3. Are Congress’ young guns getting restless?

3. Are Congress’ young guns getting restless?
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3. Are Congress’ young guns getting restless?
3. Are Congress’ young guns getting restless?
With yet another young Congress leader — Milind Deora this time — getting into a war of words with party member Ajay Maken over the former’s praise for AAP’s governance in Delhi, the Congress’ younger leaders seem to be running out of patience with the old guard.

  • Crumbling house: Deora’s broadside isn’t the first that’s been fired by a Congress leader who’s less than 50 years — his praise for AAP’s fiscal prudence drawing a sharp retort from Maken who asked him to leave the party first before praising another party. That in turn drew a riposte from Deora who accused Maken of undermining former Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit’s performance. Just last week, the Madhya Pradesh Congress saw its stalwarts — Jyotiraditya Scindia and CM Kamal Nath — having a go at each other, with the former threatening to launch an agitation if Nath failed to fulfil manifesto promises, which led the latter to dare Scindia to go ahead. In neighbouring Rajasthan, there seems to be no love lost between CM Ashok Gehlot and deputy CM Sachin Pilot, with the latter critical of the state’s law and order situation and just last month, taking potshots at the CM for the death of 100 infants in December last year.
  • Blurred lines: Last year’s abrogation of Article 370 in August saw several Congress leaders defy the party line and support the government. Among them were Scindia, former Lok Sabha MP Deepender Hooda and Rae Bareli MLA Aditi Singh. In fact, it’s not just younger leaders who defied the party line on Article 370 — senior leaders like Janardan Dwivedi and Anil Shastri also supported the BJP move.
  • Camping trip: That the Congress is divided into camps is the party’s best known open secret. Last year, Scindia issued an ultimatum to the party high command — read the Gandhis — to make him the MPCC chief or he might “look for other options”. The resignation of Rahul Gandhi as Congress President following the 2019 Lok Sabha debacle allowed the party’s old guard to convince Sonia Gandhi to take up reins again while several of Rahul’s appointees in the party hierarchy either quit or were forced out since Sonia returned as party president.
5 THINGS FIRST

Finance Ministry meeting to assess COVID-19 impact; Asian Wrestling Championships begin in Delhi; Election Commission-Law ministry meet on poll reforms; Yogi Adityanath govt to table UP Annual Budget; Champions League Round of 16 (Atletico vs Liverpool, Dortmund vs PSG)

