Your ten minute read!

March 8th, 2021

Your 10 minute read!



Daily snippets

1. HC sets up panel to find ways to treat patients with rare diseases

  • The Delhi High Court has set up a special committee to find a time bound solution on ways to provide treatment and therapy options to patients suffering from rare diseases. Justice Prathiba M. Singh ordered the committee to also give “immediate concrete proposals for crowdfunding of the costs of treatment for children with rare diseases”.

  • The High Court’s direction came while hearing a bunch of petitions filed by patients suffering from rare diseases such as Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) and Hunter’s syndromes seeking direction to the government to provide them uninterrupted free treatment in view of the exorbitant cost of treatment.

2. All­ woman crew of SCI vessel makes history

  • To acknowledge the efforts of women in breaking down the stereotypes in the erstwhile male-dominated maritime sector, Union Minister Mansukh Mandaviya has flagged off an all-­woman crew onboard Shipping Corporation of India (SCI) vessel m.t. Swarna Krishna, the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways.


Daily snippets

1. Jaishankar, Zalmay Khalilzad discuss Afghan peace talks

  • External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and United States special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad discussed the latest developments pertaining to the Afghan peace talks. Last November too, Mr. Jaishankar and Mr. Khalilzad had held talks during the latter’s visit on the historic peace negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government and related issues.

  • India has been keenly following the evolving political situation after the U.S. signed a peace deal with the Taliban in February last year. The deal provided for the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, effectively drawing curtains on Washington’s 18-­year war with Taliban.

  • India has also been maintaining that care should be taken to ensure that any such process does not lead to any “ungoverned spaces” where terrorists and their proxies can relocate. India has been a major stakeholder in Afghanistan and it has extended $3­billion developmental assistance in the last few years to the country.

2. Janaushadhi is helping the poor, says Modi

  • Urging people to buy affordable medicines from Janaushadhi Kendras, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday inaugurated the 7,500th Janaushadhi Kendra at NEIGRIHMS, Shillong through videoconference as part of his address on ‘Janaushadhi Divas’ celebrations.

  • There were not even 100 centres in India six years ago and we hope to achieve the target of 10,000 centres. Now, 75 AYUSH medicines are also available in the Janaushadhi centres. Patients will benefit by getting AYUSH medicines at a reduced cost.

  • Pointing out the enormous burden of medical treatment on poor families, the Prime Minister said in recent years, efforts had been made to remove all types of discrimination and treatment had been made accessible to every poor person in the country. For this, prices of essential medicines, heart stents and knee surgery related equipment had been reduced manifold, he said. Ayushman Yojana had ensured free treatment of up to ₹5 lakh for the country’s more than 50 crore poor people. So far, more than 1.5 crore had taken advantage of it and saved about ₹30,000 crore, Mr. Modi added.

3. Support for Myanmar resistance rises

  • Amid reports of the increasing crackdown on protesters in neighbouring Myanmar, organisations in Manipur and Nagaland have joined their counterparts in Mizoram in extending support to the civil disobedience movement (CDM) against the military junta.

  • Officials in Mizoram said more than 50 people from Myanmar, including at least eight police personnel, have crossed over fearing punitive action by the Tatmadaw – the Myanmar military – for opposing the coup that took place in February. Four northeastern States — Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram — not only share a 1,643­km border with Myanmar but also ethnic ties with groups across the border.

  • The dominant Mizo community in Mizoram are ethnically related to the Chins in the adjoining Chin State across the border. The Chins are also related to the Kuki Zomi group in Manipur. Myanmar also has several Naga communities with affinity to Nagas spread across Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.

  • The international community regardless of any political, religious or ideological affinity must step in to restore normalcy in Myanmar and save lives due to the presence state-­sponsored terrorism,” Romeo Bungdon, working president of the All Manipur Tribal Union (AMTU), said in his appeal to the United Nations Security Council.

  • The AMTU expressed solidarity with the people of Myanmar resisting the military and condemned the overthrow of a democratically elected government, as did the Tenyimi Students’ Union in Nagaland. Tenyimi is an umbrella group comprising 10 Naga communities.

4. First downstream dams on Brahmaputra

  • A draft of China’s new Five­ Year Plan (2021­-2025), has given the green light for the first dams to be built on the lower reaches of Yarlung Zangbo river, as the Brah­maputra is known in Tibet before it flows into India. The plan specifically mentions the building of hydropower bases on the lower reaches of the river as among the priority energy projects to be undertaken in the next five years. The draft plan will be for­mally approved before the NPC session ends on Thurs­day.

  • China’s media reported in November that State­ owned hydropower company PO­WERCHINA had signed “a strategic cooperation agree­ment” with the Tibet Auto­nomous Region (TAR) go­vernment to “implement hydropower exploitation in the downstream of the Yar­lung Zangbo River”. Earlier efforts did not pass technical feasibility studies because of concerns over the environmental impact. The 50­km section at the Great Bend alone offered the potential of 70 million kWh.

  • India has expressed con­cerns to China over the four planned dams on the upper and middle reaches, though the dams are not likely to great­ly impact the quantity of the Brahmaputra’s flows in In­dia because they are only storing water for power gen­eration, and the Brahmapu­tra is not entirely dependent on upstream flows with an estimated 35% of its basin in India. Dams on the lower reaches and at the Great Bend would, however, raise fresh concerns because of the location across the bor­der from Arunachal Pradesh and the potential impact downstream.

5. Haryana to discuss quota laws

  • The Haryana government is open to including sug­gestions from industry bo­dies while framing rules for a law that provides 75% re­servation in the private sector to jobseekers from the State, Deputy Chief Mi­nister Dushyant Chautala said. Last week, Governor Sa­tyadeo Narain Arya gave his assent to the Haryana State Employment of Local Candidates Bill, 2020, which provides 75% reser­vation for those who have a domicile certificate and are seeking private sector jobs with a monthly salary of less than ₹50,000.


Daily snippets

1. India, China need ‘enabling conditions’ to settle dispute

  • China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said India and China needed “to create enabling conditions for the settlement” of the boundary dispute, even as he reiterated China’s view that “the rights and wrongs'' of last year’s crisis were clear. India has conveyed a different message, underlining that without full disengagement along the LAC, and then de-escalation, restoring normalcy in the relationship would not be possible.

2. China warns U.S. over its Taiwan stand

  • China’s Foreign Minister warned the Biden administration to roll back former President Donald Trump’s “dangerous practice” of showing support for Taiwan, the island democracy claimed by Beijing as its own territory. “We urge the new U.S. administration to completely change the previous administration’s dangerous practices of ‘crossing the line’ and ‘playing with fire,’” Mr. Wang said.

3. Saudi­-led coalition jets bomb Sana’a

  • A Saudi­-led military coalition mounted air strikes on Yemen’s Houthi Controlled capital Sana’a after it intercepted 10 drones launched by the Iran Backed rebels, state media reported. Yemen alongside the internationally recognised government against the insurgents, said the drones were aimed at “civilian” targets in Saudi Arabia, SPA reported, without specifying locations. Targeting civilians in the kingdom was a “red line”, the coalition said after the retaliatory strikes on Sana’a.

  • The Houthis have stepped up attacks on Saudi Arabia in recent weeks, while they escalate an offensive in Yemen to seize the government’s last northern stronghold of Marib. The escalation comes even after the U.S. last month delisted the Houthis as terrorists and stepped up efforts to de escalate the six year conflict.

  • The removal of the Houthis from the list of terrorist groups has been interpreted in a hostile way by the militia,” SPA cited the coalition as saying. The coalition added that their “victories'' in Marib had prompted the rebels to step up attacks on the kingdom. On Saturday, fierce fighting between pro government forces and the rebels in oil rich Marib had left at least 90 combatants on the two sides dead over the span of 24 hours.

4. British-Iranian woman released after 5 years

  • A British-­Iranian woman held in an Iranian prison for five years on widely refuted spying charges ended her sentence on Sunday, although she faces a new trial and cannot yet return home to London. Although Nazanin Zaghari­ Ratcliffe completed her full sentence and was allowed to remove her ankle monitor and leave house arrest, her future remains uncertain. She was convicted of plotting to overthrow Iran’s government.

5. At ruined Iraq church, Pope calls on Christians to forgive

  • Pope Francis called on Iraq’s Christians to forgive the injustices committed against them by Muslim extremists and to rebuild as he visited the wrecked shells of churches and met ecstatic crowds in the community’s historic heartland, which was nearly erased by the Islamic State group’s horrific reign. Traditionally Christian towns dotting the Nineveh Plains of the north were emptied as Christians – as well as many Muslims – fled the Islamic State group’s onslaught in 2014. Only a few have returned to their homes since the defeat of IS in Iraq declared four years ago, and the rest remain scattered elsewhere in Iraq or abroad.

6. Sri Lankan Catholics mark ‘Black Sunday’

  • Sri Lankan Roman Catholics attended Mass dressed in black on Sunday, with prayers and protests calling for justice for those killed in coordinated suicide bomb attacks on Easter Sunday two years ago. Church bells tolled and prayers were chanted at 8.45 a.m., the time when bombs were detonated at two Roman Catholic churches and a Protestant church during Easter services on April 21, 2019. More than 260 people, including 171 from the two Catholic churches, were killed in the attacks, which were blamed on two local Islamic extremist groups.

7. Swiss narrowly back proposal to ban face coverings in public

  • Swiss voters narrowly approved a proposal to ban face coverings, both the niqabs and burqas worn by a few Muslim women in the country and the ski masks and bandannas used by protesters. The measure will outlaw covering one’s face in public places like restaurants, sports stadiums, public transport or simply walking in the street.

  • National legislation will put Switzerland in line with countries such as Belgium and France that have already enacted similar measures. The Swiss government had opposed the measure as excessive, arguing that full face coverings are a “marginal phenomenon.” It argued that the ban could harm tourism as most visitors from well heeled Persian Gulf states wear such veils.

  • Experts estimate that at most a few dozen Muslim women wear full­face coverings in the country of 8.5 million people. Supporters of the proposal argued that the full face coverings symbolise the repression of women and said the measure is needed to uphold a basic principle that faces should be shown in a free society like Switzerland’s. In the end, 51.2% of voters supported the plan.


Analysis : Internal Surveillance

(i). Background

  • The Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C), under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), launched the Cyber Crime Volunteers Program with the aim to allow citizens to register themselves as “Cyber Crime Volunteers’’ in the role of “Unlawful Content Flaggers”. As per the official website of the National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal, the programme will help law enforcement agencies in identifying, reporting and in the removal of illegal/unlawful online content.

(ii). Explored further

  • This form of surveillance, which enables citizens to “watch over” one another, is called lateral surveillance. The vertical relationship between the person watching and the person being watched, which is usually the state and its citizenry. Lateral or social or peer-­to-­peer surveillance differs from typical surveillance.

  • While surveillance of any kind shows an imbalance of power between the person who surveils, and the one under surveillance, lateral surveillance specifically ensures that the imbalance of power no longer exists.

  • Informal watching of communities by their members has been an age ­old part of society, and its members view it as a harmless activity. The problem arises when it is organised and state- sponsored.

  • Surveillance has been implemented in India. The scope of lateral surveillance was greatly expanded during the pandemic lockdown, both with and without the introduction of technology. The lateral surveillance is used to further emotional objectives such as community building and strengthening relationships with neighbours where emotional and social factors act as a driving force, thus creating a situation where privacy may be undermined for the betterment of the community.

  • The surveillance technologies not only act as a tool for social control but also as a tool for social exclusion. Lateral surveillance thus makes it easier to discriminate between those who conform to the social norms of the majority.

  • Despite the potential harm, the government, on February 25, notified the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 which intends to expand “due diligence” obligations by intermediaries. This not only substantially increases surveillance but also promotes lateral surveillance. This will further create an incentive to take down content and share user data without sufficient due process safeguards, violating the fundamental right to privacy and freedom of expression.

Analysis : LPG subsidy, utility and shortcomings

(i). Background

  • Subsidised LPG prices have increased by a massive 50% in this financial year alone. Its impact on the government's flagship scheme, the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) is under scan.

(ii). PMUY : Game changer and shortcomings

  • Since 2016, PMUY has provided LPG connections to 8 million poor households to reduce women’s drud­gery and indoor air pollution. PMUY helped expand LPG coverage to more than 85% of households.

  • However, multiple studies assess­ing PMUY concluded that while access has increased, many new benef­iciaries are not consuming LPG in a sustained manner. PMUY beneficiaries consumed only about half the LPG compared to long­ standing regular consumers. Limited uptake of LPG among poor households has two main reasons. First, the effective price of LPG is not affor­dable for such households, despite the subsidy. Second, many rural con­sumers have access to freely available biomass, making it difficult for LPG to displace it. The recent increases in the subsi­dised LPG price have made it more difficult for the poor to sustain LPG use.

(iii). How India prices LPG

  • India determines domestic LPG prices based on imported LPG price (we import more than 50% of our consumption). As the pandemic set in, the LPG subsidised price began to rise. Now with LPG pric­es rising globally, a 50% reduction in the LPG subsidy budget for FY22 (ver­sus FY21) does not bode well. The government’s lack of tran­sparency in the pricing of subsidised LPG adds further to the citizen's plight. Currently, the government pro­vides a uniform subsidy per cylinder to all LPG consumers (PMUY or oth­erwise).

(iv). The way forward

  • Many long­-term LPG users, who are also middle­ and higher ­in­come households, will continue to use LPG even at a higher unsubsi­dised price. In contrast, economical­ly poor households need a greater subsidy to make it affordable for them to use LPG as their main cook­ing fuel.

  • One approach for such targeting is to rely on the existing LPG consump­tion patterns of consumers. Provide households exhibiting low consump­tion or a decline in LPG consumption over time with greater subsidy per cylinder to sustain health gains. The subsidy levels could be dynamic with different slabs reflecting the previous year’s consumption.

  • The continued support to the economically poor for sustaining LPG use is not merely a fiscal subsidy but also a social investment to free up women’s productive time and reduce India’s public health burden.


Daily snippets


  • Carolina Marin outplayed P.V. Sindhu 21-­12, 21-­5 in a lop­sided women’s final of the Swiss Open Super 300 tournament on Sunday. The 25­ year ­old In­dian couldn’t handle the speed and accuracy of her opponent and went down rather tamely. It was Sind­hu’s third successive loss to Marin.


  • Djokovic owns Federer's Number 1 ranking record : Novak Djokovic will set a new landmark on Monday of 311 weeks as World No. 1, surpassing Roger Federer. Djokovic reclaimed the top ranking from Nadal in February 2020 and finished as year­ end No. 1 for the sixth time, tying the mark set by Pete Sampras. He is currently in his fifth different spell atop the rankings.

  • Petra Kvitova wins the Qatar title : Petra Kvitova beat Garbine Muguruza 6­-2, 6­-1 to win her second Qatar Open title on Saturday. It was her 28th career title from 38 finals. She represents Czech Republic and won Wimbledon in 2011 and 2014.


  • Star Indian wrestler Vinesh Phogat claimed her second gold medal in as many weeks with a dominant win in the Matteo Pellicone rank­ing series event and reclaimed the top rank in her category. The 26­ year ­old World bronze medallist and only Indian woman wrestler to qualify for Tokyo Games, Vinesh blanked Canada's Diana Mary Helen Weicker 4­0 in the 53kg title clash. The Indian had entered the event as World No. 3, but is back to No. 1. She was awarded the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, India's highest sports award in 2020.


1. Women's day : of Courts and Women

2. Cyber Attack and Act of war

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


Week Page : March 3rd-7th, 2021

The week that went by!



Daily snippets

(i). Centre garners ₹77,815 crore in spectrum auction, Jio top bidder

  • The telecom spectrum auctions concluded after bidding for a day and a half, with the Centre garnering ₹77,814.8 crore in revenues. The Mukesh Ambani­ led Reliance Jio was the biggest bidder, acquiring 488.35 MHz of spectrum for ₹57,122.65 crore. The spectrum will be assigned to bidders for a period of 20 years.

(ii). Mullaperiyar case hearing

  • The Supreme Court scheduled a hearing on March 9 of the case concerning the safety of the 126-year old Mullaperiyar Dam. Recently, Tamil Nadu had filed an affidavit assuring that the dam was safe hydrologically and protected from earthquakes. In its affidavit, Kerala had informed the court of Central Water Commission (CWC) inspection report which said that 70% of the installed instruments for monitoring the safety and health of the dam were not working properly.

(iii). Cybercrime volunteer plan

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs “cybercrime volunteers” ( plan targets to rope in around 500 persons to flag unlawful content on the Internet for “improvement in the cybercrime ecosystem of India”.

(iv). Women’s rights activists ask CJI to step down

  • Over 3,500 concerned citizens, representatives of women’s movements and feminists issued an open letter to Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde demanding that he step down and issue an apology for his remarks in court where he asked a man, accused of raping a minor girl, if he was willing to marry her.

  • From the towering heights of the post of CJI of the Supreme Court, it sends the message to other courts, judges, police and all other law enforcing agencies that justice is not a constitutional right of women in India. This will only lead to the further silencing of girls and women.

(v). U.S. think tank report classifies India as ‘partly free’

  • Freedoms in India have reduced, according to a report from a U.S. think-tank, Freedom House, resulting in India being classified as ‘partly free’. “The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and its State Level allies continued to crack down on critics during the year,” the report said.

(vi). Voicing dissent against govt. is not sedition: SC

  • Voicing dissent against the government does not amount to sedition, the Supreme Court said while rejecting a plea to “terminate” the Lok Sabha membership of National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah and book him for sedition. The Bench dismissed the case levying costs on the petitioners to the tune of ₹50,000 to be deposited with the Supreme Court Advocates Welfare Fund in four weeks.

(vii). Free education: Centre told to reply on contempt petition

  • The Delhi High Court asked the Central government to respond to a contempt petition against the authorities for not taking decision on extension of free education under the Right To Education (RTE) Act to children of Economically Weaker Section (EWS) beyond Class 8 and up to Class 12 in school. Advocates appearing for the NGO said due to inaction on the part of the Centre, private schools across India are throwing several EWS students out every year after they pass Class 8.

(viii). SC asks for NIA response on Navlakha’s bail petition

  • The Supreme Court asked the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to respond to a plea filed by activist Gautam Navlakha for bail in the Bhima-­Koregaon case. Mr. Navlakha, represented by senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appealed after the Bombay High Court refused him bail on February 8.

(ix). Bombay HC asks Amazon to take down Telugu film

  • The Bombay High Court directed Amazon Seller Services Private Ltd., to take down the Telugu film V within 24 hours until the image of actor Sakshi Malik is completely deleted from it. Actor Sakshi Malik alleges unauthorised use of her image.

(x). NHRC asks for report in Naudeep case

  • The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has asked the Haryana police for a report on a complaint that labour activist Naudeep Kaur, who was arrested on January 12 after a stir to demand workers’ wages in Kundli, was harassed and tortured in custody. The Sonipat Superintendent of Police (SP) was on February 18 given four weeks to respond.

(xi). OTT platforms will not have to register : Centre

  • The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has clarified that over-the-top (OTT) platforms will not have to register with the government, and no government nominee will be present in the self regulatory body. The statement, quoting Mr. Javadekar, said “the rules focus on self classification of content instead of any form of censorship”. The platforms were expected to develop a grievance redressal mechanism to tackle complaints about content.

  • The Supreme Court made it amply clear to over-the-top (OTT) platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video that it is in favour of “screening” the content shown by them. It said some of the films hosted by the platforms were pornographic. The hearing was based on a plea by Ms. Aparna Purohit, Amazon Prime’s commercial head, against the Allahabad High Court decision to deny her pre arrest bail in connection with the probe into Tandav, a web series hosted by the platform.

  • The Supreme Court said the government’s new rules to regulate OTT platforms lacked teeth to punish violators or to screen offensive content, even as it protected Amazon Prime Video India commercial head Aparna Purohit from arrest in the Tandav web series row. The court order said the new rules were “more in the nature of guidelines” and there was “no effective mechanism for screening or to take appropriate action” against violators.

(xii). HC seeks reply on vaccine eligibility

  • The Delhi High Court asked the Union government to explain the rationale behind limiting the current category of people eligible for receiving COVID­-19 vaccination to those over the age 60 and to those above 45 with comorbidities. The court directed the Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech to disclose their capacities to manufacture their Covishield and Covaxin vaccines respectively and if they could scale up capacity to include the legal fraternity for vaccination.

(xiii). SC quashes notifications by Maharashtra EC

  • The Supreme Court held that reservation for Other Backward Classes in Maharashtra’s local bodies should not exceed the aggregate 50% of the total seats reserved in favour of SCs/STs/OBCs taken together. The judgment further quashed the notifications issued by the State Election Commission in 2018 and 2020, providing reservation exceeding 50% in local bodies of some districts. The top court clarified that the OBC members who benefited from this reservation would “be deemed to have vacated their seat upon pronouncement of this judgment, prospectively”.

(xiv). HC upset with police over leak of chargesheet in Delhi riots case

  • The Delhi High Court expressed displeasure at the Delhi Police for leak of supplementary charge sheet filed in a case related to north east Delhi riots to the media even before cognisance was taken by the court concerned.

  • Justice Mukta Gupta asked the Delhi Police Commissioner to give an affidavit fixing responsibility on the person instrumental in leaking the information to the media.

(xv). Funds for SCs and STs remain largely unused

  • Funds allocated for schemes meant to benefit Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) remained largely unutilised in the fiscal year 2020-­21, according to the State Economic Survey presented in the Assembly of Maharashtra. In previous years too, the Maharashtra government was unable to spend most of the proposed funds.

(xvi). ‘Lift ban on blood donation by transgenders’

  • The Supreme Court asked the government to respond to a plea challenging blood donation guidelines, which ban transgender persons, members of the gay community and sex workers from donating blood.

  • Ms. Kothari said the guidelines perpetuated a stigma that these communities were “less worthy and subordinate in social participation and healthcare”.

(xvii). Prioritise the elderly, SC tells private hospitals

  • The Supreme Court has directed that private hospitals should give priority to senior citizens in admission. On August 4 last year, the court declared that government hospitals should give priority to elderly people as they are vulnerable to COVID-­19 virus. On Thursday, senior advocate and former Union Law Minister Ashwani Kumar urged a Bench led by Ashok Bhushan to extend the August 4 order to private hospitals.

(xviii). Look into petition alleging chopping of trees by DIAL’

  • The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Delhi Forest Department to look into a plea alleging chopping trees by the Delhi International Airport Authority Limited (DIAL) and the GMR group for expansion of a runway at the Indira Gandhi International Airport.

  • An NGT Bench directed the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, Delhi to verify the factual position and take remedial action in accordance with law after due verification. According to the petition, the felling of trees had taken place in non­compliance of requisite rules.

(xix). Free entry for women at ASI sites on March 8

  • Women visitors, both domestic and foreign, will not be charged entry fee at the Centrally protected monuments and ancient sites maintained by the ASI on the International Women’s Day on March 8.

(xx). Now, a help desk for transgenders

  • In what is claimed to be the first­ of ­its ­kind gender inclusive community policing initiative in the country, the Cyberabad police inaugurated a ‘Transgender Community Desk’ at Gachibowli Police Station. The desk will provide support to file cases in offences related to violence or discrimination against any transgender person.

(xxi). ‘Put off IT rules, consult stakeholders’

  • The Editors Guild of India (EGI) has called upon the government to put the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 in abeyance, saying the guidelines can undermine media freedom. It said some provisions of the rules could put unreasonable restrictions on digital news media.

(xxii). First woman convict on death row in Independent India : Shabnam Ali

  • For the first time ever, a woman will be hanged to death in independent India. This has come as President Ram Nath Kovind turned down the mercy petition of Shabnam, who has been accused of killing seven members of her family along with her lover Salim.


Daily snippets

(i). India and Japan back in new Sri Lanka port project

  • Sri Lanka said it will develop the West Container Terminal (WCT) at the Colombo Port, along with India and Japan. The decision comes a month after the Rajapaksa government ejected the two partners from a 2019 tripartite agreement to jointly develop the East Container Terminal (ECT), citing resistance to “foreign involvement”. The approval had been granted to develop the WCT with investors nominated by India and Japan.

  • While the High Commission of India had “approved” Adani Ports, which was to invest in the ECT project earlier, Japan is yet to name an investor. Neither India nor Japan has officially commented on the offer, or on the said private investment from the countries.

  • The Rajapaksa government has offered India and Japan the WCT as an alternative, allowing higher stakes. In the ECT project agreed upon earlier, the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) was to hold majority 51%, but in the WCT proposal, India and Japan will be accorded 85% stake, as is the case in the nearby Colombo International Container Terminal (CICT), where China Merchants Port Holdings Company Limited holds 85%, the government said. Colombo’s alternative offer also comes at a time when Sri Lanka is seeking support at the ongoing UN Human Right Council session, where a resolution on the country’s rights record will soon be put to vote.

(ii). Emergency was a mistake, says Rahul

  • Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said the Emergency imposed by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was a “mistake” but sought to differentiate the situation in 1975 and now in terms of “capture of democratic institutions”. He said what happened in 1975 was “wrong” but it was fundamentally different from the present where, he alleged, the fundamentalists had “penetrated every institution, including judiciary, bureaucracy, election commission and the press”.

(iii). Army to induct 6,000 new light machine guns for frontline troops

  • The Army will begin inducting the first lot of 6,000 new Light Machine Guns (LMG) from Israel, with frontline troops on the borders set to receive them later this month. These are part of the 16,497 Negev LMGs contracted from Israeli Weapons Industry (IWI) in March 2020 under fast track procurement to meet the immediate requirement.

  • The larger share of the overall requirement, 70% or 40,949 LMGs, would be procured domestically from the private sector. The process for that has been initiated and the Field Evaluation Trial (FET) at the pre trial stage is progressing. The Army has an urgent requirement for a range of small arms and after repeated delays in the procurement process is now in the process of inducting them.

(iv). Covaxin shows 81% efficacy, also works against variants

  • Covaxin, India’s first COVID-­19 vaccine, has demonstrated an interim clinical efficacy of 81% in the phase 3 clinical trial, vaccine maker Bharat Biotech said. The vaccine demonstrated high clinical efficacy and significant immunogenicity against variants, the company’s CMD, Krishna Ella, said.

  • A statement from Bharat Biotech, which developed the vaccine in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said 25,800 participants between ages 18 and 98 were enrolled for the phase 3 study. It included 2,433 over the age of 60 and 4,500 with comorbidities. The first results from phase 3, called the primary endpoint, are based on the first occurrence of Polymerase Chain Reaction­ confirmed symptomatic (mild, moderate, or severe) COVID­-19 with onset at least 14 days after the second dose.

(v). 14 Trojans found in servers, says Minister

  • Two days after Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh submitted a report prepared by the State’s cyber cell on a possible cyberattack that caused the October 12 power outage in Mumbai and parts of Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), Power Minister Nitin Raut said the report found 14 Trojan programs that had entered the Maharashtra State Electricity Transmission Company (MahaTransco) servers.

  • “According to observations in the report, the firewalls of the information technology [IT] and operational technology [OT] servers, which are essential for power transmission, were affected by these Trojan horses. Suspicious codes and software programs that can affect the cybersecurity ecosystem at the State Load Dispatch Center [SLDC] at Kalva had found its way into the system,” Mr. Raut said in a statement in the Assembly. Similar Trojan programs were part of bigger cyberattacks in the past, he added.

(vi). ‘Linguistic barriers to education must go’

  • The country’s education system should break through linguistic barriers in order to ensure that those in rural areas or from poor homes were not deprived of opportunities to let their talent flourish, Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

  • Addressing a webinar on education initiatives in the Union Budget, he stated that the focus on learning in local languages was one of the most important improvements being brought through the new National Education Policy. Mr. Modi pointed out that limiting knowledge and research was a big injustice to the country’s potential. In fact, opportunities were opening in sectors such as space, atomic energy and agriculture for talented youth.

(vii). Jagan launches ‘AP Fact Check’ website

  • Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy on Friday launched ‘AP Fact Check’ website and Twitter account which are intended to counter the “fake news being spread against the government by some interests”. The State would tackle malicious content through these platforms duly backed by evidence, he said.

(viii). Pochampally rainbow woven into six yards

  • Boga Balaiah, a traditional handloom weaver from Pochampally village in Telangana’s Yadadri Bhuvanagiri district, has put the colour wheel to shame with his effort in creating a sari. He has woven magic with an amazing 121 hues and an equal number of motifs to embellish the sari he has created after two years of strenuous work. With the Ikat­ dyed mercerised cotton sari, which holds one motif in each box of separate shade as part of the design, Mr. Balaiah is aiming for a national award from the Ministry of Textiles. The 61year old says it had been his dream for 10 years to create such a sari. “I could not spare time owing to my financial expediencies and family responsibilities. Now that my children are settled in their own jobs, I can give shape to my dream.” He used 11 eco friendly colours each in warp and weft, namely, green, golden yellow, blue, brown, parrot green, grey, orange, Ananda (a shade in blue), lemon yellow and Rani Pink (fuchsia), which gave the sari its 121 shades. (

(ix). Farm laws an internal matter of India: envoy

  • Maintaining that the new agricultural laws are an “internal matter” of India, new U.K. High Commissioner to India Alexander Ellis said the debate in the British House of Commons set for Monday was part of issues linked to India that were quite “regularly debated” there. Mr. Ellis told journalists, explaining that the farm laws and the protests were being discussed as a result of a petition that crossed 1,00,000 signatures, though the U.K. government’s position was that the issue was an internal one for the Modi government to resolve in India.

  • One of the highlights of the visit is the possible beginning of India­-U.K. Free Trade agreement negotiations, which Mr. Johnson is understood to be keen to announce post­-Brexit, even before Prime Minister Narendra Modi travels to Portugal in May for an EU-­India summit.

  • Mr. Johnson’s earlier planned visit for Republic Day in January had to be put off, and he will also receive Mr. Modi in June as India is a special invitee along with Australia and South Korea to the G­7 summit of the world’s biggest economies. Mr. Ellis said he hoped for a “swift resolution” of the dispute between the Indian government and the British company Cairn Energy that won an arbitration settlement of $1.2 billion from India.

(x). More Myanmar nationals take refuge in Mizoram

  • Villagers in Mizoram’s border districts said more than 100 people have crossed over from Myanmar to escape a military crackdown there. Local authorities have, however, confirmed the arrival of 23 people who fled the Tatmadaw – as the Myanmar military is called – that took control of the country following a coup on February 1. At least 50 people have been killed in clashes with the army since

(xi). Nirmala dismisses report on human rights issues

  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman lashed out at the U.S. think tank Freedom House – which has downgraded India’s status from “free” to “partly free” – accusing the body of not even getting the “Indian map” correct. The Information and Broadcasting Ministry on behalf of the government also issued a statement calling the report “misleading, incorrect and misplaced.

  • The Information and Broadcasting Ministry, in a statement said, that the think tanks’s “Democracy under siege” is misleading, incorrect and misplaced. The statement pointed out that there are many States, which have non­BJP governments, elected through a free and fair process.

(xii). Quad to hold leadership summit

  • Leaders of Australia, India, Japan and the United States will soon meet virtually for the first ever summit under the quadrilateral security arrangement, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said. Speaking to reporters in Sydney on Friday, Mr. Morrison said the four power security dialogue was “central” to the U.S. and the Australian point of view of the Indo-Pacific region. In his comments, Mr. Morrison said that he had discussed the summit among the leaders of the “Quad” countries in recent telephone conversations.

(xiii). Three ­member expert panel takes stock of turtle conservation

  • A three member panel constituted by the Orissa High Court made a field trip to the Gahirmatha marine sanctuary here and assessed the measures taken for the conservation of endangered olive ridley sea turtles, Forest officials said. The panel, comprising wildlife and environment activist Kartik Shankar, Director (Environment) Sushant Nanda and advocate Mohit Agarwal, made an on the spot assessment of the conservation measures at Gahirmatha nesting ground, they said.

  • The olive ridley turtles turn up in millions for mass nesting along the Odisha coast every year. Gahirmatha beach off Bay of Bengal coast in Kendrapara district is acclaimed as the world’s largest nesting ground of these turtles.

(xiv). NSD likely to get Institute of Importance status

  • The government is actively considering giving the Institute of National Importance tag to the National School of Drama (NSD), as well as redeveloping its campus in Delhi, NSD Society chairman and actor Paresh Rawal said on Saturday. Mr. Rawal, appointed chairman in September, “flagged concerns regarding some of the pending issues”, an NSD statement said. He said the status of Institute of National Importance would strengthen NSD, allowing it to award degrees, start new courses and set up new centres.

  • The NSD, which has four regional centres in Varanasi, Bengaluru, Agartala and Gangtok, had received a request from Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant ­Governor Manoj Sinha recently for setting up a centre in J&K, he said. He added that this would be discussed by NSD Society members and the government. He added that the NSD was planning to digitise its archive of in­house productions and plays to be used as study material or for viewing by the public.

(xv). Himalayan serow spotted in Assam

  • A Himalayan mammal, somewhere between a goat and an antelope, has been confirmed as the newest creature to be spotted in Assam. It was spotted in the 950­ Manas Tiger Reserve. The animal is a high ­altitude dweller usually found 2,000-­4,000 metres above sea level. It was spotted close to the border with Bhutan in Manas’s Bansbari­ Mathanguri forest.

