1. Centre places fresh orders for 44 cr. COVID-19 vaccine doses
Govt. also books 30 crore doses of vaccine under trial
The Centre has placed fresh orders for 44 crore vaccine doses of Covishield and Covaxin, which will be available from August-December. It has also placed an order for 30 crore doses from Hyderabad-based Biological E for its in-development protein subunit vaccine.
“All together 74 crore doses have been secured for use from August onwards,” Dr. V.K. Paul, Chairman, National Empowered Group on Vaccination, said in a press statement on Tuesday.
Until July, 53 crore vaccine doses — including 23.5 crore already administered — were expected from Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech.
If all the estimates were to come to fruition, it would mean 127 crore doses could be available, enough to ensure India’s estimated population of about 94 crore gets one dose of vaccine.
However, a lot depends on the speed at which vaccines are disbursed.
After a lacklustre May that saw vaccine stocks and immunisation plummet, the number of daily doses have started to rise after May 29, touching over 30 lakh on several days.
To be able to administer at least a single dose to all adults by December, over 9 crore people need to be inoculated per month
The government has earmarked ₹35,000 crore towards vaccine procurement. Until May 28, it had ordered 28.5 crore doses for ₹4,488 crore according to data from the Health Ministry.
Biological E said it had got permission from India’s Drug Controller on April 24 to begin phase-3 trials in India. The Phase III clinical study to be conducted in 15 sites across India would evaluate the extent and nature of immunity and safety of Biological E’s SARS-CoV-2 COVID-19 vaccine in about 1,268 healthy subjects in the age range of 18 to 80 years. It is intended to be part of a larger global Phase III study, the company said in a statement.
Biological E has successfully concluded the Phase I/II trials of the vaccine candidate, which began in India in November last year. Data from the Phase I/II trial suggested that the Covid-19 vaccine was “safe, well-tolerated, and immunogenic,” according to a company statement.
The vaccine candidate has an antigen developed by the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development and in-licensed from BCM Ventures, Baylor College of Medicine’s integrated commercialisation team, and Dynavax Technologies’ advanced adjuvant, CpG 1018TM.
2. Crackdown on fake medicines
Interpol-led Operation Pangea XIV targeted sale of counterfeit health products
More than 1.1 lakh web links, including websites and online marketplaces, have been taken down in an operation involving the police, customs and health regulatory authorities of 92 countries against the sale of fake and illicit medicines and medical products.
Code-named “Operation Pangea XIV”, the exercise was coordinated by Interpol. Indian agencies also participated in the operation, said an official of the Central Bureau of Investigation that is the nodal body for the Interpol in the country.
The operation resulted in 1,13,020 web links being closed down or removed, the largest since the first “Operation Pangea” conducted in 2008, the arrest of 277 suspects and seizure of potentially dangerous pharmaceuticals worth over $23 million.
It showed that criminals were continuing to cash in on the huge demand for personal protection and hygiene products due to the COVID-19 pandemic. More than half of all the medical devices seized during the operation from May 18 to 25 were fake and unauthorised COVID-19 test kits.
In the United Kingdom, apart from the seizure of some three million fake medicines and devices worth over $13 million, the authorities removed more than 3,100 advertising links for the illegal sale and supply of unlicensed medicines, and shut down 43 websites, Interpol said in a statement on Tuesday.
A person in Venezuela was arrested for developing an e-commerce platform on WhatsApp to sell illicit medicines. “In Italy, authorities recovered more than 500,000 fake surgical masks as well as 35 industrial machines used for production and packaging,” said the statement, adding that globally, about nine million medical devices and illicit pharmaceuticals were seized.
“As the pandemic forced more people to move their lives online, criminals were quick to target these new ‘customers’,” said Interpol Secretary General Jürgen Stock.
During the operation, searches of about 7.10 lakh packages led to the discovery of fake and illicit drugs concealed amongst a range of legitimate products, including clothes, jewellery, toys, food and baby products. “In Qatar, officials discovered 2,805 nerve pain tablets hidden inside tins of baked beans,” said the Interpol.
The seized items included hypnotic and sedative medication, erectile dysfunction pills, medical and surgical devices like COVID test kits, masks, syringes, catheters, analgesics/painkillers, anabolic steroids, antiseptics and germicides, anti-cancer medication, anti-malarials and vitamins.
3. Rengma Nagas demand autonomous council
They write to Union Home Minister and Assam Chief Minister, asking for their voices to be heard
The Rengma Nagas in Assam have written to Union Home Minister Amit Shah demanding an autonomous district council amid a decision by the Central and the State governments to upgrade the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council (KAAC) into a territorial council.
The Rengma Naga Peoples’ Council (RNPC), a registered body, said in the memorandum that the Rengmas were the first tribal people in Assam to have encountered the British in 1839, but the existing Rengma Hills was eliminated from the political map of the State and replaced with that of Mikir Hills (now Karbi Anglong) in 1951.
Narrating its history, the council said that during the Burmese invasions of Assam in 1816 and 1819, it was the Rengmas who gave shelter to the Ahom refugees.
The petition said that the Rengma Hills was partitioned in 1963 between Assam and Nagaland at the time of creation of Nagaland State and the Karbis, who were known as Mikirs till 1976, were the indigeneous tribal people of Mikir Hills.
“Thus, the Rengma Hills and Mikir Hills were two separate entities till 1951. Karbis have no history in the Rengma Hills. People who are presently living in Rengma Hills are from Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya. They speak different dialects and do not know Karbi language of Karbi Anglong,” the memorandum said.
RNPC president K. Solomon Rengma told The Hindu that the government was on the verge of taking a decision without taking them on board and thus they had written to Mr. Shah and Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.
“How can they do this? We have been writing to them for many years. The KAAC population is around 12 lakh and the Karbis constitute only 3 lakh, the remaining are non-Karbis, including the Rengma Nagas, whose population is around 22,000. We are also demanding a separate legislative seat for Rengmas,” he said.
