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5 THINGS FIRST

In Supreme Court: Maharashtra’s 27% OBC quota in local body polls, BJP plea seeking deployment of central forces for civic polls in Kolkata; Retail inflation data for November to be released; PM Modi in Varanasi; Mamata Banerjee to visit Goa; Centre to launch national helpline against atrocities on SCs/STs

1. India sees a spurt in Omicron cases
With five new cases reported on Sunday, India’s tally of Omicron cases of Covid-19 shot up to 38 — with Kerala, Chandigarh and Andhra Pradesh (AP) seeing their first cases.

Another wave?

  • In the last two days, the number of Omicron cases in India has shot up by over 50%, from 25 as of Friday evening. Maharashtra leads, with 18 cases followed by Rajasthan, with 9 cases.
  • While a majority of the new cases are among travellers returning or coming from the African continent, the ones detected in Kerala, Chandigarh and AP were found in travellers coming from UK, Italy and Ireland respectively — indicating that Europe is now fast becoming a hotspot for the Omicron variant. The Chandigarh youth who tested positive for Omicron was fully vaccinated.
  • Nagpur in Maharashtra also reported its first case of Omicron which was detected in a 40-year old unvaccinated man who returned from Burkina Faso, with a stopover in Delhi.
  • Karnataka reported its third case of Omicron, after a 34-year old man who had returned from South Africa, tested positive for the variant on Sunday.

Boost for boosters?

  • Noted virologist Dr Shaheed Jameel who was formerly head of the advisory group to the Indian SARS-COV2 Genomics Consortia (INSACOG) has recommended administering booster doses to increase protection from symptomatic infection arising due to Omicron as a booster dose will increase the amount of antibodies in circulation. He also recommended reducing the interval between two Covishield doses to 8-12 weeks, from the current 12-16 weeks.
  • Even as Jameel recommended using a mix and match strategy for booster doses — Covaxin for those given two doses of Covishield and vice versa — a study in Israel has said that an additional dose of the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine increases the antibody count by “about a hundred fold”, thereby greatly reducing the risk of infection from Omicron.
2. Fake tweet goes out of Modi account- 2nd time in a year
2. Fake tweet goes out of Modi account- 2nd time in a year
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Twitter handle was briefly hacked on Sunday and a tweet claiming that India has “officially adopted bitcoin as legal tender” was put out from it.
  • The Prime Minister’s Office later said the account was immediately secured after the matter was escalated to Twitter and that “in the brief period that the account was compromised, any Tweet shared must be ignored”.
  • Opposition leaders said the hacking exposes chinks in India’s cyber security.
  • This is not the first time that a Twitter handle associated with the prime minister has been compromised. In September 2020, the handle of his personal website was hacked and even then tweets promoting bitcoin, seen to be linked to a scam, were posted from @narendramodi_in.
  • Handles of several noted public personalities, including Barack Obama and Bill Gates besides those from other fields like entertainment, have been targeted in the past by hackers for pushing bitcoin.
  • The government has said that it will introduce a strict law to regulate cryptocurrency. Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had last month said that there was no proposal to recognise bitcoin as a currency.
3. It’s administration vs political parties in Kashmir
3. It’s administration vs political parties in Kashmir
Why the lockdown?

  • Authorities on Sunday barred the Peoples Democratic Party from holding a convention in Srinagar citing Covid-19 restrictions.
  • The convention of the youth wing of the party was to take place at the PDP president Mehbooba Mufti’s residence but all roads leading to the venue were sealed by the police. Journalists were also barred from going there.
  • A PDP spokesperson claimed that Mufti was placed under house arrest. The party tried to hold the convention at its headquarters “but the office was also sealed by the administration,” the spokesperson said.

What’s the convention?

  • Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Conference led by Sajjad Lone was denied permission to hold a convention in Kupwara.
  • The party leaders said while the Kupwara district administration “facilitated” public gatherings of other parties, their party was repeatedly denied permission citing Covid-19.

What’s the agenda?

