23 October 2020
A) BJP promises free Covid-19 vaccine in its Bihar poll manifesto.
On 22 October, the BJP has released its manifesto for the Assembly polls in Bihar with the first promise in it being free distribution of vaccine against Covid-19, once it is approved by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who released the manifesto in Patna, said that as soon as Covid-19 vaccine is available for production on a mass scale, every person in Bihar will get free vaccination. This is the first promise mentioned in their poll manifesto. The announcement led to a storm of criticism by Opposition leaders, who felt that offering free vaccines as an election promise during a pandemic was morally unacceptable. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted sarcastically that GOI just announced India’s Covid access strategy. Kindly refer to the state-wise election schedule to know when will you get it, along with a hoard of false promises. BJP’s Information Technology Cell chief Amit Malviya offered more clarifications. Like all programmes, Centre will provide vaccines to states at a nominal rate. It is for state Governments to decide if they want to give it free or otherwise. Health being a state subject, Bihar BJP has decided to give it free. Amid the criticism, Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami jumped in to say that a potential vaccine would also be free in Tamil Nadu, which goes to polls next year. Once Covid-19 vaccine is ready, it will be provided to all people of the state free of cost, announced the Tamil Nadu CM.
B) Govt. issues warning to Twitter over misrepresentation of Indian map.
The government has shot off a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, conveying its strong disapproval over misrepresentation of the Indian map, and asserting that any attempt by the micro-blogging platform to disrespect the country’s sovereignty is unacceptable. In a strongly-worded letter, Information Technology (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. IT Ministry sources told PTI that Sawhney sent the letter to Dorsey after Twitter showed the geo-location of Leh in Jammu and Kashmir, People’s Republic of China. The IT secretary, in his letter, reminded Twitter that Leh is the headquarter of the Union Territory of Ladakh, and both Ladakh as well as Jammu and Kashmir are integral parts of India.
C) Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories shuts units after cyber attack.
One of India’s leading pharmaceutical companies, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, has temporarily shut down some of its production facilities in the wake of a cyber-attack in the early hours of 22 October. While a statement from the drugmaker said it had isolated all data centre services to take required preventive actions, sources said that as a precautionary measure the company had also temporarily shut down some of the production facilities. Details of the units were not immediately available. In a intimation to the stock exchange, the company said that in the wake of a detected cyber-attack, they have isolated all data centre services to take required preventive actions. CIO Mukesh Rathi said that they are anticipating all services to be up within 24 hours and we do not foresee any major impact on our operations due to this incident.
D) Editors Guild: ‘Kashmir Times’ office sealing reprehensible.
The Editors Guild of India on 22 October said that the sealing of the Srinagar offices of Kashmir Times was reprehensible and had disturbing implications for the media in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. On Monday, the J&K Union Territory administration sealed the newspaper’s Srinagar offices. In a statement, the Guild said that newspapers and magazines in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, which became the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh last year, were already ravaged by conflict. Publications have steadily lost advertising over the last decade. Jammu and Kashmir’s communication shutdowns, followed by the pandemic lockdown, have totally stopped the trickle of revenue. Instead of assisting the media, which was most needed in these dark times, the administration without any notice took control of the office of Kashmir Times, putting its lock on the door. The newspaper editor, Ms. Anuradha Bhasin, and the staff have been denied access to records, computers, furniture and equipment in the office. Describing the act as vindictive, the Guild called on the government to restore status quo. The Press Club of India also issued a statement seeking the restoration of status quo.
E) Delhi riots: Umar Khalid tells court he’s in ‘sort of’ solitary confinement.
Former JNU student leader Umar Khalid, arrested under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in connection with the north-east Delhi riots in February, told a court here on 22 October that he was not allowed to step out of his cell and it was sort of a solitary confinement. Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat directed Tihar Jail Superintendent to be present before the court on Friday to hear the matter. Khalid made his submissions directly to the court through video-conferencing when he was produced before it on expiry of his judicial custody in the case. He said that he have not been allowed to step outside at all. He was alone in his cell. No one is allowed to meet him. It is practically sort of a solitary confinement. He was not well for the last 3 days. He was feeling discomfort. This is like a punishment. Why is he given this punishment? He reiterate that he need security but it cannot be that he have to be in his cell all day.
A) U.S. proposes not to issue business visa for H-1B specialty occupations.
The U.S. State Department has proposed not to issue temporary business visas for H-1B specialty occupations. These visas allow companies to send their technology professionals for a short stay to complete jobs on-site in the U.S. This move could, therefore, affect hundreds of Indians. The proposal, made public on Wednesday, less than two weeks ahead of the November 3 presidential election, is likely to impact several Indian companies which send their technology professionals on B-1 visas for a short stay to complete jobs on site in the U.S. On December 17, 2019, the Attorney General of California announced a $800,000 settlement against Infosys Limited to resolve allegations that approximately 500 Infosys employees worked in the state on Infosys-sponsored B-1 visas rather than H-1B visas, the State Department said. The proposed changes and the resulting transparency would reduce the impact of foreign labour on the U.S. workforce of aliens performing activities in a specialty occupation without the procedural protections attendant to the H-1B classification.
B) Snowden granted permanent residency in Russia.
Fugitive US whistleblower Edward Snowden has been granted permanent residency in Russia, his lawyer said this on 22 October. Snowden, the former US intelligence contractor who revealed in 2013 that the US government was spying on its citizens, has been living in exile in Russia since the revelations. His lawyer Anatoly Kucherena told AFP that his residency permit was extended and is now indefinite, a situation made possible by recent changes to Russia’s immigration law. Kucherena said that the application was filed in April but the process was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. Snowden is wanted in the United States on espionage charges after he leaked information showing that agents from the National Security Agency (NSA) were collecting telephone records of millions of US citizens. When asked whether Snowden planned to apply for Russian citizenship, Kucherena said that he will make the decision himself. It was natural that Snowden wanted to return to the United States but will only do so when the case against him is closed.
Earlier this year, US President Donald Trump said he would “take a look” at pardoning Snowden but has not made further comment on the matter.
A 2015 petition calling on then president Barack Obama to pardon the whistleblower and privacy advocate was rejected by the White House.