CMYK SATURDAY www.thestatesman.com 06 FEBRUARY 2021 FIND US ONLINE Scan this with your smartphone twitter.com/TheStatesmanLtd facebook.com/thestatesman1875 Pages 12 |` 5.00|LC KOLKATA | NEW DELHI | SILIGURI | BHUBANESWAR BIDEN READY TO REPAIR TIES WITH US ALLIES ‘SOCIAL AWARENESS MUST IN LEPROSY FIGHT’ P7 WEATHER Mainly clear sky. Maximum and minimum temperature most likely to be around 29 °C and 14 °C respectively. RAINFALL: Nil RELATIVE HUMIDITY Max.99% Max: 28.8°C (1) SUN RISES 06:14 hrs MOON RISES 00:00 hrs New moon on 12 P10 P6 PRESS TRUST OF INDIA Min: 13.4°C (-3) SUN SETS 17:27 hrs MOON SETS 11:31 hrs February THUMBNAILS Members of Myanmar refugees communities condemn the military coup in Myanmar on 1 Feb, demanding immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi. In the Capital on Friday. SNS SC grants interim bail to Munawar Faruqui: In a relief to comedian Munawar Faruqui, arrested in a case for allegedly hurting religious sentiments by passing objectionable remarks about Hindu deities during a show, the Supreme Court on Friday released him on an interim bail. The top court also stayed the Madhya Pradesh High Court order of 28 January, which had refused to grant him bail noting that to “promote harmony” is one of the constitutional duties. It also stayed the warrant issued against Faruqui by a P5 trial court in Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh. 4g mobile internet services restored in J&K: 4G high-speed mobile internet service was restored in Jammu and Kashmir on Friday, 18 months after it was snapped following scrapping of Article 370 of the Constitution. J&K UT's official spokesman, Rohit Kansal, tweeted: "4G mobile internet services being restored in entire J&K". Former CM Omar Abdullah responded to the announcement saying; "4G Mubarak! For the first time since Aug 2019 all of J&K will have 4G mobile data. Better late than never". FISCAL STRATEGY The six-member Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) kept the repurchase or repo rate unchanged at 4 per cent. Consequently, the reverse repo rate will continue to earn 3.35 per cent for banks for their deposits kept with the RBI All six members of the MPC voted to continue with the accommodative stance as long as it is necessary to revive growth and mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on the economy while ensuring that inflation remains within the target Signalling rollback of pandemic-era policies, the RBI applauded the Union Budget 2021-22 for providing a strong impetus for revival MUMBAI, 5 FEBRUARY he Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Friday kept interest rates on hold for the fourth time in a row but vowed to support growth as long it is needed even as it began withdrawing some pandemic-era policies. While the Union Budget 2021 earlier this week laid out an expansive fiscal strategy over the medium term to strengthen the growth engine in the economy, the RBI affirmed its support to such a plan through appropriate monetary tools. The six-member Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) kept the repurchase or repo rate unchanged at 4 per cent, Governor Shaktikanta Das said. Consequently, the reverse repo rate will continue to earn 3.35 per cent for banks for their deposits kept with the RBI. The Central banks had last year cut borrowing costs by 115 basis points before hitting the pause button in mid-2020 over inflation worries. All six members of the MPC voted to continue with the accommodative stance as long as it is necessary to revive growth and mitigate the impact of Covid19 on the economy while ensuring that inflation remains within the target. Signalling rollback of pandemic-era policies, the RBI announced a gradual increase in the Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR)~the amount of deposits lenders must set aside as reserves~ to 3.5 per cent by March and to 4 per T The outlook on growth has improved significantly with positive growth impulses becoming more broad-based and the rollout of the vaccination programme auguring well for the end of the pandemic. The Indian economy is poised to move in only one direction and that is upwards SHAKTIKANTA DAS - RBI GOVERNOR cent by May. The cash returning to the Central bank can be used by it for open market operations and other liquidity measures. To absorb higher government borrowings, the Central bank provided retail investors a direct option to invest in government securities. Acknowledging the strengthening signs of recovery, the RBI applauded the Union Budget 202122 for providing a strong impetus for revival while stating the near-term inflation outlook has turned favourable. RBI expects Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for next year to grow by 10.5 per cent, a tad lower than 11 per cent predicted by the government’s Economic Survey last week. The growth compares to an estimated 7.7 per cent contraction in the economy during the current fiscal ending 31 