Current Affairs Headlines

S. No.Headlines
1 25-02-2021 - Healthcare and Medicine - India Covid update - As many as 16,738 new Covid-19 cases and 138 deaths were reported in India on 24-02-2021, as per Union ministry of health and family welfare (MoHFW). With the new cases, the Coronavirus tally in the country has reached 1,10,46,914 including 1,51,708 active cases and 1,07,38,501 discharges.The death toll has mounted to 1,56,705 with the loss of 138 lives. Maharashtra recorded 8,807 new COVID-19 cases and 80 deaths in the last 24 hours. The state government instructed all district collectors and municipal commissioners to increase testing. Maharashtra Minister Nawab Malik said that on an average, over 60,000 COVID-19 tests have been conducted in the state over the last two weeks.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
2 25-02-2021 - Energy - Go Electric Campaign - The central government has launched the “Go Electric" Campaign to spread awareness on the benefits of e-mobility and EV Charging Infrastructure as well as electric cooking in India. To push the country towards 100% e-mobility and clean and safe e-cooking. To create awareness at PAN-India level and reduce the import dependence of the country. To move ahead on the path of a low carbon economy, thereby saving the country and the planet from the adverse impact of climate change. Indian government has run the FAME I and FAME II programmes to push electric mobility. FAME stands for "Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and EVs". Phase-II of FAME Scheme started with an outlay of Rs.10,000 crore for 3 years from from 1st April 2019.
(Energy)
3 25-02-2021 - Environment and Ecology - Olive Ridley Turtles - The Orissa High Court has taken suo motu cognisance of the death of around 800 Olive Ridley sea turtles due to negligence by Odisha’s forest and fisheries departments. The Olive ridley turtles are the smallest and most abundant of all sea turtles found in the world. These turtles are carnivores and get their name from their olive colored carapace. They are found in warm waters of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans. The Odisha’s Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary is known as the world’s largest rookery (colony of breeding animals) of sea turtles.
(Environment Ecology and Climate Change)
4 25-02-2021 - Indian Economy - Draft National Migrant Labour Policy - The NITI Aayog, along with a working subgroup of officials and members of civil society, has prepared a draft National Migrant Labour policy. Earlier in December 2020, the Indian government decided to create a database of migrant workers, including workers in the informal economy. Migration is the movement of people away from their usual place of residence, across either internal (within country) or international (across countries) borders.The latest government data on migration comes from the 2011 Census. As per the Census, India had 45.6 crore migrants in 2011 (38% of the population) compared to 31.5 crore migrants in 2001 (31% of the population).
(Indian Economy)
5 25-02-2021 - Governance and Institutions - Anti-Dumping Duty on Steel Imports from China - India's Directorate General of Trade Remedies (DGTR) has initiated a probe to review the need for continuing imposition of anti-dumping duty on certain types of steel products imported from China, following complaints from domestic industry. The duty on the certain steel products was first imposed in February 2017 and is set to expire on 16th May 2021. Some of the major private domestic producers of steel have filed an application before the DGTR for a sunset review of anti-dumping duty imposed on imports of seamless tubes, pipes and hollow profiles of iron, alloy or non-alloy steel from China. The applicants have alleged that dumping of these products from China has continued even after imposition of anti-dumping duty, and there has been a significant increase in the volume of imports. DGTR would review the need for continued imposition of the duties in force and examine whether the expiry of existing duties is likely to lead to continuation or recurrence of dumping and impact the domestic industry.
(Governance and Institutions)
6 25-02-2021 - Social Issues - Vijay Sampla new Chairman of NCSC - Vijay Sampla, a former Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment from 2014-2019, on February 24, 2021 took charge as the Chairman of National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC). Union Minister Som Prakash, Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Krishna Pal Gurjar, former Chairman of NCSC, BJP MP Hans Raj Hans as well as other members of the Commission were also present during the occasion. Vijay Sampla was appointed by the President of India. The NCS is a constitutional body to provide safeguards against the exploitation of Scheduled Castes (and Anglo Indian communities) and to promote and protect their social, educational, economic and cultural interests. Article 338 of the Indian constitution deals with it [which states that - 338. Special Officer for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes etc. (1) There shall be a Special Officer for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to be appointed by the President, etc.]
(Social Issues)
7 25-02-2021 - Governance and Institutions - Cryptocurrencies may impact India's financial stability - The RBI has expressed concern over the use of cryptocurrencies, saying it may impact the financial stability of the economy. RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das said that RBI has conveyed "major concerns" regarding cryptocurrencies to the government. The RBI had banned banks and other regulated entities from supporting crypto transactions in 2018, however, the Supreme Court overturned it in 2020. It is now getting clear that sovereigns are not too pleased with crypto assets bypassing the mainstream banking system, and are striking back hard. Experts say that an outright block on cryptocurrencies will not be in India's interest, as the rapidly emerging field has many new opportunities for innovation that India will miss out on.
(Governance and Institutions)
8 25-02-2021 - World Politics - South Korea's population declines - South Korea has recorded a decline in its population in 2020, the first time this has happened since 1970, according to official data. In 2020, South Korea reported over 2.72 lakh births as compared to over 3.05 lakh deaths. South Korea's fertility rate, the number of expected babies per South Korean woman, was the lowest in the world at 0.84. Total Fertility Rate is the no. of expected children born to each woman in reproductive age, and if that goes below 2.1, then the population starts shrinking. At 2.1, population stabilises. And at more than 2.1, population grows. The world population is projected to reach 9.9 billion by 2050, an increase of more than 25% from the current 2020 population of 7.8 billion. Total fertility rates are below the replacement level of 2.1 births per woman in 91 countries and territories, mostly in Asia and Europe, as well as in the United States.
(World Politics)
9 25-02-2021 - Governance and Institutions - Govt. allows private banks to conduct govt's banking transactions - The government of India has announced it has lifted the embargo on private sector banks for the conduct of government-related banking transactions. These =include taxes and other revenue payment facilities, pension payments and small savings schemes among others. "Private banks can now be equal partners in development of the Indian economy," Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said. The stock markets reacted jubilantly, at this opening up of economy for more private sector. This was also seen by many as the eventual exit of government from public sector banking, and the selling away of some PSBs. The PM has started aggressively pushing the idea of privatisation of public sector assets already.
(Governance and Institutions)
10 25-02-2021 - World Politics - Media Platform Bill in Australia - Australia has reached out to India among several countries, including Canada, France and the UK, in a move to stitch a global coalition against tech giants Google and Facebook amid a faceoff over compensation for sharing news content from media companies on their platforms. Australia’s proposed law, News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code Bill 2020, mandates a bargaining code that aims to force Google and Facebook to compensate media companies for using their content. The Bill is expected to set a precedent in regulating social media across geographies. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), in its 2019 report, Digital Platforms Inquiry, noted that there was a fundamental imbalance in the power between news media and internet platforms. Specifically mentioning Google and Facebook, the report said these platforms had “substantial bargaining power in relation to many news media businesses.” It highlighted that media regulation hardly applied to platforms, though they have been increasingly playing much the same role as the media. The last two decades have also seen the tremendous rise of the platforms and sharp decline of the traditional news media.
(World Politics)
11 24-02-2021 - Environment Ecology and Climate Change - US and Canada for zero net emissions - Following a bilateral meeting with Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, US President Joe Biden said that both the countries have agreed to work towards achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. Biden said US was launching a "climate-ambition ministerial" and would align our policies to achieve this goal. US climate envoy John Kerry and Canada's Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson will host the ministerial. Carbon neutrality refers to achieving net zero carbon dioxide emissions by balancing carbon dioxide emissions with removal or simply eliminating carbon dioxide emissions altogether.
(Environment Ecology and Climate Change)
12 24-02-2021 - Indian Politics - Modi stadium the largest - President Kovind inaugurated the world's largest cricket stadium in Ahmedabad, and named it after Narendra Modi. The Motera Cricket Stadium, world's largest, was inaugurated in presence of Home Minister Amit Shah and Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju. The stadium boasts a capacity of 1,10,000. President Kovind perfomed 'Bhumi Pujan' of the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Sports Enclave.
(Indian Politics)
13 24-02-2021 - Indian Politics - Covid cases rising again in some states - Union Health Ministry wrote to five states, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and Chhattisgarh, where COVID-19 cases are rising and asked them to speed up the vaccination process. "It is advised...vaccination of healthcare and front line workers is expedited so as to confer immunity [soon]...they are also involved in containment...of COVID-19 cases," the Centre wrote. The object of expediting the vaccination process is to confer immunity in the shortest possible time frame to combat the rising trend of COVID-19 cases and positivity rate in some districts. India on 22-02-2021 reported 10,584 new coronavirus cases, taking the tally to 1,10,16,434. The death toll increased by 78 to 1,56,463. Maharashtra has been recording over 6,000 fresh COVID-19 cases for the last few days, sparking fears, and bringing new lockdowns.
(Indian Politics)
14 24-02-2021 - People and Personalities - Super 30 Founder Anand Kumar's work praised in Canada - A Canadian MP praised 'Super 30' Founder and educator Anand Kumar's "inspiring work". Giving an account of education projects in the Canadian Parliament, Marc Dalton said the Bihar-born's work is "helping students from underprivileged sections of society overcome all obstacles to reach premier institutions of India." Dalton also said Biju Mathew, of Maple Ridge, has written a book on Kumar. His life and work are portrayed in the 2019 film, Super 30, where Kumar is played by Hrithik Roshan. Anand Kumar was born in Bihar, India.
(People and Personalities)
15 24-02-2021 - Governance and Institutions - Intensified Mission Indradhanush 3.0 Launched - The Central Government initiated the IMI 3.0 program, which aims to provide free immunizations for pregnant women and children in India. The Union Health Minister, Dr. Harsh Vardhan, launched the Intensified Mission Indradhanush (IMI) 3.0. The mission will be divided into two rounds. The first phase started on February 22, 2021, and the second phase on March 22, 2021. It will spread across 250 districts or urban areas in 29 States or Union Territories. In addition, the Minister also launched the IMI 3.0 portal and issued Operational Guidelines for it. He also launched promotional materials or IEC packages developed under the campaign.
(Governance and Institutions)
16 24-02-2021 - Governance and Institutions - Centre aims to eliminate tuberculosis by 2025 - Prime Minister said on February 23, 2021 that the Central government is aiming to eliminate tuberculosis (TB) from the country by 2025. He said this while addressing a webinar on the health sector's budget implementation. He said that wearing masks, early diagnosis and treatment are important in its prevention. As per the annual TB report 2020 released in June 2020, around 24.04 lakh TB patients were notified in 2019, which amounts to a 14 per cent increase in TB notification as compared to 2018.The Prime Minister added saying that the Centre is not only investing in healthcare but also focusing on bringing in employment opportunities. TB is a serious infectious bacterial disease that mainly affects the lungs. The bacteria that cause TB are spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes, and most people infected with the bacteria that cause tuberculosis don't have symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they usually include a cough (sometimes blood-tinged), weight loss, night sweats and fever. Treatment isn't always required for those without symptoms. Patients with active symptoms will require a long course of treatment involving multiple antibiotics.
(Governance and Institutions)
17 24-02-2021 - World Economy - Bitcoin suffers biggest daily drop - Bitcoin, the world's biggest cryptocurrency, suffered its biggest daily drop in a month on 22-02-2021 by falling as low as $45,000. The drop extended a slump of nearly a fifth from a record high of $58,354 hit two days ago. Bitcoin remains up around 60% for 2021. Ether also dropped more than 17%. This massive shakeout has again confirmed the fears of many that these currencies won't be stable for regular use and transactions. Big bull Rakesh Jhunjhunwala has asked Indian govt. to completely ban the cryptocurrency market in India. Tesla's Elon Musk has spoken for cryptos, and also cautioned against sharp price rise.
(World Economy)
18 24-02-2021 - Science and Technology - Panorama of Mars from Perseverance rover released - NASA released the first panorama of Mars showing Perseverance rover's landing location. The panorama, taken by the Navigation Cameras or Navcams aboard Perseverance rover, was stitched together from six individual images after they were sent back to Earth. The Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover will search for signs of ancient microbial life, which will advance NASA's quest to explore the past habitability of Mars. The rover has a drill to collect core samples of Martian rock and soil, then store them in sealed tubes for pickup by a future mission that would ferry them back to Earth for detailed analysis. Perseverance will also test technologies to help pave the way for future human exploration of Mars. Future human expeditions to Mars will be helped by all this, including finding ways to produce oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, identifying other resources (such as subsurface water), improving landing techniques, and characterizing weather, dust, and other potential environmental conditions that could affect future astronauts living and working on Mars.
(Science and Technology)
19 24-02-2021 - Science and Technology - DRDO launches Vertical Launch Short Range Surface to Air Missile - The Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) in Feb 2021 conducted two successful launches of the indigenously designed and developed Vertical Launch Short Range Surface to Air Missile (VL-SRSAM). The missile is capable of neutralizing various aerial threats at close ranges including sea-skimming targets. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh congratulated DRDO on the successful trials. Indigenously designed and developed by DRDO for the Navy, the VL-SRSAM is meant for neutralising various aerial threats at close ranges, including sea-skimming targets. The launches were carried out for demonstration of vertical launch capability as part of its maiden launch campaign.
(Science and Technology)
20 24-02-2021 - Healtchare and Medicine -  Flesh-eating disease spreading in Australia - A flesh-eating disease is spreading in parts of Australia, with Victoria's Health Department issuing a warning. Cases of 'Buruli ulcer' were identified in the Melbourne suburbs of Essendon, Moonee Ponds and Brunswick West. "Early diagnosis is critical to prevent skin and tissue loss...Buruli ulcer must be notified to the department within five days of diagnosis," the authorities said. Buruli ulcer is a disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium ulcerans, that affects the skin but can also affect the bone. Cases are generally seen in the tropics, primarily in West Africa and Australia. Infection often leads to ulcers on the arms or legs, which can also destroy skin or soft tissue. Treatment involves antibiotics. Left untreated, it can lead to permanent disfigurement and disability.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
21 23-02-2021 - Social Issues - China is indeed committing 'genocide' - Canada's Parliament has voted to declare China's treatment of its Uighur minority population a genocide. The motion, introduced by opposition Conservatives, passed by a vote of 266-0 in the House of Commons, with Canadian PM Justin Trudeau and nearly his entire cabinet abstaining to vote. It makes Canada just the second country after US to recognise China's actions as genocide. China has forcefully rejected any such claims over the past decade, while continuting to incarcerate, torture and stifle Uighur people.
(Social Issues)
22 23-02-2021 - Social Issues - US lost more people than 3 wars combined - In a shocking milestone, the US' death toll from COVID-19, the highest globally, has surpassed the number of fatalities the country suffered in World War One, World War Two and the Vietnam War combined. Johns Hopkins University tracker showed that coronavirus had killed 5,00,236 people so far, as compared to 4,99,000 in the three wars. President Joe Biden said it was a "heartbreaking milestone". Former President Trump is blamed for taking it easy in the initial phases of the pandemic in 2020, leading to an uncontrolled situation later. Top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said political divisiveness contributed significantly to COVID-19 death toll.
(Social Issues)
23 23-02-2021 - Indian Economy - Reliance's new big plan - Reliance Industries Limited, owned by the riches Indian Mukesh Ambani, has initiated the process to demerge oil-to-chemicals arm with $25 bn loan. It will carve out its oil-to-chemicals (O2C) operation into an independent subsidiary with a $25 billion loan from the parent. It added that it expects National Company Law Tribunal's approval by second quarter of 2021-22. Reliance had planned to hive off O2C business for a proposed 20% stake sale to Saudi Aramco. Ambani is rapidly building a new type of conglomerate to dominate emerging verticals in India.
(Indian Economy)
24 23-02-2021 - Healthcare and Medicine - Drug for Epilepsy developed - Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disease, affecting people of all ages. A major pharmaceutical manufacturer has now developed the final dosage form of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API) and Brivanext for epilepsy. This is a central nervous system (neurological) disease in which brain activity becomes abnormal, causing seizures or a period of abnormal behavior, sensation, and sometimes even loss of consciousness. Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disease, affecting people of all ages. Anyone can develop epilepsy, but it is more common in young children and the older adults. This incidence of men is slightly higher than that of women.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
25 23-02-2021 - Governance and Institutions - UP's paperless budget - Uttar Pradesh became India’s first state to table a paperless budget for FY22. The first paperless budget of the state was presented in the assembly on February 22, 2021. iPads were provided to all the members of the State Legislature to view the budget highlights, which were also shown on two big screens put up in the house. An app named ‘Uttar Pradesh Sarkar ka Budget' has also been made available on the Google play store. The size of Budget was Rs.5.5 lakh crore, with a focus on the agriculture sector. The fiscal deficit will be Rs.90729 crore (4.17 % of Gross State Domestic Product), and State’s debt liability will be 28.1% of Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP).
(Governance and Institutions)
26 23-02-2021 - Governance and Institutions - MP Government to rename Hoshangabad city - The Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh informed on February 19, 2021, that Hoshangabad city in the state will be renamed Narmadapuram. The announcement was made by the CM during the Narmada Jayanti Programme in Hoshangabad. The proposal to change the name will be sent to the Centre. The opposition Congress Party termed the announcement as a ploy to divert people from important issues. The name was taken after Hoshang Shah Gori, the first formally appointed Islamic ruler of the Malwa region of Central India. He ruled Malwa for 27 years. Hoshangabad district was part of the Nerbudda (Narmada) Division of the Central Provinces and Berar, which became the state of Madhya Bharat (later Madhya Pradesh) after India's independence in 1947.
(Governance and Institutions)
27 23-02-2021 - World Politics - 54% of national elections held globally in 2020 were violent - Fifty-four percent of national elections that were held globally in 2020 had some form of violence, as per a report by Election Violence Monitor said. Year 2020 also saw the highest election-related violence than any other year since 1975. Of the 42 national elections scheduled for 2021, conflict analysts behind the report have claimed that roughly 40% are at high risk of violence. Every country with a national vote slated for some time in 2021 has some risk of election-related violence. In 16 nations, including Norway, Mexico and Japan, the risk is between 3% and 20%. Laos, Russia and Syria – along with six other nations – have between 21% and 49% chance of election violence. In Djibouti, Congo and Côte d'Ivoire, there is a 50% to 75% chance. In eight nations, including Nepal, Chile and Haiti, the chance of election violence is 76% to 90%. And in Ethiopia, there is a more than 90% chance.
(World Politics)
28 23-02-2021 - World Economy -  Bitcoin sharply falls after Musk's tweet - World's leading cryptocurrency Bitcoin (BTC) fell sharply below the $50,000-mark on 22-02-2021, hitting its lowest level since mid-February '21. The drop in value came as a result of investors' worries that the cryptocurrency, which crossed $58,000-mark to record new high, may have gotten too high, too fast. Elon Musk, whole BTC investments had pulled the asset high, had also recently said that he felt it might be too high. That melted sentiment across the board, and both BTC and Ethereum saw a drastic fall in just 24 hours. This lends credence to the crypto-sceptics who claim that any "currency" that gyrates so wildly is not a practical solution for anything at all.
(World Economy)
29 23-02-2021 - World Politics - General strike against coup in Myanmar - A general strike against the military coup shut businesses across Myanmar on 22-02-2021, while lakhs protested in the streets despite a threat from authorities that it was prepared to use lethal force. "Nothing's going to happen if my salary is cut but if we stay under a military dictatorship we'll be slaves," was the sentiment. The 2021 Myanmar protests are domestic civil resistance efforts in Myanmar in opposition to the 2021 Myanmar coup d'état, which was staged by Min Aung Hlaing, the Commander-in-Chief of the Tatmadaw on 1 February 2021. India is taking a cautious pro-democracy stand, while the US has taken a strong one.
(World Politics)
30 23-02-2021 - Science and Technology - US FAA closes probe into SpaceX's Starship SN9 crash - US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has closed its investigation into Elon Musk-led SpaceX's Starship SN9 prototype launch which had ended in a crash. "Its unsuccessful landing and explosion did not endanger the public or property," said the FAA. Reacting to a picture of Starship SN10, Elon Musk tweeted, "Good chance of flying this week!" The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is the agency of the United States Department of Transportation responsible for the regulation and oversight of civil aviation within the U.S., as well as operation and development of the National Airspace System. Its primary mission is to ensure safety of civil aviation.
(Science and Technology)
31 22-02-2021 - Energy - Petroleum minister explains fuel price rise - India's Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan explained that there were "two main reasons" behind fuel price rise. First was the international market's reduced fuel production to gain more profit. That was making the consumer countries suffer. Second was the COVID-19 related development work. So the Centre and state governments collected tax. The Minister did not explain technically what had changed from 2013 to 2021, when his party would earlier consider price rise as detrimental for consumers and the country, and now it was the opposite. Experts suggest that fuel pricing had become extortionate and unfair for Indian consumers, and one of the highest in South Asia. The trade parity pricing formula was responsible, in addition to heavy central taxes.
(Energy)
32 22-02-2021 - World Politics - Hackers will be made to pay - National Security Advisor (NSA) to US President Joe Biden, Jake Sullivan, warned that the US will hold those responsible for SolarWinds cyber attack accountable. The administration will respond soon and was looking at "a broad range of responses", including sanctions and hardening of its defences. In 2020, a major cyberattack by a group backed by a foreign government penetrated thousands of organizations globally including multiple parts of the United States federal government, leading to a series of data breaches. Hackers had managed to access a system that cyber firm SolarWinds used to put updates to its Orion product. From there, they inserted malicious code into otherwise legitimate software update.
(World Politics)
33 22-02-2021 - World Politics - India, Ethiopia sign agreements on leather technology, visa facilitation - India and Ethiopia agreed on expanding the bilateral agenda especially on economic, defence, digital, Science and Technology, and cultural cooperation. Both signed two agreements on visa facilitation and leather technology. Demeke Mekonnen Hassen, Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister, and Foreign Minister was on a four-day visit to India, since February 16, 2021. The agreements between both the countries were signed in the presence of the External Affairs Minister of India S Jaishankar. Ethiopia, in the Horn of Africa, is a rugged, landlocked country split by the Great Rift Valley. With archaeological finds dating back more than 3 million years, it’s a place of ancient culture.
(World Politics)
34 22-02-2021 - Science and Technology - NASA's helicopter attached to Perseverance rover 'phones' from Mars - NASA confirmed that its Ingenuity helicopter, attached to the belly of Perseverance rover on Mars, has "phoned home". "The downlink, which arrived, via a connection through the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, indicates that both the helicopter, which will remain attached to the rover for 30 to 60 days, and its base station, are operating as expected. Ingenuity is a technology demonstration, featuring four specially made carbon-fiber blades, arranged into two rotors that spin in opposite directions at around 2,400 rpm. It has innovative solar cells, batteries, and other components. Mars' thin atmosphere - 99% less dense than Earth's - makes it difficult to achieve enough lift. So helicopters have to be light, with rotor blades that are much larger and spin much faster what on Earth. So the aircraft has to be lightweight, able to generate enough lift in Mars' thin atmosphere, and capable of surviving in a Mars-like environment.
(Science and Technology)
35 22-02-2021 - Governance and Institutions - NHAI achieves 100 percent cashless toll collection - The government is promoting the free FASTag campaign to encourage highway users to adopt FASTag. The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) has successfully realized 100% cashless toll collection in some National Highway toll plazas. From February 16, 2021, all lanes on the National Highway toll plaza will be declared FASTag lanes. Since the FASTag specification was notified, more than 2,50,000 labels have been sold. In one day, a total of 6 million transactions were completed and a toll of Rs.95 crore was collected through FASTag. So far, FASTag's total penetration rate has reached 87% of India. FASTag employs Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology for making toll payments directly from the prepaid or savings account linked to it. It is affixed on the windscreen of the vehicle and enables to drive through toll plazas without stopping for transactions. There are two main components of RFID technology - (a) the RFID Tag, known as FASTag, and (b) the RFID Scanner, which scans the Fastag. As soon as the vehicle enters the lane, RFID Scanner starts scanning the FASTag sticker pasted on it.
(Governance and Institutions)
36 22-02-2021 - Healthcare and Medicine - H5N8, strain of bird flu virus infects Russians - Russia reported the world's first case of a bird flu virus strain H5N8 infecting humans via birds. H5N8 is a subtype of the influenza A virus that causes flu-like symptoms in birds and poultry and is deadly for them. Reported in poultry in Russia, Europe, China, the Middle East and North Africa in recent months, it's not lethal for humans. The H5N8 strain of avian influenza is not lethal for humans. The Russian poultry farm workers who had been infected were doing okay. Recently, an H5N8 outbreak was reported in Beed district of Maharashtra. Properly cooked meat or poultry and boiled eggs are considered to be safe for human consumption. Consuming raw, half-cooked poultry meat or eggs is unwise.

(Healthcare and Medicine)
37 22-02-2021 - World Politics - India Lines of Credit pact with Maldives - External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on 20-02-2021 offered a USD 40 million Line of Credit to the Maldives in a bid to boost the sports infrastructure. He said that India acknowledges the high priority accorded by President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih to sports. Jaishankar was on the first leg of his two-nation tour and will go also to Mauritius. He handed over 1,00,000 additional doses of COVID-19 vaccine to the Foreign Minister and Health Minister Kerafa Naseem. Later, India on 21-02-2021 extended a $50-million line of credit to the Maldives for defence projects and the two signed an agreement to develop and maintain a key naval facility for the armed forces of the Indian Ocean archipelago. The Maldives doesn’t have a navy and the Coast Guard functions as the armed maritime component of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF). In the past, India has provided patrol vessels and maritime surveillance aircraft to bolster MNDF’s capabilities.
(Indian Politics)
38 22-02-2021 - Science and Technology - Chandrayaan-3 launch delayed to 2022 - India's Chandrayaan-3 mission is likely to be launched in 2022, ISRO chief K Sivan has said. "We are working on it. It is the same configuration like Chandrayaan-2 but it will not have an orbiter. The orbiter launched during Chandrayaan-2 will be used for Chandrayaan-3," Sivan said. ISRO plans to launch the first unmanned mission under the Gaganyaan mission in December 2021. The Gaganyaan mission aims to send a three-member crew to space for a period of five to seven days by 2022 when India completes 75 years of Independence. As for the astronauts (vyomanauts), after 11 months of training in Russia, the astronauts will receive module-specific training in India. They will be trained in crew and service module designed by ISRO, learn to operate it, work around it and do simulations.
(Science and Technology)
39 22-02-2021 - Social Issues - Covid India update - Amravati placed under 1-week complete lockdown - The Maharashtra government announced one-week complete lockdown from 22-02-2021 in Amravati district, excluding Achalpur city, amid rise in COVID-19 cases in the state. Only essential services will be allowed in the district during the period. This came after Maharashtra reported over 6,000 fresh COVID-19 cases on 20-02-2021, of which about 27% were recorded within Mumbai and Amravati civic limits. The cases are also rising in some states amid the COVID-19 vaccination drive. 240 new strains of the coronavirus have surfaced across India, which are behind the fresh surge of infections being seen. The government's vaccination plan depends on creating herd immunity by immunising a critical mass of people. In the first phase of vaccination, the government plans to immunise 3 crore health workers and frontline workers. After it will be the turn of 27 crore people who are above the age of 50 years or have co-morbidities. Overall, India recorded 14,264 fresh cases of COVID-19 and 90 deaths, highest since January 29. With this, total tally reached 1,09,91,651 and the death toll rose to 1,56,302.
(Healthcare and Medicine, Social Issues)
40 22-02-2021 - Defence and Military - India, China to mutually resolve remaining LAC issues - The tenth round of India-China Corps Commander Level meeting was held on 20-02-2021 on the Chinese side of border meeting point, as per Indian Defence Ministry. "The two sides positively appraised smooth completion of disengagement of frontline troops in Pangong Lake area," it said. India and China have agreed to push for a "mutually acceptable resolution of the remaining issues", it further added. The Indian delegation was led by Lt Gen PGK Menon, the Commander of the Leh-based 14 Corps. The Chinese side was headed by Maj Gen Liu Lin, the commander of the South Xinjiang military district of the People's Liberation Army (PLA). The focus areas of these talks are outstanding problems with PLA at Depsang, Hot Springs and Gogra in eastern Ladakh. Apart from military commander talks, backchannel talks between National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi, both special representatives (SRs) on boundary resolution, may take place soon. India will try t ensure that no side unilaterally alters the status quo along the 3488-km long LAC and the status quo ante is restored on all points.
(Defence and Military)
41 19-02-2021 - World Politics - Re-energise the peace process: NATO chief to Afghan govt, Taliban - As the May 2021 deadline approaches for NATO to pull out troops from Afghanistan, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg urged Afghan government and the Taliban to step up the pace of peace talks. Chairing a meeting of NATO defence ministers, Stoltenberg said, "The talks are fragile, and progress is slow. So, it is now imperative to re-energise the peace process." The Taliban (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) are a Sunni Islamic fundamentalist political movement and military organisation in Afghanistan currently waging war within that country. Since 2016, the Taliban's leader is Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada.
(World Politics)
42 19-02-2021 - World Economy - World's 1st Bitcoin ETF debuts in Canada - Investors exchanged $165 million worth of shares as the world's first Bitcoin exchange-traded fund, Purpose Bitcoin ETF, made its debut on 18-02-2021 in Toronto, Canada. The ETF, which directly invests in physical or digital Bitcoin, was approved by the Canadian regulator. Bitcoin, the world's largest cryptocurrency, hit a fresh record high of over $52,000 on 18-02-2021. An exchange traded fund (ETF) is a basket of securities that trade on an exchange, just like a stock. ETF share prices fluctuate all day as the ETF is bought and sold; this is different from mutual funds that only trade once a day after the market closes.
(World Economy)
43 19-02-2021 - Governance and Institutions - PM launches ‘Mahabahu-Brahmaputra’ initiative in Assam - PM Modi virtually launched the ‘Mahabahu-Brahmaputra’ initiative in Assam on February 18, 2021. The Prime Minister also laid the foundation stone of Dhubri Phulbari bridge and performed bhumi pujan for Majuli Bridge construction. The initiative will help provide seamless connectivity to Eastern Parts of India.
(Governance and Institutions)
44 19-02-2021 - Constitution and Law - Amendments to Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 - Union Cabinet of India granted its approval to the amendments of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 on February 17, 2021. The amendment seeks to strengthen the child protection set-up and ensure the best interest of children. At present, the Act contains offences under three categories: petty, serious and heinous. In January 2020, the Supreme Court had observed that offences that carried maximum of more than seven years imprisonment, but with no minimum sentence of fewer than seven years should be treated as ‘serious’ and not as ‘heinous’ offences. Prior to this amendment, if a child had committed a ‘heinous offence’, the child (if between the age of 16-18 years), could be tried as an adult and taken out of the protective umbrella of the juvenile justice system. The amendment seeks to prevent that from happening by limiting the ambit and definition of ‘heinous offences’.  Children accused of offences where the maximum sentence is more than seven years but in which no minimum sentence is prescribed will no longer be tried in adult courts, and from now on, district magistrates as well as the additional district magistrates will be allowed to issue adoption orders.
(Constitution and Law)
45 19-02-2021 - World Politics - Australian users face new blocks, on FB - Australian users have been blocked on Facebook from sharing or viewing any form of news content on the platform. The sudden move caused alarm over the public access to the key information. All the local and global news sites became unavailable as well as government health, emergency, and other pages were also blocked. However, later Facebook asserted that it was a mistake. The step by Facebook was in a response to Australia’s proposed law which aims at making tech giants pay for the news content. Companies such as Facebook and Google have argued that the law doesn’t reflect how the internet works and also unfairly penalizes the platforms. Google has taken a different route, and struck deals for revenue sharing. FB isn't doing it so far. 'Big Tech versus Sovereigns' is no longer fiction, it's playing out in full daylight.
(World Politics)
46 19-02-2021 - Science and Technology - Second-largest crypto Ethereum hits record $1,918, surges 160% in 2021 - Ethereum, the second-largest cryptocurrency in terms of market capitalisation, hit a record high of $1,918.52 in early trade on 18-02-2021. The cryptocurrency's rally came as Bitcoin surpassed the $52,000-mark for the first time. Launched in 2015, Ethereum is an open-source, blockchain-based, decentralized software platform used for its own cryptocurrency, ether, and can support smart contract functionality. It is a global, decentralized platform for money and new kinds of applications. A smart contract is a self-executing contract with the terms of the agreement between buyer and seller being directly written into lines of code. The code and the agreements contained therein exist across a distributed, decentralized blockchain network.
(Science and Technology)
47 19-02-2021 - World Politics - Dozens held in fresh protests over rapper's jailing in Spain - Spanish Police arrested over 50 people during the second night of protests demanding the release of jailed rapper Pablo Hasél, arrested on charges of glorifying terrorism and insulting royalty. Around 55 people were injured during the protests, including 35 police officers. The Spanish monarchy is currently represented by King Felipe VI, Queen Letizia, and their daughters Leonor, Princess of Asturias, and Infanta Sofía. It has its roots in the Visigothic Kingdom of Toledo founded after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. The king Felipe Juan Pablo Alfonso de Todos los Santos is a 51-year-old royal, considered a relatively new king, and ascended the throne in 2014 following the abdication of his father, King Juan Carlos I, on corruption charges (and elephant-hunting in Africa, too!). The fascist dictator Francisco Franco, who ruled Spain from the end of the civil war in 1939 to his death in 1975, personally had chosen Juan Carlos as his successor as head of state in 1969. Juan Carlos won enormous respect among Spaniards for steering the country toward democracy.
