Myanmar once again under Military dictatorship

Myanmar is once again under a military dictatorship after a military coup, just before a day when NLD (National League for Democracy) was set to form the parliament’s government. This coup came when the NLD had already won the general elections in November 2020, with a landslide victory. The military detains President Win Myint and state counsellor Aun San Suu Kyi with many other party officials.

The military has alleged voter fraud and took up the case to the Election Commission of Myanmar. But Election Commission denied all such baseless charges, which eventually led to a coup in the country. General. Min Aung Hlaing warned of a coup last week if the voter fraud is not immediately resolved.

The coup began on the morning of 1 February 2021. The NLD party was deposed by Tatmadaw (Myanmar’s military) in a bloodless coup against the civilian government. Aun San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint were detained in the capital Naypyidaw. Four hundred of the NLD government officials were detained and were told to return to their home districts. The military carried troops, trucks, and armored and personal carriers during the military takeover.

The Army has declared a one-year statewide emergency, after which reelections would be held, and the power will be given to the winner. The country and its legislative functions will be under a junta (military or political party that takes control by force). The power to govern the country has been vested in Commander-in-Chief of Min Aung Hlaing’s defense services, and Myint Swe was declared as the acting president.

Protests have sprouted up in various parts of the country against the military dictatorship. Youth has already seen their parents and grandparents suffer under military rule once before, and they don’t want the same fate for their future. The protests have been peaceful for now, with no police crackdown on the protestors.

Moments after the coup, the internet has been shut down in the country. Internet service is unavailable around major cities. Myanmar has temporarily banned access to Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and Instagram.

The country was under military rule during 1962-2011, after which democracy was put in place, and Aun San Suu Kyi first formed a government in 2015. Although NLD won the elections democratically for the first time in 2015, the military has considerable influence over Myanmar’s politics, both internally and externally.

Repressive colonial-era laws still dominate Myanmar’s constitution, which is put together by the military. The Army has been given superior power in the constitution. Since the military drafted the constitution, it favours someone from a military background to govern the country, making it almost impossible for a civilian government to maintain stability. 25% of seats in Myanmar’s parliament and three security ministries are under the military’s direct control.

USA, UN, EU, and Amnesty International have urged the ‘maintenance of democracy in the country’ and condemn military actions. The USA has already warned counter-action and government sanctions if democracy is not restored in the country.

Myanmar has already been under a lot of international criticism due to Rohingya Muslim’s genocide by the military in 2017, which has led to extrajudicial killings and large-scale violence against Muslims by the military in Myanmar. During that time, to maintain peaceful relations between her party and the military, Suu Kyi defended the Army’s genocide of Rohingya Muslims at the International Court of Justice. She received a lot of backlash from world organisations. But despite that, Suu Kyi is a popular leader in her country.

India is closely observing the situation in Myanmar. Looking at the country’s political scenario, the Indian embassy in Yangon has warned Indians living in Myanmar to take precautions and avoid unnecessary travel. Almost 7,000 NRI’s are living in Myanmar, while Indian origin people could be more than a million.



Indo-Israel Center for Excellence

Bomb Blast near Israel’s Embassy during 29th anniversary of India -Israel ties

A small bomb went off near the Israeli Embassy around 5:00 pm. The Embassy is located in the APJ Abdul Kalam Road, a high-security area in the national capital. The IED (Improvised Explosive Device) blast took place a few moments after the Beating Retreat Ceremony, where Prime Minister and the president were present.

The embassy official has said that the blast is being treated as a terrorist activity by India and Israel. The Indian officials are conducting a probe to investigate the incident. An envelope with a note attached was found near the Embassy, suggesting an Iranian link. This lead Delhi Police Special cell to question a few Iranian nationals regarding the matter. NSG team from NBDC (National Bomb Data Centre) was formed and sent to analyze the post-blast situation. The reports will be shared with Delhi Police Cell to understand the situation better.

