Weekly Page : March 29th-April 4th, 2021
The week that went by!
LAW, POLICY & GOVERNANCE
1. SC to study if POCSO Act can be used against minors
- The Supreme Court has decided to examine whether the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act can be employed to punish teenagers for “consensual” physical relationships which later turn “sour.” Teens in ‘consensual relation’ have been later accused of rape.
2. Plea in SC to save academic freedom
The Supreme Court has asked the government to respond to a plea by five teachers to protect “academic freedom” from raids and seizures of police and investigative agencies.
A group of educationists have asked the court to frame guidelines so that the police treat the academic work and research, usually stored in computers they seize during raids, in a “civilised manner”. A Bench led by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul issued notice to the Centre and sought a reply in four weeks. Teachers say data in devices taken during police raids contain a lifetime of work.
3. Plea in SC against uniform civil law on divorce and alimony
- A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court against the “blatant attempt” to take away the fundamental right of Muslim women to practise their religion, in the guise of providing a “uniform law” across all faiths. Amina Sherwani has asked the Supreme Court to hear her before deciding whether a uniform civil law for divorce, maintenance and alimony will leave Muslim women like her better-off.
4. Explain how contraband reaches prisoners: SC
- The Supreme Court directed the Tihar Jail authorities to explain how contraband reaches prisoners, including death row convicts, and sought detailed information on the CCTV coverage both inside and outside the prison walls. The order concerns an incident on March 14 when three condemned men were found in an intoxicated condition inside their cells. The officials said the authorities had to use force to bring them to their senses. The court responded by ordering Raj Kumar, the Jail Superintendent, to file an affidavit by April “disclosing all the steps undertaken by him in connection with the incident that occurred on March 14”.
5. SC warns against mechanically granting bail in heinous offences
The Supreme Court has cautioned courts against mechanically granting bail in heinous offences, saying the seriousness of the charge is a basic consideration before releasing an accused on bail. A recent judgment by a Bench led by Justice Indira Banerjee set aside a Kerala High Court order bailing out a man accused of stabbing to death a 30 year old dentist in front of her father in September 2020. Though the trial court denied him bail, the High Court set him at liberty.
Justice Banerjee said, “while granting bail the court has to keep in mind not only the nature of the accusations, but the severity of the punishment”.
6. Maternal deaths rose during pandemic: study
The failure of the health system to cope with COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an increase in maternal deaths and stillbirths, according to a study published in The Lancet Global Health journal. There was also a rise in maternal depression.
The study attributes the worsening trend to the failure of the “inefficiency of the healthcare system and their inability to cope with the pandemic” instead of strict lockdown measures. This resulted in reduced access to care. In India, there was a 27% drop in pregnant women receiving four or more antenatal check-ups, a 28% decline in institutional deliveries and 22% decline in prenatal services.
7. Disquiet over policy for rare diseases
- Caregivers to patients with ‘rare diseases’ and affiliated organisations are dissatisfied with the National Policy for Rare Diseases, 2021. Though the document specifies increasing the government support for treating patients with a ‘rare disease’ – from ₹15 lakh to ₹20 lakh – caregivers say this doesn’t reflect actual costs of treatment.
8. Panel submits report to SC on ISRO espionage case
- A high level probe panel appointed by the Supreme Court to take erring cops to task for causing “tremendous harassment” and “immeasurable anguish” to Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) scientist Nambi Narayanan in the 1994 espionage case has submitted its report to the Supreme Court.
9. PFI men got funds to stoke riots in Hathras: chargesheet
- The Uttar Pradesh Special Task Force (UPSTF) filed a chargesheet against eight members of the Popular Front of India in a Mathura Court. They have been accused of receiving funds from abroad to foment riots in Hathras in the wake of the alleged gang rape and murder of a Dalit girl in September 2020.
NATIONAL NEWS/ INTERVENTIONS
1. Centre mulls unique ID for all plots of land by March 2022
The Centre plans to issue a 14digit identification number to every plot of land in the country within a year. It will subsequently integrate its land records database with revenue court records and bank records, as well as Aadhaar numbers on a voluntary basis, according to a parliamentary standing committee report. The Unique Land Parcel Identification Number (ULPIN) scheme has been launched in 10 States this year and will be rolled out across the country by March 2022, the Department of Land Resources told the Standing Committee on Rural Development.
An official, who did not wish to be named, described it as “the Aadhaar for land” — a number that would uniquely identify every surveyed parcel of land and prevent land fraud, especially in rural India, where land records are outdated and disputed. The identification will be based on the longitude and latitude of the land parcel, and is dependent on detailed surveys and georeferenced cadastral maps. This is the next step in the Digital India Land Records Modernisation Programme (DILRMP), which began in 2008. It’s due to come to an end next week, but the Department has proposed a further extension to 2023- 24, to complete its original targets as well as expand its ambit with a slew of new schemes
2. NRC-excluded to get rejection slips
The Centre has told the Assam government that “rejection slips'' to those excluded from the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) published in 2019 should be issued immediately. More than 19 lakh of the 3.29 crore applicants in Assam were left out of the final register that took five years to be compiled and cost ₹1,220 crore. Assam is the only State where an NRC was compiled under the supervision of the top court.
The Assam government has rejected the NRC in its current form and demanded reverification of 30% of names included in the NRC in areas bordering Bangladesh and 10% in the remaining State. The Assembly election is under way in Assam and the results are to be announced on May 2. According to Article 6 of the Constitution, the cutoff date for migration to India from Pakistan is July 19, 1948 whereas according to the 1985 accord, in Assam, which borders Bangladesh, it is March 24, 1971.
3. India attends Myanmar parade
Amid the crackdown by the military on protesters in Myanmar following the February 1 coup, India is one of the countries that attended the Armed Forces Day parade on March 27.
According to Nikkei Asia, eight countries – Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand – sent representatives for the annual parade. On Sunday, the defence chiefs of 12 countries, including Australia, the U.K. and the U.S., condemned the “use of lethal force against unarmed people'' in what was reported as the bloodiest day since the coup.
4. U.S. report flags curbs on Indian media
In its 2020 Human Rights Report, the U.S. State Department said the harassment and detention of journalists critical of the (Indian) government in their reporting and on social media, has continued, although the government generally respects freedom of expression. It also said the government's requests for user data from Internet companies had increased “dramatically.”
It also details cases against individual journalists and NGO activists, including Siddharth Varadarajan of The Wire (case by U.P. government) and Anirban Chattopadhyay of Anandabazar Patrika (summoned by Kolkata police). The government made 49,382 user data requests in 2019 from Facebook, a 32% increase from 2018. Over the same period, Google requests increased by 69%, while Twitter requests saw a 68% increase.