(World Politics)
48 19-02-2021 - Social Issues - Life expectancy in US dropped by a year in 2020: CDC - The life expectancy in US dropped to 77.8 years in first half of 2020 from 78.8 years in 2019, the biggest drop since World War II, according to Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The drop came amid the first COVID-19 wave. Minorities suffered the biggest impact, with African Americans losing nearly three years (shocking) and Hispanics losing nearly two years. Declines were even greater for certain demographics. It decreased 2.7 years for Black people and 1.9 for Hispanic people between 2019 and the first half of 2020. For white people, it decreased by an average 0.8 years. Experts say that during some of the spikes in the COVID pandemic, it became apparent that people of color in America had worse outcomes when infected with the COVID-19 virus. Experts concluded that American life expectancy could falter for years to come, based on the multitude of pandemic-related factors that affect health in ways direct and indirect. (The current life expectancy for India in 2021 is 69.96 years, a 0.33% increase from 2020).
(Social Issues)
49 19-02-2021 - Healthcare and Medicine - Maharashtra reports 5,427 new COVID-19 cases, highest in 70 days - Maharashtra on 18-02-2021 reported 5,427 fresh COVID-19 cases, the highest single-day spike recorded in the state in nearly 70 days. With this, the state's coronavirus caseload has reached 20,81,520, of which 40,858 are active. The death toll rose to 51,669 after 38 more people. The grim Covid-19 situation in Maharashtra hits Ministers also - health minister Rajesh Tope and water resources minister Jayant Patil - both tested positive. NCP leader Eknath Khadse and his daughter-in-law and MP Raksha Khadse too have contracted the infection. The spike in cases has forced the Maharashtra administration to tighten the existing SOPs in Mumbai, impose weekend curbs in Amravati and a 10-day lockdown in Yavatmal. Meanwhile, India has vaccinated more than 1 crore so far.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
50 19-02-2021 - Defence and Military - India, Japan, US, Australia call for democracy in Myanmar - Many countries including India, Japan, Australia and the US on 18-02-2021 called for democracy to be restored quickly in Myanmar following the military coup there. The countries made the comment during their Quad Ministerial Meeting. The military took power in Myanmar on February 1 after alleging fraud in the general elections held in November 2020. The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad or Asian NATO) is an informal forum between these four, maintained via semi-regular summits, information exchanges and military drills. First established in 2008 by Japan's PM Shinzo Abe, it was re-established in 2017, and is gaining some momentum. After the LAC rapproachement with China, India's interest in investing more in maritime Quad may reduce (as per experts), while US will want it to do more. (Five Eyes - The Five Eyes (FVEY) is an intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States).
(Defence and Military)
51 18-02-2021 - Governance and Institutions - India to host SAARC virtual meet on COVID-19, Pakistan invited - India had proposed a Coronavirus Emergency Fund for the SAARC region during a video conference of the SAARC Heads of State on March 15, 2020. India will now host a virtual health secretary-level meeting with other South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation countries on February 18, 2021 to discuss the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Pakistan has been invited to attend the workshop. The virtual workshop will be held on COVID-19 management and response to the pandemic and exchange of best practices amid the pandemic. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had proposed a Coronavirus Emergency Fund for the SAARC region during a video conference of the SAARC Heads of State on March 15, 2020. 
(Governance and Institutions)
52 18-02-2021 - World Politics - China mandates bloggers to get govt. credential to write on certain subjects - The Cyberspace Administration of China has mandated bloggers and influencers to have a government-approved credential before they can publish on a range of subjects. The new rule has extended the requirement to health, economics, education and judicial matters. Permits have been required since 2017 to write about topics such as political and military affairs. Xi Jinping has gradually tightened his grip on China's institutions and society, allowing only a certain narrative to filter through to everyone. A large part of controlling the society is related to what people can read, study, analyse and share over the internet.
(World Politics)
53 18-02-2021 - World Economy - Jeff Bezos overtakes Elon Musk to reclaim title of world's richest person - In Feb 2021, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos reclaimed the title of the world's richest person with a net worth of $191.2 billion, pushing Elon Musk to the second position on Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Musk displaced Bezos from the top position last month after the latter held the position for three years. Tesla shares slipped 2.4% on Tuesday, making Musk poorer by $4.6 billion. Both have enjoyed a love-hate relationship. In May 2019, Musk jabbed at Bezos calling him a copycat for Amazon's plan to launch internet-beaming satellites. Musk repeated the claim, tweeting that Bezos is a copycat after Amazon acquired self-driving-taxi company Zoox for a reported $1.2 billion.
(World Economy)
54 18-02-2021 - Energy - Record high prices impact India's petrol, diesel sales in February - Indian state refiners' petrol sales in the first two weeks of February fell below pre-pandemic levels, the first decline in about six months, according to preliminary industry data. Meanwhile, diesel sales fell by 8.6% in the first half of February. The decline in sales came as retail prices of petrol and diesel in India rose to a record high. Nearly 160 different types of crude oil are traded in global market with variation in viscosity, density, weight, fluidity and volatility. Crude oil is known by their geographical identities such as Brent Crude, Oman Crude, Dubai Crude, Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Reference Basket, West Texas Intermediate (WTI). The Indian Basket of the crude price is a weighted average price of Brent, Oman and Dubai. India imports nearly 80 per cent of its crude oil requirements from abroad. Crude oil needs to be refined by refineries and Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs). In the domestic market, fuel price is partly shaped by actual supply and demand, and mostly by taxation and dealer commission. India follows the dynamic fuel pricing system to determine the cost of petrol and diesel. Fuel prices are revised daily, and the government has "no control" over pricing. This is done to transfer any gain due to falling oil prices to the consumer, which never happens in practice!
(Energy)
55 18-02-2021 - Constitution and Law - Kiran Bedi removed as Puducherry’s Governor - The Rashtrapati Bhawan informed on February 16, 2021, that Kiran Bedi had been removed from her position as the Governor of Puducherry. Tamilisai Soundararajan, Governor of Telangana has been given the additional charge of Puducherry Lieutenant Governor until a new appointment is made. After the removal from the position, Kiran Bedi thanked the public officials and the people of Puducherry. Pondicherry (Puducherry) was a French colonial settlement in India until 1954, later a Union Territory town bounded by the southeastern Tamil Nadu state. The Puducherry Legislative Assembly is the unicameral legislature of the Indian union territory (UT) of Puducherry, which comprises four districts: Puducherry, Karaikal, Mahé and Yanam. The legislative assembly has 33 seats, of which 5 are reserved for candidates from scheduled castes and 3 members are nominated by the Government of India. 30 out of 33 Members are elected directly by the people on the basis of universal adult franchise.
(Constitution and Law)
56 18-02-2021 - Governance and Institutions - PM Modi inaugurates oil and gas projects in Tamil Nadu - PM Modi on February 17, 2021, laid the foundation stone of oil, gas sector projects in Tamil Nadu via video conferencing. He dedicated the Gasoline Desulphurisation Unit and Ramanathapuram-Thoothukudi gas pipeline to the nation. Prime Minister also laid the foundation stone of the Cauvery Basin Refinery at Nagapattinam. These projects will facilitate socio-economic benefits and will help in boosting India’s mission towards ‘Urja Atmanirbharata’.
(Governance and Institutions)
57 18-02-2021 - Governance and Institutions - Government launches Pilot Pey Jal Survekshan - The Pilot Pey Jal Survekshan was launched by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs under the Jal Jeevan Mission- Urban on February 16, 2021. The Ministry informed that it will be conducted in ten cities including Bhubaneshwar. The survey will ascertain the reuse of watershed, equitable distribution of water, and mapping the water bodies concerning the quality and quantity of water through a challenging process. The Jal Jeevan Mission (Urban) (JJM (U)) is designed to provide universal coverage of water supply to all households through functional taps in all 4,378 statutory towns in accordance with SDG Goal- 6. Also, sewerage/septage management in 500 AMRUT cities with the objective of making them water secure are the major focus areas under JJM (U). Estimated gap in urban household tap connections is 2.68 crore and estimated gap in sewer connections/septage in 500 AMRUT cities is 2.64 crore, which is proposed to be covered in JJM (U). The total outlay proposed for JJM (U) is ₹2,87,000 crore which includes ₹10,000 crore for continuing financial support to AMRUT Mission. In order to promote Public Private Partnership, it has been mandated for cities having million plus population to take up PPP projects worth minimum of 10 percent of their total project fund allocation.
(Governance and Institutions)
58 18-02-2021 - History - Fossils of world’s oldest animal discovered in Bhimbetka MP - The fossils of the world’s earliest known living animal, Dickinsonia, can be recognized from the white leaf-like patches with a central vertebra and connecting veins, on the roof of the famous Bhimbetka caves, MP. The three fossils of the world’s earliest known living animal - the 550 million years old Dickinsonia - have been discovered by the researchers on the roof of the Bhimbetka rock shelters (about 40 km from Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh). The fossils of the oldest animal can be recognized from the white leaf-like patches with a central vertebra and connecting veins. While the one fossil of the animal is 17 inches long, the other two are much smaller. The new discoveries can be seen right at the beginning of the ‘Auditorium Cave’, which dates back to 570 million years.
(History)
59 18-02-2021 - Constitution and Law - Court acquits Ms. Priya Ramani in defamation case by politician MJ Akbar - A Delhi Court on 17-02-2021 acquitted journalist Priya Ramani in the criminal defamation case filed by former Union Minister MJ Akbar over the sexual harassment allegations levelled by her. "A woman has right to put her grievance even after decades", the court observed. It observed that a man of social status can also be a sexual harasser. The case came into limelight starting 2018 when the #MeToo movement began worldwide and in India, and many powerful men were 'exposed' by women, who alleged they had sexually molested or raped them years ago, or even decades ago. Many women came out against MJ Akbar, and he in turn filed defamation suits against some.
(Constitution and Law)
60 18-02-2021 - Governance and Institutions - PLI scheme worth over ₹12,000 cr for telecom equipment - The Union Cabinet approved a Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme for telecom and networking equipment with an outlay of ₹12,195 crore over five years to boost local manufacturing. The scheme will be effective from April 1, 2021. It will lead to incremental production of around ₹2.4 lakh crore with exports of around ₹2 lakh crore over five years, as per govt. estimates. The PLI scheme across 10 key specific sectors was launched in 2020 to make Indian manufacturers globally competitive, attract investment in the areas of core competency and cutting-edge technology; ensure efficiencies; create economies of scale; enhance exports and make India an integral part of the global supply chain. The ten sectors, implementing ministry and subsidy allotted are - (1) Advance Chemistry Cell (ACC) Battery (NITI Aayog and Department of Heavy Industries, Rs.18100 cr), (2) Electronic/Technology Products (Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology MEITY, Rs.5000 cr), (3) Automobiles & Auto Components (Department of Heavy Industries, Rs.57042 cr), (4) Pharmaceuticals drugs (Department of Pharmaceuticals, Rs.15000 cr), (5) Telecom & Networking Products (Department of Telecom, Rs.12195 cr), (6) Textile Products: MMF segment and technical textiles (Ministry of Textiles, Rs.10683 cr), (7) Food Products (Ministry of Food Processing Industries, Rs.10900 cr), (8) High Efficiency Solar PV Modules (Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Rs.4500 cr), (9) White Goods (ACs & LED) (Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, Rs.6238 cr), and (10) Speciality Steel (Ministry of Steel, Rs.6322 cr)
(Governance and Institutions)
61 17-02-2021 - World Politics - Dictator Lukashenko back to his torture tactics - Belarus Police on 16-02-2021 raided homes and offices of journalists, human rights activists and trade union members amid anti-government protests in the country. More than 30 people were briefly detained and at least three people remain in police custody, activists said. Protests have swept the country since President Alexander Lukashenko claimed victory in disputed election in August 2020. His high-handed torture tactics have drawn widespread condemnation from many European nations, though he derives strength from Russian support.
(World Politics)
62 17-02-2021 - Constitution and Law - What SC did to Rajdeep Sardesai - Hours after Supreme Court website showed (on 16-02-2021) that it has taken suo motu cognisance of a plea seeking contempt proceedings against journalist Rajdeep Sardesai, a court official said the notice was placed "inadvertently" on the website. The official said it was being made clear that no such proceeding has been initiated against Mr Rajdeep Sardesai. Appropriate action to rectify the same is under process. Indian courts have been criticised for "spending more time trying to corner critics than handle grave cases involving human rights issues".
(Constitution and Law)
63 17-02-2021 - Governance and Institutions - e-Chhawani portal launched by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh - The Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh launched the e-Chhawani portal on February 16, 2021 to provide services to over 20 lakh citizens who have been living in 62 Cantonments Boards across India. The portal will offer online municipal services via multi-tenancy central platform. In India and other parts of South Asia a cantonment refers to a permanent military station. There are 62 Cantonments in the country which have been notified under the Cantonments Act, 1924 (succeeded by the Cantonments Act, 2006). The overall municipal administration of the notified Cantonments is the function of the Cantonment Boards which are democratic bodies. If we consider land area to be the criterion for being the 'largest', Bathinda Cantonment is then the largest army cantonment in India (with an area of about 55 sq.km.). It is also said to be the largest army cantonment in Asia.
(Governance and Institutions)
64 17-02-2021 - Governance and Institutions - The New Mapping Data Policy - The new policy change by the government will mainly allow the Indian companies to access the accurate maps of the Indian territories without going through permissions and approvals. The Central Government announced on February 15, 2021, that it decided to liberalise the policies of mapping and geospatial data. Under the previous policy, it was not that easier for the Indian companies to build tools and provide better geospatial data and mapping technologies. The new policy change by the government will mainly allow the Indian companies to access the accurate maps of the Indian territories without going through permissions and approvals. The move by the government aims at making the country more self-reliant when it comes to mapping, navigation, and geospatial data. While announcing the new guidelines for geospatial data, the Ministry of Science and Technology stated that what is available globally does not require to be restricted in India.
(Governance and Institutions)
65 17-02-2021 - Defence and Military - Indian Navy receives third Scorpene Submarine, to be commissioned as INS Karanj - The Indian Navy on February 15, 2021, got its third Scorpene Submarine, which will be commissioned as INS Karanj in March, of Project P-75. With the delivery of INS Karanj, India has been able to cement its position as a submarine-building nation. The acceptance document was signed by the Chairman and Managing Director of Mazagaon Dock Shipbuilders Limited, Vice Admiral (Retd) Narayan Prasad, and the Chief of Staff officer (Tech) of Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral B Sivakumar. Total 6 submarines of the Indian Navy are being constructed under Project 75. The number 75 refers to the unique identifier which was assigned for a program for the productions of the submarines. The three submarines that are delivered by Mazagaon Dock Shipbuilders Limited- MDL including Karanj, are Khanderi and Kalvari.
(Defence and Military)
66 17-02-2021 - Healthcare and Medicine - Ebola outbreaks in Congo, Guinea pose regional risk: WHO - Ebola outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Guinea pose a regional risk, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said. "We have to be exceptionally vigilant, highly alert," Mike Ryan, WHO's top emergency expert, said. Congo has so far reported four confirmed cases of the disease, while Guinea has reported seven cases and at least three Ebola-related deaths. Ebola is a virus that causes severe bleeding, organ failure and can lead to death. Humans may spread the virus to other humans through contact with bodily fluids such as blood. Initial symptoms include fever, headache, muscle pain and chills. Later, a person may experience internal bleeding resulting in vomiting or coughing blood. Treatment is supportive hospital care.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
67 17-02-2021 - Governance and Institutions - India’s exports rise 6.16% In January 2021, trade deficit narrows - India's trade deficit narrowed to $14.54 billion in January from $15.7 billion in December last year as exports grew 6.16% to $27.45 billion in January, as per the Commerce Ministry. While exports of pharmaceuticals and engineering grew 16.4% and about 19% respectively, exports of petroleum products slipped 32%. The country's imports also grew 2% to about $42 billion in January 2021. Overall, India has had a comfortable position on foreign trade front so far.
(Governance and Institutions)
68 17-02-2021 - World Economy - Bitcoin price surpasses $50,000 for the first time ever - World's biggest cryptocurrency Bitcoin's price rose above $50,000 on 16 Feb 2021 to a new record high amid rally fuelled by signs that it's gaining acceptance amongst mainstream investors. Bitcoin has now risen around 72% so far this year. Bitcoin ended last year with a fourth-quarter surge of 170% to around $29,000 and jumped to $40,000 seven days later. The government of India, meanwhile, has firmed plans to legislate private crypto out of existence, spreading panic among the millions of investors in India.
(World Economy)
69 17-02-2021 - Science and Technology -  SpaceX launches 19th Starlink mission, misses booster landing - SpaceX successfully launched 60 more Starlink satellites on February 15 as part of 19th Starlink mission but failed to land Falcon 9 rocket's reusable first-stage booster. SpaceX did not immediately disclose what occurred during the failed landing. Earlier, SpaceX had disclosed that its Starlink satellite internet service has "over 10,000 users in the US and abroad". Starlink is a satellite internet constellation being constructed by SpaceX providing satellite Internet access. The constellation will consist of thousands of mass-produced small satellites in low Earth orbit, working in combination with ground transceivers.
(Science and Technology)
70 17-02-2021 - Governance and Institutions - Take precautions or else lockdown : Maha CM - The Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray on 16-02-2021 asked people to strictly follow precautions against coronavirus to prevent another lockdown. "It is up to the people of the state to decide if they want a lockdown or live freely with some restrictions. Wear face masks and avoid crowds or else (you) will need to go into lockdown again," said Thackeray as the state faced a sudden spurt of rising cases, proving that the battle was far from over. Taking cognizance of the fact that the people have started attending parties and functions on a large scale, Uddhav Thackeray asked the collectors to revoke the licenses of restaurants and banquet halls if they do not follow social distancing norms and wearing masks. "Over the past year, we have set rules [SOPs] for various sectors while fighting coronavirus. But, it is a serious issue if that is not implemented".
(Governance and Institutions)
71 16-02-2021 - Defence and Military -  India to start trials of Astra Mark 2 missile in 2021 - India will start the testing of the Astra Mark 2 beyond visual range air to air missile in 2021. The missile which is capable to take down enemy aircraft from a range of 160 kms will step forward for India as the missile will establish the country’s superiority in air combat over Pakistan and China. The extended range Astra Mark 2 will give an edge to India over its adversaries and will also add more lethality to its fighter jets in aerial combat. According to the government officials, the trial for the Astra mark will start in the second half of 2021 and the government is hoping to see the missile fully developed by the year 2022.
(Governance and Institutions)
72 16-02-2021 - Governance and Institutions - Government announces changes in India's mapping policy - The Union Ministry of Science and Technology announced major changes to the mapping policy of India on February 15, 2021 with an aim to promote and empower small businesses. The changes will help create significant advances in mapping, and push Digital India. Liberalising policies governing the acquisition and production of geospatial data is a step in the vision for an Aatmanirbhar Bharat, as per govt. The startups and mapping innovators will be trusted to self-certify, apply good judgement and be relied upon to demonstrate adherence to guidelines. In addition, measures to promote the development of Indian geospatial innovations that take advantage of the latest map-making technologies are proposed. Farmers too will also be benefited by leveraging the potential of geo-spatial and remote sensing data. Democratizing data will enable the rise of new technologies & platforms that will drive efficiencies in agriculture and allied sectors.
(Governance and Institutions)
73 16-02-2021 - Governance and Institutions - Wholesale Price Index inflation rises to 2.03% for Jan against 1.22% for Dec - India's annual rate of inflation based on wholesale prices, the Wholesale Price Index (WPI) sequentially rose to 2.03% in January from a rise of 1.22% in December 2020. However, the rise was lower when compared to last year January's 3.52%. Of the 22 groups of manufactured items, 18 witnessed an increase in prices, while only four recorded a fall in January 2021. At times, the gap in inflation based on CPI and WPI is seen. Reasons could include the difference in weightage assigned to different goods/items that make up the two baskets. For example, in the consumers basket, food has a much higher weightage than in the wholesale basket. This essentially means a rise in food prices will cause a bigger spike in the CPI basket than in the WPI one. Similarly, manufactured goods are given more weightage in the wholesale basket. Therefore, any movement in the price of such items will move the WPI more than it does the CPI.
(Governance and Institutions)
74 16-02-2021 - Trivia and Miscellaneous - Google fined $1.34 million over hotel rankings practices in France - Google Ireland and Google France have agreed to pay a $1.34 million fine after a probe found that Google's hotel rankings could be misleading for consumers, France's finance ministry said. The ministry also said in a statement that Google has amended its hotel rankings practices since September 2019. Google was earlier fined in France for placing cookies without consent. Google has been on the radar of European anti-trust authorities for a long time.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
75 16-02-2021 - Social Issues - Bangladesh relocates 2,000 more Rohingya refugees to remote island - Bangladesh on 15-02-2021 sent around 2,000 more Rohingya refugees to the remote Bhashan Char island, which is designed to accommodate 1 lakh people. More than 7,000 refugees, including Monday's group, have been relocated to the island since December. Human rights groups have criticised the move and claimed that refugees are being relocated against their will. Bhashan Char, which formed out of Himalayan silt flowing into the Meghna Estuary in the Bay of Bengal less than 20 years ago, is located 34 kilometers (21 miles) from mainland Bangladesh, Bhashan Char’s geography makes it prone to cyclones and floods — its name in Bengali means “floating island.” The island used to be regularly submerged by monsoon rains, but the Bangladeshi navy has spent over $112 million (€92 million) to build flood protection, along with barracks, hospitals and mosques. International aid agencies and the United Nations have vehemently opposed the relocation since it was first proposed in 2015. They fear a big storm could overwhelm the island and endanger thousands of lives.
(Social Issues)
76 16-02-2021 - World Economy - Masayoshi makes it big - SoftBank’s Vision Fund reported a record quarterly profit, as the value of its investments in tech firms such as Uber was lifted by rising stockmarkets. Despite booking losses from its colossal trades in derivatives, which eventually led to it being dubbed the “Nasdaq whale”, the Japanese conglomerate made an overall quarterly net profit of ¥1.17trn ($11.1bn). Meanwhile, a big jump in sales from Uber’s food-delivery business was not enough to offset a sharp drop in revenues from its ride-hailing service last year, driving it to an annual loss of $6.8bn. Still, that was an improvement on the $8.5bn it lost in 2019.
(World Economy)
77 16-02-2021 - Indian Economy - Fuel prices touch record high - Global crude oil prices were at their highest level in over a year. Brent crude rose above $60 a barrel; in April 2020, the early days of the coronavirus crisis, it had dropped below $20. Prices have been on a steady ascent since October 2020, fuelled in part by more curtailments to Saudi Arabia’s output and a pick-up in demand from China; oil imports there are thought to have jumped by a third in January, from December 2020. In India, retail fuel prices raced ahead, with premium variants of petrol touching Rs.100 a litre. More than 60% of retail price is made up of various taxes by central and state authorities.
(Indian Economy)
78 16-02-2021 - World Politics - US in Middle East - In his first big foreign-policy speech, Mr Biden said he would end American support for the Saudi-led campaign against the Houthi rebels in Yemen. His administration also moved to delist the Houthis as a terrorist organisation, making it easier for aid to reach areas under their control. The war, now in its seventh year, has caused a humanitarian disaster. The war has casused rifts between the Gulf monarchies, with the UAE going differently than the Saudis. Houthi rebels had, two years ago, launched drone attacks against Saudi oil facilities, using suspected Iranian gear.
(World Politics)
79 16-02-2021 - World Politics - UK tightens norms - Assailed from all sides over its lax covid-19 checks on international arrivals, the British government announced that passengers returning to Britain who have visited any country on a “red list” will be required to pay for a “quarantine package” costing up to £1,750 ($2,420). This mandates ten-day isolation at a designated hotel and covers transport costs and two covid-19 tests. Fines reaching £10,000 or up to a decade in prison will be put in place for those who disobey. It is unlikely that any court will impose such a draconian term.
(World Politics)
80 16-02-2021 - World Politics - Mario Draghi becomes Italy’s new Prime Minister - The appointment of the 73-years old Mario Draghi has capped the weeks of political instability for Italy which is still in the grips of a health crisis that has killed more than 93,000 people. The former Chief of European Central Bank Mario Draghi on February 13, 2021, was formally sworn in as the new Prime Minister of Italy, against the backdrop of the deadly pandemic and crippling economic recession. The appointment of the 73-years old Mario Draghi has capped the weeks of political instability for Italy which is still in the grips of a health crisis that has killed more than 93,000 people. Draghi recited ‘I swear to be loyal to the Republic’, as he stood before President Sergio Mattarella in the ornate presidential palace in a ceremony which was broadcasted live on the television.
(World Politics)
81 15-02-2021 - Science and Technology - First-ever picture of Mars taken by UAE's Hope spacecraft released - The UAE's Hope spacecraft, which entered the red planet's orbit in Feb 2021, took pictures of Mars that have now been released. Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, shared the picture on Twitter. He was optimistic and wrote, "The transmission of the Hope Probe's first image of Mars is a defining moment in our history." Reasons for possibly 'colonizing' Mars include pure curiosity, the potential for humans to provide more in-depth observational research than unmanned rovers, economic interest in its resources, and the possibility that the settlement of other planets could decrease the likelihood of human extinction.
(Science and Technology)
82 15-02-2021 - Infrastructure - India has 1% of vehicles, 11% accidents: World Bank - India has one percent of the total vehicles around the world but accounts for 11% of the global road accidents, World Bank's report titled 'Traffic Crash Injuries and Disabilities: The Burden on Indian Society' stated. The report states that 75% of low-income households in India reported a decrease in their income if there was a road accident in the family. In 2019 alone, the country reported over 151 thousand fatalities due to road accidents. Each year, about three to five percent of the country's GDP was invested in road accidents.
(Infrastructure)
83 15-02-2021 - Governance and Institutions - Tesla in India - The Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa said in Feb 2021 that Elon Musk-led Tesla will set up an electric car manufacturing unit in Karnataka. Reently, Tesla registered its subsidiary Tesla India Motors and Energy Private Limited in Bengaluru and listed Vaibhav Taneja, Venkatrangam Sreeram and David Jon Feinstein as the three directors for the company. Tesla claims it is accelerating the world's transition to sustainable energy with electric cars, solar and integrated renewable energy solutions for homes and businesses. Tesla builds not only all-electric vehicles but also infinitely scalable clean energy generation and storage products.
(Governance and Institutions)
84 15-02-2021 - Healthcare and Medicine - India Covid update - India reported 12,194 new COVID-19 cases and 92 more deaths till Sunday morning 8:00 am according to the Union Health Ministry. With this, India's tally of COVID-19 cases rose to 1,09,04,940 while the death count increased to 1,55,642. Meanwhile, on Saturday, India started second dose vaccination for beneficiaries who have completed 28 days after receiving the first dose of vaccine.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
85 15-02-2021 - World Politics - Donald Trump acquitted by 57-43 votes in second impeachment trial - Ex-President Donald Trump was acquitted of inciting the attack on the US Capitol in his second impeachment trial in a year, concluding a historic impeachment trial that spared him the first-ever conviction of a current or former US President. The Senate vote of 57-43 fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to convict Trump on the charge of incitement of insurrection. Seven Republicans joined with Democrats to seek Trump's conviction, making it the most bipartisan impeachment trial in US history. Trump welcomed the verdict, denouncing the proceedings as "yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our country." Democrats argued that Trump's behavior was an "open and shut" case of impeachable conduct, retracing how he spent two months repeating the falsehood that the election was stolen, before inciting his supporters to attack Congress and stop the certification of Joe Biden's victory.
(World Politics)
86 15-02-2021 - Trivia and Miscellaneous - Guinea (Africa) records four Ebola deaths, first since 2016 - Four people have died of Ebola in Guinea after a fresh resurgence of the disease in the country, its Health Minister Remy Lamah said. These fatalities are the first since the 2013-16 epidemic, which had begun in Guinea and had left 11,300 people dead across the region. Lamah told AFP news agency that officials were "really concerned" about the fatalities. Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia were the main countries affected in the world's worst recorded Ebola outbreak, from 2014 to 2016. After an 18-month old was likely infected by bats in December 2013, the virus spread throughout Guinea and to neighboring countries. Ultimately, more than 28,000 people were infected, of which over 11,000 died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ebola is a rare but deadly virus that causes fever, body aches, and diarrhea, and sometimes bleeding inside and outside the body. As the virus spreads through the body, it damages the immune system and organs. Ultimately, it causes levels of blood-clotting cells to drop. This leads to severe, uncontrollable bleeding.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
87 15-02-2021 - Healthcare and Medicine - NZ reports first COVID-19 cases after Jan, lockdown arrives - Three new locally acquired COVID-19 cases were reported in New Zealand on 13-02-2021, making it the first cases since January 24. PM Jacinda Ardern announced a three-day lockdown in the country's biggest city Auckland. The cases reported are of a couple and their daughter, who are being tested to see if the infection is from more infectious variants. Until early March 2020, the NZ response to COVID‐19 followed the existing pandemic plan, based on a mitigation approach for managing pandemic influenza. The plan includes steps designed to slow entry of the pandemic, prevent initial spread and then apply physical distancing measures progressively to flatten the curve and avoid overwhelming health services. The concept of elimination is well known to infectious disease epidemiologists.10 It refers to the reduction of the incidence of a disease to zero in a defined geographical area.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
88 15-02-2021 - History - 'World's oldest' beer factory unearthed in Egypt, pictures shared - American and Egyptian archaeologists have unearthed what is believed to be the oldest known beer factory at an archaeological site in Egypt. The factory dates back to the era of King Narmer, who is known for his unification of ancient Egypt at the beginning of the First Dynastic Period (3150BC - 2613BC). Archaeologists found eight huge units at the site. Beer is the oldest recorded recipe in the world. The ancient Egyptians first documented the brewing process on papyrus scrolls around 5,000 B.C. These first beers were brewed with things like dates, pomegranates, and other indigenous herbs, and were probably quite harsh by modern standards. As for breweries still existing, the Weihenstephan Brewery (Freising, Germany) began brewing beer in 1040, and is widely regarded as the oldest brewery in the world – though the nearby Waltenburg started brewing only ten years later and often disputes the claim.
(History)
89 15-02-2021 - Governance and Institutions - Govt to infuse ₹3,000 cr in general insurance companies this quarter - The Finance Ministry will infuse ₹3,000 crore capital into state-owned general insurance companies during the current quarter (Jan-March). The move, aimed at improving their financial health and approved in 2020, will target the National Insurance, Oriental Insurance and United India Insurance. The Union Cabinet also decided to increase the authorised share capital in these companies. In Budget session 2021, the government sought Parliament nod for gross additional expenditure of ₹6.28 lakh crore for 2020-21 as part of second and final batch of supplementary demands for grants.
(Governance and Institutions)
90 15-02-2021 - Energy - Meghalaya starts 7-hour power cut due to electricity purchase dues - The Meghalaya Electric Corporation Ltd (MeECL) on 14-02-2021 began a seven-hour daily load-shedding as the power deficient state owes ₹74.65 crore to Power Grid Corporation of India Limited as transmission charges. The outages are being carried out in three shifts on a rotational basis. The state government has availed a loan of Rs 1,345 crore under #AatmanirbharBharat from the Centre to clear all outstanding power purchase dues of the MeECL. The loan under the special package will be disbursed to all gencos and transcos which include NEEPCO, OTPC, NHPC and PGCIL.
(Energy)
91 13-02-2021 - Indian Economy - Fiscal deficit will be reduced without hurting growth: FM - In her reply to the Budget discussions in the Parliament, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the government will bring down India's fiscal deficit without creating hurdles for growth. She added that the government hasn't "hurried" while announcing any fiscal deficit number. During the Budget presentation, Sitharaman pegged the fiscal deficit for 2020-21 at 9.5% of GDP and 2021-22 at 6.8%. The 15th Finance Commission had expected lower deficit numbers, but the one-time settlement of FCI dues by government pushed the deficit to a record high. This also showed the need for a new FRBM law in India.
(Indian Economy)
92 13-02-2021 - Science and Technology - Turkey announces space program including 2023 moon mission - An ambitious 10-year space program of Turkey includes missions to the moon, developing internationally viable satellite systems, and sending Turkish astronauts into space. The President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan on February 9, 2021, unveiled an ambitious 10-year space program that includes missions to the moon, developing internationally viable satellite systems, and sending Turkish astronauts into space. The program announced by the President, during a live televised event laced with special effects, can be seen as part of his vision for placing Turkey in the expanded global and regional role. The Turkish Space Agency by the country in 2018 with an aim of joining the handful of the countries with space programs.
(Science and Technology)
93 13-02-2021 - World Politics - Iraq invites 52 countries to monitor elections - The Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) of Iraq invited 52 countries to monitor the country’s elections, which are scheduled to take place on October 10, 2021. IHEC Spokeswoman Jumana al-Ghalai said that the Commission’s law allows the recruitment of international observers to monitor the election process to ensure its transparency. The 2021 Elections will determine the 328 members of Iraq's Council of Representatives who will in turn elect a new President and Prime Minister. The invitation was sent by IHEC to the embassies of the 52 nations to ensure the integrity of the elections in accordance with international standards and thereby, restore the citizens’ confidence in the electoral process. Many Iraqis believe that the 2018 Parliamentary elections were marred by fraud and irregularities.
(World Politics)
94 13-02-2021 - Governance and Institutions - Centre launches India Toy Fair Website - A virtual toy fair will be held to boost the toy manufacturing industry in India and will improve its global market share in line with ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ and ‘Get Vocal for Local’ Campaigns. The Indian government will organize the first ‘India Toy Fair-2021’ in a virtual mode from February 27 to March 2, 2021, to boost the toy manufacturing industry in India and for improving its global market share in line with ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ and ‘Get Vocal for Local’ Campaigns. The website of the Toy Fair, www.theindiatoyfair.in was inaugurated jointly by the Union Minister of Textiles Smriti Irani, Union Education Minister Dr. Ramesh Pokhriyal, and the Union Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal on February 11, 2021.
