City Buzz: Omicron in India | Pepsico rights revoked…and more

The latest on Omicron cases in India, the planned crypto law, the Centre's take on Pegasus: Read about these and more in this weekly recap.

Omicron variant now in India

On December 2nd, India confirmed its first two cases of the new coronavirus variant, Omicron, from within the country. Two people from Karnataka, a 46-year-old doctor and a 66-year-old traveller from South Africa, tested positive for the variant that has triggered a global panic. All primary and secondary contacts of the two have been identified and are under observation. Two more confirmed cases have been reported, from Gujarat’s Jamnagar and Mumbai.

In Mumbai, 14 people are also under observation and two people, including a child, tested positive at Chennai airport. Twelve suspected cases of Omicron are being treated at Delhi hospital, awaiting results from genome sequencing. In Bengaluru, 23 people arrived from South Africa between November 28th and December 1st, of which 18 have been tracked and tested negative.

Source: Firstpost | News18 | The Indian Express | Livemint | NDTV

Read more: Why you may be having a national digital health ID without even asking for it

New crypto law to flag many investment schemes

India’s new crypto currency bill will flag several investment schemes, launched by individuals and cryptocurrency exchanges. These schemes are similar to chit funds, multi-level marketing (MLM) and systematic investment plans (SIP). The new cryptocurrency law is meant to build a regulatory framework to control the sale and purchase of crypto assets.

Regulators include the Reserve Bank of India and the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), who had voiced security concerns over investments individuals collecting money from people in the name of investments in crypto assets, especially in small towns.

“It is observed that some individuals are going to small towns and raising money from people, mainly in cash, with the promise of great returns in cryptocurrencies,” said a person familiar with the representations to central lawmakers. “This is exactly like chit funds, but without any framework or regulations.” 

After the initial panic over rumours of a total ban of cryptocurrency in India, the government has assured that the new law will only regulate its usage.

Source: The Economic Times | Business Insider

Farm fires gone, but Delhi’s air pollution still the same

On December 3rd, the Union government told the Supreme Court that it is combining an enforcement task force and 17 flying squads to surveil the city as the government tries to curb rising pollution levels. In the last seven days, Delhi Air Quality Index (AQI) has been in the ‘severe’ category for four days straight. This spike is despite the fall in stubble burning, which many blame for the city’s annual winter pollution.

view of smog over west delhi
West Delhi | Photo: Creative Commons, Flickr

Less rain and low wind speed are now being cited as possible causes. The ban on entry of diesel vehicles into Delhi and a total ban on all construction and demolition is also currently in force.

Source: Hindustan Times

Read more: Scrapping of old diesel vehicles in Delhi begins: The rules, players and concerns

PepsiCo loses rights to Lays variety potato

In 2019, multi-billion dollar conglomerate PepsiCo sued four Gujarati farmers for growing the potato variety used in the company’s Lays chips. Farmers groups had since launched a campaign calling for government intervention. Two years later, the company’s registration of this particular potato variety has been revoked by the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights’ Authority (PPV&FRA).

“The Authority’s acceptance of the Revocation Application, including on grounds of it being against public interest, sends an important signal that farmers’ rights cannot be taken lightly by IPR-holders in the country,” said legal researcher and agriculture IPR expert Shalini Bhutani, hailing the judgement as a precedent. “This should prevent further intimidation of farmers through vexatious IP lawsuits”.

The farmers had feared that the Pepsi’s 2019 lawsuit would set a precedent for other crops, and argued that the law allows them to grow and sell any variety of crop, or seed, as long as they don’t distribute branded seed of registered varieties.

Source: The Hindu

No plan to ban Israeli company responsible for Pegasus spyware: Centre

On December 3rd, The Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology announced in Parliament that it has no information on the United States banning the NSO group which created the now infamous Pegasus spyware. The spyware has caused global concern over its misuse for tapping into the phones of journalists, activists and politicians. The group, as well as its lesser known competition Candiru, were accused of selling spyware software to governments, who in turn were using it to spy on citizens.

In November, the US Department of Commerce blacklisted both companies and added them to the list of foreign establishments that engage in malicious cyber activities.

Source: The Indian Express

(Compiled by Saachi D’Souza)

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