Supreme court seek response from EC over VVPAT issue
The Supreme Court on Monday sought a response from the Election
Commission to a plea to decriminalise the act of reporting “deviant
behaviour” manifested in electronic voting machines (EVMs) and
voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) sytems during polling.
A Bench led by Chief Justice of India RanjanGogoi issued notice to the
Commission to explain the requirement for Rule 49 MA of the Conduct of
Election Rules, 1961 read with Section 177 of the Indian Penal Code, which
criminalises the reporting of malfunctioning of EVMs and VVPATs.
Petitioner Sunil Ahya submitted, “It may not be fair and just to charge
an elector for reporting such a deviant behaviour. Yet, presently, in all
eventuality, the onus/burden of proof is on the elector, who will face the
criminal charges irrespective of whether that reporting is truthful and
honest.” In fact, the rule worked to deter people from coming forth to
The petition explained the various forms of “deviant behaviour” the EVMs
and VVPATs could possibly have, including an “unsolicited programme” by
ballots cast for one candidate may be transferred, not sequentially, but
rather intermittently (at pre-programmed intervals or otherwise) to another
“And, therefore, where an elector is asked to cast test vote as
prescribed under Rule 49 MA, he may not be able to reproduce the same result
which he was complaining about,” it said.
Central committee to implement clean air programme
The Union Environment Ministry has constituted a committee to implement
the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), which aims to reduce particulate
matter (PM) pollution by 20%-30% in at least 102 cities by 2024.
The NCAP unveiled in January is envisaged as a scheme to provide the
States and the Centre with a framework to combat air pollution.The NCAP is
envisioned as a five-year action plan with 2019 as the first year. There
would be a review every five years.
States in which the cities are located are expected to produce plans
that include increasing the number of monitoring stations, providing
technology support, conducting source apportionment studies, and
strengthening enforcement. For achieving the NCAP targets, the cities would
be expected to calculate the reduction in pollution, keeping 2017’s average
annual PM levels as the base year.
The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) database on air pollution over the
years has listed Tier I and Tier II Indian cities as some of the most
polluted places in the world. In 2018, 14 of the world’s 15 most polluted
cities were in India.
The NCAP requires cities to implement specific measures such as
“ensuring roads are pothole-free to improve traffic flow and thereby reduce
dust” (within 60 days) or “ensuring strict action against unauthorised brick
kilns” (within 30 days). It doesn’t specify an exact date for when these
obligations kick in. Experts have criticised the lack of mandatory targets
and the challenge of inadequate enforcement by cities.
India – China pharma sector to discuss issues soon
India will be sending a high-level delegation to the first meeting of
the working group on pharmaceuticals, with China, scheduled in Beijing next
An initiative under the India-China Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED)
Mechanism, the working group meeting comes in the backdrop of growing
efforts by India to increase pharma exports to China.
In doing so, the emphasis has been on impressing upon China to make the
drug registration process easier for Indian pharma companies. “There is a
need for strengthening our exports to China and also to reduce import
dependence from China, which could be achieved with regular trade and
bilateral discussions,” a communication from the Pharmaceuticals Export
Promotion Council of India (Pharmexcil) to its members said.
In 2018-19, China figured in the 17th spot in the list of India’s top
pharma export destinations. At $230.19 million, exports increased 14.83%
from the previous year’s $200.46 million.
The growth potential, however, is much higher, considering the fact that
the exports grew 52% in 2017-18.
The Indian delegation will be led by Joint Secretary to the Department
of Pharmaceuticals and comprise senior officials from the Commerce Ministry
as well. Senior executives of a few pharma companies from India as well as
of those already involved in their firms’ operations in China, such as Dr.
Reddy’s Laboratories and Hetero, are expected to be part of the delegation,
Employees consortium to bid for Jet airways
As uncertainty continues over the fate of the shuttered Jet Airways, an
employees’ consortium has proposed to take over the airline with at least
₹3,000 crore expected from outside investors for the bid, according to two
This is the first time that employees have come together with a proposal
to run the more than 25-year-old Jet Airways, which temporarily suspended
operations on April 17.
Two associations representing pilots and engineers SWIP and JAMEVA have
written to State Bank of India (SBI) Chairman Rajnish Kumar proposing that
they would like to take over the airline and can bring in up to ₹7,000 crore.
The Society for Welfare of Indian Pilots (SWIP) and the Jet Aircraft
Maintenance Engineers Welfare Association (JAMEVA) have written a letter to
the SBI chief asking the lead lender to consider “employee consortium” as an
intending bidder for the carrier.
