Current Affairs Headlines

S. No.Headlines
1 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)
2 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)
3 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)
4 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)
5 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)
6 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)
7 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)
8 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)
9 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)
10 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)
11 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)
12 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)
13 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)
14 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)
15 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)
16 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)
17 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)
18 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)
19 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)
20 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)
21 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)
22 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)
23 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)
24 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)
25 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)
26 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)
27 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)
28 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)
29 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)
30 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)
31 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)
32 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)
33 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)
34 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)
35 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)
36 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)
37 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)
38 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)
39 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)
40 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)
41 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)
42 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)
43 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)
44 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)
45 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)
46 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)
47 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)
48 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)
49 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)
50 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)
51 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)
52 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)
53 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)
54 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)
55 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)
56 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)
57 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)
58 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)
59 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)
60 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)
61 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)
62 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)
63 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)
64 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)
65 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)
66 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)
67 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)
68 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)
69 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)
70 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)
71 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)
72 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)
73 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)
74 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)
75 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)
76 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)
77 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)
78 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)
79 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)
80 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)
81 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)
82 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)
83 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)
84 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)
85 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)
86 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)
87 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)
88 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)
89 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)
90 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)
91 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)
92 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)
93 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)
94 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)
95 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)
96 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)
97 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)
98 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)
99 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)
100 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)
101 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)
102 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)
103 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)
104 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)
105 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)
106 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)
107 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)
108 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)
109 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)
110 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)
111 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)
112 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)
113 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)
114 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)
115 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)
116 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)
117 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)
118 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)
119 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)
120 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)
121 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)
122 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)
123 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)
124 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)
125 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)
126 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)
127 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)
128 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)
129 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)
130 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)
131 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)
132 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)
133 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)
134 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)
135 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)
136 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)
137 04-01-2021 - World – 12 GOP Senators to oppose Biden win – The U.S. Congress convened its new session on January 4, kicking off an explosive week in Washington as Republican lawmakers vow to challenge Joe Biden’s election win, pro-Trump protesters gather and voters in Georgia decide who controls the Senate. The rebel push by a group of 12 Senators loyal to President Donald Trump to block formal certification of Mr. Biden’s November victory is all but certain to fail, but has raised tensions on Capitol Hill as lawmakers return to work. In the House of Representatives, top Democrat Nancy Pelosi faces a possibly tricky battle for re-election as Speaker — an office that places her only two heartbeats from the presidency.
(World Politics)
138 04-01-2021 - World – China amends defence law to boost war preparedness – China’s President Xi Jinping has signed an order that has amended China’s National Defence Law, giving the Central Military Commission (CMC), which he heads, greater power in mobilising resources to protect a new and broader definition of what constitutes the national interest. The revised regulations on military equipment, which are effective as of January 1, focus on “war preparedness and combat capabilities”. They “define the basic tasks, contents and management mechanisms for military equipment work under the new situation and system.” The document follows “the general principle of the CMC exercising overall leadership, theater commands responsible for military operations and the services focusing on developing capabilities.”
(Defence and Military, Governance and Institutions)
139 04-01-2021 - Covid-19 – U.K. set for tougher virus restrictions – British PM Boris Johnson has said that he is “reconciled” to the prospect of tougher restrictions to combat spiralling coronavirus cases, as a row flared over whether schools should reopen. Britain recorded 57,725 new cases on January 2, its highest total of the entire pandemic. Opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer urged the Prime Minister to immediately impose national lockdown measures. Much of Britain is already under regional lockdown, although primary schools are set to reopen in most of the country when the Christmas holiday ends on January 4. However, around one million four to 11-year-olds will learn remotely after the government announced primary schools in London, where case rates are particularly high, would remain closed.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
140 04-01-2021 - Covid-19 – India approves two COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use – The Central Drugs and Standards Committee (CDSCO) has formally approved the COVID-19 vaccines by Bharat Biotech and the Serum Institute of India (SII). This allows the vaccines — Covishield by SII and based on the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, and Covaxin by Bharat Biotech — to be offered to healthcare workers and frontline workers in India. The Health Ministry had said that 3 crore such personnel, considered at the highest risk for COVID-19, would be given the vaccine for free. Neither Covishield nor Covaxin has completed the crucial Phase-3 trial, under which a vaccine candidate is administered to volunteers at multiple locations across the country. The approval was based on a recommendation by a Subject Expert Committee which deliberated for two days on granting approvals to the vaccines.
(Governance and Institutions, Healthcare and Medicine)
141 02-01-2021 - Study/Report – In 2020, RS saw lowest number of sittings ever – With the government refusing to call the winter session of Parliament, the Rajya Sabha sat for just 33 days in 2020, its lowest-ever tally of sittings in a year. There are only three other occasions when the sittings were below 50 days in a year. The Budget and the monsoon sessions had to be cut short due to COVID-19. The Budget session, which was scheduled to have 31 sittings, was brought to a close after 23 sessions. Similarly, the monsoon session, which was to have 18 sittings could manage to have only 10 as the number of COVID-19 positive cases among parliamentarians and the supporting staff started spiralling. There are only three other occasions when the Rajya Sabha met for fewer than 50 sittings in a year — 48 in 1999 and 46 each in 2004 and 2008. The BJP now has 93 members. The House is no longer the stumbling block that it was during the first term of the Modi government.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
142 02-01-2021 - Covid-19 – Virus variant cases in India rise to 29 – Four more cases of the mutant strain of the COVID-19 virus were detected in the country on January 1, taking the total number of those affected by it to 29. So far, 10 cases have been detected by labs in Delhi, 10 by a Bengaluru lab, one in West Bengal, three in Hyderabad and five by the National Institute of Virology, Pune. On January 1, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan reviewed the preparedness of the States and the Union Territories for a dry run on January 2 for the roll-out of a COVID-19 vaccine.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
143 02-01-2021 - Economy – Dec. power consumption goes up 6% – India’s power consumption grew by 6.1% to 107.3 billion units (BU) in December, signalling a spurt in economic activity. Power consumption in December 2019 was 101.08 BU. After a gap of six months, power consumption saw growth of 4.5% in September and 11.6% in October. In November, the growth slowed to 3.12% to 96.88 BU mainly due to early onset of winter. Experts said the 6.1% growth in power consumption and the all-time high peak power demand of 182.88 GW seen on Wednesday indicated a considerable spurt in economic activity.
(Indian Economy)
144 02-01-2021 - Polity & Governance – RBI’s digital payments index unveiled – The RBI has constructed a composite Digital Payments Index (DPI) to capture the extent of digitisation of payments across the country. The RBI-DPI has been constructed with March 2018 as the base period. The DPI for March 2019 and March 2020 work out to 153.47 and 207.84 respectively, indicating appreciable growth. The RBI-DPI comprises five broad parameters, including Payment Enablers, Payment Infrastructure – Demand-side factors and Supply-side factors, Payment Performance and Consumer Centricity.
(Governance and Institutions)
145 02-01-2021 - Polity & Governance – PM unveils project for affordable housing – PM Modi has laid the foundation stone of six Light House Projects in six cities as part of the Global Housing Technology Challenge-India (GHTC-India) initiative. The aim of the programme is to build around 1,000 houses each in Indore (Madhya Pradesh), Rajkot (Gujarat), Chennai (Tamil Nadu), Ranchi (Jharkhand), Agartala (Tripura) and Lucknow (UP) over a period of 12 months. Modern construction practices from countries such as France, Germany and Canada would be adopted. The GHTC provided the scope for incubating new technologies for construction and innovation, Mr.Modi pointed out, and called upon planners, architects and students to visit the project sites, learn from the technologies, and mould them for use in accordance with the local requirements. Another major initiative — the Central rental housing complex project — was conceived in 2019, for migrant labourers.
(Governance and Institutions)
146 02-01-2021 - World – U.K. in ‘eye of storm’ as cases surge – British hospitals around the country face a perilous situation in January, medical workers warned on January 1 amid surging coronavirus infections blamed on a new virus variant. Authorities pressed to reactivate field hospitals previously mothballed just to handle the crush of new patients. Concerns are mounting about the ability of the already stretched National Health Service to cope with the anticipated increase in people seeking treatment for COVID-19 infections. On January 1, the U.K. recorded another 53,285 new infections, down slightly from the previous day’s record high of 55,892. Although comparisons with the outset of the pandemic are difficult given that testing was limited in the spring, the U.K. has recorded its four highest daily new infection numbers over the past four days — all above 50,000 and around double the daily number of a few weeks ago.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
147 02-01-2021 - World – Trump extends visa ban until March 31 – President Trump has extended pandemic-related bans on green cards and work visas to large groups of applicants through March 31, while a federal appeals court sided with him on a rule that requires new immigrants to have their own health insurance. The twin developments on the final day of 2020 encapsulated how Mr. Trump has made U.S. immigration policy more restrictive without support from Congress. President-elect Joe Biden has promised to undo many of Mr. Trump’s actions but it is unclear how quickly and even to what extent. Federal judges have limited the impact of the pandemic-related visa bans, which were set to expire on December 31.
(World Politics)
148 02-01-2021 - Economy – GST collections touch an all-time high in December – Gross revenues from the GST hit a record high in December 2020, with collections of ₹1,15,174 crore, 12% higher than a year ago and 9.7% greater than the previous month’s inflows. December marks the fourth month in a row that GST collections have grown year-on-year, after revenues collapsed in the first quarter of 2020-21 amid the COVID-19 lockdown. The 12% year-on-year growth recorded in December was the highest in 21 months. The government said the highest monthly GST kitty since the introduction of the indirect tax in 2017, was a reflection of a rapid economic recovery under way. It also attributed part of the gains to better compliance following an official crackdown on malpractices to weed out taxpayers evading GST or using fake bills to defraud the exchequer.
(Indian Economy)
149 02-01-2021 - Agriculture – Farmers threaten to step up protest – Farmer groups have said they would intensify their protest if the Centre did not take a firm decision on the repeal of the three farm laws during the next round of talks. Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) leaders threatened to shut down malls and petrol pumps in Haryana, hold a tractor rally on the Kundli-Manesar Highway, and march further towards Delhi on the highway from Jaipur unless their demands were met. Tens of thousands of farmers have been protesting on the borders of Delhi for 37 days in a row. After six rounds of talks with the Centre, they have reached in-principle agreements on issues related to stubble burning and power subsidies, but are deadlocked on the major demands to repeal the three laws and provide a legal backing for the procurement of crops at minimum support prices.
(Agriculture)
150 02-01-2021 - Covid-19 – Expert panel gives the go-ahead for Covishield – Covishield, the vaccine candidate from the Pune-based Serum Institute of India, was approved by a subject expert committee (SEC) of the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) on January 1. Bharat Biotech has been asked to furnish more data demonstrating the efficacy of its candidate, Covaxin. The SEC gives its recommendation to the DCGI which is the approving authority for drugs and vaccines. Covishield was approved by the health regulator in the U.K. under emergency use conditions on December 30. Under this, the company is allowed to deploy its vaccines to priority groups and then the larger public, even though a full safety assessment hasn’t been completed.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
151 01-01-2021 - Science and Technology - US government paves way for the first nuclear reactor on moon - The plan of the United States to have the first nuclear reactor on the moon by the end of the year 2026 got a push from the recent directive from the White House. For the nuclear reactor plan, the US Department of Energy in collaboration with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration intends on soliciting the industry design proposal in early 2021. In the latest directive by the White House, Donald Trump, the outgoing US President issued the ‘National Strategy for the Space Nuclear Power and Propulsion’.
(Science and Technology)
152 01-01-2021 - Science and Technology - 'Magnetic fingerprint' of a galaxy across 24,000 light-years captured by NASA - In a major achievement, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has captured the 'magnetic fingerprint' of a galaxy across 24,000 light-years. The magnetic fingerprint of the galaxy dubbed NGC 1068 or M77 was captured by the Hubble Space Telescope. The composite image of the galaxy shows a complex inner structure. The image shows magnetic fields aligned along the entire length of the massive spiral arms. There are various shapes of galaxies, and scientists have mapped thousands of galaxies near and far.
(Science and Technology)
153 01-01-2021 - Agriculture - Farmers at Delhi's Singhu border celebrate New Year's Eve with bonfires - Thousands of farmers protesting at Delhi's Singhu border against Centre's three farm laws celebrated New Year's Eve with multiple bonfires. Besides this, the day saw members of 'Kendri Punjabi Lekhak Sabha' leading a march to the centre stage with flags in their hands. The government has engaged them in talks, but there is no resolution in sight as far as repealing of the three farm laws is concerned.
(Agriculture)
154 01-01-2021 - Healthcare and Medicine - Pfizer vaccine first to receive emergency validation from WHO -  The World Health Organization (WHO) has approved the emergency use of Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, making it the first vaccine to receive emergency validation from the agency. This will allow "countries to expedite their own regulatory approval processes to import and administer the vaccine", WHO said. It'll also enable UNICEF and others to procure the vaccine for countries in need. The WHO has separately warned that the present pandemic may not be the worst to come, and definitely not the last.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
155 01-01-2021 - Science and Technology - Bitcoin touches $29,000-mark for 1st time, surges almost 50% in December alone - Cryptocurrency Bitcoin's value has crossed the $29,000-mark for the first time ever, surging above $29,700. This marks the value of the digital asset surging nearly 50% only in December 2020, making it the biggest monthly gain for the cryptocurrency since 2019. As per Bloomberg, Bitcoin has now quadrupled in value this year amid the global COVID-19 pandemic. This is unprecedented by any standards, but critics say that a fall is imminent (like twice in its history). Debate rages over the value of Bitcoin as an asset class, given that it has no physical basis.
(Science and Technology)
156 01-01-2021 - Healthcare and Medicine - UK authorises the use of Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine - The UK Department of Health and Social Care has accepted the recommendation of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to authorise the use of Oxoford/ AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. The approval gives a green light to the health officials in the nation to begin rolling out the Oxford Vaccine across the nation. It comes after rigorous clinical trials and a thorough analysis of the data by experts at the MHRA, which has concluded that the vaccine has met its strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness. India's SII will be able to move ahead quickly now.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
157 01-01-2021 - Governance and Institutions - Government approves export of indigenous Akash Missile System - The government on December 30, 2020, approved the export of the indigenously developed Akash Missile System. The decision has been taken to achieve the target of USD 5 billion of defence export and for improving the strategic relations with friendly foreign countries. India has been aggressively testing various defence systems in 2020 in a clear message to arch-rival China, with whom it has been engaged in a bitter stand-off at the borders.
(Governance and Institutions)
158 01-01-2021 - Governance and Institutions - Government asks states/UTs to prepare for COVID-19 vaccine, dry run on January 2 - The central government has asked all the states and UTs to ensure effective preparedness for the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. The directions by the centre have been given to gear up the administration before the rollout of the vaccine across the country. India has had many successful vaccination campaigns over past seven decades, and has a strong existing vaccine infrastructure network. But the scale and urgency of this drive is unprecedented, raising concerns.
(Governance and Institutions)
159 01-01-2021 - Indian Economy -  All calls from Jio to other networks in India to be free from 01 Jan, 2021 - India's largest telecom operator Reliance Jio (RIL) announced that all voice calls made from Jio to other networks in India will be free from January 1. Jio has been charging 6 paisa per minute for calls to other networks to recover Interconnect Usage Charges (IUC), which is ending after 01 January 2021. Jio already doesn't charge for calls within its own network. This will give it a further boost in the highly competitive markets, where competitors allege that the regulators have given Jio a free run despite established norms.
(Indian Economy)
160 01-01-2021 - Healthcare and Medicine - India reported 20,035 COVID-19 cases, 256 deaths in 24 hours - India has reported 20,035 new COVID-19 cases and 256 more deaths in one day, taking the total number of cases to 1,02,86,709 and the death toll to 1,48,994. As many as 23,181 people recovered in one day, taking the total number of recoveries to 98,83,461. The number of active cases in the country stood at 2,54,254. The government claims that the fresh spike feared has not happened, and with vaccination arriving, the pandemic will be under control over the next few months. Dry run has started across India, for the coming vaccination drive.

(Healthcare and Medicine)
161 31-12-2020 - Study/Report – Over 66,000 police on VIP duty in 2019: report – More than 20,000 additional policemen above the sanctioned strength were deployed in VIP protection duty in the year 2019. As many as 66,043 policemen were deployed to protect 19,467 Ministers, Members of Parliament, judges, bureaucrats and other personalities in 2019 compared to 63,061 policemen for similar duty in 2018. The sanctioned strength for the job was 43,566 policemen. The highest number of persons who received police protection in 2019 were in West Bengal — 3,142, followed by Punjab (2,594), Bihar (2,347), Haryana (1,355) and Jharkhand (1,351). The total number of Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) personnel engaged for providing personal protection to various individuals was not included in the report.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
162 31-12-2020 - Covid-19 – U.S. detects first case of new coronavirus variant – A new variant of the coronavirus that may be more contagious has been found in a Colorado man who had not been travelling, triggering a host of questions about how the first U.S. case of the new version showed up in the Rocky Mountain state. As per reports, for the moment, the variant is likely still rare in the U.S., but the lack of travel history in the first case means it is spreading, probably seeded by travellers from Britain in November or December. President-elect Joe Biden has criticised the Trump administration for the pace of distributing COVID-19 vaccines.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
163 31-12-2020 - Agriculture – Farmers, Centre reach agreement on two issues – The protesting farmers and the Union Ministers have reached an agreement on the decriminalisation of stubble burning and the safeguarding of power subsidies — two of the four issues on the negotiating table — during their final round of talks for the year. However, deadlock continued on the two biggest demands — repeal of the three farm market reform laws and a legal guarantee for minimum support prices (MSPs) for farm produce. Further discussion on these issues will be held at the next meeting on January 4.
(Agriculture)
164 31-12-2020 - Covid-19 – U.K. approves Oxford vaccine – The COVID-19 vaccine by Oxford Universty and AstraZeneca has been approved for emergency supply in the U.K., with the first doses being released on December 30 so that vaccinations may begin early in the New Year. This is significant for India, as the Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) has tied up with AstraZeneca to deploy the vaccine in the country. India’s drug regulators reviewed an application by the SII for “emergency use authorisation” (EUA). The EUA is for active immunisation of individuals of 18 years or older and recommends two doses with an interval of between four and 12 weeks.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
165 31-12-2020 - Defence – Cabinet gives approval for Akash missile export – As part of efforts to boost defence exports, the Union Cabinet has approved the export of the indigenously developed and manufactured Akash short-range Surface to Air Missile (SAM) system. It also approved the high-level committee formed to expedite clearance of such exports. Besides Akash, there was interest coming in for other major platforms such as the Coastal Surveillance System, radars and air platforms. For faster approval of export of such platforms, a committee comprising the Defence Minister, the External Affairs Minister and the National Security Advisor had been created. So far, Indian defence exports included parts and components but the export of big platforms was minimal. After its induction in the Services, interest was shown in the Akash missile by many friendly countries during international exhibitions/Def Expo/Aero India.
(Defence and Military)
166 31-12-2020 - Economy – CCEA nod for 3 infra projects – The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved three infrastructure proposals estimated at ₹7,725 crore for setting up greenfield industrial cities with connectivity to major transportation corridors such as the eastern and western dedicated freight corridors, expressways and National highways. The three projects, proposed by the Department of Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, include construction of various trunk infrastructure components for the Krishnapatnam Industrial Area in Andhra Pradesh at an estimated cost of ₹2,139.44 crore; the Tumakuru Industrial Area in Karnataka at ₹1,701.81 crore; and a multi-modal logistics hub (MMLH) and multi-modal transport hub (MMTH) at Greater Noida in Uttar Pradesh at ₹3,883.8 crore.
(Indian Economy)
167 31-12-2020 - Economy – ‘Govt. eyes asset sales to partly fund higher spending in FY22’ – India is likely to spend more next fiscal year than this year’s budgeted $415 billion and prioritise infrastructure projects, relying on asset sales of about $40 billion for some of the funding. Actual spending in the current fiscal year ending March 31 could be lower than the original target of ₹30.4 trillion (₹1 lakh crore = ₹1 trillion), but will be higher than last year’s ₹26.86 trillion. India had aimed to raise more than $28 billion this fiscal by selling stakes in companies such as Bharat Petroleum, Container Corp. of India, Shipping Corp. of India and Air India, and by listing the Life Insurance Corp., but the pandemic delayed the process.
(Indian Economy)
168 31-12-2020 - Economy – Current account surplus moderates to $15.5 bn in Q2 – India’s current account surplus moderated to $15.5 billion (2.4% of GDP) in the second quarter compared with a $19.2-billion surplus (3.8% of GDP) in the April-June quarter. The country had recorded a deficit of $7.6 billion for the quarter ended June, 2019. The narrowing of the current account surplus in Q2 of FY21 over the preceding quarter was due to a rise in the merchandise trade deficit to $14.8 billion from 10.8 billion in Q1. Net services receipts increased on a year-on-year basis, primarily on the back of higher net earnings from computer services. Private transfer receipts, mainly representing remittances by Indians employed overseas, declined from a year earlier but sequentially improved 12% to $20.4 billion. The net outgo from the primary income account, primarily reflecting net overseas investment income payments, increased to $9.3 billion from $8.8 billion a year earlier. In the financial account, net foreign direct investment recorded inflow of $24.6 billion compared with $7.3 billion.
(Indian Economy)
169 31-12-2020 - World – China set to launch third aircraft carrier in 2021 – The launching of China’s third and largest aircraft carrier is likely to take place in 2021, with a renewed push to take forward military modernisation plans amid a number of territorial and maritime disputes. China one year ago launched its second aircraft carrier, the Shandong, which was the first to be built at home. It joined the Liaoning, which was developed by retrofitting a Soviet-era cruiser and commissioned in 2012. The Shandong, which has already been deployed in the Taiwan Straits and in the South China Sea, is likely to be combat ready in 2021. Two larger aircraft carriers are being built at the Jiangnan Shipyard near Shanghai, the first of which is likely to be launched in 2021. This means it could be commissioned into service and be combat ready by 2023.
(Defence and Military)
170 31-12-2020 - World – British lawmakers approve post-Brexit trade deal with EU – Britain’s House of Commons voted resoundingly on December 30 to approve a trade deal with the European Union, paving the way for an orderly break with the bloc that will finally complete the U.K.’s years-long Brexit journey. With just a day to spare, lawmakers voted 521-73 in favour of the agreement sealed between the U.K. government and the EU last week. It will become British law once is passes through the unelected House of Lords later in the day and gets formal royal assent from Queen Elizabeth II. The U.K. left the EU almost a year ago, but remained within the bloc’s economic embrace during a transition period that ends at midnight Brussels time —- 11 p.m. in London — on December 31.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
171 30-12-2020 - Science & Technology– INCOIS launches ‘Digital Ocean’ – Union Minister Harsh Vardhan has launched the ‘Digital Ocean’ platform of Indian National Centre for Oceanic Information Services (INCOIS) as a one stop-solution for all data related needs of a wide range of users, including research institutions, operational agencies, strategic users, academic community, maritime industry, and the public. This first of its kind platform for ocean data management has a set of applications that present heterogeneous oceanographic data with geospatial technology. INCOIS provides ocean information and advisory services to various stakeholders in the country, including Potential Fishing Zone (PFZ) advisories, Ocean State Forecast (OSF), high wave alerts, tsunami early warnings, storm surge and oil-spill advisories, among others, using state-of-the-art technologies and tools to get real time information on oceanographic and marine meteorological data. 
