Times Top10: Today’s Top News Headlines and Latest News from India & across the World

5 THINGS FIRSTToday: Centre to finalise sale of Pawan Hans helicopter service; IPL – KKR vs GT (3:30 pm) and RCB vs SRH (7:30 pm). Tomorrow: PM Modi to visit J&K; Second round of France’s Presidential election; Premier League – Liverpool vs Everton1. Does our caste decide how long we live?Caste & longevity
How long Indians live on average depends on the hierarchy of the social groups they belong to with upper castes living about four to six years more than women and men from the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. This holds across regions, income levels and time.The gap
While life expectancy across all social groups has improved significantly, the gap between them persists and in some cases even worsened between 1997-2000 and 2013-16.The gap in life expectancy between upper castes and scheduled caste men, for instance, increased from 4.6 years to 6.1 years. The gap between upper caste men and Muslim men worsened more sharply, going from just 0.3 years to 2.6 years and that between upper caste and Muslim women from 2.1 to 2.8 years in this period.The study
This was revealed in a study analysing detailed data from the second and fourth round of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS). The study was published in the journal Population and Development Review. The progress
In general, the gaps in life expectancy between lower caste groups and upper castes have reduced marginally among women. But among men, it has worsened for scheduled castes, Muslims and OBC men compared to upper castes. While the gap reduced for scheduled tribe men from 8.4 years, it remains wide at seven years. The study also showed that the gaps persist whether we look at life expectancy at birth or at later stages in life.
Check out the data and details of another study here
2. Can UK reduce India’s reliance on Russia?Britain and India have agreed to what is being termed as a “new and expanded” defence and security partnership. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on Friday also stressed the need for a “free and open” Indo-Pacific, purportedly to counter China’s increasing territorial ambitions and military aggression in the region.The offer
The two sides reportedly discussed next-generation defence and security collaboration across five domains — land, sea, air, space and cyberspace — as they face “complex new threats”. The two nations will work together to boost security in the Indo-Pacific and Britain will extend support to the development of new fighter jet technology, helicopters and collaborate in the undersea battlespace.Eye on Russia
The UK move seems to be aimed at reducing India’s dependence on Russia as its primary defence supplier by expanding economic and military ties, amid a major geopolitical churn over the Ukraine crisis.India relies heavily on Russia for its arms imports, with Moscow accounting for nearly 50% of foreign weapons supplied to New Delhi between 2016 and 2020.The Modi government is also making efforts to reduce overall arms exports through its flagship ‘Make in India’ and ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ initiatives.But…
Despite pressure from the West, New Delhi is still committed to its defence partnership with Moscow. For instance, India has started receiving the Russian-made S-400 air defence system, a weapon it deems necessary to deter China and Pakistan.India is also a major customer of Russian-developed military aircraft such as MiG-21, MiG-29, and Sukhoi Su-30MKI. Besides, the two countries have a joint venture, which produces the BrahMos missile, considered the world’s fastest supersonic cruise missile.The two sides had finalised a Rs 5,100 crore deal to produce AK-203 assault rifles in India during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit in December last year.3. ‘Apply your mind and file a better affidavit’In a stinging rebuke to the Delhi Police for claiming that no hate speeches were made at the Hindu Yuva Vahini event in Delhi in December last year, the Supreme Court (SC) asked if there had “been an application of mind as to if this stand can be taken on affidavit before the court?” by the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP).Write a wrong
Asking some searing questions to the Delhi Police, the SC enquired if the affidavit filed by them was “only a reproduction of the IO’s (investigating officer) report” or did the DCP “understand the nuances as also other aspects” — warning that in case it was merely a rehash of the IO’s report, then the court will “have to ask the Commissioner of Police to look into it.”Listing the next hearing for May 9, the SC directed that a “better affidavit be filed on or before 4 May” after the Delhi Police submitted that they will re-look at the case and file a fresh affidavit.Affidavit 1.0
