News At a Glance

Major Headlines (July 29, 2021)

  • Democratic values bind India, U.S., says Blinken; Modi welcomes Biden’s commitment to strengthening ties
  • No immunity for acts of vandalism : SC; It refuses Kerala plea in Assembly ruckus case
  • Parliament passes Bills amid din; Both Houses clear important Bills without debate, amid continuing debates
  • Seroprevalence in Kerala only 44%, Madhya Pradesh has the highest seroprevalence of 79%: ICMR
  • China Foreign Minister hosts Taliban, calls it a ‘pivotal force’
  • Russia to boost Tajikistan Army with weapons; Joint military exercise next week
  • Deposits up to Rs. 5 lakh in ailing banks to be repaid in 90 days; Cabinet approves deposit insurance law amendments on lenders in moratorium  

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  • Democratic values and free citizenry bind India and the U.S. together, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said here at the end of talks with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Wednesday. The two sides discussed cooperation on a wide range of issues, including Afghanistan, countering COVID-19, the Indo-Pacific strategy and the Quad. Inter-religious relations, media freedom, farmers’ protests, love ‘jihad’ violence and minority rights were part of the discussion that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken had with a group of people, including a representative of the Dalai Lama.
  • The Supreme Court on Wednesday held that lawmakers cannot indulge in criminal acts on the Parliament or Assembly floors and then take cover behind the right to free speech. The court refused the Kerala government’s plea to withdraw prosecution of top Left Democratic Front(LDF) leaders accused of vandalism and wanton destruction of public property on the Assembly floor during a Budget speech in 2015.
  • Both Houses of Parliament on Wednesday cleared important Bills without debate amid continuing protests by Opposition members on the Pegasus snooping issue and the three contentious farm laws, against which farmers’ groups have been protesting for months. The Lok Sabha, which witnessed unruly behavior in the form of tearing of papers and throwing them towards the Speaker’s Chair and the Treasury benches, saw the passage of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Bill, 2021, as well as the first batch of the Supplementary Demand for Grants and the Appropriations Bill, numbers 3 and 4, without debate and by a voice vote. In the Rajya Sabha too, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Bill, 2021, was passed without debate and the House adjourned for the day before 3 p.m.
  • Madhya Pradesh has the highest seroprevalence, or the presence of anti-bodies to the novel coronavirus, and Kerala the lowest among 21 states studied, according to the fourth national serology survey of the Indian Council of Medical Research. Kerala, which is recording the sharpest rise in cases in the country fuelled by the Delta variant, had a seroprevalence of only 44% implying 56% lacked antibodies and consequently remained vulnerable to the infection.
  • China on Wednesday hosted a rare nine-member Taliban delegation amid its recent ascendancy in Afghanistan, with Foreign Minister Wang Yi describing the group as “a pivotal military and political force” in the country. The visit to China is the first from the group in the wake of its gaining key ground in Afghanistan, including in Badakshan province which borders China’s western Xinjiang region. A delegation was hosted in Beijing in 2019, while in 2015, China has earlier hosted negotiations between the Taliban and Afghan officials in the city of Urumqi, Xinjiang’s provincial capital, in a meeting facilitated by Pakistan.
  • Russia will bolster Central Asian ally Tajikistan’s military with weapons, equipment and training amid a “deteriorating” situation in neighbouring Afghanistan, Moscow’s defence minister said Wednesday on a visit to the country. Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan will hold joint military drills next week near Tajikistan’s border with Afghanistan, where the Taliban has made huge military gains and claims to control 90% of the country’s borders.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (July 28, 2021)

  • Basavaraj Bommai will be new Karnataka Chief Minister
  • Jabs for children as early as August; Final trial results are awaited, says Health Minister
  • Dholavira in Gujarat on UNESCO World Heritage list; Harappan site has been on tentative list since 2014
  • China’s sea claims have no basis, says U.S.; Won’t flinch when our interests are threatened, says Pentagon
  • Biden, Kadhimi seal deal to end U.S. combat mission in Iraq
  • Israeli war crimes apparent in Gaza assault, says Human Rights Watch
  • NATO chief urges ‘negotiated settlement’ in Afghanistan
  • Tunisia’s biggest party calls for talks to end crisis; It asks supporters to avoid protests
  • IMF cuts emerging Asia, India growth forecasts; Fund sees India GDP growth at 9.5%

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  • In a choice that underlined a keenness to protect the Lingayat vote base rather than indulge in risky experiments, the BJP chose 61-year old Basavaraj Bommai as the next Chief Minister of Karnataka. Mr. Bommai met Governor Thaawarchand Gehlot to stake his claim to form the government late on Tuesday and will be sworn in alone on Wednesday at 11 a.m.
  • Vaccination of children against COVID-19 may start as early as August, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya told a meeting of the BJP parliamentary party on Tuesday. The Minister’s statements are in line with what the government told the Delhi High Court in early July – that vaccines for those between 12-18 would be available soon, and that a policy to regulate the vaccination programme would be spelt out soon.
  • The Harappan city of Dholavira, in present-day Gujarat, was on Tuesday named the 40th Indian site on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. UNESCO’s announcement came just days after another site, Ramappa Temple in Telangana, was admitted to the list on Sunday. A range of artefacts of copper, shell, stone, jewellery, terracotta and ivory had been found at the site. The site had been on UNESCO’s tentative list since 2014 and India had submitted its dossier in January 2020.  
  • Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin on Tuesday that Beijing’s expansive claims in the South China Sea have no basis in international law, taking aim at China’s growing assertiveness in the hotly contested waters. China claims almost all of the resource-rich sea, through which trillions of dollars in shipping trade passes annually, with competing claims from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. Tensions have escalated in recent months between Beijing and rival claimants.
  • U.S. President Joe Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa-al-Kadhimi sealed an agreement on Monday formally ending the U.S. combat mission in Iraq by the end of 2021, but American forces will still operate there in an advisory role. The agreement comes at a delicate time for the Iraqi government and could be a boost for Baghdad. Mr. Kadhimi has faced increasing pressure from Iran-aligned parties and paramilitary groups who oppose the U.S. military role in the country.
  • Human Rights Watch on Tuesday accused the Israeli military of carrying out attacks that “apparently amount to war crimes” during the 11-day war in May against the Hamas militant group. The human rights organisation issued its conclusions after investigating three Israeli air strikes that it said killed 62 Palestinians civilians. The HRW report looked into Israeli air strikes. In its investigation, HRW concluded that Israel had used U.S.-made GBU-31 precision-guided bombs, and that Israel had not warned any of the residents to evacuate the area ahead of time. It also found no evidence of military targets in the area.
  • NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday reiterated calls for a “negotiated settlement” with the Taliban in Afghanistan, admitting that the country faced a “deeply challenging” security situation as foreign troops leave. The United Nations warned on Monday that Afghanistan could see the highest number of civilian deaths in more than a decade if the Taliban’s offensives across the country are not halted.
  • Tunisia’s biggest party, the moderate Islamist Ennahda, on Tuesday called for a national dialogue to get the country out of crisis after it accused the President of a coup when he dismissed the Prime Minister and suspended Parliament. In a reversal of a call early on Monday to its supporters to take to the streets against President Kais Saied’s actions, Ennahda urged dialogue and efforts to avoid civil strife.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (July 27, 2021)

  • Yediyurappa bows out, suspense rises over new Karnataka Chief Minister
  • Bengal forms panel to look into the snooping allegations
  • Land use change disrupted Kinnaur’s ecology, says study
  • Tunisian President sacks government; Kais Saied orders Parliament closed for 30 days, a move the largest party decried as a ‘coup d’etat’
  • Stalemate in ties as U.S., China officials trade barbs; Neither side appeared willing to concede ground in talks
  • U.K. could bar China firm from nuclear projects
  • Afghan conflict is having devastating impact; Around 1,659 civilians killed, 3,254 wounded in first half of 2021, says UN report
  • Southern Europe battles wildfires as north cleans up after floods; France, Greece send aircraft to tackle Italy fires
  • Commodity prices boosting exports’ value : Moody’s arm

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  • Putting to rest endless speculation over a leadership change in Karnataka, B.S. Yediyurappa on Monday submitted his resignation as Chief Minister to Governor Thaawarchand Gehlot, ending his fourth stint at the helm exactly two years after he took charge. This was the 78-year-old veteran leader’s fourth tenure as Chief Minister, none lasting a full term. Mr. Gehlot accepted Mr. Yediyurappa’s resignation, dissolved the Council of Ministers and asked Mr. Yediyurappa to continue till the process of appointing his successor is completed.
  • The West Bengal government on Monday set up an inquiry commission, comprising retired Supreme Court judge Madan B. Lokur and former Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court Jyotirmoy Bhattacharya, to look into the allegations of snooping on politicians, activists and journalists using the Israeli spyware Pegasus. West Bengal is the first State to set up an inquiry commission in the Pegasus spyware row.
  • After nine people lost their lives in a landslip in Himachal Pradesh’s Kinnaur district, a debate surrounding the degradation of the environment in this ecological sensitive hill terrain is bound to gain momentum. A recent study suggests that both hydropower projects and afforestation efforts, carried out as compensation for the forest land diverted for hydropower projects in the name of mitigation, have altered landuse and are negatively impacting the forest ecosystem.
  • Street clashes erupted on Monday outside Tunisia’s Army-barricaded Parliament, a day after President Kais Saied ousted the Prime Minister and suspended the legislature, plunging the young democracy into a constitutional crisis. Mr. Saied sacked Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and ordered Parliament closed for 30 days, a move the biggest political party Ennahdha decried as a “coup”, following a day of angry street protests against the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Monday’s talks between senior American and Chinese officials in the city of Tianjin underlined a “stalemate” in relations, officials said, as both sides traded barbs and demands with little prospect of either appearing willing to concede any ground. While the Chinese side entirely blamed the U.S. for the downturn in relations, with Mr. Xie accusing the U.S. of “treating China as an imagined enemy”, Ms. Sherman underlined U.S. concerns “about a range of PRC actions that run counter to our values and interests and those of our allies and partners, and that undermine the international rules-based order”.
  • Britain is investigating ways to block China’s state owned nuclear energy company from all future power projects in the U.K., amid chilling relations between London and Beijing, according to reports Monday. The move could see China General Nuclear (CGN) excluded from several projects, including a consortium planning to build a nuclear plant on the Suffolk coast in eastern England, according to the Financial Times newspaper. CGN is already working with France’s EDF in the construction of a nuclear plant at Hinkley Point, in southwest England.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (July 25 & 26, 2021)

  • Mid-century target for net zero inadequate; India wants G20 pledge for 2030
  • Protesters, police clash over Australia lockdown; Violence after officials said curbs could be extended till October
  • China braces for Typhoon In-fa; In Philippines, thousands flee flooded villages after days of torrential rains
  • India and China are set to hold the 12th round of Corps Commander-level talks at resolving the stand-off in eastern Ladakh soon
  • 35% of government schools, anganwadis have no tap water; Jal Jeevan Mission fails to meet goals 10 months after 100-day campaign was launched
  • China, Pakistan outline ‘joint action to align Afghanistan strategies’; Focus on preventing escalation of war, resolutely combating terrorist forces
  • Pakistan bans domestic air travel for unvaccinated; COVID-19 cases cross 1 million mark

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (July 22, 23 & 24, 2021)

  • Government claim on oxygen-scarcity deaths is appalling, say experts; COVID-19 death certification does not record lack of oxygen, says epidemiologists
  • 1.2 lakh Indian children lost their primary caregivers : Study; 11 lakh orphaned globally during the pandemic till April
  • New generation of Akash surface-to-air lightweight anti-tank missile tested by DRDO
  • U.K. wants new trade deal for Northern Ireland; European Union rebuffs Britain’s demand for renegotiation on post-Brexit trading arrangements
  • Climate cooperation depends on overall ties, China tells United States
  • UNESCO strips Liverpool of its world heritage status after its new buildings undermined the attractiveness of the Victorian docks
  • Israel appoints commission to review NSO; Amid allegations that Pegasus spyware was misused, lawmaker says all aspects of granting licenses will be looked into
  • For peace deal, Taliban say Afghan President must go; Will lay down arms when government acceptable to all is formed

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (July 21, 2021)

  • Pegasus spyware row rocks Parliament; Lok Sabha adjourned for the day amid repeated disruptions
  • ICMR : Two-thirds of Indians have antibodies; More than half of the children had SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in India
  • In 2019, IT House panel unsuccessfully tried to discuss Pegasus breach
  • Rockets target Kabul presidential palace; Islamic State claims responsibility for the attack
  • India is welcome to join China-South Asia grouping; Bangladesh denies the group was meant to exclude India
  • Pedro Castillo declared Peru’s next President; He won by a margin of 44,000 votes
  • Asian Development Bank trims FY22 growth forecast to 10%

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  • The Pegasus snooping controversy led to multiple disruptions in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday before the House was adjourned for the day. In what seemed to be a different strategy by the Opposition parties for the two Houses, proceedings in the Lower House got washed out while the Rajya Sabha discussed the COVID-19 situations after a couple of hours of disruptions in the morning.
  • In 2019, during a probe by the Standing Committee on Information Technology headed by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, officials of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology(MEITy), according to sources, told the panel that 121 people were affected by the Pegasus spyware. Officials of both MEITy and the Ministry of Home Affairs though neither confirmed nor denied the involvement of the government in snooping using the Pegasus Spyware, which is sold by the Israeli technology firm NSO group.
  • At least three rockets hit near the presidential palace on Tuesday shortly before Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was to give an address to mark the major Muslim holiday of Id-al-Adha. There were no injuries and the rockets landed outside the heavily fortified palace grounds, said Mirwais Stanikzai, spokesperson for the interior minister. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack on its Amaq news channel.
  • India can join the China-led South Asian initiative for COVID-19 vaccines and poverty alleviation too if it so desires, said Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen, denying that a six-nation grouping launched earlier this month was meant to exclude India. The creation of the China-South Asian Countries Emergency Supplies Reserve, and a Poverty Alleviation and Cooperative Development Centre set up in China on July 8, the outcome of a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of China, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka in April, had raised eyebrows in New Delhi, as it appeared to leave out only India, Bhutan and the Maldives.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (July 20, 2021)

  • Amid protests, Parliament session off to a turbulent start
  • Several Delhi-based envoys, staff of NGOs on Pegasus list
  • Pakistan accuses India of using FATF for political ends
  • Oxfam report highlights sharp inequalities in health indicators; General category is better off than SCs and STs
  • Global call for ‘end’ to Taliban offensive; Over a dozen nations say ‘offensive is in contradiction to their claim to support a negotiated settlement’
  • Gotabaya Rajapaksa to seek second term as President; There is a shift from his earlier position to serve only one term
  • Climate change has added over 1000 lakes in Swiss Alps : Study
  • India on course for 11% growth this fiscal, to meet deficit goal
  • Air Traffic may hit 83% of pre-COVID level in Q3; FY22 to see 9.2 crore domestic fliers

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  • The monsoon session saw a stormy star ton Monday with Prime Minister Narendra Modi unable to introduce his new Ministers, as is customary after a reshuffle, on the first day of Parliament due to the Opposition’s protest against the fuel price hike and the farm laws.
  • While reports of Indian politicians and journalists being targets of surveillance operations carried out with the help of Pegasus spyware took centre stage on Monday, French newspaper Le Monde reported that several Delhi-based diplomats were on the list of potential targets for phone hacking from 2017 to 2021, along with a phone associated with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan. New Delhi has hostile relations with China and Pakistan at present, and their diplomats are under close watch, but it is significant that the list included several countries that India has very friendly ties with as well.
  • India is using the Financial Action Task Force for political designs against Pakistan, said the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar for a statement claiming credit for Pakistan’s continuance on the world body’s watchlist. Pakistan MFA added that India’s credentials for assessing Pakistan in FATF as co-chair of the Joint Group or for that matter any other country are subject to questions, which we urge FATF to look into.
  • Sharp inequalities exist across different caste, religious, class and gender categories on various health indicators, according to a report by Oxfam India. The report, titled “India Inequality Report 2021 : India’s Unequal Healthcare Story”, shows that the general category is better off than SCs and STs, Hindus are better off than Muslims, the rich are better off than the rural population on most health determinants, interventions and indicators.
  • More than a dozen diplomatic missions in Afghanistan on Monday called for “an urgent end” to the Taliban’s ruthless military offensive, saying it was at odds with claims they want to secure a political deal to end the conflict. The statement – signed by the U.S., EU, and more than a dozen other missions in Kabul – follows another round of inconclusive talks in Doha over the weekend between the Afghan government and the Taliban that many hoped would kickstart the ailing peace process.
  • Climate change has dramatically altered the Swiss Alp landscape – at a quicker pace than expected – as melting glaciers have created more than 1,000 new lakes across the mountains, a study published on Monday showed. The inventory of Swiss Glacial lakes showed that almost 1,200 new lakes have formed in formerly glaciated regions of the Swiss Alps since the end of the Little Ice Age around 1850.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (July 17, 18 & 19, 2021)

  • HC : Jabs for children without clinical trials will be a disaster
  • Over 86% of breakthrough infections caused by Delta variants: ICMR analysis says
  • Assam Budget seeks to control cattle population; Government to ensure 90% calves are females
  • Russia slams U.S.’s ‘hasty’ Afghan pullout; There is huge uncertainty around the future of the political and military situation in Afghanistan
  • Flood hit southern Germany as European toll rises to 184
  • China starts long-awaited carbon trading scheme; Nation eyes carbon neutrality by 2060
  • U.S., Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan to form quad group
  • Pegasus spyware used to snoop on journalists; Surveillance via victims’ phones
  • Chinese denies politics behind UNESCO move on Barrier Reef

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  • The Delhi High Court on Friday said it would be a disaster if COVID-19 vaccines to children without clinical trials, while asking the Centre to take the clinical trials, while asking the Centre to take steps to inoculate those below 18 years of age once the trials are over. During the hearing, the Centre said clinical trials for the vaccines for children under 18 years of age are going on, and children will be vaccinated when experts give permission. The HC was hearing a petition filed on behalf of a minor which sought directions for the immediate vaccination for the 12-17 age groups.
  • Assam’s Budget for the 2021-22 fiscal aims to control cattle population through artificial insemination to ensure that up to 90% of the calves born are females and 10% are males. The proposal follows the tabling of the Assam Cattle Protection Bill, which seeks to ban the transportation of cattle and sale of beef within 5km of temples and other religious structures of non-beef consuming communities, as well as in areas of mixed populations.
  • The death toll from devastating floods in Europe soared to at least 126 on Friday, most in western Germany where emergency responders were frantically searching for missing people. Residents were caught completely off guard by the torrent, dubbed the “flood of death” by Germany’s top selling daily Bid.
  • China introduced its long awaited emissions trading system on Friday, a key tool in its quest to drive down climate change-causing greenhouse gases and go carbon neutral by 2060. The scheme will set pollution caps for big-power businesses for the first time, and allows firms to buy the right to pollute from others with a lower carbon footprint.
  • The U.S., Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan have agreed in principle to establish a new quadrilateral diplomatic platform focused on enhancing regional connectivity, the Biden administration said. Recognising the historic opportunity to open flourishing interregional trade routes, the parties intend to cooperate to expand trade, build transit links, and strengthen business-to-business ties, it said.
  • Telephone numbers of some 40 Indian journalists figure in a “leaked list of potential targets for surveillance”, and forensic tests were said to have “confirmed that some of them were successfully snooped upon by an unidentified agency using Pegasus software”, The Wire, an independent news website, reported on Sunday night.     
  • A top Chinese official said on Sunday that political tensions between Beijing and Australia were not behind a UNESCO recommendation to place the Great Barrier Reef on its endangered list. The Great Barrier Reef has been put on a list of World Heritage Sites that could be put on the in-danger list after losing half of its corals since 1995. Australia has assailed the move, blaming global warming for the loss, while UNESCO experts argued that pollution run-off has contributed to the loss.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (July 16, 2021)

  • Why do you need the ‘colonial law’ of sedition, CJI asks government
  • Simpler drone rules in the offing; Government releases Draft Drone Rules, 2021, for public consultation until August 5
  • Jaishankar meets Ghani, discusses Taliban; They focus on advances by the militia within days of the U.S. and NATO troop pull-out from Bagram
  • Taliban offer truce for prisoner release; A 3-month ceasefire proposed; U.K. will work with Taliban
  • U.S. Senate votes to ban items from China’s Xinjiang region; Bills gets unanimous consent in the Upper Chamber
  • Polish judicial reforms illegal, rules EU court; Warsaw has set up a disciplinary chamber at the Supreme Court in a sweeping overhaul of judiciary
  • Cuba allows travellers to bring in food duty-free; PM announces decision in TV address
  • Inflation to persist at elevated levels for a while : RBI officials

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  • Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana, in what may be an unprecedented judicial criticism of the way the sedition law is used by the government to crush liberties, asked why a colonial law used against Mahatma Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak continued to survive in the law book 75 years after Independence. The CJI said the sedition law, or Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, was prone to misuse by the government.
  • Simplified drone rules, which abolish the need for a large number of approvals and give impetus to research and development, are in the offing in the country. The Ministry of Civil Aviation on Thursday released the Draft Drone Rules, 2021, for public consultation until August 5. The rules will replace the Unmanned Aircraft System Rules, 2021, notified on March 12, 2021.  The Quality Council of India and certification entities authorised by it will issue air worthiness certificates for drones, instead of the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation.
  • Worries over growing violence and Taliban gains in Afghanistan overshadowed External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s meetings ahead of a connectivity conference here on Thursday, as he called on Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani and met the U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser and Special Envoy as well as other Foreign Ministers. According to sources, the Ghani government is conducting a review of the Afghanistan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) military strategy, which could see it shift tactics in dealing with the Taliban that have claimed several key towns and border checkpost areas in the last week.  
  • The Taliban has offered a three-month ceasefire in exchange for the release of 7,000 insurgent prisoners, an Afghan government negotiator said on Thursday, as Pakistan confirmed the militant group had control of a key border crossing. It was not clear how the government would react to the ceasefire offer, or how new it was, and it comes as the U.S. accelerates the pace of a troop withdrawal due to be finished by August 31. Britain will work with the Taliban should they enter the government in Afghanistan.
  • The U.S. Senate passed legislation that would ban products imported from China’s Xinjiang region, the latest move to pressure Beijing over what Washington says are major human rights abuses against the Muslim Uyghur community. The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which cleared the Upper Chamber by unanimous consent on Wednesday, is intended to bar the import of products made through forced labour, which is allegedly being used in the north-western Chinese region.
  • The European Court’s top court ruled on Thursday that Poland’s system for disciplining judges undercuts the bloc’s laws, part of an escalating battle over democratic rules that risks Warsaw losing some of the key development funding. Poland’s ruling nationalists set up a disciplinary chamber at the Supreme Court in a sweeping overhaul of the judiciary already condemned by the court of Justice of the EU in Luxembourg and the bloc’s Brussels-based executive, which acts as guardian of laws across the 27 member states.
  • Travellers arriving in Cuba can now bring in food, medicine and other essentials without paying customs, the government said Wednesday in a concession to angry and unprecedented street protests. Cubans took to the streets on Sunday over economic hardship marked by shortages of food, electricity and other essentials. One of the demands was for people was for people arriving in Cuba to be able to bring in food, medicine and personal hygiene items without customs duties.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (July 15, 2021)

  • Supreme Court to examine plea challenging sedition; Kedar Nath judgment which upheld Section 124A needs relook
  • Afghanistan’s future can’t be its past : Jaishankar; World won’t legitimise Taliban regime if it takes power by force, he says at SCO
  • India’s National Plastic Surgery Day gets global acceptance; July 15 to be celebrated as World Plastic Surgery Day
  • India, Russia to hold 2+2 Ministerial meet; Russian envoy says details of possible visit of Putin being discussed
  • Permanent Commission for 147 women officers; Army grants it to 424 women since 2020
  • LAC impasse is affecting bilateral ties; Jaishankar says India had hopes China will follow through in resolving issues
  • Russia, U.S. have common interests and similar approaches on climate change, says Russia
  • WPI inflation remains ‘high’; June’s print for wholesale price gains at 12.07%, fuels costlier

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  • The Supreme Court will examine a petition filed by a retired Major-General who said a nearly 60-year old judgement of the court that helped sedition survive in the Indian Penal Code was behind time and needed a relook. The petitioner argued that the 1962 judgment in the Kedar Nath case, which upheld Section 124A(sedition), a relic of the colonial legacy, was given at a time when doctrines such as chilling effect on free speech were unheard of. The doctrine of chilling effect on speech considers the probability of a legal provision causing psychological barriers in the free exercise of the right.
  • The world will not legitimise a Taliban regime that comes to power in Kabul by force, indicated External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Wednesday, amid rapid advances made by the militant group on towns and border checkposts in various parts of Afghanistan. Speaking at the “Contact Group” meeting of the eight nation Shanghai Cooperation Organisation(SCO) in Dushanbe, Mr. Jaishankar said the future of Afghanistan “cannot be its past”, referring to the previous takeover of the country by the Taliban in 1996. The group also issued a joint statement decrying the violence.
  • The concept of observing July 15 as National Plastic Surgery Day in India has been adopted by the leaders of top bodies in the speciality across the globe as the World Plastic Surgery Day. The Association of Plastic Surgeons of India(APSI) announced the decision in a statement on Tuesday.
  • India and Russia will hold the first 2+2 Ministerial meeting later this year before a summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russian envoy Nikolay Kudashev said on Wednesday. On India-Taliban talks, another Senior Russian Embassy official said it was India’s sovereign decision and it was useful to deal with everyone in the region. Taliban is present in Afghanistan also in a manner it is a party to intra-Afghan talks. Certainly, it will be useful to deal with everyone in the region so that national interests will be better ensured, said by Russian official.
  • The Army said on Wednesday that 147 additional women officers had been granted Permanent Commission taking the total number of women officers granted it to 424 out of the 615 officers considered since the landmark judgment by the Supreme Court last year. Following the judgment on grant of PC to women officers in the Army, a special selection board was constituted and 277 women short service commission officers received it after medical scrutiny.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (July 13 and 14, 2021)

  • Inflation remains above 6% in June; Fuel and light inflation touches 12.7%, oils, fats and eggs lead food price spike
  • In blow to Oli, Nepal SC directs Deuba to be appointed PM
  • Afghan situation to dominate Jaishankar’s central Asian visit; External Affairs Minister to meet Pakistan, Chinese counterparts
  • Russia, Mexico warn against ‘outside interference’ in Cuba; Mexican President offers to send medicines, vaccines
  • Liquidity buffer at NBFCs cushions fall in Q1 collections, Crisil points out
  • Sputnik V to be made in India by Serum Institute of India
  • Cuba blames U.S. for anti-government protests; Authorities beef up police patrols across country
  • S&P keeps India rating at lowest investment grade; Reform execution crucial for recovery

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  • After touching a six-month high in May, retail inflation remained virtually unchanged in June at about 6.3%, staying out of the central bank’s comfort zone for the second month in a row. Economists expect the Reserve Bank of India to revisit its inflation estimate of 5.1% for 2021-22 and stressed that the lack of fiscal policy action to cool prices could precipitate a faster unwinding of RBI’s growth-supporting approach to interest rates.
  • Nepal’s Supreme Court on Monday reinstated the House of Representatives for the second time in five months, and directed President Bidya Devi Bhandari to appoint Nepali Congress chief Sher Bahadur Deuba as Prime Minister by Tuesday. A five-member Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice, issued the verdict stating that President Bhandari’s decision to dissolve the Lower House upon a recommendation of Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli was an unconstitutional act, delivering a blow to the veteran Communist leader, who was preparing for snap elections.
  • External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar travels to Central Asia on Tuesday for two back-to-back meetings focusing on Afghanistan, which will see him face-to-face with the Foreign Ministers of both Pakistan and China as well as attending a conference with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani and U.S. Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad. Mr. Jaishankar will first attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organization(SCO) ministerial in Dushanbe on July 13 and 14 after which he will travel to Tashkent for a regional connectivity conference on July 15 and 16.  
  • Russia and Mexico on Monday warned against any “outside interference” in Cuba after thousands took part in rare protests against the Communist government on the island nation. Cuba was an important Cold War ally of the Soviet Union and Moscow has continued to have good diplomatic relations with Havana since the 1991 collapse of the USSR.
  • Higher liquidity cover at NBFCs enabled them to service debt in the near term, and cushioned the impact of lower collections during the second wave of COVID-19, Crisil ratings said in a study of entities rated by the agency. It pointed out that a number of NBFCs had increased provisioning levels in the past two fiscal years, and had thus enhanced buffers for asset-side risks.
  • The Cuban police are out in force on the streets of the country after thousands of protesters rallied against the government on the weekend over high prices and food shortages. More than 100 people, including independent journalists and Opposition activists, were arrested, various sources said. Cuba has been under U.S. sanctions sine 1962. The Cuban authorities have also cut access to major social media platforms in an effort to stem the flow of information, a web monitoring organisation said.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (July 12, 2021)

  • New population policy keeps all sections in mind : Adityanath
  • Chinese protests Dalai Lama’s birthday celebrations
  • HAL set to deliver first batch of 3 LCH; These are part of 15 Limited Series Production copters approved for Army, IAF
  • New IT Rules are empowering and will protect users : Government
  • Kandahar evacuation is temporary, says MEA; Consulate-General hasn’t been closed
  • Richard Branson takes off first in space tourism race; Bandla becomes third Indian-origin woman to fly into space
  • Country’s First Private LNG plant inaugurated in Nagpur, Maharashtra
  • Monsoon Session of Parliament to commence from 19th July and conclude on 13th August
  • NTPC Simhadri commissions 10 MW floating solar power project

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

  • Every section of the society must join in the awareness programme for population control, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said on Sunday as he launched the State’s population policy for 2021-2030. Mr. Adityanath said rising population was the root of major problems and prevailing inequality in society. The new policy aims at decreasing the total fertility rate from 2.7 to 2.1 by 2026 and 1.7  by 2030, increase modern contraceptive prevalence rate from 31.7% to 45%  by 2026 and 52% by 2030, increase male methods of contraception use from 10.8% to 15.1% by 2026 and 16.4% by 2030, decrease maternal mortality rate from 197 to 150 to 98, and infant mortality rate from 43 to 32 to 22, and under 5 infant mortality rate from 47 to 35 to 25.
  • Chinese nationals displayed banners in protest from across Indus river, close to the Line of Actual Control, when Indian villagers were celebrating the birthday of the Dalai Lama in Demchok in eastern Ladakh. The incident occurred around 11 a.m. on July 6 at Dola Tamgo in Koyul village along Indus river.
  • Hindustan Aeronautics Limited is gearing up to deliver the first batch of three Light Combat Helicopters (LCH) to the Indian Air Force once acceptance tests are completed. These are part of the 15 Limited Series Production (LSP) helicopters approved for the Army and the IAF.  
  • Information and Technology and Communications Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on Sunday said the new information technology rules were empowering and protecting users. The new IT rules will ensure a safer and more responsible social media ecosystem in India, the Minister said. The new rules, which came into effect from May 25, mandate social media companies to establish a grievance redress mechanism for resolving complaints from the users or victims.
  • India has evacuated personnel from the Consulate-General in Kandahar as a temporary measure in view of the fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security forces, said the Ministry of External Affairs on Sunday, Official spokesperson said the mission is not closed and the visa related work has been shifted to the Indian embassy in Kabul.
  • Swashbuckling entrepreneur Richard Branson hurtled into space aboard his own winged rocket ship on Sunday in his boldest adventure yet, beating out fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos. Ms. Bandla became the third Indian-origin woman to fly into space after Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams. The brief, up and down flight – the rocket ship’s portion took only about 15 minutes, or about as long as Alan Shephard’s first U.S. spaceflight in 1961 – was intended as a confidence-boosting plug for Virgin Galactic, which plans to start taking paying customers on joyrides next year.  
  • Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari inaugurated the country’s First Private LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) plant in Nagpur on Sunday. He said, LNG is a clean and cost-effective fuel which is capable of decreasing the logistics cost. It has also potential of creating ample job opportunities. LNG is the fuel of the future and will revolutionize the transport sector. The Country’s first LNG facility plant has been set up by Baidyanath Ayurvedic Group on Kamptee Road near Nagpur Jabalpur Highway. Mr.Gadkari also informed that the Central Government is promoting Ethanol, Electric, CNG, LNG gas as an alternative to conventional fuels. He pointed out that the country produces surplus sugar and rice. He suggested that surplus of such products can be used to make biofuels. Experiments were carried out to produce bioethanol from these agricultural products which have succeeded. Large scale production of bioethanol from Paddy Straw is underway in East Vidarbha which is know for Paddy cultivation. The Minister also underlined the importance of ‘Flex engines’ which are capable of using both Petrol and Ethanol for transportation. He said a policy is under consideration by Central Government for mandatory installation of flex engine by automobile manufacturers in India.
  • National Thermal Power Corporation’s (NTPC) Simhadri Super Thermal Power Plant, Visakhapatnam has commissioned a 10 MW floating solar plant, which is part of the 25 MW plant. According to an NTPC’s press release, it is India’s largest floating installation to date, and it is also regarded as an engineering marvel because of its unique anchoring and mooring techniques. The project was given to BHEL on EPC basis in the year 2019 with a cost of 110 Crores and with a completion period of 15 months.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (July 07, 2021)

  • Amid Cabinet reshuffle buzz, eight governors get new Governors
  • GST mop-up in June falls below Rs. 1 lakh crore; It will see an uptick from July
  • Consulates remain open in Kandahar, Mazar : India
  • U.S. left Afghan airbase without notice; Pullout of troops over 90% complete : Pentagon
  • Ethiopia resumes filling disputed dam; Egypt and Sudan have opposed the project on the Nile
  • Oil soars to multi-year highs after OPEC+ talks collapse
  • Domestic air passenger trips grew 42% from May; Rising ATF prices a challenges says ICRA
  • INS Tabar exercises with Italian Navy off Naples, Italy

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

  • Ahead of a much-anticipated Cabinet reshuffle, the Rashtrapati Bhavan on Tuesday announced a slew of gubernatorial appointments, including that of Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Thawar Chand Gehlot as the Governor of Karnataka, replacing Vajubhai Bala. Mizoram got Hari Babu Kambhampati, Goa got P.S. Sreedharan Pillai, Tripura got Satyadev Narayan Arya, Jharkhand got Ramesh Bais, Haryana got Bandaru Dattatreya, Madhya Pradesh got Mangubhai Chhaganbhai Patel and Himachal Pradesh got Rajendra Vishwanath Arlekar.
  • Goods and Services Tax collections in June fell to Rs. 92,849 crore from Rs. 1.02 lakh crore in May, marking the first time after eight months that indirect tax collections fell below the Rs. 1 lakh crore mark. While lockdowns aimed at curbing the second wave of COVID-19 hit economic activity and moderated GST revenues in June, the Union Finance Ministry said the collections were 2% higher than a year ago and would improve from this month.
  • India is watching the situation in the Afghan cities of Kandahar and Mazar-e-Sharif closely, with concerns for its missions and diplomatic staff there growing as the Taliban gains control over a number of provincial cities, said officials. However, the government denied it had shut down operations at its consulates there, calling reports that said India was pulling out its diplomatic personnel “incorrect”.
  • The U.S. left Afghanistan’s Bagram Airfield after nearly 20 years by shutting off the electricity and slipping away in the night without notifying the base’s new Afghan commander, who discovered the American’s departure more than two hours after they left, said Afghan military officials. The last U.S. soldiers are likely to remain until an agreement to protect the Kabul Hamid Karzai International Airport, which is expected to be done by Turkey, is completed. The withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan is more than 90% completed, the Pentagon’s Central Command announced on Tuesday.
  • Ethiopia has started the second phase of filling a mega dam’s reservoir on the upper Blue Nile, said Egypt and Sudan, raising tensions Tuesday ahead of an upcoming UN Security Council meeting on the issue. Both Cairo and Khartoum said they had been notified by Addis Ababa that the second phase of filling had begun at the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
  • INS Tabar as part of her ongoing deployment to the Mediterranean took part in a Partnership Exercise with ITS Antonio Marceglia a frontline frigate of the Italian Navy in Tyrrhenian Sea. The exercise covered a wide range of naval operations including air defence procedures, replenishment at sea, communication drills and cross deck helo operations by day and night. The exercise was mutually beneficial in enhancing interoperability and towards consolidating combined operations against maritime threats. The exercise ended with a Steam Past by the two ships, as per the naval custom.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (July 06, 2021)

  • Supreme Court aghast that Section 66A of IT Act is still used; Provision was struck down 6 years ago
  • Twitter failed to comply with IT Rules : Centre; Ministry files affidavit in Delhi HC
  • Survey of Class 3 students to set baseline for literacy goals
  • Over 1,000 Afghan troops flee to Tajikistan; Afghan forces have been crumbling in the face of the Taliban onslaught
  • Learn to live with virus, Boris Johnson tells Britons; U.K. plans to lift curbs from July 19
  • Israel looks to renew law that keeps out Palestinian spouses
  • China wants to expand ties with Europe, Xi tells Macron, Merkel; Beijing seeks an ‘unbiased environment for Chinese firms’
  • Global investors flag some AatmaNirbhar reforms; Plan holds negative consequences

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

  • The Supreme Court on Monday found it “distressing”, “shocking” and “terrible” that people were still booked and tried under Section 66A of the Information Technology Act even six years after it struck down the provision as unconstitutional and a violation of free speech. Section 66A had prescribed three years’ imprisonment if a social media message caused “annoyance” or was found “grossly offensive”.
  • The Centre on Monday informed the Delhi High Court that micro-blogging site Twitter had failed to comply with India’s law regulating tech companies, losing its immunity as intermediaries. The tech giant started that it was in the final stages of appointing replacements; meanwhile, “the grievances of Indian users are being addressed by the Grievance Officer”.
  • The Centre’s NIPUN Bharat Mission has set a goal that by 2026-27, every Class 3 child should be able to read with understanding at the rate of at least 60 words per minute, be able to read and write numbers up to 9,999 and solve simple multiplication problems. A National Achievement Survey of Class 3 students to be conducted this November will set a baseline to track future progress.
  • More than 1,000 Afghan troops fled into neighbouring Tajikistan on Monday following clashes with the Taliban, as the insurgents amassed momentum on the battlefield. The exodus of troops followed another weekend of fighting across much of the northern countryside where the Taliban have overrun dozens of districts, spurring fears that Afghan forces are in crisis.
  • Israel’s Parliament is set to vote on Monday on whether to renew a temporary law first enacted in 2003 that bars Arab citizens of Israel from extending citizenship or even residency to spouses from the occupied West Bank and Gaza. The law creates an array of difficulties for Palestinian families that span the war drawn and largely invisible frontiers separating Israel from east Jeruselam, the West Bank and Gaza, territories it seized in the 1967 war that the Palestinians want for a future state.
  • International trade and investment flows into India could be affected by several aspects of the AatmaNirbhar Bharat programme as they posed ‘perceived as well as real’ challenges for global investors, the U.K. India Business Council (UKIBC) said. The UKIBC stressed that some of the reforms announced under the programme could have ‘negative consequences for U.K. and all multi-national companies,’ even as it took note of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s assertion that the self-reliant India program is about integrating with global supply chains, not isolating from them.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (July 05, 2021)

  • Pushkar Dhami sworn in as Uttarakhand Chief Minister; He retains earlier Ministers in 11-member cabinet
  • J&K administration bans drones in Srinagar; People having UAVs should deposit them at police stations
  • Literacy, numeracy mission deadline pushed to 2027; No extra funds; money coming from Samagra Shiksha scheme
  • Second wave of COVID-19 hit young people significantly, says study
  • Taliban capture several districts in Afghanistan; They make strides throughout the country
  • At least killed in military plane crash in Philippines
  • Chinese astronauts complete first spacewalk at new station
  • Cyprus hit worst by worst forest fire in decades, four dead
  • Tigray rebels accept ceasefire in principle; They seek exit of outside forces

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

  • Two-time MLA from Kathima in Uttarakhand Pushkar Dhami was sworn in as the 11th Chief Minister of the State, along with an 11-member Cabinet, on Sunday in Dehradun. Mr. Dhami, at 45 the youngest Chief Minister yet of Uttarakhand, retained the entire team of his predecessor, Tirath Singh Rawat. Mr. Rawat quit on Friday evening ostensibly on being unable to get elected to the Uttarakhand Assembly within the constitutionally stipulated deadline of six months from the date he took over.
  • The Jammu and Kashmir administration on Sunday banned the sale, use and possession of unmanned aerial vehicles in Srinagar, a week after two Indian Air Force personnel were injured in a drone attack on the Air Force Station in Jammu. Two explosives-laden drones had crashed into the air base, and there were other suspicious sightings of UAVs, triggering a security alert.
  • The Centre’s new mission to ensure that every Class 3 child has foundational literacy and numeracy within five years will be rolled out on Monday. Although the National Education Policy had included a 2025 deadline to achieve the goal, the Centre has pushed back the target date to 2026-27, given that COVID-19 has already disrupted two academic years.
  • The Taliban’s march through northern Afghanistan gained momentum overnight with the capture of several districts in Badakhshan province from fleeing Afghan forces, several hundred of whom escaped across the border into Tajikistan, officials said on Sunday. The Taliban now control roughly a third of all 421 districts and district centres in Afghanistan.
  • A Philippines Air Force plane crashed and broke up in flames on a southern island on Sunday, killing at least 45 people after some jumped free, officials said, in the country’s worst military air disaster in nearly 30 years. The Lockheed C-130 transport aircraft, carrying troops bound for counter-insurgency operations, crashed with 96 people on board. The plane had attempted to land at Jolo airport, but overshot the runway without touching down.
  • Chinese astronauts successfully performed the country’s first tandem spacewalk on Sunday, working for seven hours outside the new Tiangong station in orbit around the Earth. Tiangong’s construction is a major step in China’s ambitious space programme, which has seen the nation land a rover on Mars and send probes to the moon.
  • Rebels in Ethiopia’s war torn Tigray region on Sunday accepted “a ceasefire in principle” but posed strict conditions for it to be formalised. Tigray has been the scene of fighting since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent the Army in November to topple the dissident regional authorities, which emerged from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize  winner accused them of orchestrating attacks on Ethiopian military bases.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (July 03 & 04, 2021)

  • Goods exports touch record $95 billion in first quarter of 2021-22
  • Pandemic increased vulnerability to human trafficking : U.S. Report
  • Israel strikes Hamas site in Gaza over fire balloons; Military says it targeted a weapons manufacturing site
  • India sees consensus by October on OECD-G20 global tax deal
  • Covaxin demonstrated 77.8% efficacy against symptomatic COVID-19
  • French judge to probe Rafale deal; Suspicions of corruption raised in the sale
  • Pushkar Dhami to be the next Uttarakhand Chief Minister, following resignation of Tirath Singh Rawat
  • China goes malaria-free with multi-pronged health strategy

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (July 01 & 02, 2021)

  • Drones, flying toys banned in J&K district after attacks; Five unauthorised sorties suspected since Sunday
  • Uttarakhand Chief Minister rushes to Delhi amid legal bind
  • Google removed 59,350 posts in April; Transparency reports as per the new IT rules
  • India flags ‘green pass’ issue; Reciprocal restrictions for EU countries barring Indian entry
  • In last academic year, only 22% schools had Internet; Less than 30% government schools had computers
  • 9 European nations clear SII jab; EU starts Green Pass travel facility for those who have taken authorised vaccines
  • All WHO-approved jabs must be recognized for travel : UN; Vaccine divide should not widen
  • Gross NPA ratio may rise up to 11.2% in FY22 from 7.48% in March 2021

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (June 30, 2021)

  • Ensure that no migrant worker goes hungry, SC instructs government; Courts tells States to implement One Nation One Ration Card
  • Government gives nod for Cipla to import Moderna’s vaccine; DCGI grants emergency use approval for ready to use jab
  • Indians value religious freedom, not integration; South India more inclusive; Says Report
  • Chamoli disaster due to avalanche; The February 7 flash flood claimed 72 lives, at least 200 are missing or dead
  • Follow Health Ministry advisory till July 31 : Centre; Relaxation of curbs should be carefully calibrated
  • Judge dismisses competition cases against Facebook; Lawsuit alleged FB crushed competition by buying out rivals
  • Israel’s Lapid opens Embassy in UAE; Foreign Minister urges other nations to recognize that
  • OPEC risks forcing India to tap Iran for oil if prices stay high; Country has already exhausted its strategic petroleum reserves
  • Sri Lanka banking on $1 billion India swap deal; Assistance crucial to help Colombo meet debt obligations

