Daily Briefing: 83 Tejas fighters cleared for Air Force; 30-day notice period not mandatory under Special Marriage Act

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Big story 

Set to be acquired at a cost of nearly Rs 48,000 crore, 83 Tejas Light Combat Aircraft will soon add muscle to Indian Air Force’s growing combat fleet. The  state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited will be manufacturing the aircraft. The indigenous content of the aircraft, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said, is 50 per cent and will be enhanced to 60 per cent.

Farmers burn copies of the new farm bill at a protest near Ghazipur border in New Delhi on Wednesday. (Express photo by Praveen Khanna)

Only in the Express

Fareed Zakaria, international affairs columnist, CNN news host and author, was our guest at the latest edition of Express e.Adda. In an engrossing session, Zakaria covered a broad sweep of subjects: from the chaos on Capitol Hill to the hardening divides in his native Maharashtra; the “clean” and “dirty” versions of right-wing politics and how trying to play both sides is getting difficult for politicians.

Indian cricketer Ravichandran Ashwin’s wife Prithi Narayanan shares the experience of watching the final day’s play of the Sydney Test from her hotel room, along with their two daughters.

In an assessment carried out across 484 government hospitals and other medical facilities in Maharashtra after a fire in Bhandara district general hospital killed 10 newborns, officials have found that except for a small handful, none of these facilities possess a no objection certificate (NOC) from the fire department. More than 80 per cent had never been through a fire safety audit and less than half had conducted a mock fire drill in the past.

From the Front Page

In a huge relief for interfaith couples, the Allahabad High Court has ruled that couples seeking to solemnise their marriage under the Special Marriage Act can choose not to publish the mandatory 30-day notice of their intention to marry. The judgment is likely to have bearing on the laws enacted by BJP-ruled states that prohibit religious conversion for marriage.

Democracy is up for sale — to the highest bidder — in many pockets of Maharashtra, where elections to gram panchayats are scheduled to be held on January 15. The Election Commission was forced to cancel elections to two gram panchayats after auctions of the seats reportedly fetched Rs 2.42 crore. 

Must read

Just as restaurants and eateries across Delhi-NCR had started to recover from the crippling effects of the Covid lockdown, they say they’ve been dealt another blow in the form of curbs on serving eggs and chicken dishes amidst the bird flu outbreak. Both North and South MCDs have told restaurants to not serve such dishes until further orders, citing bird flu.

The RSS-affiliated Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas (SSUN) deposed before a Parliamentary Standing Committee on textbook reforms and urged them to remove “references to un-historical facts and distortions about our national heroes from textbooks”. The body flagged “distortions” in NCERT’s school textbooks, which included a chapter on late artist MF Husain in the Class 11 Hindi textbook and references to Mughal rulers giving grants to support the building and maintenance of places of worship in a Class 12 History textbook.

After rice, India is set to turn a major exporter of wheat as well – thanks to surging international prices from Chinese stockpiling and ultra-low interest rate money increasingly finding its way into agri-commodity markets. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) upped its forecast of Indian wheat exports for 2020-21 (July-June) to 1.8 million tonnes (mt), the highest ever in the last six years. The trebling of shipments this year is mainly on the back of rising global prices.

ICYMI

The US House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to make Donald Trump the first US president ever to be impeached twice, formally charging him for inciting an insurrection just a week after a violent mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol. 

In a trip that was kept under wraps before it got underway, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval on Wednesday visited Afghanistan for talks on strategic issues with the leadership in Kabul. 

Police on Wednesday arrested BJP office bearer Ram Bihari, 63, for allegedly sodomising two minor boys for the last several months in Jalaun district.

The Enforcement Directorate arrested former TMC MP Kanwar Deep Singh on Wednesday under sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) on Wednesday arrested Sameer Khan, son-in-law of Maharashtra Cabinet Minister and NCP leader Nawab Malik, in connection to a drugs case.

And Finally

Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank had launched the maiden Toycathon – a type of hackathon to promote desi toys and toy-making based on Indian civilisation, its culture, ethos, technology, ethnicity, national heroes and important events — on January 5. As part of this programme, school, college and university students, along with professionals, can present innovative gaming ideas for all children, including the specially-abled.

Delhi Confidential: Among Union minister Babul Supriyo’s 17 tweets on Monday, was an angry outburst against one Hanuma Bihari, who he charged with “murdering” cricket. But it was, in fact, young Andhra cricketer Hanuma Vihari, that Supriyo’s angst was aimed at. Now Bihari, oops Vihari, has reacted to Supriyo’s tweet with a simple two-word putdown: *Hanuma Vihari.

In today’s episode of 3 Things, we look at the government’s plans for the first Covid-19 vaccination drive, concerns around the two vaccines that are going to be used in the drive, and the damage done by the heads of the Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech.

Until tomorrow, 

Leela Prasad G and Rahel Philipose

Express Cartoon by EP Unny.



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