In its affidavit, the Delhi Police had said that “there is no use of such words which mean or could be interpreted as open calls for genocide of Muslims in order to achieve ethnic cleansing or an open call for murder of an entire community in the speech.”The public interest litigation (PIL) that was being heard by the apex court, quoting the affidavit, said that the Delhi Police, in respect of the speeches made by Sudarshan News TV Editor Suresh Chavhanke, had submitted that the speech was made to “save the ethics of the community.”The Delhi Police in fact had gone to the extent of criticising the petitioners for not following “any of the legally established mechanism for registration of a criminal case” and directly approaching the SC “presuming that in the entire country, no legal establishment is functioning, except this Honourable Court” and asked the court to “deprecate and discourage such practices.”4. Covishield goes from shortage to a glut, production haltedSerum Institute of India (SII) halted production of Covishield vaccine against Covid-19 in December last year, according to a statement by company CEO Adar Poonawalla who was speaking at the India Economic Conclave organised by the Times Network. Poonawalla, who said that he “even offered to give free donations to whoever wanted to take it”, added that the company currently has a stock of 200 million doses that are ready to be shipped and administered.How the tables turned: It was just over a year ago that India faced a debilitating crisis of vaccine shortage amidst a deadly second wave of the pandemic. The shortages were chiefly due to a paucity of raw materials — such as grow bags used to cultivate the virus culture — as several countries which were suppliers of raw materials imposed official and unofficial bans on their export until their domestic requirements were met.Policy problems? India, which too had unofficially ‘banned’ export of Covishield last year to tide over the vaccine shortage in order to prioritise immunisation of its adult population, has also instituted a policy of a nine month gap after the second dose to become eligible for a booster shot, which Poonawalla says, also led to excess stockpiling as stocks weren’t getting cleared fast enough. The Centre has so far rejected calls for reducing the dose interval to six months for a booster shot.Unwanted? Adding to Covishield’s — and by extension SII’s — woes is the rejection of the vaccine by several less developed nations, especially in Africa, who have ordered just 5 lakh doses of the vaccine for the six months from April to September, as against 16 million doses of AstraZeneca’s Vaxzevria vaccine produce in Europe. Covishield is the licensed version of the AstraZeneca vaccine made in India by SII. The reasoning? Delayed despatch from manufacturing plants that eats up into the doses’ shelf life.6. ‘Your speech was offensive and obnoxious’Making an oral observation, the Delhi High Court (HC) termed student activist Umar Khalid’s Amravati speech as “offensive and obnoxious” even as it issued a notice on his appeal against the denial of bail by a trial court.Invoking Gandhi and Bhagat
Referring to Khalid’s speech wherein he’s alleged to have remarked that “jab aapke purvaj angrezo ki dalali kar rahe the” (when your ancestors were slaves of the British), the court observed that “it’s almost as if we get an impression that only one community fought for India’s independence.”Rebuking Khalid after excerpts from his speech were read out, the HC asked him “did Gandhiji ever employ this language?” Or “did Shaheed Bhagat Singh ever employ such language?” Adding that it had “no qualms about permitting free speech”, the HC noted that Khalid’s purported remarks could attract provisions of Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which deals with promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race etc.The court, which will hear the case next on April 27, said it was “not surprised that the FIR is premised on this part of the speech…Prima facie this is not acceptable. This is not acceptable in four corners of democracy and free speech.”The counter
Khalid, who’s been in custody since his arrest in September 2020 and was denied bail last month, argued that the case against him pertained to charges of terror — telling the court that “if this is obnoxious speech, so be it. That is not why I am here. I am here on allegations of terror.”The trial court, in its order rejecting Khalid’s bail plea, had noted that he was connected to several accused via WhatsApp groups during the period when the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) came into force — in December 2019 — and the riots in northeast Delhi against the CAA in February 2020.7. West spooked by China’s new missileChina has test-launched the YJ-21 anti-ship hypersonic missile, which Western analysts see as a potential risk to US aircraft carriers. Hypersonic weapons that move at a speed of Mach 5 — five times the speed of sound — or above are extremely difficult to intercept.‘Carrier killer’
