Weekly Current Affairs June 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 June 2021 – Week 3

1. Current Affairs – International News & Global Economy

Federal Reserve holds interest rates steady, raises expectations for rising inflation

The Federal Reserve has opted to keep interest rates steady, but drastically raised its forecast for inflation and shifted up the timeline for a rate hike. Wall Street and other market participants have been closely watching the Fed for its latest forecast on inflation, and for any sign that the central bank is considering starting talks about pulling back on the easy money policies it implemented as part of its response to the pandemic. The Fed’s “cheap money” strategy has been widely viewed as the catalyst for Wall Street’s series of record highs over the past year. In a significant shift, a number of Fed officials indicated that two rate hikes could come as soon as 2023. That is a departure from March economic projections, which saw no change in the benchmark interest rate before 2024. The Fed’s lending rate stands at 0 percent to 0.25 percent. For details visit.

The challenges ahead for Fed Chair Powell

Goldman Sachs Chief Economist Jan Hatzius previews the Federal Reserve policy decision and looks at the potential for tapering and the risk of longer-term inflation.
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Joe Biden in Europe: Takeaways from G7, NATO and Geneva summit with Vladimir Putin

Before leaving Washington, Biden reasserted his view that democracies are in a generational confrontation with autocratic governments and that the US can’t hope to prevail if it stands alone. With that in mind, he rallied American allies at the Group of Seven meetings of wealthy democracies and treaty partners at NATO, before his sit-down with Putin. The sequencing was as much strategy as it was symbolism, with the unified-front posture with allies meant to bolster Biden’s position regarding Russia. It also drove momentum behind the US’ ongoing showdown with China over trade, security and health policy, as Biden secured tough language on China, both in the G-7 leaders’ communique and from NATO countries in their joint statement. For details visit.

NATO ramps up Rhetoric against China & Russia. Is Biden leading the U.S. into a new Cold War?

China says NATO is adopting a “Cold War mentality” after the military alliance singled out China and Russia for criticism during a summit in Brussels. In its final communiqué, NATO leaders said, “China’s stated ambitions and assertive behavior present systemic challenges to the rules-based international order.” NATO leaders also criticized Russia and called on Moscow to withdraw troops from Ukraine, Georgia, and the Republic of Moldova. Stephen Wertheim, a historian of U.S. foreign policy, says he is concerned that the Biden administration is “moving toward a quite hostile posture toward China and Russia simultaneously.” He also says policymakers need to urgently re-evaluate the purpose of NATO, which he says could fuel greater conflict. “Is that really what the American people need for the rest of the 21st century?” he asks.
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Explained: The challenges to the Affordable Care Act

Texas and other Republican-leaning states, backed by the Trump administration, had sought to strike down the law on technical arguments after Congress reduced to zero, the tax penalty for failing to carry health insurance. The court’s decision concluded that none of the plaintiffs suffered any injury from zeroing out the penalty and thus lacked legal standing to bring the lawsuit at all. It was the third time the court has preserved the 2010 healthcare law. For details visit.

Why the Supreme Court ruled to save Obamacare

The Supreme Court dismissed a challenge to the Affordable Care Act in a decision that will leave the law intact and save health care coverage for millions of Americans. The court’s ruling comes as President Joe Biden, a firm supporter of the law that was passed while he served as President Barack Obama’s vice president has expressed strong support for the law.
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China’s worse-than-Suez ship delays set to widen trade chaos

When one of China’s busiest ports announced it wouldn’t accept new export containers in late May because of a Covid-19 outbreak, it was supposed to be up and running again in a few days. But as the partial shutdown drags on, it’s further snarling trade routes and lifting record freight prices even higher. Yantian Port now says it will be back to normal by the end of June, but just as it took several weeks for ship schedules and supply chains to recover from the vessel blocking the Suez Canal in March, it may take months for the cargo backlog in southern China to clear while the fallout ripples to ports worldwide. For details visit.

