Digital currency and its Drawbacks.

What are virtual currencies?

A virtual currency is a digital representation of value that can be digitally traded and functions as (a) a medium of exchange, and/ or (b) a unit of account, and/or (c) a store of value, but, unlike fiat currency like the rupee, it is not legal tender and does not have the backing of a government. A cryptocurrency is a subset of virtual currencies, and is decentralised, and protected by cryptography.

What are Distributed Ledger Technologies and Blockchain?

Imagine a small group of school friends maintaining a list of transactions among themselves, but with a twist: Instead of holding this list in one single computer or in the notebook of one of the group members or authorising some outside authority (say, their class teacher) to maintain (and update) the list, all of them decide to maintain a separate copy of the list in their personal computers. Every time they transact, the rest of the members verify the transaction and once it is verified by all, they update their list. Further, to make sure that none of them changes records of the past transactions in their personal list, they decide to place each transaction as a block, and to stack it one after the other in a sequence. This way, no one can tweak the details of any past transactions because the overall sequence will not match with sequences held by others. Lastly, to make sure that no other child from the school gets to know the details, they devise a code (a cypher) for all their communications related to the list.


Who is Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Republican whose past comments are causing a furore in the US House.

The US House of Representatives is set to vote on whether to strip firebrand Republican lawmaker Marjorie Taylor Greene of her committee assignments, after several of her past social media posts and comments sparked a furore within the Democratic Party. This comes after top Republican leader Kevin McCarthy condemned her controversial remarks, but failed to take action against her.

Before she won a US House seat representing Northwest Georgia last year, she was known to have made a number of racist, anti-semitic and anti-Muslim statements on social media. She notably courted controversy for supporting a host of conspiracy theories, including the since-debunked QAnon theory.

In recent weeks, several old comments resurfaced where the Georgia Republican claimed school shootings were staged and even liked posts that called for the execution of top Democratic leaders, such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Lawmakers on either side of the aisle have slammed Greene for her comments, and several Democrats have demanded her resignation.

But on Wednesday, McCarthy declined to take action against her — a decision that has angered both House Democrats as well as a growing number of Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. In a lengthy statement, McCarthy condemned her past comments but accused the Democratic Party of trying to carry out a “partisan power grab” by pushing for Greene’s resignation so vehemently.

Who is Marjorie Taylor Greene?

Greene co-owns a commercial construction and renovation company with her husband in Georgia. In November last year, she won a US House seat from Georgia’s 14th congressional district, where she ran unopposed after her Democratic opponent Kevin Van Ausdal dropped out of the race in September.

Greene is no stranger to controversy. Over the last few months, she has been widely criticised for some troubling social media posts and statements that have recently resurfaced. She has publicly endorsed the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory and has even repeatedly expressed racist views in public.

Despite this, she was a favourite of former President Donald Trump who praised her and once even called her a “future republican star. Trump himself has repeatedly refused to denounce the since-debunked QAnon theory, which suggests that the former President is secretly fighting a highly-placed child sex-trafficking ring.

But after she was criticised by several Republican leaders for elevating the warped theory during her primary race against fellow Republican candidate and neurosurgeon John Cowan, Greene distanced herself from QAnon conspiracy, without explicitly denouncing it.

In January, the political newcomer was once again in the spotlight when she introduced a measure attempting to impeach US President Joe Biden, accusing him of abuse of power and corruption. Late last month, another set of old social media posts surfaced, prompting the Democratic Party to file a resolution to strip her of her committee assignments.

Why are Greene’s social media posts causing outrage?

In January, Greene took down dozens of Facebook posts dating back to 2018 and 2019, where she publicly endorsed a number of fringe conspiracy theories and showed her support for executing Democrats, CNN reported.

She has been slammed for claiming that mass shootings are “false flags” used to justify gun control. In one video shared on social media, she is seen harassing David Hogg, a survivor of a school shooting who now advocates for gun control. In another video shared in 2017, just days after a gunman shot and killed 58 people at a music festival in Las Vegas, she suggested that the incident was staged by gun control activists to promote their agenda.

She has also previously claimed that the 2018 wildfires in California were started by “Jewish space lasers”.

A CNN review of Greene’s activity on Facebook found that apart from filling her feed with extremist content and conspiracy theories, she also indicated her support for executing prominent Democrats. In January, 2019, Greene liked a comment on her post that advocated “a bullet to the head” of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

On Monday this week, a group of House Democrats introduced a resolution to remove Greene from her committee assignments in the House Education & Labor Committee and the House Budget Committee. Her appointment to the Education & Labour Committee caused tremendous friction between Republicans and Democrats, with the latter questioning how she could possibly be placed in the panel given her history of troubling posts and statements, particularly about school shootings.

“I think that the focus has to be on the Republican leadership of this House of Representatives for the disregard they have for the death of those children,” Pelosi said at the time, according to NBC News. “You’re just going to have to ask them why they thought that that raised itself to the level of something appropriate to do in the Congress of the United States.”

How did the Republican Party respond to the Democrats’ demands?

In a statement issued on Wednesday, top Republican Kevin McCarthy condemned Greene for endorsing conspiracy theories and making bigoted statements, but did not take away her posts on the two congressional committees.

“Past comments from and endorsed by Marjorie Taylor Greene on school shootings, political violence, and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories do not represent the values or beliefs of the House Republican Conference,” he said. His statement was issued following a closed-door meeting of Republican leaders, where they debated whether to strip Greene of her leadership posts.

They were also deciding the fate of Wyoming Republican Representative Liz Cheney after she voted in favour of impeaching former President Trump. Finally, Cheney, the third-highest ranking Republican, survived a secret ballot to oust her by 145-61.

Meanwhile, there is more of a divide within the party as far as Greene is concerned. Several top Republican lawmakers have been vocal in their criticism of her past comments. Florida Senator Marco Rubio called her “either deranged or a sadist”. Mitch McConnell accused her of embracing “loony lies” that were a “cancer” to the party. Senator Todd Young of Indiana said she was “nutty” and an embarrassment to the party, BBC reported.

During the meeting, Marjorie apologised for her past statements. She said that she did, in fact, believe school shootings were real and called them “awful”. Greene told her colleagues that she had made a mistake by being curious about QAnon, The Hill reported. At the conclusion of her address, several Republican leaders gave her a standing ovation, the report stated.

Some Republicans have argued that Greene cannot be published for comments she made before she was elected.

What next?

Nancy Pelosi announced that the House would proceed with a vote on Thursday to decide whether Greene will be removed from the education and budget committees. To pass, the measure needs a simple majority in the Democrat-controlled House.

“McCarthy’s failure to lead his party effectively hands the keys over to Greene – an anti-Semite, QAnon adherent and 9/11 Truther,” Pelosi said in a statement. Republicans are responding to the Democrats’ push to expel Greene, by trying to remove Democratic lawmaker Ilhan Omar from her committees for statements they have alleged were anti-semitic.

Why not remove Marjorie Taylor Greene from Congress altogether?

Democratic Congressman Jimmy Gomez Wednesday announced that he was introducing a resolution to expel Greene from the Congress for her comments.

“As if it weren’t enough to amplify conspiracy theories that the September 11 attacks were an inside job and the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was staged, a string of recent media reports has now confirmed that Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene had previously supported social media posts calling for political violence against the Speaker of the House, members of Congress, and former President Barack Obama,” he said in a statement.

“Her very presence in office represents a direct threat against the elected officials and staff who serve our government, and it is with their safety in mind, as well as the security of institutions and public servants across our country, that I call on my House colleagues to support my resolution to immediately remove Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene from this legislative body,” he added. But is it possible for Greene to be expelled from the Congress altogether? Experts say that it seems unlikely.

India series on free-to-air channel in England a boost for Test Cricket

For the first time since the 2005 Ashes, England Test cricket returns to Channel 4. On Wednesday, the free-to-air terrestrial channel confirmed that it had secured the rights for the four-match series between India and England from Star Sports.

What is the history of cricket broadcast in England?

The BBC covered all England home games for 60 years until 1999, when they lost the rights to Channel 4. The matches were on free-to-air television till England’s Ashes win over Australia in 2005 before all international cricket broadcast in the UK moved to Comcast’s pay-TV operator Sky.

While before anyone with television could see England’s home games, the move to Sky made a subscription necessary.

Sky did share the rights with Channel 4 in a one-off deal for the 2019 World Cup final between England and New Zealand — and the hosts’ thrilling Super Over win over New Zealand at Lord’s attracted 15.4 million viewers over the course of the day.

What is the new deal?

According to the deal, all four Test matches along with highlights will be available for free on Channel 4, as well as its dedicated streaming platform: All 4.

Channel 4 will get the Star Sports’ live world feed commentary from India. An in-house, London-based panel of former England captains Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss will provide the expert analysis, along with presenter Rishi Persad

“We’re delighted to be showing live Test cricket on Channel 4 again and given the recent performances of both sides this series is set to be a cracker,” Channel 4’s head of sport Pete Andrews told Variety. “We’re thrilled to have struck this deal with Star Sports.”

The UK radio rights, meanwhile have gone to TalkSport, and the BBC Test Match Special team will opt for the ‘Cricket Social’ format of online discussion instead of ball-by-ball commentary by pundits.

How did Channel 4 pip Sky Sports and BT Sport?

Citing sources in India, The Times reported that Channel 4 may have paid as little as £5 million to Star Sports, which had initially been seeking more than £20 million for both the Test and limited-overs UK rights. Sky and BT Sport may have had to pay more due to a smaller potential audience than Channel 4. While the Test deal has been finalised, Star Sports might look for a more lucrative deal for the limited-overs matches.

Sky and BT Sport have also been in cost-cutting mode since the Covid- 19 pandemic hit, and are expected to battle it out for the Premier League football rights later this year.

The early-morning start also adds a wrinkle. The matches will begin at 4am England time, except for the third Test — a day-night match with a 9am start.

What has been the response?

England captain Joe Root hoped Test cricket’s return to terrestrial television will “inspire the next generation.”

“You look at the stuff Sky do and the reach they get, they do a wonderful job and they give great content for all the viewers. [But] this is a great opportunity to reach out to a new audience, to grow the game as we keep talking about and for it to be more accessible for everyone else,” Root told the Guardian. “So it’s a great thing for the sport and hopefully people will tune in and watch us and have something to smile about at the end of it.”

Jonathan Trott, England’s batting consultant in India who played all his 52 Tests career behind Sky’s paywall, called the development “exciting.”

“I think the more people we can get watching the game is a great idea and fantastic for the sport,” Trott told The Times. “I’m sure it’s going to be exciting for everybody. For people in lockdown, hopefully they can watch it and we can get the nation behind the side and give a little bit back in what is quite a testing time all around the world.”

For the Telegraph, historian Simon Heffer wrote: “Perhaps teenagers won’t flood back to county grounds this summer after watching India play England on free-to-air television: but it will spark the imagination of some. If a way can be found to keep showing serious cricket on free-to-air channels, it will remind the young generation that it is there.”

