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WhatsApp may be worth $2-3 trillion, people value privacy more: SC

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The Supreme Court on Monday told social media giant Facebook and its messaging app, WhatsApp that it will have to intervene to protect people’s privacy in the wake of the latter’s new policy in this regard. Issuing a notice to the Centre, along with the two platforms, the court is now set examine the popular service’s fresh course on this front.

In January 2021, WhatsApp renewed its terms of service and privacy policy, which were to come into effect on 8 February. According to it, users must agree to its new data sharing norms, which includes business conversations, with Facebook. Since this is not optional, users have been left confused and concerned over privacy.

The observation came as senior advocate Shyam Divan, representing petitioner Karmanya Singh Sareen, sought direction to restrain WhatsApp from implementing its new privacy policy in India.

“They have come up with new differentiating privacy policy for the Europeans and different set of rules applicable to Indians,” Divan argued. He added that till the time new data protection law comes into force in India, WhatsApp should not bring its new privacy policy.

At this, Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde replied: “We will issue notice in the matter.”

A bench, headed by the

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INDIA FINDS 81 ROHINGYAS ADRIFT AT SEA, ASKS BANGLADESH TO TAKE THEM

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India is negotiating with Bangladesh to take back 81 Rohingyas whose boat drifted into its territorial waters in mid-February. Eight Rohingyas on that boat have already died and one has gone missing, possibly drowned in the Andaman Sea.

“We are in discussions with the Government of Bangladesh to ensure their safe and secure repatriation,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava has said.

However, a Bangladesh foreign ministry press release has made clear the country’s

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Post Pangong success, India asks China to resolve remaining boundary issues

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The government said on Friday that following the disengagement of Indian and Chinese troops along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, it is not in the interest of either side to prolong the remaining boundary issues between the two countries.

The statement came a day after External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and China’s State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi had a conversation over phone that lasted for 75 minutes. The two Foreign Ministers discussed the situation along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh and also issues related to overall India-China relations.

Noting the completion of disengagement in the Pangong Lake area, Jaishankar emphasised that both sides should now quickly resolve the remaining issues along the LAC in eastern Ladakh. He said that once disengagement is completed at all friction points, then the two sides could also look at broader de-escalation of troops in the area and work towards the restoration of peace and tranquillity.

According to the MEA release, “The EAM referred to the meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister in September 2020 in Moscow where Indian side had expressed its concern on provocative behaviour and unilateral attempts of the Chinese side to alter status quo. He noted that the bilateral relations have been impacted severely over the last year.”

Jaishankar told his Chinese counterpart that “a prolongation of the existing situation was not in the interest of either side. It was, therefore, necessary that the two sides should work towards early resolution of remaining issues”, the MEA said on Friday.

It is necessary to disengage at all friction points in order to contemplate de-escalation of forces in this sector. That alone will lead to the restoration of peace and tranquility and provide conditions for the progress of bilateral relationship, Jaishankar told Wang Yi.

The ‘Boundary Question’, he said, may take time to resolve, but disturbance of peace and tranquility, including by violence, will inevitably have a damaging impact on the relationship.

The minister said that during their meeting in Moscow last year, both ministers had agreed that the situation in the border areas was not in the interest of either side and decided that the border troops of both sides should continue their dialogue, quickly disengage and ease tensions.

He noted that the two sides had maintained continuous communication since then through both diplomatic and military channels. This had led to progress as both sides had successfully disengaged in the Pangong Tso Lake area earlier this month.

Noting the completion of disengagement in the Pangong Lake area, Jaishankar emphasised that both sides should now quickly resolve the remaining issues along the LAC in eastern Ladakh.

He said that once disengagement is completed at all friction points, the two sides could also look at broader deescalation of troops in the area and work towards restoration of peace and tranquility.

The MEA statement said that Wang Yi, on his part, expressed satisfaction at the progress made so far. He felt that it was an important step forward for restoration of peace and tranquility in the border areas. He also conveyed that it was is necessary to sincerely implement the common understanding reached at various levels.

The Chinese Foreign Minister said that both sides should make efforts to consolidate the outcomes. He also spoke about the need to improve management and control in the border areas.