India maintains 43rd rank on IMD’s World Competitiveness Index; Switzerland tops the chart

India maintained 43rd rank on an annual World Competitiveness Index compiled by the Institute for Management Development (IMD) that examined the impact of COVID-19 on economies around the world this year. The 64-nation list was led by Switzerland, while Sweden has moved up to the second position (from sixth last year), Denmark has lost one place to rank third, the Netherlands has retained its fourth place and Singapore has slipped to fifth place (from first in 2020). The IMD World Competitiveness Ranking ranks 64 economies and assesses the extent to which a country promotes the prosperity of its people by measuring economic well-being through hard data and survey responses from executives. For details visit.

2. Current Affairs – India

Third Wave “Inevitable, could hit India in 6 To 8 Weeks”: AIIMS Chief

A third Covid wave in India is “inevitable”, and it could hit the country in the next six to eight weeks, AIIMS chief Dr. Randeep Guleria said amid unlocking in parts of the country after weeks of strict restrictions. The country’s main challenge is vaccinating a huge population and the increase in dose gaps for Covishield “may not be a bad” approach to provide protection to cover more people, he explained. A new frontier will have to be developed in India’s fight against Covid to further study the mutation of the virus, Dr. Guleria stressed, as he talked about the new Delta-plus variant, which has evolved from the Delta variant of COVID-19, triggering fresh concerns about monoclonal antibody treatment. For details visit.

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From the US to the UK: Countries that are urging vigilance over Delta variant

The emergence of the Delta variant, first detected in India, is being cited as the primary reason for a surge in Covid-19 cases in countries around the world. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the highly transmissible variant is quickly becoming the globally dominant variant of the deadly infection. While the Delta variant fuelled the ferocious second wave of Covid infections in India, cases in the country have been on a downward trajectory since mid-May. Meanwhile, countries such as the UK, which had begun easing restrictions as a large chunk of its population had received at least one dose of a vaccine, are now witnessing a rise in infections. The UK is not alone. Several countries, including Russia and Indonesia, are now reporting a surge in coronavirus cases due to the Delta variant. Even the United States is warning citizens to get vaccinated quickly before Delta becomes the dominant variant in the country.  For details visit.

Delta variant’s ability to evade antibodies could be the cause of some Covid reinfections

A paper, titled ‘E156G and Arg158, Phe-157/del mutation in NTD of spike protein in B.1.617.2 lineage of SARS-CoV-2 leads to immune evasion through antibody escape currently in preprint and peer-review, claims that the changes in Delta variant (B.1.167.2) made it ‘escape’ the antibodies gained by the body either through earlier infection or through intervention like vaccination. ‘Our study showed a possible case of immune escape by demonstrating reduce binding of a mutant spike compared to Wuhan isolate with a reported antibody known to bind NTD of spike protein, thereby providing insights into the structural basis and highlight the impact of the key mutations for the higher transmissibility, pathogenicity, and virulence,’ mentioned the paper. The researchers advocated better monitoring and identification of the new variants through genomic sequencing to check for its transmission, virulence, and altered antigenicity. For details visit.

Covaxin and Covishield efficiency on new Delta variant of Covid-19

In a study conducted by the AIIMS Delhi department of vaccines, the presence of the delta variant was found even after getting vaccinated. The survey done on 62 respondents, revealed the efficiency of Covid vaccines on the newer virus variant. With the upcoming of new vaccine doses in the market, the efficiency of each one of them on the new virus is being questioned severely.
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Govt slashes tariff value for edible oil import may lead to lower domestic prices

The government has reduced the tariff value for the import of edible oil, including palm oil, by up to USD 112 per tonne, a move which experts said can lead to lower domestic prices. Domestic edible oil prices have more than doubled in the past year. India meets about two-thirds of its edible oil demand through imports. The government said that the edible oil prices have started falling in the past month and it is working on a series of mid-and long-term measures to make the country self-sufficient in the segment. For details visit.