More vaccine doses given than Covid cases detected

In the couple of months since governments took up vaccination against the novel coronavirus, the number of vaccine doses administered worldwide has crossed the number of Covid-19 cases detected in the one year since the pandemic began.

Until February 3, a total of 107.34 million vaccine doses had been administered across the world, according to the online resource Our World in Data, which collates data from various government and educational institutions. This does not reflect the number of people vaccinated, though: every dose administered is counted and, depending on the vaccine, some regimens require multiple doses.

The number of Covid-19 cases detected until February 3 was 104.38 million (10.44 crore), according to Our World in Data citing Johns Hopkins University. By February 4 night in India, JHU had updated the count to 104.60 million.

With 44.5 million doses administered until February 3, India is fourth on the list, behind the US, UK and Israel. In terms of doses given per 100 population, Israel is on top at 1.39. India, owing to its large population, is far behind on this count, at 0.02 doses per 100.

Two PSU banks, one insurance firm to be privatised, LIC IPO this year

The government on Monday announced that two public sector banks and one general insurance company will be privatised and LIC will be listed on the bourses in the financial year 2021-22 as part of the consolidation in the banking and insurance sectors. It has also announced Rs 20,000 crore recapitalisation of PSU banks.

What privatisation of PSU banks means?

The government will start the process of privatisation for two public sector banks in the coming financial year, Finance Minister Finance Minister said in her budget speech. However, the Minister did not disclose the names of the banks. The government currently holds majority stake in PSU banks. The government is expected to bring down the stake in the two PSU banks below 51 per cent or sell the entire stake to private ownership. Bank unions are likely to oppose the government’s initiative to privatise PSU banks.

Which bank will qualify for privatisation?

Banking sources say that smaller and middle level banks are likely to be privatised by the government. It’s unlikely to change the structure of big banks like State Bank of India and PNB. “The privatisation of two public sector banks and the stake sale of LIC should help the government meet the disinvestment target and reduce the fiscal constraints,” said Raghvendra Nath, Managing Director, Ladderup Wealth Management.

Is IDBI Bank on the privatisation list?

IDBI Bank is unlikely to be in the list of the government. Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) currently holds majority stake in IDBI Bank. LIC is supposed to reduce the stake in IDBI over a period of time. LIC is unlikely to give up control over IDBI Bank in the near future.

Which general insurance company will be privatised?

The government has not disclosed the name of the public sector insurance firm that will be on the privatisation block. There are four PSU general insurance companies: New India Assurance, United India Insurance (UII), National Insurance Company (NIC) and Oriental Insurance Company (OIC). The government had earlier dropped its plan to merge UII, NIC and OIC and decided to recapitalise them. Besides, the government also owns reinsurer General Insurance Corporation (GIC Re).

What does LIC IPO mean for the government?

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitamaraman has said Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) will go for an initial public offering in 2021-22. This is likely to be a mega IPO going by the Rs 32 lakh crore assets under management of LIC. The government is expected to mop up a sizeable amount from the LIC IPO, making the life insurer one of the largest firms in market capitalisation. LIC has already started the spadework for the IPO.

What is Stardust 1.0, the first rocket to run on biofuel?

On January 31, Stardust 1.0 was launched from Loring Commerce Centre in Maine, US, a former military base, becoming the first commercial space launch powered by biofuel, which is non-toxic for the environment as opposed to traditionally used rocket fuels.

Sunday’s launch marks another historic first for Maine since Stardust 1.0 has become the first commercial rocket launch for the state located in northeastern US.

So, what is Stardust 1.0?

Stardust 1.0 is a launch vehicle suited for student and budget payloads. The rocket is 20 feet tall and has a mass of roughly 250 kg. The rocket can carry a maximum payload mass of 8 kg and during its first launch carried three payloads. According to a report in Politico, the payloads included a cubesat prototype built by highschool students, a metal alloy designed to lessen vibrations, which is developed by Kellogg’s Research Labs and a cubesat from software company Rocket Insights.

The rocket is manufactured by bluShift, an aerospace company based in Maine that is developing rockets that are powered by bio-derived fuels. Stardust 1.0 is being developed by the company since 2014 when the company was founded by its CEO Sascha Deri.

These rockets will help to launch small satellites called cubesats into space in a way that is relatively cheaper than using traditional rocket fuel and is less toxic for the environment. Other rockets being developed by the company include Stardust Gen. 2, Starless Rouge and Red Dwarf, which is a low-Earth orbit (LEO) vehicle and is designed to fly a maximum payload of 30 kg.

There are other companies working towards making access to space easier. One of them is Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s space company called Blue Origin. Last year in October, the company tested a rocket system called New Shephard. The rocket system is meant to take tourists to space eventually and offers flights to space over 100 km above Earth and accommodation for payloads. Such efforts are a part of a growing number of commercial space companies that are working to provide easier and cheaper access to space to laypeople and also to make access to space cost-effective for purposes of academic research, corporate technology development and entrepreneurial ventures among others.

Significantly, the accommodation of mini payloads provides easier access to space to not only experienced researchers but also to students who are part of educational institutions and are working to develop their own space programs “for less than the price of new football uniforms” as Blue Origin has put it.

Another company founded by British entrepreneur Richard Branson called Virgin Galactic signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA’s Johnson Space Center in June 2020 to encourage commercial participation in orbital human spaceflight to the International Space Station (ISS) and help in the development of a Low Earth Orbit economy.

What is biofuel?

What the biofuel used for Sunday’s launch is made up of is not yet clear, but as per media reports it can be sourced from farms around the world. Deri told Politico that the biofuel is a blend of substances that can be had from any farm across the US and that it is nontoxic. “My two young daughters could eat the fuel and no harm would come to them with the exception of constipation maybe,” the report quoted Deri as saying.

But broadly, biofuels are obtained from biomass, which can be converted directly into liquid fuels that can be used as transportation fuels. According to the US government’s office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the two most common kinds of biofuels in use today are ethanol and biodiesel and they both represent the first generation of biofuel technology. Ethanol, for instance, is renewable and made from different kinds of plant materials. Biodiesel on the other hand is produced by combining alcohol with new and used vegetable oils, animal fats or recycled cooking grease.

How the series defeat against India has put Australian coach Justin Langer under scanner

After the test series lost against India, Justin Langer’s coaching style has come under scrutiny. Sources close to the team told The Sydney Morning Herald that the Australia head coach style of management “wore thin” with players. According to the report, Langer’s intensity and mood swings have drained experienced players, who have spent months on end in either quarantine or bio-bubbles.

The reality sandwich

According to the report, during the final Test in Brisbane, Langer ordered a player to stop habitually stuffing a toasted sandwich in his pocket before walking onto the field.

“You’re walking on against India, we’re trying to win a Test match and one of our players walks on with a toasted sandwich in his hand,” Langer — whose contract as a three-format coach and selector lasts another 18 months — was quoted as saying. “I spoke to (the player) about it at length yesterday. I said, ‘How do you reckon it looks, mate?’ Is that not something I should say?”

Micro-managing bowlers

SMH also reports that some senior players are frustrated by the micro-management, with Langer bombarding bowlers with statistics and instructions during lunch breaks.

Langer denied the accusation: “It’s actually the opposite of what happens. I never talk about statistics to the bowlers, ever. I don’t go to any of the bowlers’ meetings. That’s what the bowlers’ coach is meant to be doing. And the learnings of the last few months are I should start looking at that more.”

Langer’s response

On Friday, Langer said any suggestion of deteriorating relationships with players “couldn’t be further from the truth” but added, “leadership isn’t a popularity contest”.

“If players just want someone to tickle their stomachs all the time then I’m not doing my job.”

Not the first time

A previous confrontation between Langer and his players over his coaching style — after Australia failed to regain the Border-Gavaskar trophy two years ago — was a prominent theme of the Amazon-produced documentary The Test: A New Era for Australia’s Team’.

The coach was given a stern message during a team meeting after the 2018 Boxing Day Test drubbing. Captain Tim Paine wanted Langer to be more positive and batsman Usman Khawaja asked him to not make things “too complicated”.

“We can’t always control the result. You get better as individuals, players, staff, everyone, be in better control of that emotion, be more level-headed, without trying to make it too complicated,” Khawaja was seen saying. “I think that’s what the boys are trying to say. Does that make sense? If it doesn’t then…”

When asked where the message was coming from by Langer, Khawaja replied: “Um, I think the boys are intimidated by you, Alf. I think there’s a bit of the walking-on-eggshells sort of thing. I feel like I think the boys are afraid to say it.”

An old New Year’s Resolution

After the 2-1 defeat in 2018-19, Langer resolved to be more mellow for the ODI series in India. Changing his approach, he allowed players to take more control over the training. The team came back from a 0-2 deficit to win a five-match series.

“(The Test series loss to India) was a massive wake-up call and a really tough time in my life,” Langer said on a podcast. “I’ve got no doubt in 10 years’ time, I will look back on that period and it will be the making of my coaching career.”

After the 1-wicket defeat in Leeds during the Ashes, Langer waited a day before conducting a post-mortem to avoid an emotionally-charged feedback session. Australia struck back to win at Old Trafford and, while they lost at The Oval, managed to retain the Ashes.

All seemed well last year. In October, after the opening round of Sheffield Shield matches was dominated by fringe players, Langer called it a tell-tale sign of a glorious era when “it’s harder to get into the Test side than out”.

Then India came visiting again…

The Maharashtra-Karnataka border dispute – the past and the present

Earlier this week, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Sharad Pawar released a book published by the state government, titled ‘Maharashtra-Karnataka Seemavad: Sangharsh Aani Sankalp’ (Maharashtra-Karnataka Boundary Dispute: Struggle and Pledge). The book is a collection of articles, news, and other material on the demand that Marathi-speaking areas in Karnataka should be integrated into Maharashtra.

Until the Supreme Court gives is verdict on the dispute, the areas should be declared Union Territory, Thackeray said.

Pawar was more circumspect, saying that the government must make all legal efforts to ensure a favourable verdict in the apex court.

The matter has been in the Supreme Court since 2004.

The dispute

This long smouldering inter-state dispute resurfaces from time to time, rather like the issue around the demand for the renaming of Aurangabad. Maharashtra has staked claim to over 7,000 sq km area along its border with Karnataka, comprising 814 villages in the districts of Belagavi (Belgaum), Uttara Kannada, Bidar, and Gulbarga, and the towns of Belagavi, Karwar, and Nippani. All these areas are predominantly Marathi-speaking, and Maharashtra wants them to be merged with the state.

The genesis of the dispute lies in the reorganisation of states along linguistic and administrative lines in 1956.

The erstwhile Bombay Presidency, a multilingual province, included the present-day Karnataka districts of Vijayapura, Belagavi, Dharwad, and Uttara Kannada. In 1948, the Belgaum municipality requested that the district, having a predominantly Marathi-speaking population, be incorporated into the proposed Maharashtra state.

However, The States Reorganisation Act of 1956 made Belgaum and 10 talukas of Bombay State a part of the then Mysore State (which was renamed Karnataka in 1973). While demarcating borders, the Reorganisation of States Commission sought to include talukas with a Kannada-speaking population of more than 50 per cent in Mysore. But the opponents of the region’s inclusion in Mysore have maintained that in 1956, Marathi-speakers outnumbered Kannada-speakers in those areas.

