Today news Diary on 12 March 2021

1. PM Modi inaugurates curtain-raiser activities of 'Azadi ka Amrut Mahotsav'
2. Filing of nomination papers to begin for single-phase assembly polls in Kerala, TN, Puducherry
3. Cumulative number of COVID19 vaccine doses administered in country crosses 2.60 crore
4. Quad meet to discuss Indo-Pacific, COVID-19, climate change: Scott Morrison
5. Shock and uncertainty after death of Ivory Coast PM Bakayoko
6. US: Biden signs 1.9 trillion dollar coronavirus rescue package into law
7. U.S., Israel discuss Iran in first meeting of strategic group
8. U.S. white wheat growers cash in as China snaps up supplies
9. First meeting of BRICS Contact Group on Economic and Trade Issues held which
9. First meeting of BRICS Contact Group on Economic and Trade Issues held
10. Asian stocks up as Biden signs stimulus, lower yields boost tech
11. Only 50% booking for all T20Is at Narendra Modi Stadium
12. Justice Indu Malhotra ends 2-year tenure in SC
13. China regulator fines 12 firms over anti-monopoly law

 

News in Detail

1.PM Modi inaugurates curtain-raiser activities of 'Azadi ka Amrut Mahotsav'

Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached Sabarmati Ashram accompanied by Gujarat Governor Acharya Devvrat and Chief Minister Vijay Rupani. The Prime Minister paid floral tributes to Mahatma Gandhi and also registered his comments on the visitor's book. Prime Minister inaugurated the curtain-raiser activities of 'Azadi ka Amrut Mahotsav' and flagged off a Padyatra from Sabarmati Ashram.

The Mahotsav is a series of events being organised by the Government to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of India’s Independence. It will be celebrated as a Jan-Utsav in the spirit of Jan-Bhagidari. The curtain raiser activities begin from March 12, 75 weeks prior to 15th August 2022.

The Padyatra has been undertaken by 81 marchers from Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad to Dandi in Navsari, a journey of 241 miles that will end on 5th of April, lasting for 25 days. The Freedom March will be joined by different groups of people on the way to Dandi. Culture Minister Prahlad Singh Patel led the first lap of 75 kilometers of the padyatra. During the march, the Culture Minister will stay overnight with the Padyatris at the place of night halt and the Padyatra will start from the same place the next day.

The day also marks the historic salt march of Mahatma Gandhi. It was on 12th of March in 1930 that Gandhiji began the Dandi March from Sabarmati Ashram against the Salt Laws along with 81 padyatris.

A National Implementation Committee headed by the Home Minister has been constituted to chalk out policies and planning of various events to be undertaken under the Commemoration.

State and Union Territories Governments are also organizing programs all over the country.

2. Filing of nomination papers to begin for single-phase assembly polls in Kerala, TN, Puducherry

Filing of nomination papers will begin on Friday for the single-phase assembly elections in Kerala, Tamil Nadu as well as the Union Territory of Puducherry. All the 140 Assembly Constituencies of Kerala and 234 Assembly Constituencies in Tamil Nadu along with 30 Assembly Constituencies in Puducherry will go to polls together on 6th of April.

The counting of votes in these States and the Union Territory will take place on 2nd of May.
In Kerala, the filing of nomination for the upcoming Assembly election will begin from Friday.

3. Cumulative number of COVID19 vaccine doses administered in country crosses 2.60 crore

The cumulative number of COVID19 vaccine doses administered in the country has crossed two crore 60 lakh. Union Health Ministry said, more than three lakh 18 thousand Covid Vaccine Doses administered across the country in the last 24 hours.

4. Quad meet to discuss Indo-Pacific, COVID-19, climate change: Scott Morrison

Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the first meeting of the leaders of “Quad” countries would discuss security challenges across the Indo-Pacific, climate change and efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the region.

India, United States, Japan and Australia are members of the Quad, an informal group that Washington has been promoting to work as a potential bulwark against China’s increasing political, commercial and military activity in the Indo-Pacific, diplomats say.

First Quad Summit | Quad is a force for global good, says Modi

U.S. President Joe Biden, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Japanese Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japanese Prime Minister Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga participate in a virtual Quad summit on March 12, 2021.
 U.S. President Joe Biden announces the launch of a partnership to boost vaccine manufacturing.

“We are united by our democratic values and our commitment to a free open and inclusive Indo-Pacific,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at the firt Quad summit on March 12. “Our agenda today, covering areas like vaccines, climate change and emerging technologies, makes Quad a force for global good,” he said adding that the Quad will be a pillar of stability in the region.