(Science and Technology)
172 30-12-2020 - Polity & Governance–M.P. govt. takes ordinance route on anti-conversion Bill– The MP Cabinet has given its nod to an ordinance on the Bill against religious conversion through fraudulent means, including those for the sake of marriage. The Cabinet had on December 26 approved the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Bill, 2020. The Bill stipulates a jail term of up to 10 years and a fine of ₹1 lakh for “conversion through marriage or other forcible means”.
(Governance and Institutions)
173 30-12-2020 - Study/Research– Mutated virus does not cause more fatalities: report – Preliminary results from a cohort study found no statistically significant difference in hospitalisation and 28-day case fatality between cases with the new variant (VOC 201212/01) and wild-type comparator cases. There was also no significant difference in the likelihood of reinfection between variant cases and the comparator group. The preliminary assessment of outcomes of hospitalisation and case fatality caused by the new variant was performed by using a matched cohort study. In this, 1,769 genome-sequenced variant cases were matched with the same number of cases which are distinctly different from the new variant.
(Healthcare and Medicine, Science and Technology)
174 30-12-2020 - Covid-19– 6 U.K. returnees test positive for new coronavirus variant – Samples of six persons returning from the U.K. have been found to contain the new variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. These persons have been kept in single-room isolation in designated health care facilities by the respective State governments. From November 25 to December 23 midnight, about 33,000 passengers disembarked at various Indian airports from the U.K. All these passengers are being tracked and subjected by the States/Union Territories to RT-PCR tests. So far, only 114 have been found positive. These positive samples have been sent to 10 INSACOG labs for genome sequencing.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
175 30-12-2020 - Economy– AMP, Sterlite in $300 mn power transmission pact – AMP Capital has established an equal partnership with Sterlite Power Transmission Ltd. for the development of energy transmission projects in India. AMP Capital and Sterlite Power would each invest an initial amount of about $150 million in the development of four transmission projects, and have put in place debt financing, representing a total capital outlay of about $1 billion. These projects have a circuit length of nearly 1,800 km of transmission lines across the western, southern and northeastern regions of India.
(Indian Economy)
176 30-12-2020 - Polity & Governance– Delhi govt starts distribution of dry ration as part of mid-day meals in schools– Delhi government has started distributing dry-ration as part of the Centre’s mid-day meal programme among students of classes Nursery to class 8 enrolled in all government and government-aided schools in the Capital. The mid-day meal scheme, under which students are served cooked meals during school hours, had been disrupted due to the closure of educational institutions since March because of the Covid-19 pandemic. There are around 800,000 students who will receive such ration kits. On December 29, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal kicked off the initiative and distributed dry ration kits at a school in Mandawali. Each kit handed out by the chief minister contained a six-month provision — that included wheat, rice, pulses and oil. The dry ration will be provided every month from January 2021.
(Governance and Institutions)
177 30-12-2020 - People & Personalities– French fashion designer Pierre Cardin dies at 98– Iconic French designer Pierre Cardin, who was hailed for his avant-garde styles in the 1960s and 70s, has died at the age of 98. Cardin was known for savvy business moves and his space-age designs in his career spanning over 60 years. Born on July 7, 1922 in Venice, Italy, he was a notable designer of women’s clothes, and also a pioneer in the design of high fashion for men. In a career spanning more than 60 years, Cardin drew scorn and admiration from fellow fashion designers for his brash business sense. He maintained that he built his business empire without ever asking a bank for a loan. Cardin was the first designer to sell clothes collections in department stores in the late 1950s, and the first to enter the licensing business for perfumes, accessories and even food – now a major profit driver for many fashion houses.
(People and Personalities)
178 30-12-2020 - Economy–Finance Ministry gives nod for 8.5% EPF interest rate – The Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) is learnt to have got clearance from the Finance Ministry for interest rate recommendation of 8.5 per cent for FY20 and is expected to credit it to subscribers in next few days. The retirement fund body is looking at crediting the interest rate in one go of 8.5 per cent instead of a split of 8.15 per cent and 0.35 per cent proposed earlier. The Central Board of Trustees of the EPFO had in September recommended splitting payment of the interest rate of 8.5 per cent recommended for financial year 2019-20 into two parts, citing “exceptional circumstances arising out of Covid-19”. The EPFO had then said it will credit 8.15 per cent to its over six crore subscribers for the year immediately and give the remaining 0.35 per cent, which is linked to its equity investments, “before December 31”.
(Indian Economy)
179 30-12-2020 - World–House votes to override Trump’s veto of Defence Bill –The Democratic-controlled House voted overwhelmingly to override Trump’s veto of a Defence Bill, setting the stage for what would be the first veto override of his presidency. The veto override was supported by 212 Democrats, 109 Republicans and an independent. Twenty Democrats opposed the override, along with 66 Republicans and an independent. The Senate, which is expected to vote on the override this week, also needs to approve it by a two-thirds majority. Mr. Trump rejected the Defence Bill recently, saying it failed to limit social media companies he claims were biased against him during his failed re-election campaign. Mr. Trump also opposes language that allows for the renaming of military bases that honour Confederate leaders.
(World Politics)
180 30-12-2020 - Covid-19 – South Africa imposes new virus curbs – South Africa banned alcohol sales and made masks mandatory in public from December 29 after a surge in coronavirus cases as the WHO warned that pandemics far more deadly than COVID-19 may lie ahead. Nations around the world are struggling with winter spikes in infections that have pushed the global caseload close to 81 million, even as the rollout of vaccines gathers pace in North America and Europe. Surging cases also forced authorities in Rio de Janeiro — one of Brazil’s worst-hit cities — to announce that they would block access to beaches on December 31 to prevent crowds celebrating New Year’s Eve. And in Spain, where the death toll has topped 50,000, the Health Minister said the government would set up a registry of people who refuse to be vaccinated, and share it with other EUn member states. Vaccinations in Spain and other EU countries started over the weekend.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
181 29-12-2020 - Economy – RBI deputy governor argues for 4% cap on inflation – A paper published by the RBI and co-authored by its deputy governor and member of the MPC, Michael Patra, has argued for retaining the inflation target at 4%. The paper has pointed out that this is the pre-Covid trend inflation and this concept is central to the monetary policy. The paper’s argument gains significance in light of the fact that inflation has been out of bounds for several months. At the same time, the government has been backing softer rates in order to stimulate demand, support businesses and also to keep its cost of borrowing under check. The paper quotes former Fed chief Ben Bernanke to state that if the inflation target is fixed too much higher than trend inflation, observed inflation would run higher and become more volatile.
(Indian Economy)
182 29-12-2020 - Study/Research – Maharashtra tops in POCSO crimes, 50% of victims lured online – Maharashtra is the state where the maximum number of cases under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act were registered in the country during 2017-2019. Of this number, 8,503, in nearly 50% of the cases minors were lured online into meeting people who then subjected them to sexual abuse or entered into sexual relationships with the promise of marriage. In law, maintaining a physical relationship with someone below the age of consent is statutory rape. On the list of states, Maharashtra is followed by UP with 6,978 cases, MP (5,348), Karnataka (4,339) and Gujarat (4,228).
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
183 29-12-2020 - World – U.K. warns of ‘bumpy’ transition – Four days after sealing a free trade agreement with the EU, the British government warned businesses to get ready for disruptions and “bumpy moments” when the new rules take effect on December 31. EU Ambassadors, gave their unanimous approval on December 28 to the Brexit trade deal with the U.K.. Germany, which holds the EU presidency, said the decision came during a meeting to assess the Christmas Eve agreement. The approval had been expected ever since all EU leaders warmly welcomed it. It still needs approval from the EU’s legislature. The U.K’s House of Commons is expected to approve it on December 30.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
184 29-12-2020 - World – Trump signs COVID-19 aid, sparks GOP fight – Shelving his objections, President Trump has signed a $2 trillion-plus COVID-19 and annual federal spending package providing relief for millions of Americans, even as Congress returns to confront the White House on remaining priorities in a rare end-of-session showdown. While the President’s demands for larger $2,000 pandemic relief checks seem destined to fail, his push served up a political opportunity for Democrats, who support the larger stipends and are forcing Trump’s Republican allies into a tough spot.
(Healthcare and Medicine, World Politics)
185 29-12-2020 - World – China defends progress of Pakistan corridor – China has said reports suggesting it was seeking additional guarantees from Pakistan before sanctioning a loan for a key project under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship plan under President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), were “baseless”. Beijing also defended the progress of the CPEC plan, following reports in the Pakistani press that concerns over Pakistan’s ability to pay back loans as it grapples with the impact of the pandemic had emerged in recent negotiations. As per reports, China had sought additional guarantees before sanctioning a $6 billion loan for Main Line-1 (ML-1) project, which includes upgrading an 1,872-km rail line from Peshawar to Karachi, due to the “weakening financial position of Pakistan” and had “proposed a mix of commercial and concessional loans against Islamabad’s desire to secure the cheapest lending”.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
186 29-12-2020 - Covid-19 – First time since Covid outbreak, weekly cases fall in all states – For the first time since the Covid-19 virus spread through the country in March, all states and Union Territories (UTs) registered a weekon-week decline in fresh cases last week, indicating that the pandemic was receding across India, at least for now. The only exception was the UT of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, which reported all of nine cases through the week (December 21-27), two more cases than the count in the previous seven days. Meanwhile, 16,143 fresh cases were reported in the country on December 28, the lowest single-day count in more than six months since June 23. Deaths too dipped to 251, the lowest daily toll from the coronavirus since June 2, nearly seven months ago. While weekly cases have been falling for the past seven weeks and in 14 of the last 15 weeks, this was the first time all states registered a decline.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
187 29-12-2020 - Agriculture – Farmers get invite for talks again – The Centre has invited protesting farmer unions to resume negotiations with a ministerial delegation on December 30. Agriculture Secretary Sanjay Agarwal sent the invitation to 40 farmers’ organisations in the evening, saying the Centre was committed to a “logical solution”. Farmer groups indicated that they were likely to accept the invitation, though they complained that the letter did not specifically reference their key demand for the repeal of the three agricultural market reform laws. The wider Samyukt Kisan Morcha held an internal consultation to discuss its response to the invitation. Farmers are planning a show of strength on December 30, with a tractor rally from the Singhu border point to the protest sites at Tikri on the Haryana border and Shahjahanpur on the Rajasthan border. Rallies are also expected in Thanjavur, Patna, Hyderabad and Imphal over the next two days.
(Agriculture)
188 29-12-2020 - Covid-19 – Four States begin dry run for roll-out of vaccine – The dry run to test preparedness for the nationwide roll-out of a COVID-19 vaccine kicked off in four States — Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Punjab — on December 28. The two-day, end-to-end dry run was carried out in Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh; Rajkot and Gandhinagar in Gujarat; Ludhiana and Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar (Nawanshahr) in Punjab; and Sonitpur and Nalbari districts of Assam. In Gujarat, the field visits will begin on December 29. The dry run began in Rajkot district and city and Gandhinagar district and city. The actual [potential] vaccine shots will not be administered to people during the dry run. The Punjab government completed the exercise at 12 sites in two districts.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
189 29-12-2020 - Polity & Governance – PM flags off India’s first driverless train – PM Modi has inaugurated the country’s first driverless train on the Delhi Metro’s Magenta Line. Mr. Modi said that by 2025 metro services will expand to 25 cities across India from the current 18. The Prime Minister said that the expanding metro network was an indication of “ease of living” among the citizens. “In cities where passenger numbers are less, work is being done on the MetroLite version. Similarly, MetroNeo is being planned in cities where the ridership is less. It would be built at 25% cost of the normal metro. Also, for cities where there are large waterbodies, a system of Water Metro is being worked upon. The National Common Mobility Card was also introduced by Mr. Modi for use on the Airport Express Line.
(Governance and Institutions)
190 29-12-2020 - Defence – Army to restore grave of Naushera ka Sher – After it came to light that the grave of Naushera ka Sher Brigadier Mohammad Usman, the senior-most officer killed in the first India-Pakistan war of 1947-48, was damaged, an Army source said it was looking into the issue and the grave will be restored soon. The grave is located on the Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) campus. Brig. Usman was one of only 18 Brigadiers in the Army at the time of Independence and was posthumously awarded the Maha Vir Chakra for his gallant action during the 1947-48 war. As per reports, Brig. Usman’s funeral was done with full state honours and the prayer was led by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad.
(Defence and Military)
191 28-12-2020 - Study/Research – Mum-Dubai, Del-Dubai now among busiest int’l routes – Mumbai-Dubai and Delhi-Dubai have now emerged among the busiest international routes in the pandemic world. According to the UK-based air consultancy firm OAG, Delhi-Dubai is the fifth and Mumbai-Dubai 10th busiest air route this month in terms of seat capacity deployment by airlines operating on various routes. The busiest international route is Dubai-London Heathrow (1.7 lakh seats) followed by Orlando-San Juan (1.6 lakh seats) and Cairo-Jeddah (1.4 lakh). Delhi-Dubai has 1.1 lakh and Mumbai-Dubai over a lakh seats this month (December 2020).
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
192 28-12-2020 - Polity & Governance – Don’t fly in Chinese nationals, Centre informally tells airlines – In a strong retaliatory push, India has informally asked airlines not to fly Chinese nationals into the country. This comes on the heels of China’s not-so-subtle move to stop Indians from flying into their country, something that has only tightened since November. While flights between India and China are currently suspended, Chinese nationals have been flying in via a third country with which India has a travel bubble. In addition, Chinese nationals living in air bubble countries have also been flying to India for work and business. Over the past weekend, airlines — both Indian and foreign — have received word not to fly Chinese nationals to India. At the moment tourist visas to India remain suspended but foreigners are allowed to travel here on work and some other categories of non-tourist visas.
(Governance and Institutions)
193 28-12-2020 - World – Sri Lankan police seize 20,000 kg of turmeric – Sri Lanka police on December 27 seized 20,000 kg of turmeric smuggled by sea, reportedly from India, amid a shortage persisting since Sri Lanka banned imports to support local farmers in the pandemic year. Four Sri Lankan nationals were arrested. The pandemic, which hit Sri Lanka in March, has severely impacted its economy, prompting the government to restrict imports and pledge greater support to local farmers. Sri Lanka consumes an estimated 7,000 tonnes of turmeric annually and nearly 5,000 tonnes were imported from India until COVID-19 struck the country.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
194 28-12-2020 - Covid-19 – EU nations roll out mass vaccination – Europe launched a massive vaccination drive on December 27 with pensioners and medics lining up to take the first shots to see off the COVID-19 pandemic that has crippled economies and claimed more than 1.7 million lives worldwide. In Italy, 29-year-old nurse Claudia Alivernini was one of three medical staff to receive the first shots of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech. The region of 450 million people has secured contracts with a range of suppliers for more than two billion vaccine doses and has set a goal for all adults to be inoculated during 2021.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
195 28-12-2020 - People & Personalities – U.K.-Soviet double agent George Blake dies at 98 – George Blake, who died in Russia on December 26 at the age of 98, was the last in a line of British spies whose secret work for the Soviet Union humiliated the intelligence establishment when it was discovered at the height of the Cold War. Britain says he exposed the identities of hundreds of Western agents across Eastern Europe in the 1950s, some of whom were executed as a result of his treason. His case was among the most notorious of the Cold War, alongside those of a separate ring of British double agents known as the Cambridge Five. Unmasked as a Soviet spy in 1961, Blake was sentenced to 42 years in London's Wormwood Scrubs prison. He escaped in 1966 with the help of other inmates and two peace activists.
(People and Personalities)
196 28-12-2020 - World – Millions in U.S. lose benefits as Trump refuses to sign aid Bill – Millions of Americans saw their jobless benefits expire on December 26 after U.S. President Donald Trump refused to sign into law a $2.3 trillion pandemic aid and spending package, protesting that it did not do enough to help everyday people. Mr. Trump stunned Republicans and Democrats alike when he said this week he was unhappy with the massive Bill, which provides $892 billion in badly needed coronavirus relief, including extending special unemployment benefits expiring on December 26, and $1.4 trillion for normal government spending. Without Mr. Trump’s signature, about 14 million people could lose those extra benefits. A partial government shutdown will begin on December 29 unless Congress can agree a stop-gap government funding Bill. After months of wrangling, Republicans and Democrats agreed to the package recently, with the support of the White House. 
(World Politics)
197 28-12-2020 - Economy – India to become fifth-largest economy in 2025: think tank – India, which appears to have been pushed back to being the world’s sixth-biggest economy in 2020, will again overtake the U.K. to become the fifth-largest in 2025 and race to the third spot by 2030. India had overtaken the U.K. in 2019 to become the fifth-largest economy. India has been knocked off course somewhat through the impact of the pandemic. As a result, after overtaking the U.K. in 2019, the U.K. overtakes India again in this year’s forecasts and stays ahead till 2024 before India takes over again. The U.K. appears to have overtaken India again during 2020 as a result of the weakness of the rupee. The Indian economy is likely to expand by 9% in 2021 and by 7% in 2022. Growth will naturally slow as India becomes more economically developed, with annual GDP growth expected to sink to 5.8% in 2035.
(Indian Economy)
198 28-12-2020 - World – Afghan peace talks set to resume in Doha: official – The next round of negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government will be held in Qatar from January 2021, despite President Ashraf Ghani’s recent calls for them to be moved home. Peace talks began on September 12 at a luxury hotel in Doha, but negotiations are currently on a break until January 5. Earlier in December, negotiators from both sides decided to take a break after months of often frustrating meetings, which were bogged down by disputes on the basic framework of discussions and religious interpretations. Meanwhile, Mr. Ghani and some other top Afghan officials immediately called for the next round of meetings to be held in Afghanistan.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
199 28-12-2020 - Agriculture – Farmers protest during airing of PM Modi’s Mann ki Baat – A 55-year-old advocate from Punjab died in yet another case of alleged suicide at the farmers’ agitation site in Tikri and demonstrations were held at several places across the country, with protesters clanging utensils and oil tins during the airing of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Mann Ki Baat programme on December 27. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, however, reiterated at a government function in Himachal Pradesh that no one could take away farmers’ land through contract farming. Farm leaders, meanwhile, said there had been no official response to their proposal for talks on December 29. Farmer unions, however, claimed Amarjit left behind a suicide note in support of the agitation.
(Agriculture)
200 28-12-2020 - Covid-19 – Daily virus cases below 19,000 after 6 months – India’s daily new COVID-19 case load dropped below 19,000 after six months on Sunday (December 27). 10 States/Union Territories account for 75.27% of new deaths, with Maharashtra registering the most casualties (60). West Bengal and Delhi follow with 33 and 23 daily deaths, respectively. India’s total active case load has fallen to 2.78 lakh (2,78,690) currently. This is the lowest after 170 days. The total active cases were 2,76,682 on July 10. Currently, 76.52% of the new cases are concentrated in 10 States and UTs, with Kerala reporting the highest daily new cases at 3,527. It is followed by Maharashtra with 2,854 new cases. A total of 21,430 people recovered and were discharged in the last 24 hours.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
201 26-12-2020 - Covid-19 – US leads world in Covid shots, 1m doses given in first 10 days – The US now leads the world in Covid-19 vaccine shots administered, with more than 1.1 million doses given in the first10 days. Three states have now vaccinated more than 1% of their populations: North Dakota, West Virginia, and Alaska. California leads in total vaccinations at 128,000 shots even as it has become the first US state to surpass 2 million confirmed cases of Covid-19. The vaccination numbers fall short of a US goal to administer 20 million shots in 2020. That amount will be disbursed to states by the end of the month, but not in time to be administered. Shots are rolling out from Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
202 26-12-2020 - Polity & Governance – Tripura launches scheme for violence victims’ kin – Tripura government has launched a scheme to provide jobs to next of kin of those who died in political violence over a period of 46 years with 2018 as a cut-off year. This was one of the assurances the ruling BJP declared in its vision document released ahead of State’s Assembly elections held in February 2018. Education Minister Ratan Lal Nath, who is assigned to inform important decisions of the State government, said a committee which was set up immediately after the last Cabinet meeting already started scrutinising applications.
(Governance and Institutions)
203 26-12-2020 - Covid-19 – At 253, India’s daily deaths fall below 300 for the first time since June 9 – India’s daily death toll from Covid-19 fell below 300 for the first time since June 9, as 253 fatalities were recorded in the country on Christmas Day. Most of the major states reported a fall in fatalities as compared with the previous day, even as fresh cases dropped to under 23,000. However, despite the steady decline in Covid numbers for more than three months now, India has still recorded the fourth highest count of cases in the world so far in December after the US, Brazil and Russia. Till December 24, the month’s tally of new cases in India was 6,84,896. This puts December in line to register the lowest monthly case count since June. December is likely to log the highest number of Covid cases worldwide since the outbreak of the pandemic.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
204 26-12-2020 - Education – From ’21, one exam for central univ admissions – In a move intended to end the tyranny of cut-off marks based on Class 12 boards for college admissions, the government has set up a sevenmember panel to recommend modalities for “high quality aptitude test” for admission to undergraduate programmes in central universities that will come into effect from the 2021-22 academic session. The computer-based common entrance exam, to be conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA), will be mandatory for admission to all central universities. The plans include a general test as well as subject-specific tests.
(Education)
205 26-12-2020 - Agriculture – Farmer unions refute PM’s charge of changing demands – Refuting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s allegation that farmer unions were moving the goalposts every day, the All-India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) on December 25 said the only demand of the farmers was an “assured, guaranteed and legalised” income by announcing a minimum support price (MSP) for all crops. Earlier in the day, speaking at a programme to release an instalment of ₹18,000 crore to nine crore beneficiaries of the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana, Mr. Modi said people with a certain political ideology, instigating the farmers agitation, were moving the goalposts every day to raise new issues not even concerned with the movement and were not allowing discussions for political reasons.
(Agriculture)
206 26-12-2020 - World – EU envoys assess post-Brexit trade deal – Ambassadors from the European Union’s 27 nations convened on Christmas Day to start assessing the free trade deal the bloc has struck with former member Britain, a historic accord that takes effect in just a week. At the exceptional meeting, the EU delegations asked for more time to study the texts before sending them to lawmakers at the European Parliament, according to an EU diplomat. The ambassadors are expected to meet again on December 28. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed agreement as a “new beginning” for the U.K. in its relationship with its European neighbours. In a Christmas message, Mr. Johnson sought to sell the deal to a weary public after years of Brexit-related wrangling since the U.K. voted narrowly to leave the EU in 2016. Although the U.K. formally left the bloc on January 31, it remains in a transition period tied to EU rules until the end of 2020. Without a trade deal to set out the terms of their new relationship, tariffs and other impediments would have been imposed on trade between the two sides starting January 1.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
207 26-12-2020 - World – Trump loses Wisconsin lawsuit – A federal appeals court has upheld a decision dismissing a lawsuit seeking to declare President Donald Trump won swing state Wisconsin. Democrat Joe Biden defeated Mr. Trump by 0.6 points in Wisconsin in the November 6 election, a key victory that helped propel Biden to the White House. Mr. Trump filed the lawsuit in the Eastern District of Wisconsin on December 2 against the state elections commission, arguing the court should order the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature to declare he had won the state. U.S. District Judge Brett Justice Ludwig, a Trump appointee, refused, ruling on December 12 that Mr. Trump’s arguments “fail as a matter of law and fact.” 