Thomas Mielke shares his views price rise Of Edible Oil

Thomas Mielke Co-Founder and Managing Director at AETHOS Consulting Group shares his views on rise in Edible Oil prices.
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3. Current Affairs – Economy 

Exports zoom 46.4% in 2 weeks; UAE, Italy top markets

India’s outbound shipments rose 46.43% to $14.06 billion in the first fortnight of this month, led by healthy growth in the exports of engineering, gems and jewelry, and petroleum products. The Federation of Indian Export Organisations has said the order booking position of exporters was healthy and the gradual opening up of global markets and improvement of the situation in the country were expected to push export growth further. For details visit.

India’s economy likely contracted 12% in Q1: Report

Lockdowns imposed by the states in April and May to contain the second wave of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic has likely led to the economy contracting 12 percent in the June quarter as against 23.9 percent contraction in the same quarter in 2020, says a brokerage report. This 12 percentage point contraction will have the economy missing a sharp V-shaped recovery this time around, unlike seen last year after the national lockdown was lifted, as consumer sentiment remains very weak this time around as people are more worried about the pandemic than last year, says Swiss brokerage UBS Securities India. For details visit.

Govt has room for fiscal stimulus, says CII president Narendran

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has called for a fiscal stimulus of Rs 3 lakh crore and a government expenditure program to boost demand in the Indian economy. Addressing his first media interaction as CII president, TV Narendran, CEO and managing director of Tata Steel, said, “CII estimates that there is fiscal headroom of up to Rs 3 lakh crore and this amount can be channelized towards direct cash transfers to the vulnerable people, the higher allocation for MNREGA, short-term GST rate cuts and lower excise duty on fuel.” Narendran pegged India’s GDP growth rate for 2021-22 at 9.5%. “Ultra-high frequency indicators strongly presage growth recovery following the second wave of the pandemic. With the recent uptick in mobility indicators, traffic congestion index, and daily railway passenger movement, we believe that a 9.5% growth rate can be achieved this year,” he said. For details visit.

4. Current Affairs – Markets, Banking, and Finance

Explained: Federal Reserve signals and Indian markets

A hike in interest rates in the US has a bearing on the debt and equity markets, not just in the US but also in emerging economies such as India that have witnessed record foreign portfolio investments (FPI) over the last year. The Fed’s indication of a hike in interest rates earlier than expected resulted in a rise in bond yields and strengthening of the dollar. At the same time, it impacts currencies and stock markets in emerging economies. News of a hike in interest rate in the US leads not only to an outflow of funds from equities into US treasury bonds but also to an outflow of funds from emerging economies to the US. Experts say a rise in yields leads to a situation where they start competing with equities, and this impacts market movement. The rupee is also expected to come under pressure as the dollar strengthens. For details visit.

Centrum-BharatPe to take over PMC Bank

Ending nearly two anxious years for depositors, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has cleared the decks for the takeover of Punjab and Maharashtra Cooperative Bank (PMC Bank) by a consortium of non-bank lender Centrum Financial Services and fintech startup BharatPe. The multi-state cooperative lender was on the brink of a collapse when the regulator seized it on September 24, 2019, capped cash withdrawals, and launched an investigation into its accounting lapses. The RBI said it has decided to grant in-principle approval to Centrum to set up a small finance bank under on-tap licensing norms. On-tap licensing refers to the regulator giving out bank licenses on a continuous basis, rather than once in several years. For details visit.

5. Current Affairs – Business

FAME-II electric 2-wheeler discount policy: Ather, Ola, Okinawa upbeat about demand

The news that electric two-wheeler makers can give a discount of almost 40 percent of their scooter or bike value has definitely lifted the sentiments of buyers as well as manufacturers. The amendments to the FAME-II electric vehicle policy have been rolled out and manufacturers have lauded the efforts in adopting EV mobility in the country. This scheme also favors electric rickshaws as well as buses but the details of these have to be worked out. Tarun Mehta, CEO, and Co-founder of Ather Energy said “The revision in the FAME policy, increasing the subsidy by 50% per KWh is a phenomenal move. Sales of electric two-wheelers have grown despite the pandemic and with this additional subsidy, we expect electric two-wheeler sales to disrupt the market, and clock 6 million+ units by 2025.” For details visit.