Invoking the Indian philosophy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, the Prime Minister said, “I see this positive vision as extension of India's Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam philosophy, which regards world as one family.”

In his remarks, U.S. President Joe Biden announced the launch of a partnership to boost vaccine manufacturing. “The Quad is going to be a vital arena for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific,” he said.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Biden also described Quad as a new mechanism to enhance cooperation and raise mutual ambition as they address accelerating climate change. "We know our commitments... Our region is governed by international law, committed to all the universal values and free from coercion but I am optimistic about our prospect,” he said, in an apparent reference to China which is flexing its muscles in the region.

"The Quad is going to be a vital arena of cooperation in the Indo Pacific and I look forward to working closely with all of you in the coming years," Mr. Biden told Quad leaders as requested Mr. Modi to speak. "It's great to see you," Mr. Biden told Mr. Modi.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the summit brings a “new dawn in the Indo-Pacific”. He spoke of the need for upholding values, and international law, and to address the many challenges from COVID-19 to climate change.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said, “I feel emotional about this summit. With the four countries working together to realise a free and open Indo-Pacific and to make strides in prosperity and stability in the region.”

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga are other leaders who are attending the virtual summit, which is the first conclave of the top leaders of the Quadrilateral alliance.

Known as the "Quadrilateral Security Dialogue,” representatives for the four member nations have met periodically since its establishment in 2007.

The four countries plan to establish a series of working groups that will focus on climate change; critical and emerging technologies, including working to set technology standards and norms and jointly developing some of the critical technologies of the future, officials said.


5. Shock and uncertainty after death of Ivory Coast PM Bakayoko

Ivory Coast faced shock and uncertainty on Thursday following the death of Prime Minister Hamed Bakayoko, the West African nation’s second premier to die in office in less than eight months.

A close ally of President Alassane Ouattara, Bakayoko, who died of cancer a few days after his 56th birthday, was appointed prime minister in July 2020 after the death of his predecessor Amadou Gon Coulibaly, Ouattara’s handpicked successor.

Although Ouattara named his chief of staff Patrick Achi as interim prime minister on Monday while Bakayoko was in hospital, Bakayoko’s passing leaves a vacuum for Ouattara to fill as he continues his search for a potential successor.

A central figure in Ivorian politics over the past two decades as the country was plunged into a prolonged conflict and a partition, Bakayoko, a jovial character with roots in media and showbiz, emerged as a conciliatory figure, able to talk to all sides of the conflict.

His capacity to gain the trust of all sides including former rebel soldiers who staged a series of mutinies in 2017, threatening a fragile peace in the world’s top cocoa producing nation, saw him appointed as defence minister in 2017, and kept the portfolio when he became prime minister.

6. US: Biden signs 1.9 trillion dollar coronavirus rescue package into law

US President Joe Biden has signed the 1.9 trillion dollar coronavirus rescue package into law, marking a significant legislative accomplishment as the new administration looks to shepherd the country through the pandemic.

President Biden, who signed the bill alongside Vice President Kamala Harris in the Oval Office, characterized the measure as historic legislation aimed at rebuilding the backbone of this country.

 

The passage of the bill marked the first major legislative achievement of the new administration and a Congress that is now under full Democratic control, with narrow majorities in the House and Senate.

The US House of Representatives on Wednesday had approved the Senate-passed version of the 1.9 trillion dollars Covid-19 relief bill, sending it to President Joe Biden's desk for signature.

7. U.S., Israel discuss Iran in first meeting of strategic group

Senior U.S. and Israel officials focused on concerns about Iran during the first virtual meeting of a bilateral strategic group on Thursday, the White House said, an issue on which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has differences with the new Biden administration.

President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, and his Israeli counterpart, Meir Ben-Shabbat, headed the delegations, said Emily Horne, spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council.

“During the discussion, the two sides shared perspectives on regional security issues of mutual interest and concern, including Iran, and expressed their common determination to confront the challenges and threats facing the region,” she said in a statement, which provided few details.

The Biden administration has depicted the meeting as part of its efforts to consult allies and partners as its seeks to draw Iran into talks about Tehran and Washington resuming compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. U.S. overtures to Iran have set the stage for possible new strains in the U.S.-Israel alliance.

Biden’s White House predecessor, Donald Trump, withdrew the United States from the world powers’ agreement with Iran, deeming it too advantageous for Tehran - a view Israel shared – and reimposed U.S. sanctions. Netanyahu has made clear his opposition to a U.S. return to the deal.

