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Your ten minute read!

March 16th-18th, 2021

Your 10 minute read!

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LAW, POLICY & GOVERNANCE



Daily snippets

1. Over 60% OBC,SC posts vacant in IIMs

  • More than half of the faculty positions reserved for the OBCs in Central institutions of higher education are vacant while about 40% of those reserved for the Scheduled Castes and Tribes also remain unfilled, Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ told the Lok Sabha. 93% of ST posts of professors at Central varsities are unfilled.

2. Bill to define Delhi L­G’s powers moved in LS

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) moved a Bill in the Lok Sabha in which it proposed that the “government” in the National Capital Territory of Delhi meant the Lieutenant ­Governor of Delhi. The Bill gives discretionary powers to the L­G even in matters where the Legislative Assembly of Delhi is empowered to make laws. The Home Ministry seeks to amend the 1991 Act.

3. Govt. opposes inclusion of judges, lawyers in vaccine priority group

  • The Centre told the Supreme Court that prioritising COVID-­19 vaccination on the basis of profession will amount to “discrimination” and is against larger national interests. It was responding to a PIL to include judges, lawyers and court staff in the “prioritised group of population who will get the COVID­-19 vaccine first”.

4. Call for fresh polls if NOTA tops count

  • The Supreme Court asked the Centre and the Election Commission of India to respond to a plea that fresh elections should be conducted in constituencies where the highest number of votes polled are NOTA. The Supreme Court asked the Centre and the Election Commission of India to respond to a plea that fresh elections should be conducted in constituencies where the highest number of votes polled are NOTA.

  • “None of the Above” (or NOTA) has been provided as an option to the voters of India in most elections since 2009. The Supreme Court in PUCL vs. Union of India Judgement 2013 directed the use of NOTA in the context of direct elections to the Lok Sabha and the respective state assemblies.

5. HC orders probe into ‘illegal’ arrest of labour rights activist

  • The Punjab and Haryana High Court marked an inquiry into allegations of illegal detention and custodial torture of labour rights activist Shiv Kumar, who was arrested by the Haryana police in January this year.

  • The court asked the District and Sessions Judge at Faridabad to hold the inquiry after hearing a petition that sought transfer of the investigation of cases registered under the section 307 of the IPC and other sections at the Kundli police station in Sonipat to an independent agency.

6. Come out with ‘rule curve’ for Mullaperiyar: SC

  • The Supreme Court said the Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary will be “personally responsible” and “appropriate action” will be taken on failure to give information on the ‘rule curve’ for the Mullaperiyar dam to the Supreme Court appointed Supervisory Committee.

  • After a nearly day long hearing, a Bench led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar directed the Supervisory Committee to issue directions or take steps to address the three core safety issues – the monitoring and performance of the instrumentation of the dam, finalising the ‘rule curve’ and fixing the gate operating schedule – and submit a compliance report in four weeks.

7. Karnataka HC wants end to postings for money

  • In an unprecedented order, the High Court of Karnataka has urged the Chief Justice to initiate suo motu proceedings against the State government to put an end to the “pernicious practice” of posting officers “for monetary considerations and reasons other than public interest”.

8. Rajya Sabha passes MTP Bill

  • The Rajya Sabha passed the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 that increases the time period within which an abortion may be carried out. The Opposition’s demand to send the Bill to a parliamentary Select Committee for detailed scrutiny was defeated by a voice vote.

  • Currently, abortion requires the opinion of one doctor if it is done within 12 weeks of conception, and two doctors if it is done between 12 and 20 weeks. The Bill allows abortion to be done on the advice of one doctor up to 20 weeks, and two doctors in the case of certain categories of women, between 20 and 24 weeks. For a pregnancy to be terminated after 24 weeks in case of substantial foetal abnormalities, the opinion of the State level medical board is essential.

9. No more adjournment of Zakia Jafri plea: SC

  • The Supreme Court made it clear that it would brook no further adjournment from both sides while posting a petition filed by Zakia Jafri, widow of slain Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, against the SIT’s clean chit to then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in the 2002 Godhra riots to April 13.

10. Serious issue if 3 cr. ration cards were cancelled, says SC

  • The Supreme Court said it was a “very serious” matter if the Centre had really cancelled around three crore ration cards, even those of tribal people and the poor, solely because they could not be biometrically linked with Aadhaar.

  • A Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde, asked the Centre to respond to the allegation made in a petition by Koili Devi, represented by senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, that such cancellations had led to starvation deaths across the country.

11. Who will police the police, asks Haryana court

  • A court in Pehowa in Haryana’s Kurukshetra acquitted a washerman in a four year old bicycle theft case saying “this matter has shaken the conscience of this court”. Judicial Magistrate First Class Amitendra Singh observed that it was an exemplary case of an “absolute ill motivated” and “botched up investigation”, where some police officers misuse their powers to harass an innocent person for the simple reason that he dared to file a complaint against one of their colleagues and succeeded in getting the officer punished by a court of law.

12. Enact law to make Facebook, Google pay for news, says MP

  • India should take a cue from Australia and enact a law to make tech giants such as Facebook and Google pay local publishers of news content, senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi demanded in the Rajya Sabha. Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu remarked that the suggestion was “worth considering”.

13. ‘Frame rules for amicus curiae’

  • Solicitor General Tushar Mehta made a strong appeal to the Supreme Court to frame guidelines to rein in lawyers appointed as the court’s amici curiae in various cases, especially sensitive ones.

  • An amicus curiae (literally, “friend of the court”) is someone who is not a party to a case who assists a court by offering information, expertise, or insight that has a bearing on the issues in the case.


NATIONAL NEWS/ INTERVENTIONS



Daily snippets

1. SKM raises farm laws in UN Human Rights Council

  • Samyukt Kisan Morcha leader Darshan Pal raised the issue of India’s contentious farm reform laws at the United Nations Human Rights Council, asking the UN to urge the Indian government to repeal the laws. Speaking via video message during the general debate at the ongoing 46th session of the Council, Dr. Pal noted that India was a signatory to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and was thus committed to the protection of small farmers. However, he alleged that the farm laws will remove such protections by endangering the MSP system, the use of profits for rural infrastructure, and access to the courts.

2. Kathakali maestro Kunhiraman Nair no more

  • Guru Chemancheri Kunhiraman Nair, a recipient of Padma Shri, died at the age of 104. He was a seasoned Kathakali actor and played a significant role in making Bharatanatyam popular in north Kerala.

  • Kathakali is a major form of classical Indian dance. It is a “story play” genre of art, but one distinguished by the elaborately colorful make-up, costumes and face masks that the traditionally male actor-dancers wear. Kathakali is a Hindu performance art in the Malayalam-speaking southwestern region of Kerala.

3. ₹2,000 notes not printed since 2019, govt. tells LS

  • The government informed the Lok Sabha that ₹2,000 currency notes have not been printed in the past two years even as the quantum of the highest denomination currency note has come down. In a written reply, Minister of State for Finance Anurag Singh Thakur said 3,362 million currency notes of ₹2,000 denomination were in circulation on March 30, 2018, constituting 3.27% and 37.26% of the currency in terms of volume and trade respectively.

  • As of February 26, 2021, 2,499 million pieces of ₹2,000 notes were in circulation, constituting 2.01% and 17.78% of banknotes in terms of volume and value, respectively. Printing of banknotes of a particular denomination is decided by the government in consultation with the RBI to maintain desired denomination mix for facilitating transactional demand of the public.

4. Delhi remains most polluted capital: report

  • Delhi remained the most polluted capital city in the world but India, on the whole, had improved its average annual PM2.5 (particulate matter) levels in 2020 than in 2019, according to a report from IQAir, a Swiss air quality technology company specialising in protection against airborne pollutants, and developing air quality monitoring and air cleaning products.

  • Bangladesh and Pakistan were the countries in 2020 with worse average PM2.5 levels than India, said the report. China ranked 11th in the latest report, a deterioration from the 14th in the previous edition of the report. In the 2020 report, 106 countries were evaluated. The pollution levels are weighted averages, meaning that the population of a country influences the pollution values reported. However, of the 106 monitored countries, only 24 met the World Health Organization annual guidelines for PM 2.5, the report underlined.

5. Maharashtra told to plan for the worst

  • The Health Ministry has cautioned Maharashtra to plan for a “worst case scenario” with sufficient lead time as the State continues to report the highest number of new daily COVID­-19 cases and deaths across India. It has also directed the resumption of death audits to support public health action and minimise mortality.

  • The Health Ministry has now recommended monitoring of the situation at the highest level, strengthened surveillance, enhanced involvement of private practitioners, increased testing and reviewing the practice of isolating 80-­85% of active cases kept at home. It added that measures such as night curfews and weekend lockdowns had limited impact on containing/suppressing the transmission.

6. Govt. appoints new chiefs for CRPF, NSG

  • The Modi government named senior IPS officer Kuldiep Singh as the new Director General (DG) of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). Another IPS officer of the 1986 batch M.A. Ganapathy of Uttarakhand cadre has been named as the DG of National Security Guard (NSG).

7. ‘No parliament should discuss internal issues of other nations’

  • No parliament should discuss laws passed in other parliaments and issues that are internal to sovereign countries, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla said on Tuesday. Mr. Birla made these remarks in the Central Hall of Parliament while hosting the Inter-­Parliamentary Union (IPU) president Duarte Pacheco.

  • The event was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha Harivansh, Union ministers, Members of Parliament and members of the diplomatic community. The Speaker’s remarks are significant as they come just days after lawmakers in Britain discussed the farmers’ protests in India in the British parliament. Without naming any country, the Lok Sabha Speaker also asserted that India has a clear policy against terrorism and expansionism.

8. Plan to test anganwadi food by FSSAI

  • Mission POSHAN 2.0, likely to be sent for Union Cabinet approval soon, provides for testing of meals and food packets distributed at anganwadis for nutritional standards and quality by FSSAI labs. The government proposes to rope in NABL laboratories notified by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and also use rapid food testing kits approved by the regulator. The latter will mitigate the need for samples to be sent to the laboratories for testing.

  • The Ministry of Women and Child Development, the nodal Ministry for implementing the Mission POSHAN, will also partner with the Panchayati Raj Ministry so that FSSAI and the National Institute of Nutrition can train Panchayati Raj functionaries at village level and anganwadi workers in maintaining and monitoring quality.

9. Saving the Great India Bustard

  • The Supreme Court intervened on behalf of the critically endangered Great Indian Bustards over the birds falling dead after colliding with power lines running through their dwin­dling natural habitats in Guj­arat and Rajasthan. A Bench led by Chief Jus­tice of India Sharad A. Bobde will examine on a priority basis whether overhead power cables can be re­placed with underground ones to save one of the hea­viest flying birds on the planet.

  • Attorney General K.K. Ve­nugopal, appearing for the Power Ministry, however submitted that only low vol­tage lines can go underground but not the high vol­tage ones. “Wherever there are high voltage power lines, they can use flight bird diverters even if the recurring costs are high. Wherever there are overhead low voltage lines, these lines can be placed un­derground,” Chief Justice Bobde remarked.

10. India's arms imports down by 33%

  • Arms imports decreased by 33% between 2011–15 and 2016–20 while India conti­nues to remain the second largest arms importer after Saudi Arabia, according to a report from Swedish think tank Stockholm Internation­al Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). The report said Russia was the largest arms supplier to India in both years. The U.S. was the second largest arms supplier to In­dia in 2011–15 but in 2016–20 India’s arms imports from the U.S. were 46% lower than in the previous five ­year period, making the U.S. the fourth largest supplier in 2016–20. France and Israel were the second and third largest arms suppliers in 2016–20.

  • The report said that combat aircraft and associated missiles made up more than 50% of arms imports. Arms imports by Pakistan between 2011–15 and 2016– 20 decreased by 23%. China accounted for 61% of its im­ports in 2011–15 and for 74% in 2016–20.

11. India to expand air-bubble pact with more countries

  • The Government wants to expand the “air bubble” arrange­ment with more countries, and the priority would be Saudi Arabia, Kuwait in the west and Japan, China and Singapore in the east. Under the air bubble scheme, commercial airlines from specific countries are allowed to travel to and from India on a limited basis.

  • External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar told the Rajya Sabha that the Vande Bharat Mission saw more than 45 lakh people return home. He said the focus had now shifted to Indians going back to their usual places of work, study and domicile and restoring em­ployment opportunities abroad with the help of partner countries. So far, air tran­sport bubble arrangements had been concluded with 27 countries. The Minister said India was fully aware of the em­ployment concerns of peo­ple working abroad.

12. Innovation : Bee fences to ward off elephant attacks

  • A pilot project launched in Kodagu entails installing bee boxes along the periphery of the forest and the villages with the belief that the ele­phants will not venture anywhere close to the bees and thus avoid transgressing into human landscape. An initiative of the Khadi and Village In­dustries Commission (KVIC), Project RE­HAB (Reducing Elephant ­Human Attacks using Bees) in­tends to create “bee fences'' to thwart ele­phant attacks in human habitations using honeybees. ­Bee boxes have been placed on the ground as well as hung from the trees. High resolution, night vision cameras have been installed at strategic points to record the impact of bees on elephants and their behaviour.

  • The big­gest advantage of Project RE­HAB is that it dissuades ele­phants without causing any harm to them. Between 2015 and 2020, nearly 2,500 people have lost their lives in elephant attacks across India, of which 170 human fatalities have been reported in Karnataka alone, says the KVIC.

13. Census interim data by 2024

  • The provisional data for the latest Census and National Population Register (NPR) will be available before the Lok Sabha election in 2024, according to information provided by the Union Home Ministry to a parliamentary committee. The Ministry informed the committee that Census and update of the NPR would be among the major thrust areas for the financial year 2021-­22. The previous Census was conducted in 2011 and the NPR, which has a database of 119 crore residents, was last updated in 2015.

  • The first phase of census – House listing and Housing Census – will provide data on housing conditions, household amenities and as­sets possessed by the house­holds. The second phase is popula­tion enumeration phase to provide data on demogra­phy, religion, SC/ST, lan­guage, literacy and educa­tion, economic activity, migration and fertility. The committee was in­formed that the mobile app through which Census will be conducted will be availa­ble in 16 languages.

14. Shifting to renewable sources of energy

  • The COVID-­19 crisis offers an unexpected opportunity for countries to decouple their eco­nomies from fossil fuels and ac­celerate the shift to renewable energy sources, says the World Energy Transitions Outlook re­port, brought out by the Inter­national Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). The report proposes energy transi­tion solutions for the narrow pathway available to contain the rise of temperature to 1.5 degree Celsius.

  • IRENA observed that the emergence of a new energy sys­tem based on renewable tech­nologies and complemented by green hydrogen and modern bioenergy. It estimated that by 2050, 90% of total electricity needs would be supplied by re­newables, followed by 6% from natural gas and the remaining from nuclear. Ugandan climate activist Va­nessa Natake, who delivered the keynote address, criticised the leaders for continuing to invest in fossil fuel commitments.

15. Post-vaccine blood clots

  • Scientists at the Germany­ based Paul-­Ehrlich-­Institute report that the blood clots observed in some of those vaccinated are a “special form of very rare cerebral vein thrombosis”. This cor­responds to a deficiency in platelets and bleeding following vaccination with the AstraZeneca COVID-­19 vac­cine. Several cases of immune thrombocytopenia, a lack of platelets in the blood that can lead to bleeding and bruising, had been reported under its vaccine safety monitoring process. Several EU countries – France and Italy for instance – have called a halt to the As­traZeneca vaccine after re­ports from Denmark and Norway of possible serious side­ effects, including bleed­ing and blood clots.