  • The National Conference asked the Delimitation Commission to provide an agenda for the December 20 meeting in New Delhi before the party MPs could take a decision over their participation in it.
  • The Commission has five associate members who are five Lok Sabha MPs from J&K. While the NC has three MPs from the Kashmir valley, the BJP has two from Jammu region.
  • NC had boycotted the first meeting of the Commission saying the exercise was an outcome of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act-2019, which the party had challenged in the Supreme Court.
4. A ‘power struggle’ between two Cong-ruled states
4. A 'power struggle' between two Cong-ruled states
  • Rajasthan, which suffered widespread blackouts due to coal shortage at its power stations in recent months, has knocked at the Centre’s doors, saying the Chhattisgarh government is stalling plans to start two coal blocks and raise production from two other mines.
  • The blocks in question are, Parsa, Parsa East, Kanta Basan and Kante Extension in Sarguja district of Chhattisgarh. Three of these blocks were allotted in 2015 to Rajasthan for fuelling 4,340 MW generation capacity.
  • According to Rajasthan, the Chhattisgarh forest department is yet to give the necessary permission to start the Parsa block even after the Union environment and forests ministry gave Stage-II forest clearance on October 21.
  • For the Kanta East and Kanta Basan mines, it says the state administration is yet to make the necessary amendment in forest clearance for handing over 1,136 hectares of land approved by the Union green ministry.
  • For the Kante Extension block, Rajasthan says the Centre needs to get the Sarjuguda district magistrate to hold public hearings needed for clearance.
  • After witnessing blackouts in September and October due to coal shortages, Rajasthan’s distribution utilities were compelled to increase power tariffs by 33 paisa per unit for the next three months as the cost of sourcing additional coal from the market and power from the exchanges rose on account of countrywide spike in demand and drop in production. Rajasthan already has one of the most expensive electricity tariffs in the country and the state is facing challenges to keep its power affordable for its tourism sector.
6. Swarm of tornadoes kills more than 100 in US
6. Swarm of tornadoes kills more than 100 in US
  • At least 100 people are feared killed in Kentucky alone in what has been described as one of the biggest tornado outbreaks in the US, that tore through a 200 mile (320 km) path across the states of Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee. Another 14 deaths were reported from the other affected states, with the death toll likely to rise further. Geographical and atmospheric sciences experts have billed it as a “historic, if not generational event.”
  • The tornadoes have resulted from unusually high temperatures and humidity at this time of the year, resulting in overnight thunderstorms, including a super cell storm originating in northeast Arkansas. Photos posted on social media showed the massive devastation, with brick buildings flattened and parked cars buried under debris, with rescuers having to crawl over dead bodies in order to reach live victims trapped under debris.
  • Conceding that they “still don’t know how many lives were lost and the full extent of the damage”, US President Joe Biden, who approved the declaration of emergency for Kentucky, said that he would be asking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) if climate change played a role in the genesis of the tornadoes — adding that there would be an enquiry to determine if a warning was issued and was the warning “strong enough and was it heeded?”
7. Formula One gets a new world champ
7. Formula One gets a new world champ
  • In a title race billed as the greatest in history — akin to the James Hunt vs. Niki Lauda title race in 1976 and the Ayrton Senna vs. Alain Prost race in 1990 — Max Verstappen became the first Dutchman to win the Formula One World Championship when he beat overwhelming favorite Lewis Hamilton at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix final.
  • The race, which went down to the wire — to the last lap — was as historic as it was controversial. While Verstappen prevented Hamilton from his historic eighth title which would have seen him surpass the title count of Michael Schumacher, the crash of Williams Racing driver Nicholas Latifi into the barriers with four laps remaining meant that when the race restarted in the final lap, Verstappen was practically neck-to-neck with Hamilton, despite the latter having established a healthy lead till then.
  • The Dutchman, who acknowledged this “bit of luck”, took full advantage of it, along with the new tyres to overtake Hamilton and notch up his 10th victory of the season. Both Verstappen and Hamilton were tied on points before the start of the race — something that has never happened in the last 47 years — though the Dutchman, with nine wins to Hamilton’s eight in this season, would have won even if he tied the finals.
8. I’m Hindu, Modi is Hindutvawadi, says Rahul Gandhi
8. I’m Hindu, Modi is Hindutvawadi, says Rahul Gandhi
  • For Hindus: Launching an attack on PM Narendra Modi while simultaneously wooing the BJP’s core constituency of religious identity, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said India “belongs to Hindus, not Hindutvawadis” — making a distinction between the two saying that while Hindus follow the path of Satyagraha, Hindutvawadis “follow the path of ‘Sattagrah’”(lust for power).
  • I’m a Hindu: Gandhi’s rally, which comes just months before the assembly polls in India’s largest state, Uttar Pradesh (UP) where the BJP is in power, saw him play the religion card by espousing his Hindu credentials. Asserting that he’s a “Hindu but not Hindutvawadi”, Gandhi said that “Hindus can never be suppressed” and that it “has never happened in three thousand years.”
  • Hindutva inflation: Gandhi, who was addressing a rally in Jaipur against price rise — Mehngai Hatao Maha Rally — also blamed Hindutvawadis for inflation and suffering. Terming farmers, labourers and small businesses the “backbone” of the country, Gandhi said that “those who create jobs have been wiped out.” He also ascribed the year long agitation over the now repealed farm laws to Modi’s Hindutva leanings.
  • Crony capitalism: The rally, which was also attended by other Gandhi family members — Priyanka and Sonia — saw Rahul Gandhi allege that Modi’s government was reportedly favouring a few select industrialists in awarding airport contracts. Calling out the wealth inequality in the country, Gandhi said that just “1% of the population of India has 33% wealth in their hands” and “10% of the population has 65% of the money in their hands” while “the poorest 50% of the population has only 6% of the money in their hands.”
9. An island votes to stay in France
9. An island votes to stay in France
The vote

  • Voters in the French island territory of New Caledonia chose overwhelmingly Sunday to stay part of France, in a referendum boycotted by pro-independence forces and closely watched around the South Pacific.
  • The vote was monitored by the UN and regional powers, amid global efforts toward decolonisation and amid growing Chinese influence in the region.
  • Separatist activists had urged a delay in the vote because of the pandemic, and were angry over what they said were French government efforts to sway the campaign. So, they called on their supporters to stay away from voting stations.

The history

  • New Caledonia, colonised by Napoleon’s nephew in the 19th century, is a vast archipelago of about 2,70,000 people east of Australia that is 10 time zones ahead of Paris — and hosts a French military base.
  • Sunday’s vote was the third and last in a decades-long decolonisation process that stemmed from violence in 1988, which led to the French government handing New Caledonia broad autonomy under the Noumea Agreement.
  • The process was aimed at settling tensions between native Kanaks seeking independence and those who want the territory to remain part of France.

What next?

  • The process does not end with the last referendum. The state, separatists and non-separatists now have 18 months to negotiate a new status for the territory and its institutions within France. French President Emmanuel Macron announced negotiations on the territory’s future status. More details here
Answer to NEWS IN CLUES
Answer to NEWS IN CLUES

Varanasi. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor in the city today. Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav on Sunday claimed the project was approved during his term and there was documentary evidence to prove it. Banaras Hindu University is Asia’s largest university by area.

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Written by: Rakesh Rai, Judhajit Basu, Sumil Sudhakaran, Tejeesh Nippun Singh
Research: Rajesh Sharma



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