3. After 35 days, are India, China heading toward truce?

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Jun 10, 2020

3. After 35 days, are India, China heading toward truce?
3. After 35 days, are India, China heading toward truce?
  • Stepping back: India’s second longest border standoff with China, after Doklam in 2017, saw a positive development on Tuesday as the Chinese PLA troops moved back “by about 1 to 2 km” from their current position in Eastern Ladakh area at three positions, prompting a reciprocal move by the Indian army. PLA troops had intruded up to 3 kilometres across the LAC on the Indian side. The limited retreat comes just days after the June 6 Lt-General level talks between Indian and China — and just ahead of the second round of talks on the same issue, at the Major-General level, which is likely either today or tomorrow.
  • Points of contention: The standoff, which occurred on May 5 and 6 after 250 troops from both sides got into a violent confrontation, including fisticuffs, was centered around the building of a road by the Indian side in the Finger area in Pangong Tso, which is required in order for India to carry out a patrol. While the Chinese troops have withdrawn from Galwan Valley, Patrolling Point 15 (PP-15) and Gogra-Hot Springs — where the talks will be held — the standoff still continues at the main face-off site on the northern bank of Pangong Tso (Tso means lake), where the violent altercation between the troops of both countries took place last month. Chinese soldiers have occupied the entire area from “Finger-4 to 8” (mountainous spurs separated by a distance of 8-km) to block all Indian patrols since last month. The brawl in Pangong was followed by a similar altercation in Sikkim on May 9.
  • More to come? The Ladakh standoff is the fifth such conflict between the Indian and Chinese troops in the last seven years, often attributed to differing perceptions of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) along the nearly 3,500 km long border between the world’s two most populous countries. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that unlike all other areas where the LAC passes over land, in Ladakh, it also passes through the lake, making part of it Indian territory. The lake’s significance lies in the fact that it needs to be crossed to reach Chushul, a village in Leh which was the site of a bloody battle in the 1962 Indo-China war. In 1999, taking advantage of the troop pullout by India from the area, for redeployment in Kargil, the Chinese built a road along the lake’s banks, 5 kilometres into the Indian territory, which has led to frequent clashes in the region. For now, New Delhi wants a return to the status quo as it existed in mid-April, which would involve PLA pulling back its troops from the “Finger 4” area at Pangong Tso, as also demolition of its bunkers and other fortifications built in the area.
5 THINGS FIRST

Ram Temple construction to begin; Delhi High Court to hear plea to bring PM CARES Fund under RTI; ICC’s virtual meeting 2020 World T20; Shooting starts for Bengali films and TV shows; Delhi govt withdraws 70% ‘corona fee’ on liquor

