TUESDAY www.thestatesman.com 29 DECEMBER 2020 FIND US ONLINE Scan this with your smartphone twitter.com/TheStatesmanLtd facebook.com/thestatesman1875 Pages 12 |` 5|LC KOLKATA | NEW DELHI | SILIGURI | BHUBANESWAR NITISH UNHAPPY OVER ARUNACHAL DEFECTIONS NEPAL CRISIS: CHINESE TEAM MEETS LEADERS Mainly clear sky. Shallow fog in the morning. Cold wave conditions at isolated places.The maximum and minimum temperatures would be around 20 and 04 degrees Celsius respectively. Min: 34% THUMBNAILS Senior Congress leader A k Antony hoisting the flag of the Indian National Congress on the occasion of the party’s 136th Foundation Day at the AICC headquarters in New Delhi on Monday. SUBRATA DUTTA Driverless metro: Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Monday that metro train services will be extended to 25 cities with an over 1,700-km network by 2025 in the country as he flagged off India's first-ever driverless train operations on the Delhi Metro's Magenta Line. Modi noted that metro service was confined to only five cities in 2014, when his government came to power at the Centre, and said it has continuously been expanded to different cities, a testimony of people's “ease of living” P2 being ensured by his government. Central Vista: The environment ministry's expert appraisal committee has recommended granting environment clearance to the government's ambitious Central Vista redevelopment project, but said that its developer should ensure no air pollution is caused during the demolition of existing structures. With the recommendations, the project comes a step closer to getting environment clearance, to be given by the Union Environment Minister. MUMBAI, 28 DECEMBER Launching an attack on the Centre after the ED summoned his wife, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut on Monday alleged Central agencies were being used to “destabilise” the Uddhav Thackeray-led government in Maharashtra and claimed BJP leaders had been in touch with him for over a year to effect this plan. Speaking to reporters, he alleged that Central agencies were being used as “weapons” against family members of (BJP's) political opponents who cannot be won over. Raut said BJP leaders had a list of 22 MLAs of the Congress and the NCP “who will be made to resign under the pressure of the Central investigating agencies”. Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress are constituents of the Shiv Senaled Maha Vikas Aghadi government, which was formed in November 2019 after the Sena and the BJP fell out over sharing the post of chief minister following the Assembly elections. “Some BJP leaders have been contacting me since rotesting farmer unions Monday agreed “in-principle” to a government proposal for holding the next round of talks on the new agricultural laws on December 30, but insisted the agenda of the meeting should include discussing modalities for repealing the three legislations. Abhimanyu Kohar, a member of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha ~ an umbrella body of 40 unions protesting against the contentious legislations ~ said the farmers have agreed to go for the meeting on the date proposed by the Centre. The farmers' acceptance of the proposal came hours after the Centre sent them a letter suggesting December 30 as the date for the dialogue, against December 29 the protesting unions wanted. “In our letter sent to the government on December 26, we had clearly mentioned that repeal of three farm laws and legal guarantee for MSP should be part Farmers during their ongoing agitation against the new SNS farm laws at Delhi’s Singhu border on Monday. of the agenda for fresh talks, but despite this, the government in its letter today has not mentioned any specific agenda,” Kohar said. “But we have agreed in-principle to hold talks with the government,” he said. The government's latest invite followed a proposal made by the unions last week to hold the talks on Tuesday, December 29, on an agenda that included modalities for the repeal of the three laws enacted in September. The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) in a state- ment today said the farmers want the meeting to include four specific agendas including “modalities to be adopted for the repeal of the three Central farm Acts”. In a letter to the unions, agriculture secretary Sanjay Aggarwal had invited them for holding talks at 2 p.m. on Wednesday at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi. Aggarwal said, “The government is also committed to finding a logical solution on all relevant issues with a clear intention and an open mind.” With regard to the proposed agenda by the Twenty-one-year-old Arya Rajendran on Monday became the youngest Mayor in the country, taking charge of the Thiruvananthapuram Corporation after she scored a facile win in a three-cornered election to