March. The inflation forecasts are pointing to a decline from 5.2 per cent in March 2020 quarter (Q4) to 5-5.2 per cent in H1-FY22 and 4.3 per cent in Q3. The economy had contracted by 23.9 per cent in the April-June period of last year and by 7.5 per cent in the following three months. “... going forward, the Indian economy is poised to move in only one direction and that is upwards,” Das said while unveiling the bi-monthly monetary policy. “Although the RBI did not tinker with the policy rate, there was expectation that the RBI may unwind some of the relaxation given to the banks to overcome the Covid-19 impact,” India Ratings said. The measures by the RBI are: inclusion of NBFCs in the on tap TLTRO (Targeted Long Term Repo Operations) scheme, incentive to banks to lend to new MSME borrowers through a lower CRR requi-rement and further deferment of capital conservation buffer. Pfizer withdraws emergency use approval request PRESS TRUST OF INDIA NEW DELHI, 5 FEBRUARY NEW DELHI/KOLKATA, 5 FEBRUARY Pharma major Pfizer on Friday said it has decided to withdraw its application for Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA) of its Covid-19 vaccine in India. Pfizer was the first pharmaceutical firm to seek an emergency use authorisation from the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) for its Covid vaccine in the country. “Pfizer participated in the Subject Expert Committee meeting of the Drug Regulatory Authority of India on 3 February. Based on the deliberations, the company has decided to withdraw its application at this time,” a company PTI spokesperson said. Over 5 lakh beneficiaries have been inoculated under the country-wide Covid-19 vaccination exercise, even as the active caseload slid further to 1.51 lakh, according to the Union Health Ministry. As many as 52,90,474 beneficiaries have been vaccinated against the coronavirus as of Friday evening since the mass inoculation drive began on 16 January, according to provisional data provided by the health ministry, India, meanwhile, reported 12,408 new infections in the last 24 hours, increasing the overall tally to 1,08,02,591, health officials said. As per The Central government on Friday told the Delhi High Court that no blanket permission has been granted to any agency for interception or monitoring or decryption of any messages or information under the surveillance programmes like the Centralised Monitoring System (CMS), Network Traffic Analysis (NETRA) and National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID). The government defended the need for the CMS, NETRA and NATGRID surveillance systems saying that “grave threats to the country from terrorism, radicalisation, cybercrime, drug cartels, etc, cannot be understated or ignored” and it was imperative, therefore, to have a robust mechanism “for speedy collection of actionable intelligence”. The submission was made by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in an affidavit filed before a bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh in response to a PIL which has claimed that citizens’ right to privacy was being “endangered” by these surveillance programmes. Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Chetan Sharma, appearing for the MHA, told the court that law enforcement agencies need prior permission of the competent authority~ Union Home Secretary - - before carrying out any lawful interception or monitoring or decryption of any message or class of messages or any information stored in any computer resources. “The lawful interception or monitoring or decryption of any message or class of messages or any information stored in any computer resources, is done by authorised law enforcement agencies having legal and statutory powers and after due approval of each case by the competent authority as per the provisions of the Indian Telegraph Act and the Information Technology Act,” the affidavit, filed through central government standing counsel Ajay Digpaul, said. STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE KOLKATA, 5 FEBRUARY Chief minister Mamata Banerjee today placed an interim budget proposal in the state Assembly of Rs 2,99,688 crore with huge allocations in the agriculture, health and education sectors, while competing with the Centre by announcing 45,000 km of new rural roads in the next five years under which 10,000 km would be constructed by next year. Miss Banerjee said that all people above 60 years and widows above 18 years will be brought under pension schemes and Rs 1,000 crore has been allocated for this in the next financial year. Proposing a special drive to fill all vacant posts in different departments and police administration in the next three years, Miss Banerjee said: “In the last 10 years our government has been able to create 1.12 crore jobs and with the planned development of huge industrial centres and infrastructure, we will be able to create 1.5 crore new employment opportunities in the next