Weekly Page : April 13th – April 20th, 2021
The week that went by!
Hope you are holding up well and taking all the precautions
LAW, POLICY & GOVERNANCE
1. Gyanvapi Masjid: HC moved against lower court’s order
The managing committee of the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi and the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board have moved the Allahabad High Court to restrain the proceedings of a local court which recently directed the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to conduct a physical survey of the mosque compound adjacent to the Kashi Vishwanath temple.
The two bodies filed applications in the High Court in the petition in which they had challenged the maintainability of a civil suit pending before the Varanasi district court regarding the title dispute in the case.
2. Delhi HC rejects plea to relax age criterion for vaccine
- The Delhi High Court rejected a plea seeking direction to the Centre and the city government to relax the age criterion for COVID-19 vaccination and to allow more private sector participation in the drive. An HC Bench said the plea appeared to be filed for publicity rather than doing any good to the society.
3. SC calls for details on migrant children’s welfare
The Supreme Court ordered the State governments to provide information on – the number of migrant children in their respective territories; steps taken for their welfare amid a surge in the pandemic, and benefits given to them.
A Bench of Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde and Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian directed the States to file their responses. The order came in a petition filed by the Child Rights Trust, represented by senior advocate Jayna Kothari.
4. State obliged to facilitate access to education, says Supreme Court
Access to professional education is not government largesse, the Supreme Court said in a judgment. Bench orders admission to two students in medical colleges. The students moved the top court for justice, saying their fundamental right to education was at the whims and fancies of the government authorities.
The court said the State has an “affirmative obligation to facilitate access to education at all levels”. The court referred to the vision envisaged by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
5. FASTag does not violate right to free movement: Centre
- The Union government has told the Bombay High Court that making FASTag mandatory for all vehicles plying on national highways does not breach a citizen's fundamental right to freedom of movement in any way. The Centre went on to say that the double user fees or penalties imposed on vehicles without FASTag on national highways were in accordance with the National Highway Fee (determination of rates and collection) Rules, 2008.
6. Shoma Sen files plea in HC to quash sanction to prosecute under UAPA
- Shoma Sen, an accused in the Bhima-Koregaon case, has filed a plea in the Bombay High Court to quash the sanction to prosecute her under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). Ms. Sen’s petition also seeks her release on bail as the prosecution’s case is based on fraudulent evidence, which was allegedly fabricated and planted to implicate her.
7. ISRO case: SC asks CBI to look into panel report
The Supreme Court ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to look into Justice D.K. Jain Committee report on senior Kerala police officials who allegedly framed space scientist Nambi Narayanan in the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) espionage case of 1994.
A Bench, led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar said the report concerned a “serious matter” warranting a CBI probe. The Supreme Court barred the public circulation of the contents of the report. The Supreme Court copy would be placed in a sealed cover.
8. Centre to push judges’ appointments
The Union government offered to decide in three months the Supreme Court Collegium recommendations for appointment of judges in the High Courts pending with it for over half a year.
Appearing before a Special Bench of Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde and Justices S.K. Kaul and Surya Kant, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal made a statement that the High Courts continued to have 220 vacancies because their collegiums had not forwarded any names. Mr. Venugopal said those collegiums should be put on a clock to forward their recommendations.
9. Shun vaccine nationalism, say scientists
- The All India People’s Science Network (AIPSN), in a statement issued on handling the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in India, said vaccine nationalism was a “wholly misconceived” idea and it must be given up. AIPSN says export restrictions undo the goodwill earned by India’ earlier.
10. Girls face more pressure during pandemic: study
Twenty-five girls from seven cities set out to interview their peers to record the impact of COVID-19 on their lives and found that adolescent girls were grappling with an increased pressure to get married, spent longer hours on household chores, lacked tools to continue school education online, and reported an increase in gender based violence.
On concluding the field research, seven girl leaders finalised a list of priority recommendations which include establishing girl-friendly spaces within the community such as skills training centres and violence free spaces.
11. NIA declares ₹7 lakh bounty on Hidma
- The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has declared a reward of ₹7 lakh for the arrest of Madvi Hidma, who heads the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) Battalion 1 of the Maoists, a lethally armed and trained unit of the banned group active in southern Chhattisgarh, one of the worst areas affected by Left Wing Extremism.
12. Request for withdrawal of advisory on J&K reporting
- The Editors Guild of India (EGI) called for the Kashmir police to withdraw its advisory against live reporting of encounters. The EGI said the security forces were trying to escape scrutiny about the events behind instances of violence. It said the Kashmir police advisory was draconian and undemocratic.
13. Regulate groundwater use in cricket fields
- Following a plea seeking remedial action against the use of groundwater for the maintenance of cricket fields, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Jal Shakti Ministry to consider regulating extraction of groundwater for the purpose. The NGT has asked the ministry to act with a sense of responsibility to reduce environmental footprint. The directions came on a plea moved by petitioner Haider Ali seeking action against the use of groundwater for maintaining cricket fields.
14. Copyright war
On April 5, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favour of Alphabet Inc.’s Google in a case where it was accused by Oracle of violating the country’s copyright law. The case, dubbed “the copyright case of the century”, began with Oracle’s charge in the San Francisco federal district court in 2010 that Google’s Android platform infringed upon its copyright in a platform called Java SE.
In the process of finally being decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 62 verdict, this case made its journey through a federal district court and an appellate court twice. The Supreme Court said Google’s copying was transformative, as it “copied only what was needed to allow programmers to work in a different computing environment” (which is Android) using a familiar programming language ( Java).
There is a view that the software industry is relieved that the Supreme Court differentiated between the type of code Google copied, i.e., software interface, and other creative codes.
15. The battles of a space dreamer
When S. Nambi Narayanan, a senior ISRO scientist, was arrested on November 30, 1994, on charges of leaking secrets pertaining to the Indian space programme to foreign nationals, little did anyone think it would one day be looked upon as the starting point of one of the most extraordinary battles for justice the country has witnessed.
When the landmark verdict of the Supreme Court came out in 2018, Mr. Narayanan had told the media that he planned to do something that he had been forced to put off for almost 25 years – spending time with his family. While commenting on the latest SC decision, Mr. Narayanan says he has succeeded in fulfilling that dream in the past several months.
16. Explain basis for approving policies, Delhi HC asks insurance body
The Delhi High Court has asked the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) to explain on what basis it was approving insurance policies that excluded mental conditions from full coverage, noting that “a large number of insured persons would be affected by such an insurance policy”.
Justice Prathiba M. Singh said that a perusal of the Mental Healthcare Act of 2017, makes its clear that “there can be no discrimination between mental illnesses and physical illnesses and the insurance provided in respect thereof”.
17. Those dealing in narcotics key in causing deaths: SC
Persons dealing in narcotic drugs are instruments in causing the deaths of innocent and vulnerable victims, the Supreme Court said, adding that merely because an accused is poor is not reason enough to give him a lesser punishment.
A Bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and M.R. Shah said while awarding a sentence under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, the interest of the society had to be taken into consideration.
NATIONAL NEWS/ INTERVENTIONS
1. WhatsApp: CCI defends nod for probe
2. Nagaland’s version of NRC triggers concern
- An apex body of Naga tribes has asked the Nagaland government not to be hasty with the exercise to prepare the Register of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland (RIIN), seen as a variant of Assam’s National Register of Citizens. The Nagaland government has reportedly been trying to revive the RIIN exercise that was launched in July 2019 with the stated objective of preventing outsiders from obtaining fake indigenous certificates for seeking jobs and benefits of government schemes.
3. Sushil Chandra takes over as CEC
- Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra took over the post of Chief Election Commissioner, after outgoing CEC Sunil Arora demitted office on Monday. Mr. Chandra has been an Election Commissioner since February 15, 2019 and a member of the Delimitation Commission for delimitation of Jammu and Kashmir since February 18, 2020, the ECI said in a statement. As an Indian Revenue Service officer, Mr. Chandra held several posts in the Income Tax department for nearly 39 years, according to the ECI.
4. Delhi govt. will seek priority vaccination for journalists
- Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the Delhi government would write to the Centre seeking priority COVID-19 vaccination for journalists. The Federation of All India Medical Association (FAIMA), a group of doctors from leading government hospitals from across the country, also wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting that journalists from both television and print media be vaccinated given their frontline worker status.
5. India, Russia committed to S400 deal: envoy
India and Russia are “committed” to completing their contract for the S400 missile system, due to be delivered to India at the end of the year, Russian Ambassador to India Nikolai Kudashev confirmed on Wednesday. He said both countries opposed U.S. sanctions on the issue.
The public comments made by both Mr. Kudashev and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, however, made it clear that there are deep differences over America’s Indo-Pacific strategy. The S-400 contract is on track for a delivery of the systems in November, despite America’s repeated threat that the $2.5 billion deal could attract sanctions under its CAATSA law. Washington has already sanctioned China over its purchase of the S400, and on April 7, sanctions against Turkish defence institutions and certain officials also went into effect over a similar purchase.
Last month, U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said he had spoken to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh about the deal, adding that sanctions would be determined once the systems were delivered.
6. ‘Quad navies enjoy high degree of interoperability’
The Quad navies of India, the U.S., Japan and Australia “already” enjoy a “high degree of interoperability” and have the capability and capacity to come together in an “almost plug and play mechanism” if the opportunity arises, Navy chief Admiral Karambir Singh said. He stated that it would not be surprising to see a Chinese naval expansion in the Indian Ocean region.
The Chinese Navy has seen massive expansion in recent years, with rapid addition of frontline warships. It has two aircraft carriers and a more capable one is under construction. In 2017, China opened its first overseas base at Djibouti in the Horn of Africa.
7. India, Australia must stand together: Morrison
India and Australia should stand together for democratic freedoms amid “a great polarisation” in the region between authoritarian countries and liberal democracies, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
Addressing the annual Raisina Dialogue from Perth, organised virtually this year by the Observer Research Foundation and the Ministry of External Affairs, the Australian Prime Minister described the recently held first ever Quad leaders’ summit, as a “historic” moment for “like minded” countries in the region.