the post. A college student and a CPI-M member, she was administered the oath of office by collector Navjot Khosa at the corporation council hall. With BJP-NDA and Congress-led UDF deciding to field candidates for the Mayor's post, an election was necessitated on Monday and the CPI-M candidate garnered 54 votes, including that of Independents, in the 100-member corporation. In the recent civic elections, Rajendran, a second year BSc Maths student of the All Saints College here, won from Mudavanmugal ward in the city, defeating her nearest Congress rival by a margin of 549 votes. The CPI(M)led Left Democratic Front bagged 51 seats, BJP 34, UDF ten seats and others five in the election. According to available information, the youngest mayor in the country until now was Sabitha Begum, who was the mayor of Kollam Corporation and took charge when she was 23. PTI unions for the meeting, the secretary said a detailed discussion will take place on three farm laws, MSP procurement system as well as Electricity Amendment bill and ordinance to tackle air pollution in and around Delhi/NCR. Meanwhile, the Singhu border where thousands of farmers have been camping in protest against the new laws since November 28, visibly swelled up on Monday as new protestors joined in over the weekend. Navigating the highwayturned-township became challenging with the pathways being cramped as tractors and trolleys of new protesters occupied more and more space at the protest site. Having already completed one month, the farmers said they were prepared for a long haul, and that essentials such as food and clothing are coming in in sufficient quantities to sustain their agitation. Several farmers who had gone to their villages after spending a few days at the protest sites have returned with their families. Over 1,500 telecom towers damaged in Punjab STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE CHANDIGARH, 28 DECEMBER Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Monday issued a stern warning against vandalisation of mobile towers and disruption of telecom services in the state, and directed police to take strict action against all those resorting to such unlawful activities. Making it clear that he will not tolerate destruction of any private or public property in Punjab, the CM said he was forced to toughen his stance as his repeated appeals to perpetrators of such acts had been ignored. Captain Singh said he will not let Punjab by plunged into anarchy at any cost and nobody can be allowed to take the law into their hands. The warning came as the total number of mobile towers impacted in the state went up to 1561, of which 25 had been physically damaged, allegedly by some farmers and their supporters in violation of the directions of the Kisan Unions to keep their protests against the Centre’s contentious farm laws peaceful. Of the 1561 tow- ers affected over the past few days, 146 were impacted since Monday morning due to disruption of power supply to 32 towers, which led to disconnection of services of the remaining 114. So far, 433 towers have been repaired, according to an official spokesperson. The state has a total of 21,306 mobile towers spread across its 22 districts. The farmers have been venting their anger on the infrastructure owned by Mukesh Ambani's firm Reliance Jio as they saw him along with infrastructure tycoon Gautam Adani as major beneficiaries of the new laws. Neither Ambani's Reliance group nor Adani's companies are currently in the business of procuring foodgrains from farm(SEE ALSO P3) ers. Covid-19 vaccination dry run begins in 4 states SNS & PTI reached 97,82,669, according to Union Health Ministry data updated on Monday. The death toll increased to 1,47,901 with 279 new fatalities, the data updated at 8 a.m showed. There are 2,77,301 active coronavirus infections in the country, which comprise 2.72per cent of the total caseload. LUDHIANA/AHMEDABAD, 28 DECEMBER THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, 28 DECEMBER PRESS TRUST OF INDIA Unions want agenda to include modalities for repealing farm laws P Min: 5.6°C (-1) SUN SETS 17:34 hrs MOON SETS 07:18 hrs 21-yr-old takes office as India’s youngest mayor Sena’s Raut lashes out at BJP after ED notice to wife Farmers agree to talks with govt on 30 Dec NEW DELHI, 28 DECEMBER TEMPERATURE Max: 20.9°C (0) SUN RISES 07:14 hrs MOON RISES 16:53 hrs P12 PRESS TRUST OF INDIA RAINFALL: Nil RELATIVE HUMIDITY Max: 78% INDIANS ALL SET TO GET EVEN IN SECOND TEST P10 P9 P4 WEATHER TRUMP SIGNS MASSIVE COVID RELIEF BILL As the country awaits an expected coronavirus vaccination drive in January, at least 125 intended beneficiaries each in four states who had registered on the Co-WIN App were on Monday sent SMSes informing them about the time and place of their 'Covid-19 vaccination' under a dry run to administer the shots