ASI monuments and museums reopen; SC verdict on PIL alleging preferential listing of cases; Nepal’s communist party meet to decide PM Oli’s fate; Delhi High Court to hear pleas related to Jamia violence during anti-CAA protests; Sovereign Gold Bond scheme opens for subscription

1. India overtakes Russia to become third worst Covid-hit nation
1. India overtakes Russia to become third worst Covid-hit nation
  • India now has the third highest Covid-19 caseload in the world after overtaking Russia on Sunday, even as new infections rose to another record high of nearly 25,000 during the day. India also recorded 421 new deaths, taking the toll to over 2,300 in the five days of July alone. Total Covid-19 cases recorded in India stood at 697,887 late on Sunday, per data collated from state governments. During the course of the day, the count went past Russia’s current caseload of 681,251, according to the Worldometers website. With this, only the US and Brazil have recorded higher Covid-19 cases than India.
  • As many as 24,912 new cases were detected in India on Sunday, taking the count in the five days of July so far to over 100,000. June, the worst month of the pandemic in the country so far, had witnessed a little over 400,000 cases. Fresh cases have touch record highs on each of the past four days.
  • With the daily tally of infections in Assam (1,202 new cases) and Uttar Pradesh (1,155) crossing 1,000 for the first time, a record seven states reported daily counts in four figures on Sunday. Maharashtra led with 6,555.
  • The recovery rate in 21 states and UTs, including Delhi, Gujarat and UP, was higher than the national average of 60.77%, the health ministry said. On Sunday, the ministry recorded 244,814 active cases in the country. Recovered cases exceeded active cases by 164,268 as of Sunday, the ministry said. And during the last 24 hours, 14,856 Covid-19 patients were cured.
  • A fresh controversy erupted over India’s Covid-19 vaccine timelines with a department of science and technology (DST) press release first mentioning and then deleting a reference to the antidote being unlikely to be ready for mass use before 2021. Days after an ICMR communication to participating institutes that the Bharat Biotech vaccine should be ready for launch for public health use by August 15 sparked concerns over ethical and medical issues, the print-and-retract fiasco only made matters worse for the government.
  • Finally, amid growing fears of community transmission, the Kerala government has amended the Epidemic Diseases Act to make wearing masks mandatory and ban public spitting. Any violation of the new clauses will result in a fine of up to Rs 10,000 and a jail term of two years. Late on Sunday, Thiruvananthapuram was brought under “triple lockdown” for a week, starting 6:00 am today. The situation in Kochi is dire too.


2. Meanwhile at the borders …
2. Meanwhile at the borders …
  • Better roads: Amidst the ongoing border stand-off with China, the government has increased the allocation for maintenance of border roads from Rs 30 crore to Rs 120 crore for this year. The ministry for road transport and highways has also increased the ceiling for sanction of new national highway works in border states. In Ladakh for example, works up to Rs 589 crore can be approved against the earlier cap of Rs 72 crore.
  • A new worry: On Saturday, the Chinese foreign ministry said the China-Bhutan boundary has never been delimited and there “have been disputes over the eastern, central and western sections for a long time”, cautioning “third party” (read India) to refrain from stepping into the breach. On June 29, China objected to Bhutan’s application for a grant from the Global Environment Facility Council for the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary situated in eastern Bhutan, saying it was “disputed territory. Sakteng lies in a zone of Bhutan that borders Arunachal Pradesh and China. In 2017, Chinese troops had intruded into Doklam plateau which is Bhutanese territory, leading Indian forces to show up in strength to prevent China from building a road up to the Jhamperi ridge.
  • Old new front: Pakistan continues with its incessant ceasefire violations and attempts to push militants across the line of control. India has recorded over 2,250 ceasefire violations (CFVs) along the 778-km LoC by Pakistan already this year, while its security forces have killed around 130 terrorists – almost 50 in June alone — in counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir. There were 3,479 CFVs and firings across both the LoC and the 198-km international border in J&K in 2019, which was the highest number recorded since 2003.
