26 November 2020
A) As Ni-var intensifies, Chennai suspends airport and metro services.
The severe cyclonic storm ‘Nivar’ is likely to intensify further into a very severe cyclonic storm during the next 12 hours. It is expected to cross the Tamil Nadu and Puducherry coasts between Karaikal and Mamallapuram during midnight of November 25 and early hours of November 26, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD). The Tamil Nadu government has announced a public holiday in 16 districts, including Chennai, on Thursday, November 26. Chennai airport will remain shut from 7 p.m. on Wednesday till 7 a.m. on Thursday due to the cyclone. All international, domestic and cargo services remain suspended. This decision follows the afternoon update announcing the cancellation of 12 departures and arrivals from and to Chennai airport. Flights cancelled include those to Kannur, Kozhikode, Vijayawada, Tiruchi, Thoothukudi, Bengaluru, Mangalore and Hubli. Metro rail services, too, have been suspended from 8 p.m. today. Services will resume tomorrow depending on the weather conditions.
B) Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel passes away.
Rajya Sabha member and senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel died on Wednesday after a prolonged battle with complications arising out of a Covid-19 infection. He was 71. Patel had contracted the virus more than a month-and-a-half ago, on October 1, and was treated at a private hospital in Faridabad before being shifted to Gurugram’s Medanta Medicity after his condition deteriorated. Popularly known as ‘Ahmed Bhai’ or ‘AP’ in political circles, Patel, who served as the powerful political secretary to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, was the quintessential backroom strategist during the 10-year-rule of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA). Though he was never a part of the Manmohan Singh Cabinet, Patel was the crisis manager who firmly remained in the background and was known for his loyalty to the Gandhis. Patel served as a key link not just between the Congress and its allies but also between the party and Singh’s government. His ability to reach out to corporate as well as political leaders prompted the former party chief Rahul Gandhi, who was not known to share a great relationship with Patel, to bring him back as the party’s treasurer in August 2018.
C) Poshan Abhiyan: Server snag hits tracking of nutritional interventions.
A massive portal developed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), which is used by the Centre as well as most States to record and monitor delivery of services to children and mothers across nearly seven lakh anganwadis, has been down for nearly three months, several State governments have confirmed. The snag is a big setback at a time when it is critical to intensify efforts to identify mothers and children in need of nutritional interventions due to rising levels of hunger and poverty. The software had been developed under the Poshan Abhiyaan scheme approved by the Cabinet in 2017. The ICDS-CAS server is down and we have written to the Central government to rectify it. It has been down for almost two months and we have requested for it to be rectified. But we continue to deliver dry rations to the beneficiaries, told Kavitha Ramu, Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Chief for Tamil Nadu. Poshan Abhiyaan’s Integrated Child Development Services Common Application Software (ICDS-CAS) is a web and mobile-phone based application to improve service delivery and program management. The application facilitates Anganwadi workers (AWWs) in their daily tasks, helps supervisors to assess and provide feedback to the workers, and helps other program officials to track service delivery and take informed decisions. The server issue appears to have surfaced after the government insisted that the BMGF and its collaborator, US-based DIMAAGI, host India’s public data in India, leading to issues in managing capacity to anchor such vast quantities of data. India has a total 14 lakh anganwadis and nearly 10 crore ICDS beneficiaries.
D) Farmers begin march to Delhi from Ambala.
Thousands of farmers from Ambala began a march towards Delhi on Wednesday afternoon in response to a call by several farmers’ groups for “Dilli Chalo” on November 26. Haryana Police has set up barriers and diversions in the bordering districts on the highways leading to Delhi to prevent the agitating farmers from reaching the national capital. Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) member Balkar Singh said thousands of farmers started a march towards Delhi in tractors and trolleys from a food grains market near Ambala in the afternoon and broke the barriers put by the police to reach Shahbad. He claimed that the police used water cannons to stop the farmers. Singh said the farmers were scheduled to reach Rajiv Gandhi Education City in Sonipat around midnight before entering Delhi. Earlier, there were reports of arrests and detentions of farmer leaders from several parts of Haryana amid the continued crackdown for the second day in a row. In a related development, the Delhi Police reiterated that all requests from farmer organisations for protest permits on Thursday and Friday have been rejected, and warned that legal action would be taken if gatherings took place in Delhi amid the coronavirus pandemic.
