Weekly Current Affairs May 2021

Welcome to the Endeavor Editors Current Affairs Choicest Blog series. Get a  weekly roundup -on news from business, economy, markets, policy, and more. A quick capsule format news summary and update to keep you abreast with all the latest current affairs.

Current Affairs May 2021 – Week 1

1. Current Affairs – International News & Global Economy

Explained: Why does Russia want to leave the International Space Station?

After more than two decades of international cooperation in space research, Russia this week announced that it would be withdrawing from the International Space Station in 2025, and build and manage its own floating laboratory that will be launched into orbit by 2030. Building a new station would also help Russia tide over challenges that its cosmonauts currently face on the aging ISS, such as conducting experiments and adapting the latest technology to a hardware architecture that is over two decades old. The decision to leave also comes at a time when relations between Russia and the US have been steadily deteriorating on multiple fronts, with the two powers also accusing each other of militarizing space. For details visit.

How the International Space Station was constructed

The International Space Station is a marvel of humankind’s achievements and a global collaborative effort. Uncover the secrets of how the ISS was built and ingeniously maintained for over 20 years.

How NASA plans to phase out the International Space Station

The International Space Station is an engineering masterpiece and a symbol of international cooperation and collaboration. The Space Station has helped NASA gather immense data about low earth orbit and how it affects astronauts over the past two decades. However, as space technology continues to improve and NASA continues to grow, the ISS will eventually have to be phased out. During this process, NASA plans to first rent out the ISS for commercial activities such as making films and tourism. After this has gone on for a while, NASA plans to deorbit the ISS and have all the debris fall into the ocean. Following this, NASA will likely turn to private space companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin to build future space stations. 

China launches key module of space station planned for 2022

China launched an unmanned module containing what will become living quarters for three crew members on a permanent space station that it plans to complete by the end of 2022, state media reported. The module, named “Tianhe”, or “Harmony of the Heavens”, was launched on the Long March 5B, China’s largest carrier rocket from the Wenchang Space Launch Centre on the southern island of Hainan. Tianhe is one of three main components of what would be China’s first self-developed space station, rivaling the only other station in service – the International Space Station (ISS). The ISS is backed by the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan, and Canada. China was barred from participating by the United States. For details visit.

China urges the United States to restrain frontline forces in nearby seas

The Chinese defense ministry urged the United States to rein in its frontline forces which Beijing has said have become more active in the air and seas near China this year. China has frequently maintained that a U.S. military presence in the South China Sea, East China Sea, and Taiwan Strait is the main destabilizing factor in the region. The United States has said it has freedom of navigation in these areas, which China regards as its geostrategic backyard. Biden has maintained a tough-on-China stance inherited from the Trump administration. That has included more visible support for Taiwan, angering China, which deems the island part of its territory and sees Washington as giving succor to Taiwanese seeking independence, a red line for Beijing. For details visit.

Will China and the US go to war over Taiwan? | FT

China’s military has grown to such an extent that it now represents a credible threat to the US in the Western Pacific. The FT’s global China editor James Kynge and Taiwan-based greater China correspondent Kathrin Hille discuss the growing tensions and whether China could actually win a war over Taiwan.


2. Current Affairs – India

India COVID update

All Important COVID-19 headlines from around the country | Coronavirus Pandemic | CNBC-TV18

 India’s Covid-19 cases continue to surge at a record speed with the total number of cases since the onset of the pandemic reaching the 1.9 crore mark, of which nearly 35% have been recorded only in the month of April. Here are more headlines relating to the virus from around the country.

Fauci suggests a few weeks’ lockdown in India to break chain of coronavirus transmission

Top US epidemiologist Anthony Fauci has suggested a lockdown for a few weeks in India as an immediate step to contain the spread of the coronavirus as its deadly second wave shows no signs of ebbing. Fauci, in an interview with The Indian Express, said another most important thing in the immediate is to get supplies of oxygen, medication, PPEs. He said looking at the magnitude of the crisis, India should look at putting together a crisis group that would meet and starts getting things organized. For details visit.

Cases closer to 1 crore a day | India Development Debate

India’s foremost epidemiologist Dr. JP Muliyil believes Covid 19 infections are closer to one crore per day as infections are 30 times those formally reported. He also believes herd immunity is the only way out of the pandemic, either through vaccinations or infections. Watch the chairman of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the National Institute of Epidemiology speak on when the Covid 19-second wave could peak.

