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5 THINGS FIRST

PM Modi to visit Gorakhpur, UP to inaugurate projects worth over Rs 9,600 cr; In SC: Premature release of Rajiv Gandhi assassination convicts, TMC plea to probe Tripura civic poll violence; Delhi court order on Sharjeel Imam bail plea; UEFA Champions League: RB Leipzig vs Manchester City, AC Milan vs Liverpool, Real Madrid vs Inter Milan; Armed Forces Flag Day

1. Centre “sincerely regrets” civilians’ killings in Nagaland
  • Home minister Amit Shah on Monday told the Lok Sabha that the government “sincerely regrets” the Nagaland firing incident and offered “its deepest condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives”. The civilians were laid to rest on the day as well.
  • He added that a probe by a special investigation team will be completed within a month. Terming it a case of “mistaken identity”, Shah asserted that all agencies must ensure such happenings do not recur while taking action against insurgents. “A vehicle reached there, it was signalled to stop but it tried to flee. On suspicion of the vehicle carrying extremists, it was fired upon.”
  • He informed that the state authorities, as a precautionary measure, have imposed prohibitory orders in the affected areas.
  • Reactions: Opposition parties including the Congress, DMK, SP, BSP and the NCP walked out of the House, saying there was neither any mention of compensation nor of action against the guilty. Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party member Tokheho Yepthomi said: “The state government has announced an ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh for the slain people. Since the civilians were killed by central security forces, the compensation should be paid by the Centre”.
  • Members also called for the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and an impartial judicial inquiry.
  • Also: The Army has begun a court of inquiry (CoI) headed by a Major General to probe all the circumstances under which the botched operation took place. The CoI will also examine the so-called “credible intelligence” on the basis of which the special forces detachment led by a Major was deployed.
  • The National Human Rights Commission too has issued a notice to the Centre and Nagaland government over the killings, saying it has taken suo-motu cognisance of the case and sought a detailed report from the respondents within six weeks.
2. SC stays Maharashtra’s 27% OBC quota in local bodies
2. SC stays Maharashtra’s 27% OBC quota in local bodies
  • A day before the last date of filing nomination papers for elections to local bodies in Maharashtra, the Supreme Court on Monday stayed the ordinance brought by the state to reserve 27% seats for OBCs in these bodies and directed the Election Commission to stay the poll on those seats.
  • The court questioned the state government for bypassing its verdict on OBC reservation by taking the ordinance route.
  • The SC on March 4 upheld validity of the Maharashtra law to reserve seats for backward classes in Zila Parishad election but said it cannot be implemented till the government meets the triple conditions fixed by its Constitution bench
  • The ‘triple test’ included (1) setting up a dedicated Commission to conduct empirical inquiry into the nature and implications of the backwardness qua local bodies (2) specifying the proportion of reservation required to be given and (3) in any case such reservation shall not exceed aggregate of 50% of the total seats reserved in favour of SCs/STs/OBCs taken together.
  • The court noted that the Commission was formed by the state, but it has not submitted its report.
  • The state contended that no one from the OBC community would be represented in local bodies if it is stayed. The bench, however, said, “You have to face the problem as you have created the problem. It amounts to undoing the judgement of the Constitution bench and three-judge bench in March… Your political compulsion can not be the basis to undo our judgement.”
  • The state government had brought an ordinance to amend two laws — the Maharashtra Zilla Parishads and Panchayat Samitis Act, 1961 and Maharashtra Village Panchayat Act for Zilla Parishads, Panchayat Samiti and Gram Panchayats — to ensure reservation for OBC.
3. When Modi met Putin…
3. When Modi met Putin…
The meeting

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Russian President Vladimir Putin in New Delhi as the two leaders held the 21st India-Russia Summit on Monday.
  • PM Modi spoke of the “truly unique” ties between the two countries and Putin described India as a “great power” and a “time-tested” friend.

