January 26th, 2021
LAW, POLICY & GOVERNANCE
1. 'Women farmers will be hit hard by farm laws'
Over 400 Indian women’s rights activists, women’s organisations and academics have penned an open letter to the government expressing their solidarity with protesting women farmers and underscoring that they are central to the farmers’ agitation as they are likely to be hit the hardest.
If the three laws were not repealed, marginal and women farmers are likely to be hit harder as the dismantling of the APMC would mean farmers would not be able to negotiate prices.
“The contract farming envisaged under these laws would be that women dependent on small or marginal holdings, either as direct cultivators or tenants, would be highly disadvantaged in negotiating contracts. Shockingly, farmers or anyone representing them will also not have any recourse to the jurisdiction of appellate courts to challenge contracts that dupe them or force them into landlessness and penury.”
2. ‘WhatsApp treating Indian users differently is cause for concern’
3. Respect right to vote, exercise franchise sincerely: President
- President Ram Nath Kovind said it was important to respect the right to vote, which was something that people around the world had struggled to achieve. The digital voter ID cards would be available for download by all electors with valid EPIC numbers from February 1, while new electors who applied for EPICs in November and December would be able to download their digital cards.
Analysis : Overzealous threat
The warning by the Bihar police of legal action being taken against users of social media for “offensive” posts targeting the government, its Ministers and officials, betrays both hypersensitivity and ignorance of the law.
The Economic Offences Wing, which also deals with cybercrime, has sent a circular to the department secretaries that they could inform the wing about such “offensive posts” so that it could act against them, terming such actions as “against prescribed law”. Even though the letter from the Inspector General of Police concerned makes no mention of any specific penal provision, it is a possible reference to Section 66A of the IT Act, as there is no other section that deals with “offensive” remarks.
The Act’s remaining penal provisions pertain only to other offences – sending obscene or prurient messages, hacking, stealing computer resources, identity theft, personation, and violation of privacy. There is nothing specific in the law that would render strong, even offensive and intemperate, criticism of the government a cyber offence. It ought to be remembered that the police cannot register FIRs for defamation, as the offence can only be dealt with by way of criminal complaints before magistrates, and cannot be the subject of a police investigation. The government would do well not to act on the police circular, lest it be seen as an attempt to suppress its critics and those who make allegations of corruption.
NATIONAL NEWS/ INTERVENTIONS
1. Padma Vibhushan for SPB, Abe
Legendary singer S.P. Balasubrahmanyam will get the Padma Vibushan, the second highest civilian award in the country, posthumously. Former Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe, Islamic scholar Maulana Wahidud din Khan, cardiologist B.M. Hegde and B.B. Lal, the archaeologist who claimed to have discovered temple remains at Ayodhya, will also get the Padma Vibhushan.
Singer K.S. Chithra, former Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, Nripendra Misra, former Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and former Chairman of the National Commission for Minorities Tarlochan Singh are among the 10 Padma Bhushan recipients. The Padma Bhushan will be conferred posthumously on former Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, former Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, former Gujarat Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel and Shia cleric Kalbe Sadiq.
The 1971 Bangladesh war veteran Lt.Col. Quazi Sajjad Ali Zahid and Bangladeshi artist Sanjida Khatun will get the Padma Shri. Rajni Bector of Mrs Bector’s Food Specialities, a Punjab based company making biscuits and bakery products has been selected for the Padma Shri. Sangkhumi Bualchhuak from Mizoram will be given the Padma Shri in the social work category. Sindhutai Sapkal from Maharashtra, known to help orphans, will get the Padma Shri. Professor C.L Sapru from Jammu and Kashmir, who died last year, will get the Padma Shri posthumously.
Padma Awards, one of the highest civilian honours of India announced annually on the eve of Republic Day, are given in three categories – Padma Vibhushan (for exceptional and distinguished service), Padma Bhushan (distinguished service of higher order) and Padma Shri (distinguished service).
The award recognises achievements in all fields of activities or disciplines where an element of public service is involved. The Padma Awards are conferred on the recommendations made by the Padma Awards Committee, which is constituted by the Prime Minister every year. The Union Home Ministry said the President has approved conferment of 119 Padma awards – seven Padma Vibhushan, 10 Padma Bhushan and 102 Padma Shri.