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

  • A government cannot abdicate its duties to feed migrant workers, especially during a pandemic, merely because they did not have ration cards, the Supreme Court said in a judgment on Tuesday. The court ordered the State governments to frame schemes to distribute dry rations to migrate workers by July 31. It ordered all the States to fully implement the One Nation One Ration Card scheme by July 31. The scheme allows migrant labourers covered under the National Food Security Act(NFSA) to access food at any fair price shop with his or her ration card in any part of the country.
  • Most Indians, cutting across religions, feel they enjoy religious freedom, value religious freedom, and regard respect for all religions as central to what India is as a nation. At the same time the majority in each of the major religious groups show a marked preference for religious segregation and want to live separately, according to a nation-wide survey on religious attitudes, behaviours and beliefs conducted by Pew Research Center, a non-profit based in Washington DC. For instance, the report found that 91% of Hindus felt they have religious freedom, while 85% of them believed that respecting all religions was very important ‘to being truly Indian’.
  • The flash flood on February 7 in Chamoli district, Uttarakhand, that claimed at least 72 lives with at least 200 missing was due to a large mass of snow, ice and rock crashing into the Raunthi Garh valley floor. This impact pulverised the combination of rock, snow and ice causing a rapid flow downstream of Raunthi Garh and into the Rishiganga valley leading to the deluge, the Geological Survey of India (GSI) said in a report on Tuesday. A report in the journal Science earlier this month too came to a similar conclusion, reporting that nearly 27 million cubic metres of rock and ice had crushed into the valley floor.  
  • The Union Home Ministry on Tuesday asked the States and the Union Territories to consider implementation of targeted and prompt actions for COVID-19 management in accordance with the latest Health Ministry advisory, till July 31. Any person violating the measures will be liable to be proceeded against under Section 51 to 60 of the Disaster Management Act, besides legal action Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code, and other legal provisions as applicable.
  • A federal judge in Washington DC dismissed two anti-trust(competition) lawsuits against Facebook brought by the U.S.’s trade regulator, the Federal Trade Commission(FTC), and a coalition of 48 States and jurisdictions. The cases alleged that Facebook crushed competition by buying out its rivals like WhatsApp and Instagram. After the ruling, Facebook’s shares hit record highs and its market capitalisation crossed $1 trillion for the first time.
  • Israel’s new Foreign Minister inaugurated the country’s Embassy in the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday. During his two-day visit, the first to the West Asian nation by an Israeli Cabinet Minister since the countries established ties last year, Yair Lapid was also due to inaugurate a Consulate in Dubai and sign a bilateral deal on economic cooperation. The UAE also opened its Embassy in Israel recently.
  • Ahead of a crucial OPEC meeting on July 1, India’s Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said he was working to persuade oil exporting countries to moderate surging oil prices and warned that high prices would push the country to tap alternative import sources such as Iran. The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies(OPEC+) are expected to discuss a possible easing of supply cuts, amid a rebound in global demand, on July 1.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (June 28 & 29, 2021)

  • Suspected drone attack on IAF Jammu station leaves 2 injured; NIA team visits site
  • Crippled by India’s vaccine export ban, Bhutan seeks help
  • Blinken, Lapid to meet in Rome to reset U.S. – Israel ties; Replenishment of Iron Dome Defence System may figure in talks
  • Nuclear site images won’t be shared with IAEA : Iran; Deal with the agency has expired
  • Government unveils Rs. 6.28 lakh crore stimulus post 2nd COVID wave
  • Dialogue not at the cost of national security, says Rajnath
  • P. Sainath selected for 2021 Fukuoka Grand Prize; He promoted civil cooperation through his writings
  • Nuclear-capable Agni-P missile test-fired; It will strengthen our credible deterrence capabilities
  • Confident divestment target of Rs. 1.75-lakh crore will be met : Chief Economic Adviser
  • Iraq, Egypt and Jordan hold summit; In Baghdad, they discussed ways to bolster ties on security, energy and trade
  • Ukraine, U.S. launch Black Sea drills; The exercise comes days after Russia-U.K. row over warship in disputed waters

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

  • In the first instance of a drone attack on a defence installation in the country, unmanned aerial vehicles are suspected to have dropped and detonated two explosive devices at the Jammu Air Force Station on Sunday, leaving two India Air Force personnel injured. Jammu & Kashmir police termed it as a terror attack. An FIR under Sections 16, 18, 23 of the Unlawful Activities(Prevention) Act, Section 3 of Explosive Substance Act and Sections 307, 120-B of the IPC has been lodged into the incident.
  • With no vaccines in sight and just days to go for Bhutan’s deadline for giving its eligible population of half a million people their second dose of COVID-19 vaccines, India’s smallest neighbour is searching for any alternative that could help, its Health Minister said. New Delhi was actively involved in helping Bhutan facilitate the vaccines from elsewhere. New Delhi said no decision had been taken on when to provide Bhutan the promised second doses of Covishield, indicating that only a political decision to deliver them could change that as Bhutan needs the doses in the next two weeks.
  • U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will meet in Rome on Sunday as their new governments look to turn the page on former President Donald Trump and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose close alliance aggravated partisan divisions within both countries. A major push to revive the long dormant peace process between Israel and the Palestinians could unsettle the delicate balance.
  • The Speaker on Iran’s Parliament said on Sunday Tehran will never hand over images from inside of some Iranian nuclear sites to the U.N. nuclear watchdog as a monitoring agreement with the agency had expired, Iranian state media reported. The announcement could further complicate talks between Iran and six major powers on reviving a 2015 nuclear deal. The atomic energy agency and Tehran struck the three-month monitoring agreement in February to cushion the blow of Iran reducing its cooperation with the agency.
  • Stating that the country will never forget the supreme sacrifice of those who laid down their lives in the Galwan clash last year, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday reiterated India’s commitment to resolving disputes with neighbouring countries through dialogue. However, he assured that the security of the nation will not be compromised. Mr. Singh is on a three-day visit to Ladakh to review the security situation as India and China prepare for the 12th round of Corps Commander talks to take forward the disengagement process in eastern Ladakh.
  • A new generation nuclear capable ballistic missile, Agni-P(Prime) was successfully test-fired by the Defence Research and Development Organisation on Monday. Agni-P is a new-generation advanced variant of Agni class of missiles. It is a canisterised missile with range capability between 1,000 and 2,000 km, a DRDO statement said. Canisterisation of missiles reduces the time required to launch the missile while improving its storage and mobility.
  • Egypt, Jordan and Iraq agreed to bolster security and economic cooperation at a tripartite summit on Sunday that saw an Egyptian head of state visit Iraq for the first time in three decades. Iraq is also seeking to establish itself as a mediator between Arab countries and Iran, after reportedly hosting talks in April between Tehran and Riyadh.
  • Ukraine and the United States launched joint naval exercises in the Black Sea on Monday in a show of Western cooperation with Kiev as it faces off with Russia. The drills come just days after the British Royal Navy’s HMS Defender passed near Russian-annexed Crimea in the Black Sea, with Moscow saying it fired warning shots at the destroyer to ward it off. The Sea Breeze Drills – which have taken place 21 times since 1997 – will involve some 5,000 military personnel from more than 30 countries.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (June 25, 26 & 27, 2021)

  • PM backs delimitation exercise, grassroots democracy in J&K
  • Monsoon to be weak till July; System unlikely to move further over the next week, says Met Department
  • In contact with stakeholders on Afghanistan, says India
  • Russia, U.K. spar over Black Sea incident; This comes after Moscow allegedly fired warning shots at a British destroyer off the coast of Crimea
  • S&P cuts India’s FY22 growth forecast to 9.5%; Further waves pose a risk to outlook
  • Pakistan to remain on Financial Action Task Force grey list as it failed to convict terrorists
  • First Indigenous aircraft carrier will be commissioned next year: Defence Minister
  • U.P. ranked best state under Smart Cities Mission; Indore and Surat jointly bags top place among the best cities
  • India, China plan 12th round of talks on Ladakh stand-off
  • Tibet gets first bullet train, links Lhasa to India border; Over 90% of the track is 3,000 m above sea level
  • WHO : Delta variant most transmissible;  It has been identified in 85 countries

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (June 24, 2021)

  • Banks get assets worth Rs. 8,441 crore from ED; Action follows probe into Mallya, Nirav-Mehul Choksi cases
  • High Court declines Facebook, WhatsApp’s fresh plea regarding new privacy policy
  • BJP got 76% of donations by electoral trusts : Association for Democratic Reforms
  • China raising new units near borders : They are to be used for high-altitude warfare, surveillance
  • Election Commission speeding up delimitation process; Official holds virtual meetings with 20 Deputy Commissioners in J&K
  • Former Prime Minister of Sri Lanka Ranil Wickremesinghe returns to Parliament
  • Iran says it foiled attack on atomic energy agency building
  • High raw material prices threaten survival of MSMEs; Industry group urges nil duty on import of steel materials
  • CCI probes Google for ‘unfair’ business practices; Mandate to pre-install apps a violation

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

  • The Enforcement Directorate has transferred assets worth Rs. 8,441.5 crore to public sector banks that suffered losses to the tune of Rs. 22,585.83 crore due to frauds committed allegedly by businessmen Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi. All three accused had fled overseas. The agency said it recently transferred attached shares worth Rs. 6,600 crore to a State Bank of India-led consortium as per an order of the PMLA Special Court, Mumbai. On Wednesday, the Debt Recovery Tribunal, on behalf of the consortium, sold the shares of United Breweries Limited for Rs. 5824.5 crore. Further realisation of Rs. 800 crore by sale of shares is expected by June 25.
  • The Delhi High Court on Wednesday declined a fresh plea by Facebook and WhatsApp seeking to put on hold a notice issued by the Competition Commission of India asking them to submit certain documents in relation to the probe being conducted on WhatsApp’s new privacy policy. Facebook and WhatsApp’s fresh application was made in a pending case filed by them challenging the CCI’s March 24 direction ordering a probe into WhatsApp’s controversial new privacy policy.
  • Over 76% of the donations made by the electoral trusts, which submitted their annual reports for 2019-20 to the Election Commission of India and declared to have received funding, went to the BJP, a report of the Association for Democratic Reforms. Out of the 21 registered trusts, 14 submitted their annual reports to the ECI and seven of those declared that they had received funds that were then given to parties, the report said.
  • China is raising new militia units comprising local Tibetan youth for high-altitude warfare near Eastern Ladakh, the site of the recent border tensions along the Line of Actual Control(LAC), as well as near its borders with Sikkim and Bhutan, intelligence intercepts have revealed. Available information indicates that the units are also being deployed at Rutog in Tibet, near the Pangong Tso in eastern Ladakh.
  • In a bid to speed up the process of delimitation of the Assembly and Parliamentary constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir, Deputy Election Commissioner Chandra Bhushan Kumar held virtual meetings with 20 Deputy Commissioners of the Union Territory on Wednesday. It was the first such meeting with the DEOs since the J&K Delimitation Commission headed by Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai (retd.), with five associate members comprising local Members of Parliaments, was set up in March 2020.
  • Former Prime Minister of Sri Lanka Ranil Wickremesinghe returned to Parliament, 10 months after his United National Party suffered its biggest electoral defeat in history. In the first intervention by his party in the current legislature, Mr. Wickremesinghe slammed the Rajapaksa government on its economic policy that, he said, lacked a plan amid a crisis, and growing militarisation of civil services. Though the UNP didn’t win a single seat in the 2020 general election, it had enough cumulative votes to nominate one member under its national list, a system in which a party can win seats proportionate to its share of total votes polled.
  • Iran said it foiled a sabotage attack on Wednesday on an atomic energy agency building in a mysterious incident that comes as the U.S. blocked Iran-linked websites and as talks to revive a nuclear deal progressed. The news of the attack came a day after the U.S. Justice Department said it seized 33 Iranian government-controlled media websites, which it alleged were hosted on U.S.-owned domains in violation of sanctions.
  • A steep increase in raw material prices in the last few months threatens the surveillance of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the manufacturing sector, the All India Council of Associations of MSMEs said. The council, which has about 170 MSME associations from different States as its members, pointed out that copper prices had increased by 110% this month compared with April last year. Prices of aluminium alloy had risen 94%, mild steel plates by 82% and CRCA sheets by 96%.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (June 23, 2021)

  • Ramgarh Vishdhari Sanctuary: Rajasthan will soon get its 4th Tiger Reserve
  • Telecom Dept further liberalises guidelines for Other Service Providers (OSPs)
  • India and Fiji sign MoU for cooperation in agriculture and allied sectors field
  • US military could slow down its withdrawal from Afghanistan due to gains made by Taliban insurgents
  • India to play a key role as a Global Champion for Energy Transition
  • Face masks to no longer be compulsory in Italy from 28 June
  • Cabinet approves additional foodgrain under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana for next five months
  • NTPC anchors two day BRICS Green Hydrogen Summit
  • External Affairs Ministry calls for permanent & comprehensive ceasefire in Afghanistan at UN Security Council

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

  • NTCA (National Tiger Conservation Authority) has given the nod to Ramgarh Vishdhari Sanctuary of Rajasthan for the Tiger Reserve. It will be the 4th Tiger reserve for the state after Ranthambore, Sariska, and Mukundra tiger reserves and 52nd for the nation. The Ramgarh Vishdhari Sanctuary will extend support to the increasing number of tigers in Ranthambore. The Tigers will be shifted in the new Tiger reserve to stabilize the increasing fight between the tigers for the resources in Ranthambore. Ramgarh Vishdhari Wildlife Sanctuary acts as a cushion for the Ranthambore National Park and is spread over an area of 252 square kilometers. The Sanctuary has diverse biodiversity and one can spot wild animals like Indian wolf, leopard, golden jackal, chinkara striped hyena, sloth bear, and nilgai in the lush green forests of Ramgarh Vishdhari Sanctuary. And Now tigers also add to the list with NTCA nod.
  • The Department of Telecommunication has further liberalized the guidelines for Other Service Providers (OSPs). These entities are Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) organisations giving voice based services, in India and abroad. Information and Technology and Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, there is now no distinction between Domestic and International OSPs to bring in better synergies among businesses. He said, under the liberalised guidelines announced, EPABX (Electronic Private Automatic Branch Exchange) of the OSP can be located anywhere in the world. Mr Prasad said, OSPs apart from utilising EPABX services of the Telecom Service Providers can also locate their EPABX at third party data centres in India.
  • India and Fiji have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for cooperation in the field of agriculture and allied sectors. It was signed by Union Minister for Agriculture & Farmers Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar and Fiji’s Minister of Agriculture, Waterways & Environment Dr. Mahendra Reddy in a virtual meeting today. The MoU provides for cooperation in the fields of Dairy Industry, Rice Industry, Root crop diversification, Water Resources Management, Coconut Industry, Food Processing Industry, Agriculture Mechanization, and Horticulture Industry. It also provides for cooperation in the fields of Agricultural Research, Animal Husbandry, Pest and Disease, Cultivation, Value Addition and Marketing, Post-Harvest and Milling, and Breeding and Agronomy.
  • The US military could slow down its withdrawal from Afghanistan due to the gains made by the Taliban insurgents. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said yesterday. He stressed that President Joe Biden’s deadline of a full withdrawal by September remains in place, but added that the pace could be adjusted based on conditions. The situation in Afghanistan changes as the Taliban continue to conduct these attacks and to raid district centres as well as the violence, which is still too high, he told the media. He added that, Pentagon is constantly taking a look at this, every single day: what’s the situation on the ground. All of these decisions are literally being made in real time. Pentagon officials said last week that the withdrawal, ordered by Biden in April after nearly two decades fighting Al-Qaeda and helping government forces battle the Taliban, is around half completed.
  • India is set to play a key role as Global Champions for the UN High-level Dialogue on Energy, a summit-level meeting to take place in September 2021. India believes that it is only a collective effort that can enable the energy transition at a faster pace. Today while speaking at the Curtain Raiser Press Conference on “India’s role as a Global Champion for the Energy Transition theme at the UN High-Level Dialogue on Energy 2021,” R. K. Singh, Minister of State (MoS) (I/C) for Power and New & Renewable Energy said that this dialogue on energy transition presents India with an opportunity to share experiences with the entire world. To attain Sustainable Development Goals 7 (SDG7) concerted actions are required all across the world, in the same spirit, Minister R K Singh urged other countries, especially those in positions of privilege to work ambitiously to support a global energy transition.
  • Union Cabinet today approved allocation of additional foodgrain under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, Phase IV for another period of five months. Under it, five kilogram foodgrains per person per month free of cost will be given to the beneficiaries covered under National Food Security Act including those covered under Direct Benefit Transfer between July to November this year. The sanction of the additional food-grain free of cost to a maximum of 81.35 crore individuals will entail an estimated food subsidy of 64,031 crore rupees. Central Government is bearing the entire expenditure towards this scheme without any contribution by States and UTs. The allocation in terms of wheat or rice will be decided by the Department of Food and Public Distribution.
  • NTPC Ltd, India’s largest energy integrated company under Ministry of Power anchored a two day workshop on Green Hydrogen, one of the most popular and demanding fields in the current times and considered to be the next carrier of energy. The online event saw leading experts from the Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa (BRICS) countries who shared their insights and professional views on the subject as well as the latest developments going on in their countries in the area of green hydrogen. These BRICS countries are capable of ensuring that there is net-zero carbon emission since the cost of deployment of these emerging technologies in these countries is a fraction in comparison to that of other developed countries. The prevention of CO2 will have a worldwide positive impact. NTPC  is pioneering Green Hydrogen Initiatives in India. NTPC which is undertaking extensive study, experimentations in the areas of Carbon Capture & Hydrogen has also announced a few pilot projects on Green Hydrogen to this. Green hydrogen is of great topical interest to all the countries including BRICS as it has a great amount of potential to ensure sustainable energy supply, increase the level of energy availability and minimize the negative impact on the environment.
  • External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar yesterday said it is crucial for international community to press for permanent and comprehensive ceasefire in Afghanistan to ensure immediate reduction in violence and protection of civilians. Speaking at the UNSC Debate on UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, Dr Jaishankar said intra Afghan talks have not resulted in a reduction of violence in Afghanistan. Dr Jaishankar reiterated India’s support for an inclusive, Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled peace process. He said for enduring peace in Afghanistan, terrorist safe havens and sanctuaries must be dismantled immediately and their supply chains disrupted. He added that those providing material and financial support to terrorist entities must be held accountable. The Minister said India is committed to steadfastly supporting Afghanistan during its transition. He said the development partnership, including over 550 community development projects covering 34 provinces, is aimed at making Afghanistan a self-sustaining nation.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (June 22, 2021)

  • Supreme Court seeks government decision on ex gratia payment
  • Chief of Defence Staff to chair meet on theatre commands
  • Iran’s President elect up for nuclear talks, rules out Biden meet
  • U.S. is committed to supporting Afghan people : White House; Biden to meet Ghani and Abdullah
  • Exports resume from Gaza as Israel eases blockade; Thousands of Palestinian farmers
  • Centre moots ban on ‘flash sales’ on e-com sites; Ministry says has received complaints
  • ARDE, Pune develops State-of-the-Art Canopy Severance System for fighter aircraft which helps safe ejection of pilot in distress
  • UNESCO says, Great Barrier Reef should be put on list of World Heritage Sites
  • EU, UK slap fresh sanctions against Myanmar over military coup

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

  • The Supreme Court on Monday asked the government whether it has taken a decision to not pay ex gratia to families who lost their loved ones to COVID-19. The questions from the Bench came even as the Union government clarified that it had money, but the focus was on utilising funds for food, medical care, oxygen, vaccination and pumping up the economy rather than pay a one-time compensation of Rs. 4 lakh each to families of people who died of COVID-19.
  • Extensive studies have been undertaken and discussed over the last two years before arriving at a broad plan to create four integrated tri service commands, as per government official. However, the IAF still has major reservations on the issues. Air defence and maritime theatre commands, integrated eastern theatre and integrated western theatre commands are being planned.  As part of the ongoing deliberation, Chief of Defence Staff(CDS) General Bipin Rawat is scheduled to chair a meeting on Tuesday with the Vice-Chiefs of the three services, the Chief of Integrated Defence Staff and the representatives from the Ministries of Defence, Home and Finance.
  • Iran’s President-elect Ebrahim Raisi said on Monday he will not allow nuclear negotiations, in his first news conference since winning election last week. Mr. Raisi also ruled out meeting U.S. President Joe Biden but said there were no obstacles to resuming diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia, the Sunni-ruled regional rival of Shiite Iran, which have been severed for five years.
  • U.S. President Joe Biden will meet Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani and the Chairman of its High Council for National Reconciliation, Abdullah Abdullah, at the White House on Friday. The visit comes after the U.S. began withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan, a process that began on May 1 and is expected to be completed by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the World Trade Centre terror attacks in New York City.  Peace talks in Qatar between the Afghan government and the Taliban have not made significant progress.
  • Trucks carrying clothes and fabric rolled out of the Palestinian enclave of Gaza on Monday as Israel lifted some restrictions it had imposed during the last month’s conflict. The crowded Mediterranean territory, home to around two million Palestinians, has been under an Israeli blockade since 2007. The resumption of some trade and the postal service came one month after a ceasefire between Israel and the enclave’s Hamas rulers to end an 11-day conflict.
  • To monitor deep discounts offered on e-commerce websites, the government on Monday proposed changes to the Consumer Protection (e-commerce) Rules 2020, banning all ‘flash sales’. The proposed changes have been put on the website of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs calling out public comments till July 6. The Ministry clarified that the conventional flash sale had not been banned, but that only predatory ones would be banned.
  • All modern aircraft are equipped with a Canopy Severance System (CSS), which is an escape path clearance system for the pilot in case of emergencies occurring on the aircraft. State-of-the-art CSS has been developed ab-initio at Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE), Pune in association with High Energy Material Research Laboratory (HEMRL), Pune, for the indigenously developed LCA Tejas and Trainer Aircraft, HJT-36 Aircraft and HTT-40 Aircraft. It provides safe passage by pre-weakening/severing the canopy to facilitate the smooth escape of the pilot in the shortest possible time. A Transfer of Technology (ToT) Certificate Award Ceremony was held yesterday evening at ARDE in the gracious presence of Distinguished Scientist and Director General of Armament and Combat Engineering P.K. Mehta of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). Director, ARDE Dr V. Venkateswara Rao and Director, HEMRL KPS Murthy handed over the certificate to Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) S. Pramanik and General Manager (GM) R Chandra of M/s GOCL Corporation Ltd., effecting Transfer of Technology (ToT) for the Production of CSS for the indigenously developed aircraft.
  • The Great Barrier Reef should be put on a list of World Heritage Sites that are in danger due to damage caused by climate change, says UNESCO. The UN’s cultural body says the world’s biggest coral reef system should be downgraded to the list at a meeting next month. It has urged Australia to take accelerated action on global warming. But, the Australian government said it would strongly oppose the recommendation. The latest row is part of an ongoing dispute between Unesco and the Australian government over the status of the iconic site. The reef, stretching for 2,300km off Australia’s north-east coast, gained World Heritage ranking in 1981 for its enormous scientific and intrinsic importance.
  • European Union and United Kingdom yesterday slapped fresh sanctions on Myanmar state-owned entities and individuals over the military coup in February and the security crackdown that followed. According to the statement, the 27-member European bloc imposed an asset freeze and a travel ban on eight Myanmar officials, among them the Home Affairs Minister responsible for the police force and slapped sanctions on three companies that are state-owned or controlled by the military. A fourth entity, the War Veterans Organisation, was also hit by the measures. In total, EU sanctions now apply to 43 individuals and six entities.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (June 21, 2021)

  • Massive distribution of ex gratia will strain finances, says Centre
  • India to host two day summit on Green Hydrogen Initiatives involving BRICS nations
  • Plan to put Lakshadweep under Karnataka HC; It is under Kerala HC jurisdiction now
  • Permanent Mission of India responds to concerns raised by Special Procedures Branch of Human Rights Council about India’s new IT Rules
  • Pact signed to conserve rare turtle in Assam; NGOs, zoo and Kamrup administration to work with temple for project
  • Health infrastructure has increased 45-fold : Centre; Total vaccine coverage 27.23 crore doses
  • Iran, world powers adjourn nuclear talks; Israel says, Don’t negotiate with Tehran
  • Iran announces an emergency shutdown of its sole nuclear power plant
  • Taliban say committed to Afghan peace talks, want ‘genuine Islamic system’

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

  • The COVID-19 pandemic is not a “one-time disaster”, such as an earthquake a flood for which victims can be compensated with just money, the Centre told the Supreme Court. The government was responding to petitions in the Supreme Court to pay Rs 4 lakh compensation to the families of every COVID-19 victim. A broader approach is essential.
  • India will host a two day summit on Green Hydrogen Initiatives starting Tuesday involving the BRICS nations. The prestigious event offers a platform to share their respective Green Hydrogen initiatives and views on how to take it to the next level in their own countries. The online event will be anchored by India’s largest power producer and one of the global energy majors, NTPC Ltd. The summit will bring the best brains, policy makers and major stakeholders from the BRICS nations deliberating and discussing at length the future of Hydrogen in the energy mix. Our correspondent reports, representatives from each country would be sharing respective initiatives undertaken by their countries on utilization of hydrogen and their future plans. The summit will also witness panel discussions on ideas integrating hydrogen in overall energy policy framework by different countries.
  • Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations and other International Organizations in Geneva has responded the concerns raised by Special Procedures Branch of the Human Rights Council regarding India’s new IT Rules. In a letter, the Permanent Mission clarified that the IT rules finalized after due discussion with various stakeholders. It informed that the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting undertook broad consultations in 2018 with various stakeholders, to prepare the draft Rules. An inter-ministerial meeting had discussed in detail the comments received in detail and the Rules were finalized accordingly. The Permanent Mission of India highlighted that India’s democratic credentials are well recognized. It said the right to freedom of speech and expression is guaranteed under the Indian Constitution and independent judiciary and robust media are part of India’s democratic structure.
  • The Lakshadweep administration, which has been facing widespread protests over its policies, has mooted a proposal to shift its legal jurisdiction from the Kerala High Court to the Karnataka High Court, officials said. The proposal was initiated by the administration after several litigation were moved before the Kerala High Court against the decisions taken by the islands’s new administrator. These decisions included revising standard operating procedures for COVID-19 appropriate behavior, introduction of the goonda act and demolishing hutments of fishermen for widening of roads.
  • A major temple in Assam has signed a memorandum of understanding with two green NGOs, the Assam State Zoo-cum-Botanical Garden and the Kamrup district administration for the long term conservation of the rare freshwater black soft shell turtle or the Nilssonia nigricans. A vision document 2030 was also launched after Turtle Survival Alliance India and Help Earth signed the pact involving the Hayagriva Madhava Temple Committee.
  • Iran and six world powers have adjourned nuclear talks for consultations in their capitals, the European Union’s envoy to the negotiations said on Sunday. He gave no indication when the talks would resume, but said progress had been made and that the participants would have a clearer idea of how to close a deal when they return.
  • Iran’s sole nuclear power plant has undergone an unexplained temporary emergency shutdown. An official from state electric company Tavanir said that the Bushehr plant shutdown began on Saturday and will last for three to four days. Without elaborating, the official said that power outages could result. This is the first time Iran has reported an emergency shutdown of the plant, located in the southern port city of Bushehr. It went online in 2011 with help from Russia. In March this year, nuclear official Mahmoud Jafari said the plant could stop working since Iran cannot procure parts and equipment for it from Russia due to banking sanctions imposed by the US in 2018. Bushehr is fueled by uranium produced in Russia and it is monitored by the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency.
  • The Taliban today said that they were committed to peace talks, adding they wanted a “genuine Islamic system” in Afghanistan that would make provisions for women’s rights in line with cultural traditions and religious rules. The statement came amid slow progress in the talks between the hardline Islamic group and Afghan government representatives in Qatar. Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the head of the Taliban’s political office said that Taliban understands that the world and Afghans have queries and questions about the form of the system to be established following withdrawal of foreign troops. He said that ‘facilities would be provided’ for women to work and be educated. The violence has risen dramatically around Afghanistan ahead of the withdrawal of foreign forces by September 11.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (June 20, 2021)

  • Assam to apply population norms to government schemes
  • NGT closes proceedings against Mekedatu dam project; It finds merit in Karnataka government’s submission
  • No rise in black money in Swiss banks; Customer deposits had fallen from 2019-end
  • IAF ready for China challenge; Air Force played a crucial role in fight against COVID-19
  • Doval, Pak. NSA to attend SCO meet in Dushanbe next week; No meeting scheduled between the two officials
  • J&K delimitation panel begins work; Panel seeks basic demographic, topographic information
  • Judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi wins Iran presidency; Mohsen Rezai came second
  • WHO officially announces the end of Guinea’s second Ebola outbreak
  • Myanmar coup: UN calls for arms embargo against military

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

  • Assam will apply population norms to all government schemes soon. Whether it is waiver of loans or government schemes, we are going to implement the population norms in the near future. The condition would initially not apply to people from the tea garden community, the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.
  • The National Green Tribunal has closed proceedings against the Mekedatu dam project after finding merit in the Karnataka government’s submissions that requisite environmental clearances were pending consideration before the statutory authorities concerned. The observations came when the green panel took suo motu cognizance of media reports on allegations of violations of environmental norms in the construction of the dam.
  • The Finance Ministry has asserted that “there does not appear to be any significant possibility” of an increase in Swiss bank deposits from undeclared incomes from Indians, but has requested Swiss authorities to provide the relevant facts and possible reasons for changes in deposit numbers. The Ministry, reacting to reports of Indians stashing  away more funds in Swiss banks through 2020, claimed customer deposits had actually fallen from the end of 2019.
  • India’s security preparedness was in full swing in view of China’s posturing in the Galwan region and the changing geopolitical situation in neighbouring countries such as Afghanistan, Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria said. The deployment of forces would be based on the ground level need, which was being monitored closely. Continuation of deployment of forces post Galwan would depend on the varying situation.
  • National Security Adviser Ajit Doval is expected to attend a meeting of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in Dushanbe, Tajikistan next week, which Pakistan’s NSA Moeed Yusuf will attend as well, officials in Delhi and Islamabad confirmed. The NSA level meeting will be held on June 23, preceded by a Senior Officials Meeting on June 22. In addition to other security concerns to be discussed, the security officials will set the course for the annual Regional Anti Terror Structure mechanism joint exercises by SCO member troops, to be held in Pakistan this year, where Indian troops are due to attend.
  • The Delimitation Commission for the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir has kicked off the exercise by writing to all 20 District Commissioners, seeking basic demographic, topographic information as well as the local administration’s impressions of political aspirations of the district. According to government sources, the letter went out to all DCs in the first week of June. While the Commission asked for a response within two days, it was sent off, by all DCs, at the end of the week. The Commission was set up in February-March 2020 to delineate Assembly and parliamentary constituencies, and was given a year’s extension last March.
  • Iran’s hard-line judiciary chief won a landslide victory on Saturday in the country’s presidential election, a vote that both propelled the supreme leader’s protégé into Tehran’s highest civilian position and saw the lowest turnout in the Islamic Republic’s history. The election of Ebrahim Raisi, already sanctioned by the U.S. in part over his involvement in the mass execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988, became more of a coronation after his strongest competition found themselves disqualified from running.
  • The United Nations has issued a rare call to halt arms sales to Myanmar in response to this year’s violent military coup. The General Assembly adopted a resolution condemning the military junta, which overthrew the country’s elected government in February. The UN also called for the release of political detainees, such as elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and an end to violence against peaceful protesters. While not legally binding, the resolution is politically significant. UN Special Envoy on Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener told the General Assembly that the risk of a large-scale civil war is real, time is of the essence.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (June 19, 2021)

  • Twitter grilled by MPs over violation of new IT rules
  • India, 3 EU nations begin naval exercise in the Gulf of Aden
  • Turkey to secure Kabul airport; Biden agrees to provide certain forms of U.S. support
  • S&P lifts ICICI Bank’s rating outlook to stable; Agency says stake sales to help lender
  • India’s unemployment rate declines to 8.7% as Covid restriction ease
  • India and Bhutan ink Memorandum of Understanding for developing cooperation between two countries in area of environment
  • RBI to grant in-principle approval to Centrum Financial Services Ltd to set up Small Finance Bank
  • Bangladesh improves 7 notches in Global Peace Index 2021

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

  • Twitter was at the receiving end of prolonged questioning by members of the Standing Committee of Information & Technology, headed by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, on non-compliance with the new IT rules, usage of the ‘manipulated media’ tag and fact checking. Recently, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology(MeitY) had served one last notice to Twitter, asking it to immediately comply with the new IT rules and warned that failure to adhere to the norms would learn to the platform losing exemption from liability under the IT Act.
  • The maiden Indian Navy and European Union Naval Force (EUNAVFOR) exercise began in the Gulf of Aden on Friday. Five warships from four navies are participating in the two day exercise. INS Trikand is participating in the exercise, along with Italy’s ITS Carabinerre, the Spanish Navy’s ESPS Navarra, and FS Tonnerre and FS Surcouf of France.
  • President Joe Biden and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan agreed in a meeting this week that Turkey would take a lead role in securing Kabul airport as the United States withdraws troops from Afghanistan, U.S. National Security Adviser said on Friday. However, the two leaders were not able to resolve the long-standing issue of Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 defence systems, Mr. Sullivan said, a bitter dispute that strained ties between the NATO allies.
  • S&P Global Ratings on Friday said it has revised the rating outlook on ICICI Bank Ltd. to stable from negative on grounds that the lender will benefit from the sale of stake in subsidiaries. The rating agency affirmed its ‘BBB-’ long-term and ‘A-3’ short-term issuer credit ratings of ICICI Bank.
  • India and Bhutan have inked a Memorandum of Understanding for developing cooperation between two countries in the area of environment. The MoU was signed virtually by Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar from the Indian side and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Chairperson of the National Environment Commission Lyonpo Dr. Tandi Dorji from the Bhutanese side. The MoU is a platform to further enhance Indian and Bhutanese partnership and support, exchange best practices in areas like prevention of Air Pollution, Waste Management, Chemical Management and Climate Change. It also provides the possibility to have joint projects in areas of mutual interest. The MoU will also strengthen technological, scientific and management capabilities and expand the areas of cooperation in the field of environment to promote a mutually beneficial partnership between the two countries.
  • Reserve Bank of India (RBI) today decided to grant in-principle approval to Centrum Financial Services Limited to set up a Small Finance Bank. This in-principle approval has been accorded in specific pursuance to the expression of centrum financial services limited’s offer dated February 1, 2021. The RBI Circular said, the approval has been accorded in response to the notification dated 30 November 2020 published by the Punjab & Maharashtra Cooperative Bank (PMC) bank.
  • Bangladesh improved its position by 7 notches in the Global Peace Index 2021 compiled by the Institute of Economics and Peace (IEP) based in Sydney, Australia. In its 15th edition ranking 163 countries according to their level of peacefulness, the Index placed Bangladesh at 91st position compared to 98th last year. Bangladesh has scored an overall score of 2.68 making it the third most peaceful country in South Asia placed behind Bhutan and Nepal. Afghanistan has been ranked as the least peaceful country in the South Asian region. However, the index has placed Bangladesh in the category of countries with a positive peace deficit which means that the countries are likely to face increasing levels of violence over the next decade. Globally, Iceland was on the top of the peace index followed by New Zealand, Denmark and Portugal. Out of the 10 most peaceful countries in the world, 8 are from Europe.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (June 18, 2021)

  • Rules regulating cable TV network amended; Three level grievance redressal mechanism provided
  • Centre opens 14 disability early intervention centres
  • Chinese astronauts dock with new space station
  • Indian IT on track to hit revenue goal : Nasscom; Sector continues to be net job creator
  • Indian Coast Guard on vigilance as oil spill reported from Haldia-bound Portuguese flag container ship
  • National Covid-19 recovery rate increases to 96.03 percent; Daily recoveries outnumber new cases for 36th consecutive day
  • PM Modi’s vision of Tuberculosis-Free India will be achieved by 2025, assures Dr Harsh Vardhan
  • Government aims to reduce road accident deaths by 50 % by 2024

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

  • The Information and Broadcasting Ministry on Thursday amended the rules regulating cable television networks, providing for a statutory mechanism for complaints raised by citizens regarding any content broadcast. At present, there are over 900 TV Channels that are required to comply with the Programme and Advertising Code laid down by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting under the Cable Television Network Rules, 2021, provides for a three-level grievance redressal mechanism – self-regulation by broadcasters, self-regulation by broadcasters, and oversight by an Inter-Departmental Committee at the level of the Centre.
  • The Union Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry on Thursday launched 14 cross disability early intervention centres across the country to provide support to infants and young children at risk of or with disabilities. Union Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thawarchand Gehlot virtually inaugurated the centres that are located at seven national institutes and seven composite regional centres of the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities.
  • The first group of Chinese astronauts on Thursday entered the country’s under-construction space station, a major step in China’s plans to have a fully functioning station by next year. On Thursday afternoon, the Shenzhou-12 spaceship, carrying the three astronauts, completed an “automated rendezvous and docking” with the Tianhe module, the China Manned Space Agency said, adding this signified that for the first time the Chinese have entered their own space station.  
  • The Indian IT industry is on track to meet its vision of $300-350 billion in revenue by 2025, given strong deal pipelines and a bright business outlook, industry association Nasscom said on Thursday.
  • Indian Coast Guard is on vigilance as oil spill has been reported from Haldia-bound Portuguese flag container ship. It received information from Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre, Colombo in late hours of Wednesday about a mid-sea oil spill about 450 kms South East of Chennai. On further investigation, it was found that a Portuguese flag Container ship MV Devon, on passage from Colombo to Haldia, West Bengal, developed an underwater crack in the fuel tank containing about 120 KL of Very Low Sulphur Fuel Oil. The crack resulted in spillage of about 10 KL of oil into the sea before preventive action was taken and remaining oil in tank was transferred to another tank by the ship’s crew. The vessel is carrying 10,795 tonnes of general cargo in 382 containers and manned by 17 crew. The ship is continuing its voyage to Haldia and likely to reach today.
  • Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of Tuberculosis-Free India will be achieved by 2025. Chairing a High-Level Meet yesterday with Corporates to discuss Voluntary Crowd-Funding for treatment of patients suffering from Rare Diseases, Dr Harsh Vardhan said, TB will be eliminated in the same expeditious manner as Polio. Dr. Harsh Vardhan also enumerated the different steps taken by the government in facilitating creation of an environment which promotes research and development of diagnostic and therapeutic interventions for rare diseases within the country. He also mentioned about the National Digital Portal for Crowd-Funding created by Health Ministry that will enable donors from various sections of the society to take care of patients suffering from rare diseases.
  • Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari yesterday said, Government’s target is to reduce road accident deaths by 50 percent by 2024. Addressing virtual session on ‘Role of Corporates in Arresting Road Fatalities’ organised by FICCI, Mr Gadkari congratulated FICCI on the announcement of Road Safety consortium ‘Safar’ and release of a white paper on road safety for the corporate world. The Minister emphasised the need for identification of ‘black spot’ in every state, district and city. He said that the World Bank and ADB have already sanctioned a scheme by which the Government is allocating 14,000 crore rupees for states, NHAI and other stakeholders to remove black spots.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (June 17, 2021)

  • Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs gives nod for additional fertilizer subsidy
  • With Cabinet nod, India to launch deep ocean mission
  • In six months, trans ID portal has issued 1,500 certificates
  • Cabinet approval for Ordinance Factory Board corporatisation
  • Rajnath calls for open Indo-Pacific; India supports freedom of navigation in these international waterways
  • Israel strikes Hamas sites in Gaza over incendiary balloons
  • India extends $100 million loan to Sri Lanka; It will help in solar power coverage
  • European Union agreed additional sanctions on Belarus
  • No radiation leak from nuclear plant : Beijing
  • India to have 330 million 5G connections by 2026; 4G count to touch 830 million

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

  • The Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs has approved the proposal to hike subsidy rates for phosphorus and potassium-based fertilizers by 140% in a bid to provide relief to farmers as the kharif sowing season begins. The estimated additional subsidy burden is around Rs. 14,775 crore, with the Centre emphasising that this is a one-time measure as part of COVID-19 relief.
  • The Union Cabinet has approved the long-pending deep ocean mission, which among other things involves developing a submersible vehicle that will allow a crew to plunge 6,000 metres into the ocean and hunt the floor for precious metals. If this works, India will be among a handful of countries able to launch an underwater mission at such depth. The Ministry of Earth Sciences(MoES) will be the Nodal Ministry implementing this multi-institutional mission.
  • Just over six months after it was launched, the Centre’s national portal for issuing certificates of identity to transgender persons has issued 1,557 certificates as of Wednesday, according to Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry data. Among the issues related to the portal raised by trans activists was the language barrier.
  • Addressing a long pending reform, the Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved a plan to corporatize the Ordinance Factory Board(OFB), which has 41 factories, into seven fully government owned corporate entities on the lines of Defence Public Sector Undertakings. Once implemented, the OFB, the establishment of which was accepted by the British in 1775, will cease to exist.
  • India hoped that the code of conduct for South China Sea, being negotiated between the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China, would lead to outcomes in line with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea(UNCLOS) and did not prejudice the legitimate rights and interests of nations that were not party to these discussions, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh yesterday. China and ASEAN have set a target of end-2021 to finalise the code of conduct.
  • Israel carried out air strikes on the Gaza strip early on Wednesday after militants in the Palestinian territory sent incendiary balloons into the south of the country, in the first flare-up between the two sides since a major conflict killed hundreds last month. The strikes were the first under the new coalition government headed by Naftali Bennett.
  • The European Union agreed additional sanctions on Belarus on Wednesday in response to the forced landing of a Ryanair flight in Minsk and the arrest of a dissident journalist on board in May. The sanctions target seven individuals with links to the Belarus aviation sector, according to the diplomat.  
  • A Chinese nuclear power plant near Hong Kong had five broken fuel rods in a reactor but no radioactivity leaked, the government said on Wednesday in its first confirmation of the incident that prompted concern over the facility’s safety. Radiation rose inside the No. 1 reactor of the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant in Guangdong province by barriers that functioned as planned, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment said.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (June 16, 2021)

  • AY.1 not a variant of concern yet : Centre; Found in Maharashtra, A.P., Telangana
  • Despite assurance, Twitter yet to appoint compliance officer
  • India’s per-capita carbon dioxide emission is lowest amongst big economies: Government
  • All centrally-protected monuments, sites & museums under ASI reopen today
  • PM Modi addresses UN High-Level Dialogue; Says India is working towards restoring 2.6 crore hectares of degraded land by 2030
  • U.S. moves to tackle domestic tourism; It announces national strategy regarding the same
  • U.S. – Russia ties are at an impasse : Kremlin official; Biden and Putin will meet today
  • Taiwan reports largest incursions by Chinese forces
  • Inflation spurs spike in bond yield; rupee hits 1-month low

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

  • India yesterday formally acknowledged the occurrence of AY.1, a coronavirus variant that is closely related to the prevailing Delta variant. AY.1 or B.1.617.2.1, has a mutation called K417N that is linked to high infectivity and has been associated with the Beta variant, first identified in South Africa. Evidence of AY.1 had been found in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana, and Karnataka.
  • Despite its assurance to the government on June 5 to provide details of a chief compliance officer(COO) within a week, microblogging platform Twitter has failed to do so thus far. Due to non-compliance with the new IT rules, Twitter may no longer be classified as an intermediary, and there will be no separate order from the government on this. By losing its intermediary status, the U.S.-headquartered social media platform can now be held liable for any content posted by any user on its platform.
  • Union Minister Piyush Goyal has said that India’s per-capita carbon dioxide emission is the lowest amongst big economies. He said the ambitious renewable energy target of 450 Gigawatts by 2030 shows India’s commitment towards the United Nations 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals. Speaking at the UN Trade Forum 2021, he said that Climate justice should be protected and developed countries should reconsider their pattern of consumption and focus on sustainable lifestyles. The Minister said India has taken many bold steps on clean energy, energy efficiency, afforestation and bio-diversity. India has also encouraged global initiatives like International Solar Alliance and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure. Mr Goyal called for decoupling the Trade policy and Green goals. He said that trade policy should look for more inclusive growth all over the world.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said three million hectares of forest cover has been added in India over the last ten years. He said this has enhanced the combined forest cover to almost one fourth of the country’s total area. The Prime Minister was virtually addressing a UN ‘High-Level Dialogue on Desertification, Land Degradation & Drought’. He stated that India is on track to achieve national commitment of land degradation neutrality. The Prime Minister spoke at the Opening Segment in his capacity as the President of the 14th Session of the Conference of Parties of United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.
  • He listed steps taken by India to deal with the land degradation issue. He said that India has taken the lead to highlight land degradation issues at international forums. The Prime Minister conveyed that India is on track to achieve its national commitment of Land degradation neutrality. He said India is also working towards restoring 26 million hectares of degraded land by 2030. This will contribute to India’s commitment to achieve an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.The U.S. government on Tuesday unveiled its national strategy to fight domestic tourism, an issue that is a priority for President Joe Biden after the assault on Congress in January and the rise of white nationalist extremists. The government’s plan is, however, ideologically neutral and consists of four pillars that focus on prevention, interruption and dissuasion, while preserving individual freedoms.
  • A top aide to Vladimir Putin said U.S.-Russia relations are at an impasse but this week’s summit with Joe Biden in Switzerland could help ease tensions. There are tensions high over a long list of disputes, from cyberattacks and election meddling to human rights violations.
  • As many as 28 Chinese air force aircraft, including fighters and nuclear-capable bombers, entered Taiwan’s air defence identification zone(ADIZ) on Tuesday, the island’s government said. It is the largest reported incursion to date. Taiwan has complained over the last few months of repeated missions by China’s air force near the self-ruled island, concentrated in the southwestern part of its air defence zone near the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands.
  • India’s benchmark 10-year bond yield closed at its highest level in more than six weeks while the rupee ended at a one-month low on the back of a larger than expected surge in retail inflation. The benchmark 10-year bond yield ended at 6.04%, after touching 6.05%, its highest since April 30 and up 4 basis points on the day.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (June 15, 2021)