The issues

  • Earlier in the day, Indian and Russian foreign and defence ministers sat down for their inaugural 2+2 meeting.
  • The challenges from Afghanistan and China were on top of India’s list of pressing concerns though Russia pushed back against the Indo-Pacific, Quad and AUKUS.
  • Foreign minister S Jaishankar said, “The situation in Afghanistan has wider repercussions, including for Central Asia.”
  • Defence Minister Rajnath Singh raised the issue of enhancing India’s military preparedness because of China’s incursions in Eastern Ladakh. “The pandemic, the extraordinary militarisation and expansion of armament in our neighbourhood and unprovoked aggression on our northern border since early summer of 2020 have thrown up several challenges,” he said.

The agreements

  • Preceding the two-plus-two dialogue was the 20th meeting of India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military & Military-Technical Cooperation in which the agreement on the programme for military-technical cooperation from 2021-2031 was inked.
  • Another clear takeaway was the Rs 5,124 crore contract for the procurement of over 6 lakh AK-203 assault rifles through the joint venture called Indo-Russia Rifles Private Limited. That has cleared the decks for the manufacture of the 7.62×39 mm calibre rifles at the Korwa ordnance factory in Amethi district of Uttar Pradesh.
4. Are Ujjwala homes really using more LPG?
4. Are Ujjwala homes really using more LPG?
  • The average consumption of LPG by Ujjwala beneficiaries rose to four domestic refills of 14.2-kg cylinders in the pandemic-hit 2012-21 financial year from 3.49 cylinders in 2019-2020, the government informed the Rajya Sabha on Monday.
  • The increase may be attributed to the government’s offer of three free cylinders between April and December 2020 as part of Covid-19 relief package for the poor.
  • But it also raises the prospect of diversion, which was flagged by Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in December 2019, due to a widening gap between the price of subsidised domestic cylinders supplied to Ujjwala beneficiaries and non-subsidised refills to common households as well commercial cylinders of 19 kg.
  • The CAG report tabled in Parliament on December 11, 2019 said the “risk of diversion of domestic cylinders for commercial use was noticed as 1.98 lakh beneficiary households had an average annual consumption of more than 12 cylinders, which seems improbable in view of their BPL (below poverty line) status”.
  • The report found 13.96 lakh beneficiaries consuming 3-41 refills in a month and pointed out 3.44 lakh instances where the state-run oil companies issued 2-20 refills in a day to beneficiary households with single-cylinder connections.
  • The report also pointed out a substantial number of cases where connections were issued in the names of minors or male members of an identified beneficiary family, whereas the scheme envisaged connections being issued to the lady of the house.
6. Jayant, Ashwin fast track emphatic win
6. Jayant, Ashwin fast track emphatic win
  • Jayant Yadav struck thrice in the first half hour of the fourth morning and four times in nine legal deliveries to finish with career-best figures, as India wrapped up their biggest win in terms of runs and also handed New Zealand their heaviest defeat. The result, achieved within the first hour of play on the fourth day in Mumbai, sealed the two-match series 1-0 for the hosts — their 14th consecutive Test series win at home.
  • It took India just seven overs to strike in the day as Jayant hurried through New Zealand’s lower order. The spinner posed constant questions, tossing the ball up and getting turn even as the tail couldn’t find answers.
  • Rachin Ravindra was the first to fall, outside edging Jayant to second slip. The bowler then managed a double strike in his next over, sending back Kyle Jamieson and Tim Southee. Will Somerville edged to forward short leg for Jayant’s fourth, but it was fitting for Ravichandran Ashwin to bring an end to Henry Nicholls’s fight to finish with his own four-for.
  • Mayank Agarwal was named Man of the Match and Ashwin finished Man of the Series.
  • Scorecard: India 325 & 276 for 7 dec beat New Zealand 62 & 167 (Nicholls 44, Ashwin 4/34, Jayant 4/49) by 372 runs
  • Where India stands: With the massive win, India regained the No. 1 spot in ICC Test rankings, dethroning the Kiwis (now second). On the World Test Championship 2021-23 points table, India are placed third (below Sri Lanka and Pakistan) with a 58.33 win percentage. The Kiwis are sixth with a 16.66 win percentage.
  • Next up for India: A tour of South Africa beginning December 26 and comprising 3 Tests and 3 ODIs.
7. Myanmar court sends Suu Kyi to jail for inciting violence
7. Myanmar court sends Suu Kyi to jail for inciting violence
In a trial largely described as “farcical”, a military court on Monday handed deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi a four year jail term for incitement and violation of Covid-19 protocols, along with former President Win Myint.

