TOP STORIES

THE SC DIRECTS TO PAY SALARIES OF ALL QUARANTINED DOCTORS BY AUGUST 10

The Supreme Court observed that states should be penalized for non-payment of salaries of doctors in statutory quarantine. The court ordered that all such dues should be paid by August 10.

The court’s bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan was hearing an urgent impleadment application by United Resident and Doctor’s Association (URDA) which said that urgent intervention by the court was needed as salaries for many states have not been paid and low- risk classification is being made between doctors. This goes against the top court’s order of June 17, which had directed all states to strictly pay salaries to all doctors and health workers. Despite the court’s order, the application states that the salaries have not been paid by some states. Senior Advocate KV Viswanathan, arguing for the petitioner, said that this high risk and low-risk classification has no basis. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that following the court’s June 17 order, Delhi, Maharashtra, Punjab, Tripura, and Karnataka are yet to comply with the order. Justice MR Shah shot back and said that the Solicitor General has to see to it that the order is followed. “You have power under DM Act,” the court reminded the Solicitor General. The Solicitor General said that the doctor petitioner was speaking like a lawyer. Justice MR Shah asked how can there be a deduction of salaries for compulsory quarantine.
The SG assured the court that he would see to it this is made “part of their duty.” The case has been listed for August 10, the deadline for payment of salaries.

THE SUPREME COURT ASKS MAHARASTRA TO ENSURE ALL MIGRANT WORKERS’ RETURN TO HOMES

The Supreme Court asked the Maharashtra state government to ensure that all the migrant workers return to their native places at the earliest. The Court has directed all States and UTs to file affidavits responding to steps taken by them regarding the implementation of the three enactments, within three months. Regarding registration of the migrants, the Court noted that it had previously directed that registrations be done under enactments including the Interstate
Migrant workmen (Regulations of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979, the Construction Workers(Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996 and the Unorganized Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008. However while several States made rules under the above enactments, all necessary details regarding the steps taken by concerned States have not been placed on record. The Court noted that even after directions
given to all States/UTs to transport all stranded workers by trains or other modes within fifteen days, there are still migrant workers stranded in different States including the State of Maharashtra. According to the affidavit filed by the State of Maharashtra, some migrant labourers are still waiting to return to their native places from the State of Maharashtra. While a substantial number of migrant labourers are reported to have already reached their native
places. The online registration process for Shramik Trains stands resumed. The Court has therefore asked the State of Maharashtra to take appropriate steps to ensure that stranded migrant workers return to their native places, at an early date.
A three-judge Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, Subhash Reddy, and MR Shah took cognizance of the plight of migrant labourers amid the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown.
During the hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted that after the apex court’s orders, a substantial number of migrant workers have returned to their hometowns. Whenever a request for the running of Shramik Trains was received by the Railways, the trains were immediately provided for. He asked the Court to close the issue of transportation of stranded migrant workers since most of them have returned to their homes, and in case there are still any grievances, aggrieved people can approach the jurisdictional High Court for appropriate
relief. In response to Mehta’s submission, the Court responded by saying that it has already made clear that those matters of which High Court has taken cognizance, they will be decided by respective High Courts. The High Court’s being constitutional Courts are well within their jurisdiction to take cognizance of violation of fundamental rights of migrant workers.

BORRIS JOHNSON GOVERNMENT TO UNVEIL 10 MILLION POUNDS ANTI-OBESITY CAMPAIGN

Boris Johnson-led Government of the United Kingdom is going to announce a £10 million anti-obesity campaign. The “Better Health” campaign is prompted by the UK Prime
Minister’s own near-death medical experiences, partially caused by his weight. The campaign would bring forth a plethora of initiatives that encourage people to lead a healthier life and to help obese people in the UK. Some of the initiatives include banning junk food commercials
till 9:00 PM on the television, “cycling prescriptions” by doctors for overweight patients, more segregated cycling lanes, publishing calories of meals in restaurant menus, among others.
“Covid-19 has given us all a wake-up call of the immediate and long-term risks of being overweight, and the Prime Minister is clear we must use this moment to get healthier, more active, and eat better,” said a government spokesman on Sunday, 26 July 2020. The Guardian reports that this plan would cost about £10 million of the taxpayer’s money, and is based on Johnson’s personal battle with obesity. Johnson was sent to emergency care after his health was in critical condition this summer, after contacting COVID-19. This move is a significant turn from Johnson’s previous policies, where he was vocally against an interventionist
“nanny-state”.

RUSSIA’S FAR EAST EXPERIENCES ANTI-KREMLIN RALLIES

Following the removal and arrest of a popular Governor Sergei Furgal of Russia’s Khabarovsk, and him being replaced by a Kremlin-appointed official who has never lived in the region, Russia’s Far East region experienced mass anti-government protests. Furgal was arrested by Russian Officials earlier in July on charges of murder. As reported by the Agence France-Presse, these have been some of the biggest protests experienced in Khabarovsk, with thousands of protestors holding red flags and banners against the government marching through the city. The protestors claim that their Governor was arrested and is being detained illegally. Kremlin has stated that these protests have been fuelled by the Opposition activists outside Khabarovsk. Police wearing masks permitted the protestors to gather and protest, despite a ban on public gatherings in Russia to contain the spread of COVID-19.