  • G7 accommodates Indian stand on need for Internet curbs
  • Retail inflation soars to 6.3%, a 6-month high; WPI soars to a record 12.94% in May
  • Indian Army successfully conducts trial runs of military trains loaded with vehicles and equipment on dedicated freight corridor
  • China, India, Pakistan expanding nuclear arsenal: says SIPRI Report
  • Centre lists food schemes for migrant labourers, States responsible for distribution : Government
  • At NATO meet, Biden vows to defend Europe; He calls it a ‘sacred obligation’ of U.S.
  • EU resolution puts spotlight on Sri Lanka’s rights situation
  • Novavax announces efficacy of about 90% for its vaccine

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

  • Internet freedoms are subject to national security, as per government sources, claiming that India’s tough negotiations on the joint communique issued by G7 and Guest Countries at the session on Open Societies had ensured that the original language criticizing “Internet shutdowns” was amended to include New Delhi’s concerns. The explanation came after the ‘G7 and Guest Countries : 2021 Open Societies Statement’ referred to “politically motivated internet shutdowns”, which indirectly addresses Internet blackouts in various parts of the world including India.
  • Rising fuel and edible oil costs sent India’s wholesale prices inflation soaring to a record 12.94% in May, up from 10.5% in April, and nudged retail inflation to a six-month high of 6.3%, going past the central bank’s tolerance threshold of 6%. Rating agency ICRA reckoned that core inflation(without factoring in food and fuel prices) also hit an 83-month high of 6.6%.
  • The Indian Army has successfully conducted trial runs of military trains loaded with vehicles and equipment on the dedicated freight corridor. The trial run which was done yesterday with an aim to hasten mobilisation of Indian Army in future ferried heavy equipment from New Rewari station in Haryana to New Phulera in Rajasthan. It added that these trials were part of the “Whole of the Nation Approach” for optimising national resources and achieving seamless synergy among various ministries and departments.
  • China is in the middle of a significant modernisation and expansion of its nuclear weapon inventory, and India and Pakistan also appear to be expanding their nuclear arsenals, according to Swedish think tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute(SIPRI) Year Book 2021 released on Monday. The overall number of warheads in global military stockpiles now appears to be increasing, a worrisome sign that has characterized global nuclear arsenals since the end of the Cold War has installed.
  • The Centre on Monday informed the Supreme Court that the States and the Union Territories have purchased nearly 3.7 lakh tonnes of food grains at concessional rates from the Food Corporation of India this year to supply to migrants without ration cards and others outside the protective cover of the National Food Security Act (NFSA), debunking apprehensions raised in court that those without ration cards may be left to die amid a devastating pandemic.
  • U.S. President Joe Biden told fellow NATO leaders on Monday the defence of Europe, Turkey and Canada was a sacred obligation for the United States, a marked shift from his predecessor Donald Trump’s threat to withdraw from the military alliance. Allies are expected to brand China a security risk to the Western alliance for the first time, a day after the Group of Seven rich nations issued a statement on human rights in China and Taiwan that Beijing said slandered its reputation.
  • A recent resolution adopted by the European Parliament, urging the EU Commission to consider temporary withdrawal of the GSP+ status given to Sri Lanka, has put the spotlight back on Sri Lanka’s human rights situation, prompting Colombo to defend its multifaceted progress in its response. Sri Lanka regained the GSP+, or the EU’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences in 2017, on Colombo’s commitment to implement 27 international conventions on human rights, labour conditions on human rights, labour conditions, protection of the environment and good governance. The status effectively removes import duties on goods from Sri Lanka entering the EU.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (June 14, 2021)

  • Fight against authoritarianism, extremism, says PM at G7 meet
  • MHA order inviting citizenship applications faces SC challenge
  • No greater risk to children from anticipated third wave of COVID : Report
  • Only 3.5% of population is fully vaccinated so far; India continues to report highest number of cases
  • Tree of coffee family discovered in Andaman and Nicobar; Pyrostria laljii is the first record of genus Pyrostria in India
  • Israel coalition set to end Netanyahu era; Naftali Bennett will take over as Prime Minister
  • Can extradite cyber criminals to U.S. only on reciprocal basis
  • Rare earth metals at the heart of China-U.S. rivalry; Beijing’s dominance is a cause of concern for the West

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

  • India is a natural ally to work with the world’s richest G7 countries to fight against threats of authoritarianism, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi, speaking at a special outreach session for guest countries on “Open Societies and Open Economies” at the G7 summit that ended in Corbis Bay, U.K., on Sunday. MEA officials said Chinese aggression was not raised at the outreach meetings with guest countries Australia, South Korea and South Africa, and that there are “other forums” where it is being discussed. G7 to donate 1 billion vaccine doses to developing nations, G7 to Build Back Better World alternative infrastructure initiative to counter China’s BRI. It reaffirms tax deal for global minimum corporate tax rates.
  • A May 28 order of the Ministry of Home Affairs(MHA) inviting non-Muslim refugees such as Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists belonging to Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan residing in 13 districts of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, Chhattisgarh and Punjab to apply for Indian citizenship is increasingly becoming the focus of challenge before the Supreme Court. The petitioners argued that the May 28 order does not withstand the test of Article 14 in as much as it treats people within a particular class, or persons entitled to apply for citizenship by registration and naturalisation, unequally by virtue of their religion.
  • There is no evidence so far to conclude that children face a greater risk of infection or are at greater from a COVID-19 infection from an anticipated third wave, according to a report from The Lancet COVID-19 Commission India Task Force. The group was tasked with examining the evidence and recommending practical clinical tools and strategies for providers, and guidance for policymakers and the public to effectively address COVID-19 in children. Mortality rate among the hospitalised COVID-19 positive children below 10 was 2.4%. The observations were similar during the two surges of COVID-19 infections in India.
  • A 15-metre-tall tree that belongs to the genus of the coffee family has recently been discovered from the Andaman islands by a team of researchers from India and the Philippines. The new species, Pyrostria laljii, is also the first record of the genus Pyrostria in India, the researchers said. Plants belonging to genus Pyrostria are usually found in Madagascar, but the recently discovered species is new to science.
  • Israel is set to swear in a new government on Sunday that will send Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu into the opposition after a record 12 years in office and a political crisis that sparked four elections in two years. Naftali Bennett, the head of a small ultranationalist party, will take over as Prime Minister but if he wants to keep the job, he will have to maintain an unwieldly coalition of parties from the political right, left and centre.
  • President Vladimir Putin has said Russia would be ready to hand over cyber criminals to the United States if Washington did the same for Moscow and the two powers reached an agreement to that effect.
  • What if China were to cut off the U.S. and Europe from access to rare minerals that are essential to electric vehicles, wind turbines and drones? At a time of frequent geopolitical friction among those three powers, Washington and Brussels want to avoid this scenario by investing in the market for 17 minerals with unique properties that today are largely extracted and refined in China. In 2019, the U.S. imported 80% of its rare earth minerals from China, the U.S. Geological Survey says. The EU gets 98% of its supply from China, the European Commission said last year.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (June 13, 2021)

  • GST brought down on 14 COVID relief goods; Council leaves the 5% tax levied on vaccines unchanged
  • Breach exposes government officials’ data to hackers; IDs on @nic.in, @gov.in compromised
  • New declassification policy gets nod; Cases like 1962 war will be taken up on case by case basis
  • Coast Guard inducts three ALH Mk-III helicopters
  • ‘Operation Olivia’ to the rescue of Olive Ridleys; The Coast Guard helps enforce laws to protect turtles
  • G7 leaders take on China, plan to stop new pandemics
  • British PM warns EU over post-Brexit trade in Northern Ireland
  • Security of airports, embassies Afghan responsibility : Taliban
  • CAIT urges CCI probe against Amazon, Flipkart; Group writes to Goyal after HC ruling

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

  • The Goods and Services Tax(GST) Council on Saturday decided to waive the tax levied on two critical drugs against the COVID-19 and mucormycosis – tocilizumab and amphotericin B – and reset the tax rate to 5% for 14 major pandemic relief items, till September 30. The 5% GST levied on vaccines was left unchanged, following the recent changes in the country’s vaccine procurement strategy that puts the Union government in charge of augmenting supplies.
  • Emails and passwords of hundreds of Union government officials have been exposed to hackers due to the recent data breaches of Air India, Domino’s and Bigbasket, the government has warned officials. The compromised emails on government domains such as @nic.in and @gov.in are potential cyber threats as they are being used by adversaries to send malicious mails to all government users.
  • Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday approved a policy on archiving, declassification, compilation and publication of war and operations histories by the Ministry of Defence(MoD). However, declassification of older wars like the 1962 war is not automatic and will be taken up on a case by case basis by a committee to be constituted under the policy. According to the policy, records should ordinarily be declassified in 25 years. Records older than 25 years should be appraised by archival experts and transferred to the National Archives of India once the war/operations histories have been committed.
  • The Coast Guard on Saturday inducted the first batch of three Advanced Light Helicopters(ALH) Mk-III designed and manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. The ALH Mk-III marine version has been designed and developed with inhouse customisation of 19 additional equipment by HAL to meet Coast Guard requirements. The HAL will supply 16 ALH Mk-III to the ICG by mid next year.
  • Every year, the Indian Coast Guard’s “Operation Olivia”, initiated in the early 1980s, helps protect Olive Ridley turtles as they congregate along the Odisha coast for breeding and nesting from November to December. The Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys Olivacea) is listed as vulnerable under the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List. All five species of sea turtles found in India are included in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and in the Appendix I of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which prohibits trade in turtle products by signatory countries.
  • The G7 on Saturday unveiled U.S.-led plans to counter China in infrastructure funding for poorer nations, and a new accord to prevent future pandemics, as the elite group sought to showcase Western unity at its first in person summit since 2019. Their “Build Back Better World” (B3W) project is aimed at competing with China’s trillion-dollar Belt and Road infrastructure initiative, which has been widely criticized for saddling countries with unmanageable debt but has included even G7 member Italy since launching in 2013.
  • U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday warned Europe he would suspend a deal for post-Brexit trading arrangements in Northern Ireland unless a solution could be found to a row over border checks. Brussels has been angered by London’s failure to introduce checks on goods heading across the Irish Sea from the mainland U.K. – England, Scotland and Wales – to the province of Northern Ireland.
  • A day after the Karnataka High Court dismissed the plea by Amazon and Flipkart on the investigation ordered by CCI against them for alleged violation of provisions of competition laws, traders body CAIT on Saturday urged Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal to direct CCI to immediately initiate the proceedings. In a communication to the Minister, the Confederation of All India Traders also asked for immediate issuance of a fresh press note of the FDI policy for e-commerce sector with a monitoring mechanism to ensure that law of the land prevails and no one violates it.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (June 11 & 12, 2021)

  • Nagaland to form panel on Naga issue; Panel is expected to meet on June 19
  • Government agencies can analyse WhatsApp chats, NCB tells HC
  • Biden, Johnson seek to sign ‘new Atlantic Charter’
  • Delta variant is taking hold of Europe : WHO; People are urged to travel wisely
  • G7 to pledge 1 billion vaccine shots for world; US commits 500 mn doses while Britain commits 100 mn
  • IIP edged up 0.08% in April from same month in 2019

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

  • The Nagaland government has decided to institute a committee comprising Opposition leaders to pursue the lingering Naga peace agreement and the Naga political issue with the Centre. The panel, headed by Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, is expected to meet on June 19 in Dimapur to discuss the way forward, as the Naga agreement remains elusive.
  • WhatsApp chats, which are end-to-end encrypted, can be analysed by government organizations, the Narcotics Control Bureau recently told the Punjab and Haryana High Court. NCB stated that the entire WhatsApp chat of the accuses was end-to-end encrypted, it could not be opened by the agency, which was constrained to send it to forensic specialists for its “opening and analysis”.
  • President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met for the first time on Thursday, looking tp highlight their nations’ famed special relationship but doing so against a backdrop of differences both political and personal. At their first meeting, the two leaders inspected documents related to the Atlantic Charter, a declaration signed in August 1941, setting out common goals included freer trade, disarmament and the right to self-determination of all people. The two leaders plan to sign what they’re calling a new Atlantic Charter, pledging to defend the principles, values and institutions of democracy and open societies.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (June 10, 2021)

  • Centre announces hike in MSP for paddy, pulses, oilseeds
  • Shun vaccine nationalism, says UNGA president-elect
  • U.S. Senate passes huge innovation Bill; It seeks to promote tech research to counter growing economic threat from China
  • DRDO proposes to offer ToT of 2-DG to Indian Pharma industries for production
  • Government approves allotment of 5 MHz Spectrum in 700 MHz frequency band to Railways
  • ISRO to assist development projects in Northeast through Space Technology

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

  • The Central government has hiked the minimum support price(MSP) for common paddy to Rs. 1,940 a quintal for the coming kharif season, less than 4% higher than last year’s price of Rs. 1,868. The decision was taken by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs on Wednesday. In a bid to encourage crop diversification, there were slightly higher increases in the MSP for pulses, oilseeds and coarse cereals. 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 the farmers.
  • Vaccine nationalism would destroy countries’ efforts to eradicate the pandemic and must be avoided at all costs, UNGA President Abdullah Shahid said. Terming the disparity in vaccination coverage in developed countries and the rest of the world “unacceptable”, he said, No one is safe until everyone is safe.
  • The U.S. Senate passed a sweeping Industrial Policy Bill on Tuesday aimed at countering the surging economic threat from the rival China, overcoming divisions to support pumping more than $170 billion into research and development.
  • The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has proposed to offer Transfer of Technology (ToT) of 2-DG to Indian Pharmaceutical industries for production. Industry may apply for Expression of Interest up to 17th of this month. DRDO which developed 2-Deoxy-D- Glucose (2-DG), a drug used for treatment of COVID-19 patients, has called for Expression of Interest (EoI) to transfer the technology. 2-DG was developed by the Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Allied Sciences (INMAS), a lab of DRDO, in collaboration with Dr Reddy’s Laboratories.
  • The Union Cabinet has approved an allotment of 5 Megahertz Spectrum in 700 MHz frequency band to Indian Railways for public safety and security services at stations and in trains. With this spectrum, Railways has envisaged to provide Long Term Evolution, LTE-based Mobile Train Radio Communication on its route. The estimated investment in the project is more than Rs 25,000 crore and it will be completed in the next five years. The purpose of the LTE for Railways is to provide secure and reliable voice, video and data communication services for operational, safety and security applications. It will be used for modern signalling and train protection systems and ensure seamless communication between loco pilots and guards. Briefing reporters in New Delhi after the Cabinet meeting, Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said, this will enhance safety and security of train operations.
  • Union Minister Dr. Jitendra Singh said that Indian Space Research Organisation, ISRO, will assist development projects in the Northeast through Space Technology. He said, ISRO will contribute by offering optimum utilization of Satellite Imaging and other Space Technology applications for better accomplishment of infrastructural projects in all the eight states of the North Eastern Region.  Chairing a high-level meeting with senior officers of the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region and ISRO scientists, the Minister said that six out of the eight states of Northeast have already sent their specific proposals for execution by ISRO. The remaining two states, Sikkim and Assam, will send their proposals soon.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (June 09, 2021)

  • Rengma Nagas demand autonomous council amid a decision to upgrade KAAC into a territorial council
  • Rajnath Singh lauds India-Sweden ties in defence production
  • President appoints former IAS officer Anup Chandra Pandey as EC
  • JNU enters list of top 1000 universities; IIT-Bombay ranks the highest in India
  • China : BRICS opposes exceptionalism; Beijing emphasises on multilateralism
  • China offers ASEAN nations support on vaccines; Seeks closer economic ties to offset maritime disputes
  • World Bank sees India growing by 8.3%; Pegs global growth at 5.6%

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

  • The Rengma Nagas in Assam have written to Union Home Minister demanding an autonomous district council amid a decision by the Central and the State governments to upgrade the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council into a territorial council. The Rengma Naga Peoples’ Council, a registered body, said in the memorandum that the Rengmas were the first tribal people in Assam to have encountered the British in 1839, but the existing Rengma Hills was eliminated from the political map of the State and replaced with that of Mikir Hills in 1951.
  • There is a lot of scope for Swedish and Indian defence industries for co-production and co-development and Indian industry can also supply components to Swedish industries, said by Defence Minister. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed during the event between Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers and Swedish Security and Defence Industry Association to promote bilateral defence industrial relations.
  • Jawaharlal Nehru University has entered the top 1,000 of the QS World University rankings for the first time, as its new undergraduate engineering programme now makes it eligible for the rating. It debuted at the 561-570 ranking band in the rankings, which only rate institutions offering both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. Overall, there are 22 Indian institutions in the top 1,000 list compared to 21 last year.
  • China on Monday sought to frame a joint statement from the Foreign Ministers of the BRICS, who met virtually week, as standing in opposition to what Beijing has increasingly hit out at “bloc politics” from the United States and the West. Beijing emphasises on multilateralism. Beijing added that the focus should be on inclusivity of global governance, inclusive consultant and collaboration, more responsive multi lateral organisation and on innovative and inclusive solutions.
  • China on Tuesday offered ASEAN countries its vaccines as well as closer cooperation on joint vaccine development and production, as it hosted 10 Foreign Ministers from the SouthEast Asian grouping. The meeting comes as China looks to deepen its economic ties with the region as well as push back at what it sees as a renewed effort at regional engagement from the new Biden administration in the U.S. in particular, as well from the India-Australia-Japan-U.S. Quad grouping, which earlier this year came out with a regional vaccine initiative.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (June 07 & 08, 2021)

  • Punjab, T.N. and Kerala top education index ranking; Gujarat loses ground in grading of school education
  • More anti-bodies produced by Covishield than Covaxin : Study
  • CFTRI working on probiotic food to protect children prone to third wave of Covid infection
  • Govt issues revised guidelines for implementation of National COVID Vaccination Programme
  • Nepal Deputy PM stirs controversy with demand for ‘multi-nation state’
  • India says, world is combatting another serious emerging challenge of fugitive economic offenders
  • India elected to UN Economic and Social Council for term 2022-24
  • Maldives wins UNGA election, India seeks close cooperation

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

  • Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Kerala have all scored higher than 90% in the Education Ministry’s Performance Grading Index for 2019-20, which was released on Sunday. The index monitors the progress that the States and Union Territories have made in school education with regard to learning outcomes, access and equity, infrastructure and facilities, and governance and management processes.
  • The Central Food Technological Research Institute is a CSIR lab in Mysuru which is working in the direction of developing food that can boost immunity and prevent diseases. The probiotic food being developed by CFTRI is rich in vitamin A,C,D and E with micro-nutrients necessary to combat infections. They keep harmful bacteria and viruses in check.
  • The Central Government will procure 75 per cent of the COVID vaccines produced by the vaccine manufacturers. Procured vaccines would be provided free of cost to States and Union Territories. These doses would be administered to all citizens free of cost in Government Vaccination Centres across the country. In the revised guidelines, it is stated that vaccine doses will be allocated to States and Union Territories based on criteria such as population, disease burden and the progress of vaccination. It has been said that wastage of vaccines will affect the allocation negatively. It is advised that information about the availability of vaccines at district and vaccination centres must be made available in the public domain to ensure convenience of citizens.
  • Newly appointed Deputy Prime Minister of Nepal Rajendra Mahato has kicked up a controversy soon after taking over on Saturday, saying he is committed to building a ‘multi-nation’ state. He is one of the pioneers of the Madhesi movement which has been demanding greater rights for the people of the plains.
  • India has been elected to the United Nations Economic and Social Council, ECOSOC for the term 2022-24. The ECOSOC is at the centre of the United Nations development system and brings together people and issues to promote collective action for a sustainable world. Permanent Representative of India to United Nations T. S. Tirumurti has thanked all Member States of the United Nations for their vote of confidence in India for ECOSOC.
  • India says, the world is combatting another serious emerging challenge of fugitive economic offenders and their assets flew across the national jurisdictions. Minister for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Dr Jitendra Singh, while addressing United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Corruption said, law empowers authorities for non-conviction-based attachment and confiscation of proceeds of crime, properties and assets of a fugitive economic offender against whom a warrant for arrest in relation to a scheduled offence issued by any court in India.`
  • In a first for the Maldives, Foreign Minister Abdullah Shahid was elected the President of the UN General Assembly for 2021-22, winning 143 votes or nearly three-fourths of the 191 countries that voted in the annual election, while his rival, former Afghanistan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rasoul, won 48. Since, India had already committed its support to Maldives at a time when no other candidate was in the fray, India voted in favour of Maldives.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (June 04, 05 & 06, 2021)

  • Significant progress in SDGs on clean energy, health : NITI index
  • Journalists need protection against sedition charges
  • Disengagement at LAC unfinished, says MEA; No clarity on date of next round of talks
  • Israel coalition reaches deal to form government
  • Delta variant led to most post-vaccine infections in Delhi, say scientists
  • DAC nod for building 6 conventional submarines; Also approved procurement of air defence guns
  • Serum Institute gets DCGI’s nod to produce Sputnik V
  • RBI’s view on cryptocurrency stays, have major concerns : RBI Governor
  • G7 nations agree on uniform minimum corporate tax; MNCs to pay taxes where they operate
  • Pakistan makes progress on terror finance ratings; Development comes ahead of FATF blacklist decision in June

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

  • India saw significant improvement in the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs) related to clean energy, urban development and health in 2020, according to the NITI Aayog’s 2020 SDG Index. However, there has been a major decline in the areas of industry, innovation and infrastructure as well as decent work and economic growth. Although the index shows improvement on the inequality SDGs, the NITI Aayog has omitted key economic indicators used to measure inequality and expenditure last year and given greater weightage to social indicators instead.
  • The Supreme Court on Thursday quashed a sedition case registered against senior journalist and Padma Shri awardee Vinod Dua for his critical remarks against the Prime Minister and the Union government in a YouTube telecast, underscoring its 59-year old verdict that strong words of disapproval about the ruling regime did not amount to sedition.
  • The Ministry of External Affairs(MEA) on Thursday said the process of disengagement along the Line of Actual Control remained unfinished and an early completion of disengagement in the remaining areas could lead to de-escalation of forces in Eastern Ladakh, which would “hopefully” lead to full restoration of peace and tranquility in the border areas.
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s opponents pushed on Thursday for a quick Parliament vote to formally end his lengthy rule, hoping to head off any last-minute attempts to derail their newly announced coalition government. The coalition consists of eight parties from across the political spectrum with little in common except the shared goal of toppling Mr. Netanyahu after a record-setting 12 years in power.
  • The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), headed by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, on Friday approved the issuance of a Request for Proposal(RFP) for the construction of six conventional submarines under Project-751 at an estimated cost of Rs. 43,000 crore. It also approved the procurement of air defence guns and ammunition for the Army at an approximate cost of Rs. 6,000 crore.
  • RBI Governor Shantikanta Das made it clear that the central bank’s view on cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin remains unchanged and it continues to have major concerns on the volatile instruments. The RBI had first come out with a circular on the issue in 2018, cautioning people against investing in cryptocurrencies, that do not have sovereign character.
  • A group of the world’s richest nations reached a landmark deal on Saturday to close cross-border tax loopholes used by some of the world’s biggest companies. The Group of Seven said it would back a minimum global corporation tax rate of at least 15%, and put in place measures to ensure that taxes were paid in the countries where businesses operate.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (June 03, 2021)

  • New IT rules don’t apply to us, Google tells High Court
  • Palestine flays India’s abstention from vote; Fourteen nations kept away from the Human Rights Council resolution
  • UNGA head : India to vote for Maldives; Decision will disappoint Afghanistan
  • China, Pakistan, Afghanistan to hold talks amid U.S. withdrawal
  • Export surge 67% narrowing trade gap; Deficit narrowed to an eight-month low in May helped by a reduction in gold, oil imports
  • Huawei unveils operating system in fight for survival; Move follows U.S. blocking use of Android for firm’s mobiles

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

  • Google told the Delhi High Court on Wednesday that the new Information Technology Rules 2021, which came into effect late last month, did not apply to the U.S.-based tech giant as it was a search engine and not a social media intermediary like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
  • India’s abstention from the latest resolution on the Palestinian issue suppresses human rights of “all people”, Palestine’s Foreign Minister Riad Malki has said. India abstained in the voting on the resolution at the Human Rights Council [HRC] on May 27 that came up against the backdrop of the latest round of conflict between Israel and Gaza strip, the coastal part of the Palestinian territories.
  • India will vote in support of Maldives’ Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid in the election of the President of the United Nations General Assembly next week, a decision which will disappoint another close neighbour, Afghanistan, which has former Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul in the running. The race between the South Asian neighbours for the post, which is being chosen this time from the Asia-Pacific grouping, will be decided in the election on June 7.
  • China on Thursday will chair a meeting of Afghanistan and Pakistan, as Beijing looks to step up its engagement with both Kabul and Islamabad amid the withdrawal of U.S. forces. The trilateral dialogue, started by China, would address “new uncertainties” in the wake of “the unilateral withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces at a critical stage” of the reconciliation process, the Ministry said.
  • Chinese tech giant Huawei introduced its highly anticipated homegrown mobile operating system on Wednesday, opening a new front in its fight for survival in the smartphone arena after the U.S. blocked it from using Android. The company said its new HarmonyOS system is packed with special features and capitalises on growing demand to seamlessly link devices – known as “Internet of Things”.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (June 02, 2021)

  • Give details on scheme for orphaned children, says Supreme Court
  • India Meteorological Department increases monsoon rain outlook to 101%
  • BRICS will help India in fighting COVID-19, says China Minister
  • Vaccination rate is key to lifting lockdowns : ICMR
  • Sri Lanka cargo vessel fire extinguished after two weeks
  • Moody’s cuts GDP forecast; Agency sees economy expanding by 9.3% in FY22 versus earlier estimate of 13.7%
  • Manufacturing PMI slides in May, job losses quicken; Index at 50.8, nears stagnation
  • NBFCs, HFCs feeling heat of second wave : ICRA; Loan overdues are set to increase

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

  • The Union government informed the Supreme Court on Tuesday that the modalities in PM-CARES scheme to fund the education and welfare of children orphaned by the pandemic need to be worked out. The government’s explanation in the court came in response to queries on why the scheme was still not available in the public domain.
  • The India Meteorological Department expects more rain in the monsoon months in the monsoon months of June-September than its April estimate. It said that monsoon rain would be 100% of the Long Period Average of 88 cm.
  • The Foreign Ministers of the BRICS(Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) grouping expressed grave concern with regard to the global COVID-19 pandemic. The Ministers also agreed on reforming the multilateral system, which was the “first time” that such a consensus was reached.
  • The fire abroad a Singapore registered cargo ship off Colombo was finally extinguished after about two weeks following a concerted international operation, the Sri Lankan Navy said yesterday. Flames broke out aboard the vessel on May 20, and spread rapidly after an onboard explosion on May 25, leading to what Sri Lanka’s environmentalists fear could be the country’s worst environmental disaster.
  • India’s manufacturing sector recorded the weakest performance in 10 months in May, with job losses accelerating as order books shrank, according to the HIS Markit Purchasing Managers’ Index(PMI) which slid from 55.5 in April to 50.8 in May.
  • Collections of non banking financial companies have been adversely impacted due to widespread and more stringent lockdowns in May 2021, rating agency ICRA said. With 25%-30% of collection through field operations, loan overdues are set to increase as regular collections and recoveries from overdues were impacted by the more extensive and stringent lockdowns implemented by various states during May 2021.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (June 01, 2021)

  • GDP shrinks by 7.3%; Q4 uptick moderates 2020-21 carnage
  • Supreme Court : It’s time to define limits of sedition
  • High Court : Twitter has to comply with IT Rules
  • Maratha community brought under Economically Weaker Section Quota
  • As births decline, China to allow couples to have third child
  • India’s fiscal deficit narrower than forecast at 9.2%; Customs, excise receipts lift revenue
  • Sharp deterioration in overall business confidence : FICCI

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

  • India’s Gross Domestic Product(GDP) contracted by 7.3% in 2020-21, as per provisional National Income estimates released by the National Statistical Office on Monday, marginally better than the 8% contraction in the economy projected earlier. GDP growth in 2019-20, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, was 4%. The Gross Value Added in the economy shrank 6.2% in 2020-21, compared to a 4.1% rise in the previous year.
  • The Supreme Court said “it is time to define the limits of sedition” even as it protected two Telugu channels from any coercive action by the Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy-led Andhra Pradesh government for their reportage of the COVID-19 pandemic in the state. SC said that they are of the view that the ambit and parameters of the provisions of Sections 124A, 153A and 505 of the Indian Penal Code 1860 would require interpretation, particularly in the context of the right of the electronic and print media to communicate news, information and the rights, even those that may be critical of the prevailing regime in any part of the nation.
  • The Delhi High Court on Monday said Twitter has to comply with the new Information Technology Rules for digital media if they have not been stayed by the court.
  • In a bid to extend relief to the Maratha community in the State, the tripartite Maha Vikas Aghadi(MVA) government in Maharashtra on Monday extended the benefits of reservation for the Economically Weaker Section(EWS) to the Socially and Economically Backward Class(SEBC).
  • China will for the first time allow couples to have a third child, the country’s government said on Monday, in a further relaxation of family planning rules five years after a “two-child policy” largely failed to boost birth rates. The change comes less than three weeks after the release of China’s once-in-a-decade population census that painted an alarming picture of declining births.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (May 30 & 31, 2021)

  • Philippines protests against China’s ‘illegal’ South China Sea presence
  • Biden’s big budget comes with a modest growth outlook for an ageing country
  • Monsoon onset over Kerala delayed : IMD; It is likely to hit State by June 3
  • Assam detention centre frees last foreigner who was declared so in May 2019
  • China’s space station plans gather pace with cargo docking
  • Sri Lanka to sue Singapore vessel owners over pollution
  • Israel, Egypt officials meet in bid to solidify Gaza ceasefire; Permanent truce with Hamas to be discussed

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

  • The Philippines has protested China’s continuing ‘illegal presence and activities’ near an island in the South China Sea held by the South East Asian nations, the Foreign Ministry said on Saturday. Manila lodged the diplomatic protest on Friday over the “incessant deployment, prolonged presence, and illegal activities of Chinese maritime assets and fishing vessels” in the vicinity of Thitu island. It demanded its giant neighbour withdraw the vessels.
  • President Joe Biden’s first budget proposal comes with a big price tag – at $6 trillion, roughly 50% higher than pre-COVID-19 federal spending – but, at least for now, projects a relatively modest long-term lift to the economy, likely reflecting concerns about the ageing U.S. population. The administration’s spending blueprint for the fiscal year ending in September 2022 would increase spending on infrastructure, education and combating climate change.
  • The last ‘foreigner’ has walked out of one of the six detention centres in Assam, leaving about 170 more to be released from the other five. Mahindra Das was tagged a ‘D-voter’ in 2015 and later declared a ‘foreigner’ in a one-sided decision by a Foreigners’ Tribunal in 2019. He was lodged in the detention centre within Silchar Central Jail in southern Assam’s Barak Valley.
  • China took another step towards completing the construction of its first place station by the end of next year following the launch and docking of a cargo spacecraft early on Sunday. The Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft, described by China’s state media as “the delivery guy for China’s space station”, was launched late on Saturday on a long March-7 rocket from the island of Hainan, and docked eight hours later with the space station’s first core module called Tianhe, or heavenly harmony.
  • Sri Lankan authorities on Sunday said they will sue the owners of a Singapore-registered cargo barrier, which has burned for 11 straight days off the island’s west coast and caused some of its worst-ever marine pollution.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (May 28 & 29, 2021)

  • Twitter defaming India, defying laws, says government
  • U.S.-China engagement era has come to an end : top U.S. official
  • Gaza attack may constitute ‘war crimes’; UN Rights chief
  • As India watches keenly, Sri Lanka seeks FDI in Port City
  • Jaishankar meets U.S. NSA, private sector; Both sides welcome cooperation in fighting COVID-19
  • Slight acid rains likely due to emission of NO2 from fire hit cargo ship: Sri Lanka’s top environment body

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

  • With microblogging platform Twitter on Thursday expressing concerns over “intimidation tactics” by the Delhi Police and “potential threat to freedom of expression” in India, the government hit back, calling the statement baseless, false and an attempt to defame India to hide their own follies. This follows a similar tiff between the government and messaging app WhatsApp on Wednesday after the latter filed a legal challenge to India’s new IT guidelines.
  • The more than three-decade long era of engagement between the United States and China that saw the world’s two largest economies develop closely interdependent relations “has come to an end”, a top official of the Biden administration has said. The comments underline the shift in U.S. views on China from the time of the Obama administration as well as the broadly bipartisan consensus on the current direction of relations, following four turbulent years for the relationship under the previous Trump administration.
  • Israel’s recent deadly air strikes on Gaza may constitute war crimes, the UN rights chief said on Thursday, as countries discussed launching a broad, international investigation. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights made her statement at the start of a special one-day council session focussed on the recent flare-up of violence.
  • Sri Lanka invited international investment into the Colombo Port City that it described as a “fully Sri Lankan project”, while official sources in New Delhi said they were “keeping a close eye” on the project and its “security implications”. The ‘Colombo Port City Economic Commission Act’ is yet to be made public.
  • External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar arrived in Washington DC for two apparently hectic days which were packed with meetings with officials, including National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and the U.S. Trade Representative, lawmakers, and the private sector. Both sides indicated that there was a decision on regional (Indo-Pacific) or global issues, with Mr. Jaishankar.
  • Sri Lanka’s top environment body has warned and asked people to be vigilant in case of inclement weather. There could be slight acid rains due to the emission of nitrogen dioxide from the Singapore-flagged cargo ship which caught fire near the Colombo beach last week. The cargo vessel – MV ‘X-PRESS PEARL’ – was carrying a consignment of chemicals and raw materials for cosmetics from Hazira in Gujarat to Colombo Port. It caught fire 9.5 nautical miles from the coast in Colombo, where it was anchored outside the Port of Colombo on 20th of May. Apart from the 325 metric tonnes of fuel in its tanks, MV X-Press Pearl was loaded with 1,486 containers carrying about 25 tonnes of hazardous nitric acid.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (May 27, 2021)

  • Cyclone Yaas makes landfall in Balasore, triggers heavy damage
  • WhatsApp approaches Delhi HC to challenge new IT Rules
  • Jaishankar, UN Chief discuss ramping up supply of jabs
  • Dhaka clears currency swap for Sri Lanka; Gotabaya’s request to Modi for currency swap pending since 2020
  • Second wave threatens start-ups, MSME : survey; 59% of firms may shut shop or sell off

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

  • The ‘Very Severe Cyclonic Storm’ Yaas that made landfall south of Balasore in Odisha on Wednesday tore into the border regions of West Bengal and Odisha and weakened into a cyclonic storm, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake on the eastern coast. Five persons were killed – four in Odisha and one in West Bengal.
  • Instant messaging app WhatsApp has approached the Delhi High Court challenging the Central Government’s new Information Technology Rules, 2021, which include a requirement for social media platforms to compulsorily enable “the identification of the first originator of the information” in India upon government or court order. The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, was notified on February 25 this year amidst concerns raised by various experts over its impact on privacy, freedom of expression and security of users online.
  • External Affairs Minister S.Jaishankar’s U.S. visit began in New York where he met United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. The discussions included the subject of ramping up the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines, including a World Trade Organisation(WTO) initiative sponsored by India and South Africa to waive intellectual property protection for vaccines and other related products, according to a statement released by India’s U.N. mission.  
  • Bangladesh on Tuesday cleared a $200 million currency swap facility for Sri Lanka, becoming the first South Asian country to extend crucial financial assistance to the island nation this year. The board of the Bangladesh Bank has decided in principle to lend $200-250 million from Bangladesh’s reserves to Sri Lanka for three months.
  • Hit hard by the second wave of the pandemic, about 59% of start-ups and MSMEs are likely to either scale down operations, sell off, or completely shut in the next six months, according to a survey by LocalCircles. The survey saw participation from more than 6,000 start-ups and MSMEs located in 171 districts of India. Only 22% of start-ups and MSMEs see growth in their business during this period.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (May 26, 2021)

  • Over 13 lakh evacuated as Yaas races towards Odisha coastline
  • NHAI issues guidelines to ensure service time of not more than 10 seconds per vehicle at toll plazas
  • New IT rules come into force today; will comply, says FB
  • Panel constituted by Home Ministry to define offences of speech, expression
  • Moderna says its vaccine is highly effective in adolescents
  • GDP likely grew by 1.3% in Q4 FY21 : SBI Research

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

  • Several thousands of people in coastal districts of Odisha are bracing for the impact of the very severe cyclonic storm, Yaas, which is set to hit the coast with wind speeds of 155-165 kmph early on Wednesday morning. The State government has moved over two lakh people from vulnerable areas to safety. According to IMD, the cyclone was intensifying and moving north-northwest and is likely to make a landfall near north Odisha coast very close to Chandbali-Dhamra port.
  • National Highways Authority of India, NHAI has issued guidelines to ensure service time of not more than ten seconds per vehicle even at peak hours at the toll plazas on the National Highways. The new set of guidelines will ensure seamless flow of traffic at the toll plazas by not allowing vehicles to queue up more than 100 metres. In a statement, NHAI said, in most of the toll plazas, there is no waiting time after mandatory 100 per cent Fastag. It said, if there is queue of waiting vehicles of more than 100 metres due to some reason, the vehicles will be allowed to pass without paying toll till the queue comes within 100 meters from the toll booth.
  • While the new stricter rules for social media intermediaries such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Google, Twitter and Telegram, come into effect on Wednesday, a majority of platforms are yet to fully comply with ‘The Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021’. There is no clarity on the immediate consequences of non-compliance.
  • A panel constituted by the Union Home Ministry to suggest reforms to the British era Indian Penal Code (IPC) is likely to propose a separate Section on “offences relating to speech and expression.” As there is no clear definition of what constitutes a “hate speech” in the IPC, the Committee for Reforms in Criminal Laws is attempting for the first time to define such speech.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (May 25, 2021)

  • Covaxin : Government reviews process to get WHO nod
  • Islanders seek withdrawal of land norms in Lakshadweep
  • Iran inspection agreement extended by one month : IAEA
  • Govt to set up National Mission on use of Biomass in coal based thermal power plants
  • FDI flows crossed $81 bn in FY21; Equity investments rose 19% to $60 bn
  • China opposes mention of Taiwan in US-South Korea joint statement

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

  • The government on Monday took stock of Bharat Biotech’s application process with the World Health Organization for regulatory clearances for the Covaxin vaccine, as an inter ministerial group, led by Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla, met with company representatives in Delhi. On the issue of WHO’s authorization for Emergency Use Listing (EUL), BBIL noted that they had submitted 90% of the documentation required for EUL to WHO. The remaining is expected to be submitted in June 2021.
  • A slew of regulations introduced by the new administrator has sparked discontent among the inhabitants of Lakshadweep. Islanders have pointed out that the legislation are out of sync with the social and environmental realities of the archipelago. The creation of the Lakshadweep Development Authority, with extensive powers, including eviction of land owners, is widely read as having been pushed by the real estate lobby and against the interest of the islanders.
  • The UN nuclear watchdog and Iran have agreed to extend an understanding to monitor Tehran’s activities by one month, the agency said on Monday, while talks in Vienna try to save the 2015 nuclear deal. The equipment and the verification and the monitoring activities that we agreed will continue as they are now for one month expiring on June 24th, 2021, said IAEA. Iran in late February limited the IAEA’s access to nuclear sites it has been monitoring as part of the 2015 landmark deal.
  • The Power Ministry has decided to set up a National Mission on the use of Biomass in coal based thermal power plants. It is intended to address the issue of air pollution due to farm stubble-burning and to reduce the carbon footprints of thermal power generation.  It will also further support the energy transition in the country and its targets to move towards cleaner energy sources. The Mission will increase the level of co-firing from the present five percent to higher levels to have a larger share of carbon-neutral power generation from the thermal power plants. It will also work to facilitate overcoming the constraints in the supply chain of biomass pellets and agro- residue and its transport upto to the power plants. Besides, it will consider regulatory issues in biomass co-firing.  
  • Foreign Direct Investment flows into India grew 10% in 2020-21 to touch a record $81.72 billion, with FDI equity inflows rising 19% to almost $60 billion, said by the Commerce and Industry Ministry. Singapore emerged as the top investor with almost a third of all investments, followed by the U.S. which accounted for 23% of FDI and Mauritius from where 9% of the capital flows originated.
  • China on Monday warned South Korea and the US to act prudentially on the Taiwan question and refrain from playing with fire after a US-South Korea joint statement mentioned issues related to Taiwan and the South China Sea. The joint statement was issued on Friday following the summit level talks between US President Joe Biden and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in at the White House. The two countries also reaffirmed support for “enhanced cooperation with Pacific Island countries” and acknowledged the importance of “open, transparent, and inclusive regional multilateralism including the Quad” – the security grouping of the US, Japan, Australia, and India.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (May 24, 2021)

  • Very severe cyclone Yaas to hit north Odisha coast; Landfall likely on May 26 evening
  • India to push for WHO, EU approval for Covaxin; Concern over travel hurdles for Covaxin recipients
  • Congo volcano spares Goma city; 5 die in crash while trying to leave
  • No access to images of our nuclear sites : Iran
  • U.K. to unveil plans for ‘digital border’; People coming to Britain without a visa or immigration status will need an ETA
  • China ignores India’s sovereignty concerns, plans to extend controversial CPEC to Afghanistan

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

  • The depression over east central Bay of Bengal is very likely to move in a north-northwest direction and intensify into a cyclonic storm. The system Yaas is expected to cross the coast in north Odisha-West Bengal between Paradip and the Sagar islands by the evening of May 26 as a very severe cyclonic storm. The weather office has issued an orange warning of extremely heavy rainfall at isolated places in West Bengal and Odisha.
  • Faced with concern that Indians receiving the Covaxin vaccine may not get relaxation in travel restrictions, the government has decided to help ensure that Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech receives clearances from both the World Health Organisation and subsequently, the EU’s European Medicines Agency. The decision  comes as 27 EU member countries on Thursday approved a proposal to allow “fully vaccinated” tourists from countries outside Europe under certain criteria. While the travellers getting AstraZeneca’s Covishield would be included on the WHO and EU’s listings, if travel from India is accepted, those who have taken Covaxin would not.
  • Congo’s Mount Nyiragongo unleashed lava that destroyed homes on the outskirts of Goma, but witnesses said on Sunday that the city of 2 million had been mostly spared after the volcano erupted at night and sent thousands fleeing in panic.
  • Iran’s Parliament speaker said on Sunday that international inspectors may no longer access surveillance images of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear sites, escalating tensions amid diplomatic efforts in Vienna to save Tehran’s atomic accord with world powers. The Islamic Republic is already enriching and stock pilling uranium at levels far beyond those allowed by its 2015 nuclear deal.
  • Britain is to announce plans for a fully digital border, including the introduction of U.S.-style electronic travel authorization to pre-check travellers to the U.K., Interior Minister Priti Patel said on Monday. Under the new plans to be unveiled on Monday, Ms. Patel is set to announce that people coming to the U.K. without a visa or immigration status will have to apply for an American-style Electronic Travel Authorization. The Home Office expects that around 30 million ETA applicants will be processed each year.
  • China is planning to extend its controversial CPEC project to regional countries, including Afghanistan. Chinese Foreign Ministry said that China is having discussions with third parties, including Afghanistan, on the extension of CPEC. The two sides are having consultations through diplomatic channels. India has repeatedly registered its protests over CPEC, the flagship project of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), saying it is in violation of its sovereignty as it passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) – Indian territory illegally occupied by Pakistan. Disregarding India’s protests and sovereignty concerns, China has been defending the USD 60 billion CPEC project, saying it is an economic project not aimed at any third country.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (May 21, 22 & 23, 2021)

  • Declare mucormycosis an epidemic : Centre to States
  • China completes Tibet Highway; It enables greater access to remote areas along disputed border with Arunachal Pradesh
  • World’s largest iceberg breaks off from Antarctica, says ESA
  • Sri Lanka Parliament passes Bill on China-backed Port City
  • Israel-Hamas reach truce after 11 days of fighting
  • IMD : Yaas has become a very severe cyclonic storm; Likely to cross Odisha, Bengal coasts by Wednesday