five years at government, semigovernment and non-government levels through self-employment. We have decided to come up with 16 new projects and allocated Rs 2,475 crore for this”. She proposed waiving the road tax on all passenger transport vehicles for two quarters (from 1 January to 30 June) along with constructing a host of bridges and flyovers to improve road connectivity within Kolkata and across the state. These include 4-lane connectivity between Kolkata and Basanti, a con- STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE the Ministry;s data, there are 1,51,460 active cases as of 8 a.m. Friday after 15,853 patients were discharged in a day. Till now, 1,04,80,455 persons have been discharged so far. The recovery rate has increased to 97.16 per cent, while the fatality rate is down to 1.43 per cent. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said that there were 120 more Covid19 fatalities in the last 24 hours, taking the overall death toll to 1,54,823. The country’s daily death count has also remained below the 300-mark for more than a month now, the Ministry data showed. Fourteen states/UTs have reported no deaths in the last 24 hours, the data revealed. Agri minister puts up strong defence of farm laws STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE NEW DELHI, 5 FEBRUARY Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar today rejected all objections against the three contentious farm laws as baseless, and said opposition to the laws had come only from one state where farmers have been misled that they could lose their lands. Intervening in the Rajya Sabha debate on the President’s Address, Tomar said he had heard repeatedly during the debate that the laws be repealed. But no one had explained how the laws were against the interest of farmers. “Where is the provision on taking over of lands, please let us know,” he said. Tomar said Prime Minister Narendra Modi was committed to the welfare of farmers and these laws would bring “revolutionary” changes in the lives of the farmers and take the country forward. The debate on the President’s Address and the farmers’ agitation ended today and the Prime Minister will reply to it on Monday. The agriculture minister said there were contract farming laws in Punjab and Haryana already. In fact, 20 to 22 states have started contract farming. While the Punjab law provided jail for farmers in case of default, and a fine of Rs 5 lakh, there was no such thing in the Central law. Under the Central farm laws, business firms in contract farming could not get away with defaults easily. There were provisions for bonus payments, he said. Tomar said the farmers could sell their produce out- TOMAR REFUTES Where is the provision on taking over of lands, please let us know. No provision of jail term or fine for defaulters in Centre’s law but business firms in contract farming cannot get away with defaults easily. Farmers can sell their produce outside the traditional mandis and such areas are trade areas, where no Central or State tax will be levied. side the traditional mandis and such areas were trade areas, where no Central or State tax would be levied. In the mandis, the farmers had to pay State taxes, he said. “Should the agitation be against someone who is imposing tax, or against who is not?” he asked. The minister said the government was fully committed to the farmers. During the talks with the farmers, the government had told them that the APMC mandis would continue, and that it could consider other suggestions. “We examined their issues and asked them what is wrong, please tell us,” EYE ON ELECTIONS Chief minister Mamata Banerjee presenting the vote on account in the state Assembly in Kolkata on Friday. SNS Major allocations for agriculture, health, education sectors A special drive to fill all vacant posts in different departments and police administration in the next three years. All people above 60 years and widows above 18 years will be brought under pension schemes A total of 1.5 lakh refugees will be given land documents in a phase-wise manner necting bridge between Nandigram and Haldia, a 6-lane flyover between Tala and Dunlop, a flyover to connect airport gate and Jessore Road and several others. “A feasibility survey will be done and projects will be executed if found to be technically feasible. These include flyovers along Prince Anwar Shah Road, from Ultadanga to Posta Bazar, from Paikpara to Sealdah station, along Raja Subodh Chandra Mullick Road, from Majerhat to Tollygunge and a skywalk for pedestrians in Park Circus connector,” said Miss Banerjee. The Budget, which is the last before the Assembly elections, was placed in the House by Miss Banerjee in place of state finance minister Amit Mitra, who has been advised to take rest by doctors on health grounds. The budget was presented amidst sloganshouting by BJP MLAs, who were protesting against the state Governor not addressing the House at the start of the