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5 THINGS FIRSTNTAGI meeting to discuss reducing gap between 2nd and precaution dose; President Kovind and home minister Amit Shah to meet lawyers of post-poll Bengal violence victims; Sentencing of tennis star Boris Becker, after guilty verdict on bankruptcy charges; Delhi HC to hear Umar Khalid’s plea challenging denial of bail; IPL 2022 – PBKS Vs LSG1. Why Centre wants to remove AFSPA from northeastAlmost a month after partially lifting the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958 or AFSPA from India’s northeast, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said efforts are on to remove it completely from the region as the law and order situation has improved in the past eight years.What is AFSPA?
AFSPA guarantees sweeping powers to security forces involved in anti-insurgency operations. It has three versions – AFSPA (Assam and Manipur), 1958; AFSPA (Punjab and Chandigarh), 1983; and AFSPA (Jammu and Kashmir), 1990.Human rights activists and legal experts have long highlighted excesses and atrocities allegedly committed by security personnel on civilians under AFSPA, calling it one of most draconian laws in India since Independence. They also demand that this legislation be repealed soon.Current situation
According to the Centre’s new notification, from April 1 until next six months, AFSPA would remain in force in parts of Assam, Nagaland, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, as well as the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir. Tripura and Meghalaya had removed AFSPA in 2015 and 2018, respectively.Incidents of insurgency in the northeastern states reduced by 80 per cent in the past eight years while casualties of security forces went down by 75 per cent and civilian deaths by 99 per cent, the ministry of home affairs (MHA) said in its annual report.The trigger
The BJP, which governs Assam, Manipur and Arunachal and is an ally of the ruling coalition in Nagaland, seems to have taken a serious note of the December 4 incident in Nagaland’s Oting (Mon district), in which an Indian Army special forces unit allegedly shot dead six coal miners. The Army instituted a court of inquiry to probe what was seen as a botched anti-insurgency operation. Seven other civilians and a jawan were killed within hours at the same place when the villagers retaliated. The incident sparked massive outrage in the northeast with civil society outfits and local human rights activists demanding total withdrawal of AFSPA.Political observers also feel that continued enforcement of AFSPA may hinder the ongoing Naga peace process, which the Modi government has attached utmost importance to.2. India is on boil and sweating profuselyWarning that there will be “heat wave conditions over Northwest & Central India during next 5 days and over East India during next 3 days” before abating, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has issued an orange alert — heat wave warning — for the states of Rajasthan, Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Odisha.Mercury rising
Observing that temperatures in much of north and central India, as also western states like Gujarat and Maharashtra, eastern India and northern parts of Telangana and Rayalaseema were already hovering between 43-45 degrees Celsius, the IMD cautioned that a “rise by about 2°C in maximum temperatures” was “very likely over most parts of Northwest India during next 2 days and no significant change thereafter.”The national capital in fact saw its hottest day for April in 12 years, with the maximum temperature on Wednesday at 43.5 degrees Celsius. While the all-time peak temperature in Delhi for the month of April stands at 45.6 degrees Celsius recorded on April 29, 1941, the last time April saw a day as warm as Wednesday was on April 18, 2010 when the temperature was 43.7 degrees Celsius.Who’s got the power?