  • The World Health Or­ganization (WHO) has ruled out any link between Astra­ Zeneca’s vaccine against the coronavirus disease (CO­VID-­19) and reported blood clots. “We do not want people to panic and we would, for the time being, recommend that countries continue vac­cinating with AstraZeneca,” WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan said. India also is reliant on Covishield, which is based on the AstraZeneca vaccine, and forms the bulk of the nearly 30 million vaccines that have been so far admi­nistered to the population.

16. No decision on National NRIC till now

  • The Union government in­formed the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday that “till now”, it had not taken any deci­sion to prepare the National Register of Indian Citi­zens (NRIC) at the national level. From December 2019 to March 2020, 69 persons were killed in various inci­dents in the wake of prot­ests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, the Na­tional Population Register and the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

  • In 2018, before the passage of the CAA, the then Minis­ter of State for Home Hans­ raj Gangaram Ahir had informed the Rajya Sabha that “as per the provisions con­tained in Rule 3 of the Citi­zenship Rules 2003 framed under the Citizenship Act, 1955, the Registrar General of Citizen Registration shall establish and maintain the National Register of Indian Citizens and prepare the Population Register”. NPR's link with the NRC and the yet­ to ­be ­im­plemented CAA has been opposed by many States and civil society groups.

  • The Citizen­ship Rules framed in the year 2003 say that NPR is the first step towards compi­lation of NRC. NPR was first collected in 2010 and then updated in 2015; it already has a database of 119 crore residents. The rules have not been amended or scrapped. The CAA passed by the Parliament on December 11, 2019 allows citizenship on basis of religion to six un­documented communities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who en­tered India on or before De­cember 31, 2014. There are apprehensions and fear that the CAA, fol­lowed by a countrywide NRC, will benefit non­-Mus­lims excluded from the pro­posed citizens’ register, while excluded Muslims will have to prove their citizen­ship.

17. Appropriation Bill passed by the Lok Sabha

  • The Lok Sabha cleared the Appropria­tion Bill, allowing the Cen­tral government to draw funds from the Consolidated Fund of India for its opera­tional requirements and im­plementation of various programmes. The Bill was passed after Speaker Om Birla put it through guillotine, a legisla­tive mechanism to approve the fast-tracking of the pas­sage of outstanding de­mands for grants without discussion.

18. Amendments proposed to the Government of Na­tional Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991

  • According to experts, While some were of the opinion that the new Bill will seek to render the office of the Chief Minister a vestigial organ in the name of simpli­fying administration, others argued that the amendments will iron out “needless” is­sues arising out of politics in a city where the Lieutenant­ Governor had “always been the government”. Senior advocate at the Su­preme Court Rebecca John said the Bill would snatch away from the residents of Delhi the accountability and answerability they sought from the elected representa­tives and hand them to a nominated official. Senior advocate at the Su­preme Court Sanjay Hegde said the Bill would set in mo­tion a reversal of the clock on statehood for Delhi. Manisha Priyam, political analyst and researcher, said the Bill may seek to clarify who or what the term “go­vernment” meant in the city, but residents may not take kindly to the exercise.

  • K.S. Mehra, a former bu­reaucrat who led the unified Municipal Corporations of Delhi as Commissioner, saw the step as one in the right direction. “In the Government of Na­tional Capital Territory of Delhi] Act, 1991, it is already clear that the Lieutenant­ Go­vernor is the government. This [amendments] seems to be a positive step for the wel­fare of the people of Delhi,” he said. The Delhi Assembly, as far as the larger constitutional picture is concerned, is not comparable to other le­gislatures because Delhi is not a State.


INTERNATIONAL NEWS/EVENTS/ PERSONALITIES



Daily snippets

1. Pak. envoy raises concern over ‘burqa ban’ in Sri Lanka

  • The Pakistani High Commissioner in Colombo has raised concern over Sri Lanka’s recent announcement on outlawing the burkha, noting that such a ban would “injure” the feelings of ordinary Muslims in Sri Lanka and elsewhere.

  • The UN resolution on Sri Lanka’s rights record is expected to draw upon the January 2021 report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which observed that the country’s Tamil and Muslim minorities “are being increasingly marginalised and excluded from the national vision and Government policy, while divisive and discriminatory rhetoric from the highest State officials risks generating further polarization and violence”.

  • Sri Lanka has reached out to different member states, including India, seeking support at the Council. About a third of the 47-­member Council’s current membership, including Pakistan, is part of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which earlier criticised Colombo’s mandatory cremations policy for COVID­-19 victims that affected the island’s Muslim minority.

2. Adani Ports confirms role in Colombo terminal project

  • In its first confirmation yet of investing in the Colombo Port, after much controversy within Sri Lanka and an apparent strain in Indo-­Lanka ties, Adani Ports and Special Economic Zones said it was “bolstering” its global footprint with the West Container Terminal (WCT) project in the island nation’s strategic port.

  • The Adani Group’s investment in the WCT project comes after the Sri Lankan government, in early February, ejected India and Japan out of a 2019 trilateral agreement to jointly develop the East Container Terminal (ECT) at the Colombo Port, as trade unions opposed “foreign involvement” in the country’s national assets.

  • In what Colombo termed a “compromise”, the government offered the WCT instead, with higher stakes for the Adani Group, along with its local partner and Sri Lanka’s largest conglomerate John Keells Holdings, to execute the project with the Sri Lanka Ports Authority.

3. China worried for safety of citizens in Myanmar

  • Beijing said it was “very concerned” for the safety of its citizens in Myanmar, after Chinese factories were attacked amid a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Yangon. Chinese state media said 32 factories in Yangon were attacked on Sunday, causing $37 million in damage and leaving two staff injured. Martial law has been declared in the townships where the factories were located. Many in Myanmar’s pro-democracy movement believe China has sided with the Army since the coup.

4. Catholic Church cannot bless same­sex unions, says Vatican

  • The Vatican said that priests and other Roman Catholic Church ministers cannot bless same­ sex unions and that such blessings are “not licit” if carried out. The ruling was a response to practices in some countries, such as the U.S. and Germany, where parishes and ministers have begun blessing same­sex unions in lieu of marriage, and calls for bishops to defacto institutionalise these.

5. Iran unveils underground missile facility

  • Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard inaugurated a new underground facility designated for missile storage, the country’s state TV reported. The report quotes Guard commander General Hossein Salami as saying that cruise and ballistic missiles will empower the force’s Navy even more. Since 2011, Iran has boasted of underground facilities across the country as well as along the southern coast near the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

  • Iran claims to have missiles that can travel 2,000 km, placing much of West Asia, including Israel, within range. The U.S. and its Western allies see Iran’s missile programme as a threat, along with the country’s nuclear programme, particularly after Iran breached its commitments to the 2015 nuclear deal, following the U.S. administration’s withdrawal from the deal in 2018. Last July, the Guard launched underground ballistic missiles as part of an exercise involving a mock­up American aircraft carrier in the Strait of Hormuz.

6. U.S., Japan warn China against ‘coercion’

  • The U.S. and Japan warned Beijing against “coercion and destabilising behaviour” after top level diplomatic and defence talks aimed at bolstering their alliance against rising Chinese influence. Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin and top U.S. diplomat Antony Blinken are on their first overseas trip, which began on Monday in Japan, looking to shore up regional alliances and send a message to Beijing.

  • Issues from the coup in Myanmar to the way forward with North Korea were also on the table. Mr. Blinken accused the Myanmar military of “attempting to overturn the results of a democratic election”, saying it was “brutally repressing peaceful protesters''. But he declined to comment on the latest bombastic pronouncement from North Korea, where leader Kim Jong­un’s sister warned Washington against “struggling to spread the smell of gunpowder on our land from across the ocean”. The joint statement called again for Pyongyang’s “complete denuclearisation”, warning North Korea’s arsenal “poses a threat to international peace and stability”

7. U.K. turns to Indo­Pacific in post­Brexit foreign policy

  • Britain wants to expand its influence among countries in the Indo­Pacific region to try to moderate China’s global dominance, a document laying out post­-Brexit foreign and defence policy priorities said. The document sets out a planned increase of Britain’s nuclear warhead stockpile by more than 40% to weigh against evolving global security threats, and underlines the importance of strong ties with the U.S. while naming Russia as the top regional threat.

  • Calling the Indo­-Pacific “increasingly the geopolitical centre of the world”, the government highlighted a planned British aircraft carrier deployment to the region. Britain, the world’s sixth largest economy, is dwarfed economically and militarily by China, but believes through soft power and strategic alliances it can help persuade Beijing to play by the rules of a new, more dynamic international system

8. Beijing warns EU on Xinjiang sanctions

  • China’s Ambassador to the EU warned against imposing sanctions on Beijing over its actions in the Xinjiang region, as the bloc decides how to respond to the crackdown on the Uighur minority. The EU is currently drawing up plans to expand the bloc’s global human rights sanctions regime after sanctioning four Russian officials over the jailing of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. Officials in other countries including Russia, North Korea and Eritrea are also expected to be hit with asset freezes and visa bans over alleged human rights abuses.

9. Burqa ban is just a proposal, says Sri Lanka

  • Sri Lanka said a call to ban the wearing of the burkha was “merely a proposal”, following outcry ahead of a crucial United Nations vote on human rights in the island nation. Minister for public security Sarath Weerasekera said it would “definitely” ban the full face covering worn by some Muslim women on national security grounds, pending Cabinet approval. But the Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday a decision had not yet been taken on what it described as “merely a proposal... under discussion”.

10. ‘Tough’ to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by May 1, says Biden

  • U.S. President Joe Biden has said that it would be “tough” to meet the deadline to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan by May 1, as agreed with the Taliban in a deal secured under Donald Trump. The Taliban quickly reacted to Mr. Biden’s comments, with a spokesman saying there would be “consequences” if the U.S. did not stick to the agreed timetable – further raising pressure on the fragile peace process. Mr. Biden also took a direct swipe at Mr. Trump’s Afghanistan policy, saying it “was not a very solidly negotiated deal” that the then President oversaw.

11. Katherine Tai unanimously confirmed as USTR by Senate

  • The U.S. Senate voted unanimously, 98­-0, to confirm Katherine Tai as the next U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). Ms. Tai, whose parents are from Taiwan, is the first woman of colour to hold the position. From determining how to take forward a Trump­era trade deal with China and negotiating with the Europeans on aircraft subsidies and a digital services tax to implementing the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement, Ms. Tai is expected to have a packed agenda.

  • Ms. Tai was also questioned on restoring India’s access to the U.S.’s preferential trade programme, the Generalized System of Preferences – which was revoked by the Trump administration – as well as being quizzed on access to Indian markets for Washington State’s apples and Montana’s pulses. While she did not commit to specific positions on these, Ms. Tai said she was aware that U.S. interests with India were “manifold” and looked forward to engaging with India on trade.

12. Japan court backs same­sex marriage

  • Japan’s failure to recognise same­sex marriage is unconstitutional, a court ruled on Wednesday, in a landmark verdict on the issue that campaigners welcomed as a major victory. Lawyers for plaintiffs in the case said the ruling should pile pressure on lawmakers to accept samesex unions, but the path to any such recognition is still likely to be lengthy.

  • The court in northern Sapporo ruled that the government’s current failure to offer same­sex couples ways to “enjoy even a part of the legal effects that arise from marriage... violates Article 14” of the constitution, which mandates equality under the law.


OPINION & ANALYSIS



Analysis : A robust economic relationship

(i). Background

  • Under the new U.S. administration, the economic relationship with India can be expected to be on the radar as India has enjoyed bipartisan support in the U.S. A closer economic partnership would bring gains to both sides in terms of GDP, employment, and productivity, given the complementary natures of their economies.

(ii). Areas for collaboration

  • One, a collaborative response to the pandemic would contribute to global containment of the virus.

  • Two, the macro trade architecture can be strengthened with a broad trade agreement focusing on resolving the low hanging fruit. The U.S.­India Trade Policy Forum meetings can be revived along with a cross sector track­2 group to look at convergence on issues such as market access.

  • Three, mobility of professional labour would aid trade in services. The MoU on labour cooperation signed in 2011 could be updated in line with India’s recent labour regulatory changes.

  • Four, defence industry ties can be stepped up in coordination with industry, as both sides benefit from U.S. technology and Indian manufacturing in this sector.

  • Five, engagement of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) can be stepped up. Smaller U.S. companies can find significant new opportunities for investments in India and sourcing from India.

  • Six, clean energy and climate change, high priorities of the U.S. administration, are also areas where India has made rapid strides.

  • Seven, a digital economy partnership is critical. India has proved its mettle in this space with new opportunities opening up in robotics, space, AI and electric vehicles.

  • Other opportunities in the bilateral economic relationship include education, innovation and R&D, and agricultural trade and technology. Industry is confident that the relevant dialogue mechanisms will be instituted at the earliest.


Story : Aligning a missile deal with Manila

(i). Background

  • Earlier this month, India and the Philippines signed the “Implementing Arrangement” for “procurement of defense material and equipment procurement”. This agreement lays the groundwork for sales of defence systems such as the highly anticipated export of the BrahMos cruise missile, through the government­-to-­government route.

(ii). Export as a goal

  • These advanced and powerful capabilities of the BrahMos not only augment the strength of the Indian military but make it a highly desirable product for other countries to procure as well. Doing so would boost the credibility of India as a defence exporter, and help it meet the target of $5 billion in defence exports by 2025.

(iii). Geo-political impact

  • The implications of the Philippines becoming the first country to import the BrahMos would be wide ranging and consequential in the Indo­Pacific. To begin with, it would caution China, with whom the Philippines has been engaged in a territorial conflict in the South China Sea, and act as a deterrent to Beijing’s aggressive posturing. Indeed, this is why China has been wary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries acquiring defence systems such as the BrahMos.

(iv). Possible hurdles

  • The first is the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which aims to sanction individuals and entities who engage in a “significant transaction” with a listed entity. So far, Turkey and China have been penalised under CAATSA for purchasing the S­400 Triumf air defense systems from Russia. And since 65% of the components, including the ramjet engine and radar seeker used in the BrahMos, are reportedly provided by NPO Mashinostroyenia, the export of the missile systems may attract sanctions. Hesitant of being sanctioned themselves, countries may shy away from purchasing the BrahMos. However, there is an excellent case for India to receive a waiver from CAATSA, especially vis-à-vis the BrahMos that can help contain a confrontational China.

  • The second issue pertains to financing. Ravaged by the COVID­19 pandemic, many countries which are interested in the BrahMos would find it difficult to purchase it. With India determined to develop itself as a hub of defence manufacturing, how it handles the sale of the BrahMos would be an important factor in its potential emergence as a net provider of regional security in the Indo-­Pacific.


Commentary : The limits of POCSO

  • A single bench of the Madras High Court recently allowed a petition seeking to quash a case of kidnap, aggravated penetrative sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault of a minor. Under POCSO, the consent of a person under the age of 18 is irrelevant, regardless of the nature and circumstance of the sexual interaction, or the particulars of the person with whom it takes place.

  • The judgment echoes the arguments that child rights activists have been making for years: by ignoring the natural sexual tendencies of adolescents, POCSO can and does become a tool for the persecution of young people in consenting sexual relations.