1. Another gender barrier falls in Indian army
1. Another gender barrier falls in Indian army
  • A hurdle gone: The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Centre to grant permanent commission to all women officers in the 10 non-battlefield services in the army within three months, terming the Centre’s argument of “physiological limitations” and “social norms” for denying them command posts “disturbing”.
  • Will mindset change? The top court said that the Centre should already have granted permanent commission to women officers and acted on the 2010 Delhi High Court verdict allowing it, especially after the SC on September 2, 2011 clarified that there is no stay on the high court verdict. The court had earlier said: “Two things are required to rid any form of gender discrimination — administrative will and change in mindset.” That was after Centre argued that since the army is predominantly male and from rural areas, soldiers are not yet mentally schooled to accept women officers in command.
  • A long fight: Women were first inducted into the army as part of the military nursing service in 1927 and as medical officers in 1943. However, female officers started being hired in other branches of the army only in 1992 and that too only under short service commissions for five years. The service tenure was extended to 10 years in 1996 and 14 years in 2004. Between 1992 and 2001, eight new army branches were opened for women. In 2010, women were granted permanent commission in the army’s legal and education corps (in addition to medical services). The government had a little over a year ago granted permanent commission to newly-recruited women officers, but not those short service commission officers already in the force. The SC verdict extends it to all.
    Women in armed forces
  • The next step? Though SC clarified that deployment of women officers in combat roles is a matter of policy, that may be the next gender barrier to fall. Women have been part of combat positions in Norway since 1985, in Denmark since 1988, in Canada since 1989 and in Israel since 1995. The US and Australian militaries lifted a ban on female soldiers serving in combat roles in 2013. The UK lifted a ban on women serving in close combat units in the British military in 2016. There are many other countries like Finland, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Romania and Sweden that allow women in close combat roles. While in some countries, it was legislation that paved the way for the inclusion of women (Spain in 1999), in others it was the judiciary that showed the way (Germany allowed it in 2001 following a European Court of Justice ruling). In 2018, Slovenia appointed Major General Alenka Ermenc as chief of the army, making her the only woman in charge of a NATO country’s military.
2. Where to protest? That’s the question
2. Where to protest? That’s the question
  • Court’s concern: Hearing pleas over the road blocks due to the ongoing protests at Shaheen Bagh in Delhi against the Citizenship Amendment Act, the Supreme Court said on Monday that people have a fundamental right to protest against a law, but the blocking of public roads is a matter of concern. What will happen if people start protesting on the roads? Democracy works on expressing views but there are lines and boundaries for it, the court said.
  • Centre’s concern: Centre’s lawyer said that Shaheen Bagh protestors “should not be given a message that every institution is on its knees trying to persuade them on this issue”. Home Minister Amit Shah had last week given an open invitation to “anyone with doubts over the CAA” to seek an appointment from his office and he would meet them “within three days”. Hundreds of women from Shaheen Bagh were stopped in their march to Shah’s house midway on Sunday after being assured of a “proper appointment” with him. Shaheen Bagh has been the epicentre of anti-CAA protests since December 15 and was also the centrepiece of BJP’s campaign for Delhi assembly elections.
  • Where to protest? The court has asked senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, advocate Sadhana Ramachandran and former chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah to talk to the protestors and persuade them to move to a site where no public place is blocked.
  • What’s next? The apex court said that if nothing works, “we will leave it to the authorities to deal with the situation” because “protestors have made their point and the protests have gone on for quite some time”. The next hearing in the case is on February 24.
4. Where have India’s birds flown?
4. Where have India’s birds flown?
  • The study: A first-of-its-kind study of India’s birds says that we are losing them at an alarming rate. Among the reasons: Loss of habitat due to human activity, widespread presence of toxins and hunting and trapping for pet trade. The report jointly released on Monday by 10 organisations assesses the status of 867 bird species using data uploaded by birdwatchers.
  • The bad news: The number of species showing a long-term decline over a 25-year period (135) vastly outnumber those whose numbers are rising (12). Similarly, the species whose numbers are falling over the last 5 years (116) outnumber those for which the numbers have risen (21). Of the 146 species for which the study could estimate annual trends, nearly 80% are declining.
  • The missing birds: The species that saw over 50% decline in the last 25 years include scavenging and open-country raptors, migratory shorebirds, gulls and terns, those specific to the Western Ghats and carnivores. Since the 1990s, several species of vultures have almost disappeared, bustards and other grassland birds have declined while the number of birds like the Green Munia that are popular in the bird trade have crashed. The Jerdon’s Courser that was rediscovered in 1986 after a gap of 138 years, has not been seen since 2008.
  • The good news: A total of 126 species (out of the 867 assessed) appear to be stable or increasing in the long term. These include the popular House Sparrow, the Indian Peafowl, Asian Koel, Rose-ringed Parakeet and Common Tailorbird. Many of these are species that have adapted well to human-dominated habitats, says the report. Also, the Forest Owlet, rediscovered in 1997, is being reported from many more locations.
NEWS IN CLUES
5. Who’s the only South African cricketer to score a century in all formats?
  • Clue 1: He’s been found guilty of ball tampering twice during his international career — a 2013 Test match versus Pakistan and a 2016 Test against Australia.
  • Clue 2: With 387 runs in 8 innings, he was also South Africa’s highest run-getter at the 2019 ICC World Cup.
  • Clue 3: In the IPL, he’s turned out for both the Chennai Super Kings and Rising Pune Supergiants.

Scroll below for answer

6. India gets on Laureus roll of honour
6. India gets on Laureus roll of honour
From left: Boris Becker, Sachin Tendulkar & Steve Waugh

