News At a Glance – Year 2020

Major Headlines (December 31, 2020)

  • Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine approved for use in United Kingdom
  • Cabinet clears modified scheme to enhance ethanol distillation capacity in country
  • Cabinet approves Opening of 3 Indian Missions in Estonia, Paraguay and Dominican Republic
  • Government launches Global Pravasi Rishta portal to connect with Indian Diaspora across the world
  • Government approves export of indigenous Akash missile system
  • Cabinet approves MoU between India and Bhutan on Cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space
  • PM chairs 34th PRAGATI interaction; reviews various projects, programmes & grievances
  • DRDO, Indian Navy conduct successful maiden test trial of SAHAYAK-NG
  • 4th Meeting of the India-Sri Lanka Joint Working Group on Fisheries

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  • In the UK, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved for use, with the first doses due to be given soon amid rising coronavirus cases. The government has ordered 100 million doses – enough to vaccinate 50 million people. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said, this will cover the entire population, when combined with the full order of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab, 53,135 new Covid cases were recorded in the UK yesterday – the highest single day rise since mass testing began – as well as 414 more deaths within 28 days of a positive test.
  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, CCEA has approved modified scheme to enhance ethanol distillation capacity in the country for producing 1st Generation, 1G ethanol from feed stocks such as cereals like rice, wheat, barley, corn and sorghum and sugarcane, sugar beet etc. Briefing the media in New Delhi today  after the Cabinet meeting, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said, Cabinet approved an interest subvention of 4 thousand 5 hundred 73 crore rupees for new distilleries producing ethanol. He said, India will need about one thousand crore litre of ethanol by 2030 with a view to cut dependency on imports for meeting oil needs. He said India currently has a capacity of 684 crore litres. Mr Pradhan said, Government would bear interest subvention for five years including one year moratorium against the loan availed by project proponents from banks at 6 per cent per annum or 50 per cent of the rate of interest charged by banks whichever is lower.
  • The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi yesterday approved the opening of 3 Indian Missions in Estonia, Paraguay and Dominican Republic in 2021. Opening of Indian Missions in these countries will help expand India’s diplomatic footprint, deepen political relations, enable growth of bilateral trade, investment and economic engagements, facilitate stronger people-to-people contacts, bolster political outreach in multilateral fora and help garner support for India’s foreign policy objectives. Indian mission in these countries will also better assist the Indian community and protect their interests.
  • Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan launched the Global Pravasi Rishta portal and mobile App, to connect with Indian Diaspora across the world. The Minister yesterday said, the portal will act as a dynamic communication platform between our pravasis, the Ministry of External Affairs and missions abroad and will help in engaging Indian diaspora more intensively.
  • The government has approved the export of the indigenous Akash missile system. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has welcomed the move and said it will help India increase its revenue from defence export. Mr Singh said,  under the AtmaNirbhar Bharat, India is growing in its capabilities of manufacturing wide variety of Defence platforms and missiles. Developed by DRDO, it is India’s first indigenously designed missile system and can target fighter jets, cruise missiles, drones and other aerial assets. The defence minister further added that the government intends on exporting high-value defence platforms to achieve a target of 5 billion US dollar of defence export and also improve strategic relations with friendly nations.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired the 34th PRAGATI interaction yesterday. In the meeting, various projects, programmes and grievances were reviewed. Projects of the Ministry of Railways, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs were discussed. He said that all states should strive for 100 percent enrollment in Ayushman Bharat at the earliest. He also encouraged states and Union Territories to draw a roadmap for achieving the targets in Mission Mode under the Jal Jeevan Mission. In the previous 33 PRAGATI interactions, 280 projects, along with 50 programmes, schemes and grievances across 18 sectors were taken up.
  • The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi yesterday approved Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Government of the Republic of India and the Royal Government of Bhutan on Cooperation in the peaceful users of outer space signed on November 19, 2020 by both sides at Bangalore/Thimpu and exchanged. This MoU shall enable India and Bhutan to pursue cooperation in potential interest areas, such as remote sensing of the earth; satellite communication and satellitebased navigation; Space science and planetary exploration; use of spacecraft and space systems and ground system; and application of space technology. This MoU would lead to set up a Joint Working Group, drawing members from DOS/ISRO and the Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC) of Bhutan, which will further work out the plan of action including the time-frame and the means of implementation.
  • Defence Research and Development Organisation, DRDO along with Indian Navy conducted the successful maiden test trial of SAHAYAK-NG India’s first indigenously designed and developed Air Dropped Container from IL 38SD aircraft of Indian Navy off the coast of Goa. The trial was conducted by Indian Navy to enhance its operational logistics capabilities and provide critical engineering stores to ships which are deployed more than 2000 kilometres from the coast. It reduces the requirement of ships to come close to the coast to collect spares and stores.
  • The Fourth Meeting of the India-Sri Lanka Joint Working Group on Fisheries was held  today through virtual mode. The meeting covered the entire gamut of issues related to fishermen and fishing boats which have been on the agenda of bilateral discussions between India and Sri Lanka for many years. During the Virtual Bilateral Summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa held on 26 September 2020, both leaders agreed to “continue engagement to address the issues related to fishermen through regular consultation and bilateral channels.”

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (December 30, 2020)

  • Gujarat announces its new Solar Power Policy-2021
  • Vaccines which are in the pipeline will work against the new variants of SARS-CoV-2: Principal Scientific Adviser
  • PM Modi dedicates to nation section of Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor in Uttar Pradesh
  • Dr Harsh Vardhan releases report – Action Agenda for an Atma Nirbhar Bharat prepared by TIFAC
  • Dr Harsh Vardhan nominated as member on GAVI Board by Global Alliance for Vaccines & Immunisation
  • Mission Sagar III – INS Kiltan Arrives At Sihanoukville, Cambodia
  • ‘Digital Ocean’ -the first of its kind digital platform for Ocean Data Management developed by INCOIS

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  • Gujarat Government has announced its new Solar Power Policy – 2021 today. As per the policy, any person, developer or industry can set up a solar project in its premises or land without any limit.  A limit of only 50 per cent of sanctioned load/contract demand for industry to set up the solar project has been removed in the new policy. This policy will bring down power cost to industry from Rs. 8 per unit to around Rs. 4.50. It will reduce the production cost, which will help the state manufacturers to be globally competitive. According to the policy, the power consumers will be able to set up solar projects on their rooftop or vacant place. They can also offer their space to third party for power generation and utilization. Security deposit given to power companies has been cut from Rs. 25 lakh per MW to Rs. 5 lakh per MW. New solar power policy will remain effective for the next five years.
  • Science and Technology Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan has released the report – Action Agenda for an Atma Nirbhar Bharat prepared by Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council, TIFAC in New Delhi. Dr Harsh Vardhan said the ideas contained in the report should be taken forward with the implementing agencies. He said, the ultimate outcome of the report has to be addition to quality of life and how our efforts can contribute to Atmanirbhar Bharat.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated to the nation the ambitious New Bhaupur-New Khurja section of Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor in Uttar Pradesh through video conference yesterday. He said that this corridor will become a medium of Atmanirbhar Bharat and help the Kisaan Rails. He also opined that this corridor will open new economic activities and boost employment opportunities in the region. The 351-kilometre New Bhaupur- New Khurja section of EDFC is built at a cost of Rs. 5,750 crore and most of its part passes through Uttar Pradesh. The section will decongest the existing Kanpur-Delhi main line and will enable Indian Railways to run faster train.
  • Health and Family Welfare Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan has been nominated a member on the GAVI Board by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation. Dr. Harsh Vardhan will represent India for two years starting from 2021 to 2023. The GAVI Board oversees the operations of the Vaccine Alliance and monitors programme implementation.
  • Indian Naval Ship Kiltan arrived at Sihanoukville Port, Cambodia on 29 December 2020 as part of ongoing Mission Sagar-III. The ship will deliver 15 Tons of Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) Stores for the flood-affected people of Cambodia, which will be handed over to Cambodia’s National Disaster Management Committee (NDMC). This assistance is reflective of the deep people-to-people connect between the two friendly countries. Mission Sagar-III is part of India’s HADR assistance to Friendly Foreign Countries during the ongoing pandemic. The Mission also highlights the importance accorded to ASEAN countries and further strengthens the existing bonds.
  • The Minister of Earth Sciences, Science & Technology inaugurated the web-based application “Digital Ocean” developed by INCOIS. Digital Ocean is a first of its kind digital platform for Ocean Data Management. ‘Digital Ocean’ helps to share this knowledge about the ocean with a wide range of users including research institutions, operational agencies, strategic users, academic community, maritime industry and policy makers. Digital Ocean also provides free access to information to the general public and the common man.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (December 29, 2020)

  • First phase of dry run for Coronavirus vaccination begins in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab and Assam
  • Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan inaugurates India’s first pneumococcal conjugate vaccine
  • Dr. Harsh Vardhan digitally inaugurates the 7th NHM National Summit on Good, Replicable Practices through a video conference
  • Chief of Army Staff proceeds on a visit to the Republic of Korea
  • AYUSH Ministry : National Medicinal Plants Board Launches Consortia for Medicinal Plants
  • More serious pandemic spreading across world: WHO
  • International Blue Flag hoisted at 8 beaches across the Country

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  • The dry run for COVID-19 vaccination has begun in India. In the first phase, four states – Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab and Assam began the two day exercise from today. The aim of the exercise is to identify challenges and make required changes in the plan so that the final process becomes fool proof. The Health Ministry said, this two day exercise will provide a hands-on experience to programme managers at various levels. This will also enable end-to-end mobilisation and testing of COVID-19 vaccination process, except the vaccine and check the usage of Co-WIN in field environment, the linkages between planning, implementation and reporting mechanisms and identify challenges and guide the way forward prior to actual implementation including improvements that may be required in the envisaged process.
  • Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan today inaugurated India’s first pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, PCV. The vaccine named Pneumosil has been developed by the Serum Institute of India Private Limited, SIIPL in collaboration with partners like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Recognizing SIIPL as the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines by number of doses and its contribution to India’s economy, Dr. Harsh Vardhan remarked that Serum Institute’s Vaccines are used in 170 countries and every third child in the world is immunized with the manufacturer’s vaccine.
  • Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare digitally inaugurated the 7th National Summit on Good, Replicable Practices through a video conference yesterday. Ministry of Health & Family Welfare holds the National Summit on Good, Replicable Practices and Innovations in Public Healthcare Systems in India. While the first one was held in 2013 at Srinagar to recognize, showcase and document various best practices and innovations in public healthcare system, the last was held at Gandhinagar, Gujarat.
  • General MM Naravane, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) has proceeded on a three day visit to the Republic of Korea (ROK) from 28 to 30 December 2020. During the visit, he will be meeting senior military and civilian leadership of the Republic of Korea. General Naravane will lay wreath at National Cemetery and War Memorial at Seoul. He is scheduled to call on with the Minister of National Defence, ROK Army Chief, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Minister of Defence Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) where he will discuss avenues for enhancing India-ROK defence relations. The Army Chief will also visit Korea Combat Training Centre in Inje Country, Gangwon Province and Agency Defence Development (ADD) at Daejeon.
  • National Medicinal Plants Board (NMPB), Ministry of AYUSH envisages the necessity of connectivity between stakeholders in the supply chain and value chain of Medicinal Plants. NMPB Consortia will address/deliberate (not limited to) on Quality Planting Material, Research & Development, Cultivation, Trade of medicinal plants/market linkage etc. To establish the linkage between the farmers and manufacturers, a ‘Seed to Shelf’ approach is being introduced, wherein, aspects related to Quality Planting Materials (QPM), Good Agriculture Practices (GAP’s), Good Post Harvest Practices (GPHP’s) would be addressed. In the first phase NMPB consortia is proposed for medicinal plant species – Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), Pippali (Piper longum), Aonla (Phyllanthus emblica), Guggulu (Commiphora wightii), Satavari (Asparagus racemosus).
  • World Health Organization’s senior officials have  warned that the Coronavirus is not necessarily the big one, and that there is a real chance of another, more serious pandemic spreading across the world. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, the UN agency is learning new things about the virus every day, including the ability of new variants to spread, make people sick, or have a potential impact on available tests, treatments or vaccines. Dr. Tedros singled out work taking place in the UK and South Africa, where scientists are carrying out epidemiologic and laboratory studies, which will guide the agency’s next steps.
  • Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Shri Prakash Javadekar today virtually hoisted the international blue flags in 8 beaches across the country. India secured the International Blue Flag Certification for these beaches on 6th October 2020, when an International Jury comprising of member organizations UNEP, UNWTO, UNESCO, IUCN, ILS, FEE etc. announced the award at Copenhagen, Denmark. Blue Flag certification is a globally recognised eco-label accorded by “Foundation for Environment Education in Denmark” based on 33 stringent criteria.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (December 28, 2020)

  • Dry run for coronavirus vaccine to be held in four states in India
  • PM Modi to inaugurate India’s first-ever driverless train operations on Delhi Metro’s Magenta Line today
  • MoRTH extends validity of vehicular documents till 31st March 2021
  • India to replace UK as fifth-biggest economy in 2025, says UK think-tank
  • PM Modi to flag off 100th Kisan Rail though video conference today
  • Indian & Vietnamese Navy conclude two-day naval passage exercise PASSEX in South China Sea
  • EAM Dr. S Jaishankar meets business leaders in Qatar; highlights investment opportunities in India
  • China’s financial regulators ask Ant Group to control its expansion, return to its original business

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  • India will hold a dry run for the coronavirus vaccine in four states -Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab, and Assam from today. The aim of the exercise is to identify challenges and make required changes in the plan so that the final process becomes fool proof. The Health Ministry said, this two days exercise will provide a hands-on experience to programme managers at various levels. This will also enable end-to-end mobilisation and testing of COVID-19 vaccination process, except the vaccine and check the usage of Co-WIN in field environment, the linkages between planning, implementation and reporting mechanisms and identify challenges and guide way forward prior to actual implementation including improvements that may be required in the envisaged process.
  • Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has extended the validity of vehicular documents such as driving licenses (DLs), registration certificates (RCs) and Permits till 31st of March 2021 in the light of need to prevent the spread of Covid-19. The Ministry issued a directive to the States and Union Territory administrations in this regard on Sunday. The Ministry had earlier issued advisories on 30th March, 9th June and 24th August this year regarding extension of validity of documents related to Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 and Central Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989. It was advised that the validity of Fitness, Permit (all types), License, Registration or any other concerned documents may be treated to be valid till 31st of December this year. The advisory said, taking into consideration the need to prevent the spread of COVID-19 , it is further advised that the validity of all of the above referred documents may be treated to be valid till 31st March 2021.
  • A UK based think-tank, the Centre for Economics and Business Research has said that Indian economy will again overtake the UK to become the fifth largest economy in 2025 and race to the third spot by 2030. India had overtaken the UK in 2019 to become the fifth largest economy in the world but has been relegated to 6th spot this year. In an annual report, the Centre for Economics and Business Research said, the UK appears to have overtaken India again during 2020 as a result of the weakness of the rupee. The Research organisation forecasts that the Indian economy will expand by 9 percent in 2021, and another 7 percent in 2022.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will flag off the 100th Kisan Rail from Sangola in Maharashtra to Shalimar in West Bengal at 4:30 PM today through video conferencing. The multi-commodity train service will carry vegetables such as cauliflower, capsicum, cabbage, drumsticks, chillies, onion, as well as fruits like grapes, oranges, pomegranate, banana and custard apple. Loading and unloading of perishable commodities will be permitted at all enroute stoppages with no bar on size of consignment. Kisan Rail has been a game changer in ensuring fast transportation of agriculture produce across the nation. It provides a seamless supply chain of perishable produce.
  • Indian and Vietnamese Navy concluded the two-day naval passage exercise PASSEX  in the South China Sea as part of efforts to boost maritime cooperation between the two countries. Indian Naval Ship Kiltan, carrying humanitarian assistance reached Vietnam’s Nha Rong Port in Ho Chi Minh City on Thursday to deliver 15 tonnes of relief material for flood-affected people under Mission Sagar-III. This mission of INS Kiltan was part of India’s Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) assistance to Friendly Foreign Countries during the ongoing pandemic.
  • External Affairs Minister Dr. S Jaishankar met business leaders in Qatar and highlighted the investment opportunities in India. He began his trip with the India-Qatar Business Roundtable. The External Affairs Minister appreciated the commitment for strengthening business partnerships between the two countries. Later in the day, Dr. Jaishankar virtually interacted with the Indian community in the country and appreciated their contribution to meet the COVID-19 challenge. He also urged their participation in the development of a “New India”.
  • China’s financial regulators have asked Ant Group, the world’s largest fintech company, to return to its original business as a payment services provider and strictly prohibit unfair competition, in an attempt to rein in the industry and to prevent uncontrolled growth from leading to financial risks. Ant has been asked to draw up a timetable for the rectification plan and its implementation. Ant said, it will set up a rectification work team under the guidance of the regulators to implement the interview’s requirements and regulate operation and development of financial businesses. Financial regulators will keep close communications with Ant Group and listen fully to its opinions, State media reported.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (December 23, 2020)

  • Air Quality Commission directs for 100 percent switching over of industries in Delhi to PNG
  • Health Ministry issues SOP for surveillance and response in wake of new variant of Coronavirus
  • Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju virtually inaugurates 8 Khelo India State Centres of Excellence across India
  • Government identifies high risk groups to be vaccinated on priority for COVID-19
  • Centre and WB sign USD 500 million project to build Green National Highway Corridors
  • Ministry of Railways introduces Policy regarding Premium Indent to facilitate freight customers
  • World Bank Signs $500 Million Project to Develop Green, Resilient and Safe Highways in India

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  • The Commission for Air Quality Management in NCR and Adjoining Areas reviewed the progress of switching over of Industries operating in Delhi to Piped Natural Gas with the Government of NCT of Delhi, GAIL and Indraprastha Gas Limited. About 1644 of Industrial Units spread across 50 industrial areas in Delhi had been identified to switch over to Piped Natural Gas (PNG). Though sizeable number of Industries are using PNG, the Commission stressed the need to switch over to PNG by all identified Industries in Delhi considering the fact that industrial sector is one of the major contributors to air pollution in Delhi and National Capital Region.  Indraprastha Gas Limited (IGL) and Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) were impressed upon to complete the pipeline network, metering and associated infrastructure.
  • The Government has issued Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for epidemiological surveillance and response in the context of the new variant of Coronavirus detected in the UK.  The SOP describes the activities to be undertaken at the point of entry and in the community for all international passengers who have travelled from or transited through the UK in the past four weeks from 25th November to 23rd December this year.  As per the SOP, all international travellers will be required to declare their travel history of the past 14 days and fill up the Self Declaration Form to be screened for COVID-19. For all the passengers coming from the UK during the period from 21st to 23rd December 2020, the concerned State governments will ensure that all passengers travelling from or transiting through airports in the UK and disembarking in India would be subjected to RT-PCR test on arrival.
  • Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju today virtually inaugurated 8 Khelo India State Centres of Excellence across India in the presence of State Sports Ministers. The 8 States include Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Kerala, Telangana, Nagaland, Karnataka and Odisha. Speaking on the occasion, Mr Rijiju said, this is a very important day for sports in India and it is a very important beginning to develop sports culture and excellence in the country. The youth in India is looking for initiatives from the Government of India and the State Governments. He said, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said sports has to be a way of life for every Indian and the Government of India wants to create basic facilities for everyone.
  • Government has said that based on the potential availability of vaccines the Government of India has identified the priority groups that will be vaccinated on priority as they are at higher risk. The Health Ministry has come out with a series of frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccine on various aspects. The first group includes healthcare workers because they are at high risk of contracting the infection and protecting them helps to sustain essential health services. The vaccination of frontline workers will help in reducing  the societal and economic impact by reducing COVID-19 mortalities. The next group to receive COVID 19 vaccine will be persons over 50 years of age and persons under 50 years with comorbid conditions because there is high mortality in this category.
  • The Centre and the World Bank today signed a USD 500 million project to build safe and green national highway corridors in Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. The project will also enhance the capacity of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways in mainstreaming safety and green technologies. The Green National Highways Corridors Project will support the Road Transport and Highways Ministry to construct 783 kilometres of highways in various geographies by integrating safe and green technology designs such as local and marginal materials, industrial by products and other bioengineering solutions. The project will help reduce GHG emissions in the construction and maintenance of highways.
  • Ministry of Railways has introduced the policy regarding Premium Indent on 11th December 2020 to facilitate freight customers. Under this policy, if a customer places request for Premium Indent, allotment of rakes will be given priority on two days as notified under Preferential Traffic Order issued by Traffic Transportation directorate of Railway Board from time to time, presently being Monday and Friday. The salient features of the policy are : In sidings, the customer can indicate a date of supply of rakes and also indicate whether he will load if the rake is supplied after due date on Normal tariff rate. The customer shall be required to pay 5% premium on normal freight which shall be deposited in advance. If the rake is supplied later than the indicated date on the indent, the premium paid will be adjusted against the normal freight. This is an optional scheme.
  • The Government of India and the World Bank today signed a $500 million project to build safe and green national highway corridors in the states of Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. The project will also enhance the capacity of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) in mainstreaming safety and green technologies. The Green National Highways Corridors Project will support MoRTH construct 783 km of highways in various geographies by integrating safe and green technology designs such as local and marginal materials, industrial byproducts, and other bioengineering solutions. The project will help reduce GHG emissions in the construction and maintenance of highways.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (December 22, 2020)

  • IMD releases ‘End of the Season—Southwest Monsoon 2020’ report
  • India International Science Festival 2020 to be inaugurated by Prime Minister today
  • US President presents ‘Legion of Merit’ award to PM Narendra Modi for his leadership in elevating US-India strategic partnership
  • European Union approves Pfizer-BioNTech’s corona vaccine for use in the 27 nation grouping
  • 60 percent rise in Leopard population across the Country; India now has 12,852 leopards
  • Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways identifies new routes for RO-RO, RO-PAX & Ferry Services
  • China justifies its military exercise with Pakistan amid apprehensions about India’s Malabar exercise
  • India – Vietnam Joint Vision for Peace, Prosperity and People
  • Webinar on India – Nepal Defence Cooperation Webinar and Expo held

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  • National Weather Forecasting Centre of the India Meteorological Department (IMD), has come out with the ‘End of the Season—Southwest Monsoon 2020’. The report highlights the following Significant Features: The seasonal (June-September) rainfall over the country as a whole was 109% of its Long Period Average (LPA) in 2020. It was the third highest after 112% of LPA in 1994 and 110 % of LPA in 2019. Seasonal rainfalls over Northwest India, Central India, South Peninsula and Northeast (NE) India were 84%, 115%, 130% and 106% of their respective LPA. Out of 36 meteorological subdivisions, 2 subdivisions (5% of the total area of the country) received large excess rainfall, 13 subdivisions (35% of the total area of the country) received excess rainfall, 16 subdivisions (45% of the total area of the country) received normal seasonal rainfall and 5 subdivisions (15% of the total area of the country) received deficient season rainfall during the season. Monthly rainfall over the country as a whole was 118% of LPA in June, 90% of LPA in July, 127% of LPA in August, and 104% of LPA in September.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will deliver the inaugural address at the India International Science Festival (IISF) 2020 today  through video conferencing. Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan will also be present on the occasion.To promote scientific temper in society, Ministries of Science and Technology and Earth Sciences in association with Vijnana Bharati conceptualized the IISF. Launched in 2015, IISF is a celebration to promote science and technology. The aim is to engage the public with science, celebrate the joy of science and show how Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics can provide solutions to improve lives. The goal of the IISF 2020 is to help youth develop 21st century skills, with a focus on scientific knowledge, creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, and teamwork. A long-term objective is to encourage students to study and work in scientific fields.
  • US President Donald Trump presented the prestigious Legion of Merit award to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his leadership in elevating strategic partnership of the two countries and emergence of India as a global power. Mr Modi was presented with the highest degree Chief Commander of the Legion of Merit which is given only to the Head of State or Government. Mr Modi was given the award in recognition of his steadfast leadership and vision that has accelerated India’s emergence as a global power and elevated the strategic partnership between the United States and India to address global challenges. US President also presented the Legion of Merit to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The awards were received by their respective ambassadors in Washington DC.
  • The European Union has approved the coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech. The first phase of the 27-nation bloc’s mass vaccination programme to is begin later this week. The EU’s executive commission gave the green light just hours after the European Medicines Agency said the vaccine meets safety and quality standards. The Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said doses will be available for all EU countries, at the same time and on the same conditions. She added that the first batches of the vaccine will be shipped from Pfizer’s manufacturing site in Belgium in the next few days, with vaccinations starting on 27th of this month. The European Union countries including Germany, France, Austria and Italy have said they plan to start vaccinations shortly after Christmas as Europe tries to catch up with the US and Britain, where inoculations began earlier this month.
  • Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways (MoPSW) has been working continuously for the promotion of Coastal Shipping under Sagarmala Programme. The Sagarmala programme is the flagship programme of the Ministry to promote port-led development in the country through harnessing India’s 7,500 Km long coastline and potentially navigable waterways. MoPSW has identified Domestic locations namely Hazira, Okha, Somnath Temple, DIU, PIPAVAV, Dahej, Mumbai/JNPT, Jamnagar, Kochi, Ghogha, Goa, Mundra and Mandvi and 6 International routes, connecting 4 international destinations namely Chattogram (Bangladesh), Seychelles (East Africa) Madagascar (East Africa) and Jaffna (Sri Lanka) from Indian major coastal port towns for the commencement of ferry services through inland waterways. MoPSW, through Sagarmala Development Company Limited (SDCL), is desirous of facilitating the companies to operate RO-RO, RO-PAX and Ferry services on various routes across the nation and provide the required support to make the project operational. MOPSW has recently successfully implemented one of such ferry routes by deploying RoPAX vessel ferry service between Hazira and Ghogha. This ferry service has reduced the distance between Ghogha and Hazira from 370 Km to 90 Km and travel time from 10 to 12 hours to about 5 hours. This will result in huge savings of fuel (approx. 9000 litres per day)
  • Releasing the Status of Leopards report in New Delhi yesterday, Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Shri Prakash Javadekar has said that increase in Tiger, Lion & Leopards numbers over the last few years is a testimony to the conservation efforts and of the fledgling wildlife & biodiversity of the country. India now has 12,852 leopards as compared to the previous estimate of 7910 conducted 2014. More than 60% increase in population has been recorded. The States of Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra recorded the highest leopard estimates at 3,421, 1,783 and 1,690 respectively.
  • China has  justified its ongoing joint air exercise “Shaheen-IX” with Pakistan, even though it had expressed apprehensions about India’s “Malabar exercise” last month. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin defended “Shaheen-IX” exercise with Pakistan air force as a routine arrangement, which experts believe is reflective of a larger strategic posture towards India. The Air Forces of China and Pakistan are holding their annual exercise “Shaheen-IX” since 9th December in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province near Indian border. India recently hosted the Malabar 2020 naval exercise with the U.S., Japan and Australia. Commenting on the Malabar exercise, Chinese Foreign Ministry had said it hoped that the relevant countries’ military exercise could be conducive to regional peace and stability, instead of working in the opposite way.
  • India and Vietnam held a Virtual Summit on 21st December 2020, during which they exchanged views on wide-ranging bilateral, regional and global issues and set forth a Joint Vision for Peace, Prosperity and People to guide the future development of India – Vietnam Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
  • A webinar and expo between India and Nepal were held yesterday. The theme of webinar was “Exploring Synergies and Strengthening Defence Cooperation with Nepal”.  It was organized under the aegis of Department of Defence Production, Ministry of Defence through SIDM. This webinar is the part of Aero India 21 series of webinars which are being organized to boost defence cooperation and engagements with friendly foreign countries and achieve defence export target of $5 billion in the next five years.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (December 21, 2020)

  • Nepal set to face fresh elections; PM Oli gets Parliament dissolved after weeks of tension within government
  • European countries ban flights from Britain due to more infectious new strain of coronavirus
  • Government approves inclusion of four indigenous sports in Khelo India Youth Games 2021
  • Government dedicates the 8th producing Basin of India – Bengal Basin, to the nation
  • Govt has prioritized 30 crore people for COVID vaccine: Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan
  • PM Modi to hold Virtual Summit with his Vietnamese counterpart today
  • PM Modi to address India-Japan Samvad Conference today
  • 5 states complete the stipulated reforms in the Ease of Doing Business;Govt grants additional borrowing permission

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  • In an emergency Cabinet meeting held on Sunday morning, Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli recommended the dissolution of Parliament of Nepal and called for general election.  The decision was ratified by President Bidhya Devi Bhandari in an official announcement later. There were some lingering problems among the higher ranks of the ruling party as senior leaders were unable to with the PM. The President has called for a two-phase election to be held on April 30 and May 10 next year.
  • A number of European countries have imposed travel bans on the UK after it reported a more-infectious coronavirus variant. Ireland, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium have decided to halt flights. A European Union meeting today will discuss a more co-ordinated response to the new challenge. The new variant has spread quickly in London and south-east England. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has introduced a new tier four level of restrictions for those areas, scrapping a planned relaxation of rules over the Christmas period.
  • The Sports Ministry has approved the inclusion of four indigenous Games to be a part of Khelo India Youth Games 2021, scheduled to take place in Haryana. The games include, Gatka, Kalaripayattu, Thang-Ta and Mallakhamba.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hold Virtual Summit with his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc today. During the Summit, the two leaders will exchange views on wide-ranging bilateral, regional and global issues and provide guidance for the future development of India-Vietnam Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. In 2020, both countries continued high-level exchanges. The 17th edition of the Joint Commission Meeting virtually co-chaired by the two Foreign Ministers was held on 25th August 2020. Defence Minister held an online meeting with his counterpart on the 27th of last month.
  • Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said that after consultation with experts, government has prioritized 30 crore people for COVID vaccine. It includes health workers, frontline workers like police, military and sanitation staff. Talking to a news agency, he said, vaccine will also be given to persons above 50 years and those who are below 50 years suffering from certain diseases. The Minister said, government first priority has been safety and effectiveness of vaccines and we will not compromise on that.
  • Bolstering efforts to meet one of the vital essentials- the energy need for AtmaNirbhar Bharat, Shri Dharmendra Pradhan, Minister for Petroleum & Natural Gas and Steel today dedicated the Bengal Basin, the 8th producing basin of India, to the nation. Shri Dharmendra Pradhan, while dedicating the Asokenagar discovery to the nation, said that the discovery would play a role for India’s energy security. The Minister said that the Indian government is committed to fully support ONGC to make this a  turning point in its strive to bring more oil and gas from subsurface of West Bengal and help to bring new phase of prosperity for the state and its people along-with local employment.
  • Reform linked borrowing permissions are facilitating Ease of Doing Business reforms. Five states have so far completed the stipulated reforms in the Ease of Doing Business. Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Telangana have been granted permission to mobilize additional financial resources to the tune of 16,728 crore rupees through open market borrowings. The Ease of Doing Business is an important indicator of the investment friendly business climate in the country. Improvement in the ease of doing business will enable faster future growth of the state economy.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (December 18, 2020)

  • ISRO launches new communication satellite CMS-01 successfully
  • NCB India and National Narcotics Board BNN, Indonesia conduct 4th Bilateral JWG meeting
  • WHO team expected to visit China in January 2021 to probe COVID-19 origins
  • “Hunar Haat” being organised in Uttar Pradesh from 18th to 27th Dec, 2020
  • Virtual Summit: India and Bangladesh sign 7 MoUs, agreements
  • Government announces formal recognition of Yogasana as a competitive sport
  • India-Maldives Defence Cooperation Webinar and Expo held yesterday

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • The Indian Space Research Organisation, ISRO, has successfully launched the country’s new communication satellite CMS-01 in the intended orbit in space. The workhorse rocket PSLV-C50 carrying the satellite lifted off from the second launch pad of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota at 15.41 hours as planned. In just about 21 minutes, the launch mission was accomplished and the satellite was injected into the geo-synchronous transfer orbit. The new satellite CMS-01 will take over the mantle from the ageing telecommunication satellite GSAT-12 that has outlived its planned operational period by rendering seamless service for 11 years. The CMS-01’s intended operational life is seven years.
  • Fourth Bilateral Joint Working Group, JWG meeting between the Narcotics Control Bureau NCB India and the National Narcotics Board BNN, Indonesia was held today. The Indian delegation was led by Director General, Narcotics Control Bureau, Rakesh Asthana and the Indonesian delegation was led by Deputy of Legal Affairs and Cooperation, National Narcotic Board of Indonesia, PujiSarwono. Mr Asthana highlighted issues particularly the trafficking of Heroin and Amphetamine Type Stimulant ATS in the country through land and maritime routes originating from the Golden Triangle. He also mentioned the new emerging challenge of trafficking of drugs through the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea.
  • The much-awaited international mission led by the World Health Organization (WHO) is expected to go to China in the first week of January to investigate the origins of the novel Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that triggered the COVID-19 pandemic. A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, now a team of 12-15 international experts is expected to go to China to examine evidence, including human and animal samples collected by Chinese researchers, and to build on their initial studies. The United States, which has accused China of having hidden the outbreak’s extent, has called for a “transparent” WHO-led investigation and criticised its terms, which allowed Chinese scientists to do the first phase of preliminary research. China and the WHO have been under pressure as some Western countries have voiced concern at the delay in sending international experts.
  • Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Shri Nitin Gadkari will inaugurate the 23rd “Hunar Haat” of indigenous master artisans, being organised by Union Ministry of Minority Affairs at Numaish Ground, Panvadiya in Rampur (UP), today 18th December 2020. Indigenous products of master artisans are a major attraction at “Hunar Haat” in Rampur being organised from 18th to 27th December, 2020.  The people will also enjoy traditional delicacies from almost every corner of the country at this “Hunar Haat”. Besides, different cultural programmes on the theme of “Jaan Bhi, Jahaan Bhi”, to be presented every day by renowned artists, are also a major attraction. This “Hunar Haat” is an occasion to live the feeling of communal harmony and the country’s “Unity in Diversity”. “Kavi Sammelan” will be organised on the theme of “Aatmanirbhar Bharat” on 27th December, 2020.
  • India and Bangladesh signed seven MoUs and agreements during the virtual summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday. The agreements include a framework of understanding in Hydrocarbon sector, framework agreement on High Impact Community Development Project (HICDP), protocol on transborder elephant conservation, an MoU on the supply of equipment and improvement of Garbage and solid waste disposal, MoU in the field of agriculture, an MoU between National Museum Delhi and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Memorial museum, Dhaka and terms of reference for India Bangladesh CEO forum.
  • The Ministry of AYUSH and Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports announced the formal recognition of Yogasana as a competitive sport. Union Minister of  State for AYUSH, Shri Naik traced the origins of Yogasana competitions to the Indian Yoga tradition, where such competitions have been held for centuries. He said that they are still being conducted today at multiple levels, but a strong and sustainable structure to impart national visibility to the competitions is yet to emerge. He further said that the Government decision to recognise Yogasana as a competitive sport comes after 3-4 years of wide consultations with the stakeholders of the Yoga sector.The Minister also said that Yogasana is an integral and important component of Yoga, which is psycho-physical in nature and popular across the globe for its efficacy in fitness and general wellness.
  • A webinar and Expo between India and Maldives were held today. The Theme of webinar was ‘Joint Indo Maldives High Level Defence Engagement’.  It was organised under the aegis of Department of Defence Production (DDP), Ministry of Defence (MoD) through Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI). This webinar is the part of Aero India 21 series of webinars which is being organised to boost defence cooperation and engagements with friendly foreign countries. Both sides spoke about close, cordial and multi-dimensional relationship between the countries. Additional Secretary (DP) Shri Sanjay Jaju mentioned that India has a pre‐eminent position in the Maldives and, in accordance with the “Neighbourhood First” policy of the government, the country remains a committed development partner for a stable, prosperous and peaceful Maldives.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (December 17, 2020)

  • Cabinet clears spectrum auction; It will be held by March; Reserve price has been set at Rs. 3.92 lakh crore
  • ISRO : Communications satellite to be launched today
  • UP govt to launch ‘Kisan Kalyan Mission’ to double the income of farmers
  • India goes down two ranks in Human Development Index, standing at 131 out of 189 countries
  • India and Bangladesh to reopen Chilahati-Haldibari rail link after nearly 55 years
  • British Prime Minister invites Prime Minister Modi to attend UK hosted G-7 summit next year
  • GoI, World Bank sign 400 million dollar project to protect India’s poor from COVID-19
  • Deadline for States to implement citizen centric reforms extended till 15th February 2021
  • India, UK express resolve to further strengthen their educational collaboration

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • The Union Cabinet approved the auction of Rs. 2,251.25 megahertz of spectrum with a reserve price of Rs. 3.92 lakh crore, a move that should help boost the quality of 4G telecom services in the country. The government said that by winning the right to use spectrum through the auction, incumbent telecom service providers will be able to augment their network capacity, whereas new players will be able to start the services.
  • The Indian Space Research Organisation will launch a communications satellite, CMS-01, on board the PSLV-C50, from the second launch pad of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, today. CMS-01 is a communications satellite envisaged for providing services in extended C Band of the frequency spectrum and its coverage will include the Indian mainland, and the Andaman & Nicobar and Lakshadweep islands. The satellite is expected to have a life of more than seven years.
  • Uttar Pradesh government will launch a special program to double the income of farmers. The program named as Kisan Kalyan Mission will cover all assembly constituencies of the state. Under the Kisan Kalyan mission various programs will be organised across the state. Exhibitions of agriculture and Associate sectors will be organised which will include the products of MSME sector units and livelihood missions. Farmer meetings will also be organised in which progressive farmers, scientist and workers associated with Agriculture Department will explain the scientific farming and provide information about the schemes of government. Farmers will be given benefit under the various schemes of agriculture department during these events.
  • India dropped two ranks in the United Nations’ Human Development Index this year, standing at 131 out of 189 countries. However, if the Index were adjusted to assess the planetary pressures caused by each nation’s development, India would move up eight places in the ranking. For the first time, the United Nations Development Programme introduced a new metric to reflect the impact caused by each country’s per-capita-carbon-emissions  and its material footprint, which measures the amount of fossil fuels, metals and other resources used to make the goods and services its consumes.
  • India and Bangladesh will reopen the Chilahati-Haldibari rail link after nearly 55 years. It was cut off during the 1965 India-Pakistan war. The inauguration of the rail link will take place during the Virtual Summit of the Prime Ministers of India and Bangladesh today. With an aim to enhance transport and connectivity between the two nations, the leadership on both sides has been committed to reviving and operationalizing the six pre-1965 rail links between the two countries. The Haldibari-Chilahati rail link was part of the Broad Gauge main route from Kolkata to Siliguri. With the inauguration of the Haldibari-Chilahati rail link, five out of six rail links will become operational. Haldibari-Chilahati route will enhance connectivity to Assam and West Bengal from Bangladesh. This link will enhance rail network accessibility and give a boost to bilateral trade and economic development of the region.
  • Government of India and World Bank have signed 400 million dollar project to protect India’s poor and vulnerable from the impact of COVID-19. Finance Ministry said, this is the second operation in a programmatic series of two. The first operation of 750 million dollar was approved in May 2020. The programme will strengthen the capability of state and central governments to provide coordinated and adequate social protection to the poor and vulnerable from the shocks triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance, has extended the deadline for the States to complete citizen centric reforms in various sectors. Now, if the recommendation from the nodal Ministry concerned regarding implementation of the reform is received by 15th February, 2021, the State will be eligible for reform linked benefits. The Government of India has identified four critical areas for reforms by the States: Implementation of One Nation One Ration Card System, Ease of doing business reform, Urban Local body/ utility reforms and Power Sector reforms.
  • India and the United Kingdom have expressed the resolve to further strengthen their educational collaboration. India and UK have also agreed to set up a joint Task Force consisting of designated higher education organizations from both sides to work towards mutual recognition of academic qualifications. The composition of the Task Force and its modalities are to be decided at official levels.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (December 14, 2020)

  • Government says India is on track to achieve Paris agreement targets and will exceed them beyond expectations
  • UN Secretary General says world leaders should declare climate emergency in their countries to avoid catastrophic global warming
  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to start Pre- Budget consultations from today
  • Union Minister Piyush Goyal says new farm laws will bring more investment in rural India and raise farmers income
  • Israel establishes diplomatic ties with Bhutan
  • First Trilateral Working Group Meeting between India, Iran and Uzbekistan on joint use of Chabahar Port
  • International Bank hails India’s efforts to rejuvenate and clean its rivers
  • ‘Swadhinata Sarak’ between Bangladesh and India will be opened on March 26 Next year
  • CinemaSCOpe: India’s diplomatic outreach to SCO countries

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that India is not only on track to achieve it’s target against climate change as per the Paris Agreement 2015 but has also gone beyond it. Speaking at the Climate Ambition Summit 2020, co-hosted by the United Nations, the United Kingdom and France, Prime Minister asserted that review of achievements should be done against the set targets in order to inspire the youths and forthcoming generations. Mr. Modi said, India has increased it’s solar capacity from 2.63 Gigawatt in 2014 to around 36 Gigawatt in 2020. Referring to the two remarkable initiatives of International Solar Alliance and Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, Prime Minister said that the centennial India in 2047 will not only meet it’s own targets but will also exceed the expectations.
  • UN secretary general Antonio Guterres has called on all countries to declare a climate emergency to spur action to avoid catastrophic global warming. He was speaking at a virtual summit on the fifth anniversary of the Paris climate agreement. Mr Guterres criticised G20 member countries for spending 50 percent more of their pandemic recovery cash on fossil fuels compared to low-carbon energy.  UN secretary general said that 38 countries have already declared a climate emergency and he called on leaders worldwide to now do the same. More than 70 world leaders are participating in the virtual summit organised by UN, UK and France.
  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will start her Pre- Budget consultations with different stakeholder Groups from tomorrow in New Delhi. The meetings will be held virtually in connection with the forthcoming General Budget 2021-22. The Finance Ministry said, Ms Sitharaman will be holding her 1st Pre- Budget consultations with top industrialists today spread over morning and afternoon sessions.
  • Union Minister Piyush Goyal has said that new farm laws will bring more investment in rural India and raise farmers’ income. Addressing FICCI’s Annual Convention, he said, these laws will open up new opportunities to do trade, commerce & business for the farmers without changing the past systems. Mr Goyal urged all business leaders and intellectuals associated with FICCI to talk about the benefits of the farm laws, as these laws are for the benefit of all farmers across the country. Describing Startups as the backbone of new India, Mr Goyal said that Startups & the ecosystem of Startups are encouraging innovation and promoting & strengthening new & young entrepreneurs. He urged the Indian industry to support the startups, by providing them financial support, handholding, opportunities and mentorship so that they can grow, without resorting to dilution of their stakes to foreign companies at very low valuations at the initial stage itself.
  • Israel has established diplomatic relations with Bhutan. In a statement, Israeli foreign ministry said that the agreement follows several years of secret contacts between Israel and Bhutan with the aim of establishing relations. The foreign ministry said that a signing ceremony was held between the Israeli and Bhutanese ambassadors to India yesterday. It also added that the countries agreed to formulate a joint work plan in the areas of water management, agriculture, healthcare and other areas. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Bhutan has full diplomatic ties with only 53 countries.
  • The first Trilateral Working Group Meeting between India, Iran and Uzbekistan on joint use of Chabahar Port will be held virtually today. In a statement, Ministry of External Affairs said, India welcomes the interest of Uzbekistan to use the Chabahar port as a transit port. It said, this will open up economic opportunities for the traders and business community of the region. Besides Uzbekistan, other Central Asian countries have also shown interest in using this port. The Ministry said, India wants to cooperate closely with regional countries on this issue.
  • International Bank has applauded India’s efforts towards river rejuvenation and cleanliness. Xavier Chauvet De Beauchene, Senior Water and Sanitation Specialist, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development said the bank is very proud of all the work done in India who would have thought 5 years ago that 550 million people will stop defecating in the open in the country. He added that there is a massive shift in the Indian Government’s approach from focusing only on infrastructure development to working with people and bringing about behaviourial change. Director General of National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) Rajiv Ranjan Mishra attributed the success of the Namami Gange Mission to his team, volunteers, academicians and many self-help organisations who are working continuously towards the cause of cleaning Ganga.
  • Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr. A K Abdul Momen has said that the ‘Swadhinata Sarak’ between Bangladesh and India will be opened on 26 March next year. He said the road remains functional on the Indian side while it will be connectedthrough Mujibnagar, Meherpur district in Bangladesh. He said that Chilahati-Haldirbari rail link which was active till 1965 will be inaugurated during the summit meeting between the two Prime Ministers on December 17.
  • Indian Embassy in Beijing yesterday launched a movie series “cinemaSCOpe” exclusively for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, SCO in which more than two dozen Indian films dubbed in Russian, will be screened on a monthly basis. India continued its diplomatic outreach to the SCO countries riding on the popularity of Indian cinema in the region. The movie screening began with ‘Three Idiots’ on Saturday and will continue till India’s chairmanship of the SCO ‘Council of Heads of State’ meeting in 2023. The SCO region is a confluence of diverse civilizations and a cradle of rich traditions of art and culture which is also reflected in the cinemas made in SCO countries that are globally appreciated. Global influence of Indian Cinema, especially Bollywood is unparalleled and it has helped propagate the Indian culture and civilizational message to far off places.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (December 11, 2020)

  • BSNL in partnership with Skylo to introduce worlds’ first, satellite-based narrowband-IoT network in India
  • Government launches programme of socio-economic profiling of PM SVANidhi beneficiaries & their families
  • Successful Trials of 5.56 x 30 mm Joint Venture Protective Carbine (JVPC)
  • Public transport bus service comes to standstill in Karnataka
  • India, Myanmar agree on exchange of intelligence information in relation to drug seizure cases
  • Brexit: ‘Strong possibility’ of no trade deal with EU says PM Boris Johnson
  • S&P Dow Jones removes Chinese companies from index after US executive order
  • Chief of Staff, Japan Air Self Defense Force on Goodwill visit to India

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • BSNL in partnership with Skylotech India announced a breakthrough in satellite-based NB-IoT (Narrow Band-Internet of Things). It is in pursuance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of a truly Digital India starting with fishermen, farmers, construction, mining and logistics enterprises. With this solution, India will now have access to a ubiquitous fabric of connectivity for millions of yet unconnected machines, sensors and industrial IoT devices. This new ‘Made in India’ Solution, which is indigenously developed by Skylo, will connect with BSNLs satellite- ground infrastructure and provide PAN-India coverage, including Indian seas. The coverage will be so vast that it will not leave any dark patch within the boundary of India, from Kashmir and Ladakh to Kanyakumari, and from Gujarat to the North East, including the Indian seas.
  • Housing and Urban Affairs Secretary launched a programme of Socio-Economic Profiling of PM SVANidhi beneficiaries and their families, as an additional component of PM SVANidhi Scheme, in the presence of representatives of various Central Ministries and State officials. Under this, a complete profile of each PM SVANidhi beneficiary and their family members will be prepared. Based on the profiled data, benefits of the various eligible Central Schemes would be extended to them for their holistic socio-economic upliftment.
  • Defence Research and Development Organsiation (DRDO) designed 5.56×30 mm Protective Carbine has successfully undergone the final phase of User trials on 7th December 2020 meeting all the GSQR parameters.  This has paved the way for induction into the services. This was the last leg of trials in a series of User trials which have been carried out in extreme temperature conditions in summer and high altitudes in winter. JVPC has successfully met the stringent performance criteria of reliability and accuracy in addition to quality trials conducted by DGQA. JVPC is a Gas Operated Semi Bull-pup automatic weapon having more than 700 rpm rate of fire. The effective range of the carbine is more than 100 m and weighs about 3.0 kg with key features like high reliability, low recoil, retractable Butt, ergonomic design, single hand firing capability, and multiple Picatinny rails etc. These features make it a very potent weapon for Counter Insurgency /Counter Terrorism operations by security agencies.
  • In Karnataka, the public transport bus service came to standstill today as over one lakh 40 thousand employees of the Road Transport Corporations staged protests demanding Government employee status. Their demand is for a salary at par with group D employees of the Government and other emoluments as is being to the government employees.
  • The 5th India- Myanmar Bilateral Meeting on Drug Control Cooperation between the Narcotics Control Bureau, India and the Central Committee on Drug Abuse Control, Myanmar was held virtually yesterday. The Indian delegation was led by the Director General Narcotics Control Bureau, Rakesh Asthana and the Myanmar delegation was led by the Commander of the Drug Enforcement Division cum Joint Secretary of the Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control, Pol. Brig. Gen. Win Naing. Mr Asthana highlighted issues particularly the trafficking of Heroin and Amphetamine Type Stimulants ATS in the country. Narcotics Control Bureau has remained committed towards strengthening the existing mechanism of sharing information and assistance with Myanmar, for combating the drug menace in the region. Both countries agreed on the exchange of intelligence information in a timely manner to conduct follow-up investigations in drug seizure cases, new psychotropic substances and their precursors. The 6th India – Myanmar Bilateral Meeting on Drug Control Cooperation will be held in India next year.
  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that there is a strong possibility the UK will fail to strike a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU. Speaking for the first time since a crunch meeting in Brussels, the Prime Minister said now is the time” for firms and people to prepare for a no deal outcome. Talks continue between the two sides, but Mr Johnson said they were not yet there at all in securing a deal. Time is running out to reach an agreement before the UK stops following EU trade rules on 31 December. Weeks of intensive talks between officials have failed to overcome obstacles in key areas, including competition rules and fishing rights. Meanwhile, travelers from the UK could be banned from entering the European Union from January 1 under current coronavirus restrictions. The current Brexit transition period ends on December 31 and these travel restrictions will still apply even if the UK and EU strike a trade deal.
  • S&P Dow Jones Indices said on Thursday that it would remove some Chinese companies from indexes used to track market performance following a U.S. government ban on Americans investing in their stocks and bonds. The Chinese government opposed the move as politically motivated. The companies affected include surveillance technology provider Hikvision, processor chip manufacturing SMIC among others. The move by S&P DJI Indices will require investment funds that track stock market movements to sell shares in those Chinese companies.
  • Chief of Staff, Japan Air Self Defense Force (CoS-JASDF) arrived in India on 09 December 2020 on a formal invitation from Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Indian Air Force. On his arrival at Air Headquarters, CoS-JASDF was presented with a Guard of Honour. In subsequent discussions, CAS and CoS-JASDF recognised the progress made in defence ties between India and Japan and discussed avenues to further enhance cooperation and interoperability between the two Air Forces. They also discussed scope for enhancement of joint exercises and training between the two Air Forces. A broader cooperation for strengthening collective response to HADR contingencies was also discussed. Overcoming the unprecedented challenges posed by COVID-19, the visit reaffirms the deep rooted commitment to maintain and strengthen the relationship between the Air Forces.  

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (December 10, 2020)

  • PM-WANI scheme to revolutionalise tech world & significantly improve WiFi availability across country
  • PM Modi lays foundation stone of New Parliament Building
  • Agriculture Minister reassures farmers, MSP will continue & APMC mandis will not be scrapped
  • Union Minister of Education holds a virtual bilateral meeting with Minister of Education, the United Arab Emirates
  • Ministry of AYUSH and AIIMS decides to work together to set up a Department of Integrative Medicine
  • Government signs MoU with Austria on Technology Cooperation in Road Infrastructure Sector
  • Government, academia & industry representatives from India & Portugal discuss possible areas of tech collaboration
  • Cabinet approves MoU between India and Suriname on Cooperation in the field of Health and Medicine
  • Cabinet approves Atmanirbhar Bharat RojgarYojana (ABRY)
  • Nod for proposal of SEBI to sign Bilateral MoU between India and Luxembourg

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that the historic PM-WANI (Wi-Fi Access Network Interface) scheme, which was cleared by Cabinet yesterday, will revolutionalise the tech world and significantly improve WiFi availability across the length and breadth of India. It will further Ease of Doing Business and Ease of Living. He said, the scheme will enable small shopkeepers to provide WiFi service. Prime Minister said, this will boost incomes as well as ensure the youth gets seamless internet connectivity. It will also strengthen the Digital India mission.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi today laid the foundation stone of the New Parliament Building at Sansad Marg in Parliament Complex by performing religious rituals at the site. The new building is an intrinsic part of the vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat. It will be a landmark opportunity to build peoples’ Parliament for the first time after independence. The new Parliament building will match the needs and aspirations of New India in the 75th anniversary of independence in 2022. The New Parliament Building will be modern, state-of-the-art and energy efficient, with highly non-obtrusive security facilities to be built as a triangular shaped building, adjacent to the present Parliament. Lok Sabha will be three times of the existing size and Rajya Sabha will be substantially bigger.
  • Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar has reiterated government stand that Minimum Support Price will continue and APMC mandis will not be scrapped. Mr Tomar said, no one can take away the land of the farmer for any reason and buyers cannot make any changes in the farmer’s land. Mr Tomar also said that contractors cannot terminate the contract without full payment. The Minister said, under the farms laws, farmers can fix the prices of the produce before they grow the crop. He said, buyers will have to pay on time or else they will have to face legal action.
  • Union Minister of Education Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ virtually held a meeting with H.E Hussain bin Ibrahim Al Hammadi, Minister of Education, the United Arab Emirates yesterday. Minister of Education, the United Arab Emirates appreciated the National Education Policy- 2020. He said that the policy is a visionary document as it lays emphasis on holistic development of the students. He said that the education sector has the potential to take mutual cooperation to new heights and both the countries should work to increase long-term cooperation in the field of education. Highlighting National Education Policy, the Minister said it is very forward-looking policy which will change the entire education landscape of the country, making it more aligned to global systems. It keeps choice of the student at the centre, and has recommended flexibility in choice of subjects and fluidity between different streams, he added.
  • Ministry of AYUSH and AIIMS have decided to initiate work on setting up a Department of Integrative Medicine at AIIMS. Secretary AYUSH assured that the Ministry of AYUSH will strive to continue its support to CIMR till the dedicated Department is developed. The notable research outcomes of CIMR and the encouraging results of the new initiatives in COVID 19 research through integrative research point towards an integrative approach being the need of the hour and towards the significant public health benefits it can lead to.
  • The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Federal Ministry of Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology of the Republic of Austria on Technology Cooperation in the Road Infrastructure Sector here. The MoU aims to create an effective framework for bilateral cooperation in the field of Road Transportation, Road/Highways infrastructure development, management and administration, Road safety and Intelligent Transport Systems between both countries. It will further strengthen ties, promote long standing bilateral relations and enhance trade and regional integration between the two countries.
  • Dignitaries from India and Portugal discussed about areas like water, healthcare, agritech, waste management, cleantech climate solutions, and ICT in which the two countries can collaborate to bring about solutions for societal challenges and build a holistic and mutually beneficial relationship at the high-level Tech Leadership Plenary Session of the DST-CII Technology Summit. India and Portugal have been rediscovering each other through science, technology, innovation, industry and markets and started collaboration in co-creating bilateral knowledge, collaborative projects in science, technology and innovation and co-operating on multilateral issues.
  • The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has given its approval for the Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the Republic of India and the Ministry of Health of the Government of the Republic of Suriname on Cooperation in the field of Health and Medicine. The bilateral Memorandum of Understanding will encourage cooperation between the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of the Republic of India and the Ministry of Health of the Government of the Republic of Suriname through joint initiatives and technology development in the health sector.  It will strengthen bilateral ties between India and Suriname. It leads towards achieving Atmanirbhar Bharat (Self-Reliant India) by way of sharing of expertise in public health system, and by promoting mutual research in various relevant areas.
  • The Union Cabinet has given its approval for Atmanirbhar Bharat RojgarYojana (ABRY) to boost employment in formal sector and incentivize creation of new employment opportunities during the Covid recovery phase under Atmanirbhar Bharat Package 3.0. Cabinet has approved an expenditure of Rs. 1,584 crore for the current financial yearand Rs.22,810 crore for the entire Scheme period i.e. 2020-2023.
  • Cabinet approves the proposal of Securities & Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to sign Bilateral Memorandum of Understanding between India and Luxembourg. The MoU is likely to strengthen cross border cooperation in the area of securities regulations and facilitate mutual assistance, contribute towards efficient performance of the supervisory functions aid in imparting technical domain knowledge and enable effective enforcement of the laws and regulations governing the securities markets of India and Luxembourg.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (December 09, 2020)

  • SAARC needs a terror-free milieu : PM Modi; Nepal gives call to hold summit early
  • A New Digital platform ‘CO-WIN’ is being used for COVID-19 Vaccination Delivery
  • PM Modi to lay foundation stone of New Parliament Building tomorrow
  • No joint commemorative stamps with India, says China without giving any reason
  • India will launch world’s biggest COVID-19 vaccination drive with help of mobile technology, says Modi
  • Britain, EU strike deal on Ireland border; U.K. agrees to drop clauses that breach Brexit withdrawal agreement
  • United Kingdom rolls out first COVID-19 vaccine in the world
  • Global stocks log losses with COVID-19 infections still surging and London and Brussels stuck in Brexit purgatory

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • SAARC can only be fully effective in the absence of terror and violence, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a message to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation on its 36th Charter Day anniversary. In their messages, Pakistan and Nepal called for the SAARC summit to be held soon. Nepal is the current chairman of SAARC, a position which moves by rotation through the eight countries of South Asia. It held the last SAARC summit in 2014.
  • While the COVID-19 situation around the world is becoming worrisome, India is seeing a steady and continuous decline in new cases since mid-September. India’s Cases Per Million at 7,031 is still amongst the lowest in the world, while the figure of Deaths Per Million at 102 is also amongst the lowest globally. At the same time, case positivity rate is continuously declining and cumulatively stands at 6.5% now. This has been stated by Shri Rajesh Bhushan, Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. He added A new digital platform for COVID 19 Vaccination Delivery called ‘CO-WIN’ is being used for this purpose. This user friendly mobile app for recording vaccine data is working as a beneficiary management platform having various modules. In the process of forming database of Healthcare Workers, which is in an advanced stage across all States/UTs, data is presently being uploaded on the Co-WIN platform.
  • Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi will lay the foundation stone of the New Parliament Building at Sansad Marg, New Delhi on December 10, 2020. The new building is an intrinsic part of the vision of ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ and will be a landmark opportunity to build peoples’ Parliament for the first time after independence, one which will match the needs and aspirations of ‘New India’ in the 75th anniversary of independence in 2022. The New Parliament Building will be modern, state-of-the-art and energy efficient, with highly non-obtrusive security facilities to be built as a triangular shaped building, adjacent to the present Parliament. Lok Sabha will be 3 times of the existing size and Rajya Sabha will be substantially bigger. The interiors of the new building will showcase a rich blend of Indian culture and diversity of our regional arts, crafts, textiles and architecture. The design plan includes space for a magnificent Central Constitutional Gallery, which will be accessible to the public.
  • China’s State Post Bureau said it had decided to cancel its plan to jointly launch commemorative stamps with India. It added that no reason was given for the decision. India and China had planned a series of events to mark the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations this year, plans which have been disrupted both by the COVID-19 pandemic and the worst crisis on the border in decades, sparked by China’s multiple transgressions across the Line of Actual Control starting in May.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has stressed on the need to work together to ensure timely roll-out of next generation 5G technology to leapfrog into the future and empower millions of people in the country. Mr Modi was delivering the inaugural address at the virtual India Mobile Congress (IMC) yesterday. Addressing the event, the Prime Minister gave a call to work together to make India a global hub for telecom equipment, design, development and manufacturing. Mr Modi cautioned that due to technological upgradation, there is a culture of replacing handsets and gadgets frequently. He called for setting up a task-force to think of a better way of handling the electronic waste and create a circular economy.
  • Britain said it would drop clauses in draft domestic legislation what breached the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement after it clinched a deal with the European Union over how to manage the Ireland-Northern Ireland border. The deal is separate to wider trade talks, which have yet to find a solution on how to manage nearly $1 trillion of annual trade between Britain and the European Union, despite having just weeks until temporary arrangements expire.
  • The United Kingdom became the first country in the world to start using the COVID-19  vaccine after regulators approved its use last week. Britain began rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech yesterday. The mass inoculation will fuel hope that the world may be turning a corner in the fight against a pandemic that has crushed economies and killed more than 1.5 million. About 70 hospital hubs across the UK are inoculating the people over-80s and some health and care staff. The programme aims to protect the most vulnerable and return life to normal. The vaccine is given as two injections, 21 days apart, with full immunity reached seven days after the second dose. It is not yet known how long immunity lasts, or whether it stops people from passing on the virus.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (December 08, 2020)

  • Bharat Biotech applies for emergency use authorisation for its indigenous Corona vaccine
  • Chinese exports to India decline in first eleven months of 2020, trade deficit narrows
  • WHO does not foresee mandatory vaccinations being introduced around world to stem spread of coronavirus
  • Efforts on to attract investment from all over world to improve country’s infrastructure : PM Modi
  • Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways issues draft guidelines of Technical Specifications of Floating Structures for public consultation
  • PM Modi speaks to French President Emmanuel Macron; reiterates India’s full support in fight against terrorism
  • United Nations Declares Invest India The Winner of the Investment Promotion Award 2020
  • US slaps financial sanctions & travel ban against 14 Chinese officials

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  • Bharat Biotech, developer of indigenous COVID-19 vaccine, COVAXIN has applied to the central drug regulator, DCGI, seeking emergency use authorisation for its vaccine. With this, the Hyderabad based firm, Bharat Biotech has become the third applicant after Serum Institute of India and Pfizer to apply for approval of emergency use of COVID-19 vaccine in the country. COVAXIN is being indigenously developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and is currently in Phase 3 trials. The trials are being conducted at 18 sites across the country with over 22 thousand volunteers.
  • China’s exports to India continued to decline with a 13-percent drop in the first 11 months of the year 2020, customs data showed on Monday. However, China’s imports from India rose by 16 percent during this period. According to customs data released on Monday, China exported about $59 billion worth of products to India from January to November, down 13 percent. The decline slightly reduced from the 16.2 percent drop in the first 10 months this year, state media showed. China’s imports from India amounted to about $19 billion in value in the first 11 months, up 16% leading to a reduced trade deficit of around $40 billion.
  • World Health Organization does not foresee mandatory vaccinations being introduced around the world to stem the spread of the coronavirus. WHO has said that information campaigns and making vaccines available to priority groups such as hospital workers and the elderly would be more effective, as a the global tally of COVID-19 cases has crossed 66.42 millions. WHO’s director of immunisation vaccines Kate O’Brien said there may be some countries or some situations in countries where professional circumstances require it or highly recommend to be vaccinated.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that efforts are on to attract investment from all over the world to improve the country’s infrastructure. Mr Modi said, over 100 lakh crore rupees will be spent under the National Infrastructure Pipeline Project. He said, work is also being done on the Multi-modal Connectivity Infrastructure Master Plan. The Prime Minister was speaking after inaugurating construction work of Metro project at Agra in Uttar Pradesh through video conference today. Mr Modi said, the metro project, worth over 8000 crore rupees, will strengthen the mission related to the establishment of smart facilities in Agra.
  • Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways has compiled the draft guidelines for technical specifications of floating structures, with a vision to set up and deploy world-class floating infrastructure all along the coastline and issued the same for public consultation. Floating structure because of its inherent advantages, is attractive solution and being encouraged by the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways. Deployment of floating jetties, especially in locations having a large tidal range, where conventional quay poses problems during low tide periods, is very convenient. Floating Jetties, at such locations, provide constant freeboard, eases embarkation of ship’s stores and straightforward unloading of the fishermen’s catch. It consequently leads to increased productivity as well as safety of the fishermen in the long run.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a telephone conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron yesterday. Prime Minister Modi conveyed to President Macron his condolences for the terror attacks in France, and reiterated India’s full support in the fight against terrorism, extremism and radicalism. The two leaders also discussed other bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest. These include improving the affordability and accessibility of COVID-19 vaccines, post-covid economic recovery, cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, maritime security, defence cooperation, digital economy and cyber security. Strengthening multilateralism, and climate change and biodiversity also came up for discussion.
  • The United Nations (UNCTAD) has declared Invest India- the National Investment Promotion Agency of India- as a winner of the 2020 United Nations Investment Promotion Award. The award ceremony took place on 7th December 2020 at UNCTAD Headquarters in Geneva. The award recognizes and celebrates the outstanding achievements and best practices of Investment Promotion Agencies (IPAs) across the globe. The evaluation was based on UNCTAD’s assessment of work undertaken by 180 Investment Promotion Agencies.
  • United States has slapped financial sanctions and travel ban against 14 Chinese officials for undermining the autonomy of Hong Kong. According to the US State Department, the sanctions were imposed against members of the Chinese parliament’s standing committee. US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said, Beijing’s unrelenting assault against Hong Kong’s democratic processes has gutted its Legislative Council, rendering the body a rubber stamp devoid of meaningful opposition. The sanctions prohibit the 14 individuals and their immediate members from traveling to the United States. Any assets the officials might have within the US will be blocked and Americans and their companies will be banned from dealing with them.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (December 07, 2020)

  • Upgraded Akash missile successfully test-fired; It has been manufactured by Bharat Dynamics Limited
  • FM Nirmala Sitharaman releases the ‘Smuggling in India Report 2019-20’
  • All States choose Option-1 to meet the GST implementation shortfall
  • CPCB raises concern on Pollution and Frothing in River Yamuna
  • Central government reassures farmers, Minimum Support Price will continue
  • Government to promote AYUSH exports; Ministries of Finance, Commerce and AYUSH to work in collaboration
  • Ministry of Commerce and Industry and Ministry of AYUSH decides to set up an AYUSH Export Promotion Council
  • Government gives “Innovate for India” mantra to the Scientific Community; asks them to create competitive advantage for India
  • Bangladesh signs first Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) since its independence

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  • The Indian Air Force successfully test-fired the Akash Missiles at Suryalanka test firing range in Andhra Pradesh during the Combat Guided Weapons Firing 2020 exercise to practise different engagement scenarios during conflicts to shoot down enemy places. It has been recently upgraded with a seeker to neutralise targets with less effort than before, with the upgraded version capable of engaging with targets at very high altitude locations too. Manufacturing by Bharat Dynamics Limited(BDL), designed and developed by the DRDO, Akash is one of the most successful, indigenously made missiles inducted into the Indian Army and Air Force.
  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday inaugurated the  63rd Founding Day Celebrations of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI). On the occasion, Mrs  Sitharaman released the Smuggling in India Report 2019-20 which analyses organised smuggling trends on Gold and  Foreign Currency, Narcotic Drugs, Security, Environment and Commercial Frauds. The Finance Minister congratulated DRI and its officers on their performance and commendable service, especially in times of the prevalent pandemic. She encouraged the officers  to continue working hard as the cases booked and arrests affected by DRI, while large, are just the tip of the iceberg and urged DRI and Indian Customs to ensure that every offender of India’s economic frontier is taken to task.
  • All the 28 States and 3 Union Territories with legislature have decided to go for Option-1 to meet the revenue shortfall arising out of the GST implementation. Jharkhand, the only remaining State, has now communicated its acceptance of Option-1. All the 3 Union Territories with Legislative Assembly who are members of the GST council have already decided in favour of Option-1. The Government of India has set up a special borrowing window for the States & Union Territories who choose Option-1 to borrow the amount of shortfall arising out of GST implementation. The window has been operationalised since 23rd October, 2020 and the Government of India has already borrowed an amount of Rs.30,000 crore on behalf of the States in five instalments and passed it on to the States and Union Territories, who chose Option-1. Now the State of Jharkhand will also receive funds raised through this window starting from the next round of borrowing. The next instalment of Rs.6,000 crore will be released to the States/UTs on 7th December, 2020.
  • CPCB monitors water quality of River Yamuna and drains discharging into the River. In the past, CPCB observed froth formation and increase in ammonia levels in river Yamuna because of discharge of untreated sewage, non-operation of existing Sewage Treatment Plants, improper functioning of Effluent Treatment Plants(ETPs) installed by the industries and Common Effluent Treatment Plants(CETPs) located on the banks of river Yamuna. Monitoring of 22 drains carried out recently ,indicated that 14 drains (Sonia Vihar, Najafgarh, Shastri Park, Shahdara, etc.) are found untapped ,discharging sewage. While 05 drains are 100% tapped and no flow at downward of interception observed,02 drains were found tapped but overflow into river yamuna was observed. One drain (drain no. 14) has no flow at all. Due to partially/untreated discharge of sewage and industrial effluent containing phosphorus, many times, foaming also is observed. CPCB, taking cognizance of this, issued directions to Delhi Jal Board to submit time bound action plan to ensure compliance to norms by STPs and that no untreated sewage is discharged to these drains.
  • The 6th round of talks between the Central Government and farmer leaders will be held on 9th of December to end the deadlock over the new farm laws. The 5th round of talks to address the issues concerning the farmers was held at Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi yesterday. The talks between them could not be completed. Talking to reporters after the meeting, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar has reassured the farmers’ Unions that the system of Minimum Support Price (MSP) will continue and there is no threat to it. He said, it is baseless to create doubt over this. The Agriculture Minister said, the government has worked out possible solutions to the provisions on which farm leaders have raised objections. Mr Tomar expressed hope that farmers’ protest will end at the earliest.
  • The Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the Ministry of AYUSH have decided to work together to set up an Export Promotion Council to boost AYUSH exports. This decision was taken recently in a joint review of AYUSH trade and Industry by Shri Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce and Industry and Shri Shripad Naik, Minister of AYUSH. It was also decided in the review that the entire AYUSH sector will work together to achieve price and quality competitiveness to boost AYUSH exports. The review was held through video conference on 4th December 2020, which was attended by nearly 50 industry and trade leaders from the AYUSH Sector. More than 2000 stake-holders of the AYUSH Sector also attended the e-event through live streaming on virtual platforms. Secretary AYUSH initiated the discussions with a presentation on the action taken on the recommendations of the previous meeting by the Ministry of AYUSH. He also briefed about the various other initiatives taken by the Ministry of AYUSH to mitigate the COVID19 situation and to promote AYUSH industry. He spoke about the emerging opportunities for promotion of AYUSH sector and listed a few hurdles that deserved attention.
  • Citing the rise in exports of Ayurveda-related products since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has decided to set up an export promotion council for AYUSH(Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy) products. The Ministries of Finance, Commerce and Industry, and AYUSH will work together to facilitate more exports of such products, by standardising their HS (Harmonised System) codes for global trade.
  • Minister of Petroleum & Natural Gas and Steel Shri Dharmendra Pradhan has appealed to the scientific community to Innovate for India (I4I) and create competitive advantage to make India Aatmanirbhar. Speaking at the curtain raiser for the 6th India International Science Festival 2020, being organized by the Ministries of Science & Technology, Earth Sciences, Health & Family Welfare, Government of India, he called upon the scientists to create products and services which can compete with the best in the world. The theme of the event was “Self-reliant India and Global Welfare.” Underling the role of science and innovation in the development of any society, Shri Pradhan said that the COVID19 pandemic has once again demonstrated that we have to develop and strengthen our institutional and industrial capacity in scientific knowledge and innovation in all areas. Outlining the Hon. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi’s vision of ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’, he said an Aatmanirbhar Bharat is a Bharat which does not only fulfills its own requirements but also is a beacon of hope for the global community, true to the spirit of ‘Vasudhaiv Kutumbukam.’
  • Bangladesh signed its first Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) with Bhutan allowing duty free access to a range of goods between the two countries. This is the first PTA Bangladesh has signed with any country in the world. The agreement was signed on Sunday between Bangladesh Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi and Bhutan’s Economic Affairs Minister Lyonpo Loknath Sharma in Dhaka. The agreement was signed on the occasion marking the 50 years of diplomatic ties between the two countries. In 1971, Bhutan was the first country in the world, followed by India as the second, to recognise Bangladesh as an independent country. Under the PTA 100 Bangladeshi products will get duty free access to Bhutan. At the same time, 34 items from Bhutan will get duty free access into Bangladesh. Further items can be added in the list later on the basis of discussion between the two countries.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (December 04, 2020)

  • Government offers to make 8 changes to farm laws as farmers seek repeal, talks and inconclusively
  • Speak for all religions, India tells United Nations
  • Lottery, gambling and betting taxable under GST Act : Supreme Court
  • Iran moves to step up nuclear enrichment; New law halts UN inspections
  • RBI decides to keep benchmark interest rate unchanged at 4%
  • Economy firmly on the path of a V-shaped recovery, says Government
  • United States Senate clears Bill on immigrant visas
  • Cyclone Burevi hits northern Sri Lanka, 12,000 people affected
  • U.S. to block import of ‘slave labour’ cotton from China
  • U.S. tightens visa rules for Chinese Communist Party members

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • After over seven hours of discussion, the fourth round of talks between the Centre and farmer leaders ended inconclusively yesterday. Although the Centre offered to consider eight amendments to the contentious farm reform laws and offered assurances that the minimum support prices(MSP) for farm produce would continue, farmer leaders continued to stand firm on their demand that all three laws be completely repealed. Their demands are to scrap the three laws, which they fear will end the MSP regime, and to create a new law guaranteeing the MSPs. They also want the government to stop slapping large fines of farmers for burning stubble and to withdraw the Electricity Bill, 2020, which could affect power subsidies for farmers.
  • India has asked the United Nations to expand its criticism of hatred and violence against religions beyond the three Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. India asked to acknowledge the rise of hatred and violence against Buddhism, Hinduism and Sikhism also. India was speaking at the Culture of Peace session organised by the UN General Assembly. The UN has organised such sessions each year since 1997.
  • The Supreme Court held that lottery, gambling and betting are taxable under the Goods and Services Tax(GST) Act. The court held that lottery, betting and gambling were “actionable claims” and came within the definition of ‘goods’ under Section 2(52) of the Central Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017.
  • Iran’s watchdog body approved a law that obliges the government to halt U.N. inspections of its nuclear sites and step up uranium enrichment beyond the limit set under Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal, if sanctions are not eased in a month.
  • India’s economy is firmly on the path of a V-shaped recovery after the collapse in the first quarter, and further improvement is expected in the third quarter, ‘notwithstanding some moderation’ in November’s indicators, the Ministry of Finance said, attributing the recovery to the unlocking process along with the ‘astute’ stimulus measures.
  • The U.S. Senate has unanimously passed a Bill that eliminates the per country numerical limitation for employment-based immigrant visas and raises it for family-based visas, a legislation that will hugely benefit hundreds of thousands of Indian professionals in America who have been waiting for years to get their green cards. The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act comes as a big relief to Indian IT professionals who come to the U.S. on H-1B work visas.
  • The Reserve Bank of India has decided to keep benchmark interest rate unchanged at 4%. Announcing the outcome of the three-day RBI bi-monthly policy review, Governor Shaktidas Das said that the MPC has projected real GDP growth for 2021 at -7.5%. He said recovery in rural demand will strengthen further. He said there is need to have accommodative stance to remain through current financial year. Mr. Das said with financial stability and depositor interest in mind we have fixed issues at two scheduled commercial banks.
  • The United States will block imports of cotton that, it says, is harvested with “slave labour” in China’s Xinjiang region, authorities have announced. Beijing has come under intense international criticism over its policies in the resource-rich territory, where rights groups say as many as one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities are being held in internment camps.
  • The Trump administration issued new rules to curtail travel to the United States by members of the Chinese Communist Party and their immediate families, a move certain to further exacerbate tensions between the two countries. The new policy, which took immediate effect, limits the maximum duration of travel visas for party members and their families to one month.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (December 03, 2020)

  • India will not accept less than bottom line in talks with China
  • GDP contracts by minus 7.5% in Q2 after contraction of minus 23.9% in Q1
  • Boris Johnson invited as chief guest for Republic Day; Decision is awaited from London
  • Britain approves Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine; Roll-out could begin early next week
  • Biden sets new demands for return to Iran Nuclear deal
  • Chinese space probe lands on Moon to collect samples
  • China buys Indian rice for the first time in decades amid scarce supply
  • The 7th India-Suriname Joint Commission Meeting held virtually
  • India continues to make impressive gains in reduction of malaria burden: WHO
  • ADB, India sign 50 million loan to boost West Bengal’s digital platforms for public finance reforms

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • Talks with China on the Line of Actual Control(LAC) could take much longer, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar indicated yesterday, drawing a parallel to a similar military stand-off in Arunachal Pradesh’s ‘Sumdorong Chu’ in 1986 that took nearly nine years to resolve.  Adding that India and China must take a long view of the border dispute and not just the incidents at the LAC this year, Mr. Jaishankar cautioned Beijing against dealing with India through the prism of a third party, in a reference to India’s close ties with the United States.
  • The GDP growth numbers naturally went down, given the disruption due to the pandemic. However, GDP for second quarter of Financial Year 2020 contracted by minus 7.5 per cent, much smaller when compared to the contraction of minus 23.9 percent reported for first quarter of Financial Year 2020. Between these two quarters, already a huge improvement can be seen in private consumption expenditure. Agriculture reported a growth of 3.4 per cent in second quarter, the same as in first quarter. Manufacturing has grown by 0.6 per cent in second quarter as compared to a contraction of minus 39.3 per cent in first quarter. A comparison with other economies globally shows that India’s position is better.
  • India has invited U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson as chief guest for the Republic Day celebrations in January 2021 and a decision on this is awaited from London.
  • Britain approved Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday, jumping ahead of the rest of the world in the race of the world in the race to begin the most crucial mass inoculation programme in history with a shot tested in wide-scale clinical trials. Britain said it would start vaccinating those most at risk of dying early next week after it gets 8,00,000 doses from Pfizer’s manufacturing centre in Belgium.
  • U.S. President-elect Joe Biden will insist Iran agrees to new demands if it wants the U.S. to return to a nuclear deal and lift sanctions. Biden administration would seek to extend the duration of restrictions on Iran’s production of fissile material that could be used to make a nuclear bomb in a new round of negotiations. The 2015 nuclear deal – known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – JCPOA – gave Iran relief from sanctions in return of curbs on its nuclear programme.
  • A Chinese space probe yesterday began drilling on the surface of the Moon hours after landing, in an ambitious attempt to bring back the first lunar samples in four decades. The China National Space Administration said the Change’s 5 spacecraft touched down on the near side of the Moon and is now gathering samples from the surface.
  • China has begun importing Indian rice for the first time in at least three decades due to tightening supplies from Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam and an offer of sharply discounted prices, Indian industry officials said. India is the world’s biggest rice exporter and China the biggest importer. Beijing buys about 4 million tonnes a year but has avoided purchases from India, citing quality issues.
  • The 7th India-Suriname Joint Commission Meeting was held virtually on Wednesday. The discussions were held in an atmosphere of warmth against the backdrop of friendly India – Suriname relations. The JCM was co-chaired by Minister of State for External Affairs, V. Muraleedharan and Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Business and International Cooperation of Suriname, Albert R. Ramdin. Both Ministers underscored the importance of this mechanism in deepening political dialogue, reviewing bilateral ties, and exchanging views on regional and multilateral cooperation. Both sides noted with satisfaction that India-Suriname relations, which have strong cultural and historical bonds, are marked by cordiality and a high degree of understanding and convergence of views on a range of issues. The Ministers agreed to add new momentum to the bilateral relations in the fields of Business and Investment.
  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said India continues to make impressive gains in reduction of malaria burden. According to World Malaria Report 2020 released by WHO, India is the only high endemic country which has reported a decline of 17.6 percent in 2019 as compared to 2018. The Annual Parasitic Incidence reduced by 27.6 percent in 2018 compared to 2017 and by 18.4 percent in 2019 as compared to 2018. India has also contributed to the largest drop in cases region-wide, from approximately 20 million to about 6 million. The percentage drop in the malaria cases was 71.8 percent and deaths was 73.9 percent between 2000 to 2019. Malaria elimination efforts were initiated in the country in 2015 and were intensified after the launch of National Framework for Malaria Elimination in 2016 by the Health Ministry. National Strategic Plan for Malaria Elimination was launched by the Health Ministry in July, 2017 which laid down strategies for the next five years.
  • The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of India on Wednesday signed a $50 million policy-based loan to improve financial management procedures and operational efficiencies aimed at achieving more fiscal savings, promote informed decision making, and improve service delivery in the state of West Bengal. The loan builds up on past ADB policy-based programmes in 2012 and 2017, supporting the Government of West Bengal on sustainable public financial management reforms.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (December 02, 2020)

