CMYK THURSDAY www.thestatesman.com 11 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 NEIGHBOURS’ STUTTERS TRUMP TRIAL: SENATORS TO HEAR ARGUMENTS P10 Mainly clear sky. Maximum and minimum temperatures most likely to be around 29 °C and 15 °C respectively. RAINFALL: Nil RELATIVE HUMIDITY TEMPERATURE P6 P4 P12 New laws not coercive, says Modi in LS WEATHER Max. 99 % SERENA ADVANCES, ANDREESCU CRASHES OUT GOVT DID JUGGLERY OF DATA: SIBAL ON UNION BUDGET Min. 37 % Max: 28.4 °C (0) Min: 14.6 °C (-3) SUN RISES SUN SETS 06:11 hrs 17:31 hrs MOON RISES MOON SETS 05:06 hrs 16:07 hrs New moon on 12 February THUMBNAILS Migrant birds flock together in a pond on the outskirts of Amritsar on Wednesday. IANS Delhi court defers verdict in M J Akbar's defamation case: A Delhi Court Wednesday deferred for February 17 its verdict in M J Akbar's criminal defamation complaint against journalist Priya Ramani for her allegations of sexual harassment against him. The court had on February 1 reserved the judgment after Akbar as well as Ramani completed their arguments. Ramani had made an allegation of sexual misconduct against Akbar in the wake of #MeToo movement in 2018. Akbar had filed the complaint against Ramani on October 15, 2018, for allegedly defaming him by accusing him of sexual misconduct. Viraat dismantling: The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered status quo on the dismantling of decommissioned aircraft carrier Viraat, but a Gujarat-based ship-breaker who has purchased it said it is now too late for any restoration effort. A private firm has moved the court in a last ditch effort to save Viraat which has been partly dismantled by another company that had bought it through an auction. The petitioner-firm has offered to pay Rs 100 crore for the ship so that it can be converted into a museum instead of being dismantled. PM blames Opposition for ‘misleading’ people, says the laws will only offer more options to farmers Congress stages walkout STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE NEW DELHI, 10 FEBRUARY he three recent agriculture legislations are not coercive but only offer options to farmers, and there are no restrictions on the old Mandis, said prime minister Narendra Modi today in Lok Sabha. In a reply to the discussion on the motion of thanks to the president’s address to the joint sitting of Parliament, the prime minister said even after the laws came into force no agriculture ‘mandi’ has been shut anywhere in the country and the minimum support price (MSP) system has remained in place. Modi blamed the Opposition for “misleading” farmers regarding the new laws.“These are the wellthought-out attempts to shout and create chaos political conspiracy...but you [Opposition] cannot earn people’s trust this T way." To allay apprehensions on the three legislations, the prime minister assured farmers that the government is ready to discuss clause by clause every provision of the three farm laws. If there are any shortcomings, it was ready to make changes. At the same time, he also said the government respects farmers. “This is why top ministers of the government are constantly talking to them,” the prime minister said. Talking about the benefits of these laws, the PM said reform is necessary in agriculture sector as one cannot deal with 21st century agriculture with 18th century mindset. “Until we bring investment and new technologies to our agriculture, we will not be able to make our farming sector strong. We need to go beyond growing only wheat and paddy,” said Modi. Highlighting the his- torical importance of agriculture, he said farming was not related to only cultivation but it is a part of culture for ages. “Be it festival or folk song, everything is somehow connected with agriculture,” he said. In his 90-minute-long speech, he raked up Chaudhary Charan Singh’s advice~ the entire country should be treated as one agricultural market. Modi called the farmer protest ‘Pavitra’ (scared) but said he feels very sad when it was hijacked by ‘Andolanjeevis’. The prime minister's speech was frequently disrupted by Opposition members who were raising slogans to repeal the farm laws. Congress members also staged a walkout from the House. In his address, the PM said the NDA government has tried everything to bring changes in the country and asserted that "if the intention is good, then the results will also be good". He also took a potshot at those ‘groups of people’ who are saying these reforms are unnecessary. “I am surprised that for the first time a new argument has come ~ we did not ask, so why did you give. Be it issue of dowry or triple talaq, no one had demanded laws to deal with them, but the laws were made as they were necessary for a progressive society,” he said. Modi also highlighted importance of the private sector, saying that while public sector is essential, the role of the private sector is also equally important. In the beginning of his speech, the prime minister highlighted country’s successful fight against Covid-19. He gave full credit to 130 crore Indians, and said it is their discipline which saved the country from pandemic. DEHRADUN, 10 FEBRUARY Search and rescue teams are struggling to make headway inside the tunnel of the Tapovan hydroelectric project in Uttarakhand's Chamoli, where 3035 workers remain trapped in the wake of Sunday's flash flood caused after a glacier burst in the upper reaches of the Himalayas. After battling slush and debris, boulders are creating new problems for the rescue teams, making the situation complicated. The 30-35 workers have been trapped in the tun- PRESS TRUST OF INDIA NEW DELHI, 10 FEBRUARY Twitter on Wednesday said it has suspended over 500 accounts, and blocked access to several others within India as it partly acceded to a government order to curb spread of misinformation and inflammatory content around farmers' protests. Twitter, in a blogpost, said it has not blocked accounts consisting of “news media entities, journalists, activists and politicians” as