  • The sightings of rare animals and birds in Manas is an outcome of better access to remote parts of the protected area where extremists and hunters once ruled. The Reserve is contiguous with 1,057sq. km. Royal Manas National Park in Bhutan. The black­ necked crane was also recently sighted in Manas. The critically endangered white­ bellied hero was also seen a few weeks ago. In February, birders had sighted the colourful Mandarin duck in the Maguri ­Motapung wetland near eastern Assam’s Dibru­ Saikhowa National Park.

(xvi). Haryana's job reservation in private jobs

  • The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) urged the Haryana government to “relook” at the legislation that provides for reservation in private jobs for local candi­dates, saying reservation impacts productivi­ty and competitiveness. CII Director General Chandrajit Banerjee said, “At a time when it is important to attract investments at the State level, the Haryana government could have avoided imposing restrictions on industry.” Other Indian Industry bodies like ACMA, NASSCOM also stressed that this may force a rework of their expansion plans in the State, adding that it could al­so provide a shield to some firms indulging in unethical practices to retrench the ex­isting workforce. NASSCOM added that the move would impact the bu­siness friendly image of the State and be detrimental to Gurugram’s growth trajecto­ry as an Information Tech­nology­ Business Process Management hub.

  • Haryana Governor Satyadeo Narain Arya has given assent to the Bill providing 75% re­servation in the private sector to job seekers that pay less than ₹50,000 per month from the State. Apart from tackling unemployment among local people, the State government said the law will discourage the influx of migrants seeking low ­paid jobs, which has a significant impact on local infrastructure and leads to the proliferation of slums. The Bill covers private companies, socie­ties, trusts and partnership firms in the State.

(xvii). Field trials for Census-NPR to begin soon

  • The Registrar­ General of In­dia (RGI) is preparing to conduct field trials of the first phase of the Census and the National Population Register (NPR) using a mobile appli­cation in all the States and Union Territories. The app will contain ques­tionnaires on house listing and housing census and the NPR. The first phase involving house listing and housing census, along with updating the NPR, was scheduled from April 1 last year. The second phase of the census is population enumeration. The questions for NPR have not been made public yet.

  • In 2010 and 2015, NPR collected details on 14 pa­rameters only. It already has an electronic database of more than 119 crore residents. On February 10, Union Mi­nister of State for Home Ni­tyanand Rai informed the Rajya Sabha that “an app for the collection of data and a Census portal for the man­agement and monitoring of various Census ­related activ­ities has been developed”.

(xviii). The ongoing vaccination drive

  • Health Minister Harsh Vard­han reiterat­ed that the government had done away with the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. timeline for giving CO­VID­-19 vaccination and that beneficiaries could take the vaccine round the clock.

  • Antibodies against the novel coronavirus begin to appear significantly only 14 days af­ter a vaccine injection. But in people who have already been infected by SARS­-CoV-­2 before, the increase can be observed in a week, a study has found. According to several serol­ogy surveys, anywhere from 21% to 60% of India may have been exposed to the vi­rus since March. The results also showed that antibodies in those in­fected earlier started to stabilize, even decline, after day 14 but were still substantially higher. Currently, the lon­gevity of antibodies after a COVID­-19 infection has not been firmly established, nor is the immunity after being exposed to a particular strain of the virus.

(xix). Political talks back on the table

  • The Isak ­Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Na­galand, or NSCN (IM), has said the “Indo­-Naga political talks are back on the table” and progress­ing. The extremist group, which had declared ceasefire with In­dian security forces in 1997, blamed Nagaland Governor R.N. Ravi for creating “unnecessary confusion” and almost derailing the peace process with his “reck­less statements”. The publicity wing of the NSCN (IM) said that the Framework Agreement signed on August 3, 2015, had been “brought back to life” for re­moving any misinterpretation and hastening the signing of the Naga solution agreement.

(xx). Bengaluru, Shimla 'most liveable' cities

  • Bengaluru and Shimla were ranked as the most liveable in the catego­ries of cities with more than and less than 1 million popu­lation respectively by the Un­ion Housing and Urban Af­fairs Ministry’s Ease of Living Index.

  • The Ease of Living Index 2020, in which 111 cities par­ticipated during the assess­ment in 2020 that included citizens’ feedback, had Ben­galuru at the top, followed by Pune in the category of cities with ov­er 1 million population. In cities with less than a million population, Shimla topped the list, followed by Bhuba­neshwar.

  • The Ministry also released the Municipal Performance Index 2020, which rated 111 municipalities on their services, finance, policy, tech­nology and governance. In­dore topped the ranking of municipalities with over 1 million population. New Delhi Municipal Coun­cil was the best among civic bodies with under a million population, followed by Ti­rupati.

(xxi). Delhi to get its own school education board

  • The Delhi Cabinet approved the setting up of the Delhi Board of School Education (DBSE). The move follows the go­vernment’s decision to com­mence the ‘Deshbhakti Cur­riculum’ in schools from the new academic year. The proposed board will conduct assessments throughout the year to deve­lop holistic learning instead of once in a year assessment that focuses on rote learn­ing, the Chief Minister said. He added that assis­tance would be sought from international outfits, and global practices as well as teaching methods had been analysed so they can be incorporated in the DBSE. The board’s governance and coordination will be overseen by a governing bo­dy under the chairperson­ ship of the Education Minis­ter.

  • In a related development, Delhi go­vernment was preparing to allocate separate funds for the installation of the National Flag at various locations across the national capital. The go­vernment was also prepar­ing to hold cultural events based on the lives of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and Shaheed Bhagat Singh under the ‘Deshbhakti’ head for which it is likely to allocate funds in the 2021-­22 Budget.

(xxii). EVMs for the first time

  • The use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in some booths of the Paravur As­sembly constituency in Er­nakulam (Kerala) is etched in the elec­toral history as they were introduced in the constituen­cy in the 1982 polling, a first in the country. In 1992, Parliament insert­ed Section 61A in the representation of People Act, 1951 and Conduct of election rules validating the use of the EVM and paving way for their use in elections. The Election Commission started using EVMs widely since 1998. The new generation of EVMs has Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT), which prints a small slip of paper that carries the name, symbol and the serial number of the candidate.


Daily snippets

(i). ‘National consensus govt. is in the interest of Nepal­-India ties’

  • Forming a national consensus government in Kathmandu is in the interest of Nepal-India relation, said former Nepal Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai. Mr. Bhattarai said a national consensus government will be able to amend the Constitution of Nepal to make it more representative and hold more effective dialogue with India on difficult issues.

  • Mr. Bhattarai said Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli has not shown respect to the ruling of the Supreme Court which reinstated the lower house of the Nepalese Parliament (Pratinidhi Sabha) on February 23. He said there are four political formations in Nepal at present. The first two are led by the two factions of the Nepal Communist Party of Mr. Oli, and his rivals party co-­chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ and Madhav Kumar Nepal. The other two formations are led by the Nepali Congress and the Janata Samajwadi Party ( JSP) of Mr. Bhattarai.

  • Mr. Bhattarai said that in near future, Nepal may even discuss the Hindu culture of the country at a political level but asked not to conflate monarchy with Hinduism.

(ii). ‘Pfizer, Oxford shots effective for elderly’

  • The Pfizer and Oxford­AstraZeneca vaccines for COVID­-19 are highly effective in reducing severe coronavirus infection among people aged 70 years and above, according to a study. The research, posted as a preprint and yet to be peer reviewed, estimated the effect of both the COVID­-19 vaccines on laboratory confirmed symptomatic disease in individuals aged 70 years or older in England.

  • Data suggests that in the over 80s, a single dose of either vaccine is more than 80% effective at preventing hospitalisation, around 3 to 4 weeks after the jab, PHE said in a statement. Evidence for the Pfizer vaccine suggests that it leads to 83% reduction in deaths from COVID-­19, it said.

(iii). Khashoggi killing: U.S. tells Saudi Arabia to take action

  • The U.S. pressed Saudi Arabia to take further measures after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi as Washington faced growing criticism that it did not directly target Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. President Joe Biden released an intelligence report that found that Prince Mohammed approved the 2018 killing of Khashoggi, a U.S.­based contributor to The Washington Post who was lured into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul where he was strangled to death and dismembered.

  • The report — classified under former president Donald Trump, a close ally of the Saudis — found that seven of the 15 members of the hit squad that flew to Istanbul came from the Rapid Intervention Force, which it said “exists to defend the Crown Prince” and “answers only to him.”

  • He also called on Riyadh to act on other fronts, including lifting a travel ban on Loujain al­-Hathloul, an advocate for women’s right to drive in the ultra­conservative kingdom who was provisionally freed in January after nearly three years in jail. Asked why no action was taken against the Prince, also known by his initials MBS, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that the U.S. does not typically sanction foreign leaders. But she hinted that Prince Mohammed was not permanently off the hook.

(iv). ‘Pak. needs legislation to meet FATF benchmarks’

  • Pakistan will have to make further legislation on at least two counts to meet three outstanding benchmarks of the 27-­point action plan of the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog FATF before the new June deadline.

  • The Paris-­based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) placed Pakistan on the grey list in June 2018 and asked Islamabad to implement a plan of action to curb money laundering and terror financing by the end of 2019 but the deadline was extended later on due to COVID­-19 pandemic. The new deadline was set by the watchdog last month.

  • Pakistan has been scrambling in recent months to avoid being added to a list of countries deemed non compliant with anti money laundering and terrorist financing regulations by the FATF, a measure that officials here fear could further hurt its ailing economy.

  • The three outstanding action points include: First, demonstrating that Terrorism Financing (TF) investigations and prosecutions target persons and entities acting on behalf or at the direction of the designated persons or entities; Second, demonstrating that TF prosecutions result in effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions; Third, Pakistan has to demonstrate effective implementation of targeted financial sanctions against all designated terrorists, specifically those acting for or on their behalf.

(v). India, 17 countries face U.S. anti­-dumping tax

  • The U.S. Department of Commerce is preparing to tax aluminium sheet exporters from 18 countries after determining that they had benefited from subsidies and dumping. The US International Trade Commission (ITC), an independent body, must approve the final decision by April 15 to impose anti-dumping or countervailing duties.

  • The investigation, launched under the Donald Trump administration, had been requested by nearly a dozen U.S. aluminium alloy manufacturers, including Arconic and Aleris Rolled products, which felt they were being harmed by competing imports at lower prices.

  • President Joe Biden’s administration determined that imports from Germany in particular ($287 million in 2019) benefited from dumping, ranging from 40% to 242%. The same is true for aluminium alloy sheets from Bahrain ($241 million), which the administration said benefited from pricing below the cost of production or the local market of 83%. Imports from India ($123 million in 2019) have benefited from subsidies for 35% to 89%, according to the U.S. investigation.

(vi). Blinken calls China the ‘biggest geopolitical test’ for U.S.

  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the United States was ready to confront China where need be, calling the Asian power the “biggest geopolitical test” of the century. He promised to champion the rights of Hong Kong and the ethnic Uighurs, saying that if not, “China will act with even greater impunity”.Mr. Blinken indicated that Mr. Biden would be sparing in military action despite ordering an air strike last week in Syria against Iranian-linked Iraqi Shiite paramilitaries.

(vii). ICC opens probe into war crimes in Palestinian areas

  • The International Criminal Court opened a formal investigation into alleged war crimes in the Palestinian territories, in a move blasted by Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu as the “essence of anti-Semitism”.

  • Palestinian authorities hailed the decision by ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda as an “urgent and necessary” probe into the situation in the blockaded Gaza Strip, along with the Israeli-occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem since June 2014. Ms. Bensouda said she had decided there were “admissible potential cases” on both sides, with the investigation focusing on the 2014 Gaza conflict, which left more than 2,000 people dead.

(viii). China targets 6% growth, tech supremacy

  • China’s government on Friday announced a 6% growth target for 2021 and unveiled a five year plan and vision for 2035 that aims to expand the country’s global footprint as a major technology power. The plans, unveiled at the start of the annual week­long convening of the Communist Party­ controlled legislature, the National People’s Congress (NPC), outlined a push for China to consolidate the positions of its supply chains in key strategic industries, and to significantly increase China’s spending on research and development (R&D) to achieve self reliance in key high tech sectors. Besides the economic plans, the NPC this week is also expected to approve sweeping new changes to Hong Kong’s electoral system.

  • Hong Kong only directly votes for half of its 70 Legislative Council members. Under the new plan, Hong Kong media reported, the size of the council could be increased to 90 with the additional members chosen by the Election Committee. This would decrease the proportion of directly elected members and further dilute the presence of pro democracy parties. On account of the changes, September’s polls in Hong Kong, which were delayed last year because of pandemic, could be further pushed to 2022.

(ix). China’s defence budget to cross $200 billion

  • China’s defence budget will for the first time cross $200 billion with the government announcing a 6.8% hike in defence spending for 2021. The budget for 2021 was announced as 1.35 trillion yuan ($209 billion), up from 1.27 trillion Yuan ($179 billion) last year. This will take China’s defence spending to more than four times India’s $49.75 billion budget, not including pensions. India’s budget last month announced a modest 1.48% hike in total defence spending to ₹4.78 lakh crore ($65.7 billion) including pensions, or ₹3.62 lakh crore ($49.75 billion) minus pensions. India also announced a record 18.5% increase in capital outlay to ₹1.35 lakh crore ($18.4 billion).

  • China’s defence spending has in recent years evolved to reflect its on­going modernisation of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), with a shift away from the traditionally dominant army and a greater share going to the PLA Navy, the Rocket Force which is in charge of missiles, and the Strategic Support Force, which includes cyber warfare. This year, China will launch its third aircraft carrier, which will be its second homegrown one.

(x). More bloodshed in Myanmar as UNSC set to meet on crisis

  • Despite an increasingly brutal crackdown by the military authorities that has seen more than 50 people killed, protesters took to the streets again in towns around the country to denounce the February 1 coup. The violence has brought condemnation from around the world, with the UN rights chief demanding the junta “stop murdering and jailing protesters”, and the Security Council is set to discuss the crisis later Friday. But despite the mounting international pressure, the Generals have shown no sign of heeding calls for restraint.

(xi). India reaffirms Lanka defence ties

  • With the participation of the Indian Air Force Chief and 23 aircraft in the three day event in Colombo to mark the 70th anniversary of the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF), India sought to reaffirm its strong defence cooperation with Sri Lanka. The last time Indian aircraft took part in such an event was in 2001, on the occasion of the SLAF’s 50th year.

  • A team of 4 Sarang Advance Light Helicopters, Surya Kiran (Hawks), Tejas Fighter Aircraft, Tejas Trainer and the Dornier Maritime Patrol Aircraft from India were in Sri Lanka this week, to participate in a fly past and acrobatic display event with the SLAF, held by Colombo’s seafront. Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauri called on Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, and met senior defence officials.

(xii). ‘World is no closer to answer on virus origins’

  • Despite a high profile visit to China by a team of international experts in January, the world is no closer to knowing the origins of COVID-­19. “At this point we are no further advanced than we were a year ago,” said Nikolai Petrovsky, an expert in vaccines at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, and one of 26 global experts who signed the open letter, published on Thursday.

  • The WHO mission to Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first identified, has come under fire, with critics accusing the WHO of relying too much on Chinese fieldwork and data. Team members also said China was reluctant to share vital data that could show COVID-­19 was circulating months earlier than first recognised.

(xiii). Pakistan PM survives confidence vote

  • Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan survived a vote of confidence by the country’s Parliament on Saturday, days after his party lost a key Senate seat to an opposition candidate. Ruling party and opposition cadres clashed briefly outside the Parliament ahead of the vote. Mr. Khan secured 178 votes in the 340­ seat National Assembly through an open ballot, boycotted by the main opposition parties, the Pakistan Muslim League ­Nawaz (PML­N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

(xiv). Pope, top Shia cleric plead for ‘peace’ in historic Iraq meet

  • Grand Ayatollah Ali al ­Sistani, spiritual leader of most of the world’s Shia Muslims, told Pope Francis in a historic meeting in Iraq that the country’s Christians should live in “peace”. The meeting, on the second day of the first-ever papal visit to Iraq, marked a landmark moment in modern religious history and a milestone in the Pope’s efforts to deepen interfaith dialogue.

  • Pope Francis later addressed the rich spectrum of Iraq’s religious communities at Ur, the birthplace of the Prophet Abraham, a central figure in the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths, where he made an impassioned plea for “unity” after conflict. The 84year old pontiff’s trip to Iraq is an effort to both comfort the country’s ancient but dwindling Christian community and deepen his dialogue with other faiths.

(xv). Intense fighting in Yemen’s Marib leaves at least 90 dead

  • Fierce fighting between Yemeni pro­-government forces and Iran­backed Houthi rebels has killed at least 90 combatants on both sides in the past 24 hours. The Shia rebels launched an offensive last month to seize Marib, the last stronghold in northern Yemen of pro-­government forces who are backed by a Saudi­-led military coalition.

  • The loss of Marib would be a huge blow for the Yemeni government, but would also threaten catastrophe for civilians, including hundreds of thousands of displaced people in desolate camps. It would also be a major setback for Saudi Arabia, which has been the target of increasingly frequent Houthi missile attacks in recent weeks. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday urged the Houthis to halt their offensive in Marib, as he announced $191 million in aid.

(xvi). U.S. Senate clears Biden’s $1.9 tn COVID-19 aid plan

  • The U.S. Senate on Saturday passed President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID­19 relief plan in a party line vote after an all night session that saw Democrats battling among themselves over jobless benefits and the Republican minority failing to push through some three dozen amendments.

  • The final Bill includes $400 billion in one time payments of $1,400 to most Americans, $300 a week in extended jobless benefits for the 9.5 million people thrown out of work in the crisis, and $350 billion in aid to state and local governments that have seen the pandemic blow a hole in their budgets.

(xvii). Bangladesh border killings are due to crime : EAM

  • Criminal activities are res­ponsible for the killings along the India­ Bangladesh border, External Affairs Mi­nister S. Jaishankar said and stressed that the aim should be of a no crime no death border. The Indian statement comes in the backdrop of increased incidents of killings of Bangladesh nationals in 2020. Dhaka Tribune, in a report last December, said the incidents of killings was the highest in 2020 within a decade.

  • On India-Bangladesh partnership, he said India was partnering with the neighbouring country in economic and health­ relat­ed recovery in the wake of the COVID­-19 pandemic. He pointed out that 9 million doses of Covish­ield vaccine had reached Bangladesh from Pune’s Se­rum Institute of India. Mr. Jaishankar is paying a day­long visit to take stock of bilateral ties ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s planned March 26 vi­ sit, during which he will par­ticipate in the indepen­dence day celebrations in Dhaka that will mark the half century of the country’s independent existence.

(xviii). UN tells Myanmar military to stop using force on protestors

  • At least 54 people have been killed and over 1,700 de­tained since Myanmar’s Fe­bruary 1 coup, the United Nations rights chief said. UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet urged security forc­es to “halt their vicious crackdown on peaceful protesters”. She said in a statement. “It is utterly ab­horrent that security forces are firing live ammunition against peaceful protesters across the country”.

  • Meanwhile, defiant protes­ters returned to the streets on Thursday after Wednes­day’s violence. At Yangon’s San Chaung township, known for its hip cafes, restaurants and bars, the streets were transformed with barricades.

(xix). India wants Chabahar port on key corridors

  • India wants Chabahar port to be included in the 13­na­tion International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) that extends from India to Russia, and expand INSTC membership by including Afghanistan and Uzbekis­tan. Pitching for Chabahar in the INSTC which goes via Iran’s biggest port Bandar Abbas, EAM Mr. S. Jaishankar pro­posed that the land route via Kabul and Tashkent would form the INSTC’s “Eastern corridor”. The Port has already handled 123 ves­sels and 18 lakh tons of car­go, said a statement.


Analysis : The path to peace in Ethiopia

(i). The story so far

  • The cataclysm in Ethiopia’s Tigray region and the country’s humanitarian crisis give rise to concerns of long term regional deterioration. Without a clear framework for peace building, post­ conflict reconstruction and transitional justice, the country is at risk of drastically postponing both political and economic recovery. This has implications not only for Ethiopia but also the entire Horn of Africa region which is already plagued by low level conflicts, uneven economic development, border disputes, continued food insecurity, climate change, a precarious political situation, and a dire refugee crisis.

(ii). The crisis in Ethiopia

  • The breakdown in the already strained relations between the federal government in Addis Ababa and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF)’s leaders in Tigray has resulted in the national crisis. In 2018, anti government protests by the marginalised Oromo population forced the TPLF to step down, resulting in the election of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and his subsequent crackdown on Tigrayan politicians for corruption and human rights abuses. Internal conflict in Ethiopia has resulted in the death of 52,000 people and the displacement of over 2 million, over 60,000 of whom have taken refuge in Sudan’s eastern border. This has triggered an influx of Sudanese and Eritrean military personnel near Ethiopia’s northern frontier.

(iii). How Ethiopia is holding up

  • Currently, Ethiopia is attempting to tackle its domestic emergency. This phase includes securing a military conflict-free environment, addressing increased displacement, allowing access to basic needs assistance for citizens at risk of famine, and strengthening humanitarian capacity in conflict-ridden areas.

  • The focus of regional and international media has been heavily geared towards Ethiopia’s immediate alleviation of humanitarian strains. But meeting short­-term security and humanitarian needs, although extremely important, should not be the sole focus of a sustainable recovery agenda. It is imperative to recognise a broader view and develop successful post-­conflict reconstruction policies.

Commentary : Recalibrating relations with EU

(i). EU and Self-reliant India

  • Realising the vision of a self reliant India would entail localising an increasing share of value added along supply chains through investments and phase wise reduction of import tariffs with strategic partners such as the European Union (EU).

(ii). India-EU export potential

  • India has an untapped export potential of $39.9 billion in the EU and Western Europe. The top products with export potential include apparel, gems and jewellery, chemicals, machinery, automobile, pharmaceuticals and plastic. India benefits from tariff preferences under the EU’s Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) for several of these products.

(iii). Product graduation

  • However, there are several products where India has export potential in the EU, but these have “graduated” or are at the brink of “graduation” under EU GSP. Product graduation applies when average imports of a product from a beneficiary country exceed 17.5% of EU-­GSP imports of the same product from all beneficiary countries over three years. India’s exports of products such as textiles, inorganic and organic chemicals, gems and jewellery, iron, steel and their articles, base metals and automotives are already out of the ambit of EU-­GSP benefits.

(iv). Approach to FTAs

  • India’s negotiation for a Broad­based Trade and Investment Agreement* (BTIA), which commenced in 2007, is yet to materialise due to lack of concurrence in areas like automotives and dairy and marine products. India’s cautious approach to FTAs derives from its past experience of an unequal exchange of benefits in several FTAs signed by the country. Therefore, a thorough assessment of the benefits from FTA for domestic producers is warranted, with due consideration to the impact on sensitive sectors, and possibility of inclusion of safeguards such as sunset clauses on concessions for some items.

(v). Non-Tariff measures (NTMs)

  • There should also be provisions for aspects such as investment and non-­tariff measures (NTMs). China has already negotiated a comprehensive agreement on investment. India also needs to negotiate on investment related aspects with the EU to enhance bilateral investments and foster stronger value chains, especially in technology intensive sectors in which the EU has a comparative advantage. As far as NTMs are concerned, India faces as many as 414 NTMs in the EU, in a wide array of sectors. FTAs have some institutional arrangements for NTMs.

  • India should critically review the availability of such arrangements in its negotiations, as also their operationalisation and effectiveness. Post ­Brexit EU finds itself in the midst of a growing need for recalibrating ties with its partner countries. Forging stronger ties with the region through a mutually beneficial agreement could help strengthen Indian manufacturing and revitalise the flailing exports.

Analysis : The perils facing Britain

(i). Background

  • Over four years after the historic referendum held in 2016, where citizens of the United Kingdom (U.K.) decided to leave the European Union (EU), in December 2020, the U.K. and the EU finally struck a provisional free­-trade agreement as part of their Brexit deal. While the recently concluded trade and cooperation agreement charted out the key aspects of everyday governance and the rules for enforcement between the two parties, at a broader level, the U.K. may now be forced to face the constraints it had originally escaped.

(ii). Glorious past

  • Since the beginning of the 19th century, Britain had the unique advantage of relieving its constraints on land, energy, and (localised) power. But with Brexit in place, the country may have to evaluate its limitations. As historian Kenneth Pomeranz argues in his book The Great Divergence, Britain, in the 19th century, solved its land problem by anchoring “ghost hectares” in the Americas, where it could exploit the land, labour and capital of the continent to “relieve its hard pressed land”, and “turn a demographic and proto­industrial expansion that (unlike in East Asia) far outpaced advances in agriculture into an asset for further development”. With Brexit, however, the U.K. may now have to find contemporary ‘ghost hectares’ through its trade deals.

(iii). Coal’s rise and decay

  • The mainstreaming of coal and oil in the 20th century ensured that Britain’s phantom land could be maintained in other ways. While this dependency on energy ‘ghost hectares’ continues even today, the discovery and development of high quality coal in England and Wales led to the creation of its own energy system.

  • Nevertheless, an analysis reveals that for the first time in 2019, the U.K. generated more electricity from renewables than fossil fuels. While this is a welcome step, and the U.K.’s presidency at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference indicates its commitment towards the Paris Agreement, a lot is yet to be achieved.

(iv). Post- Brexit

  • Lastly, by the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Soviet Union, it was argued by many scholars that a liberal democracy with access to a free market is the best way to organise societies. An idea that all nations should pursue unequivocally is globalisation. It was envisaged that the infinite expansion would last forever and national citizens will eventually become ‘global citizens’. It was in this swell that the Maastricht Treaty ( of the 1990s led to the creation of the European Union – a Europe without frontiers. But with Brexit, where do the citizens of the U.K. go?

Commentary : Protecting personal liberty

(i). Background

  • Recent rulings – the first was the acquittal of the journalist, Priya Ramani, on charges of criminal defamation. A Delhi court, in discharging her of the accusations, recognised that a woman’s right to dignity superseded any claims over reputation. The court also held that a survivor of sexual harassment had the freedom to place her grievance at any point of time after the occurrence of the event and on any platform of her choice. The second was the grant of bail to Disha Ravi, a 22-year old woman who was arrested in Bengaluru and taken to New Delhi on charges of sedition.

(ii). Case analysis

  • Ms. Ramani spent months on end participating in a trial, not for being a perpetrator of any crime but for speaking out about sexual harassment at the workplace. Ms. Ravi spent 10 days in custody on the basis of evidence that the court found, at best, “scanty and sketchy”. in Aparna Purohit v. State of U.P., gave us a scantling of the disdain with which the higher judiciary views issues of personal liberty.

(iii). Where the law stands

  • The Constitution permits reasonable restrictions on speech on a variety of stated grounds. Determining what is reasonable and what falls within the bounds of those permitted limitations can sometimes be an exercise fraught with difficulty.

  • The cases concerning Ms. Ramani, Ms. Ravi and Ms. Purohit each emanate out a law that is categorically unconstitutional, but that has nonetheless been upheld by the Supreme Court. It ought to be self evident that the punishment, even the very idea of prosecution, for libellous speech is disproportionate to the offence. Criminal law does not exist to make prosecutable acts that are essentially private in nature.

  • By making ostensibly slanderous talk a punishable offence, the state imposes a chilling effect on all manners of legitimate speech. It is for this reason that almost every democratic nation of the world has revoked laws criminalising defamation. But in India. It remains a tool for the powerful and is routinely invoked not just by individuals and governments in positions of authority but also by corporations looking to protect their commercial interests.

  • India’s blasphemy laws, Section 153A, which deals with speech that seeks to promote enmity between different communities, and Section 295A, which criminalises speech that outrages religious feelings, are also vestiges of colonialism.

  • In Arnab Manoranjan Goswami vs State of Maharashtra, The judgment noted: “Our courts must ensure that they continue to remain the first line of defence against the deprivation of the liberty of citizens.

Story : The Kremlin’s buzzword now is Russia looking East

(i). Background

  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov declared last month that although the European Union (EU) was Russia’s biggest trading and investment partner, Moscow was “ready to break ties” with the EU after criticism of the jailing of Opposition figure Alexei Navalny.

(ii). Russia and the EU

  • He added that Russia worked with the EU in only a few areas, dealings with the EU were “sporadic” and related mainly to energy and foreign policy issues such as Syria and Iran. The Kremlin later mitigated the Minister’s comments, denying that severance of diplomatic contacts was imminent, though such steps might be considered in response to EU sanctions affecting sensitive areas of the economy.

  • After its transitory revival in the 1990s, the objective of a common European home remains as unrealisable as ever. On the contrary, it seems that after 300 years, Russia will end its West­-oriented approach although Europe and the United States have yet to acknowledge this historic shift.

(iii). Fallout of Russia’s West-oriented approach

  • The West’s support for the 2014 Ukraine uprising, and the NATO and EU’s relentless forward policy in States bordering Russia are intensely resented in Moscow, and the EU’s claim to a monopoly of European values and identity fuels this animosity. The Kremlin’s Greater Europe concept has now been replaced by the more feasible Greater Eurasia Initiative, with Russia looking East for economic connectivity and institutional integration.

Story : Cybersecurity challenge ‘Red Echo’ over India

(i). The story so far

  • On March 3, Maharashtra Power Minister Nitin Raut announced that a State Cyber Cell probe had found 14 Trojan horses in the servers of the Maharashtra State Electricity Transmission Company. These malwares had the potential to disrupt power distribution in the State. The announcement came in the wake of a report from Recorded Future, a U.S.­based cybersecurity firm, stating that a group linked to the Chinese government, which it called ‘Red Echo’, had targeted 10 vital nodes in India’s power distribution system and two seaports. Recorded Future claims the cyber intrusions from China began in May 2020 amid heightened tensions at the border. It also suggested that these malwares could be the cause of the massive power outage in Mumbai last October.

(ii). How did Recorded Future track malware in Indian systems?

  • Recorded Future did not look directly into the servers of India’s power system. Instead, it found a large number of IP addresses linked to critical Indian systems communicating for months with AXIOMATIC ASYMPTOTE servers connected to Red Echo. AXIOMATIC ASYMPTOTE servers act as command and control centres for a malware known as ShadowPad.

(iii). What is ShadowPad?

  • ShadowPad is a backdoor Trojan malware, which means it opens a secret path from its target system to its command and control servers. Information can be extracted or more malicious code delivered via this path.

(iv). What were Red Echo’s targets?

  • Recorded Future lists these as suspected targets: Power System Operation Corporation Limited, NTPC Limited, NTPC Kudgi STPP, Western Regional Load Despatch Centre, Southern Regional Load Despatch Centre, North Eastern Regional Load Despatch Centre, Eastern Regional Load Despatch Centre, Telangana State Load Despatch Centre, Delhi State Load Despatch Centre, DTL Tikri Kalan (Mundka), Delhi Transco Ltd (substation), V. O. Chidambaranar Port and Mumbai Port Trust.

(v). What is the objective of Red Echo?

  • Recorded Future says the kind of infrastructure sought to be accessed by Red Echo, such as Regional Load Despatch Centres, has minimal espionage possibilities. However, it adds, “we assess they pose significant concerns over potential pre-positioning of network access to support Chinese strategic objectives.” Prepositioning in cyber warfare means to have malware assets in crucial places that can be called on when an actual attack is launched.

Story : India and Pakistan ceasefire agreement

(i). Background

  • The February ceasefire has triggered widespread speculation about its durability, significance and implication for bilateral rela­tions in general. The announcement by the two Director Generals of Military Oper­ations (DGsMO) coming in the wake of over 5,000 ceasefire violations in 2020, significant. What makes this different is its two distinct features: one, this was a joint statement by the two DGsMO, and that unlike the pre­vious declarations, the recent agreement mentions a specific date, i.e., the night of February 24­-25, to begin the ceasefire.

  • The February ceasefire is arguably one of the most significant military measures by India and Pakistan in over 18 years to re­duce violence along the LoC in Kashmir.

(ii). Explored further

  • The ceasefire is significant because this helps New Delhi to defuse an ugly two­ front situation and a feeling of being boxed in by an inimical Pakistan and an aggressive China. The back chan­nel process for the same started much before the recent India­-China disengage­ment on the LAC.

  • The Karachi agree­ment of 1949, which ended the first war between newly formed India and Pakistan, was the first ceasefire agreement between the two countries. The Un­ited Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UN­MOGIP) was mandated to monitor the ceasefire along the CFL (Ceasefire Line).

  • The 1965 India-­Pakistan war also ended in a ceasefire, but since status quo ante bellum was restored after the Tashkent Agreement, the CFL in Kashmir remained unaltered.

  • The India­-Pakistan war of 1971 changed that. The De­cember ceasefire which ended the 1971 war was enshrined into the Simla Agreement the following year. But unlike 1965, status quo ante bellum was not restored by the Simla Agreement, a decision that would have important impli­cations for bilateral relations. The Suchetgarh Agreement of 1972 delineated the ‘line of con­trol’ in Jammu and Kashmir which resulted from the ceasefire of De­cember 1971 thereby renaming the CFL as the LoC.