(Governance and Institutions)
95 13-02-2021 - World Economy - Oil Prices rise - Oil prices were at their highest level in over a year. Brent crude rose above $60 a barrel; in April 2020, the early days of the coronavirus crisis, it had dropped below $20. Prices have been on a steady ascent since October 2020, fuelled in part by more curtailments to Saudi Arabia’s output and a pick-up in demand from China; oil imports there are thought to have jumped by a third in January 2021, from December. Oil was set for a second straight weekly gain, as OPEC+ continued to slash output and the group expects a stronger second half of the year, and global inventories will face sharp declines unless the cartel boosts supply. Iraq said OPEC+ is unlikely to change its output policy at a March 2021 meeting. Meanwhile, in the U.S., crude stockpiles are at the lowest in nearly a year.
(World Economy)
96 13-02-2021 - World Economy - Bitcoin hits all-time high as Mastercard, BNY Mellon support crypto - Bitcoin jumped to an all-time high of nearly $49,000 on 12-02-2021 after Bank of New York (BNY) Mellon and Mastercard moved to support cryptocurrencies. BNY Mellon announced that it'll hold, transfer and issue cryptocurrencies while Mastercard said it will allow customers to transact in select cryptocurrencies on its network. The largest cryptocurrency has surged over 60% so far in 2021. But Indian government is clamping down on it, with a new law that proposes banning all private crypto trades. Author Nassim Taleb has also recently criticised the Bitcoin, stating it's too volatile for anything to be priced in it.
(World Economy)
97 13-02-2021 - Healtcare and Medicine - India Covid update - India has reported 9,309 new COVID-19 cases and 87 fatalities in the last 24 hours, as per the Union Health Ministry. With this, the total number of cases rose to 1,08,80,603 and the death toll reached 1,55,447. Over 15,000 patients were discharged in a day, taking the total recoveries to 1,05,89,230. Active cases in the country stand at 1,35,926. The virus that causes COVID-19 is mainly transmitted through droplets generated when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or exhales. These droplets are too heavy to hang in the air, and quickly fall on floors or surfaces. You can be infected by breathing in the virus if you are within close proximity of someone who has COVID-19, or by touching a contaminated surface and then your eyes, nose or mouth.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
98 13-02-2021 - Science and Technology - ISRO tests satellites developed by private sector - Two satellites by Indian startups, SpaceKidz India and Pixxel (incorporated as Syzygy), were tested at the UR Rao Satellite Centre of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in Bengaluru. This is the first time ISRO has opened up its facilities for the private sector. ISRO helped these two companies fix problems with the solar panels on their respective satellites. India is adopting the model of the US space agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which allowed private firms such as SpaceX to get access to its technology and facilities to build reusable rockets that have carried humans to space. All existing ISRO -operated satellites—such as INSAT and GSAT—will be handed over to the PSUs, like the New Space India Limited.
(Science and Technology)
99 13-02-2021 - Indian Economy - Retail inflation eases to 4.06% in January 2021 - India's retail inflation, measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), eased to 4.06% in the month of January 2021, data released by the National Statistical Office (NSO) showed. The retail inflation during the month of December 2020 was at 4.59%. Meanwhile, factory output, measured in terms of the Index of Industrial Production (IIP), witnessed a growth of 1% in December. Retail inflation data showed the headline number eased to a 16-month low of 4.06 per cent mainly due to a sharp fall in food inflation. This is well within the Reserve Bank of India’s medium-term target of 4 ± 2 per cent and lower than the RBI’s projection of 5.2 per cent for the January-March 2021 quarter. The Index of Industrial Production (IIP) had recorded a contraction of 1.9 per cent in November, which has now been revised to (-)2.1 per cent. Factory output had grown by 0.4 per cent in December 2019.
(Indian Economy)
100 13-02-2021 - Science and Technology - First Mars video by Chinese released - China's space agency released the first video of planet Mars recorded from its spacecraft Tianwen-1 on 12-02-2021, two days after it entered the planet's orbit. The video shows the surface of the planet coming into view out of a pitch black sky, and white craters are also visible. The cameras took photos once every three seconds and continuously photographed for around half an hour. The videos have a frame rate of about 10 pictures per second. Tianwen-1, which means "Questioning the Heavens," launched on July 23, 2020 and is China’s first independent interplanetary mission. It arrived in orbit around Mars after a 202-day, 475 million km journey through deep space. It snapped an image of the Red Planet during its final approach. Tianwen-1 is expected to touch down on the planet's surface in May 2021.
(Science and Technology)
101 12-02-2021 - People and Personalities - Kim blames Cabinet for woes - North Korean leader Kim Jong-un blamed his cabinet for failing to come up with effective solutions for the country's economy, state media reported. At a four-day plenary meeting, he accused his cabinet of drafting plans that had "failed tremendously on almost every sector". He also called for enhanced self-reliance and the local production of goods and materials. 
(People and Personalities)
102 12-02-2021 - Science and Technology - Dogecoin the new kid on block - Dogecoin Co-founder Billy Markus, who left the project in 2015, has said that he finds it weird that something he created in hours "is now part of internet culture". "It's amusing to see Elon Musk talk about it," he added. The cryptocurrency, which is based on a "doge" meme, recently hit market capitalisation of $9 billion amid a Reddit-fuelled rally. Dogecoin is a cryptocurrency invented by software engineers Billy Markus and Jackson Palmer, who decided to create a payment system that is instant, fun, and free from traditional banking fees. Dogecoin features the face of the Shiba Inu dog from the "Doge" meme as its logo and namesake.
(Science and Technology)
103 12-02-2021 - World Politics - Human rights in Saudi Arabia - Loujain al-Hathloul, a prominent women’s-rights activist in Saudi Arabia, was released from prison after serving three years for supposedly harming national security. Her release was seen as an effort by the kingdom to curry favour with the new Biden administration. Saudi Arabia faced unprecedented international criticism in 2019 for its human rights record, including the failure to provide full accountability for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents in October 2018, as well as the country's dismal treatment of Saudi dissidents and human rights activists.
(World Politics)
104 12-02-2021 - World Politics - Trump impeachment - The impeachment trial of ex-President Donald Trump got under way in the US Senate. Six Republicans joined Democrats in voting to reject the defence’s argument that Mr Trump should not be tried as he has left office, but it is unlikely that the prosecution will get the two-thirds majority of votes needed to convict Mr Trump of inciting the mob that stormed the Capitol on January 6th. The proceedings are expected to be quick, certainly not as long as the three weeks of Mr Trump’s first impeachment trial a year ago. The Prosecution rested its case, saying if Trump is not convicted, it sets ‘a new terrible standard for presidential misconduct.’ Biden and his staff have refused to discuss Trump’s impeachment trial. Calling on senators to render “impartial justice” and embrace the “common sense” of the country’s founders, the nine impeachment managers closed their case by laying out the grave damage the Jan. 6 riot had caused not just to lawmakers or police officers at the Capitol, but to the democratic system and America’s standing around the world. None of it, they argued, would have happened without Mr. Trump.
(World Politics)
105 12-02-2021 - World Economy - Bitcoin surged to a record high - After Tesla revealed that it had bought $1.5bn-worth of the cryptocurrency and would accept it as payment for its cars, the crypto-currency surged. Elon Musk’s recent musings on digital money have bolstered the claims of bitcoin backers that it will one day be mainstream legal tender. Tesla’s investment in such a volatile market is a risky bet, however, and blemishes its green credentials. The amount of computer energy needed to mine bitcoin accounts for 0.56% of the world’s total electricity consumption, according to the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance. That is where talks of a 'green Bitcoin' comes into play, that would require far lesser amounts of energy to mine bitcoins. Sceptics say that Bitcoin doesn't have a future precisely as it's not environment-friendly.
(World Economy)
106 12-02-2021 - Healthcare and Medicine - WHO recommends use of Covishield vaccine for adults - The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, being made by Serum Institute of India as Covishield, for use worldwide by all adults, including the elderly. The WHO's Strategic Advisory Group of Experts has advised extending the time between doses to eight and 12 weeks to improve efficacy. AstraZeneca’s vaccine generated some controversies, especially in Feb 2021 due to its lower efficacy against the mutant strain discovered in South Africa, following which the country has halted the use of the vaccine.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
107 12-02-2021 - Defence and Military - No compromise on India's sovereignty: DM Rajnath on LAC situation - Addressing the Rajya Sabha on the ground situation in Ladakh, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on 11-02-2021 said there will be no compromise on India's sovereignty. He added, "Chinese actions have impacted the bilateral ties. But I am immensely proud that the Indian armed forces have bravely faced the challenges at the border." Nine months since they first got into an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation in east Ladakh, armoured units of the Indian Army and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) started withdrawing from north and south banks of the frozen Pangong Tso, paving a way for peace and tranquillity to be restored all along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China. However, doubts persist about how much was gained or lost in this process, with opposition questioning govt's move to vacate the heights of Kailash hills.
(Defence and Military)
108 12-02-2021 - Governance and Institutions - India vaccinates 70 lakh people - India has now crossed the 70 lakh COVID-19 vaccination-mark, the Union Health Ministry said. India did so in 26 days while the US took 27 days and the UK took 48 days to reach the same figures. The Ministry added that 17 states and UTs haven't reported any deaths in the last 24 hours. On the slow pace of vaccination, a National Task Force member had explained that the pace had been kept slow as the ministry wanted to take stock of the hiccups and gradually iron them out. "India has the capacity of immunising five to eight million people per day. We have inoculated over 17 crore children in a week several times a year during our pulse polio drive. But the pace was deliberately been kept low".
(Governance and Institutions)
109 12-02-2021 - World Politics - Myanmar military leader calls for protests to end - Myanmar's military leader General Min Aung Hlaing urged people to refrain from taking part in mass anti-coup protests to avoid the spread of coronavirus. "Those who are away from their duties are requested to return to their duties immediately for the interests of the country," he said. Hlaing has blamed harassment by "unscrupulous persons" for work stoppages. The 2021 Myanmar coup d'état began on the morning of 1 February 2021 when democratically elected members of Myanmar's ruling party, the National League for Democracy, were deposed by the Tatmadaw—Myanmar's military—which vested power in a stratocracy. (On 4 January 1948, Burma achieved independence from Britain, and became a democracy based on the parliamentary system. In late 1946 Aung San became Deputy Chairman of the Executive Council of Burma, a transitional government.)
(World Politics)
110 12-02-2021 - Science and Technology - NASA to use Fitbits to help prevent COVID-19 - US space agency NASA will provide 1,000 of its employees, including 150 astronauts, with Fitbit devices in a pilot program to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Under the program, NASA employees will be given the wearable device as well as access to a daily check-in app that can be used to log potential symptoms and other vital health metrics. Astronauts are often some of the first to test-drive new technologies. Currently NASA is using all different forms of digital health, including telemedicine, virtual reality and augmented reality. Historically, lessons learned by the agency have then gone on to inform health around the world. Fitbit, which is a part of Google, has been working on COVID-19-related initiatives for some time. In June 2021, it announced its Ready for Work product, which is made up of a daily health check-in for employees and an analytics dashboard for employers.
(Science and Technology)
111 11-02-2021 - Governance and Institutions - India, China hold bilateral talks amid border tensions on UNSC agenda - India and China held bilateral talks on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) agenda on February 9, 2021 amid the border tensions and military standoff on the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Earlier in the beginning of February 2021, India began its 2-year stint in the UNSC as a non-permanent member. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations (UN), charged with ensuring international peace and security, recommending the admission of new UN members to the General Assembly, and approving any changes to the UN Charter.
(Governance and Institutions)
112 11-02-2021 - World Politics - Donald Trump's second impeachment trial begins - Former US President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial formally began in the Senate on February 9, 2021. Trump is the only President in US history to face impeachment trial twice. This is the first-ever impeachment trial of a former President. It aims to answer whether one can incite an insurrection with impunity. The House of Representatives had impeached the former president last month for inciting violence at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. Overall, this is the fourth impeachment trial in US history. The earlier trials include President Andrew Johnson's trial in 1868, Bill Clinton in 1998 and Donald Trump in 2020.
(World Politics)
113 11-02-2021 - Governance and Institutions - Rajya Sabha passes Major Port Authorities Bill 2020 - The Rajya Sabha on February 10, 2021 passed the Major Port Authorities Bill, 2020, giving greater autonomy to major ports in the country. The Bill was put to Division Voting where 84 members voted in favour of the bill and 44 voted against it. The bill seeks to provide for regulation, operation and planning of major ports in the country and provide greater autonomy to these ports. It also seeks to replace the Major Port Trusts Act, 1963 and provides for the creation of a Board of Major Port Authority for each major port. These Boards will replace the existing Port Trusts.
(Governance and Institutions)
114 11-02-2021 - Social Issues - Bangladesh receives USD 200 mn from World Bank - Bangladesh has received USD 200 mn from World Bank for safe water and sanitation services and Hygiene (WASH) project for rural areas. The agreement was signed between the Bangladesh government and the World Bank on February 9, 2021. The project aims to provide 3.6 million people access to hygienic sanitation facilities and about 6 lakh people access to clean water in rural areas. The funding will provide microcredits to both households and entrepreneurs for water and sanitation facilities. Over 3 lakh poorest households will receive fully subsidised toilets. The project also includes the construction of 3000 community piped water schemes and the installation of 312 public toilets and 2,514 hand-washing stations at crowded public places such as bus stations and markets.
(Social Issues)
115 11-02-2021 - Constitution and Law - Twitter suspends over 500 accounts for policy breach after Indian government's request - Twitter on February 10, 2021 informed that it has taken multiple enforcement actions including permanent suspension of over 500 accounts for a clear breach of Twitter's policies. The move comes in response to the 'legal requests' from the Central government. Twitter said that separate to their enforcement under its rules, over the course of the last 10 days, it has been served with several separate blocking orders by India's Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act. The social media giant said that it took a range of enforcement actions including permanent suspension in certain cases against more than 500 accounts for clear violations of Twitter's Rules. Twitter informed that they took the steps to reduce the visibility of the hashtags containing harmful content, which included prohibiting them from trending on Twitter. Many twitter users claim they have moved to an alternative platform "Koo". It emerged that Koo's database was leaking, and its domain name was owned by a Chinese!
(Constitution and Law)
116 11-02-2021 - Governance and Institutions - States' GST shortfall rises to ₹2.46 lakh cr in April-Nov 2021 period - The shortfall in GST revenues of states rose to ₹2.46 lakh crore during the April to November period of the FY 21 fiscal. Minister of State for Finance Anurag Singh Thakur informed the Rajya Sabha that the central government has given ₹40,000 crore as compensation for April-May 2020 and facilitated loans worth ₹84,000 crore. The GST regime has a mechanism of a compensation cess fund, which is made up of cess proceeds, to make up any shortfall below the states' protected revenue each year. This guarantee of revenue protection is part of the law and states are entitled to a 14% y-o-y growth in their GST revenue for 2017-22 period. In 2020, the government refused to honour it, stating "an Act of God" (pandemic) had changed all calculations. Unresolved questions about goods and services tax (GST) compensation to states for the next fiscal year are expected to generate heat in the GST Council.
(Governance and Institutions)
117 11-02-2021 - Science and Technology - NASA picks SpaceX to launch its Gateway station to Moon in 2024 - NASA on 10-02-2021 announced that Elon Musk-led SpaceX will launch the two major parts of lunar orbiter Gateway, that will function as a pit stop for future Moon missions. The Power and Propulsion Element (PPE) and Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO) will be launched in 2024 on SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket at an estimated cost of $331.8 million. Roughly one-sixth the size of the International Space Station (ISS), the Gateway of NASA will support research investigations, crew, and expeditions to the lunar surface. The outpost will serve as a docking station for visiting spacecraft, such as NASA's Orion spacecraft and will orbit the moon, tens of thousands of miles away.
(Science and Technology)
118 11-02-2021 - Agriculture - Farmers announce nationwide rail blockade - Protesting farmer unions announced a nationwide 'rail roko' (railway blockade) from 12 pm to 4 pm on February 18, 2021. In a statement, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha also announced that toll collection will not be allowed in Rajasthan from February 12. Earlier in Feb, they had observed a three-hour 'chakka jam' while demanding the government to repeal the farm laws. The farmers in many states are protesting the three new agriculture laws that were passed in 2020, claiming that it will fundamentally alter their livelihood patterns, and give Indian corporates a control over large swathes of agriculture. The govt. has tried to hold talks to resolve deadlock, but it hasn't worked till Feb 2021. The PM convinced farmers in his Parliament speech that MSP and APMCs won't end.
(Agriculture)
119 11-02-2021 - Science and Technology - Objective of UAE's Mars mission - The UAE's first mission to Mars has entered the planet's orbit seven months after the Emirati-built 'Hope Probe' was launched from Japan. The mission primarily aims to study Martian weather dynamics. By measuring how much hydrogen and oxygen is spilling into space, scientists will be able to look into why Mars lost its early atmosphere and liquid water. In Feb 2021, the United Arab Emirates became just the fifth nation to successfully send a spacecraft to Mars when its robotic probe, named Hope, began orbiting the red planet. Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and the second-smallest planet in the Solar System, being larger than only Mercury. Mars is the name of Roman god of war and is called the "Red Planet". It is suspected to have harboured life, billions of years ago before it all ended due to geological or cosmic reasons.
(Science and Technology)
120 11-02-2021 - Environment and Ecology - Tsunami confirmed by Australian agency after 7.7 magnitude earthquake in South Pacific - A 7.7-magnitude earthquake that struck in the South Pacific has generated a tsunami, the Australian weather agency (Australian Bureau of Meteorology) confirmed. It warned of a marine threat to Lord Howe Island. Later, Australia cancelled the warning for residents of Lord Howe Island, a marine reserve some 700 km northeast of Sydney. There was no threat to the mainland, it said. A tsunami is a series of waves in a large water body, caused by the displacement of a large volume of water, generally in an ocean or a large lake. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other underwater explosions above or below water all have the potential to generate a tsunami. Regarded as the largest recorded in modern times, the tsunami in Lituya Bay, Alaska was caused by a landslide triggered by an 8.3 magnitude earthquake. But the Dec 26, 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami was very deadly, caused by a large earthquake. Killer waves radiated from the epicenter and slammed into the coastlines of 11 countries.
(Environment Ecology and Climate Change)
121 10-02-2021 - Governance and Institutions - Government to invest Rs. 400 crores in Goa for fisheries hub - The Union Fisheries Minister Giriraj Singh on February 7, 2021, announced an investment of Rs.400 crores in Goa for making the coastal state a fisheries hub in India. Goa has the potential for the highest fish production in India and it has the capacity to become a fisheries hub. The investment will be jointly raised by the central government, state fisheries board, and others. India is the second largest producer of fish in the world contributing to 5.43% of global fish production. The sector provides livelihoods to about 16 million fishers and fish farmers at the primary level and almost twice the number along the value chain. Fish being an affordable and rich source of animal protein, is one of the healthiest options to mitigate hunger and malnutrition. In India, the Primary sector comprises agriculture, forestry, fishing and mining & quarrying activities; Secondary sector comprises manufacturing, electricity, gas, water supply & other utility services and construction, and Tertiary sector comprises all services. The fishing and aquaculture sector had a GVA of Rs.2.22 lakh crores in 2019-20.
(Governance and Institutions)
122 10-02-2021 - Energy - South Korea to build world’s largest offshore wind farm - SK will build the world's largest offshore wind farm by 2030. This 8.2GW offshore wind power complex will come up in Jeonnam province. The announcement was made on February 5, 2021 by the Moon Jae-In administration after signing a USD 43 billion deal. South Korea seeks to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Carbon neutrality means having a balance between emitting carbon and absorbing carbon from the atmosphere in carbon sinks. It is essential to reduce carbon emissions in order to reach climate neutrality. A net-zero emissions balance is achieved when the amount of greenhouse gas released into the atmosphere is neutralised.
(Energy)
123 10-02-2021 - World Politics - New Zealand suspends ties with Myanmar - New Zealand's PM Jacinda Ardern on February 9, 2021 announced the suspension of ties with Myanmar. Ardern said that the government will suspend all high-level political and military contact with Myanmar. It will also impose a travel ban on the military leaders of Myanmar and ensure its aid programme to the country will not include projects that benefit the military government. New Zealand's Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said in a separate statement that New Zealand does not recognise the legitimacy of the military-led government and called on the military to immediately release all detained political leaders and restore civilian rule.
(World Politics)
124 10-02-2021 - World Economy - Bitcoin crosses $47,000 after Tesla's $1.5 billion purchase - Bitcoin on 09-02-2021 hit a fresh record of more than $47,000 after Elon Musk-led Tesla announced that it has invested $1.5 billion, or 8% of its reserves, in the largest cryptocurrency. The company said it would soon accept bitcoin as a form of payment for its electric cars. Bitcoin is up around 1,000% since March 2020. Cryptocurrencies, especially Bitcoin, is now being considered as a safe-haven asset against market volatility and inflation. The current societal and economic climate also brings about a situation for people to hold less cash and stay hedged against market swings.
(World Economy)
125 10-02-2021 - World Politics - Myanmar police battle protesters defying ban - Myanmar Police fired rubber bullets and used teargas against protesters defying a ban on large gatherings in the capital, Naypyidaw. Water cannons were also used at demonstrators opposing the military coup and demanding the release of leader Aung San Suu Kyi and others. Myanmar's military Tatmadaw has seized full control of the country's government and detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi along with hundreds of members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party in a move the Biden administration has labeled a “coup.”
(World Politics)
126 10-02-2021 - Energy - India to make up biggest share of energy demand growth by 2040, says IEA - The International Energy Agency (IEA) said India will make up the biggest share of energy demand growth at 25% over the next two decades. IEA expects India's oil demand to rise to 8.7 million bpd in 2040 from 5 million bpd in 2019. Rising oil demand could take India's import bill to $255 billion by 2040. For now, coal, oil, and natural gas were the three primary commercial energy sources. India's energy policy, till the end of the 1980s, was mainly based on availability of indigenous resources. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) is the nodal Ministry of the Government of India for all matters relating to new and renewable energy.
(Energy)
127 10-02-2021 - Social Issues - China faces fertility crisis - The number of newborns in China dropped by 15% in 2020 as compared to 2019, according to the Ministry of Public Security. In 2020, China had reported 1,00,35,000 births, while the country had registered 1,17,90,000 births in 2019. The decline came amid the coronavirus pandemic and the economic uncertainties associated with it. Demographers called on China to immediately abandon restrictions on having babies, be more tolerant toward babies born out of wedlock, and do more to lower the costs of raising and educating children. The birth rate on the Chinese mainland dropped to 10.48 per 1,000 people in 2020, the lowest in seven decades, and the number of births was down 580,000 compared with the previous year. The total fertility rate (the average number of children a woman gives birth to) should remain at about 2.1 for China's population to stay stable, and a total fertility rate of 1.5 is a highly sensitive warning line.
(Social Issues)
128 10-02-2021 - Science and Technology - NASA's SPHEREx mission to be launched by SpaceX - The NASA's SPHEREx mission, that SpaceX will launch, will be used by astronomers to gather data on over 300 million galaxies, as well as over 100 million stars in Milky Way. The Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer mission (SPHEREx) will provide the first all-sky spectral survey. The launch date is Jun 17, 2024. Every six months, SPHEREx will survey the entire sky using technologies adapted from Earth satellites and interplanetary spacecraft. The mission will create a map of the entire sky in 96 different color bands, far exceeding the color resolution of previous all-sky maps. It also will identify targets for more detailed study by future missions, such as NASA's James Webb Space Telescope and Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope. The mission will search for water and organic molecules in stellar nurseries.
(Science and Technology)
129 10-02-2021 - Healthcare and Medicine - Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in India - The NITI Aayog member (health and nutrition) Vinod Kumar Paul said that US giant Johnson & Johnson was interested in manufacturing its COVID-19 vaccine in India. The Janssen vaccine is produced by Janssen Biotech, the pharmaceutical arm of Johnson & Johnson. By Feb 2021, India ha approved AstraZeneca's Covishield vaccine and Bharat Biotech's Covaxin for emergency use. Unlike the Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, which are based on a new technology called mRNA that uses the body's own cells to produce a key viral protein, the J&J vaccine uses a type of virus called an adenovirus to deliver genes that produce those same viral proteins.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
130 10-02-2021 - People and Personalities - Nigerian economist Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as WTO chief - The World Trade Organization (WTO) announced that Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Nigeria) was “best poised to attain consensus” to become its seventh Director-General. This Nigerian economist will hence be the new Chief of World Trade Organisation (WTO). The former Finance Minister of Nigeria will become the first woman and African to take up this position. The development comes after the administration of US President Joe Biden showed its support for the same on February 5, 2021. Roberto Azevêdo had stepped down as WTO Director-General on 31 August 2020, a year before the expiry of his mandate. The incoming chief of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has a reputation for shaking up the guardians of wealth and power that will come in handy in her new role.
(People and Personalities)
131 09-02-2021 - Governance and Institutions - Aatmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana to be launched - The centrally sponsored scheme PM Aatmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana (PMASBY) will be launched in 2021-22 to boost 11,024 Urban and 17,788 rural health and wellness centres. The scheme will be implemented for 6 years with an allocation of Rs. 64,180 crores. However, it was not clear whether money has been allotted for 2021-22 itself, or not. Meanwhile, 'Aatmanirbharta', which means self-reliance, has been named as Hindi word of the year 2020 by the Oxford Languages. The word came into limelight after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's clarion call to make India a self-reliant or 'Atmanirbhar' nation. 
(Governance and Institutions)
132 09-02-2021 - Governance and Institutions - Central University to be set up in Leh - Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on February 1, 2021 proposed to set up a central university in Leh to pave way for accessible higher education in Ladakh. The Finance Minister announced this while presenting Union Budget 2021-22. The Minister shared that 100 new Sainik schools will be set up in partnership with NGOs, private schools, and states. The government would also be introducing legislation to implement the setting-up of the Higher Education Commission of India.
(Governance and Institutions)
133 09-02-2021 - World Politics - Nguyen Phu Trong re-elected as Vietnam’s leader for third term - Nguyen Phu Trong, the Chief of ruling Communist Party of Vietnam, was re-elected as the leader of country for the third term. The 76 years old has become the longest-serving leaders of Vietnam for decades. The development was reported by the Vietnam News Agency (VNA) on January 31, 2021. Vietnam is a socialist republic with a one-party system, led by the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV). It follows Marxism–Leninism and "Hồ Chí Minh Thought", the thoughts of the late Hồ Chí Minh (a Vietnamese revolutionary and politician who served as PM of North Vietnam from 1945 to 1955 and President from 1945 to 1969). Vietnam became a unified country once more in 1975 when the armed forces of the Communist north seized the south. The US-led forces suffered huge defeatin the Vietnam war. Today, it has a booming economy, plugged into global supply chains, and has contained Covid-19 well.
(World Politics)
134 09-02-2021 - World Politics - Myanmar military declares martial law in cities amid protests - The military regime in Myanmar has declared martial law in parts of Yangon and Mandalay amid growing anti-coup protests across the country. The measure bans the gathering of over five people and imposes a curfew from 8 pm until 4 am, an official statement said. The orders are being issued in response to people carrying out unlawful actions. The military seized power in Feb 2021, and declared a year-long state of emergency in Myanmar, with power handed over to Gen Min Aung Hlaing. Ms Suu Kyi and senior leaders of her National League for Democracy Party (NLD), including President Win Myint, were put under house arrest. Gen Min Aung Hlaing's has said the electoral commission had failed to investigate irregularities over voter lists in the November election and had not allowed fair campaigning. The commission said there was no evidence to support claims of widespread fraud. People have taken to banging pots and pans to protest!
(World Politics)
135 09-02-2021 - Science and Technology - Russia to launch around 40 satellites from 18 countries in March 2021 - Around 40 satellites from over a dozen different countries all over the world will be launched using the Soyuz-2 carrier rocket. A space industry source in November 2020 had informed that a Soyuz-2.1, a carrier rocket with the Fregat booster will blast off with the South Korean CAS500-1 (Compact Advanced Satellite 500) space vehicle from the Baikonur space centre on March 20, 2021. Apart from South Korea’s CAS500-1, other payloads from around 18 countries have also been planned to be delivered into orbit as part of Russia’s mission. However, the list of the satellites that have to be launched is not yet final and is also subject to review depending on the readiness of the satellites. Historically speaking, Yuri Gagarin (Soviet Air Forces pilot and cosmonaut) had become the first human to journey into outer space, with capsule, Vostok 1, completing one orbit of Earth on 12 April 1961.
(Science and Technology)
136 09-02-2021 - Healthcare and Medicine - Andaman & Nicobar Islands became first UT to be COVID-19 free - The Andaman and Nicobar Islands became the first Union Territory to be free from the COVID-19. The UT reported no active cases of the novel Coronavirus and the last four infected people tested negative. The information was shared by the Union Health Ministry on February 2, 2021. On the other hand, Kerala has the highest number of active COVID cases.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
137 09-02-2021 - World Politics - US President Joe Biden refuses to lift sanctions on Iran - President Biden informed on February 7, 2021 that he will not lift sanctions on Iran to re-engage Tehran in negotiations over the 2015 nuclear deal. Biden said that he would only lift sanctions if Iran stops enriching uranium beyond the limits of the nuclear deal. Earlier in the day, Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had reiterated during a speech that the US itself must lift sanctions and if they want Iran to return to its Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) commitments. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was signed by Iran, China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union in 2015 to remove international sanctions from Iran in exchange for it scaling down its nuclear program. Iran's economy has been ravaged due to sanctions, and then the pandemic that hit it badly in 2020.
(World Politics)
138 09-02-2021 - Science and Technology - HAL to develop first high altitude pseudo satellite - The Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to develop the first-of-its-kind high altitude pseudo satellite with the help of a start-up company.  The announcement was made by the HAL on February 4, 2021. This pseudo satellite will be solar energised, and become a big asset flying unmanned around 70,000 ft for 2-3 months and taking information. The HAL will be teaming up unmanned aircraft and vehicles with manned jets similar to the US project of skybrog. The project will strengthen the country's military strike capabilities. So finally, the manned aircraft will operate within the boundary and the unmanned aircraft will enter the enemy zone to carry out strikes deep inside the enemy territory. The system will have a mother-ship carrying components like Hunter and Alpha, where the mother ship can be LCA or Jaguar or other combat manned aircraft. The technology is named Combined Air Teaming System (CATS), and will be able to stealthily enter 700 kilometres inside enemy territory. It can straightway hit the target at a distance of 700 kilometres or can go to 350 kilometres and come back.
(Science and Technology)
139 09-02-2021 - Healthcare and Medicine - India reports 11,831 new COVID-19 cases, 84 deaths in 24 hours - India has reported 11,831 new COVID-19 cases and 84 more deaths as per the Union Health Ministry. With this, the total number of cases increased to 1,08,38,194 and the death toll stood at 1,55,080. Meanwhile, 11,904 patients were discharged on 07-02-2021, taking the total recoveries to 1,05,34,505. India's active cases stand at 1,48,609. The world is wondering at the sharp crushing of the Covid curve in India, attributing it to a mix of various reasons like - (a) half the population being less than 25 years of age, (b) general lack of hygiene over the years, imparting greater immunity to Indians, and (c) government's proactive lockdown in April 2020. The threat of new variants looms, though. In the meantime, Europe and USA are struggling to bring the pandemic under control.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
140 09-02-2021 - Environment and Ecology - U'khand glacial burst death toll rises as 26 bodies recovered; over 170 still missing - As many as 26 dead bodies were recovered in Uttarakhand on Monday (08-02-2021) after a glacial burst on Sundayled to flash floods in the state. Uttarakhand Police said that many were still missing, of which some were stranded in a tunnel where rescue operations were ongoing. It is now emerging that the erstwhile Ganga Rejuvenation Ministry had objected in 2016 on the new Tapovan Power Plant,but the Ministry of Environment (MoEFCC) pushed ahead. Repeated danger signals were ignored, and finally two power projects were washed away on 07-02-2021. Reports suggest massive degradation of forest land in Uttarakhand over the past few decades, due to rampant project building across Bhagirathi and Alaknanda rivers, etc. The districts most affected are Uttarkashi, Rudraprayag, Chamoli and Pithoragarh, and these saw the destruction in 2013 floods also.
(Environment Ecology and Climate Change)
141 08-02-2021 - Science and Technology - NASA to launch Mars ice mapping mission - NASA has signed a statement of intent with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the Italian Space Agency (ASI) for collaboration in the mission. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is planning to launch a robotic Mars ice mapping mission in collaboration with three international partners. The mission could help the agency identify potential science objectives for initial human missions to Mars. The ice mapping mission will help in identifying abundant, accessible ice for future candidate landing sites on the Red Planet. This was informed by NASA on February 3, 2021.
(Science and Technology)
142 08-02-2021 - Social Issues - Clubhouse arrives - Elon Musk, the US entrepreneur, debuted on Clubhouse, an invite-only social networking app based on audio-chat. Users can listen in to conversations and interviews between people on various topics, similar to podcasts, but the conversations are live on the app in different 'rooms'. Founded in 2020 by Stanford University alumni Paul Davison and Rohan Seth, Clubhouse is reportedly valued at $1 billion.