1. When things go bad, data takes a hike
1. When things go bad, data takes a hike
  • Delhi’s missing data: On a day Delhi’s Covid-19 case count would have crossed the 30,000-mark, based on the prevailing growth rate, the Delhi government failed to release the official coronavirus numbers till Tuesday midnight. The data was supposed to be released at noon daily. The delay in releasing the data adds to the concerns over Delhi’s reduced number of testing — from nearly 5,000 last week to 3,700 on Monday.
  • Delhi has been reporting more than 1,000 new cases daily since the beginning of the week, better than only Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. As on Monday, more than 29,000 people have tested positive and over 870 people have died from the coronavirus in the capital city.
  • That meant, there was no reliable record of the cases and fatalities across the country on the day. Excluding Delhi, 8,806 new Covid-19 cases and 234 fatalities were reported from the rest of the country, taking the overall count to 274,748 infections and 7,741 fatalities.
  • Maharashtra reported 2,259 cases and 120 fatalities; Mumbai accounted for 1,015 cases and 58 deaths. Tamil Nadu once again reported a daily record of 1,685 cases; Chennai accounted for 1,242 out of this. The state health minister C Vijayabaskar said the infection was “spreading at lightning speed across the state” and promised 1,100 more hospital beds in worst-hit Chennai.
  • Tamil Nadu could record 130,000 cases by the month-end, according to projections by agencies including the Dr MGR Medical Universities; at present it has 34,914 cases. “We have been given similar predictions by other agencies. We are taking note of all predictions and preparing for the spike,” Vijayabaskar said.
  • Over in Telangana, state officials say it will be difficult to implement the High Court’s directive to conduct Covid-19 tests on all deceased persons. The state could challenge the order in the Supreme Court.
  • The Supreme Court has suggested that the Centre and state governments drop all FIRs filed against migrant workers for violations of lockdown guidelines, and said having lost their means of livelihood, they were anxious to avail of whatever mode of transport, including walking or cycling, to reach home. The SC asked state governments to identify all stranded migrant workers who wanted to return home and arrange for their travel on trains or buses in the next 15 days.
2. How bad could the pandemic get in the Capital?
2. How bad could the pandemic get in the Capital?
  • 44,000 by the middle of this month, 100,000 by June end, 250,000 by mid-July and 550,000 by July end — that’s the number of coronavirus cases estimated in the Capital, warned state deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia on Tuesday. However, there’s no community transmission of Covid-19 in the state, according to the central government officials, he added. The doubling rate of coronavirus infections in Delhi is 12 to 13 days.
  • However, state health minister Satyendar Jain on Monday had indicated that the Capital’s doubling rate of 14 days, and, thus the city could see 56,000 cases after two weeks. On Tuesday, he added the source of infection is “not known” in nearly half of the fresh cases being reported. Note: Delhi’s daily case count was not released on Tuesday.
  • Worse, to tackle the situation the state government will need 6,600 beds by mid-June, 15,000 by end-June, 33,000 by mid-July and 80,000 by the end of next month. (Beds do not imply quarantine facilities.) “This is the reason the Delhi cabinet had decided to reserve the beds only for the city residents but it was overturned by the LG [Lieutenant Governor]. Now, who will take the responsibility if the cases keep on increasing and the beds are full?” asked Sisodia.
  • Per the Delhi government, 8,821 hospital beds, 582 ICU beds, 468 ventilators and 3,590 beds with oxygen support were currently available for Covid patients, 500 additional beds had been earmarked in state-run health facilities while a new hospital in Burari with 450 beds would be ready by June 20. Another 2,000 beds are likely to be added by June 15 by linking more star hotels with hospitals.
  • The Delhi government on Tuesday also asked 22 prominent private hospitals to increase their capacity for Covid-19 patients (their collective bed count of 1,441 will increase to 3,456). But getting the number to 80,000 is going to be a Herculean task. Think Mumbai, where more instances of critically ill persons not being able to find hospital beds have only added to the panic.
4. How soon is ‘immediate’ on the issue of internet in Kashmir?
4. How soon is ‘immediate’ on the issue of internet in Kashmir?
  • An order: On May 11, a three-judge Supreme Court bench comprising Justices N V Ramana, R Subhash Reddy and B R Gavai, hearing a petition on the restoration of 4G internet in Kashmir, asked the central government to form a “special committee” to evaluate the need. The original petition had argued that the lack of 4G was limiting the access to healthcare information and curtailing the right to education when educational institutions were adopting online classes in view of the pandemic. The SC said the special committee will look into the prevailing circumstances and immediately determine the necessity of the continuation of the restrictions in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir”.
  • About the committee: The petition that challenged the union territory’s decision to limit mobile internet to just 2G in Kashmir was thus concluded with an order to form a committee headed by officers of the central government. The SC said the committee will comprise secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, secretary, Department of Communications, Ministry of Communications, and chief secretary, Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Yet… On Tuesday, June 9, one of the original petitioners, the Foundation of Media Professionals, moved SC saying the government’s failure to form even such a committee amounted to contempt of court. The petition notes that despite the directions of the Court, “no such Committee seems to have been constituted, and no order has been published by them”, reviewing the UT of J&K’s orders. Instead, it said, the J&K administration chose to continue the restriction of mobile internet to just 2G till June 17 as per order issued on May 27.
6. Should FDI flow from tax havens worry India?
6. Should FDI flow from tax havens worry India?
  • The flow: Cayman Islands has emerged as the fifth largest investor in India, with foreign direct investment from the nation increasing over three-fold to $3.7 billion in 2019-20 (up from $1 billion in 2018-19 and $1.23 billion in 2017-18). FDI from Cyprus too increased by about three-times to $879 million in the last financial year from $296 million in 2018-19. It was $417 million in 2017-18.
