24 November 2020
A) Kerala pulls back from controversial ordinance to curb abusive content.
Responding to widespread criticism, the Kerala government on Monday shied away from enacting a controversial ordinance that would have empowered the police to prosecute persons who disseminated information that the law enforcement deemed defamatory. The significant U-turn on the policy came about approximately an hour after Vijayan conferred with members of the CPI(M) State secretariat and the Left Democratic Front (LDF). The LDF and the government had come under withering criticism from Opposition parties journalist organizations, and civil rights activists for promulgating the law. LDF convener and CPI(M) acting State secretary A. Vijayaraghavan said concerns raised by progressive persons had prompted the rethink. In a rare instance, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) also found themselves on the same page opposing the new law. The amendment had proposed three years of imprisonment and a fine of up to ₹10,000 for those convicted of producing, publishing or disseminating derogatory content through any means of communication to intimidate, insult or defame any person. The law also did not restrict itself to curbing vile and inhumane social media posts against women and children alone, as claimed by Vijayan repeatedly. Notably, the ordinance did not unambiguously mention social media posts and had left the amendment open to broad and subjective interpretation by the police.
B) Former Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi dies aged 84.
Former Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi died on Monday in Guwahati while undergoing treatment for post-COVID-19 complications, State Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said. He was 84 and survived by wife Dolly, daughter Chandrima and son Gaurav. Gogoi, a three-time Chief Minister, breathed his last at the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital at 5.34 pm, Mr Sarma said. He was first admitted to the hospital on August 26 after testing positive for Covid-19 and was released for a brief period before being admitted again on November 2. Gogoi was the MLA from the Titabor assembly constituency since 2001. He was also a six-time parliamentarian and a Union minister twice. Shri Tarun Gogoi Ji was a popular leader and a veteran administrator, who had years of political experience in Assam as well as the Centre. Anguished by his passing away. My thoughts are with his family and supporters in this hour of sadness, tweeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted, Shri Tarun Gogoi was a true Congress leader. He devoted his life to bringing all the people and communities of Assam together.
C) COVID-19 situation worsening, says SC, asks for status reports.
The Supreme Court on Monday said the daily spike in COVID-19 cases in Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Assam looked grim and they should take time to introspect and prepare for December. Situation of COVID cases is worsening and likely to do so in December, a Bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan noted. The court asked the States to file status reports in two days on preparedness and steps taken by them. Things have worsened in the last two weeks, in November. Our question is what is your present situation? What more steps are you taking? That is what we are going to look into, Justice Bhushan addressed Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain, for Delhi. The court hauled up the Gujarat government for unbridled celebrations, weddings and public gatherings in the State despite an exponential rise in cases. Gujarat is worst, after Delhi and Maharashtra. What is your policy? What is happening? Weddings, parties, celebrations by political parties are happening. What is all this, Justice M.R. Shah asked the Gujarat side. The hearing is based on the suo motu cognisance taken by the Supreme Court on the treatment meted out to Covid-19 patients and the bodies of those who lost the battle with the virus. The court had, in June, referred to several media reports on the lack of infrastructure, instances of patients and their families running from pillar to post to get themselves admitted, and videos of Covid-19 dead being thrown into pits.
D) India to host G20 summit in 2023.
G20 leaders announced on Sunday that India will host the summit of the high-profile grouping in 2023, a year later than what was decided earlier. India was earlier slated to host the summit in 2022, with the Osaka declaration of the G20 stating last year that they look forward to meeting again in Saudi Arabia in 2020, in Italy in 2021, and in India in 2022. They thank Saudi Arabia for hosting a successful Riyadh Summit and its contribution to the G20 process. They look forward to their next meetings in Italy in 2021, Indonesia in 2022, India in 2023 and Brazil in 2024, the G20 Riyadh Summit Leaders Declaration said. On India now hosting the summit in 2023, a source said that the order of the rotating presidency is decided among member states on the basis of consultations and mutual convenience.
E) IMD warns of ‘severe cyclonic storm’ approaching Tamil Nadu.
A developing cyclonic disturbance in the Bay of Bengal is expected to become a ‘severe cyclonic storm’ by November 24 evening, the cyclone warning division of the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said on Monday. Third stage of cyclone warning raised in Pamban in Tamil Nadu on Monday morning. Third stage of cyclone warning raised in Pamban in Tamil Nadu on Monday morning. The developing storm, which is yet to be named officially, is currently about 600 km south-southeast of Puducherry and 630 km south-southeast of Chennai. It is very likely to intensify into a cyclonic storm during the next 24 hours. It is very likely to move north-westwards and cross Tamil Nadu and Puducherry coasts between Karaikal and Mamallapuram around 25th November 2020 afternoon, noted the IMD’s afternoon update on Monday.
F) Covid Watch: Numbers and Developments.