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
208 26-12-2020 - World – Russia opens criminal case against Navalny’s ally Sobol – Russian law enforcement agencies has opened a criminal case against Lyubov Sobol, an ally of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, and took her in for questioning after raiding her home. There was no immediate comment from the police. Supporters of Mr. Navalny said the police action appeared to be a response to Ms. Sobol visiting the home of an alleged FSB security service agent in Moscow. Mr. Navalny had earlier said the man took part in a botched plot to poison him in August. The FSB has dismissed Mr. Navalny’s allegations as a provocation designed to discredit it.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
209 26-12-2020 - Polity & Governance – 21-year-old student set to become Mayor – If the party’s seniors approve the nomination, a 21-year-old woman college student who is a member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) will become the youngest Mayor of Thiruvananthapuram. The district committee of the CPI(M) has proposed Arya Rajendran for the Mayor’s post in the city Corporation. The party’s State Committee must endorse the choice, which would make her the youngest in the job. Party leaders remained tight-lipped, but CPI(M) sources confirmed that the nomination had been made, with an announcement expected soon. Ms. Rajendran, who won the election from the Mudavanmugal ward in the State capital, is a B.Sc student at the All Saints College in the city. She is the State president of Balasangham, a children’s organisation, and a member of the State Committee of the Students Federation of India (SFI) and the CPI(M)’s Kesavadev Road branch committee.
(Governance and Institutions)
210 26-12-2020 - Covid-19 – Dry run for vaccine rollout in four States next week: govt. – The Centre is gearing up for the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine across the country, with four States to initiate a dry-run next week. Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Gujarat and Punjab have been selected considering the geographical locations. Each State will plan it in two districts and preferably in different (five) session type settings, e.g. district hospital, CHC/PHC, urban site, private health facility, rural outreach, etc. This exercise would enable end-to-end mobilisation and testing of the COVID-19 vaccination process and check the usage of Co-WIN in the field environment, the linkages between planning, implementation and reporting mechanisms and identify challenges and guide the actual implementation, including improvements in the process.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
211 25-12-2020 - Economy – Economic revival beating predictions: RBI bulletin – RBI: There is now more evidence to show that the Indian economy “is pulling out of COVID-19’s deep abyss and is reflating” at a pace that beats most predictions. Economic conditions continued to improve through November on the back of the uptick in agriculture and manufacturing. Financial conditions embodied in interest rates are perhaps at their easiest in decades.
(Indian Economy)
212 25-12-2020 - Covid-19 – Govt starts contest for strengthening digital network platform for vaccine – The government has launched a technology contest to invite solutions from IT companies and start-ups to strengthen digital platform CoWIN, which will be used for rolling out and scaling up COVID vaccine distribution across the country. The government is enhancing use of the Electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network (eVIN) system, which provides real-time information on vaccine stocks and storage temperatures across all cold chain points in the country to address the needs for distribution and tracking of COVID-19 vaccine. The contest will be jointly run by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Ministry of Electronics and IT.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
213 25-12-2020 - Polity & Governance – Hindi news channel ‘Republic Bharat’ fined by U.K. regulator for hate speech – Republic Bharat, the Hindi news channel arm of Republic TV, was fined £20,000 (approximately Rs 19.73 lakh) by the UK's communications regulator Office of Communications or Ofcom on December 22 for broadcasting content containing “offensive language”, “hate speech” and “abusive or derogatory treatment of individuals, groups, religions or communities”. Republic Bharat has also been asked to air an apology on the channel. Worldview Media Network Limited — a UK-based firm — holds the licence for Republic Bharat, which broadcasts news and current affairs in Hindi. Ofcom has stated that in the channel’s “Poochta Hai Bharat” programme that was aired on 6 September, 2019, views expressed by the presenter Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami and some of the guests have violated its broadcasting norms.
(Governance and Institutions)
214 25-12-2020 - International Relations – EAM Dr S Jaishankar holds virtual meeting with Spanish counterpart Arancha González – External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar has held a virtual meeting with his Spain counterpart Arancha González. Both Ministers exchanged notes on the pandemic situation. During the meeting, there was detailed review of bilateral relations including cooperation in energy, climate change and infrastructure. The Ministers discussed regional issues and reformed multilateralism.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
215 25-12-2020 - Polity & Governance – RBI cautions against unauthorised lending apps – The RBI has advised public to be wary of unauthorised digital lending platforms and mobile apps. Taking note of reports about individuals and small businesses falling prey to a growing number of unauthorised digital lending platforms/mobile apps, the central bank has said “members of public are cautioned not to fall prey to such unscrupulous activities.” It urged them to verify antecedents of the company/ firm offering loans online or through mobile apps. The advisory comes in the backdrop of at least three borrowers in Telangana committing suicide in the recent past, following alleged harassment by personnel of such lenders, and many more complaining of being subjected to coercive methods after defaulting on repayments.
(Governance and Institutions)
216 25-12-2020 - World – Israel to hold snap election, with Netanyahu facing new challenges – Israel will hold a snap election in March after parliament failed to meet a deadline to pass a budget, triggering a ballot presenting new challenges for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Campaigning in Israel's fourth parliamentary election in two years gets underway with Netanyahu facing public anger over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and while he is engaged in a corruption trial, the first against an Israeli prime minister. Israel's longest-serving leader will also have to contend with a new rival from the right, Gideon Saar, a defector from Netanyahu's Likud party. An opinion poll on Israel's Kan public TV has showed Saar drawing even with the prime minister.
(World Politics)
217 25-12-2020 - Legal Issues – India files appeal against Vodafone case verdict – India has challenged in a Singapore court the international arbitration tribunal verdict that overturned its demand for ₹22,100 crore in back taxes from Vodafone Group Plc. An international arbitration court had on September 25 rejected tax authorities’ demand for ₹22,100 crore in back taxes and penalties relating to the British telecom giant’s 2007 acquisition of an Indian operator. India had 90 days to file an appeal, and the same has been done in a Singapore court.
(Constitution and Law, Governance and Institutions)
218 25-12-2020 - Covid-19 – Over 6,000 travellers from U.K. traced – In line with a Health Ministry directive, several States have stepped up efforts to trace and test persons who have flown in or transited from the United Kingdom between November 25 and December 23, for a more infective version of the COVID-19 virus. More than 6,000 passengers have been traced so far. Flights between India and the U.K. remain suspended till December 31. Eleven persons, on board four flights, tested positive for COVID-19 in Delhi and are now admitted to the government-run LNJP Hospital. The Delhi government has asked the hospital to create a separate isolation unit for passengers from the U.K. who test positive. Around 950 passengers from London were tested at the airport and 11 of them were found positive.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
219 25-12-2020 - World – Trump pardons more allies: White House – U.S. President Donald Trump has issued a new raft of pardons for allies including the father of his son-in-law Jared Kushner, adding to a long list he has granted in his waning days in office. In addition to the pardon for Charles Kushner, Mr. Trump also pardoned his 2016 campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former adviser Roger Stone. They were among 26 people pardoned and three who had all or part of their sentences commuted by Mr. Trump. This comes only a day after Mr. Trump pardoned another 15 people and commuted sentences for five. The list included two people linked to the probe into alleged collusion between his campaign and Russia and four Blackwater security guards convicted over the 2007 killing of 14 Iraqi civilians. Real estate developer Charles Kushner pleaded guilty to charges, including tax evasion and witness tampering in 2004. His pardon had been expected by many, given his family connection. Jared Kushner is married to Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka.
(World Politics)
220 25-12-2020 - Polity & Governance – Cabinet approves ₹59,000 crore post-matric scholarship scheme for 4 crore SC students – In a big push for education, the Union Cabinet has approved ₹59,000 crore Post Matric Scholarship for more than four crore Scheduled Caste (SC) in the next five years. The cabinet approved a total investment of ₹59,048 crore. The central government will spend 60% of the programme which is estimated at ₹35,534. The rest wll be provided by the state government. The Post Matric Scholarship scheme for Scheduled Caste students allows students to pursue any post matric course starting from class 11 and onwards, with the government providing the cost of education. A campaign will be launched to enroll the students, from the poorest households passing the 10th standard, in the higher education courses of their choice. It is estimated that 1.36 crore such poorest students, who are currently not continuing their education beyond 10th standards would be brought into the higher education system in the next 5 years.
(Education, Governance and Institutions)
221 24-12-2020 - World – Situation in seized C. African town under control, says UN – The Central African Republic’s fourth-largest town, which had been seized by rebels ahead of elections this weekend, is back in the hands of United Nations peacekeepers and national security forces. The rebel attacks followed government accusations at the weekend that ex-President Francois Bozize was plotting a coup with armed groups ahead of presidential and legislative elections.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
222 24-12-2020 - Economy – Cabinet nod for 100% FDI in DTH service – The Union Cabinet has approved 100% Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in direct-to-home (DTH) services, extension of the licence period from 10 years to 20 and a reduced licence fee. The licence fee had been reduced in keeping with the rates in the telecom sector. A statement from the I&B Ministry said the proposed reduction was intended to align the licence fee regime applicable to the telecom sector and would be prospectively applied. Currently, India has 18 crore television sets.
(Indian Economy)
223 24-12-2020 - Polity & Governance – Gupkar alliance set to form 9 out of 10 Kashmir councils – The seven-party People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) looks set to lead development councils in nine out of 10 districts in Kashmir division, but BJP’s overall dominance of the DDC polls in Jammu might still leave it short of the numbers required to run at least four of the 10 councils there. For the Gupkar alliance, six districts of the Valley — Anantnag, Budgam, Ganderbal, Kupwara, Pulwama and Kulgam — gave a clear majority of nine to 12 seats each out of the 14 in every council. In the rest, barring Srinagar, the alliance has seven seats each and the edge in terms of potential supporters, led by Congress. In Srinagar, both PAGD and BJP are not even in the picture.
(Governance and Institutions)
224 24-12-2020 - Polity & Governance – Cabinet approves merger of four govt film media units with NFDC – The Union Cabinet has approved the merger of four government-run film and media units — the Films Division, Directorate of Film Festivals, National Film Archives of India and the autonomous Children’s Film Society, into the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC). The merger of the film media units under one corporation will lead to convergence of activities and resources and help better coordination. While each of the film units like the National Film Archives of India, Directorate of Film Festivals and the Children’s Film Society had been given a specialised mandate when they were each set up, it was felt that the units had failed over the years to keep abreast with industry standards and it would be better managed by bringing them under one roof with different verticals.
(Governance and Institutions)
225 24-12-2020 - Covid-19 – India’s active cases below 3 lakh for third day; South African virus variant found in UK – With 24,712 cases reported in the 24 hours ending 9 am on December 24, coronavirus infections in India now stand at 1.01 crore. Of these, 2.83 lakh are currently active. As many as 312 deaths were reported on December 23, the toll has reached 1.46 lakh. Kerala, among the fastest-growing states in India, is still reporting more than 6,000 cases a day. Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Karnataka governments have imposed night curfews. While the Rajasthan government has imposed a night curfew on December 31 in all cities having a population of over one lakh, the night curfew in Karnataka will be enforced from tonight till January 2.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
226 24-12-2020 - World – Britain, France reopen cross-Channel travel – France and Britain reopened cross-Channel travel after a 48-hour ban to curb the spread of a new coronavirus variant but London has warned it could take days for thousands of trucks blocked around the port of Dover to get moving. The major transit hub reopened following an agreement between London and Paris to allow hauliers stranded in the U.K. to leave the country if they could produce a negative coronavirus test that was less than 72 hours old. Much of Europe had swiftly banned British travellers following the emergence of a more transmissible variant of COVID-19 in Britain, and France’s decision to block freight movements sparked fears of food shortages.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
227 24-12-2020 - Covid-19 – ‘U.K. strain unlikely to affect efficacy of vaccines’ – As per reports, the faster spreading coronavirus strain first detected in the U.K. is unlikely to make vaccines less effective as of now but the preventives may need to be appropriately altered if more mutations occur over time. There is no indication at the moment that the new strain, VUI-202012/0, which was detected on September 21, would evade treatments and vaccines. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has said that the rapid increase of a SARS-CoV-2 variant with multiple spike protein mutations have been observed in the U.K. The ECDC, however, said there is no indication of increased infection severity.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
228 24-12-2020 - Polity & Governance – Changes to SC scholarship scheme get govt. approval – The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved changes to the post-matric scholarship scheme for students from the Scheduled Castes, including a new funding pattern of 60-40 for the Centre and the States. The changes were aimed at enabling four crore students to access higher education over the next five years. Switching from the existing “committed liability” formula, the new funding pattern would increase the Centre’s involvement in the scheme. An investment of ₹59,048 crore, of which ₹35,534 crore would be the Centre’s share, had been approved.
(Governance and Institutions)
229 24-12-2020 - Law & Constitution – Govt loses retro tax case vs Cairn too, told to pay $1.4bn – In a fresh setback to the government on retrospective taxation, an arbitration panel has unanimously ruled in favour of Cairn Energy PLC, holding that the Centre had “failed to uphold its obligations” under the UK-India bilateral investment treaty and international laws in seeking tax payments of Rs 10,250 crore from the company for its business reorganisation in the country. The tribunal awarded Cairn $1.2 billion (Rs 9,000 crore), plus interest and costs, the company said in a statement after the ruling. The total damages are estimated at $1.4 billion for the government. Three months ago, the government suffered a major embarrassment when it lost a similar case relating to Vodafone, where tax authorities had sought payment — through a clarificatory amendment implemented retrospectively — for the telecom giant’s acquisition of 67% stake from Hutch in the India mobile venture. The deal involved two overseas entities, which escaped tax, but the government insisted that tax was due since the underlying assets were in India.
(Constitution and Law)
230 24-12-2020 - Agriculture – Farmers up ante, nix govt offer, demand higher MSP – Dramatically upping the ante while rejecting the Centre’s proposals as “meaningless amendments”, agitating farm unions have said talks could restart only if repeal of the three new agri laws was on the agenda and added a demand for revised cost of production that will increase support price. The unions wrote to the agriculture ministry saying they were ready for talks only if the Centre came out with a “concrete proposal” without repeating suggested changes to the farm laws offered earlier. The unions reiterated the demand for legal guarantee for minimum support price, saying this should be on the agenda and drew attention to the National Commission on Farmers’ recommendation for support price on a higher slab of cost of production. The demand for a revised procurement price is significant.
(Agriculture)
231 23-12-2020 - Law & Constitution – HC: None can interfere if adult converts, marries on her own – There can be “no interference if an adult marries as per her choice, converts and refuses to return to her parents”, the Calcutta high court said on December 21 while hearing the plea of a Hindu man whose daughter had converted to marry a Muslim youth. The father, a 44-year-old peasant from Durgapur in Nadia district of West Bengal, said his daughter had left home on September 15 and the next day he learnt that she had converted, taken a Muslim name and got married. He alleged that his daughter was either coerced into doing so or lured. In his petition, the father claimed he wouldn’t have doubted her intention had the marriage been formalised under the Special Marriage Act, 1954 that provides for inter-religious marriages. But she changed her religion and got married within 24 hours.
(Constitution and Law)
232 23-12-2020 - Education – ‘CBSE Board exams only after February’ – Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ has said that the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) Class X and Class XII examinations would only be held after February next year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Usually, the practical exams are conducted in January and theory exams begin in February. He added that the schedule for the exams had not been decided yet. The CBSE had earlier announced that the Board exams in 2021 would be conducted in the written mode and not online.
(Education)
233 23-12-2020 - Economy – ‘Centre to set up development finance entity in 3-4 months’ – The government plans to set up a Development Finance Institution (DFI) in the next three to four months with a view to mobilise the ₹111 lakh crore required for funding of the ambitious national infrastructure pipeline. In her last Budget speech, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had proposed to set up DFIs for promoting infrastructure funding. About 7,000 projects have been identified under the National Infrastructure Pipeline with projected investment of ₹111 lakh crore during 2020-25.
(Indian Economy)
234 23-12-2020 - World – Russia bans entry of EU officials – Russia is hitting several EU officials with tit-for-tat sanctions in response to penalties imposed by the bloc over the poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. The Foreign Ministry said that in response to “confrontational” EU actions, it had “decided to expand the list of representatives of EU member states and institutions who will be denied entry to the Russian Federation”. The counter sanctions were announced after Moscow summoned senior diplomats from three EU nations where labs concluded that Mr. Navalny was poisoned in August with Novichok, a Soviet-designed nerve agent.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
235 23-12-2020 - Covid-19 – Drugmakers rush to test if vaccines stop virus variant – Ugur Sahin, chief executive of Germany’s BioNTech, has said he needs another two weeks to know if his shot can stop the mutant variant of the virus. Moderna expects immunity from its vaccine to protect against the variant and is performing more tests in coming weeks to confirm. The mutation known as the B.1.1.7 lineage may be up to 70% more infectious and more of a concern for children. It has sown chaos in Britain, prompting a wave of travel bans that are disrupting trade with Europe and threatening to further isolate the country. Germany’s CureVac said it does not expect the variant to affect the efficacy of its experimental shot, which is based on the same messenger RNA (mRNA) technology and is currently in the late stage of clinical trials.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
236 23-12-2020 - World – Nepal’s ruling party appears headed for split – The ruling Nepal Communist Party on December 22 appeared to be headed for a split after the warring factions held separate Central Committee meetings, with Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli announcing a new 1,199-member committee to organise the party’s general convention in an effort to strengthen his hold on it. Mr. Oli, who is also one of the two chairmen of the ruling party, announced the new committee during a meeting of the party’s Central Committee members close to him, at Baluwatar, the Prime Minister’s official residence. The members of the newly-formed general convention organising committee took oaths in the presence of the Prime Minister. The meeting also decided to remove Naryan Kaji Shrestha as the party spokesperson.
(Regional Politics)
237 23-12-2020 - Covid-19 – Tuesday tally: 24k fresh cases, 330 deaths – India recorded nearly 24,000 fresh Covid cases on Tuesday (December 22), with the trend of decline in cases continuing as compared to the average count in the previous week. On December 21, daily cases had dipped to a 175-day low of 18,588. On Tuesday, the number of fresh cases stood at 23,866, with data from Assam yet to come. The case count on Tuesday was lower than the daily average of the previous week (24,502) as well as the tally recorded last Tuesday (26,239). India has so far recorded 1,00,99,264 cases. There were 330 deaths on Tuesday, around the same as the daily toll over the past eight days. India’s cumulative toll has risen to 1,46,424. 
(Healthcare and Medicine)
238 23-12-2020 - Polity & Governance – Gupkar alliance wins 97 seats, BJP 70 in J&K district polls – The People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), a conglomeration of seven parties, has taken a significant lead in the first-ever District Development Council (DDC) elections in Jammu and Kashmir even as the alliance’s main opponent, the BJP, emerged as the single largest party, sweeping the polls in many districts in the Jammu region while making some inroads in the valley. However, it is the independents — 44 of whom have already won— who will call the shots in many places, particularly in the valley. Nearly 20 more independents were leading in the counting. The DDC election was the first electoral exercise since the nullification of Article 370 on August 5 in 2019. Voting was conducted for 280 seats— 14 in each of the 20 districts of the Union Territory.
(Governance and Institutions)
239 23-12-2020 - World – China slams U.S. over Tibet Bill, S. China Sea ‘trespass’ – The US and China have sparred over Tibet and the South China Sea, with new moves from Washington marking the start of the last month of President Donald Trump in office fuelling fresh tensions in an already fraught relationship. China has hit out at the U.S. for passing the Tibetan Policy and Support Act (TPSA), a landmark legislation that calls for the opening of a U.S. consulate in Lhasa and also underlines U.S. backing for the Dalai Lama to determine his successor. With the Act, the U.S. will back the choice made by the Dalai Lama, even as China has made clear it would anoint its own successor, just as it did by naming its own 11th Panchen Lama in 1995 as Gyancain Norbu, rejecting the Dalai Lama-backed candidate, Gedhun Choekyi Nima, aged six at the time, who has not been seen in public since.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
240 23-12-2020 - World – Israel on the brink of fourth poll in two years – Israel has headed for its fourth election in less than two years, with its Parliament set to dissolve at midnight after lawmakers rejected a last-ditch effort to salvage the fractured ruling coalition. The government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been inching towards collapse for weeks and now the right-wing incumbent looks set to face a re-election battle as his long-awaited trial on corruption charges gets under way next year. The coalition, led by Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud and his rival Benny Gantz’s centrist Blue and White party, has until the start of Wednesday (December 22) to pass a 2020 budget or Parliament will automatically dissolve. Mr. Gantz demanded the government pass a budget covering both 2020 and 2021, arguing Israel needs stability. But Mr. Netanyahu has refused to endorse a 2021 budget.
(World Politics)
241 22-12-2020 - Polity & Governance – Six international, Nine domestic locations to get ferry connectivity – The shipping and waterways ministry has identified nine domestic locations and six international routes, connecting four international destinations, including Chattogram in Bangladesh, Seychelles and Madagascar in Africa and Jaffna in Sri Lanka, from Indian major coastal port towns with ferry services. The nine domestic locations are Hazira, Okha, Somnath Temple, Diu, Pipavav, Dahej, Mumbai/ JNPT, Jamnagar, Kochi, Ghogha, Goa, Mundra and Mandvi for ferry and RO-RO (Roll-on Roll-Off) services. These routes have been identified under the Sagarmala project, a flagship programme of the ministry, which aims to promote port-led development through harnessing India’s 7,500 km long coastline and potentially navigable waterways. The ministry recently launched one of such services by deploying RO-PAX vessel ferry service between Hazira and Ghogha.
(Governance and Institutions)
242 22-12-2020 - Polity & Governance – Facebook bans Kisan Ekta Morcha Page, restores after outrage – Facebook banned a page on its platform sharing updates on farmer protests across the country citing its "Community Standards on Spam" but it later restored the page after widespread opposition on social media. The page called the Kisan Ekta Morcha which has been posting updates on the ongoing protests by the farmers against the Center’s farm laws and was being used by activists such as Yogendra Yadav was reportedly “unpublished” on December 20 for violating Facebook’s content policies.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
243 22-12-2020 - Economy – GDP growth likely to turn positive in Q3: NCAER – Having witnessed a contraction in the first half of the current financial year, India’s GDP growth is likely to turn positive at 0.1% in the October-December quarter. The NCAER, in its mid-year review of the Indian economy, also forecast 2% growth in the fourth-quarter (January-March 2021). The overall contraction in the current fiscal is likely to be contained at 7.3%. India’s economy contracted by 23.9% in the first quarter of the current fiscal on the account of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The contraction narrowed to 7.5% in the second quarter.
(Indian Economy)
244 22-12-2020 - Polity & Governance – Suspension of IBC extended till March 2021 – The government has decided to extend the suspension of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) till March 31, 2021, to help businesses cope with the lingering difficulties posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. This settles a major uncertainty facing businesses since the present government order to keep the insolvency code in abeyance was due to expire on December 25. All defaults arising on or after March 25, when the national lockdown was imposed to curb the pandemic, will effectively remain out of the insolvency net for a full year.
(Governance and Institutions)
245 22-12-2020 - Covid-19 – European medicines regulator approves Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine – The European Medicines Agency recommended conditional approval for a coronavirus vaccine developed by BioNTech and Pfizer to be used across the EU, weeks after the shot was first granted permission under emergency provisions in Britain and the US. The EU drug regulator has recommended the shot be licensed for use in people over 16 years of age, with some exceptions. The pharmaceutical companies will need to submit follow-up data on their vaccine for the next year.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
246 22-12-2020 - Environment and Ecology - UNEP AWARD – Indian entrepreneur Vidyut Mohan (29) is among the seven winners of the “Young Champions of the Earth” 2020 prize given by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). Mohan is the co-founder of “Takachar”, a social enterprise enabling farmers to prevent open burning of their waste farm residues and earn extra income by converting them into value-added chemicals. Other six winners are: Niria Alicia Garcia of US, Fatemah Alzelzela of Kuwait, Nzambi Matee from Kenya, Xiaoyuan Ren from China, Lefteris Arapakis and Max Hidalgo Quinto from Peru. The prize is awarded every year to seven entrepreneurs under the age of 30 with bold ideas for sustainable environmental change.