WITH AGENCY INPUTS

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Gujarat: Fire breaks out at furniture factory in Navsari

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Navsari (Gujarat) [India], February 27 (ANI): A fire broke out at a furniture factory in Navsari city of Gujarat on Friday.
Fire tenders rushed to douse the fire.
Locals were gathered at the spot.
More details are awaited. (ANI)

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EXISTING COVID-19 GUIDELINES TO CONTINUE UNTIL 31 MARCH: MHA

Aishvarya Jain

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India recorded its single-day increase in Covid-19 cases above 16,000 for the second consecutive day as the infection tally rose to 1,10,63,491 while the recoveries have surged to 1,07,50,680. A total of 16,577 infections were reported in a day while the death toll increased to 1,56,825 with 120 new fatalities. The number of active cases increased to 1,55,986 which accounts for 1.41% of the total infections. The number of people who have recuperated from the disease surged to 1,07,50,680 which translates into a national recovery rate of 97.17%. The case fatality rate stood at 1.42%.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said the existing Covid-19 guidelines will remain in force till 31 March. The states and union territories have also been advised to speed up the vaccination of the target population to break the chain of transmission and overcome the pandemic.

Delhi recorded 256 new coronavirus cases, the highest number of single-day incidences in February, while one death pushed the death toll to 10,906. This is the third successive day when the daily cases count have stood at 200-mark or beyond.

Maharashtra registered 8,333 fresh Covid-19 cases, pushing its tally to 21,38,154. The death toll reached 52,041 after 48 fatalities were recorded. The tally includes 20,17,303 recovered cases and 67,608 active cases. Of the total number of fresh cases, 1,035 cases were from Mumbai alone.

Odisha’s coronavirus tally rose to 3,37,108 as 94 more people tested positive for the infection. The death toll remained unchanged at 1,915 while 53 patients have died due to comorbidities so far.

Tamil Nadu logged 481 new Covid-19 cases including one who returned from the United Arab Emirates and five fatalities, taking the overall caseload to 8,50,577 and the toll to 12,488. Recoveries marginally outnumbered new infections with 483 people getting discharged, taking the cumulative number to 8,34,043, leaving 4,046 active cases.

Karnataka reported 571 fresh coronavirus cases, 642 recoveries, and four deaths. The total cases rose to 9,50,207 while total recoveries stood at 9,32,367. Active cases stand at 5,501. 

Jammu and Kashmir recorded 85 new positive cases of Covid-19, taking the tally to 1,26,286, and one death. The death toll is 1,956.

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Economy comes out of recession, GDP up 0.4% in Dec quarter

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India’s GDP grew by 0.4 per cent in the October to December quarter (Q3 FY21), marking a return to positive zone after two-quarters of recession but showing a lingering weakness in the economy, government data showed on Friday.

A sharp improvement in the Covid-19 situation and rising public spending are the two factors behind uptick. “The GDP at constant (2011-12) prices in Q3 of 2020-21 is estimated at Rs 36.22 lakh crore as against Rs 36.08 lakh crore in Q3 of 2019-20, showing a growth of 0.4 per cent,” said the National Statistical Office (NSO).

A continuing fall in domestic consumption is seen as a strong reason behind the sluggish pace.

According to second advance estimates of economic growth, the real GDP in current financial year (2020-21) is estimated at negative 8 per cent as compared to growth rate of 4 per cent in 2019-20.

Investment recorded its first growth since December 2019, growing at 2.6% compared to a revised 6.8% fall in the previous quarter, while weakness in consumer demand eased.

Consumer spending – the main driver of the economy – dropped 2.4 % year-on-year in Oct-December compared to an 11.3% fall in the previous quarter, data showed.

The economy has returned to the “pre-pandemic times of positive growth rates”, a finance ministry statement said after the release of the GDP data, which it said reflected a continued V-shaped recovery.

“Significant recovery in manufacturing and construction augurs well for the support these sectors are expected to provide to growth in 2021/22,” said the statement, which also cautioned that India is not yet beyond “the danger of the pandemic”.

