1. Daily cases hit record 40k, 21% of India’s cases came this week
1. Daily cases hit record 40k, 21% of India’s cases came this week
  • More than 40,000 fresh Covid-19 infections were reported on Sunday, capping India’s deadliest week of the pandemic so far, during which 238,000 cases were reported, accounting for 21% of all cases detected in the country so far. As many as 673 deaths were reported on Sunday, taking the week’s toll to 4,285 — 16% of all Covid-related fatalities so far. The week also saw the sharpest rise in active cases, with more than 88,000 being added, taking the active caseload to 390,000. Recoveries rose by 145,000 but the sharp rise in cases led to a slight dip in the recovery rate, which was close to 62.5%.
  • India’s total caseload crossed the 1.1 million mark, three days after going past 1 million, per data collated from state governments. Fresh cases on Sunday totalled 40,363, a sharp rise from the previous peak of 38,141, recorded just a day earlier. The week’s cumulative count of cases, at 238,000, was 31% higher than the previous week’s total of 181,000.
  • Further, India’s fatality rate is “progressively falling” and is now below 2.5% for the first time, the health ministry said on Sunday. Currently, India’s case fatality rate (CFR) is at 2.49%. There are 29 states and UTs with a CFR lower than the national average. Of these, five — Manipur, Nagaland, Sikkim, Mizoram and Andaman and Nicobar Islands — have zero CFR. Whereas 14 others have a rate of less than 1%.


  • Finally, there have been complaints of ambulances charging Covid patients as much as a flight to Europe to cover distances as small as 10-15 km. Yet, few state governments, barring Punjab and Maharashtra, have stepped in to regulate charges. Even where caps have been fixed, there have been instances of their being flouted. This after the Maharashtra government was forced to step in towards the end of June after several cases came to light at the peak of the pandemic in Mumbai of people being forced to pay up to Rs 30,000 for an ambulance to ferry them 10-15 km, roughly Rs 3,000 per km. In Pune, a Covid patient was charged Rs 8,000 for 7 km within the city in the last week of June. More in graphic below.



Rajasthan HC to hear petition filed by Sachin Pilot and Congress MLAs against Speaker’s disqualification notice; SC expected to hear AGR dues issue of telecom companies; Apex court to also hear pleas seeking court-monitored probe into Vikas Dubey gang encounters; Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine phase 1 trial data to be released; ICC executive board meeting

2. Also in focus in Rajasthan: A speaker’s power
2. Also in focus in Rajasthan: A speaker’s power
  • Rajasthan’s assembly speaker could decide on the disqualification of Sachin Pilot and 18 other Congress MLAs on Tuesday, provided the High Court does not rule against it today. The issue thus has once again brought to the fore the powers vested in the speaker of the house, specifically on disqualification of a rebel MLA.
  • The 10th schedule of the constitution empowers the speaker or the chairman of the house to disqualify a legislator if: a) he or she has given up the membership of the party or b) votes or abstains from voting in such House contrary to any direction issued by his/her political party.
  • Recently, the Supreme Court said it is in favour of a review of those powers since a speaker “continues to belong to a particular political party either de jure or de facto”. The apex court made that remark when ruling on the case of disqualification of a Manipur legislator who switched loyalty from the Congress to BJP. The SC said, “It is time Parliament had a rethink on whether disqualification petitions ought to be entrusted to a Speaker as a quasi-judicial authority”.
  • The SC had made a similar remark last November while upholding the disqualification of 17 MLAs of Karnataka. The bench headed by Justice NV Ramana said: “There is a growing trend of the Speaker acting against the constitutional duty of being neutral”. Justice Ramana even suggested the Speaker’s decision under the 10th schedule could be subject to judicial review. The 10th schedule, though, says “no court shall have any jurisdiction in respect of any matter connected with the disqualification of a member of a House under this Schedule”.
  • Courts of the past have, however, upheld those powers. In 2004, in “Mahachandra Prasad Singh vs Chairman, Bihar Legislative”, Supreme Court had said a speaker’s decision “can be challenged on very limited grounds, namely, violation of constitutional mandate, mala fides, non-compliance with rules of natural justice and perversity.” Yet the issue continues to crop up. In 2016, in a case of disqualification of a Telangana MLA, SC had spoken of the need for a larger bench to rule on 10th schedule. That has not yet been followed through.

