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5 THINGS FIRSTIn the SC: verdict on Padmanabha Swamy temple management case & hearing on TN govt plea for 50% OBC reservation in medical colleges; Retail inflation data for June to be released; Delhi HC to hear final arguments in Jamia violence case; Pak SC to hear Umar Akmal’s plea against 3-year ban1. In Rajasthan politics, there’s a stepmom, horses, stables and goatsCapital grudge: Apparently incensed over the notice received from the Rajasthan Police’s Special Operations Group (SOG), to record his statement in the alleged MLA poaching case, state deputy CM and PCC chief Sachin Pilot firmly camped himself in the national capital with 30 of his supporting MLAs, who are nursing a grouse against CM Ashok Gehlot for “step motherly treatment given to them”. However, three of these MLAs returned to Jaipur on Sunday, as Gehlot has called for a legislature party meeting today morning though Pilot said he won’t attend it and added that the Gehlot government had lost majority. The SOG has sent notices to Gehlot, Congress chief whip Mahesh Joshi and some independent MLAs, to record their statement.The issues: Gehlot fired the first salvo in the latest round, alleging that the BJP was trying to poach Congress MLAs by offering them a bribe of Rs 10-15 crore — accusing the saffron party of “crossed the limit of shamelessness” and indulging in politics of “bakra mandi” or goat market. The BJP has asked Gehlot to offer evidence to support his accusations, even as two BJP-linked men were arrested on charges of trying to offer bribes to Congress MLAs. That apart, the Gehlot camp wants the implementation of the ‘one man, one post’ rule so as to force Pilot to relinquish his post as PCC chief. Both Gehlot and Pilot have been at loggerheads ever since the former was named the CM after the 2018 assembly elections — it was believed that the latter would become the state CM and even the SOG’s FIR mentions a ‘rift between the CM and deputy CM’.The worry: Having lost Madhya Pradesh after former Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia defected to the BJP along with over 20 of his supporting MLAs earlier this year, the Congress is understandably nervous about an encore happening in a state they wrested from the BJP less than two years back. Currently, in the 200 member assembly, the Congress, along with its supporting parties and independents, has 107 MLAs while the BJP and its allies have 72. Pilot and his 30 MLAs quitting the party could mean the fall of the Gehlot government, a la Kamal Nath in MP.The voices: The apprehension of losing another state has prompted senior Congress leaders to call for an organisational shake-up. In a tweet, former Union Minister Kapil Sibal said “Worried for our party. Will we wake up only after the horses have bolted from our stables?” Even leaders from the BJP have issued statements in support of Pilot, leading to speculations that he may join it. This, even as interim Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s one year term as party chief comes to an end on August 10, with the clamour for having Rahul Gandhi as party chief growing.2. A pandemic update2. A pandemic updatePune-based Serum Institute of India (SII), in a statement, said there is no evidence to prove that the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine offers protection against Covid-19, amid a surge in demand for the vaccine in the market. SII is one of the major manufacturers of the MMR vaccine in the country. There have been reports of adults queuing up for MMR vaccination in hopes of gaining immunity against the coronavirus; MMR is administered to infants at nine months of age. “The ‘mumps’ component in the MMR vaccine is not recommended beyond the age of 10 years, as it is likely to be reactogenic,” Adar Poonawalla, MD and CEO, SII, added.With 29,271 new cases, the number of active Covid-19 infections in India crossed the 300,000-mark on Sunday. 492 fatalities were reported. India’s cumulative figure stood at 879,060 infections and 23,175 fatalities. It took only 15 days for the latest 100,000 active cases; it had taken 23 days to go for 100,000 to 200,000.Also, South India recorded over 10,000 fresh cases (10,589 in all), with Karnataka (2,627 new cases) and Andhra Pradesh (1,933) registering single-day records; Tamil Nadu reported 4,244 cases. Other states to report single-day highs were West Bengal (1,560), Bihar (1,266), Gujarat (879) and Chhattisgarh (184). Maharashtra reported 7,827 cases and 173 deaths; Delhi, 1,573 cases and 37 deaths.3. Kashmiri separatist leader Sehrai detained under PSA3. Kashmiri separatist leader Sehrai detained under PSASyed Ali Shah Geelani (left) with Mohammad Ashraf SehraiAn