India Newsletter

FRONT PAGE NEWS
23 Oct 2020

 

 

BJP INJECTS FREE COVID VACCINE IN BIHAR ELECTIONS

 

The BJP promised "residents of Bihar" free vaccination against Covid-19 in

its Bihar assembly election manifesto released Thursday, drawing sharp

reactions from Opposition parties.

Of the eleven commitments in the manifesto, the first is about the free

vaccine.

The Opposition RJD and Congress hit back at the BJP, saying it is

"appalling" to make a vaccine against the Covid pandemic a poll issue. Manoj

Kumar Jha, Rajya Sabha member of RJD said, "I am shocked. In a welfare

state, promising a vaccine for a pandemic, if it is part of an election

manifesto, it shows the level of deterioration in their thinking."

Defending its announcement, the BJP said it's a pledge on a public health

issue. Releasing the party manifesto in Patna, Union Finance Minister

Nirmala Sitharaman said: "After crossing all the stages, there are at least

three vaccines that have reached the last stage, and are on the cusp of

production. After this, if scientific people say this vaccine is fine,

production can take place. Our production capacity, because of the

government's intervention, is very large."

"So when the clearance comes from scientists, our vaccine production will be

at such a level that what we are promising, everyone in Bihar will get a

free vaccine. This is the first promise in our sankalp patra. With

responsibility, we are assuring the people of Bihar that all of you will get

a free vaccine," she said.

The BJP announcement has taken several states also by surprise. Many see

this as the first indication that the Centre will procure the vaccine - or

vaccines - at rates it negotiates and states may then be asked to purchase

their own stocks. This is reinforced by the fact that the National Expert

Group on Vaccine Administration - part of the Centre's Covid task force -

made it clear, in its very first meeting, that states should not chart their

separate pathways for procurement.

Also, significantly, minutes after the statement made by Finance Minister

Nirmala Sitharaman, BJP IT cell's Amit Malviya tweeted: "Like all programs,

Centre will provide vaccines to state at a nominal rate. It is for the state

Govts to decide if they want to give it for free or otherwise. Health being

a state subject, Bihar BJP has decided to give it free. Simple."

 

 

ROW IN NEPAL AFTER R&AW CHIEF MEETS KP OLI, PARTY SEEKS DETAILS

 

Nepal's embattled Prime Minister, K P Sharma Oli, came under fresh attack

Thursday, including from three former Prime Ministers and his own party

leaders, for meeting Indian R&AW chief Samant Kumar Goel without keeping

them in the loop.

Calling it "improper" and "objectionable", former Prime Ministers Pushpa

Kamal Dahal Prachanda, who is also executive chairman of the ruling Nepal

Communist Party, Jhalanath Khanal and Madhav Kumar Nepal, former Deputy

Prime Ministers Bhim Bahadur Rawal and Narayan Kaji Shrestha held separate

group meetings, and some took to social media to criticise Oli. They asked

him to provide details of the meeting with the R&AW chief that lasted more

than two hours, almost till midnight

The R&AW chief's visit, ahead of Indian Army chief General M M Naravane's

scheduled visit next month, comes at a time when India and Nepal are

attempting to repair ties, severely strained following escalation of the

boundary dispute and Nepal's publication of a map this summer to include

areas of the Indian state of Uttarakhand.

 

 

GOVT ISSUES WARNING TO TWITTER; CONVEYS STRONG DISAPPROVAL OVER MAP

MISREPRESENTATION

 

The government has shot off a stern letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey,

conveying its strong disapproval over misrepresentation of the Indian map,

and asserted that any attempt by the micro-blogging platform to disrespect

the country's sovereignty and integrity is totally unacceptable.

In a strongly-worded letter, IT Secretary Ajay Sawhney has warned the

platform that such attempts not only bring disrepute to Twitter but also

raise questions about its neutrality and fairness as an intermediary.

Sawhney reminded Twitter that Leh is the headquarters of the Union Territory

of Ladakh and both Ladakh as well as Jammu and Kashmir are integral and

inalienable parts of India, governed by the Constitution of India.

 

 

EXCEPT FOR TOURISM, ALL CATEGORIES OF FOREIGNERS ALLOWED TO ENTER INDIA

 

The government on Thursday relaxed visa restrictions to allow all categories

of foreign nationals to enter India through air or sea for any purpose

except for tourism.