THE RISK OF SPREADING THE DISEASE IN THE ERA OF GLOBALIZATION

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Friday that the risk of spread of disease is even greater in the era of globalization as it does not differ across the borders of countries.
Dr. Vardhan urged the WHO members to build multi-sectoral cooperation to enhance global response and cooperation to fight communication and non-communicable diseases more effectively.
He chaired a virtual meeting of the Bureau of the World Health Organization as Executive Chairman. The Health Ministry said in a statement, he stressed the need to find new ways to face new threats and challenges in the later phase of COVID.
The agenda of the meeting included finalizing the dates of the 32nd session of the Program, Budget and Administration Committee and the resumed sessions of the 73rd World Health Assembly and the 147th Executive Board.
“The world has now realized the importance of health and the need for greater cooperation between countries to deal with the dangers and threats posed by innumerable communicable and non-communicable diseases,” Vardhan said.

THE MINISTRY OF HEALTH STATES THAT COVID-19 HERD IMMUNITY IS NOT POSSIBLE IN INDIA

While the country holds a record per day COVID-19 tally, some cities, which were once said to have the worst impact, are witnessing a slowdown in infection rates. Serosurveys performed in Delhi and Mumbai have shown that a portion of their population had received enough antibodies or was already affected by COVID-19. Experts and epidemiologists saw these as positive signs and called them potential signs of herd immunity, which may give us some evidence of how we can continue to live with the virus. However, the Ministry of Health claimed that herd immunity could be a distant dream for a country like India. Okay, then what is the solution?

BARAK VALLEY’S NEED OF THE HOUR: POWER SUPPLY FOR TEA GARDENS

The current lockdown has proved to be a setback for the Tea industry. The crop production at this
point looks drab. In addition to this, the Tea Gardens in the Barack Valley are having an erratic
power supply.
With the industry already at a breakpoint, due to a crop loss from the period March to June in the current year, the Tea Association of India (TAI) has sought an intervention with Assam government so as to solve the problem of power supply.
The TAI has voiced its concern on the ongoing problem of accessibility of power. Erratic supply has caused frequent interruption to the manufacturing of tea, deteriorating its quality and as a result reducing the revenue brought in. Frequent tripping causes problems in electronic applications and reduces its longevity. Tea estates are spending more on alternatives to run the manufacturing units and for the maintenance of such units.
TAI also shared that due to its extreme southern location, Cachar has had to face a disadvantage in regards to communication and in accessing the most basic raw materials need in the production of tea.

SOUTH INDIA’S DEMAND FOR SUGARCANE HARVESTING MACHINES

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in several labourers having left for home and with the travel restrictions implemented, migrant labourers finding it difficult to travel back to their workplace. With the fear of migrant workforce not returning in time for harvest season, farmers who are indulging in the sugarcane business have placed orders for new harvesting machines. More than 200 new Harvesting machines have been placed for the order. In the districts of Sangli and Kolhapur itself, nearly
140 harvesting machines have been booked. This could result in the need for harvesting labourers in the future.
This could be for the fact that workers for sugarcane fields normally come through a contractor and a group of labourers, with 10 to 15 members, can harvest only 10 to 15 tonnes of sugarcane while a harvester can cut about 100 tons.
However, harvesters have its drawbacks as well. For an individual farmer, a harvester that costs 1 crore wouldn’t be profitable. Even for an entrepreneur or sugar mills, it wouldn’t be much of an investment as it is utilized less than half a year.

AUSTRALIA REJECTS CHINA’S CLAIM IN SOUTH CHINA SEA

In a formal declaration to the United Nations, Australia has rejected Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea. The statement, filed on Thursday, 23 July, to the United Nations, Australia said that there was no “legal basis” to these claims made by China. This move aligns its position on the South China Sea dispute with that of the United States of America. “Australia rejects China’s claim to ‘historic rights’ or ‘maritime rights and interests’ as established in the
‘long course of historical practice’ in the South China Sea,” the declaration read. “There is no legal basis for China to draw straight baselines connecting the outermost points of maritime features or ‘island groups’ in the South China Sea, including around the ‘Four Sha’ or ‘continental’ or ‘outlying’ archipelagos.” This declaration was made shortly after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that China’s pursuit of territory in the South China Sea as illegal.
In 2016, The Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled against China, stating that there was no evidence on its part to prove any historically exercised exclusive control over the region. It further stated that China had severely violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights. This decision
was deemed “ill-founded” by China, who refused to abide by it.

USA ASKS TO SHUT HOUSTON CONSULATE, FOLLOWED BY CHINA ORDERING CLOSURE OF CHENGDU CONSULATE

A US State Department official confirmed on Friday, 24 July that the Chinese Consulate General at Houston, Texas, has been ordered to close. This was pursuant to implications against the diplomatic mission for being complicit in a fraud investigation with a Texas research institution, as a part of a larger espionage effort. The US had given China 72 hours to cease all operations and activities of the Consulate General. CNN reported that the activities of consulate officials in Houston “are a microcosm, we believe, of a broader network of individuals in more than 25 cities that network is supported through the
consulates here,”
a US Justice Department official said Friday. “Consulates have been giving individuals in that network guidance on how to evade [and] obstruct our investigation. And you can infer from that the ability to task that [a] network of associates nationwide.” Calling this an unprecedented escalation of an already tensed relationship between Washington and Beijing, the Chinese Government retaliated by ordering the closure of US’s consulate in Chengdu, China. Calling this a unilateral provocation by the US, the Chinese Foreign Ministry reasoned that the staff of the Chengdu consulate interfered in “China’s internal affairs and harming China’s national security interests.”, and stated that this was a “legitimate and necessary response to the US demanding that the Chinese consulate in
Houston is shut.”
The Chinese Foreign Ministry further accused the US of violating international law and “basic norms of international relations”.