In a section on the arbitrary deprivation of life, the report highlights the case of the Sattankulam (Tamil Nadu) custodial deaths of P. Jayaraj and his son J. Benicks, who were arrested for allegedly keeping their shop’s shutters open past permitted hours during the pandemic. The report takes note of the April 2020 detention of pregnant Jamia Millia student Safoora Zargar, who was protesting the citizenship laws. It also mentions the arrest of JNU student Umar Khalid, who like Ms. Zargar, was detained under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. On the protracted detention of politicians in J&K, the report notes that former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, arrested under the Public Safety Act, was released after a three month extension of her detention.
5. Jaishankar says India backs Afghan-Taliban dialogue
Calling for a “double peace” both inside Afghanistan and in the region, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said India supports the Intra-Afghan Negotiations (IAN), in a rare direct reference to the Taliban at the 9th Heart of Asia conference in Tajikistan. Mr. Jaishankar attended the meet along with Foreign Ministers of 15 countries, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey, Iran, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Central Asian states.
Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani, who spoke to both foreign ministers in separate meetings, thanked neighbouring countries for their support. He also lauded a number of regional connectivity initiatives including India’s air corridor programme and Chabahar port project, as well as the Turkmenistan - Afghanistan - Pakistan -India (TAPI) pipeline.
6. Pakistan freezes plan to allow imports from India
Just a day after announcing its plan to allow import of cotton and sugar from India, the Pakistan government on Thursday said it was “deferring” the decision and linked any “normalisation” in ties to moves by New Delhi on Jammu and Kashmir. The U-turn was seen as an embarrassment for the Imran Khan government and, in particular, for the newly appointed Finance Minister Hammad Azhar, who had addressed a press conference on Wednesday announcing clearances by the Economic Coordination Council (ECC) for imports from India, which have been suspended since August 2019.
“Cabinet stated clearly NO trade with India,” Ms. Mazaari emphasised in a tweet after the meeting, referring to India’s “illegal actions” in Jammu and Kashmir. Mr. Rashid told the media that India’s decision to overturn Article 370 was the precondition for any engagement.
7. Dadasaheb Phalke for Rajinikanth
The Centre announced the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award for Rajinikanth for his contribution as an actor, producer and screenwriter. Announcing the decision in New Delhi, Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said, “For the past 50 years, Rajinikanth has been ruling the film industry. His work is like the sun. Through his talent and hard work, he has made a space for himself in the hearts of millions of people.”
Instituted in 1969, the award is the highest honour for an artiste in Indian cinema. It is presented annually at the National Film Awards Ceremony by the Directorate of Film Festivals, an organisation of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The award was decided by a jury of five members — Asha Bhonsle, director Subhash Ghai, Mohanlal, Shankar Mahadevan and actor Biswajeet Chatterjee. After Amitabh Bachchan received the award in 2018, there had been no nominee for the past three years.
8. BIMSTEC meet skirts Myanmar violence
India expressed commitment about taking the Bay of Bengal community to “new heights''. The statement was made by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar at the ministerial meeting of the BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for MultiSectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation), which was held virtually. The meeting drew participation from all the seven member States, including Myanmar which is witnessing a large-scale crackdown against anti-military protesters.
Cohesion among the members has been difficult to achieve mainly because of the Rohingya refugee crisis which created bitterness between Myanmar and Bangladesh. This affected the working of the organisation to some extent as it could not develop a common charter. However, Mr. Jaishankar announced that the organisation will soon have a common set of rules and goals. Thursday’s meeting, the 17th BIMSTEC Ministerial, chaired by Sri Lanka, however, avoided any reference to Myanmar’s current crisis.
9. First farm based solar power plant comes up in Rajasthan
The first farm based solar power plant under the Prime Minister’s Kisan Urja Suraksha Evam Utthan Mahabhiyan (KUSUM) scheme has come up in Jaipur district’s Kotputli tehsil with a provision for production of 17 lakh units of electricity every year. The 1 MW project has been established on 3.50 acres of farmland in Kotputli’s Balaji village.
RRECL chairman Subodh Agarwal said that the KUSUM scheme would ensure energy security for farmers, as they could generate revenue from their less productive or barren land. It would also help increase the clean green energy and generate employment in the rural areas, he said.
10. ‘India stands for revival of democracy in Myanmar’
India said it stood for revival of democracy in Myanmar, and added that violence would not solve the prevailing situation in the country. India was among the first countries to express concern after the February 1 military takeover which deposed the democratically elected leadership of Myanmar.
However, India’s subsequent behaviour indicated that it preferred to maintain communication links with the military junta. On March 27, an Indian official attended the Myanmar Armed Forces Day parade at capital Naypyidaw even as the day turned out to be the bloodiest with the military killing around 100 protesters.
Subsequently, on April 1, Myanmar participated in a foreign ministerial meeting of BIMSTEC, Bay of Bengal Initiative for MultiSectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation, which was chaired by Sri Lanka and attended by India along with other members like Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, and Thailand.
11. Freeze on Co-WIN registration for healthcare and frontline workers
No fresh registration for COVID-19 vaccination in categories of healthcare and frontline workers will be allowed with immediate effect, according to an order placed on Saturday.
The one-page order issued by Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan comes after “various inputs were received from different sources that in some of the vaccination centres, ineligible beneficiaries are being registered as healthcare and frontline workers and getting vaccinated in complete violation of the prescribed guidelines,” the Ministry said. The cumulative number of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered has crossed 7.44 crore on Saturday, said the Health Ministry.
12. India extends condolences to Taiwan
India conveyed condolences to Taiwan after the worst rail accident in the history of the island nation left at least 50 dead. The message triggered a series of exchanges among the officials on both sides, a rare sight in public diplomacy between the two countries that do not maintain full fledged diplomatic ties because of objections from Beijing.
Taiwan and India have maintained strong trade relationships over the last three decades, but they continue to maintain bilateral relations at the level of Trade Representatives because of objections from China. Both sides are however expected to intensify collaboration in the post pandemic scenario in high end industrial sectors as well as in the production of vaccines.
13. No trade with India now: Imran
Prime Minister Imran Khan decided that Pakistan cannot go ahead with any trade with India under the current circumstances after holding consultations with key members of his Cabinet on importing cotton and sugar, a media report said on Saturday.
The Pakistani Cabinet rejected the proposal of the high powered committee to import cotton from India, with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi saying there can be no normalisation of ties until New Delhi reverses its decision to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir in 2019.
14. Co-WIN platform upgraded for 1 crore daily jabs
The Co-WIN platform, for COVID-19 vaccination registration, has been ramped up to accept one crore registrations and record vaccination of 50 lakh persons daily, said R.S. Sharma, Chairman, Empowered Group on COVID-19 vaccination. The system is operating at four levels – the one that is open to public (for registration), the veriﬁcation level, platform management (open to hospitals giving the vaccine) and the certiﬁcate generation.
