March 10th-12th, 2021
Your 10 minute read!
LAW, POLICY & GOVERNANCE
(i). Over 72% rise in UAPA cases registered in 2019
- There has been over 72% increase in the number of persons arrested under the UAPA (Unlawful Activities [Prevention] Act) in 2019 compared to year 2015, data provided by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in the Lok Sabha show. As many as 1,948 persons were arrested under the UAPA in 1,226 cases registered across the country in 2019.
(ii). SC questions delay in setting up environment regulator
- The Supreme Court asked the government to explain why it had not set up an “independent environment regulator” to oversee green clearances. The lapse was highlighted by advocate Prashant Bhushan, who said the top court had ordered the setting up of a national environment regulatory body to ensure independent oversight of green clearances way back in July 2011 in Lafarge Umiam Mining Private Limited v. Union of India, commonly known as the ‘Lafarge mining case’.
(iii). Wear masks properly or get off plane: Delhi HC
- Flight passengers who exhibit stubborn reluctance to wear their masks properly, could now get offloaded immediately or be placed in the “no fly” list, as per a fresh guidelines issued by the Delhi High Court. Justice Shankar said he was constrained to pass the order because of an alarming situation, which he witnessed during the Air India flight from Kolkata to New Delhi on March 5, 2021.
(iv). Delhi HC seeks response on petition against new IT Rules
The Delhi High Court sought a response from the Centre on a petition challenging the new IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, claiming it seeks to regulate online news portals by imposing government oversight and a vaguely worded ‘Code of Ethics’. The Plea was filed by Foundation for Independent Journalism.
The plea stated that the IT Rules, 2021, introduced two distinct sets of regulations – one, due diligence norms to be followed by ‘intermediaries’ and two, ‘Code of Ethics’ ought to be adhered to by ‘publishers’, along with a three tier compliance mechanism.
(v). Kerala HC restrains Centre on IT rules
- The Kerala High Court restrained the Centre from taking coercive action against Live Law Media Private Ltd., which owns a legal news portal, for not complying with Part III of the new IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. The court issued notice to the Centre on a petition filed by the firm challenging the rules regulating digital news media, curated content (OTT platforms), and social media intermediaries.
(vi). Stick to code, Karnataka HC tells media
The Karnataka High Court ordered issue of notices to the Centre and the State government and 70 media platforms, including newspapers, on a petition filed by a lawyer and BJP member, seeking a direction to the authorities to take steps to safeguard the right to privacy of individuals and ensure that media outlets don’t invade the privacy of individuals by breaching law.
Acting on the directions of the Karnataka High Court, Bengaluru Police Commissioner Kamal Pant has issued a general order prohibiting all television channels from airing programmes that are not in conformity with the “Programme Code” notified under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995. The order also stated that any violation of the order is liable for prosecution under Section 16 of the Act.
(vii). No proposal to release caste data: MHA
- The Ministry of Home Affairs informed the Rajya Sabha that there was “no proposal at present to release the report of the caste census” carried out in 2011 (SECC). The SECC 2011 data, excluding the caste data, had been finalised and published by the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (HUPA).
(viii). Gender discrimination alleged in NDA admission
The Supreme Court asked the government to respond to a plea alleging discrimination against women by barring them from taking the exam for admission to the prestigious National Defence Academy and the Naval Academy.
A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde issued notice to the government and the Union Public Service Commission on a petition filed by advocate Kush Kalra, who said eligible and willing women who aspire for a career in the Armed Forces are prohibited entry into these centres of excellence solely on the ground of gender.
(ix). Plea to include mental illness in list of comorbidities
- A petition has been filed before the Delhi High Court to include severe mental illness in the list of specified comorbidities to enable getting priority COVID-19 vaccination. The plea also sought direction to frame a policy to provide COVID-19 vaccination to homeless, mentally ill persons wandering on the streets.
(x). Petition in HC seeks expansion of ambit of electric vehicles scheme
- A petition filed before the Delhi High Court has sought direction to expand the ambit of the FAME (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles) India Phase-II scheme to the hydrogen energy infrastructure. The petition filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar sought direction to the government to allocate a part of the unutilised funds from the FAME India Phase-II Scheme for promoting and incentivising demand for hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles and construction and operation of hydrogen refuelling stations.
