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Times Top10: Today’s Top News Headlines and Latest News from India & across the World


5 THINGS FIRST

PM Modi to attend 2nd Global Covid virtual Summit; LIC IPO shares allotment to happen; IIP data for March and retail inflation data for April; Varanasi court ruling on video survey of Gyanvapi mosque; IPL 2022 – CSK VS MI

1. You won’t be charged with sedition … for now
The Supreme Court put the Indian Penal Code (IPC) Section 124A on hold on Wednesday till the Centre reviews the 152-year-old sedition law.

The order

  • Chief Justice of India (CJI) NV Ramana-led bench said, “It will be appropriate not to use this provision of law till further re-examination is over.”
  • The bench asked the Centre and states to “desist from registering any FIR [First Information Report] under Section 124A”.
  • Those jailed for sedition or being prosecuted may approach the trial courts for speedier trial of their cases.

The argument

  • Solicitor General Tushar Mehta argued that the current three-judge bench should not stay the law, whose validity was upheld by a five-judge bench in the 1962 Kedar Nath judgment.
  • Petitioners’ counsel Kapil Sibal cited the case of now-repealed Section 66A of the Information Technology Act to draw a parallel with Section 124A’s unconstitutionality.
  • The Supreme Court bench took a 15-minute break before hitting the pause button on the law rejecting the Centre’s argument.

An advice

  • The court said the Centre is at liberty to issue additional guidelines to states and Union Territories (UTs) on checking the misuse of Section 124A.

The law

  • Introduced in 1870, the law criminalises spreading disaffection against the government through words or action and makes it punishable with three-year jail.

The case

  • A bunch of petitions were filed in the Supreme Court in recent years contending that Section 124A violated the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression.

Reaction

  • Opposition leader Mahua Moitra, also a petitioner, called it a “victory” and “a great day for democracy”.
  • Union law minister Kiren Rijiju said, “We respect the court and its independence…the court should respect the government. We have clear demarcation and that Lakshman Rekha should not be crossed by anybody.”
2. HC can’t decide if marital rape is a crime, so SC to step in
The Delhi High Court (HC) on Wednesday delivered a split verdict on the criminalisation of marital rape while granting a certificate to appeal to the Supreme Court (SC), observing that the case involved substantial questions of law.

The split, decoded

  • The issue — on the validity of Exception 2 to Section 375, that deals with rape, with the said exception stating that “sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape” — was being heard by a division bench of the HC, comprising Justices Rajiv Shakdher and C Hari Shankar.
  • While Justice Shakdher ruled that “the impugned provisions in so far as they concern a husband having intercourse with his wife without consent are violative of Article 14 and are, therefore, struck down”, Justice Shankar differed, saying that Exception 2 to Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) was not unconstitutional.
  • According to Justice Shankar, “there is no support to show that impugned exception violates Articles 14, 19 or 21” or that there was any “intelligible differentia”, adding that he was “of the view that the challenge cannot sustain.” Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution deal with the Right to Equality, Right to Freedom and Right to life and Liberty respectively.

Was the Centre the reason for the split?

  • The government, which has been resisting criminalising marital rape, had advanced the argument that since the matter involved “intimate family relations” and “considering the social impact” caused by criminalising marital rape, the HC should defer hearing the case.
  • Moreover, the Centre argued, since the HC did not have “the privilege of having been fully familiarised with ground realities prevailing in different parts of Society of this large, populous and diverse country”, it should allow the Centre time to effect a consultative process with other stakeholders, such as state governments.
3. India is ‘not sending troops to Sri Lanka’
The Indian High Commission in Colombo on Wednesday categorically dismissed speculative media reports about New Delhi sending its troops to Sri Lanka, saying it is fully supportive of the island nation’s democracy, stability and economic recovery.

But…

  • India did send its military to maintain peace in the civil war-hit country 35 years ago. The Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord was signed on July 29, 1987 although LTTE rebels, also known as Tamil Tigers, were not party to this agreement.
  • New Delhi had deployed 75,000-1,00,000 troops, called Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF), to tackle the Lankan conflict, of whom nearly 1,200 were killed and about 3,000 were injured.
  • Mahinda Rajapaksa, who resigned as PM on Monday, had crushed the Tamil rebellion in a brutal military campaign during his presidency between 2005 and 2015.

Where’s ex-PM?

  • Former PM Rajapaksa is being protected at the Trincomalee naval base after he was evacuated from his official residence, a top official said.
  • Security forces in armoured vehicles patrolled across the country with orders to shoot on sight amid continuing protests at the government’s handling of the worst economic crisis.
  • So far, at least nine people have been killed in violence, which has also left more than 200 people wounded.

Another resignation?

  • Sri Lanka’s central bank chief Nandalal Weerasinghe on Wednesday threatened to quit if the leaders failed to bring political stability to the island nation. More details here
4. Karauli, Jodhpur and now Bhilwara… communal tension tests Rajasthan
Parts of Rajasthan are in the grip of communal tension, with a series of incidents reported from the states since early April. It first happened in Karauli, then in Jodhpur, followed by Bharatpur and now Bhilwara.

A murder

  • A 20-year-old man identified as Adesh Tapadia was stabbed to death allegedly by two persons from another community in Rajasthan’s Bhilwara district.
  • Earlier on May 5, Bhilwara saw communal tension with internet services suspended after two men sitting outside a shrine were assaulted by bike-borne masked men, who torched one of their bikes.

Bandh

  • The murder has flared up communal tension in Bhilwara with several Right-wing groups calling a bandh, supported by the BJP, on Wednesday. They staged a protest outside the mortuary and shouted slogans demanding immediate action against the accused and compensation for the deceased’s family.

Internet shut

  • The district administration suspended the mobile internet in Bhilwara till Thursday to prevent rumour-mongering by suspected miscreants. Police arrested three accused on Wednesday for late Tuesday night murder.

On the boil

  • On April 2, Karauli hit national headline for communal clashes during a celebratory bike rally through a Muslim-majority locality to mark Hindu New Year. At least 35 people were injured in the violence.
  • In mid-April, communal clashes broke out in Jodhpur during Ram Navami celebrations. In early May, fresh clashes took place on Eid. Authorities suspended the mobile internet services and imposed a curfew.
  • More communal clashes broke out in Bharatpur on late Monday when members of one community were celebrating the release of five persons accused in a 2013 communal violence case.

What else

  • Rajasthan goes to the assembly polls next year. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has called the communal violence in the state “a BJP plot”.
6. What does heatwave have to do with eco rules for coal mines?
In a letter written last week, the Union environment ministry has relaxed certain environmental compliances for coal mines, as a “special dispensation” to the coal ministry, according to a report by news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Why now

  • In the year gone by — FY22 — India mined 777 million tonnes of coal, which still failed to meet all of its power requirements as the country needs a billion tonnes of coal annually to satisfy its power lust. While the Centre plans to increase the quantity of mined coal to 1.2 billion tonnes over the next two years, for now the shortfall is being met through imports from countries like Indonesia, Australia and South Africa.
  • The coal ministry had earlier stated “that there is huge pressure on domestic coal supply in the country and all efforts are being made to meet the demand of coal for all sectors.” India’s power consumption rose to an all-time high of 132.98 billion units in April — which was the hottest April in 122 years — and its power demand over the next two months is expected to touch 220 gigawatts due to a forecast of extreme heatwave.