The National Socialist Council of Nagaland or NSCN (Isak-Muivah), which is in talks with the Centre for a peace deal, said in a statement on Monday that the Rengma issue was one of the important agendas of the “Indo-Naga political talks” and no authority should go far enough to override their interests.
More than 3,000 Rengma Nagas were forced to relocate to relief camps in 2013 after several people were killed in a series of attacks following a call given by a Karbi insurgent group.
Issue of Naga Insurgency
The Naga peace process appears to have again hit a roadblock after decades of negotiations. The non-flexibility of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) on the “Naga national flag” and “Naga Yezhabo (constitution) among many more are said to be the primary reasons. But the issue is more complex than the twin conditions, as it affects Nagaland’s neighbours in northeast India.
How did it start?
- The Naga Hills became part of British India in 1881.
- The effort to bring scattered Naga tribes together resulted in the formation of the Naga Club in 1918.
- The Naga club rejected the Simon Commission in 1929 and asked them “to leave us alone to determine for ourselves as in ancient times”.
- The club metamorphosed into the Naga National Council (NNC) in 1946.
- Under the leadership of Angami Zapu Phizo, the NNC declared Nagaland as an independent State on August 14, 1947, and conducted a “referendum” in May 1951 to claim that 99.9% of the Nagas supported a “sovereign Nagaland”.
- On March 22, 1952, Phizo formed the underground Naga Federal Government (NFG) and the Naga Federal Army.
- The government of India sent in the Army to crush the insurgency and, in 1958, enacted the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.
- In 1975, when the government signed the Shillong Accord, under which this section of NNC and NFG agreed to give up arms.
- A group of about 140 members led by Thuingaleng Muivah, who was at that time in China, refused to accept the Shillong Accord and formed the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) in 1980.
- Muivah also had Isak Chisi Swu and S S Khaplang with him.
- In 1988, the NSCN split into NSCN (IM) and NSCN (K) after a violent clash.
- While the NNC began to fade away, and Phizo died in London in 1991, the NSCN (IM) came to be seen as the “mother of all insurgencies” in the region.
The History of Peace Process
- In June 1947, Assam Governor Sir Akbar Hydari signed the Nine-Point Agreement with the moderates in the NNC but the main leaders of the movement like Phizo were not taken into confidence and hence Phizo rejected it outrightly.
- A 16-point Agreement followed in July 1960 leading to the creation of Nagaland on December 1, 1963. In this case, the agreement was with the Naga People’s Convention that moderate Nagas formed in August 1957 during a violent phase and not with the NNC.
- In April 1964, a Peace Mission was formed for an agreement on suspension of operations with the NNC, but it was abandoned in 1967 after six rounds of talks.
- On November 11, 1975, the government signed the Shillong Accord, under which this section of NNC and NFG agreed to give up arms.
- However, a faction within the group refused to accept the Shillong Accord and formed the National Socialist Council of Nagaland in 1980.
Naga Peace Process Under Different Prime Ministers
- The Nagas had been demanding sovereignty even before India’s independence, claiming that they had not been part of British India.
- Pandit Nehru rejected the demand, but he kept Naga matters under a director in the ministry of external affairs.
- Indira Gandhi offered them “anything but independence”, but transferred the issue to the home ministry, further angering the Nagas.
- The first olive branch from an Indian Prime Minister was waived by P.V. Narasimha Rao.
- His government secretly talked with the NSCN-IM and the same was followed by H.D. Deve Gowda.
- Indra Kumar Gujaral was able to conclude a ceasefire agreement with them but it failed to conclude a long-lasting peace.
- Atal Bihari Vajpayee recognised the “unique history and the situation of the Nagas” and created a ceasefire monitoring group in 2001.
- Manmohan Singh also tried to negotiate with the NSCN-IM but nothing could be finalised.
- The incumbent government and the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah), or the NSCN-IM, had signed a Naga Peace Accord in August 2015 which was claimed a historic achievement at that time. But a final accord has remained elusive since then.
- Recognition of Naga sovereignty, integration of all Naga-speaking areas into a Greater Nagaland, Separate Constitution and Separate Flag are the demands that the union government may find difficult to fulfil.
- The current demands of the NSCN (IM) have toned down from complete sovereignty to greater autonomous region within the Indian constitutional framework with due regard to the uniqueness of Naga history and traditions.
- However, negotiations with the NSCN-IM have remained complicated, as Nagas are demanding the integration of their ancestral homelands, which include territories in Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.
- All three states have refused to cede territory to the Nagas.
- Manipur has protested in a petition that any compromise with Manipur’s territorial integrity would not be tolerated.
- The other two States have made it clear that they won’t compromise with their territorial integrity.
- Another significant issue is how the weapons in the NSCN-IM camps are going to be managed. As a ‘ceasefire’ group, its cadres are supposed to retain their weapons inside the designated camps for self-defence only, but more often than not, many influential cadres are seen moving with weapons in civilian localities, leading to many problems.
- It would be an uphill task for the Centre to ensure that all weapons are surrendered at the time of the final accord.
- In the early phase, the Naga insurgents were provided with what has come to be known as ‘safe haven’ in Myanmar.
- India’s adversaries (China and Pakistan) also provided them with vital external support at one point in time.
- The porous border and rugged terrain make it different for the Security Forces as they cross borders where they are sheltered and fed.
- A letter written by the Governor to the CM of Nagaland has become the latest irritant.
- Mr. R.N. Ravi, the Governor had expressed his anguish over the culture of extortion and the collapse of general law and order situation in Nagaland, where organised armed gangs run their own parallel ‘tax collection’ regimes.
- Extortions in the name of taxes have been a thorny facet of the Naga issue.
- The ‘taxes’ levied by insurgent groups are intricately intertwined in almost all developmental activities in Nagaland and one of the major aims of the NSCN-IM has been to acquire formal recognition of this informal practice through negotiations.
Other Side’s Story
- A section of people in Nagaland has criticized the Governor for approaching Nagaland like a “law and order issue” instead of a political one.
- They claim that the government would not have signed a framework agreement with NSCN-IM in 2015 if Nagaland was a “law and order issue.”
