The News Editorial Analysis 13th Jan 2022

The News Editorial Analysis 13th Jan 2022

The News Editorial Analysis 13th Jan 2022

Hate speech: SC seeks response from govt

The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the police chiefs of Delhi and Uttarakhand to respond to petitions that people accused of delivering hate speeches at a Dharam Sansad organised in Haridwar have not been arrested yet.A Bench led by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana issued notice even as petitioners contended that the declarations of communal hatred made by the speakers at Haridwar and in Delhi were unlike anything seen or heard before. They had made “open calls for the extermination of an entire religious community”, senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Indira Jaising submitted.“There is no law for this kind of hate speech,” Mr. Sibal said. He said the incident took a different colour from even the past instances of mob lynchings.The senior lawyer said more of these ‘Dharam Sansads’ had been organised. The next was on January 23 at Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh, he said.“If this court does not take quick steps, ‘Dharam Sansads’ would be held in Una, Kurukshetra, Dasna, Aligarh and in States where the process of election is going on. The atmosphere of the entire country will be vitiated. No arrests have taken place,” Mr. Sibal submitted.

Appeal for early hearing

The senior lawyer asked the court to list the case on Monday, especially in light of the event to be held on January 23.However, the court said Monday would not be possible. The Bench advised the petitioners to make a representation to the local authorities, making their apprehensions clear that speeches in these ‘Dharam Sansads’ may run the risk of violating the penal law against hate and were against the judgments of the Supreme Court.

The Bench, during the hearing, noted that hate speech had been the subject of several petitions already pending with another Bench of the court. If that was so, this case ought to be tagged with the earlier ones before the other Bench.The CJI, however, said the Haridwar hate speech case would be listed 10 days later, either separately or with the earlier cases.

Retail inflation accelerates to 5.59%

Industrial output growth slows to 1.4% in Nov.: NSORetail inflation quickened to 5.59% in December due to an uptick in food prices, while India’s industrial output grew at a subdued 1.4% in November 2021, according to data from the National Statistical Office (NSO).The inflation based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) compares with 4.91% seen a month earlier and 4.59% in December 2020. Consumer food price inflation accelerated to 4.05% in December, as against 1.87% seen in November 2021.CPI inflation surged to a six-month high, said Aditi Nayar, chief economist at rating agency ICRA. The increase relative to the previous month was primarily led by food and beverages, and clothing and footwear, with a welcome moderation in the prints for fuel and light, she added.Ms. Nayar pointed out that the unfavourable base led the inflation for food and beverages to jump to 4.5% in December from 2.6% in November, driven by vegetables and eggs, and that early data pointed towards a ‘broad-based moderation in prices of many food items’ this month.

Indu Malhotra panel to probe security breach

The Supreme Court on Wednesday appointed a committee chaired by its former judge Indu Malhotra to inquire into a security breach that led to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s convoy being stuck on a flyover in Punjab on January 5.A Bench led by Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana told the five-member committee to submit its confidential report at the earliest.

A quest for social consensus against hate speech

It requires consistent legal implementation over time and daily conversations that society needs to havezOn January 12, 2022 , the Supreme Court of India agreed to hear petitions asking for legal action to be taken against the organisers of, and speakers at, the ‘Haridwar Dharm Sansad’, held in Uttarakhand. During this ‘Dharm Sansad’ that had taken place between December 17 and 19, 2021, numerous speeches had been made. These speeches ranged from open calls to violence (“… waging a war that would be more gruesome than 1857” or “if you want to eliminate their [i.e., Muslim] population, then kill them”), to the economic and social boycott of Muslims (“… there is no Muslim buyer here, so throw that [Muslim] vendor out”), and to dog whistles (such as drawing comparisons to the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar).Before the Supreme Court, it was argued that the reason why the Court needed to take up the issue was that despite first information reports having been registered in the aftermath of the event, no arrests had been made. Meanwhile, in the aftermath of a similar ‘Dharm Sansad’ in Chhattisgarh, the State police arrested one Kalicharan Maharaj, who had accused Gandhi of destroying India, and praised Nathuram Godse for assassinating him.While it may rightly be pointed out that political patronage and ideological complicity are responsible for this contrast, there remains a deeper problem: and that is, the absence of any legal or social consensus around what constitutes “hate speech”.To start with, it is evident that the statements for which Kalicharan Maharaj has been arrested — no matter how personally distasteful they might be — do not, or at least should not, constitute illegal speech. The fact that Gandhi is a towering figure in Indian history does not preclude individuals from expressing repugnant views about him and the circumstances of his assassination. On the other end of the spectrum, it is clear that direct calls to violence — such as taking up arms and killing Muslims — are not, and ought not to be, protected under the right to free speech. No society can survive for long when incitement to violence is normalised, and enjoys legal impunity.