(xi). PM’s photo removed from COVID vaccine certificates
- The Health Ministry informed the Election Commission (EC) that the “necessary filters” were added to the Co-WIN platform in the four poll bound States and one Union Territory, removing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s photo from the COVID-19 vaccine certificates in those regions. The EC had taken up the issue after the Trinamool Congress complained that publishing Mr. Modi’s photo on the certificates was a violation of the model code. What are the moral code of conducts (https://rb.gy/fgzglf)
(xii). Javadekar meets digital media outlets
- After severe criticism over not holding consultations with digital media publishers before bringing in the new IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar held a meeting with members of the Digital News Publishers Association. Minister, Mr. Javadekar reiterated at the meeting that the new rules placed certain responsibilities on digital news publishers.
(xiii). Lok Sabha gives approval for National Capital Territory Bill
- The Lok Sabha passed the National Capital Territory of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Second (Amendment) Bill, 2021 that seeks to regularise unauthorised colonies that existed in the National Capital Territory of Delhi as on June 1, 2014, and had seen development up to 50% as on January 1, 2015. Delhi MP Meenakshi Lekhi, said that a large number of people living in unauthorised colonies in Delhi were not receiving proper amenities and that this Bill provided ownership rights to those living in these colonies. It would facilitate access to institutional credit and also improve the basic amenities. The bill was passed by voice vote.
NATIONAL NEWS/ INTERVENTIONS
(i). Uttarakhand political crises
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat tendered his resignation to Governor Baby Rani Maurya. There were complaints from his own party MLAs and others about his style of functioning and administration. From being tardy in implementing the ‘Chardham yatra’ projects to not being accessible to his own partymen, to facing a corruption charge wherein the Uttarakhand High Court had ordered a CBI inquiry against him (later stayed by the Supreme Court).
Garhwal MP Tirath Singh Rawat will take over as the new CM of Uttarakhand. Mr. Tirath, 57, who was the Uttarakhand BJP chief from 2013 to 2015, was a member of the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Council, before the creation of Uttarakhand, during the period 1997-2002. He was an MLA in Uttarakhand from 2012 to 2017, and previously held the post of Education Minister from 2000 to 2002.
(ii). Parliamentary Committee on meagre pensions
The Centre must increase the “meagre” pensions provided for poor senior citizens, widows and disabled people, said the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Rural Development in its report submitted to the Lok Sabha. The panel also slammed the government’s laxity in raising the amount. “The Committee is baﬄed to observe the meagre amount of assistance ranging from ₹200 to ₹500 per month under the diﬀerent components of this Scheme,” it said.
The panel pointed out that it had previously urged the increase of these miniscule pensions in its reports on the Department of Rural Development’s (DoRD) demand for grants in 2019-20 and 2020-21. The panel also pulled up the DoRD for delays and disparities in the payment of wages and unemployment allowances under the ﬂagship MGNREGA scheme. Another issue with MGNREGA is the disparity in wages in diﬀerent States.
(iii). Delhi government presents 69k crores 'Deshbhakti Budget'
Delhi government presented a ₹69,000 crore ‘Deshbhakti Budget’ for the 202122 ﬁscal replete with provisions seeking to inspire patriotism in the run up to the 75th Independence Day, free COVID vaccination, and a vision for “India at 2047”. Manish Sisodia, the finance minister also announced that the Delhi government aims to bid for hosting the 2048 Olympic Games. “Our aim for 2047 should be that the per capita income of Delhi is equal to that of Singapore. For that, we will have to increase the per capita income 16fold, and we will do whatever it takes to achieve that,” he said.
The education sector got the lion’s share of funds – ₹16,377 crore (24%) – in the 2021-22 budget, followed by the health sector at ₹9,934 crore (14%). A total of ₹9,394 crore (13%) has been pledged towards transport, roads and bridges. A separate budget of ₹10 crore each has been allocated to conduct programmes to honour Shaheed Bhagat Singh and Babasaheb BhimRao Ambedkar.
(iv). ISRO-NASA collaboration
- ISRO has completed development of a Synthetic Aperture Radar capable of producing high-resolution images for a joint earth observation satellite mission with the U.S. space agency NASA. The mission is targeted to be launched in 2022.
(v). Rolling out of cyber volunteer programme
The Ministry of Home Aﬀairs (MHA) informed the Lok Sabha that a “cyber volunteer” programme has been rolled out for “cyber hygiene promotion” and the services of volunteers would be utilised by the State police as per requirement. The MHA, through its cyber crime grievance portal cybercrime.gov.in, aims to raise a group of “cyber crime volunteers'' to ﬂag “unlawful content” on the Internet. The MHA had operationalised the National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal on August 30, 2019 to provide a centralised mechanism to the citizens for online reporting of all types of cyber crime incidents, with a special focus on cyber crimes against women and children.