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

  • The Union government has asked the States to declare mucormycosis, the fungal infection being reported in COVID-19 patients, an epidemic. Declaring the black fungus infection seen in COVID-19 patients an epidemic would lead to health facilities screening for it and reporting all such cases to the government. The infection is leading to prolonged morbidity and mortality amongst COVID-19 patients. Rajasthan, Telangana and Tamil Nadu have declared it an epidemic.
  • China has completed the construction of a strategically significant highway through the world’s deepest canyon in Tibet along the Brahmaputra river, enabling greater access to remote areas along the disputed border with Arunachal Pradesh in India. The highway took seven years to complete and passes through the Grand Canyon of the Yarlung Zangbo river, as the Brahmaputra is called in Tibet. The highway will reduce the distance between Nyingchi city and Medog from 346 km to 180 km and will cut the travel time by eight hours.
  • A huge ice block has broken off from the western Antarctica into the Weddell Sea, becoming the largest iceberg in the world and earning the name A-76. It is the largest in a series of large ice blocks to dislodge in a region acutely vulnerable to climate change, although scientists said in this case it appeared to be part of a natural polar cycle. Icebergs from when hunks of ice break off from ice shelves or glaciers and begin to float in open water.
  • The Sri Lankan Parliament on Thursday passed a controversial Bill on laws governing the China-backed Colombo Port City, with a majority of 149 legislators – in the 225-member House – voting in its favour. The development comes after the Supreme Court suggested certain amendments, following over a dozen petitions challenging the Bill that political opposition and civil society groups said directly affected Sri Lanka’s sovereignty.            
  • A truce between Israel and Hamas took hold on Friday after the worst violence in years, with U.S. President Joe Biden pledging to salvage the devastated Gaza Strip and the UN urging new Israeli-Palestinian dialogue. Israel’s bombardment of Gaza and militant rocket attacks on Israeli towns ceased after 11 days under an agreement mediated by Egypt but with negotiations to maintain stability still to be held, it was unclear how long it would last.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (May 19 & 20, 2021)

  • 13 dead as Tauktae batters Gujarat; 90 missing from barge
  • Electoral bonds worth Rs. 695 crore sold in April
  • 98% of India still at risk, warns Health Ministry
  • Sri Lanka’s China-backed tax haven clears final hurdle
  • 6 UNESCO heritage sites added in India, said Government
  • Rajasthan government declares mucormycosis an epidemic

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

  • The severe cyclonic storm Tauktae that entered Saurashtra early on Tuesday, whipping up winds close to 180 kmph, has reduced in intensity and lay about 35 km west of Ahmedabad late in the evening, according to the India Meteorological Department(IMD). Rain is expected to continue in Gujarat and Rajasthan for the next 24 hours as the storm further weakens into a depression near Jodhpur by Wednesday.
  • The State Bank of India(SBI) sold electoral bonds worth Rs. 695.34 crore from April 1 to 10, when the Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, West Bengal, Assam and Kerala polls were in full swing, says an RTI reply by the bank. The amount sold was the highest ever for any Assembly elections since the scheme started in 2018, according to the numbers provided in the reply.
  • Over 98% of India’s population continues to be vulnerable or susceptible to COVID-19, said Luv Agarwal, Joint Secretary, Health Ministry, on Tuesday, adding that so far only 1.8% of the total population of the country had been affected. It added that the virus hasn’t got tired so we don’t have the option to relax just yet.
  • A Chinese-funded tax-free enclave billed as Sri Lanka’s answer to Dubai and Singapore cleared the final legal hurdle on Tuesday as the Supreme Court in Colombo ruled it could go ahead with only minor tweaks. The largest single foreign investment in Sri Lanka is one of several massive Asian infrastructure projects funded by China as Beijing increases its regional footprint.
  • Six sites, including the Ganga ghats in Varanasi, temples of Kancheepuram and the Satpura Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh, have been added to India’s tentative list of UNESCO world heritage sites, Culture Minister Prahlad Singh Patel said. The recently included proposals are the Maratha military architecture in Maharashtra, the Hire Bengal megalithic site in Karnataka and Bhedaghat-Lametaghat of Narmada Valley in Madhya Pradesh. The six proposals were included in the list on April 13, according to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (May 18, 2021)

  • Tauktae fury : Six killed in Maharashtra; Cyclone begins landfall process in Gujarat
  • India records 2,31,781 fresh COVID-19 cases, 3207 deaths
  • Israeli strikes hit Gaza tunnels as diplomats work for ceasefire
  • Iran to develop Farzad B gas field domestically, dumps India
  • WPI hits high of 10.5%; Industry frets, urges Centre to rationalise fuel taxes
  • Tribal Affairs Ministry & Microsoft sign MoU for digital transformation of Tribal Schools

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

  • Cyclone Tauktae began the process of landfall on the Gujarat coast around 8.30 p.m. on Monday as the State braced for the impact of surging wind speeds of up to 210 km an hour. Earlier in the day, six persons were reported killed in Maharashtra, as the extremely severe cyclonic storm ran parallel to the Maharashtra coast and wound its way to Gujarat.
  • The Israeli military unleashed a wave of heavy airstrikes on the Gaza strip early on Monday, saying it destroyed 15 km of militant tunnels and the homes of nine Hamas commanders, as international diplomats worked to end the week of fighting that has killed hundreds of people. The latest attacks killed a top Gaza leader of the Islamic Jihad militant group whom the Israeli military blamed for some of the thousands of rocket attacks launched at Israeli in recent days.
  • Iran on Monday gave the Farzad B gas field to Petropars, a domestic gas producer. This is a setback for India’s energy ties with Iran as ONGC Videsh Ltd had discovered the gas field in 2000 and has been part of the ongoing cooperation on that front. Last year, it was indicated that foreign talks on the Farzad B block had become difficult because of the sanctions.
  • Inflation as measured by the Wholesale Price Index quickened to a record high of 10.5% in April, from 7.4% in March and 4.8% recorded in February, thanks to a base effect from last April which recorded a negative inflation of 1.57%, and a surge in fuel, food and manufactured goods’ prices.
  • Tribal Affairs Ministry and Microsoft have signed an MoU for digital transformation of Tribal Schools such as Eklavya Model Residential Schools and Ashram Schools. The collaboration seeks to skill educators and students in next-generation digital technologies including Artificial Intelligence. Under the program, 250 Eklavya Model Residential school, EMRS have been adopted by Microsoft out of which 50 EMRS schools will be given intensive training. In the first phase, 500 master trainers will be trained.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (May 17, 2021)

  • COVID-19 response over next 6-18 months crucial; Top WHO scientist warns of more waves
  • Centre has released over Rs 5950 Crore to 15 States in current FY for implementation of Jal Jeevan Mission
  • UNSC calls for end to violence in Gaza; Crisis could plunge into an ‘uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis’
  • Indian Navy engaging in multiple search and rescue Missions along Indian West Coast due to Cyclone Tauktae
  • 200th Kisan Rail successfully commences its journey from Nuzvid to Adarsh Nagar in New Delhi
  • China bars foreign curriculum and foreign ownership in private schools
  • Lockdown restrictions ease in UK; All restaurants, bars, hotels, theatres and museums to reopen

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

  • Predicting that the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to have subsequent waves as well, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist at the World Health Organization, who has been maintaining a keen eye on the developments in India, says the efforts put in the next 6-18 months will be most critical in battling the pandemic. A lot depends also on the evolution of the virus itself, the ability of vaccines to keep up with variants, and it also depends on the duration of protective immunity of vaccines.
  • Centre has released over Rs 5950 Crore to 15 States in the current financial year for the implementation of Jal Jeevan Mission. The Ministry of Jal Shakti has said that this is the first tranche of the four to be released in this financial year. Other 17 States and Union Territories have been asked to send their proposals to National Jal Jeevan Mission for release of funds. The Jal Jeevan Mission was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 15th August, 2019 with the aim to provide assured tap water supply to every rural home by 2024. It is being implemented in partnership with States and  Union Territories. The Ministry of Jal Shakti has said that over 21.5 per cent households have been provided with tap water supply despite challenges faced due to COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.
  • Israeli strikes killed at least 42 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the worst daily toll yet in the almost week-long clashes, as the UN Security Council met amid global alarm at the escalating conflict. UN Secretary- General warned that the fighting could plunge the region into an uncontrollable security and humanitarian crisis.
  • South Central Railways 200th Kisan Rail has successfully commenced its journey today i.e., 17th May, 2021. The 200th Kisan Rail has been loaded with 260 tonnes of Mangoes from Nuzvid in Andhra Pradesh for transportation to Adarsh Nagar in Delhi. The success of the Kisan Rail initiative over SCR can be gauged from the fact that, from the time it was introduced there has been a continuous demand for the trains. This is reflected in the decreasing number of days taken for reaching the successive 100 Kisan Rails milestone. While it took 187 days to transport the first 100 Kisan Rails from SCR, the next 100 Kisan Rails were transported in just 63 days.
  • China’s State Council has announced tough new laws halting the teaching of foreign curriculum in schools from kindergarten to grade nine (K-9) and prohibiting the ownership or control of any private K-9 schools by foreign entities. The new laws, which come into effect on Sept.1st, are the latest in a series of measures intended to tighten control of the country’s fast-growing education sector. China currently has private K-9 schools that teach local and foreign curricula.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (May 15 & 16, 2021)

  • Monsoon likely to arrive over Kerala on May 31: IMD
  • Defence production policy to be issued soon; The second negative import list is delayed due to the pandemic
  • K.P. Sharma Oli reappointed Nepal PM; He will have to take vote of confidence within 30 days
  • Israel strikes media building, refugee camp in Gaza City
  • Mars landing gives China’s space programme a leg-up

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

  • The monsoon is likely to arrive on the Kerala coast on May 31, the India Meteorological Department announced on Friday. The normal monsoon onset date over Kerala is June 1 with an error window of four days. The monsoon arrival comes as an emerging cyclone brews over the Arabian Sea.
  • The second negative import list, which has been now rechristened as the positive list, has been delayed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and will be issued soon by the Department of Military Affairs, said Sanjay Jaju, Additional Secretary Defence Production. The final version of the Defence Production and Export Promotion Policy (DPEPP) 2020 will also be put out very soon.
  • An Israeli air strike targeted and destroyed a high-rise building in Gaza City that housed the offices of The Associated Press, Al-Jazeera and other media outlets hours after another Israeli air raid on a densely populated refugee camp killed at least 10 Palestinians from an extended family. The spiralling violence has raised fears of a new Palestinian “Intifada”, or uprising, when peace talks have not taken place in years.
  • China landed a spacecraft on Mars carrying its first Mars rover in a big boost to its space ambitions, the country’s space agency said on Saturday. China had in July last year launched its first Mars mission, called Tianwen-1, meaning Questions to Heaven, carrying a lander and rover. Tianwen-1 had been in orbit since February, and on Saturday, a lander descended successfully on to surface of the red planet carrying a rover named Zhurong, named after a god of fire for a planet known in Chinese as the planet of fire. Only the Soviet Union and the U.S. had previously carried out a successful landing on Mars.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (May 13 & 14, 2021)

  • Israel-Palestinian clashes trigger fears of a ‘full-scale war’
  • Will move SC for NRC re-verification : Assam CM
  • Inflation eases to 4.29%; base lifts IIP; March industrial output jumps 22.4%
  • Supreme Court asks why not place convicts under house arrest
  • Centre’s SC affidavit jars with TRIPS stand; Government said bringing vaccines under statutory regime will be ‘counter-productive’

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

  • Relentless rocket fire and rioting in mixed Jewish-Arab towns fuelled growing fears on Wednesday that deadly violence between Israel and Palestinians could spiral into a “full scale war”. Israel’s Defence Minister Benny Gantz vowed more attacks on Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups in Gaza to bring total, long term quite before considering a ceasefire. Gaza militants have launched over 1,000 rockets since Monday, said Israel’s Army, which has carried out hundreds of air strikes on Islamist groups in the crowded coastal enclave of Gaza.
  • Newly-elected Chief Minister of Assam Himanta Biswa Sarma said his government will be approaching the Supreme Court again for reverification of the National Citizenship Register(NRC) – up to 20% of entries in areas bordering Bangladesh and 10% in the interior areas of Assam. On the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act that had broken out in the state n 2019-20, Mr. Sarma said it was currently not in the purview of any state government.
  • India’s retail inflation slowed to a three month low of 4.29% in April, from 5.52% in March, helped by softer food prices as well as a base effect. Separately, industrial output surged by 22.4% in March, lifted by the statistical impact of the year-earlier period’s Index of Industrial Output being significantly lower on account of the national lockdown to contain COVID-19 imposed that month, data from the National Statistical Office showed on Wednesday.
  • The Supreme Court has thrown open the door to the legislature to ponder over the idea of placing convicts under house arrest to avoid overcrowding of prisons. The suggestion is relevant considering the spread of COVID-19. The occupancy rate in prisons had climbed to 118.5% in 2019. The court referred to the National Crime Records Bureau’s figures of 2019 to show that 18,86,092 inmates were admitted in jails.
  • Public health advocates and intellectual property rights experts point to a contradiction in India’s global push for suspension of intellectual property protection with its stand in the Supreme Court that bringing COVID-19 vaccines under a statutory regime will be counter productive at this stage.  India, along with South Africa, had initiated a proposal for the temporary waiver of certain provisions in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights to facilitate fair, affordable and universal access of COVID vaccines and medicines, especially for developing countries.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (May 12, 2021)

  • Cases rising in 15 states; positivity rate at 21%; More RATs to be conducted from now on
  • Moody’s lowers India’s growth projection to 9.3%
  • China’s population growth slows to lowest rate in decades
  • EU is suing AstraZeneca to get 90 million doses before July
  • Nomura pares FY22 growth estimate to 10.8%; Lockdowns to impact economy
  • Oil refiners cut output, imports as pandemic hits fuel demand

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

  • The national COVID-19 positivity rate stood at 21% and 310 of the 734 districts had reported positivity greater than or equal to the national average, as said by Indian Council of Medical Research. At the Health Ministry briefing, ICMR chief said the country now had the RTPCR testing capacity of about 16 lakh a day and Rapid Antigen Test capacity of about 17 lakh a day.
  • Moody’s Investors Service on Tuesday sharply scaled down this year’s growth projection for India to 9.3% from its earlier estimate of 13.7%, citing “the negative impact of the second wave” of the COVID-19 pandemic. It warned that the spread of the coronavirus as well as the rate of vaccinations will have a direct impact on economic outcomes.
  • China’s one-in-a-decade population census has recorded a slowing population growth rate that will likely see China’s population peak and be overtaken by India’s – by as early as 2025, experts said, with the number of births falling for the fourth consecutive year. The seventh census, released on Tuesday by the National Bureau of Statistics in Beijing, noted 12 million babies were born last year, the lowest number since 1961, a year when China was in the midst of a four-year famine unleashed by Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward Policy in 1958 that devastated the farm sector and claimed million of lives.
  • The European Union is suing Britisher-Swedish pharmaceutical group AstraZeneca to force it to deliver 90 million more doses of its COVID-19 vaccine before July. European Commission spokesperson said that they want the court to order the company to deliver 90 million additional doses, in addition to the 30 million already delivered in the first quarter.  

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (May 10 & 11, 2021)

  • China rocket debris falls in Indian Ocean near Maldives
  • Assam Chief Minister seeks 10%-20% NRC reverification
  • Taliban, Afghan forces declare Id truce; This comes after a spike in violence due to U.S. pull out
  • Nepal PM K.P. Sharma Oli loses vote of confidence
  • Pakistan government to set new rules to meet FATF requirements
  • IP waiver will not boost vaccine production : OPPI
  • India’s growth may slip to 8.2% if wave peaks in June : Crisil

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

  • Debris from the last stage of China’s Long March rocket that had last month carried a key component of its under construction space station fell into the waters of the Indian Ocean west of the Maldives on Sunday. The re-entry of the rocket, described by astrophysicists as the fourth-largest uncontrolled re-entry in history, had evoked concerns in recent days about possible damage should it have fallen on land, and had been criticised by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration(NASA) in the U.S. for failing to meet responsible standards.
  • Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Sunday said the BJP-led governance wanted 10%-20% reverification of the National Register of Citizens(NRC). Soon after being sworn in as the State’s 15th Chief Minister, he said his coalition government favoured 20% reverification of the updated list of citizens in districts that shared a border with Bangladesh and 10% in the remaining districts. The Supreme Court had monitored the exercise of updating the NRC of 1951 in Assam. About 19.06 lakh out of 3.3 crore applicants were excluded from the updated draft.
  • The Taliban and Afghan government on Monday declared a three-day ceasefire for this week’s Id-Ul-Fitr holiday, following a sharp spike in violence as Washington goes about withdrawing its remaining troops from Afghanistan. Violence has soared since May 1 – the deadline missed by the U.S. to withdraw the last of its troops – and while the Taliban have avoided engaging American forces, attacks against government and civilian targets have not stopped.
  • Nepal’s Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli lost a confidence vote on Monday, triggering fresh political uncertainty just as the Himalayan nation reels from the pandemic. Mr. Oli, 69, decided to seek a vote of confidence following months of feuding within his ruling communist party and coalition partners. But the former political prisoner was able to secure only 93 votes in the Parliament instead of the 136 needed. According to procedure, the President will now call for parties to propose a new candidate, backed by a majority.
  • Pakistan, keen to exit from the grey list of the FATF, is set to introduce new rules relating to anti-money laundering cases and change the prosecution process to meet its remaining tough conditions, a media report said on Monday. Pakistan was put on the grey list by the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force, a global watchdog for money laundering and terror financing in June 2018 and the country has been struggling to come out of it.
  • The Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India(OPPI) on Monday said waiving intellectual property rights will not lead to increased production of COVID-19  vaccines, as it is not the barrier to their adequate availability in India. A proposal moved by India and South Africa before the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to temporarily suspend trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights for the COVID-19 vaccines to increase their access amid the pandemic has gained support across a number of countries, including the U.S.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (May 08 & 09, 2021)

  • Second wave declining, third wave can be prevented : Scientist
  • Top court orders immediate de-congestion of all prisons
  • FCRA hurdle may block foreign COVID aid to hospitals, NGOs
  • CJI nominates four vacation Benches; More Benches to be constituted
  • Talks ‘intensify’ on bringing U.S. back to Iran nuclear deal
  • Pandemic won’t impact India’s rating for 2 years; Health crisis may slow growth : S&P
  • E.U., India relaunch FTA talks, sign connectivity partnership
  • WHO approves China’s Sinopharm vaccine; It is first Chinese jab to get agency nod
  • CBIC allows goods import, export sans Customs bond

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

  • India can avoid a third COVID-19 wave, Principle Scientific Adviser to the Government of India stressed that, “If we take strong measures, the third COVID wave may not happen in all the places or indeed anywhere.” He added that the third wave is inevitable in India given the high levels of virus that is circulating. But it is not clear at what time scale this phase 3 will occur.
  • The Supreme Court has turned a humanitarian eye on the over four lakh prison population inside overcrowded jails even as the second wave of the pandemic continues its devastating run across the country. The court specially stressed on not ordering detention in a mechanical manner in cases involving punishment of less or up to seven years’ imprisonment.
  • Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana nominated four separate Benches of the Supreme Court to sit consecutively in May, during the first part of the summer holidays, to hear extremely urgent cases. More Benches would be constituted for the second and third parts of the holidays until the court re-opens on June 28. The Vacation Benches will hear the cases virtually.  The decision to have two separate Division Benches sitting in a week during vacations is significant considering the fact that petitions may be filed concerning COVID management and connected human rights issues.  
  • Indian entities, including hospitals and charitable trusts, hoping to receive COVID-19 relief material from overseas individual donors or donor agencies, could be in trouble, unless they are registered under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act(FCRA) with a stated objective involving provision of medical care. On May 3, the government permitted imports without GST levies for pandemic relief material donated from abroad for free distribution in the country, delegating States to certify the entities that will receive such imports.
  • World powers held a fourth round of high-level talks on Friday aimed at bringing the U.S. back into the nuclear deal with Iran, with both sides signalling a willingness to work out the major stumbling blocks. The talks began in Austria in early April. The U.S. pulled out of the landmark 2015 deal in 2018 after then-President Donald Trump said the pact needed to be renegotiated.
  • India’s sovereign rating will remain unchanged at the current level of BBB- for the next two years despite the potential adverse impact of the surging pandemic on its economy, said a top official at S&P Global Ratings. The country would witness a slightly faster pace of growth in the next two years, effectively supporting the rating, he said.
  • India and the European Union agreed on Saturday to relaunch free trade negotiations by resuming talks that were suspended in 2013 for the Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA), as Prime Minister Narendra Modi interacted virtually from Delhi with EU. The E.U.-India leaders meeting also discussed COVID-19 recovery plans and vaccine cooperation, adopted a Connectivity Partnership document outlining plans to cooperate on digital and infrastructure projects, and signed the contract for the second tranche of $150 million from the E.U. for the Pune Metro rail project.
  • The World Health Organisation on Friday approved the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use – the first Chinese jab to receive the WHO’s green light. The UN health agency signed off on the two-dose vaccine, which is already being deployed in dozens of countries around the world.
  • The Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs(CBIC) on Saturday allowed businesses to import and export goods without furnishing bonds to the Customs authorities until June-end, a move aimed at ensuring no delay or disruption in EXIM trade due to COVID-19. In a circular, the CBIC said importers and exporters will have to furnish an undertaking in lieu of the bonds till June 30.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (May 06 & 07, 2021)

  • Maratha quota unconstitutional, violates right to equality, says SC
  • 5G : China expresses concern, regret; Can’t have bloodshed on border, good relationship in other domains, says India
  • Supreme Court : Centre alone can identify Socially and Educationally Backward Classes
  • Biden undecided on COVID-related TRIPS waiver; A group of Senators has called on the President to support a temporary IP waiver
  • EU unveils plan to cut dependency on China; 6 other foreign suppliers to be cut off
  • China halts economic dialogue with Australia; Beijing blames Cold War mindset

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

  • A five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously declared a Maharashtra law, which provides reservation benefits to the Maratha community taking the quota limit in the State in excess of 50%, unconstitutional. The Bench, led by Justice Ashok Bhushan, found there was no exceptional circumstances or extraordinary situation in Maharashtra, which required the State government to break the 50% ceiling limit to bestow quota benefits on the Maratha community.  
  • China on Wednesday expressed concern and regret at India’s move to not include Chinese telecommunication firms among the companies permitted this week to conduct trials for the use of 5G technology. External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, speaking at a Global Dialogue Series event in London, reiterated India’s view on Wednesday that it is not realistic to have good relations in other domains where there was tension on the border.
  • The Centre alone is empowered to identify Socially and Educationally Backward Classes(SEBC) and include them in the Central List for claiming reservation benefits. The President ( that is the Central government ) alone, to the exclusion of all other authorities, is empowered to identify SEBCs and include them in a list to be published under Article 342A(1), which shall be deemed to include SEBCs in relation to each State and the Union Territory for the purposes of the Constitution.
  • U.S. President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that he had not made a decision on whether the U.S. would support on Indian and South African initiative at the World Trade Organization(WTO) to waive Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to facilitate the production of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics around the world.
  • The European Union unveiled on Wednesday a plan to cut its dependency on Chinese and other foreign suppliers in six strategic areas like raw materials, pharmaceutical ingredients and semiconductors after the pandemic induced economic slump. The 27-nation bloc outlined the urgency of the task citing Europe’s reliance on China for about half of 137 products used in sensitive ecosystems, mainly raw materials, pharmaceuticals and other products key to its green and digital goals.  
  • China on Thursday cut off a channel for diplomatic and trade talks with Australia in a largely symbolic act of fury, following clashes over a wide range of issues, including human rights, espionage and the origins of COVID-19. Tensions between the two sides have soared  since Canberra called last year for an independent probe into the origins of the pandemic and banned telecom giant Huawei from building Australia’s 5G network.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (May 05, 2021)

  • IPL-14 postponed indefinitely after virus breaches bubble
  • Government gives nod for 5G trials; Chinese tech giants left out
  • India reiterates need for global cooperation to beat COVID-19
  • G7 seeks common front on China; First in-person talks held in two years
  • Egypt buys 30 Rafale fighter aircraft from France
  • Bulk tea firms may see a financial slump in FY22; Prices to drive extent of decline

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

  • The 2021 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) came to an abrupt halt on Tuesday, with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) deciding to suspend the season midway through the league stage. The decision was made minutes after it was revealed that two players had contracted COVID-19.
  • The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) gave permission to Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) to conduct trials for the use and application of 5G technology. This formally leaves out Chinese companies like Huawei and ZTE from the 5G race in India.
  • India reiterated the need for international partnership to deal with the pandemic and called for stronger trade cooperation with the United Kingdom. This intent was expressed during the virtual summit meeting conducted between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his British counterpart Boris Johnson, which came hours after a number of Indian companies, including the Serum Institute of India, pledged major investment in post-Brexit U.K.
  • The Group of Seven wealthy democracies on Tuesday discussed how to form a common front towards an increasingly assertive China in the Foreign Ministers’ first in-person talks in two years. Backing U.S. President Joe Biden’s calls for a deeper alliance of democracies, host Britain invited guests, including India, South Korea and Australia, for talks in central London stretched out over three days.
  • Egypt’s military has confirmed that it ordered 30 Rafale jets from French defence firm Dassault Aviation to shore up “national security”. The order, which follows the 2015 purchase of 24 Rafale jets, will be financed through a 10 year loan, the military said in a statement late on Monday. Investigative site Disclose had reported earlier on Monday that the order was part of a secret mega-defence deal worth almost four billion euros.
  • North Indian bulk tea players may witness contraction in financial performance in FY22 due to interim wage enhancement of plantation workers and a likely decline in prices in the second half of the year, according to a report. The Assam government had notified an interim enhancement of wages for tea plantation workers by Rs. 50 a day with effect from February 22, 2021, till the finalisation of the revised minimum wages proposed earlier, ICRA said in a report.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (May 04, 2021)

  • SC: Cannot stop reports on court observations; Turns down ECI plea for media gag
  • No GST on imports of vaccine, medical oxygen; Relief only for certified global donors
  • 7 Myanmar refugees can approach UNHCR; Manipur HC says Article 21 encompasses the right of non-refoulement
  • Embrace diplomacy, Blinken tells North Korea; At G7 meet, countries to work ‘towards denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula’
  • U.S. officials in West Asia to reassure jittery allies over Iran
  • Factory output growth decelerates : Purchasing Managers’ Index(PMI)
  • OPEC share slid as India’s oil imports shrank 11.8%

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

  • Media cannot be stopped from reporting oral remarks made by judges during a court hearing. The honest and full reportage of these comments give the public an insight into whether judges are genuinely applying their minds to resolve their crisis, the Supreme Court told a hurt Election Commission of India (ECI). The ECI had complained to the Supreme Court about certain oral comments made by a Division Bench of the Madras High Court.  
  • Imports of COVID-19 relief material, including vaccines, medical oxygen and Remdesivir vials, will get a conditional ‘ad-hoc’ Goods and Service Tax(GST) exemption till June 30, the Finance Ministry said on Monday. These items are already exempt from customs duty and health cess; now integrated GST (IGST), levied on such imports, will be withdrawn for two months for ‘relief materials being donated from abroad’.
  • The High Court of Manipur of Monday allowed seven Myanmar nationals, who entered India secretly following the February military coup, to travel to New Delhi to seek protection from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Though India is not a party to the UN Refugee Conventions, the court observed that the country is a party to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966. “The far-reaching and myriad protection afforded by Article 21 of our Constitution, as interpreted and adumbrated by our Supreme Court time and again, would indubitably encompass the right of non-refoulement,” the court said.
  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday asked North Korea to embrace diplomacy as he briefed allies on a new U.S. strategy that stresses low-key progress rather than Donald Trump’s pageantry. In London for the first in-person Group of Seven (G7) meetings in two years, Mr. Blinken consulted his counterparts from Japan and South Korea on President Joe Biden’s new approach, which has already been denounced by Pyongyang. They agreed to work together, along with Japan’s sometime rival South Korea, “towards denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”.
  • Top Biden administration officials and U.S. Senators crisscrossed the West Asia on Monday, seeking to assuage growing unease among Arab partners over America’s re-engagement with Iran and other policy shifts in the region. The trips come as the U.S. and Iran, through intermediaries in Vienna, discuss a return to Tehran’s tattered 2015 nuclear deal with world powers that former President Donald Trump abandoned three years ago. The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf allies, excluded from Obama-era nuclear negotiations, have repeatedly pressed for a seat at the table, insisting that any return to the accord must address Iran’s ballistic missile programmes and support for regional proxies.
  • India’s manufacturing sector activity was largely flat in April, as rates of growth for new orders and output eased to eight-month lows amid the rise in COVID-19 cases, a monthly survey showed. The seasonally adjusted IHS Markit India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index(PMI) was at 55.5 in April, little changed from March’s reading of 55.4. In PMI parlance, a print above 50 means expansion while a score below 50 denotes contraction.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (May 03, 2021)

  • PM Modi reviews growing need of human resources required to deal with Covid-19 crisis; Medical interns to be deployed in COVID management duties
  • GST return deadlines extended; late fee waived; Concessions given for a limited period
  • India’s merchandise exports touch $30.21 billion
  • North Korea says Biden has a ‘hostile policy’, warns of response
  • Government issues guidelines for ‘Production Linked Incentive Scheme for the Food Processing Industry’
  • Indonesia records two cases of highly infectious Covid-19 variant

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

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi today reviewed the growing need of human resources required for dealing with the crisis of Covid-19 situation in the country. Many important decisions have been taken during the review meeting which will significantly boost availability of medical personnel required for treatment of Covid patients. Among the many decisions, a decision has been taken to postpone NEET-Post Graduate exam for at least four months. This will ensure the availability of qualified doctors for Covid duties. The exam will not be held before 31st of August of this year and students will be given at least one month of time after the announcement of the exam. It has also been decided to allow deployment of medical interns in the Covid management duties under the supervision of their faculty.
  • The Centre has extended the deadlines for routine Goods and Services Tax(GST) compliances, reduced the interest charged on delayed tax payments and offered late fee waiver for taxpayers, granting these concessions for a limited time window of a fortnight to a month, effective May 1. The Finance Ministry has said this is being done in view of the challenges faced by taxpayers in meeting the statutory and regulatory GST compliances due to the outbreak of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • India’s merchandise exports in April 2021 were $30.21 billion, 197% higher than a year ago, when exports had collapsed to $10.17 billion in the middle of the national lockdown. April’s exports, however, constituted a 16% rise over April 2019.  
  • North Korea accused U.S. President Joe Biden of pursuing a hostile policy, dismissing spurious American diplomacy and warning of a response. Mr. Biden has said on Wednesday that his administration would deal with the threat posed by Pyongyang’s nuclear programme through diplomacy as well as stern deterrence.
  • Government has issued guidelines for ‘Production Linked Incentive Scheme for the Food Processing Industry (PLISFPI). Minister of Food Processing Industry Narendra Singh Tomar also launched an online portal for the PLISFPI. The Ministry in a statement said, as  part of the Prime Minister’s announcement of Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, the Government has approved a new Central Sector Scheme namely PLISFPI for implementation during 2021-22 to 2026-27 with an outlay of Rs. 10,900 crore. The aim is to support creation of global food manufacturing champions commensurate with India’s natural resource endowment and support Indian brands of food products in the international markets.
  • Indonesia has recorded two cases of a highly infectious Covid-19 variant first identified in India in the capital Jakarta. Indonesian Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said today, there were two new mutations that entered-One from India, with two incidents in Jakarta and one from South Africa in Bali. Another official confirmed the two cases were the B.1.617 variant. Indonesia last week stopped issuing visas for foreigners who had been in India in the previous 14 days.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (May 01 & 02, 2021)

  • SC : Do not clamp down on citizens’ SOS calls via social media; Court warns States of contempt action
  • Armed forces get powers for relief work; Defence Minister invokes special provisions to speed up efforts
  • 45 dead in Israel pilgrimage stampede; Netanyahu promises an investigation into one of the nation’s worst disasters
  • U.S. clears sale of six P-8I patrol aircraft to India
  • U.S. to restrict travel from India; There is a list of exemptions which will be reviewed every 30 days
  • U.S. begins final phase of Afghan pullout ; The military is deciding what to hand over to Afghan forces ahead of September 11
  • Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan agree to a ceasefire after deadly clashes
  • Progress noted at envoys meet on Iran nuclear deal

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

  • The Supreme Court warned the State governments and the police against clamping down on the spread of information or calls for help through social media from citizens affected by COVID-19. A Special Bench said any move by any State to punish citizens who take to social media to seek help for oxygen cylinders, COVID-19 drugs, beds and hospitals amid a rampaging second wave would attract contempt of court action.
  • Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has invoked special provisions and granted emergency financial powers to the armed forces to empower them and speed up their efforts to tide over the current COVID-19 situation. The emergency financial powers will help formation commanders to establish and operate quarantine facilities, hospitals and undertake procurement, repair of equipment, items, material and stores, besides provisioning of various services and works required to support the ongoing effort against the pandemic, the Defence Ministry said.  
  • A massive stampede at a densely packed Jewish pilgrimage site killed at least 45 people in Israel on Friday, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised an investigation into one of the nation’s “worst disasters”. The night time carnage struck after pilgrims thronged to Meron at the site of the reputed tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a second-century Talmudic sage, where mainly ultra-Orthodox Jews, or haredim, mark the Lag BaOmer holiday.
  • The U.S. State Department approved the proposed sale of six P-8I patrol aircraft and related equipment, a deal estimated to cost $2.42 billion. In November 2019, the Defence Acquisition Council, chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, approved the procurement of the long range maritime surveillance aircraft manufactured by Boeing. The original proposal was for 10 more aircraft but was cut down to six due to budgetary constraints as well as because the Navy had adopted some fleet rationalisation measures and was considering long-endurance unmanned platforms.
  • The final phase of ending America’s “forever war” in Afghanistan after 20 years formally began on Saturday, with the withdrawal of the last U.S. and NATO troops by the end of summer. President Joe Biden had set May 1 as the official start of the withdrawal of the remaining forces – about 2,500-3,500 U.S. troops and about 7,000 NATO soldiers, He had set September 11 as the deadline for withdrawal.  
  • Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan on Saturday claimed another breakthrough in their bid to end the worst clashes at their shared border in memory as several thousand Kyrgyz demonstrators rallied against what they called an invasion attempt by their Central Asian neighbour. Clashes between communities over land and water along the long-contested border are regular occurrences, with border guards often getting involved.
  • High-ranking diplomats from China, Germany, France, Russia and Britain made progress at talks on Saturday focused on bringing the U.S. back into their landmark nuclear deal with Iran, but said they need more work and time to bring about a future agreement.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (April 28 & 29, 2021)

  • Enforcing COVID-19 rules is state responsibility, says ECI
  • Iran, U.S. warships engage in a tense encounter
  • Asian Development Bank sees India grow by 11%, Sees ‘considerable downside risk’
  • New Act gives more powers to Delhi L-G; MHA issues gazette notification
  • China pushes defence ties with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka
  • EU lawmakers give nod to post-Brexit trade agreement; Sore points like N. Ireland protocol, vaccine supplies remain 
  • India, Australia, Japan push for supply chain resilience

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

  • The Election Commission of India said on Tuesday that the enforcement of COVID-19 protocols under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 was the responsibility of the States authorities, a day after the Madras High Court said the ECI was unable to ensure political parties followed the rules while campaigning for the Assembly election. The ECI said it would comply with the directions of the court and apprise it of the steps taken to ensure safe elections.
  • American and Iranian warships had a tense encounter in the Gulf earlier this month, the first such incident in about a year amid wider turmoil in the region over Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal, the U.S. Navy said on Tuesday. Iran did not immediately acknowledge the incident. The interaction marked the first “unsafe and unprofessional” incident involving the Iranians since April 15, 2020.
  • The Asian Development Bank has raised its forecast for India’s growth in 2021-22 to 11%, from 8% earlier, even as it warned that failure to control the resurgence of COVID-19 cases including April’s exponential jump poses a “considerable downside risk to the recovery”.
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Wednesday issued a gazette notification stating that the provisions of the Government of National Capital Territory (GNCT) of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021, would be deemed to have come into effect from April 27. The Act, which gives the Lieutenant-Governor of Delhi more teeth and significantly waters down the powers of both the elected government and the Legislative Assembly, will clarify the expression “Government” and address ambiguities in the legislative provisions to promote harmonious relations between the legislature and the executive.
  • China’s Minister of Defence Wei Fenghe, visiting Bangladesh and Sri Lanka this week, has called on countries in the neighbourhood to resist “powers from outside the region setting up military alliances in South Asia”. General Wei’s comments in Dhaka on Tuesday came amid a push back from Chinese officials on the India-U.S.-Australia-Japan Quad grouping, which some in Beijing have described as a quasi-military alliance.  
  • European Union leaders, their British counterparts and European businesses expressed hope on Wednesday that the final ratification of the post-Brexit deal will open a new, positive era of cooperation despite the many divisive topics remaining between the former partners. Lawmakers at the European Parliament voted 660-5 with 32 abstentions to endorse the free trade agreement.
  • The Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI) formally launched on Tuesday by the Trade Ministers of India, Japan and Australia brought a wary response from China, which has described the effort as ‘unrealistic’. The three sides agreed the pandemic revealed supply chain vulnerabilities globally and in the region and noted the importance of risk management and continuity plans in order to avoid supply chain disruptions.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (April 26 & 27, 2021)

  • U.S. to allow India access to vaccine raw materials
  • Three killed as Iran fuel tanker attacked off Syria; Fire erupted after drone attack
  • Assam Rifles, IAF contain forest fires in Mizoram
  • DRDO develops crystal blades for aero engines; 60 such blades supplied to HAL
  • India and Japan resolve to jointly fight the pandemic
  • RBI caps age at 70 for bank MD, CEO, director positions
  • India expected to invest $1 billion in AI by 2023

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

  • The U.S. will immediately deploy supplies and other assistance to India, the White House said, following a Sunday call between the National Security Advisers of the two countries, Ajit Doval and Jake Sullivan. The U.S.’s assistance will include making raw materials for COVID-19 vaccine Covishield immediately accessible and pursuing options to generate oxygen on an urgent basis. However, there was no mention of the U.S. shipping ready to use vaccines. Over the past week, the Biden administration had faced growing criticism for not doing or saying enough about the situation in India.
  • At least three people died when an Iranian tanker was attacked off Syria’s coast on Saturday, in the first assault of its kind since the war started a decade ago. State news agency SANA, quoting the Oil Ministry, said the fire erupted after what was believed to be an attack by a drone from the direction of Lebanese waters. The flames were later extinguished.  
  • The forest fires that ravaged several parts of Lunglei district and the adjoining areas in Mizoram have been contained, an Assam Rifles official said on Monday evening. The Assam Rifles had deployed personnel and fire fighting equipment to the district, while the Indian Air Force had deployed two Mi-17V5 helicopters, equipped with Bambi Buckets, to douse the fire, which started on April 24.
  • In a major technological breakthrough, the Defence Research and Development Organisation on Monday said it has developed single crystal blade technology and supplied 60 of such blades to the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited(HAL) as part of their indigenous helicopter development programme for helicopter engine application.
  • India and Japan resolved to fight the pandemic jointly, a press release from the Ministry of External Affairs announced. The observations on COVID-19 featured during a telephonic conversation between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart, Yoshihide Suga. Japan is currently under strict measures aimed at containing the pandemic, which  has also intensified in an unprecedented manner in India, prompting assistance from several foreign partners.
  • Global enterprises are expected to invest $98 billion in artificial intelligence(AI) by 2023 and India’s share in it will be about $1 billion, said Project Management Institute(PMI), a Philadelphia-based non-profit organisation with about 28,000 individual members in India. However, some $54 billion – 55% of this proposed global investment – may go waste due to lack of familiarity or understanding of newer practices, technologies and tools and inability to optimise data.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (April 25, 2021)

  • 384 people rescued after avalanche in Uttarakhand; State has been experiencing heavy rain
  • Justice N.V. Ramana is new CJI; He will have a tenure of a little over one year
  • Global response to India’s call for help; Cryogenic oxygen tanks airlifted from various countries
  • ASEAN leaders urge junta to end killings; Calls for dialogue between contending parties in Myanmar
  • Missing submarine sank, killing 53 aboard : Indonesia
  • Defying Turkey, U.S. recognises Armenian genocide of 1915
  • RBI to issue cybersecurity norms for payment services

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

  • Ten bodies were recovered and 384 people rescued in the ongoing search and rescue operations after an avalanche hit a Border Roads Organisation detachment and labour camps north of Joshimath in Uttarakhand on Friday evening, an Army official said on Saturday. Around 4 P.M. on Friday, an avalanche hit a location about 4 km ahead of Sumna on the Sumna-Rimkhim road in Uttarakhand, the official said.
  • Justice N.V. Ramana was on Saturday sworn in as the 48th Chief Justice of India by President Ram Nath Kovind at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. The ceremony to administer the oath of office, held as per COVID-19 protocol, was attended by Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, among others. Justice Ramana will have a tenure of one year and four months as CJI and will demit office on August 26, 2022.
  • Four cryogenic oxygen tanks were airlifted by the Indian Air Force from Singapore, in the first such import a day after External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar put out an appeal for international assistance for India’s ongoing coronavirus crisis. About 80MT of liquid oxygen are also expected to be flown to India from a company in Saudi Arabia, the Indian Embassy in Riyadh announced.
  • Southeast Asian leaders demanded an immediate end to killings and the release of political detainees in Myanmar in an emergency summit with its top general and coup leader in the Indonesian capital on Saturday, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo said. The leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations(ASEAN) also told that a dialogue between contending parties in Myanmar should immediately start, with the help of ASEAN envoys.
  • Indonesia’s Navy on Saturday declared its meeting submarine had sunk and cracked open after finding items from the vessel over the past two days, apparently ending hope of finding an of the 53 crew members alive. Indonesian officials earlier considered the vessel to be only missing, but said the submarine’s oxygen supply would have run out early Sunday. The Navy previously said it believes the submarine sank to a depth of 600-700m, much deeper than its collapse depth of 200 m, at which point water pressure would be greater than the hull could withstand.
  • U.S. President Joe Biden on Saturday recognised the 1915 killings of Armenians by Ottoman forces as genocide, a watershed moment for descendants of the hundreds of thousands of dead as he defied decades of pressure by Turkey. Mr. Biden became the first U.S. President to use the word genocide in a customary statement on the anniversary. As many as 1.5 million Armenians are estimated to have been killed from 1915 to 1917 during the waning days of the Ottoman Empire. Starting with Uruguay in 1965, France, Germany, Russia and many others have recognised the genocide.  
  • The Reserve Bank of India will soon issue cybersecurity norms for payment service providers(PSPs), following a series of data breaches faced by operators including Mobikwik and payment aggregator JusPay, a top RBI official said. While the standards for fintech-driven payment services providers will be similar to cyber hygiene norms issued recently for banks and non-banking finance companies, the RBI is quite clear that firms will have to do more than observe the minimum standards to ensure safety as digital transactions gain further traction.  