  • The UN force was mandated to ensure a ceasefire on the CFL, but there was no CFL af­ter 1972, and, more so, the UN was not even a party to the Simla Agreement unlike the Karachi Agreement. The 2003 agreement between the DGsMO, was a reiteration of the December 1971 war termination ceasefire. Even the February 2021 ceasefire too is a reiteration of the 1971 ceasefire agreement.

(iii). How the ceasefire agreement might turn out

  • A ceasefire does not ob­serve itself – it requires a clearly articulated and mutually ­agreed upon set of rules and norms. The Simla Agreement or the Suchet­garh Agreement do not have those rules. The Karachi Agree­ment, on the other hand, has clearly laid down provisions on how to manage the CFL which was overtaken by the LoC. The next logical step is to ar­rive at a set of rules to govern that ceasefire. Piecemeal agreement, however, does not create durable stability unless followed by progress in other domains.

Story : Global climate change events

1. Background

  • This year’s Himalayan glacier flooding that overwhelmed Uttarakhand, or the cold snap that paralysed Texas.

  • The melting of the Himalayan gla­ciers that prompted the floods and landslides in Uttarakhand have the fingerprints of global warming. Furthermore, as glacier cover is replaced by water or land, the amount of light reflected decreas­es, aggravating warming – a contrib­utor to the sweltering heat in cities like Delhi and Hyderabad, or the epic floods in Chennai or Kerala.

  • The extreme cold weather in Tex­as, like the double ­digit negative temperature seen in Germany earlier this year, is connected to Arctic ­pe­ninsula warming, at a rate almost twice the global average. Usually, there is a collection of winds around the Arctic keeping the cold locked far to the north. But global warming has caused gaps in these protective winds, allowing intensely cold air to move south – a phenomenon that is accelerating.

2. Building climate change consciousness

  • When the public connects cause and effect, responses are usually swift. But global warming is still seen as a danger that lies over the horizon.

  • For India, the third­ largest carbon emitter after China and the United States, a decisive switch is needed from highly polluting coal and petro­leum to cleaner and renewable pow­er sources. China has announced car­bon neutrality by 2060, Japan and South Korea by 2050, but India is yet to announce a target. While HSBC ranks India at the top among 67 na­tions in climate vulnerability (2018), Germanwatch ranks India fifth among 181 nations in terms of climate risks (2020).

  • Budgetary allocation : A vital step should be explicitly in­cluding policies for climate mitiga­tion in the government budget, along with energy, roads, health and edu­cation. Specifically, growth targets should include timelines for switch­ing to cleaner energy. The govern­ment needs to launch a major cam­paign to mobilise climate finance.

  • Climate adaptation needs to be a priority. India’s Central and State go­vernments must increase allocations for risk reduction, such as better defences against floods, or agricultural innovations to withstand droughts. Few examples include ignoring stu­dies that flagged ice loss across the Himalayas, and the dangers to dense­ly populated catchments, but policy response has been lacking. Similarly, Kerala ignored a landmark study call­ing for regulation of mining, quarry­ing and dam construction in ecologi­cally sensitive places, which contributed to the massive floods and landslides in 2018 and 2019.

Analysis : The Yemen Crisis

(i). Background

  • One of the first key foreign policy de­cisions that President Joe Biden took after assuming office was to end the U.S.’s support for Saudi Arabia’s six­ year long war on Yemen. He halted weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, ap­pointed a Special Envoy for Yemen, and removed the Shia Houthi rebels, who control the northwestern parts of the Arab country, from the list of foreign terrorist organisations.

(ii). The war

  • The crisis in Yemen is not only about the Saudi­-Houthi conflict. It has ma­ny more dimensions: humanitarian, civil, geopolitical and sectarian. When Saudi Arabia, the UAE and their allies went to Yemen in March 2015, they had a clearly defined ob­jective: drive the Houthis, who are backed by Iran, out of the capital Sa­na’a and stabilise the country under the government of Abdrabbuh Man­sur Hadi that they support. The Sau­di-­led coalition imposed a blockade on Yemen, which they hoped would eventually weaken the Houthis, and started a bombing campaign aimed at wrecking the rebels militarily.

  • The campaign has not yielded significant results. The only success the Saudis can claim from a tactical point of view is that the Houthis were limited to the north­west. A separatist group, the Southern Transitional Council (STC), has established its rule in southern Yemen. The UAE, which backs the STC, has pulled out of the Saudi­-led coalition.

  • The war has killed over 10,000 people and pushed Yemen to the brink of a famine. Accord­ing to the UN, 50,000 Yemenis are starving to death and 16 million will go hungry this year. Many more are dying due to pre­ventable diseases as Yemen lacks proper health infrastructure and es­sential medicines. This week, the UN held a conference to raise up to $2.41 billion for aid works in Yemen, but got pledges only for $1.35 billion. The last six years of war prove that the Saudi strategy of block­ade and bombing was a failure.

  • The Biden administration should use its leverage to pressure Ri­yadh to lift the blockade. Once a cease­fire between the two main rival blocs is achieved, the U.S. and its regional allies could call for a multilateral con­ference involving all stakeholders to discuss Yemen’s future.

Story : Spectrum Auction

(i). Background

  • Tuesday saw the end of India’s first auction of telecommunications spectrum in five years, with the government generating a revenue of ₹77,815 crore from the exercise. Mukesh Ambani ­led Reliance Jio accounted for close to 60% of the spectrum bought, followed by Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea. In the last few years, there has been a consolidation in the industry, as a result of which there are only three major players now – Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea.

  • In recent years, while the user base has grown, the industry itself has witnessed unforeseen financial stress in the form of an important court case against it. The reference is to the Supreme Court verdict last September that ordered telecom players to share revenues coming from even non ­telecom services with the government.

2. About the Spectrum roll-out

  • In the auction, the government offered spectrum for 4G in the following bands: 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1,800 MHz, 2,100 MHz, 2,300 MHz and 2,500 MHz. ‘Spectrum’, in this context, stands for the portion of the electromagnetic wave range that is suitable for communication purposes. As this is a huge economic resource, which also provides unimaginable benefits to any population, it is controlled by the government.

  • Spectrum bands have different characteristics, and this makes them suitable for different purposes. In general, low­ frequency transmissions can travel greater distances before losing their integrity, and they can pass through dense objects more easily. Less data can be transmitted over these radio waves, however. Higher-frequency transmissions carry more data, but are poorer at penetrating obstacles.

3. Indian telecom scene

  • The auction is largely seen as an opportunity to renew expiring spectrum, analysts say Reliance Jio’s “higher ­than ­expected” spend is an attempt to improve network experience. The Edelweiss report says Reliance Jio could have gone for it because “in recent quarters, Bharti Airtel has on boarded a disproportionately higher share of smartphone subscribers leveraging its superior network”. Vodafone Idea’s low­key presence in the auction is linked to its balance sheet constraints.

  • In 2016, about 40% of the 2,355 MHz of spectrum (at a reserve price of ₹5.6 lakh crore) was sold, giving the government ₹65,789 crore in revenue. This time, the Centre has managed to get more. The government said the revenue generated by the auction has exceeded its expectations, which was about ₹45,000 crore


Daily snippets

(i). Private investment missing from economy : RBI

  • Only private investment is ‘missing in action’ at a time when all engines of aggre­gate demand are starting to fire to boost economic growth, according to a Re­serve Bank article. Observing that a recov­ery based on a revival of consumption is underway.

  • The article in the RBI’s February Bulletin, further observed that “the time is apposite for private invest­ment to come alive”. Fiscal policy, with the lar­gest capital ­expenditure (ca­pex) Budget ever and em­phasis on doing business better, has offered to crowd it in. According to RBI, The Indian economy is estimated to contract by 8% during the current financial year, The economy is ex­pected to stage a V­-shaped recovery in the next fiscal year and record a double­ di­git growth.

  • Authors of another article – Sectoral Deployment of Bank Credit in India: Recent Developments – said muted credit offtake in the recent past needed to be seen in the context of economic slowdown coupled with the COVID-­19 linked lockdown. Bank credit growth, which had already started decelerating in the last financial year, experienced a further setback in 2020-­21 in the wake of the pandemic.

(ii). Ambani tops Indian billionaire list with $83 billion

  • The world added 607 new billionaires, while India added 55 new billionaires. Tesla’s Elon Musk added $151 billion to become the richest man in the world for the first time with a net worth of $197 billion, fol­lowed by Amazon’s Jeff Be­ zos ($189 billion), the chairman and CEO of LVMH Moet Hennessy – Louis Vuitton, Bernard Arnault ($114 bil­lion), Microsoft’s Bill Gates ($110 billion) and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg ($101 billion).

  • Reliance Industries Chair­man Mukesh Ambani, who emerged as the richest man in India with a net worth of $83 billion, came in at num­ber eight. Mr. Ambani was fol­lowed by Adani Group’s Gau­tam Adani and family with his wealth almost doubling to $32 billion.

  • Despite the dis­ruption caused by COVID­-19, this year has seen the biggest wealth increase of the last decade. “The world has never seen this much wealth creat­ed in just one year, much more than perhaps could have been expected for a year badly disrupted by COVID­-19,” Hurun Report chair­person Rupert Hoogewerf said.

(iii). Spectrum will boost Jio, Bharti's market share

  • The strengthening of spec­trum footprints by Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio in the just ­concluded auctions is expected to yield market share gains for the two tel­cos. Analysts across­ the ­board concurred with the govern­ment’s view that at ₹77,814 crore of total bids, the spec­trum auction outcome and response had surpassed expectations.

  • Goldman Sachs noted that Bharti and Jio had “sig­nificantly” bolstered their spectrum footprints, and that strengthening of radio­ wave holdings “could aid their market shares while at the same time keeping ca­pex under check”. The more­ than ­expected participation from telcos in the auctions increases the probability of a price hike as a way to offset the increase in leverage, market watch­ers said. Moody’s Investors Ser­vice said spectrum renewals will help incumbents pro­tect their market positions while additional bandwidth purchases will drive im­proved network coverage.

(iv). Trade with Iran

  • Indian merchants have al­most entirely stopped sign­ing new export contracts with Iranian buyers for com­modities such as rice, sugar and tea, due to caution about Tehran’s dwindling rupee reserves with Indian banks. Iran’s rupee reserves in India’s UCO and IDBI Bank, the two lenders authorised to facilitate rupee trade, have depleted significantly and exporters are not sure whether they would be paid on time for new shipments.

  • Under U.S. sanctions, Tehran is unable to use U.S. dollars to transact oil sales. Iran previously had a deal to sell oil to India in ex­change for rupees, which it used to import critical goods, including agricultural commodities, but New Delhi stopped buying Tehran’s oil in May 2019 after a U.S. sanction waiver expired. Tehran continued using its rupees to buy goods from India, but after 22 months of no crude sales, Iran’s rupee reserves have fallen.

(v). FDI equity inflow crosses $51 billion

  • Foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows into the coun­try grew 24% to $9.2 billion in December 2020, taking the total in the first nine months of 2020-­21 to a record $67.54 billion, 22% higher than the same pe­riod in 2019­20, the Com­merce and Industry ministry said. FDI equity flows accounted for a large chunk of this inflow, growing 40% in the same period to $51.47 billion in the April to December 2020 period, compared with $36.77 bil­lion dollars during the same months in 2019.

(vi). Fuel prices to drop if brought under the ambit of GST

  • Bringing petrol and diesel under the GST regime could lead to a loss of as little as ₹1 lakh crore in annual revenue for the Centre and States while bringing pan ­India prices of the fuels to ₹75 and ₹68 a litre, respectively, as per an SBI Research report. Assuming a GST rate of 28%, cess of ₹30 and ₹20 for a litre of petrol and diesel respectively (shared equally between the Centre and the States), crude oil price of $60 per barrel and a rupee­ dollar exchange rate of 73, SBI Re­search has reckoned the Centre and States would, together, face a revenue devia­tion from Budget estimates of only ₹1 lakh crore, or 0.4% of the GDP, in FY22.

  • The 2020-­21 fiscal deficit may turn out to be lower than the revised estimate of 9.5% of GDP, at about 8.7%, and the government might lower its borrowings, SBI Research said.

(vii). Delhi's budget to be over 65,000 crores

  • The Delhi govern­ment is likely to present a budget with allocations ov­er and above ₹65,000 crore for the 2021-­22 fiscal, mak­ing it the highest allocation by any government in the state since its first ­ever session in 1993. To focus primarily on the health and education sec­tors, the Delhi government would add the ‘Deshbhakti’ head as a significant com­ponent to the budget this year.

  • Under the 'Deshbhakti' head, the government will not only highlight the role of Delhi in India’s freedom struggle, but also present its own vision of India at 100 in reference to Inde­pendence Day celebrations in 2047.

(viii). Pandemic and household income

  • Households have lost a whopping ₹13 lakh crore of their incomes from the pan­demic ­induced job losses, according to a report that al­so warns of the economy losing momentum by mid-­2021 on a likely slow­ down in consumption demand that has propped the economy in recent months. Describing the growth mo­mentum seen in the second and third quarters of FY21 as a positive surprise, econo­mists at UBS Securities India said the economy could slow by mid­-2021 as house­holds that lost incomes dur­ing the pandemic to the tune of ₹13 lakh crore could drag consumption with a lag.

(ix). Cryptocurrency regulations

  • There is some amount of ‘se­crecy’ around the Crypto­ currency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2021, a new regulation ex­pected to be cleared by the Centre soon, the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) said. “What makes it more strange is, not a single ecosystem player, industry re­presentative or members of the public were consulted before its draft was pre­pared,” IAMAI added. India has more than 10 million buyers and sellers of cryptocurrency (mostly in bitcoins) constituting 10­-15% of the global user base.

  • In a separate statement, Union Minister Anurag Tha­kur said the go­vernment is open to evaluate and explore new technologies, including cryptocur­rencies, for improving governance. “Cryptocur­rency is a form of virtual currency. I firmly believe that we must always evaluate, ex­plore and encourage new ideas with an open mind,” he added. A high-level inter­ ministerial committee (IMC) was constituted under the chairmanship of the eco­nomic affairs secretary on digital currencies and it has submitted its report. The government would take a decision on the recommendations of the IMC and the legislative proposal, if any, would be introduced in Parliament.

  • Reserve Bank of India Go­vernor Shaktikanta Das had last week said the apex bank had certain “major con­cerns” over the impact cryp­tocurrencies may have on the financial stability in the economy and had conveyed the same to the government. The RBI had virtually banned cryptocurrency trading in 2018. The Su­preme Court had asked the Centre in 2019 to frame policies for crypto, and in 2020, struck down the curbs im­posed by the RBI.

(x). India wary of OPEC+ production cuts

  • India, the world’s third­ big­gest oil importer, said the decision by major producers to continue with output cuts as prices move higher could threaten the consumption led recovery in some countries. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Coun­tries (OPEC) and its allies, a group known as OPEC+, agreed not to increase supply in April as they await a more substan­tial recovery in demand amid the COVID­-19 pandem­ic. Crude prices rose after the announcement and are up 33% this year.

  • India, hit hard by the soar­ing oil prices, urged produc­ers to ease output cuts and help the global economic re­covery from the pandemic. Rising oil prices are posing fiscal challenges for India, where heavily ­taxed retail fuel prices have touched record highs, threa­tening the demand­ driven recovery. India imports about 84% of its oil and relies on West Asian supplies to meet over three ­fifths of its demand.

(xi). Production Linked Incentives to lead recovery : PM

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the Produc­tion ­Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme, introduced by the government for about 13 sectors, will lead to pro­duction worth $520 billion in the country over the next five years. He added the govern­ment was also working to­wards enhancing ease of doing business as well as reducing the compliance burden for the industry as he believed government in­terference in everything created more problems than solutions.

(xii). Venezuela plans 1-million bolivar bill

  • Venezuela’s central bank said that it would introduce a banknote worth 1­million bolivars be­ginning next week, as years of incessant hyperinflation continue to batter the va­lue of the crisis stricken South American country’s currency. The new banknote will be worth just 52 U.S. cents at the current official ex­change rate. Inter­annual inflation was running at 2,665% as of January, the central bank said. The OPEC nation’s eco­nomy has been in a tailspin for the past 7 years, spurred by a collapse in oil prices that led to a drop in imports and a gaping fiscal deficit, prompting the cen­tral bank to print more bolivars.


Daily snippets

(i). Printing neurons

  • Scientists from Northwestern University, U.S., have discovered a new biomaterial that mimics the brain tissue and can be made by 3D printing. Developed, this can treat neurodegenerative diseases, for instance, by transplanting the tissues. Earlier, the group had shown they can design materials that self-organize to form ‘superstructures’. Now they find these can enhance the growth of neurons.


Daily snippets

(i). Mary Kom to head AIBA panel

  • M.C. Mary Kom has been picked as the chairperson of the AIBA (International Boxing Association) Champions and Veterans Committee, a panel created last year by the world body as part of its reforms. The 37 ­year ­old 2012 Olympic bronze ­medallist was named for the position after voting by the AIBA’s board of directors.

(ii). Indian Grand Prix

  • Neeraj Chopra, the brightest prospect to bring India’s first ­ever Olympic medal in athletics, proved that he is right on track for Tokyo by bettering his own javelin throw National record in the Indian Grand Prix­3 on Friday. The 23 ­year ­old’s 88.07m in his season ­opener bet­tered his previous best – the 2018 Asian Games gold­ win­ning throw – by a centi­metre.

  • The consistent Annu Rani, the Asian silver medallist, was also impressive in the women’s event, coming close to 62m twice before winning with 61.98m. Avinash Sable was just three seconds off his National record in the 3000m steeplechase while shot putter Tajinderpal Singh Toor came up with a 20m­plus throw. Amoj Jacob improved his 400m personal best for the second successive week, bringing it down to 45.70s. Hima Das, the only runner in the women's 100m clocked a personal best 11.67s.­

(iii). Silver for Sarita, Broze for Kuldeep

  • Sarita Mor won silver, while Kuldeep Malik bagged bronze at the Mat­teo Pellicone wrestling event in Rome on Friday. India now has five me­dals in the Greco­-Roman category.


1. Nepal and Constitutional Reforms

2. District courts and protection of human rights

3. The 'path of law'

4. India's sustained benevolent racism

5. Patching the gaps in India's cybersecurity

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


March 1st-2nd, 2021

Your 10 minute read!



Daily snippets

(i). PM calls for water conservation drive

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi said there was a need to start conserving water right away and that the Jal Shakti Ministry would be launching a 100­day “catch the rain” campaign soon.

(ii). Swiss neutrality in world affairs attractive again: envoy

  • Switzerland’s traditional foreign policy of neutrality has become attractive again because of the changing political reality in the world, said its Ambassador Ralf Heckner at a think tank event. He said neutrality has become necessary as a foreign policy tool as the phase of power politics has returned in world affairs.

(iii). HC flays police report on Tanha ‘confession’ leak to media

  • The Delhi High Court expressed displeasure at the city police’s vigilance inquiry report on the allegation of leaking to the media a confessional statement of a Jamia Millia Islamia student arrested in connection with the north-east Delhi riots. The court’s direction came while hearing the plea of Asif Iqbal Tanha, who was aggrieved by various news reports appearing in electronic media that alleged that he had confessed to organising and inciting riots in north east Delhi last year.

(iv). Haryana seeks permission for mining in the Aravali Hills

  • The Haryana government has appealed to the Supreme Court to permit it to resume mining in the Aravali Hills on the grounds that the pandemic had ground the State’s economy to a halt. The Supreme Court is slated to hear the petition on Thursday.

  • Mining in the region has been banned since 2002 under the Supreme Court orders, unless expressly permitted by the Union Environment Ministry.

(v). Government examining WhatsApp's new policy

  • The Central government informed the Delhi High Court that it was examining WhatsApp’s controversial new privacy policy, which is scheduled to come into effect from May 15, at the highest level.

  • Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva granted three weeks' time to the Centre to submit a status report on the issue. The court was hearing a petition filed by advocate Chaitanya Rohilla, who has claimed that WhatsApp’s new privacy policy violates the right to privacy guaranteed under the Constitution.

(vi). NHRC issues notices on Hirakud displacement

  • The National Human Rights Commission issued notices to the Chief Secretaries of Odisha and Chhattisgarh over the action taken to alleviate the sufferings of people displaced by the construction of the Hirakud dam over the Mahanadi river about six decades ago. Human rights lawyer Radhakant Tripathy had moved NHRC alleging that 26,561 families were displaced for the project and due compensation was not paid to evictees.

(vii). Chief Justice of India – Master of Roster

  • This is the singular power of the CJI as the Master of the Roster – i.e., the vesting of exclusive discretion in the Chief Justice to constitute benches and allocate cases. It makes the CJI the sole point of defence of the Court against executive interference.

  • This power is predicated upon the CJI’s seniority in the top court and the resultant presumption of propriety. In Asok Pande v. Supreme Court of India (2018), a three judge bench of the Court held that Master of the Roster is the CJI’s exclusive power.

  • Thereafter, a two-judge bench in Shanti Bhushan v. Supreme Court of India (2018) rejected the plea that the Master of the Roster should be interpreted as the collegium. Therefore, while the CJI’s other powers such as recommending appointments to constitutional courts are shared with other senior judges, the power of Master of the Roster is enjoyed without scrutiny.

  • When Indira Gandhi as Prime Minister ordered punitive transfers of High Court judges and superseded judges to appoint the CJI, the Supreme Court formulated the collegium system in response. However, this system has failed to keep executive interference at bay from the Supreme Court. This is for two reasons: first, there is an attractive lure of post­retirement jobs; and as the privilege of Master of the Roster shows, the CJI’s allocation of cases is an unchecked power.


Daily snippets

(i). Eviction of prawn gherries restarts at Chilika Lake

  • After a hiatus, the Odisha government has started evicting illegal prawn enclosures in Chilika Lake, which is likely to improve the ecological health of Asia’s largest brackish water lagoon. The Chilika Development Authority (CDA), the regulatory body for the lake, has begun planned eviction of prawn gherries (enclosures).

  • Endangered Irrawaddy dolphins were the first beneficiaries of the eviction drive. The mammals could move unhindered in Chilika Lake. In the Rambha sector, dolphins were sighted for the first time in three decades. Besides, there was a sudden increase in the population of ducks who prefer to dive in open water. Their population was noticed during the current season, particularly in the prawn gherries evicted areas.

(ii). Need to reset India­China trade ties: Foreign Secretary

  • Remarking that a normal bilateral trade relationship with China was contingent on peace and tranquillity on other fronts, Indian Foreign Secretary H.V. Shringla said the country was looking to diversify its trade dependencies. “The current bilateral trade with China at $78 billion is heavily tilted in the latter’s favour and that will need a reset. India on its part is simultaneously working on diversifying its sourcing to ensure a more resilient supply chain in the future,” said the Foreign Secretary. Mr. Shringla was speaking during the penultimate panel discussion titled 'India as Global Partner' at the fifth Asia Economic Dialogue (AED) 2021, jointly hosted by the Ministry of External Affairs and the Pune International Centre (PIC).

(iii). Chinese cyber attack foiled: Power Ministry

  • “State-­sponsored” Chinese hacker groups targeted various Indian power centres, the Union Power Ministry said, but added that these groups have been thwarted after government cyber agencies warned about their activities. While the government refused to confirm or deny The New York Times report, based on a U.S. cybersecurity firm's claim that the Mumbai power outage in October 2020 was part of a coordinated cyberattack by China, it said it has suffered “no data breach”.

  • Specifically naming the Chinese group “Red Echo”, which has been identified in the U.S. company Recorded Future’s report as responsible for the Mumbai outage, officials said they had been warned by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology’s (MeitY’s) Cyber Emergency Response Team (India) (CERT­in) about the threat from malware called “ShadowPad” in November 2020, and by the NTRO’s National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC) in February 2021, of the threats, weeks before the Recorded Future report was released. China’s Foreign Ministry hit out at the report, calling it “irresponsible”, and attacked it for not offering evidence. “China firmly opposes and cracks down on all forms of cyber attacks,” spokesperson Wang Wenbin said.


Daily snippets

(i). China Parliament to mull expanded border drone use

  • The annual convening of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC), or Parliament, on March 5 will hear a proposal for the wider deployment of more advanced drones along border areas, with a legislator proposing the move in the wake of last year’s clash between Indian and Chinese troops along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

  • The Communist Party of China exercises control over all branches of state, including the legislature. The NPC convenes every year and approves policies, including a government work report that sets the policy agenda, and the defence budget for the military.

  • While the PLA would not necessarily require the NPC to approve the deployment of drones, the proposal comes amid renewed public attention in China on last year’s border clash. The June 15, 2020, clash in the Galwan Valley has been among the most widely discussed subjects in the lead­up to this year’s Congress, having received belated attention in the wake of the PLA, on February 19, honouring five soldiers, four of them posthumously.

  • Twenty Indian soldiers died in the clash, that marked the worst violence along the border since 1967. The PLA announcement, eight months after the clash and a week after India and China announced disengagement along some areas of the LAC, triggered an outpouring of sentiment on Chinese social media. Some NPC proposals in the past have often grappled with topics in the public spotlight, with the broader aim of underlining how the government was addressing those issues.

(ii). New York Governor faces sex harassment charge

  • A second ex-­employee of powerful New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo has accused him of sexual harassment, charges the Governor denied on Saturday. A 25-year old former aide alleged that he sexually harassed her in the spring of 2020.

(iii). Navalny begins serving time for parole violation

  • Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has been transferred to a penal colony east of Moscow to serve a term for violating parole, a public commission that monitors detainees' rights has said. He was sentenced to two and half years last month.

  • Alexei Anatolievich Navalny is a Russian opposition leader, lawyer, and anti-corruption activist. He came to international prominence by organizing anti-government demonstrations and running for office to advocate reforms against corruption in Russia, and against President Vladimir Putin and his government.

(iv). Trump hints at 2024 run for presidency

  • Donald Trump told conservatives he was considering running for president again in 2024, as he reasserted dominance over the Republican Party and warned of a “struggle” for America’s very survival. Echoing the grievance politics of his 2016 campaign and the harsh rhetoric of his one-­term presidency, the 74-year old fired up an enthusiastic crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando.

  • In a keynote speech, his first since leaving the White House on January 20, he repeated his claims that he won the election instead of President Joe Biden, and hammered establishment Republicans who voted against him in the latest impeachment drama.

(v). U.S. to keep hard line on China trade

  • The Biden administration’s trade agenda will make pandemic recovery a top priority and focus on the American worker, according to the 2021 President’s Trade Agenda and 2020 Annual Report, an annual document submitted by the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to Congress. The administration will push for labour standards in its trade agreements, negotiate environmental standards and address China’s “coercive and unfair” trade practices, the document said.

  • The Biden administration’s trade priorities will also include negotiating and implementing “strong environmental standards”. It will also seek to promote equitable economic growth through trade. The impact of trade policy on racial minorities within the U.S. will also be a priority. The new administration is also likely to follow an aggressive agricultural trade policy.

  • Addressing human rights abuses against the Uighurs and others will be a top priority for the administration, as per the report. It will also collaborate with allies to address the market distortions created by industrial overcapacity issues.

  • The U.S. will work with allies to “ implement necessary reforms to the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) substantive rules and procedures to address the challenges facing the global trading system, including growing inequality, digital transformation, and impediments to small business trade”, the report said

(vi). Nomadland, Borat 2 win top Golden Globes

  • Drama Nomadland and satire Borat Subsequent Moviefilm won movie honours at the Golden Globes on Sunday in a mostly virtual bicoastal ceremony. Nomadland, a moving drama about van dwellers in recession hit America, also took the best director prize for Chloe Zhao. It made Ms. Zhao only the second woman to win at the Globes in that category, and the first woman director of Asian descent to win.

  • Sacha Baron Cohen, the creator of Borat Subsequent Movie film from Amazon Studios was named best comedy movie actor, while Andra Day was a surprise winner for playing singer Billie Holiday in The United States vs Billie Holiday. British royal drama The Crown, comedy Schitt's Creek, and The Queen's Gambit won the top awards in television.

(vii). Former French President Sarkozy gets 3-year jail term for corruption

  • Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was found guilty of corruption and handed a three year prison sentence, in a ruling that deals a major blow to any lingering political ambitions. The sentence includes two years suspended and the remaining one year would be converted into a non­-custodial sentence, meaning it is unlikely Mr. Sarkozy will end up behind bars over this case.

  • He is almost certain to appeal and remains free, with no arrest warrant issued, but he faces several other corruption investigations over campaign financing and alleged influence peddling. The sentence for seeking to illegally influence a judge is the latest twist in the tumultuous political career of the 66-year old who remains a favourite for many on the right for his combative style and tough talk on crime and immigration. Only one other modern French President, Mr. Sarkozy’s political mentor Jacques Chirac, has been convicted of corruption.


Commentary : A murder, and business as usual

  • The declassified version of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) report on journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder states in no uncertain terms “that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved [the] operation…to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.”

  • The U.S. Congress had been demanding for over a year that the report be declassified but former President Donald Trump had refused to do so because of his and his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner’s cosy relationship with MBS as well as Mr. Trump’s interest in selling massive amounts of arms to the petrostate. However, the release of the report does not mean a major reversal or even re­-evaluation of America’s relationship with Saudi Arabia. It only signifies a short term “recalibration” of Washington’s approach towards the Kingdom. This was indicated by the fact that although some sanctions were imposed on a few Saudis, MBS was not subjected to any penalties.

  • Saudi Arabia’s strategic importance for Washington derives from the fact that it is America’s principal regional partner in its efforts to contain Iranian influence in West Asia. Riyadh’s strategic value has increased with the sequential normalisation of Israel’s relations with Arab countries allied to it since the success of this process is heavily dependent upon Saudi approval. Such normalisation suits Washington, for it relieves pressure on it to address the Palestinian issue. Furthermore, Mr. Biden cannot afford to alienate the Saudi regime beyond a point because this could intensify Riyadh’s opposition to his stated intention of returning to the Iran nuclear deal.

Commentary : The vital but delicate task of reviving the Iran deal

(i). Story so far

  • Of all the foreign policy challenges facing the Joe Biden administration, none is more critical than salvaging the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action ( JCPOA, or the Iran nuclear deal). It also seems the most straightforward because Mr. Biden has consistently advocated a return to the JCPOA provided Iran returns to full compliance; Iran has always reiterated its commitment to the JCPOA maintaining that the steps it took are reversible as long as the United States lifts the sanctions imposed by the Trump administration since 2018.

(ii). Making of the Deal

  • The JCPOA was the result of prolonged negotiations from 2013 and 2015 between Iran and P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union, or the EU). It happened, thanks to the back channel talks between the U.S. and Iran, quietly brokered by Oman, in an attempt to repair the accumulated mistrust since the 1979 Islamic revolution. Former U.S. President Barack Obama described the JCPOA as his greatest diplomatic success.

(iii). Aftermath of Deal reversal

  • Trump pulled the plug on it in May 2018 and embarked on a policy of ‘maximum pressure’ to coerce Iran back to the negotiating table. The U.S. decision was criticised by all other parties to the JCPOA (including the European allies) because Iran was in compliance with its obligations, as certified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). By end­ 2020, the U.S. had imposed nearly 80 rounds of sanctions targeting close to 1,500 individuals and entities.

(iv). Iran’s response

  • As the sanctions began to hurt, Tehran shifted to a strategy of ‘maximum resistance’. In January 2020, following the drone strike on Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Gen. Qasem Soleiman, Tehran announced that it would no longer observe the JCPOA’s restraints, though its cooperation with the IAEA would continue.

(v). Mayhem in Iran

  • This came on top of COVID­-19 that affected Iran badly. The Iranian economy contracted by 7% in 2019 and another 6% in 2020. In mid-­2020, Iran was shaken by a series of unexplained fires and blasts at a number of sensitive sites including one at the Natanz nuclear facility and another at Khojir, a missile fuel fabrication unit. Last November, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a senior nuclear scientist and head of the Research and Innovation Organisation in the Iranian Defence Ministry was killed outside Tehran in a terrorist attack amid rumours of external intelligence agencies’ involvement. The E­3 (France, Germany, the U.K.) and the EU’s promised relief Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX), created in 2019 to facilitate limited trade with Iran, has been a disappointment.

(vi). The way ahead

  • If the U.S. waits for Iran to return to full compliance before lifting sanctions or Iran waits for the U.S. to restore sanctions relief before returning to full compliance, it can only lead to one outcome – the collapse of the JCPOA with Iran going nuclear like North Korea; an outcome that would create major reverberations in the region and beyond.

  • The Biden administration has made a good start by appointing Robert Malley as the U.S. Special Envoy for Iran. Clearing Iran’s applications to the International Monetary Fund for COVID­-19 relief and for supply of vaccines under the international COVAX facility can be done relatively easily. After the Al Ula summit, Qatar and Kuwait too are well placed to play a diplomatic role and together, they can urgently explore the possibilities for forward movement in Yemen, with help from the EU and the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy, Martin Griffiths. Brussels has long wanted to be taken seriously as an independent foreign policy actor; it now has the opportunity to take a lead role.