  • An exchange: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday called on President Ram Nath Kovind, the supreme commander of the armed forces, and “briefed him on issues of national and international importance”. This was the PM’s first meeting with the President since the border tensions began.
3. A challenging session for India’s Opposition
3. A challenging session for India’s Opposition
  • The session: The monsoon session of Parliament may be convened in the last week of August or by early September instead of mid-July as is usually the case. It is also likely to be a hybrid session where some lawmakers are physically present while others join online.
  • The rules: The budget session ended on March 23 and according to rules, there should not be a gap of more than six months between two sessions. This means the session can be convened anytime till September 23.
  • The demand: The Opposition wants the session to be held in July, as the country is facing challenges on multiple fronts – the pandemic, the economy and the Chinese aggression and the confrontation in the Galwan valley – that need to be debated. A prolonged absence of proceedings does away with the legislature’s checks and oversight of the executive, they say.
  • The hurdles: The session is unlikely to be totally virtual due to the “capacity constraints” of the National Informatics Centre, which has only 500 dedicated lines to enable MPs’ virtual participation while it needs nearly 800. While the UK’s House of Commons, that has gone for a hybrid sitting, is using Zoom, that is unlikely to be accepted as a platform in India. Translating the proceedings in real time for those connected online will also be a challenge. Passing legislation virtually will bring in a fresh set of challenges on how to conduct voting and prevent hacking. There also needs to be clarity on online procedures though that can be handled through a few mock sessions.
  • The debate: While it will be tough for the chair of the two Houses keeping an eye on all members (some present physically some online) to ascertain who wants to intervene or speak, the bigger impact will be on how the Opposition opposes in Parliament. The Opposition MPs will not be able to force adjournments or cause disruptions by rushing into the well of the House, holding placards, interrupting speakers, shouting slogans, or staging a walkout. “Any protest or attempt to disrupt could be controlled remotely,” BJD MP Bhartruhari Mahtab told The Economic Times. The Opposition’s main worry will be whether an enforced orderliness online will be perceived as a lack of aggression on their part and give the government a leg up in the proceedings though it can still bank on effective debates to put points across.
4. Why are states taking Centre to court so often?
4. Why are states taking Centre to court so often?
  • Over an auction: The Jharkhand government last week escalated its difference with Centre on coal mine auction to the level of Centre-State dispute by filing a suit in Supreme Court to assert its ownership right over the mines. The state says that a perfunctory and meaningless meeting between Centre and states was held in February, but the Union government did not consider Jharkhand’s objections including displacement of tribals and that auctions conducted now won’t get the best price due to the depressed economic situation. The suit ensures that SC will be the sole arbiter of the issues raised by it.
  • Over relief funds: Last month, the Rajasthan government filed a Centre-State dispute case in SC seeking a direction to the Centre that on the lines of the PM CARES Fund, the contributions made to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund be also included as the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) expenditure under the Companies Act.
  • Over policing powers: The Chhattisgarh government had moved the apex court in January seeking to declare the NIA Act, 2008 as unconstitutional. It had alleged that investigations are a state subject, but the Act takes away that power from states.
  • Over citizenship: Another Central act, the Citizenship Amendment Act, was challenged by Kerala in the apex court earlier this year. The state had said that CAA be declared as violative of the principle of equality, freedom and secularism.
  • Over to the court: All these states challenged the laws or Centre’s decisions under Article 131 of the Constitution, which gives the SC the exclusive jurisdiction to decide suits relating to Centre-state and state-state disputes and allows states to approach the apex court directly.
  • Why the escalation? Notice that all these suits have been filed by state governments ruled by opposition parties. A powerful Central government (that has a clear majority in Parliament) and the ruling BJP’s successive losses in assembly polls that shrunk its footprint across states has made opposition-ruled governments more vocal. With these states often accusing the Centre of not consulting them on important matters, some disputes are ending up in courts too.