The State Department on Thursday repeated that the United States will not offer Iran unilateral incentives to attend talks that it has rejected so far about resuming compliance with the deal, which gave Tehran sanctions relief in return for limits on its nuclear program.

Israel hopes to prevent personal tension between Netanyahu and Biden over their differences on the Iranian nuclear question by delegating talks on the topic to their senior staff, an Israeli official said late last month.

“The National Security Advisors agreed on the importance of strategic interagency consultations and pledged to continue to these engagements,” Horne said.

 

8. U.S. white wheat growers cash in as China snaps up supplies

China is scooping up supplies of U.S. white wheat to feed livestock, pushing export forecasts for the grain usually used to make sponge cakes and noodles to a 27-year-high.

The purchases are the latest disruption in commodities markets caused by Chinese buying of grains and oilseeds during the coronavirus pandemic, pushing prices of major commodity crops to multi-year highs.

China has booked more U.S. white wheat this year than any country besides the Philippines, the top buyer of the grain. While U.S. producers have long tried to woo the growing Chinese market for confectionary foods made from white wheat flour, the recent purchases reflect a need for animal feed, Chinese traders and analysts said.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Agriculture Department (USDA) raised its forecast for exports of U.S. white wheat to 245 million bushels, the most since 1994, due to strong demand from China and South Korea.

In a sign of the varied pace of global economic recoveries, USDA lowered its export forecast for the most common U.S. wheat class, hard red winter wheat, citing lower demand to “several Western Hemisphere markets.”

While white wheat is not typically fed to animals, high corn prices - benchmark U.S. futures hit 7-1/2-year highs last month - made it a viable alternative in China.

China is scouring the globe for feed grains as it rebuilds the world’s largest hog herd, which was ravaged by African swine fever.


9. First meeting of BRICS Contact Group on Economic and Trade Issues held

The BRICS Contact Group on Economic and Trade Issues (CGETI) leads held their first meeting under India’s Chairship from 9-11 March 2021. The theme of BRICS this year is -"BRICS@15: Intra BRICS Cooperation for Continuity, Consolidation, and Consensus”.

India, under its Chairship in 2021, presented the calendar of events for BRICS CGETI 2021, included the priority areas for deliverables, schedule and scope of the MSME roundtable conference workshop on Services Statistics, and the BRICS Trade Fair. This was followed by a series of presentations, scheduled in separate sessions, made by the concerned Departments of the Government of India on the proposed deliverables during India’s Chairship under the BRICS CGETI track.

The deliverables proposed are on (i) Action plan based on the document “Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership 2025” adopted during Russian Presidency in 2020 (ii) BRICS Cooperation on Multilateral Trading system including cooperation for the TRIPS Waiver proposal at WTO; (iii) Framework for Consumer Protection in E-Commerce; (iv) Non-Tariff Measures (NTM) Resolution Mechanism; (v) Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) Working Mechanism; (vi) Co-operation framework for protection of Genetic Resources and Traditional Knowledge; (vii) BRICS Framework on Co-operation in Professional Services. Each of these sessions was followed by detailed feedback sessions.

The BRICS partners appreciated the activities planned by India, being timely and relevant in the current context and expressed their support for working together on the various initiatives proposed by India. From now on till September, 2021, inter sessional deliberations will be carried out to reach a consensus amongst the BRICS countries. The BRICS officers tasked with CGETI would continue the work for the 27th official level CGETI meeting, scheduled to be held in June 2021.

 

10. Asian stocks up as Biden signs stimulus, lower yields boost tech

Asian shares pushed higher on Friday after U.S. President Joe Biden signed a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill into law, and as a retreat in bond yields overnight eased global concerns about rising inflation.

Biden signed the stimulus legislation ahead of a televised address in which he pledged aggressive action to speed vaccinations and move the country closer to normality by July 4.

The signing of the American Rescue Plan provided a further boost to market sentiment after the European Central Bank said it was ready to accelerate money-printing to keep a lid on borrowing costs, using its 1.85 trillion euro Pandemic Emergency Purchase Program (PEPP) more generously over the coming months to stop any unwarranted rise in debt financing costs.

That and a better-than-expected U.S. government bond auction could support a rally in tech stocks and a rotation between growth and value stocks in the next few weeks, said Cliff Zhao, chief strategist at China Construction Bank International in Hong Kong.