Political parties in Maharashtra are united on the merger of the border areas with the state. The dispute features in every election manifesto of the Congress, NCP, Shiv Sena, and BJP Over the last six decades, every Governor’s address (which outlines the state government’s policies and programmes) to the joint session of the Maharashtra Assembly and Council has mentioned the border dispute to loud applause from members across parties.

Recent incidents

This is not the first time that this matter has arisen in the last 13 months of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition government.

Bus services between Kolhapur (Maharashtra) and Belgaum (Karnataka) had to be suspended for a few days following tensions that flared on both sides of the border after Chief Minister Thackeray referred to the contentious areas as “Karnataka-occupied Maharashtra” in the Assembly.

He also named two senior ministers, Eknath Shinde and Chhagan Bhujbal, to a co-ordination committee to oversee the expeditious resolution of the case in favour of Maharashtra in the Supreme Court.

Late last year, the Maharashtra government asked all ministers to wear a black band on November 1, which is celebrated in Karnataka as Rajyotsava or state Formation Day, to express support for Marathi-speaking people in Karnataka.

Thackeray reiterated his commitment to redrawing Maharashtra’s borders to include areas that now lie in Karnataka on January 17, which is observed in Maharashtra as Martyrs’ Day, while paying tributes to those who died in the 1956 border struggle to join Maharashtra.

Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar echoed the pledge.

The Mahajan Commission

The BJP government in Karnataka has accused Maharashtra of seeking to incite violence on the border dispute, and Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa has vowed he would “not part with an inch of land”. The Mahajan Commission had “long ago settled the dispute”, Yediyurappa said, condemning Maharashtra.

The Mahajan Commission was set up by the Government of India in October 1966 to look into the border dispute. In its report submitted in August 1967, the Commission, led by former Chief Justice of India Mehr Chand Mahajan, recommended that 264 villages should be transferred to Maharashtra, and that Belgaum and 247 villages should remain with Karnataka.

Maharashtra rejected the report, calling it biased and illogical, while Karnataka welcomed it. Despite demands from Karnataka, the Centre never implemented the recommendations of the report.

Earlier this week, Sharad Pawar said the report was “100 per cent against Maharashtra”.

The BJP’s dilemma

At a time when the BJP has tried to corner Thackeray on the issue of renaming Aurangabad, challenging him to act on the old promise, the border row has handed the Shiv Sena an opportunity to hit back at its former ally.

The Maharashtra BJP had lain low for long, shying away from saying anything that would pit it against its own government and party in Karnataka. However, former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has now said that the Maharashtra BJP wants that the predominantly Marathi-speaking border areas should be merged with Maharashtra.

“Irrespective of the party in power, both states have from the beginning struck to their positions. The Maharashtra BJP’s stand remains unchanged,” Fadnavis has said.

What are Canada’s new Covid-19 travel restrictions

To address the threat posed by new and more infectious variants of the novel coronavirus, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Friday unveiled a fresh set of Covid-19 restrictions for travellers who are planning to visit the country. “New variants of Covid-19 pose a real challenge to Canada,” Prime Minister Trudeau said at a press conference. “That’s why we need to take extra measures.”

The new restrictions are aimed at minimising the impact of the deadly disease ahead of the upcoming holiday season.

From suspending flights to a number of popular destinations, to making Covid PCR tests mandatory upon arrival — the Trudeau administration announced a slew of strict new measures to crack down on the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

What are the new travel restrictions Canada PM Trudeau announced?

Prime Minister Trudeau announced that the country’s main airlines — Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing, and Air Transat — are suspending all flights to the Caribbean and Mexico from April 30. The airlines are in the process of “making arrangements with customers who are currently on a trip in these regions to organise their return flights,” Trudeau said at the press conference on Friday.

In addition to this, all international flights will only be permitted to land in Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal, and Toronto from next week onwards. Travellers arriving in the country will also have to take compulsory Covid-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests. While awaiting their results, they will be required to quarantine in a government-approved hotel at their own expense. According to Trudeau, the cost for this is “expected to be more than $2,000.”

“Those with negative test results will then be able to quarantine at home under significantly increased surveillance and enforcement,” he added. But those who test positive, will have to quarantine in a designated government facility to ensure that they are not carrying “variants of potential concern”.

He also urged Canadians to avoid all forms of non-essential travel. Trudeau said that nonessential travellers will soon have to present a negative Covid-19 test before entering the land border with the US.

“By putting in place these tough measures now, we can look forward to a better time, when we can all plan those vacations,” the Canadian Prime Minister said.

Non-essential travel to Canada by foreign tourists has been banned since the country first began reporting coronavirus cases in March, last year. Earlier, anyone entering the country for essential travel was required to undergo a mandatory self-quarantine period of two weeks. Travellers had to provide a negative Covid-19 test, taken within three days of their departure time, before boarding a Canada-bound flight.

What has led to the new restrictions?

Trudeau’s recent announcement follows weeks of furore in Canada’s provinces, where local authorities have been urging the Prime Minister and his administration to introduce stricter travel regulations to contain the spread of the deadly virus.

According to latest statistics from the Canada Border Services Agency, over 6.3 million travellers who entered the country since the onset of the pandemic did not have to complete the mandatory 14-day quarantine, Global News reported. The figure includes truck drivers and others involved in cross-border transportation of goods. A number of these workers travel to and from the United States — the world’s
worst-affected country — regularly.

But during his press conference yesterday, Trudeau noted that only 2 per cent of Covid-19 cases in Canada are due to incoming travellers — which he claimed was evidence of the effectiveness of the country’s strict coronavirus restrictions.

What sort of travel is permitted and what is not?

While tourism has not been allowed since the very onset of the pandemic, visitors are permitted to travel to Canada for ‘family-reunification’ in some cases. Most permitted travel is exclusively reserved for Canadian citizens and permanent residents only. Foreign nationals will only be permitted to enter if they are protected workers, asylum claimants, or if they have applied to travel to the country on other compassionate grounds.

While healthcare workers have strongly advised against non-essential inter-provincial travel, residents are permitted to visit most Canadian provinces, other than the Atlantic provinces and Arctic territories. Here, authorities have banned the entry of people from the rest of Canada, unless they are travelling for essential reasons, such as for school or work.

So far, Canada has reported over 7.74 lakh Covid-19 cases and 2.2 lakh deaths.

How CSR expenditure rules have changed for Indian companies

The Corporate Affairs Ministry has amended the rules for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) expenditure by India Inc to allow companies to undertake multi-year projects, and also require that all CSR implementing agencies be registered with the government. We look at some of the key changes.

How do the new rules enable corporations to undertake multi-year CSR projects?

All companies with a net worth of Rs 500 crore or more, a turnover of Rs 1,000 crore or more, or net profit of Rs 5 crore or more, are required to spend 2 per cent of their average profits of the previous three years on CSR activities every year. The amended CSR rules allow companies to set off CSR expenditure above the required 2 per cent expenditure in any fiscal year against required expenditure for up to three financial years. Experts do, however, note that there was ambiguity whether the rule would apply for expenditure undertaken prior to the amendment.

“The government may consider allowing corporates which have in good faith incurred excess CSR expenditure in the past to set it off against future CSR expenditure requirements,” said Harish Kumar, partner at law firm L&L partners.

What are the changes required for implementing agencies?

A large number of companies conduct CSR expenditure through implementing agencies, but the new amendment restricts companies from authorising either a Section 8 company or a registered public charitable trust to conduct CSR projects on their behalf. A Section 8 company is a company registered with the purpose of promoting charitable causes, applies profits to promoting its objectives and is prohibited from distributing dividends to shareholders. Further, all such entities will have to be registered with the government by April 1.

Experts note that the change would impact CSR programmes of a number of large Indian companies that conduct projects through private trusts.

Kumar said the change would mean such private trusts would either have to be converted to registered public trusts, or stop acting as CSR implementing agencies “given that a sizeable amount of CSR is being contributed through their private trusts by many companies, including blue-chip companies.”

An expert who did not wish to be quoted said private trusts such as the Reliance Foundation, Bharti Foundation and DLF Foundation, which handle a majority of CSR expenditure for affiliated companies, would be impacted by this change.

What are other key changes?

The amended rules require that any corporation with a CSR obligation of Rs 10 crore or more for the three preceding financial years would be required to hire an independent agency to conduct impact assessment of all of their project with outlays of Rs 1 crore or more. Companies will be allowed to count 5 per cent of the CSR expenditure for the year up to Rs 50 lakh on impact assessment towards CSR expenditure.

Why Google might remove its search engine in Australia

Google said Friday that it might remove its search engine in Australia if the country’s government went ahead with its plans to make online tech companies pay for hosting news content.

So what’s this about?

This development is related to the News Media Bargaining Code, a mandatory code of conduct developed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to address bargaining power imbalances between the Australian news media businesses and digital platforms, including Google and Facebook.

The ACCC released a draft code in July 2020 allowing news media businesses to bargain individually or collectively with companies such as Google and Facebook over the payment for the inclusion of news on their services.

So far, the Australian government has said that the code will be applicable to Google and Facebook only, and other companies may be added in case they were found to hold a significant bargaining power imbalance with the Australian news media businesses.

This means that Google and Facebook would have to pay news websites whose links show up their platforms including Facebook News Feed, Instagram, Facebook News Tab, Google Search, Google News and Google Discover. “These services have been selected on the basis that they display Australian news, without typically offering revenue-sharing arrangements to all news media businesses that produce this content,” the draft code says.

What is Google saying?

Google says that while it supports the idea that the financial future of publishers needs to be supported, the way the government is trying to achieve this goal would break the way Google search works.

The tech giant has maintained that code remains to be “unworkable” since it says that the ability to link freely between websites is fundamental to any search engine. If the code is implemented then Google will have to pay publishers of certain news media outlets so that their links show up as search results.

Google has also said that the code requires the company to give news publishers special treatment, which means a notice period of 14 days informing them about algorithm changes and certain “internal practices”. “Even if we could comply, that would delay important updates for our users and give special treatment to news publishers in a way that would disadvantage everyone else,” Google has said.

Therefore, Google has said that if the code were to become law it will stop making Google Search available in Australia.

Previously, Facebook responded to the code becoming law by saying that the company would remove Australians’ ability to post news content on its platforms.

On the other hand, Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has said that the government “does not respond to threats” and that the Parliament will decide what rules businesses must be allowed to follow in the country.

Why President Biden could cap the Keystone XL pipeline project?

After US President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Wednesday, one of the first actions the Democrat might take is cancelling the permit for the $9 billion Keystone XL pipeline project, a Canadian Broadcasting Corp (CBC) report said.

The controversial XL pipeline, if built, will become part of a larger pipeline network that is already in existence. This functioning network, which is also called Keystone, connects oil sands in Canada’s Alberta province to refineries in the US states of Illinois and Texas

What is the Keystone XL proposal?