  • GST inflows top Rs. 1 lakh crore for second month in a row
  • Many violations in Chardham project; Environmentalists point out violation of SC orders
  • Purchasing Managers’ Index at 56.3, shows manufacturing losing team
  • Successful Test Firing of BrahMos by Indian Navy
  • National Education Policy 2020 upholds Reservation Policy as Enshrined in Indian Constitution
  • Cyclonic Storm ‘Burevi’ over southwest Bay of Bengal
  • Curtain Raiser of 26th DST–CII Technology Summit 2020 between India and Portugal takes place
  • Finance Minister delivers keynote address at the inauguration of the Sri Lanka Economic Summit 2020
  • China, Pakistan sign military deal; calls for higher-level ties to jointly cope with various risks
  • Facebook News to launch in U.K. next year; Firm will pay publishers for content

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • Gross revenues from the Goods and Services Tax(GST) crossed Rs. 1 lakh crore for the second month in a row, with Rs. 104963 crore collected in November 2020. This was 1.4% higher than a year ago but a tad lower than the October’s collections. The pick-up in GST revenues over the last two months could reduce the shortfall in GST compensation due to the States.
  • Environmentalists have alleged that the contractors deputed by the government to make roads as part of the Chardham project are violating the Supreme Court orders on the appropriate road width to be followed in mountainous terrain. The Rs. 12,000-crore project aims at constructing wider roads – spanning 825 km – connecting key pilgrimage spots in Uttarakhand. However, the implementation has been controversial with environmentalist groups pointing out that hill cutting was rampant with mountain ecosystems being irreversibly harmed in the process.
  • The Purchasing Managers’ Index for India’s manufacturing touched 56.3 in November, signalling that even as an improvement in wider industrial activity continued, the sector’s expansion as well as the pace of new orders slowed down while employment declined further as business optimism faded during this month.
  • Union Education Minister Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ has yesterday clarified that the NEP 2020 upholds the Reservation Policy enshrined in the Constitution of India. He added, to give special policy emphasis for their educational inclusion, NEP framed a cluster of SCs, STs, OBCs, Divyang, girls, women, trans/gender, minorities, geographical marginalized, and other socio-Economically and culturally deprived groups under a cluster- ‘Socio-economic Deprived Group’s (SEDGs). To address the issues SEDGs communities, NEP-2020 made a provision to form various special Educational Zones based on educational marginality where coordination of various ongoing and new support and inclusive schemes will be evolved to develop educational inclusion of SC’s, STs, OBCs, Divyang, and other deprived communities. Educational leaders to work within the deprived communities in these SEZs will be developed. This is a unique program which will help to evolve an educational workforce from the SDGs group who will be more sensitive towards educational inclusion of deprived groups. This scheme will also create new job opportunities for educational leaders who will emerge from SEDGs groups.
  • BrahMos Supersonic Cruise Missile in Anti-Ship mode was successfully test fired yesterday against a decommissioned Ship. The test firing was carried out by Indian Navy. The missile performed highly complex manoeuvres and hit Bull’s eye of the target. BrahMos is the supersonic cruise missile jointly developed by DRDO and NPOM of Russia as a Brahmos Aerospace joint venture, which became Brahmos Aerospace Private Limited. The missile has established itself as a major force multiplier in modern-day complex battlefields with its impeccable anti-ship and land-attack capabilities with multi-role and multi-platform abilities and has been deployed in all the three wings of the Indian Armed Forces. The first launch of Brahmos took place in 2001 and till date numerous launches have taken place from various ships, Mobile Autonomous Launchers and Su-30 MKI aircraft, making it a versatile weapon.
  • Union Minister for Finance & Corporate Affairs, Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman delivered a Keynote Address at the inauguration of the 20th  Edition of Sri Lanka Economic Summit (SLES)  2020 in virtual format, yesterday. SLES annually organized by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) is the premier forum in Sri Lanka for discussion on economic and business issues. The theme for this year’s event is “Roadmap for Take-off: Driving a People –Centric Economic Revival”. President of Sri Lanka H.E. Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa was the Chief Guest at the Inaugural Session. The Finance Minister highlighted that India has been a strong partner in development cooperation relations with Sri Lanka and expressed readiness to continue meaningful economic cooperation for mutual benefits. She also highlighted the importance of regulatory consistency and policy certainty for industry and private sector.
  • The Department of Science and Technology (DST) with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) held the Curtain Raiser to announce the 26th edition of Technology Summit 2020 on December 1, 2020. Portugal is the partner country this year. The 26th edition of India-Portugal Technology Summit 2020 will be held over a digital platform from 7th – 9th December 2020. Over the past 26 years, DST has been co-organizing the Technology Summit in partnership with CII. The summit has benefitted immensely the Indian industry and academic & research institutions by forging partnerships, stimulating innovation, investment & trade and facilitating technology transfers, joint projects, and market access. The Focus sectors of the summit for this year are Watertech, Agritech, Healthtech, Energy, Climate change, Cleantech, IT, ICT, Advanced technologies, and Space- Ocean Interactions. 
  • China and Pakistan have signed a new military memorandum of understanding to boost their already close defence relationship, as China’s Defence Minister and People’s Liberation Army(PLA) General Wei Fenghe met Pakistan’s leadership in Islamabad and visited the headquarters of the Army at Rawalpindi. General Wei called on both countries to push the military-to-military relationship to a higher level, so as to jointly cope with various risks and challenges, firmly safeguard the sovereignty and security interests of the two countries and safeguard the regional peace and stability.
  • Facebook said it will launch its news tab feature in Britain from next year, paying publishers for stories delivered through the world’s leading social network. Titles covered in the first wave of deals include The Economist, The Guardian, The Independent and the Mirror, and local newspapers the London Evening Standard, the Manchester Evening News and the Scotsman.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (December 01, 2020)

  • Cross-border terror biggest challenge for SCO region: says Vice President
  • New farm Acts aim to transform agriculture sector in country & raise farmers’ income
  • Health Ministry issues new COVID-19 guidelines for market places
  • Effective information sharing crucial: FATF; Experts share findings on money-laundering issues
  • Bank capital in India, Sri Lanka to fall more than in other emerging markets
  • India to surpass 350 million 5G connections by 2026 : Report
  • Consumer spending to rebound in 2021 : Fitch; Consumption to contract by 12.6% in 2020
  • US imposes sanctions on Chinese firm over Venezuela internet curbs
  • US President elect Joe Biden names Neera Tanden as Director of Office of Management & Budget
  • Asian markets end lower despite optimism over progress in COVID-19

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • Cross-border terrorism is the biggest challenge for countries belonging to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, says Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu while chairing a meeting of the SCO Heads of Government, comprising India, Russia, China, Pakistan and four Central Asian states. Without identifying Pakistan, he stated that India was concerned about the state sponsored terrorism. A joint communique issued at the end of the meeting, however, made no reference to terrorism.
  • Narendra Modi government has taken several measures with an aim to transform agriculture sector in the country and raise farmers’ income. The government has recently implemented new farm Acts in this direction which include Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020 and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020. These Acts provide for creation of an ecosystem where the farmers and traders will have freedom of choice of sale and purchase of agri-produce. It will promote barrier free inter-state and intra-state trade and commerce outside the physical premises of markets notified under State Agricultural Produce Marketing legislations which will reduce marketing costs for the farmers.
  • Health Ministry has issued new Covid-19 guidelines for market places. These include fines for not wearing masks and discounts for shopping during lean hours. The SOPs outlined that market places in containment zones shall remain closed. The guidelines also suggest closing of markets if large number of coronavirus cases are reported. The SOPs said that online booking of groceries and doorstep delivery of those must be encouraged. The SOPs outlined that market places in containment zones shall remain closed. Shop owners and employees living in containment zones shall not be allowed entry into marketplaces, it stated. According to the SOPs, COVID-appropriate behaviour in marketplaces may be regulated by market associations through a number of measures. It also suggested setting up mask dispensing kiosks at government-approved rates at entry points of markets and parking lots.
  • The Financial Action Task Force(FATF) has apprised about 400 experts from both the public and private sectors of the latest risk findings related to the money laundering and terror funding. During the four-day meeting, the experts deliberated on, and proposed, various priority projects. They also exchanged ideas on issues such as financing of ethically or radically motivated terrorism, their transnational links, environmental crime, illegal arms trafficking and terror financing, and digital transformation.
  • Bank capital will shrink moderately in Asia’s emerging markets over the next two years with banks in India and Sri Lanka expected to post larger declines in the absence of public or private funds injections, Moody’s Investors Service said in its Emerging Markets Financial Institutions Outlook Report. Non-Performing Loans will rise most for banks in India and Thailand because of the greater shock in their economies and the historically poor performance of certain loan types. In India, stress among non-banking financial institutions will also curtail their capacity to lend, it added.
  • India, which has the highest average monthly mobile data traffic per smartphone, is expected to surpass 350 million 5G subscriptions by 2026, accounting for 27% of all mobile subscriptions of the country, according to a report by Swedish telecom equipment maker Ericsson. As per the “The Ericsson Mobility Report 2020”, four out of every ten mobile subscriptions in 2026 will be 5G globally with 5G subscriptions forecast to reach 3.5 billion.
  • After a COVID-19 pandemic led contraction in consumer spending in 2020, household spending will return to growth in 2021, expanding by as much as 6.6%, Fitch Solutions said yesterday. Consumer spending in India is forecast to have contracted by 12.6% in 2020. Recovery in India will be slower than in most countries, due to a significant contraction in 2020.
  • The United States has imposed sanctions on Chinese firm China National Electronics Import & Export Corporation (CEIEC), accusing it of supporting President Nicolas Maduro’s efforts to undermine democracy in Venezuela. While slamming China, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo has said that CEIEC provides cyber support and technical experts to state-run telecommunications providers which frequently blocks online independent newspapers and speeches by opposition members. The US Department of Treasury has said that CEIEC has been supporting the Maduro regime’s malicious cyber efforts since 2017 and providing technical expertise to Venezuelan government entities, against the people of the country.
  • US President-elect Joe Biden has named ex-Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen as his nominee for treasury secretary. If confirmed by the Senate, she will be the first woman ever to hold the post. She is among several women chosen for top economic positions. The Biden transition team said others were set to break racial barriers if confirmed. Indian American Neera Tanden has been named as director of the Office of Management and Budget. Mr Biden also named Wally Adeyemo, a former Obama administration official and the first CEO of the former president’s nonprofit foundation, as his nominee for deputy treasury secretary. He also unveiled his White House economic team, consisting of economists Cecilia Rouse, Jared Bernstein and Heather Boushey.
  • Asian markets ended lower on Monday, despite optimism over progress in COVID-19 vaccine development and fading uncertainty surrounding the US election but upbeat China manufacturing data capped losses. So Japan’s Nikkei-225 index fell 0.8 percent; China’s Shanghai Composite index dropped 0.5 percent; Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index slipped 2.1 percent; South Korea’s Kospi index declined 1.6 percent and Singapore’s Straits Times index lost 1.8 percent. Meanwhile, in economic news, China’s factory activity expanded at the fastest pace in more than three years in November, while growth in the services sector also hit a multi-year high, with recent production data showing manufacturing now at pre-pandemic levels. In Europe, key stock indices traded flat with focus on Brexit negotiations and the prospect of easing coronavirus restrictions and hopes for a COVID-19 vaccine.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (November 30, 2020)

  • In Colombo, Ajit Doval meets Sampanthan; Development of north and east discussed
  • Prime Minister to take part in world famous Dev Deepawali festival in Varanasi today
  • Lifetime risk of diabetes in metros alarming : Study
  • India to host SCO Council of Heads of Government Meeting in virtual format today
  • Serum Institute of India to apply for emergency authorisation of COVID-19 vaccine in next two weeks
  • Government announces 900 crore rupee package for COVID-19 Vaccine Development Mission
  • India targets to fully covert Andaman and Nicobar, Lakshadweep islands to Green Energy
  • China nod for downstream dam on Brahmaputra; Marks new phase in the exploitation of river
  • Chinese Defence Minister meets Nepal’s top leadership; Aims at bolstering military cooperation
  • US President-elect Joe Biden announces all-women White House communications team

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • In an apparent last-minute addition to his itinerary in Colombo, National Security Adviser(NSA) Ajit Doval meet senior Sri Lankan Tamil leader R. Sampanthan yesterday, before wrapping up his two-day visit for a trilateral discussion on maritime cooperation and security. Matters pertaining to the development of Sri Lanka, and the development of the north and east were discussed.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit his parliamentary constituency Varanasi today and take part in the world famous Dev Deepawali festival in the evening. During his day-long visit the Prime Minister will take part in many functions. Mr Modi will dedicate to the nation the six-lane widening project of the Handia (Prayagraj) – Rajatalab (Varanasi) section of National Highway 19. The 73 Km stretch of the newly widened and six laned NH-19, made with a total outlay of 2447 crore rupees, is expected to reduce the travel time between Prayagraj and Varanasi by one hour. He will address a gathering also. During the tour, the Prime Minister will  undertake a site visit of Kashi Vishwanath Temple Corridor Project and also visit the Sarnath Archaeological Site.
  • Disturbing new research published in Diabetologia (journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes) shows that more than half of men(55%) and some two-thirds(65%) of the women aged 20 years in India will likely develop diabetes, with most of those cases(around 95%) likely to be type 2 diabetes. The researchers noted that – urbanisation, decreasing diet quality and decreasing levels of physical activity – are all contributing to this hidden epidemic.
  • Serum Institute of India (SII) will apply for emergency authorisation of COVID-19 vaccine in next two weeks. This was stated by the chief executive of the Institute, Adar Poonawalla in Pune yesterday. Serum Institute of India is the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer by volume. Pune based drugmaker partnered with global pharma giant AstraZeneca to produce COVID-19 vaccine by University of Oxford for low-and-middle income countries. Dubbed as Covishield, the COVID-19 vaccine is currently in the Phase III clinical trial in India. Mr Poonawalla said Covishield is a highly effective vaccine against novel coronavirus. AstraZeneca and Oxford University earlier said that their drug had proved on average 70% effective at stopping the virus after trying it on 23,000 people.
  • The Centre has announced the third stimulus package of 900 crore rupees for the Mission COVID Suraksha- The Indian COVID-19 Vaccine Development Mission. This grant will be provided to the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) for Research and  Development of Indian COVID-19 vaccines. The COVID-19 Vaccine development Mission with end-to-end focus from preclinical development through clinical development and manufacturing and regulatory facilitation for deployment. It  would consolidate all available and funded resources towards an accelerated product development. The Ministry of Science and Technology said that this will help accelerate development of approximately 5 to 6 vaccine candidates. This will also ensure that these are brought closer to licensure and introduction in market for consideration of regulatory authorities for introduction in public health systems, to combat further spread of COVID infection. The Phase-I of the COVID Suraksha Mission has been allotted 900 Crore rupees for a period of 12 months.
  • India will host Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Council of Heads of Government Meeting in virtual format today. Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu will chair the meeting. In a statement, External Affairs Ministry said, it will be the first time that a Summit-level Meeting will be held under India’s Chairmanship, since it gained full membership of the organization in 2017. This Summit is held annually at the level of Prime Ministers of SCO and deals primarily with the trade and economic agenda of the organization. India assumed the Chairmanship of the SCO Council of Heads of Government on 2nd November last year as per rotation from the previous Chair – Uzbekistan and will complete its year-long tenure on 30th of this month.
  • China’s media reported that authorities have given the go-ahead for a Chinese hydropower company to construct the first downstream dam on the lower reaches of the Brahmaputra river, or Yarlung Zangbo as it is known in Tibet, marking a new phase in China’s hydropower exploitation of the river with potential ramifications for India. This is the first time the downstream section of the river will be trapped.
  • The Andaman & Nicobar, and Lakshadweep Islands will be using renewable energy to meet their total requirement under the goals set by the centre, according to Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Power and New and Renewable Energy R K Singh. Speaking at the valedictory session of the third RE-Invest conference, Singh said: “We have given target to our Islands (Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep) to become totally green, that means their energy needs should be met from Renewable Energy.”
  • China’s Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe yesterday met Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli and held talks with Nepal Army Chief General Purna Chandra Thapa on various issues of bilateral interest, aimed at bolstering bilateral military cooperation and taking the existing friendly ties to a new height. This is the highest level visit from China after President Xi Jinping’s two-day visit that took place in October last year.  
  • US President-elect Joe Biden has appointed an all-women White House communications team. He has chosen former Barack Obama administration’s State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki as his White House press secretary. Psaki currently oversees the confirmation team for the Biden-Harris Transition. During the Obama-Biden administration, Psaki held several senior roles, including White House Communications Director and State Department Spokesperson under then-Secretary of State John Kerry. Mr Biden’s communications team will be led by Kate Bedingfield, who will serve as the White House Communications Director. Bedingfield has served as Deputy Campaign Manager and Communications Director for the Biden-Harris Campaign.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (November 29, 2020)

  • U.P. Governor gives nod to Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance
  • India to host Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit tomorrow
  • Green light for semi-high speed train line in Kerala
  • Punjab chooses Option-1 to meet the GST implementation shortfall
  • Neighbours agree on intel sharing; India, Sri Lanka, Maldives deliberate on common security threat
  • US$28.1 billion FDI inflows into the country during the July-September quarter
  • China’s first domestically made nuclear reactor goes online
  • PM Modi to inaugurate six-lane widening project of Varanasi-Prayagraj section of NH-19
  • Apex Committee meeting provides suggestions for finalization of draft STIP 2020
  • Doval, Gotabaya discuss investments; Regional security too figures in meeting

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • Uttar Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel promulgated an ordinance on “unlawful” conversion days after it was passed by the Cabinet. The Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020, was cleared by the Cabinet earlier this week and promulgated on November 27. The ordinance makes religious conversion a cognisable and non-bailable offence, inviting penalties of up to 10 years in prison if found to be effected for marriage or through misinterpretation.  
  • India will host the Heads of Government Council meeting of the eight-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organisation(SCO) tomorrow, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi will not attend the meeting, which will be chaired by Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu instead. It will be the first time that a summit-level meeting will be held under India’s chairmanship, since it gained full membership of the organisation in 2017.
  • The Kerala Government has informed the NITI Aayog that the 529.45 km semi-high speed rail to SilverLine from Kochuveli to Kasaragod, estimated to cost Rs. 63,941 crore, is “viable and feasible”, and that the cost for laying the corridor is reasonable.
  • Governments of Punjab has communicated acceptance of Option-1 to meet the revenue shortfall arising out of GST implementation. The number of States who have chosen this option has gone up to 26. All the 3 Union Territories with Legislative Assembly (i.e. Delhi, Jammu & Kashmir and Puducherry) have also decided in favour of Option-1. The States & Union Territories who choose Option-1 are getting the amount of shortfall arising out of GST implementation through a special borrowing window put in place by the Government of India. The window has been operationalisedsince 23rd October, 2020 and the Government of India has already borrowed an amount of Rs.24,000 crores on behalf of the States in four instalments and passed it on to the States and Union Territories, who chose Option-1on 23rd October, 2020, 2nd November, 2020, 9th November, 2020 and 23rd November, 2020. Now the State of Punjab will also receive funds raised through this window starting from the next round of borrowing.
  • India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives on Saturday agreed to expand the scope of intelligence sharing, including terrorism and cyber security, after a meet in which they discussed “common security threats”. The three countries also exchanged views on common security threats and agreed to broad-base cooperation bu expanding the scope to improve intelligence sharing and include issues like terrorism, radicalisation, extremism, drugs, arms and human trafficking, money laundering and effect of climate change on maritime environment.
  • Total Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) inflows into India during the second quarter of financial year 2020-21 (July, 2020 to September, 2020) have been US$ 28,102 million, out of which FDI equity inflows were US$ 23,441 million or Rs. 174,793 crore. This takes the FDI equity inflows during the financial year 2020-21upto September 2020 to US$30,004 million which is 15% more than the corresponding period of 2019-20. In rupee terms, the FDI Equity inflows of Rs 224,613 Crore are 23% more than the last year. August, 2020 has been the significant month when US$ 17,487 Million FDI equity inflows were reported in the country.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Varanasi tomorrow and dedicate to the nation the six-lane widening project of the Handia (Prayagraj) – Rajatalab (Varanasi) section of National Highway 19. During the tour, the Prime Minister will attend Dev Deepawali, undertake a site visit of Kashi Vishwanath Temple Corridor Project and also visit the Sarnath Archaeological Site. The 73 Kilometers stretch of the newly widened and six laned NH-19, made with a total outlay of 2 thousand 4 hundred 47 crore rupees is expected to reduce the travel time between Prayagraj and Varanasi by one hour. Dev Deepawali, which has become a world famous festival of light and fervour in Varanasi, is celebrated on Kartik Poornima every year. The festival will be started by the Prime Minister by lighting a diya on the Raj Ghat of Varanasi, which will be followed by lighting of 11 lakh diyas on both sides of River Ganges.
  • A power-packed Apex Committee meeting of the new Science, Technology & Innovation Policy STIP 2020 discussed various suggestions for the upcoming policy that will pave the way towards a knowledge-based economy. STIP 2020, India’s fifth National Policy for Science, Technology, and Innovation, aims to capture the aspirations of the entire nation through a decentralized, bottom-up, and inclusive approach. From open science to funding priorities; critical human capital to equity and inclusion; strategic technologies to traditional knowledge systems; science diplomacy to science communication – this policy promises a renewed STI ecosystem for an Atmanirbhar Bharat. The STIP 2020 Secretariat has been established jointly by the Office of Principal Scientific Adviser (PSA) and the Department of Science and Technology (DST) to coordinate and execute the entire STIP 2020 policy-making process.
  • China has powered up its first domestically developed nuclear reactor – the Hualong One – a significant step in Beijing’s attempts to become less dependent on Western allies for energy security and critical technology. The reactor, which was connected to the national grid on Friday, can generate 10 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity each year and cut carbon emissions by 8.16 million tons. China has 47 nuclear plants with a total generation capacity of 48.75 million kilowatts – the world’s third highest after the U.S. and the France.
  • National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, who met Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, discussed key bilateral issues including Indian investments and regional security, in a one-on-one discussion that comes amid a heightening geopolitical contest in the island nation. The meeting was held on the side lines of the 4th National Security Adviser-Level Maritime Security Cooperation discussion among India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (November 28, 2020)

  • ‘Sea Sparkle’ has affected marine food chain: CMFRI
  • Vice President calls for mass movement to promote digital literacy in the country
  • GDP Estimates of 2nd quarter more encouraging than anticipated: Chief Economic Advisor
  • Madras High Court refuses to intervene in merger of Lakshmi Vilas Bank with DBS Bank
  • Single point information source on Climate Action “India Climate Change Knowledge Portal” launched
  • Government holds 5th review meeting on CAPEX of CPSEs to boost expenditure in economy
  • TRIFED of Ministry of tribal affairs and state of Goa to implement ‘Goatribal plan’
  • MoRTH seeks to formalize registration process of Vintage Motor Vehicles
  • Self-Reliant India initiative deserves high attention, says SCO Secretary General
  • Tamil Nadu govt announces compensation packages for losses suffered due to Cyclone Nivar

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • The bloom of Noctiluca Scintillans, commonly known as “sea sparkle” that the Karnataka coast has been witnessing since about a month, has displaced microscopic algae called diatoms, which form the basis of the marine food chain. This has deprived food for the planktivorous fish, scientists from the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute(CMFRI) said.  
  • The Vice President of India, Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu called for a mass movement to promote digital literacy and urged all technological and educational institutions to play a leading role in that endeavor. Virtually launching ‘Adi Shankara Digital Academy’ at Kaladi, the birthplace of Adi Shankaracharya, the Vice President said that information is the main commodity in the present-day knowledge society and whoever has quick access to information has the advantage. He called ‘digitalization’ as the medium of access to such information. Drawing attention towards the unprecedented disruptions caused by Covid-19 pandemic, Shri Naidu said that it has forced millions of students out of classrooms due to closure of schools and the world community is trying to address this challenge by adopting online education.
  • Chief Economic Advisor K V Subramanian has said that India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) estimates of second quarter of 2020-21 is quite encouraging in comparison to the first quarter. Talking to media persons in New Delhi yesterday, Mr Subramanian said, manufacturing has recorded a positive growth of 0.6 per cent, and utility has grown by 4.4 per cent and Agriculture grew by 3.4 per cent in second quarter. Mr Subramanian said that the broad recovery is underway. India’s GDP contracted by 7.5 per cent in the second quarter, from July to September of 2020-21. According to the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Gross Value Added (GVA) came in at minus 7 percent.
  • TRIFED under Ministry of Tribal Affairs held  a virtual meeting on 26th November with Goa Administration  to finalize the Goa Tribal Development Plan. The main agenda of the meeting was to finalise the Tribal Development Plan for the state of Goa for the establishment of 25 Van Dhan Vikas Kendras, 1 Tribal food park, 2 showrooms in North and South Goa. TRIFED continues to work for the complete transformation of the tribal ecosystem across the country through the large-scale tribal entrepreneurship model.
  • The Madras High Court has refused to intervene in the merger of the Lakshmi Vilas Bank-LVB with the DBS Bank. The Lakshmi Vilas Bank suffered serious deterioration of its financials leading to the RBI imposing a month long moratorium. The RBI also made an amalgamation scheme for the LVB with the DBS Bank, which took effect today. It has helped to lift the moratorium for its depositors and its 563 branches and its ATM network are functioning under the DBS banner. A case was filed against the merger in the Madras High Court. It came up for hearing before the First Bench yesterday, and it refused to intervene in the RBI decision. However, it asked the DBS management to safeguard the interests of the LVB’s shareholders. The case has been posted for further hearing on the 21st January.
  • Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Shri Prakash Javadekar launched the “India Climate Change Knowledge Portal”. Expressing happiness over the web portal launch, Shri Javadekar said portal will be a “single point Information resource” which provides information on the different climate initiatives taken by various Line Ministries enabling users to access updated status on these initiatives. Shri Javadekar informed at the virtual event that India has practically achieved its Pre-2020 Climate Action targets and said though historically India is not responsible for emissions, India is leading the world on Climate Action.
  • In order to formalize the registration process of the Vintage Motor Vehicles, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has sought suggestions to amend the Central Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989. At present, there are no rules for regulating the registration process of vehicles of heritage value. The draft rules define Vintage Motor Vehicles as all two-wheelers and four-wheelers which are in personal use and are more than 50 years old from the date of their first registration. These include imported vehicles. Objective is to preserve and promote the heritage of old vehicles in India. The draft rules are available on the Ministry’s website.
  • Union Minister for Finance & Corporate Affairs Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman held Video Conference with Secretaries of the Ministries of Power, Mines and Department of Atomic Energy and the CMDs of 10 CPSEs belonging to these Ministries, to review the capital expenditure (CAPEX) in this financial year. This was 5th in the ongoing series of meetings that the Finance Minister is having with various stakeholders to accelerate the economic growth in the background of COVID – 19 pandemic. The overall achievement as on 23rd November, 2020 is Rs.24227 crore (39.4%) against the CAPEX target for 2020-21 i.e. Rs.61483 crore.
  • Secretary General of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Vladimir Norov has praised the “Self-Reliant India” initiative by Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying that it deserves high attention. He said that ‘Self Reliant India’ aims to strengthen industry, medium and small enterprises, which are the livelihood of millions of people in India. He added that the initiative will have a multiplier effect on the world economy, as well as will contribute to the early recovery of the economies of the SCO member States in the post-Pandemic period and to intensification of multi-faceted trade and economic cooperation within the Organization.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (November 27, 2020)

  • Prime Minister Modi pitches for ‘One Nation, One Election’
  • IMAC to be domain awareness centre; To become multi-agency centre
  • GDP contracted 10.7% in Q2; Business activity index indicates further recovery in Q3
  • RBI Governor asserts that economic recovery in the country is stronger than expected
  • India, Finland sign MoU in the field of Environment protection and biodiversity conservation
  • India has emerged as fourth largest producer of renewable energy in world
  • Ministry of Ports, Shipping and waterways issues Draft Merchant Shipping Bill, 2020 for Public Consultation
  • Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to attend the 19th SCO Heads of Govt meet hosted by India on 30th Nov
  • India & UAE review comprehensive strategic partnership, agree to continue coordination on various multilateral issues

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday again pitched for ‘One Nation, One Election’, saying it is the need of the country as elections taking place every few months hamper development works. Mr. Modi was addressing the concluding session of the 80th All India Presiding Officers Conference via videoconferencing. He also said there should be a single voter list for all polls in the country.
  • The Navy’s Information Management and Analysis Centre(IMAC), the nodal agency for maritime data fusion set up after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, will soon become a National Maritime Domain Awareness(NDMA) centre, with all stakeholders having their presence there. Approved by the Defence Acquisition Council in 2012, the IMAC became operational in 2014 at a cost of Rs. 450 crore and is located in Gurugram. Its is the nodal centre of the National Command Control Communication and Intelligence System(NC3I), which was established to link the operational centres and lower echelons of the Navy and the Coast Guard spread across the country’s coastline, including the island territories.
  • India’s GDP likely contracted 10.7% in the second quarter, with a further recovery likely in the third quarter, SBI Research said in a report released yesterday, citing improvements in economic indicators over October and November. The SBI business activity index also shows that there is continuous improvement and Q3 numbers could be even better.
  • Reserve Bank Governor Shaktikanta Das has said that the Indian economy exhibited a stronger than expected pickup in recovery after the first quarter of current fiscal. Mr Das, however, warned that downside risks to growth continue due to a surge in Covid-19 infections. He was speaking at the annual day event of Foreign Exchange Dealers’ Association of India yesterday. The RBI Governor said, even as the growth outlook has improved, we need to be watchful about the sustainability of demand after festivals and a possible reassessment of market expectations surrounding the Covid-19 vaccine. The sharp rise in COVID cases in eight states, which include key economic and business hubs, has prompted Ministry of Home Affairs to issue fresh guidelines for states to contain the spread of Corona virus.
  • India and Finland today signed an MoU for developing cooperation between two countries in the field of Environment protection and biodiversity conservation. The MoU is a platform to further advance Indian and Finnish partnership and support, exchange best practices in areas like prevention of air and water pollution, waste management, and promotion of circular economy.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India’s renewable power capacity is the 4th largest in the world and it is growing at the fastest speed among all major countries. He said, the renewable energy capacity in India is currently 136 Giga Watts, which is about 36 percent of the country’s total capacity. Inaugurating the virtual 3rd Global Renewable Energy Investment Meeting and Expo, RE-Invest 2020 last evening, Mr Modi said, India is travelling on an unparalleled journey in the last 6 years. He said, the country is expanding generation capacity and network to ensure every citizen has access to electricity to unlock their full potential. The Prime Minister said, India’s annual renewable energy capacity addition has been exceeding that of coal based thermal power since 2017. In the last 6 years, India has increased installed renewable energy capacity by two and half times. He said, even when it was not affordable, India invested in renewable energy and this is bringing costs down. The Prime Minister said, India is showing to the world that sound environmental policies can also be sound economics.
  • The Merchant Shipping Bill, 2020 has been drafted,with the primary aim of promoting the growth of the Indian shipping industry by incorporating the best practices adopted by other advanced countries like the U.S., Japan, U.K., Singapore and Australia. All up-to-date IMO Conventions / protocols, to which India is a party, have been adopted in it. Adequate provisions are incorporated to ensure the safety and security of vessels, safety of life at sea, prevent marine pollution, provide for maritime liabilities and compensations, and ensure comprehensive adoption of India’s obligations under International Conventions.
  • China today announced that Premier Li Keqiang will attend the 19th meeting of the Council of Heads of Govt. of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member states to be held under India’s chairmanship on Nov. 30th. This is the first time after joining the SCO in 2017 that India has got the opportunity to host this meeting which will be held through video link. Chinese Foreign Ministry today said, the upcoming meeting of heads of govt is an important event under SCO framework this year. It said, Premier Li Keqiang and other leaders will hold in depth communication and exchange at the meeting, on deepening SCO cooperation amid the pandemic and formulate more practical measures to push national economic recovery to promote faster and better development of SCO.
  • External Affairs Minister, Dr.S.Jaishankar and his United Arab Emirate counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan have held discussions on the entire range of bilateral issues. Dr. Jaishankar who was on a two day visit to the UAE, briefed him on the progress made by India in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, both on the health and economic front. Both sides reviewed their cooperation on various facets of their comprehensive strategic partnership including trade, investment, infrastructure, energy, food security and defence. The two foreign ministers also discussed recent regional and international developments and agreed to continue coordination on various multilateral issues.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (November 25, 2020)

  • PM Modi to inaugurate RE-Invest 2020 on 26 November
  • 7th Meeting of the Joint Trade Committee between India and Myanmar
  • Government of India blocks 43 mobile apps from accessing by users in India
  • Food Processing Projects worth Rs 234.68 Crores approved; Shri Narendra Singh Tomar chairs IMAC Meeting
  • Tenth edition of National Science Film Festival kicks off in a virtual mode
  • “Nivar” in Bay of Bengal intensifies into severe cyclonic storm; Tamil Nadu and Puducherry expected to get extremely heavy rainfall
  • President Kovind inaugurates All India Presiding Officers’ Conference in Gujarat
  • India announces launch of Phase-IV of High Impact Community Development Projects in Afghanistan

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi will inaugurate the virtual 3rd Global Renewable Energy Investment Meeting and Expo (RE-Invest 2020), on 26 November 2020 at 5:30 PM. The summit is organised by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy and will be held from 26 – 28 November 2020. The theme for RE-Invest 2020 is ‘Innovations for Sustainable Energy Transition’. It will feature a 3-day conference on renewables and future energy choices, and an exhibition of manufacturers, developers, investors and innovators. It is expected to be attended by over 75 international Ministerial delegations, over 1000 global industry leaders, and 50,000 delegates. It aims to accelerate the worldwide effort to scale up development and deployment of renewable energy and connect the global investment community with Indian energy stakeholders. It aims to build upon the success of the first two editions held in 2015 and 2018 and provide an international forum for investment promotion in renewable energy.
  • The 7th Joint Trade Committee Meeting between India and Myanmar was held through virtual mode on 24th November 2020. The Meeting was co-chaired by Dr. Than Myint, Union Minister for Ministry of Commerce, Myanmar and Shri Piyush Goyal, Commerce and Industry Minister of India. During the consultations, both sides reviewed various bilateral issues ranging from trade, investment, banking, connectivity, capacity building and upgradation of border infrastructure. Both sides reviewed their preparedness to meet the COVID-19 challenges and expanding cooperation in pharma and health sector including traditional medicines.
  • Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India issued an order under section 69A of the Information Technology Act blocking access to 43 mobile apps. This action was taken based on the inputs regarding these apps for engaging in activities which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order. Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has issued the order for blocking the access of these apps by users in India based on the comprehensive reports received from Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Center, Ministry of Home Affairs. Earlier on 29th June, 2020 the Government of India had blocked access to 59 mobile apps and on 2nd September, 2020 118 more apps were banned under section 69A of the Information Technology Act.
  • Union Minister of Food Processing Industries Shri Narendra Singh Tomar, chaired the IMAC meeting through video conference today to consider the proposals received under the Scheme for Creation of Infrastructure for Agro-Processing Cluster (APC) of Pradhan Mantri KisanSampada Yojana (PMKSY). The promoters of projects also participated through Video Conference. IMAC approved 7 proposals with total project cost of Rs. 234.68 Crores including grants-in-aid of Rs. 60.87 Crores in the States/UTs of Meghalaya, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra. These projects will leverage private investment of Rs. 173.81 Crores and are expected to generate employment for 7750 persons. The scheme for Creation of Infrastructure for Agro-Processing Cluster (APC) has been approved on 03.05.2017 under the Pradhan Mantri KisanSampada Yojana to incentivize the setting up of agro processing clusters in the country.  This scheme aims at development of modern infrastructure to encourage entrepreneurs to set up food processing units based on cluster approach.
  • The tenth edition of prestigious science film festival got off in a virtual mode. VigyanPrasar, an autonomous agency under the Department of Science and Technology, Govt. of India, has been organizing this festival as a part of its science popularization endeavour. The festival offers a unique platform to showcase the science films made by professionals, amateur and student filmmakers under various themes.
  • President Ram Nath Kovind has said that the biggest challenge before the public representatives and democratic institutions is to meet the expectations of the public. Inaugurating the 80th All India conference of the presiding officers at Kevadia in Gujarat, he said it is expected from the public representatives that they always remain honest towards the principals of democracy. He said the Indian institutions are gaining more strength at a time when democratic institutions are being questioned around the world. Stating that Indian ancient books have mentions of democratic values, the President said our founding fathers gave a final form to these sentiments in the Constitution.
  • India has announced the launch of Phase-IV of the High Impact Community Development Projects in Afghanistan. It envisages more than 100 projects worth  80 million dollars that India would undertake in Afghanistan. External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar said this during the  2020 Afghanistan Conference organized in Geneva through video- conference. The two day conference was co-hosted by the United Nations, the Government of Afghanistan, and the Government of Finland. Dr Jaishankar also announced that India had just concluded with Afghanistan an agreement for the construction of the Shatoot dam, which would provide safe drinking water to two million residents of Kabul city. He said, India had earlier built the 202-kilometer Phul-e-Khumri transmission line that provided electricity to Kabul city.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (November 24, 2020)

  • Oxford vaccine is 70% effective; 200 million doses will be ready by year-end
  • Government to expedite the environmental appraisal of industrial projects
  • J&K administration publishes list of Roshni Act beneficiaries
  • Bhutan border village on disputed land; Media claims it is on Chinese side
  • Government launches international version of UMANG App
  • Deep Depression over South West Bay of Bengal intensifies into cyclonic storm ‘Nivar’
  • PM Modi says 2014-29 period is very important for India; A lot remains to be done
  • Single window approval for Foreign Direct Investment by March
  • India, EU hold 6th round of consultations on disarmament & non-proliferation matters
  • United States CDC releases first blueprint for initial vaccine allocation

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  • London major AstraZeneca said on Monday its COVID-19 vaccine could be as much as 90% effective, giving the world’s fight against the global pandemic a new weapon, cheaper to make, easier to distribute and faster to scale-up than rivals. The vaccine on average prevented 70% of COVID-19 cases in late-stage trials in Britain and Brazil. No serious safety events were confirmed. The British drug maker said it will have as many as 200 million doses by the end of 2020, around four times as many as U.S. competitor Pfizer. Seven hundred million doses could be ready globally as early as the end of the first quarter of 2021, it said.
  • The Ministry of Environment and Forests(MoEF) wants to expedite the environmental appraisal of industrial projects. These appraisals, as per norms, are conducted by independent panel of experts that have representatives from the government as well as from outside, trained in matters of ecology, wildlife and habitat preservation. The Expert Appraisal Committees(EACs) opine on whether a proposed project beyond a certain size ought to be commissioned and recommend ways to mitigate the potential environmental impact. Their advice is critical to the MoEF’s eventual decision to either clear or red flag a project. However, a November 11 letter from the Ministry’s Environment Impact Assessment division, that coordinates EAC meetings, issued fresh guidelines to accelerate the appraisal process.
  • The Jammu & Kashmir administration published on its website the list of beneficiaries under the Roshni Act. The beneficiaries include former Ministers, and retired civil servants. The larger allegation pertained to irregularities in the implementation of the Jammu and Kashmir States Land (vesting of ownership to the occupants) Act, also known as Roshni Act, which has now been declared null and void.  
  • Chinese media claimed that a new border village built by China near Bhutan was on Chinese territory, but released images of the village shows its location on territory disputed by the two countries. The Global Times confirmed that the village of Pangda had been newly built and residents moved there in September. An image released by the newspaper placed the village in disputed territory, a couple of kilometres inside what Bhutan sees as its territory. Bhutan however, clarified that there is no Chinese village inside Bhutan.
  • To mark the occasion of 3 years of UMANG and 2000 plus services milestone, an online conference was organized under the chairmanship of  Minister for Electronics and Information Technology, Ravi Shankar Prasad. On this occasion,  Mr Prasad launched the UMANG’s international version in coordination with Ministry of External Affairs for select countries that include USA, UK, Canada, Australia, UAE, Netherlands, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. It  will help Indian international students, NRIs and Indian tourists abroad, to avail Government of India services, anytime. It will also help in taking India to the world through ‘Indian Culture’ services available on UMANG and create interest amongst foreign tourists to visit India.
  • Asserting that the 2014-29 period between the 16th and 18th Lok Sabha is very important for a young democracy like India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the last six years had been “historic” for the country’s development and a lot remains to be done in the remaining period. He was speaking after inaugurating 76 multi-storey flats in the national capital for the MPs.
  • A new, unified single window clearance system for foreign direct investment (FDI) proposals would be in place by March 31, a top government official, stressing that this would not only make approvals transparent but expeditious. At a meeting hosted by the Confederation of Indian Industry(CII), Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told that an effective, unified, single window will be made available so that access to regulators, policymakers and facilitators are all available at one point from wherever you are and you will be able to access it digitally.
  • India and the European Union yesterday held the sixth round of consultations on disarmament and non-proliferation matters in a virtual format. The consultations involved exchanges on developments in the area of nuclear, chemical, biological disarmament and non-proliferation, conventional weapons, outer space security issues, export control regimes, strategic stability environment and other developments of mutual interest. The consultations aim at enhancing mutual understanding and appreciation between India and the EU on international security issues. These are part of the broad dialogue architecture with the EU as a key strategic partner of India.
  • America’s top public health agency – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released its first blueprint of a four-pronged ethical basis which will determine how the coronavirus vaccine could be released to reach more than 261 million people who fall into the category of essential workers. A high-powered Advisory Committee on Immunisation Practices responsible for making vaccine recommendations while supply is limited laid out four principles that will guide allocation: Maximise benefits and minimise harms; Promote justice; Mitigate health inequities; Promote transparency.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (November 23, 2020)

  • Uproar over Kerala law to curb abusive content; Alleged threat to freedom of free speech
  • 132 countries attend global meet or criminal finances and cryptocurrencies
  • SITMEX-20 : India, Thailand, Singapore naval exercise concludes
  • Indian Navy to Host Exercise SIMBEX-20 in Andaman Sea
  • Khadi  and Village Industries Commission Inaugurates Khadi Exhibition in Varanasi
  • PM Modi emphasises the need to fight climate change in an integrated, comprehensive and holistic way
  • Innovative Technology infusion for better implementation of Jal Jeevan Mission
  • Dr. Harsh Vardhan addresses Boston Centre for Excellence in Health and Human Development
  • Japan grant to strengthen Maldives Coast Guard; Male’s second major pact with Quad member
  • India set to launch deep sea mission, says Ministry of Earth Sciences

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • Kerala Governor recently signed an ordinance amending the Kerala Police Act, 2011 which give the police more powers to prosecute persons who exploit various communication platforms to slander fellow citizens. The ordinance has introduced a new provision, Section 118-A, to the Act. The amendment proposes three years of imprisonment and a fine up to Rs. 10,000 for those convicted of producing, publishing or disseminating derogatory content through any means of communication to intimidate, insult or defame any person.
  • Over 2,000 representatives from 132 countries attended the virtual 4th Global Conference on Criminal Finances and Cryptocurrencies organised by the Interpol, Europol and the Basel Institute on Governance from November 18 to 19. The Conference is an initiative of the Working Group on Cryptocurrencies and Money Laundering established in 2016 by the three organisations, launched with an objective of strengthening knowledge, expertise and best practices for investigations into financial crimes and intelligence on virtual assets and cryptocurrencies.
  • Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare digitally addressed the Boston Center of Excellence for Health and Human Development here today through Video Conference. Congratulating the Boston Center of Excellence (BoCE) for Health and Human Development for bringing together experts to research a better cure and better healthcare for all, Dr. Harsh Vardhan compared the ongoing Pandemic to a transitory state of our civilization. Detailing that India has already mastered all components of Modern medicine from antibiotics to emergency care, surgery, immunization, and vaccine, the Minister noted that the focus is now on the cost, quality, and affordability of this system which are becoming more complex. He elaborated that India has already made strides in remote diagnostics and treatment using latest telemedicine technology to treat people in many of India’s 7,00,000 remote villages.
  • The second edition of the India, Singapore and Thailand trilateral naval exercise, SITMEX-20, concluded in the Andaman Sea on Sunday. The 27th edition of India-Singapore bilateral maritime exercise, SIMBEX-20, is scheduled to be held in the same area from November 23 to 25.
  • Indian Navy (IN) is scheduled to host the 27th edition of India – Singapore Bilateral Maritime Exercise SIMBEX-20 from 23 to 25 November 2020 in Andaman Sea. The SIMBEX series of exercises between IN and Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN), being conducted annually since 1994, are aimed at enhancing mutual inter-operability and imbibing best practices from each other. The scope and complexity of these exercises has increased steadily over the past two decades to include advanced naval drills covering a wide spectrum of maritime operations. The 2020 edition of SIMBEX will witness participation by Indian Navy ships including destroyer Rana with integral Chetak helicopter and indigenously built corvettes Kamorta and Karmuk. In addition, IN submarine Sindhuraj and P8I maritime reconnaissance aircraft will also participate in the exercise.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi today emphasised  that climate change must be fought in an integrated, comprehensive and holistic way and not in silos. He said while all are focused on saving citizens and economies from the effects of the global pandemic it is also equally important to keep focus on fighting climate change. Speaking at the G-20 summit virtually, Mr Modi said, India has adopted low-carbon and climate-resilient development practices. He said, India is not only meeting its Paris Agreement targets, but also exceeding them. Highlighting the efforts made by the government, the Prime Minister said, LED lights have been made popular, which saves 38 million tons of Carbon Dioxide emissions per year. He said, smoke free kitchens have been provided to over 80 million households through our Ujjwala Scheme which is among the largest clean energy drives globally.
  • A multi-disciplinary Technical Committee in the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Ministry of Jal Shakti has recommended five technologies specifically three technologies for drinking water and two technologies for sanitation as innovative technologies out of the ten technologies considered by it and these technologies would now be listed in the innovation portal of the Department. The recommendation by the Committee would help the States/ UTs so that they can use these technologies depending on their requirement and suitability.These technologies were appraised at different levels before consideration and recommendation by the Technical Committee. The Ministry of Jal Shakti gives primacy to the infusion and deployment of innovative technological solutions to realize the ambitious objective of the Jal Jeevan Mission to provide Functional Household Tap Connection to every rural home by 2024 with speed & scale while tackling the diverse challenges encountered during implementation. Under the Mission, innovative proposals are sought online for assisting the States/UTs to adopt innovative technologies to deliver drinking water services to rural communities of adequate quantity and prescribed quality. Various challenges being faced during implementationof the Mission include variations in regional endowment of water resources& levels of service provision, water quality challenges, convergence with sanitation sector and dealing with grey water/ sludge issues, etc.
  • A range of exquisite Khadi products including the premium High Altitude Honey from Jammu & Kashmir, handcrafted silk, cotton and woolen clothes and herbal medicines have been put to display at the state level Khadi Exhibition in Varanasi organized by Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC). The exhibition was inaugurated yesterday by KVIC Chairman Shri Vinai Kumar Saxena. Hundreds of empowered Khadi artisans from 8 States – Uttar Pradesh, J&K, West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Punjab – have set up 90 stalls in the exhibition, the second such event organized by KVIC since the Covid-19 lockdown. The exhibition will continue for 15 days, i.e. from November 22 to December 7. In October this year, the first Khadi exhibition after the lockdown was organized in Lucknow. A number of Khadi institutions and PMEGP Units from J&K with products like high altitude honey, Kashmiri woollen and shawls have been a major attraction at the exhibition.
  • The Maldives and Japan on Sunday signed an agreement for a Japanese grant of $7.6 million to be extended to the Maldives Coast Guard and the Maritime Rescue and Coordination Centre. Coming less than three months after signing of the ‘Framework for U.S. Department of Defence-Maldives Ministry of Defence and Security Relationship’, the ‘grant aid’ is the Maldives’ second major pact with a member of the ‘Quad’, an informal strategic grouping of U.S., Japan, Australia and India.
  • India will soon launch an ambitious ‘Deep Ocean Mission’ that envisages exploration of minerals, energy and marine diversity of the underwater world, a vast part of which remains unexplored, says officials from Ministry of Earth Sciences. The mission, which is expected to cost over Rs. 4,000 crore, will give a boost to efforts to explore India’s vast Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (November 22, 2020)

  • Parliamentary panel bats for laws to counter bio-terrorism
  • PM Modi says COVID-19 is world’s biggest challenge
  • APEDA organises Virtual Buyer Seller Meets with Countries to promote Indian agri products
  • Odisha tribe sees rise in migration; Bonda youth are forced to leave their pristine hamlets
  • U.S., Taiwan step up economic partnership in newly created economic dialogue
  • India to double oil refining capacity in five years, says Prime Minister Modi
  • Disruptive solutions needed in renewables to tackle future
  • ‘AIM–Sirius Innovation Programme 3.0’ Finale Showcases Brilliant Co-Innovation Capability of Indo-Russia school children
  • Ministry of Tourism organises webinar on “India’s Hidden Gems” under Dekho Apna Desh Webinar Series
  • Britain, Canada ink rollover trade deal to protect services between them after Brexit

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • Formulating effective laws to counter bio-terrorism is one of the important lessons to be learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic, a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health has said in a report, “The Outbreak of Pandemic COVID-19 And its Management”. Among other things, the report said low testing and shoddy contact tracing were responsible for the spike in cases. The report has suggested that the Health Ministry should engage with agencies and actively participate in ongoing international treaties. The report did not explicitly state that the COVID-19 virus was a bio-weapon.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic is the biggest challenge the world is facing since the Second World War and a turning point in the history of humanity, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at the G20 Summit, as he offered India’s IT prowess for efficient functioning of the grouping. Mr. Modi also said that “Work from Anywhere” is a new normal in the post-COVID-19 world and suggested creation of a virtual G20 secretariat.
  • Perched at a height of 3,500 ft above sea level in the hilly Malkangiri district of Odisha, this village is difficult to access and so are its inhabitants – the Bondas, a particularly vulnerable tribal group, known for their secluded lives away from the mainstream. However, young people from the tribal group have been forced to leave their pristine hamlets for low-paid jobs in distant towns of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and States even farther. The COVID-19 pandemic appears to have quickened the ‘distress’ migration.
  • The U.S. and Taiwan are stepping up cooperation in a newly created economic dialogue, in another move from the outgoing Trump administration to increase official exchanges with the self-ruled island. The two sides signed a five-year agreement establishing the U.S.-Taiwan Economic Prosperity Partnership Dialogue, which is meant to be held annually. The deal falls short of a long-desired bilateral trade agreement, but is a significant step that increases ties between Washington and Taipei.
  • India plans to almost double its oil refining capacity in the next five years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said yesterday, offering a much more aggressive timeline than previously, despite the coronavirus pandemic blighting the economy. The country’s energy Minister was quoted in June as saying India’s oil refining capacity could jump to 450-500 million tonnes in 10 years from the current level of about 250 million tonnes. The cleaner-burning fuel currently accounts for about 6% of the energy consumed in the country.  
  • India needs to press ahead developing disruptive solutions in renewables to enable the country to become a green energy superpower, Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries Ltd.(RIL), stressed on Saturday. By the middle of this century, the world will use twice as much energy as we use today. He added that India’s own per capita energy needs will be more than twice as much as today. He continued that to achieve the goals, we need disruptive solutions – low carbon and carbon recycle technologies.
  • The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry facilitates export of its scheduled products through several export promotional activities, such as organizing International Buyer Seller Meets, participation of exporters in leading trade events in the potential importing countries, and product promotion programmes in specific markets. These initiatives have popularized the Indian agri products globally and facilitated exporters to reach the global market. During the COVID 19 pandemic period, physical meetings and market promotion programmes were not possible. In its endeavour to promote export of Agri products, APEDA explored the virtual medium and continued its initiative of export market promotion by organizing several Virtual Buyer Seller Meets (VBSM), in collaboration with the Indian Missions abroad.
  • The 14-day-long AIM–Sirius Innovation Programme 3.0 for school students drew to an end yesterday. The event saw the participation of several dignitaries from India and Russia and a special showcase by the students of both the countries. Drawing inspiration from India’s Aatmanirbhar Bharat and Russia’s Big Challenges, this year’s edition was focused on developing technological solutions (web-based and mobile applications) to address the grassroot problems of the two countries. Innovations developed by the students leveraged technologies such as app development, artificial intelligence, blockchain, machine learning, data analytics and visualization, UI/UX, virtual reality, augmented reality, gamification, 3D design, and rapid prototyping. Mentors from the industry and academia of both the countries worked closely with the teams.
  • The Ministry of Tourism’s Dekho Apna Desh Webinar series titled “India’s Hidden Gems” on 21st November 2020 focused on hidden gems of India. India is truly like a kaleidoscope, where every twist and turn will present you with a different pattern of landscape, colour, cuisine and culture. This also inspires the spirit of Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat. The best way to experience this is by traveling to destinations that are not popular on the internet, and as much as you can, by road.
  • Britain and Canada struck a rollover trade deal to protect the flow of 27 billion dollar-worth of goods and services between them after Brexit. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson joined Canada’s Justin Trudeau and their respective trade ministers on an online call to mark the trade deal. The deal paves the way for a tailor-made agreement covering more areas such as digital trade, small businesses, the environment and women’s economic empowerment. In a statement, UK’s international trade secretary, said that the agreement underpins 20 billion pounds worth of trade and locks in certainty for thousands of jobs. Britain is Canada’s fifth largest trading partner after the United States, China, Mexico and Japan.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (November 21, 2020)

  • At UNSC convened under Arria Formula, India calls for immediate Afghan ceasefire
  • Union Education Minister reviews progress of Unnat Bharat Abhiyan Scheme
  • Exercise Malabar comes to an end; Navy also carried out coordinated patrol with Thailand
  • India’s IRNSS is now part of World Wide Radio Navigation System
  • India is the only country to achieve 2°C goal under Paris Agreement among all G20 nations
  • Australia to temporarily host ISRO satellite tracking facilities
  • Government inaugurates Seismic Survey Campaign by Oil India Ltd
  • Two day 15th G20 Summit chaired by Saudi Arabia begins
  • Rate of growth of renewable energy capacity in India is highest in the world
  • Online conference to celebrate three years of UMANG and 2000 services milestone

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • India has told the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) that it calls for an ‘immediate comprehensive ceasefire’ in Afghanistan, while welcoming all opportunities to bring peace to the country. India’s position was articulated by its Permanent Representative to the United Nations, T.S. Tirumurti, at a UNSC meeting on Friday, convened under the Arria Formula(informally convened at the request of a UNSC member). Current and incoming members of the UNSC spoke on how the Council could support the Afghan peace process.
  • Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank held a review meeting regarding the progress of Unnat Bharat Abhiyan Scheme (UBA) through video conferencing  today. He highlighted the need for a portal which will serve as an interactive platform for different institutions wherein they can share success stories and motivate each other. He said that under the scheme, higher education institutions are connecting with the society and villages helping the students and faculty to gain practical knowledge and traditional wisdom. The Mission of Unnat Bharat Abhiyan is to enable higher educational institutions to work with the people of rural India in identifying development challenges and evolving appropriate solutions for accelerating sustainable growth.
  • The 24th edition of exercise Malabar, which concluded on Friday, was reflective of the “commitment of the participating countries to support a free, open, inclusive Indo-Pacific as well as a rules-based international order”. Simultaneously, it also carried out Coordinated Patrol(CORPAT) with Thailand in the Andaman Sea and delivered food aid to South Sudan in western Indian Ocean under Mission Sagar – II.
  • The Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) has been accepted as a component of the World Wide Radio Navigation System (WWRNS) for operation in the Indian Ocean Region by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). This will enable merchant vessels to use IRNSS for obtaining position information similar to GPS and GLONASS to assist in the navigation of ships in ocean waters within the area covered by 50°N latitude, 55°E longitude, 5°S latitude and 110°E longitude (approximately up to 1500 km from Indian boundary). The Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) of IMO during its recent meeting (102nd session) held from 4 to 11 November 2020 has approved the recognition of the IRNSS as a component of the World-Wide Radio Navigation System. This is a significant achievement of Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways (MoPSW), Directorate General of Shipping (DGS) and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) towards “Atmanirbhar Bharat”. IRNSS is an independent regional navigation satellite system developed by India. It is designed to provide accurate position information service to assist in the navigation of ships in Indian Ocean waters.
  • Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said India is the only country on track to achieve the 2°C goal under the Paris Agreement among all the G20 nations. In a tweet, Mr Javadekar said India is walking the talk on climate change. He added that the 2°C goal aims to keep the global temperature rise below 2°C from pre-industrial levels by 2100.
  • Minister of State for Power, New and Renewable Energy R K Singh said that the rate of growth of the renewable energy capacity in the country is the highest in the world and the world has recognized the efforts of India in limiting global warming. Mr. Singh said, transitioning from fossil fuel to green energy is a major step forward and India is now leading country in this transition. He said, India has not only achieved the goal set as Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Climate Agreement but already crossed it. He said, India committed to install 175GW of renewable energy capacity on the sidelines of the Paris Agreement and pledged in the COP-21 that 40 per cent of installed capacity will come from renewable energy by the year 2023.
  • Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan inaugurated the Seismic Survey Campaign by Oil India Limited. The survey under the Open Acreage Licensing Policy, OALP, will be undertaken in 5 blocks of 8 districts of Odisha in the Mahanadi basin and nearby areas. Declaring the campaign open through virtual mode, Union Minister Mr Pradhan said that the commercial production of oil and gas from the Mahanadi basin will be a game changer in the socio-economic development of Odisha. He said, this will also thrust Odisha and the eastern India on the path of progress and prosperity in sync with the vision of Purvodaya.
  • As part of steps to deepen cooperation in civil space activities, the space agencies of India and Australia were working together to position temporarily Indian tracking facilities in Australia. This would support India’s planned human space flight programme. India, Australia space cooperation is underpinned by a formal Memorandum of Understanding signed between the two countries in 2012.
  • The  15th G20 Summit has begun today in a virtual format. The two-day Summit is chaired by Saudi Arabia and the theme is “Realising the Opportunities of the 21st Century for All”. The summit is the second G20 Leaders’ meeting this year. The focus of the G20 Summit will be on an inclusive, resilient, and sustainable recovery from the COVID-19. During the Summit, the leaders will discuss pandemic preparedness and the ways and means to restore jobs.
  • An online conference will be  organized under the chairmanship of Union Minister for Electronics and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad on Monday to mark the occasion of three years of UMANG and 2000 services milestone. Its objective is to take suggestions and feedback from about 20 partner departments. The key partners of UMANG are Employee Provident Fund Organization, Direct Benefit Transfer scheme departments, Employee State Insurance Corporation, Ministries of Health, Education, Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Staff Selection Commission.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (November 20, 2020)

  • PM Modi says ‘Time our local technology is deployed by the world’
  • Face reality on Hong Kong, Beijing tells ‘Five Eyes’; Countries have slammed Beijing’s HK policy
  • Oxford Economics cuts India’s 2020-25 growth average to 4.5%
  • Moody’s narrows FY21 GDP outlook to 10.6% contraction from its earlier forecast of 11.5%
  • Prime Minister to inaugurate REINVEST- 2020 on 26 November 2020
  • Green Climate Fund approves USD 256 million for Bangladesh
  • Mission Purvodaya will drive eastern India towards self-reliance, says Government
  • PM Modi & his Bhutanese counterpart to launch RuPay Card phase-2 in Bhutan today
  • 12th Counter Terrorism Dialogue between India and the European Union (EU) was held virtually
  • 15th G20 Leaders’ Summit, chaired by Saudi Arabia to begin virtually tomorrow

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • India’s local technology has the potential to go global, and it is time the solutions are deployed by the world, said Prime Minister Modi yesterday, virtually inaugurating the Bengaluru Tech Summit 2020. As many as 25 countries, under a single band called “Global Innovation Alliance” are coming offline and online to attend the summit, a three-day event. Addressing the summit, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that India and his country had signed the ‘Australia India Technology Framework Agreement’ on cyber and cyber-enabled technology.
  • China yesterday rejected the latest attack on its Hong Kong policy by the U.S. and several of its allies, saying they should face up the reality that the former British colony has been returned to China. Foreign Ministry spokesperson was responding to a statement on Hong Kong issued by the U.S., U.K., Australia, Canada and New Zealand, which together make up an intelligence partnership known as the Five Eyes. The Foreign Ministers of the five nations said that a new Chinese government resolution that led to the disqualification of four pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong appears to be a part of concerted campaign to silence all critical voices.
  • Union Minister of Petroleum & Natural Gas and Steel Shri Dharmendra Pradhan said that ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ is about transforming India from being just a passive market to an active manufacturing hub at the heart of global value chains. Addressing the 119th annual general meeting of Merchant’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry today, he said that an Aatmanirbhar Bharat is a strong Bharat with robust manufacturing sector, self-reliant yet globally integrated economy. He said that under Mission Purvodaya, we are building an Integrated Steel Hub in eastern India which would add to the competitiveness of the steel sector and facilitate regional development with job creation. “The steel clusters will drive employment opportunities across the value chain, creating both direct and indirect jobs and spurring entrepreneurship, including in under-developed areas. It will spur development of other manufacturing industries and will be accompanied with social infrastructure in the form of cities, schools, hospitals, skilling centers etc.”, he added.
  • The Green Climate Fund has approved dollar 256 million for Bangladesh in grants and loans to meet its Green House Gas (GHG) emission reduction targets under the Paris agreement. The financing is provided as an integrated package for textile and Ready Made Garments (RMG) sectors of Bangladesh are the largest industrial contributors in carbon emission. The two sectors combined together contribute more than 27 percent of the industrial carbon emission as they are working with old and outdated machines with poor energy management.  By 2030, Bangladesh is committed to reduce its GHG emission by 15 percent compared to business-as-usual scenario. According to the GCF, the funding will facilitate capacity building, awareness raising, policy development and support in loan disbursal and evaluation of programme parameters to textile and RMG sectors in Bangladesh. It expects to reduce 14.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in emissions with the use of this funding.
  • Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi will inaugurate the virtual 3rd Global Renewable Energy Investment Meeting and Expo (RE-INVEST 2020), on 26 November 2020. RE-INVEST 2020 will include a two-day virtual conference on renewables and future energy choices and an exhibition of manufacturers, developers, investors and innovators engaged in the clean energy sector. The event will provide a great opportunity to various countries, states, business houses & organizations to showcase their strategies, achievements and expectations. It would facilitate collaboration and cooperation with key stakeholders in India, which has emerged as one of the world’s largest renewable energy markets today.Ministerial Delegations from across the world, global industry leaders, and large number of delegates are expected to participate in the event.
  • Global forecasting firm Oxford Economics revised downwards its India growth forecast over the medium term to an average 4.5% over 2020-25, from its pre-pandemic projection of 6.5%. In a research note, it said India’s post-COVID-19 scars could be among the worst in the world.
  • Moody’s Investors service has revised its GDP projection for India in 2020-21 to a 10.6% contraction compared with a 11.5% drop it had estimated. The rating agency also marginally raised its forecast for 2021-22 GDP growth to 10.8% from 10.6%. Estimates from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy show that unemployment remains high, although both urban and rural unemployment rates have recovered from peaks in April and May during the nationwide lockdown.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bhutanese counterpart Lotay Tshering will virtually launch RuPay Card phase-2 in Bhutan today. The two Prime Ministers had jointly launched phase-1 of the project during Mr Modi’s visit to Bhutan in August last year. Briefing media, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said the implementation of phase-1 of RuPay cards in Bhutan has enabled Indian visitors in Bhutan to access ATMs and points of sale terminals across Bhutan. The phase-2 will now allow Bhutanese cardholders to access RuPay network in India.
  • The 12th Counter Terrorism Dialogue between India and the European Union (EU) was held virtually yesterday. The Dialogue was an opportunity to continue close cooperation and coordination on this important element of the India-EU strategic partnership. Both India and the EU resolved to support each other in the fight against terrorism. India and the EU strongly condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations including the use of terrorist proxies for cross-border terrorism. India condemned the recent terror attacks in the member states of the European Union and expressed condolences to the families of the victims. The EU reiterated its condemnation of terrorist attacks in India, including 26/11 Mumbai, Pathankot and Pulwama and reiterated its support for the people and government of India in the fight against terrorism. India and the EU emphasised the need for strengthening international cooperation to combat terrorism in a comprehensive and sustained manner. They reaffirmed that it is crucial that perpetrators of violence and terrorism are brought to justice.
  • Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi will be attending the 15th G20 Summit chaired by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, under the theme “Realising the Opportunities of 21st Century for All” on 21-22 November 2020. The meeting will be held in a virtual format. The upcoming summit is the second G 20 Leaders’ meeting in 2020. Following the telephonic conversation between PM and Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, the last G 20 Extraordinary Leaders’ summit was held in March 2020, where the leaders developed a timely understanding among the G20 countries to help contain the spread of the COVID 19 pandemic and to forge a global coordinated response. The focus of the upcoming G20 Summit will be on an inclusive, resilient, and sustainable recovery from the COVID-19. During the G 20 Summit, the leaders will discuss pandemic preparedness and the ways and means to restore jobs. The leaders will also share their vision for building an inclusive, sustainable, and resilient future. India will enter the G20 Troika, along with Saudi Arabia when Italy will take over the Presidency of the G-20 on 1st December, 2020.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (November 19, 2020)

  • Pfizer and BioNTech say that their COVID-19 vaccine was found 95 per cent effective
  • Finance Panel for Public Private Partnerships on health Infrastructure
  • Getting MGNREGS wages harder than the labour, says study
  • IAF for short-term leasing of trainer aircraft, light copters
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi to inaugurate Bengaluru Tech Summit today
  • RBI names 2 startups as a part of its regulatory sandbox programme
  • India’s AI supercomputer Param Siddhi 63rd among top 500 most powerful non-distributed computer systems in the world
  • Iran says it will return to nuclear deal if U.S. sanctions are lifted
  • India-Luxembourg virtual summit to be chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his counterpart this evening
  • Webinar and Expo with Indonesia on Indian Defence Industry Global Outreach for Collaborative Partnerships

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • Global drugmakers Pfizer and BioNTech have said that their COVID-19 vaccine was found 95 per cent effective in the final analysis of the Phase 3 trial, including in people aged over 65 years. It paves the way for the companies to apply for emergency authorisation from US regulators within days. American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech said they have concluded phase 3 study of their mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine candidate BNT162b2, meeting all primary efficacy end points. Based on current projections, the companies expect to produce globally up to 50 million vaccine doses in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021.
  • The 15th Finance Commission has mooted a greater role for public private partnerships to ramp up health infrastructure and scale up spending on health from 0.95% of the GDP to 2.5% by 2024, N.K. Singh, Chairperson of the panel, said yesterday. While public outlays should focus on primary health care at the panchayat and municipality levels, private players should be relied on for speciality healthcare, he said, hinting that the commission has recommended steps to fix the skewed availability of healthcare across India as poorer states have the worst facilities.
  • For most rural workers dependent on the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme(MGNREGS) their labour does not end at the work site. According to a study by Lib Tech India released yesterday, many of them are forced to make multiple trips to the bank, adding travel costs and income losses, and face repeated rejections of payment, biometric errors and wrong information, just to get their hands on their wages. The study found that only 1 in 10 workers get an SMS message that their wages have been credited.
  • The recently released Defence Acquisition Procedure(DAP), 2020 allows leasing of military platforms. The Indian Air Force(IAF) is looking at leasing trainer aircraft and light utility helicopters for a short duration till the indigenous platforms under development are inducted into service, said Deputy Chief Air Marshal Sandeep Singh on Wednesday.  The IAF is already exploring options of leasing mid-air refuelling aircraft, which it is in urgent need of.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the Bengaluru Tech Summit, 2020 through video conferencing today. The theme of the summit is “Next is Now”. The three-day summit will deliberate on key challenges emerging in the post-pandemic world. It will focus on the impact of prominent technologies and innovations in the domains of ‘Information Technology & Electronics’ and ‘Biotechnology’. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Vice President of the Swiss Confederation Guy Parmelin, and many other prominent international figures will participate.
  • Reserve Bank of India has announced the names of two startups that have been selected as a part of its regulatory sandbox programme. RBI said, it has shortlisted six companies out of 32 entities that had applied for the ‘Test Phase’ of the first cohort. The two companies are Jaipur based Natural Support Consultancy Services Private Limited and New Delhi based Nucleus Software Exports Limited. While the former has named its product ‘eRupaya’, which will facilitate offline Person-to-Merchant transactions and offline digital payments in remote locations; the second company’s product ‘PaySe’, proposes to help in digitisation of payments in rural areas, starting with Self Help Groups, through an offline payment solution and a digitised SHG-centered ecosystem. The regulatory sandbox is a protected environment within which the selected companies will operate. They will have to show their system’s preparedness while dealing with dummy data. Once they achieve success within the protected environment, the systems will be allowed to be tested in the live environment with actual banks and consumer data.
  • Param Siddhi, thehigh performance computing-artificial intelligence (HPC-AI) supercomputer established under National Supercomputing Mission (NSM) at C-DAC has achieved global ranking of 63 in TOP 500 most powerful non-distributed computer systems in the world released on 16th November 2020. The AI system will strengthen application development of packages in areas such as advanced materials, computational chemistry & astrophysics, and several packages being developed under the mission on platform for drug design and preventive health care system, flood forecasting package for flood prone metro cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Patna and Guwahati. This will accelerate R&D in  war against COVID-19 through faster simulations, medical imaging, genome sequencing and forecasting and is a boon for Indian masses and for start-Ups and MSMEs in particular.  It is a boon for application developers and will help testing of weather forecasting packages by NCMRWF & IITM, geo-exploration packages for oil and gas recovery; packages for aero-design studies; computational physics and mathematical applications and even online courses for education. The supercomputer with Rpeak of 5.267 Petaflops and 4.6 Petaflops Rmax (Sustained) was conceived by C-DAC and developed jointly withsupport of Department of Science and Technology (DST), Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) under NSM.
  • Iran will automatically return to its nuclear commitments if U.S. President-elect Joe Biden lifts sanctions imposed over the past two years, its Foreign Minister said yesterday. Decades old U.S.-Iranian tensions escalated after the U.S. – Iranian tensions escalated after the U.S. President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from a landmark nuclear agreement in 2018 and re-imposed, then reinforced, crippling sanctions. Iran has since May 2019 gradually suspended most of its key obligations under the agreement.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Luxembourg counterpart Xavier Bettel will hold a virtual summit today. This will be the first stand-alone Summit between India and Luxembourg in the past two decades. The leaders will discuss the entire spectrum of bilateral relationship, including strengthening of India-Luxembourg cooperation in the post-COVID world. They will also exchange views on international and global issues of mutual interest. India and Luxembourg have continued to maintain high level exchanges in the recent past. The two Prime Ministers have met previously on three occasions.
  • A webinar between India and Indonesia was held with the theme “Indian Defence Industry Global Outreach for Collaborative Partnerships: Webinar and Expo India Indonesia Defence Cooperation”.  It was organized under the aegis of Department of Defence Production, Ministry of Defence through SIDM. This webinar was part of the series which are being organized with friendly foreign countries in order to boost defence exports and achieve defence export target of $5 billion in the next five years. Key officials from both sides participated in the webinar and spoke about need to leverage opportunities for modernizing armed forces and in indigenization of the defence industry. The webinar was attended by more than 150 participants and more than 100 virtual exhibition stalls have been set up in the Expo.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (November 18, 2020)

  • Supreme Court asks government about its mechanism to tackle fake news
  • Madhya Pradesh planning law against ‘love jihad’, says Minister
  • President appoints 28 Additional Judges as Judges of Allahabad High Court
  • BRICS nations adopt new counter-terrorism strategy to effectively deal with the menace
  • EESL Signs MoU with DNRE Goa to implement the country’s first Convergence Project
  • Education Minister virtually launches AICTE’s Lilavati Award-2020
  • PM Modi speaks to Joe Biden; Two leaders agree to advance Indo-US strategic partnership
  • PM Modi to address the 3rd Annual Bloomberg New Economy Forum today
  • Sri Lanka to open up Chinese-backed ‘port city’; It will offer tax concessions
  • Japan and Australia sign landmark defence deal to counter China’s growing influence in South China Sea

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • The Supreme Court asked the Centre to explain its “mechanism” against fake news and bigotry on air, and to create one if it did not already exist. The court added that inability on the government’s part may well see the job go to outer agency. The government had already blocked 743 social media accounts and URLs spreading fake news on COVID-19.
  • The government in Madhya Pradesh is planning a law with provisions for five-year imprisonment for ‘love jihad’. This was stated by State Home Minister. He added that government will table the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Bill, 2020, in the next Vidhan Sabha session. The Bill would propose the offence to be cognisable and non-bailable.
  • President of India in exercise of the power conferred by clause (1) of Article 217 of the Constitution of India, appointed JusticesShri Prakash Padia, Shri AlokMathur,Shri Pankaj Bhatia, Shri SaurabhLavania,  Shri Vivek Varma, Shri Sanjay Kumar Singh, Piyush Agrawal, ShriaurabhShyamShamshery, Jaspreet Singh, Rajeev Singh, Smt. Manju Rani Chauhan, Karunesh Singh Pawar,  Dr.Yogendra Kumar Srivastava, Manish Mathur, RohitRanjan Agarwal,Ram Krishna Gautam, Umesh Kumar, Pradeep Kumar Srivastava, AnilKumar—IX, Rajendra Kumar—IV, Mohd. FaizAlam Khan, VikasKunvarSrivastav, Virendra Kumar Srivastava, Suresh Kumar Gupta, SushriGhandikota Sri Devi, Narendra Kumar Johari, Raj Beer Singh and  Ajit Singh, Additional Judges of the Allahabad High Court, as Judges of the Allahabad High Courtwith effect from the date they assume charge of their respective office. A notification in this regard has been issued on 17.11.2020 by Department of Justice.
  • Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal “Nishank” virtually launched Lilavati Award-2020: AICTE’s Innovative education program to empower women yesterday. With women empowerment as the theme, the objective of the award is to create awareness about issues like sanitation, hygiene, health, nutrition, literacy, and employment among women. Speaking at the event, the Minister emphasized on the necessity to impart quality education to girl child to make them self-reliant, confident and successful. He said that the theme of the award -‘women empowerment’ has always been the top priority of the government. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Government has launched several welfare schemes for the overall development of girl child and women such as Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, and CBSE Udaan Scheme.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that Terrorism is the biggest problem facing the world. Addressing the 12th BRICS summit, he said there was a need to confront the countries that supported and sponsored terror. He raised the issue of “credibility and effectiveness” of the institutions that were necessary for global governance. It is India’s assessment that the United Nations Security Council requires reforms urgently. The Prime Minister expressed happiness that under Russia’s leadership, BRICS’ counter-terrorism strategy has been given final touch. He said India will take it forward during its leadership. He added that during its leadership of BRICS, India will promote digital health and traditional medicine among BRICS countries.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to US President-elect Joe Biden and congratulated him. During the telephonic conversation, the two leaders agreed to advance Indo-US strategic partnership. They reiterated their firm commitment to the Indo-US strategic partnership and discussed the shared priorities and concerns – Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, and cooperation in the Indo-Pacific Region. The Prime Minister also conveyed warm congratulations for US Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Mr Modi said, her success is a matter of great pride and inspiration for members of the vibrant Indian-American community, who are a tremendous source of strength for Indo-US relations.
  • Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), a joint venture of PSUs under the Ministry of Power and Department of New & Renewable Energy (DNRE), Goa, have signed a memorandum of understanding today to discuss rolling out of India’s first Convergence Project in the State. The MoU was signed in the August. Under the MoU, EESL and DNRE will carry-out the feasibility studies and subsequent implementation of decentralized solar energy projects. EESL shall implement the solar energy projects, establishment of 100 MW of decentralized ground mounted Solar Power projects on government lands to be used for agricultural pumping, replace approximately 6,300 agricultural pumps with BEE star rated energy efficient pumps and distribute approximately 16 Lakh LED bulbs for rural domestic households.
  • A mega Chinese real-estate development in Sri Lanka will open early next year offering tax concessions to attract investors and revive the struggling economy, the government said in its first budget. Colombo Port City – a $1.4 billion land reclamation project beside the capital’s port which started in 2014 – has doubled the size of Sri Lanka’s current financial district. The development – the largest single foreign investment in Sri Lanka so far – is one of the several massive Asian Infrastructure projects funded by China as Beijing increases its footprint in the region.
  • Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi will deliver an address at the 3rd Annual Bloomberg New Economy Forum on 17th November 2020 at around 6:30 PM IST . The Bloomberg New Economy Forum was established in 2018 by Mr. Michael Bloomberg. It seeks to build a community of leaders to engage in real conversations leading to actionable solutions about the critical challenges facing a world economy in the throes of a historic transition. The inaugural Forum was held in Singapore, and the second annual Forum was hosted in Beijing. These covered a range of topics, including global economic management, trade and investment, technology, urbanization, capital markets, climate change, and inclusion. This year, as the world economy is grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic, the forum will witness discussions centered on refuelling the economy and charting a course for the future.
  • Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison have signed a landmark defence deal in a bid to counter China’s growing influence in the South China Sea and over the Pacific island nations. Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) comes weeks after foreign ministers of the Quad alliance, which includes the US and India, met in Tokyo. The pact allows Japanese and Australian troops to visit each other’s countries and conduct training and joint operations. Australian Prime Minister said that the treaty will strengthen their security ties and facilitate cooperation between defence forces. The joint statement said, the two sides also agreed on the need for a framework to allow Japanese military to protect Australian forces if needed. It also expressed serious concern about the situation in the South China Sea and reconfirmed their strong opposition to any coercive or unilateral attempts to change the status quo and thereby increase tensions in the region.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (November 17, 2020)

  • Winter session of Parliament unlikely amid rising COVID-19 cases
  • Moderna says its coronavirus vaccine is 94.5% effective
  • GAIL completes Kochi-Mangaluru 444-km pipeline; Formal commissioning later
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi to attend 12th BRICS Summit today
  • 15th Finance Commission presents copy of its report to PM Modi
  • India’s Wholesale Price Inflation quickens to 8-month high
  • Second phase of Malabar Exercise begins today in Northern Arabian Sea
  • DIPAM signs an agreement with World Bank for advisory services on Asset Monetization
  • Ministry of Tribal Affairs : TRIFED expands Tribes India product range
  • UNSC has become impaired organ because of its unrepresentative nature: India