(Environment Ecology and Climate Change)
247 22-12-2020 - People & Personalities – Trump presents ‘Legion of Merit’ to PM Modi for elevating India-US ties – US President Donald Trump has presented the prestigious Legion of Merit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his leadership in elevating strategic partnership of the two countries and emergence of India as a global power. Modi was presented with the highest degree Chief Commander of the Legion of Merit which is given only to the Head of State or Government. He was given the award in recognition of his steadfast leadership and vision that has accelerated India’s emergence as a global power and elevated the strategic partnership between the United States and India to address global challenges. Trump also presented the Legion of Merit to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
(People and Personalities)
248 22-12-2020 - Economy – In a 1st, discoms now liable to pay up to ₹1L relief for outages – Distribution companies (discoms) will be liable to pay compensation of up to Rs 1 lakh for resorting to wanton blackouts and will have to deliver other services such as installing a new connection, replacing or shifting a meter and changing the load within stringent time-lines under the first-ever service rules and consumer rights for the power sector announced by the Centre on December 21. This is the first time that the power supply has been recognised as a service industry and standards have been laid to ensure consumers, so far taken for granted by state government monopolies, get value for their money. Uniform service standards will ensure consumers get their money's worth, irrespective of whether they are served by private or state government entities.
(Indian Economy)
249 22-12-2020 - Study/Research – Leopard nos up from 8,000 to nearly 13,000 in 4 years – The leopard population in India recorded an encouraging increase of 62% in four years – from 7,910 in 2014 to 12,852 in 2018. Madhya Pradesh has the highest number of leopards (3,421), followed by Karnataka (1,783) and Maharashtra (1,690). These three states together account for more than 50% of leopards in the country’s tiger habitats which serve as a common ecosystem for different species of wild animals. The numbers have increased despite leopards often falling victim to human-animal conflict as they stray into human habitations or even become road-kills. The increase in big cat numbers over the past decade and a half indicates their resilience and ability to bounce back if provided secure environs.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
250 22-12-2020 - Covid-19 – Centre suspends all UK flights; Maha brings back quarantine, night curfew – India has suspended all scheduled passenger flights to and from the UK between December 23 and 31 to keep out the new Covid strain spreading across Britain. Travellers from the UK landing at Indian airports before the flight ban kicks in at midnight Tuesday (December 22) will have to undergo RTPCR tests, based on which institutional quarantine for at least 14 days or monitored home isolation for a week will be advised. Maharashtra has imposed an 11pm-6am curfew from Tuesday (Dec.22) till January 6. Only emergency services such as transportation and supply of milk and vegetables will be allowed within civic corporation limits in the state. Christmas and New Year celebrations, large gatherings, parties, functions, shops, hotels and theatres will have to wind up at 11pm. People have been advised to reach home before 11pm and not step out till 6am unless there is an emergency. Karnataka has made Covid tests mandatory for passengers arriving from Denmark and the Netherlands, too.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
251 21-12-2020 - Business – iPhone maker Wistron agrees to lapses in payment of wages, sacks India VP – Taiwanese conglomerate Wistron has sacked its vice president Vincent Lee who oversaw the business in India as it agreed to lapses in payment to workers at the Narasapura facility near Bengaluru, which was vandalised on December 12. The company is enhancing its processes and restructuring the teams to ensure these issues do not happen again. The company has around 1,000 people in various managerial roles in the country. While assuring that all employees will be fully compensated immediately the company has established an employee assistance program for workers at the facility.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
252 21-12-2020 - Study/Report – ‘Prison population reduced by 10.42% between April and June’ – A report released by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) has said the population in Indian prisons reduced by 10.42% from April to June due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The report urged the State governments and prison authorities to continue the measures to decongest prisons. The report, titled ‘Responding to the Pandemic: Prisons and Overcrowding’, said that after high-powered committees were formed on orders of the Supreme Court to reduce overcrowding, the occupancy in prisons of 22 States and Union Territories reduced from 107.8% on December 31, 2019 to 103.1% on April 1, 2020 and then to 93.3% on June 30.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
253 21-12-2020 - World – Biden introduces his climate team, says no time to waste – Just as the United States has needed a unified, national response to COVID-19, it needs one for dealing with climate change, President-elect Joe Biden said on December 19 as he rolled out key members of his environmental team. The approach is a shift from Donald Trump’s presidency, which has been marked by efforts to boost oil and gas production while rolling back government efforts intended to safeguard the environment. The incoming Biden team will try to undo or block many of the current administration’s initiatives. There also will be an emphasis on looking out for the low-income, working class and minority communities hit hardest by fossil fuel pollution and climate change.
(World Politics)
254 21-12-2020 - World – US to vote on $900 bn Covid relief – The US Congress was poised to vote on December 20 on a $900 billion coronavirus aid package after senators struck a late-night compromise to clear one of the final hurdles, a dispute over Federal Reserve pandemic lending authorities. Congressional leaders plan to attach the coronavirus aid package, which includes $600 direct payments to individuals and a $300 per week unemployment compensation supplement, to a $1.4 trillion spending bill funding government programmes through September 2021. They face a government funding deadline of midnight on December 20.
(Healthcare and Medicine, World Politics)
255 21-12-2020 - Polity & Governance – Govt writes to farmers, seeks new date for talks – The Centre sent a new letter late Sunday (December 20) night to 40 farm leaders asking them to suggest a date for another round of talks and the issues they would like to discuss. The move came hours after the unions protesting on Delhi’s borders against three central agri-marketing laws observed ‘Shahidi Divas’ to pay homage those who died during the agitation, drew up plans for a 24-hour relay hunger strike on December 21, and threatened to block NH9 if their counterparts were not allowed to move towards the Ghazipur border in 24 hours. The letter addressed to the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha was also marked to 31 unions in Punjab, one in Haryana and 7 from other states. It outlined the details of amendments to the laws to which the Centre had agreed.
(Agriculture, Governance and Institutions)
256 21-12-2020 - Business – PayPal incurs Rs 96 lakh penalty for allegedly violating India's anti-money laundering laws – American online payment gateway giant PayPal has been imposed Rs 96 lakh penalty by the FIU for alleged contravention of the anti-money laundering law and accused of "concealing" suspect financial transactions and abetting "disintegration" of India's financial system. PayPal, which began India operations in November 2017, said it was fully committed to follow due processes and is "carefully reviewing the matter". The company has also been charged with "defeating and frustrating" the tenets of public interest and the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), which aims to keep the country's financial system safe from economic crimes, terrorist financing and black money transactions. 
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
257 21-12-2020 - Covid-19 – New virus strain out of control: U.K. – British Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that the government has imposed a strict Christmas lockdown in London and southeast England because a new strain of the coronavirus was “out of control”. The World Health Organization is calling on its members in Europe to step up measures against COVID-19. Outside Britain, nine cases of the new strain have been reported in Denmark, as well as one case in the Netherlands and another in Australia. Mr. Hancock warned that the strict measures that affect almost a third of England’s population could stay in place until the virus vaccine is fully rolled out. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that millions must cancel Christmas plans and stay home because the new strain was spreading far more quickly.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
258 21-12-2020 - World – Over 340 students in Nigeria back with parents after ordeal – Nigeria’s freed schoolboys have reunited with their joyful parents after being held captive for nearly a week by gunmen allied with jihadist rebels in the country’s northwest. Relieved parents hugged their sons tightly on December 19 in Kankara, where more than 340 boys were abducted from the Government Science Secondary school on the night of December 11. Many of the schoolboys expressed worry about returning to school, saying their captors threatened them with death if they went back to classes. Nigeria’s Boko Haram jihadist rebels claimed responsibility for the abductions, saying they attacked the school because they believe Western education is un-Islamic. Another abduction of more than 80 students happened on Saturday (December 19) night in an area nearby, but the pupils were quickly rescued by security forces after a fierce gun battle, police announced on December 20.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
259 21-12-2020 - Covid-19 – Weekly Covid cases in India drop 17%, the steepest decline so far – Covid-19 infections and deaths continued to fall in the country 14 weeks after the pandemic peaked, with cases this week registering a 17.3% decline, making it the steepest weekly drop in percentage terms. India recorded 171,520 cases during December 14-20, the lowest since the June 29-July 5 week, and nearly 36,000 down from the previous week. This was the sixth straight week of falling cases and 13th overall in the last 14 weeks. The weekly toll dropped to its lowest in over six months, with the virus claiming 2,444 lives in the past seven days. The last time India saw fewer deaths in a week was in June 8-14 (2,318). India is the only country among the 10 worst hit — apart from Argentina — that has not seen a major surge in cases over the past two months.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
260 21-12-2020 - World – Nepal’s PM Oli springs a surprise on detractors, dissolves Parliament – Nepal plunged into yet another political crisis Sunday (December 20) after PM K.P. Sharma Oli dissolved the 275-member House of Representatives — the lower house of the country’s Parliament. The move comes in the wake of an ongoing power tussle in the ruling Nepal Communist Party, and Oli is believed to have taken this step as a last resort after losing majority support. According to Article 85 (1) and Article 76 (7) of the Constitution of Nepal, the lower house, called the ‘Pratinidhi Sabha’, has a term of five years unless dissolved earlier. However, there is no provision in the Constitution that allows the Prime Minister, who is leading the two-thirds majority government, to dissolve it unilaterally. As a result, several opposition parties have taken to the streets to protest against PM Oli’s decision, the first dissolution in the democratic history of the country.
(Regional Politics)
261 18-12-2020 - Economy – Fewer companies raised money via IPOs in 2020 – The number of companies that raised money through initial public offerings fell by half this year. However, the cumulative value of the announced offerings was nearly double that of 2019. High liquidity and robust interest from investors helped companies raise nearly Rs. 25,000 crore through initial share-sales this year so far and 2021 is expected to be equally strong for the IPO market. Adding to the depth of the IPO market, companies from diverse sectors like pharma, telecommunication, IT and financial services have made their way to the IPO space during the period under review. According to an analysis of data available with the stock exchanges, 12 initial public offerings (IPOs) in 2020 upto Nov. raised around Rs 25,000 crore, significantly higher than Rs 12,362 crore mopped up through sixteen initial share-sales in the entire 2019. Prior to that, 24 companies had floated their IPOs in 2018 that raised Rs 30,959 crore. In 2020, upto November close to Rs. 25,000 crore has already been raised through IPOs.

(Indian Economy)
262 18-12-2020 - Economy – Sensex surges 224 points to finish at record peak; Nifty tops 13,700-mark – Rallying for the fifth consecutive session, equity benchmark Sensex jumped 224 points on Thursday to end at its fresh peak, tracking gains in index majors HDFC twins, TCS and Reliance Industries amid persistent foreign fund inflows and positive global cues. After touching its lifetime intra-day high of 46,992.57, the 30-share BSE index settled 223.88 points or 0.48 per cent higher at 46,890.34. Similarly, the broader NSE Nifty rose 58 points or 0.42 per cent to a new closing high of 13,740.70. It hit a lifetime peak of 13,773.25 during the day. HDFC was the top gainer in the Sensex pack, rising around 3 per cent, followed by Bajaj Finance, HDFC Bank, IndusInd Bank, PowerGrid, UltraTech Cement, TCS, Tech Mahindra and L&T. 
(Indian Economy)
263 18-12-2020 - Covid-19 Updates – WHO to probe virus origins in China – A team of international investigators led by the World Health Organization (WHO) is likely to go to China in early January to study the origins of the COVID-19 outbreak, which first began in Wuhan, in southwestern Hubei province, late last year. How much access the team will have, and whether the visit comes too late, has become a point of contention. China has resisted calls for an independent international inquiry into the origins but has said it would be open to a WHO-led investigation even as the organisation has come under fire, particularly from the U.S., over its handling of the outbreak in the initial stages. A team of 12-15 experts will likely go to Wuhan to examine evidence.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
264 18-12-2020 - World – Top U.S. General meets Taliban negotiators in Doha – The top U.S. general held unannounced talks with Taliban peace negotiators in Doha to urge a reduction in violence across Afghanistan, even as senior American officials in Kabul warned that stepped-up Taliban attacks endanger the militant group’s nascent peace negotiations with the Afghan government. Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met for about two hours with Taliban negotiators in Doha, Qatar, and flew to Kabul to discuss the peace process with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Gen. Milley’s meetings came amid a new drawdown of U.S. troops, although under the current U.S. policy, a complete pullout hinges on the Taliban reducing attacks nationwide.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
265 18-12-2020 - Science & Technology – Isro successfully launches satellite CMS-01 into orbit – Indian Space Research Organisation has marked the second successful mission of the year with its reliable workhorse PSLV-C50 placing the country’s 42nd communication satellite CMS-01precisely into its intended orbit. Isro’s next mission PSLV-C51 will unlock India’s potential in the space sector and initiate a new era of space reforms as it will launch three satellites built by private entities. Around 20 minutes and 12 seconds after the lift-off at 3.41pm, PSLV-C50 successfully placed CMS-01 into a sub-geosynchronous orbit.
(Science and Technology)
266 18-12-2020 - Polity and Governance – State governments worry as Centre plans to trim schemes in upcoming Budget – As fiscal constraints and the need to allocate funds for Covid vaccination are pushing the Union government to rationalise and even discontinue some of the centrally sponsored as well as central sector schemes in the Budget-making process, Opposition states have raised concern over such a move. Currently, centrally sponsored schemes (CSS), at an allocation of Rs 3.4 tn, make up for about nine per cent of the Union Budget. In fact, the share of CSS allocation in total expenditure has come down from 10.4 per cent in 2016-17 to 9.1 per cent in 2021-22. In the case of central sector schemes, the share in total expenditure outlay has come down from 25.4 per cent in 2016-17 to 22.3 per cent in 2020-21. Earlier, there were nearly over 60 centrally sponsored schemes, but many of them were phased out after the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission were implemented.
(Governance and Institutions)
267 18-12-2020 - Polity & Governance – Airbag for passenger seat in front likely to be mandatory for all cars – The government will soon make it mandatory for all cars, including the economy models, to have air bag for the passenger side on the front seat. Air bag for the driver’s side is mandatory in all cars since July 1, 2019. The apex technical committee on vehicle standards has given the go-ahead to this proposal and the government has issued a draft notification to amend automotive industry standard (AIS) dealing with safety features. The current regulation mandating single air bag is inadequate since it leaves the co-passenger in the front seat vulnerable to serious injury, or even death, in case of a road crash. Features such as speed alert, reverse parking sensors and seat-belt reminder, which were low-cost inclusions, have been standard features in vehicles, but the crucial safety gear for passengers on the front seat - air bag - has not been made mandatory so far.
(Governance and Institutions)
268 18-12-2020 - Polity & Governance – Centre in talks with industry for draft national broadcast policy – The ministry of information and broadcasting is in the process of coming up with a draft national broadcast policy and consultations on the animation, visual effects, gaming and comic (AVGC) policy will also be held soon. Officials also sought the industry’s support in getting infrastructure status to the broadcasting industry, and help from industry bodies like CII in conducting “good periodic surveys and research” on media consumption patterns.
(Governance and Institutions)
269 18-12-2020 - Covid-19 – Drop in cases continues as India gets closer to one crore mark – The downslide in Covid-19 cases across the states continued even as India inched closer to the mark of one crore total cases on Thursday (December 17) with 26,691 fresh infections taking the country’s caseload to 99,77,775. Fresh infections were lower by nearly 2,000 from Wednesday’s (December 16) tally of 28,465 and by nearly 3,000 cases compared to last Thursday. The decline was seen in fatalities, too, as 334 deaths were reported on Thursday compared to 357 the previous day. Casualties this week have remained below 400 on all days so far, in contrast to last week when it had crossed the 400-mark on four days. India’s cumulative toll reached 1,44,781 on Thursday (December 17). The slide in active cases continued for the 20th consecutive day and the tally now stands at 3,13,127.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
270 18-12-2020 - Farmers protests – Consider putting new farm laws on hold, SC tells government – The SC asked the Centre to consider deferring the implementation of the contentious farm laws as a step towards resumption of dialogue with agri unions. Attorney general K. K. Venugopal’s said he would discuss this with the Centre. Solicitor general Tushar Mehta then said deferment was out of question. The bench told the SG not to put a spoke when the AG already said he would talk to the Centre. The Supreme Court also said that farmers have a constitutional right to continue with their “absolutely perfect” protest as long as their dissent against the controversial agricultural laws did not slip into violence. The court, however, said the purpose of the farmers would not be served if they continued to sit without engaging in talks.
(Agriculture, Constitution and Law)
271 17-12-2020 - Economy – Cabinet clears ₹3,500-cr. subsidy for sugar exports – The Centre has approved a ₹3,500-crore subsidy to sugar mills to incentivise them to export 60 lakh tonnes of surplus stock in the 2020-21 season, helping them to clear payment arrears due to cane farmers. The decision would benefit five crore cane farmers and an equal number of mill workers. The move comes at a time when thousands of farmers, including a group of cane farmers from U.P., are agitating on the borders of the national capital. The sugar industry as well as the farmers were in crisis with production at 310 lakh tonnes against the annual domestic consumption demand of 260 lakh tonnes.
(Indian Economy)
272 17-12-2020 - Education – Modi to be first PM at AMU event since 1964 – PM Modi will be the chief guest at Aligarh Muslim University’s centenary celebrations on December 22. The last time an incumbent PM attended an AMU event was in 1964, when Lal Bahadur Shastri delivered the convocation address. Union education minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank will also be attending the AMU event. Earlier, AMU officials had said that President Ram Nath Kovind would be attending the centenary celebrations. Now he has deferred his plan and will be attending in February 2021. All events will be held online as Covid-19 restrictions are in place. 
(Education)
273 17-12-2020 - Education – JEE (Main) to be held four times in 2021 – The Joint Entrance Examination (Main) will be held in February, March, April and May of 2021. With school syllabi having been reduced due to the pandemic, the question paper pattern has also been changed. The dates are: February 23-26, March 15-18, April 27-30, and May 24-28. According to the National Testing Agency, which conducts the exam, online applications can be submitted till January 16, with the application portal reopening after each session.
(Education)
274 17-12-2020 - Study/Research – With just 1 in 5 workers ‘skilled’, India ranks 129 in Human Development Report – Barely one in five Indians in the labour force is “skilled” according to the just released Human Development Report (HDR) 2020. With the figure at 21.2%, India is 129th among 162 countries for which this data is available. The countries closest to India in sharing this dubious distinction are Ivory Coast, Sudan, Liberia and Cameroon, most of which are classified in the low human development category. Others with similar level of skill in their labour force are mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. The United Nations Development Programme’s HDR ranks countries according to a wide range of human development parameters apart from core economic factors like GDP and per capita income. The report defines skilled labour as people who are 15 years or older and have “intermediate” or “advanced” level of education as classified by the Unesco.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
275 17-12-2020 - Economy – U.S. puts India on ‘currency manipulators’ monitoring list – The U.S. Treasury has labeled Switzerland and Vietnam as currency manipulators and added three new names, including India, to a watch list of countries it suspects of taking measures to devalue their currencies against the dollar. The U.S. Treasury has said that in the year through June 2020 Switzerland and Vietnam had intervened heavily in currency markets to prevent effective balance of payments adjustments. To be labeled a manipulator by the U.S. Treasury, countries must at least have a $20 billion-plus bilateral trade surplus with the U.S., foreign currency intervention exceeding 2% of GDP and a global current account surplus exceeding 2% of GDP.
(Indian Economy)
276 17-12-2020 - Economy – SBI sees recovery narrowing FY21 GDP contraction to 7.4% – India’s GDP is expected to shrink 7.4% in FY21 on a better-than-projected recovery, SBI said in a research report, upgrading its earlier forecast of a 10.9% contraction. SBI’s research team also opined that it would take seven quarters from the fourth quarter of FY21 for GDP to reach the pre-pandemic level in nominal terms. It said the revised GDP estimates were based on SBI’s ‘Nowcasting Model’ with 41 high-frequency indicators associated with industry activity, service activity, and the global economy. Based on this model, GDP growth for third quarter was forecast to be about 0.1% (with downward bias). Out of the 41 high-frequency indicators, 58% were showing acceleration in the third quarter. Apart from Q3, the growth in Q4 would also be in positive territory (at 1.7%). FY22 GDP growth was forecast at 11%, primarily due to base effect. It further said even as growth outlook had improved, the decline in government expenditure had been quite significant to ₹3.62 lakh crore in Q2, from ₹4.86 lakh crore in Q1.
(Indian Economy)
277 17-12-2020 - Polity & Governance – Citing national security, govt set to bar Chinese telecom gear – In a first, the government has decided to issue a National Security Directive for the telecommunication sector to mandate scrutiny of telecom equipment and sources, in what is seen as its latest economic offensive against Chinese equipment vendors, amid heightened tension at the Ladakh border. The action, finalised by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), will result in a list of trusted sources and products from the government, which will also amend the licence norms for telecom companies. Although the government refrained from specifying the country that will be impacted, it was clearly aimed at India’s aggressive neighbour, with companies such as Huawei and ZTE likely to face enhanced scrutiny, and even rejections, to ward off any covert operation and possible threat to the telecom infrastructure.
(Governance and Institutions)
278 17-12-2020 - Covid-19 – Covaxin Phase-1 trials show promising results – Phase-1 results show that Covaxin, a COVID-19 vaccine candidate, is safe. It was well-tolerated in all dose groups and generated a “robust immune response”. The interim findings from the Phase-1 placebo-controlled randomised double-blind trial on the safety and immunogenicity of three different formulations of BBV152 reported the results of the trial on 375 participants, with one adverse event which was found to be unrelated to the vaccine. The vaccine is being developed by the Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
(Healthcare and Medicine)
279 17-12-2020 - Polity & Governance – Cabinet clears spectrum auction – The Union Cabinet has approved the auction of 2,251.25 megahertz of spectrum with a reserve price of ₹3.92 lakh crore, a move that should help boost the quality of 4G telecom services in the country. Spectrum in the frequency bands of 700MHz, 800MHz, 900MHz, 1,800MHz, 2,100MHz, 2,300MHz and 2,500MHz would be offered for 20 years. The notice inviting applications would be issued this month and the auction conducted by March 2021. Bidders will have to comply with conditions, including block size, in which bidders will be able to submit their bids, spectrum cap or the maximum amount of spectrum that can be held by a bidder after completion of auction, roll-out obligations and payment terms.
(Governance and Institutions)
280 17-12-2020 - Polity & Governance – SC moots panel for farmer-govt. talks – Talks between the Union government and farmer leaders on the three controversial agriculture laws had broken no ground and were bound to fail, the Supreme Court said on December 16. A Bench, led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad A. Bobde, proposed the setting up of a committee of farmer leaders from across the country, including the Bharatiya Kisan Union that has been at the forefront of the protests, and government representatives to resolve the issue. The court has impleaded BKU (Rakesh Tikait), BKU-Sidhupur (Jagjeet S. Dallewal), BKU-Rajewal (Balbeer Singh Rajewal), BKU-Lakhowal (Harinder Singh Lakhowal), BKU-Dakaunda (Buta Singh Burjgill), BKU-Doaba (Manjit Singh Rai) and Kul Hind Kisan Federation (Prem Singh Bhangu). Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said the farmers had turned their back on the government’s efforts to talk.