MSCI’s broadest gauge index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan gained 0.45% on Friday morning, supported by tech gains.

Seoul’s KOSPI added 1.12%, Taiwan shares were up 0.21% and Australia’s ASX 200 gained 0.85%.

Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.99%, but China’s blue-chip CSI300 index lost 0.43% as that country’s high-valuation tech and consumer firms dragged.

U.S. Treasury yields were higher on Friday, with the 10-year yield at 1.5405% after falling to 1.475% overnight, its first foray below 1.5% in a week.

The German 10-year yield was last at -0.331% after hitting a three-week low of -0.367%.

On Wall Street, easing inflation worries helped support equities. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.58% and the S&P 500 gained 1.04%, both to record highs. The Nasdaq Composite added 2.52%.

Sentiment was also boosted by weekly jobless claims data, which pointed to a recovering U.S. labor market as vaccine rollouts helped lead to economic reopenings.

Analysts largely expect inflation to pick up as vaccine rollouts lead to a reopening, but worries persist that Biden’s stimulus package could overheat the economy.

The dollar gained 0.22% against the yen to 108.73 and the euro fell 0.1% on the day to $1.1975. The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major rivals, edged up to 91.488.

Oil prices retreated from sharp gains as the dollar firmed, with U.S. crude dipping 0.3% to $65.82 a barrel. Brent crude lost 0.24% to $69.46 per barrel.

Spot gold prices were little-changed, up less than 0.1% at $1,722.40 an ounce.

 

11. Only 50% booking for all T20Is at Narendra Modi Stadium

Considering the COVID-19 pandemic, Gujarat Cricket Association (GCA) has decided to use only 50% capacity of the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad for the five T20 Internationals to be played here between India and England from March 12, 2021 to March 20, 2021. All the COVID-19 related precautions have been taken and all standard operating procedures (SOPs) are being followed.

The entire stadium has been sanitized considering safety of the spectators. All COVID-19 guidelines are being strictly adhered to and special task force committees have been set up to ensure that all required safety measures are implemented and followed.

 

12. Justice Indu Malhotra ends 2-year tenure in SC

Justice Indu Malhotra, the first woman judge to be appointed to the Supreme Court Bench directly from the Bar, completed her last working day, virtually hearing cases alongside Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad A. Bobde on Friday.

Justice Malhotra, in an emotional address, said she was “leaving the court with a great sense of fulfilment”.

With Chief Justice Bobde and Justice A.S. Bopanna looking on, Justice Malhotra said she was grateful for the opportunity which enabled her to contribute to the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court.

Justice Malhotra was on the Constitution Bench that unanimously decriminalised homosexuality between adults.

She is known for her lone dissenting opinion in the Sabarimala judgment. She held that the prohibition on the entry of women of certain age into the temple was in vogue for time immemorial and qualified to be an “essential practice”. She cautioned judges against imposing their personal views, morality or rationality with respect to the form of worship of a deity.

She was later made part of the three-member in-house committee led by Justice Bobde, which inquired into the sexual harassment allegations made against then CJI Ranjan Gogoi by an apex court staffer.

Her tenure on the Bench was slightly less than two years. She took office on April 27, 2018.

It was a Collegium led by Chief Justice (retd.) Dipak Misra that recommended then senior advocate Malhotra as a judge of the Supreme Court in January 2018.

She was chosen in a rare recognition of her professional talent and contribution to law. She was the eighth lawyer to be directly appointed to the Supreme Court Bench and only the seventh woman judge in the court’s history.

Justice M. Fathima Beevi was the first woman Supreme Court judge, appointed 39 years after the court was established in 1950. The second woman judge was Justice Sujata V. Manohar, who was appointed in 1994 for a five-year tenure. The other five are Justices Ruma Pal, Gyan Sudha Misra, Ranjana Prakash Desai (who was part of the Bench that confirmed the death penalty of the lone 26/11 Mumbai attacks convict Ajmal Kasab) and R. Banumathi, who was one of the judges who confirmed the death sentence for four convicts in the Nirbhaya gang rape appeals.

Justice Indira Banerjee is the only woman judge now in the apex court. With Justice Malhotra’s retirement, the number of judges in the court will reduce to 29. The sanctioned strength is 34.

 

13. China regulator fines 12 firms over anti-monopoly law

China’s market regulator said that it fined a dozen companies, including games company Tencent Holdings and Chinese search engine firm Baidu Inc., for not disclosing past deals as authorities step up anti-monopoly scrutiny in the internet sector.