The government had approved the setting up of 1,023 Fast Track Special Courts (FTSCs), including 389 exclusive POCSO Courts, for expeditious trial and disposal of cases related to rape and the Protection of Children from Sexual Oﬀences (POCSO) Act.
Various groups, including the Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF), have expressed concern that the programme enables a culture of surveillance and could create potential social distrust by encouraging civilians to report the online activities of other citizens.
(vi). Exercise Dustlik-II
At Exercise Dustlik-II bet ween India and Uzbekistan from March 10-19, the Army will showcase its Counter In surgency (CI) and Counter Terrorism (CT) skills. The focus will be on people centric intelligence based surgical operations, incorporating technological advancements to minimise collateral damage. The broad aim of the exercise is CI,CT operations in mountainous, rural and urban scenarios under United Nations (UN) mandate and the Army will share the experiences and lessons it has gained in Kashmir.
India has a series of joint exercises scheduled in the next ﬁnancial year beginning April 2021 including with Central Asian Republics – Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan – in addition to Mongolia and Russia as part of its growing engagement with the region. The Army’s 13 Kumaon regiment, also called the Rezang La battalion for its heroic action in the 1962 war with China, has been nominated from the Indian side for the company level CI, CT exercise being held at Chaubatia, near Ranikhet in Uttarakhand.
(vii). Mizoram & Manipur awaits centre's direction on refugees
The Mizoram government has declined to provide details or the number of Myanmar nationals who have crossed over since March 1 seeking asylum after the coup in the neighbouring country. The government is also awaiting instructions from the Ministry of Home Aﬀairs (MHA) on how to handle the foreign nationals who had ﬂed fearing a military crackdown. Locals said more than 100 Myanmar nationals have entered Mizoram since March 1. The border district authorities had initially put up some of the refugees in community halls, providing them food and security.
Manipur Chief minister N. Biren Singh said that schools may be arranged by the State government for “refugees from Myanmar,” but since it was a bilateral issue, they were awaiting directions from the Ministry of Home Aﬀairs (MHA). Manipur shares a 398 km border with Myanmar.
(viii). Haryana government defeats no-trust vote
The no-conﬁdence motion moved by the Congress against the Bharatiya Janata Party-Jannayak Janta Party coalition government in Haryana on Wednesday was defeated by 55 votes to 32. In the 90 member Assembly, the BJP and the JJP have 40 and 10 MLAs respectively, besides the support of ﬁve Independents.
Moving the no-conﬁdence motion against the Manohar Lal led government, Leader of the Opposition Bhupinder Singh Hooda said the coalition government had completely lost the conﬁdence of the people.
(ix). Recommendation for providing breakfast in schools
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Education has recommended that all government schools start providing free breakfast in the coming academic year as part of an expansion of the mid-day meal scheme envisaged by the National Education Policy. Free breakfasts would involve an additional budget of ₹4,000 crore, according to senior oﬃcials, but the School Education Department has seen a budget cut of almost ₹5,000 crore this year. The School Education Department saw an 8% cut in allocation from the 2020-21 budget estimate of ₹59,845 crore to ₹54,873 crore in the coming year.
In its submission to the panel, the Department said it had proposed two new components to the mid day meal scheme during 2021-22 – an expansion of coverage from the current Class 1-8 students to include pre primary students as well, and the provision of breakfast. A number of States have already started providing breakfast to the students in the midday meal scheme. The Centre bears the entire cost of food grains, but shares the cost of food preparation and distribution with the states.
(x). Rajasthan to grade public work
- The government in Rajasthan has formulated a new public service delivery monitoring framework with the indicators for 17 departments to ensure transparency in public works. The framework is expected to lead to good governance in various sectors. The framework’s provisions for grading and ranking would help the common people in getting their grievances resolved and facilitate monitoring of works. The online data of various departments would be obtained for their grading and ranking on the basis of 100 indicators. The primary schemes for development at the grassroots would get the highest attention in the framework.
(xi). Protecting people from second-hand smoke
Doctors, cancer victims and restaurateurs in Assam have asked the Centre to amend the COTPA 2003 for removing designated smoking rooms in hotels, restaurants and airports to protect people from second-hand smoke. COTPA expands to Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003. Section 4 of the COTPA 2003 prohibits smoking in any place to which the public has access. But the Act allows smoking in designated smoking areas of certain public places such as restaurants, hotels and airports.