doing so “would violate their fundamental right to free expression” guaranteed under the country's law. The government, how- nel since 7 February. In a move to ease progress inside the Tapovan tunnel, ITBP and other agencies involved in the challenging operation have started removing loose ends of pipes and wires. Authorities said drones and remote sensing equipment were being used in the rescue operations. Drilling through the debris has become more difficult with the silt inside the tunnel drying up and getting harder, Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Nilesh Anand Bharne, Uttarakhand Police chief spokesperson, was quot- ever, termed as unusual Twitter's move to publish the blogpost before a slated talks with the IT Secretary on the issue, as sought by the US company. Upon the request of Twitter seeking a meeting with the government, the IT Secretary was to engage with senior management of Twitter. In this light, a blog post published prior to this engagement is unusu- ed as saying. Rescue teams have so far managed to progress 80 metres inside the tunnel and have to make their way through tonnes of debris for at least 100 metres more to reach those trapped inside, the DIG added. The rescue operation has been continuing in the tunnel for the fourth successive day. Fewer than 5,000 active Covid-19 cases in 33 states/UTs SNS & PTI NEW DELHI/KOLKATA, 10 FEBRUARY Active Covid-19 cases in the country have dropped to 1.41 lakh, comprising just 1.30 per cent of the total infections, while 33 states and UTs have reported less than 5000 active cases, the Union Health Ministry said on Wednesday. Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli currently have zero active cases. A total of 11,067 new daily cases were recorded in a span of 24 hours whereas 13,087 patients have recovered during the same period, leading to a net decline of 2,114 cases from the total active caseload, the ministry noted. Kerala and Maharashtra PRESS TRUST OF INDIA NEW DELHI, 10 FEBRUARY Intensifying their agitation against the three new agricultural laws, protesting farmer unions Wednesday announced a four-hour nationwide 'rail roko' (railway blockade) on February 18. In a statement, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, which is spearheading the protest, also announced that toll collection will not be allowed in Rajasthan from February 12. “There will be a 'rail roko' across the country from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on February 18,” the SKM said in the statement. Earlier this month, they had observed a threehour road blockade to press their demand of repealing the three laws. Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) Leader, Rakesh Tikait, addresses farmers during their protest at Ghazipur Border, in the Capital on Wednesday. SNS Thousands of farmers have been protesting against the three laws which were enacted in September last year. The protesters have been alleging the laws will weaken the MSP Twitterpartly accedes, suspends over 500 a/cs Disengagement al, IT Ministry said in its response on Koo, a homegrown social networking platform. Government will share its response soon, the post on Koo said. Koo is being touted as the homegrown contender to Twitter. The blogpost by Twitter on Wednesday morning had the microblogging platform emphasising it will continue to advocate for the right of free expression of its users and that it is “actively exploring options under Indian law - both for Twitter and for the accounts that have been impacted”. The development comes in the backdrop of the government, on February 4, ordering Twitter to take down 1,178 accounts with links to Pakistan and Khalistan supporters that were spreading misinformation and provocative content related to farmers' protest. In all, Twitter has taken action against over 1,000 accounts - 500 as sought by the government and an equal number that were found by the company engaging in platform manipulation and spam. The government had late last month sought blocking of 257 tweets and handles in connection with the agitation by farmers over the new pro-market agricultural laws. Twitter complied, only to restore the accounts hours later. Boulders hinder rescue teams’ progress in Chamoli RAJU GUSAIN Nationwide ‘rail roko’ on 18 Feb account for 71 per cent of the total active cases of the country, the ministry said. Nineteen states and UTs did not report any deaths in a span of 24 hours ending at 8 a.m. Wednesday. Delhi, which recorded zero Covid-19 deaths on Tuesday, after a span of nine months, recorded two fresh deaths during the day on Wednesday. India's cumulative recoveries have surged to 1,05,61,608. A total of 94 fatalities were recorded in a period of 24 hours, the fifth straight day the number of daily fatalities has stayed below 100. West Bengal, meanwhile, registered 179 fresh Covid cases and 5 deaths linked to the infection in the previous 24 hours. 1,08,58,371 1,41,511 11,067 13,087 1,55,252 UNION HEALTH MINISTRY FIGURES AS OF 8.00 A.M. WEDNESDAY 10 FEB 2021 A team of scientists from Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology (Dehradun) conducted an aerial survey of the glacier, which triggered a snow avalanche to cause a flash flood on 7 February. The Indian Air Force too deployed an Advanced Light Helicopter for conducting an aerial survey of Tapovan and the glacier. So far 34 bodies have been recovered. Some 170 persons remain missing. Nine bodies were identified while 25 others still remain unidentified. The state police have set up a WhatsApp group for the affected families. Photographs of the bodies recovered and other details are shared on the platform to identify the body recovered. at Pangong lake has begun: China STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE NEW DELHI, 19 FEBRUARY China today claimed that Indian and Chinese troops have begun simultaneous disengagement at Pangong Lake as part of the consensus reached between the two countries at the 9th round of military