- Misunderstandings surrounding the history and identity of the Naga people have further complicated the negotiations.
- The Central Government views Nagaland as a “disturbed area” and has kept the state under a draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).
- The act extends wide-ranging powers to the army, including the use of force and arrests without warrants.
4. Monsoon session of Parliament likely to begin in July: Minister
COVID-19 protocols on seating are expected to continue
The monsoon session of Parliament is expected to begin on schedule in July, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said on Tuesday.
As per norms, the session is held in the second or third week of July. The last session of Parliament was curtailed and ended sine die on March 25 and under the Constitutional norms, the next session has to be held within six months. This period ends on September 14.
Three sessions have been curtailed since the pandemic began in March last year. First of these was the Budget session of 2020. The winter session last year was also cut short. Last year, the monsoon session, which usually starts in July, began in September.
“I am hopeful that the Parliament session will be held as per its normal schedule in July,” Mr. Joshi told PTI. However, Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Venkiah Naidu did not share Mr. Joshi’s optimism. At an oath-taking ceremony of the newly elected members, Mr. Naidu, said, “Oath and affirmation has been arranged now because convening of the next session may take some time.”
Sources said with the COVID-19 spread under control and the possibility of a third wave in the coming months, the government did not want to postpone the session to September. The monsoon session, sources said, would be short. Most MPs have got at least one dose of the COVID vaccine. However, the COVID-19 protocol followed in the last three sessions, including members sitting in galleries to maintain physical distance, is expected to continue.
- Sessions of Parliament:
- The summoning of Parliament is specified in Article 85 of the Constitution.
- The power to convene a session of Parliament rests with the Government. The decision is taken by the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs which is formalised by the President, in whose name MPs are summoned to meet for a session.
- India does not have a fixed parliamentary calendar. By convention (i.e. not provided by the Constitution), Parliament meets for three sessions in a year.
- The longest, Budget Session (1st session), starts towards the end of January, and concludes by the end of April or first week of May. The session has a recess so that Parliamentary Committees can discuss the budgetary proposals.
- The second session is the three-week Monsoon Session, which usually begins in July and finishes in August.
- Winter Session (3rd session), is held from November to December.
- Summoning of Parliament:
- Summoning is the process of calling all members of the Parliament to meet. The President summons each House of the Parliament from time to time. The gap between two sessions of the Parliament cannot exceed 6 months, which means the Parliament meets at least two times in one year.
- Adjournment terminates the sitting of the House which meets again at the time appointed for the next sitting. The postponement may be for a specified time such as hours, days or weeks. If the meeting is terminated without any definite time/ date fixed for the next meeting, it is called Adjournment sine die.
- Prorogation is the end of a session. A prorogation puts an end to a session. The time between the Prorogation and reassembly is called Recess. Prorogation is the end of session and not the dissolution of the house (in case of Lok Sabha, as Rajya Sabha does not dissolve).
- Quorum refers to the minimum number of the members required to be present for conducting a meeting of the house. The Constitution has fixed one-tenth strength as quorum for both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. Thus, to conduct a sitting of Lok Sabha, there should be at least 55 members present while to conduct a sitting of Rajya Sabha, there should be at least 25 members present.
5. Take action against illegal adoption: SC
It directs govt. to prevent private entities from revealing identity of children orphaned by pandemic
The Supreme Court has directed the States and the Union Territories to take stringent action against private individuals and NGOs who invite people to illegally adopt children orphaned by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao and Aniruddha Bose, in an 18-page order published on Tuesday, directed the government to step in and prevent private entities from revealing the identities of affected children, usually on social media, and inviting people to adopt them.
“The State Governments/Union Territories are directed to prevent any NGO from collecting funds in the names of the affected children by disclosing their identity and inviting interested persons to adopt them. No adoption of affected children should be permitted contrary to the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015,” the court ordered.
It was illegal to invite strangers to adopt children, already traumatised by their personal losses, without the involvement of the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA), a statutory body under the Women and Child Development Ministry, it said. “Invitation to persons for adoption of orphans is contrary to law as no adoption of a child can be permitted without the involvement of CARA. Stringent action shall be taken by the State Governments/Union Territories against agencies/individuals who are responsible for indulging in this illegal activity,” it observed.
The order came after the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), on Monday, raised the alarm on a spate of complaints about illegal adoption of COVID-19 orphans through private individual and organisations. “Social media posts are circulating that children are up for adoption. This is plainly illegal and violates the Juvenile Justice Act,” advocate Shobha Gupta, for intervenor ‘We the Women of India’, made an impassioned plea.
NCPCR statistics show that 3,621 children were orphaned, 26,176 children lost either parent and 274 abandoned between April 1, 2021 to June 5, 2021. The court is hearing a suo motu case on the plight of children impacted by the pandemic.
Advocate Gaurav Agrawal, amicus curiae, said cases of child trafficking have been going up. The government should intervene to care and protect children orphaned, abandoned or whose families have lost their earning members.
The court said lack of knowledge about the rights of children under the Juvenile Justice Act had led to many falling victim to efforts at illegal adoption. It directed the Centre, States and the Union Territories to give wide publicity to the provisions of the 2015 Act at regular intervals so as to make the general public, children and their parents or guardians aware of such provisions. It ordered the States and the Union Territories to continue with their efforts to identify children in need of care and protection after March 2020 and upload their details on the NCPCR database in order to provide them welfare schemes.
Child Adoption Regulatory Authority (CARA)
The Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) has invited suggestions and feedback for simplification of the adoption process from all stakeholders, including prospective adoptive parents, specialized adoption agencies, child welfare committees, state adoption resource agencies and the general public.
Adoption in India:
In India, an Indian citizen or a non-resident Indian (NRI) can adopt a child under the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act of 1956 and the Guardian and Wards Act of 1890.
Eligibility criteria for prospective adoptive parents:
- The prospective adoptive parents shall be physically, mentally and emotionally stable, financially capable and shall not have any life-threatening medical condition.
