The militaries of India and Pakistan announced that both sides have agreed to stop cross-border firing along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir. This agreement will come into effect from February 2021.
The joint statement was releasing by the Director Generals of Military Operations of both the countries.
Both sides have decided that border flag meetings will be utilised in order to resolve any misunderstanding between the countries.
Both India and Pakistan have been in contact on a hotline level since the year 1987. DGMOs of both countries also stay in touch through this established mechanism. The cross-border firing had increased in the region since 2014 along the LoC. SO, both the DGMOs agreed that existing 2003 understanding over the firing will be implemented in letter and spirit now.
India-Pakistan Border Conflicts
The India–Pakistan border conflicts comprises of a series of armed clashes including the cross-border airstrikes and exchanges of gunfire between both the countries. The countries often engage in the cross-border firing along the de facto border across the disputed Kashmir region.
The most recent deadly conflict was the Pulwama Attack of February 14, 2019 that had killed 40 Indian Central Reserve Police Force personnel.
The Pakistan-based militant group, Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed the responsibility for the attack.
Following that, India blamed Pakistan for the attack and in response, India carried cross-border airstrike near Balakot, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan on February 26, 2019.
Conflicts in 2020
In the year 2020, standoff between both the countries began with the major exchange of gunfire and shelling in November 2020 along LOC. This resulted into the death of 22 including 11 civilians. In November 2020, one Indian soldier was killed in Rajouri and in Poonch. While Pakistan released the data that, In December, 2020 two Pakistani soldiers were killed in Bagsar region of disputed Kashmir region.
Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) and Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on February 25, 2021.
The MoU was signed and is now in the force for data exchange between both the organisations.
It was signed by Joint Secretary of MCA, Shri Manoj Pandey and the ADG of CBIC, Shri B. B. Gupta.
MoU comply with the vision of both the organisation to harness the data capabilities so as to ensure effective enforcement.
With the signing of the MoU, MCA and CBIC will benefit from getting access to each other’s databases.
These databases include the details regarding import-export transactions and consolidated financial statements of companies which are registered in India.
The data sharing agreement has become more significance in the context of development of MCA21 Version 3.
The MCA21 version will utilise state of the art technology to enhance ease of doing business across India.
It will also improve the regulatory enforcement.
With the signing of the MoU, sharing of data and information will be automatic and on regular basis between both the organisation.
It will also enable sharing of specific information like Shipping Bill (Exports) Summary and Bill of Entry (Imports) from CBIC.
It will also be sharing the financial statements with Registrar by corporates.
MoU also ensure that both the organisation have seamless linkage between them for regulatory purposes.
They will also share any information available in their respective databases for the purpose of investigation, prosecution, scrutiny, and inspection.
Apart from that, a Data Exchange Steering Group was constituted for the initiative. The group will meet on regular basis to review the data exchange status. It will also take steps to improve effectiveness of data sharing mechanism.
The Central government has notified the new guidelines on social media regulations on February 25, 2021. It is being called as “Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021”.
The new guidelines have been notified with the aim of regulating social media and OTT platforms.
These rules were put into public by the union Ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad and Prakash Javadekar.
The Union Ministers also said that social media platforms have empowered the ordinary Indians. They praised these platforms for gaining popularity and huge users.
They also welcomed the move by social media platforms to do business in India.
Why new rules have been framed?
The government has notified the new rules on digital media and OTT with the aim of empowering the ordinary users regarding the social media.
With the new rules, the government wants to set up a mechanism for redressal and timely resolution of their grievance.
The new rules are progressive, liberal and contemporaneous.
It seeks to address varied concerns of people.
It also wants to remove any misapprehension with respect to the restrictions on creativity and freedom of speech & expression.
The rules were framed depending upon the difference of the viewership in a theatre & television as compared to viewership on Internet.
Facts regarding new rules
The new guidelines on social media were framed in accordance with the section 87 (2) of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
These guidelines were released after having an elaborate consultation with the public as well as the stakeholders. They were consulted to negate the concerns regarding accountability, transparency, and rights related to digital media.
Part- II of the guidelines will be administered by Ministry of Electronics and IT.
Part-III of the guidelines will be administered by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. This part is related to the Code of Ethics & procedure. It also safeguards the relation with the digital media.
The United Nations World Food Programmes (WFP) has released its report titled “The State of School Feeding Worldwide on February 24, 2021.
Key Findings of the report
As per the report, the COVID-19 pandemic risks have reversed the efforts that were made worldwide in a decade to provide nutritious food to the most vulnerable children across the globe.
The report highlights that, one in two school children that would count as around 388 million children worldwide received the school meals when the pandemic was at its peak. This accounts for the highest number in history.
When the pandemic was at its peak around April 2020, 199 countries had closed their schools. Because of which, 370 million children were suddenly deprived of nutritious meal of the day.