(Social Issues)
143 08-02-2021 - Health and Medicine - Chinese Army provides coronavirus vaccines to Pak military - The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) delivered a batch of vaccines to the Pakistani military, in a first such mission. The Pak military became the first foreign military to receive COVID-19 vaccine aid from the PLA but the number of doses delivered was not mentioned. Earlier, China had donated 5 lakh doses of Sinopharm's COVID-19 vaccine to Pakistan. The richest countries are grappling with shortages of Covid-19 vaccines, and the poorest are worrying about getting vaccines at all. The Chinese and Russian vaccines were initially dismissed in Western media due to a perception that they were inferior to the vaccines produced by Moderna, Pfizer-BioNtech or AstraZeneca. Leading medical journal 'The Lancet' published in Feb 2021 showed results from late-stage trials showing that Sputnik V, the Russian vaccine, had an efficacy rate of 91.6 percent. The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Serbia, Morocco, Hungary and Pakistan have approved the Sinopharm vaccine from China. India meanwhile is continuing with its vaccine diplomacy.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
144 08-02-2021 - World Economy - Total cryptocurrency market value records new high of $1.24 trillion - The market value of over 6,000 cryptocurrencies hit a new record high of $1.24 trillion on 06-02-2021, a month after it passed the $1 trillion-mark for the first time. The largest cryptocurrency Bitcoin rose 7% to touch $40,000, taking its market capitalisation to over $733 billion, followed by Ethereum, which recorded a market capitalisation of about $188 billion. Elon Musk, the maverick entrepreneur, has weighed in from time to time in this story, adding "Bitcoin" to his Twitter bio, and promoting the "Dogecoin". India, however, was planning to outlaw all private cryptocurrencies, putting a question mark on investments by millions of investors. A cryptocurrency uses digital files as money, created using cryptography methods and uses 'decentralized control', via blockchain technology. 
(World Economy)
145 08-02-2021 - World Politics - Thousands protest against military coup in Myanmar's biggest city - Many people took part in protests against the military coup in Myanmar's biggest city, Yangon, on 07 Feb, 2021, deciding to fight until the end. The next generation can have democracy if this military dictatorship ended, as per protesters. They flashed the three-finger salute from 'The Hunger Games' films that has become a symbol of protest against the coup. The army - Tatmadaw - has always been in charge. British Burma was created through conquest in the 19th century, by lumping together over 100 different ethnic groups. After independence in 1948 many rebelled against the new government. The army, then as now dominated by officers from the Bamar ethnic majority, began a suppression of such separatism that has gone on ever since. After toppling a democratically elected government in 1962 it stayed in power almost continuously for 50 years, claiming only it could hold the country together. In 1988 it savagely quashed a democratic uprising. In 2011, the Tatmadaw amazed the world by making way for a civilian government. Why? It was worried about the country's direction, and China's rising interference. And it thought power would never actually go to civilian hands.
(World Politics)
146 08-02-2021 - Science and Technology - China's Tianwen-1 space probe sends back its first image of Red Planet - The Tianwen-1 probe sent back a black and white photo, which shows geological features of Mars including the Schiaparelli crater and the Valles Marineris, a vast stretch of canyons on the Martian surface. The image was released by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) on February 5, 2021. The Mars probe is preparing to touch down on the Red Planet later in 2021. Launched in July 2020, at the same time as the US Mars mission, the probe expected to enter Mars orbit around February 10. China National Space Administration is the national space agency of China responsible for the national space program and for planning and development of space activities. China has a strong space programme, and the Chinese Chang'e 4 spacecraft made the first landing on the far side of the Moon on 3 January 2019. All soft landings took place on the near side of the Moon until then.
(Science and Technology)
147 08-02-2021 - Science and Technology - UAE's Mars probe to reach Mars before China, US probes this month - UAE's 'Hope' probe, which was launched in July 2020, will reach Mars' orbit on February 9, 2021. The probe will reach Mars before the probes sent by China and the US, which were also launched in July 2020. Earlier, China's Tianwen-1 spacecraft sent back its first Mars image which it took from a distance of around 2.2 million kilometres. The Hope Probe will be the first to provide a complete picture of the Martian atmosphere and its layers when it reaches the red planet's orbit in 2021. The probe will enter the Red Planet's orbit in 2021, coinciding with the Golden Jubilee of the Union. The mission design, development, and operations were led by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC). It was assembled at the University of Colorado, USA.
(Science and Technology)
148 08-02-2021 - Environment and Ecology - Why did glacier break in cold winter month of Feb - February temperatures can drop to below zero in the hills of Uttarakhand's Chamoli. Why, then, did a glacier break off, with disastrous effect? In winter, glaciers remain firmly frozen. Even walls of glacial lakes are tightly bound. A flood of this sort in this season is usually caused by an avalanche or landslide. Neither seems to be the case here. The tragedy could be result of ‘very rare’ bursting of water pockets in glacier. Scientists said satellite and Google Earth images did not show a glacial lake near the region, but there was a possibility of 'water pockets' (lakes inside the glaciers) which might have burst. Though the event needs mpre analysis, it is unlikely to be a 'cloud burst' as weather reports in Chamoli district showed sunny weather on 07-02-2021, with no record of precipitation.
(Environment Ecology and Climate Change)
149 08-02-2021 - Environment and Ecology - Uttarakhand disaster was man-made, says Magsaysay award winner - The glacier burst in Reni village of Uttarakhand’s Chamoli in Garhwal Himalayas on 07-02-2021 resulting in a flash flood has proven right the 2017 prediction of conservationist Rajendra Singh, also known as the ‘Waterman of India’ who after the Kedarnath floods in 2013 had claimed that a similar tragedy was waiting to happen. Singh said “We had informed the authorities concerned that no dams should be constructed on rivers Alaknanda, Bhagirathi, and Mandakani as there are very steep slopes in the area and it is an extremely eco-sensitive zone. The rampant construction continue due to which the recent disaster was inevitable. In fact, it was not a natural disaster, but a man-made one.” In 2019, a village resident had filed a PIL in the Uttarakhand high court (HC) alleging unfair and environmentally hazardous practices by the private firm involved in the project. It was alleged that the firm was "using explosives and blasting the mountains for mining". The blasting, the petition said, had damaged the sensitive areas around the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve.
(Environment Ecology and Climate Change)
150 08-02-2021 - Environment and Ecology - Glacier breaks off in Uttarakhand's Chamoli district, flash flood in Dhauli Ganga - A glacier burst in Raini area of Chamoli in Garhwal Himalayas of Uttarakhand on 07-02-2021, causing a flash flood endangering the life of people living near the river bank. The flood caused heavy damaged to the hydropower plant nearby. The Tapovan- Vishnugad hydropower plant was damaged amidst a flood of water gushing down the Ganga river. The IAF reported that Tapovan Hydro-Electric Power Dam (Rishi Ganga Project) was completely washed off. IAF's Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) deployed at Joshimath undertook a recce of affected areas. Authorities swung into action in Uttarakhand and also in UP, fearing floods in many areas. The Centre announced a ₹2L ex-gratia for families of those killed in flash floods, from the PMNRF. The state government announced an amount of ₹4 lakh each for families of the deceased.
(Environment Ecology and Climate Change)
151 06-02-2021 - Governance and Institutions - Schemes - (a) The Ministry of Jal Shakti launched web portal on Gobardhan scheme that seeks to support villages in managing the cattle as well as biodegradable waste. The scheme is likely to boost the farmers' income through the conversion of biodegradable waste into compressed biogas (CBG). (b) The Government launched a KAPILA campaign to raise awareness about Intellectual Property Rights. The Kalam Program for Intellectual Property Literacy and Awareness (KAPILA) Campaign will spread awareness about the intellectual property rights. The information regarding this was shared by Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’.
(Governance and Institutions)
152 06-02-2021 - Defence and Military - India approves export of 156 defence equipment, including Brahmos, Tejas, Astra missile - In total, 156 defence equipment have been approved for export by the government to boost its arms export to the friendly nations.  The Central Government on February 4, 2021, gave its approval for the export of artillery guns, indigenous Light Combat Aircraft, tanks and missiles, explosive, anti-tank mines, and others. In total, 156 defence equipment have been approved for export by the government in order to boost its arms export to the friendly nations. The list of the items was released by the Defence Research Development Organisation. Earlier, India had given clearance for the export of Akash Missile, but now even Brahmos weapon system, Beyond Visual range air-to-air missile Astra and anti-tank guided missile Nag are also ready for the export.
(Defence and Military)
153 06-02-2021 - Healthcare and Medicine - Covid, vaccine and health updates - Pakistan said that China's Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine was not effective for people over the age of 60 years. The expert committee did not authorise the Sinopharm vaccine for people older than 60, a day after Pakistan started its vaccination programme. In another development, Pfizer withdrew its vaccine's emergency use application from India. The US pharma giant's move came following the meeting of the Drug Regulatory Authority of India (DGCI) on February 3, 2021, attended by the company as well. India claimed that it was rolling out the vaccination successfully, and at the higest rate anywhere in the world. Meanwhile, Israel donated medical equipment to a Delhi-based hospital - Primus Super Speciality Hospital - on February 5, 2021, a week after a blast took place outside the Israel Embassy in Delhi. The equipment included AI-based technologies and ventilators to the hospital in an attempt to strengthen its friendship with India.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
154 06-02-2021 - Energy - Denmark to build world's first energy island in North Sea - Denmark on 05-02-2021 approved a plan to build the world's first energy island in the North Sea. The artificial island will produce and store greenhouse energy to provide electricity for three million European households. The island, which is currently in its initial phase, will be the size of 18 football fields and would cost 210 billion Danish kroner ($33.9 billion). Located 80 kilometres west of the Jutland Peninsula, it will initially have an area of 120,000 square kilometres. The island will be linked up to hundreds of wind turbines providing power to several European countries. It’s a new way of thinking about offshore wind, because the usual way is to have one offshore wind farm that’s connected to land. The floating energy island could also be used to fuel ships, planes and trucks using renewable electricity. Wind power would be converted into hydrogen which can then be turned into liquid fuels. This would solve two problems: how to store renewable energy and how to get it into the transport sector.
(Energy)
155 06-02-2021 - Healthcare and Medicine - Healthcare workers in Myanmar start anti-coup protests - Healthcare workers across Myanmar started a civil disobedience protest against February 2021's military coup amid a steady rise in COVID-19 cases. Medical workers wore red ribbons and declared that they won't work for the new military government, with some staff going on strike. Healthcare workers working in government hospitals and facilities had also issued a statement earlier opposing the coup. The Tatmadaw - Myanmar's military - had seized power ousting the elected government, that won recent elections too, under frivolous charges.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
156 06-02-2021 - Governance and Institutions - One Nation One Ombudsman - The Reserve Bank in its monetary policy announcement explained it will be integrating consumer grievances redressal under a single ombudsman as against three schemes working at present. Today, there are three dedicated ombudsman schemes devoted to  consumer grievance redressal in (a) banking, (b) non-bank finance companies and (c) digital transactions, respectively. To make the alternate dispute redress mechanism simpler and more responsive to the customers of regulated entities, they are being merged. The RBI is targeting to roll out the e-Integrated Ombudsman Scheme in June 2021, and financial consumer protection has gained significant policy priority across jurisdictions and the RBI has been taking a slew of initiatives on the same.
(Governance and Institutions)
157 06-02-2021 - Governance and Institutions - RBI's MPC Feb 2021 on inflation scenario - MPC said that the threat of inflation had been high, complicating policy choices for the MPC, but were now receded. The retail inflation, measured by the consumer price index (CPI), fell sharply to 4.59 per cent in December 2020, after remaining above the upper band of the MPC’s inflation targeting framework at 6%. MPC expects inflation to range between 5-5.2 per cent in coming months. RBI assured ample liquidity through staggering the hike in the cash reserve ratio (CRR). In 2020, there were demands to dilute the inflation targeting framework (FIT), allowing the MPC greater space to remain accommodative. Given the unpredictability it would have brought, nothing was changed.
(Governance and Institutions)
158 06-02-2021 - Governance and Institutions - RBI's MPC Feb 2021 announcements - Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Shaktikanta Das said the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) had decided to keep policy rates (repo, reverse repo) unchanged. The repo rate was maintained at 4 percent and reverse repo rate at 3.35 percent, and the accomodative policy stance would continue. So, growth considerations will continue to drive monetary policy “till the prospects of a sustained recovery are well secured. The MPC pegged real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth at 10.5 percent in 2021-22. The RBI had swung into action in April 2020, providing both conventional and unconventional tools to create liquidity in the economy, once lockdowns were initiated by the government.
(Governance and Institutions)
159 06-02-2021 - Environment and Ecology - Climate change and transmitting COVID-19 to humans: Study - Climate change may have played a "key role" in transmission of the novel coronavirus to humans by driving several species of pathogen-carrying bats into closer contact, a study predicts. Researchers from University of Cambridge found that over the last century, 40 species of bats relocated to southern China, Laos and Myanmar where, as per genetic analysis, COVID-19 first appeared. Early on in 2020, when the pandemic spread, it was suspected that Chinese citizens had moved deep into the natural spaces of these species, thereby providing pathways for viruses to jump into human society (in Wuhan region). In general, it is known that man's extraction of natural resources is giving opportunity to micro-organisms to proliferate.
(Environment Ecology and Climate Change)
160 06-02-2021 - World Politics - UN Human Rights issues statement on farmers' protests in India - The official Twitter handle of United Nations Human Rights on 05-02-2021 wrote that "#India: We call on the authorities and protesters to exercise maximum restraint in ongoing #FarmersProtests." "The rights to peaceful assembly & expression should be protected both offline & online. It's crucial to find equitable solutions with due respect to #HumanRights for all," the tweet read. This was a serious development, as India's human rights treatment came to the world's notice. The same day, Government announced that 4G services were being restored across Kashmir region, blocked since August 2019. In parallel, domestic war of words on farmers' protests continued unabated, with pro-farmer and anti-farmer-protest camps battling it out in social media.
(World Politics)
161 05-02-2021 - Trivia and Miscellaneous - Kerala to launch first human milk bank on 5th February - Kerala's first Human Milk Bank will be launched by state's Health Minister KK Shailaja on February 5, 2021 at the Ernakulam General Hospital. A milk bank collects breast milk from mothers who have more than their babies need, then screens, pasteurizes, and tests the milk, after which it is dispensed primarily to premature and sick babies whose mothers do not have enough milk for them. The Bank will ensure the availability of breast milk for newborn babies, who are not being breastfed by their mothers. The first human milk bank in Asia was established in 1989 in Lokmanya Tilak General Hospital, Mumbai, India, by Dr. Armida Fernandez.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
162 05-02-2021 - People and Personalities - Kohli India's most valued celebrity brand for 4th year in a row at ₹1,734 cr: Report - Team India captain Virat Kohli has been named as India's most valuable celebrity brand for the fourth year in a row in Duff & Phelps' latest celebrity valuation report. Kohli's brand value rose to $237.7 million (₹1,734 crore) in 2020. Actor Akshay Kumar retained his second spot in the rankings with a brand valuation of $118.9 million (over ₹865 crore).
(People and Personalities)
163 05-02-2021 - Indian Politics - India falls to 53rd spot in Democracy Index - India had slipped two places to 53rd position in the annual Democracy Index published by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), which analysed 167 countries. Norway is ranked 1st, and Pakistan 105th. India's ranking has slipped from 27th in 2014 "as a result of democratic backsliding" under PM Modi's leadership, the EIU said. India is classified as a "flawed democracy" along with countries like the US, France, Belgium and Brazil. Trump was responsible for the slide US saw. The EIU Democracy Index provides a snapshot of the state of world democracy for 165 independent states and two territories. The Democracy Index is based on five categories: electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, the functioning of government, political participation, and political culture.
(Indian Politics)
164 05-02-2021 - Science and Technology - Elon Musk-led SpaceX successfully launches 60 Starlink satellites - SpaceX on 04-02-2021 successfully launched 60 Starlink satellites from its Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The Falcon 9 first stage booster successfully returned to Earth, completing its fifth launch and landing. SpaceX has launched over 1,000 satellites to date and has also started beta testing its satellite internet in the US and the UK. Starlink is a satellite internet constellation being constructed to provide satellite internet access. The constellation will consist of thousands of mass-produced small satellites in low Earth orbit, working in combination with ground transceivers. Once active, it will prove challenging for governments that block internet locally, as internet from space will always be there.
(Science and Technology)
165 05-02-2021 - World Politics - Myanmar military blocks Facebook amid protests over coup - Myanmar's military run-government blocked Facebook amid protests following the coup. Facebook would be unavailable until February 7 in order to maintain "stability" in the country, the Ministry of Communications and Information said. Facebook urged authorities to restore connectivity so that people "can communicate with their families and friends and access important information". In recent years, FB has been blamed for doing little while hateful posts circulated on its platform led to the 'genocide' of Rohingyas at the hand of military. State counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi is also under arrest now.
(World Politics)
166 05-02-2021 - Healthcare and Medicine - UNICEF, SII sign agreement for long term supply of COVID-19 vaccines - The Serum Institute of India (SII) and the UNICEF entered into an agreement for long-term supply of Novavax and AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccines. Oxford-AstraZeneca's vaccine Covishield is being manufactured by the SII and Novavax vaccine is being produced by US-based Novavax Inc. The UNICEF will have access to about 1.1 billion vaccine doses for 100 countries. There are various global alliances working towards ensuring vaccine availability for all. Rich world stands accused of cutting deals with vaccine manufacturing firms, bypassing WHO procedures, inviting criticism of "moral collapse" from WHO chief. 
(Healthcare and Medicine)
167 05-02-2021 - Healthcare and Medicine - 19 people have died after Covid-19 vaccination, no evidence of vaccine link: Govt - Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan has said that 19 people, who have received Covid-19 vaccine, have died and there is no evidence of these deaths being caused due to the vaccination. "We have a total of 8,563 adverse event following immunisation (AEFI) cases...We have done vaccination in lakhs. So what percentage is this? 0.18% only," he added. India's Covaxin (Bharat Biotech + ICMR) had generated controversy due to lack of publicly available Phase III efficacy results prior to launching of vaccination drive. India is also exporting its Covid vaccines worldwide as part of Vaccine Diplomacy.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
168 05-02-2021 - People and Personalities - Still stand with farmers, no amount of threats will change that: Greta - Global environmental activist Greta Thunberg on 04 Feb, 2021 again tweeted, "I still #StandWithFarmers and support their peaceful protest. No amount of hate, threats or violations of human rights will ever change that." This comes after a large number of Indians on social media (mainly Twitter) accused her of being a part of an "international conspiracy to defame India" after she tweeted a toolkit on farmers' protest. India media went ballistic proving that "her toolkit of instigating protests" proves that farmer protests are globally engineered and fake. The Delhi police registered an FIR (police report) against "the toolkit", bringing more attention to farmers protests from the world!
(People and Personalities)
169 05-02-2021 - Defence and Military - TPMW treaty comes into force - The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), or Nuke ban treaty, came into force on 22 January 2021. It is a legally binding instrument aimed at total elimination of nuclear weapons, under the aegis of the United Nations. The treaty did not find support from the P-5 countries of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) despite being party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). This is since it prevents countries from participating in any nuclear weapons-related activities, including development, testing, possession, stockpile, use, or threat of use of nuclear weapons. India refused to be a party to the talks. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) spearheaded the efforts for the signing of a nuke ban treaty and was awarded the Nobel Prize for peace in 2017. In the past, India has refrained from signing nuclear disarmament treaties such as the NPT and Comprehensive Nuclear Ban Treaty (CTBT), primarily because it feels they are discriminatory — while non-nuclear states aren’t allowed to have nuclear weapons, nuclear-weapon states have no obligation to give them up. Also, the NPT only recognises a country as a nuclear power if tests were conducted before 1967. India isn’t ready to sign the treaty as a non-nuclear weapons state.
(Defence and Military)
170 05-02-2021 - World Politics - US extends Nuclear Treaty with Russia for 5 years - In a major development, the United States has extended nuclear arms control treaty with Russia for five more years, till 2026. The announcedment was made by the Secretary of State Antony Blinken just one day before the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) was set to expire. The move is expected to prevent an arms race amid rising tensions with Moscow. The New START Treaty, which went into effect in 2011, limits the US and Russia to deploying no more than 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads each and imposes restrictions on the land and submarine-based missiles and bombers to deliver them (but does not cover new types of weapons). 
(World Politics)
171 04-02-2021 - Environment and Ecology - Punjab saw 44.5% rise in stubble burning - Stubble burning incidents in Punjab rose by 44.5% last year despite the state getting 46% of Centre's total funds for managing crop residue, the government of Indi informed the Supreme Court. Punjab reported 76,590 stubble burning incidents in 2020 against 52,991 instances in the previous year. Of the ₹1,726.67 crore fund allocated by the Centre, Punjab got the highest, ₹793.18 crore. Stubble burning is done by farmers due to the cost and time involved in removing the stubbles from the farm fields, after the rice crop (paddy) is harvested. Burning across thousands of farms in north India leads to intense pollution in NCR skies, due to peculiar combination of geography, climate and physical features in winters. 
(Environment Ecology and Climate Change)
172 04-02-2021 - Energy - Reliance receives world's first carbon-neutral oil from US - India's richest man Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries has sourced the world's first consignment of carbon-neutral oil from Oxy Low Carbon Ventures (OLCV), a division of US oil firm Occidental. "This is the energy industry's first major petroleum shipment for which greenhouse gas emissions associated with the entire crude lifecycle, well head through the combustion of end products, have been offset," OLCV said. What is carbon netural oil? The firm Oxy Low Carbon Ventures and Macquarie will offset carbon dioxide equivalent to that associated with the production, delivery and refining of the crude oil and the use of the resulting product through the retirement of carbon offset credits. This will make the oil 'carbon-neutral'.
(Energy)
173 04-02-2021 - Governance and Institutions - PM-CARES contributed ₹2,200 cr for phase 1 vaccine drive: Centre - The PM-CARES fund contributed over ₹2,200 crore for the first phase of the COVID-19 vaccination drive, Expenditure Secretary TV Somanathan said. The exact amount of voluntary contributions made by individuals, corporates to the fund remains unknown. The PM-CARES fund was set up in March 2020 to provide relief during the coronavirus pandemic. The trust is headed by the Prime Minister, and is not covered under any CAG audit rules nor are accounts visible to the public. Logic given is that since it is a public charitable trust with voluntary donations and does not receive any government support, no CAG audit is required.
(Governance and Institutions)
174 04-02-2021 - Defence and Military - Govt formally seals ₹48,000 cr deal to procure 83 Tejas LCA from HAL - The government of India has awarded a ₹48,000 crore contract to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to supply 83 Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) to the Indian Air Force. The contract was handed over by the Defence Ministry to HAL at the inauguration of Aero India 2021. "It's probably the biggest Make in India defence contract till date," Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said. The HAL Tejas is an Indian single-engine, fourth-generation, multirole light fighter designed by the Aeronautical Development Agency in collaboration with Aircraft Research and Design Centre of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited for the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy.
(Defence and Military)
175 04-02-2021 - Agriculture - Greta Thunberg tweets about farmers' protest, says 'We stand in solidarity' - Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg took to Twitter to share an article on the internet shutdown at Delhi borders amid the farmers' protest. "We stand in solidarity with the farmers' protest in India," the 18-year-old tweeted. Earlier, American pop singer Rihanna shared the same article and tweeted, "Why aren't we talking about this?" That led to a storm in India, with the government actively attacking this Twitter activism via a MEA release, calling it interference in India's internal matters. Later, tens of Indian celebrities from Bollywood and Cricket hit back with standard hashtags and similarly-worded tweets, calling the foreign intereference unwanted.
(Agriculture, People and Personalities)
176 04-02-2021 - World Politics - Myanmar police files charges against Suu Kyi over illegal walkie-talkies - After the military coup in Myanmar, police has filed charges against ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi for illegally importing communications equipment and she will be detained until February 15 for investigations, according to a police document. Police said walkie-talkie radios, which were imported illegally and used without permission, had been found in a search of her home. Myanmar's military Tatmadaw has taken over the government in a coup in February 2021, after being beaten in national elections in Nov. 2020.
(World Politics)
177 04-02-2021 - Governance and Institutions - No road tax, registration fee on electric vehicles in Telangana - The Telangana government has exempted road tax and registration fee on the purchase of various kinds of electric vehicles. As per the official order issued, 100% road tax and registration fee exemption will be given for first 2 lakh electric two-wheelers, first 20,000 electric 3-wheelers, first 10,000 electric light carriers, first 5,000 private cars and 5,000 electric 4-wheelers. India has been slow in EV adoption so far, despite FAME I (launched 2015) and FAME II programmes of the union government (FAME - Faster Adoption and Manufacutring of Electric Vehicles in India). Under the second phase of the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles in India (FAME-II) scheme, 10 lakh registered electric two-wheelers with a maximum ex-factory price will be eligible to avail incentive of Rs 20,000 each.
(Governance and Institutions)
178 04-02-2021 - Governance and Institutions - Govt releases fourteenth instalment of GST compensation to states - The Centre has released the 14th weekly instalment of ₹6,000 crore to the states on Wednesday in order to meet the GST compensation shortfall. While ₹483 crore was paid to the three UTs, 23 states received ₹5,517 crore. So far ₹84,000 crore has been borrowed by the Centre at a rate of 4.7%. The central government borrows the funds under a special window and passes it on to states in back-to-back loan arrangement. The interest rate for the latest loan installment was 4.61 % while the average rate for the entire borrowing so far is at 4.74%. The remaining five states - Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim - do not have a gap in revenue on account of GST implementation.
(Governance and Institutions)
179 04-02-2021 - People and Personalities - World's second richest person Jeff Bezos to resign as Amazon CEO - The world's second-richest person Jeff Bezos announced that he would step down as the CEO of Amazon, the e-commerce and cloud services giant he founded 27 years ago. The 57-year-old will be replaced by Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy in the July-September 2021 quarter. Bezos will become the Executive Chairman, where he will focus on "new products and early initiatives". This change will not impact Amazon's India plans, where it has committed billions of dollars, and is in a high-profile fight with Reliance Industries and Future Group, over RIL-Future deal that Amazon says is legally wrong as it was committed to Future much earlier.
(People and Personalities)
180 04-02-2021 - Science and Technology - Prototype of SpaceX's Starship rocket explodes after crash-landing - A prototype of SpaceX’s Starship rocket exploded during a landing attempt minutes after a high-altitude experimental launch on 02-02-2021. The Starship SN9 that blew up on its final descent was a test model of the heavy-lift rocket being developed to carry humans on future missions to Moon and Mars. Starship prototype Serial Number 9, or SN9, aimed to fly as high as 10 kilometers, or about 32,800 feet altitude. The flight was similar to the one SpaceX conducted in December, when it launched prototype SN8 on the highest and longest flight to date. While the rocket flew successfully, it hit the ground explosively on its return, just as the SN8 flight did in December 2020. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of US said it would investigate the mishap.  
(Science and Technology)
181 03-02-2021 - Healthcare and Medicine: India’s vaccine production capacity best asset - The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on January 28, 2021, called upon India to play a significant role in the global vaccination program. He termed the vaccine production capacity of the country as the best asset for today’s world. He said that in India there is a very high level of production of the Indian developed vaccines and the UN is in contact with the Indian institutions for that. He added that hopefully, India will have all the instruments that are essential to play a major role in making sure that a global vaccination campaign is made possible. The domestic vaccination programme is already on, in full swing.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
182 03-02-2021 - Governance and Institutions: Sports budget takes cut of ₹230.78 crore, Khelo India allocated ₹657.71 crore - The government has reduced the sports budget by ₹230.78 crore, allocating ₹2596.14 crore for the financial year 2021-22. Last year, the government had allocated ₹2826.92 crore for sports, which was later revised to ₹1800.15 crore because of the lack of activity caused by the coronavirus pandemic. In the sports budget, the Khelo India programme has been allocated ₹657.71 core. The Khelo India programme aims at reviving sports culture in India at the grass-root level by building a strong framework for all sports played in our country and establish India as a great sporting nation. Khelo India is built along 12 distinct verticals.
(Governance and Institutions)
183 03-02-2021 - Governance and Institutions: PM to inaugurate ‘Chauri Chaura’ Centenary Celebrations on 4th February - PM Modi will inaugurate the Chauri Chaura Centenary Celebrations at Chauri Chaura, Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, on 4th February 2021 at 11 AM via video conferencing. The day marks 100 years of the ‘Chauri Chaura’ incident, a landmark event in the country’s fight for independence. Prime Minister will also release a postal stamp dedicated to the Chauri Chaura centenary during the event. Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh will also be present on the occasion. The centenary celebrations and various events planned by the State government  will begin in all 75 districts of the State from 4th February 2021 and will continue till 4th February 2022. 
(Governance and Institutions)
184 03-02-2021 - Science and Technology: ISRO's first unmanned space mission in December 2021 - FM Nirmala Sitharaman announced in her budget speech on February 1, 2021 that ISRO's first unmanned space mission as a part of Gaganyaan is slated for launch in December 2021. The unmanned mission was originally scheduled for launch in December 2020 but had to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Finance Minister informed that four Indian astronauts are being trained in Russia on generic space flight aspects for the main Gaganyaan mission, India's first manned space mission. ISRO is facing new challenges from new age private firms, as technologies like reusable rockets come in vogue. Space sector is now opened up for privatisation in India.
(Science and Technology)
185 03-02-2021 - Science and Technology : US billionaire buys all four seats on SpaceX capsule to be launched this year - US billionaire Jared Isaacman, Founder and CEO of Shift4 Payments, has bought all four seats on SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft which will be launched this year for a multi-day journey, orbiting Earth every 90 minutes along a customized flight path, SpaceX announced. Isaacman said he aims to use the private trip to raise $200 million for St Jude Children's Research Hospital. Elon Musk's SpaceX is now getting into top gear, with ultimate plans to colonise Mars in another decade.
(Science and Technology)
186 03-02-2021 - Trivia and Miscellaneous: Rihanna speaks out on Indian farmers' agitation - Legendary US pop star Rihanna (Robyn Rihanna Fenty) has tweeted on the ongoing farmers agitation in India, asking "why are we not discussing this" and quoting a news article. That led to immediate reaction from Indian twitter users, with Bollywood star Kangana Ranaut attacking Rihanna, calling agitating farmers "terrorists" and "Khalistanis". Many others supported Rihanna, including climate activist Great Thunberg, and a twitter handle called "God". Rihanna (32 yrs) is a Barbadian singer, actress, and businesswoman. Born in Saint Michael and raised in Bridgetown, Barbados, Rihanna was discovered by American record producer Evan Rogers who invited her to the United States to record demo tapes. Rihanna has more than 101 million followers on Twitter (https://twitter.com/rihanna).
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
187 03-02-2021 - Healthcare and Medicine: German chancellor says may need COVID-19 vaccines for years - Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, said that vaccination against COVID-19 may be required for "many years to come". "It's similar to the flu vaccine, where you re-vaccinate against the new mutation of the virus every time," Merkel said after a top-level meeting on vaccination campaign. She also promised all Germans a first dose by September-end if delivery commitments are met. Europe has stumbled badly in rolling out its vaccination campaign, and there is a rise in vaccine nationalism, despite EU ordering a large number of doses, far more than it would need.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
188 03-02-2021 - World Politics: Indian Embassy asks Indians in Myanmar to avoid travel after military coup - The Embassy of India in Yangon has asked Indian citizens residing in Myanmar to take precautions and avoid unnecessary travel, a day after the military took control of the country. The Embassy also informed that an Air India flight from Yangon to New Delhi scheduled for February 4 has now been rescheduled for February 11 due to "unavoidable reasons". The Tatmadaw (Burmese military forces) took control of Myanmar after the recent elections washed their chances off. State counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi too was arrested.
(World Politics)
189 03-02-2021 - Healthcare and Medicine: 162 doctors, 107 nurses died of COVID-19 in India till Jan 22 - Central government told the Rajya Sabha that COVID-19 had so far claimed the lives of 162 doctors, 107 nurses and 44 ASHA workers in the country. Minister of State for Health Ashwini Kumar Choubey said so in the Rajya Sabha in reply to specific queries. The figures are based on information received from the states till January 22. Total 1,54,486 people have died due to COVID-19 in India. But by Feb 2021, the daily rate of cases had miraculously plummeted in India, making it a case study in crushing the Covid curve.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
190 03-02-2021 - Defence and Military: Iran tests satellite carrier with its 'most powerful' solid-fuel engine - Iran has tested a new satellite carrier with its "most powerful" solid-fuel engine to date, Iran's defence ministry said. The test was the first launch of the Zuljanah hybrid satellite carrier for sub-orbital testing, said Ahmad Hosseini, the spokesman for the ministry's space division. According to Hosseini, it can carry a satellite weighing up to 220 kilograms. Iran has had a strong missile programme for many years now, and the West (and Israel) have tried to stop its development. Iran also has a potent nuclear weapons programme, that America tried to rein in through the Obama-era JCPOA deal (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).
(Defence and Military)
191 02-02-2021 - Trivia and Miscellaneous - Google threatens extinction of local newspapers: US publisher - A US news publisher HD Media has filed a lawsuit against Google alleging it has monopolised the online ad market in such a manner that "it threatens the extinction of local newspapers". It also alleged that Google and Facebook conspired to further their dominance in market. HD Media claimed it was unable to "monetise content" as a result of their behaviour. The tech giants have created new digital advt models that have upended all income models for local publishing businesses, since 2010 onwards. Recently, Australian govt. forced Google to share revenues with local media houses, that Google refused. 
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
192 02-02-2021 - Science and Technology - NASA captures portraits of ‘Lost Galaxy’ in Virgo Constellation - Also known as ‘NGC 4535’, the Lost galaxy is one of the largest of the 2000 or so galaxies in the Virgo cluster and is located about 50 million light-years from Earth. The Hubble Space Telescope of National Aeronautics and Space Administration- NASA has captured the stunning image of ‘Lost Galaxy’ in the Virgo constellation. Also known as ‘NGC 4535’, the galaxy is one of the largest of the 2000 or so galaxies in the Virgo cluster and is located about 50 million light-years from Earth. The images have been released by NASA as a part of an ongoing survey of 38 spiral galaxies which are located within 75 million light-years of Earth. As per NASA, in the present times, The Lost Galaxy is not that difficult to find, specifically for the floating observatories like Hubble. The long and elegant arms of the galaxy make it a prime candidate for studying the structure of the spiral galaxies.
