City Buzz: Railways services to be unified | New crypto tax | Vaccine diplomacy

Weekly news recap: No mandatory RT-PCR for vaccinated foreign arrivals; Fog envelopes northwest India; Vaccine diplomacy...and more

No mandatory RT-PCR for foreign arrivals

The central government on February 9th removed the mandatory RT-PCR test requirements for travellers from other countries. The rule had been introduced due to the emergence of the Omicron variant, and appplied primarily to arrivals from ‘at-risk’ countries like UK, South Africa and Brazil among others.

Now acknowledging a decrease in COVID-19 impact globally, the government felt there was a need to revive economic activities while paying close attention to changing trends of the virus. From February 14th, fully vaccinated international travellers can enter the country without a negative RT-PCR report, but will be advised to monitor symptoms for 14 days. This option is available to only 72 countries whose vaccination programmes the Indian government recognises.

In the absence of a vaccination certificate, travellers must fill a self-declaration form online (available at the Air Suvidha web portal), and declare their travel history of the past 14 days, along with a negative RT-PCR report conducted 72 hours prior to flying.

Source: NDTV

Read more: Is India nearing the end of the Omicron wave?

Centre unifies eight existing railways services into one central service

The Ministry of Railways has issued a gazette notification to unify eight of its existing services into one combined Indian Railways Management Service (IRMS), which is categorised as a “Group A Central Service”. In 2019, the Union cabinet had announced a unified central railway service to end ‘departmentalism.’

The merger is based on recommendation by the cabinet committee on economic affairs (CCEA) chaired by the Prime Minister

Services of Indian Railway Service of Engineers (IRSE), Indian Railway Service of Mechanical Engineers, Indian Railway Service of Electrical Engineers (IRSEE), Indian Railway Stores Service (IRSS), Indian Railway Service of Signal Engineers (IRSSE), Indian Railway Traffic Service (IRTS), Indian Railway Personnel Service (IRPS) and Indian Railway Accounts Services (IRAS), will now be merged.

With this, the railways is left with just two other departments, the Railway Protection Force (RPF) and Medical Service Department (MSD).

Source: Hindustan Times

Crypto coins sold in Indian exchanges will face additional tax

Tax outgo for several Indian crypto exchanges that sell cryptocurrencies from outside India domestically will see a jump due to new digital currency guidelines announced in the latest union budget.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a 30% income tax on returns from digital currencies during her budget presentation. There will also be a 1% TDS on digital assets. But, since the government has officially named only digital currency in its rules, which do not mention ‘cryptocurrencies’, many exchanges await more clarity on TDS.

Source: The Times of India

Fog envelopes northwest India

On February 10th, dense to very dense fog enveloped northwest India as minimum temperatures were expected to fall by two to four degrees Celsius in the coming days, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD).

Visibility in Agra dropped to zero, while in Gwalior, it was 50 meters, and 25 meters in Bihar’s Gaya region.

Rainfall in the northern plains, snowfall in the hills, and a western disturbance on February 9th caused the unusual weather phenomena. Lying over Rajasthan was a western disturbance as a trough (line of low-pressure area) which created a cyclonic circulation in the atmosphere. This caused light to moderate rainfall and snowfall in Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, Gilgit-Baltistan, and Muzaffarabad.

Source: Hindustan Times

a layer of fog over the Taj Mahal in Agra, India
A dense fog over Agra (representative image) | Photo: Mark Lehmkuhler, Flickr, Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Measures to boost vaccine partnership

The Quadrilateral Security Group, or Quad, on February 10th announced measures to boost vaccine partnership which includes the delivery of the first batch of Quad-supported jabs in the first half of 2022, and a COVID-19 Global Action Plan to facilitate coordination in recovery efforts.

The Quad Vaccine Partnership was launched in March 2022 and reviewed by foreign ministers of India, Australia, Japan and the US. “We look forward to the delivery of the first batch of Quad-supported vaccines in the first half of this year,” said a joint statement issued after the Quad ministerial meeting.

Already, the partnership has made “rapid progress in expanding vaccine production at the Biological E Ltd facility in India, which aims to deliver at least 1 billion vaccines by the end of 2022” said the statement. Quad members have provided more than 500 million doses globally, from their pledges to donate more than 1.3 billion doses.

They will also train healthcare workers, combat vaccine hesitancy and augment infrastructure, especially cold chain systems, for “last mile” vaccine delivery.

Source: Hindustan Times

(Compiled by Saachi D’Souza)

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