Current Affairs 22nd July

1.2 lakh Indian children lost their primary caregivers: study #GS2 #SocialIssues

As many as 1.19 lakh children in India lost their primary caregivers (one or both parents or one or both custodial grandparents) to COVID-19, placing the country after Mexico (1.4 lakh) and Brazil (1.3 lakh) in this figure, says a new study published in The Lancet .

Globally, this figure stood at 11.34 lakh between March 1, 2020, and April 30, 2021. Children who lost either a mother or a father totalled 10.42 lakh, with 1.16 lakh of them in India.

The study developed estimates of pandemic-associated orphanhood and caregiver deaths using excess mortality and deaths for 21 countries that accounted for 76.4% of the global deaths during the period. It then used these findings to develop global extrapolations.

Researchers from the COVID-19 Response Team of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the Imperial College, London, the University of Oxford and the World Bank were among those who conducted the research. More than 15 lakh children around the world lost at least one primary or secondary caregiver. This figure stood at 1.86 lakh for India.

Though India ranks third in absolute numbers, its figure of 0.3 per 1,000 children was much lower than countries such as South Africa (5.1), Mexico (3.5), Brazil (2.4), Colombia (2.3), Iran (1.7), the United States (1.5), Argentina (1.1) and Russia (1). There were up to five times more children with deceased fathers than mothers. For example, in India, an estimated 25,500 children lost mother and 90,751 father and 12 children both parents.

For example, in India, an estimated 25,500 children lost their mother and 90,751 their father and 12 children both parents.

The rapid increase in COVID-19-associated deaths from February to April 2021 in India was associated with an 8.5 times increase in the number of children orphaned or losing caregivers in April as compared to March, according to the study. The study underlines that such children are at greater risk of family separation and institutionalisation and recommends investments towards strengthening family based care, with the help of a surviving caregiver or through kinship, foster care or adoption.

Lightweight anti-tank missile tested by DRDO #GS3 #Defence

A new generation of Akash surface-to-air missile was successfully flight-tested by the DRDO from an integrated test range off the Odisha coast in a boost to air defence capabilities. Separately, the DRDO also successfully flight-tested an indigenously developed low weight man-portable anti-tank guided missile, paving the way for its production for the Army.

The Defence Ministry said the Akash missile was test-fired at around 12:45 p.m. from a land-based platform and that the “flawless performance” of its weapons system was confirmed by the complete flight data. “Once deployed, the Akash-NG weapon system will prove to be a force multiplier for the air defence capability of the IAF.

It is learnt that the new variant of the Akash missile (Akash-NG) has a slightly better range compared to the original version that can strike targets at a distance of around 25 km.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh congratulated the DRDO, the IAF and production agencies Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) for the test-firing of the missile. On the man-portable missile, the Defence Ministry said the test had validated the minimum range successfully.

India signed 26 pacts to fight drug menace #GS3 #Security

India has signed 26 bilateral pacts, 15 memoranda of understanding and two agreements on security cooperation with different countries for combating illicit trafficking of narcotic, drugs and psychotropic substances, besides chemical precursors, according to a Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) reply in the Lok Sabha.

The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) coordinated with various international organisations for sharing information and intelligence to combat transnational drug trafficking. They included the SAARC Drug Offences Monitoring Desk; Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa; Colombo Plan; Association of Southeast Asian Nations; ASEAN Senior Officials on Drug Matters; Bay of Bengal Initiative For Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Co-Operation; United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and the International Narcotics Control Board, it said.

Sharp vigil, effective surveillance, public cooperation, source-based intelligence, sensitisation of field officials and associated measures had resulted in a gradual increase in the registration of a number of drug trafficking related cases in the country, the MHA stated.

“For coordination among various Central and State agencies, the Narco Coordination Centre (NCORD) mechanism was set up by the MHA in year 2016 for effective drug law enforcement. This NCORD system has been restructured into a four-tier scheme up to district level on July 29, 2019, for better coordination.

A Joint Coordination Committee with the NCB Director General as its chairman was set up on July 19, 2019, to monitor the investigation into cases involving large seizures. For digitisation of pan-India drug seizure data, the MHA has launched an e-portal called ‘SIMS’ (Seizure Information Management System) in 2019 for all the drug law enforcement agencies under the mandate of Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS).

Intelligence agencies not grounded in law’ #GS3 #Security

The use of NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware against Opposition leaders, activists, judges and journalists would not have occurred if intelligence agencies were grounded in law and with provisions for holding them accountable, senior Congress leader Manish Tewari has said.

In 2011, Mr. Tewari had moved a private member’s Bill in the Lok Sabha — the Intelligence Services (Powers and Regulation) Bill — that sought to bring “appropriate statutory basis” for intelligence agencies. It also dealt with the question of balancing the demands of security and privacy of individuals.

Mr. Tewari listed an improved version of the Bill in 2019, but since the beginning of the 17th Lok Sabha, private members’ business has not been taken up. The problem in India is that both the law enforcement and intelligence organisations do not have a sound legal basis

Mr. Tewari pointed to a November 2013 Gauhati High Court judgment, which called the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) “illegal”. For the past eight years, the CBI’s existence hung by the thread of a stay, as the Supreme Court had so far not adjudicated on the legality of the organisation that had the authority to deprive people of their life and liberty, he stated.

To a question raised by Mr. Tewari in 2009 on the legal basis of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), the government admitted that the RAW had no basis in law. The IB, it stated, derived its existence from being on the Union List.

