Home Minister Amit Shah convenes all-party meet on Delhi’s Covid-19 situation; Wholesale inflation data for May to be released; Indian Gas Exchange (IGX), a natural gas trading exchange, to be launched; US Tennis Association likely to take a call on US Open; UN Global Compact virtual Leaders Summit begins
Over 12,000 new Covid-19 cases — 12,156 to be precise — were reported from across the country for the second straight day, taking India’s caseload to 333,000. With 324 more deaths, the fatality count has crossed 9,500.
Delhi (2,224 fresh cases), Andhra Pradesh (294), Assam (331) and Chhattisgarh (199) reported their highest daily infections. Maharashtra (3,390), Tamil Nadu (1,974), Gujarat (511), Uttar Pradesh (499), Haryana (459) and West Bengal (389) also reported high counts. The sparsely-populated Union territory of Ladakh reported 112 new cases on Sunday, a day after it saw 198 cases.
In Delhi: The Covid-19 testing rate in Delhi will be doubled in the next two days and tripled in six days, while 500 railway coaches with 8,000 beds will be made available as care centres, union home minister Amit Shah said on Sunday, after holding talks with lieutenant-governor Anil Baijal and chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. In Delhi, at least 5,137 patients are currently being treated in different hospitals. Of this, 695 are in ICU and 182 are on ventilator support, officials said.
A research group formed by the Indian Council of Medical Research has said the lockdown has delayed the infection peak by an estimated 34 days to 76 days, to mid-November. Once the peak hits, isolation beds could be inadequate for 5.4 months, ICU beds for 4.6 months and ventilators for 3.9 months, their projections show.
In Mumbai, the suburban train services will resume for essential government staff on Monday, nearly three months after they were halted. The Western Railway and Central Railway will operate 346 services daily, which is estimated to ferry 125,000 passengers — as against 3,000 services and nearly 800,000 commuters daily in normal times.
The average temperature in India is projected to rise by 4.4ºC, heatwaves would be 3-4 times more frequent, the intensity of tropical cyclones is to increase substantially, and sea level is to rise by 30cm by the end of this century. These are the findings of the first-ever climate change assessment report by the government scientific institutions.
The “Assessment of Climate Change over the Indian Region” shows temperatures on the warmest day and the coldest night of the year have risen by about 0.63°C and 0.4°C between 1986 and 2015. They are projected to rise by 4.7°C and 5.5°C, respectively, by the end of the century, if no or very little action is taken to reduce emission of greenhouse gases.
Sushant Singh Rajput, who struck a chord with millions with his portrayal of Ish Bhatt in Kai Po Che! and made space for himself in the walled garden of Bollywood with hits such as MS Dhoni:The untold story and Detective Byomkesh Bakshy, was found dead at his residence in Mumbai on Sunday. The actor, 34, hanged himself said the police; no suicide note was found, they added. Born in Patna, Rajput dropped out of college to chase his dreams in Mumbai, like millions before him. He got his break in Balaji Telefilms’ Kis Desh Mein Hai Mera Dil. The abundant talent and his infectious smile were soon projected to the big screen, in Abhishek Kapoor’s Kai Po Che, alongside Aamir Khan and Anushka Sharma in PK, in Nitesh Tiwari’s Chhichhore,Dibakar Banerjee’s Bakshy and Neeraj Pandey’s biopic of cricket icon Dhoni. Dil Bechara, a Hindi adaptation of The Fault In Our Stars, is awaiting release, delayed by the pandemic.
An outsider who made it big in Bollywood, Rajput may not be of the same mould as Irrfan Khan, another gifted actor who left too soon this summer, but as a Chambal dacoit in Abhishek Chaubey’s Sonchiriya, the youngster showed he wasn’t one to be typecast — no matter the boy-next-door looks and affable personality. Alas, like Khan, he, too, has gone too soon.
