Current Affairs 3rd July

LeT could be behind drone attack in Jammu, says DGP #GS3 #Security

Security agencies suspected the role of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in the twin drone-driven blasts on the Indian Air Force’s technical airport in Jammu on June 27 and the possibility of it coming from across the border, Jammu and Kashmir Director General of Police (DGP) Dilbagh Singh said.

“The probe [into the blasts] is in progress. We haven’t reached any conclusion as to who is actually involved. However, on the basis of the past history of the LeT using drones to drop weapons, narcotics and improvised explosive devices (IED), we suspect the outfit is involved.

Drone spotted in Arnia

Meanwhile, five LeT militants and a soldier were killed in an operation in south Kashmir’s Pulwama, while an unmanned aerial vehicle was spotted and fired at by the BSF on the International Border in Jammu’s Arnia sector on Friday.

India flags sighting of drone over mission in Pak. #GS2 #IR

A drone was spotted over the Indian High Commission complex in Islamabad last week and Pakistan has been asked to investigate the incident and prevent recurrence of such “breach of security”. The Indian mission has also lodged a strong protest with Pakistan over the incident through a note verbale, which is a diplomatic communique, people familiar with the development said.

The incident came to light amid growing concerns in the security establishment in India after drones were used to carry out blasts at the Jammu Air Force station on June 27.

Goods exports touch record $95 bn in Q1 #GS3 #Economy

With India registering highest quarterly merchandise exports of $95 billion during the first quarter (April-June) of 2021-22, the country is now eyeing a target of $400 billion merchandise exports in the current fiscal. As per the official data released, the exports rose by 47.34% to $32.46 billion in June, following a strong growth in sectors such as engineering, gems and jewellery and petroleum products. However, India was a net importer in June 2021 with a trade deficit of $9.4 billion.

“Despite the severity of the second wave of COVID-19, highest ever merchandise export in a quarter of $95 billion has been achieved in April-June 2021, surpassing the previous record of $90 billion in January-March 2020. He said measures such as sector-specific interventions, simplification of procedures, extension of timelines and licences, had resulted in the record performance of exports.

4,000-year-old settlement found during excavation in Odisha #GS1 #History

The Odisha Institute of Maritime and South East Asian Studies (OIMSEAS), the archaeological wing of the State government, has discovered a 4,000-year-old settlement and ancient artifacts in Balasore district.

After getting traces of fortified early historic sites near Balasore town, the OIMSEAS had sought permission from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to document Durgadevi village in Remuna Tehsil. According to the ASI, the site has circular mud fortification of about 4.9 kms, in between the river Sona on south and the Burahabalang on its north-eastern borders.

Interestingly, the archaeologists have come across distinct traces of three cultural phases — Chalcolithic (2000 to 1000 BC.), Iron Age (1000 to 400 BC) and Early Historic Period (400 to 200 BC) — from the excavation site.

“Two small nullahs Gangahara and Prassana join the site on its north and south forming a natural moat which was an ancient water management system developed at least 4,000 years ago,” the institute said.

The archaeologists have come across human settlement and artifacts belonging to the Chalcolithic period. “The major discovery was the base of a circular hut, black on red painted pottery, black slipped ware, red slipped ware and copper objects. The floor of the circular hut was rammed with red soil,. “The people were mostly leading settled life and had started agriculture, domestication of animals and fishing.”

The material including pottery remains of black burnished ware, black and red ware, iron objects like nails, arrow head, crucible and slag of various kinds belong to the Iron Age Period.

Early Historic Period cultural materials such as pottery specimens of red ware, terracotta ear studs, bangles, beads, and some conical objects were also discovered. “The lifestyle had improved to trade. The fortification signifies the emergence of urbanisation at Durgadevi around 400 to 200 BCE

Judges must look at facts of a case and its human aspect: CJI #GS2 #Governance

Judging is not an easy task, Chief Justice of India (CJI) N.V. Ramana said. On one hand, the Chief Justice said, a judge should focus on law, precedents and facts of a case and, on the other, the human aspect.

Judges should use the “little discretion” law allows to keep sight of the human suffering and toll behind every case. A decision of the court would echo through time. It will have repercussions. A judgment becomes the law of the land. A judge has to keep all this in mind while dealing with a case, he said.

“Deciding cases is not an easy task. We not only have to focus on the law and precedents surrounding the issue before us, as well as the facts of the case, but also the repercussions of what we decide and the precedent we may be setting. This makes it necessary for us judges to be logical and objective and theoretically sound.