Strengthens and entrenches

However, there are a range of cases — many of them at the forefront in the ‘Haridwar Dharm Sansad’ — that present more difficult problems. As societies around the world have long understood, the harm in hate speech is not simply restricted to direct and proximate calls to violence. Hate speech works in more insidious ways, creating a climate that strengthens existing prejudices and entrenches already existing discrimination. A good example of this is the history of anti-Semitism in Europe. While anti-Semitism took its most ghastly form in frequent pogroms and — ultimately — the Holocaust, on a daily level, it took the form of inculcating in society a “cultural common sense” about the Jewish people. This “cultural common sense” traded on stereotypes and social prejudice, and justified ongoing discrimination, social and economic boycotts, and ghettoisation, on a day-to-day level. The end result of this — which is the continued subordination of a section of society — can be accomplished without direct calls to violence.This is why — with the exception of the United States of America — most societies define hate speech in terms of both inciting violence, but also, inciting discrimination. This is why, for example, calls to socially boycott a community (as advocated for at the ‘Dharm Sansad’) fall within most definitions of hate speech. This understanding of hate speech is informed by a long history where violence and discrimination have often blurred into each other, and where hate speech has not merely set the stage for future violence but has also been weaponised in its own right to further entrench and endorse inequality and subordination.

Key problems

It is here that three further problems arise. The first is specific to India. Our laws — as they stand — are unequipped to deal with the challenges of hate speech. The laws commonly invoked in such cases are Section 295A (blasphemy) and Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code (creating enmity between classes of people). Hate speech, however, is most certainly not the same as blasphemy; nor is it captured by a vague phrase, “enmity between classes”. Hate speech is speech that targets people based on their identity, and calls for violence or discrimination against people because of their identity. The Supreme Court has gestured towards this understanding of hate speech, both in prior judgments, and in the ongoing case involving Sudarshan TV. More clarity, however, is needed.The second problem is that hate speech, by its very nature, will not always trumpet itself to be hate speech. Rather, it will often assume plausible deniability — as has been seen in the Haridwar case, where statements, worded with the right degree of ambiguity, are now being defended as calls to self-defence rather than calls to violence.Here again, the history of anti-Semitism in Europe is instructive. Over a long time, a number of visual and verbal cues were developed that everyone knew referred to the Jewish community, to the point where it was no longer necessary to take the community by name. These included, for example, hooked noses and drooping eyelids, and a grasping nature, among others. Indirect hate speech of this kind is known as a “dog-whistle”: while it may escape the attention of an external observer, both the speaker and the listener know what — and who — is being referred to. In the Haridwar case, for example, veiled references about what was done to the Rohingyas fall within the definition of dog whistling. Any comprehensive understanding of hate speech is a matter of judgment, and must take into account its ambiguous and slippery nature.

Court’s gaze is important

The third problem is perhaps the most difficult and intractable. As we have seen above, no matter how precise and how definite we try to make our concept of hate speech, it will inevitably reflect individual judgment. If, therefore, social and legal norms against hate speech are to be implemented without descending into pure subjectivity, what is needed first is a social consensus about what kind of speech is beyond the pale. In Europe, for example, Holocaust denial is an offence and is enforced with a degree of success precisely because there is a pre-existing social consensus about the moral abhorrence of the Holocaust, and the determination not to see it repeated. Social consensus allows us to discount whataboutery, and also distinguish cases of hate speech from other forms of confrontational or agitational speech — that often comes from hitherto marginalised classes — which nonetheless deserves to belong to the marketplace of ideas.Achieving this social consensus is an immense task, and will require both consistent legal implementation over time, but also daily conversations that we, as a society (and especially, the socially privileged classes) need to have among ourselves. However, here, as in many other cases, circumstances have made it possible for the Supreme Court to initiate that much-needed conversation. For these reasons, its intervention in the ‘Haridwar Dharm Sansad’ case will be an important one.