(Governance and Institutions)
281 16-12-2020 - Economy - Small personal loans up 4.5 times in two years - Small-ticket personal loans, which were the scourge of the crisis in the same segment a decade ago, are back. This time, they are being driven by software deployed by finance companies and fintechs to approve and disburse low-value loans based on analytics. The share of small-ticket loans in personal loans disbursed during the last two years has jumped almost five times. During 2017-18, these loans were only 12.9% of the personal loan disbursed, which shot up close to 60% by March 2020. Although there has been some moderation since then, with other personal loans growing faster, small-ticket loans still account for half of the fresh disbursements. Within the personal loan segment, credit of below Rs 50,000 is considered a smallticket personal loan (STPL) and it is this segment that has been driving volumes with growth as high as 162% during 2019-20 in terms of the number of loans disbursed.
(Indian Economy)
282 16-12-2020 - Social – Reimagining India’s Health System - The Lancet Citizens' Commission on Reimagining India's Health System has been launched online which is a stage towards accomplishing Universal Health Coverage in India. It is a first-of-its-sort participatory, countrywide activity, in a joint effort with world's driving health journal The Lancet and the Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute, Harvard University. To figure a guide for understanding a strong wellbeing framework that offers thorough, responsible, available, comprehensive, and reasonable quality medical care to all residents in India. The Commission will be guided by four standards which are: Universal Health Coverage (UHC) covers all health worries. Prevention and long-term care amd Monetary assurance for all health costs.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
283 16-12-2020 - Social - Higher percentage of men drink in ‘dry’ Bihar than Maha - Govt survey - You might associate Goa with booze and partying, but a higher proportion of people in Telangana consume alcohol than in the former. And a larger percentage of men drink in Bihar, a state under prohibition, than in Maharashtra. When it comes to tobacco consumption, the northeast is the region that tops the charts, according to data from the National Family Health Survey 2019-20. Gujarat and Jammu & Kashmir, in that order, have the least consumption of alcohol among men. In the 2015-16 survey, the data pertained to the age group 15-49 years whereas in the latest survey it is for all above 15 years.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
284 16-12-2020 - World - U.S. imposes CAATSA sanctions on Turkey over S-400 purchase - The U.S. has imposed sanctions on NATO-ally Turkey for its purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile defence system, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced. The issue of sanctions under Section 231 of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) for purchase of Russian arms is of particular interest to New Delhi, which is also in the process of buying the S-400 from Moscow. Sanctions were imposed on Turkey’s main defence procurement agency, the Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB) for “knowingly engaging in a significant transaction with Rosoboronexport (ROE), Russia’s main arms export entity” the office of the U.S. State Department spokesperson. These SSB sanctions comprise a ban on granting specific U.S. export licences and authorisations for any goods or technology, a ban on loans or credits by U.S. financial institutions totalling more than $10 million in any 12-month period, a ban on U.S. Export-Import Bank assistance for exports and mandated U.S. opposition to loans by international financial organisations to SSB.
(Defence and Military)
285 16-12-2020 - Farmers protests - Farmers’ protest chokes units in Bahadurgarh’s industrial cluster – Hundreds of industrial units in Haryana’s Bahadurgarh, the hub for India’s non-leather footwear manufacturers, are bearing the brunt of the farmers’ agitation at Tikri. Though a majority of the industrial units in this satellite town of Delhi are now running at less than half of their capacity, many are temporarily shut, with the transportation of raw material and processed goods taking a hit. Part B of the Modern Industrial Estate (MIE), housing around 1,600 units, including footwear, electronics, plastic, auto-parts and chemicals, was the worst hit.
(Agriculture)
286 16-12-2020 - Environment and Ecology - Emmanuel Macron wants climate goals in French constitution - French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to hold a referendum to add France’s commitment to fighting climate change to the country’s constitution. While speaking to the Citizens' Climate Council, a citizen’s group in charge of proposing changes on climate-related issues, Macron acknowledged that France has not done enough to fulfill its commitments to fight global warming. The French president has been under increased pressure from left-leaning factions within his centrist party for failing to do enough to curb climate change. This comes as the Green Party gains momentum, potentially eroding Macron’s support base ahead of the 2022 presidential election. Last week, European Union leaders agreed to ramp up the bloc's 2030 targets to reduce greenhouse gases from 40% to at least 55% in comparison with 1990 levels.
(Environment Ecology and Climate Change)
287 16-12-2020 - US Presidential Elections – US Electoral College confirms Joe Biden's victory - The Electoral College decisively confirmed Joe Biden as the nation's next president, ratifying his November victory in an authoritative state-by-state repudiation of President Donald Trump's refusal to concede he had lost. The presidential electors gave Biden a solid majority of 306 electoral votes to Trump's 232, the same margin that Trump bragged was a landslide when he won the White House four years ago. Heightened security was in place in some states as electors met to cast paper ballots, with masks, social distancing and other pandemic precautions the order of the day. The results will be sent to Washington and tallied in a Jan. 6 joint session of Congress over which Vice President Mike Pence will preside.
(World Politics)
288 16-12-2020 - Polity and Governance – No winter session of Parliament due to Covid, budget session in Jan likely - Union Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Pralhad Joshi informed that winter session will not be held in the Parliament view of the COVID-19 pandemic. The government also indicated that it will be appropriate to convene the budget session in January next year. Joshi said that he informally contacted floor leaders of various political parties and they have expressed their concerns about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and many have suggested the government to cancel the session. Government is willing to have the next session of Parliament at the earliest; it would be appropriate to have the Budget Session, 2021 in January 2021 keeping in mind the unprecedented circumstances created by Covid-19 pandemic. The winter session of Parliament normally starts from the last week of November or the first week of December. The Constitution broadly stipulates one major rule that there should not be a gap of more than six months between two sessions of Parliament. However, it has been a convention to hold three sessions of Parliament -- budget, monsoon and winter -- in a year.
(Governance and Institutions)
289 16-12-2020 - Economy – Exports decline for second month in a row, trade deficit at ten-month high – The September revival in exports proved a blip with outbound shipments contracting for the second straight month in November. Exports fell sharper at 8.7 per cent in November than 5.1 per cent in October, as major overseas markets continued to witness muted demand due to Covid-induced lockdowns. Exports stood at $23.52 billion in November compared to $25.77 billion in the same month of the last year. On the other hand, imports fell 13.32 per cent to $33.39 billion in November. This led to a 10-month high trade deficit of $9.87 billion. Within imports, non-oil non-gold imports came down by 1.67 per cent at $24.10 billion in November. The rate of fall shrank from around 5 per cent in October. The index of industrial production (IIP) rose for the second month in a row at 3.6 per cent in October.
(Indian Economy)
290 16-12-2020 - Covid-19 Updates – Pfizer set to fix lower price for vaccine in India – Global pharma major Pfizer may price its vaccine lower in India than in UK and the US. The government in the recent past had indicated that India wouldn’t be keen to procure the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine because of its high cost and the extreme cold chain requirement at minus 70 degree Celsius. Regarding the concern over the temperature requirement, India had cold chain infrastructure owned by Department of Agricultural Research and Education, that would be sufficient for vaccine like the one developed by US-based Pfizer along with Germany’s BioNTech.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
291 15-12-2020 - Arts and Culture – John le Carré, the spy who elevated thrillers to high art, dies at 89 - John le Carré, whose exquisitely nuanced, intricately plotted Cold War thrillers elevated the spy novel to high art by presenting both Western and Soviet spies as morally compromised cogs in a rotten system full of treachery, betrayal and personal tragedy, died of pneumonia in Cornwall, England. He was 89. Before his bestselling 1963 novel ‘The Spy Who Came in From the Cold’, the fictional model for the modern British spy was Ian Fleming’s James Bond—urbane, devoted to queen and country. Le Carré upended that notion. His spies are lonely, disillusioned men whose work is driven by budget troubles, bureaucratic power plays and the opaque machinations of politicians—men who are as likely to be betrayed by colleagues and lovers as by the enemy.
(Art Culture Literature)
292 15-12-2020 - Corporate World – Tatas, US fund, group of employees submit EOIs for Air India - The government said it has received “multiple expressions of interest” for Air India as it tries to save the beleaguered carrier. While the Centre did not disclose the names, AI founder Tata Group, a group of AI employees and US-based retirement asset fund of NRIs Interups are among those to have placed expressions of interest in the Maharaja. There was speculation a global airline and SpiceJet’s Ajay Singh might have submitted an EoI, but there was no confirmation. Dec. 14 was the final day for placing an EoI for AI. Tata Group, which has a play in both budget and premier full-service carriers through AirAsia India and Vistara, is seen as the most likely winner.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
293 15-12-2020 - Business -  Ola plans world’s largest scooter factory in Tamil Nadu - Ola Electric said it will make two million electric scooters at a greenfield facility in Hosur, Tamil Nadu. This would displace Honda’s Vithalpur facility in Gujarat, which makes 1.2 million units of petrol-powered scooters a year. Ola has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the state government for the factory, which will entail an investment of Rs 2,354 crore. The Ola investment will create nearly 2,200 jobs. Ola’s pact was part of 18 MoUs signed by the TN government, worth a cumulative investment of Rs 19,995 crore with the potential to create more than 26,500 jobs. The factory will produce Ola’s upcoming range of two-wheeler products, starting with its electric scooter. Ola plans to bring many such design and software innovations to its entire product line of two-wheelers.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
294 15-12-2020 - Geography - El Niño was not the only cause for dry spells in the Indian Subcontinent - Indian Institute of Science’s (IISc) Centre for Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (CAOS) found in an examination that 43% of the droughts that occurred during the Indian summer monsoon season in the past century may have been driven by atmospheric disturbances from the North Atlantic region and  during these years El Niño was absent.  Between 1900 and 2015, India suffered 23 droughts but only 13 were associated with El Nino, unusual heating of the waters in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. What triggered the other 10, including the 2014 drought, remained a mystery.
(World Geography)
295 15-12-2020 - Science and Technology - IIT Kanpur Researchers have developed ‘Damaru’ Inspired Lattice that finds applications in stealth submarines and high speed trains – The project is sponsored by A SPARC project of Ministry of Education. With the use of a micro-structured hour-glass shaped meta-structure in the lattice unit, one can get a wider variation of propagation and stop bands. Inspiration of the lattice has come from a two-headed drum called ‘Damaru’ or which is used in ancient Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism. In this application, the researchers have also shown that the nature of stiffness of a vibrating medium could be altered drastically by controlling the lattice micro-structure from regular honeycomb to auxtetic honeycomb structure. This has wide applications in the field of vibration isolation in high speed trains, stealth submarines and helicopter rotors.
(Science and Technology)
296 15-12-2020 - Covid-19 Updates - New coronavirus variant found in UK, may be spreading faster; London to move to highest alert - Britain’s capital will be placed under the highest level of coronavirus restrictions from Dec. 16 amid a “very sharp” spike in COVID-19 cases in London and its surrounding areas and a new variant of coronavirus being identified as responsible for the “faster spread”, the UK government announced in Parliament. Tier-3 restrictions, the highest level in England’s three-tier system, mean a near-complete lockdown, with people allowed to meet those they do not live with only in outdoor settings and hospitality venues directed to shut except for takeaways and deliveries. Experts had identified over 1,000 cases with the variant, predominantly in the south of England.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
297 15-12-2020 - Education – 4 lakh questions in twelve languages: ’21 JEE-M to be held in four cycles - Sixteen days of tests, 384 question papers in 12 languages and 4.2 lakh questions will define the scale of the Joint Entrance Examination (Main), to be held in four cycles starting Feb 2021, for admission to engineering courses. Registration of candidates for the February cycle is likely to start later this week. JEE (Main) 2021 will be conducted once each month, from February to May. The results would be announced in four to five days so as to give a window of around a week to candidates to apply for the subsequent month’s test.
(Education)
298 15-12-2020 - Defence – US agencies hit by massive cyber-attack - The U.S. government issued an emergency directive to federal agencies in the wake of a major cyberattack, at least two departments — including the Treasury — had been targeted by hackers with ties to Russia. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) said it had ordered federal agencies to immediately stop using SolarWinds Orion IT products following reports that hackers had used a recent update to gain access to internal communications. IT company SolarWinds over the weekend admitted that hackers had exploited a backdoor in an update of some of its software released between March and June. The hacks are part of a wider campaign that also hit major cybersecurity firm FireEye, which said its own defences had been breached by sophisticated attackers who stole tools used to test customers’ computer systems. Microsoft also alerted its users to what it described as a sophisticated campaign aimed at “high value targets” in government and cybersecurity and which it said represented “nation-state activity at significant scale.”.
(Defence and Military)
299 15-12-2020 - Economy – November sees food inflation drop to 9.43% – India’s retail inflation based on the consumer price index (CPI) moderated marginally in November to 6.93%, from 7.61% recorded in October, with food price inflation cooling off to 9.43% from 11% in the previous month. In rural India, both overall retail inflation and food price inflation were about 0.5 percentage points higher than the 6.73% and 9.1% respectively recorded in urban India. The National Statistical Office (NSO) combines the rural and urban inflation rates to arrive at all-India inflation rates. The headline CPI inflation for November 2020 printed appreciably lower, benefiting from stable vegetable prices at the retail level.
(Indian Economy)
300 15-12-2020 - Farmers Protests – Govt. talks to breakaway leaders as farmers hold hunger strikes - As several thousand farmers held hunger strikes and dharnas at Delhi’s border and across the country, demanding a repeal of the three recent agricultural marketing laws, the Centre continued to engage with individual elements in the farmers’ movement, in an effort to restart negotiations and broker a settlement. The national convener of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), one of the farmer groups leading the protest, was removed from his position after he expressed willingness to engage in separate talks with the government, focussing on demands for a minimum support price (MSP) law, rather than the repeal of all the three contentious laws. As the protest reached its nineteenth day, leaders of the movement held a day-long hunger strike from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal joined the fast in solidarity. Dharnas, or sit-ins, were held across the country, with people coming out in 60% of districts.
(Agriculture, Governance and Institutions)
301 14-12-2020 - Corporate World – Tatas bid for AI after 1953 exit - Tata Group, India’s largest conglomerate, is believed to have submitted an expression of interest for the beleaguered national carrier Air India over the weekend. It is learnt that the vehicle used to file the interest in AI is AirAsia India, where Tata Sons has a significant majority stake. A group of 200 Air India employees too is expected to place an expression of interest. The group claims to have a financial investor onboard. Ajay Singh of SpiceJet too is eyeing AI but the domestic carrier declined to comment. Unlike May 2018 when the first attempt to sell AI ended with no suitors, this time around, there are multiple interests. The Tata Group - which founded AI as Tata Airlines in October 1932—is being seen as the most likely winner. The government took control of AI in 1953.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
302 14-12-2020 - Science and Technology – China moon probe heads back to Earth - A Chinese spacecraft carrying rocks and soil from the moon has begun its journey back to Earth, putting China on course to become the first country to successfully retrieve lunar samples since the 1970s. Engines on the Chang'e-5 probe were ignited 230 km from the lunar surface, before being shut down after 22 minutes with the craft on a trajectory towards Earth. A successful landing in Inner Mongolia would make China only the third country to have retrieved lunar samples after the United States and the Soviet Union. The plan was to collect 2 kg (4.4 lbs) of samples, although it has not been disclosed how much was actually gathered. The Chang'e-5 was launched on Nov. 24 and a lander vehicle touched down on the moon on Dec. 1. The mission was expected to take around 23 days in total. 
(Science and Technology)
303 14-12-2020 - Polity and Governance -  Caste in the census - A commission has been appointed to collect data on caste-wise particulars of its population by the Tamil Nadu state govt. The first census in 1881 to 1931 had caste as one of the metrics. In 1941 census for the first time the caste was excluded from the census. The rationale behind the same was that it causes a deep entrenchment of the caste system in Indian society. It was said that the first census in free India in 1951 did not want to burden itself with questions related to caste, tribes etc, but still, it collected important material concerning 'special groups' such as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, Anglo-Indians, and certain castes treated as 'backward' for the purpose of the census. The honourable Supreme Court has expressed its displeasure on several occasions about caste being the sole criteria for reservation. The SC has also noted that there should be quantifiable data for a caste to find it's name in the backward classes list, along with under-representation in services.
(Governance and Institutions)
304 14-12-2020 - Economy - Lottery, gambling and betting are taxable under the  GST Act, 2017 - The SC has held that lottery, gambling and betting are taxable under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Act, 2017. The SC passed the order in a batch of pleas filed by various lottery dealers who argued that the Central government had wrongfully classified lottery as goods. The SC gave judgment that Lottery, betting and gambling are actionable claims and come within the definition of goods under Section 2 (52) of the Central Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017. The levy of GST on lotteries does not amount to hostile discrimination. As per Schedule III of CGST Act 2017, actionable claims (a claim to any debt other than a debt secured by mortgage of immovable property or hypothecation or pledge of movable property) other than lottery, betting and gambling are neither treated as supply of goods nor a supply of services.
(Indian Economy)
305 14-12-2020 - Agronomics - States with stressed groundwater top in cereal trade: Study - A link between cereal production and depleting water tables has been noticed by a recent study. Cereals are a staple food and are important sources of nutrients in both developed and developing countries. Not only are cereals beneficial for health, but they're also affordable. Approximately 39% of the groundwater is deployed in producing and trading cereals among states. 41% of cereal trade within India comes from states which are categorized as critically low groundwater reserves. The six states with 'semicritical' to 'critical' groundwater status export around one-fifth of the domestic cereal production. Highly water-intensive crops, their intake of groundwater have left the water tables depleting to new lows.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
306 14-12-2020 - World - Violence erupts at pro-Trump rallies in U.S. - Four people were stabbed and one shot as rallies backing President Donald Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud led to clashes in major U.S. cities. Scuffles broke out in many places between rally-goers and counter-protesters who turned up to criticise the President, who lost the Nov 3 election to Democrat Joe Biden but is yet to concede. In the U.S. capital, DC Fire and EMS Department communications chief Doug Buchanan told AFP that four people had been stabbed and were now hospitalised “with serious injuries.” There was no indication of whether any of the victims had been involved in the protests, on either side of the divide. The day had begun with a festive atmosphere as thousands of red-hatted protesters filled Washington’s streets to support the President, undeterred by the U.S. Supreme Court’s rejection of what may have been his last chance to overturn the results. Similar events took place in Olympia, Atlanta and St. Paul, Minnesota, as well as in smaller towns in Nebraska, Alabama and elsewhere.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
307 14-12-2020 - Environment and Ecology - Rare Myristica swamp treefrog found in Thrissur - Myristica swamp treefrog, a rare arboreal species endemic to the Western Ghats that bears the scientific name Mercurana myristicapalustris, has been recorded for the first time north of the Shencottah gap in the Vazhachal Reserve Forest in Kerala’s Thrissur district. The call of these frogs was identified during an exploration study by Sujith V. Gopalan, research scholar, University College, Thiruvananthapuram, near the road at Sukthae pocket swamp in the Vazhachal forest division in 2018. The exploration study lasted two years and the recording has been published in the December issue of Reptiles & Amphibians, an international journal dedicated to the studies of amphibians and reptiles. The frog was first spotted in 2013 in the Myristica swamps of Arippa, near the Kulathupuzha Reserve Forest, in the western foothills of Agasthyamalai, in Kollam district. The current species was spotted by Mr. Gopalan 170 km north of Arippa.
(Environment Ecology and Climate Change)
308 14-12-2020 - Covid-19 Updates - Kerala tops rundown by level of populace requiring immunization - The public authority is planning to inoculate about 19.5% of the populace making up the 50 or more age gathering. This will mean about 26.5 crore individuals, other than the 1 crore wellbeing staff and 4 crore diabetics in the underneath 50 age gathering. The dispersion of antibodies will, thusly, be weighted towards states with more seasoned populaces. Notwithstanding, Uttar Pradesh, where just 15% of individuals are matured more than 50, will in any case get the biggest portion of immunizations because of the sheer size of its populace. Maharashtra, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, in a specific order, are next as far as their 50 or more populace. 3.6 crore individuals are qualified for need immunization in UP, Maharashtra follows with 22% of its populace, or 2.7 crore individuals, beyond 50 years old years. It additionally has a high extent of people with diabetes and hypertension, which would add to the numbers who should be immunized.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
309 14-12-2020 - Covid-19 Updates – First shipments of Pfizer's Coronavirus immunization left Michigan – The primary shipments of Pfizer's Coronavirus antibody left Michigan for dissemination focuses across the US to check a pandemic guaranteeing more than 2,400 lives every day. The primary pokes are set to be given in the coming week; 100 million individuals, or about 30% of its populace, are required to be covered before the finish of Spring. India's groundwork for inoculations is additionally going on.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
310 14-12-2020 - Farmers Protests – Halted from going to Delhi, farmers block Jaipur highway - Many farmers from Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab and a few different States, including Maharashtra and Gujarat, arranged a protest on the Delhi-Jaipur Interstate. They obstructed the carriageway towards the public capital after they were halted by the Haryana police at the fringe with Rajasthan. Driven by Narmada Bachao Andolan's Medha Patkar and Swaraj India public president Yogendra Yadav, among others, the farmers were gone to Delhi under the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, a joint front of rancher associations. With the Delhi-Jaipur Thruway likewise now obstructed, all expressways prompting the public capital from Haryana now have ranchers on dharna looking for a cancelation of the three late homestead laws. Tending to the ranchers, Rakesh Tikait of the Bharatiya Kisan Association said farmers should remain caution and guarantee that no undesirable or wrong components engaged in the fomentation. Tending to the demonstrators on the Haryana-Rajasthan fringe, Ms. Patkar asked the public authority for what reason minimum support price couldn't be ensured under the law. 
(Agriculture, Governance and Institutions)
311 10-12-2020 - Economy - Sensex races past 46k on back of foreign funds - Led by foreign funds, across-the-board buying in blue chips pushed the sensex to above the 46,000 mark for the first time in its history. The index closed at 46,104 points, its highest ever. The session’s gain came on the back of strong buying in HDFC Bank, RIL, Infosys, Kotak Bank and Asian Paints, and the Rs 182.7 lakh crore market cap made investors richer by Rs 1.25 lakh crore. On the NSE, the nifty hit a new high at 13,500 points as it closed at 13,529, up 136 points. On Dalal Street, the day’s gains were also helped by a Rs 3,564-crore net buying by foreign funds, BSE data showed. The rally also lifted investors’ wealth to an all-time high with BSE’s market capitalization now at Rs 182.7 lakh crore. However, the rally to a new peak for the index came despite a Rs 2,493-crore net outflow. The sensex’s journey from 45K to 46K took just three days, the second fastest 1,000-point rally for the index in its history.
(Indian Economy)
312 10-12-2020 - Defence - Three China-owned firms among the top ten arms companies in world - Three Chinese stateowned entities now figure in the top ten arms companies in the world, with a fourth also making it to the top 25. It reinforces the ongoing massive modernisation of the People’s Liberation Army as well as the rapidly-growing Chinese arms exports to countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Algeria. The list of the 25 largest arms companies in the world, as per annual sales, was released by leading conflict thinktank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). The Aviation Industry Corporation of China, China Electronics Technology Group Corporation, China North Industries Group Corporation and China South Industries Group Corporation rank 6th , 8th , 9th and 24th in the list.