8. ‘China tried to change status quo’
China tried to change the status quo in Eastern Ladakh by the use of disruptive technologies without using force, and thought that India as a nation would “succumb” to the pressure due to its technological advantage, the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Bipin Rawat, said. “We stood firm on the northern borders and proved that we will not get pushed,” he said.
Japan’s Chief of General Staff General Yamazaki said China was attempting to unilaterally change the international order. He added that it was necessary to cooperate with other countries to counter such “grey zone tactics”. General Angus Campbell, Chief of the Defence Force, Australia, said grey zone tactics were a way to nibble away at territory.
9. Crossword community loses a giant
The crossword community has lost one of its giants. C.G. Rishikesh. He passed away in Chennai on Wednesday after a brief illness. He was 78.
A veteran setter of cryptic crosswords, with over a thousand published puzzles to his credit, ‘Gridman’ was more fondly known as Chaturvasi sir – or simply as “Rishi” – among countless friends, cruciverbalists and protégés in crossword forums and websites across the world. He was “the face of Indian crosswords in the international community”, being the first Indian setter to gain visibility in several global crossword groups.
10. Centre plans to import medical oxygen
Stating that there has been increasing demand for medical oxygen, especially from 12 States – Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan – with a high burden of active COVID19 cases, the Centre said it would be mapping the oxygen sources of these States.
The Union Health Ministry said that in view of the increasing demand for medical oxygen, the import of 50,000 tonnes of medical oxygen was also being looked into.
11. ‘Lift ban on export of vaccine raw material
- Adar Poonawalla, chief executive officer, Serum Institute of India (SII), made an appeal to the U.S. President Joe Biden seeking lifting of the embargo on U.S. export of raw materials, which, he said, was affecting its production of COVID-19 vaccine. The appeal comes when the World Health Organization (WHO) urged countries in the southeast Asian region to apply all tools to prevent further infections and save lives.
12. Bat with sticky discs found in Meghalaya
- Meghalaya has yielded India’s first bamboo dwelling bat with sticky discs, taking the species count of the flying mammal in the country to 130. The disc footed bat (Eudiscopus denticulus) was recorded in the northeastern State’s Lailad area near the Nongkhyllem Wildlife Sanctuary, about 1,000 km west of its nearest known habitat in Myanmar
13. Amid high demand, Railways to run ‘Oxygen Express’ trains
The Railways will run ‘Oxygen Express’ trains over the next few days to transport liquid medical oxygen and oxygen cylinders across the country, the national transporter said. Amid spiralling coronavirus cases in the country, the demand for medical oxygen in the country has gone through the roof. Empty tankers will begin their journey from the Kalamboli and Boisar railway stations in and near Mumbai on Monday to load liquid medical oxygen from Visakhapatnam, Jamshedpur, Rourkela and Bokaro, officials said.
The Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra governments had earlier approached the Ministry of Railways to explore whether liquid medical oxygen tanks could be moved by the rail network, they said. On the receipt of the request from the two States, the Railways immediately explored the technical feasibility of transportation of liquid medical oxygen. It has to be transported through rollon-rolloff service with road tankers placed on flat wagons.
14. Vande Bharat becomes one of top civilian evacuations
The Vande Bharat Mission (VBM), which started repatriating Indians stranded abroad due to COVID-19 and the resultant lockdowns since May 7 last, has turned out to be one of the largest evacuations of civilians by a country. In the middle of Phase 10, the VBM surpassed the large scale airlift of 1,10,000 people in 1990 at the onset of the Gulf War.
Till now, the Air India (AI) Group has operated 11,523 inbound flights to carry 18,19,734 passengers and 11,528 outbound flights with 13,68,457 passengers. The national carrier, which carried out the bulk of air transfers under the mission, was supported by its budget carrier Air India Express
15. EU Council approves conclusions on Indo-Pacific strategy
The Council of the European Union approved conclusions on a European Union strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific to “reinforce its strategic focus, presence and actions” with the aim to contribute to “regional stability, security, prosperity and sustainable development,” at a time of “rising challenges and tensions in the region.”
The renewed EU commitment to the Indo-Pacific will have a long term focus and will be based on “upholding democracy, human rights, the rule of law and respect for international law,” it stated. The EU will aim to promote effective rules based multilateralism, it said, reiterating its support for ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations) centrality, a point also stressed by India.
16. Vaccines for all above 18 from May 1st
Amidst a virulent second wave of COVID-19 in India, the Centre allowed vaccination against the infection for all persons above the age of 18 from May 1. However, questions remain on whether enough stocks of vaccines will be available to cater to the accelerated demand. Earlier, the government’s plan was to inoculate 30 crore, or about a third of the adult population, by August.
The Phase 3 of the National Vaccine Strategy will enable vaccine manufacturers to sell half their vaccines to the State governments and the open market. The rest will mandatorily be sold to the Centre. Before May 1, manufacturers will have to make an advance declaration of the price for the 50% of the stock to be supplied to the States and the open market. Private hospitals will have to procure their supplies exclusively from the 50% supplied to the States and the open market.
Serum Institute of India is supposed to have supplied 100 million doses of Covishield every month from May but has said it would not be able to do so before July. Bharat Biotech, manufacturer of Covaxin, whose current capacity is around 20 crore doses annually, is supplying around 1 crore vaccines a month. Sputnik V, the Russian vaccine, has been approved and is set to begin supply by May.
17. Second wave is not more lethal, says ICMR
There is no diﬀerence in mortality among COVID-19 patients in the ﬁrst and second waves, said leading doctors in charge of the national COVID-19 management strategy. A “marginally higher” proportion of patients younger than 20 were present in the second wave (5.8%) compared with the ﬁrst (4.2%). In the ﬁrst wave, 25.5% of the patients were between the ages of 20 and 40, compared with 23.7% in the on going second wave.
Director-general of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Balram Bhargava said 47% of the symptomatic patients presented “shortness of breath” in the second wave (March April 2021), compared with 41% in the ﬁrst (September-November 2020). However, A key caveat to the data was that for the ﬁrst wave, 6,642 patients were analysed, while in the second wave, only 1,405 were analysed.
V.K. Paul, who chairs the empowered group on vaccinations and COVID-19 management (NEGVAC), said there was no diﬀerence in mortality, in the ﬁrst and second wave, in those 40 and under.
On drug protocol for treatment, AIIMS director Randeep Guleria stressed that none of the antiviral drugs – Remdesivir, Fapiravir – as well as convalescent plasma had any established beneﬁt in curing the disease.
18. Adults and defenses against cybercrimes
About 52% of adults admit that they do not know how to protect themselves from cybercrime, according to a survey conducted by online security solutions provider NortonLifeLock. The report also said 59% of the adults in India had become victims of cybercrime in the past 12 months.
The ‘2021 Norton Cyber Safety Insights Report,’ based on the research conducted online by The Harris Poll among 10,030 adults in 10 countries, including 1,000 adults in India, also found that cybercrime victims collectively spent 1.3 billion hours trying to resolve these issues.
As per the research 7 in 10 Indian adults (70%) believe that remote work has made it much easier for hackers and cybercriminals to take advantage of people.
19. Centre to fast track approvals of more vaccines
In a major shift in vaccine approval policy, the government has decided to fast track approvals for COVID-19 vaccines that have been developed outside India and have been granted the emergency use authorisation (EUA) by other drug regulatory agencies. The decision was taken based on the recommendation made by the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC). So far, clinical trials conducted in India were needed before the Indian regulator could approve the vaccine.
The vaccines that would be eligible for the fast-track approval will include those that have been granted an EUA by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), European Medicines Agency (EMA), the U.K. Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency (PMDA) of Japan, or those that have been pre-qualiﬁed by the WHO for emergency use.
It is unclear at this point if the vaccines developed, tested and approved outside India will be made available through the government at a subsidised rate or will vaccine manufacturers be able to import them and sell them in the private market.
20. Forecast of a healthy monsoon
Skymet Weather, a private weather forecast company, said that the monsoon was likely to be 103% of the long period average (LPA) this year. The LPA refers to the average all-India monsoon rainfall of 88 cm, which is a 50-year mean. The monsoon in 2019 and 2020 was only the third time in a century of back-to-back years of above normal rainfall. The monsoon is also expected to be fairly well distributed, with even September (the month in which the season starts to recede) expected to post 10% more rainfall than normal.
In terms of geographical risk, Skymet expects that the plains of North India, along with a few parts of northeast India, to be at risk of being rain deﬁcient through the season. Also, interior parts of Karnataka face scare or scanty rain in the core monsoon months of July and August, the forecast said.
21. Maharashtra and oxygen management
- Maharashtra has laid down a set of rules for rational usage which include stopping of high ﬂow nasal oxygen (HFNO) machines until further notice as the HFNO machines consumed a very large quantity of oxygen, sometimes up to 80 litres per minute. The state task force recommended that those patients who may need HFNO should be managed on non invasive ventilation (NIV).
22. Kumbh and COVID
Throwing caution to the wind amid rising cases of COVID-19, lakhs of people congregated on the ghats in Haridwar to take a dip in the Ganga during the third shahi snan of the Kumbh mela. Over 13.5 lakh people, including sadhus from 13 akhadas, had bathed in the Ganga up to a little before sunset. No masks were worn by a large proportion of them.
The ‘royal bath’ marked Mesh Sankranti and Baisakhi, and fell two days after a similar convergence of seers and other devotees for the second shahi snan – mammoth events where following social distancing norms appears almost impossible.
23. National Task Force to combat air pollution
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has constituted an eight member National Task Force to combat air pollution and monitor remedial steps to improve air quality. A Bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel observed that a holistic and coordinated effort at all levels in the government was required. Accountability in terms of adverse entries in the annual conﬁdential reports and recovery of compensation for noncompliance were imperative for ﬁxing accountability, the Bench said.