The current version of the Co-WIN system does not schedule the appointment for the second dose of the vaccine automatically, and beneﬁciaries should schedule this as per the recommended gap between the two doses.
15. Odisha suffered losses worth 31,945 crores in eight cyclones
The Odisha government received Central assistance of meagre one-sixth of the losses incurred in eight diﬀerent cyclones that visited after the Super Cyclone 1999. After the Super Cyclone 1999, the State was hit by Phailin (2013), Hudhud (2014), Titli, Phethai and Daye (2018), Bulbul and Fani (2019) and Amphan (2020). In these cyclones, Odisha suﬀered losses of life and property worth ₹31,945.80 crore.
As far as the loss is concerned, Phailin was the most devastating, with the State losing ₹14,373.47 crore. Total 160 persons had died in the eight cyclones during the past two decades. While the highest 72 had died in the Titli cyclone, Fani claimed 64 lives.
16. A look into election priorities
Tamil Nadu has the highest revenue deﬁcit among the poll bound States. It stood at ₹65,994 crore, as per the revised budget estimate for 2020-21. In terms of size of the economy, Tamil Nadu’s economy is the largest among these States (third largest in India), followed by West Bengal (sixth), Kerala (11th), Assam (17th) and Puducherry (26th). Together, they account for around 20% of India’s economy. At ₹19 lakh crore, Tamil Nadu accounts for 9% of India’s economy.
Assam has witnessed a revenue surplus in 2020-21, as per the revised estimates for the year, while Puducherry had a revenue surplus for 2019-20 and is yet to announce the Budget for 2021-22. The ﬁnancial position of West Bengal and Kerala is also stressed, with revenue deﬁcit of ₹34,345 crore and ₹24,206 crore in 202021, respectively.
Assam has witnessed the highest average economic growth of 8.6% during the four-year period to 2019-20. West Bengal and Puducherry’s economy grew on a par with the national average, while at 6.3%, Kerala’s economic growth was lower than the national average due to the devastating ﬂoods of 2018 and 2019.
The unemployment rate in Tamil Nadu in February 2021 was 4.8%, lower than the national average of 6.9%. The unemployment rates in the other four States were also below the national average. In February 2021, Tamil Nadu’s inﬂation stood at 7.2%, above the national average of 5%. The inﬂation was 4.9% for Kerala, 5.3% for West Bengal, 8% for Puducherry and 6.5% for Assam.
17. Manipur retracts letter on refugees
The Manipur government has withdrawn a letter issued directing oﬃcials to not set up any camps for Myanmar nationals crossing the border into India and to “politely turn away” those seeking refuge. The Union Home Ministry asserted that the refugees should be identiﬁed and deported, the Mizoram government is planning to provide them employment under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.
In the March 26 letter to the Deputy Commissioners of ﬁve districts bordering Myanmar, it had been ordered in case of grievous injuries, medical attention may be provided on “humanitarian considerations” and also directed that Aadhaar enrolment “should be stopped immediately and Aadhaar enrolment kits taken into safe custody.”
The MGNREGS is a Central scheme meant only for Indian citizens, but the rules are notiﬁed by the State government. The civil society groups, with the help of local television channels have so far raised more than ₹16 lakh to help the people.
18. Military Farms shut after 132 years
Military farms have been closed after 132 years of service, the Army said. In December 2016, the Lt. Gen. D.B. Shekatkar (retd.) committee, which was appointed to recommend measures to enhance combat capability and rebalance defence expenditure of the armed forces, recommended the closure of military farms.
The farms were set up with the sole requirement of supplying hygienic cow milk to troops in garrisons across British India. The ﬁrst military farm was raised on February 1, 1889, at Allahabad. Post Independence, they ﬂourished with 30,000 heads of cattle in 130 farms all over India. They were even established in Leh and Kargil in the late 1990s. For more than a century, the farms supplied 3.5 crore litres of milk and 25,000 tonnes of hay yearly.
“It is credited with pioneering the technique of artiﬁcial insemination of cattle and introduction of organised dairying in India, providing yeoman service during the 1971 war, supplying milk at the Western and East ern war fronts as well as during the Kargil operations to the Northern Command,” the Army said.
19. Arvind Kejriwal to represent Delhi at World cities cultural forum
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal will represent the Capital and India at the World Cities Cultural Forum. Mr. Kejriwal, had recently accepted an invitation by the Mayor of London to represent Delhi at the forum, which comprises 40 world cities including London, Tokyo and New York. All the cities ‘recognise the impact and importance of culture and creativity and seek to inculcate these values in public policy and city planning’.
Delhi will also be part of the World Cities Culture Report, the most comprehensive global dataset on culture in cities. This year’s theme is “The Future of Culture”.
20. Best documentary film at the 67th National Film Awards 2019
Elephants Do Remember, a documentary on Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, recently adjudged the Best Biographical Film at the 67th National Film Awards 2019, marks the directorial debut of Swati Pandey, Postmaster General, India Post, Mumbai Region. The ﬁlm, which will bring to the fore unknown facts about the great freedom ﬁghter, revolves around the life of Rama Khandwala, 94, a resident of Opera House, Mumbai, who served in the Indian National Army and worked closely with Netaji. Ms. Khandwala is the oldest tourist guide in India, she was at 16 an integral part of Netaji’s Rani Jhansi Regiment, that fought for India’s freedom, but also led a team of 30 women soldiers (known as Ranis) at the war front. The ﬁlm was also nominated under the Short Documentary category at the IFFI, Goa, 2019.
Swati Pandey is an Indian Postal Service officer of the 1997 batch. Ms. Pandey is now working on a documentary on the 160 year history of India Post along with Epic Channel. Recently, she also published the ﬁrst ever e-book on the Mumbai General Post Oﬃce, co-authored with another government oﬃcer Orchida Mukherjee.
21. On Millets
The United Nations has declared 2023 as the International Year of Millets. India, Nigeria and China are the largest producers of millets in the world, accounting for more than 55% of the global production. In India, pearl millet is the fourth most widely cultivated food crop after rice, wheat and maize. It occupies an area of 6.93 million hectare with an average production of 8.61 million tonnes and productivity of 1,243 kg/ha during 2018-19.
Millets are available almost across India. They need very little water for growing. In a country such as India where there is a high incidence of diabetes, millets, being complex carbohydrates with low GI [glycemic index], are indeed wonder grains and have a huge relevance in shifting consumers to millets and millet based products.
22. Centre praises Rajasthan's achievements in ration card scheme
- The Centre praised the achievements of Rajasthan in the implementation of the “one nation, one ration card” scheme to enable migrant workers and their families to access the beneﬁts of the public distribution system (PDS) from anywhere. Rajasthan is the 12th State to successfully undertake the reform. The centre praised the process for biometric authentication and transparency in the distribution of ration under the National Food Security Act (NFSA).