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (April 23 & 24, 2021)

  • U.S. will cut emissions by 52% by 2030; Modi announces climate partnership with U.S.
  • Australia ends China deals on national interest grounds
  • Israel strikes Syria after attack near nuclear site
  • Protests in Myanmar ahead of ASEAN meet; Amnesty calls crisis the bloc’s biggest test
  • China’s national security office to open permanent base in Hong Kong
  • Russia starts pulling back troops from Ukraine border
  • Japan to host joint drill with United State, France

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

  • U.S. President Joe Biden announced that the U.S. would cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 50%-52% by 2030 relative to 2005 levels, in a clean break with the Trump administration policies on climate action. Mr. Biden also announced that the U.S. would double, by 2024, its annual financing commitments to developing countries, including a tripling of its adaptation finance by 2024.
  • Australia said that it cancelled two accords between Victoria State and China on the Belt and Road Initiative because they were out of line with the federal government’s foreign policy, which sees a “free and open Indo-Pacific” as a key goal. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the two accords were cancelled because his federal government did not want other levels of government to enter into agreements that are in conflict with Australia’s foreign policy.
  • A Syrian officer was killed and three soldiers were wounded on Thursday in strikes launched by Israel after a missile was fired towards a secretive nuclear site in the Jewish state, a monitor said. Since the outbreak of Syria’s civil war in 2011, Israel has routinely carried out aerial raids on the country, mostly targeting Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah forces as well as government troops.
  • Protesters marched through downtown Yangon on Friday to demand that regional leaders “stand with Myanmar people”, ahead of a weekend ASEAN summit to be attended by junta leader Min Aung Hlaing. The country has been in turmoil since February 1, when the military ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a lightning coup.
  • Hong Kong is set to grant a site on the western Kowloon peninsula, close to the highspeed railway to the mainland, to Beijing’s national security office for its permanent base in the city, the government said on Friday. The office, which operates beyond the scrutiny of local courts or other institutions, will oversee the Hong Kong government’s enforcement of sweeping national security legislation that Beijing imposed on the city in June.
  • Russian troops began pulling back to their permanent bases on Friday after a massive build up that has caused Ukrainian and Western concerns. The Russian Defence Ministry said on Friday that its forces that took part in the massive drills in Crimea were moving to board trains, transport aircraft and landing vessels en route to their permanent bases.
  • Japan will hold a joint military drill with U.S. and French troops in the country’s southwest next month, the Defence Minister said on Friday, as China’s actions in regional waters raise concern. The exercise, running from May 11 to 17, will be the first large-scale exercise in Japan involving ground troops from all three countries.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (April 22, 2021)

  • Very few post-vaccine infections : ICMR; Council says such ‘breakthrough’ cases do not undermine the efficacy of shots
  • India should be a country of particular concern : U.S. Panel
  • India at 142nd rank on press freedom index; It was in the same place last year too
  • Indian ads further gender stereotypes, shows study
  • PM Modi to participate in virtual climate summit today
  • Sri Lanka detects nuclear material on China-bound vessel
  • U.S. lawmakers back $100 bn science push to take on China

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

  • The Indian Council of Medical Research on Wednesday said only a small fraction of people who had been vaccinated with either Covaxin or Covishield had tested positive for COVID-19. However, these instances of “breakthrough” infections did not undermine the efficacy of the vaccines. These vaccines definitely, definitely protect against disease. However, the immune response begins to develop usually two weeks after every dose and there are variations within individuals, too.
  • The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent bi-partisan commission, has recommended for the second year in a row that the State Department put India on a list (‘Countries of Particular Concern’ or CPCs) for the worst violations of religious freedoms in 2020. One of the 10 USCIRF commissioners presented a dissenting view. The USCISRF recommended that the administration impose targeted sanctions on Indian individuals and entities for “severe violations of religious freedom”.
  • The World Press Freedom Index, 2021, produced by Reporters Without Borders(RSF), a French non-governmental organisation, has again ranked India at 142nd out of 180 countries. This is despite the fact that for a year, on directions from Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, an index monitoring cell worked to improve the rankings, even holding a meeting between the Indian Ambassador to France and the RSF officials to lobby for a change in the ranking. In 2016, India’s rank was 133, which has steadily climbed down to 142 in 2020.
  • An analysis of Indian advertisements on television and YouTube has shown that while they are superior to global benchmarks insofar as girls and women have parity of representation in terms of screen and speaking time, their portrayal is problematic as they further gender stereotypes – they are more likely than male characters to be shown as married, less likely to be shown in paid occupation, and more likely to be depicted as caretakers and parents. These are some of the findings of a study released on Monday by UNICEF and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media titled “Gender bias and Inclusion in advertising in India”. The research measures over 1,000 television and YouTube advertisements aired across India in 2019. The ads analysed were those that received the most reach.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will join other global leaders on Thursday to participate in the Leaders’ Summit on Climate, a virtual event which will reflect the concerns of U.S. President Joe Biden regarding climate change. President Biden had called for the summit in March saying that the event will reflect the “urgency” to stop climate change. Nearly 40 other world leaders are participating in the summit. The leaders will exchange views on climate change, enhancing climate actions, mobilising finance towards climate mitigation and adaptation, nature based solutions, climate security as well as technological innovations for clean energy.
  • Sri Lanka detected radioactive material on a China-bound vessel berthed at the southern Hambantota Port. The vessel has been asked to leave the Port, according to officials, as the shipping company failed to obtain prior clearance for “dangerous cargo”, as per Sri Lankan law.
  • A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday introduced legislation calling for $100 billion in government spending over five years on basic and advanced technology research and science in the face of rising pressure from China. The Bill, called the “Endless Frontier Act”, represents a significant effort by the government to shore up private sector and university research efforts in advanced technologies with federal funding.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (April 21, 2021)

  • Use lockdown only as absolute last resort, PM Modi tells states
  • Boeing 737 MAX 8s allowed to overfly India; Regulator modifies ban on aircraft
  • A few countries cannot set global rules, says Xi Jinping
  • Russia says it will launch own space station in 2025
  • Local curbs have started to hurt activity, says Crisil
  • Philippines’ South China Sea task force deploys more ships and aircraft to protect maritime territory and resources

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

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday urged the States only resort to lockdowns as an absolute last resort and said that were everyone to observe COVID-19 appropriate behavior, there would be no need for stringent reactions. He appealed to the children to ensure that elders do not step out without cause.
  • The Directorate General of Civil Aviation(DGCA), the aviation safety watchdog, on Tuesday allowed Boeing 737 MAX 8s to overfly India in a move that will enable foreign carriers to operate the aircraft. The aircraft continues to be banned for commercial operations in the country since its involvement in two air crashes more than two years back.
  • China’s President Xi Jinping said on Tuesday global rules cannot be imposed by one or few countries and attempts to decouple would not benefit any nation. He was asking at the annual Boao Forum, a meeting known as China’s Davos and this year attended virtually by a number of Asian leaders, Chinese official media reported, including South Korea’s Moon Jae-in, Indonesia’s Joko Widodo, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
  • Russia’s space agency said on Tuesday it hoped to launch its own orbital station in 2025 as Moscow considers withdrawing from the International Space Station programme to go it alone. The announcement came amid rising tensions with the West. Launched in 1998 and involving Russia, the United States, Canada, Japan, and the European Space Agency, the ISS is one of the most ambitious international collaborations in human history.
  • With the daily pandemic caseloads remaining above the 2.5-lakh mark, Crisil has warned of a grim economic scenario, as with even limited curbs on people’s movement and some businesses, power consumption and e-way GST bill collections have seen a decline. Ratings agency Crisil has in a report called for speeding up the vaccination drive, which of late has been on a decline on a weekly basis.
  • Amidst escalating tensions between the Philippines and China, the Philippines’ South China Sea task force has said that they are deploying more ships and aircraft to protect maritime territory and resources in the nation’s 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The statement added that the Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered authorities to continue sovereignty patrols, and intensify operations against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in its territorial waters. The Philippines has filed several diplomatic protests over Chinese activities in the South China Sea, with the latest accusing its neighbour of illegal fishing and massing more than 240 boats within its EEZ.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (April 20, 2021)

  • Vaccines for all above 18 from May 1; States can buy directly
  • Second wave is not more lethal, says ICMR; Those above 60 are still most at risk
  • IAF chief to flag off Rafale jets during France visit
  • EU Council approves conclusions on Indo-Pacific strategy
  • NASA Mars helicopter makes first flight on another planet
  • Iran nuclear talks enter ‘drafting stage’; Solutions are still far away
  • About 52% adults not clear on defences against cybercrime

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

  • Amid a virulent second wave of COVID-19 in India, the Centre on Monday allowed vaccination against the infection for all persons above the age of 18 from May 1. The decision followed a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and pharmaceutical company representatives, doctors, Union Ministers in charge of healthcare and medicines and officials from multiple nodal Ministries.
  • There is no difference in mortality among COVID-19 patients in the first and second waves, said leading doctors in charge of the national COVID-19 management strategy. There was a relative increase in instances of those with shortness of breath as a symptom of the infection, but those above 60 – as in the first wave – continued to be most at risk from dying.
  • The Chief of the Air Staff, will flag off the next batch of Rafale fighter jets to India. These jets, once inducted into service, will complete the first Rafale squadron – No. 17 ‘Golden Arrows’ – based in Ambala.
  • The Council of the European Union on Monday approved conclusions on a European Union strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific to “reinforce its strategic focus, presence and actions” with the aim to contribute to “regional stability, security, prosperity and sustainable development,” at a time of “rising challenges and tensions in the region”. The EU will aim to promote effective rules based multilateralism, it said, reiterating its support for ASEAN centrality.
  • NASA successfully flew its tiny helicopter ingenuity on Mars early on Monday, the first powered flight on another planet and a feat a top engineer called “our Wright brothers” moment. At 3.34 a.m. Eastern Time, the 1.8 kg rotorcraft lifted off, hovered 10 feet above the Martian surface, then came back to rest after 39.1 seconds. NASA had originally planned the flight for April 11 but postponed it over a software issue that was identified during a planned high speed test of the aircraft’s rotors.
  • High-level talks in Vienna aimed at bringing the U.S. back into the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran are moving ahead with experts working on drafting proposals this week, but a solution remains far away, Russia’s delegate said on Monday. The U.S. unilaterally left the agreement, which promises Iran economic incentives in return for curbs on its nuclear programme, in 2018 under then President Donald Trump, who said it needed to be renegotiated and imposed crippling sanctions.
  • About 52% of adults admitted that they do not know how to protect themselves from cybercrime, according to a survey conducted by online security solutions provider NortonLifeLock. The report also said 59% of the adults in India had become victims of cybercrime in the past 12 months.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (April 18 and 19, 2021)

  • Tamil Nadu sees over twofold jump in investments
  • U.S., China agree to cooperate with urgency on climate crisis
  • Myanmar shadow government wants invite for ASEAN crisis talks
  • Israel relaxes mask mandate; It eases year-long curbs as majority of population is vaccinated
  • NASA’s helicopter makes history with successful flight on Planet Mars
  • Narcotics worth Rs 3,000 crore seized from fishing vessel in Arabian Sea
  • Indian pharma exports grow at 18% to 24.44 billion dollars in FY 21

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

  • Fresh investments into Tamil Nadu more than doubled to over Rs. 1,00,000 crore during the pandemic-hit 2020-21, with the southern State witnessing the second highest investment outlay, as per a private study. Maharashtra retained the top for a second year in a row. Tamil Nadu was ranked 12th among all States in 2018-19, with a 3.67% share of fresh investments into India of Rs. 16.86 lakh crore.
  • The U.S. and China, the world’s two biggest carbon polluters, agreed to cooperate to curb climate change with urgency, just days before President Joe Biden hosts a virtual summit of world leaders to discuss the issue. The two countries are committed to cooperating with each other and with other countries to tackle the climate crisis, which must be addressed with the seriousness and urgency that it demands.
  • Myanmar’s shadow government on Sunday urged Southeast Asian leaders to give it a seat at the table during crisis talks next week, and not to recognize the military regime that seized power in a February coup. Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing is expected to join a special ASEAN summit on Myanmar in Jakarta – his first official overseas trip since the putsch that ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The Army has moved to quell mass protests against its rule, killing at least 730 people according to a local monitoring group.  
  • Israel has lifted a public mask mandate and fully reopened its education system in the latest easing of coronavirus restrictions following its mass vaccination drive. Masks are still required indoors and in large gatherings. Over 53% of its 9.3 million citizens has received two shots of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
  • NASA’s Mars helicopter makes history with successful flight on the Red Planet. As per the U.S. space agency NASA, the miniature robot helicopter Ingenuity performed a successful take off and landing on Mars early today. This is the first powered, controlled flight by an aircraft over the surface of another planet. Mission managers at NASA’s burst into applause and cheers as data beamed back from Mars confirmed that the 4-pound (1.8-kg) twin-rotor helicopter had performed its maiden 40-second flight as planned .
  • Indian Navy has confiscated over 300 kilograms of narcotic substances worth three thousand crore rupees. Indian Naval Ship Suvarna encountered a fishing vessel with suspicious movements while on surveillance patrol in the Arabian Sea. The ship’s team conducted search operation on the vessel which led to the seizure of narcotics substances. This is a major catch not only in terms of the quantity and cost but also from the perspective of disruption of the illegal narcotics smuggling routes, which emanate from the Makran coast and flow towards the Indian, Maldivian and Sri Lankan destinations.
  • India’s pharma exports jumped over 18 percent to 24.4 billion dollars during the last financial year in comparison to the 2020 fiscal year. According to the Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council of India data, North America was the largest exporting region for Indian pharmaceuticals companies with more than 34 percent exports to the region. Country-wise, exports to Canada registered the highest growth of 30 percent, followed by South Africa at 28%. US and Mexico also recorded a healthy growth of 12.6, and 21.4 percent respectively.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (April 17, 2021)

  • Centre promises more oxygen, ventilators for U.P., Chhattisgarh
  • U.K. nod for extradition of Nirav Modi in PNB case
  • India likely to receive normal monsoon : IMD
  • Study says girls face more pressure during the pandemic
  • Opponents of Myanmar coup form shadow government
  • Iran says it has started enriching uranium to 60%; Bid to create pressure on nuclear talks
  • United States Treasury keeps India on currency watch list

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

  • Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan has informed Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh that their demand for 10 litre and 45 litre jumbo oxygen cylinders and additional ventilators having high flow nasal canula will be met very soon, as per Union Health Ministry.
  • The U.K.’s Home Department has approved the extradition of diamond merchant Nirav Modi to India in connection with the Rs. 13,758 crore Punjab National Bank fraud, about two months after the Westminster Magistrates’ court in London ruled that a prima facie case was made out against him. The accused now has the legal recourse of approaching the U.K. High Court within 14 days to seek permission for moving an appeal against the Secretary of State’s decision.
  • India is likely to receive “normal” monsoon rainfall this year, the India Meteorological Department(IMD) has said as part of its official April forecast. Except for parts of eastern and north-eastern India, many parts of the country are expected to get “above normal” rainfall, the IMD’s models show. Normal rainfall refers to a range – 96%-104% of the Long Period Average(LPA) of 88 cm.
  • Twenty-five girls from seven cities set out to interview their peers to record the impact of COVID-19 on their peers to record the impact of COVID-19 on their lives and found that adolescent girls were grappling with an increased pressure to get married, spent longer hours on household chores, lacked tools to continue school education online, and reported in gender-based violence. The study titled ‘COVID In her voice: A girl-led and Centred Participatory Research Study’ was released on April 13.
  • Opponents of Myanmar’s ruling junta went on the political offensive on Friday, declaring they have formed as interim national unity government with members of Aung San Suu Kyi’s ousted Cabinet and major ethnic minority groups. The move comes on the eve of a diplomatic initiative to solve Myanmar’s crisis by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which is expected to hold a summit next week.  
  • Iran began enriching uranium on Friday to its highest level ever, edging closer to weapons-grade levels to pressure talks in Vienna aimed at restoring its nuclear deal with world powers after an attack on its main atomic site. A top official said only a few grams an hour of uranium gas would be enriched up to 60% purity – triple the level it once did but at a rate far slower than what Tehran could produce. The move is likely to raise tensions even as Iran negotiates in Vienna over a way to allow the U.S. back into the agreement and lift the crushing economic sanctions it faces.
  • India is one of the 11 countries on the U.S. Treasury’s ‘Monitoring List’ with regard to their currency practices, according to the April 2021 edition of the semi-annual report, the first from the Biden administration, India was on the list in the December 2020 report as well. The report reviews currency practices of the U.S.’s 20 biggest trading partners. Three criteria are  used to review partners : a significant bilateral trade surplus, a material current account surplus, and persistent one-sided intervention in forex markets.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (April 07, 2021)

  • Justice Ramana will be the next CJI; He will take charge on April 24
  • No move to vaccinate all adults now : Union Health Ministry
  • Vigilance officers to be transferred every 3 years; A move to ensure transparency
  • Talks begin to revive Iran nuclear deal; Tehran rejects direct negotiations
  • Ukraine urges NATO to speed up membership; It will be a real signal for Russia
  • India growth outlook of 12.5% faces severe risks

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

  • President Ram Nath Kovind on Tuesday appointed Justice N.V. Ramana as the 48th Chief Justice of India with effect from April 24. Justice Ramana was the Delhi High Court Chief Justice prior to his elevation to the top court. As CJI, Justice Ramana will have a tenure of 16 months.
  • With a growing public clamour for making vaccines available to all adults, the Union Health Ministry said on Tuesday that India was following a scientific protocol on administering vaccines and that it wasn’t possible “to suddenly ramp up” vaccinations. Government has added that all the countries had employed a restrictive criterion that prioritised the elderly, healthcare workers, and those with co-morbidities and India, too, was following a guidance protocol of the World Health Organisation in prioritising those more at risk.
  • The Central Vigilance Commission has modified the guidelines pertaining to the transfer and posting of officials in the vigilance units of government organisations, restricting their tenure to three years at one place. The tenure may be extended to three more years, albeit at a different place of posting. The CVC, in its order, said undue long stay of an official in a vigilance department had the potential of developing vested interests, apart from giving rise to unnecessary complaints or allegations.
  • Iran and world powers will meet on Friday after their experts flesh out concrete plans on how the United States would lift sanctions and Iran return to its obligations, as part of indirect talks aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal. While Joe Biden aims to restore the agreement, each side wants the other to act first. Tehran has rejected direct negotiations, and Washington said on Monday it expected the discussions to be difficult.
  • Ukrainian President urged NATO to speed up his country’s membership in the alliance, saying it was the only way to end fighting with pro-Russia separatists. Fears have been mounting of a major escalation of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, where government forces have battled separatists in the mainly Russian-speaking Donbas region since 2014.
  • After an estimated contraction of 8% in the 12 months ended March 31, India is projected to grow at 12.5% in the current fiscal year, an outlook that, however, now faces significant downside risks because of the ongoing wave of COVID-19 in the country, the IMF said on Tuesday.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (April 06, 2021)

  • Lavrov-Jaishankar talks today; Russian Foreign Minister’s visit to focus on peace efforts in Afghanistan
  • India reports 96,580 fresh COVID-19 infections, 440 deaths
  • Panacea Biotec to make 100 million doses of Sputnik V
  • INS Viraat now private property of ship-breaker; SC responds to plea of firm wanting to make it a museum
  • Afghan President to unveil new peace proposal : Officials
  • Japan expresses concerns to China on Hong Kong, Uighurs
  • Putin signs law that could keep him in office till 2036
  • Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index dips to 7-month low

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

  • An important round of discussion between India and Russia will take place on Tuesday between the visiting Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, and External Affairs Minister S.Jaishankar. The meeting provide also India with a window to share its frank assessment about the continuing scenario in eastern Ladakh along the Line of Actual Control.
  • Vaccine and pharma major Panacea Biotec has joined a growing list of Indian firms cleared to produce Sputnik V, the Russian vaccine against COVID-19. The firm will produce 100 million doses per year of Sputnik V, Russia’s sovereign wealth fund RFID (Russian Direct Investment Fund) said on Monday, announcing its fifth such partnership with vaccine makers in India. The RDIF, however, did not mention when the firm is likely to begin production of the two-dose adenoviral-based vector vaccine, with a reported efficacy of 91.6%.
  • INS Viraat, the Navy’s decommissioned aircraft carrier, has become the “private property” of a ship-breaker who has already torn down 40% of its body, chiefly for scrap, the Supreme Court told a private company, that wants to turn the vessel into a maritime museum-cum-adventure centre. On February 10, the court had ordered a stay on the process of dismantling the ship.
  • Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has drawn up a new proposal for peace with the Taliban ahead of an international conference aimed at jump-starting faltering talks between the two warring sides. It comes after the U.S. – backed by Russia and other stakeholders – said in its own leaked proposal that it wants to see some form of transitional government involving the Taliban, although Mr. Ghani has insisted leaders can only be chosen at the ballot box.
  • Japanese Foreign Minister Tohimitsu Motegi on Tuesday expressed strong concerns to his Chinese counterpart about Chinese incursions into territorial waters, the situation in Hong Kong and the human rights situation of China’s Uighur minority. China’s extensive territorial claims in the East and South China Seas have become a priority issue in an increasingly testy Sino-U.S. relationship and are a security concern for Japan.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law allowing him to potentially hold onto power until 2036, a move that formalises constitutional changes endorsed in a vote last year. The July 1 constitutional vote included a provision that reset Mr. Putin’s previous term limits, allowing him to run for President two more times. He has argued that resetting the term count was necessary to keep his lieutenants focussed on their work instead of “darting their eyes in search for successors”.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (April 05, 2021)

  • Amid virus surge, Russian vaccine may get the nod
  • PSU banks may have to take Rs. 2000 crore hit; Fallout of SC order on interest waiver
  • Another batch of Rafale jets to fly in by mid-May
  • Joint efforts needed for peace, says Chinese envoy
  • NASA’s chopper dropped on Mar’s surface, the U.S. space agency said
  • Philippines accuses China of plans to occupy more areas
  • More than 80 terrorists killed in airstrikes in Kandahar province of Afghanistan

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

  • On Sunday when 1,03,790 COVID-19 cases were detected across the states – a new daily high for infections surpassing the previous peak reached in mid-September 2020, it was known that the Russia-made Sputnik V vaccine may be cleared for emergency use in India within 10 days. Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a high-level meeting during the day to review the situation and the ongoing vaccination programme.
  • The public sector banks may have to bear a burden of Rs. 1800 crore – Rs. 2000 crore arising out of a recent Supreme Court judgment on the waiver of compound interest on all loan accounts which opted for moratorium during the March-August 2020. The judgment covers loans above Rs. 2 crore as loans below this got blanket interest on interest waiver in November last year.
  • India will receive another 8 to 9 Rafale jets from France by mid-May, with some expected later this month, completing the first squadron of the fighters in the Indian Air Force(IAF). With the inductions this month set to complete the first squadron, which currently has 14 jets, the IAF is all set to operationalise the second Rafale squadron at Hasimara in West Bengal later this month.
  • India and China need to strengthen confidence building measures in border areas and avoid a repeat of last year’s border crisis, China’s envoy to India Sun Weidong has said. He added that maintenance of peace and tranquillity need our joint efforts. In case of an incident, a timely communication through military and diplomatic channels should be undertaken to avoid any action that may complicate or escalate the situation.
  • NASA’s ingenuity mini-helicopter has been dropped on the surface of Mars in preparation for its first flight, the U.S. space agency said. The ultra-light aircraft had been fixed to the belly of the Perseverance rover, which touched down on the Red Planet on February 18.
  • The Philippines’ Defence Secretary said on Sunday that China was looking to occupy more areas in the South China Sea, citing the continued presence of Chinese vessels     that Manila believes are manned by militias in disputed parts of the strategic waterways. Chinese diplomats have said the boats anchored near the reef – numbering more than 200 based on initial intelligence gathered by Philippine patrols – were sheltering from rough seas and that no militia were abroad.
  • In Afghanistan, nearly 82 terrorists were killed in airstrikes in the Arghandab district of southern Kandahar province yesterday. Besides the killing of 82 armed insurgents including the Taliban’s key commander Sarhadi, two tanks and several vehicles of the insurgents have also been destroyed. Earlier in the day, Fawad Aman, Deputy Spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, said that the air force launched airstrikes on the Taliban in the Arghandab district of Kandahar province. Taliban terrorists, who are active in parts of Kandahar province, are yet to make comment on the airstrikes.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (April 02, 2021)

  • No interest cut on small savings; Centre withdraws March 31 order apparently after backlash
  • Pakistan freezes plan to allow imports from India
  • BIMSTEC meet skirts Myanmar violence; Jaishankar takes part in online event
  • Rawat launches joint logistics hub; Move to boost tri-service integration
  • Biden allows H1-B visa ban to expire; Trump had imposed the restrictions last year to ‘protect’ jobs
  • China pushes to expand virus origin search beyond its border

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

  • Hours after notifying significant cuts in small savings instruments’ returns for this quarter, the government backtracked and reversed the sharp rate cuts that sent the Public Provident Fund (PPF) return to a multi-decade low. The rates notified yesterday for the April to June 2021 quarter were 40 basis points(0.4%) to 110 basis points(1.1%) lower on different instruments. This is the first time that the Centre has scrapped the notified interest rates on small savings schemes after switching to a quarterly interest rate setting system for them, beginning April 2016.  
  • Just a day after announcing its plan to allow import of cotton and sugar from India, the Pakistan government on Thursday said it was deferring the decision and linked any normalisation in ties to moves by New Delhi o Jammu and Kashmir.  
  • India yesterday expressed commitment about the Bay of Bengal community to new heights. The meeting drew participation from all the seven-member States, including Myanmar which is witnessing a large-scale crackdown against anti-military protesters. Thursday’s meeting, the 17th BIMSTEC Ministerial, chaired by Sri Lanka, however, avoided any reference to Myanmar’s current crisis.
  • As part of measures to boost tri-service integration and resource optimisation, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat operationalised the third joint logistics mode in Mumbai. These JLNs will provide integrated logistics cover to the armed forces for their small arms ammunition, rations, fuel, general stores, civil hired transport, aviation clothing, spares and also engineering support in an effort to synergise their operational efforts.
  • The White House has allowed a 2020 ban on H1-B skilled worker and certain other temporary visas to expire on March 31. H1-B visas, used more by Indian professionals than any other nationality, were suspended by President Donald Trump in June last year, ostensibly to protect American jobs, already reeling under the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Chinese health officials pushed on Wednesday to expand the search for the origin of the novel coronavirus beyond China, one day after the release of a closely watched World Health Organisation report on the issue. They also rejected criticism that China did not give enough data to a WHO team of international experts that visited Wuhan, the Chinese city where the first cases were detected, earlier this year.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (April 01, 2021)

  • Government sharply cuts rates on small savings instruments
  • Pakistan allows import of cotton and sugar from India
  • Joe Biden set to announce $2 trillion infrastructure plan
  • India GDP to grow 7.5%-12.5% in FY22, says World Bank
  • Government retains 4% inflation target for RBI’s rate panel for 2021-26
  • Core sector output contracts 4.6% in February; Refinery sees steep decline of 10.9%

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

  • The government has sharply slashed the rates on all small savings instruments for the first quarter of 2021-22, bringing the rate of return on the Public Provident Fund down from 7.1% to 6.4% and effecting cuts ranging from 40 basis points(0.4%) to 110 basis points(1.1%) through a notification yesterday. The sharpest cut was seen in the quarterly interest rate paid on one-year term deposits, from 5.5% in the January to March quarter to 4.4% in this quarter.
  • Partially reversing a two-year-old decision to suspend all trade with India, Pakistan announced on Monday that it would allow the import of cotton and sugar from across the border. The decision follows the Line of Control(LoC) ceasefire announced by India and Pakistan in February, and a number of moves seen as part of a larger  dialogue process to de-freeze ties.
  • U.S. President Joe Biden will visit Pittsburgh on Wednesday afternoon to announce a massive $2 trillion infrastructure plan, which will, over eight years, rebuild much of America’s infrastructure – from roads and bridges to high-speed Internet infrastructure and water pipes. The legislation, called the American Jobs Plan, is being pitched by the White House as America’s response to the climate crisis and the ambitions of an autocratic China.
  • The Centre has decided to retain the inflation target of 4% with a tolerance band of +/- 2 percentage points for the Monetary Policy Committee of the RBI for the coming five years, as per government.
  • The output of eight core sectors declined by 4.6% in February, the steepest contraction in the last six months, which economists said could drag the overall industrial production in the month into the negative territory. All the key segments, including coal, crude oil, natural gas, and refinery products, witnessed a decline in production, according to the official data released yesterday. The growth rate of the eight infrastructure sectors – coal, crude oil, natural gas, refinery products, fertilisers, steel, cement and electricity – stood at 6.4% in February 2020.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (March 31, 2021)

  • Manipur retracts letter on refugees; Mizoram plans to include Myanmar exiles under MGNREGS
  • Jaishankar says India backs Afghan-Taliban dialogue at Heart of Asia meet
  • OCI card holders need not carry old passports; Time for card re-issuance extended
  • Global leaders push for new pandemic treaty; Pact to avoid scramble for vaccines
  • Work with India on funding infra, Sitharaman urges New Development Bank
  • Japan and Indonesia sign deal enabling exports of Japanese made defence equipment to Southeast Asian country

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

  • The Manipur government has withdrawn a letter issued last week directing officials to not set up any camps for Myanmar nationals crossing the border into India and to politely turn away those seeking refuge. Meanwhile, even though the Union Home Ministry asserted that the refugees should be identified and deported, the Mizoram government is planning to provide them employment under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.
  • Calling for a “double peace” both inside Afghanistan and in the region, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said India supports the Intra Afghan Negotiations, in a rare direct reference to the Taliban at the 9th Heart of Asia conference in Tajikistan. Mr. Jaishankar attended the meet along with Foreign Ministers of 15 countries, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey, Iran, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Central Asian states.
  • People of Indian origin and the Indian diaspora having Overseas Citizens of India cards will not have to carry their old, expired passports for travel to India, as was required earlier, according to a government notification. The OCI card issued to people of Indian origin globally gives them almost all the privileges available to an Indian national, except for the right to vote, employment in government service and buying agricultural land.
  • World leaders pushed Tuesday for a new international treaty to prepare for the next global pandemic – and avoid the unseemly scramble for vaccines hampering the COVID-19 response. Leaders from 25 countries, the European Union and the World Health Organisation sought to get the ground rules down in writing to streamline and speed up the reaction to future global outbreaks.
  • Finance and Corporate Affairs Minister Nirmala Sitharaman urged the New Development Bank(NDB) to consider working closely with India’s new development financing institution for funding infrastructure. Set up by the BRICS nations in 2014, the NDB has so far approved 18 projects in India, including emergency loans of $2 billion to support health spending and economic recovery in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Japan and Indonesia have signed a deal enabling exports of Japanese made defence equipment to the Southeast Asian country. The agreement on the transfer of defence equipment and technology was signed in Tokyo yesterday to boost cooperation between the two countries. It came after the foreign and defence ministers of Japan and Indonesia met in Tokyo. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga expressed hope that the pact will be the foundation of further security cooperation between the two countries. During his meeting with Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi and Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, Mr Suga said that in order to realize the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific, he would like to advance specific cooperation.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (March 30, 2021)

  • India registers 53,250 new cases; Death toll touches 242 in 24 hours
  • Less than 6% of houses under PMAY-G completed this year; Flagship scheme has reached just 55% of its target
  • Education Minister inaugurates Center for Happiness in Indian Institute of Management, Jammu
  • Indian Navy to take part in French Naval Exercise in Bay of Bengal along with other QUAD member countries
  • 6th round of India-Australia Dialogue on Disarmament, Non-Proliferation & Export Control takes place virtually

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

  • Following a five-month high of 68,020 new cases and 291 deaths on Sunday, the number of cases and deaths recorded on Monday fell to 53,250 and 242, largely due to a reduced number of tests. A total of 9.13 lakh samples were tested on Sunday(compared to 11.81 lakh on Saturday), for which results were made available by the State Health Departments on Monday.
  • Less than 6% of houses sanctioned under the Centre’s flagship rural housing scheme in 2020-21 have reached completion so far this year, with COVID-19 stalling progress, the Rural Development Ministry told a Parliamentary Standing Committee last month. However, some states, such as Odisha and Jharkhand, used the scheme to provide employment opportunities for migrant workers, who returned to their villages during the crisis.
  • In the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ inaugurated “Ānandam: The Center for Happiness” in Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Jammu, virtually today. Speaking on the occasion, Pokhriyal congratulated IIM Jammu for the new venture and defined the need for Ānandam. He said that incorporating happiness in the academic curriculum of students is a very crucial step towards empowering the nation.
  • India will participate in France-led naval drill La Perouse for the first time in the Bay of Bengal next month. Australia, Japan and the US will also participate in La Perouse, but India’s first-ever participation is seen as a significant step. The exercise is scheduled between April 5 and 7. After La Perouse, another important naval exercise, the India-French Varuna exercise, will also take place. This time, it will also include the United Arab Emirates. The strategic relationship between France and India, which has been on an upward trajectory ever since France was supportive of India’s nuclear tests in 1998 when most of the western world’s first reaction was to impose sanctions, has expanded considerably in the last two decades.
  • The sixth round of India-Australia Dialogue on Disarmament, Non-Proliferation and Export Control was held today virtually. The two sides exchanged views on contemporary issues of mutual interest in the areas of nuclear, chemical, biological disarmament and non-proliferation, conventional weapons, outer space security and strategic export control. The dialogue facilitated enhanced mutual understanding and appreciation of national perspectives and global developments on non-proliferation and disarmament issues that will contribute to the India- Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (March 29, 2021)

  • Co-WIN upgraded, 1 crore can register for jab daily
  • Centre mulls Unique ID for all plots of land by March 2022
  • 27 migratory birds found dead at wildlife sanctuary in Himachal
  • UN in dialogue with China for ‘unrestricted’ Xinjiang visit
  • Global outrage after Myanmar bloodbath claims over 100 lives
  • Philippines deploys aircraft as China ships stark tension

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

  • The Co-WIN platform, for COVID-19 vaccination registration, has been ramped up to accept one crore registrations and record vaccination of 50 lakh persons daily, said R.S. Sharma, Chairman, Empowered Group on COVID-19 vaccination. Mr. Sharma said the system has been geared up to accommodate the registration rush and vaccination will be offered to everyone above 45. The system on Sunday showed more than 6 crore registrations.
  • The Centre plans to issue a 14-digit identification number to every plot of land in the country within a year. The Unique Land Parcel Identification Number(ULPIN) scheme has been launched in 10 States this year and will be rolled out across the country by March 2022. It will subsequently integrate its land records database with revenue court records and bank records, as well as Aadhar numbers on voluntary basis.
  • As many as 27 migratory birds have been reported dead on account of avian influenza in the Pong Dam Wildlife Sanctuary area of Himachal Pradesh since March 25, setting off alarm bells and forcing authorities to shut down the sanctuary. Officials suspect avian influenza but the reports are awaited.
  • The UN is in negotiations with Beijing for a visit without restrictions to Xinjiang to see how the Uighur minority is being treated, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said yesterday. At least one million Uighurs and people from other mostly Muslim groups have been held in camps in the north western region, according to U.S. and Australian rights groups, which accuse Chinese authorities of forcibly sterilising women and imposing forced labour.
  • Defence chiefs from a dozen countries yesterday jointly condemned the bloodbath in Myanmar a day earlier, when at least 107 people – including seven children – were killed as security forces opened fire on anti-coup protesters. The defence chiefs of 12 countries, including the U.S., Britain, Japan, and Australia, condemned the Myanmar military’s use of lethal force against civilians.
  • The Philippines said it has started deploying its Air Force to carry out daily patrols over a flotilla of Chinese vessels that has sparked fresh tensions in the South China Sea. The latest dispute, Manila said, was triggered by what it described as a swarm of more than 200 Chinese fishing vessels that have refused to withdraw from waters off the Whitsun Reef, near the disputed Spratly island, in an area located within Manila’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (March 23, 2021)

  • Increase interval between two doses of Covishield, says Centre
  • MEA silent on reports of UAE role in India-Pakistan détente
  • India should back UNHRC resolution against Sri Lanka
  • U.P., M.P. sign agreement on Ken-Betwa interlinking work
  • China, Russia look to deepen ‘best’ ties; Lavrov says the West seeks to dominate global economy
  • U.S. data shows AstraZeneca’s vaccine in effective for all ages
  • US, European Union, Britain and Canada impose sanctions on Chinese officials for human rights violations against Uighur Muslims

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

  • The Centre wrote to the states and the Union Territories to increase the interval between two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, from four to eight weeks instead of earlier four to six weeks. The Health Ministry said the interval between the two doses of Covishield had been revisited by the National Technical Advisory Group of Immunisation(NTAGI) and subsequently by the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19(NEGVAC) at its 20th meeting.
  • The Ministry of External Affairs refused to comment on latest in a series of reports that the India-Pakistan détente, signalled by the ceasefire announcement by border commanders at the Line of Control last month, was prompted by a back-channel dialogue between India and Pakistani officials, and facilitated by a third country. On Monday, the international news agency Bloomberg reported that the two governments had begun to work on a “four-step” road map for peace facilitated by the United Arab Emirates government. New Delhi has consistently rejected third party intervention.
  • India  should unambiguously support the United Nations Human Rights Council resolution against Sri Lanka for war crimes against Tamils in the island nation, CPI general secretary D. Raja said in a letter addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Mr. Raja said it was a known fact that in 2009, the civil war in Sri Lanka turned into a full-fledged war by the state against Tamils. He added that India should not set any precedence of supporting injustice by favouring Sri Lanka.
  • The governments of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have signed an agreement that nudges forward a long-stalled multi-crore, controversial project to link the Ken and Betwa rivers and irrigate the water-deficient Bundelkhand region, spread over both States, and provide electricity. Several obstacles have dogged the project. For one, the project will partly submerge the Panna Tiger Reserve in M.P. and affect the habitat of vultures and jackals. After years of protests, however, it was finally cleared by the apex wildlife regulator, the National Board for Wildlife, in 2016.
  • Russia’s relations with China were currently at “the best in their entire history”, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said as he began a key visit to China on Monday. The visit comes shortly after the March 19 China-U.S. dialogue in Alaska and follows the first leaders’ summit of the Quad – India, Australia, Japan and the U.S. – held virtually on March 12. Mr. Lavrov said the international situation is undergoing profound changes, with new centres of economic, financial and political influence growing stronger. In response, Russia and China are prompting a constructive and unifying agenda and hope that the international governance system would be fair and democratic, run smoothly and be based on extensive interaction between countries and their integration initiatives.
  • The phase 3 trial of the AstraZeneca vaccine candidate in the United States has revealed an efficacy of 79%, when both doses were administered 4 weeks apart. This is a significant jump over the candidate’s efficacy reported in the earlier trial conducted in the U.K., Brazil and South Africa. The finding adds confidence to the Covishield vaccine, which is the same as the Astrazeneca vaccine.
  • In a coordinated effort, US, European Union, Britain and Canada have imposed sanctions on Chinese officials for human rights abuses in Xinjiang. In a statement, ahead of meetings with EU and NATO ministers in Brussels this week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, amid growing international condemnation, China continues to commit genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang. Canada’s Foreign Ministry said, mounting evidence points to systemic, state-led human rights violations by Chinese authorities. European Union was the first to impose sanctions yesterday on four Chinese officials, including a top security director, and one entity, a decision that was mirrored by Britain and Canada later in the day. UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the treatment of Uighurs amounted to appalling violations of the most basic human rights. The sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, target senior officials in Xinjiang who have been accused of serious human rights violations against Uighur Muslims.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (March 22, 2021)

  • Transport Ministry advises depts, organizations to strengthen security after CERT-In alert
  • Parliament passes ‘the Insurance (Amendment) Bill, 2021’
  • National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development Bill, 2021 introduced in Lok Sabha
  • Myanmar border shut amid strains over refugee crisis
  • Philippines accuses China of ‘incursion’ in disputed sea
  • U.K. warns European Union against vaccine export ban

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

  • The Road, Transport and Highways Ministry has received reports from Indian Computer Emergency Response Team – CERT-In regarding targeted intrusion activities directed towards Indian Transport sector with possible malicious intentions. The Ministry has advised departments and organizations under the transport sector to strengthen the security posture of their infrastructure. It said, National Informatics Centre (NIC), National Highways Authority of India, NHIDCL, State PWDs, Testing agencies and Automobile manufacturers have been requested to conduct the security audit of the entire IT system by CERT-In certified agencies on a regular basis and take all actions as per their recommendations. It also said, the audit report and the Action Taken Report to be regularly submitted to the Ministry.
  • The Parliament has passed the Insurance (Amendment) Bill, 2021 with the Lok Sabha approving it today. The Rajya Sabha has already passed the legislation. The Bill seeks to amend the Insurance Act, 1938 which will increase the ceiling limit of foreign investment allowed in Indian insurance companies. The Bill provides to increase the foreign direct investment limit from existing 49 percent to 74 percent. It also has a provision for removal of restrictions on ownership and control of insurance companies. India has sealed all entry points along the border with the southeast Asian neighbour and is closely monitoring them to prevent any Myanmar national from entering the country.
  • The National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development Bill, 2021 was introduced in the Lok Sabha today. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman introduced the Bill. It provides for establishment of the National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development to support the infrastructure financing in India. This includes development of bonds and derivatives markets which are necessary for infrastructure financing.        
  • The Philippines accused China of ‘incursion’ after more than 200 militia boats were spotted near a disputed reef in the South China Sea, in a rare rebuke of its superpower neighbour. The Philippine coast guard detected the boats in line formation at the boomerang-shaped Whitsun Reef, around 320 km(175 nautical miles) west of Palawan island on March 7.
  • Britain on Sunday warned the European Union against halting exports of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccines if the bloc did not receive promised deliveries first, saying the move would be counter-productive.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (March 19, 2021)

  • SC to hear plea against sale of electoral bonds; NGO seeks stay on scheme ahead of election in key states
  • Roads to be freed of toll booths in a year; GPS-based system being put in place
  • Rajya Sabha passes Bill to raise FDI limit in insurance sector
  • Lok Sabha passes supplementary demand for grants
  • Russia hosts Afghan peace meet; Kabul government and Taliban representatives meet with international observers
  • India at UNGA stresses need for building resilient systems for sustainable water use
  • Rating agency Moody’s projects India’s GDP to grow by 12 % this year
  • Government signs contract with BDL for supply of 4,960 Anti-Tank Guided Missiles to Indian Army

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

  • Supreme court will urgently hear a plea by NGO Association for Democratic Reforms to stay the sale of a new set of electoral bonds on April 1, before the Assembly elections in crucial states such as West Bengal and Tamil Nadu. The Finance Act of 2017 introduced the use of electoral bonds, which are exempt from disclosure under the Representation of the People Act, 1951, opening doors to unchecked, unknown funding to parties.
  • India will implement a GPS-based toll collection system and do away with all toll booths within a year, Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari informed Lok Sabha. He also shared details of the vehicle scrapping policy, first announced in the Union Budget for 2021-2022, according to which the automobile industry in India will see a jump in turnover to Rs. 10 lakh crore from Rs. 4.5 lakh crore.
  • The Rajya Sabha passed the Insurance Amendment Bill, 2021 that increases the maximum foreign investment allowed in an insurance company from 49% to 74%, amid criticism from the Opposition parties on the clause enabling “control and ownership” by foreign investors.
  • The Lok Sabha passed the supplementary demand for grants (second batch for 2020-21) but not before significant concerns raised by Opposition leaders on the government’s disinvestment and asset monetisation plans, and rising fuel prices.
  • Russia hosted a peace conference for Afghanistan, bringing together government representatives and their Taliban adversaries along with international observers in a bid to help jump-start the country’s stalled peace process. The one-day gathering is the first of three planned international conferences ahead of a May 1 deadline for the final withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops from the country, a date fixed under a year-long agreement between the U.S. and the Taliban.
  • India has stressed the need for building resilient systems that can provide long-term solutions for the sustainable use of water. Speaking at a United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) high-level meeting, Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat said that there is no doubt that in Indian journey to achieve the 2030 agenda, water supply and sanitation have to be the centre of our global efforts.  He said there is need to build resilient systems that provide long term solutions for sustainable use of water. Mr Sekhwat said the Clean India Mission, which was launched in 2014, to achieve universal sanitation became the world’s biggest sanitation campaign with the construction of 110 million toilets in only six years resulting in an open defecation free India.
  • American business and financial services company Moody’s Analytics has projected India’s GDP to grow by 12% in 2021. In an earlier estimate last November, it had said India’s GDP will grow at 9% in the calendar year. In an updated projection released yesterday it said India’s near-term prospects have turned more favourable following a stronger than expected December quarter, when GDP grew by 0.4% over the year following a 7.5% contraction in the September quarter. Domestic and external demand has been on the mend since the easing of restrictions, which has led to improved manufacturing output in recent months.
  • Ministry of Defence today signed a contract with Bharat Dynamics Limited for supply of four thousand 960 MILAN-2T Anti-Tank Guided Missiles to Indian Army. The Defence Public Sector Undertaking will supply the missiles at a cost of one thousand 188 crore rupees. It is a repeat order of contract, which was signed with Bharat Dynamics Limited on 8th March, 2016. The Milan-2T is a Tandem Warhead Anti-Tank Guided Missile with a range of one thousand 850 metres. These missiles can be fired from ground as well as vehicle-based launchers. They can be deployed in Anti-Tank Role for both offensive and defensive tasks. It is produced by Bharat Dynamics Limited under license from MBDA Missile Systems, France.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (March 18, 2021)

  • No decision on Nation Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC) till now
  • Appropriation Bill gets nod in Lok Sabha
  • Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan appointed as Chairman of international body Stop TB Partnership Board
  • Tough to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by May 1, says Biden
  • US: Gunman charged with killing 8 persons in Parlors attack in Atlanta
  • Italy joins International Solar Alliance under the amended ISA Framework Agreement
  • World Bank to provide USD 200 million to Bangladesh to support COVID 19 affected youth, returnee migrants

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

  • The Union government informed the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday that “till now”, it had not taken any decision to prepare the National Register of Indian Citizens(NRIC) at the national level. From December 2019 to March 2020, 69 persons were killed in various incidents in the wake of protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, the National Population Register and the National Register of Citizens.
  • The Lok Sabha yesterday cleared the Appropriation Bill, allowing the Central government to draw funds from the Consolidated Fund of India for its operational requirements and implementation of various programmes. The bill was passed through guillotine, a legislative mechanism to approve the fast-tracking of the passage of outstanding demands for grants without discussion.
  • Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Dr Harsh Vardhan has been appointed as the Chairman of the international body Stop TB Partnership Board. He was appointed in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the movement to eradicate Tuberculosis from India by 2025. Dr Harsh Vardhan will serve a three-year term, commencing from July this year. The Stop TB Partnership is a unique international body with the power to align actors all over the world in the fight against TB. The participation of a wide range of constituencies gives this global body the credibility and the broad range of medical, social and financial expertise needed to defeat TB. The Partnership’s vision is a TB-free world.
  • U.S. President Joe Biden has said that it would be tough to meet the deadline to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan by May 1, as agreed with the Taliban in a deal secured under Donald Trump. Mr. Biden also took a direct swipe at Mr. Trump’s Afghanistan policy, saying it was not a very solidly negotiated deal that the then President oversaw.
  • Italy has signed the International Solar Alliance under the amended ISA Framework Agreement. The amendments to the Framework Agreement of the ISA entered into force, opening its Membership to all Member States of the UN. The External Affairs Ministry said the Framework Agreement was signed by Italy’s Ambassador, Vincenzo De Luca. The signed copies of the Agreement were received by Additional Secretary (ER), as the representative of External Affairs Ministry, which is the depositary of ISA Framework Agreement.
  • The World Bank has approved USD 200 million to help Bangladesh to provide support and services to the low-income urban youths impacted by COVID 19 pandemic and the migrants who had to return involuntarily. The Recovery and Advancement of Informal Sector Employment (RAISE) project of World Bank is aimed to benefit about 1.75 lakh poor urban youth through training, apprenticeship programme, counselling, micro and self-employment support. It will also help about 2 lakh migrants who were forced to return to Bangladesh to reintegrate in the domestic labour migrate or prepare for re-migration. The funding will provide them cash grants and counselling services based on their needs and aspirations.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (March 17, 2021)

  • Census interim data by 2024; NPR data will also be available by then
  • Government says all banks will not be privatised; Assures to protect interest of employees during privatisation
  • Rajya Sabha passes Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020
  • No Parliament should discuss internal issues of other nations
  • U.S., Japan warn China against coercion; America to shore up regional alliances in Asia
  • U.K. turns to Indo-Pacific in post-Brexit foreign policy

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

  • Although some of the newer Indian Institutes of Management have made some progress in hiring faculty members from the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Castes over the past year, these communities make up less than 10% of the faculty at the older, more prestigious IIMs.
  • The provisional data for the latest Census and the National Population Register will be available before the Lok Sabha election in 2024, according to the information provided by the Union Home Ministry to a parliamentary panel. The previous census was conducted in 2011 and the NPR, which has a database of 119 crore residents, was last updated in 2015.
  • The Rajya Sabha passed the Medical Termination of Pregnancy(Amendment) Bill, 2020 that increases the time period within which an abortion may be carried out. Opposition MPs said the Bill still did not give women the freedom to decide, since they would need a nod from a medical board in the case of pregnancies beyond 24 weeks. The Bill was passed in March last year in the Lok Sabha.
  • The Finance Minister said that all banks will not be privatised and assured that wherever it happens, every interest of the employees and staff will be protected. Ms. Sitharaman emphasised that even those banks which are likely to be privatised, the institutions too will continue to function after privatisation and every interest of the workers will be taken care of, be it salary or pension.
  • No parliament should discuss the laws  passed in other parliaments and issues that are internal to sovereign countries, Lok Sabha speaker said yesterday. The speaker’s remarks are significant as they come just days after lawmakers in Britain discussed the farmers’ protests in India in the British Parliament.
  • The U.S. and Japan warned Beijing against coercion and destabilising behaviour on Tuesday after top-level diplomatic and defence talks aimed at bolstering their alliance against rising Chinese influence. Top American officials are on their first overseas trip, which began on Monday in Japan, looking to shore up regional alliances and send a message to Beijing. They will continue on to South Korea, and a policy review by the new administration of its approach to Pyongang is also a key part of the diplomatic outreach.
  • Britain wants to expand its influence among countries in the Indo-Pacific region to try to moderate China’s global dominance, a document laying out post-Brexit foreign and defence policy priorities said on Tuesday.  The document sets out a planned increase of Britain’s nuclear warhead stockpile by more than 40% to weigh against evolving global security threats, and underlines the importance of strong ties with the U.S. while naming Russia as the top regional threat.  