  • The five State studies on the functioning of Special Courts under the POCSO Act, conducted by the Centre for Child and the Law, National Law School of India University, Bengaluru, have demonstrated that these de facto consensual cases are complicated. The Judgement highlighted the urgent need for a reconsideration of the absolutist approach of POCSO when it comes to the sexual interactions of adolescents with other young people.


Commentary : Bridging the Gap

(i). Background

  • A severe deficit in the number of OBC, SC, ST candidates recruited as faculty in Central institutes of higher education has been revealed by Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal in Parliament, drawing attention once again to the pallid state of reservation in some of India’s elite institutions.

(ii). The interpretations and Solutions

  • The data confirm that the trend seen earlier in the IIT system extends to many more institutions, highlighting a serious mismatch between the government’s equity building goals and actual recruitment outcomes.

  • What could help bridge the gap is a better understanding of the lacunae in the education system, marked by a sea of deprived public schools and colleges, hyper commercialised private universities and colleges and islands of elite institutions such as the IIMs.

  • One of the forward looking remedial measures suggested by the panel was to start government sponsored preparatory programmes, which would both equip aspiring faculty, and create a pool of research talent.

(iii). Larger questions to be asked

  • whether there should not be even greater attention devoted to the most marginalised within the reserved categories, such as SC, since trickle down quota benefits for them are scarce. The egalitarian answer would be to continue expanding the pie of opportunity in the public realm, through ever greater funding of quality universal education at all levels and aiding the deprived through affirmative action on the road to equality.

ECONOMICS & FINANCE



Daily snippets

1. Despite pandemic, India saw $10­bn VC deals in ’20

  • India witnessed continued inflow of venture capital (VC) money, with deal value reaching $10 billion in 2020, $1 billion less than in 2019, Bain & Company’s India Venture Capital Report 2021 said. Despite the pandemic, India maintained its position among the top five start­up ecosystems globally, with 7,000 new startups founded in 2020 and the emergence of 12 new unicorns to take the country’s unicorn tribe to 37. The top three sectors — consumer tech, SaaS, and fintech accounted for nearly 75% of all VC investments by value, with consumer tech attracting the maximum funding, the report said.

2. Trade deficit widens to $12.62 billion

  • India’s exports grew marginally by 0.67% to $27.93 billion in February while imports rose by 6.96% to $40.54 billion, according to official data. The trade deficit widened to $12.62 billion in February compared with $10.16 billion a year earlier, the data showed.

  • Exports during April­ February 2020-­21 period contracted by 12.2% to $256.18 billion compared with $291.87 billion in the year­ earlier period. Imports dipped 23.1% to $340.8 billion. Oil imports in February fell 16.6% to $8.99 billion.

3. IT firms want to shift out of Haryana

  • A majority of IT­-ITeS firms in Haryana were willing to shift operations to other States/ countries as they fear the the Haryana State Employment of Local Can­didates Bill, 2020, provid­ing 75% job reservation for locals, could adversely im­pact operations and hiring, as per a NASSCOM study.

  • Given the Act applies to new hires, the impact is ex­pected to be severe in 1­-2 years as the industry sees a high attrition rate. A major­ity of them said this would result in shifting/ growing their operations to other States and in other coun­tries, as per the study. Over 500 IT­ ITeS firms in Haryana employ over four lakh people directly.

4. India Post eyes global speed post delivery via DHL

  • In­dia Post is in advanced dis­cussions with global logistics firm DHL to deliver Speed Post to all countries. Currently, India Post delivers Speed Post to about 100 countries, and aims to deliver world­ wide with the tie-up. The department, which currently gets a majority of its revenue from banking and related services, is also working to compete with private players for e­-com­merce deliveries in big cities. As per the annual report for 2020­-21, India Post targets to achieve 10% revenue market share by 2024 in the domestic courier, express and parcel sector.

5. Suggestions for bringing CNG under GST

  • India needs to bring CNG under the GST regime and tackle challenges such as high vehicle cost and limit­ed boot space for the growth of the natural gas vehicle market, according to a re­port by Nomura Research Institute Consulting & Solu­tions India. “India has large domestic reserves of natural gas as compared to crude oil. India has explored about 5 trillion cubic metres of recoverable reserves, of which less than 0.5% is used as fuel in the current CNG fleet,” it said. High vehicle volume and favourable conditions in the Indian automotive market presented an opportunity to promote NGVs, it added.

6. India's fuel demand back to pre-COVID levels

  • India’s fuel demand, except for aviation turbine fuel, has returned to pre­-COVID levels and a reflating economy will help consumption grow in the near future, the head of the nation’s top oil firm, Indian Oil Corporation said. Fuel sales had fallen a re­cord 45.8% in April when a nationwide lockdown was imposed. Demand started to recover with the easing of lockdown restrictions, with petrol re­turning to normal growth first and now diesel too reaching pre-COVID levels. With airlines not op­erating all flights, ATF sales remain below normal.

  • India’s economy re­turned to growth in the last quarter as real GDP is esti­mated to have expanded 0.4% year­-on-­year after two quarters of contraction. OPEC’s monthly report last week forecast a 13.6% jump in India’s oil demand in 2021 to 4.99 million bar­rels per day.

7. NPAs likely to rise in first half of 2021

  • Asset quality of banks, which saw some improve­ment in the second half of 2020, is likely to worsen during the first six months of 2021. The findings are part of the 12th round of bankers’ survey carried out by FICCI­-IBA between July and De­cember 2020. The survey was conduct­ed on 20 banks, including public sector, private sector and foreign banks. In terms of outlook, nearly 68% of respondent bankers expect the NPA levels to be above 10% in the first half of 2021.

SPORTS



Daily snippets

1. Player Profile

  • Murali Shreeshankar – He is an Indian athlete who competes in the long jump event. He holds the national record of 8.26 metres set in 2021. The record ensured his birth at the Tokyo Olympics. The 21­year­ old bettered his own 2018 Na­tional Record of 8.20m.

2. All-England Badminton tournament

  • P.V. Sindhu spearheads India’s challenge at the prestigious All England Open badmin­ton championships, begin­ning on Wednesday. The trophy has been won by just two In­dians so far – the legendary Prakash Padukone (1980) and P Gopi Chand (2001). While former world num­ber one Saina Nehwal had a runner­-up finish in 2015, Sindhu’s best finish was a semi-final in 2018.

3. Avinash Sable betters his own National steeplechase record

  • In the Federation Cup the steeplechas­er set yet another National record, his fifth in three years, while also breaching the Olympic qualification mark, also for the second time. Sable clocked 8:20.20, more than a second off his 2019 National mark. It start­ed with breaking Gopal Saini’s long standing mark in 2018 and since then, Sable has only gotten better.

4. Shooting World Cup in India

  • The National Rifle Associa­tion of India president, Ra­ninder Singh, has assured that all the COVID protocols and safety measures are in place for the World Cup in ri­fle, pistol and shotgun to be staged at the Dr. Karni Singh Range from Friday. India will have an overwhelming presence with 57 of the total 294 shooters in competition. As many as 53 countries are in the fray even though many leading shooting na­tions are missing out owing to COVID related travel constraints. He hoped that India would add another Olympic quota, the 16th, in men’s ra­pid fire pistol, through the world ranking system.

SUGGESTED READINGS



1. Limitations on General/Special laws due to COVID https://www.livelaw.in/columns/covid-19-limitation-prescribed-under-generalspecial-law-171177

2. Child Marriage and Muslim Personal Law in India https://www.livelaw.in/columns/the-puttaswamy-test-right-to-privacy-article-21-171181?infinitescroll=1

3. Inquiry into custodial torture of Shiv Kumar https://thewire.in/law/shiv-kumar-punjab-haryana-high-court-orders-inquiry-custodial-torture

4. Karnataka High Court and Midday Meals https://thewire.in/law/karnataka-high-court-midday-meal-schools

5. Responsible AI – need for ethical guard rails https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/responsible-ai-the-need-for-ethical-guard-rails/article34086236.ece

6. Mizoram and Myanmar https://scroll.in/article/989166/why-mizo-groups-are-organising-events-to-show-solidarity-for-coup-protestors-in-myanmar


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

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

END

March 13th-15th, 2021

Your 10 minute read!

START


LAW, POLICY & GOVERNANCE



Daily snippets

(i). Bureaucrats cannot be State Election Commissioners : SC

  • The Supreme Court held that independent persons and not bureaucrats should be appointed State Election Commissioners. The top court directed that the States should appoint independent persons as Election Commissioners all along the length and breadth of the country. The judgment came on an appeal against an order of the Bombay High Court which had set aside the election notification issued by the Goa State Election Commission in the municipalities of Margao, Mapusa, Mormugao, Sanguem and Quepem.

(ii). Census data may decide food subsidy

  • Once the new census data is available, the Centre may consider revising the number of people who get subsidised food grains under the National Food Security Act, Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey said. He said there is no proposal under consideration, but that the Food Ministry was having conversations on a NITI Aayog paper on the issue, which recommended a reduction in the NFSA coverage.

(iii). Centre’s reply sought on plea against Places of Worship Act

  • The Supreme Court asked the government to respond to a plea challenging a special law enacted in 1991 by the Congress government, which freezes the status of places of worship as it was on August 15, 1947.

  • A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde issued notice to the Union Ministries of Home, Law and Culture on a plea filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay against various provisions of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act of 1991. The petition said Sections of the Act that dealt with the bar on legal claims were against the principles of secularism.

(iv). Rollout of labour codes likely after elections

  • The implementation of the four new labour codes, replacing 29 Central labour laws, is likely to take place after the ongoing State Assembly elections, according to officials in the Labour and Employment Ministry. An official said the rules framed under the four codes, on wages; occupational safety, health and working conditions; industrial relations; and social security, were “ready” to be rolled out “soon”.

(v). Centre reconstitutes panel on mythical Sarasvati river

  • The Centre has reconstituted an advisory committee to chalk out a plan for studying the mythical Sarasvati river for the next two years, after the earlier panel’s term ended in 2019. One of the officials in the panel said the committee would review the work done by the previous panel and then formulate a plan. The committee would advise the Government Departments conducting research.

(vi). Right to dissent is central, says Sainath

  • Pointing out that the right to dissent should be the central focus of press freedom, independent journalist P. Sainath struck a dissenting note in the report submitted by the Index Monitoring Cell (IMC). Among the key recommendations is the decriminalising of defamation. India is one of the few countries in the world to criminalise defamation. The panel has also recommended that consent of the Press Council of India is a prerequisite before filing an FIR against the media or a publication.

NATIONAL NEWS/ INTERVENTIONS



Daily snippets

(i). Quad leaders for ‘open, free’ Indo­-Pacific

  • Members of the Quadrilateral framework, or Quad, will become “closer than ever before”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, in his address to the first ever leadership summit of the grouping. Addressing the virtual summit, Mr. Modi, President Joe Biden of the United States, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison highlighted cooperation among the member countries to beat the global pandemic, with joint partnership on vaccines and emphasised the need for an “open” and “free” Indo­Pacific region. The Quad members agreed to ensure “equitable” access to vaccines.

  • Mr. Biden emphasised that the Indo­-Pacific region should be governed in accordance with human rights. The Quad had been taken to the “apex level”, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said during a special briefing on the leaders’ summit. The issue of military takeover in Myanmar also came up during the discussion among the leaders.

  • The Quad does not stand against anything, it stands for something,” Mr. Shringla said, explaining that the Quad was a value-based grouping that was trying to deal with the need for vaccines, climate change and other such issues.

(ii). Bring down benzene emission at fuel outlets, says panel

  • A joint committee appointed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to study air pollution in Kerala has recommended the installation of vapour recovery systems at fuelling stations and retrofitting of diesel vehicles with particulate filters to improve air quality.

  • The report submitted before the Southern Bench of the tribunal pointed out that petrol refuelling stations were a major source of benzene emissions, volatile organic compounds, and particulate matter 2.5 concentration. “Therefore, installation of vapour recovery systems is an important step in improving air quality. This is to be implemented in coordination with the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organization [PESO] shortly,” it said.

  • Other recommendations include promoting battery operated vehicles and banning old diesel vehicles in a phased manner, greening of open areas, and creation of green buffers along traffic corridors. The short term measures recommended include strict action against visibly polluting vehicles, introduction of wet / mechanised vacuum sweeping of roads, controlling dust pollution at construction sites, and ensuring transport of construction materials.

(iii). Maths, physics no longer must for engineering admissions

  • Prospective engineering students will not have to mandatorily study maths and physics in Class 12, according to new norms released by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) for 2021­-22. Council Chairperson Anil Sahasrabudhe defended the changes, saying they are in line with the multi­disciplinary approach of the new National Education Policy.

  • According to the AICTE’s approval process handbook for 2021-­22, students only need to score 45% in any three subjects from a list of 14 in order to qualify. The diverse list includes physics, mathematics, chemistry, computer science, electronics, information technology, biology, informatics practices, biotechnology, agriculture, technical vocational subject, engineering graphics, business studies and entrepreneurship.

(iv). Modi, Gotabaya speak ahead of Geneva vote

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa reviewed “topical developments” during a telephone call, an official press release said, just over a week before a crucial vote on Sri Lanka at the U.N. Human Rights Council, where Colombo has sought New Delhi’s support.

  • The call assumes significance amid strained bilateral ties, following Colombo’s recent policy choices on key infrastructure projects, including a decision to boot India out of a Colombo Port terminal project and an approval for a Chinese energy project on the northern islands, close to the Tamil Nadu coast. New Delhi conveyed its displeasure on both moves. Colombo has subsequently offered an alternative terminal project and is negotiating with the Adani Group.

  • As the Human Rights Council prepares to vote on a resolution on Sri Lanka’s rights record later this month, the Rajapaksa administration is counting on friends and neighbours, who are currently members of the Council, to back it. China, which is also currently a member of the 47­ member council, has assured Sri Lanka of its support. Irrespective of how the Geneva vote goes, Colombo is faced with a major economic challenge, as it prepares to repay over $4 billion of its outstanding debt by next year.

  • During his last call with Mr. Modi in May 2020, President Rajapaksa sought an additional $1-­billion currency swap facility – the RBI extended $400 million – to boost the foreign reserves that are under enormous strain since the pandemic struck. India is yet to respond.

  • Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s debt freeze request made over a year ago, too, awaits New Delhi’s response. Earlier this week, Sri Lanka said China approved a 10 billion yuan ($1.54 billion) currency swap. In March last year, China granted an ‘urgent’ $500 million loan to Sri Lanka to cope with the economic stress of the novel coronavirus. Colombo has sought a further $700 million loan from Beijing.

(v). Ayushman Bharat campaign picks up pace

  • The “Aap Ke Dwar Ayushman” campaign of the National Health Authority (NHA) recorded more than 4.7 lakh beneficiary verifications in a single day on March 10 for free healthcare services under the Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (ABPMJAY) scheme.

  • The aim is to create large-scale awareness about the ABPM­JAY health insurance scheme, especially in rural and interior parts, which provides cashless healthcare benefits of up to ₹5 lakh per family per year. The drive is being implemented in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Haryana and J&K, among other States. So far, about 1,16,83,808 Ayushman cards have been issued in this calendar year.

(vi). NOVAVAX reports 96.4% efficacy on original virus

  • Novavax, a U.S.­based biotechnology company deve­loping a recombinant vac­cine for COVID­-19, announced a final efficacy of 96.4% against mild, mod­erate and severe disease caused by the original SARS­ CoV­2 strain in a pivotal Phase­-3 trial in the U.K. The Serum Institute of India has an agreement with Novavax to manufac­ture a substantial volume of the vaccine.