“I’m not equipped to process any of this. I don’t think I ever will be,” said Sanjana Sanghi, Rajput’s co-star in Dil Bechara. Rajput’s demise once again brought to the fore the subject of mental health, and how the society falls short of addressing it. “He was like a young brother to me. We exchanged a few messages a week ago, and I got no such hint that he was not feeling well. I had no idea about his battle with depression. Had I known, I would have been the first person to reach out to him,” said Tiwari.
The talk: Ashima Goyal, professor at the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research and a member of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister, has suggested that India should consider an urban employment guarantee scheme, like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), for urban poor to limit the damage caused by the pandemic. Goyal said the view was personal and not in her capacity as an advisor to the government.
The background: The coronavirus pandemic is projected to cause a contraction of the Indian economy this fiscal year. The World Bank said the Indian economy could shrink by 3.2% this fiscal, while the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has projected 3.7% or 7.3% depending on two scenarios of the outbreak. An economic contraction (or even slower growth) causes higher unemployment.
The worry: A recent study by the King’s College London and the Australian National University said the pandemic could push global poverty above 1 billion people once again, and much of the impact is likely to be felt in emerging Asian economies of India, Bangladesh, Indonesia and the like. In India’s case, the higher proportion of informal workers — who are not accorded the safety net of formal employment — makes it particularly vulnerable. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) in April said the pandemic could push 400 million workers in India deeper into poverty.
A faultline: Another cause of concern is the state of migrant workers, especially seasonal migrants — those who move between rural and urban India based on agricultural seasons. Since the lockdown, many of these workers have returned home, but the rural economy is not capable of absorbing such a large number of workers, even with the MGNREGA. An urban employment scheme could prevent further reverse-migration to rural India, say some experts.
A roadmap: Researchers at the Azim Premji University and the Centre for Sustainable Employment last year said India could implement an urban employment scheme in around 4,000 smaller cities and towns, which is decentralised and overseen by the urban local bodies, but with the cost borne by the central and state government. A guaranteed wage of Rs 500 a day for 100 days for the urban poor in such towns could cost between 1.7% and 2.7% of GDP, the researchers said.
Nepal’s Upper House of Parliament on Sunday unanimously endorsed the proposal to consider the constitution amendment bill to redraw the country’s borders with India — a day after the Lower House’s all 258 members present voted to pass the new map of Nepal that incorporates territories currently under Indian control as Nepalese territories. So what happens now?
Next steps: The Upper House — known as the National Assembly — has given its members 72 hours to register any amendment proposals, following which they intend to pass the bill within four days and send it to the President Bidhya Devi Bhandari, who will then sign it to make it a law. Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli had said after the passage of the bill in the House of Representatives — Nepal’s Lower House of parliament — that he expects New Delhi to come to the negotiating table to discuss the resolution of this issue.
Self-preservation? The timing of the amendment’s passage comes when Oli was in the midst of a near-revolt within the ranks of the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) whose Secretariat and Standing Committee issued an ultimatum to him to either choose the country’s premiership or the party top post — Oli is also the NCP’s chairman. The ultimatum was issued in the last week of April earlier this year (the border row escalated in the first week of May as India opened a road passing through Lipulekh, one of the contested areas, for Mansarovar Yatra), with Oli commanding the support of just 11 members in the 44-member Standing Committee. Even in the Secretariat, six out of the nine members, who are the senior most in the party, had warned the PM that he could be ousted any time. The amendment seems to have bought Oli some time as NCP leaders are wary of challenging him lest they be perceived as anti-national — even as the Oli government is facing protests for its mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Will India budge? While both New Delhi and Kathmandu have accused each other of rejecting the offer of talks to resolve the boundary dispute issue — Nepal claims parts of Uttarakhand and Bihar as its own, at Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura — the redrawing of the map has made India toughen its stance, refusing to talk, saying that the move was “violative of our current understanding to hold talks on outstanding boundary issues.” For India, holding on to the Lipulekh area in particular is extremely crucial in order to monitor Chinese military movements in the region, given its repeated border skirmishes with Beijing.