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (March 16, 2021)

  • Over 60% OBC, SC posts vacant in IIMs; 93% of ST posts of professors at Central varsities unfilled
  • India’s arms imports down by 33%; Drop seems mainly due to complex procurement process
  • Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order (Amendment) Bill, 2021 to be taken up for discussion in Lok Sabha
  • PM Modi to hold Summit with his Finnish counterpart Sanna Marin today
  • CBI registers case against 17 Army officials on allegations pertaining to bribery in recruitment of officers
  • Insurance (Amendment) Bill, 2021 introduced in Rajya Sabha
  • National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education & Research (Amendment) Bill 2021 introduced in Lok Sabha
  • Government to sell 16.12% stake in Tata Communications Ltd through Offer for Sale

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

  • More than half of the faculty positions reserved for the OBCs in Central institutions of higher education are vacant while about 40% of those reserved for the Scheduled Castes and Tribes also remain unfilled. The situation is particularly acute in the elite Indian Institutes of Management(IIMs), where more than 60% of SC and OBC reserved positions are vacant, while almost 80% of positions reserved for the STs have not been filled.
  • Arms imports decreased by 33% between 2011-15 and 2016-20 while India continues to remain the second largest arms importer after Saudi Arabia, according to a report from Swedish think tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). The overall drop in arms imports between 2011-15 and 2016-20 seems to be mainly due to its complex and lengthy procurement processes, combined with its attempts to reduce its dependence on Russian arms by diversifying its network of arms suppliers. Russia was the largest arms supplier in both years.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hold Virtual Summit with Prime Minister of the Finland Sanna Marin today. During the Summit, the two leaders will cover the entire spectrum of bilateral relationship and will also exchange views on regional and global issues of mutual interest. India and Finland enjoy warm and friendly relations based on shared values of democracy, freedom and rules based international order. Both countries have very close cooperation in the areas of trade and investment, education, innovation, Science And Technology as well as Research and Development. Both sides also have ongoing collaboration in the joint development of a Quantum Computer using Artificial Intelligence to address societal challenges.
  • The Central Bureau of Investigation, CBI has registered a case against 17 Army officials including Lieutenant Colonel, Major, Naib Subedar, Sepoy, six private persons and others on the allegations pertaining to bribery and irregularities in recruitment of officers and other ranks through Service Selection Board, SSB. The case was registered on a complaint from the office of Additional Directorate General, Discipline and Vigilance, Adjutant General’s Branch, Integrated Headquarters of Ministry of Defence (Army), New Delhi. Searches were conducted today at 30 places including Base Hospital, Cantonment, other Army establishments, civilian areas covering 13 cities Kapurthala, Bathinda, Delhi, Kaithal, Palwal, Lucknow, Bareili, Gorakhpur, Visakhapatnam, Jaipur, Guwahati, Jorhat and Chirangon which led to recovery of several incriminating documents. The documents recovered during searches are being scrutinized.
  • The Insurance (Amendment) Bill, 2021 seeking increase in the FDI limit to 74 per cent in the domestic Insurance Companies was today introduced in the Rajya Sabha. Union Finance & Corporate Affairs Minister Nirmala Sitharaman introduced the bill which aims at amending the Insurance Act, 1938. The FDI limit in the Indian Insurance companies at the moment stands at 49 per cent. The Union Finance Minister had already made the proposal to enhance the FDI limit in the sector in her General Budget for Financial year 2021-22. The legislation seeks to achieve the objective of Government’s Foreign Direct Investment Policy of supplementing domestic long-term capital, technology and skills for the growth of the economy and the insurance sector, thereby enhancing insurance penetration and social protection.
  • The National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (Amendment) Bill 2021 was introduced in the Lok Sabha today. Chemical and Fertilizer Minister D.V. Sadananda Gawda introduced the Bill which amends the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research Act 1998. The legislation seeks to grant status of institutes of national importance to existing six National Pharmaceutical Institutes located in Ahmedabad, Guwahati, Hajipur, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Raebareli. This also aims to empower the Central government to establish a Council for these institutes and rationalise their Board of Governors for better administration.
  • Government has decided to sell 16.12 per cent stake in Tata Communications Limited TCL through an Offer for Sale, OFS. The floor price of each share of face value of ten rupees is fixed at one thousand one hundred 61 rupees. Government holds 26.12 per cent stake in TCL earlier known as Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited. As per the decision of Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, remaining stake of Government in TCL post OFS, including the unsubscribed portion of the OFS would be sold to Panatone Finvest Limited, a Tata group company at the price discovered in OFS. The whole transaction is likely to raise more than 8 thousand 6 hundred 42 crore rupees for the Government. So far this fiscal, Government has raised 21 thousand 302 crore rupees from CPSE disinvestments. The revised disinvestment target for this financial year has been set at 32 thousand crore rupees.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (March 15, 2021)

  • Centre likely to allow residents to fill their NPR details online
  • U.K. apprised of extremist groups; Two nations discussed activities of Khalistani outfits
  • Government introduces Mines and Minerals (Regulations and Development) Act in Lok Sabha
  • Centre announces new scheme for tourist vehicle operators to boost tourism
  • Civil Aviation Ministry proposes about 392 routes under UDAN 4.1 bidding process
  • Chinese capital faces largest sandstorm in a decade
  • At least 39 killed in Myanmar protests, Chinese factory burnt in Yangon

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

  • The Centre will allow residents to fill the National Population Register form on their own, through the online mode, a month before the door-to-door enumeration by Census official starts. The details of the respondent will be displayed on a mobile application developed for conducting the Census exercise but no biometrics or documents will be collected. The first phase of the decennial Census exercise – the House-listing and Housing Census – along with updating the NPR was scheduled to be held from April 1, 2020. It was postponed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is unlikely to be held this year.
  • The Union Home Secretary held a meeting in January with his counterpart to discuss anti-India activities of U.K.-based pro-Khalistani extremist organisations and the safety of the Indian High Commission in London. The meeting came almost a month after a large number of people protested outside the High Commission in London in support of farmers in India who are opposing the three farm laws passed by the Parliament in September 2020.
  • The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has announced a new scheme for tourist vehicle operators.  Any tourist vehicle operator may apply for an All India tourist authorization and permit  through online mode. It will be issued, after relevant documents are submitted and fees deposited, within 30 days of submission of such applications. The new set of rules, to be known as, All India Tourist Vehicles Authorization and Permit Rules, 2021, will be applicable from 1st April this year. All existing permits shall continue to be in force during their validity. The new rules for permits are expected to go a long way in promoting tourism across the states. It will also consolidate a central database and fees of all such authorization which might give a sense of tourist movements, scope for improvement and promotion of tourism.
  • Ministry of Civil Aviation has proposed about 392 routes under UDAN 4.1 bidding process on the occasion of commencement of the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav. The UDAN 4.1 round is focused on connecting smaller airports, along with special helicopter and seaplane routes. In addition to these, some new routes have been proposed under the Sagaramala Seaplane Services in consultation with the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways. Till date, 325 routes and 56 airports including 5 heliports and 2 Water Aerodromes have been operationalised under the UDAN scheme. The Regional Connectivity Scheme, UDAN, Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik, is a flagship scheme of the Ministry of Civil Aviation envisaged to make air travel affordable and widespread in the country. The scheme intends to boost inclusive national economic growth, employment opportunities and air transport infrastructure development across the nation.
  • China’s capital Beijing is facing a heavy sandstorm as the city was covered with a thick brown dust cover on Monday morning due to heavy winds blowing in from northern parts of China, reducing visibility to less than 1,000 meters. The China Meteorological Administration announced a yellow on Monday morning, saying that the sandstorms had spread from Inner Mongolia into the provinces of Gansu, Shanxi and Hebei, which surrounds Beijing. The meteorological agency called it the “the strongest sandstorm in the past decade” which has reached the level of a strong storm which has smothered the capital and other northern Chinese regions. Beijing’s official air quality index reached a maximum level of 500 on Monday morning, with floating particles known as PM10 reaching 9,000 micrograms per cubic metre in some districts. Readings of PM2.5, smaller particles that infiltrate the lungs, were also crossed 700 micrograms per cubic metre.
  • In the most violent day of the protest since it began more than 6 weeks back in Myanmar, more than 39 people were killed on Sunday. The security forces killed 22 anti-government protesters in the Hlaingtharyar suburb of Yangon. 16 more protestors were killed in other places of Myanmar, reports Reuters quoting the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP). A policeman was also killed in the protests. Two Chinese funded factories were also burnt on Sunday. After the factory was set on fire in the industrial area of Yangon, security forces opened fire on protesters in the suburb which is home to migrants from across the country. The state media announced that martial law has been imposed in Hlaingtharyar and another district of Yangon in the wake of arson and violence.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (March 12, 2021)

  • PM Modi to attend first Quad Summit today
  • India, Japan space agencies review ties; Many collaborations planned
  • China parliament approves 5-year plan; Projects include dam building on Brahmaputra
  • Economies to see pre-Covid activity only by 2022
  • First Meeting of BRICS CGETI held under India’s Chairship
  • ‘Azadi Ka Amrut Mahotsav’ commemorating 75th Anniversary of India’s Independence inaugurated by PM from Sabarmati Ashram
  • APEDA launches its first virtual trade fair to boost export of agricultural, processed food products
  • US President Joe Biden signs 1.9 trillion dollar coronavirus rescue package into law

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

  • Access to COVID-19 vaccines, cooperation on technology, and climate change are on the top of the agenda as Prime Minister Narendra Modi will join a virtual summit of the Quadrilateral Framework(Quad) on Friday – the first time leaders of the Indo-Pacific groupings are meeting.
  • Indian and Japanese space agencies reviewed cooperation in earth observation, lunar cooperation and satellite navigation, and also agreed to explore opportunities for cooperation in space situational awareness and professional exchange programme. This was agreed during a bilateral meeting between the Indian Space research Organisation and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency held virtually.
  • China formally approved the outline of 14th five-year plan (2021-25), which highlights a number of key strategic projects to be pursued as a priority, including the first dam in Tibet on the lower reaches of the Yarlung Zangbo or Brahmaputra, a Sichuan-Tibet railway line near the India border, and a push for self-sufficiency in emerging industries such as Artificial Intelligence. While four dams have been approved on the upper and the middle reaches, this is the first project in the lower reaches of the river.
  • Moody’s Investors Service on Thursday said the credit downturn arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic would be short-lived but that most economies would not return to pre-pandemic activity levels until 2022. Moody’s said that it expected a slow and bumpy global recovery and that uncertainty around the macroeconomic outlook remains much higher than usual.
  • The first Meeting of the BRICS Contact Group on Economic and Trade Issues (CGETI) was held under India’s Chairship from 9th till 11th of this month. The theme of BRICS this year is -“BRICS at 15: Intra BRICS Cooperation for Continuity, Consolidation, and Consensus”. India presented the calendar of events for BRICS CGETI 2021, which included the priority areas for deliverables, schedule and scope of the MSME roundtable conference workshop on Services Statistics, and the BRICS Trade Fair. Till September, inter sessional deliberations will be carried out to reach consensus amongst the BRICS countries.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi also launched a special website for Azadi Ka Amrut Mahotsav in connection with the 75 years celebration of Indian Independence. People and particularly, the young generation can share their videos and images on Azadi ka Amrit Mahotav on this website. Prime Minister Modi also launched Atmanirbhar Incubator to boost the Atmanirbhar Bharat. Speaking on this occasion, Union Minister of State for Culture and Tourism Independent Charge Prahalad Singh Patel said that Azadi Ka Amrut Mahotsav- will be a people’s movement which will run by the people of India. He thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for taking India on the path of Atmanirbhar Bharat. 
  • The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority launched its first virtual trade fair yesterday to boost export of agricultural and processed food products. The fair will conclude tomorrow. In the fair, basmati rice, non-basmati rice, millets, wheat, maize, groundnut and coarse grains have been displayed. 266 Indian and international buyers from various countries have registered for the virtual fair.
  • US President Joe Biden has signed the 1.9 trillion dollar coronavirus rescue package into law, marking a significant legislative accomplishment as the new administration looks to shepherd the country through the pandemic. President Biden, who signed the bill alongside Vice President Kamala Harris in the Oval Office, characterized the measure as historic legislation aimed at rebuilding the backbone of this country. The passage of the bill marked the first major legislative achievement of the new administration and a Congress that is now under full Democratic control, with narrow majorities in the House and Senate.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (March 11, 2021)

  • Kerala High Court restrains Centre on new IT rules
  • India not part of Russian meet on Afghanistan; Expanded Troika includes U.S., China, Pakistan
  • Lok Sabha gives approval for National Capital Territory Bill
  • Indo-Pacific is key priority : White House; China hopes Quad meet will be conducive to peace
  • LIC-owned IDBI Bank exits PCA framework
  • PLI scheme approved for promotion of domestic manufacturing of critical Key Starting Materials, Drug Intermediates and Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients
  • India-Uzbekistan joint military exercise DUSTLIK II commences in Ranikhet; To share expertise in counter-terrorist operations
  • Rajya Sabha passes Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill, 2021

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

  • The Kerala High Court on Wednesday restrained the Centre from taking coercive action against Live Law Media             Private Ltd., which owns a legal news portal, for any non-compliance with Part III of the new IT(Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. The court issued notice to the Centre on a petition filed by the firm challenging the rules regulating digital news media, curated content (OTT platforms), and social media intermediaries. The petition said Part III of the rules imposed an unconstitutional three-tier complaints and adjudication structure on publishers.
  • Close on the heels of U.S. plans for a United Nations regional conference on Afghanistan, Russia has announced it will hold a conference of special envoys from the U.S., China, and Pakistan, along with representatives of the Afghanistan government, Taliban and other senior Afghan leaders next week. Unlike the UN-led formulation, however, India has not been invited to the Russian conference.
  • The Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed the National Capital Territory of Delhi Laws(Special Provisions) Second(Amendment) Bill, 2021 that seeks to regularise unauthorised colonies that existed in the National Capital Territory of Delhi as on June 1, 2014 and had seen development up to 50% as on January 1, 2015.
  • The scheduling of the first ever Quad leaders’ summit level meeting within 50 days of the Biden administration signified the importance the administration places on the Indo-Pacific, the White House said on Tuesday. The White House is expecting a range of issues to be discussed, including COVID-19, economic co-operation and the climate crisis.
  • The Reserve Bank of India on Wednesday removed IDBI Bank from its enhanced regulatory supervision, or the Prompt Corrective Action framework, after almost four years, on improved financial performance. The RBI had placed IDBI Bank under the framework in May 2017, after it had breached the thresholds for capital adequacy, asset quality (Net NPAs were over 13% in March 2017), return on assets and leverage ratio.
  • Chemicals and Fertilizers Ministry has accorded approval for Promotion of Domestic Manufacturing of critical Key Starting Materials, Drug Intermediates and Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients under Production Linked Incentive Scheme. Earlier the Union Cabinet had approved Production Linked Incentive Scheme for Pharmaceuticals over a period of Financial Year 2020-21 to 2028-29. The Scheme will benefit domestic manufacturers, help in creating employment and is expected to contribute to the availability of a wider range of affordable medicines for consumers. The Indian pharmaceutical industry is the 3rd largest in the world by volume. It has high market presence in several advanced economies such as the US and European Union.
  • The India – Uzbekistan joint military exercise DUSTLIK II commenced yesterday in Foreign Training Node Chaubatia, Ranikhet in Uttarakhand. This is the Second Edition of annual bilateral joint exercise of both armies. It will continue till the 19th of this month. The first edition of the exercise was held in Uzbekistan in November 2019. 45 Soldiers each from Uzbekistan and Indian Army are participating in the exercise. Both contingents will be sharing their expertise and skills in the field of counter terrorist operations in mountainous or rural or urban scenarios under UN mandate. The exercise will culminate into a 36 hours joint validation exercise scheduled from 17th to 18th March.
  • The Parliament gave its nod to the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill, 2021 with Rajya Sabha passing it yesterday. The Upper House cleared the bill amid protest by Opposition parties including Congress, DMK and NCP over the issue of farm laws. The Lok Sabha has already passed the bill last month. The legislation seeks to amend the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996. The Act contains provisions to deal with domestic and international arbitration and defines the law for conducting conciliation proceedings. The Bill replaces an Ordinance with the same provisions promulgated on 4th November, 2020. It contains provisions to deal with domestic and international arbitration.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (March 10, 2021)

  • Over 72% rise in UAPA cases registered in 2019; 1948 persons were arrested in 1226 cases that year
  • Supreme Court questions delay in setting up environment regulator
  • Cyber volunteer programme rolled out, MHA informs Lok Sabha
  • United States asks Afghan leaders to consider an inclusive government
  • In a first, China launches ‘virus passport’
  • Government asks refiners to diversify oil imports after OPEC+ move
  • GDP to grow at 11% in Fiscal 2022, says Crisil

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

  • There has been over 72% increase in the number of persons arrested under the UAPA(Unlawful Activities Prevention Act) in 2019 compared to year 2015, data provided by the Ministry of Home Affairs(MHA) in the Lok Sabha show. In 2019, the highest number of such cases were registered in Manipur(306), followed by Tamil Nadu(270), Jammu & Kashmir(255), Jharkhand(105) and Assam(87) cases. As many as 1948 persons were arrested under the Act in 2019.
  • The Supreme Court asked the government to explain why it had not set up an “independent environment regulator” to oversee green clearances. The lapse was highlighted by advocate Prashant Bhushan, who said the top court had ordered the setting up of a national environment regulatory body to ensure independent oversight of green clearance way back in July 2011 in Lafarge Umiam Mining Private Limited v. Union of India, commonly known as the Lafarge Mining case. In 2011, the court had asked the Centre to appoint a national regulator for appraising projects, enforcing environmental conditions for approvals and to impose penalties on polluters.
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs informed the Lok Sabha that a cyber volunteer programme has been rolled out for “cyber hygiene promotion” and the services of volunteers would be utilised by the State police as per requirement. The MHA, through its cyber crime grievance portal – cybercrime.gov.in, aims to raise a group of “cyber crime volunteers” to flag unlawful content on the Internet. Various groups, including the Internet Freedom Foundation, have expressed concern that the programme enables a culture of surveillance and could create potential social distrust by encouraging civilians to report the online activities of other citizens.
  • President Joe Biden is testing whether he can bring sweeping changes in Afghanistan, including a potential government involving the Taliban, in  high risk strategy as he weighs whether to honour a May deadline to end America’s longest war. President Joe Biden has suspended drone strikes outside of war zones where U.S. forces are operating, reversing the policy of his predecessor Donald Trump, who had given the military free rein in the countries such as Somalia.
  • China has launched a health certificate programme for Chinese international travellers, leading the world in plans for so called virus passports. The digital certificate, which shows a user’s vaccination status and virus test results, is available for Chinese citizens via a programme on Chinese social media platform WeChat.
  • India has asked state refiners to speed up diversification of oil imports to gradually cut their dependence on West Asian suppliers after OPEC+ decided last week to largely continue production cuts in April. The World’s third biggest oil consumer imports about 84% of its crude needs with over 60% of that coming from West Asian countries, which are typically cheaper than those from the West. India, hit hard by rising oil prices, has urged producers to ease output cuts and help the global economic recovery.  
  • Crisil on Tuesday said it expects the Indian economy to grow at 11% in fiscal 2022, after an estimated 8% contraction this fiscal due to the pandemic. The growth, it said, will be driven by four factors – people learning to live with the new normal, flattening of the COVID-19 affliction curve, roll out of vaccines, and investment-focused government spending.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (February 23, 2021)

  • Chinese President Xi may visit India for BRICS summit
  • Pakistan actions to be reviewed at FATF plenary
  • India in trade, defence pacts with Mauritius; India and Mauritius signed $100 million Defence Line of Credit Agreement
  • Pandemic used as ‘pretext’ to crush dissent : UN chief
  • Iran, IAEA reach deal on inspections; Tehran will continue to give access to UN inspectors
  • DRDO conducts two successful launches of Vertical Launch Short Range Surface to Air Missile
  • India calls for Somali leaders to engage in constructive dialogue to resolve election delay

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

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping may visit India in the second half of this year to attend the BRICS(Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) leaders’ meeting. The visit will come in the aftermath of the most serious border crisis between the neighbours in decades. China expressed it support for India hosting this year’s meeting. Expectations are that by the second half of the year, the summit will not have to be held virtually.
  • The three day virtual plenary session of the Financial Action Task Force(FATF), during which Pakistan’s performance in terms of measures taken against money laundering and terror funding will be reviewed once again, commenced on Monday. Pakistan has been in the FATF’s grey list since June 2018 when it was presented with a 27-point action plan. During the last FATF plenary in October 2020, Pakistan was given as extension for full compliance with the recommendations till the next session.
  • India and Mauritius signed a $100 million Defence Line of Credit Agreement on Monday. It was a part of several understandings, including the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement(CECPA) that was signed between the two countries during the ongoing visit by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar.  
  • The UN on Monday slammed countries that are using the pandemic to justify cracking down on dissent and suppressing criticism. Speaking at the opening of the UN Human Rights Council’s main annual session, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, without naming the countries, using the pandemic as a pretext, authorities in some countries have deployed heavy-handed security responses and emergency measures to crush dissent, criminalise basic freedoms, silence independent reporting and curtail the activities of non-governmental organisations.
  • Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has conducted two successful launches of Vertical Launch Short Range Surface to Air Missile (VL-SRSAM). The launches were carried out from a static vertical launcher from Integrated Test Range, Chandipur off the coast of Odisha. Indigenously designed and developed by the DRDO for Indian Navy, VL-SRSAM is meant for neutralizing various aerial threats at close ranges including sea-skimming targets. The current launches were carried out for demonstration of vertical launch capability as part of its maiden launch campaign. On both occasions, the missiles intercepted the simulated targets with pinpoint accuracy. The missiles were tested for minimum and maximum range. VL-SRSAM with Weapon Control System were deployed during the trials.
  • The UN nuclear watchdog chief announced on Sunday a “temporary solution” to allow Iranian facility inspections to continue after days of talks with officials, giving some much-needed breathing space for diplomatic negotiations. The International Atomic Energy Agency would not have the same level of access after a law comes into force on Tuesday limiting some inspections.
  • India has called for leaders of Somalia to engage in constructive dialogue to resolve the issues that are delaying the holding of elections. Speaking at the UN Security Council meeting on Somalia, India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations TS Tirumurti said we  expect an early decision of the leaders towards holding of elections soon. He said India also urged all Somalis not to resort to violence during this important transition and to encourage dialogue and reconciliation instead. The Ambassador said there is little doubt that the longer it takes to hold elections, the more complicated the situation will become. The delay will only embolden Al-shabaab and other armed groups to gain more ground and continue their terror acts, subverting the democratic gains made so far.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (February 22, 2021)

  • Fuel price is a global issue and OPEC has to decide on prices of petrol and diesel around the world: Nirmala Sitharaman
  • India and Maldives sign defence line of credit agreement
  • Disengagement at LAC raises hopes for GM-GWM deal
  • Iran says talks with IAEA chief ‘fruitful’; Tehran insists of lifting of U.S. curbs
  • No light at the end of tunnel for Pakistan as FATF meets to decide its fate
  • Puducherry CM tenders his resignation after failing to win trust motion

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

  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman has said that the Union Budget goes beyond a five trillion dollar economy. Speaking at a function in Chennai, the Minister said that OPEC has to decide on the prices of petrol and diesel around the world. And the price of fuel is a global issue. She also said Central and the States need to discuss on uniform rationalisation of GST. Describing India as a welfare state, she said Government takes care of health and education and supports legitimate wealth creation. Ms Sitharaman said, if avenues of tax are not widened development or improvement cannot take place adding that  Government needs to be a facilitator with minimal regulation.
  • India and the Maldives yesterday signed a defence Line of Credit agreement worth $50 million during the ongoing visit by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar. Both sides agreed to maintain peace and security in the Indian Ocean Region. The defence Line of Credit will “facilitate capacity building in the maritime domain”.
  • As India and China began talks for the second phase of disengagement of troops at the Line of Actual Control, two auto majors, General Motors and China’s Great Wall Motors, say they remain hopeful of clearances to complete their deal for a car production facility in Maharashtra that has been held up due to tensions between the two countries. The GWM is a global company which is committed to contributing to the growth of the Indian economy.
  • Iran said on Sunday it had held fruitful discussions with UN nuclear watchdog chief Rafael Grossi in Tehran, ahead of a deadline when it is set to restrict the agency’s inspections unless the United States lifts painful sanctions. Iran’s conservative-dominated Parliament months ago demanded that if the U.S. does not lift sanctions by this Sunday, Iran suspend some IAEA inspections from Tuesday. But Iran has stressed it will not cease working with the IAEA or expel its inspectors.
  • With Financial Action Task Force (FATF) commencing its three-day plenary meeting today, there is no light at the end of the tunnel for Pakistan. Hanging in the grey list of the global anti-terror watchdog, Pakistan has been trying to garner support from the member nations to escape the list. According to various reports, some European countries have taken a stand against Pakistan saying that Islamabad has not fully implemented all the points of a plan of action set by it to come out of the grey list. Therefore, Pakistan may find it difficult to get out of the grey list before June this year. Staying in the FATF-grey list has made it difficult for Pakistan to secure financial aid from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the European Union.
  • Puducherry Chief Minister V. Narayanasamy today tendered his resignation after failing to win the trust motion moved by him. Speaker V.P. Sivakolunthu declared that V. Narayanasamy lost the trust motion. Earlier Mr. Narayanasamy was asked to prove his strength in the assembly by the Lt. Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan by 5 PM today. Immediately after the house was convened today at 10 AM, Mr. Narayanasamy blamed the central government for not cooperating with him to run the government. Later after tendering his resignation to the Governor, Mr. Narayanasamy said that his cabinet colleagues and other members and DMK members handed over their resignation letter to the Lt. Governor, and insisted her to accept their resignation.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (February 21, 2021)

  • Ease path for businesses, States should work to reduce compliance burden : PM Modi says at NITI Ayog meeting
  • India’s linguistic diversity is the cornerstone of country’s ancient civilization: Vice President
  • India reiterates its support to Maldives on United Nations role
  • PM Modi discussed media bill with his Australian counterpart
  • 200 million vaccine shots administered worldwide; 45% of the injections given in G7 club
  • UN Secretary General condemns use of force in Myanmar

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

  • States should work towards reducing compliance burden for citizens to ensure ease of living and to promote ease of doing business, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said yesterday, stressing the importance of a better coordination between the Centre and the States for the development of the country. Other agenda on the NITI Aayog meeting included health and nutrition, re-imagining agriculture etc.
  • Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu today said India’s linguistic diversity is the cornerstone of country’s ancient civilization. Inaugurating a webinar on “Fostering Multilingualism for Inclusion in Education and Society” on the occasion of International Mother Language Day, Mr Naidu stressed on the need for usage of mother tongue. He expressed happiness that this year, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Culture and IGNCA are organizing the four day virtual event to preserve and promote awareness among the people. He said language links the past with the present and is the depositor of collective wisdom. He said mother tongue, which is an important link to socio cultural identity, needs to be preserved, promoted and propagated. Mr Naidu said it is unfortunate and detrimental that children are being educated in a language which is alien and not spoken at home. He emphasised that initial education of a kid must be through mothertongue. He said educators and parents must take congnizance of this fact and primary education must be in mother tongue. He said usage of mother tongue must be included in governance.
  • India on Saturday reiterated its support for a greater role for the Maldives in multilateral affairs. Speaking at a joint media event in the Maldives’ capital Male, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said Maldives’ Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid is “best equipped” to be the President of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly.
  • Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has discussed Canberra’s media policy with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The conversation was held against the backdrop of the Australian government’s negotiations with tech giants, which led to a temporary suspension of many Australian Facebook accounts on Thursday. Under the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code Bill 2020, tech and social media giants such as Facebook and Google will have to pay local news outlets for using their content.
  • More than 200 million coronavirus vaccine doses have been administered in at least 107 countries and territories, according to an AFP count based on official sources. Some 45% of the injections took places in countries belonging to the wealthy G7 club, whose members account for just 10% of the global population. G7 leaders plan to more than double their total support to worldwide vaccinations, to $7.5 billion.
  • UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres today condemned the use of force in Myanmar after two people were killed yesterday when security forces opened fire on protesters in Mandalay, the country’s second largest city. In a statement, he said that the use of lethal force, intimidation and harassment against peaceful demonstrators is unacceptable.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (February 20, 2021)

  • Union Budget goes beyond 5 trillion dollar economy: Finance Minister
  • Thailand PM survives no-confidence motion in parliament
  • India, China discuss disengagement issue at tenth round of Corps Commander level talks
  • G 7 leaders pledge to intensify global co-operation to help poor nations with COVID 19 vaccine sharing under COVAX initiative of WHO
  • India, Ethiopia sign agreements on visa facilitation & leather technology
  • US officially re-joins Paris climate agreement overturning Donald Trump’s decision to exit

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  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said that the Union Budget goes beyond five trillion dollar economy. Speaking at a function in Chennai, the Minister said that OPEC has to decide on the prices of petrol and diesel around the world. And the price of fuel is a global issue. She also said Central and the States need to discuss on uniform rationalisation of GST. Describing India as a welfare state she said Government takes care of the health and education and supports legitimate wealth creation. She told if avenues of tax are not widened development or improvement cannot take place. The Government needs to be a facilitator with minimal regulation, she added.
  • Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and nine ministers survived a no-confidence motion in parliament today after a four-day censure debate. Chuan Leekpai, president of the National Assembly, announced that the vote shows that there is confidence, which had been widely expected. The government’s victory comes as pro-democracy protests returned after a lull brought on by a second outbreak of COVID-19.
  • At Moldo on China side of Line of Actual Control, Tenth round of commander level talks between Indian Army and China’s People’s Liberation Army began this morning. Indian side delegation of senior Army and ITBP officials is lead by GoC of Fire and Fury Lt. Gen PGK Menon. This is key Commander level meeting after the disengagement process began from 10th of this month and completion of the process from Pangong Tso. Army sources said today’s meeting would focus on the further disengagement of Army from the friction points like at Gogra, Hot Springs and Depsang Plains in the Eastern Ladakh region. So far, first phase of disengagement on the north and south banks of Pangong Tso is completed without any issues. Northern Command Lieutenant General YK Joshi recently said, disengagement is on the lines as expected and daily talks at local commander level are continuing to ensure the process peacefully.
  • G 7 leaders have pledged to intensify co-operation on Covid-19 and increase their contribution to the Covax vaccine-sharing initiative. In a joint statement, released after a virtual summit last night, the G7 leaders raised their overall commitment to 7.5 bn US dollars.  The move is expected to boost the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to poor nations. US President Joe Biden pledged four billion dollars for COVAX vaccinations program. An initial two billion dollars will be donated in 2021, with an additional two billion dollars coming over the next two years. Germany pledged an additional 1.2bn dollars. The Covax scheme is aiming to get at least 1.3bn vaccine doses to vulnerable populations worldwide in the coming months. Covax is co-led by Gavi, known as the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.
  • India and Ethiopia today signed two agreements related to visa facilitation and leather technology. The agreements were signed in the presence of Ethiopia Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Demeke Mekonnen Hassen and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar. Hassen is on a 4-day visit to India, from February 16. S. Jaishankar twitted that, he had useful and productive discussions with Hassen on a range of bilateral and regional issues. The two ministers agreed to expand India and Ethiopia bilateral agenda especially defence, economic, S&T, digital and cultural cooperation.
  • The United States has officially rejoined the Paris Agreement. Under the Paris agreement, countries are expected to enhance their commitments to curb greenhouse gas emissions every five years. The goals of the global pact are to limit global warming to well below 2°C and pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5°C. President Biden plans to host a climate summit of world leaders on Earth Day, April 22, where he will roll out the US’ goal for reductions of carbon emissions by 2030 — known as the nationally determined contribution under the Paris accord. Mr Alok Sharma, the President of 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, welcomed the US’ return to the Paris accord.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (February 19, 2021)

  • Quad member : India, U.S. call for rule of law in Myanmar
  • Go Electric campaign” launched to give a boost to electric mobility and use of electrical appliances across country
  • Intensified Mission Indradhanush 3.0 to expand immunization coverage across the country begins in two days
  • India, China to hold tenth round of Corps Commander level talks tomorrow
  • Hyderabad gets recognition as 2020 Tree City of the World
  • Injured protester dies, UK slaps sanctions against Myanmar government
  • American space agency NASA lands its fifth rover ‘Perseverance’ on Mars successfully

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  • India yesterday joined Australia, Japan and the United States for a ministerial meeting under the quadrilateral grouping during which key issues, including Myanmar, came up for discussion. India also emphasised that the meeting expressed commitment to upholding rules-based international order and peaceful resolution of disputes.
  • The Centre today launched the Go Electric campaign to boost the adoption of electric mobility vehicles and electric cooking appliances to ensure energy security in the country. Launching the campaign, Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadakari said, Go Electric is a future of India which will promote cost effective, environment friendly and indigenous electric products. Expressing concern over the huge imported cost of fossil fuel, he said, carbon emission from transport vehicles is a major challenge and the country needs to promote usage of vehicles which operate on alternative modes of fuels like electric batteries, CNG and Bio-fuel. He said, India would become the number one manufacturer of electric vehicles in the next five years.
  • Health Minister Dr.Harsh vardhan today launched the  intensified Mission Indradhaush 3.0 immunization programme. The new programme will begin from 22nd of February for 15 days and another phase from the 22nd of next month. Dr.Harshvardhan thanked all the chief ministers and officers involved in the drive and said, we should resolve for hundred percent immunisation. The Minister said, the government  has given top priority to the health sector in the Budget and the Finance Commission has also dedicated an entire chapter to health.
  • India and  China to hold tenth round of Corps Commander level talks tomorrow on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control in Moldo. The two sides are likely to discuss disengagement from other friction points after disengagement from both Northern and Southern banks of Pangong Lake. The disengagement process of troops of the Indian Army and  China’s People’s Liberation Army from the Line of Actual Control was reached after sustained negotiations at the military and diplomatic level. Defence minister Rajnath Singh last week said  India’s strategy and approach during disengagement talks with China are based on guidance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that India will not allow an inch of its territory to be taken by anyone.
  • The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the Arbor Day Foundation have recognized Hyderabad as a 2020 Tree City of World, for its commitment to growing and maintaining urban forests. Officials said the recognition was a testament to the city’s sustained and institutional efforts to plant, nurture and celebrate trees, development of urban and peri-urban forestry actions, projects and strategic planning and commitment to building a healthy city. Most of the other cities were from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.
  • The Myanmar protestor who was injured by a rubber bullet fired by the security forces on February 9 has died. The 20 year old protestor Mya Thwate Khaing was standing near a bus shelter in Naypyitaw to avoid a water cannon when she was hit by a bullet fired by the police. The death was confirmed by the brother of the girl to Reuters over the phone. The protests continued for the second week after the military government took over power in Myanmar from the civilian government led by State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1. The military government has arrested more than 500 people till now for taking part in the protest or supporting it. The EU is also preparing to adopt restrictive measures like visa ban and freezing of assets against the military government of Myanmar in its meeting scheduled to be held on Feb. 22.
  • The American space agency NASA successfully landed its  fifth rover ‘Perseverance’ on Mars yesterday in a deep crater near the planet’s equator called Jezero. It touched down the surface of Mars after successfully overcoming a risky landing phase known as the seven minutes of terror. The six-wheeled vehicle will now spend at least the next two years drilling into the local rocks, looking for evidence of past life. Starting from summer, it will attempt to collect around 30 rock and soil samples in sealed tubes, to be eventually sent back to Earth sometime in the 2030s for lab analysis. The rover is only the fifth ever to set its wheels down on Mars. This feat was first accomplished in 1997 and all so far have been American.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (February 18, 2021)

  • Union Cabinet approves production-linked incentive scheme for telecom sector
  • Cabinet approves amendments in the Juvenile Justice Care and Protection of Children Act, 2015
  • United States will pay over $200 million to WHO; Biden government has reversed Trump’s move
  • Pakistan to remain in FATF grey list until June
  • Facebook blocks Australian users from sharing or viewing news content
  • India’s rating to hinge on lower fiscal deficit, debt : S&P
  • USIBC Summit: Piyush Goyal invites businesses in US to look at India as a manufacturing base
  • WCCB receives Asia Environmental Enforcement Award-2020

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

  • The Union Cabinet today approved a production-linked incentive scheme for the telecom sector. Briefing reporters after the cabinet meeting, Electronic and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, the production-linked incentive worth Rs 12,195 Crore has been cleared for the telecom sector. He said, this will create 40 thousand direct and indirect employment. Production Linked Incentive Scheme intends to promote manufacture of Telecom and Networking Products in India and proposes a financial incentive to boost domestic manufacturing and attract investments in the target segments of telecom and networking products in order to encourage Make in India. The scheme will also encourage exports of telecom and networking products ‘Made in India’. Support under the Scheme will be provided to companies and entities engaged in manufacturing of specified telecom and networking products in India.
  • The Cabinet has also approved amendments in the Juvenile Justice Care and Protection of Children Act, 2015. Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani said, the amendments allow District Magistrates along with Assistant District Magistrates to monitor the functions of the agencies implementing JJ Act in every district. The amendments include authorizing District Magistrate including Additional District Magistrate to issue adoption orders under Section 61 of the JJ Act, in order to ensure speedy disposal of cases and enhance  accountability. The District Magistrates have been further empowered under the Act, to ensure its smooth implementation, as well as garner synergized efforts in favour of children in distress conditions. Defining eligibility parameters for appointment of CWC members, and categorizing previously undefined offences as ‘serious offence’ are some of the other aspects of the proposal.
  • U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that his country would pay the World Health Organisation $200 million by the end of this month. The announcement is significant as former U.S. President Donald Trump had begun the process of withdrawing the U.S. from the WHO, a process stopped by his successor, President Joe Biden.
  • Pakistan is unlikely to exit the Financial Action Task Force’s grey list until June, despite its efforts to garner support from the member nations ahead of the plenary meeting of the global terror financing and money laundering watchdog next week. The FATF’s Plenary and Working Group meetings, scheduled to be held from February 21 to 26 in Paris, is all set to decide on Pakistan’s grey list status.
  • Facebook has blocked Australian users from sharing or viewing news content on the platform, causing alarm over public access to key information. Australians woke up this morning to find the Facebook pages of all local and global news sites were unavailable. Several government health, emergency and other pages were also blocked. Later the tech giant asserted it was a mistake. Those outside of Australia are also unable to read or access any Australian news publications on the platform. Facebook’s move is in response to a proposed law in Australia which would make tech giants pay for news content. Companies like Google and Facebook have argued the law doesn’t reflect how the internet works, and unfairly “penalises” their platforms.
  • S&P Global Ratings said India will be one of the fastest growing emerging-market economies with a 10% growth in the next fiscal, and future sovereign rating action would hinge on lowering fiscal deficit and sustaining debt burden. The forecast for India in 2021 is on stronger side and shows that a lot of economic activity, which has frozen last year, is coming back on line to normalisation, thereby brightening the growth prospects.
  • Union Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal has said that the trade between India and US has grown exponentially, but still there is a lot to be desired. Delivering the inaugural virtual address at the annual USIBC State of US – India Business, the Minister said, we set a modest target of half a trillion dollars, which he hoped can be achieved through continuous engagement between the two nations. Mr Goyal said, US and India complement each other. He said, the US offers technology, finance and innovation, whereas India has a large market that needs to be served. He, however, added that at the same time, we need to protect people in agriculture and protect the citizens from low quality products.
  • The Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) has received the Asia Environmental Enforcement Award-2020 awarded by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Sharing the information, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said that WCCB getting the award twice in three years is a testimony of India’s commitment towards ending wildlife crime. Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) has been awarded this year under the Innovation category. Earlier, the Bureau had received the award in 2018 under the same category.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (February 17, 2021)

  • LAC stand-off : India, China pull backs troops from Pangong
  • PM addresses NASSCOM Technology and Leadership Forum; says India is desperate for growth & development
  • Ministry of Earth Sciences invites suggestions on Draft Blue Economy Policy for India
  • India, Russia hold bilateral consultations on UNSC issues in Moscow at DG level
  • PM Modi reiterates India’s commitment to Paris Agreement on Climate Change and to work constructively for successful outcome at COP-26
  • Kiran Bedi removed as Puducherry LG; Telangana Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan given additional charge

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

  • With the withdrawal of tanks from the forward areas on the south bank of Pangong Tso completed, India and China have started pulling back troops in large numbers from the north and south banks and also restoring land that was dug up during heavy build-up of defences last year.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that new India is desperate for growth and development. Addressing the NASSCOM Technology and Leadership Forum, NTLF, through video conferencing, Mr Modi said, the government understands this restless desire to grow and achieve success globally. Prime Minister said, world is looking at India with many expectations. He said, during the Corona pandemic, India’s technology has not only proved itself, but also evolved itself.Mr Modi said, when the whole world was restricted to the four walls of their homes, the country IT sector ran their projects with the same commitment and dedication. He said, there was a time when India was dependent on other countries for small pox vaccines but today, India is  providing other countries Made In India vaccines to fight against COVID.
  • Ministry of Earth Sciences has invited suggestions on the Draft Blue Economy Policy for India. The Draft Blue Economy Policy document outlines the vision and strategy that can be adopted by the government to utilize the oceanic resources available in the country. The policy document aims to enhance contribution of the blue economy to India’s GDP, improve lives of coastal communities, preserve marine biodiversity and maintain national security of marine areas and resources. Stakeholders including industry, NGOs, academia, and citizens can submit inputs and ideas by 27th of this month.
  • India and Russia held bilateral consultations on UNSC issues yesterday in Moscow at the DG level. The Russian delegation was led by Director of the Department of International Organizations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russian Federation Peter Ilichev. Joint Secretary UNP and Summits in MEA Prakash Gupta led the Indian delegation along with officials from Embassy of India in Moscow. Both sides appreciated intensive on-going bilateral contacts on UN issues, including with respect to wide range of issues on the UNSC agenda. The Indian delegation briefed the Russian side on India’s priorities during its UNSC tenure. Both sides agreed to work closely together on key issues on the UNSC agenda in keeping with the special and privileged strategic partnership.
  • British MP and President-designate of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties, COP-26, Alok Sharma called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi today. COP refers to the decision-making body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC, the 26th session of which will be hosted by the UK in November this year in Glasgow. The Prime Minister and Mr Sharma discussed India-UK collaboration on climate change issues in the run up to COP-26. Mr Modi reiterated India’s commitment to the Paris Agreement and to work constructively for a successful outcome at COP-26. Mr Sharma warmly recalled the Prime Minister’s address at the Climate Ambition Summit in December last year.
  • Dr. Kiran Bedi has been removed from the post of Puducherry Lieutenant Governor. In a press communiqué, Rashtrapati Bhawan said, Telangana Governor Dr. Tamilisai Soundararajan has been given additional charge as Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry. Meanwhile, the V. Narayanasamy led Congress government has been reduced to minority with the resignation of a Congress MLA. Mr. John Kumar elected from Kamaraj Nagar constituency resigned yesterday.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (February 12, 2021)