How Will The FAME II Impact The Demand & Penetration For EV Transport?

Revisions to the government’s FAME II (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles in India) scheme have resulted in a drastically increased subsidy for electric two-wheelers that meet the scheme’s criteria.
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Tech hiring rebounds in May; overall job market still weak says report

Hiring across sectors declined in May, though the tech industry job market rebounded from the pandemic-induced downturn as many technology companies have been on full expansion mode, according to a report. The increase in tech hiring indicates that such roles remain the most in-demand due to increased competition and demand for new digital technology-led projects during the pandemic. For details visit.

6. Current Affairs – Technology

MSMEx raises $1 million in Pre-Series A funding from Razorpay, TNF Investments

Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise (MSME) EdTech company MSMEx has raised $1 million in a Pre-Series A funding round co-led by Razorpay and the international investment firm TNF Investments. The company had earlier raised angel funding from a clutch of leading angel investors. MSMEx said that it will use this funding to develop new intuitive technologies, including a deep learning-based recommender system, a live chat system, an AI-based behavior analytics system, and scale its operations to serve more users. MSMEx was founded by Amit Kumar in 2019 and was joined at an early stage by Vishal Kumar, Dilip Kumar, Khushboo Arora, and Kumar Sambhav. MSMEx offers live business sessions for micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) owners and connects them with curated business experts for online interactions and handholding support. For details visit. 

SBI, HDFC Bank and 13 Banks form a Blockchain Company for processing letter Of Credits

After the Bankchain project, leading Indian banks SBI, HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, and 12 others have come together to further widen the blockchain application to the processing of Letters of Credit (LCs/LoCs), GST invoices, and e-way bills. For this to be implemented, the 15 banks have formed a company called Indian Banks’ Blockchain Infrastructure Co Pvt Ltd (IBBIC). Each member will invest INR 5 Cr and hold an equal stake of 6.66% in the company. The project is expected to use Infosys’ Finacle Connect, a blockchain-based platform that enables digitization and automation of trade-related finance processes. For details visit. 

Goldex launches integrated gold store platform for fintechs

Goldex a multi-dealer marketplace fintech for allocated physical gold, has launched a unique trading platform to serve fintechs and organizations looking to invest in, store and sell physical gold. Described as a ‘plug and play’ integrated solution that enables fintechs and financial services companies to ‘piggyback’ off Goldex’s technology, the platform facilitates gold transactions as well as acting as a global price discovery tool. Goldex, which launched in 2018 as a mobile app, has attracted the attention of traditional investors and thousands of digital-savvy consumers previously shut out from buying and selling gold at the best prices. For details visit. 

WazirX, other exchanges accused of aiding drug trade, company denies

Cryptocurrency exchange WazirX, accused of aiding drug trade by a Vice report, said that the person driving the drug trade does not use its platform, adding to the list of controversies that the Binance-owned exchange is embroiled in. A Vice report said that Makarand Pardeep Adivirkar, known in India’s underground drug circuit as the “crypto king” was paying for drugs on the dark web using bitcoin, and was using WazirX and other platforms as a wallet. India has seen record levels of cryptocurrency usage in the last six months, which has hugely benefited WazirX and other exchanges, even as crypto’s legality is yet unknown in India so far. For details visit. 

Rule of land supreme, not your policy: Parliamentary panel on information technology to Twitter

Amid a tussle between the Union government and Twitter over the new IT rules, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on IT told the US-based social media giant that the rule of the land was supreme and the company must abide by the Indian laws. During a 90-minute deposition before the panel, chaired by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, the Twitter India officials were asked “tough and searching questions”, including why the company should not be fined as it has been found “violating” rules of the country, sources said. Later in a statement, a Twitter spokesperson said the company “stands prepared to work with the Committee on the important work of safeguarding citizens’ rights online in line with our principles of transparency, freedom of expression, and privacy.” For details visit. 

7. Current Affairs – Politics

Explained: Who is Ebrahim Raisi, the hard-line cleric set to be Iran’s next president?

