India Newsletter

FRONT PAGE NEWS
5 August 2020

BHUMI PUJAN AT AYODHYA TODAY, AMDIST FEAR OF INFECTIONS

 

Every street in Ayodhya was seen illuminated with earthen lamps ahead of the

foundation stone laying ceremony of the Ram Temple today.

Senior BJP leader and one of the chief architects of the Ram mandir

movement, LK Advani, Tuesday said that "it is an emotional day not only for

me but for all Indians", and that he was "humbled destiny had made me

perform" a pivotal role in the temple campaign.

Advani has not been invited for the August 5 ceremony in Ayodhya, on account

of his age and the Covid-19 outbreak.

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi lands in Ayodhya town at 11.30am today, he

will have a special ring of protection - local police personnel who have

recovered from the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), the state's deputy

inspector general of police said on Tuesday.

UP deputy inspector general of police Deepak Kumar agreed that 150 personnel

were not enough to protect the PM in the high-profile event but added that

the larger security detail will comprise 400 additional personnel who have

tested negative for Covid-19 in the past 48 hours and then been isolated.

 

 

A FRESH BLAME GAME SURFACES WITHIN CONGRESS

 

On August 10 Sonia Gandhi completes one year of interim presidentship of the

Indian National Congress, and questions are being raised about a leadership

vacuum. For the first time, responsible quarters are suggesting that as

Sonia cannot function as interim president indefinitely and Rahul Gandhi

seems to want power but not the responsibility, one way out is collective

leadership.

Those with proximity to Rahul are hoping he will change his mind and assume

presidentship of the party - this means their position in the Congress

apparatus will be secure.

The issue erupted last week at a meeting of Rajya Sabha Members of

Parliament (MPs) called by Sonia. A routine review meeting saw her in the

vortex of a heated debate that touched on policy issues as well as

personalities. And it shows no sign of ending.

At this meeting, several MPs, including Rajiv Satav and K C Venugopal,

thought to be loyal to Rahul held the UPA years (2004-2014) responsible for

the decline in the Congress' fortunes. By implication, this meant criticism

of former prime minister Manmohan Singh's government and its policies.

Several leaders came out in public to say that while they respected Singh,

they had a view that needed to be taken into account.

Sushmita Dev, chief of the women's wing of the Congress, the Mahila

Congress, said the Congress was a democracy and leaders had a right to say

what they wanted to on an internal forum. The other side reacted instantly.

Congress leader and lawmaker Manish Tewari said: "The BJP was out of office

for 10 years. Not once did it blame Atal Bihari Vajpayee or his government

for its predicament then. In the Congress, unfortunately, some ill-informed

Congressmen would rather take swipes at the Manmohan Singh-led UPA

government than fight the NDA/BJP. When unity is required, they divide."

Milind Deora, a junior minister in the UPA, said: "When demitting office in

2014, Singh said: 'History will be kinder to me'. Could he ever have

imagined that some from his own party would dismiss his years of service to

the nation and seek to destroy his legacy - that too, in his presence?"

Chief ministers of the party, who hold the real power, are keeping

absolutely quiet. Bhupesh Baghel (Chhattisgarh), Captain Amarinder Singh

(Punjab), and Ashok Gehlot (Rajasthan) have stayed out of the whole

controversy.

The debate inside the party is not just on its current predicament, it is

also on who the primary enemy of the party is. Several leaders have advised

Rahul that equivalence with Narendra Modi is a mistake as Modi's popularity

is at its peak. Instead the Congress should find blindspots within the BJP

and the NDA government - there are plenty - and focus on those. These

leaders include R P N Singh, Jairam Ramesh and others. However, there is no

evidence that Rahul is taking this advice.