However, we should not lose sight of the people and their difficulties behind the cases. The little discretion that is given to us, is the area in which a judge has flexibility to display his philosophy. The CJI was speaking at a farewell organised by the Supreme Court Bar Association for retiring judge Justice Ashok Bhushan.

He said Justice Bhushan, besides his “remarkable judgments”, had, as a “humanist judge”, left a mark in the hearts and minds of the people of the country. The CJI termed the Bar “the protector of the institution”.

Lawyers must respect the institution and protect the judiciary from any onslaught which is likely to affect the functioning of the judicial system. I know, the Supreme Court Bar is always a frontrunner when it comes to supporting the institution from motivated attacks. They always cherish the contribution of judges and appreciate their hard work. They never forget the efforts of judges”.

The CJI underscored that the strength of the institution lay in the unity of the Bar and the Bench.

Centre asks States to impose limit on stocking of pulses #GS3 #Economy

In an attempt to arrest the spiralling prices of pulses, the Union government directed the States to impose stock limit on all pulses except moong till October 31. The Department of Consumer Affairs issued the Removal of Licensing Requirements, Stock Limits and Movement Restrictions on Specified Foodstuffs (Amendment) Order, 2021 prescribing the limits which have been imposed with immediate effect.

The stock limit of 200 tonnes has been imposed on wholesalers provided they do not hold more than 200 tonnes of one variety of pulses, the Ministry said in the order. On retailers, the stock limit will be 5 tonnes.

In case of millers, the stock limit will be the last three months of production or 25% of annual installed capacity whichever is higher. For importers, the stock limit will be the same as that of wholesalers for stocks held or imported prior to May 15, 2021. And for pulses imported after May 15, stock limit applicable on wholesalers will apply after 45 days from date of customs clearance.

If the stocks of entities exceed the prescribed limits, they have to be declared on the online portal of the Department of Consumer Affairs and have to be brought within the prescribed limit within 30 days of the notification of the order. Since the entire country has been reeling under the impact of the pandemic, the government has been committed to adopting timely measures and has substantially alleviated the concerns and anguish of the common man.

Anganwadi workers struggle with Centre’s order on ‘Poshan’ #GS2 #Governance

Anganwadi workers in several States, including Punjab and Haryana, are up in arms after a government order threatened them with a pay cut if they did not download the government’s mobile application called ‘Poshan Tracker’ to record delivery of services by them. They demanded to know who would give them the mobile phones and bear the expenses for recharge.

The application and the use of technology for real-time growth monitoring and tracking of beneficiaries is the mainstay of the government’s Poshan Abhiyaan, which aims to improve nutritional outcomes for children, pregnant women and lactating mothers. In Punjab’s Gurdaspur, several thousand anganwadi workers and helpers held a demonstration.

“There are nearly 30,000 anganwadi workers affiliated to our union and none of them have downloaded the Poshan Tracker application because the government has neither given us mobile phones, nor money for recharge.

“We are not opposed to the Poshan Tracker, but we need a mobile phone, expenses for recharge as well as training to use smartphones as the application is compatible with mobile phones that are Android 6 or above. Many workers only know how to use the keypad mobile phones,” says Shakuntala Devi, general secretary, Haryana Anganwadi Workers and Helpers Union.

In Himachal Pradesh, anganwadi workers are faced with a different challenge. Veena Sharma, general secretary, Himachal Pradesh Anganwadi Workers and Helpers Union, says, “Many anganwadi centres are situated in remote locations and often don’t have Internet connectivity. As a result, we have to walk 500 metres to 1 km to a spot where we can get some network coverage.

China has improved its air operations #GS2 #IR

Since the disengagement in Eastern Ladakh in February, there had been a kind of status quo on the ground but China has strengthened its infrastructure and improved the efficiency of its air operations, Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal (ACM) RKS Bhadauria said.

Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen. Bipin Rawat said both the nations understood that returning to the status quo was in their best interest for ensuring peace. Responding to questions on the proposed integrated theatre commands, ACM Bhadauria said the IAF was “fully committed” to integration and theatre commands. “We must get it right.”

‘Supporting role’

Earlier, responding to questions on the theatre commands and reports of certain reservations on the part of the IAF, Gen. Rawat said that while the Air Force had an air defence charter, it was also required to provide support to the ground forces. “Do not forget that the Air Force continues to remain a supporting arm of the armed forces, just as the artillery or engineers support the combatants within the Army. They have an air defence charter and support the ground forces in time of operations,” he pointed out. This was the basic charter they have to understand.

