Your ten minute read!

January 27th, 2021



Daily snippets

1. Petition in Supreme Court seeks guidelines for electronic media

  • The Supreme Court has decided to examine a petition seeking the framing of guidelines outlining the broad regulatory paradigm within which the right to free speech of broadcasters and electronic media can be judicially regulated. The plea has also sought the setting up of an independent Media Tribunal to hear and expeditiously adjudicate complaints against “media businesses” filed by viewers and citizens.

  • A Bench, led by Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde, has issued notices to the Centre and Press Council of India, among others. The plea said the right to life and dignity envisaged the right of citizens to “free, fair and proportionate media reporting”.

Analysis : Pandemic and India : Snippets from the Oxfam Report

(i). Background

  • Oxfam International’s annual report on inequality for 2021, aptly titled ‘The Inequality Virus’, puts the uncomfortable but imperative spot-light on the obscene inequality between the few and the overwhelming majority.

(ii). How it has panned out till now

  • Over two million people have died, and hundreds of millions of people are being forced into poverty while many of the richest, both individuals and corporations, are thriving. The pandemic saw hundreds of millions of people lose their jobs and face destitution and hunger. Globally, women are overrepresented in the sectors of the economy that are hardest hit by the pandemic.

(iii). India's standing

  • India introduced one of the earliest and most stringent lockdowns in the face of the pandemic, whose enforcement brought its economy to a standstill triggering unemployment, hunger, distress migration and untold hardship. The wealth of Indian billionaires increased by 35% during the lockdown and by 90% since 2009. This is despite the fact that most of India has faced a loss of livelihood and the economy has dipped into recession.

(iv). The Oxfam report snippets

  • The Oxfam report undertook a survey of 295 economists from 79 countries. Of the respondents, 87% expected that income inequality in their country was going to significantly increase as a result of the pandemic. These levels of inequality are not viable and will have a deeply harmful impact.

(v). The way forward

  • We must recognise that a radical and sustained reduction in inequality is the indispensable foundation for a just India, as envisioned in the Constitution. Four things could be done on priority. One, invest in free universal healthcare, education, and other public services. Two, the virus has shown us that guaranteed income security is essential. Three, reintroduce wealth taxes and ensure financial transaction taxes while putting an end to tax dodging. Four, we need to invest in a green economy that prevents further degradation of our planet and preserves it for our children.

Analysis : Robustness of blockchain and voting

(i). Background

  • The Electronic Voting Machine has survived intense scrutiny over its use largely because of one strong reason – the fact that this standalone single chip device is not connected to any network. With the addition of the Voter Ver­ifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) to the EVM, “audit­ability” was added to the process even as the machine has suffered glitches, which the Election Commission of India (ECI) has managed to tackle reasonably well. The announcement by Chief Election Commissioner Su­nil Arora that the ECI is commencing trials of a “remote voting project” is sure to bring back scrutiny.

(ii). The need and safeguards

  • Concept of remote voting : Remote voting, as an option, has gained some prior­ity during the COVID-­19 pandemic in order to address social distancing.

  • The blockchain method implements an online public bulletin board that allows for a linear ordering of data to which a user can only further append data. The board itself is public and available for anyone to read and verify. The technology has been put in use for cryptocurrencies – the Bitcoin blockchain records a list of transactions that can be read to find out who owns which bitcoins without any centralised auth­ority.

  • In the block chain ­based voting system, the voting authority will have to authenticate this bulle­tin board in which users sign in using cryptographic sig­natures to register their votes in a ledger. While this sys­tem, with its cryptographic features, promises data security and verifiability, the fact that it will depend upon a network and devices could introduce vulnera­bilities that are present in any Internet based system. Beyond the vul­nerabilities faced by any Internet based system, block­ chains also introduce issues related to complexity and their management.


Daily snippets

1. Tractor rally turns violent as farmers enter Capital

  • Delhi witnessed chaotic scenes as groups of protesting farmers broke off from the planned Republic Day tractor parade routes and swarmed into the heart of the national capital, hoisting a union flag and a Sikh religious flag inside Red Fort. Police used tear gas, water cannons and lathicharge to stop the farmers at several locations in the city, including at ITO, where one protester died.

  • The Delhi police said 83 personnel and one civilian were injured in the protests. By evening, the Home Ministry deployed additional paramilitary forces, and suspended mobile Internet services in several parts of the city. In a statement issued late in the evening, the Delhi police said the protesting farmers had breached the agreement with the unions and began their march before the scheduled time.

2. Yadav: I take responsibility, feel ashamed

  • Swaraj India president Yogendra Yadav said he felt “ashamed” of the way the farmers’ tractor parade turned out on Tuesday, and took responsibility for it. “Being a part of the protest,” he said, “I feel ashamed of the way things proceeded and I take responsibility for it.”

  • Violence impacts any kind of protest in a wrong way. I cannot say at the moment who did it and who did not, but prima facie it looks like it has been done by the people that we kept out of the farmers’ protest,” Mr. Yadav said. “I appealed continuously that we stick to whatever route was decided and not deviate,” said Mr. Yadav.

3. Pursuing national interests, at the UN high table

  • New Delhi’s entry into the UNSC coincides with the emergence of a new world order, one marked by systemic uncertainty, little care for global commons, absence of global leadership, the steady division of the world into rival blocs, and an age marked by unabashed pursuit of narrow national interests, putting even the rhetoric about a value based global order on the backburner.

  • India’s seat at the UNSC is also significant vis-à-vis China because the next two years will be key to ensuring checking further Chinese incursions along the Line of Actual Control and building up enough infrastructure and mobilising sufficient forces in the forward areas.

  • Greater Indian alignment with the West at the UNSC, an unavoidable outcome, could, however, widen the growing gulf between Moscow and New Delhi given Russia’s increasing dependence on Beijing in more ways than one.

  • The issue of terrorism has been a major theme in the country’s national security and foreign policy discourse for decades now, more so of this government. India must, however, formulate its policy towards terrorism with far more diplomatic finesse and political nuance especially given that it is chairing the Taliban sanctions committee while courting the very same Taliban.

  • Perhaps more significantly, New Delhi’s UNSC strategy should involve shaping the narrative and global policy engagement vis-à-vis perhaps one of the biggest grand strategic concepts of our time – the Indo-­Pacific.

  • India as a permanent member of UNSC ? India’s past global engagements and efforts have often been contingent on the hope that it would one day be admitted to the UNSC given its irrefutable claim. But a cursory glance at the recent debates on UNSC reforms and the state of the international system today should tell us that bending over backwards to please the big five to gain entry into the UNSC will not make a difference. So New Delhi must focus its energies on what it can achieve during the short period that it would be in the UNSC rather than what it wishes happened.

4. In the footsteps of the legendary Muktijoddhas

  • As New Delhi and Dhaka celebrated the 50th anniversary of the 1971 Liberation War, a 122­-member tri­service contingent of Bangladesh marched on Rajpath at the Republic Day parade. It had soldiers drawn from the units of that year.

  • Coinciding with the diamond jubilee of the 1971 war and also 50 years of the establishment of ties, New Delhi and Dhaka have agreed to hold a series of commemorative events throughout the year. It is these fraternal ties between the two countries that make the relations transcend even a strategic partnership.

  • In 2017, when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina honoured Indian soldiers who took part in the war during her visit to India, Maj. Singh said he presented a photograph of ‘Bangabandhu’ (Sheikh Mujibur Rehman) taking the salute of their unit’s parade in Dhaka in 1972.

5. ‘Inclusive reforms must for UNSC to be effective’

  • India has said that the UN Security Council is finding itself unable to effectively address increasingly complex issues of international peace and security as it lacks inclusivity of those who need to be members of the powerful organ of the world body.

  • India, along with Brazil, Japan and Germany are pressing for urgent reform of the UN Security Council and for a permanent seat in the reformed 15­member top organ of the world body. “It has been nearly 13 years since the Intergovernmental Negotiations (IGN) started,” said India’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador T.S. Tirumurti. “The Security Council is being called upon to address increasingly complex issues of global security. Yet, it finds itself unable to act effectively, for it is lacking inclusivity of those who need to be there, and therefore lacking legitimacy and credibility,” he added.

6. Meghalaya government talks tough on illegal coal mining

  • Six miners, all from As­sam, died after a crane col­lapsed into the pit in a forest, Sorkari, in East Jaintia Hills district on January 21. Insisting that action was being taken against illegal rat­hole coal mining, banned by the National Green Tribu­nal since April 2014, Deputy CM Mr. Prestone Tyn­song said a few people have been picked up in connec­tion with the mishap.

  • The Meghalaya government has been facing flak from the Opposi­tion Congress and ally BJP for failing to stop illegal min­ing and transportation of coal.

7. School of Public health launched in Rajasthan

  • A new School of Public Health (SPH) has been launched to make pol­icy intervention for build­ing public health capacity and skills and bridge gaps between education and practices in Rajasthan. Named after Indian In­stitute of Health Manage­ment Research (IIHMR) chairperson S.D. Gupta, the school will provide technical support to health systems and render help to the State government in harnessing new technologies.

  • IIHMR Dean (Research) D.K. Mangal said that the SPH has taken up a study on non­-com­municable diseases, cli­mate change and antimi­crobial resistance as its first project to identify priority areas in public healthcare. The study will examine the scope for data analytics and artificial intelligence as the key segments for the public health sector.

  • Dr. Mangal said the ma­jor thrust areas for the school would be digital health technology and evaluation of surveillance mechanisms that could help the policy makers in identifying the challenges and bringing changes to ensure “equity and inclu­sion” in public health.

8. Soren vows 75% jobs in private sector for locals in Jharkhand

  • Announcing a host of welfare measures on the Repu­blic Day, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren said his government will soon formulate a new domicile policy and reserve 75% jobs in the private sector for the people of the State. He also said that the government will recruit schoolteachers and police personnel.

9. Col. Santosh Babu awarded the Maha Vir Chakra

  • Galwan hero Col. Santosh Babu was awarded the Mahavir Chakra on the 72nd Republic Day celebra­tions in Telangana. His spouse Bikumalla Santoshi was felicitated remembering her husband’s martyrdom in the 2020 India-­China skirmishes in the Galwan Valley in June, and the Centre’s recognition of the sacrifice with Maha Vir Chakra, the second high­est wartime gallantry award.

  • The family however felt that the recognition with a Param Vir Chakra would have been more appropriate. “Param Vir Chakra would have been more appro­priate,” Mr. Upender (father) said, adding, “Santosh Babu’s team endured the harshest climate for some 13 months. They caused double the loss to Chinese troops, erased the opinion that India was inferior to China, and also inspired the youth of the country.


Daily snippets

1. As pandemic rages on, Italy PM Conte quits

  • Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned in the hope of forming a new government after weeks of turmoil in his ruling coalition, leaving Italy rudderless as it battles the deadly coronavirus pandemic. He tendered his resignation to President Sergio Mattarella, the ultimate arbiter of Italian political crises, who invited him to stay on in a caretaker capacity pending discussions on what happens next.

  • The uneasy coalition that has led Italy since September 2019 was fatally weakened earlier this month by the withdrawal of former premier Matteo Renzi’s small but crucial Italia Viva party. Ahead of a key vote in Parliament this week that he looked set to lose, Mr. Conte informed his Cabinet that he would quit in what supporters said was a move to form a new government.

  • Italy was the first European country to face the full force of the COVID­-19 pandemic and has since suffered badly, with the economy plunged into recession and deaths still rising by around 400 a day. Parts of the country remain under partial lockdown, the vaccination programme has slowed and a deadline is looming to agree plans to spend billions of euros in European Union recovery funds.

2. U.S. announces restoration of relations with Palestinians

  • U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration announced Tuesday it was restoring relations with the Palestinians and renewing aid to Palestinian refugees, a reversal of the Donald Trump administration’s cutoff and a key element of its new support for a two-­state solution to the decades­old conflict agreed to by Israelis and Palestinians.

3. Myanmar Army raises prospect of coup after voter-fraud claims

  • Myanmar‘s powerful military raised the spectre of staging a coup as it ramped up demands for an investigation into alleged voter fraud during last year’s election, swept by Aung San Suu Kyi’s ruling party. The National League for Democracy (NLD) won November’s poll in a landslide, but has been much criticised by rights groups for its disenfranchisement of voters in conflict-wracked regions. The military-­aligned opposition disputed the results, while the Army has for weeks alleged widespread voter irregularities, claiming to have found 8.6 million cases of fraud.


Daily snippets

1. Cairns threatens Indian asset seizures

  • A month after it won an inter­national tribunal award of $1.2 billion in damages against India in the retros­pective taxation case, U.K.­ based Cairn Energy Plc has threatened that it may be forced to begin attaching In­dian assets including bank accounts in different world capitals, unless the govern­ment resolves the issue.

  • Cairn’s top lea­dership has said that the “necessary preparations have been put in place” for the tribunal verdict to be “enforced against Indian as­ sets in numerous jurisdic­tions around the world” if In­dia fails to discuss paying the amount awarded. The as­sets already under consider­ation could include Embassy bank accounts, non-­diplo­matic premises, Air India planes and state-owned ships in several places in­cluding the U.K., Holland, France, Canada and the U.S. The company maintained that it would only consider this extreme option if the Indian government did not respond, as it was under pressure from its sharehol­ders who “expect early reso­lution”.

  • Cairn also cited clauses in the U.K-­India Bi­ lateral Investment Treaty, the UNCITRAL arbitration rules, and the New York Con­vention to which India is a signatory, that would be breached if India fails to pay the dues, which reportedly include about $220 million in accrued interest in addition to the $1.2 billion award.

  • The three member tribu­nal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at The Hague that had delivered its verdict on December 21, 2020 had held unanimously in favour of Cairn and against the Indian government, rul­ing that the tax levied fell afoul of the bilateral invest­ment pact, and also awarded Cairn $1.2 billion in damages for the tax authorities’ deci­sion to take by force and sub­sequently sell the company’s shares, and freeze dividend payments as well as tax re­funds, to recover the disput­ed tax dues.

  • In a similar arbitration case it lost against Vodafone, the government has filed an appeal in a Singapore court to defend the retrospective tax demand on the telecom firm, and officials have stressed that the govern­ment’s sovereign right to levy taxes cannot be questioned under bilateral pacts.

2. GDP to contract 8% in FY21, FICCI survey shows

  • India’s GDP is expected to contract by 8% in 2020-­21, according to the latest round of FICCI’s Economic Outlook Survey. The annual median growth forecast by the indus­try body is based on respons­es from leading economists representing industry, bank­ing and financial services sectors. The survey was con­ducted in January.

  • The quarterly median fo­recasts indicates GDP growth to contract by 1.3% in the third quarter of 2020-­21. The growth is expected to be in the positive terrain by the fourth quarter with a projec­tion of 0.5% growth,” esti­mates the survey.

3. Budget likely to raise agri-credit target

  • With the aim of doubling farmers’ income by 2022, the government is likely to raise farm credit target to about ₹19 lakh crore in Budget 2021-­22 to be pre­sented on February 1, ac­cording to sources. For the current fiscal, the govern­ment has set a farm credit target of ₹15 lakh crore. The government has been raising credit targets for the farm sector every year and this time too, the target is likely to be increased to around ₹19 lakh crore for 2021-­22.

  • The agricultural credit flow has increased consis­tently over the years, ex­ceeding the target set for each fiscal. For instance, credit worth ₹11.68 lakh crore was given to farmers in 2017­-18, higher than the ₹10 lakh crore target set for that year. Simi­larly, crop loans worth ₹10.66 lakh crore were dis­bursed in 2016­-17, higher than the credit target of ₹9 lakh crore. Credit is a critical input in achieving higher farm output. Institutional credit will also help delink farm­ers from non­institutional sources where they are compelled to borrow at usurious rates of interest.

4. India set to grow 11.5% in 2021 : IMF

  • The IMF project­ed an 11.5% growth rate for India in 2021, making the country the only major eco­nomy to register double ­di­git growth this year amidst the COVID­-19 pandemic. The International Mone­tary Fund’s growth projec­tions for India reflected a re­bound in the economy, which is estimated to have contracted by 8% in 2020 due to the pandemic.

  • China is next with 8.1% growth in 2021 followed by Spain (5.9%) and France (5.5%). The IMF said that in 2020 China is the only major country which registered a positive growth rate of 2.3%. India’s economy, the IMF said, is projected to grow 6.8% in 2022 and that of Chi­na by 5.6%. IMF Chief Economist Gita Gopinath said that India had a somewhat faster pace of recovery, but cumulative­ly by the end of 2022, its GDP is expected to be 9% below its pre-­pandemic projected level.

  • In fact, we are seeing a very strong decline in cases, which is again a bit different from other parts of the world. So, these factors, in­cluding what we’re seeing in terms of high frequency indi­cators, point to [a] somewhat faster pace of recovery. But again, there is still some distance to go,” she added. Earlier this month, IMF MD Kristalina Georgieva had said India “actually has taken very decisive action, ve­ry decisive steps to deal with the pandemic and to deal with the economic conse­quences of it”.

5. Data privacy and non-price competition : CCI

  • Data privacy can take the form of non­price competi­tion and abuse of domi­nance can lower privacy protection, a study by the Competition Commission of India(CCI) has said. The study also made ob­servations about other non­ price factors such as quality of service (QoS), data speeds and bundled offerings, which are likely to be the new drivers of competitive rivalry between service pro­viders in telecom sector in addition to just price.

  • CCI noted that an aspect of data in the context of competition in the digital com­munications market is the conflict between allowing access and protecting consumer privacy. Privacy can take the form of non­price competi­tion. Abuse of domi­nance can take the form of lowering the privacy protec­tion and therefore fall within the ambit of antitrust as low privacy standards imply lack of consumer wel­fare.

  • On other non price fac­tors of competition, CCI found that consumers ranked network coverage at the top followed by custom­er service, tariff packaging and lower tariff as the most important factors for the preference of a particular network.


1. Extension of judicial custody and Article 21

2. Enhanced Interrogation techniques and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872

3. Fate of an UAPA prisoner

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


January 26th, 2021



Daily snippets

1. 'Women farmers will be hit hard by farm laws'

  • Over 400 Indian women’s rights activists, women’s organisations and academics have penned an open letter to the government expressing their solidarity with protesting women farmers and underscoring that they are central to the farmers’ agitation as they are likely to be hit the hardest.

  • If the three laws were not repealed, marginal and women farmers are likely to be hit harder as the dismantling of the APMC would mean farmers would not be able to negotiate prices.

  • The contract farming envisaged under these laws would be that women dependent on small or marginal holdings, either as direct cultivators or tenants, would be highly disadvantaged in negotiating contracts. Shockingly, farmers or anyone representing them will also not have any recourse to the jurisdiction of appellate courts to challenge contracts that dupe them or force them into landlessness and penury.