6. Dubey knew about Kanpur raid, reveals aide
6. Dubey knew about Kanpur raid, reveals aide
  • The Uttar Pradesh Police have arrested Dayashankar Agnihotri, a close associate of gangster Vikas Dubey (in pic), the prime accused in the killing of eight policemen in Kanpur on Friday. The 42-year-old was nabbed on the Kalyanpur-Shivli road during a gunfight in the early hours of Sunday. No police personnel were hurt.
  • And during the interrogation, Agnihotri revealed that Dubey had received a call from the Chaubeypur Police Station informing him of his imminent arrest by a team led by DSP Devendra Mishra — the circle officer of Bilhaur, who was among the eight killed in the incident — on the intervening night of July 2-3. Dubey then called his men for a face-to-face confrontation with the police. Agnihotri said at least 25 people were present with Dubey when the police team approached his house in Kanpur Dehat’s Bikri village (about 14 km away from Chaubeypur). The information has raised worrying questions over spies within the police helping criminals.
  • Data recovered from Dubey’s mobile phone listed the names of 20 police officers. There was evidence of constant contact with at least two cops, including one from the Chaubeypur PS. A sub-inspector, who is under the scanner after the failed raid, has been suspended. Officials probing the case also questioned Vinay Tiwari, station officer of the Chaubeypur PS. He was later suspended and shifted to Lucknow.
  • Also, Dubey’s Dehat Bikri house was demolished on Saturday. And officials said they would seize illegal properties and money in his bank accounts under the Gangster Act, following which Lucknow Police seized the vehicles parked at his residence in the state Capital. Dubey has now evaded arrest for over 50 hours.
  • Elsewhere, the Gautam Buddh Nagar Police has also attached illegal properties, including land and luxury cars worth crores, of dreaded gangsters Sundar Bhati and Anil Dujana and their associates in a crackdown on regional mafia, officials said on Sunday.
7. How will Nepal’s political crisis end?
7. How will Nepal’s political crisis end?
  • The remark: Facing growing demand for his resignation, Nepal’s embattled prime minister KP Sharma Oli has said that the ruling communist party is facing a grave crisis, indicating that it may split soon, according to a media report on Sunday. Oli, at an emergency meeting of the Cabinet, said “now, conspiracies are being hatched to remove me from the post of prime minister and party chairman,” My Republica newspaper quoted a senior leader of the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) as saying.
  • The timing: Oli’s statement comes at a time when the intra-party rift in the NCP is at its peak after a majority of the party’s Standing Committee members and Central Secretariat members demanded his immediate resignation as PM and party chairman, accusing the government of failing to live up to the people’s expectations. On Saturday, a crucial meeting of the NCP’s 45-member powerful Standing Committee to decide the political future of Oli was postponed until today to allow more time for the top leadership to iron out their differences over his style of functioning and anti-India statements.
  • The trigger: The differences between the two factions of the NCP — one led by Oli and the other led by former PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ — intensified after Oli unilaterally decided to prorogue the budget session of Parliament last week. Oli had last week claimed that there have been various kinds of activities in the “embassies and hotels” to remove him from power. He said some Nepalese leaders were also involved in the plot after his government redrew the country’s political map by incorporating three strategically key Indian territories — Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura.
  • A deal: In May 2018, when Oli and Dahal announced formation of the NCP, they had agreed to lead the government in turn, two-and-a-half years each. But according to a November 2019 agreement, Oli would lead the government for the full five-year term and Dahal would run the party as “executive chairman”. Dahal has maintained that Oli failed to uphold the spirit of last year’s agreement, hence he should abide by the May 2018 agreement, making way for him to lead the government. Read the full story here.
8. IPOs too catch Covid
8. IPOs too catch Covid
  • India witnessed all of four initial public offerings (IPOs) worth $2.08 million (Rs 15.5 crore) in the three months ended June as the pandemic impacted economic activities, according to an EY India report. All the IPOs were in the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) segment and the median deal size was $380,000. This after Q2 2019 and Q1 2020 witnessed 14 and 11 IPOs, respectively.
