India Newsletter

23 Nov 2020



Even as states with relatively smaller caseloads have been reporting a spurt

in Covid cases, the Centre has dispatched high-level teams to Uttar Pradesh,

Punjab and Himachal Pradesh to help them tackle the spread of the disease.

While fresh cases of coronavirus infections continue to decline - or remain

stagnant - in the worst-affected states of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra

Pradesh, on the other hand, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya

Pradesh and even Himachal Pradesh have been seeing a significant rise in

active cases.

While Delhi and Kerala continue to report the maximum number of new cases

every day, even these two seem have left their peaks behind, and are now

witnessing a decline in their active cases.

In absolute terms, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and

even Himachal Pradesh are still reporting far lesser number of cases than

Maharashtra, or some other top 10 states, but it is much more than what they

were reporting earlier.

Accordingly, the Health Ministry has dispatched high-level teams to Uttar

Pradesh, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. A few days ago, similar teams were

sent to Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana and Chhattisgarh as well.

Since Oct 4, there were 47 days at a stretch when no. of active cases fell

everyday (i.e. the no. of new cases was less than the person recovered on

each day). But in three of the last 4 days, there's been a rise in active

case. Yesterday, there were 44,394 new cases while recovered persons

numbered 41,405, thereby increasing the total no,. of active cases by 2,479.

There were 510 Covid related deaths yesterday. Currently, the total no. of

active cases is 4,43,033.





The turmoil in the Congress that resurfaced after the party's poor

performance in the Bihar elections and bypolls is showing no signs of

abating. On Sunday, Ghulam Nabi Azad, one of the 23 senior leaders who wrote

the unprecedented letter to Sonia Gandhi demanding sweeping changes in the

party, said the Congress's organisational "system has collapsed" and its

position will not improve unless reforms are carried out.

Azad, leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, said the situation of the

Congress is "not good" but argued that "making it good is in our hands". He

admitted that "our leaders have lost connection with people on the ground."

The only solution for the party's revival, he said, is organisational

election from booth-level upwards.

"The defeat in Bihar and the by-elections is a matter of great concern for

the party. And for this, I don't blame the national leadership. We will not

improve our position in any state unless we have the block-level,

district-level and PCC-level elections, which has been our demand from Day

1. By demanding this, we are strengthening the hands of the leadership and

the party," he said.

Azad also slammed the 5-star culture in the party. "During elections, the

general tendency these days. which is not just in Congress but in BJP also.

but the BJP has an advantage that they have other grass root outfits which

are so much entrenched in the villages and small cities and towns. so they

can allow this luxury of coming back by helicopter to the capital city and

stay the night. But since we do not have that kind of party structure at the

grass-root level, block-level and district-level like the regional parties

or the BJP. we should, instead of getting tempted to come back to the state

capital by helicopter and stay in a hotel and wasting productive hours..

Congress leaders, whether they are general secretaries, secretaries, PCC

presidents or other star campaigners.should stay at the district and taluka






India is set to host the G-20 summit in 2023, instead of 2022. Indonesia

will assume G-20 presidency in 2022 after a swap with India, Indonesian

foreign minister Retno Marsudi said, adding that the change of plan was

agreed considering that Indonesia would also chair the Association of

Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2023.

"We look forward to our next meetings in Italy in 2021, Indonesia in 2022,

India in 2023 and Brazil in 2024," the G-20 Riyadh Summit Leaders

Declaration said.

The agenda of the second day of the summit focused on building an inclusive,

sustainable and resilient future with a side event on safeguarding the


An official statement by the MEA said that the Prime Minister underscored

the importance of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals aimed at

"leaving no one behind". With the changing situation in the wake of the

pandemic, the Prime Minister said the country has adopted the 'Self Reliant

India' initiative, and will become an important and reliable pillar of world

economy and global supply chains based on its competence and dependability.

At a global level, India also took the initiative of establishing

institutions such as the International Solar Alliance and the Coalition for

Disaster Resilient Infrastructure. Addressing the side event - 'Safeguarding

the Planet: The Circular Carbon Economy Approach', Modi said India is not

only meeting its Paris Agreement targets, but also exceeding them.

A G-20 declaration said the leaders "are committed to leading the world in

shaping a strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive post-COVID-19 era". On

terrorist financing, the G-20 declaration said, "We support the Anti-Money

Laundering/Counter-Terrorist Financing policy responses detailed in FATF's

paper on COVID-19, and reaffirm our support for the FATF, as the global

standard-setting body for preventing and combating money laundering,

terrorist financing and proliferation financing."









A federal judge in Pennsylvania delivered a stinging rebuke on Saturday to

US President Donald Trump and his efforts to subvert election results, but

the public humiliation notwithstanding, the defeated candidate and his

campaign lawyers continued to troll the nation with wild conspiracy theories

they have been unable to prove in court.