Act now, recast the selection process of the ECs

A multi-institutional, bipartisan committee will ensure a transparent exercise, given the quasi-judicial nature of the ECIReports of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and his Election Commissioner colleagues ‘attending’ an ‘informal’ meeting with the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, late last year, has brought renewed focus on the independence and the impartiality of the Election Commission of India (ECI). The CEC’s initial hesitation when ‘summoned’ was appropriate given that the ECI is a constitutionally mandated body that should maintain its distance from the Executive, in perception and reality.

Charges levelled

Over the last seven years, the ECI has faced multiple accusations of favouring the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). For instance, the Citizens’ Commission on Elections (CCE), chaired by the retired Supreme Court judge, Justice Madan B. Lokur, in its report titled “An Enquiry into India’s Election System”, has highlighted several instances of inaction on the part of the ECI while conducting the 2019 general election. The Government was also accused of hounding (now former) Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa when he favoured taking action against the Prime Minister for violations of electoral codes of conduct.

Given that the ECI is the institutional keystone holding up the edifice of Indian democracy, we suggest that changes in the appointment process for Election Commissioners can strengthen the ECI’s independence, neutrality and transparency. The appointment of Election Commissioners falls within the purview of Article 324(2) of the Constitution, which establishes the institution. Pertinently, it contains a ‘subject to’ clause which provides that both the number and tenure of the Election Commissioners shall be “subject to the provisions of any law made in that behalf by Parliament, be made by the President”.

This ‘subject to’ clause was introduced, in the words of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, to “prevent either a fool or knave or a person who is likely to be under the thumb of the Executive”. It was left to Parliament to enact legislation regarding the appointment of Election Commissioners. Apart from enacting a law in 1991, which was subsequently amended to enlarge the number of Election Commissioners from one to three, Parliament has so far not enacted any changes to the appointment process.

The judiciary could act

In the face of legislative inaction, there is now a possibility that the judiciary will force Parliament’s hand. Three writ petitions, with one pending since 2015, are urging the Supreme Court to declare that the current practice of appointment of Election Commissioners by the Centre violates Articles 14, 324(2), and democracy as a basic feature of the Constitution. These petitions argue for an independent system for appointment of Election Commissioners, as recommended by previous Law Commission and various committee reports.In 1975, the Justice Tarkunde Committee recommended that Election Commissioners be appointed on the advice of a committee comprising the Prime Minister, the Lok Sabha Opposition Leader and the Chief Justice of India. This was reiterated by the Dinesh Goswami Committee in 1990 and the Law Commission in 2015. The Fourth Report (2007; of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission ( additionally recommended that the Law Minister and the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha be included in such a Collegium.

The nature of the ECI

Precedent does exist in the case of Rojer Mathew vs South Indian Bank Ltd., to argue against the Executive being the sole appointer for a quasi-judicial body. The pending writ petitions, therefore, argue that the “Election Commission is not only responsible for conducting free and fair elections but it also renders a quasi-judicial function between the various political parties including the ruling government and other parties. Accordingly, the Executive cannot be a sole participant in the appointment of members of Election Commission as it gives unfettered discretion to the ruling party to choose someone whose loyalty to it is ensured and thereby renders the selection process vulnerable to manipulation”.Hence, establishing a multi-institutional, bipartisan committee for the fair and transparent selection of Election Commissioners can enhance the perceived and actual independence of the ECI. Such a procedure is already followed with regard to other constitutional and statutory authorities such as the Chief Information Commissioner, the Lokpal, theCentral Vigilance Commissioner, and the Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation. The quasi-judicial nature of the ECI’s functions makes it especially important that the appointments process conform to the strictest democratic principles.The Executive’s role in the current appointment process has come under judicial scrutiny over its lack of transparency. Anoop Baranwal vs Union of India, Ministry of Law and Justice Secretary (WP (C) 104/2015) which has been pending since 2015, and referred to a Constitution Bench in 2018, has raised this very demand for a Collegium system for the ECI. Even though it was listed multiple times in 2020, it is yet to reach the hearing stage. A Bench comprising the then Chief Justice of India, J.S. Khehar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud had also noted in 2017 that “The Election Commissioners supervise and hold elections across the Country, and this is the significance of their office, and their selection has to be made in the most transparent manner.” The Bench referred to the mandate of Article 324(2) of the Constitution to state that, “it is expected from Parliament to make the law, but it has not been made.”

