March 9th, 2021
Your 10 minute read!
LAW, POLICY & GOVERNANCE
1. SC seeks States’ views on 50% cap on quota
The Supreme Court decided to examine whether its nearly three decades old judgment which fixed reservation for the marginalised and the poor in government jobs and educational institutions at 50% needs a relook. A five judge Bench, led by Justice Ashok Bhushan, set up to hear the challenge to the Maratha quota law, decided not to confine the question of reservation spilling over the 50% limit to just Maharashtra.
Another question is whether the Maharashtra State Reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act of 2018, which provides 12% to 13% quota benefits for the Maratha community, thus taking the reservation percentage in the State across the 50% mark, was enacted under “extraordinary circumstances”.
2. Batla House encounter: ‘IM operative’ convicted
- A Delhi court convicted Ariz Khan, allegedly associated with the terror outfit Indian Mujahideen (IM), for the murder of Delhi police inspector Mohan Chand Sharma in a case related to the 2008 Batla House encounter. The court will hear arguments on the quantum of sentence on March 15.
NATIONAL NEWS/ INTERVENTIONS
1. Will handle national security projects: ISRO
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has said it will be in charge of projects linked to “national security and advanced technology”, such as the forthcoming Chandrayaan-2 missions and the Gaganyaan mission that plans to send Indian cosmonauts into space.
However, the bulk of commercial activities would increasingly be handled by the newly formed New Space India Ltd (NSIL). The comments were in response to a query by the Standing Committee on Science and Technology, led by Rajya Sabha member Jairam Ramesh on whether the NSIL would “replace'' ISRO.
The NSIL recently coordinated the launch of the Amazonia satellite by Brazil on February 28, its first fully commercial mission that also saw 18 other satellites being launched. The NSIL was incorporated in March 2019 and in June 2020, its scope was “enhanced”. Its mandate, according to a standing committee report on space laid in the Rajya Sabha on Monday, includes owning satellites for earth observation and communication applications.
2. Five themes for 75th year celebration of freedom
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the celebrations of the 75th anniversary of Independence would be based on public participation and revolve around five themes – the freedom struggle and ideas, achievements, actions and resolve at 75.
“He said this festival should embody the glimpse of the glory of Sanatan Bharat and also the glow of modern India. He said it should reflect the light of the spirituality of the sages and also the talent and strength of our scientists. He said it will also showcase our achievements of these 75 years to the world and also give a framework for resolution to us for the next 25 years,” a government statement said.
3. Plea to NHRC on refugees in Mizoram
- A New Delhi Based rights group has asked the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to process the asylum or refugee claims of Myanmar nationals who fled the military coup-affected country and had taken shelter in Mizoram. Over 50 people from the Chin ethnic group have taken shelter in Mizoram.
4. Defense Acquisition Council for purchase of drones, submarines
Multibillion deals for 30 armed drones from the U.S. and six advanced submarines under Project75I are likely to be taken by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) in April for approval. India has been looking to procure 30 armed drones, 10 for each service, from the U.S. The three Services have since ﬁnalised the Qualitative Requirements and all the processing has been completed. Since the standoﬀ with China, the need for long endurance drones to maintain continuous surveillance of the border has been acutely felt.
In January 2020, the DAC had shortlisted Mazgaon Docks Limited (MDL) and Larsen & Toubro (L&T) as the Indian partners for the P75I deal worth over ₹45,000 crore.
5. Schools in Anganwadi and tap water
Only half of the government schools and anganwadis have tap water supply, despite a 100-day campaign for 100% coverage being launched by the Jal Shakti Ministry last October, according to Information provided to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Water Resources. Less than 8% of schools in Uttar Pradesh and 11% in West Bengal have it, while it is available in only 26% of anganwadis in Assam, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Bengal.
The campaign to provide potable piped water supply for drinking and cooking purposes and tap water for washing hands and in toilets in every school, anganwadi and ashramshala or residential tribal school was launched on October 2, 2020, Gandhi Jayanti. However, as of February 15, only 48.5% of anganwadis and 53.3% of schools had tap water supply, the Ministry told the Parliamentary panel.
INTERNATIONAL NEWS/EVENTS/ PERSONALITIES
1. ‘Hong Kong fully welcomes poll reforms’
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said the city’s government “fully welcomes'' changes to the city’s electoral system that will substantially increase central government control over Hong Kong politics and exclude critics of Beijing. Chinese authorities have said the draft decision before China’s National People’s Congress would mean the largely pro-Beijing committee that elects Hong Kong’s leader would also choose a large part of the legislature to ensure the city is run by “patriots.”
The Election Committee would also have the right to vet candidates for the Legislative Council, weeding out any people suspected of being insufficiently loyal to China and the ruling Communist Party. Currently, half of Hong Kong’s legislature is directly elected by voters, although the mass resignation of opposition legislators to protest the expulsion of four of their colleagues for being “unpatriotic” means the body is now entirely controlled by Beijing loyalists.