  • In the U.K. trial, the study enrolled more than 15,000 participants between 18 and 84 years of age, including 27% over the age of 65. Efficacy was 96.4% (95% CI: 73.8, 99.5) against the original virus strain and 86.3% (95% CI: 71.3, 93.5) against the B.1.1.7/501Y.V1 variant, or the so called U.K. variant.

  • An analysis of trial results by the company in January suggested that prior infec­tion with the original CO­VID-­19 strain might not com­pletely protect against subsequent infection by the variant predominantly cir­culating in South Africa. Ho­wever, the complete analy­sis of the South Africa trial indicates that there could be a late protective effect of prior exposure with the ori­ginal COVID­-19 strain.

(vii). Gregarious bamboo flowering in Wayanad poses threat

  • The “gregarious flowering of bamboo” inside the Waya­nad Wildlife Sanctuary (WWS) and the nearby Mu­dumalai Tiger Reserve and Gudalur forest division in Ta­mil Nadu this year may pose a threat to wildlife in the Nil­giri biosphere, a major tiger and elephant habitat.

  • The bamboo groves in the Wayanad forest are the mainstay of herbivores in the Nil­giri biosphere during summer. With the advent of the season, migration of wild animals starts from the adja­cent sanctuaries in Karnata­ka and Tamil Nadu to Wayanad due to shortage of fodder and water. ­“The gregarious flowering may adversely affect migra­tion, especially by elephants, wild gaur, and other lower herbivores owing to the mass destruction of bamboo groves after the flowering,” S. Narendra Babu, wildlife warden, WWS, said.

(viii). 1991 Act on places of worship

  • The Act mandates that the character of all religious places of worship should be maintained as it was on Au­gust 15, 1947, and no suit or proceedings shall lie in a court of law with respect to the character of places of worship. This effectively barred courts from entertaining cases which raise disputes over places of worship that existed as of August 15, 1947.

(ix). Mizoram group demands sanctions on Myanmar

  • A Mizoram­ based group re­presenting the Zo indige­nous people of India, Ban­gladesh and Myanmar has petitioned President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Mi­nister Narendra Modi to im­pose sanctions on the military­ ruled Myanmar. The Zo Reunification Or­ganisation (ZORO) compris­ing the Chin­-Kuki-­Mizo-­Zomi group of people has also asked the Centre not to turn away the Myanmar nationals who crossed over to escape the military regime and pro­vide them shelter on human­itarian grounds.

  • The four States – Aruna­chal Pradesh, Nagaland, Ma­nipur and Mizoram – share a 1,643 km border with Myan­mar and people on either side are ethnically related. The Mizo people of Mizoram and the Kuki-­Zomi commun­ities in Manipur have a strong kinship with the Chins across the border in Myanmar.

(x). Residents might be allowed to fill NPR details online

  • The Centre will allow resi­dents to fill the National Population Register (NPR) form on their own, through the online mode, a month before the door­-to-­door enum­eration by Census officials starts. After filling the form online, residents will get a refe­rence code that they can mention to the field enumer­ator at the time of her or his visit.

  • The first phase of the de­cennial Census exercise – the House listing and Hous­ing Census – along with up­ dating the NPR was sche­duled to be held from April 1, 2020. It was postponed indefinitely due to the COVID­-19 pandemic . The NPR earlier collated in 2010 and 2015 has an electronic database of more than 119 crore residents.

  • According to the recently published report for the year 2019­-20, there will be a three­ pronged approach for updating the NPR database – self updating, wherein it is proposed to allow residents to update their own data fields after following some authentication protocols on a web portal; updating of NPR data in the paper for­ mat; and the mobile mode. No documents or biomet­rics would be collected dur­ing updating of NPR. The NPR is prepared under va­rious provisions of the Citi­zenship Rules, 2003, framed under the Citizenship Act, 1955. The questions for the fresh NPR have not been made public yet.

  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced on February 1 that ₹3,768 crore had been allocated for the Census in the financial year 2021-­22. Though no separate budget for the NPR has been allocated in this fiscal, ₹3,941.35 crore was ap­proved for updating the NPR in 2019-­20. NPR's link with the pro­posed National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the yet to be implemented Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019, has been opposed by many States and civil socie­ty groups.

  • The Citizenship Rules framed in the year 2003 say that the NPR is the first step towards the compilation of the National Register of In­dian Citizens (NRIC), or the NRC. The CAA passed by the Parliament on December 11, 2019, allows citizenship on the basis of religion to six undocumented communi­ties from Pakistan, Afghan­istan and Bangladesh, who entered India on or before December 31, 2014. The Union Home Minis­try informed the Lok Sabha on February 4, 2020 that “till now, the government has not taken any decision to prepare the NRIC at the national level”.

(xi). Legalisation of mining in Aravalis

  • Envi­ronmentalists and the resi­dents are strongly opposed to mining being legalised and demand that forest cov­er be increased in the State. They demand that the go­vernment should come out with a three ­year roadmap to take the legal native for­est cover in the State to 20%, as per the Haryana Forest Department policy target and an all India average. The other demands in­clude demolition of all ille­gal construction in the Aravalis, planting of native saplings, notifying 50,000 acre of the Aravalis as deemed forest and retain­ing the Aravalis in South Ha­ryana as a Natural Conserva­tion Zone. ­
  • They argued that destruction of the Aravalis would worsen the air pollution situation in the NCR and the mountain range is the only natural barrier against desertifica­tion. The Aravalis, with their natural cracks and fis­sures, have the potential to put two million litres of wa­ter per hectare in the ground every year. Besides, the mountain range is a bio­diversity hotspot.

(xii). Football : Indian Super League

  • Mumbai FC secured its maiden Indian Super League crown with a come­ from ­behind 2­-1 win over ATK Mohun Bagan (ATKMB) at the Fatorda Stadium, Goa, on Saturday.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS/EVENTS/ PERSONALITIES



Daily snippets

(i). U.S. NSA implies LAC situation discussed at Quad leaders meet

  • U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters after the Quad leaders summit that China was discussed at the meeting but was not the focus. He also implied that one of the China Related challenges discussed was the India-­China border situation.

  • Checking Chinese expansionism : Mr. Sullivan implied that the situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) was discussed by the Quad leaders as one of several examples of Chinese aggression. “This is our effort to communicate clearly to the giant Chinese government, how the U.S. intends to proceed at a strategic level. What we believe are fundamental interests and values, and what our concerns with their activities are, whether it’s on Hong Kong or Xinjiang or in the Taiwan Strait, or frankly, the issues that we heard today from our Quad partners: their coercion of Australia, their harassment around the Senkaku Islands, their aggression on the border with India,” Mr. Sullivan said, implying that the India­China border standoff had been discussed.

  • Cybersecurity incidents impacting Quad members. The discussions included not just the cyberattacks on U.S. targets (Microsoft Exchange and SolarWinds ) but also cybersecurity incidents in India, Japan and Australia, Mr. Sullivan said. Weeks ago, news broke that spyware originating in China had made its way into several Indian power installations and port facilities.

  • Quad equivalent to NATO? Mr. Sullivan reiterated that the Quad was not a military alliance or NATO equivalent (it has been referred to by some commentators as ‘Asian NATO’).

  • Huawei decision – Asked about recent news that India was likely to block Indian telecom operators from using Huawei equipment for security reasons, Mr. Sullivan said it was a sovereign decision for India to make but consistent with the decisions the U.S. has been advocating. The U.S., during the Trump administration, campaigned internationally for countries to exclude Huawei from its 5G networks, citing security concerns

(ii). Russia for Taliban’s inclusion in Afghan interim govt.

  • Russia said it backed the Taliban’s integration into a future interim government in Afghanistan, as global powers ramped up efforts to secure a peace deal and end decades of war. Washington has encouraged the Afghan leadership to work towards establishing an “inclusive” government and proposed talks with the Taliban to secure a peace accord.

  • U.S. President Joe Biden is reviewing whether to stick to a deal with the Taliban negotiated by his predecessor Donald Trump, who wanted to pull out the U.S. troops from Afghanistan by May. The Biden administration has signalled that it wants to take a hard look at Mr. Trump’s deal and its repercussions for Afghanistan and regional stability.

  • U..S Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote a letter to Afghan leaders, encouraging them to consider a “new, inclusive government.” The U.S. withdrawal is being complicated by a new surge in fighting and concern that a speedy exit may only unleash further chaos. Mr. Blinken’s letter to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said bluntly that Washington feared the “security situation will worsen and the Taliban could make rapid territorial gains” if the U.S. suddenly withdrew. He proposed a 90­-day reduction in violence that would avoid the Taliban’s annual bloody spring offensive.

(iii). Suu Kyi’s lawyer rejects military graft claims

  • Myanmar’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s lawyer rejected the junta's allegations of corruption against her as “groundless”, calling it “illegal mudslinging” by the Generals who seized power from her. The country has been in uproar since a February 1 putsch that saw Ms. Suu Kyi ousted, detained and accused of several criminal charges, including owning unlicensed walkie talkies and violating coronavirus restrictions. On Thursday, a junta spokesman made new accusations, saying a now­ detained Chief Minister had admitted giving her $6,00,000 and more than 10 kg of gold.

(iv). WHO says no reason to stop using AstraZeneca vaccine

  • The World Health Organization said there was no reason to stop using AstraZeneca’s COVID­-19 vaccine after several countries suspended the rollout over blood clot fears. The WHO, which said its vaccines advisory committee was examining the safety data coming in, stressed that no causal link had been established between the vaccine and clotting.

  • The UN agency also said that after the injection of more than 260 million vaccine doses so far around the world, no deaths had yet been attributed to a COVID­19 jab. Denmark, Norway and Iceland paused the use of the AstraZeneca jab as a precaution after isolated reports of recipients developing blood clots.

  • Italy and Austria have banned the use of shots from separate batches of AstraZeneca, and Thailand and Bulgaria said they would delay the rollout of the shot. A range of health authorities around the world have insisted the jab is safe, including the European Medicines Agency and the WHO.

(v). China defying Hong Kong joint treaty: U.K

  • China is no longer compliant with Hong Kong’s joint declaration after Beijing announced sweeping changes to the region’s electoral system, Britain said. Britain handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997 and was designed to allay fears about its future under Beijing’s rule. It guarantees the financial hub special status, including a high degree of autonomy to manage its own affairs and the right to freedom of speech.

  • British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that Beijing’s decision “to impose radical changes to restrict participation in Hong Kong’s electoral system” was a “further clear breach” of the agreement. Britain has been a strong critic of China’s crackdown on pro democracy campaigners in Hong Kong, and angered Beijing by announcing a visa scheme offering millions of its residents a pathway to U.K.’s citizenship.

  • Beijing has acted decisively to dismantle Hong Kong’s democratic pillars after massive protests there in 2019. China’s rubber stamp Parliament on Thursday voted to give Beijing the power to veto candidates as it moves to ensure that only “patriots” run the city. The new election rules sparked international condemnation

(vi). Bolivia’s former President Anez arrested in ‘coup’ probe

  • Bolivia’s former interim President Jeanine Anez was arrested on terrorism and sedition charges over what the government claims was a coup attempt against her predecessor and political rival Evo Morales. Police were also rounding up former Ministers who backed the conservative politician’s caretaker government, which was in place for a year after Mr. Morales fled the country in November 2019 amid disputed elections, media reports said. The arrests came months after Mr. Morales returned to Bolivia from exile on the back of a fresh election victory in October 2020 for the leftist Movement for Socialism (MAS) party he founded. Both the presidency and congress are now under the control of MAS.

(vii). Netflix testing ways to curtail password sharing

  • Streaming giant Netflix is testing a way to crack down on password sharing with people living elsewhere. Netflix offers to verify who is trying to log into an account by sending a code via text message or email to the subscriber to confirm the user lives with them.

(viii). U.S. court removes Xiaomi from blacklist

  • A U.S. judge ordered Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi to be temporarily removed from a government blacklist that barred American investment in the company. Six days before Donald Trump left office last year, his administration cemented its trade war legacy against Beijing with a series of announcements targeting Chinese firms, including Xiaomi, state oil giant CNOOC, and social media darling TikTok.

  • Xiaomi was one of nine firms classified by the Pentagon as “Communist Chinese military companies”. Judge Contreras’s decision came the same day U.S. regulators listed Huawei and ZTE among Chinese telecom gear firms deemed a threat to national security, signalling that a hope ­for softening of relations is not on the cards.

(ix). Sri Lanka to ban burqa, shut 1,000 madrasas

  • Sri Lanka will soon ban the burkha or face veil, a Cabinet Minister said, as he announced the Rajapaksa administration’s latest policy decision impacting the minority Muslim community. Public Security Minister Sarath Weerasekara said the authorities would henceforth use the controversial Prevention of Terrorism (PTA) law – that human rights defenders have termed “draconian” – to deal with religious extremism, with wide-ranging powers to detain suspects for up to two years, to “deradicalise” them.

  • The announcement on the burqa ban comes after a year­long controversy over the government’s policy of mandatory cremation of COVID­-19 victims, based on unsubstantiated claims that the bodies would contaminate groundwater. The government reversed its decision recently, amid persistent calls for burial rights from Muslims, who make up about 10% of the 21­ million population, as well as international bodies including the U.N.

(x). UK police action on vigil criticized

  • Police in London drew wi­despread criticism on Sun­day after handcuffing mour­ners at a vigil for a woman who was murdered after set­ting out to walk home, in a case that has sparked nation­al fury about violence against women. The murder of Everard, who vanished after setting out to walk home from a friend’s flat, has shocked the country and brought discus­sion around women’s safety to the fore once again.

(xi). US and child migration surge

  • The Biden administration ordered the government’s disaster emergency agency to help with a surge in migrant children crossing the southern bor­der that has overwhelmed processing facilities. The Health and Human Services (HHS) department is currently holding about 8,800 migrant children and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection has hundreds more in their charge, with more arriving every day.

  • President Joe Biden faces growing pressure from migrants, ap­parently encouraged to try to enter the United States by his rejection of previous pre­sident Donald Trump’s “ze­ro tolerance” policy toward undocumented immigrants. While migrant adults and families continue to be sent back to Mexico when they are caught, unaccompanied children are being pro­cessed and get help reset­tling with U.S. relatives.

(xii). A decade of war in Syria

  • The overall death toll for Syria's civil war has reached 3,88,652 since it began a decade ago this month, Britain ­based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The figures include almost 1,17,388 civilians, among them more than 22,000 children. Attacks by the Syrian regime and allied militia forces accounted for the majority of civilian deaths, said the Britain based monitor, which relies on sources inside Syria for its reports.

(xiii). Zaghari-Ratcliffe faces new charges

  • British ­Iranian dual national Nazanin Zaghari ­Ratcliffe appeared in a Tehran court to face new charges of “propaganda against the system”, a week after she finished serving a five-year sentence, her lawyer said. The hearing has dashed hopes for a swift release of the 42-­year­old, in a case that has heightened tensions between London and Tehran. British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said it was “unacceptable that Iran has chosen to continue a second wholly arbitrary case”.

(xiv). Ireland, Italian region halt AstraZeneca shots

  • Ireland became the latest country to sus­pend the use of the AstraZe­neca vaccine over concerns about patients developing post-­jab blood clots, as na­tions across the world sought to step up their CO­VID-­19 immunisation drives. Several countries includ­ing Denmark, Norway and Bulgaria last week paused the rollout of vaccines from the Anglo/Swedish pharma giant over fears of blood clots. Italy’s north­ern region of Piedmont said it would stop us­ing a batch of AstraZeneca coronavirus shots after a teacher died following his vaccination.