Keystone XL is the proposed fourth phase of the Keystone Pipeline network between Canada and the US, which aims to cut short the distance between Alberta’s oil sands and the Texas Gulf Coast, where most of North America’s refineries are situated.

The first three phases of Keystone are complete, and are currently carrying 5.5 lakh barrels of oil every day to the US from Canada via a longer route.

The planned 1,897 km XL pipeline’s more direct route, as well as larger diameter, would boost the oil supply from Canada, potentially carrying 8.3 lakh barrels of oil per day. It would be privately financed, with costs of building shared by Canada-based TC Energy and other oil companies. The XL pipeline would carry both Canadian and American oil to refineries in Texas, from where it can be exported.

So, why build a shorter route?

A key reason is that the oil sands in Canada are landlocked, and a direct connection to international markets through the Texas refineries and ports would mean that they can be further developed. This would benefit the energy industry in both Canada and the US.

Another important reason stated is that if North America increases its own supply of oil, it can further reduce its reliance on imports from the Middle East, thus providing fuel at lower prices for domestic consumers. President Donald Trump has claimed that 28,000 jobs would be created for the pipeline’s construction.

Then, why is there opposition to the project?

There are a number of groups that have a problem with the XL proposal.

Environmentalists claim that building the pipeline would signify a commitment to developing the Alberta oil sands, where oil production is set to double by 2030. They argue that if the pipeline is built, it would increase North America’s reliance on fossil fuel. This would not only take away the focus from developing renewable sources, but also end up exacerbating climate change.

There are complaints about the carbon footprint of extracting Canadian oil, too. The fuel extracted from Alberta’s oil sands is bitumen, an inferior quality of petroleum. Its extraction process is more akin to mining than conventional oil drilling, and generates 15 per cent more greenhouse emissions compared to the production of one average barrel of oil used in the US, as per The Washington Post.

There is also opposition in the US state of Nebraska, where leaks from the pipeline could threaten the Ogallala Aquifer, among the world’s largest fresh water reserves which provides drinking water to 20 lakh people in eight US states. Experts say the Canadian bitumen could be especially harmful to the waterway, because unlike conventional crude, which floats on top of water in case of a spill, some of bitumen’s heavy elements settle to the ground, rendering conventional cleanup technologies redundant.

Native American groups have also opposed the project, saying the pipeline construction would affect water supplies upstream of many of their reservations.

And, how did this issue play out politically?

Because the proposed pipeline crosses the international border, it requires the approval of both national governments. Although Canada approved the XL project in 2010, former US President Barack Obama, a Democrat, axed it in 2015, saying it would increase greenhouse emissions, and that Canada would reap most of the project’s benefits.

Then in 2017, Republican President Trump, who openly questions the veracity of climate change, reversed Obama’s decision soon after taking office, allowing the pipeline to move forward.

According to a Reuters report, the XL pipeline’s construction is currently underway in Canada, and the border crossing with the US is complete. In all of the US states that the pipeline passes through, construction is taking place on pump stations, the report said.

Now, as the White House again returns to Democratic hands, the project could again get in jeopardy. In the past, Biden has already declared that he would cancel the XL pipeline’s permit if elected.

What is Michigan state’s Flint water crisis?

On Thursday, nine former officials who served the state of Michigan in the US, including the state’s former governor Rick Snyder, were charged in connection with a criminal investigation into the Flint water crisis.

Michigan’s Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym L Worth announced that after 12 months of jury proceedings, the nine officials were indicted on a total of 42 counts “related to a series of alleged actions and inactions that created the historic injustice of the Flint Water Crisis”.

“We must remember that the Flint Water Crisis is not some relic of the past. At this very moment, the people of Flint continue to suffer from the categorical failure of public officials at all levels of government, who trampled upon their trust, and evaded accountability for far too long,” Hammoud was quoted as saying in a statement

Former governor Snyder was charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty. “As Governor of the State of Michigan, a public officer did willfully neglect his mandatory legal duty to protect citizens of this state against disaster and/or emergency,” his indictment mentions.

Snyder, who is a Republican became Michigan’s 48th governor and was sworn in on January 1, 2011. He remained in this position until 2018.

What was the Flint Water Crisis?

The Flint water crisis is an ongoing public health crisis that began in 2014 when the City of Flint in Michigan–which has a population of roughly 100,000–changed its water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint river. This switch caused the water distribution pipes to corrode, as a result of which lead and other contaminants were leached into the municipal drinking water.

This led to an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, a serious type of pneumonia caused by the Legionella bacteria and other health complications in thousands of its residents. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people can get sick from this if they breathe in mist or accidentally swallow bacteria-containing water into the lungs.

While the water supply was switched back in 2015, the damage was long-lasting and many residents of the city continued to suffer.

In January 2016, the state of Michigan declared a state of emergency and in October the same year, residents of the city were advised not to drink the municipal tap water unless it was filtered.

As per an article published in the American Water Works Association (AWWA) in 2016, which described the water crisis, a few weeks after the water source was switched despite warnings and concerns from some officials, residents started complaining about the colour, taste and odor of their drinking water. In May 2014, some residents informed officials that the water was causing rashes, especially in children.

As per a Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response (CASPER) conducted by the CDC in May 2016, over 66 percent of the households in the city reported one or more adult members experiencing at least one behavioural health issue “more than usual” and 54 percent of the households reported that at least one child experienced at least one behavioural health issue.

But why was the water source changed?

The AWWA article notes that in order to reduce costs for treated water Flint officials decided to join the newly formed Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA) in 2013, which was constructing a pipeline to transmit water from Lake Huron.

In the meantime, the city of Flint had the option to either purchase treated water from the Detroit Water and Sewage Department (DWSD), which was sourced from Lake Huron or treat water from the Flint river on its own.

After officials failed to strike a short-term agreement with DWSD, Flint officials decided to use water from the Flint river and treat it at the Flint Water Service Center (FWSC). But the water wasn’t treated properly at the FWSC, resulting in lead contamination.

The article also notes that while the Flint river water is difficult to treat, “oversights and missteps” combined with “inherent chemical conditions” set the stage for the water crisis.

A report published in 2017 by the Michigan Civil Rights Commission said that race and racism played a role in causing the water crisis even though both black and white residents were victims. The report is based on the testimony of over 150 residents, community leaders, experts, academics and government officials

We are not suggesting that those making decisions related to this crisis were racists, or meant to treat Flint any differently because it is a community primarily made up by people of color. Rather, the disparate response is the result of systemic racism that was built into the foundation and growth of Flint, its industry and the suburban area surrounding it,” the report said.

”The crisis has been the subject of a film and a documentary film. A 2017 TV film called Flint directed by Bruce Beresford starring Queen Latifah featured her as a woman dealing with the effects that the contaminated water had on her and her family. A documentary on the subject, also titled “Flint”, was released in 2020 and is based on half a decade of research into the crisis and the failure of officials to respond to it.

Why WhatsApp is giving users more time to accept its privacy policy

Accepting that it had led to “confusion” and spawned a lot of “misinformation”, messaging service WhatsApp Saturday announced it will be delaying the implementation of its new privacy policy until May 15. This, the Facebook product hopes, will give users more time to “review the policy at their own pace”.

Why has WhatsApp delayed the implementation of the new privacy policy?

Ever since it announced the new policy in early January, there was confusion over whether this means parent company Facebook, which has been facing some trust deficit globally, will get to access user messages. As this confusion, partly caused by a hard-to-understand privacy policy which chose to not spell out how the changes will play out on ground, gained ground, millions of users across the world chose to look at options, even as WhatsApp gave users the option to accept or leave the service

What happens now?

Nothing really changes in the privacy policy, which WhatsApp later clarified does not change anything when it comes to personal messaging and only impacts some new messaging with businesses. However, now users have till May 15 to read through, internalise and accept the new policy and its changes. Earlier, the deadline was February 8, which had added to the panic among users and fears that something drastic is on the anvil.

WhatsApp has also reiterated in the new post that users have nothing to be worried about. “WhatsApp was built on a simple idea: what you share with your friends and family stays between you. This means we will always protect your personal conversations with end-to-end encryption, so that neither WhatsApp nor Facebook can see these private messages. Which is why we don’t keep logs of who everyone’s messaging or calling. We also can’t see your shared location and we don’t share your contacts with Facebook,” it says.

Will this help WhatsApp end the exodus of users?

To a certain extent, yes. But the damage has been done. What the new privacy policy has done is remind users about the linkages between Facebook and WhatsApp, which many would not have taken seriously so far. With Facebook’s not-so-great record in privacy, users seem to be rethinking if they want to be messaging everybody from their parents to bosses via a service owned by the social network.

Both Signal and Telegram have benefited from this exodus, so much so that both services seem to be struggling to handle the influx of new users — Signal services were disrupted on Friday. What could come to WhatsApp’s advantage in the long run is the network effect, which will gradually sink in as users realise that those who they want to chat with have not moved along with them to the same alternative option. And this could be what WhatsApp might be hoping from with the delayed adoption of the privacy policy.

Republic Day: No foreign head of state as chief guest, first in 55 years

Due to the prevailing Covid-19 situation, the Centre has decided against having any foreign head of state or government as the chief guest for this year’s Republic Day event on January 26, news agency PTI reported. This is the first time in 55 years that India is not going to have any chief guest for the Republic Day parade.

Addressing a press conference on Thursday, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said, “Due to the global Covid-19 situation, it has been decided that this year there will not be any foreign head of state or government as the chief guest for our Republic Day event.”

The central government was thinking on these lines after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had called up Prime Minister Narendra Modi and expressed “regret” that he would not be able to be chief guest for the Republic Day celebrations. Johnson took this decision in view of the fresh national lockdown in the UK due to the new, more contagious mutant strain of the novel coronavirus.

The last time India did not send an invitation to any head of state was in 1966 due to the untimely demise of then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri. The new government headed by Indira Gandhi was sworn in on January 24, 1966 – only two days ahead of the Republic Day parade.

The Republic Day celebrations have been truncated this year on account of the pandemic. Last year’s Independence Day celebrations had also been scaled down.

An invitation to be chief guest at India’s Republic Day is a special honour for the visiting foreign dignitary. New Delhi has been weaving strategy with hospitality while deciding on the chief guest. The choice is dictated by a number of factors — strategic and diplomatic, business interests, and geo-politics.

Trump has been impeached a second time. What happens next?

The House of Representatives on Wednesday made Donald Trump the first US president to be impeached twice, formally charging him with incitement an insurrection just a week after a violent mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol. Here’s a guide to what happens next:

Is the impeachment proceeding over?

No. Impeachment refers only to the House, the lower chamber of Congress, bringing charges, or Articles of Impeachment. The next major step is for the Senate, the upper chamber, to have a trial to determine Trump’s guilt. A two-thirds majority is needed to convict Trump. If all 100 senators are present for the vote, at least 17 Republicans need to join the Democrats to convict Trump

When will the trial begin?

The Senate’s Republican majority leader, Mitch McConnell, has rejected Democratic calls for an immediate impeachment trial and said it cannot begin until after the Senate returns from a recess on Jan. 19. That means the trial will likely begin after Trump leaves office on Jan. 20.