INTERNATIONAL NEWS/EVENTS/ PERSONALITIES
1. Global outrage after Myanmar bloodbath claims over 100 lives
Defence chiefs from a dozen countries jointly condemned the bloodbath in Myanmar a day earlier, when at least 107 people, including seven children, were killed as security forces opened fire on anti coup protesters. The junta staged a major show of might for its annual Armed Forces Day as the death toll from crackdowns since the coup climbed to at least 423, according to a local monitoring group.
The UN put Saturday’s death toll at 107 people – including seven children – but expects it to rise further. The defence chiefs of 12 countries, including the U.S., Britain, Japan and Australia, condemned the Myanmar military’s use of lethal force against civilians. The military is also continuing to battle ethnic Karen fighters in the country’s east. The Karen National Union is one of the organisations that have been fighting for decades to gain more autonomy from Myanmar’s central government.
2. Philippines deploys aircraft as China ships spark tensions
The Philippines said it has started deploying its Air Force to carry out daily patrols over a flotilla of Chinese vessels that has sparked fresh tensions in the South China Sea. The latest dispute, Manila said, was triggered by what it described as a swarm of more than 200 Chinese fishing vessels that have refused to withdraw from waters off the Whitsun Reef, near the disputed Spratly Islands, in an area located within Manila’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
The stand-off follows a similar incident in 2019 triggered by Chinese fishing vessels near another disputed island in the Spratlys. As it did then, Manila has called on Beijing to acknowledge the 2016 arbitration case which recognised many of its claims
3. UN in dialogue with China for ‘unrestricted’ Xinjiang visit
- The UN is in negotiations with Beijing for a visit “without restrictions” to Xinjiang to see how the Uighur minority is being treated, SecretaryGeneral Antonio Guterres said in an interview. At least one million Uighurs and people from other mostly Muslim groups have been held in camps in the northwestern region, according to U.S. and Australian rights groups, which accuse Chinese authorities of forcibly sterilising women and imposing forced labour. China has repeatedly bridled at criticism of its treatment of the group.
4. China cuts Hong Kong’s elected seats
China’s legislature formally approved sweeping changes to Hong Kong’s electoral system that will see a sharply reduced share of directly elected representatives and a tightening of Beijing’s control in the Special Administrative Region (SAR). President Xi Jinping signed orders to promulgate the amended annexes to Hong Kong’s Basic Law, the constitution that has governed the SAR under the “one country, two systems” model since its return to China in 1997, official media reported.
The amendments mark the biggest changes to Hong Kong’s political system since the handover, and reduce the share of directly elected representatives in its Legislative Council (LegCo). While previously 35 of its 70 members were directly elected, that number has been reduced by 15.
The other big change is the setting up of a Candidate Eligibility Review Committee “for reviewing and confirming the eligibility of candidates” and a “Committee for Safeguarding National Security'' that “will make findings as to whether a candidate for Election Committee member or for the office of Chief Executive meets the legal requirements”. There will be no scope for legally challenging the findings. The changes have also all but ended any prospect of realising the demands of the 2019 protest movement for universal suffrage and direct elections to choose the Chief Executive.
5. Hefazat-e-Islam, the group behind Bangladesh protests
- At least 11 people were killed in Bangladesh over the weekend as protesters clashes with police during demonstrations called by Islamist groups against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Dhaka visit. Mr. Modi was in Bangladesh to attend the country’s Golden Jubilee celebrations of independence. The main group behind the violent protests was Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh that had in the past clashed with the Awami League government. Hefazat-e-Islam, literally ‘protector of Islam’, was formed in 2010 when the country was taking gradual measures to undo the Islamisation of its polity by the military rulers in the late 1970s and 1980s.
6. Global leaders push for new pandemic treaty
- World leaders pushed for a new international treaty to prepare for the next global pandemic – and avoid the unseemly scramble for vaccines hampering the COVID-19 response. Leaders from 25 countries, the European Union and the World Health Organization (WHO) sought to get the ground rules down in writing to streamline and speed up the reaction to future global outbreaks. The treaty would aim to ensure that information, virus pathogens, technology to tackle the pandemic and products such as vaccines are shared swiftly and equitably among nations.
7. Joe Biden set to announce $2 trillion infrastructure plan
U.S. President Joe Biden will visit Pittsburgh to announce a massive $2 trillion infrastructure plan, which will, over eight years, rebuild much of America’s infrastructure – from roads and bridges to high-speed Internet infrastructure and water pipes.
The legislation, called the American Jobs Plan, is being pitched by the White House as America’s response to the climate crisis and “the ambitions of an autocratic China'', and is expected to be financed by corporate taxes. The plan will include $621 billion for modernising roads and bridges, modernising public transit (buses, rapid bus transport, railway tracks and coaches), passenger and freight rail services and electric vehicles, according to the White House. It will call for a $111 billion investment in drinking water infrastructure, including replacing all lead pipes. An outlay of $100 billion for clean power and another $100 for broadband infrastructure are also part of the plan. Mr. Biden will ask Congress for $180 billion in research and development (R&D), and $300 billion in supply chain investment and pandemic preparedness. Coming weeks after Congress passed his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, the proposed infrastructure Bill and associated tax Bill is likely to face opposition from Republicans on Capitol Hill
8. Brazil military chiefs quit after Bolsonaro fires Defence Minister
The leaders of all three branches of Brazil’s armed forces jointly resigned following President Jair Bolsonaro’s replacement of the Defence Minister, causing widespread apprehension of a military shakeup to serve the President’s political interests. The Defence Ministry reported the resignations.
Gen. Braga Netto’s first statement on the new job showed he is aligned with Mr. Bolsonaro’s views for the armed forces. The incoming Defence Minister, unlike his predecessor Fernando Azevedo e Silva, celebrated the 1964-1985 military dictatorship that killed and tortured thousands of Brazilians. His slide in popularity, and the likelihood that he will face leftist former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in the 2022 presidential election, has analysts saying he is looking to the armed forces for support.
9. Italy expels Russians after Navy officer ‘caught’ selling secret files
Italy expelled two Russian officials on Wednesday after an Italian Navy captain was allegedly caught redhanded selling secret documents to a Russian military officer. The Italian frigate Captain was arrested on spying charges after a “clandestine meeting” with the Russian late on Tuesday in Rome, according to a police statement.
According to La Repubblica newspaper, the Navy Captain worked at the office of Chief of the Defence Staff and had access “to a wide range of documents” concerning both Italian defence and NATO activities.
10. Saudi Arabia to unveil $3.2 tn investment drive
Saudi Arabia announced plans to pump investments worth $3.2 trillion into the national economy by 2030, roping in the oil reliant kingdom’s biggest companies in a major economic diversification push. The announcement by de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman underscores an effort to jumpstart the domestic economy as the top crude exporter battles high youth unemployment and a coronavirus triggered downturn.