at designated centres. The two-day end-to-end dry run was being carried out in Krishna district in Andhra Pradesh, in Rajkot and Gandhinagar in Gujarat, Ludhiana and Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar (Nawanshahr) in Punjab and Sonitpur and Nalbari districts in Assam. It is being conducted to test the laid out mechanisms for Covid-19 vaccination in the states and provide insights into any gaps to be addressed before the commencement of the actual vaccination drive, according to officials. They said said the exercise tested the functionality of CoWIN, which is an online plat- form for monitoring the delivery of Covid-19 vaccine, deployment of team members, checking cold storage, transportation arrangements and other arrangements while following all necessary protocols. India's Covid-19 caseload rose to 1,02,07,871 with 20,021 infections being reported in a day, while recoveries have Delhi logs 564 cases, lowest in 7 months: Delhi today recorded 564 fresh coronavirus (Covid19) cases — the lowest in seven months — and 21 more Covid-linked fatalities, even as the positivity rate stood at 0.98 per cent, according to the Delhi government’s latest health bulletin. The national capital had reported 412 coronavirus cases on 26 May, according to the Delhi (SEE P2) health department. 1,02,07,871 2,77,301 20,021 21,131 1,47,901 UNION HEALTH MINISTRY FIGURES AS OF 8.00 A.M. MONDAY 28 DECEMBER 2020 They told me that they have a list of 22 MLAs of Congress and NCP who will be forced to resign under the pressure of Central investigating agencies SANJAY RAUT SHIV SENA LEADER the last one year, saying they have made arrangements to destabilise the Maharashtra government. They have been pressurising and threatening me not to support the government. “They told me that they have a list of 22 MLAs of Congress and NCP who will be forced to resign under the pressure of Central investigating agencies,” Raut said. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) summonedVarsha Raut for questioning in the PMC Bank money laun- dering case on December 29, officials had said on Sunday.This is the third summons issued to her after she skipped the earlier two on health grounds, they said. Raut said he was a Shiv Sainik of Balasaheb Thackeray, and will “expose” BJP leaders. “They will have to take flights out of the country like Nirav Modi and Vijay Mallya,” he said. Raut claimed he had a list of “120 BJP leaders who are fit case for a probe by the ED for money laundering”. “We are middle class people. My wife had taken a loan from a friend 10 years ago to purchase a house. Details have been given to the Income Tax (department) and also mentioned in my Raya Sabhaaffidavit. The ED woke up to this deal after ten years,” he said. MHA extends Dec Covid guidelines till 31 January STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE NEW DELHI, 28 DECEMBER The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has extended its December guidelines for Covid-19 management by another month till 31 January, 2021 as there was a global surge in cases, although the Indian situation had improved. In an order issued today, the MHA said there was a continuous decline in the active and new Covid-19 cases, but there was a need to maintain “surveillance, containment and caution,” keeping in view the global surge in cases, and emergence of a new virus variant in the United Kingdom. Accordingly, the MHA said, Containment Zones would continue to be demarcated carefully and prescribed containment measures strictly followed within these zones. The Covid-appropriate behaviour must be promoted and strictly enforced, and the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) prescribed in respect of various permitted activities be followed scrupulously, the MHA order said. The MHA has asked the States and the Union Territories (UTs) to continue the focused approach on surveillance, containment and strict observance of the guidelines/ SOPs issued by it, and the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, as envisaged in the December guidelines. The guidelines had sought to consolidate the gains made against the spread of the disease, and stressed the need to maintain caution and to strictly follow the prescribed containment strategy to fully overcome the pandemic. The guidelines provided that local, district, police and municipal authorities would ensure that the prescribed Containment measures were strictly followed, and the State/ UT governments would ensure the accountability of the officers concerned in this regard. States and UTs, based on their assessment of the situation, could impose local restrictions, with a view to contain the spread of Covid-19 such as night curfew. But they could not impose any local lockdown outside the containment zones, without prior consultation with the Central