  • The sources: Both Cayman Islands, a UK Overseas Territory and Cyprus, a Mediterranean island of about 1.2 million people, are known tax havens. The Tax Justice Network (TJN), an independent international entity that ranks countries on the size and secretiveness of their financial sectors and examines how intensely the country’s legal and financial system allows wealthy individuals and criminals to hide and launder money, ranks Cayman Islands on top. Cyprus has one of the lowest tax rates in Europe. According to TJN, an estimated $21-32 trillion of private financial wealth is located, untaxed or lightly taxed in tax havens around the world.
  • The worry: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) had last year released a paper drawing attention to the rising trend of ‘phantom FDI’ or investments that flow through shell companies in tax havens to avoid paying taxes in their host countries. This, according to the IMF, indicates that domestic companies are indulging in tax avoidance. The higher a country’s corporate tax rate, the more likely it is to have exposure to phantom FDI. According to reports, investment hubs like Cayman Islands may come under greater scrutiny by market regulator Sebi because a significant portion of investments coming from China and Hong Kong into India may be routed through these jurisdictions.
7. Why BJP, Congress came together for Deve Gowda
7. Why BJP, Congress came together for Deve Gowda
  • A comeback: Former prime minister HD Deve Gowda on Tuesday filed his nomination as JD(S)’s candidate for Rajya Sabha elections from Karnataka. Gowda needs a minimum of 45 votes to win and JD(S) has just 34 seats in the assembly. However, Congress has offered its surplus votes to make up for it. If he wins, this will be the second Rajya Sabha entry for 87-year-old Gowda, the first time being in 1996 as the prime minister.
  • The surprise: While Congress and JD(S) coming together wasn’t surprising given that the two parties were alliance partners in a previous government, what came as a surprise was the BJP deciding to not field any candidate against Gowda, making his election unanimous. Gowda was defeated in Tumkur constituency by BJP’s G S Basavaraj by over 13,000 votes in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
  • The politics: The BJP probably wants to send out a message to the dominant Vokkaliga community — which Gowda belongs to — and consolidate its support base and make further inroads in the Congress and JD(S) bastion, reports TOI. The Congress also decided to transfer the party’s surplus votes apparently to woo back the community, which had deserted Congress under the previous regime of Dinesh Gundu Rao. The JD(S), on the other hand, would have risked cross-voting from MLAs unhappy with the party leadership if it had fielded any other candidate. Gowda’s election will help the party regain its voice nationally.
8. Cricket’s new pitch: Virus subs, saliva ban
8. Cricket’s new pitch: Virus subs, saliva ban
  • The International Cricket Council (ICC) has decided to allow substitutes if a player shows Covid-19 symptoms, while introducing a system of issuing two warnings per innings followed by a five-run penalty for repeated use of saliva on the ball. “In line with concussion replacements, the match referee will approve the nearest like-for-like replacement,” it said on Tuesday. However, the replacements will only be allowed in Tests and not ODIs and T20Is.
  • If a player does apply saliva to the ball — a method employed to impart swing — the umpires will “manage the situation with some leniency during an initial period of adjustment for the players, but subsequent instances will result in the team receiving a warning”, the ICC said. Two warnings will result in a five-run penalty to the batting side. If saliva is applied to the ball, the umpires will be instructed to clean it before play recommences. No details were provided as to how that would be done.
  • According to the other new regulations, recommended by the Anil Kumble-chaired Cricket Committee, and ratified by the Chief Executives Committee (CEC), neutral umpires will not be officiating in Tests for the first time since 2002 as well. As part of its interim playing regulations to tackle the threat posed by the pandemic, home umpires would stand in all three formats. The local umpires would be picked from its Elite Panel and International panel of match officials.
  • And given that there may be “less experienced” officials on duty the ICC has increased the number of unsuccessful appeals per innings for each team to three for Tests and two for white-ball formats. Finally, a 32-inch additional logo would be permitted on the players’ jerseys, which will help teams make commercial gains as boards battle the pandemic’s financial blow. The new regulations are set to apply for the first time when England face the West Indies in the opening match of a three-Test series in Southampton, starting July 8.
9. Prince Andrew non-cooperative in Epstein case: US
9. Prince Andrew non-cooperative in Epstein case: US
  • A cross-Atlantic spat: Prince Andrew, who is eighth in line to the British throne, is not cooperating with investigations into the sex trafficking and related crimes by Jeffrey Epstein, and “has repeatedly declined our request” to schedule an interview, United States Attorney Geoffrey Berman has said. This after Andrew’s lawyers rejected US prosecutors claim of non-cooperation, releasing a statement that said Andrew “is not and has never been a ‘target’ of their criminal investigation into Epstein”, adding he had offered to be interviewed three times. Berman retorted just hours later, saying Andrew was attempting to “falsely portray himself to the public as eager and willing to cooperate”.
  • The backstory: The case is related to the allegations of sexual abuse, solicitation and sexual trafficking of minors by former financier Epstein, charges that were brought after nearly a decade-long investigation by the federal bureau. Allegations against Epstein first surfaced in 2005, when a woman contacted the Palm Beach, Florida, police, alleging her 14-year-old stepdaughter had been taken to Epstein’s mansion by an older girl. In 2008, a controversial plea deal saw Epstein plead guilty to a lesser crime of solicitation, receiving an 18-month prison sentence; he was released on probation after 13 months. In July 2019, amid the #MeToo movement, fresh charges were brought against Epstein. Epstein took his own life in a New York federal jail last August while awaiting trial. The subject is now a Netflix documentary.
  • And Andrew? One of the victims, in a BBC Panorama interview last year, said Epstein had offered her to Andrew when she was 17; she said the prince had sex with her three times. Prince Andrew denies any form of sexual contact or relationship with the woman. He stepped away from royal duties shortly after the interview. US Attorney General William Barr on Monday said prosecutors are not seeking to extradite Andrew. “I think it’s just a question of having him provide some evidence, but beyond that I’m not going to comment”.
BEFORE YOU GO
10. His funeral, a national introspection
10. His funeral, a national introspection
Brooke Williams, niece of George Floyd, speaks during the funeral service for her uncle at The Fountain of Praise Church on Tuesday (June 9) in Houston. (Photo: David J. Phillip / AFP)

