Current Affairs 26th January

India, China troops clashed at Naku La #GS2 #IR

Indian and Chinese troops clashed at Naku La in north Sikkim last week, in what the Army termed a “minor face-off”, resulting in some minor injuries on both sides. It is clarified that there was a minor face-off at Naku La area of north Sikkim on January 20, 2021, and the same was resolved by local commanders as per established protocols.

The clash occurred as the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops attempted to intrude into Indian territory, a defence source said. There were some minor injuries on both sides, but the situation was resolved and under control.

There was a clash at Naku La on the night of May 9 last, which also saw injuries on both sides. There was a clash at Pangong Tso also at that time as the nine-month-long stand-off began at several locations across eastern Ladakh.

Benefit of the News– Update about India- China border situation; Naku La in Sikkim

Padma Vibhushan for SPB, Shinzo Abe #GS2 #Governance

Late singer and music composer S.P. Balasubrahmanyam, former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Islamic scholar Maulana Wahiduddin Khan were conferred the Padma Vibhushan, the second-highest civilian award in India.

Singer K.S. Chithra, former Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, and Nripendra Misra, former Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, are among the 10 recipients of the Padma Bhushan.

Galwan heroes

Colonel B. Santhosh Babu, Commanding Officer of 16 Bihar, who lost his life along with 19 others in the clash with China’s People’s Liberation Army in the Galwan Valley in June last, was posthumously awarded the Maha Vir Chakra, the country’s second-highest wartime gallantry award.

Five other personnel were awarded the Vir Chakra — four of them posthumously. The Vir Chakra is the third-highest wartime gallantry award.

More than 900 police and central armed police force personnel received medals, including 207 gallantry medals, on the eve of Republic Day.

Assistant sub-inspector Mohan Lal of the Central Reserve Police Force, who was killed in the suicide attack on a CRPF convoy at Pulwama on February 14, 2019, was awarded the President’s Police Medal for Gallantry posthumously.

Benefit of the News– Example for India- Japan relations; Could be a prelims question.

Delhi may be heading towards herd immunity #GS3 #SNT

The outcome of the fifth round of the seroprevalence survey has indicated that Delhi’s population could be heading towards attaining herd immunity against COVID-19 infection.

The survey has found that in one district, 50-60% of the sample population have developed antibodies. For the survey, which ended a few days ago, samples of over 25,000 people from various districts across the city were collected. Delhi’s population is over two crore, spread across 11 districts.

Experts say herd immunity is said to have been developed in a population segment if 50-60% of those are found to have the presence of antibodies in a seroprevalence survey.

Herd immunity implies that in any set of people in a community, after becoming affected by the virus, a lot many of them become immune to it on account of antibodies developed in response to it. And, hence, such people become a protective layer between the infected person and the unaffected people, thereby breaking the chain of viral transmission.

This is the fifth such exercise that was conducted here, but the Delhi government has not given any official version on it.

The first seroprevalence survey, done from June 27 to July 10 by the Delhi government in association with the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), had used 21,387 samples and found that around 23% of the people surveyed had an exposure to the novel coronavirus.

The exercise in August showed 29.1% people had antibodies. Also, 79 of the 257 people who had tested positive and then recovered, and were part of the survey done in the first week of August, however, did not have the antibodies. In the survey in September and October, the figures stood at 25.1% and 25.5%.

The exercises were undertaken for a comprehensive assessment of the situation and to formulate strategies based on its findings.

Benefit of the News– About Herd Immunity

Billionaires’ wealth rose 35% during lockdown: Oxfam #GS3 #Economy

Indian billionaires increased their wealth by 35% to Rs. 3 trillion during the lockdown, ranking them behind their counterparts in U.S., China, Germany, Russia and France, says the “Inequality Virus Report” brought out by Oxfam, a non-profit organisation.

The rise in fortunes of the top 100 billionaires is enough to give every one of the 138 million poorest Indian people a cheque for Rs. 94,045, the report released on the opening day of the World Economic Forum in Davos said.

The wealth of just the top 11 billionaires during the pandemic could easily sustain the MGNREGS or the Health Ministry for the next 10 years, it said underscoring the deepening inequalities due to COVID-19 where the wealthiest escaped the worst impact of the pandemic while the poor faced joblessness, starvation and death.

Mukesh Ambani, who emerged as the richest man in India and Asia, earned Rs. 90 crore an hour during the pandemic when around 24% of the people in the country were earning under Rs. 3,000 a month during the lockdown.

The increase in his wealth alone could keep 40 crore informal workers out of poverty for at least five months. It recommended reintroducing the wealth tax and effecting a one-time COVID-19 cess of 4% on taxable income of over Rs. 10 lakh to help the economy recover from the lockdown.

According to its estimate, a wealth tax on the nation’s 954 richest families could raise the equivalent of 1% of the GDP.