It said that the decision was to make a graded relaxation in visa and travel

restrictions for more categories of foreign nationals and Indian nationals

who wish to enter or leave India.

According to the MHA order, the relaxations include flights operated under

Vande Bharat Mission, Air Transport Bubble arrangements or by any

non-scheduled commercial flights as allowed by the Ministry of Civil

Aviation.

 

 

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

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PERSONAL JIBES GALORE AT US PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE

 

Joe Biden assailed President Donald Trump as having no plan to stop a "dark

winter" of coronavirus deaths as they sparred in their last head-to-head

clash 12 days before the election. Trump insisted that Covid-19 would soon

go away through medical breakthroughs and pointed to his own recovery since

his first debate.

Donald Trump said the Barack Obama administration left him a "mess" to deal

with in terms of tempering relations between the United States and North

Korea. Trump said during the debate that he had warded off a war that could

have threatened millions of lives. Biden said Trump had "legitimized" a

"thug" by meeting with and forging a relationship with Kim.

Biden said that he had never received "a penny" from foreign sources in his

life. Biden was responding to graft allegations from Trump during the

debate, a line of attack the president has pursued in the final days of the

campaign. "I think you owe an explanation to the American people," Trump

told Biden.

"There is institutional racism in America. We have to give everyone a fair

shot..Donald Trump is the most racist president in modern history," said Joe

Biden.

"I'm running as a proud Democrat, but I will govern as an American

president. I will represent you - whether you vote for me or against

me.Decency, honor, respect, treating people with dignity, making sure that

everyone has an even chance. I'm going to make sure you get that. You

haven't been getting it the last four years." Former vice president and

Democratic nominee Joe Biden says.

Trump has sought since last year to portray Biden as corruptly involved with

his son Hunter's business dealings in Ukraine and China, although an

investigation by the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee turned up

no evidence to support that allegation.

Trump today described the air in India, China and Russia as "filthy" as he

defended his decision to withdrew from the Paris climate accord, which, he

said, would have made America a non-competitive nation. "I will not

sacrifice millions of jobs... thousands of companies because of the Paris

Accord. It is very unfair," he said during the debate in which the two

candidates avoided shaking hands due to safety risks.

 

 

DOCTORS IN SOUTH KOREA CALL FOR FLU VACCINATIONS TO BE PAUSED AFTER 25

DEATHS

 

South Korean officials refused on Thursday to suspend a seasonal influenza

inoculation effort, despite growing calls for a halt, including an appeal

from a key group of doctors, after the deaths of at least 25 of those

vaccinated. Health authorities said they found no direct links between the

deaths and the vaccines.

At least 22 of the dead, including a 17-year-old boy, were part of a

campaign to inoculate 19 million teenagers and senior citizens for free, the

Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said. "The number of

deaths has increased, but our team sees low possibility that the deaths

resulted from the shots," the agency's director, Jeong Eun-kyeong, told

parliament.

South Korea ordered a fifth more flu vaccines this year to ward off what it

calls a "twindemic", or the prospect that people with flu develop

coronavirus complications and overburden hospitals in winter.

 

 

THE REST

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RESCINDED ORDER TO ENSURE CBI NOT MISUSED: MAHARASHTRA MINISTER

 

A day after the state government withdrew "general consent" given to the CBI

to probe cases in the state, Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said

the step was taken to ensure that the Central agency was not misused for

political purpose. "The CBI will need Maharashtra Government's permission

henceforth (to operate in the state). It can't carry out investigation here

in Mumbai till we issue permission," the minister said today.

The Maharashtra Government on Wednesday withdrew general consent given to

the agency to probe cases in the state, a day after the CBI took over a case

registered by the UP Police against "unknown" channels and persons over

alleged fudging of TRPs.

The move follows apprehension in the state government that the CBI would

take over a similar case on alleged fudging of TRPs in Maharashtra in a bid

to move it away from the purview of the Mumbai Police.

Agency sources, however, said the Maharashtra Home Department's decision

would have no impact on the cases that the CBI has already been

investigating in the state. "Even in cases where courts order probe by the

CBI, there will be no impact of this order," a senior official said.