George Floyd, the man whose death under the pressed knee of a white police officer gave rise to an international movement against racial inequality, and whose last words — “I can’t breathe” — have become a rallying cry, was laid to rest on Tuesday at a private funeral in Houston, US. Community members to political leaders to celebrities attended the service.

The Democratic Party’s presumptive Presidential nominee, Joe Biden, addressed the service in a video message. Addressing Floyd’s youngest daughter, Gianna, Biden said: “You’re so brave. Daddy’s looking down on you … No child should have to ask the question that too many black children have had to ask for generations: ‘Why? Why is Daddy gone? … When there is justice for George Floyd, we will truly be on our way to racial justice in America.”

The sharpest and most invigorating words were perhaps spoken by Brooke Williams, niece of Floyd. “Someone said ‘Make America great again,’ but when has America ever been great?” she asked. “America, it is time for a change.” More on New York Times

Answer to NEWS IN CLUES
NIC

OIL India Ltd. A massive fire has engulfed a natural-gas producing well belonging to the company in upper Assam’s Tinsukia district, that had been leaking gas for the last 14 days. Smoke from the fire, that began on Tuesday afternoon, can reportedly be seen from 10 km away and locals claim it has spread to nearby villages. The Indian Air Force and the Army are assisting in the firefighting operations, with the area cordoned off by paramilitary forces. OIL said that it would take at least four weeks to complete all the operations and cap the well but efforts are on to reduce the timeframe.

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Written by: Rakesh Rai, Judhajit Basu, Sumil Sudhakaran, Tejeesh N.S. Behl
Research: Rajesh Sharma


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