2. ‘WhatsApp treating Indian users differently is cause for concern’

  • The Centre told the Delhi High Court that the differential treatment by WhatsApp of Indian users compared with their European counterparts with respect to its privacy policy was a “cause for concern for the government”.

  • While the privacy policy offered by WhatsApp to its European users specifically prohibits sharing of any information with Facebook, this provision is not present in the privacy policy offered to Indian citizens who form a very substantial part of WhatsApp’s user base.

  • The submissions were made before Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva during the hearing of a petition by a lawyer against the new privacy policy of WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook. Mr. Lal, in his petition, claimed that WhatsApp’s new privacy policy violated the Right to Privacy guaranteed under the Constitution.

3. Respect right to vote, exercise franchise sincerely: President

  • President Ram Nath Kovind said it was important to respect the right to vote, which was something that people around the world had struggled to achieve. The digital voter ID cards would be available for download by all electors with valid EPIC numbers from February 1, while new electors who applied for EPICs in November and December would be able to download their digital cards.

Analysis : Overzealous threat

  • The warning by the Bihar police of legal action being taken against users of social media for “offensive” posts targeting the government, its Ministers and officials, betrays both hypersensitivity and ignorance of the law.

  • The Economic Offences Wing, which also deals with cyber­crime, has sent a circular to the department secretaries that they could inform the wing about such “offensive posts” so that it could act against them, terming such actions as “against prescribed law”. Even though the letter from the Inspector General of Police concerned makes no mention of any specific penal provision, it is a possible reference to Section 66A of the IT Act, as there is no other section that deals with “offensive” remarks.

  • The Act’s remaining penal provisions pertain only to other offences – sending obscene or prurient messages, hacking, stealing computer resources, identity theft, personation, and violation of privacy. There is nothing specific in the law that would render strong, even offensive and intemperate, criticism of the government a cyber offence. It ought to be remembered that the police cannot register FIRs for defamation, as the offence can only be dealt with by way of criminal complaints before magistrates, and cannot be the subject of a police investigation. The government would do well not to act on the police circular, lest it be seen as an attempt to suppress its critics and those who make allegations of corruption.


Daily snippets

1. Padma Vibhushan for SPB, Abe

  • Legendary singer S.P. Bala­subrahmanyam will get the Padma Vibushan, the second high­est civilian award in the country, posthumously. Former Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe, Islamic scholar Maulana Wahidud­ din Khan, cardiologist B.M. Hegde and B.B. Lal, the archaeologist who claimed to have discovered temple remains at Ayodhya, will also get the Padma Vibhushan.

  • Singer K.S. Chithra, former Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, Nripendra Misra, former Principal Se­cretary to Prime Minister Na­rendra Modi, and former Chairman of the National Commission for Minorities Tarlochan Singh are among the 10 Padma Bhushan recipients. The Padma Bhushan will be conferred posthumously on former Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, former Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, former Gujarat Chief Minis­ter Keshubhai Patel and Shia cleric Kalbe Sadiq.

  • The 1971 Bangladesh war veteran Lt.Col. Quazi Sajjad Ali Zahid and Bangladeshi artist Sanjida Khatun will get the Padma Shri. Rajni Bector of Mrs Bec­tor’s Food Specialities, a Punjab based company mak­ing biscuits and bakery pro­ducts has been selected for the Padma Shri. Sangkhumi Bualchhuak from Mizoram will be given the Padma Shri in the social work category. Sindhutai Sapkal from Maharashtra, known to help orphans, will get the Padma Shri. Professor C.L Sapru from Jammu and Kashmir, who died last year, will get the Padma Shri posthumously.

  • Padma Awards, one of the highest civilian honours of India announced annually on the eve of Republic Day, are given in three categories – Padma Vibhushan (for exceptional and distinguished service), Padma Bhushan (distinguished service of higher order) and Padma Shri (distinguished service).

  • The award recognises achievements in all fields of activities or disciplines where an element of public service is involved. The Padma Awards are conferred on the recommendations made by the Padma Awards Committee, which is constituted by the Prime Minister every year. The Union Home Ministry said the President has approved conferment of 119 Padma awards – seven Padma Vibhushan, 10 Padma Bhushan and 102 Padma Shri.

2. India, China troops clashed at Naku La

  • Indian and Chinese troops clashed at Naku La in north Sikkim last week, in what the Army termed a “minor faceoff”, resulting in some minor injuries on both sides, it has been learnt.

  • The clash occurred as the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops attempted to intrude into Indian territory, there were some minor injuries on both sides, but the situation was resolved and under control. There was a clash at Naku La on the night of May 9 last, which also saw injuries on both sides. There was a clash at Pangong Tso also at that time as the nine­-month-­long stand­-off began at several locations across eastern Ladakh.

3. Jayati Ghosh appointed to UN advisory panel

  • Indian development economist Jayati Ghosh is among the 20 prominent personalities appointed by the UN to a high level advisory board that will provide recommendations for the Secretary­-General to respond to the current and future socio economic challenges in the post-COVID­-19 world. Dr. Ghosh, 65, is currently a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

4. Centre’s prescription for SAM includes yoga, herbs

  • AYUSH Centres, yoga, medicinal herbs and indigenous traditional practices are part of the Central government’s prescription for severe acute malnourished (SAM) children. The Ministry of Women and Child Development in its guidelines issued to various State governments has advised that a drive be conducted to identify such children and if necessary they should be referred to hospitals and AYUSH centres for treatment.

5. Billionaires wealth rose 35% during lockdown : Oxfam

  • Indian billionaires increased their wealth by 35% to ₹3 tril­lion during the lockdown, ranking them behind their counterparts in U.S., China, Germany, Russia and France, says the “Inequality Virus Report '' brought out by Oxfam, a non-­profit or­ganisation. The report underscor­ed the deepening inequali­ties due to COVID-­19 where the wealthiest escaped the worst impact of the pandem­ic while the poor faced joblessness, starvation and death.

  • The organisation recommended reintro­ducing the wealth tax and ef­fecting a one­-time COVID-­19 cess of 4% on taxable income of over ₹10 lakh to help the economy recover from the lockdown. According to its estimate, a wealth tax on the nation’s 954 richest families could raise the equivalent of 1% of the GDP.

  • According to the report, on­ly 6% of the poorest 20% have access to non­shared sources of improved sanita­tion, compared to 93.4% of the top 20%. As much as 59.6% of India’s population lived in a room or less, which meant that protocols necessary to prevent the spread of COVID­-19 cannot be followed.

  • Oxfam India’s survey across the five States said that close to 40% of teachers in government schools feared that a third of the students would not return once schools reopened. It was es­timated that out­ of­ school rates would double in a year. Dalits, Adivasis and Muslims were likely to see a higher dropout rate. Girls were also most vulnerable as they were at risk of early and forced marriage, violence and early pregnancies, it noted.

  • Unemployment of wo­men rose by 15% from a pre­ lockdown level of 18%, which could result in a loss of India’s GDP of about 8% or ₹15 trillion.

6. Accelerated Vaccine drive soon

  • The Union government is all set to accelerate the first phase of the COVID­-19 vacci­nation drive by setting up ad­ditional vaccination sites and allowing walk-­in vacci­nations for those from the same group who have been registered in the Co­-WIN system. The government rolled out the world’s largest CO­VID-­19 vaccination drive on January 16 and has so far vac­cinated nearly two million healthcare workers. The government aims to inoculate three crore healthcare and frontline workers free in the first round of the vaccination drive.

  • India has so far vaccinated 1.9 million healthcare work­ers 10 days into its vaccina­tion drive. On Monday, 3,34,679 were vaccinated in 7,171 sessions. There were no deaths re­ported on Monday in those who had been recently vacci­nated, with the tally so far re­maining at 8. However, there were 348 reports on Adverse Events Following Immunisation (AEFI).


Daily snippets

1. Can the Biden-­Harris team save the planet?

  • While the U.S.’s re-­entry into the Paris Agreement may be by the stroke of a pen, regaining political legitimacy on climate requires the government to take responsibility in causing and aggravating the global climate crisis; commit to technology and funds for poorer countries; take on bigger emission targets; not bend over for the fossil fuel lobby which funds Democrats and Republicans; clean up the role of lobbyists in climate regulatory and policy organisations within the U.S.; and recognise and break up elite networks that have benefited by sustaining climate myths.

2. At Davos forum, Xi warns world leaders against ‘new Cold War’

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping warned global leaders at an all­-virtual World Economic Forum (WEF) at Davos on Monday against starting a “new Cold War”, and urged global unity in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Having largely curbed the spread of the pandemic within its borders, Mr. Xi wants to position China as a key player in a new multilateral world order as the U.S. remains crippled by the pandemic.

  • The Chinese leader also reaffirmed Beijing’s ambitious climate pledges to slash carbon emissions by 65% by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060 – both significant commitments as China emits a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gases.

3. Moderna says vaccine is effective against variants

  • U.S. biotech firm Moderna said its vaccine should remain protective against key coronavirus variants while the unrelenting pandemic led to tightened border restrictions worldwide. In the face of deepening fears over new virus strains, Moderna offered some good news from lab studies of the variants first identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa. However, out of caution, Moderna will carry out more tests adding a second booster of its vaccine – to make three shots in total.

4. Uganda High Court orders end to Bobi Wine’s house arrest

  • Uganda’s High Court ordered security forces to end their confinement of presidential election runner up Bobi Wine. Mr. Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulani, has been under de-facto house arrest at his home outside the capital, Kampala, since he returned from voting on January 14. He won 35% of the vote, according to official figures. Ugandan security forces have in the past disregarded court orders to release individuals or have immediately re-arrested people freed by the courts.


Daily snippets

1. Green tax mooted for personal vehicles older than 15 years

  • Owners of old vehicles will have to pay the government a ‘green’ tax as a penalty for polluting the environment, which will be much steeper if you reside in one of the more polluted cities in India. Personal vehicles will be charged a tax at the time of renewal of Registration Cer­tification after 15 years. The levy may differ depending on fuel (petrol/diesel) and type of vehicle.

  • The proposal on green tax also includes a steeper penalty of up to 50% of road tax for older vehicles registered in some of the highly pollut­ed cities in the country. A watered-down policy of dere­gistration and scrapping of vehicles, bringing only those vehicles owned by govern­ment departments and PSUs and are older than 15 years under its ambit has also been approved. The policy will come into ef­fect from April 1, 2022.

2. Amazon moves to the Delhi High Court over Future-Reliance Deal

  • U.S. online retailer Amazon has filed a petition in the Delhi High Court seeking detention of Future Group founders, including CEO Kishore Biyani, and seizure of their assets as it sought to block Future Group from selling retail assets to Reliance Industries. In the petition, Amazon sought enforcement of the Singapore arbitrator’s ruling in October against its partn­er Future’s ₹24,713 ­crore deal with Reliance.

  • Amazon, which wants the deal to sell retail assets to Reliance to be stopped, also asked the court for a direc­tion for “detention of the directors (of Future Group en­tities) in civil prison.

3. IRDAI mandates standard annuity plan

  • Insurance regulator IRDAI has directed all life insurers to mandatorily offer from April 1 a standard, indivi­dual immediate annuity product it has developed. The single premium, non­linked, non­ participat­ing plan, to be called Saral Pension with the insurer’s name prefixed, will have simple features and stan­dard terms and conditions.

  • The product would make it easier for customers to make an informed choice, enhance trust between the insurers and the insured and reduce mis­-selling as well as potential disputes. Noting that several indivi­dual immediate annuity products are marketed by life insurers, with each product having its own fea­tures, terms and conditions and annuity options, IRDAI said a standard product will broadly meet the needs of an average customer.

4. RBI open to the idea of digital version of fiat currency

  • Amid increasing popularity of virtual currencies in various parts of the world, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said it was open to exploring the possibility of a digital version of fiat currency. “The RBI is exploring the possibility as to whether there is a need for a digital version of fiat currency and in case there is, then how to operationalise it,” the RBI said in a booklet.

5. CII calls for a broadband infra fund

  • The Confederation of In­dian Industry (CII) pitched for a ‘Broadband Infrastructure Fund’ with a token allocation of ₹5,000 crore by the go­vernment in the upcoming Budget. It said rapid ac­celeration in the creation of digital infrastructure would be an effective tool for inclusive digitalisation that would help boost eco­nomic growth and employment.


1. Remembering HM Seervai

2. Difference between Section 7 of the POCSO Act and Section 354 of IPC

3. Scope of judicial Review under Article 227

4. Res-Publica : The Ground we share

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


January 25th, 2021



Daily snippets

1. Mock trials of remote voting project soon: CEC

  • Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said the trials of the Election Commission’s remote voting project would be carried out soon. The system being uses block-chain for two-way remote voting at designated centres. “Another significant change we can look forward to is grant of postal ballot facility to over- seas electors,” said the CEC.

  • In another development, electors will be able to download electronic versions of the elector photo ID card, or e­EPIC. The e­EPIC would be a non-editable PDF version of the EPIC that can be downloaded on the phone and stored on the DigiLocker app or printed from a computer.

2. UN rights body calls for release of Bhima Koregaon activists

  • The top human rights body of the United Nations has urged the Indian government to release the activists who are in prison for the 2018 Bhima-Koregaon case, “at the very least on bail”.

  • The Bhima-Koregaon case dates back to January 1, 2018, which marked the 200th anniversary of the Bhima-Koregaon battle. The event was organised to celebrate the victory of the British army, which included a large number of Mahars, against Peshwa Baji Rao II’s army. One person was killed and several others were injured during the 2018 event. Several human rights activists, including Sudha Bharadwaj, Varavara Rao and Gautam Navlakha, were arrested during the course of the investigation.

3. Will digitise Affiliation system: CBSE

  • The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) is restructuring the affiliation system for schools, and making the process completely digital and based on data analytics with least human intervention. The new system, which would come into effect from March 1, has been restructured as per various recommendations for systemic reforms laid down in the new National Education Policy (NEP), 2020.

4. Bombay HC overturns conviction under POCSO Act

  • The Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court acquitted a man of charges under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and convicted him under a “minor offence” of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The Bench said, “There is no direct physical contact i.e skin to skin with sexual intent without penetration.

  • The police filed an FIR under Sections of the IPC and Section 8 (punishment for sexual assault) of the POCSO Act. The special court framed charges under Sections 361 (kidnapping from lawful guardianship) of the IPC also. A single Bench of Justice Pushpa Ganediwala was hearing an appeal filed challenging an order sentencing the convict to three years of imprisonment.


Daily snippets

1. Amid the pandemic gloom, a Republic Day parade like no other

  • Unlike previous years, the Republic Day celebrations are scaled down this year due to the pandemic. It would be without the usual festivity and fervour, with rigorous restrictions and stringent protocols. Delhi Police has advised people to watch the live telecast of Republic Day parade at home due to COVID­-19 protocols. Invitees attending the parade at Rajpath have to comply with the COVID-­19 advisory that includes temperature check, use of sanitiser, mask and social distancing. This time, there would not be a chief guest at the Republic Day parade.

2. The Palk Bay conflict is exacting a high toll, and cries for early resolution

  • The tragic death of four fishermen from Tamil Nadu – one of them a Sri Lankan Tamil refugee living in India, allegedly when the Sri Lankan Navy was about to arrest them last week, is yet another instance of the unresolved fisheries conflict in the Palk Bay taking an unacceptable toll of lives.

  • When the two sides decided to create a joint working group some years ago, they had agreed that there would be no violence or loss of life in the handling of the fishermen and that a hotline would be established between the respective Coast Guards. It is unfortunate that the hotline is yet to be operationalised, and deaths continue to occur.

  • So far there has not been enough political resolve to end this conflict. A comprehensive solution, one that would severely curtail unauthorised fishing and help in an orderly sharing of and sustainable use of resources by fishermen from both sides, is long overdue.

  • Palk Bay is a semi-enclosed shallow water body with a water depth maximum of 13m. It is located between the southeast coast of India and Sri Lanka

3. Terror groups in Pakistan/Kashmir switch to new messaging apps

  • Amid a raging debate over data privacy while using messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, terrorist groups and their handlers from Pakistan are switching to new applications, including one developed by a Turkish company, officials here said.

  • The names of the messaging apps have been withheld for security reasons. While one of the apps is owned by a company based in the U.S., the second is from Europe. The latest is an app developed by a Turkish company frequently used by the handlers and their prospective recruits in the Valley.

  • The new apps have the ability to work with the slowest Internet connections using 2G technology. All encryption and decryption happen directly on the devices, reducing third-party intervention at any point and these apps use encryption algorithm RSA­2048, which was adopted as the most secure encrypted platform. The RSA is an American Network Security and Authentication company founded in 1982. One of the new messaging apps used by terrorists to radicalise the youth in the Valley does not even ask for phone numbers or emails, the officials said.

4. Sundarbans is home to 428 species of birds, says ZSI

  • The Indian Sundarbans, which is part of the largest mangrove forest in the world, is home to 428 spe­cies of birds, a recent publi­cation of the Zoological Sur­vey of India (ZSI) states. The publication, Birds of the Sundarban Biosphere Reserve, released earlier this month by the ZSI, not only documents the avifauna of the Sundarbans, but also serves as a comprehensive photographic field guide, with detailed distribution and locality data for all the species from the region.

  • The Indian Sundarbans, which covers 4,200 sq. km, also includes the Sunderban Tiger Reserve of 2,585 sq. km – home to about 96 royal Bengal tigers (as per the last census in 2020). It is a world heritage site and a Ramsar site (a wetland site designat­ed to be of international im­portance). According to studies, India is home to 1300 species of birds in total.

  • Scientists and nature lovers are observ­ing the 125th birth anniver­sary year of Salim Ali, the Birdman of India, the ZSI Director said birdwatching not only brings people closer to nature, but also creates awareness and livelihood op­portunities for the locals.


Daily snippets

1. K.P. Sharma Oli expelled from Nepal Communist Party

  • The ruling Nepal Communist Party, led by rebel leaders Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ and former Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal expelled Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli from the party. The decision divided the party into two groups and sparked a dispute over the party symbol but the Election Commission declined to recognise either faction as the official party.

  • The deepening crisis emerged weeks after Mr. Oli dissolved the Lower House, Pratinidhi Sabha, of Parliament on December 20, which was strongly opposed by Mr. Prachanda and Mr. Nepal who wanted the House to be restored.

  • Soon after the dissolution of the Pratinidhi Sabha, Mr. Oli created a committee of his supporters, which indicated that he would launch a take over of the party in case of an adversarial action by the rebel leaders. The situation is being described as an intense constitutional crisis as the Caretaker Prime Minister is left without any party affiliation because of the EC’s decision.

  • Mr. Oli had declared that elections would be held in April­-May, but in the current situation a lot will depend on the Election Commission and the Supreme Court which is examining the writ petitions filed against the dissolution of the Lower House.