(Science and Technology)
193 02-02-2021 - World Politics - Myanmar political crisis: Military takes control of the country, declares state of emergency - The Myanmar military on February 1, 2021, staged a coup and declared a state of emergency in the country for one year. The powerful military has also detained the state counsellor of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi and several other civilian leaders, the move which has been condemned by several other countries. The Military has also informed that the new elections in the country will take place after one of the emergency. During this one year, the Union Election Commission will be reformed and the Parliamentary elections which were held in November 2020 will be reviewed.Currently, the state power has been handed over to Min Aung Hlaing, Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services, while the first Vice President of Myanmar Myint Swe will be serving as the acting President of the country. India has advised Myanmar that democracy must be protected.
(World Politics)
194 02-02-2021 - Healthcare and Medicine - 20 lakh people in lockdown after 1 COVID-19 case found in Australia - About 20 lakh Australians have been put under lockdown following the discovery of one COVID-19 case in Perth. Authorities ordered a five-day lockdown starting Monday after a security guard at a hotel used to quarantine people returning from overseas was found to have contracted the virus. The state government said 66 people have been deemed close contacts of the guard. Australian authorities have been extremely harsh in trying to contain the pandemic.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
195 02-02-2021 - Trivia and Miscellaneous - Smallest chameleon species, less than 1 inch long, found in Africa - Researchers have discovered a new species of chameleon in Africa in which the adult male is less than an inch long, making it the smallest known male of roughly 11,500 known non-avian reptiles, Bavarian State Collection of Zoology said. The female is longer, measuring a little over an inch. There are only two known specimens of the species. The cataloguing of new species of plants and animals is a continuous process, with millions more left to be discovered. The IUCN provides a Red List categorisation of who is at what risk.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
196 02-02-2021 - Science and Technology - US startup's first commercial rocket powered by biofuel: A US-based startup bluShift Aerospace has successfully launched its Stardust 1.0 rocket which it claims to be the first commercial booster rocket powered by biofuel. The 20-feet tall rocket, which can carry a payload of 8 kilograms, reached a height of 4,000 feet before it parachuted back to Earth. bluShift has been working on Stardust 1.0 since its founding in 2014. Space industry is picking up pace rapidly now, with many firms working on cutting-edge technologies. Elon Musk's SpaceX wants to establish a human colony on planet Mars by 2030.
(Science and Technology)
197 02-02-2021 - Healthcare and Medicine - India's recovery rate 97%, records 11,858 recoveries - India's COVID-19 recovery rate has touched 97%, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare informed. "India's total active caseload has dropped to 1.68 lakh today (01-02-2021). The active caseload now consists of just 1.56% of India's total positive cases," the Ministry said. The total recoveries stand at 1,04,34,983 with 11,858 patients recovered and discharged in the last 24 hours. It would seem that India has nearly crushed the pandemic curve, and the year 2021-22 may see better economic prospects.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
198 02-02-2021 - Indian Economy - FM Sitharaman proposes Rs.1,500 cr scheme to promote digital payments - The Finance Minister proposed a ₹1,500 crore-scheme that will provide financial incentives to promote digital payments in India. While presenting the Union Budget 2021-22 speech, Sitharaman added that there has been a significant increase in digital payments in the recent past and the scheme will give a further boost to digital transactions. India has its own "India Stack" technology suite, on which the UPI system operates (Unified Payment Interface). But more than 90% of market share is with third-party apps, all from the US - WhatsApp Pay, Walmart's PayU and Alphabet's Google Pay.
(Indian Economy)
199 02-02-2021 - Indian Economy - What's costlier and cheaper after Union Budget 2021-22 - Gold and silver will become cheaper after the Union Budget 2021-22 as the government reduced the customs duty. Similarly, iron, steel, copper items, nylon clothes, steel utensils will also get cheaper. Meanwhile, mobile phones and chargers, leather shoes, imported auto parts, alcoholic beverages, raw silk, solar lanterns, imported products like compressors for refrigerators and ACs will get expensive, as custom duties have been raised. This is part of the mutli-year trend of raising import duties to provide a competitive playing field to local industry. This is also part of Atmanirbhar Bharat programme.
(Indian Economy)
200 02-02-2021 - Indian Economy - Investors get ₹6.3 lakh crore richer as Sensex posts best budget-day gain since 1997 - Indian benchmark Sensex ended 5% (2,315 points) higher on Monday (01-02-2021) posting its best budget-day gain since the Union Budget of 1997 when it surged more than 6% (that was the reformist budget of P Chidambaram, in the United Front government). The total investor wealth, measured in terms of the market capitalisation of BSE-listed stocks, surged by ₹6.3 lakh crore today. The Budget boosted healthcare spending by 137% to ₹2.23 lakh crore in 2021-22. Various measures like no new taxes, PSU land monetisation, higher capital spendings proposed in the budget pushed the stocks higher. But the day was bad for the bond markets.
(Indian Economy)
201 01-02-2021 - Governance and Institutions - Government condemns vandalisation of Gandhi's statue in USA: On 28 January 2021, the statue of Mahatma Gandhi at the Central Park in the City of Davis, California was vandalised by unknown persons. It was a gift to the City of Davis by the Government of India in 2016. The Government of India strongly condemns this malicious and despicable act against a universally respected icon of peace and justice. The Consulate General of India in San Francisco has separately taken up the matter with the City of Davis and local law enforcement authorities, which have initiated the investigations. The Mayor of Davis deeply regretted the incident and informed that they have initiated an investigation. The US Department of State has conveyed that this act of vandalism is unacceptable and expressed the hope that perpetrators will be brought to justice as quickly as possible.
(Governance and Institutions)
202 01-02-2021 - World Politics - US to befriend Palestinians again: The Biden administration announced that it would restore diplomatic relations with the Palestinians and resume sending aid, reversing Donald Trump’s punitive approach. The new government also reaffirmed America’s support for a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Trump had taken a unilateral approach towards Israel, strengthening Netanyahu's aggressive nationalism that is bent on wiping out Palestinian claims.
(World Politics)
203 01-02-2021 - Science and Technology - Multi-planetary system with 1 hot 'super-Earth' found: MIT Astronomers have found a multi-planetary system with a large, rocky and hot inner planet, or "super-Earth", and three gaseous outer planets. The planets orbit a Sun-like star over 200 light years away. Compared to our Solar System, these planets live very close to the star with their orbits ranging from 19 days to just under four days. Research like his is of no immediate practical use back on Earth, but deepens the understanding of the evolution of Universe.
(Science and Technology)
204 01-02-2021 - Governance and Institutions - ₹945-cr seed fund for startups: The government has approved the creation of a Startup India Seed Fund Scheme (SISFS) worth ₹945 crore for 2021-25. The fund will work to offer "early-stage funding to startups for proof of concept, prototype development, product trials, market entry and commercialisation". PM Modi had earlier announced the seed fund at Startup India's international summit Prarambh. India wants more startups to come up, to innovate for wealth creation. Jobs generation is currently at a historic low, and a contracted economy further hit new jobs creation as manufacturers now choose machines over men.
(Governance and Institutions)
205 01-02-2021 - World Politics - Europe's vaccine nationalism: The spectre of vaccine nationalism stalked Europe as a row erupted between Britain and the European Commission over supply of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine. Because of manufacturing problems at one of its European factories, AstraZeneca has said it will deliver less to the eu than it had planned in the coming months. The commission wants some of the shortfall to be made up with vaccine allotted for Britain. That risks breaching contractual obligations. But there are threats from the eu that if AstraZeneca does not agree, then supplies to Britain of other vaccines made in Europe, in particular the Pfizer jab, may be affected.
(World Politics)
206 01-02-2021 - Healthcare and Medicine - Covovax: Third COVID-19 vaccine may soon be available in India - A third type of coronavirus vaccine may soon be made available in India. This was informed by Serum Institute of India’s CEO Adar Poonawala. Poonawala said in a tweet that Serum Institute's partnership for a COVID-19 vaccine with Novavax has also published excellent efficacy results. He added saying that they have applied to start trials in India and hope to launch the vaccine-COVOVAX by June 2021!
(Healthcare and Medicine)
207 01-02-2021 - World Politics - Trump's trial in trouble: Only five Republican senators joined Democrats in a vote that will allow the impeachment trial of Donald Trump to proceed. The lack of support from Republicans suggests that the two-thirds majority required in the Senate for a conviction does not exist. The trial is due to start on February 9th, 2021. Many Republican lawmakers are shirking from accepting the 6th January violence on Capitol Hill as an insurrection, making it clear that 'Rule of Law' only means a convenient interpretation nothing else.
(World Politics)
208 01-02-2021 - Indian Economy - Highest monthly GST revenue collection in Jan 2021 at ₹1.2L crore: The Finance Ministry has announced that GST revenues during January 2021 are the highest since introduction of GST and has almost touched the ₹1.2 lakh crore mark, exceeding January 2021's record of ₹1.15 lakh crore. The GST revenue collected in January is ₹1,19,847 crore, of which CGST is ₹21,923 crore, SGST is ₹29,014 crore and IGST is ₹60,288 crore. For both Union and State governments, this is a high mark, and is good news as both are revenue starved. GST system has remained hit with glitches from July 2017, the month of rollout, and collections have been sub-par compared to expectations. Infosys, the firm that made the online GSTN software, hasn't been able to resolve all glitches till date.
 
(Indian Economy)
209 01-02-2021 - Healthcare and Medicine - Govt. denies Indian vaccine less effective compared to other nations' vaccines: The government has debunked the 'myth' that Indian vaccine is less effective as compared to other nations' vaccines. "Indian vaccine underwent multiple tests and trials. It is accurate and effective to fight Covid-19," the government said, stating it as a fact. India has approved Bharat Biotech's Covaxin and Serum Institute of India's Covishield for emergency use. There have been strong reactions to Covaxin across medical community, and the Ministry had issued strict orders against anyone questioning the same.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
210 01-02-2021 - Science and Technology - SpaceX to use natural gas for rockets to Mars: World's richest person Elon Musk-led SpaceX is reportedly planning to use natural gas (NG) to launch its Starship rockets designed to carry people to Moon and Mars. This is a totally new idea. The company's short-term goals will depend on fossil fuel extraction and it intends to drill gas wells to make its own fuel and electricity. This was revealed in the US Federal Aviation Administration documents. Elon Musk wants to establish human colonies on the Moon and Mars.
(Science and Technology)
211 29-01-2021 - Covid-19 – Vaccines are safe for those who are on blood thinners: ICMR – Both COVID-19 vaccines approved for emergency use in India — Covaxin and Covishield — are safe for people on blood thinners, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Director-General Balram Bhargav said on January 28. He said manufacturers of both the vaccines had approached the Drugs Controller-General of India (DCGI) for revision of this contraindication on their fact sheets. The Health Ministry added that it was engaging with private stakeholders to look at increasing the future coverage of COVID-19 vaccines. The Ministry is also actively working at reducing wastage of the vaccine by bringing in a more flexible digital platform and issuing an exhaustive guideline to States/UTs to manage waste below 10%.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
212 29-01-2021 - Economy – India’s gold demand fell to 25-year low in 2020: WGC – Gold demand in India hit a 25-year low at 446.4 tonnes in 2020, compared with 690.4 tonnes in 2019 due to the COVID-19 induced lockdown and on account of record high prices. Total jewellery demand in India for 2020 was down by 42% at 315.9 tonnes compared with 544.6 tonnes in 2019. The value of jewellery fell 22% to ₹1,33,260 crore, from ₹1,71,790 crore in 2019. Total investment demand for the calendar year was down by 11% at 130.4 tonnes in comparison with 145.8 tonnes in the previous year.
(Indian Economy)
213 29-01-2021 - Law & Constitution – Stopping hate on television is essential to prevent riots: SC – The SC has said stopping hate on television was as essential for law and order as arming policemen with lathis and putting up barricades to prevent the spread of violence and riots. The CJI referred to how the government had shut down Internet facility on January 26 amid violence during the farmers’ tractor rally. The CJI said the court, by government control, did not mean to curb free speech on TV.
(Constitution and Law)
214 29-01-2021 - World – Biden warns Beijing over ‘expansionism’ – A week into the job, U.S. President Joe Biden has sent a clear warning to Beijing against any expansionist intentions in East and Southeast Asia. In multiple calls and statements, he and his top security officials have underscored support for allies Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines, signalling Washington’s rejection of China’s disputed territorial claims in those areas. Mr. Biden has told Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga that his administration is committed to defending Japan, including the Senkaku Islands, which are claimed both by Japan and China, which calls them the Diaoyu Islands. That stance was echoed by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who has told Japanese counterpart Nobuo Kishi that the contested islands were covered by the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty. He affirmed that the U.S. “remains opposed to any unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East China Sea”.
(World Politics)
215 29-01-2021 - Covid-19 – New Zealand tops COVID-19 performance ranking – New Zealand and Vietnam were ranked the best performing countries in their response to the pandemic, according to a COVID-19 “performance index” put together by the Lowy Institute, an Australian think tank, which sought to assess the impact of geography, political systems and economic development in assessing outcomes. The index, which was based on six different indicators, including confirmed cases and deaths per million people and the scale of testing, sought “to gauge the relative performance of countries”, assessing 98 countries in the 36 weeks that followed their hundredth case. India ranked 86 out of 98 countries, while the U.S. stood at 94 and Brazil at the bottom of the index. Taiwan, Thailand and Cyprus were in the top five. Sri Lanka was the best faring nation in South Asia, ranking 10, while the Maldives was at 25, Pakistan at 69, Nepal at 70, and Bangladesh at 84.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
216 29-01-2021 - World – ‘U.S. will rejoin deal if Iran is compliant’ – On his first full day on the job, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed the administration’s position that if Iran were to become compliant with the terms of the now defunct Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, or the “Iran deal”), the U.S. would re-enter it too. The Trump administration had pulled out of the deal in 2018. Mr. Bliken, who had said at his confirmation hearing that America would approach the world with “humility and confidence”, told reporters that the new team would be “ constantly questioning our own assumptions and premises” , not engaging in groupthink and that there would be self-reflection and self-criticism when confronted with foreign policy issues.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
217 29-01-2021 - Survey/Report – India’s rank slips to 86th in corruption perception index 2020 – India’s rank has slipped six places to 86th among 180 countries in a corruption perception index (CPI) in 2020. For 2020, Transparency International (TI)’s corruption perception index was released on January 28. The index, which ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and business people, uses a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean. India’s rank is 86 out of 180 nations with a score of 40. India was ranked at 80th position out of 180 countries in 2019. The CPI score for India is constant this year as well as the previous year’s score. This year, New Zealand and Denmark were ranked at first position with scores of 88. Somalia and South Sudan were ranked lowest at 179th position with scores of 12.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
218 29-01-2021 - Polity & Governance – AAP targets elections in six States in next two years – Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal has said in the next two years, the party will fight elections in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat. He asked the party leaders and volunteers to concentrate on building the organisation outside Delhi. Terming the violence that happened in the Capital on Republic Day as “unfortunate”, he said strict action should be taken against the “actual culprits” and alleged that the Delhi police were filing “fake” FIRs. Attacking the BJP and the Congress, he said that their intention is wrong and they do not have any vision. In a veiled attack on the BJP, he said “the party at the national level” tells people about things that happened centuries ago, without talking about how the 21st and 22nd-century India should be.
(Governance and Institutions)
219 29-01-2021 - Polity & Governance – 18 Opposition parties to boycott President’s address – As many as 18 Opposition parties, led by the Congress, have announced their decision to boycott President Ram Nath Kovind’s address to the joint sitting of Parliament at the start of the Budget session, in solidarity with the farmers protesting against the three farm laws. Leaders of 16 Opposition parties, including the Congress, the Trinamool Congress, the DMK, the Shiv Sena, the NCP and the Left parties, issued a joint statement, in which they said they were shocked at the government’s “insensitivity and undemocratic attitude” towards the protesting farmers. The Shiromani Akali Dal and Aam Aadmi Party also separately announced their decision to stay away from the Presidential address.
(Governance and Institutions)
220 29-01-2021 - Agriculture – Police issue notice to 40 farmer leaders – The Delhi police has issued notices to 40 farmers’ leaders for violating the terms and conditions agreed upon for holding tractor rallies on Republic Day. The notices were served on Darshan Pal, Rakesh Tikat, Yogendra Yadav, Baldev Singh Sirsa, Balbir S. Rajewal and others for breaching the agreement with the Delhi police. They have been asked to submit their response within three days. The Police Special Cell also registered a case under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and sedition in connection with violence during the tractor parades. In a separate FIR registered at the Samaypur Badli police station, 37 farmer leaders have been named and charged under IPC sections on attempt to murder, rioting and others.
(Agriculture)
221 28-01-2021 - Politics– V.K. Sasikala is officially out of prison – V.K. Sasikala, the aide of late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, was on January 27 formally released from the Parappana Agrahara Prison here after serving a four-year sentence in a disproportionate assets case. Officials announced her release at the Victoria Hospital, where she is undergoing treatment for COVID-19. A team of officials visited Ms. Sasikala in the morning to complete the formalities of her release. While the prison escort has been withdrawn, more than 100 personnel of the Bengaluru city police have been deployed in and around the hospital for security, turning the COVID-19 facility into a fortress. A source said the police were not allowing family members and party workers to meet her, citing security reasons. As per protocols, she will be discharged on the 10th day if she is asymptomatic and free of oxygen support for at least three days.  (Trivia and Miscellaneous)
222 28-01-2021 - International Relations – China slams apps ban, urges India to ‘correct discriminatory measures’ – China has called on India “to immediately correct its discriminatory measures” over the decision to extend a ban on 59 Chinese apps. The Indian government recently sent notices to Chinese firms, informing them that the ban, announced in June, would continue. India had banned the 59 Chinese apps including TikTok, WeChat and UC Browser, citing national security concerns in the wake of the stand-off in Ladakh. Another 118 apps were banned in September and 43 more in November. The recent notice was sent after reviewing the responses from the Chinese firms, which had been given a chance to respond to the June move.  (Trivia and Miscellaneous)
223 28-01-2021 -
World – Russia moots West Asia meet as U.S. resets Palestinian ties – Russia backed a Palestinian proposal for a West Asia peace conference, suggesting on January 26 that it could be held at the ministerial level in spring or summer, as the U.S. said it would move towards renewing ties with the Palestinians under Joe Biden. The U.S. — which sided with Israel under the administration of Donald Trump — said it intended to “restore credible U.S. engagement with Palestinians as well as Israelis”. The roughly 10 participants would include Israel, the Palestinians, the four members of the West Asia diplomatic quartet (Russia, the UN, the U.S. and the EU), along with four Arab states — Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan and the UAE. 

(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
224 28-01-2021 - Economy – FDI inflows hit $58.37 bn in April-Nov. ’20 – Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflows into the country hit a record high of $58.37 billion in the first eight months of 2020-21, with equity inflows of nearly $44 billion. FDI equity inflow received during April to November 2020 is $43.85 billion. It is the highest ever for first eight months of a financial year and 37% more compared to first 8 months of 2019-20 [$32.11 billion]. Overall FDI inflows had risen 22% over the previous year.  (Indian Economy)
225 28-01-2021 - Covid-19 – Covaxin effective against U.K. virus variant, says study – Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin has been found to neutralise the U.K. variant of the COVID-19 virus with “similar efficiency” as the strain used for making the vaccine and hence “dispels the uncertainty of possible neutralisation escape” following vaccination. The sera from people vaccinated with Covaxin were tested against the same strain used for making the vaccine, another strain found in India, and the U.K. variant. The median ratio of 50% neutralisation of sera was found to be 80% for the U.K. variant and 90% for the strain circulating in India, but different from the one used for making the vaccine. The study was conducted using sera collected from 38 people who have been vaccinated with Covaxin during the Phase-2 trial.  (Healthcare and Medicine)
226 28-01-2021 - World – U.S. issues domestic terror alert – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has declared a nationwide terrorism alert, citing the potential threat from domestic anti-government extremists opposed to Joe Biden as President. The National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin said a heightened threat of attack “will persist in the weeks following the successful presidential inauguration,” which took place on January 20. The alert said there had been mounting threats since last year from domestic violent extremists motivated by COVID-19 restrictions, Mr. Biden’s defeat of Donald Trump in the November election, police brutality and illegal immigration.  (World Politics)
227 28-01-2021 - World – Most GOP Senators oppose Trump trial – All but five of the U.S. Senate’s 50 Republicans unsuccessfully attempted to block the impeachment trial of former President Trump from progressing, in a vote on the constitutionality of impeaching a former President. While Mr. Trump will be tried because 55 of the 100 Senators voted to proceed, Tuesday’s (January 26) vote cast doubt on whether Mr. Trump would be convicted — a move that would need 17 of the Senate’s 50 Republicans to vote along with their Democratic colleagues. The other Republicans who voted against the motion questioning the trial’s constitutionality were Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Ben Sasse of Nebraska. Notably, Senate Minority Leader entertained the possibility of convicting Mr. Trump, joined his Republican colleagues and voted against taking the trial forward.  (World Politics)
228 28-01-2021 - Economy – ‘High debt burden could hamper India’s ability to provide stimulus’ – India’s high government debt could limit its ability to give a fiscal stimulus to the economy, Moody’s Investors Service noted in a report on credit conditions in Asia. Job losses, income shocks and the gaps in health infrastructure pose ‘highly negative risks’ for the country’s growth prospects. Moody’s warned that the sheer magnitude of the recession would lead to a degree of economic scarring in the more vulnerable Asian economies, which was likely to have persistent effects on potential output. It expects income and social inequality to widen in 2021, while the number of people falling into poverty will rise significantly, erasing three to four years’ gains on poverty reduction. The ratings agency said the traditional emphasis on infrastructure spending to support growth may now have to expand to include social spending on healthcare and pensions.  (Indian Economy)
229 28-01-2021 - Polity & Governance – Cinemas allowed to seat more people – The Union Home Ministry has issued an order extending the COVID-19 guidelines for surveillance, containment and caution till February 28. The guidelines permit cinema halls and theatres to operate at a higher capacity than the 50% seating strength allowed till now. Use of swimming pools has been permitted for all. All kinds of social, religious and cultural gatherings that were earlier restricted to a maximum of 50% of the hall capacity, with a ceiling of 200 persons in closed spaces, will now be allowed subject to the standard operating procedure issued by the State governments. For further opening up of international air travel of passengers, the Ministry of Civil Aviation may take a decision in consultation with the Home Ministry based on the assessment of the situation.  (Governance and Institutions)
230 28-01-2021 - Agriculture – Govt. conspiracy led to violence: farmers – Farm unions have blamed the violence which took place during their Republic Day tractor parades on a conspiracy hatched by the government with one Punjab union, the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, and Punjabi actor Deep Sidhu, who has previously been linked to the BJP. The unions have cancelled their plans to march to Parliament on February 1, when the Union Budget will be presented, but have vowed to continue their agitation in a peaceful manner. Their statements came even as the Delhi police accused union leaders of instigating farmers to break from the agreed parade route and head towards the Red Fort. The police have filed FIRs naming a number of senior farm leaders who held talks with the government and signed an undertaking promising to follow the conditions set for the parades.  (Agriculture, Governance and Institutions)
231 27-01-2021 - Polity & Governance – School of Public Health launched in Rajasthan – A new School of Public Health (SPH) has been launched to make policy intervention for building public health capacity and skills and bridge gaps between education and practices in Rajasthan. The school is expected to play an important role in healthcare management in the post-COVID-19 scenario. Named after Indian Institute of Health Management Research (IIHMR) chairperson S.D. Gupta, the school will provide technical support to health systems and render help to the State government in harnessing new technologies.
(Governance and Institutions)
232 27-01-2021 - Polity & Governance – Gehlot govt. brings M-sand policy for construction works – The Rajasthan government has brought the much-awaited policy on manufactured sand (M-sand), giving industry status to the units producing it for construction work and reducing the dependence on bajri (riverbed sand). The SC had banned illegal mining on riverbeds in 2017. The policy will enable the investors to set up M-sand units by utilising the incentives offered by the State government. It will also help in environmental protection and generate faith among the public in the efficacy of M-sand for construction works.
(Governance and Institutions)
233 27-01-2021 - Polity & Governance – Petition in Supreme Court seeks guidelines for electronic media – The Supreme Court has decided to examine a petition seeking the framing of guidelines outlining the broad regulatory paradigm within which the right to free speech of broadcasters and electronic media can be judicially regulated. The plea filed by Pune residents Nilesh Navalakha and Nitin Memane has also sought the setting up of an independent Media Tribunal to hear and expeditiously adjudicate complaints against “media businesses” filed by viewers and citizens. The plea wants the court to consider substantial questions of law, including whether the electronic media enjoys greater freedom than ordinary citizens and whether they could only be subject to self-regulation.
(Constitution and Law, Governance and Institutions)
234 27-01-2021 - World – U.S. announces restoration of relations with Palestinians – U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration is restoring relations with the Palestinians and renewing aid to Palestinian refugees, a reversal of the Donald Trump administration’s cutoff and a key element of its new support for a two-state solution to the decades-old conflict agreed to by Israelis and Palestinians. Acting U.S. Ambassador Richard Mills made the announcement of Mr. Biden’s new approach to a high-level Security Council meeting, saying the new U.S. administration believes this “remains the best way to ensure Israel’s future as a democratic and Jewish state and the Palestinians’ legitimate aspirations for a State of their own and to live with dignity and security.”
(World Politics)
235 27-01-2021 - World – As pandemic rages on, Italy PM Conte quits – Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned on January 26 in the hope of forming a new government after weeks of turmoil in his ruling coalition, leaving Italy rudderless as it battles the deadly coronavirus pandemic. He tendered his resignation to President Sergio Mattarella, the ultimate arbiter of Italian political crises, who invited him to stay on in a caretaker capacity pending discussions on what happens next. The uneasy coalition that has led Italy since September 2019 was fatally weakened earlier this month by the withdrawal of former premier Matteo Renzi’s small but crucial Italia Viva party.
(World Politics)
236 27-01-2021 - World – Trump impeachment goes to Senate – Democrats of the U.S. House of Representatives delivered charges of “incitement of insurrection” against former President Donald Trump to their Senate colleagues, clearing the way for his trial by the upper chamber of the U.S. Congress. With enthusiasm waning among the GOP Senators, it is far from clear that Senate Democrats will get the required minimum of 17 GOP Senate votes to convict the former President of inciting his supporters to attack the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Earlier in January 2021, Mr. Trump became the first President in history to be impeached twice — on January 13 this year and in December 2019, when he was impeached on charges of abuse of power with regard to leveraging the relationship with Ukraine to gain political favours and the obstruction of Congress in the ensuing investigation.
(World Politics)
237 27-01-2021 - Agriculture – Tractor rally turns violent as farmers enter Capital – Delhi witnessed chaotic scenes on January 26 as groups of protesting farmers broke off from the planned Republic Day tractor parade routes and swarmed into the heart of the national capital, hoisting a union flag and a Sikh religious flag inside Red Fort. Police used tear gas, water cannons and lathicharge to stop the farmers at several locations in the city, including at ITO, where one protester died. The Delhi police said 83 personnel and one civilian were injured in the protests. By evening, the Home Ministry deployed additional paramilitary forces, and suspended mobile Internet services in several parts of the city. The Delhi police said the protesting farmers had breached the agreement with the unions and began their march before the scheduled time.
(Agriculture, Constitution and Law)
238 27-01-2021 - Economy – ‘Overseas investment by Indian firms dipped to $1.45 bn in Dec.’ – Overseas investment by domestic firms fell by over 42% to $1.45 billion in December 2020, according to Reserve Bank data. In the year earlier period, companies in India had invested $2.51 billion in their foreign firms (joint ventures / wholly owned units). In November 2020, the total outward foreign direct investment (OFDI) was of $1.06 billion, down by 27% from a month earlier. Of the total FDI investment by the Indian companies during the month under review, $775.41 million was in the form of equity infusion and $382.91 million was in the form of loan. Investment of $287.63 million was in the form of issuance of guarantee. Among major investors, ONGC Videsh Ltd. invested a total of $131.85 million in joint ventures and wholly owned subsidiaries in Myanmar, Russia, Vietnam, Colombia, British Virgin Islands among others.
(Indian Economy)
239 27-01-2021 - Economy – India set to grow 11.5% in 2021: IMF – The IMF on January 26 projected an 11.5% growth rate for India in 2021, making the country the only major economy to register double-digit growth this year amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The International Monetary Fund’s growth projections for India reflected a rebound in the economy, which is estimated to have contracted by 8% in 2020 due to the pandemic. China is next with 8.1% growth in 2021 followed by Spain (5.9%) and France (5.5%). The IMF said that in 2020 China is the only major country which registered a positive growth rate of 2.3%. India’s economy, the IMF said, is projected to grow 6.8% in 2022 and that of China by 5.6%.
(Indian Economy)
240 27-01-2021 - Survey/Report – GDP to contract 8% in FY21, FICCI survey shows – India’s GDP is expected to contract by 8% in 2020-21. The annual median growth forecast by the industry body is based on responses from leading economists representing industry, banking and financial services sectors. The median growth forecast for agriculture and allied activities has been pegged at 3.5% for 2020-21. Agriculture sector has exhibited significant resilience in the face of the pandemic. Higher rabi acreage, good monsoons, higher reservoir levels and strong growth in tractor sales indicate continued buoyancy in the sector. However, industry and services sector, which were most severely hit due to the pandemic induced economic fallout, are expected to contract by 10% and 9.2% respectively during 2020-21. The industrial recovery is gaining traction, but the growth is still not broad based. The consumption activity did spur during the festive season as a result of pent-up demand built during the lockdown but sustaining it is important going ahead.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
241 25-01-2021 - Polity & Governance – Mock trials of remote voting project soon: CEC – Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora has said the trials of the Election Commission’s remote voting project would be carried out soon. In his television and radio address on the eve of the National Voters Day, Mr. Arora highlighted the vision of the EC going forward. The system being developed by the IIT-M uses blockchain for two-way remote voting at designated centres, an EC official had said when the project was started in 2020. Mr. Arora said “another significant change we can look forward to is grant of postal ballot facility to overseas electors”.
(Governance and Institutions)
242 25-01-2021 - Survey/Report – ‘Chinese using Indian roads for trespass’ – As India and China started the ninth round of Corps Commander talks to address the nine-month-long standoff along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, the head of one of the border villages claimed that Chinese vehicles were using Indian roads to enter Indian territory. Urgain Tsewang, the nambardaar (village head) of Koyul (Kakjung), one of the last settlements in the Demchok sector, shared a video dated December 16, 2020, where two Chinese vehicles are seen being turned away by a group of locals and security personnel. In another video, a few Chinese civilians are seen taking photographs of the area, with their vehicles parked nearby.
(Defence and Military)
243 25-01-2021 - Survey/Study – Sunderbans is home to 428 species of birds, says ZSI – The Indian Sunderbans, which is part of the largest mangrove forest in the world, is home to 428 species of birds. The publication not only documents the avifauna of the Sunderbans, but also serves as a comprehensive photographic field guide, with detailed distribution and locality data for all the species from the region. The Indian Sunderbans, which covers 4,200 sq. km, also includes the Sunderban Tiger Reserve of 2,585 sq. km — home to about 96 royal Bengal tigers (as per the last census in 2020). It is a world heritage site and a Ramsar site (a wetland site designated to be of international importance).
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
244 25-01-2021 - Covid-19 – ‘Million shots in under a week’ – India took less than a week to vaccinate over a million beneficiaries. The country is ahead of the U.S. (10 days) and the U.K. (18) in achieving this mark. More than 31,000 healthcare workers have been vaccinated in five States on the ninth day of the countrywide COVID-19 vaccination programme. A total of 31,466 beneficiaries were vaccinated till 7.30 p.m. on January 24 in Haryana (907), Karnataka (2,472), Punjab (1,007), Rajasthan (24,586) and Tamil Nadu (2,494). The cumulative number of healthcare workers vaccinated has crossed 16 lakh (16,13,667)  through 28,613 sessions. On January 24, India’s active COVID-19 cases stood at 1,84,408, with 15,948 recoveries in the last 24 hours.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
245 25-01-2021 - Economy – Johnson presses Biden for new trade deal – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson made clear to President Joe Biden on January 23 that he’s eager to forge a new U.S.-U.K. trade deal. The push for a new deal came in a broad-ranging call between the two leaders that touched on the global response to the coronavirus pandemic as well as the Biden administration announcing this week that the U.S. would rejoin the Paris climate accord and the World Health Organization. A new trade agreement between the allies is a higher priority for Mr. Johnson than it is for Mr. Biden. The U.K. regained control over its national trade policy at the start of the month following the end of a post-Brexit transition period. The White House in its own statement said that the two leaders spoke about combating climate change, containing COVID-19, and ensuring global health security. But the statement notably made no mention of discussion on trade.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous, World Economy)
246 25-01-2021 - World – U.S. vows support to Taiwan as Chinese incursions enter Day 2 – A total of 15 Chinese aircraft, including 12 fighter jets, entered the southwestern corner of Taiwan’s air defence identification zone on January 24, the second day of incursions by China. A map provided by the Ministry showed the Chinese aircraft again flew in between the southern part of Taiwan and the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands in the South China Sea. The U.S. State Department has said it was concerned by China’s “pattern of ongoing attempts to intimidate its neighbours, including Taiwan.” The State Department statement said Washington will continue to deepen ties with Taiwan and ensure its defence from Chinese threats, while supporting a peaceful resolution of issues between the sides.
(Defence and Military)
247 25-01-2021 - International Relations – India, China hold military talks – The ninth round of Corps Commander-level talks between India and China were under way on January 24 at the Moldo border personnel meeting point on the Chinese side opposite Chushul in Eastern Ladakh as both sides attempt to work out a phased disengagement and de-escalation plan to end the nine-month stand-off. Officials said a broad disengagement plan had been worked out but it was held up over some issues. Both sides would attempt to work that out at the talks. This was the reason for the delay in scheduling the ninth round of talks. The eighth round was held in November 2020.