Daily snippets

1. NSE glitch

  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that the recent technical glitch at the National Stock Exchange (NSE), which led to trading being halted for several hours on the bourse, had cost India ‘immensely’. She called for a look at the interoperability norms in payment systems to ensure seamless payments. The NSE had halted trad­ing on its platform just before noon on February 24, and informed market parti­cipants at 3:17 p.m. that trad­ing would resume from 3:30 p.m. for extended hours.

  • The NSE though stated that its interoperability fra­mework allowed traders to continue transacting on oth­er stock exchanges when the NSE halted trading. The minister stressed that the NSE case was an example of the challenges that technology ­driven platforms could face.

  • SEBI has already advised NSE to carry out a detailed root ­cause analysis of the trading halt and also to ex­plain the reasons for trading not migrating to the disaster recovery site.

2. Women and pay-raise

  • About 85%, or four in five working women in India be­lieve they have missed out on a raise, promotion, or work offer because of their gender, according to a new report by LinkedIn. As per the ‘The Oppor­tunity Index 2021’ report, this average stands at 60% for the Asia Pacific (APAC) region. “A deeper analysis shows that more women in India have experienced the impact of gender on career development when com­pared to the APAC region,” as per the LinkedIn report.

  • The survey, conducted in January, saw participation from more than 10,000 res­pondents across the APAC region. It covered 2,285 res­pondents in India.


Daily snippets

1. ISRO puts Brazil's Amazonia-1 into orbit

  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on successfully launched Brazil’s optical earth obser­vation satellite, Amazonia-­1, and 18 co-­passenger satel­lites – five from India and 13 from the U.S. – from the Sat­ish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota. The satellites were carried on board the PSLV­-C51, the 53rd flight of ISRO’s launch vehicle and the first dedicat­ed mission of its commercial arm, New Space India Ltd. Amazonia­1 was injected into its precise orbit of 758 km in a sun-synchronous polar orbit.

  • The successful launch of Brazil’s Amazonia-­1 satellite marks a new high point in space cooperation between the two countries that began nearly two decades ago. The launch was witnessed by the visiting Brazilian Mi­nister of Science, Technolo­gy and Innovation, Marcos Pontes, and the heads of the Brazilian Space Agency (AEB) and the National Insti­tute for Space Research (IN­PE) at Sriharikota. Welcoming the news of the launch, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called it a “historic moment” in India­ Brazil space cooperation. Brazil’s President Jair Bolso­naro said the first fully Brazi­lian ­made satellite, which would help to monitor the Amazon forests, was a mark of the “increasing invest­ment” the country was mak­ing in science and technolo­gy.

  • Brazil and India first signed an MoU between the Department of Space and AEB in March 2002, fol­lowed by a Framework Agreement in 2004, that is reviewed by a Joint Working Group. In 2007, they inked a spe­cial arrangement which al­lows Indian scientists access to Brazilian ground stations to remote sensing data from the Indian satellites.

  • Among the satellites from India were – Satish Dhawan SAT (SDSAT) built by Space Kidz India and the UNITYsat, a combi­nation of three satellites for providing radio relay servic­es was also put into orbit. ISRO chairperson K. Sivan said, “This particular mission is special because these Indian satellites are coming under the new space reform announced by the Govern­ment of India”.

2. Spectrum Auction

  • A total of 2251.25 MHz of airwaves, across 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz and 2500 MHz frequency bands, with a total value of ₹3.92 lakh crore at reserve price, will be put up for bid­ding. The 5G airwaves have not been put up for bidding. As per analysts, telcos will likely bid conservatively for minimum quantities, needed to satisfy the immediate 2-­3 ­quarter capacity requirement, and await prices of regular bands to be cut in subsequent auc­tions as well as wait for 5G spectrum.

  • In the last spectrum auc­tions, which were held in 2016, about 40% of the 2,355 MHz of spectrum (worth ₹5.6 lakh crore) put on auc­tion was sold, generating ₹65,789 crore revenue for the government. According to spectrum auction rules, a firm can bid for spec­trum only as per eligibility point allocated based on its deposit. As per the government, successful bidders may pay the entire bid amount in one go or may exercise the option to pay. In addition to the bid amount, successful bidders will also have to pay 3% of the Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) excluding wireline ser­vices as spectrum usage charges.

  • The government received bids worth ₹77,146 crore on the first day of the auction for telecom air­ waves, exceeding its own pre-­bid estimates of about ₹45,000 crore. It saw participation from the three private players – Re­liance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, who bid for 849.20 MHz on the first day out of a total of 2,308.80 MHz put up for sale. However, no bids were re­ceived for the premium 700 MHz band as well as the 2500 MHz band.


Daily snippets

1. Djokovic ties Federer's record

  • Novak Djokovic matched Roger Federer's all-­time record for the most weeks as ATP World No. 1 on Mon­day, holding the top spot for the 310th week. Djokovic's ninth Austra­lian Open title last month ensured the 18-time Grand Slam champion would sur­pass Federer's record.

  • The Serb reclaimed the top ranking from Rafael Nadal in February 2020 and finished as year end number one for the sixth time, tying the mark set by Pete Sampras.


1. UK's Supreme Court ruling on Uber drivers

2. Newly notified Information Technology Rules, 2021

3. Government and sedition

4. The Inconsistent policy on Bail

5. Big government and Big Tech

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


February 25th-28th, 2021

Your 10 minute + a little more read!



Daily snippets

1. Govt. Withdraws order on online science meets

  • The government has withdrawn a controversial order that required scientists and researchers, among others, participating in online international scientific seminars and conferences, to get prior clearance from the Ministry of External Affairs. The order, issued on January 31, had drawn severe backlash from scientists.

  • The restrictions, according to scientists, were too broad based and vague and would have made it impossible for many scientists to participate in online conferences without contravening the law.

2. Plea seeks simplification of child adoption process

  • Lengthy and cumbersome adoption procedures of the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) and the increasing number of childless couples have given rise to a “grey market” for adoption, an NGO told the Delhi High Court.

  • A Bench of Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Jasmeet Singh issued notice to the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Delhi government, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and CARA seeking their stand on the NGO’s plea seeking simplification of the adoption procedure.

3. U.P. Assembly passes Bill on conversion amid protests

  • Amid protests by the Opposition, the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly passed by voice vote a Bill to curb religious conversions carried out by fraudulent or any other undue means, including through marriage.

  • The Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Bill, 2021, seeks to replace the ordinance promulgated in November last year that provides for imprisonment of up to 10 years and a maximum fine of ₹50,000 for violators. Opposing the legislation, parties said that marriage is a personal matter of an individual.

4. Govt. to monitor OTT content

  • For the first time, the government, under the ambit of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, has brought in detailed guidelines for digital content on both digital media and Over The Top (OTT) platforms, while giving itself overriding powers. The new rules lay down a three tier grievance redressal mechanism. However, over and above this framework, the government has equipped itself with “emergency” powers to block public access of any information.

5. London court’s nod for Nirav Modi’s extradition

  • The Westminster Magistrates Court in London allowed India’s extradition request against businessman Nirav Modi, who is wanted in connection with the ₹13,758 crore Punjab National Bank fraud, ruling that a prima facie case had been made out. Notice of application for approval to appeal has to be sought within 14 days of extradition, or discharge, ordered by the Secretary of State.

6. Same-sex marriages will cause havoc, Central govt. tells HC

  • The Centre opposed any changes to the existing laws on marriage to recognise same-­sex marriages, saying such interference would cause “a complete havoc with the delicate balance of personal laws in the country”. Living together as partners and having sexual relationship by same-­sex individuals is not comparable with the Indian family unit concept”.

  • The Centre submitted that “registration of marriage of same-­sex persons also results in violation of existing personal as well as codified law provisions”.

7. President’s Rule in Puducherry notified

  • President’s Rule was imposed in the Union Territory of Puducherry and the Legislative Assembly was placed under suspended animation, according to a notification issued by the Union Home Ministry. Union Territories are administered in accordance with the provisions of Article 239 to 241 of the Constitution, and according to the Allocation of Business Rules, 1961, certain subjects pertaining to Union Territories, namely Legislative matters, Finance and Budget and Services, have been allocated to the Home Ministry. It comes after the fall of Congress govt.

8. SC exploring avenues to offer quick relief to accident victims

  • The Supreme Court is exploring the creation of a nationwide online mechanism to help road accident victims and their families get compensation within a short time of the accident. A Bench led by Justice S.K. Kaul is considering various avenues to speed up the compensation process, including the setting up of a national grid to seamlessly disburse compensation across States to the online submission of police records and accident claim documents in Motor Accidents Claims Tribunals.

  • The court’s intervention came on a writ petition filed by one of India’s largest insurance firms, Bajaj Allianz General Insurance Company, on the plight of victims who have been waiting for years for compensation.


Daily snippets

1. Disengagement a win-win situation, says Army chief

  • The Chief of the Army Staff, General Manoj Naravane, said the disengagement in Pangong Tso (lake) was a ‘win­-win’ situation for both India and China and it was still a long way toward de-escalation.

  • China has been in the habit of making small incremental moves like in the South China Sea that were not challenged but the Ladakh stand­off has shown that this strategy will not work with India and “every move will be met resolutely”, he said at a webinar organised by Vivekananda International Foundation.

2. India takes on Pak. at Human Rights Council

  • India hit out at Pakistan at the high-­level segment of the 46th Session of the Human Rights Council and said the recent release of Al-­Qaeda terrorist Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh is a “clear example” of the connection between the Pakistani state and terrorists.

  • Responding to the comments of Pakistan and Turkey on Kashmir and other issues, the Indian diplomatic team said the government of India is “fully cognizant” of its human rights obligations. “Pakistan has been the home and patron to the largest number of internationally proscribed terrorist entities and individuals in the world,” said diplomat Seema Pujani after the Pakistani delegation raised the Kashmir issue and described the situation in the Valley as “grave”.

  • India also hit out at Turkey and said the country had “trampled upon'' its own civil society. Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had raised the situation in Kashmir and called upon India to resolve the dispute as per the UNSC Resolutions.

3. India, Pakistan agree to adhere to 2003 ceasefire

  • In a first joint statement issued by the two sides in years, India and Pakistan on Thursday said they have agreed to a “strict observance of all agreements, understandings and cease firing along the Line of Control (LoC) and all other sectors” with effect from the midnight of February 24­-25. The decision was announced after discussions between the Directors General of Military Operations (DGMOs) of both sides over the established hotline on February 22.

4. Labour rights activist released from jail

  • Labour rights activist Naudeep Kaur was on Friday released from a Haryana jail after the Punjab and Haryana High Court granted her bail in a case in which faces charges of attempt to murder, rioting among others, in an incident at Haryana’s Kundli of Sonipat district. The 24-year old activist, who was in the Karnal jail, was released after the bail order.

5. 23.79 lakh register for free digital library service

  • The success of the government run digital library initiative, launched in Karnataka last year in February, weeks before the nationwide lockdown was imposed, has come as a surprise even to the authorities. In one year, over 23.79 lakh people signed up for services during the COVID­-19 pandemic. However, a closer look at the data reveals that a majority of subscribers to the free service did not download a single e­book or video. According to data provided by the Department of Public Libraries, around 10.9 lakh e­books and 5.49 lakh videos have been accessed so far.

6. U.S. welcomes India­Pak. ceasefire agreement

  • The United States has welcomed the announcement by India and Pakistan that they would observe the 2003 ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC). The White House called for the two countries to build upon this progress and the State Department encouraged a reduction in tensions and violence along the LoC.

  • Former U.S. President Donald Trump had ruffled feathers in New Delhi with repeated offers to mediate between India and Pakistan on Kashmir. Mr. Trump had announced in July 2019 that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him to mediate on Kashmir with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar categorically assured Parliament that no such request was made.

  • “The Secretary­-General is encouraged by the joint statement issued by the militaries of India and Pakistan on their agreement to observe the ceasefire at the Line of Control in Kashmir and engage through established mechanisms,” spokesperson for the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said. The European Union (EU) also welcomed the ceasefire agreement.

7. Panel seeks more data to clear Sputnik V

  • A Subject Expert Committee (SEC) of the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization has sought more data on Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine trials from Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories to accord emergency use authorization for the COVID­19 antidote. The SEC meeting asked Covaxin maker Bharat Biotech, which sought permission to conduct phase III clinical trials of the vaccine candidate in children aged 5­-18 years, to submit efficacy and safety data of ongoing Phase III clinical trials in adults along with the age subgroup analysis.

  • On Friday, Bharat Biotech said it has signed an agreement with Brazil for supplying 20 million doses of Covaxin. Under the deal worth 1.6 billion reals ($290 million), the vaccine will be delivered in the second and third quarter of 2021

8. Vaccines for seniors and 45-plus with comorbidities from March

  • People above 60 years of age and those above 45 with co­morbidities would be given COVID­-19 vaccines from March 1, the Union govern­ment announced. Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Java­dekar said that under the se­cond phase of vaccination, shots would be given for free at 10,000 government ­run fa­cilities and for a charge at 20,000 private hospitals. Around 27 crore people are expected to be covered in the second phase. Of this group, around 10 crore peo­ple were over 60, he said.

  • Detailed listing of the co­ morbidities and pre ­vaccina­tion requirements would be issued, and strict surveil­lance and monitoring of those vaccinated would be done as part of the protocol.

9. Punjab to amend Prisons Act to boost jail security

  • The Punjab government has decided to amend the Pri­sons Act of 1894 to streng­then security at prisons and curb criminal acts by in­mates through more strin­gent punishment for major offences such as rioting, es­cape from prison, and other violations of prison disci­pline and rules.

  • The Council of Ministers approved a proposal moot­ed by the Jails department to add new penal provisions in the Act to strengthen se­curity arrangements and prevent the use of mobile phones by the inmates, riots inside the jails, incidents of assault on the jail staff, dam­age to the jail property, incidents of absconding, pos­session of drugs inside the jails etc, said an official statement.

10. Winter pollution on the rise

  • The levels of PM 2.5, the most threatening of particu­late matter, worsened in 43 of 99 cities whose winter air in 2020 and 2019 was com­pared by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a non­governmental research organisation. In the aftermath of the lockdown, several cities reported improved pollution levels but by winter, when the restrictions were significantly eased, pollution levels had clawed back to pre­ CO­VID­-19 levels, the CSE notes, underlining the significant contribution of local and re­gional factors to a city’s pol­lution levels.

  • During winter, cool and calm weather traps and spikes daily pollution, par­ticularly in north Indian cities located in the Indo ­Gan­getic Plain. This bouncing back of pol­lution post ­lockdown un­masks the high impacts of lo­cal and regional pollution. This demands quicker re­gional reforms to curb pollu­tion from vehicles, industry, power plants and waste burning to curb the winter pollution and also sustain annual improvement at a re­gional scale with speed. The study emphasises it was the smaller and upcom­ing cities that were emerging as pollution hotspots.

11. INCOIS to go for aerial mapping of ocean floor

  • The Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) is planning to take the help of the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) for aerial mapping of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep to get a better picture of the ocean floor, also called ‘bathymetric’ study.

  • “NRSC has already done a similar high resolution topo­graphic Airborne Laser Ter­rain Mapping (ALTM) for the entire coastal areas of the country and we are in the process of integrating the da­ ta for a 3D multi ­hazard mapping of both the east and west coastline for a more precise picture of the ocean floor,” said director T Srinivasa Kumar. Such a study has become imperative in view of the recent tsunamis of the Indone­sian coasts where more than the quake related high waves, damage was due to landslides under the seabeds causing sudden wave surges leading to much damage without giving sufficient time to alert people, he pointed out.

12. Pandemic generation and the impacts

  • The country is all set to ush­er in a “pandemic genera­tion”, with 375 million chil­dren (from new-borns to 14 ­year ­olds) likely to suffer long-lasting impacts. The challenges could range from being underweight, stunting and increased child mortali­ty, to losses in education and work productivity, accord­ing to the State of Environ­ment Report, 2021, released by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) on Thursday. Over 500 million children have been forced out of school globally and India ac­counts for more than half of them. 115 million additional people might get pushed into ex­treme poverty by the pan­demic — and most of them live in South Asia.

  • India ranked 117 among 192 nations in terms of sustainable development and was now behind all South Asian nations, except Pakistan, according to the report. Of 88 major industrial clusters in the country, according to the Central Pollution Control Board, 35 showed overall en­vironmental degradation, 33 pointed to worsening air quality, 45 had more pollut­ed water and in 17, land pol­lution became worse. Tara­pur in Maharashtra emerged as the most polluted cluster. When ranked on the basis of achieving Sustainable De­velopment Goals, the best performing States were Ker­ala, Himachal Pradesh, And­hra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Telangana. The worst performers were Bihar, Jharkhand, Arunachal Pra­desh, Meghalaya and Uttar Pradesh, the report stated.

13. Second wave of infections

  • A recent surge in infections notwithstanding, India is un­likely to see a “second wave” in infections, says Manindra Agrawal, Deputy Director, IIT, Kanpur, and one of In­dia’s leading mathematicians who is involved with the Na­tional ‘Super Model’ initiative led by the Department of Science and Technology.

  • The current wave of infec­tions – averaging 13,000­ 16,000 new confirmed infec­tions a day since February 23 – was primarily being led by Maharashtra and would not last beyond “two­ three weeks” in March, he said. The reason, he said, is be­cause around 60% of India’s population had already been exposed to the virus and the country had reached herd immunity, or where the num­ber of susceptible individuals were too few to allow the vi­rus to exponentially grow.

  • Whether herd immunity levels have been reached is moot, because the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) reported that only 21% of Indians were estimat­ed to have been infected, as per its third national serolog­ical survey conducted from December 17 to January 8, 2021. The Super Model’s esti­mate is about thrice that number.

  • Epidemiologists refer to the second wave as a resur­gence of infection in an area where the transmission had decreased to below the outbreak potential but is now continually increasing over a certain period. The pre­ requisites for defining the se­cond wave are that the first wave should have been con­tained – the reproduction number or R0 is below 1.5 and low rate of infection has been sustained for at least one month. The cumulative test positivi­ty rate below 5% is generally used as a criterion to decide the end of a wave. But all these assumptions would prove wrong if a new variant that shows greater transmissibility either arises in India or those circulating in other countries spreads here. Newer variants, especially those capable of immune escape, can change everything we know, and this is the only way to have a second wave more devastating than the first wave.

14. Karnataka to move SC against Tamil Nadu's project

  • Terming Tamil Nadu’s deci­sion to utilise surplus water in the Cauvery basin ‘illegal’, Karnataka Home, Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minis­ter Basavaraj Bommai said the State would ap­proach the Supreme Court for a legal recourse. The decision follows Ta­mil Nadu’s move to lay foun­dation to the Cauvery­-Vella­ru­-Vaigai­-Gundar link scheme last Sunday. The link scheme proposes to utilise the surplus water in the Cauvery basin and transfer it to its Southern region.

  • Mr. Bommai said: “It is not right on the part of Tamil Na­du to utilise surplus water before it is allocated. Under the provisions of The Inter State Water Disputes Act, it is illegal and cannot happen without proper allocation.”

15. Odisha's Puri Heritage corridor

  • The Naveen Patnaik govern­ment aggressively pushed the ₹3,200­ crore heritage corridor project for Puri Ja­gannath Temple. According to the State go­vernment, the heritage cor­ridor would be divided into nine zones. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said the mega pro­ject was conceptualised keeping three objectives such as the security of the temple, safety of devotees and religious atmosphere for devotees in mind.

16. Tracking the elusive snow leopard in Himachal

  • Himachal Pradesh’s high­ al­titude hilly terrain could be harbouring as many as 73 snow leopards (Panthera uncia), says a recent study based on a scientific enum­eration of the elusive animal. Snow leopards are one of the most endangered wildlife species. The first­ever such study on snow leopards, a top pre­dator of the Indian Hima­laya, was completed in Janu­ary by the Himachal Pradesh Wildlife Department and the Mysore ­based Nature Con­servation Foundation (NCF).

  • In Himachal Pradesh, the snow leopard’s habitat cov­ers a greater part of the dis­tricts of Lahaul-­Spiti and Kinnaur. Its potential habitat also extends into the upper regions of the districts of Shimla, Kullu, Chamba and Kangra. This project is the first systematic effort at a large regional scale that utilised a stratified sampling design to estimate the snow leopard population over an area of 26,112 sq. km. The region was first stratified into three categories – high, low or un­known snow leopard occur­rence, based on question­naire surveys of local communities residing in these areas. Camera trap surveys were then carried out in areas under each of the categories. The studies found that the snow leopard density was positively correlated with the wild prey density, indicating that higher wild prey densities corresponded to higher snow leopard den­sities. The results reiterate, the study said, that local com­munities are the strongest allies in conservation, if their concerns can be factored into conservation planning.


Daily snippets

1. U.S. will seek to rejoin UNHRC: Blinken

  • The U.S. will seek re-election to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced, as he “humbly” asked for the support of UN member states.

  • This is the latest in a series of moves by the Biden administration to reverse a pattern of retreat from multilateralism that was characteristic of the Trump regime Former President Donald Trump had taken the U.S. out of the Council in 2018, saying it was biased against Israel and had members who were human rights abusers.

2. Imran announces $50 mn defence credit line for Lanka

  • Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan announced a $50 million defence credit line facility for Sri Lanka, even as the two countries stressed the need for “stronger partnership” in security, combating terrorism, organised crime and drug and narcotic trafficking, and intelligence ­sharing.

  • Mr. Khan’s visit to Sri Lanka is the first to be undertaken by a head of government, after the pandemic hit the world. It was the first visit by the Pakistani Prime Minister since the formation of the new governments in both the countries and marked Mr. Khan’s return since his cricketing tours to Sri Lanka in 1975 and 1986. Mr. Khan met with representatives of Sri Lanka’s sports fraternity, at an event where Sri Lanka’s Minister of Sports and Youth Namal Rajapaksa announced the commissioning of the ‘Imran Khan High Performance Sports Centre’ in Colombo.

3. ‘Japan­U.S. treaty a product of Cold War’

  • China called the Japan­-U.S. mutual security pact a product of the Cold War following U.S. criticism of the presence of Chinese coast guard vessels in Japanese­-claimed territorial waters over the weekend. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin also reasserted China’s claim to a string of tiny, uninhabited islands in the East China Sea controlled by Japan.

  • The verbal exchange followed reports that two Chinese coast guard ships on Sunday twice entered Japanese territorial waters surrounding the islands, known by Japan as Senkaku and by China as Diaoyu. Chief Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said China had “continued to flout international rules” and the U.S. would work with its allies to address such challenges.

  • Wang did not directly address the criticism but said the islands were “China's inherent territory”. “The U.S.­ Japan security treaty is a product of the Cold War, which should not harm a third party's interest or endanger regional peace and stability,” Wang said at a daily briefing.

4. Ghana first country to receive COVAX vaccines

  • Ghana received the world’s first delivery of coronavirus vaccines from the United Nations­-backed COVAX initiative – the long awaited start for a program that has thus far fallen short of hopes that it would ensure shots were given quickly to the world’s most vulnerable people.

  • The arrival of 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the West African country marks the beginning of the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history, according to the World Health Organization and UNICEF. However, the initiative has been hampered by the severely limited global supply of doses and logistical problems. Although it aims to deliver 2 billion shots this year, it currently has agreements only for several hundred million shots.

5. France slams ‘repression’ of Uighurs

  • French Foreign Minister Jean ­Yves Le Drian denounced what he called the “institutionalised repression” of China’s Uighur minority. Speaking by video link at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Mr. Le Drian said witness accounts from the Chinese region of Xinjiang pointed to “unjustifiable practices towards Uighurs, and a system of large scale surveillance and institutionalised repression.”

  • Rights groups believe that at least 1 million Uighurs and other Turkic-speaking Muslim minorities are incarcerated in camps in the western region of Xinjiang. Mr. Le Drian cited Xinjiang among several examples of “considerable regressions for human rights” in 2020.

6. Biden revokes Trump’s immigrant visa ban

  • The Biden administration took another step to undo the previous government’s immigration policy legacy by revoking Donald Trump’s suspension of new immigrant visas, which had been in effect since late April last year. The order had been extended through to March 31 by Mr. Trump. The revoked order (Proclamation 10014) had suspended the entry of certain immigrants and non-­immigrants into the U.S. ostensibly on grounds of protecting the U.S. labour market in the wake of COVID­-19.

  • The U.S. issues up to 55,000 immigrant visas (these become “Green Cards” after the recipient enters the U.S.) via its diversity lottery each year to encourage immigration from nationalities that are demographically underrepresented in the U.S.

  • Mr. Biden, however, did not revoke a Trump administration pause on H1­B (skilled worker), L (intra-­company transfer) and several other work and exchange visitor visa categories ( and dependents of these visa holders) that went into effect on June 24 last year. H1­B visas are predominantly granted to workers in the IT sector, and most of these visas — over 70% — have gone to Indian citizens in recent years.

7. FB bans Myanmar military accounts

  • Facebook said it has banned all remaining accounts linked to the Myanmar military, citing the junta’s use of deadly force against anti­-coup demonstrators. The move, which takes effect immediately, applies to the military and entities controlled by the armed forces on both Facebook and Instagram. It also bans “military-linked commercial entities” from advertising on the platforms.

  • The junta has steadily increased its use of force against a massive and largely peaceful civil disobedience campaign demanding Myanmar’s Army leaders relinquish power. Pages for government offices now run by the junta remain unaffected.

8. Pakistan will remain on FATF ‘greylist’

  • The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) decided to retain Pakistan on the “greylist” till the next review of its performance during the June plenary session. At a press briefing, FATF president Marcus Pleyer said although Pakistan had made significant progress, it was still to fully comply with three of the 27­ point action plans it had been presented with in June 2018 when it was first put on the “greylist”. He urged Pakistan to make fast progress on them.

  • The three points on which the FATF has sought urgent action by Pakistan pertain to effective steps, in terms of financial sanctions and penalties, against terror funding infrastructure and the entities involved. After assessing the measures taken during the June session, the FATF would verify the implementation and test the sustainability of reforms undertaken by Pakistan to this end. To a query on when Pakistan would be put on the “blacklist”, the FATF chief said it would happen when the country shows progress; it was not the time for such an action.

9. As reserves shrink, Sri Lanka seeks $2.2 billion from China

  • Sri Lanka is seeking $2.2 billion from Chinese banks, the government said on Thursday, in echoes of a borrowing binge more than a decade ago that resulted in the country having to give up a strategic port to China. Money and Capital Markets Minister Nivard Cabraal said the government was hopeful of finalising a $1.5­ billion swap facility with China’s central bank.

  • Official figures show Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves plummeted to $4.8 billion at the end of January, the lowest since September 2009 when they fell to $4.2 billion. Officials said the country was also in talks with China Development Bank for a $700 ­million loan that would include the equivalent of $200 million being drawn in Chinese currency.

10. Armenian PM accuses military of coup attempt

  • Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan warned of an attempted military coup against him on Thursday, and thousands took to the streets of the capital to support him after the Army demanded he and his government resign. Mr. Pashinyan, 45, has faced calls to quit since November after what critics said was his disastrous handling of a conflict between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces over the Nagorno­-Karabakh enclave and surrounding areas. Armenia ceded swathes of the territory to Azerbaijan after Mr. Pashinyan signed a peace deal last November.

11. India cannot abandon us, says Sri Lanka

  • Seeking India’s “proactive” support at the UN Human Rights Council, where a resolution on Sri Lanka will be soon put to vote, the Secretary to Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, “India cannot abandon us”. “Sri Lanka is in dire need of support from our friendly neighbours. And we are not asking anything extraordinary, we are asking something based on your neighbourhood first policy, based on Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR).”

  • His appeal comes at a time when Indo­-Lanka bilateral ties have come under strain, following a series of decisions taken by Colombo on development projects involving India and China. It remains to be seen how India might vote on the Sri Lanka resolution that draws from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s damning report on Sri Lanka's “alarming path towards recurrence of grave human rights violations”, which Colombo has categorically rejected. On Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s recent visit to Colombo, he said it should not be seen as Sri Lanka attempting “to join a bloc” or country, against others. “It is a bilateral visit.”

12. Sri Lanka to allow burial of virus victims

  • Sri Lanka on Friday cleared the burial of COVID-­19 victims, reversing its nearly year ­long policy of mandatory cremations that the country’s Muslim community denounced. The change in the government’s position follows Pakistani PM Imran Khan’s recent visit, when he reportedly urged the Rajapaksa administration to respect Muslims’ burial rights.

  • In April, a month after the pandemic struck Sri Lanka, the government banned burials of victims, based on unsubstantiated claims that the practice might contaminate groundwater, further spreading the virus. Despite senior virologists terming the claim baseless, and the World Health Organization permitting both burials and cremation, the government stuck to its position.

  • Several members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) had raised the issue, both in Sri Lanka and at global fora, including the 46th session of the UNHRC. As many as 15 OIC countries are among the 47 current members of the Council, and will soon get to vote on a contested resolution on Sri Lanka.

13. Gunmen abduct 317 Nigerian schoolgirls

  • Gunmen abducted 317 girls from a boarding school in northern Nigeria on Friday, police said, the latest in a series of mass kidnappings of students in the West African nation. Nigeria has seen several such attacks and kidnappings over the years, notably the mass abduction in April 2014 by jihadist group Boko Haram of 276 girls from the secondary school in Chibok in Borno State. More than a hundred of the girls are still missing.

14. U.S. strikes on Iran-backed militias in Syria kill at least 22

  • The U.S. military has struck Iran Backed militias in eastern Syria, killing at least 22 fighters, according to a war monitor. In its first military action against Iran Linked groups since Joe Biden became President five weeks ago, the Pentagon said it had carried out air strikes on Thursday at a Syria-­Iraq border control point used by Iran-backed groups, destroying “multiple facilities”, in retaliation for a spate of rocket attacks targeting its troops in Iraq.

15. Bangladeshis protest death of writer in jail

  • Protesters blocked a busy intersection in Bangladesh’s capital to protest the death in prison of a writer and commentator, who was arrested on charges of violating a sweeping digital security law that critics say stifles freedom of expression.

  • Mushtaq Ahmed, 53, was arrested in Dhaka in May last year for making comments on social media that criticised Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. He had been denied bail at least six times. It was not immediately clear how Mr. Ahmed died on Thursday. Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said an investigation would follow.

16. MBS behind ‘capture or kill Khashoggi’ operation

  • Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, commonly known as MBS, approved of an operation to capture or kill dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi who was murdered in 2018, according to a declassified U.S. intelligence assessment released in a manner choreographed to limit damage to the U.S.-­Saudi ties.

  • Khashoggi, a U.S. resident who wrote columns for The Washington Post critical of the Crown Prince’s policies, was killed and dismembered by a team of operatives linked to the Crown Prince in the kingdom’s Consulate in Istanbul. Riyadh has denied any involvement by the Crown Prince, Saudi Arabia’s de-facto ruler.


Commentary : Bail as right

(i). In granting bail for six months to poet Varvara Rao in the Bhima Koregoan case on medical grounds, the Bombay High Court has affirmed the principle that even the stringent provisions of an anti­terrorism law are not invincible before a prisoner’s constitutional rights.

(ii). The court overruled the National Investigation Agency’s objection that bail should not be granted on medical grounds once an undertrial prisoner’s bail application was rejected on merits under UAPA, as long as access to treatment in a government hospital was available. The court looked at Mr. Rao’s plight from the perspective of his right to life under Article 21.

(iii). Bail is routinely denied in most cases under UAPA. It became a watertight embargo since the Supreme Court in 2019 gave a ruling that made it nearly impossible for anyone arrested under UAPA to be released on bail, unless the accused could demonstrate that the charges against them were prima facie untrue. However, a few recent judicial decisions have sought to carve out exceptions. The Supreme Court laid down recently that prolonged incarceration without any possibility of an early completion of trial could be a ground for granting bail.

Analysis : Inhibiting free speech

(i). Background

  • The Delhi Assembly summoned Facebook honcho Ajit Mohan to depose before its Peace and Harmony Committee, it unwittingly provoked a litigation that may have far-reaching implications on federalism, the separation of powers and fundamental rights in India.

(ii). What the principles says : Federalism vs Parliamentary privilege

  • Federalism imposes an insuperable challenge to the traditional broad reading of parliamentary privilege. The argument goes: Unlike the House of Commons, the powers of State Assemblies are more limited. If the State Assembly cannot pass a law on a subject, how can it claim a right to discuss it or call witnesses for it?

  • Legislatures also have a separate non­ judicial power of inquiry which has been judicially regarded as being inherent to the legislature, flowing perhaps from what Walter Bagehot would call the expressive and informative function of the House.

  • Second, the legislative lists frequently overlap and courts resolve any conflict by adopting a test of pith and substance of the law in question. Third, we live in the era of co­operative federalism. Fourth, there is the delicate issue of whether the courts can or ought to sit in judgment on the proceedings of State Assemblies determining what can or cannot be discussed based on the courts’ view of the topic. The experiences of Canada and Australia, both common law federal jurisdictions, are also instructive.