2. On Iran, it is decision time for Biden

  • Trump withdrawing from nuclear deal : In May 2018, Mr. Trump unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – reached by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany and the European Union with Iran – and re­imposed sanctions, especially on shipment of Iranian oil, to put ‘maximum pressure’ on Tehran to force it to accept America’s maximalist demands that went far beyond the agreement. After waiting a year for the European signatories of the JCPOA to persuade Washington to return to the agreement, Iran decided in 2019 to breach the limit for uranium enrichment imposed by the JCPOA.

  • Biden’s administration under pressure : Mr. Trump’s policy of exerting maximum pressure had produced the exact opposite result, bringing Iran closer to weaponization. This outcome has generated additional pressure on the Biden administration to reverse course and bring Tehran into compliance with the JCPOA by renewing America’s commitment to the agreement and lifting sanctions.

  • How Iran and US see the nuclear deal : The U.S. sees a return to the JCPOA as the first step towards curbing Iran’s missile programme as well as its regional ambitions that clash with those of the U.S. and its allies, especially Israel and Saudi Arabia. On the other hand, Iran considers the JCPOA as a stand alone agreement covering only Iran’s nuclear programme.

  • Iran’s mighty influence in the neighbourhood : Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has trained proxy militias that have played a major role in helping the Assad regime in Syria to turn the tide of war against U.S.­ supported opposition forces. Tehran continues to finance and arm the fiercely anti­-Israeli Lebanese Hezbollah and is the principal supporter of the Houthis in Yemen who have not only fought Saudi Arabia to a standstill but also attacked major Saudi oil facilities with Iranian­ supplied drones and missiles. It also continues to train and arm Shia militias in Iraq and to checkmate American policies in that country.

3. U.S. vows support to Taiwan as Chinese incursions enter Day 2

  • A total of 15 Chinese aircraft, including 12 fighter jets, entered the southwestern corner of Taiwan’s air defence identification zone, the island’s Defence Ministry said, the second day of incursions by China. A map provided by the Ministry showed the Chinese aircraft again flew in between the southern part of Taiwan and the Taiwan­-controlled Pratas Islands in the South China Sea.

  • The overflights were part of a long standing pattern of incursions aimed at pressuring the government of President Tsai Ing­wen into caving to Beijing’s demand that she recognise Taiwan as a part of Chinese territory.

  • This comes on the heels of the U.S. President Joe Biden’s inauguration, emphasising the island’s enduring position amidst a host of divisive issues between Beijing and Washington that also include human rights, trade disputes and, most recently, questions about China’s initial response to the pandemic.

4. Indonesia seizes Iranian, Panamanian tankers

  • Indonesian authorities said that they seized an Iranian tanker and Panamanian tanker suspected of carrying out the illegal transfer of oil in their country's waters. The statement said the tankers are suspected of a variety of violations, including not displaying national flags, shutting off their identification systems, anchoring illegally as well as the illegal transfer of fuel between ships and spilling oil.

5. Scottish leader seeks ‘legal referendum’

  • Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she planned to hold a legal referendum on independence from Britain despite Westminster’s opposition, as an opinion poll showed a majority would vote yes. If her Scottish National Party (SNP) wins a strong showing in regional elections in May, Ms. Sturgeon said she would seek a fresh referendum even though Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said such a vote should only be held once in a generation.

  • A Sunday Times poll found 50% of Scottish voters wanted another referendum in the next five years and 49% would vote for independence, while 44% would reject it. A 2014 referendum saw 55% vote “no.”The SNP says it will request a Section 30 order from the British government allowing the holding of another referendum. If this is refused it intends to push through its own legislation to prepare for a referendum and “vigorously” oppose a legal challenge from London.

6. Johnson presses Biden for new trade deal

  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson made clear to President Joe Biden that he’s eager to forge a new U.S.­-U.K. trade deal. The push for a new deal came in a broad ranging call between the two leaders that touched on the global response to the coronavirus pandemic as well as the Biden administration announcing this week that the U.S. would rejoin the Paris climate accord and the World Health Organization, according to a statement from Downing Street.

  • A new trade agreement between the allies is a higher priority for Mr. Johnson than it is for Mr. Biden. The U.K. regained control over its national trade policy at the start of the month following the end of a post-­Brexit transition period.

7. Italy to take legal action against vaccine makers over delays

  • Italy will take legal action against Pfizer Inc and AstraZeneca over delays in deliveries of COVID­-19 vaccines to secure agreed supplies rather than seek damages, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said. On Saturday, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the delays in vaccine supplies were “unacceptable” and amounted to a serious breach of contractual obligations, adding that Italy would use all available legal tools.

  • Italy will have to rethink its whole vaccination programme if supply problems persist, a senior health official warned. The cut in supplies announced by the two companies will put back vaccination of those aged 80 and above in Italy by about four weeks and the rest of the population by about 6­8 weeks, Deputy Health Minister Pierpaolo Sileri said.


1. Anti-Conversion Laws and their Constitutionality

2. Saving your Privacy

3. Judgements : P&H High court on maligning a woman's image

4. State of farming in Punjab

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


Weekend Page : January 23th-24th, 2021



Daily snippets

1. No further concessions to offer, govt. tells protesting farmers

  • The negotiations between Central Ministers and farm unions came to a standstill with the government saying it had no further concessions to offer beyond the proposal to suspend the three contentious agricultural reform laws for 12 to 18 months. No date has been fixed for another meeting.

2. Riots: ‘media trial should not destroy presumption of undertrial’s innocence’

  • Presumption of innocence” should not be destroyed at the very threshold of justice process through media trial, a court said on a plea moved by former JNU student leader Umar Khalid alleging “vicious media campaign” against him in a north east Delhi riots case.

  • While the press and the news media was described as the “Fourth Estate” in a democratic society, there existed a risk of prejudice being caused if they failed to do their duty with care and caution and one of such risks was that of ‘media trial.’

3. CBI books Cambridge Analytica, another firm in data theft case

  • The Central Bureau of Investigation has booked Cambridge Analytica (U.K.) Limited and Global Science Research Limited (U.K.) for alleged illegal harvesting of personal data of about 5.62 lakh Indian users on Facebook through an application.

4. Perarivalan pardon plea to be considered in a week, says SC

  • An altered order of the Supreme Court recorded that Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit will consider a plea for pardon filed by Rajiv Gandhi assassination case convict A.G. Perarivalan within a week. Earlier order said the petition would be looked into in four weeks. The latest order records that “the Solicitor General submitted that the application filed by the petitioner [Perarivalan] under Article 161 of the Constitution of India shall be considered within a period of one week from today”.

  • What is Article 161? The Governor of a State shall have the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence against any law relating to a matter to which the executive power of the State extends. (

  • The advocate of Perarivalan, has written to Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit, appealing to provide solace to the convict and his aged parents and alleviate their sufferings. In his letter, advocate on- record K. Paari Vendan said Perarivalan was suffering from multiple co-morbidities.

5. Police give nod for tractor parades in Delhi on R­Day

  • Protesting farmers who have been camping at the borders of the national capital for more than two months now will be allowed to enter Delhi with their tractors on Republic Day, according to a compromise arrived at between the farm unions and the Delhi Police.

  • Farmer leaders said the police had given them permission to hold tractor parades on five routes within the national capital on January 26. More than two lakh tractors are likely to participate in the parades.

6. Allegations of misconduct against me false: Akbar

  • Former Union Minister M.J. Akbar reiterated before a Delhi court that the allegations of sexual misconduct made by journalist Priya Ramani against him were “fabricated and false”. Mr. Akbar through senior advocate Geeta Luthra during the final hearing in a criminal complaint filed by him against Ms. Ramani for allegedly defaming him by accusing him of sexual misconduct decades ago.

7. Judges recall dark days of Emergency

  • Justices N.V. Ramana and D.Y. Chandrachud of the Supreme Court shared their personal experiences as students when the Emergency was declared in 1975, deeply affecting their lives. Justice Chandrachud narrated how the Emergency visited on the nation an “unprecedented destruction of civil liberties in the garb of curbing internal disturbances”. He said the Emergency served as “harrowing reminder of State excess”. Justice Ramana recounts flight from arrest on a lorry as a student in 1975.

8. India proposes to expand research, tourism in the Arctic

  • India has unveiled a new draft ‘Arctic’ policy that, among other things, com­mits to expanding scientific research, “sustainable tou­rism” and mineral oil and gas exploration in the Arctic region.

  • India expects the Goa­ based National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research to lead scientific research and act as a nodal body to coor­dinate among various scien­tific bodies to promote dom­estic scientific research capacities by expanding “earth sciences, biological sciences, geosciences, cli­mate change and space relat­ed programmes, dove­tailed with Arctic imperatives in In­dian universities.

  • Arctic research will help India’s scientific community to study melting rates of the third pole, the Himalayan glaciers, which are endowed with the largest freshwater reserves in the world outside the geographic poles,” the document notes. India launched its first scientific expedition to the Arctic in 2007.


Daily snippets

1. Covaxin’s efficacy against U.K. strain not proven yet

  • Bharat Biotech’s COVID­-19 vaccine candidate Covaxin can produce neutralising antibodies – a requirement to study its efficacy – against multiple coronavirus variants, but is yet to demonstrate efficacy against the variant ‘B.1.1.7’ or the ‘U.K. strain’ as the new virulent strain is commonly known.

  • Covaxin and Covishield have been approved for emergency use in India. The former, though its efficacy was unknown, was approved because it relied on an established vaccine platform and, being a whole inactivated virus,was purported to be more effective against a wider family of coronavirus strains.

  • So far, none of the available vaccine candidates approved anywhere in the world have been shown to be better than others in protecting against a range of strains.

2. Myanmar, Mauritius and Seychelles receive Covishield

  • Large consignments of Covishield vaccine doses were flown in special Indian aircraft to Seychelles, Mauritius and Myanmar on Friday. The shipments of the vaccine, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII) in Pune, is part of the Vaccine Maitri diplomacy that the Ministry of External Affairs said will also cover Africa, which is in need of affordable COVID­-19 vaccine doses. In the first round of supplies, special flights have already carried large consignments of Covishield vaccine doses to Bhutan, the Maldives, Bangladesh and Nepal during January 20­21.

3. Call to maintain data of crimes against disabled

  • A group of over 90 disability rights organisations, activists and academics has written to Union Home Minister Amit Shah, urging that the National Crime Records Bureau maintain data of the violent crimes committed against persons with disabilities. The group said it was “dismayed by the fact that despite the large number of reported cases of sexual assaults on disabled girls/ women, the NCRB does not maintain disaggregated data on such violence, as a separate category”.

4. Indonesia makes room for an Indian hero

  • Biju Patnaik, the former Chief Minister of Odisha, who was a skilled pilot, flew several missions in 1947 to transport Indonesian leaders, including the nation’s tallest leader, President Sukarno, Vice­President Hatta and Prime Minister Sutan Sjahrir out of Indonesia, at grave risk to himself.

  • On the walls of the Biju Patnaik room are photographs, newspaper clippings and letters that document Mr. Patnaik’s secret assignments to fly out the Indonesian leaders, as well as his relations with the Indonesian leadership. Eventually, Indonesia won back its freedom. In 1950, President Sukarno was the chief guest at India’s first Republic Day, and India-Indonesia ties remained strong for the next decade.

  • A letter in the Patnaik room also tells the tale of how relations between the two countries soured after Indonesia didn’t support India in the 1962 war with China. Relations were revived only decades later, when in 2005, India and Indonesia signed a Strategic Partnership agreement; military exchanges and trade ties have grown since.

5. ‘Sukhoi helped maritime security’

  • The resurrection of 222 Squadron at Thanjavur with Sukhoi-­30 aircraft has paved the way for strengthening maritime security in the southern peninsula and maintaining Indian interests in the Indian Ocean region.

  • The Air Force leadership expressed satisfaction over the induction of an additional indigenously built LCA (light combat aircraft) Tejas aircraft squadron at Sulur. The Air Force is in a highly accelerated growth stage and induction of indigenous systems is in tandem with the government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative.

6. WHO chief thanks Modi for ‘continued support’

  • World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his continued support to the global COVID-­19 response, saying acting together, including sharing of knowledge, will help in combating the novel coronavirus.

  • On January 19, India announced its assistance of vaccines to the neighbouring countries. A day after, 1.5 lakh doses of vaccines were supplied to Bhutan and one lakh doses to the Maldives. Over 2 million doses of COVID­-19 vaccines were provided to Bangladesh and 1 million doses to Nepal.

7. Draft policy to help grow nano, micro enterprises

  • A new policy on the anvil, the Udyog Sahayak Enter­prises Network (USENET), may give a major fillip to the growth of stunted nano and micro­enterprises in India’s informal sector. The proposed framework, whose draft was jointly put together by the Azim Premji University, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Com­merce and Industry (FICCI), and the Tata Institute of So­cial Sciences (TISS), is aimed at providing a slew of growth­ driven services to ov­er 62 million nano and mi­cro ­enterprises that current­ly employ over 100 million people.

  • By enabling scale­up, the draft claims, USENET can aid in the creation of an additional 10.3 million jobs over five years, going up to nearly 56.9 million jobs over 10 years. Report co­-author and fa­culty member at Azim Premji University, Amit Basole, noted that rather than creat­ing more nano­ entrepreneurs, the country has to help existing MSEs grow in size. The draft is cur­rently under review by the group of ministers and the PMO.

8. Ban on Chinese apps will stay, says govt. notice

  • The government has sent notices to Chinese apps, in­cluding TikTok, that the or­der to block them will be continued. The notice has been is­sued by the Ministry of Elec­tronics and IT after review­ing replies of blocked apps.

  • The government had blocked 59 Chinese apps in June and 118 more, includ­ing PUBG mobile game, in September. The Ministry of Informa­tion Technology had blocked the apps under Sec­tion 69A of the Information Technology Act after learn­ing that they may be used for “activities prejudicial to the sovereignty and integri­ty of India, defence of India, security of state and public order”.

9. Maharashtra to unlock history in prisons

  • The Maharashtra government is set to launch “jail tourism” under which historically significant jails in Maharashtra, which are still being used as penal centres, will be opened to visitors to see the barracks where freedom fighters were imprisoned by the British. “Pune’s Yerawada Jail will be opened for first-­of-­its­ kind jail tourism from January 26,” said Home Minister Anil Deshmukh.

  • Freedom fighters including Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sarojini Naidu, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Motilal Nehru, Lokmanya Tilak and Subhas Chandra Bose were imprisoned by the British in different jails in Maharashtra during the freedom struggle. The famous Poona Pact between Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi took place beneath a mango tree at Yerawada jail. In 1899, the Chapekar brothers were given death sentence in the same jail.


Daily snippets

1. Biden orders aid to combat hunger crisis

  • President Joe Biden is ordering an expansion of government benefits for hungry Americans, after the coronavirus pandemic ignited the worst hunger crisis the U.S. has seen in modern times. The decree, one of two executive orders the White House said he will sign on, is modest and far short of the actions the President has called for from Congress. Nonetheless, it represents one of Mr. Biden’s first actions since taking office on Wednesday, aimed at reviving the world’s largest economy, after COVID­-19 caused mass layoffs beginning last year that have left many people scrambling to pay the bills.

  • Congress last month gave every American stimulus checks totaling up to $600, and Mr. Biden’s order calls for the Treasury Department to find ways to get that money to people more quickly, and help those who never received the first round of payments last Spring.

  • It also asks the Labour Department to allow people who turn down jobs that could harm them, including potentially exposing them to COVID­-19, to be allowed to claim unemployment benefits.

  • Mr. Biden’s second order restores collective bargaining rights to federal government employees, and instructs agencies to do the preliminary work to allow him to issue a new order in coming weeks requiring federal contractors to pay their workers a minimum of $15 an hour and provide them with paid emergency leave.

2. Austin becomes first Black Pentagon chief

  • The U.S. Senate confirmed retired general Lloyd Austin as the Secretary of Defense on Friday, the second Cabinet nominee of President Joe Biden to gain approval and the first African-American to lead the Pentagon. Mr. Austin served in the military for four decades.

3. China hits out at EU over ‘gross interference’

  • China hit back at an EU resolution condemning its crackdown on Hong Kong democracy activists, accusing European lawmakers of “gross interference” in its governance of the city. Members of the European Parliament on Thursday passed the resolution calling for “targeted sanctions'' against Chinese and Hong Kong officials held responsible for recent arrests of activists.

  • The lawmakers also said they “regret” the handling of a landmark investment deal with China pending ratification by MEPs, saying that talks over the deal should have been seized “as a leverage tool aimed at preserving Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, as well as its basic rights and freedoms”.

  • But Beijing struck back on Friday and urged EU lawmakers to “face up to the reality that Hong Kong has returned to China''. Following pro­-democracy protests in 2019, Beijing imposed a draconian national security law that effectively criminalised much dissent in a city.

4. Biden govt. to review U.S.­Taliban deal

  • The Biden administration said it will review a landmark U.S. deal with the Taliban, focusing on whether the insurgent group has reduced attacks in Afghanistan, in keeping with its side of the agreement.

  • Washington struck a deal with the Taliban in Qatar last year, to begin withdrawing its troops in return for security guarantees from the militants and a commitment to kickstart peace talks with the Afghan government. But violence across Afghanistan has surged despite the two sides engaging in those talks since September.

5. Taiwan reports Chinese air incursions

  • Eight Chinese bomber planes and four fighter jets entered the southwestern corner of Taiwan’s air defence identification zone, and Taiwan’s Air Force deployed missiles to “monitor” the incursion, the island’s Defence Ministry said. China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory, has conducted almost daily flights over the waters between the southern part of Taiwan and the Taiwan ­controlled Pratas Islands in the South China Sea in recent months, however, they have generally consisted of just one or two reconnaissance aircraft. The presence of so many Chinese combat aircraft on this mission – Taiwan said it was made up of eight nuclear capable H­6K bombers and four J­16 fighter jets – is unusual.

6. Hong Kong locks down thousands for testing

  • Hong Kong’s government locked down an area of Kowloon peninsula on Saturday, saying its 10,000 residents must stay home until all of them have been tested for COVID­-19. The government said there are 70 buildings in the area and that it aims to finish the process in about 48 hours.

7. Iconic TV show host Larry King passes away

  • The iconic talk show host Larry King, one of the most recognisable figures on U.S. television as he quizzed everyone who was anyone over a career spanning 60 years, died Saturday at the age of 87. Mr. King’s long list of interviewees ranged from every U.S. President since 1974, world leaders Yasser Arafat and Vladimir Putin, and celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando and Barbra Streisand.

8. ARMIN LASCHET- The man who may succeed Merkel

  • Last week, 59-year old Armin Laschet was elected the chairperson of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Germany’s ruling party. The CDU, along with its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), is in a grand coalition with Germany’s other major political formation, the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

  • Mr. Laschet’s election is a significant development for two reasons: Germany goes to the polls in September, and Angela Merkel, who has led the CDU for nearly two decades, won’t be running for chancellorship again.

  • Indeed, Germany has seen a steady erosion of the centrist space. While the centre-­right CDU is getting outflanked by the far-­right Alternative for Germany (AfD), the Greens have been gaining ground at the expense of the centre-­left SDP.