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • The winter session of Parliament that usually commences by last week of November is unlikely to be held due to the high number of COVID-19 cases in Delhi. As per parliamentary records, there have been only been three instances in the past of the winter session not being held – in 1975, 1979 and 1984.
  • Drugmaker Moderna announced that its coronavirus vaccine was 94.5% effective, based on an early look at the results from its large, continuing study. Researchers said the results were better than they had dared to imagine. But the vaccine will not be widely available for months, probably not until spring.
  • The much-delayed Kochi-Mangaluru natural gas pipeline project is finally ready for commissioning as GAIL India has completed the final 540-metre treacherous stretch across the Chandragiri river in northern Kerala, according to a senior company official. The 444-km-long natural gas pipeline was launched in 2009 at an estimated cost of Rs. 2,915 crore and was to be commissioned in 2014. But opposition with regard to safety and on commercial grounds, wherein the land price was the main hurdle, had resulted in the project cost nearly doubling to over Rs. 5,750 crore.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the 12th BRICS Summit today hosted by Russia, under the theme Global Stability, Shared Security and Innovative Growth. The meeting will be held in a virtual format. ​India will be taking over the Chairship of the BRICS. Since its inception, it would be the third BRICS Presidency for India, after 2012 and 2016. India will host the 13th BRICS Summit next year.
  • The Chairman and Members of the 15th Finance Commission today presented a copy of the Commssion’s report for the period 2021-22 to 2025-26, to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Commission had submitted its report to President Ram Nath Kovind on 4th November. Chairman N K Singh along with Members of the Commission, Ajay Narayan Jha, Anoop Singh, Dr. Ashok Lahiri and Dr. Ramesh Chand along with Secretary to the Commission Arvind Mehta were present at the presentation. The Commission will present its Report to the Finance Minister tomorrow.
  • India’s wholesale price inflation quickened to the highest level in eight months, reaching 1.48% in October 2020 as per provisional data, compared with 0% in October 2019 and 1.32% in September this year. This revision assumes significance as August marked the first month since March that the WPI clocked positive growth, which was considered a sign of an industrial recovery with producers’ pricing power returning.
  • The second phase of Malabar Exercise 2020 will begin today in the Northern Arabian Sea. Taking forward the synergy achieved in the recently concluded Phase One of Malabar Exercise 2020, which was conducted earlier this month, this phase will involve coordinated operations of increasing complexity between the navies of Australia, India, Japan and the United States. Phase Two will witness joint operations, centered around the Vikramaditya Carrier Battle Group of the Indian Navy and Nimitz Carrier Strike Group of the US Navy.
  • Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM) has signed an agreement with World Bank on 16 Nov 2020. Under the agreement, World Bank is to provide advisory services to DIPAM for asset monetization. DIPAM is mandated with facilitating monetization of non-core assets of government CPSEs under strategic disinvestment or closure and enemy property of value of INR 100 crores and above.  DIPAM has a framework for monetizing non-core assets. The World Bank advisory project, approved by the Finance Minister, is aimed at analyzing public asset monetization in India and benchmarking its institutional and business models against international best practices as well as supporting development of operational guidelines and capacity building for their implementation.
  • Continuing with its expansion drive of new products  (mainly immunity boosting products and produce in the Forest Fresh and Organics range) in the recent weeks, Tribes India has taken up a new initiative to include more new products, this time those produced by the inmates of Central Jail of Jagdalpur among others. Shri Pravir Krishna, Managing Director, TRIFED said, “Tribes India is continuing in its mission to transform tribal lives and improve their livelihoods. Our association with the Central Jail in Jagdalpur, Chhattisgarh is yet another initiative to provide the tribals a bigger market for their handicrafts and produce and help them become self-reliant and build an Atmanirbhar Bharat.
  • India has said that the UN Security Council has become an impaired organ as it is unable to act with credibility essentially due to its unrepresentative nature. India’s Permanent Representative to the UN, TS Tirumurti said, Intergovernmental Negotiations (IGN) has become a platform for university-like debate rather than a serious result-oriented process in the UN consisting of sovereign member states. Mr Tirumurti was speaking at the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) last night. He said, “Inside the IGN, nothing has moved for more than a decade except hearing passionate statements on the need for reform”.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (November 16, 2020)

  • Mega trade bloc RCEP takes off; India will have to re-apply for membership
  • Nitish Kumar to be sworn-in as Chief Minister of Bihar for seventh term today
  • Arunachal Pradesh records the best sex ratio, Manipur the worst
  • Former CEC calls for a ban on opinion polls; Allow Election Commission to deregister parties
  • Ministry seeks feedback on draft social security rules related to unorganised sector
  • Chief Information Commissioner highlights progressively improving disposal rate of RTI applications
  • New Delhi slams Islamabad for anti-India propaganda over incidents in Pakistan
  • India, U.S. keen on training peace missions; India is among top troop contributors to the UN
  • UAE to widen ‘golden’ visa’s eligibility criteria; 10-year residency in certain categories
  • 8th BRICS Science, Technology and Innovation Ministerial meeting adopts BRICS STI Declaration 2020

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership(RCEP), a mega trade bloc comprising 15 countries led by China, hat came into existence on Sunday said India would have to write expressing intention to join the organisation to restart negotiations for membership. The China backed group is expected to represent at least 30% of the global GDP and will emerge as the largest free trade agreement in the world.
  • Nitish Kumar will be sworn-in as Chief Minister of Bihar for the seventh term today. The swearing-in ceremony will take place at 4:30 PM at the Raj Bhavan. He was unanimously elected leader of the NDA at a meeting of its newly elected MLAs in Patna yesterday. Later, Nitish Kumar and Bihar BJP president Sanjay Jaiswal among others met Governor Phagu Chauhan to stake claim to form a new government in the state. The Governor was handed over the letter of support from all four NDA constituents of BJP, JD(U), Hindustani Awaam Morcha (HAM) and Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP).
  • Arunachal Pradesh recorded the best sex ratio in the country, while Manipur recorded the worst, according o the 2018 report on  “Vital statistics of India based on the Civil Registration System” published by the Registrar-General of India. Sex ratio at birth is the number of females born per 1,000 males. Arunachal Pradesh recorded 1,084 females born per thousand males, followed by Nagaland(965), Mizoram(964), Kerala(963) and Karnataka(957). The worst was reported in Manipur(757), Lakshadweep(839), and Daman & Diu(877), Punjab(896) and Gujarat(897).
  • Former Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi on Sunday called for a ban opinion polls and also suggested counting of votes from the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips instead of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). He flagged the problem of “criminalisation” with 30%-40% of the members of any legislature having pending criminal cases. He also added the EC should have the power to de-register political parties as there are lots of defunct and bogus parties which exist only for money laundering.
  • Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has slammed Islamabad over allegation of New Delhi’s involvement in incidents in Pakistan. It said, claims of proof against India have no credibility and are fabricated and represent figments of imagination. The MEA also called upon Pakistan to end its support to cross-border terrorism and said that Pakistani leaders have never hidden the fact that it has become a factory for producing terrorists. The MEA said that the incessant infiltration of terrorists and induction of weapons to fuel terror activities continues unabated. Such activities are not possible without the support of Pakistani forces deployed along the Line of Control.
  • The Union Labour and Employment Ministry has notified the draft rules and sought suggestions under the Code on Social Security, 2020, which propose to provide the unorganised sector, gig and platform workers access to social security benefits through a government portal. The rules also provide for the Aadhar-based registration of Building and other construction workers(BOCW) on a portal of the Centre, State government or the BOCW welfare board of the State.
  • Newly appointed Chief Information Commissioner of India, Yashvardhan Kumar Sinha called on Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions Dr Jitendra Singh. During the half an hour meeting with the Minister, the Chief Information Commissioner gave a brief about the progressively improving disposal rate of the RTI applications. He said that in the month of June, in spite of COVID pandemic, the monthly disposal rate of RTI applications was higher than the rate in the corresponding month of June last year. He said, this was possible because the Central Information Commission had carried on its working uninterrupted even during the COVID times by using modern technology of online, virtual and video conferences. During the meeting, Dr Jitendra Singh referred to a number of new initiatives taken under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to improve the functioning of the Central Information Commission and to ensure prompt disposal of RTI appeals. He said, as for Jammu and  Kashmir, the difference now is that non-Domicile or non-State subjects of Jammu and Kashmir are also entitled to file RTIs related to UT issues or agencies.
  • With China significantly scaling up its troop contribution for United Nations Peace Keeping (UNPK) missions, from Southeast Asian countries on the lines of the ongoing initiative for African countries. India has consistently been among the top troop contributing nations to the UN and is the fifth largest with 5,424 personnel in eight countries. The U.S. on the other hand has never contributed ground troops but contributes 27% of the U.N. peacekeeping budget.
  • The United Arab Emirates will extend its “golden” visa system – which grants 10-year residency in the West Asian nation – to certain professionals, specialised degree-holders and others, the UAE’s Vice President said on Sunday. Foreigners in the UAE usually have renewable visas valid for only a few years tied to employment. The government in the past couple of years has made its visa policy more flexible, offering longer residencies for certain types of investors, students and professionals.
  • The 8th BRICS Science, Technology and Innovation Ministerial meeting unanimously has adopted BRICS STI Declaration 2020. The meeting was held through a virtual platform. Science and Technology cooperation among the member countries Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa was discussed in the meeting. During the meeting, Science and Technology Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan highlighted that the COVID 19 pandemic has been a test, demonstrating that multilateral cooperation is the key to overcoming such global challenges. He informed that India has initiated an integrated response to overcome this pandemic. From the development of indigenous vaccines, novel point-of-care diagnostics and therapeutic formulations based on traditional knowledge, Indian Research and Development are working relentlessly to develop effective interventions for combating the pandemic. The Minister said, more than 100 startups have developed innovative products for COVID-19.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (November 14, 2020)

  • Air Pollution, cold a lethal pair for COVID-19 patients; Health system under stress; Next 10 days are crucial
  • President says, policy of expansionism followed by few nations demands strategic and matured response globally
  • External Affairs Minister, S Jaishankar to represent India at the 15th East Asia Summit today
  • Sanitation Literacy Campaign by NABARD at Goa
  • Centre to provide over Rs 4000 crore to six states affected by cyclone, floods & landslides
  • Government reasserts it is committed to welfare of farmers and agriculture is its top priority
  • Prime Minister dedicates Two National Premier Ayurveda Institutions to the nation on the 5th Ayurveda Day
  • Quick Reaction Surface to Air Missile System Achieves Major Milestone
  • Government issues advisory for extending various exemptions provided to vehicles owned by Divyangjan
  • No evidence of voter fraud found in U.S. elections : Poll Officials

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • Doctors in the National Capital Region have warned that high levels of air pollution, exhausted medical staff and stressed health infrastructure is making COVID-appropriate behaviour a “must” to contain the spread. Delhi, along with three other northern states Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, is among the 10 States/Union Territories which have reported 76% of the new COVID-19 cases. Our public health behaviour over the next 8-10 days will be extremely crucial and could decide the fate  of India’s COVID wave.
  • President Ram Nath Kovind has said that the policy of expansionism followed by a few nations demands a strategic and matured response globally. He said, the state of the world today poses multiple challenges before every nation. President Kovind was addressing the valedictory ceremony of the 60th National Defence College (NDC) course yesterday through a video message. The President said, the NDC deals with several challenges and offers its course participants tools to understand the multi-dimensional geostrategic and geopolitical environment for future.  Mr Kovind said, decision-makers have to be guided by national interests as well as international objectives, both of which should be adaptive and multi-pronged.
  • External Affairs Minister, S Jaishankar will represent India at the 15th East Asia Summit (EAS) today which will discuss ways to strengthen the platform and to make it more responsive to emerging challenges on its 15th anniversary. The virtual summit will be chaired by Vietnamese Prime Minister, Nguyen Xuan Phuc and will see the participation of all eighteen east Asian countries. The External Affairs Ministry in a release said, the leaders at the summit will also exchange views on issues of international and regional interest including the COVID-19 pandemic and the cooperation among EAS participating countries to achieve an expeditious and sustainable economic recovery.
  • The High Level Committee under the Chairmanship of Home Minister Amit Shah has approved additional Central assistance of over four thousand three hundred 81 crore rupees under the National Disaster Response Fund to six states, which were affected by cyclone, floods, landslides during this year. For cyclone Amphan, over two thousand seven hundred seven crore rupees has been approved for West Bengal and over 128 crore rupees for Odisha. For cyclone Nisarga, over 268 crore rupees has been approved for Maharashtra. For floods and landslides during the South-West monsoon season, over 577 crore rupees has been approved for Karnataka, over 611 crore rupees for Madhya Pradesh and over 87 crore rupees for Sikkim.
  • NABARD, has launched a Pan India Sanitation Literacy Campaign on 02 October 2020 to promote literacy in WASH products (Water, Sanitation & Hygiene) with an objective of focusing on behavioural changes that promote the usage of toilets. As a part of the campaign, NABARD, Goa RO, has organised a Sanitation Literacy Campaign in the Village of Pilerne on 12 November 2020. NABARD would reach remote villages in the State for promoting the importance of WASH. Goa being the most literate states, is already aware about the good hygiene practices. However, considering the tourist destination a large number of people visit the State throughout the year and therefore there is need for committed efforts in this regard, said Smt. Usha Ramesh, GM/OIC.
  • Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi today dedicated two future-ready national premier Ayurveda institutions to the nation to mark celebration of the 5th Ayurveda Day, yesterday through video conferencing. The Prime Minister dedicated to the nation the Institute of Teaching & Research in Ayurveda (ITRA), Jamnagar as an Institution of National Importance (INI), and the National Institute of Ayurveda (NIA), Jaipur as a Deemed to be University by the University Grants Commission. The Prime Minister highlighted the rich legacy of traditional medicine that India has been blessed with. This has been recognized worldwide, more so during the times of the global pandemic of COVID-19 for its beneficial and health and wellness endowing supreme properties, he stated. The Prime  Minister stated that the focus has now shifted to prevention and wellness, and the importance of holistic and integrated medicine systems for overall wellness and health of the people. Ministry of AYUSH has been observing ‘Ayurveda Day’ every year on the occasion of Dhanwantari Jayanti (Dhanteras) since 2016.
  • Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (M/oRTH) has issued advisory to State/UTs to extended the various exemptions / facilitation / relief provided by the States /UTs in respect of Invalid Carriage vehicles to vehicles owned by Divyangjan. Ministry had earlier issued amendments, through which the benefits of GST and other concessions being provided to the Divyangjan (Physically challenged Persons) under various schemes of the Government for the purchase / ownership / operation of the Motor Vehicles were facilitated by incorporating ownership type. With the amendments, such ownership details would be properly reflected and divyangjan would be able to avail the benefits under various schemes.
  • Quick Reaction Surface to Air Missile (QRSAM) System has achieved a major milestone by a direct hit on to a Banshee Pilotless target aircraft at medium range and  medium altitude. The missile launch took place from ITR Chandipur yesterday off the Odisha Coast. The missile is propelled by a single stage solid propellant rocket motor and uses all indigenous subsystems. The Missile is canisterised for transportation and launch using a mobile launcher capable of carrying 6 canisterised missiles. All QRSAM weapon system elements like Battery Multifunction Radar, Battery Surveillance Radar, Battery Command Post Vehicle and Mobile Launcher were deployed in the flight test. The Ministry said, the system is capable of detecting and tracking targets on the move and engaging target with short halts and is designed to give air defence coverage against strike columns of Indian Army.
  • Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce Som Prakash interacted with the representatives of Farmers Organizations of Punjab in New Delhi yesterday. During the meeting, it was emphasized that agriculture is always the top priority of the Central Government to boost rural economy. Mr. Tomar said, the government is taking several measures for the welfare of farmers with a special focus on ‘Aatmnirbhar Bharat’. He said, the new Farm Acts would not only provide freedom of choice to the farmers to sell their produce at remunerative prices but also safeguard the interest of farmers. The new Farm Act will encourage Mandis to provide better services to the farmers.  The representatives of the farmers’ unions expressed their views on new Farm Acts. The farmer’s representatives were also apprised with other initiatives taken by the Government such as Agriculture Infrastructure Fund and formation of 10 thousand  Farmer Producer Organizations aiming towards income enhancement of farmers and creating employment opportunities for youth in rural areas.
  • There is no evidence of compromised ballots or corrupt voting systems in the U.S. election, officials said, as a top Democrat accused Republicans who refuse to accept President elect Joe Biden’s  win of poisoning democracy. Their messages came hours after President Donald Trump once again cried foul, retweeting a baseless claim that an election equipment maker deleted 2.7 million votes for him nationwide.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (November 13, 2020)

  • Government rolls out Rs. 1.19 lakh crore stimulus as part of Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan 3.0
  • India, ASEAN to expand trade despite RCEP walkout
  • MEA says, India and China had candid discussions; Both sides pushed for settlement of issues
  • COVID-19 vaccine candidate Zydus completes phase 2 trial of COVID-19 therapy
  • India Post Payment Bank launches doorstep service to submit digital life certificate
  • September IIP jumps to 0.2 per cent from minus eight percent in August
  • Vagir, the fifth Scorpene conventional submarine launched
  • China begins work on rail line up to Arunachal border
  • India provides 50 Metric Tons of food aid to people of Djibouti
  • Moody’s narrows 2020 GDP contraction to 8.9%; Growth outlook for 2021 raised to 8.6%

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a fresh set of relief and stimulus measures for the economy worth Rs. 1.19 lakh crore, including a scheme to boost re-employment chances of formal sector employees who lost their jobs amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The measures also include a Rs. 65,000 crore additional outlay for providing fertiliser subsidies to farmers. As part of the new package, Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme has been extended till March 31, 2021.
  • India and ASEAN countries said they would explore ways to increase trade between them despite India’s exit from the 15-nation Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership(RCEP) agreement. The RCEP free trade agreement, which India walked out from a year ago, is expected to be signed on November 15, between China, Australia, South Korea, Japan and 10 Association of South East Asian(ASEAN) nations. However, they are expected to leave in a clause allowing India to re-join at a later date.
  • India and China held frank discussions and exchanged views on disengagement at all friction points in the Western sector on India-China border areas during the November 6 senior military commanders talks. Official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs said that both sides pushed for “settlement of outstanding issues”.
  • India Post Payments Bank, IPPB have successfully launched the initiative of doorstep service for submission of Digital Life Certificate through Postman. The facility to submit life certificate online through Jeevan Pramaan Portal was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in November, 2014 with the objective to provide a convenient and transparent facility to pensioners for submission of Life Certificate. In order to make this facility available across the country, Department of Pension and Pensioners’ Welfare roped in the India Post Payments Bank to utilise its huge network of Postmen and Gramin Dak Sevaks in providing doorstep facility to pensioners for submission of life certificate digitally.
  • Zydus Cadilla said it has successfully completed a phase 2 trial in COVID-19 patients with its biological therapy ‘PegiHep’, and will now begin Phase 3 clinical trial. The drug firm said Pegylated Interferon alpha – 2b significantly increased viral reduction and reduced the need for supplemental oxygen in moderate COVID-19 patients.  
  • The fifth Scorpene conventional submarine, Vagir, being built by the Mazagaon Docks Ltd. with technology transfer from France was launched into water yesterday. After harbour and sea-acceptance trials, it will be delivered to the Navy.
  • The country’s factory output (IIP) for the month of September jumped to 0.2 percent from minus eight percent in August. According to the data released by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation yesterday, the manufacturing sector logged a decline of 0.6 percent in September, while the output of mining rose 1.4 percent and the power sector appreciated 4.9 percent. In September last year, IIP contracted by 4.6 percent.  On the other hand, Retail inflation (CPI) inched up to 7.61 per cent in October. It is the highest level in nine months. According to the government data released yesterday, inflation increased mainly due to rise in food prices. The inflation in the food basket surged to 11.07 per cent in the month of October, up from 10.68 per cent in September this year. The CPI for the month of September this year revised to 7.27 per cent from 7.34 per cent.
  • India has provided 50 Metric Tons of food aid to the people of Djibouti as part of its assistance to friendly countries to overcome natural calamities and the COVID-19 pandemic. Ambassador of India to Djibouti Ashok Kumar handed over gift of food items to the Secretary-General of the country’s Ministry of Social Affairs and Solidarity Mme Ifrah Ali Ahmed as part of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to Djibouti delivered by INS Airavat. In a statement, Ministry of External Affairs said that the step was part of SAGAR II (Security and Growth for All in the Region) through which the Government of India is providing 270 Metric Tons of Humanitarian assistance to friendly countries in the region.
  • China has begun work on a strategically significant railway line – its second major rail link to Tibet – that will link Sichuan province with Nyingchi, which lies near the border with India’s Arunachal Pradesh. China’s planned railway line will run from Lhasa in Tibet to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, connecting both the places to Nyingchi, a city near the Arunachal Pradesh border.
  • Rating agency Moody’s investors service has revised upward its forecast for India’s GDP for calendar year 2020 to an 8.9% contraction from its earlier projection for a contraction of 9.6%. Similarly, India’s GDP forecast for calendar year 2021 has been revised upwards to 8.6% growth from the 8.1% projected earlier, the agency said in its latest global macro outlook report released on Thursday.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (November 12, 2020)

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi to co-chair virtually 17th ASEAN-India Summit with his Vietnamese counterpart today
  • Centre unveils production-linked-incentive to boost manufacturing
  • Ladakh standoff : India, China finalising disengagement plan
  • Sputnik V vaccine 92% effective; No adverse events reported in Phase 3 trials, says Russia
  • Home Ministry amends FCRA rules; Norms relaxed for those not involved in ‘active politics’
  • Public Service Broadcasting Day being observed today
  • GDP shrank 8.6% in Q2 pushing economy into a recession
  • Sri Lanka yet to take a final call on container terminal
  • U.K. launches Bill to deter malicious takeovers; Concern over Chinese investments
  • The United Nations welcomes Nagorno Karabakh ceasefire deal

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with Prime Minister of Vietnam Nguyen Xuan Phuc will co-chair the 17th ASEAN-India Summit today. The Summit will review the status of ASEAN-India Strategic Partnership and take stock of progress made in key areas such as connectivity, maritime cooperation, trade and commerce, education and capacity building etc. The Leaders will discuss ways to further strengthen ASEAN-India engagement and in this context will note the adoption of ASEAN-India Plan of Action (2021-2025).
  • The government yesterday unveiled a production-Linked incentive(PLI)  scheme to encourage domestic manufacturing investments in 10 more sectors, with a estimated outlay of about Rs. 1.46 lakh crore over the next five years. The 10 sectors had been identified on the basis of their potential to create jobs and make India self-reliant, include food processing, telecom, electronics, textiles, speciality steel, automobiles and auto components, solar photo-voltaic modules and white goods, such as air conditioners and LEDs.
  • India and China are working out modalities to finalise a plan for phased disengagement and de-escalation along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh, beginning with the North Bank of Pangong Tso. The proposal from the Chinese side put forward at the eighth round of Corps Commander talks on November 6 includes pulling back their troops and equipment from Finger 4 to Finger 8 on the North Bank.
  • Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine has proven to be “92% efficacious” among a group of volunteers who are part of Phase 3 trials to test the vaccine, the Russian Health Ministry said yesterday. Because Sputnik V has emergency authorisation from medical authorities in Russia, it had also been administered to a section of the population such as doctors and medical workers.
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs has relaxed norms for farmer, student, religious and other groups who are not directly aligned to any political party to receive foreign funds if the groups are not involved in “active politics”. The Ministry notified new rules under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act(FCRA), 2010 thereby amending the FCRA Rules, 2011.   
  • Public Service Broadcasting Day is being observed today. The day is celebrated every year to commemorate the only visit of Mahatma Gandhi to the studio of All India Radio, Delhi in 1947. The Father of the Nation addressed the displaced people, who had temporarily settled at Kurukshetra in Haryana after partition.
  • India’s economy rebounded sharply in the wake of the reopening from lockdowns, slowing the pace of its contraction to 8.6% in the second quarter, a ‘nowcast’ in the RBI’s monthly bulletin showed. The estimate implies that India is likely to have entered a technical recession in the first half of 2020-21 for the first time in its history with two successive quarters of GDP contractions.
  • Although the Sri Lankan government is yet to declare its final position on developing the strategic East Container Terminal (ECT) at the Colombo Port jointly with India and Japan – agreed in May 2019 by the previous government – port worker unions, which are resisting the project, think Sri Lanka might concede. In May 2019, Sri Lanka’s Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration signed a memorandum of cooperation (MoC) with India and           Japan to jointly upgrade the terminal with the aim of enhancing Sri Lanka’s status as a maritime hub. As per the MoC, the Sri Lanka Ports Authority(SLPA) was to retain 100% ownership, while a jointly-owned Terminal Operations Company – 51% stake with Sri Lanka and 49% with India and Japan – would run the terminal. Despite the tripartite understanding, the former government was unable to take the deal forward.
  • Britain unveiled plans for new powers to prevent foreign companies snapping  up strategic assets in malicious takeovers that are deemed to threaten national security. The new powers come as increasing Chinese investment has sparked calls from lawmakers for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to take a stronger stance on Beijing. The Bill which will be introduced before Parliament, will compel companies to inform the government of merger and acquisition activity in sensitive sectors such as defence, energy and transport.
  • The United Nations has welcomed the ceasefire deal that has been agreed to a cessation of hostilities in the Nagorno Karabakh conflict zone on Tuesday. Spokesman to UN Secretary General Stephane Dujarric said that its consistent focus has been the need to protect civilians and the need for humanitarian access.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (November 11, 2020)

  • PM Modi urges SCO members to respect ‘territorial integrity’ and ‘sovereignty’
  • India expects full support from SCO for reformed multilateralism: PM Modi
  • Centre brings online news & audio-visual content under purview of Ministry of Information and Broadcasting
  • Gujarat govt to reopen schools & colleges for physical education from Nov 23
  • Hunar Haat will restart from today after a gap of about seven months due to the Corona pandemic
  • Govt sets up Inter-Ministerial Committee to strengthen capital goods sector
  • Prime Minister Modi to co-chair 17th ASEAN-India Summit tomorrow
  • Armenia, Azerbaijan agree on peace deal to end fierce clashes over Nogorno-Karabakh
  • US President-elect Joe Biden set out blueprints for his Transition Covid-19 Advisory Board
  • IPL 2020 : Mumbai Indians beat Delhi Capitals to clinch title for record 5th time

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • In an indirect reference to the Chinese infrastructure projects in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir, Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday urged members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation(SCO) to respect territorial integrity and sovereignty. The 20th summit of SCO heads of State is important as it brought President Xi JinPing of China and Mr. Modi together in the virtual format even as both sides are caught in a stand-off along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said, India expects full support from SCO for a reformed multilateralism that reflects today’s global realities. Addressing the 20th Summit of SCO Council of Heads of State via video-conferencing today, Mr Modi said, the United Nations has completed 75 years, but the basic goal of the United Nations is still incomplete. He said, the world which is struggling due to the pandemic expects a complete change in the system of the UN. The Prime Minister said, India will participate as a non-permanent member in the United Nations Security Council from 2021 and he expects support from all the SCO member countries. He said, India has always been committed to work according to the principles laid out in SCO charter. Mr Modi said, it is unfortunate that repeated attempts are being made to unnecessarily bring bilateral issues into the SCO agenda which violate the SCO Charter and Shanghai Spirit.
  • Hunar Haat will restart from today after a gap of about seven months due to the Corona pandemic. The theme of this event is Vocal for Local where indigenous exquisite products made from Maati (clay), Metal and Machiya (wooden and jute products) will be the major attraction. Mr Naqvi said that rare exquisite products made from clay, different metals and wooden products, products made from cane-bamboo and mesmerising pottery work will be available for display. The Hunar Haat will continue till 22nd of November. The Minister said that every corner of the country has a traditional and ancestral legacy of indigenous products.
  • In Gujarat, the State Government has decided to reopen schools and colleges for physical education from 23rd of November. This decision has been taken in a State Cabinet Meeting chaired by Chief Minister Vijay Rupani at Gandhinagar today. State Education Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama said that guidelines have been finalized after intense delebrations with all stakeholders.  Schools for Class 9 to 12 and colleges for medical, paramedical, engineering and other final year students will be allowed to reopen in the first phase.  Schools and college buildings should be cleaned and sanitized. Before the reopening, thermal screening, sanitizers and facility for hand wash should be available at all schools and colleges. Six feet distance and face mask will be compulsory in the classroom. Schools have to follow the odd-even formula for Class 9 to 12 on a three days a week basis. Consent of parents will be compulsory for all students. Online education system will continue for all students. Students will be encouraged to use personal transport and avoid public transport.
  • Union Government has issued order bringing online films and audio-visual programmes and online news and current affairs content under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. OTT (Over-the-Top) platforms, including Netflix, Hotstar, Prime Video and online news portals are also now under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The development was announced today in a gazette notification. Currently, there is no law or autonomous body governing digital content. At present, the Press Council of India looks after the print media, the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) takes care of the news channels, the Advertising Standards Council of India is for advertising while the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) monitors films.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with Prime Minister of Vietnam Nguyen Xuan Phuc will co-chair the 17th ASEAN-India Summit tomorrow. The leaders of all ten ASEAN Member States will virtually participate in the Summit. The Summit will review the status of ASEAN-India Strategic Partnership and take stock of progress made in key areas such as connectivity, maritime cooperation, trade and commerce, education and capacity building. The Leaders will discuss ways to further strengthen ASEAN-India engagement and in this context will note the adoption of ASEAN-India Plan of Action (2021-2025).   COVID-19, post-pandemic economic recovery and important regional and international developments will also be discussed at the Summit. ASEAN-India Summits provide the opportunity for India and ASEAN to engage at the highest level.
  • Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises Minister Prakash Javadekar today informed that the government has set up an Inter-Ministerial Committee to strengthen the capital goods sector. He said, these interventions will help the capital goods sector in contributing more actively towards the national goal of achieving a one trillion dollar manufacturing sector. The 21-member Inter-Ministerial Committee will be headed by Secretary of Department of Heavy Industries. The committee will work out ways and means to make the capital goods sector globally competitive and to become the manufacturing hub for the world.
  • Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed a deal with Russia to end fierce clashes over Nogorno-Karabakh, after a string of Azerbaijani victories in its fight to retake the disputed region. Hundreds of Russian peacekeepers were en route to the ethnic Armenian territory, which broke from Azerbaijan’s control during a war in the 1990s, just hours after the ceasefire took effect.
  • US President-elect Joe Biden set out the blueprints for his Transition Covid-19 Advisory Board. He has appealed to Americans to wear a mask as the best way to turn this pandemic around. Mr. Biden promised that he will get an approved vaccine manufactured and distributed as quickly as possible to as many Americans as possible, free of charge. Mr Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris have launched a website for the transition, saying that the team will also focus on climate change, the economy and tackling racism.  

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (November 10, 2020)

  • COVID-19 vaccine could be 90% effective, claims Pharma major ‘Pfizer’
  • Finance Commission submits report with separate section on finances of States
  • Academic credit banks, degree with entry and exit option soon
  • Competition Commission of India to probe Google’s abuse of position
  • Counting of votes begins for assembly elections in Bihar
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address virtual SCO summit chaired by Russian President today
  • Finance Minister attends 1st BRICS Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting
  • Rajnath Singh unveils model of Anti-Satellite Missile at DRDO Bhawan
  • Govt approves 21 projects under Scheme for Integrated Cold Chain & Value Addition
  • IPL 2020 : Delhi Capitals to take on Mumbai Indians in IPL summit clash in Dubai

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • Pharma major Pfizer said yesterday that an early peek at the data on its coronavirus vaccine suggests the shots may be robust 90% effective at preventing COVID-19. The finding puts the company on track to apply later this month for emergency-use approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. However, this new announcement doesn’t mean a vaccine is imminent.
  • The 15th Finance Commission said it had taken the unique requirements of each State on board and come up with State-specific considerations in its report, which was submitted to President Ram Nath Kovind yesterday. Apart from its main recommendation on devolution of funds between the Centre and the States for the period 2021-22 to 2025-26, the Commission addressed all is unique terms of reference, such as considering a new lapsable fund for financing national security and defence spending and offering performance incentives to the States that deliver on reforms.
  • The first National Agricultural Education Policy is set to bring academic credit banks and degree programmes with multiple entry and exit options to the 74 universities focussed on crop sciences, fisheries, veterinary and dairy training and research. A six-member committee of Vice-Chancellors has been asked to submit a draft policy document to the Agriculture Ministry next month. The process started about two months ago, after the release of the National Education Policy.
  • Counting of votes has begun for assembly elections in Bihar and bypolls to 58 assembly seats in 11 States. Counting for Valmiki Nagar Lok Sabha seat in Bihar is also underway. It began at 8 this morning with postal ballots being counted first. The EVMs were opened after half-an-hour. Bihar Chief Electoral officer HR Srinivasa said the results will take a little more time because more EVMs have been used this time. Elaborate security arrangements have been made to ensure peaceful counting across the state. Three-tier security system has been created in and around the counting centres. Jawans of Central Para-Military Forces have been deployed at each centre to ensure trouble-free counting. Additional security forces have been deployed in sensitive areas. Victory procession has been banned.
  • The Competition Commission of India ordered a detailed probe against Google for ‘abuse’ of its dominant position, primarily with regard to its digital payments application GPay. The order follows a complaint by an ‘informant’ alleging multiple instances of abuse of dominant position by Google, with CCI deciding to carry forward the investigation into two of these instances – pre-installation of GPay on Android OS smartphones and use of Google Pay’s in-app billing as the method of payment by developers.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lead the Indian delegation to the 20th Summit of the SCO Council of Heads of States, which is being held virtually today. The meeting will be chaired by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Heads of States of all 8 Member States, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan will be present at the meeting. Heads of State of 4 Observer States of SCO, Iran, Afghanistan, Belarus and Mongolia will also participate. This will be the first SCO Summit to be held in virtual format and this is the third meeting that India will be participating as full member. India was granted observer status of SCO in 2005 and it became full member in 2017.
  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman yesterday participated in the 1st BRICS Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors’ Meeting under the Russian Chairmanship to discuss the BRICS Economic and Financial Cooperation agenda for 2020. Finance Ministry said, Ms. Sitharaman talked about outcomes and initiatives of G-20 Saudi Arabia in 2020 on the Finance Track and highlighted role of BRICS members in reflecting Emerging Market Economies concerns in these initiatives. During the meeting, the Finance Minister also presented India’s views on discussions related to infrastructure investments and New Development Bank membership expansion.
  • A model of Anti-Satellite Missile installed inside the DRDO Bhawan premises was unveiled by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh yesterday. ‘Mission Shakti’ was the country’s first ever Anti-Satellite (A-SAT) Missile Test successfully conducted on 27th March 2019 from Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Island in Odisha, where a fast-moving Indian orbiting target satellite in Low Earth Orbit was neutralised with pinpoint accuracy. This was a highly complex mission, conducted at extremely high speed with remarkable precision. The successful conduct of Mission Shakti made India the fourth nation in the world with the capability to defend its assets in outer space. Mr Singh appreciated the accomplishment of the team of scientists.
  • Government has approved 21 projects, leveraging investment worth 443 crore rupees supported with a grant of 189 crore rupees under the Scheme for Integrated Cold Chain and Value Addition. The approval in this regard was given during the inter-Ministerial Approval Committee meeting chaired by Minister for Food Processing Industries Narendra Singh Tomar yesterday. Mr Tomar said that these projects will benefit farmers and consumers and urged the officers to expedite the implementation of approved projects. He said, 21 projects are likely to generate employment for nearly 12 thousand 600 people and benefit over two lakh farmers. These projects are spread across Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala, Nagaland, Punjab, Telangana, Uttarakhand, and Uttar Pradesh. The Scheme for Integrated Cold Chain and Value addition infrastructure aims at arresting post-harvest losses of horticulture and non-horticulture produce & providing remunerative price to farmers.
  • In IPL Cricket, Delhi Capitals will face the defending champions Mumbai Indians in the summit clash at Dubai this evening. Delhi entered their first-ever IPL final with a convincing 17-run victory over Sunrisers Hyderabad in the second qualifier in Abu Dhabi. The match will begin at 7:30 PM. In Women’s Cricket, Trailblazers have won title clash of T20 Challenge at Sharjah after beating defending Champions Supernovas by 16 runs. Bating first, Trailblazers scored 118 for 8 in stipulated 20 overs. Chasing the winning target, Supernovas just managed to made 102 for seven in 20 overs.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (November 09, 2020)

  • Joe Biden pledges to unite America; Immigration reform likely including H-1B visas
  • LAC crisis: Corps-Commander talks were constructive; India, China agree to continue dialogue
  • PM announces change of name of Shipping Ministry to Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways
  • Dr Harsh Vardhan holds first of its kind policy consultations with Indian Diaspora on STIP-2020
  • Demonetisation helped reduce black money, increase tax compliance: PM Modi
  • India welcomes removal of Sudan from list of State Sponsors of Terrorism
  • 15th Finance Commission submits report for 2021-26 to President Ram Nath Kovind
  • Ministry of Labour and Employment eases norms under Atal Beemit Vyakti Kalyan Yojana of ESIC
  • Nine million people risk displacement from conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray: United Nations
  • IPL 2020 : Delhi Capitals beat Sunrisers Hyderabad to enter first ever IPL final

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • Pledging to be the President of all Americans, President-elect Joe Biden has sought an immediate end to the “grim era of demonisation” in the deeply-polarised nation. Joe Biden is likely to work towards providing a road map to American citizenship for nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants, including over 5,00,000 from India. He also plans to increase the number of high-skilled visas, including the H-1B.
  • At the eighth round of Corps Commander-level talks between India and China on Friday, the two sides had a “candid, in-depth and constructive exchange of views” on disengagement along the Line of Actual Control(LAC) and agreed to continue the talks. Both sides agreed to earnestly implement the important consensus reached by the leaders, ensure their front-line troops exercise restraint and avoid misunderstanding and miscalculation.
  • The Prime Minister said, Government is changing the name of the Ministry of Shipping and it will be known as the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways. Mr.Modi has said that to reduce the expenditure on logistics, India is fast developing multimodal connectivity. He said that we are trying to interconnect the infrastructure related to road, rail, air and shipping and removing the silos in this process. He said that we are still spending more money on transportation in comparison to the other nation. We can reduce the cost of logistics through water transport.
  • In a first of its kind policy consultation, Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan interacted with the highly-skilled Indian diaspora to facilitate channels for them to contribute to India’s Science Technology and Innovation Policy (STIP) 2020. The Minister stressed that India aims to connect the diaspora with Indian scientific and economic ecosystem to accelerate the growth in Science technology and innovation.
  • India has welcomed the removal of Sudan from the List of State Sponsors of Terrorism and Sudan’s normalisation of relations with Israel. The External Affairs Ministry said in a statement that India’s relations with Sudan are historic and special, and forged on the basis of shared values and close people-to-people contacts. India congratulated the Transitional Government and the people of Sudan on the signing of the Juba Peace Agreement, and expressed hope that these positive developments will usher in democratic changes and contribute to enhancing Sudan’s development, peace, security and stability.
  • The 15th Finance Commission today submitted its report for the period of 2021-26 to President Ram Nath Kovind. The Finance Commission led by its Chairman NK Singh today called on the President and submitted the report. The report has been finalized after wide-ranging consultations with the Union and State Governments, local governments, Chairmen and Members of previous Finance Commissions, Advisory Council to the Commission and other domain experts, academic institutions of eminence and multi-lateral institutions. The Finance Commission will also present a copy of the Report to the Prime Minister. The report will be tabled in the Parliament by the Union Finance Minister along with an Action Taken Report of the Government. The Fifteenth Finance Commission was constituted by the President with NK Singh as its Chairman. The other members of the Commission include Ajay Narayan Jha, Prof. Anoop Singh, Dr. Ashok Lahiri and Dr. Ramesh Chand.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that demonetisation has helped reduce black money, increase tax compliance and formalization and given a boost to transparency. In a tweet, Mr Modi said, these outcomes have been greatly beneficial towards national progress.  On this day, four years ago in 2016, the Prime Minister addressing the nation had announced about demonetization to break the grip of corruption and black money. Mr Modi had said that the step will strengthen the hands of the common man in the fight against corruption, black money and fake currency.
  • Ministry of Labour and Employment in a statement said that submitting claims through Affidavit Form is now no longer required under Atal Beemit Vyakti Kalyan Yojana (ABVKY) of Employees’ State Insurance Corporation- ESIC. The Ministry said, while analysing the response of the beneficiaries to the Scheme under relaxed conditions, it was found that the condition of submitting the claim in Affidavit Form is causing inconvenience to the claimants. It said, considering the difficulties faced by the beneficiaries, it has now been decided that the claimant who has submitted the claim under Atal Beemit Vyakti Kalyan Yojana online and uploaded the scanned copies of the required documents need not submit the physical claim. The Ministry said, if the documents are not uploaded at the time of online filing of the claim, claimant will submit the printout of the claim duly signed along with the required documents.
  • United Nations today warned that nine million people risk displacement from an escalating conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. It said that the Ethiopian government’s declaration of a state of emergency was blocking food and other aid. In a report, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA said that clashes between federal troops and Tigrayan forces had broken out in eight locations in the region. The OCHA report said about 600,000 people in Tigray depend on food aid to survive, while another 1 million receive other forms of support, all of which are disrupted.
  • In Cricket, Delhi Capitals entered their first-ever IPL final with a convincing 17-run victory over Sunrisers Hyderabad in the second qualifier in Abu Dhabi last night. Opting to bat first, Delhi posted a massive total of 189 for three in 20 overs riding on Shikhar Dhawan’s 78 off 50, Shimron Hetmyer’s unbeaten 42 off 22 and Marcus Stoinis’s 38 off 27 balls.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (November 08, 2020)

  • Joe Biden elected 46th President of the Unites States; Kamala Harris will be the first woman and the first minority Vice-President
  • India successfully launches earth observation satellite EOS-01
  • With 44,806 new COVID-19 cases recorded yesterday, India’s tally stood at 85,05,410
  • Economy expected to bounce back next fiscal : SBI chairman
  • FASTags to be mandatory for all four wheelers from 1st January, 2021
  • Prime Minister Modi to inaugurate Ro-Pax service between Hazira and Ghogha in Gujarat today
  • Indian diplomat Vidisha Maitra elected to key United Nations committee
  • UAE to overhaul Islamic laws; It will criminalise honor killings, loosen alcohol curbs
  • China’s October exports surge, imports rise; Outbound shipments jump 11.4%
  • AIM-Sirius Innovation’ programme launched for Indian & Russian school children

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • Democratic candidate Joseph Robinette Biden Jr., was elected the 46th President of the United States late yesterday morning, beating incumbent U.S. President Donald Trump, by securing more than the required 270 of the 538 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House. Mr. Biden’s running mate Kamala Harris, a U.S. Senator from California, will become the first woman and the first African American Vice-President of the country.
  • India successfully launched its latest earth observation satellite EOS-01 and nine international customer spacecraft on board a Polar rocket from the spaceport in Sriharikota, in its first mission this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Indian Space Research Organisation’s Workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C49) injected EOS-01, intended for applications in agriculture, forestry and disaster management support and other satellites, one by one in the orbit. The nine customer satellites are from the U.S., Lithuania and Luxembourg.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the Ro-Pax terminal at Hazira and flag off Ro-Pax service between Hazira and Ghogha in Gujarat today through video conferencing. It marks a big step towards the Prime Minister’s vision of harnessing waterways and integrating them with the economic development of the country. The  Prime Minister will also interact with local users of the service during the event. Hazira-Ghogha Ro-Pax ferry service will work as a Gateway to South Gujarat and Saurashtra region. It will give an impetus to the tourism industry with ease of access to Saurashtra region and lead to creation of new job opportunities. With the onset of Ferry services, the port sector, furniture and fertilizer industries in Saurashtra and Kutch region will get a big boost. Eco-tourism and religious-tourism in Gujarat, especially in Porbandar, Somnath, Dwarka and Palitana will grow exponentially.
  • The country’s economy, which had shown resilience to come out from a downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, was expected to bounce back from the next fiscal, State Bank of India Chairman Dinesh Kumar Khara said. He added that there would be a paradigm shift which would lead to a more matured economy, with economic players learning to contain costs. According to him, investment demand from the corporate sector would take some time to pick up.
  • Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has issued a notification making FASTags mandatory for all four wheel vehicles from 1st January 2021. This will apply to old vehicles as well as M and N category of motor vehicles sold before 1st December, 2017. As per Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989, the FASTag had been made mandatory for all registration of new four wheeled Vehicles since 1st December 2017 and is being supplied by the Vehicle Manufacturer or their dealers. It had further been mandated that the renewal of fitness certificate will be done only after the fitment of FASTag for the Transport Vehicles. For National Permit Vehicles the fitment of FASTag has been mandated since 1st of October, 2019. The Ministry said that a valid FASTag is also mandatory while getting a new third Party Insurance through an amendment in certificate of Insurance, wherein the details of FASTag ID will be captured. This will be applicable with effect from 1st of April 2021.
  • India’s Vidisha Maitra was elected to the UN body – Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ)  with strong support of the member states. India’s permanent representative to the UN, Ambassador T. S. Tirumurti expressed gratitude to the member states in reposing faith in India’s candidate. He added that India has a stellar record of bringing its professional auditing experience to the UN. He affirmed that India takes the responsibility very seriously.
  • The United Arab Emirates announced on Saturday a major overhaul of the country’s Islamic Personal laws, allowing unmarried couples to cohabitate, loosening alcohol restrictions and criminalising so-called ‘honor killings’. The reforms aim to boost the country’s economic and social standing and consolidate the UAE’s principles of tolerance.
  • China’s exports grew at the fastest pace in 19 months in October, while imports also rose, official data showed, as the world’s second-largest economy continued to recover after being hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis earlier this year. Exports rose 11.4% from a year earlier, beating analysts’ expectations of a 9.3% increase and quickening from a solid 9.9% increase in September.
  • Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) and Sirius, Russia, launched ‘AIM-Sirius Innovation Programme for Indian and Russian school children. The AIM-Sirius programme seeks to develop technological solutions for the two countries. Over a two-week programme, from 7th to 21st of  November , 48 students and 16 educators and mentors will create 8 virtual products and mobile applications addressing global challenges across a range of areas like applied cognitive science, health and well-being,  and artificial intelligence.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (November 07, 2020)

  • Pennsylvania lead gets Biden close to victory; Trump repeats claims of ‘stolen election’
  • India won’t accept shifting of LAC, says Chief of Defence Staff
  • Finance panel warns of rising GST dues for States; Gap could balloon to Rs 7 lakh crore by 2022
  • ISRO to launch country’s latest all-weather earth observation satellite today
  • Country’s forex reserves up USD 183 million to record high of USD 560.715 million
  • 42 Anti-cancer drugs showed price reduction up to 90% following NPPA’s price rationalisation
  • Yashvardhan Kumar Sinha takes oath as Chief Information Commissioner
  • PM Modi calls upon youth to work on providing ease of living through their innovations
  • India and Italy sign 15 agreements in various sectors; Reaffirm commitment to strengthen cooperation against common global challenges
  • Rohingya Citizenship issue solely matter of domestic law of 1982: Myanmar Army Chief

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • As the counting of mailed-in ballots continued across the U.S., Democratic candidate Joe Biden appeared to be on the edge of victory, as he pushed past incumbent President Donald Trump in the crucial swing State of Pennsylvania on Friday morning. A win could make Mr. Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, the first women President of the U.S. and the first Indian American person in that position.
  • India will not accept any shifting of the Line of Actual Control and the possibility of unprovoked tactical military actions “spiralling into larger conflict cannot be discounted”, Chief of Defence Staff(CDS) General Bipin Rawat said yesterday, as India and China held the 8th round of Corps Commander-level talks at Chushul in an attempt to resolve the ongoing stand-off.
  • The gap between GST cess collections and the revenue shortfall faced by the States for implementing the Goods and Services Tax could snowball to anywhere between Rs. 5 lakh crore to Rs. 7 lakh crore by June 2022 from the Rs. 2.35 lakh crore estimated for this year, the fifteenth Finance Commission is learnt to have projected in its report.
  • Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers has said that 526 brands of 42 anti-cancer drugs showed price reduction up to 90 per cent following  National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority – NPPA’s price rationalisation initiated in February 2019. Invoking extraordinary powers in public interest, NPPA had launched a Pilot on Trade Margin Rationalisation for 42 anti cancer drugs as a step towards making the healthcare more affordable for cancer  patients. The Pilot has led to annual saving of 984 crore rupees to cancer patients. The Ministry said, it is also a matter of great satisfaction that the Pilot has received immense support from all the stakeholders including patients support groups.
  • The country’s foreign exchange reserves rose USD 183 million to touch a record high of USD 560.715 billion in the week ended October 30. According to the Reserve Bank India data, in the reporting week, the reserves rose due to an increase in foreign currency assets. FCA rose by USD 815 million to USD 518.339 billion. The RBI’s weekly data showed that Gold reserves declined USD 601 million in the reporting week to USD 36.259 billion. The RBI data also showed the special drawing rights with the International Monetary Fund (IMF)decreased USD 6 million to USD 1.482 billion during the week.
  • India’s latest all-weather earth observation satellite EOS-01 will be launched by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) this afternoon, using the workhorse rocket PSLV-C49. Nine other customer satellites will also be carried into space by the rocket, in its 51st flight. It will be ignited at 3.02 pm, from the first launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota in southern Andhra Pradesh, close to Chennai. This will be India’s first mission from her launch pad at Sriharikota this calendar year. The earth observation satellite EOS-01 is equipped with the synthetic aperture radar that has an enviable resolution. Coincidentally, the launch of its peer RISAT-2BR1, is the previous mission that took place from the national spaceport in December last year. The intended applications of the satellite include in agriculture, forestry and disaster management support.
  • Yashvardhan Kumar Sinha today took oath as the Chief Information Commissioner, CIC. President Ram Nath Kovind administered the oath to Mr Sinha at Rashtrapati Bhavan. A former diplomat, Mr Sinha has been serving as Information Commissioner since January last year. He will have a tenure of three years as CIC.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called upon the country’s youth to bring in new innovations and expressed commitment to give them ease of doing business. Mr Modi asked the youth to work on providing ease of living through their innovations while the country gives them ease of business. Virtually addressing the 51st convocation of IIT Delhi today, Mr Modi said innovation is a major strength for the success of Aatmanirbhar Bharat campaign. He stressed that self reliance is equally important along with globalisation. The Prime Minister stated that the crisis period due to Covid has brought big changes in the world and technology will play a major role in the post COVID world.
  • India and Italy signed 15 agreements in various sectors following a Virtual Bilateral Summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Italian counterpart Giuseppe Conte last evening. The agreements signed will provide for cooperation in a diverse range of areas including energy, green energy, shipbuilding and media sector. The Summit provided an opportunity to the two leaders to comprehensively review the broad framework of the bilateral relationship. The two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen cooperation against common global challenges, including the Covid-19 pandemic. The leaders discussed a wide range of issues including political, economic, scientific and technological, space and defence cooperation. On regional and international issues, both sides agreed to coordinate closely at multilateral fora especially G-20.
  • The Myanmar Army Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing has said that the issue of the citizenship of Rohingya is solely a matter of domestic law. He said that the citizenship process in Myanmar is subject to the 1982 citizenship law which identifies only 135 indigenous ethnic groups and Bengalis or Rohingya are not among these. He further said that Myanmar does not object to the Rohingya living inside the Myanmar territory. However, the issue of citizenship, definition of indigenous people and their rights are matters of domestic law. Refusing to accept international intervention, he said Myanmar is proceeding according to its own domestic law on this issue.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (November 06, 2020)

  • Biden edges closer to victory as Trump mounts legal challenges
  • New dos and don’ts for foreign arrivals; States free to impose more restrictions
  • With 50,312 COVID-19 cases recorded in 24 hours, India’s tally stood at 84,07,193
  • All insults not offence under SC/ST act; Caste angle crucial, Says Supreme Court
  • UGC issues guidelines for reopening of Universities & Colleges across country
  • Assam: Bongaigaon District Administration initiates Mission Sampoorna to improve health of malnourished children
  • Pandemic-themed cyberattacks rose in Q2, according to study
  • India hosts 5th Joint Working Group on Coal between India and Indonesia through video conference
  • PM Modi, Italian PM to hold Virtual Bilateral Summit today
  • China suspends entry of foreigners from India, UK, Philippines, Belgium; other countries may get affected soon

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • America woke up to another day of uncertainty around the winner of the Presidential election, even as Joe Biden appeared to be on the verge of reaching the 270 of 538 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House, after he won Michigan and Wisconsin. President Donald Trump’s campaign mounted legal challenges in several states.
  • The Union Health Ministry issued guidelines for international arrivals, in supersession of the ones issued on August 2. It said that all travellers should submit a self-declaration form on portal www.newdelhiairport.in at least 72 hours before the scheduled travel or physically after arrival at the respective health counters. It allowed the states to have any additional restrictions imposed with regard to quarantine and isolation.
  • All insults or intimidations to persons belonging to Dalit or tribal communities will not be an offence under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, the Supreme Court said in a judgement on Thursday. A three-judge Bench led by Justice L. Nageswara Rao observed that an offence is made out under the statute only if such insult or intimidation is on account  of the victim belonging to a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe. The court said the insult should be specifically intended to humiliate the victim for his caste.  
  • Cybercriminals took advantage of COVID-19, adjusting their cybercrime campaigns to lure victims with pandemic-based themes and exploiting people working from home, according to a study. Consequently, the second quarter of calendar year 2020 saw cyberattack detections, mostly pandemic-themed intrusions, rise 605% over the previous quarter, McAfee, a device-to-cloud cybersecurity firm said in its recent cybercriminal activity study.
  • University Grants Commission (UGC) has issued guidelines for the reopening of universities and colleges across the country. As per the new guidelines, universities and colleges outside the containment zone can be opened in a phased manner after consultation with the respective State and Union Territory Governments. The guidelines have been vetted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and approved by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Education. The UGC has suggested six-day weeks and smaller class-sizes to enable social distancing. However, teaching hours in a day can be extended, as per the institution’s requirements.
  • In Assam, Bongaigaon District Administration has initiated Mission Sampoorna in a bid to improve the health condition of the malnourished children. Deputy Commissioner Dr. Lakshmi Priya said that the programme was started during the Poshan Maah in the district. The Mission Sampoorna initiative is not only to improve the health of the malnourished child but also to relish the dream of women empowerment. She informed that there are 2,500 malnourished children in the district and within a month of launching this project, the health condition of 10 per cent of these children has already improved.
  • India successfully hosted 5th Joint Working Group (JWG) on Coal between India and Indonesia through video conference due to travel restrictions on account of Covid-19 pandemic. The JWG was co-chaired from the Indian side by Vinod Kumar Tiwari, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Coal, Government of India and by Jonson Pakpahan, Director for Mineral and Coal, Non Tax State Revenue of Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, Republic of Indonesia, from the Indonesian side. In his opening remarks, Mr. Tiwari provided an overview of the coal sector in India and presented emerging scenarios for the future. He highlighted India’s initiatives for self-sufficiency in coal under Atmanirbhar Bharat and imperatives for businesses in the coal sector in both the countries. The Ministry of Coal made presentations on Indian Coal Policy reforms, Coking Coal Exploration and Commercial Mining, followed by presentations by the Indonesian side on Coal Policy and Current Coal Business s, Deep Seated Coal Potential in Indonesia.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Italian counterpart  Giuseppe Conte will hold a Virtual Bilateral Summit today. The Summit will give an opportunity to the two leaders to comprehensively review the broad framework of the bilateral relationship and exchange views on major regional and global issues of mutual concern. India and Italy share a warm and multifaceted relationship based on strong historical ties, common democratic traditions, rule of law and a shared goal of international peace and stability. Italy is India’s 5th largest trading partner in the EU, after Germany, Belgium, UK and France. Bilateral trade stood at 9.52 billion Euros in 2019.
  • China has once again suspended the entry into China of foreign nationals holding valid Chinese visas or residence permits. Chinese Embassies in India, the United Kingdom, Philippines and Belgium have made official announcements in this regard citing COVID-19 pandemic as reason. Entry by holders of diplomatic, service, courtesy or C visas will not be affected. Foreign nationals visiting China for emergency reasons may apply for visas at Chinese Embassies or consulates in their respective countries. Also, as per the notices, it is a temporary measure and entry into China with visas issued after 3rd November 2020 will not be affected. China has once again tightened control at its borders as it has been citing ‘imported cases’ as a major reason for its COVID numbers in recent times, notwithstanding local outbreaks in Dalian, Qingdao, Beijing and Urumqi and Kashgar in Xinjiang.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (November 05, 2020)

  • U.S. Polls : Joe Biden ahead, but no clear winner yet; Counting continues in key states
  • Proposal initiated to increase the retirement age of officers in Military
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi to chair Virtual Global Investor Roundtable Conference today
  • Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approves hydropower project in Himachal Pradesh
  • President Kovind promulgates Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020
  • Government constitutes committee to review guidelines on Television Rating agencies
  • India’s GDP will be higher than the forecasts this year
  • Interpol opens new communication lines; It will help in tackling cybercrime
  • U.S. formally exits Paris pact on curbing climate change
  • Bangladesh and U.S. launch joint naval exercise CARAT Bangladesh 2020

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • With mailed-in votes still being counted in key ‘Battleground States’ through the night of November 3, neither U.S. President Donald Trump nor Democratic Candidate Joe Biden emerged victorious after a fiercely fought election for presidency of a deeply troubled and polarised country. The country is in the throes of a raging pandemic with close to 2,35,000 dead and high levels of unemployment. Though local governments and the private sector prepared for civil unrest going into the election day, but no major incidents of violence were reported.
  • The Department of Military Affairs(DMA), headed by Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, has initiated proposals to increase the retirement age of officers and also cut down the pension of officers opting for premature retirement. The DMA has proposed increasing the retirement age of Colonels from 54 to 57, Brigadiers from 56 to 58 and Major Generals from 58 to 59. The same is applicable to equivalent ranks in other services.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will chair the Virtual Global Investor Roundtable Conferrence this evening. The Roundtable is being organized by the Ministry of Finance and National Investment and Infrastructure Fund. It is an exclusive dialogue between leading global institutional investors, Indian business leaders and the highest decision makers from the Government of India and Financial Market Regulators. Union Finance Minister, Minister of State for Finance, RBI Governor and other dignitaries will also be present on the occasion.
  • The Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs approved funding to the tune of Rs. 1,810.56 crore for the 20 Megawatt Luhri hydropower project   on the Satluj river in Himachal Pradesh. The project will take 62 months to be completed and will generate 758.20 million units of electricity a year.  The project will be implemented by Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited and will be supported by the Central and State governments.
  • President Ram Nath Kovind today promulgated the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 to further amend Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996. The Ordinance aims to ensure that all the stakeholders get an opportunity to seek unconditional stay of enforcement of arbitral awards where the underlying arbitration agreement or contract or making of the arbitral award are induced by fraud or corruption. Through the Ordinance, an addition has been made to Section 36 whereby if the Court is satisfied that a prima facie case is made out that the arbitration agreement or contract which is the basis of the award was induced or effected by fraud or corruption, it will stay the award unconditionally pending disposal of the challenge made to the award under Section 34.
  • Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has constituted a committee to review guidelines on Television Rating agencies in India. Prasar Bharti CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati will be Chairman of the Committee. The Committee will carry out an appraisal of the existing system, examine TRAI recommendations notified from time to time, overall industry scenario and addressing the needs of the stakeholders and make recommendations for robust, transparent and accountable rating system through changes, if any, in the existing guidelines. The Committee can invite any expert as a special invitee. The Committee will submit its report to the Minister for Information and Broadcasting within two months.
  • India’s GDP in 2020-21 is expected to be higher than currently projected by various agencies, with the economy poised to recover fast and reach pre-COVID levels by the end of the year, the Finance Ministry said yesterday. It added that barring the risk of a second wave of COVID-19 infections in the country, the improvement in GDP performance would widen the fiscal headroom available for the government to pursue other priorities in spending.
  • The Interpol has created two secure and flexible services to facilitate cybercrime-related communication among law enforcement agencies and other stakeholders to ensure more effective and coordinated action based on timely intelligence. Given the constant evolution of the cybercrime landscape, police agencies needed to share information and knowledge with their counterparts around the world to develop a timely, intelligence-based response, the Interpol said. Therefore, the services have been created.
  • The United States formally left the Paris Agreement, a global pact forged five years ago to avert the threat of catastrophic climate change. This move further isolates U.S. in the world. Some 189 countries remain committed to the 2015 Paris accord, which aims to keep the increase in average temperatures worldwide “well below” 2 degrees Celsius, ideally no more than 1.5 degree Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.
  • The Bangladesh and US navies launched  the ‘Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Bangladesh 2020’ on Wednesday  to expand relationships and broaden maritime awareness between the two countries. The exercise  demonstrates U.S.’s continuing commitment to work with the Bangladesh military to address shared maritime security concerns in the region and strengthen partnership to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific region. Historically, the CARAT exercises involve people to people interactions and a variety of professional exchanges. These will take place online this year due to the COVID 19 pandemic. The sea-phase of the exercise will take place in the Bay of Bengal with ships from both countries. The events are designed to enhance interoperability between the two navies. U.S. and Bangladesh will work through coordinated deployment of surface ships, to include tactical manoeuvres among other activities.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (November 04, 2020)

  • States cannot make isolated plans for vaccine distribution, says Health Ministry
  • Convicted IS supporter kills 4 in Vienna rampage; Police kill the shooter; launch hunt for his aides
  • Amended J&K land laws have built-in safeguards, says Lieutenant Governor
  • Odisha bans sale and use of firecrackers in the state
  • National COVID-19 recovery rate reaches 92.09%; 76 lakh people have recovered from the infection so far
  • PM Modi to meet 20 large global investors managing assets of more than $6 trillion
  • Malabar 2020 exercise : Indian Navy matches skills with three foreign fleets off Vizag
  • India, GCC Troika hold annual Political Dialogue in virtual mode
  • Americans vote to elect new President; Close contest on cards
  • IPL 2020 : Sun Risers Hyderabad seals playoff berth by thrashing Mumbai Indians at Sharjah

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • The Health Ministry on Tuesday said it had asked the State governments to refrain from making isolated plans for vaccine distribution. Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said the States/UTs have been advised to create a database according to the blueprint issued by the Central government and also take stock of the storage and transport facility for the distribution. States/UTs have been asked to set up committees under Chief Secretaries for administration to ensure time-bound implementation of the Central government direction.
  • Austrian police were hunting for suspects on Thursday after at least one gunman killed four people in a rampage in the heart of Vienna overnight. Fourteen people were injured – some seriously – in the attack. Police killed one gunman wearing an explosive belt that however, turned out to be fake. Authorities identified him as 20-year-old convicted jihadist, and said they could not rule out the possibility that other shooters were still on the loose.
  • India has achieved another significant milestone in its fight against COVID, as more than 76 lakh people have recovered from the infection so far. The national recovery rate has reached 92.09 per cent. With overall recovery of nearly 76 lakh 56 thousand patients, the recovered cases in the country stand at over 14 times the number of active cases. Over 53 thousand patients recovered and were discharged in the last 24 hours whereas the new confirmed cases reported in the same time span stood at nearly 46 thousand. The active caseload of the country has also fallen below 6.5 per cent. The total positive cases in the country today stands at five lakh 33 thousand 787 which comprises merely 6.42 per cent of the total reported cases. With a high number of COVID patients recovering every day along with a steadily falling and sustained low mortality rate, India’s trend of registering decreasing active cases continues.
  • Jammu & Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha sought to allay apprehensions over the new amendments to laws regarding the acquisition of land by outsiders in the Union Territory, stating that protections of the kind enshrined in land laws of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand were incorporated into the new laws. He added, the truth is that 90% of land in J&K is agricultural and no one from outside can buy it. The amendments did away with some older laws, some mutually contradictory, that had become redundant.
  • The Odisha Government has banned the sale and use of firecrackers in the state from the 10th to the 30th of this month. The decision has been taken in view of the potentially harmful consequences of burning crackers amidst covid-19 situation and the approaching winter season. Firecrackers release copious amount of toxic gases like nitrous oxide, sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide which negatively impacts the respiratory health, particularly of the vulnerable groups like the elderly, the children and those with comorbidities. The practice may also give an additional push to the concentration of suspended particulate matter in the air, particularly during the upcoming winter, thereby impacting the respiratory health again.  Any such deterioration of the air quality may have a corresponding rious impact on human health creating conducive conditions for viral resurgence.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will chair a virtual meeting with 20 large global investors managing assets of more than $6 trillion, on Thursday, to reiterate India’s attractiveness as an investment destination. The virtual conference with the investors, which include several sovereign wealth funds and pension funds, will be followed by one-on-one interactions for each of them with the PM over the next two weeks.
  • Phase I of the Malabar 2020 naval exercise by India, Australia, Japan and the U.S. began off the coast of Vishakhapatnam in the Bay of Bengal on Tuesday. This is the first time Australia has joined Malabar since 2007. This is the 24th edition of the exercise that began in 1992 and this time, it is being held in two phases, in the Bay of Bengal and from November 17 to 20 in the Arabian Sea.
  • India and the GCC Troika held their annual Political Dialogue in virtual mode. External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar led the Indian delegation. Senior representatives from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar also participated in the meeting. The leaders undertook detailed review of India-GCC ties and appreciated the upward trajectory in ties witnessed in the last few years. They expressed satisfaction that India and GCC countries have continued their close cooperation even during the Covid-19 pandemic. Dr Jaishankar apprised the GCC leaders of the improving situation in India, both on the health and economic side. He hoped for early return to trade normalcy between India and the GCC. India had ensured that the supply chains from India to the Gulf were not disrupted despite the lockdowns during the pandemic.
  • The voting for the 59th four-yearly US Presidential Election is underway in the United States of America. The election for the next American President is witnessing a great voter turnout. Nearly 100 million votes have already been cast through mail ballots and in-person early and advanced voting. The prime contenders to the post are the incumbent President from the Republican Party Donald Trump and the Democrat candidate Joe Biden. With nearly 240 million eligible voters, world’s oldest democracy witnesses one of the most crucial elections in the world politics. Due to the ongoing Corona pandemic, several states in the US relaxed the provisions for early and advanced voting this time. This is why nearly 73 per cent of the total ballots cast in 2016 presidential elections have been recorded even before the election day this year.
  • In IPL Cricket, Sun Risers Hyderabad thrashed Mumbai Indians by ten wickets, to seal playoff berth at Sharjah, last night. Put into bat first, Mumbai  scored 149 for 8 in the allotted 20 overs. In reply, SunRisers overhauled the target in 17.1 overs riding on unbeaten opening partnership of David Warner and Wriddhiman Saha.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (November 03, 2020)

  • Rajasthan passes Bills to stop the applicability of the Centre’s new farm laws in the state
  • States’ suggestion has been sought to amend the Indian Penal Code
  • Manufacturing grows fastest since 2007; Removal of curbs helped sector expand for a third month
  • GST shortfall : Centre to transfer second tranche; Rs. 6,000 crore to reach 16 States, 3 UTs
  • All 10 candidates for Rajya Sabha elections in Uttar Pradesh declared elected unopposed
  • Islamic States attack on Kabul University leaves 25 dead, 22 wounded
  • Pakistan PM : Gilgit-Baltistan to be a full province; No timeline has been given by him though
  • United States goes to polls today to elect new president
  • Gunmen opened fire at multiple locations across central Vienna
  • IPL 2020 : Sun Risers Hyderabad to take on Mumbai Indians in Sharjah today

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • The Rajasthan Assembly passed three Bills to stop the applicability of the Centre’s new farm laws in the State through amendments that make the Central Acts ineffective in certain aspects. The Bills were passed by voice vote after a nine-hour debate, in which the treasury and opposition benches exchanged barbs. Rajasthan has become the second Congress-ruled State after Punjab to formally reject the farm Acts.
  • Union Minister of State for Home G. Kishan Reddy said that the States had been asked for their suggestions to amend the Indian Penal Code(IPC). He said the government had amended criminal laws from time to time and enacted the Criminal Law(Amendment) Act, 2018, to prescribe more stringent penal provisions for convicts.
  • India’s Manufacturing sector activity improved for the third straight month in October with companies raising output to the greatest extent in 13 years amid robust sales growth, a monthly survey indicated yesterday. The headline seasonally adjusted IHS Markit India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) rose from 56.8 in September to 58.9 in October, and pointed to the strongest improvement in the health of the sector in more than a decade. In April, the index had slipped into contraction mode, after remaining in growth territory for 32 consecutive months.
  • The Finance Ministry said it will transfer Rs. 6,000 crore as the second tranche of GST compensation shortfall to 16 states and 3 Union Territories, including Maharashtra, Bihar, Assam, Puducherry and Delhi. The Centre had on October 23 transferred Rs. 6,000 crore to 16 States and 2 UTs of Delhi and Jammu & Kashmir. In the second tranche of transfer, Union Territory of Puducherry has been included.
  • Still with Uttar Pradesh, all 10 candidates have been declared elected unopposed to the Rajya Sabha. Eight BJP candidates and one each from Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party were declared elected unopposed to the upper house yesterday. The BJP candidates declared elected include Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, Arun Singh, Haridwar Dubey, Brij Lal, Neeraj Shekhar, Geeta Shakya, Seema Dwivedi, and BL Varma. Prof Ram Gopal Yadav of the Samajwadi Party and the BSP’s Ramji Gautam were also elected to the Upper House.
  • Islamic State militants in Afghanistan stormed the Kabul University yesterday as it hosted a book fair attended by the Iranian Ambassador, sparking an hours-long gun battle and leaving at least 25 dead and 22 wounded at the war-torn country’s largest school. It was the second attack on an educational institution in Kabul in as many weeks.
  • Prime Minister Imran Khan has angered India after declaring that part of the contested Kashmir region will provisionally become a full province of Pakistan. Pakistan has administered the area now known as Gilgit-Baltistan since shortly after the country’s birth in 1947, but New Delhi asserts the mountainous territory bordering China and Afghanistan is an integral part of the Kashmir. The move comes after New Delhi last year revoked the special status of Kashmir upending a decades long status quo and drawing strong condemnation from Islamabad.
  • The United States will go to polls today to elect a new President. Both candidates President Donald Trump and Joe Biden made their last ditch efforts yesterday to woo the voters. Trump campaigned in Michigan, Iowa, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Biden held multiple events in Philadelphia as he seeks to win Pennsylvania. Nearly 9.2 crore Americans have already cast their votes that could take days or weeks to be counted in some states. A winner might not be declared in the hours after polling closes tonight.
  • In Vienna, a huge manhunt is underway after gunmen opened fire at multiple locations across central Vienna, killing two people and wounding several. One of the gunmen was shot dead by police who said they were hunting for at least one more assailant still at large. The attacks, in six locations including near a synagogue in the centre of the city, were carried out by several suspects armed with rifles, police said last night. The shooting began just hours before Austria was to re-impose a Corona virus lockdown, with people out in bars and restaurants enjoying a final night of relative freedom.
  • In IPL Cricket, Sun Risers Hyderabad will take on Mumbai Indians in Sharjah today evening. In last night’s match,  Delhi Capitals beat Royal Challengers Bangalore by six wickets in Abu Dhabi last night to ensure a top-two finish for themselves and set up a clash against Mumbai Indians in Qualifier 1 on Thursday. RCB will finish third or fourth depending the result of the match between Sun Risers Hyderabad and Mumbai Indians today. Both teams have, however, qualified for the playoffs.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (November 02, 2020)

  • GST inflows cross Rs. 1 lakh crore in October, up 10% from a year ago
  • Three new Rafale jets to fly non-stop from France to India, bringing the total count of Rafale to eight
  • Paddy procurement crosses two crore metric tonne in ongoing Kharif season
  • Assam: Schools reopen after a gap of eight months; All COVID-19 protocols being followed
  • Over 495 lakh e-invoices generated on NIC portal by 27,400 taxpayers
  • AYUSH Ministry and Invest India to jointly set up “Strategic Policy & Facilitation Bureau”
  • India says, Gilgit-Baltistan a part of India; Slams Pakistan for its attempt to accord provincial status to Gilgit-Baltistan
  • Home Ministry tells all the States to file FIRs for cybercrime; Only 5000 cases registered out of 2 lakh complaints
  • Turkey earthquake death toll rises to 81, rescue efforts continue
  • IPL: Delhi Capitals to take on Royal Challengers Bangalore today

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • Revenues from the Goods and Services Tax surpassed Rs. 1.05 lakh crore in October, up 10% from a year ago, and the highest recorded since February 2020. The government cited the GST inflows that crossed the Rs. 1 lakh crore mark for the first time in this financial year as a ‘clear sign’ of a recovery in the economy after its 23.9% contraction in the first quarter of this year. However, economists and businesses are cautious about the sustainability of this trend.
  • Three Rafale fighter jets of the Indian Air Force are scheduled to arrive on November 4 flying non-stop from France. They will be accompanied by French Air Force mid-air refuelling  With this, the IAF will have eight of the 36 Rafale jets in service.  The first batch of five Rafale jets were formally inducted into the No. 17 ‘Golden Arrows’ squadron of the IAF on September 10 at the Ambala Air Force Station.
  • Paddy procurement for Kharif 2020-21 has now crossed two Crore Metric Tonnes mark with bumper procurement of 204.59 Lakh Metric Tonne Paddy in the procuring States and UTs of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Tamil Nadu, Chandigarh, Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala and Gujarat till Saturday against the last year corresponding purchase of 168.87 LMT. This is an increase of 21.16 percent over last year.  Out of the total purchase of 204.59 LMT, Punjab alone has contributed 142.81 LMT which is 69.80 percent of total procurement. About 17.23 Lac farmers have already been benefitted from the ongoing KMS procurement Operations with MSP value of 38627.46 crore rupees.
  • In Assam, educational institutions have been re-opened in the state after a gap of 8 months. Official sources said that classes have resumed following all COVID-19 protocols. The students, teachers and staff have been screened at the entry point. Attendance of students is not compulsory and will be purely based on parental consent. The hostels of all educational institutions will also remain closed till further orders. The schools reopened today across the state with strict Covid 19 protocols. The SOP issued by the Education department asked the school authorities to follow social distancing and other precautionary measures to prevent the spread of virus.
  • India on Sunday slammed Pakistan for its attempt to accord provincial status to the “so-called Gilgit-Baltistan”, saying it is intended to camouflage the “illegal” occupation of the region by Islamabad.  Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson said India “firmly rejects” the attempt by Pakistan to bring material changes to a part of Indian territory which is under Islamabad’s “illegal and forcible occupation” and asked the neighbouring country to immediately vacate such areas.
  • In a major boost to Goods and Service Tax mechanism, more than 495 lakh e-invoices have been generated on the NIC portal by 27 thousand 400 tax payers within the first month of introduction of e-invoice system. The system was launched on 1st October last month for businesses having aggregate turnover of more than 500 crore rupees in the financial year. The newly introduced system will not only enhance the ease of doing business but also play pivotal role in reduction of compliance burden. In this system, the data captured by the Invoice Registration Portal will flow seamlessly to GSTR1 return of the tax payer in GST common portal. Starting with 8.4 lakh e-invoices on the first day, the usage has gradually picked up and by the end of the last month, it generated around 35 lakh e-invoices in a single day.
  • The Ministry of AYUSH and M/s Invest India will form a collaboration to set up a “Strategic Policy & Facilitation Bureau” to facilitate planned and systematic growth of the Ayush sector. This is among the various steps which the Ministry has initiated to chart future directions along which the stake-holding groups of the Ayush Sector can move. Setting up of the Bureau is a forward-looking step which will make the Ayush systems future-ready. This Bureau will support the Ministry in strategic and policy making initiatives that shall help pave the way to reach the full potential of the Sector and stimulate growth and investment. As a partner in the project, M/S Invest India would collaborate extensively with the Ministry to frame the work plan of the Bureau and define its short-and long-term targets. Invest India would deploy highly trained and expert resources to implement and execute the plans of the Ministry of AYUSH.
  • The Union Home Ministry has written to all the States to examine and register FIRs based on the complaints received on the National Cybercrime Reporting Portal. As per data available with the Ministry, only 2.5% of total complaints registered on the portal are converted into First Information Reports(FIRs). Through the portal, the Ministry aims to raise a group of “cybercrime volunteers” to flag “unlawful content” on the Internet.
  • Rescue efforts continued in western Turkish city of Izmir today, authorities said, as the death toll from Friday’s powerful earthquake in the Aegean Sea region rose to 81. Turkish authorities said 79 were killed, all in Izmir, while two teenagers died on the Greek island of Samos. More than 3,500 tents and 13,000 beds have been supplied to provide temporary shelter, according to Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Authority (AFAD), which said 962 people had been injured in Friday’s earthquake. More than 740 victims have so far been discharged from hospitals, AFAD said. Turkey is crossed by fault lines and is prone to earthquakes. In 1999, two powerful quakes killed 18,000 people in northwestern Turkey. The Friday earthquake, which the Istanbul-based Kandilli Institute said had a magnitude of 6.9, was centred in the Aegean Sea, northeast of Samos.
  • In IPL Cricket, Delhi Capitals will take on Royal Challengers Bangalore in Abu Dhabi today. Earlier, Kolkata Knight Riders kept their play-off hopes alive by  thrashing Rajasthan Royals by 60 runs at Dubai last night. With this win, Kolkata have moved to the fourth spot in the points table. On the other hand, Rajasthan are now out from the playoff contention after losing the match against Kolkata. In another match, Chennai Super Kings beat Kings Eleven Punjab  by nine wickets at Abu Dhabi.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (November 01, 2020)

  • In a similar move to Punjab Assembly, Rajasthan Bills to counter farm laws
  • J&K government voids Roshni Act; Land to be retrieved in six months
  • With 44,449 COVID-19 cases recorded yesterday, India’s tally stood at 81,80,367
  • National Medical Commission notifies Minimum Requirements for Annual MBBS Admissions Regulations
  • Uttar Pradesh government to reopen its national parks and safaris from today
  • President, Vice President, PM Modi extend Formation Day greetings to states
  • Jal Shakti Ministry reviews progress of Jal Jeevan Mission in Tamil Nadu
  • U.S. crosses 9 million COVID-19 cases; Virus spreading most rampantly in the Midwest and the South
  • United Kingdom Prime Minister orders lockdown until December 2
  • Philippines evacuates a million people ahead of super typhoon ‘Goni’

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • The Rajasthan government yesterday introduced three Bills in the Assembly to stop the applicability of the three new agriculture sector laws enacted by the Centre recently. The Bills were tabled following a similar move in the Punjab Assembly last month. The Amendment Bills have several provisions to address the farmers’ concerns about livelihood security and the minimum support price regime.
  • The J&K government yesterday decided to declare all the actions taken under the Jammu and Kashmir State Land(Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act, 2001, also known as the Roshni Act, under which 20 lakh kanals of land was to be transferred to existing occupants, as “null and void”, and has decided to retrieve the land within six months. The Roshni Act, enacted during Farooq Abdullah’s regime, aimed at earning Rs. 25,000 crore by transferring 20 lakh kanals of State land to existing occupants against payment at marker rates. In 2014, the CAG estimated that only Rs. 76 crore had been realised from the transfer of land between 2007 and 2013.
  • In a significant step towards affordable medical education, the National Medical Commission (NMC) has notified the Minimum Requirements for Annual MBBS Admissions Regulations (2020). The notification replaces the “Minimum Standard Requirements for Medical Colleges, 1999 of the erstwhile Medical Council of India (MCI).  According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the new Regulation will be applicable to all new medical colleges proposed to be established, and to the established medical colleges proposing to increase their annual MBBS intake from the academic year 2021-22. During the transitory period, the established medical colleges will be governed by the relevant regulations existing prior to the current notification. The new standards allow optimization and flexibility in utilizing available resources, and harnessing modern educational technology tools to facilitate moving towards quality education, even when resources are relatively scarce.
  • In order to boost tourism amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Uttar Pradesh government will reopen its national parks and safaris from today, 15 day ahead of the regular schedule. Forest Minister of State Dara Singh Chauhan will inaugurate the new tourist season virtually today. Earlier, the national parks and safaris of the state used to open on the 15th November every year and the tourist season used to conclude on June 15. However, the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown imposed thereafter led to the closure of the national parks in March. This time, special arrangements have been made in the wake of the pandemic. Only those tourists clearing thermal scanning and having no symptoms of Covid-19 infection would be allowed to enter the park premises. Each and every person entering the national parks or reserve, whether they are tourists, guides or visitors, would have to put on masks all the time. The gates of Dudhwa National Park, Pilibhit Tiger Reserve and Katarniya Ghat in Tarai region will also reopen for tourists today.
  • President and Vice President have greeted people of Haryana, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Anadman and Nicobar, Lakshadweep and Puducherry on their formation day. In a tweet, President Ram Nath Kovind said, let each state and union territory be an exemplar of peace and prosperity to make the country proud. Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu said, these states and the union territories represent India’s rich cultural and geographical diversity and they have enriched the nation through their natural and human resources. He wished the people of these states and union territories a happy, healthy and prosperous future. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has extended greetings to the people of Madhya Pradesh on their Statehood Day. In a tweet, Mr Modi said, the state is making remarkable progress in key sectors and is making a long-lasting contribution in realising our dream of an Aatmanirbhar Bharat.
  • The United States passed nine million reported coronavirus cases yesterday, according to a tally from John Hopkins University, as infections spike days before the nation chooses its next President. With the virus spreading most rampantly in the Midwest and the South, hospitals are also filling up again, stretching the health care system just as the nation heads in to the flu season.
  • Jal Shakti Ministry has reviewed the progress of Jal Jeevan Mission in Tamil Nadu. During the review, officials from Tamil Nadu presented the status of planning and implementation of the mission in the State before the National Jal Jeevan Mission through video conferencing yesterday. Jal Shakti Ministry has been working with the States and Union Territories to implement the Mission, which aims to improve the lives of rural people especially women and girls by reducing their drudgery. The ministry said funds are provided by the Central Government based on the output in terms of household tap connections provided and utilization of available funds. Tamil Nadu is planning 100 per cent  tap water connections to all rural households by 2022-23. The State has around 126.89 lakh rural households, out of which 98.96 lakh households have not been provided with tap water connection. In 2020-21, the State is planning to enable 33.94 lakh households with tap water connections.
  • In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered the nation back into a one-month lockdown. At a news conference in London, Johnson said that the lockdown across England would start from midnight on Thursday morning and last until Dec. 2. In some of the most onerous restrictions in Britain’s peacetime history, people will only be allowed to leave home for specific reasons such as education, work, exercise, shopping for essentials and medicines or caring for the vulnerable. Essential shops, schools, and universities will remain open, Johnson said. All non-essential retail will close. Johnson’s imposition of stricter curbs came after scientists warned that action was needed to halt the spread of the virus if families were to have any hope of gathering at Christmas. The United Kingdom has the world’s fifth largest official death toll and reports more than 20,000 new coronavirus cases a day, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.
  • In the Philippines, about a million people were evacuated before super typhoon Goni hit the land today. Philippines’ disaster risk-monitoring agency said 8 lakh people fled their homes in Albay province in the main Luzon island and 2 lakh more were evacuated in nearby provinces. Manila’s international airport has been shut for 24 hours from 10 am local time today. The Philippines weather bureau said that Super Typhoon Goni is expected to make landfall over Catanduanes this morning.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (October 31, 2020)

  • Active cases fall below 6 lakh after 85 days; India has also sustained its high number of COVID-19 recoveries
  • Import barriers will not be perpetual; India not a closed economy, says NITI Ayog
  • New wage code bars bonus for those facing sex abuse charges
  • Prime Minister pays tribute to the Iron Man of India Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel on his 145th Birth Anniversary
  • With 46,605 COVID-19 cases recorded yesterday, India’s tally stood at 81,34,104
  • Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Goa best governed States : Public Affairs Index-2020
  • Malabar naval exercise to kick off next week; Australia to join navies of India, U.S., Japan in Bay of Bengal
  • United States reports record over one lakh COVID-19 cases in single day
  • 34 killed after powerful earthquake hits eastern Turkey last evening
  • United States economy registers a record growth of 33 per cent in third quarter of current fiscal

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • India’s active COVID-19 caseload has fallen below six lakh for the first time in nearly three months (85 days) with 5.94 lakh active cases on Friday. The active caseload was 5.95 lakh on August 6, the Health Ministry said. According to Health Ministry, India has also           sustained its high number of recoveries. The total recovered cases stand at 73,73,375.
  • Any tariff protection to promote local manufacturing in India will come with an in built sunset clause, NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Rajiv Kumar said on Friday, asserting that the country’s self-reliance mission must not be equated to it becoming a ‘protectionist’ and closed economy. The government is set to extend the production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme for manufacturing pharmaceuticals, medical devices and electronics announced under the AtmaNirbhar Bharat package to six more sectors.   
  • Those indulging in sexual harassment of any form could run the risk of losing out on bonus dues from their employers, thanks to a provision in the Code on Wages that the government is currently framing rules for. Among other things, the Code of Wages lays down norms for annual bonus dues that accrue to employees, replacing the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965. The new Code, expected to become operational once the government notifies the rules, includes ‘conviction for sexual harassment’ as a ground for denying bonus pay outs to employees.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has appealed to  people to unite for the peace and prosperity of the country and achieve the goal of Ek Bharat- Shresht Bharat. Addressing the Rashtriya Ekta Diwas parade on the occasion of 145th birth anniversary of Iron Man of India, Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel at the Statue of Unity at Kevadia in Gujarat, the Prime Minister hit out at opposition parties for their alleged stand on the Pulwama attack last year. He said, when over 40 paramilitary personnel died in the attack these parties didn’t feel sadness. He said the country can never forget that when India was mourning the death of its sons, some people were not part of that grief.
  • Kerala was adjudged the best governed State in the large States category, while Uttar Pradesh ended at the bottom in the Public Affairs Index – 2020 released by the Public Affairs Centre. The city-based not-for profit organisation, headed by former ISRO Chairman K. Kasturirangan, said in its annual report that the States were ranked on governance performance based on a composite index in the context of sustainable development. Four Southern States – Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka stood in the first four ranks in the large State category in terms of governance.
  • The first phase of the Malabar Naval exercise with Australia, Japan and the U.S. is scheduled to be next week off the Vishakhapatnam coast. This is the first time Australia will be joining the exercise after 2007 and it will bring all four countries of the Quadrilateral grouping together for military games. More than three years after Canberra’s request to join the exercise, last week India announced that the Australian Navy would participate in Malabar 2020.
  • The United States reported over 100,000 new infections of Covid19 yesterday to surpass the record total of 91,000 posted a day earlier. The daily caseload of 100,233 is also a world record for the global pandemic. The United States has crossed 9 million cumulative cases yesterday, representing nearly 3% of the population. 16 U.S. states reported their highest one-day coronavirus infections while thirteen states were at record levels of hospitalized COVID-19 patients.The number of daily infections reported during the past two days indicates that the Country is now reporting more than one new case every second. The COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed nearly 230,000 people in the United States, has dominated the final stretch of the campaign.
  • An earthquake of 6.8 on Richter Scale struck eastern Turkey last evening, killing 34 people in Elazig province and four in the neighbouring province of Malatya. More than 1,600 others were hurt, Turkey’s AFAD disaster authority said. Much of the damage occurred in and around Turkey’s Aegean resort city of Izmir, which has three million residents and is filled with high-rise apartment blocks. Rescue teams supported by thousands of emergency workers from other provinces and by hundreds of volunteers had pulled 45 people from under the rubble since the quake, AFAD disaster authority said. Some of the world’s strongest earthquakes have been registered along a fault line that runs across Turkey to Greece. In 1999, a 7.4 magnitude earthquake struck Turkey’s northwest, killing more than 17,000 people, including 1,000 in Istanbul.
  • The US economy grew at its fastest pace ever in the third quarter as a nation battered by an unprecedented pandemic started to put itself back together. Third-quarter gross domestic product, a measure of the total goods and services produced in the July-to-September period, expanded at a 33.1 per cent annualized pace. Markets reacted positively to the news, with Wall Street erasing a loss at the open and turning mostly positive. Increased consumption along with solid gains in business and residential investment as well as exports fuelled the third-quarter rebound. 