COVID-19 vaccination for people above 18 years deferred in several States

Several States including Delhi, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu have deferred the third phase of the COVID-19 vaccination drive, which was scheduled to be rolled out for all adults from May 1. Punjab, Gujarat, Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh too have flagged a shortage of vaccines. Delhi CM said all citizens would be vaccinated against COVID-19 in the next three months, but appealed to citizens against queuing up outside vaccination centers in the Capital. Karnataka’s Health and Medical Education Minister K. Sudhakar too made a similar appeal
Tamil Nadu had placed an order of 1.5 crore doses of vaccine, which is yet to arrive. The Gujarat government said, “the vaccination process will start once the state receives substantial numbers of vaccine doses from pharma companies.” Meanwhile, in Mumbai, a civic official said vaccination against COVID-19 in the city will have to be suspended for the next two days if enough fresh stock is not provided. For details visit.

Govt to import 4.5 lakh vials of Remdesivir to ease shortage

The government has started importing vials of the antiviral drug Remdesivir. Demand for Remdesivir has gone up manifold in the country with a surge in COVID-19 cases. The antiviral drug is used in the treatment of infectious diseases. HLL Lifecare Ltd, a Government of India-owned company, has ordered 4,50,000 vials of Remdesivir from M/s Gilead Sciences Inc USA and Egyptian Pharma Company, M/s Eva Pharma, the release said. For details visit.

Maharashtra preparing for a possible 3rd wave of Coronavirus by July, Says Health Minister Rajesh Tope

Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope said the state is preparing itself to face a possible third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, which is likely to come by July or August. In view of the ongoing oxygen crisis, the state is also working to set up oxygen plants and arrange oxygen concentrators. “Crises of oxygen should not happen in future, we have informed all officials. Huge oxygen plants are being set up,” the minister said.  For details visit.

3. Current Affairs – Economy 

Core sector grows 6.8% in March

The output of six infrastructure sectors posted 6.8% growth in March, a 32 month high—as a favorable low base effect kicked in giving a false sense of normalcy even as the rampaging second wave of coronavirus pandemic and slow vaccine rollout are widely believed to delay any meaningful economic revival in Asia’s third-largest economy. Overall, the core sector contracted 7% in FY21 against 0.4% growth in the preceding year. While the impact of the second wave which accelerated in April is expected to have a lesser impact, the expectation of double-digit growth despite a favorable base effect is fast fading away. Brickwork Ratings revised its FY22 economic growth projection for India to 9% from 11% estimated earlier holding that the earlier presumptions of a V-shaped economic recovery are unlikely as the deadly second wave of COVID-19 has brought an abrupt halt to India’s nascent economic recovery from the pandemic. For details visit.

At Rs 1.41 trillion, GST collection for April 2021 sets new record

Surpassing the previous high in March, Goods and Services Tax (GST) collections in the month of April set another fresh record at Rs 1.41 trillion, according to the government data released on 1st May. April month’s GST revenues are about 14 percent higher when compared with the collections of the previous month. GST collections have consistently crossed Rs 1 trillion marks for the last seven months. “These are clear indicators of sustained economic recovery during this period. Closer monitoring against fake-billing, deep data analytics using data from multiple sources including GST, Income-tax and Customs IT systems and effective tax administration have also contributed to the steady increase in tax revenue,” the government said. For details visit.

4. Current Affairs – Politics

Election results: Mamata wins Bengal, DMK TN, LDF Kerala, BJP Assam

While the counting of votes for the 294-seat West Bengal election 2021 is underway, the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC) has already a majority in the West Bengal assembly by winning 196 of the 292 seats where polling was held. Mamata lost to Suvendu Adhikari after EC retracted its earlier announcement of her win from Nandigram. After a decade in Opposition, the DMK won a convincing victory over arch-rival AIADMK in Tamil Nadu. M K Stalin, the 68-year-old DMK president, is all set to become the Chief Minister for the first time. The Left rewrote history in Kerala on Sunday by becoming the first government to get a second term in four decades. The BJP-led NDA is set to form the government in Assam for the second consecutive time, as the ruling alliance according to the latest trends is likely to win 74 seats in the 126-member Assembly. The AINRC-led National Democratic Alliance will take power in union territory Puducherry after winning 16 seats in the 30-member assembly. For details visit.

5. Current Affairs – Markets, Banking, and Finance

HDFC Bank unveils reorganization into three focus areas

Private sector lender HDFC Bank announced an internal reorganization that would see it form three distinct focus areas namely, business verticals, delivery channels, and technology. This, the bank said, will further build its execution muscle in all three areas and be ready for the future. It has named this exercise, Project Future – Ready. The creation of focused business verticals and delivery channels will enable it to capitalize on the opportunities across customer segments in the time to come, the bank said in a statement. In addition, the bank said it will increase its focus on commercial banking to bring its product and digital might to the entire commercial banking in a much more holistic manner. For details visit.

India’s credit growth may dip further after touching a record low

Indian bank credit growth hit a record low in fiscal 2020-21 and is expected to languish near those levels this year as a massive surge of COVID-19 infections risks denting India’s economic recovery and forces lenders to turn cautious again. Credit growth touched a record low of 5.6% in the financial year 2021, recently released Reserve Bank of India (RBI) data showed, and it slipped even further in April. Some fear credit growth may worsen as a dramatic improvement in macroeconomic outlook anytime soon looks unlikely. For details visit.