  • In this increasingly fragmented polity, Ms. Merkel’s successor faces two challenges: hold the CDU together by keeping both the conservatives and the liberals within the party happy; form an alliance with a suitable rival (mostly likely, the Greens) so that the CDU-CSU returns to power post­-September.

9. Yemen’s rebels and revivalists

  • What started as a religious revivalist movement aimed at restoring the fading glory of the Zaydi sect of Islam, the Houthis, under the leadership of Hussein al-Houthi, were turning political. When the second intifada broke out in the Palestinian territories in 2000, the Houthis staged solidarity protests. They mobilised supporters against the U.S.’s war on Afghanistan in 2001. After the Iraq war, they adopted a new slogan, “Death to America, death to Israel, curse upon the Jews, victory to Islam”.

  • When protests broke out in Yemen in 2011 as part of the Arab Spring protests, the Houthis backed the agitation. By January 2015, the Houthi-­Saleh alliance had captured Sana’a and much of northern Yemen.

  • The U.S. and Saudi Arabia accuse Iran of backing the Houthis. In the past six years, the Houthis have launched multiple attacks on Saudi cities from northern Yemen in retaliation for Saudi air strikes. In 2019, the Houthis claimed the attack on two Saudi oil installations that knocked out, briefly, half of the kingdom’s oil output.

  • The Houthis have established a government in the north. The Supreme Political Council, headed by its President, Mahdi al­-Mashat, is the executive branch of their rule. Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, Hussein’s brother, leads the movement.

  • Yemen, often dubbed the poorest Arab country, is now divided into three parts — the Houthi-­controlled northern territories, the Southern Transition Council ­controlled areas in the south (which has the backing of the UAE) and the rest held by the internationally recognised government of President Hadi. All sides are trying to maximise their interests with attempts to find a political solution reaching nowhere. In the meantime, Yemen’s suffering is mounting. U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration will quickly revisit the designation of Yemen’s Houthi rebels as terrorists.


Daily snippets

1. Pandemic pushes states borrowings up by 82.5%

  • States’ borrowings during April-­December 2020 were 82.5% higher compared with the corresponding pe­riod of the previous year, on account of the pandemic. Till December 11, 2020, the States netted ₹4.6 lakh crore through market borrowings.

  • A perusal of data availa­ble on revenue receipts of 21 states reveals that while the states raised only 37% of the full ­year target during April­ October 2020, they generat­ed 52% of their annual reve­nue in the corresponding period of 2019.

2. Cybersecurity trends turned unpredictable after COVID

  • The pandemic and the worldwide adoption of re­mote working resulted in cybersecurity undergoing years’ worth of transforma­tion in a matter of months and therefore it is tough to understand the current cy­bersecurity landscape and predict security trends, PwC India said. Considering the unprecedented events of last year, any predictions for the immediate future can­ not be definitive, the firm said.

  • Rising geopolitical ten­sions worldwide have re­sulted in governments and enterprises increasingly fo­cusing on cybersecurity to protect their assets from cyberattackers. In 2021, there will be an increased focus among countries on developing stricter cybersecurity regu­lations and efforts to build both defensive and offen­sive capabilities.

3. Telcom companies on NSD roll-out

  • Telecom firms have asked the government to clarify about the entity that will be held liable in the event of a security breach in the net­ work post implementation of the National Security Di­rective (NSD) in the telecom sector. Telcos wanted the government to come out with clear guidelines as to who would be responsible for any breach in the net­work if the government is making a list of trusted pro­ducts that have to be de­ployed in the network.

  • Under the current rules, telecom operators are held responsible for any security breach in their network. In a bid to tighten the se­curity of the communica­tions network, the Centre had, on December 16, an­nounced the National Secur­ity Directive for the telecom sector, which will mandate service providers to pur­chase equipment from trust­ed sources.


Daily snippets

1. India and Flash droughts

  • Flash droughts are those that occur very quickly, with soil moisture depleting rapidly. Normally, developing drought conditions take months, but these happen within a week or in two weeks’ time. Several factors including atmospheric ano­malies, anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions play an important role.

  • In 1979, India faced a severe flash drought, affecting about 40% of the country and taking a toll on agriculture. The big gran­aries of Uttar Pradesh and Andhra were affected, and the country suffered a loss of about ₹5,000 crores. The ongoing climate change has caused a significant in­crease in global temperature and this can lead to more and more flash droughts in the coming years. The frequency of concurrent hot and dry extremes is project­ed to rise by about five fold, causing an approximately seven fold increase in flash droughts like 1979 by the end of the 21st century. If we can meet the ‘Paris Agreement’ goals and limit global warming to well below 2 degrees C, the numbers and frequency of the projected flash droughts may go down.


Daily snippets

1. Thailand Open

  • Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Ashwini Ponnappa entered the mixed doubles semi-finals with a stunning win over the World No. 6 pair of Peng Soon Chan and Liu Ying Goh of Malaysia in the Toyota Thailand Open Super 1000 tournament. The Indian pair, ranked World No. 22, will be up against top seeds Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai of Thailand in the semifinals.

  • PV Sindhu was defeated by Ratchanok Inthanon, who rode on her precision and quality of strokes to outclass the Indian 21­-13, 21-­9 in just 38 minutes.


1. Umar Khalid case – 'Reputation a Facet of Article 21' : Delhi Court

2. Comedian Munawar Faruqi's case

3. Army's Plea to retain adultery as a crime

4. Caste and census

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


January 22nd, 2021



Analysis : Are courts encroaching on the powers of the executive

(i). Background

  • On January 12, 2021, the Supreme Court stayed the implementation of three controversial farm laws passed in September 2020 and ordered the constitution of a committee of experts to negotiate between the farmers’ bodies and the Government of India.

  • Rather than deliberating on the constitutionality of the three laws, the court appears to be trying to move some of the parties towards a political settlement. Arguably, in doing so, it is wading into the domain of the government. Has the court in this case abdicated its constitutional duty mandated by the Constitution and is this a growing trend?

(ii). What the procedure ought to be

  • What’s really striking here is that nobody asked the court to intervene in this particular manner, to break the deadlock. The Court does not take up any constitutional issues though these issues have been pleaded before the court by the farmers associations. The issues are of federalism, of agriculture being a State subject, as well as the manner in which the voice vote was passed in the Rajya Sabha, which was controversial. What is striking is that the court does not even set out clearly what the legal grounds of challenge are.

  • Courts are, of course, competent to issue stay orders on parliamentary laws, but they need to set out legal reasons. What we see is that the court is actually abdicating its constitutional responsibility of judicial review. At the same time, it’s acting in usurpation of executive and legislative powers, going beyond the standard areas of judicial behaviour.

  • The classic justification for taking up these cases is to uphold the interests of a group which cannot prevail in a majoritarian system of elections, which are important but not the only concern of constitutional democracies.

(iii). Conclusion

  • In general that when we look at the court’s role we have to think of it more institutionally, we have to think about how it grounds its decision in terms of its reasoning. And look at its politics somewhat expansively – not just in terms of outcomes and who it benefits, but also in terms of its process. And the process includes who it hears and how it hears but also how it decides in terms of its reasoning.

Analysis : Defending liberty against political prosecution

(i). Background

  • One of the oldest, most pernicious and widespread forms of abuse of state power in India involves the police and enforcement agencies selectively targeting political and ideological opponents of the ruling dispensation ostensibly on grounds unrelated to their ideology or politics, while sparing comparably placed supporters and friends of rulers.

  • A recent example would be the November 27, 2020 Supreme Court judgment granting TV anchor Arnab Goswami bail, not without considerable irony because of the personality involved.

(ii). Why the problem

  • The illegality becomes plain when two legal questions are clearly distinguished and separated – first, the legality of the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in the selection of the accused for being investigated and prosecuted; and second, the merits of the criminal case filed against them. The two are independent legal issues and should not be wrongly conflated.

  • On the first question, the applicable legal standard is that while the police and prosecutors in common law jurisdictions enjoy vast discretion in deciding who they may pursue and who they may spare, the choice of accused must not be based on grounds that violate Constitutional rights, including Article 14. The accused should not be selected, either explicitly or covertly, on constitutionally prohibited grounds. The illegal selection of accused based on grounds prohibited by the Constitution is called “selective prosecution”.

  • When the choice of accused runs afoul of the Constitution, the entire criminal proceeding is vitiated, irrespective of the determination of the second issue, viz., whether the accused are convicted or acquitted on the charges brought against them. Once the proceedings fail under the first issue, there is no legal basis to proceed to the second issue, i.e., trial on the merits of the case. The theory is that the Constitution cannot be violated to uphold the law – such an approach would spell doom for the Constitution.

(iii). Where the courts stand

  • Our courts have not recognised selective prosecution as an independent claim because of the erroneous assumption that the lawfulness of prosecution can only be taken up after the trial, if the accused is acquitted.

  • The judgment of Justice D.Y. Chandrachud in the Goswami case is crucial in this regard. It provides a much needed and long awaited legal opening to strengthen the recognition and use of the selective prosecution claim in India to counter politically coloured prosecution unleashed by the state and defend our liberty.


Daily snippets

1. Decision on Rajiv case convict soon, SC told

  • Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit will take a decision “as per the Constitution” on a plea for release by A.G. Perarivalan, who is undergoing life imprisonment for the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, Solicitor­General Tushar Mehta orally informed the Supreme Court.

  • Mr. Mehta’s submission came on the second day of hearing of a petition filed by Perarivalan, senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan and advocate Prabu Ramasubramanian, highlighting the long delay by the Governor to decide on the Tamil Nadu Cabinet recommendation. Though the submission was made during the hearing of Perarivalan’s case, the Cabinet had made the recommendation to remit the life sentences of seven convicts, including Perarivalan, on September 9, 2018, Additional Advocate­General of Tamil Nadu, Balaji Srinivasan, said.

  • Rajiv Gandhi assassination convicts : On 21st May, 1991, Rajiv Gandhi, former Prime Minister of India, was assassinated as a result of a suicide bombing in Sriperumbudur, Chennai, in Tamil Nadu. At least 14 others were also killed. It was carried out by Thenmozhi Rajaratnam, also known as Dhanu, member of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

  • In 1998, TADA Court gave death sentence to all the 26 accused, which was appealed in the Supreme Court. The convicts in the case – Nalini, Santhan, Murugan (Nalini’s husband), A.G. Perarivalan, Robert Payas, Jayakumaran, and Ravichandran —are serving life terms across various jails in Tamil Nadu. The convicts have been in jail for over 27 years.

2. China defends new village in Arunachal Pradesh

  • China said its construction of a village across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Arunachal Pradesh was “beyond reproach” because it had “never recognised” Arunachal.

  • India’s Ministry of External Affairs said earlier this week it was aware of the construction “along the LAC”. This followed a report showing satellite images of the village, built between November 2019 and November 2020 and located a couple of kilometres across the LAC, beyond what India sees as the border separating Arunachal Pradesh and Tibet, on the banks of the Tsari Chu river in Upper Subansiri district in Arunachal. Indian officials said this area has been under Chinese control since 1959.

  • The construction of the village has been seen by analysts as a move to bolster China’s claim to the area, and part of a broader recent push by China to build civilian settlements in disputed frontier areas, which it has also done with Bhutan.

3. India to clear vaccine exports to Brazil today

  • Brazil is set to receive the go ahead from the Indian government to collect two million doses of the Covishield vaccine made by the Serum Institute, two weeks after Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi for their “urgent” clearance.

  • Brazil had first turned to India for the Covishield vaccine earlier this month to tide over the gap in production of its own units amid an emerging health crisis. However, after India refused to give the “technical clearances'' in time for the plane , Mr. Bolsonaro decided to go ahead with its vaccination programme using Chinese­ developed Sinovac that had been manufactured at a local institute.

4. Smart cameras to help women in distress

  • The police in the Uttar Pradesh capital are set to install smart cameras in public places that will automatically click the pictures of women in distress situations by reading their facial expressions and alert the nearest police vehicle. Five such artificial intelligence based cameras will be installed at each of the 200 “hotspots'' identified by the police in the city, City Police Commissioner D.K. Thakur said. The hotspots would include areas from where most complaints have been received.

5. We have not ‘functionally changed’ privacy policy: FB

  • At a meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information and Technology headed by senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, Facebook, which owns the messaging platform WhatsApp, clarified that it has not “functionally changed” the privacy policy. Officials of Facebook and Twitter deposed before the committee on the subject of “safeguarding citizens’ rights and prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms”.

  • The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) had recently written to Will Cathcart, Global CEO of WhatsApp, to withdraw the proposed changes to the privacy policy of the Facebook­-owned messaging application for Indian users. The Ministry demanded that WhatsApp explain if the metadata of users’ chat will be shared with other Facebook companies.

  • The committee also questioned Facebook on data security and its monetisation. The Facebook officials conceded that the revenue model of the platform is advertising driven, though the officials insisted that it does not share the user data with any of its advertisers.

  • Members also asked Facebook to explain whether it is a publisher or merely an intermediary. Concerns were raised in the meeting that Facebook is governed solely by U.S. community laws since it is a U.S.­based registered company. BJP MPs flagged the recent ban of the U.S. President Donald Trump on Twitter. A section of BJP MPs criticised Twitter calling it a violation of freedom of expression. Another section flagged Twitter for not showing a similar responsiveness in India.

6. Farmers reject proposal to suspend laws for 18 months

  • Protesting farm unions rejected the Centre’s proposal to sus­pend the three farm re­form laws for one ­and­ half years. They intend to continue their agitation un­til the laws are repealed, and a law guaranteeing mi­nimum support price for crops is enacted. The decision was taken after a meeting of the full general body of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, a joint front representing about 500 protesting groups, at the Singhu prot­est site on the Delhi­-Harya­na border.

  • Several protesters alleged that the proposal to suspend the laws for a certain period of time was the government’s tool to appease the farmers ahead of Punjab Assembly polls in 2022. In a parallel process, the Supreme Court­ appointed committee started its hear­ings on Thursday, reaching out to 10 farmer groups in eight States via video confe­rence.

7. Co-WIN platform gets upgrade

  • The cumulative number of healthcare workers vaccinat­ed against COVID­-19 has touched 9,99,065. An enhance­ment in Co­-WIN software has been introduced to cater to the creation of more session sites, more sessions per site, and a change in site location, which is now allowed.

  • The enhanced version also allows planning and sche­duling the sessions for the entire week and works for the en­hanced safety of the benefici­aries, tagging of contraindi­cations. These new features are being enabled in the vaccinator module,” the Health Ministry statement said. ­

8. Khelo India Youth games

  • The Khelo India Youth games were launched in 2018 as a multidisciplinary grassroots event for under­17 years and under­21 years. Conducted annually, the best performers are given an annual scholarship of ₹5 lakh for eight years to prepare for international sporting events. This year, the games are scheduled to take place at Panchkula in Haryana, in September­ October, after the Tokyo Olympics.

  • In a recent move, the Sports Ministry inducted four indige­nous martial art forms – Kalari­payattu of Kerala, Mallakhamb of Central India, Gatka of Punjab and Thang Ta of Manipur – into the Khelo India Youth Games (KI­YG).

  • Mallakhamb is a tra­ditional form of gymnastics per­formed with a wooden pole (made of wood from sheesham or Indian rosewood and polished with castor oil), a cane, or a rope. Madhya Pradesh de­clared Mallakhamb the State sport only in 2013. Gatka is a style of fighting with wooden sticks that originated in Punjab in the 15th Century. The Thang-ta of Manipur, combines ritual, demonstra­tion and combat and involves a variety of dance forms and warrior drills. Thang-Ta has eight to 10 types of punching and 12 types of kick techniques.


Daily snippets

1. China calls for ‘better angels’ to prevail in reset with Biden’s U.S.

  • China congratulated the U.S. President Joe Biden on his inauguration and called for a reset in relations between Beijing and Washington after a corrosive period of diplomacy under Donald Trump. Beijing also welcomed news that the U.S. would rejoin the World Health Organization and the Paris climate accord.

  • US-China disputes : The ever antagonistic Mr. Trump harangued China over trade, rights, the origins of the COVID-­19 virus, tech and defence supremacy, prompting angry near­ daily jousts between both countries’ diplomats. The new U.S. President is expected to remain tough on the superpower rival but soften the tone and commit to international cooperation after Mr. Trump’s divisive “America First'' approach.

2. Taiwan invited to inauguration in a rare shift

  • Taiwan’s de facto Ambassador to the U.S. was formally invited to President Joe Biden’s inauguration in what Taipei said on Thursday was a precedent ­setting first since Washington switched recognition to Beijing in 1979. Taipei’s Foreign Ministry said it was the first time in decades that a Taiwanese envoy had been “invited” by the inauguration committee.

3. Google, French press ink copyright payments deal

  • Google and French newspapers said they had signed an agreement aimed at opening the path to digital copyright payments from the online giant after months of heated negotiations. The accord signed with the APIG alliance of French dailies involves “neighbouring rights,” which call for payment for showing news content with Internet searches, a joint statement said. News outlets struggling with dwindling print subscriptions have long seethed at Google’s failure to give them a cut of the millions it makes from ads displayed alongside news search results.

4. Sri Lanka reopens for tourists

  • Sri Lanka on Thursday reopened its borders for foreign tourists after about 10 months, hoping to revive its pandemic­-hit tourism sector. The Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau has set up what it calls a “Safe and Secure” bubble, mandating pre-­departure PCR tests for tourists, restricting their stay to designated high end hotels and beach resorts, and allowing access to select tourist spots, to limit visitors from mixing with the local community. As per the arrangement, Sri Lanka does not require tourists to stay for a minimum number of days, while visitors are offered a “quarantine free” experience.

5. Twitter locks account of China Embassy

  • Twitter said it has locked the account of the Chinese Embassy in the U.S., over a tweet claiming Uighur women were no longer “baby making machines” after their minds had been “emancipated”.

  • A Twitter spokesperson told it took action against the tweet for “violating our policy against dehumanisation”. More than one million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities are believed to be held in re­education camps in the country’s northwestern Xinjiang region, where China is also accused of forcibly sterilising women.

6. On day one, Joe Biden signs 17 orders to undo Trump’s legacy

  • President Joe Biden unleashed a full-scale assault on his predecessor’s legacy, acting hours after taking the oath of office to sweep aside former President Donald Trump’s pandemic response, reverse his environmental agenda, tear down his anti-immigration policies, bolster the sluggish economic recovery and restore federal efforts aimed at promoting diversity.

  • Moving with an urgency not seen from any other modern president, Biden signed 17 executive orders, memorandums and proclamations. Among the steps the president took were orders to rejoin the Paris climate accord and end Trump’s travel ban on predominantly Muslim and African countries.