Meanwhile, the Congress Sunday demanded the resignation of Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat over the audio recording that purportedly showed him discussing plans to topple the Ashok Gehlot government.

3. Monsoon fury continues
3. Monsoon fury continues
  • Assam: The death toll due to floods and landslides this year in the state has increased to 110, with 84 dying in flood-related incidents, the Assam State Disaster Management Authority informed on Sunday. The deluge has now affected nearly 2.53 million people in 24 of the 33 districts. At present, 2,400 villages are under water and more than 112,000 hectares of crop area have been damaged across the state.
  • The Brahmaputra river is flowing above the danger mark at Dhubri and Goalpara cities, besides at Nimatighat in Jorhat and Tezpur in Sonitpur districts. Its tributaries are also flowing above danger levels at various places. The Central Water Commission has said there is the likelihood of heavy to very heavy rain at a few places and isolated extremely heavy rainfall over Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya as well in the next two days.


  • Delhi: One person drowned in his Tata Ace truck after getting stuck under a flooded Minto Bridge, a child lost his life at a Chhat ghat, many buses were stuck in railway underbridges (see above pic) and several houses in a slum were washed away near ITO (visuals here and here) as a waterlogged Capital was brought down to its knees in the heavy downpour early on Sunday. Tall claims of having achieved the desilting targets despite lockdown restrictions went down the drain on the very first day of heavy rain of the season.
  • Bihar: In Bihar, 10 people were killed in lightning strikes during a thunderstorm in seven districts of the state, officials said. Three casualties were reported from Purnea, two from Begusarai and one each from Patna, Saharsa, East Champaran, Madhepura and Darbhanga districts, they added. More than 160 people have died due to lightning strikes in the state in the past three weeks.
  • Uttarakhand: Five houses were damaged and livestock was washed away in Munsyari’s Chhoribagar village after heavy monsoon rains poured throughout Saturday night and the Gori river overflowed.
  • PM Narendra Modi on Sunday spoke to the chief ministers of seven states to take stock of the flood situation, including Sarbananda Sonowal in Assam. Modi assured the Assam CM of all support while dealing with the floods.
4. Bangladeshi nationals lynched in Assam
4. Bangladeshi nationals lynched in Assam
  • Three Bangladeshi nationals accused of cattle smuggling were lynched in Assam, The New Indian Express and The Hindu report. The incident occurred around Saturday midnight in Assam’s Karimganj district, which borders Bangladesh. Four others who had accompanied them escaped, the reports said. Kumar Sanjit Krishna, the district’s Superintendent of Police, said the incident occurred at the Bogrijan Tea Estate. He said an enquiry revealed that the Bangladeshi nationals “crossed the border with a motive to steal cows”.
  • The local police have recovered the three bodies and will hand them over to Bangladesh authorities through the Border Security Force, reports said. This is the second such incident in Assam in recent times. On Jun 3, news agency PTI reported that a suspected Bangladeshi cattle smuggler was lynched at the Putni Tea Estate in Karimganj; his accomplice was arrested by the police, the report said. The body of the deceased was later handed over to the Border Guards Bangladesh.
  • The vigilantism is taking place even as relations between India and Bangladesh are on a rough patch. Last year, following the contentious citizenship amendment bill, Bangladesh foreign minister AK Abdul Momen had cancelled a trip to India. Recently he expressed displeasure over the “demeaning” and “unacceptable” report by an Indian TV channel on the economic ties between Bangladesh and China. Note: Effective July 1, Beijing has offered a 97% tariff exemption on products from Bangladesh, as it seeks to strengthen its ties with Dhaka amid tensions with India.
6. Can TikTok leave China behind?
6. Can TikTok leave China behind?
TikTok, owned by Bytedance, is reportedly considering a change in its corporate structure to underscore its independence from the Chinese government. This follows US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s statement that the US could ban the app like India has done, though experts say there are few legal provisions to do so.