What’s the relaxation

  • The environment ministry has allowed coal mines to operate at 50% of their capacity, instead of the earlier directive of operating at 40% of their capacity — with no additional environmental impact studies required to be undertaken by the coal mines.
  • In addition, the Centre, via a new scheme, is trying to rope in private players and lease out abandoned state-owned coal mines to them, assuring the private companies of speeding up environmental approvals.

The impact

  • The relaxation of coal mining norms appears to be a realisation that meeting PM Narendra Modi’s commitment to COP26 — of fulfilling 50% of India’s energy demand by 2030 through renewable energy sources — may not be as easy as previously thought.
  • In fact, Union coal minister Pralhad Joshi said last week that even after achieving the objective of 500 gigawatts of renewable energy generating capacity by 2030, India’s coal needs will double by 2040. Already, the coal shortage — coal accounts for nearly 70% of India’s power generation capacity — has led to power outages of 10 hours or more in several states, forcing industrial and manufacturing to suspend or halt production, stymying the still nascent post-pandemic economic recovery.
7. Even the US is worried about India-China border tangle
The relation between two Asian giants, India and China, will “remain strained” in the wake of the 2020 “lethal clash” in eastern Ladakh, the most serious in decades, the US intelligence community has told lawmakers during a Congressional hearing.

The dispute

  • The militaries of India and China have been locked in a border standoff for almost two years. And there is no sign of reconciliation in sight despite multiple rounds of talks.
  • The expanded military posture by both India and China along the disputed border elevates the risk of an armed confrontation between the two nuclear powers that might involve direct threats to US persons and interests, and calls for America’s intervention, the intelligence community said.
  • Twenty Indian Army personnel were killed in June 2020 in clashes with China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh, marking the most serious military conflicts between the two sides in decades.
  • Months later, China officially acknowledged that five PLA soldiers were killed in the clashes although it is widely believed that the death toll was higher.

Massive deployment

  • Currently, each side has deployed around 50,000 to 60,000 troops along with heavy weaponry close to the LAC.
  • India and China have held 15 rounds of military talks so far to resolve the eastern Ladakh row. So far, disengagement has happened on the south bank of the Pangong Tso and in the Gogra area while the standoff continues at other friction points.
  • India has been consistently maintaining that peace and tranquillity along the LAC were key for the overall development of the bilateral ties.

The Pak factor

  • The US assessment also noted that crises between India and Pakistan are of particular concern because of the risk, however low, of an escalatory cycle between the two nuclear-armed states. More details
8. Did droughts eat up 5% of India’s GDP?
  • The number and duration of droughts has risen 29% globally since 2000 and the effect of severe droughts is estimated to have reduced India’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 2-5% over the 20 years from 1998 to 2017, said a new report from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) released on Wednesday.
  • The report also flagged that the droughts represent 15% of natural disasters globally but took the largest human toll— approximately 650,000 deaths in 50 years (1970-2019). Globally, droughts caused economic losses of roughly $124 billion during that period.
  • Though severe drought affected Africa more than any other continent with over 300 events recorded in the past 100 years, accounting for 44% of the global total, the highest total number of humans affected by drought were in Asia.
  • The report on drought comes in the backdrop of the UNCCD’s earlier report on ‘global land outlook’ that flagged in April how up to 40% of all ice-free land is already degraded globally, with dire consequences for climate, biodiversity and livelihoods, affecting 50% of humanity. It also noted that the current scale of degradation threatens roughly half of global GDP (US$44 trillion).
9. What’s in the road’s name? Maybe just an election
The BJP has renewed its demand for renaming of certain Delhi roads as the city prepares for civic polls. Delhi BJP chief Adesh Gupta has written to the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) listing his demands.

The demand

  • Gupta demanded that Delhi’s Tughlaq Road should be renamed after freedom fighter Khudiram Bose, Babar Road as Guru Gobind Singh Marg, Akbar Road as Maharana Pratap Road, Aurangzeb Lane as Abdul Kalam Lane, Humayun Road as Maharshi Valmiki Road and Shahjahan Road as General Bipin Singh Rawat Road.
  • The BJP leader claimed these roads “symbolise Mughal slavery”.

The timing

  • The name-change push has come after communal tension in Jahangirpuri and anti-CAA epicentre, Shaheen Bagh.
  • Delhi is heading to civic polls, which were supposed to be held in April. The BJP is eyeing a fifth consecutive term in the reunified Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) in the polls.

The politics

  • Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s residence is on Tughlaq Road. The Congress’s headquarters is on Akbar Road.
  • NDMC has a non-elected body but has Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal as ex-officio member, whose Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is a strong contender in the MCD polls.

Not the first time

  • In 2015, Aurangzeb Road was renamed as APJ Abdul Kalam Marg. In 2016, Race Course Road was renamed as Lok Kalyan Marg.
  • Back in the day, the British era Connaught Place was renamed as Rajiv Chowk when the Congress was in power.
  • In April, Gupta took on Kejriwal for not approving renaming of Delhi’s Mohammedpur village as Madhav Puram. He said the BJP has a list of 40 villages for renaming.

What else?

  • Name-change needs approval by the 13-member NDMC headed by a central government bureaucrat.
Answer to NEWS IN CLUES

Taj Mahal. Descendant of the erstwhile royal family of Jaipur, Divya Kumari, who’s also a BJP MP, claimed that the land on which the mausoleum dedicated to Mumtaz Mahal — also known as Arjumand Banu Begum — was built belonged to her family and Shah Jehan acquired the land parcel to build the monument. The Taj Mahal earned over Rs 86 crore in 2018-19 from ticket sales — the highest revenue generated by a single tourist monument, which was granted UNESCO’s World Heritage Site status in 1983. Trump, in 1990, opened a casino and hotel which was named Trump Taj Mahal.

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Written by: Rakesh Rai, Tejeesh Nippun Singh, Jayanta Kalita, Prabhash K Dutta
Research: Rajesh Sharma





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7. IAF’s Su-30 upgrade plan takes back seat…but why?


7. IAF’s Su-30 upgrade plan takes back seat…but why?
  • The Indian Air Force’s plans to upgrade the fleet of its Su-30 MKI fighter aircraft has been put on the backburner due to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.
  • Besides, the deal for the 12 most advanced Su-30MKI combat jets worth over Rs 20,000 crore would also be delayed slightly as the stakeholders will now have to add more Made-in-India content to the planes in line with the Modi government’s policy to promote Indian defence products.
  • IAF was planning to upgrade 85 of their Su-30 combat jets to the latest standards in collaboration with the Russians and the state-run aerospace company HAL.
  • The plan was to equip the Su-30 aircraft with more powerful radars and the latest electronic warfare capabilities in view of the two-front military threat from China and Pakistan.
  • The Su-30 MKIs form the mainstay of the IAF. The aircraft are supplied by the Russian manufacturers to the HAL in semi and complete knocked-down kits and then they are assembled in the Nasik facility.
  • The ongoing conflict in Russia and Ukraine has also resulted in delays in the supply of spares for the fighter aircraft fleet. However, India had stocked them up in a considerable amount in the wake of the Uri surgical strikes and the border conflict with China.
5 THINGS FIRST

Last day to apply for LIC IPO; Two SC judges take oath of office, bringing it to full strength; Union home minister Amit Shah in Assam to review situation along India-Bangladesh border; Opposition parties to discuss situation after rejecting J&K delimitation report; IPL 2022 – MI vs KKR

1. Khalistan flags at HP assembly gate trigger political row
Flags of the separatist Khalistan campaign were found put up on the main gate and slogans written on the walls of the Himachal Pradesh legislative assembly in Dharamsala on Sunday, fuelling security concerns in the hill state bordering Punjab. The issue later snowballed into a major political controversy.