Twenty-four of the kingdom’s biggest companies, including energy giant Aramco and petrochemical firm SABIC, will lead the investment drive by contributing five trillion riyals ($1.3 trillion) over the next decade, he said. The Public Investment Fund (PIF), the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, will provide three trillion riyals
11. Coup bid in Niger ahead of presidential inauguration
- Elite troops in Niger thwarted an “attempted coup”, a security source said, just two days before the historic inauguration of Mohamed Bazoum as President of the chronically unstable Sahel nation. The alleged coup comes ahead of Mr. Bazoum’s inauguration on Friday – the first elected transition in Niger’s history since independence from France in 1960.
12. Biden allows H1B visa ban to expire
The White House has allowed a 2020 ban on H1B skilled workers and certain other temporary visas to expire on March 31. H1B visas, used more by Indian professionals than any other nationality, were suspended by President Donald Trump in June last year, ostensibly to protect American jobs, already reeling under the impact of the COVID19 pandemic.
Visas for intracompany transfers (L1), exchange visitors ( J1), temporary nonagricultural workers (H2B) and dependents of H1B holders (H4) were also impacted by the expiring ban. Indian IT industry body NASSCOM said it applauded the decision to let the visa ban expire
13. China pushes to expand virus origin search beyond its border
Chinese health officials pushed to expand the search for the origins of the novel coronavirus beyond China, one day after the release of a closely watched World Health Organization report on the issue. They also rejected criticism that China did not give enough data to a WHO team of international experts that visited Wuhan, the Chinese city where the first cases were detected, earlier this year.
The WHO report concluded that the virus or a progenitor of it was most likely carried by a bat, which infected another animal that infected a human. Researchers have not been able to trace the bat or the intermediate animal yet, but suspicion has fallen on bat habitats in southwest China or nearby Southeast Asia.
14. Jailed Barghouti backs challenge to Abbas
Imprisoned Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti has endorsed a list of challengers opposing President Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah movement in legislative elections next month, the head of the dissident list said on Thursday. Mr. Barghouti, who is serving multiple life sentences in an Israeli jail and is described by some as the “Palestinian Mandela,” has been a closely watched figure ahead of the first Palestinian elections in 15 years.
Mr. Barghouti’s wife Fadwa is the second candidate on the “Freedom” list headed by Nasser alKidwa, nephew of the late iconic Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Mr. Kidwa was expelled from Fatah earlier this year after announcing his intention to run for the Palestinian presidency in a July 31 vote, a move seen as a direct affront to the Mr. Abbas,85. There remains widespread speculation that Mr. Barghouti may mount a presidential run from prison. Israel has convicted him of orchestrating deadly attacks during the 2000-2005 second Palestinian intifada, or uprising. Mr. Barghouti refused to recognise the court during his trial.
15. U.S., Iran agree to indirect nuclear talks
The U.S. and Iran said that they would begin negotiations through intermediaries next week to try to get both countries back into an accord limiting Iran’s nuclear programme, nearly three years after President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the deal. The announcement marked the first major progress in efforts to return both countries to the 2015 accord, which bound Iran to restrictions on its nuclear programmes in return for relief from U.S. and international sanctions.
President Joe Biden came into office saying that getting back into the accord was a priority. But Iran and the U.S. have disagreed over Iran's demands that sanctions be lifted first, and the stalemate threatened to become an early foreign policy setback for the Biden administration.
16. Biden vows support to Kiev after Russian buildup
U.S. President Joe Biden affirmed his “unwavering support” for Ukraine in a call to President Volodymyr Zelensky after Kiev accused Moscow of building up military forces on its border. The call, came after Russia warned the West earlier against sending troops to Ukraine to buttress its ally. It also came as tensions between the U.S. and Russia have hit rock bottom after Mr. Biden last month infuriated Moscow by agreeing with a description of his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin as a “killer”.
Kiev has been battling pro-Russian separatists in the eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions since 2014, following Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula after an uprising that ousted Ukraine’s Kremlin friendly president Viktor Yanukovych.
17. Biden lifts Trump’s sanctions on international court officials
President Joe Biden lifted sanctions that Donald Trump had imposed on two top officials of the International Criminal Court (ICC), undoing one of the past administration’s more aggressive moves targeting international institutions and officials.
The Trump administration was openly hostile to the tribunal for pursuing prosecutions of Americans for actions in Afghanistan and Israelis for actions against the Palestinians. Both sets of sanctions had been roundly denounced by the ICC. The removal of the sanctions was the latest signal that the Biden administration is intent on returning to the multilateral fold.
OPINION & ANALYSIS
Story : The Period Stigma
- In February 2020, college authorities, including the principal, of the Shree Sahajanand Girls Institute (SSGI) in Bhuj, Gujarat, allegedly forced over 60 girls to remove their undergarments to check if they were menstruating. This shocking act, which rightly caused outrage, followed complaints that the girls had entered the temple and kitchen in the premises while on their period, which is against the institute’s rules. Four persons were later arrested.
(ii). Where are we standing
The stigma finds its roots in the notion of purity and pollution attached historically to menstruation. This was explained exceptionally by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud in Indian Young Lawyers Association v. The State of Kerala (2018), known popularly as the Sabarimala case, a decision that India is still struggling to accept.
He reasoned, and rightly so, that any social practice which excludes women from participation in public life as a result of their menstruation is discriminatory on the ground of their sex. That apart, such social exclusion can be attacked on the ground of privacy.
Taking cognisance of the incident at SSGI, the Gujarat High Court, in early March this year, proposed to introduce a set of guidelines that prohibit the social exclusion of menstruating women from private, public, religious and educational places.
The hope for women is that society will slowly but surely get past the taboo around menstruation, and abhorrent practices discriminating against menstruating women will be considered abnormal.
Story : Contribution of Women dairy farmers
- The achievements of women dairy farmers in contributing to India’s ‘White Revolution’ are perhaps the greatest cause for celebrating Women's History Month in March. That this has happened despite a majority of dairy farmers owning only small landholdings – typically households with two to five cows – is also a testament to the success of the dairy cooperatives models that were at the heart of Operation Flood.
(ii). Winning the odds
According to latest data, there are more than 1,90,000 dairy cooperative societies across the country, with approximately 6 million women members. A study by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) indicates that 93% of women farmers who receive training along-side financial support succeed in their ventures, compared to the 57% success rate of those who receive financial aid alone.
Institutionalising such inputs, the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) now organises farmer’s orientation programmes across the country, under which women farmers are trained in scientific best practices on animal health, fodder quality, clean milk production, and accounts management.