(Defence and Military)
248 25-01-2021 - World – Biden govt. to review U.S.-Taliban deal – The Biden administration said it will review a landmark U.S. deal with the Taliban, focusing on whether the insurgent group has reduced attacks in Afghanistan, in keeping with its side of the agreement. Washington struck a deal with the Taliban in Qatar in 2020, to begin withdrawing its troops in return for security guarantees from the militants and a commitment to kick-start peace talks with the Afghan government. But violence across Afghanistan has surged despite the two sides engaging in those talks since September 2020. President Biden’s newly appointed National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan, spoke with his Afghan counterpart Hamdullah Mohib and “made clear the US’ intention to review” the deal. Washington’s move was met with a sigh of relief from officials in Kabul after months of speculation over how the new administration would potentially recalibrate the Afghan policy.
(World Politics)
249 25-01-2021 - Agriculture – Police, farmers finalise routes for tractor parades – Farmers’ unions and the Delhi police fine-tuned plans for the tractor parades on three routes on Republic Day, with the protesters permitted to enter the Capital for about 100 km but restricted to the border areas. After five or six marathon meetings with farmer unions that wanted to carry out a peaceful rally in the capital on Republic Day, Special Commissioner of Police (Intelligence) Deependra Pathak said the Delhi police had come to an in-principle understanding, which will be “a win-win situation for all”. The tractor parades will enter Delhi but remain in areas near the border from the three entry points. Each of the routes planned are approximately 60 km long and in total about 100 km is within the territory of the National Capital. Farmers will be allowed to enter the city only after the completion of the official Republic Day parade.
(Agriculture)
250 25-01-2021 - World – K.P. Sharma Oli expelled from Nepal Communist Party – The ruling Nepal Communist Party, led by rebel leaders Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ and former Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal expelled Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli from the party on January 24. The decision divided the party into two groups and sparked a dispute over the party symbol but the Election Commission declined to recognise either faction as the official party. The deepening crisis emerged weeks after Mr. Oli dissolved the Lower House, Pratinidhi Sabha, of Parliament on December 20, which was strongly opposed by Mr. Prachanda and Mr. Nepal who wanted the House to be restored. Soon after the dissolution of the Pratinidhi Sabha, Mr. Oli created a committee of his supporters, which indicated that he would launch a takeover of the party in case of an adversarial action by the rebel leaders. 
(Regional Politics)
251 23-01-2021 - Covid-19 – Covaxin’s efficacy against U.K. strain not proven yet – Bharat Biotech’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate Covaxin can produce neutralising antibodies — a requirement to study its efficacy — against multiple coronavirus variants, but is yet to demonstrate efficacy against the variant ‘B.1.1.7’ or the ‘U.K. strain’ as the new virulent strain is commonly known. A report in the medical journal Lancet underlines the need for “more extensive phase 2 and phase 3 trials” for “long-term safety assessments” of the vaccine. The study centres around establishing the safety and immune response generated by different doses of the vaccine in 375 volunteers. The authors of the study include scientists from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and Bharat Biotech.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
252 23-01-2021 - Covid-19 – Myanmar, Mauritius and Seychelles receive Covishield – Large consignments of Covishield vaccine doses were flown in special Indian aircraft to Seychelles, Mauritius and Myanmar on January 22. The shipments of the vaccine, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII) in Pune, is part of the Vaccine Maitri diplomacy that the Ministry of External Affairs said will also cover Africa, which is in need of affordable COVID-19 vaccine doses. In the first round of supplies, special flights have already carried large consignments of Covishield vaccine doses to Bhutan, the Maldives, Bangladesh and Nepal during January 20-21.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
253 23-01-2021 - People & Personalities – Singer Narendra Chanchal passes away at 80 – Popular bhajan singer Narendra Chanchal passed away on January 22 in New Delhi. Chanchal was known for his religious songs and bhajans. Apart from performing at live events for a large part of his career, Chanchal’s songs like “Chalo Bulava Aaya Hai” from Avtaar and “Beshak Mandir Masjid Todo” from Bobby became immensely popular. He won the Filmfare Award for Best Male Singer for Bobby.
(People and Personalities)
254 23-01-2021 - Polity & Governance – India proposes to expand research, tourism in the Arctic – India has unveiled a new draft ‘Arctic’ policy that, among other things, commits to expanding scientific research, “sustainable tourism” and mineral oil and gas exploration in the Arctic region. The draft policy is open to public comments until January 26 and has been prepared after deliberations among several Ministries. India expects the Goa-based National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research to lead scientific research and act as a nodal body to coordinate among various scientific bodies to promote domestic scientific research capacities by expanding “earth sciences, biological sciences, geosciences, climate change and space related programmes, dove-tailed with Arctic imperatives in Indian universities.”
(Governance and Institutions)
255 23-01-2021 - World – Trump impeachment article to be sent to Senate – Donald Trump will go on trial in the U.S. Senate soon after a fresh impeachment case against the former President is transmitted on January 25 by the House of Representatives. The House impeached the Republican leader for a historic second time on January 13, just one week before he left office. After days of declining to say when she would send the article of impeachment to the Senate, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress, made her announcement on January 22. Ms. Pelosi has appointed nine House members as impeachment managers, who she said “are ready to begin to make their case to 100 Senate jurors through the trial process.” The managers are to formally transmit the article, a step which according to Senate rules swiftly transforms the chamber into a court of impeachment.
(World Politics)
256 23-01-2021 - World – Russia begins crackdown on Navalny allies ahead of protests – The Russian authorities on January 22 cracked down on allies of jailed Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny and jailed his spokeswoman for nine days as the police vowed to suppress protests this weekend. Allies of President Vladimir Putin’s top critics are planning to hold demonstrations on January 23 in dozens of cities in support of the opposition politician, who was arrested and held behind bars on his return to Russia following a near-fatal poisoning with a nerve agent. The last time major protests took place in Moscow was in the summer of 2019, and the Saturday (January 23) rallies are expected to be a major test of the opposition’s ability to mobilise support despite the increasing Kremlin pressure and the coronavirus pandemic. Police said unsanctioned public events will be “immediately suppressed,” as key opposition activists were detained on the eve of the rallies.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
257 23-01-2021 - World – Biden orders aid to combat hunger crisis – President Joe Biden is ordering an expansion of government benefits for hungry Americans, after the coronavirus pandemic ignited the worst hunger crisis the U.S. has seen in modern times. The decree is modest and far short of the actions the President has called for from Congress. Nonetheless, it represents one of Mr. Biden’s first actions since taking office on January 20, aimed at reviving the world’s largest economy, after COVID-19 caused mass layoffs beginning last year that have left many people scrambling to pay the bills. Mr. Biden’s main initiative to turn the economy around is a $1.9 trillion “rescue” package that he outlined last week, followed by a promised proposal aimed at fuelling job creation and spurring hiring.
(World Politics)
258 23-01-2021 - Economy – ‘Pandemic pushes States’ borrowings up by 82.5%’ – States’ borrowings during April-December 2020 were 82.5% higher compared with the corresponding period of the previous year, on account of the pandemic. Till December 11, 2020, the States netted ₹4.6 lakh crore through market borrowings. The figure included ₹36,000 crore borrowed by the Centre and passed on to the States to meet the shortfall in revenue arising on account of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) implementation. A perusal of data available on revenue receipts of 21 states reveals that while the states raised only 37% of the full-year target during April-October 2020, they generated 52% of their annual revenue in the corresponding period of 2019.
(Indian Economy)
259 23-01-2021 - Polity & Governance – RBI moots scale-based tighter regulatory framework for NBFCs – The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has suggested a tougher regulatory framework for the non-banking finance companies’ (NBFC) sector to prevent recurrence of any systemic risk to the country’s financial system. The banking regulator has released a discussion paper on the revised regulatory framework which is formulated on a scale-based approach, and sought comments within a month. The regulatory and supervisory framework of NBFCs will be based on a four-layered structure — the base layer (NBFC-BL), middle layer (NBFC-ML), upper layer (NBFC-UL) and the top layer. If the framework is visualised as a pyramid, the bottom of the pyramid, where least regulatory intervention is warranted, can consist of NBFCs currently classified as non-systemically important NBFCs (NBFC-ND), NBFCP2P lending platforms, NBFCAA, NOFHC and Type I NBFCs.
(Governance and Institutions)
260 23-01-2021 - Agriculture – No further concessions to offer, govt. tells protesting farmers – The negotiations between Central Ministers and farm unions came to a standstill on January 22 with the government saying it had no further concessions to offer beyond the proposal to suspend the three contentious agricultural reform laws for 12 to 18 months. The unions rejected the proposal and reiterated their demand for the repeal of the laws. No date has been fixed for another meeting. At the end of a four-hour meeting, during which Ministers and union leaders were only in the same room for 20 minutes, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said the government had already presented its “best proposal”. Urging the unions to reconsider their stand, he said if they responded positively on January 23, talks could resume.
(Agriculture, Governance and Institutions)
261 22-01-2021 - Covid-19 – Co-WIN platform gets upgrade – The cumulative number of healthcare workers vaccinated against COVID-19 has touched 9,99,065 (till 6 p.m. on January 21) through a total of 18,159 sessions. A total of 4,041 sessions were held till 6 p.m. on January 21, and 1,92,581 beneficiaries were vaccinated on the sixth day of the nationwide COVID-19 vaccination. As per reports, there are no cases of serious/severe AEFI (adverse event following immunisation) attributable to vaccination till date. Reports suggest that 187 minor AEFIs have been reported till 6 p.m. on the sixth day of the vaccination drive. It added that an enhancement in Co-WIN software has been introduced to cater to the creation of more session sites, more sessions per site, and a change in site location, which is now allowed.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
262 22-01-2021 - Covid-19 – India to clear vaccine exports to Brazil today – Brazil is set to receive the go-ahead from the Indian government on January 22 to collect two million doses of the Covishield vaccine made by the Serum Institute, two weeks after Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro requested PM Modi for their “urgent” clearance. The consignment, which was due to be collected by a special Brazilian plane last week, was delayed as the government had not yet finalised its plans for exports of Indian-made vaccines. The delay had led to a flurry of messages from Brazil, and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had spoken to his Brazilian counterpart Ernesto Araujo to reassure him on January 16.
(Governance and Institutions, Healthcare and Medicine)
263 22-01-2021 - Economy – Sri Lanka reopens for tourists – Sri Lanka has reopened its borders for foreign tourists after about 10 months, hoping to revive its pandemic-hit tourism sector. The Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau has set up what it calls a “Safe and Secure” bubble, mandating pre-departure PCR tests for tourists, restricting their stay to designated high-end hotels and beach resorts, and allowing access to select tourist spots, to limit visitors from mixing with the local community. As per the arrangement, Sri Lanka does not require tourists to stay for a minimum number of days, while visitors are offered a “quarantine free” experience.
(World Economy)
264 22-01-2021 - People & Personalities – Ex-Pond’s India CMD Narayanan passes away – V. Narayanan (83), who headed Pond’s India Ltd. prior to its merger with Hindustan Lever Ltd. (HLL) and later served on the board of HLL, passed away on January 21. An alumnus of Lawrence School at Lovedale and Loyola College, Narayanan began his career in 1959 as a management trainee in HLL (now HUL). In his 10 years there, he served in the sales and marketing functions, both in India and in the U.K. He returned to India in 1968 and joined Chesebrough Pond’s Inc. as marketing director. He became chairman and CEO of Pond’s (India) and served the company till 1997.
(People and Personalities)
265 22-01-2021 - World – Google, French press ink copyright payments deal – Google and French newspapers have signed an agreement aimed at opening the path to digital copyright payments from the online giant after months of heated negotiations. The accord signed with the APIG alliance of French dailies involves “neighbouring rights,” which call for payment for showing news content with Internet searches. It said the agreement sets a framework for Google to negotiate individual licence agreements with newspapers on the payments and will give papers access to its new News Showcase programme, which sees it pay publishers for a selection of enriched content. Payments are to be calculated individually and will be based on criteria including internet viewing figures and the amount of information published.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
266 22-01-2021 - World – Senate confirms Biden’s first Cabinet pick – Three new Senators were sworn into office on January 20 after President Joe Biden’s inauguration, securing the majority for Democrats in the Senate and across a unified government to tackle the new President’s agenda at a time of unprecedented national challenges. In a first vote, the Senate confirmed Mr. Biden’s nominee for Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines. Senators worked into the evening and overcame some Republican opposition to approve his first Cabinet member, in what’s traditionally a show of good faith on Inauguration Day to confirm at least some nominees for a new President’s administration. Ms. Haines, a former CIA deputy director, will become a core member of Mr. Biden’s security team, overseeing the agencies that make up the nation’s intelligence community. She was confirmed 84-10. 
(World Politics)
267 22-01-2021 - Economy – ‘GDP within striking distance of growth’ – The economy is within striking distance of attaining positive growth, officials of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) wrote, adding that the letter ‘V’ in the V-shaped recovery stood for vaccine. The Centre unveiled a vaccination drive on January 16 to protect people from COVID-19. India’s vaccination drive is backed by its comparative advantage of having the largest vaccine manufacturing capacity in the world and a rich experience of mass inoculation drives against polio and measles. The views expressed in the article do not necessarily represent the central bank’s views, the RBI said. E-commerce and digital technologies will likely be the bright spots in a recovery in a world in which there will be rebounds for sure, but pre-pandemic levels of output and employment are a long way off, they said.
(Indian Economy)
268 22-01-2021 - Agriculture – Farmers reject proposal to suspend laws for 18 months – Protesting farm unions on January 21 rejected the Centre’s proposal to suspend the three farm reform laws for one-and-a-half years. They intend to continue their agitation until the laws are repealed, and a law guaranteeing minimum support price for crops is enacted. The decision was taken after a five-hour meeting of the full general body of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, a joint front representing about 500 protesting groups, at the Singhu protest site on the Delhi-Haryana border in the evening. The unions will inform the government of their decision at the 11th round of talks with Central Ministers on January 22. Later in the evening, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar met Home Minister Amit Shah at his residence.
(Agriculture)
269 22-01-2021 - World – Biden begins dismantling Trump legacy – The Biden presidency began with a flurry of activity, with the new President signing 17 executive orders, memos and directives on his first day in office, including on climate change, the pandemic, immigration and equality. Shortly after being sworn in as the President on January 20, Joe Biden began dismantling significant parts of the legacy of his predecessor, Donald Trump, including by officially bringing America back into the Paris Climate Accord. He conveyed his intent to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres via a letter. Consequently, the U.S. would be back in the agreement on February 19. Mr. Biden stopped the U.S.’s withdrawal from the World Health Organization. In a letter to Mr. Guterres, he highlighted the “crucial” role it plays in combating COVID-19 and other health challenges.
(World Politics)
270 22-01-2021 - Law & Constitution – Decision on Rajiv case convict soon, SC told – Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit will take a decision “as per the Constitution” in the next three or four days on a plea for release by A.G. Perarivalan, who is undergoing life imprisonment for the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta orally informed the Supreme Court on January 21. The court, however, noted in its short order that the “Solicitor-General submitted that the application filed by the petitioner [Perarivalan] under Article 161 of the Constitution of India shall be considered within four weeks from today. List this matter after four weeks”. Reacting to the variation, senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan said Perarivalan’s side was planning to mention the case in court for a clarification.
(Constitution and Law)
271 21-01-2021 - World – Biden to reverse Trump policies on Day 1 – U.S. President Joe Biden plans to kick off his new administration on January 20 with orders to restore the U.S. to the Paris climate accord and the World Health Organization. Mr. Biden will sign 15 orders and actions just hours after being sworn in as the U.S. leader to break from the policies of departing President Donald Trump and set new paths on immigration, the environment, fighting COVID-19 and the economy. In first-day moves, he will end Mr. Trump’s much-assailed ban on visitors from several Muslim-majority countries and halt construction of the wall that Mr. Trump ordered on the U.S.-Mexico border to stem illegal immigration. He will also set a mask mandate on federal properties to stem the spread of COVID-19; restore protections of valuable nature reserves removed by Mr. Trump; and seek freezes on evictions and protection for millions behind on their mortgages due to the pandemic.
(World Politics)
272 21-01-2021 - World – Trump pardons former aide Bannon, 72 others – U.S. President Trump on January 20 pardoned 73 people, including his former aide Steve Bannon and rapper Lil Wayne, just hours before he was due to leave office. The list of those pardoned — as well as 70 people whose sentences were commuted — was likely to draw allegations of cronyism, at the end of a term during which the President promised to “drain the swamp” of Washington politics. Neither Trump nor his relatives were listed, amid speculation he could use the legally dubious tactic of a pre-emptive pardon to fend off future charges.
(World Politics)
273 21-01-2021 - Economy – ‘Weak reform push, financial sector woes may damp growth’ – Fitch Ratings on January 20 said India’s medium-term growth potential is at about 6.5% but weak implementation of reforms, combined with continued financial sector problems, could lower its potential. It said the revival of the reform agenda is among the Indian government’s policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic shock. Recently, the ratings agency last week said India’s gross GDP would expand by 11% in the financial year 2021-22, after witnessing a 9.4% contraction in the current fiscal period ending in March 2021.
(Indian Economy)
274 21-01-2021 - Polity & Governance – Assam Assembly polls before CBSE board exams, says CEC – Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora has said the Assam Assembly polls will be held keeping in mind the Rongali Bihu festival and the process will be finished before the CBSE Board exams beginning on May four. The political parties during interaction with the full bench of the poll panel had made a plea to keep in view the Bihu festival while deciding the poll schedule to encourage more voter turnout and also to ensure that the monsoon, which usually arrives early in the State, is avoided. Rongali Bihu, also known as Bohag Bihu, is celebrated by the people of Assam to mark the Assamese New Year. It is usually observed in the second week of April with the onset of spring.
(Governance and Institutions)
275 21-01-2021 - Covid-19 – 1.1 lakh vaccinations, 82 adverse events on Day 5 – On January 20, 1,12,007 people were inoculated against COVID-19, taking the count of beneficiaries to 7,86,000. There have been four deaths among those vaccinated — three due to cardiac arrest and not linked to the vaccination and one was still being analysed. All in all, the States have reported 82 adverse events following immunisation. While 10 of them have merited hospitalisation, seven have been discharged and none grave enough to be recorded as a “serious/severe AEFI”. The deaths were reported from Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh, Bellary and Shivamogga in Karnataka and Nirmal in Telangana. On the fifth day since the vaccination has begun, 20 States organised sessions. Andhra Pradesh recorded the highest number at 22,548 whereas Himachal Pradesh pooled only 45. Kerala that has recorded some of the highest infections in the country recorded only 262.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
276 21-01-2021 - Economy – States’ FY21 fiscal deficit to hit peak of ₹8.7 lakh crore: Crisil – The States are headed for a fourfold expansion in their revenue deficit this fiscal over the last year (2020) due to far lesser tax collections. Collections had been impacted on account of the lockdowns and the consequent slump in economic activity. Tax collections may slowly recover with improving economic outlook. However, higher interest burden because of high debt funding of this year’s GFD, coupled with sticky revenue expenditures, may keep revenue deficits high for States and GFD composition skewed over the next 2-3 years. In this fiscal, revenue deficit of States would contribute 70% of GFD, sharply higher than the average 15% seen over the past five fiscals. That is because of the 15% on-year decline in revenue this fiscal.
(Indian Economy)
277 21-01-2021 - Study/Report – Karnataka tops in innovation, shows index – Karnataka retained its leadership position in the major States category in the second edition of India Innovation Index released by NITI Aayog on January 20. It was followed by Maharashtra, which moved past Tamil Nadu to occupy the second place. Other States in the top 10 are Telangana, Kerala, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. Barring Maharashtra, all other States in the top five are in the south. Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Bihar scored the lowest on the index, which put them at the bottom in the “major States” category.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
278 21-01-2021 - Agriculture – In a thaw, Centre offers to put off farm reforms for 18 months – Farm union leaders will consider a proposal from the Union government to suspend the implementation of the three contentious farm reform laws for the next year-and-a-half while a committee is formed to look into their demands. Union leaders said the Centre had also offered to submit an affidavit to the Supreme Court to this effect. They will discuss the proposal internally and return with their response at the next round of discussions on January 22. The proposal was made during the 10th round of talks on January 20, and is the first serious sign of movement in the negotiations since tens of thousands of farmers began their protest on the borders of Delhi almost two months ago. Their major demands have been a repeal of the three laws on agricultural marketing, and a new legal guarantee for minimum support prices.
(Agriculture)
279 21-01-2021 - World – Biden sworn in, delivers message of unity, hope – While the transfer of power was not peaceful in the world’s oldest constitutional republic, that transfer did occur on January 20 on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol, as Joseph R. Biden Jr. was sworn in as the 46th President of the U.S. Just two weeks earlier, a mob had broken into the Capitol seeking to block the ratification of the election results. Addressing the country for the first time as President, Mr. Biden delivered a message of unity and hope while laying out the enormous challenges faced by the country, from a raging pandemic to deep political divisions and frayed race relations. He referred to the Capitol violence of January 6, and said attempts to overturn the elections will never be successful.
(World Politics)
280 21-01-2021 - Defence – Military specialists to get S-400 training in Moscow – As India prepares to receive the first batch of S-400 long-range air defence system by year-end, the first group of Indian military specialists are scheduled to depart for Moscow soon to undergo training courses on the S-400. In October 2018, India signed a $5.43-billion deal with Russia for five S-400 Triumf regiments despite objections from the U.S. and the threat of sanctions under Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). In the farewell address early this month (January 2021), outgoing U.S. Ambassador Kenneth Juster declined to comment on whether the U.S. would proceed with CAATSA sanctions against India over the S-400 purchase, but said India should consider the impact of such purchases that constrain “technology transfers” and other defence cooperation between India and the US.
(Defence and Military)
281 20-01-2021 - Education – Students with just pass in Class 12 can take JEE-Main – The eligibility criterion for JEE-Main 2021 has been relaxed, allowing students who scored less than 75% in their Class 12 examinations to attempt the entrance test for admission to the National Institutes of Technology (NITs), Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IITs), Schools of Planning and Architecture (SPAs) and other Centrally funded technical institutes. This means that a simple pass in Class 12 will be sufficient for applicants to the JEE-Main in 2021. Students will be allowed to answer 75 questions out of 90, which is 25 out of 30 questions each in physics, chemistry and mathematics in JEE.
(Education)
282 20-01-2021 - Science & Technology – India asks WhatsApp to revoke changes in its privacy policy – The Union government has asked WhatsApp to withdraw the proposed changes to its privacy policy, stating that it raised “grave concerns” over the implications of the choice and autonomy of Indian citizens. In a letter to WhatsApp chief executive officer Will Cathcart, the government pointed out that by not giving the option to opt out of data-sharing with Facebook companies, Indian users were being treated differently from those in Europe. The government also asked the Facebook-owned platform to reconsider its approach to respect the informational privacy, freedom of choice and data security of Indian citizens.
(Science and Technology)
283 20-01-2021 - Covid-19 – India to fly out vaccines to neighbours – India will begin to ship out lakhs of doses of the novel coronavirus vaccine to neighbouring countries beginning January 20, with the first batches expected to reach Bhutan and the Maldives among several countries by special planes as a grant or gift. The release of the shipments is part of the government’s “Neighbourhood First” initiative, and will make India the first country to reach COVID-19 vaccines in South Asia, ahead of China, which has promised but not so far delivered, the World Health Organization and GAVI’s vaccine alliance programme.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
284 20-01-2021 - Polity & Governance – Budget session to have Question Hour – The Question Hour, which had been suspended by the government during the monsoon session, will resume when Parliament meets for the Budget session from January 29. The government had claimed that the suspension of the Question Hour, which gives the Opposition an opportunity to hold the government accountable, was an additional precautionary measure to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. The suspension had been strongly criticised by the Opposition. As during the monsoon session, the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha will meet at alternate sessions to ensure that all the three chambers — Rajya Sabha hall, Lok Sabha hall and the Central Hall — were available for both Houses to seat members in keeping with the physical distancing norms.
(Governance and Institutions)
285 20-01-2021 - Covid-19 – Chinese COVID-19 vaccines find takers in Southeast Asia – China has signed deals with as many as 20 countries, many of which are in Southeast Asia, to offer its home-developed COVID-19 vaccines. With five vaccines being developed in China, Beijing is offering them both as donations and on a commercial basis. Among the countries that are ordering Chinese vaccines are Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Algeria, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, Pakistan, Brazil, Ukraine, and Serbia. Pakistan has become the first country in South Asia to approve a Chinese vaccine, giving the nod for emergency use for Sinopharm’s vaccine. Earlier in January 2021, China offered its vaccines to Nepal, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh as it held a multilateral dialogue with the four countries and Pakistan on anti-epidemic cooperation, but so far they have not agreed on orders.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
286 20-01-2021 - World – Kremlin dismisses calls to free Navalny – The Kremlin has dismissed Western demands to release Russia’s most prominent opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, saying calls for mass protests over his arrest were “troubling”. Legal pressure is ramping up against President Vladimir Putin’s best-known domestic critic, who is due in court on defamation charges on January 20, as his allies in Russia call for protests in Moscow this weekend. The last time mass protests took place in Moscow was in the summer of 2019 when Mr. Navalny’s allies and a host of other opposition politicians were barred from balloting in local elections. Russia’s prison service said it had detained Mr. Navalny for violating the terms of a suspended sentence he was given in 2014 on fraud charges, which he says were politically motivated.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
287 20-01-2021 - World – Biden to introduce Bill for eight-year citizenship path – United States President-elect Joe Biden plans to unveil a sweeping immigration Bill on the first day of his administration, hoping to provide an eight-year path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. without legal status — a massive reversal from the Trump administration’s harsh immigration policies. The Bill puts Mr. Biden on track to deliver on a major campaign promise important to Latino voters and other immigrant communities after four years of President Donald Trump’s restrictive policies and mass deportations. Expected to run hundreds of pages, the Bill is set to be introduced after Mr. Biden takes the oath of office on Jan 20, according to a person familiar with the legislation.
(Governance and Institutions, World Politics)
288 20-01-2021 - World – U.S. won’t lift travel ban: Biden team – Shortly after U.S. President Trump announced the lifting of COVID-19-related travel restrictions on parts of Europe and Brazil, the incoming Biden administration said it would reverse the move. Mr. Trump signed an executive order on January 18 removing restrictions on air travel for most non-U.S. citizens and permanent residents travelling from the Schengen Area, Ireland, the U.K. and Brazil starting January 26. The restrictions instituted in 2020 were also applied to Iran and China — these were not reversed by the executive order. Also, starting January 26, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has said that all those travelling by air into the U.S. will need to show a negative COVID-19 test result before boarding their flights.
(World Politics)
289 20-01-2021 - People & Personalities – Cancer care pioneer no more – A pioneer in cancer care in the country, and the chairperson of the Adyar Cancer Institute, V. Shanta breathed her last in Chennai on January 19. She was 93. A crusader for cancer research and making cancer care affordable for all, Dr. Shanta and her mentor S. Krishnamurthi built the Cancer Institute from a cottage hospital into a 500-plus bedded institution, offering state-of-the-art care to people across the income spectrum. Only 40% are paying beds and the remaining are general beds where patients are boarded and lodged free of cost. Dr. Shanta was the recipient of several honours and awards through her life, recognising her devotion to oncology care and research. The Padma Vibhushan and Ramon Magasaysay awards were among them. Dr. Shanta encouraged research into cancer care, even as she stressed building awareness in the community, to prevent cancer.
(People and Personalities)
290 20-01-2021 - Agriculture – SC panel lays out road map on farmers’ issue – The SC-appointed committee on farmers’ issues has decided to meet the State governments and the State Agricultural Marketing Boards along with the farm unions and cooperatives to seek their views on the farm reform laws, starting January 21. The panel has laid out a two-month road map for consultations after their first meeting on January 19. At the Singhu border, leaders of the protesting unions again met senior Delhi Police officials, who suggested that it might be better to hold the Republic Day tractor parade on the peripheral expressways outside Delhi rather than entering the city. The SC will hear the issue again on January 20, just hours before union leaders and Central Ministers meet for the 10th round of talks. The talks were supposed to be held on January 19, but were postponed.
(Agriculture, Constitution and Law)
291 19-01-2021 - Environment & Ecology – New monsoon forecast models on the anvil – The IMD may introduce new monsoon models in 2021 to better forecast changes in rainfall. At a day-long meet, discussions took place on the accuracy of the existing models, emerging weather models and their strengths and weaknesses in capturing the vagaries of the monsoon and the extent to which they were effective, over varying time-scales, in forecasting heavy rain or an extended dry patch. The monsoon in 2020 was unique, in that with monsoon 2019, it was only the third time in a century that India saw back-to-back years of above normal rainfall. In both years — and monsoon 2019 was a 25-year high — the IMD failed to forecast the magnitude of the excess and only indicated that the monsoon would be “above normal”.
(Environment Ecology and Climate Change)
292 19-01-2021 - International Relations – ‘Land under PLA control since 1959’ – The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has said it was aware of infrastructure construction by China in the past several years “along the Line of Actual Control (LAC)” and that India has also stepped up its construction. The statement came after a report by NDTV showed satellite images of a new Chinese settlement in Arunachal Pradesh. This is the first time the government has acknowledged Chinese construction, although official sources say the land has been under the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) control since 1959.
(Governance and Institutions)
293 19-01-2021 - Polity & Governance – Delhi sees 30% dip in street crime – The Delhi Police Control Room (PCR) has witnessed a sharp decline of 29.72% in calls related to robbery, snatching and motor vehicle thefts in the national capital till mid-January 2021 as compared to the corresponding period in 2020. During the period from January 1, 2021 to January 15, 2021 – 523 calls related to robbery were reported to the PCR as against 604 in the corresponding period of 2020 (from January 1 to January 15). This resulted in a decline of 13.42% in incidents of robbery. There has been a sharp decline of 29.72% in PCR calls regarding robbery, snatching and motor vehicle theft till mid-January this year as compared to the corresponding period, 2020.
(Governance and Institutions)
294 19-01-2021 - Agriculture – Women take the stage at Singhu border – Women took over the stage, security and stage management at the Singhu border as protesting farmers observed Mahila Kisan Divas on January 18. The crowd sitting in front of the stage primarily comprised women. Behind the main stage, two women guarded the rear entrance and women volunteers managed the list of people going on stage to speak. All the speakers on January 18 were women. Groups of women reached the Delhi borders in buses, trucks and tractors to be a part of Mahila Kisan Divas and talked about how important their role is in the ongoing agitation.
(Agriculture)
295 19-01-2021 - World – U.S., China spar over the origins of novel coronavirus – The U.S. and China have sparred over the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, the latest in a growing list of tensions that have left relations strained as President Trump leaves office. Recently, Washington and Beijing have clashed over trade issues, the sanctioning of Chinese companies, Taiwan and Hong Kong. In a reflection of the state of relations, China’s official Xinhua news agency issued a commentary, headlined “Good riddance, Trump administration and its final madness”, hitting out over the sanctioning of six Chinese officials related to Hong Kong. The latest spat followed the U.S. State Department on January 15 releasing a “fact-sheet” linking the Wuhan Institute of Virology to the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, which brought another sharp response from Beijing.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
296 19-01-2021 - World – Navalny remanded in custody for 30 days – A judge has ordered Alexei Navalny to be remanded in custody for 30 days. The ruling concluded an hours-long court hearing set up at a police precinct where the politician was held since his arrest at a Moscow airport on January 17. Mr. Navalny flew to Russia from Germany, where he had spent five months recovering from nerve agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin. He was detained at passport control at Sheremetyevo airport after flying in from Berlin, where he was treated following the poisoning in August. Mr. Navalny’s arrest prompted a wave of criticism from U.S. and European officials, adding to existing tension between Russia and West. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas noted that Mr. Navalny had returned of his own volition and said “it is completely incomprehensible that he was detained by Russian authorities immediately after his arrival”.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
297 19-01-2021 - Economy – China’s economy grows 2.3%, slowest pace in 44 years – China’s economy expanded in 2020 by 2.3% , the slowest pace of growth since the end of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution in 1976. China will, however, likely be the only major economy to have avoided a contraction in a pandemic-hit year, underlining its strong recovery after weeks of lockdown at the start of the year brought economic activity in the Asian giant to a near-standstill. China’s economy contracted 6.8% in the first quarter. The stringent lockdown did, however, allow the country to broadly curb the spread of COVID-19 at home by the summer. The economy recovered to grow 3.2% in the second quarter, 4.9% in the third and 6.5% in the last quarter of 2020.
(Indian Economy)
298 19-01-2021 - Economy – Govt. may raise import duties by 5-10% – India is considering raising import duties by 5%-10% on more than 50 items including smartphones, electronic components and appliances in the upcoming budget. The move to increase import duties is part of PM Modi’s self-reliant India campaign that aims to promote and support domestic manufacturing, said the sources, who asked not to be named as the discussions are not public. One of the sources said the government was seeking to target additional revenue of about ₹200 billion to ₹210 billion, as it looks to shore up revenue amid the COVID-19 pandemic-driven slowdown that has stung the economy. Two of the government sources also said the duty increases could impact furniture and electric vehicles, potentially hurting the likes of Swedish furniture maker Ikea and Tesla, which is planning to launch its cars in India this year.
(Indian Economy)
299 19-01-2021 - Agriculture – Only police should decide on tractor rally, says SC – The Supreme Court has said the Union government and the Delhi Police should take a call on whether or not protesting farmers could hold tractor or vehicle marches on Republic Day in the national capital. The CJI said there was still time for the Union of India and the Delhi Police to “invoke all its powers”. The government wanted the court to pass an injunction order to restrain farmers from holding rallies to “disrupt” the Republic Day celebrations in Delhi. The government said the right to express dissent against the farm laws did not include a right to “malign the nation globally”.