Probe ordered

  • Himachal chief minister Jairam Thakur ordered an inquiry into the matter. The state police have registered an FIR and constituted a six-member special investigation team (SIT), which is expected to coordinate with central intelligence agencies to ascertain any possible interstate or international links.
  • Punjab witnessed over a decade of violence in the 1980s when Sikh militants demanded a separate Sikh homeland called ‘Khalistan’.

AAP slams BJP

  • The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which rules Punjab and Delhi, attacked the ruling BJP in Himachal calling it “a huge security failure”. It also raised questions as to how the BJP government will save the people of the country when it failed in ensuring national security and demanded resignation of CM Thakur.

The backstory

  • Recently, the BJP accused the AAP’s social media in-charge in Himachal Harpreet Singh Bedi of openly supporting the Khalistani cause, referring to a series of his tweets posted a few years ago. The AAP did damage control by expelling Bedi from “all posts” in the party.
  • Buoyed by its landslide victory in neighbouring Punjab, the Arvind Kejriwal-led party is gearing up to contest on all seats in the assembly polls in Himachal Pradesh later this year. More details here
2. Jahangirpuri: Court pulls up Delhi Police for ‘utter failure’
A Delhi court has pulled up the city police for their “utter failure” in stopping one of the Hanuman Jayanti processions, which was taken out without permission in the Jahangirpuri area on April 16. The court also denied bail to eight people who were allegedly involved in the communal clashes.

What court said

  • The prosecution submitted that the last procession, during which violence broke out, was illegal and had no proper permission from the police, additional sessions judge Gagandeep Singh noted.
  • “If that was the situation, then the contents of the FIR itself show that the local staff of police station Jahangirpuri…were accompanying the said illegal procession on its route, instead of stopping it,” the court said in an order on May 7.
  • It also observed that the issue seemed to have been simply brushed aside by the senior officers.

‘Fix liability’

  • The court directed the Delhi Police commissioner to take remedial measures in the matter. “The liability on the part of the officials concerned needs to be fixed so that no such incident takes place in the future. Their complicity, if any, also needs to be investigated,” it said.

The accused

  • While denying bail to the eight accused, the court said they had been identified on the basis of CCTV footage and eyewitness accounts.
  • It stated that the material investigation in the case was still underway and several other offenders who were involved in the riots were yet to be apprehended.
  • The lawyer representing the accused had claimed that the prosecution had no evidence to prove that they were at the place of the alleged incident or directly or indirectly involved in the alleged offence.
3. As Asani turns into severe cyclone, India warned about super cyclones
  • A warning: The India Meteorological Department (IMD) on Sunday issued a warning that Cyclone Asani, which lay centred over Southeast Bay of Bengal, about 450 km west-northwest of Car Nicobar (Nicobar Islands), 380 km west of Port Blair (Andaman Islands), 970 km southeast of Visakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh) and 1030 km south-southeast of Puri (Odisha), “is very likely to move northwestwards and intensify further into a severe cyclonic storm over east central Bay of Bengal during next 24 hours.” However, it’s unlikely to make landfall, according to the IMD.
  • The ferocity: According to the IMD, wind speeds will be in the range of 105 to 115 kmph gusting to 125 kmph today, after which the storm is expected to lose stream in the sea tomorrow with the wind speed coming down to 96-105 kmph gusting to 115 kmph in the early hours and then reducing progressively as the day wears off. A severe cyclonic storm has wind speeds of between 90 kmph to 125 kmph.
  • Curtain raiser? A study by University of Bristol, based on Cyclone Amphan that occurred in May 2020 and made a landfall in Odisha-West Bengal, says that future cyclones — super cyclones, with wind speeds in excess of 220 kmph — that hit the Bay of Bengal will expose 200% more population to cyclonic damage and flooding, in addition to being more devastating.
  • Impact: The study, which pins the blame on the frequency of super cyclones on global warming, adds that if the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere continues at the same scale, more than two and a half times the population in India would experience flooding of greater than one metre and going up to three metres, compared to the population impacted by Cyclone Amphan.
4. Ahead of Victory Day, 60 feared dead in Russian bombing
As many as 60 people were feared dead after a Russian bomb destroyed a school sheltering about 90 people in the basement in eastern Ukraine on Sunday, a day before Moscow celebrates the 77th Victory Day to commemorate the Soviet win over Nazi Germany.

Missile strikes

  • Moscow’s invading forces kept up their barrage of cities, towns and villages in eastern and southern Ukraine. The Russian defence ministry said its missiles had hit a ‘Project 1241’ corvette, a class of Soviet missile corvettes.
  • Russia’s air defences also shot down two Ukrainian SU-24 bombers and a Mi-24 helicopter over the Snake island in the Black Sea at night.

Anxiety & resilience

  • On Sunday, Moscow residents appeared anxious but resilient as the country prepared for the annual Victory Day celebrations amid stringent Western sanctions owing to the Ukraine war.
  • Some Russians said they were emotional given the close family ties between the two biggest eastern Slav populations now divided by conflict.
  • Opinion polls show most Russians support the military operation and that Putin’s approval rating has risen more than 14 percentage points to 81.5% since the start of the military operation.

The parade

  • The annual celebrations feature a massive military parade on Red Square showcasing the latest armaments from tanks to fighter jets to nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles.
  • This year, Putin’s forces will show off the thermonuclear RS-24 Yars ballistic missile, which can carry up to 10 warheads, in what is seen as a warning to the West against interfering in the Ukraine conflict.

Meanwhile…

  • The G7 club of wealthy nations committed Sunday to phasing out its dependency on Russian oil and issued a scathing statement accusing President Vladimir Putin of bringing “shame” on Russia with his invasion of Ukraine.
6. What led to John Lee being chosen as Hong Kong’s new chief
Former Hong Kong’s Secretary for Security John Lee was chosen as the region’s next chief executive and will take over from outgoing leader of the China-controlled region Carrie Lam on July 1.

His credentials

  • Lee is best known for the forceful implementation of the new national security law introduced by China — leading to massive protests against it in Hong Kong — which saw several civil rights activists and democrats being arrested, along with shuttering of some liberal media outlets.
  • Lee, who has defended the new law, stressing that it’s imperative in “safeguarding our country’s sovereignty, national security and development interests, and protecting Hong Kong from internal and external threats, and ensuring its stability” has been personally sanctioned by the US for “being involved in coercing, arresting, detaining, or imprisoning individuals” under the security law.

His popularity?

  • The 64 year old Lee was the only candidate in the fray for the chief executive election. Not just that, the election committee, comprising 1,500 members, was packed to the rafters with pro-China loyalists — so much so that instead of the minimum 751 votes required in his favour, Lee got 1,416. Eight members voted to “not support” him.
  • That apart, Beijing had introduced major changes in the electoral laws of Hong Kong last year whereby only “patriots” — a euphemism for people loyal to China — could hold the office of the region’s chief executive.
8. Sri Lanka’s Oppn rejects Prez Rajapaksa’s offer
Amid continued political uncertainty in Sri Lanka, which is now under a state of emergency, the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) has rejected an offer by embattled President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to its leader Sajith Premadasa to head an interim government.