Appreciating the government for initiating the process to amend COTPA 2003, they sought immediate removal of a current provision that permits smoking areas to make India 100% smoking free and check the spread of COVID-19 infection in the country.
(xii). Punjab study links rise in farm incomes to FPO
A study at the Ludhiana based Punjab Agricultural University to track the impact of Farmer Producer Organisations (FPO) on the income and employment of farmers in Punjab during 2019-20, has revealed that incomes increased after farmers joined the FPOs and the impact was greater among small, marginal and semi medium farmers. The study, titled “Economic Impact of Farmer Producer Organisations on Punjab Peasantry”, asserts that overall, while permanent labour employment has marginally increased, the income of farmers has increased by 15.71% due to a shift in cropping patterns and proper use of farm inputs. FPOs consist of member farmers and are run by them with support from organisations-agencies.
“Multiple linear regression analysis reveals that farm size, family size and membership of FPOs signiﬁcantly inﬂuenced the income level of farmers. These FPOs have been improving the income level of the member farmers. The change in the net annual income of the FPO members after and before joining the FPO was analysed. Overall increase in income of a sample of 100 FPO members was 15.71%, mainly due to a shift in the cropping pattern and awareness about farm inputs used by farmers such as seeds and fertilizers, insecticide, pesticide, insect and pest attack, timely use of inputs and subsidised farm implements.” In Punjab, out of the total of 10.53 lakh land holdings, about 34% are held by small and marginal farmers. Farmers in general and small farmers in particular, have been facing several problems in production and marketing.
(xiii). India-Japan space agencies review ties
Indian and Japanese space agencies reviewed cooperation in earth observation, lunar cooperation and satellite navigation, and also agreed to explore opportunities for cooperation in “space situational awareness and professional exchange programme”. This was agreed during a bilateral meeting between the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency ( JAXA) held virtually.
India and Japan are already working on a joint lunar polar exploration (LUPEX) mission and the two space agencies have been working on the mission that aims to send a lander and rover to the Moon’s south pole around 2024.
Early this month, India and Italy decided to explore opportunities in earth observation, space science and robotic and human exploration. Last month, India and Australia signed an amendment to the MoU which will build on the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. Both countries are also in discussions for Australia to host vital tracking infrastructure to support the Gaganyaan manned space ﬂight mission.
(xiv). Navy inducts third Scorpene submarine
- The Navy inducted the third Scorpene class conventional diesel- electric submarine, INS Karanj, into service. It was commissioned into the Navy by former Navy Chief Admiral V.S. Shekhawat, who was the Commanding Officer of the earlier INS Karanj in the 1971 India-Pakistan War, a Navy statement said.
INTERNATIONAL NEWS/EVENTS/ PERSONALITIES
(i). Farm laws discussion in UK
- Discussion on the farm laws by the British Parliament amounts to “gross interference” in the domestic affairs of India, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla told British High Commissioner Alex Ellis. He advised that British MPs should refrain from practising vote bank politics by misrepresenting events, especially in relation to another fellow democracy.
(ii). China launches 'virus passport'
- China has launched a health certiﬁcate programme for Chinese international travellers, leading the world in plans for so called virus passports. The digital certiﬁcate, which shows a user’s vaccination status and virus test results, is available for Chinese citizens. The certiﬁcate is being rolled out “to help promote world economic recovery and facilitate cross border travel”, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said. Although the certiﬁcate is meant for travel in and out of China, it is currently only available for use by Chinese citizens.
(iii). First quad summit to be held on March 12th
The first ever summit of the leaders of the Quadrilateral Framework or ‘Quad’ will take place virtually on March 12, the Ministry of External Affairs announced. The United States, Japan, Australia and India comprise the Quadrilateral Framework.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will join U.S. President Joseph Biden, Australian PM Scott Morrison and Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga for a virtual summit of the Quadrilateral Framework (Quad) on Friday – the ﬁrst time leaders of the Indo-Paciﬁc grouping are meeting. The Quad meeting, that China has referred to as an “Indo-Paciﬁc NATO'', will be watched most closely for signals on how the grouping will deal with the challenge from Beijing’s recent moves in the Paciﬁc as well as at the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh.