A ‘very low-intensity improvised device caused the blast,’ says Delhi Police. The device was placed 150 metres away from the Embassy, planted in a flower pot near Jindal house outside the Israeli Embassy, and could only damage three nearby window panes of a car. Luckily, there were no casualties. A case has been registered with the special cell of Delhi Police.

A forensic team was sent near the site, and it found the presence of ammonium nitrate in the explosion. This was the reason that the intensity of the blast was low and the damage was minimal.

CCTV footage, which was collected as evidence, found that two individuals in a car were suspiciously roaming around the area, few moments before the blast.

In 2012, a similar blast took place near the Embassy, which injured an Israeli diplomat’s wife with her driver and two other people. At that time, the bomb was placed in the vehicle.

S.Jaishankar, Union Minister of External Affairs Minister, has assured full protection to the Israeli Embassy and the diplomats. Security has been tightened, and an alert has been issued to all airports, vital installations, and government buildings around the country. CISF has been alerted, and CISF personnel has been allotted near civil airports, nuclear and aerospace facility, Delhi Metro, and central government buildings.

Ron Mallaka, Israel’s ambassador to India, said he was not surprised at the event. The security around the Embassy has since been ramped up. The ongoing Investigations will look at all the possible angles which lead to this. Any recent attacks on Israel worldwide and the previous 2012 blast on the Israel embassy will be examined. The explosion seems to be an effect of the conflict in the West Asia region.

Because of these blasts, the security in some touristic destinations of Himachal Pradesh has been increased, where many Israeli tourists visit the place.

The blast came at a time when India and Israel completed 29 years of diplomatic relations. India-Israel ties were first established on 29 January 1992. This 29th January marked the completion of collaborative and successful 29 years of relations between India and Israel.




Republic Day celebrations amidst the Pandemic and the Protests

This Republic Day will be quite different from any other republic day that was previously celebrated in the country. This 72nd republic day will be the first significant event on a national scale, held after the COVID – 19 outbreak.

The many changes this year are deletions from the usual schedule, along with some new additions. Masks have become mandatory for all the individuals present in the Republic day celebration at the  NCR.

This Republic Day parade will also be unique because it will be held simultaneously with the protesting countryside farmers in the national capital against the Centre’s new agricultural laws.

Bangladesh’s Army is also taking part in India’s Republic Day parade this year. This will be the third time a foreign country’s Army has taken part in the parade.

MEA (Ministry of External Affairs) has decided that, amidst the pandemic, no chief guests from other country’s will be invited to observe the ceremony.

The changes that made to the Republic day parade will include a smaller marching contingent, consisting of only 144 personnel instead of 96 last year.

The parade, which used to start from Vijay Chowk and finish at Red Fort, covering a total distance of 8.2 km until last year, will follow a shorter route. It will begin at Vijay Chowk but will be wrapped up in the National stadium, only covering 3 km this time.

CAPF motorcycle stunts, which were very popular with the spectators, stands to be cancelled this year.

Fewer spectators are permitted to watch the Republic Day parade in the physical environment. Only 25,000 viewers are allowed to be present physically and watch the parade.

Seating arrangements for dignitaries were made at the occasion by keeping social distancing norms in mind.

Interestingly, the tableaux (also know as Jhanki) from different states will perform at the Red Fort. Among 32 Jhankiyas, Ladakh will also perform for the first time after the new Union territory formation, which will show India Astronomical Observatory at Hanle near Leh, showcasing the world’s largest optical, infrared, and gamma rays’ telescopes.

Delhi Police will be responsible for the security of the event. Around 87,000 police personnel (up from last year, which was about 65,000) will be on duty amidst raging protests at the capital.



Is another Pandemic affecting India?

After the COVID pandemic, India has been hit with yet another viral dilemma. Many states in India are now affected by bird flu. Seven states have confirmed cases while a few more have sent their samples for testing. Some of the worst affected states include Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, New Delhi and Maharashtra. Around 1 lakh poultry birds have died in Haryana, 2000 migratory birds in Himachal Pradesh, and 250 crows in Rajasthan.