Daily snippets

1. GDP within striking distance of growth

  • The economy is within strik­ing distance of attaining pos­itive growth, officials of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) wrote, adding that the letter ‘V’ in the V­-shaped recovery stood for vaccine. India’s vaccination drive is backed by its comparative advantage of having the lar­gest vaccine manufacturing capacity in the world and a rich experience of mass inoc­ulation drives against polio and measles.

  • E-­commerce and digital technologies will likely be the bright spots in the recovery. “Recent shifts in the ma­croeconomic landscape have brightened the outlook, with GDP in striking distance of attaining positive territory and inflation easing closer to the target,” the paper observed.

  • The economy shrank by 23.9% in the first quarter and 7.5% in the second quarter on account of the pandemic. The article’s authors further said that in the first half of 2021-­22, GDP growth will benefit from statistical support and is likely to be mostly consumption ­driven.

2. NASSCOM welcomes Biden team's review of policy

  • Tech industry association Nasscom wel­comed President Joseph Bi­den’s commitment to re­view and make necessary changes to ‘harmful regula­tory policies’ put in place by the Trump administration.

  • A key challenge the tech sector faces is the lack of ta­lent in science, technology, engineering and mathemat­ics in the U.S., highlighted by the ‘high degree of overall unemployment’ in the country. There were more than 750,000 technology job vacancies in the U.S. as of January. Despite the high degree of unemployment in the US, demand for high-tech skills continues to remain robust. The rules announced by the previous administration were thought of worsening the talent gap.


1. On the Aadhaar review petition

2. On the release of White Tiger

3. What is GDPR

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


January 21st, 2021



Daily snippets

1. Let police decide on parade: CJI

  • Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad A. Bobde told the government that it was both “improper and irregular” for the Supreme Court to disallow any rally by farmers on Republic Day. The CJI’s remarks were in response to a submission by Mr. Mehta to adjourn the hearing on a government plea to bar farmers from holding rallies to “disrupt” the Republic Day celebration. The court said farmers should ensure that the citizens of Delhi were assured of “complete peace” on January 26.

2. Supreme Court dismisses Aadhaar review petitions

  • The Supreme Court, in a majority view, dismissed a series of petitions seeking a review of its 2018 judgment upholding the Lok Sabha Speaker’s certification of Aadhaar law as a Money Bill and its subsequent passage in Parliament.

  • Two questions had come up for review regarding the five judge Aadhaar Bench’s judgment in 2018. One, whether the Speaker’s decision to declare a proposed law as Money Bill was “final” and cannot be challenged in court. The second, whether the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 was correctly certified as a ‘Money Bill’ under Article 110 (1) of the Constitution.

  • On the first question, the majority judgment in 2018 said the Speaker’s decision could be challenged in court only under “certain circumstances”. On the second, it concluded that the Aadhaar Act was rightly called a Money Bill. Justice Chandrachud, who was on the Bench, had dissented on the second conclusion in 2018.

3. ‘Biomedical waste sites must get authorisation’

  • The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed biomedical waste management facilities in the country to obtain authorisation from State pollution control boards while asking the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to ensure strict compliance of biomedical waste management rules.

  • The CPCB may ensure that for strict compliance of rules, the compensation regime is duly applied against the defaulters, following due process. Standards of handling of BMW need to be duly complied. The authorities must ensure that waste is disposed of only through authorised agencies, common facilities are located as per sitting guidelines and there is environmental clearance...

4. Varavara Rao’s detention cruel, inhuman: Indira Jaising to Bombay HC

  • Senior advocate Indira Jaising, arguing for 82-year old poet Varavara Rao’s medical bail, told the Bombay High Court that the activist’s detention was cruel and inhuman, and amounted to violation of his right to life and dignity. Mr. Grover said Mr. Rao, who is being treated at Nanavati Hospital since November 18, should be discharged and sent home. He said Mr. Rao should not be sent back to Taloja Central Jail as the prison administration is not capable of looking after him with the existing infrastructure.

5. Cattle transport: govt. gives undertaking to HC

  • The Karnataka government gave an undertaking to the High Court that no coercive action will be initiated for transporting cattle in breach of Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Ordinance, 2020 till the relevant rules are brought into force. Advocate­ General Prabhuling K. Navadgi made submissions in this regard before a Division bench during the hearing of PIL petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Ordinance promulgated recently.

  • The Bench said that there was no need to pass any interim order at this stage while adjourning hearing till February 26. The Bench also said that it may have to examine a few provisions of the Ordinance.

6. Why cast aspersions on court, asks CJI Bobde

  • Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad A. Bobde said it had become “almost a cultural thing” to brand people while lashing out at articles hinting the possibility of “bias” on the part of members of an expert committee constituted by the Supreme Court to intercede between the protesting farmers and the government. There was criticism in social media and articles in newspapers over the court’s choice of members of the committee constituted on January 12.


Daily snippets

1. Karnataka tops in innovation, shows index

  • Karnataka retained its leadership position in the major States category in the second edition of India Innovation Index released by NITI Aayog. It was followed by Maharashtra, which moved past Tamil Nadu to occupy the second place.

  • Other States in the top 10 are Telangana, Kerala, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. Barring Maharashtra, all other States in the top five are in the south. Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Bihar scored the lowest on the index, which put them at the bottom in the “major States'' category.

  • The India Innovation Index : Niti Aayog said, it aims to create an extensive framework for a continual evaluation of India’s innovation environment. The index aims to rank States and UTs based on their scores, recognise opportunities and challenges, and assist in tailoring government policies to foster innovation.

2. India sends vaccines to 2 countries

  • India began the delivery of COVID-­19 vaccines to six “neighbouring and key partner countries''. The delivery began with two special flights carrying the first consignments of Covishield to the Maldives and Bhutan. Sources said Bangladesh and Nepal will receive two large consignments of the same vaccine on Thursday followed by supplies to Myanmar and the Seychelles. Bhutan is the first country to receive the vaccine manufactured by the Pune­based Serum Institute of India (SII).

3. Sweets, souvenirs in Thulasendrapuram

  • Celebra­tions broke out in Thulasen­drapuram, the ancestral vil­lage of new U.S. Vice­ President Kamala Har­ris in Tiruvarur district of Ta­mil Nadu. The villagers said her assumption of office will strengthen the relationship between the two largest democracies.

  • I never dreamt that a person with roots in our village would go on to hold the high office of the Vice­ President of the U.S. We are all very excit­ed. It is a proud moment for each and every one of us,” said J. Sudhakar, a villager.

4. Centre offers to put off farm reforms for 18 months

  • Farm union leaders will con­sider a proposal from the Un­ion government to suspend the implementation of the three contentious farm re­form laws for the next year­ and­ a ­half while a committee is formed to look into their demands. They will discuss the pro­posal internally and return with their response at the next round of discussions on Friday.

  • The farmers have been protesting for more than 50 days now and their major demands have been a repeal of the three laws on agricultural marketing, and a new legal guarantee for minimum support prices.

  • In order to increase the farmer unions’ belief and trust in the fact that they are very serious and sincere about the suspension idea, the government said it is willing to do this through an undertaking in the Supreme Court. When the negotiations began on Wednesday, the unions raised the issue of the National Intelligence Agency issuing notices to supporters of the agitation, as well as FIRs filed against protesting farmers in Haryana.

5. Dragon fruit story

  • The Gujarat government has decided to rename the dra­gon fruit as ‘kamalam’. According to Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, the fruit’s outer shape re­sembles a lotus. Another reason Mr. Rupa­ni cited for renaming the fruit was that the word dra­gon reminded one of China.


Daily snippets

1. Biden sworn in, delivers message of unity, hope

  • Joseph R. Biden Jr. was sworn in as the 46th President of the U.S. Addressing the country for the first time as President, Mr. Biden delivered a message of unity and hope while laying out the enormous challenges faced by the country, from a raging pandemic to deep political divisions and frayed race relations.

  • Mr. Biden was administered the oath by Chief Justice John Roberts. Just prior to that, Kamala Devi Harris, the first woman, African American and Indian American to hold the post, was sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor – the first Latina in the U.S.’s top court.

2. Uganda: Polls apart

  • Yoweri Museveni, Uganda’s 76-year old leader who has been in power since 1986, won another five year term in the January 14 presidential election, but the contested result has pushed the country into its worst political crisis in decades.

  • According to Uganda’s Electoral Commission, he won nearly 59% of the vote, while his main rival, Robert Kyagulanyi, a pop musician better known by his stage name Bobi Wine, secured 34%. Mr. Wine has alleged voter fraud, which the government was quick to dismiss, while putting him and several other leaders of his National Unity Platform under house arrest.

  • It appears that Mr. Museveni, whose National Resistance Movement came to power by waging a guerrilla war in the 1980s, seems determined to prevent Mr. Wine even coming close to power. Uganda has long been torn by coups and violence before Mr. Museveni’s rise. Even after Idi Amin, the infamous dictator, was overthrown in 1979, politics remained volatile and violent.

  • In 2005, Mr. Museveni amended the Constitution to remove the presidential term limits and in 2017, signed a law scrapping the age limit of 75 for presidential candidates. He might continue in office, but his greed for power and disregard for a fair electoral process and rights, coupled with economic woes, have already left cracks in his support base. Mr. Wine, in a short span, has emerged as the President’s most potent political rival.

3. The many infirmities of China’s Western Theatre Command

  • In the first week of the new year, Chinese President Xi Jinping instructed his armed forces to be “combat ready to act at any second” as they began their new training exercises. Mr. Xi also issued new rules for the selection, training and promotion of military personnel. There were several reasons for this aggressive rhetoric.

  • Firstly, with Joe Biden assuming the U.S. Presidency on January 20, Mr. Xi wants to signal confidence and military preparedness in responding to new U.S. policies on the freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea and Taiwan straits. Secondly, Mr. Xi’s aggressive pursuit of disputed territories in the South China Sea, Taiwan and across borders with India has increased the chances of military conflicts. Thirdly, the performance of China’s Western Theatre Command (WTC) in Ladakh last year was below par. It suffered a high number of casualties in the June 15 Galwan valley clash. The Indian Army also captured the strategic mountainous heights at Rezang La and other passes.

  • The country’s armed forces also suffer from a number of other structural issues : they are a political and not a professional force, and the personnel are mostly conscripts with low levels of education and low motivation (mostly from one-­child families). They lack a tough mindset and battlefield experience, and face a serious problem of ‘brain drain’. These limitations will certainly affect the performance of the Chinese armed forces in a war with any professional army, as was seen in Ladakh.

4. U.S. to review Houthi terrorist label, says Blinken

  • U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration will quickly revisit the designation of Yemen’s Houthi rebels as terrorists and end support to the devastating Saudi offensive on the country, Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, said.

  • At his confirmation hearing, Mr. Blinken said he would “immediately” review the outgoing Trump administration’s labelling of the Iran-­linked insurgents, fearing the move was worsening a humanitarian crisis. Mr. Trump has been a staunch ally of Saudi Arabia, offering U.S. logistical help and military sales for its six year campaign to dislodge the rebels who have taken over much of the neighbouring country.

  • The United Nations and aid groups have warned the terrorist designation risks worsening the plight of a country where millions depend on aid to survive. The designation took effect on Tuesday, with the Houthis warning that they would respond to any action against them.

5. Pakistan test-fires nuclear-capable missile

  • Pakistan on Wednesday said it has successfully test-fired a nuclear-capable surface-to surface ballistic missile which can strike targets up to 2,750 km. The launch of Shaheen-III missile was “aimed at revalidating various design and technical parameters of the weapon system”, said a statement issued by the media wing of the Pakistani Army.

6. China sanctions 28 Trump administration officials

  • China announced sanctions on 28 officials connected to the outgoing Donald Trump administration, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, just as the new United States President, Joe Biden, was taking his oath of office.

  • The Ministry said “these individuals and their immediate family members are prohibited from entering the mainland, Hong Kong and Macao of China” and “they and the companies and institutions associated with them are also restricted from doing business with China”. The announcement came as China and the U.S. clashed over the Trump administration, on its last day, accusing China of committing “genocide” and “crimes against humanity” against its minority Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.

  • This followed a number of recent measures that have brought relations with China to a low, with both sides clashing over Taiwan, Hong Kong as well as sanctions on Chinese firms. Mr. Biden, during the election campaign, had also described what China was doing in Xinjiang, where around a million people have been forced to “re­education” centres, as “genocide”. The declaration by the U.S. will likely mean a continuation of sanctions, including a ban on imports of cotton and tomatoes from Xinjiang as well as designations of Chinese officials seen to be involved in the Xinjiang policy.

7. Israel rights group breaks taboo with ‘apartheid’ tag

  • An Israeli non­governmental organisation has accused the Jewish state of “apartheid” in its treatment of Palestinians – a taboobreaking move that has seen its representatives banned from speaking in schools. B’Tselem said it carefully weighed its decision to use the hugely emotive phrase but concluded that it was an accurate description of Israel’s attitude both to residents of the occupied Palestinian territories and to its own Arab citizens.

  • Israel-Palestine Conflict : Israel occupied the West Bank, including Arab east Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip in the Six-­Day War of 1967. Today it is home to at least five million Palestinians defined by the United Nations as living under Israeli occupation. Arab Israelis – Palestinians who stayed on their land following the Jewish state's creation in 1948 and their descendants – make up about 20% of Israel’s roughly nine million people. By law they have rights equal to those of Jewish citizens, but they say that in practice they suffer discrimination in employment, housing, policing and other essentials.


Daily snippets

1. Founder Jack Ma appears in public

  • Alibaba founder Jack Ma made his first public appea­rance since early November. Alibaba’s shares surged 8% in Hong Kong after Mr. Ma’s first appearance in close to three months, as he appeared “during a rural teacher-­themed social wel­fare event via video link”, Chinese media reported. There has been spec­ulation about Mr. Ma after he kept a low ­profile in the wake of recent troubles sur­rounding his group.

  • The State Administration for Market Regulation had said it had initiated a probe into Alibaba’s “suspected mono­polistic acts” including “forcing merchants to choose one platform bet­ween two competitors”.

2. Emerging market NPAs to continue rising : S&P

  • The COVID­-19 pandemic and its aftermath will conti­nue to dominate the credit story for emerging markets (EMs), including India in 2021, S&P Global Ratings said in a report.

  • We expect non­ perform­ing loans to continue increasing and cost of risk to stabilise at high levels as central banks start to re­move regulatory forbea­rance measures in some of the markets where such measures were implemented and banks start recognis­ing the full extent of asset quality deterioration.”

  • In In­dia, SMEs [accounted] for around 20% of total expo­sures at mid­-2020. Stress in SMEs is somewhat tem­pered by the government's guarantee of new loans ta­ken by SMEs,” up to 20% of their total loans, it said.

3. Weak reform push, financial sector woes may damp growth

  • Fitch Ratings said India’s medium ­term growth potential is at about 6.5% but weak implementa­tion of reforms, combined with continued financial sec­tor problems, could lower its potential. It said the revival of the re­form agenda is among the In­dian government’s policy responses to the COVID-­19 pandemic shock. However, the process of reform in India remains complex, and implementa­tion at times has proven difficult Fitch said.

  • The ratings agency last week said India’s gross dom­estic product (GDP) would expand by 11% in the financial year 2021-­22, after wit­nessing a 9.4% contraction in the current fiscal period ending in March 2021.

4. CCI plans to export 10 lakh bales of cotton

  • The Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) plans to export at least 10 lakh bales of cot­ton during the current season. The CCI is active mainly in Telangana and Maharash­tra. Of the cotton procured so far, it had sold 12 lakh bales to the domestic textile sector. The CCI has till now ex­ported about 25,000 bales. It is looking at a minimum of 10 lakh bales for export this season, a majority of which would be to Bangladesh.


1. Arrest warrant against journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta in Adani Defamation case

2. On Farm Protection Laws

3. On Housework Valuation

4. Privacy and the Signal App

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


January 20th, 2021



Daily snippets

1. SC panel lays out road map on farmers’ issue

  • The Supreme Court appointed committee on farmers’ issues has decided to meet the State governments and the State Agricultural Marketing Boards along with the farm unions and cooperatives to seek their views on the farm reform laws, starting January 21. The panel has laid out a two month road map for consultations after their first meeting. The SC­ appointed panel began work on Tuesday, chalking out a plan to hold wide-ranging consultations on the contentious farm laws.

2. Physical hearings: SC tells lawyers to approach HC

  • The Supreme Court said it understood the gravity of the problem lawyers and others, including litigants and employees, may have to face following the Delhi High Court’s recent decision to resume physical hearings. The Bench led by Chief Justice Sharad A. Bobde said the apex court usually did not intervene in administrative decisions taken by High Courts.

  • It asked the petitioners to approach the High Court itself. The petition said the notification was issued in “utter and complete disregard of life, health”.

3. Notice to Haryana govt. over Panchayati Raj Act

  • The Punjab and Haryana High Court issued a notice to the Haryana government over certain amendments on reservation system to the Haryana Panchayati Raj (Second Amendment) Act, 2020.

  • The petition filed by two women, who had held posts of members in Panchayati Raj institutions have challenged the recently passed Haryana Panchayati Raj (Second Amendment) Act, 2020, particularly relating to the scheme of reservation provided therein. “The amendment discriminates between eligible women and their male counterparts, which is in violation of Articles 14 and 15 of Constitution”.

4. Centre targets Delhi over Yamuna pollution

  • The Centre accused Delhi of being a “habitual offender” in polluting the waters of the Yamuna. The Bench was hearing an urgent petition filed by the Delhi Jal Board (DJB), represented by advocate Shadan Farasat, to “immediately stop” Haryana from discharging pollutants into the Yamuna, which is causing an alarming increase in ammonia levels in the water.

5. SC seeks status report on river water quality

  • The Supreme Court sought a status report from the National Green Tribunal ­appointed River Yamuna Monitoring Committee led by former Delhi Chief Secretary Shailaja Chandra about its recommendations to improve the quality of water and the extent to which the States have implemented their suggestions.

  • The Supreme Court had, on January 13, taken suo motu cognisance of the contamination of rivers by sewage effluents through lapses committed by municipalities, saying “open surface water resources including rivers are the lifeline of human civilisation”. The right to clean environment, and further, pollution free water, has been protected under the broad rubric of the “right to life”.

6. Expression of views not bias: CJI

  • Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad A. Bobde orally observed during a hearing that there was a “peculiar lack of comprehension” on the constitution of committees. “There is some confusion in understanding the law. One person may have an opinion before being a part of the committee, but his opinion can change... There is no way that such a member cannot be part of a committee,” he observed.

7. Budget session to have Question Hour

  • The Question Hour, which had been suspended by the government during the monsoon session, will resume when Parliament meets for the Budget session from January 29. The government had claimed that the suspension of the Question Hour, which gives the Opposition an opportunity to hold the government accountable, was an additional precautionary measure to tackle the COVID-­19 pandemic.

  • What is Question Hour? Question Hour is the first hour of a sitting session of India's Lok Sabha devoted to questions that Members of Parliament raise about any aspect of administrative activity. The concerned Minister is obliged to answer to the Parliament, either orally or in writing, depending on the type of question raised.