The offer

  • Rajapaksa had called both Premadasa and Harsha de Silva, the SJB’s economic guru, on the prospect of forming an interim government.
  • The President said on Sunday that he would consider looking into the proposals put forward by the influential lawyers’ body, which among other things, has called for the setting up of an interim government that would eventually lead to the abolition of the presidential system of governance.

Political pressure

  • The Buddhist clergy too has intensified pressure on Rajapaksa to implement the interim government plan. The island nation is currently reeling under the worst economic crisis since its independence in 1948.
  • The government hemmed in by a month of street protests imposed a state of emergency on Friday night, which gives the security forces sweeping powers to crack down on dissent.

Crowds jeer PM

  • Boos and heckles greeted Sri Lankan PM Mahinda Rajapaksa during his visit to a Buddhist temple on Sunday, his first public outing since nationwide protests erupted demanding his ruling family resign over the economic turmoil.
  • Meanwhile, workers’ unions said they would stage daily protests from Monday to pressure the government to revoke the emergency.
9. SC seeks answers on imposter NEET-PG admission
  • The Supreme Court (SC) has sought answers from Karnataka Examination Authority as well as Bengaluru’s M S Ramaiah College, explaining how they granted admission to an imposter posing as a NEET-PG candidate — directing them to file their affidavits.
  • The first of its kind case came to light after one MBBS doctor Anubha Sukhwal moved the SC to participate in the All India Quota (AIQ) mop-up round of counselling after not getting a PG medical seat of her choice despite participating in two rounds of AIQ counselling and even Maharashtra state counselling.
  • It was then she claims she found that an imposter had not only used her name and roll number to gain admission into the Bengaluru college but had also paid the Rs 12 lakh fees. The Karnataka Examination Authority and M S Ramaiah College have however sought to pin the blame on the student, saying that the admission process could not have been completed without her collusion as the imposter allegedly used Sukhwal’s ID and password, along with original certificates of her educational qualifications.
Answer to NEWS IN CLUES

Nigeria. The country, with a population of over 206 million and proven crude oil reserves of more than 37 billion barrels, became the first country to ground all domestic flights starting today due to rising fuel costs as aviation turbine fuel (ATF) costs tripled to 700 naira ($1.68) per litre, with airlines saying they could no longer absorb the costs.

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Written by: Rakesh Rai, Tejeesh Nippun Singh, Jayanta Kalita, Prabhash K Dutta
Research: Rajesh Sharma



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5. Who was the first male cricketer to score 10,000 runs in Tests?


5 THINGS FIRST

LIC IPO opens for retail investors; PM Modi meets French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris; NTAGI to review data of Covid-19 vaccines for children aged 5-12 years; Union home minister Amit Shah on three-day visit to West Bengal, his first after 2021 assembly polls; IPL 2022 – RCB Vs CSK at MCA stadium

1. Communal tensions in Rajasthan, second time in a month
Communal tensions gripped Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot’s hometown Jodhpur hours before Eid on Tuesday, the second such incident in the state in a month.

Curfew imposed

  • A curfew was imposed till May 4 midnight in 10 police station areas and mobile internet services were suspended to check the spread of rumours.

The trigger

  • The tensions broke out past midnight after Eid flags were put up at the Jalori gate circle. The situation was brought under control with heavy deployment of police but the tensions escalated in the morning after prayers at an Eidgah.
  • The issue snowballed into stone-pelting and clashes, in which 16 people including four policemen were injured. Police had to lob tear gas shells to disperse the mob.

Political heat

  • While the chief minister has appealed to people to maintain peace and harmony, the opposition BJP turned the heat up on the Congress-led government over the law and order situation. Assembly polls are due in the state in 2023.
  • The BJP alleged an Islamic flag was put up alongside the statue of freedom fighter Balmukund Bissa at a roundabout replacing a saffron flag that had been installed there on the occasion of Parshuram Jayanti.
  • This is the second such incident in Rajasthan after the Karauli violence, which erupted on April 2 when some people hurled stones at a bike rally being taken out by Hindu outfits on the occasion of Nav Samvatsar.

In Maharashtra…

  • Meanwhile, the police in Aurangabad registered an offence against MNS chief Raj Thackeray over his speech against loudspeakers on mosques, following which some party leaders slammed the Maharashtra government and said they will hit the streets in case of further action against their party head. More details here
2. What’s on offer in India’s largest IPO?
  • Size matters: At Rs 20,557 crore, the Life Insurance Corporation’s (LIC) initial public offering (IPO) which opens for the retail investors today is certainly the biggest till date and is also the first to enter the market with Rs 20,000-crore or more issue, which, at its listing on May 17, will command a market capital of Rs 6 lakh crore — possibly the highest for any stock listing.
  • At stake: The IPO offers 22.13 crore shares for a 3.5% stake in the world’s 10th largest insurer by total assets. Of these, half the shares are reserved for qualified institutional buyers (QIB), 15% for non-institutional investors and 35% will be offered to retail investors. 15.81 lakh shares are reserved for employees while 2.21 crore shares are reserved for policy holders.
  • Who pays what: The IPO is priced between Rs 902-949 per share with investors allowed to bid in lot sizes of 15 shares and multiples thereof — which means, at the upper end of the price band, an investor needs to invest a minimum of Rs 14,235. Retail investors and employees get a discount of Rs 45 per share while policyholders are entitled to a discount of Rs 60 per share. The anchor investor portion, which opened on Monday, has already been fully subscribed, raising Rs 5,620 crore.
  • Game of thrones: While the LIC IPO (at $2.7 billion) certainly dwarfs in size the Paytm IPO, which, at Rs 18,300 crore, is now relegated to the second spot, it’s not the largest in this calendar year — which was LG Energy Solution’s $10.8 billion IPO. It’s also a far cry from Saudi Aramco’s $25.6 billion IPOsnatch away LIC’s crown as India’s largest IPO.
3. Wheat procurement struggles to meet Centre’s target as temperatures rise
  • Shrivelling up: Against a target of 444 lakh metric tonnes (LMT) of wheat procurement set by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) for the current Rabi season, only 36.5% wheat has been procured so far, as of May 1, according to FCI data. The main reason being cited is the shrivelling of the grain due to the unusually high temperatures in March, just when the wheat crop is ready to be harvested. That has also played a spoiler in the Centre’s plan to cash in on an expected rise in global wheat prices following the adverse impact of the Russian invasion on wheat exports from Ukraine, which produces 20% of the world’s high grade wheat.
  • Silver lining: Ironically, Punjab, whose farmers were at the forefront of the year long agitation against the three farm laws that were eventually repealed by the Centre — and who were constantly lambasted by the extreme right wing elements in the government — has contributed the highest to the central granary, with 55% of the wheat procured, amounting to 89 LMT of the total 162 LMT procured by the FCI.
  • Scorched earth: Even Punjab’s contribution is 67.42% of its procurement target of 132 LMT, with Punjab State Agricultural Marketing Board (PSAMB) officials expecting total procurement to reach only up to 105 LMT. Other states fared worse — Madhya Pradesh, the second largest wheat producer, managed to contribute just 25.55% its FCI procurement target of 129 LMT while Uttar Pradesh managed to procure just 2% of its target of 60 LMT while Haryana (managed to procure 43.48% of its target of 89 LMT and Rajasthan has not even managed to procure 1 LMT out of its target of 23 LMT.
4. India falls further in World Press Freedom ranking
  • India dropped eight places to 150 — out of 180 countries — on the World Press Freedom Index compiled by the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) for 2022. The index’s report notes that “with an average of three or four journalists killed in connection with their work every year, India is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for the media.” In the current year alone, it states, while one journalist has been killed, another 13 are behind bars.
  • In fact in the last 20 years, India, which was ranked 80th on the index in 2002, has seen its press freedom ranking progressively plummet. The country profile by RSF on India also says that “the Indian press used to be seen as fairly progressive but things changed radically in the mid-2010s, when Narendra Modi became prime minister and engineered a spectacular rapprochement between his party, the BJP, and the big families dominating the media.”
  • Terming the Indian press as “a colossus with feet of clay”, RSF adds that Indian “journalists are exposed to all kinds of physical violence including police violence, ambushes by political activists, and deadly reprisals by criminal groups or corrupt local officials” by “supporters of Hindutva” with the situation “very worrisome in Kashmir where reporters are often harassed by police and paramilitaries.”
6. India-Denmark green partnership to get a boost
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Danish counterpart Mette Frederiksen on Tuesday reviewed progress of the India-Denmark Green Strategic Partnership and also exchanged views on regional and global issues. He arrived in Copenhagen from Germany.