- Any prospective adoptive parents, irrespective of his marital status and whether or not he has biological son or daughter, can adopt a child subject to following, namely: –
- the consent of both the spouses for the adoption shall be required, in case of a married couple;
- a single female can adopt a child of any gender;
- a single male shall not be eligible to adopt a girl child;
- No child shall be given in adoption to a couple unless they have at least two years of stable marital relationship.
- The minimum age difference between the child and either of the prospective adoptive parents shall not be less than twenty-five years.
- The age criteria for prospective adoptive parents shall not be applicable in case of relative adoptions and adoption by step-parent.
- Couples with three or more children shall not be considered for adoption except in case of special need children.
- Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) is a statutory body of Ministry of Women & Child Development, Government of India.
- It functions as the nodal body for adoption of Indian children and is mandated to monitor and regulate in-country and inter-country adoptions.
- CARA is designated as the Central Authority to deal with inter-country adoptions in accordance with the provisions of the Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption, 1993, ratified by Government of India in 2003.
- CARA primarily deals with adoption of orphan, abandoned and surrendered children through its associated /recognised adoption agencies.
- CARA is also mandated to frame regulations on adoption-related matters from time to time as per Section 68 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.
6. BRICS opposes exceptionalism: China
Beijing frames BRICS Ministers’ statement as opposing the West, emphasises on multilateralism
China on Monday sought to frame a joint statement from the Foreign Ministers of the BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa] countries, who met virtually last week, as standing in opposition to what Beijing has increasingly hit out at “bloc politics” from the United States and the West.
The BRICS Foreign Ministers, at a virtual meet last week, put out a joint statement on multilateralism, in addition to the usual Ministers’ press statement. China’s Foreign Ministry on Monday said the idea behind the statement was to forge a common understanding among the BRICS countries when there were “so many different interpretations and definitions of multilateralism in the world”.
Ironically, among the targets of Beijing’s recent attacks on what it calls “selective multilateralism” is the India-Australia-Japan-U.S. Quad grouping, which Chinese officials have repeatedly criticised. India, which is the BRICS chair this year and will host this year’s leaders summit, which may also take place virtually, finds itself in a curious position of being described by Beijing as both a partner and a target in its recent emphasis on the importance of “multilateralism” and its criticism of calls for a “rules-based order”, voiced not only by the U.S. but also by the Quad.
On the “different interpretations” of multilateralism, the “BRICS countries, as representatives of emerging markets and developing countries, have tackled the problem head-on and given their answer”, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said.
“The BRICS Joint Statement on Strengthening and Reforming the Multilateral System laid out the following principles,” he added. “First, it should make global governance more inclusive, representative and participatory to facilitate greater and more meaningful participation of developing and least developed countries. Second, it should be based on inclusive consultation and collaboration for the benefit of all. Third, it should make multilateral organisations more responsive, action-oriented and solution-oriented based on the norms and principles of international law and the spirit of mutual respect, justice, equality, mutual beneficial cooperation. Fourth, it should use innovative and inclusive solutions, including digital and technological tools. Fifth, it should strengthen capacities of individual States and international organizations. Sixth, it should promote people-centered international cooperation at the core. This is the answer given by the BRICS.”
He added that the BRICS countries were “indeed different from a few developed countries in their attitude towards multilateralism and multilateral cooperation.” “The BRICS countries stress the need to observe the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and oppose exceptionalism and double standard,” he said. “We are committed to extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, and oppose hegemonic bullying and zero-sum games. We pursue openness, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation, and reject bloc politics and ideological confrontation.”
BRICS is an acronym for 5 emerging economies of the world viz. – Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa. The term BRIC was coined by Jim O’ Neil, the then chairman of Goldman Sachs in 2001. The first BRIC summit took place in the year 2009 in Yekaterinburg (Russia). In 2010, South Africa formally joined the association making it BRICS.
BRICS 2021 – India Hosting 13th BRICS Summit
The chair of BRICS 2021 is India. The theme of the 13th BRICS Summit is, ‘BRICS @ 15: Intra-BRICS Cooperation for Continuity, Consolidation and Consensus.’
The discussion in the BRICS Summit 2021 is around three pillars:
- Political and Security – The focus is on the discussion over global and regional security. The priority sectors are:
- Reform of the Multilateral System
- Counter-Terrorism Cooperation
- Economic and Financial – The focus in on intra-BRICS cooperation in sectors such as trade, agriculture, infrastructure, small and medium enterprises, energy and finance & banking. The priority under this pillar are:
- BRICS Economic Partnership Strategy 2020-25 – Implementation of this strategy will be discussed.
- BRICS Agriculture Research Platform – The platform’s operations will be discussed.
- Cooperation on Disaster Resilience
- Innovation Cooperation
- Digital Health and Traditional Medicine
- Cultural and People to People – The cultural and personal exchanges always enhance intra-group bonding and the BRICS 13th Summit is set to discuss the same.
On 24th February, the 1st Meeting of BRICS Finance and Central Bank Deputies was held virtually. One should know the issues discussed in the meetings as questions from similar topics can be asked in the UPSC Mains. The issues that India and other BRICS nations discussed in the first meeting on the BRICS Financial Cooperation under India Chairship in 2021 are:
- Global Economic Outlook
- BRICS Nations’ Response to COVID-19
- Social Infrastructure Financing and Use of Digital Technologies
- New Development Bank (NDB) Activities
- Fintech for SME and Financial Inclusion
- BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA)
What is BRICS?
BRICS is an association with more than 40% of the global population and with 25% of the global GDP (nominal GDP of US$16.039 trillion) and an estimated US$4 trillion in combined forex. Bilateral relations are conducted mainly on the basis of equality and mutual benefit.
The 11th summit of the BRICS grouping comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa was held in Brasilia on 13th & 14th November 2019. The 12th summit (Russia) of BRICS was held on 17th Nov, 2020 via videoconference.
In 2020, the New Development Bank (formerly BRICS bank) approved a USD 1 Billion Project called “Covid-19 Emergency Program Loan for Supporting India’s Economic Recovery”. The project finances the MGNREGS expenditure of the top ten Indian states on works classified as Natural Resource Management.