Daily snippets

1. India­Nepal relations in a new transition

  • The year 2020 marked China’s unprecedented aggression, with an aim to counter India’s conventional edge in Nepal and South Asia at large. Accordingly, China’s geostrategic, economic and infrastructural drives were made tempting to a precarious Nepal with its fragile democracy and the adulterated ideological standing of the ruling Communist Party of Nepal (CPN).

  • The CPN is a divided house, and publicly, this was known when Nepal’s Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli dissolved the House of Representatives in late December 2020. The move was termed ‘unconstitutional’ by the experts and the country’s Supreme Court is hearing writ petitions against Mr. Oli.

  • Amidst the domestic political chaos, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nepal, Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, visited New Delhi for the sixth meeting of the India­-Nepal Joint Commission on January 15, 2021, that was co­-chaired by the External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.

  • The keenly awaited meeting proved to be more focused on confidence ­building measures such as exchanges of courteous remarks on significant and concrete progress made since the last meeting of the Joint Commission in taking forward several bilateral initiatives, and the close cooperation between the two sides in combating the COVID-­19 pandemic.

  • Moving away from the recent hiatus, Nepal expressed support for India’s permanent membership of an expanded UN Security Council (UNSC) to reflect the changed balance of power. The next meeting of the Joint Commission in Nepal should be crucial in giving a new direction to the bilateral ties, keeping a balance between change and continuity.

  • Nepal’s democracy has been affected with an extreme rise in majoritarian sentiments. Nepal cannot afford to enter in another round of political instability, and those who have commanding authority to spearhead India­-Nepal bilateral relations must give a humane consideration to it.

2. Poet-historian Narendra Luther passes away

  • Well-known poet, historian, author and retired bureaucrat Narendra Luther passed away on Tuesday at a private hospital. He was 88 and ailing for some time. He played a key role in Save the Rock society and built his house around a rock in 1977 in the Banjara Hills area.

3. Netaji’s birth anniversary to be celebrated as ‘Parakram Divas’

  • The Union Culture Ministry on Tuesday announced that January 23, birth anniversary of Subhas Chandra Bose, would be celebrated as “Parakram Divas”, day of courage, every year.

  • Later, at a press conference, Culture Minister Prahlad Singh Patel said Prime Minister Narendra Modi would preside over the inauguration of the celebrations in Kolkata, where a permanent exhibition on Netaji would be opened at the Victoria Memorial.

4. Cancer care pioneer no more

  • A pioneer in cancer care in the country, and the chair­person of the Adyar Cancer Institute, V. Shanta breathed her last in Chennai early on Tuesday. A crusader for cancer re­search and making cancer care affordable for all, Dr. Shanta and her mentor S. Krishnamurthi built the Can­cer Institute from a cottage hospital into a 500 ­plus bed­ded institution, offering state-of-the-art care to peo­ple across the income spec­trum. Only 40% are paying beds and the remaining are general beds where patients are boarded and lodged free of cost.

  • Dr. Shanta was the reci­pient of several honours and awards through her life, re­cognising her devotion to oncology care and research. The Padma Vibhushan and Ramon Magasaysay awards were among them.

5. India asks WhatsApp to revoke changes in its privacy policy

  • The Union government has asked WhatsApp to with­draw the proposed changes to its privacy policy, stating that it raised “grave con­cerns” over the implications of the choice and autonomy of Indian citizens. In a letter to WhatsApp chief executive officer Will Cathcart, the government pointed out that by not giv­ing the option to opt out of data sharing with Facebook companies, Indian users were being treated different­ly from those in Europe.

  • The letter further stated that sovereign independence of India’s distinct identity and its people must be properly respected and any unilateral changes to WhatsApp terms of service and privacy would not be fair and acceptable. The government also asked the Facebook ­owned platform to reconsider its ap­proach to respect the infor­mational privacy, freedom of choice and data security of Indian citizens.

6. India to fly out vaccines to neighbours

  • India will begin to ship out lakhs of doses of the novel coronavirus vaccine to neighbouring countries be­ginning Wednesday, with the first batches expected to reach Bhutan and the Mal­dives among several coun­tries by special planes as a grant or gift. The External Affairs Ministry said shipments to Bhutan, the Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and the Sey­chelles would commence this week, while those to Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Mauritius were awaiting “ne­cessary regulatory clearanc­es”.

  • The region’s preference for Indian vac­cines, including the Covish­ield from the Serum Institute of India (SII) developed with Oxford University and AstraZeneca, and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, are due to cost, ea­sier storage requirements and the geographical prox­imity. The only exception to In­dia’s regional vaccine diplo­macy would be Pakistan, which has cleared the AstraZeneca vaccine for use, but has neither requested nor discussed any doses from In­dia yet.


Daily snippets

1. U.S. won’t lift travel ban: Biden team

  • Shortly after the U.S. President Donald Trump announced the lifting of COVID-­19­ related travel restrictions on parts of Europe and Brazil, the incoming Biden administration said it would reverse the move.

  • Mr. Trump signed an executive order removing restrictions on air travel for most non­ U.S. citizens and permanent residents travelling from the Schengen Area, Ireland, the U.K. and Brazil starting January 26.

2. An inauguration modified by security and health threats

  • The inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as President and Vice­ President of the U.S. will be a highly unusual affair this year – curtailed and modified by various forces gone out of control.

  • The COVID­-19 pandemic and security threats from Trump supporters in the aftermath of President Donald Trump’s challenges to the results have compelled the Biden­-Harris team to have an inauguration that will not be accessible to the masses, as is usually the case.

  • The setting, Washington DC, will be transformed with some 25,000 National Guardsmen to secure the proceedings. Additionally, the Trumps will be conspicuous by their absence, and the ceremony will consequently need further modification. Vice­-President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence are expected to attend the inauguration, as are former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

3. Biden to introduce Bill for eight-year citizenship path

  • United States President­ elect Joe Biden plans to unveil a sweeping immigration Bill on the first day of his administration, hoping to provide an eight year path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. without legal status – a massive reversal from the Trump administration’s harsh immigration policies.

  • The Bill puts Mr. Biden on track to deliver on a major campaign promise important to Latino voters and other immigrant communities after four years of President Donald Trump’s restrictive policies and mass deportations.

4. Sudan troops deployed in Darfur after clashes

  • A heavy Sudanese troop presence helped restore calm on Tuesday in Darfur after three days of inter-ethnic violence that claimed at least 155 lives and displaced tens of thousands. West Darfur authorities have imposed a statewide curfew.

5. UN calls on Israel to halt work at West Bank

  • UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Israel to “halt and reverse” its decision to build 800 homes for Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank. He said the decision was “a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution

  • The two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict envisions an independent State of Palestine alongside the State of Israel, west of the Jordan River.

6. Chinese COVID­-19 vaccines find takers in Southeast Asia

  • China has signed deals with as many as 20 countries, many of which are in Southeast Asia, to offer its home developed COVID­-19 vaccines, Chinese media has reported.

  • With five vaccines being developed in China, Beijing is offering them both as donations and on a commercial basis. Among the countries that are ordering Chinese vaccines are Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Algeria, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, Pakistan, Brazil, Ukraine, and Serbia. Pakistan on Monday became the first country in South Asia to approve a Chinese vaccine, giving the nod for emergency use for Sinopharm’s vaccine.


Daily snippets

1. Native 5g model must to aid education, agri, healthcare

  • Indian players must be proactive in creating an in­clusive Indian 5G model as the country’s appetite for mobile technology is going to be so huge,” said Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union Minister for Communications, Electron­ics & Information Technolo­gy and Law & Justice.

  • We have become the se­cond­ biggest mobile manu­facturer in the world, and it is my wish to make India number one... We must also become a lead player in laptops, machine­-to-­machine equipment, tablets and IoT devices. We can easily create that ecosystem,” he said.

2. Online gaming bats for one regulator

  • The online gaming indus­try has asked the govern­ment think tank NITI Aayog to set up a single, self regulatory body to standardise regulations go­verning the entire online skill gaming industry, in­stead of just fantasy sports. The recommendation follows a draft report whe­rein the NITI Aayog has suggested the setting up a single, self regulatory body for fantasy sports. The size of India’s online skill gaming industry is estimated at about ₹5,250 crore, according to KPMG.

3. Possible Investment rule changes in the e-commerce sector

  • India is considering revising its foreign investment rules for e­-commerce. The government discus­sions coincide with a grow­ing number of complaints from India’s bricks ­and ­mor­tar retailers, which have for years accused Amazon and Walmart Inc.­ controlled Flipkart of creating complex structures to bypass federal rules, allegations the U.S. companies deny.

  • India only allows foreign e-­commerce players to oper­ate as a marketplace to connect buyers and sellers. It prohibits them from holding inventories of goods and di­rectly selling them on their platforms. ­Among other changes, the government is considering changes that would prohibit online sales by a seller who purchases goods from the e­-commerce entity or its group firm,and then sells them on the entity’s websites.

  • India’s e-­commerce retail market is seen growing to $200 billion a year by 2026, from $30 billion in 2019, in­vestment promotion agency Invest India estimates.

4. India must remain a part of global economy

  • India must remain an inte­gral part of the global eco­nomy if it has to grow at 9­-10% over the next three de­cades, NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant said. Speaking at the 15th India Digital Summit, he said In­dia needs to become a major global exporting nation. Without it, it will not be pos­sible to become richer and create wealth for its people over the next three decades.

  • If India has to grow at 9­-10% over a three­ decade pe­riod, it must be open, it must be an integral part of the global economy. It must be an integral part of the global supply chain,” he said. According to the NITI Aayog CEO, post­ COVID­-19 pandemic, only those coun­tries will grow who will use the digital ecosystem. On the production ­linked incentive (PLI) plan, Mr. Kant said the scheme in electronics and mobile ma­nufacturing has received a ve­ry good response.


Daily snippets

1. The threat of deepfakes

  • Deep­ fakes- synthetic media, meaning media (in­cluding images, audio and video) that are either manipulated or wholly generated by Artificial Intelligence, have the power to threaten the electoral outcome of democracies like the US.

  • The cyberworld has been facing the chal­lenge of deepfakes for a while now. AI is used for fabricating audios, videos and texts to show real people saying and doing things they never did, or creating new images and videos. Detection can often be done only by AI­ generated tools. Threats of AI­-generated content comprising non­-existent personalities, syn­thetic datasets, unreal activities of real peo­ple, and content manipulation. Deepfakes can target anyone, anywhere.

  • According to Sec­tion 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 in the US, a law which protects freedom of expression and innovation on the Internet, “No provider or user of an interactive com­puter service shall be treated as the publish­er or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” This means that the companies are not responsi­ble for the posts on their platforms.

  • India too has not enacted any specific legislation to deal with deepfakes, though there are some provisions in the Indian Penal Code that cri­minalise certain forms of online/social me­dia content manipulation. The Information Technology Act, 2000 covers certain cyber­ crimes. But this law and the Information Technology Intermediary Guidelines (Amendment) Rules, 2018 are inadequate to deal with content manipulation on digital platforms.

  • As innova­tion in deepfakes gets better, AI­-based auto­mated tools must be invented accordingly for detection. Blockchains are robust against many securi­ty threats and can be used to digitally sign and affirm the validity of a video or docu­ment. Educating media users about the cap­abilities of AI algorithms could help.


1. Reservation to Transgender Community

2. Courts, CAG and the Process of Conducting an Audit

3. Profile : Dr. V Shanta

4. India-Australia and the Gabba

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


January 19th, 2021



Daily snippets

1. Only police should decide on tractor rally, says SC

  • The Supreme Court said the Union government and the Delhi Police should take a call on whether or not protesting farmers could hold tractor or vehicle marches on Republic Day in the national capital. The government could not ask the court to decide on issues concerning law and order. The government said the right to express dissent against the farm laws did not include a right to “malign the nation globally”.

  • The Supreme Court appointed committee will meet the farmer groups from Thursday. The unions protesting on the borders of Delhi for almost two months have refused to meet the committee.

2. CVC presses for expeditious disposal of vigilance cases

  • The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) has directed all Ministries/Departments of the Union government to strictly adhere to the time limits for various stages of disciplinary proceedings in vigilance cases since unexplained delay was causing undue advantage or harassment to the charged officials. “Any delay in finalisation of such matters is neither in the interest of the organisation nor that of the employee concerned”.

3. Char Dham project : Centre’s affidavit pushes for wide roads

  • The Central government supported the majority view taken by the Supreme Court’s Char Dham High-powered Committee (HPC) for the necessity of broadening the Himalayan feeder roads to India­-China border in order to facilitate troop movement.

  • The Ministry of Defence, in an affidavit, said it was unfortunate that three of the HPC members had given a minority view to reconsider a December 15, 2020 circular of the Ministry of Road and Transport and Highways (MoRTH). The Centre, in its affidavit, said it was “unfortunate” that the HPC members, who are in the minority, have given such an opinion “notwithstanding the security of the country”.

4. Experts to be assigned to review State labour laws

  • The Union Labour and Employment Ministry is likely to appoint legal consultants this month to look at whether the States’ labour laws are in consonance with the Centre’s four new labour codes. Along with the implementation of the codes, an official said the Ministry would appoint legal consultants soon to review the various State laws.

  • The four codes have amalgamated 29 Central labour laws, including those covering matters of minimum wages, benefits for workers and strikes. For the first time, gig and platform workers have been covered under the social security schemes.

5. Supreme Court's directive on quota in promotions

  • The Supreme Court asked Attorney General K.K. Venugopal to compile the various issues being raised by States with regard to the application of a Constitution Bench judgment of 2006 in M. Nagaraj case, which had upheld the application of creamy layer principle to members of the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe communities in promotions. A three judge Bench led by Chief Justice Sharad A. Bobde said the issues raised by States are not common.

6. Bar Council response on exam sought

  • The Supreme Court asked the Bar Council of India (BCI) to respond to a plea challenging the All India Bar Examination (AIBE) as a restriction to practising law as an advocate. A Bench led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar issued notice on a petition filed by Parthsarthi Mahesh Saraf, represented by advocate V.K. Biju, who argued that AIBE was being conducted without following the law.


Daily snippets

1. Covaxin not to be used in cases of allergy, fever, poor immunity

  • Those with a history of allergies, fever and bleeding disorder, people on blood thinners and those with compromised immunity or on medication that affects the immune system have been told by Bharat Biotech, manufacturer of Covaxin, not to take the COVID-­19 vaccine.

  • A statement uploaded on the company website said the vaccine was also contraindicated for pregnant and lactating women, those using other COVID­-19 vaccines and people with any other serious health related issues as determined by the vaccinator or the officer supervising the vaccination.

2. Aware of construction on LAC: MEA

  • The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said it was aware of infrastructure construction by China in the past several years “along the Line of Actual Control (LAC)” and that India had also stepped up its construction, after a report by NDTV showed satellite images of a new Chinese settlement in Arunachal Pradesh.

  • This is the first time the government has acknowledged Chinese construction, although official sources say the land has been under the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) control since 1959. Satellite images show the construction of a big village on the banks of Tsari Chu river in Upper Subansiri district between November 2019 and November 2020

3. ‘Legal issue’ delaying Mallya’s extradition

  • The U.K. government has told the Indian side that businessman Vijay Mallya cannot be extradited until a confidential “legal issue” concerning him is resolved, the Centre informed the Supreme Court. An official letter from the Ministry of External Affairs, quoting excerpts from the U.K. government’s communication, was read out by Solicitor ­General Tushar Mehta before a Special Bench led by Justice U.U. Lalit. Mr. Mehta said the government had been making frequent and repeated efforts to extradite Mr. Mallya.

4. Tandav crew and cast issue apology

  • The cast and crew of Tandav, a web series on Amazon Prime Video platform, have issued an apology. In a state­ment, shared on Twitter by Ali Abbas Zafar, director of the series, they “uncondi­tionally apologised” taking cognisance of the concerns expressed by people ``if it has unintentionally hurt anyone’s sentiments''. The statement added that “the cast and crew did not have any intention to offend the sentiments of any in­dividual, caste, community, race, religion or religious belief or insult or outrage any institution, political party or person, living or dead.

  • An FIR has been lodged against the makers of the web series on charges of hurting the religious sentiments of Hindus and promoting enmi­ty on grounds of religion. The political drama series has Saif Ali Khan, Dimple Ka­padia, Tigmanshu Dhulia and Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub in the cast. The FIR was filed under various Sections of the IPC and the IT Act.

5. Women volunteers to ensure peaceful farmers' parade

  • Women are likely to play a major role in ensuring that the proposed tractor rally on Republic Day remains peaceful, according to Ka­vitha Kuruganti, the only woman delegate on the farm unions’ team partici­pating in negotiations with the Centre. She is a representative of the Mahila Kisan Adhikaar Manch, an alliance of wo­men farmers’ organisations and supporters.

  • Women farmers, as well as women students from Punjab’s universities, were often seen in the forefront in the face­offs with the police at the borders between Pun­jab and Haryana, as the un­ions marched towards Del­hi. Women are also training to drive some tractors for the rally on January 26.

  • She pointed out that as per census data, 30% of all cultivators and 43% of all agricultural labourers are women, but few of them have land rights in their own names. The struggle for land and inheritance rights is unfortunately something that most mainstream farm unions have failed to take up, said Ms. Kuruganti. Also, 15­-20% of protesters at the Singhu border are women.

6. Rafale to make debut in Republic Day Parade

  • The Rafale fighter jet inducted into the Indian Air Force last year would fly over Rajpath during the Republic Day parade. The fly past will culminate with a single Rafale aircraft carrying out a ‘vertical charlie’ formation, the IAF said.

7. Task force on marriage age submits report to PMO

  • The task force set up to take a re­look at the age of mar­riage for women has submitted its report to the Prime Minister’s Office and the Mi­nistry of Women and Child Development. Chairperson of the com­mittee Jaya Jaitley refused to comment on the contents of the report submitted after a delay of five months.

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Independence Day speech last year spoke about a panel formed to de­cide on the “right age of marriage” for women. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her Budget speech last year proposed a panel on the “age of a girl en­tering motherhood” to low­er maternal mortality rates and improve nutrition le­vels.

  • The terms of reference for the task force included, “the correlation of age of marriage and motherhood” with health and nutritional status of mothers and in­fants.

  • Women’s rights acti­vists have opposed the sug­gestion of raising the age of marriage from 18 to 21 for women and have cited evi­dence to show that such a move may be used to incar­cerate young adults marry­ing without parents’ consent.


Daily snippets

1. U.S., China spar over the origins of novel coronavirus

  • The U.S. and China sparred over the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, the latest in a growing list of tensions that have left relations strained as President Donald Trump leaves office. In recent weeks, Washington and Beijing have clashed over trade issues, the sanctioning of Chinese companies, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

  • In a reflection of the state of relations, China’s official Xinhua news agency issued a commentary, headlined “Good riddance, Trump administration and its final madness”, hitting out over the sanctioning of six Chinese officials related to Hong Kong. The latest spat followed the U.S. State Department on Friday releasing a “fact-sheetlinking the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) to the start of the COVID-­19 outbreak, which brought another sharp response from Beijing.

