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5 THINGS FIRST

GDP data for March quarter to be released; Supreme Court to hear plea on cancellation of class 12 board exams; Delhi High Court verdict on plea to stop Central Vista work likely; Asian Boxing Championships (men’s final); World No Tobacco Day

1. Centre has spent just 13% of vaccine funds
1. Centre has spent just 13% of vaccine funds
  • The funds: Information obtained under the RTI Act by a Nagpur-based activist has revealed that the Centre has disbursed just Rs 4,488.75 crore out of the total budgetary provision of Rs 35,000 crore for procurement of vaccines. Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced a provision of Rs 35,000 crore for the Covid vaccination programme in the budget presented on February 1.
  • The claim: The country fought the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic “courageously” and it would be “victorious” in its ongoing fight against the virus during the second wave, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday.
  • The vaccines: The Union health ministry said that it will supply 6.09 crore doses of Covid vaccines to states in June, up from 4.03 crore in May. In addition, about 5.86 crore doses will be available for states and private hospitals to buy this month.
  • The lockdowns: Haryana, Odisha and Telangana extended the Covid-induced lockdown on Sunday, while Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir announced a partial easing of restrictions in districts with less active cases. Many states, including Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Goa, have extended the lockdown or restrictions for a week to a fortnight in June, while some of them like Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh have also announced a certain relaxation in the curbs due to a decline in new cases and positivity rate.
  • The relief: The government may soon announce some relaxations on the restrictions imposed on use of liquid oxygen for industrial purposes in the wake of high demand during the peak of the second wave of Covid-19. The demand for medical oxygen has fallen to nearly 5,600 tonnes compared to the peak demand of nearly 9,000 tonnes in a day earlier this month.
2. Have India’s monsoon patterns changed?
2. Have India’s monsoon patterns changed?
In a single day, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) issued two onset dates for the southwest monsoon over mainland India, highlighting the ‘changing’ patterns of monsoon. While earlier on Sunday, the IMD said the monsoon would hit Kerala today, later in the day it revised its onset date to June 3.

Is that significant?

  • Typically, the onset of monsoon over mainland India — with Kerala being the first state to get monsoon showers — happens on June 1, with a standard deviation of a week. Like for instance last year, when the monsoon onset in Kerala, which was predicted for May 29, happened on its normal date of June 1.
  • Last year, the IMD came out with a revised calendar for monsoon onset and withdrawal, based on data from 1961-2019 (for onset) and 1971-2019 (for withdrawal, instead of the old data from 1901-1940). While the date of onset largely remains the same for Kerala, there’s a significant departure in the onset dates across several parts of interior India.

For example?

  • While the earlier date for the monsoon to cover the entire country was July 15, it has now been revised to July 8 — a full week ahead. However, in certain regions, the onset is delayed by as much as 10-12 days, indicating that while the start is slow, it gathers pace. For instance, in Gwalior, against the old ‘normal’ onset date of June 18, the ‘new ‘normal’ onset date is June 28 while in Ahmedabad and Rajkot, against the old normal date of June 14 and June 15 respectively, the new normal dates are June 26 and June 27 respectively.
  • Similarly, the withdrawal dates too have been revised — and if one recalls 2019, the withdrawal was delayed by over a month. Against the old normal withdrawal start date of September 1, which is when it starts withdrawing from northwest India, the actual withdrawal started only on October 9 — a delay of 39 days, which was the most delayed start of withdrawal ever. Last year in fact, the delay was the longest in 10 years
  • A study paper last year by the IMD pointed out that against the September 1 withdrawal start date, the new withdrawal date of monsoon from northwest India is usually September 17 — though it withdraws from most of the country by October 15, which coincides with the old normal withdrawal date.
3. Is a pandemic the best time to start a business?
3. Is a pandemic the best time to start a business?
  • Even as April saw the second wave of Covid-19 gain momentum, it seems a crisis is too good of an opportunity to waste, especially if you want to be an entrepreneur. Last month saw an impressive 12,554 companies getting registered, which was nearly four times the number of companies registered in the same month last year — though admittedly, that was also the first full month of a nationwide lockdown.
  • In fact, in the last fiscal year — the first full financial year in the shadow of the pandemic — except for the months of April and May, company registrations were consistently above the 10,000 per month mark, hitting a peak of 17,324 in March, which was the highest number of company registrations in at least the last 5 years.
    Keeping company
  • According to a report by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, the total authorised capital of the companies registered last month was Rs 1,483.41 crore, with Maharashtra, the state that was worst affected in the second wave of Covid-19, leading with the largest number of companies registered, at 2,294, or 18.27% of all companies registered across India, followed by Delhi.
    States of companies
  • The top five sectors that saw the most number of companies getting registered were Business Services, which accounted for 27% of all newly registered companies in April, followed by Manufacturing (22%), Community, Personal & Social Services (13%), Trading (12%) and Construction (6%).
  • However, April also saw the closure of 759,572 companies, out of a total of 2,163,829 that were registered as of April 30, 2021. Another 2,274 were labelled dormant, which are companies that haven’t done any business or filed their financial statements for the last two financial years. A further 6,906 companies are under liquidation while 39,572 companies are in the process of being struck off from the Register of Companies maintained by the Registrar of Companies.
4. Do we need class 12 board exams?
4. Do we need class 12 board exams?
A hearing