In an embarrassing smackdown for Trump, Judge Matthew Brann threw his case

out, ruling "This court has been presented with strained legal arguments

without merit and speculative accusations, unpled in the operative complaint

and unsupported by evidence." The judge also said that granting relief would

have meant invalidating the ballots of every person who voted in

Pennsylvania while noting, "Rather than requesting that their votes be

counted, they (Trump lawyers) seek to discredit scores of other votes, but

only for one race. This is simply not how the Constitution works."

The chiding by Judge Brann was so severe that Trump supporters immediately

accused him of being an Obama-appointed judge - except it turns out he is a

deeply conservative Republican and a member of the Federalist society whose

name was proposed by Pat Toomey, Pennsylvania's GOP Senator.

Toomey himself urged Trump to give up his fight, saying "with today's

decision by Judge Brann, a longtime conservative R whom I know to be a fair

and unbiased jurist, to dismiss the Trump campaign's lawsuit, President

Trump has exhausted all plausible legal options to challenge the result of

the presidential race in Pa." But the suggestion only enraged Trump. On

Twitter, Trump hit back at Toomey, calling him "no friend of mine" and said

that he would appeal the decision. By one count the Trump campaign has now

lost more than 30 cases challenging the result of the election.

In a face-saving retreat following Judge Brann's censure, Trump lawyers said

they were happy with what they saw as a quick partisan ruling because it

would allow them to appeal it and bump it up to the Supreme Court.

More Republicans have urged Trump to backdown but the defeated president is

bunkering down with more extreme members of the party seemingly intent on

carrying his fight to the bitter end that could end up dividing the GOP if

not the country.





The Indian approach to lowering COVID-19 vaccine prices has found support

from Pakistan, as well as all other neighbours, but China has sought time to

study it further.

A meeting of a WTO panel on Friday witnessed Pakistan, Kenya, Mozambique and

Eswatini joining the India-South Africa proposal for suspending patents and

other intellectual property (IP) restrictions on COVID-19 vaccines, drugs

and diagnostics for the duration of the pandemic, until global herd immunity

is achieved.

China has welcomed the proposal but India's global security partners such as

the US and the EU, as well as their pharmaceutical corporations, have not

shown any willingness to take a different approach during the pandemic to

ensure broad access to needed products.

India is engaged in a consensus-building exercise in the run-up to a

decision towards the middle of next month. Faced with opposition from the

US, the EU and Brazil, the proposal was put off when it was first tabled at

the WTO, with support from the WHO, on October 2.

The Indian and South African leadership to the proposal has led to wide

backing that is approximately close to three-fourths of the WTO membership.

It has also found support from Medicines Sans Frontiers that urged all

governments to "support this lifesaving move by India and South Africa to

make sure human lives are prioritised and countries can tackle this pandemic

by scaling up every COVID-19 medical tool that exists". "Nobody can afford

to let corporations that have been supported by billions in publicly-funded

research money to simply pursue their bottom-line interests without regard

to global COVID needs. This pandemic will not be over until it's over for

everyone,'' it said.









A 150-metre long underground tunnel suspected to be used by four

Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terrorists for infiltration from Pakistan was

detected by the BSF at the International Border in Jammu and Kashmir's Samba

district on Sunday, state police chief Dilbag Singh said.

Singh said the tunnel was unearthed following investigation into the recent

encounter near Nagrota on the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway.

The four Kashmir-bound Pakistani terrorists were killed in a gunfight when

the truck in which they were travelling was stopped for checking at Ban toll

plaza on the highway on Thursday.

A huge cache of arms and ammunition including 11 AK assault rifles, three

pistols, 29 grenades and six UBGL grenades were recovered from the

possession of the terrorists, who had come to execute a "big plan" to

disrupt the upcoming District Development Council (DDC) polls, police said.

"Police shared some vital inputs found from the encounter scene with the BSF

which after hectic efforts, managed to find the tunnel," the DGP told

reporters. He termed the anti-tunnelling operation as a "major success" and

said that a strong protest will be lodged with Pakistan.

" It appears that proper engineering effort has gone into construction of

the tunnel and the hand of the establishment is quite evident," said a

senior counter-terrorism official.





The CPM, usually quick on the draw to accuse the Narendra Modi government of

crushing free speech, is now finding itself at the receiving end and facing

the music from fellow-travellers and kindred spirits.

The Left government in Kerala, headed by chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan,

has promulgated an ordinance that allows prosecution and imprisonment of up

to five years "for making, expressing, publishing or disseminating any

matter which is threatening, abusive, humiliating or defamatory".

The stated reason for the amendment to the Kerala Police Act is an explosion

of online abuse of women by trolls, which recently prompted a group of women

to beat up a YouTuber, and character assassination by some websites that

masquerade as news portals.

But many suspect that the real trigger is the blizzard of negative coverage

and lampooning the CPM-led government has suffered in the wake of the

unearthing of a gold smuggling scandal that has been linked to a woman close

to an IAS officer who ran the chief minister's office. The officer, now in

judicial custody, was removed soon after the controversy broke.

Vijayan said the government has the responsibility to uphold the freedom of

the press as well as that of the citizens.