But decoupling from China is not be easy for TikTok

  • On Sunday, British publication The Times said TikTok has halted its talks with the British government over possibly moving its headquarters to London. The Times reports that Bytedance had been in talks with the UK’s Department for International Trade and with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office for several months to set up a 3,000-employee strong London base. But Britain’s recent decision to freeze out Huawei from its 5G network has derailed the talks, the report said. Beijing has warned of retaliatory measures against the UK following the Huawei decision.
  • Earlier, the Wall Street Journal had reported that TikTok was considering a headquarters outside China. The report suggested the presence of US investors such as Coatue Management and Sequoia Capital in Bytedance as possible factors. Also note: TikTok recently hired former Disney executive Kevin Mayer as its new CEO. Mayer works out of Los Angeles.
  • But reports also say any decision short of Bytedance selling TikTok to a non-Chinese company is unlikely to please the US administration. There is a recent precedent here. Last year, the US Committee on Foreign Investment had forced the sale of gay dating app Grindr, ruling its Chinese ownership posed a national security risk; it said this exposes US government employees to potential blackmail by the Chinese government.
  • Selling TikTok, though, is not easy. No other product in Bytdance’s portfolio has had the kind of international success TikTok has had. Bytedance, valued at around $150 billion in the secondary market, is said to be considering an IPO, and a loss of its marquee product would markedly undervalue the company.
  • Also, as Ben Thompson of Stratchery explains, TikTok’s trump card isn’t the platform itself, but the underlying artificial intelligence and recommendations that enable even a video by a novice to go viral. That’s AI smarts designed and owned by Bytedance — the company first deployed the algorithm successfully in its popular Chinese news platform, Toutiao.
7. Mars ahoy!
7. Mars ahoy!
  • Mars is about to be invaded by planet Earth — big time! Three countries — the UAE, China and the US — are sending unmanned spacecraft to the Red Planet in quick succession. Their goal is not to find Martian life — scientists believe nothing would survive there now — but to search for possible traces of past lifeforms. (Astrobiologists say Mars is still our best hope for finding a record of life on other planets.)
  • The first to lift off was the UAE spacecraft named Al Amal (Arabic for ‘hope’). The orbiter was launched from Japan late on Sunday night, 1:58 UAE time (0328 IST), on what was the Arab world’s first interplanetary mission. The spacecraft — whose launch was delayed twice from the original July 15 date — has been built in partnership with the University of Colorado Boulder.
  • China will be up next, with the flight of a rover and an orbiter sometime around July 23; Chinese officials aren’t divulging much. The mission is named Tianwen-1, (‘Tianwen’ means ‘Questions for Heaven’). NASA, meanwhile, is shooting for a launch of Perseverance on July 30 from Cape Canaveral.
  • Each spacecraft will travel more than 483 million km before reaching Mars next February. It takes six to seven months, at the minimum, for a spacecraft to loop out beyond Earth’s orbit and sync up with Mars’ more distant orbit around the Sun.
  • The three nearly simultaneous launches are no coincidence: The timing is dictated by the opening of a one-month window in which Mars and Earth are in ideal alignment on the same side of the Sun, which minimises travel time and fuel use. Such a window opens only once every 26 months.
  • Note: Only the US has successfully put a spacecraft on Mars, doing it eight times, beginning with the twin Vikings in 1976. Two NASA landers are now operating there, InSight and Curiosity. Six other spacecraft are exploring the planet from orbit: three American, two European and India’s Mangalyaan.
8. Mixed day for India’s grandmasters
8. Mixed day for India’s grandmasters
  • Indian Grandmaster Pentala Harikrishna has won the Chess960 event of the 53rd Biel International Chess Festival in Switzerland. It is the first major chess tournament taking place over the board since the Covid-19 outbreak, with the players separated on the board by a plexiglas panel and the pieces and the clock and board being disinfected after each game.
