Current Affairs 5th April

Amid virus surge, Russian vaccine may get the nod #GS3 #SnT

The Russia-made Sputnik V vaccine may be cleared for emergency use in India within 10 days. The possible approval for a third vaccine candidate comes as Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a high-level meeting on Sunday to review the situation and the on-going vaccination programme with the number of new cases crossing 1 lakh — surpassing the figures recorded in September 2020.

On April 1, Dr. Reddy’s Labs, which is conducting a trial on the Sputnik V’s suitability on India, was reportedly denied authorisation because the Subject Expert Committee of the Drug Controller General of India asked for more data on the vaccine’s stability.

Sputnik V, developed by Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, is a two-dose adenovirus based vector vaccine, similar in design to AstraZeneca’s Covishield.

A challenge with the vaccine is its storage. The liquid form of the vaccine requires it to be stored at -18°C or colder while the freeze-dried version can be stored in 2-8°C. The company was asked by the regulator to furnish more information on the cold storage management plan and its stability.

Last month, Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) — the main business promoters of the vaccine — announced a contract with three Indian firms for manufacturing more than 300 million doses of the vaccine. It has reported an efficacy of 91% and has so far been approved for use in 59 countries.

“The Sputnik V was discussed and it’s likely to be cleared within the next 7-10 days. In phases, it is expected that vaccines will be available to all adults,” the source, who declined to be identified.

A press statement following the briefing stated that a special campaign would be organised for underlying Covid-appropriate behaviour from April 6-14 with emphasis on 100% mask usage, personal hygiene and sanitation at public places /workplaces and health facilities.

The meeting flagged the situation in Maharashtra, Punjab and Chhattisgarh as of “serious concern.” Maharashtra has contributed 57% of total cases and 47% of deaths in the country in the last 14 days. The total number of new cases per day in the State has touched 47,913 which was twice its earlier peak.

Sukma encounter toll touches 22; Shah cuts short campaign #GS3 #Security

A day after the encounter between Central paramilitary forces and Maoists in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma, bodies of 22 personnel were recovered on Sunday. One commando was still missing, the Chhattisgarh police said. Thirty-one others were injured. The bodies could be retrieved only close to 24 hours after the attack at noon. Some jawans may have died due to excessive bleeding, a police officer said.

On reports that a jawan’s body may have been mutilated, the officer said, “There was intense firing from both sides and it is possible that the victim was blown up due to the impact; we can confirm only after the postmortem is conducted.”

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who were both campaigning for the Assam election, returned to Raipur and New Delhi respectively as the toll rose.

K. Vijay Kumar, Senior Security Adviser, Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), said for the past two weeks the Maoists were trying to disrupt the construction of a road near Silger-Jagargunda. “The security forces and the Maoists were engaged in a cat and mouse game for the past two weeks,”

PSU banks may have to take Rs. 2,000 crore hit #GS3 #Economy

The public sector banks may have to bear a burden of Rs. 1,800 crore-Rs. 2,000 crore arising out of a recent Supreme Court judgment on the waiver of compound interest on all loan accounts which opted for moratorium during March-August 2020, sources said.

The judgment covers loans above Rs. 2 crore as loans below this got blanket interest on interest waiver in November last year.

Support scheme

The compound interest support scheme for loan moratorium cost the government Rs. 5,500 crore during 2020-21 and the scheme covered all borrowers, including the prompt ones who did not opt for the moratorium.

According to banking sources, initially 60% of borrowers availed themselves of the moratorium and gradually the percentage came down to 40% and even less as collections improved with the easing of the lockdown. In the case of corporates, this was as low as 25% as far as public sector banks were concerned.

They said banks would provide compound interest waiver for the period a borrower had availed the moratorium. The RBI on March 27 last year announced a moratorium on payment of instalments of term loans falling due between March 1 and May 31, 2020. It was later extended to August 31.

‘Joint efforts needed for peace’ #GS2 #IR

India and China need to strengthen confidence-building measures in border areas and avoid a repeat of last year’s border crisis.