Daily snippets

1. Modi on government assets

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged foreign investors to tap in­vestment opportunities thrown up by the govern­ment’s decision to privatise most public sector entities and monetise ‘unutilised and underutilised assets’ such as airports that have an estimated investment poten­tial of ₹2.5 lakh crore. The government’s mantra is ‘Monetise or Modernise’, the PM said, stressing that the funds raised from the ex­ercise will help empower ci­tizens by building homes for the poor and ensuring clean water reaches all.

  • Mr. Modi said government officials in charge of PSUs are often scared of taking de­cisions and there is a ten­dency to maintain status quo. The private sector can not only bring capital but al­so introduce global best practices and quality manpower and modernise enterprises, the PM pointed out.

2. Private banks can handle government business

  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that the embar­go on private banks handling government business had been lifted, paving the way for such lenders to han­dle tax payments, pension payments and even small savings schemes. The government’s deci­sion has been conveyed to the Reserve Bank of India, the Finance Ministry said in a statement, as the central bank is entrusted with auth­orising private banks to un­dertake handling of govern­ment and its agencies’ business.

3. Cabinet approves PLI plan for pharma, IT hardware

  • The Union Cabinet approved the Pro­duction Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme for the phar­maceuticals and IT hardware sectors, entailing an outlay of ₹15,000 crore and ₹7,350 crore, respectively. The PLI scheme for phar­maceuticals, for nine years till 2028-­29, will benefit dom­estic manufacturers, help create employment and is expected to contribute to the availability of a wider range of affordable medicines for consumers, the government said. The scheme is expected to bring in investment of ₹15,000 crore in the pharma­ceutical sector.

  • The scheme also aims to create global champions from India that have the potential to grow in size and scale using cutting edge technology and thereby penetrate global value chains. The Cabinet also ap­proved the PLI Scheme for IT hardware such as laptops, tablets, all ­in ­one PCs and servers. The scheme, under which an incentive will be gi­ven on net incremental sales of goods manufactured in In­dia for four years, will bene­fit five ‘major global players’ and ten domestic ‘cham­pions’ in IT hardware, the government said.

4. Proposed 'Bad Banks' move will not hit existing Asset reconstruction companies (ARC)

  • The ‘bad bank’ proposed in the Union Budget will not je­opardise the activity of ex­isting asset reconstruction companies (ARCs) , said Reserve Bank of India Gover­nor Shaktikanta Das. Advocating a durable push for Indian exports through free trade pacts with ‘strategically impor­tant economies,’ Mr. Das warned that the recovery in global trade was uneven and sought urgent attention from global policymakers to rein in disruptions in global supply chains caused by a steep surge in shipping costs and delivery times.

  • “It’s not really a bad bank (but) an ARC ­type entity that will be set up to take ov­er the stressed assets from the books of public sector banks (PSBs) and try to resolve them like any other ARC. So that is targeting a specific set of bad assets which certain groups of PSBs hold. In no way will it jeopardise the activity of existing ARCs.” ­On free trade pacts, he said, “Key considerations should be to identify coun­tries and regions that not only have the potential as a market for domestic goods and services but also have the scope to enhance dom­estic competitiveness.”

5. Current inflation target band apt for next five years, says RBI report

  • With the next review of the flexible ­inflation targeting (FIT) framework coming up soon, the Reserve Bank of India, in the Report on Cur­rency and Finance for FY21, said the current inflation target of 4% with a +/­2% tole­rance band is appropriate for the next five years.

  • The report said the trend in­flation had fallen from above 9% before FIT to a range of 3.8­4.3 % during FIT, indicat­ing that 4% is the appro­priate level of the inflation target. The report said an infla­tion rate of 6% is the appro­priate upper tolerance limit for the target. A lower bound above 2% can lead to actual inflation frequently dipping below the tolerance band while a lower bound below 2% will hamper growth, indicating that an inflation rate of 2 % is the appropriate lower tole­rance bound.

6. India 'out of recession', GDP grows 0.4%

  • India’s economy resurfaced to growth territory in the third quarter of fiscal year (FY) 2020­21, clocking a 0.4% rise in the gross domestic product (GDP), as per data from the National Statistical Office (NSO). GDP had shrunk in the first two quarters by 24.4% and 7.3% as per revised data, amid the COVID­-19 pandem­ic and lockdowns, marking a technical recession.

  • The Finance Ministry termed the 0.4% real GDP growth in Q3 as a return to ‘the pre ­pandemic times of positive growth rates’ and a reflection of a ‘further strengthening of V ­shaped recovery that began in Q2’. India’s farm sector re­mained resilient, clocking a 3.9% growth in Gross Value Added (GVA) to the economy in the October-­to-­December quarter, after recording a 3.3% and 3% rise in the first two quarters, respectively. In Q3, manufacturing, construction and financial, real estate and professional services staged a return to growth for the first time in the year after two bad quar­ters.

  • The Finance Ministry said the resurgence in manufac­turing and construction au­gured well for them to drive growth in FY22 and added that services, which account for more than 50% of India’s GVA and the biggest source for pushing consumption, had done remarkably better in Q3.

  • What is Gross Value Added? In economics, gross value added is the measure of the value of goods and services produced in an area, industry or sector of an economy.

7. Coffee output may drop

  • Untimely rains and hail­ stones that lashed planta­tions in the last six days causing large scale berry dropping is expected to im­pact arabica and robusta coffee production by 30% for the 2020­21 crop year, as per estimates by planters. According to Coffee Board’s post monsoon esti­mates, during the crop year 2020-­21, India was expect­ing an arabica production of 1.02 lakh metric tonnes (MT) and robusta production of 2.4 lakh MT.

8. India's import guidelines review with China

  • The government has placed curbs on the procurement of finished goods from China by firms supplying goods and services under the pu­blic procurement system, while allowing the use of Chinese raw material or components without prior permission. “A bidder is permitted to procure raw material, com­ponents, sub­assemblies, etc. from the vendors from such countries which shares a land border,” the Depart­ment of Expenditure in the Finance Ministry has said in a memo, arguing that such procurement cannot be eq­uated with sub­contracting.

  • Vendors proposing to source finished goods from Chinese suppliers will need to seek registration with the committee. The development as­sumes significance at a time the government is consider­ing rebooting approvals for China­-related investment proposals following the dis­engagement at the Indo-Chi­nese border after an extend­ed period of tension.


Daily snippets

1. Motera stadium named after PM Modi

  • The world’s largest cricket arena at Motera in Ahmeda­bad, the Sardar Patel Cricket Stadium, was renamed Na­rendra Modi Stadium and was inaugurated on Wednes­day by President Ram Nath Kovind. The rebuilt stadium is part of the proposed Sardar Val­labhbhai Patel Sports En­clave to be spread over 220 acres on the Sabarmati river bank in the North East of Ah­medabad.It will comprise a natatorium, athletics track, football, hockey and tennis stadia, velodrome/skating area among other facilities.

  • The refurbished venue is spread over 63 acres and has a seating capacity of 1.1 lakh, more than double the pre­vious number of 49,000. The ground has been equipped with LED floodlights, a first for any Indian sports site.

2. Ankita Raina : The new Indian on the bloc

  • Last week, Ankita Raina became India’s first WTA champion since Sania Mirza, when she won the doubles title at Phillip Island Trophy in Melbourne. She became the third Indian woman after Sania Mirza and Shikha Uberoi to enter the top­100 in doubles while representing India.

3. PM Modi inaugurates Khelo India Winter Games

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the second edition of the Khelo India Winter Games and said hosting such events will make J&K a sports hub. He said the second edi­tion of the Winter Games at Gulmarg will prepare sport­smen for bigger internation­al platforms like the Olym­pics. Modi said the players par­ticipating in the event epito­mises the ‘one India, one na­tion’ spirit. Around 1200 athletes and guests from across the country will participate in multiple events, including snowshoe race, ice skating, ice hockey, skiing, Nordic ski, snowboarding, ski mountaineering, ice stock, etc.

4. Bronze for Indian men's skeet team

  • Angad Vir Singh Bajwa, Mairaj Ahmad Khan and Gurjoat Khangura narrowly missed a chance to fight for the gold, but clinched the skeet team bronze in the Shotgun World Cup being held in Cairo. The Indian team shot 146 out of 150 to reach a total of 491 and tied with Russia, while Czech Republic topped with 498. India beat Kazakhstan 6­2 to win the bronze.

  • The Indian women’s team of Parinaaz Dhaliwal, Ganemat Sekhon and Kart­tiki Singh Shaktawat lost the battle for bronze 4­6 to Kazakhstan, while Russia beat Czech Republic 6­2 for the gold.


1. New social media rules

2. The absurdity of the anti-defection law

3. GOI limitations on International Webinars

4. Making Indian Judiciary more economically responsible

5. Federalism and India's human capital

6. Explainer : Australian government vs Facebook

7. Who is Nodeep Kaur and why she was arrested

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


February 23rd-24th, 2021

Your 10 minute read!



Daily snippets

1. Give Rs1 lakh each to two custodial torture victims’

  • The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has recommended that the Ministry of Home Affairs pay Rs1 lakh each to two victims of custodial torture at Delhi’s Adarsh Nagar police station in a 2019 case.

  • The commission was convinced that from the material on record, prima facie it is established that the complainant and his nephew were given third degree torture. They were assaulted by the police personnel, as named in the FIR, and are now facing trial before the court,...the commission held that since the police officers failed to act as responsible public servants, therefore, departmental proceedings against them should also be initiated, and they should be punished accordingly. The State is vicariously liable for the action of public servants/police officers and hence the victims are entitled for compensation.”

2. Schools told to sensitise students on cyber bullying

  • The Delhi government has issued a circular to all the heads of schools to educate students and their parents about the safe use of Internet and sensitise them about cyberbullying and online threats as they continue to attend classes online due to the pandemic.

  • The Directorate of Education (DoE) said a study has been conducted by India Child Protection Fund (ICPF) regarding online exploitation of children and increase in activities related to child sexual abuse material, which indicates a sharp rise in demand for online child pornography during the lockdown.

3. Delhi court grants bail to Disha

  • Terming the ‘toolkit’ shared by climate change activist Disha Ravi as “innocuous”, a Delhi court granted her bail. Additional sessions judge Dharmender Rana said, “The perusal of the said ‘toolkit’ reveals that any call for any kind of violence is conspicuously absent.

  • Dealing with the interpretation of the word ‘sedition’, a charge slapped by the Delhi Police on the 22-year old activist, the judge said, “Law proscribes only such activities as would be intended, or have a tendency, to create disorder or disturbance of public peace by resort to violence”.


Daily snippets

1. Xi may visit India for BRICS summit

  • China’s President Xi Jinping may visit India in the second half of this year to attend the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) leaders’ meeting, if a physical summit is held as is increasingly expected. The visit will come in the aftermath of the most serious border crisis between the neighbours in decades. China on Monday expressed its “support” for India hosting this year’s meeting, and said the meeting would not be impacted by the border crisis.

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to make his first overseas trip after the pandemic to Bangladesh in March and is also likely to attend the India-­E.U. meet in Portugal in May and the G7 summit in the U.K., where India has been invited as a guest country, the following month.

  • In 2017, Prime Minister Modi visited China to attend the BRICS summit five days after Indian and Chinese troops ended a 72­-day stand­off on the Doklam plateau. The timing of the summit, officials in India and China said at the time, pushed both sides to arrive at a deal. While disengagement is under way along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, having been completed last week at Pangong Lake and now in progress in other areas, de-escalation is yet to take place, with thousands of troops on both sides still present in depth areas beyond the LAC and yet to return to their peacetime positions.

2. ‘₹70,221 cr. reserved for domestic buying’

  • About ₹70,000 crore of the capital allocation of ₹1.35 lakh crore in the defence budget would be reserved for domestic procurements and a second negative list of items that could be procured only locally by the Services would be issued, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said.

  • In the budgetary allocation for 2021­-22, the capital allocation for defence saw an increase of ₹21,326 crore or 18.75% compared to Budget Estimates (BE) of last year. Last year, for the first time, the government introduced a separate allocation for domestic procurement within the defence budget and reserved ₹52,000 crore for 2020­-21. Mr. Singh announced that to support start-ups, the Ministry planned to channelise about ₹1000 crore during 2021-­22 for procurement from start­-ups under the Innovation for Defence Excellence (iDEX) initiative.

3. Ministry disowns ‘cow science’ examination

  • With the Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog (RKA) having cancelled its “indigenous cow science” examination after widespread criticism about its promotion of fake claims and pseudoscience, the Animal Husbandry Department said the two year old body had “no mandate” to conduct such an examination. Any future awareness programme would be conducted “on a scientific basis”, said a senior official overseeing the RKA.

  • Under the leadership of Vallabhbhai Kathiria, the body’s Chairman, the RKA had announced a national “Kamdhenu Gau Vigyan Prachar Prasar Exam'' to be held on February 25. Reference materials for the exam made a number of unscientific claims, including that the dung of indigenous cows protected against radioactivity, their milk had traces of gold, and that cow slaughter caused earthquakes. The RKA had the backing of the University Grants Commission (UGC), which publicised the examination, causing widespread outrage.

4. Indradhanush 3.0 to fill gap in immunisation due to COVID

  • The States and Union Territories (UTs) have rolled out the Intensified Mission Indradhanush (IMI) 3.0 scheme to cover children and pregnant women who missed routine immunisation during the COVID­-19 pandemic, the Health Ministry said. More than 29,000 children and 5,000 pregnant women were covered on the first day, it added. The campaign is scheduled to have two rounds of immunisation lasting 15 days (excluding routine immunisation and holidays). It is being conducted in 250 pre-identified districts/urban areas across 29 States/UTs.

5. Animal Husbandry

  • The center announced the Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund (AHIDF) last year. As an allied industry of agriculture, the animal husbandry and dairy sector collectively employs more than 100 million people. Since the bulk of establishments in this sec­tor is concentrated in rural India, the socio-­economic relevance of this sector cannot be overstated.

  • The AHIDF has been set up with an outlay of ₹15,000 crore. As per the provisions of AHIDF, a project will be eligible for a loan amount that covers up to 90% of the estimated cost – with an interest subvention of 3% for all eligible entities. This is the first major fund launched by the government that includes a diverse set of stakeholders such as FPOs, private dairy players, individual en­trepreneurs, and non-­profits within its ambit.

  • There is also considerable poten­tial to increase the productivity of cattle, especially by enhancing the quality of animal feed. With this in mind, the AHIDF has been designed to support the establishment of animal feed plants of varying capacities. The Mi­nistry in collaboration with Invest In­dia has invited ideas from domestic start-ups for the development of new varieties of green fodder and en­riched animal feed. In a similar vein, there are not only economic but nutritional benefits to boosting the poultry segment’s out­put, efficiency and quality. India is the fourth largest chicken meat pro­ducer and the second largest egg pro­ducer in the world.

  • Macro benefits regarding climate change and employment are linked to this sector. Enhanced in­frastructure can make processing units more energy ­efficient and help mi­tigate their carbon footprint.

6. Railways stung by IT breaches

  • Following instances of cyber attacks during the ongoing pandemic across its net­work, the Ministry of Railways has roped in the Centre for Development of Ad­vanced Computing (C­DAC) to educate its officials on In­ternet ethics, cyber hygiene and best practices in the use of IT equipment, including mobile phones. This is a part of its National Cyber Security Strategy. The Railway Board said a number of inci­dents had come to notice re­garding breaches in various IT applications as electronic working has further pro­liferated. A majority of them were applications related. Incidents occurred due to “improper handling of the IT assets by the personnel''.

7. Mizoram group seeks asylum for coup-hit Myanmar villagers

  • Mizoram’s apex students’ body has asked the State go­vernment to provide asylum to some villagers in Myan­mar affected by the military coup there. The State’s Mizo National Front (MNF) government, headed by Chief Minister Zo­ramthanga, said asylum would be considered if there was a formal request cleared by the Centre.

  • People belonging to Myanmar’s Chin community were seeking to migrate to Mizoram to escape a mili­tary crackdown, primarily because of the Chin National Army (CNA), an extremist group seeking self­ determi­nation in Chin State across the border. The Chin community and the Mizos in India belong to the Zo ethnic group, which share the same ancestry. Claiming that the Chins have been affected by the ci­vil unrest in Myanmar, the Mizo Students’ Union ap­pealed to the State govern­ment to play a proactive role and accept those affected as refugees.

8. Terrorism is a crime against humanity

  • Terrorism is a “crime against humanity”, said External Af­fairs Minister S. Jaishankar on. Addressing the High Level Segment of the 46th Session of Human Rights Council (HRC), he said India’s commitment to human rights is seen in the way the government has handled the pandemic. Mr. Jaishankar said human rights agenda in the world is facing a major challenge from terrorism and ex­pressed India’s desire to work with other members of the HRC. He highlighted the special importance of the rights that are enshrined in the Consti­tution as the Fundamental Rights.

  • The Minister’s comments came days after India react­ed angrily to observations by the Special Rapporteurs on Minority Issues and Free­dom of Religion or Belief on apparent erosion of rights in Kashmir and the rest of In­dia. The Ministry had termed the observations as “deplorable”.

  • Mr. Jaishankar reached out to the HRC: “Our ap­proach to the UN Human Rights Council is guided by our spirit of engagement, dialogue and consultation. We believe that equal em­phasis should be placed on both promotion and protection of human rights. Both are best pursued through dialogue, consultation and cooperation among States as well as technical assistance and capacity building.” He said the go­vernment provided “direct food support to 800 million Indians and financial support to 400 million” to coun­ter the impact of the pan­demic.

9. Government will ensure healthcare for all : Prime Minister

  • Stating that the budget allo­cation for the health sector this financial year has been unprecedented, Prime Mi­nister Narendra Modi said this indicated his government’s commit­ment to providing health­care to every citizen. The Prime Minister said this was the inspiration behind the PM AtmaNirbhar Swasth Bharat scheme.

  • The government is work­ing with a four ­pronged stra­tegy for a healthy India. The first is prevention of illness and promotion of wellness, including measures such as Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, yo­ga, timely care and treat­ment of pregnant women and children. The second is to provide cheap and effec­tive treatment to the poorest of the poor. The third is to increase the quality of health infrastructure and health­ care professionals, while the fourth is to work on a mis­sion mode to overcome ob­stacles,” he said.


Daily snippets

1. Iran, IAEA reach deal on inspections

  • The UN nuclear watchdog chief announced a “temporary solution” to allow Iranian facility inspections to continue after days of talks with officials, giving some much needed breathing space for diplomatic negotiations. However, IAEA Director General, Rafael Grossi, admitted that under the new three month arrangement, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would not have the same level of access after a law comes into force limiting some inspections.

  • Mr. Grossi’s visit to Iran came amid stepped up efforts between the U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration, European powers and Tehran to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal that has been on the brink of collapse since the former U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from it and went on to impose sanctions on the nation. In December, Iran’s conservative-­dominated Parliament passed the law demanding a suspension of some inspections if the U.S. failed to lift sanctions by this Sunday.

  • However, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that the Islamic republic could boost uranium enrichment to 60% if needed, vowing to “not back down on the nuclear issue”. That would be far above the 3.67% limit Iran had accepted under the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, but still short of the around 90% required to make an atomic bomb.

2. Pandemic used as ‘pretext’ to crush dissent: UN chief

  • The UN on Monday slammed countries that are using the pandemic to justify cracking down on dissent and suppressing criticism. Speaking at the opening of the UN Human Rights Council’s main annual session, Secretary­-General Antonio Guterres charged that authorities in a number of nations were using restrictions meant to halt the spread of COVID­-19 to weaken opposition.

  • In addition to inequalities within countries, the UN chief slammed inequalities between nations when it comes to accessing the COVID-­19 vaccines coming to market as a “moral outrage”. A full 75% of all vaccine doses have been administered in just 10 countries, he pointed out, while more than 130 countries have yet to receive a single dose.

3. Maldives Parliament debates defence deal with India

  • A day after Male and New Delhi signed an agreement to jointly develop the Maldives National Defence Force Coast Guard Harbour, Maldives’s Parliament, ‘the People’s Majlis’, took up an emergency motion, demanding greater transparency on the bilateral pact.

  • Concerns over “Indian military presence” were flagged in 2018 too, when the Yameen government asked India to take back two helicopters it had gifted, with a crew and support staff, causing a major strain in bilateral ties. Following the September 2018 defeat of the Yameen administration, which was known for its China tilt, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s government has been pursuing an “India first” policy.

  • However, not all in the ruling coalition agree with the government’s current foreign policy. During Monday’s debate in Parliament, government MP Ali Hussain said Male should avoid seeking assistance on military matters from any big power. “Whether it is India, China or the U.S., their agreements here are bound to have conflicting interests. We should not end up in a situation where we have to choose one partner over another, we should not become part of a proxy [geopolitical] war”. Last year, New Delhi welcomed the Maldives’s decision to sign a military agreement with the U.S.

4. Facebook to end Australia news blackout

  • Facebook said it would lift a contentious ban on Australian news and pay local media companies for content, after a last­gasp deal on pending landmark legislation. Australia’s Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced a face saving compromise that will see Google and Facebook plunge tens of millions of dollars into the struggling local news sector. In return the U.S. digital firms will, for now, avoid being subjected to mandatory payments that could cost them vastly more and create what they see as an alarming global precedent.

  • The social media firm sparked global outrage last week by blacking out news for its Australian users in protest against the proposed legislation, and inadvertently blocking a series of non-news Facebook pages linked to everything from cancer charities to emergency response services.

  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison angrily accused Facebook of making a decision to “unfriend” Australia. Google has already brokered deals worth millions of dollars with local media companies, including the two largest: Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and Nine Entertainment.

5. Imran pitches economic corridor to Sri Lanka

  • Pitching the China­-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as a connectivity booster, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, said Pakistan would find “ways and means to enhance trade and connectivity” with Sri Lanka. Mr. Khan is the first head of government to visit Sri Lanka since the pandemic struck the world. He held a one on one bilateral meeting with counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa, and is scheduled to meet President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Wednesday.

  • Members of Sri Lanka’s minority Muslim community held a demonstration on Tuesday, urging the government to reverse its mandatory cremations policy for COVID­-19 victims. The Sri Lankan government, which had earlier said Mr. Khan would address Parliament, cancelled the programme closer to his arrival, citing “scheduling issues” and safety concerns linked to the pandemic.

6. Biden, Trudeau to lay out road map to rebuild ties

  • U.S President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will lay out a “road map” for rebuilding U.S.­-Canada relations during their first bilateral meeting, a senior official said, although the scrapped Keystone pipeline could present a hurdle. Mr. Biden and Mr. Trudeau will address several mutual priorities, including tackling climate change, revving up the North American economy, the Arctic, and threats to democracy in Myanmar and Venezuela.

7. Afghanistan warring sides return to table

  • With violence spiking, Afghanistan’s warring sides have returned to the negotiation table, ending more than a month of delays amid hopes that the two sides can agree on a reduction of violence – and eventually, an outright ceasefire. Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem tweeted that talks had resumed in Qatar, where the insurgent movement maintains a political office.

  • When talks ended abruptly in January, just days after beginning, both sides submitted their wish lists for agendas. The task now is for the two sides to sift through the respective wish lists, agree on items to negotiate and the order in which they will be tackled.

  • The priority for the Afghan government, Washington and NATO is a serious reduction in violence leading to a ceasefire. The Taliban has said it is negotiable, but until now has resisted any immediate ceasefire. Washington is reviewing the February 2020 peace deal the previous Trump administration signed with the Taliban that calls for the final withdrawal of international forces by May 1. The Taliban has resisted suggestions of even a brief extension, but a consensus is mounting in Washington for a delay in the withdrawal deadline. There is even a suggestion of a smaller intelligence based force staying behind.

8. Hong Kong to disqualify officials, politicians ‘disloyal’ to China

  • Hong Kong announced plans to ramp up the ideological vetting of politicians and officials, with anyone seen to be disloyal to China or a national security threat barred from office. The draft law will be sent next month to the city’s legislature, a body now devoid of opposition after a number of figures were disqualified because their political views were deemed a security threat.

  • Officials have detailed a “negative list” of offences that could see their colleagues removed from office, including acts that endanger national security, advocating for independence or refusing to accept China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong.


Commentary : Dealing with the bigger neighbour, China

(i). Background

  • Since 1993, India and China had reached a number of agreements to maintain peace and tranquillity and promote confidence building measures (CBMs) in the border areas.

(ii). Key features of the agreements

  • The boundary question would be resolved peacefully; neither side would use or threaten to use force against the other “by any means”.

  • That the two sides would respect and observe the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

  • That they would jointly check and determine the segments of the LAC where they had different views as to its alignment and further, speed up clarification and confirmation of the LAC since a common understanding of the Line was necessary.

  • That military forces (including field army, border defence forces, paramilitary forces) and major categories of armaments in mutually agreed geographical zones along the LAC would be kept to a minimum level compatible with friendly and good neighbourly relations and the “requirements of mutual and equal security.”

  • Military exercises would be undertaken only at specified levels with prior notification being given for such exercises near the LAC; prior notice would be given regarding flights of combat aircraft within 10 kilometres from the LAC.

  • If border personnel of the two sides came face-­to-­face due to differences in alignment of the LAC they would exercise self­-restraint and avoid an escalation of the situation; channels of communication and border personnel meetings in case of contingencies were stipulated.

(iii). Where our experience with China on CBMs and tension reduction along the border differs from the experience of Russia

  • First, the five Agreements we signed between 1993 and 2013 were not nurtured in an environment of a steady enhancement of mutual trust and political commitment for building a strong infrastructure of bilateral relations between India and China that promoted both bilateral and regional understanding and cooperative endeavour.

  • Second, unlike in the Russia-­China case, no final boundary settlement accompanied these CBMs to sustain and strengthen their operation. Even a joint clarification of the LAC remained unattainable.

  • Third, China as the bigger power, unlike the Soviet Union under Gorbachev in its dealings with Beijing, has never signalled willingness to make asymmetric or unilateral concessions to India or act in a manner, especially in our neighbourhood, that enhances India’s trust or confidence.

Commentary : Tibetology

(i). Background

  • A media report on January 28 said that officers would study “Tibetan history, culture, and language on both sides of the Line of Actual Control” in order to “counter Chinese influence and propaganda”. Indeed, India­-China relations cannot be approached through a strictly bilateral prism that excludes Tibet and the Himalaya.

(ii). Tibetian span

  • According to the Proceedings of the Tenth Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies (2003), the region includes not just **U­Tsang **(present day Tibet Autonomous Region), Amdo, and Kham, but large areas in the Himalaya, including parts of Nepal and Bhutan, Sikkim, Ladakh, and Tawang.

(iii). Tibet & British India

  • Colonial Britain recognised the importance of Sikkim and Bhutan in securing its interests in Tibet, and its Political Officer in Sikkim cultivated close relations with aristocratic families in the region. Simultaneously, from Warren Hastings in the 1770s to Francis Younghusband in 1903­-04, an army of cartographers, mountaineers, missionaries, linguists, and botanists worked to produce definitive knowledge about Tibet for British India.

(iv). Tibet’s importance in Independent India

  • Independent India recognised the economic and cultural ties that traversed the Himalayas and the role of Buddhism as the connecting tissue. Dedicated to Tibetan and Buddhist studies, the Central Institute for Buddhist Studies and the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies were established in Leh and Sarnath, Varanasi, respectively, as was the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology in the erstwhile kingdom of Sikkim.

  • By understanding Tibet as a buffer zone in India­-China relations, the former often leads to an ahistorical narrative of India and Tibet as “natural allies”, eschewing the history of complex political engagements between successive administrations in Lhasa and India over issues ranging from frontiers to customary rights of grazing and trade. It does not account for the centrality of Tibet in India’s relationship with Bhutan and Sikkim (before 1975).

(v). Defining Tibetology

  • In defining Tibetology so narrowly, we miss an opportunity to understand contemporary India. The postcolonial Indian state was not forged in the centres of Delhi and Calcutta alone. Nor were its mountains and plains integrated into a single nation state uniformly. The Himalaya is home to interconnected yet diverse ecologies, societies, and polities that criss­cross many contemporary borders. India hosts the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, the Central Tibetan Administration, Tibetan refugee settlements and a plethora of Tibetan institutes.

Commentary : Sedition lies in the effect, not in the content

(i). Background

  • Recent charges of sedition against individuals have brought back focus to a law introduced in the Indian Penal Code in 1870. In Kedar Nath Singh v. State of Bihar (1962), the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of sedition and noted it as being a reasonable restriction on free speech as provided in Article 19(2) of the Constitution. Following the Kedar Nath case, the Bombay High Court, in the case of cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, issued guidelines which the police must follow prior to invoking the provisions of sedition.

(ii). How the law stands

  • Courts have on numerous occasions cautioned law enforcement agencies not to misuse the provisions on sedition, and follow court directions, regrettably, they are grossly ignored. The problem therefore lies in the poor implementation of the law and guidelines. This is evident from recent reports, based on data from the National Crime Records Bureau on cases of sedition. Notably, many charged were individuals protesting government action, which the Constitution Bench in KedarNath held falls outside the ambit of sedition.

  • This data and the gross misuse of the legal provisions compel one to state that even though a Constitution Bench upheld the vires of the law of sedition, the circumstances now require a complete relook at the provision.

(iii). Need to relook

  • The U.K. repealed the offence of sedition in 2010 and India is holding onto a relic of the British Empire. It also sought consideration on whether keeping Section 124A would serve any purpose and whether reducing the rigour of the law of sedition would be detrimental or beneficial to the nation.

  • Courts must adopt what Western countries follow: an effect based test which examines the effects of the seditious text rather than a content-based test which reviews the text alone.

  • To conclude, the only ‘toolkit’ we all really need is our Constitution and the principles it enshrines to protect citizen freedoms, life and liberty. It is not the alleged seditious acts that are creating fragments in our society; it is in fact the persecution of individuals and labelling them that are really creating cracks in our socio-politico ecosystem.


Daily snippets

1. India Ratings raises banking sector outlook to stable

  • India Ratings and Research revised its out­look on the overall banking sector to ‘stable’ for FY22 from ‘negative’ even as it saw higher stress emerging in the retail loan segment. It estimated that overall stressed assets (gross non­ performing assets + restruc­tured assets) could rise 30% for the banking system; the increase is almost 1.7 times in the retail segment in the second half of FY22.

  • The agency also revised credit growth estimates to 6.9% for FY21 from the ear­lier 1.8%, and forecast 8.9% for FY22. It said that a lot of the retail stress was com­ing from unsecured advanc­es and that it would be seen more in private banks be­cause of their higher expo­sure to unsecured loans. The agency also expected deposit rates to rise as credit growth revives and capital market flows are enhanced.

2. Growth momentum needs to be strengthened

  • The growth momentum needs to be strengthened for a sustained revival of the economy and a quick return to the pre­-COVID trajectory, RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das said. “Growth, although uneven, is recovering and gathering momentum, and the outlook has improved significantly with the roll­out of the vaccine programme in the country. The growth momen­tum, however, needs to strengthen further for a sus­tained revival of the econo­my and for a quick return of the level of output to the pre-­COVID trajectory,” he added.

  • Given the sharp modera­tion in inflation along with a stable near-term outlook, he said, the monetary policy needed to continue with the accommodative stance to ensure that the recovery gained greater traction and became broad-based. Deputy Governor Mi­chael Patra said overall, the near-term outlook for infla­tion appeared less risky than the near-term challeng­es for growth which warrant continuing policy support.

  • What is monetary policy? It is the macroeconomic policy laid down by the central bank. It involves management of money supply and interest rate and is the demand side economic policy used by the government of a country to achieve macroeconomic objectives like inflation, consumption, growth and liquidity.

3. Government to review anti-dumping duty on Chinese products

  • The Commerce Ministry’s investigation arm DGTR has initiated a probe to review the need for continuing im­position of anti­dumping du­ty on certain types of steel products – seamless tubes, pipes and hollow profiles of iron, alloy or non­ alloy steel imported from China, following complaints from domestic industry, ac­cording to a notification.

  • The complaint al­leges that dumping of these products from China have continued even after imposi­tion of anti­dumping duty, and there has been a significant increase in the volume of imports. DGTR would review the need for continued imposi­tion of the duties in force and examine whether the expiry of existing duties is likely to lead to continuation or recurrence of dumping and impact the domestic industry.

4. Pharma exports to Arab countries

  • India has urged Arab coun­tries to make it easier to ex­port pharmaceutical pro­ducts to the region and asked them to tap Indian farms to secure food sup­plies, as it seeks to diversify the $160 billion trade basket with the Arab bloc beyond hydrocarbons. India­-Arab trade ac­counts for 20% of India’s ov­erall trade, but is still con­centrated in hydrocarbons.


Daily snippets

1. National TT championship

  • G. Sathiyan’s wait to lay his hands on the winner’s tro­phy of the National table ten­nis championship has finally ended. Playing his fourth final in seven years, Sathiyan ended the jinx by beating nine time winner Sharath Kamal 11­-6, 11-­7, 10-­12, 7-­11, 11-­8, 11-­8 in un­der 50 minutes. Sathiyan received ₹2.50 lakh and a trophy while Sha­rath collected ₹1.65 lakh and the runner-up trophy.


1. Statutory Provisions of arrest and remand

2. Dissent is not sedition

3. Appointment of the Chief Justice of India

4. Suspecting the disquiet in democracy

5. Excise duty-fiscal policy contradiction

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


February 21st-22nd, 2021

Your 10 minute read!



