Times Top10: Today’s Top News Headlines and Latest News from India & across the World


We are off on Friday, March 18, in view of Holi in India and thus there will not be a Times Top10 edition tomorrow, March 19. The newsletter will resume Monday, March 21, with your daily dose of news and analysis.

Best wishes


Today: Tamil Nadu budget to be presented; US President Joe Biden & Chinese President Xi Jinping telecon on Ukraine; Festival of Holi. Tomorrow: Japanese PM Fumio Kishida to meet PM Narendra Modi; ICC Women’s World Cup – India women vs Australia women in Auckland

1. Did the Election Commission decide Delhi local polls or Centre?
1. Did the Election Commission decide Delhi local polls or Centre?
  • The petition: Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has moved the Supreme Court seeking direction to the State Election Commissioner (SEC) to expeditiously conduct the municipal elections in Delhi.
  • The allegation: The party alleged “brazen influence” of the Central government over the SEC and its “flagrant meddling” with the conduct of municipal elections.
  • The question: It asked whether the SEC can be influenced by an unofficial communication sent by the Centre to defer municipal elections which the Commission was otherwise absolutely prepared to schedule and conduct.
  • The timing: The petition says that “Section 4 of the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957 codifies this five-year period of operation of the three Municipal Corporations in Delhi” and this duration is coming to an end in May 2022.
  • The U-turn: The SEC had “declared in multiple notices, notifications and orders” that these polls would be conducted in April 2022 and on March 9, circulated a letter indicating its intent to hold a press conference, on the same day, to declare the specific schedule, the petition says. “However, precisely half an hour later, by way of a press note, it conveyed that it had received some communication from the Lt. Governor of Delhi, conveying that the Government of India was intending to pass legislation to merge the trifurcated Municipal Corporations of Delhi. In light of this communication, the press conference to declare the election schedule was indefinitely postponed; the Municipal Elections consequently being deferred,” it said.
  • This means: The plea said, “by being the sole reason behind the delay of the Municipal Elections, the Government of India is very evidently making attempts to buckle the independence of the State Election Commission and stultify free and fair Municipal Elections in Delhi.” More details here
2. Are political parties beyond the reach of sexual harassment laws?
2. Are political parties beyond the reach of sexual harassment laws?
In a significant decision, the Kerala High Court (HC) on Thursday ruled that political parties are not legally bound to establish an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) under the requirements of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.

Why the court said so

  • The HC said that since political parties “are not having any employer-employee relationship with its members” and can’t be deemed as a workplace, they “are not liable to make any Internal Complaints Committee.”

Is the court right?

  • According to a report in the Economic Times, political parties are registered under the Societies Registration Act and thus compulsorily need to have an ICC under the sexual harassment act.

Is it needed?