As if the sweltering heat wasn’t bad enough, India is currently facing a shortage of coal for its power plants, resulting in power cuts that last anywhere between two to 16 hours — such as in parts of J&K, which faced a power shortage of 11.62% in the past week, second only to Jharkhand which faced a shortage of 17.28%.States like Rajasthan, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh have imposed power cuts on factories as demand for air conditioners and fans has gone up several notches. Delayed payments to coal companies, such as by Jharkhand and Maharashtra, have only exacerbated the problem of coal supplies. Last week, the thermal power plant in Punjab’s Goindwal — which generates 540 MW of power — had to be closed as it was left with just a half a day’s stock of coal.The situation is so dire that the Centre has cancelled movement of certain passenger trains in order to make way for faster movement of coal carriages. Coal, it may be noted, helps generate 70% of India’s electricity.3. India again leads the world in internet shutdownsDubious distinction: For the fourth year in a row, India again earned notoriety for imposing the most internet shutdowns, with 106 such instances in 2021. It was just a marginally better ‘performance’ than 2020, when 109 incidents of internet shutdown were observed. In the previous two years, in 2018 and 2019, there were 134 and 121 incidents of internet shutdown in the country respectively, according to Access Now’s annual report, Keep It On.State of shutdown: Not surprisingly, Jammu and Kashmir bore the brunt of India’s internet shutdowns, with 85 incidents of internet disruptions taking place in the union territory. In fact, among the four longest tenures of internet shutdowns in the world, J&K has suffered it for the third longest period of 551 days, from August 5, 2019 till February 5, 2021, in the wake of abrogation of Article 370.Dissent muzzler: The report also noted that “the government cut internet access in a clear attempt to suppress the Farmers’ Protests, a movement opposing the Parliament of India’s passage of three farm acts the previous year.” Observing that “authorities plainly sought to prevent protesters from communicating with one another, and to obstruct press reporting”, the report added that “despite the disruptions, the government was not able to conceal its violent crackdown on dissent and lawful protest.”4. Dhaka offers Chittagong Port for use by IndiaExternal affairs minister S Jaishankar on Thursday called on Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who underlined the importance of connectivity between the two neighbours. She offered her country’s main seaport — Chittagong Port – for the benefit of India’s landlocked northeastern states such as Assam and Tripura.The two countries had signed an agreement in October 2018 on the use of Chittagong and Mongla Ports for transshipment of goods to and from India.The Bangladesh premier noted that the initiative was taken to resume cross-border routes between Bangladesh and India which were stopped during the 1965 India-Pakistan war, when Bangladesh was eastern wing of Pakistan.A number of bilateral and international issues were discussed during Hasina’s more than half-an-hour-long meeting with Jaishankar, who later held “positive discussions” with his Bangladeshi counterpart AK Abdul Momen and then jointly briefed the media.The two sides also discussed defence sector cooperation, water sharing of Kushiara and Feni rivers, current Covid-19 situation and impacts of Russia-Ukraine war on the global economy.Jaishankar, who arrived in Dhaka on Thursday on a brief official visit, handed over an invitation to Hasina on Indian PM Narendra Modi’s behalf to visit New Delhi.India’s external affairs ministry said that Jaishankar’s visit may be seen in the context of frequent bilateral high-level visits and exchanges particularly as both sides commemorate 50 years of the establishment of diplomatic ties.6. Decoding Putin’s warning of ‘lightning-fast’ responseRussian President Vladimir Putin has warned of “lightning-fast” retaliation if western countries interfere in Ukraine even as US President Joe Biden asked Congress on Thursday for an additional $33 billion to help Kyiv fend off Russia’s invasion..Tussle with West
Russia has told the United States to stop sending arms to Ukraine, saying large Western deliveries of weapons were inflaming the conflict. Biden’s latest proposal has more than $20 billion in military assistance for Ukraine and for shoring up defences in nearby countries.Putin said Moscow would take decisive action if someone intends to create strategic threats for Russia. “We have all the tools for this, things no one else can boast of having now. And we will not boast, we will use them if necessary,” he said addressing lawmakers in St Petersburg on Wednesday.Putin has frequently touted Russia’s development of modern weaponry, including hypersonic missiles and the new Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that was successfully tested earlier this month.The Russian invasion of Ukraine that began on February 24 has reduced towns and cities to rubble and forced more than 5 million people to flee abroad.Deadly weapons
Russia claims to possess three major hypersonic weapons in its arsenal – Kinzhal (meaning dagger), Zircon (also pronounced as Tsirkon) and the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle, which can carry Sarmat heavy ICBMs.Hypersonic weapons that move at a speed of Mach 5 – five times the speed of sound — or above are extremely difficult to intercept. Acknowledging this threat, US Strategic Command chief, Admiral Charles A Richard had said last August that “our current terrestrial- and space-based sensor architecture may not be sufficient to detect and track these hypersonic missiles.”Russia became the first country to deploy hypersonic missiles in real combat when it launched the Kinzhal to destroy a weapon storage facility in western Ukraine last month. More details here7. Congress bid to regain and retain key states…but can it?The embattled Congress has brought about some key changes in party units in what seems to be an attempt to regain and retain key states. As part of this move, Congress veteran Kamal Nath on Thursday tendered his resignation as the Leader of Opposition in Madhya Pradesh assembly, but will retain his position as the state unit president.The strategy
The party revamped its Haryana unit on Wednesday by appointing Udai Bhan, a loyalist of former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, as state unit president, besides four working presidents.Prior to that, the Congress restructured its Himachal Pradesh unit by appointing its Mandi Lok Sabha MP Pratibha Virbhadra Singh, wife of former chief minister Virbhadra Singh, as the new president, along with four working presidents.Why MP matters
Nath resigned from the post in accordance with the party’s “one person-one post” policy. The Congress leadership approved the appointment of former minister Dr Govind Singh in his place as the leader of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP).The grand old party hopes to regain its lost ground in Madhya Pradesh, where assembly polls are due in 2023. Nath served as the chief minister of the central Indian state for about 15 months after winning the assembly elections in 2018. However, a political turmoil triggered by a slew of resignations by sitting MLAs led to the collapse of the Congress-led government.What about Rajasthan?