(Agriculture, Constitution and Law)
300 19-01-2021 - Covid-19 – Covaxin not to be used in cases of allergy, fever, poor immunity – Those with a history of allergies, fever and bleeding disorder, people on blood thinners and those with compromised immunity or on medication that affects the immune system have been told by Bharat Biotech, manufacturer of Covaxin, not to take the COVID-19 vaccine. A statement uploaded on the company website on January 18 said the vaccine was also contraindicated for pregnant and lactating women, those using other COVID-19 vaccines and people with any other serious health-related issues as determined by the vaccinator or the officer supervising the vaccination. The statement comes amid reports of a slow uptake of the first phase of COVID-19 vaccination that began on January 16. Bharat Biotech has now released a fact sheet detailing the possible adverse events.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
301 18-01-2021 - Science & Technology – WhatsApp pushes policy rollout to May 15 – Following a severe backlash over the latest update to its privacy policy, Facebook-owned WhatsApp has pushed back the policy rollout by three months to May 15. The company said it will also do a lot more to clear up the misinformation around how privacy and security works on WhatsApp and “we’ll then go to people gradually to review the policy at their own pace before new business options are available on May 15”. WhatsApp, for whom India is among the biggest markets with over 400 million users, said, “We’re now moving back the date on which people will be asked to review and accept the terms. No one will have their account suspended or deleted on February 8.”
(Science and Technology)
302 18-01-2021 - International Relations – U.K. invites PM Modi to G7 summit in June – The UK has invited PM Modi to attend the G7 summit that is scheduled to be held in June. Apart from India, Australia and South Korea are also invited to participate in the proceedings of the summit as “guest countries”. The summit will be held in Cornwall from June 11 to 13. The invitation came days after Mr. Johnson cancelled his visit to India in the last week of January because of a new wave of COVID-19 in Britain. He said he will visit India “ahead” of the G7 summit.
(Governance and Institutions)
303 18-01-2021 - Agriculture – Farmers firm on conducting Republic Day tractor parade – Farmer unions protesting against the three contentious farm laws have said they would go ahead with their tractor parade in Delhi on Republic Day. Leaders of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, a joint front of the unions, said the parade would be “peaceful”, and no disruptions would be caused to the official ceremony. The Supreme Court is slated to hear a petition by the Centre on January 19 to injunct protesters from holding the parade to “disrupt” the Republic Day celebrations.
(Agriculture)
304 18-01-2021 - Defence – Aero India to showcase indigenous helicopters – The India Pavilion at the Aero India 2021 next month will showcase a range of indigenously developed helicopters, while Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is scheduled to hold a conclave of Defence Ministers from the Indian Ocean Littoral (IOR) states. A Light Utility Helicopter (LUH), a weaponised Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) and a Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) would be on display inside the pavilion. A civilian version of the ALH would be on display outside. All these helicopters have been designed and manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL). In addition to the Defence Ministers’ conclave, plans are also on to hold an Air Chiefs’ conclave. 
(Defence and Military)
305 18-01-2021 - Polity & Governance – Centre extends Pawan Hans bidding deadlines by a month – The Finance Ministry has extended the bidding deadlines for the strategic disinvestment of Pawan Hans by a month, citing logistical challenges faced by interested bidders due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This marks another setback for the government’s already dented plans to raise ₹2.1 lakh crore through disinvestment in 2020-21, with just about ₹14,000 crore raised so far through minority stake sales. In December 2020, the government had invited expressions of interest from bidders for its 51% stake in mini-Ratna PSU Pawan Hans, with January 19 as the deadline. The balance 49% stake in the firm is owned by ONGC, and the successful bidder would get an option to buy out the oil major’s stake on a similar price and terms as agreed for the Centre’s stake.
(Governance and Institutions)
306 18-01-2021 - Study/Research – 10% of CSIR staff exposed to virus, says survey – A first such pan-India survey tracking nearly 10,000 employees of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) on the prevalence of COVID-19 found that nearly 10% of the staff were infected. Key neutralising antibodies that protect against the virus waned after infection, but were at “detectable levels” even after six months — a proxy for the period of effectiveness of future vaccination and general immunity. About three-fourths of the respondents could not recall having experienced a single one of the symptoms commonly associated with the disease, and a vegetarian diet and smoking appeared to be “protective” against the infection.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
307 18-01-2021 - World – 20 Indian-Americans, 17 in key White House positions – U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has nominated at least 20 Indian-Americans, including 13 women, to key positions in his incoming administration, a record for the small ethnic community that constitutes one per cent of America’s population. As many as 17 of them would be part of the Biden administration in the powerful White House complex. The January 20th inauguration, where Mr. Biden, 78, would be sworn in as the 46th President of the U.S., is already historic as it is for the first time ever that a woman, Kamala Harris, would be sworn as the Vice-President of the country. Ms. Harris, 56, is also the first ever Indian-origin and African-American to be sworn in as the Vice-President of the U.S.
(World Politics)
308 18-01-2021 - World – Navalny detained in Moscow on arrival – Russia’s prison service said opposition leader Alexei Navalny was detained at a Moscow airport after returning from Germany on January 17. The prison service said he was detained for multiple violations of parole and terms of a suspended prison sentence and would be held in custody until a court makes a decision in his case. Mr. Navalny, who is President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent and determined foe, was returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from poisoning by Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok, which he blames on the Kremlin. Recently, Russia’s prison service issued a warrant for his arrest, saying he had violated the terms of suspended sentence he received on a 2014 conviction for embezzlement. The prison service has asked a Moscow court to turn Mr. Navalny’s 3 1/2-year suspended sentence into a real one.
(World Politics)
309 18-01-2021 - World – On Day 1, Biden to reverse Trump orders – President-elect Joe Biden will deliver an appeal to national unity when he is sworn in on January 20 and plans immediate moves to combat the pandemic and undo some of President Donald Trump’s most controversial policies. Mr. Biden intends a series of executive actions after his inauguration, an opening salvo in what is shaping up as a 10-day blitz of steps to reorient the country without waiting for Congress. Mr. Biden will end Mr. Trump’s restriction on immigration to the U.S. from some Muslim-majority countries, move to rejoin the Paris climate accord and mandate mask-wearing on federal property and during interstate travel. Those are among roughly a dozen actions Mr. Biden will take on his first day in the White House.
(World Politics)
310 18-01-2021 - Covid-19 – 2.24 lakh vaccinated in 2 days, 447 report adverse reactions – A total of 2,24,301 individuals were administered the COVID-19 vaccine in two days, with more than 17,000 receiving the shot on January 17. With 3,000 vaccination sites and a capacity of 100 persons per site, the Centre had planned to vaccinate 3,00,000 persons nationally on January 16. Consolidated figures on January 17 show that 2,07,000 — or about seven in 10 — were inoculated on the inaugural day. Of all those vaccinated so far, 447 reported reactions such as pain, mild swelling, mild fever or nausea, with only three persons requiring hospitalisation. Only six States — Arunachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Manipur and Tamil Nadu — conducted vaccination sessions on January 17. The Health Ministry has advised the States and the Union Territories to conduct vaccination on only four days a week to minimise disruption to routine health services.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
311 16-01-2021 - International Relations – Nepal raises Kalapani boundary issue with India – Nepal has raised the Kalapani boundary dispute with India during the Joint Commission meeting, visiting Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali said on January 15. The Minister said that the Indo-Nepal boundary dispute existed in “two segments” and Kathmandu wished to find a solution to the matter urgently. Mr. Gyawali also took up Nepal’s requirement for vaccines to fight the COVID-19 pandemic as Kathmandu has approved Serum Institute of India’s (SII) Covishield vaccine. This is the first time that the Foreign Minister of Nepal has presented the dispute on the boundary front from the Indian capital since the issue erupted in November 2019 prompting Nepal to unveil a new political map that showed the Kalapani-Lipulekh-Limpiyadhura region of Pithoragarh district as part of the country’s sovereign territory.
(Regional Politics)
312 16-01-2021 - World – Uganda’s Bobi Wine rejects election results, claims victory – Ugandan opposition leader Bobi Wine has claimed victory in the presidential election, rejecting as a “complete sham” early results that gave President Yoweri Museveni a wide lead. Mr. Wine said he felt under threat as soldiers surrounded his home on Friday (January 15) evening after he alleged that Thursday's (January 14) election was rigged and said “every legal option is on the table” to challenge the official results, including protests. He referred to himself as the “President-elect.”
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
313 16-01-2021 - World – Unveiled document highlights Trump’s mixed China legacy – The newly declassified 2018 Strategic Framework for the Indo-Pacific, made public by the Trump administration, underlines how prominently “strategic competition between the U.S. and China” set Washington’s regional policy over the past four years, and President Trump’s mixed record in effectively addressing that challenge. Among the objectives outlined in the document are promoting American values throughout the region to “counterbalance” values being promoted by China, deterring China from using force or threats against U.S. allies and partners, and building a credible economic response and advancing “U.S. global economic leadership” to counter China’s influence and its projects such as the Belt and Road Initiative.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
314 16-01-2021 - Defence – Army inks $20 mn deal with ideaForge for UAV – The Indian Army has signed a $20-million contract with ideaForge, a player in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology, to procure undisclosed quantities of a high-altitude variant of SWITCH UAV. SWITCH UAV is an indigenous system built to cater to the most demanding surveillance operations of the Indian forces. This fixed-wing vertical take-off and landing UAV can be deployed at high altitudes and under harsh environments for day and night surveillance.
(Defence and Military)
315 16-01-2021 - World – Biden unveils $1.9 trillion relief package – President-elect Joe Biden has unveiled a $1.9 trillion coronavirus plan to end “a crisis of deep human suffering” by speeding up vaccines and pumping out financial help to those struggling with the pandemic’s prolonged economic fallout. Called the “American Rescue Plan,” the proposal would meet Mr. Biden’s goal of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration, and advance his objective of reopening most schools by the spring. On a parallel track, it delivers another round of aid to stabilise the economy while the public health effort seeks the upper hand on the pandemic. Mr. Biden proposed $1,400 cheques for most Americans, which on top of $600 provided in the most recent COVID-19 Bill would bring the total to the $2,000 that Mr. Biden has called for.
(Governance and Institutions, World Politics)
316 16-01-2021 - World – Mounting pressure on China, U.S. blacklists Xiaomi, CNOOC – The U.S. government has blacklisted Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp. and China’s third-largest national oil company for alleged military links, heaping pressure on Beijing in President Donald Trump’s last week in office. The Department of Defense added nine companies to its list of Chinese firms with military links, including Xiaomi and state-owned plane manufacturer Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China (Comac). U.S. investors will have to divest their stakes in Chinese companies on the military list by November 2021, according to an executive order signed by Mr. Trump in November 2020. Xiaomi Corp. overtook Apple Inc. as the world’s No. 3 smartphone maker by sales in the third quarter of 2020, according to data by Gartner.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
317 16-01-2021 - Economy – Indian economy ‘weak,’ credit growth bottoming out: BofA – American brokerage BofA Securities said the Indian economy continues to be ‘weak,’ pointing to activity indicators tracked by it. On the positive side, the brokerage said credit demand is bottoming out and the real lending rates, adjusted for wholesale price inflation, are falling. It can be noted that there has been a slew of reports lately about a stronger recovery being underway after the jolt caused by the pandemic. The government expects the GDP to contract 7.7% in financial year 2021 because of the reverses.
(Indian Economy)
318 16-01-2021 - Economy – Trade with China shrank in 2020, deficit at five-year low – India’s trade with China declined in 2020 to the lowest level since 2017, with the trade deficit narrowing to a five-year low as the country imported far fewer goods from its northern neighbour. Bilateral trade slid 5.6% to $87.6 billion, according to new figures from China’s General Administration of Customs (GAC). India’s imports from China shrank by 10.8% to $66.7 billion, marking the lowest level of inbound shipments since 2016. India’s exports to China, however, jumped 16%, crossing the $20 billion-mark for the first time to a record high of $20.86 billion. The trade deficit, a source of friction in bilateral ties, shrank to $45.8 billion, the lowest level since 2015. India’s biggest import in 2019 was electrical machinery and equipment, worth $20.17 billion. Other major imports in 2019 were organic chemicals ($8.39 billion) and fertilisers ($1.67 billion), while India’s top exports that year were iron ore, organic chemicals, cotton and unfinished diamonds.
(Indian Economy)
319 16-01-2021 - Agriculture – Farmers, govt. to continue talks – The ninth round of talks between the Centre and the farmer unions have failed to break the impasse over the demand to repeal the three contentious farm laws. It was, however, agreed to continue the direct dialogue in parallel with the Supreme Court-appointed panel’s proceedings on the same issue. The date for the next round of talks was set for January 19, the same day as the court-appointed panel is likely to hold its first meeting. The unions have refused to participate in the proceedings of the court-appointed committee, but were apprehensive that the Centre would use the court’s order as an excuse to end the direct negotiation process. However, it has now been agreed that this process would continue.
(Agriculture)
320 16-01-2021 - Covid-19 – World’s largest vaccination programme begins today – Prime Minister Narendra Modi will flag off the first phase of the nationwide COVID-19 vaccination drive at 10.30 a.m. on January 16 during a videoconference. The world’s largest vaccination programme will begin at a total of 3,006 session sites across all the States and the Union Territories, which will be connected virtually throughout the exercise. Nearly 100 beneficiaries will receive the vaccine at each of the session sites on January 16. A dedicated 24x7 call centre — 1075 — has been set up to address queries related to the pandemic and the vaccine roll-out. Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on January 15 said adequate doses of both the vaccines — Covishield and Covaxin — had been delivered across the country. He reviewed the functioning of the CoWIN system, the online digital platform that will be used to drive the vaccination programme. Healthcare workers, both in the government and private sectors, including Integrated Child Development Services workers, will receive the vaccine in the first phase.
(Governance and Institutions, Healthcare and Medicine)
321 15-01-2021 - India and the World – United States says India's digital services tax is discriminatory – The US has determined that India's Digital Services Tax is discriminatory and has an adverse impact on American commerce and is actionable under the trade act. At the same time, the outgoing Trump administration has left the onus of taking any action against India under Section 301 of the US Trade Act to the incoming Biden administration. India had adopted the operative form of its Digital Services Tax or DST on March 27, 2020. The DST imposes a two per cent tax on revenue generated from a broad range of digital services offered in India, including digital platform services, digital content sales, digital sales of a company's own goods, data-related services, software-as-a-service, and several other categories of digital services. India's DST only applies to non-resident companies. The tax applies as of April 1, 2020.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
322 15-01-2021 - Defence – – BSF finds 150-metre cross-border tunnel along Jammu and Kashmir border – A 150-m tunnel constructed along the International Border (IB) to facilitate infiltration of terrorists into Jammu and Kashmir from Pakistan was detected by Border Security Force (BSF) personnel in Hiranagar sector of Kathua district. This is the third tunnel unearthed by alert border guards along the IB in the twin districts of Samba and Kathua in Jammu region over the past six months and ninth in the past decade.
(Defence and Military)
323 15-01-2021 - Environment and Ecology – SC takes cognizance of pollution in Yamuna river – Taking cognisance of pollution in the Yamuna, the Supreme Court issued notice to the Haryana Government after the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) alleged that water containing high pollutants was being released into the river from the state. The Bench appointed senior advocate Meenakshi Arora as amicus curiae to assist it in hearing the case and posted the matter for further hearing on January 19.
(Environment Ecology and Climate Change)
324 15-01-2021 - World – Estonia’s PM resigns over corruption scandal in his party – Estonia’s prime minister has resigned over a corruption scandal in his Centre Party that led to key party officials resigning overnight, and talks began among political parties about forming a new ruling coalition. The move automatically prompts the resignation of Estonia’s three-party coalition government but does not automatically mean a new election. Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas said on his Facebook page that he would step down as “the suspicion expressed by the Public Prosecutor’s Office …. does not mean that someone is definitely guilty but they will inevitably cast a serious shadow over all those involved.”.
(World Politics)
325 15-01-2021 - Social – NIC and CBSE to sign MOU for “CollabCAD Software Support and Training for Students and Faculty of Engineering Graphics in CBSE affiliated Schools” – National Informatics Centre (NIC), MeitY along with Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), Ministry of Education is jointly launching CollabCAD Software, a collaborative network, computer-enabled software system, providing a total engineering solution from 2D drafting & detailing to 3D product design for students and faculty of Engineering Graphics Curriculum. National Informatics Centre (NIC), CBSE, and Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), NITI Aayog will also jointly release a comprehensive e-book on CollabCAD 3D modeling. This e-book 1.0 is ready for public release through the CollabCAD portal and will guide CAD students, beginners, and professionals in understanding and using CollabCAD Software. It is designed and authored by the CollabCAD Group of NIC, New Delhi.
(Education)
326 15-01-2021 - Archaeology – 45,500-year-old pig painting is the world’s oldest animal art – Some 45,500 years ago, on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, ancient humans ventured into a cave and sketched out the rotund form of a native pig, complete with a bristly back and face warts. Archaeologists now believe this portly swine marks the oldest drawing of a creature yet discovered anywhere in the world. In a study published this week in Science Advances, an image of the drawing shows the animal apparently looking at two other pigs mid-squabble. The outlines of two human hands are positioned near the rump of the pig, and a bristly patch in the center of the mix might hint at a fourth creature. The painting, made with strokes of red ocher on the interior cave walls, was discovered in December 2017 by local archaeologist Basran Burhan, currently a Ph.D. student at Australia's Griffith University. 
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
327 15-01-2021 - Covid-19 – WHO team arrives In Wuhan to investigate – A team of 13 World Health Organization scientists have now arrived in Wuhan, China, where they will investigate the origins of the coronavirus that has caused a global pandemic. Nearly 2 million people have died due to COVID-19, with more than 92 million infections, according to Johns Hopkins University. Members of the team began the process of traveling to China more than a week ago, after discussions between the WHO, China's government and other countries the scientists would travel through on their way to Wuhan. The WHO announced the trip had begun on Jan. 5. But that same day, the international health agency was told that Chinese officials had not given final permissions for the team to arrive and begin their work.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
328 15-01-2021 - Indian Economy – WPI Inflation eases, but core spikes – In tandem with its retail counterpart, wholesale inflation rate softened to a four-month low of 1.22 per cent in December from 1.55 per cent in November as food items entered the deflationary zone. However, core inflation (which does not include food and fuel items) rose to a two-year high of 4.2 per cent on metal and commodity prices that may not allow the monetary policy committee of the Reserve Bank of India to go for any further rate cut in February. This was despite consumer price inflation rate declining to a 15-month low of 4.6 per cent.
(Indian Economy)
329 15-01-2021 - Corporate World – Top four unicorns account for half of combined valuation – Indian unicorns rustled up a combined valuation of $128.9 billion in 2020 with 11 new players joining the exclusive club last year, according to a report by BofA Global Research. It’s an impressive figure given that Reliance, the country’s largest company in terms of market cap, is pegged at around $181 billion and the second largest, Tata Consultancy Services, is $165 billion. Unicorns are companies that have a valuation of $1 billion and above based on their last round of fund-raising.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
330 15-01-2021 - USA – Donald Trump impeached for second time – Donald Trump has become the first president in US history to be impeached twice, after being charged with "incitement of insurrection" over last week's deadly storming of Congress. The House of Representatives accused Mr Trump of encouraging violence with his false claims of election fraud. He now faces trial in the upper chamber, the Senate, but not before he leaves office. Senators can vote to bar him from ever holding public office again. The FBI has warned of possible armed protests planned for Washington DC and all 50 US state capitals in the days before Joe Biden, a Democrat, is inaugurated as the new US president.
(World Politics)
331 14-01-2021 - Education – Delhi schools to reopen for classes 10, 12 – Deputy CM Manish Sisodia has said that the Delhi government has allowed the reopening of schools for students of Classes 10 and 12 so that they may complete their studies ahead of the CBSE board examinations, the dates of which have already been announced. The government said that physical attendance is not compulsory and students will attend schools only with the consent of parents and issued a standard operating procedure for all schools to follow. Schools in the Capital have been closed since March 19, 2020.
(Education)
332 14-01-2021 - Law & Constitution – Adultery law must stay for military: govt. – The Supreme Court has admitted a petition filed by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) seeking to exempt armed forces personnel from the ambit of a Constitution Bench judgment of 2018 that decriminalised adultery. One of the chief reasons given by the government for seeking exemption is, incidentally, that “there will always be a concern in the minds of the Army personnel who are operating far away from their families under challenging conditions about the family indulging in untoward activity.” A three-judge Bench led by Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman said the plea had to be considered by a Constitution Bench because the original verdict, striking down Section 497 (adultery) of the IPC, was pronounced by a five-judge Bench in September 2018.
(Constitution and Law)
333 14-01-2021 - Polity & Governance – Polio immunisation drive postponed – The Union Health Ministry has postponed the polio immunisation drive scheduled from January 17 till further notice, citing unforeseen activities. While the COVID-19 vaccination starts on January 16, the National Immunisation Day (NID), commonly known as Pulse Polio Immunisation programme, was scheduled for January 17 across India.
(Governance and Institutions, Healthcare and Medicine)
334 14-01-2021 - Economy – Kerala allowed to borrow ₹2,261 cr. more – The Finance Ministry has enhanced Kerala’s borrowing limit by ₹2,261 crore, after the State joined seven others in completing reforms to improve the ease of doing business as stipulated by the Centre. States have so far been granted an additional borrowing limit of about ₹23,100 crore linked to this aspect of the conditional reform-linked borrowings permitted this year. The reforms for meeting the additional borrowing grant include the completion of first assessment of ‘District Level Business Reform Action Plan’, elimination of the requirements of renewal of registration certificates and licences obtained by businesses under various laws, and implementation of a computerised central random inspection system for allocation of inspectors. In May, the Centre had allowed States to avail of enhanced borrowing limits of 2% of their Gross State Domestic Product, citing the COVID-19 pandemic.
(Indian Economy)
335 14-01-2021 - World – Kremlin critic Navalny to fly to Russia despite risk – Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has said that he would fly back to Russia on January 17 from Germany, where he has been recovering after being poisoned, shrugging off potential legal risks that could see him jailed. Mr. Navalny, one of President Vladimir Putin’s leading critics, was airlifted to Germany for treatment in August 2020 after collapsing on a plane in what Germany and other Western nations say was an attempt to murder him with a nerve agent. Russian authorities deny any involvement in the incident. His announcement came a day after court documents showed Russian authorities had asked a court to jail him for allegedly breaking the terms of a suspended sentence, which he calls a politically-motivated conviction.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
336 14-01-2021 - Defence – CCS approves 83 Tejas fighters for Air Force – In the biggest indigenous defence deal, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) has approved the manufacture of 83 Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) for the Indian Air Force (IAF) at a cost of around ₹47,000 crore. The indigenous content of the LCA-Tejas was 50% in the MK-1A variant and it would be enhanced to 60% by the end of the programme. The MK-1A would have over 40 modifications over the MK-1 variant, including some major ones like an electronic warfare system, advanced electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, beyond visual range (BVR) missiles and a network warfare system comprising software defined radio (SDR). The modifications would be incorporated on the LCA concurrently along with the production once the deal is signed. The Cabinet also approved infrastructure development by the IAF under the project to enable them to handle repairs or servicing at their base depot so that the turnaround time is reduced for mission critical systems, which would lead to increased availability of aircraft for operational exploitation.
(Defence and Military)
337 14-01-2021 - Covid-19 – AAP govt. to provide free COVID vaccination if Centre doesn’t: CM – The Delhi government will provide free COVID-19 vaccination to residents of the Capital if the Centre fails to do so, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said on January 13. His comment came following a visit to the family of Dr. Hitesh Gupta, employed with the Delhi government, who lost his life after contracting the virus in the line of duty. The government announced financial assistance of ₹1 crore to the family. The Delhi government has sent a list of 600 sites, including schools and government offices, to the Centre for the first phase of the vaccination drive which aims to cover 51 lakh citizens.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
338 14-01-2021 - Law & Constitution – Publication of notice of marriage not mandatory, says Allahabad HC – The Allahabad High Court has ruled that the provision of publication of notice of intended marriage under the Special Marriage Act, 1954, is not mandatory. The court, in a significant judgment delivered on January 12, said making such publication mandatory “would invade the fundamental rights of liberty and privacy, including within its sphere the freedom to choose for marriage without interference from state and non-state actors, of the persons concerned”. A Bench of Justice Vivek Chaudhary mandated that while giving notice under Section 5 of the Act, it shall be optional for the parties to the intended marriage to make a request in writing to the marriage officer to publish or not to publish a notice under Section 6 and follow the procedure of objections as prescribed under the Act.
(Constitution and Law)
339 14-01-2021 - World – Donald Trump on verge of second impeachment – A week after Trump’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, the U.S. House of Representatives gathered on January 13 to impeach the President for his role in an assault on American democracy that stunned the nation and left five dead. At least five Republicans have said they would join Democrats to impeach Mr. Trump for the second time, just seven days before he is due to leave office and President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in on January 20. A vote of the House majority to impeach would trigger a trial in the still Republican-controlled Senate, although it was unclear whether such a trial would take place in time to expel Mr. Trump from the White House.
(World Politics)
340 14-01-2021 - Agriculture – No clarity on tomorrow’s talks, a day after SC stay on farm laws – As thousands of protesting farmers burned copies of the three contentious farm reform laws to mark the festival of Lohri, the Central government was yet to decide whether to hold its next round of negotiations with farm unions on January 15. Farmers completed 50 days of continuous protest on the borders of Delhi. They have been demanding the repeal of the three laws, as well as a legal guarantee that all farm produce would be sold at minimum support prices. So far, eight rounds of talks have failed to resolve the crisis. Following the Supreme Court’s order to suspend the implementation of the laws and form a committee on the same issues, the Centre held internal consultations on the way ahead.
(Agriculture, Constitution and Law)
341 13-01-2021 - Covid-19 – Bharat Biotech to supply Covaxin to Brazil – Covaxin maker Bharat Biotech has signed an agreement with Precisa Medicamentos, a firm in Brazil, to supply the COVID-19 vaccine candidate to the Latin American country. Twelve million doses of the indigenous vaccine are likely to be supplied over a period of time and the first consignment is expected to be shipped shortly. The company will probably be the first to export COVID-19 vaccines. Ambassador of Brazil André Aranha Corrêa do Lago had also expressed interest on behalf of the government of Brazil towards procurement of Covaxin.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
342 13-01-2021 - People & Personalities – Renowned astrophysicist Professor Shashikumar Madhusudan Chitre passes away at 84 – Renowned astrophysicist Professor Shashikumar Madhusudan Chitre passed away on January 11, aged 84 years old. A recipient of Padma Bhushan, he was a stalwart of the Indian astronomy community, particularly solar physics. He retired as a senior professor from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, in 2001. He was the driving force behind the establishment of the University of Mumbai – Department of Atomic Energy Centre for Excellence in Basic Sciences (UM-DAE CEBS) in the Kalina campus of the university.
(People and Personalities)
343 13-01-2021 - Polity & Governance – Labour codes may be implemented before April 1 – The four labour law codes enacted by Parliament in 2020 and 2019 could be implemented before the earlier target of April 1. The codes, which have amalgamated 29 laws governing minimum wages, occupational safety, social security into four codes, were earlier expected to be implemented by April 1. While the rules under the Code on Wages, 2019 have been finalised, those under the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020, the Industrial Relations Code, 2020 and the Social Security Code, 2020 were yet to be notified.
(Governance and Institutions)
344 13-01-2021 - World – Ahead of Gyawali’s visit, Nepal, India differ on conducting ‘border talks’ – The Kalapani territorial dispute is expected to be “raised” by Nepal during the Joint Commission meeting to be held during the visit of Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali this week, but there will be no “border talks”. The visit will instead focus on the Joint Commission agenda, which includes a broad spectrum of development projects, the officials said, adding that the boundary issue that erupted last year over Nepal’s decision to include Indian territories in its map, would be handled separately only when the designated Foreign Secretary-level mechanism, which is agreed upon bilaterally, meets. In Nepal, however, officials said the resolution of the dispute remains important for improving overall bilateral ties that plunged to new lows last year.
(Regional Politics)
345 13-01-2021 - World – Malaysia declares state of emergency over virus surge – Malaysia’s king has declared a nationwide state of emergency to fight a coronavirus surge and Parliament was suspended, with critics charging that it was a bid by the unstable government to cling to power. The surprise move came a day after the PM announced sweeping new curbs across much of the Southeast Asian nation, including the closure of most businesses, and warned the health system was “at breaking point”. It is the first time Malaysia has declared a national state of emergency in over half a century and Mr. Muhyiddin confirmed Parliament would be suspended and elections would not take place for the time being. But the leader, whose 10-month-old administration is showing signs of falling apart, insisted that “the civilian government will continue to function”.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
346 13-01-2021 - World – Worries rise over more violence in U.S. – U.S. Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf announced his resignation unexpectedly on January 11 as worries rose over more violence during President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration next week. Mr. Wolf’s departure as head of the body in charge of security for the January 20 event came five days after President Trump’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, hoping to prevent Mr. Biden from replacing him. The Homeland Security Department oversees several law enforcement bodies, including the Secret Service, the point agency for security for the White House and the U.S. President. An internal FBI document warned of the possibility that armed Trump supporters could hold protests in all 50 States between the coming weekend and January 20.
(World Politics)
347 13-01-2021 - Science & Technology – Update won’t affect privacy: WhatsApp – In the wake of a backlash over its updated privacy policy, Facebook-owned WhatsApp has clarified that the update would not affect users’ messages to friends or family. The changes only relate to messaging a business using the platform. In an FAQ posted on its website, WhatsApp added that this update includes changes related to messaging a business on WhatsApp, which is optional, and provided further transparency about how the company collects and uses data. Interestingly, in a new survey by community social network LocalCircles comprising almost 9,000 participants, 15% respondents said they would stop using WhatsApp, while 26% said they would “drastically reduce” their usage of the platform and start using other platforms such as Signal and Telegram.
(Science and Technology)
348 13-01-2021 - Economy – Inflation slows to 4.59% as food prices ease – India’s retail inflation decelerated appreciably to 4.59% in December, from 6.93% in November, dipping below 6% for the first time since March 2020 as food prices cooled. Other data released by the NSO, however, showed that a nascent industrial recovery, which had begun in September, retreated in November as industrial output shrank 1.9%. The lowest consumer price inflation (CPI) print in 14 months was driven by an sharp slowdown in food price inflation, which eased to 3.4% in December, from the preceding month’s 9.5%. India’s index of industrial production (IIP) for November was dragged lower by mining and manufacturing, which both shrank, as per quick estimates. Mining output contracted 7.3% in the month, while manufacturing declined 1.7%, indicating an unwinding of inventory build-ups with the quenching of pent-up and festive demand.
(Indian Economy)
349 13-01-2021 - Covid-19 – Delhi govt. targets 1,000 vaccination sites – The Delhi government has asked all 11 District Magistrates (DMs) to submit a list of vaccination sites, after checking their feasibility, to increase the number of such centres in the city to 1,000. On January 16, the first day of the vaccination drive, inoculation will take place at 89 hospitals and then it will be scaled up. Also, the COVID-19 vaccination will be carried out six days a week in hospitals, except on Sundays. But in dispensaries, it will take place only four days a week. The government has identified 621 cold chain points, including hospitals, dispensaries and mohalla clinics, and the 1,000 vaccination sites or vaccinations booths will be established at these cold chain points. The Delhi government’s aim is to inoculate 1 lakh people a day by increasing the vaccination sites to 1,000. Each of the 1,000 sites is expected to inoculate 100 people a day.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
350 13-01-2021 - Agriculture – SC stays implementation of three controversial farm laws – The Supreme Court has stayed the implementation of three controversial farm laws, calling its order “extraordinary” and a “victory for fair play”. The stay on the implementation of the laws means that the Centre cannot, for the time being, proceed with any executive actions to enforce the laws. The court formed a four-member committee of experts “to listen to the grievances of the farmers on the laws and the views of the government and make recommendations”. The court said several rounds of negotiations between the Centre and the farmers had produced no results, even as senior citizens, women and children among the protesters were exposed to serious health hazards posed by the cold and the spread of COVID-19.
(Agriculture, Constitution and Law)
351 09-01-2021 - Covid-19 – PM to hold meeting with CMs on vaccination – PM Modi will chair a meeting with the Chief Ministers of all the States over the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines. The meeting comes days after Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said the government was ready to roll-out vaccines for the priority group soon. The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) on January 3 granted restricted emergency use authorisation for Serum Institute of India’s ‘Covishield’ and Bharat Biotech’s ‘Covaxin’ vaccines for COVID-19. Meanwhile, ahead of the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out, India concluded its second nationwide dry run across 736 districts of 33 States and Union Territories on January 8.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
352 09-01-2021 - Covid-19 – Seven-day institutional quarantine for U.K. arrivals – The Delhi government has announced that all passengers arriving in the Capital from the United Kingdom will have to undergo a seven-day institutional quarantine followed by a seven-day home quarantine even if they test negative for COVID-19 on arrival. On the first day after India lifted the ban on flights from the U.K. imposed earlier to prevent the spread of a new strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, 246 passengers arrived by an Air India flight on January 8.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
353 09-01-2021 - People & Personalities – Veteran Congress leader Madhavsinh Solanki passes away at 93 – Madhavsinh Solanki, a veteran Congress leader and the former External Affairs Minister of India, who also served as the CM of Gujarat for four times, passed away at the age of 93 on January 9, 2021. A former journalist, Solanki is known for having led the Congress to its largest-ever victory winning 149 of 182 seats in the legislative assembly in 1985. Solanki rose to power on the KHAM (Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi, Muslim) coalition he stitched in the 1980s. He is credited as the proponents of KHAM, a theory that united these communities in support of the Congress when the Patels had abandoned it, and this is claimed to have kept the Congress in power in the state.
(People and Personalities)
354 09-01-2021 - Environment & Ecology – Supreme Court tells govt. to arm forest officers to fight poachers – The SC has urged the government to arm forest officers and provide them with bullet-proof vests and vehicles when told that India recorded the “greatest number of mortal fatalities” among forest officials in the world. India accounts for 30% of fatalities among forest rangers in the world. The court said the Centre should consider involving premier organisations such as the CBI to help the forest staff. CJI Bobde pointed out how forest rangers in Assam were armed and “no one dares come near them”.