The report highlighted that, the lockdown threw spotlight on the critical role that school plays in feeding vulnerable children and protecting their futures.
Recommendations by the report
It proposes to strengthen the global action in order to get the coverage to the pre-pandemic levels.
It also proposes to reach around 73 million vulnerable children who were not getting the nutritious meals even before the pandemic.
UN World Food Programme
WEP is food-assistance branch of United Nations that was founded in the year 1961. It is the world’s largest humanitarian organization that focuses on hunger and food security. This organisation is also the largest provider of school meals. WEP is headquartered in Rome and also has offices across 80 countries. The organisation has served 97 million people across 88 countries as of 2019. The organisation also provides technical assistance and development aid including building capacity for emergency preparedness and managing supply chains and logistics etc. It is also providing direct cash assistance and medical supplies. It was awarded Nobel Peace Prize in 2020 for its efforts in providing food assistance in the areas of conflict.
The Union Government has announced that the second phase of COVID-19 vaccination will begin from March 1, 2021.
Under the second phase of covid-19 vaccination, people aged above 60 years will get vaccinated.
Further, as per the guidelines, those aged above 45 years and are having comorbidities (that means presence of one or more additional conditions that co-occurs with any primary condition) will also be vaccinated under the second phase.
The beneficiaries can get their vaccination done at the 10,000 government and around 20,000 private vaccination centres across the country.
How much the vaccination cost?
The vaccinations drive will run free of cost at all the 10,000 government hospitals.
But beneficiary will require to pay to get their vaccination done across the 20,000 private vaccination centres. The fee for the vaccines is yet to be decided by the health ministry.
Phase 1 of the Covid-19 vaccination
The phase 1 of the covid-19 vaccination drive was started on January 16, 2021. This drive was started across 3006 vaccination centres across the country. The first phase was started to vaccinate only the healthcare workers and frontline workers. Under the phase 1, around 1,26,71,163 people have been vaccinated with the first dose of the vaccine so far under. Out of them, around 14 lakh people have received the second dose as well. The vaccination drives also covered those aged above 50 or are suffering from certain medical conditions.
India’s vaccine capacity
The Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, in January 2021 stated that the vaccine-production capacity of India is the best asset the world has.
The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) has set up the working group committee so as to relook its information and security guidelines. The need to set up the panel was felt in the aftermath of exponential increase in cyberattacks across the world amid the ongoing covid-19 pandemic.
The economic situation particularly the financial sector has seen an exponential increase in cyber-attacks amid the pandemic.
The rising threat of the cyberattacks has necessitated the Regulators to relook into the Cyber Security Guidelines.
These guidelines will be applicable to all the regulated entities to protect financial systems.
What are those guidelines?
As per the guidelines, the Insurers’ Risk Management Committee will be responsible for an annual comprehensive assurance audit.
The committee will also be responsible for conducting the Vulnerability Assessment & Penetration Test (VA&PT).
After the audit has been done, they are required to report the findings to IRDAI.
Role of working group committee
The committee will review if the applicability of the guidelines for the insurers can be extended to other entities under regulatory measures of IRDAI.
It will also look after how one can apply the Guidelines to the extent applicable to entities who are accessing the Insurers IT System.
It will further consider whether there is a need to update guidelines to cover the cyber security issues in fintech solutions, work from remote location, mobile-based applications, and cloud sourcing.
The regulators had issued guidelines on cybersecurity in April 2017 under its governance mechanism. The guidelines also included the Board-approved Information & Cyber Security Policy, Information Security Committee (ISC), Cyber Crisis management plan (CCMP) and Appointment of Chief Information Security Officer (CISO).
The chief minister of Rajasthan, Ashok Gehlot, have announced a Universal Health Coverage for the state while presenting the state budget of state for 2021-22 on February 24, 2021.
The government has allocated Rs 3,500 crore for the financial year 2021-2022.
This was announced under the measures to reinforce the health infrastructure in the state.
This budget will also ensure that healthcare gets more accessible to its citizens.
The government also announced to set up nursing colleges at 25 district headquarters. Other eight districts are already having one nursing college.
Public Health Colleges will also be established in all seven divisional headquarters.
Rajasthan Model of Public Health (RMPH)
The government announced the “Rajasthan Model of Public Health” under which the government will also bought “Right to Health Bill” which gives emphasis on the rights of patients.
Under this model, the state will take Preventive Care measures, Primary Care measures and Curative Care measures in accordance with the recommendations of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Under this Universal Health Coverage Plan, every family will get a Rs 5 lakh health cover.
This will also cover those who are beneficiary of the Ayushman Bharat – Mahatma Gandhi Rajasthan Swasthya Bima Yojana (AB-MGRSBY). They can avail the benefits for free.