BRICS Summits – 13 Summit
|Sr No||Year||Host Country||Points in Focus|
|1st BRICS Summit||2009||Russia||Financial and economic issues emerging from the 2008 Financial Crisis. Reformations of International Financial Institutions|
|2nd BRICS Summit||2010||Brazil||Launch of multiple Intra- BRICS Cooperative Institutions. The summit also had a meeting of National Security Advisors and Think Tank Seminar. Agricultural development of respected countries related discussion between Ministers of Agriculture. The signing of Memorandum of Cooperations between development banks of each country.|
|3rd BRICS Summit||2011||China||South Africa joins the association. Pitching for UNSC Reforms. New Ventures in Africa|
|4th BRICS Summit||2012||India||Establishing the BRICS Bank to finance infrastructure requirements and sustainable development projects of BRICS in the third world as well as developing countries. Additional foreign policies India mooted the idea for a New Development Bank.|
|5th BRICS Summit||2013||South Africa||The BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) with a total capital of $100 billion was introduced. BRICS Business Council was set up. BRICS Think Tank was set up. This was known as the eThekwini Declaration.|
|6th BRICS Summit||2014||Brazil||The theme was Inclusive Growth, Sustainable Solutions. Constitutive agreements to fund infrastructure and sustainable development projects in emerging markets were signed.|
|7th BRICS Summit||2015||Russia||Accepting constituting agreements of the CRA and the New Development Bank Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) joint summit.|
|8th BRICS Summit||2016||India||The joint summit of BIMSTEC – Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Corporation.|
|9th BRICS Summit||2017||China||Discussion on EMDCD- Emerging Markets and Developing Countries Dialogue. Discussion of 2030 Sustainable Development agenda|
|10th BRICS Summit||2018||South Africa||Discussion on the 4th Industrial Revolution Other discussions on Sustainable development and climate change|
|11th BRICS Summit||2019||Brazil||The theme was “Economic Growth for an Innovative Future.” The Brasilia Declaration was adopted by BRICS.|
|12th BRICS Summit||2020||Russia||Held on 17th November, 2020 via Videoconference Theme for XII BRICS Summit – “BRICS Partnership for Global Stability, Shared Security and Innovative Growth”|
|13th BRICS Summit||2021||India||Yet to take place Theme for XIII BRICS Summit – “BRICS@15: Intra-BRICS Cooperation”|
- One of the major objectives of the grouping is broadening, deepening, and intensifying cooperation among the member countries for mutually beneficial, sustainable and equitable development.
- Every member’s growth and development are considered to ensure that relations are built on the economic strengths of individual countries and eliminate competition wherever possible.
- Such diverse objectives allow BRICS to emerge as an innovative and encouraging Political-Diplomatic entity that was earlier formed just to resolve the global financial issues and reform institutions.
Features of BRICS
|Accounts for over 24% of World GDP||Represents more than 40% of the world population.|
|Any countries from the EU or the USA are not a part of it.||Goldman Sachs came up with the idea of BRICS after the 2008 Global Recession.|
BRICS – Impact on Global Financial Institutions
- The financial crisis of 2008 was one of the major reasons behind the formation of BRICS. The dollar-dominated monetary market collapsed after the subprime mortgage crisis and raised questions about its reliability and sustainability.
- ‘The reform of Multilateral Institutions’ was established by BRICS in order to make changes in the structure of the World Economy, thus increasing the part emerging economies play in the world economy.
- These reformations of institutions resulted in the formation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) quota reform after BRICS managed to push for it in 2010, further reducing the financial crisis due to western laws. BRICS ended being the ‘agenda settlers’ in multilateral institutions after this.
New Development Bank (NDB)
- The New Development Bank (NDB), one of the multilateral development institutions created by the BRICS has been working successfully and is headquartered in Shanghai, China.
- It was discussed in the 2012 Summit (4th BRICS Summit – New Delhi) and established in 2015.
- Fortaleza Declaration of the 2014 BRICS Summit (6th) stressed that the NDB will strengthen cooperation among BRICS and will supplement the efforts of multilateral and regional financial institutions for global development thus contributing to sustainable and balanced growth.
- Since the start of its operations after the 2015 Summit, 42 investment projects worth over $11 billion have been approved and are under implementation bringing in the much-needed investment in the developing countries.
- The major idea behind NDB was to mobilize funds and resources which the sustainable development and infrastructure projects demanded. NDB not only proved helpful for BRICS countries but also helped other emerging economies and developing countries.
- Key Areas of operation of the NDB are:
- Clean Energy
- Sustainable Urban Development
- Economic development among BRICS member countries
- Agriculture development and irrigation
- Transport infrastructure
- All the BRICS Member countries hold an equal stake in the bank and the NDB works on their consultative mechanism.
- List of NDB Projects: https://www.ndb.int/projects/list-of-all-projects/
What is the Brasilia Declaration?
The Brasilia Declaration was signed by the BRICS members at the 11th BRICS Summit in Brasilia. This declaration reaffirms the members’ commitment to upholding the UN Charter’s purposes and principles, advocating multilateralism, and finding a political settlement to serious issues.
- The Brasilia Declaration will be advocating and supporting
- The major role of the UN in international affairs
- Mutual respect for international Law
- Reforming Multilateral Systems
- The three major international organizations (UN, WTO and IMF) need to be strengthened and reformed in order to address the issues faced by the developing nations of the world.
- Supporting multilateralism
- The US-China trade war has a significant impact on the global economy.
- Multilateralism will allow emerging economies and developing countries to protect their own interests.
7. China offers ASEAN nations support on vaccines
It seeks deeper ‘economic ties’ to offset maritime disputes, push back against U.S. outreach in the region
China on Tuesday offered ASEAN countries its vaccines as well as closer cooperation on joint vaccine development and production, as it hosted 10 Foreign Ministers from the Southeast Asian grouping.