  • According to women’s rights activist Ranjana Kumari, sexual abuse in political parties was systemic and highly under-reported. All three parties which were made respondents in the public interest litigation (PIL) — Congress, CPI(M) and the BJP — have seen their women functionaries bringing sexual harassment charges against their male party colleagues.
3. What should foreign medical interns be paid in India?
3. What should foreign medical interns be paid in India?
  • Pay them: The National Medical Commission has decided that foreign medical graduates (FMGs) doing internship in private institutions in India should be paid the same stipend as interns in government colleges in the concerned state. However, NMC does not mandate this for interns graduating from private colleges in India, which has led to accusations of discrimination and injustice towards Indian medical graduates.
  • Will they? With many state government colleges paying roughly Rs 20,000 per month as stipend, paying equivalent stipends would work out to Rs 3.6 crore per year for a private college with 150 MBBS seats. But many private colleges pay interns a pittance or even nothing at all.
  • How many? Within two years of clearing the MBBS final exam, students are expected to finish one year of internship. Without completing the internship, no medical graduate is eligible to get permanent registration to practice medicine in India. The NMC’s notification on internship stated that medical colleges or institutions may use up to 7.5% of their permitted quota of interns to accommodate FMGs doing the compulsory one-year internship in India.
  • The issue: This has led to a peculiar situation. Within the same college, while an FMG has to be paid stipend equivalent to government colleges, Indian MBBS graduates can be paid whatever is decided by the appropriate authority applicable to the university or institution in a particular state. The erstwhile Medical Council of India (MCI) had brought out a draft notification that all students pursuing internship should be paid stipend on par with state or central government medical institutions. MCI was soon replaced by the NMC, which did not pursue this.
4. Why did the Indian judge at ICJ vote against Russia?
4. Why did the Indian judge at ICJ vote against Russia?
  • The International Court of Justice (ICJ) had on Wednesday ordered Russia to stop hostilities in Ukraine, granting measures requested by Kyiv.
  • The court order was supported by 13 judges, while two voted against it — Vice-President Kirill Gevorgian from Russia and Judge Xue Hanqin from China. India’s judge, Dalveer Bhandari, voted against Russia at the United Nations’ highest court.
  • The Ministry of External Affairs on Thursday said judges at the ICJ vote in their individual capacity. MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said, “they are (there) in individual capacities and they vote on the merits of that.”
  • “He (Justice Bhandari) happens to be an Indian national who is a member in his individual capacity on the ICJ,” he said.
6. Taliban wants Indian mission back
6. Taliban wants Indian mission back
With international recognition on mind and following efforts by the government to strike the right chord in the post-US withdrawal Afghanistan, the Taliban continues to reach out to India for establishing diplomatic ties. Taliban’s UN ambassador-designate Suhail Shaheen told TOI that the government in Kabul was ready to provide a ‘secure environment’ for the Indian embassy in Kabul and that diplomatic presence was essential for boosting bilateral relations.
  • What Taliban said: “We want all those countries including India who had their embassies in Kabul to reopen their embassies and start functioning as normal. We are committed to providing them a secure environment for their functioning. Diplomatic presence is important for boosting bilateral relations,” Shaheen said. India had recalled all embassy officials after the return of Taliban to Kabul on August 15 last year.
  • Food diplomacy: India has so far sent 8,000 MT of wheat to Afghanistan in four separate shipments via the Attari-Wagah border with Pakistan. The Taliban had last year taken up with Pakistan the need to quickly approve India’s proposal to transport 50,000 MT of the grain through the land route. This is the first time since 2007 that Pakistan has allowed India to use the land route to send aid to Afghanistan.
  • UNSC okays formal ties with Kabul: The UN Security Council voted on Thursday to establish formal ties with Taliban-run Afghanistan. It did so in approving a resolution that does not use the word Taliban and spells out the new one-year mandate of the UN political mission in Afghanistan, which it said was “crucial” to peace in the country. The vote was 14 in favour, with one abstention, by Russia. The resolution includes several strands of cooperation, on the humanitarian, political and human rights fronts, including those of women, children and journalists.
7. Sensex, rupee zoom
7. Sensex, rupee zoom
The Sensex sailed past the 57,000-mark by gaining over 1,000 points on Thursday, on the heels of a global market rally even as the US Federal Reserve raised interest rates for the first time since 2018. The 30-share BSE index closed 1,047 points or 1.84% higher at 57,864. Likewise, the NSE Nifty surged 312 points or 1.84% to end at 17,287. Domestic stock markets will remain shut today on account of Holi. The rupee too had a good day, touching a day’s high of 75.77 to the dollar before closing at 75.81, around 0.6% higher than its previous close of 76.27.
  • Gainers and losers: HDFC was the top gainer in the Sensex pack, spurting 5.5%, followed by Titan, Reliance, Kotak Bank, Asian Paints, Sun Pharma and Tata Steel. On the other hand, Infosys and HCL Tech were the laggards. Elsewhere in Asia, bourses in Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong and Shanghai ended with significant gains. Stock exchanges in Europe were trading on a mixed note in mid-session deals.
  • The forecast: “The next few days, you will see a more steadied response to the Fed hike by major portfolio managers and allocators who will look at the implications (of the hike),” Joseph Thomas, head of research at Emkay Wealth Management, told Reuters. Besides, lower oil prices, progress in Russia-Ukraine talks and more relaxations to Covid-19 curbs helped the markets perform well this week.
  • Smart rupee: The rupee’s recovery came after the dollar retreated against most currencies following the US Fed’s 25-basis point hike in interest rates. Sentiment was also in favour of the rupee after foreign institutional investors turned net purchasers. “A very sharp depreciation of the rupee in the year ahead is unlikely in our base case, though the currency could face volatility near term, if geopolitical tensions persist and crude oil prices rise further,” research firm Crisil said in a report.
8. Moody’s lowers India’s GDP growth rate forecast but…
8. Moody’s lowers India’s GDP growth rate forecast but…
Ratings agency Moody’s has cut India’s GDP growth rate forecast for 2022 by 40 basis points from 9.5% to 9.1% due to the impact of the Ukraine war — this, after raising it from 7% last month on a stronger than expected recovery from second Covid-19 wave.

Moody’s may be right…

  • The ratings agency has blamed the global impact of the Russia-Ukraine war on the downtick in India’s GDP forecast, even though it admits that India, as a surplus producer of foodgrains, will benefit in the short term from high prevailing prices as exports from Ukraine, often called the world’s granary, have been curtailed due to the war.
  • Moody’s says it has taken into account the high crude oil prices and a higher fertiliser import bill, “potentially limiting planned capital spending” by the Centre. Consequently, it has also marginally lowered its forecast for India’s GDP growth rate for 2023, from 5.5% to 5.4%.

…except that

  • Crude oil prices have cooled off from around $139 per barrel to around $100 per barrel with the result that the much anticipated fuel price hike has still not happened even after elections were over.
  • Despite the sustained military offensive by Russia against Ukraine, both countries said they might be closer to a realistic peace deal than before.
9. What’s India’s policy for the Arctic?
9. What’s India’s policy for the Arctic?
The policy
  • The Centre on Thursday released India’s Arctic policy. The policy lays down six pillars: strengthening India’s scientific research and cooperation, climate and environmental protection, economic and human development, transportation and connectivity, governance and international cooperation, and national capacity building in the Arctic region. “Implementing policy will involve multiple stakeholders, including academia, the research community, business, and industry,” said the ministry in a statement.
  • India is, currently, undertaking several scientific studies and research in the region and has, so far, conducted 13 expeditions to the Arctic.

The power

  • The focus of the policy is also to increase India’s participation in the Arctic Council and improve understanding of the complex governance structures in the region, which is relevant to geopolitics.
  • India is among the 13 nations that are observers in the Arctic Council which include France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, China, Poland, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The Council is a high-level intergovernmental forum that addresses issues faced by the Arctic governments and the indigenous people of the region.

The history

  • The country’s engagement with the Arctic dates back a century when ‘Svalbard Treaty’ was signed in February 1920 in Paris, and it has since then been actively involved in studies related to Arctic oceanography, atmosphere, pollution and microbiology.

Bhagwant Mann. The chief minister (CM) of Punjab, who at 48 is the second youngest after Parkash Singh Badal — who first became CM at the age of 42 — to occupy the post, announced the launch of an anti-corruption helpline number which he said will be his WhatsApp number. The two time AAP Lok Sabha MP said the helpline will be launched from March 23.

Follow news that matters to you in real-time.
Join 3 crore news enthusiasts.

Written by: Rakesh Rai, Tejeesh Nippun Singh
Research: Rajesh Sharma


Source link