The Uttar Pradesh government will test all travellers from Delhi for

coronavirus, an official said on Sunday.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Secretary R K Tiwari said infection cases have increased

in UP districts bordering Delhi.

It seems the second COVID-19 has hit the national capital, he said, pointing

to a spurt in cases there. So, we are testing everyone coming from Delhi, be

it by air, train or bus, he said.





Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday said the world is noticing the

positive changes happening in Delhi and credited the people for the national

capital featuring at the 62nd position in the list of the world's best


Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said Delhi was the only Indian city in

the list and has improved its rank from the previous 81st spot.

"Such a good news for all Dilliwalas. All dilli walas have worked so hard in

the last six years to make it happen. The world is noticing the positive

changes happening in Delhi," Kejriwal said in a tweet.

The global ranking of 100 cities with over a million population was released

recently by Vancouver headquartered Resonance Consultancy Ltd.





Left Front convener Biman Bose on Sunday said the CPI-ML (Liberation) stance

of treating the BJP as enemy number one in West Bengal was not acceptable to


CPI-ML (Liberation) general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya, following the

party's success in Bihar where it won 12 seats in the recently concluded

assembly elections as a part of the RJD-led grand alliance, has been airing

the view that BJP should be singled out for attack in the assembly elections

slated to take pace in West Bengal in April-May 2021.

Bose said CPI-ML (Liberation) was a political party and it was entitled to

have its views. However, Left parties of West Bengal did not agree with this

assessment and would like to direct their attack against both TMC and BJP.

Mamata Banerjee-led TMC was the ruling party in West Bengal, Bose pointed

out and reiterated the charge that TMC and BJP were having an understanding.





The government is exploring the modalities of emergency authorisation and

usage of anti-coronavirus vaccines pending completion of phase-three

clinical trial and regular licensure.

The issue of advance purchase commitment for vaccines, including pricing,

was also discussed in a recent meeting attended by NITI Aayog Member

(Health) Vinod Paul, Principal Scientific Adviser to the government K Vijay

Raghavan and Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan.

These developments assume significance against the backdrop of Pfizer

seeking emergency use authorisation of its COVID-19 vaccine from the US

regulators. Another US-based biotechnology giant, Moderna, said it also

intends to apply for an emergency use authorisation (EUA) with the US Food

and Drug Administration (USFDA) in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, four vaccines are under different phases of clinical trials in

India. The Serum Institute of India is conducting the phase-three trial of

the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, while Bharat Biotech and ICMR has

already started the phase-three trial of the indigenously developed COVAXIN


An indigenously developed vaccine by Zydus Cadila has completed phase-two

clinical trial in the country. Dr Reddy's Laboratories will soon start

combined phase two and three trials of the Russian COVID-19 vaccine Sputnik

V in India.

Bharat Biotech has said that they are expecting the immune shots to be at

least 60 per cent effective in fighting Coronavirus infection and they are

aiming to launch it in Q2 of 2021.






The Indian Medical Association has come down heavily on the government move

authorising some Ayurveda practitioners to perform surgical procedures,

describing it in a strongly-worded statement as "retrograde", "uncivil" and

"foul play".

The apex medical body urged the Central Council of Indian Medicine (CCIM),

the Ayurveda regulatory body under the AYUSH Ministry, "to develop their own

surgical disciplines from their own ancient texts and not claim the surgical

disciplines of modern medicine as their own".

AYUSH Ministry Secretary Vaidya Rajesh Kotecha said the notification does

not amount to any policy deviation or any new decision. "It streamlines the

existing regulation relating to post graduate education in Ayurveda with

respect to the specified procedures. Further, the notification does not open

up the entire field of surgery to Ayurveda practitioners and specifies a set

of surgical procedures. It outlines that not all post-graduates of Ayurveda

can perform these procedures. Only those specialised in Shalya and Shalakya

are allowed to perform these surgical procedures,"





The Indian cricket board earned "Rs 4,000 crore" in revenue from the IPL in

the UAE, TV viewership was "about 25 per cent more than last year", and over

30,000 RT-PCR Covid tests were conducted for a total of 1,800 individuals

without any of the 60 matches being affected by the pandemic.

This, according to BCCI Treasurer Arun Dhumal, is the report card at the end

of the high-profile T20 league. This year's IPL was also India's first major

sporting tournament since the Covid outbreak started spreading across the

globe in February.

Dhumal said: "The Board managed to cut nearly 35 per cent of the cost as

compared to the last IPL. We earned Rs 4,000 crore during the pandemic time.

Our TV viewership went about 25 per cent higher, we got the highest-ever

opening game (Mumbai Indians versus Chennai Super Kings) viewership. Those

who doubted us came and thanked us for hosting the IPL. Had this IPL not

happened, cricketers would have lost one year."





We become what we think about most of the time, and that's the strangest

secret. - Earl Nightingale





Boy: Sir, I want to marry your daughter

Girl's Father: How much do you make in a month

Boy: Rs. 18000, sir.

Girl's Father: You know, my daughter's pocket money is Rs. 15000 a month.

Boy: I know Sir, I've already included that.

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