Avian influenza has, in the past affected both humans and birds but this time, there is has been no case of bird to human transmission reported yet.

People who work in proximity of the infected alive or dead animals have a greater risk of contracting the bird flu. Usually, it does not spread from human to human as per WHO. Although no cases of human transmission have been found yet, if the virus mutates and alters their shape, it might lead to another pandemic.

The virus can’t affect humans if the meat is cleaned and cooked properly. This virus usually dies at proper cooking temperatures.

In birds, influenza infects the gut while in humans it directly attacks the respiratory tract and causes Pneumonia, and Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). The symptoms in humans include fever, cough, sore throat, abdominal pain, diarrhoea etc. Once transmitted, the mortality rate is 60% in human beings.

Samples were tested positive at ICAR – National Institute of High-Security animal diseases. They have confirmed the presence of H5N1 and H5N8 in the samples. H5N8, a less lethal strain of the virus has been detected in the majority of cases.

According to WHO, Avian influenza is caused by a highly contagious viral disease caused by Influenza Type A virus.

The Environmental Ministry has directed the states to form committees to monitor and contain the spread of bird flu. More than thousands of birds have died since December due to the pandemic. The ministry has issued alerts and has enhanced surveillance around zoos, poultries, farms etc.


Increase in Bad loans write-off in BJP’s term

BJP led NDA government has written off around 8 lakhs to be bad loans. It is much higher than the previous Congress-led UPA government 10-year rule where the number of bad loans was around 2,20,328 and in BJP’s term, the amount of bad loans has almost tripled. The exact estimate of bad loans is estimated to be around 7,94,354 crores between 2015-2019.

Bad loans are created when the debtors do not have enough assets to pay back the loans they have taken from the banks, so it becomes a liability on the part of the banks which they are forced to write off to create a balance.

The RTI query which revealed this info was filed by Prafful Sarda, a Pune based businessman. This write-off has affected two dozen public sector banks, 3 dozen private sector banks and almost 4 dozen foreign banks. The most shocking is the number of bad loans with the foreign banks, which have increased by a large margin over any of the previous governments.

The opposition party Congress has demanded public declaration of borrowers whose loans have been written off by the central government. They want the names of all such debtors whose loans have been waived off in the party’s regime. They have questioned the government why such loan defaulters’ bad loans are being waived off while there is no relief for farmers’ loans. Congress has accused BJP of helping their industrialist and capitalist friends by waiving their bad loans.

Earlier, in 2016 – Delhi CM, Arvind Kejriwal has also said that the demonetization move carried out by Modi government is a way to waive off bad loans of his corporate alliances.

The high amount of bad loans are also the result of debtors and loan defaulter who flee the country when they are not able to pay back. They include the likes of Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and many other big corporate houses.

Although there is a recovery of 82,571, almost 12% of the total bad loans, but the amount of bad loan write-offs is still shocking to the general public.

The only solution to curb the growth of such bad loans is auditing each party’s cash flow and donations. It will give the parties and the government accountable to the general public.

The COVID-19 pandemic has already delayed the economic growth of the country, this may affect the country even harshly.


Boats will now have environmentally friendly CNG engines in Varanasi

Diesel engine boats will now be replaced by CNG engine in boats around the Ganga river flowing through the Varanasi region. CNG engines use energy-conserving technology which not only saves energy but also reduces pollution and smoke emitted in the area drastically.

The project is being funded by the Gas Authority of India (GAIL). Divisional Commissioner Deepak has assured that an amount of 37 crores would be used under the corporate social responsibility project.

Existing diesel engines need to be replaced at the earliest. All the diesel engines will be disposed of so that they are not reinstalled in other boats. Approximately 2 lakhs will be spent on each boat to help the process of conversion smoothly.