Hardliner Ebrahim Raisi is set to become Iran’s president after a partial counting of the votes revealed a significant lead for him after the presidential elections. Amnesty International has identified Raisi as a member of the “death commission” that carried out “enforced disappearance and extrajudicial executions of several thousand political dissidents in Evin and Gohardasht prisons near Tehran between late July and early September 1988. Victims’ bodies were mostly buried in unmarked mass graves.” Raisi also has ties to the paramilitary group Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). A significant number of people did not cast their votes this time because they believe that the elections are rigged and do not trust the election watchdog called the Guardian Council. For details visit. 

Iran heads for polls, Khamenei picks his man for president & how a theocracy-democracy hybrid works

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Explained: How Jitin Prasada’s defection could impact BJP, Congress, and SP in Uttar Pradesh

Jitin Prasada, the 47-year-old former Congress MP and former Union Minister joined the BJP, more than a year after Jyotiraditya Scindia switched loyalties to the saffron party. Like Jyotiraditya Scindia, Jitin Prasada, son of the late Congress veteran Jitendra Prasada, was once seen as a ‘Young Turk’ who would play a key role in Rahul Gandhi’s team, as and when the latter became the unquestioned leader of the Congress. Prasada’s move had been expected — and much talked about in both the BJP and Congress. But his appointment as in-charge of the Congress in West Bengal ahead of the Assembly elections had put the lid on such talk, for a while at least. The expected has finally happened — just as the BJP steps up its preparations for the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections that are now only months away. For details visit. 

Mamata vs Suvendu: Calcutta High Court defers hearing on Nandigram election result

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has filed an election petition before the Calcutta High Court seeking for declaring the election of Suvendu Adhikari from Nandigram as null and void. The Calcutta High Court has deferred the hearing to 24 June. The Trinamool Congress supremo, in her petition, has accused Adhikari of committing corrupt practices as envisaged under Section 123 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. The alleged corrupt practices included “bribery, undue influence, spreading enmity”, according to her petition. Banerjee also claimed in her plea that discrepancies were committed in the counting process. For details visit. 

8. Current Affairs – Sports

Euro 2020: Austria striker Marko Arnautovic gets one-match ban for insulting North Macedonian player

Austria forward Marko Arnautovic is being banned for one match at the European Championship for insulting a North Macedonian opponent in their opening Euro 2020 match. Austria will be without forwarding Marko Arnautovic for Euro 2020 Group C match against the Netherlands. He was accused by the North Macedonian soccer federation of insulting Ezgjan Alioski. Alioski’s family roots are Albanian. Arnautovic’s father is Serbian and his mother is Austrian. Tensions between North Macedonians and ethnic Albanians in the small Balkan country erupted in 2001 when Albanians took up arms and fought with government forces, demanding more rights. For details visit. 

Ronaldo’s Coke moment signals shifting balance of power in sport

Cristiano Ronaldo’s rejection of strategically placed Coca-Cola bottles at a press conference at the Euro 2020 football championships this week has left sponsors and tournament organizers rushing to limit the damage on endorsement deals. UEFA, European football’s governing body, has contacted national federations to tell teams to avoid actions that could affect tournament sponsors, each of which has paid about $30m to endorse the competition. But there are no specific rules to police how players must discuss the corporate partners for the Euros. For details visit. 

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9. Current Affairs – Opinion

Explained: When a former UP chief secretary becomes election commissioner

There’s a new election commissioner in town! His name is Anup Chandra Pandey and his appointment last week caused a bit of a stir. Pandey previously served as chief secretary to Yogi Adityanath, the current chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. And this state is heading towards an election in March next year. This brings up a few questions about the new appointment and the role of an election commissioner, especially during a high-stakes election. Who is Anup Chandra Pandey? How was he appointed and what will he do during election season?
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MSMEs need easy access to finance for growth post-pandemic

At an event organized by the Global Alliance for Mass Entrepreneurship (GAME) experts from various fields discussed the issues ailing MSMEs and the way forward. The panelists highlighted that at least Rs 15 lakh crore was stuck in payments to MSMEs each year with payments typically made in three to six months in contravention of the MSMED Act. They emphasized the need for on-time payments, particularly during the ongoing pandemic. The panelists recommended supply chain financing that can offer MSMEs credit while encouraging them to formalize their businesses. For details visit. 