The House must formally transmit the charge against Trump to the Senate before the trial can begin.

What is Trump’s likely defense in the Senate trial?

The House approved a single article of impeachment — a formal charge — accusing Trump of “incitement of insurrection,” focused on a speech he delivered to thousands of supporters shortly before the pro-Trump mob rampaged through the Capitol. Trump is likely to argue at trial that his remarks were free speech protected by the Constitution’s First Amendment and that, while he told supporters to “fight,” he did not intend it as a literal call to violence.

Trump released a videotaped statement on Wednesday, shortly after the impeachment vote, saying he condemned last week’s violence. “Violence and vandalism have absolutely no place in our country and no place in our movement,” Trump said.

So a former president can be impeached?

Yes. The consensus among scholars is that a “late impeachment” is constitutional. These scholars note that impeachment is used not just to remove officials from office, but also to disqualify them from future office. That means there is still a reason to try Trump after he leaves the White House.

The Constitution states that one punishment for conviction is “disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States.”

Under Senate precedent, only a simple majority of the Senate is needed for disqualification. Historically, that vote only happens after a conviction. It’s not clear if someone must be convicted to be disqualified.

How long will the trial last?

The US Supreme Court has said the Senate has wide latitude to set its own rules for how to conduct an impeachment. But under the current rules in effect, a trial would take at least a few days.

Social protection : Challenges and Solution

There are hundreds of social security schemes in India, from housing to food, from maternity benefit and child welfare to old age support. Many of them are funded at very low level that limits their effectiveness. While their performance vary across the states it is broadly believe many of these schemes are infected with problems that limit their impact.

Problems with Social Security Schemes.

First, there is a problem of eligibility. Often one should not be getting a benefit gets it (inclusion error) while who should be getting did not get (exclusion error)

Second, there is a problems of leakage, wastage, corruption in the delievey process.

third, even if the implement process is faultless that is free from above given problems it would consume a lot administrative resources and manpower for other duties to be performed by the administration.

Fourth, some of the schemes involve subsidies which distort the allocation of resource. For example subsidies for water and electricity arguably causes environmental damage ( falling of underground water tables, power blackout). Moreover they benefit relative better off people than they benefit poor since poor consume less of the relevant good and services. For example power subsidies benefit those who have electricity connection and among those who consume very high electricity.

Steps to improve the social security schemes.

Reduce the number of schemes drastically to a manageable number, all of which are aimed at most important risk. However removing any schemes no matter how inefficientive it is will hurt some vulnerable groups so there should be a proper plan for compensation for people while caring out social reform .

The should focus on ensuring that citizen choice is at the center of social protection schemes. For example families should be given an option whether they want food ration or cash or direct benefit transfer.

In general, thrust should be given on moving to uniform and universal transfer as much as possible. Cash transfer reduces administrative cost, corruption and other various distortion which there in case of in kind transfer.

Any new basic income schemes whether targeted at a specific group like farmer or more generally to poor people must provide sufficient income and the entitlement should be linked to inflation so that it goes up as price increases.


Social protection should improve from current state and it increase huge administrative cost, facilitate huge corruption and have not significantly improve the standard of living of poor and vulnerable society. It is important because huge percentage of Indian depend upon some sort of social protection schemes.

What is the new single-window clearance for coal, and how will it help?

The Union government on Monday (January 11) announced a new online single window clearance portal for the coal sector to speed up the operationalisation of coal mines. The announcement was made alongside the signing ceremony for the first tranche of coal blocks to be auctioned for commercial use.

What is a single-window clearance portal?

A single window clearance portal is aimed at allowing successful bidders for coal blocks to be able to obtain all required clearances, including environmental and forest clearances, from a single portal with progress monitoring, instead of having to go to multiple authorities.

The portal should allow successful bidders to operationalise coal mines more quickly.

“Presently, about 19 major approvals, or clearances are required before starting the coal mine in the country. In the absence of unified platform for grant of clearances companies were required to approach different departments, leading to delay in operationalization of the coal mines,” Coal Minister Pralhad Joshi said, adding that the portal would be operationalised in a phased manner.

How will this help?

Industry sources said that the sector has long sought a single window clearance system to help with quicker operationalisation, as obtaining the requisite clearances was taking over 2-3 years for successful bidders in many cases.

“It is definitely a good move as coal blocks which were auctioned off in earlier tranches used to take more than a 2-3 year period to get operationalised,” said an expert.

The expert added that some coal blocks auctioned as far back as 2015 has still not been operationalised due to delays in obtaining required clearances.

The expert noted that the Parivesh mechanism for forest and environment related clearances would likely be merged into the single window clearance mechanism which is expected to help with the operationalization of the coals blocks that are set to be auctioned in the upcoming auctions.

Broken Bruised But not dead ?

The third test between India and Australia in Sydney ended up in draw. On any other day this result would be nothing but disappointment but on 11 January 2021 fifth day of third test, India was chasing a mammoth target of 407 runs and have lost two very important wicket previous day for just 98 which means implies that either India bats remaining 97 overs or chase remaining runs. On the other hand, Australia needed just 8 wicket to win the match and take a decisive lead of 2-1. To make situation worse India’s star allrounder Ravindra Jadeja has dislocated his thumb and couldn’t bat. Given the circumstance defeat was inevitable but not for this India team which batted resolutely, aggressively and patiently to deny Australia a comfortable win.

How steep was the degree of difficulty?

India came to this test match with one experience bowler Jasprit Bumrah. Ishant Sharma injured himself during IPL, Mohammad Shami fractured him left arm while batting during 1st test match, Virat Kohli took parental leave and Umesh Yadav hurt his calf muscles during 2nd test match. India’s had Mohammad Siraj playing his 2nd test match and Navdeep Saini making his debut in this match. They lost the toss and had to bowl a big disadvantage in this ground, the racist slurs hurl at them and top of it Ravindra Jadeja was injured during the match.

How Day 5 pan out ?

  • India: 100 runs in 35.2 overs (213 balls), Extras 2
  • India: 150 runs in 52.3 overs (318 balls), Extras 4
  • 4th Wicket: 50 runs in 103 balls (Pujara 13, Pant 35, Ex 2)
  • Drinks: India – 152/3 in 53.0 overs (Pujara 26, Pant 35)
  • RR Pant: 50 off 64 balls (4 x 4, 3 x 6)
  • India: 200 runs in 67.6 overs (412 balls), Extras 5
  • 4th Wicket: 100 runs in 197 balls (Pujara 24, Pant 73, Ex 3)
  • Lunch: India – 206/3 in 70.0 overs (Pujara 41, Pant 73)
  • CA Pujara: 50 off 170 balls (7 x 4)
  • India: 250 runs in 78.1 overs (473 balls), Extras 8
  • New ball taken after 80th over
  • Drinks: India – 262/4 in 84.0 overs (Pujara 70, Vihari 0)
  • Over 91.4: Review by Australia (Bowling), Umpire – Reiffel, Batsman – Ashwin (Struck down)
  • Tea: India – 280/5 in 96.0 overs (GH Vihari 4, R Ashwin 7)
  • Final – 334-5 in 131.0 overs (GH Vihari 23 (164), R Ashwin 39 (128)

Following the draw series remain tied at 1-1 after 3 match the last match of the border gavaskar trophy is to be played at Brisbane from 15 -19 January 2021.

What is Parler social network that Apple, Amazon and Google have suspended?

Apple, Amazon and Google have suspended the social network called parler saying that the platform has not taken enough measures to make sure that content inciting violence remains in check.

What is Parler?
It is a social media platform that is considered to be an alternative to Twitter and is popular with conservatives. The platform describes itself as being the world’s “premier free speech platform”. “Speak freely and express yourself openly, without fear of being “deplatformed” for your views,” the website of the platform says.

Why was it suspended?
The move has come following the events of January 6 when an armed mob of Trump supporters stormed Capitol Hill and clashed with the police as Congress convened to validate Joe Biden’s presidential win.

The platform is favoured by right-leaning users and as per media reports was actively used by supporters of US President Donald Trump, including several of those who participated in the Capitol Hill siege.

In a letter addressed to the developers of the Parler app by Apple, which was published by The New York Times, the company said that the measures taken by Parler were inadequate “to address the proliferation of dangerous and objectionable content on your app”.

“Parler has not upheld its commitment to moderate and remove harmful or dangerous content encouraging violence and illegal activity, and is not in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines,” it said in the letter.

Amazon too has given similar reasons for banning the platform and maintains that the “violent content” on the website violates their terms of service.

The suspension means that users can no longer download the app from the Apple app store or the Google play store. Amazon, on the other hand, has suspended the platform from its web-hosting service called Amazon Web Services

A web hosting service is a mechanism through which companies provide space to websites on a physical server where they can store data and other information necessary for their websites to function. Since Parler was not able to find an alternative hosting service, it effectively went offline at 11:59 am PST on Sunday and will not be back up until it is able to find a new hosting service provider.

What does the suspension mean?

Following the siege, Trump’s Twitter and Facebook accounts were suspended by the two tech giants, a move which some of his critics have lauded. On Friday, Twitter wrote in a blog post “After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them — specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter — we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence.

“In the context of horrific events this week, we made it clear on Wednesday that additional violations of the Twitter Rules would potentially result in this very course of action. Our public interest framework exists to enable the public to hear from elected officials and world leaders directly. It is built on a principle that the people have a right to hold power to account in the open,” it added.

Twitter said that two tweets made by Trump on January 8 violated their “Glorification of Violence” policy, as a result of which his account was permanently suspended from the platform.

Even so, these moves taken by the tech giants in the last one week have reignited the debate on the power that tech companies have in censoring content. A report in The Financial Times said that while Trump’s critics have applauded his “deplatforming”, “which many say were long overdue. But others worry that the moves demonstrate how much political power has been built up by a handful of private companies.”

This, however, is not the first time that platforms have taken such an action. In October last year, YouTube announced that it would be taking additional measures to block content related to QAnon, a pro-Donald Trump conspiracy theory or movement. In July 2020, Twitter and TikTok blocked some hashtags and removed some accounts related to it and in August Facebook announced a ban on QAnon groups. Social networking website Reddit also banned one of its largest pro-Trump subreddits (a community forum), citing a violation in its updated policy on hate speech in July last year.

In 2019, the FBI said that fringe political conspiracy theories including QAnon are a domestic threat and likely to “motivate some domestic extremists, wholly or in part, to engage in criminal or violent activity.”

How Electric Vehicles dominate Norway’s Car Market.

In 2020, Norway further cemented its position as a world leader in renewable technologies, as battery electric vehicles (BEVs) made up more than half of all vehicles sold in the country during the year.

Last year, the market share of BEVs rose to 54 per cent, up from 42 per cent in 2019, as per data released by the Norwegian Road Foundation (OFV). Only a decade ago, BEVs made up just 1 per cent of the overall market.

If hybrid vehicles are included, the share of electric vehicles in 2020 is 83 per cent. Petrol and diesel cars, which commanded a 71 per cent market share in 2015, are now at 17 per cent

Also last year, Germany’s Volkswagen replaced US-based Tesla as the largest electric vehicle producer in the country.