India has the world’s highest death rate from chronic respiratory diseases. The NTF may also monitor enforcement of laid down air quality standards beyond nonattainment cities in other identiﬁed air polluted areas where air quality is poor and above.
24. Last two rhinos translocated under IRV 2020
The ambitious Indian Rhino Vision 2020 (IRV 2020) came to a close with the release of two rhinos in Assam’s Manas National Park transported from Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary. Designed in 2005, the IRV2020 is believed to have achieved its target of attaining a population of 3,000 rhinos in Assam.
The ears of the translocated rhinos are notched according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Species Survival Commission and Asian Rhino Specialist Group’s guidelines for identiﬁcation and monitoring.
Assam had at least ﬁve rhino bearing areas till the 1980s. Better conservation eﬀorts helped maintain the population of the one horned herbivore in Kaziranga, Orang and Pobitora, but encroachment and poaching wiped the animal out of Manas and Laokhowa Wildlife Sanctuary. The translocated rhinos helped Manas National Park get back its World Heritage Site status in 2011 which was taken away by UNESCO in 1995.
25. Panel to list indigenous inhabitants in Nagaland
The Nagaland government has decided to form a joint consultative committee ( JCC) involving all traditional tribal bodies and civil society organisations for taking an exercise to register the State’s indigenous inhabitants. The decision was taken on the issue of preparing the Register of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland (RIIN).
In July 2019, the Nagaland government launched the RIIN, seen as a variant of Assam’s National Register of Citizens. The exercise was put on hold after some civil society and extremist groups opposed its stated objective of preventing outsiders from obtaining fake indigenous certiﬁcates for seeking jobs and beneﬁts of government schemes. December 1, 1963 – the day Nagaland attained Statehood – was the cutoﬀ date for determining the “permanent residents” of the State.
26. The Great Indian Bustard
The GIB, which is the State bird of Rajasthan, is considered India’s most critically endangered bird. It’s habitat is in Rajasthan's Desert National Park (DNP), where the GIB’s last remnant wild population is found. The DNP, situated near the towns of Jaisalmer and Barmer, forms a part of the mighty Thar desert. The GIB’s population of fewer than 100 in Rajasthan accounts for 95% of its total world population.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), a global authority on species survival, which categorised the GIBs as “endangered” in 1994, was forced to upgrade the species to the status of “critically endangered” in 2011 because of continued threats faced in the survival of these large birds. As Rajasthan shares the international border with Pakistan’s Sindh and Punjab provinces, it is suspected that GIBs ﬂy across to Pakistan’s desert and become easy prey for poachers there.
27. UK nod for extradition of Nirav Modi
The U.K.’s Home Department has approved the extradition of diamond merchant Nirav Modi to India in connection with the ₹13,758 crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud. The accused now has the legal recourse of approaching the U.K. High Court within 14 days to seek permission for moving an appeal against the Secretary of State’s decision. Unless there is an appeal, a requested person must be extradited within 28 days of the Secretary of State’s decision to order extradition.
The first case against Mr. Nirav Modi was registered by the CBI on January 31, 2018, alleging that they cheated the PNB of about ₹6,498 crore by getting Letters of Undertaking (LoUs) issued fraudulently to overseas banks for securing buyer’s credit in favour of his three ﬁrms. Based on the CBI case, the ED also carried out a money laundering probe and attached assets worth hundreds of crores in India and abroad.
28. IMD forecasts a normal monsoon
India is likely to receive “normal” monsoon rainfall this year, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has said as part of its oﬃcial April forecast. Except for parts of eastern and north eastern India, many parts of the country are expected to get “above normal” rainfall, the IMD’s models show. “Normal” rainfall refers to a range – 96%-104% of the Long Period Average (LPA) of 88 cm.
In 2019, the IMD forecast 96% LPA in April, but India ended up with record excessive rainfall of 110%. In 2020, it said 100% LPA, but India wound up with 109%. In 2019, the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) – deﬁned as a swing in temperatures in the western and eastern sections of the Indian Ocean, where a positive phase usually corresponds to good rains over India – contributed to the excess rains. Last year it was La Nina – the converse of an El Nino and associated with a cooling of the equatorial central Paciﬁc – again a feature correlated with heavy India rains.
Though the IMD now issues short-term and extended range forecasts — that is, an estimate of rainfall in time frames of three days to 15 days — for the first time this year, it will begin giving monthly forecasts for all months. The IMD also said it was developing a separate forecast for the Monsoon Core Zone (MCZ), which represents most of the rainfed agriculture region in the country. “
For an adequate monsoon, it is important for a temperature gradient to be present between the ocean and the land. In recent years, however, the Indian Ocean has been warming faster than the land surface, reducing this temperature diﬀerential and affecting the monsoonal ﬂow.
29. Aditya-L1 and ARIES
- The Indian programme to study the Sun and the region between the Sun and the Earth from space – Aditya L1 – is due to be launched next year. Once the mission is launched, there will be a need for a ground support centre to monitor and coordinate the work on its various payloads. This role will be played by the ARIES facility (short for Aryabhata Research Institute for observational Sciences) which is situated near Nainital. This centre will expand the visibility of AdityaL1 beyond India at the international level. Also, it will expand its reach within India. It will allow every interested individual to be able to perform scientiﬁc analysis of the data.
INTERNATIONAL NEWS/EVENTS/ PERSONALITIES
1. U.S. to withdraw troops from Afghanistan
The U.S. will begin its drawdown of troops in Afghanistan before May 1 and complete the process before September 11. There are between 2,500 and 3,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan at present. Meanwhile, diplomatic efforts to arrive at an intra-Afghan settlement are underway. Istanbul will host talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government between April 24 and May 4, joined by Qatar and the United Nations.
The U.S. , via Secretary of State Antony Blinken, had proposed a peace plan that included an interim government – a plan that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has resisted, backing elections instead. India has said it would back a negotiated peace settlement via a regional process convened by the UN. The U.S. would continue its push for a diplomatic solution, saying the administration had “long known” that there was no “military solution” to Afghanistan’s problems.
2. WHO urges halt on sale of live wild mammals in markets
The World Health Organization called for a halt to the sale of live wild mammals in food markets to prevent the emergence of new diseases such as COVID-19. The WHO said because traditional markets play a central role in providing food and livelihoods for large populations, banning the sale of live wild mammals could protect the health of market workers and customers alike.
The call came in fresh guidance drawn up by the WHO in conjunction with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The agencies recalled that some of the earliest known cases of COVID-19 had links to a wholesale food market in Wuhan, with many of the initial patients being stall owners.
3. Hong Kong to amend poll laws in ‘favour’ of pro-Beijing camp
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam announced amendments to voting laws that critics say favour pro-Beijing candidates by redrawing constituency boundaries, creating more electoral districts, and criminalising calls for voters to leave ballots blank.
Legislative Council, known as LegCo, elections are set for December 19, while the Chief Executive elections are set for March 27, 2022. The proposals will be discussed on Wednesday in the Council. Critics fear voters would feel robbed of a choice if candidates are vetted for their loyalty to Beijing, while most opposition figures are either in jail or in exile.
4. Egypt presses for $900 million compensation, seizes megaship
The megaship which blocked Egypt’s Suez Canal and crippled world trade for nearly a week has been “seized” on court orders until the vessel’s owners pay $900 million, canal authorities said. The 2,00,000 tonne MV Ever Given got diagonally stuck in the narrow but crucial global trade artery in a sandstorm on March 23, triggering a mammoth six day-long effort by Egyptian personnel and international salvage specialists to dislodge it.
Maritime data company Lloyd’s List said the blockage by the vessel, longer than four football fields, held up an estimated $9.6 billion worth of cargo between Asia and Europe each day it was stuck. Egypt also lost between $12 and $15 million in revenues for each day the waterway was closed, according to the canal authority.
The MV Ever Given was seized due to its failure to pay $900 million compensation, Suez Canal Authority (SCA) chief Osama Rabie was quoted as saying by Al-Ahram, a state-run newspaper. Negotiations over damages between that company, insurance firms and the canal authority were ongoing. The Japanese-owned, Taiwanese-operated and Panama-flagged ship was moved to unobstructive anchorage in the canal’s Great Bitter Lake after it was freed on March 29.
5. Reuters gets its first woman editor in chief
- Reuters has announced Alessandra Galloni will take over as its new editor-in-chief from next week, becoming the first woman to head the global news agency in its 170year history. Ms. Galloni is taking over from Stephen J. Adle.
6. ‘NATO to exit Afghanistan along with U.S.’
Foreign troops under NATO command will withdraw from Afghanistan in coordination with a U.S. pullout by September 11, Washington’s said, after Germany said it would match American plans to leave after two decades of war. Around 7,000 non-U.S. forces from mainly NATO countries, also from Australia, New Zealand and Georgia, outnumber the 2,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
A key reason for a coordinated withdrawal is the fact that NATO relies on U.S. airlift capabilities and shipping to move valuable equipment in and out of landlocked Afghanistan. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said it was time for NATO allies to make good on their mantra that allies went into Afghanistan together and would leave together. He was accompanied by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
After withdrawing, the U.S. and NATO aim to rely on Afghan military and police forces, which they have developed with billions of dollars in funding, to maintain security though peace talks are struggling and the insurgency is resilient. September 11 is a highly symbolic date as it will be 20 years since al-Qaeda attacked the U.S. with hijacked airliners, triggering military intervention in Afghanistan.
7. 60% enrichment in response to Israel’s terrorism, says Iran
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said the decision to boost uranium enrichment to 60% was a response to archfoe Israel’s “nuclear terrorism” against its Natanz facility. Tehran starting up advanced centrifuges and producing more highly refined uranium “is a response to your malice,” Mr. Rouhani said in a message aimed at the Jewish state.
Tehran’s announcement of stepped up enrichment has cast a shadow over talks in Vienna aimed at salvaging the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. The European parties to the accord – Britain, France and Germany – expressed “grave concern” over Iran’s enrichment move.
Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia also expressed concern and called on Tehran to “avoid escalation”. The step will bring Iran closer to the 90% purity threshold for military use and shorten its potential “breakout time” to build an atomic bomb – a goal the Islamic republic denies it is seeking.
8. Pak. to ban radical Islamist party
Pakistan decided to ban a radical Islamist party under the Terrorism Act after its supporters clashed with the law enforcement agencies for the third consecutive day, leaving seven persons dead and over 300 policemen injured. Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told the media that the Tehreeki-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) was being banned under the Rule 11B of AntiTerrorism Act of 1997.
The announcement came hours after the Pakistani Rangers cleared the major thoroughfares of the country following sporadic clashes with TLP supporters in some towns and cities. The TLP had launched the countrywide protest after the arrest of its chief Saad Hussain Rizvi ahead of April 20 deadline the Islamists had given to the Imran Khan government demanding expulsion of the French Ambassador over the French government's support for Charlie Hebdo magazine to republish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed – a move deemed blasphemous by many.
9. Denmark drops AstraZeneca vaccine
Denmark announced it would stop using the AstraZeneca COVID19 vaccine altogether, becoming the first European country to do so over suspected rare but serious side-effects. Denmark was the first country in Europe to suspend the use of the AstraZeneca jab in its vaccination rollout, after reports of rare but serious cases of blood clots among those that had received the vaccine.
More than a dozen countries followed suit but all but a few have since resumed the use after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) emphasised the benefits of the vaccine and deemed it “safe and effective”
10. Sri Lanka bans IS, 10 other extremist groups
- Sri Lanka banned 11 radical Islamist groups, including the Islamic State group and alQaeda, a week ahead of the second anniversary of the Easter Sunday suicide bombings which killed 279 people. Anyone linked to the groups – the other nine of which are local religious and social organisations – faces up to 20 years in jail, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said in a gazette notification.
11. U.S. imposes new sanctions on Russia
The United States announced sanctions against Russia and the expulsion of 10 diplomats in retaliation for what Washington says is the Kremlin’s U.S. election interference, a massive cyberattack and other hostile activity. President Joe Biden’s broadside against Russia came the same week as he offered to meet President Vladimir Putin for their first summit.
In an executive order, Mr. Biden widened restrictions on U.S. banks trading in Russian government debt, expelled 10 diplomats who include alleged spies, and blacklisted 32 individuals accused of meddling in the 2020 presidential election.
12. France asks citizens to temporarily leave Pak
The French Embassy in Pakistan advised all of its nationals and companies to temporarily leave the country after anti-France violence erupted in the Islamic nation over the arrest of a radical leader. Saad Rizvi was arrested for threatening the government with mass protests if it did not expel French envoy Marc Baréty over the depiction of Prophet Muhammed in a French magazine.
French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes Von Der Muhll said about 400 to 500 French nationals live in Pakistan and they will be able to leave via commercial flights. But, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad said French citizens living in Pakistan were safe and security had been provided to them. The development comes a day after the government announced a ban on the Tehreeke-Labiak Pakistan party, which is headed by Rizvi. His arrest sparked violent protests.
13. U.S. climate envoy Kerry in first China visit
In the first significant visit by an official of the Biden administration to China, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry arrived in Shanghai for talks with senior Chinese officials. Mr. Kerry will meet China’s top climate official, Xie Zhenhua, and may also meet with other senior officials including Politburo member and top diplomat Yang Jiechi and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
The first visit from the new administration in Washington follows last month’s dialogue in Alaska, where officials from both sides traded barbs publicly in an unusual exchange played out in front of the cameras. Despite that beginning, the visit underlines the Biden administration does plan to seek a meeting ground with China on some issues, including climate change as well as Iran and North Korea
14. Russia bans FBI chief, other U.S. officials as tensions soar
Russia banned top officials from the U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration, including FBI chief Christopher Wray, from entering the country as it announced a wave of tit-for-tat sanctions and expulsions of diplomats, as tensions soared between the rivals.
Moscow nonetheless said it viewed the prospect of a summit between Mr. Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin “positively”. On Thursday, Washington had announced sanctions and the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats in retaliation for what it says is interference by the Kremlin in U.S. elections, a massive cyberattack and other hostile activity.
15. ‘Biden, Suga may announce next in person Quad summit’
U.S. President Joe Biden will host Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga at the White House – the first foreign leader visit for a presidency that began at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The two leaders are likely to announce the next in-person Quad (India, the U.S., Japan and Australia) meeting.
At their first summit level meeting, held virtually on March 12, Quad leaders had committed to meeting in person before the end of this year. Mr. Suga and Mr. Biden are also expected to discuss regional security, including North Korea, China and China-Taiwan issues. Japan is also expected to announce a $2 billion 5G network technology initiative.
16. Iran says it has started enriching uranium to 60%
Iran began enriching uranium to its highest level ever, edging closer to weapons grade levels to pressure talks in Vienna aimed at restoring its nuclear deal with world powers after an attack on its main atomic site. A top official said only a few grams an hour of uranium gas would be enriched up to 60% purity – triple the level it once did but at a rate far slower than what Tehran could produce. International inspectors already said Iran planned to do so above ground at its Natanz nuclear site, not deep within its underground halls hardened to withstand airstrikes.
The move is likely to raise tensions even as Iran negotiates in Vienna over a way to allow the U.S. back into the agreement and lift the crushing economic sanctions it faces. However, its scope also provides Iran with a way to quickly de-escalate if it chooses.
The announcement also marks a significant escalation after the attack that damaged centrifuges at Natanz, an attack this past weekend suspected of having been carried out by Israel. While Israel has yet to claim it, it comes amid a long running shadow war between the two rivals. While 60% is higher than any level Iran previously enriched uranium, it is still lower than weapons grade levels of 90%. The deal limited Iran’s enrichment to 3.67%.
17. U.S. says Russia was given Trump campaign poll data
It was one of the more tantalising, yet unresolved, questions of the investigation into possible connections between Russia and Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign: why was a business associate of campaign chairman Paul Manafort given internal polling data – and what did he do with it?
A Treasury Department statement offered a potentially significant clue, asserting that Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian and Ukrainian political consultant, had shared sensitive campaign and polling information with Russian intelligence services.
18. SC confirms annulment of Lula convictions
- Brazil’s full Supreme Court upheld a ruling annulling former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s corruption convictions, clearing the way for him to run for a new presidential term. In an 8-3 ruling, the court upheld Justice Edson Fachin’s March 8 decision quashing Mr. Lula’s convictions on procedural grounds, which has upended Brazilian politics as far-right President Jair Bolsonaro gears up to seek reelection.
19. U.S., China agree to cooperate with urgency on climate crisis
The U.S. and China, the world’s two biggest carbon polluters, agreed to cooperate to curb climate change with urgency. The agreement was reached by U.S. special envoy for climate John Kerry and his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua during two days of talks in Shanghai last week, according to a joint statement.
China is the world’s biggest carbon emitter, followed by the U.S. The two countries pump out nearly half of the fossil fuel fumes that are warming the planet’s atmosphere. Their cooperation is key to the success of global efforts to curb climate change.
20. Myanmar shadow govt. wants invite for ASEAN crisis talks
Myanmar’s shadow government urged Southeast Asian leaders to give it a seat at the table during crisis talks next week, and not to recognise the military regime that seized power in a February coup. Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing is expected to join a special ASEAN summit on Myanmar in Jakarta – his first official overseas trip since the putsch that ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The Army has moved to quell mass protests against its rule, killing at least 730 people according to a local monitoring group. The military chief’s invitation to the meeting of the 10 country Association of Southeast Asian Nations has drawn scorn from activists and former lawmakers who have urged foreign leaders not to formally recognise the junta.
21. Czechs to discuss ‘Russian link’ to 2014 blast with EU
The Czech Republic is informing its NATO and European Union allies about suspected Russian involvement in a 2014 ammunition depot explosion and will discuss the matter at an EU Foreign Ministers’ meeting, acting Foreign Minister Jan Hamacek said.
The central European country expelled 18 Russian Embassy staff and said that investigations linked Russian intelligence to the explosion, which killed two people. The expulsions and allegations by Prague have triggered its biggest dispute with Russia.
22. Sikhs call for gun reforms in U.S.
Members of Indianapolis’ tight knit Sikh community joined with city officials to call for gun reforms as they mourned the deaths of four Sikhs who were among the eight people killed in a mass shooting at a FedEx warehouse. At a vigil attended by more than 200 at an Indianapolis park on Saturday evening, Aasees Kaur, who represented the Sikh Coalition, spoke out alongside the city’s Mayor and other elected officials to demand action that would prevent such attacks from happening again.
The coalition says about 5,00,000 Sikhs live in the U.S. Many practicing Sikhs are visually distinguishable by their articles of faith, which include the unshorn hair and turban.
23. NASA Mars helicopter makes first flight on another planet
NASA successfully flew its tiny helicopter Ingenuity on Mars, the first powered flight on another planet and a feat a top engineer called “our Wright brothers’ moment.” The first powered flight on Earth was achieved by the Wright brothers in 1903 in North Carolina. A piece of fabric from that plane has been tucked inside Ingenuity in honour of that feat. Ingenuity travelled to Mars attached to the underside of Perseverance, which touched down on the planet on February 18 on a mission to search for signs of extraterrestrial life.
Ingenuity’s goal, by contrast, is to demonstrate its technology works, and it won’t contribute to Perseverance’s science goal.
24. Cuba gets new leader as Raul Castro retires
Cuba marked the end of an era with the transfer of power from the Castro clan, in charge for six decades, to the communist country’s first ever civilian leader, Miguel DiazCanel. As Raul Castro, 89, enters retirement, he handed the all-powerful position of first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba to Mr. DiazCanel, 60, already Cuba’s president since 2018.