Green pact

  • Discussions covered cooperation in renewable energy, especially offshore wind energy and green hydrogen, as well as skill development, health, shipping, water and the Arctic, among others.
  • Later, addressing the Indian community in Denmark, Modi said Indians have had no role in harming the planet and the need of the hour is to promote “lifestyle for environment”.
  • The India-Denmark Green Strategic Partnership was established during a virtual summit in September 2020. This partnership was translated into a result-oriented five-year action plan during then-PM Frederiksen’s India visit in October 2021.

Key deals

  • On Tuesday, several agreements covering sectors such as green shipping, animal husbandry and dairying, water management, energy, cultural exchange were inked after the bilateral talks.

Business ties

  • Over 200 Danish companies in India are actively engaged in taking forward ‘Make in India’, ‘Jal Jeevan Mission’, ‘Digital India’ and other key national missions.
  • More than 60 Indian companies in Denmark, mainly in the IT sector, are further cementing bilateral business-to-business ties. Denmark is home to a robust Indian diaspora of 16,000 people.
7. This NE state issues IDs to Myanmar refugees
The Mizoram government has issued temporary identity cards to more than 29,000 Myanmar refugees who have taken shelter in the northeastern state following a military coup in the neighbouring country and subsequent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, state home minister Lalchamliana said.

Significance

  • In a rare move, Mizoram chief minister Zoramthanga had last year defied a central government order asking NE states not to give shelter to refugees from Myanmar. Mizoram shares a 510-km unfenced border with the Southeast Asian nation.
  • India is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol, and does not officially accord refugee status to foreigners.
  • The CM then wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi stating that “it was not possible for Mizoram to refuse shelter to our own brethren who fled Myanmar fearing for their lives”. He also highlighted that the Mizo people have ethnic ties with those seeking shelter in the state.

The latest move

  • The temporary identity certificates issued to the refugees contain details such as name of the bearer, father’s name, date of birth, place of origin, present address in Mizoram.
  • The majority of the refugees are Chins, who share the same ancestry, ethnicity and culture with the Mizo people.
8. Putin’s health fuels fresh speculation
Vladimir Putin’s health continues to fuel speculation in the western media with rumours doing the rounds that the Russian President may be suffering from either Parkinson’s disease or cancer. There has also been gossip about a potential handing over of power in the event of his hospitalisation even as Russian troops continue their assaults on neighbouring Ukraine.

Cancer or Parkinson’s?

  • The 69-year-old leader might undergo a cancer surgery following his doctors’ advice, according to multiple reports that are yet to be verified. The anticipated surgery and recovery are expected to incapacitate Putin for “a short time”, the New York Post reported citing a Telegram channel purportedly run by a former Russian intelligence official.
  • The NYP report also claimed that Putin, a former operative of the Soviet spy agency, KGB, had been seen by a cancer doctor 35 times in recent years and that he had undergone a surgery last autumn.
  • The UK daily, Mirror, on the other hand, speculated that Putin has “some kind of central nervous system condition, such as Parkinson’s”, based on a video emerged in February in which the Russian leader is seen holding one hand to his chest while the other is held in a fist during a meeting with his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko.
  • While Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said he could not verify these reports, it is quite unlikely that the Kremlin would comment on these speculations.

In his absence…

  • Putin’s loyalist Nikolai Patrushev, currently serving as the secretary of the country’s Security Council, may be temporarily given power to run the show, according to some unverified reports. The President apparently had a two-hour “heart-to-heart” conversation with Patrushev a few days ago.
  • The Security Council is an influential body that answers directly to Putin and issues guidance on military and security issues within Russia.
  • Like Putin, Patrushev is a career Russian intelligence agent, first with the KGB, then later with the Russian FSB.
9. US Chief Justice orders investigation into abortion ‘judgement’ leak
Confirming the authenticity of the draft majority opinion published by Politico on Monday, which suggests that the US Supreme Court is set to overturn a nearly 50 year abortion law that granted women the right to abort, the US Chief Justice John Roberts said he has “directed the Marshal of the Court to launch an investigation into the source of the leak.”

Caught with pants down?

  • The draft judgement, authored by Justice Samuel Alto, seeks to overturn the 1973 US Supreme Court ruling in the Roe vs Wade case which granted pregnant women the right to choose to have an abortion — overturning laws in some states such as Texas which made abortion illegal except if the pregnancy endangered a women’s life. Alto, in the draft, says that the 1973 judgement “was egregiously wrong from the start.”
  • While Roberts termed the leak “a singular and egregious breach of that trust that is an affront to the Court”, the court’s public affairs office tried some damage control, saying the draft “does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case.” The final decision of the judges is expected in end-June.

Political tremors

  • US President Joe Biden, who blasted the draft as “radical”, said that if “it becomes the law, and if what is written is what remains, it goes far beyond the concern of whether or not there is the right to choose” — adding that it could set a precedent for other judgements as well, such as the recognition to same sex marriage in 2015.
  • The leak of the draft has expectedly sent tremors among Democrats as they square up for the Congressional elections due later this year, with Republicans likely to wrest back control of the 435-member House of Representatives. The draft has also angered several women’s and abortion rights activists, who have called on the Democrats to “do something.”
Answer to NEWS IN CLUES

Sunil Gavaskar. The former Indian opener, who scored 34 Test centuries, returned a 21,348 sq ft plot of land in Bandra Reclamation to the state government after 33 years for failing to build an indoor cricket academy. The Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) had in 2019 sought to take back possession of the land, allotted to Sunil Gavaskar Cricket Foundation Trust.