How Norway became a electric vehicles pioneer

Norway, which is the biggest producer of crude oil in Western Europe, has in the recent past made a shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy. A country roughly the size of Maharashtra in terms of area, it began the electric push in the 1990s in an effort to cut pollution, congestion, and noise in urban centres.

In 2017, Norway’s parliament set a non-binding goal to ensure that all cars sold should be zero emissions by 2025. The UK and Germany plan to do this by 2030, and France by 2040. In India, the government has set a target of 30 per cent vehicles becoming EV by 2030.

To achieve its target, Norway has been giving tax incentives for fully electric vehicles, which make them cheaper to buy compared to similar internal combustion (IC) engine models. Norway also taxes IC engine cars more heavily than most European countries.

The government lets electric cars run on bus lanes, while toll roads are free for them. Parking lots offer a free charge, and new charging stations are continuously being built on the nation’s highways — a mix of regular charging stations and fast-chargers. At the moment, Norway has 10,000 publicly available charging points.

Currently, Norway has the highest per capita all-electric (battery only) cars in the world – over 1,00,000 in a country of just over five million people. The country does not manufacture cars (with the exception of a Norwegian city electric car called Buddy produced by a homegrown firm Buddy Electric) and pretty much all of its vehicle fleet is imported.

The country’s policies have also encouraged carmakers to use Norway as a testing ground. As per the CNN report, Volkswagen’s luxury brand Audi was the market leader in 2020, selling 9,227 units of its e-tron model, followed by Tesla’s Model 3, which sold 7,77o units. Volkswagen’s ID.3 came third at 7,754.

Among fossil fuel-driven cars too, Norway has encouraged petrol cars over diesel ones. To do this, some of the country’s regions began charging higher road tolls for diesel cars than for petrol vehicles. Because of such policies, the share of diesel vehicles fell from 75.7 per cent in 2011 to 8.6 per cent in 2020.

As per a Reuters report, although BEVs had in the past crossed the 50 per cent mark in market share in individual months, 2020 was a special achievement since these cars crossed the combined share of models with IC engines for a year as a whole.

Now, alongside its advances in electric vehicles, Norway is also pushing for the next frontier — hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

Experts, however, say Norway’s policies are difficult to replicate in other parts of the world, mainly because the country can offer generous subsidies thanks to its revenues from oil and gas production.

Thanks to its hydrocarbon wealth, Norway has been able to build the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, currently valued at $1.3 trillion.

Export Sector

Indian export growth has remained low mainly due to low scale of production, low productivity of labour, institutional friction. Any policy from government must encourage greater scale, specifically labour reform that allows easier separation from firms and workers. Textile, mobile and electronic industries can be catalyst for growth and employment if one encourage scale. Micro policy like trade agreement, simpler documentation procedure at port, improved credit access and infrastructure up gradation will help. The ongoing strain between United States of America and People Republic of China may be an opportunity as firms seek an alternative trade relationship. Labour abundantly India could be a good alternative.

Problems In Export Sector.

In the twenty five years since 1992, when India began liberalizing its trade regime, India’s share of world export rose from 0.5% in 1992 to 1.7% in 2017. The export share of India’s much celebrated export increases from 0.5% in 1992 to 3.4% 2017. To put these number in context, over the same period the Chinese share of merchandise export increases from 1.8% to 12.8%. Bangladesh also increases its share of merchandise export from 0.09% to 0.2% over the same period. Moreover, world export are 30% of its GDP while for India share of export to India’s GDP is 20%.

Lethargic pace of India’s export growth has constraint India’s growth potential as it failed to tapped into the global demand and supply. Many exporters especially in textile and other small and medium enterprises which provide huge jobs in the economy lags behind in technology and innovation to compete in global competition. India’s labour force lacked sufficient skills and labour regulation makes it hard for the firms to operate and employ labour. Lastly, our transport system are outdated, insufficient and badly planned and bureaucratic red tape makes it even worse to compete in global competition.

What’s need to be done?

The solution to low export lies in fixing both micro and macro issues. Macro refers to the issue with export while micro refers what need to be done at the lower level to boost the export.

Macro Issue Solution.

Scale – It is successful for a export sector. Hurdle to land acquisition, labour regulation, inadequate power and other infrastructure support must be provided to the firms as it promotes the firms to increase the scale of production which not only leads to the growth of economy, exports but also provides employment.

Fundamental labour reforms – Reforms are needed to encourage large scale, labour incentive production while maintaining the workers right. This will help tradition industries like textiles, footwear, leatherworks and wood products and boost employment in the economy.

Better transportation infrastructure – The government need to work on improving the integration of different mode of transportation with each other, introducing modern warehousing, custom and improving integration with logistics and industrial park.

Micro Issue Solution

Improving credit access – Credit flows to exporters have to be encouraged to grow in order to facilitate export. The majority of India’s exporters are SME’s with limited access to external financing. Bank credit is often their only source of financing. These flows must be stable, so that SMEs can plan their production properly.

Simplify the GST refund – GST refund to the small and medium enterprises must be robust to help the exporter. Refunds are still slow. This means that SMEs are typically under pressure because they may not have enough capital. SMEs are typical labour intensive and constitute percentage of total export have performed very poorly recently.

Tariff – Resists temptation to raise tariff rates in response to economic pressure such as sudden increase in import. As most exporter use imported inputs, tariff reduces the competitiveness of Indian exporter.

Global Integration of Electronic Industry – This industry has one of the fastest growing global supply chains one that India’s has not been able to take advantage unlike China, Indonesia, Taiwan. According to world bank India’s entry to global supply chain faces many hurdles like : (1) poor transportation infrastructure (2) low skill of workforce due to huge investment needs to be done on training of labour (3) complexity of land acquisition (4) lengthy and unpredictable import clearance.

Export is one of the very important components of economy and plays a very important role in economic growth of the country. It also provides immense employment and uplift millions of Indians from poverty. India’s has underperformed in export sector since liberalization in 1992 but all is not lost several needs to be taken so that we can perform to our potential in coming decade.

Ozone hole

Last year, the European Union’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) announced that a hole in the Arctic ozone layer, believed to be the biggest reported, has closed.

The ozone hole’s closing was because of a phenomenon called the polar vortex, and not because of reduced pollution levels due to Covid-19 lockdowns around the world, reports said.

The hole in the North Pole’s ozone layer, which was first detected in February, had since reached a maximum extension of around 1 million sq km, according to scientists at the German Aerospace Center.

The European agency tweeted on April 23, “The unprecedented 2020 northern hemisphere #OzoneHole has come to an end. The #PolarVortex split, allowing #ozone-rich air into the Arctic, closely matching last week’s forecast from the #CopernicusAtmosphere Monitoring Service.”

The importance of the ozone layer

Ozone (chemically, a molecule of three oxygen atoms) is found mainly in the upper atmosphere, an area called the stratosphere, between 10 and 50 km from the earth’s surface. Though it is talked of as a layer, ozone is present in the atmosphere in rather low concentrations. Even at places where this layer is thickest, there are not more than a few molecules of ozone for every million air molecules.

But they perform a very important function. By absorbing the harmful ultraviolet radiations from the sun, the ozone molecules eliminate a big threat to life forms on earth. UV rays can cause skin cancer and other diseases and deformities in plants and animals.

Ozone holes

The ‘ozone hole’ is not really a hole — it refers to a region in the stratosphere where the concentration of ozone becomes extremely low in certain months.

The ‘ozone holes’ most commonly talked about are the depletions over Antarctica, forming each year in the months of September, October and November, due to a set of special meteorological and chemical conditions that arise at the South Pole, and can reach sizes of around 20 to 25 million sq km.

Such holes are also spotted over the North Pole, but owing to warmer temperatures than the South Pole, the depletions here are much smaller in size. Before this year, the last sizable Arctic ozone hole was reported in 2011.

Why this year’s Arctic ozone hole was massive

This year, the ozone depletion over the Arctic was much larger. Scientists believe that unusual atmospheric conditions, including freezing temperatures in the stratosphere, were responsible.

As per a European Space Agency report, cold temperatures (below -80°C), sunlight, wind fields and substances such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were responsible for the degradation of the Arctic ozone layer.

Although Arctic temperatures do not usually fall as low as in Antarctica, this year, powerful winds flowing around the North Pole trapped cold air within what is known as the polar vortex— a circling whirlpool of stratospheric winds.

“By the end of the polar winter, the first sunlight over the North Pole initiated this unusually strong ozone depletion—causing the hole to form. However, its size is still small compared to what can usually be observed in the southern hemisphere,” the report said.

Scientists believe that the closing of the hole is because of the same polar vortex and not because of the lower pollution levels during the coronavirus lockdown.

Ozone recovery

As per the Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion data of 2018, the ozone layer in parts of the stratosphere has recovered at a rate of 1-3 per cent per decade since 2000. “At these projected rates, the Northern Hemisphere and mid-latitude ozone is predicted to recover by around 2030, followed by the Southern Hemisphere around 2050, and polar regions by 2060,” the report said.

Digital Currency and drawbacks.

A virtual currency is a digital representation of value that can be digitally traded and functions as (a) a medium of exchange, and/ or (b) a unit of account, and/or (c) a store of value, but, unlike fiat currency like the rupee, it is not legal tender and does not have the backing of a government. A cryptocurrency is a subset of virtual currencies, and is decentralized, and protected by cryptography.

What are blockchain ?

Imagine a small group of school friends maintaining a list of transactions among themselves, but with a twist: Instead of holding this list in one single computer or in the notebook of one of the group members or authorising some outside authority (say, their class teacher) to maintain (and update) the list, all of them decide to maintain a separate copy of the list in their personal computers. Every time they transact, the rest of the members verify the transaction and once it is verified by all, they update their list. Further, to make sure that none of them changes records of the past transactions in their personal list, they decide to place each transaction as a block, and to stack it one after the other in a sequence. This way, no one can tweak the details of any past transactions because the overall sequence will not match with sequences held by others. Lastly, to make sure that no other child from the school gets to know the details, they devise a code (a cipher) for all their communications related to the list. These blocks are known as Digital ledger technologies (DLT) and bitcoin is special type of DLT.

What is the IMC’s (Inter ministirial commsion) view on DLT and cryptocurrencies?

The first thing to understand is that the IMC recognises the potential of DLT and Blockchain. The IMC accepts that internationally, the application of DLT is being explored in the areas of trade finance, mortgage loan applications, digital identity management or KYC requirements, cross-border fund transfers and clearing and settlement systems. To that extent, it recommends the Department of Economic Affairs (within the Finance Ministry) to take necessary measures to facilitate the use of DLT in the entire financial field after identifying its uses. The IMC also recommends that regulators — RBI, SEBI, IRDA, PFRDA, and IBBI — explore evolving appropriate regulations for development of DLT in their respective areas.

However, the IMC has recommended a ban on “private” cryptocurrencies. In other words, it is open to a cryptocurrency that the RBI may unveil. The IMC’s view is that it “would be advisable to have an open mind regarding the introduction of an official digital currency in India”. It noted that the RBI Act has the enabling provisions to permit the central government to approve a “Central Bank Digital Currency” (CBDC) as legal tender in India.