Economists have raised their forecasts for the current fiscal year and 2021-22, expecting a pick-up in government spending, consumer demand and a resumption of most economic activities curtailed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Agriculture sector is estimated to see a growth of 3 per cent in FY21 as compared to 4.3 per cent in 2019-20. The manufacturing sector is likely to contract by 8.4 per cent during FY21. More worryingly, services sectors like trade, hotel, transport are projected to contract by 18 per cent. However, electricity is likely to grow at 1.8 per cent.

Some analysts warn, however, that a recent rise in crude oil prices and a surge of Covid-19 cases in parts of the country may pose risks to the nascent recovery.

“There are some risks that need to be watched, including rising commodity prices,” Sakshi Gupta, senior economist at HDFC Bank, told Reuters, adding that the pace of recovery in the informal sector and contact-intensive services could be impacted by the resurgence of domestic virus cases.

The economy contracted by 23.9 per cent in the April to June quarter (Q1 FY21) and by 7.5 per cent in the July to September quarter (Q2 FY21) as normal activities were disrupted due to nationwide coronavirus lockdowns.

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EC SOUNDS BIG POLL BUGLE, BENGAL ELECTIONS IN 8 PHASES

824 Assembly constituencies to go for elections in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Assam and Puducherry from 27 March to 2 May; angry Mamata Banerjee asks if it’s on the PM’s suggestion.

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Voting for the Assembly elections in West Bengal will take place in eight phases, starting on 27 March, announced the Election Commission on Friday. Counting of votes will be done on 2 May.

“In the first phase, polling will take place on 30 seats. The second phase has been scheduled on April 1 and will cover 30 constituencies, followed by the third phase on April 6 for 31 seats and the fourth phase on April 10 for 44 constituencies,” said Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sunil Arora.

“Voting for the fifth phase will take place on April 17 for 45 seats, sixth phase for 43 seats on April 22, seventh phase on April 26 for 36 seats and the last and eighth phase on April 29 for 35 seats,” the CEC said.

However, after the dates for the West Bengal Assembly polls were announced on Friday, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee questioned the Election Commission’s decision to divide the polls into eight phases and alleged that it was being done to suit the convenience of the BJP.

Addressing mediapersons, Banerjee said, “I request the ECI to consider West Bengal as their own state, not through the eyes of BJP. I respect the ECI’s decision, but why have they broken-up the districts? South 24 Parganas is our stronghold. Voting will be held in three different phases there. Has it been done for the convenience of PM Modi and Amit Shah?”

Banerjee alleged that the BJP was misusing its authority as the ruling party at the Centre to influence state polls. “The Centre cannot misuse its powers for a state election. If they do it, then they will have to face the music. We are common people. We will fight our battle. BJP has sent money to all districts through agencies. I request the ECI to stop the misuse of money.”

“The Union Home Minister should be concerned about the country. He cannot misuse his powers for elections here. We welcome the Prime Minister but he cannot misuse his powers for West Bengal polls,” added Banerjee.

The ECI has appointed two special police observers, Vivek Dubey and M.K. Das, for West Bengal. With the announcement of the election schedule, the Model Code of Conduct has come into force in the state.

The ECI on Friday also announced that, besides West Bengal, the states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Assam and Puducherry (Union Territory) shall be going for polls. “A total of 824 assembly constituencies shall be going for polls during these elections. 18.68 crore electors will cast votes at 2.7 lakh polling stations in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Kerala, Assam and Puducherry,” added Arora.

The Tamil Nadu Assembly elections are to be held in a single phase on 6 April. Kerala also goes to polls on 6 April. The Assam Assembly elections will be held in three phases: The first on 27 March, the second on 1 April and the third on 6 April. Meanwhile, Puducherry elections will also be held on 6 April. Counting of all votes will be held on 2 May.

Addressing mediapersons, CEC Arora shared, “In the thick of the pandemic, ECI started test trials with elections of 18 seats to Rajya Sabha. After that came the challenge of the Bihar elections, it was indeed a watershed moment for ECI. It proved to be a litmus test. Voting turnout was 57.34 percent, exceeding the 2015 Assembly polls and 2019 Lok Sabha polls in the state.”

The terms of the legislative assemblies of five states—West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Kerala and Puducherry—will come to an end either in May or in June this year. Elections for the Legislative Assembly of West Bengal that comprises 294 seats will be held soon as the current tenure ends on 30 May.

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