Advice for Parliament

Parliament would do well to pre-empt judicial strictures by going ahead and formulating a law that establishes a multi-institutional, bipartisan Collegium to select Election Commissioners. Separation of powers is the gold standard for governments across the world. The ECI’s constitutional responsibilities require a fair and transparent appointment process that is beyond reproach, which will reaffirm our faith in this vital pillar of our polity. The existing veil over the appointment process of Election Commissioners potentially undermines the very structure on which our democratic aspirations rest.M.V. Rajeev Gowda is Chairman, All India Congress Committee (AICC) Research Department and a former Member of Parliament. Aiman Hashmi is a Judicial Law Clerk and Legal Researcher at the Supreme Court of India. The views expressed are personal

Talking to Russia

NATO must warn Putin against any European misadventure, and also calm his nerves

The Geneva talks between the United States and Russia were, not surprisingly, inconclusive. It was practically impossible for the former Cold War rivals to iron out their differences in the first round at a time when tensions are running high in Europe, especially over Ukraine. But the fact that hurried talks were held between the two powers and they agreed to continue the negotiations to discuss both the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s expansion and Russia’s troop mobilisation is itself a welcome step. The U.S. was actually forced to come to the table by President Vladimir Putin, who has amassed about 100,000 troops along Russia’s border with Ukraine. The Kremlin has also issued a host of demands to the West that sought to stop NATO’s further expansion into Eastern Europe and roll back the alliance’s military presence to 1990 levels. Now, the deadlock is that the U.S. has publicly said that it will not shut NATO’s door on potential future members. And nobody knows what Mr. Putin would do if the talks collapse. By forcing the U.S. to come to the table to discuss NATO’s expansion — an issue which Moscow has been complaining about for years — Mr. Putin has scored the first victory. But it would be naive of him to believe that the Russian demands would be accepted by the West without any resistance. So, the challenge for both sides is to find common ground.

The source of Russia’s staunch opposition to NATO is its deep insecurity. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, a substantially weakened Russian Federation saw NATO’s continued expansion into Eastern Europe as a violation of the post-Cold War consensus. Russia responded militarily in 2008 when Georgia was considering joining NATO, and in 2014, it took Crimea from Ukraine after the pro-Russian regime in Kiev was toppled by protests. On the other side, the West sees Russia as an aggressive, abrasive and destabilising giant that breathes down the neck of Europe. In hindsight, both NATO’s expansions and Russia’s military responses are driving instability in Eastern Europe. Finding a solution to the crisis will not be easy. It depends on whether both sides are able to get out of their Cold War mentality and build mutual confidence in bilateral relations. For all practical purposes, Ukraine and Georgia, both faced with separatist conflicts, cannot join NATO in the foreseeable future. NATO could use this reality as a policy promise to calm Russian nerves. Mr. Putin, on the other hand, is also in a tough spot. Russia is still battling with the economic costs of his Crimea annexation, which has left a wide chasm in Russia’s ties with Europe. Further aggression against Ukraine might serve his tactical interests but could deal a deadly blow to any plan to bring the Russia-Europe ties back on track. A war is in nobody’s interests. Russia and the West should keep that in mind when they sit down for the next round of talks.

Reaping India’s demographic dividend

India has a unique opportunity to develop and grow richer before ageing sets in

Students paint a wall at Kannagi Nagar, Thoraipakkam, Chennai. The Hindu KARUNAKARAN M.A nation’s growth requires the productive contribution of all segments of society, particularly the children and the youth, who need to be provided opportunities for self-expression. Household and national investments in children and youth yield long-term returns in terms of high productivity of the economically active population till they enter the elderly cohort.