The deadline for submitting initial bids have already ended and the list
of shortlisted entities is expected to be finalised on May 10.SBI Capital
Markets, on behalf of the lenders’ consortium led by the SBI, is managing
the bidding process.
Cash-starved Jet Airways stopped operations on April 17 after lenders
decided not to extend emergency funds. Since then, employees have held
gatherings in various cities and have also met various Ministers with pleas
to save the airline.
Sanchez’s PSOE party wins by small margin in Spain
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s Socialists have won snap
elections, without the necessary majority to govern solo, in a fragmented
political landscape marked by the far-right’s entry into Parliament. The
results raise the spectre of another period of instability for Spain, with
Mr. Sánchez depending on alliances with hostile rivals in an environment
that has soured since Catalonia’s failed secession bid in 2017.
A significant development was the rise of the ultra-nationalist Vox
party, which garnered just over 10% of the vote in a country that has had no
far-right party to speak of since the death of dictator Francisco Franco in
1975. Mr. Sánchez’s Socialist Party (PSOE) got 123 lawmakers out of 350, or
close to 29% of votes short of an absolute majority but much better than the
85 seats it got in 2016.
Mr. Sánchez, who came to power in June after ousting conservative Prime
Minister Mariano Rajoy in a no-confidence vote, could seek to forge
alliances with far-left Podemos and smaller groupings like Catalan
separatist parties, as he had done over the past 10 months. He could also
try to cosy up to centre-right Ciudadanos, which won 57 seats. Together,
they would form an absolute majority but voters from both parties would
likely frown on such a move.
Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera built his campaign on disparaging Mr.
Sánchez, criticising his attempts to negotiate with Catalan separatist
parties in a bid to ease aw secession crisis in the northeastern region.
The crisis in Catalonia was precisely what fuelled Vox’s meteoric rise
from the outer margins of politics to the national scene, after gaining
nearly 11% of votes in December regional polls in southern Andalusia.
Founded by Santiago Abascal, a disgruntled former PP member, it will now
take 24 seats in the national Parliament.
EU extends arms sales ban to Myanmar
The European Union has extended a ban on selling arms to Myanmar and
prolonged sanctions against high-ranking officials till 30th April 2020,
over their role in the Rohingya crisis.
The EU said in a statement that the sanctions include an embargo on arms
and equipment that can be used for internal repression, an export ban on
dual-use goods for use by the military and border guard police, and export
restrictions on equipment for monitoring communications that might be used
for internal repression.
About 14 top military and border officials are under individual EU
sanctions - barring them from travelling to or through the European bloc and
freezing any assets they hold in Europe - over alleged human rights
violations, including killings and sexual violence.
The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people,
have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal
violence in 2012.
In August 2017, almost 750,000 Rohingya refugees fled a military
crackdown in northern Myanmar to cross into Bangladesh, where 300,000
members of the persecuted Muslim minority were already in camps.
::SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY::
ICRISAT discovers tolerance & heat resistance of chick pea varieties
An international team led by the Hyderabad-based International Crops
Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) has identified in
chickpea four important genes for heat tolerance and three important genes
for drought tolerance.
With rising temperatures and increasing climatic fluctuations due to
climate change, the identification of these climate-resistant genes will
help in developing newer chickpea varieties which can tolerate temperatures
up to 38 ° C. Also, the identification of other genes with important agromic
traits will help in increasing the yield and providing better resistance to
pests and diseases. The study was based on complete genome sequencing of 429
chickpea lines from 45 countries More than 90% of chickpea cultivation area
is in South Asia, including India. Globally, more than 70% yield is lost due
to drought and increasing temperatures. Chickpea is a cool season crop, so
in general any further increase in temperature is expected to further reduce
In India, chickpea is generally sown in September-October and harvested
in January-February. “Currently, in India, chickpea does not face a major
threat from increasing temperature. But we are already witnessing a slight
warming during the months of January and February. So a new variety with
heat and drought tolerance will be highly useful to Indian farmers.
The study has found that chickpea originated in the
Mediterranean/south-west Asia and migrated to south Asia. It reached India
about two centuries ago, apparently through Afghanistan. In parallel, it
migrated from the Mediterranean to east Africa and central Asia.
Indian athletes clinch gold at para cycling championships
Indian para-athletes came up with brilliant performance to secure a
silver and two bronze medals at the Asian Road para-cycling championships at
Divij Shah clinched silver while Asian Para Games bronze medallist
Gurlal Singh and Hand cyclist SudhakarMarathe claimed bronze.