  • The Supreme Court will today examine a plea seeking cancellation of Class 12 examinations to be conducted by CBSE and ICSE Boards.
  • The Centre is likely to take a call on the issue this week after getting suggestions from state governments.

The case for no exams

  • The petitioner has pointed out that Covid -19 situation in the second wave is more severe than last year so the Board exams should be scrapped and the same criteria of assessing grades/marks of Class 12 students be followed as was done last year.
  • Around 7.3 lakh students had opted for foreign universities to pursue higher education in 2018 and a delay in declaration of result will hamper one semester of such students as admission cannot be confirmed until Class 12 results are declared.

The case for exams

  • Some experts have argued that the exams should be held even if we have to wait for a couple of months as class 12 marks the end of school education and forms the basis of higher education.
  • Plus, we do not have any credible assessment in place, they point out. The government had earlier introduced continuous and comprehensive evaluation, but it was discontinued.
  • Some also feel that without board exams, students may not take studies seriously.

The options

  • CBSE had proposed two options — conducting regular exams for 19 ‘major’ subjects at notified centres or conducting shorter duration objective-type exams at the respective schools where the students are enrolled between July 15-August 26 with results to be declared in September.
  • Some educationists feel that online exams should be considered instead of cancellation.
6. Is Sasikala making a political comeback?
6. Is Sasikala making a political comeback?
  • VK Sasikala, the expelled former chief of the AIADMK and a close-aide of late Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalitha, has hinted at resumption of efforts to regain control of the party by telling her supporters that there would soon be a “good decision.”
  • Ahead of the April 6 assembly polls, Sasikala had said that she would stay away from politics.
  • In an audio clip of her conversation with two of her loyalists that has surfaced, she has said that she could not see the party getting ruined due to “infighting”.
  • Her reference is to the alleged differences between AIADMK’s top two leaders, K Palaniswami and O Panneerselvam.
  • Sasikala was released from Bengaluru prison in January after a four-year imprisonment in a corruption case and was widely expected to challenge for control of the party. On her return to Chennai she had hinted that she would play an active role in politics but changed her stand just before the assembly polls.
  • After Jayalalithaa’s death, Sasikala was elected the AIADMK’s interim general secretary and as its legislature party leader in February 2017, paving the way for her elevation as chief minister. However, after the Supreme Court convicted her in the corruption case, she chose her then loyalist K Palaniswami to be the chief minister before proceeding to Bengaluru to serve the sentence.
  • The AIADMK split with O Panneerselvam and Palaniswami heading two factions, but the two groups later merged and the general council expelled Sasikala from the party in September 2017 along with her nephew TTV Dhinakaran and others.
7. Two held for throwing Covid victim’s body into river
7. Two held for throwing Covid victim’s body into river
  • A viral video showing a Covid-19 victim’s body being dumped into the Rapti river in Uttar Pradesh’s Balrampur district has led to the arrest of two people, including a nephew of the deceased.
  • The body seen being lifted by two men, one of them in a PPE kit and thrown into the water from the parapet of a bridge on Saturday turned out to be of Prem Nath Mishra, a resident of Shohratgarh in Siddharthnagar district.
