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India assumes G20 Presidency

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In a historic moment, India formally assumed the G20 Presidency, from Indonesia, on December 01, 2022.

The G20, or Group of Twenty, is an intergovernmental forum of the world’s 20 major developed and developing economies, making it the premier forum for international economic cooperation.

On the occasion, the Indian Prime Minister penned an article outlining India’s vision for the G20 Presidency. This was carried by publications across the world. In his article, the Prime Minister said that India looks forward to a Presidency of healing, harmony and hope.

A key element of India’s G20 Presidency will be taking the G20 closer to the public and making it truly a ‘People’s G20’. To realize this, citizen engagement and large scale public participation through various Jan Bhagidari activities are planned throughout the year.

To mark the first day of India’s Presidency, numerous activities were planned. Earlier in the day, a special University Connect event was organized, which virtually brought together students from 75 universities across the country. External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar and Principal Secretary to Prime Minister, Shri P.K. Mishra were among the distinguished speakers at the event. The University Connect event aimed at engaging the youth in G20 activities. School students were also involved through special G20 sessions in various schools.

Taking people participation further, the Hornbill Festival in Kohima featured a special focus on G20. One hundred monuments, including some UNESCO World Heritage sites, were specially illuminated, and citizens were invited to join a selfie campaign on MyGov around these illuminated monuments. Sand artist Shri Sudarshan Pattnaik created sand art of India’s G20 logo on Puri beach in Odisha.

The G20 website recently launched by the PM also seamlessly migrated to the g20.org domain today and India took over the official social media handles, including the twitter handle @g20org, from the previous Presidency.

Drawing inspiration from its G20 Presidency theme of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ – ‘One Earth One Family One Future’, India will host over 200 meetings in over 50 cities across 32 different workstreams and would have the opportunity to offer G20 delegates and guests a glimpse of India’s rich cultural heritage and provide them with a unique Indian experience.

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China’s current Covid-19 wave “coming to an end” – officials

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Chinese health officials say the country’s current wave of Covid-19 infections is “coming to an end”.

The number of severe Covid cases and deaths is trending downward, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a report.

It also said there had been “no obvious rebound” during Lunar New Year holidays last week, where millions reunited for family gatherings.

There have long been questions raised about China’s Covid reporting.

But experts say the decline reported now corresponds with the expected timing of an end to this major wave.

The virus tore through Chinese cities and towns after authorities lifted zero-Covid restrictions in December. However fever clinic visit rates have dropped over 90% through January and hospitalisation rates are down over 85%.

Fears that the virus could surge again during the festive period have also not yet been realised.

In its report, the CDC said: “There has not been an obvious rebound in Covid cases during the Lunar New Year holidays.

“In this time, no new variant has been discovered, and the country’s current wave is coming to an end.”

(BBC News)

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At least 124 Afghans dead due to freezing weather

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At least 124 people died in freezing temperatures in Afghanistan in the past fortnight, Taliban officials say.

About 70,000 livestock had also perished in what is the coldest winter in a decade, a State Ministry for Disaster Management spokesman said.

Many aid agencies suspended operations in recent weeks after the Taliban banned Afghan women from working for non-governmental organisations.

A Taliban minister said despite the deaths, the edict would not be changed.

Acting Minister of Disaster Management Mullah Mohammad Abbas Akhund told the BBC that many areas of Afghanistan were now completely cut off by snow; military helicopters had been sent to the rescue, but they couldn’t land in the most mountainous regions.

The acting minister said the forecast for the next 10 days indicated temperatures would warm. But he was still worried about a rising death toll – of Afghans, and their livestock.

“Most of the people who lost their lives to the cold were shepherds or people living in rural areas. They didn’t have access to healthcare,” Mullah Akhund said.

“We’re concerned about those who are still living in the mountain regions. Most of the roads which pass through the mountains have been closed due to snow. Cars have got stuck there and passengers have died in the freezing temperatures.”

(BBC News)

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India blocks BBC documentary on Modi

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India has blocked the airing of a BBC documentary which questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership during the 2002 Gujarat riots, saying that even sharing of any clips via social media is barred.

Directions to block the clips from being shared have been issued using emergency powers available to the government under the country’s information technology rules, said Kanchan Gupta, an adviser to the government, on his Twitter handle on Saturday.

The government has issued orders to Twitter to block over 50 tweets linking to the video of the documentary and YouTube has been instructed to block any uploads of the video, Gupta said. Both YouTube and Twitter have complied with the directions, he added.

Modi was the chief minister of the western state of Gujarat when it was gripped by communal riots that left more than 1,000 people dead, by government count – most of them Muslims. The violence erupted after a train carrying Hindu pilgrims caught fire, killing 59.

Human rights activists estimate at least double that number died in the rioting.

Modi denied accusations that he failed to stop the rioting. A special investigation team appointed by the Supreme Court to investigate the role of Modi and others in the violence said in a 541-page report in 2012 it could find no evidence to prosecute the then chief minister.

Modi was named the candidate for prime minister of his party, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, in 2013 and led it to power in general elections in 2014 and then in 2019.

Last week, a spokesperson for India’s foreign ministry termed the BBC documentary a “propaganda piece” meant to push a “discredited narrative”.

(Reuters)

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