The number of coronavirus cases reported from India stood at 9163355 with the death toll at 1,50,311. The Maharashtra government will now require a COVID negative report from an RT-PCR test for people travelling to the state from Delhi-NCR, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Goa. The Maharashtra government issued detailed guidelines this evening to put a check on incoming people from these states, all of which are experiencing a surge in Covid-19 cases. The rules will cover both flight and train passengers, who have to show the negative test results before boarding. At least five persons died due to Covid-19 every hour on an average in Delhi in the last 24 hours, accounting for the largest chunk of such fatalities across the country, which recorded an average of 21 deaths in this period.
A) Oxford vaccine shows 90% efficacy in Phase-3 trial. Interim data analysis of Phase-3 trial of Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 candidate vaccine (ChAdOx1 nCoV-2019) offers higher efficacy in preventing Covid-19 disease, said an Oxford university press release. No serious safety events related to the vaccine were found. The results were based on 131 Covid-19 cases seen in the Phase-3 trial. Two doses of the vaccine given in two different regimens showed different efficacies. In the case of the regimen where a halved dose was used as a prime (first dose) followed by a standard dose of booster, the efficacy was 90%. However, where full doses (standard dose) were used both for the prime and booster doses, the efficacy was only 62%. The combined analysis from both dosing regimens resulted in an average efficacy of 70%. Unlike in the case of the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, the Oxford vaccine showed “early indication” that the regimen where a half-dose prime and a full-dose booster was used could reduce virus transmission. This was based on observed reduction in asymptomatic infections in participants who received the vaccine in the Phase-3 trial. Like the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine, the Oxford vaccine, too, showed that it was capable of preventing severe Covid-19 disease. No hospitalised or severe cases were seen in anyone who received the Oxford vaccine, the release said.
B) Bhutan border village on disputed land.
Chinese media on 23 November has claimed that a new border village built by China near Bhutan was on Chinese territory, but released images of the village show its location on territory disputed by the two countries. The Global Times confirmed that the village of Pangda had been newly built and residents moved there in September. An image released by the newspaper placed the village in disputed territory, a couple of kilometres inside what Bhutan sees as its territory. Bhutan’s denial Last week, however, Bhutan’s officials denied the village was on their territory. Bhutan’s Ambassador in India Vetsop Namgyel told that there is no Chinese village inside Bhutan. The Global Times said that according to open records, authorities in Yadong county of Southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region confirmed that 27 households with 124 people voluntarily moved from Shangdui village of Duina prefecture of Yadong county to Pangda village in September 2020, adding the village was 35 km away from the county. Chinese media reported that there were 27 households, and the village was covered by asphalt roads and has a public square, village committee, health room, police room, kindergarten, supermarket and plastic runway. China has in the past sought to bolster its territorial claims in disputed areas by building civilian settlements there, as on disputed South China Sea islands.
C) Taliban rigging drones to drop bombs, says Afghan spy chief.
The Taliban have deployed small drones to drop bombs on government forces in some recent attacks, Afghanistan’s spy chief said on Monday, illustrating a new fighting method used by the insurgents. Ahmad Zia Shiraj, who heads the National Directorate of Security (NDS), said Taliban fighters were using hobby drones and rigging them with explosives. The drones they are using are sold in the market. They are basically camera drones, Mr. Shiraj said in an address to Parliament, adding the NDS wants to stop the import of the popular devices. In late October, the Taliban reportedly used a drone to bomb the compound of the governor of Kunduz province. Mr. Shiraj did not confirm the report, but he noted that the Taliban have used drones in Kunduz and Paktia provinces. While the technique is new to the Taliban, Islamic State (IS) jihadists operating in Iraq and Syria started using toy planes and hobby drones in 2016 to carry explosives. IS maintain a small but deadly presence in Afghanistan and have resisted years long efforts by the U.S. and Afghan forces to wipe them. IS claimed three deadly attacks in recent weeks in Kabul that killed scores of people, including a rocket attack on Saturday. The Taliban and Washington are holding negotiations in Doha.
D) China prepares probe to bring back lunar rocks. China is preparing to launch an unmanned spacecraft on Tuesday to bring back lunar rocks, the first attempt by any nation to retrieve samples from the moon in four decades. Beijing is pouring billions into its military-run space programme, with hopes of having a crewed space station by 2022 and of eventually sending humans to the moon. The Chang’e-5 probe, named after the mythical Chinese moon goddess, aims to shovel up lunar rocks and soil to help scientists learn about the moon’s origins, formation and volcanic activity on its surface. The mission is set to take off from the Wenchang Space Center on the south. ern island province of Hainan, according to the official Xinhua news agency. The China National Space Administration (CNSA) said on its WeChat social media account that the launch was planned for between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. on Tuesday (local time). The original mission, planned for 2017, was delayed due to an engine failure in China’s Long March 5 launch rocket. If successful, China will be only the third country to have retrieved samples from the moon, following the U.S. and the Soviet Union in the 1960s and 1970s. The Chinese probe will collect 2 kg of surface material from a previously unexplored area known as Oceanus Procellarum or Ocean of Storms, which consist of a vast lava plain, according to the science journal Nature.