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Your ten minute read!

February 9th, 2021

Your 10 minute read!

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LAW, POLICY & GOVERNANCE



Daily snippets

1. New labour codes to allow four-day work week

  • The new labour codes set to be implemented soon would provide companies the flexibility of reducing the number of working days to four days a week and provide free medical check-ups to workers through the Employees State Insurance Corporation. According to a ministry briefing, the concerns about the working hours going up from 10.5 hours to 12 hours, with one hour of rest, which arose during consultations had been addressed.

  • Under the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020 draft rules, the limit of working hours for a week was 48 hours.

2. HC dismisses Navlakha’s plea challenging rejection of bail

  • The Bombay High Court dismissed the appeal filed by scholar, civil rights activist, and journalist Gautam Navlakha from the Taloja Central Jail challenging the rejection of his statutory bail by the special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court on July 12 in the Bhima-­Koregaon violence case. A Division Bench of Justices S.S. Shinde and M.S. Karnik was hearing the appeal filed through senior advocate Kapil Sibal on September 9.

3. Twitter asked to remove 1,178 accounts

  • The Union government has asked Twitter to remove nearly 1,200 accounts related to farmers’ protest that it suspects to be linked to Khalistan sympathisers or backed by Pakistan. The decision comes amid a tussle between the government and the micro-blogging platform over the latter’s move to restore nearly 250 accounts which the Centre previously wanted removed over the usage of content related to “farmer genocide”.

NATIONAL NEWS/ INTERVENTIONS



Daily snippets

1. First ‘Kisan Rail’ from Telangana chugs off

  • The South Central Railway started the first ‘Kisan Rail’ service from Telangana on Monday. The train will transport 230 tonne of dry turmeric in 10 parcel vans from the Warangal station to the Barasat station of Sealdah division (West Bengal). The move is aimed at assisting farmers to sell their produce at better prices, a release said.

2. V.K. Singh statement on LAC ‘unwitting confession’: China

  • China’s Foreign Ministry said Union Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways and former Army chief, Gen. V.K. Singh (retd), had made an “unwitting confession” by saying India had transgressed the Line of Actual Control (LAC) on more occasions than China had. On Sunday, Gen. Singh said the border had never been demarcated, and while China had transgressed across the LAC up to its perception, India had done the same but the government did not announce it.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS/EVENTS/ PERSONALITIES



Daily snippets

1. U.S. to rejoin UN human rights forum

  • The U.S. announced plans to re-engage with the much­-maligned UN Human Rights Council that former President Donald Trump withdrew from almost three years ago, as President Joe Biden’s administration reverses another Trump-­era move away from multilateral organisations and agreements.

  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the pullout in June 2018 “did nothing to encourage meaningful change, but instead created a vacuum of U.S. leadership, which countries with authoritarian agendas have used to their advantage.” Mr. Blinken said Mr. Biden had instructed the State Department to “re-engage immediately and robustly” with the council, but he acknowledged it still needs work. “We recognise that the Human Rights Council is a flawed body, in need of reform to its agenda, membership, and focus, including its disproportionate focus on Israel,” he said.

2. Sri Lanka clears Chinese energy project, 50 km off Tamil Nadu

  • Sri Lanka’s recent decision to pull out of the East Container Terminal (ECT) deal with India and Japan is not the only challenge to New Delhi’s interests emerging this year. A week before reneging on the 2019 Colombo Port terminal agreement, Sri Lanka cleared a Chinese energy project in three islands off Jaffna peninsula that are barely 50 km from the Tamil Nadu coast.

  • The energy project is not the first instance of a Chinese role in northern infrastructure in Sri Lanka. In 2018, India voiced concern over China’s $300 million housing project for war affected areas, accusing the Resettlement Ministry [of the former government] of holding an “opaque” bidding process. The project was eventually dropped.

3. South Africa halts roll­out of AstraZeneca vaccine

  • South Africa on Monday halted the planned roll­out of the AstraZeneca COVID-­19 vaccine after data showed that it gave only minimal protection against mild infection from one variant. The coronavirus has killed 2.3 million people and turned normal life upside down for billions but new variants have raised fears that vaccines will need to be tweaked and people may require booster shots.

  • Researchers from the University of Witwatersrand and the University of Oxford said, in a prior­-to­-peer analysis, that the AstraZeneca vaccine provided minimal protection against mild or moderate infection from the so­-called South African variant among young people. The vaccine, developed by AstraZeneca with the University of Oxford, was the big hope for Africa as it is cheap and easier to store and transport than the Pfizer shot.


    OPINION & ANALYSIS



    Analysis : An uphill task for Mario Draghi

(i). Background :

  • It won’t be an easy ride in Rome for Mario Draghi, the man who soothed Europe’s financial markets in 2012 with his bold declaration to do “whatever it takes” to save the euro during the eurozone’s sovereign debt and banking crises. Less than 15 months after he stepped down as President of the European Central Bank (ECB), when his negative interest rates policy was criticised for sucking money out of savers, he now finds himself thrust to the centre of Italy’s fractious politics.

(ii). How the story stands :

  • On Wednesday, Mr. Draghi, who was previously Governor of the Bank of Italy, accepted the mandate by the country’s President, Sergio Mattarella, to form a new national unity government following the collapse of the coalition led by Giuseppe Conte in the last week of January.

  • Now, Mr. Draghi’s efforts to rescue the Italian economy, drawing on €200 billion in grants and loans from the EU €750 billion recovery fund, would pronounce, so to say, a verdict on the bloc’s response to the pandemic.

  • Crucially, Mr. Conte’s government collapsed because Italia Viva, the party of former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, withdrew backing citing strong differences with the government’s recovery plans that must be approved by Brussels. Above all, Mr. Draghi must attempt to cement the differences among Italy’s several feuding parties.


Commentary : Law and Compassion

(i). Background

  • Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit has decided that only the President can decide the issue of granting remission to the seven life convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.

(ii). What the law says

  • It has often been stressed by the Supreme Court that the clemency powers of the President, under Article 72, and the Governor, under Article 161, stand on an equal footing, and are exercised solely on Cabinet advice.

  • The only limitation in Article 161 is that it should relate to “the sentence of any person convicted of any offence against any law relating to a matter to which the executive power of the State extends”.

(iii). The story goes on

  • The decision is debatable for the unusual delay in the Governor reaching his conclusion as much for its legal correctness. It is unfortunate that a new legal question on which authority has the power to decide the issue has been tossed into the equation so late in the day.

  • To conclude, It is vital that law and compassion, rather than politics and electoral considerations, form the basis for any decision on their release.


Analysis : Budget and the environment

(i). Background

  • The fallacy of believing that all ecological damage can be compensated (a rainforest drowned under a dam can’t be recreated, ho­wever much money you pour into it), the governments have not put in the substantial new finan­cial resources raised through rapid growth into environmental protec­tion. Budgetary allocations for the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) have con­sistently fallen as a percentage of to­tal allocations.

(ii). The story so far

  • Even when there are increased allocations, such as for cleaning up the Ganga, their usage is ridden with such design flaws, inefficiencies and corruption that the environment is no better off than before. Steadily increasing le­vels of pollution, biodiversity loss, decline in forest health and destruc­tion of wetlands is testimony to the dismal gap between governmental rhetoric and the environment.

  • Fund allocation for the MoEFCC and crucial institutions such as the Wil­dlife Institute of India and the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education remains stagnant. It is inline with recommendations by the Ministry of Fi­nance that the government should disengage with many such institu­tions.

  • The 2021 Budget has allocated ₹3,500 crore for wind and solar energy, ₹4,000 crore for a ‘Deep Ocean Mis­sion’, and ₹50,011 crore for urban drinking water, all of these have pos­itive ecological potential.

(iii). Diving deeper

  • There is no intention to phase out fossil fuels; on the con­trary, coal mining and thermal pow­er are being promoted under the Atma Nirbhar Bharat package. And large hydropower is being promoted as Renewable Energy, though its massive ecological and social impacts are well docu­mented. Much of the solar and wind energy is coming in the form of massive energy parks that take up huge areas of land, dis­placing people and wildlife.

  • There is no indication in the Bud­get that the RE push would be predo­minantly decentralised, community­ managed, and with full environmen­tal impact assessments (currently not required for RE projects). Nor does the Budget have anything on curtailing wasteful and luxury con­sumption of energy or other pro­ducts and services by the rich. Without controlling demand, even a complete shift to RE will be unsus­tainable.

  • The ‘Deep Ocean’ allocation is in­triguing. It is being projected as a programme for conservation of biodiversity in the depths of our marine areas. The institutions that are given responsibility under this are the Ministry of Earth Scienc­es, the Indian Space Research Organ­isation, the Defence Research and Development Organisation, the De­partment of Atomic Energy, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, the Department of Biotechnology, and the Indian Navy, none with expertise in or even signif­icant focus on marine conservation.

  • An allocation of ₹18,000 crore for public transport could have significant benefits for pe­ople and the environment if it helps to reduce private vehicle density in cities. But if much of this is allocated to the metro rather than to buses and other such earthy alternatives (in­cluding last mile connectivity, incen­tives for walking and cycling), the picture becomes murky.

(iv). Allocations to non-environmental sectors

  • The Budget proposes 11,000 km more of national highway corridors. In the last few years, massive road and dam construction has fragmented fragile ecosystems and disrupted local com­munity life in the Himalaya, Western Ghats, north­east India and elsewh­ere.

  • This could have been the occasion to climb into a green, nature ­and ­land based livelihoods re­covery that could create tens of mil­lions of jobs as also regenerate In­dia’s depleted environment. India should be putting en­vironmental regeneration and con­servation, and self-­reliance built on this, at the core of the Budget.


ECONOMICS & FINANCE



Daily snippets

1. Delay in 5G trials

  • Slamming the government for its ‘laid back approach’ and delay in conducting 5G trials, a Parliamentary Panel has said that sufficient prepa­ratory work had not been undertaken for introducing 5G services in India and that the country was likely to wit­ness only partial deployment by 2021 ­end or early 2022.

  • In the report tabled in Par­liament, the com­mittee, headed by Shashi Tharoor, added it was very likely that after missing the 2G, 3G and 4G buses, India was going to miss out on 5G opportunities, unless time­ bound action was taken in areas where governmental intervention was required.

  • The panel said inadeq­uate availability of spectrum, high spectrum prices, poor development of use cases, low status of fiberisation, non­-uniform right-of-way issues and deficient backhaul capacity are some factors coming in the way of a 5G services roll­out in India. The committee was of the view that the issue of allocat­ing the right amount of spec­trum as demanded by the in­dustry needed to be addressed if India were to realise the benefits of 5G. The panel found funda­mental differences between the versions of telcos and TRAI on fixing of spectrum prices and urged a review of the spectrum pricing policy.

2. Critical take on the budget's infrastructure push

  • The 2021-­22 Union Budget’s bet on pushing infrastruc­ture spending to revive the economy faces implementa­tion risks and it may have been better to combine it with some income support for those worst affected by the pandemic.

  • The rising tendency to­wards protectionism doesn’t sit well with India’s objective of attracting more foreign direct investment and integrating with global value chains, and a liberal tariff policy maybe more ef­fective. India needed globalisation more than other countries due to its growth potential. It would also be better for India to maintain a sustainable cur­rent account deficit rather than celebrate the current account surplus expected this year. India cannot have trade surpluses with every country. It is important we may want to run a sustainable deficit by im­porting the right kind of capital goods, and technolo­gy. It took just one macroeconomic crisis to recalibrate general government debt targets from 60% of GDP, to the 85% that the Finance Commis­sion has now recommended for 2025-­26.

  • A dual strategy of infras­tructure spending with income support for those who have lost jobs, with ways in which we could create demand among those sections of society that have the highest propensity to con­sume might have been bet­ter.


SUGGESTED READINGS



1. Future of democratic protests https://thewire.in/rights/the-future-of-democratic-protests-in-an-illiberal-democracy

2. Universal Healthcare in India https://www.pressreader.com/india/the-hindu/20210209/281797106685895

3. On the glacial burst in Uttarakhand https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/uttarakhand-glacier-flash-flood-rishiganga-death-toll-7180258/


Download Page : https://e-clat.com/dailynewspage

Sources referred to : The Hindu, The Indian Express, Live Law, Bar & Bench

END

February 8th, 2021

Your 10 minute read!

START


LAW, POLICY & GOVERNANCE



Daily snippets

1. Access to mental health helplines

  • Seventy per cent of callers to a mental health rehabilitation helpline launched, in September 2020 by the Social Justice and Empowerment (SJE) Ministry, were men according to a report of the Ministry. About 32% of those who reached out were students.

  • The ‘Kiran’ service was set up by the Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry. The 24/7 helpline offers early screening, psychological first aid, psychological support, distress management, mental well being, psychological crisis management services and referrals to mental health experts and is operated by 81 front­line professionals, apart from volunteer psychiatrists, clinical and rehabilitation psychologists.


NATIONAL NEWS/ INTERVENTIONS



Daily snippets

1. 7 killed after ‘glacial burst’ in Uttarakhand

  • Seven persons were killed and over 125 reported missing after a “glacial burst” on Nanda Devi triggered an avalanche and caused flash floods in Rishi-Ganga and Dhauliganga rivers in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand on Sunday. The number of missing persons could rise as details were still being ascertained, Uttarakhand Chief Minister T.S. Rawat said at a press conference in Dehradun in the evening.

  • While the Rishiganga hydel project had an installed capacity of 13.2 megawatts (MW), the 520 MW NTPC Tapovan-­Vishnugad project on the Dhauliganga was much larger. Both sites have been virtually washed away. Environmental experts attributed the Nanda Devi glacial melt to global warming. Glacier retreat and permafrost thaw are projected to decrease the stability of the mountain slopes and increase the number and area of glacier lakes, according to the latest assessment reports of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

  • There is also high confidence that the number and area of glacier lakes will continue to increase in most regions in the coming decades, and new lakes will develop closer to steep and potentially unstable mountain walls, where lake outbursts can be more easily triggered.

  • Climate change has driven erratic weather patterns like increased snowfall and rainfall, and warmer winters have led to the melting of a lot of snow. The thermal profile of ice, said experts, was increasing. Earlier the temperature of ice ranged from ­-6 to ­-20 degree Celsius; it is now ­2 making it more susceptible to melting.

2. ‘Dhauliganga’s water level breaches records’

  • The water level of Dhauliganga river at Joshimath flew at a perilously high level, breaching all records, Central Water Commission officials said after a part of the Nanda Devi glacier broke off in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district leading to massive floods. The glacial burst triggered an avalanche and a deluge in the Alaknanda river system that washed away hydroelectric stations and trapped more than 100 labourers who are feared dead. The intensity of the river’s flow in a short span of time was such that it engulfed whatever came in its way. This was a grim reminder of the Kedarnath deluge of 2013, which led to widespread devastation in the ecologically fragile Himalayan region.

3. Afghanistan gets Covishield doses

  • Afghanistan received a large consignment of COVID­-19 vaccines from India. A special Indian aircraft carrying 500,000 doses of the Covishield vaccine from Mumbai reached Kabul, where officials of Afghanistan’s Health Ministry took charge of the consignment. The India­made vaccine is the first to reach Afghanistan as the country battles the pandemic. The vaccine, made by the Serum Institute of India, has already been supplied to Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and the Maldives in South Asia.

4. Ukraine looking at defence purchases from India

  • Ukraine is looking to procure some military hardware from India in addition to efforts to deepen its presence in the Indian defence market, said Yuriv Husyev, General Director of Ukroboronprom, the umbrella corporation of Ukrainian state defence companies.

  • The two sides will discuss a range of proposals to take forward bilateral cooperation at the Bilateral Working Group meeting between the two Defence Ministries in April. Ukraine has signed four agreements worth $70 million which includes sale of new weapons as well as maintenance and upgrades of existing ones in service with the Indian armed forces.

5. On disinvestment

  • The government will adopt a ‘squeaky clean process’ for the privatisation of public sector enterprises as per the new policy unveiled in the Budget, said Tuhin Kanta Pandey, the top Finance Mi­nistry official entrusted with steering the disinvestment process. The disinvestment policy en­visages the government exit­ing a large chunk of the 439 central public sector enter­prises (PSEs) in the country.

  • The new disinvestment policy goes further than the past case­-by-­case approach, and straightaway allows the sale or closure of nearly 151 PSUs (83 holding companies and 68 subsidiaries) in non­ strategic sectors. It also covers banks and insur­ers for the first time, with two public sector banks and one general insurer pro­posed to be sold in 2021­-22.


INTERNATIONAL NEWS/EVENTS/ PERSONALITIES



Daily snippets

1. A jumbo struggle for farmers in Sri Lanka

  • Farmer groups in the district have been agitating for weeks, demanding that the government soon gazette a Wildlife Management Reserve in the area. This, they hope, will put an end to wild elephants ravaging their fields and homes. The farmers accuse the government of pursuing “thoughtless, large scale development” that destroys the elephants’ natural habitat.

  • Sri Lanka has an estimated 6,000 elephants, and hundreds die every year, frequently in ‘hakka patas’ or traps made of explosives, and gunshot injuries. In 2019, Sri Lanka reported 407 elephant deaths, the highest number recorded in the world. In 2020, 318 elephants and 112 people were killed in conflicts, according to the Wildlife Department.

  • The continuing farmers’ struggle in Hambantota is the first instance of protracted resistance from within the ruling regime’s southern Sinhala Buddhist core constituency, and it has drawn support from farmer organisations and trade unions elsewhere.

2. Thousands rally in Jaffna to assert minority rights

  • Thousands of people from Sri Lanka’s Tamil­-majority areas culminated in Jaffna on Sunday, ending a five ­day rally to assert the rights of Tamil and Muslim minorities. Many civil society organisations came together, while prominent legislators and members of various Tamil and Muslim political parties joined the procession, chanting slogans against the government’s “repression” against Sri Lanka’s minorities.

  • The issues highlighted at the rally included the persisting calls from families of forcible disappeared persons, concerns around “land grab” and reported attacks on Hindu temples in the area, persisting militarisation, surveillance of journalists and human rights defenders, attempts to prevent memorialisation by Tamils, mandatory cremations denying Muslims burial rights during the pandemic, and long ­pending call for a LKR­1,000 rupee basic wage for Malaiyaha or Hill Country Tamils employed in tea estates.

3. ‘Oxford vaccine less effective against South African variant’

  • The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine fails to prevent mild and moderate cases of the South African coronavirus strain, according to research reported in the Financial Times. But in its study, due to be published on Monday, the pharma group said it could still have an effect on severe disease – although there is not yet enough data to make a definitive judgment.

  • None of the 2,000 participants in the trial developed serious symptoms, the FT said, but AstraZeneca said the sample size was too small to make a full determination.

4. Pope appoints more women to Vatican posts

  • Pope Francis has appointed two women to Vatican posts previously held only by men, in back to back moves giving women more empowerment in the male­dominated Holy See. He appointed Nathalie Becquart, a French member of the Xaviere Missionary Sisters, on Saturday as co-undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops, a department that prepares major meetings of world bishops held every few years on a different topic.

  • Voting rights earlier, the Pope named Italian magistrate Catia Summaria as the first woman Promoter of Justice in the Vatican’s Court of Appeals. Sister Becquart’s position, effectively a joint number two spot, will give her the right to vote in the allmale assemblies, something many women and some bishops have called for. She is 52, relatively young by Vatican standards.

  • Women have participated as observers and consultants in past synods but only “synod fathers'', including bishops and specially appointed or elected male representatives, could vote on final documents sent to the pope. During a synod in 2018, more than 10,000 people signed a petition demanding that women get the vote. “A door has been opened. We will see what other steps could be taken in the future,” Cardinal Mario Grech, the synod’s secretary general, said.