Budget session. The BJP MLAs later staged a walk-out. Congress and Left MLAs had previously decided not to participate in the proceedings over the same issue. Miss Banerjee proposed creating a Netaji Battalion in Kolkata police and setting up ‘Jai Hind Bhawan’ in every district of the state, the proposals coming amidst the ongoing tussle between the state and the Centre over Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s legacy. “There will be an Azad Hind Bhawan in all the districts besides the formation of Netaji State Planning Commission (similar to Niti Aayog) in West Bengal and a separate ‘Netaji Battalion’ in Kolkata Police department in the coming months,” she said while tabling the Budget. Turn to Page 3 5.2 million vaccinated against Covid-19 No blanket permission given for surveillance: Centre to HC NEW DELHI, 5 FEBRUARY P12 RBI keeps key rates on Mamata places `2.99 L hold to boost growth crore interim Budget GDP expected to grow 10.5 p.c compared to 7.7 p.c contraction in last fiscal Min. 34% TEMPERATURE SERENA PULLS OUT FROM OZ OPEN TUNEUP BUDGET 2021: BOLD AND CLEAN he said. The minister said the contract farming law in Haryana was based on recommendations of the Hooda Committee. The opposition was limited to just one state, he said, referring to Punjab. The government was committed to small farmers and brought transparency in procurement, he said. Tomar said the Modi government had accepted recommendations of the 14th and 15th Finance Commissions on allocation to village panchayats, and increased the states’ share in devolution of Central revenues from 32 per cent to 42 per cent. After the 15th Commission’s report, the government was committed to transfer Rs 2.80 lakh crore to the panchayats and rural local bodies over the next five years, Tomar said. The Modi government had CMYK given property rights to villagers, increased allocation for MGNREGA and was giving over Rs 1.15 lakh crore as Kisan Samman money to 10.75 crore farmers through the direct benefit mechanism. A large number of eligible farmers were yet to be enrolled in the scheme, including 70 lakh in Bengal where the state government had not accepted the scheme yet. As the House resumed the debate, the Opposition attacked the government on the farmers’ agitation. Shiv Sena member Sanjay Raut said the government was trying to defame the farmers and put 200 of them in jail. Satish Chandra Misra (BSP) said water and sanitation were cut off at farmers’ protest sites on Delhi’s borders, ignoring there were women there. More reports on Page 5 The government also told Parliament on Friday that the country is witnessing a sustained decline in the number of infections reported daily since the peak in midSeptember 2020. “Although high in absolute terms, India has managed to restrict the morbidity to 7,801 cases per million population, which is far lower than other similarly affected countries,” Minister of State for Health Ashwini Choubey said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha. 2 Covid-linked deaths in Bengal: Bengal today registered 194 fresh Covid cases, with 2 deaths linked to the infection. The state’s total Covid case count is 5,70,981 with the toll at 10,201 while there are 4,992 active cases. 1,08,02,591 1,51,460 12,408 15,853 1,54,823 UNION HEALTH MINISTRY FIGURES AS OF 8.00 A.M. FRIDAY 05 FEBRUARY 2021 Centre to give extra chance to UPSC aspirants, with a rider STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE NEW DELHI, 5 FEBRUARY The Centre told the Supreme Court on Friday that it is ready to give ‘eligible’ UPSC aspirants, who exhausted their last attempt for the civil services examination in October 2020 amidst the Covid-19 pandemic another shot at clearing the test in 2021. However, the Centre also made it clear that the relaxation for UPSC candidates shall be a one-time relaxation, and it should not be treated as a precedent. The candidates must be ‘eligible’, which means they should not be age-barred. In January this year, the Centre had submitted before the court that giving another chance to last-attempters would be detrimental to the level playing field in the public exami- nation system. The Centre’s counsel contended before a bench headed by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar that the one-time relaxation, only to the extent of providing one extra chance for the elite civil services exam, specifically limited to Civil Services Examination (CSE) 2021, may be granted to those candidates who exhausted their last attempt in 2020. In a note filed before the top court, the Centre said that this relaxation is not available to those aspirants who didn’t exhaust their permissible number of attempts or to those who are otherwise age-barred from appearing in CSE-2021. The top court asked the Centre’s counsel to circulate the note to the concerned parties. The matter has been scheduled for further hearing on 8 February.
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