ACM Bhadauria said, “It is not a supporting role alone. The air power has a huge role to play in any of the integrated battle role…”

Gen. Rawat noted that the proposed theatre commands comprised an air defence command, a maritime theatre command and two-land based commands on the West and North. However, the Army’s Northern Command, which overlooked both China and Pakistan, would be left as it was for now.

ACM Bhadauria said China had spent a lot of energy building infrastructure at many of their airfields, which he termed “defensive” in nature because they have analysed as to “what all can be hit by us quickly” if the situation required. “The other issue is they are looking at covering deficiencies wherever they are. Apart from infrastructure, in terms of training and other issues, they have done other methods to bring in efficiencies in air operations,” he observed.

They were monitoring the situation closely and had taken across the board actions “We are much more capable than we were one year back. It’s not that we have maintained status quo on our capability,” he stressed.

Responding to questions on the situation in Ladakh, Gen. Rawat cautioned not to take things lightly. “We must be prepared for any misadventure and respond accordingly. We have responded in the past and will do so in the future,” he asserted.

He said the ongoing talks at various levels for disengagement and de-escalation would take time. “I think in a gradual manner, we should be able to achieve the status quo, because if you do not achieve the status quo and remain in this kind of a position, it could lead to misadventure at some time.

J&J jab creates more antibodies against Delta variant than Beta #GS3 #SnT

Johnson and Johnson’s single-shot vaccine elicited more antibodies against the Delta variant, the most dominant form of the SARS-CoV-2 in India, than against the Beta variant, which was first isolated in South Africa.

“We believe that our vaccine offers durable protection against COVID-19 and elicits neutralising activity against the Delta variant. This adds to the robust body of clinical data supporting our single-shot vaccine’s ability to protect against multiple variants of concern.

These results were part of a pre-print (or not peer-reviewed) publication and based on an analysis of a group of eight vaccinated volunteers. Antibody levels alone aren’t an indicator of a vaccine’s ability to elicit protection against infection. They are part of the company’s larger 44,000 volunteer-strong phase 3 trial that has so far reported an efficacy of 85% against severe disease.

India sees ‘consensus’ by Oct. on OECD-G20 global tax deal #GS3 #Economy

A day after joining the OECD-G20 framework for a global minimum tax, the Finance Ministry said significant issues including share of profit allocation and scope of subject-to-tax rules were yet to be addressed, and a ‘consensus agreement’ was expected by October. A total of 130 countries agreed to an overhaul of global tax norms to ensure multinationals pay taxes wherever they operate and at a minimum 15% rate.

The solution should result in allocation of meaningful and sustainable revenue to market jurisdictions, particularly for developing and emerging economies, the Ministry said in a statement. A majority of the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting members (including India) on Thursday adopted a statement containing an outline of a consensus solution to address tax challenges arising from digitalisation of the economy

It comprises Pillar One — reallocation of additional share of profit to the market jurisdictions, and Pillar Two — regarding minimum tax and subject-to-tax rules.

Deloitte India Partner Sumit Singhania said the consensus would quicken ongoing efforts to reset the almost century-old international tax rules. It provides an objective definition for “largest (sales more than €20 billion) and most profitable (more than 10% global profitability) MNEs to be subject to new nexus and profit allocation rules.

Big Tech entry into India’s financial sector poses risks for traditional banks, says RBI #GS3 #Economy

Plans by Big Tech to foray further into India’s financial sector pose risks for traditional banks as the tech firms have the potential to become dominant players in financial services. The plans will also create governance-related challenges for regulators, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) wrote in its bi-annual financial stability report.

Major technology firms “straddle many different lines of business with sometimes opaque overarching governance structures”, it said.

The RBI said concerns included operational risks, too-big-to fail issues, challenges over anti-trust rules, cybersecurity and data privacy. But it added that the positive outcomes could include efficiency gains and more access to financial services.

At present, Amazon and Google provide basic payment services in India. Both companies as well as Facebook and others have applied for licences to operate broader retail payment and settlement systems in partnership with Indian companies such as Reliance and lenders.

The central bank’s warnings come at a time of much tension between the Indian government and US technology giants over issues that range from e-commerce rules to data privacy and content posted on their platforms. Amazon, Facebook, Facebook-owned WhatsApp and Twitter have all been caught up in disputes with New Delhi.

A State Bank union and UNI Global Union, which represents about 20 million workers globally, last month had raised concerns about the entry of big technology companies into the country’s payments sector.

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