Fidel Castro, still revered as the country’s father and saviour, led the country from 1959 to 2006, when he fell ill and his brother Raul took over. Fidel Castro died in 2016. Mr. DiazCanel and some other members of the new PCC executive were born after the revolution led by the Castro siblings in the 1950s, leading in 1959 to the overthrow of dictator Fulgencio Batista. The PCC congress was held 60 years after Fidel Castro declared Cuba a socialist state, setting up decades of conflict with the United States, which has had sanctions against the country since 1962. It also marked six decades since the failed Bay of Pigs invasion by antirevolutionary Cuban exiles, backed by the CIA.
The change at the top is not expected to yield any major policy shifts. Mr. DiazCanel, remains a staunch party disciple. And a new Constitution passed in May 2019 made it clear that the country’s commitment to socialism was “irrevocable.”
25. Greens name Baerbock as candidate to succeed Merkel
Germany’s Green party named its co-chair Annalena Baerbock as their candidate to succeed Angela Merkel, throwing down the gauntlet to the Chancellor’s conservatives who were locked in increasingly vicious infighting for her crown.
Ms. Baerbock, 40, is the first Chancellor candidate ever nominated by the Greens. Yet with the party polling in second place behind Ms. Merkel’s divided conservatives, the Greens now have a chance of becoming the biggest party and taking the chancellery.
26. Saudi activist wins top Europe rights award
- Saudi activist Loujain al-Hathloul was awarded the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize, a top European rights award, in recognition of her fight for women’s rights in the kingdom, including her efforts to end a ban on women driving. Ms. Hathloul was detained in 2018. She is now on probation and barred from leaving Saudi Arabia for five years
27. France ‘enabled’ 1994 Rwanda genocide: report
The French government bears “significant” responsibility for “enabling a foreseeable genocide,” a report commissioned by the Rwandan government concludes about France’s role before and during the horror in which an estimated 8,00,000 people were slaughtered in 1994.
The report comes amid efforts by Rwanda to document the role of French authorities before, during, and after the genocide, part of the steps taken by France’s President Emmanuel Macron to improve relations with the central African country.
The report comes after a French report, commissioned by Mr. Macron, concluded that French authorities had been “blind” to the preparations for genocide and then reacted too slowly to appreciate the extent of the killings and to respond to them.
28. Probe China over Xinjiang crimes
A human rights group appealed to the United Nations on Monday to investigate allegations China’s government is committing crimes against humanity in the Xinjiang region. China is not a member of the International Criminal Court and could use its veto power as a permanent UN Security Council member to block action against Chinese oﬃcials.
More than 1 million people have been conﬁned to camps in Xinjiang, according to foreign governments and researchers. Authorities there are accused of imposing forced labour and birth controls. The Chinese government rejects complaints of abuses, saying the camps are for job training to support economic development and combat radicalism.
29. India and the regional trade pacts
Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said he hoped India would “reassess” its stand on regional trading agreements such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) pact that India withdrew from in 2019. he added that these trade pacts will give Indian companies a platform to showcase their strengths across even larger markets.
The RCEP came into force in November 2020 without India and is the world’s largest trading agreement, covering the 10 ASEAN nations, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. The CPTPP, successor of the Trans Paciﬁc Partnership (TPP) which the U.S. withdrew from, includes Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam from ASEAN, along with Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Chile and Peru.
India withdrew from the RCEP largely because of concerns it would open it up to Chinese goods amid an already wide trade imbalance with China, and the failure of the agreement to adequately open up to services. The Singapore Foreign Minister praised India’s strong support to global vaccine cooperation.
30. US refugee situation
Joe Biden plans to lift his predecessor’s historically low cap on refugees by next month, after initially moving only to expand the eligibility criteria for resettlements. In an emergency determination signed by Mr. Biden earlier, he stated the admission of up to 15,000 refugees set by former President Donald Trump this year “remains justiﬁed by humanitarian concerns and is otherwise in the national interest”. But if the cap is reached before the end of the budget year and the emergency refugee situation persists, then a presidential determination may be issued to raise the ceiling.
Mr. Biden has been consulting with his advisers to determine what number of refugees could realistically be admitted to the U.S. between now and October 1, it’s now unlikely that Mr. Biden will be able to boost that number to 62,500, as he had proposed in his plan to Congress two months ago.
The new allocations provide more slots for refugees from Africa, West Asia and Central America and lift Mr. Trump's restrictions on resettlements from Somalia, Syria and Yemen.
32. Profile : Victory for Guillermo Lasso in Ecuador
Guillermo Lasso became the President-elect of Ecuador. Mr. Lasso, a former banker belonging to the centre-right creating opportunities (CREO) party, won 52.4% of the vote in the runoﬀs, defeating his opponent Andrez Arauz of the leftist Union of Hope coalition, who se cured 47.7% despite leading in the ﬁrst round with 32.7% over Mr. Lasso’s 19.7%. This was Mr. Lasso’ ﬁrst presidential victory in three campaigns since 2013.
Mr. Aruaz was the handpicked nominee of popular ex-President Rafael Correa, who continues to exert a signiﬁcant inﬂuence in Ecuador despite being out of power since 2017. Mr. Correa’s coming to power in 2007 heralded the Ecuadorean version of the Latin American pink tide, a current that led to several left-wing parties winning power across the continent.
Ecuador has been ravaged by COVID-19 with the GDP shrinking by 7.8%. More than 17,500 deaths have been registered for a high 5% case fatality rate (among the highest in Latin America). Mr. Lasso will, however, have a tougher time in the presidency as the CREO only has 12 seats in the 137 member National Assembly with the left parties controlling 76 seats together.
33. SpaceX to partner with NASA
- NASA said it has awarded Elon Musk-owned space company SpaceX a $2.9 billion contract to build a spacecraft to bring astronauts to the moon as early as 2024, picking it over Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and defence contractor Dynetics Inc. NASA said it would require a test flight to the moon before humans make the flight.
OPINION & ANALYSIS
Commentary : BIMSTEC needs to reinvent itself
While most multilateral groupings from G20 to ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) held their deliberations at the highest political level in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, BIMSTEC leaders failed to do so. In contrast to a meeting of even SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) leaders held at India’s initiative a year ago, BIMSTEC could not arrange its ministerial meeting until April 2021. This is due as much to contextual factors as the diplomatic environment prevailing today.
Established as a grouping of four nations – India, Thailand, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka – through the Bangkok Declaration of 1997 to promote rapid economic development, BIMSTEC was expanded later to include three more countries – Myanmar, Nepal and Bhutan.
(ii). The foreign ministers virtual conference on April 1.
- Preparations have been completed for the signing of three agreements relating to mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, cooperation between diplomatic academies, and the establishment of a technology transfer facility in Colombo. What has been missing from recent deliberations is a reference to the lack of progress on the trade and economic dossier. A January 2018 study by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry had suggested that BIMSTEC urgently needed a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement to be a real game changer.
First, a strong BIMSTEC presupposes cordial and tension free bilateral relations among all its member states. This has not been the case, given the trajectory of India-Nepal, India-Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh-Myanmar ties in recent years.
Second, uncertainties over SAARC hovers, complicating matters. Both Kathmandu and Colombo want the SAARC summit revived, even as they cooperate within BIMSTEC, with diluted zeal.
Third, China’s decisive intrusion in the South-Southeast Asian space has cast dark shadows. A renowned Bangladeshi scholar argued at a recent conference that BIMSTEC would make progress if China is accepted as its principal interlocutor and partner. This perspective has hardly any takers in India and its friendly partners in the grouping.
Finally, the military coup in Myanmar, brutal crackdown of protesters and continuation of popular resistance resulting in a protracted impasse have produced a new set of challenges. Despite this, the BIMSTEC foreign ministers could meet virtually – but will it be as easy for the summit to be held, with the much maligned Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing in attendance at Colombo.
(iv). Way ahead
- The grouping needs to reinvent itself, possibly even rename itself as ‘The Bay of Bengal Community’. It should consider holding regular annual summits. Only then will its leaders convince the region about their strong commitment to the new vision they have for this unique platform linking South Asia and Southeast Asia.
Story : Navigation with permission
On April 7, the U.S.’s 7th Fleet Destroyer, the USS John Paul Jones, conducted a ‘Freedom of Navigation Operation’ 130 nautical miles west of the Lakshadweep Islands inside India’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Not only was this exercise conducted without requesting India’s consent, but the U.S. 7th Fleet noted in its press release that India’s requirement of prior consent is “inconsistent with international law”.
In its response, India asserted that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) “does not authorize other States to carry out in the Exclusive Economic Zone and on the continental shelf, military exercises or manoeuvres, in particular those involving the use of weapons or explosives, without the consent of the coastal state”. Owing to the different positions of the two countries, legal questions emerge here. The question is, can countries carry out military exercises in another country’s EEZ and if yes, subject to what conditions?
(ii). Understanding the law
- UNCLOS binds all its signatories and customary international law binds all states, subject to exceptions like the doctrine of persistent objector. Most of the provisions of the UNCLOS are the result of codification of the existing rules of customary international law. India is a party to the UNCLOS while the U.S. is not. As per the UNCLOS, EEZ is an area adjacent to the territorial waters of a coastal state where the sovereign coastal state has rights and duties relating to management of natural resources; establishment and use of artificial islands, installations and structures; marine scientific research; and protection of the marine environment.
(iii). The way ahead
- Both India and the U.S. should negotiate such concerns for the maintenance of international peace and security. Riding roughshod over international obligations premised either in an erroneous interpretation of the law or the scope of its application will not only threaten friendly relations but also undermine the progress made towards codification and development of international law in an area such as the law of the sea, which is particularly complex.
Commentary : Exiting Afghanistan
- When Mr. Biden ordered a review of the U.S.’s Afghan strategy, there was speculation that he would delay the pullout at least until there was a political settlement. But he chose an orderly pull out – the remaining troops (officially 2,500) will start leaving Afghanistan on May 1, with a full withdrawal by September 11. Besides the U.S. troops, the thousands of coalition troops under the NATO’s command are also expected to pull back along with the Americans
(ii). Implications of the pullout
This leaves the already shaky Ghani government in an even more precarious situation. After September, the government will be left with itself on the battleground against the Taliban. For now, Mr. Ghani has held together the powerful sections of the state and society against the Taliban at least in the provincial capitals. But once the Americans are gone, the balance of power in the stalemated conflict could shift decisively in favour of the Taliban.