2. India, China troops clashed at Naku La
Indian and Chinese troops clashed at Naku La in north Sikkim last week, in what the Army termed a “minor faceoff”, resulting in some minor injuries on both sides, it has been learnt.
The clash occurred as the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops attempted to intrude into Indian territory, there were some minor injuries on both sides, but the situation was resolved and under control. There was a clash at Naku La on the night of May 9 last, which also saw injuries on both sides. There was a clash at Pangong Tso also at that time as the nine-month-long stand-off began at several locations across eastern Ladakh.
3. Jayati Ghosh appointed to UN advisory panel
- Indian development economist Jayati Ghosh is among the 20 prominent personalities appointed by the UN to a high level advisory board that will provide recommendations for the Secretary-General to respond to the current and future socio economic challenges in the post-COVID-19 world. Dr. Ghosh, 65, is currently a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
4. Centre’s prescription for SAM includes yoga, herbs
- AYUSH Centres, yoga, medicinal herbs and indigenous traditional practices are part of the Central government’s prescription for severe acute malnourished (SAM) children. The Ministry of Women and Child Development in its guidelines issued to various State governments has advised that a drive be conducted to identify such children and if necessary they should be referred to hospitals and AYUSH centres for treatment.
5. Billionaires wealth rose 35% during lockdown : Oxfam
Indian billionaires increased their wealth by 35% to ₹3 trillion during the lockdown, ranking them behind their counterparts in U.S., China, Germany, Russia and France, says the “Inequality Virus Report '' brought out by Oxfam, a non-proﬁt organisation. The report underscored the deepening inequalities due to COVID-19 where the wealthiest escaped the worst impact of the pandemic while the poor faced joblessness, starvation and death.
The organisation recommended reintroducing the wealth tax and effecting a one-time COVID-19 cess of 4% on taxable income of over ₹10 lakh to help the economy recover from the lockdown. According to its estimate, a wealth tax on the nation’s 954 richest families could raise the equivalent of 1% of the GDP.
According to the report, only 6% of the poorest 20% have access to nonshared sources of improved sanitation, compared to 93.4% of the top 20%. As much as 59.6% of India’s population lived in a room or less, which meant that protocols necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19 cannot be followed.
Oxfam India’s survey across the ﬁve States said that close to 40% of teachers in government schools feared that a third of the students would not return once schools reopened. It was estimated that out of school rates would double in a year. Dalits, Adivasis and Muslims were likely to see a higher dropout rate. Girls were also most vulnerable as they were at risk of early and forced marriage, violence and early pregnancies, it noted.
Unemployment of women rose by 15% from a pre lockdown level of 18%, which could result in a loss of India’s GDP of about 8% or ₹15 trillion.
6. Accelerated Vaccine drive soon
The Union government is all set to accelerate the ﬁrst phase of the COVID-19 vaccination drive by setting up additional vaccination sites and allowing walk-in vaccinations for those from the same group who have been registered in the Co-WIN system. The government rolled out the world’s largest COVID-19 vaccination drive on January 16 and has so far vaccinated nearly two million healthcare workers. The government aims to inoculate three crore healthcare and frontline workers free in the ﬁrst round of the vaccination drive.
India has so far vaccinated 1.9 million healthcare workers 10 days into its vaccination drive. On Monday, 3,34,679 were vaccinated in 7,171 sessions. There were no deaths reported on Monday in those who had been recently vaccinated, with the tally so far remaining at 8. However, there were 348 reports on Adverse Events Following Immunisation (AEFI).
INTERNATIONAL NEWS/EVENTS/ PERSONALITIES
1. Can the Biden-Harris team save the planet?
- While the U.S.’s re-entry into the Paris Agreement may be by the stroke of a pen, regaining political legitimacy on climate requires the government to take responsibility in causing and aggravating the global climate crisis; commit to technology and funds for poorer countries; take on bigger emission targets; not bend over for the fossil fuel lobby which funds Democrats and Republicans; clean up the role of lobbyists in climate regulatory and policy organisations within the U.S.; and recognise and break up elite networks that have benefited by sustaining climate myths.