Poor access

According to the report, only 6% of the poorest 20% have access to non-shared sources of improved sanitation, compared to 93.4 % of the top 20%. As much as 59.6 % of India’s population lived in a room or less, which meant that protocols necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19 cannot be followed.

Till October, 32 crore students were hit by closure of schools, of whom 84 % resided in rural areas and 70 %attended government schools.

Oxfam India’s survey across five States said that close to 40% of teachers in government schools feared that a third of the students would not return once schools reopened. It was estimated that out- of-school rates would double in a year.

Dalits, Adivasis and Muslims were likely to see a higher dropout rate. Girls were also most vulnerable as they were at risk of early and forced marriage, violence and early pregnancies, it noted.

Unemployment of women rose by 15% from a pre-lockdown level of 18%, which could result in a loss of India’s GDP of about 8% or Rs. 15 trillion.

Women who were employed before the lockdown were also 23.5 percentage points less likely to be re-employed compared to men in the post lockdown phase.

Benefit of the News– About Inequality Virus Report by Oxfam; Data about unemployment, School dropout etc can used for quoting example.

At Davos forum, Xi warns world leaders against ‘new Cold War’ #GS2 #IR

Chinese President Xi Jinping warned global leaders at an all-virtual World Economic Forum (WEF) at Davos on Monday against starting a “new Cold War”, and urged global unity in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a swipe at moves targeting China launched by the previous U.S. government, Mr. Xi said confrontation “will always end up harming every nation’s interests and sacrificing people’s welfare”.

The Chinese leader also reaffirmed Beijing’s ambitious climate pledges to slash carbon emissions by 65% by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060 — both significant commitments as China emits a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gases.

In virtual format because of the pandemic, this week’s event is headlined: “A Crucial Year to Rebuild Trust.”

The big names from Europe will be German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who heads the European Union executive.

Benefit of the News– About “New Cold War”

‘Green’ tax mooted for personal vehicles older than 15 years #GS3 #Economy

Owners of old vehicles will have to pay the government a ‘green’ tax as a penalty for polluting the environment, which will be much steeper if you reside in one of the more polluted cities in India.

The Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari has approved a proposal to levy a ‘green tax’ on old vehicles.

Personal vehicles will be charged a tax at the time of renewal of Registration Certification after 15 years. The levy may differ depending on fuel (petrol/diesel) and type of vehicle. The proposal will now go to the States for consultation before it is formally notified. It includes 10-25% of road tax on transport vehicles older than eight years at the time of renewal of fitness certificate.

The proposal on green tax also includes steeper penalty of up to 50% of road tax for older vehicles registered in some of the highly polluted cities in the country. The Minister also approved a watered-down policy of deregistration and scrapping of vehicles, bringing only those vehicles owned by government departments and PSUs and are older than 15 years under its ambit.

‘Effective April 1’

The policy will come into effect from April 1, 2022.

In 2016, the Centre had floated a draft Voluntary Vehicle Fleet Modernisation Programme that aimed to take 28 million decade-old vehicles off the road. A panel of secretaries suggested the scheme may combine a phased regulatory approach for capping the life of vehicles along with stricter emission norms.

Benefit of the News– About Green Tax

WhatsApp treating Indian users differently is cause for concern #GS3 #SnT

The Centre told the Delhi High Court that the differential treatment by WhatsApp of Indian users compared with their European counterparts with respect to its privacy policy was a “cause for concern for the government”.

While the privacy policy offered by WhatsApp to its European users specifically prohibits sharing of any information with Facebook, this provision is not present in the privacy policy offered to Indian citizens who form a very substantial part of WhatsApp’s user base.

The government is also concerned in the way Indian users have been subjected to these changes rather unilaterally. By not providing the Indian users the ability to opt out of this data being shared with other Facebook companies, WhatsApp prima facie seems to be treating Indian users with an all-or-nothing approach.

Taking note of the fact that the matter is being looked into at the highest level, Justice Sachdeva adjourned the hearing in the case to March 1.

In the meantime, Justice Sachdeva declined to grant the plea of petitioner Manohar Lal to issue notice to WhatsApp. During the hearing, WhatsApp counsel submitted that a communication had been received from the government seeking certain information on the privacy policy on January 18.

Mr. Lal, in his petition, claimed that WhatsApp’s new privacy policy violated the Right to Privacy guaranteed under the Constitution. The new policy “virtually gives a 360-degree profile into a person’s online activity” without there being any supervision of the government.

The plea had said WhatsApp changed its privacy policy in an arbitrary manner and even made it compulsory for its users to accept its terms and conditions, failing which the accounts and services would be terminated after February 8, 2021 for the respective users.

Later, WhatsApp clarified that “No one will have their account suspended or deleted on February 8 and we’ll be moving back our business plans until after May”.

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