It recommended ban on private use of cryptocurrency.

Why have private cryptocurrencies attracted a ban?

While it is true that the technology used in virtual currencies has immense potential, without a central regulating authority, they can have numerous downsides.

The IMC’s first concern is that non-official virtual currencies can be used to defraud consumers, particularly less informed consumers or investors. The IMC gives the example of the Rs 2,000 crore scam involving GainBitcoin in India where investors were duped by a Ponzi scheme.

Second, the IMC is worried that if private cryptocurrencies are allowed to function as legal tender, the RBI would lose control over the monetary policy and financial stability, as it would not be able to keep a tab on the money supply in the economy.

Third, the anonymity of private digital currencies make them vulnerable to money laundering and use in terrorist financing activities while making law enforcement difficult.


there is no grievance redressal mechanism in such a system, as all transactions are irreversible.

It is for these broad reasons that the IMC singled out private cryptocurrencies for a ban.

What is the 25th Amendment of the US Constitution that could be used to remove Trump?

In the immediate aftermath of Donald Trump supporters storming the Capitol building, which houses both the US Senate as well as the House of Representatives, there are calls by many to either impeach President Trump or invoke the 25th Amendment.

What is the 25th Amendment of the US Constitution?

This amendment lays out how a US president and vice president may be succeeded or replaced.

According to Cornell Law School, “The Twenty-fifth Amendment was an effort to resolve some of the continuing issues revolving about the office of the President; that is, what happens upon the death, removal, or resignation of the President and what is the course to follow if for some reason the President becomes disabled to such a degree that he cannot fulfill his responsibilities.”

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, while the first section codified the traditionally observed process of succession in the event of the death of the president—that the vice president would succeed to the office—it also introduced a change regarding the ascent of the vice president to president should the latter resign from office.

“In the event of resignation, the vice president would assume the title and position of president—not acting president—effectively prohibiting the departing president from returning to office,” states Britannica.

The second section of the amendment addresses vacancies in the office of the vice president.

The third section of the amendment set forth the formal process for determining the capacity of the president to discharge the powers and duties of office.

If the president is able to declare his/her inability, then the vice president takes over as the acting president.

In case the president is unable to declare his/her incompetence, the fourth section of the amendment requires the vice president and the cabinet to jointly ascertain this and if they do so, then the vice president immediately assumes the position of acting president.

It is this fourth section of the 25th Amendment that many are asking Vice President Pence to invoke against President Trump.

When was it introduced and has it been used in the past?

In the aftermath of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the 25th Amendment was proposed by Congress on July 6, 1965, and ratified by the states on February 10, 1967.

According to Cornell Law School, “The Watergate scandal of the 1970s saw the application of these procedures, first when Gerald Ford replaced Spiro Agnew as Vice President, then when he replaced Richard Nixon as President, and then when Nelson Rockefeller filled the resulting vacancy to become the Vice President.”

However, the fourth section of the 25th Amendment has never been invoked.

Desalination : Maharashtra new mantra to solve water scarcity.

Desalination is seen as one possible answer to the problem of water scarcity. Recently, Maharashtra government has announced setting up of desalination plant in Mumbai, becoming fourth state to do. So, what is desalination process and what is its feasibility ?

What are desalination plant ?

A desalination plant convert salt water generally seawater into drinking water. The most common  used technology used for the process is reverse osmosis where an external pressure is applied to push solvents from an area of high-solute concentration to an area of low-solute concentration through a membrane. The microscopic pores in the membranes allow water molecules through but leave salt and most other impurities behind, releasing clean water from the other side. These plants are mostly set up in areas that have access to sea water.

How widely is this technology used in India?

Desalination has largely been limited to affluent countries in the Middle East and has recently started making inroads in parts of the United States and Australia. In India, Tamil Nadu has been the pioneer in using this technology, setting up two desalination plants near Chennai in 2010 and then 2013. The two plants supply 100 million liters a day (MLD) each to Chennai. Two more plants are expected to be set up in Chennai. The other states that have proposed these plants are Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh

What is the need to set up a desalination plant in Mumbai?

According to the BMC’s projection, the population of Mumbai is anticipated to touch 1.72 crore by 2041. In 2007, a state government-appointed high-level committee had suggested setting up desalination plants in Mumbai, however, over the years the authorities have avoided building the project claiming that the cost is enormous. However, with the city’s water problems on the rise owing to burgeoning population, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray Monday has given the BMC the go ahead for project. It will take about two and a half to three years to complete.

Is it ecologically safe?

The high cost of setting up and running a desalination plant is one reason why the Maharashtra government has over the last decade been hesitant in building such a plant. Desalination is an expensive way of generating drinking water as it requires a high amount of energy. The other problem is the disposal of the byproduct highly concentrated brine ( very high concentration of salt water) of the desalination process. While in most places brine is pumped back into the sea, there have been rising complaints that it ends up severely damaging the local ecology around the plant

Women In Labour Force : Challenges and Reform.

India’s female labour force participation (FLFP) rate is low and reducing consistently. National Sample survey (NSS) shows that between 1983 and 2011, India’s married women participation in labour force is declining even when the economy grew and fertility fell. Surprisingly, these trends are visible in high skill profession like senior officer, legislator and managers. Among engineers the female unemployment is five times more than men.

Reasons for low FLFP rate

High labour market barrier for socially and economically marginalized communities can increase the transmission of disadvantages across generation. Here we look at why participation of women labour force in economy is on a declining trend even when they have access to better education. These main reasons for decline in FLFP rate :

  1. Women are being overlooked among the unemployed people. Majority of them are outside labour force but are willing to work.
  2. Majority of women generally work in low paying or socially accepted jobs many of them are offshoots of domestic helps and childcare.
  3. Women are still entrusted to look after household duties and families across the social status.
  4. Existing skill and employment generation programme ignore the additional needs and constraint of women worker keeping them in disadvantage as compared to others.

Steps needed to be taken

Over the years both sate and central government have taken several steps to increase the participation of women in labour force so that they can contribute to the nation economy. In doing so they must undertake these policy reform

Strengthening existing policy

Both Central and State government use reservation as a policy to increase the representation of marginalized community in their workforce. Almost all states in India provide reservation to female child. Several survey has increased the SC / ST, OBC representation by around some percentage point. Its been observed that there is increase in female employment in education after operation blackboard reserve the post of teacher for women. These steps change the prejudice and bias against women. But these steps should be well monitor and well targeted.

Redesinging policy strategy

Recently, both states and central government has starting using the policy of Direct benefit transfer that is they are started transfering the social security amount direct beneficary bank account. The government should transfer the benefit amount directly to the bank account of women in the household as it leads to proper utilization of that amount.

Changing policy approach

Policy to increase FLFP and job creation can’t be viewed differently. This means that FLFP fails to create the level playing field for example job creation and skilling programmes often ignores safety, mobility, and other special needs of women which posses a big labour market barrier for women. Skilling and job creation programme should pay special attention to women needs and should break other entry barrier for women.

Influencing the private sector

Firms do not have incentive to support policy that benefit government and society at large. The great example is India’s recent maternity leave policy, where cost of leave is borne by private firms. This has led to low hiring or in some case no hiring of women in private firm which is just unacceptable.

The government should fund the cost of maternity leave to the firm especially for less education and women who hails from weaker and marginalized sector. Laying off women for just their biology it not unique to India this trends have been observed in all the countries around the world.

The way forward

Women need must be addressed and their participation must be increased not just in labour force but also in all sectors of the sectors. The dream transforming in to developed economy cannot be achieved if without the contribution of women. Not just government but private should come forward and implement gender parity and equal payment for equal work in their firms. Women contribution in society can be better understood by Gandhi quote : “If you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a family (nation)”.

India’s Great Comeback.

Comebacks are always special more so when you’ve back against the wall and no one expects you to fight back. Similar was the situation for Indian cricket team as they were demolished when Australian bowlers ran over them for just 36 runs lowest score for India ever. It infamously known as “Summer of 36” (because its summer season in Australia). To make situation worse Indian captain and superstar batsman Virat Kohli went on parental leave, ace pace bowler Mohammad Shami was ruled out due to fractured arm, another star batsman Rohit Sharma placed in mandatory quarantine for 14 days and Indian bowler Umesh Yadav injured during the second test match. Despite all the odds and challenges India defy the great odds to claim victory in second test match of the series by 8 wicket at MCG and level the series 1-1.

Day 1

The second test began with a lot of questions after all Indian team were demolished for just 36 and lost the first match of 4 match test series. This was evident when Indian team announced 4 changes including 2 debutant on the eve of 2nd test match to be played on Boxing Day at the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground). Mohammad Siraj for Mohammad Shami, Ravindra Jadeja for Virat Kohli, Shubman Gill for Prithvi Shaw and Rishabh Pant for Wriddhiman Shaha.

The first day of 2nd test match began with Australia winning the toss and opting to bat. An inspired Indian bowling unit, led by the menacing Jasprit Bumrah (4/56) Ravichandran Ashwin (3/35), steam-rolled Australia for a meagre 195. The debutant for India, Mohammed Siraj (2/40 in 15 overs) also repaid the faith shown in him. While Marnus Labuschagne (48) top-scored for Australia, Travis Head and Matthew Wade made 48 and 30 runs respectively.

India was 36 for one in its first innings in reply to Australia’s 195-10 at stumps on day 1 of the second Test at the MCG, Melbourne on Saturday. Debutant Shubman Gill batting on 28 in the company off Cheteshwar Pujara on 7.

Day 2

Stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane scored a fine century as India reached 277 for five against Australia before rain forced an early stumps on the second day of the second Test at Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) on Sunday. Rahane showed great determination as he made an unbeaten 200-ball 104, studded with 12 hits to the fence

Rahane (104) and Ravindra Jadeja 40 were at the crease when the stumps were drawn with India leading by 82 runs. In the third session, Rahane and Jadeja added 104 runs without losing a wicket. Australia were all out for 195 in their first innings on the opening day.

Day 3

India is well within distance of levelling the four-match Test series after reducing Australia to 133 for 6 in the second innings at stumps on the third day of the second Test at Melbourne Cricket Ground on Monday. Ajinkya Rahane’s 112 and Ravindra Jadeja’s 57 took India to a decent first innings score of 326 and a handy 131 run lead. India will now look to wrap up the proceedings on the fourth day as Australia has a slender lead of two runs with only four wickets in hand.

For India, Jasprit Bumrah bowled brilliantly to end the day with 1/34 while Ravindra Jadeja got 2/25. Ravichandran Ashwin and Mohammed Siraj also got a wicket each. The only worry for India is Umesh Yadav’s (1/5 in 3.3 overs) calf muscle injury after removing opener Joe Burns with a peach of delivery.

Day 4

India restricted Australia for 200 and required another 70 runs to win. Which India achieved with a loss 2 wicket and levelled the series 1-1 in what was incredible comeback story.