  • Coordinated disengagement at Pangong Tso, Rajnath tells Rajya Sabha
  • Inauguration of more than 57,000 water structures in MP under ‘Jalabhishekam’ campaign
  • PM Modi to inaugurate Maritime India Summit-2021 on 2nd March
  • Most buses still wheelchair-unfriendly; shows government data
  • United States imposes sanctions on Myanmar
  • In call with Xi, Biden talks of unfair economic practices
  • US President Joe Biden revokes national emergency order used to fund Mexico border wall project

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

  • India and China have reached an agreement on disengagement in the Pangong lake area to cease their forward deployments in a phased, coordinated and verified manner and it would substantially restore the situation to that existing prior to the commencement of the stand-off last year, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said yesterday.
  • Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh today virtually inaugurated more than 57,000 water structures constructed in Madhya Pradesh under ‘Jalabhishekam’ campaign from New Delhi. Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar also attended the program virtually organised in the presence of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan at Bhopal. These water structures were created during COVID era by linking the work with the MNREGA scheme.  Union Minister Mr Rajnath singh said that the ‘Jalabhishekam’ Campaign is fulfilling the intention of ‘water for every farm and work for every hand’. This will prove to be helpful in the betterment of the villages.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the Maritime India Summit-2021 on 2nd March. Briefing media in New Delhi, Minister of Ports, Shipping and Waterways Mansukh Mandaviya said, around 20 thousand delegates will participate, 24 partner countries will join and more than 400 Projects are set to be showcased in the 2nd edition of Maritime India Summit 2021 to be held virtually from 2nd March to 4th March. He said, Maritime India Summit is going to provide a powerful platform for international collaboration and bring in partner countries for mutual exchange of knowledge and opportunities. The event is being organised by the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways jointly with FICCI as Industrial Partner and EY as Knowledge Partner.
  • Less than 7% of public buses in the country were fully accessible to wheelchair users as of December 2020, with the target of 25% of buses being accessible by June 2022 under the Accessible India Campaign getting closer, according to government data. When the Accessible India Campaign was launched by PM Modi in 2015, the deadline for making at least 25% of public buses fully accessible was March 2018. Apart from public buses, the Accessible India Campaign, was aimed at making government buildings, airports, railway stations and government websites accessible to persons with disabilities.
  • Anti-coup protesters yesterday took to the streets of Myanmar for a sixth consecutive day, after U.S. President Joe Biden announced sanctions against the South-east Asian nation’s Generals and demanded they relinquish power. Mr. Biden announced that his administration was cutting off the Generals’ access to $1 billion in funds in the U.S.
  • U.S. President Joe Biden spoke with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on yesterday. Mr. Biden highlighted concerns about Beijing’s economic practices, its human rights record and assertive actions in the region, while affirming his priority of preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific. President Biden underscored his fundamental concerns about Beijing’s coercive and unfair economic practices, crackdown in Hong Kong, human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and increasingly assertive actions in the region, including Taiwan.
  • United States President Joe Biden has revoked the national emergency order used to fund former President Donald Trump’s Mexico border wall project. In a letter to Congress yesterday, Biden wrote that the order was unwarranted and said that no further tax dollars will be spent on the wall. The announcement is the latest in a series of executive orders from President Biden that have rolled back key parts of the former president’s agenda. In 2019, President Trump had declared a state of emergency over the southern border, which had allowed him to bypass Congress and use military funds for its construction. It is estimated that when Donald Trump left the Presidential office, about 25 billion  dollars had been spent on the project.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (February 11, 2021)

  • LAC Crisis : Both sides disengaging from Pangong lake area, says China
  • India is moving towards goal of self-sufficiency in pulses production, says government
  • Government tells twitter that lawfully passed orders are binding on any business entity & must be obeyed
  • Rajya Sabha passes Major Port Authorities Bill 2020 giving greater autonomy to major ports in country
  • US President announces launch of China task force to counter challenges posed by Beijing
  • US freezes dollar 1 billion funds of Myanmar government

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

  • China’s military announced that frontline troops of India and China had begun disengaging in a synchronised and organised manner from the north and south banks of Pangong lake, where both sides have been locked in a stand-off for months. This is the first step in the long process of disengagement and de-escalation.
  • Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said that India is moving towards the goal of self-sufficiency in pulses production. Addressing the World Pulses Day event in New Delhi organized by Indian Pulses Research Institute, Mr Tomar said, in the last five-six years, due to the tireless hard work of farmers, scientists and farmer-friendly policies of the central government, the country has increased its pulses production from 140 lakh tonnes to 240 lakh tonnes. He said, now we also have to pay attention to future requirements. Mr Tomar said, according to an estimate, by the year 2050, about 320 lakh tonnes of pulses will be required. He said, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call, the dependence on imports of pulses has reduced and the country is saving more than Rs 15,000 crore per year.
  • The Government has conveyed to the Twitter leadership that the manner in which Twitter officially allows fake, unverified, anonymous and automated bot accounts to be operated on its platform, raises doubts about its commitment to transparency and healthy conversation on this platform.  in a statement said that lawfully passed orders are binding on any business entity and they must be obeyed immediately. It said,  if they are executed days later, it becomes meaningless. Secretary, Electronics and IT Ajay Prakash Sawhney expressed his deep disappointment to Twitter leadership about the manner in which Twitter has unwillingly, grudgingly and with great delay complied with the substantial parts of the order. He took this opportunity to remind Twitter that in India, its Constitution and laws are supreme and  it is expected that responsible entities not only reaffirm but remain committed to compliance to the law of land.
  • Rajya Sabha passed the Major Port Authorities Bill, 2020 yesterday. The bill seeks to provide for regulation, operation and planning of major ports in the country and provide greater autonomy to these ports.  It seeks to replace the Major Port Trusts Act, 1963. The legislation provides for the creation of a Board of Major Port Authority for each major port.  These Boards will replace the existing Port Trusts. Union Shipping Minister Mansukh Mandaviya while replying after the discussion on the bill said that it will make the major ports in the country more autonomous and provide major thrust in the maritime sector. He said, the bill will help the ports develop world class infrastructure and will also enhance transparency in their functioning.
  • US President Joe Biden has announced the launch of a new China task force that will provide recommendations on military strategy to the Department of Defense, DoD to counter growing challenges posed by Beijing. Delivering  speech at the Pentagon, President Biden said, the task force will work quickly, drawing on civilian and military experts across the department. He said, the task force will provide recommendations to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on key priorities and decision points to facilitate a strong path forward on China-related matters.
  • The United States has announced that it is going to freeze USD one billion in Myanmar Government funds held in the United States. President Joe Biden said that the US is announcing a series of actions to impose consequences on the leaders of the Myanmar coup. He announced that he has already signed a new executive order to sanction against the military leaders who directed the coup and their close family members. President Biden said that the first round of targets will be identified this week. He said that strong export controls will be imposed but the support for health care, civil society groups and other areas benefiting people will be continued. He called upon the military to immediately release the political leaders and activists, relinquish power and respect the will of the people.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (February 10, 2021)

  • More than 187 lakh Kisan Credit Cards issued to farmers in last one year, says Government
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reply to motion of thanks on President’s Address in Lok Sabha today
  • Prime Minister to inaugurate World Sustainable Development Summit-2021 this evening
  • National Capital Territory of Delhi Laws get passage through Rajya Sabha
  • Second impeachment trial of former US President Donald Trump begins in Senate
  • Police, protesters clash in Myanmar’s capital on most violent day of protests
  • WHO team concludes investigation of origin of COVID-19 virus in Chinese city Wuhan; Says virus did not leak from laboratory

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

  • More than 187 lakh Kisan Credit Cards with credit limit of one lakh 76 thousand crore rupees have been sanctioned to farmers across the country during the last one year. A special drive to cover farmers under the Kisan Credit Card is going on from February, 2020. Minister of State for Finance and Corporate Affairs Anurag Singh Thakur said this in a written reply to a question in Rajya Sabha yesterday. In order to ensure that all the eligible farmers are provided with hassle-free and timely credit for their agricultural operations, the Government has introduced the Kisan Credit Card Scheme to enable the farmers to purchase agricultural inputs such as seeds, fertilisers and pesticides.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to reply to the motion of thanks to the President’s address in the Lok Sabha today. After a week-long disruption of Lok Sabha over the farms laws issues and farmers’ agitations, yesterday Lok Sabha resumed discussion on motion of thanks to the President’s address. Participating in the discussion, Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmer Welfare, Kailash Choudhary said, the government under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the right decision at the right time resulting in effective containment of Covid-19. He said, the government has taken several steps to boost the farming sector in the country. He added that MSP of several crops and food grains have been increased by the government and the farmers have been provided financial assistance under the PM-Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the World Sustainable Development Summit-2021 at 6.30 P.M. today via video conferencing. The theme of the summit is ‘Redefining Our Common Future: Safe and Secure Environment for All’.
  • Rajya Sabha today passed the National Capital Territory of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Second (Amendment) Bill, 2021. The bill seeks to replace the ordinance brought to the same effect by the President on 30th of December last year. The legislation aims to amend the National Capital Territory of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Second Act, 2011. Union Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri said that ordinance in this regard was necessary since the Winter Session of the Parliament was suspended in view of the Corona pandemic and the 2011 Act was valid till 31st of December last year. Speaking after the discussion on the bill in the Upper House, Mr. Puri said that if the ordinance was not brought into effect, the state agencies in Delhi could have started sealing operations against the set-ups in the unauthorised colonies.
  • Former US President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial formally commenced in the Senate yesterday. The Senate has voted 56-44 to proceed to the first-ever trial of a former President, rejecting his defense lawyers’ argument that Trump was beyond the reach of the Senate after having left the White House on January 20. Trump is the only US President in the history of America to be impeached twice. This is the fourth impeachment trial in the US and first-ever impeachment trial of a former President. Earlier impeachments included former President Andrew Johnson’s trial in 1868  and Bill Clinton in 1998 for perjury and obstruction of justice and Trump in 2020 for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
  • Police and protesters clashed in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw yesterday in the most violent day of demonstrations against a military coup that overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi. Four people were wounded, one seriously after police fired guns and used water cannons to  clear protesters. State television reported injuries to police during their attempts to disperse protesters – its first acknowledgement of the demonstrations taking place in the country. The incidents marked the first bloodshed since the military, led by army chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, overthrew Suu Kyi’s newly elected government on Feb. 1 and detained her and other politicians from her National League for Democracy (NLD). The military alleged that the NLD won by fraud – an accusation dismissed by the election committee and Western governments.
  • The World Health Organization team of experts investigating the origin of Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 in Wuhan said that the virus most probably got transmitted  to humans via an intermediary species. Dr. Peter Ben Embarek, Head of the WHO-led team told their assessment to the press that initial findings suggest that the interaction to humans through an intermediary host species is the most likely pathway and one way that will require more studies and more specific targeted research. As the team was wrapping up a nearly one-month long visit to Wuhan, he said, its investigation had uncovered new information but had not dramatically changed the picture of the outbreak. He added that work to identify the origins of the Coronavirus points to a natural reservoir in bats, but it is unlikely that they were in Wuhan, the central Chinese city from where the outbreak was discovered in late 2019.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (February 09, 2021)

  • Prime Minister to inaugurate World Sustainable Development Summit 2021 tomorrow
  • New labour codes to allow 4-day work week; Draft rules being finalised
  • Prime Minister Modi and US President Joe Biden discuss strategic partnership and rule-based international order
  • RBI releases Annual Report of Ombudsman Schemes for 2019-20
  • Myanmar issues crackdown warning; Uprising against military coup gathers pace
  • The United States to rejoin United Nations human rights forum
  • Sri Lanka clears Chinese energy project, 50 km off Tamil Nadu

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

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the World Sustainable Development Summit 2021 at 6:30 PM tomorrow via video conferencing. The theme of the summit is ‘Redefining Our Common Future: Safe and Secure Environment for All’. The 20th edition of The Energy and Resources Institute’s (TERI) flagship event- the World Sustainable Development Summit, will be held online from 10th to 12th February. The summit will bring together a wide number of governments, business leaders, academicians, climate scientists, youth and the civil society in the fight against climate change. Energy and industry transition, adaptation and resilience, nature based solutions, climate finance, circular economy, clean oceans and air pollution, are amongst the range of topics to be discussed during the summit. The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy and the Ministry of Earth Sciences are key partners of the summit.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to US President Joe Biden. Mr Modi conveyed best wishes to Mr Biden for his success. Both leaders discussed regional issues and the shared priorities. Both also agreed to further the co-operation against climate change. In a tweet, Mr Modi said he and President Biden are committed to a rules-based international order. He said, both are looking forward to consolidating the strategic partnership to further peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.
  • The new labour codes set to be implemented soon would provide companies the flexibility of reducing the number of working days to four days a week and provide medical check-ups to workers through the Employees State Insurance Corporation. Under the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code 2020, draft rules, the limit of working hours for a week was 48 hours.
  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) today released the Annual Report of the Ombudsman Schemes for the year 2019-20. There was an increase of around 65 per cent in the receipt of complaints out of which almost 92 per cent have been disposed of. RBI has three Ombudsmen- Banking, Non-Banking Finance Company (i.e. NBFC) and digital transactions. A common man can approach these Ombudsmen for their grievances. As per the RBI’s report, all three received in total 3,30,543 complaints in 19-20 as compared to 2,00,362 in 18-19. Banking Ombudsman received major complaints regarding ATM & Debit Cards, Mobile & Electronic Banking while NBFC’s Ombudsmen received most complaints about non-observance of regulatory guidelines, lack of transparency in contract/ loan agreement and levy of charges without notice.
  • Myanmar’s Generals issued a stern warning yesterday against further protests as an uprising against their coup gathered pace, with hundreds of thousands on the streets demanding the release of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The military last week detained Ms. Suu Kyi and dozens of other members of her National League for Democracy party, ending a decade of civilian rule and triggering international condemnation.
  • The U.S. announced plans to reengage with the much-maligned UN Human Rights Council that former President Donald Trump withdrew from almost three years ago.
  • Sri Lanka has cleared a Chinese energy project in three islands off Jaffna peninsula that are barely 50 km from the Tamil Nadu coast. The energy project is not the first instance of a Chinese role in northern infrastructure in Sri Lanka.  

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (February 05, 2021)

  • One in five Indians exposed to novel coronavirus : Sero survey
  • United States calls for dialogue, supports right to protest
  • Delhi police to probe ‘international conspiracy’ to defame India
  • Cabinet okays Bill on powers on Delhi Lieutenant Governor
  • RBI Projects GDP growth at 10.5% for FY 2021-22
  • Over 200 arrested in Nepal strike; Normal life paralysed during the protests called by the Prachanda-led faction
  • UN Security Council calls for release of Aung San Suu Kyi and others in Myanmar

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

  • Nearly one in five Indians had been infected by the SARS-CoV2 coronavirus until December 2020, the third round of the serological survey by the Indian Council of Medical Research has found. This is roughly a threefold increase since August and a 30-fold increase since May, when previous rounds of the survey were conducted.
  • Following expressions of support on social media to the farmers’ protest by several well-known personalities and celebrities, including pop icon Rihanna, youth climate activist Greta Thunberg and others, the U.S. government has also spoken, encouraging dialogue and supporting the right to peaceful protest. Washington also welcomed steps that would enhance the efficiency of India’s markets.
  • The Delhi police cyber cell has registered a FIR and will investigate an ‘international conspiracy’ to defame the country, as said by senior police. The officer said a Twitter handle has shared a “toolkit” document, but deleted it later. It was apparently created by an allegedly pro-Khalistan organisation Poetic Justice Foundation.
  • The Union Home Ministry is all set to introduce legislation in the Budget session of Parliament to amend a 1991 act pertaining to the powers and functions of the Delhi government and the Lieutenant Governor. The proposed legislation received the Union Cabinet’s approval yesterday. The Bill is likely to clearly define the powers of the L-G and the Delhi government on the lines of the Supreme Court judgment of February 2019. It is likely to give more teeth to the LG’s office.
  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) today said that the monetary policy review has decided to continue with an accommodative stance of monetary policy to maintain status quo on key policy rates. This will continue as long as necessary at least through the current financial year and into next year to revive growth and mitigate the impact of Covid 19. The repo rate is kept unchanged at 4 percent and the reverse repo rate at 3.35 percent. While announcing the policy review the RBI governor Shaktikant Das said that the GDP growth is projected at 10.5 percent in the Financial Year 2021-22. He said projection of CPI inflation has been revised to 5.2 percent for the fourth quarter of the current financial year. He added that  the year 2020 tested the capabilities and endurance, 2021 is setting the stage for a new economic era in the course of our history.
  • Over 200 people were arrested yesterday for their involvement in arson and vandalism during a general strike called by the Nepal Communist Party’s splinter faction-led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ that paralysed normal life across the country. The strike was called by Prachanda-led faction to oppose the appointment of office bearers and members of various constitutional bodies by the Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli-led caretaker government.
  • The United Nations Security Council has called for immediate release of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and others detained by the military on February 1. Expressing deep concern at the declaration of emergency, the Security Council called the detentions arbitrary. The members expressed support for the democratic transition in Myanmar, said the Press Release of the UN. Calling for dialogue and reconciliation, the Security Council stressed the need to uphold democratic institutions and processes, refrain from violence and fully respect human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (February 04, 2021)

  • Govt examining issue of simultaneous elections of Lok Sabha and State legislative assemblies
  • Trade deficit between India & China continuously on declining trajectory
  • U.S. extends New START nuclear treaty with Russia
  • India to host Indian Ocean Region Defence Ministers’ Conclave today
  • Iran’ Rouhani rules out changes to nuclear deal; No clause of the JCPOA will change
  • RBI directs select NBFCs, UCBs to implement risk-based internal audit system

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

  • The government is examining the issue of simultaneous elections of Lok Sabha and State legislative assemblies. The matter has been referred to the Law Commission for further examination to work out a practicable road map and framework. In a written reply in the Lok Sabha today, Minister of Law and Justice Ravi Shankar Prasad said, Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice had examined the issue of simultaneous elections with various stakeholders including Election Commission of India.
  • Trade deficit between India and China is continuously on a declining trajectory. The Commerce and Industry Ministry said, around 23 percent contractions have been reported in the trade deficit between the last three financial years. Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Hardeep Singh Puri said in Lok Sabha today that export has increased to more than 24 per cent whereas the import reduced to more than 14 percent. He said, the government has made sustained efforts to achieve a more balanced trade with China. He added that the government has also implemented policies to promote domestic manufacturing through ease of doing business and creating an enabling physical environment for manufacturing.
  • U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration on Wednesday extended the New START nuclear treaty with Russia by five years, saying it hoped to prevent an arms race despite rising tensions with Moscow. The United States is committed to effective arms control that enhances stability, transparency and predictability while reducing the risks of costly, dangerous arms race.
  • India will host Indian Ocean Region (IOR) Defence Ministers’ Conclave today on the sidelines of Aero India 2021. The broad theme of the conclave is ‘Enhanced Peace, Security and Cooperation in the Indian Ocean’. The event will commence with welcome address by the Defence Secretary and addresses by Defence Ministers of different Indian Ocean Region Countries. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will give the concluding remarks. Till 30th January, 2021, there is total confirmed physical participation from 18 countries including Defence Ministers of four countries -Maldives, Comoros, Iran and Madagascar. The conclave is an initiative to promote dialogue in an institutional, economic and cooperative environment that can foster the development of peace, stability and prosperity in the Indian Ocean region.
  • President Hassan Rouhani ruled out changes to Iran’s nuclear accord with world powers and dismissed calls to broaden the terms of the deal and include regional countries. Iran’s regional arch rival, Saudi Arabia, has also called for a role in any future talks on the agreement. Iranian President reiterated no clause of the JCPOA will change and no one will be added to the JCPOA.
  • The Reserve Bank has directed select Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs) and Urban Co-operatives Banks (UCBs) to implement a risk-based internal audit system. In a notification, the RBI said all deposit taking NBFCs, all non-deposit taking NBFCs with asset size of 5,000 crore rupees and above and all urban cooperative banks with asset size of 500 crore rupees and above will have to implement the system by March 2022. Currently, all the entities supervised by the RBI have their own approaches on internal audit, resulting in certain inconsistencies, risks and gaps in the system.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (February 03, 2021)

  • Awareness campaign planned to dispel rumours on NPR, Census
  • Asia’s biggest Aero show begins today at Bengaluru in Karnataka
  • MHA gets further extension till April 9 to frame CAA rules
  • Sputnik V vaccine shows 91.6% efficacy; Results show Sputnik could join fight against virus
  • ECT fiasco : Indian envoy meets Gotabaya, Mahinda
  • China calls for all parties to safeguard Myanmar’s stability
  • United Nations Secretary-General’s special envoy on Myanmar condemns military coup

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

  • The Union Home Ministry has informed a parliamentary panel that right kind of messaging will be done to tackle the miscommunication and rumours around NPR and Census. The first phase of house listing and housing census and the National Population Register(NPR) was to be rolled out in some States on April 1 last year but was postponed indefinitely due to COVID-19.
  • Asia’s biggest Aero show will kickstart at Bengaluru in Karnataka today. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will inaugurate the three-day mega event that is taking place for the first time in a hybrid mode due to Covid Pandemic. The 13th edition of Aero India show will see participants in both physical and virtual mode. Purely dedicated to showcasing India’s prowess in defence production, the event will showcase indigenous platforms in the defence sector. Over 200 MoUs will be signed between different procurement and manufacturing agencies. For the first time Defence ministers of Indian Ocean region from 27 countries will participate in person or through virtual mode in a conclave organised on the sidelines to discuss shared threats and cooperation in disaster management.
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs(MHA) informed the Lok Sabha on Tuesday that a parliamentary committee on subordinate legislation had granted it extension till April 9 to frame the Citizenship(Amendment) Act (CAA), 2019 rules.
  • An interim analysis of the Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine against COVID-19 shows the vaccine is safe and has 91.6% efficacy. The 91.6% efficacy was seen 21 days after the first dose. Storage at 2-8 ‘C. a favourable temperature profile for global distribution, has been approved by Russia’s Health Ministry.
  • In a flurry of meetings a day after Sri Lanka backed out of an agreement with India and Japan to develop the East Container Terminal(ECT) at Colombo Port Indian High Commissioner met Sri Lankan Prime Minister and President.
  • China on Tuesday called for all parties to help maintain stability in Myanmar, as it refrained from criticising the military leadership for seizing power in a coup and urged the international community to not interfere. Even prior to 2011, China maintained close relations with the Myanmar military leadership and often backed the country from the threat of sanctions as a permanent member of the UNSC.
  • United Nations Secretary-General’s special envoy on Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgen has condemned the military coup in the Southeast Asian country. The UN Security Council held closed consultations on Myanmar yesterday. In her briefing to Council members, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy described the recent steps taken by the military as shocking. She also urged Council members to collectively send a clear signal in support of an elected government in Myanmar. Meanwhile, the US State Department has said that the Biden Administration is in constant touch with like-minded allies in the region including India and Japan. The US has threatened to reinstate sanctions and review of US assistance to Myanmar after the military coup.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (February 02, 2021)

  • Budget 2021 : Government bets on a real GDP growth of 10%-10.5% in the coming year and multiplier effect of an infrastructure push for jobs
  • Centre to amalgamate market laws into single code
  • FDI limit in Insurance Companies increased to 74% in Union Budget 2021-22; allows foreign ownership and control with safeguards
  • Senior citizens above 75 years of age with only pension income exempted from filing Income Tax Return
  • Budget outlay for health and well-being hiked by 137 percent to over 2 lakh crore rupees
  • Military seizes power in Myanmar coup; Army has declared a state of emergency for a year
  • US President may re-impose sanctions against Myanmar after military coup

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

  • Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman loosened the exchequer’s purse strings in an effort at an expansionary Budget for 2021-22 yesterday, with a push for infrastructure and healthcare spending, even as she sought to reduce the fiscal deficit from as estimated 9.5% of the GDP this year without ostensibly raising the tax burden. While there is no direct support for middle class, there was some relief as the Budget refrained from levying a COVID-19 cess or surcharge. The Union Budget has proposed taxing the income on Provident Fund contributions of more than Rs. 2.5 lakh a year. The income tax slabs remained unchanged.
  • The Centre on Monday announced setting up of a Single Security Market Code by consolidating the provisions of SEBI Act, 1992, Depositories Act, 1996, Securities Contracts(Regulation) Act, 1956 and Government Securities Act, 2007. This was announced by Union Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs Nirmala Sitharaman, while presenting the Union Budget 2021-22 in Parliament.
  • The budget proposals rest on 6 pillars of Health and Well-being; Physical & Financial Capital, and Infrastructure;  Inclusive Development for Aspirational India; Reinvigorating Human Capital; Innovation and R&D and Minimum Government and Maximum Governance. To tackle the problem of air pollution 2,217 crore rupees will be provided for 42 urban centres. 35,000 crore rupees was already allotted for Covid-19 vaccine in budget estimate 2021-22;  further funds to be provided, if required.       An increase of 137 percent provided from the Budget outlay for Health and Well-being i.e. over 2.23 lakh crore rupees as against this year’s budget estimate of 94,452 crores.
  • Myanmar’s military seized power on Monday in a coup against the democratically elected government of Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who was detained along with other leaders of her National League for Democracy(NLD) party in early morning raids. The Army said it had carried out the detentions in response to election fraud, handing power to military chief Ming Ang Hlaing and imposing a state of emergency for one year.
  • The Government increased the FDI limit from 49 to 74 per cent in Insurance Companies and allowed foreign ownership and control with safeguards. It has been proposed to infuse 20 thousand crore rupees to re-capitalized Public Sector Banks. The Government has decided to extend social security benefits to gig and platform workers for the first time. Minimum wages will apply to all categories of workers, and they will all be covered by the Employees State Insurance Corporation. Women will be allowed to work in all categories and also in night-shifts with adequate protection. At the same time, compliance burden on employers will be reduced with single registration and licensing, and online returns.
  • US President Joe Biden has  said that the United States may re-impose sanctions on Myanmar in connection with the coup there. In a statement today, Biden said that Washington will stand up for democracy wherever it is under attack. Biden also said that the military’s seizure of power in Myanmar, the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi and other civilian officials, and the declaration of a national state of emergency are a direct assault on the country’s transition to democracy and the rule of law. Biden added that the United States removed sanctions on Myanmar  over the past decade based on progress toward democracy. The reversal of that progress will necessitate an immediate review of US sanction laws and authorities, followed by appropriate action.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (February 01, 2021)

  • Center likely to postpone Census  to 2022 on account of the ongoing pandemic
  • Megacity plan for Little Andaman; A bullet through an island’s heart
  • Full seating, staggered shows in cinema halls; Centre issues new SOPs for cinema halls
  • India delivers 2 cranes for Chabahar; Signals a push to the port project
  • WHO team visits Wuhan market to find virus clues
  • British opens visa scheme for millions in Hong Kong; Eligible persons can seek citizenship after 5 years
  • Foreign troops to stay in Afghanistan beyond May; NATO officials say the conditions for full pull out have not been met

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

  • The Centre is on track to push the 2021 Census to 2022 on account of the country’s continuing preoccupation with the COVID-19 pandemic. The Census exercise was to be conducted in two phases – House Listing and Housing Census from April to September 2020 and Population Enumeration from February 9 to February 28, 2021. The first phase of the Census and the updating of the National Population Register were initially to be rolled out in some States on April 1, 2020, but were postponed due to the pandemic.
  • A plan for the sustainable and holistic development of the 680 sq. km, fragile Little Andaman Island in the Andaman and Nicobar group has raised the alarm among conservationists. The ‘Sustainable Development of Little Andaman Island – Vision Document’, is the NITI Aayog’s proposal to leverage the strategic location and natural features of the island. This, the vision says, will be done by building a new greenfield coastal city there, that will be developed as a free trade zone and will compete with Singapore and Hong Kong.
  • After the Union Home Ministry allowed full occupancy of cinema halls from Monday, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry has asked the theatres to stagger show timings to prevent crowding in the common areas. Issuing a fresh standard operating procedure, the Ministry has directed cinemas to directed cinemas to ensure that the starting and ending time and intermission of a show did not overlap with those of a show in another screen in a multiplex.
  • In its latest push to develop Iran’s Chabahar port project, India handed over two 140-tonne cranes for loading and unloading equipment to the Iranian government on Sunday. India’s plans to invest further in the port project are seen as an indicator that the government expects some easing up in the U.S. sanctions in the upcoming months, once the new Biden administration begins to address its policy on re-entering the Iran nuclear deal.  
  • A World Health Organisation team looking into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic on Sunday visited the Huanan Seafood Market for about an hour in the afternoon. The market was the site of a December 2019 outbreak of the virus. Scientists initially suspected the virus came from wild animals sold in the market. The market has since been largely ruled out but it could provide hints to how the virus spread so wisely. A single visit by scientists is unlikely to confirm the virus’s origins.
  • A new visa scheme offering millions of people in Hong Kong a pathway to British citizenship went live on Sunday as the city’s former colonial master opens its doors to those wanting to escape China’s crackdown on dissent. Anyone with a British National (Overseas) passport and their dependents can now apply online for a visa allowing them to live and work in the U.K. After five years, they can apply for citizenship.
  • International troops plan to stay in Afghanistan beyond the May deadline envisaged by Taliban’s deal with the Taliban demanding full withdrawal. NATO officials there will be no full withdrawal by allies by April end. Conditions have not been met for full pull out. The administration of then-President Donald Trump signed an agreement with the Taliban early last year calling for the withdrawal of all foreign troops by May in return for the insurgents fulfilling certain security guarantees.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (January 29, 2021)

  • Budget session of Parliament begins today with President’s Address; Economic Survey to be tabled in the House
  • New Zealand tops COVID-19 performance ranking; India ranked 86 out of 98 countries
  • U.S. will rejoin deal if Iran is compliant; Iran dismisses U.S. call for full compliance of nuclear deal
  • India’s UNSC seat a matter of discussion; Diplomat cites support and opposition
  • Biden warns Beijing over ‘expansionism’; He underscores support for allies
  • Plug gaps in GST to raise fiscal support, says IMF’s chief

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

  • The Budget Session of Parliament will begin today. The session will begin with the address of President Ram Nath Kovind to the members of both the Houses seated in three different locations for the first time. 144 members of Parliament will be seated in the Central Hall including the Council of Ministers, leaders of different parties and groups in both the Houses, former Prime Ministers and national presidents of BJP and Congress. The remaining members of Parliament will be seated in the chambers of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha as per the Covid induced physical distancing norms. The Government has convened an all party meeting tomorrow to seek support of political parties to ensure a smooth conduct of business in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.
  • New Zealand and Vietnam were ranked the best performing countries in their response to the pandemic, according to a COVID-19 “performance index” put together by the Lowry Institute, an Australian think tank, which sough to assess the impact of geography, political systems and economic development in assessing the outcomes. India ranked 86 out of 98 countries, while the U.S. stood at 94 and Brazil at the bottom of the index.
  • United States have confirmed the administration’s position that if Iran were to become compliant with the terms of the now defunct Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the U.S. would re-enter it too. Iran has dismissed a call by the U.S. for it to return to full compliance of a nuclear deal first, insisting that it had taken only remedial measures since America’s withdrawal.
  • In response to a question on whether India, Germany and Japan should become the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), U.S. diplomat discussions on the subject were underway. The diplomat noted that there were arguments for and opinions against these countries becoming permanent members. There are some strong arguments for that and she added that there are others who disagree within their regions that they should be representative of their region.
  • U.S. President Joe Biden has sent a clear warning to Beijing against any expansionist intentions in East and South East Asia. In multiple calls and statements, he and his top security officials have underscored support for allies Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines, signalling Washington’s rejection of China’s disputed territorial claims in those areas.  On Wednesday, Mr. Biden told Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga that his administration is committed to defending Japan, including the Senkaku islands, which are claimed both by Japan and China, which calls them the Diaoyu islands.
  • India should propose a credible privatisation plan for public sector firms, plug gaps in GST collections and cut wasteful expenditure from the Budget in order to contain borrowing costs while enhancing fiscal support for the economy, International Monetary Fund chief economist Gita Gopinath said. Stressing that there is a risk of a sharp rise in inequality, with millions entering extreme poverty, Ms Gopinath said India must continue to provide support to the weaker sections and increase outlays for the national employment guarantee scheme this year as well.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (January 27, 2021)

  • Donald Trump impeachment goes to Senate; Trial likely to begin on February 8
  • United States announces restoration of relations with Palestinians
  • As pandemic rages on, Italy Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte quits
  • Cairn threatens Indian asset seizures abroad in tax case
  • GDP to contract 8% in FY21, FICCI survey shows
  • United Kingdom becomes first  European nation to surpass over one lakh Covid-19 deaths

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

  • Democrats of the U.S. House of Representatives delivered charges of “incitement of insurrection” against former President Donald Trump to their Senate colleagues, clearing the way for his trial by the upper chamber of the U.S. Congress. A minimum of 17 GOP votes are required to convict the ex-President. Earlier this month, Mr. Trump became the first President in history to be impeached twice.
  • U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration announced that it was restoring relations with the Palestinians and renewing aid to Palestinian refugees, a reversal of the Donald Trump administration’s cutoff and a key element of its new support for a two-state solution to the decades-old conflict agreed to by Israelis and Palestinians.
  • Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned in the hope of forming a new government after weeks of turmoil in his ruling coalition, leaving Italy rudderless as it battles the deadly coronavirus pandemic. The uneasy coalition that has led Italy since September 2019 was fatally weakened earlier this month by the withdrawal of former premier Matteo Renzi’s small but crucial Italia Viva party.
  • A month after it won an international tribunal award of $1.2 billion in damages against India in the retrospective taxation case, U.K. based Cairn Energy Plc has threatened that it may be forced to begin attaching Indian assets including bank accounts in different world capitals, unless the government resolves the issue. The three-member tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration(PCA) at The Hague that had delivered its verdict on December 21, 2020 had held unanimously in favour of Cairn and against the Indian government, ruling that the tax levied fell afoul of the bilateral investment pact, and also awarded Cairn $1.2 billion in damages for the tax authorities’ decision to take by force and subsequently sell the company’s shares, and freeze dividend payments as well as tax refunds, to recover the disputed tax dues.
  • India’s GDP is expected to contract by 8% in 2020-21, according to the latest round of FICCI’s Economic Outlook Survey. The annual median growth forecast by the industry body is based on responses from leading economists representing industry, banking and financial services sector.  

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (January 26, 2021)

  • India, China troops clashed at Naku La; 10th round of talks soon
  • New Delhi may be leading towards herd immunity, says Sero survey
  • Billionaires’ wealth rose 35% during lockdown : Oxfam
  • ‘Green Tax’ mooted for personal vehicles older than 15 years
  • At Davos forum, Chinese President warns world leaders against ‘new Cold War’
  • Biden to sign executive order to boost ‘Buy American’ rules

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

  • India and Chinese troops clashed at Naku La in north Sikkim last week, in what the Army termed a “minor face-off”, resulting in some minor injuries on both sides. At the 9th round of Corps Commanders talks on Sunday, India and China had a “candid and in-depth exchange of views” on disengagement along the Line of Actual Control, and both sides agreed to hold the 10th round at an early date to jointly advance de-escalation.
  • The outcome of the fifth round of the seroprevalence survey has indicated that Delhi’s population could be heading towards attaining herd immunity against COVID-19 infection. The survey has found that in one district, 50-60% of the sample population have developed antibodies. Delhi’s population is over two crore, spread across 11 districts.
  • Indian billionaires increased their wealth by 35% to Rs. 3 trillion during the lockdown, ranking them behind their counterparts in U.S., China, Germany, Russia, and France, says the “Inequality Virus Report” brought out by Oxfam, a non-profit organisation. It recommended reintroducing the wealth tax and effecting a one-time COVID-19 cess of 4% on taxable income of over Rs. 10 lakh to help the economy recover from the lockdown.
  • Owners of old vehicles will have to pay the government a ‘green’ tax as a penalty for polluting the environment, which will be much steeper if you reside on one of the more polluted cities in India. Personal vehicles will be charged a tax at the time of renewal of Registration Certification after 15 years. The proposal will now go to the States for consultation before it is formally notified.
  • Chinese President Xi Jinping warned global leaders at an all-virtual World Economic Forum (WEF) at Davos on Monday against starting a “new Cold War”, and urged global unity in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. He added that rejecting, threatening or intimidating others will push the world into division. The Chinese leader also reaffirmed Beijing’s ambitious climate pledges to slash carbon emissions by 65% by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060 – both significant commitments as China emits a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gases.
  • U.S. President Joe Biden will sign an executive order on Monday requiring the federal government to increase its purchases of American goods, relative to foreign goods. The order also increased the government’s price differential for American products relative to foreign ones. The order also mandates the creation of a new senior position to oversee the “Buy American” programme and a website to publish any waivers to the sourcing requirements.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (January 25, 2021)

  • Chinese using Indian roads for trespass as LAC stand-off remains unresolved
  • K.P. Sharma Oli expelled from Nepal Communist Party; Political crisis as EC refuses to recognise both factions
  • UN rights body calls for release of Bhima Koregaon activists
  • Sunderbans is home to 428 species of birds, says Zoological Survey of India
  • Chief Election Commissioner : Mock trials of remote voting project soon
  • United States vows support to Taiwan as Chinese incursions enter Day 2
  • Elon Musk’s SpaceX creates a new world record by launching 143 satellites on a single rocket

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

  • As India and China started the ninth round of Corps Commander talks on Sunday to address the nine-month long standoff along the Line of Actual Control(LAC) in eastern Ladakh, the head of one of the border villages claimed that Chinese vehicles were using Indian roads to enter Indian territory.
  • The ruling Nepal Communist Party, led by rebel leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ and former Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal expelled Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli from the party on Sunday. The decision divided the party into two groups and sparked a dispute over the party symbol but the Election Commission declined to recognise either faction as the official party. The deepening crisis emerged weeks after Mr. Oli dissolved the Lower House, Pratinidhi Sabha, of Parliament on December 20, which was strongly opposed by Mr. Prachanda and Mr. Nepal who wanted the House to be restored.
  • The top human rights body of the United Nations has urged the Indian government to release the activists who are in prison for the 2018 Bhima Koregaon case, at the very least on bail. The Bhima Koregaon case dates back to January 1, 2018, which marked the 200th anniversary of the Bhima Koregaon battle. The event was organised to celebrate the victory of the British Army, which included a large number of Mahars, against Peshwa Baji Rao II’s army.
  • The Indian Sunderbans, which is a part of the largest mangrove forest in the world, is home to 428 species of birds, a recent publication of the Zoological Survey of India(ZSI) states. The publication, Birds of the Sunderban Biosphere Reserve, released earlier this month by the ZSI, not only documents the avifauna of the Sunderbans, but also serves as a comprehensive  photographic field guide, with detailed distribution and locality data for all the species from the region.
  • Chief Election Commissioner(CEC) Sunil Arora on Sunday said the trials of the Election Commission’s remote voting project would be carried out soon. The system being developed by IIT-M uses blockchain for two-way remote voting at designated centres. The project was started in 2020.
  • A total of 15 Chinese aircraft, including 12 fighter jets, entered the southwestern corner of Taiwan’s air defence identification zone on Sunday, the island’s Defence Ministry said, the second day of incursions by China. The State Department statement said Washington will continue to deepen ties with Taiwan and ensure its defence from Chinese threats, while supporting a peaceful resolution of issues between the sides. Meanwhile, a U.S. aircraft carrier group led by the USS Theodore Roosevelt has entered the South China Sea to ensure freedom of the seas, build partnerships that foster maritime security.
  • Elon Musk’s SpaceX created a new world record by launching 143 satellites on a single rocket last night. SpaceX has beaten the Indian space agency ISRO’s record of deploying 104 satellites in a single launch in February 2017. The launch vehicle for the SpaceX record-breaking flight was the Falcon 9 rocket. The 143 satellites launched last night include commercial and government CubeSats, microsats and 10 Starlink satellites. Onboard was also a spacecraft belonging to Nasa. With these satellites, SpaceX aims to provide near-global broadband internet coverage all over the world by 2021. According to sources, SpaceX offered a very low price of 15,000 dollars per kilogram for each satellite to be delivered to a polar sun-synchronous orbit.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (January 23, 2021)

  • Home Minister Amit Shah to chair Plenary session of North Eastern Council Meeting in Shillong
  • Myanmar, Mauritius, Morocco and Seychelles receive India made COVISHIELD vaccine
  • India proposes to expand research, tourism in the Arctic
  • CBI books Cambridge Analytica, another firm in data theft case
  • China hits out at European Union over ‘gross interference’; EU slammed crackdown on HK activists
  • Trump impeachment article to be sent to Senate on Monday
  • Myanmar committed Rohingyas repatriation under 2017 agreement with Bangladesh

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

  • Home Minister Amit Shah will visit Shillong today to chair the 69th Plenary Meeting of the North Eastern Council (NEC). The meeting will also be attended by Union Minister Dr Jitender Singh and members of the NEC comprising Governors and Chief Ministers of the eight north-eastern States. Senior officials from north-eastern States and Central Government are also expected to be present. There will be presentations from the Ministry of DoNER, NEC, the State Governments and selected Central Ministries on various developmental initiatives and plans for the North-East Region during the two-day session.
  • India continues to forge ahead with its Neighbourhood First policy as it extends a steady shoulder of a friend in need to its partner countries. Myanmar, Mauritius, Morocco and Seychelles received India made COVISHIELD vaccine yesterday. India will continue to supply COVID-19 vaccines to partner countries over the coming weeks and months in a phased manner. Addressing media in New Delhi, External Affairs Ministry Spokesman Anurag Srivastava said it will be ensured that domestic manufacturers have adequate stocks to meet domestic requirements while supplying abroad. Many  countries have evinced interest in accessing vaccines from India which is the global hub for vaccine production. Prime Minister has already stated that India’s vaccine production and delivery capacity would be used for the benefit of all humanity in fighting this crisis.
  • India has unveiled a new draft Arctic policy that, among other things, commits to expanding scientific research, “sustainable tourism” and mineral oil and gas exploration in the Arctic region. India launched its first scientific expedition to the Arctic in 2007. Arctic research will help India’s scientific community to study melting rates of the third pole – the Himalayan glaciers, which are endowed with the largest freshwater reserves in the world outside the geographic poles.
  • The Central Bureau of Investigation has booked Cambridge Analytica(U.K.) Limited and Global Science Research Limited (U.K.) for alleged illegal harvesting of personal data of about 5.62 lakh Indian users on Facebook through an application. It stems from a preliminary enquiry launched by the agency in July 2018 on a complaint from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology following media reports alleging the illegal harvesting of personal data.
  • China on Friday hit back at an EU resolution condemning its crackdown on Hong Kong democracy activists, accusing European lawmakers of gross interference in its governance of the city. Members of the European Parliament on Thursday passed the resolution calling for “targeted sanctions” against Chinese and Hong Kong officials held responsible for recent attacks of activists. Following pro-democracy protests in 2019, Beijing imposed a draconian national security law that effectively criminalised much dissent in a city.
  • Donald Trump will go on trial in the U.S. Senate soon after a fresh impeachment case against the former President is transmitted on Monday by the House of Representatives, top lawmakers announced. The House impeached the Republican leader for a historic second time on January 13, just one week before he left office.
  • Myanmar Minister for International Cooperation Kyaw Tin has said that Myanmar is committed to start the repatriation of Rohingyas under the 2017 agreement with Bangladesh. The Minister  pointed out  that Myanmar had taken back Rohingyas in 1978 and 1992 on the basis of mutual talks. According to a press release issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) of Bangladesh yesterday, Myanmar minister said in a letter to the Bangladesh Foreign Minister that Myanmar is committed to resolve all issues of mutual interest peacefully with it. He expressed the hope that the tripartite meeting between Bangladesh, Myanmar and China held on January 19 would help in starting the repatriation of Rohingyas to Myanmar. Earlier, Bangladesh had expressed ‘cautious optimism’ at the tripartite meeting held between Bangladesh, Myanmar and China.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (January 22, 2021)

  • 5 die in Serum Institute of India fire; Vaccine facility safe
  • Joe Biden begins dismantling Trump legacy; Stops withdrawal of the U.S. from WHO
  • China defends new village in Arunachal Pradesh; Says it is their territory
  • Centre invested Rs 27,000 cr for schemes relating to blue economy
  • Large scale Joint Military exercise – ‘Exercise Kavach’ to be conducted in coming week
  • Myanmar, Mauritius, Seychelles to receive India made COVISHIELD vaccine