OPINIONS & ANALYSIS



Analysis : The cost of Internet shutdown

(i). Background

  • The movement led by farmers against the Central government’s agricultural laws has become a part of our national and international discourse. The manner in which the Centre introduced the Bills and its actions towards countering the movement have raised plenty of concerns.

(ii). Concerns

  • A principal concern among these has been the recurrent shutdowns, ordered by the Ministry of Home Affairs, of Internet services around many border areas of NCR since the unruly incidents on January 26.

  • Currently, Indian laws have vague provisions for suspending telecommunication services, including the Internet, during times of public emergencies, or, if required, for protecting ‘public interest’. The impact of shutdowns becomes even more pronounced during a pandemic.

(iii). The way forward

  • Internet bans should be a last resort and must be enforced following well formulated protocols. Upgrading cyber divisions of law enforcement agencies with new age innovations may offer several alternatives.

  • To conclude, Governments, especially in democracies, will have to create modern, independent institutions that have the authority and expertise to create frameworks that meet these challenges, without falling back on measures that result in state overreach.


SUGGESTED READINGS



1. Implications of Section 69 of IT Act 2000 https://www.indialegallive.com/special/it-act-section-69-privacy-implications-article-21/

2. Neckbands and Broadbands https://www.livelaw.in/columns/lawyers-attending-vc-hearings-from-non-office-spaces-virtual-courts-169532

3. Infrastructure push and Fiscal consolidation https://www.pressreader.com/india/the-hindu/20210208/281788516749419

4. Glacier collapse and 2013 flash floods https://www.pressreader.com/india/the-hindu/20210208/281964610408555


Download Page : https://e-clat.com/dailynewspage

Sources referred to : The Hindu, The Indian Express, Live Law, Bar & Bench

END


Weekend Page : February 6th- 7th, 2021

Your 10 minute read!

START


LAW, POLICY & GOVERNANCE



Daily snippets

1. Munawar Faruqui gets ad interim bail

  • The Supreme Court granted ad interim bail to comedian Munawar Faruqui in a case registered against him by the Madhya Pradesh police for hurting religious sentiments. Justice Nariman said the allegations against Mr. Faruqui were vague. He noted that the police had not complied with the procedure prescribed under Section 41 of the CrPC.

  • The SC, in a scathing judgment in Arnesh Kumar versus State of Bihar in 2014, had warned States and their police from depriving personal liberty without following due process of law.

2. Journalists’ union wants ban lifted on reporting stir

  • The Delhi Union of Journalists condemned Delhi Police’s decision to prohibit reporters from meeting protesting farmers at the Singhu border. The union urged Delhi Police and the Union Home Ministry to lift the ‘ban’ on reporting farmers’ protests.

3. Regulatory code for OTT content soon

  • Twenty-one MPs cutting across party lines have sought an answer from the government about the content on over-the-top (OTT) platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, asking whether the Centre was aware that such platforms were full of content with “sex, violence, abuse, vulgarity and disrespect to religious sentiments”. Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar recently said his Ministry would soon come up with a regulatory code on the content on these platforms.

4. NITI Aayog seeks to track impact of green verdicts

  • The NITI Aayog – the government’s apex think tank – has commissioned a study that seeks to examine the “unintended economic consequences” of judicial decisions that have hindered and stalled big ticket projects on environmental grounds.

  • A perusal of the document appears to suggest that judgments that negatively impact major infrastructure projects don’t adequately consider the economic fallout – in terms of loss of jobs and revenue. Doing so, it reckons, would contribute to public discourse among policymakers for promoting an “economically responsible approach by judiciary” in its decisions.

5. PM lauds the judiciary for safeguarding people’s rights

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi lauded the judiciary for safeguarding people’s rights and personal liberty even during the most challenging times and prioritising national interests whenever the occasion demanded. Releasing a postage stamp to mark the diamond jubilee of the Gujarat High Court, Mr. Modi said the Supreme Court had conducted the highest number of hearings via videoconference in the world during the pandemic.

6. Government regulations and tech platforms

  • The Centre has issued notice to Twitter after the micro­blogging site restored more than 250 accounts that had been suspended earlier on the government’s ‘legal demand’. The government wants the platform to comply with its earlier order of January 31 by which it was asked to block accounts and a controversial hashtag that spoke of an impending ‘genocide’ of farmers for allegedly promoting misinformation about the protests, adversely affecting public order.

  • Twitter reinstated the accounts and tweets on its own and later refused to go back on the decision, contending that it found no violation of its policy. In India, the Information Technology Act, 2000, as amended from time to time, governs all activities related to the use of computer resources. It covers all ‘intermediaries’ who play a role in the use of computer resources and electronic records.

  • Intermediaries are required to preserve and retain specified information in a manner and format prescribed by the Centre for a specified duration. Contravention of this provision may attract a prison term that may go up to three years, besides a fine.

  • In Shreya Singhal vs U.O.I (2015), the Supreme Court read down the provision to mean that the intermediaries ought to act only “upon receiving actual knowledge that a court order has been passed, asking [them] to expeditiously remove or disable access to certain material”.


NATIONAL NEWS/ INTERVENTIONS



Daily snippets

1. Pfizer India withdraws vaccine application

  • Pfizer India has withdrawn its application with India’s Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) to allow its vaccine to be made available in India.

  • On Wednesday, an expert committee of the DCGI declined to approve the vaccine on the ground that there were reports of “palsy, anaphylaxis and other Severe Adverse Events'' after the vaccine’s approvals in some countries and it still wasn’t clear if this was connected to vaccination.

  • After being approved in the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union, Pfizer also applied for the vaccine to be made available in India under ‘emergency use listing’ conditions. This is the clause under which Covishield and Covaxin have been approved in India.

2. With public library movement, Jamtara turns a new page

  • A library movement developed in a short span of time in Jharkhand’s Jamtara district is receiving a steady flow of students and helping them turn a new page. The district’s love for books assumes huge significance as it has the dubious distinction of being the “phishing capital of India”.

  • Many youth, mostly drop­outs in the 15­-35 age group, have been turning to cybercrime to earn a few quick bucks. Police personnel from 22 out of 28 Indian States have visited the tiny district in search of cyber fraudsters in the past few years. It is said that the majority of online fraud calls received by people across the country emanate from the district. Netflix’s 2020 crime drama, Jamtara, was based on this.

3. Police to approach Google to find ‘toolkit’ creator

  • To identify the authors of the ‘toolkit’, which was shared on Google Docs, the Delhi police will write to Google to get the IP (internet protocol) address or the location from where the ‘toolkit’ document was created and uploaded on the social media platform.

  • The officer said that they are taking legal help and writing to Google to get more details about the uploader and creator of the ‘toolkit’. On Thursday, the Delhi police cyber cell had registered an FIR to investigate an “international conspiracy” to defame the country. A police officer said that they have registered a First Information Report into the matter after a Twitter handle had shared a ‘toolkit’ on Twitter but deleted it later. No names have been mentioned in the FIR, the officer said.

4. Whopping 900% rise in rejection of crop insurance claims

  • The number of farmers’ crop insurance claims that were rejected by insurance companies under the Centre’s flagship Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) multiplied 10 times in just two years, according to data provided by Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar in response to a question in the Rajya Sabha on Friday.

  • In 2017­-18, the number of rejected claims was 92,869. In the next year, 2018-­19, the figure more than doubled to 2.04 lakh. By 2019­-20, it was 9.28 lakh, a whopping 900% increase.

  • The question came from Manas Ranjan Bhunia, Trinamool Congress MP, who asked whether farmers were denied crop insurance claims by insurance companies, the details of cases reported from different States in those particular years, and the steps the government was taking in this regard.

  • In response, Mr. Tomar said under the PMFBY, there was actually no need to file crop loss claims in case of widespread natural calamities such as drought or flood, as claims were calculated on the basis of shortfall in yield of the whole unit. At the end of the season, prevented sowing and midseason adversity claims were settled on the basis of an area approach for which yield data and crop damage reports were provided by the State governments concerned.

  • However, there was a different process when it came to risks impacting smaller areas such as losses due to localised risks of hailstorms, landslips, inundation, cloud burst, or natural fire. Such losses were calculated on the basis of crop loss assessment at individual insured farm levels.

  • Farmers informed such crop losses to the insurance company, the State government or financial institutions, and their claims were assessed by a joint committee with representatives from the State government and the insurance company. “The companies can reject claims on various grounds,” he said.

5. China unlikely to collude with Pak. to target India: IAF chief

  • China would lose moral authority if it colluded with Pakistan to target India, said Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal (ACM) R.K.S. Bhadauria on Friday. He noted that he did not see China getting into a collusive kind of arrangement in a conflict situation to start with.

  • ACM Bhadauria said the fall in the fighter squadron strength of the Air Force had been arrested. The order for 83 Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) being awarded to the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) early this week at Aero India and aircraft deliveries beginning early 2024 would ensure that the numbers would keep going up.

  • The first LCA MK­1A squadron would be made in 2024 and operationalised in a year after that. While the phasing out of the MiG­21s had caused a dip in squadron strength, last year the IAF constituted the first Rafale squadron and has so far inducted 11 jets.

6. FSSAI caps trans fats in food products

  • The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has amended its rules to cap trans fatty acids (TFAs) in food products, just weeks after it tightened the norms for oils and fats.

  • Food products in which edible oils and fats are used as an ingredient shall not contain industrial trans fatty acids more than 2% by mass of the total oils/fats present in the product, on and from 1st January, 2022,” said the revised regulations notified. In December, the FSSAI had capped TFAs in oils and fats to 3% by 2021, and 2% by 2022 from the current levels of 5%.

  • What are Trans fatty acids (TFAs) ? Trans Fatty acids are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid, increase shelf life of food items and for use as an adulterant as they are cheap. They are present in baked, fried and processed foods as well as adulterated ghee, which becomes solid at room temperature. They are the most harmful form of fats as they clog arteries and cause hypertension, heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases. The WHO has called for the elimination of industrially produced trans fatty acids from the global food supply by 2023.

7. Ka-226T to be 33% indigenous: HAL

  • The total indigenous content of the Ka­-226T utility helicopters, to be jointly manufactured locally by India and Russia with Transfer of Technology (ToT), is between 27%­-33%, said Chairman and MD of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) R. Madhavan. The final deal is held up as the Russian proposal of 62% indigenous content in assembled helicopters falls short of the tender requirement of 70%.

  • The Ka­226T is meant to replace the ageing and obsolete Cheetah and Chetak fleet of the Army and Air Force and the total technical life of these will start finishing from 2023 onwards.

  • In 2015, India and Russia had concluded an Inter-­Governmental Agreement (IGA) for at least 200 Ka-­226T twin engine utility helicopters estimated to cost over $1 billion with 60 helicopters to be directly imported and the remaining 140 manufactured locally. The first helicopter would be delivered within 36 months from the signing of the contract.

8. Sri Lanka settles $400 mn currency swap with India

  • The Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) settled a $400 million currency swap facility from the Reserve Bank (RBI) of India last week. The update sparked speculation in local media that India may have “abruptly terminated” the agreement, following Colombo’s decision to pull out of a 2019 agreement to develop a Colombo Port terminal jointly with India and Japan. However, both countries clarified that the developments were not linked.

  • The CBSL obtained the swap facility on July 31, 2020, for an initial period of three months, to cope with the severe economic impact of the pandemic. Subsequently, the RBI provided a three month rollover at CBSL’s request, until February 1, 2021.

  • COVID-­19 struck Sri Lanka in March 2020, putting its foreign reserves under strain since, as tourism, worker remittances and exports were badly hit. However, the Rajapaksa administration has said it will not seek an IMF bailout. Colombo has instead sought further loans from China, among others, and additional currency swap facilities from both India and China. Neither China nor India has responded to Colombo’s debt freeze request. Sri Lanka owes over $5 billion to China and $960 million to India in debt repayment.

9. Political parties registrations

  • The contribution reports of only 78 (3.39%) of the total 2,301 registered unrecog­nised political parties are available in the public domain for 2018-­19, while the reports of only 82 such par­ties (3.56%) for 2017­-18 are uploaded on the respective State Chief Electoral Offic­ers’ websites, according to the Association For Demo­cratic Reforms (ADR).

  • There are 2,360 political parties registered with the Election Commission of In­dia and 2,301 or 97.50% of them are unrecognised. Either newly registered parties or those which have not secured enough percen­tage of votes in Assembly or General Elections to become a State party or those which have never contested in elec­tions since being registered are considered unrecognized parties. Such parties don’t enjoy all the benefits extended to the re­cognised parties.


INTERNATIONAL NEWS/EVENTS/ PERSONALITIES



Daily snippets

1. Hundreds protest in Myanmar amid arrest of key Suu Kyi aide

  • Several hundred teachers and students protested at a Myanmar university as the military widened a dragnet against officials ousted in a coup that has drawn global condemnation and the threat of new sanctions.

  • The rally took place after the arrest of Win Htein, a key aide to de facto leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi, who has not been seen in public since being detained along with President Win Myint. Monday’s putsch ended the country’s 10-­year dalliance with democracy that followed decades of oppressive junta rule, and sparked outrage and calls by the U.S. President Joe Biden for the generals to relinquish power.

  • On Friday, around 200 teachers and students at Yangon’s Dagon University staged a rally, where they displayed a three-finger salute borrowed from Thailand’s democracy movements, and sang a popular revolution song.

  • Students chanted “Long live Mother Suu'' and carried red flags, the colour of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party. A similar protest took place across town in Yangon University. In Naypyitaw, dozens of employees from several Ministries posed for group photographs wearing red ribbons and flashing the democracy symbol. Twitter services experienced disruptions in Myanmar on Friday, with some saying it could not be used even with a VPN service

2. Indonesia bans ‘hijab’ in schools

  • Indonesia has banned schools from forcing girls to wear Islamic “hijab” headscarves after the case of a Christian pupil pressured to cover up sparked outrage in the world’s most populous Muslim nation. The move was applauded by activists, who say non­-Muslim girls have been forced for years to wear a hijab in parts of the country. State schools will face sanctions if they fail to comply with the edict from Education Minister Nadiem Makarim. Schools that violate the rules could see their government funding cut, he added.

3. Imran Khan calls for restoration of Article 370

  • Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan called upon India to restore Article 370 in Kashmir. He said Kashmiris should be free to decide their own future. Addressing a rally to observe ‘Kashmir Solidarity Day’, the Pakistan Prime Minister said he would raise his voice for Kashmir’s aspirations.

  • The comments came just days after **Pakistan Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa *expressed the desire for a “dignified” resolution to the Kashmir issue. The Ministry of External Affairs had said in response that the “onus” for creating “normal neighbourly relations*” was on Pakistan.

4. U.S. moves to end terror designation of Houthis

  • The U.S. has moved to delist Yemen’s Houthi rebels as a terrorist organisation, removing a block that humanitarian groups said jeopardised crucial aid as the country’s warring sides cautiously welcomed a push for peace by President Joe Biden.

  • The grinding six year war in Yemen has killed tens of thousands and displaced millions, triggering what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian disaster. Nearly 80% of Yemen’s population need some form of aid for survival, says the UN. The move comes a day after Mr. Biden announced an end to U.S. support for the Saudi­-led offensive operations in Yemen.

5. China approves second domestic vaccine

  • China’s drug authorities have given “conditional” approval for a second COVID­-19 vaccine, Sinovac’s CoronaVac jab, the pharmaceutical company said on Saturday. The vaccine has already been rolled out to key groups at higher risk of exposure to coronavirus but Saturday’s approval allows for its use on the general public.

  • The approval comes after multiple domestic and overseas trials of the vaccine in countries including Brazil and Turkey, although “efficacy and safety results need to be further confirmed”, Sinovac said in a statement. Fellow Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinopharm received a similar conditional green light in December to put its vaccine on the market.

  • Sinovac said trials in Brazil had shown around 50% efficacy in preventing infection and 80% efficacy in preventing cases requiring medical intervention. Sinopharm said in December that its vaccine had a 79.34% efficacy rate, lower than rival jabs developed in the West by Pfizer­BioNTech and Moderna — with 95 and 94% rates, respectively.


OPINIONS & ANALYSIS



Analysis : Privacy concerns over Haryana's ID scheme

  • All schools have been directed to collect required in­formation for Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal’s unique identity card scheme – Parivar Pehchan Patra (PPP). It is mandatory for all families to register themselves on the PPP portal to avail the benefits of the social securi­ty schemes of the State government.

  • Though the PPP scheme was formally launched in July 2019 to achieve Harya­na government’s vision for “paperless” and “faceless” delivery of schemes, servic­es and benefits offered by the government, it has got a renewed push over the past few months with the go­vernment collecting data through schools, residents’ welfare associations and holding special camps across the State to enrol fa­milies, especially those who are likely to avail benefits of government schemes such as below poverty line fami­lies, social security benefit recipients etc.

  • Of the estimated 65 lakh fa­milies in Haryana, around 48 lakh have voluntarily en­rolled for PPP and provided the data on ‘self-declaration mode’, claimed the Harya­na government. The family ID or PPP, an eight digit alpha numeric ID, is provided to those who are residents of Haryana. A registration ID is provided to those who live in Harya­na but have not completed residency requirements. As of now, over 110 services and schemes being deli­vered to citizens via the Sa­ral platform have been linked to the PPP scheme.

  • Critics point out that a lot of da­ta is being sought, well above and beyond what is required to deliver educa­tion and related services. The demand for Aadhaar numbers – evidently, vir­tually mandatory – is in vio­lation of the Supreme Court guidelines – especially if no State benefits or subsidies are being sought by the resi­dents. Additionally, in the ab­sence of privacy laws in In­dia, or any indication of da­ta protection Standard Operating Procedures be­ing followed for this exer­cise there is a potential for abuse of this data including, but not limited to, its immediate leakage and availability to spam­mers at the very least, and perhaps more insidious us­es.

  • The authorities concerned, ho­wever, said that the data in PPP would be used only for planning purposes and for delivery of government schemes, subsidies, bene­fits and services and not for any private purpose. “Only data that is legitimately sought for implementation of government schemes, subsidies, benefits or services is put together and not any other private data.


Commentary : A prisoner’s tragedy, a nation’s shame

(i). Background :

  • Perarivalan has been in prison for almost 30 years for his role in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi during the 1991 election campaign. The Perarivalan case is an example of state agencies sacrificing the lives of those with a ‘peripheral role’ in a conspiracy.

(ii). The story so far

  • The reason for prolonged injustice at the core of his conviction is his confession to a police officer, a violent legacy of the TADA that was carried forward under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA). While confessions to a police officer are inadmissible as evidence under the Indian Evidence Act (to protect people from coerced police confessions), terrorism legislations such as TADA and POTA made confessions to the police admissible as long as it was made to an officer not lower than the rank of Superintendent of Police.

  • The trail of this Case was damning until Mr. Thiagarajan came out in November 2013 and made the startling revelation that he had not recorded Perarivalan’s ‘confession’ accurately. It was a glaring omission that completely changed the nature of Perarivalan’s involvement. In effect, Perarivalan was convicted based on a manipulated confession to a police officer.

(iii). How the case stands now

  • Having served 30 years of life imprisonment for the conspiracy to murder, his effort to get a remission under the Code of Criminal Procedure was rejected by the Central Government in April 2018.

  • On February 4, the Centre informed the Court that the Governor had finally considered Perarivalan’s pardon and had decided that the President alone had the power to consider such an application. It is a shocking abdication of a constitutional duty and a blatantly unconstitutional manoeuvre to ignore the advice of the State government, which the Governor is constitutionally bound to follow.