Daily snippets

1. Centre may rethink order on international seminars

  • The government would relook at the controversial order issued by the Ministry of Education in January that many scientists said curbs free scientific discussion at international fora, K. Vijay-Raghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India, said.

  • On January 15, the Ministry updated the guidelines governing online conferences, seminars and training programmes that required, among others, scientists at the highest grades of seniority to get a clearance from the Ministry of External Affairs.

2. ‘Right to peaceful protest is a non­negotiable human right’

  • Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg has extended her support to Disha Ravi, the 22year old environmental activist who has been charged with sedition for allegedly editing an advocacy toolkit on the farmers’ protest, and sharing it with Ms. Thunberg. “Freedom of speech and the right to peaceful protest and assembly are non-­negotiable human rights. These must be a fundamental part of any democracy”.

  • The Poetic Justice Foundation (PJF), a Canada-based non profit, has been at the centre of a roving investigation launched by Delhi Police regarding a social media campaign around the ongoing farmers agitation.

3. Child abuse is unpardonable, says HC

  • An offence involving abuse of a child victim is unpardonable, the Delhi High Court remarked while refusing to lower the sentence awarded to a teacher, who was convicted for sodomising a 7-year old boy. Justice Subramaniam Prasad said releasing such convicts “by reducing the sentence will send a wrong signal to the society and will be against the purpose for which the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences ) Act was enacted”.


Daily snippets

1. Promote Indian languages: Venkaiah

  • Ahead of International Mother Language Day, Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu wrote to all members of the Upper House urging them to promote and preserve Indian languages. He lamented that regional languages were being given short shrift. Writing to each member in his or her own language, Mr. Naidu said India was home to 19,500 languages and dialects, of which 200 were facing the threat of immediate extinction.

2. India and Maldives sign defence pact

  • India and the Maldives signed a defence Line of Credit agreement worth $50 million during the ongoing visit by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar. Both sides agreed to maintain peace and security in the Indian Ocean Region.

  • The defence Line of Credit will facilitate capability building in the maritime domain”, Mr. Jaishankar said in a social media message. The two sides agreed to strengthen coordination in enhancing regional maritime security. Indicating deepening security cooperation, an agreement to develop, support and maintain a Maldives National Defence Force Coast Guard Harbour at Sifvaru was also signed.

3. PM urges states to ease path for businesses

  • States should work towards reducing compliance bur­den for citizens to ensure ease of living and to promote ease of doing business, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said speak­ing at the sixth meeting of the NITI Aayog Governing Council, stressing the importance of a better coordination between the Centre and the States for the development of the country.

  • Twenty ­six Chief Minis­ters, three Lieutenant ­Go­vernors and two administra­tors attended the meeting, besides Union Ministers, special invitees and NITI Aayog officials. Most of the Chief Ministers emphasised on developmen­tal agenda and timely com­pletion of infrastructure projects.

  • NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant added that agriculture issues which were discussed included aligning the cropping system to agro climatic con­ditions at district level for optimal resource utilisation, and promoting water con­servation. Mr. Modi asked the States to take advantage of Central schemes such as the production ­linked incentive scheme to attract invest­ments. He pointed out that States had a 40% share in the National Infrastructure Pipeline and therefore, it was imperative that the States and the Centre syner­gise their budgets, make plans, and set priorities.

4. Punjab seeks center's help to ramp up health infrastructure

  • In his speech at the NITI Aayog meeting, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh also urged the Central government to provide immediate financial assistance of at least ₹300 crore to upgrade health infrastructure, equipment and other healthcare needs (medicines and consumables etc.) in view of the pandemic. The Chief Minister also requested the Central government to release the pending amount of GST compensa­tion to the State and sought extension in the pe­riod of GST compensation beyond the current 5 years for States like Pun­jab.

  • He reiterated his govern­ment’s stand that agriculture is a State subject and law-making on it should be left to the States in the true spirit of “cooperative federalism” en­shrined in the Constitution.

  • Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal sought the Central government’s intervention in resolving the long pending issue of the Sutlej ­Yamuna Link (SYL) and the Hansi-­Butana Link Canals so that the State could get its legitimate share of river water.


Daily snippets

1. India backs the Maldives on UN role

  • India reiterated its support for a greater role for the Maldives in multilateral affairs. Speaking at a joint media event in the Maldives’ capital Male, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said Maldives’ Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid is “best equipped” to be the President of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly.

  • I reiterate today India’s strong support to the candidature of Foreign Minister Abdullah Shahid for the President of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly next year. Foreign Minister Shahid with his vast diplomatic experience and his leadership qualities is in our view the best equipped to preside over the General Assembly of 193 nations of the world. We will work together to make this a reality. We would really like to work with you during our membership of the UN Security Council for 2021­-22,” said Dr. Jaishankar in his remarks.

2. With media blitz, China crafts new narrative on border crisis

  • Chinese state media outlets highlighted the announcement of honours for five soldiers, four awarded posthumously. The names and images of the five were being shared widely on Chinese social media, along with their personal stories, all leading to an outpouring of sentiment.

  • The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) said the announcement, made eight months after the clash in which 20 Indian soldiers lost their lives, was aimed at honouring the soldiers and “setting the record straight”, after it accused India of “distorting the truth” and “slandering the Chinese border troops”.

  • The broader aim of the narrative appeared aimed at underlining the message that the Communist Party had defended China and to portray India as the aggressor – a message that was repeated in the official media. This is a narrative that turns on its head the genesis of last year’s border crisis, which began with a mass mobilisation of PLA troops along the border following a military exercise that caught India by surprise, and multiple transgressions across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) that led India to lose access to territory and multiple patrolling points, an unusual outcome for any supposed aggressor.

3. China’s Coast Guard law raises concern

  • The U.S. has voiced concern over China’s recently enacted Coast Guard law, which it said may escalate the ongoing disputes in the region and can be invoked to assert unlawful claims. China passed a law last month which explicitly allows its Coast Guard to fire on foreign vessels. “The U.S. joins the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Japan and other countries in expressing concern with China’s Coast Guard law, which may escalate the territorial and maritime disputes,” State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said.

4. Moscow court upholds prison term for Navalny

  • A Moscow court upheld a ruling to jail the Kremlin’s most prominent opponent, Alexei Navalny, sealing his first lengthy prison sentence after a decade of legal battles with Russian authorities. Mr. Navalny was ordered on February 2 to serve the time in a penal colony for breaching his parole terms while he was in Germany recovering from a nerve agent poisoning he blames on the Kremlin.

  • The anti­-corruption campaigner appeared in court inside a glass cage for defendants, wearing a plaid shirt, smiling and flashing the V for victory symbol. In a closing address that often broke from his usual sarcastic tone, Mr. Navalny referenced the Bible and said he had no doubts about his decision to return to Russia. “The Bible says: ‘Blessed are those who hunger for righteousness, for they will be satisfied,’” he told the court.

  • He described the legal process to jail him as “absurd” and called on Russians to take action to make the country a better place. Prosecutors lashed out at Mr. Navalny, saying he acted as if he was above the law and had “an exclusive right to do as he pleases”.

5. China detains 3 bloggers for ‘insulting’ Galwan soldiers

  • Authorities in China have detained three people for “insulting” Chinese soldiers who died in the Galwan Valley clash last year, a day after Beijing officially confirmed the deaths.

  • Among the arrested was Qiu Ziming (38), an investigative journalist formerly with The Economic Observer. Mr. Qiu was arrested on Saturday in Nanjing, where he lives, after questioning China’s official account of the Galwan clash. A second blogger was detained in Beijing on Sunday, for comments made during a group chat on WeChat, the Chinese social media and messaging app. A third person, identified as a 25-year old surnamed Yang, was detained in southwestern Sichuan province, in the city of Mianyang, after he was reported by Internet users for posting “smears toward the PLA soldiers, who fought in the China­-India border clash.”

  • The Chinese military announced honours for five People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers, including four who died and one regimental commander who was injured, in the clash on June 15, 2020, which marked the worst violence on the India­-China border since 1967. Twenty Indian soldiers lost their lives in the clash.

  • The announcement of the honours for the soldiers on Friday, coming eight months after the clash, was widely covered in the Chinese state media and has led to an outpouring of sentiment, with the topic among the most widely discussed on social media over the past three days.

  • State media reports have highlighted the valour of the soldiers, while also releasing new footage from the clash. The announcement and video release, eight months after the clash, came a week after India and China announced a plan to begin disengagement, which has been completed on the north and south banks of Pangong Lake while talks are on­going to take the process forward in other areas along the Line of Actual Control.

6. Iran says talks with IAEA chief ‘fruitful’

  • Iran said it had held “fruitful discussions'' with UN nuclear watchdog IAEA chief Rafael Grossi in Tehran, ahead of a deadline when it is set to restrict the agency’s inspections unless the United States lifts painful sanctions. Mr. Grossi’s visit comes amid stepped up efforts between the U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration, European powers and Iran to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal that has been on the brink of collapse since former President Donald Trump withdrew from it.

  • Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, before meeting Mr. Grossi, signalled that the Islamic republic wants to avoid an “impasse”, but also warned it could step further away from its commitments if Washington does not lift the sanctions.

  • Iran’s conservative­ dominated Parliament months ago demanded that if the U.S. does not lift sanctions by this Sunday, Iran will suspend some IAEA inspections from Tuesday. But Iran has stressed it will not cease working with the IAEA or expel its inspectors.

7. Australia won’t advertise COVID­19 vaccine on Facebook

  • Australia’s government pledged a publicity campaign for its rollout of COVID-­19 vaccine on Sunday – but not in Facebook advertisements, as a feud continues over the social media giant blocking news content from its platform in the country. Facebook Inc’s abrupt decision on Thursday to stop Australians from sharing news on its platform and strip the pages of domestic and foreign media outlets also blacked out several state government and emergency department accounts, drawing furious responses from lawmakers around the world.

  • Hours before Australia began inoculations with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, Health Minister Greg Hunt said the government would embark on a wide ranging communication campaign, including online, to ensure vulnerable people turned up for a shot. But a ban on health department spending to advertise on Facebook would remain in place until the dispute between the BigTech company and Australia – over a new law to make Facebook pay for news content – was resolved.

  • Under the News Media and Digital Platforms Man­datory Bargaining Code Bill 2020, tech and social media giants such as Facebook and Google will have to pay local news outlets for using their content. The move is being studied worldwide as it will set a precedent in the use of Web­-based news and content that may permanently impact the use of the Inter­net in Australia.


Story : Extinction Rebellion – Rebels with a green cause (

(i). Background

  • When the Extinction Rebellion (XR) set out to literally block the path of the fossil fuel­-powered economy in the U.K., in the autumn of 2018, the core of its philosophy was that stopping public activity with even small actions would change politics. It would shock a status quoist, cynically manipulative system, and turn public attention to the world’s biggest problems: climate change and biodiversity loss.

(ii). Founders of XR

  • The vision of its small group of founders led by Roger Hallam, an organic farmer turned researcher of civil disobedience at King’s College, London, and Gail Bradbrook, a molecular biology scholar from Yorkshire who had launched her activism in the Occupy movement after the 2008 financial crisis, draws heavily from the U.S. civil rights struggle and Gandhian civil disobedience.

(iii). Demands of XR

  • The movement has three primary demands : all governments ‘Tell the Truth’ about the climate crisis and the mass extinction of species, commit themselves to act on net zero carbon emissions by 2025, create citizens’ assemblies that will advise them on a just transition.

(iv). The journey continues

  • XR moved to the mainstream as it linked up with activists such as Greta Thunberg and the Fridays for Future campaign she inspired and acquired a wider base of supporters connected with the arts, sciences, law, and finance.

  • With every new crisis – wildfires, failed agriculture, drought, flood, heat waves and cold waves – governments and corporations are apprehensive that XR’s idea of “collaborative rebellion” will challenge locked-in policies on fossil fuels.

  • Tool-kit arrests India: Disha Ravi, who organised Fridays for Future events in India, activists Nikita Jacob and Shantanu Muluk have provoked the government’s ire. The implications of growing environmental and climate crises merging with other struggles, such as the farmers’ agitation, add to the establishment's worries. XR is constantly tweaking its toolkit for non­violent direct action, attracting public attention and demanding responsible replies from governments.

Commentary : Time and perseverance

(i). Background

  • The recent NASA mission, Mars 2020, that was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida on June 30, 2020, landed on the Jezero Crater in Mars on February 18, to much celebration. Of special magnificence was the entry, descent and landing of the mission’s Perseverance rover, described as the ‘shortest and most intense part’. Entering the Martian atmosphere at about 20,000 km per hour, the mission had to bring the Perseverance rover to a halt on the surface in just seven minutes.

(ii). Exploration of Mars

  • NASA’s exploration of Mars has focused on finding traces and trails of water that may have existed, and relate it to finding evidence of ancient life. Its earlier Mars expedition which carried the Curiosity rover, landed on August 5, 2012. It identified regions that could have hosted life.

  • Expected to last at least the duration of one Mars year, or about 687 earth days, the science goals this time are to look for signs of ancient life and collect rock and soil samples. Perseverance will take the inquiry made by Curiosity to the next level and search for signs of past life by studying the Jezero Crater. The crater was chosen for study as based on an earlier aerial survey, it was found to be home to an ancient delta. The rover also carries a helicopter named Ingenuity that is specially designed to fly in Mars’s thin atmosphere; its sole purpose would be to demonstrate flight on Mars.

Commentary : The fight for dignity in the feminist struggle

(i). Background

  • It is heartening to note that journalist Priya Ramani, against whom a defamation charge was filed by former journalist and minister M.J. Akbar, has been acquitted by a Delhi court and her right to dignity has been upheld. Ms. Ramani fought for over two years, and those years must not have been easy ones.

  • The verdict for Ms. Ramani allows us to relish a moment of quiet satisfaction that in some contexts, at least the victim’s speech may be granted the legitimacy that is often denied.

(ii). Some related matters

  • First, one may face the trauma of repression and speaking out long after they have experienced harassment or violence.

  • Second, sexual harassment exists as part of a wide spectrum of acts, which may range from casual demeaning speech to sexual threats and actual acts of assault. We need a robust culture of open speech and the right to defend our claims to dignity and justice in public, without being threatened with defamation or more.

  • Third, the vulnerability of being sexually exploitable appears to be part of the working conditions that bind women in all sectors, and more so in so called informal work. To date, neither the Vishaka judgment nor the Act for sexual harassment at workplaces has been helpful in any of these contexts.

  • It is important to build feminist jurisprudence on the subject and think about local support systems that can enable women to stand up for their rights. Lastly, there is the question of restorative justice that some are interested in, and how that might apply in matters where bodily integrity is at stake.

Analysis : The road for reducing public sector role

(i). Background

  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in her Budget speech for 2021­22, announced a new policy for central public sector enterprises (CPSEs), “We have kept four areas that are strategic where bare minimum CPSEs will be maintained and rest privatised. In the remaining sectors, all CPSEs will be privatised,” the Minister said.

(ii). What goes outside the government ambit

  • The strategic sectors are – atomic energy, space and defence, transport and telecommunications, power, petroleum, coal and other minerals, and banking, insurance and financial services. While the initial plan was to retain one to four public sector firms in these sectors, this has now been replaced by the phrase “bare minimum presence”.

  • For all firms in sectors considered non strategic, privatisation or closure are the only two options being considered. The policy’s objective is to minimise the public sector’s role and create new investment space for the private sector, in the hope that the infusion of private capital, technology and management practices will contribute to growth and new jobs. The proceeds from the sale of these firms would finance various government ­run social sector and developmental programmes.

(iii). How is it different from policies in the past

  • This is the first time since 2004 that India is working on a slew of privatisation deals. Earlier, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government between 1999 and 2004 had managed to sell off majority stakes in a dozen odd public sector enterprises. The new policy goes beyond the Vajpayee­ era privatisation drive, which was limited to a ‘case­ by­ case’ sale of entities in non­strategic sectors, by stressing that even strategic sectors will have a ‘bare minimum’ presence of government ­owned firms.

(iv). What is likely to be sold

  • The government hopes to conclude the sale of Air India, BPCL and some other entities. Ms. Sitharaman also promised the sale of two more public sector banks and a general insurance player in her Budget speech, along with plans to list the Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) of India on the stock markets. The Union Budget has estimated ₹1.75 lakh crore as receipts from PSU stake sales in the year, compared to its target of ₹2.10 lakh crore for 2020-­21.

(v). Process for selecting the CPSE

  • The NITI Aayog has been entrusted with suggesting which public sector firms in strategic sectors should be retained, considered for privatisation or merger or ‘subsidiarisation’ with another public sector firm, or simply closed. A core group of secretaries on disinvestment will consider the NITI Aayog’s suggestions and forward its views to a ministerial group.

  • After the ministerial group’s nod, the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management in the Finance Ministry will move a proposal to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs for an ‘in-­principle’ nod to sell specific CPSEs.

  • Public sector firms and corporations engaged in activities allied to the farm sector will not be privatised. Similarly, the policy excludes departments with commercial operations like Railways and Posts, firms making appliances for the physically challenged, and those providing support to vulnerable groups, security printing and minting companies, will also be retained in the public sector.


Daily snippets

1. CSR shouldn't be mandated

  • Wipro founder and philanthropist Azim Premji said companies should not be legally mandated to en­gage in corporate social responsibility as contribu­tions to society need to “come from within”. Mr. Premji, who contri­buted ₹7,904 crore in do­nations last year, also high­lighted that the COVID­-19 crisis was a “wake up call” to look at fundamental is­sues like the need to im­prove public systems like health, and changing the structure of society to make it more equal and just.

2. India urges credit rating agencies to put more insight in its numbers

  • India is urging global credit rating agencies to look at its fiscal deficit and debt num­bers in the context of the sti­mulus spending require­ments posed by the COVID­-19 pandemic, Fi­nance Minister Nirmala Sith­araman said. Stressing that the govern­ment’s infrastructure spend­ing push would have an ‘im­mediate impact’ on core sectors, opportunities for la­bour, and demand creation at the industry as well as consumer level, the Minister said she expected the Indian economy to recover and re­cord good, sustainable growth in the next decade.

  • We are spending but we are also very clearly telling even the credit rating agen­cies that every country is go­ing through the pandemic and every country has to spend to keep the stimulus going, so every country’s rating will have to be in relative terms, and not just into the silo of India, ‘x’ or ‘y’ coun­try. So spending, borrowing are all relative terms and we would want every institution to look at it with a sense of the relative understanding and context,” she said. The Minister also said the government was privatising public sector units not for them to be closed down but for improving their opera­tional efficiency with profes­sional skills available outside the government.


Daily snippets

1. Osaka, Djokovic reign at Melbourne

  • Japan's Naomi Osaka dismis­sed Jennifer Brady 6-­4, 6­-3 in front of thousands of fans to win the Australian Open in style for her fourth Grand Slam title. The 23-year old, who becomes only the third player after Monica Seles and Roger Federer to win their first four Major finals, will now rise to second in the world rankings.

  • World No. 1 Novak Djokovic demolished Russia's Daniil Medvedev in straight sets to win his ninth Australian Open title and extend his re­cord ­breaking reign at Mel­bourne Park. Djokovic overpowered the fourth seed 7-­5, 6-­2, 6-­2. In winning a third straight Australian Open for the se­cond time, the Serb claimed his 18th Grand Slam title to move within two of Roger Fe­derer and Rafael Nadal who have 20 each. The win reinforced Djo­kovic's status as World No. 1, where he will mark his 311th week when the new rankings come out on Monday, sur­passing Federer's record of 310.


1. India's first Dictatorship : The emergency 1975-77

2. Law students: Then and now

3. Suspicion and proof

4. WASH program across health facilities in India

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


February 19th-20th, 2021

Your 10 minute read!



Daily snippets

1. WhatsApp messaging users on privacy

  • WhatsApp, which faced a severe backlash over the latest update to its privacy policy, will now leverage its own platform to reach out to users directly via the “status” feature, while also putting up banners on the application, to share detailed information on the proposed policy updates.

  • However, amid criticism and confusion over the updates resulting in sharing of users’ data with Facebook, the company had pushed back the roll­out to May 15. It has since clarified that this update does not expand its ability to share data with Facebook.

2. ‘Reply to appeals by Natasha, Devangana’

  • The Delhi High Court sought response of Delhi Police on appeals by JNU students and Pinjra Tod members Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita challenging the rejection of their bail pleas by a trial court.

  • A Bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and A.J. Bhambhani also issued notice to the Delhi government and sought their stand by the next hearing. Both Ms. Narwal and Ms. Kalita are booked under the anti­-terror law Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in north east Delhi riots case.

3. Contract workers must get maternity leave: HC

  • Coming down strongly on the Karnataka government for terminating the service of a woman employed on contract basis, merely because she had sought maternity leave, the Karnataka High Court observed that “it would be power at wrong hands when men who man such offices become insensitive”.

  • The action of the DMA cannot be countenanced, as the Maternity Benefit Act, 1967, does not classify or qualify a mother to be a government servant, temporary employee, employee on contract or an employee on daily wages,” the court held.

  • The court also imposed a cost of ₹25,000 on the government while quashing the order of termination and directed the authorities to reinstate the petitioner with 50% back wages from the date of termination of her contract.

4. Banks cannot disclaim responsibility on lockers: SC

  • Banks cannot wash their hands of any liability if any harm is caused to their customers’ lockers or safe deposits in an era when miscreants can manipulate technology to gain access to electronically operated bank lockers, the Supreme Court observed in a judgment.

  • The court gave the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) six months to lay down “comprehensive directions mandating the steps to be taken by banks with respect to locker facility/safe deposit facility management”. The judgment came on an appeal filed against the Union Bank of India.

5. SC refuses petition against M.P. ordinance

  • The Supreme Court declined to entertain a petition challenging the validity of the controversial Madhya Pradesh ordinance regulating religious conversions through inter faith marriages. The Bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad A. Bobde asked petitioner Vishal Thakre to approach the Madhya Pradesh High Court.

  • The plea said the law, which followed a similar ordinance made by Uttar Pradesh, infringed a person’s right to privacy and freedom of choice, leading to violations of fundamental rights under Articles 14, 19(1)(a) and 21 of the Constitution.


Daily snippets

1. Biometric authentication to benefit farmers : Centre

  • In a bid to cut out the mid­dleman and ensure greater transparency in the procure­ment of farm produce, the Centre is encouraging the States to deploy biometric authentication of farmers. The practice, already adopted in Uttar Pradesh and set to be rolled out in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattis­garh and Odisha this year, will aid in tracking the end­ use beneficiary, Food Minis­ter Piyush Goyal said.

  • This initiative reduced the need for extensive paperwork, prevented leakages and speeded up the process of procurement, with payment settlement being completed within 72 hours. The other advantage is that the farmer gets a receipt for his goods, showing the quantity and the MSP price, so nobody can cheat the farmer,” said Mr. Goyal.

2. Visible changes in J&K, says envoy

  • The 24 envoys, who toured Jammu on their second day visit to J&K, told Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha that the situa­tion was “witnessing a visi­ble change” in the Union Territory (UT). “Change is visible in J&K. The envoys’ visit to J&K is an eye opener and improved the understanding of impor­tant issues concerning J&K,” Eritrea Ambassador Alem Tsehaye Woldermariam said.

  • Efforts of the Prime Mi­nister have ushered the UT into a new era, bringing so­cio-­economic development in the region and empower­ment of people. We have de­veloped an ecosystem of de­mocratic values, welfare principles and economic de­velopment in J&K,” the L­G said. He apprised the envoys of investments made in infras­tructure, industries, educa­tion, healthcare, skill deve­lopment and sustainable livelihood. Around 26 people repre­senting civil society groups and elected members met the envoys too.

  • J&K Congress president G.A Mir termed the envoys’ meetings as “stage ­managed show”. National Conference vice ­president Omar Abdul­lah said, “Thank you for vis­iting Kashmir. Now please send some real tourists from your countries to visit J&K.”

3. 25 cities in Nurturing Neighbourhoods contest

  • The Urban Affairs Ministry announced the names of the 25 cities select­ed for the Nurturing Neigh­bourhoods Challenge under the Smart Cities Mission. The shortlisted cities would carry out projects for making early childhood­ friendly neighbourhoods, the Ministry said.

4. Hyderabad wins global ‘Tree City’ status

  • Hyderabad has won a green contest among cities in India, and emerged one of the ‘Tree Cities of the World’. That title has been bestowed by the Arbor Day Foundation and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Hyderabad has been selected for its commitment to growing and maintaining urban forestry, a statement from the GHMC said on Thursday.

  • With the recognition, the city joins 120 others from 23 countries, including the U.S., the U.K., Canada, and Australia. The Municipal Administration and Urban Development Department applied for consideration, citing the State government’s Haritha Haram programme and its Urban Forest Parks plan, the statement said.

  • The city was evaluated on five metrics : ‘Establish Responsibility’, ‘Set the Rules’, ‘Know What You Have’, ‘Allocate the Resources’, and ‘Celebrate the Achievements’.

5. PM moots special visa scheme for medical staff in South Asia

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at a workshop on “COVID­-19 management: exchange of good practices in tackling pandemic and the way forward” with nine neighbouring countries, suggested that they consider creating a special visa scheme for doctors and nurses so that they can travel quickly within the region during health emergencies, on the request of the receiving country.

  • India is hosting a Secretary Level virtual meeting on COVID­-19 management with the countries including Pakistan. It is being chaired by Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan. The Prime Minister suggested that the Civil Aviation Ministries could coordinate a regional air ambulance agreement for contingencies, and countries could come together to create a regional platform for collating, compiling and studying data about the effectiveness of COVID­-19 vaccines among our populations. Highlighting the work done during the pandemic, he said that when it hit the world last year, many experts voiced special concern about our densely populated region.

6. Make private traders pay MSP: Kisan Sabha

  • Minimum support prices for farm produce should be paid by private traders, not just the government, the All India Kisan Sabha said. The Left­-affiliated farmers organisation, which is part of the ongoing farm protests, argued that its proposal for legally guaranteed MSPs would not place the entire additional burden on the government budget, or ultimately, the taxpayer. Instead, the large corporates who make large profits from agribusiness must be forced to share their surplus with the primary producers, AIKS general secretary Hannan Mollah told journalists.

7. Dr. Reddy’s to seek nod for use of Sputnik V

  • Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd. announced that it had initiated the process with the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) of human adenoviral vector-based platform vaccine candidate Sputnik V.

  • G.V. Prasad, co­-chairman and managing director of Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, said, “The efficacy of Sputnik V was reported to be 91.6 % by the Lancet. The initiation of the EUA process will be a critical step forward for us in ensuring speedy access to the Sputnik V vaccine in India.” Dr. Reddy’s has partnered with the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) to conduct the clinical trials.

8. New tourist points to be identified at the Sambhar Lake

  • New tourist points for wit­nessing the flora and fauna and having a glimpse of salt harvesting will be identi­fied at the world ­fa­mous Sambhar Salt Lake, situated 80 km away from Jaipur.

  • The Sambhar Lake, which formed part of the desert circuit in the Centre’s Swadesh Darshan Scheme, had an immense potential for tourism. In addition to the migratory birds, the natural process of salt getting deposited in the lake could be displayed to the tourists. A con­stant monitoring for protection of migratory birds would be ensured at the lake, where the mass death of birds had oc­curred in 2019 because of avian botulism(

9. NEP is a milestone to self-reliant India : PM

  • Describing the new educa­tion policy as a major miles­tone in the making of a self­ reliant nation, Prime Minis­ter Narendra Modi said Gurudev Rabin­dranath Tagore developed systems at Visva­ Bharati which were the medium of modernising Indian educa­tion and freeing it from the shackles of slavery. Mr. Modi, who was vir­tually addressing the convo­cation at Visva ­Bharati Un­iversity, said the new education policy promoted entrepreneurship and self­ employment, research and innovation.


Daily snippets

1. Quad meet: India, U.S. call for rule of law in Myanmar

  • India joined Australia, Japan and the United States for a ministerial meeting under the quadrilateral grouping during which key issues, including Myanmar, came up for discussion. External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said the military takeover in Myanmar featured in the talks and participants reiterated democratic values for the region.

  • India also emphasised in its statement that the meeting expressed commitment to “upholding rules based international order” and “peaceful resolution of disputes”.

  • The leaders referred to the military crackdown in Myanmar, with the U.S. highlighting “the urgent need to restore the democratically elected government in Burma, and the priority of strengthening democratic resilience in the broader region”.

2. FB blocks access to news in Australia

  • Facebook blocked Australians from sharing news stories, escalating a fight with the government over whether powerful tech companies should have to pay news organisations for content. The digital platforms fear that what is happening in Australia will become an expensive precedent for other countries. Facebook acted after the House of Representatives passed legislation that would make it and Google pay for Australian journalism, said Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. He said he was given no warning before Facebook acted. The legislation must be passed by the Senate to become law.

  • The move was swiftly criticised by news producers, politicians and human rights advocates, many of whom pointed out that official health and meteorology information had also been scrubbed during the coronavirus pandemic and at the height of Australia’s summer bushfire season.

  • Facebook’s drastic move represents a split from search giant Google after they initially joined together to campaign against the laws. Both had threatened to cancel services in Australia, but Google has instead sealed deals with several outlets in recent days.

  • Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp was the latest to announce a deal, in which it will receive “significant payments” from Google in return for providing content for the search engine’s News Showcase account. The Australian law would require Facebook and Google to reach commercial deals with news outlets, whose links drive traffic to their platforms, or be subjected to forced arbitration to agree a price.

3. Texas shivers amid power outages, water shortages

  • Power was gradually being restored but hundreds of thousands of households remained without electricity on Thursday across Texas, the oil and gas capital of the U.S., with some facing water shortages as a deadly winter cold spell that pummelled the southeastern part of the country headed east.

  • The National Weather Service (NWS) issued a winter storm warning. It said the storm would bring ice, sleet and heavy snow to parts of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi as it tracks to the northeast, causing power outages, tree damage and making driving hazardous.

  • Even though the Arctic air mass was beginning to lose its grip on an area of the country not used to such extreme cold, the frigid temperatures would continue, the NWS said. More than 30 storm related deaths have been reported.

4. Belarus jails journalists over protest coverage

  • A Belarus court sentenced a pair of television journalists to two years in prison for covering a protest last year, the first lengthy jail term in a legal crackdown on independent news media. Standing defiant in a cage, Katerina Bakhvalova, 27, and Daria Chultsova, 23, flashed “V” for victory signs.

  • The two women were detained in November while filming anti government rallies after strongman Alexander Lukashenko claimed victory in an August election.

5. China steps up online control over bloggers

  • Beginning next week, the Cyberspace Administration of China will require bloggers and influencers to have a government approved credential before they can publish on a wide range of subjects. Some fear that only state media and official propaganda accounts will get permission. While permits have been needed since at least 2017 to write about topics such as political and military affairs, enforcement has not been widespread. The new rules expand that requirement to health, economics, education and judicial matters. The move is in line with restrictive regulations under President Xi Jinping that constrict an already narrow space for discourse.

6. Bhutan General, 2 judges held for ‘overthrow’ bid

  • Police in Bhutan have detained a top General and two judges over an alleged plot to overthrow the country’s top military officer and Chief Justice. Former Royal Bodyguard Commandant Brigadier Thinley Tobgay, Supreme Court judge Kuenley Tshering and top district court judge Yeshey Dorji appeared in court on Wednesday after being detained at their homes. The three have been accused of plotting to overthrow the country’s top military officer, Lieutenant General Batoo Tshering, by implicating him in a corruption scandal.

  • All were denied bail by the Thimphu district court and remanded in custody until a first formal hearing on February 27. According to reports, Brigadier Tobgay was alleged to have illegally obtained military documents on the procurement of vehicles from the United Nations. The Bhutanese newspaper said that while the tender was handled publicly and fairly, the documents were to be used to undermine the position of the military number one.

7. U.S. ready for talks on Iran deal

  • The Biden administration has said that it will participate in talks with Iran with a view to reinstate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action ( JCPOA) or the ‘Iran nuclear deal’, which has been unravelling since the U.S.’s departure from the deal in 2018.

  • In 2018, Mr. Trump pulled the U.S. out of the JCPOA, an agreement between Iran, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany, which lifted long standing international sanctions against Iran in exchange for Tehran scuttling its nuclear programme. The U.S. had reinstated ramped up sanctions against Iran as part of what it called a ‘maximum pressure campaign’, after leaving the deal.

  • Also on Thursday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told his counterparts from the U.K, France and Germany (’the E3’) that the U.S. is prepared to talk to Iran and was prepared to re-enter the JCPOA if Iran also returned to compliance with it. Iran has threatened to partially stop International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections next week if other parties to the JCPOA do not meet their commitments under the deal – a move the West cautioned against.

8. Transatlantic alliance is back, says Biden

  • U.S President Joe Biden declared the “transatlantic alliance is back” on Friday in a powerful speech seeking to reestablish the U.S. as leader of the West against what he called a global assault on democracy.

  • The address to the annual Munich Security Conference – held by video link – dovetailed with German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s welcoming of a return to “multi­lateralism” after the confrontational years of Mr. Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump. Mr. Biden said he was not seeking a return to “the rigid blocs of the Cold War”, but warned about the threats posed by Russia and China.