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5 THINGS FIRST

Budget Session of Parliament begins; Economic Survey: GDP forecast to be presented by FM Sitharman; EC to review ban on physical rallies; Farmers to observe ‘Betrayal Day’ over MSP guarantee, cases on farmers; SC to hear Future Retail’s plea against lenders

1. Nadal scripts history, wins Slam No. 21
  • Rafael Nadal got to 21 first, breaking the men’s record for most Grand Slam singles titles and doing it the hard way by coming back from two sets down to beat Daniil Medvedev in the Australian Open men’s singles final.
  • The 35-year-old Spaniard now has one more than Roger Federer and Djokovic, his long-time rivals in the so-called Big Three. His conversation rate in major finals is now 21 out of 29. Federer and Djokovic each have 20 majors from 31 finals appearances.
  • At 5 hours and 24 minutes, it was the second longest Australian Open final after Novak Djokovic beat Nadal in five sets in 5 hours and 53 minutes in 2012.
  • With the 2-6, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 win Nadal also became just the fourth man in history to win all four of the sport’s major titles at least twice. He also became the third oldest man in the Open Era (since 1970) to win a Grand Slam, behind Ken Rosewall and Federer.
  • It was also the fourth time in his storied career that Nadal had clawed back to win from two sets down, but the first time in a Slam final. And the titanic clash went down to the bitter end with Nadal being broken as he served for the championship only for the Spaniard to break back. On his second attempt to serve it out, Nadal powered to three match points to win.
  • This after Nadal flew to Australia with just two matches under his belt in the second half of 2021 after having to modify his game to compensate for a degenerative bone disease in his left foot that ended his 2021 season last August. He also had a bout of Covid-19.
2. SC panel urged to consider report on India’s Pegasus deal
  • The Editors Guild of India has urged the Supreme Court-appointed probe panel to inquire into revelations by The New York Times that India bought Pegasus spyware from its maker NSO Group under a deal with the Israeli government.
  • The NYT report said the Indian and Israeli governments “had agreed on the sale of a package of sophisticated weapons and intelligence gear worth roughly $2 billion — with Pegasus and a missile system as the centerpieces”.
  • The report stated that deals such as these gave Israel the leverage to influence the policy on Palestine — India voted in support of Israel at the UN in 2019, breaking a decades-old “commitment to the Palestinian cause”. (Full report here)
  • The Guild, in its letter to the committee headed by retired SC judge R.V Raveendran said: “The claims in the NYT are in stark contrast to the stance of the Government of India, which has been and continues to be vague and non committal in its response to these extremely serious allegations that whether they purchased the spyware, and more disturbingly, if it was used against Indian citizens, including journalists and civil society members.”
  • Note: In September, the SC had appointed a three-member technical committee, supervised by Justice Raveendran, in response to petitions seeking an independent inquiry into the alleged role of the union government or any of its agencies in mass surveillance using the spyware.
  • Several publications had earlier revealed a database of 50,000 numbers selected as potential targets by clients of Pegasus. Over 170 of these numbers belonged to Indians, including Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, former Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa, election strategist Prashant Kishor, journalists M.K. Venu and Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, and the accused in the so-called Bhima Koregaon conspiracy case.
3. Cong fields Punjab CM Channi from two seats
  • The Congress party on Sunday declared its third list of its candidates for the upcoming Punjab Assembly election. And chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi will contest from two seats — Chamkaur Sahib in Rupnagar district and Bhadaur in Barnala district.
  • The known: Chamkaur Sahib is Channi’s traditional seat. He’s been representing the constituency since 2007.
  • The unknown: The Congress party’s candidate from Bhadaur – Joginder Singh – had come in third after AAP’s Pirmal Singh Dhaula and Akali Dal’s Sant Balvir Singh Ghunas in the 2017 Punjab elections. But the Congress hopes that Channi, Punjab’s first Dalit CM, will help get a major part of the votes in the rural seat containing an SC population of over 35% (as well as the Barnala district of which it is a part) .
  • Amarinder redux? Earlier in 2017, Channi’s predecessor Captain Amarinder Singh had contested from Lambi assembly segment against then sitting CM Parkash Singh Badal apart from his traditional seat of Patiala. Amarinder lost Lambi, won Patiala and Congress took the whole state.
  • Also: The Congress also fielded former Patiala mayor Vishnu Sharma from the Patiala assembly seats against Amarinder. Sharma was once considered a close confidant of the former chief minister.
  • Meanwhile in Manipur: BJP supporters burnt effigies of PM Narendra Modi and Manipur CM N Biren Singh and shouted slogans as protests erupted on Sunday after the party named candidates for the state polls, leaving many disappointed.
  • Party offices were ransacked in various parts of the state and a few party functionaries who were hoping to get tickets have resigned as well. Reportedly, most of the disgruntled leaders were those overlooked in favour of defectors from the Congress.
4. LIC IPO and Centre’s balancing act
  • A large cash balance of over Rs 1 lakh crore would help the union government tide over the financial year even if the budgeted Life Insurance Corporation’s initial public offering (IPO) fails to make it before the March 31 deadline.
  • The LIC IPO is expected to raise over Rs 75,000 crore but the overall market sentiments following the recent crash and the complexities involved make it a challenge to complete the process in time. The IPO is key for the government’s fiscal deficit calculations.
  • But experts say the large cash balance with the government will be the key calibrating instrumentto alleviate market borrowing pressure. The government also has the headroom to contain the deficit’s impact by holding back on some of the spending.
  • Axis Bank’s chief economist Saugata Bhattacharya, without the IPO, he expects the slippage to be small at around 6.5% as against the 6.4% that Axis Bank has estimated.
  • SBI’s chief economist Soumya Kanti Ghosh has forecast a fiscal deficit of 6-6.5% for the next financial year (FY23). “If disinvestment of LIC passes through in FY22, the government might be ending the fiscal with a large cash balance of Rs 3 lakh crore.”

More on LIC IPO here

NEWS IN CLUES
5. Which country boasts the longest coastline in the world?
  • Clue 1: While it’s the largest country in the Western hemisphere, it’s the second largest in the world after Russia.
  • Clue 2: It also shares the longest border in the world not patrolled by military forces.
  • Clue 3: The G7 member is among the three hosts for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

Scroll below for answer

6. Centre to introduce new laws for commodities
  • What: The union commerce ministry has proposed to replace decades-old laws on tea, coffee, spices and rubber with new legislations that would promote growth and new businesses. The ministry has sought views of the stakeholders on the draft bills on its website.
  • The laws: Tea Act, 1953; Spices Board Act, 1986; Rubber Act 1947; and Coffee Act 1942 will be repealed and replaced with Tea (Promotion and Development) Bill, 2022; Spices (Promotion and Development) Bill, 2022; Rubber (Promotion and Development) Bill, 2022; and Coffee (Promotion and Development) Bill, 2022.
  • The intend: According to the draft bills, the acts are “repealed and a new legislation is enacted to reflect the present realities and objectives”. For instance, the new tea promotion bill says “the legal regime has to be enabled to address several areas of modern functions of the tea board namely, support for production, quality improvement, promotion of tea and skill development of tea growers.”
  • More… Similar changes will be made to the coffee board, spices board, and rubber board. According to a report, the new boards will also seek to promote the sale and consumption of commodities such as tea including through e-commerce platforms. Punitive sections empowering the Tea Board to take over any garden if the management was not up to the mark will also be changed.
  • The big picture: The union government’s move to introduce reforms in the crop and staple agriculture market had failed due to immense, year-long opposition from farmers. On the new bill, tea trade unions have stated the hurried way the comments are sought on the Tea (Development and Promotion) Bill defeats the purpose of informed democratic participation in the decision-making processes.
7. Five terrorists, including JeM commander Wani, gunned down in J&K
  • Five terrorists, affiliated to Pakistan-based terror outfits Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), were killed in two separate operations by security forces in the Budgam and Pulwama districts of Jammu and Kashmir, police said on Sunday.
  • The big success: Among the dead terrorists was JeM commander Zahid Wani. He was arrested in Srinagar in 2016 for harbouring two Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen terrorists. Extremely radical and a hardcore Jihadi, Wani had arranged camouflage gear for the two.
  • Wani was also involved in the Letpura IED incident in which more than 40 CRPF cadres had died on Feb. 14, 2019. He became the top Jaish commander in south Kashmir after security forces killed Pulwama attack mastermind, Sameer Dar, last year.
  • Wani’s killing is expected to impact the remaining JeM terrorists operating in the Valley as he provided planning and leadership. Local recruitment in JeM may see a drop in the coming days since Wani was also actively involved in getting young boys on board.
  • In January alone: Kashmir’s inspector general of police Vijay Kumar said a total of 21 terrorists, including eight from Pakistan, have been killed in 11 encounters this month so far.
8. More relief for homebuyers who get the short end
  • Homebuyers of flats that do not have occupation certificates (OC) because of the delay on the part of builders need not pay maintenance fee until the required certificate is issued, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission has ruled.
  • The apex consumer forum held that homebuyers will be liable to pay maintenance charges for their flats only after the builder gets an Occupancy Certificate from the civic authority. It said if the builder fails to get OC then it means that the project is not yet fully complete and it would be considered only as “paper possession” if the flat is handed over to the buyers.
  • The NCDRC made the ruling on a plea by 15 homebuyers from Bengaluru who had to pay maintenance charged for two years in advance while taking possession of the flats that did not get the required certificates despite a delay of six years.
  • The forum relied upon a recent judgment by the Supreme Court in January and an earlier verdict of the Commission to back the homebuyers. The advance maintenance charge so far collected should be adjusted towards the maintenance charge to be paid by the buyers post receipt of Occupancy Certificate, it said.
9. Man United’s rising star accused of assaulting woman
  • Manchester United’s emerging footballer Mason Greenwood, 20, has been accused of assaulting a woman. The allegations, accompanied by video, photographs and voice notes, were published on Instagram before being deleted.
  • Greater Manchester Police said it was “aware of images and videos circulating on social media” and are working to “establish the full circumstances”.
  • Manchester United in a statement said the young footballer will not return to training or play matches “until further notice”. In an earlier statement, the club had said: “We will not make any further comment until the facts have been established. Manchester United does not condone violence of any kind.”
  • The 20-year-old forward made his debut for the club in March 2019 and signed a four-year deal last February after rising through the ranks of the club academy. He has played 18 league matches this season, scoring five goals.
Answer to NEWS IN CLUES

Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family have left their home in the Capital Ottawa and shifted to a secret location after a large-scale protest opposing Covid-19 vaccine mandates converged on Parliament Hill, media reported. What started as a protest dubbed as ‘Freedom Convoy’ against a vaccine requirement for cross-border truckers has grown into a large demonstration against the Trudeau government’s coronavirus regulations.

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Research: Rajesh Sharma



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Times Top10: Today’s Top News Headlines and Latest News from India & across the World


Box

5 THINGS FIRST

PM Modi leaves for 5-day US visit; Foreign affairs minister S Jaishankar to take part in the G4 foreign ministers meet; CBI, ED officers summoned by West Bengal Speaker; IPL: DC vs SRH; AFC Cup semifinal: Nasaf Quarshi vs ATK Mohun Bagan

1. What’s in a (brand) name? Ask the UK and India
India on Tuesday threatened retaliation against the UK’s “discriminatory” action to consider people who have been administered both doses of Covishield Covid-19 vaccine as unvaccinated and hence, not ease travel restrictions for them.

India’s riposte

  • Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said that India had “raised the discriminatory nature of UK vaccine recognition for AstraZeneca but not Covishield” and if the UK didn’t reverse its decision, India would be well within its “rights to take reciprocal action.”
  • Foreign minister S Jaishankar also raised the issue with his British counterpart, UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and “urged early resolution of quarantine issue in mutual interest.”

India’s grouse

  • Last week, the UK issued new travel rules, effective October 4, that placed India in the red list of countries where the Covid-19 vaccines being used to inoculate the population are not recognised or considered approved by UK authorities — meaning travellers from India will have to undergo a compulsory 10-day quarantine on arrival in the UK. While majority of the Indians have been vaccinated using Covishield, a version of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine Vaxzevria, the UK only recognises the latter brand name, along with vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen.

Why the discrimination

  • Even though Covishield is biologically identical to Vaxzevria, it is manufactured in India by Serum Institute of India (SII) under licence from AstraZeneca. A different brand name and a different manufacturer makes it imperative for SII to seek regulatory approval from the relevant authorities by supplying its own efficacy data.
  • The European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) ‘vaccine passport’ programme that came into effect from July, also left out Covishield while including Vaxzevria as SII, which had been busy trying to ramp up its production to meet its Indian and globals commitments, hadn’t bothered submitting an approval application for Covishield to the EMA.
2. Macron reaches out to India amidst tiff with US, Aus
File pictureIndia and France vowed to “act jointly in an open and inclusive Indo-Pacific area” following talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron.
  • In an indirect reference to China, the two also agreed to promote “regional stability and the rule of law, while ruling out any form of hegemony,” a French statement said.
  • The two leaders also discussed the recent developments in Afghanistan and shared their concerns about the possible spread of terrorism, narcotics, illicit weapons and human trafficking, an Indian statement said.

Context:

  • The phone call was held ahead of Modi’s US visit for the UN General Assembly (UNGA) and a meeting of the Quad leaders, where Chinese aggression and Afghanistan are on the agenda.
  • It also comes amidst French anger over the US-UK-Australia deal to help the latter build nuclear-powered submarines. That deal meant Australia scrapped a $66 billion contract with France to build 12 conventional submarines. India already has a relationship with the French Naval Group, which is helping it build 6 scorpene class conventional submarines.

Over at UNGA…

  • US President Joe Biden said the US can cooperate with China on climate change even as the two compete economically and ideologically. Biden also defended the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, saying the US was closing an era of endless war to open “a new era of relentless diplomacy”.
  • Modi and Biden are to hold bilateral talks on September 24.

Also: Just walk the walk…

  • K-Pop band BTS released a music video of ‘Permission to Dance‘, shot at the General Assembly hall, to promote the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

3. Net freedom continues to decline in India
  • Internet users in a record number of countries have faced arrest and physical attacks for their posts over the past year, revealed the annual Freedom on the Net report compiled by US thinktank from Freedom House, as online rights declined globally for the 11th year in a row.
  • The 2021 survey gave 70 countries a score out of 100 for the level of internet freedom enjoyed by citizens, including the extent to which they face restrictions on the content they can access. Other factors included whether pro-government trolls seek to manipulate online debates.
  • Globally: While China ranked as the worst environment for internet freedom for the seventh year in a row, the greatest deteriorations were documented in Myanmar, Belarus, and Uganda, where state forces cracked down amid electoral and constitutional crises. Myanmar’s 14-point score decline is the largest registered since the Freedom on the Net project began. Full report here.
  • And India? With the second-largest number of internet subscribers in the world after China, the country figured in the bottom 30 with internet freedom weakening for a fourth straight year.
  • Labelled ‘partly free’, its internet freedom score dropped from 51/100 last year to 49/100. (‘0’ meaning least free and ‘100’ meaning most free.) The three categories used to assess freedom were obstacles to access (11/25), limits on content (21/35) and violations of user rights (17/40). Full India analysis here.
4. Airports authority to exit joint ventures
  • The Airports Authority of India (AAI) will soon exit the joint ventures tjhat operate some of the biggest airports in the country, the TOI reports. The state-run firm has a 26% stake each in Delhi and Mumbai airports and 13% each in Hyderabad and Bengaluru.
  • The union aviation ministry has moved a Cabinet note seeking the approval to divest the stake, and the process is likely to start with Bengaluru and Hyderabad. Mumbai and Delhi may follow in the second phase.
  • The union government has been on a busy streak of privatisation, and Adani Group has emerged as the largest private operator in the country. The Group won the bid to operate six airports that were previously under the AAI: Ahmedabad, Lucknow, Mangaluru, Jaipur, Guwahati and Thiruvananthapuram. It also acquired a 74% stake in the Mumbai International Airport (from GVK and other investors), which operates the Mumbai airport and has the rights to the upcoming Navi Mumbai international airport.
  • Earlier this month, AAI cleared a plan to privatise 13 more airports by clubbing seven small airports with six big ones: Varanasi with Kushinagar and Gaya; Amritsar with Kangra; Bhubaneswar with Tirupati; Raipur with Aurangabad; Indore with Jabalpur and Trichy with Hubli.
  • According to the National Asset Monetisation Pipeline prepared by the NITI Aayog recently, the government aims to raise Rs 20,782 crore through aviation assets in FY22-25 by privatising 25 AAI airports and selling AAI’s stake in JV airports.
  • AAI has earned approximately Rs 30,069 crore till 2020-21 from its joint venture airports and public-private partnership (PPP) airports being run by private entities, union minister of state for civil aviation V.K Singh told Lok Sabha recently.