The country is already witnessing a series of targeted killings of journalists, activists and other civil society members opposed to the Taliban. The U.S. has promised that it would continue remote assistance to the government.
The role of regional players such as Russia, China and India, which have a shared interest in a stable Afghanistan, will also be crucial in deciding the country’s future. But one thing is certain: the U.S., despite all its military might, has lost the war and its withdrawal, without any settlement or even a peace road map, leaves the Taliban stronger and the government weaker.
Commentary : A multipolarity : Japan, Iran, Turkey and India are well set to shape the emerging world order
- The acrimony between the United States and Chinese delegations at the Anchorage conclave on March 19, followed by U.S. President Joe Biden referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “killer” and Mr. Putin’s sharp riposte, and Mr. Biden’s reluctance to rejoin the nuclear agreement with Iran, are positions which make it clear that in respect of three crucial relationships, namely China, Russia and Iran, Mr. Biden is following in the footsteps of his much reviled predecessor, Donald Trump.
(ii). The US game
It is clear that the U.S. continues to view China as its principal adversary on the world stage and that it will use the Quad to challenge China in the IndoPacific, possibly as part of a “new Cold War”.
The U.S.’s hostility for Russia goes back to the latter’s war with Ukraine and the occupation of Crimea in 2014, followed by allegations of Russian cyber interference in the U.S. presidential elections of 2016. Mr. Biden continues this hostility for Russia.
U.S. animosity has encouraged China and Russia to solidify their relations. Besides significantly expanding their bilateral ties, the two countries have agreed to harmonise their visions under the Eurasian Economic Union sponsored by Russia and China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). This idea has now been subsumed under the ‘Greater Eurasian Partnership’ to which both are committed. Both have condemned the Quad for “undermining global strategic stability”. Thus, the new Cold War is now being reflected in a new geopolitical binary – the Indo-Pacific versus Eurasia.
(iii). Four Middle Powers
The final shape of this divide will be determined by four nations, namely Japan, Iran, Turkey and India, which, as “middle powers'', have the capacity to project power regionally, build alliances, and support (or disrupt) the strategies of international powers pursuing their interests in the region.
The four middle powers, whose choice of alignment will impart a political and military binary to world order, are reluctant to make this a reality. While Cold War advocates in home capitals and in the U.S. will continue to promote evertighter alliances, these nations could find salvation in “strategic autonomy” – defined by flexible partnerships, with freedom to shape alliances to suit specific interests at different times. These four middle powers will thus make multipolarity, rather than a new Cold War, the defining characteristic of the emerging global order.
Commentary : It’s time to enact a Siras Act
- A law to accord an ex-post facto pardon to those who were convicted under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) would do poetic justice to the LGBTQ+ community and Professor Ramachandra Siras. What happened to Siras is a perfect example of the persecution faced by the LGBTQ+ community in India.
(ii). The global precedents
- A memorial in honour of the gay and lesbian victims of National Socialism stands in the city of Cologne in Germany today. The U.K. passed the Alan Turing law in 2017, which grants amnesty and pardon to those convicted of consensual same-sex relationships.
(iii). How India fares
From 1862, when Section 377 of the IPC came into effect, until September 6, 2018, when the Supreme Court of India ruled that the application of Section 377 of the IPC to consensual homosexual behaviour between adults was “unconstitutional, irrational, indefensible and manifestly arbitrary”, the LGBTQ+ community was treated as a criminal tribe in India.
The Delhi High Court’s verdict in Naz Foundation v. Govt. of NCT of Delhi (2009) resulted in the decriminalisation of homosexual acts involving consenting adults. The Court held that Section 377 offended the guarantee of equality enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution.
In a retrograde step, the Supreme Court, in Suresh Kumar Koushal vs. Naz Foundation (2013), reinstated Section 377 in the IPC. Fortunately India witnessed the resurrection of Naz Foundation through the apex court’s judgment in Navtej Singh Johar & Ors. v. Union of India (2018).
To make amends for the excesses committed against the LGBTQ+ community in the past and present, the Indian state should enact a ‘Siras Act’ on the lines of the Alan Turing law.
Story : Implementing green contracts
(i). Green contracting and cutting emissions
‘Green contracts’ refer to commercial contracts which mandate that contracting parties cut down green-house gas emissions at different stages of delivery of goods/services, including design, manufacturing, transportation, operations and waste disposal, as applicable to the industry.
Once a bidder is chosen, the contracting agreement between the parties can prescribe the ‘green obligations’ in detail, thus making the obligations binding and enforceable in the eyes of the law. It is this obligatory nature of green contracts which sets the tone for the parties to cut down emissions. This can be achieved by contractual clauses.
(ii). Adherence to contracts
One effective way to make sure that the service providers adhere to these contractual obligations would be to provide for measurement criteria and audit of the performance of the contractor with regard to these obligations. An organisation may also choose to contractually highlight non-performance of such obligations as a ground of contractual breach, with penalty prescriptions.
Another way to make sure that these obligations under the green contracts resonate far is to make sure that they flow down to all levels of the supply chain engaged in the delivery of goods and services.
The economic cost of executing green contracts may be greater than a normal brown contract, but global entities operating in a changing environment need to take into consideration the greater environment costs at stake.
Analysis : Ordinance route, and promulgation of ordinances
- The central government has re-promulgated the ordinance that establishes a commission for air quality management in the National Capital Region, or the Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance, 2020. This raises questions about the practice of issuing ordinances to make law, and that of reissuing ordinances without getting them ratified by Parliament.
(ii). What the law says
The legal position is clear, and has been elucidated by constitution Benches of the Supreme Court. Ordinances are to tackle exigencies when the legislature is not in session, and expire at the end of six weeks of the next meeting of the legislature. This time period is given for the legislature to decide whether such a law is warranted. Re-promulgation is not permitted as that would be a usurpation of legislative power by the executive.
As governments, both at the Centre and States, are violating this principle, the legislatures and the courts should check the practice. That is what separation of powers and the concept of checks and balances means. By not checking this practice, the other two organs are also abdicating their responsibility to the Constitution.
Commentary : Ken-Betwa project
Last month, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and the Centre signed a tripartite agreement to transfer “surplus” water from the Ken basin in M.P. to the “deﬁcit” Betwa basin in U.P. The Ken Betwa project is part of the national river linking project which proposes to connect 14 Himalayan and 16 peninsular river. The project has the status of a national project, as the Centre will contribute 90% of the cost. It is India’s ﬁrst river linking project and will take eight years to complete.
First mooted in the 1980s, the Ken Betwa project was taken up seriously only during former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s regime. The project, the government says, will enhance the irrigation potential of the water starved Bundelkhand region in U.P. and M.P., facilitate groundwater recharge and reduce the occurrence of ﬂoods.
(ii). Environmental concerns
Of the 12,500 hectares of land to get submerged by the project, more than 9,000 ha are categorised as forest land. The submergence area includes a critically important section of the Panna Tiger Reserve.
Also, the project may destroy about 7.2 lakh trees. South Asia Network on Dams, River and People convener Himanshu Thakkar fears that this will aﬀect rainfall in the already parched region.
The claims of Ken having surplus water may be unrealistic as the river is not perennial – in the past some times, it has slowed to a trickle. Another diﬃculty will be that the Ken ﬂows 6070 feet lower than the Betwa and at least 30% of the 103 MW power generated will be used for pumping the water up. The cost beneﬁts calculations of the project also don’t take into consideration the environmental and social impacts.
Story : India and Russia look for a reset
- It was clear from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s ‘working visit’ to India two weeks ago that India-Russia relations are not quite the flavour of the season. Mr. Lavrov’s principal objective was to prepare the ground for the visit of President Vladimir Putin later this year. The break in 2020, after 20 annual summits, had provoked speculation, partly flowing from Mr. Lavrov’s criticism last year of a U.S. led Indo-Pacific policy, drawing India into “anti-China games” and undermining the India-Russia partnership. A few weeks earlier, Mr. Putin had extolled the vibrancy of Russia-China defence cooperation. These remarks encouraged the advocacy for a shift of India’s foreign policy away from a weak and China tethered Russia and towards the U.S.
(ii). Russia’s changing foreign policy goalposts
As India-China tensions have grown, so have India’s concerns about Russia’s China embrace, encompassing close political, economic and defence cooperation (Russia accounted for 77% of China’s arms imports in 2016-20).
Russia is now Pakistan’s second largest defence supplier, accounting for 6.6% of its arms imports in 2016-20. Their cooperation includes joint “counterterrorism” drills and sharing perspectives on military tactics and strategic doctrines.
Russia supplied 49% of India’s arms imports in 2016-20. The proportion has been falling, as India diversified its imports. Despite this, India’s second largest supplier, France, had only an 18% share. In this already complex mix, the American sanctions legislation, CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act), adds an external layer of complexity.
(iii). Significance of Russia-China co-operation and way forward
The criticality of geography in geopolitics is often underestimated. The Eurasian landmass to India’s north is dominated by Russia and China. Strategic and security interests in Central Asia, West Asia and Afghanistan dictate our engagement with the region and the connectivity projects linking it, like the International North-South Transport Corridor through Iran. India cannot vacate this space to a Russia-China condominium (with Pakistan in tow), without potentially grave security consequences.
India has to explore the space within these processes to maximise its global influence by steering clear of alliances and retaining autonomy of policy. The partnership with Russia will not have the salience of past decades, but will remain important for our continental interests and defence capability. The depth of the relationship will depend on the willingness and capacity of both countries to show mutual sensitivity to core security concerns.