ECONOMICS & FINANCE



Daily snippets

1. PSUs involved in farm sector will not be sold

  • Public sector firms engaged in activities allied to the farm sector, such as provision of seeds to farmers, or pro­curement and distribution of food for the public distri­bution system, will not be up for sale under the new disin­vestment policy announced in the Budget. NITI Aayog would be in charge of recommending the firms in strategic sectors that should be retained, con­sidered for privatisation or merger or ‘subsidiarisation’ with another public sector firm, or simply closed.

2. New e-commerce policy in the offing

  • The commerce and industry ministry is working on a new e­-commerce policy which will have various features such as those related to data and consumer rights. The other issues to be looked upon while formulating the policy are about the problem of counterfeit products, packaging and rules of origin, the DPIIT official said.

3. India's pharma exports on the rise

  • India’s exports of pharma­ceutical products during April­-December 2020-­21 grew by 12.4% to $17.57 bil­lion, Parliament was informed on Friday. Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Har­deep Singh Puri said, “During 2019-­20, India’s exports of pharmaceuti­cals were $20.58 billion with a growth rate of 7.6% over the previous year. To­tal exports during April­-December 2020­-21 were at $17.57 billion, registering a growth rate of 12.4% per cent over the same period of the previous year.

4. DFI Bill will help set up private infra funding

  • The legislation for setting up a development finance insti­tution to fund infrastructure projects will allow for such institutions to be formed by the private sector as well, Fi­nance Minister Nirmala Sith­araman said. While the Budget has pro­vided a fiscal push for capi­tal expenditure in infras­tructure sectors with a multiplier effect, it relies on private sector participation in a big way, she added.

  • Though the government will provide some capital for the proposed Development Fi­nance Institution, the DFI will also raise capital from the market,” the Minister said. “In addition, the DFI Bill will provide legislative space for private DFIs.”

5. Retail investors to be able to buy government securities directly

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said it would allow re­tail investors to open gilt ac­counts with the central bank to invest in government se­curities directly and without the help of intermediaries. “It is proposed to provide retail investors with online access to the government securities market – both primary and secondary – di­rectly through the Reserve Bank (Retail Direct),” RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das said in a statement. “This will broaden the in­vestor base and provide retail investors with enhanced access to participate in the government securities mar­ket,” he added.

  • Allowing retail participa­tion in the G-­Sec market is a bold step towards the financialisation of a vast pool of domestic savings and could be a game­changer,” said SBI Chairman Dinesh Khara.

6. RBI to have a growth-supportive stance

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said it would retain an accommodative policy stance into the next financial year to help revive growth on a durable basis even as it held interest rates and vowed to ensure infla­tion remains within target. The RBI also lowered its projection for retail inflation for the current quarter and announced that it would gra­dually restore the Cash Re­serve Ratio – which had been cut to address the pan­demic’s fallout – to 4% in two phases by May 22 as part of a ‘normalisation process’.

  • After breaching the RBI’s upper tolerance threshold of 6% for six consecutive months through November, CPI inflation had eased to 4.6% in December, helped by an appreciable softening in vegetable prices and a base effect. Core inflation, exclud­ing food and fuel, however, remained elevated at 5.5% in December with only a marginal moderation from a month earlier.

  • What is Cash Reserve Ratio ? The reserve requirement is a central bank regulation that sets the minimum amount of reserves that must be held by a commercial bank. The minimum reserve is generally determined by the central bank to be no less than a specified percentage of the amount of deposit liabilities the commercial bank owes to its customers.

  • What is core inflation ? Core inflation represents the long run trend in the price level. In measuring long run inflation, transitory price changes should be excluded. One way of accomplishing this is by excluding items frequently subject to volatile prices, like food and energy.

7. Indian Internet start-ups and getting listed

  • India’s Internet start­-ups that operate businesses ranging from food delivery to e­-commerce to online in­surance, are now on the cusp of listing, a report has said. “The growing scale and maturity of India’s In­ternet economy is starting to create more value and investment opportunities”. “More than $60 billion has been invested in India’s In­ternet start-­ups in the past five years, with around $12 billion in 2020 alone,” HSBC Global Research said in the report. The report put the total sector value (ex-­fintech) to reach $180 billion by 2025.

  • E-Commerce is the largest opportunity, worth an esti­mated $67 billion by 2025, it said adding this was worth $31 billion 2019 after ex­panding at an impressive five­-year CAGR of 39%. EdTech is the second ­largest opportunity with a mar­ket of $48 billion by 2025.


SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & ENVIRONMENT



Daily snippets

1. Water scarcity likely in the Himalayan catchment if warming continues

  • The coldly white snowpacks and glaciers of the Himalayas that make for a picturesque panorama are also important sources of water for about a billion people who live in the basins of the Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers. But with rising global temperatures, these snowpacks and glaciers, which are highly sensitive, are affected. This, in turn, affects the Himalayan hydrology. India, Nepal, Pakistan and China hugely depend on these Himalayan rivers for their daily needs and energy production.

  • The results show that the glacier­-melt increases about 15% to 70% in a warmer environment with its present volume, but then decreases to 3%–38% substantially when the glacier volumes shrink. However, such a decrease can be compensated if there is increased rainfall and if a wetter scenario persists.

  • Proper water management and governance are urgently required. Changing patterns of precipitation systems — Indian Summer Monsoon and Western Disturbances — are important for the future situation of water resources in Himalayan catchments.


SUGGESTED READINGS



1. Constitutional validity of the Sedition Law https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/sedition-law-124a-indian-penal-code-constitutional-validity-draconian-colonial-provision-threat-to-fundamental-rights-169468

2. Press Freedom https://thewire.in/law/press-freedom-firs-supreme-court-intervene-justice-lokur

3. Plea Bargaining in India https://www.livelaw.in/columns/criminal-law-plea-bargaining-charge-bargaining-sentence-bargaining-tablighi-jamaat-169521

4. Cryptocurrency and regulations of official digital currency bill, 2021 https://www.livelaw.in/columns/parliament-cryptocurrency-digital-currency-crypto-bill-rbi-sebi-169508

5. Silence of the accused https://www.livelaw.in/know-the-law/can-adverse-inference-be-drawn-from-silence-of-accused--169517

6. Bad Banks and the NPA crisis https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/npa-bad-bank-balance-sheet-loan-rbi-shaktikanta-das-7151841/


Download Page : https://e-clat.com/dailynewspage

Sources referred to : The Hindu, The Indian Express, Live Law, Bar & Bench

END

February 4th-5th, 2021

Your 10 minute read!

START


LAW, POLICY & GOVERNANCE



Daily snippets

1. Govt. notice to Twitter on ‘farmer genocide’ hashtag

  • The Union government has issued a notice to Twitter to comply with its order of removal of content related to ‘farmer genocide’. The Centre alleged that the material was designed to spread misinformation to inflame passions and hatred, and warned that refusal to do so may invite penal action.

  • MeitY had passed an interim order on January 31, as a matter of emergency blocking 257 URLs and 1 Hashtag under section 69 A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 on the ground that these are “spreading misinformation about protests and has the potential to lead to imminent violence affecting public order situation in the country.”

2. Bihar govt. won’t hire protesters

  • The Bihar government has issued a directive stating that government jobs or contracts will not be given to those who stage violent protests or involve themselves in a criminal act against which charge sheets are filed. The directive was duly approved by Director-general of Police S.K. Singhal and was circulated to the State Home Department and other senior police officers. Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejashwi Yadav criticised the directive and accused Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of acting like a dictator.

3. SC refuses to intervene in conversion laws

  • The Supreme Court refused to intervene immediately and examine the constitutional validity of the laws enacted by State governments like U.P. and Uttarakhand, which criminalise religious conversion through marriage and mandate prior official clearance before marrying into another faith.

  • The Bench led by Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde asked the petitioners to approach the respective High Courts. He said the SC would like to have the benefit of the HCs’ conclusions. The Bench was hearing petitions filed by NGO PUCL and advocate Vishal Thakre against the implementation of the Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020, and the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018.

4. Legislature panels have the power to summon witnesses, SC told

  • Committees formed by State legislatures have the power to summon witnesses and enforce their attendance through compulsory process. The Assembly was justifying the summons issued by its Committee on Peace and Harmony to Facebook officials to testify in connection with the Delhi communal riots in February last year.

  • The court is hearing a plea by senior Facebook official Ajit Mohan who alleged that the notices issued by the Committee threatened him with breach of privilege action unless he appeared before it to testify.

5. ‘Collection of DNA samples will lead to misuse’

  • Allowing investigating agencies to collect DNA samples from “suspects”, as laid down in the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019, will give them “unbridled power that is easily capable of misuse and abuse” and amount to a “threat to the life, liberty, dignity and privacy of a person”, Justice Lokur has questioned the need to collect DNA of a “suspect”.

6. Sivasankar gets bail in dollar smuggling case

  • After being incarcerated for 98 days, M. Sivasankar, former Principal Secretary to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, walked out of the District Jail, Kakkanad, on bail.

  • The prosecution case in the dollar smuggling case is that Khaled Mohamed Ali Shoukry, former finance head of the UAE Consulate, Thiruvananthapuram, smuggled dollars valued at Rs 1.9 crore to Muscat from the Thiruvananthapuram international airport with the help of Swapna Suresh and P.S. Sarith. The Customs arraigned Mr. Sivasankar as the fourth accused in the case.

7. T.N. Governor declines to take call on Perarivalan

  • Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit has refrained from taking a call on a plea for the early release of Rajiv Gandhi assassination case convict A.G. Perarivalan. He said the President was the “appropriate competent authority” to deal with Perarivalan’s request for freedom.

  • By not taking a decision on the pardon plea, the Governor is now on the same page as the Centre, which had opened a novel line of argument in the Supreme Court that pleas for pardon and release should go to the President instead of the Governor.

  • The Centre had, for the first time, raised the point about the Tamil Nadu Governor’s power to grant remission to Perarivalan under Article 161 of the Constitution in November 2020. They had, to this extent, referred to the Constitution Bench’s judgment in the Union of India versus Sriharan of December 2015, which said the “exercise of executive clemency” was “vested in the President or the Governor”.

8. Tandav: HC relief for Amazon official

  • The Allahabad High Court granted protection from “coercive action” to Aparna Purohit, head, India original content of Amazon, in the FIRs lodged against the makers of web series Tandav. An FIR was lodged in Lucknow against the makers of Amazon Prime Video’s new web series on charges of hurting the religious sentiments of Hindus and promoting enmity on grounds of religion.

9. Maternal welfare scheme beneficiaries cross 1.75 crore

  • The government’s maternity benefit scheme, or Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana, has crossed 1.75 crore eligible women till financial year 2020, the Centre informed Parliament. A total sum of Rs 5,931.95 crore was paid to 1.75 crore eligible beneficiaries between financial year 2018 and 2020. Under PMMVY, pregnant women and lactating mothers receive Rs 5,000 on the birth of their first child in three instalments, after fulfilling certain conditionalities.

NATIONAL NEWS/ INTERVENTIONS



Daily snippets

1. No accurate data on Rohingyas: Centre

  • The Centre informed the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday that there was no accurate data regarding the number of Rohingya migrants living in the country. In a written reply, Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai said, “Illegal Rohingya immigrants are presently staying mostly in Jammu and Kashmir, Telangana, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Assam, Karnataka and Kerala.”

2. U.S. government calls for dialogue

  • Following expressions of support on social media to the farmers’ protest by several well known personalities and celebrities, including pop icon Rihanna, youth climate activist Greta Thunberg and others, the U.S. government has also spoken, encouraging dialogue and supporting the right to peaceful protest.

  • The U.S.’s reactions were recorded in a statement released by its Embassy in New Delhi and through a State Department statement released to a Wall Street Journal reporter on Thursday. Washington also welcomed steps that would enhance the efficiency of India’s markets.

3. ‘India ready to supply weapon systems to Indian Ocean nations’

  • Stating that “we have already seen the negative impact of conflicting claims in some maritime areas of the world”, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh made a strong pitch for collaboration among countries in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) while offering to supply a range of weapon systems to them and also helping to build capacities of partner countries.

  • Calling the recent order of 83 LCA Tejas jets to the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) as a milestone in indigenisation of defence manufacturing capabilities, Mr. Singh said India is ready to supply various types of missile systems, Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), helicopters, multi­purpose light transport aircraft, warship and patrol vessels, artillery gun systems, tanks, radars, military vehicles, electronic warfare systems and other weapons systems to the IOR countries.

4. In RS, Opposition observes silence for 194 dead farmers

  • Opposition parties on Thursday observed a two-­minute silence in the Rajya Sabha to pay tributes to 194 farmers who died in the past few months during the farmers’ protest on the Delhi borders.

  • Manoj K. Jha (Rashtriya Janata Dal), who opened the debate, accused the government of holding a monologue instead of a dialogue. The Delhi border was more fortified than India’s international borders, he said. “With folded hands, I request you to please understand the pain of farmers. In harsh winter, you stopped water supply and toilet facilities, dug trenches, put barbed wires, and installed spikes.”

5. Rajpath revamp gets rolling

  • The government’s Central Vista Avenue redevelopment project began on Thursday with Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Puri performing a “bhoomi pujan” at India Gate, a Ministry statement said.
    After the construction of the new Parliament building began last month, the redevelopment of the avenue becomes the second part of the government’s larger Central Vista revamp project to begin.

  • The avenue, which stretches from North and South Block till India Gate, and includes Rajpath and its lawns and Vijay Chowk, is three km long. The project will cost ₹608 crore and it has been cleared by the Delhi Urban Art Commission, the Heritage Conservation Committee, the Central Vista Committee and the local body, the Ministry said. The project was awarded to Shapoorji Pallonji & Company Private Limited.

6. India strikes cautious note on developments in Myanmar

  • India on Thursday struck a cautious note on the developments in Myanmar saying it continues to monitor the situation. Spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs Anurag Srivastava during the weekly press briefing highlighted regional developments including Sri Lanka’s cancellation of the East Container Terminal (ECT) pact with Japan and India and reminded Colombo to adhere to international commitments for “mutually beneficial proposition”.

  • India had earlier expressed “deep concern” after the February 1 military takeover was first reported from Myanmar and asked for maintenance of the “rule of law and the democratic process”.

7. Delhi launches 'Switch Delhi' campaign to promote EV policy

  • To promote the use of electric veh­icles in the Capital, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Thursday launched a ‘Switch Delhi’ cam­paign. It will educate people about the benefits of electric vehicles (EV) and urge them to make a switch. Mr. Kejriwal said that there was a need to spread awareness about the Delhi government’s electric vehicle policy and the various be­nefits being offered to those who make the switch. The campaign aims at inform­ing, encouraging, and motivating each and every person in Delhi to switch from polluting vehicles to zero emission electric vehicles.

  • He added that road tax and re­gistration fees have also been made completely free and tenders have been floated to develop 100 public charging stations across the city.


INTERNATIONAL NEWS/EVENTS/ PERSONALITIES



Daily snippets

1. Sri Lanka’s ECT move unilateral: Japan

  • Two days after Sri Lanka de­cided to scrap a 2019 agreement with India and Japan for operating the East Coast Terminal (ECT), Japan said the decision was “unilateral and regrettable”. The ECT project was expected to showcase India-Japan cooperation in a part of South Asia where Chinese infrastructure projects have been prominent.

  • New Delhi and Tokyo have been in talks with the Rajapaksa government over the last few months after protests by Port union workers over allowing any foreign role or investment in the ECT project cast a shadow over progress in the agreement.

  • However, during the Cabinet meeting headed by Prime Minister Mahinda on Monday, the Sri Lankan government decided that ECT would be operated as a “wholly owned container terminal of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority [SLPA]” and not, as earlier planned, a joint venture with Indian and Japanese entities.

  • Both India and Japan were taken by surprise, given the negotiations thus far, and given that nearly 70% of the transhipment business through ECT is linked to India. In a possible bid to make amends — the Rajapaksa government has offered the West Container Terminal (WCT) of Colombo Port on a 35­-year agreement to India and Japan instead, but officials have thus far been cold to the offer.

2. Suu Kyi charged, remanded for 2 weeks

  • Myanmar’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi was formally charged on Wednesday, two days after she was detained in a military coup, as calls for civil disobedience to oppose the putsch gathered pace.

  • The South-east Asian nation was plunged back into direct military rule when soldiers arrested key civilian leaders in a series of dawn raids, ending the Army’s brief flirtation with democracy. Ms. Suu Kyi, who has not been seen in public since, won a huge landslide with her National League for Democracy (NLD) last November but the military, whose favoured parties received a drubbing, declared the polls fraudulent.

3. Medics lead sprouting civil disobedience calls

  • Calls for a civil disobedience campaign in Myanmar gathered pace as the United States formally declared the military’s takeover a coup and vowed further penalties for the Generals behind the putsch. Doctors and medical staff at multiple hospitals across the country announced that they were donning red ribbons and walking away from all non-emergency work to protest against the coup.

  • Activists were announcing their campaigns on a Facebook group called “Civil Disobedience Movement” which by Wednesday afternoon had more than 1,50,000 followers within 24 hours of its launch. The clatter of pots and pans, and the honking of car horns, also rang out across Yangon on Tuesday evening after calls for protest went out on social media.

4. Iran’s Rouhani rules out changes to nuclear deal

  • President Hassan Rouhani ruled out changes to Iran’s nuclear accord with world powers and dismissed calls to broaden the terms of the deal and include regional countries. U.S. President Joe Biden has voiced support for returning to the accord, from which Donald Trump exited, but has insisted that Tehran first resume full compliance and consider expanding the deal beyond the nuclear issue.

  • Iran’s regional arch rival, Saudi Arabia, has also called for a role in any future talks on the agreement. “No clause of the JCPOA will change. Know this. And no one will be added to the JCPOA,” Mr. Rouhani said at a televised Cabinet meeting, using the deal’s official name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. “This is the agreement. If they want it, everyone comes into compliance. If they don’t, they can go live their lives,” he said.

  • Mr. Trump withdrew the U.S. from the JCPOA and imposed crippling sanctions on Iran in 2018, maintaining a policy of “maximum pressure” against the Islamic republic. Iran a year later responded by gradually suspending its compliance with most of its key nuclear commitments in the deal, under which it was promised economic relief for limits on its nuclear programme.

5. U.S. extends New START nuclear treaty with Russia

  • U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration extended the New START nuclear treaty with Russia by five years, saying it hoped to prevent an arms race despite rising tensions with Moscow. One day before the treaty was set to expire, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States was extending New START by the maximum allowed time of five years.

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin signed off on legislation extending the accord on Friday, meaning that the treaty — signed by then ­President Barack Obama in 2010 — will run until February 5, 2026.

  • What is the START Treaty? The last remaining arms reduction pact between the former Cold War rivals, New START caps to 1,550 the number of nuclear warheads that can be deployed by Moscow and Washington.

6. ICC convicts Ugandan rebel commander for war crimes

  • The International Criminal Court on Thursday convicted a Ugandan child soldier-turned­-Lord’s Resistance Army commander of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

  • Dominic Ongwen, 45, was found guilty of 61 charges over a reign of terror in the early 2000s, including the first conviction by the ICC for the crime of forced pregnancy. The court said Ongwen ordered attacks on refugee camps as a senior commander in the LRA, which under its fugitive chief Joseph Kony waged a bloody campaign in four African nations to set up a state based on the Bible’s Ten Commandments.

  • Judges rejected defence arguments that Ongwen was himself a victim, as he had been abducted by the LRA at the age of around nine and suffered psychological damage as a result. Human Rights Watch said the case was a landmark in achieving justice for victims of the Lord’s Resistance Army.