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (October 30, 2020)

  • Lowest core sector shrinking since March; Rise in steel, electricity, coal sector output
  • With 46,182 COVID-19 cases recorded yesterday, India’s tally stood at 80,85,433
  • Railways launches ‘Meri Saheli’ initiative for security of women passengers
  • Cabinet approves Mechanism for procurement of ethanol by Public Sector Oil Marketing Companies
  • India, China agree to maintain dialogue through military & diplomatic channels: Ministry of External Affairs
  • PM  Narendra Modi to participate in Ekta Diwas programmes in Gujarat today
  • France raises threat level to highest after attack in the city of Nice
  • India, Mexico to further work on strengthening ‘Privileged Partnership’
  • European Union says escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict ‘unacceptable’
  • China: Xinjiang’s Kashgar under restrictions with 183 coronavirus cases

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • India’s eight core industry sectors shrank just 0.8% in September on a year-on-year basis, recording their lowest contraction since March 2020, with electricity and steel output clocking positive growth for the first time since March, and coal production rising for the second month in a row. As per the official statement, the final growth rate of Index of Eight Core Industries for June 2020 is revised to (-) 12.4%.
  • Railways has launched Meri Saheli initiative for focused action on security of women passengers across all zones. Railways Ministry said, the objective of this mission is to provide safety and security to lady passengers travelling by trains for their entire journey from starting station to destination station. Meri Saheli initiative was started as a pilot project in South Eastern Railway in September this year and after getting encouraging response from lady passengers, it was extended to all zones and Konkan Railway with effect from 17th of this month. Railway Protection Force, RPF has launched this initiative for the security of lady passengers. This initiative is aimed to instil a sense of security among the lady passengers and respond effectively to any security-related issue faced by lady passengers. The RPF team collects only the seat numbers of the ladies and conveys them to stoppages en-route.
  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, CCEA yesterday approved Mechanism for procurement of ethanol by Public Sector Oil Marketing Companies under Ethanol Blended Petrol Programme. Oil Marketing Companies have been advised to fix realistic transportation charges so that long distance transportation of ethanol is not disincentivised. In order to offer fair opportunity to the localized industry within the State and reduce crisscross movement of ethanol, Oil Marketing Companies shall decide the criteria for priority of ethanol from various sources taking in account various factors like cost of transportation, availability, etc. Government has been implementing Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) Programme wherein OMCs sell petrol blended with ethanol up to 10 per cent. This programme has been extended to whole of India except Union Territories of Andaman Nicobar and Lakshadweep islands with effect from 1st April, 2019 to promote the use of alternative and environment friendly fuels.
  • External Affairs Ministry said both India and China had agreed to maintain dialogue through military and diplomatic channels, and arrive at a mutually acceptable solution for disengagement as early as possible in the last round of the Senior Commander talks held on 12 October. Ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said both had also agreed to implement the understandings reached by the leaders of the two countries, not to turn differences into disputes, and jointly safeguard peace and tranquillity in the border areas. He said that India has accordingly maintained communications with the Chinese side with a view to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution to the situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh and restore full peace and tranquillity. Mr Srivastava also clarified that as regards the next round of talks, there is no connection between this and any extraneous issue.
  • France has raised the security alert for French territory to the highest level after the knife attack in the city of Nice, Prime Minister Jean Castex said yesterday. A knife wielding attacker beheaded a woman and killed two other people at a church in the French city of Nice yesterday.
  • The 8th India-Mexico Joint Commission Meeting was held through Video-Conference yesterday. The Meeting was co-chaired by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and his Mexican counterpart Marcelo Ebrard. Taking stock of the bilateral relations, both sides appreciated the progress made in the bilateral trade and commercial relations between India and Mexico in recent years. The two sides agreed that given their respective economic strengths, growing regional and global profile, India and Mexico will further work on strengthening their ‘Privileged Partnership’. The two sides discussed a number of issues and agreed to add new momentum to the relations in the fields of Trade and Commerce, Agriculture, Health, Space, Science and  Technology. They also underscored the importance of the Joint Commission mechanism in deepening political dialogue, reviewing bilateral and multilateral co-operation.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said he will be in Gujarat tomorrow and day after to attend programmes to mark Ekta Diwas, which is the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. In a tweet, Mr Modi said a series of development works would also be inaugurated in Kevadia, home to the Statue of Unity. The Prime Minister will participate at the Ekta Diwas Parade and administer the Rashtriya Ekta Pledge. Police forces of Gujarat State and Central Reserve Armed Force, Border Security Force, Indo-Tibetan Border Police, Central Industrial Security Forces and National Security Guards will participate in the Parade. The Prime Minister will also witness a Rifle drill by female officers of CRPF. As part of Ekta Diwas celebrations a cultural show of tribal heritage is also being organized at Kevadia. To mark the solemn occasion, Indian Air Force will perform a Fly-past. Mr Modi will also interact with and address 428 Officer Trainees belonging to various Civil Services currently undergoing the 95th Foundation Course at Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie through videoconference.
  • The European Union said that an escalation in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was unacceptable and called for new peace talks. Three ceasefire agreements brokered by Russia, France and the US have failed to hold, as civilians have been killed on either side of the conflict. Meanwhile, Turkey has demanded a bigger role in any peace negotiations. Armenia and Azerbaijan traded accusations of shelling in and around the mountain enclave once again today. The worst fighting in the South Caucasus for nearly 30 years has raised fears of a wider war that could suck in Russia and Turkey, an ally of Azerbaijan. It also poses a threat to pipelines carrying oil and gas from Azerbaijan to world markets.
  • In the latest outbreak of COVID-19 in China, 23 more domestically transmitted confirmed cases have been reported in Shufu County of south Xinjiang’s Kashgar Prefecture today which has declared 183 positive cases of the novel coronavirus. All the 23 cases were asymptomatic that were re-categorized as confirmed cases, according to the National Health Commission (NHC) and Xinjiang’s Health Commission. China does not recognize asymptomatic cases as confirmed COVID-19 cases. In last two weeks, this is the second cluster after the cases were discovered in Qingdao. The cluster is the biggest in China since more than 300 cases were linked to a wholesale wet market in Beijing in July. City health authorities completed their COVID-19 testing drive for the 4.75 million inhabitants in the area. As per media reports, Kashgar has been put under restrictions with most of the city put under lockdown except for a handful of supermarkets and mobile food stations. Police officers stood guard at the gates to housing compounds, allowing only essential workers to come and go.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (October 29, 2020)

  • 20% rural students lack books, Only one in 10 has access to online classes, says ASER survey
  • ISRO to launch its latest earth observation satellite EOS-01 on November 7
  • With 49,828 COVID-19 cases recorded yesterday, India’s tally crossed the 80 lakhs mark
  • China accuses U.S. of repeating old lies; Says, Boundary issue with India is bilateral
  • ‘Electricity Access in India and Benchmarking Distribution Utilities’ report launched
  • India calls for strengthening of economic & trade cooperation among SCO countries
  • Telangana CM launches ‘Dharani’ Portal for land & property registrations
  • Foreign Ministers of Central Asian Countries welcome one billion dollar Line of Credit by India for development in the region
  • U.K. to partner for developing GIFT city, funding infra pipeline
  • More than 70 million Americans cast ballots in presidential election

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • About 20% of rural children have no textbooks at home, according to the Annual State of Education Report(ASER) survey conducted in September, the sixth month of school closures due to COVID-19 across the country. 5.3% of rural children aged 6-10 years are not enrolled in school this year, in comparison to just 1.8% in 2018. About 70% of rural children did some learning activity. Of these, only 11% had live online access. Less than 36% of rural children received some learning materials or activities from the school. Almost 75% of such school interaction was via whatsapp.
  • India would launch its latest earth observation satellite EOS-01 and nine international customer spacecraft onboard its Polar rocket PSLV-C49 from the spaceport of Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh on November 7. This is the first launch by ISRO since the COVID-19 lockdown came into force in March. EOS-01 is intended for applications in agriculture, forestry and disaster management support.
  • China has accused United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of “repeating old lies” and “violating the norms of international relations”, and told Washington “the boundary question is a bilateral matter between China and India” and  “there is no space for a third party to intervene”. Mr. Pompeo said the U.S. will stand with the people of India as they face threats to their sovereignty and their liberty.  
  • The Foreign Minister of Central Asian Countries welcomed the provision by India of one billion US dollar Line of Credit  for priority developmental projects in fields such as energy, IT, healthcare, education and agriculture in the region. The second meeting of the India-Central Asia Dialogue was held in the digital video-conference format yesterday under the chairmanship of the External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar. Foreign Ministers of  Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan as well as the First Deputy Foreign Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic participated in the meeting. According to the Joint Statement of the meeting, the Ministers emphasized the need to continue close cooperation between the Sanitary and Epidemiological Services of India and the Central Asian countries in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic. The statement added that the Ministers emphasized the importance of concerted efforts to further expand trade and economic cooperation including promoting direct ties between the businesses of India and the Central Asian countries. The Ministers appreciated India’s efforts to modernize the infrastructure of the Chabahar port in Iran, which could become an important link in trade and transport communications between the markets of Central and South Asia.
  • NITI Aayog, Ministry of Power, Rockefeller Foundation and Smart Power India today launched the ‘Electricity Access in India and Benchmarking Distribution Utilities’ report. According to the report, 92 per cent of customers reported the overall availability of electricity infrastructure within 50 metres of their premises. 87 per cent of the surveyed customers have access to grid-based electricity. The remaining 13 per cent either use non-grid sources or do not use any electricity at all. The hours of supply have improved significantly across the customer categories to nearly 17 hours per day. The report is based on a primary survey conducted across ten states, representing about 65 per cent of the total rural population of India and with a sample size of more than 25 thousand, including households, commercial enterprises and institutions. Speaking on the occasion, NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar said, the report highlights the benefits of government-led schemes such as Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana and Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana.
  • Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao today launched ‘Dharani’ Portal for land and property registrations at Mudu Chinatalapalli village of Medchal-Malkajgiri district. The slot bookings in the website for the land registrations will begin today and all the land and property registrations will start from November 2. The website has been launched with all the details of properties of the citizens. The property details which are not uploaded on the portal will be treated as illegal and will not be allowed for further registrations or mutation. The portal has been part of the recent revenue reforms taken up by the state government. The one-in-all, Dharani portal has been designed to reduce loopholes in the registration process. One can register their property, succession and also the partition of agriculture lands and once the registration is done, the owner will be provided with e-pattadar passbook. It is also aimed to put an end to encroachments of government lands and other private properties. All the government, endowment and Wakf lands have been locked from registrations.
  • Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal has urged SCO countries to leverage their economic strength and explore partnerships that enhance trade and investment in the region. He was speaking yesterday at the 19th Meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Ministers responsible for Foreign Economy and Foreign Trade Activities through video conferencing. He said that cooperation should be continued to enhance intra-SCO trade and investment which would be critical in ensuring the speedy recovery from the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to an official release, the Minister said that every nation’s world view is shaped by its civilization and philosophical tradition and India’s ancient wisdom sees the whole world as one family – Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Hardeep Singh Puri also spoke on the occasion.
  • The United Kingdom has entered into a strategic partnership to develop India’s fledging international financial services centre GIFT City, and agreed to set up a new Fund of Funds to be managed by the State Bank of India(SBI) group in order to route the U.K.’s future capital investments into India. India and the U.K. also signed off on a new infrastructure finance and policy partnership to help India execute its National Infrastructure Pipeline that envisages investments worth $1.4 trillion, at the 10th Economic and Financial Dialogue between the two countries steered by U.K. Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
  • More than 70 million Americans have cast ballots in the U.S. presidential election, more than half the total turnout of the 2016 election with one week to go until Election Day, according to a latest tally from the U.S. Elections Project. The tally, which shows a record-breaking pace that could lead to the highest voter turnout in percentage terms in more than a century, is the latest sign of intense interest in the contest between Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden. It also highlights voters’ desire to reduce their risk of exposure to COVID-19 as the pandemic re-gathers strength heading into winter.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (October 28, 2020)

  • United States to support India’s defence of territory; U.S. raises security threat from China in 2+2 talks
  • Now, outsiders can buy land in J&K; Centre notifies new land laws
  • Government says GDP growth will be negative or near zero despite signs of revival in economy
  • With 40,550 COVID-19 cases recorded yesterday, India’s tally stood at 79,86,719
  • Health Ministry’s telemedicine initiative ‘eSanjeevani’ completes 6 lakh tele consultations
  • 6th Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council to take oath on October 31
  • North-East Monsoon begins; South-West Monsoon withdraws completely: IMD
  • India Post, US Postal Service sign agreement for electronic exchange of customs data
  • European countries re-imposing restrictions due to second wave of COVID-19
  • Feni bridge connecting India and Bangladesh to be completed by December: Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari

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  • The United States will support India to defend its territorial sovereignty and liberty, U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said on Tuesday. Addressing the media at the end of the third India-U.S. ‘2+2’ dialogue I New Delhi, Mr. Pompeo also said that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is “no friend to democracy”, the rule of law, transparency, nor to freedom of navigation, the foundation of a free and open and prosperous Indo-Pacific.
  • People, including investors, outside Jammu & Kashmir can now purchase land in the Union Territory as the Centre notified new land laws for the region, ending the exclusive rights enjoyed by the local population over land under the now-diluted Article 370. Under the new J&K Development Act, the Centre has omitted the term “permanent resident of the State”, paving the way for the investors outside J&K to invest in the Union Territory.
  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said there were visible signs of revival in the economy, but the GDP growth may be in the growth may be in the negative growth may be in the negative zone or near zero in the current fiscal.  The Indian economy had contracted by 23.9% in the April-June quarter, hit by the COVID-19 crisis.
  • eSanjeevani, the Health Ministry’s  telemedicine initiative has completed 6 lakh tele consultations. It took only 15 days to complete the last one lakh consultations. In what can be seen as a big push for the ‘Digital India’ initiative, the eSanjeevani digital platform has proved its usefulness and easy access for the caregivers and the medical community, and those seeking healthcare services in the times of COVID. Ministry of Health in a statement said that  States like Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Gujarat run eSanjeevani OPD for 12 hours a day and 7 days a week. eSanjeevani is accessible to the population in 27 States and Union Territories  across the country. The digital platform provides eHealth services through more than 6000 doctors which  man 217 online OPDs in patient to doctor telemedicine model.
  • In Leh, the 6th Ladakh Autononous Hill Development Council will take oath on 31st October. The 5th LAHDC Leh general council term gets over by 30th of this month. Incidentally, on 31st of this month, Ladakh is also celebrating the 1st anniversary of Union Territory status. At 2 pm on Saturday at Sindhu Sanskriti Kendra, the Leh District Sessions Judge will administer the oath. Later, on the same day the newly elected Councillors meet at LAHDC Leh secretariat to elect the Chairman/ Chief Executive Councillor and Deputy Chairman for the Council.
  • The North-East Monsoon has set in today. The monsoon covers the whole of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry and parts of Southern Andhra Pradesh, Rayalaseema, Karnataka and Kerala. A weather bulletin from the India Meteorological Department in Chennai has said the North-East Monsoon has begun as the South-West Monsoon has withdrawn completely. It further says an upper air circulation over the South-West Bay will bring light to moderate rain at isolated places in northern Tamil Nadu with the possibility of heavy rain at some places in Tirunelveli, Tenkasi and Virudhunagar districts for the next 48-hours.
  • Department of Posts and United States Postal Service, USPS have entered into an agreement for electronic exchange of customs data related to postal shipments exchanged between the two countries. The agreement will make it possible to transmit and receive electronic data of international postal items prior to their physical arrival at the destination and would enable customs clearance of postal items in advance in line with the evolving global postal framework. This will also improve the performance of postal services in terms of reliability, visibility and security. The agreement was signed by Deputy Director General (International Relations and Global Business), Department of Posts, Prannoy Sharma and Managing Director, Global Business of United States Postal Service Robert H. Raines Jr.
  • A second wave of COVID-19 has returned to Europe, forcing many countries to reimpose curfews, partial lockdowns and other restrictions. Countries across Europe are implementing new measures to combat the spread of coronavirus, as infections surge and new cases hit record highs in the European Union. Polish authorities ordered schools and restaurants closed for two weeks, while France extended its curfew to affect over two-thirds of the population. France has reported a record number of daily infections. German capital implemented new mask-wearing requirements on busy streets. In Denmark, the government has announced a ban on evening alcohol sales and tightened the cap on public gatherings. The government has also reduced the number of people allowed to attend gatherings from 50 to 10. After the Baltic states of Latvia and Lithuania registered record infection tallies, the two countries implemented new measures to combat the virus. These include limits on the number of participants allowed at events and new mask requirements.
  • The 1.8 kilometre long Feni bridge connecting Sabrum in India with Ramgarh in Bangladesh will be completed by December this year. This was announced on Tuesday by the Road Transport, Highways and MSMEs Minister Nitin Gadkari while laying the foundation stone of nine National Highway projects in Tripura through video conferencing. According to a press release issued by the Ministry, Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari said that the Feni bridge being built at the cost of Rs. 129 crore will ease the transportation of goods from Chattogram and Kolkata ports. An integrated check post is also proposed to be built near Sabrum. He said that the construction of the RCC bridge over Feni will improve connectivity to the international border with Bangladesh.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (October 27, 2020)

  • Centre promises law to check stubble burning in order to combat air pollution
  • Hopes rise for Oxford vaccine for COVID-19 as immune response prompted in both elderly and young
  • India to sign geo-spatial cooperation deal with U.S.; BECA signing at 2+2 dialogue today
  • India is much safer against tsunami threat but communities need to be prepared better, says INCOIS director
  • Union Minister of Tribal Affairs launches two Centers of Excellence for Tribal Welfare
  • Vigilance Awareness Week, 2020 begins today across the country
  • With 34,545 COVID-19 cases recorded yesterday, India’s tally stood at 79,44,320
  • China to levy sanctions on U.S. companies; Firms targeted for arms sale to Taiwan
  • Chileans vote for new Constitution in a landmark referendum with 78.28% backing the decision
  • Japanese PM says Japan to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • The Centre will bring in a law to address air pollution and check stubble burning in Delhi as well as the surrounding National Capital Region, the Supreme Court was informed on Monday. It’s an ordinance coming from Environment Ministry and the Agriculture Ministry has not been consulted yet. With an increase in stubble burning – the burning of rice straw by farmers to clear fields for winter sowing in Punjab and Haryana – the Ministry has in recent years been tasked with funding the use of subsidised combine harvesters and machinery to dissuade the farmers.
  • The COVID-19 experimental vaccine, developed by the University of Oxford, also triggers lower adverse responses among the elderly as well as young adults, British drug maker AstraZeneca Plc, which is helping manufacture the vaccine, said on Monday. A vaccine that works is seen as a game changer in the battle against the novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 1.15 million people worldwide, shuttered swathes of the global economy and turned normal life upside down for billions of people. The news that older people get an immune response from the vaccine is positive because the immune response from the vaccine is positive because the immune system weakens with age and older people are those most at risk of dying from the virus.
  • India and the U.S. will sign the last foundational agreement, Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial cooperation (BECA) during the 2+2 ministerial dialogue today. The two sides reviewed bilateral defence cooperation spanning military to military cooperation, secure communication systems and information sharing, defence trade and industrial issues and also discussed ways to take bilateral cooperation forward.
  • The Vigilance Awareness Week, 2020 will be observed from today till 2nd of November. This year the theme is – Satark Bharat, Samriddh Bharat (Vigilant India, Prosperous India). Vigilance Awareness Week is observed every year during the week in which the birthday of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel falls on 31st of October. The CBI is hosting a 3-day national conference on vigilance and anti-corruption beginning today. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the conference via video conferencing this evening. The CBI organizes this national conference coinciding with ‘Vigilance Awareness Week.
  • India is much safer against the threat of tsunamis than it was in 2004, thanks to the state-of-the art tsunami early warning system established in Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) here. However, the best of warning systems could fail, if communities are not prepared, if they do not understand the official and natural warning signs of a tsunami, and if they do not take appropriate and timely response, warns INCOIS new director.
  • China will impose sanctions on Lockheed Martin, Boeing Defense, Raytheon and other U.S. companies it says are involved in Washington’s arms sales to Taiwan. China has imposed sanction on U.S. companies in the past for selling weapons to Taiwan. The Trump administration has ramped up support for Taiwan through arms sales and visits by senior U.S. officials, adding to tensions in relations between Beijing and Washington, already strained by disagreements over the South China Sea, Hong Kong, human rights.
  • Chileans voted overwhelmingly in a landmark referendum on Sunday to replace their dictatorship-era Constitution, long seen as underpinning the nation’s glaring economic and social inequalities. The voters threw out the Constitution left by the regime of 1973-1990 dictator Augusto Pinochet. The new Constitution  would expand the role of the state in providing a welfare safety net, ensuring basic rights to health, education, water distribution and pensions.
  • Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has said that the country will achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050. Mr. Suga announced this in his policy speech at first parliamentary session since he took office last month. The Prime Minister said, he intends to make a sustainable economy a pillar of his growth strategy and put maximum effort into achieving a green society. Mr. Suga emphasized the need to shift away from fossil fuels to counter climate change as an opportunity rather than a burden. As per Japan’s current energy plan, 56 per cent of its energy requirements come from fossil fuels.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (October 23, 2020)

  • Government relaxes visa restrictions; Fresh application required for medical visa though
  • United States to put an end to business visas for H-1B specialty jobs
  • With 52,129 COVID-19 cases recorded yesterday, India’s tally stood at 77,56,827
  • Nag anti-tank missile completes final user trial; It will now enter production phase
  • Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin gets nod for phase 3 clinical trials
  • Govt allows all OCI and PIO card holders to visit India for any purpose, except on tourist visa
  • Sri Lankan Parliament passes 20th amendment; It gives wide powers and immunity to President
  • Members of European Parliament urged France, EU to impose sanctions against Pakistan
  • US designates six more China based media outlets as foreign missions, China vows necessary response
  • Bangladesh maritime ports asked to hoist warning signal 4 as deep depression over Bay of Bengal continues

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs on Thursday further relaxed visa restrictions enabling foreigners to come to India for various purposes, such as business, conference, employment, education, research, and medical reasons. Except electronic tourist visa on arrival, which includes a short-term medical visa, all visa restrictions have been uplifted.
  • The U.S. State Department has proposed not to issue temporary business visas for H-1B speciality occupations, which allowed several companies to send tech professionals for a short stay to complete jobs on site. The move could affect hundreds of Indians.
  • The Defence Research and Development Organisation(DRDO) yesterday carried out the final user trial of the third-generation anti-tank guided missile (ATGM), Nag, at the Pokhran firing range. This was launched from NAG missile carrier, NAMICA. With this, Nag will enter into production phase. The missile has “fire and forget” and “top attack” capabilities.
  • The government has decided to permit all OCI and PIO card holders and all other foreign nationals intending to visit India for any purpose, except on a Tourist Visa to enter by air or water routes through authorized airports and seaport immigration check posts. This includes flights operated under Vande Bharat Mission, Air Transport Bubble arrangements or by any non-scheduled commercial flights as allowed by the Ministry of Civil Aviation. All such travelers will, however, have to strictly adhere to the guidelines of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare regarding quarantine and other COVID-19 matters. Under this graded relaxation, Government of India has also decided to restore with immediate effect all existing visas (except electronic visa, Tourist Visa and Medical Visa).  Foreign nationals intending to visit India for medical treatment can apply for a Medical Visa including for their medical attendants.
  • India’s indigenous COVID-19 vaccine candidate, COVAXIN, developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has received the nod for Phase-3 clinical trials in the country. The Subject Expert Committee which functions under the drug regulator Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) has given approval for the last phase of clinical trials with certain conditions. In the Third Phase of trials, which is proposed to begin in the first week of next month, the potential vaccine candidate will be tested on over 28 thousand people aged 18 years and above. These tests will be conducted across 10 states and 19 sites including Delhi, Mumbai, Patna and Lucknow among others. Besides, Bharat Biotech’s COVAXIN, another indigenously developed vaccine candidate by Zydus Cadila Limited is also in Phase -2 of human clinical trials.
  • The controversial 20th Amendment to Sri Lanka’s Constitution that envisages expansive powers and greater immunity for the Executive President was passed in Parliament with a two-thirds majority, following a two-day debate. The 20th amendment rolls back Sri Lanka’s 19th Amendment, a 2015 legislation passed with wide support from the Rajapaksa camp – then in opposition – that sought to clip presidential powers, while strengthening Parliament. The new legislation in turn reduces the Prime Minister’s role to a ceremonial one.
  • Members of European Parliament urged France and EU to impose sanctions against unabated terrorist activities in Pakistan. Members of EU, Ryszard Czarnecki, Fulvio Martusciello and Gianna Garcia raised the demand in a letter to the French government and the European Union. This move came ahead of the occasion of the 73rd anniversary of Pakistan’s invasion of Jammu and Kashmir. In the letter, the Parliament members stated that since its creation Pakistan has inflicted untold horrors on the world. The letter also mentioned the incident of genocide by the Pakistani military in Bangladesh, earestwhile East Pakistan. The members also pointed out that Pakistan was re-admitted to the Financial Action Task Force Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing grey list for its continued failure to comply with obligations to prevent terrorism financing.
  • The U.S. State Department has designated the U.S. operations of six China-based media companies as foreign missions. The designations restrict the operations of Yicai Global, Jiefang Daily, Xinmin Evening News, Social Sciences in China Press, Beijing Review, and Economic Daily in the United States but don’t affect what they can publish in US. The Department of State in a statement said the outlets are “substantially owned or effectively controlled” by the Chinese regime. The designations follows the February 18th designation of Xinhua News Agency, China Global Television Network, China Radio International, China Daily Distribution Corporation, and Hai Tian Development Corporation and the June 22nd designation of China Central Television, China News Service, the People’s Daily, and the Global Times, in recognition that they are China-controlled propaganda outlets. The designation means they’ll be treated as foreign embassies or other diplomatic missions, and thus be required to register their employees and U.S. properties with the State Department. Chinese Foreign Ministry has opposed this US move.
  • The Bangladesh Met Department (BMD) has asked the maritime ports at Cox’s Bazar, Mongla and Payra to keep hoisted the local warning signal number 4 in view of the deep depression over the Bay of Bengal. In its special weather bulletin released at 9.00 a.m. on Friday, the BMD said that the deep depression over Northwest Bay and adjoining areas has moved northeastwards. It was now centred about 445 kilometres from Chattogram and Cox’s Bazar ports, 240 kilometres from Mongla port and 280 kilometre from Payra port. The BMD predicted sustained wind speed of about 50 kilometres per hour (kmph) within 48 kilometre of the deep depression centre rising to 60 kmph in gusts/squalls. The bulletin warned that the low lying areas of the coastal districts of Bangladesh and their offshore islands ‘chars’ are likely to be inundated by the wind driven surge of 3-5 feet above normal tide. The bulletin advised fishing boats and trawlers over north bay and deep sea not to venture in deep sea.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (October 22, 2020)

  • ICMR nod for low-cost COVID-19 testing device; COVIRAP showed accuracy level similar to RT-PCR method
  • With 53,289 COVID-19 cases recorded in 24 hours, India’s tally stood at 77,01,463
  • Andhra Pradesh all set to reopen schools rom November 2 onwards
  • U.S. Officials to travel to India for 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue; Talks to focus on Indo-Pacific stability
  • RBI to conduct purchase of Govt securities under OMOs for Rs. 20,000 crores
  • Indigenously built Anti-Submarine Warfare stealth corvette INS Kavaratti to be commissioned into Navy today
  • Depression intensifies over Bay of Bengal, moderate to heavy rain in Bangladesh
  • Global trade likely to fall by 7 to 9% in 2020: UNCTAD

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • A new COVID-19 diagnostic method, using a low-cost portable unit developed by researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, has been approved by the Indian Council of Medical Research(ICMR) after testing with patient samples showed an accuracy level slightly lower than the gold standard RT-PCR method, at a fraction of the cost.
  • U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced that he will fly to India on October 25, for the 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue with Defence Minister S. JaiShankar. Mr. Pompeo will be accompanied by U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper. The third annual ministerial dialogue will take place on October 27, the Ministry of External Affairs said. The dialogue is aimed to advance the U.S.-India Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership and expand cooperation to promote stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and the world.
  • All’s set to  reopen the Schools in Andhra Pradesh from November 2nd onwards for classes 1st to 12th. The AP  State  Government has decided that schools will function for half-day for November and students will be then sent home after midday meals. The Schools will conduct classes on alternative  days for the students. Odd numbered grades will be held on one day, while students of even-numbered grades would be held on the other day. Along with the health department, the School Education Department is also preparing an action plan for conducting classes. AP Education Minister, Adimulapu Suresh said that, all the precautionary steps have been initiated while reopening the Schools from 2nd November. All the medical facilities will be kept available  at schools and there would be Special Corona classes to the students , the Minister added.
  • The last of four indigenously built Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) stealth corvettes INS Kavaratti under Project 28 will be commissioned into the Indian Navy by the Chief of the Army Staff  General Manoj Naravane, at Naval Dockyard in Visakhapatnam today. Touted as a potent Stealth ASW Corvette, Kavaratti is indigenously designed by the Indian Navy’s in-house organization, Directorate of Naval Design(DND) and built by Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers (GRSE), Kolkata and portrays the growing capability of the Indian Navy, GRSE and the nation in becoming self-reliant through indigenization, thus, accentuating our national objective of Atmanirbhar Bharat. The ship will be commissioned into the Navy as a combat-ready platform as the ship has completed sea trials of all the systems fitted onboard. Kavaratti takes her name from erstwhile INS Kavaratti which was an Arnala class missile corvette.
  • On a review of the current liquidity and financial conditions, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) today said that it has decided to conduct purchase of Government securities under Open Market Operations (OMOs) for an aggregate amount of Rs. 20,000 crores on 29th of this month. OMOs in general sense refer to the sale or purchase of government securities by the RBI to commercial banks with a view to adjust liquidity conditions in the economy. The State Development Loans (SDLs) are defined as securities issued by the states to manage their own finances. In a press release issued today, the central bank said that SDLs will be bought through a multi-security auction. The RBI said that the result of the auctions will be announced on the same day and successful participants should ensure availability of securities in their Subsidiary General Ledger (SGL) account by 12 noon on November 2, 2020.
  • Several parts of Bangladesh are experiencing rain as the depression over the central part of the Bay of Bengal intensified and moved north-northwards. According to the weather report issued by the Met Department of Bangladesh on Thursday, the depression is likely to intensify further. The Met department has forecast heavy to very heavy  rainfall at places over Rajshahi, Dhaka, Khulna, Barisal, Chattogram, Mymensingh and Sylhet divisions in the country in the next 48 years. The Met department also forecast light to moderate rain and thunder-shower accompanied by gusty or squally in most places in these divisions. Most of these places including Dhaka have been experiencing rain since morning on Thursday.  The Met department also issued a warning on Wednesday asking the maritime ports of Chattogram, Cox’s Bazar, Mongal and Pyra to hoist the cautionary signal number 3 in view of the low pressure area forming over west-central bay and adjoining areas. All fishing boats and trawlers over the north bay and deep seas were advised to come close to the coast and proceed with caution.
  • The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development has said that the value of global trade is set to fall by seven to nine per cent in 2020 from the previous year. The report added that if the pandemic resurges in coming months, that could lead to a deteriorating environment for policy-makers and sudden increase in trade restrictive policies. Meanwhile, China’s exports rebounded strongly in the third quarter after falling in the early months of the pandemic and have posted year-on-year growth rates of nearly 10 per cent.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (October 21, 2020)

  • Virus still around, PM Modi cautions nation to follow COVID-19 protocols till vaccine rollout
  • Punjab formally rejects farm laws; Assembly passes three new bills
  • Foreign Direct Investment blooms in COVID-19 gloom; Inflows boosted by high stakes investments in Jio
  • Government increases poll spend ceiling by 10%; Move follows recommendation of Election Commission
  • With 51,076 COVID-19 cases recorded yesterday, India’s tally stood at 76,45,418
  • Feluda tests for coronavirus detection to be available by October 31; Results will be ready in an hour
  • Russia offers U.S. freeze on N-warhead numbers; It wants arms reduction deal extended
  • United States files anti-trust lawsuit against Google accusing it of maintaining illegal monopoly over search
  • Number of COVID-19 cases crosses 40.11 million worldwide: WHO
  • IPL 2020: Kings XI Punjab beat Delhi Capitals last night; Kolkata Knight Riders to take on Royal Challengers Bangalore today

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his address to the nation yesterday, asked citizens not to lower their guard in the fight against the novel coronavirus(COVID-19) during the festive season as the virus is still around even though restrictions have been eased. Mr. Modi, in his seventh address to the citizens on the pandemic, reiterated his earlier slogan, “Jab tak dawai nahi, tab tak dhilai nahi”[Don’t lower your guard until a vaccine is found].
  • Punjab on Tuesday became the first State to formally reject the Centre’s three recent agriculture sector laws, with its Assembly yesterday unanimously passing three bills to negate the Union legislation. The Assembly passed a resolution rejecting the Central legislation and the proposed Electricity Amendment Bill and demanding their immediate annulment. It also sought an ordinance to protect the minimum support price regime and ensure the continuance of procurement by the Centre.
  • Foreign direct investment(FDI) inflows into India in the first five months of 2020-21 have hit a record high, despite a sharp 60% contraction in the first quarter, with July and August raking in over $20 billion of equity FDI. Total FDI inflows surged from $11.51 billion between April and June to $35.73 billion by the end of August. The increased FDI is a result of FDI policy reforms, investment facilitation and ease of doing business, Government said.
  • The Law Ministry has increased the ceiling on poll expenditure for Assembly and Lok Sabha elections by 10%. The move follows a recommendation by the Election Commission in view of curbs imposed during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The ceiling on poll expenditure varies across States, with candidates in Assembly elections in bigger states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu now allowed to spend up to Rs. 30.8 lakhs as against Rs. 28 lakhs earlier.
  • The Feluda test, a coronavirus detection test developed by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research(CSIR) and to be commercialised by Tata Sons, will be commercially available in laboratories this month. The test, which still requires a nasal swab to be collected and sent to a lab, promises to be quicker than the gold-standard test because it does not need the expensive RT-PCR (reverse transcription – quantitative polymerase chain reaction) machine that can set back a lab by at least Rs. 25 lakh.
  • Russia said yesterday it was ready to offer the U.S. a mutual one-year freeze on the number of nuclear warheads held by both countries in order to extend a landmark arms reduction deal due to expire next year. Russia offers to extend the New START by one year.  The White House described the proposal as a “non-starter” unless accompanied by a freeze on the number of nuclear warheads.
  • The Justice Department accused Google of maintaining an illegal monopoly over search and search advertising in a lawsuit filed yesterday, the government’s most significant legal challenge to a tech company’s market power in a generation.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (October 20, 2020)

  • Pandals become no-entry zones as Calcutta High Court issues restrictions to contain pandemic during festive season
  • Australia to take part in Malabar naval exercise; Japan and U.S. will also participate
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi says India stands at the forefront of vaccine development for Coronavirus
  • WHO warns, No time for relaxation; Says festive season and approaching winter can worsen COVID-19 situation
  • India’s agricultural exports rise by 14.8 percent during first five months of current fiscal
  • With 43,129 COVID-19 cases recorded yesterday, India’s tally stood at 75,91,914
  • China GDP growth accelerates to 4.9%; Industrial output undergirds recovery
  • WHO says 184 countries have now joined the COVAX facility
  • The India Vietnam Business Forum was organised virtually today
  • IPL 2020 : Kings XI Punjab to meet Delhi Capitals in Dubai today

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • No visitors will be allowed inside Durga Puja pandals across Durga Puja pandals across West Bengal, and the puja mandap will be treated as a “containment zone” this year, the Calcutta High Court ordered on Monday. A Division Bench of Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Arijit Banerjee said only organisers of the puja committees can enter the pandals in numbers ranging from 15 to 25. “No entry” notices will be put up near the pandals this year.
  • Amid the ongoing stand-off with China, the Ministry of Defence on Monday announced that Australia will join the Malabar 2020 naval exercise, consisting of India, Japan and the U.S., to be held next month. Australia had first requested to join more than three years ago.  This will formally bring together the militaries of the four countries in the Quad group.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that India is now at the forefront of vaccine development for COVID-19. Mr Modi said, more than 30 indigenous vaccines are being developed in the country and three of them are in an advanced stage. He asserted that India is already working on putting a well-established vaccine delivery system in place. The Prime Minister was delivering the virtual keynote address at the inaugural function of Grand Challenges Annual Meeting (GCAM) 2020 last evening. Mr Modi said, this digitised network along with digital health ID will be used to ensure immunisation of the citizens.
  • India’s agricultural exports have recovered from a pandemic-induced decline. Exports of major farm products stood at 53,000 crore rupees in the five-month period between April and August 2020-21, a rise of 14.8 percent compared to the corresponding period last year. During the April to August period, farmers gained from higher exports of rice, wheat and sugar. Exports of basmati rice, a big-ticket export item among cereals, during April-August rose 8.2 percent from the year-ago period, while the value of non-basmati rice exports grew 91.3 percent.
  • The World Health Organisation(WHO) cautioned against any relaxation of response actions following the recent slight decline in COVID-19 cases in the Southeast Asia Region, saying the pandemic continues unabated and “our response only needs to be strengthened further to curtail virus transmission”. WHO officials said the upcoming festival seasons and the approaching winter or cold season threatened to aggravate the situation if the guards are lowered.
  • China’s economic growth continued to gain momentum in the third quarter, with the GDP expanding 4.9% from a year earlier in the July-September period, according to official Chinese data released yesterday. The IMF has forecast China’s economy will expand by 1.9% in 2020, making it the only major economy to register growth in a pandemic-hit year.
  • World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said that 184 countries have now joined the COVAX facility. While addressing the media briefing on COVID-19 in Geneva yesterday, he said, this aims to finance COVID-19 vaccines to be distributed fairly to both rich and poor countries. The Director General said, the COVID cases are accelerating as the northern hemisphere enters winter, particularly in Europe and North America. So it’s important that all governments should focus on the fundamentals that help to break the chains of transmission and save both lives and livelihoods. All governments should focus on active case finding, cluster investigations, isolating all cases, quarantining contacts, ensuring good clinical care, supporting and protecting health workers and protecting the vulnerable.
  • The India Vietnam Business Forum was organised virtually today. Speaking on the occasion, Secretary (East), External Affairs Ministry, Riva Ganguly Das reaffirmed the growing bilateral trade and investment ties between India and Vietnam. She said, trade between India and Vietnam has grown steadily and presently stands at 12.34 billion dollars in 2019-20.  Export basket from India to Vietnam includes bovine meat, fishery products, corn, steel, pharmaceuticals, cotton, machinery while imports from Vietnam include mobile phones, electrical machinery and equipment, computers, electronic hardware, natural rubber, chemicals, and coffee. The Secretary said, the bilateral trade turnover is still not commensurate with the levels of economic development and more needs to be done to broaden and intensify the trade relations to achieve its full potential.
  • In IPL Cricket, Kings XI Punjab will take on Delhi Capitals in Dubai today. The match will begin at 7:30 pm. While Punjab is at the sixth position with six points, Delhi is at the top of the point table. After losing six games on the trot, Punjab has managed three wins from total nine games. They would now hope to get the better of table toppers Delhi Capitals, who already look set to enter the playoffs with 14 points after winning seven games in nine matches. Punjab is led by KL Rahul, while Delhi Capitals play under the captaincy of Shreyas Iyer. Both teams are on a winning run and would be hoping to continue that when they face each other. Last night, Rajasthan Royals defeated Chennai Super Kings by 7 wickets in Abu Dhabi.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (October 19, 2020)

  • PM Modi to deliver  keynote address at Grand Challenges Annual Meeting via video conferencing today
  • Finance Panel Chief says GST cess will continue till States’ due are paid
  • India past COVID peak, says Department of Science and Technology panel; Predicts ‘minimal’ cases by February
  • With 54,165 COVID-19 cases recorded yesterday, India’s tally stood at 75,46,866; Total death toll stands at 1,14,637
  • Indian and Sri Lankan navies to begin their annual exercise SLINEX today
  • China passes law to safeguard national security; Allows Beijing to act against nations that abuse export controls
  • Iran hails lifting of UN arms embargo; Tehran can now buy ‘necessary arms’
  • Israel and Bahrain formally establish diplomatic ties following a US brokered deal
  • IPL 2020: Chennai Super Kings to clash with Rajasthan Royals at Abu Dhabi

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  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will deliver the virtual keynote address at the inaugural function of Grand Challenges Annual Meeting (GCAM) 2020 today. GCAM has fostered international innovation collaborations to address challenges in health and development for the last 15 years. The GCAM 2020 will bring together policymakers and scientific leaders, calling for deepened scientific collaborations in solving global health problems, with great emphasis on COVID-19 with an “India for the World” framing. Co-Chair of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates will present the plenary framing conversation. Grand Challenges India was set up as a partnership between the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2012 and Welcome also joined the partnership. Grand Challenges India works across a range of health and developmental priorities from agriculture, nutrition, sanitation, maternal and child health to infectious diseases.
  • The levy of recommendation cess on Goods and Services Tax(GST) may have to be extended for quite a few years, perhaps till as late as 2025-26, to pay off the States’ GST dues, Chairperson of the Fifteenth Finance Commission N.K. Singh has said. The Commission’s report on the devolution of funds between the Centre and the States for the five-year period of 2021-22 till 2025-2026, will be submitted to government soon. It will factor in unpaid compensation dues while working out States’ revenue flow calculations beyond 2022.
  • The Eighth Edition of annual Indian Navy  – Sri Lanka Navy bilateral maritime exercise SLINEX-20 is scheduled off Trincomalee, Sri Lanka from today. It will continue till  21st of this month. The Sri Lankan Navy will be represented by SLN Ships Sayura and Gajabahu. Indigenously built ASW corvettes Kamorta and Kiltan, will represent the Indian Navy. The Ministry of Defence in a statement said, Indian Navy Advanced Light Helicopter and Chetak helicopter embarked on board Indian Navy ships, and Dornier Maritime Patrol Aircraft will also be participating. SLINEX-20 aims at enhancing interoperability, improve mutual understanding and exchange best practices and procedures for multi-faceted maritime operations between both the navies. The Ministry of Defence said, SLINEX series of exercise exemplifies the deep engagement between India and Sri Lanka which has strengthened mutual cooperation in the maritime domain.
  • India passed its COVID-19 peak in September and, if current trends continue, there will be minimal cases by February. These are the findings of a modelling study by a seven-member expert panel on the future course of the pandemic, commissioned by the Department of Science and Technology. According to the study, India’s COVID-19 burden is expected to be capped at 106 lakh symptomatic infections by early next year, with less than 50,000 active cases from December. This, however, is premised on no spikes being triggered by festivals or mutations in the virus aiding its spread in winter.
  • China has passed a new law restricting sensitive exports to protect national security, a move that adds to policy tools it could wield against the U.S. as tensions – especially in technology – continue to rise. This law allows Beijing to “take reciprocal measures” against countries that abuse export controls and pose a threat to national security. Technical data related to items covered will also be subject to export controls.
  • Iran said a longstanding UN embargo on arms sales to and from the Islamic republic expired on Sunday in line with a 2015 landmark nuclear deal with world powers from which Washington has withdrawn. Tehran, which could now purchase weapons from Russia, China and elsewhere, has hailed the development as a diplomatic victory over the U.S., which had tried to maintain an indefinite freeze on arms sales.
  • Israel and Bahrain have formally established diplomatic relations after signing the US brokered deal in Arab country’s capital Manama. At a ceremony in Manama last night, officials of both the countries signed eight bilateral agreements. It includes a joint communiqué on the establishment of diplomatic, peaceful, and friendly relations. The two countries are now expected to open embassies. Earlier yesterday, a high-level delegation of American and Israeli officials flew on an Israel Airlines charter flight from Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv through Saudi Arabia’s airspace en route to Manama.  US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Israeli Prime Minister’s national security adviser, Meir Ben-Shabbat, led the delegations.
  • In IPL Cricket, Chennai Super Kings will clash with Rajasthan Royals at Abu Dhabi today. Kings XI Punjab triumphed over Mumbai Indians in a thrilling second Super Over after both the match and the first Super Over were tied for the first time in the tournament’s history in Dubai last night.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (October 18, 2020)

  • PM Modi calls for full preparedness to ensure speedy access to COVID-19 vaccine
  • New Zealand PM Ardern wins historic re-election; Labour Party set to win 64 out of 120 seats
  • 76% of rural Indians can’t afford nutritious diet, says journal Food Policy
  • Pharma Major Dr. Reddy’s gets nod for COVID-19 vaccine, Sputnik V trials
  • IRCTC restarts Tejas Express train after 6 months to cater to the growing passenger demand in festive season
  • Uttar Pradesh government launches ‘Mission Shakti’ campaign to tackle crime against women
  • With 61,409 COVID-19 cases recorded yesterday, India’s tally stood at 74,92,048
  • U.K., EU set to discuss ‘structure’ of Brexit talks despite London’s threat to shun dialogue
  • First-ever SCO Startup Forum to be launched on 27th October, boost for ‘Startup India’
  • IPL 2020: Sunrisers Hyderabad to take on Kolkata Knight Riders while Mumbai Indians face Kings XI Punjab

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  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for full preparedness to ensure speedy access to COVID-19 vaccines for every citizen. Charing a meeting to review the pandemic situation in the country, Mr. Modi directed that every step in the logistics, delivery and administration of the vaccine should be put in place rigorously and it must include advanced planning of cold storage chains, distribution network, monitoring mechanism, advance assessment and preparation of ancillary equipment such as vials and syringes, according to a release issued by the government.
  • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern delivered the biggest election victory for her centre-left Labour Party in half a century on Saturday as voters rewarded her for a decisive response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The mandate means Ms. Ardern could form the first single-party government in decades.
  • Indian Railway Catering And Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has restarted  Tejas Express trains for catering to the growing passenger demand due to the festive season. The Lucknow-New Delhi and Ahmedabad-Mumbai Tejas Express trains were suspended from March 19 due to the coronavirus pandemic. IRCTC conducted an extensive training programme for Tejas staff to manage the operations amidst Covid-19 pandemic. A Standard Operation Procedure observing Covid-19 protocol has been issued to ensure safety of the passengers. Every alternate seat will be kept vacant following the Social distancing norms for the initial period. Passengers will not be allowed to exchange their seats once seated. Use of face covers/masks will be mandatory for passengers and staff. All travelers will have to install the Arogya Setu app and the same shall be shown as and when demanded.
  • Three out of four rural Indians cannot afford a nutritious diet, according to a paper recently published in journal Food policy. The paper titled “Affordability of nutritious diets in rural India”, is authored by International Food Policy Research Institute economist Kalyani Raghnathan and others. The study uses the latest available food price and wage information from the National Sample Survey’s 2011 dataset.
  • The Uttar Pradesh government has launched 6-month long women empowerment campaign ‘Mission Shakti’ to raise awareness and tackle crime against women in the state. The campaign was kicked off  by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath from Devi Paatan Shakti Peeth in Balrampur yesterday. Speaking on this occasion, Mr Yogi  said that the government is committed to the security of women. The campaign was initiated by various ministers, public representatives and senior officials in all 75 districts across the state.
  • Pharma major Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories and Russia’s sovereign wealth fund RDIF have received approval from the Drugs Controller General of India to conduct an adaptive phase 2/3 human clinical trial for the Sputnik V vaccine in India. It is the world’s first registered vaccine against COVID-19. Developed by Gamaleya National Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, Russia, Sputnik V vaccine is based on the human adenoviral vectors platform. The vaccine was registered by Russia’s health Ministry in August.
  • European Union and British negotiators will be in touch Monday to discuss the structure of post-Brexit trade talks, despite London’s threat on Friday to walk away unless there was a major shift in Brussel’s approach. Mr. Johnson said the EU summit outcome had ruled out a comprehensive, Canada-style Free trade agreement between the EU and Britain.
  • The first-ever SCO Startup Forum will be launched on 27th October 2020 ahead of the SCO trade ministers meeting on 28th October. The forum will lay the foundation for multilateral cooperation and engagement among the SCO Member States to develop and hone their startup ecosystems, collectively. Innovation and Startups will be the key focus area of SCO Heads of Government meeting on 30th November 2020 to be hosted by India. The Forum shall identify areas of cooperation by launching multiple entrepreneurial activities like startup showcases through a dedicated virtual platform, mobilizing capital for startups, sharing of best practices, procuring social innovations, multilateral incubator programs and knowledge exchange workshops etc. It will aid to understand the cultural and economic features of the startup ecosystem in the SCO Member States. In the run up to the launch of SCO Startup Forum, a virtual SCO preparatory Seminar and a workshop were also organized by India.Around 40 Indian Missions roped in to further augment Startup India efforts.
  • In IPL Cricket, Sunrisers Hyderabad will take on Kolkata Knight Riders in Abu Dhabi, while Mumbai Indians will face Kings XI Punjab in Dubai today. Meanwhile, Delhi Capitals defeated Chennai Super Kings (CSK) by five wickets in Sharjah last night. Shikhar Dhawan smashed his maiden IPL century and Axar Patel whacked three sixes in the final over to help Delhi team. Dhawan smashed 101 runs off 58 balls and recorded his first-ever century in the IPL to guide Delhi Capitals to the top spot. Earlier, after opting to bat first, Ambati Rayudu and Ravindra Jadeja’s knocks powered Chennai Super Kings to 179 for 4 in their 20 overs. For Delhi Capitals, Nortje claimed two wickets while Rabada and Deshpande bagged one wicket each.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (October 17, 2020)

  • Car Sales up by 28.9% in September 2020, According to industry body SIAM
  • India fares poorly in hunger index; Country has the highest prevalence of ‘wasted children’
  • COVID-19 case doubling time increases to 73 days; It was 25.5 days in mid-August
  • J&K parties team up  for restoring special status; People Alliance for Gupkar Declaration formed
  • FM Nirmala Sitharaman participates in 102nd meeting of World Bank Development Committee Plenary
  • Nine States and Union Territories selected for upgradation to Khelo India State Centre of Excellence
  • GST : Centre to borrow for States; Government says they’ll pass on funds as ‘back-to-back loans’
  • Broadcast Audience Research Council suspends ratings of all news channels
  • India’s foreign exchange reserves touch all time high of 551.505 billion dollars
  • India, Chile hold first joint commission meeting virtually; Both sides agreed to coordinate closely at the multilateral fora

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  • Passenger vehicle dispatches to dealers by automotive companies recorded a strong double-digit growth of 26.5% in September, according to industry body SIAM. Manufacturers expect ‘good demand’ in the festive season that kicks off from Friday. While car sales rose by 28.9%, sales of utility vehicles and vans climbed 24.5% and 10.6% each.
  • India has the highest prevalence of wasted children under five years in the world, which reflects acute under nutrition, according to the Global Hunger Index 2020. The situation has worsened in the 2015-19 period, when the prevalence of child wasting was 17.3%, in comparison to 2010-14, when it was 15.1%. Overall, India ranks 94 out of 107 countries in the Index, lower than neighbours such as Bangladesh(75) and Pakistan(88). 2020 scores reflect data from 2015-19.
  • The doubling time of COVID-19 infection has improved to almost 73 days currently from 25.5 days in mid-August, the Union Health Ministry said on Thursday. The country reported 680 fatalities in the past 24 hours. Presently, the active cases comprised 11.12% of the total positive cases in the country, which stood at 8,12,390. The active case tally has been below the 9 lakh mark for a week now. The country recorded 67,708 new cases in the past 24 hours.
  • Nine States and Union Territories have been selected for upgradation to Khelo India State Centre of Excellence, KISCE. The States and UTs include Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Chandigarh, Goa, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Puducherry, Tripura and Jammu and Kashmir. The Sports Ministry said, the centres have been selected based on their past performances, quality of infrastructure, management and sports culture in the State. Earlier this year, the Ministry had identified a total of 14 centres to be upgraded to Khelo India State Centre of Excellence. The overall number now stands at 24 KISCEs from 23 States and UTs. The assistance to these centres will be provided in the form of bridging the gaps in sports equipment, high performance managers, coaches, sports scientists and technical support.
  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman participated in 102nd meeting of the World Bank Development Committee Plenary through video conference. In her intervention at this session, Mrs. Sitharaman said that COVID -19 Pandemic continues to impact the developing and developed countries till date and the hard fought gains in reducing the level of poverty, achieved over a number of years, are at risk of being lost. She said, the Government of India has taken several measures to contain the spread of pandemic, and also to mitigate its social and economic impact. Mrs Sitharaman shared that the Government has announced the first stimulus of 23 billion dollar to provide direct cash transfers and food security measures to the poor. She also mentioned that the Government has committed 2.03 Billion dollar for strengthening health infrastructure in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic.
  • National Conference (NC) president Farooq Abdullah on Thursday chaired a meeting of regional political parties and announced the formation of a new grouping, named ‘Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration’, comprising the parties that had signed it on August 4 last year to “fight for Jammu Kashmir’s special status”.
  • The Centre on Thursday appeared to make a departure from its stance that the states should undertake market borrowings to bridge the Rs. 1.1 lakh crore of GST compensation shortfall this year, stating that the Government of India (GoI) will now undertake the required borrowings in tranches and pass them on to the States as “back-to-back loans” that will reflect on their own books. The move may help break the impasse between the Centre and the States over the issue of borrowings to recompensate the latter.
  • Days after a probe by the Mumbai Police pointed at a possible tampering of the Target Rating Point (TRP) by certain news channel, television rating agency Broadcast Audience Research Council announced the suspension of audience estimates and ratings for all news channels for the next three months.
  • India’s foreign exchange reserves have jumped by 5.867  billion dollars to touch a new high of 551.505 billion dollars in the week ended 9th October. Foreign currency assets, a major part of the overall reserves, surged by 5.737 billion dollars to 508.783 billion dollars. The gold reserves rose by 113 million dollars in the reporting week to reach 36.598 billion dollars. The country’s special drawing rights with the International Monetary Fund rose marginally by 4 million dollars to 1.480 billion dollars, while reserve position with the IMF also went up by 13 million dollars to 4.644 billion dollars.
  • India and Chile held their first joint commission meeting yesterday and agreed to add new momentum to their relations in a wide range of fields including trade and commerce, agriculture, health and social security, defence and space. The meeting held virtually was co-chaired by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Chilean counterpart Andres Allamand Zavala. Both sides noted that the Joint Commission was a significant development in India – Chile relations, being the first institutionalized dialogue between the two countries at the level of Foreign Ministers. India welcomed Chile’s decision to designate India as a priority country in its foreign policy. Chile will also be opening its Consulate General in Mumbai. Based on their convergence of views on many global and regional issues, both sides agreed to coordinate closely at the multilateral fora.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (October 10, 2020)

  • RBI forecasts end to contraction by Q4; RBI Governor predicts 9.5% decline in real GDP
  • Senior U.S. official to visit New Delhi ahead of 2 + 2 talks; Focus on advancing U.S.-India Strategic Partnership
  • With 69,820 COVID-19 cases recorded yesterday, India’s tally stood at 69,73,727
  • Goa becomes the first Har Ghar Jal State in the country by providing tap water connection to every rural household
  • DRDO tests anti-radiation missile; New-generation weapon hits target after a Sukhoi fighter jet launches it
  • SARS-CoV-2 not last virus to spark a pandemic; Next such virus could be a ‘MERS-2’, warns Expert
  • India’s foreign exchange reserves touch an all-time high of 545.638 billion dollars
  • India donates 1.8 million N95 masks to Philadelphia city in United States
  • UN’s  World Food Programme wins 2020 Nobel Peace Prize
  • IPL Cricket: Kings Eleven Punjab to clash with Kolkata Knight Riders, Chennai Super Kings to take on Royal Challengers Bangalore

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • The Reserve Bank of India on Friday reiterated its resolve to revive growth impulses in the economy and mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic’s worst impacts by extending its accommodative policy stance for the rest of this year as well as 2021-22, even as its held key policy rates unchanged in the face of high inflation. RBI Governor Shantikanta Das said growth may “break out of contraction” mode by the January-March 2021 quarter as “silver linings” are visible from September’s economic indicators as well as the COVID-19 caseload curve. However, real GDP for the full year is expected to decline by 9.5%, with risks tilted to the downside.
  • In the run-up to the U.S. – India 2+2 foreign and defence ministers’ meeting this year, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun is scheduled to visit New Delhi from October 12 to 14. Mr. Beigun will meet senior government officials and deliver the keynote address at the India-U.S. Forum (a platform convened by the Ananta Centre and the External Affairs Ministry). The agenda for the 2+2 is expected to include defence, economic cooperation, and cooperation at multilateral forums.
  • A new-generation anti-radiation missile, RudraM-I, was successfully flight-tested on Friday by the Defence Research and Development Organisation(DRDO). This is the first indigenous anti-radiation missile. An anti-radiation missile can locate and target radiation-emitting sources such as enemy radars, communication sites and other radio-frequency-emitting targets. They can play a key role in neutralising any jamming platforms of the enemy or take out radar stations, thereby clearing a path for fighter jets to carry out an offensive and prevent own systems from being jammed.
  • Goa has become the first Har Ghar Jal State in the country by providing tap water connection to every rural household. The state has provided tap water connection to two lakh 30 thousand rural households. North Goa with one lakh 65 thousand rural households and South Goa with 98 thousand rural households in 191 Gram Panchayats are fully saturated with assured piped water supply through tap connections. The Jal Shakti Ministry said, Goa’s achievement is an example for other States to emulate and ensure every rural home gets tap connection and especially in these times of Covid-19 pandemic. The Ministry said, the State is now planning for sensor-based service delivery monitoring system to monitor the functionality of water supply.
  • The SARS-CoV-2 will not be the last such virus of its kind – in terms of its ability to rapidly spread among people – and the next such virus of its kind can be a “MERS-2” even( a reference to the Middle Eastern Respiratory Virus that is more lethal but less contagious), Susan Weiss, Professor of Microbiology at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, said yesterday. Professor Weiss was the keynote speaker at the first TNQ-Janelia India COVID-19 Seminar, 2020. She said all the evidence points to SARS-CoV-2 virus having evolved naturally and is not the result of being manufactured in a lab as it is highly unlikely that somebody would design the specific mutations that allowed the virus to so efficiently target the human host cells.
  • India’s foreign exchange reserves have recorded a rise of 3.618 billion dollars to touch a new lifetime high of 545.638  billion dollars in the week ended 2nd October. The Foreign currency assets, a major part of the overall reserves, increased by 3.104 billion dollars to 503.046 billion dollars. The gold reserves rose by 486 million dollars in the reporting week to reach 36.486 billion dollars. The country’s special drawing rights with the International Monetary Fund rose marginally by 4 million dollars to 1.476 billion dollars, while reserve position with the IMF also went up by 23 million dollars to 4.631 billion dollars.
  • The United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) won the Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts to combat hunger around the world and improve conditions for peace in areas affected by conflict. The Rome-based organisation says it helps some 97 million people in about 88 countries each year, and that one in nine people worldwide still do not have enough to eat. WFP runs a logistics service that has dispatched medical cargoes to over 120 countries throughout the pandemic to help governments and health partners fighting COVID-19.
  • India has donated 1.8 million N95 masks to Philadelphia, the largest city in the US state of Pennsylvania, to help in its fight against COVID-19, setting another example of a robust Indo-US partnership in the health sector. The move comes after the Mayor of Philadelphia, Jim Kenney, made a request to India for supply of masks to be used by the city’s frontline workers. India’s Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, tweeted  yesterday that Philadelphia received 1.8 million N95 masks from India to aid their fight against COVID-19. Another example of the robust India-US reliable partnership in the health sector, he added. On October 5, at the request of the city mayor, 1.8 million N95 masks were delivered to Philadelphia for use of frontline workers.  Philadelphia is the sixth-most populous US city. The move is also an indication of India’s capabilities in manufacturing Personal protective equipment (PPE) not only for domestic use, but also exports, officials said. India had also supplied hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug which is seen as a possible cure for COVID-19, to the US at the request of President Donald Trump.
  • In IPL cricket, two matches will be played today. In the first match, Kings Eleven Punjab will take on Kolkata Knight Riders at Abu Dhabi, while Chennai Super Kings will meet Royal Challengers Bangalore in Dubai in the second encounter. Last night, Delhi Capitals beat Rajasthan Royals by 46 runs at Sharjah in UAE. Delhi Capitals scored 184 for 8 in stipulated 20 overs. In reply, Rajasthan Royals were 138 all out in 19.4 overs. Rajasthan had won the toss and elected to field.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (October 09, 2020)

  • Q2 records 107% surge in fresh investments; Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu get inflows of Rs. 35,771 cr. And 23,332 cr.
  • Health Ministry issues guidelines for Entertainment Parks and other similar places amidst Corona Pandemic
  • RBI to announce its Bi-monthly monetary policy review today
  • American poet Louise Gluck wins Nobel Literature Prize; Her works draw inspiration from myths and classical motifs
  • Total procurement of paddy across all states increased by 48 %: says Government
  • RBI to discontinue system-based automatic caution-listing of exporters
  • Final day of RAISE 2020 summit witnesses discussion on leveraging AI for pandemic preparedness
  • United States wants early return of troops by Christmas from Afghanistan
  • Hong Kong arrests 10,039 people over past year for protests, violence

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • Fresh investment proposals surged sharply in the second quarter of this year, rising 107% over the first quarter, with 2,219 new projects entailing an investment of Rs. 2.19 lakh crore. Private sector investments also recovered significantly, rising 87% from the previous quarter when an extensive lockdown triggered a 23.9% contraction in the economy. Among the states, Chhattisgarh, received the most investments in the second quarter followed by Tamil Nadu, which topped fresh investments in the first quarter, according to Projects Today’s latest report on investment announcements in the July to September quarter.
  • American poet Louise Gluck won the 2020 Nobel Literature Prize on Thursday, an unexpected choice known for themes of childhood and family life that draw inspiration from myths and classical motifs. Ms. Gluck, 77, was honoured “for her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal”, the Academy said.
  • Reserve Bank of India will announce its bi-monthly monetary policy review in Mumbai today. The newly constituted Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the RBI began its three-day deliberations on Wednesday, amid industries expectations that the central bank will maintain status quo on the benchmark lending rates in view of hardening inflation. The meeting of the six-member MPC, earlier slated for September 29-October 1, was rescheduled as the appointment of independent members was delayed.
  • In Hong Kong, a total of 10,039 people have been arrested from 9th of June 2019 to 30th of September, 2020 in relation to last year’s protests, state media reported on Thursday. Among the arrested, 2,266 have been charged with crimes including rioting, unlawful assembly and possession of offensive weapons, among others. Hong Kong Police said, 532 out of the 635 offenders who have gone through judicial proceedings are subject to legal consequences. On Chinese National Day i.e. 1st of October, Hong Kong Police arrested several people for trying to gather and protest the National Security Law imposed in the semi-autonomous territory by Beijing on 30th of June this year. Anti-government protests, which started in 2019 opposing an Extradition Bill for trial in mainland courts in certain cases, often turned violent. Later, it developed into a broader movement which was responded to by Beijing by imposing National Security Law in Hong Kong.
  • The final day of RAISE 2020 -‘Responsible AI for Social Empowerment 2020’ summit witnessed discussion on themes like leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI) for pandemic preparedness, role of AI in fostering collaboration and innovation and  measures to create intelligent data repositories that can catalyze innovation using AI. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had inaugurated the Summit on 5th of this month. RAISE 2020 is a first-of-its-kind global meeting of minds on AI to drive India’s vision and roadmap for social transformation, inclusion and empowerment through responsible AI. More than 79 thousand stakeholders from academia, the research industry and government representatives from 147 countries have participated in the summit.
  • Government today said that the total procurement of Paddy across all States has increased by 48 per cent from 17.7 Lakh tonne last year to over 26 lakh tonne this year. Agriculture Ministry said, in the current Kharif season, Punjab registered unprecedented increase of procurement from 1.76 lakh tonne last year to around 16 lakh tonne this year as on yesterday, which is more than 900 per cent of the Kharif procurement so far as compared to last year.  The Ministry said, in Tamil Nadu, paddy procurement was nine thousand 517 tonne as against 320 tonne. Similarly, in Uttar Pradesh, paddy procurement so far in this marketing season has been four thousand 423 tonne as against 92 tonne last year. Both States have seen significant jump in procurement.
  • In an effort to provide flexibility to exporters in the realisation of export proceeds, the Reserve Bank has decided to discontinue the system-based automatic caution-listing of exporters. Addressing a virtual press conference today, RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das said the decision will also empower exporters to negotiate better terms with overseas buyers. Stating that exports have been adversely affected due to the pandemic related contraction in demand, Mr. Das said the decision is likely to make the system more exporter-friendly and equitable. As part of automation of the Export Data Processing and Monitoring System, the ‘Caution/De-caution Listing’ of exporters was automated in 2016. Accordingly, the exporters were to be caution-listed automatically, if any shipping bill against them remained outstanding for more than two years.
  • Health Ministry has issued Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) on preventive measures to be followed in Entertainment Parks and other similar places amidst the Corona Pandemic. The Home Ministry had earlier allowed re-opening of Entertainment Parks and similar places from 15th of this month. In addition to the basic norms of wearing masks and maintaining at least 6 feet physical distancing, the SOPs necessitate sanitisation of rides and staggered timings of operation. Maximum 50 per cent seating capacity in theatres and food courts have been allowed. The guidelines also stress on ensuring natural ventilation while clearly instructing not to permit usage of swimming pools. The Entertainment park owners and managers have been instructed to effectively work out mechanisms to not allow excessive crowding even on peak days and holidays.
  • All U.S. troops in Afghanistan should be home by Christmas, President Donald Trump said on Wednesday, just after his national security adviser said Washington would reduce its forces in Afghanistan to 2,500 by early next year. A landmark deal between the United States and the Taliban in February said foreign forces would leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which agreed to negotiate a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing formula with the Afghan government.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (October 08, 2020)

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi to launch a campaign on Jan Andolan for COVID-19 Appropriate Behaviour today
  • Supreme Court : Public places cannot be occupied indefinitely in the name of showing protests
  • With 75,249 COVID-19 cases recorded yesterday, India’s tally stood at 68,29,529
  • India, Japan finalise text of pact for Artificial Intelligence, 5G, Cybersecurity Agreement
  • India’s GDP expected to contract by 9.6 per cent this fiscal: World Bank
  • Dynamic, impact-based cyclone warning system to be launched soon: IMD
  • Number of infected COVID cases cross 35.53 million worldwide: WHO
  • World Bank says Pandemic could push 150 million into extreme poverty
  • French-American duo, Makers of gene ‘scissors’ win Chemistry Nobel Prize
  • IPL 2020 : Sunrisers Hyderabad to take on Kings XI Punjab in Dubai

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched a campaign today by way of a Tweet on Jan Andolan for COVID-19 Appropriate Behaviour. The campaign launched in view of the upcoming festivals and winter season as well as the opening up of the economy. The campaign launched with the aim to encourage People’s Participation-Jan Andolan. It endeavours to be a Low Cost High Intensity Campaign with the Key Messages of ‘Wear Mask, Follow Physical Distancing, Maintain Hand Hygiene.’ On this occasion, a coordinated media campaign across platforms for effective outreach and impact was also launched.
  • The Supreme Court found the indefinite “occupation” of a public road by the Shaheen Bagh protesters unacceptable. The court said the protest, considered an iconic dissent mounted by mothers, children and senior citizens of Shaheen Bagh against the Citizenship(Amendment) Act, became inconvenient to commuters. The 13-page judgement upheld the right to peaceful protest against a law but made it unequivocally clear that public ways and public spaces cannot be occupied, and that too indefinitely.
  • India and Japan on Wednesday welcomed the finalisation of the text of a cybersecurity agreement that will promote cooperation in key areas such as 5G network and Artificial Intelligence. The announcement on the agreement followed the 13th India-Japan Foreign Ministers’ Strategic Dialogue between External Affairs Minister S. JaiShankar and his Japanese counterpart Motegi Toshimitsu in Tokyo. The cybersecurity agreement promotes cooperation in capacity building, research and development, security and resilience in the areas of the Critical Information Infrastructure, 5G, Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, among others.
  • Global extreme poverty is expected to rise for the first time in 20 years because of the disruption caused by COVID-19, exacerbating the impact of conflict and climate change, which were already slowing down poverty reduction, the World Bank said. The pandemic may push another 88 million to 115 million into extreme poverty or having to live on less than $1.50 per day, resulting in a total of 150 million such individuals, the Bank said in its biennial Poverty and Shared Prosperity Report. Some 9.1% to 9.4% of the world will be affected by extreme poverty in 2020, the Bank said.
  • Director General of India Meteorological Department, Dr.Mrutyunjay Mohapatra has said that the IMD will soon launch a dynamic, impact-based cyclone warning system. He said, this system will minimize economic losses and damage to property due to the cyclones. He was speaking on ‘Chasing the Cyclones’, organised as part of World Space Week celebrations by the Indian Society of Remote Sensing. Dr. Mohapatra pointed out that the damage caused to infrastructure due to cyclones is increasing at the world level.
  • According to WHO data, the number of infected cases has crossed 35.53 million worldwide. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for solidarity and political commitment by all leaders to ensure equal distribution of vaccines when they become available. Nine experimental vaccines are in the pipeline of the WHO’s COVAX global vaccine facility that aims to distribute 2 billion doses by the end of 2021. Meanwhile, India continues to lead the global tally, with over 5.7 million recoveries so far. It has achieved a recovery rate of over 85 per cent.
  • The World Bank today said India’s GDP is expected to contract by 9.6 per cent this fiscal which is reflective of the national lockdown and the income shock experienced by households and firms due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Washington-based global lender, in its latest South Asia Economic Focus report ahead of the annual meeting of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, forecasts a sharper than expected economic slump across the region, with regional growth expected to contract by 7.7 per cent in 2020, after topping six per cent annually in the past five years. India’s GDP is expected to contract by 9.6 per cent in this fiscal that started in March, the World Bank said in the report.
  • Emmanuelle Charpentier of France and Jennifer Doudna of the U.S. on Wednesday won the Nobel Chemistry Prize for the gene-editing technique known as the CRISPR-CaS9 DNA snipping “scissors”, the first time a Nobel science prize has gone to a women-only team. Using the tool, “researchers can change the DNA of animals, plants and microorganisms with extremely high precision,” the Nobel jury said. This technology has had a revolutionary impact on the life sciences.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (October 07, 2020)

  • Black hole researchers get Physics Nobel for discoveries on ‘one of the most exotic phenomena in the universe’
  • With 69,090 COVID-19 cases recorded yesterday, India’s tally stood at 67,51,155
  • Government nods to major reforms in marketing of Natural Gas in country
  • Finance Minister says, new Farm Laws safeguard farmers from fluctuations of prices for their products
  • United States to open Foreign Commercial Service Office in Bangladesh
  • Integration between PM SVANidhi & SBI portals ‘API’ launched to ease processing of loan applications
  • IRCTC to restart first set of private Tejas Express from October 17
  • Quad Foreign Ministers of India, USA, Japan and Australia meet in Tokyo; Call for a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific
  • IPL 2020 : Mumbai Indians defeat Rajasthan Royals by 57 runs and Kolkata Night Riders to clash with Chennai Super Kings today at Abu Dhabi

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • Roger Penrose of Britain, Reinhard Genzel of Germany and Andrea Ghez of the U.S. won the Nobel Physics Prize on Tuesday for their research into what the Nobel Committee called “one of the most exotic phenomena in the universe, the black hole”. Dr. Penrose, 89, was honoured for showing “that the general theory of relativity leads to the formation of black holes”, while Dr. Genzel, 68 and Dr. Ghez, 55, were jointly awarded for discovering “that an invisible and extremely heavy object governs the orbits of stars at the centre of our galaxy”.
  • Government today gave nod to major reforms in marketing of Natural Gas in the country. The Cabinet under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved the reforms to push usage of Natural Gas. Briefing media in New Delhi,  Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said that the government will initiate standardised e-bidding for bringing transparency in the price of Natural Gas in the country. Railway Minister Piyush Goyal informed that the Cabinet has also given its approval for the revised estimate cost for  East West Corridor of the Kolkata Metro Rail Project. He said that the project that would incur an estimated cost of nearly 8 thousand 575 crore rupees will be open for the public in December 2021.
  • Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said, the three new agricultural legislations brought by the centre would free the farmers from the shackles in marketing their products. Talking to reporters in Chennai last evening, she said, comprehensive discussions were held with agricultural experts, farmers and various other stakeholders before bringing the legislations. She said, the MSP mechanism will continue even while offering the farmers the option to sell their products to the traders of their choice, in their own time, wherever in the country. Ms Sitharaman said, the doubts about the buyers of the agricultural products through the contract farming mechanism having any say on the landholding of the farmers is totally unfounded. She stressed that the farmers will be safeguarded from the fluctuations of the prices for their products using the three new legislations. The Minister said, various opposition parties incorporated the provisions of the new legislations in their election manifesto, though they are opposing them now with political intentions.
  • The announcement was made after a high level virtual meeting between the U.S. Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment, Keith Krach, and Salman F. Rahman, Adviser for Private Industry and Investment to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. According to the press release issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, government of Bangladesh, the high level economic partnership consultation noted the shared vision of a free, inclusive, peaceful and secure Indo-pacific region. The US agreed to ask the American companies to invest in key sectors like energy, IT, pharmaceutics and agriculture. Bangladesh and US agreed to implement reforms to improve the investment climate for US sourced Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Bangladesh. Recognising the importance of secure internet and innovative digital ecosystem to facilitate cross border flow of information and data, both the countries agreed to have senior level conversation to move towards expanding 4G connectivity and developing 5G networks and services.
  • IRCTC has said that it will restart the first set of private Tejas Express, Lucknow-New Delhi and Ahmedabad-Mumbai trains from 17th of October. In a statement, IRCTC said, the operation of these two Tejas Trains was suspended from 19th of March this year due to spread of COVID-19 pandemic. Every alternate seat will be kept vacant following the social distancing norms for the initial period. IRCTC said, it is making all round preparations to ensure that the trains once started match the expectation of the people in terms of levels of services and safety and health protocols amidst the ongoing pandemic. A Standard Operation Procedure observing COVID-19 protocol has been issued to ensure safety of the passengers. Passengers will not be allowed to exchange their seats once seated. Use of face covers or masks will be mandatory for passengers and staff. All travelers will have to install the Aarogya Setu app.
  • Housing and Urban Affairs Secretary Durga Shanker Mishra today launched the Application Programming Interface, integration between the PM SVANidhi Portal and the State Bank of India portal to ease processing of loan applications. This integration will facilitate seamless flow of data between the PM SVANidhi Portal and SBI’s e-Mudra Portal in a secure environment and expedite the loan sanctioning and disbursement process, which will benefit the street vendors seeking working capital loan under the scheme. The Ministry is implementing Prime Minister Street Vendor’s Atmanirbhar Nidhi, PM SVANidhi Scheme since 1st June this year, for providing affordable working capital loan to street vendors to resume their livelihoods that have been adversely affected due to COVID-19 lockdown. This scheme targets to benefit over 50 lakh Street Vendors who had been vending on or before 24th of March this year, in urban areas. Under the scheme, the vendors can avail a working capital loan of up to ten thousand, which is repayable in monthly installments in the tenure of one year.
  • External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar asserted that as vibrant and pluralistic democracies with shared values, the four Quad member nations have collectively affirmed the importance of maintaining a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific. Dr. S. Jaishankar in his opening remarks at the 2nd Quad Ministerial Meeting in Tokyo, Japan yesterday said that the objective of the Quad member countries which include India, the United States, Japan and Australia, remains advancing the security and the economic interests of all countries having legitimate and vital interests.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (October 06, 2020)