This project will help maintain the scenic beauty of the Ganga and also lower the high amounts of pollution in the area.

Boatmen are being made to stand as stakeholders in this project to keep them accountable.

The CNG station unit will be set up near Khidkiyaghat in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.

This project’s deadline has set to be near the end of 2021. This is a move towards curbing the high amount of pollution in the area caused due to Poisonous Carbon Monoxide, Sulphur, Particulate matter, heavy metals, etc. These pollutants which are released into the environment are not only harmful to humans but affects the natural flora and fauna of the place.

After the tempos, cars and auto-rickshaws- now the CNG engines will become mandatory in boats. This is a well-intentioned move to reduce pollution in a densely populated city of India.

Varanasi is a city of ghats. People from all over the country and other parts of the world come here on pilgrimage. It is the responsibility of the Indian government and citizens to keep it clean.


USA administers its first COVID-19 vaccine

USA has administered its first COVID – 19 vaccine to a critical care nurse, Sandra Lindsay at Long Island Jewish medical centre in Queens, New York. She received the shot live on television.

The distributor of the vaccine is Pfizer in collaboration BioNtech, a German firm. UK was the first country to administer Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

Northwell Health, the largest health system in New York, monitors the hospitals in the USA administering the first dosages of the vaccines.

As of now, the USA has a death toll of over 300,000. The news of the vaccine comes as a relief for everybody who has been suffering. The vaccine has been distributed to 636 locations till now.

The vaccine which is being distributed by FedEx and USP is a challenge to transport and distribute while storing it at -70 degree Celsius as it needs to be stored in ultra-cold freezers at near-arctic temperatures.

‘Senior citizens, health care workers and first responders will be the first to get the vaccine’ said President Donald Trump days after the media criticized that White House senior officials will get the vaccine within 10 days.

Food and drug administration of the USA have authorized the vaccine last Friday, and the shipments have been sent out to each state of the USA with their respective zip code. The governor decides the priority of the group to be administered first. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has recommended the vaccine for those aged 16 years and older in the USA.

Essential and healthcare workers are at immediate risk, which is why they will be given priority in each state to get the vaccines.

The Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine is given as two shots within 21-day gaps, although the vaccine has proven to be effective from the first dosage itself.

Although the vaccine has come as a silver lining during these dark times, people are still advised to wear masks and maintain social distancing while they are in public places. It is still a long road to go before the vaccine is administered to a majority of the US population.


After COVID-19, a new illness is plaguing Andhra Pradesh

Around 600 people in the Eluru village of Andhra Pradesh have been infected with a mysterious illness which has led to the hospitalization of these 600 people along with a 45-year-old man succumbing to the disease last Sunday.

The symptoms of this mysterious illness include epilepsy of 3 to 5 minutes, short-term memory loss, forgetfulness, anxiety, nausea, headache and seizures. The demographic affected by this are mostly youngsters below the age of 18 years.

A possible reason for these symptoms could be the presence of ‘lead’, a heavy metal, which has been found in the drinking water. Such high levels of lead can cause physical impairment to the development of brains, nervous system, heart and lungs.

A team of experts from AIIMS (Delhi), National Institute of Virology (Pune) and National Centre for Disease Control have been sent to inspect the situation. Two expert teams from the World Health Organization have also asked to oversee the state of affairs.

On preliminary examination of blood samples, heavy metals were found in the pesticides that got mixed with the drinking water. Experts are collecting samples of water, food and blood for detailed analysis while the main causative agents would most likely be found after one week. In the meantime, the E. coli present in the water was found to be normal and no other known viruses or bacteria have been found.

Researchers are trying to find the reason for the heavy metals getting mixed with the drinking water by examining water and food samples. The cause is suspected to be groundwater contamination, excessive use of pesticides, severe application of chlorine and dumping or burning of used batteries, for which the results are yet awaited.

The experts’ report will be submitted to YS Jagmohan Reddy, CM of Andhra Pradesh. He has visited the hospitals and has assured the families that the government will support them. He has also said that the appropriate measure will be taken as soon as the cause is found.