 

 

INDIA HITS BACK AT NEW PAKISTAN MAP: 'AN EXERCISE IN POLITICAL ABSURDITY'

 

On the eve of the first anniversary of the withdrawal of Jammu and Kashmir's

special status under Article 370 and its bifurcation into Union territories,

Pakistan on Tuesday released a new political map which depicts J&K as a

disputed territory, and claims the regions of Sir Creek and the erstwhile

state of Junagadh in Gujarat as part of its territory. Reacting sharply to

the move, India called it an "exercise in political absurdity".

"We have seen a so-called political map of Pakistan that has been released

by Prime Minister Imran Khan. This is an exercise in political absurdity,

laying untenable claims to territories in the Indian State of Gujarat and

our Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and of Ladakh. These ridiculous

assertions have neither legal validity nor international credibility. In

fact, this new effort only confirms the reality of Pakistan's obsession with

territorial aggrandisement supported by cross-border terrorism," the MEA

said in an official statement. The map was unveiled by Pakistan Prime

Minister Imran Khan, who claimed that it negates India's "illegal action" of

August 5, and that it had been endorsed by the federal cabinet. This map

will now be officially used in Pakistan's curriculum, Khan said.

The map depicts the entirety of Jammu and Kashmir as a disputed territory

while also incorporating Siachen as part of Pakistan. It does not show any

borders in the east of Kashmir, where China illegally occupied Aksai Chin.

It also incorporates Sir Creek into Pakistani territory as well as parts of

the erstwhile princely state of Junagadh.

The map also shows the Federally Administered Tribal Areas as being part of

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

The Pakistan cabinet also approved the decision to rename a major road in

Islamabad as Srinagar Highway. The road was previously called Kashmir

Highway.

 

 

COVID-19 DASHBOARD - (Nos. IN INDIA / Nos. WORLDWIDE)

(Indian data from covid19india / and World Data from

worldometers.info/coronavirus/ )

 

Total Cases 19,06,164 (+51,270) / 1,87,01,672 (+2,58,825)

 

Total Deaths 39,820 (+849) / 7,04,365 (+7,185)

 

Total Recovered 12,81,660 (+51,220) / 1,19,15,331 (+2,42,708)

 

Active Cases 5,84,684 (-799) / 60,81,976 (+8,932)

 

 

TOP IMPACTED NATIONS SO FAR: (AND SOME OF INDIA'S NEIGHBOURS)

Country, Total Cases / Total Deaths / Recovered Cases / Active

Cases

 

1 USA 49,18,420 / 1,60,290 /

24,81,680 / 22,76,450

2 Brazil 28,08,076 / 96,096 /

19,70,767 / 7,41,213

3 India 19,06,613 / 39,820 /

12,81,660 / 5,85,133

4 Russia 8,61,423 / 14,351 /

6,61,471 / 1,85,601

5 South Africa 5,21,318 / 8,884 /

3,63,751 / 1,48,683

6 Mexico 4,49,961 / 48,869 /

3,00,254 / 1,00,838

7 Peru 4,39,890 / 20,007 /

3,02,457 / 1,17,426

8 Chile 3,62,962 / 9,745 /

3,36,330 / 16,887

9 Spain 3,49,894 / 28,498 / N/A

/ N/A

10 Colombia 3,34,979 / 11,315 /

1,80,258 / 1,43,406

11 Iran 3,14,786 / 17,617 /

2,72,535 / 24,634

14 Pakistan 2,80,461 / 5,999 /

2,49,397 / 25,065

16 Bangladesh 2,44,020 / 3,234 /

1,39,860 / 1,00,926

116 Sri Lanka 2,834 / 11 /

2,524 / 299

 

 

TOP IMPACTED INDIAN STATES SO FAR

State / Confirmed Cases / Active Case / Recovered /

Deceased

 

