India will take over the chair of the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI), said the ministry of Electronics and IT on Sunday, adding that it would act as a “force multiplier” towards enabling India to achieve its $1 trillion digital economy goal by 2025. Minister of state for Electronics and IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar will represent India at the GPAI meeting on Monday in Tokyo for the symbolic takeover from France, which is the outgoing Council Chair.
A ‘kinetic enabler’
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has catalysed the tech landscape and is pushing the envelope of human possibilities further. “It is expected to add $967 billion to the Indian economy by 2035 and $450-500 billion to India’s GDP by 2025, accounting for 10% of the country’s $5 trillion GDP target. AI is a kinetic enabler for growth of India’s technology ecosystem and a force multiplier for achieving the $1 trillion digital economy goal by 2025,” the ministry said.
GPAI is an international initiative to support responsible and human-centric development and use of AI. It is a congregation of 25 member countries, including the US, the UK, EU, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, and Singapore. India joined the group in 2020 as a founding member.
A first-of-its-type, GPAI works for evolving better understanding of challenges and opportunities around AI using the experience and diversity of participating countries. The alliance aims to bridge the gap between theory and practice by supporting advanced research and applied activities on AI-related priorities.
GPAI works in collaboration with partners and international organisations, leading experts from industry, civil society, governments, and academia to promote responsible evolution of AI and to guide in responsible development and use of AI, grounded in human rights, inclusion, diversity, innovation and economic growth.
FM Sitharaman to kick-start pre-Budget meetings from today; In SC: plea on reservation policy in NEET-PG examination; Department of Consumer Affairs to issue guidelines to curb fake online reviews; Maharashtra panel meet over boundary row with Karnataka; FIFA World Cup 2022 – Qatar – Group B England Vs Iran; Group A Senegal Vs Netherlands
The UN climate summit in Egypt concluded on Sunday with a landmark decision to establish a fund to address loss and damage, aiming to compensate for destruction caused by climate change-induced disasters, even as other crucial issues such as India’s call for phasedown of all fossil fuels witnessed little progress in terms of outcome.
Loss and damage
Loss and Damage fund was a long-pending demand of poor and developing countries, including India, and the key element at this year’s UN climate summit. Vulnerable countries had said that they would not leave COP27 without it. Developed nations, particularly the US, had opposed this new fund over fears that it would hold them legally liable for massive damages caused by climate change.
With over 195 countries reaching a final agreement at UN climate talks in Sharm el-Sheikh on Sunday, India which actively participated in the two-week long negotiations through multiple interventions, welcomed its outcome as “historic” for securing an agreement on establishing a fund to address loss and damage due to climate change-induced disasters, saying “the world has waited far too long for this”.
India also welcomed the inclusion of “transition to sustainable lifestyles and sustainable patterns of consumption and production” in the COP27 cover decision, which noted the importance of transition to sustainable lifestyles and sustainable patterns of consumption and production in efforts to address climate change.
“It is Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi who has made the pitch for an environmentally-friendly lifestyle, through his mantra of Mission LiFE and the world today moved in that direction,” said Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav.
Fossil fuel Phasedown
The hope at COP27 was to include a “phasedown” of all fossil fuels, including oil and gas, as proposed by India and backed by many developed and developing countries, including the EU and the US, but the final agreement did not essentially build on what was agreed upon in COP26.
The explosion in a moving autorickshaw in Mangaluru was an “act of terror”, Karnataka Director General of Police Praveen Sood said on Sunday.
The low-intensity explosion occurred on Saturday evening inside an autorickshaw, near a police station, leaving the passenger and the driver injured. Both have been admitted to the hospital.
“It’s confirmed now. The blast is not accidental but act of terror with intention to cause serious damage. Karnataka State Police is probing deep into it along with central agencies,” Sood tweeted on Sunday.
Police believed a cooker fitted with a detonator, wires and batteries were used to trigger the blast.
Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said the suspect had terror links as he had travelled to various places, including Coimbatore in neighbouring Tamil Nadu.