2. At Davos forum, Xi warns world leaders against ‘new Cold War’
Chinese President Xi Jinping warned global leaders at an all-virtual World Economic Forum (WEF) at Davos on Monday against starting a “new Cold War”, and urged global unity in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Having largely curbed the spread of the pandemic within its borders, Mr. Xi wants to position China as a key player in a new multilateral world order as the U.S. remains crippled by the pandemic.
The Chinese leader also reaffirmed Beijing’s ambitious climate pledges to slash carbon emissions by 65% by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060 – both significant commitments as China emits a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gases.
3. Moderna says vaccine is effective against variants
- U.S. biotech firm Moderna said its vaccine should remain protective against key coronavirus variants while the unrelenting pandemic led to tightened border restrictions worldwide. In the face of deepening fears over new virus strains, Moderna offered some good news from lab studies of the variants first identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa. However, out of caution, Moderna will carry out more tests adding a second booster of its vaccine – to make three shots in total.
4. Uganda High Court orders end to Bobi Wine’s house arrest
- Uganda’s High Court ordered security forces to end their confinement of presidential election runner up Bobi Wine. Mr. Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulani, has been under de-facto house arrest at his home outside the capital, Kampala, since he returned from voting on January 14. He won 35% of the vote, according to official figures. Ugandan security forces have in the past disregarded court orders to release individuals or have immediately re-arrested people freed by the courts.
ECONOMICS & FINANCE
1. Green tax mooted for personal vehicles older than 15 years
Owners of old vehicles will have to pay the government a ‘green’ tax as a penalty for polluting the environment, which will be much steeper if you reside in one of the more polluted cities in India. Personal vehicles will be charged a tax at the time of renewal of Registration Certiﬁcation after 15 years. The levy may diﬀer depending on fuel (petrol/diesel) and type of vehicle.
The proposal on green tax also includes a steeper penalty of up to 50% of road tax for older vehicles registered in some of the highly polluted cities in the country. A watered-down policy of deregistration and scrapping of vehicles, bringing only those vehicles owned by government departments and PSUs and are older than 15 years under its ambit has also been approved. The policy will come into effect from April 1, 2022.
2. Amazon moves to the Delhi High Court over Future-Reliance Deal
U.S. online retailer Amazon has filed a petition in the Delhi High Court seeking detention of Future Group founders, including CEO Kishore Biyani, and seizure of their assets as it sought to block Future Group from selling retail assets to Reliance Industries. In the petition, Amazon sought enforcement of the Singapore arbitrator’s ruling in October against its partner Future’s ₹24,713 crore deal with Reliance.
Amazon, which wants the deal to sell retail assets to Reliance to be stopped, also asked the court for a direction for “detention of the directors (of Future Group entities) in civil prison.”
3. IRDAI mandates standard annuity plan
Insurance regulator IRDAI has directed all life insurers to mandatorily oﬀer from April 1 a standard, individual immediate annuity product it has developed. The single premium, nonlinked, non participating plan, to be called Saral Pension with the insurer’s name preﬁxed, will have simple features and standard terms and conditions.
The product would make it easier for customers to make an informed choice, enhance trust between the insurers and the insured and reduce mis-selling as well as potential disputes. Noting that several individual immediate annuity products are marketed by life insurers, with each product having its own features, terms and conditions and annuity options, IRDAI said a standard product will broadly meet the needs of an average customer.
4. RBI open to the idea of digital version of fiat currency
- Amid increasing popularity of virtual currencies in various parts of the world, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said it was open to exploring the possibility of a digital version of ﬁat currency. “The RBI is exploring the possibility as to whether there is a need for a digital version of ﬁat currency and in case there is, then how to operationalise it,” the RBI said in a booklet.
5. CII calls for a broadband infra fund
- The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) pitched for a ‘Broadband Infrastructure Fund’ with a token allocation of ₹5,000 crore by the government in the upcoming Budget. It said rapid acceleration in the creation of digital infrastructure would be an eﬀective tool for inclusive digitalisation that would help boost economic growth and employment.
1. Remembering HM Seervai https://rb.gy/uteyqf
2. Difference between Section 7 of the POCSO Act and Section 354 of IPC https://rb.gy/z66khm
3. Scope of judicial Review under Article 227 https://rb.gy/wj6qao
4. Res-Publica : The Ground we share https://rb.gy/t3y132
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Sources referred to : The Hindu, The Indian Express, Live Law, Bar & Bench