  • What is Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)? : The LRA was founded three decades ago by former Catholic altar boy and self styled prophet Kony, who launched a bloody rebellion in northern Uganda against President Yoweri Museveni. The United Nations says the LRA killed more than 1,00,000 people and abducted 60,000 children in a campaign of violence that spread to three other African nations — Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.

7. U.K. strips Chinese state TV channel of licence

  • U.K. regulators stripped China’s state TV channel of its national broadcasting license on Thursday, after an investigation cited lack of editorial control and links to China’s ruling Communist Party. The communications watchdog, Ofcom, said it revoked the licence for China Global Television Network, or CGTN, an international English language satellite news channel.

  • CGTN had been available on free and pay TV in the U.K. Regulators started looking into the station after receiving a complaint from a human rights group, Safeguard Defenders, calling for an investigation into its ownership. Losing its broadcasting licence is a major setback for CGTN, which was part of the Chinese government’s push to expand its soft power and burnish its image abroad.

8. NATO urges Taliban to end violence

  • NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg urged the Taliban to honour commitments to reduce violence and cut ties to terror groups, as the alliance weighs withdrawal from Afghanistan. Defence Ministers of the grouping are to discuss whether NATO’s 10,000 ­strong mission should stay or go later this month. “My message to the Taliban is that they have to live up to their commitments,” said Mr. Stoltenberg.

Analysis : The way forward in Myanmar

(i). Role of Sanctions

  • The developments in Myanmar will invariably bring back the old debate around the prudence of sanctions. Given that the military has been able to economically withstand sanctions by striking deals with Asian countries in the past, sanctions are unlikely to bring any major political change. The limited European trade with Myanmar that started after 2010 benefits the poor — the European Union’s ‘Everything But Arms’ scheme targets the poor in Myanmar’s garment industry. The scheme allows the world’s least developed countries, such as Myanmar, to export most goods to the EU free of duties.

(ii). Accountability for war crimes

  • The old debate around the need for accountability for crimes against humanity will resurface. As political changes got underway in 2010, many generals, such as Than Shwe, who was the de facto head of Myanmar from 1992 to 2011 and was on the radar of the international community for perpetuating a regime of human rights abuses, quietly vanished from the scene. This bred a culture of impunity. During the 2017 Rohingya crisis, senior military officials brazenly exploited social media to mobilise public support for brutality against Rohingyas.

(iii). China factor

  • A critical international player in Myanmar is China. China has appointed specific envoys for Asian affairs, who are de facto working on Myanmar Related issues since 2013. The international community, particularly the West, has to factor in China’s multi-layered influence on Myanmar.

(iv). Collapse of International Mechanisms

  • Many international mechanisms comprising Western and Asian countries that were formed to coordinate strategies on Myanmar were disbanded after the 2015 election. That the changes in Myanmar were irreversible was the standard thinking. Relevant actors should be brought on a common platform by reviving past mechanisms. The expectation that Myanmar will see a nationwide protest against the Tatmadaw after the coup should be examined with the geographical extent of Bamar, Myanmar’s largest ethnic group, who support the National League for Democracy. The minorities in the country form around 35% of the population. In the current scenario, the military will continue to exploit ethnic and religious fault lines. Engagement with domestic stakeholders, including ethnic minorities, especially from the north, should be pursued by the international community.

ECONOMICS & FINANCE



Daily snippets

1. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to step down

  • Billionaire Jeff Bezos, who founded Amazon as an online bookseller nearly three decades ago, will step down as the CEO of the $1.7 trillion global retail giant in the third quarter of 2021, with Andy Jassy be­ing named his successor. Mr. Bezos, will transition to the role of Executive Chair in the third quarter of this year.

2. SEBI bans Biyani from market for one year

  • SEBI barred Kishore Biyani and certain other promoters of Future Retail Ltd. from the securities market for one year for indulging in insider trading in the shares of the company. Apart from Mr. Biyani, who was the CMD and promoter of Future Retail Ltd. (FRL), others facing the ban are Future Corporate Resources Pvt. Ltd., Anil Biyani and FCRL Employee Welfare Trust

3. India's fiscal position

  • The Union Budget’s focus on higher capital expenditure, financial sector reforms and asset sales would help to stimulate growth and supply broad-based credit support, but India’s weak fiscal posi­tion would remain a key cre­dit challenge compared with its rating peers, Moody’s In­vestors Service said. The budget projects a nar­rowing of the central govern­ment’s fiscal deficit to 6.8% of GDP in fiscal 2022 from an estimated 9.5% in fiscal 2021.

  • The ratings agency said the widening of the deficit in fiscal 2021 was driven almost entirely by expenditure to support Indian households and the economy from the pandemic shock. “Given India’s very high debt burden, this gradual pace of consolidation will prevent any material streng­thening in the government’s fiscal position over the medi­um term, unless nominal GDP growth were to pick up sustainably to historically very high rates,” the credit ratings agency added.

4. Plea seeks to probe role of RBI officials in bank scams

  • BJP leader and MP Subrama­nian Swamy moved the Supreme Court seeking a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe in­ to the role played by Reserve Bank of India (RBI) officials in various banking scams that plague the country’s economy, causing prejudice to public interest.

  • The petition alleged that the RBI officials had acted in “demonstrable active conni­vance” in direct violation of statutes, including the Re­serve Bank of India Act, Banking Regulation Act, State Bank of India Act, Banking Companies (Acqui­sition and Transfer of Undertakings) Act and the Nation­alised Bank (Management and Miscellaneous Provi­sions) Scheme, 1980.

  • It said information pro­cured through the Right to Information (RTI) Act re­vealed that “no officer of Re­serve Bank of India has ever been held accountable for any dereliction of duty in case of any fraud reported by any bank. This is in sharp contrast to the number of frauds exploding in the banking sector in India ag­gregating to in excess of over ₹3 lakh crore.

5. McKinsey to pay $573 mn in opioid case

  • McKinsey & Co, the con­sulting firm, has agreed to pay $573 million to resolve investigations by most U.S. States over its alleged role in ‘turbocharging’ sales of opioids such as OxyContin, fuelling a nationwide epidemic. Most money from the settlement with 47 States, the District of Columbia and five territories will go toward opioid treatment and prevention. McKinsey did not admit liability or wrongdoing.

SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & ENVIRONMENT



Daily snippets

1. Pitch for 'Smart Walls' for Indian borders

  • A ‘smart’ wall that replaces the physical and armed patrolling with advanced sur­veillance tech is the proposed future of border security now. The ‘smart wall’ technology could solve border security issues without the need for a physical barrier. The wall would use sensors, radars, and surveillance technology to detect and track border break-ins, and technolo­gy capable of performing the most difficult tasks dedicated to border security.

  • Along with surveillance tow­ers and cameras, thermal imaging will be used, which will help in the detection of objects. The system would even be capable of distinguish­ing between animals, humans, and vehicles, and then sending updates to handheld mobile devices.

  • India has been struggling with the problem of terrorists and smugglers infiltrat­ing into the country and efforts are ongoing to secure our borders and curb cross border infiltration. Therefore, it is proposed that it is high time we start envisaging the use of tech­nology to help India secure its borders. A critical factor that must be consi­dered to enable the usage of such a system along Indian borders is that the terrain in the region is rugged, and, furthermore, not even clearly defined. Hence, erecting fences, walls or any physical structures is ex­tremely difficult. Other benefits, such as cost ­ef­fectiveness, less dam­age to the environment, fewer land seizures, and speedier deployment are being noted that give the “smart wall” concept an edge over traditional physical borders. Such a sys­tem, even if not feasible for our long boundaries, may still be deployed to enhance critical security establish­ments of the country and comple­ment the already existing physical fencing and walls.

2. Sero Survey latest : One in five Indians exposed to novel coronavirus

  • Nearly one in five Indians had been infected by the SARS­CoV­2 coronavirus un­til December 2020, the third round of the serological survey by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has found. This is roughly a three­ fold increase since August and a 30­ fold increase since May, when previous rounds of the survey were conducted.

  • The message is that a large proportion of the pop­ulation remains vulnerable. Vaccines are necessary and there can be no complacen­cy with regards to masks, so­cial distancing and hand hy­giene,” Dr. Balram Bhargava, Director-general, ICMR, said. The survey sampled peo­ple from 70 districts across 21 States.

  • The overall prevalence in the population was 21.5%, which averaged over India’s population indicated that about 270 million may have been exposed to the virus. India has so far confirmed a little over 10 million infec­tions — or 27 cases to each confirmed case of infection. Experts, however, have pre­viously noted that sero ­sur­veys don’t capture the ex­tent of the spread, and other modelling studies have shown that as much as 50% of the population may have been exposed.

  • In rural areas : In the previous survey, only 5.2% of those sampled in rural areas showed antibodies. It has jumped to 19% in the latest survey. In urban and non-urban slum areas : In urban slums, it was 31%, nearly twice as much as the pre­vious survey findings of 16%. In “urban non slums'' the prevalence this time was 26% compared with 9% in the second survey. On demography : About 19.9% of adults sampled in the 18-­44 years age group had SARS­CoV­2 antibodies as did 25% of children/teenagers (10­17 years), and 23% in those ov­er 45 years.

  • On healthcare professionals : The latest sero­ survey also separately sampled 7,171 healthcare workers and those who work in hospital settings. Nearly 26% of doctors and nurses have coro­navirus antibodies, as did 25.4% of paramedical staff. On children : The higher prevalence among children or young adults, showed that it was no longer true, as earlier be­lieved, that children or the young were better protect­ed. Several studies have now established this. They are much less likely to be se­verely sick but they can be infectious.

  • Another factor was that in the newest survey, the an­tibody test employed was specifically designed to check for antibodies pro­duced against the spike pro­tein. “This is more sensitive than the one used last time and therefore overall detec­tion rates could be higher,” Dr. Panda, Head ICMR's epidemiology division, said.


Analysis : Towards sustainable growth

  • The pandemic has resulted in huge economic losses. Globally, the GDP is expected to contract 2.4% to 8% in 2020. The World Economic Forum (WEF) estimates that the global cost of dealing with the pandemic could be from $8.1 trillion to $15.8 trillion.

  • There is a strong correlation between human density, richness of biodiversity, and the emergence of zoonotic pathogens of wild origin, which renders India particularly vulnerable. With high human densities, among the highest diversity of mammals in the world, and a saturated interface between humans and wildlife, India is considered to be among the hotspots for zoonotic emerging and reemerging infectious diseases.

  • The WEF’s Global Risks report for 2021 states that environmental risks continue to threaten the global economy. The top five risks are extreme weather, climate action failure, human environmental damage, infectious diseases and biodiversity loss.

  • It is evident that policymakers should factor biodiversity and ecosystems into their economic decision making. This will accelerate the transition from a fossil fuel based economy to sustainable, equitable, inclusive and just development models.

  • A National Mission on Biodiversity and Human Well ­Being has been approved by the Prime Minister’s Science Technology and Innovation Advisory Council. The overarching objectives are to restore and enhance biodiversity, strengthen its sustainable use, generate thousands of green jobs and encourage the Indian public to appreciate the natural and associated cultural treasures that we have collectively inherited.


SPORTS



Daily snippets

1. Sports Ministry happy with the Union Budget

  • Ignoring the budget alloca­tion for the current financial year citing the pandemic, Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju chose to compare the figures for 2021-­22 with those of 2019­-20 and sounded pleased des­pite the truncated allocation and assured that “there was no dearth of funds for the athletes”. The Ministry’s allocation has been slashed from ₹2826.92 crore to ₹2,596.14 crore – a de­crease of over 8%. The Ministry, however, can always seek additional funds citing valid reasons during the financial year.

2. Ajay Singh re-elected BFI chief

  • Ajay Singh was re­-elected the president of the Boxing Federation of India (BFI). Nine boxers have quali­fied for the Tokyo Olympics so far. Ajay said the BFI would work towards developing boxing at the grassroot level and conducting more open championships. He also promised a strong sports science back­up for boxers and focus on wo­men's boxing. The Asian championships would be held in Delhi either in April or May this year.

3. Player Profile

  • Tejaswin Shankar : He is an Indian athlete who competes in the high jump event. He holds the high jump national record of 2.29 metres set in April 2018. Shankar won the gold medal at the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games in Apia, setting a Games record of 2.14 metres. He won silver at the 2016 South Asian Games in Guwahati with a leap of 2.17 metres. He finished sixth at the Asian Junior Championships and missed the 2016 World Junior Championships. He broke his national record representing K-State athletics, jumping 2.29m in April 2018 at the Texas tech invite.

SUGGESTED READINGS



1. Karnataka High Court and Manual Scavenging https://thewire.in/law/karnataka-hc-chastises-state-govt-for-failing-to-implement-manual-scavengers-act

2. Critique : Uniform law on adoption, divorce https://www.indialegallive.com/cover-story-articles/il-feature-news/gender-religion-law-adoption-divorce/

3. RTI Act's vested interest scanner https://www.indialegallive.com/cover-story-articles/il-feature-news/rti-acts-income-tax-act/

4. Justice Pushpa Ganediwala https://www.indialegallive.com/cover-story-articles/il-feature-news/pushpa-ganediwala-supreme-court-pocso-cases/

5. Union Budget : Impact of Finance Bill 2021 on judicial Precedents https://www.livelaw.in/columns/parliament-budget-2021-finance-bill-nirmala-sitaraman-direct-tax-indirect-tax-169411

6. Evolution of a new era https://www.barandbench.com/columns/evolution-of-a-new-era


Download Page : https://e-clat.com/dailynewspage

Sources referred to : The Hindu, The Indian Express, Live Law, Bar & Bench

END


February 3rd, 2021

Your 10 minute read!

START


LAW, POLICY & GOVERNANCE



Daily snippets

1. Amazon wins relief as HC stays Future-Reliance Deal

  • The Delhi High Court provided interim relief to e-­commerce major Amazon by directing Future Retail Limited (FRL) to maintain status quo with regard to transfer of its retail assets to Reliance Retail. Justice J.R. Midha also said he was of the prima facie view that an order of the emergency arbitrator (EA) at the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) restraining FRL from taking any steps to transfer its retail assets was enforceable in India.

2. Social media issues our concern, Centre tells SC

  • Concerns about information technology and law relating to social media intermediaries fall within the domain of the Central government. The Delhi Assembly, or for that matter any State Assembly, has no jurisdiction over such issues, the Centre told the Supreme Court.

3. Freelance journalist held from protest site gets bail

  • A Delhi court granted bail to freelance journalist Mandeep Punia who was arrested by the police from the Singhu border protest site where farmers have been agitating against the Centre’s three farm laws. He was arrested allegedly for ‘obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions’. The prosecution alleged that Mr. Punia had pushed a constable towards the protest site, following which the police used “minimal force to control the situation”.

4. Court rejects plea to release protesters

  • The Delhi High Court dismissed a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking immediate release of all persons, not limited to farmers, illegally arrested and detained on or after January 26 from Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur areas by the Delhi police.

  • A Bench of Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh declined to entertain the plea of Harman Preet Singh, a law graduate, who had collected the names of 15 persons who are missing since January. The court noted that the petition was silent on whether Mr. Singh has contacted any of the family members of the ‘missing’ persons.

5. SC upholds bail for man booked under UAPA

  • The Supreme Court has upheld the bail granted by the Kerala High Court to a man booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) in connection with a brutal attack on a college professor who included, in his Malayalam exam paper, a question considered objectionable by certain sections of a particular faith.

  • A three judge Bench led by Justice N.V. Ramana, in a judgment pronounced on February 1, observed that “no one can justify gross delay in disposal of cases” which compel undertrials to remain incarcerated.

6. MHA gets further extension till April 9 to frame CAA rules

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) informed the Lok Sabha that a parliamentary committee on subordinate legislation had granted it extension till April 9 to frame the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), 2019 rules. Without the rules being notified, the Act remains ineffective.

7. Power to relax provisions of Sports Code

  • The Sports Ministry will have the power to relax provi­sions of the National Sports Development Code (NSDC) while deciding on grant of recognition to federations and the management of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), a circular issued by the ministry stated.

  • The ministry’s power to relax the sports code will cover “renewal of recogni­tion of National Sports Federations (NSFs) on annual basis and governance and man­agement of IOA and NSFs, as a special exemption where considered necessary.” The circular further states that the discretionary relaxa­tion of norms would be done only “for the promotion of sports, sportspersons or to remove difficulties in giving true effect to that particular provision of the Sports Code...”.


NATIONAL NEWS/ INTERVENTIONS



Daily snippets

1. Farmers’ stir to continue till Oct.­Nov. if needed: Tikait

  • The farmers’ protest at the Ghazipur border will continue “till October or November”, announced Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait amid multiple layers of metallic and concrete barricades enmeshed with barbed wires put up by the police. Repealing the three controversial farm laws, was the sole solution to the gridlock between the agitating farmers and the BJP government at the Centre, he added.

2. Awareness campaign planned to dispel ‘rumours’ on NPR, Census

  • The Union Home Ministry has informed a parliamentary panel that “the right kind of messaging will be done to tackle the miscommunication and rumours around NPR and Census”.

  • The first phase of house listing and housing census and the National Population Register (NPR) was to be rolled out in some States on April 1 last year but was postponed indefinitely due to COVID-­19.

  • Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai, in a written reply in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, said that “the demographic and other particulars of each family and individual were to be updated/collected during the exercise of update of NPR” and “no document is to be collected during this exercise”.

  • The parliamentary committee, headed by the Congress’s Anand Sharma, while discussing the demands for grants report on February 18, 2020 observed that there was a lot of dissatisfaction and fear among people regarding the coming NPR and Census.

3. More women have antibodies in Delhi

  • More women were found to have developed antibodies against COVID-­19 compared with men in the fifth and the largest serological survey done by the Delhi government, said Health Minister Satyendar Jain.

  • Many experts and the Minister said the city is getting closer to attaining herd immunity, but people should still take vaccines as it will provide a better immune response against the virus, and also continue to take all precautions.

  • About 56.13% of over 28,000 people, whose blood samples were collected, have developed antibodies against COVID-­19, the results show. This means that 56.13% of the people surveyed had caught the infection at some point and have recovered from it, Mr. Jain said.

  • What is herd immunity? When a larger part of the population develops antibodies and becomes immune to the virus, the chain of transmission is broken which reduces the spread of the disease which is called herd immunity. So, a higher value of sero prevalence is favourable.

4. Sputnik V vaccine shows 91.6% efficacy

  • An interim analysis of a Phase-­3 trial of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine against COVID­-19 shows the vaccine is safe and has 91.6% efficacy. The 91.6% efficacy was seen 21 days after the first dose. Although the study was not designed to assess the efficacy of a single dose regimen, the researchers observed a possible partial protective effect of a single dose. The results were published in The Lancet.

  • Storage at 2­8°C, a favourable temperature profile for global distribution, has been approved by Russia’s Health Ministry. The Phase­-3 trial between September 7 and November 24, 2020 in about 20,000 participants carried out in Moscow at 25 sites found the vaccine was safe.

  • Sputnik V vaccine’s approach : While AstraZeneca uses the same adenovirus vector to ferry the genetic material into cells, the Sputnik V vaccine uses two different adenovirus vectors – adenovirus 26 (Ad26) for the first dose and adenovirus 5 (Ad5) for the second dose – to carry the SARS­CoV­2 spike protein. Using two varying serotypes of adenovirus, is intended to overcome any pre-existing adenovirus immunity in the population.

5. ECT fiasco: Indian envoy meets Gotabaya, Mahinda

  • In a flurry of meetings a day after Sri Lanka backed out of an agreement with India and Japan to develop the East Container Terminal (ECT) at the Colombo Port, Indian High Commissioner Gopal Baglay met President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena on Tuesday.