The YJ-21 was launched from China’s Type 055 warship, PLA Navy’s largest and most advanced destroyer, recently. It is claimed that the missile has a range of 1,000-1,500 kilometres and is designed to target carrier strike groups.The new missile is believed to be more potent and lethal than DF-21 and DF-26 ‘carrier-killer’ ballistic missiles already deployed by the PLA Navy. The latter is also dubbed by Chinese analysts the ‘Guam killer’ as the US military base is purportedly within the strike range of DF-26.The latest test-launch comes amid heightened tensions between China and the US over Taiwan, which Beijing sees as a breakaway province and is hell-bent on its reunification with the mainland.The US has a reason to worry about the new missile given American Carrier Strike Groups often undertake ‘freedom of navigation’ exercises in the contested South China Sea, which Beijing claims as its territory.Hypersonic race
The US is lagging behind Russia and China in the development of hypersonic weapons. Russia boasts three major hypersonic weapons in its arsenal — Kinzhal (meaning dagger), Zircon (also pronounced as Tsirkon) and the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle, which can carry Sarmat heavy ICBMs.Russia became the first country to deploy hypersonic missile in real combat situation when it launched the Kinzhal to destroy a weapon storage facility in western Ukraine last month.Last year, US officials claimed that China had tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic glide vehicle from a near-orbital trajectory, amid an intensifying race for the next generation of long-range weapons that are harder to detect and intercept.8. Lalu all set to walk free… officiallyThe Jharkhand high court on Friday granted bail to former Bihar chief minister and RJD chief Lalu Prasad in the fodder scam case related to the fraudulent withdrawal of money amounting to Rs 139.35 crore from the Doranda treasury in Ranchi.With the HC granting him bail in the fifth and last case of the fodder scam tried in Jharkhand, Lalu is all set to walk free. He had obtained bail in the other four cases earlier. The sixth and final fodder scam case against Lalu is at trial stage in a Patna court.Lalu is currently undergoing treatment at AIIMS in New Delhi under custody after the medical board of Ranchi’s Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (Rims) referred him there for better treatment.For securing the bail, Lalu will have to furnish two sureties worth Rs 1 lakh each and deposit a sum of Rs 10 lakh, which is a part of the fine imposed on him in his sentence in this case.The court allowed the bail on the ground that Lalu has served half of the sentence awarded to him in the case by a special CBI court. Lalu was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment and fined Rs 60 lakh under various sections of IPC and the Prevention of Corruption Act on February 21 this year.The CBI has already moved the Supreme Court challenging the HC verdicts granting bail to Lalu in other fodder scam cases.9. PoK row: US plays down lawmaker’s visitHours after India’s strong reaction to a US Congresswoman’s visit to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), Washington on Friday said it was not a US government-sponsored travel. Ilhan Omar, a member of the US House of Representative, is on a four-day tour of Pakistan starting April 20.
Who: Somali-American Omar, who represents Minnesota’s 5th district, made history as one of the first two Muslim women, along with Rashida Tlaib, elected to the US Congress. She is a member of the Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party and a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause.What: On Thursday, she visited PoK, where she reportedly said that the Kashmir dispute was not being talked about in the power centres of the US at the required level. Known for her anti-India stand, Omar also raised concerns over alleged human rights violations in Kashmir, drawing a sharp reaction from India.Why: Kashmir is a sensitive issue for India as it considers the entire region as its sovereign territory, including PoK, which Islamabad calls Azad Kashmir. Since their independence, the two neighbours have fought two major wars (in 1947 and 1965) and engaged in one limited conflict in 1999 over Kashmir.India’s reaction: “If such a politician wishes to practice her narrow-minded politics at home, that’s maybe her business, but violating our territorial integrity and sovereignty in its pursuit, makes this ours. And we think the visit is condemnable,” the ministry of external affairs said.Answer to NEWS IN CLUESNITI Aayog. The think tank’s vice chairperson, Rajiv Kumar, stepped down after nearly five years at the helm. He had taken charge in August 2017 after his predecessor Arvind Panagariya, who was the vice chairperson since the NITI Aayog’s formation in 2015, quit to go back to teaching.Follow news that matters to you in real-time.
Join 3 crore news enthusiasts.Written by: Rakesh Rai, Tejeesh Nippun Singh, Jayanta Kalita
Research: Rajesh Sharma