  • British F1 ace Lewis Hamilton and footballing superstar Lionel Messi were declared joint winners of the prestigious Laureus World Sportsman of the Year award in Berlin on Monday. In a first in the 20-year history of the awards, they received the same number of votes with the jury unable to split the duo. Messi was also the first sportsperson coming from a team sport to receive the honour. And US gymnast Simone Biles who won five gold medals at the 2019 World Championships, grabbed her third World Sportswoman of the Year in four years, having won in 2017 and in 2019.
  • While the 2019 Rugby World Cup champions South Africa won their second Laureus World Team of the Year Award, German F3 driver Sophia Florsch and Colombian cyclist Egan Bernal grabbed The World Comeback of the Year and World Breakthrough of the Year awards, respectively.
  • Also, snowboarding sensation Chloe Kim won her second straight World Action Sportsperson honour. In the Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability category, Oksana Masters, born with limb impairments caused by radiation from Chernobyl and adopted by an American single parent, was recognised for winning five gold medals and a silver at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships.
  • Drum roll. Sachin Tendulkar’s 2011 World Cup-winning moment with Team India, titled ‘Carried On the Shoulders Of A Nation’, was voted the greatest Laureus Sporting Moment Award of the last two decades. Playing his sixth World Cup, Tendulkar finally won a winner’s medal in 2011 when India beat Sri Lanka by six wickets in the final in Mumbai.
Laureus 1
  • Carried on the shoulders of his team-mates, Tendulkar took a lap of the ground. The foundation launched the Laureus Sporting Moment 2000-2020 to public vote, which gave fans the opportunity to choose one of the winners of the prestigious Laureus World Sports Awards. Tendulkar received the award from former Australian captain Steve Waugh.
  • FYI: The Laureus World Sports Awards, or the ‘Oscars’ of sports, which recognise sporting achievement during 2019, are the premier honours on the international sporting calendar.
7. How long will India’s economic slowdown last?
7. How long will India’s economic slowdown last?
  • A downgrade: Global credit rating agency Moody’s on Monday slashed its 2020 growth forecast for India’s economy to 5.4% from 6.6% forecast earlier. The growth projections are based on calendar year and as per its estimates, India has clocked 5% GDP growth in 2019. Growth slipped to a more than six-year low of 4.5% in the July-September quarter.
  • The reason: “We expect any (economic) recovery to be slower than we had previously expected… With a weak economy and depressed credit growth reinforcing each other, it is difficult to envision a quick turnaround of either,” the agency said. A key to stronger economic momentum would be the revival of domestic demand as well as resumption of credit growth in the economy, it said. “As similar policies in other countries have shown, tax cuts (in the Budget) are unlikely to translate into higher consumer and business spending when risk aversion is high,” Moody’s said.
  • The signs: The Reserve Bank of India had also earlier this month downwardly revised India’s growth forecast for the first half of the next fiscal year to 5.5-6.0% from an earlier projection of 5.9%-6.3%. However, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told parliament recently that the signs of “green shoots were visible” and the economy was no longer in trouble.
8. Voda’s due-or-die situation
8. Voda's due-or-die situation
  • While Bharti Airtel paid Rs 10,000 crore to Department of Telecom (DoT) on Monday, as part payment of its adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues, cash-strapped Vodafone-Idea continued to struggle. The Supreme Court on Monday, in fact, refused to hear the latter’s plea seeking more time to pay off dues even as it deposited Rs 2,500 crore on Monday and assured another Rs 1,000 crore by Friday. The apex court also refused to pass an order on Vodafone-Idea’s plea to direct the central government not to encash its bank guarantee in view of the judgement. (The original deadline to pay dues was January 23.)
  • According to DoT estimates, AGR dues for Vodafone-Idea amount to more than Rs 53,000 crore. (It’s own self assessment pegged it lower at Rs 18,000-23,000.) And for the December quarter, the company reported a Rs 6,439-crore loss — the sixth successive quarter when it ended in the red. As of December 2019, it only had Rs 12,530 crore of cash and equivalent reserves, while bearing a gross debt of Rs 1.2 lakh crore. And options are running out fast.
  • Also, think large-scale job losses and subscriber churn. But the biggest losers are going to be the government and banks. Goldman Sachs reported that banks like SBI (Rs 11,200 crore), IndusInd Bank (Rs 3,995 crore), IDFC First Bank (Rs 2,500 crore), ICICI Bank (Rs 1,725 crore) and Punjab National Bank (Rs 1,027.7 crore) too have a sizeable exposure to Vodafone Idea.
  • Note: Vodafone Idea’s collapse would make it the third bankruptcy of a local mobile carrier in two years following Aircel Ltd and Anil Ambani’s Reliance Communications Ltd. It will also be the latest casualty of the intense price war sparked by Jio in 2016.
9. Coronavirus: Tokyo trims marathon, ahead of Olympics
9. Coronavirus: Tokyo trims marathon, ahead of Olympics
  • A smaller event: Organisers of the Tokyo Marathon, scheduled to be held on March 1, said Monday they will allow only elite runners to take part in the pre-Olympics event, as the coronavirus epidemic continues unabated. Around 38,000 were scheduled to take part in the event, including the “general category”.
  • Why it matters: Tokyo Marathon is a qualifying event for the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Marathoners who haven’t yet qualified, including some Indian athletes, have been preparing for the Tokyo marathon to do so. The decision to hold a trimmed-down event is an attempt to continue with at least the flagship race of the event, yet the move is likely to fall short in assuaging concerns of international athletes and sporting bodies. It also puts a question mark over the Summer Olympics, which is less than six months away.
  • The International Olympic Council (IOC) has thus far insisted that it has no plans to postpone the Tokyo Olympics. In fact, on Monday, Tokyo unveiled its motto for the Games — “United by emotion”. Yet, the epidemic is looming large on the horizon. Fresh cases of coronavirus have been reported in Tokyo and Hokkaido, both host cities of the Games, among people with no travel history to China. With more than 400 people infected, most of whom passengers on a cruise ship docked in Yokohama, Japan is behind only China in the number of coronavirus cases.

Meanwhile, Japanese officials have confirmed a further 99 people have been infected by the new coronavirus aboard the quarantined cruise ship, bringing the total to 454. The US has already evacuated its nationals from the ship, including 14 who have tested positive.

BEFORE YOU GO
10. The odd one out
10. The odd one out

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump, astride the presidential limousine, ‘The Beast’, lead a cavalcade of race cars to inaugurate the Daytona 500 Nascar race in Florida on Sunday. Political observers termed the showmanship a 2020 re-election campaign. Last December, Trump had announced that he was moving his official residence from New York to Florida, a state that swings between the Democratic and Republican parties.

Answer to NEWS IN CLUES
NIC

Faf du Plessis. The 35-year-old stepped down as captain of South Africa’s Test and T20I sides with immediate effect on Monday, saying he wanted to allow a new generation of leaders to develop in the side. He last captained South Africa during last month’s 1-3 Test series loss at home to England. He was then rested for the recent ODI and T20I series against the same opponents, where the team was led by wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock. du Plessis, however, will remain available for selection.

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Compiled by: Judhajit Basu, Rakesh Rai, Sumil Sudhakaran, Tejeesh N.S. Behl





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