As the saying goes “Only darkness can make the stars shine” similarly in the most challenging times the stars of Indian cricket teams shine like brightest stars. Well whole series has not ended there are still two test matches to be played but this victory will be etched as among the most memorable victory of Indian cricket team as they defied great odds to clinched victory.

Infrastructure Crisis

Infrastructure sectors are consider to be bedrock of any economy and Indian economy is no different. Infrastructure is not only vital for growth of Indian economy but also for overall development of an economy. Any growth in an infrastructure sector has a multiplier effect on overall economy growth as it soars manufacturing and industrial growth which in turn increase consumer demand and overall standard of living. The infrastructure sector is often comprises of : Road, Railways, Power, Urban Infrastructure.

Over the years investment deficit has soars as infrastructure investment rate has decline since the highs of 2011-12. This has led to many stalled projects, delays, cost overrun and financially its been a nightmare because infrastructure project requires huge loans and these loans have fixed repayment schedule. If the project get finished on time, revenues from project finance the loans. But if the project gets delayed by months, years it gets bad. Its even worse if the project are unable to operates due to change in land acquisition policy, legal cases, abruptly changes environment regulation.

Its important to get infrastructure on the right track because its a key for an economy as it generation of huge employment which in turn increases income level, which results in increase in consumer demand which shoot up aggragte demand which leads higher level of output hence, higher growth of an economy. So, here are few general decision government should take.

Maintain Macroeconomic stability

Maintaining the macroeconomic stability is key for creating an environment that attract huge investment. There are two imporatnt macroeconomic indicator.

  1. Fiscal consolidation – It means government should take policy decision that reduces its fiscal deficit. It will leads to reduce in inflation rate which in turn leads to low interest rate in an economy. Low interest rate means that loans are cheaper as compared to before therefore it’ll more and more people to invest in economy. At the same government should maintain a healthy stock of savings to channelize into investment.
  1. Stability of inflation rate – It means there is no volatality in inflation rate which helps investor to know how much they are getting return for their investment.

It has often found that unstable macroeconomic indicator discourage investment whereas well articulated policy that maintain macroeconomic indicator invites many investors from all over the world.

Reform Public Finance

The government must scale up investment but in fiscal responsible way. There are few ways of doing it. Firstly, Reducing the government expenditure from current expenditure and increase the investment in capital good without raising national debt doing so will leads increase in capital formation in an economy and leads to higher growth. Raising GST by simplyfing, encouraging people and better targeting. Disinvest the non perform public sector enterprisis and monetize government holding and using process to invest in new infrastructure.

Declutter stalled projects

The number of stalled project sky rocketed in recent years. Majority of these stalled project are due to government policy. Here are few things that government can do.

Land Acquisition – Since the enactment of Land Acquisition, Rehablitation and Resettlement (LARR) in 2013, many states have explored some creative method acquiring land without invoking LARR. For example Andhra Pradesh introduced land pooling method to acquire the land for state capital Amravati. Under which 25000 farmer pooled 33000 acre of land by giving them alternative form of compensation in this case a share of developed land.

Environmental Clearance – The Environmental regulation agency should strengthened to ensure smooth functioning and transparency and enable them to take decision backed by data. This institution should also be headed by someone who has great knowledge about this sector.

Private Public Partnership (PPP) – The government should invite private sector to participate in reviving the stalled project. The government should give incentive to motivate them to invest in stalled projects.

Corporate Bond

While the bank remain an important instrument to finance any long term project or to increase any capital requirement its not the only option . It should promote usage of corporate bond . It refer to bonds issued by corporation to raise money to finance the projects.

While these some ways in which government can revitalize the infrastructure sector. Recently, government took great interest as well measure for resurgence of infrastructure sector. From road and highways construction to development of inland waterways as a new mode of transportation. The new policy is being formed for railways, aviation, coal, urban sector. Recently, government has National infrastructure Pipeline. National Infrastructure Pipeline Project will  play a crucial role in pulling the country out of impact of Covid 19.  NIP is a project that will revolutionize India’s infra creation efforts. Many new jobs will be created , our farmers , youngsters , entrepreneurs will benefit. If India has to transform it should invest hugely in its infrastructure.

The Great Indian Banking Crisis.

For a few years now we have witness number of banks and other financial institution crumbled to dust. Apart from PMC (Punjab and Maharashtra Co-Operative) Bank and Yes Bank crisis there are several small banks crisis that have barely been reported and recently RBI have red flagged as many as 11 bank. So how come most important financial institution of our country are falling apart one by one?

Well the failure of several financial institutions and more importantly banking are mainly due to these reasons. Firstly, Indian banks mainly public sector banks(PSB) are loaded with non performing assets (NPA). This implies that they find it difficult to lend more money to industries and other business out of fear which leads to fall in capital formation which in turn leads to reduction in growth of an economy. Secondly, Public Sector Banks are not professional enough that is government still controls the appointment to their boards and their management are short of talents. Thirdly, Banks are made to do too much and take too much risk. They are made to bear the burden of loan waiver and direct lending. All banks suffer miserably due to lack of well develop financial system that could take some risk.

The banking system in India is overwhelmed by bad loans ( loans which bank fails to recover along with interest). Much of the blame is put on the poor performance of public sector bank but recent crisis in YES BANK shows that problem of poor governance, lack of transparency, government interference is same across all banks in both public and private through direct or indirect channel. And how small solution like privatisation is not a solution to any problems.

Any banking reform should address 2 important areas:

  1. Cleaning up banks
  2. Improve governance and management in Public sector banks

Cleaning up Banks

Under IBFC law, National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) helps to restructure the loans for the largest firms but it’ll be overwhelmed if every stressed firms files before it. So, we need to find a way for out of court restructuring process so the many cases are restructure out of bankruptcy and NCLT acting as a last resort. Out of case settlement process should be transparent, speedy and it should protect the interest of bankers and harass them using central agency of CBI, CVC, ED on the other hand NCLT should be more transparent and speedy.

Improving Governance

Public sector has still not adequately professionalized since government rather than a independent body appoint boards member which inevitably leads to government interference. Every public sectors bank should independent body which have a power and authority to appoint CEO and hold him responsible for performance. Productivity of employees should also increased through imparting new skills and knowledge as PSBs has a huge talent deficit. Lateral entry should also be promoted at the top most. Banking system should not made to bear risk of the government electoral promises of loan waiver and direct benefit transfer targets because these are often achieved by abandoning appropriate procedure and create environment for future NPA and these measure constraint state and central government budget spending.

Over the there have been many debate and discussion over solution to fix the flaws of about the great Indian Banking crisis. All these debate and discussion often leads two common answers: Privatization of PSBs and Merger of Small and non performing PSBs to good performing and well managed PSBs.

Privatization of Banks

Privatization of Public Sector Banks (PSB) means to process in which government transfer the ownership and control to private entity by selling of its shares. Much of the discussion and debate over privatization are based on the ideology one believes in. Definitely, if the PSBs are given more independence in decision making, policy making and especially in recruitment of high skilled workers it’ll lead to some better result. However believing privatization is the solution to all the problems are short sightedness and foolish. The crisis of YES BANK only brought the biggest vulnerability in Indian banking system, the interference of government across all the bank both private and public is a big reality and lack of proper management and governance across all sector is also a reality which cannot be ignored.

Merger of Banks

Merger of banks often prescribed as solution to address the problem of poor goverance. In this process the poor manage banks are merged with good managed and governed banks. It is uncertain whether this process will result in a good result for collective performance of both banks but it’ll depends on ability of good bank management to impose its policy and will without alienating the employees of poor managed banks. Recently India government merge 10 PSBs and India is left with 12 Public sector banks. Whether this move is a success or not only time will tell.

Bank and other financial institution plays an important role in growth of any economy. It accepts deposit from an individual and lends that any people or business. It gives interest to people who deposit their savings and charges interest on loans, the difference between the two is its profit. Through process of accepting deposit and lending money (loans) leads to capital formation which is very important component of growth of an economy. So the government and all the stakeholder should pay a serious attention on the fragility of Indian banking system.

Agriculture : The Lone Survivor

Apart from the enormous consequence of coronavirus on the human life which claimed more than 1.75 million lives worldwide and infected more than 75 million people, COVID 19 also demolished economies around the globe. Amongst the most badly affected nation was India, which recorded more than 1 crore case and a lakhs deaths and counting. While this sounds bad, visuals of lakh and lakh of migrant workers waking back thousands and thousand of kilometers on foot made the situation worse. If this was not the end of misery Indian economy shrinks by 23.9 percentage point in the first quarter of FY 2020-21 lowest since independence. Every sector of economy from manufacturing to industries and even services tanked except one : Agriculture and allied services which recorded growth 3.4 percentage point at constant prices. Agriculture and allied services contributes nearly 16 % to country GDP while providing employment to 42 % of the workforces.

Several economical and agriculture expert had the views that had there been slummed in agriculture and allied services, things would have been much worse. Agriculture provided employment to the migrated worker who returned to there home and provided them with some earning in these apocalyptic times. Such was its importance and necessity that it was the first sectors to get relaxation from nationwide lockdown for manufacturing and transportation of agriculture input, seeds, machine, etc. Supply chains related to agriculture goods and services were allowed to function with protective measures in place. Efforts paid the dividend a sharp increase of 5.7% in area coverage of Kharif crops was registered as on September 2020. Amid good monsoon and adequate water storage in the winter reservoir for Rabi crops the Government of India set an all time high record for food production target of 301 million tons for 2020-21.

When the prime minister Modi announced nationwide lockdown, the immediate consequence was the mass exodus of migrant labourer from virtually every part of country to there rural household and faces an immediate risk of hunger and livelihood. So government announced a number of schemes for them. Government released an advance installment of Rs. 2000 from PM- KISAN scheme, wage rate of worker were increased and number of days of guarantee work was increased to 150 days under NAREGA. Under the economic stimulus package, credit support for small farmer were announce through various institution like NABARD was extending additional support of Rs. 30,000 crore for crop loan through RRB(Region Rural Bank) and other institutions. Nearly 25 lakhs new Kisan credit cards were sanctioned with a loan limit of Rs. 25000 at a minimal rate of interest were provided to not just farmer but also to one belonging fisheries, animal husbandries and agriculture allied services. The timely credit stimulus helped thousand of farmers and laborer to sustain themselves during such a tough times. A new scheme under the name of Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana was launched to take care poor and vulnerable section of society. In order to boost the rural economy, Indian Railways launched Krishi Rail scheme for transportation and building a seamless supply chain of perishable product like milk, fruits, fish etc. It is benefitting farmer from all around the country as they will be able to sell there product all around the country.

In addition to the schemes and relaxation, good monsoon season and tremendous efforts of our farmers and workers help agriculture to stay afloat at a most delicate point in our economic history. These schemes and announcement might seems be rewarding but not a solution for a sector which is on a downward trend for quiet a few years and the news of suicides of farmer reported daily. There is a need for a comprehensive long term vision and policy with huge investment not just on agriculture and its subsidiaries but also on the farmer. When agriculture and its allied sector will grow at a great pace so will rural economies of our countries and in process increasing the income of farmers and laborer which in turn will increase the growth of our overall GDP.