“Maintenance of peace and tranquillity need our joint efforts,” Mr. Sun said. “The border disputes can only be resolved through dialogue and negotiations… In case of an incident, a timely communication through military and diplomatic channels should be undertaken to avoid any action that may complicate or escalate the situation.

We should strengthen confidence-building measures to jointly maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas. The lesson of last year’s border incident is profound and such incident should not be repeated.”

He made the comments in a “virtual dialogue” with columnist Sudheendra Kulkarni, the transcript of which was released on Sunday by China’s Embassy in New Delhi.

On last year’s clash in the Galwan Valley which marked the worst violence on the border since 1967, Mr. Sun said: “Neither China nor India would like to see it happen. Both sides are willing to resolve issues and de-escalate tensions through dialogue and consultation.”

The disengagement at Pangong Lake was “conducive to building mutual trust and further easing the situation on the ground”, he stated.

Political will

He said both sides had “the political will to resolve the boundary question” and “should actively push forward boundary talks and strive to reach a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution”.

While the Chinese envoy called on both sides to view relations “in a comprehensive way rather than limited to one part” and said “the boundary question is not the whole story of China-India relations”, India has made clear that relations cannot continue as normal unless there is peace and tranquillity in border areas.

Last year’s crisis, India has said, was triggered by China’s mobilisation of a large number of troops in forward areas and multiple transgressions across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) that went against a number of border agreements that had helped keep the peace.

India last year placed curbs on Chinese investment and banned more than 200 Chinese apps, underlining that trade and investment could not proceed as normal in light of last year’s border crisis.

Mr. Sun said “complete decoupling” or “selective decoupling”, in his view, “will not be realistic and harm others without benefiting oneself”.

Trade ties

“We hope that India will treat all as equals in its opening-up and refrain from imposing restrictions on specific countries or regions, over-stretching the concept of national security to exclude companies from specific countries.

Last year, two-way trade reached $87.6 billion, of which India’s exports to China were $20.8 billion, up 16%. “It shows that the Chinese market will always welcome marketable commodities,” he said.

“China has been India’s largest trading partner for consecutive years and India is China’s largest trading partner in South Asia. This is the result of the market functions and enterprises’ choices,” Mr. Sun said.

‘Educate the poor on their rights’ #GS2 #SocialIssues

Supreme Court judge, Justice N.V. Ramana, said the most vulnerable sections of society often fall prey to human rights atrocities from either the state or anti-social elements.

Justice Ramana, the seniormost apex court judge who has been recommended for appointment as the 48th Chief Justice of India, urged young lawyers to educate the poor and the vulnerable about their rights. Young lawyers, he said, should raise their voice against atrocities committed against the poor by the state and criminal elements.

“The most vulnerable are often the victims of human rights atrocities, by either the state or by anti-social elements. As young advocates, you are best placed to strongly oppose the same through legal action. You must be the conscience-bearers of the nation,” Justice Ramana said in his virtual address at the Damodara Sanjivayya National Law University convocation.

Lawyers should give proper legal advice and not drag people to court in disputes which could be settled amicably outside courtrooms, he said. “One of the consequences of the poor quality of legal education in the country is the exploding pendency in the country.

There are nearly 3.8 crore cases pending in courts in India despite the large number of advocates in the country … They [lawyers] must keep in mind not only their duty to their clients, but also their duty to the courts, to society and to the law,” Justice Ramana said.

Quality issues

The Supreme Court judge said that with over 1,500 law colleges and schools in the country, law was no longer a rich man’s profession. However, there was also the problem of quality suffering over quantity.

“Please do not take this wrongly, but what proportion of graduates who are fresh out of college are actually ready or prepared for the profession? I would think less than 25% … It is a comment on the large number of sub-standard legal educational institutions in the country which are colleges merely in name. There are many sub-standard colleges in the country, which is a very worrying trend. The judiciary has taken a note of this, and is attempting to correct the same,” Justice Ramana said.

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