It would be interesting here to note that in the recent past several

opposition-ruled states, including West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh

and more recently, Rajasthan, had withdrawn general consent, effectively

creating hurdle for the CBI to enter their territories.

 

 

WILL TAKE BACK OUR STREETS: ACTIVISTS ON SC ORDER ON PROTESTS

 

A panel of eminent citizens, including Swaraj India president Yogendra

Yadav, Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan and writer Arundhati Roy, came

together Thursday to condemn the Supreme Court's ruling earlier this month

that public places cannot be occupied indefinitely for protests and they

must be carried out in a designated area.

They also criticised the state and police's actions in trying to stop people

from protesting peacefully. The discussion was held at the Press Club of

India, Delhi.

The panel, under the banner of Concerned Citizens Collective, also included

Bezwada Wilson, convenor and founder of Safai Karmachari Andolan; Nivedita

Menon, activist and JNU professor; Supreme Court lawyer Sanjay Hegde; and

Nadeem Khan, co-founder of United Against Hate, a civil rights group, among

others.

"Democracy and dissent go hand in hand, but then the demonstrations

expressing dissent have to be at designated places alone - said the Supreme

Court. We ask - was the Dandi March taken along designated routes? Was

Jallianwala Bagh, the massacre of a gathering by permit, in a designated

spot?" read a joint statement issued by the panel.

The statement also said, "Disruptions of normalcy are the core of a living,

breathing democracy. We shall fight all attempts to stifle our democracy by

criminalising these basic democratic rights. We shall take back our

streets."

 

 

RAJASTHAN HC STAYS PROCEEDINGS AGAINST SHOURIE, OTHERS IN LAXMI VILAS PALACE

SALE CASE

 

The Rajasthan High Court High court on Thursday stayed the proceedings of a

trial court which had ordered reopening of a probe against former

disinvestment minister Arun Shourie and four others over the sale of a

government-owned hotel in Udaipur two decades back.

The Jodhpur bench of the high court has summoned records of the case from

the special CBI court, asking it not to proceed against the five petitioners

until further orders.

Last month, the CBI court ordered the registration of a new FIR against

former Union disinvestment minister Arun Shourie, the then department

secretary Pradip Baijal, Lazard India Ltd managing director Ashish Guha,

valuer Kantilal Karamsey and Bharat Hotels director Jyotsana Suri over the

sale.

The CBI had already filed a closure report after its earlier investigation

into the sale of Laxmi Vilas Palace Hotel. According to the initial

complaint, the five had conspired through the disinvestment process in

1999-2002 to sell the ITDC-owned hotel to a private company for a meagre Rs

7.52 crore, causing a loss of Rs 244 crore to the exchequer.

 

 

DR REDDY'S ISOLATES DATA CENTRE SERVICES AFTER CYBER ATTACK

 

Pharmaceutical industry experts said data breaches at pharma companies often

turned out to be "serious and critical" events that called for measures such

as halting production while the breach was analysed and security issues were

plugged.

Dr Reddy's Laboratories on Thursday said it had "isolated" its data centre

services after a cyber attack. The Hyderabad- headquartered drug maker

reported the data breach days after it received regulatory approvals to

conduct human trials of a Covid-19 vaccine candidate developed by a Russian

research institute.

"In the wake of a detected cyber-attack, we have isolated all data centre

services to take required preventive actions," Dr Reddy's told the Bombay

Stock Exchange on Thursday.

The attack, the exact nature of which is not yet public, has reportedly also

forced the firm to temporarily shut down operations at its major

manufacturing facilities across the world. Pharma experts said this is

necessary to minimise the impact of a breach of cyber security.

Besides India, Dr Reddy's has manufacturing facilities in the United States,

United Kingdom, Mexico and China. It has research and development facilities

in the US, the UK, the Netherlands and India.

 

 

COURT TO REPUBLIC TV: #ARRESTRHEA, IS THAT NEWS?

 

Bombay High Court on Wednesday demanded to know from Republic TV if asking

viewers who all should be arrested in a case that is being investigated and

infringing upon a person's rights qualified as "investigative journalism".

A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G.S. Kulkarni was

referring to the channel "#ArrestRhea" campaign and its reports on the death

of actor Sushant Singh Rajput.