What the sentence means

  • The punishment in the incitement case — due to posts on her National League for Democracy party’s Facebook page, calling for public opposition to the coup, after her arrest by the military — may take into account the 10 months she’s already served in detention, leaving her to serve out the remaining one year and two months.
  • The violation of the coronavirus restrictions charge was in response to Suu Kyi’s campaign appearance in November last year prior to the elections. Suu Kyi, who faces two counts of violations, has been sentenced only on one count, with the sentencing on the second count likely on December 14.

Why the trial is called a farce

  • There has been no information forthcoming from the military junta about Suu Kyi’s whereabouts ever since she was detained in the February coup. The trial itself, in the capital Naypyitaw, was closed to the media and the public while Suu Kyi’s lawyers were served a gag order in October barring them from releasing any information about the trial.

What’s in store

  • Suu Kyi faces 11 charges overall, such as breaking the telecom law for possession of wireless talkies by her security guards without licence, violating the export import law for procuring the walkie talkies, violation of the official secrets law, violation of the anti-corruption law and violation of election related laws. If convicted on all charges, she could be looking at serving over 100 years in prison.
8. HC pulls up Delhi Police for shoddy probe into Tablighi Jamaat
8. HC pulls up Delhi Police for shoddy probe into Tablighi Jamaat
  • Wrong profession? In a stinging rebuke to the Delhi Police, the Delhi High Court (HC) on Monday said that its “officers don’t deserve to be investigating officers” as “no investigation has been done in the matter” of the Tablighi Jamaat incident of March 2020 during Covid-19 pandemic’s first wave.
  • Why the court’s angry: The court was informed that the FIR made no mention of the date when the attendees at the Tablighi Jamaat came and stayed in the homes of the accused — with the Delhi Police adding that despite enquiries in the locality, they could not gather the required information. The HC asked the police if there was any prohibition on Indian nationals housing foreigners possessing valid travel documents for attending the Tablighi Jamaat congregation.
  • Common sense? The court’s observations came while hearing a bunch of pleas filed by Indian nationals seeking quashing of FIRs filed against them for sheltering Tablighi Jamaat congregation attendees in their homes or mosques. Noting that “when suddenly lockdown was imposed, people were static wherever they were”, the HC suggested to the police to find out if attendees “were moving here and there and that they had visited these places even when there was prohibition.”
  • Double jeopardy? The court also came down heavily on the Delhi Police for filing two charge sheets — including one by its Crime Branch — asking if it was permissible to do so. On being told by the Additional Public Prosecutor representing the Delhi Police that the Crime Branch’s charge sheet didn’t concern them, the court reprimanded him, asking how “can a person for the same offences be charge sheeted twice?” The matter will be heard next on January 4.
9. A first in Goa politics
9. A first in Goa politics
  • Goa’s oldest regional party, Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) on Monday announced that it has forged a pre-poll alliance with the latest entrant, Trinamool Congress, for the 2022 assembly elections.
  • This is the first time that MGP is going for a pre-poll alliance with a party other than its natural ally BJP. The saffron party had claimed that they were in talks with MGP to forge a pre-poll alliance. The pre-poll alliance comes a week ahead of the scheduled visit of Bengal chief minister and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee on December 13.
  • MGP has governed Goa for around 17 years, and this is the first time it has forged a pre-poll alliance with a party that doesn’t have a similar ideology to itself. MGP, often considered BJP’s “natural ally”, had allied with the saffron party in 1994, helping it win four seats, including the Panaji constituency, represented by former CM Manohar Parrikar.
  • MGP president Pandurang ‘Deepak’ Dhavalikar said TMC’s ideology is not a concern for MGP, because “our party will contest in our bastion”.
Answer to NEWS IN CLUES
GUJARAT

Gujarat. The state government is considering a proposal to relax prohibition rules in Gandhinagar’s Gujarat International Finance Tec-City. The aim is to offer an “evening public social life” in the GIFT city in a bid to attract national and international fintech firms to set up offices as well as lure top talent to shift base to the state capital. Inside SEZs in Gujarat, the current notification allows liquor permits only to residents.

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

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