(Environment Ecology and Climate Change)
355 09-01-2021 - Economy – U.S. sheds 1.4 lakh jobs as COVID-19 cases surge – The U.S. economy shed jobs for the first time in eight months in December as the country buckled under an onslaught of COVID-19 infections, suggesting a significant loss of momentum that could temporarily stall recovery from the pandemic. Non-farm payrolls decreased by 1,40,000 jobs last month. Data for November was revised up to show 3,36,000 jobs added instead of 2,45,000 as previously reported. The economy has recovered just over half of the 22.2 million jobs lost in March and April. The unemployment rate was at 6.7% in December. Despite the labour market weakness, the economy is unlikely to fall back into recession.
(Healthcare and Medicine, Indian Economy)
356 09-01-2021 - World – U.S. modifies H-1B visa selection process – The outgoing Trump administration has modified the selection process for H-1B visa, giving priority to salary and skills instead of the current lottery procedures. The notification would come into force in 60 days. The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows U.S. firms to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. The technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China. The next H-1B visa filing season is slated to start on April 1. The notification is the latest effort to bar the entry of immigrants to the U.S.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
357 09-01-2021 - World – Biden picks Sumona Guha for key role on South Asia at NSC – The Biden-Harris transition team announced the appointment of Indian-American Sumona Guha to the role of Senior Director for South Asia at the National Security Council. Ms. Guha co-chaired the South Asia foreign policy working group on the Biden-Harris campaign, and was a member of the transition team. She will succeed the Trump administration’s Lisa Curtis in the role. Ms. Guha, a former Foreign Service officer, has been a senior vice-president since mid-2018 at the Albright Stonebridge Group, whose chair is former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. She has also worked at the U.S.-India Business Council and, prior to that, in the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff with responsibility for South Asia.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
358 09-01-2021 - World – China holds third edition of South Asia multilateral meet – China has held its third multilateral dialogue with countries from South Asia to take forward closer cooperation on fighting COVID-19 and coordinating their economic agendas, reflecting a new approach in Beijing’s outreach to the region. All three dialogues have been attended by Pakistan and Nepal, which are emerging as two lynchpins in China’s regional strategy. The first such meeting was convened by China in July, and was attended by Pakistan, Nepal and Afghanistan. This was followed by a grouping in November attended by China, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. In the previous two rounds, the countries also discussed how to work more closely together under China’s Belt and Road Initiative to boost their post-COVID-19 economic recovery and agreed that countries linked by land ports should establish joint response mechanisms in border areas, apart from committing to greater information sharing and international cooperation.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
359 09-01-2021 - Agriculture – Centre turns to SC as talks with farmers fail to break deadlock – The eighth round of talks between the Centre and the farmer unions, which saw raised voices and increased tensions, ended without any resolution to the ongoing stalemate over the repeal of the three farm reform laws. A ninth round of talks will be held on January 15, after the Supreme Court’s next hearing on the issue which is likely to be held on January 11. According to union leaders, the Centre told them that the issue is best resolved by the Supreme Court, asking the farmers to appear at the next hearing and suggesting that it would request daily hearings for speedy resolution of the case. Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar would not confirm this. Farmer leaders said that policy issues should not be decided by the court, which is only examining the constitutional validity of the laws.
(Agriculture)
360 09-01-2021 - Study/Research – Over half of Army personnel under severe stress, says study – More than half of Indian Army personnel seem to be under severe stress and the Army has been losing more personnel every year due to suicides, fratricides and untoward incidents than in response to any enemy or terrorist activities. There has been a significant increase in stress levels amongst Indian Army personnel during approximately last two decades due to operational and non-operational stressors. While operational stressors are well understood and accepted by Army personnel, the study says that non-operational stressors that add on “have compounding adverse effects on health and combat efficiency of soldiers and thus affecting their respective units too.” In this regard, officers experience comparatively much higher cumulative stress levels, compared to the Junior Commissioned Officers and Other Ranks and the stress causative factors are also different.
(Defence and Military)
361 08-01-2021 - Science & Technology – WhatsApp updates privacy policy – WhatsApp has updated its terms of service and privacy policy regarding how it processes user data and partners with Facebook to offer integrations across the platform’s products. Users have received in-app prompts informing them of the update in terms of use that take effect on February 8. Key updates include more information about WhatsApp’s service and how it processes user data; how businesses can use Facebook-hosted services to store and manage their WhatsApp chats; and how WhatsApp partners with Facebook to offer integrations across the company products. Users will need to accept these updates to continue using WhatsApp.
(Science and Technology)
362 08-01-2021 - Education – JEE-Advanced to be held on July 3 – The Joint Entrance Examination (Advanced), 2021, the entrance test for the elite Indian Institutes of Technology, will be held on July 3. The 23 IITs will relax their eligibility criteria again this year, allowing students who scored less than 75% in the Class 12 board exams to apply. At its meeting on December 31, 2020, the IIT Joint Admission Board also decided to shortlist 2.5 lakh students to write JEE-Advanced, from among those who attempt the qualifying examination JEE-Main 2021. This is 55% higher than the 1.6 lakh students who registered for JEE-Advanced in 2020, which may have seen lower registrations than usual due to COVID-19.
(Education)
363 08-01-2021 - Covid-19 – ‘Alarming’ U.K. virus variant needs bolder response: WHO – The WHO’s European branch has said more needed to be done to deal with the alarming situation brought on by a recently discovered variant of the novel coronavirus. The WHO’s regional director for Europe, Hans Kluge, called the current situation “a tipping-point in the course of the pandemic”. While it is natural for viruses to change over time and the variant is not believed to cause more severe symptoms, its “increased transmissibility” still raises concerns, according to WHO Europe.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
364 08-01-2021 - Economy – India’s fiscal deficit may exceed 7% in current fiscal, say sources – India’s fiscal deficit for the year ending in March is likely to exceed 7% of gross domestic product as revenue collections suffered from a lockdown and restrictions to rein in the spread of COVID-19. The government had in February projected a deficit of 3.5% for the current year. It estimated government borrowing of ₹7.8 trillion, later revised to ₹12 trillion, to provide relief to millions of people and businesses hurt by the pandemic. The revenue shortfall from tax and divestment of state-run companies could be as much as ₹7 trillion. The government has yet to release any revised fiscal deficit estimates.
(Indian Economy)
365 08-01-2021 - Agriculture – SC expresses concern over farmers’ stir – Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad A. Bobde voiced the Supreme Court’s apprehension that mass gatherings of protesting farmers will lead to a “problem similar to the Tablighi Jamaat congregation” in March 2019 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The court was hearing a petition filed by Jammu-based advocate Supriya Pandita seeking a CBI probe into circumstances leading to the swelling of migrant workers, anxious to leave the national capital for their villages and hometowns, at the Anand Vihar Bus Terminal for buses, and the Tablighi Jamaat congregation, which even saw foreign delegates, in violation of the social distancing norms. Both incidents happened last March, the month which saw a complete lockdown to prevent the spread of the infection. The court issued notice to the Union and Delhi governments, and asked the person concerned to file a detailed report on the guidelines to prevent COVID-19, including restrictions on mass gatherings.
(Agriculture, Constitution and Law)
366 08-01-2021 - People & Personalities – Satya Paul, who ‘reinvented’ the sari, passes away in Coimbatore – Satya Paul, best known as the designer who reinvented the sari for contemporary women, died at the Isha Yoga Centre on January 6. He was 78. Mr. Satya Paul had suffered a stroke last month and was recovering in hospital. Mr. Satya Paul’s inquisitive nature led him to be a pioneer in the field of retailing, starting in the late 1960s and expanding to exports of the finest Indian handloom products to high-end retail stores in Europe and the U.S. In 1980, he launched the first sari boutique in India, L’Affaire, and in 1986, India’s first designer label, with his son. The Satya Paul brand became one of the premier brands in the country and he passed on the mantle to his son in 2000. They exited the company in 2010.
(People and Personalities)
367 08-01-2021 - Covid-19 – 4 States warned of virus spike – Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan has written to Maharashtra, Kerala, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal, urging them to take steps to curb the spike in COVID-19 cases. These States have been reporting an upsurge in the number of daily new cases in the recent days. The States have been advised to maintain a strict vigil and take steps to keep a check on the rising cases, especially in view of the new virus strain being observed in certain countries and reported in a few States in India. Meanwhile, Bharat Biotech has announced “successful completion” of volunteer enrolment for Phase-3 clinical trials of its indigenously manufactured vaccine, Covaxin.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
368 08-01-2021 - World – Indian-American named U.S. Army’s first CIO – Indian-American Raj Iyer has taken over as the first Chief Information Officer (CIO) of the U.S. Army after the Pentagon created the position in July 2020. One of the highest ranking Indian-American civilians in the U.S. Department of Defense, Dr. Iyer, who holds a PhD. in Electrical Engineering, serves as the Principal Adviser to the Secretary of the Army and directs representation of the Secretary in matters relating to information management/ information technology (IT). Equivalent in rank to a three-star General, Dr. Iyer will supervise an annual budget of $16 billion for the U.S. Army’s IT operations. Over 15,000 civilians and military personnel posted across 100 countries work under him.
(Defence and Military)
369 08-01-2021 - World – Biden win confirmed amid pro-Trump mob attack – The U.S. Congress confirmed Democrat Joe Biden as the presidential election winner early on January 7 after a violent mob loyal to President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol in a stunning attempt to overturn the presidential election, undercut the nation’s democracy and keep Mr. Trump in the White House. Lawmakers were resolved to complete the Electoral College tally in a display to the country, and the world, of the nation’s enduring commitment to uphold the will of the voters and the peaceful transfer of power. They pushed through the night, with tensions high and the nation’s capital on alert. Before dawn on January 7, the lawmakers finished their work, confirming that Mr. Biden had won the election. Vice-President Mike Pence, presiding over the joint session, announced the tally — 306-232.
(World Politics)
370 08-01-2021 - Economy – World food price index rises for seventh straight month in Dec. – World food prices rose for a seventh consecutive month in December, with all the major categories, barring sugar, posting gains in December 2020. The Food and Agriculture Organization’s food price index, which measures monthly changes for a basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy products, meat and sugar, averaged 107.5 points last month versus 105.2 in November. For the whole of 2020, the benchmark index averaged 97.9 points, a three-year high and a 3.1% increase from 2019. It was still down more than 25% from its historical peak in 2011. Vegetable oil prices continued recent strong gains, jumping 4.7% month-on-month in December after surging more than 14% in November. For the whole of 2020, the index was up 19.1% on 2019.
(Indian Economy)
371 07-01-2021 - Agriculture – Tractor rally today likely to disrupt traffic on Delhi outskirts – Traffic is likely to be disrupted on the outskirts of Delhi on the 43rd day of farmers’ agitation as the protesters plan to carry out a tractor march on January 7, converging on the eastern and western peripheral expressways that form a ring around the national Capital. This is likely to affect commuters on Kundli-Manesar-Palwal highway, Eastern Peripheral Expressway and the National Highway-9. The tractor march comes a day ahead of another round of talks with the government over farmers’ demand for repeal of the three farm laws passed by Centre in September. Recently, agitating farmers had announced that Thursday’s (January 7) tractor march would be a ‘rehearsal’ of their march on Rajpath on January 26, Republic Day.
(Agriculture)
372 07-01-2021 - Education – Punjab govt. to reopen all schools from today – The Punjab government has decided to reopen all government, semi-government and private schools from January 7. The students from Classes V to XII will be allowed to attend physical classes across the State. State School Education Minister Vijay Inder Singla has said that on persistent demand of the parents, the government has decided to reopen the schools from January 7. The Minister said the school managements have been asked to strictly comply with the directives of the government, especially the advisory issued by the State Health department, to avert the threat of contraction of COVID-19.
(Education)
373 07-01-2021 - Covid-19 – 15 more test +ve for new UK Covid strain, total 73 – With 15 more people testing positive for the new UK variant of Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease (Covid-19), the total number of UK returnees having tested positive for the mutant virus in the country has reached 73. The results are based on the genome sequencing of positive samples released by the Indian Sars-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium labs that the Centre has specifically created for the purpose of monitoring any kind of mutations in the virus. India added 18,088 coronavirus cases on January 6, placing its overall number at 1.03 crore cases.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
374 07-01-2021 - Polity & Governance – Foundation stone laid for ‘New Anubhava Mantapa’ – Karnataka CM B.S. Yediyurappa has laid the foundation stone for the ‘New Anubhava Mantapa’ in Basavakalyan, the place where 12th century poet-philosopher Basaveshwara lived for most of his life. He promised the completion of the ₹500 crore project within two years on a 7.5 acre area and said it would be inaugurated by PM Modi. The New Anubhava Mantapa project is expected to bolster Mr. Yediyurappa’s image as an undisputed Lingayat strongman, especially when a leadership issue has emerged prominently within the BJP and there is one-upmanship to claim the community’s support.
(Governance and Institutions)
375 07-01-2021 - Economy – China surging ahead, says NITI Aayog – At a meeting of the Standing Committee on Finance headed by BJP MP Jayant Sinha to discuss the long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global economy, trade flows and financial markets, NITI Aayog officials said China continued to outstrip India and, in fact, had managed to narrow the gap with the U.S. in the post-pandemic scenario. The officials did not give any specific details about the current economic state of India. As per reports, the global economy was at the same stage as it was in 1918 after the First World War. The officials said China had been closing the gap between it and the U.S. This could very well be a flashpoint between the two big economies of the world. China had readjusted faster than the other economies in the post COVID-19 world. NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant equated the 2020 reforms with the 1991 opening of the Indian economy.
(Indian Economy)
376 07-01-2021 - World – Hong Kong acts again to crack down on dissent – China’s crackdown in Hong Kong escalated on January 6 with police arresting more than 50 opposition figures in their largest operation since a draconian security law was imposed on the financial hub. The sweep is the latest salvo in Beijing’s battle to stamp out dissent in the semi-autonomous city after millions hit the streets in 2019 with huge pro-democracy protests. Police confirmed 53 people — including a U.S. citizen — were arrested for “subversion” in an early morning operation that involved about 1,000 officers. The charges were sparked by an attempt by opposition groups last year to win a majority in the city’s partially-elected legislature. Hong Kong’s security chief John Lee described the arrests as “necessary” and aimed at a group of people who tried to “sink Hong Kong into an abyss” and “overthrow the government”.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
377 07-01-2021 - World – China denies entry to WHO experts – The WHO has said it was “very disappointed” that China had not allowed a team of international experts to go ahead with a visit to study the origins of COVID-19 that was planned for the current week. China’s decision to not permit the trip appeared to come at the last minute and catch the WHO by surprise, with some of the experts already having left home and in transit when told the visit would not take place. The comments marked a rare instance of the WHO head expressing some displeasure with China’s government, which he has consistently praised from the start of the pandemic. Beijing has defended its decision to delay the visit. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said the issue of origin-tracing was “very complicated”. The WHO, however, said in December it had been granted permission for a visit of a team of 12-15 experts in January 2021 to study the origins of the outbreak.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
378 07-01-2021 - Law & Constitution – ‘Using God’s name to sell articles illegal’ – The Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court has declared that advertisement of any article using the name of any God and claiming that it has supernatural qualities, is “illegal” and falls under the Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and other Inhuman, Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Act. The court was hearing a petition filed by Rajendra Ambhore, a teacher, seeking a direction and injunction to prevent advertisements on television channels that promote the sale of articles like Hanuman Chalisa Yantra.
(Constitution and Law)
379 07-01-2021 - World – Democrats set to win Senate as Georgia results come in – Democrats inched closer to taking control of the U.S. Senate on January 4 as African American pastor Raphael Warnock defeated incumbent Republican candidate Kelly Loeffler — a former businesswoman — in one of two run-off elections in Georgia. Mr. Warnock became the first black Senator elected from the southern State. The other run-off race was too close to call with incumbent David Perdue, a Republican, trailing his challenger, Jon Ossoff, by over 16,000 votes with 98% reporting on January 6. Both run-offs were necessary because no candidate had won more than 50% of the vote in the November elections. If Mr. Ossoff wins the race, the Senate would be split 50-50 between the two parties. Democrats would also have Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris’s vote in the case of a tie. If Republicans win the second run-off, they will control the Senate 51-49. The high-stakes races consequently broke fundraising records and compelled Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden to campaign for the candidates earlier this week.
(World Politics)
380 07-01-2021 - Law & Constitution – SC to study anti-conversion laws of Uttarakhand and U.P. – The SC has agreed to examine the constitutional validity of laws enacted by States, such as Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand that criminalise religious conversion via marriage and mandate prior official clearance before marrying into another faith. The court, however, did not stay the implementation of the Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020 and the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018, despite fervent pleas by petitioners that “rampaging mobs are lifting off people in the middle of wedding ceremonies,” buoyed by the enactment of the laws.
(Constitution and Law)
381 06-01-2021 - Covid-19 – India third country to record more than 1.5 lakh deaths – India on January 6 became the third country to record 1.5 lakh fatalities from the coronavirus disease (Covid-19). The country recorded 264 fresh fatalities in the last 24 hours which took the death toll to 1,50,114. US has the highest number of fatalities - 3,65,620 - followed by Brazil with 1,97,777 deaths due to the disease. The number of fatalities, along with daily caseload, has been steadily falling over the last few weeks in India. The country recorded 16,375 new cases of Covid-19 on January 5, the lowest in over six months. The active caseload remained below three lakh for the 16th consecutive day on January 6. India’s active caseload stands at 2,27,546.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
382 06-01-2021 - Polity & Governance – Union Budget set to be presented on Feb. 1 – The Budget session of Parliament is expected to begin on January 29, with the Budget being presented as per schedule on February 1. The decision was taken by the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs or CCPA, but an official announcement has not been made so far. As is the norm, the Budget session will be conducted in two phases. The first, beginning on January 29, will conclude on February 15. The second phase will run from March 8 to April 8.
(Governance and Institutions)
383 06-01-2021 - World – Gulf leaders sign deal to end years-long dispute – Gulf leaders have signed a “solidarity and stability” deal after leaders of Saudi Arabia and Qatar publicly embraced, bringing Doha back into the regional fold after a three-year-long rift. Saudi Arabia had led a coalition of countries in the Gulf and beyond to cut ties and transport links with Qatar in June 2017, charging that it was too close to Iran and backed radical Islamist groups — allegations that Doha denied. Those countries, along with Oman and Kuwait, which have mediated between the two sides, signed a deal in Al-Ula, after Riyadh overnight re-opened its land, sea and air borders to Doha.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
384 06-01-2021 - Polity & Governance – PM inaugurates Kochi-Mangaluru LNG pipeline – PM Modi has said that as part of efforts to make India a natural gas-based economy, 10,000 more CNG (compressed natural gas) stations would be opened and several lakh PNG (piped natural gas) household connections given in the coming days. The PM said the government would make substantial investments in coal and gas sectors. The plan was to increase the share of natural gas in the energy sector from the present 6% to 15% by 2030. Giving out statistics on efforts to boost the alternative energy sector, Mr. Modi said while 15,000 km of LNG pipeline was laid between 1978 (when the first inter-State pipeline was commissioned) and 2014, work on 16,000 km that started in 2014 would be completed in the next four years.
(Governance and Institutions)
385 06-01-2021 - Economy – Government launches hackathon for toys – The Centre has launched a hackathon for students, teachers and start-ups to design and develop toys and games “based on Indian culture and ethos, local folklore and heroes, and Indian value systems.” The goal of the “toycathon” is to promote India as a global toy manufacturing hub. Though the toy market in India is worth $1 billion, 80% toys are imported. In August 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Mann ki Baat address spoke about developing India as a toy hub. The Toycathon has nine themes, including fitness and sport and rediscovering traditional Indian toys.
(Governance and Institutions, Indian Economy)
386 06-01-2021 - World – Georgia goes to polls for key Senate runoffs – After an unprecedented campaign that mobilised Donald Trump and his White House successor Joe Biden, Georgians went to the polls on January 5 for two closely-watched U.S. Senate runoffs that could shape the first years of the new Democratic presidency. For nearly 20 years, Georgia has voted reliably Republican in the presidential election and Senate contests. But Mr. Biden pulled off a shock victory in Georgia in November, one of the several States that he flipped to win the White House, and the races for the Senate have come down to the wire in the biggest, most expensive congressional runoffs in U.S. history. A staggering $832 million has been spent on the two contests, including spending in the primary and general elections. If Democrats flip both seats, they win back the Senate, effectively handing Mr. Biden all the levers of political power in Washington and helping him enact his ambitious legislative agenda.
(World Politics)
387 06-01-2021 - Polity & Governance – States on alert as fear of bird flu grows – Several States have sounded an alert to contain avian influenza, or H5N8, while Kerala began culling of thousands of ducks. Nearly 2,000 migratory birds were found dead in Himachal Pradesh, while Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh reported deaths of several hundred birds. In Haryana, the “unusual” deaths of four lakh poultry birds have been reported in the past 10 days, but there is no confirmation on whether they died of avian influenza. Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, both neighbouring Kerala, put their Animal Husbandry and Forest Departments on alert as fears of the bird flu spreading grew.
(Governance and Institutions)
388 06-01-2021 - Covid-19 – Pune hub to track vaccine chain across 41 key cities – A command and control centre set up at the Centre’s aviation cargo wing, AAICLAS, will monitor the movement of COVID-19 vaccines across a network of 41 airports, with Pune — where vaccine manufacturer Serum Institute of India is located — as the hub. The 41 airports or cities where transportation efforts will be focused include Karnal, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, each of which has a Government Medical Stores Depot (GMSD) of the Central government’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Once vaccines dispatched by the manufacturers arrive at these four big depots, they will be further distributed across 37 State depots. Thereafter, they will be sent to district depots and finally to the primary health care centres. 
(Healthcare and Medicine)
389 06-01-2021 - Polity & Governance – SC clears Centre’s plan to build a three times bigger Parliament – The Supreme Court has given its go-ahead to the multi-crore Central Vista redevelopment project, which proposes to build a new Parliament three times bigger than the existing 93-year-old heritage building and modify the use of 86.1 acres of land, home to India’s power corridor in the national capital. The court brushed aside allegations that the government committed foul play and illegally carved out the Parliament project from the Central Vista project. The court said it cannot order the government to desist from spending money on one project and use it for something else. It said the government did not act against public trust. The majority opinion said the project did not involve any “radical” change in land use. The proposed change in landscape would not limit “recreational spaces” for the public.
(Governance and Institutions)
390 06-01-2021 - Economy – Global, India output set to expand in FY22: World Bank – Global economic output is projected to grow by 4% in 2021 assuming widespread roll-out of a COVID-19 vaccine throughout the year. This projection is still 5% below pre-pandemic levels. India is expected to grow at 5.4% in fiscal year 2021-22 and 5.2% in fiscal 2022-23 after an expected contraction of 9.6% in fiscal 2020-21. India’s expected contraction in the current fiscal is due to a sharp decline in household spending and private investment. There was severe income loss in the informal sector which accounts for four-fifths of employment. However, recent data indicated that recovery in manufacturing and services was gaining momentum. In 2021, the rebound from the low base is expected to be countered by subdued private investment growth due to financial sector weakness.
(World Economy)
391 05-01-2021 - Covid-19 – New virus strain: 8 U.K. returnees from Maharashtra found positive – The samples of eight U.K. returnees from Maharashtra have been found positive for the new strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. CM Uddhav Thackeray has requested the Centre to help quarantine passengers who are entering Maharashtra after landing at airports in other States. Meanwhile, in a heartening development, Maharashtra recorded a robust 10,362 recoveries as its active cases dipped below the 50,000 mark to come down to 48,801. As many as 2,765 new COVID-19 cases were reported, taking the total case tally to 19,47,011. As many as 29 fatalities saw the death toll climb to 49,695. The cumulative recoveries have risen to 18,47,361 while the State’s recovery rate has incrementally gone up to 94.88%.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
392 05-01-2021 - Education – DoE circular asks teachers to check weight of school bags – The Directorate of Education has issued a circular asking schools to follow the new ‘School Bag Policy, 2020’ released by the NCERT. The weight of the school bags, as per the policy, should be 1.6 to 2.2 kg for students of Classes I and II, 1.7 to 2.5 kg for Classes III, IV and V, 2 to 3 kg for Classes VI and VII, 2.5 to 4 kg for Class VIII, 2.5 to 4.5 kg for Classes IX and X and 3.5 to 5 kg for Classes XI and XII. According to the circular, schoolteachers should inform the students in advance about the books and notebooks to be brought to school on a particular day and frequently check their bags to ensure that they are not carrying unnecessary material.
(Education)
393 05-01-2021 - Polity & Governance – Jaishankar to visit Sri Lanka today – In the first high-level visit by a foreign official to Sri Lanka in 2021, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar will be in Colombo from January 5 to 7 and hold bilateral talks with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and his counterpart Dinesh Gunawardena. The visit assumes significance for strategic and diplomatic reasons as India tries to counter growing Chinese outreach in the region. It also comes at a time when some in the ruling Rajapaksa administration are seeking the abolition of the provincial council system born out of the IndiA-Lanka Accord of 1987.
(Governance and Institutions)
394 05-01-2021 - Economy – Manufacturing sector activity strengthened in December – India’s manufacturing sector activity strengthened in December 2020, with manufacturers stepping up production and input buying amid efforts to rebuild their inventories following business closures earlier in the year. The seasonally adjusted IHS Markit India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’’ Index (PMI) was at 56.4 in December, a tick higher than November’s reading of 56.3. A print above 50 means expansion, while a score below that denotes contraction. Employment fell again, stretching the current sequence of job shedding to nine months.

(Indian Economy)
395 05-01-2021 - Economy – Vietnam buys Indian rice for first time in decades – Vietnam, the world’s third biggest exporter of rice, has started buying the grain from rival India for the first time in decades after local prices jumped to their highest in nine years amid limited domestic supplies. The purchases underscore tightening supplies in Asia, which could lift rice prices in 2021 and even force traditional buyers of rice from Thailand and Vietnam to switch to India — the world’s biggest exporter of the grain. Indian traders have contracted to export 70,000 tonnes of 100% broken rice for January and February shipments at about $310 per tonne on a free-on-board basis.
(Indian Economy)
396 05-01-2021 - World – Taliban to blame for spate of assassinations: U.S. military – The U.S. military has blamed the Taliban for a spate of assassinations of prominent Afghans, the first time Washington has directly accused the insurgent group of the killings. The charge comes as the Afghan government and Taliban are due to resume peace talks in Qatar, as both sides seek an end to the long-running conflict. The Deputy Governor of Kabul province, five journalists, and a prominent election activist have been among those assassinated since November. Afghan officials blame the Taliban for the killings, but the hardline group has denied the charge, while the rival Islamic State group says its fighters were responsible for some of them. The Taliban said the strikes violated an agreement signed in February that paved the way for the withdrawal of all foreign forces by May 2021.
(Defence and Military)
397 05-01-2021 - World – Iran steps up uranium enrichment, seizes tanker – Iran has begun enriching uranium up to 20% at an underground facility and seized a South Korean-flagged oil tanker in the crucial Strait of Hormuz, further escalating tensions in West Asia between Tehran and the West. The announcement of enrichment at Fordo came as Iran’s Revolutionary Guards seized MT Hankuk Chemi, alleging the vessel’s “oil pollution” sparked the move. However, Tehran had said a South Korean diplomat was expected to visit in the coming days to negotiate the release of billions of dollars in its assets now frozen in Seoul. The dual incidents come amid heightened tensions between Iran and the U.S. in the waning days of President Donald Trump’s term in office. During Mr. Trump’s tenure, the U.S. leader unilaterally withdrew from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers in 2018 and set off months of tense episodes that increasingly strained relations between the countries.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
398 05-01-2021 - World – Trump pressed official to alter poll results – President Trump pressured Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State to “find” enough votes to overturn Joe Biden’s win in the state’s presidential election, repeatedly citing unproven claims of fraud and raising the prospect of a “criminal offence” if officials did not change the vote count. The phone call with Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on December 3 was the latest step in an unprecedented effort by a sitting President to press a state official to reverse the outcome of a free and fair election that he lost. The President, who has refused to accept his loss to Democratic President-elect Biden, repeatedly argued that Mr. Raffensperger could change the certified results.
(World Politics)
399 05-01-2021 - Law & Constitution – Repeal law permitting seizure of livestock: SC – The Supreme Court has asked the Centre to “delete” its three-year-old law which allowed seizure and subsequent confiscation of livestock from people who depended on these animals for a livelihood, even before they were found guilty of cruelty towards them. These animals, the law prescribes, would then be lodged in gaushalas as “case property” to await the court’s verdict. In short, a farmer, a livestock owner or a cattle trader loses his animals before being found guilty of the charge of cruelty. A Bench led by CJI Sharad A. Bobde warned the government that it would “stay” the implementation of a 2017 law, which allowed authorities to seize cattle on a mere suspicion that they suffered cruel treatment at the hands of their owners or were being primed for slaughter.
(Constitution and Law)
400 05-01-2021 - Agriculture – Seventh round of talks with farm unions ends in stalemate – The seventh round of talks between Union Ministers and protesting farm unions has failed to resolve the deadlock over three new agricultural reform laws. Both sides stuck to their own positions and accused the other of stubbornness, with the Centre seeking to discuss specific concerns on the laws and the farmers demanding total repeal. The next meeting will be held on January 8. Tens of thousands of farmers have now completed 40 days of agitation on the borders of Delhi, braving bitter cold and pouring rain over the last few days. Farm unions also urged the Centre to condemn the “brutality” of the Haryana police, which used tear gas and chilli grenades on a group of protesters who broke through barricades on the Delhi-Jaipur highway on January 3.
(Agriculture, Governance and Institutions)
401 04-01-2021 - Economy – China warns of action against U.S.’ delisting of its telcos – China will take ‘necessary measures’ to safeguard the interests of its companies after the New York Stock Exchange began delisting three Chinese telecom firms that Washington says have military ties. The NYSE had said that it would delist China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom following President Donald Trump’s move in November to bar U.S. investment in 31 firms that Washington says are owned or controlled by the Chinese military. While the ministry said it would take action to protect its firms, it also called on the U.S. to put bilateral trade relations back on track. In its final weeks before President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Jan. 20, the Trump administration has stepped up its hard line stance against China.
(onomy)
402 04-01-2021 - Economy – ‘Rabi foodgrain output likely to exceed previous record’ – The country’s Rabi foodgrain production, including wheat, in the ongoing 2020-21 crop year is expected to be better than the previous year’s record of 153.27 million tonnes. Sowing of Rabi (winter) crop is under way. The Rabi sowing begins from October immediately after the harvest of Kharif (summer) crops. Wheat and mustard are major crops. The crop year runs from July to June. For the 2020-21 crop year, the Centre has set a target of a record foodgrain output of 301 million tonnes, out of which it expects 151.65 million tonnes to come from the Rabi season.
(Indian Economy)
403 04-01-2021 - World – Iran plans to enrich uranium to up to 20% purity, says IAEA – Iran has informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it intends to produce uranium enriched to up to 20% purity, well beyond the threshold set by the 2015 Vienna accord. According to the latest report, Tehran was enriching uranium to levels greater than the limit provided for in the Vienna agreement (3.67%) but not exceeding the 4.5% threshold, and still complied with the Agency’s very strict inspection regime. But there has been turmoil since the assassination in late November of Iranian nuclear physicist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
404 04-01-2021 - People & Personalities – Malayalam poet-lyricist Anil Panachooran passes away – Poet and lyricist Anil Panachooran passed away on January 3 following health complications. He was 55. A lawyer by profession, he came into the limelight in 2007 with the much appreciated songs in Arabikkadha, including ‘Chora Veena Mannil...’ and ‘Thirike Njan...’. ‘Chora Veena Mannil...’, sung with revolutionary fervour by the poet himself, is played regularly at Left cultural events. Even before his arrival in films, he had attained popularity among the poetry aficionados in the State with poems such as ‘Anaadhan’, written in the 1990s. Panachooran was working on his first directorial Kaadu when the end came.
(People and Personalities)
405 04-01-2021 - Polity & Governance – Govt. ropes in I-T Dept. to crack down on GST fraud – Tightening the noose around fraudsters rigging the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime, the government has roped in the Income Tax Department to tap illicit incomes as part of a crackdown against 7,000 fraud companies, identified using data analytics tools. Any income traceable to the use of fake bills and other GST frauds shall be considered concealed income and attract severe penalties so that direct tax collections may also get a leg-up while better compliance pushed GST collections to a record high of ₹1.15 lakh crore in December 2020. In a recent case, an e-commerce player was found to have even procured manpower services from a fake company. Around 187 persons have already been arrested, including five chartered accountants and a company secretary.
(Governance and Institutions)
406 04-01-2021 - Environment & Ecology – Woolly rhino from the Ice Age found in Russia – A well-preserved Ice Age woolly rhino with many of its internal organs still intact has been recovered from permafrost in Russia's extreme north. Russian media has reported that the carcass was revealed by melting permafrost in Yakutia in August. Scientists are waiting for ice roads in the Arctic region to become passable to deliver it to a lab for studies in February 2021. It’s among the best-preserved specimens of the Ice Age animal found to date. The carcass has most of its soft tissues still intact, including part of the intestines, thick hair and a lump of fat. Its horn was found next to it. Recent years have seen major discoveries of mammoths, woolly rhinos, Ice Age foal, and cave lion cubs as the permafrost increasingly melts across vast areas of Siberia because of global warming. Scientists dated the carcass as anywhere from 20,000- to 50,000-years-old. More precise dating will be possible once it is delivered to a lab for radiocarbon studies. It was three-or four-years-old when it died.
(Environment Ecology and Climate Change)