  • The thrust of the Indian envoy’s message to the Sri Lankan leadership, sources said, was that Colombo must adhere to its commitments in the tripartite agreement of May 2019, to jointly develop the strategic terminal with the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) holding a 51% stake and India and Japan holding 49% together.

  • The Adani Group from India, along with Japanese companies, was to invest in the project expected to cost up to $700 million, as per official estimates.

  • This is the second instance of Sri Lanka reversing an agreement on a large infrastructure project involving Japan, after the government scrapped the $1.5 billion, Japan-­funded Light Rail Transit system last year. The development has sparked alarm in India and Japan, according to diplomatic sources, who said Sri Lanka had neither conveyed its decision, nor offered the alternative proposal to either of the partners.

  • While the ECT, which is in its first stage and awaits upgrade, has a 450 ­metre­ long quay wall and water depth of 18 metres, equipping it to accommodate large vessels, the West Container Terminal (WCT) exists merely as a proposal, with no infrastructure yet.

6. Jal Jeevan Mission to help revive urban waterbodies

  • The urban water supply mis­sion announced in the Bud­ will include rejuvenation of waterbodies and 20% of supply from reused water, the Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry said.

  • In a statement, the Minis­try said there was an esti­mated gap of 2.68 crore ur­ban household tap connections that the Jal Jee­van Mission (Urban) ( JJMU) would seek to bridge in all 4,378 statutory towns. The Mission would also aim to bridge the gap of 2.64 crore sewer connections in the 500 cities under the existing Atal Mission for Rejuvena­tion and Urban Transforma­tion (AMRUT). The mission would in­clude rejuvenation of water bodies to boost the sustaina­ble freshwater supply and creation of green spaces. The Ministry said the MetroNeo and MetroLite technologies, which are cheaper than conventional Metros, mentioned in the Budget were already being considered by it.

7. UK variant mutation

  • The U.K. has reported a key mutation in the coronavirus variant called B.1.1.7, or the ‘U.K. variant, that studies say makes it more infectious, better equipped to thwart immune systems and slightly reduce the potency of vac­cines. The mutation, called E484K, has been reported previously in South Africa in a coronavirus lineage called B.1.135.

  • Vaccine companies Pfizer and Moderna had underta­ken laboratory tests to see if their vaccines are effective against the new mutated strains. Both claimed that their vaccines were effective against the U.K. strain. Moderna said it had also tested its vaccine against the South African variant and while ef­fective, it showed a slightly diminished response com­pared to that against the U.K. variant.

  • On Tuesday, Minister of State for Health Ashwini Choubey said in a written statement in the Rajya Sabha that there was “no data gen­erated” on Covaxin and Cov­ishield regarding their effec­tiveness on the “new European” coronavirus strain.

  • Last week, Bharat Biotech re­ported results of a lab test that showed its vaccine ap­peared to be working against the U.K. strain. No tests were done to check its potency against the South Africa var­iant. Since December, India has been scanning genomes of coronavirus isolated from people with international travel history and an­nounced plans to do so in 5% of the population of those positive but there is no infor­mation public on whether these variants have been found in the community.


INTERNATIONAL NEWS/EVENTS/ PERSONALITIES



Daily snippets

1. Moscow court sends Navalny to prison

  • A Moscow court on Tuesday sentenced Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny to more than two years in prison despite nationwide protests and a Western outcry. The decision to turn a 2014 suspended sentence into real jail time will see Mr. Navalny, who accuses the Kremlin of poisoning him last year, serve a lengthy prison term.

Analysis : Setback in Myanmar

(i). Background

  • In one swift operation, Myanmar’s military establishment has wiped out a decade of the country’s democratisation process. By arresting President Win Myint, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and the rest of the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) leadership, and declaring military rule under a state of emergency for at least a year, General Min Aung Hlaing has made it clear that it is the military that is in charge, and he is not particularly concerned about the opposition to or condemnation of the move.

(ii). The decision seems questionable on legal and constitutional grounds

  • First, electoral issues need to be addressed and resolved by relevant authorities, not the military leadership. Second, Article 417 of the Constitution empowers the President to proclaim emergency, in consultation with the National Defence and Security Council. It does not seem that the Council met or presidential consent was obtained.

(iii). In this context, three fault lines may be pinpointed

  • First, ideologically the two segments of the political elite have been at war with each other. The army has a sense of entitlement to power on the grounds that it secured independence, defended the country against secession, and ensured stability and development. NLD leader Ms. Suu Kyi, the other protagonist, has been a staunch advocate of democracy, a system in which the army should be completely apolitical.

  • Second, in political terms the fight is for power. The army has been used to exercising power for long, which yields it immense economic dividends too. Playing second fiddle to democratically elected leaders was a difficult role for it. Third, presidential ambitions and the future of Senior General Min Aung Hlaing’s career constitute a relevant issue. Back in 2016, and even now, argue well informed sources, he nurtured the dream to be Myanmar’s President. Ms. Suu Kyi was opposed to it. Besides, she was perhaps unwilling even to extend his tenure. He is due to retire from the army in July. Presumably the coup guarantees an indefinite extension.

(iv). Diminishing aura of Nobel laureate Suu Kyi

  • Daw Suu, as she is known, has also failed to bring democracy to her party, and been criticised for her autocratic style. Her refusal to rein in the Generals when the Tatmadaw unleashed a pogrom on the Rohingya between 2016­-17, had lost the Nobel Peace laureate much international support.

(v). According to the Constitution

  • The President must have military experience and he himself, his spouse or children “shall not be subject to a foreign power or citizen of a foreign country”. Ms. Suu Kyi, whose two sons are British citizens, cannot become President. The Constitution also mandates that the Defence and Interior Ministries be controlled by the military. Also, 25% of the total seats in Parliament (166 out of the 664 ­member house) are reserved for the military, giving it a veto over any move to change the Constitution.

(vi). Why did the military stage a coup ?

  • With 166 seats reserved for the military, the USDP wanted only 167 seats to form the government and appoint the next President (according to some reports, Gen. Min Aung Hlaing has presidential ambitions), whereas the NLD needed 333 seats for an outright victory. The voters gave the NLD 396 seats, while the USDP ended up with just 33. This set the alarm bells ringing in the headquarters of Tatmadaw, as the Myanmar military is called.

SUGGESTED READINGS



1. Uniform Civil Code https://thewire.in/law/uniform-civil-code-goa-muslim-law

2. Appointment of judges in Constitutional Courts https://www.livelaw.in/columns/constitutional-court-judges-appointment-ministry-of-law-and-justice-169334

3. Unpaid care work and Paternity Benefit Act https://www.barandbench.com/columns/acknowledging-unpaid-care-work-and-the-need-for-a-paternity-benefit-act

4. US and India, a tale of two sieges https://www.pressreader.com/india/the-hindu/20210203/281887300987823


Download Page : https://e-clat.com/dailynewspage

Sources referred to : The Hindu, The Indian Express, Live Law, Bar & Bench

END


February 2nd, 2021

Your 10 minute read!

START


LAW, POLICY & GOVERNANCE



Daily snippets

1. Farmers’ stir: Twitter blocks several accounts

  • Microblogging site Twitter, citing “legal demands”, blocked several accounts that were posting messages in support of the ongoing farmers’ agitation. However, most accounts were restored in the evening.

  • The accounts were taken down after the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeITY), based on a request by the MHA, asked Twitter to act against 250 Twitter handles. The MEITY directed Twitter to block around 250 tweets/ Twitter accounts, which were using #ModiPlanning-FarmerGenocide hashtag and making fake, intimidatory and provocative Tweets on January 30.

2. ‘Physical hearings in SC may start by March’

  • Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, office bearers of the Bar Council of India (BCI) and various lawyers’ bodies that physical hearings in the Supreme Court might start by the first week of March. During a meeting, the CJI said the judges themselves were willing to resume physical hearing of cases

3. SC urges Centre to give UPSC aspirants one-time relaxation

  • The Supreme Court urged the Centre to give a one time concession to aspirants seeking another opportunity to take the UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) exam. The preparations of the aspirants for the October 4 prelims last year were hampered by the pandemic restrictions.

4. HC seeks Centre’s reply on pleas over ‘misreporting’ of R­Day rally

  • The Delhi High Court asked the Centre to respond to two petitions which have alleged that the Aaj Tak news channel has “unleashed an offensive and potentially fatal communal attack” on the Sikh community by circulating unverified videos of the farmers’ tractor rally on Republic Day.

5. High Court rejects plea on action against agencies

  • The Delhi High Court dismissed a petition which sought action against the police and intelligence officials, claiming that their alleged failure in “anticipating and controlling” the farmers’ protest on Republic Day led to their forced entry into the Red Fort.

  • A Bench of Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh rejected the petition saying it was too early for the court to interfere as the police had already registered FIRs in relation to the January 26 incident. The petition stated that the “violent turn of a peaceful protest/rally, especially on Republic Day casts a huge doubt on the security agencies”.


NATIONAL NEWS/ INTERVENTIONS



Daily snippets

1. Nirmala Sitharaman presents first ever paperless Budget

  • Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the first ever paperless Budget amidst a walkout by members of the former National Democratic Alliance (NDA) constituents, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) chief Hanuman Beniwal.

  • Ms. Sitharaman, who had started a new tradition by carrying her Budget speech in a bahi-khata (ledger book) instead of a briefcase, once again has the distinction of presenting the first digital Budget as she read out her speech from a tablet.

2. ‘Sero survey shows 56% have antibodies’

  • About 56% of the over 28,000 people whose blood samples were collected in January during a serological survey have developed antibodies against COVID-­19.

  • The Delhi government conducted the fifth serological survey – the largest till now – to get an idea about the percentage of the population with antibodies against COVID­-19, before the vaccination drive. As a part of the survey, blood samples of people of different age groups were collected.

  • What is Herd Immunity? When a larger part of the population develops antibodies and becomes immune to the virus, the chain of transmission is broken, and this reduces the spread of the disease and this is called herd immunity. So, a higher value of seroprevalence is favourable. As per experts, the result of the serological survey has to be about 50­-60%, to indicate herd immunity.

  • The current result shows that Delhi might be close to herd immunity, depending on quality of sample selection. But according to experts, different parts of even the same city can attain herd immunity at different times.

  • The first such survey done in the city in June-­July had shown that 23.4% of people surveyed had developed antibodies against the virus. Similar surveys in August showed that 29.1% of people have antibodies, 25.1% in September, and 25.5% in October. A positive result implies that the person has developed antibodies against the virus. This means that the person was infected at some point and developed immunity against it.

3. Rashtrapati Bhavan to reopen from Saturday

  • The Rashtrapati Bhavan on Monday said it would reopen for visitors from February 6. Public viewing has been closed due to COVID-19 since March 13, 2020. Visitors can book their time slots online. A maximum of 25 visitors will be allowed per slot. During the tour, visitors will have to follow COVID-19 protocols.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS/EVENTS/ PERSONALITIES



Daily snippets

1. Military seizes power in Myanmar coup

  • Myanmar’s military seized power on Monday in a coup against the democratically elected government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who was detained along with other leaders of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party in early morning raids. The Army said it had carried out the detentions in response to “election fraud”, handing power to military chief Min Aung Hlaing and imposing a state of emergency for one year.

  • The detentions came after days of escalating tension between the civilian government and the military that stirred fears of a coup in the aftermath of the election. Ms. Suu Kyi’s party won 83% of the vote in only the second election since the junta agreed to share power in 2011. The Army issued a statement, saying power will be transferred to the winning party after “holding a free and fair election”, but did not specify a timeline.

2. West condemns coup, China’s response is muted

  • The United Nations led condemnation of Myanmar’s military on Monday after it seized power, calling for the release of elected leaders, including Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. UN Secretary­-General Antonio Guterres said the developments were a “serious blow to democratic reforms” and urged all leaders to refrain from violence and respect human rights, a U.N. spokesman said.

  • The U.S, Britain, Australia and the EU condemned the military’s coup and detentions and its declaration of a state of emergency. *China’s response, however, was more muted. “We hope that all sides in Myanmar can appropriately handle their differences under the Constitution and legal framework and safeguard political and social stability,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said.

  • U.S. President Joe Biden said Washington may consider reimposing sanctions lifted during the nation’s transition to democracy. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also condemned the coup. “The vote of the people must be respected and civilian leaders released,” he said on Twitter.

  • Japan said it opposed any reversal of the democratic process in Myanmar. “We strongly call on the military government to restore democracy as soon as possible,” said a Foreign Ministry statement. The head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, called for the “immediate and unconditional release” of all those detained.

3. For New Delhi, the tightrope on Myanmar is back

  • For India, the return to military rule by Myanmar’s Tatmadaw (Army) and the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi and the political leadership of the National League of Democracy (NLD) are a repeat of events 30 years ago, but the Modi government’s reaction is likely to be starkly different to India’s strong public criticism of the junta’s actions in 1989-­90.

  • One important reason for the change is that India’s security relationship with the Myanmar military has become extremely close, and it would be difficult to “burn bridges” with them given their assistance in securing the North East frontiers from insurgent groups.

  • In a joint visit to Naypyidaw in October 2020, Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla and Army Chief Gen. Manoj Mukund Naravane met with both State Councillor Suu Kyi and Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, making it clear that New Delhi saw both relationships at par.

  • Another reason for the change is Ms. Suu Kyi herself, whose image as a democracy icon and Nobel peace laureate has been damaged by her time in office, where she failed to push back the military, and even defended the Army’s pogrom against Rohingya in Rakhine State in 2015.

  • Officials also say a harsh reaction from India, on the lines of that from the U.S., which has threatened action against those responsible for the “coup” unless they revoke the military’s takeover, would only benefit China. Apart from strategic concerns, India has cultivated several infrastructure and development projects with Myanmar, which it sees as the “gateway to the East” and ASEAN countries. These include the India-Myanmar­-Thailand trilateral highway and the Kaladan multi­modal transit transport network, as well as a plan for a Special Economic Zone at the Sittwe deep­water port.

4. No Indian role in developing ECT in Colombo

  • Reneging on a 2019 agreement with India and Japan, Sri Lanka has decided to develop the strategic East Container Terminal (ECT) at the Colombo Port on its own. The Sri Lankan government would instead offer the West Container Terminal to India for possible investments.

  • The decision was taken at Monday’s Cabinet meeting held by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, when members “unanimously” agreed to proposals submitted by the Minister of Ports and Shipping, the source said.

  • It comes amid mounting pressure from Port union workers against any foreign role or investment in the ECT project, where nearly 70% of the transhipment business is linked to India. For New Delhi, the strategic ECT project in Colombo has been high on priority. It has figured in talks at the highest levels. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa told agitating Port worker unions that the Adani Group – Government of India’s nominee – would invest in the terminal, and that the Terminal would not be “sold or leased” to any foreign entity, signalling that his government was taking forward the 2019 memorandum of cooperation (MOC).

  • The Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) was to hold a 51% stake in the operations, while India and Japan together would hold 49%, as per the MOC, which was signed by the former Maithripala Sirisena­Ranil Wickremesinghe administration.


BUDGET



Key Highlights from the Union Budget Link : https://pib.gov.in/PressReleaseIframePage.aspx?PRID=1601474


SUGGESTED READINGS



1. A tribute to Durga Das Basu https://www.livelaw.in/columns/constitution-durga-das-basu-comparative-constitutional-law-169252

2. Violation of Fundamental Rights and UAPA https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/uapa-cases-bail-fundamental-rights-speedy-trial-violation-supreme-court-section-43-d5-of-uapa-169235


Download Page : https://e-clat.com/dailynewspage

Sources referred to : The Hindu, The Indian Express, Live Law, Bar & Bench

END

February 1st, 2021

Your 10 minute read!

START


LAW, POLICY & GOVERNANCE



Daily snippets

1. Centre likely to postpone Census to 2022

  • The Centre is on track to push the 2021 Census to 2022 on account of the country’s continuing preoccupation with the COVID­-19 pandemic. The Census exercise was to be conducted in two phases – HouseListing and Housing Census from April to September 2020 and Population Enumeration from February 9 to February 28, 2021.

  • The entire process had become controversial after Parliament approved the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in December 2019 that sought to give citizenship to persecuted minorities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan who entered India on or before December 31, 2014. However, the rules required for implementing the CAA have not been framed so far – more than a year after the passage of this key legislation.

2. Information officers can’t act like post office, says HC

  • The Delhi High Court has ruled that Central Public Information Officers (CPIOs) cannot act like a “post office” as they are instead responsible to ensure that the information sought under the Right to Information Act is provided.

  • Justice Prathiba M. Singh made the remarks while dismissing the plea of two persons who used to work as CPIOs with the Union Bank of India against an order passed by the Central Information Commission imposing a cost of ₹10,000 each.

3. ‘3­ language policy is not applicable to the Central govt. offices’

  • The Union Ministry of Home Affairs has said the three language policy is not applicable to offices of the Union government. The Ministry gave this response to a question filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

  • Goutham Ganesh M.H., a student in Bengaluru, had filed an application before the Home Ministry under RTI, asking if the Ministry had noticed that the three language policy was not being followed at the programme.

  • The reply by the Ministry stated that “as per the provision of the Official Language Act, 1963, and the Official Language Rules, 1976, the provision of bilingual policy is applicable in the offices of the Central government.

4. Medical board on abortion ‘unfeasible’

  • A panel of doctors to decide on termination of pregnancy beyond 24 weeks as proposed in the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Amendment Bill, 2020, is “unfeasible” as 82% of these posts are lying vacant in the country, finds a new study.

  • The Bill proposes several amendments, including the constitution of a medical Board in every State and Union Territory, which will decide on pregnancies beyond 24 weeks in cases of foetal abnormalities.

  • The shortfall was starker in the northeast where Sikkim, Mizoram and Manipur had a total absence of obstetricians and gynaecologists, and a near total absence of paediatricians.


NATIONAL NEWS/ INTERVENTIONS



Daily snippets

1. Tiger cub gets hunting lessons from humans

  • For the first time in the country, the Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR) in Kerala has taken up the training of a tiger cub to equip it to naturally hunt in the forest environment. The cub was found abandoned inside the forests bordering Tamil Nadu on November 21. It was in a weak condition and medical care and food supplements were given to it in a nearby temporary shelter.

2. PM's Mann ki Baat

  • In his first radio broad­cast, Mann Ki Baat, of 2021, Mr. Modi said his govern­ment was “committed to modernising agriculture and the efforts of the govern­ment will continue in that di­rection in the future as well.” The Prime Minister talked about the country's fight against COVID-­19 and how the Made in India vaccine had not only made the coun­try self-­reliant (Atma Nirbhar) but had also become a moment of self pride (Atma Gaurav).

  • India’s decision to send vaccines to several countries had generated worldwide appreciation and displayed its capabilities and self-­re­liance in the field of medicines. Noting that the country was approaching its 75th year of Independence, the Prime Minister urged peo­ple, especially the young, to write about freedom fighters and incidents associated with their struggle.

  • Speaking of the recent an­nouncement of Padma award winners, he said the practice of conferring the honour on unsung heroes that was started a few years ago had been maintained. Mr. Modi said his monthly broadcast was an opportuni­ty to learn many new things.

3. UP leads in COVID-19 vaccination

  • Uttar Pradesh accounted for the most number of persons vaccinated, fol­lowed by Rajasthan and Karnataka, the Health Mi­nistry said in a statement. U.P. has so far inoculat­ed 4.6 lakh healthcare workers, or about 12% of its intended beneficiaries, whereas Rajasthan has co­vered 3.2 lakh (8.8%) and Karnataka 3.1 lakh (8.4%). Eight States accounted for 63% of the vaccinations.

4. GST hits a record

  • GST collections hit a record high in January, with in­flows of nearly ₹1.2 lakh crore, 8% higher than a year ago. This number, subject to further revision, marks the highest indirect tax revenues for the exchequer since the GST regime was launched.