  • A team of scientists from the WHO arrived in Wuhan last week to research the origins of the outbreak. The agency said on Friday the world may never find “patient zero” as it continues its study into tracing the origins in China.

2. Tunisia arrests 600 over riots, deploys troops

  • Tunisian authorities said on Monday they had arrested more than 600 people and deployed troops after a third consecutive night of riots, mostly by young people in working class districts of several cities.

  • The unrest came despite a nationwide pandemic lockdown declared last Thursday – the day that also marked 10 years since demonstrators forced dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s fall from power. Many Tunisians are increasingly angered by poor public services and a political class that has repeatedly proved unable to govern coherently a decade on from the 2011 revolution. GDP shrank by 9% last year, consumer prices have spiraled and one-third of young people are unemployed.

3. India, China to lead Asia's COVID vaccination plans

  • India and China are expect­ed to take the lead in driving Asia’s vaccination plans ef­forts, even as third waves of infections and stringent measures to curb fresh CO­VID­-19 cases in Japan, South Korea and some South­-East Asian Nations remain a dam­pener for Asia’s uneven eco­nomic recovery, Moody’s Analytics said in a note.

  • As the largest producer of vaccines in the world, with 60% of the global share, India is well ­positioned to use its existing manufactur­ing capabilities to contribute to mass vaccine production and distribution needs for other countries in addition to meeting its domestic re­quirements,” the note said. Indonesia’s approval of China’s COVID­-19 vaccine Sinovac for emergency use, the first country outside Chi­na to do so, could open the door for other Asian econo­mies to follow suit.


Daily snippets

1. China's economy grows 2.3%, slowest pace in 44 years

  • China said on Monday the nation’s economy expanded in 2020 by 2.3% , the slowest pace of growth since the end of Mao Zedong’s Cultu­ral Revolution in 1976. China will, however, like­ly be the only major econo­my to have avoided a contraction in a pandemic­ hit year.

  • China’s economy contracted 6.8% in the first quarter. The stringent lockdown did, however, allow the country to broadly curb the spread of COVID­-19 at home by the summer. The economy re­covered to grow 3.2% in the second quarter, 4.9% in the third and 6.5% in the last quarter of 2020.

  • However, the Chinese government's long-­term plan to rebalance growth and rely more on domestic consumption rath­er than state-­led invest­ment, ended up taking a step backward, as did its ef­forts to trim the ballooning national debt. A range of stimulus mea­sures, largely led by spend­ing on infrastructure projects, was the main driver of growth in 2020 along with a rebound in exports, which grew 10.9% in December and 4% last year.

2. India may raise import duties by 5-10%

  • India is considering raising import duties by 5%-­10% on more than 50 items includ­ing smartphones, electronic components and appliances in the upcoming budget. The move to increase im­port duties is part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s self­ reliant India campaign that aims to promote and support domestic manufac­turing.

  • India’s finance minister will on Feb. 1 unveil the cen­tral government’s annual budget for the 2021­22 finan­cial year, which begins on April 1. India has in recent years ta­ken a series of measures that industry executives say dis­criminate against foreign companies. Last year, India raised du­ties on a range of products such as footwear, furniture, toys, electrical and electron­ics items by up to 20%.


1. Women's autonomy and Protection

2. Responsibility of the Custodes and Farm Laws Committee

3. Balance Sheet of a Bad Bank

4. Sikhs for Justice and NIA

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


January 18th, 2021



Daily snippets

1. Farmers firm on conducting Republic Day tractor parade

  • Farmer unions protesting against the three contentious farm laws said they would go ahead with their tractor parade in Delhi on Republic Day. They said the parade would be “peaceful”, and no disruptions would be caused to the official ceremony. The Supreme Court is slated to hear a petition by the Centre on Monday to injunct protesters from holding the parade to “disrupt” the Republic Day celebrations.

2. ‘Parents of road accident victims should be compensated’

  • The Delhi High Court said parents are dependent on their children at some stage of their lives and it would be inequitable to deny compensation to those who lost their ward in a road accident. Justice J.R. Midha made the observations while awarding compensation for loss of dependency to a woman, who lost her 23­year old son in a road accident in 2008.

3. 'Explore crowdfunding to help two children with rare disease’

  • In an uncommon order, the Delhi High Court has ordered the Health Ministry to explore “crowdfunding” to help two children, who are suffering from a rare disease known as Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, in importing exorbitantly priced medicines. Justice Prathiba M. Singh opined that just because of the exorbitant price of the drug or treatment, patients, especially children, suffering from a rare disease ought not to be deprived of treatment for their condition.

  • Right to Health and Healthcare’ is a fundamental right which has been recognised by the Supreme Court to be a part of the ‘Right to life’ of the Constitution, Ms.Singh remarked. The HC also directed the Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to give a specific timeline in respect to the finalisation and notification of the Draft Health Policy for Rare Diseases, 2020.


Daily snippets

1. 2.24 lakh vaccinated in 2 days, 447 report adverse reactions

  • A total of 2,24,301 individuals were administered the COVID­-19 vaccine in two days, with more than 17,000 receiving the shot on Sunday, the Health Ministry said in a briefing. With 3,000 vaccination sites and a capacity of 100 persons per site, the Centre had planned to vaccinate 3,00,000 persons nationally on Saturday.

  • Of all those vaccinated so far, 447 reported reactions such as pain, mild swelling, mild fever or nausea, with only three persons requiring hospitalisation.

  • The Health Ministry has advised the States and the Union Territories to conduct vaccination on only four days a week to minimise disruption to routine health services. India plans to inoculate 3 crore health workers, municipal workers, sanitation workers, and later on, 27 crore of those most vulnerable to the disease by July.

2. U.K. invites PM Modi to G7 summit in June

  • The United Kingdom has invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi to attend the G7 summit that is scheduled to be held in June. Apart from India, Australia and South Korea are also invited to participate in the proceedings of the summit as “guest countries”.

  • The invitation came days after Mr. Johnson cancelled his visit to India in the last week of January because of a new wave of COVID-­19 in Britain. He said he will visit India “ahead” of the G7 summit. Cooperation between the U.K. and India is significant this year as India is a non­-permanent member at the UN Security Council, where the United Kingdom will take over the presidency in February.

3. NIA examines Khalsa Aid functionary in SFJ case

  • The National Investigation Agency (NIA) exa­mined a functionary of Khal­sa Aid, an international NGO, in connection with a recent case registered against Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), a foreign based group that advocates secessionist and pro­-Khalistani activities in India. Khalsa Aid provid­ed aid during the ongoing farmers’ agitation. This was the first time since 1999, the year they started work in India, that the group members had been called for questioning by any Indian agency. Khalsa Aid has a presence in the U.K, the U.S., and Ca­nada.

  • Khalsa Aid's founder Ravinder Singh said that Khalsa Aid was registered as a charitable trust in Delhi with offices in Patiala and Jalandhar and had not received any foreign donations. “Every item we distribute at Delhi’s border has been donated by Indians. The on­ly items we purchased were massage machines and geys­ers. Every day, people are donating truckloads of es­sentials, we have an account of every transaction,” he said.

  • The NIA filed a fresh case against SFJ on December 15 last year where it alleged that large amounts of funds being collected by Khalistani terrorist outfits are being sent through NGOs to pro­-Khalistani elements based in India.

4. Aero India to showcase indigenous helicopters

  • The India Pavilion at the Ae­ro India 2021 next month will showcase a range of indige­nously developed helicop­ters, while Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is scheduled to hold a conclave of Defence Ministers from the Indian Ocean Littoral (IOR) state.

  • A Light Utility Helicopter (LUH), a weaponised Ad­vanced Light Helicopter (ALH) and a Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) would be on display inside the pavi­lion. All these helicopters have been designed and manufac­tured by Hindustan Aero­nautics Ltd. (HAL). The LUH for the Army, which had completed all the tests and also demonstrated its high-altitude capability in hot and high weather condi­tions last September, is likely to get the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) at Aero India.

  • In view of the pandemic, the 13th edition of the bien­nial Aero India will be held only on three business days from February 3. All precau­tions with respect to the CO­VID­-19 pandemic had been taken.


Daily snippets

1. Navalny detained in Moscow on arrival

  • Russia’s prison service said opposition leader Alexei Navalny was detained at a Moscow airport after returning from Germany on Sunday. The prison service said he was detained for multiple violations of parole and terms of a suspended prison sentence and would be held in custody until a court makes a decision in his case.

  • Mr. Navalny, who is President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent and determined foe, was returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from poisoning by Soviet­-era nerve agent Novichok, which he blames on the Kremlin. Russia’s prison service last week issued a warrant for his arrest, saying he had violated the terms of suspended sentence he received on a 2014 conviction for embezzlement. The prison service has asked a Moscow court to turn Mr. Navalny’s 3-1/2­year suspended sentence into a real one.

2. Iran denies claim it was making nuclear weapons

  • Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Sunday dismissed a claim by France that Tehran was in the process of building up its nuclear weapons, calling it “absurd nonsense”.

  • French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, in an interview said Iran was building up its nuclear weapons' capacity and it was urgent that Tehran and Washington return to a 2015 nuclear deal. “Dear colleague: You kick-started your cabinet career with arms sales to Saudi war criminals. Avoid absurd nonsense about Iran,” Mr. Zarif said in a Twitter post, in which he tagged Mr. LeDrian.

3. India ‘intervened’ on Jaffna varsity memorial issue

  • A message from India to the Sri Lankan leadership on the controversial demolition of a memorial for war victims at the Jaffna University appears to have contributed to authorities’ decision to “rebuild'' the structure on campus. A day after news of the late­night destruction of the monument broke, Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Gopal Baglay met Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.

  • It all began late evening on January 8, when Jaffna University authorities bulldozed a memorial erected two years ago, to commemorate the scores of civilians killed in the final phase of Sri Lanka’s civil war in Mullivaikkal, in 2009. The sudden, overnight removal of sculpture – of several hands held out of water – set off spontaneous student protests, and drew sharp criticism of the attempt to stifle Tamils’ right to remember their loved ones lost in war.

4. U.K. urges China to grant UN access to Xinjiang

  • Britain’s government on Sunday pressed China to allow UN rights inspectors to visit Xinjiang after raising new allegations of “appallinghuman rights abuses against the Uighur minority people.

  • Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab last week introduced import controls on firms that may have sourced goods from the region in northwest China using forced labour from the mainly Muslim Uighur community.

  • Mr. Raab’s government opposes efforts underway in Parliament to give U.K. courts the power to declare a genocide in Xinjiang, which would bar the government from proceeding with any free­trade agreement with China.


Analysis : Update debate

(i). Background

  • WhatsApp’s decision to delay the update of its privacy policy, following a backlash from its users, is an implicit acknowledgement of the increasing role played by perceptions about privacy in the continued well being of a popular service.

  • According to the new policy users would no longer be able to opt out of sharing data with Facebook. February 8 was kept as the deadline for the new terms to be accepted. The WhatsApp policy update has clearly spooked many users, who, concerned about their privacy getting compromised, have shifted to alternative platforms such as Signal and Telegram.

(ii). How WhatsApp reacted

  • An under fire WhatsApp, on its part, has tried to allay fears about privacy being compromised because of the updates. It has put out numerous messages and taken out advertisements to convey that the changes are “related to optional business features on WhatsApp, and provides further transparency about how we collect and use data”.

  • The change will ultimately be inevitable, given that WhatsApp, bought by Facebook for a whopping $19 billion and having subsequently given up plans to charge its users, would be betting on its handling of business interactions to make its big monies.

(iii). WhatsApp and GDPR lessons

  • It cannot force these changes on its users in Europe, for, Europe’s stringent General Data Protection Regulation, more popularly called GDPR, prevents such sharing between apps. India could do with such a law. All it has is a draft version of a law, and it has been so for a few years now. Privacy of a billion citizens is too important a thing to be left just to the practices of a commercial enterprise.


1. A Non Criminalising Crime : Marital Rape

2. Right to internet : Fundamental Right

3. Bridging the gap between dreams and reality

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


Weekend Page : January 16th – 17th, 2021



Daily snippets

1. Non Essential expenses of civic bodies may stop

  • The Delhi High Court hinted that it may stop all non essential, discretionary expenses of the three municipal corporations, including perks of councillors and senior officers, so that salaries and pensions of COVID-­19 front­line workers can be paid. The court said “paucity of funds cannot be an excuse for non-payment of salaries and pensions” as these are fundamental rights.

  • The Court was hearing several petitions claiming non-payment of salaries and pensions of serving and retired employees, including teachers, doctors and sanitation workers, of the three corporations.

2. Allahabad High Court on Private space

  • Allahabad High Court ruling that people marrying under the Special Marriage Act, 1954, can choose not to publicise their union with a notice 30 days in advance may not exactly be a judicial pushback against problematic anti conversion laws enacted by several states. According to the new order, if a couple gives it in writing that they do not want the notice publicised, the Marriage Officer can solemnise the marriage.

  • Justice Vivek Chaudhary said the Act’s interpretation has to be such that it upholds fundamental rights, not violate them. Laws should not invade liberty and privacy.

  • The HC ruling came on the plea of a Muslim woman who converted to Hinduism for marriage as the couple saw the notice period under the Special Marriage Act as an invasion of their privacy. The HC ruling can now be cited across India to prevent public notices under the Special Marriage Act. Inter­faith couples will hope that when the Supreme Court hears pleas on the U.P. conversion law, it will be guided by progressive verdicts.

3. NIA summons farm leader, TV journalist

  • The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has summoned around 40 persons to be examined as ‘witness’ in a fresh case registered against the Sikhs for Justice (SFJ). The summons were served to “ascertain details relating to the investigation”.

  • The notices have been issued under Section 160 Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), Police officer’s power to require attendance of witnesses in FIR no 40/2020 under various Sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

4. WhatsApp pushes policy rollout to May 15th

  • Following a severe backlash over the latest update to its privacy policy, Facebook-owned WhatsApp said it has pushed back the policy rollout by three months to May 15. The company said it will also do a lot more to clear up the misinformation around how privacy and security works on WhatsApp.

  • WhatsApp, it said, was built on a simple idea: what you share with your friends and family stays between you, while stressing that users’ personal conversations are end to end encrypted so that neither WhatsApp nor Facebook can see these private messages.


Daily snippets

1. World’s largest vaccination programme begins

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged off the first phase of the nationwide COVID­-19 vaccination drive. The world’s largest vaccination programme began at a total of 3,006 session sites across all the States and the Union Territories, which were connected virtually throughout the exercise. Healthcare workers, both in the government and private sectors, including Integrated Child Development Services workers, will receive the vaccine in the first phase.

2. Policy cloud delays Brazil vaccine flight

  • A special plane from Brazil to carry the first exports of Covishield, the India­made coronavirus vaccine, was delayed on Friday, amid confusion over clearance for the shipment. The flight, due to leave Brazil on Thursday and return on Saturday with two million doses of the vaccine, was put off, the Brazilian Ministry of Health announced, citing logistical and licensing issues.

3. Biden’s NEC pick sparks celebrations in Srinagar

  • The appointment on Thursday of Kashmiri­-origin Sameera Fazili as Deputy Director of the U.S. National Economic Council (NEC) by President-­elect Joe Biden sparked off celebrations among her extended family in Srinagar.

4. Nepal raises Kalapani boundary issue with India

  • Nepal has raised the Kalapani boundary dispute with India during the Joint Commission meeting, visiting Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali said. The Minister said that the Indo­-Nepal boundary dispute existed in “two segments'' and Kathmandu wished to find a solution to the matter urgently. Mr. Gyawali also took up Nepal’s requirement for vaccines to fight the COVID­-19 pandemic as Kathmandu has approved Serum Institute of India’s (SII) Covishield vaccine.

  • This is the first time that the Foreign Minister of Nepal has presented the dispute on the boundary front from the Indian capital since the issue erupted in November 2019 prompting Nepal to unveil a new political map that showed the Kalapani-­Lipulekh-­Limpiyadhura region of Pithoragarh district as part of the country’s sovereign territory.

  • The statement from Nepal said that both the teams “discussed the review of the Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1950”. It is understood that the review has been recommended by the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) constituted by Mr. Modi and Mr. Oli in 2016.


Daily snippets

1. Biden unveils $1.9 trillion relief package

  • President-­elect Joe Biden has unveiled a $1.9 trillion coronavirus plan to end “a crisis of deep human suffering” by speeding up vaccines and pumping out financial help to those struggling with the pandemic’s prolonged economic fallout.

  • Called the “American Rescue Plan,” the proposal would meet Mr. Biden’s goal of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration, and advance his objective of re-opening most schools by the spring. On a parallel track, it delivers another round of aid to stabilise the economy while the public health effort seeks the upper hand on the pandemic.

  • Mr. Biden proposed $1,400 cheques for most Americans, which on top of $600 provided in the most recent COVID­-19 Bill would bring the total to the $2,000 that Mr. Biden has called for. It would also extend a temporary boost in unemployment benefits and a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures through September. And it shoe horns in long term Democratic policy aims such as increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour, expanding paid leave for workers, and increasing tax credits for families with children.

2. Mounting pressure on China, U.S. blacklists Xiaomi, CNOOC

  • The U.S. government has blacklisted Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp. and China’s third largest national oil company for alleged military links, heaping pressure on Beijing in President Donald Trump’s last week in office.

  • The Department of Defense added nine companies to its list of Chinese firms with military links, including Xiaomi and state owned plane manufacturer Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China (Comac). Xiaomi Corp. overtook Apple Inc. as the world’s No. 3 smartphone maker by sales in the third quarter of 2020, according to data by Gartner.

  • The move comes after about 60 Chinese companies were added to the list in December, including drone maker DJI and semiconductor firm SMIC. CNOOC has been involved in offshore drilling in the disputed waters of the South China Sea, where Beijing has overlapping territorial claims with other countries including Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Taiwan, and Malaysia.

3. Unveiled document highlights Trump’s mixed China legacy

  • The newly declassified 2018 Strategic Framework for the Indo-­Pacific, made public by the Trump administration in its last week in office, underlines how prominently “strategic competition between the U.S. and China” set Washington’s regional policy over the past four years, and President Donald Trump’s mixed record in effectively addressing that challenge.

  • Among the objectives outlined in the document are promoting American values throughout the region to “counterbalance” values being promoted by China, deterring China from using force or threats against U.S. allies and partners, and building a credible economic response and advancing “U.S. global economic leadership” to counter China’s influence and its projects such as the Belt and Road Initiative.

  • The Trump administration certainly did achieve some of the outlined objectives, particularly in expanding security cooperation with India, Japan and Australia – or the “Quad”. However, its economic aspirations, as well as building a broader coalition to respond to China’s actions, remain, at best, work-­in-­progress.