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  • Five persons were killed in a fire that broke out on the fifth floor of an under-construction building of vaccine manufacturing major Serum Institute of India(SII) in Pune’s Manjari area. The fire broke out due to electrical fault. The campus also houses the company’s biggest COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing facility.
  • The Biden presidency began with a flurry of activity, with the new President signing 17 executive orders, memos and directives in his first day in office, including on climate change, the pandemic, immigration and equality. He also stopped the U.S.’s withdrawal from the World Health Organisation(WHO).
  • China yesterday said its construction of a village across the Line of Actual Control(LAC) in Arunachal Pradesh was “beyond reproach” because it had “never recognised ” Arunachal. India’s Ministry of External Affairs said earlier this week that it was aware of the construction along the LAC. This followed a report showing satellite images of the village, built between November 2019 and November 2020 and located a couple of kilometres across the LAC, beyond what India sees as the border separating Arunachal Pradesh and Tibet, on the banks of the Tsari Chu river in upper Subansiri district in Arunachal.
  • Union Minister for Fisheries Dr. Giriraj Singh has said that the Centre has invested 27 thousand crore rupees for schemes relating to blue economy. Laying the foundation stone for the Aquatic Quarantine facility at Aquatic Animal Quarantine Centre at Padappai, the Minister said that the ornamental fish export amounts to one lakh crore rupees. He said that the government will soon be launching a pilot project of cage culture fishing facility at Rameswaram. The Minister said that fishermen could earn one lakh to one a half lakh rupee every month due to the scheme. He also said that sea-weed production will also be given a boost in the blue economy schemes launched by the government.
  • A large scale Joint Military exercise – Exercise Kavach involving assets of Indian Army, Indian Navy, Indian Air Force and Indian Coast Guard will be conducted in the coming week under the aegis of the Andaman and Nicobar Command. Defence Ministry said, the exercise involves synergised application of maritime surveillance assets, coordinated air and maritime strikes, air defence, submarine and landing operations. The joint force will execute multi-domain, high-intensity offensive and defensive manoeuvres in the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal.
  • A consignment of 50,000 doses of COVISHIELD vaccine is scheduled to reach Seychelles on Friday as part of India’s vaccine donation program. Sources said Seychelles is only among the four Indian Ocean countries to receive Covishield vaccine, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, as New Delhi grant assistance. The donation of the vaccines under the VaccineMaitri demonstrates India’s role as a reliable partner of Seychelles and net security provider in the Indian Ocean Region. This is also reflective of India’s special relations with Seychelles and the central place enjoyed by Seychelles in Prime Minister Modi’s vision of SAGAR: “Security and Growth for All in the Region”. Seychelles has around one lakh inhabitants and the 50 thousand doses will thus be able to cover nearly 25 percent of the total Seychelles population.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (January 21, 2021)

  • Joe Biden sworn in as the 46th President of the United States
  • Karnataka tops in innovation, shows NITI Aayog index; M.H. races past T.N. to occupy the second position
  • India sends vaccines to 2 countries; Consignment sent to Bhutan and Male
  • In Gujarat, lotus eaters munch on just dragon fruit
  • Joint exercise of IAF and Air and Space force of France Desert Night-21 commences at Jodhpur Airforce station
  • Weak reform push, financial sector woes may damp growth : says Fitch Ratings
  • Joe Biden to reverse Trump policies on Day 1; Orders to set new paths on immigration, environment and fighting COVID-19
  • India, European Union hold their first maritime security dialogue in virtual format

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

  • While the transfer of power was not peaceful in the world’s oldest constitutional republic, that transfer did occur on Wednesday on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol, as Joseph R. Biden Jr. was sworn in as the 46th President of the U.S.. Kamala Harris becomes the first woman Vice-President of the United States.
  • Karnataka retained its leadership position in the major States category in the second edition of India Innovation Index released by NITI Aayog yesterday. It was followed by Maharashtra, which moved past Tamil Nadu to occupy the second place. Karnataka’s rank is attributable to its substantive number of venture capital deals, registered Geographical Indications and information and communications technology exports.
  • India on Wednesday began the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to six “neighbouring and key partner countries”. The delivery began with two special flights carrying the first consignments of Covishield to the Maldives and Bhutan. As part of the vaccine diplomacy, a consignment of 1,50,000 doses reached Thimphu yesterday. Later, a consignment of 1,00,000 doses was received at the Male airport. Bhutan is the first country to receive the vaccine manufactured by the Pune-based Serum Institute of India.
  • The Gujarat government has decided to rename the dragon fruit as ‘kamalam’, and comments have flooded the internet and social media platforms. One of the reasons cited by Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani was that the word dragon reminded one of China.
  • Joint exercise of Indian Air Force and Air and Space force of France Desert Night-21 commenced yesterday at Jodhpur Airforce station. On the first day, air commodores of both the forces had courtesy meeting and communicated about the daily schedule to each other. French Air Force has come with 4 Rafale fighter jet planes for 5 day long joint exercise. These Rafale aircrafts will cooperate with the customised Rafale aircraft handed over to India about war strategy. Along with these, Air bus A-330, Multirole tanker transport and A-400 M Tactical transport aircrafts are also participating in the joint exercise from French side.
  • Fitch Ratings on Wednesday said India’s medium-term growth potential is at about 6.5% but weak implementation of reforms, combined with continued financial sector problems, could lower its potential. It said the revival of the reform agenda is among the Indian government’s policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic shock.
  • U.S. President Joe Biden plans to kick off his new administration on Wednesday with orders to restore the U.S. to the Paris climate accord and the World Health Organisation. Mr. Biden will sign 15 orders and actions just hours after being sworn in as the U.S. leader to break from the policies of departing President Donald Trump and set new paths on immigration, the environment, fighting COVID-19 and the economy.
  • India and the EU have held their first maritime security dialogue in a virtual format. The consultations involved exchanges on developments in maritime security environment, regional cooperation activities, developments of mutual interest and opportunities for cooperation between India and the EU. The EU-India Maritime Dialogue was chaired by Director Joanneke Balfoort on the European Union External Action Service side and Joint Secretary Sandeep Arya on the Indian side. The dialogue seeks to develop mutual understanding and cooperation opportunities between India and the EU in the maritime security domain as another factor of the strategic partnership between the two sides consistent with the India-EU Roadmap to 2025.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (January 19, 2021)

  • NITI Aayog to release 2nd edition of India Innovation Index tomorrow
  • TRIFED and IFFDC enter into MoU to work together for tribal livelihood generation
  • Government may raise the import duties by 5-10%; Budget likely to raise levy on more than 50 items
  • FM Nirmala Sitharaman holds pre-budget consultations with Finance Ministers of states, UTs
  • Chinese economy grows 2.3% slowest pace in past 4 years

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

  • NITI Aayog will release the second edition of the India Innovation Index in a virtual event tomorrow. The index will be released by NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Dr Rajiv Kumar in the presence of NITI Aayog Member Dr V.K. Saraswat and Chief Executive Officer Amitabh Kant. NITI Aayog said in a statement that the release of the second edition of the index demonstrates government’s continued commitment towards transforming the country into an innovation-driven economy. The India Innovation Index-2020 seeks to rank the States and Union Territories based on their relative performance of supporting innovation and to empower them to improve their innovation polices by highlighting their strengths and weaknesses. The ranking methodology is designed in a way that states can draw lessons from the national leaders in innovation.
  • The Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED) and Indian Farm Forestry Development Co-operative Ltd (IFFDC) entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) today to work together for tribal livelihood generation. The Ministry of Tribal Affairs in a statement said that the two organizations have agreed to partner with each other to organise training programmes for tribal artisans in the area of entrepreneurship skill and business development. They will also collaborate further to identify and implement Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives and tribal development efforts.
  • India is considering raising the import duties by 5%-10% on more than 50 items including smartphones, electronic components and appliances in the upcoming budget. The move to increase import duties is part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s self-reliant India campaign that aims to promote and support domestic manufacturing.
  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman held pre-budget consultations with the Finance Ministers of States and Union Territories yesterday. The meeting was held through video conference and was attended by Chief Ministers, Deputy Chief Ministers, State Finance Ministers and Senior Officers from the States and Union Territories. The Finance Minister highlighted the importance of the meeting as a sign of co-operative federalism and indicated the manner in which the Union Government was strongly supportive of States and Union Territories’ fight against the pandemic.
  • China said on Monday the nation’s economy expanded in 2020 by 2.3%, the slowest pace of growth since the end of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution in 1976. China will, however, likely be the only major economy that has avoided a contraction in a pandemic-hit year, underlining its strong recovery after weeks of lockdown at the start of the year brought economic activity in the Asian giant to a near-standstill.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (January 18, 2021)

  • More than 2 lakh 24 thousand people vaccinated for Covid-19 across country during past two days
  • PM Modi to lay foundation stone of Ahmedabad Metro Rail Phase 2 and Surat Metro Rail Project today
  • Britain invites PM Modi to attend G7 Summit to be held in June this year
  • U.K. urges China to grant Unites Nations access to Xinjiang
  • Death toll from tribal violence in Sudan’s Darfur climbs to 83
  • United States maintains terrorist designation of Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayyiba
  • Electronic ‘Pension Payment Order’ promises ease of living for senior citizens: Jitendra Singh

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

  • Health Ministry said, a total of 553 sessions of Covid-19 vaccination was conducted in six States in which 17 thousand and 72 beneficiaries were vaccinated on the second day of the launch of the world’s largest Covid-19 vaccination drive. These States are Andhra Pradesh in which 308 sessions were conducted yesterday, 165 sessions in Tamil Nadu, 64 in Karnataka, 14 in Arunachal Pradesh, and one each session in Kerala and Manipur. Addressing the media in New Delhi, Additional Health Secretary, Dr Manohar Agnani said, with this taking all the two days, a total of 2 lakh 24 thousand and 301 beneficiaries have been vaccinated so far.  Out of which two lakh 7 thousand 229 beneficiaries were vaccinated on Saturday which is the highest day one vaccination number in the world and it is higher than UK, US and France, he added.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lay the foundation stone of Ahmedabad Metro Rail Project Phase-II and Surat Metro Rail Project today through video conferencing. Home Minister Amit Shah, Gujarat Governor Acharya Devvrat, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani will witness the event along with other dignitaries. The Metro Projects will provide an environment friendly ‘Mass Rapid Transit System’ to these cities. Ahmedabad Metro Rail Project Phase-II is 28.25 kilometres long with two corridors. The estimated cost of phase two of Ahmedabad Metro project is 5384 crore rupees.
  • United Kingdom has invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi to attend the G7 Summit as a guest. The G7 Summit is to be held in June this year. A statement by the British High Commission said, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is also likely to visit India ahead of the G7 Summit. Mr Johnson’s earlier visit to India was called off by him due to the Coronavirus situation in UK. The G7, made up of the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the US and the EU, is the only forum where the world’s most influential and open societies and advanced economies are brought together for close-knit discussions.
  • Britain’s government on Sunday pressed China to allow UN rights inspectors to visit Xinjiang after raising anew allegations of appalling human rights abuses against the Uighur minority people. Foreign Secretary of Britain last week introduced import controls on firms that may have sourced goods from the region in northwest China using forced labour from the mainly Muslim Uighur community.
  • In Sudan, the death toll from tribal violence in the restive region of West Darfur has climbed to 83 as sporadic violence continued yesterday. At least 160 others injured, which include soldiers also. The fighting in the state capital, El Geneina, began on Saturday after a row in which a man was stabbed to death. A state-wide curfew has been imposed and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has sent a delegation to investigate. The latest violence comes less than three weeks after peacekeepers from the UN and African Union handed over security to the Khartoum authorities after 13 years.
  • The United States has reviewed and maintained the terrorist designations of Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) and Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LJ), along with ISIL Sinai Peninsula (ISIL-SP) and several other organisations. In a Media note ahead of the transition of power, the US Department of State said that it has amended the terrorist designations of LJ and ISIL Sinai Peninsula (ISIL-SP) to include additional aliases. LeT, which carried out the 2008 Mumbai terror attack, was designated as a terrorist organisation by the United States in December 2001.
  • Minister of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions Dr Jitendra Singh has said that the recently introduced Electronic “Pension Payment Order” (PPO) promises ease of living for senior citizens. Referring to some path-breaking reforms introduced in the Ministry, Dr Singh said that the Department of Pensions was often at the receiving end of complaints from senior citizens about the original copies of their Pension Payment Order getting misplaced. He said, in such situations, the pensioners, particularly the older pensioners, had to face several hardships.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (January 14, 2021)

  • Afghanistan raises ‘delay’ in India’s acceptance of envoy; No full rank Ambassador sine 2018
  • Donald Trump on the verge of second impeachment; Blamed for Capitol attack
  • Coastal defence exercise ‘Sea Vigil’ concludes
  • CCS approves 83 Tejas fighters for Air Force; Rs.47,000-crore deal a ‘game-changer’
  • India and Turkmenistan hold 4th round of Foreign Office Consultations virtually
  • Third phase of Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY 3.0) to be launched tomorrow
  • PM Modi to interact with startups and address ‘Prarambh: Startup India International Summit’ on 16th January

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

  • More than three months after Afghanistan announced its next Ambassador to India, New Delhi has yet to grant its agreement, or acceptance of the Afghan government’s nominee. Afghanistan has not had a full-rank Ambassador in Delhi since September 2018.
  • A week after President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, the U.S. House of Representatives gathered on Wednesday to impeach the President for his role in an assault on American democracy that stunned the nation and left five dead. A vote of the House majority to impeach would trigger a trial in the still Republican-controlled Senate.
  • Exercise Sea Vigil, the two-day coastal defence exercise was concluded yesterday. The conceptual and geographical expanse of Sea Vigil included the entire coastline and Exclusive Economic Zone, EEZ of the country and contingencies from Peace to War-time were exercised. In addition, mitigation measures, on shore, in case of any breach in coastal security were also validated. Defence Ministry said, the exercise involved deployment of the entire coastal security apparatus and more than 110 surface assets of Indian Navy and Coast Guard participated in the exercise. In addition, a large number of Marine Police and Customs assets were also deployed. The entire coastline was kept under surveillance by the Indian Navy and Coast Guard aircraft and helicopters were also pressed into service to reinforce Special Operations personnel operating onboard offshore platforms.
  • In the biggest indigenous defence deal, the Cabinet Committee on Security(CCS) on Wednesday approved the manufacture of 83 Tejas light combat aircraft(LCA) by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) for the Indian Air Force(IAF) at a cost of around Rs. 47,000 crore. This deal would be a game changer for self-reliance in the Indian defence manufacturing. The indigenous content of the LCA-Tejas was 50% in the MK-1A variant and it would be enhanced to 60% by the end of the programme.
  • The 4th round of Foreign Office Consultations between India and Turkmenistan was held through virtual mode today. The Indian side was led by Vikas Swarup, Secretary (West) and the Turkmen side was led by Vepa Hajiyev, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan. The External Affairs Ministry said in a statement that the Consultations provided an opportunity to comprehensively review the various aspects of bilateral relations, including political, economic, commercial, defence, scientific, cultural, education and consular cooperation. Both sides exchanged views on regional and international issues of mutual interest and agreed to enhance cooperation in the UN and multilateral arena.
  • The third phase of Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY 3.0)  will be launched tomorrow in 600 districts across all states of India. Spearheaded by the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE), this phase will focus on new-age and COVID-related skills. Skill India Mission PMKVY 3.0 envisages training of  eight lakh candidates over a scheme period of 2020-2021 with an outlay of Rs. 948.90 crore. The 729 Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Kendras (PMKKs), empaneled non-PMKK training centres and more than 200 ITIs under Skill India will be rolling out PMKVY 3.0 training to build a robust pool of skilled professionals. On the basis of the learning gained from PMKVY 1.0 and PMKVY 2.0, the Ministry has improved the newer version of the scheme to match the current policy doctrine and energize the skilling ecosystem affected due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will interact with startups and address ‘Prarambh: Startup India International Summit’ on Saturday evening through video conferencing. The two day Summit is being organized by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, Ministry of Commerce and Industry. The Summit will begin tomorrow. It is being organised as a follow up of the announcement made by the Prime Minister at the fourth Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation, BIMSTEC Summit held in Kathmandu in August 2018 wherein India committed to host the BIMSTEC Startup Conclave. The Summit marks the fifth anniversary of the Startup India initiative, launched by the Prime Minister on 16 January, 2016. With participation from over 25 countries and more than 200 global speakers, the summit will be the largest startup confluence organised by the Government of India since the launch of the Startup India initiative.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (January 13, 2021)

  • Supreme Court stays implementation of three controversial farm laws
  • New Foreign Trade Policy to come into effect from April 1
  • India slams China and Pakistan at UNSC; Points to delay in designating terrorist individuals
  • On the Occasion of National Youth Day, Atal Innovation Mission launches new edition of Atal Tinkering Lab handbook
  • India proposes 8 point agenda to UN Security Council to combat terrorism
  • Malaysia declares state of emergency over coronavirus surge
  • Defence Secretary co-chairs 13th India-Vietnam Defence Security Dialogue with his Vietnamese counterpart

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

  • The Supreme Court yesterday stayed the implementation of three controversial laws, calling its order extraordinary and a victory for fair play. The stay on the implementation of the laws means that the centre cannot, for the time being, proceed with any executive actions to enforce the laws.
  • The meeting of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry was held  on the subject “New Foreign Trade Policy 2021-26”. The meeting was chaired by the Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Hardeep Singh Puri, and attended by Members of Parliament and senior officers of the Ministry. During the meeting, it was informed that that the new Foreign Trade Policy-FTP will come into effect from 1st April 2021 for a period of five years. The policy will strive to make India a leader in the area of international trade and channelize the synergies gained through merchandise and services exports for growth and employment with a goal to make India a 5 trillion dollar economy. The FTP 2015-20 came into effect on 1st April 2015 and the same was extended by one year till 31 March this year due to Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Urging United Nations Security Council members not to make false distinctions of “good” terrorists and bad terrorists, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar made indirect references to both China and Pakistan for delaying the process of designating terrorist individuals and entities, as well as failing to stop the funding of terror. In a speech to the UNSC that convened a session to mark two decades since the 1373 anti-terror resolution was passed after the 9/11 attacks in the U.S., Mr. Jaishankar called for “zero tolerance to terrorism”.
  • Atal Innovation Mission, NITI Aayog today launched its new edition of Atal Tinkering Lab handbook which reinforces detailed establishment and operational processes of the Atal Tinkering Labs and its journey towards an innovative ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’. The publication coincides with the birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda, also celebrated as the National Youth Day to honor the birthday of Swami Vivekananda who voiced the important role that youth play in the building up of a strong nation throughout his life. The handbook named ‘The Atal Tinkering Lab Handbook 2.0’ outlines a practical guidance on structural, selection, establishment and celebration aspects of the AIM’s flagship ATL programme.  This handbook, which is available online on AIM’s official website, also provides a detailed guidance for schools across the country on building a technically robust mechanism of grass root innovations through ATLs.
  • External Affairs Minister Dr. S Jaishankar has said that COVID-19 has further aggravated the terrorism concerns for the world. Speaking at the United Nations Security Council open debate on the topic of Threats to International Peace and security caused by terrorist acts, Dr Jaishankar said the economic uncertainty caused due to the pandemic has made the radical extremist ideologies more susceptible towards terrorist activities. External Affairs Minister proposed an eight point action plan in order to combat the menace of terrorism. He said, the council should not countenance double standards in their battle against terrorism.
  • Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar today co-chaired the 13th India-Vietnam Defence Security Dialogue along with his Vietnamese co-chair Sr Lt Gen Nguyen Chi Vinh, Deputy Defence Minister  of Vietnam.  During virtual interaction, both of them expressed satisfaction at the ongoing defence cooperation between the two countries in spite of the limitations imposed by COVID 19. During the interaction, the Defence Secretary and the Deputy Defence Minister exchanged views on the plan of action that has emanated from the recently concluded Virtual Summit between   Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister of Vietnam  Nguyen Xuan Phuc in December 2020. New areas of defence cooperation were also discussed.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (January 12, 2021)

  • Centre orders 11 million doses of Covishield; Government to pay for priority group
  • ISRO to adopt 100 Atal Tinkering Labs across country to promote education
  • Indian Navy to coordinate largest coastal defence exercise Sea Vigil-21
  • India at UNSC expresses serious concern over security situation in Sahel & Lake Chad region in West Africa
  • Next round of commercial coal mining auction soon; Government unveils single window clearance
  • Democrats introduce article of impeachment against Trump
  • WHO experts to visit China to trace origins of COVID-19

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

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the State governments would not have to pay for vaccinating the priority group of a three crore healthcare and frontline workers, stating that the centre would bear the cost. The announcement came as the Central government places a purchase order with the Pune-base Serum Institute of India for 11 million doses of Oxford COVID-19 vaccine, Covishield, at a cost of Rs. 210 per dose.
  • Indian Space Research Organisation, ISRO will adopt one hundred Atal Tinkering Labs across the country to promote education in the field of Space Education and Space Technology related innovations for school students. Addressing the virtual event through a special message, NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Dr. Rajiv Kumar said, he is  extremely elated that different Departments and Ministries of the Government are working in synergy to create an Atmanirbhar Bharat. He said, the collaboration between NITI Aayog and Indian Space Research Organization is one of the prime examples of such effort. Dr Kumar said, this is a great opportunity for the young budding space researchers and astronauts to learn from the best minds of the country and become living inspirations for their school, families and local communities.
  • Indian Navy will coordinate second edition of largest coastal defence exercise Sea Vigil-21 starting today. The inaugural edition of the exercise was conducted in January 2019. The two-day biennial pan-India coastal defence exercise, will be undertaken along the entire 7,516-kilometre long coastline. The exercise will also include Exclusive Economic Zone of the country and will involve all the 13 coastal States and Union Territories along with other maritime stakeholders. It will also include the fishing and coastal communities. The entire coastal security set up was reorganised after the 26/11 Terror attack at Mumbai which was launched via the sea route.
  • India has expressed serious concern over the security situation in the Sahel and Lake Chad region in West Africa, saying that terrorism, drug trafficking and organized crime have continued unabated in the area. Speaking at a UN Security Council session in New York yesterday, India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, TS Tirumurti said India also condemned terrorist attacks by Boko Haram in Nigeria and Lake Chad region and by Islamic State in West Africa. He also called for closer coordination in counter-terrorism cooperation and said that the international community also needs to develop a coherent, coordinated and cooperative approach to deal with the worrisome humanitarian situation in the Sahel.
  • Coal Minister Pralhad Joshi said the next tranche of commercial mine auctions will be unveiled this month and stressed that further rounds would continue thereafter. He unveiled the single-window clearance portal and said it is the in the spirit of minimum government and maximum governance.
  • Democrats in the House of Republicans introduced an article of impeachment against the U.S. President Donald Trump – the “incitement of insurrection” for his role in the attack on the Capitol last Wednesday. While it is theoretically possible for the impeachment articles to be sent to the Senate in days – where Mr. Trump would be tried, this is unlikely to happen.
  • Chinese authorities said on Monday a team of experts from the World Health Organisation will arrive on China on Thursday to study the origins of COVID-19. Chinese authorities, for their part, have suggested they will control how much access international scientists will have and that its scientists will have a say in how the investigations go forward.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (January 11, 2021)

  • Nitin Gadkari to launch “Khadi Prakritik Paint” developed by KVIC tomorrow
  • PM urges youth to be part of Startup India International Summit ‘Prarambh’
  • Govt notifies rules for renewal of International Driving License while traveling abroad
  • Home Minister Amit Shah to launch ‘Single Window Clearance System’ for coal mines
  • BIMSTEC region has huge prospects for economic cooperation: Bangladesh State Foreign Minister
  • Brazil seeks two million doses of Covishield vaccine from India on priority basis

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

  • Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari will be launching an innovative new paint developed by Khadi and Village Industries Commission tomorrow. The eco-friendly, non-toxic paint, called “Khadi Prakritik Paint” is a first-of-its-kind product, with anti-fungal, anti-bacterial properties. Based on cow dung as its main ingredient, the paint is cost-effective and odourless, and has been certified by Bureau of Indian Standards. Khadi Prakritik Paint is available in two forms – distemper paint and plastic emulsion paint. Production of Khadi Prakritik Paint is aligned with Prime Minister’s vision of increasing farmers’ income.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said events being held virtually has given a great opportunity for youngsters to be a part of many interesting domestic and global forums. In a tweet, Mr Modi said Prarambh, the Startup India International Summit, which is being held on the 15th and 16th of this month is one such opportunity. He urged the youth to be a part of it. This Summit seeks to bring together the top minds from industry, academia, investment, banking, finance and young start up leaders. Nation would also be marking 5 years since the Start-Up India initiative began. This initiative has propelled India to be among the most attractive start-up eco-systems globally.
  • Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has issued a notification to facilitate the issuance of International Driving Permit (IDP) for Indian citizens whose IDP has expired while they are abroad. There was no mechanism for its renewal while citizens were abroad and their IDP expired. After this amendment, Indian citizens can apply for renewal through Indian Embassies and Missions abroad, from where these applications will move to the VAHAN portal in India, to be considered by the concerned Road Transport Officers (RTOs).
  • The BIMSTEC region has huge prospects for economic cooperation much of which still remains unexplored and unexploited. State Foreign Minister of Bangladesh Shahriar Alam made this comment while welcoming the newly appointed Secretary General of BIMSTEC Tenzin Lekphell in Dhaka on Sunday. The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is a regional organization comprising seven member states lying in the littoral and adjacent areas of the Bay of Bengal. Established in 1997, it has seven member states including Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand.
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has requested India for 2 million doses of Covishield vaccine produced indigenously by the Serum Institute of India, Pune. Mr Bolsonaro has written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to expedite the shipment of Covishield vaccine to Brazil without affecting India’s vaccination program. Mr Bolsonaro’s letter, released by his press office, comes amid growing pressure to speed up Brazil’s vaccine rollout and end the world’s second-deadliest coronavirus outbreak. Brazilian National Immunization Program has finalized the Covishield and Covaxin for emergency use in the country. Earlier, the federally funded Fiocruz biomedical center had requested an emergency use authorization for Covishield vaccine coming from India.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (January 08, 2021)

  • GDP likely to contract by 7.7% this fiscal : Government
  • ‘Alarming’ U.K. virus variant needs bolder response; WHO calls for tougher measures
  • India to chair three-key subsidiary bodies of UNSC
  • CBIC to introduce its flagship Liberalised MSME Authorised Economic Operator Package
  • World food price index rises for seventh straight month in December
  • PM dedicates Rewari – Madar section of Western Dedicated Freight Corridor to the Nation
  • Japan PM exudes confidence that Olympic Games will be staged despite state of emergency in Tokyo

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  • India’s real GDP(Gross Domestic Product) is estimated to contract by 7.7% in 2020-21, with GVA(Gross Value Added) shrinking by 7.2%, advance estimates released by the National Statistical Office. India’s economy has expanded 4.2% in 2019-20, but entered a recessionary phase with two successive quarters of sharp contraction triggered by the COVID-19 lockdowns.
  • The World Health Organisation’s European branch said more needed to be done to deal with the alarming situation brought on by a recently discovered variant of the novel coronavirus. It added, this is an alarming situation, which means that for a short period of time we need to do more than we have done and to intensify the public health and social measures to be certain we can flatten the steep vertical line in some countries.
  • India will be chairing three-key subsidiary bodies of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). The panels are, Counter-Terrorism Committee (for 2022), Taliban Sanctions Committee, and Libya Sanctions committee. This was announced by the Permanent Representative of India at the United Nations Security Council, TS Tirumurti today. India will chair the Counter-Terrorism Committee of UNSC in 2022. Mr Tirumurti said, chairing of this committee has a special resonance for India which has not only been at the forefront of fighting terrorism especially cross border terrorism but has also been one of its biggest victims.He said, Taliban Sanctions Committee has always been a high priority for India keeping in mind its strong interest and commitment to peace, security, development, and progress of Afghanistan.
  • Recognising the critical contribution of MSMEs in supporting the economy especially during the present difficult times of COVID-19 pandemic, Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs, CBIC has taken a new initiative to introduce its flagship Liberalised MSME AEO Package. In order to attract MSMEs to become Authorised Economic Operators, AEOs and avail the various benefits, the CBIC has relaxed the compliance criteria provided the MSMEs have a valid certificate from their line-Ministry. The relaxed requirements allow MSMEs who have filed minimum 10 Customs clearance documents in one year and who have a clean compliance record over 2 years to apply for the scheme.
  • Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi dedicated to the nation the 306 km long Rewari – Madar section of the Western Dedicated Freight Corridor (WDFC) yesterday through video conference. He also flagged off the Double Stack Long Haul Container Train on this route. The Prime Minister said the Eastern Freight Corridor has also started showing how they are increasing the strength of different parts of the country. He said the western freight corridor will make farming and allied business in Haryana and Rajasthan easier and also impart new energy into cities like Mahendragarh, Jaipur, Ajmer and Sikar.
  • World food prices rose for a seventh consecutive month in December, with all the major categories, barring sugar, posting gains last month, the United Nations food agency said. The Food and Agriculture Organisation’s food price index, which measures monthly charges for a basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy products, meat and sugar, averaged 107.5 points last month versus 105.2 in November. It was still down more than 25% from its historical peak in 2011.
  • Japan Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has exuded confidence that Olympic Games will be staged this summer despite a state of emergency in Tokyo following the surge in coronavirus cases. The Japanese Government said, organizers are sparing no effort to realize Tokyo Olympic Games that are safe and secure so as to prove that humanity has defeated the COVID-19 pandemic. New daily cases of coronavirus in Japan surpassed 7,000 for the first time yesterday. About half of that COVID cases come from the national capital area, including a record 2,447 new infections in Tokyo.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (January 07, 2021)

  • Supreme Court to study anti-conversion laws of Uttarakhand and U.P.
  • Centre sends multi-disciplinary experts’ team to Kerala and Haryana to oversee Avian Influenza containment operations
  • Standing Committee of National Board of Wildlife approves advisory for Human-Wildlife Conflict management
  • India and France to hold annual Strategic Dialogue in New Delhi today
  • Government releases India report on LASI Wave-1 on virtual platform
  • China denies entry to WHO experts; The team was due to study the origins of COVID-19
  • India calls for introspection within UN Security Council over lack of representation of African countries

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

  • The Supreme Court agreed to examine the constitutional validity of laws enacted by states, such as Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, that criminalise religious conversion via marriage and mandate prior official clearance before marrying into another faith. The Bench however, did not stay the implementation of the Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020 and the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018, despite fervent pleas by petitioners that “rampaging mobs are lifting off people in the middle of wedding ceremonies”, buoyed by the enactment of the laws.
  • Centre has deployed multi-disciplinary teams to Avian Influenza affected Alappuzha and Kottayam districts in Kerala, and Panchkula District in Haryana. The Health Ministry said that the Department of Animal Husbandry had notified on Monday, detection of Avian Influenza (H5N8) in samples of dead ducks from Alappuzha and Kottayam districts in Kerala. This has been detected among crows in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, and among Migratory Birds in Himachal Pradesh and among ducks in Kerala. No case has been detected in chickens. The Department of Animal Husbandry has issued detailed advisory to states to further intensify surveillance to detect any case in poultry birds.
  • The Standing Committee of National Board of Wildlife has approved the advisory for management of Human-Wildlife Conflict in the country. The advisory makes important provisions for the States and Union Territories for dealing with Human-Wildlife conflict situations and seeks expedited inter-departmental coordinated and effective actions. The advisory envisages empowering gram panchayats in dealing with the problematic wild animals as per the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972. Utilising add-on coverage under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna for crop compensation against crop damage due to Human Wildlife Conflict and augmenting fodder and water sources within the forest areas are some key steps envisaged to reduce Human Wildlife Conflict and payment of a portion of ex-gratia as interim relief within 24 hours of the incident to the victim or family.
  • Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan today released India report on Longitudinal Ageing Study of India (LASI) Wave-1 on the virtual platform. LASI is a full-scale national survey of scientific investigation of the health, economic, and social determinants and consequences of population ageing in India. Highlighting the importance of the report, Dr Harsh Vardhan said, in the 2011 census, the 60 plus population accounted for 8.6 per cent of India’s population, accounting for 103 million elderly people. Growing at around three per cent annually, the number of elderly people will rise to 319 million in 2050. He said, 75 per cent of the elderly people suffer from some chronic diseases. About 40 per cent of the elderly people have one or the other disability and 20 per cent have issues related to mental health.
  • The World Health Organisation(WHO) has said it was very disappointed that China had not allowed a team of international experts to go ahead with a visit to study the origins of COVID-19 that was planned this week. China’s decision to not permit the trip appeared to come at the last minute.
  • India has called for introspection within UN Security Council over the lack of representation of African countries among its permanent members. Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said, even though more than half of the issues on the agenda of the Security Council are related to Africa, the African continent does not even have a single voice amongst the permanent membership to defend its own interests. He said, the world body needs to correct this historical anomaly, and collectively support the Ezulwini consensus. Mr Shringla was speaking at the UNSC during Open Debate on ‘Challenges of Maintaining Peace and Security in Fragile Contexts last night.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (January 06, 2021)

  • Government gearing up to roll out nationwide Covid-19 vaccination next week
  • PM dedicates Kochi – Mangaluru Natural Gas Pipeline to the Nation
  • Swasth Vayu Non-invasive Ventilator developed by CSIR-NAL receives regulator nod
  • Joint study group and surveillance squad constituted to check Ammoniacal Nitrogen in River Yamuna
  • WHO disappointed over China not granting permission to coronavirus experts to enter Wuhan
  • Blue Economy is going to be an important source of Aatamnirbhar Bharat: PM Modi
  • Toycathon 2021 launched to promote manufacturing of indigenous toys

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

  • Government has said, based on the feedback of dry-run, the Government is ready to introduce COVID-19 vaccine within 10 days from date of emergency use authorisation. The DCGI on Sunday had announced the approval of two vaccines for restricted use in the country. Briefing media Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan noted that the final decision lies with the government. The Secretary said, in any immunisation programme in India manufacturers first transport vaccines to four Primary Vaccine Stores across the country from where it is transported in bulk to 37 state vaccine stores and then to districts and finally to PHCs.
  • Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi dedicated Kochi – Mangaluru Natural Gas Pipeline to the Nation through a video conference yesterday. The event marks an important milestone towards the creation of ‘One Nation One Gas Grid’. He said that the pipeline would improve the ease of living in both the states and reduce the expenses of the poor, middle class and entrepreneurs of both the states. He said the pipeline would become the base of the Gas Distribution System in many cities and would form the base of the CNG based transport system in these cities. He said the pipeline would provide clean energy to Mangalore Refinery and would play a major role in reducing the pollution in both the states. He added the reduction of pollution will have a direct impact on the environment akin to planting millions of trees which would help in improving people’s health and reducing their health related expenditure. He said that less pollution and clean air would attract more tourists to the city. He added that construction of this pipeline has generated 1.2 million man days of employment and would develop a new ecosystem of employment and self-employment after its commissioning which would help the fertilizer, petrochemical and power sector. It will also help India in saving thousands of crores of Foreign exchange for the country.
  • CSIR-NAL scientists along with medical professionals from CSIR-IGIB came forward to address the shortages of ventilators in the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic and indigenously designed and developed the non-invasivebilevel positive airway pressureventilator –SwasthVayu, with additional features to treat Covid-19 patients and make the country self-reliant.The performance of the device has been evaluated by the expert committee constituted by Director General of Health Services, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India.  The expert committee, after careful evaluation, has concluded that SwasthVayu may be used on Covid-19 patients who require oxygen supplementation up to 35%.
  • The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) convened a meeting on January 04, with the officials of Delhi Pollution Control Committee(DPCC), Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB), Delhi Jal Board (DJB), Irrigation & Water Resources Department, Haryana and Irrigation and Flood Control Department, Delhi, to discuss the recurring issue of increase in Ammonical Nitrogen in River Yamuna and short and long term remedial actions required. A study group comprising Delhi Jal Board (DJB), Haryana State Pollution Control Board, Delhi Pollution Control Committee, Irrigation and Water Resources Department, Haryana, Irrigation and Flood Control Department, Delhi has been constituted. The group will reviewuniform monitoring protocol and requirement of strengthening monitoring mechanism, analyse past data and carry out field survey to identify critical hotspots as well as period of high anomia levels. It has also been asked to suggest short and long term measures for sustained solutions, and submit its report within a month.
  • The World Health Organization has expressed disappointment over China not yet granting permission to international experts to visit Wuhan to probe the origin of Covid-19. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, the members of the international scientific team on COVID-19 have already begun their journey, but Chinese officials have not yet given the necessary permissions. He said, the mission is a priority for WHO and the global health body is eager to get the mission underway as soon as possible. WHO Chief said, the experts’ visit was as per arrangements jointly developed between WHO, Chinese government, and countries for which the team was meant to travel through on their way to Wuhan. Beijing had previously said it would give the WHO’s expert team full access to investigate the origin of the virus.
  • The Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has said that the development of the coastal areas and welfare of hardworking fishermen is one of the important priority of the Government. He outlined a multi-pronged plan for coastal area development comprising transforming the blue economy, improvement of coastal infrastructure and protecting the marine ecosystem. He was speaking after dedicating Kochi – Mangaluru Natural Gas Pipeline to the Nation through a video conference yesterday. The Prime Minister also talked of the recently launched 20 thousand crore MatasyaSamapadaYojna which will directly benefit lacs of fishermen in Kerala and Karnataka. India is progressing rapidly in the fishery related exports. All steps are being taken to turn India into a quality processed sea-food hub. India can play a major role in fulfilling the growing demand of seaweed, as farmers are being encouraged for seaweed farming.
  • Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ and Union Minister for Textiles and Women & Child Development Smriti Zubin Irani today jointly launched the Toycathon 2021. This Toycathon is aimed to conceptualize innovative toys based on the Indian value system which will inculcate the positive behaviour and good value among the children. India imports 80 per cent of toys and the government is working towards promoting the indigenous toy industry for making the country self reliant in this sector. The Toycathon will majorly focus on conceptualizing new and innovative toys using local material which are economical, affordable, safe and environment friendly. The grand finale of the event will be organized from 23rd to 25th of February. Toycathon is an inter-Ministerial initiative of six Ministries wherein nine themes will be promoted under three tracks for junior level participants, senior level participants and start-ups & professional level.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (January 04, 2021)

  • Covishield by Serum Institute and Covaxin by Bharat Biotech gets approval for emergency use in India
  • FSSAI slashes limit for transfat levels in foods; 5.4 lakh deaths a year globally from its intake : WHO
  • PM Modi inaugurates National Metrology Conclave; says quality & credibility should be pillar for brand India
  • PM to dedicate Kochi-Mangaluru Natural Gas Pipeline to the nation tomorrow
  • Bangladesh expresses happiness over UN resolution on Rohingyas
  • Iran plans to enrich uranium to up to 20% purity at Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant: IAEA

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

  • The Central Drugs and Standards Committee(CDSCO) formally approved the two COVID-19 vaccines by Bharat Biotech and the Serum Institute of India(SII). This allows the vaccines- Covishield by SII and based on the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, and Covaxin by Bharat Biotech – to be offered to healthcare workers in India. Neither Covishield nor Covaxin has completed the phase-3 trial.
  • The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India(FSSAI) has capped the amount of trans fatty acids in oils and fats to 3% for 2021 and 2% by 2022 from the current permissible limit of 5% through an amendment to the Food Safety and Standards(Prohibition and Restriction on Sales) Regulations. Transfats are associated with an increased risk of heart attacks and death from coronary heart disease. The WHO has also called for the global elimination of transfats by 2023.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that quality and credibility should be the pillar for brand India. Speaking at the inaugural address of the National Metrology Conclave 2021 through video conferencing today, he lauded the feats achieved by Indian scientists and technicians saying that Indian scientists has successfully developed two largest Covid-19 vaccination drive is going to begin in the country.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will dedicate the Kochi – Mangaluru Natural Gas Pipeline to the nation at 11 AM tomorrow video conferencing. The event marks an important milestone towards the creation of One Nation One Gas Grid. The 450 kilometre long pipeline has been built by GAIL (India) Limited. It has transportation capacity of 12 Million Metric Standard Cubic Metres per day. It will carry natural gas from the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Regasification Terminal at Kochi, Kerala to Mangaluru, Karnataka, while passing through Ernakulam, Thrissur, Palakkad, Malappuram, Kozhikode, Kannur and Kasaragod districts. The total cost of the project was about three thousand crore rupees and its construction created over 12 lakh man-days of employment.
  • Bangladesh has expressed happiness over the UN resolution on Rohingyas adopted at the 75th General Assembly on Thursday. The resolution was passed with 132 countries voting in favour of it and 9 countries including Russia and China opposing it. 26 countries including India and Japan abstained from voting on the resolution. Bangladesh and Myanmar had signed a repatriation deal in November 2017 followed by a physical agreement in January 2018 to facilitate the return of Rohingyas to the Rakhine province. However, there has been no success in the repatriation of Rohingyas despite two failed attempts in the past. Currently, more than a million Rohingya are living in refugee camps in Bangladesh after fleeing the military crackdown in the Rakhine province of Myanmar in August 2017.
  • UN nuclear watchdog – International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has revealed that Iran plans to enrich uranium to up to 20 percent purity at Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant. It would take Iran’s nuclear enrichment program to pre-2015 levels, when it entered the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with the P51 countries. Iran was prohibited enrichment at the Fordo facility until 2031. It also committed to converting the underground facility into a nuclear, physics and technology centre.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

Major Headlines (January 01, 2021)

  • Centre orders 83 crore syringes for COVID-19 vaccination; Nationwide dry run to begin tomorrow
  • Core sector output shrinks 2.6% in November, 2020
  • Railway Minister Piyush Goyal launches upgraded e-Ticketing Website and Mobile App
  • MoD signs contract with BEL to supply indigenously developed 10 Lynx U2 Fire Control systems
  • Under ‘Mera Gaon, Mera Gaurav’ Programme ICAR helping villages for disposing garbage
  • WHO clears Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for emergency use
  • India strongly condemns attack at Aden airport

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

  • Government has ordered 83 crore syringes for COVID-19 vaccination drive and Universal Immunization Programme in the country. The Union Health Ministry said the centre has also invited bids for 35 crore more syringes. Government has prioritized 30 crore people for COVID vaccine which includes health workers, frontline workers and sanitation staff. Earlier, the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration of COVID-19 has recommended three prioritised population groups including Healthcare Workers of about one crore, Frontline Workers about 2 crore and Prioritized Age Group about 27 crore.
  • The Office of Economic Adviser, Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade released the Index of Eight Core Industries for the Month of November, 2020. The combined Index of Eight Core Industries stood at 125.9 in November,2020, which declined by 2.6 (provisional) per cent as compared to the Index of November, 2019.Its cumulative growth during April to November, 2020-21 has been(-) 11.4%. Final growth rate of Index of Eight Core Industries for August’2020 is revised to(-) 6.9%.
  • Railway Minister Piyush Goyal today launched upgraded e-Ticketing Website and Mobile App for booking of online Railway Tickets. The booking of meals, retiring rooms and hotels has been integrated with the website and passengers can directly book along with the tickets. Passengers can check their refund status at the user accounts page. Earlier this feature was not easily accessible.
  • Ministry of Defence (MoD) has signed a contract with Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) for procurement of 10 Lynx U2 Fire Control systems for frontline warships of Indian Navy at a cost of Rs 1,355 crore under Buy (Indian) category in New Delhi yesterday. The Lynx system has been designed and developed indigenously that would further the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ vision of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi. The LYNX U2 GFCS is a Naval Gun Fire Control System designed to acquire, track and engage targets amidst sea clutter. It is capable of accurately tracking air/surface targets, generating required target data for predicting weapon aiming points and engaging target. The target engagement is carried out with the medium/short range gun mounts like Russian AK176, A190 and AK630 and the SRGM available onboard ships.
  • ICAR-Central Coastal Agricultural Research Institute observed Swachhta Pakhwada from 16th to 31st December. As part of this program, tree planting, removal of old files, removal of obsolete furniture and junk material, cleanliness and sanitation drive within campuses, residential colonies, and common market places were done. Decomposition of waste is not only environment-friendly but also can be a wealth generator.
  • The World Health Organization says it has cleared the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for emergency use. This means poorer countries may soon get access to the shot already available in Europe and North America. Every country that has a drug regulatory body will have to issue its own approval for any COVID-19 vaccine, but countries with weak systems usually rely on WHO to vet the shots. The global body said yesterday that the decision to issue its first emergency use validation for a COVID-19 vaccine opens the door for countries to expedite their own regulatory approval processes to import and administer the vaccine.
  • India has strongly condemned the attack at Aden airport upon the arrival of Cabinet members of the recently formed government. In a statement, the External Affairs Ministry said, India expresses sincere condolences to the people and Government of Yemen and the families of those who were killed in the attack. The Ministry said, the killing of innocent civilians is unacceptable and cannot be justified for any reasons whatsoever. India hoped that the recent efforts for achieving peace and stability in Yemen will continue for an inclusive and negotiated settlement.

Source: The Hindu and other government website

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

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

  • 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

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

  • 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

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

  • 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

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

  • 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

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

  • 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

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

  • 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

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

  • 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

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

  • 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

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

  • 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

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

  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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

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

  • 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

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  • 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

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

  • 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 moti