Fertility decline

As fertility declines, the share of the young population falls and that of the older, dependent population rises. If the fertility decline is rapid, the increase in the population of working ages is substantial yielding the ‘demographic dividend’. The smaller share of children in the population enables higher investment per child. Therefore, the future entrants in the labour force can have better productivity and thus boost income. With the passage of time, the share of the older population rises and that of the working age population begins to fall and hence the dividend is available for a period of time, ‘the window of demographic opportunity’.However, realisation of the benefits of potential demographic dividend is not automatic and thus presents many challenges. Without proper policies, the increase in the working-age population may lead to rising unemployment, fueling economic and social risks. This calls for forward-looking policies incorporating population dynamics, education and skills, healthcare, gender sensitivity, and providing rights and choices to the younger generation.With falling fertility (currently 2.0), rising median age (from 24 years in 2011, 29 years now and expected to be 36 years by 2036), a falling dependency ratio (expected to decrease from 65% to 54% in the coming decade taking 15-59 years as the working age population), India is in the middle of a demographic transition. This provides a window of opportunity towards faster economic growth. India has already begun to get the dividend. In India, the benefit to the GDP from demographic transition has been lower than its peers in Asia and is already tapering. Hence, there is an urgency to take appropriate policy measures.

Forward-looking policies

Countries like Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea have already shown us how demographic dividend can be reaped to achieve incredible economic growth by adopting forward-looking policies and programmes to empower the youth in terms of their education, skills and health choices. There are important lessons from these countries for India.The first is to undertake an updated National Transfer Accounts (NTA) assessment. Using NTA methodologies by Lee and Chen (2011-12) and M.R. Narayana (2021), we find that India’s per capita consumption pattern is way lower than that of other Asian countries. A child in India consumes around 60% of the consumption by an adult aged between 20 and 64, while a child in China consumes about 85% of a prime-age adult’s consumption. The NTA data for India needs to be updated to capture the progress made on such investments since 2011-12. State-specific NTAs need to be calculated every year and States need to be ranked for investing in the youth.The second is to invest more in children and adolescents. India ranks poorly in Asia in terms of private and public human capital spending. It needs to invest more in children and adolescents, particularly in nutrition and learning during early childhood. Given that India’s workforce starts at a younger age, a greater focus needs to be on transitioning from secondary education to universal skiling and entrepreneurship, as done in South Korea.The third is to make health investments. Health spending has not kept pace with India’s economic growth. The public spending on health has remained flat at around 1% of GDP. Evidence suggests that better health facilitates improved economic production. Hence, it is important to draft policies to promote health during the demographic dividend. We need more finance for health as well as better health facilities from the available funding.The fourth is to make reproductive healthcare services accessible on a rights-based approach. We need to provide universal access to high-quality primary education and basic healthcare. The unmet need for family planning in India at 9.4% as per the latest National Family Health Survey-5 (2019-21) is high as compared to 3.3% in China and 6.6% in South Korea, which needs to be bridged.Fifth, education is an enabler to bridge gender differentials. The gender inequality of education is a concern. In India, boys are more likely to be enrolled in secondary and tertiary school than girls. In the Philippines, China and Thailand, it is the reverse. In Japan, South Korea, and Indonesia, the gender differences are rather minimal. This needs to be reversed.Sixth, India needs to increase female workforce participation in the economy. As of 2019, 20.3% of women were working or looking for work, down from 34.1% in 2003-04. New skills and opportunities for women and girls befitting their participation in a $3 trillion economy is urgently needed. For example, a girl who passes Class 10 needs more choices to learn skills that will help her find appropriate work. She will need safe transport to travel to work. Finding work will likely delay her age of marriage and make her participate in the economy more productively, as also exercise her rights and choices. South Korea’s female workforce participation rate of 50% has been built on i) legally compulsory gender budgeting to analyse gender disaggregated data and its impact on policies, ii) increasing childcare benefits, and iii) boosting tax incentives for part-time work. It is predicted that if all women engaged in domestic duties in India who are willing to work had a job, female labour force participation would increase by about 20%.Seventh, India needs to address the diversity between States. While India is a young country, the status and pace of population ageing vary among States. Southern States, which are advanced in demographic transition, already have a higher percentage of older people. These differences in age structure reflect differences in economic development and health – and remind us of States’ very different starting points at the outset of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals Agenda. But this also offers boundless opportunities for States to work together, especially on demographic transition, with the north-central region as the reservoir of India’s workforce.Eight, a new federal approach to governance reforms for demographic dividend will need to be put in place for policy coordination between States on various emerging population issues such as migration, ageing, skiling, female workforce participation and urbanisation. Inter-ministerial coordination for strategic planning, investment, monitoring and course correction should be an important feature of this governance arrangement.Rakesh Sarwal is a civil servant and has a Doctorate in Public Health from Johns Hopkins University; Sriram Haridass is UNFPA Representative India and Country Director Bhutan a.i. Views are personal