The court also asked the channel's lawyer, Malvika Trivedi, why Republic TV

broadcast photos of Sushant's body and speculated on whether the actor's

death was a case of suicide or homicide.

"The grievance is regarding #ArrestRhea. Why is this part of your channel

news?" the bench said. "When a case is under investigation and the issue is

whether it's a homicide or a suicide and a channel is saying it is murder,

is all this investigative journalism?" it asked.

"We are referring to the basic journalism norms, where a basic etiquette has

to be maintained for suicide reporting. No sensational headlines, no

constant repeating. You did not even leave the deceased... forget the

witnesses," the bench said. "You have depicted a lady in such a way that

infringes on her rights. This is our prima facie view," it added.

The bench was on Wednesday hearing the final arguments on a bunch of PILs

seeking that the media be restrained in the reporting on Sushant's death.

The pleas had also sought that TV news channels be stopped from conducting a

media trial.

The bench had asked all parties to clarify if a statutory mechanism was

required to regulate the content broadcast by the news channels.

 

 

WHATSAPP IS COUNTING ON CUSTOMER SERVICE TOOLS, NOT ADS, FOR REVENUE

 

The world's most popular messaging service is pushing more aggressively into

customer service features, including a pay-to-message option for businesses,

and says it's focusing on enterprise tools, not advertising. WhatsApp paused

plans for targeted advertising late last year, surprising those who thought

it would follow in line with its parent company.

"Our focus has been on the business messaging products," says Matt Idema,

WhatsApp's chief operating officer. He said WhatsApp still envisions ads

inside Status, a feature on the app similar to Facebook's Stories, at some

point.

WhatsApp announced an update Thursday aimed at businesses that use its API,

the software interface that lets companies manage message threads with their

customers outside of the app, like through a third-party dashboard. WhatsApp

currently charges some businesses a small fee - a few cents per message - to

send users things like receipts and confirmation reminders via the app

instead of email.

Now WhatsApp will offer more API features, including free storage to host a

business's messages, in hopes that more of them will sign up for the API.

Idema says 175 million of WhatsApp's 2 billion-plus users interact with a

business on the app every day, a sign that WhatsApp is focused on a function

people care about. Tens of thousands of businesses use the API, Idema said,

though Facebook doesn't disclose WhatsApp's revenue.

 

 

 

IPL: MANISH PANDEY STARS AS SRH WIN AGAINST RR

 

Sunrisers Hyderabad picked up a much-needed win over Rajasthan Royals on

Thursday (October 22) to keep their playoff hopes alive. After restricting

Royals to 154, SRH were primed for another tough night with the bat before

Manish Pandey (83 off 47, not out) and Vijay Shankar (52 off 51, not out)

combined to chase the target down with relative ease towards the end.

Climbing up to the fifth spot, SRH will now take on KXIP with renewed hope.

It's a massive game for both these sides who managed to win 4 games from 10

games. RR, who have already slipped down the ladder with their seventh loss

of the season, will have their task cut out on Sunday as they take on the

mighty Mumbai Indians.

 

 

INDICATORS

 

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55.91, Aus$- Rs. 52.25

GBP 0.76 /US$, Euro 0.84 /US$, Jap.Yen 104.74 /US$, Aus$ 1.40 /US$, Sing

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Pak Re 161.87 /US$, Phil Peso 48.53 /US$, Russian Rouble 76.73 /US$, NZ$

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/US$

Bitcoin - USD 12,949

Dollar Index 93.02 Brent Crude 42.47 BDI 1,346

Gold world Spot Price USD/aoz 1,906 India (Rs. per gm 24k/22k) 5,110 / 5,010

Silver (Rs. Per KG) 63,000

 

 

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

 

No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment

can prove me wrong. - Albert Einstein

 

 

OFF TRACK

 

There was this physicist who was in the habit of getting home quite late.

One time, he came home at 2:30 a.m. with a torn shirt, lipstick on his

collar, hair messed up, and generally looking like a wreck. His wife caught

him coming in the door and demanded to know why he came home so late.

He replied, "Well, after I left work today, a few friends and I went out to

the bar for a few drinks. We met up with some rather good-looking young

women and started to drink to excess. Things just kept happening, as you can

well see. I sobered up enough to note how late it was, so I rushed home."

She screamed, "You liar! You were in the lab again, weren't you?"

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