  • The World Health Organi­zation has said no causal link had been established between the vaccine and blood clotting. An AstraZeneca spokesperson said “an analysis of our safety data that covers re­ported cases from more than 17 million doses of vac­cine administered has shown no evidence of an increased risk” in blood clot conditions. AstraZeneca’s shot is among the cheapest available, and forms a bulk of deliveries to poorer nations under the WHO ­backed Covax initia­tive, which aims to ensure the equitable global distribution of vaccines

(xv). India-Uzbekistan exercise : Dustlik-II

  • At the ongoing India-Uzbek exercise Dustlik-II at Ranikhet, Uzbek troops learnt the handling of SIG-716 assault rifles, recently inducted into service by the Army and also got orientation in slithering from helicopters for heliborne operations in a counter terrorist environment.

OPINION & ANALYSIS



Analysis : The electoral overhaul in Hong Kong

(i). The story so far

  • The National People’s Congress (NPC) of China, the ceremonial legislature in Beijing, on March 11 approved what it called “a decision on improving Hong Kong’s electoral system”. This paves the way for sweeping changes in how Hong Kong, the Special Administrative Region (SAR) that has been ruled under the “one country, two systems'' model since its return to China in 1997, chooses its leaders.

(ii). How does the new NPC amendment change Hong Kong’s political system

  • The NPC amendment essentially gives Beijing appointed politicians greater power in running the HKSAR’s politics. Now, the size of the Legislative Council will be expanded to 90, with the additional 20 members joining the 35 others who are nominated, thus reducing the share of directly elected representatives. Perhaps the most controversial change is the setting up of a new “candidate qualification review committee”, which, the NPC said, “shall be responsible for reviewing and confirming” the qualifications of candidates for Election Committee members, the Chief Executive, and Legislative Council members.

(iii). How will the “one country, two systems” model be impacted

  • Under the Basic Law, the Constitution that has governed Hong Kong since 1997, the SAR is a part of China but enjoys “a high degree of autonomy” and “executive, legislative and independent judicial power”, except in foreign policy and defence. It also says “the socialist system and policies shall not be practised” in Hong Kong for 50 years. The amendment is the second major recent legislative change that has been seen by the opposition in Hong Kong as undermining this autonomy.

(iv). What lies ahead

  • With the national security law and the new electoral changes, the space for the pro democracy opposition in Hong Kong has been drastically reduced. Beijing’s bet is that China’s market may remain a big enough draw to allay broader concerns about the changes sweeping through the SAR. If the direction of its politics seems clear, its economic future appears less so.

ECONOMICS & FINANCE



Daily snippets

(i). Infusion of 14,500 crores into banks under PCA

  • The Finance Ministry is like­ly to decide on infusion of ₹14,500 crore mainly in banks that are under the RBI’s prompt corrective ac­tion (PCA) framework, to im­prove their financial health. Indian Overseas Bank, Central Bank of India and UCO Bank are currently un­der this framework that places several curbs, includ­ing on lending and managing compensation.

  • For the current financial year, the government had allocated ₹20,000 crore for capital infusion into PSBs to help them meet their regula­tory requirements.

(ii). TRAI sets deadline for telemarketing entities

  • According to TRAI, entities who need to send bulk messages to customers, such as those involved in banking, logistics and e­commerce, will need to complete the registration process within three days to comply with telemarketing rules, failing which they will be barred from sending commercial communication to customers.

(iii). Indian fintech valuation pegged to reach $160 billion

  • India’s financial technology firms are poised to become three times as valuable in the next five years, reaching a valuation of $150­-160 bil­lion by 2025, according to a study that Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and FICCI undertook to size the value ­creation potential and identify imperatives for In­dia’s fintech growth. It is estimated that to meet this ambition, India’s fintech sector will need investments of $20-­25 billion over the next five years, said the report.

  • India has more than 2,100 fintech firms, of which 67% have been set up over the last 5 years alone. The valuation of the industry is estimated at $50­-60 billion.

(iv). Africa may grow at 3.4%

  • African economies are ex­pected to grow by an aver­age of 3.4% this year, the African Development Bank said, as the continent re­covers from its worst con­traction in half a century. The 54 economies shrank by 2.1% last year, the AfDB said in its 2021 economic outlook report, as the coronavirus crisis disrupted economic activi­ty across the continent. An estimated 39 million Africans are like­ly to slip into extreme po­verty as a result of the pan­demic.

(v). E-commerce policy and data misuse safeguards

  • The government plans to lay down principles for usage of data for the development of any industry, where such norms do not already exist, and put in place adequate safeguards to prevent mis­use and access of data by unauthorised persons, accord­ing to a draft national e-commerce policy. The government is in the process of developing regu­lations for personal and non­ personal data, the policy, which is under discussion, said.

  • According to the draft, the government acknow­ledges the importance of da­ta as an asset and needs to use data emanating from In­dia for ‘Indian entities first’. For free and informed choice, it said that e­-com­merce operators would have to ensure that algorithms used by them were not biased and that no discrimi­nation due to digitally in­duced biases was prevalent. “Consumers have a right to be made aware of all rele­vant details about the goods and services offered for sale including country of origin, value addition in India, and any other such information which may be necessary for making an informed deci­sion at the pre­ purchase stage,” it said.

(vi). Framework for water testing launched

  • Citizens can now get the wa­ter quality in their taps test­ed at reasonable rates, as part of a monitoring framework rolled out by the Centre’s flagship Jal Jeevan Mission. Using an information management system, the samples tested will create a nationwide database of wa­ter quality, Jal Shakti Minis­ter Gajendra Singh Shekhaa­wat said. Detailed testing protocols and standards have been laid out to check for chemi­cal and biological contami­nants, which are present in more than half of all blocks, according to a 2018 assess­ment by the Central Ground­ water Board. The suggested tariffs would allow one to test a wa­ter sample’s pH level, turbidity, alkalinity and hardness for a package rate of ₹50. Apart from voluntary tests by members of the pu­blic, officials have been man­dated to do regular inspec­tions. All results of testing will be fed into the Water Quality Information Man­agement System, a portal de­veloped with the support of the Indian Council of Medi­cal Research.

SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & ENVIRONMENT



Daily snippets

(i). Optical monitoring of power line health

  • Researchers at IIT Madras have demonstrated that by using Raman thermometry on fibre optic cables, they can achieve monitoring of power transmission cables. Interestingly, they achieve this by using the optical fibres that are already embedded in the power cables for establishing optical communication. The work is part of a larger ongoing project on distributed fibre sensors and has been published recently in IEEE Sensors Journal.

  • Raman effect : In the Raman effect, when light is scattered off an object, say a molecule, two bands are observed, with higher and lower frequency than the original light, called the Stokes and anti­-Stokes bands, respectively. By studying the relative intensity of the two bands, it is possible to estimate the temperature of the object.

  • Cost Effective solution : Alternative methods of measuring the temperature of power cables include using a thermal camera to manually monitor their length, which is cumbersome. The present method devised by the team is both economical and provides real time information.


SUGGESTED READINGS



1. Arrest of Safoora Zargar https://thewire.in/diplomacy/united-nations-safoora-zargar-arrest-india-international-law

2. Haryana's Bill on reservation jobs https://www.livelaw.in/columns/haryana-state-employment-of-local-candidates-bill-2020-haryana-governor-sh-sn-arya-haryana-171159

3. Congestion in Prisons https://www.barandbench.com/columns/crisis-making-from-decongestion-to-recongestion-in-prisons

4. Cairn Energy tax dispute explained https://rb.gy/o4q9hu

5. India and cyber attacks https://rb.gy/jmzrlj


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

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

END

March 10th-12th, 2021

Your 10 minute read!

START


LAW, POLICY & GOVERNANCE



Daily snippets

(i). Over 72% rise in UAPA cases registered in 2019

  • There has been over 72% increase in the number of persons arrested under the UAPA (Unlawful Activities [Prevention] Act) in 2019 compared to year 2015, data provided by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in the Lok Sabha show. As many as 1,948 persons were arrested under the UAPA in 1,226 cases registered across the country in 2019.

(ii). SC questions delay in setting up environment regulator

  • The Supreme Court asked the government to explain why it had not set up an “independent environment regulator” to oversee green clearances. The lapse was highlighted by advocate Prashant Bhushan, who said the top court had ordered the setting up of a national environment regulatory body to ensure independent oversight of green clearances way back in July 2011 in Lafarge Umiam Mining Private Limited v. Union of India, commonly known as the ‘Lafarge mining case’.

(iii). Wear masks properly or get off plane: Delhi HC

  • Flight passengers who exhibit stubborn reluctance to wear their masks properly, could now get offloaded immediately or be placed in the “no ­fly” list, as per a fresh guidelines issued by the Delhi High Court. Justice Shankar said he was constrained to pass the order because of an alarming situation, which he witnessed during the Air India flight from Kolkata to New Delhi on March 5, 2021.

(iv). Delhi HC seeks response on petition against new IT Rules

  • The Delhi High Court sought a response from the Centre on a petition challenging the new IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, claiming it seeks to regulate online news portals by imposing government oversight and a vaguely worded ‘Code of Ethics’. The Plea was filed by Foundation for Independent Journalism.

  • The plea stated that the IT Rules, 2021, introduced two distinct sets of regulations – one, due diligence norms to be followed by ‘intermediaries’ and two, ‘Code of Ethics’ ought to be adhered to by ‘publishers’, along with a three tier compliance mechanism.

(v). Kerala HC restrains Centre on IT rules

  • The Kerala High Court restrained the Centre from taking coercive action against Live Law Media Private Ltd., which owns a legal news portal, for not complying with Part III of the new IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. The court issued notice to the Centre on a petition filed by the firm challenging the rules regulating digital news media, curated content (OTT platforms), and social media intermediaries.

(vi). Stick to code, Karnataka HC tells media

  • The Karnataka High Court ordered issue of notices to the Centre and the State government and 70 media platforms, including newspapers, on a petition filed by a lawyer and BJP member, seeking a direction to the authorities to take steps to safeguard the right to privacy of individuals and ensure that media outlets don’t invade the privacy of individuals by breaching law.

  • Acting on the directions of the Karnataka High Court, Bengaluru Police Commissioner Kamal Pant has issued a general order prohibiting all television channels from airing programmes that are not in conformity with the “Programme Code” notified under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995. The order also stated that any violation of the order is liable for prosecution under Section 16 of the Act.

(vii). No proposal to release caste data: MHA

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs informed the Rajya Sabha that there was “no proposal at present to release the report of the caste census” carried out in 2011 (SECC). The SECC 2011 data, excluding the caste data, had been finalised and published by the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (HUPA).

(viii). Gender discrimination alleged in NDA admission

  • The Supreme Court asked the government to respond to a plea alleging discrimination against women by barring them from taking the exam for admission to the prestigious National Defence Academy and the Naval Academy.

  • A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde issued notice to the government and the Union Public Service Commission on a petition filed by advocate Kush Kalra, who said eligible and willing women who aspire for a career in the Armed Forces are prohibited entry into these centres of excellence solely on the ground of gender.

(ix). Plea to include mental illness in list of comorbidities

  • A petition has been filed before the Delhi High Court to include severe mental illness in the list of specified comorbidities to enable getting priority COVID­-19 vaccination. The plea also sought direction to frame a policy to provide COVID-­19 vaccination to homeless, mentally ill persons wandering on the streets.

(x). Petition in HC seeks expansion of ambit of electric vehicles scheme

  • A petition filed before the Delhi High Court has sought direction to expand the ambit of the FAME (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles) India Phase-­II scheme to the hydrogen energy infrastructure. The petition filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar sought direction to the government to allocate a part of the unutilised funds from the FAME India Phase-­II Scheme for promoting and incentivising demand for hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles and construction and operation of hydrogen refuelling stations.

(xi). PM’s photo removed from COVID vaccine certificates

  • The Health Ministry informed the Election Commission (EC) that the “necessary filters” were added to the Co-WIN platform in the four poll ­bound States and one Union Territory, removing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s photo from the COVID­-19 vaccine certificates in those regions. The EC had taken up the issue after the Trinamool Congress complained that publishing Mr. Modi’s photo on the certificates was a violation of the model code. What are the moral code of conducts (https://rb.gy/fgzglf)

(xii). Javadekar meets digital media outlets

  • After severe criticism over not holding consultations with digital media publishers before bringing in the new IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar held a meeting with members of the Digital News Publishers Association. Minister, Mr. Javadekar reiterated at the meeting that the new rules placed certain responsibilities on digital news publishers.

(xiii). Lok Sabha gives approval for National Capital Territory Bill

  • The Lok Sabha passed the National Cap­ital Territory of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Second (Amendment) Bill, 2021 that seeks to regularise unauth­orised colonies that existed in the National Capital Terri­tory of Delhi as on June 1, 2014, and had seen develop­ment up to 50% as on Janu­ary 1, 2015. Delhi MP Meenakshi Lek­hi, said that a large number of people living in unauthor­ised colonies in Delhi were not receiving proper ameni­ties and that this Bill provided ownership rights to those living in these colonies. It would facilitate access to in­stitutional credit and also improve the basic amenities. The bill was passed by voice vote.

NATIONAL NEWS/ INTERVENTIONS



Daily snippets

(i). Uttarakhand political crises

  • Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat tendered his resig­nation to Governor Baby Ra­ni Maurya. There were complaints from his own party MLAs and oth­ers about his style of func­tioning and administration. From being tardy in im­plementing the ‘Chardham yatra’ projects to not being accessible to his own party­men, to facing a corruption charge wherein the Uttarak­hand High Court had or­dered a CBI inquiry against him (later stayed by the Supreme Court).

  • Garhwal MP Tirath Singh Rawat will take over as the new CM of Uttarakhand. Mr. Tirath, 57, who was the Uttarakhand BJP chief from 2013 to 2015, was a mem­ber of the Uttar Pradesh Le­gislative Council, before the creation of Uttarak­hand, during the period 1997­-2002. He was an MLA in Utta­rakhand from 2012 to 2017, and previously held the post of Education Minister from 2000 to 2002.

(ii). Parliamentary Committee on meagre pensions

  • The Centre must increase the “meagre” pensions pro­vided for poor senior citi­zens, widows and disabled people, said the Parliamen­tary Standing Committee on Rural Development in its report submitted to the Lok Sabha. The panel also slammed the government’s laxity in raising the amount. “The Committee is baffled to observe the meagre amount of assistance ranging from ₹200 to ₹500 per month under the different components of this Scheme,” it said. ­

  • The panel pointed out that it had previously urged the increase of these minis­cule pensions in its reports on the Department of Rural Development’s (DoRD) de­mand for grants in 2019-­20 and 2020-­21. The panel also pulled up the DoRD for delays and dispar­ities in the payment of wag­es and unemployment allo­wances under the flagship MGNREGA scheme. Another issue with MGNREGA is the disparity in wages in different States.

(iii). Delhi government presents 69k crores 'Deshbhakti Budget'

  • Delhi government presented a ₹69,000 crore ‘Deshbhakti Budget’ for the 2021­22 fiscal replete with provisions seek­ing to inspire patriotism in the run up to the 75th Inde­pendence Day, free COVID vaccination, and a vision for “India at 2047”. Manish Sisodia, the finance minister also announced that the Delhi government aims to bid for hosting the 2048 Olympic Games. “Our aim for 2047 should be that the per capita income of Delhi is equal to that of Singapore. For that, we will have to increase the per capita income 16­fold, and we will do whatever it takes to achieve that,” he said.