The meeting comes as China looks to deepen its economic ties with the region as well as push back at what it sees as a renewed effort at regional engagement from the new Biden administration in the U.S. in particular, as well as from the India-Australia-Japan-U.S. Quad grouping, which earlier this year came out with a regional vaccine initiative.
On Tuesday, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the visiting Ministers that China and ASEAN should “jointly carry forward Asian values” in a subtle dig at the West. President Xi Jinping had in 2014 put forward the idea that it was for “Asian people to uphold Asia’s security”.
Mr. Wang made a similar point on Tuesday, saying that “taking root in the Oriental tradition, both sides should strengthen mutual learning and cultural exchanges, and carry forward Asian values, instilling positive energy to global and regional governance.”
“Both sides should continue to embrace the ‘Asian Way’ of consensus building and accommodating each other’s comfort levels, build an inclusive and co-existed family, and forge a cooperation circle featuring common development,” he said. “We should adhere to independence, self-reliance and self-strengthening to support the ASEAN integration, and forge a closer community with a shared future.”
China’s hosting of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers in the city of Chongqing marked the 30th anniversary of ties and came as Beijing deals with recent disputes with both the Philippines and Malaysia. The meeting reiterated the need to “advance consultations on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea” but as the recent incidents underlined, progress has been slow.
Beijing is banking on deep economic links to both offset maritime disputes and the push among some ASEAN countries for closer defence ties with the U.S. amid their concerns about China’s growing military footprint in the South China Sea.
Mr. Wang said China-ASEAN trade had grown to $ 684.6 billion and the expectation is for that to only grow following the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade deal.
On COVID-19, China said it would “do its best to provide vaccines to ASEAN countries and strengthen cooperation in vaccine R&D, production, procurement, vaccination, and supervision with other countries”, Mr. Wang said, as he also put forward a proposal to implement a “China-ASEAN Public Health Cooperation Initiative” and an “ASEAN Regional Reserve of Medical Supplies for Public Health Emergencies.”
8. World Bank sees India growing by 8.3%
Lender says forecast, however, masks damage from COVID second wave; pegs global growth at 5.6%
India’s economy is expected to grow by 8.3% in the fiscal year that began in April 2021, the World Bank forecast in its June 2021 Global Economic Prospects released on Tuesday. The forecast, however, masked the significant expected economic damage caused by the “enormous” second wave of COVID-19, the Bank said.
Raising its projection for global growth, the bank said the world economy would expand at 5.6% in 2021, the fastest post-recession growth rate in 80 years, underpinned by U.S. stimulus spending and faster growth in China. Observing that global output would still end up 2% below pre-pandemic projections by the year end, the development lender said “highly unequal” access to COVID-19 vaccines was a factor in the uneven recovery.
“In India, an enormous second COVID-19 wave is undermining the sharper-than-expected rebound in activity seen during the second half of FY2020/21, especially in services. With surging COVID-19 cases, foot traffic around work and retail spaces has again slowed to more than one-third below pre-pandemic levels since March, in part due to greater restrictions on mobility,” the bank noted.
‘Collapse and recovery’
Economic activity in India would likely follow a similar but less pronounced ‘collapse and recovery’ trend seen during the first wave, the bank said in its outlook.
“The pandemic will undermine consumption and investment as confidence remains depressed and balance sheets damaged. Growth in FY2022/23 is expected to slow to 7.5% reflecting lingering impacts of COVID-19 on household, corporate and bank balance sheets; possibly low levels of consumer confidence; and heightened uncertainty on job and income prospects,” the global lender added.
For the world as a whole, losses to per capita income would not be reversed by 2022 for some two-thirds of emerging market and developing economies, the bank said. Low income countries that had lagged in vaccinations had witnessed a reversal in poverty reduction, with the pandemic exacerbating insecurity and other long-standing challenges.
“While there are welcome signs of global recovery, the pandemic continues to inflict poverty and inequality on people in developing countries,” World Bank Group President David Malpass said in a press release.
“Globally coordinated efforts are essential to accelerate vaccine distribution and debt relief, particularly for low-income countries,” Mr. Malpass added.
9. ‘Free vaccines to States to add just ₹10,000-cr.’
Fiscal deficit to widen by only 0.4%: UBS
The government’s move to supply free coronavirus vaccines to the States for universal inoculation and extend free rations to help the poor tide over the pandemic will only add an additional 40 basis points (bps) of GDP to fiscal deficit, says a report.
The increased allocation of free vaccines to all above 18 years coupled with extending free foodgrain supplies through rations will add only 40 bps to the overall fiscal deficit in FY22, which poses upside risks to the estimated of 6.8% of GDP, Tanvee Gupta-Jain, economist at UBS Securities India, wrote in a note.
Assuming an average price of ₹150/dose, with a similar amount incurred on logistics and supply charges, we estimate the total fiscal cost to the Centre will be ₹40,000-₹45,000 crore and of this, ₹35,000 crore has already been provided for in the Budget, which means the Centre will have to allocate a maximum of ₹10,000 crore for this, she said.
10. Editorial-1: Bring genomic sequencing into the pandemic fight
Emerging variants, with evidence of higher transmissibility and immune escape, demand re-strategised responses
If there is one tool in the COVID-19 pandemic response, which India has been slow in adoption and has used sub-optimally, it is genomic sequencing. An effective COVID-19 pandemic response requires, inter alia, keeping track of emerging variants (total 10 till now including variants of interest and concern) and then conducting further studies about their transmissibility, immune escape and potential to cause severe disease. Therefore, genomic sequencing becomes one of the first steps in this important process. When the success of the United States and the United Kingdom in containing the virus is discussed, a lot of credit is being given to the increasing vaccination coverage; however, it is often forgotten that alongside, these countries have scaled up genomic sequencing, tracked the emerging variants and used that evidence for timely actions. India seems to be faltering on both expanding vaccination coverage and genomic sequencing. Unfortunately, there is not enough attention to scale up genomic sequencing, which as per the original plan was supposed to cover 5% of confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Though the procedural steps such as setting up the Indian SARS-CoV2 Genomic Consortia, or INSACOG have been taken, the sequencing has remained at a very low level of a few thousand cases only. It is no surprise that we understand the Delta variant (B.1.617.2, the original lineage B.1.617 was first reported from Maharashtra, India in October 2020) far less than the Alpha variant (B.1.1.7, first reported from Kent, England in September 2020) reported just a month before Delta. The challenge of insufficient genomic sequencing is further compounded by the pace at which data is being shared, especially when the emergence of strains is so vital in tracking and responding to a pandemic. Reportedly, the Indian government took two weeks, from early March — when research scientists submitted information on new variants — to issue a public announcement on the variants on March 24, 2021.