E) Amaravati land scam case: SC stays A.P. High Court’s gag order to media.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed an interim direction of the Andhra Pradesh High Court to gag the media from reporting on an FIR registered on the alleged illegal purchase of land in Amaravati. A three-judge Bench, led by Justice Ashok Bhushan, gave four weeks to former State Additional Advocate General and first respondent, Dammalapati Srinivas, to file his response. Srinivas is named in the FIR. Others named include the relatives of a sitting Supreme Court judge. The FIR shows offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act, criminal breach of trust, and cheating under the Indian Penal Code. The allegations include abuse of official positions in the State, sharing of privileged information, and causing loss to the public exchequer during the previous Telugu Desam Party regime. The High Court had passed the gag order within hours of the registration of the FIR on September 15. It stayed the investigation and barred the State from taking any coercive action against the persons named in the FIR. The order was based on a writ petition filed by Srinivas. The Jaganmohan Reddy government had appealed to the Supreme Court. The Bench issued notice and posted the appeal for hearing in the last week of January 2021.
F) Cabinet approves amalgamation of Lakshmi Vilas Bank and DBS India.
The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the amalgamation of Lakshmi Vilas Bank with DBS India. The Centre had imposed a one-month moratorium on the Karur-based lender, temporarily capping withdrawals at ₹25,000. The RBI had proposed a draft scheme of amalgamation that entailed the Indian unit of Singapore’s DBS Bank taking over the capital-starved bank. The Union Cabinet on November 25, 2020 approved the merger of Lakshmi Vilas Bank with DBIL, providing comfort to 20 lakh customers of the bank which was put under the moratorium. The jobs of the 400 employees will be secure and the depositers will also be protected, said Union Minister Prakash Javadekar, during a press meet in New Delhi on Wednesday. Twenty lakh depositers and ₹20,000 crore of deposits are secure, he added. RBI has been told to act against those who brought the bank to the brink of closure. Liability will be fixed and those who have made mistakes will be punished, he said.
A) China slams India’s ban on 43 more apps.
China on Wednesday said it firmly opposes India’s use of national security as an excuse. It was reacting to New Delhi’s November 24 decision to ban 43 Chinese apps, which followed similar measures announced in June and September that barred 177 mostly Chinese apps amid continuing tensions along the border. India should immediately correct its discriminatory approach and avoid causing further damage to bilateral cooperation, said Zhao Lijian, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry. A separate statement from the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi on Wednesday said China firmly oppose[s] the Indian side’s repeated use of ‘national security’ as an excuse to prohibit some mobile apps with Chinese background.
B) Navy inducts 2 drones on lease from the U.S.
The Indian Navy has inducted two MQ-9B Sea Guardian unarmed drones procured from the U.S. on lease, two defence sources said on Wednesday. The drones are on lease for one year. All planning, execution and operations will be with the Indian Navy. The Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) will play a support role for maintenance as laid down in the agreement, one defence source said. The drones arrived in India in mid-November. The recently released Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP) 2020 has introduced an option for leasing military platforms. As part of its force restructuring to offset budgetary constraints, the Navy has been looking to induct more unmanned solutions, both aerial and underwater. As part of this, the requirement of additional P-81 maritime patrol aircraft has been cut down from 10 to six and was to be offset by procurement of long-endurance drones. UAV procurement A tri-service proposal to procure ten Unmanned Aerial vehicles (UAV) for each Service from the U.S., including armed drones, has been in the pipeline for some time but has been delayed due to budgetary considerations. Last year, the Navy asked General Atomics for details of the Sea Guardian, following which company offcials made presentations on its capabilities. The Guardian, which is the maritime variant of the Predator MQ-9 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), has a maximum endurance of 40 hours and a maximum flying altitude of 40,000 feet. It has a 3600 maritime surveillance radar and an optional multimode maritime surface search radar.
B) Pakistan Cabinet for strict punishment to rapists.
To combat rising cases of sexual attacks on women and children in Pakistan, the federal Cabinet has approved in-principle two anti-rape ordinances aimed at handing out exemplary punishment, including chemical castration and hanging, to rapists, according to a media report. A Cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan in Islamabad on Tuesday, also decided to change the definition of rape, the Dawn News reported on Wednesday. The Anti-Rape (Investigation and Trial) Ordinance, 2020, and the Pakistan Penal Code (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020, would be finalized in a week to be promulgated, Information Minister Shibli Faraz said. Hailing the big decision, Mr. Faraz said the ordinances change the basic definition of rape and suggest severe punishment for gang-rape. For the first time in the history of Pakistan, the definition of rape has been changed by incorporating transgender and gangrape in it, the report said. The proposed laws also prohibit the controversial two-finger test performed on rape survivors. The World Health Organization has already declared the test as unscientific, medically unnecessary and unreliable.