Another major challenge in this sector is information asymmetry among farmers. Statistics indicate that small and marginal farmers have access to only 50-70% of the resources that large and medium farmers have. Once again, the presence of collectives in the form of cooperatives and milk unions plays a significant role in enhancing the knowledge and bargaining power of women.
The NDDB has played a proactive role in setting up women-led producer enterprises. To conclude, Innovation in organisational structures has also spurred consistent growth in this sector. These testimonials of individual women dairy farmers are all the more remarkable for the fact that many of them have not had a formal education, but through the process of dairying and working with larger collectives, such as milk unions and cooperatives, they have mastered the nuances of finance and marketing.
Commentary : In Geneva faceoff, outrage versus hope
- Geneva as an idea is firmly embedded in the Sri Lankan consciousness. For many Sri Lankans, especially the Sinhalese, it is an attack on national honour, a place where their vulnerability as a small island is exploited. For many Tamils and now Muslims, it is a place of hope. For human rights activists the world over, it is their forum.
(ii). The government portrayal
The government playbook with regard to the Geneva process at the UN Human Rights Council is to present it as an enormous power play full of double standards. It is seen as western countries ganging up on Sri Lanka for its closeness to China. Imperialism and neocolonialism remain in the frame.
The government’s aim this year was to have no resolution at all, while the major Tamil groups wanted the Human Rights Council to begin a pathway to the International Criminal Court. In the end, the resolution decided to create capacity at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to collect, preserve and consolidate evidence not only on war crimes but also on other gross violations of human rights and serious violations of humanitarian law. There is no date or time period.
(iii). The story
- The “plus” factors around the Sri Lankan resolution were easy to identify. First came the legal experts of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as the Special Rapporteurs and procedures who took very strong positions. In addition to the work of OHCHR, the Tamil groups nationally and globally were extremely active. But, it was Muslim civil society and the Muslim diaspora that made the difference for this resolution.
(iv). How Sri Lanka stands
Sri Lanka has again become a global cause: The events unfolding in Geneva are particularly disturbing because of their shortsightedness. In 2014, Sri Lanka faced a hostile Council and was an outlier in the international system very much like today. With this dedicated capacity at the OHCHR, the human rights issues regarding Sri Lanka will not go away.
For many Sri Lankans, especially the Sinhalese, this is an outrage of double standards. There is real fury at what they see as global inequity. For many members of the minorities, opposition leaders, journalists, lawyers, victim groups and civil society activists who claim they are being harassed, prosecuted and intimidated on a daily basis by a surveillance state, there is relief to know that someone will be watching.
Profile : CARRIE LAM: In the line of fire
- When Carrie Lam was in 2017 appointed as Hong Kong’s fourth Chief Executive(CE) – and the first woman to lead China’s Special Administrative Region (SAR) – her appointment by Beijing was greeted mostly with optimism. Ms. Lam triggered the unprecedented protest movement in 2019 that brought millions to the streets, by proposing a controversial extradition Bill that would allow suspects to be repatriated to the mainland.
(ii). The conflicts and the legacy
The protests against the Bills led to broader calls for democracy and for universal suffrage. Hong Kong’s residents only vote for half of their 70 legislators, with the rest nominated by pro-Beijing bodies. The CE is also not voted for, but chosen by a Beijing-backed Election Committee.
Ms. Lam subsequently wholeheartedly backed Beijing’s crushing response to the protests, starting with a new national security law in 2020 and unprecedented changes to Hong Kong’s electoral system announced on March 30 that have drastically cut the share of democratically elected representatives. The number of elected legislators has been cut to 20 while the Legislative Council has been expanded to 90, thus ensuring a permanent majority for Beijing Nominated politicians and all but ending the pro democracy movement.
Ms. Lam will be remembered for presiding over the biggest changes to the “one country, two systems” model that has governed Hong Kong since 1997, guaranteeing a high degree of autonomy and a range of freedoms that distinguished the SAR from the mainland.
Story : The HIB visa rule
(i). The story so far
- Last June, the administration of former President Donald Trump, a Republican, halted the issuance of non-immigrant work visas of several types, including the skilled worker visa, or H1B. At the time, the White House had stated that the aim of the policy was to stop foreign workers from cornering American jobs during the economic distress and consequent shortage of economic opportunities brought on by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. While the original order was valid until December 31, 2020, it was extended by the Trump administration to be valid until March 31, 2021. Now, the 46th and current U.S. President, Democrat Joe Biden, has allowed the ban on H1B visa issuance to expire, potentially bringing relief to a large number of Indian nationals, especially IT workers who are prospective applicants for the visa.
(ii). What was the context for the Trump administration issuing rules tightening immigration policy?
- Immigration reforms in favour of protecting U.S. jobs for Americans and favouring legal over undocumented migration was a major policy thrust for Mr. Trump even during his days campaigning for the 2016 presidential election.
(iii). Was it economics or politics that prompted the ban?
- It is unlikely that any significant economic benefits of the skilled worker visa ban, in terms of protecting U.S. jobs from foreigners, could have been realised during 2020 and early 2021 given the pressures of the COVID19 pandemic on the U.S. economy.
(iv). What was the economic fallout of the visa ban?
- Even more than Mr. Biden, it turned out that America Inc., the employers of perhaps millions of nonimmigrant foreign workers, from Wall Street to Silicon Valley, was at the vanguard of the backlash against the skilled worker visa ban.
(v). What will be the impact of the ban’s expiry on Indian corporations?
- Given that the order banning H1B visa issuance expired on Thursday, all H1B applicants will now be in a position to receive a visa and travel to the U.S. to begin or resume work as full time employees or independent contractors. In time, that will lead to a steady increase in the size of the talent pool available to IT companies with U.S. operations.
Analysis : On what inflation targeting means in India
- The Finance Ministry announced that the inﬂation target for the ﬁve years between April 2021 and March 2026 will remain unchanged at 4%, with an upper tolerance level of 6% and a lower tolerance level of 2%. This is the retail inﬂation target that will drive the country’s monetary policy framework.
(ii). Why is it important
India had switched to an inﬂation target based monetary policy framework in 2015, with the 4% target kicking in from 201617. Many developed countries had adopted an inﬂation rate focus as an anchor for policy formulation for interest rates rather than past ﬁxations with metrics. In adopting a target for a period of ﬁve years, the central bank has the visibility and the time to smoothly alter and adjust its policies in order to attain the targeted inﬂation levels.
Moody’s Analytics recently pointed out that volatile food prices and rising oil prices had already driven India’s consumer price index (CPI)based inﬂation past the 6% tolerance threshold several times in 2020. It was however predicted that, the Central government, whose topmost priority now is to revive growth in the COVID-19 pandemic battered economy, may ease up on the inﬂation target by a percentage point or two. This would have given the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) more room to cut interest rates even if inﬂation was a tad higher.