Maharashtra 4,57,956 / 1,42,151 /

2,99,356 / 16,142

Tamil Nadu 2,68,285 / 55,152 / 2,08,784

/ 4,349

Andhra Pradesh 1,76,333 / 79,104 /

95,625 / 1,604

Karnataka 1,45,830 / 73,845 / 69,272

/ 2,704

Delhi 1,39,156 / 9,897 / 1,25,226

/ 4,033

Uttar Pradesh 1,00,310 / 41,222 / 57,271 /

1,817

West Bengal 80,984 / 22,315 / 56,884 /

1,785

Telangana 68,946 / 18,708 / 49,675 /

563

Gujarat 65,704 / 14,614 / 48,561 / 2,529

Bihar 62,031 / 20,921 / 40,760 / 349

Assam 48,162 / 13,622 / 34,422 / 115

Rajasthan 46,679 / 13,115 / 32,832 /

732

Haryana 37,796 / 6,122 / 31,226 /

448

Odisha 37,681 / 12,940 / 24,483 / 258

Madhya Pradesh 35,082 / 8,756 / 25,414 /

912

Kerala 27,956 / 11,540 / 16,299 / 88

Jammu and Kashmir 22,396 / 7,123 / 14,856 /

417

Punjab 19,015 / 6,062 / 12,491 / 462

 

 

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

======================

 

 

MASSIVE EXPLOSION ROCKS BEIRUT

 

A powerful explosion rocked Lebanon's capital Beirut Tuesday, destroying

much of its port, with images of smoke billowing from the city center

floating on social media.

Lebanon's Health Minister Hamad Hasan said that more than 60 people were

killed and over 3,000 injured in the blast. The AP also quoted Lebanese Red

Cross official Georges Kettaneh as saying there are "hundreds of casualties"

in Beirut, including dead and wounded.

The cause of the blast was not immediately known.

Hours after the explosion, Prime Minister Hassan Diab declared a national

day of mourning. Diab also said those responsible for Beirut 'catastrophe'

must be held to account. President Michel Aoun has called for 'urgent'

defence council talk in the aftermath of the explosion.

An Israeli government official says Israel had "nothing to do" with the

blast.

Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah militant group are bitter enemies, and

tensions have been high following a series of recent clashes. Earlier

Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Hezbollah Israel would not

hesitate to strike again if it felt it was necessary. Late Tuesday, Israel

offered help to Lebanon. Benny Gantz, the country's defence minister,

offered the Lebanese government medical and humanitarian aid.

US President Donald Trump said Tuesday that US generals had told him that

the powerful explosions which rocked Beirut appeared to have been caused by

a "bomb of some kind."

"It would seem like it, based on the explosion. I met with some of our great

generals and they just seemed to feel that it was," he said.

 

 

CHINA HITS BACK AT USA OVER 'SMASH AND GRAB' TIKTOK STRATEGY

 

Over the past week, reports emerged about Bytedance looking to sell its USA

operations of viral social media app TikTok to an American company, with

Microsoft emerging as frontrunners. The app was recently banned in India.

While it is seemingly staring at a potential ban in USA as well, the Chinese

government is taking an offensive approach to combat American strong-arming.

Global Times, the international mouthpiece of the Chinese government has

accused USA of "theft", describing the TikTok deal as an act of "bullying".

It went on to state that China will have "plenty of ways to respond", should

it see the US government force its hand in what it has described as a "smash

and grab" strategy to manipulate a Chinese company operating in America. The

narrative also appears to have ruffled sentiments in China, with Bytedance

founder-CEO Zhang Yiming facing public backlash for being "too accommodating

and yielding" to America's demands.

China's recent trend of hitting back at USA further continued with Shanghai

Zhizhen Intelligent Network Technology Company, commonly known as Xiao-i.

The latter has filed yet another lawsuit against Apple, one of the biggest

American (and global) companies, accusing it of stealing bits from its

patents on voice recognition technologies and using them with Apple's

digital assistant, Siri.

The move coincides with China's continued conflict with USA, where Huawei -

arguably one of China's biggest electronics companies - is already

blacklisted, and Bytedance is close to selling off its operations to a US

firm. Even though Apple's statement expressing "disappointment" at a lawsuit

filed by Xiao-i "again" suggests that it is fairly confident of defending

itself in court, the $1.4 billion patent infringement claim suggests China

is attempting to make inroads into US technology dominance, and prove that

it is not going to take things quietly.