  • GST Council split on borrowing options; It extends cess term beyond 2022; Council to meet again on Oct 12
  • With 57,100 COVID-19 cases recorded yesterday, India’s tally stood at 66,79,369
  • DRDO successfully tests ASW missile system; All the mission objectives are said to be met
  • Quad will discuss vaccine, 5G; Beijing has criticised meeting as ‘anti-China frontline’
  • Government removes requirement of Minimum Qualifying Service for Defence personnel for Enhanced Family Pension
  • Ashima Goyal, Jayanth R Varma, Shashanka Bhide appointed as new members of MPC
  • India, Myanmar agree to work towards operationalization of Sittwe Port in first quarter of 2021
  • Harvey J Alter and Charles M Rice and Michael Houghton share Nobel Prize for Medicine for discovery of Hepatitis C virus
  • 12th BRICS Summit will be held on 17th November 2020 via video conference
  • IPL 2020 : Delhi Capitals beat Royal Challengers Bangalore; Mumbai Indians will take on Rajasthan Royals today

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council on Monday failed to iron out differences between States ruled by non-NDA parties and the Centre over a plan to get the States to borrow from the market to meet an estimated Rs. 2.35 lakh crore shortfall in compensation cess collections this year. GST compensation cess collection period extended beyond 2022 to repay proposed borrowings. The council will again meet on October 12 to resolve the impasse.
  • The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) on Monday successfully test-fired the missile-assisted release of a light-weight anti-submarine torpedo system for anti-submarine warfare(ASW), Missile Assisted Release of Torpedo(SMART). SMART gives capability for ASW operations far beyond torpedo range. As per DRDO statement, all the objectives of the mission were met.
  • External Affairs Minister will meet his counterparts in the Australia-India-Japan-United States Quadrilateral or Quad in Tokyo on Tuesday, which is seen as a significant turning point for the grouping, led by the growing concerns over China in the region. The topics to be discussed in the meeting are cooperation on 5G connectivity, cybersecurity, a supply chain initiative for manufacturing, maritime cooperation and infrastructure and connectivity, as well as distribution plans for the COVID-19 vaccine are all areas where alternatives to Chinese initiatives. Beijing has criticised meeting as ‘exclusive critique’ and ‘anti-China frontline’.
  • The Government today scrapped the requirement of Minimum Qualifying Service for Enhanced Family Pension with effect from 1st October 2019. As per existing provision, there is a requirement of continuous qualifying service of 7 years for grant of Ordinary Family Pension at enhanced rate to Next of Kin of Defence Forces personnel. The requirement of the continuous qualifying service of 7 years is done away with effect from 1st October 2019. Additionally, Defence Forces personnel who died within ten years before the 1st of October 2019 without completing continuous service of 7 years, their family will also be eligible for family pension at the enhanced rates. Family Pension at enhanced rate is calculated at the rate of 50 per cent of last emoluments whereas normally it is 30 per cent of the last pay drawn.
  • India and Myanmar have agreed to work towards the operationalization of the Sittwe port in the Rakhine state in the first quarter of 2021. The announcement came post conclusion of the two-day visit of Indian Army Chief General MM Naravane and Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla to Myanmar. The Indian delegation also presented 3000 vials of Remdesivir to the State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, as a symbol of cooperation between the countries to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Both sides agreed to further strengthen their partnership in borderd security connectivity projects, capacity building, power and energy. They also agreed to deepen the economic and trade ties, further facilitate people to people and cultural exchanges and broad-base their defense exchanges across all the three services. They also discussed the progress in the ongoing Indian-assisted infrastructure projects such as the Trilateral Highway and the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project.
  • The three-day meeting of the newly-constituted Monetary Policy Committee will begin tomorrow and the bi-monthly monetary policy review will be announced on Friday. The meeting, earlier scheduled to begin on 29th September was postponed due to lack of quorum as three independent members, Chetan Ghate, Pami Dua, and Ravindra Dholakia had completed their term and were not eligible for re-appointment. The government has now named three eminent economists Ashima Goyal, Jayanth R Varma and Shashanka Bhide as the new members of the MPC. While Ms. Goyal is a professor at the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research; Jayanth Varma teaches at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. Mr. Bhide is senior advisor at the National Council for Applied Economic Research.
  • Americans Harvey J Alter and Charles M Rice, and British scientist Michael Houghton have been chosen for the Nobel Prize for Medicine today for the discovery of the Hepatitis C virus. The head of the Nobel Committee, Thomas Perlmann, announced the winners in Stockholm. The prestigious award comes with a gold medal and prize money of 10 million Swedish kronor. The medicine prize carries particular significance this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has highlighted the importance of medical research. WHO estimates that there are over 7 crore cases of hepatitis worldwide and 4 lakh deaths each year. The disease is chronic and a major cause of liver inflammation and cancer. The award is the first of six prizes to be announced through October 12.
  • The 12th BRICS Summit will be held on 17th November 2020 via video conference. The theme of the Meeting of the Leaders of BRICS countries which includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa is “BRICS Partnership for Global Stability, Shared Security and Innovative Growth”. The Summit this year is being held under the Chairmanship of Russia and aims at a multifaceted cooperation between the member countries. The five member countries have continued close strategic partnership on all the three major pillars of peace and security, economy and finance, cultural and people-to-people exchanges.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (October 05, 2020)

  • Government : One in five Indians may be vaccinated by July 2021: States told to prepare priority list of beneficiaries
  • Finance Ministry says COVID-19 infections already peaked, predicts growth
  • 7th round of India-China talks on October 12 to discuss the disengagement and de-escalation along LAC
  • 42nd GST Council meeting in New Delhi today; Finance Minister will be chairing the meeting
  • With 74,827 cases recorded yesterday, India’s COVID-19 tally stood at 66,22,164; Death toll stands at 1,02,749
  • Delhi’s air quality in ‘moderate’ category and is likely to remain so for next couple of days
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi to inaugurate RAISE 2020, artificial intelligence Summit today
  • China pitches for closer ties with Bangladesh, seeks BRI push; Nation celebrates 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations
  • Leading Chinese Chipmaker SMIC hit by United States export restrictions
  • IPL 2020 : Mumbai Indians beat Sunrisers Hyderabad by 34 runs; Chennai Super Kings beat Kings Eleven Punjab by 10 wickets
  • IPL 2020 : Royal Challengers Bangalore will face Delhi Capitals in today’s match

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • The government on Sunday indicated that about 25 crore individuals are likely to be inoculated with a double dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by next July. The States have been asked to prepare a list by month-end of “priority population groups” for vaccination. These would include frontline health workers – both government as well as private sector doctors, nurses, paramedics, sanitary staff, ASHA workers, surveillance officers and others involved in the tracing, testing and treatment of patients. The states have also been asked to submit the details of cold chain facilities and related infrastructure required down to the block level.
  • India’s COVID-19 infections may have already peaked last month, setting the stage for a “further push up the frontiers of economic recovery”, the Union Finance Ministry said on Sunday, listing several indicators from September that “allude to a steady recovery across almost all sectors”.
  • India and China are scheduled to hold the 7th round of Corps Commander talks to work out measures for disengagement and de-escalation along the disputed border in eastern Ladakh. The talks are scheduled on October 12 and are likely to be attended by both the Lieutenant Generals from the Indian side. After 6th round of talks on September 21, both sides, for the first time, issued a joint statement, in which they agreed to “stop sending more troops to the frontline”.
  • The 42nd GST Council meeting is underway in New Delhi. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is chairing the meeting through video conferencing. Minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur and Finance Ministers of States and Union Territories are present at the meeting. In the last meeting of GST council, Centre had given two borrowing options to States to meet GST compensation requirement for the current financial year. States can borrow either 97 thousand crore rupees from a special window facilitated by the RBI or two lakh 35 thousand crore rupees from the market. Finance Ministry sources said, 21 States had opted to borrow 97 thousand crore rupees to meet the GST revenue shortfall in the current fiscal.
  • Air quality in the national capital  was recorded in the moderate category today and it is likely to remain so for another two days. The Ministry of Earth Sciences’ air quality monitor, SAFAR, said Delhi recorded an air quality index  of 169 at 10 AM which falls in the moderate category. The city air quality index  will remain in the moderate category on Tuesday and Wednesday as high-velocity local winds are preventing accumulation of pollutants.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the Summit RAISE 2020 – Responsible AI for Social Empowerment 2020, today. Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and NITI Aayog are organizing the Mega Virtual Summit on Artificial Intelligence from today till  9th of October. The summit will discuss cross-sector subjects like Leveraging AI for Pandemic Preparedness, the Impetus that Innovation places on Digitisation, Inclusive AI and Partnerships for Successful Innovation.  In the spirit of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’, Prime Minister Modi plans to leverage AI for inclusive development, representing the country’s AI for All strategy. Directed by the Prime Minister’s vision, India will soon stand out in the international community not just as a leader in the field of Artificial Intelligence, but will also be a model to show the world on how to responsibly direct AI for social empowerment.
  • Chinese President Xi Jinping said he stands ready with Bangladesh leaders to better align the two countries’ strategies and jointly promote the construction of his multi-billion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to take the strategic partnership of the two countries to new heights. With over $26 billion Chinese investments and $38 billion dollars funding commitments, Bangladesh is one of the largest recipients of China’s massive infrastructure project.
  • China’s biggest chip company Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC) has confirmed that some of its suppliers have been restricted by US export control regulations, and its business may be affected due to ensuing uncertainties in US equipment supplies. SMIC said in a statement on Sunday night that the US Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) has informed some of SMIC’s suppliers to further limit exports of US equipment, accessories and materials to the company. Exports will require a permit. SMIC said in the statement that the company has undertaken “preliminary exchanges” with the U.S. Bureau of Industry and Security regarding export restrictions. The Company is conducting assessments on the relevant impact of such export restrictions on the company’s production and operation activities, it said. SMIC also said it has been operating in compliance with the relevant laws and regulations of all jurisdictions where it performs its businesses.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (October 04, 2020)

  • World’s longest highway tunnel ‘Atal Tunnel’ opened in Himachal Pradesh
  • Despite accelerating cases, COVID-19 case fatality rate still low, says Government
  • With 72,589 COVID-19 cases recorded yesterday, India’s tally stood at 65,44,316
  • Army Chief, Foreign Secretary on two-day visit to Myanmar from today
  • Maharashtra government issues guidelines for Restaurants and eateries opening tomorrow
  • Odisha govt shares SOP on use of Favipiravir tablet during home isolation of COVID-19 patients
  • India, South Africa move World Trade Organisation on COVID-19 prevention and care
  • Government reiterates, new farm and labour reform laws will benefit farmers immensely
  • U.S. job growth slows as  recovery seems to falter; Number of those permanently unemployed nears 4 million
  • IPL 2020 : Royal Challengers Bangalore beat Rajasthan Royals by 8 wickets and Delhi Capitals beat Kolkata Knight Riders by 18 runs
  • IPL 2020 : Mumbai Indians will face Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kings Eleven Punjab will face Chennai Super Kings today

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday inaugurated the Atal Tunnel at Rohtang at an altitude of above 3,000 metre in Himachal Pradesh. After the inauguration, he said the tunnel would provide new strength to the country’s border infrastructure. The 9.02 km-long-tunnel, built by the Border Roads Organisation(BRO), is the world’s long tunnel and connects Manali to the Lahaul-Spiti Valley. It provides all-weather connectivity to the landlocked valley, which remained cut-off for nearly six months in a year as the Rohtang Pass is snow-bound between November and April. Atal Bihari Vajpayee laid the foundation stone for the approach road to the tunnel in 2002.
  • Despite an escalating number of COVID-19 cases, India continues to maintain one of the lowest case fatality rates(CFR), the Union Health Ministry said in a release on Saturday. While the global CFR stood at 2.97% as on date, India’s figure was 1.56%. The deaths per million population in India is among the lowest in the world. While the global average is 130 deaths per million population, India is reporting 73 deaths per million population.
  • Chief of Army Staff General Manoj Naravane and Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla will be on a two-day visit to Myanmar beginning today. During their visit, the delegation will call on the State Counsellor of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi and Commander-in-Chief of the Myanmar Armed Forces, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. The visit will provide an opportunity to take stock of the existing bilateral ties and strengthen cooperation in areas of mutual interest. India-Myanmar relations are historic, multi-faceted and marked by mutual trust and respect. India attaches high priority to its relationship with Myanmar in accordance with its ‘Neighborhood First’ and ‘Act East’ policies.
  • Maharashtra government has issued Covid-19 safety guidelines for restaurants and other eateries that have been allowed to reopen from tomorrow with 50 per cent occupancy. These guidelines will help ensure health and safety of the staff and patrons in the sector and reassure the public towards hospitality sector. The protocol will facilitate traceability of the visitors, in case a situation in future warrants. As per the SOPs, all customers will be screened at the entry point for fever, chills, cough, and only asymptomatic customers shall be allowed. Face mask is mandatory and is allowed to be removed only while eating. Customers should observe physical distance while waiting outside the restaurant. It is mandatory to keep hand sanitizer in restaurants. The standardized operating system suggested that that digital contact-less payments should be preferred over cash payments. The restaurant furniture, rest rooms and hand washing areas should be cleaned from time to time and there should be glass barriers while interacting with customers. For dining facility prior reservation be made to avoid crowding. As per the food served, only cooked food should be given to the customers in the restaurant, salads like raw and cold foods should not be in the menu card.
  • The Odisha government has issued Standard Operating Procedures for the use of tablet Favipiravir to covid-19 patients during home isolation. According to the SOP, the antiviral can be administered to eligible symptomatic patients in home isolation only after proper medical assessment and with the informed consent of the patient. Against the backdrop of a significant number of covid-19 patients in home isolation, the state government felt the necessity of administering the antiviral to them though with several riders. The doorstep delivery of the antiviral therapy through Rapid Response Teams is an attempt to further tone up the covid-19 treatment ecosystem. Accordingly, the District Collectors and Municipal Commissioners have been asked for strict adherence to the SOP, which include proper assessment and constant monitoring of the health conditions of the concerned patients.
  • India and South Africa, in a formal submission to the World Trade Organisation(WTO) on October 2, sought a waiver on certain provisions of the international agreements that regulate intellectual property rights to speed up efforts to prevent, treat and contain the COVID-19 pandemic. Many countries, especially the developing ones, may face institutional and legal difficulties when using flexibilities available in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement).
  • Labour and Employment Minister Santosh Gangwar has said that the new Farm Laws and Labour Reform Laws will benefit farmers and workers immensely. Speaking at a National Conference organized by PHD Chamber of Commerce through video conference, Mr Gangwar said that the new Farm Laws are aimed at providing marketing freedom to farmers for selling their produce anywhere in the country. He emphasized that farmers would now be able to sell their produce at better prices in other states as well. The Minister also brushed aside the apprehensions about scrapping of Minimum Support Price (MSP) saying there has been considerable increase in support price of the crops compared to the UPA regimes.
  • U.S. employment growth slowed more than expected in September and more than 3,00,000 Americans lost their jobs permanently, dealing a potential blow to President Donald Trump ahead of the fiercely contested November 3 presidential election. Just over half of the 22.2 million jobs lost during the pandemic have been recouped. The unemployment rate fell to 7.9% in September as 6,95,000 people left the labour force from 8.4% in August.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (October 03, 2020)

  • India’s COVID-19 death toll crossed the 1 lakh mark; Only U.S. and Brazil have registered more deaths
  • Between September 26 and October 1, India recorded 1070 COVID-19 deaths daily on average, the highest in the world
  • Prime Minister addresses VAIBHAV Summit; Says government has taken several measures to boost science, research and innovation
  • Jal Shakti Minister launches 100-day campaign to provide potable piped water in Schools and Anganwadi Centres
  • Prime Minister to inaugurate Atal tunnel, the world’s longest highway tunnel at Rohtang in Himachal Pradesh today
  • The 2nd edition of Indian and Bangladesh Navy Bilateral Exercise Bongosagar is scheduled to commence today
  • Nuclear disarmament can be achieved through a step-by-step process, Indian Foreign Secretary
  • Tribes India E-Marketplace launched for handicrafts and organic products
  • India’s Exports rise 5.3% in September, imports fall narrowing deficit
  • IPL 2020: Sunrisers Hyderabad defeats Chennai Super Kings by 7 runs in Abu Dhabi; Royal Challengers Bangalore will face Rajasthan Royals and Delhi Capitals will face Kolkata Knight Riders today

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • India’s COVID-19 death toll crossed the 1 lakh mark, with 1035 fatalities recorded on Friday. Maharashtra accounted for almost 40% of the total deaths in the country. Only the U.S. (2,07,816) and Brazil(1,44,680) have registered more deaths. Fatalities in the country are growing at a fast pace. While the first 20,000 deaths were recorded in 118 days, it took only 18 days for the last 20,000. Between September 26 and October 1, India recorded 1070 COVID-19 deaths daily on average, the highest in the world.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated Vaishvik Bhartiya Vaigyanik, VAIBHAV Summit last evening through video conference. The Summit is a global virtual summit of overseas and resident Indian researchers and academicians. The summit will conclude on the 31st of this month. Addressing the Summit, the Prime Minister said, the Government  has taken numerous measures to boost science, research and innovation. He said, Science is at the core of the efforts towards socio-economic transformation. Mr. Modi said, the government has encouraged indigenous vaccine production. The Prime Minister said, the government has launched an ambitious mission to eradicate TB in India by 2025, which is five years ahead of the global target. The Prime Minister praised the agriculture scientists for their efforts to boost the agriculture produce.
  • Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat yesterday launched a 100-day campaign to provide potable piped water supply in Schools and Anganwadi Centres. This mission was envisaged by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 29th of last month, while releasing the ‘Margdarshika’ for Gram Panchayats and Paani Samitis for implementation of Jal Jeevan Mission. The Prime Minister had appealed to the States to make best use of this campaign to ensure provision of potable piped water supply in these public institutions. Under the Jal Jeevan Mission States and Union Territories are to  ensure that during the campaign, Gram Sabhas are convened at the earliest to pass a resolution for providing safe water in all schools, anganwadi centres and other public institutions in the village in the next 100 days. These facilities will be operated and maintained by the Gram Panchayat and its sub-committee.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the world’s longest Atal tunnel in Rohtang at an altitude of 10,000 feet in Himachal Pradesh today. Tribal People of Lahaul spiti and Pangi is used to face lot of hardships as these areas remained cut off from rest of the world for almost six months during winters. Several residents had to lose their lives as they were unable to reach good hospitals for proper treatment due to snow-laden roads. The tunnel will prove a boon for not only the agriculture, horticulture and tourism of Lahaul, Spiti, Pangi and Leh-Ladakh but it will also ensure speedy supply essential commodities to border areas.
  • The 2nd edition of Indian and Bangladesh Navy Bilateral Exercise Bongosagar is scheduled to commence in Northern Bay of Bengal tomorrow. Exercise is aimed at developing inter-operability and joint operational skills through conduct of a wide spectrum of maritime exercises and operations. Ministry of Defence in a statement said, ships from both navies will participate in surface warfare drills, seamanship evolutions and helicopter operations. This exercise will be followed by the 3rd edition of Indian and Bangladesh Navy Coordinated Patrol in Northern Bay of Bengal from 4th to 5th October, wherein both the units will undertake joint patrolling along the International Maritime Boundary Line. This edition of Exercise Bongosagar assumes greater significance since it is being conducted during Mujib Barsho, the 100th birth anniversary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
  • Minister of Tribal Affairs Arjun Munda yesterday launched virtually India’s largest handicraft and organic products marketplace- Tribes India E-Marketplace. Keeping in line with the vision of the Prime Minister of making India Aatmanirbhar and self-reliant, this initiative of TRIFED will showcase the produce and handicrafts of tribal enterprises from across the country. It will help them market their products directly. On the occasion, the minister also flagged off several other TRIFED initiatives that are aimed to support the tribal brethren. These include the inauguration of Tribes India’s 123rd and 124th outlets in Rishikesh and Kolkata, inclusion of new tribal product ranges from the states of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh and  partnership of TRIFED and Tribes India with Amazon in their Seller Flex programme. The Minister also launched Pakur Honey which  is 100 per cent natural honey, gathered by Santhal Tribals from Pakur in Jharkhand. In his address, Mr Arjun Munda said TRIFED aims to onboard 5 lakh tribal producers for sourcing of various handicraft, hand loom, natural food products across the country. He said the new TRIFED initiatives to showcase tribal produce and handicrafts will connect tribal forest dwellers and artisans with national and international markets. It will further enable their economic welfare and also bring them closer towards mainstream development.
  • Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla has said that India reiterates its long-standing and unwavering commitment to universal, verifiable and non-discriminatory nuclear disarmament leading to the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. Mr Shringla said this while addressing the high-Level Plenary meeting to commemorate and promote the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. He said, India believes that nuclear disarmament can be achieved through a step-by-step process underwritten by a universal commitment and an agreed multilateral framework. India remains convinced of the need for meaningful dialogue among all States possessing nuclear weapons, for building trust and confidence. The Foreign Secretary said, India espouses the policy of No First Use against nuclear weapon states and non-use against non-nuclear weapon states. India is a key partner in global efforts towards disarmament and strengthening the non-proliferation order.
  • After contracting for six months in a row, the country’s exports in a row, the country’s exports grew by 5.27% year-on-year to $27.4 billion in September, while imports slipped by 19.6% to $30.31 billion, according to data released by the Commerce Ministry on Friday. For April-September, exports decline 21% while imports contract 40%.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (October 02, 2020)

  • Revenues from GST cross Rs. 95,000 crores in September; This is the highest mop-up so far in current fiscal
  • Mysuru-based JSS to carry out trials for Novavax vaccine, another COVID-19 vaccine candidate  
  • First plane for VVIPs lands in Delhi after undergoing retrofit for over two years
  • State can’t term slowdown as public emergency, says Supreme Court
  • U.S., E.U. should not condone Amnesty’s actions, says Government
  • NCRB says, Four years after demonetisation most counterfeit notes seized are Rs.2000 notes
  • European Union launches legal action over U.K. Brexit Bill; Move comes after MPs approve Bill
  • Manufacturing PMI sees fastest growth in 8 years; September survey shows more job cuts
  • India, Myanmar review entire gamut of bilateral relations during 19th round of Foreign Office Consultations
  • IPL 2020 : Mumbai Indians beats Kings Eleven Punjab by 48 runs; Chennai Super Kings will face Sunrisers Hyderabad today

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  • Revenue collections from the Goods and Services Tax(GST) in September hit Rs. 95,480 crore, the highest in this financial year so far, indicating that economic activity is picking up steam in tandem with the gradual easing of lockdown restrictions necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. GST collections had been sliding after January 2020, when nearly Rs. 1.11 lakh crore came in.
  • JSS Academy of Higher Education and Research(JSSAHER), which has already begun phase of the clinical trials for vaccine candidate Covidshield at its facility in Mysuru, has been approached for human trials of Novovax, another COVID-19 vaccine candidate developed by a U.S.-based company, as well as Russia’s Sputnik V.
  • The country’s first VVIP plane, a Boeing 777-300 ER, landed at the Indira Gandhi International Airport on Thursday afternoon after undergoing retrofit in the U.S. for more than two years. The aircraft’s delivery was delayed by three months due to lockdown restrictions in the U.S.. The aircraft is one of the two Boeing 777-300 ERs which joined Air India’s fleet in 2018 and were sent to Texas for retrofit for flying the President, the Vice President and the Prime Minister.
  • The State cannot declare the slowdown caused by the pandemic a “public emergency” to curtail the rights of people, the Supreme Court said yesterday. The pandemic had not resulted in an “internal disturbance” of a nature that posed a “grave emergency” whereby the security of India was threatened, it said.
  • Responding sharply to the U.S. and the European Governments for expressing their concerns about the investigations into the Amnesty International, the government said foreign governments must not condone NGOs that break the Indian laws. Over the past few days, the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), the United Kingdom Foreign Office and the European Union have issued statements expressing concern over the government’s decision to freeze the Amnesty’s funds that led the international human rights agency to close its India office on September 29. Both the U.S. and the E.U. have raised concerns through bilateral diplomatic channels as well.
  • Four years after demonetisation, the highest number of all counterfeit notes seized last year was in the denomination of Rs. 2000, according to the National Crime Records Bureau’s annual crime in India report. According to the NCRB, fake Indian currency notes with a face value of Rs. 25.39 crore were seized in 2019, compared to Rs. 17.95 crore in 2018, showing an increase of 11.7%.
  • The European Union took legal action against Britain on Thursday over its plans to pass legislation that would breach parts of the legally binding divorce agreement the two sides reached last year. The EU move underscored the worsening relations with Britain, which was a member of the bloc until January 31. Both sides are trying to forge a rudimentary free trade agreement before the end of the year, but the fight over the controversial U.K. Internal Market Bill has soured relations this month.
  • India’s manufacturing sector activity improved for the second straight month in September and touched a more than eight-and-a-half year high supported by accelerated increases in new orders and production, even as firms reduced staff numbers, a monthly survey showed on Thursday. The headline seasonally adjusted IHS Markit India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index increased from 52.0 in August to 56.8 in September – highest since January 2012.
  • The 19th round of Foreign Office Consultations between India and Myanmar was held through virtual mode yesterday. The Indian delegation was led by Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla and the Myanmar delegation was led by Permanent Secretary, U Soe Han. During the consultations, both sides reviewed the entire gamut of relations, including border cooperation and the ongoing restoration work on earthquake damaged pagodas in Bagan. Cooperation in regional and multilateral fora was also discussed. Both sides expressed satisfaction that despite the ongoing COVID pandemic, meetings in several areas, including power, energy etc have been held through virtual mode, reflecting the depth of the bilateral engagement. It was noted that the next Joint Trade Committee Ministerial Meeting to be held on October 20, will be useful in further strengthening bilateral trade and investment relations.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (October 01, 2020)

  • All 32 accused in Babri Masjid demolition case acquitted; Special CBI Court says, not enough evidences to prove the allegations
  • Cinema halls, theme parks allowed to open; States can decide on schools, says Centre
  • Centre sticks to target for borrowing as fiscal deficit in the first five months touches 109.3% of year’s deficit target
  • India and Chinese officials meet again; Stress on need to comply with the 5-point Moscow plan
  • Southwest monsoon ends with 8% surplus surpassing estimates by India Meteorological Department
  • NCRB Report : Crimes against Scheduled Tribes saw 26% rise in 2019
  • India successfully test-fires BrahMos supersonic cruise missile with several indigenous features
  • Core sector shrinks for sixth month running; August contraction wider than July’s
  • German Chancellor accuses China of ‘cruel treatment’ of minorities
  • IPL 2020: Kolkata Knight Riders beats Rajasthan Royals by 37 runs; Kings Eleven Punjab will face Mumbai Indians today

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  • The Special CBI Court in Lucknow today acquitted all 32 accused in Babri demolition case. Special CBI Judge Surendra Kumar Yadav said that demolition happened at the spur of the moment and  it was not a pre- planned incident. He said that there were not enough evidences to prove the allegations made by CBI in this case. While delivering his verdict, the Special Judge said that the demolition was done by some anti- social elements and there was no alliance between such persons and accused. Most of the senior leaders among the 32 accused such as L.K. Advani, Kalyan Singh and Murli Manohar Joshi were not present in the Lucknow court due to various reasons. Senior BJP Leader L K Advani welcomed the verdict.
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs issued “guidelines for reopening”, permitting cinema halls, entertainment parks and swimming pools for sportspersons to open, and gave the states the flexibility to decide if they wanted to open the schools from October 15. The guidelines that will come into effect on October 1 have removed restrictions from all activities except “international air travel”. A lockdown will continue to be enforced in containment zones till October 31.
  • India’s fiscal deficit went further past the Budget target of nearly Rs. 8 lakh crores in the first five months of 2020-21, touching Rs. 8.7 lakh crore or 109.3% of the deficit target. Revenue receipts stood at just 18.3% of the Budget targets, while expenditure touched 41%.        Core sector output fell harder in August than July, contracting 8.5% compared to a year ago.
  • India and Chinese officials stressed the need to “strengthen communications” between ground military commanders and comply with the 5-point Jaishankar-Wang Moscow agreement, during a meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination(WMCC). The two sides emphasise the need to implement the steps outlined after the last meeting of the senior commanders so as to avoid misunderstandings and to maintain stability on the ground.
  • India yesterday successfully test-fired BrahMos supersonic cruise missile with several indigenous features. The test firing of the missile was carried out by the Defence Research and Development Organisation, DRDO from Balasore in Odisha. BrahMos surface-to-surface supersonic cruise missile features indigenous Booster and Airframe Section along with many other ‘Made in India’ sub-systems. The Defence Ministry said, the BrahMos Land-Attack Cruise Missile was cruising at a top speed of Mach 2.8. It is one more major step in enhancing the indigenous content. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has congratulated all the personnel of DRDO and team BrahMos for the spectacular mission.
  • The southwest monsoon this year has ended with an 8.7% surplus, surpassing estimates by the India Meteorological Department(IMD). This is also the first time since 2010 that India has got more than 100% of its long period average(LPA) of 88 cm in consecutive years. Last year, India saw record rainfall of 110% of the LPA, the highest in a quarter century. India has never got over 105% of the LPA in consecutive years in at least 30 years, according to records available since 1988 on the IMD website.
  • Crimes against members of the Scheduled Castes(SCs) and the Scheduled Tribes(STs) saw an increase of over 7% and 26% in 2019 compared with the 2018 figures, according to the annual Crime in India 2019 report published by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) on Wednesday. Due to “non-receipt of data” from West Bengal for 2019, the 2018 data had been used to arrive at national and city-wise figures, the NCRB said.
  • India’s eight core industrial sectors contracted by 8.5% in August compared to August 2019, marking the sixth month in a row of shrinking output. The decline in August was sharper than the 8% decline in July as per revised data released by the Department of Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, with coal and fertilisers being the only two sectors registering growth of 3.6% and 7.3% year-on-year, respectively.
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel accused China of “poor and cruel treatment” of minorities and underlined deep concerns over the crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong. In a speech at Bundestag a day before an EU summit, Ms. Merkel vowed to bring up rights issues and Germany’s worries over the situation in the former British colony in any future dialogue with Beijing.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (September 30, 2020)

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi assures farmers on continuity of guaranteed MSP and Government procurement of Agriculture produce
  • ICMR Survey : 60 million Indians may have been exposed to corona virus
  • Full EC team reaches Patna to review preparedness for upcoming Bihar assembly elections
  • Two crore families have been provided with pure drinking water under Jal Jeevan Mission in just one year
  • India rejects China’s unilateral claims on LAC; Beijing opposes infra projects in the Union Territory
  • Rajnath Singh launches Defence India Startup Challenge-4, releases PMA guidelines for iDEX
  • Amnesty International halts India operations; Amnesty India’s accounts were frozen by Government earlier this month
  • With 78,119 cases recorded yesterday, India’s COVID-19 tally stood at 62,21,195
  • India, Bangladesh to hold PM level virtual summit in December
  • IPL 2020 : Sunrisers Hyderabad beat Delhi Capitals by 11 runs; Rajasthan Royals and Kolkata Knight Riders will lock horns today

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has assured farmers about  continuity of guaranteed Minimum Support Price and government procurements of agri produce. He was speaking after inaugurating six mega projects in Uttarakhand under the Namami Gange Mission yesterday. The Prime Minister said major reforms have been brought to empower farmers, workers, youth and women of the country. He criticized the opposition for launching agitation against the reforms in labour and farm sectors. Addressing the inaugural function, the Prime Minister said, the Ministry of Jal Shakti is now engaged in the mission of delivering water to every house in the country and about 1 lakh families are being connected to pure drinking water facilities every day under the Jalajeevan Mission. He said, drinking water has been delivered to 2 crore families of the country in just 1 year. The logo of the Jal Jeevan Mission and ‘Margdarshika for Gram Panchayats and Paani Samitis under Jal Jeevan Mission’ was also  unveiled by the Prime Minister.
  • Around 7% of India’s adult population may have been exposed to the novel coronavirus till the last fortnight of August, according to the second national sero-survey by the Indian Council of Medical Research(ICMR).  This is roughly a 10-fold jump in numbers from the first sero-survey conducted by the Council across 70 districts in 21 states that sought to estimate the likely number of infected until early May. Sero-surveys are conducted by drawing blood samples and checking for a specific class of antibodies called IgG that appear within two weeks of an infection.
  • Defence Minister Rajnath Singh launched the Defence India Startup Challenge (DISC 4) during the iDEX event, featuring the initiatives aimed at expanding the horizons of Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) ecosystem in New Delhi today. Mr Singh also launched the iDEX4Fauji initiative and Product Management Approach (PMA) guidelines during the event. iDEX4Fauji is a first of its kind initiative, launched to support innovations identified by members of the Indian Armed Forces and will bolster frugal innovation ideas from soldiers and field formations.
  • India and China yesterday exchanged sharp statements, blaming each other for the continuing border tensions, with New Delhi describing China’s Line of Actual Control claims as “untenable” and Beijing saying it did not recognize the Union Territory of Ladakh. India has never accepted the so-called unilaterally defined 1959 Line of Actual Control, MEA said in a response to s statement from China’s Foreign Ministry that the LAC was clear and that it is the LAC of November 7, 1959.
  • The full Election Commission team led by Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora reached Patna last evening to review preparedness for the upcoming Bihar Assembly elections. The team is on a three day tour to Bihar. The Chief Election Commissioner is accompanied by Election Commissioners Sushil Chandra and Rajiv Kumar. Soon after arrival at Patna, the Chief Election Commissioner is holding a review meeting with Bihar Chief Electoral Officer and nodal officers. Today, the Election Commission team will hold meeting with representatives of different political parties. The team will also hold a review meeting in Patna with DMs and SPs of 26 districts. On Thursday the EC team will go to Gaya where a review meeting with DMs and SPs of 12 districts will be held. Before returning to Delhi on 1st October the Chief Election Commissioner will hold review meeting with the Chief Secretary, Home Secretary and Director General of police.
  • Amnesty International India on Tuesday said the government had frozen all its bank accounts, leading to all of its work in the country coming to a halt. The complete freeing of Amnesty International India’s bank accounts by the Government of India which it came to know on September 10, 2020, brings all the work being done by the organisation to a grinding halt. The organisation has been compelled to let go of staff in India and pause all its ongoing campaign and research work, as per statement by the human rights organisation.
  • India and Bangladesh held the 6th round of the Joint Consultative Commission meeting yesterday. The virtual meeting was Co-chaired by the External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar and the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh Dr. A.K. Abdul Momen. External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar announced that a summit level meeting between the Prime Ministers of India and Bangladesh will be held in December this year. Dr. S. Jaishankar announced that India will release a commemorative stamp on 16 December this year on the birth centenary of Bangabandhu. He appreciated the gesture of Bangladesh in releasing a commemorative stamp on Mahatma Gandhi on the occasion of the 150th year of his birth anniversary. He also announced the setting up of  ‘Bangabandhu-Bapu Digital Museum’ to commemorate the 150 years of Mahatma and the historic Mujib barsho.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (September 29, 2020)

  • Health Minister : COVID-19 vaccine likely in early 2021; ICMR launches vaccine portal with details on trials
  • With 65,664 COVID-19 cases recorded in 24 hours, India’s tally stood at 61,39,342; Number of samples tested dropped to 7.09 lakhs, says ICMR
  • Offset clause goes for Inter-Governmental Agreements in new Defence Acquisition Procedure, 2020
  • Defence Acquisition Council approves deals worth Rs 2,300 Crores
  • Government initiates probe into alleged dumping of pharma raw material from China
  • Engineering exports drop 18% in April-August; Market challenging due to COVID-19
  • India, Denmark acknowledge importance of establishing Green Strategic Partnership
  • TikTok gets reprieve in U.S. as judge halts download ban; Request to suspend full ban gets rejected
  • WHO & it’s leading partners plan to roll out 120 million rapid-diagnostic tests for Corona virus
  • IPL 2020 : Royal Challengers Bangalore beats Mumbai Indians in Super Over; Delhi Capitals will face Sunrisers Hyderabad today

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said the first vaccine for COVID-19 is likely to be available in the first quarter of 2021. He said there are at least three viable such vaccine candidates that are in the phase of clinical trials right now in the country. He was speaking at the launch of a dedicated online vaccine portal by the Indian Council of Medical Research(ICMR) that details research studies, COVID-19 vaccine development in India as well as abroad and a history of vaccine development in India. The three leading COVID-19 vaccine candidates in India – Covidshield, Covaxin, and ZyCov-D – are mentioned in the portal with their current progress.  
  • The Defence Ministry has removed the offset clause requirement in Inter-Governmental Agreements in the new Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP), 2020, which was released on Monday. It also introduces a new category for leasing of military equipment. Under offset clause, foreign companies are required to invest part of their deal value in the country and meant to improve the domestic defence manufacturing.
  • The Defence Acquisition Council(DAC) which met on Monday approved proposals for capital acquisition worth approximately Rs. 2,290 crore which include 72,400 SIG-716 assault rifles for the Army and Smart Anti Airfield weapon for the Navy and the Air Force. The HF radio sets will enable seamless communication for the field units of Army and the Air Force.
  • The Government has initiated a probe into alleged dumping of a pharma raw material, Ceftriaxone Sodium Sterile, from China. Nectar Life Sciences and Sterile India have filed an application before the Commerce Ministry’s investigation arm Directorate General of Trade Remedies (DGTR). The domestic manufacturers sought a probe into matter. The applicants have contended that material injury is being caused to the domestic industry due to dumped imports from China. They requested imposition of anti-dumping duty on the import. If DGTR finds that there is dumping of the product which is impacting domestic manufacturers, it will recommend the amount of anti-dumping duty. While DGTR recommends the duty, the Finance Ministry imposes it. In international trade parlance, dumping happens when a country or a firm exports an item at a price lower than the price of that product in its domestic market.
  • Exports of engineering goods declined over 18% to $26 billion in the April-August period of the current fiscal, EEPC India said on Monday. The Engineering Export Promotion Council said the shipment of such goods was at $31.9 billion in the first five months of the previous fiscal. According to EEPC, 28 of 33 product categories showed a year-on-year fall in exports.
  • India and Denmark have acknowledged the importance of establishing the Green Strategic Partnership, under which these two countries will cooperate through relevant Ministries, institutions and stakeholders. The Green Strategic Partnership is a mutually beneficial arrangement to advance political cooperation, expand economic relations and green growth. It is also an arrangement to create jobs and strengthen cooperation on addressing global challenges and opportunities with focus on an ambitious implementation of the Paris Agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen co-chaired a Virtual Summit between India and Denmark yesterday.
  • A U.S. Federal judge on Sunday halted the ban ordered by the Donald Trump administration on downloads of the popular video app TikTok, hours before it was set to take effect. The Trump administration order sought to ban new downloads of the app from midnight but would allow usage of TikTok until November 12, when all usages will be blocked. The judge denied TikTok’s request to suspend the November 12 ban.
  • The World Health Organization has announced that the world body and it’s leading partners have agreed to a plan to roll out 120 million rapid-diagnostic tests for the Corona virus. The programme aims to help lower and middle-income countries make up ground in a testing gap with richer countries – even if it’s not fully funded yet. At five US Dollars apiece, the antigen-based rapid diagnostic tests for which WHO issued an emergency-use listing last week, the programme initially requires 600 million USD. The programme is to be started as early as next month to provide better access to areas where it’s harder to reach with PCR tests that are used often in many wealthier nations.  The rapid tests look for antigens or proteins found on the surface of the virus. They are generally considered less accurate – though much faster – than higher-grade genetic tests, known as PCR tests.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (September 28, 2020)

  • India still far from herd immunity, says Health Minister; Warns against routine use of Remdesivir, plasma therapy
  • India registered its 6 millionth COVID-19 case yesterday, 12 days after crossing 5 million
  • JIMEX-20 : India, Japan navies match skills in northern Arabian Sea
  • Government says it is committed to increase public healthcare spending from existing 1.15% of GDP to 2.5 % by 2025
  • JEE (Advanced) 2020 conducted successfully across country; 96 per cent candidates appeared for the exam
  • Maharashtra still leads COVID-19 tally, followed by Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh
  • President Ram Nath Kovind gives assent to three farm bills recently passed by the Parliament
  • Home Minister inaugurates ‘Destination North East-2020’ event to highlight its eco-tourism, culture and business potential
  • Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan calls for switching over to 100% clean fuels in tourist cities
  • IPL 2020: Rajasthan Royals beats Kings Eleven Punjab by 4 wickets; Royal Challengers Bangalore will face Mumbai Indians today

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan cautioned that the Indian Council of Medical Research’s first COVID-19 sero-survey should not create a sense of complacency among the people with regard to the virus. He said that the indications from the upcoming second sero-survey “are that India is far from having achieved any kind of herd immunity”. He said people should continue to follow COVID-19 appropriate behaviour. He advised against the wide usage of investigational therapies such as Remdesivir and plasma therapies.
  • The 4th edition of the biennial India and Japan naval exercise is under way in the north Arabian Sea, the Navy said. This is the first exercise following the conclusion of the mutual logistics support agreement early this month. Multi-faceted tactical exercises involving weapon firings, cross-deck helicopter operations and complex surface, anti-submarine and air warfare drills will consolidate coordination developed by the two navies. JIMEX-2020 will showcase high degree of interoperability, joint operational skills.
  • Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan said that government is committed to increase the public healthcare spending from the existing 1.15 per cent of the GDP to 2.5 per cent by 2025. He added that the 15th Finance Commission’s high-level group on health has concurred that healthcare spending must be raised substantially in the next five years in view of the present pandemic.
  • Joint Entrance Examination, JEE (Advanced) 2020 was conducted successfully yesterday across the country. Out of total registered candidates, 96 per cent candidates appeared for the exam. In a statement, IIT Delhi said, the exams were conducted in 222 cities and over one thousand exam centers all over the country. It said, JEE (Advanced) 2020 witnessed the largest number of nodes ever provided by TCS – ION for an exam to accommodate everyone while complying to social distancing norms.
  • Maharashtra continues to lead the COVID-19 tally for new cases, highest number of deaths and recoveries in the past 24 hours, according to the Health Ministry on Sunday. The Ministry said, “88,600 cases have been reported in the last 24 hours in the country. 10 States/UTs account for 77% of them with Maharashtra leading this tally. It has contributed more than 20,000 cases followed by Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh with more than 8,000 and 7,000 cases respectively”.
  • President Ram Nath Kovind today gave assent to three farm bills recently passed by the parliament. The bills are Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) bill, 2020. The act aimed at transforming agriculture in the country and raising farmers’ income. The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020 permits the electronic trading of farmers’ produce and allows setting up of transaction platforms for facilitating direct online buying and selling of farm products. The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act , 2020 provides for a farming agreement prior to the production or rearing of any farm produce. A guaranteed price to be paid for the purchase of farming produce will be mentioned in such agreements. The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 allows the central government to regulate the supply of certain food items only under extraordinary circumstances such as war and famine. The new act aims at creating additional trading opportunities outside the APMC market yards to help farmers get remunerative prices due to additional competition. This will supplement the existing MSP procurement system which is providing stable income to farmers. The act will create an ecosystem where the farmers and traders will enjoy freedom of choice of sale and purchase of agri-produce. It will open more choices for the farmer, reduce marketing costs for the farmers and help them in getting better prices.
  • Union Home Minister Amit Shah today virtually inaugurated ‘Destination North East-2020’, a four-day event to highlight the Northeast region’s various potentials like eco-tourism, culture, heritage and business. Union Minister for Development of North Eastern Region Jitendra Singh and Chief Ministers of North Eastern States participated in the event via video conferencing. During the inaugural session, the Union Home Minister said that India is incomplete without the North East. Mr Shah termed the unique culture of North-Eastern region as the ornament of Indian culture. The Home Minister said, Government is focusing on infrastructure development in the region and in future it will be an important point of tourism in the world.
  • Union Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas and Steel, Dharmendra Pradhan has called for switching over to hundred percent clean fuels in the tourist cities. Addressing a virtual meet on the World Tourism Day today, he emphasized the need for the use of clean fuels like LNG and PNG in the vehicles used by tourists in the tourist spots. He said, this will help protect the monuments besides favouring the environment. The Union Minister said as India completes 75 years of Independence in 2022, there is a need to focus on creating more tourist sites around the heroism of our freedom fighters.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (September 27, 2020)

  • Address aspirations of Tamil people, devolve powers as envisaged in Constitution, Modi urges Rajapaksa
  • PM Modi pitches for larger role in United Nations; Modi assures India’s vaccines are for the world
  • COVID-19 vaccine likely to be free for needy in India; Vaccine likely to cost between Rs. 120 – Rs.140
  • With 79,852 COVID-19 cases recorded in 24 hours, India’s tally stands close to 60 lakhs
  • Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has notified amendments in Central Motor Vehicle Rules
  • Andaman & Nicobar Islands: Various tourism activities to restart from today
  • ‘Origins of Indian Culture’ panel may be reconstituted; Panel formed in 2016 failed to submit any report so far
  • WHO warns Coronavirus deaths could be more than two million without collective action
  • World Bank approves 200 million dollar loan for safe water & sanitation in Bangladesh
  • IPL 2020 : Kolkata Knight Riders beat Sunrisers Hyderabad by 7 wickets; Rajasthan Royals will face Kings Eleven Punjab today

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • Calling on the newly elected Sri Lankan government to fully implement the 13th constitutional amendment, which envisages a measure of power devolution to provinces, Prime Minister Narendra Modi “highlighted” India’s concerns about the rights of the Tamil minorities, during talks with his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa via video conference on Saturday.
  • Articulating an inclusive vision for the world and India’s role in manifesting it, Prime Minister Modi on Saturday asked the United Nations General Assembly how long India would be kept out of the top UN decision making bodies. He assured the world of the adequate supply of vaccines and highlighted India’s contribution to the UN peacekeeping missions and its non-exclusive foreign policy, making the case for India playing a leading role in the world body.
  • Those unable to afford a probable COVID-19 vaccine will get it for free, and the government is considering a large immunisation programme to make it widely available. The vaccine is likely to retail between $2-$3, the officials said.
  • The Union Culture Ministry is considering reconstituting the committee that was formed in 2016 with the objective of ‘holistic study of origin and evolution of Indian culture since 12,000 years ago’ as it has failed to submit its report till now.
  • Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has notified amendments in Central Motor Vehicle Rules facilitating  implementation of Electronic enforcement, Maintenance of Vehicular Documents through Information Technology portal with effect from 1st of next month. The Ministry in a statement said, use of IT services and electronic monitoring will result in better enforcement of Traffic Rules in the country and will lead to removing harassment of drivers and would facilitate the citizens. The  amendment inter-alia provides for the definition for Challan, Portal as a requirement for  providing the services through IT and further the enforcement of electronic monitoring and enforcement. It said, details of driving licences disqualified or revoked by the licensing authority shall be recorded chronologically in the portal and such record shall be reflected on a regular basis on the portal has been provided for.  Thus, the record shall be maintained electronically and further the driver behavior would be monitored.
  • In Andaman and Nicobar Islands, various tourism activities are going to restart from tomorrow after a period of six months.  Various tourism activities in A&N Islands are going to restart from today onwards after a period of six months. The beaches located in South Andaman district will be opened for the general public from today. However, timings have been fixed from 10 in the morning to 5 in the evening. Likewise, light and sound shows at Cellular Jail and Museums have also been allowed to open. However, a limit has been put regarding the number of entrants at these places for better crowd management. Tourism activities including water sports, boat rides outside containment zones will be conducted following the issued SOPs. Boats will be allowed to carry only 50 per cent passengers of their total capacity. In view of contact tracing in future boat operators or owners will have to maintain trip-wise  daily records of the incoming tourist.
  • Coronavirus deaths could more than double to two million without collective action against the pandemic, the World Health Organisation has warned, as Australia’s Prime Minister urged any nation that develops a vaccine to share it with the world. The number of cases worldwide has soared past 32 million, with deaths approaching one million, the global economy devastated, and major cultural and sports events disrupted.
  • The World Bank (WB) has approved a 200 million dollar loan for Bangladesh to improve access to safe water and sanitation services in the rural areas of the country. The Bangladesh Rural Water, Sanitation and Hygiene project will help 6 lakh people to have access to clean water through piped water schemes in rural areas. According to a Press Release issued by the World Bank, the project will also provide sanitation services to over 3.6 million rural people in Bangladesh. The WB said that the project will help prevent diseases and protect from pandemics like COVID 19 by providing better access to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) facilities at homes and in public places.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (September 26, 2020)

  • Vodafone wins $2 bn tax case; International tribunal rules that India’s demand is in breach of ‘fair treatment’
  • Bihar assembly election to be held in 3 phases from October 28; Counting on November 10
  • Medical Council of India replaced by National  Medical Commission
  • With 82,461 COVID-19 cases and 1086 deaths recorded yesterday, India’s tally stood at 58,96,322 and 93,409 fatalities
  • IRDAI lists LIC, GIC, New India as systemically important; Companies will be subject to enhanced regulatory supervision
  • PM Modi to hold virtual bilateral summit with Sri Lankan counterpart today
  • Quad discusses Indo-Pacific infrastructure and 5G; Officials from Foreign Ministries meet virtually
  • Death toll from military plane crash in Ukraine rises to 25
  • China aims to make 1 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses a year
  • IPL 2020 : Delhi Capitals beat Chennai Super Kings by 44 runs; Kolkata Knight Riders will face Sunrisers Hyderabad today

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • Vodafone Group Plc said on Friday that it had won an international arbitration case against the Indian government, ending one of the most high-profile disputes in the country involving a $2 billion tax claim. An international arbitration tribunal in The Hague ruled that India’s imposition of a tax liability on Vodafone, as well as interest and penalties, were in a breach of an investment treaty and the Netherlands. The tribunal in its ruling, said the government’s demand is in breach of “fair and equitable treatment” and it must cease seeking the dues from Vodafone.
  • The Election Commission of India(ECI) announced on Friday that the Bihar assembly election will be held in three phases on October 28, November 3 and November 10, followed by the counting on November 10. Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said the number of phases as well as the duration of the conduct of the poll had been reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The National Medical Commission has replaced the Medical Council of India, as per information released by the Health Ministry on Friday. The change was aimed at bringing in reforms in medical education. The government dissolved the MCI in 2018.
  • The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India(IRDAI) has identified the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC), General Insurance Corporation(GIC) and the New India Assurance Co. as Domestic Systemically Important Insurers (D-SIIs) for 2020-21.As D-SIIs, they will also be subjected to enhanced regulatory supervision. D-SIIs refer to insurers of such size, market importance and domestic and global interconnectedness whose distress or failure would cause a significant dislocation in the domestic financial system.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa will be holding a Virtual Bilateral Summit today. The Summit will be Prime Minister Modi’s first such virtual engagement with a neighbouring country and also Mr Rajapaksa’s first diplomatic engagement with a leader of a foreign country after he was sworn in as Prime Minister in August this year. A Virtual Bilateral Summit under challenging circumstances posed by COVID-19, testifies to the deep-rooted civilizational ties and shared heritage between the two neighbouring countries. This is also a reflection of India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ approach and SAGAR doctrine.
  • Senior officials from the Foreign Ministries of “the Quad” group of countries – India, the U.S., Australia and Japan – met virtually on Friday, during the United Nations high level week, as part of their periodic consultations on the Indo-Pacific region. Officials discussed ongoing and proposed practical cooperation in the areas of connectivity and infrastructure development. The officials discussed ways to promote the use of trusted vendors, particularly for fifth generation (5G) networks.
  • In Ukraine, the death toll from a military plane crash in Kharkiv Region has risen to 25. The office of the country’s prosecutor general said in a statement that two people have been admitted to medical facilities in critical condition. According to media reports citing Ukrainian Defense Ministry sources, the crash of the An-26 military aircraft was caused by an engine failure. The Ukrainian State Emergency Services said, 27 people were aboard the plane that included crew and cadets from a nearby air force university. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said, a commission was being created to investigate the crash.
  • A Chinese health official said on Friday that the country’s annual production capacity for novel coronavirus vaccines will top 1 billion doses next year, following an aggressive government support programme for construction of new factories. Chinese official said distribution of the vaccines would prioritize groups such as medical workers, border personnel and the elderly before they are made available to the general public. China has 11 vaccine candidates in human trials, with four of them currently in the third and final trials.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (September 25, 2020)

  • ‘Fitness Ki Dose, Aadha Ghanta Roz’ is the Mantra to stay fit says Prime Minister Narendra Modi
  • Harley-Davidson shuts India factory, sales; U.S. motorcycle announces exit as part of ‘The Rewire Plan’
  • Prime Minister digitally releases Age-Appropriate Fitness Protocols on the First Anniversary of Fit India Movement  
  • Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar assures farm bills will bring revolutionary changes in the lives of farmers
  • India, Pakistan trade charges at SAARC, CICA meets; Both sides clashed on terrorism and J&K issue
  • With 83,432 COVID-19 cases recorded yesterday, India’s tally stood at 58,13,861 with total death count standing at 92,323
  • India says China should refrain from making any attempts to unilaterally change the status quo at LAC
  • India reiterates Entire J&K is integral to India; Gilgit-Baltistan polls have no legal basis
  • China cautious on G4 countries push for UNSC reforms; G4 nations expressed frustration at bid to derail reforms
  • IPL news : Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) won by 97 runs against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB); Chennai Super Kings will take on Delhi Capitals today

————————————————–In Detail————————————————-

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given a new-Mantra-“Fitness Ki Dose, Aadha Ghanta Roz”. He has urged the people to apply this principle in letter and spirit to stay fit and healthy. He was interacting with fitness experts and influencers virtually on the First Anniversary of the Fit India Movement. The nation-wide online Fit India Dialogue was organized to celebrate the First Anniversary of the Fit India Movement. On the occasion, the Prime Minister also launched Fit India Age-Appropriate Fitness Protocols. Mr Modi held interactions with cricketer Virat Kohli, actor Milind Soman, footballer Afshan Ashiq among others who shared their fitness experiences with him. The Prime Minister wished all the countrymen good health and said that in one year, the Fit India Movement has  become the movement of people. The Prime Minister said, Yoga, posture, exercise, walking, running, healthy diet and swimming activites are now becoming part of our life. He said, the Fit India Movement has demonstrated its influence and relevance during COVID- 19 period.
  • Harley-Davidson Inc. has announced that it will discontinue its sale and manufacturing operations in India and shed about 70 jobs in the country as part of a global strategic restructuring plan ‘The Rewire’. Harley’s decision to exit India follows a struggle to find takers for its bikes, including the Street, which saw it register sale of less than 2,500 units in the last financial year. The U.S. company’s decision to exit manufacturing also undermines the government’s efforts to attract and retain global manufacturers as it aims to woo investment from firms looking to exit India.
  • Agriculture and Farmer Welfare Minister Narendra Singh Tomar has said, the farm bills passed in Parliament will bring revolutionary changes in the lives of the country’s farmers. The Minister stressed that Minimum Support Price, MSP is an administrative decision which is presently there and will remain in the future as well. He pointed out that Centre announced MSPs even before the Rabi crops were sowed. The Minister said, there is no provision to end Agricultural Produce Market Committee, APMCs. He added that the new bills just allow farmers to sell their produce outside APMCs, giving them a wide range of buyers. The Minister also stressed that there will be no deals related to the land of the farmer under these bills.The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill were recently passed by both the houses of Parliament.
  • India and Pakistan crossed swords over terrorism and Jammu & Kashmir at the Foreign Minister’s meetings of the 8-nation South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation(SAARC) and the 27-point Conference on Integration and Confidence Building Measures in Asia(CICA).
  • India has said the way ahead on India and China border standoff is to refrain from making any attempts to unilaterally change the status quo, while both sides continue their discussions to achieve complete disengagement in all friction areas. The 6th meeting of the Senior Commanders of India and China took place on 21st of this month in Moldo. The two sides decided to strengthen the ground communication to avoid any further misunderstandings and misjudgments, stop sending more troops to the frontline, refrain from unilaterally changing the situation on the ground, and avoid taking any actions that may complicate the situation.
  • India on Thursday said Pakistan’s proposed election in Gilgit-Baltistan had no legal ground. The official spokesperson of Ministry of External Affairs said India considered the entire region of Jammu and Kashmir to be its integral part. Any action by Pakistan to alter the status of the militarily occupied so-called Gilgit-Baltistan has no legal basis whatsoever and is totally void ab initio.
  • China on Thursday said there were “enormous divisions” and a lack of consensus on taking forward the stalled reforms of the United Nations Security Council, a day after the G4 countries – India, Brazil, Japan and Germany – called for an early push for text-based negotiations. The Foreign Ministers of the four countries that are seeking UNSC reforms and permanent membership of the body met virtually on Wednesday, expressing their frustration at the repeated attempts to stall and derail the reforms process.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (September 24, 2020)

  • PM Modi says Chief Ministers of most affected states can call lockdowns to combat COVID-19
  • CAG report : 40% toilets in government schools non-existent, unused
  • Parliament passes three labour code Bills for the welfare and protection of workers
  • With 84,200 COVID-19 cases recorded yesterday, India’s tally stood at 57,27,660; Total death count stands at 91,188
  • Railways target to complete 100 per cent electrification of broad gauge routes by 2023
  • G4 countries seek time-bound reform of United Nations Security Council; Agree to work with like-minded countries
  • China vows to go carbon neutral by 2060; Beijing renews support for Paris Accord
  • Bharat Biotech, WUSM tie up for COVID-19 nasal shot; Such a vaccine will be much cheaper
  • United Nations, Britain to co-host a global climate summit on December 12, fifth anniversary of Paris Agreement
  • IPL Cricket: Mumbai Indians defeat Kolkata Knight Riders by 49 runs; Kings Eleven Punjab will take on Royal Challengers Bangalore in Dubai today

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  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday told Chief Ministers of seven states most affected by COVID-19 that imposing local lockdowns for a day or two and their efficacy was entirely their call, while urging them to intensively monitor, at block level, 60 districts with the highest infection rates. He added micro containment is the way to go with minimum disruption to life. The Chief Ministers of Karnataka, Maharashtra, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, New Delhi and Uttar Pradesh attended the video conference chaired by PM Modi.
  • Public sector units claimed to have constructed 1.4 lakh toilets in government schools as part of a Right to Education project, but almost 40% of those surveyed by the Comptroller and Auditor-General were found to be non-existent, partially constructed, or unused. In an audit report presented in Parliament on Wednesday, the CAG said over 70% did not have running water facilities in the toilets, while 75% were not maintained hygienically. The Swachh Vidyalaya Abhiyan was launched by MHRD in September 2014 to meet the Right to Education Act’s mandate that all schools must have separate toilets for boys and girls.
  • Parliament has passed the three labour code Bills for the welfare and protection of workers. The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code 2020, seeks to amend the laws regulating the occupational safety, health and working conditions of the persons employed in an establishment. The second Bill, The Industrial Relations Code 2020, aims at amending the laws relating to Trade Unions, conditions of employment in industrial establishment or undertaking, investigation and settlement of industrial disputes. The third Bill,The Code on Social Security, 2020 seeks to amend the laws relating to social security of the employees in the country.
  • The Railways has planned for 100 per cent electrification of its broad gauge routes by 2023. This was stated by the Railway Minister Piyush Goyal in a written reply in Rajya Sabha yesterday. The Minister informed that around 63 per cent broad gauge lines have already been electrified out of a total 63 thousand 631 route kilometers as on 1st of April this year. He said, a total of 23 thousand 765 route kilometre lines are yet to be electrified in the country. In another question, the Railway Minister said, the vacant land of Railways which is not required for its immediate operational needs is utilized in the interim period for commercial development to mobilize additional financial resources.
  • Foreign Ministers from the Group of 4 : India,  Brazil, Japan and Germany – a group that is seeking permanent membership of the UN security Council, met virtually on Wednesday to further their objective. The four countries stressed delivering concrete outcomes, in writing and within a time frame. The G4 will work with other reform-minded countries and groups to start text-based negotiations without delay and seek “concrete outcomes” during the 75th session of the UN General Assembly, which has just begun and lasts until next September.
  • The U.S. is guilty of obstructing the global fight against emissions, China said on Wednesday, as Beijing seized the climate agenda by vowing to go carbon neutral by 2060, a target welcomed by environmentalists despite its patchy detail. The goals, which include a pledge to reach peak emissions in 2030, are the most concrete ones yet announced by China, which is the world’s biggest polluter and accounts for a quarter of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Bharat Biotech said it would conduct trials, produce and market an intranasal vaccine for COVID-19, being developed by the Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis. The Phase 1 trials of the chimp-adenovirus, single-dose vaccine will take place at St. Louis University’s Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit. On receipt of regulatory approval, Bharat Biotech would pursue further stages of clinical trials in India.
  • United Nations and Britain will co-host a global climate summit on December 12, the fifth anniversary of the landmark Paris Agreement. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will co-host the event to rally much greater climate action and ambition. National governments will be invited to present more ambitious and high-quality climate plans at the summit, which would involve government leaders, as well as the private sector and civil society. The summit is intended to increase momentum ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26) to be held in Glasgow in November 2021.
  • In IPL Cricket, Mumbai Indians defeated Kolkata Knight Riders by 49 runs, at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Mumbai Indians, powered by a Rohit Sharma 80 and a quickfire knock of 47 by Suryakumar Yadav, set a 196-run target. Rohit Sharma pummelled the Kolkata Knight Riders bowlers into submission for a 54-ball 80 and powered Mumbai Indians to an imposing 195/5. Earlier, Kolkata won the toss and choose to bowl.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (September 23, 2020)

  • LAC crisis : Army-level talks positive but no headway on de-escalation
  • University Grants Commission : Freshers to start university classes from November 1
  • Lok Sabha passes Jammu & Kashmir Official Languages Bill,2020 to modify official languages of the UT
  • Parliament all set to be adjourned sine die today in view of Covid-19 pandemic
  • Parliament passes several important Bills including Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill and Companies (Amendment) Bill
  • Centre says Central Vista project will aid economic revival; it would lead to employment generation
  • As many as 80,423 COVID-19 cases registered yesterday; India’s COVID-19 death toll crossed 90,000 mark
  • TRAI recommends body to monitor net neutrality; Regulator says norms will apply to 5G
  • Donald Trump says China must be held accountable for consequences of coronavirus outbreak
  • In IPL Cricket, Rajasthan Royals beat Chennai Super Kings by 16 runs at Sharjah; Kolkata Knight Riders will take on Mumbai Indians at Abu Dhabi today.

————————-In Detail————————–

  • In a joint statement issued on Tuesday on the sixth round of Corps Commanders talks, India and China said both sides had agreed to “stop sending more troops to the frontline” and “refrain from unilaterally changing the situation on the ground” while agreeing to hold more talks to resolve the standoff. The two sides also agreed to hold the 7th round of military commander-level talk as soon as possible.
  • Students entering colleges and universities for their first year will begin classes from November 1 with the new academic session getting off to a delayed start, according to the University Grants Commission’s calendar for 2020-21. Holiday breaks will be curtailed and classes are likely to run six days a week to compensate for the time lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Parliament is all set to be adjourned sine die today ahead of its scheduled time in view of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Monsoon Session which had begun on 14th of this month was scheduled to end of 1st of next month. In Rajya Sabha, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, V. Muraleedharan announced that the government has decided to recommend adjournment of the Upper House sine die. He, however, said, some important legislation business cleared by the Lok Sabha has to be completed before it. The Lok Sabha will assemble at 6 PM and it is expected that the Lower House will also adjourn sine die today itself.
  • The Lok Sabha passed the J&K Official Languages Bill, 2020 that seeks to include Kashmiri, Dogri and Hindi as the official languages in the newly-created Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Earlier, only English and Urdu were the official languages in the former state. As per 2011 Census, only 0.16% of the population in J&K spoke Urdu and Over 56% speak Kashmiri and it had not been recognised as an official language.
  • Parliament has passed several important Bills after Rajya Sabha approved them today. These include, the Rashtriya Raksha University Bill, the National Forensic Sciences University Bill, the Banking Regulation (Amendment) Bill, the Companies (Amendment) Bill, the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill and the Indian Institutes of Information Technology Laws (Amendment) Bill 2020. Lok Sabha has already passed these Bills.The Rashtriya Raksha University Bill establishes the Raksha Shakti University in Gujarat as a University called the Rashtriya Raksha University in the State. The Bill declares the University as an institution of national importance. The National Forensic Sciences University Bill aims to establish the Gujarat Forensic Sciences University in Gandhinagar and the Lok Nayak Jayaprakash Narayan National Institute of Criminology and Forensic Sciences in New Delhi, as a National Forensic Sciences University in Gujarat. The Bill declares the University to be an institution of national importance. The Banking Regulation (Amendment) Bill, amends the Banking Regulation Act, 1949 which regulates the functioning of banks and provides details on various aspects such as licensing, management and operations of banks. It will replace the Banking Regulation (Amendment) Ordinance which was promulgated in June this year. The Companies (Amendment) Bill removes the penalty and imprisonment for certain offences made in violation of the legislation. In addition, it also reduces the amount of fine payable in certain offences under the ambit of legislation. The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill allows the central government to regulate the supply of certain food items only under extraordinary circumstances such as war and famine. The Central Vista redevelopment project would lead to employment generation and could be an important fulcrum of economic revival, according to the government’s reply to a question in the Lok Sabha about the rationale for the project given the state of the economy. He added the project shall generate large number of direct and indirect employment which could be an important fulcrum for economic revival. The existing Parliament building was started in 1921 and was commissioned in 1927; this building is already 93 years old and since been declared heritage grade-1 building.
  • The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India recommended the creation of multi-stakeholder body to ensure that Internet access providers adhere to the provisions of net neutrality. The MSB, which could include telecom service providers, Internet service providers, researchers, government, should be set up as a non-profit entity. The role of the MSB shall be to provide advice and support to DoT in the monitoring and enforcement of the net neutrality principles, TRAI said.
  • Delivering a campaign style speech to the UN General Assembly’s 75th session, U.S. President Donald Trump said China must be held responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic. He added that in the earliest days of the virus, China locked down travel domestically, while allowing flights to leave China, and in fact the world.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (September 22, 2020)

  • Government unveils 2.6% hike in wheat Minimum Support Price amid protests
  • Parliament passes Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code(Second Amendment) Bill
  • PM Modi says United Nations faces crisis of confidence without major reforms
  • Parliament passes Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Bill to include protections for health care service personnel combating epidemic diseases
  • Many states to partially reopen schools for students of class 9th to 12th from today as per Unlock 4 guidelines
  • Sikkim government imposes complete lockdown in Gangtok municipal area till 27th of this month
  • Indian Railways has floated the revised tender of semi-high speed 44 Vande Bharat train sets
  • India recorded 70,317 COVID-19 cases and 1028 deaths on Monday; Over 90,000 COVID-19 recoveries for the third day
  • Modi-Rajapaksa virtual summit on September 26; Colombo has asked New Delhi for a debt moratorium
  • IPL 2020 : Royal Challengers Bangalore defeated Sunrisers Hyderabad by 10 runs; Rajasthan Royals will lock horns with Chennai Super Kings today
————————-In Detail————————–
  • In the earliest announcement of minimum support prices in at least a decade, Agriculture Minister told the Lok Sabha that the Cabinet had approved MSP hikes for six crops, including a 2.6% increase in the rate for wheat. Last year, MSP for wheat had seen a 4.6% increase. The MSP is the rate at which the government purchases crops from farmers, and is based on a calculation of at least one and a half times the cost of production incurred by farmers.
  • The Lok Sabha on Monday passed the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Second Amendment) Bill, which provides that insolvency proceedings against defaulting companies will not be initiated for at least six months starting from March 25. It was earlier passed by the Rajya Sabha.
  • Parliament gave its assent to the Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Bill, 2020 with Lok Sabha passing it with voice vote in a late night sitting yesterday. Rajya Sabha gave it’s nod to the bill on 19th of this month. The bill amends the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 to include protections for health care service personnel combating epidemic diseases and expands the powers of the Central Government to prevent the spread of such diseases. The bill repeals the Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance that was promulgated in April this year. The legislation makes harm, injury, hurt or danger to the life of health care service personnel as a cognizable and non-bailable offence. It has provisions of imprisonment from three months to five years and a fine between 50 thousand rupees to two lakh rupees. Persons convicted of offences under the bill will also be liable to pay compensation to the health care service personnel whom they have hurt.
  • The schools in many States and Union Territories will partially reopen from today for students of 9th to 12th classes on a voluntary basis. These states are Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Nagaland, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Chandigarh. Under Unlock 4 guidelines, the central government had permitted the states to reopen schools from September the 21st. However, the states have the authority to decide whether they want to resume schools from today or not. Citing the high number of coronavirus cases, many states including Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal have announced not to resume classes from today. According to the Unlock 4 guidelines, schools are allowed to open with 50 percent teaching and non-teaching staff. Students of class 9 to 12 are permitted to go to school – strictly on voluntary basis. Students will have to get a consent slip from their parents to attend the schools. However, the students and teachers who live in the containment zones, are not allowed to attend schools. All the coronavirus preventive measures such as maintaining social distance, covering face with a mask or cover, washing or santising hands need to be strictly followed.
  • Indian Railways has floated the revised tender of semi-high speed 44 Vande Bharat train sets. The tender is for three-phase Propulsion, Control and other Equipment along with Bogies for train sets. In a statement, the Ministry of Railways said, the revised tender is in line with Government’s preference for Make in India policy. The minimum local content percentage has been revised to 75 per cent. The Ministry said, it is the first big tender under revised DPIIT norms of Atmanirbhar Bharat, having atleast 75 per cent domestic components. It said, the tender is now a domestic tender and only the companies registered in India can apply and will have to quote in Indian Rupees.
  • In Sikkim, a complete lockdown will be in force in Gangtok municipal area from today till 27th of this month. The lockdown was announced on Saturday following a spike in COVID19 cases in the state capital. During the seven-day Gangtok municipal area lockdown, movement of passenger and private vehicles will be prohibited except those involved in medical and essential services. All commercial establishments except medical and ration shops will remain closed. State government offices will operate with 30 per cent attendance. Following the lockdown, the state government has allowed free interstate movement of people without any registration from 1st October and resumption of tourism-related services from 10th October. The health department will issue fresh COVID19 protocol for interstate movement beginning 1st October.
  • In his message to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Charter and the adoption of a Commemorative Declaration, Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised the UN but said the institution faced a crisis of confidence without major reforms. The Prime Minister deliver his address via a recorded video. Mr. Modi said we cannot fight today’s challenges with outdated structures. Mr. Modi will again address the General Assembly on Saturday as part of general debate. The speech is particularly significant this year as India will begin an elected, non-permanent, two-year term on the United Nations Security Council starting January 2021.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hold discussions with his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa on September 26 in India’s first virtual summit in the neighbourhood, even as Colombo awaits New Delhi’s decision on its request for a debt moratorium and an additional currency swap. The virtual summit is the first official interaction between the leaders after they met in New Delhi in February this year.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (September 21, 2020)

  • Amid fierce protests, Rajya Sabha passes two farm Bills; PM Modi describes it as a watershed moment in the history of Indian agriculture
  • Twelve Political Parties gave notice for no confidence motion against Rajya Sabha Dy Chairman
  • Make ethics code must for all news channels; News Broadcasters’ body files affidavit in Supreme Court
  • Centre tables Bill to amend foreign contribution Act; Bid to enhance transparency
  • India and China scheduled to hold another round of military talks to resolve LAC crisis
  • 86,296 new cases reported yesterday took India’s coronavirus tally to 54,84,496; Total death toll approaching 86,000
  • India extends 250 million dollars support to Maldives to overcome economic impact of Covid-19
  • WHO clears protocol for COVID-19 herbal medicine trials as potential treatment for epidemics
  • U.S. says United Nation sanctions on Iran back in force, others disagree
  • IPL 2020 : Delhi Capitals beat Kings XI Punjab in Super Over; Sunrisers Hyderabad will lock horns with Royal Challengers Bangalore in the third match of IPL 2020
————————-In Detail————————–
  • Two of the three agriculture-related legislation piloted by the Narendra Modi government, aimed at liberalising the farm sector, were passed by the Rajya Sabha by a voice vote on Sunday amid a din as the Opposition parties created ruckus in the Parliament. The legislation – the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce(Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 and the Farmers(Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020, were cleared by the Lok Sabha last week. Mr Modi also stressed that the system of Minimum Support Price- MSP will remain and government procurement will continue.
  • Twelve Opposition parties, including Congress, AAP, Trinamool Congress, DMK, gave notice for a no-confidence motion against Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh Singh, accusing him of violating Parliamentary procedures in trying to pass the farm sector Bills in haste, circumventing all demands for proper voting.
  • The News Broadcasters Association(NBA) has told the Supreme Court to make its code of ethics against airing malicious, biased and regressive content applicable to all TV news channels. For this, the NBA suggested that the court direct the government to include its ethical code in the Programme Code of the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994. All news channels, whether they are NBA members or not, will then have to follow the Programme Code containing the proposed amendments.
  • The Centre is set to amend the Foreign Contribution(Regulation) Act and proposes to make Aadhaar a mandatory identification document for all the office-bearers, directors and other key functionaries of an NGO or an association eligible to receive foreign donations. The Bill says the amendment is required to enhance transparency and accountability in the receipt and utilisation of foreign contributions worth thousands of crores of rupees every year and facilitating the “genuine” non-governmental organisations or associations who are working for the welfare of society.
  • India and China are scheduled to hold the 6th Round of Corps Commander talks at 9 a.m. on Monday on the Chinese side at Moldo opposite Chushul. For the first time, a Joint Secretary-level official from the Ministry of External Affairs will be a part of the delegation. The focus of the talks would be on complete disengagement.
  • India has provided financial assistance of 250 million dollars as budgetary support to the Maldives government to mitigate the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. A handover ceremony was held yesterday at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maldives government to mark the occasion. India has provided substantial and continued assistance to the Maldives during the COVID-19 pandemic. The budgetary support of 250 million idollars has been extended without conditions. Maldives government is at liberty to use the money in repairing the domestic economic situation in line with its own priorities. The financial assistance is being routed through SBI, Male so that it does not reflect in the external borrowings of the Maldives. Indian government has provided a sovereign guarantee to SBI for this financial assistance. The soft loan has a comfortable tenor of 10 years and a very low interest rate. Since the principal payment is due only at the end of 10 years, it will not put any immediate debt servicing liability other than bi-annual interest payment. Maldives is the only country to which India has provided such assistance.
  • The World Health Organisation on Saturday endorsed a protocol for testing African herbal medicines as potential treatments for the coronavirus and other epidemics. COVID-19 has raised the issue of using traditional medicines to battle contemporary diseases, and the endorsement clearly encouraged testing with criteria similar to those used for molecules developed by labs in Asia, Europe or the Americas.
  • The U.S. unilaterally proclaimed on Saturday that the UN sanctions against Iran were back in force and promised to punish those who violate them, in a move other countries – including its allies – said lacked legal basis. The U.S. administration also promised to “impose consequences” on any UN member state which does not comply with the measures. The sanctions in question were lifted in 2015 when Iran signed on to an international agreement not to seek to build nuclear weapons.
  • The Delhi Capitals beat Kings XI Punjab in Super Over to get off to a fine start in IPL 2020 in Dubai. The DC vs KXIP match went into Super Over after two teams finished with identical scores of 157 for 8.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (September 20, 2020)

  • Rajya Sabha passes Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code Bill, temporarily suspending initiation of Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process
  • Oxford vaccine’s ‘Covidshield’ Phase trial soon; Pune hospital enrolling volunteers
  • India tops in COVID-19 recoveries with 42 lakh beating the virus; Total COVID-19 count approaching 54 lakhs
  • External debt increases almost 3% at $559 billion at March-end; Private sector debt rises four times the sovereign debt
  • NIA arrests 9 Al-Qaeda terrorists planning attacks at vital installations in India
  • Centre tells states with higher caseload of COVID-19 to effectively plan and manage logistical issues regarding oxygen availability
  • Fitch Solutions : Fuel demand to shrink in 2020 by wider 11.5%; Steep decline in consumer, industrial fuels offtake
  • China unveils sanctions regime after U.S. ban on Tiktok, WeChat
  • 50th meeting of border guarding forces of India and Bangladesh concludes in Dhaka
  • IPL cricket: Chennai Super Kings beat Mumbai Indians by five wickets in Abu Dhabi
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  • The Rajya Sabha today passed the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Second Amendment) Bill, 2020. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman moved the Bill in the house which is an amendment to the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code 2016 which provides a time-bound process for resolving insolvency in companies and among individuals. It replaces the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 promulgated in June this year. The Bill seeks to temporarily suspend initiation of the corporate insolvency resolution process, CIRP under the Code. The Bill provides that for defaults arising during the six months from 25th March of this year, CIRP can never be initiated by either the company or its creditors.
  • The Phase 3 human clinical trial of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University and being manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII) will begin at the Sassoon General Hospital next week. Around 150 to 200 volunteers will be administered the vaccine candidate dose. The SII has partnered with the British-Swedish pharma company AstraZeneca for manufacturing the vaccine candidate.
  • Fitch Solutions has revised downward its forecast for fuel demand contraction in India to 11.5% in 2020 in line with the further deterioration in the country’s economic outlook. Demand weakness is spread across the board, with both consumer and industrial fuels set for steep decline. The transport sectors have suffered the heaviest losses, as social distancing measures cut off traffic and travel and curbed demand for road, air and shipping freight.
  • As part of Centre’s coordinated strategy for effective containment and management of the COVID-19 pandemic, a high- level review meeting was chaired by Cabinet Secretary today. Member (Health) in NITI Aayog, Union Health Secretary, Secretary, Department of Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, senior officials of the Health and Home Affairs Ministry along with Chief Secretaries of the 12 States and UTs participated in the review meeting. The 12 States and UTs that participated in the video conferencing include Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Chandigarh, Telangana, Kerala, Delhi, Punjab and West Bengal. About 80 per cent of the COVID caseload in the country is concentrated in these States and UTs. Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal also addressed the states and reviewed the oxygen availability in these states. He specifically requested them to focus on analysing district level and health facility level status and effectively plan and manage logistical issues related with oxygen availability.
  • China on Saturday launched a mechanism that would allow it to sanction foreign companies, upping the ante in a tech war with the U.S. a day after Washington moved to curb popular Chinese apps TikTok and WeChat. China’s long-expected “unreliable entities list” is seen as a weapon for Beijing to retaliate against the U.S., which has used its own “entity list” to shut Chinese telecom giant Huawei out of the U.S. market.
  • India’s total external debt increased by 2.8% to $558.5 billion at the end of March mainly on account of a rise in commercial borrowings, as per Finance Ministry report. External debt as a ratio to GDP rose marginally to 20.6% from19.8%, ‘India’s External Debt : A Status Report : 2019-2020’ showed. Sovereign debt shrank 3% to $100.9 billion, the ministry said, adding, this decrease was primarily due to a fall in FII investment in G-Secs.
  • National Investigation Agency, NIA has arrested nine Al-Qaeda terrorists from West Bengal and Kerala. The agency today conducted simultaneous raids at several locations, Ernakulam in Kerala and Murshidabad in West Bengal and arrested the terrorists associated with Pakistan sponsored module of Al-Qaeda. Six terrorists were arrested from West-Bengal and three from Kerala. The NIA said in a statement, that the group was planning to undertake terrorist attacks at vital installations in India. The agency said, large quantity of incriminating material has been seized from their possession. As per preliminary investigation, these individuals were radicalised on social media and were motivated to undertake attacks at multiple places including the National Capital Region.
  • The 50th meeting of border guarding forces of India and Bangladesh, Border Security Force and Border Guard Bangladesh concluded in Dhaka. The biannual meeting discussed the issues related to India-Bangladesh border management and security. The BSF and BGB agreed for real time sharing of intelligence to reduce criminal activities on the border. Several other important issues were also discussed during the meeting.
  • Mahendra Singh Dhoni led Chennai Super Kings beat defending champions Mumbai Indians by five wickets in the opening game of the 13th edition of Indian Premier League in Abu Dhabi last night. Chasing 163 runs to win, Chennai overhauled the target with four balls to spare, finishing at 166 for five in 19.2 overs. Ambati Rayudu smashed 71 runs off 48 balls, while Faf du Plessis cracked 58 off 44 balls to help ‘Yellow Brigade’ register an easy win over the reigning champions.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (September 19, 2020)