Mr. Tewari said, “It creates a spectre of completely unbridled power, when you have organisations functioning without any legal framework that have the ability to transgress in the personal lives of the citizens.”

The world over, he observed, intelligence agencies were governed by law. “In each evolved democracy, intelligence agencies are subject to very rigorous parliamentary oversight. There are specific parliamentary committees that look at their functioning so that excess do not get committed. Unfortunately, in India, there is a complete absence of even a public discussion on how to hold the agencies accountable,” he said.

If this law had been in place, something like Pegasus would not have happened. Mr. Tewari said BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad, in an “implicit admission of the government’s culpability”, had stated that when 45 countries had used the Pegasus spyware, why should India be singled out.

Centre amends policy on suspended family pension #GS2 #Governance

The Union government has amended a decades-old policy of suspending family pension to the spouse of a deceased government employee, when he/she is charged with murdering the employee or abetting the commission of such an offence.

Under the new rule, other eligible members of the family would be entitled to receive the family pension till the disposal of the criminal proceedings against the spouse of the deceased employee. In case, the spouse is proved not guilty of the murder charge, the family pension would be payable to him/her from the date of acquittal.

In accordance with the provisions under the Central Civil Services (Pension) Rules, 1972, if a person who is eligible to receive family pension on death of a government employee or a pensioner is charged with offences of murdering the government employee/pensioner or for abetting in the commission of such an offence, the payment of family pension shall remain suspended till the conclusion of the criminal proceedings.

In such cases, family pension is neither paid to the person who is charged with the offence nor to any other eligible member of the family till the conclusion of the case. If on conclusion of the criminal proceedings the person concerned is convicted for the murder or abetment of the murder of a government servant, he/she would be debarred from receiving the family pension.

In that case, the family pension would become payable to other eligible member of the family from the date of death of the government servant. But if the person concerned is subsequently acquitted of the criminal charge, the family pension becomes payable to that person from the date of the death of the employee/pensioner.

However, denying payment of family pension to any other member of the family, particularly dependent children or parents who are not charged with the offence, till the conclusion of the criminal proceedings, was not considered justified. Since finalisation of the criminal proceedings may take a long time and the eligible children or parents of the deceased may suffer for want of financial support by way of family pension, the issue was taken up by the Department of Pension & Pensioners Welfare with the Department of Legal Affairs for a review.

In case the other eligible number is a minor child of the diseased government servant, the family pension to such should be payable through a duly appointed guardian.

Climate cooperation depends on overall ties, China tells U.S. #GS2 #IR

China said its cooperation with the United States on climate change will depend on the overall state of relations between the two countries, warning the Joe Biden administration, which has placed special emphasis on tackling climate change, that working together on this issue may extract a price.

“As the largest developing country and the largest developed country in the world, China and the United States share common interests in addressing climate change.

“We should step up communication and coordination, and play an exemplary role in the international community. That said, I want to stress that China-U.S. cooperation in specific areas is closely related to the overall China-U.S. relationship. The U.S. should not, on the one hand, wantonly interfere in China’s internal affairs and harm China’s interests, while on the other hand, ask China to show understanding and support in bilateral and global affairs.

‘China should do more’

His comments followed a call from the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, for China to do more. He said Beijing’s commitment to peak emissions by 2030 was not sufficient to ensure a 1.5 degree Celsius global warming target.

“If China sticks with its current plant and does not peak its emissions until 2030, then the entire rest of the world must go to zero by 2040 or even 2035,” he said. “There is simply no alternative because without sufficient reduction by China, the goal of 1.5C is essentially impossible.”

Mr. Zhao pointed out, regarding China’s efforts, that the country’s national carbon trading market had recently begun trading and carbon emissions by companies in the first batch were “estimated to exceed 4 billion tonnes per year, making the market the world’s largest in terms of the amount of greenhouse gas emissions”.

“China will strive to peak carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060,” he said. “China will make the stride from carbon peaking to carbon neutrality within a far shorter period than developed countries. This is a major strategic decision made by China… In addressing climate change and successfully achieving emission reduction, China expects the U.S. to match its words with deeds, earnestly fulfil its due obligations and make its due contributions.”

U.S. diplomat visit

This is expected to be one of the many issues on the agenda later this week when Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman travels to China on July 25 and meets Foreign Minister and State Councillor Wang Yi. The State Department announced in a statement on Wednesday that “these discussions are part of ongoing U.S. efforts to hold candid exchanges with PRC officials to advance U.S. interests and values and to responsibly manage the relationship”.

“The Deputy Secretary will discuss areas where we have serious concerns about PRC actions, as well as areas where our interests align

IBBI amends insolvency rules to help improve transparency #GS3 #Economy

Seeking to enhance transparency in the insolvency process, the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) has amended the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (Insolvency Resolution Process for Corporate Persons) Regulations. The IBBI said in a release on Wednesday that the amendments were aimed at enhancing “the discipline, transparency, and accountability in corporate insolvency proceedings”.

A resolution professional was duty-bound to find out if a corporate debtor (CD) had been subject to avoidance transactions, namely, preferential transactions, undervalued transactions, extortionate credit transactions, fraudulent trading and wrongful trading, and file applications with the adjudicating authority seeking appropriate relief.

This not only claws back the value lost in such transactions increasing the possibility of reorganisation of the CD through a resolution plan, but also disincentivises such transactions preventing stress to the CD. “For effective monitoring, the amendment requires the RP to file Form CIRP 8 on the electronic platform of the Board, intimating details of his opinion and determination in respect of avoidance transactions.

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