 

 

SRI LANKA GOES TO POLLS TODAY

 

Sri Lankans will vote in the twice-postponed parliamentary election on

Wednesday with the powerful Rajapaksa family-run party expected to gain

control of the Assembly that could allow them to amend the Constitution to

restore presidential powers.

Over 16 million people are eligible to vote to elect 196 out of a total of

225 lawmakers for the next five years.

The counting will take place on the following morning - a departure from the

practice of counting the ballots from 8 pm on the election night.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's older brother Mahinda Rajapaksa is assured of

a sweeping victory as the main Opposition is badly divided.

 

 

THE REST

========

 

 

INDIA'S COVID-19 TESTING RATE LOWER THAN OTHER COUNTRIES: WHO CHIEF

SCIENTIST

 

The WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan Tuesday said that India has a low

testing rate as compared to some of the countries such as Germany, South

Korea, Japan and Taiwan that have done well in this regard.

Swaminathan said the number of tests being conducted is not adequate if the

Covid-19 test positivity rate is above five per cent. According to Health

Ministry statistics, India's positivity rate stands at 8.89 per cent.

Swaminathan also stressed on the need for governments to constantly monitor

the availability of beds, quarantine facilities, ICUs and oxygen supplies in

district hospitals. "So there is a set of 8 to 10 indicators that the

government needs to keep a close watch on. And you can ramp up or ramp down

based on what you are seeing on the ground," she said.

Speaking about the ongoing vaccine trials, Swaminathan said the WHO has

issued guidelines on it and if the efficacy rate of the vaccine is 70 per

cent, then it is considered to be a good one.

In the last 24 hours, ICMR has conducted over 6,61,892 Covid-19 tests. With

more than two crore tests done till date, ICMR reports 15,119 tests per

million (TPM).

26.5 lakh tests out of these over 2 crores have been rapid antigen tests,

which are susceptible to some false negatives.

 

 

SUPREME COURT RESERVES ORDERS IN PRASHANT BHUSHAN CONTEMPT CASE

 

The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved for orders a decade-old contempt case

against noted civil rights lawyer Prashant Bhushan, whose office said he

refused to apologise but has agreed to issue a statement that his remarks

about judicial "corruption" in an interview to Tehelka magazine in 2009, was

not meant to hurt judges' families or tarnish the judiciary.

A two-page judicial order published later in the day said the court was yet

to receive the "explanation/apology" "submitted" by Mr. Bhushan and Tarun

Tejpal, the then editor-in-chief of Tehelka.

The three-judge Bench led by Justice Arun Mishra said it would hear the

contempt case if "we do not accept the explanation/apology".

The flow of events on Tuesday started with a surprise when Justice Mishra

asked senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for Mr. Bhushan, to suggest a

"solution" in the case.

During this interaction, Bhushan refused to apologise and said the word

'corruption' was used in the interview in a wide sense to mean "lack of

propriety". He did not intend to mean the judiciary was financially corrupt.

 

 

INDIA'S BIG REVIEW OF CONFUCIUS INSTITUTES TODAY, CHINA SAYS 'BE FAIR'

 

Nearly 24 hours before India begins a comprehensive review of local chapters

of Confucius Institutes and agreements with Indian universities, Beijing on

Tuesday asked New Delhi to treat India-China higher education in an

"objective and fair manner". In a statement, the Chinese embassy asked India

to avoid what it described as "politicisation of normal cooperation" between

the two countries and maintain stable people-to-people and cultural

exchanges.

The review is scheduled to be held today.

The Confucius Institutes are directly funded by the Ministry of Education of

People's Republic of China with the ostensible aim to promote Chinese

language and Culture. But they have come in for criticism all around the

world, including the US and the UK for helping spread Chinese propaganda.