(iii). RBI's position
RBI has been supportive of the targets. They are consistent with global experience in countries that have a large share of food items in their consumer price inﬂation indices. Accepting inﬂation levels beyond 6% would hurt the country’s growth prospects, the central bank had asserted.
The central bank has been perhaps the only major national institution to have made a pitch for both the Centre and the States to cut the high taxes they levy on fuels that have led to pump prices for petrol crossing ₹100 a litre in some districts. As high oil prices spur retail inﬂation higher, the central bank is unhappy as its own credibility comes under a cloud if the target is breached. If the upper threshold for the inﬂation target were raised to 7%, the central bank may not have felt the need to seek tax cuts (yet).
Story : China's push on digital currencies
- China in February launched the latest round of pilot trials of its new digital currency. While several countries have been experimenting with digital currencies, China’s recent trials in several cities have placed it ahead of the curve.
(ii). How does the currency work
Oﬃcially titled the Digital Currency Electronic Payment (DCEP), the digital RMB (or Renminbi, China’s currency) is, as its name suggests, a digital version of China’s currency. It can be downloaded and exchanged via an application authorised by the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), China’s central bank.
Unlike an e-wallet, the Digital RMB does not involve a third party. The digital currency is a legal tender guaranteed by the central bank, not a payment guaranteed by a third-party operator. There is no third-party transaction, and hence, no transaction fee. Unlike e-wallets, the digital currency does not require Internet connectivity. The payment is made through Near ﬁeld Communication (NFC) technology.
(iii). What are countries pushing the use of digital currency
Digital payment platforms have placed the countries' money in the hands of a few technology companies. For example, in China, in the fourth quarter of 2019, Alibaba controlled 55.1% of the market for mobile payments, Tencent controlled another 38.9%.
The central bank issued digital RMB will turn the logic of decentralised cryptocurrencies on its head, without the privacy and anonymity they oﬀer, by giving regulators complete control over transactions. There are global motivations as well.
ECONOMICS & FINANCE
1. Finance Minister on working with India on infra
Finance and Corporate Affairs Minister Nirmala Sitharaman urged the New Development Bank (NDB) to consider working closely with India’s new development ﬁnancing institution for funding infrastructure.
Set up by the BRICS nations in 2014, the NDB has so far approved 18 projects in India, including emergency loans of $2 billion to support health spending and economic recovery in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ms. Sitharaman is also India’s Governor on the NDB board. She advised the NDB to effectively meet the evolving development needs of member countries and encouraged it to develop a synergistic relationship with various other multilateral development banks and DFIs, including the new DFI being set up by India.
2. Passenger vehicle segment expected to post 25% growth in FY-22
- The passenger vehicle (PV) segment in India is expected to grow up to 25% in 2021-22, even as shortage of semiconductors will continue to remain a key challenge for the industry, ratings agency ICRA said. In case the growth momentum is sustained, the industry could surpass earlier peak volume of FY-2019 in FY-2022, ICRA said in a statement. The agency added that the semiconductor shortage was a key challenge in Q1 FY2022 as the automotive industry accounted for 12% of the global semiconductor demand.
3. India's inflation levels
Inﬂation has breached comfort levels and assumed ‘worrisome’ proportions in India, Moody’s Analytics said in a note on Asia’s inﬂation worries driven by rising oil prices. India’s retail inﬂation has been breaching the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI’s) 4% inﬂation target for the past eight months, the ﬁnancial intelligence ﬁrm said India and Philippines are the two notable exceptions – in Asia – where inﬂation is beyond the comfort level.
Volatile food prices and rising oil prices led India’s CPI (consumer price inﬂation) to exceed the upper band of 6% several times in 2020, inhibiting the RBI’s ability to keep accommodative monetary settings in place during the height of the pandemic. Higher fuel prices will keep upward pressure on headline CPI and keep the RBI from oﬀering further rate cuts. Food is a key driver of inﬂation, representing 46% of the CPI basket.
4. Government retains 4% inflation target for RBI's rate panel
- The Centre has decided to retain the inﬂation target of 4%, with a tolerance band of +/ 2 percentage points for the Monetary Policy Committee of the RBI for the coming ﬁve years. Economists welcomed the continuity in the framework, despite the recent spate of high inﬂation prints beyond the 6% upper threshold of the inﬂation target. Inﬂation may have breached the 6% mark a few times recently, but this has been during an exceptional situation in the economy. The decision puts to rest speculation about the government considering a looser inﬂation target to enable a more growth oriented focus in monetary policy.
5. World Bank predicts India's GDP growth between 7.5%-12.5% in FY22
India’s economy is expected to grow at 10.1% for the year starting April 1, 2021, as the vaccine rollout drives activity in contact Intensive sectors, as per the World Bank’s South Asia Economic Focus South Asia Vaccinates report. Fiscal year 2021 is expected to register the worst economic damage due to the pandemic, the report said (the economy contract ed 8.5% in FY 2021 as per the World Bank’s estimate).
The Bank expects public consumption to contribute positively, but pent up private demand to fade by end 2021, as investment will pick up very gradually as a result of a large government capital expenditure push. Negative spillovers from ﬁnancial sector distress (particularly concessions to debtors) are a risk to the growth outlook, the report warned.
6. Centre infuses capital of 14500 crore in four PSU's
- The Centre has infused a fresh capital of ₹14,500 crore in four public sector lenders to improve their ﬁnancial health. The lenders said they received the funds as part of Central Government’s investment in the preferential allotment of equity shares for FY21. Central Bank of India received ₹4,800 crore, IOB ₹4,100 crore, Bank of India ₹3,000 crore and UCO Bank ₹2,600 crore.
7. Government better revenue estimates for disinvestment
The government has mopped up ₹32,835 crore from CPSE share sale and buybacks, thus exceeding the disinvestment target set in the revised estimates (RE) for the current ﬁscal. The realisation is, however, lower than the record ₹2.10 lakh crore originally budgeted. In the RE, the target was scaled down to ₹32,000 crore as COVID-19 delayed planned big-ticket disinvestment.
A Department of Investment and Public Asset Management briefing stated that total DIPAM receipts in 2020-21 stand at ₹71,857 crore, which include disinvestment receipts of ₹32,835 crore and dividend receipts of ₹39,022 crore. For 2021-22 ﬁscal, the Un ion government has set a disinvestment target of ₹1.75 lakh crore.