A Muslim organisation — the Jamiat Ulema-I-Hind — has moved the Supreme Court seeking impleadment in a plea filed by a Hindu organisation, Vishwa Bhadra Pujari Purohit Mahasangh, which has challenged a provision of the 1991 Places of Worship Act. So what has got these two organisations roiled?
What’s the issue: The Hindu organisation has challenged a specific provision of the Act, which provides “for the maintenance of the religious character of any place of worship as it existed on the 15th day of August, 1947” and prohibits “conversion of any place of worship”. The plea assumes significance in light of the controversy surrounding two mosques at Kashi and Mathura, which are also alleged to be standing at the site of Hindu temples. The Muslim body has asked that the apex court not entertain the plea.
What’s the Act: Passed in 1991, the Act sought to maintain the status quo of the religious shrines as it existed at the time of India’s independence — with the exception of the Ram Janmabhoomi Temple at Ayodhya, which was then under litigation. The Ayodhya temple verdict was delivered last year, with a five judge bench unanimously giving the disputed site to the Hindus for the construction of a temple, with the caveat that an alternative site be provided to the Muslims for the construction of a mosque, in lieu of the Babri Masjid which was demolished in 1992.
What else: The plea in particular challenges Section 4 of the Act, which states that not only will “the religious character of a place of worship existing on the 15th day of August, 1947 shall continue to be the same” but that any lawsuit “with respect to the conversion of the religious character of any place of worship” will “abate” — meaning, any proceedings seeking to change the religious character of any place of worship were declared null and void from the time the Act was passed.
Any exceptions: The Act clarifies that it shall not apply to those places of worship which are under the ambit of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958. It will also not apply to any lawsuits or proceedings regarding the conversion of a place of worship to any other religious character that were either settled out of court or decided by a court of law prior to the Act’s commencement.
Other disputes: In Sikkim, the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) has sought PM Narendra Modi’s intervention to restore the status of Gurdwara Dang Mar Sahib — considered a historic Gurdwara for its association with the first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak — which, the SGPC alleges, has forcibly been taken over by Buddhist monks and converted into a monastery. A similar controversy had arisen last year in Odisha’s Puri, where local Sikh residents have alleged that historic Sikh religious places have been demolished by the local civic administration.
What: The Supreme Court in a special hearing on Sunday restrained the Himachal Pradesh police from arresting journalist Vinod Dua till July 6 in a sedition case lodged against him by a local BJP leader over his Youtube show. The top court, however, said that there shall be no stay on the ongoing police probe.
Why: Dua has been charged under sections 124A (sedition), 268 (public nuisance), 501 (printing matter known to be defamatory) and 505 (statements conducive to public mischief) on the basis of a complaint last month by a local BJP leader who had said that Dua had accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of using “deaths and terror attacks” to get votes. Dua’s petition in the SC said that the FIR registered against him is “politically motivated” and is “purely to settle scores for critically evaluating the functioning of the Central government at the present time of Covid”.
How: The Delhi High Court had earlier stayed an investigation into another case against Dua in connection with his show on YouTube. That case was also based on the complaint of a local BJP leader. Like the complaint lodged in the national capital, the FIR registered in Shimla is also over his YouTube show on communal riots in Delhi earlier this year. Police in both Himachal Pradesh and Delhi report to BJP governments.
And: The Indian Journalists’ Union (IJU) called the filing of FIRs “as an attack on free speech and expression and an obvious intimidation of the media”. The Editors Guild of India had said it is deeply concerned by the growing tendency among police in various states “to take cognisance of frivolous charges” against journalists and convert them into an FIR. The right to freedom of press is a part of Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution, which defines the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression and the right of speech and expression of journalists are similar to those granted to any other citizen, the top court had said last month while hearing the plea of another journalist.