  • That GST revenues had re­mained above ₹1 lakh crore for the last four months with a steeply ‘increasing trend over this period are clear in­dicators of rapid economic recovery post pandemic’, the Finance Ministry said. “Closer monitoring against fake billing, deep da­ta analytics using data from multiple sources, including GST, Income tax and Cus­toms IT systems, and effec­tive tax administration have also contributed to the stea­dy increase in tax revenue over last few months,” it ad­ded.


Analysis : Growth with inequality

  • The Economic Survey for 2020­-21 is an expansive attempt at reviewing the developments in the Indian economy during the current financial year and providing an outlook for its near-­term prospects. Spread over 700 pages, the survey opts for a self­-congratulatory tone while highlighting the policy achievements of the government in steering the economy through the treacherous shoals of “the most unfathomable global health emergency experienced in modern history”.

  • There is no denying that the country appears to have not only flattened the curve but also, crucially, so far avoided a bruising second wave of infections seen in much of Europe and the U.S.

  • While it may be debatable as to how much of the turn in the pandemic’s progress could be attributed wholly to proactive policy measures, the survey’s contention that India has turned the crisis into an opportunity to strengthen its long-­term growth potential through ‘seminal reforms’ sounds off ­key, especially given the ongoing farmers’ agitation against the new farm laws as well as the plight of the struggling small and medium­-scale industries and informal sectors.

  • The survey goes on to forecast that the economy is currently experiencing a V-­shaped recovery that would enable GDP to expand, even by a ‘conservative estimate’, by 11% in real terms in 2021-­22. In contending that growth should be prioritised over inequality in tackling poverty, when the pandemic has exacerbated the gap between the rich and the poor and the Finance Minister is set to present her Budget, the survey seems to privilege wealth creation over all else.


    INTERNATIONAL NEWS/EVENTS/ PERSONALITIES



    Daily snippets

1. Britain opens visa scheme for millions in Hong Kong

  • A new visa scheme offering millions of people in Hong Kong a pathway to British citizenship went live on Sunday as the city’s former colonial master opens its doors to those wanting to escape China’s crackdown on dissent. Anyone with a British National (Overseas) passport and their dependents can now apply online for a visa allowing them to live and work in the U.K. After five years, they can apply for citizenship. The visa offer is available to a huge number of people — about 70% of Hong Kong’s 7.5 million population.

  • The immigration scheme is a response to Beijing’s decision last year to impose a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong to snuff out the huge and often violent democracy protests. Britain has accused China of tearing up its promise ahead of Hong Kong’s 1997 handover that the financial hub would maintain key liberties and autonomy for 50 years, and has argued it has a moral duty to protect its former subjects.

  • The BN(O) passport is a legacy of Hong Kong’s return to China. Many Hong Kong residents at the time wanted Britain to grant them full citizenship but China was opposed to the move. The BN(O) was a compromise, allowing Hong Kong residents born before 1997 the right to stay in Britain for six months at a time, but with no working or settling rights.

2. ‘Foreign troops to stay in Afghanistan beyond May’

  • International troops plan to stay in Afghanistan beyond the May deadline envisaged by Taliban’s deal with the U.S., four senior NATO officials said, a move that could escalate tensions with the Taliban demanding full withdrawal.

  • The administration of then ­President Donald Trump signed an agreement with the Taliban early last year calling for the withdrawal of all foreign troops by May in return for the insurgents fulfilling certain security guarantees. Mr. Trump hailed the accord, which did not include the Afghan government, as the end of two decades of war. He reduced U.S. troops to 2,500 by this month, the fewest since 2001.

  • Plans on what will happen after April are now being considered and likely to be a top issue at a key NATO meeting in February, the NATO sources said. Peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban began in September in Doha, but violence has remained high.

3. Vietnam ruling party re-elects leader Trong

  • Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong was re-elected, a victory that makes him the most powerful leader in decades. Mr. Trong, a 76­ year old pro-­China conservative who is rumoured to be in poor health, was given the nod after a week of closed door talks at the twice-a­decade Communist Party congress. It will be his third term.

SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & ENVIRONMENT



The problem of ageing dams

  • Dams and reservoirs are believed to secure our water needs for the fu­ture. However, data and studies show that they can threaten our water security. It is not a secret anymore that In­dia’s dams are now ageing and con­comitantly, reservoir water is being replaced by soil, technically known as silt or sediment.

  • India is ranked third in the world in terms of building large dams. Of the over 5,200 large dams built so far, about 1,100 large dams have already reached 50 years of age and some are older than 120 years. The number of such dams will increase to 4,400 by 2050. The situation with hundreds of thousands of medium and minor dams is even more pre­carious as their shelf life is even lower than that of large dams.

  • As dams age, soil replaces the wa­ter in the reservoirs. Therefore, the storage capacity cannot be claimed to be the same. Studies also show that the design of many of our reservoirs is flawed. The observed siltation rate in In­dia’s iconic Bhakra dam is 139.86% higher than originally assumed. Simi­larly, the actual siltation rate ob­served for the Hirakud, Maithan and Ghod dams are way higher at 141.67%, 808.64% and 426.59%, res­pectively.

  • Almost every scholarly study on reservoir sedimentation shows that Indian reservoirs are designed with a poor understanding of sedimenta­tion science. The designs underesti­mate the rate of siltation and overes­timate live storage capacity created.

  • Consequences of siltation : When soil replaces the water in reser­voirs, supply gets choked. The cropped area begins receiving less and less water as time progresses. The net sown water area either shrinks in size or depends on rains or groundwater, which is ov­er­exploited. Crop yield gets affected severely and disrupts the farmer’s in­come.


SPORTS



Daily snippets

1. Messi- the most expensive athlete

  • Lionel Messi’s most recent contract with Barcelona is worth up to €555 million over four seasons. The report said the 33-year old player has already secured more than €510 million of the total contract. Messi has been with Barcelona for nearly two decades but asked to leave at the end of last season after saying he wasn’t happy with the direction the club was headed. He had his request denied but will be able to leave for free when this season ends.

SUGGESTED READINGS



1. Supreme Court on the Habeas Corpus https://www.barandbench.com/news/litigation/habeas-corpus-illegal-detention-proven-supreme-court-plea-release-live-in-partner-parents-custody

2. Notices to Twitter, FB, WhatsApp for spreading hate speech https://www.barandbench.com/news/litigation/supreme-court-notice-plea-facebook-twitter-whatsapp-hate-speech

3. Lest we forget https://www.livelaw.in/columns/republic-day-constitution-poorna-swaraj-constitutional-morality-democracy-169203

4. Mahatma Gandhi and the empowerment of the other https://rb.gy/e5kjdg


Download Page : https://e-clat.com/dailynewspage

Sources referred to : The Hindu, The Indian Express, Live Law, Bar & Bench

END


Weekend Page : January 30th- January 31st, 2021

Your 10 minute read!

START


LAW, POLICY & GOVERNANCE



Daily snippets

1. HC orders protection for same-sex couple in UP

  • Noting that it was duty-bound to monitor the rights of citizens under threat on account of their sexual orientation, the Allahabad High Court has ordered police protection for a same-sex woman couple in Uttar Pradesh’s Saharanpur. The two women, aged 23 and 22, have been in a live-in relationship for a couple of years and are voluntarily living with each other on account of their sexual orientation.

  • The petition highlights the stark reality of the society where the citizens are facing discrimination at the hands of the society only on account of their sexual orientation despite it being well settled that sexual orientation is innate to human being.”

  • Counsel for the petitioners contended that despite legitimacy being accorded to such relations by the Supreme Court in the case of Navtej Singh Johar & Ors. v. Union of India, (2018) 10 SCC 1, the petitioners are being threatened with violation of their rights enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution only on the ground of their sexual orientation.

2. ‘Govt. to abide by SC order on farm laws’

  • The Union Government respected the Supreme Court and would abide by its decision to stay the implementation of the three farm laws, President Ram Nath Kovind told a joint sitting of Parliament. The President condemned Republic Day violence. “While the Constitution gives us the right to freedom of expression, it is also expected that we abide by the laws and rules with equal sincerity,” he observed.

  • He said these laws do not take away any rights and facilities that are available under the existing system; rather the laws have “provided new facilities to the farmers and have empowered them.”

3. Government tightens oversight on funds received by NGOs

  • The Union Home Ministry has laid down a charter for banks which says that “donations received in Indian rupees” by non­-governmental organisations (NGOs) and associations from “any foreign source even if that source is located in India at the time of such donation” should be treated as “foreign contribution”.

  • As per the existing rules, all banks have to report to the Central government within 48 hours the “receipt or utilisation of any foreign contribution” by any NGO, association or person whether or not they are registered or granted prior permission under the FCRA.

  • Last September, the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010, was amended by Parliament and a new provision that makes it mandatory for all NGOs to receive foreign funds in a designated bank account at the State Bank of India’s (SBI) New Delhi branch was inserted. The Ministry has laid out a series of guidelines and charter to make the NGOs and the banks comply with the new provisions.

4. Plea seeks appointment of PMLA tribunal chief

  • The Supreme Court asked the government to respond to a petition seeking reasons for the delay in appointment of chairperson and members to the appellate tribunal under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde gave the government four weeks to reply to the petition

5. Jokes need no defence, stand-up comedian tells SC

  • Stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra, facing contempt for scandalising the Supreme Court with his tweets, said the phenomenon of “taking offence” to comedy or satire has been elevated. A Bench, led by Justice Ashok Bhushan, adjourned the hearing by two weeks.

  • The more attention you paid to a joke, the more credible it became. The public faith in the judiciary is founded on the institution’s own actions, and not on any criticism or commentary about it,” he stated.

6. Proposal to stay farm laws stands: Modi

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at an all party meeting of floor leaders in Parliament that the government’s proposal of suspending the implementation of three farm laws, against which farmers’ unions have been protesting for months, still stood, and that any resolution of the issue “should be found through dialogue”. On violence during the tractor rally on Republic Day, he said the ‘law must take its own course’.

7. U.P. ordinance on conversion not yet received by MHA

  • The ordinance on unlawful religious conversions, promulgated by the Uttar Pradesh government last year, has not been sent to the Centre for examination, according to a reply from the Union Home Ministry to a query under the Right to Information Act (RTI).

  • Article 213 of the Constitution, under which U.P. Governor Anandiben Patel promulgated the ordinance, saying the Governor shall not, without instructions from the President, promulgate any such Ordinance if a Bill would have “required the previous sanction of the President” for introduction in the State Legislature.

8. Fresh FIRs against Tharoor, senior scribes

  • Delhi Police and Gurugram Police have lodged FIRs against Congress MP Shashi Tharoor and six senior journalists, on charges of sedition, promoting enmity and criminal conspiracy, for posting “mala fide, defamatory, false and misleading” tweets accusing the Delhi police of killing a farmer during the tractor parade on Republic Day. A case under Indian Penal Code Sections 153, 504, 505(1)(b), and 120B was lodged and investigation is underway

NATIONAL NEWS/ INTERVENTIONS



Daily snippets

1. Blast in Delhi: India reaches out to Israel

  • India on Friday assured Israel of the safety of its missions and diplomats after a low intensity device exploded near the country’s Embassy on the high security A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Road in Delhi. A police officer said the explosive was planted in a used soft drink can and wrapped in polythene; he ruled out any terror angle as of now. The blast took place while the Beating Retreat ceremony was taking place at Rajpath.

2. C. Subramaniam’s call for ‘science for the economic freedom of humanity’ echoes on his birth anniversary today

  • January 30, is the birth anniversary of Mr. C. Subramaniam, an architect of public policy for Indian science and of the ‘Green Revolution’ in the country.

  • In addition to the above, CS championed the cause of planned public investments in science. This year, 2021, is significant for another reason – it is the golden jubilee year of the founding of India’s Ministry of Science and Technology. CS had an abiding trust in science and believed that technology alone could offer solutions to the problems faced by society.

  • He realised that the economic freedom of every citizen of India was heavily reliant on the 4Es: Education, Environment, Economy and Empowerment of our farmers. The National Agro Foundation (NAF) was his gift to the nation on his 90th birthday.

3. ‘Delink boundary dispute from ties’

  • China said it “appreciatesExternal Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar emphasising the importance of India-­China relations, but reiterated its calls for the boundary dispute to “not be linked with the overall bilateral relations”. In a speech, Mr. Jaishankar said the relationship needed to be built on “mutual respect, mutual sensitivity and mutual interests''. The Minister outlined eight propositions to take the ties forward after what he called a year of “exceptional stress”.

  • China has in recent months hit out at India’s economic measures, such as the banning of apps and tightening the curbs on investment, saying events on the border should not be linked to other aspects of relations. India has reiterated its view that such a proposition is untenable, and normal relations can’t be restored until there is peace on the border and a full restoration of the status quo, prior to last summer’s transgressions.

4. New COVID­-19 vaccine likely by June: SII

  • Serum Institute of India (SII) chief Adar Poonawalla said he is hopeful of launching a new COVID-­19 vaccine under the brand name Covovax by June. SII had earlier applied for clearance to conduct a trial for the vaccine in India. The DGCI had reviewed the application and asked them to submit a revised protocol.

  • Covovax is being developed by American company Novavax. According to a recent press statement, the vaccine was found to be 89.3% effective in a U.K. trial and was nearly as effective in protecting against the U.K. variant. Novavax’s vaccine contains a full length, prefusion spike protein made using their recombinant nanoparticle technology and the company’s proprietary saponin­-based Matrix­M adjuvant. It is stable at 2 degrees Celsius to 8 degrees Celsius (refrigerated) and is shipped in a ready to use liquid formulation.

5. China is still largest source of critical imports for India

  • China still remains the largest source of critical imports for India, from mobile phone components to pharmaceutical ingredients, and India is working on a multipronged strategy to reduce this reliance, which is a bigger concern than the imbalance in trade.

  • The trade deficit is not in dollars, it is in over-dependence,” said Sanjay Chadha, Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. Mr. Chadha said that India was working on a multipronged strategy to reduce this dependence, ranging from the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme to boost domestic manufacturing, a global effort involving India’s foreign missions to find alternatives to China, and the use of free trade agreements (FTAs) with other trading partners.

  • COVID-­19 had helped accelerate this change. When production in China was hit early in 2020, although its economy would recover by the summer and become the only major economy to avoid contraction last year, India shared with its foreign missions lists of items critically dependent on China, following which the missions linked up with suppliers in their countries.

  • China still remained the biggest source of India’s imports, but imports last year fell 10.8%, the lowest since 2016. Two­-way trade in 2020 reached $87.6 billion, down by 5.6%, while the trade deficit declined to a five year low of $45.8 billion.

6. Pulse polio programme launched

  • President Ram Nath Kovind launched the pulse polio programme for 2021 on Saturday by administering polio drops to children less than five years of age at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. The President and First Lady Savita Kovind administered polio drops to children on the eve of the Polio National Immunization Day, which is observed on January 31, 2021. Around 17 crore children of less than five years of age will be given polio drops as part of the drive of the government to sustain polio free status of the country.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS/EVENTS/ PERSONALITIES



Daily snippets

1. U.S. is bombarding civilians in breach of Afghan deal: Taliban

  • The Taliban rejected Washington’s accusations that it had not lived up to its promises in Afghanistan, in turn claiming the U.S. was ‘bombarding civilians’. The U.S. signed a landmark deal with the insurgents last year, agreeing to withdraw its troops from the country in return for security guarantees after a stalemate on the battlefield.

  • The U.S military has in recent months carried out airstrikes against the Taliban fighters in defence of Afghan forces in some provinces. The agreement, signed in Doha last year, required the Taliban to halt attacks on U.S. forces, sharply decrease the level of violence in the country, and advance peace talks with the government in Kabul.

2. China executes former banker in graft case

  • China on Friday executed a former top banker accused of taking $260 million worth of bribes, as well as other forms of corruption and bigamy, state broadcaster CCTV reported. Lai Xiaomin, the former chairman of Huarong – one of China’s largest state controlled asset management firms – was put to death by a court in the northern city of Tianjin, CCTV said.

3. Myanmar poll panel rejects fraud claims

  • Myanmar’s Election Commission rejected allegations by the military that fraud played a significant role in determining the outcome of November’s elections, in which Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won a majority of seats. The decision, announced, came amid heightened tensions after the military, which had ruled Myanmar for five decades until 2015, refused to rule out the possibility of a coup if their complaints were ignored.

  • Call for election review Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party captured 396 out of 476 seats in the November 8 polls, allowing them to form the government for five more years.

  • The military backed Union Solidarity and Development Party won 33 seats. The military has been calling on the government and the Union Election Commission to review the results. It says it has found 8.6 million irregularities in voter lists in 314 townships that could have let voters cast multiple ballots or commit other “voting malpractice,” but the Election Commission said there was no evidence to support these claims.

  • Myanmar’s military chief Min Aung Hlaing on Wednesday said that the Constitution could be revoked if the laws are not being properly enforced.

4. Biden govt. will build on the Quad: NSA

  • The new U.S. National Security Adviser (NSA), Jake Sullivan, has said the Biden administration would like to carry forward the work of the Donald Trump administration in strengthening the Quad grouping – India, the U.S., Japan and Australia. His comments will bring some measure of clarity to discussions on the level of priority the new administration will assign to the Indo­-Pacific, which had been elevated by the Trump administration as a foreign policy priority, mostly as a reaction to China’s growing assertiveness.

  • Mr. Sullivan described the Quad and the Abraham Accords – deals signed in 2020 to normalise relations between Israel and certain West Asian and North African countries – as examples of Trump administration’s actions that were positive and ones the Biden administration would build on. For Mr Sullivan, the most pressing challenge was the turmoil within the U.S. itself.

5. After uproar, Myanmar Army plays down coup rhetoric

  • Myanmar’s military on Saturday vowed to abide by the country’s Constitution, in an apparent backtracking after its commander­-in-­chief spurred fears of a coup when he suggested the junta­scripted charter could be repealed. The powerful Army has for weeks alleged widespread irregularities in November’s election, won in a landslide by Aung San Suu Kyi’s ruling National League for Democracy (NLD).

  • The last time the country saw its Constitution revoked was in 1988, when the military reinstated a junta after a popular uprising. The General’s comments on the Constitution drew alarm from more than a dozen foreign missions and the UN, while smaller political parties called for a resolution between Ms. Suu Kyi and the military.

  • Voter fraud charges : The country’s highest Buddhist authority even stepped in, with the senior monks of the State Sangha Maha Nayaka issuing a statement late on Friday calling for negotiations to prevail “instead of heated arguments”. The military is alleging 10 million cases of voter fraud in November’s polls, and is demanding the Election Commission release the electoral roll for cross checking. The Election Commission has denied fraud, though it has conceded that there were “flaws” in the lists of voters.

6. No curbs on vaccine supply to N. Ireland: EU

  • The European Union backtracked on a threat to restrict exports of coronavirus shots to Northern Ireland in its growing row with Britain. British-­Swedish firm AstraZeneca has said it can only deliver a fraction of its vaccine doses promised to the EU and Britain because of production problems, but both sides are demanding their pledges are met.

  • The EU threatened to restrict vaccine exports to Northern Ireland by overriding part of the Brexit deal with Britain that allowed the free flow of goods over the Irish border, but backed down after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson voiced “grave concern” over the potential impact from the decision. The European Commission will “ensure that the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol is unaffected”, the EU commissioner said in a statement.

7. Post-poll crisis in CAR displaced 2 lakh: UN

  • More than 2,00,000 people have fled fighting in the Central African Republic since violence erupted over a December election result, the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) said, with nearly half crossing into the Democratic Republic of Congo.