Meanwhile, Gautam Adani said his conglomerate will invest over $20 billion in clean energy over the next 10 years, including in power generation, transmission and distribution, and component manufacturing, as India’s two richest men — Mukesh Ambani had announced a similar outlay for Reliance Industries — steer their businesses in line with the government’s renewable energy goals.

6. Women to be inducted into NDA next year, says Centre
  • The Ministry of Defence (MoD) on Tuesday informed the Supreme Court (SC) that a notification to allow women to sit for the National Defence Academy (NDA) examination will be issued next year in May. Last month, in an interim order, the court had said that women will be allowed to appear for the NDA which was earlier scheduled for September 5 but was rescheduled for November 24.
  • In its affidavit filed before the SC, the MoD argued that it needed reasonable time to formulate policies for the intake of women candidates such as determining the medical standards taking into account their age and nature of training, fixing the intake strength, formulation of training standards for women and building of physical infrastructure such as residential quarters for women with strict physical separation, including separate bathroom cubicles.
  • The MoD in its affidavit added that “any dilution of physical training and service subject like firing, etc. would invariably impact the battle worthiness of the Armed Forces adversely.” Earlier this month, the Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Aishwarya Bhati, while submitting that the Centre had decided to “induct girls for permanent commission”, urged the court to “consider granting status quo for this examination and let it continue as it will need policy, procedure, training and infrastructure changes.”
7. Will Ola, Uber, Zomato and Swiggy pay PF & pension to their workers?
  • “Gig workers” of companies such as cab aggregators Ola and Uber, as also food delivery apps like Swiggy and Zomato have filed a petition in the Supreme Court (SC) seeking social security benefits from the companies under the Unorganised Workers’ Social Welfare Security Act, 2008. Social security benefits include provident fund, gratuity, old age pension, health and life insurance, among other things.
  • Contending that “denial of social security to the said “gig workers” and the “platform workers” has resulted in their exploitation through forced labour”, the petition argued that “the right to livelihood includes the right to work on decent and fair conditions of work.”
  • The petitioners have been emboldened by the ruling by a UK court earlier this year which said that Uber’s “drivers were rightly found to be “workers”” as they were “in a position of subordination and dependency in relation to Uber such that they have little or no ability to improve their economic position through professional or entrepreneurial skill.”
  • Last year, a French court had also ruled against Uber, observing that “the driver does not provide services as a self-employed person, but as an employee” as after “connecting to the Uber digital platform, a relationship of subordination is established between the driver and the company.”
  • Gig workers are usually designated as ‘partners’ by the aggregators which enables companies to get away with no fixed base salary. Zomato, for instance, pays a measly Rs 20 per order to its delivery personnel, if it’s within four kilometres (km), with an extra Rs 5 per km for distances beyond that. However, the delivery boys or girls have to spend out of their own pocket on expenses such as fuel and data plans for their phones.
  • Highlighting this aspect, the petition said that the partnership “contracts are a mere device to disguise the nature of relationship, which is de-jure and de-facto relationship of employer and worker being a contract of employment” or like that of a “master and servant.”
8. A tale of two young pacers
Tyagi (right) & Arshdeep
  • Punjab Kings (PBKS) needed just four off the last over with eight wickets in hand to seal a much-needed victory against Rajasthan Royals (RR) on Tuesday. Little had anyone imagined that Kartik Tyagi, who had starred for India at the U-19 World Cup in 2020 as a teenager, would do a near impossible on the IPL field.
  • Having gone wicketless for 28 in his three previous overs, the 20-year-old pacer sent down five dot balls, removing well set batsman Nicholas Pooran and Deepak Hooda — both caught behind — in the process, off the third and fifth balls. The solitary run he conceded was off the second ball as another set batsman Aiden Markram went off strike. Tyagi also joined Munaf Patel for the fewest runs — 4 — successfully defended in the final over of an IPL game. Out of the contest for 19 overs, PBKS had choked against the opponents’ most inexperienced bowler.
  • Earlier, 28-year-old pacer Arshdeep Singh picked up his maiden IPL five-wicket haul as Punjab Kings restricted RR to below 200, which looked a certainty after solid cameos from Yashaswi Jaiswal, Evin Lewis, Liam Livingstone and Mahipal Lomror. It wasn’t just his best figures in an IPL game, he also became the third-youngest player to take an IPL five-for.
  • Before the innings, Arshdeep had taken 13 of his 22 IPL wickets in the death overs. On Tuesday, he picked up three of his five scalps in the last four overs as Punjab conceded only 49 conceded in the last 36 balls along with seven wickets.
  • Scorecard: RR 185 (Jaiswal 49, Lomror 43, Arshdeep 5/32) beat PBKS 183/4 (Mayank 67, Rahul 49, Tyagi 2/29) by 2 runs
9. Trudeau survives an election gamble, but misses his mark
  • Justin Trudeau secured a third term as the prime minister of Canada after his Liberal Party won the most seats in the snap election called two years before schedule, a gamble Trudeau hoped would reward him with an outright majority in the parliament based on his pandemic track record. Trudeau, 49, has been in power since 2015.
  • But that was not to be. The results left him more or less where he was. The Liberal Party was leading or elected in 158 seats — one more than they won in 2019, and 12 short of the 170 needed for a majority in the House of Commons.
  • The gamble to call an early election amidst a pandemic was pilloried by the opposition parties, particularly the conservatives. Those criticisms and some recent controversies played a spoilsport in Trudeau’s calculations.
  • Voters picked Liberals over the Conservatives, whose leader Erin O’Toole had opposed lockdown and vaccine mandates. The Conservatives were leading or elected in 119 seats, two less than 2019. The leftist New Democrats, led by Jagmeet Singh, were leading or elected in 25, while the Bloc Québécois were leading or elected in 34 seats and the Greens were down to two.
Answer to NEWS IN CLUES

Indian Air Force. The government on Tuesday appointed Air Marshal VR Chaudhari (in pic), presently the Vice Chief of Air Staff, as the next Chief of Air Staff. Chaudhari will take charge as the next Chief of Air Staff after the retirement of Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria on September 30.

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Written by: Rakesh Rai, Judhajit Basu, Sumil Sudhakaran, Tejeesh N.S. Behl
Research: Rajesh Sharma



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