  • The education sector got the lion’s share of funds – ₹16,377 crore (24%) – in the 2021-­22 budget, followed by the health sector at ₹9,934 crore (14%). A total of ₹9,394 crore (13%) has been pledged towards transport, roads and bridges. A separate budget of ₹10 crore each has been allocat­ed to conduct programmes to honour Shaheed Bhagat Singh and Babasaheb BhimRao Ambedkar.

(iv). ISRO-NASA collaboration

  • ISRO has completed development of a Synthetic Aperture Radar capable of producing high-resolution images for a joint earth observation satellite mission with the U.S. space agency NASA. The mission is targeted to be launched in 2022.

(v). Rolling out of cyber volunteer programme

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) informed the Lok Sabha that a “cyber volunteer” pro­gramme has been rolled out for “cyber hygiene promo­tion” and the services of vo­lunteers would be utilised by the State police as per requirement. The MHA, through its cyber crime grievance por­tal­ cybercrime.gov.in, aims to raise a group of “cyber crime volunteers'' to flag “unlawful content” on the Internet. The MHA had operationalised the Na­tional Cyber Crime Report­ing Portal on August 30, 2019 to provide a centralised mechanism to the citizens for online reporting of all types of cyber crime inci­dents, with a special focus on cyber crimes against women and children.

  • The govern­ment had approved the set­ting up of 1,023 Fast Track Special Courts (FTSCs), in­cluding 389 exclusive POC­SO Courts, for expeditious trial and disposal of cases re­lated to rape and the Protec­tion of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

  • Various groups, in­cluding the Internet Free­dom Foundation (IFF), have expressed concern that the programme enables a cul­ture of surveillance and could create potential social distrust by encouraging civi­lians to report the online ac­tivities of other citizens.

(vi). Exercise Dustlik-II

  • At Exercise Dustlik-­II bet­ ween India and Uzbekistan from March 10­-19, the Army will showcase its Counter In­ surgency (CI) and Counter Terrorism (CT) skills. The fo­cus will be on people­ centric intelligence based surgical operations, incorporating technological advancements to minimise collateral dam­age. The broad aim of the exer­cise is CI,CT operations in mountainous, rural and ur­ban scenarios under United Nations (UN) mandate and the Army will share the ex­periences and lessons it has gained in Kashmir.

  • India has a series of joint exercises scheduled in the next financial year beginning April 2021 including with Central Asian Republics – Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan – in addition to Mongolia and Russia as part of its growing engagement with the region. The Army’s 13 Kumaon re­giment, also called the Re­zang La battalion for its he­roic action in the 1962 war with China, has been nomi­nated from the Indian side for the company level CI, CT exercise being held at Chaubatia, near Ranikhet in Utta­rakhand.

(vii). Mizoram & Manipur awaits centre's direction on refugees

  • The Mizoram government has declined to provide de­tails or the number of Myan­mar nationals who have crossed over since March 1 seeking asylum after the coup in the neighbouring country. The government is also awaiting instructions from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on how to handle the foreign nationals who had fled fearing a military crackdown. Locals said more than 100 Myanmar nationals have en­tered Mizoram since March 1. The bor­der district authorities had initially put up some of the refugees in community halls, providing them food and security.

  • Manipur Chief minister N. Biren Singh said that schools may be ar­ranged by the State govern­ment for “refugees from Myanmar,” but since it was a bilateral issue, they were awaiting directions from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). Manipur shares a 398 km border with Myanmar.

(viii). Haryana government defeats no-trust vote

  • The no­-confidence motion moved by the Congress against the Bharatiya Janata Party­-Jannayak Janta Party coalition government in Ha­ryana on Wednesday was defeated by 55 votes to 32. In the 90 ­member As­sembly, the BJP and the JJP have 40 and 10 MLAs res­pectively, besides the sup­port of five Independents.

  • Moving the no­-confidence motion against the Manohar Lal­ led govern­ment, Leader of the Oppo­sition Bhupinder Singh Hooda said the coalition go­vernment had completely lost the confidence of the people.

(ix). Recommendation for providing breakfast in schools

  • The Parliamentary Stand­ing Committee on Educa­tion has recommended that all government schools start providing free breakfast in the coming academic year as part of an expansion of the mid­-day meal scheme envisaged by the National Education Pol­icy. Free breakfasts would involve an additional budget of ₹4,000 crore, according to senior officials, but the School Education Depart­ment has seen a budget cut of almost ₹5,000 crore this year. The School Education De­partment saw an 8% cut in allocation from the 2020-­21 budget estimate of ₹59,845 crore to ₹54,873 crore in the coming year.

  • In its submission to the panel, the Department said it had proposed two new components to the mid­ day meal scheme during 2021-­22 – an expansion of coverage from the current Class 1-­8 students to in­clude pre ­primary stu­dents as well, and the pro­vision of breakfast. A number of States have already started provid­ing breakfast to the students in the mid­day meal scheme. The Centre bears the entire cost of food grains, but shares the cost of food prep­aration and distribution with the states.

(x). Rajasthan to grade public work

  • The government in Rajasthan has formulat­ed a new public service de­livery monitoring frame­work with the indicators for 17 departments to en­sure transparency in pu­blic works. The framework is expected to lead to good governance in various sectors. The framework’s provisions for grading and ranking would help the common people in getting their grievances resolved and facilitate monitoring of works. The online data of various depart­ments would be obtained for their grading and rank­ing on the basis of 100 indi­cators. The primary schemes for development at the grassroots would get the highest attention in the framework.

(xi). Protecting people from second-hand smoke

  • Doctors, cancer victims and restaurateurs in Assam have asked the Centre to amend the COTPA 2003 for remov­ing designated smoking rooms in hotels, restaurants and airports to protect peo­ple from second-­hand smoke. COTPA expands to Ciga­rettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Ad­vertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce Production, Supply and Distri­bution) Act, 2003. Section 4 of the COTPA 2003 prohibits smoking in any place to which the pu­blic has access. But the Act allows smok­ing in designated smoking areas of certain public places such as restaurants, hotels and airports.

  • Appreciating the govern­ment for initiating the pro­cess to amend COTPA 2003, they sought immediate re­moval of a current provision that permits smoking areas to make India 100% smok­ing ­free and check the spread of COVID­-19 infection in the country.

(xii). Punjab study links rise in farm incomes to FPO

  • A study at the Ludhiana­ based Punjab Agricultural University to track the im­pact of Farmer Producer Or­ganisations (FPO) on the in­come and employment of farmers in Punjab during 2019-­20, has revealed that in­comes increased after farm­ers joined the FPOs and the impact was greater among small, marginal and semi­ medium farmers. The study, titled “Eco­nomic Impact of Farmer Pro­ducer Organisations on Pun­jab Peasantry”, asserts that overall, while permanent la­bour employment has margi­nally increased, the income of farmers has increased by 15.71% due to a shift in cropping patterns and proper use of farm inputs. FPOs consist of member farmers and are run by them with support from organisa­tions-­agencies.

  • “Multiple linear regres­sion analysis reveals that farm size, family size and membership of FPOs significantly influenced the income level of farmers. These FPOs have been improving the income level of the member farmers. The change in the net an­nual income of the FPO members after and before joining the FPO was ana­lysed. Overall increase in in­come of a sample of 100 FPO members was 15.71%, mainly due to a shift in the cropping pattern and awareness about farm inputs used by farmers such as seeds and fertilizers, insecticide, pesticide, insect and pest attack, timely use of inputs and subsidised farm implements.” In Punjab, out of the total of 10.53 lakh land holdings, about 34% are held by small and marginal farmers. Farm­ers in general and small farmers in particular, have been facing several problems in production and market­ing.

(xiii). India-Japan space agencies review ties

  • Indian and Japanese space agencies re­viewed cooperation in earth observation, lunar coopera­tion and satellite navigation, and also agreed to explore opportunities for coopera­tion in “space situational awareness and professional exchange programme”. This was agreed during a bilateral meeting between the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Japan Aerospace Explora­tion Agency ( JAXA) held virtually.

  • India and Japan are already working on a joint lunar polar exploration (LUPEX) mission and the two space agencies have been working on the mis­sion that aims to send a lan­der and rover to the Moon’s south pole around 2024.

  • Early this month, India and Italy decided to explore opportunities in earth ob­servation, space science and robotic and human exploration. Last month, India and Australia signed an amend­ment to the MoU which will build on the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. Both countries are also in discus­sions for Australia to host vi­tal tracking infrastructure to support the Gaganyaan manned space flight mis­sion.

(xiv). Navy inducts third Scorpene submarine

  • The Navy inducted the third Scorpene class conventional diesel- electric submarine, INS Karanj, into service. It was commissioned into the Navy by former Navy Chief Admiral V.S. Shekhawat, who was the Commanding Officer of the earlier INS Karanj in the 1971 India-Pakistan War, a Navy statement said.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS/EVENTS/ PERSONALITIES



Daily snippets

(i). Farm laws discussion in UK

  • Discussion on the farm laws by the British Parliament amounts to “gross interfe­rence” in the domestic af­fairs of India, Foreign Secre­tary Harsh Vardhan Shringla told British High Commis­sioner Alex Ellis. He advised that British MPs should re­frain from practising vote bank politics by misrepre­senting events, especially in relation to another fellow democracy.

(ii). China launches 'virus passport'

  • China has launched a health certificate pro­gramme for Chinese inter­national travellers, leading the world in plans for so­ called virus passports. The digital certificate, which shows a user’s vacci­nation status and virus test results, is available for Chi­nese citizens. The certificate is being rolled out “to help pro­mote world economic re­covery and facilitate cross­ border travel”, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said. Although the certificate is meant for travel in and out of China, it is currently only available for use by Chinese citizens.

(iii). First quad summit to be held on March 12th

  • The first ever summit of the leaders of the Quadrilateral Framework or ‘Quad’ will take place virtually on March 12, the Ministry of External Affairs announced. The United States, Japan, Australia and India comprise the Quadrilateral Framework.

  • Prime Minister Na­rendra Modi will join U.S. President Joseph Biden, Australian PM Scott Morri­son and Japanese PM Yosh­ihide Suga for a virtual summit of the Quadrilater­al Framework (Quad) on Friday – the first time lead­ers of the Indo-­Pacific grouping are meeting. The Quad meeting, that China has referred to as an “Indo­-Pacific NATO'', will be watched most closely for signals on how the grouping will deal with the challenge from Beijing’s recent moves in the Pacific as well as at the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh.

(iv). Brazil SC judge annuls convictions against Lula

  • A Brazilian Supreme Court judge annulled the criminal convictions against former leftist Presi­dent Luiz Inacio Lula da Sil­va, a move that could allow the popular politician to run in next year’s presidential election. The decision roiled finan­cial markets and scrambled forecasts for the 2022 race, with many investors betting it would polarise voters between President Jair Bolso­naro, a far­ right populist, and Mr. Lula, his greatest opponent on the left.

  • The office of Brazil’s Pro­secutor ­General said it will appeal the decision, which will also be reviewed by the full Supreme Court. Mr. Lula governed Latin America’s largest economy between 2003 and 2011, overseeing a commodities boom that turbocharged economic growth. In 2018, he was convicted of taking bribes from firms in return for contracts.

(v). US offers temporary refuge to Venezuelans

  • The U.S. will allow tens of thousands of Venezuelans to seek refuge. Temporary Protected Status is being offered to people who fled political repression and economic chaos in the South American country. Over 300,000 indivi­duals are estimated to be eligible.

(vi). Indo-Pacific is key priority for Biden administration

  • The scheduling of the first­ ever Quad leaders’ summit­ level meeting within 50 days of the Biden administration signified the importance the administration places on the Indo­-Pacific, the White House said. Friday’s virtual meeting between U.S. Presi­dent Joe Biden, Prime Minis­ter Narendra Modi, Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan. The White House is ex­pecting a range of issues to be discussed, including COVID­-19, economic cooperation and the climate crisis.

  • Earlier, Pre­sident Biden had said China was “the only competitor po­tentially capable of combin­ing its economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to mount a sustained challenge to a stable and open international system.” However, the Biden administra­tion has been careful to por­tray the Quad as something bigger than a grouping centred around the China challenge – “the Quad is not about any single challenge. It’s not about any single com­petitor. This is an entity forged and formed because we share common interests. There, maritime security is, of course, an important one, but our shared interests go well beyond that.”

  • Asked about the summit, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said China “believes that any regional cooperation archi­tecture should follow the principle of peaceful deve­lopment and win­-win coop­eration, which is the prevail­ing trend of the times. We hope the relevant countries will keep in mind the common interests of the regional countries, uphold the princi­ples of openness, inclusive­ness and win­-win coopera­tion, and do things that are conducive to regional peace stability and prosperity, rather than the opposite,” he said.

(vii). Russia targets Twitter over 'illegal' content

  • Russia said it was disrupting Twitter’s services because the plat­form had failed to remove “illegal” content, the latest in a series of moves exert­ing control over foreign tech giants. The Kremlin has been clamping down on sites, in­cluding Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, in recent months for hosting content supporting jailed opposi­tion figure Alexei Navalny.

  • Roskomnadzor, Russia’s media watchdog, said the disruption aimed to “pro­tect Russian citizens” after Twitter failed to comply with its requests to delete content related to child pornography, drug use and calls for minors to commit suicide.

(viii). UNSC slams violence in Myanmar

  • The UN Security Council agreed on a statement that condemns violence against Myanmar protesters and urges mili­tary restraint, diplomats said, but dropped language condemning the Army ta­keover as a coup and threa­tening possible further ac­tion due to opposition by China, Russia, India and Vietnam. “The Security Council strongly condemns the vio­lence against peaceful protestors, including against women, youth and children. The council calls for the military to exercise utmost restraint and em­phasizes that it is following the situation closely”.

(ix). China overhauls Hong Kong's poll system

  • China passed sweeping changes for Hong Kong’s electoral system that will give Beijing ­appointed politicians a greater say in running the Special Adminis­tration Region (SAR), mark­ing the biggest change since the handover in 1997. At the heart of the new proposal is a move to give Beijing­ appointed politicians greater power in running the HKSAR’s politics, through a newly expanded Election Committee of 1,500 members.

  • The NPC (National Party Congress) said the move was to ensure that “the elec­toral system should conform to the policy of ‘one country, two systems’, meet the reali­ties in the HKSAR and serve to ensure that Hong Kong is administered by people who love the country and love Hong Kong''. Currently, only half of the 70 members of Hong Kong’s Le­gislative Council (Leg Co) are directly elected and the rest are nominated. With this change, the number of LegCo members will be in­creased to 90, with the additional members also nominated, thereby reduc­ing the share of elected representatives. The expanded Election Committee will be com­posed of 1,500 members, up from 1,200 previously. The Election Committee, as previously, will be responsible for elect­ing the Chief Executive, and will also choose some of the members of LegCo. The new electoral system is the second significant change in the administration of the HKSAR since the 2019 protests, with a national se­curity law passed last year which has eroded the political free­doms that distinguished Hong Kong from the main­ land under the “one country, two systems'' model.

(x). Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief package

  • In a massive and early victo­ry for the Democrats, the House of Representatives approved a $1.9 tril­lion COVID­19 relief Bill, he American Rescue Plan. Eligible Americans will re­ceive $1,400 cheques under a $400 billion measure con­tained in the Bill. Another $350 billion will be directed towards vaccine distribu­tion, assistance to State and local governments and to fund tax credits for those with children.