The health coverage plan will also cover the contract workers, and small and marginal farmers. They will be eligible for free.
While, the remaining people can avail the benefits under scheme by paying 50 per cent cost of insurance premium at government and private hospitals. The treatment will be cashless up to Rs 5 lakh per year.
Primary Healthcare Service
The Universal Health care model will also ensure that primary healthcare services is provided to each citizen within three kilometres or 30 minutes walking distance.
The state government has also planned to launch mechanism for grievance redressal within the healthcare services. It will be launched at every block and district level.
India has started its BRICS Chairship with the inaugural three-day-long Sherpas’ meeting on February 25, 2021.
The spokesperson of Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Anurag Srivastava stated that the Secretary (CPV & OIA) chaired the meeting and highlighted the themes, priorities, and calendar for the BRICS 2021.
Earlier, the External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had launched India’s BRICS 2021 website at Secretariat of BRICS at Sushma Swaraj Bhawan.
President of China, Xi Jinping, might also visit India later for the BRICS summit.
China had also provided its supports to India in hosting the meeting and is willing to work with the BRICS countries so as to expand its cooperation in the fields of politics, economy and people-to-people exchanges.
It is the acronym for Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. These members are known for their significant influence in the region. The respective government of the BRICS state meet annual formal summits starting from 2009. The 12th BRICS Summit was held by the Russia on November 17, 2020 virtually amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Where does BRICS Stand?
BRICS have a combined area of 39,746,220 km2 and a total population of about 3.21 billion. It accounts for around 26 % of the world land surface and 41% of world population. All the members of BRICS are also the members of G20 grouping. The countries account for around 23% of gross world product (GWP). The Bilateral relations between the BRICS states runs on the principles of equality, non-interference and mutual benefit.
The term “BRIC” is believed to be coined in 2001 by Jim O’Neill who was the then-chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management. But this term was actually coined by Roopa Purushothaman. The first meeting of the grouping was held in Yekaterinburg in June, 2009.
The Finance Ministry has announced that, the Central government has signed a loan agreement with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) for the Assam Power Transmission Project.
The loan agreement was signed worth $304 million.
This loan will be used for strengthening electricity transmission system in the state of Assam.
The agreement for the AIIB Loan was signed by acting director-general of investment operations at AIIB, Rajat Mishra and the Joint Secretary at the Economic Affairs Department, Baldeo Purushartha.
Total estimated cost of the Power Transmission project in Assam is $365 million.
Out of this, $304 million will be provided by AIIB.
Rest of the amount will be provided by the state government of Assam.
This loan from AIIB has a maturity period of 24 years and a grace period of 5 years.
This loan amount from the AIIB will be used to improve the existing power transmission network in Assam.
About Assam Power Transmission Project
This power transmission project will build new networks in the state that will ensure the affordable and reliable power supply in state.
The project will also address the substantial energy deficit that the state of Assam face because of congestion in transmission networks and electricity distribution.
The project comprises of the laying down of a transmission line and construction of 10 transmission substations.
Further, 15 existing substations will also be upgraded under the project while,
Some of the existing transmission lines will be converted into the optical power wire.
This project will help in reducing greenhouse emissions.
It will also improve the quality of power supply to the consumers.
The project also seeks to strengthen existing intra-state transmission network in the state by connecting it with new networks which will help in achieving the affordable, reliable, secure and efficient power.
The World Trade Organisation (WTO) is under pressure to consider the India’s proposal of Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) waiver on Covid-19 vaccines.
Pressure increased on WTO after several European Union lawmakers and group of least developed countries (LDC) provided their support to India’s proposal of waiving the TRIPS on vaccines.
The European Commission and the European Council put forward a declaration after a group of 115 members of European Parliament asked them to drop their opposition to India’s proposal at WTO.
Further, a group of lawmakers from the Democratic Party is also seeking from US President Joe Biden to support the India’s proposal.
As of now, around 90 countries have extended their supported the TRIPS waiver proposal.
However, wealthy countries such as US, Britain and the European Union are against this proposal.
Why wealthy nations are opposing the proposal?
The wealthy nations are of the view that, TRIPS Waiver at WTO will choke the innovation at pharmaceutical companies. Because, it will put off their incentive in order to make huge investments for research and development. In turn, this move will be counterproductive in the current pandemic situation because it requires the drug makers to keep on researching to deal with a mutating virus.
Why does India seek TRIPS Waiver?
India put forward the proposal of TRIPS waiver at the WTO because,
The TRIPS Waiver will reduce the cost of vaccines substantially.
It will also make an environment for the free flow of medicines and technology transfer with other countries.
Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)
The TRIPS Agreement is a multilateral agreement on intellectual property rights including the patents, copyright, protection of undisclosed information or trade secrets and industrial designs. This agreement came into effect in January 1995.
