Current Affairs 14th July

Vaccination declines by 60% as States say they have no doses #GS3 #SnT

The weekly pace of vaccination has declined to nearly 60% of what was seen in the week after June 21, when the Centre entirely took over vaccine procurement from the States. The slackening has resulted in several States complaining of a shortage and an inability to cater to demand.

On June 21, the first day of the new policy, nearly 91 lakh doses were administered and until June 27, about 4 crore were administered. While the week after didn’t match up, the period from July 5-11 has seen only 2.3 crore doses dispensed. So far, about 38 crore vaccines have been administered since the drive commenced in January.

Behind target

In the week since June 21, six lakh vaccines a day were the norm. However, the last time India crossed that daily figure was July 3.

In order to meet the Centre’s commitment to fully vaccinate all Indian adults by the year-end, at least eight lakh doses have to be administered every day. Several States have reported having to shut down vaccination centres due to unavailability of stocks.

On Tuesday, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin, in a letter to the Prime Minister, pointed out the imbalance in the allocation for Tamil Nadu and sought special allocation of one crore doses.

Vaccination centres remaining closed or people queuing up for vaccines for long hours have become a common sight in many places. Tamil Nadu has so far received 1.67 crore doses of the two vaccines, while 1.66 crore have been administered.

Maharashtra has administered 3.7 crore doses thus far. The State government has claimed it has the capacity to administer 15 lakh doses a day. Health Minister Rajesh Tope said 70 lakh doses had arrived last week but they were exhausted in just three days. The State Assembly had recently passed a resolution demanding 3 crore doses per month from the Centre for the next three months.

Till date, around 47% of Mumbai’s populace above 18 years has been administered the first dose while more than 25% has been given both doses. A total 60 lakh people (both first and second doses) have taken the vaccine.

https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/vaccination-declines-by-60-as-states-say-they-have-no-doses/article35313706.ece

India to display relics of St. Ketevan #GS1 #Culture #GS2 #IR

Almost 400 years after she was murdered in present day Iran, relics of St. Queen Ketevan that were found in Goa in 2005 are likely to be put on display in India as well as her native Georgia, according to Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) officials.

On July 10, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar handed over one part of the relics to Georgia as a gift from India. According to senior ASI officials with knowledge of the matter, parts of the bone of the right arm were found at St. Augustine Church in Old Goa in 2005.

Queen Ketevan was killed in 1624 in Shiraz for not converting to Islam and parts of her remains were brought to Goa by Augustinian monks. Revered as a martyr, her relics remained lost till 2005 as the St. Augustine Church collapsed in 1842, another official said. A DNA analysis by the CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, confirmed their authenticity in 2013.

The official said the larger part of the relic remained with the ASI in Goa and would be publicly displayed for the first time. The smaller part had been handed over to Georgia, where it was likely to be displayed publicly with the citation that it was a “gift from people of India to people of Georgia”. The larger part of the relic had been sent to Georgia for an exhibition for six months in 2017.

Shared past

When reached for his comment, Father Loiola Pereira, secretary to the Archbishop of Goa, said: “The relics of the martyred Queen Ketevan were found by the ASI in 2005 in the ruins of the Church of St. Augustine and have ever since been in the possession of the government. We are happy that at least ‘part of the relics’ were handed over by our government to the people of Georgia. St. Queen Ketevan belonged to Georgia and Georgia is where her relics should be.

https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/india-to-display-relics-of-st-ketevan/article35313611.ece

Anti-terror law must not be misused to harass people #GS2 #Governance

Anti-terror law should not be misused to quell dissent or harass citizens, Supreme Court judge Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said in an address on Indo-U.S. legal ties.

“Criminal law, including anti-terror legislation, should not be misused for quelling dissent or harassment to citizens,” he stated in a speech on the ‘Role of the Supreme Court in protecting the fundamental rights in challenging times’.

The judiciary must remain the first line of defence against any move to deprive citizens of their liberty. “Our courts must ensure that they continue to remain the first line of defence against the deprivation of liberty of citizens. Deprivation of liberty for even a single day is one too many. We must always be mindful of the deeper systemic issues of our decisions,” he observed.