  • 10 patrolling points in eastern Ladakh blocked by Chinese; Many areas out of bounds for Indian troops now
  • Supreme Court says media should not target minorities; Court looks at plea for ban on TV show
  • No procurement from nations where Indian companies not allowed to procure : Government
  • Paytm app back in Google play store after it was pulled down for violating policies related to gambling
  • Rajya Sabha passes Bill to slash salaries of MPs to meet the exigencies of COVID-19 pandemic
  • With 88,336 COVID-19 cases recorded yesterday, India’s tally stood at 53,01,766
  • U.S. to ban WeChat & TikTok, cites privacy, national security; Existing TikTok users may not be able to use app
  • Report : Chinese hackers stole data from Spanish vaccine labs
  • E-commerce to grow 40% to $38 bn in 2020; COVID-19 spurring rural residents to buy online
  • Stage all set for 13th edition of IPL Cricket from today in Abu Dhabi
————————-In Detail————————–
  • There are at least 10 patrolling points along the Line of Actual Control(LAC) in eastern Ladakh that have been blocked by Chinese troops. Since April, Indian troops have been denied access various patrolling points.
  • A message needs to go out to the media that it cannot make a religious minority the target of its attacks, the Supreme Court said. The dignity of a community is as important as journalistic freedom, it added. The court was hearing a plea for pre-telecast ban on a programme partially aired by Sudarshan TV on “UPSC jihad”. The show claims that the members of the Muslim communities are attempting to infiltrate the civil services.
  • Government has amended the Public Procurement (Preference to Make in India) Order, 2017 on 16th of this month, enabling nodal Ministries and Departments to notify higher minimum local content requirement for Class-I and Class-II local suppliers. As per the Order, entities of countries which do not allow Indian companies to participate in their Government procurement for any item, shall not be allowed to participate in Government procurement in India for all items related to that nodal Ministry or Department, except for the list of items published by the Ministry or Department permitting their participation. Specifying foreign certifications, unreasonable technical specifications, brands, models in the bid document is restrictive and discriminatory practice against local suppliers. Foreign certification, if required, shall be stipulated only with the approval of Secretary of the Department concerned.
  • Google restored the listing of Paytm on its application store, a few hours after it pulled down the popular financial services platform for violating its policies related to gambling. In a blogspot, Paytm said it had recently introduced the Paytm Cricket League on its consumer app, where users receive player stickers after each transaction, collect them and receive Paytm Cashback. It was because of this feature that Google had removed the application from its Play Store.
  • The Bill to reduce the salaries of the parliamentarians by 30% for one year to meet the exigencies arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic was cleared by Rajya Sabha even as the government came under a sharp attack from Opposition for not cutting down on luxuries like the Central Vista redevelopment project and construction of a new Parliament building. Lok Sabha had passed the Salary, Allowances and Pensions of Members of Parliament(Amendment) Bill 2020, earlier this week.
  • Chinese hackers have stolen information from Spanish laboratories working on a vaccine for COVID-19, El Pais newspaper reported. The report emerged as drug companies around the world race to produce an effective jab to counter a virus that has now killed more than 9,40,000 people and infected 30 million.
  • E-commerce revenue its forecast to grow 40% to $38 billion in 2020, helped by an anticipated strong sales performance in the festival season, according to Redseer, a management consulting firm. Video and WhatsApp-based shopping would be new additions to the festive landscape.
  • After a long wait, cricket stars will be in action at the 13th edilion of Indian Premier League at Abu Dhabi in United Arab Emirates tomorrow. The fans will have a lot to cheer as Rohit Sharma led Mumbai Indians will take on Mahendra Singh Dhoni led Chennai Super Kings. The tournament, which has been shifted to the UAE due to COVID-19 pandemic is a TV only event. In all, 60 matches will be held in three venues- Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Dubai.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (September 18, 2020)

  • Minister for Food Processing Industries Harsimrat Kaur Badal quits Cabinet in protest against two agriculture bills
  • United States keen on finalising BECA at 2+2 dialogue; Maritime information agreement is also under active consideration
  • With 91,770 COVID-19 cases recorded in 24 hours, India’s tally stood at 52,08,027; 1,148 new deaths were recorded
  • Health and Family Welfare Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan says COVID-19 vaccine would be available in the country by early next year
  • Sewa Saptah being organised across the country to mark Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s birthday; President, Vice-President greet on the occasion
  • The Indian rupee depreciated 14 paise and settled at 73 rupees and 66 paise against the US dollar
  • Ministry of MSME announces new guidelines to support artisans including Pottery & Beekeeping activity
  • Pakistan to attend SAARC meet; Ministers to meet via videoconference on September 24
  • Donald Trump contradicts CDC on vaccination; Reiterates COVID-19 vaccine distribution could start in October
  • WHO warns of alarming coronavirus transmission in Europe; cautions against shortening quarantine periods
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  • Union Minister for Food Processing Industries Harsimrat Badal has resigned in protest of  the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020.  Ms Harsimrat Badal belongs to Shiromani Akali Dal.  The proposed legislations seek to promote barrier-free trade of farm produce by facilitating contract farming as well as agricultural marketing outside notified Agricultural Produce Market Committee mandis. Farmers are worried about the dilution of the existing Minimum Support Price regime, as well as the entry of corporates with greater bargaining power than small farmers.
  • The U.S. is keen that India sign the last foundational agreement, Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial cooperation(BECA), at the next India-U.S. 2+2 ministerial dialogue likely to held in October end. A maritime information agreement is also under active deliberation between India and the U.S.. Once concluded, India will have such agreements with all Quad countries – Australia, Japan and the U.S.
  • Days after India-Pakistan tensions spilled over into a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation(SCO), External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi are expected to meet via a videoconference at the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation meeting on September 24. The meeting will be chaired by Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nepal, Pradeep Kumar Gyawali.
  • In Maharashtra, the Seva Saptah organized by the BJP to celebrate the birthday of its senior leader and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is being held at various places in the state. As part of the Sewa Saptah, a series of programmes have been organised by the state unit of the BJP in Maharashtra. In Nagpur, eye testing camps are been organised by the BJP along with Mahatme Eye Bank Eye hospital in rural areas of the district. The camp is held by following the Covid-19 protocols and people are seen maintaining physical distancing. Apart from this free distribution of eyeglasses is also been done. In Washim, cleanliness drive was organised and saplings were planted. In Dhule, a pledge was taken on the occasion to make the district Covid free. Health checkups of people are also been done by the teams of municipal corporation in the city.
  • Health and Family Welfare Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan today expressed the hope that COVID-19 vaccine would be available in the country by early next year. He informed that three vaccine candidates have reached the clinical trial stage of Phase one, two and three. He appealed to people to adopt social distancing and Do Gaz Ki Doori as a social vaccine till the arrival of a vaccine. Replying to a discussion in the Rajya Sabha on COVID-19 pandemic situation in the country, he said, an Expert Committee is working on the development of a vaccine by giving all the necessary support to the various bodies. He said, India is working with WHO and other international organizations in the direction of vaccine development.
  • Ministry of Micro Small and Medium Enterprises, MSME, had announced expanding and doubling the support to Artisans who might be interested in making Agarbatti few days ago. These new initiatives of the Ministry with beneficiary oriented Self-Employment schemes, are aimed at rejuvenating the grass root economy contributing to Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan. For Pottery Activity Government will provide assistance of pottery wheel, Clay Blunger, Granulator etc. It will also provide Wheel Pottery Training for traditional pottery artisans and Press Pottery training for pottery as well as non-pottery artisans in Self- Help Groups. In case of the Scheme for Beekeeping Activity, Government will provide assistance of Bee boxes and Tool kits. Under this scheme, Bee boxes, with Bee colonies, will also be distributed to Migrant workers in Prime Minister Gareeb Kalyan Rozgar Abhiyaan districts.
  • United States President Donald Trump contradicted the director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the efficacy of masks and schedule for vaccine availability. Coronavirus cases in the U.S. are soaring with over 6 million infections and around 2,00,000 deaths. Mr. Trump reiterated that vaccine distribution could start in October but certainly November and December would be the latest. He said a vast section of the U.S. would receive the vaccine and then other countries as well. The scientists appealed to all Americans to wear a mask and said if they did for 6-12 weeks, the pandemic could be brought under control.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (September 17, 2020)

  • With 94,732 COVID-19 cases recorded in 24 hours, India’s tally stood at 51,12,806; India’s death toll stands at 83,222
  • Russia inks pact to test, supply COVID-19 vaccine Sputnik V to India
  • Lok Sabha passes Banking Regulation(Amendment) Bill; Bill aims to protect depositors’ money
  • Government says, terrorist incidents in Jammu and Kashmir reduced significantly after revocation of Article 370
  • RBI assures industry of taking all necessary measures to ensure liquidity in the system and promote economic growth
  • Sports Ministry to upgrade eight Khelo India State Centres of Excellence with an aim to identify and groom future Olympic champions
  • PM Modi to dedicate historic Kosi Rail Mahasetu(Mega bridge) to the nation tomorrow
  • India registers highest single day COVID-19 recoveries of 82 thousand 961 people; Recovery rate of COVID-19 has further improved to 78.53 percent
  • Air strikes accompany Israel-Gulf pacts; Israeli aircraft bomb targets in Gaza after militants in the Palestinian enclave launch rockets
  • Yoshihide Suga sworn in as Japan’s new Prime Minister; Succeeded Shinzo Abe, who resigned due to health issues
————————-In Detail————————–
  • The Russia Direct Investment Fund(RDIF), which is piloting Russia’s Sputnik V candidate vaccine, currently in Phase 3 trials, has partnered with the Hyderabad-based Dr. Reddy’s Laboratory to test, and subject to regulatory approvals in India, supply 100 million doses of the vaccine. The Phase 1 and Phase 2 trials have shown promising results. Deliveries could potentially begin in late 2020 subject to completion of successful trials and registration of the vaccine by regulatory authorities in India.
  • Lok Sabha passed the Banking Regulation (Amendment) Bill, 2020. This Bill replaces the Banking Regulation (Amendment) Ordinance which was promulgated on 26th June this year. Speaking about the Bill, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said it aims to protect depositors’ money. The Minister said, it will help in safeguarding interest of the co-operative bank depositors’ in the country. She also raised the issue of PMC bank and asserted that this bill will protect depositors’ interest in similar situations. The amendments to section 3, 45 and 56 of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949, proposed in the current bill seeks to bring parity in terms of rules and regulations in co-operative banks as applicable in the commercial banks. The bill also enables the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to make a scheme for reconstruction or amalgamation of co-operative banks to secure its proper management, and in the interest of depositors.
  • Terrorist incidents in Jammu and Kashmir have reduced significantly after the revocation of Article 370 from the newly carved Union Territory. This was stated by the Minister of State for Home Affairs G. Kishan Reddy in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha today. He said, no major terror attack took place in the hinterland of the country from 5th of August 2019 to 9th of September 2020. The Minister informed that a total number of 455 terrorist incidents have been reported in Jammu and Kashmir within 402 days prior to revocation of Article 370. He said, a total number of 211 terrorist incidents have been reported between 5th August 2019 to 9th September 2020. Mr. Reddy said that the government has adopted a policy of zero tolerance towards terrorism. He added that various measures have been taken by the government for strengthening the security apparatus and strict enforcement of law to effectively deal with the challenges posed by the terrorist organizations.
  • Reserve Bank of India Governor Shaktikanta Das assured the industry that the Central Bank will take all necessary measures to ensure liquidity in the system and promote economic growth. The recoveries however not yet fully entrenched and moreover in some sectors the uptake which was noticed in June and July they appeared to have levelled off.  By all indications the recovery is likely to be gradual as efforts towards re-opening of economy and confronted with rising injection.  The RBI stands battle ready and whatever measures are required will be taken up by the RBI.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will dedicate the historic Kosi Rail Mahasetu (mega bridge) to the nation through video-conference on Friday. The dedication of the Kosi Rail Mahasetu is a watershed moment in the history of Bihar and the entire region connecting to the North East. The Kosi Rail Mahasetu is 1.9 KM long and its construction cost is 516 Crore rupees. The project was completed during the COVID-pandemic where the migrant labour also participated. The dedication of this project will fulfill the 86 year old dream. Apart from this, the Prime Minister will also inaugurate 12 rail projects related to passenger facilities for the benefit of the Bihar. These include a new railway bridge on the Kiul River, two new railway lines, five electrification projects, one electric locomotive shed and 3rd line project between Barh-Bakhtiyarpur.
  • The Sports Ministry is set to upgrade eight Khelo India State Centres of Excellence (KISCE) at an estimated cost of 19 crore rupees with an aim to identify and groom future Olympic champions. Speaking about the decision, Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju said, this is yet another step towards building a robust sports ecosystem and India’s pursuit of excellence in Olympics.  He said  these centres will ensure that athletes proficient in a certain sports are given the highest level of training. The Minister said he is confident that this will help to further India’s effort of becoming one of the top 10 countries in the Olympics in 2028. According to a Sports Ministry statement, each KISCE will be extended sports-specific support in 14 Olympic sports, of which one State or Union Territory will be given support for a maximum of 3 sports. Eight states that have been approved for setting up of KISCEs in the first leg are Odisha, Mizoram, Telengana, Manipur, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala.
  • Militants in Gaza launched rockets into Israel and Israeli aircraft hit targets in the Palestinian enclave in an explosive backdrop to the signing of pacts for formal ties between Israel and the two Gulf Arab countries. The Israeli military said it launched about 10 air strikes in Hamas Islamist-run Gaza early on Wednesday and that 15 rockets had been fired from the territory at Israeli communities near the border, where sirens sounded before dawn.
  • Yoshihide Suga has been sworn in as new Prime minister of Japan.  Emperor of Japan Naruhito ceremonially endorsed Suga at the Imperial Palace in line with constitutional requirements today. The 71-year-old veteran politician succeeded Shinzo Abe, who resigned due to health issues. Earlier in the day, the head of the main ruling Liberal Democratic Party, Yoshihide Suga was formally elected as new Prime Minister following a vote in the country’s Parliament. The new Prime Minister has also formed a cabinet retaining  Finance Minister Taro Aso, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi. Of the Cabinet’s 20 members, 15 had ministerial portfolios in the previous administration.  Meanwhile, Health Minister Katsunobu Kato was chosen to succeed Yoshihide Suga as Chief Cabinet Secretary.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (September 16, 2020)

  • Defence Minister Rajnath Singh says China has massively deployed troops along Line of Actual Control
  • COVID-19 cases cross 50 lakh mark in India; Death toll rose to 82,169
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurates various projects under ‘Namami Gange’ and ‘AMRUT’ schemes in Bihar
  • Government says India has surplus medical oxygen as India registered last one million cases only in 11 days
  • Lok Sabha passes Essential Commodities Bill; Bill proposes to deregulate production and sale of several foodstuffs
  • Cabinet gives nod to establishment of new AIIMS at Darbhanga in Bihar; Also approves Haryana Orbital Rail Corridor Project from Palwal to Sonipat
  • Asian Development Bank predicted India’s COVID-19 battered economy to shrink 9% in FY21
  • UAE, Bahrain set to ink deals with Israel; Move to normalise relations with Israel
  • World Trade Organisation faults US over Trump’s China tariffs; Duties inconsistent with trading rules
  • U.S. issues travel warning for China, Hong Kong, citing the risk of arbitrary detention and arbitrary enforcement of local laws
————————-In Detail————————–
  • China has mobilised a large number of troops and armaments along the Line of Actual Control as well as in the “depth areas”, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh informed the Lok Sabha. He pointed out that there were several friction areas in eastern Ladakh, including Gogra, Kongka La and the north and south banks of Pangong Tso(lake). He told Lok Sabha that India had made appropriate counter deployments.
  • As India’s COVID-19 case load crosses 50 lakh mark, Union Health Ministry said there was no shortage of supply of medical oxygen, and the country had surplus production. The Ministry, however, cautioned that hospitals should have robust inventory management and encouraged rationalised use of oxygen to ensure that no artificial scarcity was created. Rajesh Bhushan, Secretary, Union Health Ministry, said a little over 6% of patients were currently on oxygen support. Of them, 3.69% were on oxygen support, 2.17% on ICU beds with oxygen support and 0.36% on ventilator support.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi today inaugurated and laid the foundation stones for seven projects related to urban infrastructure in Bihar under ‘Namami Gange’ and ‘AMRUT’ schemes through video conferencing. Out of these, four projects are related to water supply, two to sewerage treatment and one to riverfront development. The total cost of these projects is 541 crore rupees. The implementation of these projects has been undertaken by Bihar Urban Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd.
  • The Lok Sabha passed the Essential Commodities Amendment Bill by a voice vote on Tuesday evening. The Bill proposes to deregulate the production, storage, movement and sale of several foodstuffs, including cereals, pulses, edible oils and onions, except in the case of extraordinary circumstances. The Bill is meant to replace an ordinance promulgated in June, in the wake of the COVID-19 lockdown.
  • The Union Cabinet has approved establishment of a new All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) at Darbhanga, Bihar. This will be established under the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY). New AIIMS will add 750 hostpital beds and add 100 UG (MBBS) seats and 60 B.Sc (Nursing) seats. The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, (CCEA) has given its approval to the Haryana Orbital Rail Corridor Project from Palwal to Sonipat via Sohna-Manesar-Kharkhauda.
  • This Rail Line will start from Palwal and end at existing Harsana Kalan station on the Delhi-Ambala section. This will also give connectivity enroute to existing Patli Station on the Delhi-Rewari line, Sultanpur station on Garhi Harsaru-Farukhnagar Line and Asaudha Station on Delhi Rohtak Line. The project will be implemented by Haryana Rail Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited, a Joint Venture company set up by the Ministry of Railways with the government of Haryana. The project is likely to be completed in 5 years with estimated completion cost of 5,617 crore rupees.
  • The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on Tuesday will become the latest Arab states to break a longstanding taboo when they sign agreements toward normalising relations with Israel in a strategic realignment of West Asian countries against Iran. The deals make them the third and fourth Arab states to take such steps to normalise ties since Israel signed peace treaties with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994. PM Netanyahu will sign agreements with Emirati and Bahraini Foreign Ministers at the White House.
  • The World Trade Organisation upheld a complaint by China over additional duties slapped by the US on some $250 billion worth of Chinese goods. A panel of experts set up by WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body ruled the tariffs were inconsistent with global trade rules, and recommended that the U.S. bring its measures into conformity with its obligations.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (September 15, 2020)

  • Parliament passes National Commission for Homoeopathy Bill, 2020 and National Commission for Indian System of Medicine Bill, 2020
  • On Day 1 of Monsoon session, 25 MPs test COVID-19 positive; Battle against virus is far from over, says Health Minister
  • PM Modi expresses confidence that Parliament will send the message in one voice that it is standing solidly behind soldiers
  • Election Commission team on a two day visit to Bihar to review the preparedness for the upcoming Assembly polls
  • Retail inflation eases to 6.69% in August; Food prices continues to rule high, shows official data
  • Truth Fund to provide legal aid in fight for free speech; Move to amplify voices of those facing criminal charges
  • 92071 cases has pushed India’s coronavirus tally to 48,46,427; Death count has risen to 79,722 with 1,136 more fatalities
  • Scientists find ‘life harbouring’ gas on Venus; No proof of presence of life on Venus yet
  • Palestinians to mourn ‘black day’ in response to signing of normalisation accords between Israel and two Gulf states in Washington
  • Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party elects Yoshihide Suga as its new leader to succeed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
————————-In Detail————————–
  • Parliament has passed the National Commission for Homoeopathy Bill, 2020 and the National Commission for Indian System of Medicine Bill, 2020 with the Lok Sabha approving them today. Both these Bills were passed by the Rajya Sabha on the 19th March this year during the Budget Session. The bills aim at ensuring availability of high quality medical professionals both for homeopathic treatment as well as for the Indian System of Medicine. The National Commission for Homoeopathy Bill, 2020 seeks to repeal the Homoeopathy Central Council Act, 1973 and to set up a National Commission for Homoeopathy. The Commission for Homoeopathy will consist of 20 members which will include a Chairperson, the President of the Homoeopathy Education Board, the Director General of National Institute of Homoeopathy, the President of the Medical Assessment and Rating Board for Homoeopathy in addition to other members. The National Commission for Indian System of Medicine Bill, 2020 seeks to repeal the Indian Medicine Central Council Act, 1970 and set up a National Commission for Indian System of Medicine. The Commission will consist of 29 members including a Chairperson, the President of the Board of Ayurveda, President of the Board of Unani, Siddha, and Sowa-Rigpa, in addition to other members.
  • On the first day of the monsoon session of Parliament, 25 lawmakers are reported to have tested positive for COVID-19 even as Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan admitted in a statement in the Lok Sabha that the “battle against COVID-19 is still far from over”. Both houses of Parliament did not release an official list of those who have tested positive.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed confidence that Parliament will give the message in one voice that it is standing solidly behind soldiers guarding our borders. Speaking to media before beginning of the Monsoon session this morning, Mr Modi said, the soldiers are protecting the borders of our country and all MPs are united in supporting our soldiers. The Prime Minister said, many important issues will be debated in Parliament and the more the debate happens, the better it is. Mr Modi expressed confidence that all MPs will collectively do value addition to discussions on several subjects.
  • Retail inflation softened slightly to 6.69% in August, even as food prices continued to rule high, official data showed on Monday. The government has revised downwards the retail inflation for July to 6.73% from the earlier estimate of 6.93%. Food inflation during the month stood at 9.62%. Food inflation in August fell marginally to 9.05% according to the Consumer Price Index(CPI) data.
  • In Bihar, a two member team of the Election Commission reached Patna this morning on a two day visit to review the preparedness for the upcoming assembly elections. Assembly election in Bihar is due in October-November as the tenure of the current Assembly is scheduled to end on November 29. The team which includes Deputy Election Commissioners Sudeep Jain and Chandrabhushan Kumar, held review meeting at Muzaffarpur, with concerned officials of 12 districts including Darbhanga, Madhubani and Sitamarhi. The Election Commission team discussed the prevailing flood and Covid situation in the state and has directed the concerned officials to take all preventive measures to contain the pandemic during the election process. The team also stressed the need to make people aware of the precautions to be taken during campaigning and casting their votes.
  • With hundreds of people wanting to support advocate Prashant Bhushan by symbolically contributing Re.1 or more – towards his fine in the contempt of court case in the Supreme Court, a fund has been set up to use the money to help others fighting for free speech. The Satyamev Jayate or Truth Fund will be used to provide legal support and amplify the voices of those facing criminal charges for standing by their conscience and speaking truth, says activist at a webinar organised by Swaraj Abhiyan and the Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms(CJAR) of freedom of speech and the judiciary.
  • The atmosphere of Venus contains traces of phosphine gas – which on Earth is associated with living organisms – scientists said on Monday, in fresh insight into conditions on our nearest planetary neighbour. A team of experts used telescopes in Hawaii and Chile’s Atacama Desert to observe Venus’ upper cloud deck, around 60 km from the surface. Writing in Nature Astronomy, the team stressed that the presence of phosphine alone did not prove the presence of life on Venus.
  • The signing of normalisation accords between Israel and the two Gulf States in Washington will amount to another “black day” for the Arab world, the Palestinian Premier said yesterday. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the top diplomats of the UAE and Bahrain are to sign the deals today. With Gilf countries making peace with Israel on a bilateral level, the Arab Peace Initiative is in crisis, leaving the Palestinians further isolated.
  • Japan’s ruling, Liberal Democratic Party, today elected Yoshihide Suga as its new leader. In the party election to pick a successor to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Suga received 377 votes. Shinzo Abe announced his resignation last month due to health problems. The other two contenders received a combined 157 votes. Suga is currently the Chief Cabinet Secretary of Abe’s Government and he will then be confirmed as Prime Minister by a special session of the country’s Parliament on Wednesday.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (September 14, 2020)

  • Status quo on LAC after meeting of Foreign External Ministers of India and China
  • Monsoon Session of Parliament to begin from today; Session to be held in two shifts in view of covid-19 pandemic
  • COVID-19 recovery rate improves to 77.88 per cent; The COVID-19 case fatality rate has further dropped to 1.65 per cent
  • Government urges seven States to ensure adequate Oxygen availability in all Healthcare Facilities
  • Front-line workers will get COVID-19 vaccine first : Union Health Minister; Vaccine may be ready by first quarter of 2021
  • National Testing Agency says 85-90% attendance at NEET; 16 lakh students registered for exam
  • With 90,875 cases recorded in 24 hours, India’s COVID-19 tally rose to 48,42,584; Total death count reached 79,762
  • U.S. study reports dining out raises risk of COVID-19 infection
  • Turkey pulls back vessel from Mediterranean Sea; Greece calls move conducive for talks
  • Nine people killed, 22 missing in landslide in Nepal due to overnight rainfall
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  • There is a freeze on all movement and activities along the Line of Actual Control(LAC) in eastern Ladakh after External Affairs Ministers S. Jaishankar met his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, in Moscow on September 10 and agreed on a five-point solution to ease the border tension. There is no change in troop positions, strength at Pangong Tso.
  • Monsoon Session of Parliament will begin from tomorrow and continue till 1st of next month. In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, the session will be held in two shifts – 9 AM to 1 PM and 3 PM to 7 PM. Except for the first day, the Rajya Sabha will sit in the morning shift and the Lok Sabha will sit in the evening. There will be no Question Hour and Private Members’ Bills will not be taken up in the upcoming Session. The Zero Hour will be restricted. Notifications issued by Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha Secretariats said, there will be no breaks during the session. Both the houses will function on Saturdays and Sundays as well. Several strict preventive measures have been undertaken for the first time in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. The measures include testing of all MPs, staggered sitting of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and use of both chambers and galleries to accommodate members while following physical distancing norms. Everyone including the MPs, who are supposed to enter the Parliament building during the session, have to undergo the RT-PCR test for COVID-19 at least 72 hours before the start of the session. On the eve of the session today, the News Services Division of All India Radio will bring you discussions on ‘Issues Before Parliament’  and  ‘Sansad Ke Samaksh Mudde’.
  • Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said front-line health workers, senior citizens and those with comorbidities would be administered the COVID-19 vaccine first when it becomes available. He said while no date had been fixed for the launch of vaccine, it may be ready by the first quarter of 2021.
  • Restaurant and pub exposure were cited as important risk factors associated with SARS-CoV2 infection, according to an analysis by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study published that going to locations that offer on-site eating and drinking options were associated with COVID-19 positivity. COVID-19 positive adults twice as likely to report eating out.
  • Government has urged seven big States to ensure adequate Oxygen availability in all Healthcare Facilities. These States are Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Telangana, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Union Health Ministry yesterday held a virtual meeting in this regard. The aim of the meeting was to ensure adequate Oxygen availability in all healthcare facilities in these States and unrestricted intra as well as inter State movement of oxygen. Union Health Secretary, Secretary DPIIT, Secretary Pharmaceuticals and State Health Secretaries and Industries Secretaries of these states also participated in the meeting. The States were specifically advised to ensure hospital wise oxygen inventory management and advance planning for timely replenishment so that there are no stockout. They have been also asked to ensure that no restriction is imposed on the movement of Medical Oxygen between States and Union Territories.
  • Turkey’s seismic research vessel Oruc returned to waters near the southern province of Antalya on Sunday, Refinitiv data showed, a move Greece said was a positive first step in easing tensions over offshore natural resources. NATO members Turkey and Greece have overlapping claims to continental shelves and rights to potential energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean. Tensions flared last month after Ankara sent Oruc Reis to map out possible oil and gas drilling prospects in waters claimed by Greece, Cyprus and Turkey.
  • In Nepal, Nine people were killed and 22 others were missing after a massive landslide triggered by overnight rainfall. A senior government official said that the incident took place at around 2:30 am yesterday when a huge mound of earth falling from the upper belt jolted Nagpuje, Bhirkharka and Newar Tole villages of Sindhupalchowk district. The district is about 120 km east of Kathmandu city. Chief of the District Police Office, Rajan Adhikari, said that seven bodies were retrieved from the incident site and two more bodies were recovered from Bhotekoshi and Sunkoshi rivers. A joint team of Nepal Army, Police, and the Armed Police Force has been deployed to conduct the rescue operations.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (September 13, 2020)

  • Oxford COVID-19 vaccine trials to resume in U.K.; Trials were paused after serious adverse event was reported in volunteer
  • Covid-19 recovery rate stands at 77.77 per cent in India; Over 36 lakh 24 thousand people in the country have recovered from the viral pandemic
  • Jaishankar virtually attends the intra-Afghan negotiations; India calls to preserve progress made so far
  • Prime Minister to dedicate to the nation three key projects related to Petroleum sector in Bihar through video conferencing today
  • India is working on support agreements with Russia, the U.K. and Vietnam
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurates 1.75 lakh houses built under the Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana – Gramin in Madhya Pradesh
  • With 89,630 COVID-19 cases recorded in 24 hours, India’s tally reached 47,47,016 with India’s death tally reaching 78,602
  • New ASEAN-India Plan of Action adopted for five years at Ministerial Meeting
  • Singapore Convention on Mediation comes into force; Framework to boost ease of doing business
  • UNSC members urge Myanmar to ensure Rohingya participation in Elections
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  • Oxford University in a statement on Saturday said it is resuming the ‘paused’ vaccine trial of the ChAdOx1 COVID vaccine in clinical trial sites in the United Kingdom. The vaccine candidate developed by researchers at the University and in partnership with the U.K. biopharma company AstraZeneca was paused earlier this week after reports emerged of a “serious adverse event” in a volunteer in the U.K.
  • For the first time, an Indian Minister has addressed a gathering that includes the Taliban, which India still does not recognize. Calling for the intra-Afghanistan negotiations to preserve the progress made in the past two-decades in the post-Taliban Afghanistan, Mr. Jaishankar did not, however, mention the Taliban in his speech and said India’s policy in Afghanistan remains consistent.
  • After concluding a logistics agreement with Japan early this week, India is now working on three such agreements with Russia, the U.K. and Vietnam. The agreement with Russia is expected to be signed in October. Following the agreement with Japan early this week, India now has military logistics agreements with all Quad countries, Australia, Japan and the U.S., significantly improving interoperability as they also operate several common military platforms.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will dedicate to the nation three key projects related to the Petroleum sector in Bihar through video conferencing today. The projects include the Durgapur-Banka section of the Paradip-Haldia-Durgapur Pipeline Augmentation Project and two LPG Bottling Plants in East Champaran and Banka. The Bottling Plants will empower the ‘Atmanirbhar Bihar’ by meeting the rising demand for LPG in the state. LPG Bottling Plants in East Champaran and Banka have a combined bottling capacity of 80 thousand cylinders per day. The Banka Plant will serve Bhagalpur, Banka, Jamui, Araria, Kishanganj and Katihar districts in Bihar and Godda, Deoghar, Dumka, Sahibganj and Pakur districts in the neighbouring Jharkhand. Similarly, the East Champaran Plant will serve over five lakh consumers in East and West Champaran, Muzaffarpur, Siwan, Gopalganj and Sitamarhi in Bihar and Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi virtually inaugurated 1.75 lakh houses built under Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana – Gramin in 12 thousand villages in Madhya Pradesh today. The Prime Minister released the Griha Pravesham plaque and inaugurated all the houses simultaneously. Speaking on this occasion, Mr Modi said that Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana is not just about providing housing, but also about instilling confidence in the poor so that they are free of daily struggles and they can focus towards building a better future and can sleep peacefully. Describing PMAY-Gramin as a fine example of converting crisis into opportunity, Mr Modi informed that despite various challenges due to COVID19, construction of 18 lakh houses has been completed in the nation out of which 1.75 lakh houses were constructed in Madhya Pradesh itself; Instead of 125 days, work has been completed in 35 – 40 days.
  • External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar co-chaired the ASEAN-India Ministerial Meeting today along with his Thailand counterpart Don Pramudwinai. The meeting was held virtually and saw the participation of Foreign Ministers of the ten ASEAN Member States and India. ​It reviewed the status of ASEAN-India Strategic Partnership in several areas including maritime cooperation, connectivity, education and capacity building and people-to-people contacts. It also reviewed the progress in implementation of the ASEAN-India Plan of Action, 2016-2020. The meeting also reviewed the preparations for the upcoming 17th ASEAN-India Summit and also the progress in the implementation of key decisions of the Leaders of ASEAN Member States and India arrived at the 16th ASEAN-India Summit held in Bangkok in November 2019 and the previous summits. The new ASEAN-India Plan of Action (2021-2025) was adopted at the Meeting. The Ministers discussed ways to strengthen cooperation to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and exchanged views on important regional and international developments.
  • The Singapore Convention on Mediation came into force on Saturday and will provide a more effective way for enforcing mediated settlements of corporate disputes involving businesses in India and other countries that are signatories to the Convention. Also known as the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation, this is also the first UN treaty to be named after Singapore.
  • Eight members of the UN Security Council (UNSC) have urged Myanmar to ensure that Rohingya participate in the general elections scheduled to be held on November 8. In a joint statement issued on Friday, Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Tunisia, UK and the US asked Myanmar to ensure that individuals of all communities, including Rohingya, are able to participate safely, fully, and equally in credible and inclusive elections. Expressing concern over clashes between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army in Rakhine and Chin states, the UNSC members called for immediate cessation of hostilities. The countries also extended support to Myanmar in fighting the COVID 19 pandemic through economic relief plan, public awareness campaign and other efforts. The UNSC members also called upon Myanmar to address the long-term causes of the crisis in Rakhine and create conditions conducive to the safe, voluntary, sustainable, and dignified return of refugees. In order to find a solution to the problem, they asked Myanmar to intensify bilateral dialogue with Bangladesh to find a solution to the Rohingya refugee problem. The Security Council members expressed appreciation for the effort of Bangladesh in providing assistance and protection to the Rohingya refugees forcibly displaced from Myanmar.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (September 12, 2020)

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserts, National Education Policy aims to fulfill aspirations, expectations and requirements of new India
  • India, China agree on 5-point action plan to disengage and reduce tension along Line of Actual Control
  • New grievance redress system unveiled in Jammu & Kashmir; Step towards gaining trust
  • Index of Industrial Production shrinks 10.4% in July due to slowdown in recovery
  • Gujarat and Andaman and Nicobar Islands named best performers in State StartUp Rankings 2019
  • PM Modi to unveil a slew of projects in Bihar; They are estimated at Rs. 16,000 crore
  • Centre launches Climate Smart Cities Assessment Framework along with ‘Streets for People Challenge’
  • With 93,543 cases in 24 hours, India’s COVID-19 tally rose to 46,53,260 taking the total death count to 77,483
  • United Kingdom inks key trade deal with Japan; This is Britain’s first major post-Brexit trade agreement
  • Microsoft : Hackers from Russia, China targeting U.S. vote; Cyberattacks focussed on campaign staff of Trump, Biden
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  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asserted that the National Education Policy-2020 aims to fulfill the aspirations, expectations and requirements of new India. The Prime Minister said that it will give a new direction to 21st century India. Mr Modi was addressing the National Conclave on School Education in the 21st Century. Mr Modi stressed on the importance of advancing the students with 21st century skills, listening them out as Critical Thinking, Creativity, Collaboration, Curiosity and Communication. He said that students should learn coding from the beginning, understand Artificial Intelligence, join Internet of Things, Cloud Computing, Data Science and Robotics. He said  the earlier education policy was restrictive, but in the real world, all subjects are related to each other. He said, the present system does not provide an opportunity to change the field, to connect with new possibilities and this has also been a major reason for the dropout of many children. The Prime Minister said the National education policy also addresses another big issue, marksheet driven education dominating in place of learning driven education in our country. He said, a new National Assessment Center “Parakh” will also be established for the overall improvement of the evaluation system.
  • After a two and a half hour meeting that went into the night in Moscow, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi said they agreed on a five-point course of action to disengage and reduce tensions along the Line of Actual Control(LAC), where Indian and Chinese troops have been engaged in a four and a half month long stand off. The five-point plan is: following the consensus between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping to “not allow differences to become disputes”, disengaging quickly to ease tensions, abiding by the existing India-China border protocols and avoiding escalatory action, continuing the dialogue between Special Representatives National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Mr. Wang as well as the other mechanisms and working towards new confidence-building measures (CBMs).
  • Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant-Governor (L-G) Manoj Sinha on Friday launched the Jammu and Kashmir Integrated Grievance Redress and Monitoring System (JK-IGRAMS), in a bid to create an interface with the public and focus on governance issues in the Union Territory. The system is being launched on a pilot basis in three districts — Jammu, Srinagar, and Reasi — and will gradually be rolled out in the remaining districts by October 2. It will replace the current portal that was launched in 2018. It will be available round the clock with applicant OTP authentication, acknowledgement to applicant at each stage, feedback by complainant, and grievance submission through call centre by making a phone call between 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on all days except Sunday.
  • The State of Gujarat and Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands have been named the best performers in the State StartUp Rankings 2019. They have been recognized for their outstanding performance in simplifying commerce, enhancing productivity and leveraging technology. The State Startup Rankings was released in New Delhi yesterday. Karnataka and Kerala are the top performing states in the State StartUp Rankings for fostering innovative entrepreneurship to attract business and finance. Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Sikkim and Uttar Pradesh are the emerging startup ecosystems in the country.
  • Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Singh Puri today launched the Climate Smart Cities Assessment Framework (CSCAF 2.0) along with the ‘Streets for People Challenge’ in a virtual event. The objective of CSCAF is to provide a clear roadmap for cities towards combating Climate Change while planning and implementing their actions, including investments. CSCAF initiative intends to inculcate a climate-sensitive approach to urban planning and development in India. ​The Streets for People Challenge is the response to the need for making cities more walkable and pedestrian friendly. The Challenge builds on the advisory issued by the Ministry for the holistic planning for pedestrian-friendly market spaces, earlier this year. The Challenge will support cities across the country to develop a unified vision of streets for people in consultation with stakeholders and citizens.
  • Factory output contracted 10.4% in July 2020, in a year-on-year comparison of the Index of Industrial Production (IIP), released by the Centre on Friday. Mining and manufacturing shrunk 13% and 11% respectively, although electricity generation has recovered to a contraction of 2.5%. Economists feel the recovery is slowing, noting that although the IIP’s July contraction is significantly better than the 57% plunge seen in April, it is only a mild improvement from the 15.7% y-o-y contraction seen in June.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be launching a blitzkrieg of projects in the next 10 days amounting to Rs. 16,000 crore in poll-going measure. The projects are aimed at improving infrastructure and ease of living for the people of Bihar. On September 13, Mr. Modi will launch the Durgapur Banka section of PHDPL project, a liquid petroleum gas bottling plant at Banka, and a new LPG plant at Sugauli.
  • Britain announced its first major post-Brexit trade agreement – a deal with Japan – as its negotiations with the European Union become increasingly fractious. The government said U.K. businesses will benefit from tariff-free trade on 99% of exports to Japan and that it will give British businesses a gateway to the Asia-Pacific Region.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (September 11, 2020)

  • First face-to-face meeting of India and China Foreign Ministers in Moscow amid LAC stand-off
  • With 90,033 COVID-19 cases and 1166 new death cases in a day, India’s tally stood at 45,52,993
  • India and Japan sign logistics agreement; Armed forces will coordinate in services and supplies
  • COVID-19 recovery rate stands at 77.74 per cent in the country; India’s Case Fatality Rate is at 1.68 per cent
  • Government forms three-member expert panel to assist in assessment of relief to bank borrowers
  • 26% of candidates did not take JEE-Main; Only 6.35 lakh wrote the examination
  • AstraZeneca : COVID-19 vaccine still possible this year; Company voluntarily paused trial
  • California wildfires growing bigger; Experts say fire behaviour is driven by drought and warming temperatures
  • Crisil now sees India’s GDP shrinking 9% in FY21, wider than its May estimate of a 5% contraction
  • US revokes visas of more than 1,000 Chinese students and researchers deemed to be a security risk
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  • External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Chinese Minister Wang Yi held their first face-to-face meeting in Moscow on Thursday to discuss the four-month long standoff at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, which has seen violent clashes and even gunfire for the first time since 1975. The meeting took place on Thursday evening, after the completion of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Council’s Foreign Minister’s meeting as well as a Russia-India-China trilateral meeting that both ministers attended.
  • India and Japan signed a logistics agreement that will allow the Armed Forces of both sides to coordinate closely in services and supplies. A statement from the government informed that the agreement on ‘Reciprocal Provision Supplies and Services’ will ‘increase interoperability between the Armed Forces of India and Japan’ and assist in maintaining regional security.
  • Over a quarter of students who registered for the JEE-Main last week failed to appear to write the exam. Of the total 8.58 lakh registered candidates, 6.35 lakh actually wrote the exams. Last year, over 94% of the registered students wrote the B.E./B.Tech. papers, while the B.Arch. and B.Planning papers saw more than 80% attendance.
  • The COVID-19 recovery rate has reached 77.74 per cent. In all, 72 thousand 939 people recovered from coronavirus and were discharged from hospitals during the last 24 hours. The Health Ministry said, the total number of recoveries has reached 34 lakh 71 thousand and 783. It said, the constant increase in recoveries has ensured that the actual caseload of the country is reduced and currently comprises only 20.58 per cent of the total positive cases. Effective implementation of ‘Test,Track and Treat’ approach has led to higher recoveries and lower fatality. Currently, India’s Case Fatality Rate is at 1.68 per cent. A total of 95 thousand 735 new cases were reported in the last 24 hours in the country. The total number of positive cases has now reached 44 lakh 65 thousand 863. Presently, the total number of active cases in the country is nine lakh 19 thousand and 18. In the last 24 hours, 1,172 deaths have been reported taking the toll to 75 thousand 62.
  • The Government has constituted a three member expert committee to assist in the assessment of relief to bank borrowers. The committee chaired by former CAG Rajiv Mehrishi will measure the impact on the national economy and financial stability of waiving of interest and COVID-19 related moratorium. It will also give suggestions to mitigate financial constraints of various sections of society in this respect and measures to be adopted in this regard. The panel will submit its report within one week. The move came as various concerns have been raised during the ongoing hearing in the Supreme Court in the matter regarding the relief sought in terms of waiver of interest and waiver of interest on interest and other related issues.
  • Drugs giant AstraZeneca on Thursday said a COVID-19 vaccine could still be available by as early as the end of the year, despite a randomised clinical trial being paused. AstraZeneca announced that it had voluntarily paused its trial of a drug developed alongside Oxford University after a U.K. volunteer developed in unexplained illness.
  • When it comes to California wildfires, it now takes days, not decades, to produce what had been seen as a once in a lifetime occurrence. Last weekend, a fire burning in California’s Sierra National Forest exploded in size whereas a wildfire in Plumas National Forest northeast of San Francisco spread 40 km in a day and devoured an estimated 1036 sq. km. About half a dozen fire experts agreed that this more extreme fire behaviour is driven by drought and warming temperatures  they attribute to climate change.
  • The US has revoked the visas of more than 1,000 Chinese students and researchers who are deemed to be a security risk. A statement issued by the State Department said, the revocation of the visas was authorized by a proclamation signed by President Donald Trump. The Trump administration has charged that Chinese students have come to the United States to steal intellectual property to advance China’s economic and military sectors. Meanwhile, China has accused the US of racial discrimination. According to media reports, nearly 3 lakh 70 thousand students from China were enrolled in the US universities in 2018-19.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (September 10, 2020)

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi to digitally launch the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana today
  • Massive Chinese build-up on northern bank of Pangong Lake; Meeting to resolve stalemate remains inconclusive
  • AstraZeneca has placed COVID-19 vaccine trials on hold until safety is established
  • Israel in trade talks with India, China; India and Israel negotiating on Free Trade Agreements
  • Court stays Maratha Quota, sends plea to Statute Bench; Reservation will not apply for 2020-21
  • With 90,837 new cases and 1086 new fatalities recorded in 24 hours, India’s COVID-19 deaths crossed 75,000 mark
  • Indo-Pacific trilateral dialogue held between India, Australia and France for the first time
  • In the past three years, India’s defence exports increased 700%, an all-time high
  • United States to reduce troops in Iraq to 3000; Move towards goal of reducing Pentagon’s overseas deployment
  • Japan calls for increased cooperation in the India-Pacific region to counter Chinese expansion
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  • The Prime Minister Narendra Modi will digitally launch the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY) today. Mr Modi will also inaugurate the e-Gopala App, a comprehensive breed improvement marketplace and information portal for direct use of farmers. The Prime Minister will also launch several other initiatives in the fisheries and animal husbandry sectors in Bihar. In a tweet, Mr Modi said, the PMMSY will transform the fisheries sector and add strength to the efforts of building an Aatmanirbhar Bharat. The Prime Minister said, PMMSY addresses critical gaps in fisheries sector and infuse latest technology into it. He said, Matsya Sampada Yojana focuses on value addition and upgradation of critical infrastructure. Mr Modi said, the scheme will also boost welfare of those associated with fishing and create employment.
  • As Indian troops are engaged in a stand-off on the south bank of Pangong Tso(Lake) for the past week, a massive build-up had again begun in the Finger area of the north bank, as per government official. The ground commanders met on Wednesday to resolve the stalemate but it remained inconclusive. The People’s Liberation Army(PLA) had occupied the ridge lines and amassed troops on the north bank, where Fingers 4-8 are located.
  • AstraZeneca put global trials on hold after reports emerged of “severe adverse reaction” in a volunteer neing injected with the vaccine, probably in the United Kingdom. The nature of the event was not known. The Drug Controller of India had demanded that the Serum Institute of India, Pune, which is conducting Phase-3 trials on people in India involving U.K.-based AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate, explain why tests have not been paused in India too until safety has been established.
  • Israel hopes that tensions between India and China will ease and it is in talks with both countries on trade agreements, according to an Israeli official. While India and Israel were negotiating a limited time trade deal for about 200 designated products, Free Trade Agreements(FTAs) with South Korea, China and Vietnam were under way.
  • A three judge Bench of the Supreme Court referred a group of petitions challenging the Maratha reservation law to a Constitution Bench. The appeals challenging the Maratha quota law contend that the statute provides 12 to 13% quota for the community in Maharashtra. This has breached the 50% cap declared by a nine-judge Bench of the apex court in 1992.
  • With a focus on enhancing cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, India, Australia and France on Wednesday held the first trilateral dialogue where they discussed “economic and geostrategic challenges and cooperation” in the region, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and domestic responses to it. The three sides expressed their shared will to successfully conclude concrete cooperation projects in the maritime sector and those promoting global commons(climate, environment, and biodiversity, health).
  • In the past three years, the country witnessed a staggering 700% growth in defence exports – from Rs. 1521 crore in 2016-17 to Rs. 10,745 crore in 2018-19, an all time high and 19th in the list of defence exporters in 2019, according to Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Bipin Rawat. He added a series of measures had been taken since 2014 to boost exports, including simplified defence industrial licensing, relaxation of export control and grant of No Objection Certificates.
  • Japanese Defence Minister Taro Kono has called for increased cooperation in the India-Pacific region to counter Chinese expansion. Speaking at a webinar held by Washington-based Centre for Strategic & International Studies in Tokyo, Kono pitched for a larger regional mechanism or global mechanism to counter China. Indo-Pacific region is largely viewed as an area comprising the Indian Ocean and the western and central Pacific Ocean, including the South China Sea. China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea its efforts to advance into the Indian Ocean are seen to have challenged the established rules-based system. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have counterclaims in the South China Sea. In recent years, Japan has expressed increasing concern regarding Beijing’s activities in the region especially, concerning the situation with the disputed Senkaku islands, known in China as the Diaoyudao islands and claimed by Beijing to be Chinese territory.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (September 09, 2020)

  • LAC crisis : India says Chinese troops fired shots in the air along the disputed Line of Actual Control
  • Government issues Standard Operating Procedure for Classes IX-XII
  • Digital divide shadows education; Report highlights wide disparity in access to online classes
  • With 81,506 COVID-19 cases recorded, India’s tally stood at 43,59,268 with total death count standing at 73,901
  • NSO Report : 40% children do not complete their immunisation programme; Most of them unprotected against measles
  • External Affairs Minister Dr. S Jaishankar to attend meeting of Council of Foreign Ministers of SCO in Moscow today
  • India and Asian Development Bank sign 500 million US dollar loan for Delhi-Meerut Regional Rapid Transit System corridor
  • China celebrates ‘success’ in coronavirus fight; President says they are leading the world in economic recovery
  • Goldman Sachs : Indian economy the worst-hit among major economies; GDP to shrink 14.8%
  • Fitch Ratings projects Global economy to contract 4.4%, China to grow at 2.7%
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  • Hours after the Chinese Army claimed that Indian troops opened fire along the disputed Line of Actual Control(LAC) in Ladakh, the Indian Army stated yesterday that it was actually Chinese troops that fired a few rounds of fire. No shots have been fired along the disputed boundary between India and China since 1975. Tensions have been running high on the south bank since August 29.
  • The guidelines issued yesterday by Union Health Ministry for partial reopening of schools for Classes IX to XII said only schools outside the containment zones will be allowed to reopen. Students of the senior classes will be allowed to attend classes on a voluntary basis from September 21. Online/distance learning shall continue to be permitted and shall be encouraged and students of Class IX to XII shall be permitted to visit their school on voluntary basis for taking guidance from their teachers. This will be subject to written consent of their parents/guardians.
  • A recent report on the latest National Statistical Organisation(NSO) survey shows just how stark is the digital divide across States, cities and villages, and income groups. Across India, only one in 10 households have a computer – whether a desktop, laptop or tablet. However, almost a quarter of all homes have Internet facilities, accessed via a fixed or mobile network using any device, including smartphones. Most of these internet-enabled homes are located in cities, where 42% have internet access. In rural India, however, only 15% are connected to the Internet. The national capital has the highest internet access, with 55% of homes having such facilities. Himachal Pradesh and Kerala are the only other two states where more than half of households have internet.
  • Although almost all children in India are vaccinated against tuberculosis, and receive their dose of polio vaccine, two out of five vaccine do not complete their immunization programme, according to the ‘Health in India’ report recently published by the National Statistical Organisation(NSO). Most of these children remain unprotected against measles, and partially protected against a range of other diseases. In the national capital, less than half of all children have been given all eight required vaccines. According to the report, across the country, only 59.2% of children under five years are fully immunised.
  • External Affairs Minister Dr. S Jaishankar will be attending the meeting of Council of Foreign Ministers of Shanghai Cooperation Organization to be held in Moscow today and tomorrow. This will be the third Council of Foreign Ministers, CFM meeting that India will be attending as a full member of SCO. The earlier two meetings were held in Beijing on April, 2018 and Bishkek in May, 2019. India has been taking active part in various SCO dialogue mechanisms under the Chairmanship of the Russian Federation this year. The SCO Summit will be held in the near future.
  • India and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) signed a 500 million US dollar loan for Delhi-Meerut Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS) corridor yesterday. The first tranche of a total one billion dollar facility, to build a modern, high-speed 82 kilometer Delhi-Meerut RRTS corridor will improve regional connectivity and mobility in India’s national capital region (NCR). With a design speed of 180 kilometer per hour and high-frequency operations of every 5 to 10 minutes, the 82-kilometer corridor connecting Sarai Kale Khan in Delhi to Modipuram in Meerut in Uttar Pradesh is expected to reduce the journey time to about one hour from the present three to four hours.
  • China’s leaders held a triumphant ceremony to celebrate beating the coronavirus on Tuesday, as billions of people around the world still suffer the fallout from the pandemic and the global death toll nears 9,00,000. The upbeat mood in Beijing comes as concerns grow about a resurgence of COVID-19 across Europe, with France tightening restrictions, cases in Britain spiking and schools resuming around the region in recent days. But in China the virus has been all but banished through a combination of lockdowns and travel restrictions. Chinese President says they are leading the world in economic recovery and in the fight against COVID-19.
  • Fitch Ratings projected global GDP to contract 4.4% in the current year, but revised upwards China’s growth estimate to 2.7% for 2020. It said India imposed one of the most stringent lockdowns worldwide in 2020 and domestic demand fell massively. Limited fiscal support, fragilities in the financial system, and a continued rise in virus cases hamper a rapid normalisation in activity.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (September 08, 2020)

  • India registered a single-day spike of 91,797 COVID-19 cases – the highest among all nations
  • COVID-19 peak is not in sight in India – The case curve is yet to bend even once
  • UNICEF to lead COVID-19 vaccine procurement, supply to ensure countries have equitable access to vaccine
  • Centre launches 24/7 toll-free mental health helpline in wake of rising mental health issues during COVID-19 pandemic
  • RBI paves way for loan recasts; 26 sectors identified for the purpose
  • Hypersonic cruise vehicle test puts India in elite club; DRDO says it will help develop hypersonic cruise missiles
  • India Meteorological Department : August rainfall highest since 1926, Season as a whole will be ‘normal’
  • Rafale induction ceremony at Ambala on September 10; Second batch of four jets likely to arrive in October
  • U.K. threatens to undercut Brexit pact; Government plans to override parts of the Withdrawal Agreement
  • China exports rise most since March 2019; Exports in August rose 9.5 % beating analysts’ expectation for 7.1% growth
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  • An ideal COVID-19 case curve should be an inverted V-shaped one with as low as a peak as possible. But with India’s infections continuing to rise steadily, the case curve is ye to bend even once. In 20 States/UTs, the highest single-day case spikes were recorded in the first week of September. More than 160 days since its 1,000th case, India registered a single-day spike of 91,797 cases – the highest among all nations. There has been no major dip in case rise in India suggesting the country is still going through its first wave.
  • The United Nations Children’s Fund(UNICEF) has announced that it will be leading the procurement and supply of COVID-19 vaccines to ensure that all countries have safe, fast and equitable access to initial doses when they are available. UNICEF is the world’s largest single vaccine buyer, procuring over 2 billion doses of various vaccines annually for routine immunisation and outbreak response on behalf of nearly 100 countries.
  • The Union Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry on Monday launched a 24/7 tollfree helpline to provide support to people facing anxiety, stress, depression, suicidal thoughts and other mental health concerns. The mental health rehabilitation helpline, KIRAN, can be called from landline and mobile phones across the country at the number 1800-599-0019, the Ministry announced. It also added that the helpline operators have been sensitised not to ask the caller for name or any identification details.
  • The Reserve Bank has specified five financial ratios and sector-specific thresholds for resolution of COVID-19-related stressed assets in 26 sectors, including auto components, aviation and tourism. The circular issued by the Reserve Bank for resolution of the stressed assets is based on the recommendations of the KV Kamath Committee, which submitted its report on 4th of September. The 26 sectors specified by the RBI include automobiles, power, tourism, cement, chemicals, gems and jewellery, logistics, mining, manufacturing, real estate, and shipping among others. The RBI said, the ratios prescribed are intended as floors or ceilings, as the case may be, but the resolution plans shall take into account the pre-COVID-19 operating and financial performance of the borrower and impact of COVID-19 on its operating and financial performance at the time of finalizing the resolution plan, to assess the cashflows in subsequent years, while stipulating appropriate ratios in each case.
  • The hypersonic air-breathing scramjet technology was successfully demonstrated by the Defence Research and Development Organization(DRDO) yesterday with a flight test of the hypersonic technology demonstrator vehicle(HSTDV), which will lead to the development of hypersonic cruise missiles and its vehicles in future. With this technology, cruise missiles could now travel at hypersonic speeds. Scramjet engine is a major breakthrough. Air goes inside the engine at supersonic speed and comes out at hypersonic speed.
  • August rainfall this year has been the highest since 1926 with 32.7 cm – or about 27% more than what is normal for the month, according to the data from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) on Monday. In August 1926, the rainfall recorded was 34.8 cm, exceeding the normal by 33%. IMD officials said that though August rainfall was in excess, the figure for this year’s monsoon as a whole were likely to be within the department’s June forecast of a normal( 96 to 104% of the long period average ) rainfall.
  • The formal induction ceremony of the Rafale fighter jets will be held at the Ambala Air Force station on September 10. On July 29, five Rafale jets, three single-seat and two twin-seater trainers, landed at the Ambala air base, the home base of the No. 17 Golden Arrows Squadron. The second batch of four Rafale jets are likely to arrive in October.
  • Britain’s tortuous divorce from the EU veered into fresh crisis on Monday after London signalled it could undermine the exit agreement with Brussels unless free trade terms are agreed by next month. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’ government was reportedly planning new legislation to override parts of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement it signed in January.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (September 07, 2020)

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address Governors’ Conference on National Education Policy through video conferencing today
  • Metro services resume across the country after a gap of over five months
  • Government suspends FCRA clearance of six NGOs; U.S. based donor agencies also under Home Ministry scanner
  • India, Iran discuss Afghan peace process; Tehran also raised safety of minorities
  • Report says ‘Moplah rioters’ not freedom fighters; ICHR member seeks removal of Malabar Rebellion leaders from martyrs list
  • Government says launch of Chandrayaan-3 may now take place somewhere in early 2021
  • G-20 countries reaffirm their commitment to ensure education continuity and safety for all
  • Airlines to fully refund air tickets booked during lockdown, Centre tells Supreme Court
  • With 84,701 COVID-19 cases recorded yesterday, India’s COVID-19 tally approaches 45 lakh taking India’s death toll to 71,671
  • BCCI announces schedule for IPL 2020 to be held in UAE; In the opening match, Defending Champions Mumbai Indians to clash with Chennai Super Kings on 19th September
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  • President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address the inaugural session of the Governors’ Conference on National Education Policy through video conference today. The Conference titled “Role of NEP-2020 in Transforming Higher Education” is being organized by the Ministry of Education. NEP-2020 is the first education policy of the 21st century which was announced after 34 years of the previous National Policy on Education in 1986. NEP-2020 is directed towards major reforms in both school and higher education level. The new National Education Policy strives for making India an equitable and vibrant knowledge society. It envisions an India-centred education system that contributes directly to transforming India into a Global Superpower.
  • Of the six NGOs whose license under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act(FCRA) was suspended by Union Home Ministry this year, four are Christian associations. An FCRA license is mandatory for a non-profit organisation to receive foreign funds. At least two U.S.-based Christian donors are also under the Ministry’s scanner for funding NGOs and groups.
  • The Defence Ministers of India and Iran discussed ways to take forward bilateral cooperation and exchanged views on regional security issues, including peace and stability in Afghanistan, during their meeting in Tehran, the Defence Ministry said on Sunday. Both leaders emphasised upon the age-old cultural, linguistic and civilizational ties between India and Iran.
  • Centre has informed Supreme Court that airlines will fully refund air ticket booked for travel during lockdown. This applies to domestic and international tickets booked between March 25 and May 3 this year and will have to be refunded immediately. The move comes after Supreme Court ask the Centre to explain its position on a PIL seeking full refund of booked air tickets during lockdown. The government also said that if the airlines are unable to make full refund, the fliers will get credit shell upto March 31 next year. Centre also said that the passengers can use the credit on any route of choice and should also be able to transfer it to anyone. The airlines will devise a mechanism to facilitate such a transfer.
  • Minister of State for Space Dr Jitendra Singh has said that the launch of Chandrayaan-3 may now take place somewhere in early 2021. Chandrayaan-3 will be a mission repeat of Chandrayaan-2 and will include a Lander and Rover similar to that of Chandrayaan-2, but will not have an orbiter. Dr Singh also said that meanwhile, preparations are on for India’s first ever Human Space Mission Gaganyaan. He said, constraints due to Covid pandemic led to some disruptions in the plan for Gaganyaan but efforts are going on to stick to the timeline of around 2022.
  • A report submitted to the Indian Council of Historical Research(ICHR) in 2016 had recommended the removal of the Wagon Tragedy victims and Malabar Rebellion leaders Ali Musliyar and Variamkunnath Ahmad Haji, and Haji’s two brothers from a book on martyrs of India’s freedom struggle. The report sought the removal of names of 387 ‘Moplah rioters’ from the list of martyrs. The book, Dictionary of Martyrs: India’s Freedom Struggle 1857-1947, was released by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week. The review report said almost all the Moplah outrages were communal.
  • G20 countries have reaffirmed their commitment to ensure education continuity and safety for all. A virtual meeting of G20 Education Ministers was held to discuss and share experiences of member countries in the three identified areas. These are Education Continuity in Times of Crises, Early Childhood Education and Internationalization in Education. The Education Ministers adopted a communique at the end of the meeting. Regarding ensuring education continuity in times of crises, the communique recognizes the value of distance and blended teaching and learning and underscores the importance of enhancing access to high-quality education, professional development for educators, digital infrastructure and content. Speaking on the occasion, Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank said, India will continue the efforts it has taken to reform and transform its education system and mitigate the challenge posed by the Covid 19 pandemic. He also said India is committed to collaborate with G20 member countries in the area of education.
  • BCCI has announced schedule for IPL 2020 to be held in UAE. The season will kickstart on 19th September in Abu Dhabi with a blockbuster clash between defending champions Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings. The action will shift to Dubai for the second game where Delhi Capitals will face Kings XI Punjab September 20. The evening matches of the tournament, which will be played in the United Arab Emirates, will start at 7:30 PM Indian time. There will be 10 double-headers, and the afternoon matches will begin at 3:30 PM.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (September 06, 2020)

  • LAC crisis : Rajnath Singh tells China that Border actions violate bilateral agreements
  • With 41,04,497 total COVID-19 cases, India stands second in world by overtaking Brazil
  • Centre asks Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka to take rigorous measures to break the chain of COVID transmission
  • Atmanirbhar Bharat: IIT Delhi incubated startup launches ‘‘Chakr DeCoV’’ to decontaminate N95 masks
  • Around one lakh enterprises are being supported by Start-Up Village Entrepreneurship Programme
  • In a move to simplify the process, Union Health Ministry clears COVID-19 tests without prescription
  • Government releases Ease of Doing Business rankings of States and Union Territories; Andhra Pradesh tops the chart
  • Railways will start 80 additional trains from September 12; Clone trains will be run to eliminate waiting lists
  • Reserve Bank revises audit norms for banks; Move to improve risk management
  • First trial run on newly opened inland waterways from Daudkandi in Bangladesh to Sonamura in India completes successfully
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  • Defence Minister Rajnath Singh conveyed to his Chinese counterpart Gen. Wei Fenghe at a meeting in Moscow that the actions of Chinese troops, including “amassing a large number of troops and their aggressive behavior” and attempts to “unilaterally alter the status quo” along the disputed boundary were in violation of the bilateral agreements, the Defence Ministry said yesterday. China said India was entirely responsible for the border tensions and Beijing would not give up an inch of its territory.
  • The Union Health Ministry issued an updated advisory for COVID-19 testing simplifying the process and giving more flexibility to State authorities to facilitate greater ease of testing. The updated guidelines provide for ‘on demand testing’ to ensure higher levels of testing.
  • The Centre today exhorted the States of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka to focus on undertaking aggressive measures to break the chain of COVID transmission and to ensure that the mortality is kept below 1 per cent. They have been advised to proactively ensure higher testing, effective clinical management to lower fatality and save lives along with efficient monitoring at various levels. The three states together account for about 46 per cent of the active cases and nearly 52 percent of the fatality cases reported nationally in the last 24 hours. The Union Home Ministry also highlighted the districts of concern in each of these states. Of the total deaths in the country due to COVID-19, 70 per cent are recorded in just five States of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Delhi and Andhra Pradesh.
  • IIT Delhi incubated startup Chakr Innovation has launched ‘Chakr DeCoV’ to decontaminate N95 masks. Designed in the shape of a cabinet, Chakr DeCoV is built with an innovative decontamination mechanism, which utilises the high penetrability of Ozone gas for cleaning the pores of the N95 mask, ensuring complete decontamination of its intricate layers. Ozone is a strong oxidizing agent that destroys viruses by diffusing through the protein coat, resulting in damage to the viral RNA. Proper dosage and exposure of Ozone can result in inactivation of SARS CoV-2 and a 99.9999 per cent reduction in bacterial load, after which an N95 mask can be reused for up to 10 times without any impact on the filtration efficiency.
  • Start-Up Village Entrepreneurship Programme, SVEP, is propelling enterprises in rural areas and building rural entrepreneurs. It has extended business support services and capital infusion to 153 blocks of 23 states. As of August 2020, around one lakh enterprises are being supported out of which 75 percent are owned and managed by women. SVEP focusses on providing self-employment opportunities with financial assistance and training in business management and soft skills while creating local community cadres for promotion of enterprises. It addresses three major pillars of rural start-ups namely – finances, incubation and skill ecosystems.
  • Andhra Pradesh has topped the chart among all Indian States and Union Territories in the Business Reform Action Plan (BRAP) 2019 rankings. Uttar Pradesh bagged second position and Telangana third. The Commerce and Industry Ministry released the rankings of States and Union Territories (UTs) in terms of ease of doing business in a function today. The BRAP ranking aims at triggering competition among states to improve business climate in order to attract domestic and global investors. The parameters include areas like construction permit, labour regulation, environmental registration, access to information, land availability and single window system.
  • The Railways will start running 80 additional trains to cater to demand on popular routes from September 12. They are in addition to the 230 special passenger trains to be run from September 10. Railways Board Chairman told that they were planning to run clone or duplicate trains on popular routes to eliminate waiting lists. Reservations to the new 40 pairs of trains will start from September 10.
  • The RBI came up with revised long format audit report(LFAR) norms with a view to improving the efficacy of internal audit and risk management systems. The LFAR, which applies to statutory central auditors and branch auditors of banks, will be put into operation for the period covering 2020-21 and onwards. Under the new norms, the banks would be required to send a copy the LFAR and the relative agenda note, together with the Board’s views or directions, to the Reserve Bank of India within 60 days of submission of the LFAR by the statutory auditors.
  • The trial run of the newly opened inland river route from Daudkandi in Bangladesh to Sonamura in Tripura was successfully completed on Saturday. The newly opened 93 kilometers long route on the river Gumti marks another major step in enhancing connectivity between India and Bangladesh. Land Customs Station (LCS) at Srimantpur was also handed over to the Land Port Authority of India (LPAI) to facilitate trade through this border point on Saturday. Chief Minister of Tripura Biplob Kumar Deb and High Commissioner of India to Bangladesh Riva Ganguly Das were present on the occasion to receive the vessel at Sonamura in Tripura which carried 50 metric tonnes of cement  from Bangladesh to India. Speaking on the occasion Chief Minister Biplab Deb said that opening up of the new route on river Gumati will help reduce cost in the trade between two countries. He highlighted the importance of integrated development projects including roads, ports, bridges and waterways in creating multiple benefits.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (September 05, 2020)

  • Defence Minister meets Chinese counterpart in Moscow on the sidelines of SCO Defence Ministers conference
  • Japanese companies relocating from China to India and Bangladesh to get Japan government’s subsidy
  • Supreme Court rejects appeal by 6 states against JEE, NEET; Bench finds no merit in the plea
  • India’s COVID-19 cases cross 4 million; India recorded 28% new infections in the world in last five days
  • With 80,938 cases and 1040 deaths recorded, India’s COVID-19 tally stands at 40,14,551
  • Kaziranga set to expanded by 3053 hectares; Assam government approves addition of extra area
  • Study says Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine is safe, generated strong immune response with no serious adverse reactions in trial
  • Greece rejects NATO mediation; ‘De-escalation’ only after Turkey withdraws vessels from Greek waters
  • United Nations experts voice concerns over Hong Kong security law; says it infringes on fundamental rights
  • Germany joins Indo-Pacific club aimed at securing trade routes from aggressive China
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  • Defence Minister Rajnath Singh met his Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation(SCO) Defence Ministers’ meeting in Moscow yesterday. Mr. Singh is on a three-day visit to Russia for the combined meeting of Defence Ministers of SCO, Collective Security Treaty Organisation(CSTO) and Commonwealth of Independent States(CIS) Member States in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of victory in the second world war.
  • Japan government has said that it will provide subsidies to Japanese companies that shift their manufacturing setup from China to India, Bangladesh and ASEAN Countries. This comes as the world’s supply chain was disrupted after the outbreak of COVID-19 which originated in China. The countries have now started mulling on options to either exit from China or at least reduce their dependence on it with respect to trade or other procurements. Japan too aims to decentralise its supply chain by reducing its dependence on a particular country for medical and well as electronic components supply. The Japanese government has allocated 23.5 billion yen in 2020 supplemental budget for the subsidy to encourage companies to disperse their manufacturing sites across the ASEAN region. Besides the COVID-19 pandemic, China has also been criticised in the international community over its imposition of draconian national security law in Hong Kong, in turn threatening the autonomy of the trade city. Moreover, the ASEAN countries, Australia, India, Japan and the US have moved against China for its aggression in the South China Sea.
  • A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, dismissed a plea filed jointly by Ministers from six non-BJP-ruled States against the conduct of the JEE Main and the NEET-UG amid the pandemic. While dismissing the plea, the bench said it found no merit in the petition.
  • The Assam government has approved the addition of 30.53 sq.km. (3053 hectares) to the 884 sq. km Karizanga National Park. The additional areas straddling two districts – Nagaon and Sonitpur – would make the Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve grow up to 1085.53 sq. km. The core area of the KNPTR is 430 sq. km. The additions include encroachment-evicted areas and suitable wildlife habitat on river islands that are vulnerable to encroachment.
  • Turkey on Friday accused Greece of shunning dialogue and lying after Greek Prime Minister said NATO-brokered talks to reduce tension in the eastern Mediterranean could only be held if Ankara stopped making “threats”. The Greek Foreign Ministry stressed that “se-escalation will only take place with the immediate withdrawal of all Turkish vessels from the Greek continental shelf”.
  • Germany has joined the Indo-Pacific club. The move is aimed at securing the trade routes from aggressive China. Germany has drafted a 40-page guideline as it formally adopts a strategy for the Indo-Pacific region. The move makes it the second European nation after France to formally adopt a strategy for the Indo-Pacific region. The strategy is designed to allow Germany to make an active contribution to shaping the international order in the Indo-Pacific. The move by Germany augurs well for the Quad which is constituted by the United States, Japan, Australia, and India.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (September 04, 2020)

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi says Aatmanirbhar Bharat is about transforming India into a manufacturing hub
  • Chief of Defence Staff General pushes for Quad grouping consisting of India, Australia, Japan and the U.S.
  • China hit out at India’s move to ban 118 Chinese apps; Accuses India of abusing national security
  • Brigadier-level talks between China and India continued for the fourth day to de-escalate the tensions along LAC
  • Nearly 13 lakh Indians repatriated under Vande Bharat Mission so far
  • Defence Minister Rajnath Singh meets his Russian counterpart in Moscow: appreciates Russia’s support to defence and security needs of India
  • With 78,045 cases recorded in 24 hours, India’s COVID-19 tally stood at 39,26,979
  • Apparel Export Promotion Council says Apparel exports are set to rise by 40%
  • Supreme Court rejects women Army officers’ plea; No relaxation given in cut-off date
  • Sri Lankan Cabinet appoints panel to draft new Constitution; Move to abolish the 19th amendment
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  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that 1.3 billion Indians have embarked on one mission to make Aatmanirbhar Bharat which merges the local with the global. He said Aatmanirbhar Bharat is about transforming India from being just a passive market to an active manufacturing hub at the heart of global value chains. Delivering keynote address at the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum last evening, Mr Modi said, India has shown time and again that its goal is global good. The Prime Minister said the current COVID-19 situation has shown the world that decision on developing global supply chains should be based not only on costs but also on trust. The Prime Minister said India offers diverse opportunities. These opportunities are in the public as well as private sector. They cover core economic sectors as well as social sectors. The Prime Minister pointed out that India offers a transparent and predictable tax regime. He said,India’s GST is unified and there is a fully IT enabled indirect tax system.
  • India wants the Quad consisting of India, Australia, Japan and the U.S. to become a system to ensure freedom of navigation operations(FONOPS) in the Indian Ocean and around, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat said, while highlighting the threat of a combined challenge from Pakistan and China on two fronts, and cautioning Pakistan against taking any advantage of the tensions with China.
  • China on Thursday hit out at India’s move to ban 118 Chinese apps, accusing New Delhi of “abusing the concept of national security” and suggesting India was coordinating with the United States in its actions against Chinese companies.
  • The situation along the disputed boundary over the past four months is a direct result of the actions taken by the Chinese side that sought to effect unilateral change of status quo and negotiations are the way ahead, says Ministry of External Affairs. At Chushul, Brigadier level talks between India and China continued for the fourth day in an attempt to de-escalate tensions but ended inconclusively.
  • Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has appreciated the steadfast support provided by Russia consistent with the defence and security needs of India. Mr Singh met his Russian counterpart General Sergey Shoigu in Moscow yesterday. The Defence Minister along with other senior officials are on a three-day visit to Russia. The meeting was held ahead of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Defence Ministers’ meet scheduled to be held at 2 PM today. The Defence Minister thanked Russia for its timely response to the requests for procurement of particular weapon systems in the country. The meeting covered a broad range of areas of cooperation between the two countries where it was also noted that it coincides with the ‘Indra Naval Exercises’ scheduled to be conducted by the Indian and Russian Navies off the Straits of Malacca over the next two days.
  • The Supreme Court declined to hear a plea by a batch of Short Service Commission women officers seeking benefits of permanent commission in the Army. The officers completed 14 years of service only in service. The court held that only women officers who had completed 14 years of service before or by February 17 would be considered for permanent commission.
  • Almost 13 lakh Indians have already been repatriated under Vande Bharat Mission through different modes. These modes are Air India, private and foreign carriers, chartered flights, naval ships and land border crossings. Briefing media, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said, the sixth phase of the mission has been operational from the 1st of this month. In this phase, one thousand and seven international flights from 24 countries have been scheduled to operate during this month. They are expected to repatriate over two lakh people.
  • Apparel exports are expected to increase 40% this financial year mainly because of the focus on medical textiles, according to industry body AEPC. AEPC is also setting up an R&D centre at its head office at Gurugram.
  • The Cabinet has set up experts’ committee to draft Sri Lanka’s new Constitution, even as the government gazetted the draft of the 20th Amendment hat would reverse the preceding 19th Amendment, a 2015 legislation that clipped certain executive powers of the President. The move follows the ruling Rajapaksa brothers’ poll pledge to abolish the 19th Amendment, introduced by the former government. 19th Amendment seeks to strengthen Parliament and independent institutions, besides curbing presidential powers.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (September 03, 2020)

  • Question hour dropped in Lok Sabha schedule of monsoon session; Private members business also given a miss
  • Government bans PUBG, WeChat Work, 116 other mobile apps, majority being Chinese
  • Defence Minister Rajnath Singh reaches Russia to attend Shanghai Cooperation Organization Defence Ministers’ Meet
  • India-China talks at Chushul to de-escalate the situation along LAC, remain inconclusive
  • Cabinet approves bill to include three more official languages for Jammu & Kashmir
  • One of the India’s busiest ports, Mundra port deal under scanner; Proposal was to transfer ownership to Chinese firm
  • United Nation Security Council blocks Pakistan bid to name Indians in terror list
  • With 81,958 cases recorded in a single day, India’s COVID-19 tally stood at 38,47,855
  • Mission Karmayogi to train government officials; Focus is on a future-ready civil service
  • India’s economic growth will turn positive by Q1 of next year, says Experts
————————-In Detail————————–
  • The Lok Sabha Secretariat on Wednesday officially released the schedule for the monsoon Parliament session that starts on September 14, with Question Hour being dropped. In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, private members business, usually fixed for every Friday, has also been skipped. However, the possibility of allowing unstarred questions, answers to which are given in writing and laid on the floor of the House.
  • The government on Wednesday banned 118 applications – a majority being Chinese, including popular ones such as PUBG, WeChat Work, Baidu, CamCard etc, stating that these were “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of State and public order”. This is in addition to the ban on 59 Chinese applications in June last. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology(Meity) said it was invoking its power under section 69A of the Information Technology Act read with the relevant provisions of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009, and in view of the emergent nature of threats has decided to block 118 mobile apps that are engaged in activities which is prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order.
  • The third day of Brigadier-level talks on Wednesday between India and China at Chushul to de-escalate the situation on the South Bank of Pangong Tso remained inconclusive. A soldier from the secretive Special Frontier Force (SSF) was killed in an accidental mine explosion while patrolling in the area on August 30.
  • The Union Cabinet yesterday approved a bill to include Kashmiri, Dogri, and Hindi as official languages in the newly-created Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir. Only English and Urdu were official languages in the erstwhile state.
  • A proposal to transfer partial ownership of a terminal at India’s busiest Mundra port in Gujarat to a Chinese company is now under the scanner of the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Home Affairs, after an agreement between the Adani Group’s French Joint venture partner CMA terminal and the China Merchants Groups, a Chinese state-owned enterprise.
  • The UN Security Council, led by France, UK and the US, has rejected attempts by Pakistan to designate Indians as terrorists under its 1267 Committee for Counter terrorism Sanctions. The UNSC committee decided to block the designations of Angara Appaji and Gobinda Patnaik, part of a group of four Indians that Pakistan alleged formed a syndicate to carry out attacks in Pakistan.
  • The Union Cabinet gave its approval for Mission Karmayogi, a new national capacity-building and performance evaluation programme for civil servants. The scheme will cover 46 lakh Central government employees at all levels, and involves an outlay of Rs. 510 crore over a five-year period. The programme will support a transition from “rules-based to roles-based” HR management.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (September 02, 2020)