  • The World No. 26 from Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, who is now living in Prague, remained unbeaten through the seven rounds and benefitted from the loss of Poland’s Radoslaw Wojtaszek in the final round to Swiss player Noel Studer to claim the top spot with 5.5 points. Fifteen-year-old German Vincent Keymer came second with 5 points.
  • In Chess960, a format invented by the late World champion Bobby Fischer, the game is played with the pieces randomly shuffled on the back rank of either player, because of which the advantage of opening theory is minimised.
  • And Harikrishna (in pic) started with a draw against England’s Michael Adams. The 34-year-old then posted wins over Alexander Donchenko and Studer in the second and third rounds, respectively. He then settled for draws against Keymer and Wojtaszek in rounds four and five, before victories in the next two rounds over Romain Edouard and Spain’s David Anton Guijjaro, the highest ranked player in the tournament, saw him emerge triumphant.
  • However, Koneru Humpy, India’s top player (ranked No. 2) and current women’s world rapid chess champion lost to former world champion Alexandra Kosteniuk of Russia 5-7 in the fourth and final leg of the Women’s Speed Chess Championships, played online on Sunday.
9. World roundup: Yet another explosion in Iran
9. World roundup: Yet another explosion in Iran
  • An explosion rocked a power plant in Iran’s central Isfahan province, the state-run IRNA news agency reported on Sunday. The report quoted the managing director of the power plant in Islamabad, Iran, as saying the cause was “wear and tear” of a transformer. No casualties were reported. There have been several explosions in Iran since June, hitting military, nuclear and industrial facilities. Tehran has attributed these explosions to accidents, but the statements have done little to douse the rumours. Early this month, a previously unknown group called Homeland Cheetahs, which said it comprises dissidents in Iran’s military and security establishment, claimed responsibility for the explosion at a building in a nuclear facility complex.
  • A United Nations agency acknowledged Sunday that a US-sought oil tanker (in pic) “hijacked” off the coast of the United Arab Emirates after allegedly smuggling Iranian crude oil is back in Iranian waters. The International Labor Organization said that the MT Gulf Sky was hijacked July 5, citing its captain. Its 28 Indian crew members disembarked in Iran and all but two of the crew without passports flew from Tehran to India on July 15, it added.
  • In Kuwait, a debate over succession has surfaced after the country’s 91-year-old ruler underwent a “successful” surgery Sunday. Kuwait has yet to elaborate what required Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah to seek treatment, but a ministerial decree has entrusted “temporary” responsibilities of the oil-rich nation with 83-year-old Crown Prince Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Sabah state-run KUNA news agency said, the Associated Press reports.
10. Hamilton takes championship lead
10.  Hamilton takes championship lead

Lewis Hamilton won the Hungarian Grand Prix, his second a row this season, to take the lead in the drivers’ championship on Sunday. This was also Hamilton’s eighth win at the Hungaroring circuit and 86th overall. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen finished second despite crashing into a tyre wall in a warm-up lap 20 minutes ahead of the race, damaging the front wing and suspension. Red Bull engineers salvaged the car in the time permitted to get the young racer on to the grid.


Joe Biden. The Democratic presumptive presidential nominee, if elected to power in the November elections, will help shape international bodies like the United Nations so that India gets a permanent seat on the Security Council, said Richard Verma, the former US Ambassador to India (2014-17). “He would fulfill its [India’s] status as a major defence partner,” Verma added. “He [Biden] would work together with India to keep our citizens collectively safe. That means standing up against cross-border terrorism and standing with India when its neighbours attempt to change the status quo.” India was recently elected a non-permanent member for a two-year term starting Jan. 1, 2021.

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


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