Somanath appointed new Chairman of ISRO

He played a major role in development of the GSLV Mk-IIIEminent rocket scientist S. Somanath has been appointed Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Space Secretary.Dr. Somanath is taking over the reins of ISRO at a critical juncture when sweeping reforms and critical missions are set to define the forward journey of the storied space agency.Commenting on his priorities, Dr. Somanath told The Hindu that space sector reforms, which involves hand-holding the private sector and start-ups so that they emerge as key partners in the sector’s development, find a top spot on his list.

“We have to hold their hand and support them to come up. The idea is that the space ecosystem should become more vibrant, economically viable and self-sustaining. IN-SPACe is defining a new model, which is also designed to expand our space economy. The ₹16,000-crore space economy that we have in India today should grow to a ₹60,000-crore space economy,” said Dr. Somanath, who has been serving as the Director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) and the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IIST).The senior space scientist is also taking over at a time when ISRO has numerous missions and projects — the Gaganyaan human spaceflight mission included — waiting in the wings. Further, the COVID-19 has played havoc with ISRO’s schedules over the past two years, setting another challenge.Looking back, Dr. Somanath recalls his younger days, when, as a student, he developed a keen passion for space technology. He joined the VSSC in the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) project in 1985, after obtaining his B.Tech. in mechanical engineering from the TKM College of Engineering, Kollam, and a Master’s in aerospace engineering from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore with specialisation in structures, dynamics and control.Dr. Somanath has played a major role in the development of the PSLV and the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk-III (GSLV Mk-III). He joined the GSLV Mk-III project in 2003, and served as Project Director from 2010 to 2014. “Somanath is an expert in the area of system engineering of launch vehicles. His contributions in PSLV and GSLV MkIII were in their overall architecture, propulsion stages design, structural and structural dynamics designs, separation systems, vehicle integration and integration procedures development,” according to ISRO.Later on, he had a two-and-a-half-year stint as Director, Liquid Systems Propulsion Centre (LPSC), Valiamala, where he contributed to the development of the indigenous cryogenic stages for the GSLV. Dr. Somanath took over as the Director, VSSC, in January 2018.Dr. Somanath’s wife Valsala is employed in the GST Department, Kerala. They have a daughter, Malika, and a son, Madhav, both of whom are engineers.

India reports 2.41 lakh new cases, 372 deaths

165% rise in infections compared with a week ago; Maharashtra reports over 46,000 new cases; sharp rise witnessed in GujaratIndia recorded 2,41,003 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, the highest single-day increase in the ongoing wave. The infections increased by more than 165% from the case count a week ago.The increase in the number of tests conducted on Tuesday, the results for which were made available on Wednesday, may have played a part in the spike in infections. On Tuesday, 17,61,900 tests were conducted, a 25% increase from a week ago.The number of active cases in the country crossed the 11-lakh mark, and the cumulative infections stood at 3.63 crore.On Wednesday, 372 new fatalities were recorded, not wavering much from the average levels recorded in the past month.The figures are based on the State bulletins released until 11 p.m. on Wednesday. Ladakh, Lakshadweep, Jharkhand and Tripura had not released data for the day.Active cases in Maharashtra crossed 2.4 lakh, after the State reported 46,723 new cases on Wednesday, the highest single-day jump in the past fortnight.The State’s active case burden stood at 2,40,122 and the test positivity rate at 9.89%. A higher than usual fatality figure was reported on Wednesday, with 32 deaths pushing the cumulative death toll to 1,41,701.