  • Cause of Violence : The CAR Army, backed by U.N., Russian and Rwandan troops, has been battling rebels that are seeking to overturn a December 27 vote, in which President Faustin­ Archange Touadera was declared the winner. “Refugees have told UNHCR that they fled in panic when they heard gunshots, leaving their belongings behind,” spokesman Boris Cheshirkov told journalists in Geneva. About 92,000 refugees have reached DRC and more than 13,000 have crossed into Cameroon, Chad and the Republic of Congo. The rest are displaced inside the Central African Republic.

8. China’s Hualong One nuclear reactor gets going

  • China National Nuclear Corporation said its first nuclear power unit that uses Hualong One, a third generation reactor, started commercial operations. The reactor, located in Fuqing city in China’s southeastern Fujian province, was designed to have a 60­ year lifespan, with its core equipment domestically produced.

  • Each unit of the Hualong No. 1 has a capacity of 1.161 million kilowatts and can meet the annual domestic electricity demand of 1 million people in moderately developed countries, according to CNNC. “With Hualong One online, China is now at the forefront of third­-generation nuclear technology in the world, alongside countries like the U.S., France and Russia,” said CNNC President Yu Jianfeng. A second Hualong One unit is due to be completed later this year.


OPINIONS & ANALYSIS


Analysis : Google and the government of Australia

(i). Background

  • Australia is working on a law that seeks to make Internet platforms Google and Facebook pay news media companies for displaying their content as well as linking to their content. Last week, just over a month after Australia introduced the legislation in Parliament, Google said it will shut down its search engine there if the law becomes a reality.

(ii). Basics of the law

  • In its 2019 report, Digital Platforms Inquiry, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), the country’s competition regulator, noted that there was a fundamental imbalance in the power between news media and internet platforms. The report said these platforms had “substantial bargaining power in relation to many news media businesses.”

  • Very few platforms have the billion ­plus ­user base or the financial strength of Google or Facebook. On the other side are millions of individual publishers, none close to being any match for the scale of the top tech platforms. It also highlighted that media regulation hardly applied to platforms.

(iii). How the bill seeks to correct power imbalance

  • What is being proposed is a mandatory mechanism, under which news media companies will get to negotiate with Facebook and Google regarding payment for their content. Further, the Bill provides for a 14­-day notice that platforms need to give publishers regarding any change in their algorithms. Changes in platform algorithms have a significant impact on the referral traffic that publishers receive, and consequently affects their business. This is one of those rare interventions by a government in publisher-­platform relationships.

  • Publications often worry about faring well on Google and Facebook. They also worry about keeping pace with algorithmic changes. But the publisher-­platform relationship has rarely ever been about money. It has almost always been about tools and strategies for publishers to fare well on the platforms.

(iv). What is Google's stand

  • Google is not just against the idea of paying for the links but is also critical of the proposals on arbitration and algorithmic changes. Google has said: “Right now, no website or search engine in Australia pays to connect people to other sites through links... The Code undermines one of the key principles of the open internet people use every day.”

  • In 2014, Google shut its News Service in Spain, when the government introduced a law to make it pay a licence fee to use news content. Google shut down its Chinese search engine in 2010. In France, it has been forced by law to strike deals with publishers. The EU copyright rules, which France has given force to, “allow publishers to demand a fee from online platforms showing extracts of their news.”

  • Google has proposed a different solution. It goes by the name, Google News Showcase, a licensing arrangement with publishers across the world, toward which it plans to spend $1 billion globally in the next three years.


ECONOMICS & FINANCE



Daily snippets

1. Government plans law to ban bitcoin, set up official digital currency

  • India plans to introduce a law to ban private cryptocur­rencies such as bitcoin and put in place a framework for an official digital currency to be issued by the central bank, according to a legisla­tive agenda listed by the government. The law will “create a fa­cilitative framework for crea­tion of the official digital cur­rency to be issued by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).”

  • The legislation seeks “to prohibit all private crypto­ currencies in India, howev­er, it allows for certain ex­ceptions to promote the underlying technology of cryptocurrency and its us­es,” the government said. In mid-­2019, a government panel recommended ban­ning all private cryptocur­rencies, with a jail term of up to 10 years and heavy fines for anyone dealing in digital currencies. The panel had, however, asked the government to consider the introduction of an official government­ backed digital currency, to function like bank notes, through the RBI.

  • In March 2020, the Supreme Court allowed banks to handle cryptocur­rency transactions from ex­changes and traders, over­turning a ban that had dealt the thriving industry a blow. Governments around the world have been looking into ways to regulate cryptocur­rencies but no major economy has taken the drastic step of placing a blanket ban on owning them.

2. US lobby urges India not to tighten e-commerce rules

  • A U.S. lobby group that represents firms including Amazon.com and Walmart has urged India not to tighten foreign investment rules for e-­commerce com­panies again. India is considering re­vising the rules after trad­ers in the country accused Amazon’s Indian division and Walmart’s Flipkart of creating complex struc­tures to bypass investment regulations.

  • India allows foreign e­-commerce players to oper­ate as only a marketplace but local traders say the U.S. giants promote select sellers and offer deep dis­counts, which hurts busi­ness for smaller local retail­ers. The Centre is now consi­dering tightening those rules again to include sell­ers in which a foreign e­-commerce firm holds indi­rect stake through its pa­rent.

  • Any further chang­es in FDI rules would limit e­-commerce firms from leveraging their scale,” U.S.­ India Business Council (USIBC) said in a letter.


Economic Survey snippets

1. Economic survey predicts 11% growth next fiscal

  • India’s economy is firmly in the middle of a V­-shaped re­covery and will bounce back to record 11% growth in 2021­-22 after an estimated 7.7% contraction this year, as per a “conservative” estimate in the Economic Survey for 2020-­21, which termed this a “lockdown dividend” from the country’s stringent res­ponse to the COVID-­19 pan­demic.

  • The V-­shaped economic recovery while avoiding a se­cond wave of infections make India a sui generis case in this unique, synchronized global recession,” the Survey said. It added that a rapid vaccination roll­out this year could boost recovery in the services sectors as well as stir up private consumption and investment.

  • The Survey argued that the country’s ‘mature policy response to this “once ­in ­a ­century” crisis provides important lessons for democracies to avoid myopic policy making and demonstrates the signif­icant benefits of focusing on long-term gains’.

  • In absolute terms, India's GDP was Rs. 145.7 lakh crore in FY20. A contraction of 7.7% in FY21 would reduce it to Rs. 134.4 lakh crore. And an expansion of 11% in FY22 would take it to Rs. 149.2 lakh crore.

2. Bare necessities gap between states has narrowed since 2012, survey shows

  • Poorer States have reduced the gap with rich States in providing citizens with ac­cess to the basics of daily life – housing, water, power, sanitation, cooking gas, ac­cording to a new ‘Bare Ne­cessities Index’ (BNI) in the Economic Survey 2020­21.

  • The index, which draws its name from Baloo the Bear’s song in the movie adaptation of Rudyard Ki­pling’s Jungle Book, uses ex­isting National Statistical Of­fice survey data to show that between 2012 and 2018, se­rious gains were made in the area of sanitation although equity in housing access still lagged.

  • Access to ‘the bare neces­sities’ has improved dispro­portionately more for the poorest households when compared to the richest hou­seholds across rural and ur­ban areas. However, the survey not­ed there was still a gap bet­ween urban and rural India, as well as among income groups, and recommended “effective targeting of the needier population” in go­vernment schemes. It also sug­gested the BNI could be con­structed at district level using large annual house­hold survey data, to show progress.

3. Withdrawal of forbearance measures once economy recovers

  • The Economic Survey 2020­-21 has prescribed an early withdrawal of the regulatory forbearance that was adopted in the wake of the pan­demic toward off the threat of financial sector failures impacting the real economy, citing the lesson learnt from the pro­longed continuance of the loosened regulations over the seven years following the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2008. During the GFC, the for­bearance, which should have been discontinued in 2011 when GDP, exports, IIP and credit growth had all reco­vered significantly, conti­nued for seven years result­ing in unintended and detrimental consequences for banks, firms, and the eco­nomy, the survey asserted.

  • The lesson for policymak­ers was “to treat emergency measures as such and not to extend them even after re­covery: when an emergency medicine becomes a staple diet, it can be counterproductive.”

  • On Asset quality reviews of banks : The asset quality review must account for all the crea­tive ways in which banks can evergreen their loans. The banking regulator needs to be more equipped in the ear­ly detection of fault lines and must expand the tool kit of ex­-ante remedial measures. The Survey said a clean-­up unaccompanied by manda­tory capital infusion exacer­bates bad lending practices. A clean-­up ex­ercise should be accompa­nied by mandatory recapital­isation based on a thorough evaluation of the capital requirements post an asset quality review, it added. Apart from recapitalising banks, it is important to en­hance the quality of their go­vernance.

4. India's ratings don't reflect economy's fundamentals : CEA

  • India’s sovereign credit rat­ings do not reflect the eco­nomy’s fundamentals, Chief Economic Adviser Krishna­murthy Subramanian said, while pitching for sovereign credit ratings methodology to be made more transparent and less subjective. “Sovereign credit ratings methodology must be amended to reflect econo­mies’ ability and willingness to pay their debt obligations by becoming more transpa­rent and less subjective. Developing economies must come together to address this bias and subjectiv­ity inherent in sovereign credit ratings methodology to prevent exacerbation of crises in future,” it said.

  • The Chief Economic Ad­viser also pitched for simpli­fication of regulatory pro­cesses by avoiding substitution of supervision with more complex regula­tion, along with transparent decision-making processes.

5. Capital budget allocated for defence completely utilised since 2016-17

  • The allocated capital budget for defence has been fully utilised since 2016-­17, revers­ing the previous trends of surrender of funds, as per the Economic Survey. The allocation for defence budget, includ­ing civil estimates and pen­sions for 2020­-21, was ₹4,71,378 crore or ₹40,367.71 crore more than the budget estimates of 2019-­20. On account of the lengthy procurement process and delays in finalising deals, in the past, unused funds had been returned at the end of the financial year.

  • On efforts to boost indige­nisation of weapons sys­tems, the Economic Survey said Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSU) and Ordnance Factories (OFs) were striving to increase the indigenous content of the equipment and products manufactured by them. Further, over the years, a wide vendor base had been developed. Exports from the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), the DPSUs and the private sector had increased from ₹4,682 crore in 2017-­18 to ₹9,116 crore in 2019-­20.

6. ‘Focus on growth than on alleviating inequality’

  • India must keep its focus on economic growth, rather than trying to alleviate inequality, says the Economic Survey, arguing given India’s current stage of development, redistribution of wealth is not feasible without growing the overall pie. Unlike the developed world, in India, economic growth and inequality both have similar correlations with socio-­economic indicators such as health, education, fertility rates, crime and drug usage.

  • The Survey also draws on the Chinese experience to suggest in countries with high growth rates and high levels of absolute poverty, there is no trade­off between growth and inequality. It said questions regarding conflict between growth and inequality become more pertinent “especially because of the inevitable focus on inequality following the COVID-­19 pandemic.”

  • An Oxfam report had shown Indian billionaires increased their wealth by 35% during the lockdown at a time when a quarter of the country was earning less than ₹3,000 per month.

7. ‘Lockdown provided a boost to gig economy’

  • The lockdown gave a boost to the gig economy, while it had an “inevitable impact on the vulnerable and informal sector,” the Economic Survey for 2020-­21 noted. “During the period of COVID-­19 induced lockdown, the increasing role of the gig economy was evident with significant growth of online retail business,” it stated. Gig or platform workers had lacked basic rights and social security till the recent Code on Social Security was introduced.

8. ‘High out of pocket expenses for health can lead to poverty’

  • India has one ­of ­the highest levels of Out-­Of-­Pocket Expenditures (OOPE) contributing directly to the high incidence of catastrophic expenditures and poverty, notes the Economic Survey. It suggested an increase in public spending from 1% to 2.5­3% of GDP – as envisaged in the National Health Policy 2017 – can decrease the OOPE from 65% to 30% of overall healthcare spend.

  • The Survey states about 65% of deaths in India are now caused by non­communicable diseases (NCDs) with ischemic heart diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and stroke being the leading causes.

  • The Survey observes that the health of a nation depends critically on its citizens having access to an equitable, affordable and accountable healthcare system. The OOPE, as a share of total health expenditure, drops precipitously when public health expenditure increases. The Survey also underlines that OOPE for health increases the risk of vulnerable groups slipping into poverty because of catastrophic health expenditures. The life expectancy in a country correlates positively with per capita public health expenditure, it notes.

  • Private healthcare, The Economic Survey observed that bulk of the healthcare in India is provided by the private sector. “Private hospitals charge much higher than government hospitals for treatment of the same ailment and higher charges do not assure better quality,’’ it said. The Survey added that for enabling India to respond to pandemics, the health infrastructure must incorporate flexibility as events requiring healthcare attention may not repeat in identical fashion in future.


SPORTS



Daily snippets

1. NDTL suspension to stay for now

  • The World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) has said that National Dope Testing Laboratory’s (NDTL) ac­creditation cannot be rein­stated now as the New Del­hi­ based lab is yet to satisfy WADA over several correc­tive actions. The suspension prohibited the NDTL from carrying out any anti-­doping activi­ties, including all analyses of urine and blood samples.

  • What is WADA? The World Anti-Doping Agency is a foundation initiated by the International Olympic Committee based in Canada to promote, coordinate and monitor the fight against drugs in sports. The agency's key activities include scientific research, education, development of anti-doping capacities, and monitoring of the World Anti-Doping Code, whose provisions are enforced by the UNESCO International Convention against Doping in Sport.

2. Ranji Trophy not to held this season

  • For the first time since its in­ception in 1934­-35, the Ranji Trophy – the premier First Class cricket tournament in India – is set to be suspend­ed for a season, owing to the pandemic. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has informed its affiliates that the truncated season would comprise the Vijay Hazare Trophy, senior women’s one day tournament and the Vinoo Mankad Trophy for under­-19 boys.

SUGGESTED READINGS



1. A budget blueprint for difficult times https://www.pressreader.com/india/the-hindu/20210130/281758451962168

2. 72 year journey of Supreme Court of India https://www.indialegallive.com/special/72-year-journey-of-supreme-court-of-india/

3. Right to freedom of religion : A lesson from Zimbabwe https://www.indialegallive.com/cover-story-articles/il-feature-news/right-freedom-religion-zimbabwe-education/

4. Supreme Court on uniform adoption and guardianship guidelines https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/supreme-court-pil-uniform-adoption-guardianship-constitution-169105

5. Profile: Rakesh Tikait https://indianexpress.com/article/india/a-breakdown-and-the-rise-of-farmer-leader-rakesh-tikait-7167239/

6. Overreaching Act : RTI https://www.livelaw.in/columns/right-to-information-act-rti-transparency-article-19-constitution-169166

7. On the 'love-Jihad' ordinance : Justice A.P Shah https://thewire.in/law/love-jihad-ordinance-communal-rhetoric-divisive-justice-ap-shah


Download Page : https://e-clat.com/dailynewspage

Sources referred to : The Hindu, The Indian Express, Live Law, Bar & Bench

END


January 29th, 2021

Your 10 minute read!

START


LAW, POLICY & GOVERNANCE



Daily snippets

1. High Court denies bail to comedian Faruqui

  • The Madhya Pradesh High Court refused bail to comedian Munawar Faruqui, who is accused of passing “indecent” remarks about Hindu deities during a show, and noted that to “promote harmony” is a constitutional duty.

  • Faruqui and four others were arrested on January 1 following a complaint by a BJP MLA’s son that objec­tionable remarks about Hin­du deities and Union Home Minister Amit Shah were passed during a comedy show at a cafe in Indore on New Year’s day.

2. Stopping hate on television is essential to prevent riots: SC

  • The Supreme Court on Thursday said stopping hate on television was as essen­tial for law and order as arm­ing policemen with lathis and putting up barricades to prevent the spread of vio­lence and riots.

  • Control over certain kinds of news which agitate people to violence and riots is a law and order problem. Preventing it is as powerful as putting up barricades. Preventing instigation is as important as providing lathi­ is to policemen,” Chief Jus­tice of India Sharad A. Bobde, heading a three­ judge Bench, addressed Sol­icitor General Tushar Meh­ta, appearing for the Centre.

  • The CJI said the court, by government control, did not mean to curb free speech on TV. “People can take any tone on TV as long as they don’t incite violence, hatred, communal riots. We are in­terested only with people instigating and inciting vio­lence and riots. These are situations which cause loss of lives and property. That is what we are worried about,” Chief Justice Bobde explained. The Chief Justice said the court had no problem with “fair and truthful reporting”.

  • The hearing was based on a batch of petitions, in­cluding one filed by Jamiat Ulama-­i-­Hind, which alleged that certain sections of the media communalised the Tablighi Jamat congregation by linking it to a spike in the spread of COVID­-19 infection.

3. Court rejects bail petition of Natasha Narwal in riots case

  • A Delhi court rejected the bail plea of JNU student and Pinjra Tod member Natasha Narwal, booked under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in a north east Delhi riots case. “In a case of conspiracy of such a large scale, not having a video is not so vital as generally conspiracy, by its very nature, is hatched in secrecy”, the court observed.

  • The Crime Branch has lodged a separate FIR against both Ms. Narwal and Ms. Kalita in connection with the Delhi riots with charges of IPC Sections 147 (rioting), 353 (using criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 307 (attempt to murder), 302 (murder) among others. The FIR also named relevant sections of the Arms Act and the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act.

4. Show us the provision which withdraws MSP, SC tells MP

  • The Supreme Court challenged Congress MP from Kerala T.N. Prathapan to pick out the specific provision in the new agriculture laws which says farmers will not get Minimum Support Price (MSP) for their products. A three judge Bench, led by Chief Justice Sharad A. Bobde, questioned the MP after the latter's lawyer submitted that “without MSP, farmers cannot survive”. “So you want the old regime to continue... Show us the provision which withdraws MSP,” Chief Justice Bobde asked the parliamentarian’s lawyer.

NATIONAL NEWS/ INTERVENTIONS



Daily snippets

1. Farmers vacate stir site on Delhi-Agra highway

  • Hundreds of farmers, mostly from parts of Madhya Pradesh, vacated the sit-in site on Delhi­-Agra highway at Palwal after the police served them notices with regard to the violence on the Republic Day. The Palwal Police had on Wednesday registered case against 2,000 ­odd unidentified people on charges of attempt to murder, among others, under the Indian Penal Code.

  • It is the second protest site to be vacated in Haryana over the past 24 hours. Earlier farmers holding a sit­-in at Masani barrage in Rewari’s Dharuhera on Delhi-­Jaipur Highway were forced to leave on Wednesday following opposition from the locals in the wake of the violence on the Republic Day in Delhi. Most of the agitating farmers went to the Shahjahanpur protest site at Haryana­-Rajasthan border.

2. Vaccines are safe for those who are on blood thinners: ICMR

  • Both COVID­-19 vaccines approved for emergency use in India – Covaxin and Covishield – are safe for people on blood thinners, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Director ­General Balram Bhargav said on Thursday. At a Health Ministry press conference, he said manufacturers of both the vaccines had approached the Drugs Controller ­General of India (DCGI) for revision of this contraindication on their fact sheets

3. Jaishankar suggests way forward for China ties

  • External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said a recognition of “mutual respect, mutual sensitivity and mutual interests” was key to repairing India­-China relations, after what he called a year of “exceptional stress” in a relationship “profoundly disturbed” by the border crisis.