The Delta strain
Amidst this, the release of findings of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research-Institute of Genomics; Integrative Biology and National Centre for Disease Control and Academy of Scientific and Innovative Research study; tracking variants of SARS CoV-2 in Delhi; on a pre-print server (yet to be peer reviewed) is a welcome change and provides new insights.
Based upon the analysis of nearly 3,600 genomic sequence samples from November 2020 to April 2021, the authors have reported that by April 2021, the Delta variant became the most circulating variant in Delhi and was found in nearly 60% of the samples analysed; is 50% more transmissible than the Alpha variant (which already had 70% higher transmissibility over the ancestral virus); is likely to be associated with high viral load, as reflected by the declining Ct value (for RT-PCR) over the study period and resulted in a higher proportion of breakthrough infection (people already vaccinated getting infected). Based upon these findings, the authors attribute the Delta variant responsible for the pandemic wave (which was fourth for the city state) in Delhi in April-May 2021. However, the authors did not find any difference in severity of disease or case fatality rate due to the Delta variant and suggested the need for further studies.
This is the first detailed study of SARS CoV-2 genomic sequencing data from any Indian State and provides very useful insight on the behaviour and impact of Delta variants. Around the same time, Public Health England (PHE) reported that the Delta variant has become the most common circulating strain in the U.K., replacing Alpha. The early data from the PHE has interpreted that the Delta variant may be responsible for more severe disease and higher rate of hospitalisation compared to all previous variants. A week before this data, on May 27, the PHE reported that the effectiveness of a single dose of vaccine (amongst symptomatic patients) was lower against the Delta strain. On June 3, medical journal The Lancet published research findings from laboratory studies which examined the neutralising capacity of antibodies from individuals vaccinated with two doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, which was nearly 5.8 fold lower against Delta variants and 2.6 fold less against the Alpha variant, when compared with the ancestor virus.
Our scientific knowledge and understanding about emerging strains is going to be the key to deploy public health interventions (vaccines included) to fight the pandemic. The emerging variants — with early evidence of higher transmissibility, immune escape and breakthrough infections — demand continuous re-thinking and re-strategising of the pandemic response by every country. Scientific research would make a difference only if it results in informed policy decisions. There are a few steps Indian policy makers should consider as urgent.
The steps ahead
First, India needs to scale up genomic sequencing, across all States. There should be sufficient and representative samples collected for genomic sequencing to track district-level trends in circulating variants. More genomic sequencing is needed from large urban agglomerations. A national-level analysis of collated genomic sequencing data should be done on a regular basis and findings shared publicly.
Second, the Indian government needs to invest and support more scientific and operational research on vaccine effectiveness. The data should be analysed on a regular basis and should include various stratifiers such as age, gender and comorbid conditions, etc.
Third, there are early indications of immune escape and reduced vaccine effectiveness against the Delta variant (especially after one shot). India, till the end of May, has administered at least one dose of vaccines to 43% of people older than 60 years and 37% of those older than 45 years. Does it mean the focus of vaccination should be to achieve saturation coverage of the high risk population, with both shots, than one shot to everyone? Does it mandate a need for a reduced gap between two doses of Covishield for anyone older than 45 years? Should vaccination of those 18-44 years be put on hold till vaccine supply is assured or should it be done only in districts where the Delta strain is predominant? These are the questions which experts need to deliberate and come up with the answers.
The data from genomic sequencing has both policy and operational implications. The State and district officials should engage the epidemiologists in coming up with practical and operational implications and strategies. As Indian States plan to open up after COVID-19 restrictions, the settings with predominantly the Delta variant in circulation (which has higher transmissibility) should aim for far stricter adherence to COVID appropriate behaviour, in public places.
Use evidence for actions
Continuation of many unproven and ineffective therapies in COVID-19 treatment guidelines is proof that India is not quick in adopting evidence to the practice. There is a need for rapidly expanding genomic sequencing, sharing related data in a timely and transparent manner, and understanding of the impact of new variants on transmissibility, severity and vaccine effectiveness. The only assured way to fight the pandemic is to use scientific evidence to decide policies, modify strategies and take corrective actions. As India prepares for the third wave, increasing genomic sequencing and use of scientific evidence for decision making are not a choice but an absolute essential.
11. Editorial-2: State interventions, Lakshadweep’s future
The archipelago’s integration into the mainstream should not lead to emotional alienation and physical damage
The Lakshadweep Administration, which is now facing a storm over its draft rules introduced by its Administrator, has now provided a fresh rationale for its proposals, shifting from public policy to public purpose ignoring public interest, whereas the strategic issue is the interplay of ecological fragility, insular cultural geography and strategic location. There are two competing visions for its future. NITI Aayog, in 2019, identified water villas and land-based tourism projects as the development issue faced by the islands, suggested zoning based on land acquisition and focused on sustainable development ignoring the fragile environment and culture. The Integrated Island Management Plan prepared under the guidance of the Supreme Court and National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management, in 2016, had rejected ‘home stays’ in view of the strict social customs and strong resistance of the vast majority. It stipulated that development programmes be implemented in consultation with the elected local self-government bodies adhering to scientifically determined plans.