government. Social distancing has to be enforced in offices. There would be no restriction on inter-state and intra-state movement of persons and goods, the guidelines said. Space for protest, free discussion shrinking: Amartya Sen PRESS TRUST OF INDIA KOLKATA, 28 DECEMBER Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has voiced concern over “curtailment of space” for protest and discussion in the country where people are jailed without trial through arbitrarily imposed charge of sedition. The BJP which is often the , butt of criticism by the economist, rubbished the accusation as baseless. In an e-mail interview with PTI, the 87-year-old Harvard University professor backed the farmers' protests against three agricultural laws, said there was a “strong case” for substantial review of the legislations. “A person whom the government does not like may be declared by the government to be a terrorist and imprisoned. Many opportunities of public protest There is certainly a strong case for revising the (farm) legislations substantially. But the first necessity is a proper discussion rather than making allegedly big concessions that actually make very little real concession and free discussion have been curtailed or closed. “People are jailed without trial through arbitrarily imposed charge of sedition,” he said. The celebrated economist deplored that young activists like Kanhaiya Kumar, Shehla Rashid and Umar Khalid are often treated like enemies. “Rather than treating young and visionary leaders, com- mitted to peaceful and nonviolent ways like Kanhaiya or Khalid or Shehla Rashid as political assets who should be given the opportunity to pursue their pro-poor initiatives in a peaceful way, they are often treated as enemies to be suppressed,” he stated. Reacting sharply to Sen's views on alleged shrinking space for debate and dissent, BJP's national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya said his contention was baseless and he should refrain from “maligning the country”. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said Sen is being attacked by the BJP for his views against the Union government. “Amartya Sen is being attacked for his views against the Union government just like I am being attacked for my political views. This is completely unacceptable,” she told reporters here. Mr Vijayvargiya reacted sharply to Mr Sen's claim about lack of debate and dissent in the country under the BJP-led government. “The allegations are baseless. Mr Sen is a noted economist but we are all well aware of his ideological views and his views towards the BJP The people of . this country have voted decisively for the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP Mr Sen should refrain . from maligning the country,” he said. Asked for his views about the BJP-led government that were often interpreted as proopposition, Sen said,” When a government makes a mistake that harms people, it is not only permissible to speak up, it is actually necessary. Democracy demands that!” Mr Sen said there is a strong case for substantial review of the three contentious farm laws which have sparked protests by agriculturists. “There is certainly a strong case for revising the legislations substantially. But the first necessity is a proper discussion rather than making allegedly big concessions that actually make very little real concession,” said Sen. Mr Sen’s comments come against the backdrop of thousands of farmers protesting at Delhi's borders for a month demanding repeal of three agricultural laws enacted in September and a legal guarantee on minimum support price. While the government insists these laws constitute major reforms to help farmers, protesting unions have maintained these will leave them at the mercy of big corporates by weakening mandis and the MSP regime. Mr Sen also said there are big gaps in the treatment of disadvantaged communities in India. “Perhaps the biggest lacuna is a combination of policies that have led to such a terrible expansion of child undernourishment. To reverse that, we need different policies in many distinct fronts.” On the country's efforts in battling Covid-19, Sen said India was right to see the necessity of physical distancing but was wrong in imposing the lockdown with almost no notice. “It was also mistaken in ignoring the need for poor labourers to earn an income,” he said, referring to the lockdown that rendered crores of people jobless and triggered a massive migration of labourers, arguably the biggest since Partition. Stressing on the need for “more intelligent reasoning and a humane touch” in implementing the Covid-19 strategy, Sen said India had got some ideas right, but “messed up” its response by overlooking the country's reality of extensive inequality. Another report on Pg 5
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