(Defence and Military)
313 10-12-2020 - Polity and Governance – SC asked States/UTs to ensure CCTV cameras at every Police Station - The Supreme Court (SC) has asked the States and Union Territories Governments to ensure that CCTV (closed-circuit television) cameras are installed in each and every Police Station. Before to this the SC has also directed to take action regarding the same in 2015 in D. K. Basu case to W. Bengal government and in 2018 to Ministry of Home Affairs. According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, between 2001 and 2018, only 26 policemen were convicted of custodial violence despite 1,727 such deaths being recorded in India. Only 4.3% of the 70 deaths in 2018 were attributed to injuries during custody due to physical assault by police. Apart from custodial deaths, more than 2,000 human rights violation cases were also recorded against the police between 2000 and 2018. And only 344 policemen were convicted in those cases.
(Governance and Institutions)
314 10-12-2020 - World – UK investigates possible allergic reactions to Covid-19 shot - UK regulators say people who have a 'significant history' of allergic reactions shouldn't receive the new Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine while they investigate two adverse reactions that occurred on the first day of the country's mass vaccination program. Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director for the National Health Service in England, said health authorities were acting on a recommendation from the Medical and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, the nation's medicines regulator.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
315 10-12-2020 - USA – U.S. Supreme Court rejects bid to overturn Pennsylvania result - The U.S. SC dismissed a case filed by allies of President Trump seeking to overturn the results of the vote in Pennsylvania, which Democratic candidate Joe Biden won by some 81,000 votes. The case, filed by U.S. Congressman and Trump ally Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania and Republican lawmakers from the State, argued that a 2019 State law, which expanded vote-by-mail, was unconstitutional because it was not enacted with a constitutional amendment. The SC’s one sentence rejection of injunctive relief for the plaintiffs did not note any dissents. Mr. Trump, who has made numerous unsubstantiated claims on widespread electoral fraud, has been banking on the conservative-heavy Supreme Court, hoping that the three judges he put on the bench, including Amy Coney Barrett who was appointed days before the election, would come through for him.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
316 10-12-2020 - Social – Women Empowerment: Women Hold 17% of Board Positions in India Inc Now - India Inc boardrooms are gradually getting more inclusive. Between 2012 and 2020, India has seen an 8.6% increase in the number of women on boards, with women holding 17% of board positions in 2020, according to the Egon Zehnder Global Board Diversity Tracker 2020. Globally, nearly 89% of all large company boards in the 2020 report include at least one woman. In India, that number is higher, with 96% of companies in the survey having at least one woman on their boards. This is largely because India requires public companies to have at least one woman director on board. India fared better than Asia in diversity of both executive and nonexecutive chair roles, with 5% of executive chair roles and 10% of non-executive chair roles respectively filled by women in India. Those numbers stand at 2.6% and 5%, respectively, in Asia as a whole.
(Social Issues)
317 10-12-2020 - Social - Only 53% health workers wash hands right: Survey - After all the Covid-19 messaging and drills of preventive guidelines, only about half the healthcare workers are washing hands for the mandated 20 seconds. A month-long survey in August by a team of AIIMS doctors found Covid-19 safety practices are yet to sink in among health workers. Of the 956 surveyed, 47% didn’t follow proper hand hygiene and about 32% didn’t sanitise their hands after contact with patients and surroundings. The survey covered both government and private hospitals, and was conducted in both rural and urban areas. They were also picked from various settings — in-patient, out-patient, laboratory services — from big hospitals to small dispensaries.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
318 10-12-2020 - Environment and Ecology - Emissions Hit New Record, World On Track for 3C Warming Despite Pledges, Pandemic: UN Report  - Greenhouse gas emissions reached a new high last year, putting the world on track for an average temperature rise of 3 degrees Celsius, a U.N. report showed. The report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) – the latest to suggest the world is hurtling toward extreme climate change – follows a year of sobering weather extremes, including rapid ice loss in the Arctic as well as record heat waves and wildfires in Siberia and the U.S. West. Researchers at Europe's Copernicus Climate Change Service said last month was the hottest-ever November on record. The annual "emissions gap" report measures the gap between anticipated emissions and those consistent with limiting the global temperature rise this century as agreed in the 2015 Paris Agreement. Under the global climate pact, nations have committed to a long-term goal of limiting the average temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit it even further to 1.5C. 
(Environment Ecology and Climate Change)
319 10-12-2020 - Polity and Governance – Cabinet nod for public WiFi networks - The Union Cabinet approved a proposal for setting up public WiFi hotspots across the country via public data offices or PDOs, which could even be a kirana shop or a paan shop. The move, aimed at helping accelerate the uptake of broadband Internet services, will not require the PDOs to get a license or pay a fee. The public WiFi Access Network Interface, which will be called ‘PM-WANI’, was first recommended by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in 2017. This will involve multiple players, including PDOs, Public Data Office Aggregators (PDOA), app providers, and a central registry. PDOs — comparable to a PCO or a cybercafe — will establish, maintain, and operate WiFi access points and deliver broadband services to subscribers, while the PDOAs will be aggregators of PDOs and perform functions such as authorisation and accounting. The app provider will develop the app to register users and discover PM-WANI compliant WiFi hotspots nearby. The details of all three will be maintained by the registry.
(Governance and Institutions)
320 10-12-2020 - Farmer’s Protests – Farmers Reject Govt Proposal, to Escalate Stir - Farmer groups have rejected the ten-point written proposal document sent to them by the government and announced an escalation of the protests saying they would agree on nothing less than repeal of the three contentious farm laws and a legal guarantee on MSP, while also emphasising that they had never agreed to a mid-path solution. The farmers’ groups called for a national boycott of Reliance products, including Jio Sim cards and phones, as well as petrol pumps and malls owned by Reliance and Adani groups and agitations outside their premises. A country-wide ‘Delhi Chalo’ call was given to farmers of six neighbouring states to march to Delhi on December 14. Farmers said all roads leading to Delhi would be blocked one-by-one, including the remaining open routes like the Delhi-Jaipur Expressway and Delhi-Agra Expressway by Dec 12.  
(Agriculture)
321 09-12-2020 - Constitution and Law - Gender Gap in Judiciary - The Supreme Court only has two women judges, as against the 34 seats reserved for women judges and there has never been a female Chief Justice of India (CJI). There are only 80 women (7.2% of the total number of judges) judges out of the total sanctioned strength of 1,113 judges in the SC and the HCs, out of which two in the SC. The Punjab and Haryana HCs has the maximum strength of women judges (11 out of 85 judges), followed by the Madras HC (9 out of 75 judges). Both Delhi and Bombay HCs have 8 women judges. The HCs of Manipur, Meghalaya, Patna, Tripura, Telangana, and Uttarakhand, do not have any women in the sitting judges. In the senior designation of lawyers, there are only 17 women senior counsel designates in the SC as opposed to 403 men. The Delhi HC has 8 women and 229 men designates. Similarly, in the Bombay HC, there are 6 women and 157 men designates.
(Constitution and Law)
322 09-12-2020 - Economy - Blanket interest waiver on all loans to be Rs 6 lakh crore - Centre to SC – The Centre informed the Supreme Court that if it were to consider waiving interest on all the loans and advances to all categories of borrowers for the six-month moratorium period announced by RBI in view of COVID-19 pandemic, then the amount foregone would be more than Rs 6 lakh crore. If the banks were to bear this burden, then it would necessarily wipe out a substantial and a major part of their net worth, rendering most of the lenders unviable and raising a very serious question mark over their very survival. A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R S Reddy and M R Shah was informed by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, that this was one of the main reasons why waiver of interest was not even contemplated and only payment of instalments was deferred.
(Indian Economy)
323 09-12-2020 - Environment and Ecology – ZSI projected 90% decline in Malayan Giant Squirrel - The Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), in a first-of-its-kind study, has projected that numbers of the Malayan Giant Squirrel (Ratufa bicolor) could decline by 90% in India by 2050, and it could be extinct by then if urgent steps are not taken. Headquartered at Kolkata, ZSI is a subordinate organisation of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, established in 1916. It is a national centre for faunistic survey and exploration of the resources leading to the advancement of knowledge on the exceptionally rich faunal diversity of the country.
(Environment Ecology and Climate Change)
324 09-12-2020 - Economy – LMC bonds have been listed on the BSE - Rs. 200-crore worth Lucknow Municipal Corporation (LMC) bonds have been listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE). Lucknow becomes ninth city to raise municipal bonds, incentivized by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (Mohua) under Mission Amrut. BSE is the oldest stock exchange in India as well as Asia. A municipal bond (muni) is a debt security issued by a state, municipality or county to finance its capital expenditures, including the construction of highways, bridges or schools. They  were first issued in India in 1997, five years after the 74th Constitutional Amendment decentralized urban local bodies and gave them autonomy; made them accountable to citizens, and reformed their finances enabling them to access capital markets and financial institutions.
(Indian Economy)
325 09-12-2020 - USA – Biden picks retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as Defence Secretary - U.S. President-elect Joe Biden is expected to nominate retired General Lloyd Austin as his Defence Secretary, making Gen. Austin the first African American in the post, if he is confirmed by the Senate. In choosing Gen. Austin, Mr. Biden has passed over contenders for the job, such as former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and Pentagon official Michèle Flournoy. Mr. Biden could announce his nomination of the 67-year-old four-star General, as per Politico, which first reported the story. Gen. Austin formerly headed the U.S. Central Command overseeing combat in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and Syria. Gen. Austin oversaw the U.S. response to the rise of the Islamic State (IS) — including a $500 million failed programme to recruit Syrian fighters against IS — and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. U.S. law requires a seven-year cool-off period from the Army before becoming Defence Secretary — Gen. Austin will need a waiver from the U.S. Congress if he is to be confirmed to the position.
(World Politics)
326 09-12-2020 - Education – Notification explaining specific surgical procedures by PG medical student of Ayurveda must be practically trained - Lately, a government notification listed out specific surgical procedures that a postgraduate medical student of Ayurveda must be practically trained to acquaint with, as well as to independently perform. The notification has been criticized by the Indian Medical Association (IMA). The IMA is a national voluntary organisation of Doctors of Modern Scientific System of Medicine, which looks after the interest of doctors as well as the wellbeing of the community at large. Surgery is mentioned in Ayurveda. Sushruta is considered as the father of surgery and he described 60 types of upakarma for treatment of wounds, 120 surgical instruments and 300 surgical procedures. As per the Ayurveda practitioners, the latest notification just brings clarity to the skills that an Ayurveda practitioner possesses but IMA doctors claim that the new notification gives the impression that the skills or training of the Ayurveda doctor in performing modern surgeries are the same as those practicing modern medicine which is misleading.
(Education)
327 09-12-2020 - Economy -  Govt proposes for the constitution of a dedicated EPC - The Ministry of Textiles has invited proposals for the constitution of a dedicated Export Promotion Council (EPC) for Technical Textiles. The constitution of an Export Promotion Council for Technical Textiles is a part of the National Technical Textiles Mission. The Council shall abide by all directions of the Central Government in respect of promotion and development of international trade. National Technical Textiles Mission - It was approved with a total outlay of Rs. 1480 crore in February 2020. It aims to position the country as a global leader in technical textiles and increase the use of technical textiles in the domestic market. It aims at taking domestic market size to US $ 40 bn to US $ 50 billion by 2024.
(Indian Economy)
328 09-12-2020 - Geography - China, Nepal announce new height of Mt. Everest  - New figure of 8,848.86 m replaces 8,848 m, a measurement carried out by the Survey of India in 1954. Nepal and China jointly announced the new height of Mount Everest as 8,848.86 metres in a high-profile virtual ceremony, with their Presidents exchanging letters and the Foreign Ministers in attendance, all aimed at showcasing both a deepening strategic relationship and the amicable resolution of a long-running debate. Everest — also known as Sagarmatha in Nepal and Mount Qomolangma in China — was “an important symbol of the China-Nepal friendship”, China’s President Xi Jinping said, calling it a “peak of China-Nepal friendship”. The mountain lies on the border between Nepal and Tibet and the summit can be accessed from both sides, although the Nepal route is more popular.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
329 09-12-2020 - Covid-19 Updates – First fully tested vaccine debuts - Britain’s National Health Service delivered its first shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, opening a mass vaccination campaign with little precedent in modern medicine and making Britons the first people in the world to receive a clinically authorised, fully tested vaccine. At 6.31am, 90-year-old Margaret Keenan, a former jewellery shop assistant, rolled up the sleeve of her “Merry Christmas” T-shirt to receive the first shot, and her image quickly became an emblem of the remarkable race to produce a vaccine and the international effort to end a pandemic that has killed 1.5 million people worldwide. The first 8,00,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for Britain were transported in recent days from a manufacturing plant in Belgium to federal warehouses in Britain, and then to hospitals. Fifty hospitals will be administering the shots until the government can refine a plan for delivering them at nursing homes and doctor’s offices.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
330 09-12-2020 - Farmer’s Protests – Centre firm on farm laws as Bharat Bandh passes peacefully - Union Home Minister told farmers’ leaders that the Centre would not repeal the three contentious farm sector laws, on a day that saw nationwide road blockades and peaceful protests in support of the demand for a rollback of the laws. The leaders of all protesting farmer federations will meet at the Singhu border to discuss the Centre’s proposal. The unexpected meeting with the Home Minister came hours after farm unions under the banner of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha claimed that more than 50 lakh people participated in the Bharat Bandh call at 20,000 locations across the country. At least 25 political parties supported the bandh, along with trade unions, retail and transport associations and many professional bodies. Sixth round of talks between all the farmers’ unions and the government will not be held on Dec 09.
(Agriculture, Constitution and Law, Governance and Institutions)
331 08-12-2020 - Economy – Global mkt cap crosses $100tn first time ever – In a historic event, thanks to stocks on the American and Chinese markets rising at a fast clip, the total value of all the listed stocks in the world crossed $100 trillion for the first time ever last week. It was $100.5 trillion, or about Rs 7,400 lakh crore, on December 5. At close of trading last week, US had a market cap of $41.6 trillion while China’s was $10.7 trillion. India, with a market cap of $2.4 trillion, or about Rs 180 lakh crore, was placed 10th.
(Indian Economy)
332 08-12-2020 - Social - Set up of a task force for preparing a roadmap on imparting technical education in the mother tongue – The taskforce will be set-up under the chairmanship of the secretary, higher education, Amit Khare. The aim of the task force achieve the vision of PM that students may pursue the professional courses such as medicine, engineering, law, etc in their mother tongue. This is part of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 which suggests teaching in regional language till class 8 and enabling teaching the curriculum in a language which a student is comfortable in.
(Education)
333 08-12-2020 - Social - Jharkhand Govt banned consumption tobacco (in any form) for all State Government employees - Tobacco products include cigarettes, bidi, khaini, gutkha, pan masala, zarda or supari as well as hukka, e-hookah, e-cigarettes etc. The decision was taken at a meeting of the National Tobacco Control Programme's state chapter, with an aim to implement the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products Act, 2003 (COTPA). The decision will be implemented from April 1, 2021. There has been no clarity over penal provision in case of violation of the order. Zila Parishads, Panchayat Samitis and Gram Panchayats are asked to organise tobacco control discussions in every gram sabha meeting by the government. The Police have been ordered to increase vigil at checkposts to stop entry of banned tobacco products. In April 2020, Jharkhand had banned sale and consumption of tobacco products in public places, including online sales.
(Governance and Institutions, Social Issues)
334 08-12-2020 - World - Biden picks California AG as first Latino Health Secretary – President-elect Joe Biden has picked California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to be his health secretary, putting a defender of the Affordable Care Act in a leading role to oversee his administration’s coronavirus response. Separately, Mr. Biden picked a Harvard infectious disease expert, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, to head the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And he announced a new role for Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert. Mr. Becerra, will be the first Latino to head the Department of Health and Human Services, a $1 trillion-plus agency with 80,000 employees and a portfolio that includes drugs and vaccines, leading-edge research and health insurance programmes covering more than 130 million Americans.
(World Politics)
335 08-12-2020 - Polity and Governance – Government announced two initiatives to eliminate manual scavenging - The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has announced to amend the law to end the hazardous practice of manual cleaning of septic tanks and sewer lines and making the mechanised cleaning must. The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has launched the Safaimitra Suraksha Challenge for this matter. Safaimitra Suraksha Challenge - The challenge has been launched among 243 major cities on the World Toilet Day (19th November). It was aimed to prevent hazardous cleaning of sewers and septic tanks and promote their mechanized cleaning. 
(Governance and Institutions, Social Issues)
336 08-12-2020 - Defence – Biological Weapons – VC of the Army Staff Lt. Gen Saini has recently hinted the use of biological weapons in future-warfare specially by weak armies. Any of a number of disease-producing agents such as bacteria, viruses, rickettsia, fungi, toxins, or other biological agents that may be utilized as weapons against humans, animals, or plants are called biological or germ or weapons. It also include chemical, radiological and nuclear weapons and are commonly referred as weapons of mass destruction. The Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), which came in to force from 1975, is the first multilateral disarmament treaty banning the development, production and stockpiling of an entire category of weapons of mass destruction.
(Defence and Military)
337 08-12-2020 - Environment and Ecology – One District One Product Scheme - Only organic farming allowed in Lakshadweep - Entire Lakshadweep group of islands being declared an organic agricultural area, the island administration is eyeing an expansion of the traditional business in coconuts through value addition, marketing, and round-the-year processing. Around ten crore coconuts are produced on the island in 12,000 small holdings with an average size of 0.25 hectares. The total acreage under coconuts is around 2,800 hectares. The nuts are processed mostly for oil. At present, only about three crore nuts are processed on the island and there is an excess of around seven crore nuts, which are mostly sold in mainland India. The period between May and Dec sees the coconut industry come to a standstill. When the industry idles, coconuts are lost. Keeping this in view, the island administration plans to introduce dryers and other machinery to utilise the nuts even during the wet months (other than May to Dec.). The move is expected to increase coconut utilisation from the present level of around 50% to more than 70%. The business in coconuts and coconut products is worth around ₹75 crore a year now.
(Environment Ecology and Climate Change)
338 08-12-2020 - Environment and Ecology – Tribals come together to protect soil biodiversity - Tribals in the villages of southern Rajasthan, who utilised their indigenous agricultural practices to survive during the COVID-19 pandemic, have come together to protect soil biodiversity during an agriculture and tribal sovereignty campaign launched through 27 ‘Swaraj Sangathans’ in Banswara, Dungarpur and Pratapgarh districts. The villagers took a pledge to preserve their resources of farmland, water, livestock and indigenous seeds on the World Soil Day on Dec. 05. The Vaagad region, comprising the three tribal-dominated districts, witnessed the activities for spreading awareness about the livelihood rights of tribals, traditional farming and an effective resource management during 11 days of the campaign. Villagers from Dahod district in Gujarat and Bajana and Thandla regions of Madhya Pradesh also joined the campaign.
(Environment Ecology and Climate Change)
339 08-12-2020 - Polity and Governance – SC nod for Central Vista inauguration - The Supreme Court allowed the foundation stone laying ceremony of a new parliament building to go ahead as scheduled on Dec 10 after the government gave an undertaking to keep in abeyance the construction or demolition of buildings and the shifting of trees in the Central Vista area for now. A Bench, led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, expressed displeasure with the government for “aggressively” continuing with the construction, demolition and shifting of trees even as questions concerning the legality of the Central Vista project were in court. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, after receiving instructions from the government, apologised to the court and gave an undertaking that no physical changes would be made to the area.
(Constitution and Law, Governance and Institutions)
340 08-12-2020 - Farmer’s Protests – Farmer leaders seek non-political support - On the eve of the Bharat Bandh, farmer leaders tried to find a balance between highlighting Opposition endorsement of the nationwide strike call as a sign of the widening support for their movement and refuting the government’s accusation that the protests have now been hijacked by vested political interests. So far, 24 political parties have come out in support of the bandh, according to farmers’ groups. They include Congress and Left parties, and regional outfits such as DMK, TRS, SP, BSP, RJD, Shiv Sena, NCP, SAD, Trinamool Congress, AIMIM, AAP, JMM and the Gupkar Alliance. Ahead of the bandh, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued an advisory to all the States and Union Territories that no untoward incident should occur during strike. The advisory asked them to maintain peace and tranquility and ensure that all COVID-19 guidelines are strictly followed.
(Agriculture, Governance and Institutions)
341 07-12-2020 - Society: Women Empowerment – AG emphasized on greater gender sensitization – Lately, the Attorney General (AG) K K Venugopal, in his written submission to the Supreme Court (SC), has emphasised the need for greater gender sensitisation among members of the judiciary and highlighted that the figure of female judges has been consistently low across the Higher Judiciary. The SC had asked AG and others to recommend ways to improve gender sensitivity towards victims while laying down bail conditions for sex crime offenders. The Madhya Pradesh (MP) High Court (HC) asked a man (accused in a case of attempting to outrage the modesty of a woman) to visit the home of the alleged victim and request her to tie a rakhi.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
342 07-12-2020 - Environment and Ecology - Bihar plans migratory bird festival - Bihar is holding a bird festival for the first time as part of its initiative to save migratory birds that arrive in the state in large numbers every year. The festival is being organised in eastern Bihar’s Bhagalpur district which has special significance. This was because the 60-kilometre-long stretch of the Vikramshila Dolphin Sanctuary between Sultanganj and Kahalgaon had long been a hub of migratory birds. Some prominent migratory birds arriving in Bhagalpur include bar-headed goose, steppe eagle, Ferruginous duck, Eurasian curlew, white wagtail, great crested grebe, common greenshank and Eurasian coot.
(Environment Ecology and Climate Change)
343 07-12-2020 - International Relations - China gives ‘go ahead’ for New Dam on Brahmaputra - China has given the go ahead for a Chinese hydropower company to construct the first downstream hydropower project on the lower reaches of the river Brahmaputra. The state-owned hydropower company signed a strategic cooperation agreement with the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) government to implement hydropower exploitation in the downstream of the Yarlung Zangbo river as part of the new Five Year Plan (2021-2025). This will be the first time the downstream sections of the river will be tapped. The location of the planned project has not been mentioned anywhere. This 50 km section alone offers a potential of developing 70 million kilowatt hours (Kwh).
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
344 07-12-2020 - Science and Technology - Zebrafish being used as a research model to promote heart regeneration - The research has been carried by Scientists of Pune-based Agharkar Research Institute. Zebrafish is a tiny freshwater fish barely 2-3 cm long. It can efficiently regenerate its damaged heart within a short time period. It is found in the tropical and subtropical regions. The fish is native to South Asia’s Indo-Gangetic plains, where they are mostly found in the paddy fields and even in stagnant water and streams. It is a popular aquarium fish, frequently sold under the trade name Danio. It is also notable for its regenerative abilities and has been modified by researchers to produce many transgenic strains.
(Science and Technology)
345 07-12-2020 - Economy – Govt decides to setup Export Promotion Council for Ayush products - Commerce, Industry and AYUSH ministries have decided to work together to set up an Export Promotion Council to boost AYUSH exports. This decision was taken at a review meeting of AYUSH trade and industry by Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal and AYUSH Minister Shripad Naik. It was also decided that the entire AYUSH sector will work together to achieve price and quality competitiveness to boost exports. The review meeting was held through video conference. It was attended by nearly 50 industry and trade leaders from the AYUSH Sector. More than 2000 stake-holders of the AYUSH Sector also attended the e-event through live streaming on virtual platforms.