2. After historic visit, Pope leaves Iraq for Rome
Pope Francis wrapped up his historic whirlwind tour of Iraq that sought to bring hope to the country’s marginalised Christian minority with a message of coexistence, forgiveness and peace. The pontiff and his travelling delegation were seen off with a farewell ceremony at the Baghdad airport.
At every turn of his trip, Pope Francis urged Iraqis to embrace diversity – from Najaf in the south, where he held a historic meeting with powerful Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali alSistani, to Nineveh to the north, where he met with Christian victims of the Islamic State group’s terror and heard their testimonies of survival.
In Iraq’s south, the Pope convened a meeting of Iraqi religious leaders in the deserts near a symbol of the country’s ancient past – the 6,000year old ziggurat in the Plains of Ur, also thought to be the birthplace of Abraham, the patriarch revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims. The gathering brought religious representatives across the country rarely seen together, from Muslims, Christians, Yazidis and Mandaeans.
3. Libya Parliament urged to vote for new Cabinet
Libya’s Prime Minister designate Abdulhamid Dbeibeh urged lawmakers to vote for his new unity government, a crucial step toward December elections and stability in the country. The oil-rich African nation descended into chaos after dictator Muammar Gaddafi was killed in 2011.
A UN-supervised process aims to unite the country after an October ceasefire between forces loyal to two rival administrations, each backed by foreign powers, based in the east and west of the country.
4. Senegal opposition leader indicted, gets bail
- Senegal opposition leader Ousmane Sonko was indicted and released on bail, his lawyer said, as he faces a rape accusation that has sparked violent protests. Mr. Sonko’s release could help ease tensions over his arrest in the past week that left at least eight dead in clashes between protesters and police, right group Amnesty International said on Monday. “He (Sonko) has been indicted for rape and death threats and placed under judicial supervision. He is going home,” Mr. Sonko’s lawyer, Cheikh Koureyssi Ba, said
5. Afghan women leave journalism in droves
Nearly 20% of Afghan women journalists have quit or lost their jobs in the past six months, as a wave of murders targeting the press has intensified in the war torn country. The Afghan Journalists Safety Committee said that more than 300 women had left the industry in recent months, citing the “wave of targeted killings'' as one of the main reasons – along with financial difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The report comes as the world marks International Women’s Day and less than a week after three female media workers from Enikass TV were gunned down by militants in the eastern city of Jalalabad in an attack claimed by the local Islamic State group affiliate. Journalists, religious scholars, activists and judges have all been victims of a recent wave of political assassinations across Afghanistan, forcing many into hiding and some to flee the country.
The killings have been acutely felt by women, whose rights were crushed under Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001 – which included a ban on them working. Intelligence officials have previously linked the attacks against women to demands at ongoing peace talks in Doha – between the Kabul government and the Taliban – for their rights to be protected
6. Uighur women stage a march in Istanbul against Chinese camps
Several hundred Muslim Uighur women in Turkey staged an International Women’s Day march along the Bosphorus on Monday demanding the closure of mass incarceration camps in China’s Xinjiang region. The protesters chanted “stop the genocide” and “close the camps” as they marched within a few hundred metre’s of China’s walledoff consulate in Istanbul.
Rights groups believe at least one million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities have been incarcerated in camps spread out across the vast northwestern region.
Uighurs speak a Turkic language and have cultural ties with Turkey that make it a favoured destination for avoiding persecution in Xinjiang. But many in the 5,00,000 strong community fear that Ankara’s dependence on Chinese investments could jeopardize their future status in Turkey.
OPINION & ANALYSIS
Analysis : The contours of the endgame in Afghanistan
- Afghan social media and political circles are rife with details, corroborated by official sources in Afghanistan, that the U.S. Secretary of State, Antony J. Blinken, has unveiled the initial conclusions of the review by the United States of its strategy in Afghanistan in a letter he has addressed simultaneously to Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani and the head of the Afghan High Council for National Reconciliation of Afghanistan, Abdullah Abdullah. It confirms the intention to fully withdraw all U.S. military forces from Afghanistan as early as May 1, as specified in the Doha Agreement.
If training, combat support, and the supply of weapons are stopped from Pakistan, the Taliban could be on its knees. The U.S. Government is wary but resigned about Pakistan’s negative role. Instead of pressuring Pakistan, it is seeking Afghan acquiescence for a power sharing arrangement with the Taliban, enabling the exit of U.S. soldiers.
When the intra-Afghan negotiations envisaged under the Doha Agreement stalled, Russia offered Moscow as an alternate venue. Instead, the United Nations is being asked to convene, with Turkey being asked to host a meeting of foreign ministers or envoys from China, India, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, and the U.S. to discuss a unified approach to supporting peace in Afghanistan.
Mr. Ghani is being encouraged to work closely with a broad consultative group, for which the core leaders identified are Abdullah Abdullah, former President Karzai, and an important former Mujahideen commander, Professor Abdul Rasul Sayyaf.
(iii). India’s role in Afghanistan
- If the American plan results only in a ‘reduction in violence’ and not its complete cessation, and U.S. forces are pulled out, India must step up to assist materially those who want to defend the Afghan republic. It should explore commonalities with key countries in dealing with the rapidly evolving situation. When in the late 1990s no country was willing to help the democratic forces in Afghanistan, India and Iran had scaled up their support.