Is liquidity driving markets away from reality?

India’s economy is on the road to recovery at a slow and steady pace, but certainly not at the same rate as the market. The stock market is factoring in a lot of future earnings growth and the uncertainties due to Covid might puncture some of those expectations to a certain extent, going forward. However, not all liquidity is being directed towards the right stocks, and across markets a host of “meme” stocks are emerging, where retail investors have been pumping in money without any fundamental reasons. What is worrisome is, stock markets are being seen as a game for making a quick buck. The same trend is being seen in IPOs, with seeing record subscriptions of 100x as liquidity remains rampant. Similarly, the unlisted space is also witnessing high demand, pushing share prices to exorbitant levels. For details visit. 

What the G7 message on net-zero emissions means for India

The Cornwall G7 summit sought to re-establish a common purpose among the richest democracies of the world. It also continued with the recent tradition among the rich to seek more than their “fair” share from the large developing countries. Climate change was a clear case in point. The Cornwall summit, however, made an equal effort to shift the responsibility to the large developing countries, even though “common and differentiated responsibilities” is the agreed guiding principle for tackling climate change — differentiation underscores the responsibility of the industrialized countries to lead. The G7 agreed “collectively” to net-zero GHG emissions by 2050 and called on “all countries, in particular, major emitting economies” to join as part of global efforts. For details visit. 

India’s Crypto Economy | Hotbed for Global Giants

Back in 2019, Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange (by volume), acquired Mumbai-based bitcoin exchange WazirX despite the regulatory hurdles at its peak, while leading US-based crypto company Coinbase has been investing in Indian startups. However, these activities are no longer limited to passive investments. According to a recent report, Kraken from the US, British Virgin Islands-based Bitfinex, and Seychelles-based KuCoin are actively scouting the Indian market, and some are even close to acquiring Indian startups to begin operations in the country. Apart from global companies expanding to India, the investor community is also showing a keen interest. They stayed away from the Indian crypto space earlier due to the government’s antipathy towards these digital assets but are now eager to seize the global and the local momentum leading to a renewed crypto play. This can also be ascertained from the latest funding trend. For details visit.

Will Paytm’s Transition beyond Payments to broader Fintech play lead to IPO Success?

Fintech giant Paytm is all set to go for a massive initial public offering with plans to raise INR 21,800 Cr ($3 Bn) in the IPO by November this year. And one of the key strengths for the company is said to be its diversified business model, which is tightly linked to the Paytm Payments Bank and Paytm Payment Gateway, which enables the full-stack payments to play as well as a clutch of financial services verticals, helmed by experienced domain experts. Paytm has chosen to create value through building multiple businesses around the core Paytm brand. As it goes forward and looks at taking on the competition in the broader fintech landscape, Paytm would need to further reinforce the diversity of its revenue model. Besides being one of the largest IPOs in India, Paytm is likely to become the first publicly-listed fintech company in India. The biggest challenge for the startup will be to achieve profitability on the back of its chief strengths. For details visit. 

10. Current Affairs – Other News

Milkha Singh, “The Flying Sikh”, dies at 91 due to Post-Covid complications

Legendary Indian sprinter Milkha Singh passed away due to post-Covid complications. The 91-year-old had tested positive for COVID-19 on May 19 but was in home isolation at his Chandigarh residence after revealing that he was asymptomatic. However, a few days later on May 24, the legendary athlete was admitted to the ICU of Mohali’s Fortis hospital due to “COVID pneumonia”. He was then moved to PGIMER in Chandigarh on June 3. His death came five days after his wife Nirmal also died due to post-Covid complications. For details visit. 

With that, we come to an end for our Weekly Current Affairs June 2021 -Week 3. Hope you have liked it. Write your feedback in the comments below and let us know if there is anything else you would like us to cover.

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