  • The occupants of a car passing by apparently recorded the 39-second clip that was circulated on social media soon after, prompting the administration to institute an inquiry by Balrampur chief medical officer Dr VB Singh.
  • According to hospital records, ambulance driver Rampreet had handed over Prem Nath’s body to his nephew Sanjay Kumar at Sisai Ghat around noon on Saturday. The CMO said the body was wrapped in a protective kit, as per Covid-19 protocol.
  • Ever since bodies dumped into the Ganga and other rivers started washing ashore a few weeks ago, UP police have been patrolling the waters to prevent more such incidents. To those families that can’t afford to give their dead a dignified cremation, the state government is offering Rs 5,000 each for the last rites.
8. NCLT orders winding up of Devas for ‘fraud’
8. NCLT orders winding up of Devas for ‘fraud’
  • The National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) has ordered the liquidation and winding up of Bengaluru-based startup Devas Multimedia Pvt Ltd while declaring that the company was incorporated in a “fraudulent manner to carry out unlawful purposes’”.
  • It stated that the company’s management is continuing to resort to “fraudulent activities” in relation to its commercial contract in 2005 with Isro’s commercial arm Antrix. The tribunal has directed the liquidator to submit a report by July 7.
  • In 2011, the Devas agreement with Antrix to build, launch and operate two satellites was annulled by the central government against the backdrop of the 2G scam and allegations of manipulations in the deal.
  • On October 30 last year, the International Chamber of Commerce passed an award directing Antrix to pay $1.2 billion compensation to Devas for terminating the contract. A month later in November, the Supreme Court had stayed the proceedings to execute the award. It was on January 18 this year that the Centre had authorised Antrix CMD Rakesh Shashibhushan to present a petition to wind up Devas on the grounds specified under Sec 271(1)(c) of the Companies Act.
9. After 11-day war, it’s time to rebuild Gaza Strip
9. After 11-day war, it’s time to rebuild Gaza Strip
  • Egypt and Israel held high-level talks in both countries on Sunday to shore up a fragile truce between Israel and Hamas and rebuild the Gaza Strip after a 11-day war left much of the seaside enclave in ruins.
  • Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry met with his Israeli counterpart, Gabi Ashkenazi, who landed in Cairo on Sunday. It was the first public visit by an Israeli foreign minister in over a decade.
  • Meanwhile, Egypt’s intelligence chief, Abbas Kamel, flew to Tel Aviv for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian officials in Ramallah.
  • The 11-day war killed more than 250 people, mostly Palestinians and caused heavy destruction in the impoverished coastal territory. Preliminary estimates have put the damage in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Egypt was key in mediating a deal between the two sides.
  • Egypt last week invited Israel, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority for separate talks in Cairo to consolidate the Cairo-mediated cease-fire and accelerate the reconstruction process in Gaza.
  • Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh is expected to visit Cairo this week. Read the full story here.
Answer to NEWS IN CLUES
Answer to NEWS IN CLUES

Mary Kom. The Indian boxer, who has won a record 6 golds at the World Boxing Championships among the record eight medals — the most by any boxer male or female — won a silver at the Asian Boxing Championships on Sunday, after losing to Nazym Kyzaibay of Kazakhstan. She was also nominated by the President to the Rajya Sabha in 2016. Priyanka Chopra portrayed her in the eponymous biopic Mary Kom, in 2014 while last year, the IOC included her in the 10-strong athlete ambassadors group to represent boxers at the Tokyo Olympics.

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

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