INDIAN AIRFORCE TO CONDUCT FIVE BATCH OF FIRST RAFAEL JETS

The Indian Air Force (IAF) will be inducting 5 Rafale Jets in its Ambala Air Force Station on Wednesday, 29 July 2020. This is pursuant to after France agreed to deliver one more Rafale Jet, in addition to the initial agreement of 4 Jets. Delivery of said jets was delayed by over 2 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The jets would take off from Merignac, France, on Monday, 27 July, and land in India on Wednesday. The jets would make a midway stopover at the Al Dhafra Airbase in the United Arab Emirates. The formal induction ceremony of the jets would take place sometime in August, as mentioned by Wing Commander Indranil Nandi. Certain specific modifications have been made for the IAF to the jets, including cold engine start capability, which would allow for the operation of the jets even at high altitude bases.
This is the first batch of the 36 Rafale jets ordered by India from France in 2016, in a deal worth INR 59,000 cr. Based on the original delivery schedule, India was to expect the delivery of the first 18 jets by February 2021, and the rest by the first quarter of 2022.

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DUE TO RISE IN COVID-19 CASES IN J&K, AMARNATH YATRA CANCELLED

In a meeting between the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) and the J&K Administration, chaired by Lieutenant Governor Girish Chandra Murmu, it was decided that this year’s Amarnath Yatra would be canceled. It was advised by the Government, ‘in the larger public interest’, as confirmed by the SASB. This decision was taken in light of the rapid increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the union territory of Jammu & Kashmir. As of 26 th July, there are 17,920 total cases and 7,680 active cases of COVID-19 in J&K. To respect religious sentiments, there would be a live telecast (virtual darshan) of the morning and evening aarti, as mentioned by the statement released by the SASB. It was also confirmed that the rituals would be carried out as always practiced, and the Chadi Mubarak would be placed by the
Government.
This would be the second time the Yatra has been cancelled. In 2019, it was cancelled just before the Modi Government declared the decision to abrogate Article 370 of the Indian constitution.

UK SUSPENDS EXTRADITION TREATY WITH HONGKONG

In an announcement by Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom (UK), the UK has decided to suspend its extradition treaty with Hong Kong “immediately and indefinitely”. The reason for this suspension is a new law passed in China in June, which calls for those in Hong Kong who have committed certain offences to be sent to Mainland China for their trial. The UK fears that any accused that they extradite to, as part of the extradition treaty that has been in place for over 30 years, to Hong Kong, would be sent to China.
While addressing the Parliament, Raab stated that even though the UK wants to maintain a positive relationship with China, it observes this law as a “serious violation of the country’s international obligations”. This was followed by another announcement, with Raab confirming that the arms embargo imposed on China by the UK would be extended to Hong Kong as well. This embargo, placed by the UK on China back in 1989, stops the export of arms and ammunitions to China from the UK.

FIRST ANNIVERSARY OF ABROGATION OF ARTICLE 370 FROM J&K

The Bharatiya Janata Party is planning a 15-day program in Jammu & Kashmir to mark the first anniversary of the controversial decision of the revocation of Article 370 of the
Indian Constitution, as reported by The Hindu. The program would commence on Wednesday, 5th August 2020, and would end on the 20th of August. Sources from the party said to The Hindu, that the tricolor would be unfurled in all the zonal, tehsil and district headquarters. Municipal Offices and Head Offices with a significant BJP presence would
organize ceremonies. Virtual rallies by supporters would be addressed by various Union Ministers. BJP General Secretary Ashok Kaul said “There are a lot of programs on the cards. We have kept a day to remember all police martyrs and all political workers killed in
the past three decades”.

On August 5th 2019, the BJP Government passed the controversial decision to abrogate Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which lead to the scrapping of the special status of the erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir, splitting it into three Union Territories: UT of Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh.

OVER 14 LAC PEOPLE AFFECTED BY FLOOD IN BIHAR

11 districts in Bihar continue to be ravaged by floods, as over 14 lakh people have been reported to be affected by the floods on Sunday, 26 July. The Hindu reported that the Baghmati, Burhi Gandak, Kamlabalan, Lalbakeya, Adhwara, Khiroi, Mahananda, and Ghaghra rivers are flowing above the danger level. However, the Ganga is still below the danger level. The IAF has deployed helicopters to drop food and other resources at over 450 community kitchens, as reported by officials. Further, 25 teams of the National and State Disaster Response Force are engaged in rescue and resource deployment operations in Bihar. The State Government has also said that drones would be deployed to locate stranded people, in an attempt to overhaul the rescue efforts. The Chief Minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar, has urged authorities to distribute free masks to the people, and follow government guidelines and precautions, to ensure that the spread of COVID-19 is contained. The State Disaster Management Department has reported that around 1.7 Lakh people are getting food and resources from more than 14,000 community kitchens across Bihar. Furthermore, the Government announced a compensation of INR 6,000 to every flood-affected person. An aerial survey of flood-affected areas was taken by the State Water Resources Minister, Sanjay Jha.

45 MEMBERS TO TAKE OATH IN RAJYA SABHA

On Wednesday, 22 July 2020, 45 newly-elected members of the Rajya Sabha took oath in the chambers of the Rajya Sabha during the inter-session period. Out of the 45 newly-elected members, 36 members are first-timers. Some of the members were veterans like Sharad Pawar, Mallikarjun Kharge and Digvijaya Singh, who have been re-elected. This is the first time that the ceremony has taken place in the Rajya Sabha Hall when the Lok Sabha is not in session. In the ceremony presided by Venkaiah Naidu, the Vice President of India, the newly elected members were urged to “uphold rules and procedures while discharging their duties as lawmakers and not fall prey to disruptions” by the Vice President.
At the moment, 85 members of the Rajya Sabha are from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). This is more than twice the members from the Indian National Congress (INC), which is
currently at 40 members. This ensures that the Rajya Sabha will not serve as a roadblock for any legislation passed in the Lok Sabha by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

EXTINCTION OF GIANT IBIS: THE NATIONAL BIRD OF CAMBODIA

Twice the size of the second-largest species of ibis, the Giant Ibis measures up to 39 inches when standing. Listed on the ICUN Red List as critically endangered, the species went unrecorded for more than 50 years until it was rediscovered by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) researchers in 1993. Once found across much of mainland Southeast Asia, today an estimated population of fewer than 200 live mainly in the northern and eastern plains of Cambodia.