(iv). Brazil SC judge annuls convictions against Lula
A Brazilian Supreme Court judge annulled the criminal convictions against former leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a move that could allow the popular politician to run in next year’s presidential election. The decision roiled ﬁnancial markets and scrambled forecasts for the 2022 race, with many investors betting it would polarise voters between President Jair Bolsonaro, a far right populist, and Mr. Lula, his greatest opponent on the left.
The oﬃce of Brazil’s Prosecutor General said it will appeal the decision, which will also be reviewed by the full Supreme Court. Mr. Lula governed Latin America’s largest economy between 2003 and 2011, overseeing a commodities boom that turbocharged economic growth. In 2018, he was convicted of taking bribes from ﬁrms in return for contracts.
(v). US offers temporary refuge to Venezuelans
- The U.S. will allow tens of thousands of Venezuelans to seek refuge. Temporary Protected Status is being offered to people who fled political repression and economic chaos in the South American country. Over 300,000 individuals are estimated to be eligible.
(vi). Indo-Pacific is key priority for Biden administration
The scheduling of the ﬁrst ever Quad leaders’ summit level meeting within 50 days of the Biden administration signiﬁed the importance the administration places on the Indo-Paciﬁc, the White House said. Friday’s virtual meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan. The White House is expecting a range of issues to be discussed, including COVID-19, economic cooperation and the climate crisis.
Earlier, President Biden had said China was “the only competitor potentially capable of combining its economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to mount a sustained challenge to a stable and open international system.” However, the Biden administration has been careful to portray the Quad as something bigger than a grouping centred around the China challenge – “the Quad is not about any single challenge. It’s not about any single competitor. This is an entity forged and formed because we share common interests. There, maritime security is, of course, an important one, but our shared interests go well beyond that.”
Asked about the summit, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said China “believes that any regional cooperation architecture should follow the principle of peaceful development and win-win cooperation, which is the prevailing trend of the times. We hope the relevant countries will keep in mind the common interests of the regional countries, uphold the principles of openness, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation, and do things that are conducive to regional peace stability and prosperity, rather than the opposite,” he said.
(vii). Russia targets Twitter over 'illegal' content
Russia said it was disrupting Twitter’s services because the platform had failed to remove “illegal” content, the latest in a series of moves exerting control over foreign tech giants. The Kremlin has been clamping down on sites, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, in recent months for hosting content supporting jailed opposition ﬁgure Alexei Navalny.
Roskomnadzor, Russia’s media watchdog, said the disruption aimed to “protect Russian citizens” after Twitter failed to comply with its requests to delete content related to child pornography, drug use and calls for minors to commit suicide.
(viii). UNSC slams violence in Myanmar
- The UN Security Council agreed on a statement that condemns violence against Myanmar protesters and urges military restraint, diplomats said, but dropped language condemning the Army takeover as a coup and threatening possible further action due to opposition by China, Russia, India and Vietnam. “The Security Council strongly condemns the violence against peaceful protestors, including against women, youth and children. The council calls for the military to exercise utmost restraint and emphasizes that it is following the situation closely”.
(ix). China overhauls Hong Kong's poll system
China passed sweeping changes for Hong Kong’s electoral system that will give Beijing appointed politicians a greater say in running the Special Administration Region (SAR), marking the biggest change since the handover in 1997. At the heart of the new proposal is a move to give Beijing appointed politicians greater power in running the HKSAR’s politics, through a newly expanded Election Committee of 1,500 members.
The NPC (National Party Congress) said the move was to ensure that “the electoral system should conform to the policy of ‘one country, two systems’, meet the realities in the HKSAR and serve to ensure that Hong Kong is administered by people who love the country and love Hong Kong''. Currently, only half of the 70 members of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (Leg Co) are directly elected and the rest are nominated. With this change, the number of LegCo members will be increased to 90, with the additional members also nominated, thereby reducing the share of elected representatives. The expanded Election Committee will be composed of 1,500 members, up from 1,200 previously. The Election Committee, as previously, will be responsible for electing the Chief Executive, and will also choose some of the members of LegCo. The new electoral system is the second signiﬁcant change in the administration of the HKSAR since the 2019 protests, with a national security law passed last year which has eroded the political freedoms that distinguished Hong Kong from the main land under the “one country, two systems'' model.
(x). Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief package
In a massive and early victory for the Democrats, the House of Representatives approved a $1.9 trillion COVID19 relief Bill, he American Rescue Plan. Eligible Americans will receive $1,400 cheques under a $400 billion measure contained in the Bill. Another $350 billion will be directed towards vaccine distribution, assistance to State and local governments and to fund tax credits for those with children.