 

 

HARYANA FARMER'S SON TOPS UPSC CIVIL SERVICES EXAM

 

Whenever he felt he was struggling to keep up with the demands of his job

and preparation for competitive exams, Pradeep Singh says, it was his father

who motivated him to stay the course. On Tuesday, in his fourth attempt, the

29-year-old son of a Sonipat farmer ranked first in the UPSC exam. A total

of 829 candidates have qualified for the civil services, including the IAS,

IPS and IFS. All the top three rank-holders - Singh, Jatin Kishore and

Pratibha Verma, respectively - are serving officials. While Singh is a

resident of Haryana, Kishore is from Delhi and Verma, an IIT-Delhi graduate,

is from Uttar Pradesh.

Last year, Singh had ranked 260 in the UPSC exam, and was undergoing

training as an Indian Revenue Service officer.

 

 

VIVO RETIRES HURT FROM IPL; BCCI LOOKS FOR REPLACEMENT

 

On Tuesday, officials of the BCCI said that Chinese phone maker Vivo had

decided to pull out of the IPL's title sponsorship for a year.

Vivo declined comment on the matter but the cricketing body, officials said,

was seeking a one-year replacement for the brand since it could make its way

back next year.

The original contract with Vivo was from 2018 to 2022 for Rs 2,200 crore.

The firm was paying Rs 440 crore annually, but had been in the eye of a

storm since the deadly clash between Indian and Chinese soldiers in Ladakh.

It is unclear who will replace Vivo, since the T20 tournament is only a

month-and-a-half away. It will be held in the United Arab Emirates from

September 19.

 

 

RAFAEL NADAL TO SKIP U.S. OPEN OVER PANDEMIC WORRIES

 

Rafael Nadal will not defend his United States Open men's singles title. On

Tuesday, one day after the entry deadline, Nadal announced that he was

withdrawing from the tournament because of his concerns about travel during

the coronavirus pandemic.

Nadal, 34 and ranked No. 2 behind Novak Djokovic, is a four-time singles

champion at the U.S. Open and won the singles title last year after a

lengthy and memorable five-set duel with Daniil Medvedev in the final.

With 19 Grand Slam singles titles, he is just one short of matching Roger

Federer's men's record, but he has decided to wait.

The US Open in New York, scheduled for August 31 through September 13, will

be followed a fortnight later by the French Open.

Federer will be absent from the US Open, too, but because of two operations

on his right knee this year.

 

 

INDICATORS

 

Sensex 37,688 (+748), Nifty 11,095 (+204), Trading Value NSE ,(Rs.crores)

58,627

Nasdaq 10,941 (+38) Dow 26,828 (+164), S&P 3,307 (+12)

US$-Rs. 74.88 GBP-Rs. 97.79, Euro-Rs. 88.17, UAE Dhm-Rs.20.38, Can$-Rs.

56.00, Aus$- Rs. 53.46

GBP 0.76 /US$, Euro 0.84 /US$, Jap.Yen 105.93 /US$, Aus$ 1.40 /US$, Sing

1.37 /US$, Bang Taka 83.18 /US$, Can$ 1.33 /US$, Mal Ring 4.21 /US$,

Pak Re 166.64 /US$, Phil Peso 49.05 /US$, Russian Rouble 73.41 /US$, NZ$

1.51 /US$, Thai Baht 31.05 /US$, Ukraine Hryvnia 27.64 /US$, Norway NOK 9.11

/US$

Bitcoin - USD 11,217

Dollar Index 93.10 Brent Crude 44,47 BDI 1,463

Gold world Spot Price USD/oz 2,014 India (Rs. per gm 24k/22k) 5,330 / 5,230

Silver (Rs. Per KG) 65,410

 

 

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

 

Becoming a slave to our passions leaves us no freedom of choice. - Jeffrey

Fry

 

 

OFF TRACK

 

"In New York, a man was too drunk to drive, so he had his 9-year-old

daughter drive their van for him.

And as he was being arrested, he told the girl, 'I'm going to need a lawyer.

Go get your little brother.'"

Share Your Thoughts