In 2005, the Giant Ibis was designated as the national bird of Cambodia. Deforestation, climate change, and poaching are blamed for the bird’s decline. In August 2017, 19 nests were found in Preah Vihear’s Kulen Promtep and Chhep wildlife sanctuaries, the natural habitat of many Giant Ibis. And in September of the same year, two pairs were found in Mondulkiri’s Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary. They were the first of the species to be found therein for more than a decade.

Ibises are gregarious birds that live, travel, and breed in flocks. In-flight, they form diagonal lines or V-formations. This formation decreases wind resistance for trailing birds. When the leader of the pack tires, it falls to the back of the formation and another ibis takes its place at the front. These are rather quiet birds, only grunting or croaking on breeding grounds.

Ibises are an ancient species with fossil records going back 60 million years. In ancient Egypt, the sacred ibis was once held in high reverence. Thoth, the Egyptian god of knowledge, was believed to take the form of an ibis. In honor of Thoth, thousands of sacred ibises were mummified and kept in Egyptian temples as pets.

ONE-FIFTH OF THE EARTH’S OCEAN FLOOR IS NOW MAPPED

We’ve just become a little less ignorant about Planet Earth. The initiative that seeks to galvanize the creation of a full map of the ocean floor says one-fifth of this task has now been completed.

When the Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 Project was launched in 2017, only 6% of the global ocean bottom had been surveyed to what might be called modern standards.

That number now stands at 19%, up from 15% in just the last year.

Some 14.5 million sq km of new bathymetric (depth) data was included in the GEBCO grid in 2019 – an area equivalent to almost twice that of Australia.

It does, however, still leave a great swathe of the planet in need of mapping to an acceptable degree.

“Today we stand at the 19% level. That means we’ve got another 81% of the oceans still to survey, still to map. That’s an area about twice the size of Mars that we have to capture in the next decade,


BAN ON 59 APPS A BOON FOR INDIAN RESEARCHERS: IIT KHARAGPUR

IIT Kharagpur Director Virendra Kumar Tewari on Thursday said India’s ban on 59 mostly Chinese apps should be viewed as a boon for Indian researchers. Tewari added, “We’re contemplating on calling for submission of app development projects by students…With the talent at institutes like IITs…this is not the only certainty, but not achieving this goal should come as a surprise.”

CLIMATE CHANGE: PLANTING NEW FORESTS ‘CAN DO MORE HARM THAN GOOD’

Rather than benefiting the environment, large-scale tree planting may do the opposite, two new studies have found.One paper says that financial incentives to plant trees can backfire and reduce biodiversity with little impact on carbon emissions.

A separate project found that the amount of carbon that new forests can absorb may be overestimated.

The key message from both papers is that planting trees is not a simple climate solution.

Over the past few years, the idea of planting trees as a low cost, high impact solution to climate change has really taken hold.

Previous studies have indicated that trees have enormous potential to soak up and store carbon, and many countries have established tree planting campaigns as a key element of their plans to tackle climate change.

In the UK, promises by the political parties to plant ever-larger numbers of trees were a feature of last year’s general election.

In the US, even President Donald Trump has rowed in behind the Trillion Trees Campaign.

Legislation to support the idea has been introduced into the US Congress.

Another major tree-planting initiative is called the Bonn Challenge. Countries are being urged to restore 350 million hectares of degraded and deforested land by 2030. Arctic Circle sees ‘highest-ever’ recorded temperatures

BOMBAY HIGH COURT SUSPENDS TWO FIRs AGAINST ARNAB GOSWAMI

The Bombay High Court on Tuesday suspended two FIRs lodged against Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami for his alleged provocative and inflammatory comments on the Palghar mob lynching and gathering of migrant workers outside Bandra railway station amid lockdown. In an interim order, a division bench of Justices Ujjal Bhuyan and Riyaz Chagla noted that prima facie, no offense was disclosed.

INDIA PLANS NEW IMPORT TAX ON SOLAR EQUIPMENTS

India’s renewable energy ministry has proposed imposing customs duties on some solar power equipment starting Aug. 1 as part of the country’s goal of becoming self-sufficient, the Press Information Bureau said in a statement. The ministry is targeting solar cells, modules and inverters, it said in the statement, citing minister Raj Kumar Singh’s discussions with industry officials.

GST MOP-HIT BY COVID, ‘ACT OF GOD’: CENTRE

The Coronavirus pandemic has lead the Centre to convey that there is a need to factor in the “abnormal situation” amid the chorus for GST compensation to states, describing it as an “act of God” and hence no insurance for 14% growth in GST during these times. 

While bringing up the GST Act, the Centre had promised to compensate any “revenue loss” to the states, if the collection growth was under 14% in a year. “Compensation is a large issue. The Centre is not going back on its promise, but should it not enforce the force majeure clause since this is an event triggered by things beyond anyone’s control? It is an ‘act of God’,” an official told. 