(Indian Economy)
346 07-12-2020 - Science and Technology – Japan's capsule with asteroid samples retrieved in Australia - A Japanese capsule carrying the world's first asteroid subsurface samples shot across the night atmosphere early Sunday before landing in the remote Australian Outback, completing a mission to provide clues to the origin of the solar system and life on Earth. The spacecraft Hayabusa2 released the small capsule on Saturday and sent it toward Earth to deliver samples from a distant asteroid. At about 10 kilometers (6 miles) aboveground, a parachute was opened to slow its fall and beacon signals were transmitted to indicate its location in the sparsely populated area of Woomera in southern Australia. About two hours after the reentry, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, said its helicopter search team found the capsule in the planned landing area. The retrieval of the pan-shaped capsule, about 40 centimeters (15 inches) in diameter, was completed after another two hours.
(Science and Technology)
347 07-12-2020 - World – Trump challenges vote results at rally - President Donald Trump is pressing his grievances over losing the presidential election, using a weekend rally to spread baseless allegations of misconduct in last month’s voting in Georgia and beyond even as he pushed supporters to turn out for a pair of Republican Senate candidates in a runoff election in January. Mr. Trump’s 100-minute rally before thousands of largely maskless supporters came not long after he was rebuffed by Georgia’s Republican Governor in his astounding call for a special legislative session to give him the State’s electoral votes, even though President-elect Joe Biden won the majority of the vote. The Jan 5 Senate runoffs in Georgia will determine the balance of power in Washington after Mr. Biden takes office. Republicans in the State are worried that Mr. Trump is stoking so much suspicion about Georgia elections that voters will think the system is rigged and decide to sit out the two races.
(World Politics)
348 07-12-2020 - World – ‘Microwave attack likely making US diplomats abroad ill’ - The most probable cause of a series of mysterious afflictions that have sickened American spies and diplomats abroad in the past several years was radio-frequency energy, a type of radiation that includes microwaves. The conclusion by a committee of 19 experts cited “directed, pulsed radio-frequency energy” as “the most plausible mechanism” to explain the illness, known as Havana syndrome, although secondary factors may have contributed. The strange illness struck scores of government employees, first at the US embassy in Havana in 2016, and subsequently in China and other countries. Many of the officers suffered from dizziness, fatigue, headaches and loss of hearing, memory and balance, and some were forced into per manent retirement. CIA officers visiting overseas stations experienced similar symptoms. 
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
349 07-12-2020 - Farmer’s Protest – Support widens for Bharat Bandh call - Top Opposition leaders, in a joint statement, extended their support to the Dec 8 Bharat Bandh called by farmers’ organisations demanding a rollback of the three farm sector laws, and claimed that the new laws would “destroy Indian agriculture by mortgaging it to corporates”. The joint statement was signed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, DMK president M.K. Stalin, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI general secretary D. Raja, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav and CPI(ML) general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya, among others. Leaders of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha claimed that support for the bandh had poured in from transport unions, women’s and students’ organisations and federations of industry, apart from political parties.
(Agriculture, Governance and Institutions)
350 07-12-2020 - Covid – 19 Updates – After three-week plateau, India’s Covid cases show 16% drop - After staying around the same level for three weeks, fresh Covid cases in India fell this week by around 16% from the previous seven days. With this, the weekly count is now down by 62% from its peak in September 6-13, with no signs yet of a second wave of the pandemic in the country. The toll has shown no significant movement in the past four weeks and continues to hover around the 3,500-mark, with 3,539 fatalities recorded in the week (November 29-December 6). However, compared with the peak of 8,175 deaths in September 13-20, Covid-related fatalities have dropped by 58%. There were 2,45,599 new cases reported this week, down from 2,91,903 last week (November 22-29).
(Healthcare and Medicine)
351 05-12-2020 - World - Newly elected US president Jo Biden sets new demands for return to Iran nuclear deal – As per these demands Iran would have to address its “malign” regional activities through proxies in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen in the talks that would have to include its Arab neighbours like Saudi Arabia. President Trump unilaterally withdrew from the deal in 2018 and has reimposed sanctions on Iran as part of a “maximum pressure” campaign. Iran agreed to rein in its nuclear program in a 2015 deal struck with the US, UK, Russia, China, France and Germany which gave Iran relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program and a Joint Commission was established, with the negotiating parties all represented, to monitor implementation of the agreement.
(World Politics)
352 05-12-2020 - Environment and Ecology - The Union Environment Ministry has constituted committee for Implementation of Paris Agreement (AIPA) – Committee will be headed by Secretary of MoEFCC. The committee will also regulate carbon markets in India and look after the ‘Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)’. NDCs are the accounts of the voluntary efforts to be made by countries that are a part of the Paris Agreement, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the impacts of anthropogenic climate change and have to be implemented in the post-2020 period. India had submitted its NDCs in 2015 which includes three quantitative goals – first, a 33-35% reduction in the gross domestic product emissions intensity by 2030 from 2005 levels. Second, a 40% share of non-fossil fuel based electricity by 2030 and third, creating a carbon sink of 2.5-3 bn tons of CO2 through afforestation programs.
(Environment Ecology and Climate Change)
353 05-12-2020 - Arts, Culture and History – Virutal version of Aadi Mahotsav - Union Minister for Tribal Affairs launched the Aadi Mahotsav. It is a national tribal festival. It is a joint initiative of Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India & Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED). It was first commenced in 2017. The festival showcases traditional art and handicrafts and cultural heritage of the country. It is an attempt to familiarize the people with the rich and diverse craft, culture of the tribal communities across the country, in one place.
(Art Culture Literature)
354 05-12-2020 - Environment and Ecology - Cyclonic storm ‘Burevi’ - The Deep Depression over southwest Bay of Bengal recently intensified into Cyclonic Storm ‘Burevi’. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) announced that it is likely to affect Tamil Nadu and Kerala, less than a week after cyclone Nivar wreaked havoc in the southern states. This is the third cyclone formed within the last 10 days in the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, put together. Due to upwelling (the process in which cooler waters from lower ocean surfaces are pushed towards upper ocean surfaces) caused by Nivar, Cyclone Burevi will have limited intensity.
(Environment Ecology and Climate Change)
355 05-12-2020 - World – Coronavirus claims 1.5m lives globally, infections top 65m - Over 1.5 million people have lost their lives due to Covid-19 with one death reported every nine seconds on a weekly average, as vaccinations are set to begin in Dec in a handful of developed nations. Half a million deaths occurred in just the last two months, indicating that the severity of the pandemic is far from over. Global coronavirus infections passed 65 million on Friday and the worst affected country, United States, is currently battling a third wave of coronavirus infections. In the last week alone, more than 10,000 people in the world died on average every single day, which has been steadily rising each passing week. Many countries across the world are now fighting second and third waves even greater than the first, forcing new restrictions on everyday life. The Covid-19 caused more deaths in the past year than tuberculosis in 2019 and nearly four times the number of deaths due to malaria, according to the WHO.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
356 05-12-2020 - World – U.S. sues FB for favouring immigrants - The Trump administration sued Facebook, accusing it of discriminating against American workers by favouring immigrant applicants for thousands of high-paying jobs. The Department of Justice’s lawsuit opens a new front in the administration’s push against tech companies — and in its clampdown on immigration — as President Donald Trump enters his final weeks in office. The suit concerns more than 2,600 positions with an average salary of some $156,000, offered from January 2018 to September 2019. The internet giant reserved positions for candidates with H1-B “skilled worker” visas or other temporary work visas. Facebook “channelled” jobs to visa holders by avoiding advertising on its careers website, accepting only physically mailed applications for some posts, or refusing to consider U.S. workers at all, according to the suit. The lawsuit was filed just two days after a U.S. federal judge blocked rule changes ordered by Mr. Trump that made it harder for people outside the country to get skilled-worker visas.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
357 05-12-2020 - Science and Technology – Pixxel signs pact with NSIL to launch India's first private remote-sensing satellite - Space start-up Pixxel has signed an agreement with State-run NewSpace India Limited (NSIL) to launch the country’s first private remote-sensing satellite on an ISRO PSLV rocket in early 2021. The agreement is one of its kind after the establishment of IN-SPACe, the authorization and regulatory body under the Department of Space for enabling private players to undertake space activities in India. Pixxel has announced plans to make and launch a constellation of 30 satellites between December 2022 to June 2023. The company has also signed an agreement with in-space satellite transportation and infrastructure company Momentus Inc for launching its second satellite in 2021, with an option to fly again in 2022. This first-of-a-kind private earth-observation mission will help provide solutions to many pressing environmental and agricultural issues among others.
(Science and Technology)
358 05-12-2020 - Economy – BSE Sensex ends above 45,000-mark for the first time - The benchmark BSE Sensex hit the crucial 45,000-mark for the first time ever and ended at the record level of 45,080, up 447 points, or 1 per cent. ICICI Bank ended as the top gainer on the index while Reliance Industries was the biggest loser. Of 30 constituents, 25 advanced and the rest 5 declined. NSE's Nifty50 index, too, ended at a record level of 13,259, up 125 points, or 0.95 per cent during the trade. On a weekly basis, both Sensex and Nifty added 2 per cent each. From their March 2020 lows, it has mostly been a one-way street for the Indian equity markets as the S&P BSE Sensex has rallied over 75 per cent since then.
(Indian Economy)
359 05-12-2020 - Farmer’s protests – Firm on repeal of agri laws - Dimming hopes of a compromise, a joint front of protesting farmer groups rejected the Centre’s proposals to amend the three contentious agriculture laws and called for a ‘Bharat Bandh’ on December 8 to widen the agitation. The front reiterated the farmers’ demand for a total repeal of the three Central laws. The announcement by the Samyukt Kisan Morcha came ahead of a crucial round of talks, between the joint front of farmer unions and top Central Ministers tasked with negotiating a deal with the protesters. They also decided to burn the effigies of the Modi government and corporate houses on December 5. The government is grappling to find some footing against the united front of farmers.
(Agriculture)
360 05-12-2020 - Economy - Monetary Policy Review – The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of RBI kept key interest rates unchanged in its bimonthly review. Repo rate was left unchanged at 4% while the reverse repo rate stayed at 3.35%. Inflation forecast for the current quarter (Oct-Dec) is 6.8% and for Jan-March quarter is 5.8%. Forecast of economic growth for the current fiscal year (2020-21) revised to minus 7.5% compared to its earlier forecast of minus 9.5%. GDP growth for Q3 (Oct-Dec) projected at +0.1% and +0.7% for Q4 (Jan-March). The RBI says it is growth focused now, although high inflation is way beyond its mandated range. Further, the RBI has not explained why the credit growth for Apr-Sept 2020 period (non food credit) has been nearly zero per cent.
(Indian Economy)
361 04-12-2020 - Economy – RBI curbs HDFC Bank’s new digital businesses after e-banking outages - In an unprecedented move, the RBI has directed HDFC Bank to stop launches of new digital business activities and not to add new credit card customers following repeated outages in its electronic banking services. The regulator has also ordered the board of the country’s largest private lender to examine the lapses and fix accountability. Incidentally, the development happened on a day when SBI’s mobile banking app Yono too faced downtime. RBI’s action against HDFC Bank is the first time it has sought to penalise a bank by restricting business, rather than imposing a financial penalty, which is often a small amount. This is seen as an indication that RBI has taken serious cognisance of the outage of banking services at HDFC Bank, which accounts for a third of the country’s payments and has been classified as a systemically important bank, one that is “too big to fail”.
(Indian Economy)
362 04-12-2020 - India and its neighbourhood – Pak court jails JuD spokesman to fifteen years - Yahya Mujahid, spokesperson of Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD), which is led by Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed, has been sentenced to another fifteen years in jail by a Pakistani anti-terrorism court (ATC) in a terror financing case. Last month, Mujahid was handed down 32 years’ jail term by the anti-terrorism court in two terror financing cases. Besides Mujahid, the ATC Lahore on Wednesday also handed down fifteen years imprisonment to JuD’s senior leader Zafar Iqbal and six months jail term to Saeed’s brother-in-law Hafiz Abdul Rehman Makki. Earlier, the ATC Lahore had sentenced Iqbal for 26 years’ imprisonment in three such cases.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
363 04-12-2020 - India and its neighbourhood – Bangladesh begins shifting Rohingya - Bangladesh began transferring hundreds of Rohingya refugees to a low-lying island in an area prone to cyclones and floods, with rights groups alleging that people were being coerced into leaving. Over 20 buses carrying almost a thousand people left the camps in the Cox’s Bazar region, headed for Chittagong. They planned to transfer around 2,500 people in the first phase. Rights groups alleged that some refugees had been coerced into going. However, Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen refuted the rights groups’ claims and said the refugees were going voluntarily.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
364 04-12-2020 - World – Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, ‘reformist’ French president, dies at 94 - France’s former president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, who brought about rapid social change and was a leading force in founding the European Union, died at the age of 94 from complications linked to Covid-19. Although d’Estaing only served a single term as president from 1974 to 1981, his death marks the end of an era in French politics. Elected to office when he was just 48 years old, Giscard d’Estaing was the youngest leader of the Fifth Republic until Emmanuel Macron won the presidency in 2017 at the age of 39. During his seven years at the Élysée presidential palace, the conservative Giscard d’Estaing cultivated an image as a modern reformist. Yet his unpopularity with French voters led to a failed re-election bid against his Socialist rival François Mitterand. 
(People and Personalities)
365 04-12-2020 - World – U.S. tightens visa rules for CCP members - The Trump administration issued new rules to curtail travel to the U.S. by members of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and their immediate families, a move certain to further exacerbate tensions between the two countries. The new policy, which took immediate effect, limits the maximum duration of travel visas for party members and their families to one month. Previously, party members, like other Chinese citizens, could obtain visitor visas for the U.S. that were valid for ten years. Travel visas for party members will also be limited to a single entry rather than multiple entries as was possible before. The new measures do not affect party members’ eligibility for other kinds of visas, such as immigration or employment. No current visas would be revoked as a result of the policy changes.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
366 04-12-2020 - Environment and Ecology – Over a 100 Asiatic lions caged in zoos around Gir - A large part of Gir’s lion population, which amounted to 674 big cats in the 2020 census, is living in the state as captive population. The state forest department has more than 100 lions held in captivity in various zoos and gene pools in Junagadh and adjacent districts of Saurashtra. These zoo bred as well as wild lions represent nearly 15% of the total Asiatic lion population of Gujarat found in the wild. The actual numbers can be higher as many lions captured from the wild due to disability, disease and other reasons, may not be included in the list.
(Environment Ecology and Climate Change)
367 04-12-2020 - Covid-19 Updates – At 1.6 bn doses, India No. 1 in deals for Covid vaccine: Study - As of Nov 30, India was leading the world in the number of “confirmed Covid-19 vaccine doses” for which orders have been placed, having “concluded contracts to get 1.6 billion doses”. The latest global vaccine procurement analysis by Duke University, which has been tracking advance commitments between countries and vaccine developers, put the European Union second and the US third. The EU will get 1.58 billion doses and the US will get over a billion doses, provided all the vaccine candidates they have struck deals to buy prove efficient in trials and are certified for use. India was in talks with vaccine makers to get up to 500 million doses by July-August 2021. The analysis doesn’t include China and Russia, both of which have their own vaccine programmes for citizens.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
368 04-12-2020 - Polity and Governance – Rajini will launch party in Jan. 2021 - Putting an end to constant speculation, Tamil superstar Rajinikanth said he will launch his political party in January 2021, and the formal announcement regarding the same will be made on December 31, 2020. He said that his plans were affected because of the coronavirus pandemic and he did not want to be careless. The time has come to transform Tamil Nadu, the superstar said. His victory in politics will be the victory of the people, he said. He had made the announcement about him entering politics on Dec 31 in 2017. Rajini had met his district secretaries of RMM (Rajini Makkal Mandram) and had said he will make an announcement on the same soon while talking to the people. Rajini had called his line of politics spiritual, which was beyond religion, corruption and one for the welfare of the people.
(Governance and Institutions)
369 04-12-2020 - Education –  CISCE wants schools to reopen from January 4 - The Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE) has written to all Chief Ministers asking that its schools be allowed to reopen partially for Class X and XII students from Jan 4, 2021. This is needed for students to be able to complete project and practical work and to clear doubts with their teachers before the board exams. It said exam dates would be decided after taking into account the April-May election schedule. The CISCE conducts the ICSE (Indian Certificate of Secondary Education) examination for Class X and the ISC (Indian School Certificate) examination for Class XII students.
(Education)
370 04-12-2020 - Polity and Governance – Government offers to make eight changes to farm laws - After over seven hours of discussion, the fourth round of talks between the Centre and farmer leaders ended inconclusively. Although the Centre offered to consider eight amendments to the contentious farm reform laws and offered assurances that the minimum support prices (MSP) for farm produce would continue, farmer leaders continued to stand firm on their demand that all three laws be completely repealed. The dialogue is scheduled to resume on Saturday, but the continuing deadlock meant that farmers would not even eat the lunch and tea provided by the government at Vigyan Bhavan, preferring to bring in their own food from a gurdwara. The farmers also want the government to stop slapping large fines on farmers for burning stubble and to withdraw the Electricity Bill, 2020, which could affect power subsidies for farmers.
(Governance and Institutions)
371 03-12-2020 - Economy – China buys first Indian rice in decades amid scarce supply - China has begun importing Indian rice for the first time in at least three decades due to tightening supplies from Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam and an offer of sharply discounted prices. India is the world’s biggest rice exporter and China the biggest importer. Beijing buys about four million tonnes a year but has avoided purchases from India, citing quality issues. The rice imports come despite political tensions over a border dispute in the Himalayas which erupted into a clash in June in which twenty Indian soldiers were killed. India has since tightened rules for investments from China and banned dozens of Chinese mobile apps. Although the public mood in India has been anti-China, the country has remained engaged with Indian businesses.
(Indian Economy)
372 03-12-2020 - World – Afghan government, Taliban reach breakthrough deal even as fighting shows no let-up - Afghan government and Taliban representatives said they had reached a preliminary deal to press on with peace talks, their first written agreement in nineteen years of war and welcomed by the United States as a chance to halt the violence. The agreement lays out the way forward for discussion but is considered a breakthrough because it will allow negotiators to move on to more substantive issues, including talks on a ceasefire, even as Taliban attacks on Afghan government forces have continued unabated. 'The procedure including its preamble of the negotiation has been finalised and from now on, the negotiation will begin on the agenda,' Nader Nadery, a member of the Afghan government's negotiating team.
(Governance and Institutions)
373 03-12-2020 - US Presidential Elections – No evidence of decisive poll fraud: AG - In yet another setback for U.S. President Donald Trump, Attorney General William Barr has said that there is no widespread evidence of election fraud, contradicting Mr. Trump’s claims that his opponent Joe Biden stole the election on the basis of mail-in voting. The President and his allies have asked for recounts, mounted legal challenges, and engaged in political manoeuvring to prevent States from certifying their elections over the last few weeks but their efforts have been unsuccessful, with key battleground States like Arizona, Wisconsin, Nevada, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Michigan certifying their election results recently. Last month, Mr. Barr had authorised federal prosecutors to investigate “substantial allegations” of election irregularities — something not usually done until after the election is certified, causing one official, who objected to the memo from Mr. Barr, to step down. Mr. Trump continued tweeting his allegations of election fraud on Tuesday after Mr. Barr’s views were made public.
(World Politics)
374 03-12-2020 - Awards and Honors – Winners of Infosys Prize announced - The Infosys Science Foundation (ISF) announced the winners of the Infosys Prize 2020 in six categories for their contributions to science and research — Engineering and Computer Science, Humanities, Life Sciences, Mathematical Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Social Sciences. After a virtual press conference announcing the winners, they were awarded in a virtual ceremony the same day. The prize consists of a gold medal, a citation and a purse of $1,00,000. According to a release from the foundation, the winners were picked from 257 nominations. The winners are: Hari Balakrishnan from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Engineering and Computer Science); Prachi Deshpande from the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata (Humanities); Rajan Sankaranarayanan from the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad (Life Sciences); Sourav Chatterjee from Stanford University (Mathematical Sciences); Arindam Ghosh from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore (Physical Sciences) and Raj Chetty from Harvard University (Social Sciences).
(Science and Technology)
375 03-12-2020 - Constitution and Law – Ex-HC judge held for abusive posts against peers, their kin - A former judge of the Madras and Calcutta high courts, C S Karnan, was arrested by the Chennai police cybercrime wing for allegedly obscene and abusive social media posts against several judges and their family members. The action comes two days after the Madras high court pulled up the Tamil Nadu DGP and Chennai commissioner of police and issued summons to them for their inaction against the retired judge even though three cases had been registered against him for a series of offensive posts. A police team picked up Justice Karnan (retd) from his residence in Avadi. He was later produced before a magistrate’s court and remanded in Puzhal prison. The police have registered a case against him for offences punishable under IPC Sections 509.
(Constitution and Law)
376 03-12-2020 - Social – Honey marketed by prominent Indian brands failed a key test of purity - The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has claimed, citing an investigation it conducted. Current regulations specify around eighteen parameters that honey must comply with for producers to label it ‘pure honey’. CSE food researchers selected thirteen brands of raw and processed honey, including Dabur, Patanjali, Baidyanath and Zandu, and subjected them to tests that are required under national food regulatory laws to be labelled as honey. Most brands passed muster but when subjected to one test, called Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR, that can ascertain the composition of a product at the molecular level) that was done at a lab in Germany, only three brands (spanning six samples) passed: Saffola, Markfed Sohna and Nature’s Nectar (one sample of two). There were often multiple samples tested for each brand. The NMR test is not required by Indian law for honey that is being marketed locally but is needed for export.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
377 03-12-2020 - Education – 2021 board exams will be in written mode: CBSE - Board examinations will be conducted in written mode and not online, the Central Board of Secondary Education said. Given that practical examinations may not be possible for many students due to the COVID-19 pandemic, alternatives are being considered for the 2020-21 examination cycle. The statement added that “in case students are not able to do practicals in classes before the exams, alternatives to practical exams will have to be explored”. Schools across the country shut down in March due to the pandemic. The board exams for 2019-2020 were partially completed when the lockdown happened.
(Education)
378 03-12-2020 - Covid-19 Updates – Britain approves Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine - Britain approved Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, jumping ahead of the rest of the world in the race to begin the most crucial mass inoculation programme in history with a shot tested in wide-scale clinical trials. PM Boris Johnson touted the green light from the U.K.’s medicine authority as a global win and a ray of hope amid the pandemic. “Fantastic news,” Mr. Johnson told Parliament, though he cautioned that people should not get too carried away. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) granted emergency use approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which they say is 95% effective in preventing illness, just 23 days since Pfizer published the first data from its final stage clinical trial. Britain said it would start vaccinating those most at risk of dying early next week after it gets 8,00,000 doses from Pfizer’s manufacturing centre in Belgium.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
379 03-12-2020 - Internal Security –  ‘India will not accept less than bottom line in talks with China’ - Talks with China on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) could take much longer, External Affairs Minister indicated, drawing a parallel to a similar military stand-off in Arunachal Pradesh’s ‘Sumdorong Chu’ in 1986 that took nearly nine years to resolve. Adding that India and China must take a “long view” of the border dispute and not just the “incidents” at the LAC this year, Mr. Jaishankar cautioned Beijing against dealing with India through the prism of a “third party”, in a reference to India’s close ties with the United States. The two sides signed the breakthrough 1993 agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control.