Analysis : Cuba after the Castros
The retirement of Raul Castro as the first secretary of Cuba’s ruling Communist Party brings to an end the six decades long rule of the “historic generation”, who, under the leadership of Fidel Castro, captured power in 1959 through an armed revolution. Fidel remained at the helm of affairs in the island, in the face of growing hostility from the U.S. until he fell sick in 2006. Two years later, he handed the party to his younger brother, who had fought alongside him in the guerrilla war against the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in the 1950s.
Now when the 89 year old leader retires, leaving “a foot in a stirrup ready to defend socialism”, Mr. DíazCanel, 60, is expected to succeed him as the new party chief.
(ii). Castros legacy
- The Castros built a closed, socialist economy that worked for many for decades. Cuba’s achievements in the fields of education and health care are inimitable. But many critics of the Cuban model feel that the historic generation was slow to open up the economy, generate growth and create more opportunities – something that China, another communist party ruled country, did. Mr. Raul took small steps and Mr. DíazCanel is continuing them, with a long promised currency reform having been implemented in January.
(iii). Cuba’s current state
The coronavirus pandemic practically shut down Cuba’s vital tourism sector, causing an 11% economic contraction last year. The crisis has triggered food shortages, bringing back memories of the early 1990s. There are also calls for more political freedoms.
Unlike in the past when the flow of information was controlled, the expansion of the Internet and social networks is allowing critics of the government, including U.S.based dissidents, to amplify their voices. Mr. Raul’s successor cannot stay away from addressing these challenges as the revolution ages. The party always bets on continuity. But the contradiction it faces is that continuity is intrinsically linked to reforms.
Commentary : Demise of the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB)
- The demise of the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB), India’s specialist tribunal for determining disputes relating to intellectual property (IP) rights, is symbolic of its tenuous life.
(ii). The board's turbulent life
Ever since its creation, the IPAB has been treated like an unwanted child. Perennially understaﬀed and under funded. Established under the Trade Marks Act of 1999, its jurisdiction was later extended to hear patent cases after the Patents (Amendment) Act of 2002.
Historically, appeals from the Intellectual Property Oﬃce (IPO), rectiﬁcation and revocation applications were heard by the various High Courts. However, the Patents (Amendment) Act of 2002 divested these powers from the High Courts and extended it to the IPAB.
Even though the IPAB has not been performing its adjudicatory function on the patent side regularly due to administrative reasons, it certainly has been the subject matter of judicial review before the various High Courts. In recent times, after remaining headless for almost two years, in January 2018, the IPAB was given a head. The appointment of the technical member for patents was also regularly delayed.
One of the former chairpersons had publicly raised concerns regarding the judicial and institutional independence of the IPAB, and called for closing it.
The IPAB’s jurisdiction of cases was split between trademarks, patents, copyright, and geographical indication, where the predominant business pertained to trademarks. Thus, the workload of the IPAB was typically split between trademarks and patents with the former consuming much of the time.
The patents bench of the IPAB would have probably taken longer to constitute had it not been for the limelight brought by the Novartis case. The Madras High Court while hearing an appeal from the IPO regarding Novartis’ Glivec patent application said that it ought to have been heard by the IPAB first. After the notiﬁcation, the High Court transferred Novartis’ petition and subsequently all other pending patent cases to the IPAB.
Patent disputes owing to their technological complexity were the IPAB’s predominant time consuming business after trade marks. There was a paltry disposal rate of about 20 patent cases a year. Nearly 70% of the patent cases ﬁled were either pending at some stage or yet to be taken up for hearing. The irony was that tribunals were established with the primary aim of speedy disposal of cases by specialised experts.
(iii). Missed Opportunity
India stands as a shining example for what it has done legislatively in patent law. Be it the retraction of product patents for pharmaceuticals and chemicals between 1970 and 2005, the anti evergreening provisions or the robust compulsory licensing regime, it has oﬀered the world a host of TRIPS compliant ﬂexibilities in its statute.
Barring a few bright spots, there has been a reluctance to extend the ﬂexibilities in the Patents Act through judicial interpretation that expands the law.
Analysis : The second wave commentary
(i). What the data says
While the cumulative number at the peak (September 16, 2020) of the ﬁrst wave was 51,15,893 (reached in six months), infections in the second wave in the last eight weeks are already 29,66,583, or 58% of the numbers at the ﬁrst peak.
Earlier, we concluded that at the end of the ﬁrst wave, 60% of the population had been infected (828 million). The uninfected 40% would be 1,380 million minus 828 million = 552 million. According to a recent Indian Council of Medical Research report, the reinfection rate in India is 4.5%, thus, out of 828 million initially infected, 37.26 million are susceptible to reinfection. The total number of susceptible subjects for the second wave would be 552 million+37.26 million = 589.26 million.
(ii). Comparison of the two waves
On June 12, 2020 and on February 16, 2021 the numbers were 11,320 and 11,795, respectively. Over the next eight weeks, the curves diﬀered in acceleration. From June 12, 2020 to August 7, 2020 the increase (to 61,455) was 5.4 fold. From February 16, 2021 to April 13, 2021 the increase (to 1,85,248) was 15.7 fold. The doubling time of 28 days during the ﬁrst wave is 2.8 times the doubling time (10 days) of the second wave.
The R value of the initial ‘variant’ of the virus of the ﬁrst wave was 2-3, meaning, one infected person would infect 23 others; the variant(s) causing the second wave has a higher R value ≥ 4.
The herd immunity level required to bring the numbers down to end the second wave (herd immunity threshold) would be about 75%-80%, in contrast to 60% for the ﬁrst wave – in terms of actual numbers, a maximum of ~471 million (80% of 589.26 million).
Of the 828 million infected in the ﬁrst wave, only 10,904,738 (1.32%) were diagnosed by February 13, 2021. By the same token, only 6.223 million (1.32% of 471.4 million) are likely to be diagnosed by the end of the second wave. At the peak, the numbers detected would be half, namely 3.1 million.
We have already diagnosed 2,966,583 infections in the second wave by April 13, 2021 and the current doubling time is 10 days. Therefore, in the next few days we ought to reach ~3.1 million detected cases, spelling the peak of the second wave.
The descent after the peak will take an equal length of time – two months – in a normal bell shaped epidemic curve. It is expected that steady low levels of infection (endemic state) will be reached by mid-June 2021.
Story : COVID-19 vaccines and blood clots
- Reports of rare blood clots occurring after COVID-19 vaccination have led some countries to limit the usage of AstraZeneca’s vaccine for certain categories of people. More recently, the United States put the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on hold after reports of blood clots emerged.
(ii). What are the adverse effects
An adverse eﬀect following immunisation with the AstraZeneca jab is not merely blood clots in large vessels, but also a low platelet count. Scientists are still trying to establish a clinical deﬁnition for this adverse eﬀect of low platelet count.
The World Health Organization’s Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety said, “A very rare new type of adverse event called Thrombosis with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (TTS), involving unusual and severe blood clotting events associated with low platelet counts, has been reported after vaccination with COVID19 vaccines Vaxzevria and Covishield”. So far, TTS has only been linked to vaccines built on adenovirus platform and not linked to vaccines built on mRNA platforms (Pﬁzer or Moderna), the group added.
(iii). Data on the phenomenon
The EU data put the deaths at 1 in 1,00,000, while in the U.K., it is one in 25,000, and in the U.S., it is one in a million. While speciﬁc TTS has not been assigned to any post vaccination adverse event in India, post facto analyses have shown that heart attacks and brain strokes were major factors for hospitalisation and deaths.
In India, where Covishield is being used widely, of 79 deaths caused after vaccination found that over 50% of the people had heart attacks and brain strokes. An important issue is the current inability to identify vulnerable groups in a population.
(iv). Risk vs Benefit principle
Virologists say that adverse events are bound to occur, but we need to make sure that every such event is investigated thoroughly. With any adverse event, there will be reasonable geographic variation.
A recent study by researchers at the University of Oxford stated, “The risk of the rare blood clotting known as cerebral venous thrombosis (CVT) following COVID19 infection is around 100 times greater than normal, several times higher than it is post vaccination or following inﬂuenza”.
Adverse eﬀects usually occur four to 20 days after the ﬁrst dose right now. While fever, body pain and tiredness after vaccination last a couple of days and are not worrisome, symptoms of concern during this extended period include chest pain, persistent abdominal pain, shortness of breath, pain in the extremities, severe headache and blurry vision. A simple D-dimer test can also be done to check whether blood clots have formed.
First, a rare side eﬀect does not have the same rate of occurrence around the world. So, each country must pay attention to AEFI (Adverse event following immunization) that manifests as TTS. Second, since a class eﬀect is suspected, paying attention to vaccines built on adenovirus platforms is important.
ECONOMICS & FINANCE
1. Lockdowns to shave $1.25 bn a week
Amid surging pandemic cases forcing many States to curb mobility and businesses, a British brokerage Barclay’s report has said that these localised lockdowns in key economic hubs can cost the economy an average of $1.25 billion each week and may shave oﬀ 140 bps from the Q1 nominal GDP.
If the current restrictions remain in place until May end, the cumulative loss of economic and commercial activity could be approximately $10.5 billion, or about 34 bps of nominal GDP.
2. India's public debt levels
India’s public debt level is among the highest in emerging economies with a quantitative easing programme underway, while its debt aﬀordability is among the weakest, Moody’s Investors Service said. “With the exception of Chile, most of the 11 emerging markets have weak government eﬀectiveness, suggesting potential risks executing ﬁscal reforms or consolidation plans,” Moody’s said. India, South Africa and Ghana have the highest public debt and weakest debt aﬀordability.
The report highlighted that depending on recovery prospects and future debt servicing costs, high debt levels may become unsustainable for the more vulnerable economies.
What is quantitative easing? Quantitative easing is a monetary policy whereby a central bank purchases at scale government bonds or other financial assets in order to inject money into the economy to expand economic activity.
3. Blue collar jobs hiring on the rise
With the vaccination drive in full swing in the country and high optimism on economic recovery, the hiring of blue collar workers is resurging as 70% of employers polled in a survey said they had resumed recruitment. Of the 70% employers polled in the second edition of OLX People Survey, nearly 16% said they were hiring 100% of capacity, while 54% are hiring up to 50% of capacity.