The data presented at the GST Council meeting indicated that the GST collections had rose to over Rs. 62,000 crore in May, which is almost twice the collections made in April. However, it is 38% lower when compared to the previous year. The hike in the collection for the month of May can be reasoned by the fact that the deadline was extended. Although the actual amount will only be determined over a few months since the Centre is not enforcing payments and filing deadlines. 

“ While collections during April and May have been around 45% of monthly average (of a shade over Rs. 1 lakh crore), is it fair for the states to demand 114%? ” 

The finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman suggested in March that the Council could look at the option of market borrowings, indicating that the Centre has agreed to look into the issue of compensating states. On Friday, Sushil Kumar Modi, her party colleague and deputy chief minister of Bihar has pointed this out.

RBI SETS UP PANEL TO REVIEW OWNERSHIP, CORPORATE STRUCTURE AT PRIVATE BANKS

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has constituted an internal working group in order to review the existing corporate structure and ownership of the private banks. The group shall be headed by P.K. Mohanty, executive director RBI. 

RBI said “Though the overarching principles that the ownership and control of private sector banks should be well-diversified and that the major shareholders are ‘fit and proper’ have remained unchanged, the specific contours have evolved over the years with specific prescriptions being given as part of licensing guidelines issued at various points in the past. It is, therefore, felt necessary to comprehensively review the exact guidelines on ownership, governance, and corporate structure in private sector banks, taking into account key developments that have a bearing on the issue.” 

The group shall scrutinize various existing guidelines on licensing and ownership regulations as well as the control of private sector banks. It will also study the regulations applicable to financial subsidiaries through a non-operative financial holding company and propose steps to migrate all banks to a uniform regulation. 

The need to revise the guidelines as to the ownership of private sector banks was felt after large shareholders of these banks sought RBI’s permission to raise their stake beyond the permitted limit of 15%. Hindujas, promoters of IndusInd Bank were among the ones who wanted to increase their stakes in the banks. 

The announcement came after the day the central bank released a draft paper asserting that a promoter or any major shareholder of a bank cannot hold the post of CEO or whole-time director for more than 10 years.

 

LADAKH CLASH: CHINA SAY NO INDIAN SOLDIER IN DETENTION PRESENTLY

On 15th June, 75 army personnel were brutally assaulted by the Chinese army. Post this, on the 18th evening, 10 Indian soldiers were released by China. These men were held captive by the Chinese army after a fierce clash on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh on 15th night, which left 20 Indian soldiers including a commanding officer, dead. The release took place after talks between Major General-level officers of the two sides.

The clash in Galwan valley is the biggest confrontation between the two militaries after their 1967 clashes in Nathu La when India lost around 80 soldiers whereas China lost more than 300.

CHINA ACCUSES INDIA OF GALWAN CLASHES

China accuses India of “deliberately provoking and attacking Chinese officers and soldiers”. Post the India-China clash at the Galwan Valley, a news report came forward claiming that Indian troops were missing after the clash. However, responding to this report, Indian Army clarified that no Indian troops are missing after the clash.

India has put the Indian Army and Indian Air Force on high alert following these violent clashes. 

RECORD SPIKE IN NEW CORONAVIRUS CASES REPORTED IN 6 US STATES AS REOPENING ACCELRATES

As most states moved forward with reopening their economies, new coronavirus infections have hit record highs in 6 US states, for a second consecutive week. 

The 6 states are – Arizona, Florida, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, and Nevada. 

With the spike in cases, hospitalizations also rose. Dr. Oscherwitz from one of Arizona’s hospitals also said that most of the hospital beds in the state are full, and his hospital is planning to expand the availability of ICU in the coming days.

Many other US states are also bracing themselves for a possible increase in cases stemming from the BLM (Black Lives Matter) protests which have been happening for the past three weeks.

In Oregon, even though large gatherings were not allowed in their reopening plan, a Facebook page showed hundreds of people standing close together singing, on May 24.

Texas showed a major change in its cases: for the week ended June 14, their testing increased over 30%, with a positive rate holding steady at 7%. They tested 674 out of every 100,000 residents.

In Oklahoma, new cases rose 68%. Consequentially, the Vice President said that Trump’s indoor campaign rally might be shifted to an outdoor space since the virus spreads far more efficiently in enclosed spaces. 

US is the most affected country worldwide, with more than 2.1 million people infected with coronavirus and 116,000 deaths, by far.

IMPERIAL COLLEGE’S COVID-19 VACCINE RESEARCH MOVES INTO HUMAN TRIALS STAGE

The research for COVID-19 vaccine at the United Kingdom imperial College has moved into the human trials stage. The vaccine will be tested to see whether it is well-tolerated by the patient’s bodies and produces an effective immune response against the virus. 

The research was funded by the UK government with €40 million, as part of their wider vaccine development programme. 

The process of testing the virus: [Phase II]

Over the coming weeks, the vaccine will be tested on 300 healthy participants in the age group of 18-70, each of them to receive two doses of it. If it shows an immune response at this phase, then a Phase III trial would be planned later with around 6000 healthy volunteers to further test its effectiveness. 

About the vaccine: 

Constituents – The vaccine consists of RNA strands packaged inside tiny fat droplets. 

How it works :

When injected, it instructs muscle cells to produce virus proteins; and researchers believe that this protein can help kick the immune response to fight the COVID-19 virus. 

Potential :

Many other traditional vaccines are based on a weakened or modified form of virus or parts of it but this vaccine is based on a new approach; it uses synthetic strands of genetic code, based on the virus is genetic material. This is the first test of a new self-amplifying RNA technology which, if proven successful, has the potential to revolutionise vaccine development, and also enable scientists to respond more quickly to emerging diseases.