  • “Indian stock exchanges (BSE and NSE including SMEs) ranked seventh in the world in terms of number of IPOs in Q2 of 2020,” the report added. “There were no crossborder deals and there were no IPOs in the main markets.” Similar to global markets, there has not been much activity. And investors and analysts are keeping a close watch on the latest updates provided by companies about their performance as valuations become attractive for deal making.
  • “Companies are looking to utilise the current time toward preparing for future fund raising,” said Sandip Khetan, partner and national leader of financial accounting advisory services at EY India. He expected IPO activity to pick up during the end of 2020 or early 2021.
  • During the June quarter, Laxmi Goldorna House Ltd, Nirmitee Robotics India Ltd, Billwin Industries Ltd and DJ Mediapoint & Logistics Ltd came out with their IPOs. That’s two IPOs each for the consumer products & retail and diversified industrial products sectors. Further, EY India said that marquee activities by Jio Platforms pushed Indian PE/VC (Private Equity/ Venture Capital) investment in May-June to more than $10 billion.
9. And the first race of the F1 2020 season goes to…
9. And the first race of the F1 2020 season goes to...
  • … Valtteri Bottas for champions Mercedes. And it was an action-packed Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday as Formula One started its delayed season with plenty of drama, if no spectators, in a race with only 11 finishers. Charles Leclerc finished a surprise second for Ferrari with McLaren’s Lando Norris celebrating a first podium.
  • There was drama even before the race when stewards performed a U-turn after a Red Bull challenge and dropped Hamilton from the front row to fifth on the grid for a breach in Saturday’s qualifying. That also promoted Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to the front row alongside Bottas on pole position. But the Dutch youngster suffered an early technical problem and became the season’s first retirement.
  • Bottas led from the start of the race and kept his cool through three Safety Car periods as drama unfolded behind him. Team-mate and six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton crossed the line in second position but was relegated to fourth after the race with a time penalty for an incident with Red Bull’s Alexander Albon, who had looked like a contender for victory in the closing stages. Albon and Hamilton collided at Turn 4 while vying for position, and the stewards deemed the reigning world champion to be at fault.
  • Ferrari’s dismal weekend was turned on its head in the closing stages as Leclerc charged through the field after a flurry of late Safety Car periods. Norris did similar, barging past Racing Point’s Sergio Perez a handful of laps from the finish. F1 returns in just a week, again to Austria’s Red Bull Ring, as one of two doubleheaders on the sport’s 8-race provisional schedule.
10. Chhattisgarh puts a price to cow dung
10. Chhattisgarh puts a price to cow dung
  • What: A five-member cabinet sub-committee in Chhattisgarh has recommended purchase of cow dung from cattle rearers at Rs 1.50 per kilogram under the state’s unique Gau-Dhan Nyay Yojana, scheduled to be implemented from July 21. The recommendation will be tabled before the cabinet for clearance.
  • Why: Chief minister Bhupesh Baghel had announced last week that his government will procure cow dung to make cattle rearing more viable and in turn help agriculture, animal husbandry, generate employment and uplift the state’s rural economy.
  • How: The procured dung would be used to produce vermicompost, which in turn would be purchased by horticulture, forest departments and farmers for manure. This will help promote organic farming and reduce dependence on chemical fertilisers. More details here

Kanye West. The American rapper, a vocal supporter of US President Donald Trump, announced that he would run for president in 2020 in an apparent challenge to Trump and his presumptive Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. It was not immediately clear if West was serious about vying for the presidency four months before the Nov. 3 election or if he had filed any official paperwork to appear on state election ballots. The deadline to add independent candidates to the ballot has not yet passed in many states.Among those who endorsed West’s tweet was Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

Follow news that matters to you in real-time.
Join 3 crore news enthusiasts.

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


Source link