arrest: Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai, a separatist hawk and chairman of the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat (TEH), a hardline group under the umbrella of the Hurriyat Conference, was detained and booked under the stringent Public Safety Act (PSA) on Sunday, Jammu and Kashmir Police chief Dilbagh Singh said. His son Rashid Sehrai said Sehrai was arrested from his residence at Barzulla in Srinagar at around 5.30 am Sunday, and is held in Udhampur. Under PSA, authorities can detain a person for up to two years without trial.The timing: This comes just days after Syed Ali Shah Geelani, 91, stepped down from Hurriyat Conference over internal differences in the organisation, and named Pakistan-based Abdullah Geelani as his successor at the amalgam. In his letter, Geelani criticised Hurriyat leaders for not speaking up against New Delhi’s decision to strip J&K’s special status under Article 370 and questioned the “financial irregularities” in the organisation. A hardliner who has advocated for the accession of Kashmir with Pakistan, Geelani is reportedly in poor health.Tell me more: Hurriyat Conference, or All Parties Hurriyat Conference, is an amalgam of 26 parties; Geelani had led its hardline faction. The moderate faction of the Hurriyat is led by Mirwaiz Umer Farooq. Geelani’s decision to step down and nominate Abdullah Geelani in effect meant Sehrai was viewed as the face of the hardline faction in Kashmir by virtue of heading the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, a hardline group founded by Geelani in 2004. Note: Sehrai’s another son, Hizbul commander Junaid Sehrai, was killed in a shootout at Nawa Kedia, downtown Srinagar, in May this year.4. Why Australia has gotten more assertive against China4. Why Australia has gotten more assertive against ChinaAs discussed in Saturday’s newsletter, India is to formally invite Australia to the Malabar naval exercise sometime this week, a sign of hardening of its approach towards China. The decision is also a reflection of the tougher approach Australia has taken towards China over the past year, especially since the onset of the pandemic. This despite China being its largest trade partner.After China enforced the national security law on Hong Kong, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison suspended the extradition treaty with the city and extended visa for Hongkongers already in the country. In May, Australia, along with the European Union, sponsored the resolution for a probe into the origin of the coronavirus at the World Health Assembly. Despite pushback from China, Morrison said it was “entirely reasonable and sensible that the world would want to have an independent assessment”, considering the “extraordinary” implications of the pandemic.But pandemic was only the trigger. Australia has been wary of China’s growing influence in its “backwaters” through investments in the island nations in the Pacific — much like India’s concerns over Chinese influence in Maldives, Sri Lanka, Seychelles and Mauritius. Last year, Sydney-based Lowy Institute, a think tank, termed Beijing’s investment in the atolls as “an ocean of debt”, and urged Australia to enhance its financing facility as a counterweight. The warning bells were sounded when the Solomon Islands derecognised Taiwan in late 2019.This caused a change in Australia’s strategic posturing, as detailed in the two policy papers released this July, the Defence Strategic Update and Force Structure Plan. The new strategy will recalibrate Australian Defence Forces’ focus on an Indo-Pacific that, Morrison said, was experiencing “fundamental shifts and increased threats”. As part of the new strategy, Australia would invest $270 billion over the next decade in enhancing its defence capabilities, including on long-range missiles.6. After banning Chinese apps, govt ‘bans’ their right to challenge6. After banning Chinese apps, govt ‘bans’ their right to challengePre-emptive move: The Centre has initiated a move to block any challenge to its order banning 59 Chinese apps last month from the companies by filing a petition in the Rajasthan High Court, asking that no injunction is passed by the high court “till the applicants (government) are heard in the matter”. According to a Reuters report, the court filing was signed by Additional Solicitor General of India Rajdeepak Rastogi. However, it’s not clear why the government chose to file its petition in the Rajasthan High Court and whether it intends to file similar caveats in other high courts as well. Till date, none of the companies which own the 59 apps — such as ByteDance’s TikTok and Xiaomi’s Mi Video Call, among others — have legally challenged the government order issued last month.Getting prepared: While