RBI fixes private bank MD, CEO tenures at 15 years; compliance by Oct 1

The Reserve Bank of India capped the tenure of managing directors (MDs) and chief executive officers (CEOs) of private banks at 15 years. Promoters or major shareholders, however, cannot hold these posts for more than 12 years, but the RBI can choose to give them a three-year extension under extraordinary circumstances. According to the RBI’s latest guidelines on corporate governance in banks, after the completion of their term, professional MDs & CEOs or whole-time directors will be eligible for re-appointment in the same bank after a minimum gap of three years. During the cooling-off period, they should not be associated with the bank or its group entities in any capacity, either directly or indirectly. For details visit.

Explained: New SEBI rule for fund manager compensation

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has said that a minimum of 20% of the compensation of mutual fund managers and other key personnel in an asset management company (AMC) should be in the form of units of the mutual fund schemes they manage. Key personnel here refers to the likes of chief executive officer, chief investment officer, research head and their direct reportees. The compensation of fund managers — at least the variable pay component — is linked to performance. What SEBI has done here is crystallise the rules and extend it beyond fund managers to so-called key employees.  For details visit.

Explained: Why markets are rising despite Covid surge, and what you should do

A good earning season (Q4 2021 results) has come as a big positive for the markets; also, many feel the markets are looking at a bright scenario two months ahead as they always trade over the future outlook. If the absence of a nationwide lockdown and the limited impact of lockdowns announced by the states have reduced anxiety, there is optimism surrounding the vaccination program. Also, banks, which are considered a proxy for the economy, did not face asset quality crises as had been expected. The market’s big hope is on the vaccination drive. There is a sense that it is a pain of one to two months and normalization will be faster.  For details visit.

6. Current Affairs – Business

Explained: CCI clears BigBasket-Tata Digital deal; what changes in e-grocery market?

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has cleared the acquisition of online grocery firm BigBasket by Tata Digital, a subsidiary of the Tata Group. With this approval, the deal, which has been in the works for over the last six months, is nearing its close. For the Tata Group, the deal marks its first major step towards its plan of setting up a “super-app”. While the company has a significant presence in several other retail segments like electronics, fashion, and even has an e-commerce portal TataCliq, it had not entered the online grocery segment. For BigBasket, it will provide the necessary firepower to the brand to compete against the latest entrants in the e-grocery segment such as Reliance, Amazon, and Walmart-owned Flipkart. For details visit. 

Can the Tata-Bigbasket deal change the contours of India’s e-grocery segment?

The e-grocery market grew at a lightning pace of 73% last year alone and is expected to cross the $5 billion mark by end of this year. With Grofers, BigBazaar, D-Mart, and the likes, the segment surely has many players. But, the largest of them all is Reliance. With JioMart, the company managed to capture a fat market share of 30.5%. But, Reliance’s dominance might end soon! How can the Tata-Bigbasket deal change the contours of India’s e-grocery segment? Find out more below. 

Urban Company is India’s latest Unicorn startup after $188 mn Series F

Gurugram-based hyperlocal service provider Urban Company is the latest startup to join the unicorn club, as the company is said to be valued at $2 Bn in its latest $188 mn Series F funding round. The latest investment was led by Prosus. Urban Company had raised $75 mn in Series E funding round led by Tiger Global with participation from existing investors Steadview Capital and Vy Capital in 2019. The company has raised over $370 mn to date. The company claims that its operating model focuses on service professionals with the aim of turning them into micro-entrepreneurs, multiplying their earnings by 2-3 times. It has more than 30K service partners, with over 10K beauticians and hairdressers. For details visit. 

Rahul Bajaj steps down as Bajaj Auto chairman, Niraj Bajaj to take over from May 1

“Rahul Bajaj, non-executive chairman, having been at the helm of the company since 1972 and the Group for five decades, considering his age, has tendered his resignation as the non-executive director and chairman of the company with effect from close of business hours on April 30, 2021,” the company’s filing said. Rahul Bajaj has been named the Chairman Emeritus of Bajaj Auto for five years. For details visit. 

Nestle buys vitamin brands from KKR for $5.75 billion

Nestle SA agreed to buy vitamin maker Bountiful Co. for $5.75 bn, becoming a world leader in the field of minerals and supplements as the pandemic boosts demand for pills for health-conscious consumers. Nestle Health Science Chief Executive Officer Greg Behar said the purchase from private equity firms KKR & Co. and Carlyle — should double e-commerce revenue from supplements to about $1 billion this year. The bolt-on acquisition fits well with Nestle’s strategy to further expand in the highly attractive and globally growing category of specialized nutrition. For details visit. 