The companies, which included other firms such as ride-hailing company Didi Mobility and Softbank, were fined 5,00,000 yuan ($77,000) each for not disclosing previous investments, acquisitions or joint ventures, according to a statement by China’s State Administration for Market Regulation.

China in February released anti-monopoly guidelines aimed at clamping down on anti-competitive practices in the internet industry, such as signing exclusive agreements with merchants and the use of subsidies to squeeze out competitors.

Tencent Holdings was fined over its investment in online education app Yuanfudao in 2018, while Baidu was fined for taking over consumer electronics firm Ainemo Inc. last year.

The regulator said that neither had sought prior approval for the deals, thereby violating the anti-monopoly laws even though the deals did not restrict competition.

Tencent said in an emailed statement that it would “continue to adapt to changes in the regulatory environment, and will seek to ensure full compliance.” Similarly, Didi Mobility, a unit of Didi Chuxing, and Softbank were censured over not seeking approval before setting up a joint venture. Baidu, Didi Mobility and Softbank did not immediately comment.

Internet companies in the United States face similar scrutiny. Legislators and regulators are looking at whether Facebook, Google and other companies improperly hamper competition in advertising and other areas. China’s market regulator last December fined Tencent-backed online publisher China Literature, Alibaba and other companies for not seeking approval over several deals.


LAST MONTHS G.K.

January 22 : 18, 18, 01

December 21 : 30, 29, 28, 27, 25, 24, 23, 22, 22, 21, 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 08, 07, 06, 06, 04, 03, 02, 01

November 21 : 20, 18, 18, 18, 17, 17, 11, 10, 09, 09, 08, 06, 03, 02, 01

October 21 : 24, 23, 21, 20, 19, 18, 16, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 08, 08, 07, 06, 04, 01

September 21 : 07, 04, 03, 02, 01

August 21 : 11, 10

July 21 : 10, 10, 09, 09, 08, 06, 05, 03, 02, 01

June 21 : 08, 07, 07, 05, 04, 03, 02, 01

May 21 : 29, 28, 27, 25, 24, 23, 22, 20, 19, 18, 17, 17, 14, 13, 11, 10, 10, 08, 07, 06, 05, 04, 03, 01

April 21 : 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 09, 08, 08, 07, 05, 03, 02, 01

March 21 : 18, 17, 16, 15, 13, 12, 10, 10, 09, 08, 05, 04, 03, 02, 01

February 21 : 27, 26, 25, 24, 23, 22, 21, 20, 19, 18, 15, 13, 12, 12, 11, 10, 08, 06, 03, 01

January 21 : 27, 25, 23, 22, 21, 20, 19, 18, 16, 15, 14, 12, 11, 09, 08, 07, 06, 05

December 20 : 30, 29, 28, 24, 21, 18, 17, 15, 11, 07, 03, 01

November 20 : 24, 20, 19, 18, 12, 11, 10, 09, 08, 07, 06, 05, 04, 03, 02

October 20 : 31, 30, 29, 29, 27, 26, 23, 22, 21, 20, 19, 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 09, 08, 08, 07, 06, 06, 03, 02, 01

September 20 : 30, 29, 29, 26, 25, 24, 23, 22, 21, 19, 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 12, 11, 10, 09, 09, 08, 07, 05, 04, 03, 02, 01

August 20 : 31, 29, 28, 27, 26, 25, 24, 22, 21, 20, 19, 18, 17, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 10, 08, 07, 06, 05, 04, 03, 01

July 20 : 31, 30, 29, 28, 27, 25, 24, 23, 22, 21, 20, 18, 17, 14, 13, 10, 09, 09, 08, 07, 06, 04, 03, 02, 01

June 20 : 30, 27, 26, 24, 23, 22, 20, 19, 18, 18, 17, 16, 13, 12, 11, 10, 09, 06, 05, 04, 03, 02, 01

May 20 : 30, 29, 28, 26, 25, 23, 22, 22, 22, 22, 22, 16, 14, 13, 11, 09, 08, 07, 07, 05, 04, 02, 01

April 20 : 30, 28, 27, 25, 24, 23, 22, 21, 20, 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 13, 11, 10, 09, 08, 07, 07, 07, 04, 03, 02, 01

March 20 : 31, 27, 26, 25, 24, 22, 21, 19, 18, 17, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 09, 07, 06, 05, 04, 04, 03, 02

February 20 : 29, 28, 28, 26, 25, 24, 21, 20, 19, 18, 11

January 20 : 13