The parliament of Australia has passed the landmark legislation called the “News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code” on February 25, 2021.
This legislation mandates the global digital platforms to pay for publishing the Australian news content on their respective platforms.
The legislation mainly targets Facebook and Google.
The law easily passed the tech giants (Facebook and Google) signed agreements with the government to pay Australian news organisations.
The agreement was signed in order to avoid the tough mandatory bargaining rules under the new regulation.
This legislation will ensure that news businesses “are fairly paid for their content”. It will also help in sustaining the “Public Interest Journalism” in the country.
The Parliament in Australia had proposed this legislation targeting Google and Facebook. Under this legislation, they are required to make payment negotiations with the media companies in order to use their content. However, Facebook & Google had pointed out that these media industry were already benefiting from the traffic routed to their websites through these digital platforms.
Facebook stated that this legislation will cause “unmanageable levels of financial risks as well as the operational risk” for them. Following this, Facebook also blocked the Australian users from reading and sharing local and international news on its platform, recently. Facebook initiated this move against the legislation and stated that this law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between Facebook and publishers who share news content using the platform.
Google already started to ink agreements on the revenue-sharing with the publishers.
Similar International Legislation
The Parliament of France had passed the legislation called the “GAFA Tax” (acronym for Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon) in 2019. This legislation was passed in a bid to impose a 3% levy on sales which is generated in the country by non-tax paying online giants. Similarly, the European Union passed the “Digital Services Act” and “Digital Markets Act” that seeks to limit the powers of global tech giants such as Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon in the European market. Under it, the larger firms have been designated as ‘digital gatekeepers’ and they are subject to strict regulations in case they violate the market norms.
The ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways informed that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the second edition of the Maritime India Summit (MIS) in the virtual mode on March 2, 2021.
Apart from that, the ministry has already started signing several Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) with various entities.
Recently, the Mumbai Port Trust signed MoUs worth ₹7,400 crores.
As a part of this summit, ₹20,000 crore worth MoUs will be signed.
Opening session of the summit will mark the ministerial-level participation. The participants will be joining from Russia, Afghanistan, Iran, Uzbekistan, and Armenia.
The summit will also hold discussions on ‘Development of Port Infrastructure and Boosting Business through Trade, Promotion and Regional connectivity’.
It will also provide a unique platform which will mark the participation of stakeholders in the maritime sectors like sector experts, policy planners, senior government officials, shipping line owners, domestic and international investors and representatives of major ports from several parts of the world along with the governments of maritime states in India.
Summit will also be hosting the forums for interaction and collaboration with Indian and International Ports, Shipping and Maritime Companies and Investors.
The Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways is organising the summit in collaboration with the FICCI as an Industrial Partner and EY as a Knowledge Partner.
Objective of the Summit
The Maritime India Summit is being organised with the objective of pushing India to the forefront of the Global Maritime Sector.
Union Minister of Shipping recently launched a brochure and a website called www.maritimeindiasummit.in for the second edition of Maritime India Summit. This year summit will be held in virtual mode because of COVID-19 pandemic. The registration for exhibitors and visitors for the summit was started on February 11, 2021.
The finance ministry has allowed all the private sector banks to participate in business related to government such as small savings schemes and collection of taxes pension payments.
Currently, only some of the big private sectors are allowed to conduct government-related businesses.
So, now embargo has been lifted and this move will enhance the customer convenience and simulate the competition.
It will also simulate the higher efficiency in standards of customer services.
Private banks remain at the forefront of imbibing and implementing the latest technology and innovation in banking. Now they have become the equal partners in the development of Indian economy.
Now, bar has also been lifted on RBI to authorize the private sector banks along with the public sector banks for Government business and Government agency business.
Government in the budget 2021-22 had announced to privatise two public sector lenders other than IDBI Bank.
Government also announced that privatisation of Public Sector Banks (PSBs) is a part of the disinvestment drive to generate Rs 1.75 lakh crore.
Apart from privatisation of two Public Sector Banks, announcement was also made to privatise the General Insurance company in financial year 2021-22.
Also, central government had merged 10 public sector banks into four in March 2017. Thus, the total number of PSBs came down to 12 from 27.
Merger of the PSBs
Under the merger plan, the United Bank of India and Oriental Bank of Commerce were merged with Punjab National Bank. It thus became the second largest PSB.
Syndicate Bank was merged with Canara Bank.
Allahabad Bank was subsumed under Indian Bank.
Andhra Bank and Corporation Bank were merged with Union Bank of India.
SBI also merged five of its associate banks namely, state Bank of Patiala, State Bank of Mysore, State Bank of Hyderabad, State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur, State Bank of Travancore and Bharatiya Mahila Bank.
In 2019, Bank of Baroda merged the Vijaya Bank and Dena Bank.