  • The Kremlin attacks our democracies and weaponises corruption to try and undermine our system of governance,” he said. Similarly, U.S. partners should stand together against “the Chinese government’s economic abuses and coercion that undercut the foundations of the international economic system,” he said.

9. Northern Tamils sceptical ahead of ‘another Geneva session

  • The 46th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council will take place from 22 February to 23 March 2021 in Geneva. Ahead of the session , the Sri Lankan government, Tamil polity, civil society, and diaspora groups are frantically lobbying member countries, hoping for different outcomes. So far, none of the past UN resolutions or governmental mechanisms has delivered a convincing outcome.

  • Sri Lanka’s long civil war played out across the Tamil majority north and east, but Mullaitivu bore the brunt of its gruesome end. According to UN estimates, some 40,000 civilians were trapped and killed in the final battle between the armed forces and the separatist LTTE, at the Nandikadal lagoon in May 2009.

  • The Rajapaksa administration in power then and now, except from 2015 to 2019, has repeatedly denied the number of civilian casualties, deeming it an “exaggeration”. The numbers may be contested, but survivors’ suffering is hard to miss, following death and destruction all around.

  • Districts in the former war zone are among the poorest in the country. Neither appropriate development, nor adequate jobs have come their way. Mullaitivu district remains militarised, with even traffic checkpoints run by armed military men.

  • Months after Gotabaya Rajapaksa was elected President in late 2019, Sri Lanka said it would withdraw from the existing UN resolution on postwar accountability and reconciliation. It has instead proposed a domestic mechanism that Tamils have even less faith in, compared to international ones.

  • It is in this climate that thousands of Tamil­speaking people recently took out a mass rally from Pothuvil in the eastern Ampara district to Polihandy in Jaffna (titled ‘P2P’), demanding the rights of Tamil and Muslim minorities. “Whether Geneva delivers or not, people are certain that this government will not. That is why we pursue international mechanisms despite all the limitations,” says Shanthi Sriskantharajah, a former MP from the district

10. Uber drivers entitled to workers’ rights: U.K. SC

  • Britain’s top court ruled that ride hailing giant Uber’s drivers are entitled to workers’ rights, in a judgment with huge implications for the “gig economy”. The Supreme Court ruling that the drivers were employees followed a years long legal battle with the Silicon Valley taxi and delivery company. “This has been a gruelling four year legal battle for our members – but it ended in a historic win,” said Mick Rix, from the GMB trade union. “The Supreme Court has upheld the decision of three previous courts, backing up what GMB has said all along; Uber drivers are workers and entitled to breaks, holiday pay and minimum wage,” he added.

11. U.S. reaffirms Saudi ‘defence partnership’

  • Washington has reaffirmed its “strategic defence partnership” with Riyadh in the face of increased attacks by Yemeni rebels. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin condemned the Houthi attacks in a telephone call with his Saudi counterpart, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. “The secretary has condemned the recent Houthi cross border attacks,” the official Saudi Press Agency said

12. Indian-American behind NASA rover’s Mars landing

  • Indian­-American scientist Swati Mohan, who leads the guidance, navigation, and control operations of NASA’s Mars 2020 mission, played a pivotal role in landing the U.S. space agency’s historic Perseverance rover on the Martian surface on Friday. Ms. Mohan was also the first to confirm that the rover had successfully touched down on the Martian surface after surviving a particularly tricky plunge through the atmosphere of the Red Planet.

  • Raised in the Northern Virginia­Washington DC metro area, she completed her bachelor’s degree from Cornell University in Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, and her M.S. and Ph.D from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Aeronautics/Astronautics.

  • Mars 2020 is a Mars rover mission by NASA's Mars Exploration Program that includes the rover Perseverance and the small robotic helicopter Ingenuity. NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover will look for signs of past microbial life, cache rock and soil samples, and prepare for future human exploration.


Commentary : The pressing need to adjudicate, not mediate

(i). Background

  • The recent judgment of the Supreme Court that refused to review its earlier verdict on the Shaheen Bagh protest is inseparable from its political context. The verdict of October 7, 2020 declared that there is no absolute right to protest, and it could be subjected to the orders of the authority regarding the place and time.

(ii). Analysis

  • The top court could not exercise its constitutional role and ensure judicial scrutiny on an aggrandising executive and an equally imposing Parliament by exercising its counter ­majoritarian function. Having failed to do so, the kind of ‘balancing’ which the Court now tries to attain by way of the Shaheen Bagh orders will pose more questions than it answers.

  • In the original judgment on Shaheen Bagh, the Court attempted to “mediate” the issue and admitted in the judgment that it “did not produce any solution”. The Court’s duty during the testing times is to adjudicate, and not to mediate. A reconciliatory approach is not a substitute for juridical assertion.

  • When fear is the new normal for the average Indian, the court’s only role is to act as the guardian of the right to dissent. In the review petition, the petitioners rightly apprehended that the observations in the earlier judgment against the indefinite occupation of public space “may prove to be a license in the hands of the police to commit atrocities on legitimate voice of protest”.

Study : Stress levels lower among yoga practitioners

  • A study by IIT­ Delhi scientists has revealed that those who practised yoga during the pandemic­ induced lockdown had lower stress, anxiety and depression, higher wellbeing and more peace of mind as compared to non­practitioners. The study was undertaken by National Resource Centre for Value Education in Engi­neering (NRCVEE), an aca­demic centre at IIT­ Delhi.

  • The study was carried on a total of 668 adults during lock­down between April 26 and June 8, 2020. The partici­pants were grouped as yoga practitioners, other spiritual practitioners, and non ­prac­titioners. Yoga practitioners were further examined based on the duration of practice as long­ term, mid­term, and beginners.

  • The long-­term practition­ers reported higher personal control and lower illness con­cern in contracting COVID­-19 than the mid­term or begin­ner group. The long­ term and mid­term practitioners also reported perceiving low­er emotional impact of CO­VID-­19 and lower risk in con­tracting the virus than the beginners,” the institute said. Further, the long-­term practitioners were found to have the highest peace of mind, lowest depression and anxiety with no significant difference in the mid­term and the beginner group. The research pitches for the inclusion of yoga as an alternate therapy for self­ management of stress-­re­lated problems during condi­tions like COVID-­19 pandem­ic.


Daily snippets

1. New PSE policy envisages at most 4 strategic-sector firms

  • The new public sector enter­prises policy envisages that the strategic sectors have li­mited number of players res­tricting it to maximum four public sector enterprises of a holding nature. The remaining enterprises would be ration­alised in terms of mergers, amalgamations and privati­sation if feasible.

  • As part of the ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’, Fi­nance Minister Nirmala Sith­araman had announced that there would be a maximum of four public sector compa­nies in strategic sectors, and state-­owned firms in other segments would eventually be privatised.

2. Government likely to file appeal against Cairn arbitration award

  • The Centre is likely to file an appeal against the $1.4 bil­lion international arbitration award won by Cairn Energy in a tax dispute. The government intends to defend its sovereign right in taxation and will file an appeal.

  • Cairn has indicated it could seize overseas assets such as aircraft and ships if New Delhi fails to comply with the arbitration award and return the value of the shares sold, dividend seized and tax refund withheld by the income tax department to recover part of the tax demand it had raised using re­trospective legislation. Indian government has kept open the possibility of a resolution within Indian laws. The options include Cairn opting for the Vivad se Vishwas scheme, which gives relief on interest and penalty if the principal tax demand is paid.

3. Indian IT workers to benefit from US immigration bill

  • In a major move that will be­nefit thousands of Indian IT professionals in America, the Biden administration has introduced an immigra­tion bill in Congress, which, among other things, propos­es to eliminate the per ­coun­try cap for employment­ based green cards.

  • The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 proposes a pathway to citizenship to 11 million undocumented workers, elimination of per ­country quota for employment­ based green cards and work authorisation for depen­dents of H­1B foreign work­. Authors of the bill, Senator Bob Menendez and Congresswoman Linda San­ chez, said the bill establishes a vision of immigration re­form that is expansive and inclusive.


Daily snippets

1. Player Profiles

  • Achanta Sharath Kamal : He is a professional table tennis player from Tamil Nadu. He is the first Indian table tennis player ever to become nine times Senior National Champion. Recently he received the fourth highest civilian award, Padma Shri. Sharath won the men's singles gold in the 16th Commonwealth table tennis championship in 2004. He won the US Open Table Tennis Men's championships in July 2010. He also won the gold medal at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne. He represented India in the 2004 Olympics in Athens and is still the top Indian TT player. He also represented the country in the 2006 Asian Games at Qatar.

2. Ankita Raina claims maiden WTA 250 doubles title

  • Ankita Raina, partnering Russia’s Kamilla Rakhimo­va, captured her maiden WTA 250 doubles title. The win is the biggest of Ankita’s career, making her India’s first WTA champion since Sania Mirza.


1. Transit anticipatory bail

2. Nagaland's first solar electrified village

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


February 17th-18th, 2021

Your 10 minute read!



Daily snippets

1. ‘Sedition law can’t be used to quell disquiet: court

  • Charges of sedition “cannot be invoked to quieten the disquiet under the pretence of muzzling the miscreants”, a Delhi Court observed while granting bail to a 21-­year ­old labourer. The youth was arrested for posting a fake video on Facebook about the Delhi police on the farmers’ agitation.

2. Kiran Bedi removed as Puducherry L-G

  • Kiran Bedi was removed as the Lieutenant ­Governor of Puducherry. Telangana Governor Tamilisai Soundarajan has been given additional charge of the Union Territory until regular arrangements are made. The statement did not specify any reason behind Ms. Bedi’s removal. In fact, she had put up a two minute video reviewing the reasons for the low rate of COVID-­19 vaccination in the UT.

3. SC seeks Centre’s response on plea for safety system at airports

  • Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad A. Bobde visualized the horror and tragedy of an air crash while hearing a petition alleging “deliberate omission” on the part of the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to install a fail­safe system to stop an aircraft from overshooting runways at vulnerable airports like Mangalore and Kozhikode.

  • The court asked Additional Solicitor ­General Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for the government and agreeing with the CJI’s oral observations, to file its response to the petition.

  • The writ petition filed by Delhi resident Rajen Mehta sought the installation of the Engineered Material Arresting System (EMAS) in at risk airports across the country, more importantly at table-top airports in Kozhikode and Mangalore. Mr. Mehta also sought an inquiry into the delay in installing EMAS despite specific knowledge about the vulnerability.

4. Toolkit content does not disclose sedition: ex-judge

  • Publicly available content of the toolkit, which led to the arrest of 22 year old climate activist Disha Ravi, does not disclose sedition, the former Supreme Court judge Justice Deepak Gupta said. Justice Gupta said charges in the toolkit case show a “non­-application of mind”.

5. Explain action taken on OTTs, SC tells govt.

  • The Supreme Court did not appear convinced with the government’s submission that it is “contemplating” regulations for OTT (over-the-top) platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. The court issued notice on a plea seeking a proper board/institution/association for monitoring and managing the content of different OTT/streaming and digital media platforms.

6. 2016 JNU sedition case: Delhi court summons Kanhaiya and nine others

  • A Delhi court has taken cognizance of a charge sheet filed by Delhi Police against former Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) president Kanhaiya Kumar and nine others in a 2016 sedition case. The court’s order came almost a year after the Delhi government gave its nod to police to prosecute Mr. Kumar and nine others for their involvement in a procession where they had allegedly supported seditious slogans raised on the varsity’s campus during an event on February 9, 2016.

  • The accused have been charged with offences under – Sections 124A (sedition), 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), 471 (using as genuine a forged document or electronic record), 143 (punishment for being a member of an unlawful assembly), 149 (being a member of an unlawful assembly), 147 (punishment for rioting) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.

7. Priya Ramani – MJ Akbar case

  • A Delhi court threw out a criminal defamation case filed by former Union Minister M.J. Akbar against journalist Priya Ramani for her tweets accusing him of sexual harassment. “The woman has a right to put her grievance at any platform of her choice and even after decades,” said Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate. “Despite how well respected some persons are in society, they – in their personal lives – could show extreme cruelty to the females,” the court observed.

  • Mr. Akbar had in his criminal defamation complaint claimed that Ms. Ramani’s tweet and her article accusing him of sexual harassment were defamatory and lowered his reputation. He also said that Ms. Ramani did not produce any evidence to prove her story. However, Ms. Ramani pleaded that truth was her defence in relation to the allegations of sexual harassment against Mr. Akbar.

  • Following a Delhi court’s verdict acquitting her in a defamation case filed by former Union Minister M.J. Akbar, journalist Priya Ramani said she felt vindicated on behalf of all women who have ever spoken up against sexual harassment at the workplace.

8. No role in Tamil Nadu govt.’s quota decisions, Centre tells SC

  • The Centre has told the Supreme Court that it has no role in the choices made by the Tamil Nadu government with regard to the provision of reservation for specific castes or communities in State government jobs and admissions. The Centre was responding to a petition challenging the constitutionality of the Tamil Nadu Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Act of 1993, which provides 69% reservation in the State.

  • The case came up for hearing before a Bench, led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar. Tamil Nadu sought time to file a response. The case has been adjourned to February 25.

9. Govt. denies link between Char Dham project, floods

  • The government denied in the Supreme Court any link between the Char Dham road widening project in Uttarakhand and the recent flash floods in the Rishiganga valley. The denial, before a Bench led by Justice Rohinton Nariman, came from Attorney­ General K.K. Venugopal, in response to a communication from a high-powered committee (HPC) chairperson Ravi Chopra, connected the tragedy with the Char Dham project. The court asked the government to file a response in two weeks.


Daily snippets

1. Team to study J&K situation

  • European Union Ambassa­dor Ugo Astuto is expected to lead a delegation of Am­bassadors, including some from European countries, to Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday, beginning with Srinagar, in a visit expected to study the “situation on the ground” there ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Porto in May for the E.U.-India summit. In addition to Mr. Astuto, Euro­pean Ambassadors from France, Portugal, Ireland, Sweden, Belgium, Estonia and Italy are expected to be part of the delegation, as well as envoys from other re­gions like Bangladesh, Chile, Brazil and Ghana.

  • The J&K administration has extended invitations to Valley­-based civil society groups, media persons and grassroots representatives and DDC members, to meet the delegation.

2. India, China pull back troops from Pangong

  • With the withdrawal of tanks from the forward areas on the south bank of Pangong Tso (lake) completed, India and China have started pulling back troops in large numbers from the north and south banks and also restoring land that was dug up during the heavy build­up of defences last year.

  • Videos released by the Army show the People’s Liberation Army troops dismantling tents and bunkers and moving equipment in vehicles. Infantry troops can be seen moving out on foot as well as long convoys of vehicles with stores and troops as part of the disengagement agreement.

  • The Chinese troops have started clearing out from the ridgelines of Finger 4, a major area of contention. On the north bank, the Chinese troops will withdraw to the east of Finger 8, while the Indian troops will move to the Dhan Singh Thapa post near Finger 3.

3. Oxford jab gets WHO green light

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) listed two versions of the AstraZeneca­-Oxford COVID­-19 vaccine for emergency use, giving the green light for them to be rolled out globally through COVAX. The vaccines are produced by AstraZeneca-­SKBio (Republic of Korea) and the Serum Institute of India (SII). The world body had also listed the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for emergency use on December 31.

4. India to gift 2 lakh vaccine doses to UN peacekeepers

  • India announced a gift of 2,00,000 doses of vaccine to the UN Peacekeeping Forces. The announcement was made by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar during his remarks at a UN Security Council open debate on the implementation of resolution 2532 (2020), passed last year, noting the impact of COVID­-19 globally and calling for the cessation of hostilities around the world to help combat the pandemic. The debate was attended by the Foreign Ministers of the UNSC member countries. The Minister said India had already sent vaccines to 25 countries under its Vaccine Maitri programme and that 49 more countries would be supplied in the coming days.

  • Mr. Jaishankar told his counterparts that COVAX (a global initiative to develop, purchase and deliver vaccines worldwide) would need to be strengthened, to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines. However, the government has been criticised for getting ahead of the science. Its approval of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin vaccine for emergency use authorisation in India before its efficacy was established via Phase-­III trials had created a stir last month.

  • Disparity in vaccine accessibility : Several rich countries have ordered more vaccine doses than required for their population, depriving developing economies of access to these doses. Just its orders of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines alone are enough to cover all adults in the U.S. This still leaves its orders of AstraZeneca, Novavax and Johnson and Johnson vaccines, which add up to over 500 million more doses. “There currently exists a glaring disparity in accessibility of vaccines globally. Equity in access to vaccines is important for mitigating the impact of pandemic,” Mr. Jaishankar said.

5. Sikh pilgrims denied permission to visit Pak.

  • The Union Home Ministry has denied permission to a Sikh jattha (group) of nearly 600 pilgrims to visit Pakistan for the 100th anniversary of the Saka Nankana Sahib. The group was expected to visit five gurdwaras in Pakistan from February 18 to 21. The Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC), an apex Sikh religious body, had sought permission from the Ministry.

  • It added that the Ministry had not accorded permission to the group for crossing over to Pakistan, which was mandatory in the wake of the suspension of traffic between the two countries due to the pandemic. According to a 1974 bilateral protocol with Pakistan, four Sikh jatthas visit important gurdwaras in Pakistan every year.

6. Leopard population tracking

  • Experts from three organ­isations, one of them Assam­ based Aaranyak, have come up with a system, SMR (Spatial Mark­-Resight models), that helps in properly estimating the leopard population in areas sustaining a mix of rosette and melanistic individuals.

  • Rosettes are jagged black circular marks on the tawny coat of a leopard. Like the tiger’s stripes, the rosettes of each leopard are unique in shape and size, making the species identifiable individually. But melanistic leopards – commonly called black leo­pards or black panthers or ghongs (Assamese) – have been difficult to estimate as their rosettes are invisible.

  • When a population has only rosette leopard, esti­mating their population size becomes easy because all the individuals can be iden­tified. Unlike rosette leo­pards, a black leopard can often not be reliably identi­fied individually, although special cases exist. We are, therefore, unable to com­pletely estimate population sizes of leopards, a metric that is very critical for their conservation,” Dipankar Lahkar, a tiger biologist with Aaranyak, said.

  • This problem is acute in the tropical and subtropical moist forests of South and Southeast Asia where the frequency of melanistic leo­pards is high and leopards also face the greatest threat. No precise estimates of leo­pard population could thus be done in protected areas and non protected areas in India except on some occa­sions.


Daily snippets

1. France passes Bill to battle extremism

  • Lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a Bill that would strengthen oversight of mosques, schools and sports clubs to safeguard France from radical Islamists and ensure respect for French values – one of President Emmanuel Macron’s landmark projects.

  • The vote in the lower house was the first critical hurdle for the legislation that has been long in the making after two weeks of intense debate. The Bill passed 347 to 151 with 65 abstentions. The Bill that covers most aspects of French life has been hotly contested by Muslims, lawmakers and others, who fear the state is intruding on essential freedoms and pointing a finger at Islam, the nation’s second major religion.

2. Dhaka court sentences 5 to death for killing writer

  • Five Islamist extremists were sentenced to death over the brutal murder of a Bangladeshi-American writer and rights activist Avijit Roy six years ago. Avijit Roy, a prolific blogger and the author of 10 books including the bestselling Biswasher Virus (“Virus of Faith”), was hacked to death outside Bangladesh’s largest book fair by machete wielding extremists in February 2015.

  • The murder, part of a reign of terror by extremists at the time, enraged the Muslim-­majority nation’s secular activists who staged days of protests. Roy was born in Bangladesh in 1972 and moved to the U.S. in 2006 from where he continued to criticise the government for the jailing of atheist bloggers.

3. ‘North Korean hackers target vaccine tech’

  • North Korean hackers attempted to steal information about coronavirus vaccines and treatments, South Korea’s intelligence service said, but it denied a lawmaker’s claim that vaccine maker Pfizer Inc. was targeted. Earlier on Tuesday, Ha Tae­keung, a Member of Parliament’s intelligence committee, told reporters that the National Intelligence Service told him and other lawmakers during a closed door briefing that North Korea hacked Pfizer to obtain COVID-­19 vaccine technology.

  • After Mr. Ha’s comments made headlines, the NIS said it didn’t mention any pharmaceutical company by name. Mr. Ha, however, stood by his claim when contacted by the Associated Press.

4. Sri Lanka considering India’s grant instead of China project

  • In an apparent bid to displace a Chinese company that had won the contract to install renewable energy systems in three small islands off Jaffna Peninsula in northern Sri Lanka, India has offered a grant of $12 million to execute it.

  • Sri Lanka’s Minister of Power Dullas Alahapperuma has recently said that the government would consider India’s proposal, and that he would present a Cabinet paper on the matter soon. Newspaper reports quoted him as saying that receiving a grant “is an advantage” that would ease the burden on the Treasury, as opposed to an Asian Development Bank (ADB) loan, as per the original project proposal, that would have to be repaid.

  • The development comes less than a month after the Cabinet cleared a project to install hybrid renewable energy systems in Nainativu, Delft or Neduntheevu, and Analaitivu, located in the Palk Bay, some 50 km off Tamil Nadu.

  • The Cabinet decisions taken on January 18, published officially, included a proposal to award the contract to Sinosoar ­Etechwin Joint Venture in China, with funding from the ADB. India’s swift offer comes in the wake of being ejected, along with Japan, out of the East Container Terminal (ECT) development project at the Colombo Port, following another Cabinet decision taken on February 1 this year.

5. ‘No immediate plan to end presence in Sahel’

  • France has no immediate plans to adjust its military presence in Africa’s Sahel region, and any changes will depend on other countries contributing troops, President Emmanuel Macron told a news conference. Mr. Macron added there was an increased willingness from other European countries to take part in the Takuba military force in Sahel. France is searching for an exit strategy after years of military intervention against Islamist militants.

  • The Sahel is the ecoclimatic and biogeographic realm of transition in Africa between the Sahara to the north and the Sudanian savanna to the south.

  • The Takuba Task Force is a European military task force led by France which will advise, assist and accompany Malian Armed Forces, in coordination with G5-Sahel partners and other international actors on the ground.

  • G5-Sahel or G5S is an institutional framework for coordination of regional cooperation in development policies and security matters in west Africa. It was formed on 16 February 2014 in Nouakchott, Mauritania, at a summit of five Sahel countries: Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger.

6. ‘U.S. will pay over $200 million to WHO’

  • U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that his country would pay the World Health Organization (WHO) $200 million by the end of this month. The announcement is significant as the former U.S. President Donald Trump had begun the process of withdrawing the U.S. from the WHO, a process stopped by his successor, President Joe Biden.

  • Mr. Blinken called for transparency on outbreak data, saying countries should participate in “transparent and robust processes” in their prevention and response to health emergencies. The U.S. is the largest funder of the WHO, contributing more than 15% of its total funds. “We plan to provide significant financial support to COVAX through Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. And we’ll work to strengthen other multilateral initiatives involved in the global COVID-­19 response — for example, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria,” Mr. Blinken said.

7. China blocked Ma’s IPO over ‘political links’

  • China’s President Xi Jinping pushed for blocking what would have been a record breaking initial public offering (IPO) for billionaire Jack Ma’s Ant Group last year because of Communist Party linked “political families” who stood to gain billions of dollars through opaque investment vehicles, according to a new report.

  • Investment companies linked to the grandson of former President Jiang Zemin and the son in law of former Politburo Standing Committee member Jia Qinglin stood to profit from the IPO, the Wall Street Journal reported, with their ownership in the Ant Group, the financial payments arm of Mr. Ma’s Alibaba empire, held through “layers of opaque investment vehicles that own stakes in the firm”.

  • Among them is Boyu Capital, a private equity firm founded by Mr. Jiang’s grandson, Jiang Zhicheng. Another is Li Botan, who controls the Beijing Zhaode Group, that has invested in Ant through three layers of investment vehicles, the report said. Mr. Li is the son-­in-­law of Jia Qinglin, a senior leader who served on the top Politburo Standing Committee for ten years until 2012 and is close to Mr. Jiang.

  • The suspension of the $35 billion IPO of the Ant Group, which is Alibaba’s financial arm and behind Alipay, a digital payments company, triggered intense speculation about the fate of Mr. Ma, but subsequent reports have said he is working with regulators to address their concerns.

  • In December, the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) said it had launched a probe into Alibaba’s “suspected monopolistic acts'' including “forcing merchants to choose one platform between two competitors”. Financial risks were cited as one concern, with the group emerging as a lender to millions of small businesses, and operating, like other fintech companies, without some of the capital requirements that apply to banks. Ant’s access to troves of consumer credit data was also under the lens.

8. ‘Pak. to remain in FATF grey list until June’

  • Pakistan is unlikely to exit the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) ‘grey’ list until June, despite its efforts to garner support from the member nations ahead of the plenary meeting of the global terror financing and money laundering watchdog next week, according to a media report.

  • The FATF’s Plenary and Working Group meetings, scheduled to be held from February 21 to 26 in Paris, is all set to decide on Pakistan’s grey list status. Pakistan was placed on the ‘grey’ list in June 2018 and given a timeline to implement 27 action points.

9. Sri Lanka cancels Pakistan PM’s address to Parliament

  • Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s coming visit to Sri Lanka, Colombo has cancelled his Parliament address scheduled next week, sparking speculation in political and diplomatic circles in the capital. Government officials have cited “COVID­-19 constraints” as reason for the decision, while a Parliament spokesman attributed it to “scheduling issues”.

  • Colombo’s revision of the visiting leader’s itinerary has raised questions for obvious reasons. It comes barely a week before Sri Lanka faces a likely contested resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, in which Pakistan is currently a member.

  • The cancellation is also being viewed in the context of Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s assurance to Parliament on February 10 that burial of COVID-­19 victims would be allowed, amid a persisting campaign from Sri Lanka’s Muslim community, seeking burial rights. But a week since, the government is yet to reverse its contested policy of enforcing cremations for COVID-­19 victims, being followed despite the WHO clearing both burial and cremation.


Commentary : A growing rights crisis in Lanka

(i). Background

  • The human rights situation in Sri Lanka has worsened since Gotabaya Rajapaksa became President in 2019. At its next session starting February 22, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) will face a crucial test in taking action for protecting vulnerable Sri Lankans and upholding international law. India, as a council member, will have a key role.

(ii). Rajapaska’s abuse of human rights

  • Rajapaksa was the defence secretary in the government led by his brother Mahinda from 2005 to 2015, a period marked by particularly egregious human rights abuses. Critics of the government were murdered, tortured, and forcibly made to disappear. Tens of thousands of civilians were killed in the civil war which ended in 2009 between government forces and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), with both sides responsible for numerous war crimes. In the final months of the war, the armed forces indiscriminately shelled civilians and summarily executed suspected LTTE fighters.

  • In January, the authorities bulldozed a memorial at Jaffna university that commemorated Tamil civilian victims of the civil war.

(iii). The current situation

  • The Rajapaksa government, in 2020, renounced its commitments under the 2015 Human Rights Council resolution and is threatening victims’ families and activists who supported it.

  • The Rajapaksa government has shown outright disdain for accountability. Since 2012, the Human Rights Council has sought to work with Sri Lanka to promote reconciliation and accountability, efforts that India has backed. Sri Lanka is now rejecting that endeavour, instead proposing a new domestic commission that UN experts have dismissed as lacking credibility or independence. The UNHRC should recognise the government’s actions for what they are – an effort to impede justice.

Commentary : Freedom and security

  • By calling on social media platforms operating in India to follow the law of the land, the government has not just stated the seemingly obvious but also delivered a warning to Twitter that it ought not to defy its orders again, the way it did in early February, when the government wanted certain handles blocked for spreading incendiary content.

  • The government wanted problematic hashtags blocked is understandable, given the tense situation on the ground on the day of the farmer protests, but what is difficult to appreciate is that it also wanted handles of some journalists, activists and politicians to be blocked.

  • If either one of the parties had decided to escalate the issue, the contentious law under which social media platforms are required to comply with blocking orders could come under legal scrutiny. The reference is to Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, under which the government can order a digital intermediary to block any content on grounds including security of the state and public order.

  • It is, therefore, important that freedom of speech is not seen as the antithesis of security of the state, but as one of its key facilitators.


Daily snippets

1. Telcos ask government to defer net neutrality rules

  • The COAI has urged the go­vernment to bring over the­ top (OTT) service providers such as WhatsApp under the licensing regime and defer net neutrality rules on telecom operators till the time ‘same service, same rules’ are applied on the applications. “Till the time any deci­sion is taken regarding li­censing of OTT communica­tion providers, the unequitability between TSPs (telecom service pro­viders) and OTTs should not be increased further. Till such time, no new li­censing conditions, includ­ing that of traffic manage­ment practices for net neutrality etc., should be imposed on TSPs,” Cellular Operators Association of In­dia (COAI) said.

  • Net neutrality principle – The net neutrality princi­ples prohibit service provid­ers from discriminating against Internet content and services by blocking, throt­tling or according preferen­tial higher speeds.

2. Cairn files case in US against claims of $1.2 billion award from India

  • Cairn Energy has filed a case in a U.S. district court to en­force a $1.2 billion arbitra­tion award it won in a tax dis­pute against India. In December, an arbitra­tion body awarded the Brit­ish firm damages of more than $1.2 billion plus interest and costs. The tribunal ruled India breached an invest­ment treaty with Britain and said New Delhi was liable to pay.

  • The case marked a first step in Cairn’s efforts to­wards recovering its dues, potentially by seizing Indian assets, if the government did not pay. It was reported last month that Cairn was identi­fying India’s overseas assets, including bank accounts and even Air India planes or In­dian ships, that could be seized in the absence of a settlement.

3. Cabinet approves PLI plan for telecom

  • The Union Cabinet approved the pro­duction ­linked incentive scheme for the telecom sec­tor with an outlay of ₹12,195 crore over five years. The scheme, which aims to make India a global hub for manufacturing telecom equipment, is expected to lead to an incremental production of about ₹2.4 lakh crore, with exports of about ₹2 lakh crore over five years and bring in investments of more than ₹3,000 crore.

  • The scheme was also likely to generate 40,000 direct and indirect employment opportunities and generate tax re­venue of ₹17,000 crore from telecom equipment manu­facturing, including core transmission equipment, 4G/5G Next Generation Ra­dio Access Network and wireless equipment, access and Customer Premises Equipment (CPE), Internet of Things (IoT) access devic­es, other wireless equipment and enterprise equipment such as switches and routers.

4. Start-ups must create world class products : PM

  • Start-ups in India should not focus only on valuations and exit strategies, but on creat­ing institutions that will out­last this century and products that set the global benchmark on excellence, to help India become a glo­bal leader in technology, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said speaking at the NASSCOM Technology and Leadership Forum (NTLF).

5. India's economic march in 2021

  • S&P Global Ratings said India will be one of the fastest growing emerg­ing ­market economies with a 10% growth in the next fis­cal, and future sovereign rat­ing action would hinge on lo­wering fiscal deficit and sustaining debt burden.

  • The forecast for India in 2021 is on the stronger side and shows that a lot of economic activity, which was frozen last year, is coming back on line to normalisation, there­ by brightening the growth prospects. S&P said India’s economy has stabilised over recent months, with progressively better manufacturing, ser­vices, labour market and re­venue data.


1. Priya Ramani – MJ Akbar case & the #Metoo movement

2. Judiciary and its independence

3. Supreme Court and farm laws

4. Scaling up the Indian advantage in telehealth

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


February 16th, 2021

Your 10 minute read!



Daily snippets

1. Indians concerned about privacy: CJI

  • Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde said Indians have “grave apprehensions” about privacy from Facebook and WhatsApp. “We are telling you what we heard and read – people think that if A sends a WhatsApp message to B and B to C, the circuit of messages is revealed to Facebook,” he addressed senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Arvind Datar, for the companies. The hearing concerned the new privacy policy introduced by WhatsApp on January 4. The allegation is that it scraps users’ ‘opt­-out policy’. SC issued notices to WhatsApp, Facebook

2. Lawyers flag violation of norms in Disha arrest

  • The Delhi police have claimed that all norms and procedures were followed when they arrested 22 ­year – old climate activist Disha A. Ravi from her residence in Bengaluru. Several leading advocates and jurists have raised concerns over reported violations of norms and guidelines laid down by the Ministry of Home Affairs and multiple Delhi High Court and Supreme Court judgments.


Daily snippets

1. Geospatial data policy liberalised

  • In sweeping changes to the country’s mapping policy, the government announced liberalisation of norms governing the acquisition and production of geos­patial data, a move to help boost innovation in the sector and create a le­vel playing field for pu­blic and private entities. Under the new guide­lines, the sector will be deregulated and aspects such as prior approvals for surveying, mapping and building applications based on those have been done away with.

  • For Indian entities, there will be complete deregulation with no prior approvals, security clearances and licences for the acquisition and production of geospatial data and geospatial data services, including maps. The Prime Minister said that “the reform will bene­fit the country’s farmers, start-­ups, the private sec­tor, the public sector, and research institutions to drive innovations and build scalable solutions leve­raging the potential of ge­ospatial and remote sens­ing data”.


