complaints from listeners.

Synonyms: Overwhelm, Overpower

Antonyms: Drained

15) Legitimately

Meaning: Reasonable and acceptable.

Example: He claimed that the restaurant bill was a legitimate business expense.

16) Post-traumatic stress disorder

Meaning: A mental condition in which a person suffers severe anxiety and depression after a very frightening or shocking experience, such as an accident or a war.

Example: A combat veteran being treated for post-traumatic stress syndrome.

17) Vigorous

Meaning: Strong, healthy, and full of energy.

Example: A tall, vigorous, and muscular man.

Synonyms: Robust, Healthy

Antonyms: Weak, Frail

18) Consequences

Meaning: A result or effect, typically one that is unwelcome or unpleasant.

Example: Abrupt withdrawal of drug treatment can have serious consequences.

Synonyms: Result, Outcome

Antonyms: Cause

THE HINDU EDITORIAL – 31, July – 2017