Justice Chandrachud said that some may dub the role of the court as “judicial activism” or “judicial overreach”. “The Supreme Court is a counter-majoritarian institution sworn to protect the rights of socio-economic minorities,” he highlighted.

“The actions of the government had far-reaching effects on the constitutional rights of people, which involved right to affordable healthcare, including vaccination; rights of labourers, including migrant labourers and factory workers; right to livelihood; and rights of prisoners. Many such cases of constitutional violations found their way to the Supreme Court,” he pointed out.

As the “guardian of the Constitution”, the Supreme Court had to put a break where executive or legislative actions infringed fundamental human rights, he asserted. He detailed the court’s suo motu actions to ensure vaccination, improve COVID-19 management and decongestion of prisons to prevent the spread of the virus.

https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/anti-terror-law-must-not-be-misused-to-harass-people/article35313625.ece

Assam Bill bans sale of beef around temples #GS2 #Governance

Prior to tabling the Assam Cattle Preservation Bill, 2021, in the 126-member Assembly on July 12, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said its primary objective was to check the smuggling of cows to Bangladesh.

It also seeks to restrict the sale of beef in areas dominated by non-beef consuming communities and within a 5-km radius of temples and ‘satras’ (Vaishnav monasteries) formed by the saint-reformer Srimanta Sankaradeva.

The Bill seeks to replace the Assam Cattle Preservation Act, 1950, which allows the slaughter of cattle above 14 years of age or those that have become permanently incapacitated due to work, breeding, accident or deformity after local veterinary officers certify that they are fit for slaughter. The Bill retains this provision while intending to regulate the slaughter, consumption and illegal transportation of cattle across Assam. It says the certified cattle can be slaughtered only in licensed and recognised slaughterhouses. “The State government may exempt certain places of worship, or certain occasions from the slaughter of cattle other than cow, heifer or calf, for religious purposes,” it says.

The Bill says no one will be allowed to sell beef in any form except at places permitted by the government. Beef will not be allowed to be sold in areas predominantly inhabited by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and other non-beef-eating communities or within a radius of 5 km of any temple, ‘satra’ “or other religious institutions belonging to Hindu religion or any other institution or area as may be prescribed by the competent authority”. The Bill seeks to regulate the sale of cattle in the recognised animal markets.

It also bans the transportation of cattle to and from Assam as well as within the State unless competent authorities issue permits for movement of the animal for “bona fide or animal husbandry purposes while following rules laid down by the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960”. However, no permission would be required to carry cattle to grazing fields or for agricultural or animal husbandry purposes within a district.

Violation of the provisions of the Bill would entail imprisonment for three to eight years and fines between Rs. 3 lakh and Rs. 5 lakh.

The Bill is likely to choke supply to Christian-majority States in the Northeast. Nagaland and Mizoram have not reacted to it yet, but Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma said he would take up the issue with the Centre if it affected the supply of cattle to the State.

https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/assam-bill-bans-sale-of-beef-around-temples/article35313622.ece

Be vigilant to prevent a third wave: NITI Aayog member #GS3 #SnT

A third wave of COVID-19 is being witnessed across the world and it is time to be very vigilant, NITI Aayog member (Health) V.K. Paul said on Tuesday.

“India needs to be responsible and not allow the COVID numbers to rise. The world is witnessing the third wave of COVID cases and we have to join hands to ensure that the third wave doesn’t hit India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday clearly said that we should focus on keeping the third wave at bay instead of discussing when it could come in India. He cautioned that irresponsible behaviour could cause the COVID-19 numbers to rise again in India.

Giving details of the COVID-19 cases in India, Health Ministry joint secretary Lav Agrawal noted that 50% of the new cases were being reported from Kerala and Maharashtra.

Central teams in 11 States

“We would request everyone to take the COVID-19 surge across the world seriously. When we talk about the third wave, we are talking about it as a weather update and not understanding its seriousness and our responsibilities associated with it.

He added that the Centre had deputed teams to 11 States to help them. “Besides northeastern States, the teams have been sent to Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Kerala and Odisha, as they were reflecting a growth trajectory.

https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/be-vigilant-to-prevent-a-third-wave-niti-aayog-member/article35313640.ece

High fuel prices threaten recovery #GS3 #Economy

India’s economic recovery could be delayed by rising financial stress on households, with inflation adding to their woes, State Bank of India’s economics research team observed on Tuesday, urging that fuel taxes be cut to both cool inflationary pressures and ease the burden on consumers.