Ultimately, the researchers hope that, if successful, The vaccine could provide protection against COVID-19 in the UK as well as around the world

INDIA’S ECONOMY TO GROW BY 9.5 PERCENT IN NEXT FISCAL YEAR: FITCH RATINGS

Ever since Indian independence, India’s economic growth has seen rapid changes and growth. From the period of 1900 to 1947, per capita income in India had either declined or stagnated. Post-Independence, Jawaharlal Nehru enacted an economic policy based on import substitution industrialization. The Nehru-Mahalanobis approach often referred to as the Second Five Year Plan emphasized the development of basic and heavy industries as a means of accelerating economic growth. These included steel, copper, petrochemicals, paper, coal, and oil. Mahalanobis strived for India to reach autonomy, ridding any outstanding debts. Critics disagreed with this approach, stating that World Bank’s claiming of Indian export prospects being low were falsified and due to India’s inward-looking strategy, the growth opportunity of the world economy was missed. Nonetheless, over 1950–1965, India’s acceleration of per capita income growth had increased an average of 1.7%, a value not exceeded since.

The current pandemic has vastly affected the economy of India. India has undergone the longest lockdown in the world which has vastly affected its GDP and its economic growth. Currently, the GDP has gone down but certain reports predict that India’s economy is expected to bounce back in the upcoming years with 9.5 percent. The coronavirus pandemic has led to the shrinking of the already slowing economy in 2020-21 that started in April. Fitch Ratings forecast a 5 percent contraction in the GDP in the ongoing financial year. To support the economy, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has eased monetary policy by cutting policy rates and providing liquidity through long-term repo operations. Prudential requirements for banks have also been eased to free up liquidity for lending. The government has announced stimulus measures amounting to 10 percent of GDP, of which the fiscal component of about 1 percent of GDP is significantly less than many of India’s peers, the rating. India has emerged as the fastest-growing major economy in the world and is expected to be one of the top three economic powers of the world over the next 10-15 years, backed by its strong democracy and partnerships. India’s nominal GDP growth rate was estimated at 12 percent in the year 2019-20.

INDIA- MYANMAR AGREE TO CREATE BUSINESS ROADMAP FOR WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS

Women constitute almost half the population in India. India has come a long way in increasing women’s participation in education and the economy as a whole. Over the past decade, women’s gross enrolment ratio in higher education has increased. And while women’s participation in the workforce continues to be low, one can notice an increasing number of women entrepreneurs creating a mark for themselves in the country and across the world. Creating a roadmap for

Exploring opportunities for collaboration between Indian and Myanmar to empower women entrepreneurs and generate sustainable livelihoods for women was discussed at a webinar. It was organized by the FICCI Ladies Organization (FLO). 

The interactive session was organized in partnership with the Indian Embassy in Myanmar, India Myanmar Chamber of Commerce (IMCC) and Myanmar Women Entrepreneurs’. Saurabh Kumar, High Commissioner of India to Myanmar and Sunil Seth, President of India Myanmar Chamber of Commerce talked about growing business opportunities between the two countries. India and Myanmar explore collaboration opportunities in women entrepreneurship and sustainable livelihoods. The cultural exchanges and historical contacts between our two countries are the base and core of our relationship. India and Myanmar both are part of BIMSTEC and Myanmar is the only country that comes under the ambits of our two foreign policy initiatives ‘Act East and Neighborhood. Now we need to focus more on the business interactions and trade between the two countries,” said Saurabh Kumar, IFS, Ambassador of India to Myanmar on the webinar

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Act East policy focuses on the extended neighborhood in the Asia-Pacific region. Its primary objective is to promote economic cooperation, cultural ties and develop strategic relationships with countries in the Asia-Pacific region through continuous engagement at bilateral, regional and multilateral levels. The policy which was originally (1992) envisaged as an economic initiative, has now gained political, strategic, and cultural dimensions including establishment of institutional mechanisms for dialogue and cooperation thereby clearly highlighting the new approach of India. Kumar said, “The cultural exchanges and historical contacts between our two countries are the base and core of our relationship. India and Myanmar both are part of BIMSTEC and Myanmar is the only country that comes under the ambits of our two foreign policy initiatives “Act East and Neighborhood first”. Now we need to focus more on the business interactions and trade between the two countries”. These are unprecedented times and we are all fighting the unseen enemy of Covid19. Sustainability has taken center stage to create livelihood-linked and entrepreneurship-driven enterprises by women. Women must strive to be job creators and not job seekers.

FUEL PRICE HIKE: PETROL RATES UP BY RS. 4.52, DIESEL RS 4.64 IN 8 DAYS

Rates have been increased across the country and vary from state to state depending on the incidence of local sales tax or VAT. Petrol price on Sunday was hiked by a record 62 paise per litre and that of diesel by 64 paise as oil companies for the eighth day in a row adjusted retail rates in line with cost since ending an 82-day hiatus in rate revision. Petrol price in Delhi was hiked to Rs 75.78 per litre from Rs 75.16 while diesel rates were increased to Rs 74.03 a litre from Rs 73.39, according to a price notification of state oil marketing companies. Rates have been increased across the country and vary from state to state depending on the incidence of local sales tax or VAT. The 62 paisa a litre increase in petrol and 64 paisa hike in diesel price is the highest surge in rates since the daily price revision was started in June 2017. This is the eighth daily increase in rates in a row since oil companies on June 7 restarted revising prices in line with costs, after ending an 82-day hiatus. In eight hikes, the petrol price has gone up by Rs 4.52 per litre and diesel by Rs 4.64 — a record increase in rates in any eight days since the daily price revision was introduced. The 62 paise a litre increase in petrol and 64 paise hike in diesel price is the highest surge in rates since the daily price revision was started.