About 60% of employers stated they faced no challenges in availability of talent, despite the fact that a large number of gig workers had preferred to return to their native at the height of the pandemic.
4. Making India a hardware manufacturing hub
There is an opportunity for India to become a hardware manufacturing location as the world’s technology majors have been moving their supply chains out of China over the past 18 months, Microsoft president Brad Smith said. He added that hardware capacity had been shifting to Mexico, Vietnam, South Korea, and some southeast Asian countries.
Urging India and the U.S. to join the Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyber space that now has 75 countries on board to deal with new cybersecurity threats facing the world, he also emphasised the need to train more professionals to cope with these threats. He stated that many cybersecurity problems also emerged from the lack of IT administrators’ compliance with best practices.
5. CITIBank to exit retail banking in India, China
- Citigroup announced it will exit 13 international consumer banking markets, shifting its focus to wealth management and away from retail banking in places where it is small. Citigroup will focus its global consumer banking business on four markets: Singapore, Hong Kong, London and the UAE. “We don’t have the scale we need to compete,” said Citi chief executive Jane Fraser.
6. Flipkart to acquire Cleartrip
- Walmart backed Flipkart made a proposal to acquire Cleartrip, an online travel technology ﬁrm. Flipkart would acquire 100% of Cleartrip’s share holding in a move to further strengthen its digital commerce oﬀerings for customers, the company said in a release. Post acquisition, Cleartrip would continue to operate as a separate brand and also retain all its employees, Flipkart said.
7. RBI sets up authority to review regulations
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has set up the Regulations Review Authority 2.0. The authority will review regulatory prescriptions internally as well as by seeking suggestions from RBI regulated entities for simpliﬁcation and ease of implementation. Deputy Governor M. Rajeshwar Rao has been appointed as the Regulations Review Authority.
The RBI had set up a similar authority in 1999 for reviewing regulations, circulars, reporting systems. The recommendations enabled streamlining and increasing the eﬀectiveness of several procedures, paving the way for issuance of master circular and reducing reporting burden on regulated entities.
8. US treasury keeps India on currency watchlist
India is one of the 11 countries on the U.S. Treasury’s ‘Monitoring List’ with regard to their currency practices. India was on the list in the December 2020 report as well. The report reviews currency practices of the U.S. 's 20 biggest trading partners. Three criteria are used to review partners: a signiﬁcant (at least $20 billion) bilateral trade surplus, a material current account surplus, and ‘persistent one-sided intervention’ in forex markets.
India met two of the three criteria – the trade surplus criterion and the “persistent, one-sided intervention” criterion, according to the U.S Treasury Department.
9. India imports sugar to Indonesia and Afghanistan
- Major destinations for sugar exports from India this season (October 2020 to September 2021) are Indonesia and Afghanistan, according to the Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA). 29.72 lakh tonnes of sugar have been exported so far this season compared with 30.64 lakh tonnes during the same period in the previous season. During the last season, major sugar exports were to Iran and Afghanistan. This year, with currency restrictions, exports to Iran were aﬀected. Also, with lower output in Thailand, Indian exports to Indonesia have picked up.
10. Production linked incentive (PLI) scheme for ACs, LED lights
The department for promotion of industry and internal trade (DPIIT) has notiﬁed the PLI scheme for ACs and LED light. It said that mere assembly of ﬁnished goods would not be incentivised and companies investing in basic/core components would get a higher priority. Earlier this month, the government approved a production linked incentive (PLI) scheme for white goods – Air Conditioners (ACs) and LED lights – with an outlay of ₹6,238 crore. Selection of companies for the scheme shall be done so as to incentivise manufacturing of components or subassemblies which are not manufactured in India presently with suﬃcient capacity.
The Empowered Group of Secretaries chaired by the Cabinet Secretary will monitor the PLI scheme, undertake periodic review of the outgo under the scheme, ensure uniformity of all PLIs and take appropriate action to ensure that the expenditure is within the prescribed outlay.
1. Asian Weightlifting Championships
Jhilli Dalabehera emerged champion in the women's 45kg ﬁeld at the Asian weightlifting championships in Tashkent. Jhilli, a former World junior bronze medallist, totalled 157kg (snatch 69kg, clean and jerk 88kg) to take the gold medal.
Former World champion Mirabai Chanu – who set a new record of 119kg and improved her personal best by two more kg to do 205kg to clinch the women’s 49kg bronze medal. “It is a huge source of satisfaction as I worked on my technique and strength after my failure in the Rio Olympics”, she said. Chief coach Vijay Sharma said a technical adjustment after the Rio Games lifted Mirabai’s clean and jerk performance.
2. Balbir Singh Jr passes away
- Balbir Singh Jr., who was a member of the silver medal winning 1958 Asian Games Indian hockey team, died here at the age of 88. Balbir Singh Jr. was born on May 2, 1932, at Sansarpur in Jalandhar, also known as the nursery of hockey players in India. He was ﬁrst selected to play for the Indian hockey team in 1951. Hockey India condoled his death.
3. India Open to be held in-camera
The Badminton Association of India (BAI), announced plans to hold the India Open badminton championship in camera at the K.D. Jadhav Indoor hall at the Indira Gandhi Stadium. Thrice World champion and reigning Olympic gold medallist Carolina Marin, Akane Yamaguchi, current World champion P.V. Sindhu and Saina Nehwal are among the leading names in women’s singles.
Two-time World champion Kenta Momota, defending champion Viktor Axelson, reigning All England winner Zii Jia Lee along with home challengers K. Srikanth, B. Sai Praneeth, H.S. Prannoy and P. Kashyap promise to light up the men’s singles draw.
4. Medals in double-digit expected at Tokyo Olympics
- Indian sports oﬃcials are expecting a medal haul in double-digit at the Tokyo Olympics. “We are expecting 120-130 athletes to qualify for the Olympics and expect the Indian contingent to be about 185-190 people, including coaches and support staﬀ. I expect the medal haul to be in double digits this time,” Indian Olympic Association President Narinder Batra said.
5. India's Payas Jain is World No. 2 in Under-17
- Payas Jain has jumped to the second spot in boys’ (u17) world table tennis age group rankings released. Payas, winner of the National youth and junior titles in Indore last month, is also the highest ranked Indian in the boys’ u19 at 33rd.
6. Virat Kohli named Wisden's ODI player of 2010s
- Virat Kohli has been named Wisden Almanack’s ODI player of the 2010s, while England all-rounder Ben Stokes was declared the ‘Cricketer of the Year’ for a second successive time. Sachin Tendulkar was named the ODI Cricketer of the 1990s and Kapil Dev the best for the 1980s. Sir Vivian Richards claimed the prize in the 1970s while Sri Lankan great Muttiah Muralitharan got the nod for the 2000s.
7. Koneru Humpy eyes classical world crown
- World rapid chess champion Koneru Humpy has her eyes set on winning the classical format World championship. She won the World rapid chess championships in 2019. She added that being joint winners with Russia in the online Olympiad team gold in 2020 was one of the most memorable moments in her career. She has featured in nine World championships.
8. No cancellation of Olympic games
The head of the Tokyo Olympics was again forced to assure the world that the postponed Games would open in just over three months and not be cancelled despite surging COVID-19 cases in Japan. “There are a variety of concerns but as the Tokyo 2020 organising committee we are not thinking about cancelling the Games,” organising committee president Seiko Hashimoto said. However, polls show as many as 80% in Japan oppose holding the Olympics during the pandemic.
The IOC, which relies on selling broadcast rights for 73% of its income, has seen its cash ﬂow stalled by the postponement. Japanese Olympics Minister Tamayo Marukawa said the government was considering daily virus tests on athletes during the Games as a way to guarantee safety.
9. Olympian Ahmed Hussain passes away
- Football Olympian Ahmed Hussain Lala passed away in Bengaluru, aged 89. Ahmed represented India in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. Ahmed was also a well known defender of the famed Hyderabad City Police team in the 1950s under the tutelage of one of India’s greatest coaches ever, late S.A. Raheem. He was a regular for Mohammadan Sporting in the Kolkata league for many years. Ahmed represented India at various other international tournaments including the 1958 Asian Games and the Merdeka Tournament in 1959.
10. Inclusion of cricket in Olympics
- The BCCI’s apex council oﬀered conditional support for cricket’s inclusion in the 2028 Olympic Games. BCCI will support the inclusion of men’s and women’s events in the quadrennial showpiece events only if the BCCI’s status as an autonomous sports federation is retained. The BCCI at present isn’t an aﬃliate of the Indian Olympic Association and is keen on participating in the Olympics without being a party to the proposed National Sports Code.
1. Indian scholars and content seizure https://www.thequint.com/voices/opinion/supreme-court-petition-indian-academics-scholars-content-seizure-right-to-privacy-bhima-koregaon-case-indian-constitution
2. Dr Ambedkar's concept of constitutional morality https://www.livelaw.in/columns/contemporary-relevance-of-dr-ambedkars-concept-of-constitutional-morality-172570
3. Case for non-compete clauses https://www.barandbench.com/columns/the-case-for-non-compete-clauses
4. Right to privacy and death https://www.barandbench.com/news/litigation/madras-high-court-dismisses-plea-jayalalitha-biopic-thalaivi-queen
5. Women, domestic responsibilities and Judiciary's patriarchy https://thewire.in/women/women-domestic-responsibilities-and-indian-judiciarys-grand-patriarchy
6. Private vehicle and public space https://www.livelaw.in/know-the-law/is-your-private-vehicle-a-public-place-law-has-different-answers-172717
7. Appointment of High Court Judges https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/supreme-court-lays-down-time-line-for-appointment-of-high-court-judges-172852
8. Uploading photos on porn sites https://thewire.in/law/uploading-photos-lifted-from-social-media-to-porn-sites-without-consent-an-offence-delhi-hc
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Sources referred to : The Hindu, The Indian Express, Live Law, Bar & Bench