Questionable public purpose
The rationale, or thinking, of the appointed Administrator of the Union Territory, planning for flight loads of tourists, through four controversial proposals — the Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation, Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation, Lakshadweep Panchayat Regulation and Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation — as “regulations of peace, progress and good government”, has apparently not even been able to convince the Union Home Minister. For the local people, and across the political spectrum, these changes are arbitrary, authoritarian and will destroy the way of life. The Administrator’s fresh response is reliance on the power of government or ‘public purpose’ for acquiring private land, unnecessarily opening the door to conflict and the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court in the case of Dev Sharan vs State of Uttar Pradesh, in 2011, pointed out that, “Any attempt by the State to acquire land by promoting a public purpose to benefit a particular group of people or to serve any particular interest at the cost of the interest of a large section of people especially of the common people defeats the very concept of public purpose….”
The proposals have been challenged before the High Court of Kerala, which had, in 2019, in a separate case, recognised the special status given to the inhabitants for protecting their ethnic culture and traditions, and to maintain the serene atmosphere in these islands without unnecessary interference by mainlanders.
Lakshadweep is unique. It is an egalitarian coconut tree owning society, with little economic inequality, a very high level of both literacy and unemployment. The Muslim community is designated as Scheduled Tribes. The land area is fully covered with coconut trees, the main agricultural crop, and fisheries is the main economic activity employing a quarter of the working population. Electricity generation is mainly through diesel generators and is expensive and solar electricity has limitations as it requires a large land area. They need employment in the mainland.
Review tourism strategy
The Lakshadweep Administration has framed the development issue as the development of the islands on the lines of the Maldives, whereas the fact is that it is adopting a very different strategy without any real consultation.
In the Maldives, tourism since the 1970s is centred on water villas in uninhabited islands, ensuring that very few coconut trees are cut with limited home stays introduced in 2015, and few cultural and other conflicts. Second, a ‘one island, one resort’ policy has kept pressure on reefs low due to a wide distribution of the tourist population. Third, the business model is about giving coral reefs economic significance where rich and healthy reefs are essential for private capital’s economic returns. Fourth, tourists come because of the natural beauty and the sheer amount of marine life; resort owners commit to conserve the reefs and divers at the resorts are quick to report illegal activities. Fifth, regulation is limited to ban on reef fishing and collection of corals, having no centrality to land acquisition.
In Lakshadweep, the separation of resorts from villages, including for drinking water, sewage disposal and electricity, gives priority to the fragile ecosystem, socio-economic conditions and well-being of the inhabitants. Groundwater occurs as a thin lens floating over the seawater and is tapped by open wells replenished by the monsoon; all the inhabited islands have a scarcity of drinking water supply. The conventional method of sewage treatment is not feasible because of the coral sandy strata and high water table. The existing water balance is already under stress and inhabited villages cannot accommodate tourism. Why the Ministry of Environment is quiet about this is not clear.
Meanwhile, public interest is being re-defined, shifting the debate from private tourism to urbanisation, both inappropriate for inhabited islands. Despite inhabited islands being defined as ‘cities’ in the Census, they do not need to be developed as ‘smart cities’ with a focus on infrastructure requiring large-scale construction and land acquisition. The irony is that the Administration has anticipated public opposition and, despite there being no case of murder, robbery or local involvement in smuggling, the new draft legislation seeks preventive detention for ‘anti-social activities’, and covers “cruel person” and “depredator of environment”.
The relation between state and society is being arbitrarily changed, despite the constitutional protection. The powers of the panchayats have been withdrawn on grounds of corruption, an unusual step. The two-child policy for those seeking election to panchayats does not exist in other Union Territories or States. A ban on beef has been instituted, contrary to the practice in Northeast India. Liquor is being permitted for tourists in inhabited islands.
Lakshadweep is a uni-district Union Territory with a top-heavy administrative system of more than half-a-dozen All-India Service officers essentially creating work for themselves.
Interventions should be limited to setting boundary conditions for both resorts and development institutions, with income from taxing resorts given to the inhabitants. Active state intervention should be limited to generation of electricity in partnership with public sector units, and water, sewage and health as well as education, technology-enabled employment in call centres and future employment in the mainland.
12. Editorial-3: This time for Male
Maldives and India have an opportunity to work for changing power structures at the UN
The election of Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid as the President of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly, that begins in September for 2021-22, is a major boost for the island-nation’s international profile. The election marks the first time a Maldivian will hold the post in the UN’s history, and his margin of victory, 143 to his challenger’s 48, indicating support from nearly three fourths of all countries at the UN, is significant. Maldives also sees it as a win for the 52-member Small Island Developing States (SIDS), which are battling climate change vulnerability and other developmental challenges. In addition, in a year when events in Afghanistan will draw attention as U.S. forces begin to pullout, Mr. Shahid’s victory over his surprise opponent, former Afghanistan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul, is remarkable. For India too, that helped Maldives canvass support, the outcome is welcome, not only because of its close ties with Male but also the high regard for Mr. Shahid, a key member of the Solih government. In a break from the norm of not announcing one’s choice for an election by secret ballot, Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla had announced India’s support for the Maldives in November 2020, South Block’s explanation being that Afghanistan had not yet announced Mr. Rassoul’s candidature — which it did in January 2021. New Delhi should now ensure that the Afghan government carries no hard feelings, as some in Kabul had even hinted that India might wish to support Afghanistan as it had sacrificed its turn at the UNSC for India’s current term there. It would also be important to analyse why Kabul decided to field a candidate late in the race, and not withdraw despite it being clear that its South Asian neighbour was ahead, and did not consult India closely on the process.
The focus now shifts to his tenure and South Asian issues such as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and equitable access to vaccines. Cooperation is close and Mr. Shahid is in discussions to appoint an Indian diplomat as his chief aide. Given that the previous President of the General Assembly, from Turkey, had ruffled feathers with his remarks in Islamabad that Pakistan was “duty” bound to raise the Jammu and Kashmir dispute “more strongly” at the UN, Mr. Shahid’s tenure is expected to see a far smoother term for India, especially as the Modi government focuses on showcasing the country at the UN during India’s 75th Independence anniversary next year. Above all, it is hoped that India in the UNSC and the Maldivian President of the General Assembly will work in tandem as New Delhi pursues its goals for multilateral reform, and re-energise the dormant process of effecting change in the old power structures in the global body.