New cases of this illness were reported daily over the last week. Health authorities of the state have also conducted many tests on drinking water and have taken urine analysis. CT scan results of the patients have proved to be normal. Tests on COVID-19, HSV-2, dengue, chikungunya, etc. have also come negative. The intensity of the spread seems to be much lower than COVID-19. No case has been found of this illness spreading from one person to another.

AKK Srinivas, Deputy CM has assured that the affected people are recovering well, as 85% of the patients have been discharged from the hospital on Thursday. The lead levels in patients dropped after one day of hospitalization.

Because of this incident, a sanitation drive has been started in Eluru and other nearby villages to curtail the spread of the disease. Srinivas, a representative of Eluru, supervised the sanitation drive and inspected the overhead drinking water reservoirs.

Eluru is home to 200,000 people and is majorly known for its weaving industry. In addition to this illness, Eluru is one of the worst affected COVID-19 areas in the state.




Kejriwal kept under house arrest, #BJPhousearrest trends on Twitter

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal has been put under house arrest for meeting with protesting farmers at Singhu Border earlier in the week. These protests are related to the central government’s new farm laws. They are protesting against the farm bill passed in September.

The Aam Aadmi Party spokesperson has alleged that their party members and MLA’s were not allowed to meet the CM after house arrest. The members of AAP party have claimed that Kejriwal’s residence has been completely barricaded by the police and party members were not allowed to enter. All official meetings have been canceled.

Police have denied all such allegations by AAP. “There has been no house arrest made by Delhi Police.” Claimed Delhi Police Deputy Commissioner for North District, Anto Alphonse.

Kejriwal met with the farmers at the Singhu border between Delhi and Haryana where he showed his support to the ‘Bharat Band’ farmer protesters. He also said that he would have given them full support as ‘Sevadaar’ if he was allowed free movement. Police have rejected these statements and have said that Kejriwal has been allowed free movement based upon the law of the land.

Manish Sisodia, Deputy CM of Delhi has alleged that Delhi’s CM is being maltreated by the police on Union government’s order.

An unlikely twitter fight has ensued between Delhi’s police and AAP party members. On Twitter, the AAP members have claimed house arrest. Meanwhile, the DCP of the Delhi police has rejected all claims by showing the picture of the CM’s house entrance gate which was empty and without any police barricades.

‘BJP House Arrest’ has become a popular hashtag on Twitter after this event unfolded drastically. AAP party has tweeted that many of its member who took part in the farmer’s protest has been ‘dragged’ and ‘arrested’ by the police and the CM himself has been kept under house arrest.

Even Delhi Police has joined this twitter fight and has claimed these allegations as ‘baseless’ and ‘false’.


End to Manual Scavenging in India by 2021

The Indian government has recently come up with new measures to eradicate manual scavenging by August of 2021. Hardeep Singh Puri, India’s Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs has launched ‘Safamitra Suraksha challenge’ across 243 cities. These measures are a part of ‘Swachata Bharat Abhiyan’ under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.

The scheme ‘Safamitra’ was launched on the same day as ‘World Toilet day’. The scheme has been launched to ensure that no life is lost while cleaning sewer or septic tanks. Lower castes especially Dalits are worst affected by such atrocities of manual scavenging.

Hazardous effects of manual scavenging include the fact that it shortens the life span of manual scavengers.

The Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry has decided to mechanize the sewer system without the help of any contractors. The cleaning machines would be directly provided to the workers to ensure their safety.

The slew of measures which has been taken with regard to this includes the complete mechanization of sewer and septic in 243 cities, to replace the word ‘manhole’ with ‘machine hole’ and establish a 24 hours helpline for accountability. People can directly contact the helpline if they encounter such cases of manual scavenging done by a human.

Although manual scavenging was banned since 1993, it hasn’t implemented this practice on the ground.