“In June… spend on health expenditure has substantially reduced but expenditure on oil has more than crowded out the spending on other non-discretionary items, like grocery and utility services that was the trend in earlier months which is worrisome,” SBI group chief economic advisor Soumya Kanti Ghosh pointed out. “In fact, the share of non-discretionary spend has jumped to 75% in June, from 62% in March,” Mr. Ghosh said, citing an analysis of monthly credit card spending data.

“This demands urgent cut in oil prices through tax rationalisation, otherwise consumers’ non-discretionary spending will continue to get distorted and crowd out discretionary expenses. This will also impart an upward bias in inflation,” he emphasised.

Observing that rising transport costs would eventually push up food inflation even further, the researchers said higher petrol and diesel prices and regional truck driver shortages were driving up road transport costs.

With every 10% increase in petrol pump prices in Mumbai estimated to lead to a 0.50% increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), the SBI economists said consumption trends in June indicated consumers were cutting back spending on other goods to be able to fork out the higher fuel costs.

Household distress rising

The second COVID-19 wave, that began in March, coincided with a significant dip in bank deposits, the researchers observed, with the number of districts seeing outflows of deposits almost doubling from the first-wave period. Bank deposits in the first quarter had declined by 38% by June 18, compared with a growth recorded in April to June period in 2020.

Household debt had also shot up, so the recovery would be delayed as there was an indication of debt financed consumption, Mr. Ghosh said. Household debt as a percentage of GDP had increased sharply to 37.3% or Rs. 73.6 lakh crore in 2020-21, from 32.5% of GDP or Rs. 66.1 lakh crore in 2019-20.

Asserting that the decline in financial savings reflected the household distress in India, SBI’s economists noted, “the household financial savings rate in the third quarter of 2020-21 has come down to 8.2% of GDP from 21% and 10.4% in the previous two quarters”. “This indicates how delayed the recovery will be in India… as we are predominantly a domestic consumption based.

https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-business/high-fuel-prices-threaten-recovery/article35313404.ece

S&P keeps India rating at lowest investment grade #GS3 #Economy

S&P Global Ratings kept India’s sovereign rating unchanged at the lowest investment grade of ‘BBB-’ for the 14th year in a row, and said the government’s ability to execute additional economic reforms that spur investment and create jobs will be crucial for recovery from the current economic slowdown.

S&P projected a 9.5% GDP growth in the current fiscal year that began in April and a 7.8% expansion in the following year.

Stable outlook

Forecasting economic recovery to gain pace through the second half of 2021-22 fiscal, S&P kept the rating outlook at stable. The government’s ability to deliver and execute additional economic reforms, especially those that spur investment and job creation, will be important for India’s ability to recover from the economic slowdown.

“We expect economic activity in India to begin to normalise throughout the remainder of fiscal 2022, resulting in real GDP growth of about 9.5%,. “The stable outlook reflects our expectation that India’s economy will recover following the resolution of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the country’s strong external settings will act as a buffer against financial strains despite elevated government funding needs over the next 24 months

https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-business/sp-keeps-india-rating-at-lowest-investment-grade/article35313400.ece

Funding gap may stump ‘Housing for All’ goal #GS3 #Economy

The government‘s promise to provide ‘Housing for All’ by 2022 faces a severe funding crunch even as implementation is running behind schedule.

The Centre had promised to build 50 million houses by 2022 under the PM Awas Yojana (PMAY) unveiled in 2015, but even a subsequently scaled down target of 32.6 million may be difficult to meet by next year, as there is a ‘large’ Rs. 1.24 lakh crore funding gap to be bridged in the next eighteen months, ratings agency ICRA said.

“With 1.5 years to go, against the revised targets, 19.55 million houses have been sanctioned and 14.16 million have been completed through PMAY-Rural till April 2021, implying completion of 67% of the revised target and 72% of the sanctioned houses, adding that only 43% of the 11.2 million urban housing units had been built so far.

https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-business/funding-gap-may-stump-housing-for-all-goal/article35313402.ece

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