  • The end of his term, meanwhile, saw the China-­backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement come into force in November last year. This includes Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand – four countries that the U.S. had hoped to align with to offer a robust economic regional response to China.

  • Relations with India emerge as one major positive. The framework describes as one of its “desired end states” the U.S. becoming India’s “preferred partner on security issues” – a trend that the past four years has certainly seen ­ as well as the two countries cooperating to counter Chinese influence in South and Southeast Asia – which, however, remains a work in progress.

4. Dutch govt. resigns over child welfare scandal

  • Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his entire Cabinet resigned to take political responsibility for a scandal involving investigations into child welfare payments that wrongly labelled thousands of parents as fraudsters. The move was seen as largely symbolic as the government will remain in office until a new coalition is formed after a March 17 election in the Netherlands.

5. Fiji wins presidency of UN rights body

  • The UN Human Rights Council elected Fiji’s Ambassador as its 2021 President in an unprecedented secret ballot after a diplomatic stand-off blocked the usual consensus decision. Fiji's Ambassador in Geneva, Nazhat Shameem Khan, who served as the council's Vice-President in 2020 and is considered a rights champion, won with 29 out of 47 votes.

6. After U.S., Russia pulls out of Open Skies treaty

  • Russia announced that it was pulling out of the Open Skies treaty, saying that the pact, which allows unarmed surveillance flights over member countries, had been seriously compromised by the withdrawal of the United States. The move, announced by Russia’s Foreign Ministry, comes days before U.S. President­elect Joe Biden’s January 20 inauguration amid fears of a burgeoning arms race.

  • Moscow’s last major nuclear arms pact with Washington is set to expire next month. The United States left the Open Skies arms control and verification treaty in November, accusing Russia of violating it, something Moscow denied.

  • Open Skies” treaty : The treaty allows 34 countries to conduct unarmed surveillance flights over one another’s territories. It was signed in 1992 and went into effect in 2002. The treaty was designed to enhance mutual understanding and confidence by giving all participants, regardless of size, a direct role in gathering information through aerial imaging on military forces and activities of concern to them.

7. Uganda’s Bobi Wine rejects election results, claims victory

  • Ugandan opposition leader Bobi Wine claimed victory in the presidential election, rejecting as a “complete sham” early results that gave President Yoweri Museveni a wide lead. Mr. Wine said he felt under threat as soldiers surrounded his home on Friday evening after he alleged that Thursday's election was rigged and said “every legal option is on the table” to challenge the official results, including protests. He referred to himself as the “President-­elect.”

8. Sri Lanka’s Tamil parties seek mechanism to probe ‘war crimes’

  • Sri Lanka’s main Tamil political parties have sought an international probe, including at the International Criminal Court (ICC), into allegations of human rights abuses during the civil war, deeming there is “no scope” for a domestic process that can “genuinely” deal with accountability.

  • UN Human Rights Council sessions in Geneva usually evoke sharp and opposing views within Sri Lanka, with much of the Tamil polity pinning hopes on the Council for war­time accountability, while the southern Sinhala polity and its core electorate vehemently oppose any international interference in its affairs.

  • In February last year, months after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was elected to office, Sri Lanka formally notified the Human Right Council that it was withdrawing from the 2019 UN resolution on post war accountability and reconciliation, scheduled to be taken up in the upcoming session.

  • Citing Sri Lanka’s unfulfilled commitments to promote accountability and reconciliation, the Tamil leaders urged that UN organs, including the UN Security Council and General Assembly, to take “suitable action by reference to the International Criminal Court and any other appropriate and effective international accountability mechanisms to inquire into the crime of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.” They also sought an international evidence gathering mechanism such as the one set up for Syria.

9. Five Hong Kong activists who fled the city seek asylum in the U.S.

  • Five Hong Kong democracy protesters who reportedly fled to Taiwan have arrived in the United States intending to seek asylum. Their escape follows the mass arrest of democracy figures in Hong Kong under a new national security law that is part of a mounting crackdown by China on the financial hub.

  • The Hong Kong Democracy Council (HKDC), a U.S.­ based group, said it had welcomed a group of young activists to America this week and their journey had been “arduous and perilous”.

  • After massive democracy protests across Hong Kong in 2019 in which more than 11,000 people were arrested, Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law late last June to silence dissent. In August, another group of 12 Hong Kong activists made an attempt to flee by speedboat to Taiwan but were arrested by Chinese coastguards. Last month, a Chinese court jailed 10 of these 12 fugitives for up to three years for “organising and participating in an illegal border crossing”.

10. Merkel ally wins race to lead her party

  • Armin Laschet, the new head of Germany’s conservative CDU party, is a sworn European and defender of multiculturalism who has promised to continue the centrist course of Chancellor Angela Merkel. The affable 59-year old was elected as head of the CDU on Saturday, beating corporate lawyer Friedrich Merz and foreign affairs expert Norbert Roettgen.

  • The CDU chairman traditionally leads the party and its CSU Bavarian sister party to the polls, meaning Mr. Laschet is in with a fighting chance of becoming Germany’s next Chancellor. He is a sworn Merkel loyalist who famously stuck by the Chancellor in 2015, when Germany left its borders open to hundreds of thousands of migrants from Syria and other hotspots.

11. Museveni wins 6th term, amid allegations of rigged election

  • Uganda’s Electoral Commission said that President Yoweri Museveni won a sixth five year term, extending his rule to four decades, while top opposition challenger Bobi Wine dismissed “cooked up, fraudulent results” and officials struggled to explain how polling results were compiled amid an Internet blackout.

  • In a generational clash watched across the African continent with a booming young population and a host of ageing leaders, the 38­ year old singer turned lawmaker Mr. Wine posed arguably Mr. Museveni's greatest challenge yet. The self described “ghetto president” had strong support in urban centers where frustration with unemployment and corruption is high. He has claimed victory.

  • The Electoral Commission said Mr. Museveni received 58% of ballots and Mr. Wine 34%, and voter turnout was 52%, in a process that the top U.S. diplomat to Africa called “fundamentally flawed.” The vote followed the East African country’s worst pre-election violence since the 76year old Mr. Museveni took office in 1986.

Opinions and Analysis

Opinion : Can courts stay laws made by the legislature?

(i). Background

  • The Supreme Court’s recent order staying the implementation of three farm laws, while appointing a four member committee to thrash out issues between agitating farmers and the Union government, has been criticised in some quarters. Many have questioned the suspension of action under the laws as such interim orders are extremely rare. The court did not accept the Attorney General’s argument that laws made by the legislature should not be ordinarily stayed, as there is a presumption of constitutionality in favour of the laws.

(ii). What the court opined

  • This court cannot be said to be completely powerless to grant stay of any executive action under a statutory enactment,” the Bench observed in its order. The Supreme Court observed that a stay on the farm laws’ implementation may assuage the hurt feelings of farmers and encourage them to come to the negotiating table.

(iii). On Judicial Review

  • Under the broad framework of judicial review under the Constitution, the Supreme Court and High Courts have the power to declare any law unconstitutional, either because it is ultra vires or it violates any of the fundamental rights, or invalid because it is repugnant to a central law on the same subject or has been enacted without legislative jurisdiction.

  • However, interim orders staying or suspending laws enacted by the legislature are frowned upon by constitutional courts and legal scholars. The main principle is that suspending a law made by the legislature goes against the concept of separation of powers. Courts are expected to defer to the legislature’s wisdom at the threshold of a legal challenge to the validity of a law. The validity of a law ought to be considered normally only at the time of final adjudication, and not at the initial stage. Case law suggests that in some cases, High Courts indeed stayed the operation of some laws. However, the Supreme Court took a dim view.

Analysis : U.S. & Section 230

(i). The story so far

  • In the U.S., Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) regulates online publication and liability. Specifically, the 1996 law states: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” Author and cybersecurity lawyer Jeff Kosseff describes the law as ‘the 26 words that created the internet’.

  • But the legislation has come in the crosshairs of both Republicans and Democrats. U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly called for it to be repealed, including days ago, when he was suspended, first temporarily and then indefinitely, by social media sites, including Twitter and Facebook. President­-elect Joe Biden has also called for the law’s repeal.

(ii). Why was the law passed?

  • The law grants Internet platforms immunity for almost all content posted by users – it is because of Section 230 of the CDA that Twitter is not normally liable for the content of tweets posted by its users, and Google is protected when a restaurant tries to sue it for a bad user review, for instance. The law was passed in the aftermath of two court cases against Internet service providers, and different courts had ruled differently on the extent of liability for content hosting, and the extent of this liability itself.

(iii). Where do Republicans and Democrats stand on the law?

  • Republicans oppose Section 230 because for long, they have accused social media giants of silencing or stifling conservative voices. Democrats oppose it because they want greater policing of the Internet to tackle extremism, abuse and misinformation.

(iv). How has the industry reacted to the opposition?

  • In general, the tech industry has said any changes to the law must consider the impact on First Amendment rights (free speech), business and innovation. In June 2019, the Internet Association, whose members include Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc., came out in support of Section 230.


Daily snippets

1. India's trade with China : Statistics

  • India’s trade with China de­clined last year to the lowest level since 2017, with the trade deficit narrowing to a five-­year low as the country imported far fewer goods from its northern neighbour. Bilateral trade slid 5.6% to $87.6 billion, according to new figures from China’s General Administration of Customs (GAC).

  • India’s im­ports from China shrank by 10.8% to $66.7 billion, mark­ing the lowest level of in­bound shipments since 2016. India’s exports to China, however, jumped 16%, cross­ing the $20 billion ­mark for the first time to a record high of $20.86 billion. The trade deficit, a source of friction in bilateral ties, shrank to $45.8 billion, the lowest level since 2015.

  • It is however, difficult to de­termine whether 2020 is an exception or marks a turn away from the recent pattern of India’s trade with China, especially since there is, as yet, no evidence to suggest India has replaced its import dependence on China by either sourcing those goods elsewhere or manufacturing them at home.

  • China was “the world’s only major economy to have re­gistered positive growth in foreign trade in goods,” said Li Kuiwen, spokesperson of the GAC, with China’s foreign trade and exports in the first 10 months of the year ac­counting for a record 12.8% and 14.2% share of the global totals, respectively. China posted sharp increases with most of its major trad­ing partners.

  • Despite the trade war with the U.S. and the pandemic, two-­way trade was up 8.3% to $586 billion, with China’s exports rising 7.9% to reach a record $451 billion. The trade surplus with the U.S. expand­ed to $317 billion in 2020, compared with the $288 bil­lion figure at the end of Presi­dent Donald Trump’s first year in office in 2017, under­ lining the limited impact of his tariff measures as he ends his presidency.

2. Forex reserves increase to $586 billion

  • Foreign exchange reserves rose by $758 million to reach a record high of $586.08 billion in the week ended January 8, RBI data showed. In the week ended January 1, the reserves had increased by $4.48 billion to $585.32 billion. Gold reserves rose $568 million to $37.59 billion in the reporting week.

3. US departments to pare purchases from China

  • U.S. President Donald Trump directed government departments to look at ways to minimise procurement of Chinese goods and services to reduce the risks from es­pionage. In a statement, National Security Advisor, Robert O’Brien accused Chi­na of targeting the informa­tion systems of the U.S. go­vernment for personnel records, military plans, and other data through cyber and other means. A key aim was to push back against Chinese attempts to infiltrate the U.S. IT networks.

4. Aiding fiscal sustainability : RBI Governor

  • Maintaining and improving the quality of expenditure would help address the ob­jectives of fiscal sustainabili­ty while supporting growth, RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das said. As per IMF’s calcula­tions, the total fiscal sup­port in response to CO­VID-­19 amounted to about 12% of global GDP by mid­ September 2020.

  • He said although the scale of fiscal spending was expected to breach the quantitative targets of fiscal prudence across most eco­nomies in the short run, it was crucial in the context of the pandemic from the per­spective of the welfare as­pect of public expenditure.

  • Expenditure on physical and social infrastructure in­cluding human capital, science and technology is not only welfare enhancing, it also paves the way for higher growth through their higher multiplier effect and enhancement of both capi­tal and labour productivity,” Mr. Das said. It be­comes imperative that fiscal road maps are defined not only in terms of quantitative parameters like fiscal ba­lance to GDP ratio or debt to GDP ratio, but also in terms of measurable parameters relating to quality of expen­diture, both for the Centre and States. He also said that the prin­cipal objective of the Re­serve Bank of India (RBI) during the pandemic was to support economic activity. “Looking back, it is evi­dent that our policies have helped in easing the severity of the economic impact of the pandemic,” he said.


Daily snippets

1. Gujarat rivers remain highly polluted

  • The unchecked flow of un­treated industrial effluent into rivers in Gujarat has led to increasing pollution in the Sabarmati, Mahisagar, Nar­mada, Vishwamitri and Bha­dar. According to data from the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF), the Sa­barmati is among the most polluted rivers in the coun­try. Gujarat ranks fourth among the top five States with highly polluted rivers, with as many as 20 rivers in the critically polluted category.

  • Both treated and untreated effluent is re­leased into the estuary of the Mahisagar and Gulf of Cam­bay, flouting the guidelines of the Central Pollution Con­trol Board (CPCB). As per the official parame­ters, if the chemical oxygen demand (COD), which indicates organic pollutant load, is higher than 250 mg per litre, then it should not be released into the rivers. ­Most of the Gujarat rivers where the effluents are dumped into, the COD level is in the range of 700 to 1000 mg per litre. While Dissolved Oxygen (DO) level [indicat­ing the health of a river] in perennial rivers like Mahis­gar should be in the range of 6 to 8mg per litre, it is ac­tually below 2.9 mg per litre. The State govern­ment has now proposed a ₹2,300 crore project for a deep sea effluent disposal pipeline to cater to nearly 4,500 industrial units.

2. Migratory birds flock to Punjab wetland

  • Winter migratory water birds using the central Asian flyway have started making a beeline to Punjab’s Harike wetland. Birds such as the Eura­sian coot, greylag goose, bar­headed goose, gadwall and the northern shoveler are the prominent ones that could be sighted at Harike. Among other species, com­mon pochard, spot­billed duck, little cormorant, pied avocet, great cormorant, ferruginous pochard and common teal have been spotted. On an average, the num­ber has been anywhere bet­ween 92,000 and 94,000 over the years. The average number has been stable.

On the vaccination drive

1. Scientists divided over Covaxin nod

  • Scientists and doctors are di­vided on the issue of res­tricted use approval granted to Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, a COVID­-19 vaccine, even as India prepares to vaccinate three crore people. On Thursday, the health Mi­nistry released a statement by four dozen scientists and doctors to “collectively as­sure” the safety of the vaccines. Scientists on the other side say, “It is im­perative that relevant data from the larger Phase-­III trial become available before administering the vac­cine to large numbers of pe­ople.” They also add: “A greater degree of transpa­rency prior to the start of the vaccination programme is essential. This is especially true for Covaxin, for which Phase-­III safety and efficacy data are not yet available.

  • Dr. Sunil Kumar Arora from the Department of Im­munopathology at PGIMER Chandigarh, said that even robust immuno­genicity data from Phase-­II cannot be used as a substi­tute for efficacy data from Phase-­III trials.

  • To talk of the need for sa­fety in a vaccination program where many hundreds of millions of healthy people will be vaccinated is not about “vested interests”, “defamation” and “irres­ponsible statements”, says Dr. Gautam Menon, Professor of Physics and biology at the Ashoka University. By not waiting for efficacy data from Phase-­III trials, the Indian regulator has bypassed the approval process even for restricted use, says Dr. Aniket Sule from Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR).

2. DCGI nod for Phase 3 trial of Sputnik V

  • Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories has received the approval of the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) to conduct Phase-­III clinical trial for Russia’s COVID-­19 vaccine candidate, Sputnik V, in the country. The Phase-­III trial will be conducted on 1,500 subjects as part of the ran­domised, double blind, pa­rallel group, placebo controlled study in India, said the firm.

  • Dr. Reddy’s and Russian Direct Investment Fund had announced a partnership in September on clini­cal trials for Sputnik V and its distribution rights in India.

3. Pregnancy and vaccine

  • Pregnant and lactating wo­men have not been a part of any COVID­-19 vaccine clini­cal trial so far and should not receive the COVID­-19 vaccine at this time, cau­tioned the Health Ministry in its note on precautions and contraindications for the vaccines.

  • In the recent COVID scenario in India, India is reporting one new death per million popu­lation in the last seven days, with a case fatality rate of 1.44%. Deaths per million population in India are among the lowest in the world, said the Ministry.

4. Consent form mandatory for Covaxin shot

  • Those receiving Covaxin have been asked to sign a consent form before being vaccinated as the vaccine “has been allowed by the government in clinical trial mode”. The form adds that compensation for serious adverse events will be paid by the company if it is pro­ven to be causally related to the vaccine.

  • The clinical efficacy of Covaxin is yet to be esta­blished and it is still being studied in phase 3 clinical trials. Hence, it is important to appreciate that receiving the vaccine does not mean that other precautions re­lated to COVID­-19 need not be followed. The Central Li­censing Authority has granted permission for Co­vaxin for restricted use in emergency situations in pu­blic interest... in clinical trial mode,” the form says.

  • The recipients will be handed over a fact sheet and a form to report adverse effects, in which they have to note down symptoms like fever, pain within seven days. Currently beneficiaries don’t have a choice of vac­cine and several Central go­vernment hospitals in Delhi – AIIMS, Safdarjung, Ram Manohar Lohia hospital, Ka­lawati Saran Children Hospi­tal – administered Covaxin to its staff under the first round of vaccination.


Daily snippets

1. McNeal suspended for doping violation

  • Olympic 100m hurdles champion Brianna McNeal has been provisionally suspended for doping violations, the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) announced. The 29-year-old American, who claimed Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and also won World gold in Moscow in 2013, was charged with “tampering” with part of a doping control, AIU said. She faces the prospect of missing the rescheduled Tokyo Games later this year.

2. Thailand Open : India's campaign comes to an end

  • Former World No. 1 Saina Nehwal was knocked out of the Yonex Thailand Open Super 1000 event. In men's singles, another former World No. 1 K. Sri­kanth conceded a walkover to his eighth seeded Malay­sian opponent Lee Zii Jia af­ter pulling his right calf muscle.

  • The Indian men's doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Ranki­reddy and Chirag Shetty al­so bowed out of the compe­tition after a 21-­19, 21-­17 defeat to the second seeded Indonesian combination of Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan. Later in the day, Satwik and his mixed doubles partner Ashwini Ponnappa went down 21­-12, 21­-17 to the Hong Kong pairing of Chang Tak Ching and Ng Wing Yung.


1. Homemaker's contribution

2. Profile : Nani Palkhivala

3. Delhi High Court on RTI

4. The ongoing struggle for Women's Freedoms

There was no newspage for 15th January, 2021

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


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