To avoid a Punjab-like situation, the ruling Congress has to resolve the ongoing tussle between Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot — a contender for CM’s position — who met the Gandhis recently, according to political analysts.In Punjab, the rift between former CM Amarinder Singh, who left Congress and formed his own party, and Navjot Singh Sidhu cost the party dear.In the past eight years, the Congress has lost several states such as Assam and other northeastern states as well as Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Uttarakhand, and most recently Punjab. Currently, the party is in power only in two states – Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh – and is an ally of the ruling front in Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu.8. In language wars, superstars fall silent, politicians start speakingIn what is certain to leave the BJP red-faced, Karnataka chief minister Basavaraj Bommai waded into the online spat between Bollywood superstar Ajay Devgn and Kannada actor Kichcha Sudeep over the former’s assertion that Hindi was India’s national language and mother tongue, saying that “the mother tongue or the regional language of the concerned state is supreme. Everyone should understand and respect that.”The spat
Things came to a boil following a statement by Sudeep that “Hindi is no more a national language” — in reference to the success of movies like KGF: Chapter 2, Pushpa: The Rise and RRR, dubbed in Hindi, in states where Hindi is spoken or understood widely.Reacting to that, Devgn took to Twitter to ask why South Indian language movies were being dubbed in Hindi if it wasn’t a national language. And while both Devgn and Sudeep soon smoked the peace pipe, saying perhaps the message was lost in translation, the language debate has ignited a political fire.Catching fire
Devgn’s remark on Hindi has united politicians cutting across the political divide, with Bommai supporting Sudeep, saying that since “states have been formed on linguistic basis”, it’s natural that “the concerned state language or the mother tongue should get prominence and supremacy.”Bommai’s stance against imposition of Hindi flies in the face of Union home minister Amit Shah’s remark earlier this month that Hindi should be made an alternative to English instead of local languages.What the Constitution says
India does not have any national language as no language was granted that status by the Constitution of India — instead, it has two official languages, Hindi and English, for conduct of business with the former used when communicating with states in the Hindi-belt and the latter used for communication with non-Hindi speaking states.9. Chinese tourists not allowed due to Covid-19, says foreign ministryCiting “the Covid situation in Chinese cities like Shanghai and elsewhere”, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) said that it was not “an opportune moment to discuss the resumption of issuance of tourist visas from China.” Last week, the Indian government had suspended tourist visas for Chinese nationals in what was largely seen as a retaliatory move against Beijing’s reluctance to allow 20,000 Indian students, who had left because of Covid-19, to return.The tit-for-tat nature of the Indian move was more or less revealed by the MEA spokesperson who added that “China has suspended issue of most types of visas to Indians since November 2020.” In fact last month, external affairs minister S Jaishankar had taken up the issue with his counterpart Wang Yi during his visit to India.China, which is witnessing a resurgence of Covid-19 cases, has reimposed lockdowns on two of its biggest cities — capital Beijing and Shanghai with the latter reporting more than 10,000 new cases daily, leading to the entire 25 million population of China’s financial and business hub being placed under lockdown. Overall, 165 million residents have been impacted by lockdowns across cities, as part of China’s zero Covid policy.Answer to NEWS IN CLUESDenmark. The country has become the world’s first to halt its Covid-19 vaccination programme due to high vaccination coverage, according to the Danish Health Authority. While 4.8 million of its 5.87 million population is fully vaccinated, 3.6 million have also received booster shots. The World Happiness Report ranks Denmark as the second happiest country, after Finland. While same sex unions were legalised in 1989, handball was invented in 1897 and its national flag — known as Dannebrog — dates back to 1219.Follow news that matters to you in real-time.
Join 3 crore news enthusiasts.Written by: Rakesh Rai, Tejeesh Nippun Singh, Jayanta Kalita
Research: Rajesh Sharma

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