The freeze in rates was imposed in mid-March soon after the government hiked excise duty on petrol and diesel to shore up additional finances. Oil PSUs Indian Oil Corp (IOC), Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd (HPCL), instead of passing on the excise duty hikes to customers, adjusted them against the fall in the retail rates that was warranted because of international oil prices falling to two-decade lows. The government had first raised excise duty on petrol and diesel by Rs 3 per litre each on March 14 and then again on May 5 by a record Rs 10 per litre in case of petrol and Rs 13 on diesel. The two hikes gave the government Rs 2 lakh crore in additional tax revenues. State-owned fuel retailers IOC, BPCL and HPCL had frozen petrol and diesel prices since March 16, as if anticipating the government move and set off gains they accrued from continuing drop in international oil prices against the excise duty hike.

They, however, promptly passed the increase in local sales tax or VAT by state governments such as Rs 1.67 increase in VAT on petrol and Rs 7.10 in a diesel by the Delhi government on May 4.The total incidence of excise duty on petrol has risen to Rs 32.98 per litre and that on diesel to Rs 31.83. The excise tax on petrol was Rs 9.48 per litre when the Narendra Modi government took office in 2014 and that on diesel was Rs 3.56 a litre. The government had between November 2014 and January 2016 raised excise duty on petrol and diesel on nine occasions to take away gains arising from plummeting global oil prices. 

INDIA BECOMES 5TH LARGEST FOREIGN EXCHANGE HOLDER; FOREX RESERVES CLOCK $500BN LEVEL FOR THE FIRST TIME

A new milestone has been touched by India, and this may help in driving credit growth, reviving imports and foreign capital inflows. As on June 05, the RBI data shows that India’s forex reserves stood at $501.7bn in the American currency. The above $500bn-mark is recorded for the first time by the country. In Indian rupee terms, the reserves stood at whopping Rs37.92 lakh cr. This has made India the 5th largest foreign exchange reserves holder in the world.

Foreign exchange reserves (also called forex reserves or FX reserves) are cash and other reserve assets held by a central bank or other monetary authority that are primarily available to balance payments of the country, influence the foreign exchange rate of its currency, and to maintain confidence in financial markets. Reserves are held in one or more reserve currencies, nowadays mostly the United States dollar and to a lesser extent the euro.

Foreign exchange reserves assets can comprise banknotes, deposits, bondstreasury bills and other government securities of the reserve currency. Some countries hold a part of their reserves in gold, and special drawing rights are also considered reserve assets. Normally, interest is not paid on foreign cash reserves, or on gold holdings, but the central bank usually earns interest on the government securities. Foreign exchange reserves include foreign banknotes, foreign bank deposits, foreign treasury bills, and short and long-term foreign government securities, as well as gold reservesspecial drawing rights (SDRs), and International Monetary Fund (IMF) reserve positions.

Foreign exchange reserves are called reserve assets in the balance of payments and are located in the capital account, and are usually an important part of the international investment position of a country. The reserves are labeled as reserve assets under assets by functional category. In terms of financial assets classifications, the reserve assets can be classified as gold bullion, unallocated gold accounts, special drawing rights, currency, reserve position in the IMF, interbank position, other transferable deposits, other deposits, debt securitiesloansequity (listed and unlisted), investment fund shares and financial derivatives, such as forward contracts and options. There is no counterpart for reserve assets in liabilities of the International Investment Position. Usually, when the monetary authority of a country has some kind of liability, this will be included in other categories, such as Other Investments. In the Central Bank’s Balance Sheet, foreign exchange reserves are assets, along with domestic credit.

INDIA, US NEED CONCERTED EFFORTS TO ADVANCE BUSINESS, PEOPLE TO PEOPLE LINKAGES POST COVID-19

Speaking on the occasion of the release of the report “Indian Roots, American Soil” by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) here on Monday, India’s Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu noted that the coronavirus pandemic has given both countries new opportunities to step up bilateral cooperation.

In the post-COVID world, India and the US should take concerted and focused efforts to advance the remarkable business and people-to-people linkages between the two countries, according to New Delhi’s top envoy here. Speaking on the occasion of the release of the report “Indian Roots, American Soil” by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) here on Monday, India’s Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu noted that the coronavirus pandemic has given both countries new opportunities to step up bilateral cooperation. Speaking on the occasion of the release of the report “Indian Roots, American Soil” by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) here on Monday, India’s Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu noted that the coronavirus pandemic has given both countries new opportunities to step up bilateral cooperation. “In the post-COVID world, we will need concerted and focused efforts to advance these remarkable businesses and people-to-people linkages between our two countries,” he said. “The current pandemic has presented us with new opportunities for cooperation and has made us recognize the need for collaborations more than ever before. Based on the survey of 155 Indian companies, the CII report highlights Indian investments across sectors and states in the US. With a presence in diverse sectors, like IT, pharma, manufacturing, automotive, energy, defense, etc, these companies have invested close to USD 22 billion in the US and employed around 125,000 people, he said. “It is indeed praiseworthy that besides bringing in FDI, our companies through their CSR initiatives have been giving back to the local communities in which they have been welcomed,” he said, adding that they are supporting students, particularly in STEM fields, by collaborating with the US educational institutions and are focusing upon upskilling and reskilling of workers to ensure career progression.