The Bill extends by six months a $300 weekly unemployment insurance scheme which was due to expire in March. It also covers assistance to schools to facilitate the return of children to classrooms, a 15% increase in food stamp beneﬁts for another six months and assistance for the heating and cooling of homes in come for poor families among other measures. Republicans, all of whom opposed the Bill, both in the Senate and the House, argued that the Bill was too expansive and pushed through a raft of progressive policy priorities. A signiﬁcant majority of Americans (70%) support the Bill, according to a survey released by the Pew Research Center. The stimulus is expected to boost the global economic recovery from COVID-19, the OECD had said on Tuesday.
OPINION & ANALYSIS
Commentary : US Plans for Afghanistan
The inclusion of India in the United States' latest strategy of regional talks on Afghanistan. U.S. Special Envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad’s talks with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and a letter written by U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani.
According to the letter to Mr. Ghani, which was published by Afghan agency Tolo News, Mr. Blinken’s plan is to ask the United Nations to convene a meeting of “Foreign Ministers and Special Envoys from Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, India and the U.S.” to discuss an “uniﬁed approach” on Afghanistan.
(ii). Role for New Delhi
For India, which has protested being left out of regional formulations in the past both in the original Moscow process, and in the United Nations April 2020 “6+2+1” that included Afghanistan’s “immediate neighbours” only, the U.S.’s suggestion is a relief.
Concerns however suggest that, the U.S. just wants to accelerate its exit from the conﬂict by proposing this grouping at the U.N. Equally puzzling is the U.S.’s plan to ask the government of Turkey to host a senior level meeting of “both sides in the coming weeks to ﬁnalise a peace agreement.”
Another concern is the U.S. has pushed for a road map to a “new, inclusive government” in Kabul, which indicates its desire to replace Mr. Ghani’s government with an interim one that would include the Taliban’s nominees as well. Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh denounced the ideas in the letter, saying that the Taliban could enter elections but that the country’s fate would not be decided by “20 people in a room”.
(iii). Role of Turkey
- The new emphasis for an Istanbul process over the current process in Doha, might indicate a greater role for Turkey, as well as Turkish troops as a part of a proposed “NATO stabilisation force”, something that New Delhi might have concerns about, given close ties between Turkey and Pakistan.
ECONOMICS & FINANCE
(i). Government asks refiners to diversify oil imports after OPEC+ move
India has asked state reﬁners to speed up diversification of oil imports to gradually cut their dependence on West Asian suppliers after OPEC+ decided last week to largely continue production cuts in April. India, the world’s third biggest oil consumer imports about 84% of its crude needs with over 60% of that coming from West Asian countries. India, hit hard by rising oil prices, has urged producers to ease output cuts and help the global economic recovery. OPEC’s share in India’s oil imports declined to historic lows in the ﬁrst 10 months of this ﬁscal year.
One plan is to import oil from new producer Guyana. Indian Oil Corp. has also renewed its oil import contract with Russia. Iraq and Saudi Arabia are the two biggest suppliers of crude oil to India.
(ii). GDP to grow at 11% in FY22 says CRISIL
- CRISIL said it expects the Indian economy to grow at 11% in ﬁscal 2022, after an estimated 8% contraction this ﬁscal due to the pandemic. The growth, it said, will be driven by four factors – people learning to live with the new normal, ﬂattening of the COVID-19 aﬄiction curve, rollout of vaccines, and investment focused government spending.
(iii). Rise in hiring of apprentices
- India’s apprenticeship ecosystem is currently witnessing a positive momentum, shows a study by the National Employability Through Apprenticeship Program (NETAP), a Team Lease Skills University and the Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship initiative. As per NETAP’s recent apprenticeship outlook, some 41% of the employers in India are keen on hiring apprentices while 58% of enterprises want to increase the quantum of apprenticeship hiring this year. The report indicated positive hiring for women apprentices.
(iv). IDBI Bank exits PCA framework
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) removed IDBI Bank from its enhanced regulatory supervision, or the Prompt Corrective Action (PCA) framework, after almost four years, on improved ﬁnancial performance. The RBI had placed IDBI Bank under the framework in May 2017, after it had breached the thresholds for capital adequacy, asset quality (net NPAs were over 13% in March 2017), return on assets and leverage ratio.