commanders’ talks held last month. There was no immediate confirmation of the Chinese claim by the Indian side, but news agency PTI quoted people familiar with the development as saying both sides are in the process of pulling back their armoured units like tanks and armoured personnel carriers. If it proves correct, the development could end nearly ten months of military standoff along the Pangong Tso lake area, one of the sticking points between the two countries. The 9th round of talks between the senior military commanders was held on 24 January. After the marathon 16-hour-long meeting, the two countries issued a joint statement in which they said they have agreed to push for an early disengagement of frontline troops at disputed border areas across the Line of Actual Control (LAC). According to PTI, “authoritative sources” in the Indian defence and military establishment did not refute the Chinese defence ministry's statement on the developments on the northern and southern banks of Pangong lake, an area that witnessed major face-offs since the row erupted on May 5. The office of defence minister Rajnath Singh, meanwhile, tweeted that he will make a statement in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday on the situation in eastern Ladakh. “Raksha Mantri Shri @rajnathsingh will make a statement in Rajya Sabha tomorrow regarding 'Present Situation in Eastern Ladakh',” it said. (With PTI inputs) (Representational image) mechanism and end the mandi system. But the government says the new legislations offer more options to farmers to sell their crops, and will help raise their incomes. UNSC reform: China harps on ‘package solution’ BEIJING, 10 FEBRUARY China, which has been blocking India's efforts to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council, on Wednesday reiterated its stand on New Delhi's bid, and called for evolving a “package solution” that is acceptable to all to reform the top organ of the global body. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin's comments came a day after India and China discussed various issues relating to the UN body. Asked about the outcome of the virtual meeting and whether there was any discussion on India's claim for permanent membership of the UNSC, Wang told media here that the two sides held consultations on Security Council issues. “As for India's bid for permanent membership to the UNSC, I can reiterate China's principled position on this. China has been a supporter of Security Council reform, advocating that the reform should enhance the Council's authority and efficacy and that priority be given to the increased representation and say of developing countries,” he said. “Efforts should be made to seek a package solution that accommodates all parties' interests and concerns on the basis of extensive and democratic consultations.” PTI SC to hear plea against Bombay HC assault verdict PRESS TRUST OF INDIA DANGEROUS NEW DELHI, 10 FEBRUARY The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to hear a plea filed by the National Commission for Women (NCW) challenging the Bombay High Court verdict which said that groping a minor’s breast without “skin to skin contact” cannot be termed as sexual assault as defined under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. The apex court had on January 27 stayed the high court's verdict after Attorney General K K Venugopal mentioned the matter before it and said that the judgment was unprecedented and was likely to set a dangerous precedent. While hearing the matter on Wednesday, a bench head- The apex court had on 27 Jan- uary stayed the high court's verdictwhich said that groping a minor’s breast without ‘skin to skin contact’ cannot be termed as sexual assault as defined under the POCSO Act In its plea filed in the apex court, the NCW has said that if such a perverse interpretation of physical contact is allowed, it will adversely impact the basic rights of women ed by Chief Justice S A Bobde issued notice to Maharashtra government seeking its response on the NCW's plea. Other petitioners, Youth Bar Association of India and Bharatiya Stree Shakti, withdrew their pleas against the January 19 verdict of the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court. CMYK The bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, issued notice to the accused in the case on a separate plea filed by Maharashtra against the high court verdict. The bench asked senior advocate Geeta Luthra, appearing for NCW, as to why it should entertain a separate plea when the top court has already stayed the high court verdict and the accused is in jail. Luthra referred to the provision of the NCW Act and said statute provides that commission should move court for correction if any such issues come up. At the outset, Venugopal told the court that the high court verdict has already been stayed and several new petitions have been filed in the matter. He said that notices be issued on the new pleas filed against the high court order. In its plea filed in the apex court, the NCW has said that if such a perverse interpretation of physical contact is allowed, it will adversely impact the basic rights of women, who are victims of sexual offences in the society and will undermine the ben- eficial statutory safeguards prescribed under various legislations aimed at protecting the interest of women. The petitioner is aggrieved by the impugned order, and the perverse interpretation adopted by the high court that the term physical contact' in section 7 of POCSO Act means only skin to skin touch', the plea said. In its verdict, the high court had said that since the man groped the child without removing her clothes, the offence cannot be termed as sexual assault but it does constitute the offence of outraging a woman's modesty. It had modified the order of a sessions court, which had sentenced a 39-year-old man to three years of imprisonment for sexually assaulting a 12year-old girl.
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