Funding research and innovation activities in the US is another significant contribution that they have been making to strengthen and stimulate the US knowledge economy, he said. Sandhu said it is important to recognize the salient role that respective private sectors have been playing in combating the current pandemic. Indian tech companies in the US and their offices across the world have been providing behind the scene support to healthcare workers and life sciences companies. In the background, dedicated teams of technology professionals are coding, developing solutions, building the customer interface and ensuring their scalability, he said. Similarly, the American companies in India have been supporting Governmental efforts to provide relief to farmers and small businesses. Indian pharma companies, which are world leaders in affordable low-cost medicines and vaccines, are also collaborating with them in vaccine development, therapeutics and diagnostics, he said. Noting that the US has traditionally been an important investment destination for Indian companies, he said the favourable business environment offered by various states in the US as well as policies attracting Indian skilled professionals have ensured the steady flow of Indian FDI into the US. At the same time, nearly every big American company has a presence in India. In fact, the two-way investment between India and the US has reached USD 60 billion in 2018. The US also continues to be an important education destination for Indian students. Currently, there are almost 200,000 Indian students studying in the US, of which many of them study STEM degrees and ensure that the US remains competitive in the global tech economy. In terms of tuition alone, it is estimated that students contribute more than USD 5 billion to the US economy. Besides adding to the innovation and competitive edge of the US tech companies, Indian high skilled professionals are also contributing in critical sectors such as health and Information Technology that provide valuable support to companies in the medical and financial services. “We believe that the young people and skilled professionals of our two countries are the driving force behind further strengthening of our ties,” he added. “ India also takes immense pride in the contribution of doctors, scientists, academicians of Indian-origin, who came to the United States in the pursuit of academic excellence and have distinguished themselves in diverse fields. In fact, CEOs of some of the leading technology companies in the US were born and raised in India,” he said. Observing that trade and investment remain an important dimension of our strategic partnership, he said bilateral trade stood at USD 150 billion in 2019. “While this is impressive, the real potential for our bilateral trade is yet to be reached,” he said. India’s huge domestic market, high skilled workforce, existing advantages in digital services along with its competitive tax regime and low labour costs make it an attractive investment destination.

ECONOMY NOT IN TROUBLE; GREEN SHOOTS VISIBLE; FM SITHARAMAN

Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman Tuesday said the economy was set to turn around, citing seven “green shoots,” including higher foreign direct investment and goods and services tax (GST) collections. “It’s not in trouble — I am giving you green shoots,” Sitharaman said in the Lok Sabha, strongly defending the government’s management of the economy and the budget. The other five indicators of economic revival that the finance minister cited were foreign portfolio inflows, industrial growth in November, the purchasing managers’ index (PMI) for January, foreign exchange reserves, and buoyant stock markets. “Global sentiment is in favor of India,” she said while replying to the discussion on the budget presented on February 1. “Foreign investors continue to show confidence in India. And that is why the country has attracted a net FDI (foreign direct investment) of $24.4 billion in April to November of 2019-20… as compared to $21.2 billion (during) the same period the previous year.”

RBI Steps to Enable Growth She said measures taken by the Reserve Bank of India in the monetary policy last week will also enable the economy to grow. “With RBI also, along with the government, taking steps towards promoting growth, I am sure the green shoots together with this will help our economy to move further,” the finance minister said. She also listed measures taken by the government to support all four engines of growth — consumption, public investment, private investments, and exports — which would facilitate reaching the $5 trillion economies by 2024-25 target and also give a stimulus to the economy. The Indian economy is forecast to grow at an 11-year low of 5% in the current fiscal while the Economic Survey presented last month sees a recovery to 6-6.5% in the next fiscal. In the revised estimate fiscal deficit is seen at 3.8% of GDP for FY20 against 3.3% in the budget. The target for FY21 is 3.5%. Sitharaman also defended budgetary allocations to various sectors and fiscal management in both the houses of Parliament on Tuesday. Both the houses passed the budget by a voice vote, bringing to an end the first half of the budget session.

 

UNEMPLOYMENT RATE DROPS TO 11.6% IN 2ND WEEK OF JUNE FROM 23.5% IN APRIL-MAY

The rate first dropped to 17.5% in the first week of June and then it fell further to 11.6% in the second week of the month. After a sharp increase to 23.5% in April-May due to the lockdown, the unemployment rate in the country dropped almost equally steeply in the first two weeks of June, according to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy. The rate first dropped to 17.5% in the first week of June and then it fell further to 11.6% in the second week of the month.

Unemployment refers to the share of the labor force that is without work but available for and seeking employment.

  • India’s unemployment rate for 2019 was 5.36%, a 0.03% increase from 2018.
  • India’s unemployment rate for 2018 was 5.33%, a 0.09% decline from 2017.
  • India’s unemployment rate for 2017 was 5.42%, a 0.09% decline from 2016.
  • India’s unemployment rate for 2016 was 5.51%, a 0.05% decline from 2015.

This signals a rather smart revival of the economic activities, corroborated by certain other data points including exports, which touched $4.94 billion in the first week of June, against $5.03 billion a year before, industrial power consumption and highway toll collections. The CMIE also highlighted that the fall in the unemployment rate came with an increase in the labor participation rate (LPR), which was recorded at 40.4% in the week ended June 14. In the week ended March 22 (just before the imposition of the national lockdown), the LPR stood at 42.6% but fell to 39.2% in the first week of the lockdown and again to 36.1% in the first week of April and to the trough of 35.4% in the week ended April 26. Since then, the LPR has been on a recovery path. Similarly, India’s employment rate, which fell by a massive 10 percentage points to 29.9% immediately after the lockdown imposition and declined further to 26.1% in the week ended April 19, started rising since early May. The employment rate increased 3.3 percentage points from 32.4% in the week ended June 7 to 35.7% in the week ended June 14.

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