8. Rate cut on small savings instruments
The government has sharply slashed the rates on all small savings instruments for the ﬁrst quarter of 2021-22, bringing the rate of return on the Public Provident Fund down from 7.1% to 6.4% and eﬀecting cuts ranging from 40 basis points (0.4%) to 110 basis points (1.1%) through a notiﬁcation on Wednesday. The rate of return on the Senior Citizen Savings’ Scheme was cut from 7.4% to 6.5%, while the Sukanya Samriddhi Account Scheme’s return was reduced from 7.6% to 6.9%. The interest rate paid on National Savings Certiﬁcate and Kisan Vikas Patra were also reduced signiﬁcantly, from 6.8% to 5.9%, and from 6.9% to 6.2%, respectively. Consequently, the Kisan Vikas Patra, which used to mature in 124 months, will now mature in 138 months. Among time deposits, the return on ﬁve year deposits has been reduced from 6.7% to 5.8%. For savers, the option with the highest returns at this point is the Sukanya Samriddhi Account Scheme, followed by the Senior Citizens’ Savings Schemes and the Public Provident Fund.
While the government resets the interest rate on small savings instruments every quarter, with a retail inflation hovering in excess of 6%, the rate cuts assume greater significance. The government plans to borrow ₹12.05 lakh crore in 2021-22, on the back of a record gross borrowing of ₹13.71 lakh crore in 2020-21. High small savings rates have been cited by the central bank as a major impediment in ensuring policy rate cuts get transmitted into the banking system.
However, by early Thursday, the rate cuts had disappeared and the status quo reinstated, following a tweet by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. The only explanation: ‘Orders issued by oversight shall be withdrawn.’
9. Central Government on raising borrowings
- The central government is confident that the Reserve Bank of India will manage to help raise the funds at reasonable rates. The Budget has announced a gross borrowing of ₹12,05,500 crore and a net borrowing of ₹9,37,221 crore. The borrowings would be done across tenures ranging from two years to 40 years.
10. States get 45,000 crores as additional devolution
- The Finance Ministry said it had released ₹45,000 crore to the States as additional devolution in FY21 following revenue buoyancy in the March quarter. As per the Revised Estimates for FY21, ₹5,49,959 crore, being 41% of the shareable pool of taxes and duties, were estimated to be released. The 15th Finance Commission has recommended that States be given 41% of the divisible tax pool of the Centre during FY21.
11. Cotton exports may touch 70 lakh bales : Cotton Corporation of India
- Cotton exports so far have clocked 47 lakh bales and may touch 70 lakh bales by the end of season, according to Pradeep Kumar Agarwal, CMD, Cotton Corporation of India (CCI). However, International prices have dropped and those of Indian cotton are now on a par with prices overseas. So, exports may not account for much. Prices in India are expected to remain stable or vary slightly. It would depend on government agencies that have almost 50 lakh bales in stock.
12. India plans to diversify her oil sourcing
Amid tensions with Saudi Arabia over oil production cuts, India has asked its state reﬁners to review contracts for buying crude oil from the West Asian nation and negotiate more favourable terms. India imports 85% of its oil needs and is often vulnerable to global supply and price shocks. When oil prices started to rise in February, it wanted Saudi Arabia to relax output controls but the Kingdom ignored its calls.
Indian ﬁrms buy two thirds of their purchases on term or ﬁxed annual contracts. These contracts provide assured supplies of the contracted quantity but the pricing and other terms favor the supplier. While buyers have an obligation to lift all of the contracted quantity, Saudi and other producers have the option to reduce supplies in case OPEC decides to keep production artiﬁcially lower to boost prices.
Indian reﬁners will look to reduce the quantity they buy through term contracts and instead buy more from the spot or current market. Buying from the spot market would ensure that India can take advantage of any fall in prices on any day and book quantities. Indian reﬁners have raised spot purchases from 20% a decade back to 30-35% of the total oil bought now. West Asia accounts for 60% of oil bought by India. Latin America and Africa are the other big supplier blocks.
1. Shooting World Cup
It was a brilliant climax for the host India, as the men’s and women’s teams nailed the elusive trap gold in the shooting World Cup that concluded at the Dr. Karni Singh Range, Delhi. India topped the medals table with 15 gold, nine silver and six bronze. USA followed a distant second with four gold, three silver and a bronze.
Italy and Denmark had two golds each, while Kazakhstan, Slovakia, Iran, Estonia, Britain and Slovenia won at least one gold. The 82 medals, with 30 gold and 30 silver were shared by 22 of the 59 countries.
2. Merit-based selection for the Olympics
The president of the National Riﬂe Association of India (NRAI), Raninder Singh, assured a merit-based selection of the Indian shooting team for the Tokyo Olympics. It was also announced that there would be reserve shooters and they would be given the same level of training as the Olympic bound shooters in the runup to the Games.
Raninder was happy with the manner in which the young Indian shooters responded to the opportunity of competing in the World Cup at home. He expressed anguish about the National championship not being held any time before the Olympics, owing to the prevailing situation in the country.
3. Bindra launches physiotherapy app
- Former World and Olympic champion Abhinav Bindra has launched “one tap solution for your healthier life”, a physiotherapy mobile application. The app will help people get high-tech physiotherapy and rehabilitation services from the six high performance centres across the country, as well as from the convenience of their home. The app will facilitate ﬁxing appointments at speciﬁc locations apart from oﬀering access to the expert physiotherapists through video call and chat features. The app will be accessible from all metro cities in the initial phase and will gradually cover other cities.
- Manpreet Singh : He is an Indian field hockey player and the captain of India men's national field hockey team since May 2017. He plays as a halfback. He first played for India in 2011 at the age of 19. He represented India at the 2012 Summer Olympics and was named Asia's Junior Player of the Year in 2014. He was named in the Indian squad for the 2016 Summer Olympics.
1. In search of the first women CJI https://www.barandbench.com/columns/in-search-of-the-first-woman-chief-justice-of-india
2. Madhya Pradesh Freedom of religion Act https://www.livelaw.in/news-updates/madhya-pradesh-freedom-of-religion-act-2020-madhya-pradesh-government-notification-171971
3. Recognition of indirect discrimination by the Supreme Court https://www.livelaw.in/columns/lt-col-nitisha-vs-union-of-india-supreme-court-indirect-discrimination-171943
4. Decentralising the Judiciary https://www.barandbench.com/columns/divide-and-unite-decentralizing-the-judiciary
5. Article 21 in prison https://www.livelaw.in/columns/article-21-prison-bail-under-trial-prisoners-172019
6. Grievance Redressal under the new IT rules https://thewire.in/government/it-rules-digital-media-grievance-redressal
7. Supreme Court and the question on reservation https://thewire.in/caste/the-supreme-courts-question-about-reservations-is-the-wrong-one-to-ask
8. Phishing – The modern techdemic https://www.livelaw.in/columns/phishing-cyber-crime-techdemic-information-and-technology-act-2000-172093
9. Selective activism and public faith in regulators https://www.livelaw.in/columns/competition-commission-of-india-whatsapp-privacy-policy-competition-act-172089
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Sources referred to : The Hindu, The Indian Express, Live Law, Bar & Bench