Daily snippets

1. ‘Israeli missile strikes in Syria kill 9’

  • Israeli missile strikes against several targets near Syria’s capital Damascus killed at least nine pro-­regime militia fighters. Since the outbreak of Syria’s civil war in 2011, Israel has routinely carried out raids in the country, mostly targeting Iranian forces and Lebanese Hezbollah fighters as well as government troops. Iran and Hezbollah have backed Syrian President Bashar al-­Assad’s regime in the near­decade­long war.

2. Nigeria’s Okonjo­Iweala appointed WTO head

  • Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo Iweala was appointed as the first female and first African head of the beleaguered World Trade Organization (WTO), saying a stronger WTO would be vital for the global COVID-­19 recovery. The WTO called a virtual special General Council meeting at which member states officially selected the former Nigerian Finance Minister and World Bank veteran as the global trade body’s new Director-­General.

  • She will take up her post on March 1 and her term, which is renewable, will run until August 31, 2025. The near paralysed institution desperately needs a kick start – something Ms. Okonjo­Iweala immediately addressed after being confirmed in the job. “A strong WTO is vital if we are to recover fully and rapidly from the devastation wrought by the COVID-­19 pandemic,” the 66­-year­old economist said in a statement.

3. Bangladesh authorities send more Rohingya to island

  • Bangladesh authorities sent a fourth group of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar to a newly developed island in the Bay of Bengal despite calls by human rights groups for a halt to the process. The roughly 2,000 Rohingya, who had been living in the sprawling refugee camps of Cox’s Bazar, were sent to Bhasan Char, an island specifically developed to accommodate 1,00,000 of the 1 million Rohingya who have fled from neighbouring Myanmar.

  • With Monday’s group, more than 7,000 refugees have moved to the island since the process started in December. While human rights groups have criticised the move and some are being forced to go against their will, the government has insisted that refugees moving to the island have done so voluntarily.


Commentary : Continuity, not change, is Biden’s plan for Palestine

(i). Background

  • Will President Joe Biden change the U.S.’s policy towards the Palestinian issue? The short answer is no. There are many reasons for this gloomy prognosis.

(ii). Why the same line?

  • The most important is Mr. Biden’s track record on Israel and especially on its continued occupation of Palestinian territories. He has been a firm supporter of Israel for decades and relatively unsympathetic to the Palestinian’s political concerns despite his support for a two-­state solution.

  • The Biden administration is willing to live with the status quo that allows Israel to continue its harsh occupation, build settlements, cantonise the West Bank, and eventually foreclose the two-­state option leaving the Palestinians stateless in their own land.

  • Thanks to Israeli propaganda, the conventional wisdom in Washington, D.C. has been that Palestinians ``never miss the opportunity to miss an opportunity”. The U.S. has stuck to this narrative despite evidence to the contrary over decades that Israeli governments through the building of settlements and confiscation of Palestinian lands have negated the possibility of a viable Palestinian state emerging in the occupied territories.

  • Although the U.S.’s unquestioning support for Israel has complicated its relations with the Arab world for decades, the perception of Israel’s importance to American strategy in West Asia as the U.S.’s one stable ally persists. Consequently, many in the region believe that American policy towards West Asia is made in Jerusalem and not in Washington.

Critical Analysis : Farm laws and 'taxation' of farmers

(i). Background : Net Taxation

  • Over the past three decades, a major rationale offered in favour of liberalising Indian agriculture was that farmers were “net taxed”. It was argued that this “net taxation” existed because protectionist policies deprived farmers of higher international prices, and the administered price system deprived farmers of higher domestic market prices.

(ii). A case for farm laws

  • If there were more liberal domestic markets and freer global trade, prices received by farmers would rise. Farm laws are necessary to end the net taxation of agriculture. For this purpose, data on Producer Support Estimate (PSE) are used. The farm laws would weaken restrictive trade and marketing policies in India and “get the markets right”. This, in turn, would eliminate negative support and raise farmers’ prices.

(iii). The case of milk

  • There is no Minimum Support Price (MSP) in milk, and a substantial share of milk sales takes place through the private sector, including multinationals like Nestle and Hatsun. Yet, India’s milk sector is growing faster than the foodgrain sector. If the milk sector can grow without MSP and with private corporates, why cannot other agricultural commodities.

(iv). How is the PSE estimated?

  • The PSE is estimated using a methodology advocated by the OECD. The PSE has two components – the first is market price support (MPS), the second is budgetary transfers (BOT).

  • The OECD estimates of MPS and PSE to show the perils of restrictive markets. By the same logic then, if the increasing penetration of private companies and the absence of MSP in milk are positive features, we should expect positive and rising MPS and PSE for milk.

  • Milk had the highest negative MPS among India’s major agricultural commodities in 2019. The reason is that the OECD methodology, either for milk or for other commodities, does not offer any realistic assessment of the extent of taxation or subsidisation.

(v). Building a logic

  • To conclude, In the debates, it is telling that these advocates (a) use the OECD estimates to highlight the overall negative MPS for agriculture as a problem; (b) but conveniently remain silent on the negative MPS for milk; and © yet, argue in the same breath that milk producers have benefited from the growth of private firms. The absence of logic in this line of argument is nothing but appalling. (

Story : Giant Leatherback turtle nesting sites and Andaman development project

(i). Background

  • Proposals for tourism and port development in the An­daman and Nicobar (A&N) Islands have conservationists worried over the fate of some of the most important nesting populations of the Giant Leatherback turtle in this part of the Indian Ocean.

(ii). About the Leatherback turtles

  • The largest of the seven species of sea turtles on the planet and also the most long ­ranging, Leatherbacks are found in all oceans ex­cept the Arctic and the An­tarctic.

  • Within the Indian Ocean, they nest only in In­donesia, Sri Lanka and the Andaman and Nicobar Is­lands and are also listed in Schedule I of India’s Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, accord­ing it the highest legal protection.

  • There is concern now, however, that at least three key nest­ing beaches – two on Little Andaman Island and one on Great Nicobar Island – are under threat due to mega “development” plans an­nounced in recent months.

(iii). The development-conservation dichotomy

  • The Little Andaman plan, which proposes phased growth of tourism on this virtually untouched island, has sought the de-­reserva­tion of over 200 sq km of pristine rainforest and also of about 140 sq km of the Onge Tribal Reserve. Two sites where key components of the tourism plan are to be implemented are both Leatherback nesting sites – South Bay along the south­ern coast of the island and West Bay along its western coast. The roughly 7-km long beach at West Bay has been the site of ongoing marine turtle research projects.

  • Not only are the numbers of fe­males nesting here significant, satellite telemetry has revealed hitherto unknown migration patterns. Satellite­ tagged female turtles have been tracked swimming up to 13,000 km after nesting on West Bay, towards the western coast of Australia and southwest towards the eastern coast of Africa.

(iv). National Marine Turtle Action Plan

  • The A&N Islands are pro­minent in the National Ma­rine Turtle Action Plan re­leased on February 1, 2021, by the Ministry of Environ­ment, Forest and Climate Change. West Bay on Little Andaman and Galathea on Great Nico­bar, along with other nest­ing beaches in the islands, find a specific mention here as “Important Marine Turtle Habitats in India” and the largest Leatherback nesting grounds in India.

  • The plan identifies coas­tal development, including construction of ports, jet­ ties, resorts and industries, as major threats to turtle populations. It also asks for assessments of the environmental impact of marine and coastal development that may affect marine turtle populations and their habitats.


Daily snippets

1. States fiscal deficit to narrow to 4.3% of GDP in FY22 : Ind-Ra

  • The aggregate fiscal deficit of States is likely to be at 4.3% of the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2021­-22 compared with 4.6% in 2020­-21, says a report by In­dia Ratings and Research. The rating agency has re­vised the outlook on State finances to stable for FY22 from stable ­to ­negative.

  • The agency estimates the nominal GDP to grow 14.5% in FY22, and believes a gradual pick­up in revenue col­lections could lead to an im­provement in the capital expenditure from FY22. The report said due to the economic downturn, even the union government’s finances are under pressure, leading to a lower ­than ­bud­geted devolution of ₹5.50 lakh crore to States in FY21.

2. Indian smartphone market fell 1.7% in 2020

  • While the Indian smartphone market declined by 1.7% in 2020, it is expected to witness high single­ digit growth in the current year, mainly driven by customers upgrading their devices, ac­cording to a report by the In­ternational Data Corpora­tion (IDC). The India smartphone market exited 2020 at 150 million units, a 1.7% year-­on­-year decline.

3. IT revenue to grow to $194 bn in FY21 : NASSCOM

  • Indian IT industry’s revenue is estimated to grow 2.3% year­-on-­year in FY21 to $194 billion on the back of a rapid acceleration in digital trans­formation and technology adoption, according to in­dustry apex body NASSCOM. During the fiscal, soft­ware exports are expected to touch $150 billion, a 1.9% growth over the year ­earlier period.

  • India has a huge oppor­tunity to become a talent na­tion for the entire world and investments will go where the talent is, said Debjani Ghosh, president, NASSCOM. The industry added more than 1.38 lakh to its head­ count in FY21, taking the to­tal to 4.47 million, as per a NASSCOM survey.


1. Remembering Justice P.B Sawant

2. Disha Ravi case

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


February 14th-15th, 2021

Your 10 minute read!



Daily snippets

1. SC refuses to review verdict on protesters

  • The Supreme Court has refused to reconsider its judgement that the Shaheen Bagh protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act were inconvenient for commuters. The original judgment of October 7 last year declared the demonstrations and road blockades in the Shaheen Bagh area of the national capital as “unacceptable”. The Review Bench, which comprised the same judges who delivered the original judgment, said it did not find any “error apparent warranting reconsideration” in the verdict.

2. Lockdown: SC allows 100% fee collection by Rajasthan schools

  • The Supreme Court has stayed a Rajasthan High Court order to schools affiliated to Central and State secondary education boards to collect only 60% of the tuition fee for the lockdown period. Bench led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar allowed schools to collect the entire arrears in six monthly instalments from March to August 2021.

  • In case parents have difficulty in paying the arrears, they should be allowed to approach the school authorities through individual representations. The management would consider them on a “case to case basis sympathetically”, the apex court said.

3. 22-year-old activist sent to Delhi police custody

  • Disha Ravi, a 22year old climate activist, was remanded in custody of the Delhi police for five days after she was arrested from Bengaluru for allegedly sharing with Greta Thunberg a “toolkit” related to the farmers’ protests. The police said Ms. Ravi had edited the “toolkit” on February 3. According to the police, the activist is an editor of the “Toolkit Google Doc” and was a key conspirator in the document’s formulation and dissemination.

4. Farm unions call Disha Ravi arrest an ‘intimidation tactic’

  • Protesting farm unions condemned the arrest of Bengaluru based climate activist Disha Ravi, who has been charged in connection with a “toolkit” to coordinate support for their protest. Climate activist charged with sedition for supporting ‘toolkit’.


Daily snippets

1. YouTubers back to tickle Valley’s funny bone

  • Kashmir’s comic YouTubers, who were rendered jobless and lost lakhs of followers after the August 5, 2019, decision to snap high speed Internet in the Valley, are back with their humour and sense of fun. It has been a week since the J&K administration restored 4G mobile Internet after 18 months, and the buzz is back on Valley Based YouTube channels, including the popular ‘Kashmiri Kalkharabs’ (Kashmiri quirks) with 7.2 lakh subscribers. There are over 100 YouTubers in Kashmir, mainly from modest backgrounds, who earn a living by uploading comedic content.

2. West Bengal to host Sanskriti Mahotsav

  • The Union Culture Ministry’s flagship festival, the Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav (RSM), will be held in West Bengal this time, the Ministry said in a statement. Renowned artists, including local artistes, would participate in the festival of folk art forms, it said. The festival would give visitors a chance to reconnect with indigenous culture. The 10th edition of the festival was held in Madhya Pradesh in October 2019.

3. PM hands over Arjun Mk-1A tank to Army

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi handed over the indigenous main battle tank Arjun Mk­1A to the Army in a function at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium in Chennai. Chief of the Army Staff General Manoj Mukund Naravane received the model of the tank, designed and developed by Chennai-­based Combat Vehicles Research & Development Establishment (CVRDE), a unit of the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO).

  • We will continue working to make our armed forces one of the most modern forces in the world. At the same time, the focus on making India atma nirbhar (self reliant) in the defence sector moves with full speed,” the Prime Minister said at the event.

  • The Arjun Mk­1A has superior firepower, high mobility, excellent protection and crew comfort, with 14 major upgrades from Arjun Mk­1, according to the CVRDE. The indent for 118 of these tanks would be placed shortly with the Heavy Vehicle Factory (HVF) at Avadi near Chennai.

4. ‘Inter-State boundary issue creating bad blood

  • A day after Andhra Pradesh held an election in a disputed region in Odisha’s Koraput district, Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said it was a matter of concern that a State had conducted panchayat elections inside another State’s geographical boundary.

5. Farm income mission off target

  • In the last year of its mission to double farmers income, the Centre admits that no ac­tual assessment of farm in­come has been carried out since 2013. Ashok Dalwai, head of the committee on doubling farmers income, said that only the imple­mentation of strategies was being monitored, rather than actual outcomes. He cautioned that the impact of the pandemic could have a dampening effect on reach­ing the income target.

  • The government also did not provide any details on what the base year for this goal is or what the targeted income to be achieved by the 2022 dea­dline was, on questions raised in the Parliament. In response to a request for State-­wise, year-­wise in­come data, and the annual growth percentage required to achieve the 2022 targets, the Ministry responded that the National Sample Survey Office’s last survey on agri­cultural households was conducted in 2013. Asked how the Centre in­tended to monitor progress without such surveys, it was told that the “govern­ment has constituted an ‘Empowered Body’ to review and monitor the progress”.

  • Seven strategies had been identified by the committee: improvement in crop and livestock produc­tivity, savings in production cost through efficient use of resources, higher cropping intensity and diversification towards high value crops, better price realisation and a shift to non­farm jobs. “We presume that if the State and the Central governments are making progress on these strategies, then in­comes also must be increas­ing,” Dr. Dalwai said.

  • His committee had used the NSSO’s 2013 income data and extrapolated it for 2015­-16, chosen as the base year. The base income in that year was estimated at more than ₹97,000 per annum. “We es­timated that the target income should be about ₹2 lakh per annum, from both farm and non farm income, by 2022,” he said.

6. UT status for J&K is temporary : Amit Shah

  • Home Minister Amit Shah told the Lok Sabha that the government would restore full statehood to Jammu and Kashmir at an appropriate time. Mr. Shah was replying to a discussion on the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Amendment) Bill, 2021, in the Lok Sabha. “This legislation has noth­ing to do with statehood, and Jammu and Kashmir will be accorded the status at an appropriate time,“ Mr. Shah said.

  • The J&K Reorganisa­tion (Amendment) Bill seeks to merge the all-­India servic­es J&K cadre with the Aruna­chal Pradesh, Goa, Mizoram Union Territory (AGMUT) cadre. He said the region’s Union Territory status is temporary just like Article 370 itself granting special status to Jammu and Kash­mir was supposed to be. Decentralisation and de­volution of power have ta­ken place in the UT follow­ing the revocation of Article 370, Mr. Shah said, noting that panchayat elections saw over 51% voting.

  • He assured the people of Jammu and Kashmir that “no one will lose their land”, adding that the government had sufficient land for deve­lopment. Mr. Shah said the government expects around 25,000 government jobs to be created by 2022.

7. Inceltivize states for disinvestment in PSEs : Finance Commission Chairperson

  • The Centre should incentiv­ise States to come clean on their fiscal deficit positions, bring off-­Budget liabilities above board and take up their own strategic disin­vestment programmes for State-­owned public sector enterprises, Fifteenth Fi­nance Commission Chairperson N.K. Singh mooted in an interview.

  • Terming the Centre’s de­cision to “transparently” acknowledge a fiscal deficit of 9.5% of GDP this year as “a very positive develop­ment”, Mr. Singh said that the Centre could incentivise the States to adopt a similar practice to enhance the con­fidence of investors in In­dia’s overall debt and fiscal deficit trajectory.


Daily snippets

1. PLA paper offers clues to China’s moves

  • As India and China began the first steps of implementing a disengagement plan after more than nine months of a tense stand­off at multiple points along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the causes of last year’s border crisis still remain a mystery.

  • A once-­in-­a-­decade military strategy document released by the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) leading think tank in 2013 offers some clues to China’s border moves, as it called for putting a stop to “nibbling” of territory as well as warned of India’s expanding maritime reach as it looked to stabilise its land borders, a development it viewed as a threat to China’s security interests. ‘The Science of Military Strategy’ released in 2013 by the Academy of Military Sciences was the third edition of the text, following previous versions in 1987 and 2001.

  • It outlined three stages of India’s military strategy since 1947 : a limited offensive strategy until the early 1960s, a period of “expansion on two fronts” from the 1960s to the early 1970s; a “maintain the land and control the sea” until the late 1980s, and “a major adjustment” after the end of the Cold War from “regional offence” to “regional deterrence” that stressed “the role of deterrence and not emphasising conquest and occupation of territory”.

  • In the view of the PLA think tank, India carried on with some aspects of what it inherited from British India’s military strategic thought, the core of which was “to treat Kashmir, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, and Assam as the internal lines of India’s defence; to incorporate Tibet into its sphere of influence as a buffer state; and to treat the illegally concocted McMahon Line [which China doesn’t recognise, on the eastern sector] and the Ardagh­-Johnson Line [in the western sector] as its security inner ring”.

  • The text claimed that with the rise of India’s national power, the “offensive” elements “have been increasing” but “restricted to the South Asian subcontinent and the Indian Ocean situation”. For China, it noted that while “the possibility of a large scale land invasion war occurring is fairly low nonetheless some border demarcation problems are hanging in the balance, and some border area nibbling and counter nibbling, and frictional and counter frictional struggles will be present for the long term”.

  • China has unresolved land borders with India and Bhutan. The PLA strategy predicted that India would look to stabilise its land borders and pay more attention to the sea, a development it viewed as unfavourable for China’s interests. Written eight years ago, it **foresaw deepening ties among the Quad *– India, U.S., Japan and Australia – and noted “against this backdrop, Japan’s going southward and India’s advancing eastward might intersect in the South China Sea, forming ‘dual arcs’ from the directions of two oceans, and Japan and Australia would constitute ‘dual anchors’ at the south and north ends of the Western Pacific*”

2. Draghi sworn in as new PM as Italy hopes to turn the page

  • Former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi was formally sworn in as Italy’s new Prime Minister, against the backdrop of the deadly coronavirus pandemic and a crippling recession. The appointment of the 73-year old known as “Super Mariocapped weeks of political instability for the country still in the grips of the health crisis that has killed more than 93,000 people.

  • Mr. Draghi was parachuted in by Mr. Mattarella after the previous centre-left coalition under premier Giuseppe Conte collapsed, leading Italy rudderless amid the worst recession since the Second World War. After assembling a broad based coalition, on Friday night Mr. Draghi formally accepted the post of premier, publicly revealing the new Cabinet for the first time.

3. Biden wants to shut prison at Guantanamo

  • U.S. President Joe Biden wants to close the Guantanamo Bay prison for terror suspects before the end of his term, the White House said on Friday, echoing an unfulfilled campaign promise from Barack Obama’s administration. Asked at a press conference about a possible closure of the prison in Cuba during Mr. Biden’s tenure, spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, “That certainly is our goal and our intention.”

  • In his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump expressed willingness to keep the Guantanamo prison open and “fill it with bad guys”. The Republican retained this position once elected. However, some detainees were promised their release from Guantanamo under his Democratic predecessor Obama, but he never succeeded in working out a compromise with Congress.

4. Senate acquits Trump of incitement

  • Former U.S. President Donald Trump was acquitted by the U.S. Senate in the impeachment trial of inciting an insurrection with regard to the January 6 attack on the Capitol by a mob of his supporters seeking to stop the certification of the Electoral College results. At the conclusion of proceedings that began last week, the Senate voted 57-­43 on Saturday to acquit Mr. Trump.

  • A majority of 67 votes would have been required for a conviction. Mr. Trump’s second impeachment trial was shorter than his first in 2020 and relied in large measure on video footage of the former President’s incendiary remarks and the Capitol attack. The defence argued that he did not incite “what was already going to happen'' on January 6 and that his comments were protected by his right to free speech by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

5. Russia’s Foreign Minister holds talks on climate with U.S. envoy

  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed climate change with U.S. envoy John Kerry and the two agreed to cooperate further within the Arctic Council, the Russian Foreign Ministry said. “During the conversation, questions were raised about the implementation of the Paris climate accord,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement released late on Saturday.

  • The Foreign Minister told Mr. Kerry, a former Secretary of State who is now the U.S. climate envoy, that he “welcomed” the decision by new U.S. President Joe Biden to rejoin the landmark Paris Agreement on curbing global emissions of greenhouse gases. Mr. Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump had pulled out of the 2015 accord.

  • The two men also “underlined the need for as wide a cooperation as possible” in the area of the environment. They also agreed to “develop cooperation” within the Arctic Councila high-­level intergovernmental forum that addresses various issues, including sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic region.

  • The conversation came at a time when already strained relations between Russia and the West have been further exacerbated by the arrest and imprisonment of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny and Moscow’s merciless crackdown on the ensuing protests. Earlier this month, Mr. Biden said the U.S. would no longer be “rolling over in the face of Russia’s aggressive actions'' and demanded Mr. Navalny’s release.

6. Pakistan Army conducts exercises in Thar Desert

  • The Pakistan Army is holding a month-long exercise in the Thar Desert, located in the Sindh province, to prepare for conflict in extreme desert environments. The exercise, codenamed ‘Jidar­ul­Hadeed’, began on January 28 and is scheduled to conclude on February 28.

  • The Army has a Desert Warfare School at Chhor, which is 165 km from Hyderabad, Sindh. The school was established in 1987 to promote desert warfare. The Thar Desert is an arid region that covers over 2,00,000 sq km. It forms a natural boundary along the border between India and Pakistan. Meanwhile, a multinational naval exercise hosted by Pakistan, Aman­-2021, began in the Arabian Sea. It will conclude on February 16. As many as 45 countries, including the U.S., Russia, China and Turkey, will be participating in the exercise.

7. UAE’s Hope Probe sends home first image of Mars

  • The UAE’s Hope Probe sent back its first image of Mars, the national space agency said Sunday, days after the spacecraft successfully entered the Red Planet’s orbit. The picture “captured the largest volcano in the solar system, Olympus Mons, emerging into the early morning sunlight”, it said in a statement. The image was taken from an altitude of 24,700 km above the Martian surface, a day after the probe entered Mars’ orbit, it said in a statement.

  • Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al­Maktoum, UAE Prime Minister and Dubai’s ruler, shared the coloured image on Twitter. “The first picture of Mars captured by the first ever Arab probe in history,” he wrote. The mission is designed to reveal the secrets of Martian weather, but the UAE also wants it to serve as an inspiration for the region’s youth.

  • Hope became the first of three spacecraft to arrive at the Red Planet this month after China and the U.S. also launched missions in July, taking advantage of a period when the Earth and Mars are nearest. The UAE’s venture is also timed to mark the 50th anniversary of the unification of the nation’s seven emirates. Hope will orbit the Red Planet for at least one Martian year, or 687 days.

8. Russia’s increasing poverty rates fuel political discontent

  • The COVID­-19 pandemic has delivered a new blow to Russia’s stagnating economy, which was already chafing under Western sanctions, low oil prices and weak corporate investment. Observers say that rising poverty, falling incomes and lack of tangible government support during the pandemic are fuelling discontent with President Vladimir Putin’s two decade rule and strengthening the opposition.

  • Answering the jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s call, tens of thousands of people have protested across Russia over the past few weeks. Russians’ real disposable incomes have been falling for the past half decade, and contracted by 3.5% in 2020, while the cost of basic foodstuff has surged.


Analysis : Spotlight on dams after Chamoli disaster

(i). The story so far

  • A snow avalanche triggered possibly by a landslide caused a flash flood in the Rishi Ganga river, a tributary of the Alaknanda in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, washing away a functional small hydroelectric project and destroying the under construction 520 MW Tapovan Vishnugad project of the NTPC on the Dhauli Ganga river.

(ii). Why did it happen?

  • Union Home Minister Amit Shah told Parliament that satellite imagery from Planet Labs indicated that the landslide­ avalanche event at an altitude of 5,600 metres occurred in a glacier in the Rishi Ganga catchment, and covered an area of 14 sq. km, causing the flood.

(iii). Why is the Chamoli incident of concern?

  • Uttarakhand, which gained a distinct identity in the year 2000 as a separate State carved out from Uttar Pradesh, is geologically unique. As a part of the lesser Himalaya, in the populated terrane – a region bounded by earth faults – it remains active in terms of deep movement of rock assemblages.

  • There are several researchers who refer to other characteristics that call into question the wisdom of committing vast resources to large dam building in Uttarakhand. A key concern is the active nature of rock fractures, known as faults, which respond to earthquakes, creating enormous instability, especially along slopes.

  • Moreover, the geology of mountains in many parts of Uttarakhand is such that the threat of landslides is high. Rocks here have been weakened by natural processes across time and are vulnerable to intense rainfall as well as human interference, in the form of house building and road construction. The careless disposal of enormous debris from mining and construction projects has added to the problem, blocking flow paths and providing additional debris.

(iv). Should Uttarakhand worry about the effects of climate change?

  • The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate found that in the Himalayan ranges, there could be variations in overall water availability, but floods, avalanches and landslides were all forecast to increase. Changes in monsoonal precipitation could also bring more frequent disasters. In 2013, catastrophic loss of lives was seen in the floods that swept Kedarnath. They were triggered by heavy rainfall over a short period in June, first destroying a river training wall, and then triggering a landslide that led to the breaching of the Chorabari moraine­ dammed lake, devastating Kedarnath town. What this means is that aberrations in the Indian summer monsoon caused by changes to long term climate could produce even greater damage, by bringing debris and silt down the river courses, destroying physical structures, reducing dam life, and causing enormous losses.

(v). Are expensive hydroelectric projects worth the investment today?

  • The International Renewable Energy Agency estimated that in 2019, the average levelized cost of electricity in India was $0.060 per kilowatt­-hour (kWh) for small hydropower projects added over the last decade. In comparison, the global cost for solar power was $0.068 per kWh in 2019 for utility scale projects. Though hydropower has been reliable where suitable dam capacity exists, in places such as Uttarakhand, the net benefit of big dams is controversial because of the collateral and unquantified damage in terms of loss of lives, livelihoods and destruction of ecology. Chipko movement activist Sunderlal Bahuguna argued that large dams with an expected life of about 100 years, that involve deforestation and destruction, massively and permanently alter the character and health of the hills.

Analysis : Endless war in Yemen

(i). Background

  • The Biden administration’s decision to end U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s Yemen war is a signal to Riyadh that the Trump-­era open support it had enjoyed is a matter of the past.

(ii). Obama & Trump favoured Saudi-Arabia

  • The U.S. offered support to Saudi Arabia’s campaign against the Houthi rebels in Yemen when Barack Obama was the President. Donald Trump continued that policy, overlooking the disastrous effects of the war that has turned Yemen, one of the poorest Arab countries, into a humanitarian catastrophe.

  • In its last hours, the Trump State Department designated the Houthis, who are backed by Iran, as a terrorist organisation. Rights groups have condemned the move, saying that the designation would complicate aid efforts as the Houthis control a sizable part of Yemen, including the capital.

(iii). Biden’s withdrawal of support

  • Mr. Biden has now taken a different line, initiating steps to remove the Houthis from the terror list, among other actions. This is part of his larger attempts to rewrite the U.S.’s West Asia policy which, under Mr. Trump, was almost entirely focused on containing Iran. The administration’s message seems to have reached Riyadh.

(iv). Gain for Qatar

  • Saudi Arabia ended a nearly four year long blockade of Qatar, another American ally, after Mr. Biden was elected President. It has also signalled that it would carry out domestic reforms keeping human rights in focus. But it is yet to make any definite moves to wrap up the Yemen conflict.

(v). Saudi-Arabia’s Role in Yemen

  • Yemen is a case study for a war that has gone wrong on all fronts. When the Saudis started bombing the country in March 2015, their plan was to oust the Houthis from Sana’a and restore a pro-­Riyadh government. Despite the Saudi­-led attacks, the Houthis held on to the territories they captured, while the Saudi-backed government of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi was teetering on the brink of collapse. Saudi Arabia has failed to oust the Houthis from Sana’a and is now facing frequent rocket and drone attacks by the rebels.

(vi). Role of UAE in Yemen

  • After five years of fighting, the United Arab Emirates pulled out of the war last year. And the UAE-­backed Southern Transitional Council wants southern Yemen to be an independent entity. While these multiple factions continued to fight, more than 10,000 people were killed in attacks and tens of thousands more died of preventable diseases. Yemen also stares at famine. It is a lose-­lose war for everyone. The Houthis are living in permanent war, unable to provide even basic services to the people in the territories they control.

  • Yemen’s internationally recognised government practically lacks any power and legitimacy at home as the war is being fought by other players. Ending the war is in the best interest of all parties. Mr. Biden should push Saudi Arabia and its allies to end their blockade of Yemen and initiate talks with the country’s multiple rebel factions.

Commentary : Fuzzy law, unclear jurisprudence, trampled rights

(i). Background

  • On February 1, 2021, in the wake of the intensification of the farmers’ protests and reports of violent incidents on January 26 – a number of Twitter accounts became inaccessible in India.

  • As outrage mounted, the Government of India clarified that it had invoked Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, and ordered Twitter to block access to these accounts. The reason, it appeared, was the use of the hashtag #ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide, which was deemed a threat to public order.

  • Soon after, Twitter restored access to many of the withheld accounts. This prompted a sharp reaction from the government. Twitter’s employees would be prosecuted for violating Section 69A. The government’s own actions in directing it to withhold access to the accounts of journalists, activists, and politicians, violated Indian law, and the constitutional guarantee of the freedom of speech.

(ii). Legal Analysis

  • These events of the last few days throw into sharp relief the unsatisfactory state of Indian law and how it is interpreted and applied by censorship happy governments. The root of the problem is Section 69A of the IT Act.

  • There are a number of problems with this legal structure. The first is that it makes censorship an easy and almost completely costless option, for the government. Second, the confidentiality requirement means that the user will not even know why their account has been blocked and, therefore, will be in no position to challenge it. Third, there are no procedural safeguards – no opportunity for a hearing to affected parties, and no need for reasoned orders.

  • A combination of bad law and unclear jurisprudence has created a situation where Twitter or the intermediary that might be caught in the government’s crosshairs is the only entity that is in a position to defend the free speech rights of Indian citizens. There is, thus, an urgent need for both legal and jurisprudential reform.

What’s new : Clubhouse : The new kid in town

(i). Background

  • It is being touted as the next big thing in social media. It was launched last March and alrea­dy has 2 million users and is reportedly worth $1 billion. It is funded by one of the most prominent venture capital firms in the world, Andreessen Horowitz. Clubhouse, the app that describes itself as “a new type of network based on voice”, has generated a lot of buzz in recent weeks.

(ii). The new concept

  • Clubhouse app is centred around people talking real­ time, no cameras on. “Voice is so universal but in the world of social networking, it’s relatively new,” Paul Da­vison, Clubhouse’s co-founder, said.

  • Once inside the app, what you see are ‘rooms’, lots and lots of them. Each ‘room’ is a space where a conversa­tion is happening. You can enter one, listen in, even participate if allowed. It is much like having a wide choice of radio channels but here you can take part too. Also, you can even start a ‘room’ of your own.

  • Coming into the scene much after the disruptive new conversational spaces brought forth by the first generation of social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, Clubhouse may not operate by the playbook of its predecessors. “The focus is on authentic human connection and dia­logue rather than likes or followers”, said Mr. Davison. There is also no record of Clubhouse conver­sations to come back to. If you miss them once, you miss them forever.

  • Not everything is for eve­ryone. It can be a private conversation that one has with one more person, much like a phone conversa­tion, or something that reaches many, many peo­ple. The decision about who should be let into a conver­sation rests with those who initiate the conversation. Clubhouse al­so can’t be immune to the is­sues of hate speech and dis­ information faced by other platforms, and it insists sys­tems to deal with them are in place. It wants to build monetisation strategies for its creators, so that they can make money from listeners via subscription and tickets.


Daily snippets

1. Para Athletics : India claims four more gold medals

  • Indian men’s javelin throw­ers came up with a brilliant show as reigning World champion Sandeep Chaud­hary (F44), Ajeet Singh (F46) and Navdeep (F41) won gold on the third day of the 12th Fazza International World Para Athletics Grand Prix on Friday. They were later joined by Pranav Prashant Desai in the men’s 200m F64, while World champion javelin thrower Sundar Singh Gur­jar (F46) finished with a bronze. Navdeep and Arvind also secured quotas for the up­coming Tokyo Paralympics as India’s tally swelled to 17 medals, including nine gold.


1. The wages of struggle : Putting Impunity First

2. Wider access to legal resources

3. India's web censorship regime

4. Cruelty to animals

5. Privacy of people : Supreme Court

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


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