Searches were conducted at the house of the suspect, who was travelling as a passenger in that vehicle. Police claimed to have seized explosives and circuits, which were used in the bomb, from his house in Lokanayaka Nagar near Mysuru.
NIA, IB join probe
National Investigation Agency (NIA) and Intelligence Bureau (IB) officials have also joined the state police in investigating the matter, Bommai said.
Tamil Nadu police are questioning a 40-year-old man, Surendran, in Udhagamandalam in connection with the autorickshaw blast in Mangaluru as the mobile SIM card used by the accused was allegedly bought using his Aadhar card. More details here
More than 300 Kuki-Chin refugees, including women and children, crossed the Mizoram-Bangladesh border and took shelter in Bondukbangsora village in Lawngtlai district on Sunday, intelligence sources told TOI. They escaped from Cheihkhiang and surrounding villages in Bangladesh’s Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) following a military operation.
Refugees from Myanmar
The latest influx could increase the refugee burden on the northeastern state, which has hosted more than 30,000 people from Myanmar since the February 2021 military coup in the neighbouring country. The state government has also issued temporary identity cards and provided humanitarian assistance to these refugees.
A fresh crisis?
People from the Kuki-Chin community fled their villages after a combined force of Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and Arakan Army (AA) rebels launched a joint operation on Wednesday. The militants apparently abducted nine villagers.
The AA is the largest insurgent group fighting for independence of Rakhine (Arakan) state from Myanmar since 2009.
More than 2,000 people have been displaced due to the attacks and might cross the Mizoram-Bangladesh border soon.
A secret pact
A press statement issued by ZoRO (Zo Reunification Organisation, based in Aizawl) on Saturday alleged that the Bangladesh’s RAB and the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) reached a secret agreement with the AA to launch joint operations against the Kuki-Chin National Army (KNA).
The KNA and its political wing, the Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF), were formed by ethnic Kuki-Chin-Mizo communities demanding a separate state and to safeguard the community in the CHT region in Bangladesh.
What: The Centre is planning to include a variation of the ‘Valmiki’ community in the scheduled caste list of the Jammu and Kashmir, amid growing indications that elections will soon be held in the Union Territory. As per the proposal, the ministry for social justice and empowerment has pushed for the inclusion of ‘Balmiki’ in the SC list of J&K.
Why: The name is a spelling variation of ‘Valmiki’ which is already in the list, but given the strictness adopted in the recognition of Dalit groups, the difference often leads to exclusion of many individuals and households from reservation and other benefits.
Caste calculation: BJP has been on an overdrive on caste categorisation in J&K, having announced recently the inclusion of the ‘Pahari’ community, which is a linguistic minority, in the list of Scheduled Tribes. The Gujjars and Bakkerwals, who are in the ST list, have reacted strongly against the proposal and threatened protests. While Gujjars and Bakkerwals are Muslims, the ‘Paharis’ comprise both Hindus and Muslims.
Balmikis of J&K: However, the case of ‘Valmikis’ and ‘Balmikis’ is not controversial as they have been a known Dalit community across the country. Sources said some families of the community had migrated from Punjab to Jammu in 1957-58, in the wake of a strike by sanitation workers in J&K. It is largely this group which has faced exclusions for identifying themselves as ‘Balmikis’ and, hence, they have been seeking slight spelling variation in their caste name for inclusion in the SC list.
What next: The proposal will be sent to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes for its opinion, after which it will be put before the Union cabinet for its approval. Then, a bill will be brought in the parliament for passage.
Millions of Nepalese on Sunday participated in the high-stakes polls to elect a new parliament and provincial assemblies, hoping to end the political instability that has plagued the country for more than a decade and impeded growth. The election pitted the ruling alliance of the Nepali Congress party, led by PM Sher Bahadur Deuba and some former Maoist rebels, against the Nepal Communist Unified Marxist Leninist party.
Political analysts seem to be divided over the possible outcome. While some have predicted that the ruling alliance would retain power, others have predicted a hung assembly. There are no pre-poll and exit poll surveys.