(Defence and Military, Governance and Institutions)
380 03-12-2020 - Polity and Governance – Farmers demand special Parliament session to repeal new laws - Farmers’ groups agitating against the new agriculture laws have upped the ante ahead of their discussions with the Centre, calling for a special session of Parliament to repeal the laws — a demand central to the stir. Farmers’ representatives, who had met Union ministers Mr. Tomar and Piyush Goyal, called for an intensification of protests even as the Centre offered to “address concerns” through discussions but the demand for a special Parliament session has deepened the deadlock, further shrinking the middle ground between the two sides. Farm groups under the banner of Samyukt Kisan Morcha coordination committee held marathon meetings to prepare a detailed note, flagging off six points in their letter to Tomar.
(Governance and Institutions)
381 02-12-2020 - Corporate World  – Indian Oil launches premium grade petrol (Octane 100) branded as XP100 -  Indian Oil launched a new premium grade petrol – Octane 100. Branded as XP100, the premium grade petrol was launched across ten cities by Dharmendra Pradhan, Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas. The technology for India’s first octane petrol has been indigenously created by Indian Oil Research and Development. The availability of XP100 puts India in an elite group of countries, having access to such high-quality oil. The petrol will provide high quality and power to the engine. Indian Oil plans to roll-out XP100 premium grade petrol in 15 identified cities across the country in two phases.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
382 02-12-2020 - Corporate World  – SBI, NPCI and Japan's JCB International Co launch 'SBI RuPay JCB Platinum Contactless Debit Card – State Bank of India joined hands with National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) and Japan's JCB International Co to launch new 'SBI RuPay JCB Platinum Contactless Debit Card’. The unique dual interface feature of this card enables the customers to use it for both contact and contactless trasaction. Customers can use this new debit card in the domestic market as well as for the transactions overseas. This card has been launched on the RuPay network by SBI in association with JCB, said the bank. Hence, the users will be able to transact on ATMs & POS terminals across the globe under JCB network. Customers can also use this card for online shopping from JCB partnered international e-commerce merchants.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
383 02-12-2020 - World – Iran’s Parliament advances Bill to stop nuclear inspections – Iran's Parliament advanced a Bill that would end UN inspections of its nuclear facilities and require the government to boost its uranium enrichment if European signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal do not provide relief from oil and banking sanctions. The Bill will give European countries three months to ease sanctions on Iran's key oil and gas sector, and to restore its access to the international banking system. The Bill will allow the authorities resume enriching uranium to 20 per cent, which is below the threshold needed for nuclear weapons, but higher than that required for civilian applications. The vote to debate the Bill, which would need to pass through several other stages before becoming a law, was a show of defiance after the killing of a prominent Iranian nuclear scientist last month. 251 lawmakers in the 290-seat chamber voted in favour, after which many began chanting “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel!”.
(Governance and Institutions)
384 02-12-2020 - World – China, Pakistan sign military deal –  China and Pakistan have signed a new military memorandum of understanding to boost their already close defence relationship, as China’s Defence Minister and People’s Liberation Army (PLA) General Wei Fenghe met Pakistan’s leadership in Islamabad and visited the headquarters of the Army at Rawalpindi. Gen. Wei met Pakistan’s President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan. He called on both countries to “push the military-to-military relationship to a higher level, so as to jointly cope with various risks and challenges, firmly safeguard the sovereignty and security interests of the two countries and safeguard the regional peace and stability”, Chinese state media reported.
(Defence and Military)
385 02-12-2020 - Defence – Naval version of Brahmos test fired from Navy’s INS Ranvijay in Bay of Bengal – A similar test firing of the missile was conducted by the Indian Navy in the Arabian sea six weeks back. BrahMos Aerospace, an India-Russian joint venture, produces the supersonic cruise missile that can be launched from submarines, ships, aircraft, or from land platforms. On Nov 24, the Indian Army had "successfully" test-fired the surface-to-surface BrahMos missile that flies at a speed of 2.8 Mach or almost three times the speed of sound. The range of the new land attack version of the missile has been extended to 400 km from the original 290 km. India has already deployed a sizeable number of the original BrahMos missiles and other key assets in several strategic locations along the Line of Actual Control with China in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh. 
(Defence and Military)
386 02-12-2020 - Farmer’s Protests – Trudeau backs ‘peaceful protest’ by farmers, India dubs it unwarranted – Canadian PM Justin Trudeau waded into the impasse over India’s new agriculture laws, throwing his lot with the protesting farmers and announcing that his government had approached Indian authorities to highlight Canada’s concerns on the issue. Trudeau’s comments triggered a diplomatic row, with India officially saying in a statement that such remarks were ill-informed and unwarranted, especially “when pertaining to the internal affairs of a democratic country”. India also lodged a formal protest with Canada against the remarks made by Trudeau and members of his cabinet.
(Agriculture)
387 02-12-2020 - Elections in J&K – 48.6% turnout in J&K despite the cold – Keeping up the momentum from the first phase, 48.62% of the voters exercised their franchise in the second phase of the District Development Council election in Jammu and Kashmir, with the Valley recording 33.4% voting. Polling was peaceful. With brisk polling despite the cold weather, men and women queued up outside polling booths in Bandipora in huge numbers, setting a record 69.66% turnout.
(Governance and Institutions)
388 02-12-2020 - Covid-19 Updates – No move for universal vaccination – Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said that the government has never spoken about vaccinating everyone against COVID-19. Mr. Bhushan added that it is important to discuss such scientific issues based on factual information only. “Vaccination would depend on the efficacy of the vaccine, and our purpose is to break the chain of virus transmission. If we’re able to vaccinate a critical mass of people and break virus transmission, then we may not have to vaccinate the entire population,” said Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Balram Bhargava, who was present at the press meet. Reacting to the recent allegation of an adverse reaction by a 40-year-old volunteer for ‘Covishield’, the candidate vaccine being tested by the Serum Institute of India, the Ministry said adverse events are unlikely to impact the delivery timeline of the vaccine.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
389 02-12-2020 - Farmers Protests –  Farmers continue protest as no deal reached in talks with govt. – Talks between the Centre and the farmers demanding a rollback of the three farm sector legislations ended inconclusively. The farmers’ unions rejected the government’s proposal to set up a small expert committee to examine the three controversial laws. The lines of communication between the protesters and the government stayed open, however, with both sides agreeing to meet again. The farmer leaders were asked to submit a detailed critique with their specific objections to the new laws. The impasse on the ground continued, with several thousand farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, camped out on the borders of Delhi, blocking two entrances to the capital for the sixth straight day.
(Agriculture)
390 02-12-2020 - Indian Economy – GST inflows top ₹1 lakh cr. for second month in a row – Gross revenues from the Goods and Services Tax (GST) crossed ₹1 lakh crore for the second month in a row, with ₹1,04,963 crore collected in Nov 2020. This was 1.4% higher than a year ago but a tad lower than Oct’s collections. The pick-up in GST revenues over the last two months could reduce the shortfall in GST compensation dues to the States, but economists urged caution till December to assess if the economy is truly out of the woods after the festive demand factor has played out. Cumulatively, the GST revenues from the first eight months of 2020-21 add up to ₹6,64,709 crore, reflecting a 17.4% dip from the ₹8,05,164 crore collected in the same period of 2019-20.
(Indian Economy)
391 01-12-2020 - Corporate World  – First Indian to become Bata CEO -  For the first time in Bata’s 126-year history, an Indian will lead the firm. Sandeep Kataria, 49, who is currently Bata India’s CEO, has been elevated as global CEO of the company, as the current incumbent, Alexis Nasard, moves on. Kataria is in distinguished company. Other Indians at the helm of global organisations include Satya Nadella of Microsoft, Sundar Pichai of Alphabet, Ajay Banga of Mastercard, Arvind Krishna of IBM, Laxman Narasimhan of Reckitt Benckiser, Ivan Menezes of Diageo and Vasant Narasimhan of Novartis. 
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
392 01-12-2020 - Indian Economy  – S&P Retains India's Forecast At 9% Contraction For 2020-21 – S&P Global Ratings retained its forecast of 9 per cent contraction in the Indian economy for the current fiscal year, saying even though there are now upside risks to growth but it will wait for more signs that COVID infections have stabilised or fallen. S&P, in its report on Asia Pacific, projected the Indian economy to grow at 10 per cent in the next fiscal. The Indian economy recovered faster than expected in the September quarter as a pick-up in manufacturing helped GDP clock a lower contraction of 7.5 per cent. Indian economy had contracted 23.9 per cent in April-June.
(Indian Economy)
393 01-12-2020 - World – Moderna asks US,  Europe for emergency approval  of vaccine – The drugmaker Moderna said it would apply to the FDA to authorise its coronavirus vaccine for emergency use. The first injections may be given as early as Dec 21 if the process goes smoothly and approval is granted, said Stephane Bancel, the firm’s chief executive. Moderna’s application is based on data that it announced showing that its vaccine is 94.1% effective, and that its study of 30,000 people has met the scientific criteria needed to determine whether the vaccine works. The new data also showed that the vaccine was 100% effective at preventing severe disease from the coronavirus.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
394 01-12-2020 - World – Biden names top economic advisers as Arizona, Wisconsin certify vote results –  U.S. President-elect Joe Biden named several women to his top economic policy team, including former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen as Treasury secretary nominee, setting the stage for diversity and a focus on recovery from the pandemic. The advisers, several of whom would need to be approved by the U.S. Senate, come from liberal research organizations and worked in previous Democratic administrations. Their aim will be to set policies that can help people and businesses recover from the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed nearly 267,000 people in the United States and cost millions of jobs.
(World Politics)
395 01-12-2020 - Miscellaneous – 'Pandemic' chosen as the top word of 2020 by Merriam-Webster dictionary – The word took on urgent specificity in March, when the coronavirus crisis was designated a pandemic, but it started to trend up on Merriam-Webster.com as early January and again in February when the first US deaths and outbreaks on cruise ships occurred. On March 11, when the World Health Organisation declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic, lookups on the site for pandemic spiked hugely.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
396 01-12-2020 - Polity and Governance – EPFO extends time limit  for Pensioners – PM Modi inaugurated six-lane widening project of the Varanasi - Prayagraj section of NH-19 today in Varanasi. Farmers would benefit greatly when modern connectivity expands in the area. Efforts have been made to create infrastructure like cold storage alongwith modern roads in the villages. A fund of 1 lakh crore rupees has also been created for this. 
(Governance and Institutions)
397 01-12-2020 - Covid-19 Updates – Govt launches 'Mission Covid Suraksha' to help accelerate vaccine candidates – The mission is launched to help accelerate the development of approximately 5-6 vaccine candidates and ensure that these are brought closer to licensure and introduction in the market. The mission envisages Covid-19 vaccine development with end-to-end focus from preclinical through clinical development and manufacturing and regulatory facilitation. Earlier this month, the government had announced a package of Rs 900 crore for vaccines.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
398 01-12-2020 - Covid-19 Updates – India’s Covid count in Nov lowest in four months – India recorded 12.8 lakh new Covid-19 cases in November, the lowest count in four months, while deaths from the virus were the least in five months since June. The death toll fell sharply in November, with 15,494 fatalities recorded in the month, down from 23,472 in October. The November toll was the lowest since 11,988 deaths reported in June, as per data collated from state governments. Covid cases dropped by 32% in November compared with the previous month, when some 18.8 lakh fresh infections were recorded. This was the second straight month of falling Covid cases after India registered a peak of 26.2 lakh cases in September.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
399 01-12-2020 - Arts, Culture and History –  Buddhist philosophy connects SCO nations – A virtual exhibition on the shared Buddhist heritage of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) countries was launched by Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu during the meeting of the SCO Council of Heads of Government meeting held via video-conference. Buddhist philosophy and art of Central Asia connects SCO countries to each other. This presents an excellent opportunity for visitors to appreciate and compare Buddhist art antiquities from SCO countries on a single platform and from the comfort of their home. The exhibition includes Buddhist treasures from India, including from the Gandhara and Mathura schools, Nalanda and Sarnath, in 3D format. Objects depicting the life of Gautam Buddha from Karachi, Lahore, Taxila, Islamabad, Swat and Peshawar museums are also included.
 
(Art Culture Literature)
400 01-12-2020 - Farmer’s protests – Centre invites farmers’ unions for talks – Farmer unions from Punjab, which have been protesting at key entry points to Delhi against the recent farm sector laws, have been invited for talks with the Centre. Farmer leaders said they would meet decide their response to the invitation. The unconditional invitation for dialogue came after a day of hard talk from their leaders, who said it was time for the Prime Minister to listen to the “mann ki baat” of the farmers or pay a heavy price for not doing so. Their demand for the repeal of the Centre’s three agricultural reform laws is non-negotiable, they insisted, on the fifth day of their protest.
(Agriculture)
401 30-11-2020 - Defence – Indian Navy inducts two American drones on lease -  In a first, India has inducted two American drones — Sea Guardian, unarmed version of the deadly Predator series — into the Navy on lease under the emergency procurement in the backdrop of the tensions with China in Ladakh. Even though the drones, MQ-9 Guardian/Predator-B, have been leased from an American firm, General Atomics, for a year for surveillance in the Indian Ocean Region, it could also be used in Ladakh. 
(Defence and Military)
402 30-11-2020 - World  – Ethiopia launches search for Tigray leaders – The Ethiopian government launched a manhunt for leaders of a rebellious faction in the northern region of Tigray after announcing federal troops had taken over the regional capital Mekele and military operations were complete. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said hospitals in Mekele are running low on supplies such as gloves to care for the wounded, and one hospital is lacking body bags for the dead. PM Ahmed has been trying to quell a rebellion by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a powerful ethnically-based party that dominated the central government for nearly three decades before Mr. Abiy came to power in 2018.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
403 30-11-2020 - World – French police face charges over black man’s beating – Four French police officers should face charges over the beating and racial abuse of a black music producer, Paris’s top prosecutor said on Sunday, an incident that intensified controversy over a new security law. Tens of thousands protested across France on Saturday against the security Bill — which would restrict the right of the press to publish the faces of on-duty police — with the rally in Paris ending in bitter clashes. The beating of music producer Michel Zecler — exposed in video footage published last week — has become a rallying cause for anger against the police in France, accused by critics of institutionalised racism, including singling out blacks and Arabs.
(Social Issues)
404 30-11-2020 - World – 31 Afghan soldiers killed in attack on base – At least 34 people were killed in two separate suicide bombings in Afghanistan that targeted a military base and a provincial chief. There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the attacks, which took place as Afghan government representatives and the Taliban hold face-to-face talks in Qatar for the first time to end the country’s decades-long war. In eastern Ghazni province, 31 soldiers were killed and 24 others wounded when the attacker drove a military humvee full of explosives onto an Army commando base before detonating the car bomb.
(Defence and Military, Terrorism)
405 30-11-2020 - India and its neighbourhood – Sri Lanka hosts national security advisor trilateral meeting – Indian National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval is visiting Colombo between November 27 and 28 to take part in the fourth NSA Level Meeting on Trilateral Maritime Security Cooperation hosted by Sri Lanka this time. The first such meeting in six years, the dialogue mechanism involves the Maldives, in addition to India and Sri Lanka. As the Indian Ministry of External Affairs statement announcing Doval’s trip noted, the 2014 meeting also saw the participation of Mauritius and Seychelles. This is the second time Doval is visiting the island nation, after a January trip. The NSA-level meeting is significant for two reasons. First, it involves both the Maldives and Sri Lanka and secondly how how India’s Doval, is perceived there.
(Regional Politics)
406 30-11-2020 - India Social – EPFO extends time limit  for Pensioners – In view of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the vulnerability of elderly population to Corona Virus, EPFO has extended the time limit up to 28th February 2021 for submission of Life Certificate (Jeevan Pramaan Patra-JPP) in respect of the Pensioners drawing pension under EPS 1995 and whose Life certificate is due in any month till February 28, 2021. Presently a Pensioner can submit JPP anytime during the year upto 30th November,  which is valid for a period of one year from the date of issue.
(Governance and Institutions)
407 30-11-2020 - Socio political – PM reviews coronavirus vaccine development process at Zydus Cadila, Ahmedabad & Serum Institute of India, Pune – PM Modi reviewed coronavirus vaccine development process across various centres in the country. PM Modi visited three vaccine development hubs including Zydus Cadila's plant in Ahmedabad, Bharat Biotech which is working on India's own vaccine named Covaxin in Hyderabad and Serum Institute of India in Pune. PM Modi visited Zydus Cadila's plant near Ahmedabad. Official sources said though the state government had sent names of Chief Minister and other dignitaries to receive Modi at the Air Force Station, the PMO was given clearance for only five officials. An official release from the PIB said Modi visited the facility to personally review the COVID-19 vaccine development and manufacturing process.
(Governance and Institutions, Healthcare and Medicine)
408 30-11-2020 - Education – CBSE releases new paper pattern for class X, XII boards – The CBSE recently released sample question papers for class X and XII board exams 2021. The question papers follow a new exam pattern, wherein the students have more internal choices in a particular section and subsequently, the marking scheme has also been revised. In the new exam pattern, more than 10% weightage has been provided to multiple-choice questions (MCQs). For instance, earlier the class XII mathematics question paper was divided into four sections and there was no overall choice. Section A comprised of 20 questions of 1 mark each, section B had 6 questions of 2 marks, section C comprised of 6 questions of 4 marks and Section D had 4 questions of 6 marks each. As per the new exam pattern, the paper is divided into two sections, where Part A has objective type questions and carries 24 marks whereas and Part B carries 56 marks. The 6 mark questions have been eliminated from the paper.
(Education)
409 30-11-2020 - Terrorism – 26/11 key accused wanted ‘medal’ for ‘top class’ input – Tahawwur Rana, key accused in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, wanted it to be conveyed to one of the Pakistani co-conspirators a year after the 2008 attacks that he deserved a ‘medal’ for ‘top class’ contribution and that the “Indians deserved it,” papers filed by the U.S. government in a California court say. The U.S. authorities told the court that “the Secretary of State, and not the court, decides whether the fugitive should be surrendered to the requesting country”. Rana, wanted by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in the 2008 terror attack case, is currently lodged in a Los Angeles prison, awaiting extradition to India.
(Terrorism)
410 30-11-2020 - Farmer’s protests – Farmers reject Centre’s call for talks, say Burari is an open jail – Farmer groups have rejected the Home Minister’s conditional invitation for talks, and refused to shift to the designated protest grounds in Burari, calling it an “open jail”. Tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, are massed at the borders of Delhi, demanding the repeal of the Centre’s three agricultural reform laws and withdrawal of an electricity Bill. Equipped with rations that could last for months, they have threatened to block five of the entry points into the capital if their demands are not heard. Noting that farmers had hauled along bedding and food rations for at least four months on their tractors. In a letter on November 28, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla reiterated Home Minister Amit Shah’s appeal to farmers to move to the grounds in northeastern Delhi, after which they would be called for a meeting.
(Agriculture)
411 28-11-2020 - Corporate World – Professional CEOs see avg pay rise by 7% to ₹13 crore in FY20 - Professional CEOs got a raise in 2019-20 even as average salaries of their promoter counterparts dropped due to the slowdown before the pandemic. However, promoter CEOs, on an average, took home a 62% higher compensation than their professional counterparts. According to the ‘milliondollar CEO club’ study by EMA Partners, the average salaries of professional CEOs rose 6.5% to Rs 13 crore in 2019-20 and that of their promoter counterparts declined by about 9% to Rs 21 crore. The study is based on a sample of BSE 200 companies and it does not include stock options. 
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
412 28-11-2020 - World  – India, Vietnam hold bilateral discussions – Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his Vietnamese counterpart General Ngo Xuan Lich discussed collaboration in defence industry capability building, training and cooperation in United Nations peacekeeping operations during bilateral talks via video-conferencing. In a further step towards deeper bilateral cooperation, both sides signed an implementing arrangement for cooperation in the field of hydrography between National Hydrographic Office, India and Vietnam Hydrographic Office in the presence of the two Ministers. The arrangement will assist in production of navigational charts.
(Defence and Military)
413 28-11-2020 - World – UK, other nations press on with Astra’s Covid vaccine amid data row – Britain asked its regulator to assess AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine for a possible rollout, while the Philippines and Thailand secured millions of doses, giving the shot a vote of confidence after experts raised questions about trial data. The UK government, which has secured 100 million doses of the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford, has targeted a rollout to begin before Christmas. “We have formally asked the regulator to assess the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, to understand the data and determine whether it meets rigorous safety standards,” UK health secretary Matt Hancock said. This letter is an important step towards deploying a vaccine as quickly as safely possible.
(re and Medicine)
414 28-11-2020 - World – Ethiopian PM rejects Tigray conflict talks in AU meeting – Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed again ruled out dialogue with the leaders of the defiant Tigray region but said he was willing to speak to representatives “operating legally” there during a meeting with three African Union special envoys trying to end the deadly conflict between federal troops and the region’s forces. The meeting came as the Ethiopian News Agency reported the military’s capture of several key towns around the Tigray capital of Mekele, and as more people fled the city ahead of a promised “final phase” of the offensive. Meanwhile, the number of people managing to cross the border into Sudan has slowed to a trickle, raising concerns they are being blocked from leaving.
(Trivia and Miscellaneous)
415 28-11-2020 - Environment and Ecology – Prakash Javadeker launches India Climate Change Knowledge Portal – Minister of Environment,Forest and Climate Change  Prakash Javadekar launched the India Climate Change Knowledge Portal. The portal will have all the major steps the Government is taking at both national and international levels to address  the climate change issues. Speaking on the occasion, Mr Javadekar said, it will be a single-point information resource that provides information on the different climate initiatives taken by various Line Ministries enabling users to access d status on these initiatives.
(Environment Ecology and Climate Change)
416 28-11-2020 - Indian Society – Five elderly Covid +ve patients die in Rajkot hospital blaze – Five coronavirus patients, all of them senior citizens and male, died in a massive fire that broke out in the ICU of a designated Covid-19 hospital on Mavdi Road. A short-circuit in one of the ventilators is suspected to have triggered the fire, which spread so fast that the Mavdi fire brigade, which is barely 300 metres from the hospital, could not save their lives. The fire began at around 12.40 am at the 54-bed Uday Shivanand Hospital. There were four staff in the ward, including a doctor, but they could not use the fire extinguishers, despite being trained to, because the blaze spread so rapidly.
(Healthcare and Medicine)
417 28-11-2020 - Polity and Governance – PM pitches for ‘One Nation, One Election’ – PM Modi again pitched for ‘One Nation, One Election’, saying it is the need of the country as elections taking place every few months hamper development works. Mr. Modi was addressing the concluding session of the 80th All India Presiding Officers Conference via videoconference. He also said there should be a single voter list for all polls in the country. The Prime Minister asked the presiding officers attending the meet to apply their mind to simplify the language of statute books and allow for an easier process to weed out redundant laws.
(ce and Institutions)
418 28-11-2020 - India Politics – Have been put under house arrest again - Mehbooba – Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti alleged that she and her daughter had been placed under house arrest and stopped from meeting the family of incarcerated youth leader Waheed-ur-Rehman Parra in south Kashmir. Police said Ms. Mufti was not under house arrest, she was requested to postpone her visit to Pulwama purely for security reasons. Ms. Mufti said she had been illegally detained yet again. The move comes just a day ahead of the first phase of the District Development Council (DDC) elections in J&K. 
(Indian Politics)
419 28-11-2020 - Economy – GDP contracts 7.5% in second quarter – India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contracted 7.5% in the second quarter of 2020-21, following the record 23.9% decline recorded in the first quarter, as per estimates released by the National Statistical Office. The country has now