40% rise in Mumbai

Mumbai reported 16,420 infections, a 40% increase from the previous day. The increase came after four consecutive days of decline recorded in the city. The city’s positivity rate also spiked to 24% from 18.7% the day before. Pune district reported more than 7,000 new cases and Thane more than 3,900.There was a sharp rise in cases in Gujarat, with 9,941 reported on Wednesday, the highest

in the past five months. The active caseload climbed to 43,726, of which 51 patients are on ventilator support.Assam recorded 3,274 new cases on Wednesday after 49,915 samples were tested. The test positivity rate stood at 6.56%. Four new deaths were also reported on the day. The active case count stood at 11,792.It was no different in Andhra Pradesh, where 3,205 fresh cases were reported in the 24 hours ending Wednesday morning. It was the highest single-day tally in the past six and a half months.In the week ending on January 12, a total of 9,503 infections were reported, a 500% rise over the 1,527 infections reported in the previous week. The positivity rate stood at 7.64%. The active cases crossed the 10,000-mark for the first time in 101 days. It stood at 10,119. Visakhapatnam and Chittoor districts accounted for more than 40% of the active cases. The State has 203 patients in intensive care units.Kerala logged 12,742 new cases after 72,808 samples were tested in the past 24 hours. The daily caseload has gone up by more than two-fold in the past two days. The case graph has been on a steady rise since January 3Between January 5-11, new cases rose by 116% in comparison to the previous week, while active cases went up by 63%.The active case pool added close to 10,000 new cases on a single day, taking the tally to 54,430 on Wednesday. Of these, 3,029 persons are being treated in hospitals across the State

21,390 in Karnataka

Karnataka on Wednesday reported 21,390 new cases, with Bengaluru Urban alone reporting 15,617. The test positivity rate stood at 10.96%. The death toll stood at 38,389. There are 93,099 active cases in the State.Telangana reported 2,319 new cases on Wednesday after 90,000 samples were tested. The State also reported two deaths.

(With inputs from bureaus)

Russia, NATO lay out stark differences on Ukraine crisis

The News Editorial Analysis 13th Jan 2022


The alliance defends its ‘open-door policy’, invites Moscow for more talksThe NATO allies warned Russia on Wednesday that they would not compromise on the alliance’s right to defend its eastern members to avoid further conflict in Ukraine, but invited Moscow to further talks on calming security concerns.Speaking after talks with Russian envoys at NATO headquarters in Brussels, alliance Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned: “There are significant differences between NATO allies and Russia on these issues.”Gen. Stoltenberg said it would be impossible for the 30 NATO members to agree to Moscow’s core demands for a new security order in Europe, and in particular added that Russia would have no veto on Ukraine’s right to eventually join the alliance.President Vladimir Putin’s government has issued a series of demands for the West to rule out accepting new members like Ukraine, Georgia or Finland on its eastern flanks and demanded limits on allied deployments in former Soviet allies that joined NATO after the Cold War.Gen. Stoltenberg said it was “positive” that the two sides had been able to sit down together, reviving the NATO-Russia Council platform, and that NATO members had invited Russia to agree to a series of talks to discuss arms control and “many other issues to prevent a new armed conflict”.“Russia was not in a position to agree on that proposal. They didn’t reject it either, but the Russian representatives made it clear that they needed some time to come back to NATO with an answer,” he said.

Future members

The West defends NATO’s ‘open-door policy’ towards potential future members, while Moscow is demanding a cast-iron guarantee that the alliance will not expand further towards its territory.Russia denies that its massive troop build-up around Ukraine is a threat, but the deployment has forced Washington to engage with Moscow to head off fears of an all-out military confrontation.After the meeting, US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman tweeted: “In today’s NATO-Russia Council, I reaffirmed the fundamental principles of the international system and of European security: Every country has the sovereign right to choose its own path.”Just ahead of the talks, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “The continuation of NATO’s open-door policy and the further advancement of NATO towards our bor


The News Editorial Analysis 13th Jan 2022

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