The policy: Health insurance companies will not be allowed to contest claims once the premium has been paid for a continuous period of eight years except for proven fraud and permanent exclusions specified in the policy contract, regulator Irdai said in a fresh set of guidelines. The policies will, however, be subject to all limits, sub-limits, co-payments, deductibles as per the policy contract.
The guidelines: The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (Irdai) said the objective of the guidelines is to standardise the general terms and clauses incorporated in indemnity-based health insurance (excluding personal accident and domestic/overseas travel) products by simplifying the wordings of general terms and clauses of the policy contracts and ensure uniformity across the industry.
The claims: Irdai said the insurance company should settle or reject a claim within 30 days from the date of receipt of last necessary document. In case of delay in the payment of a claim, the insurance company will have to pay interest to the policyholder from the date of receipt of the last necessary document to the date of payment of claim at a rate 2% above the bank rate.
To move: An insured person can port the policy to other insurers at least 45 days before, but not earlier than 60 days from the policy renewal date. If the policyholder is currently covered and has been continuously covered without any lapses under any health insurance policy with an Indian insurer, he will get the accrued continuity benefits in waiting periods. Read the full story here
A massacre: In the Borno state in northeast Nigeria, extremists linked to the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) have killed at least 60, including 20 soldiers, in twin attacks over the weekend, reports Reuters. Armed militants also attacked a UN humanitarian hub with rocket launchers, accusing them of being “non-believers”; a UN spokesperson said the facility sustained only light damage. The weekend attacks came just days after a two-hour shooting spree killed over 80 in the Gubio village in Borno on Tuesday. The fatality toll of this week’s attacks alone surpassed the overall death toll from the pandemic in Nigeria.
A death curve: You know the situation in Borno is bad when analysts track a death by month curve — a la infection curve. According to the Nigeria Security Tracker database by the Council of Foreign Relations, over 38,000 have been killed since 2011 due to the conflict between Islamic militants and security forces in the country. Over 1,700 died in April alone.
Tell me more: The Nigerian state of Borno is caught between a brutal war between Islamic militants and the security forces. The most notorious of these militant groups is the Boko Haram, which literally means education is forbidden. According to the Nigeria Security Tracker, Boko Haram has killed over 17,300 people since 2011. The Islamic State in West Africa, an offshoot of Boko Haram, has also caused sizeable pain and loss. Boko Haram first gained international notoriety for kidnapping and raping nearly 300 schoolgirls in 2014; more than 100 of the “Chibok girls” are still missing.
La Liga said it will take legal action against a man who invaded the pitch to take a selfie with Lionel Messi during Barcelona’s away match at Real Mallorca — one held behind closed doors. A statement from La Liga on Sunday said the man accessed the pitch “without any authorisation and disobeying the protocols established by health legislation, as well as disobeying the orders of security staff”. “La Liga also wishes to show its absolute condemnation for this type of conduct that puts the health of others at risk and risks damaging the integrity of the competition.”
The fan, a French Mallorca resident, spoke to the Spanish radio station Cadena Cope after being ejected by security personnel and police, revealing he had scaled a two-metre fence to access the stadium. Mallorca, the host club, said they were investigating how the fan had got into the stadium. La Liga resumed action this weekend after a pandemic-enforced hiatus, with matches being held behind closed doors, and players and staff adhering to guidelines that limit social interaction.
China. China on Sunday reported its highest daily total of new coronavirus infections in two months, raising fears that reopening of the country has caused a second wave. The National Health Commission said 57 new cases were reported in 24 hours through midnight Saturday, highest since mid-April. 36 of these cases were reported in Beijing, where a wholesaler market was shuttered on Saturday after 50 people tested positive in recent days.
From the clues: The most distant point from an ocean is the Eurasian Pole of Inaccessibility, located in the desert of China’s Xinjiang region, near the border with Kazakhstan.
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