Commentary : Haryana Reservation : An alarming diktat
Haryana Governor Satyadeo Narain Arya’s assent to a law regulating private sector hiring portends a potentially perilous slide in India’s investment climate and its socio economic framework. The Haryana State Employment of Local Candidates Act of 2020 seeks to ensure that 75% of all jobs with gross monthly salaries of up to ₹ 50,000 are provided to the State’s own residents.
Haryana’s law could face legal challenges, as it ostensibly flies in the face of the Constitution, especially Article 19 (1)(g) and Article 16(2). Operationally, the law imposes onerous and contentious responsibilities on key personnel of firms in the State. Most preposterous is seeking exemptions to the law – firms can hire outsiders by proving that local candidates for a desired skill are not available.
It is time the Centre dissuades such legislation which threatens to not only unleash a sort of ‘work visa’ regime for Indians within the country but also damage crucial workplace diversity. Immobilising a much vaunted young workforce and rupturing the social fabric with this push for insularity would be the start of an unstoppable slide.
ECONOMICS & FINANCE
1. Iran's oil trade
- Iran moved about 17.8 million tonnes of crude into China during the past 14 months, with volumes reaching record levels in January and February. The US sanctions imposed by President Trump caused a drop in Iran’s exports to China, India, Japan and South Korea. Those measures, and output cuts by fellow OPEC+ producers, have led to tight supplies of West Asian sour crude in Asia. India, hurting from the sustained recovery in prices, expects Iranian supplies to return to the market in 3-4 months.
2. Retail industry to create 25 million jobs by 2030
About 25 million new jobs will be created by the Indian retail sector by 2030, as per Retail 4.0 Report released by NASSCOM in partnership with Technopak. According to the study, Retail 4.0 would result in a signiﬁcant rise in the size of the domestic market, in job creation and exports.
“As India leaps forward to become a digitally transformed nation, the country’s retail sector has emerged as one of the most dynamically evolving, rapidly digitising sectors, with the second largest consumer base in the world, from ﬁfth largest in 2020,” as per NASSCOM. Over the last decade, as per the study, the Indian retail market size has witnessed a massive threefold growth, accounting for $800 billion, contributing 10% to India’s GDP in FY20 and 8% to the total work force with more than 35 million employees.
3. Cairns energy tax dispute with India
Courts in ﬁve countries including the U.S. and the U.K. have given recognition to an arbitration award that asked India to return $1.4 billion to Cairn Energy plc – a step that now opens the possibility of the British ﬁrm seizing Indian assets in those countries if India does not pay. Cairn Energy had moved courts in nine countries to enforce its $1.4 billion arbitral award against India, which the company won after a dispute with the country’s revenue authority over a retroactively applied capital gains tax.
The December 21 award from a three member tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Netherlands has been recognised and conﬁrmed by courts in the U.S., the U.K., the Netherlands, Canada and France. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had indicated the Centre’s intent to appeal against the award when she said it was her ‘duty’ to appeal in cases where the nation’s sovereign authority to tax is questioned.
1. Player Profile
Pravin Jadhav – He is an Indian archer who competes in the recurve discipline. At the 2019 World Archery Championships, he was a member of the first Indian team to qualify for the final since 2005; the team received the silver medal. He hails from Maharashtra.
Deepika Kumari – She is an Indian athlete who competes in the event of archery, is currently ranked World No. 9, and is a former world number one. She won a gold medal in the 2010 Commonwealth games in the women's individual recurve event. She also won a gold medal in the same competition in the women's team recurve event along with Dola Banerjee and Bombayala Devi. The Government of India awarded her the civilian honour of the Padma Shri in 2016.
2. Ishar Singh Deol passes away
- Veteran Indian athlete Ishar Singh Deol, has died at the age of 91. Deol had won many medals for the country and the State of Punjab since 1951 and was awarded the Dhyan Chand National Award in 2009 for his lifelong contribution towards sports.
3. Djokovic beats Federer's record for most weeks at the Number 1 spot
- Novak Djokovic set a new landmark of 311 weeks as World No. 1 on Monday, one week longer than Roger Federer whose tally of a record 20 Grand Slam titles is now ﬁrmly in the Serb’s sights. Djokovic, 33, won his 18th major at the Australian Open in February. Djokovic reclaimed the top ranking from Nadal in February 2020 and ﬁnished as year end number one for the sixth time, tying the record set by Pete Sampras. Djokovic ﬁrst became World No.1 at the age of 24 on July 4, 2011.
1. About Preventative Detention & National Security Act https://www.livelaw.in/columns/indian-all-constitution-preventative-detention-act-national-security-act-170887
2. On absolute immunity of the American President https://www.livelaw.in/columns/us-supreme-court-donald-trump-american-constitution-170888
3. Electoral Bonds explained https://indianexpress.com/article/what-is/what-are-electoral-bonds-6130061/
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Sources referred to : The Hindu, The Indian Express, Live Law, Bar & Bench