How Nepal votes
About 18 million people were eligible to vote for the 275-member parliament and the 550 members of seven provincial assemblies through a mix of first-past-the-post and proportional representation systems.
Political parties have promised to bring down prices, create jobs and boost the economy at nationwide rallies. Several young and independent candidates, including medical and IT professionals, challenged the old party leaders, hoping to reap the benefits of an evident wave of change.
Analysts said a new government would face the challenge of reviving the economy and curbing high prices. There are fears that a global recession might reduce remittances, which account for about a quarter of gross domestic product (GDP).
Tourism, which contributed 4% to GDP before the pandemic, has yet to fully recover. Foreign reserves are shrinking and the retail inflation rate has been hovering at six-year highs of about 8% in the Himalayan nation, where one in five people live on less than $2 a day.
Political stability has proven elusive for the poor nation, wedged between China and India, discouraging many investors. Nepal has had 10 governments since the abolition of a 239-year-old monarchy in 2008.
The Twitter handle of former US President Donald Trump is up again after the social media company’s new owner, Elon Musk, announced that the account will be reinstated after he ran a poll in which users narrowly backed the move.
Trump was permanently suspended from the microblogging site by its previous management in January 2021, just days after the attempted insurrection by pro-Trump supporters at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Trump’s supporters attacked the Capitol as the US Congress attempted to certify Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election.
Musk had run an online poll asking whether Trump’s account should be reinstated on Twitter. In the poll that received 15,085,458 votes, 51.8 percent voted yes and 48.2 percent were against reinstating the former US President’s Twitter account.
“The people have spoken. Trump will be reinstated. Vox Populi, Vox Dei,” Musk tweeted on Saturday.
At the time when Trump’s Twitter account was reinstated, it showed that he had one million followers and that number quickly grew to 2.1 million in just under 30 minutes.
Asked on Saturday what Trump thought of Musk purchasing Twitter and his own future on the platform, Trump praised Musk but questioned whether the site would survive its current crises. “He’s a character and I tend to like characters,” the former president said of Musk. “But he’s smart.”
The 400th birth anniversary of Assam’s legendary war hero Lachit Borphukan will be celebrated in the national capital from November 23 to 25 with PM Narendra Modi’s attendance at the valedictory function.
An Ahom general
Borphukan was a commander in the erstwhile Ahom kingdom and is known for his leadership in the 1671 Battle of Saraighat that thwarted an attempt by Mughals to capture Assam.
Mughal emperor Aurangzeb had sent a large army to capture Guwahati from Ahoms. Borphukan had established a naval defence on the Brahmaputra. Using guerrilla warfare, the Ahom soldiers launched a counter-attack from various strategic points in the city.
Nearly 4,000 Mughal soldiers were believed to have been killed in the battle and Aurangzeb’s troops were pushed to the western border of the Ahom kingdom.
The National Defence Academy (NDA), since 1999, has been conferring the best passing out cadet with the Lachit Borphukan gold medal, named after the Ahom general.
Chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma appealed to the people of Assam to light earthen lamps at their homes on the occasion on November 24, which is celebrated as ‘Lachit Divas’ across the state.
The chief minister said he would request the Chief of the Army Staff to hold a memorial lecture to honour the 17th century general. He said he has written to chief ministers of other states to include a chapter on the Assamese war hero in their school curriculum. A similar request will also be made to the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT).
Qatar: The FIFA World Cup kicked off in Qatar on Sunday – in a first for a Middle East nation – with 32 teams eyeing glory in this once-in-four-years football extravaganza. It is a high-stakes event for the tiny nation which has faced a barrage of criticism over its treatment of foreign workers, LGBTQ rights and social restrictions, including banning alcohol at stadiums and public display of affection, and allegations of bribery for hosting rights – which the organisers have denied.
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Written by: Rakesh Rai, Jayanta Kalita, Prabhash K Dutta, Abhishek Dey Research: Rajesh Sharma