7. Current Affairs – Technology

Startups join to aid the fight against India’s COVID crisis | Young Turks

CNBC-TV18’s Shereen Bhan spoke Atul Satija, founder of 2.0 and CEO of GiveIndia; Varun Sheth, co-Founder and CEO of Ketto; and Rahul Aggarwal of Mission Oxygen, Democracy People Foundation, and co-founder of Designhill. 

8. Current Affairs – Climate

Climate partnership to be ‘core pillar’ of US-India cooperation: Biden

US President Joe Biden has said that he wants to make achieving climate and energy goals “a core pillar” of bilateral cooperation with India and is looking forward to work with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the matter. Biden’s remarks came a day after the two countries announced a “US-India Climate and Clean Energy Agenda 2030 Partnership” to create stronger bilateral cooperation on actions in the current decade to meet the goals of the landmark Paris Agreement. For details visit. 

World’s glaciers melting at a faster pace

The world’s glaciers are melting at an accelerating rate, according to a comprehensive new study. A French-led team assessed the behavior of nearly all documented ice streams on the planet. The researchers found them to have lost almost 270 billion tonnes of ice a year over the opening two decades of the 21st Century. The meltwater produced now accounts for about a fifth of global sea-level rise, the scientists tell Nature journal. Leeds University professor Andy Shepherd told BBC News: “Glacier melting accounts for a quarter of Earth’s ice loss over the satellite era, and the changes taking place are disrupting water supplies for billions of people downstream – especially in years of drought when meltwater becomes a critical source. For details visit. 

9. Current Affairs – Opinion

Opinion | Amid COVID chaos, look at India’s High Courts fighting for our right to life | The Quint

The Quint explains how our High Courts are being effective watchdogs in these times of never-before tragedy, compounded by administrative chaos; if our High Courts are stepping up to fight for our right to life, then, more power to them.

Second wave of Covid-19 & The Economy: State of the Economy

Assessing the impact of Covid on the economy, how to get the vaccine policy right, and the right economic policy response. In conversation with JP Morgan and Nomura. 

Worldview with Suhasini Haidar | Why has India accepted foreign aid after 17 years?

India has gone from a country that claimed to defeat COVID-19, from being the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer and the pharmacy of the world to a country that has been ravaged by the virus, and one that is now seeking both vaccines and basic medicines to treat coronavirus patients from abroad. The decision to accept this aid is a major shift in Indian policy and comes after then Finance Minister Jaswant Singh announced during his budget speech that said India had reached a stage when it would no longer rely on aid that was tied to any specific effort. However, officials say this is an exception made for the coronavirus crisis alone. For details visit. 

Why higher inflation could be India’s next big worry amid worsening Covid crisis

In India, consumer price index (CPI) inflation stood at 5.52 percent in March compared to 5.03 percent in February and 4.06 percent in January. The rise in CPI inflation was driven by an increase in fuel and transportation costs along with an increase in some components of the food basket. Moreover, the record Covid-19 surge across the country now, especially at a time when advanced economies have already started recovering, could put serious upward pressure on inflation. Higher global inflation, rising commodity prices, local lockdowns, and a weaker rupee could bring in higher prices in India. For details visit. 

10. Current Affairs – Other Topics

Senior journalist and Aaj Tak’s star anchor Rohit Sardana dies of heart attack

The 41-year-old died of cardiac arrest while undergoing Covid treatment at a private hospital in Noida. The star anchor of Aaj Tak, Rohit hailed from Kurukshetra in Haryana. Rohit was a recipient of the NT Award and ENBA Award for the best anchor as well as the prestigious Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi Award for Hindi journalism. In his career that spanned over one-and-a-half-decade, Rohit Sardana started as an announcer in All India Radio after which he made a name for himself as he anchored shows in ETV, Sahara Samay, Zee News, and then Aaj Tak. Rohit Sardana was considered one of the most powerful anchors in Hindi. As the anchor of Aaj Tak’s prime time show, Dangal, Rohit achieved a milestone in TV anchoring which only a few have got. 

Former Attorney General of India Soli Sorabjee passes away

Eminent jurist and former Attorney General of India Soli Sorabjee passed away due to COVID-19 complications. He appeared in several historic cases, including the Kesavananda Bharati case or the Basic Structure Doctrine case. For details visit. 

Revisiting History

Chernobyl: 35 years after the nuclear disaster

The disaster at Chernobyl is still considered one of the worst nuclear accidents in history. It happened on April 26, 1986. Thirty-five years later, a group of survivors returns to the ghost city of Pripyat in northern Ukraine.

With that, we come to an end for our Weekly Current Affairs May 2021 -week 1. Hope you have liked it. Write in your feedback in the comments below and let us know if anything else you would like us to cover.

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