  • Ministry of External Affairs : ‘Provocative action’ by Chinese troops again along LAC
  • Telecom companies get 10 years to pay Adjusted Gross Revenue dues to government
  • India endorses a trustworthy and reliable supply chain in Indo-Pacific region
  • GST revenue falls 12% in August at Rs. 86,449 crore; Major decline in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu
  • India, Russia to hold bilateral naval exercise Indra 2020 in the Andaman Sea
  • Coal India to invest over 1.22 lakh crore rupees on 500 projects by 2023-24
  • With 72,514 cases and 1016 deaths registered in a day, India’s COVID-19 tally stands at 37,60,936
  • Purchasing Managers’ Index shows manufacturing activity returns to expansion in August
  • National Crime Records Bureau : Number of accidental deaths, suicides grew in 2019
  • Turkey renews call for talks with Greece to resolve the stand-off over claims to hydrocarbon resources
————————-In Detail————————–
  • Chinese troops engaged in “provocative action” along the disputed boundary in Ladakh once again on August 31, even as Commanders of the two sides were in discussion to de-escalate the situation, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Tuesday. MEA spokesperson said they have taken up the matter of recent provocative and aggressive actions with the Chinese side through both diplomatic and military channels.
  • The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed telecom companies 10 years’ time to pay their adjusted gross revenues dues to the government. The government had proposed in court a 20-year “formula” for telcos to make staggered payments of the dues. Even after part payment, the dues still run to Rs. 1.43 lakh crores.
  • Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal has said that India wholeheartedly endorses the broad concept of working towards ensuring a trustworthy, dependable, and reliable supply chain in the Indo-Pacific region. He said, the diversification of the supply chain is critical for managing the risks associated with the supply of inputs including disciplining price volatility. Mr Goyal was addressing the ministerial-level meeting on Supply Chains in the Indo-Pacific region. Trade and Commerce ministers of India, Australia, and Japan have underscored the necessity and potential to enhance the resiliency of supply chains in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • Goods and Services Tax revenue in August stood at Rs. 86,449 crore, just over 1% lower than the Rs. 87,422 crores collected in July. On a year-on-year basis, GST collections dropped 12% from August 2019, according to data released by the Finance Ministry on Tuesday.
  • Amid high operational alert by the Indian Navy in the Indian Ocean Region(IOR) due to the ongoing stand-off with China in Ladakh, India and Russia are scheduled to hold the bilateral naval exercise, Indra 2020, in the Andaman Sea, close to the strait of Malacca later this week. This is also the first bilateral naval exercise since all such engagements were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Coal India Ltd (CIL) will invest over 1.22 lakh crore rupees on development of nearly 500 projects related to coal evacuation, infrastructure, project development, exploration and clean coal technologies in the country. The investment aims at making India self-reliant in terms of coal and achieve the production target of 1 billion tonnes by 2023-2024. Addressing a stakeholders meet organized by CIL, Coal and Mines Minister Prahlad Joshi said involvement of all concerned stakeholders in company’s affairs will reduce and uncover the project risks. He informed that the national miner, CIL, will be investing around 14,200 crore rupees over the next three to four years, in two phases for its 49 First Mile Connectivity projects. First Mile Connectivity is the transportation of coal from pitheads to dispatch points. Computer-aided loading technology of coal is being developed to replace the existing methodology of transportation via road. Coal India has also identified 15 greenfield projects which will be operated under the Mine Developer and Operator (MDO) model.
  • The number of suicide cases and accidental deaths registered an increase across the country last year from the 2018 figures, according to the annual National Crime Records Bureau report. The most cases of family/mass suicides were reported from Tamil Nadu, followed by Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Punjab and Rajasthan. The suicide rate in cities(13.9%) was compared to the all-India average.
  • Turkey’s Foreign Minister said that his country favours a dialogue with the rival Greece that would lead to the fair sharing of resources in the eastern Mediterranean, where the two countries are locked in a tense standoff that threatens to spill into a conflict. The standoff was sparked when Turkey sent its research vessel, Oruc Reis, accompanied by warships to search for oil and gas reserves.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (September 01, 2020)

  • Chinese troop’s aggressive moves blocked by Indian Army at Pangong Tso along LAC
  • GDP falls 23.9% in first quarter; Worst contraction seen in decades in Indian economy
  • Monsoon Session of Parliament to commence from the 14th of this month and continue till October the 1st
  • With 61,842 cases and 806 new deaths recorded yesterday, India’s COVID-19 tally stood at 36,80,968
  • 7 states account for 70% of COVID-19 cases; Maharashtra has recorded the highest case load of almost 21%
  • August rain exceeds forecast; Central India received a 61% surplus over the regular figure
  • Ban on international flights extended till September 30; Order will not apply to cargo operations, scheduled routes
  • India to receive development assistance loan worth the 3,500 crore rupees from Japan to fight COVID-19
  • India’s fiscal deficit stands at 103.1% of the budgeted target for current financial year
  • U.S.-Israeli delegation lands in Abu Dhabi on historic visit; Marks beginning of commercial flights between Israel and UAE
————————-In Detail————————–
  • In an escalation of the ongoing standoff on the disputed boundary in Ladakh, Chinese troops carried out aggressive moves on the night of August 29 to change the status quo on the south bank of Pangong Tso and those attempts were thwarted, the Indian Army said. Responding to this, China accused the Indian Army of illegally crossing the line on August 31 at two points and blatantly provoked and caused tension on the border.
  • The Indian economy saw its worst contraction in decades, with Gross Domestic Product (GDP) shrinking by a record 23.9% in the April to June quarter in comparison to the same period last year, according to data released by the National Statistical Office on Monday. The contraction reflects the severe impact of the COVID-19 lockdown, which halted most of the economic activities, as well as the slowdown trend of the economy even pre-COVID-19. Economists expect this to contribute to a contraction in annual GDP this year, which may be the worst in the history of independent India.
  • Seven States have contributed to 70% of the COVID-19 cases reported in 24 hours and of these, Maharashtra has recorded the highest case load of almost 21% followed by Andhra Pradesh(13.5%), Karnataka(11.27%) and Tamil Nadu(8.27%). Uttar Pradesh with 8.27%, West Bengal with 3.85% and Odisha with 3.84% are the other states, said the Union Home Ministry yesterday.
  • August rainfall has been nearly 26% more than what is normal for the month. India ended up with 327 mm of rain in August instead of the normal 258 mm. This was largely due to torrential rain in central India, which was received nearly 495 mm instead of the regular 307 mm – a 61% surplus. IMD cited there were nearly five rain-bearing low-pressure systems that formed in the Bay of Bengal and brought a lot of rain to central India and even beyond to north and northwest India. Secondly, the cool conditions in the Central Equatorial Pacific are also favourable for monsoon.
  • The Directorate General of Civil Aviation(DGCA) extended the ban on scheduled international flights by another month until September 30. The order though will not apply to cargo operations as well as specific chartered and scheduled flights approved by the DGCA on selected routes, according to the aviation safety regulation’s circular. Air India’s repatriation flights under the Vande Bharat Mission have been on since May, and the government has also entered into bilateral agreements with at least eight countries – the U.S., the U.K., Canada, France, Germany, the U.A.E., Qatar, Maldives – for a small number of scheduled commercial flights.
  • Japan has committed an official Development Assistance loan of 3 thousand 500 crore rupees for the COVID-19 Crisis Emergency Response Support. The Notes were exchanged between Additional Secretary in the Department of Economic Affairs Dr C.S. Mohapatra and Ambassador of Japan to India Suzuki Satoshi for a Health sector programme loan to fight the COVID-19 crisis. Subsequent to the Exchange of Notes, Loan Agreement for the programme loan was signed between Dr Mohapatra and Chief Representative of JICA in New Delhi Katsuo Matsumoto. Japan International Cooperation Agency, JICA is a governmental agency that coordinates Official Development Assistance for the Government of Japan. This programme loan aims to support India’s efforts in fighting COVID-19 and to prepare the health system to manage future epidemics and also to improve the resilience of India’s health systems against infectious diseases.
  • A U.S.-Israeli delegation, led by White House adviser Jared Kushner, arrived on Monday in Abu Dhabi on the historic first commercial flight from Tel Aviv to mark the normalisation of ties between the Jewish state and the UAE. Saudi Arabia allowed the historic flight to cross its airspace. Unlike Egypt, which made peace with its former battle field enemy in 1979, and Jordan, which followed in 1994, the UAE has never fought a war with Israel.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (August 31, 2020)

  • India can become a global toy hub; PM Modi urges entrepreneurs to tap into Rs. 7 lakh crore industry
  • 19 lakh NRC-excluded stuck in limbo; A year later, they are yet to receive rejection slips
  • In ‘Mann Ki Baat’ programme, Mr Modi highlights importance of public participation in Nutrition movement
  • Finance Ministry asks banks to refund charges collected on electronic transactions after 1st of January this year
  • Famous art of ‘Etikoppaka’ dolls of Visakhapatnam district finds a place in “Mann ki Baat” programme
  • DoPT says Premature retirement is distinct from compulsory retirement and is not a penalty
  • With 75,791 cases recorded yesterday, India’s COVID-19 tally stood at 36,15,494
  • 17 dead in Odisha, 454 villages cut off in Madhya Pradesh due to flood situations
  • Survey reveals COVID-19 lockdown has affected the psychological profile of people
  • COVID-19 cases cross 25 million mark globally; New Zealand and South Korea are battling a second wave
————————-In Detail————————–
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday called upon start-ups and entrepreneurs to team up for toys, pointing out that India’s share in the Rs. 7 lakh crore global toy market is miniscule. He asserted that the country has the potential to be a hub for the industry. In his monthly ‘Mann ki Baat’ address, the Prime Minister spoke on a range of issues but kept the focus on the themes of Atmanirbhar Bharat and the vocal for local campaign.
  • Exactly a year after the publication of the complete National Register of Citizens(NRC), the fate of 19,06,657 people excluded from the updated list in Assam continues to hang in the balance. The ongoing COVID-19 crisis and the repeated floods have been blamed for the delay in issuing rejection slips to each of the excluded persons, citing the reasons why they were left out.
  • The Finance Ministry has asked banks to immediately refund the charges collected after 1st of January this year on transaction carried out using the electronic mode prescribed under the IT act. The Ministry also advised banks not to impose charges on any future transaction carried out through the electronic mode. It said, Central Board of Direct Taxes, CBDT had issued notification in this regard on the 30th of December last year. The notification says that if the transaction were carried out through RuPay card, BHIM – UPI, UPI QR Code and BHIM- UPI QR code no banks or system provider will impose any charges. The Ministry said, a new provision has been added in the Payment and Settlement System, PSS Act, which states that no bank or system provider will impose any charge on a payer making payment or a beneficiary receiving payment through electronic mode.
  • In his monthly ‘Mann ki Baat’ programme, PM Modi said, a Bharatiya Krishi Kosh is being set up which will have complete information about the crops that are grown in each district and their related nutritional value. Stating that September will be observed as Nutrition Month in the entire nation, he called for an increased focus on the value of quality nutrition. Mr. Modi highlighted the importance of public participation in the Nutrition movement. The famous art of ‘Etikoppaka’ dolls of Visakhapatnam district finds a place in the “Mann ki Baat” programme of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In the Mann Ki Baat speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a special mention of the famous Etikoppaka dolls saying that the toys would be useful to unleash the creativity in children in the current Pandemic situation.
  • The Department of Personnel and Training(DoPT) has issued a notification on review, consolidation and reiteration of the guidelines on premature guidelines on premature retirement of government servants, clarifying that it is distinct from compulsory retirement and is not a penalty. At any time after a government servant has completed 30 years’ qualifying service, the official being prematurely retired will be entitled to pension.
  • Over 14 lakh people were affected due to floods in five river systems of Odisha. Heavy rain triggered by back-to-back low pressure area over Bay of Bengal had caused flooding in 20 districts of Odisha. In Madhya Pradesh, more than 11,000 persons stuck in floods in southern and the western parts had been rescued in the past two days by the Army, Air Force and disaster response forces. Narmada river has broken the record of flooding in 1999.
  • A nationwide lockdown may have prevented the COVID-19 pandemic curve from peaking earlier but it certainly has shown adverse impact on the psychological profile of people in the form of rise in post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD), said a dipstick, a pan-India Web-based survey conducted via Google form during the last weeks of lockdown. 28.2% of the respondents were found to have post-traumatic stress disorder.55.6% had trouble sleeping, 82.1% of them reported that reminders of it caused them to have physical reactions, such as sweating, breathing trouble or nausea.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (August 30, 2020)

  • Unlock 4 guidelines announced by Home Ministry; Metro services to resume next week among other relaxations
  • Kerala : Centre must borrow and pay States’ GST dues; It rejects Centre’s option to work for consensus among States
  • CSIR to track employees’ health for 30 years; Aims at gauging long-term health parameters
  • Nationwide campaign “Rozgar Do” launched by Indian Youth Congress highlighting the spike in unemployment rate
  • Enforcement Directorate freezes funds of firms running Chinese apps; 90 websites have been targeted
  • Executive Order on Jammu & Kashmir domiciles’ land rights soon
  • India’s COVID-19 tally crossed the 35 lakh mark, with 74,290 cases and 920 new deaths recorded yesterday
  • India pulls out of Kavkaz 2020 multinational exercise in Russia due to China
  • Xi Jinping calls for building impregnable wall for Tibet; Urges efforts to ensure national security
  • UAE puts an end to economic boycott of Israel, normalising trade and financial agreements
————————-In Detail————————–
  • Metro rail services may resume from September 7 and congregations with a ceiling of 100 persons will be allowed from September 21 under the fresh set of Unlock 4 guidelines announced by the Union Home Ministry on Saturday. However, movement of passenger trains will continue to be regulated as per existing standard operating procedure. However, lockdown measures will be implemented strictly in containment zones till September 30. The guidelines state that outside the containment zones, States will not be allowed to impose localised lockdowns at State, district, subdivision or city levels without the prior permission of the Union Home Ministry.
  • Kerala has rejected the two options for Goods and Services Tax(GST) compensation mooted by the Centre at the 41st GST Council meeting earlier this week. Instead, the State has asked the Centre to take a loan and provide compensation to the States. Under the two options put forward at the Council meeting, the first was a special window for States, in consultation with the RBI, to borrow Rs. 97000 crore at a reasonable interest rate. The second option was to borrow the entire Rs. 2.35 lakh crore shortfall under the special window.
  • For the next 30 years, about 10,000 employees of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research(CSIR) will likely be tracked for most of their working lives as part of an initiative to track an array of health-vitals and genes. The over-arching aim is to be able to build a medical cohort to give long-term perspective on the malaises that affect Indians and determine if such a databank can be used to help with predicting, say, the onset of diabetes or cardiovascular disease.
  • The Union Government is all set to come out with an executive order to extend protection to land rights of domiciles in Jammu & Kashmir. The point of debate is currently on protection to be given to agricultural land. Earlier this year, the Home Ministry amended a 2010 Act to define domicile residents in the newly created Union Territory for eligibility in government jobs. The order defines domiciles as anyone who has resided for a period of 15 years in J&K or has resided for seven years and appeared in Class 10/12 examination in an educational institution there or registered as a migrant.
  • India has withdrawn its participation in Kavkaz 2020 multinational exercise in Russia in September due to the participation of Chinese troops. The invitees to Kavkaz 2020 strategic command-post exercise, also referred to as Caucasus-2020, to be held in Astrakhan in Southern Russia from September 15 to 26 include Pakistan, Turkey, and other member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation(SCO).
  • China’s President Xi Jinping outlined plans to solidify border defence, and build an impregnable wall to ensure the stability of Tibet. He called for “sinicising Tibetan Buddhism” and deepening the government’s patriotic education initiatives to combat separatism.
  • The President of the United Arab Emirates scrapped an economic boycott against Israel, allowing trade and financial agreements between the countries in another key step towards normal ties, the UAE’s state news agency reported on Saturday. Israel and the UAE said on August 13 that they would normalise diplomatic relations in a deal brokered by Donald Trump that reshapes the order of West Asia’s politics, from the Palestinian issue to the fight against Iran.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (August 29, 2020)

  • PM Modi inaugurated new building of Rani Lakshmi Bai Central Agricultural University in Jhansi
  • Government launches contest -“Chunauti” to promote startups in small towns
  • SC says States can apply to UGC for extension of exam deadline under Disaster Management Act
  • Jharkhand government extends current lockdown in Corona containment zones till September 30th
  • India now third in COVID-19 death toll; 1009 deaths and 75,122 cases recorded in 24 hours
  • President Ram Nath Kovind conferred National Sports and Adventure Awards 2020 on occasion of National Sports Day
  • August records highest rainfall in 44 years with 25 per cent excess downpour
  • Centre to develop three Bamboo Clusters in Jammu, Katra and Samba areas of J&K
  • Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe quits citing health reasons
————————-In Detail————————–
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the College and Administration Buildings of the Rani Lakshmi Bai (RLB) Central Agricultural University through video conference today. The RLB Central Agriculture Umiversity is located in Jhansi and is a prominent institute of the Bundelkhand region. The University has started its first academic session in 2014-15 and is offering Under Graduate and Post Graduate courses in Agriculture, Horticulture and Forestry. It is currently operating from the Indian Grassland and Fodder Research Institute, Jhansi as the main buildings were getting ready. The Prime Minister also to interact with students of the university during the event.
  • Minister for Electronics and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad has launched “Chunauti”- Next Generation Startup Challenge Contest to further boost startups and software products with special focus on Tier-II towns of the  The government has earmarked a budget of over 95  crore rupees over a period of three years for this programme. It aims at identifying around three hundred startups working in identified areas and provide them seed fund of upto 25 lakh rupees and other facilities.
  • States are empowered under the Disaster Management Act to override he University Grants Commission(UGC) exam guidelines in order to protect human lives amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court held on Friday. The court held that in case of disaster, the priority of all authorities under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 is to immediately combat the disaster and contain it to save human life. Saving of life of human being is given paramount importance.
  • Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced on Friday that he will resign, ending his record-breaking tenure in a bombshell development that kicks off a leadership race in the world’s third-largest economy. Mr. Abe said he is suffering a recurrence of the ulcerative colitis that forced him to cut short a first term in office, and that he no longer felt able to continue as Prime Minister.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (August 28, 2020)

  • Centre tells States to borrow from RBI to bridge GST gap; States given 7 days to consider options
  • Supreme Court says states can have sub-groups among SCs/STs to deal with inequalities within reserved classes
  • Education Minister said students want NEET, JEE as over 17 lakh admit cards were downloaded within 24 hours
  • Government plans to sell 15% stake in Hindustan Aeronautics Limited; Expected to fetch Rs. 5000 crore for centre
  • Government approves 78 new routes under the Regional Connectivity Scheme- UDAN
  • With 77,002 cases recorded yesterday, India’s COVID-19 tally rose to 33,84,716 with 1066 new deaths recoded
  • Government asserts Cooperation, Collaboration and Commitment will guide strategic partnership between India and ASEAN countries
  • Russia for concluding fighter, helicopter deals by year-end; Delivery of S-400 by end of 2021
  • China fires missiles into South China Sea; Describes it as a warning to the U.S.
  • Turkey says it will hold military drills in east Mediterranean; will further fuel tension with Greece
————————-In Detail————————–
  • The Centre on Thursday acknowledged that States are likely to face a GST revenue gap of Rs. 3 lakh crore this year, as the economy may contract due to COVID-19, which Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman termed an unforeseen “act of God”. Compensation cess collections are only expected to bridge 22% of this gap. Of the remaining Rs. 2.35 lakh crore, the Centre said only Rs. 97,000 crore was due to GST implementation itself, rather than caused by the impact of COVID-19. A special window could be provided, in consultation with the RBI, so that the States can get this Rs. 97,000 crore at a reasonable rate of interest, and this amount can be repaid after five years through the collection of cess.
  • A five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court on Thursday held that the States can sub-classify Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Central List to provide preferential treatment to the “weakest of the weak”. The Constitution Bench, led by Justice Arun Mishra, said reservation has created inequalities within the reserved castes itself. With this, the Bench took a contrary view to a 2004 judgment delivered by another Coordinate Bench of five judges in the E.V. Chinnaiah case. The Chinnaiah judgment had held that allowing the States to unilaterally “make a class within a class of members of the Scheduled Castes” would amount to tinkering with the Presidential list.
  • In keeping with plans to divest its stake in public sector undertakings(PSUs), including defence PSUs, the Union government has published an offer for sale (OFS) of 15% of its shares in the Bengaluru-based defence aerospace firm, the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited(HAL). The stake sale of 15% will fetch over Rs. 5000 crore for the government, calculated at the current market price. The market capitalisation of HAL was Rs. 35,000 crore on yesterday’s market closure.
  • Russia is hopeful of concluding contracts for MiG-29 and SU-30MKI fighter jets and six Ka-31 helicopters by year end, a representative of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation(FSMTC) said at  the ongoing Army 2020 expo in Russia. Deliveries of S-400 long-range air defence systems would begin by 2021-end and could not be accelerated further.
  • The Government has approved 78 new routes under the 4th round of Regional Connectivity Scheme – Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik, (UDAN) to further enhance the connectivity to remote and regional areas of the country. The Civil Aviation Ministry said, North East Region, Hilly States and Islands have been given priority in the approval process for the new routes. It said, 29 served, eight unserved and two underserved airports have been included in the list for approved routes. The Ministry said, overall 766 routes have been sanctioned so far under the UDAN scheme.
  • China on Wednesday fired at least two missiles into the South China Sea in what Chinese media described as a warning to the U.S., amid escalating tensions between the countries over Chinese maritime claims and the military exercises being conducted in disputed waters by China. Chinese media reported the missiles were fired a day after the U.S. flew spy-planes through at least two areas where drills were being held.
  • Turkey will hold firing exercises in the eastern Mediterranean on September1-2, the latest in a series of military drills which have fuelled tensions with Greece. Greece and Turkey, both members of North Atlantic Treaty Organization, have been locked in a dispute over control of eastern Mediterranean waters, which further escalated after Ankara sent a seismic survey vessel to the disputed region this month in a move which Athens called illegal.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (August 27, 2020)

  • With 75,788 new cases recorded yesterday, India’s COVID-19 tally rose to 33,07,407; More than 1000 new death cases recorded
  • Second Phase clinical trials of Oxford COVID-19 vaccine begin in Chennai and Pune
  • Draft policy on health data management policy released in public domain
  • Safety of students during JEE and NEET 2020 top priority for authorities, says National Testing Agency
  • Karnataka Government announces commencement of online classes of all Colleges from 1st September
  • Human Rights Watch report says migrant workers in Maldives are vulnerable to abuse
  • GST Council to meet today to discuss compensation to States for the loss of revenue
  • NITI Ayog : Gujarat tops the Export Preparedness Index 2020; Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu follows Gujarat
  • McKinsey Global Institute says India risks stagnation if GDP doesn’t grow over 8% annually
  • U.S. blacklists 24 Chinese firms amid South China Sea dispute; Visa restrictions for building artificial islands
————————-In Detail————————–
  • In Maharashtra, the second Phase clinical trial of the Oxford COVID-19 vaccine, being manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII), began at a medical college and hospital in Pune yesterday. According to the Hospital officials, two male volunteers were administered the vaccine at Bharati Vidyapeeth’s Medical College and Hospital post.
  • The National Health Authority(NHA) has released the draft Health Data Management Policy of the National Digital Health Mission(NDHM) in the public domain. The draft has been released on the website of the NHDM and will be available for public comments and feedback till September 3. The policy will be finalised after receiving suggestions from the public.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has made many migrant workers in the Maldives vulnerable to abuse, according to Human Rights Watch report. The rights watchdog pointed to migrant workers in the Maldives facing “a range of entrenched abuses from employers”, including deceptive recruitment practices, wage theft, passport confiscation, unsafe living and working conditions. In response to the HRW report, government said expats are being safely repatriated.
  • Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister Dr. C N Ashwathnarayan has announced opening of degree colleges from the first of September. Speaking to media persons in Bengaluru yesterday, he said that all the degree colleges will commence online classes from 1st of next month and offline classes from the 1st of October. The Deputy Chief Minister informed that guidelines in this regard are awaited from the Central Government on conducting offline classes as well as a few degree examinations in September.
  • The GST Council will meet today with the agenda of compensation for loss of revenue arising from the implementation of GST. The 41st meeting of the GST Council will be held via video conferencing. Ahead of the meeting, chief ministers of opposition-ruled states got together to devise a common strategy on the issue. Attorney General K K Venugopal had earlier opined that the Centre is not legally bound to make up from its coffers any shortfall in GST revenues of states. The Centre had in March sought views from the Attorney General on the legality of market borrowing to make good the shortfall in the compensation fund. Under the GST law, states were guaranteed to be compensated bi-monthly for any loss of revenue in the first five years of the GST implementation from 1st July, 2017.
  • Gujarat tops the Export Preparedness Index 2020 to evaluate States’ potential and capacities, followed by Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. The index was released by government think-tank NITI Ayog yesterday. The other States that have made it to the top 10 include Rajasthan, Odisha, Telangana, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka and Kerala. The index ranks States on policy, business ecosystem and export performance.
  • India’s GDP needs to grow annually at 8-8.5% to create opportunities in the post COVID-era, and the country risks a decade of stagnating incomes and quality of life if urgent steps are not taken to spur growth, says McKinsey Global Institute(MGI). It further added India will have to undertake a slew of reforms over 12-18 months with the aim of increasing productivity and creating jobs.
  • The National Testing Agency (NTA) has said all steps and precautions will be taken while conducting NEET and JEE 2020 exams in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic. The Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) Mains and the NEET-Undergraduate examinations for admissions to technical and medical courses are scheduled to be held next month. Talking to media, NTA Director General Dr. Vineet Joshi said, safety of all the students and staff is paramount to them. He assured that the government guidelines on social distancing have been followed. Dr. Vineet Joshi said the number of rooms have been increased so that no more than 12 candidates sit in the same room. Meanwhile, the NTA has released the admit card for National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (Undergraduate) NEET-UG 2020 examination.
  • The United States blacklisted 24 Chinese companies and targeted a number of individuals it said were part of construction and military actions related to disputed islands in the South China Sea. The U.S. Commerce Department said the two dozen companies played a “role in helping the Chinese military construct and militarise the internationally condemned artificial islands in the South China Sea”. The State Department said it would impose visa restrictions on Chinese individuals responsible for, or complicit in, such action and those linked to China’s use of coercion against Southeast Asian claimants to inhibit their access to offshore resources.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (August 26, 2020)

  • RBI Report says Economy to shrink in Q2; Government consumption would be key to revival of demand
  • Parliament monsoon session likely to be held from September 14; Protective measures in place amid pandemic
  • Government makes use of FASTag mandatory for availing any discount in toll charges
  • CRISIL report : Average income of MGNREGA workers doubled during Corona virus lockdown in April-July period
  • With a surge of 65,723 cases yesterday, India’s COVID-19 tally stood at 32,30,227 with 1030 new death cases
  • E-auction portal launched to promote trading of GI-tagged ‘Kashmir Saffron’
  • India to protest Pakistan claims on terror at UN; It will approach UNSC chief on false claims levelled by Islamabad
  • First in India, ICICI bank to use satellite data imagery for farm credit
  • Centre may consider a second fiscal stimulus package once coronavirus infections abate
  • China floats BRICS 5G base as India considering excluding Huawei from country’s network
————————-In Detail————————–
  • The Reserve Bank of India foresees the economic contraction triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic extending into the second quarter, especially as the shock to consumption has been severe, and said government consumption would be the key to the revival of the demand.
  • The monsoon session of Parliament is likely to be held from September 14 to October 1. The Cabinet Committee of Parliamentary Affairs, headed by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, has finalised these dates. There will be 18 sittings and Parliament will meet with a host of protective measures in place to stick to physical distancing and other norms amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The budget session had ended abruptly on March 23 as the number of cases started spiralling.
  • The Government has made FASTag mandatory to allow users avail any discount at the highway toll plazas across the country. The decision has been taken to promote digital mode of payment and ensure seamless travel on the National Highways. The ministry of Road transport and highways has amended the National Highways Fee Rules, 2008 to allow discount for users making a return journey within 24 hours and other local exemptions only in cases where the vehicle carries a valid functional FASTag. The Ministry has also informed that the amendment would enable automatic discount and no prior receipt or intimation will be necessary if return journeys are completed within 24 hours.
  • Average income of MGNREGA workers doubled during coronavirus lockdown, a CRISIL report says. The average income per month for unskilled workers under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) nearly doubled to around 1,000 rupees per month during the first four months of the current fiscal, the report said. The April-July period of the current fiscal witnessed 46 per cent growth in work execution (in terms of person-days) under the scheme. The average per day wage increased by 12 per cent during the period under review. As per the report, the primary reason for the government’s thrust on MGNREGA was the COVID-19 pandemic, which has pushed migrant workers back into their villages. The push to the scheme has been higher in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha and Gujarat, where work allocation increased more than 50 per cent in the first four months.
  • India will approach the United Nations Security Council President to bring to his notice a series of false claims levelled by Pakistan on terrorism, in one of the strongest responses by the Indian permanent mission so far. India is lodging its protest formally with the Indonesian Ambassador to the UN Dian Triansyah Djani, who chaired the UNSC meeting on terrorism, to discuss latest report the latest report on Al Qaeda and ISIL operations. These reports are provided every six months by the UN Secretary General.
  • ICICI Bank has announced the introduction of usage of satellite data-imagery from earth observation satellites – to assess credit worthiness of its customers belonging to the farm sector. The bank, the first in India and among a few globally to do so, will use the data to measure an array of parameters related to land, irrigation and crop patterns and in combination with demographic and financial parameters to make faster lending decisions for farmers.
  • Jammu and Kashmir’s agriculture department has created an e-auction portal to promote trading of GI-tagged ‘Kashmir Saffron’. The Department, under the aegis of India International Kashmir Saffron Trading Centre (IIKSTC), has created the portal in collaboration with NSE-IT, with the sole motive to assure buyers to have access to quality ‘Kashmir Saffron’. The Saffron growers of Kashmir valley and buyers across India have been requested to register themselves as sellers and buyers for E- trading on http://www.saffroneauctionindia.com, so that hassle free e-Trading between registered growers and buyers is ensured.
  • The government may look at introducing a second set of fiscal stimulus measure once the COVID-19 infections abate and psychological fears in people’s minds ebb. The government has also observed that 40% of the cash transfers directly into the beneficiaries’ accounts recently have been saved and not spent, leading to limitations of the stimuli measures.
  • China has proposed the creation of what it calls a ‘BRICS Innovation Base’ to take forward 5G and Artificial Intelligence(AI) cooperation among the five countries, as their industry ministers met virtually on Monday. The move could pose an awkward question for India, which is the only country in the grouping that is leaning towards excluding Chinese participation in the roll out of its national 5G network.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (August 25, 2020)

  • COVID – 19 recovery rate improves to over 75 per cent in the country; Number of recoveries more than three times the active cases
  • DNA Bill can be misused, flags draft report; Provisions could lead to caste or community-based profiling
  • India and China prepare for fresh talks as stand-off along the LAC enters 17th week
  • DRDO lists 108 defence items for Indian firms; It will help in development, design
  • Government announces Tax exemptions for businesses with an annual turnover of up to 40 lakh rupees
  • Government extends validity of Motor Vehicle documents till 31st of December
  • With a surge of 58,377 new cases yesterday, India’s COVID-19 tally stood at 31,63,513
  • Guwahati gets India’s longest ‘passenger’ river ropeway; The length of the bi-cable ropeway is 1.82 km
  • Hong Kong reports first Coronavirus reinfection; COVID-19 may continue to spread despite herd immunity
  • China launches warship for Pakistan Navy; Type-054 class frigate is set to be a surface platform of Pakistan Navy
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  • The Bill that proposes DNA sampling and profiling of citizens accused of crime or reported missing and storing their unique genetic information for administrative purposes has some alarming provisions that could be misused for caste or community-based profiling, a draft report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology has flagged. The committee in its draft report, pointed out that DNA profiles can reveal extremely sensitive information of an individual such as pedigree, skin colour, behaviour, illness, health status and susceptibility to diseases.
  • As the stand-off along the Line of Actual Control(LAC) in eastern Ladakh entered the 17th week, India and China are preparing for another round of military talks in an attempt to resolve the tensions. This follows the diplomatic-level talks at the Joint Secretary level last week of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination(WMCC) on India-China Border Affairs.
  • A list of 108 military subsystems and components has been identified for development by the Indian Industry and the Defence Research and Development Organisation(DRDO) will provide support for the process, the Defence Ministry said on Monday. The DRDO would also provide support to industries for design, development establishments, armed forces and other security agencies could be met through development contracts or production orders on suitable Indian industry.
  • India’s longest passenger ropeway across a river was unveiled in Guwahati on Monday, almost a year after it was completed. The 1.82-km bi-cable jig-back ropeway connects a forest campus near the Kamrup(Metro) Deputy Commissioner’s office in the city on the southern bank of the Brahmaputra and a hillock behind the Doul Govinda temple in north Guwahati on the other.
  • Road Transport and Highways Ministry has decided to extend the validity of Motor Vehicle documents till the 31st of December. The Ministry had earlier issued advisories on 30th March and 9th June this year regarding extension of validity of the documents related to Motor Vehicles Act and Central Motor Vehicle Rules. It was advised that the validity of Fitness, Permit, License, Registration or any other concerned documents may be treated to be valid till 30th of September.
  • China has launched first of the four advanced naval warships it is building for Pakistan, amid deepening defence ties between the two all-weather allies. The launching ceremony for the first warship was held at the Hudong Zhonghua Shipyard in Shanghai on Sunday. The Type-054 class, equipped with the latest surface, subsurface, anti-air weapons, combat management system, and sensors, will be one of the technologically advanced surface platforms of the Pakistan Navy fleet.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (August 24, 2020)

  • COVID -19 recovery rate improves to nearly 75 per cent in the country
  • Film fraternity welcomes Centre’s decision to allow resumption of film and TV shootings
  • With 3 million cases, COVID-19 unlikely to abate soon; Only a vaccine can prevent infections: Experts
  • Union Health Minister says If all goes well, India could get COVID-19 vaccine by year-end
  • Railways says, fresh tender for Vande Bharat express trains to allow more than 50 percent local component
  • Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment constitutes National Council for Transgender Persons
  • Chattisgarh and Puducherry abolish e-pass system for inter-state or intra-state movement
  • Saudi Arabia’s state oil company Aramco suspends 10 billion dollar China oil refinery project
  • Official : China has been vaccinating a broad range of people since July 22
  • South Korea ramped up COVID-19 restrictions to try to contain a growing outbreak
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  • Film fraternity has welcomed the Centre’s decision to allow shooting of films and TV programmes. Earlier, the Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar has released a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for film and Television programme shooting amid COVID pandemic. ‘Contact Minimisation’ is at the core of the SOP. Mr Javadekar said, this will be ensured by minimal physical contact and sharing of props. Make up artists and hair stylists must use PPEs. People handling shared equipment must wear gloves. Lapel mics are to be avoided and never shared. Higher risk employees should take extra precautions and preferably not be exposed to frontline work requiring contact with public. Using face masks is mandatory at all public and work places.
  • India crossed three million cases on Sunday after adding nearly 69,239 cases the previous day – the fourth straight day that it added over 69,000 cases. India continued to be placed behind Brazil and the United States in the overall case load and, at 56,706 deaths, had only half as many as Brazil and less than a third as that of the U.S. Experts said the relentless spread the virus and infectiousness was inevitable and evident from several epidemiological projections from March.
  • Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has said if everything goes well, India will get a vaccine against the novel coronavirus by the end of this year. The COVID-19 vaccine candidates, including two indigenous ones, are in different phases of development. The phase I human clinical trials of two vaccines – one developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the ICMR, and the other by Zydus Cadila Limited – have been completed and the trials have moved to phase II.
  • Railways has said that new tender document for 44 semi-high speed Vande Bharat trains will include provision for more than 50 percent local component. Addressing a virtual press conference yesterday, Railway Board chairman VK Yadav said, the new tender document will include provision for local component of more than 50 in line with the government’s Aatma Nirbhar Bharat initiative. Earlier on Friday, Railways had cancelled the tender for manufacturing 44 Vande Bharat Express trains, which was floated last year. Mr Yadav said, while evaluating the technical bids of tenders, the tender committee had noticed that some of the details of financial offers have been revealed in the technical bids. He said, to maintain the complete transparency, the tender committee has recommended canceling this tender and inviting fresh tenders. While cancelling the tender, Railway Ministry had said that the fresh tender will be floated within a week as per Revised Public Procurement order, which gives preference to Make in India. The fresh tender will have provision to manufacture the train sets at all three production units – ICF Chennai, Rail Coach Factory Kapurthala and Modern Coach Factory Raebareli.
  • The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has constituted the National Council for Transgender Persons. An August 21 notification stated that the Social Justice Minister would be the Council’s chairperson and its members would include officials from some other Ministries. Five members from the community are also part of the council.
  • Saudi Arabia’s state oil company Aramco has suspended a deal to build a 10 billion dollar refining and petrochemicals complex in China. Aramco decided to stop investing in the facility in China’s Northeastern province of Liaoning due to uncertain market outlook. The oil-price crash and Corona’s impact on energy demand have changed the calculations for energy companies’ projects around the world. Aramco plans deep cuts to its capital spending as it tries to maintain a 75 billion dollar dividend amid low crude prices and rising debt. The kingdom — Aramco’s main recipient of those dividends — is suffering a major squeeze on its public finances. The joint venture was signed when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was in Beijing in February last year.
  • China has since July 22 been administering its domestically developed COVID-19 vaccines to a broad range of people whose number may soon be in the hundreds of thousands, including medical workers, the armed forces, and employees of companies who are working overseas on Belt and Road Initiatives(BRI) projects, said a health official on Saturday. China has eight different vaccines which are going through clinical trials, and none have so far been approved for the market. Some of the vaccines have, however, been administered on an “urgent use” basis for the past month.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (August 22, 2020)

  • India has crossed the milestone of conducting 10 lakh COVID-19 tests in a single day.
  • Supreme Court says stopping religious activities alone is strange; Allows 3 Jain temples in Mumbai to open with COVID-19 safeguards
  • Nine killed in State-run hydel station project Srisailam powerhouse unit fire
  • Election Commission issues guidelines to conduct elections amid  Covid-19.
  • Rajiv Kumar appointed new Election Commissioner following resignation of Ashok Lavasa
  • With 67,717 COVID-19 cases recorded yesterday, India’s tally stood at 29,71,846 taking death toll to 55,915
  • Kashmir figures in China-Pakistan dialogue; Both countries back each other on ‘core national interests’
  • Army issues tender for 7.62mm ammunition from private firms; Move to open up ammunition manufacture to private sector
  • Facebook says “Our policies on hate speech are uniformly applied”; Decision made by teams, not unilaterally by just one person
  • Turkey to convert another former church to mosque; Kariye museum includes elements of multiple cultures
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  • It was “strange” that the State governments were opening up activities involving economic interests but were citing the COVID-19 pandemic when it came to religious activities, the Supreme Court said on Friday. It allows 3 Jain temples in Mumbai to open for 2 days with COVID-19 safeguards.
  • Nine people, including five engineers, were killed in a fire in one of the units of the State-run hydel station of the Srisailam project on the Telangana side of the Inter-state border across the Krishna. All nine bodies have been recovered. The fire broke out from a panel board in the 150 MW unit around 10:30 p.m. on Thursday and gradually engulfed the entire area.
  • China and Pakistan on Friday said they would firmly back each other on “core national interests”, as their Foreign Ministers discussed the Kashmir issue in their annual strategic dialogue. China said Pakistan was “its staunchest partner in the region” and it would firmly support the country in safeguarding its territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence and in striving for a better external security environment, according to joint press release from Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry.
  • In a move to take forward the long-delayed process of opening up ammunition manufacture to the private sector, the Army has issued a Request for Information(RFI) for procurement of five different types of 7.62mm calibre ammunition to meet the annual requirement for the next 10 years. The RFI was issued by the Army’s Master General of Ordnance and gets particular focus following the 101 negative import list announced by the Defence Ministry that includes a range of ammunition. With the negative import list, the effort should get high priority for the Army to diversify its ammunition procurement.
  • Following allegation of bias in implementing the company’s own guidelines on hate speech in India, Facebook Vice-President and Managing Director Ajit Mohan on Friday said the social network platform is “non-partisan” and denounces hate and bigotry in any form. The statement comes almost a week a report published by the Wall Street Journal alleged that the company violated its own rules for hate-speech in favour of some individuals, including those associated with the ruling BJP, after opposition from Ankhi Das, the head of public policy at Facebook India.
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday ordered another ancient Orthodox church that became a mosque and then a mosque and then a popular Istanbul museum to be turned back into a place of Muslim worship. The decision to transform the Kariye Museum into a mosque came just a month after a similarly controversial conversion for the UNESCO World Heritage-recognised Hagia Sophia.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (August 21, 2020)

  • Swachh Survekshan 2020 : Fourth year in a row, Indore wins cleanest city title again
  • 29% of Delhiites developed antibodies against coronavirus; It is 27% in Punjab containment zones
  • India and China hold fresh talks; Both sides agreed to resolve outstanding issues
  • Agriculture Minister says government making concerted efforts to bring reforms in agricultural marketing
  • With 67,927 new cases yesterday, India’s COVID-19 tally stood at 29,03,612; 971 new deaths were recorded
  • Indian economy slowdown to extend as coronavirus goes rural; Sluggish consumer demand is cause of concern
  • Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan launches interactive first-of-its-kind video game, Corona Fighters to spread awareness
  • Sri Lanka to draft new Constitution; Presidential powers all set to be restored
  • Obama says Donald Trump lacks interest in his job, treats Presidency as reality show
  • Hong Kong government slams U.S. decision to suspend treaties; Extradition treaty with U.S. will be suspended
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  • For the fourth year in a row, Indore has been ranked the cleanest city in a country, according to a Swachh Survekshan 2020 report released by the Union Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry. The survey of sanitation in over 4000 cities was carried out over 28 days earlier this year. Chhattisgarh scored the highest in the Swachh Survekshan assessment among the 12 states which have more than 100 urban local bodies(ULBs). Jalandhar got the top rank among cantonments and New Delhi was the cleanest capital city.
  • Antibodies against COVID-19 infection have been found in 29.1% of people in the latest sero-prevalence survey in the national capital, Delhi Health Minister said. According to findings of another sero-survey, anti-bodies have been found in 27.7% of people in Punjab’s containment zones.
  • India and China on Thursday held another round of border talks aimed at breaking the impasse along the Line of Actual Control, with complete disengagement still remaining a far-off prospect. Thursday’s talks marked the fourth meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC) since tensions began this summer.
  • India is staring at a protracted slowdown as coronavirus cases reach its countryside, with signs of recovery in the rural economy hailed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi “at best a mitigating factor”. The government officials said the uptick may not be as large as believed given a spike in virus cases in rural areas that were initially isolated from the pandemic. Government official cited sluggish consumer demand and a slowdown in rural lending as causes for concern.
  • Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare Minister Narendra Singh Tomar has said that government is making concerted efforts to bring reforms in agricultural marketing. Speaking at a meeting with industry representatives through Video Conference, Mr Tomar said, government is taking several measures for the welfare of farmers with a specific focus on AatmaNirbhar Bharat. He said that the Government has created the Agriculture Infrastructure Fund of one lakh crore rupees to be used over the next four years. The Minister said, this fund is for building post-harvest storage and processing facilities, largely anchored at the Farmer Producer Organisations. He said, the fund will facilitate in strengthening the agricultural infrastructure, development and improvement of warehouses, cold storage, pack houses and marketing facilities in the rural areas, which will enhance the income of farmers and boost rural economy. Mr Tomar said that the country has become self- sufficient in food grain production and urged to focus the attention towards the development of small famers.
  • Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan has launched an interactive first-of-its-kind game on COVID-19, the Corona Fighters. The Minister yesterday also launched two new videos urging adherence to key COVID Appropriate Behaviours. Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Harsh Vardhan said that the game presents a new and extremely creative way to teach people the right tools and behaviours to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. He stated that the game was designed to influence the players’ actions in the real world, reminding them to take the right precautions and escape infection. He further added that this along with two promotional videos is a simply designed and enjoyable medium to get a serious message across to the wider public.
  • Sri Lanka will draft a new Constitution, jettisoning the 19th Amendment passed in 2015 that imposed curbs on Presidential powers and strengthened parliament, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has said. The new constitution would prioritise the concept of “one country, one law for all the people”.
  • On Wednesday, the U.S. suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong, becoming the latest country to do so after Canada, Australia and Britain suspended such agreements. The U.S. also suspended an agreement with Hong Kong in reciprocal tax exemptions on income derived from the international operation of ships. China’s foreign Ministry said Hong Kong will also suspend its extradition agreement with the U.S. in response.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (August 20, 2020)

  • Government to set up National Recruitment Agency; Cabinet gives nod for common eligibility for government jobs
  • Harley-Davidson may exit India; Weak sales and a lack of visibility for future demand are reasons cited
  • Cabinet approves leasing of 3 airports; PPP model for 50 years proposed
  • Tamil Nadu launches Post Corona Virus follow up clinic in Chennai for patients who recovered from the virus
  • Center says it has no role in Andhra Pradesh’s decision on capital; Reiterates it’s the State’s call
  • With 62,964 COVID-19 cases recorded yesterday, India’s tally stood at 28,34,718
  • India to offer vaccine to Bangladesh on priority; At Foreign Secretary talks, Dhaka raises border killings
  • Joe Biden wins Democratic nomination; Former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter and Republican Colin Powell bat for him
  • Oil rich United Arab Emirates connects first Arab nuclear plant to power grid
  • Israeli warplanes bombed Hamas-ruled Gaza strip after Palestinians fired a rocket into Southern Israel
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  • The Union Cabinet yesterday approved the creation of a National Recruitment Agency(NRA) for conducting a Common Eligibility Test(CET) for various government jobs. Secretary of the Department of Personnel and Training(DoPT) C. Chandramouli said to begin with, three of the over 20 Central government recruitment agencies would be brought under NRA. The preliminary test for the Railway Recruitment Board, the Staff Selection Commission and the Institute of Banking Personnel Selection would be conducted by the NRA, after which the candidates can use the scores to apply to the individual agencies for the next round. Gradually, all Central government agencies would be brought under the NRA.
  • Barely a decade after its entry, Harley-Davidson Inc. is looking to wind down its assembly operations in the country as a result of weak sales and a lack of visibility for future demand, industry executive said.
  • The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved leasing of three airports – Jaipur, Guwahati and Thiruvananthapuram – through public private partnership(PPP) for a period of 50 years. Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said that the Airports Authority of India is not giving these airports permanently to the private operator. After running them for 50 years, the private operator would be handing over the airports back to the AAI.
  • The Union government on Wednesday reiterated that it has no role in Andhra Pradesh’s decision on the capital city and it was not consulted by the State at the time of framing of the Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority Repeal Act, 2020. Through the Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Act, 2020, the Andhra Pradesh government provided for three seats of governance – legislative, judicial and executive capitals in Amaravati, Kurnool and Vishakhapatnam respectively.
  • Bangladesh will receive COVID-19 vaccine from India on a priority basis, a top diplomat of Dhaka said on Wednesday. Foreign Secretary of Bangladesh said the vaccine will not be limited to India. He said they have been assured that India will provide the COVID-19 vaccine to them on a priority basis and the pharmaceutical companies of Bangladesh will be able to collaborate on this.
  • The oil-rich United Arab Emirates announced on Wednesday that it has connected its Barakah nuclear power plant to the national grid in a new first for the Arab world. The milestone follows the successful start-up of the plant’s first reactor at the end of last month and launches the UAE on the road to meeting 25% of its electricity needs from nuclear power. Barakah was built by a consortium led by the Korea Electric Power Corporation at a cost of some $24.4 billion.   
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (August 19, 2020)

  • Supreme Court says no need to audit PM CARES Fund; Endorses PM CARES as “public charitable trust”
  • Curbs on China FDI hit General Motors car plant sale; Deal with Great Wall Motors in a spot
  • Madhya Pradesh government jobs now reserved only for locals, announces CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan
  • Report predicts 12% rise in India’s cancer burden; Cancer cases in the country to be at 15.6 lakhs by 2025
  • With 61,966 new cases in last 24 hours, India’s COVID-19 tally stood at 27,63,913 taking total death to 53,018
  • India negotiating air bubble agreements with 13 more countries
  • Reserve Bank of India releases framework for Pan-India entity for retail payments
  • Railways deploys ‘Ninjas’ for surveillance; Drones to watch over stations and tracks
  • Ashok Lavasa quits Election Commission, set to join Asian Development Bank
  • India ranks among the lowest in Net quality; Occupies 79th place in terms of e-infrastructure, ranking below Guatemala and Sri Lanka
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  • The Supreme Court yesterday endorsed the PM CARES Fund as a “public charitable trust” to which donors contribute voluntarily. There is no occasion for the Comptroller and Auditor General(CAG) to audit a public charitable trust independent of budgetary support or government money. The court said that it is “not open” for a PIL petitioner to question the “wisdom” that created the fund in an hour of need. The Bench also refused to direct the transfer of funds from the PM CARES Fund to the NDRF. It said they were two separate entities.
  • Continuing tensions with China at the Line of Actual Control(LAC) could impact the government’s decision on a major U.S.-China auto plant deal in Maharashtra, with thousands of jobs on the line. The deal by the U.S.-owned General Motors India(GMI) to sell its car manufacturing plant in Talegaon MIDC Industrial Area, near Pune, to Chinese company Great Wall Motors(GWM) is awaiting clearance from the Ministry of External Affairs, Home Ministry and others. The MoU for the acquisition was announced in January 2020, before the government brought in strictures over Foreign Direct Investments(FDI) from neighbouring countries. The U.S. company wants to exit India with this deal.
  • Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Chouhan announced that government jobs in the state would now be reserved for local people only. Calling it an important decision, Mr. Chouhan said they are making the required legal provisions for it. He said resources of Madhya Pradesh are for the children of Madhya Pradesh.
  • Cancer cases in the country are likely to increase to increase to 15.6 lakhs by 2025 – a 12% increase from current estimated cases – based on current trends, according to the National Cancer Registry Programme Report 2020. The report also found that in 2020, tobacco-related cancers are estimated to contribute to 27.1% of the total cancer burden, and highest in the north-eastern region of the country.
  • Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri has said India is negotiating with 13 countries, including Australia, Japan, Russia, South Korea, Thailand and Singapore, to establish separate bilateral air bubble arrangements for international flight operations. Under a bilateral air bubble pact, airlines of both the countries can operate international flights with certain restrictions. Mr Puri said, air bubbles have also been proposed with neighbouring countries Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal and Bhutan. Since July, India has established such bubbles with the US, the UK, France, Germany, the UAE, Qatar and the Maldives. Scheduled international passenger flights continue to remain suspended in India since March the 23 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The Railways yesterday said it has introduced a drone-based surveillance system to enhance security at railway stations, tracks and workshops. Eye in the Sky : Improving Surveillance System, Railways has recently procured Ninja Unmanned Aerial Vehicles[UAV]. With real-time tracking, video streaming and automatic fail safe mode, the drones will enhance monitoring of the railway assets and ensure additional safety for passengers.
  • Reserve Bank of India has unveiled the framework for setting up of pan-India Umbrella Entity for Retail Payments. As per the framework, companies with a net worth of over 500 crore rupees will be eligible to set up an umbrella entity which among other things will be permitted to set up, manage and operate new payment systems in the retail space comprising ATMs, White Label PoS, Aadhaar-based payments and remittance services. The entity will be expected to monitor national as well as international developments so as to avoid shocks and frauds that may adversely affect the system and the economy in general.
  • Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa has submitted his resignation to the President, asking to be relieved by August 31. His appointment as a Vice President was announced in July. Mr. Lavasa, a retired IAS officer of the 1980 batch, was appointed Election Commissioner in 2018 and was in the running to become the Chief Election Commissioner when Sunil Arora retires in April 2012.
  • India ranks among the lowest in the world in terms of Internet Quality, an online privacy solution provider SurfShark said in a research report. As per the “Digital Quality of Life Index 2020”, which researchers on the quality of digital well-being in 85 countries(81% of the global population), in terms of e-infrastructure, India occupies 79th place, ranking below countries, including Guatemala and Sri Lanka.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (August 18, 2020)

  • Supreme Court to study context of charges against judges; It will hear arguments on process to make allegations public
  • Supreme Court Says NEET, JEE won’t be postponed; Says COVID may continue, can’t wait for another year
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi to inaugurate First World Solar Technology Summit to be held on 8th of September
  • Government to release the result of Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovation Achievements today
  • With 49,888 cases recorded yesterday, India’s COVID-19 tally stood at 26,97,604
  • SBI’s research report Ecowrap expects India’s GDP to contract by 16.5% in Q1 of current fiscal
  • External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar holds talks with his UAE counterpart; Invites further investments in key sectors
  • Belarus President Lukashenko offers to hold referendum to hand over power constitutionally
  • New Zealand postpones poll to fight the second wave of coronavirus; Cases last week ended the country’s infection-free streak
  • U.S. imposes more sanctions targeting Huawei; 38 of the Chinese technology company’s affiliates have been added to the ‘entity list’
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  • The Supreme Court on Monday decided to launch a detailed examination into the circumstances under which a person can make public allegations of corruption against the judiciary. The Supreme Court decided to look into these issues: If statements on ‘judicial corruption’ are made in public, under what circumstances can they be made; The procedure to be adopted if such statements of corruption are made in public against sitting as well as retired judges; When some matter is sub-judice, to what extent can that matter be argued through the media or another mode.
  • The Supreme Court refused to entertain a petition by students to postpone the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) and the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) citing COVID-19 after recording the exam authorities’ promise that all necessary precautions would be taken to keep safe the candidates, whose numbers run into lakhs. “Education should be opened up. COVID may continue for a year more, Are you going to wait for another year? Do you know what is the loss of country and the career peril to the students?”, Justice Arun Mishra who headed the three-judge bench asked the petitioners.
  • The First World Solar Technology Summit will be organized by International Solar Alliance, ISA on a virtual platform on 8th of September. Sharing details of the summit, the President of the ISA Assembly and New and Renewable Energy Minister R. K. Singh said, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will deliver the inaugural address of the First World Solar Technology Summit and it will be graced by Ministers from member countries from across all ISA regions. He said, High-level dignitaries from the world of Scientific Research and Development and a CEO’s conclave will set the tone of the deliberations on low cost, innovative and affordable solar technologies. Senior Government Functionaries, Heads of Global Corporations, Financial and Multilateral Institutions, Civil society, Foundations and Think-Tanks will be present during the inaugural session.
  • External Affairs Minister Dr S. Jaishankar held extensive talks with his counterpart from the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan covering a range of areas including ways to further boost strategic ties and the situation in the neighbourhood of both countries. The virtual talks were held as part of the 13th Session of the India-UAE Joint Commission Meeting on Trade, Economic and Technical Cooperation. Ministry of External Affairs said, the Indian side invited further investments from the UAE in key sectors of the Indian economy such as infrastructure including logistics, food parks, highways, ports, airports, renewable energy and defence. It said, wide-ranging discussions were held in a friendly, frank and constructive atmosphere, reflecting the strong bilateral ties between the two partners.
  • Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu will release the results of Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovation Achievements, ARIIA 2020 today. ARIIA is an initiative of Ministry of Education to systematically rank higher education institutions and universities in India on indicators related to Innovation, Startup and Entrepreneurship Development amongst students and faculty.
  • Alexander Lukashenko, the leader of Belarus, said on Monday that he would be ready to hold new elections and hand over power after a constitutional referendum, an attempt to pacify mass protests and strikes that pose the biggest challenge yet to his rule. He made the offer, which he insisted would not be delivered on while he was under pressure from protesters, after exiled opposition politician Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said she was willing to lead the country.
  • The U.S. administration on Monday expanded its sanctions on China’s Huawei, a move aimed at further limiting the tech giant’s access to computer chips and other technology. A Commerce Department statement added 38 Huawei affiliates around the world to the “entity list”, claiming that the company was using international subsidiaries to circumvent the sanctions which prevent export of U.S. based technology.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (August 17, 2020)

  • Monsoon Session of Parliament to witness many first time measures in view of COVID-19
  • With 57,361 new cases and 925 deaths recorded, India’s COVID-19 tally rose to 26,46,975 infections and 51,021 fatalities
  • Government says, Corona warriors will be the first one to get vaccine after its launch
  • High speed 4G mobile internet services restored in Ganderbal and Udhampur districts of Jammu and Kashmir on trial basis
  • United States Food and Drug administration nod for rapid, inexpensive saliva test for COVID-19
  • PMO denies RTI plea seeking info on PM-CARES; Office cites ‘diversion of resources’ clause
  • Indian Railways constructing the world’s tallest pier bridge across river Ijai in Manipur
  • Israel and UAE start direct telephone services between the two countries
  • Thousands of Canadian government accounts hacked; GCKey is used by some 30 departments
  • Chinese Minister makes rare visit to Tibet border; State media links it to tension along the Line of Actual Control
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  • Monsoon Session of Parliament will witness many first time measures in view of Covid 19. Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla have decided to use the chambers and galleries of both the Houses for enabling the monsoon session under the prevailing restrictions. Mr Naidu directed to ensure all arrangements to be in place by the third week of this month for testing, rehearsal and final inspection. Rajya Sabha Secretariat has been working overtime for the last two weeks to ensure full preparedness by the third week of this month for the coming session. As per the arrangements, Rajya Sabha chamber and galleries and Lok Sabha chamber will be used for seating the members of the House during the monsoon session. This include, 60 members in the chamber and 51 in the galleries of Rajya Sabha, leaving out the first row as per the social distancing norm. The remaining 132 in the chamber of Lok Sabha. Various parties will be allotted seats in the chamber and galleries of Rajya Sabha based on respective strength and the remaining will be seated in the chamber of Lok Sabha in two blocks meant for ruling parties and the others. Rajya Sabha Chairman has also directed the secretariat officials to minimize the need for the members to physically handle various papers by ensuring necessary arrangements.
  • Minister of State for Health Ashwini Kumar Choubey has said that Corona warriors will be the first ones to get the vaccine after its launch. He said, three Corona vaccines are at various stages of testing and scientists are working hard for their success. Mr Choubey hailed the National Digital Health Mission unveiled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address to the nation on the Independence Day. The minister said, this is a historic decision for the country’s health sector and will bring widespread change in the field of health. Mr Modi unveiled the ambitious National Digital Health Mission under which every Indian will get a health ID that will ease access to medical services.
  • High-speed mobile Internet services have been restored on a trial basis in two districts of Jammu and Kashmir. The high-speed mobile data services were restored in Ganderbal district of Kashmir and Udhampur district of Jammu region last night. An order to this effect was issued by Jammu and Kashmir Home Department yesterday. This order will remain valid till September 8 next month. The order said that high-speed Internet will be provided to post-paid subscribers, while pre-paid customers will be able to enjoy the benefit of the services only after completing the verification process. The rest of Jammu and Kashmir will enjoy only 2G services. The resumption of 4G Internet services on mobile devices comes days after the Centre informed Supreme Court that a special committee looking into the matter is considering allowing the facility on a trial basis in two districts of the Union Territory. Internet services were snapped in Jammu and Kashmir before the Centre’s announcement on August 5 last year that the special status of the state would be abrogated and it would be split into two Union Territories. Later, low-speed Internet services were restored in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • In what could prove a gamechanger in the global battle against COVID-19, a new, rapid diagnostic test for the novel coronavirus that uses saliva samples was granted an emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The inexpensive test, called SalivaDirect, developed by a team from the Yale School of Public Health, has high sensitivity and can detect the virus even when the number of virus copies in the saliva sample is as low as 6-12 copies per microlitre.
  • The Prime Minister’s Office(PMO) had denied a Right to Information(RTI) request related to the PM-CARES Fund on grounds that providing it would “dis-proportionally divert the resources of the office”. However, a High Court judgment and multiple orders of the Central India Commission have previously held that, under the RTI Act, this rationale can only be used to change the format of information provided, not deny it altogether.
  • Indian Railways is constructing the world’s tallest pier bridge in Manipur. The bridge which is being constructed across river Ijai near Noney is an engineering marvel because the tallest pier height will be of 141 meter. It will surpass the existing record of 139 meter of Mala – Rijeka viaduct, Montenegro in Europe. The Manipur bridge is located at the hilly terrain of Marangching village in Noney district, about 65 km west of Imphal. The total estimated cost of the bridge is 280 crore rupees, and it will be completed by March 2022. The bridge is a part of Jiribam-Tupul-Imphal new BG line project. The total length of the bridge will be 703 meter. The piers of the bridge are constructed using hydraulic augers, the tall piers needed specially designed “slip-form technique” to ensure efficient and continual construction.
  • Israel and UAE have started direct telephone services between the two countries following their agreement to normalise relations. The countries’ foreign ministers called each other and exchanged greetings following the historic peace accord. Over an hour later, Emirati officials acknowledged that Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan had called his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi. The Israelis later acknowledged the call as well, saying the block had been lifted from the Emiratis’ side. Israel foreign minister tweeted that the two sides decided together on the establishment of a direct communication channel ahead of the signing of the normalisation agreement between the two countries and to meet soon.
  • Tens of thousands of user accounts for online government services in Canada were recently hacked during cyberattacks, authorities on Sunday. The attacks targeted line GCKey service, used by some 30 federal departments and Canada Revenue Agency accounts, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat explained in a press. The authorities said, the passwords and usernames of 9041 GCKey account holders “were acquired fraudulently and used to try and access government services”.
  • China’s Foreign Minister and State Councillor Wang Yi has made a rare visit to inspect “border infrastructure” in Tibet, which Chinese media has linked to the recent tensions along the Line of Actual Control(LAC) with India. Mr. Wang met with the top Communist Party official in Tibet, Wu Yingie, as well as the chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region(TAR), Qizhala, and called for efforts “to safeguard national security”.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (August 16, 2020)

  • No respite as COVID-19 cases continue to rise; India’s COVID-19 tally approaching 26 lakhs
  • Idols from U.S. galleries handed over to India; Artefacts were given to officials at a ceremony in New York to mark India’s Independence Day
  • Centre to launch projects for Lion and Dolphin conservation to replicate successes of Project Tiger
  • Manipur extends complete lockdown till August 31 to contain the spread of COVID-19
  • Madras HC asks Centre to enact law to bar people with criminal background from polls
  • Indian Pharma units gear up for Russian vaccine: Indian firms seek details from RDIF
  • Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Suresh Raina quit International Cricket
  • After remaining suspended for five months, pilgrimage to Vaishno Devi resumed today
  • U.S. President Trump issues order against Bytedance; Firm’s hold over Karaoke app targeted
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  • The U.S. authorities have formally handed over to India a set of priceless antique pieces, including a limestone relief of Shiva and Parvati, a marble Apsara, and some other idols. The artefacts were handed over to Indian officials at a ceremony to mark the Indian Independence Day festivities in New York. They were reportedly stolen and smuggled out at the country at different times. Launching ‘Operation Hidden Idol’ in 2012, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security had unearthed a treasure of 2622 objects valued at $108 million from the business and storage facilities of Subash Kapoor.
  • The Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the Centre will soon launch Project Lion and Project Dolphin for the biodiversity conservation of these species to replicate the successes of Project Tiger. Mr Modi said, we have successfully carried forward Project Tiger and Project Elephant. The Tiger population has increased in India. In the coming days, we are starting Project Lion for the Asiatic lions. Mr Modi said Project Dolphin will focus on both river and sea dolphins. He said, this will also give a boost to biodiversity and also create employment opportunities.
  • The pilgrimage to Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu and Kashmir will resume today. The yatra was under suspension for nearly five months in view of the coronavirus pandemic since March 18th. Chief Executive Officer of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, Ramesh Kumar said that people will be allowed to undertake the pilgrimage after registration only through online in order to avoid any assembly at the yatra registration counter. The pilgrims will be required to install Aarogya Setu App on their mobile phones. Wearing face masks and face cover is mandatory and they will have to undergo thermal scanning at yatra entry points. Children below 10 years, pregnant women, persons with co-morbidities and those above 60 years have been advised to avoid the pilgrimage.
  • The Madras High Court has directed the Centre to explain in two weeks as to why it should not enact a law prohibiting people with criminal background from contesting in parliamentary, Assembly and local body elections. Justices N.Kirubakaran and V.M. Velumani issues the direction after taking note of media reports of persons with criminal background becoming policy makers in many parts of the country. They said such practice has to be prevented and the system has to be cleansed.
  • Indian companies have sought technical details on the trials of Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine from the Russian Direct Investment Fund(RDIF) for possible production in India, an Indian Embassy source in Moscow said. Indian companies are in touch with RDIF regarding vaccines and have asked for technical details about Phase I and Phase II trials of vaccine and also for production of vaccines in India for third country exports and production of vaccines for use in India after regulatory clearances.
  • U.S. President Donald Trump lashed out anew at ByteDance, issuing a fresh executive order stating that the Chinese Internet giant must sell its interest in the Musical.ly app it bought and merged with TikTok. ByteDance bought karaoke video app Musical.ly from a Chinese rival about three years ago in a deal valued at nearly a billion dollars. It was incorporated into TikTok, which became a global sensation.
  • Former Indian Cricket Team Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni announced his retirement from International Cricket. In a social media post, he thanked everyone for their immense support and love throughout his career. Under his captaincy, India won the 2007 ICC World Twenty-Twenty, the 2010 and 2016 Asia Cups, the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup and the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy. A right-handed middle-order batsman and wicket-keeper, Dhoni is one of the highest run scorers in One Day Internationals (ODIs) with a formidable score of more than 10 thousand runs. Suresh Raina, another Indian Cricketer has also announced his retirement from International Cricket. In a social media post, he said, it was always a pleasure to play along with Dhoni.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (August 15, 2020)

  • Nation celebrates its 74th Independence day; Prime Minister Narendra Modi unfurls Tri-Colour from the Rampart of Red Fort in New Delhi
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterates country’s resolve for Atma Nirbhar Bharat and calls to develop vocal for local mindset
  • Gehlot government wins Rajasthan’s trust vote on the floor of Rajasthan assembly
  • Supreme Court finds Bhushan guilty of contempt of tweets; Says, Lawyer’s post amount to ‘scandalising the court’
  • Prime Minister announces launch of National Digital Health Mission from today
  • LAC disengagement calls for reciprocal actions, says Ministry of External Affairs
  • India exported 23 lakh Personal Protective Equipments in July : Centre
  • With 62,950 new cases in last 24 hours, India’s COVID-19 tally went past 25 lakh with total death count at 49145
  • Government identifies 7 thousand projects from different sectors to bring new revolution in infrastructure
  • President Ram Nath Kovind approves 84 gallantry awards for Armed Forces personnel
  • RBI to transfer Rs. 57128 crore surplus to Centre for FY20; Central Bank maintains Contingency Risk Buffer at 5.5%
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  • The Nation is celebrating its 74th Independence Day today. Prime Minister Narendra Modi hoisted the national flag at the ramparts of the historic Red Fort in Delhi and addressed the nation this morning. Mr Modi was received by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh at the Red Fort. The Prime Minister then inspected Guard of Honour. The Guard of Honour contingent for the Prime Minister consisted of one officer and 24 men each from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Delhi Police. This year, the Guard of Honour was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Gaurav S Yewalkar. Before coming to Red Fort, the Prime Minister paid homage to Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat. Addressing the nation from the ramparts of the historic Red Fort, Prime Minister Narendra Modi saluted the Corona warriors who have helped the nation fight against the pandemic. He greeted the nation on the occasion of Independence Day and said people breathe in Independent India today because of the sacrifice of thousands of heroes.
  • Mr Modi said many big companies of the world are turning to India today. He said country must not only go ahead with the mantra of Make in India, but Make for World as well. He said there is a need to give a new direction to the overall infrastructure development of the country to move India towards modernity at a fast pace. He said the National Infrastructure Pipeline Project will enable this and country is moving towards spending more than 100 lakh crore rupees on this. He said about 7,000 projects of different sectors have been identified to bring new revolution in infrastructure.
  • The Ashok Gehlot-led Congress Government on Friday won a confidence vote on the floor of the Rajasthan Assembly, ringing down the curtains on the month-long uncertainty created by the rebellion of former Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot and 18 MLAs supporting him. The motion of confidence was passed by voice vote after a three-hour debate in the House. The House was adjourned till August 21 after the confidence motion was passed.
  • The Supreme Court on Friday found civil rights lawyer Prashant Bhushan guilty of Chief Justice of India(CJI) Sharad A. Bobde astride a bike and another on the court’s role in the past six years scandalised the Supreme Court as an Institution. The tweets had the effect of attempting to destabilise Indian democracy. Supreme Court said such malice should be dealt with an iron hand in the larger public interest. The Contempt of Court Act of 1971 punishes with imprisonment that may extend to six months or fine of Rs. 2000 or both.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi also announced the launch of National Digital Health Mission from today. He said National Digital Health Mission will bring a new revolution in India’s health sector and all Indians will get health IDs. The Prime Minister said it was unthinkable earlier that crores of rupees would be directly transferred in the Jan Dhan accounts of the poor in the country. Mr Modi stressed that women empowerment has a huge role to play in AatmaNirbhar bharat. He informed that of the 40 crore Jan Dhan accounts opened in the country, about 22 crore accounts belong to women. He said that in April, May and June this year, about 30 thousand crore rupees have been directly transferred to the accounts of women.
  • India’s Ambassador to China Vikram Misri held talks with China’s top military body, the Central Military Commission (CMC), in Beijing on Friday, amid an acknowledgement from Delhi that completing the stalled disengagement process along the Line of Actual Control(LAC) would require “reciprocal actions” from both sides. The PLA remains present on India’s side of the LAC on the north bank of Pangong Lake, has continued to obstruct India’s patrols in the Depsang Plains, and has not diluted its build-up in several other areas, according to officials.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (August 14, 2020)

  • Prime Minister Modi announces taxpayers’ charter; Move to honour honest assessees
  • Australia shares experience on 5G; It has banned Chinese companies from offering the infrastructure
  • India announces $500 mn package for the Maldives; GMCP project to be biggest intra island connectivity plan in Maldives
  • UGC questions Delhi and Maharashtra over cancellation of exams saying this will hit students’ future
  • With 63883 cases recorded yesterday, India’s cumulative COVID-19 tally crosses 24.5 lakhs with 48,150 deaths
  • CJI tells Centre to consider amending the Official Languages Act to include more vernacular languages in governance
  • Inflation accelerates to 6.93% dimming chances of a rate cut; June rates revised up to 6.23%
  • Selling Electric Vehicles without battery compromises warranty; Mahindra questions Centre’s decision
  • France reinforces naval forces in Mediterranean; Tensions rise between Greece, Turkey
  • U.S. President Donald Trump announces historic peace deal between UAE and Israel to establish full diplomatic relations
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  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched yesterday a “Transparent Taxation-Honouring the Honest” platform that provides faceless assessment, faceless appeal and a taxpayers’ charter. He appealed to those not paying taxes, despite having the ability, to come forward and commit themselves to the cause of making the country self-reliant. The assessment system seeks to eliminate corrupt with the territorial jurisdiction of income-tax offices.
  • India and Australia are sharing experiences on protecting critical infrastructure, including 5G networks, as said by Australian officials. However, Australia has no intention of banning Chinese apps like India has done. At the Prime Minister’s virtual summit in June both countries had signed a cyber and cyber-enabled critical technology framework agreement along with the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
  • India announced a slew of measures for the Maldives, including air, sea, intra-island and the telecommunications in an effort to help the Indian Ocean Islands deal with the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the initiatives announced are an air connectivity “bubble” for travel, a direct ferry service, a submarine cable for telecom connectivity, and assistance for the Greater Male Connectivity Project(GMCP) to connect Male to three neighbouring islands, the biggest such project thus far. The Ministry of External Affairs said India will support the implementation of the GMCP, through a financial package consisting of a grant of USD 100 million and a new Line of Credit of USD 400 million.
  • The University Grants Commission(UGC) questioned the logic of States like Maharashtra and Delhi cancelling the final term exams for the fear of COVID-19, but at the same time willing to open up varsities and educational institutions for the next academic session. UGC added cancellation of exams would cause “irreparable damage” to the future of the students.
  • Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bodbe has said that the government amending the Official Languages Act of 1963 to include more vernacular languages in governance, and not just confine it to Hindi and English.
  • Mahindra Electric, a market leader in battery powered electric vehicles (EVs), has questioned the Centre’s decision to allow the sale and registration of EVs without batteries and said the move would end up compromising the warranty that EV manufacturers provide. No country in the world allows registration of EVs without battery, said Mahesh Babu, MD and CEO, Mahindra Electric.
  • France said on Thursday it was temporarily reinforcing its military presence in the eastern Mediterranean Sea amid tensions between Greece and Turkey over recently-discovered gas reserves. The French military said two Rafale jets would arrive on Thursday on the island of Crete for a stay of “several days”, after having taken part in a military exercise in Cyprus earlier in the week. The purpose of this military presence is to strengthen the autonomous assessment of the situation and to affirm France’s commitment to free movement, to the security of maritime navigation in the Mediterranean and respect for international law.
  • US President Donald Trump announced that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel have agreed to establish full diplomatic relations as part of a new peace deal. Under the agreement, Israel would suspend its plans to annex parts of the West Bank. Making the announcement in the Oval Office, US President, said, the deal is a significant step towards building a more peaceful, secure, and prosperous Middle East. President Trump also tweeted a joint statement between the US, UAE and Israel which said, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan have agreed to the full normalisation of relations. The statement called the peace agreement, a historic diplomatic breakthrough that will advance peace in the Middle East region. Israel​i Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a new era has opened between Israel and the Arab world. The UAE’s ambassador to the United States, Yousef Al Otaiba, said the deal with Israel was a win for diplomacy and for the region.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (August 13, 2020)

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi to launch platform for Transparent Taxation – “Honoring the Honest” through video conferencing today
  • Indians having any valid visa can now fly to the UAE; Centre lifts curbs imposed for pandemic
  • CSIR plans to develop “Mega Labs” to boost COVID-19 testing
  • On a short notice, Indian Air Force deploys two light combat helicopters in Leh
  • Assam government rolls out Arunodoi scheme to provide financial assistance to around 17 lakh families from 2nd October
  • Vaccine panel mulls early access; Committee to decide on how COVID-19 shot will be made available to Indians
  • Nepal to seek Identity cards from Indian visitors to better deal with the COVID-19 situation
  • Supreme Court to hear plea on ‘COVID-19 mismanagement’ by Centre
  • Washington expressed scepticism about Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine, pointing to lack of data from its trials
  • United Kingdom economy shrinks by record 20%, in recession; Unemployment expected to rise
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  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will launch the platform for Transparent Taxation – Honoring the Honest through video conferencing today. This platform will further carry forward the journey of direct tax reforms. The Central Board of Direct Taxes, CBDT has carried out several major tax reforms in direct taxes in the recent years. Last year, the Corporate Tax rates were reduced from 30 per cent to 22 per cent and for new manufacturing units the rates were reduced to 15 per cent. Dividend distribution Tax was also abolished. The event will be witnessed by various Chambers of Commerce, Trade Associations, Chartered Accountants’ associations and also eminent taxpayers, apart from the officers and officials of Income Tax Department.
  • With the Union government lifting the pandemic-induced curbs on tourist and visit visas for travel in United Arab Emirates after five months, airlines can now carry any Indian national holding any type of valid visa to the seven emirates. Till now, only Indian and UAE nationals having resident visa, fresh job visa or student visa were allowed to travel on flights operated by Air India Group and Air India Express and on chartered flights to UAE.
  • The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research(CSIR) is working on developing “mega labs” to ramp up testing for COVID-19 testing for COVID-19 as well as improve the accuracy rate. The labs will be repurposing large machines, called the Next Generation Sequencing Machines (NGS), which are normally used for sequencing human genomes, to sequence 1,500 to 3,000 viral genomes, to sequence 1500 to 3000 viral genomes at a go to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
  • Amid the stand-off on the border with China in Ladakh, two indigenous Light Combat Helicopter(LCHs) have been deployed at high altitude in Leh at short notice to support Indian Air Force missions, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited said on It is the lightest attack helicopter in the world designed and developed by the HAL to meet the specific and unique requirements of the Indian armed forces, reflecting the crucial role of HAL in ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’.
  • With an aim to provide financial assistance to around 17 lakh families, the Assam government is all set to roll out Arunodoi scheme in the state from 2nd of October. Talking to newspersons in Guwahati yesterday, Finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said that under this scheme an amount of 830 rupees will be given to eligible families per month to buy essential food items. He said, this will be the largest Direct Benefit Transfer scheme in Assam. The Minister said that 15 to 17 thousand families would be benefited per assembly constituency by this scheme. Mr. Sarma said that the Assam government will bear 210 crore rupees per month for the Arunodoi scheme.
  • Nepal will seek identity cards from visitors from India, Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa has said. Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli has recently blamed India for the spread of COVID-19 in the country. Nepal officials have said Kathmandu will implement the identity cards and registration system and will try to formalise record-keeping process to better manage movement of people and the pandemic.
  • India would leverage domestic vaccine manufacturing capacity as well as engage with all international players for the early delivery of vaccines in India as well as in low and middle income countries, the first ever meeting of the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 decided on Wednesday, according to a statement from the Union Health Ministry. The expert group on Wednesday deliberated on a “conceptualisation and implementation mechanism” to create a digital infrastructure for inventory management and delivery mechanism of the vaccine, including tracking of the vaccination process, with particular focus on the last mile delivery.
  • The Supreme Court on Friday will hear a writ petition filed by six former bureaucrats, represented by advocate Prashant Bhushan, seeking a commission of Inquiry to be set up into the “gross management”  of the COVID-19 pandemic by the government. The petition contends that mismanagement occurred at multiple levels, from not stocking enough protective and medical equipment to combat the health crisis to lack of early checking of incoming international passengers to the handling the exodus of migrant workers during the lockdown.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (August 12, 2020)

  • PM Modi flags for more testing and tracing in 10 most affected states due to COVID-19
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin declares world’s first COVID-19 shot – ‘Sputnik V’
  • Jammu & Kashmir to get 4G access in a limited manner; Centre rules out blanket removal
  • Government opens 91 Jan Aushadhi Kendras in Jammu and Kashmir and three in Ladakh region this year
  • Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar launches ICAR’s data recovery centre – Krishi Megh
  • Supreme Court gives equal inheritance right to daughters from 1956
  • CBDT unearths money laundering worth over 1000 crore rupees involving Chinese nationals
  • Coronavirus cases back in New Zealand after long 102 days of remaining virus free
  • India’s Industrial Output fell 16.6% year-on-year in June, shrining for fourth month in a row
  • Indian-origin senator Kamala Harris named US Vice Presidential candidate for Democratic party
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  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the fatality rate from COVID-19 in India has to be pushed below 1%. He stressed that 10 states which account for 81% of the cases and 82% of the fatalities need to step up testing, contact tracing within 72 hours of testing and isolation of those infected. These 10 states are West Bengal, Gujarat, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Punjab.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia had become the first country to grant regulatory approval to a COVID-19 vaccine after less than two months of human testing. The vaccine to be called ‘Sputnik V’ in homage to the world’s first satellite launched by the Soviet Union, has, however not yet completed its final trials.
  • Attorney General informed the Supreme Court on Tuesday that 4G Internet access will be opened up after Independence Day in one district in each Jammu and Kashmir’s divisions. The Centre however, said a blanket removal of the 4G ban was not possible now, considering the overall situation and threat perception to national, border and local security.
  • The Government has opened 91 Jan Aushadhi Kendras in Jammu and Kashmir and three in Ladakh region between January and July this year. Chemical and Fertilizer Ministry said, Bureau of Pharma PSUs of India (BPPI) opened these Jan Aushadhi Kendras with an aim of making available quality generic medicines at an affordable price to the residents of these regions. The total sales in last one year has crossed four crore 39 lakh rupees in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh which led to total savings of 31 crore rupees for residents of this area. The Ministry said, Government of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh have proposed to open 73 new Jan Aushadhi Kendras for which locations have already been identified. BPPI have supplied over one crore 56 lakh sanitary pads to Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. The National Health Mission has been distributing these pads free of cost to young girls and women as a part of Rashtriya Kishore Swasthya Karyakram.
  • Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar has launched ICAR’s data recovery centre – Krishi Megh. The move is aimed at protecting the precious data of the government’s premier research body Indian Council of Agricultural Research. It has been set up at National Academy of Agricultural Research Management (NAARM) in Hyderabad. Currently, the main data centre of the ICAR is at the Indian Agricultural Statistics Research Institute (IASRI) in the national capital. Krishi Megh has been set up under the National Agricultural Higher Education Project (NAHEP), funded by both the government and World Bank. Speaking on the occasion, Mr Tomar said NAARM, Hyderabad has been chosen as it lies in a different seismic zone with regard to the Data Centre at ICAR-IASRI in New Delhi.
  • In a landmark judgment, Supreme Court has ruled that daughters will have inheritance rights equal to those of sons from properties of fathers and grandfathers right from the codification of the law in 1956. A bench of Justices Arun Mishra, S Abdul Nazeer and MR Shah cleared the confusion arising from the apex court’s conflicting interpretations of the amended Section 6 of Hindu Succession Act, which came into force from September 9, 2005. The bench said whether the father is alive or not, daughters born before September 9, 2005, too can claim equal right in inheritance. The apex court said, daughters cannot be deprived of their right to equality conferred by Section 6 of the Act. Although the amendment was applicable to Hindu daughters as coparceners who died after coming of the act, there was no clarity on whether it will have retrospective effect.
  • Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has unearthed money-laundering worth over 1,000 crore rupees involving Chinese and Indian nationals. The Income Tax Department has conducted search on premises of Chinese entities, their close confederates and couple of bank employees. CBDT said, based on the credible information that few Chinese individuals and their Indian associates were involved in money laundering and hawala transactions through series of shell entities, a search action was mounted. Search action revealed that at the behest of Chinese individuals, more than 40 bank accounts were created in various dummy entities, entering into credits of more than one thousand crore rupees over the period. A subsidiary of Chinese company and its related concerns have taken over 100 crore rupees bogus advances from shell entities for opening businesses of retail showrooms in India.
  • In the United States, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has named Indian-origin senator Kamala Harris as his Vice-Presidential running mate. Joe Biden made history by selecting the first black woman to compete on a major party’s presidential ticket. Kamala Harris is currently the US Senator from California. Former US President Barack Obama has often described her as a trailblazer. If elected, Kamala Harris would be the first ever woman to be the vice president of the United States and the first ever Indian-American and African vice president of the country.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (August 11, 2020)