What is the PCA framework? Prompt Corrective Action or PCA is a framework under which banks with weak financial metrics are put under watch by the RBI. The PCA framework deems commercial banks as risky if they slip below certain norms on three parameters – Capital Ratios, Asset Quality and Profitability. PCA is intended to help alert the regulator as well as investors and depositors if a bank is heading for trouble. The idea is to head off problems before they attain crisis proportions.
(v). Government tells telcos to buy from trusted sources
Telecom service providers will be able to procure equipment only from ‘trusted sources’ as deﬁned by the government. This follows the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) amending licence conditions for equipment procurement. Service providers have to take permission from the National Cyber Security Coordinator (NCSC) for upgrading existing networks utilising equipment not designated as trusted products.
“The government, through the Designated Authority [the NCSC], will have the right to impose conditions for procurement of telecommunication equipment on grounds of defence of India, or matters directly or indirectly related thereto, for national security,” according to the DoT.
(vi). India blocked over 9800 URLs
- The government blocked over 9,800 URLs, accounts and web pages in 2020, an increase of about 170% from 2019, under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000. In a written reply to Lok Sabha, Electronics and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, wherever the situation warrants, under the provision of section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, the government blocks unlawful and malicious online content.
(vii). US curbs and vaccination targets
The U.S. backed Quad alliance aims to invest in India’s pharmaceutical capacity as it looks to ramp up COVID vaccine output, but U.S. curbs on exports of key materials could hamper that eﬀort. The alliance, grouping the United States, Japan, Australia and India, wants to expand global vaccinations and in turn counter China’s growing vaccine diplomacy in Southeast Asia and world wide. India is the world’s biggest vaccine maker.
Earlier this week Reuters reported that the U.S. and Japan would help fund Indian ﬁrms manufacturing vaccines for U.S. drug makers Novavax Inc. and J&J. Some of the additional supplies from India will go to Southeast Asia as China pushes its vaccines to supply Indonesia, Philippines and others in the region. The Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s biggest vaccine maker, has said it is worried the U.S. ban on exports of materials like ﬁlters and bags, keeping them for U.S. companies, could limit production. Limitations to production of the Novavax and Covishield shots risk hurting the GAVI/WHO COVAX initiative that is heavily reliant on those two vaccines as it shares inoculations with poorer countries.
(viii). Google pay adds new user privacy features
- Google Pay announced new features for improved user privacy, including the option to delete transaction records as well as the choice to opt out of getting personalised oﬀers and rewards.
(i). BBC's sportsperson of the year
World rapid chess champion Koneru Humpy has won the BBC Indian Sportswoman of the Year award. BBC director-general Tim Davie, hosting the virtual awards ceremony, said: “Huge congratulations to Koneru Humpy for winning this year’s BBC ISWOTY award. She has made a fantastic contribution to chess and this accolade is well deserved.”
The Lifetime Achievement award went to veteran athlete Anju Bobby George. Ben Stokes announced young shooter Manu Bhaker winner of the Emerging Player of the Year award. Bhaker, aged 16 won two golds at the ISSF World Cup in 2018, followed by gold at the Youth Olympics and a Commonwealth Games gold with a record to boot.
(ii). IOC and China enter into a vaccine deal
- The International Olympic Committee and China have teamed up to offer vaccines to athletes and teams preparing for the upcoming games in both Tokyo and Beijing. IOC president Thomas Bach said the body would “pay for extra doses” for Olympic and Paralympic participants.
(iii). Tokyo Olympics
- Several IOC members reminded Tokyo Olympic organisers about the potential negative consequences of banning overseas fans from attending the postponed Games. Tokyo organisers say a ﬁnal decision about fans from abroad will be made before the torch relay starts on March 25. The Olympics open on July 23.
1. Satyarani Chaddha : India's anti-dowry movement https://www.barandbench.com/columns/remembering-satyarani-chaddha-the-face-of-indias-anti-dowry-movement
2. Defamation : Pursuit of justice and Free Speech https://thewire.in/law/defamation-priya-ramani-metoo-slapp-free-speech-media
3. The Information technology Rules 2021 https://www.barandbench.com/columns/the-information-technology-rules-2021-an-assault-on-privacy-as-we-know-it
5. Working towards climate justice https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/working-towards-climate-justice-in-a-non-ideal-world/article34047239.ece
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Sources referred to : The Hindu, The Indian Express, Live Law, Bar & Bench