  • The Bill extends by six months a $300 weekly un­employment insurance scheme which was due to ex­pire in March. It also covers assistance to schools to facil­itate the return of children to classrooms, a 15% increase in food stamp bene­fits for another six months and assistance for the heat­ing and cooling of homes in­ come for poor families among other measures. Republicans, all of whom opposed the Bill, both in the Senate and the House, ar­gued that the Bill was too ex­pansive and pushed through a raft of progressive policy priorities. A significant majority of Americans (70%) support the Bill, according to a survey released by the Pew Research Center. The stimulus is expected to boost the global economic recovery from COVID-­19, the OECD had said on Tuesday.


OPINION & ANALYSIS



Commentary : US Plans for Afghanistan

(i). Background

  • The inclusion of India in the United States' latest strategy of regional talks on Afghanis­tan. U.S. Special Envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalil­zad’s talks with External Af­fairs Minister S. Jaishankar and a letter written by U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to Afghanistan Presi­dent Ashraf Ghani.

  • According to the letter to Mr. Ghani, which was pu­blished by Afghan agency Tolo News, Mr. Blinken’s plan is to ask the United Na­tions to convene a meeting of “Foreign Ministers and Special Envoys from Russia, China, Pakis­tan, Iran, India and the U.S.” to discuss an “un­ified approach” on Afghanis­tan.

(ii). Role for New Delhi

  • For India, which has protested being left out of re­gional formulations in the past both in the original Mos­cow process, and in the Unit­ed Nations April 2020 “6+2+1” that included Af­ghanistan’s “immediate neighbours” only, the U.S.’s suggestion is a relief.

  • Concerns however suggest that, the U.S. just wants to accelerate its exit from the conflict by propos­ing this grouping at the U.N. Equally puzzling is the U.S.’s plan to ask the government of Turkey to host a senior­ level meeting of “both sides in the coming weeks to finalise a peace agreement.”

  • Another concern is the U.S. has pushed for a road map to a “new, inclusive govern­ment” in Kabul, which indi­cates its desire to replace Mr. Ghani’s government with an interim one that would in­clude the Taliban’s nomi­nees as well. Afghan Vice ­President Am­rullah Saleh denounced the ideas in the letter, saying that the Taliban could enter elec­tions but that the country’s fate would not be decided by “20 people in a room”.

(iii). Role of Turkey

  • The new em­phasis for an Istanbul pro­cess over the current process in Doha, might indicate a greater role for Turkey, as well as Turkish troops as a part of a proposed “NATO stabilisation force”, someth­ing that New Delhi might have concerns about, given close ties between Turkey and Pakistan.

ECONOMICS & FINANCE



Daily snippets

(i). Government asks refiners to diversify oil imports after OPEC+ move

  • India has asked state refiners to speed up diversification of oil imports to gradually cut their dependence on West Asian suppliers after OPEC+ decided last week to largely continue production cuts in April. India, the world’s third biggest oil consumer imports about 84% of its crude needs with over 60% of that coming from West Asian countries. India, hit hard by rising oil prices, has urged producers to ease output cuts and help the global economic recov­ery. OPEC’s share in India’s oil imports declined to historic lows in the first 10 months of this fiscal year.

  • One plan is to import oil from new producer Guya­na. Indian Oil Corp. has also renewed its oil import contract with Russia. Iraq and Saudi Arabia are the two biggest suppliers of crude oil to India.

(ii). GDP to grow at 11% in FY22 says CRISIL

  • CRISIL said it expects the Indian economy to grow at 11% in fiscal 2022, after an estimated 8% contraction this fiscal due to the pandemic. The growth, it said, will be driven by four factors – people learning to live with the new normal, flattening of the COVID­-19 affliction curve, roll­out of vaccines, and investment ­focused government spending.

(iii). Rise in hiring of apprentices

  • India’s apprenticeship eco­system is currently wit­nessing a positive momen­tum, shows a study by the National Employability Through Apprenticeship Program (NETAP), a Team­ Lease Skills University and the Ministry of Skill Deve­lopment & Entrepreneur­ship initiative. As per NETAP’s recent apprenticeship outlook, some 41% of the employers in India are keen on hiring apprentices while 58% of enterprises want to increase the quantum of ap­prenticeship hiring this year. The report indicated positive hiring for women apprentices.

(iv). IDBI Bank exits PCA framework

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) re­moved IDBI Bank from its enhanced regulatory super­vision, or the Prompt Cor­rective Action (PCA) framework, after almost four years, on improved finan­cial performance. The RBI had placed IDBI Bank under the framework in May 2017, after it had breached the thresholds for capital adequacy, asset quality (net NPAs were over 13% in March 2017), return on assets and leverage ratio.

  • What is the PCA framework? Prompt Corrective Action or PCA is a framework under which banks with weak financial metrics are put under watch by the RBI. The PCA framework deems commercial banks as risky if they slip below certain norms on three parameters – Capital Ratios, Asset Quality and Profitability. PCA is intended to help alert the regulator as well as investors and depositors if a bank is heading for trouble. The idea is to head off problems before they attain crisis proportions.

(v). Government tells telcos to buy from trusted sources

  • Telecom service providers will be able to procure equipment only from ‘trusted sources’ as defined by the government. This follows the Depart­ment of Telecommunica­tions (DoT) amending li­cence conditions for equipment procurement. Service providers have to take permission from the National Cyber Security Coordinator (NCSC) for upgrading existing networks utilising equipment not designated as trusted products.

  • “The govern­ment, through the Designat­ed Authority [the NCSC], will have the right to impose conditions for procurement of telecommunication equipment on grounds of defence of India, or matters directly or indirectly related thereto, for national securi­ty,” according to the DoT.

(vi). India blocked over 9800 URLs

  • The government blocked over 9,800 URLs, accounts and web pages in 2020, an increase of about 170% from 2019, under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000. In a written reply to Lok Sabha, Electronics and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Pra­sad said, wherever the sit­uation warrants, under the provision of section 69A of the Information Technolo­gy Act, 2000, the govern­ment blocks unlawful and malicious online content.

(vii). US curbs and vaccination targets

  • The U.S. backed Quad al­liance aims to invest in In­dia’s pharmaceutical capaci­ty as it looks to ramp up COVID vaccine output, but U.S. curbs on exports of key materials could hamper that effort. The alliance, grouping the United States, Japan, Austra­lia and India, wants to ex­pand global vaccinations and in turn counter China’s grow­ing vaccine diplomacy in Southeast Asia and world­ wide. India is the world’s biggest vaccine maker.

  • Earlier this week Reuters reported that the U.S. and Ja­pan would help fund Indian firms manufacturing vac­cines for U.S. drug makers Novavax Inc. and J&J. Some of the additional supplies from India will go to Southeast Asia as China pushes its vaccines to supply Indonesia, Philippines and others in the region. The Serum Institute of In­dia (SII), the world’s biggest vaccine maker, has said it is worried the U.S. ban on ex­ports of materials like filters and bags, keeping them for U.S. companies, could limit production. Limitations to production of the Novavax and Covish­ield shots risk hurting the GAVI/WHO COVAX initiative that is heavily reliant on those two vaccines as it shares inoculations with poorer countries.

(viii). Google pay adds new user privacy features

  • Google Pay announced new features for improved user privacy, including the option to delete transaction records as well as the choice to opt out of getting personalised offers and rewards.

SPORTS



Daily snippets

(i). BBC's sportsperson of the year

  • World rapid chess cham­pion Koneru Humpy has won the BBC Indian Sportswoman ­of ­the ­Year award. BBC director-general Tim Davie, hosting the virtual awards ceremony, said: “Huge congratulations to Koneru Humpy for winning this year’s BBC ISWOTY award. She has made a fan­tastic contribution to chess and this accolade is well deserved.”

  • The Lifetime Achieve­ment award went to veteran athlete Anju Bobby George. Ben Stokes announced young shooter Manu Bhaker winner of the Emerging Player­ of ­the ­Year award. Bhaker, aged 16 won two golds at the ISSF World Cup in 2018, followed by gold at the Youth Olympics and a Commonwealth Games gold with a record to boot.

(ii). IOC and China enter into a vaccine deal

  • The International Olympic Committee and China have teamed up to offer vaccines to athletes and teams preparing for the upcoming games in both Tokyo and Beijing. IOC president Thomas Bach said the body would “pay for extra doses” for Olympic and Paralympic participants.

(iii). Tokyo Olympics

  • Several IOC members reminded Tokyo Olympic organisers about the potential negative con­sequences of banning over­seas fans from attending the postponed Games. Tokyo organisers say a final decision about fans from abroad will be made before the torch relay starts on March 25. The Olympics open on July 23.

SUGGESTED READINGS



1. Satyarani Chaddha : India's anti-dowry movement https://www.barandbench.com/columns/remembering-satyarani-chaddha-the-face-of-indias-anti-dowry-movement

2. Defamation : Pursuit of justice and Free Speech https://thewire.in/law/defamation-priya-ramani-metoo-slapp-free-speech-media

3. The Information technology Rules 2021 https://www.barandbench.com/columns/the-information-technology-rules-2021-an-assault-on-privacy-as-we-know-it

4. Justice Indu Malhotra https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/i-leave-this-court-with-a-sense-of-fulfillment-justice-indu-malhotra-on-her-last-working-day-as-sc-judge-171077

5. Working towards climate justice https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/working-towards-climate-justice-in-a-non-ideal-world/article34047239.ece


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

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

END

March 9th, 2021

Your 10 minute read!

START


LAW, POLICY & GOVERNANCE



Daily snippets

1. SC seeks States’ views on 50% cap on quota

  • The Supreme Court decided to examine whether its nearly three decades old judgment which fixed reservation for the marginalised and the poor in government jobs and educational institutions at 50% needs a relook. A five judge Bench, led by Justice Ashok Bhushan, set up to hear the challenge to the Maratha quota law, decided not to confine the question of reservation spilling over the 50% limit to just Maharashtra.

  • Another question is whether the Maharashtra State Reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act of 2018, which provides 12% to 13% quota benefits for the Maratha community, thus taking the reservation percentage in the State across the 50% mark, was enacted under “extraordinary circumstances”.

2. Batla House encounter: ‘IM operative’ convicted

  • A Delhi court convicted Ariz Khan, allegedly associated with the terror outfit Indian Mujahideen (IM), for the murder of Delhi police inspector Mohan Chand Sharma in a case related to the 2008 Batla House encounter. The court will hear arguments on the quantum of sentence on March 15.

NATIONAL NEWS/ INTERVENTIONS



Daily snippets

1. Will handle national security projects: ISRO

  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has said it will be in charge of projects linked to “national security and advanced technology”, such as the forthcoming Chandrayaan­-2 missions and the Gaganyaan mission that plans to send Indian cosmonauts into space.

  • However, the bulk of commercial activities would increasingly be handled by the newly formed New Space India Ltd (NSIL). The comments were in response to a query by the Standing Committee on Science and Technology, led by Rajya Sabha member Jairam Ramesh on whether the NSIL would “replace'' ISRO.

  • The NSIL recently coordinated the launch of the Amazonia satellite by Brazil on February 28, its first fully commercial mission that also saw 18 other satellites being launched. The NSIL was incorporated in March 2019 and in June 2020, its scope was “enhanced”. Its mandate, according to a standing committee report on space laid in the Rajya Sabha on Monday, includes owning satellites for earth observation and communication applications.

2. Five themes for 75th year celebration of freedom

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the celebrations of the 75th anniversary of Independence would be based on public participation and revolve around five themes – the freedom struggle and ideas, achievements, actions and resolve at 75.

  • He said this festival should embody the glimpse of the glory of Sanatan Bharat and also the glow of modern India. He said it should reflect the light of the spirituality of the sages and also the talent and strength of our scientists. He said it will also showcase our achievements of these 75 years to the world and also give a framework for resolution to us for the next 25 years,” a government statement said.

3. Plea to NHRC on refugees in Mizoram

  • A New Delhi Based rights group has asked the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to process the asylum or refugee claims of Myanmar nationals who fled the military coup­-affected country and had taken shelter in Mizoram. Over 50 people from the Chin ethnic group have taken shelter in Mizoram.

4. Defense Acquisition Council for purchase of drones, submarines

  • Multi­billion deals for 30 armed drones from the U.S. and six advanced submarines under Project­75I are likely to be taken by the Defence Ac­quisition Council (DAC) in April for approval. India has been looking to procure 30 armed drones, 10 for each service, from the U.S. The three Services have since finalised the Qualitative Requirements and all the processing has been complet­ed. Since the stand­off with China, the need for long endurance drones to main­tain continuous surveillance of the border has been acute­ly felt.

  • In January 2020, the DAC had shortlisted Mazgaon Docks Limited (MDL) and Larsen & Toubro (L&T) as the Indian partners for the P­75I deal worth over ₹45,000 crore.

5. Schools in Anganwadi and tap water

  • Only half of the government schools and anganwadis have tap water supply, despite a 100-day campaign for 100% coverage being launched by the Jal Shakti Ministry last October, according to Information provided to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Water Resources. Less than 8% of schools in Uttar Pradesh and 11% in West Bengal have it, while it is available in only 2­6% of anganwadis in Assam, Jhark­hand, Uttar Pradesh, Chhat­tisgarh and Bengal.

  • The campaign to provide potable piped water supply for drinking and cooking purposes and tap water for washing hands and in toilets in every school, anganwadi and ashramshala or residen­tial tribal school was launched on October 2, 2020, Gandhi Jayanti. Howev­er, as of February 15, only 48.5% of anganwadis and 53.3% of schools had tap wa­ter supply, the Ministry told the Parliamentary panel.


INTERNATIONAL NEWS/EVENTS/ PERSONALITIES



Daily snippets

1. ‘Hong Kong fully welcomes poll reforms’

  • Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said the city’s government “fully welcomes'' changes to the city’s electoral system that will substantially increase central government control over Hong Kong politics and exclude critics of Beijing. Chinese authorities have said the draft decision before China’s National People’s Congress would mean the largely pro-­Beijing committee that elects Hong Kong’s leader would also choose a large part of the legislature to ensure the city is run by “patriots.”

  • The Election Committee would also have the right to vet candidates for the Legislative Council, weeding out any people suspected of being insufficiently loyal to China and the ruling Communist Party. Currently, half of Hong Kong’s legislature is directly elected by voters, although the mass resignation of opposition legislators to protest the expulsion of four of their colleagues for being “unpatriotic” means the body is now entirely controlled by Beijing loyalists.

2. After historic visit, Pope leaves Iraq for Rome

  • Pope Francis wrapped up his historic whirlwind tour of Iraq that sought to bring hope to the country’s marginalised Christian minority with a message of coexistence, forgiveness and peace. The pontiff and his travelling delegation were seen off with a farewell ceremony at the Baghdad airport.

  • At every turn of his trip, Pope Francis urged Iraqis to embrace diversity – from Najaf in the south, where he held a historic meeting with powerful Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al­Sistani, to Nineveh to the north, where he met with Christian victims of the Islamic State group’s terror and heard their testimonies of survival.

  • In Iraq’s south, the Pope convened a meeting of Iraqi religious leaders in the deserts near a symbol of the country’s ancient past – the 6,000year old ziggurat in the Plains of Ur, also thought to be the birthplace of Abraham, the patriarch revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims. The gathering brought religious representatives across the country rarely seen together, from Muslims, Christians, Yazidis and Mandaeans.