  • Twenty Indian soldiers, and an unknown number of Chinese soldiers, lost their lives in a clash on June 15 last year in the Galwan Valley, following tensions that erupted in early May triggered by transgressions by China across the Line of Actual Control (LAC), massing of troops, and what India has described as a unilateral attempt to redraw the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in several areas in eastern Ladakh.

  • He cited as examples China’s issuing of stapled visas to Indian citizens from Jammu and Kashmir in 2010, a reluctance from China to deal with some of India’s military commands (Beijing had that same year refused to host the Northern Army Commander), China’s opposition to India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the UN Security Council as a permanent member, the blocking of UN listings of Pakistani terrorists, and the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, a flagship project under China’s Belt and Road Initiative, violating India’s sovereignty in J&K.

  • Over the years, he said, there was no significant progress of arriving at a common understanding of the alignment of the LAC, while there was “increasing construction of border infrastructure, especially on the Chinese side.” Agreements already reached must be adhered to in their entirety, both in letter and spirit. Both sides also needed to strictly observe and respect the LAC, and any attempt to unilaterally change the status quo was completely unacceptable.

4. Core values being subverted : Hamid Ansari

  • Former Vice ­President Ha­mid Ansari has said a sub­version of core values is un­derway and the word secularism has “almost dis­appeared” from the govern­ment’s official vocabulary. Mr. Ansari wrote in his autobiography, By Many A Happy Accident, that this subversion was “com­pounded by the abdication or failure of other social and political forces to compre­hend its true nature and the urgency to counter it”.

  • According to him, consti­tutional values such as a composite culture, fraterni­ty and scientific temper had also seemingly disappeared from the political discourse and replaced by “promotion of beliefs and practices of the contrary”. He further added that that the commitment to the rule of law appeared to be under serious threat.

5. Uttar Pradesh wins best tableau award

  • Uttar Pradesh was adjudged the best tableau among the 32 tableaux, 17 from States and Union Ter­ritories (UTs), nine from various Ministries, depart­ments and paramilitary forces and six from Defence Ministry, that partici­pated in the Republic Day parade, the Defence Ministry said. The tableau of Uttar Pra­desh was based on the theme Ayodhya: Cultural Heritage of Uttar Pradesh.

6. 18 Opposition parties to boycott President’s address

  • As many as 18 Opposition parties, led by the Congress, announced their decision to boycott President Ram Nath Kovind’s address to the joint sitting of Parliament on Friday at the start of the Budget session, in solidarity with the farmers protesting against the three farm laws.

  • They said they were shocked at the government’s “insensitivity and undemocratic attitude” towards the protesting farmers. The Opposition leaders also said the farm laws were an assault on the State governments and violated the spirit of the Constitution.


INTERNATIONAL NEWS/EVENTS/ PERSONALITIES



Daily snippets

1. Remembering the Holocaust

  • Every year on January 27, the United Nations honours the victims of the Holocaust by reaffirming its unwavering commitment to counter anti-Semitism, racism, and other forms of intolerance. The date marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp of Auschwitz­-Birkenau by Soviet troops in 1945 and calls for a sombre reflection on the real dangers of extreme forms of hatred.

  • Currently, the anonymity of the Internet and increased screen time during the pandemic have intensified hate speech. Greater exposure to hateful discourses online has allowed anti­-Semitism and other variants of racism to fester in our societies. For this reason, understanding the significance of the Holocaust carries great importance today. The Holocaust was a watershed moment in history as it illuminates the many manifestations of hate and its impact. Therefore, whilst urging member states to strengthen the resilience of people against hateful ideologies, the UN emphasises the use of education as a potent tool to inculcate a culture of peace.

  • UNESCO’s recently launched campaign called #ProtectTheFacts, developed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, the UN, and the European Commission, provides a unique opportunity this year to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust by promoting sound policies and practices that raise awareness about Holocaust denial and distortion.

2. ‘U.S. will rejoin deal if Iran is compliant’

  • On his first full day on the job, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed the administration’s position that if Iran were to become compliant with the terms of the now defunct Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, or the “Iran deal”), the U.S. would re-enter it too. The Trump administration had pulled out of the deal in 2018. Iran dismissed on Thursday a call by the U.S. for it to return to full compliance of a nuclear deal first, insisting that it had only taken “remedial measures” since America’s withdrawal.

3. ‘India’s UNSC seat a matter of discussion’

  • In response to a question on whether India, Germany and Japan should become permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), U.S. President Joe Biden’s pick for UN Ambassador Linda Thomas Greenfield said discussions on the subject were under way. She noted that there were arguments for and opinions against these countries becoming permanent members.

  • Ms. Thomas ­Greenfield was presumably referring to the opposition that the Uniting for Consensus (UFC) group – Pakistan, South Korea, Italy and Argentina – has to the G4 (Brazil, Germany, Japan and Italy) becoming permanent members. In addition, China opposes permanent membership for India and Japan. The U.S. has for some years supported India’s permanent membership to the Council – with former President Barack Obama declaring his country’s support in his address to Parliament in 2010

4. New Zealand tops COVID-19 performance ranking

  • New Zealand and Vietnam were ranked the best performing countries in their response to the pandemic, according to a COVID­-19 “performance index” put together by the Lowy Institute, an Australian think tank, which sought to assess the impact of geography, political systems and economic development in assessing outcomes.

  • The index, which was based on six different indicators, including confirmed cases and deaths per million people and the scale of testing, sought “to gauge the relative performance of countries”, assessing 98 countries in the 36 weeks that followed their hundredth case.

  • India ranked 86 out of 98 countries, while the U.S. stood at 94 and Brazil at the bottom of the index. Taiwan, Thailand and Cyprus were in the top five. Sri Lanka was the best faring nation in South Asia, ranking 10, while the Maldives was at 25, Pakistan at 69, Nepal at 70, and Bangladesh at 84. The think tank said China was not included “due to a lack of publicly available data on testing”.

5. Biden warns Beijing over ‘expansionism’

  • A week into the job, U.S. President Joe Biden has sent a clear warning to Beijing against any expansionist intentions in East and Southeast Asia. In multiple calls and statements, he and his top security officials have underscored support for allies Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines, signalling Washington’s rejection of China’s disputed territorial claims in those areas.

  • On Wednesday, Mr. Biden told Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga that his administration is committed to defending Japan, including the Senkaku Islands, which are claimed both by Japan and China, which calls them the Diaoyu Islands.

  • That stance was echoed by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who told Japanese counterpart Nobuo Kishi on Saturday that the contested islands were covered by the U.S.­-Japan Security Treaty.

  • Meanwhile, three days into the Biden administration, State Department spokesman Ned Price warned China about menacing Taiwan after it repeatedly sent more than a dozen military fighters and bombers through the island’s air defence zone.

  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken told his Philippine counterpart on Wednesday that a mutual defence treaty obliging the U.S. to defend the Philippines against attack in the Pacific also applied to the disputed South China Sea – something the Obama administration did not specify.


ECONOMICS & FINANCE



Daily snippets

1. Plugging gaps in GST to raise fiscal support

  • India should propose a cred­ible privatisation plan for pu­blic sector firms, plug gaps in GST collections and cut was­teful expenditure from the Budget in order to contain borrowing costs while en­hancing fiscal support for the economy, International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief economist Gita Gopinath said.

  • Stressing that there is a risk of a sharp rise in inequality, with millions entering ex­treme poverty, Ms. Gopinath said India must continue to provide support to the weak­er sections and increase outlays for the national employ­ment guarantee scheme this year as well.

  • On the IMF’s forecast for India’s economy to grow by 11.5% in 2021-­22, Ms. Gopi­nath said most of the expansion would be ‘mechanical’ as “you are coming off an 8% estimated collapse in the previous year”. Responding to concerns about high government debt, Ms. Gopinath said any tightening of fiscal policies in the middle of the pandemic while people are still being asked to stay home, would be ‘damaging’.

2. Telecom Minister proposes Indian 5G core network

  • Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said 5G core network should be Indian and the country should move fas­ter on the next-generation technology with indige­nously made telecom gear. The Minister said that the test bed was ready for 5G and that the govern­ment would soon grant a permit for trials. “We lagged in 2G, 3G and 4G but in 5G India should move at a speed faster than the world with made in In­dia 5G,” Mr. Prasad said.

3. India's gold demand fell to 25 year low in 2020

  • Gold demand in India hit a 25­-year low at 446.4 tonnes in 2020, compared with 690.4 tonnes in 2019 due to the COVID­-19 induced lock­ down and on account of record high prices, the India office of the World Gold Council said.

SUGGESTED READINGS



1. Global antitrust and the challenge of BigTech https://rb.gy/e6rd3u

2. WhatsApp privacy policy https://rb.gy/4rerjr

3. POCSO act and penalizing adolescents or teenagers https://rb.gy/lkuzvu

4. Munnawar Faruqi case https://rb.gy/df1n9k

5. The Gamestop story https://rb.gy/necwtt


Download Page : https://e-clat.com/dailynewspage

Sources referred to : The Hindu, The Indian Express, Live Law, Bar & Bench

END


January 28th, 2021

Your 10 minute read!

START


LAW, POLICY & GOVERNANCE



Daily snippets

1. Govt. conspiracy led to violence: farmers

  • Farm unions have blamed the violence which took place during their Republic Day tractor parades on a conspiracy hatched by the government with one Punjab union, the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, and Punjabi actor Deep Sidhu, who has previously been linked to the BJP.

  • The unions have cancelled their plans to march to Parliament on February 1, but have vowed to continue their agitation in a peaceful manner. Delhi Police Commissioner S.N. Srivastava said the unions had not followed the terms laid down for the parades, alleging that the farmer leaders made inflammatory speeches and were involved in the violence.

2. SC stays Bombay HC order in groping case

  • The Supreme Court stayed a controversial Bombay High Court verdict, which acquitted a man found guilty of assault under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act on the grounds that he groped his victim over her clothes and there was no “skin to skin” contact between them.

  • A Bench, led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad A. Bobde, took cognisance instantaneously after Attorney General K.K. Venugopal made a special mention in court, saying the single judge verdict would set a “very dangerous precedent” and cripple the intention of the POCSO Act to punish sexual offenders.

  • The accused was sentenced to the minimum three years’ imprisonment under Section 8 of the POCSO Act. That was set aside by the High Court and his sentence was reduced to one year under Section 354 (assault of a woman to outrage her modesty) of the Indian Penal Code.

  • Abuse and outraging the modesty of a child has been a matter of great concern. The POCSO Act was enacted to deal with evil and to impart speedy justice. Special courts were formed. The observations [in the January 19 judgment of the HC] have badly shaken the belief of the petitioners and like-minded people.

3. Allahabad HC seeks response on farmers’ bond amount

  • The Allahabad High Court has sought a response from the Sitapur district administration in Uttar Pradesh on the “exorbitant” amount of personal bonds and sureties asked of farmers, allegedly to prevent them from participating in the ongoing farm protests. A Division Bench of Justices Ramesh Sinha and Rajeev Singh sought the reply on a PIL plea filed by Lucknow-based social activist Arundhati Dhuru.

4. No protection from arrest for Tandav team

  • The Supreme Court declined to pass an order to protect the makers and artists of the web series Tandav on Amazon Prime from arrest, even as it agreed to examine their plea to club the FIRs registered against them in various States on the charge of hurting Hindu religious sentiments.

  • Justice M.R. Shah, on the Bench, said free speech is not absolute and is subject to reasonable restrictions. Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi said the makers have come directly to the SC following the precedent of the Arnab Goswami case where multiple FIRs were filed in different States and the court agreed to club them.

5. SC asks for timeline on appointments

  • The Supreme Court questioned the government about the delay in clearing Collegium recommendations for judicial appointments to various High Courts. A Bench of Chief Justice Sharad A. Bobde and Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Surya Kant asked the Centre if there was a timeline for government clearance of such recommendations.

  • The Bench noted how recommendations from the High Courts of Bombay and Allahabad dated back to May or June last year. It said 189 proposals for judicial appointments were still pending. The Bench served notice on the High Courts which were not party to the petition filed by Lok Prahari, an NGO, seeking the appointment of additional judges.

6. Owaisi, Viswam file dissent on DNA Bill

  • Asaddudin Owaisi, president of the All India Majlis­e-Ittehad­ul­Muslimeen (AI-MIM), and CPI leader Binoy Viswam have filed dissent notes to the parliamentary standing committee’s report on the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019 on the grounds that it does not take into account their concerns over privacy violations. They say if enacted, the Bill will target Dalits, Muslims and Adivasis by way of DNA sample collection and indefinite storage. The fear is that the law could be used for caste or community based profiling.

  • The Standing Committee on Science and Technology, headed by Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, will meet on February 1 to discuss and adopt the final report. The Bill ran afoul with the standards set in the Puttaswamy and Subramanian Swamy judgments of the Supreme Court.

  • Mr. Ramesh has countered Mr. Owaisi’s concerns. In a letter to Mr. Owaisi, he said the objective of the Bill was not overarching but limited to the establishment of a regulatory board to regulate the use of DNA technology in consonance with international standards. What is the Bill about? (https://rb.gy/2frmru)


NATIONAL NEWS/ INTERVENTIONS



Daily snippets

1. Covaxin effective against U.K. virus variant, says study

  • Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin has been found to neutralise the U.K. variant of the COVID­-19 virus with “similar efficiency” as the strain used for making the vaccine and hence “dispels the uncertainty of possible neutralisation escape” following vaccination, say results posted on the bioRxiv preprint server.

  • Preprints are yet to be peer reviewed and published in medical journals. The work was carried out by researchers from ICMR and Bharat Biotech, Hyderabad. The sera from people vaccinated with Covaxin were tested against the same strain used for making the vaccine, another strain found in India , and the U.K. variant.


INTERNATIONAL NEWS/EVENTS/ PERSONALITIES



Daily snippets

1. Iran says Israel is waging a ‘psychological war’

  • A top Iranian official on Wednesday said Israel was waging a “psychological war” after the Jewish state’s Army said new “offensive options” were being drawn up in case they were needed against the Islamic republic.

  • Mahmoud Vaezi, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s chief of staff, also vowed that his country was ready and willing to defend itself. “We have no intention of going to war, but we are serious about defending the country,” he said. Israel, a close U.S. ally, accuses Iran of seeking to build a nuclear bomb, a charge Tehran denies.

2. U.S. issues domestic terror alert

  • The U.S. Department of Homeland Security declared a nationwide terrorism alert on Wednesday, citing the potential threat from domestic anti-­government extremists opposed to Joe Biden as President.

  • The National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin said a heightened threat of attack “will persist in the weeks following the successful presidential inauguration,” which took place on January 20. The alert said there had been mounting threats since last year from domestic violent extremists motivated by COVID­-19 restrictions, Mr. Biden’s defeat of Donald Trump in the November election, police brutality and illegal immigration.

3. Russia moots West Asia meet as U.S. resets Palestinian ties

  • Russia backed a Palestinian proposal for a West Asia peace conference, suggesting on Tuesday that it could be held at the ministerial level in spring or summer, as the U.S. said it would move towards renewing ties with the Palestinians under Joe Biden.

  • The U.S., which sided with Israel under the administration of Donald Trump, said it intended to “restore credible U.S. engagement with Palestinians as well as Israelis”.

  • The roughly 10 participants would include Israel, the Palestinians, the four members of the West Asia diplomatic quartet (Russia, the UN, the U.S. and the EU), along with four Arab states – Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan and the UAE,” Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

4. Russia gives nod to extend START treaty

  • Russian lawmakers on Wednesday quickly approved the extension of the last remaining nuclear Russia-­U.S. arms control treaty, an action that comes just days before it’s due to expire. Both houses of Parliament voted unanimously to extend the New START treaty for five years. The Kremlin said it will soon complete the extension procedures.

  • START I (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) was a bilateral treaty between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) on the reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms. The treaty was signed on 31 July 1991 and entered into force on 5 December 1994.

5. Pak. plans to hold Senate polls through open vote

  • The Pakistan Cabinet has decided to table a Bill in Parliament to amend the Constitution for holding the Senate elections through open vote. The decision was taken during the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

  • The government wants the (Senate) polls to be held in a transparent manner and without horse­trading. This is why we want Senate polls to be held through an open ballot,” Information Minister Shibli Faraz told the media after the meeting. He said that in the past, money was used in Senate elections and votes were bought making the House election a mockery.


ECONOMICS & FINANCE



Daily snippets

1. China slams apps ban, urges India to 'correct discriminatory measures'

  • China on Wednesday called on India “to immediately correct its discriminatory measures” over the decision to extend a ban on 59 Chi­nese apps. The Indian government recently sent notices to Chi­nese firms, informing them that the ban, announced in June, would continue. India had banned the 59 Chinese apps including TikTok, We­ Chat and UC Browser, citing national security concerns in the wake of the stand­off in Ladakh. Another 118 apps were banned in September and 43 more in November.

  • These moves [are] in violation of WTO’s non-­dis­criminatory principles and fair competition principles of a market economy and severely damage the legiti­mate rights and interests of Chinese companies, The Chinese side firmly opposes them,” said Ji Rong, a spokesperson for the Embassy.

2. High debt burden and stimulus

  • India’s high government debt could limit its ability to give a fiscal stimulus to the economy, Moody’s Investors Service noted in a report on credit conditions in Asia. “In India, a high go­vernment debt burden will limit the extent of fiscal support, although the government has undertaken a num­ber of measures to improve policy transmission and broader structural reforms,” it pointed out.

  • Moody’s expects income and social inequality to wi­den in 2021, while the num­ber of people falling into po­verty will rise significantly, erasing three to four years’ gains on poverty reduction. The ratings agency said the traditional emphasis on infrastructure spending to support growth may now have to expand to include social spending on health­ care and pensions.

3. FDI inflows hit $58.37 billion in April-November 2022

  • Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflows into the coun­try hit a record high of $58.37 billion in the first eight months of 2020­-21, with equity inflows of near­ly $44 billion, the govern­ment said. “FDI equity inflow re­ceived during April to No­vember 2020 is $43.85 bil­lion. It is the highest ever for first eight months of a financial year and 37% more compared to the first 8 months of 2019­-20 [$32.11 billion],” the Department for Promo­tion of Industry and Inter­nal Trade said.

SPORTS



Daily snippets

1. Player Profile

  • Ankita Raina : Ankita Ravinderkrishan Raina is an Indian professional tennis player and the current Indian No. 1 in both women’s singles and doubles. Raina has won one WTA 125k in doubles, along with 11 singles and 18 doubles titles on the ITF Circuit. She entered the top 200 singles rankings for the first time, becoming only the fifth player representing India to achieve this feat. Raina has also won gold medals in the women's singles and mixed-doubles events at the 2016 South Asian Games, and won a bronze medal in singles at the 2018 Asian Games.

2. Cricket Australia confirms racial abuse at SCG

  • Cricket Australia (CA) confirmed India’s players were subjected to racial abuse during the third Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground but cleared six spectators who were taken from their seats and questioned by police at the ground. The cricket board had launched an investigation with the police after Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj complained of hearing racist slurs while fielding near the boundary rope.

  • CA confirms that members of the Indian cricket team were subjected to racial abuse,” CA integrity chief Sean Carroll said in a statement. CA said it had submitted its report on the investigation to the International Cricket Council (ICC).


SUGGESTED READINGS



1. Right to Disconnect https://rb.gy/4qwbfs

2. Lessons from Ambedkar's last speech in the Constituent Assembly https://rb.gy/hfukb2

3. The wheels of economic recovery https://rb.gy/rx7c6a

4. Snippets from Bombay High Court's judgement on sexual assault https://rb.gy/wxvhvj


Download Page : https://e-clat.com/dailynewspage

Sources referred to : The Hindu, The Indian Express, Live Law, Bar & Bench

END


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