  • Recovery rate of COVID-19 patients improves to nearly 70 per cent; Over 15 lakh 35 thousand people recovered so far
  • It will not be a ‘zero academic year’, officials say; Decision on reopening schools in 15 days, says Education Minister
  • New undersea cable to give high speed Internet Connection in Andaman
  • Week-long lockdown extended in Andaman and Nicobar Islands from today
  • UGC says States can’t cancel exams; Delhi, Maharashtra cannot take decisions on their own
  • Lufthansa to resume flights from Europe to India; Inbound flights will start on August 13
  • China slaps sanctions on U.S. Senators; 11 American arrested are targeted in Beijing’s retaliatory move
  • U.S. COVID-19 case count crosses five million; Paris makes masks compulsory
  • Government says Balance of Payments will be strong this year; Government cites green shoots in economy
  • Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab resigns following public outrage over major blast in Beirut last week
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  • India’s COVID 19 cases crossed the 22-lakh mark with 62,064 new cases. Health Ministry said, the death toll climbed to 44 thousand 386 with 1,007 more deaths. The recoveries surged to 15 lakh 35 thousand 743 with a record 54 thousand 859 more people recuperating in the past 24 hours. This has taken the recovery rate to 69.33 per cent. The case fatality rate has dropped to about 2 per cent. The total number of affected people has reached 22 lakh 15 thousand 74, including 44,386 deaths. There are 6 lakh 34 thousand 945 active cases of the Coronavirus disease.
  • The Centre will not allow this to be a “zero academic year” without any teaching or examinations, Higher Education Secretary told the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resource Development. Speaking at a webinar, Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank said a decision on physical reopening of schools and colleges likely within 10 to 15 days after discussions with educational institutions, State governments, and the Health and Home Ministries.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday launched an undersea optical fibre cable connecting the Andaman and Nicobar Islands with the mainland that would provide residents of the Union Territory high-speed Internet Connection. The Prime Minister had laid the foundation stone for the 2,300-km-long submarine optical fibre cable project connecting Chennai and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands on December 30, 2018.
  • The University Grants Commission(UGC) strongly objected to the Maharashtra and Delhi governments employing Disaster Management Act to cancel the examinations of students amid the COVID-19 pandemic, saying “sooner the issue is resolved, the better for the students”. Solicitor General said the conduct of examinations was entirely within the domain of UGC, a statutory body. The States could not go on and cancel examinations on their own. The UGC is strongly advocating the conduct of the final year exams by September 30 in compliance with its July 6 guidelines while keeping in mind the safety and health of students.
  • China on Monday sanctioned 11 Americans, including Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, in retaliation for similar U.S. moves prompted by Beijing’s crackdown in Hong Kong. Washington last week accused 11 officials of suspending “freedom and democratic processes” in Hong Kong, including city leader Carrie Lam, and announced plans to freeze their U.S. assets. Beijing termed the measure was a violation of international law and grossly interferes in China’s internal affairs.
  • India’s balance of payments this year is going to be “very very strong” on the back of significant improvement in exports and a fall in imports, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said yesterday. He said that ‘good’ green shoots were visible in the economy and exports have shown a ‘good’ turnaround. He said that the government was taking steps to support and promote domestic manufacturing and industry.
  • Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab has resigned from his post in the wake of major blast in Beirut that has triggered public outrage. In a brief televised speech after three of his Ministers resigned, Mr Diab said, he was taking a step back, so he could stand with the people and fight the battle for change along side them. The Prime Minister’s resignation follows a weekend of anti-government protests after the August 4 explosion in Beirut’s port that decimated the facility and caused widespread destruction, killing 160 people and injuring about six thousand more.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (August 10, 2020)

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi to inaugurate submarine Optical Fibre Cable connecting Chennai and Port Blair today
  • PM Modi launches one lakh crore rupees agriculture infrastructure fund; Also releases sixth installment of PM-Kisan scheme to 8.5 crore farmers.
  • Defence Ministry to impose import embargo on 101 items; Aim is to boost indigenous production
  • Amid pandemic, India & Pakistan spar over Indus water talks over design of Ratle project on Chenab
  • India achieves remarkable feat by performing more than seven lakh tests of coronavirus samples in a single day
  • Union Health ministry’s tele-medicine platform provides over 1.5 lakh online consultations
  • Afghanistan : ‘Loya Jirga’ approves release of militant prisoners as demanded by Taliban
  • Brazil’s COVID-19 death toll crosses one lakh mark; It is the second hardest-hit country after the United States
  • Mahinda Rajapaksa sworn in as Sri Lankan Prime Minister
  • Donald Trump signs executive order extending coronavirus relief; Stimulus offers unemployment benefits
————————-In Detail————————–
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will today inaugurate and dedicate to the nation submarine Optical Fibre Cable (OFC) connecting Chennai and Port Blair through video conferencing. The foundation stone for the project was laid by Mr Modi on 30th December 2018 at Port Blair. The submarine cable will also connect Port Blair to Swaraj Dweep, Little Andaman, Car Nicobar, Kamorta, Great Nicobar, Long Island, and Rangat. This connectivity will enable delivery of faster and more reliable mobile and landline telecom services to Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Enhanced telecom and Broadband connectivity will boost tourism and employment generation in the Islands and also give an impetus to the economy and raise standards of living. Better connectivity will facilitate delivery of e-Governance services like telemedicine and tele-education.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched one lakh crore rupees agriculture infrastructure fund to give a leg up to post-harvest management and marketing of agricultural produce. Speaking on the occasion, Mr Modi said this fund will provide better warehousing and cold storage facilities for farmers. He said new jobs will be created as food processing and post-harvest facilities are set up in rural areas. Prime Minister said, it will enable startups to scale up their operations and India to build a global presence in organic and fortified food. The fund was launched with 1,128 crore rupees of new loans disbursed to more than 2,200 cooperative societies. During the event, the Prime Minister also releases sixth installment of 17,100 crore rupees to more than 8.5 crore farmers under the PM-Kisan direct income assistance scheme.
  • The Defence Ministry will “introduce import embargo on 101 items beyond given timeline to boost indigenisation of defence production”. Speaking at a function later, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said the government intends to reach a turnover of $25 billion through indigenously manufactured defence products and also expects to export products worth $5 billion. Government has also decided that in any government contract over Rs. 200 crore, no foreign company can participate in the tendering process.
  • India has refused a request by Pakistan to hold a meeting on issues around the Indus Water Treaty at Attari checkpost near the India-Pakistan border. In March, India had suggested a virtual conference but Pakistan has insisted on a physical meeting. The practice at the Indus Water Treaty meetings is that they are led by Indus Water Commissioners from both countries and a range of issues on construction of dams and hydropower projects concerning the Indus river system are discussed. Among the key points on the table was evolving a procedure to solve differences on technical aspects governing the construction of the Ratle run-of-the-river (RoR) project on the Chenab in the Kishtwar district of Jammu and Kashmir. India has called for the appointment of a ‘neutral’ party while Pakistan favours a Court of Arbitration to agree upon a final resolution on the design parameters of this hydropower project.
  • India’s COVID-19 recoveries have crossed the historic peak of 1.5 million. Health Ministry said recovery of more than 15 lakh has been made possible because of the policy of Testing aggressively, Tracking comprehensively and Treating efficiently. It said better ambulance services, focus on Standard of Care and use of non-invasive oxygen have given desired results. COVID-19 infection still remains concentrated in 10 States that contribute more than 80 percent of the new cases.
  • The Afghan government and the Taliban are on the verge of peace talks after thousands of prominent Afghans approved the release of about 400 contentious militant prisoners, the head of Kabul’s peace council said yesterday. The resolution was passed at the end of three day “Loya Jirga” – a traditional Afghan meeting of tribal elders sometimes held to decide on controversial issues. The prisoners’ fate has been a crucial hurdle in launching the peace talks between the two warring sides, which had committed to completing a prisoner exchange before negotiations can start.
  • Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa took the oath of office as Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, following the ruling party’s landslide victory in the August 5 general election. This comes after his party secured a two-thirds majority in last week’s parliamentary election.
  • U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday signed executive actions extending financial relief to Americans hit by the COVID-19 pandemic as polls showed a large majority of voters unhappy with his handling of the crisis. One key Trump order promises to get $400 a week added to Americans’ unemployment benefits, while two others offer some protection from evictions and relief for student loans. A fourth measure ordered a freeze in the payroll taxes.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (August 9, 2020)

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurates Rashtriya Swachhata Kendra in Delhi; Launches Week-long campaign to free India of garbage
  • Kerala flight crash toll hits 18, probe begins; Normal operations resume at Calicut airport
  • India recorded 65,747 new COVID-19 cases in last 24 hours taking the tally to 21,51,950
  • Kerala landslip toll rises to 26; 44 persons estimated to be missing
  • Centre directs 13 districts in eight States and Union Territories with high COVID-19 mortality rate to focus on reducing it
  • India, China Major Generals discuss issues concerning the strategic Depsang Plains
  • WHO official warns against COVID-19 ‘vaccine nationalism’; calls for multilateral approach to vaccine deployment
  • G.C. Murmu takes charge as new CAG; He resigned as L-G of J&K on August 5
  • China’s ties with U.S. plunge further; Beijing slams ‘barbarous’ sanctions imposed on Hong Kong
  • Anti-regime protest rocks Beirut over government’s handling of this week’s devastating explosion in the city
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  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has boosted the self-confidence and will-power of every countryman and its impact is visible on the life of the poor. The Prime Minister was speaking after inaugurating the Rashtriya Swacchata Kendra in New Delhi. Mr Modi said, cleanliness drive has been a big support in the fight against Corona virus. Mr Modi said, a comprehensive Quit India Campaign is going on against poverty, garbage, compulsion of open defecation and compulsion of wandering for fetching water. The Prime Minister announced a week-long campaign till the 15th of August to free India of garbage. He said, Rashtriya Swachhata Kendra is a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi’s efforts towards cleanliness.
  • The crucial flight data recorder of the ill-fated Air India Express Flight AXB1344 that crashed after overshooting the runway of Calicut International Airport at Karipur on Friday evening was recovered as investigations into the accident began. The toll from the mishap rose to 18 on Saturday, with one more passenger succumbing to injuries, officials said. Out of the 149 people injured, 23 are in critical condition, while another 23 have been discharged after initial medical assistance. The five table top runways in India are in Kozhikode(Kerala), Mangalore(Karnataka), Shimla(Himachal Pradesh), Pakyong(Sikkim) and Lengpul(Mizoram).
  • With the recovery of eight more bodies, the death toll in the Pettimudy landslip rose to 26 on Saturday. Four layams (worker quarters) in the Nayamakkad tea estate, near Rajamala, in Munnar were buried under the debris of a major landslip on Thursday night.
  • India and China on Saturday held talks at the Major General-level to discuss issues concerning the strategic Depsang Plains. This meeting was a normal one to discuss patrolling patterns by both sides. There was no discussion on disengagement or de-escalation, just routine patrolling as part of border management. Depsang is not a problem which started in 2020, and this kind of meetings happen regularly, as per defence official.
  • As part of the continuous process of review and handholding of States and UTs for collaborative management of COVID-19, two high level virtual meetings were chaired by Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan to engage with the states reporting high case load and higher Case Fatality Rate than the national average. The Ministry said, today’s meeting focused on 13 districts concentrated in eight States and UT. These are Kamrup Metro in Assam, Patna in Bihar, Ranchi in Jharkhand, Alappuzha and Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, Ganjam in Odisha, Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh, 24 Paraganas North, Hooghly, Howrah, Kolkata and Maldah in West Bengal. These districts account for nearly nine per cent of India’s active cases and about 14 per cent of COVID deaths. They also report low tests per million and high confirmation percentage. They were advised to ensure timely referral and hospitalization in view of reports from some districts of patients dying within 48 hours of admission. States were asked to ensure a timely assessment and make advance preparedness for infrastructure like ICU beds and oxygen supply, based on the prevailing case load and the estimated growth rate.
  • With over 200 COVID-19 vaccine candidates in development and 27 of them on clinical trials across the world, Chief scientist at the World Health Organization (WHO) Soumya Swaminathan raised the need to have a multilateral or global approach to vaccine deployment and distribution, rather than a more nationalistic approach. Noting that the term “vaccine nationalism” was being used to describe the fact that many countries are only thinking about their own population. She added that the virus is everywhere in the world and it would be impossible for the world to go back to normal and for the economy to recover if only pockets of people are protected.
  • Former Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) Lieutenant-Governor(L-G), Girish Chandra Murmu on Saturday took charge as the new Comptroller and Auditor General(CAG). Mr. Murmu was sworn in by President Ram Nath Kovind. Mr. Murmu, a 1985-batch IAS officer of the Gujarat cadre, will have a tenure up to November 20, 2024.
  • China on Saturday slammed the U.S. for imposing ‘barbarous’ sanctions in response to Beijing’s crackdown in Hong Kong, capping a dramatic week of deteriorating relations between the world’s two biggest economies. In the toughest U.S. action on Hong Kong since China imposed a sweeping new security law on the territory, Washington on Friday imposed sanctions on a group of Chinese and Hong Kong officials – including the city’s leader Carrie Lam.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (August 8, 2020)

  • Natural disasters plague Kerala again; 18 killed as landslip buries tea workers’ quarters in Idukki
  • 15 killed as AI Vande Bharat Mission flight skids off Calicut airport runway
  • With 60,833 COVID-19 cases recorded in last 24 hours, India’s tally stands close to 21 lakhs
  • Gujarat Government announces New Industrial Policy in line with Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan
  • India’s foreign exchange reserves surge to an all-time high of 534.568 billion dollars
  • India to host ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in 2021 and  Australia in 2022; Women’s T-20 World Cup postponed till 2022
  • 2011 report had flagged unsafe conditions at Calicut Airport where the AI flight slipped off
  • India to take part in Kavkaz strategic command-post exercise 2020 in Russia
  • Rajapaksas win super majority in Sri Lanka parliamentary poll; SLPP secures nearly 60% of total vote
  • U.S. to ban transactions with TikTok, Wechat in response to security concerns related to private data access by China
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  • At least 18 persons were killed and 52 others are missing after a series of landslips at the Nayamakkad tea estate at Pettimudy, near Rajamala in Idukki district, late on Thursday. Four layams (housing lines of tea garden workers) were buried under debris as a hill nearly 3 km away from the housing lines, located in a landlocked valley, slid down. Rescue operations at remote estate is hampered by incessant rain and hilly estate.
  • At least 15 persons, including the pilot and co-pilot, were killed and 153 injured when a Vande Bharat mission flight from Dubai overshot the runway at Calicut International Airport, broke into two parts and fell into a gorge around 8 p.m. o Friday. The Boeing aircraft, carrying 189 passengers and six crew, attempted to land amidst heavy tailwinds and rain on the table-top runway. It failed to hold on the runway due to poor weather conditions, and skidded for more than 75 meter.
  • According to an aviation safety report submitted to the Ministry of Civil Aviation in 2011, the runway resulting in the death of at least 11 persons, was unsafe for flight operations due to inadequate safety area along the runway and at the end of the runaway to safeguard against planes skidding off. Aviation safety expert Mohan Ranganathan said, there has been no effort on the part of AAI to rectify the safety infringements. He added that the runway strip is just half the minimum width laid down and this fact was known to the DGCA.
  • Gujarat Government has announced the new industrial policy. Chief Minister Vijay Rupani announced the new Policy at a press conference in Gandhinagar yesterday. He said that the new Industrial policy is divided in 15 thrust areas in core sectors and sunrise sectors. He said that in Core sectors- the thrust areas will be Electrical machinery & equipment, Industrial Machinery & equipment, Auto & Auto Components, Ceramics, Technical Textiles, Agro & Food Processing, Pharmaceuticals & Medical devices, Gems & Jewelry and Chemicals. While Sunrise Sectors will have thrust areas like Industry 4.0 manufacturing, Electric Vehicle and its components, Waste management projects, Green Energy including Solar & Wind Equipment and Eco-friendly compostable material for substitutes to traditional plastics. Thrust on 100 percent export oriented units will be given irrespective of sector.
  • India’s foreign exchange reserves have surged by a massive 11.938 billion dollars to reach a new all-time high of 534.568 billion dollars in the week ended on 31st this year. Foreign currency assets, a major part of the overall reserves, increased by 10.347 billion dollars to 490.829 billion dollars. In the previous week, the reserves had swelled by 4.993 billion dollars to end at 522.630 billion dollars. Reserve Bank of India Governor Shaktikanta Das has said that the reserves are equivalent to 13.4 months of imports. He added that the reserves have risen by 56.8 billion dollars in this fiscal so far. Gold reserves also went up by 1.525 billion dollars to end at 37.625 billion dollars. India’s special drawing rights with the International Monetary Fund inched higher by 12 million dollars to reach 1.475 billion dollars. While the country’s reserve position also went up by 54 million dollars to 4.639 billion dollars.
  • International Cricket Council has said that the India will host the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 as planned. ICC confirmed that Men’s T20 World Cup 2020 that was postponed due to the pandemic will be held in Australia in 2022. Cricket’s governing body has also decided to postpone the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2021 in New Zealand till February – March 2022 due to the impact the pandemic has had on cricket globally. The format of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 will remain as it was for 2020 and all teams that qualified for that event will now participate in India in 2021.
  • In a resumption of bilateral and multilateral military exercises which were deferred due to COVID-19, India will take part in the Russian Kavkaz 2020 strategic command-post exercise next month. The invitees also include China and Pakistan, apart from other member-states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (August 7, 2020)

  • India expects China to work for complete disengagement and de-escalation and full restoration of peace and tranquility in the border areas
  • RBI keeps key policy rate unchanged; Allows banks to restructure corporate, individual loans
  • New Delhi asserts that Islamabad needs to provide unhindered and unimpeded consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav
  • Manoj Sinha appointed as J&K Lieutenant Governor after resignation of G C Murmu
  • Mahinda Rajapaksa’s party poised for big win in Sri Lanka’s parliamentary election
  • India rejects China’s UNSC move on Kashmir; India reiterates Kashmir is a domestic issue
  • India’s COVID-19 cases cross 2 million; Recoveries crossed 13.2 lakh; Case fatality is now 2.07%
  • First Kisan Special Parcel Train to start today for providing seamless supply of perishable produce
  • Japan marks 75 years of atomic bombing which was world’s first atomic bomb attack
  • U.S. intelligence agencies scrutinises efforts by Saudi Arabia to build up its ability to produce nuclear fuel
————————-In Detail————————–
  • India has said it expects China to work with it sincerely for complete disengagement and de-escalation and full restoration of peace and tranquility in the border areas. The Special Representatives of India and China had a telephone conversation on 5th July where they discussed the situation in the India China border areas. The two Special Representatives had agreed that early and complete disengagement of the troops along the Line of Actual Control and de-escalation from India-China border areas in accordance with bilateral agreement and protocols and full restoration of peace and tranquility was essential for the smooth overall development of bilateral relations.
  • The Reserve Bank of India kept its powder dry in the third review of the monetary policy since the COVID-19 pandemic spread in the country, leaving key policy rates unchanged in the face of rising inflation pressures but asserted that propping up economic recovery has assumed “primacy” in the “worst peace-time health and economic crisis of the last 100 years”. In a slew of decisions, Banks have been allowed to restructure stressed corporate and MSME loans, No extension announced on loan moratorium beyond August 31, borrowing limits against gold relaxed, start-ups included in priority sector lending norms etc.  
  • India today said it has not received any communication from Pakistan on Kulbhushan Jadhav case. Replying to a query, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson said Pakistan needs to provide unhindered, unimpeded consular access to him. On Pakistan’s new map that includes Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh and parts of western Gujarat, the spokesperson said this type of baseless claims show that Pakistan wants to take control of more areas by using cross border terrorism. On statement by Turkey on Jammu and Kashmir, the spokesperson said it is factually incorrect, biased and unwarranted. He urged Turkey government to get a proper understanding of ground situation and refrain from interfering in internal matters of India.
  • Former Minister of State for Railways and BJP leader Manoj Sinha was on Thursday appointed the Lieutenant Governor of Jammu & Kashmir after incumbent G.C. Murmu, a former IAS officer, resigned on Wednesday. Mr. Sinha will be the third Governor/LG appointed by the BJP government in J&K in three years. Mr. Murmu’s appointment was preceded by that of BJP leader Satyapal Malik.
  • The ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) is poised for a landslide win in the August 5 parliamentary elections, going by results declared until last evening. By then, SLPP had secured over 60% of the votes.
  • A day after China prompted the United Nations Security Council to discuss the Kashmir issue in a closed-door meeting, India firmly rejected the Chinese initiative and reiterated that Kashmir is a domestic issue. The Chinese move came on the first anniversary of the dilution of Article 370, which led to the creation of the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh and ended the special status for the region.
  • The Indian Railways on Thursday said it will begin running Kisan Rail, a service announced in the Union Budget 2020-21, from August 7. This train will help in bringing perishable agricultural produce like vegetables and fruits to the market in a short period of time. The train is a step towards realising the goal of doubling farmers’ incomes by 2022.
  • Japan on Thursday marked 75 years since the world’s first atomic bomb attack, with the coronavirus pandemic forcing a scaling back of ceremonies to remember the victims. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged to do his best for the “realisation of a world without nuclear weapons”. Hiroshima Mayor warned against the nationalism that led to Second World War and urged the world to come together to face global threats like the pandemic.
  • U.S. intelligence agencies are scrutinising efforts by the Saudi Arabia to build up its ability to produce nuclear fuel that could put the kingdom on a path to developing nuclear weapons. Intel flags China-Saudi bid to develop fuel that can be enriched into weapon fuel.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (August 6, 2020)

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi says construction of Ram Temple opens up several opportunities across sectors which will change the economy of the region
  • India’s move on Article 370 is ‘illegal and invalid’, says China
  • Recovery rate of Covid-19 patients improves from 63 to 67 per cent in two weeks
  • More than 10 lakh 59 thousand people benefited from Vande Bharat Mission says Civil Aviation Minister
  • Amnesty urges NHRC, NCW to open J&K offices for redressal of right violations of people of J&K
  • Madhya Pradesh’s online classes not reaching majority of students; Just 30% could access home-based learning programme
  • Lebanon explosion toll climbs to 135; Government vows justice, orders port staff detained
  • Countries tighten measures as Coronavirus death toll crosses 7,00,000 globally
  • Centre formulating R&D policy to bolster drug discovery; Blueprint to cover medical devices, includes incentives for scientists
  • Counting of votes for parliamentary elections in Sri Lanka begins; The polling was held yesterday with around 71 percent voting
————————-In Detail————————–
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that the Ram Temple in Ayodhya will become a modern symbol of India’s traditions. He said that Ram Mandir will symbolise the power of collective resolution of crores of people which will keep inspiring the future generations. The Prime Minister was addressing the gathering at Ram Janmbhumi in Ayodhya yesterday. He performed Bhoomi Poojan and laid the foundation stone of the grand Ram temple.
  • India on Wednesday told China “not to comment on the internal affairs” of other countries, in response to Beijing describing the dilution of Article 370, on the one-year anniversary of the move, as being “illegal and invalid”. China has no locus standi on the matter, the Ministry of External Affairs said.
  • An Amnesty International India report on Wednesday urged the National Human Rights Commission and National Commission for Women to set up offices in Jammu & Kashmir, saying people there had not had any redressal of their rights violations after the closure of the State Commissions a year ago. Marking the first anniversary of the revocation of Article 370, Human Rights Organisations call for release of political leaders and restoration of 4G in Union Territory.
  • Just 30% of secondary and senior secondary students in government schools of Madhya Pradesh have been regularly reached through a home-based learning programme which began after schools shut in view of COVID-19 pandemic, said the State Department of School Education. The department under the ‘Humara Ghar, Humara Vidyalaya’ programme planned to reach 22 lakh students from class 9 to 12, but just around 6,60,000 – 20% through T.V. and 10% through WhatsApp – were reached from July 18, to July 25.
  • Lebanese rescue workers searched for survivors in the mangled wreckage of buildings and investigators blamed negligence for a massive warehouse explosion that sent a devastating blast wave across Beirut, killing at least 135 people. The death toll is expected to rise from the blast that officials blamed on a huge stockpile of highly explosive material stored for years in unsafe conditions at the port.
  • France and the Netherlands imposed stricter mask-wearing rules on Wednesday amid signs that the COVID-19 pandemic is flaring up again across the globe, with the worldwide death toll exceeding 7,00,000. Ireland has postponed the reopening of pubs and other nightspots on the advice of scientists, concerned about rising infections. Europe remains the hardest hit region with 211,365 fatalities. In South Africa, the hardest hit country in Africa, some 24,000 health workers have contracted the virus and 181 have died since March.
  • The Centre will soon unveil a new Research & Development policy to boost drug delivery and the manufacture devices in the country. Alongside, numerous production-linked incentives are also on the anvil, including to the scientists involved in the process, official said. The government proposes to set up three major manufacturing parks including one in Hyderabad, with an investment of Rs. 1000 crore each to help drive import substitution of basic raw materials, active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) and the making of medical devices.
  • In Sri Lanka, counting of votes for the parliamentary elections has begun at 77 counting centres across the country. The polling was held yesterday with around 71 percent voting. Over 7450 candidates are in the fray for parliament seats and security arrangements are tight outside counting centers. Parliament was dissolved in early March, six months before its term ended as President Gotabaya Rajapksa was seeking clear majority in parliament for his party.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (August 5, 2020)

  • Ayodhya awaits Modi’s launch of Ram temple construction; PM Modi to take part in ceremony today
  • Donald Trump signs executive orders to bar H-1B visa holders from federal jobs
  • COVID-19 vaccine likely in mid-2021 : WHO scientist
  • Union Health Ministry : Lockdown helped save lives; Between 37000 and 78000 lives saved
  • UN : 24 million may drop out of school due to COVID-19 pandemic
  • Ahead of FATF meet, India to highlight Pakistan’s inaction including Pulwama, 26/11 and Daniel Pearl cases
  • Army to convene selection board for women personnel; Applications for Permanent Commission sought
  • China accuses United States of ‘bullying’ over TikTok; says Washington is acting against principles of market economy
  • Vivo set to end IPL association; Chinese firm and BCCI are understood to have agreed to terminate the contract
  • At least 70 people killed and more than 4,000 injured in huge explosion in Lebanese capital Beirut
————————-In Detail————————–
  • Twenty-eight years after Babri Masjid was demolished by kar sevaks, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will on Wednesday i.e. today formally launch the construction of temple at the spot, where Hindus believe Lord Ram was born. The Supreme Court in last November permitted the construction of a Ram Temple at the site where the Babri Masjid stood till December 6, 1992. Mr. Modi and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat will be among the five persons on stage at the bhoomi poojan ceremony for which 175 guests, including 135 seers, were invited by the Trust entrusted with the construction of the temple.
  • United States President Donald Trump has signed an executive order preventing federal agencies from contracting or subcontracting foreign workers – mainly those on H-1B visas. The move comes over a month after the Trump administration on June 23 suspended the H-1B visas, along with other types of foreign work visas, until the end of 2020 to protect American workers in a crucial election year. The new restrictions took effect from June 24.
  • A realistic timeline to start receiving the first million doses of COVID vaccine is mid-2021, World Health Organisation’s Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan has said. She, however, cautions that it might take longer as we do not understand the virus completely.
  • Almost 24 million children are at risk of not returning school next year due to economic fallout of COVID-19, according to the United Nation’s policy brief on the pandemic’s impact on education, released on Monday. The educational financing gap is also likely to increase by one third, it said. Even for those who do not drop out of school, learning losses could be severe, especially in the foundational years.
  • Ahead of the crucial Financial Action Task Force(FATF) meetings in October, when Pakistan’s performance in acting against terror-financing infrastructure will be assessed, Indian agencies plan to highlight its inaction in the Pulwama, 26/11 Mumbai attack and Daniel Pearl murder cases. The Pakistani establishment has to prove that it is serious about dismantling the terror-financing infrastructure, which is possible only by ensuring that cases against the key figures and organisations involved in raising funds and masterminding terror attacks attain finality and such elements are punished.
  • After receiving the formal Government Sanction Letter(GSL) for grant of Permanent Commission to women officers, the Army headquarters is in the process of convening a special selection board for screening women officers for granting Permanent Commission. Women officers who joined the Army through the Women Special Entry Scheme(WSES) and Short Service Commission Women, are being considered for granting Permanent Commission.
  • China accused the U.S. on Tuesday of “bullying” over popular video app TikTok, after President Donald Trump ramped up pressure for its U.S. operations to be sold to an American company. In the latest diplomatic spat between the world’s two biggest economies, Beijing hit back after Mr. Trump gave TikTok six weeks to arrange a sale of its U.S. operations – and said that his government wanted a financial benefit from the deal.
  • In Lebanon, at least 70 people have been killed and more than 4,000 injured in a huge explosion in the capital, Beirut, last night. The explosion sent shockwaves that shattered windows, smashed masonry and shook the ground across the Lebanese capital. Officials are blaming highly explosive materials stored in a warehouse for six years. President Michel Aoun said, it is unacceptable that 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate was stored unsafely. President Aoun has declared a three-day mourning and said the government will release 66 million dollar as emergency funds. Indian Embassy in Lebanon is in touch with the Indian community.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (August 4, 2020)

  • Parliamentary Committee on Labour recommended to cut gratuity period to one year
  • SpaceX with NASA crew is back home; First such manoeuvre in the U.S. in 45 years
  • Recovery rate of COVID-19 patients reaches 65.77 per cent
  • Preparations in full swing in Ayodhya for Bhoomi Poojan for construction of Ram Temple
  • Government issues draft policy to ramp up defence exports; Aims to achieve manufacturing turnover of $25 bn
  • WHO warns there may never be a silver bullet for COVID-19 despite the rush to discover vaccines
  • Moody’s Investors Services upgrades Yes Bank’s long-term foreign currency issuer rating to B3 from Caa1
  • Members of Indian men’s and women’s hockey teams for Tokyo Olympics to join National camp in Bengaluru
  • Purchasing Managers’ Index : India’s manufacturing activity contracts for fourth straight month
  • Mass production of COVID-19 vaccine in 2021, says Russia
  • China suspends treaty with New Zealand; Row over Hong Kong continues
————————-In Detail————————–
  • Parliamentary Committee on Labour has, in its latest report, recommended that the eligibility period for gratuity payable to an employee on termination of his employment should be reduced to one year from the present provision of 5 year. The Committee made this recommendation in its report on Social Security Code, which has been evolved subsuming nine labour laws. This comes in the wake of extensive retrenchment in all sectors in COVID-19 pandemic-induced economic slowdown.
  • Two NASA astronauts returned to Earth on Sunday in a dramatic, retro-style splashdown, their capsule parachuting into the Gulf of Mexico to finish the unprecedented test flight by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company. It was the first splashdown by the U.S. astronauts in 45 years, with the first commercially built and operated spacecraft to carry people to and from the orbit. The return clears the way for another SpaceX crew launch as early as next month and possible tourist flights next year. The Test pilots returned to earth in their SpaceX Dragon Capsule named Endeavour, less than a day after departing the International Space Station and two months after blasting off from Florida.
  • In Ayodhya, on the second day of the three-day long rituals preceding Bhoomi Poojan for construction of Ram Temple, a special six-hour long special Ram Racha Anushthan will be performed today. The Bhoomi Poojan function will take place tomorrow in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi will take part. Along with him, many religious heads and saints from all over the country and from Nepal are expected to take part in the function. Over 135 Saints belonging to 135 spiritual traditions will be present in the programme. Some eminent citizens of Ayodhya have also been invited by the Shri Ram Janm Bhumi Teerth Shetra Trust. Meanwhile, Ayodhya is already in the festive mood and eagerly waiting for the historic moment.
  • With the aim of achieving a manufacturing turnover if $25 bn or Rs. 1,75,000 crore, including exports of $5 bn in aerospace and defence goods and services by 2025, the Ministry of Defence put out a draft ‘Defence Production & Export Promotion Policy 2020’ for public.
  • The World Health Organisation warned Monday that there might never be a silver bullet for COVID-19, despite the rush to discover effective vaccines. The WHO urges governments and citizens to focus on doing the known basics, such as testing, contact tracing, maintaining physical distancing and wearing a mask in order to suppress the pandemic.
  • Members of the Indian men’s and women’s hockey teams bound for Tokyo Olympics will join the National Camp at National Centre of Excellence (NCOE) in Bengaluru today. The decision was taken by Sports Authority of India (SAI) after formal permission was received from the State Government to begin training in Bengaluru. The athletes, coaches and support staff, who were on a home break, will join the camp and undergo the mandatory 14-day quarantine inside the campus. Considering the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Bengaluru, the permission from the State Government has been given subject to all arriving athletes, coaches and support staff adhering to institutional quarantine protocols issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Health and Government of Karnataka.
  • India’s manufacturing sector activity contracted at a slightly faster pace in July as demand conditions remained subdued amid prolonged closures, following which firms reduced both staff numbers as well as purchasing activity. The headline seasonally adjusted HIS Markit India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index(PMI) stood at 46 in July, down from 47.2 in June.
  • Russia said on Monday that it aims to launch mass production of a COVID-19 vaccine next month and turn out several million doses per month by next year. The country is pushing ahead with several vaccine prototypes and one trialled by the Gamaleya Institute in Moscow has reached advanced stages of development and is about to pass state registration.
  • China suspended Hong Kong’s extradition treaty with New Zealand on Monday amid a row with Western Nations protesting against a toughen security law that Beijing imposed on the city. New Zealand is the latest to join a string of Western powers – including Canada, Britain, Australia, and Germany – that have suspended extradition treaties with Hong Kong since the controversial law was introduced in late June. The United States has decided to rescind Hong Kong’s special trading privileges after the new law was enacted.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (August 3, 2020)

  • Centre asks states and Union Territories to allow smartphones and tablet devices for hospitalised COVID-19 patients
  • India recorded 52,192 new COVID-19 cases and 755 deaths in last 24 hours taking cumulative tally past 18 lakhs
  • DCGI gives permission to Serum Institute of India to conduct phase 2 and 3 human clinical trial of Corona vaccine developed by Oxford university
  • India and China hold fifth round of military talks to take forward the stalled process of disengagement on LAC
  • Centre seeks 3 more months for Citizenship Amendment Act rules; Rules haven’t been notified yet
  • IPL 2020 to be played from September 19 to November 10 this year
  • BCCI issues SOPs for resuming domestic cricket activities
  • Australia imposes curfew, while South Africa COVID-19 case counts top 5,00,000
  • U.K. to issue coin to honour Gandhiji; says members of non-white communities need to be recognised
  • U.S. President Donald Trump to take actions against Chinese firms which pose threat to national security
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  • The Central Government has written to all states and Union Territories asking that smartphones and tablet devices should be allowed for hospitalised COVID-19 patients so that they can interact with family and friends through video conferencing. It will provide them psychological support. Though mobile phones are allowed in hospital wards, the letter was issued following some representation from the kin of patients alleging that mobile phones are not being allowed by the hospital administrations. In a letter to the Principal Secretaries of health and medical education of states and Union Territories, Director General of Health Services in the Health Ministry, Dr Rajiv Garg said, appropriate protocols for disinfecting devices and allotting timeslots can be developed by the concerned hospital to facilitate contact between patients and their family.
  • Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) has given nod to the Serum Institute of India (SII) to conduct phase 2 and 3 human clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University. The approval for conducting phase 2 and 3 clinical trials by the SII was granted by DCGI Dr VG Somani late last night after a thorough evaluation based on the recommendations of the Subject Expert Committee on COVID-19. The expert panel at the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) had on Friday recommended granting permission for phase 2 and 3 clinical trials of the vaccine – Covishield on healthy adults in India. The firm has to submit safety data, evaluated by the Data Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB), to the CDSCO before proceeding to phase 3 clinical trials. Currently, phase 2 and 3 clinical trials of the Oxford vaccine is going on in the UK, phase 3 clinical trial in Brazil and phase 1 and 2 clinical trials in South Africa.
  • India and China held the fifth round of Corps Commanders-level talks at Moldo on the Chinese side on Sunday to take forward the stalled process of disengagement on the Line of Actual Control. The Corps Commanders of the two sides have held four rounds of talks so far on June 6, 22 and 20 ang July 14 to de-escalate from the build-up in Galwan Valley, Gogra Hot Springs and the Finger area along the Pangong Tso(lake) in Ladakh sector along the LAC.
  • The Home Ministry has sought an extension of three months to frame the rules of the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019, a contentious legislation that was passed by Parliament more than six months ago. Without rules being notified, the CAA cannot be implemented or come into force. The CAA provides citizenship on the basis of religion to immigrants from six non-Muslim communities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who entered India on or before December 31, 2014.
  • IPL 2020 will be played from September 19 to November 10 this year. The decision to this effect was taken at a virtual meeting of IPL Governing Council last night. The meeting was organised to give a final shape to the schedule and discuss other arrangements for the eagerly-awaited event to be held in the UAE this year. Taking note of the prevailing COVID-19 situation in India, the IPL Governing Council decided to stage the tournament in UAE and the matches will be played in Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi subject to necessary clearances from the Government of India. The final will be played on 10th November this year. The 53-day tournament will witness 10-afternoon matches starting at 3:30 PM Indian time while the evening matches will start at 7:30 PM.
  • Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has issued SOPs to all state associations for resuming domestic cricket activities. BCCI issued the Standard Operating Procedures with the clarification that training will only resume subject to getting approval from the local administration. According to the BCCI guidelines, the players will have to sign a form acknowledging the risks involved with training resumption amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Support staff, officials and ground staff over 60 years of age and with individuals with underlying medical conditions are barred from attending training camps until suitable guidelines are issued by the Government, as per the SOP.
  • Australia’s second-largest city Melbourne imposed on overnight curfew on Sunday to halt the spread of COVID-19 cases, as South Africa’s infection count topped more than half a million. Six months after the World Health Organisation declared a global emergency, the virus has killed more than 6,85,000 people and infected more than 17.8 million since it first emerged in China late last year.
  • Britain is considering minting a coin to commemorate Mahatma Gandhi, amid growing interest in recognising the contributions of people from the Black, Asian and other minority ethnic communities. British Finance Minister Rishi Sunak asked the Royal Mint Advisory Committee(RMAC) in a letter to pursue recognition of individuals from those communities. The RMAC is an independent committee made up of experts who recommended themes and designs for coins to Britain’s Finance Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
  • U.S. President Donald Trump will take action shortly on Chinese software companies that are feeding data directly to the Beijing government, posing a risk to U.S. national security, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday. Over the last several months, U.S. officials have repeatedly said TikTok under its current Chinese parent company, Beijing-based software firm ByteDance, poses a national risk because of the personal data it handles.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (August 2, 2020)

  • ICMR fast-tracks approval for Israeli research coordinated by DRDO
  • New Education Policy drops Mandarin from language list; Security concerns raised about teaching the language
  • Government launches ‘Vidyarthi Vigyan Manthan’ for popularizing science among school students
  • Centre expands its credit guarantee scheme to cover larger firms as well as self-employed
  • ‘One nation One ration card’ facility available now in 24 states, benefitting 65 crore ration card holders
  • India’s COVID-19 tally crosses 17.5 lakh-mark with 838 new deaths taking the cumulative death count to 37,398
  • Donald Trump says he will ban TikTok from U.S. as American authorities raise concerns the app could be a tool of Chinese intelligence
  • Arab world’s first nuclear plant achieves neutrality; UAE announces launch of Barakah
  • World Health Organization warns Coronavirus pandemic is likely to be prolonged
  • European Union calls for more united efforts from its member countries against China
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  • The Defence Research and Development Organization(DRDO) is collaborating with Israel’s Directorate of Defense Research and Development (DRDD) to conduct trials on Indian patients that include an audio test, a breath test, thermal testing and a polyamino test to isolate proteins related to COVID-19. The trial obtained expedited approval by the Health Ministry’s Screening Committee a day after the Israeli team arrived in India.
  • The National Educational Policy has dropped Mandarin or Chinese from its list of foreign languages that can be taught in schools. The language was included in the draft policy released in May 2019, but was missing from the final policy document approved by the Cabinet this week. Over the past year, consultations have been held between Ministry of Human Resource Development and Ministry of External Affairs with security concerns raised regarding Mandarin teaching to Indian students.
  • Health and Family Welfare Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan has launched ‘Vidyarthi Vigyan Manthan, 2020-21. This initiative is a national programme for popularizing science among school students of Class 6th to 11th. It was designed to identify the bright minds with a scientific aptitude among the student community. Appreciating the new National Educational Policy, he said, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, this policy has been introduced which will create a world class knowledge centre in India.
  • The Centre has expanded its credit guarantee scheme for micro, small and medium enterprises to cover loans given to larger firms, as well as to self-employed people and professionals who have taken loans for business purposes. The Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme was rolled out in May as part of Centre’s Atmanirbhar package in response to COVID-19 crisis.
  • Three more states – Manipur, Nagaland and Uttarakhand – and the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir will now offer the ‘One nation One ration card’ facility. With this, the facility was nor available in 24 states, benefitting 65 crore ration card holders. The One nation one ration card scheme gives people freedom of mobility, they are no longer tied down to one single fair price shop.
  • The oil-rich United Arab Emirates on Saturday announced the start-up of its Barakah nuclear power plant, scoring another first for the Arab world. The announcement, coinciding with the Muslim holiday of Id-Al-Adha, comes hot on the heels of the UAE’s launch of the Arab world’s first probe to Mars. Barakah, which means “blessing” in Arabic, is a regional first. Barakah was built by the consortium led by the Korea Electric Power Corporation at a cost of some $24.4 billion.
  • European Union has called for a more united approach from its 27 member countries against an authoritarian China. In an interview to German media, EU’s High Representative for foreign and security policy, Josep Borrell said, China has become more aggressive in its neighbourhood, especially in the South China Sea or on the border with India. He said, Chinese leaders did not hesitate to leave aside international commitments with the imposition of the Hong Kong National Security Law. Borrell also called for a more coordinated approach among the EU, US and other democratic powers like India. He said, EU and US should be at the heart of this effort, but we should also be working closely with Japan, India, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and others.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (August 1, 2020)

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address Smart India Hackathon this evening
  • New guidelines for opening up more activities in areas outside Containment Zones come into force today
  • Core sector output shrinks 15% in June, fertilizers buck trend; Negative trend to continue for at least two more months
  • India recorded 55,100 new COVID-19 cases yesterday taking cumulative count to 16,94,652
  • Andhra Pradesh Governor clears three capital, CRDA repeal Bills
  • Fiscal deficit in just three months touches 83% of full year target
  • Ban on international scheduled flights extended till August 31; Flights under bilateral agreements to continue
  • Fifth phase of Vande Bharat Mission begins today to repatriate Indians from 23 countries
  • Nepal Minister : 1947 pact on Gurkha soldiers redundant; India should respond to request for talks on Kalapani row
  • Supreme Court tells government, Doctors’ quarantine days must not be marked as leave
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  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address the Smart India Hackathon of All India Council for Technical Education at 4:30 PM today. He will also interact with students on the occasion. Smart India Hackathon is a nationwide initiative to provide students with a platform to solve some of the pressing problems we face in our daily lives. The first edition of Smart India Hackathon 2017 saw participation of 42 thousand students which increased to one lakh in 2018 and to two lakh in 2019. The first round of Smart India Hackathon 2020 saw participation of more than four lakh 50 thousand students. The Grand Finale will be organized online by connecting all the participants throughout the nation together over a specially-built advanced platform. On the ocassion, the Prime Minister will also speak on the new National Education Policy 2020.
  • The new guidelines for opening up of more activities in areas outside the Containment Zones will come into effect from today. The process of phased re-opening of activities has been extended further in Unlock 3. Restrictions on movement of individuals during night have been removed. Yoga institutes and gymnasiums will be allowed to open from 5th of August. Independence Day functions will be allowed with social distancing and by following other health protocols. Schools, colleges and coaching institutions will remain closed till 31st August. International air travel of passengers has been permitted in a limited manner under the Vande Bharat mission. Further opening up will take place in a calibrated manner. All activities except Metro Rail, Cinema halls, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theatres, bars shall be permitted outside containment zones. Social, political, sports, entertainment, academic, cultural, religious functions and other large congregations will not be permitted.
  • The output of eight core industries shrank for the fourth straight month in June 2020, although the contraction eased to 15%, showing some recovery from the 22% fall in May, according to the data released by the Commerce Ministry on Friday. Economists expect the negative trend to continue for at least two more months. Of the eight core sectors, the fertilizer industry was the only one which saw actual growth in June, with output rising 4.2% in comparison to June 2019. The remaining industries showed contraction. The eight core sectors are coal, crude oil, natural gas, refinery products, fertilisers, steel, cement and electricity.
  • In a major turning point in the history of Andhra Pradesh, Governor Biswa Bhushan Harichandan gave his assent to the A.P. Decentralisation and inclusive Development of All Regions and A.P. Capital Region Development Authority Repeal Bills – 2020. The clearance of the decentralisation bill facilitates the development of Amravati, Kurnool, and Vishakhapatnam as the Legislative, Judicial and Executive Capitals respectively. The repeal of the CRDA paves the way for the formation of the Amravati Metropolitan Region Development Authority.
  • The Centre’s fiscal deficit for the first three months of fiscal 2020-21 was Rs. 6.62 lakh crore, which is 83% of the budgeted target for the year, official data show. Economists said given the government’s additional borrowing plans, both to meet stimulus spending and bridge the revenue shortfall as a result of the pandemic, the fiscal deficit may end up as high as 8% of GDP, far exceeding the budget’s goal of 3.5%.
  • The 1947 agreement among India, Nepal and the United Kingdom that deals with the military service of Gurkha soldiers has become redundant, Foreign Minister of Nepal Pradeep Kumar Gyawali said on Friday. The Minister also added India should respond to Nepal’s request for talks on the Kalapani dispute to prevent the issue from impacting people-to-people relations.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (July 31, 2020)

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterates India’s commitment towards its vision of participatory developmental works in Indian Ocean
  • Standing at 35,800, India now has fifth highest COVID-19 fatalities in the world
  • Health Ministry says COVID recoveries are nearly double the number of active cases in the country
  • Andhra Pradesh to collaborate with Amazon Web Services to boost entrepreneurship and digital governance of state
  • Jammu and Kashmir government orders fast tracking of Environment Clearance Process in minor mineral mining operations
  • Clarifying Line of Actual Control could create new disputes, says Chinese Envoy
  • Australia urges India, China to show restraint; Opposes attempts to alter status quo
  • Parliamentary Panel to discuss draft Environment Impact Assessment 2020; Committee will meet on August 7
  • China conducts high intensity naval exercises in South China Sea
  • After 99 days of success, coronavirus returns to haunt Vietnam; 43 cases reported within a week
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  • The Prime Minister has hailed India’s special friendship bond with Mauritius and termed it as one which is based on deep rooted cultural linkages. He said, India never commits to any relationship considering the financial implications or profitability. The Prime Minister was speaking after jointly inaugurating the new Supreme Court building of Mauritius with his Mauritian counterpart Pravind Jugnauth yesterday. Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Modi reiterated India’s commitment to the vision SAGAR which was enunciated by him in 2015. SAGAR, which stands for security and growth for all in the region, is India’s high level articulation towards its vision of participatory developmental works in the Indian Ocean. The Supreme Court building has been constructed with Indian grant assistance of 30 million US dollars and has been constructed under the India-assisted infrastructure project in the capital city of Port Louis after the outbreak of Coronavirus.
  • Andhra Pradesh government held deliberations with senior executives of Amazon Web Services(AWS) via a virtual meeting for a partnership with the Andhra Pradesh government sought to forge for skilling and promotion of entrepreneurship and digital governance in the State. AWS has provided a ‘Vision for A.P.’ in tune with its commitments to invest in start-ups and skill initiatives in India and to align with the ‘Digital India’ programme.
  • The Jammu and Kashmir government has ordered fast tracking of Environment Clearance Process in minor mineral mining operations across the Union Territory. The order has been issued by the Industries and Commerce Department. The order said, the new allottees shall commence mining operation only after the completion of due procedure. It added it shall be lawful for the new lessee to continue mining operations on the same land for a period of two years.
  • China was not in favour of resuming the process of clarifying the Line of Actual Control(LAC) because it could “create new disputes”, its Ambassador to India Sun Weidong said. China’s troops were on the side of its “traditional customary boundary line” on the northern bank of Pangong Lake, where disengagement between the two sides is yet to happen, he said.
  • Australia urged India and China to maintain restraint along the Line of Actual Control(LAC) and expressed support to the ongoing de-escalation efforts. It said it opposed any attempts to unilaterally alter the status quo, which only served to increase tension and the risk of instability. On July 23, Australia lodged a note with the United Nations Security General, refuting China’s unlawful maritime claims in South China Sea.
  • After a lot of concerns expressed over the draft Environment Impact Assessment 2020(EIA 2020), the Parliamentary Committee of Science and Technology headed by Mr. Jairam Ramesh will deliberate on the subject at its meeting scheduled for August 7. He has earlier said that the draft allowed post-facto approvals which go against the very principle of assessment and public participation prior to environmental clearance, and has provisions that will routinely legitimise illegality. Second, the notification reduces public participation in all steps of the environment clearance process, lessening the notice period for public hearing and doing away with them for a large category of projects. Third, it does away with the environmental impact assessment altogether in many cases of expansion and modernisation. Fourth, it increases the validity of environment clearances allowing projects to “secure” land for long durations even when they are not constructed. And finally, it gives the Union government full powers to appoint State environmental impact assessment authorities, which Mr. Ramesh called, another nail in the coffin of cooperative federalism.
  • Beijing recently conducted high-intensity naval exercises in South China Sea, as tensions grow over the Asian power’s manoeuvres in the contested water. China’s expanding military presence in the region has worried several of its neighbours, while the U.S. has vowed to stand up against Beijing’s territorial claims to much of the South China Sea, including the contested Paracel islands. China H-6G and H-6J Jet bombers carried out high-intensity training, and completed day and night training exercises in taking off and landing, long-range assault and attacks on the sea targets.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (July 30, 2020)

  • New Education Policy in 34 years; 4-year UG courses with multiple entry and exit options introduced
  • Ministry of Home Affairs : Night curfew to end under Unlock 3 norms; Educational institutions will remain shut till August end
  • Tocilizumab found to be ineffective in reducing COVID-19 related pneumonia
  • Maharashtra Government extends the statewide lockdown till 31st of August in view of spike in COVID-19 cases
  • Turkey approves new social media law; Legislation will allow the authorities to remove content from platforms
  • United Nations reaffirms Protesting peacefully, online or in-person is a fundamental human right
  • Indians are the biggest group getting the Australian Citizenship
  • Maruti Suzuki posts first loss since 2003 as lockdown hits output; Carmaker’s revenue plunges 80%
  • World Trade Organization to set up dispute panels against India
  • World’s hardest-hit country, United States reports record-high 1600 COVID-19 casualties in 24 hours
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  • The new National Education Policy approved by the Union Cabinet will introduce four-year undergraduate degrees with multiple entry and exit options, abolish the M.Phil, degree, and establish a common higher education regulator with fee fixation for both private and public institutions. It also envisions universalisation of early childhood education from ages 3 to 6 by 2030, a new school curriculum with coding and vocational studies from Class 6, and a child’s mother tongue being used as the medium of instruction till Class 5. This is the first new education policy in 34 years, and was a poll promise of the BJP in 2014. Ministry of Human Resource Development to be renamed Ministry of Education.
  • Gymnasium and yoga institutes will open from August 5 and night curfew will end even as educational institutions, metro rail services and cinema halls will remain shut till the end of August, according to the fresh guidelines for Unlock 3 issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs. The MHA said the lockdown measures were to be strictly enforced in containment zones till August 31. The unlock 2 guidelines will be in force till July 31.
  • Tocilizumab, a drug that was recommended by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for emergency use in COVID-19 patients, has been found to be ineffective in reducing the associated pneumonia, according to a press release issued by the promoters.
  • Turkey adopted a new social media law that critics say will create a chilling effect on dissenting voices who have resorted on Twitter and other online platforms as the government tightens its grip on mainstream media. The law would allow Turkish authorities to remove content from platforms rather than blocking access as they have done in past. Companies, including Facebook and YouTube that do not comply could have their bandwidth slashed by up to 90%, essentially blocking access, and face other penalties.
  • More than 38,000 Indians became Australian citizens in 2019-2020, a 60% increase from the previous year and the largest diaspora group to be granted the country’s citizenship. Out of the over 2,00,000 people who became Australian citizens in 2019-2020, 38209 were Indians, followed by 25011 Britishers, 14,764 Chinese and 8821 Pakistanis.
  • India’s largest carmaker Maruti Suzuki reported a standalone net loss of ₹249.4 crore for the April-June period — its first quarterly loss since it was listed on the stock exchanges in July 2003 — as production and sales were impacted following the nationwide lockdown. The company had reported a net profit of ₹1,435.5 crore in the April-June 2019 quarter and ₹1,291.7 crore in January-March 2020. In a statement, the company said the loss during the quarter was partially offset by lower operating expenses and higher fair-value gain on the invested surplus. Revenue from sales declined 80% to ₹3,677.5 crore.
  • The dispute settlement body of the World Trade Organisation(WTO) has accepted the request of Chinese Taipei and Japan for setting up panels in an ICT tariff case against India. The panels would determine whether India’s customs duties on imports of certain information and communications technology(ICT) products infringe the WTO’s norms or not.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (July 29, 2020)

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss vision and roadmap for Banks and NBFCs with all stakeholders today
  • China says disengagement at most localities along LAC is complete; Admits issues still remain at Pangong Lake
  • With 49,397 new COVID-19 cases recorded, India’s total tally crossed the 15 lakh mark
  • Union Commerce Ministry allows export of PPE kits and masks with certain limitations
  • First batch of five Rafale fighter jets to arrive at Ambala airbase today
  • Official : Centre unable to pay States’ GST dues as per current revenue sharing formula
  • At 2967 tigers, India’s capacity at peak; With reserves crowded, animals are venturing out
  • Notification on 74% FDI in defence soon; Government invites comments on DAP from stakeholders
  • WHO : No indication coronavirus is seasonal; Hardest-hit countries are in different seasons – U.S. in summer, Brazil in winter
  • European Union to restrict exports to Hong Kong; EU expressed concerns over the new security law
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  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will today join stakeholders from Banks and NBFCs to discuss and deliberate on vision and roadmap for the future. The topics on agenda include credit products and efficient models for delivery, financial empowerment through technology, prudential practices for stability and sustainability of financial sector. Banking sector plays an important role in contributing to India’s economic growth through financing infrastructure, agriculture, local manufacturing including MSMEs. Financial inclusion can play a big role in financial empowerment through technology.Senior officers from Government will also be a part of the interaction.
  • China yesterday said border troops had disengaged in most localities along the Line of Actual Control(LAC), but defence sources said disengagement had only been partial at one of the locations that Beijing appeared to be referring to. China also acknowledged for the first time that issues were yet to be resolved at Pangong Lake, which is likely to be taken up at the fifth rounds of Corps Commander level talks set for later this week.
  • Finance Secretary Ajay Bhushan Pandey told the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance, that the government is in no position to pay the GST share of States as per the current revenue sharing formula. He added that GST Act has the provisions to rework the formula for paying compensation to the State governments if the revenue collection drops below a certain threshold. The Finance Ministry said the Centre had released the final instalment of Rs. 13806 crore of GST compensation for the Financial Year 2019-20.
  • Commerce Ministry has amended its export policy for Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and masks. Under the new policy, 2 and 3 ply surgical masks and medical goggles can be exported now with certain limitations. For 2 and 3 ply surgical masks a monthly export quota of 4 crore has been fixed by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT). Medical Goggles can be exported with a monthly cap of 20 lakh units. Government has also removed prohibition on export of Face Shields from the country.
  • The first batch of five Rafale jets will arrive in Ambala today. The fleet, comprising three single seater and two twin seater aircraft, will be inducted into the Indian Air Force at the Ambala airbase in Haryana. The fighter jets, built by French aviation firm Dassault, took off from the Merignac airbase in southern France’s Bordeaux on Monday. The five aircraft are part of 36 planes bought by India from France in a 59,000-crore rupees inter-governmental deal in 2016. The delivery of all thirty six aircraft will be completed on schedule by the end of 2021.
  • A detailed study released on Tuesday reveals that nearly a third of India’s tigers are living outside tiger reserves and nearly 17 of the 50 reserves are approaching the peak of their capacity at sustaining their populations. India hosts 70% of the world’s tigers. At 2967, India may slowly be approaching its peak carrying capacity of tigers.
  • The government is going to come out with a decision on 74% Foreign Direct Investment in defence and a notification is likely in the next few days. The Defence Ministry said the draft of the Defence Procurement Procedure(DPP) 2020, now renamed as the Defence Acquisition Procedure(DAP) 2020, was put out in public domain on Tuesday for comments from stakeholders and public.
  • The European Union will restrict exports to Hong Kong of equipment that could be used for surveillance and repression after Beijing imposed a controversial new security law, diplomatic sources said. The bloc has expressed deep concerns over the new law, which critics say will severely curb Hong Kong’s longstanding autonomy and relative freedom.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (July 28, 2020)

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi says, efforts underway to increase COVID-19 testing capacity to 10 lakhs daily in coming weeks
  • Member of Parliaments oppose exemptions under Data Protection Law
  • Prime Minister Modi stresses on developing new health infrastructure and boosting existing infrastructure in villages
  • COVID-19 fatality rate is 2.28% and recovery rate stands at 64%, says Union Health Ministry
  • Israeli team arrives in India for trials of rapid tests for COVID-19; brings high-tech equipments
  • Environment Minister to dedicate to people Guinness world record recognizing India’s efforts in monitoring its wild tiger population
  • Indian Government bans 47 more Chinese mobile apps nearly a month after banning 59 Chinese mobile applications
  • 5 Rafales make home run from France; Set to be inducted into the Golden Arrows squadron of the IAF
  • China seizes United States consulate in Chengdu; U.S. will continue its outreach to its people in China
  • Final test begins for COVID-19 vaccine; Around 30,000 volunteers are to be given shots created by the U.S. government
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  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that at present, more than five lakh COVID-19 tests are being conducted in the country daily and efforts are underway to increase this capacity to 10 lakh in the coming weeks. The Prime Minister was speaking after virtually launching three high throughput COVID-19 testing facilities yesterday. These facilities are located at the National Institutes of Indian Council of Medical Research, at Kolkata, Mumbai and Noida. He said that these hi-tech testing facilities will boost the testing capacity by almost 10,000 daily tests.
  • At a meeting of the Joint Committee on the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, Oppositions and BJP members opposed certain members opposed certain sections of the legislation that can be invoked to exempt government agencies, such as National Investigation Agency(NIA) from the provisions of the law. Agencies including the NIA, National Crime Record Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau and the Registrar of General of India are proposed to be exempt from the provisions of the data protection law under Section 35 and Section 36 of the law. Section 35 of the law says that “in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order” all or any provisions of this act shall not apply to any agency of the government. And as per Section 36 of the law the “safeguards for an individual can also be suspended in the interests of prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of any offence or any other contravention of any law for the time being in force.” The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 was introduced in Lok Sabha by Minister of Electronics and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad on December 11, 2019. It seeks to provide for protection of personal data of individuals, and establishes a Data Protection Authority for the same.
  • An Israeli team, led by a “high ranking” research and development (R&D) defence official, arrived in Delhi on Monday with a multi-pronged mission, codenamed “Operation Breathing Space” to work with Indian authorities on the coronavirus (COVID-19) response, said a statement issued by the Israeli Embassy in Delhi. The tests that the Israeli teams will be conducting trials for include an audio test, a breath test, thermal testing, and a polyamino test which seeks to isolate proteins related to COVID-19, said officials.
  • Five Rafale fighter jets took off from France on Monday morning for induction into the No. 17 Golden Arrows squadron of the Indian Air Force at the Ambala airbase on Wednesday. The immediate focus is on getting the aircraft operational at the earliest, which has gained urgency with the tensions with China on the Line of Actual Control in Eastern Ladakh.
  • On the eve of Global Tiger Day, 2020 today, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar will dedicate to the people the Guinness world record recognizing the country’s efforts in monitoring its wild tiger population as the world’s largest camera-trap survey of wildlife. India now has nearly 70 per cent of the global tiger population. The event is expected to be joined by around 500 participants from across the country. The Minister is likely to launch the new website and Outreach Journal of the National Tiger Conservation Authority. The Heads of the Governments of Tiger range countries had resolved to double the tiger population by the year 2022. In this regard, Saint Petersburg Declaration on Tiger Conservation was signed by the countries in 2010. In the meeting, it was decided to celebrate 29th of July as Global Tiger Day across the world to create awareness on tiger conservation.
  • The biggest test yet of an experimental COVID-19 vaccine got underway Monday with the first of some 30,000 Americans rolling up their sleeves to receive shots created by the U.S. government as part of the all-out global race to stop the outbreak. Final-stage testing of the vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., began with volunteers at various U.S. sites given either a real shot or a dummy without being told which.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (July 27, 2020)

  • PM Modi to inaugurate virtually three high end COVID-19 testing labs in Noida, Mumbai and Kolkata today
  • 200 proposals from China wait for security clearance by Ministry of Home Affairs
  • India recorded 51,018 new COVID-19 cases and 713 deaths yesterday; Total infections crossed the 14 lakh mark
  • Over 14 lakh affected by Bihar floods; About 25 lakh people affected by Assam floods
  • Imported COVID-19 vaccines may be fast-tracked; Companies could get leeway in India-specific tests
  • More than 8 lakh Indians stranded abroad returned home under Vande Bharat mission; Fifth phase to begin from 1st of August
  • Sikkim extends state wide lockdown till 1st August in view of increasing Corona cases
  • North Korea reports first COVID-19 case as global infections top 16 million
  • Poland to quit treaty on violence against women; Protests erupt in Warsaw and other cities against the move
  • Russian Navy soon to be armed with hypersonic nuclear strike weapons and underwater nuclear drones
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  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will today launch high throughput COVID-19 testing facilities through video conferencing. These facilities will ramp up the testing capacity in the country and help in strengthening early detection and treatment, thus assisting in controlling the spread of the pandemic. These three testing facilities have been set up strategically at ICMR-National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research, Noida, ICMR-National Institute for Research in Reproductive Health, Mumbai and ICMR-National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases, Kolkata.
  • About 200 investment proposals from China are awaiting security clearance from the Ministry of Home Affairs(MHA) after new rules were notified in April, making prior government approval mandatory for foreign direct investments(FDI) from countries which share a land border with India. As FDI is allowed in non-critical sectors through the automatic route, earlier these proposals would have been cleared without the MHA’s nod. The revised policy is aimed at curbing opportunistic takeovers/acquisitions of Indian companies due to the current COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Indian companies looking to import or test potential COVID-19 vaccines that have been developed internationally, could get leeway in the number of India-specific tests and trials they would need to conduct, says a guidance document from the Department of Biotechnology. Normally, a vaccine that has been licensed in another country, would still need to repeat all human safety tests in India.
  • North Korea declared its first suspected COVID-19 case on Sunday, becoming one of the last countries to do so as the number of people infected worldwide passed 16 Experts believe the contagion is likely to have already entered North Korea from neighbouring China, where the new disease emerged last year.
  • Poland will take steps next week to withdraw from a European Treaty on violence against women, which the right-wing Cabinet says violates parents’ rights by requiring schools to teach children about gender. The treaty known as Istanbul Convention, contains elements of ideological nature, which the ruling government finds harmful. Protests erupt in Warsaw and other cities against the proposals to reject the treaty. The protesters say the aim behind the move is to legalise the domestic violence. The government says the treaty is disrespectful towards religion and requires teaching liberal social policies in schools.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the Russian Navy would be armed with hypersonic nuclear strike weapons and underwater nuclear drones, which the Defence Ministry said were in their final phase of testing. The combination of speed, maneuverability and altitude of hypersonic missiles, capable of travelling at more than five times the speed of sound, makes them difficult to track and intercept.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (July 26, 2020)

  • Nation pays tributes to war heroes on Kargil Vijay Diwas today
  • United Nation report flags IS threat in Karnataka, Kerala; Significant number of terrorists present
  • Centre allocates additional 40 thousand crore rupees under MGNREGA in view of COVID-19 pandemic
  • India announces 400 million dollar currency swap for Sri Lanka
  • With 46,964 new COVID-19 cases recorded yesterday, the cumulative tally rose to 13,83,837 in India
  • Ceasefire violations, smuggling along LoC with Pakistan rising this year
  • Pune-based Serum Institute seeks nod for COVID-19 vaccine trials
  • Haryana is scheduled to host 4th Khelo India Youth Games
  • Kashmir saffron now has GI certificate; Farmers will get the best price
  • IIT Kharagpur develops rapid test kit for COVID-19; It can give results within one hour
  • Citing no legal basis, Australia rejects China’s claim on South China Sea in formal declaration to United Nations
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  • Kargil Vijay Diwas is being celebrated across the country today. The Nation is remembering its war heroes and paying tributes to Martyrs on Kargil Vijay Diwas. The day marks the victory of Indian armed forces in Operation Vijay in 1999, when they evicted the infiltrators backed by Pakistani army from high outposts in Kargil sector. The Kargil war was fought for more than 60 days and ended with India regaining control of all the previously held territory. The victory of Tiger Hill was one of the crucial achievements in the 60- day long conflict. Indian soldiers fought the Kargil War under the toughest conditions, on difficult terrain, at an altitude of 18 thousand feet.
  • A United Nations report on terrorism has warned that there are significant numbers of Islamic State terrorists in Kerala and Karnataka, noting that the Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent(AQIS) terror group is planning attacks in the region. The 26th report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team concerning the IS, the Al Qaeda and associated individuals and entities said the AQIS operates under the umbrella from the Nimruz, Helmand and Kandahar provinces in Afghanistan.
  • While tensions continue on the border with China, ceasefire violations have continued unabated along the Line of Control(LoC) with Pakistan, along with attempts to smuggle in weapons. There have been 2500 violations along the LoC so far this year. In comparison, the figure for the corresponding period of last year was just over 1500 with the entire year recording 3200 violations.
  • Reserve Bank of India has signed necessary documents for extending a 400 million dollar currency swap facility with the Central Bank of Sri Lanka. This currency swap arrangement will remain available till November 2022. The agreement followed talks between the two sides over past weeks to find ways of enhancing economic cooperation between the two neighbours. The Indian High Commission in Colombo has remained closely engaged in fruitful bilateral cooperation with Sri Lanka on all matters of mutual interest. Both countries held technical discussions on rescheduling of bilateral debt repayment by Sri Lanka this week. Both sides had discussed the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its likely health and economic impacts during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s telephone conversations with Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on 23rd of May and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on 27th of May. Sri Lanka has around one billion dollar loan commitment from India and has requested to reschedule the payment due to ongoing financial crisis and COVID situation.
  • The Serum Institute of India, which has partnered with British-Swedish pharma company AstraZeneca for manufacturing the University of Oxford vaccine candidate for COVID-19, has sought permission from the Drugs Controller General of India(DCGI) for conducting phase 2/3 human clinical trials of the potential vaccine. The Institute has submitted its application to DCGI for conducting trials of Covidshield.
  • Haryana will host the 4th Khelo India Youth Games. Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju and Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar announced this through video conferencing. Khelo India Youth Games is scheduled to take place after Tokyo Olympics next year. The Games will be held at Panchkula in Haryana. Mr Rijiju said, usually the Khelo India Youth Games take place in January every year. He said, however, this time owing to the pandemic, we have to postpone it.
  • The J&K administration on Saturday issued the certificate of geographical indication (GI) registration for saffron grown in the Kashmir Valley, even as the saffron crop sees both decline in its production as well as shrinking of the land under cultivation. With the GI tag, Kashmir saffron will acquire more prominence in the export market and would help farmers get the best remunerative price. The GI certification would also stop adulteration prevalent in the trade of Kashmir saffron. Kashmir saffron, grown at an altitude of 1,600 meters, saw a steep decline in production by around 65%, from 16 metric tonnes to 5.6 metric tonnes, in 2018.
  • Researchers at Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur ( IIT-KGP) have developed a new technology for low cost COVID-19 tests using a portable device. The test results can be made available in a customised smartphone application for dissemination within one hour without requiring manual interpretation, researchers said. This method has eliminated the need for a PCR machine. It includes a portable, automated pre-programmable temperature control unit, a special detection unit on genomic analysis and customised smartphone app for test results without any manual interaction.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (July 25, 2020)

  • Center asks nine high COVID caseload states to ramp up testing with special focus on containment zones
  • COVID-19 cases cross 13-lakh mark in India, daily deaths are over 750
  • Indian Premier League to be held in UAE from September 19 to November 8
  • China yet to disengage from Line of Actual Control spots, as per the U.S. based intelligence reports
  • Phase-1 clinical trials for Covaxin kick off; First volunteer gets indigenous dose; No immediate side-effects observed
  • India conducts record number of 4 lakh 20 thousand COVID-19 tests in a single day
  • Nearly 28 lakh people affected by Assam floods, death toll rises to 93
  • India’s Foreign exchange reserves touch an all time high of 517.637 billion dollars
  • China asks U.S. to shut Chengdu consulate; U.S. had earlier ordered Beijing to close its diplomatic mission in Houston
  • U.S. accuses Russia of testing weapon in space; Washington it has proofs for the same
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  • Centre has asked nine high Covid caseload states to ramp up testing with special focus on containment zones. These states are Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Telangana, Odisha, West Bengal, Assam, Karnataka, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh. These nine States are driving the present spurt of the active caseload in the country. The Cabinet Secretary chaired a high level virtual review meeting with Chief Secretaries and Health Secretaries of these states as part of Centre-State coordinated strategy for effective containment and management of the pandemic. Cabinet Secretary had a detailed review on the State specific COVID response strategy with the Health Secretaries and other State officials as well as on the factors that were leading to rising case-load in these States in recent times. Areas of concern with respect to low testing in certain states was highlighted. It was reiterated that sustained and aggressive testing is crucial for early identification of cases and to prevent spread of infection.
  • The Board of Control for Cricket in India(BCCI) has decided to hold the Indian Premier League(IPL) from September 19 to November 8 in the United Arab Emirates, pending the Central government’s proposal. The league’s 13th edition had earlier been postponed because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • China is yet to disengage or dilute its extensive military build up at most of the points along the Line of Actual Control, according to a new assessment of satellite images by Stratfor, the United States based intelligence platforms. The report documents 50 new encampments, bases and heliports in Ladakh.
  • A 30-year-old male, became the first person to be administered the first dose of India’s indigenous COVID-19 vaccine, Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences(AIIMS), Delhi, one of the 12 sites selected to test the vaccine. The subject, who was monitored for two hours at the hospital, has been discharged and will be under medical supervision for the next two weeks.
  • In flood hit Assam, over 50 thousand displaced people are taking shelter at relief camps. The current wave of floods has affected 28 lakh people and washed away houses and cattlestock. 1.28 lakh hectare crop areas are also under water. 96 people have lost their lives due to floods so far.
  • India’s foreign exchange reserves surged by 1.275 billion dollars to reach a fresh life-time high of 517.637 billion dollars in the week ended 17th July, 2020. Foreign currency assets, a major part of the overall reserves, increased by 1.245 billion dollars to 476.880 billion dollars. In the previous week, the reserves had swelled by 3.108 billion dollars to end at 516.362 billion dollars.
  • The U.S. and the U.K. accused Russia of test-firing an anti-satellite weapon in space. The U.S. warned that the threat against Washington’s systems was “real, serious and increasing”. Washington has said it has proof that Moscow conducted a non-destructive test of an anti-satellite weapon.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (July 24, 2020)

  • Government imposes restrictions on public procurement from countries sharing land border with India on security ground
  • Women officers can now permanent commission in Army; Defence Ministry issues formal order
  • India appreciates Dhaka’s Kashmir position; Pakistan PM had raised the issue with Sheikh Hasina
  • Central Pollution Control Board issues guidelines to cut and store masks and gloves in paper bags for 72 hours before disposing
  • 28 lakh people reeling under the wave of floods in 26 districts of Assam; Relief and rescue operation in full swing
  • New health warnings for all tobacco products to come into effect from first December
  • India’s COVID-19 fatality rate stands at 2.41% whereas recovery rate stands at 63.18%
  • China : Ties with U.S. severely harmed; says it will be forced to retaliate in response to order of closure of its consulate in Houston
  • U.K., European Union rule out quick post-Brexit deal but hopes for agreement in coming months
  • China launches ambitious Mars mission; Only the U.S. has successfully landed a spacecraft on Martian soil
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  • Government has imposed restrictions on public procurement from the countries which share a land border with India to strengthen the defence and national security. The Department of Expenditure in a detailed Order said the Government has amended the General Financial Rules 2017 to enable imposition of restrictions on bidders from countries which share a land border with India on grounds of defence of India, or matters directly or indirectly related thereto including national security. As per the order, any bidder from such countries sharing a land border with India will be eligible to bid in any procurement whether of goods, services including consultancy services and non-consultancy services or works including turnkey projects only if the bidder is registered with the competent authority.
  • The Ministry of Defence has issued the formal Government Sanction Letter for grant of permanent commission to women officers in the Army. The order  specifies the grant of permanent commission to Short Service Commissioned women officers in all the 10 streams in which they presently serve. The order follows a Supreme Court verdict in February that directed the government that women officers be granted PC and command postings in all the services other than combat.
  • Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson said India appreciates Bangladesh’s position which regards Kashmir as an internal matter of India. The response came a day after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan raised the future of Kashmir with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. India and Bangladesh are celebrating the centenary event ‘Mujib Barsho’ this year in memory of the founder of Bangladesh Sheikh Mujibir Rehman.
  • Central Pollution Control Board,CPCB has issued fresh guidelines on disposal of COVID-19 waste. It has directed that masks and gloves used by everyone, whether infected or not, should be cut and kept in paper bags for minimum 72 hours before disposing of them.
  • The CPCB also directed commercial establishments shopping malls, institutions and offices to follow the same procedure with discarded protective personal equipment, PPE from general public. It asked to ensure that general solid waste and biomedical waste generated from quarantine centres and quarantine homes is not mixed and they should be collected separately. It added that leftover food, empty juice bottles or tetra packs, empty water bottles, packaging material, and any other items, generated or handled by COVID-19 patient should be collected along with other general solid waste in bags securely tied for handing over to waste collectors. The CPCB also recommended use of bio-degradable or non-disposable cutlery to minimize waste generation.
  • Union Health Ministry has notified new sets of health warnings for all tobacco products by making an amendment in the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labeling) Rules, 2008. In a statement, Union Health Ministry said, the new warnings will come into effect from 1st December this year. The text messages that will be printed on the packs are – tobacco causes painful death. It said, any person engaged directly or indirectly in the manufacture, production and supply of cigarettes or any tobacco products will ensure that all tobacco product packages shall have the specified health warnings exactly as prescribed. The Ministry said, violation of the provision is a punishable offence with imprisonment or fine as prescribed in the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products act.
  • Britain and the European Union broke up their latest round of post-Brexit trade negotiations by ruling out a quick deal but voicing hope for agreement in the coming months. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s main goal was to get a framework deal struck by the end July that could assure U.K. businesses they do not have to start preparing for a messy no-deal breakup when the current transition period ends on December 31.   
  • China launched its most ambitious Mars mission yesterday in a bold attempt to join the U.S. in successfully landing a spacecraft on the red planet. A Long March-5 carrier rocket took off under clear skies around 12:40 PM from Hainan island, south of China’s Mainland.  China’s tandem spacecraft – with both an orbiter and a rover – will take seven months to reach Mars. If all goes well, Tianwen-I, or “quest for heavenly truth”, will look for underground water, if it’s present, as well as evidence of possible ancient life.
Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (July 23, 2020)

  • India, China not to use Unmanned Aerial Vehicles; Move affects verification of de-escalation process along LAC
  • PM Modi invites U.S. firms to invest in India; says Indian economy is reform-oriented
  • Prime Minister to lay foundation stone for Manipur Water Supply Project through video conferencing today
  • Survey: 66% of private schools using WhatsApp; 80% of the teachers unpaid since March
  • Centre to release over 300 crore rupees as first installment under Flood Management Programme to Assam
  • Government emphasises the need for building trustworthy Artificial Intelligence systems that can transform society
  • Fourteen-day complete lockdown to come into force in Manipur from this afternoon
  • 24% Rajya Sabha members face criminal cases as per analysis by Association for Democratic Reforms
  • Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurates Air Force Commander’s conference in Delhi; lauds IAF’s role during COVID-19 pandemic
  • U.S. orders China to close Texas consulate; Beijing may retaliate
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  • The Chinese and Indian armies have agreed to not use unmanned aerial vehicles at the friction points in eastern Ladakh along the Line of Actual Control, other than for mutually agreed “short time periods”. The confidence building measure has impacted real-time verification of the de-escalation process, as aerial objects cannot be used within 10 km of the face-off sites. The Corps Commander of both armies have held four rounds of talks so far.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday invited investments in India’s healthcare, infrastructure, defence, energy, farm, and insurance sectors, saying the country offers openness and opportunities. He said the COVID-19 pandemic had shown the importance of economic resilience, which can be achieved by stronger domestic economic capacities. He added economic reforms have ensured increased competitiveness, transparency, digitisation, innovation and policy stability.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lay the foundation stone for Manipur Water Supply Project today through video conferencing. The Governor, Chief Minister of Manipur and his cabinet colleagues, MPs and MLAs are expected to join the program from Imphal. The Centre initiated the Jal Jeevan Mission to provide safe and adequate quantity drinking water to every rural household of the country by 2024 with the motto “Har Ghar Jal”. The Mission is based on a community approach to water and has information, education and communication as key components of the mission. It looks to create a Jan Andolan for water, thereby making it everyone’s priority. There are about 19 crore households in India and only 24 percent have Freshwater Household Tap Connections.
  • Over two-thirds of private schools assessed in a preliminary survey by the Central Square Foundation(CSF) are using WhatsApp, probably on a shared phone, as the main mode for teaching and learning during the pandemic. More than 80% of teachers in these schools have not been paid after March, it found. Half of the school owners surveyed have uncollected fees ranging from Rs. 4 lakh to Rs. 4.8 crore due from the previous year.
  • Minister for Comm