3. Libya Parliament urged to vote for new Cabinet

  • Libya’s Prime Minister designate Abdulhamid Dbeibeh urged lawmakers to vote for his new unity government, a crucial step toward December elections and stability in the country. The oil-rich African nation descended into chaos after dictator Muammar Gaddafi was killed in 2011.

  • A UN-supervised process aims to unite the country after an October ceasefire between forces loyal to two rival administrations, each backed by foreign powers, based in the east and west of the country.

4. Senegal opposition leader indicted, gets bail

  • Senegal opposition leader Ousmane Sonko was indicted and released on bail, his lawyer said, as he faces a rape accusation that has sparked violent protests. Mr. Sonko’s release could help ease tensions over his arrest in the past week that left at least eight dead in clashes between protesters and police, right group Amnesty International said on Monday. “He (Sonko) has been indicted for rape and death threats and placed under judicial supervision. He is going home,” Mr. Sonko’s lawyer, Cheikh Koureyssi Ba, said

5. Afghan women leave journalism in droves

  • Nearly 20% of Afghan women journalists have quit or lost their jobs in the past six months, as a wave of murders targeting the press has intensified in the war torn country. The Afghan Journalists Safety Committee said that more than 300 women had left the industry in recent months, citing the “wave of targeted killings'' as one of the main reasons – along with financial difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

  • The report comes as the world marks International Women’s Day and less than a week after three female media workers from Enikass TV were gunned down by militants in the eastern city of Jalalabad in an attack claimed by the local Islamic State group affiliate. Journalists, religious scholars, activists and judges have all been victims of a recent wave of political assassinations across Afghanistan, forcing many into hiding and some to flee the country.

  • The killings have been acutely felt by women, whose rights were crushed under Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001 – which included a ban on them working. Intelligence officials have previously linked the attacks against women to demands at ongoing peace talks in Doha – between the Kabul government and the Taliban – for their rights to be protected

6. Uighur women stage a march in Istanbul against Chinese camps

  • Several hundred Muslim Uighur women in Turkey staged an International Women’s Day march along the Bosphorus on Monday demanding the closure of mass incarceration camps in China’s Xinjiang region. The protesters chanted “stop the genocide” and “close the camps” as they marched within a few hundred metre’s of China’s walled­off consulate in Istanbul.

  • Rights groups believe at least one million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities have been incarcerated in camps spread out across the vast northwestern region.

  • Uighurs speak a Turkic language and have cultural ties with Turkey that make it a favoured destination for avoiding persecution in Xinjiang. But many in the 5,00,000 ­strong community fear that Ankara’s dependence on Chinese investments could jeopardize their future status in Turkey.


OPINION & ANALYSIS



Analysis : The contours of the endgame in Afghanistan

(i). Background

  • Afghan social media and political circles are rife with details, corroborated by official sources in Afghanistan, that the U.S. Secretary of State, Antony J. Blinken, has unveiled the initial conclusions of the review by the United States of its strategy in Afghanistan in a letter he has addressed simultaneously to Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani and the head of the Afghan High Council for National Reconciliation of Afghanistan, Abdullah Abdullah. It confirms the intention to fully withdraw all U.S. military forces from Afghanistan as early as May 1, as specified in the Doha Agreement.

(ii). Afghanistan-US-Taliban-Pakistan-Russia

  • If training, combat support, and the supply of weapons are stopped from Pakistan, the Taliban could be on its knees. The U.S. Government is wary but resigned about Pakistan’s negative role. Instead of pressuring Pakistan, it is seeking Afghan acquiescence for a power sharing arrangement with the Taliban, enabling the exit of U.S. soldiers.

  • When the intra­-Afghan negotiations envisaged under the Doha Agreement stalled, Russia offered Moscow as an alternate venue. Instead, the United Nations is being asked to convene, with Turkey being asked to host a meeting of foreign ministers or envoys from China, India, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, and the U.S. to discuss a unified approach to supporting peace in Afghanistan.

  • Mr. Ghani is being encouraged to work closely with a broad consultative group, for which the core leaders identified are Abdullah Abdullah, former President Karzai, and an important former Mujahideen commander, Professor Abdul Rasul Sayyaf.

(iii). India’s role in Afghanistan

  • If the American plan results only in a ‘reduction in violence’ and not its complete cessation, and U.S. forces are pulled out, India must step up to assist materially those who want to defend the Afghan republic. It should explore commonalities with key countries in dealing with the rapidly evolving situation. When in the late 1990s no country was willing to help the democratic forces in Afghanistan, India and Iran had scaled up their support.

Commentary : Haryana Reservation : An alarming diktat

  • Haryana Governor Satyadeo Narain Arya’s assent to a law regulating private sector hiring portends a potentially perilous slide in India’s investment climate and its socio economic framework. The Haryana State Employment of Local Candidates Act of 2020 seeks to ensure that 75% of all jobs with gross monthly salaries of up to ₹ 50,000 are provided to the State’s own residents.

  • Haryana’s law could face legal challenges, as it ostensibly flies in the face of the Constitution, especially Article 19 (1)(g) and Article 16(2). Operationally, the law imposes onerous and contentious responsibilities on key personnel of firms in the State. Most preposterous is seeking exemptions to the law – firms can hire outsiders by proving that local candidates for a desired skill are not available.

  • It is time the Centre dissuades such legislation which threatens to not only unleash a sort of ‘work visa’ regime for Indians within the country but also damage crucial workplace diversity. Immobilising a much vaunted young workforce and rupturing the social fabric with this push for insularity would be the start of an unstoppable slide.


ECONOMICS & FINANCE



Daily snippets

1. Iran's oil trade

  • Iran moved about 17.8 mil­lion tonnes of crude into China during the past 14 months, with volumes reaching record levels in Ja­nuary and February. The US sanctions imposed by President Trump caused a drop in Iran’s exports to Chi­na, India, Japan and South Korea. Those measures, and output cuts by fellow OPEC+ producers, have led to tight supplies of West Asian sour crude in Asia. India, hurting from the sustained recovery in prices, expects Iranian supplies to return to the market in 3-­4 months.

2. Retail industry to create 25 million jobs by 2030

  • About 25 million new jobs will be created by the In­dian retail sector by 2030, as per Retail 4.0 Report re­leased by NASSCOM in part­nership with Technopak. According to the study, Retail 4.0 would result in a significant rise in the size of the domestic market, in job creation and exports.

  • As India leaps forward to become a digitally ­trans­formed nation, the coun­try’s retail sector has emerged as one of the most dynamically ­evolving, ra­pidly digitising sectors, with the second­ largest consumer base in the world, from fifth largest in 2020,” as per NASSCOM. Over the last decade, as per the study, the Indian retail market size has wit­nessed a massive threefold growth, accounting for $800 billion, contributing 10% to India’s GDP in FY20 and 8% to the total work­ force with more than 35 million employees.

3. Cairns energy tax dispute with India

  • Courts in five countries in­cluding the U.S. and the U.K. have given recognition to an arbitration award that asked India to return $1.4 billion to Cairn Energy plc – a step that now opens the possibility of the British firm seizing Indian assets in those countries if India does not pay. Cairn Energy had moved courts in nine countries to enforce its $1.4 billion arbi­tral award against India, which the company won af­ter a dispute with the coun­try’s revenue authority over a retroactively applied capi­tal gains tax.

  • The December 21 award from a three member tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Netherlands has been recog­nised and confirmed by courts in the U.S., the U.K., the Netherlands, Canada and France. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had indicated the Centre’s intent to appeal against the award when she said it was her ‘du­ty’ to appeal in cases where the nation’s sovereign auth­ority to tax is questioned.


SPORTS



Daily snippets

1. Player Profile

  • Pravin Jadhav – He is an Indian archer who competes in the recurve discipline. At the 2019 World Archery Championships, he was a member of the first Indian team to qualify for the final since 2005; the team received the silver medal. He hails from Maharashtra.

  • Deepika Kumari – She is an Indian athlete who competes in the event of archery, is currently ranked World No. 9, and is a former world number one. She won a gold medal in the 2010 Commonwealth games in the women's individual recurve event. She also won a gold medal in the same competition in the women's team recurve event along with Dola Banerjee and Bombayala Devi. The Government of India awarded her the civilian honour of the Padma Shri in 2016.

2. Ishar Singh Deol passes away

  • Veteran Indian athlete Ishar Singh Deol, has died at the age of 91. Deol had won many medals for the country and the State of Punjab since 1951 and was awarded the Dhyan Chand National Award in 2009 for his lifelong contribution towards sports.

3. Djokovic beats Federer's record for most weeks at the Number 1 spot

  • Novak Djokovic set a new landmark of 311 weeks as World No. 1 on Monday, one week longer than Roger Fe­derer whose tally of a record 20 Grand Slam titles is now firmly in the Serb’s sights. Djokovic, 33, won his 18th major at the Australian Open in February. Djokovic reclaimed the top ranking from Nadal in February 2020 and finished as year­ end number one for the sixth time, tying the re­cord set by Pete Sampras. Djokovic first became World No.1 at the age of 24 on July 4, 2011.

SUGGESTED READINGS



1. About Preventative Detention & National Security Act https://www.livelaw.in/columns/indian-all-constitution-preventative-detention-act-national-security-act-170887

2. On absolute immunity of the American President https://www.livelaw.in/columns/us-supreme-court-donald-trump-american-constitution-170888

3. Electoral Bonds explained https://indianexpress.com/article/what-is/what-are-electoral-bonds-6130061/


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

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

END

March 8th, 2021

Your 10 minute read!

START


LAW, POLICY & GOVERNANCE



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.

NATIONAL NEWS/ INTERVENTIONS



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.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS/EVENTS/ PERSONALITIES



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.


OPINION & ANALYSIS



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.


SPORTS



Daily snippets

1. SWISS OPEN

  • 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.

2. TENNIS

  • 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.

3. WRESTLING

  • 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.

SUGGESTED READINGS



1. Women's day : of Courts and Women https://www.livelaw.in/columns/womens-day-of-courts-and-women-gender-equality-170860

2. Cyber Attack and Act of war https://www.thequint.com/news/law/is-cyber-attack-an-act-of-war#read-more


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

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

END

Week Page : March 3rd-7th, 2021

The week that went by!

START


LAW, POLICY & GOVERNANCE



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” (https://rb.gy/aqg2w3) 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.

NATIONAL NEWS/ INTERVENTIONS



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. (https://rb.gy/8m0nhm)

(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 950­sq.km 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.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS/EVENTS/ PERSONALITIES



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.

OPINION & ANALYSIS



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 (https://rb.gy/ps36ju) 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


ECONOMICS & FINANCE



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.

SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & ENVIRONMENT



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.

SPORTS



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.

SUGGESTED READINGS



1. Nepal and Constitutional Reforms https://rb.gy/k1mxil

2. District courts and protection of human rights https://rb.gy/tlv0o2

3. The 'path of law' https://rb.gy/vdej4j

4. India's sustained benevolent racism https://rb.gy/0d42qc

5. Patching the gaps in India's cybersecurity https://rb.gy/a9nhji


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

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

END

March 1st-2nd, 2021

Your 10 minute read!

START


LAW, POLICY & GOVERNANCE



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.


NATIONAL NEWS/ INTERVENTIONS



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.


INTERNATIONAL NEWS/EVENTS/ PERSONALITIES



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.


OPINION & ANALYSIS



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.


ECONOMICS & FINANCE



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.


SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & ENVIRONMENT



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.


SPORTS



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.


SUGGESTED READINGS



1. UK's Supreme Court ruling on Uber drivers https://www.livelaw.in/columns/gig-economy-uber-drivers-uk-employment-appeal-tribunal-170589

2. Newly notified Information Technology Rules, 2021 https://www.livelaw.in/columns/newly-notified-information-technology-rules-2021-170592

3. Government and sedition https://thewire.in/government/watch-karan-thapar-justice-deepak-gupta-supreme-court-sedition-disha-ravi

4. The Inconsistent policy on Bail https://www.livelaw.in/columns/bail-allahabad-high-court-anticipatory-bail-tandav-munawar-faruqui-freedom-of-speech-krishna-iyer-170555

5. Big government and Big Tech https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/more-about-big-government-than-big-tech/article33956682.ece


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

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

END

February 25th-28th, 2021

Your 10 minute + a little more read!

START


LAW, POLICY & GOVERNANCE



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.


NATIONAL NEWS/ INTERVENTIONS



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.


INTERNATIONAL NEWS/EVENTS/ PERSONALITIES



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.


OPINION & ANALYSIS



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.


ECONOMICS & FINANCE



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.


SPORTS



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.


SUGGESTED READINGS



1. New social media rules https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/social-media-rules-messaging-platforms-to-trace-first-originator-of-messages-170408

2. The absurdity of the anti-defection law https://www.pressreader.com/india/the-hindu/20210226/281758452013157

3. GOI limitations on International Webinars https://www.livelaw.in/columns/freedom-of-speech-right-to-education-academic-freedom-limitations-international-webinar-170451

4. Making Indian Judiciary more economically responsible https://thewire.in/economy/india-judiciary-economically-responsible-environment

5. Federalism and India's human capital https://www.pressreader.com/india/the-hindu/20210225/281831466454989

6. Explainer : Australian government vs Facebook https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/facebook-australia-law-media-7196280/

7. Who is Nodeep Kaur and why she was arrested https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/who-is-nodeep-kaur-and-why-was-she-arrested/article33790286.ece


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

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

END

February 23rd-24th, 2021

Your 10 minute read!

START


LAW, POLICY & GOVERNANCE



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”.


NATIONAL NEWS/ INTERVENTIONS



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.


INTERNATIONAL NEWS/EVENTS/ PERSONALITIES



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.


OPINION & ANALYSIS



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.


ECONOMICS & FINANCE



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.

SPORTS



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.

SUGGESTED READINGS



1. Statutory Provisions of arrest and remand https://www.livelaw.in/columns/arrest-remand-code-of-criminal-procedure-code-disha-ravis-arrest-duty-magistrate-170252

2. Dissent is not sedition https://www.barandbench.com/columns/dissent-is-not-sedition

3. Appointment of the Chief Justice of India https://www.livelaw.in/columns/appointing-the-chief-justice-of-indiawhat-is-the-criteria-170306

4. Suspecting the disquiet in democracy https://thewire.in/law/descent-of-democracy-hate-fear-indian-society-sedition

5. Excise duty-fiscal policy contradiction https://www.pressreader.com/india/the-hindu/20210224/281857236256471


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

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

END

February 21st-22nd, 2021

Your 10 minute read!

START


LAW, POLICY & GOVERNANCE



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”.

NATIONAL NEWS/ INTERVENTIONS



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.


INTERNATIONAL NEWS/EVENTS/ PERSONALITIES



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.


OPINION & ANALYSIS



Story : Extinction Rebellion – Rebels with a green cause (https://rb.gy/igvbpw)

(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.


ECONOMICS & FINANCE



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.


SPORTS



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.


SUGGESTED READINGS



1. India's first Dictatorship : The emergency 1975-77 https://www.livelaw.in/columns/justice-sesha-iyengar-rangarajan-delhi-high-court-emergency-kuldip-nayar-170186

2. Law students: Then and now https://www.barandbench.com/columns/law-students-then-and-now

3. Suspicion and proof https://thewire.in/law/suspicion-however-strong-cannot-take-the-place-of-proof-supreme-court

4. WASH program across health facilities in India https://www.pressreader.com/india/the-hindu/20210221/282080574550546


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

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

END

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