filing of such caveats is considered routine, in order to prevent any adverse order being passed by a court until and unless it has heard the government, it is also indicative that sooner or later, the government expects the companies to initiate legal proceedings against the order. That’s because many of these apps don’t just derive a huge subscriber base from India, but also a substantial chunk of their revenues. TikTok, probably the most popular of these 59 apps, for instance, has been downloaded more than 611 million times making India its largest overseas market, representing 30.3% of the app’s downloads. With over 200 million active users on a monthly basis, it stands to suffer a loss of $6 billion from India alone — which is more than the combined revenue loss of the remaining 58 apps.Dialogue before duel? While the government’s filing in the high court reiterates that the ban was effected to safeguard “the interests of Indian mobile and Internet users and ensure safety and sovereignty of Indian Cyber Space” — as outlined in the ban proclamation — the companies owning these apps are hoping to have a chat with the government before considering any legal challenge. In fact, last week, the government sent a questionnaire of 79 queries to the companies, seeking details about “unauthorised data access” and weak security features, among other things. The companies have been given till July 22 to respond, failing which the ban will be permanent.7. Why is India a gold smuggling hub7. Why is India a gold smuggling hubAn NIA Court on Sunday remanded to judicial custody UAE Consulate employee Swapna Suresh and Sandeep Nair, the two key accused arrested in connection with the 30 kg gold smuggling case in Kerala, which has once again put the spotlight on India being a haven for illicit gold trade. So what makes India so ‘attractive’ for gold smugglers?Pricey duty: With gold prices flirting outrageously with the Rs 50,000 per 10 gm mark and the increase in customs duty last year from 10% to 12.5%, along with a hike in GST from 1% to 3%, with an additional 5% GST on making of gold ornaments… all serve to ‘incentivise’ the smuggling of the yellow metal. Contrast this with the customs duty of 1% in the 1990s after the economic reforms that killed the gold smuggling market as imports were liberalised. The difference between gold imported legally and illicit gold can translate into a ‘profit’ of Rs 6 lakh for a kilogramme of the precious metal.Weighty issues: According to a Canada-based NGO IMPACT report last year on India’s position in the global gold smuggling racket, the country has 20,000 tonnes of gold in its private reserves — defined as gold held by households and religious bodies like temples. This is equivalent to the combined gold reserves held by the “central banks of the United States, the Eurozone and China”. While officially India imports between 800-900 tonnes of gold annually, the actual consumption is closer to or more than 1,000 tonnes per year — implying that between 150-200 tonnes of gold is smuggled into the country annually, based on the World Gold Council’s (WGC) estimates that just 2% of smuggled gold is seized by customs officials. Interestingly, for every 5 kg of gold imported into the country, 1 kg is exported as well, largely as jewellery. In fact, one-third of all gold passes through India’s borders, according to the report.The hub: Nearly 75% of all smuggled gold into India comes from Dubai, which in turn is a hub for illicit trade in gold coming primarily from the Great Lakes region in Africa. One of the reasons why very little quantity of smuggled gold is caught is because the smuggling happens at the source countries’ front-end — gold of questionable provenance is ‘sanitised’ with proper documentation created before it is exported to India, where traders and jewellers are quite lax in verifying the source of the gold. Moreover, since India shares a land border with 7 countries, 6 of whom have extremely porous borders with India — Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and China — smugglers often re-route the gold via these countries. In fact, of late, according to the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), there has been a spurt in smuggling of gold from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, with couriers resorting to using e-commerce platforms to hide gold in white goods.8. World roundup: Iran blames aircraft shootdown on… missile battery8. World roundup: Iran blames aircraft shootdown on... missile batteryA report: Iranian investigators have blamed a misaligned missile battery and miscommunication between soldiers and their commanders for the shooting down of the Ukrainian passenger aircraft in January, killing all 176 onboard. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards shot down the jet amid tensions following the killing of General Qassem Soleimani by a US drone strike at the Baghdad airport in IraqSyrian crisis: After multiple failures, the UN Security Council on Saturday passed a resolution to deliver humanitarian aid to war-ravaged Syria, but only through one crossing point through Turkey, as Russia had wanted. A UN mandate to deliver the aid through two crossing points had expired on Friday, and led by Germany and Belgium, a total of 13 UN Security Council members wanted to renew the agreement for a year only for Russia and China to exercise their veto power — twice. The resolution that was finally approved cleared only one crossing point for aid delivery, a scenario that Western powers say will deprive 1.3 million people of critical supplies. Russia and China abstained from the vote. Note: Most of these aids are meant for rebel-held areas in Syria, and Russia backs the regime of Bashar al-Assad. US Ambassador Kelly Craft bemoaned the vote, saying, “Behind those locked gates are millions of women, children, and men who believed that the world had heard their pleas. Their health and welfare are now at great risk”. An earthquake of magnitude 5.1 on the Richter scale jolted the Tangshan City in China’s Hubei province on Sunday, state-run CCTV reports. The United States Geological Survey said the epicentre was located at a suburban residential district just outside downtown Tangshan. In 1976, an earthquake in Tangshan killed over 240,000, by official figures.9. Hamilton leads a one-two, raises a black power salute9. Hamilton leads a one-two, raises a black power saluteLewis Hamilton led from pole to chequered flag to win the Styrian Grand Prix in Austria on Sunday, leading a Mercedes one-two with teammate Valtteri Bottas, and then celebrated with a ‘black power’ salute at the podium. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen completed the podium. Hamilton, the only black driver in F1, has been vocal about racial inequality in the society following George Floyd’s custodial death, and recently launched a foundation to work for a more diverse and equitable sport. Ferrari had a disastrous day with its drivers, Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel, colliding with each other to retire from the race. The season now moves to Hungary, which has warned British and non-European drivers of its strict social distancing rules. Leclerc is being investigated by the FIA, the apex body, after travelling to Monaco in breach of the guidelines.BEFORE YOU GO10. Rishi Kapoor’s ancestral home in Pak likely to be demolished10. Rishi Kapoor’s ancestral home in Pak likely to be demolishedA little over two months after he passed away, Bollywood actor Rishi Kapoor’s ancestral family mansion in Pakistan’s Peshawar could soon be a thing of the past as the mansion’s current owner is planning to build a commercial complex in its stead. This, despite the Pakistani government in 2018 converting the ‘Kapoor Haveli’ — as it’s known — into a museum. However, reports say that the provincial government couldn’t do the needful as there were differences over price with its owner, a wealthy jeweller.Built by Basheswarnath Kapoor, the father of theatre and Bollywood pioneer Prithviraj Kapoor and great-grandfather of Rishi Kapoor, the mansion, which appears to be in a greatly dilapidated condition, is located in an area known as Qissa Khwani Bazar in Peshawar in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Residents of the locality say that the building could collapse anytime as it has suffered the impact of the elements, such as torrential rains, as also earthquakes. Attempts by its current owner to demolish it have so far been thwarted by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa heritage department, which has filed FIRs against him.Answer to NEWS IN CLUES aishwarya rai1Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. The former Miss World winner and her daughter Aaradhya tested positive for Covid-19, a day after her husband Abhishek Bachchan and father-in-law Amitabh Bachchan tested positive. Beginning her modelling career with Camlin pencils as a teenage student, her first major ad was for Pepsi, co-starring Aamir Khan, which was a replica of the cola company’s ad in the US starring Michael J Fox. She, Aamir Khan and Salman Khan have endorsed both Pepsi and Coke products. She starred in The Pink Panther 2, opposite Steve Martin and in The Last Legion, featuring Ben Kingsley.Follow news that matters to you in real-time.Join 3 crore news enthusiasts.Written by: Rakesh Rai, Judhajit Basu, Sumil Sudhakaran, Tejeesh N.S. BehlResearch: Rajesh Sharma

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