FRIDAY www.thestatesman.com 19 FEBRUARY 2021 FIND US ONLINE Scan this with your smartphone twitter.com/TheStatesmanLtd facebook.com/thestatesman1875 Pages 12 |` 5|LC KOLKATA | NEW DELHI | SILIGURI | BHUBANESWAR HONG KONG ACTIVIST DENIED BAIL AGAIN UGANDA: CRISIS AT THE HELM P6 Mainly clear sky. Moderate fog in the morning. The maximum and minimum temperatures would be around 28 and 10 degrees Celsius respectively. RAINFALL: Nil RELATIVE HUMIDITY P10 Toolkit row: Delhi Police deny any leak to media NEW DELHI, 18 FEBRUARY SNS & PTI MUMBAI/NEW DELHI, 18 FEBRUARY Min: 9.6°C (-1) SUN SETS 18:14 hrs MOON SETS 01:04 hrs O THUMBNAILS Journalists participate in silent sit-in protest against rampant harassment of media persons, SNS at Press Club in New Delhi on Thursday. Record deal for Chris Morris in IPL auction: Allrounders and foreign fast bowlers fetched the big bucks at this year's IPL players' auction where South Africa's Chris Morris clinched a record-breaking Rs 16.25 crore deal with Rajasthan Royals and uncapped Karnataka player Krishnappa Gowtham also invited a bankbreaking bid. Morris became the most expensive buy in the IPL auction history with Rajasthan Royals shelling out big money for the all-rounder even as uncapped players such as P12 Gowtham also hogged the limelight. Murder case in Unnao deaths: Uttar Pradesh police on Thursday registered a case of murder into the deaths of two teenage girls whose bodies were found in a field even as a post-mortem revealed no injury marks. A third girl is being treated for suspected poisoning. The UP human rights body has taken note of the incident at Babuhara village in Unnao district while political parties slammed the Yogi Adityanath government over it. Air pollution due to PM2.5 killed 54,000 in Delhi last year: Study PM2.5 refers to fine particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter. Exposure to PM2.5 is considered the most important environmental risk factor for global deaths NEW DELHI, 18 FEBRUARY Air pollution caused by hazardous PM2.5 fine particulate matter led to the death of 54,000 people in Delhi last year where pollution levels remained almost six times above the prescribed WHO limits, according to a new study. According to a Greenpeace Southeast Asia analysis of IQAir data, 1,800 deaths per million were estimated due to PM2.5 air pollution in Delhi. “The PM2.5 air pollution claimed approximately 54,000 lives in India’s national capital in 2020,” the study said. PM2.5 refers to fine particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter. Exposure to PM2.5 is considered the most important environmental risk factor for deaths globally, and was attributed to 4.2 million premature deaths in 2015, the study said. The study noted that the damage is equally worrying in other Indian cities. “An estimated 25,000 avoidable deaths in Mumbai in 2020 have been attributed to air pollution. Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad and Lucknow estimated an approximate 12000, 11000, 11000, and 6700 avoidable deaths respectively due to polluted (MORE ON PAGE 2) air,” it said. PTI P12 Maha districts face stricter Covid curbs PRESS TRUST OF INDIA Min: 52% TEMPERATURE Max: 27.8°C (+4) SUN RISES 06:55 hrs MOON RISES 11:18 hrs P9 More than 5,000 new Covid-19 cases in the state after a gap of 75 days WEATHER Max: 100% HAALAND IN LIMELIGHT, ONCE AGAIN BIDEN ADMIN TO INTRODUCE US CITIZENSHIP ACT n a day that the state of Maharashtra reported over 5,400 new Covid-19 cases, the state administration announced a ten-day lockdown in Yavatmal district in the Vidarbha region, while a weekend lockdown was announced in neighbouring Amravati district. After a gap of 75 days, Maharashtra on Thursday reported more than 5,000 new Covid-19 cases, a sizable number of them coming from Akola and Nagpur divisions. The state recorded 5,427 new cases on Thursday, the highest one-day count this year, along with 38 fatalities. It had reported 4,787 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday. The state had reported 5,229 infections on December 4, which had been followed by a gradual drop in cases. The decline had prompted the state government to relax restrictions on movement and gatherings further, including the restrictions on travel by local trains in Mumbai. But since the last week, the state is reporting increase in the daily numbers of infections, setting alarm bells ringing. With the spurt in cases, the administration in Yavatmal district ordered a tenday lockdown from Thursday night, including curbs on gatherings and the closure of schools, while a weekend lockdown was Delhi Police on Thursday told the Delhi High Court that it has not leaked any material to the media in relation to its probe in the FIR against climate activist Disha Ravi for her alleged involvement in sharing a toolkit backing the ongoing farmers’ protest. The court was hearing Ravi’s plea to restrain police from leaking to the media any probe material in relation to the FIR lodged against her. The submission was made before Justice Prathiba M Singh by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the police. The court asked the police to file an affidavit containing its submission that it has not leaked any mate- PM suggests special visa scheme for health workers NEW DELHI, 18 FEBRUARY Addressing a meeting of experts and health officials from neighbouring countries, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today suggested creating a special visa scheme for doctors and nurses within the region so that they can travel quickly during health emergencies, on the request of the receiving country. Apart from India, representatives of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Mauritius, Nepal, Pakistan, Seychelles and Sri Lanka attended the meeting on “Covid-19 Management: Experience, Good Practices and Way Forward”. Modi lauded the way the health systems of the countries cooperated during the pandemic and for meeting the challenge in the most densely populated region with coordinated response. He recalled the creation of the Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund to meet the immeannounced in Amravati district from 8 p.m. on Saturday to 7 a.m. on Monday, a period during which markets and other establishments will remain shut, but essential services will remain unaffected. State chief minister Uddhav Thackeray had on Tuesday warned that if 1,09,50,201 diate costs of fighting the pandemic and sharing of resources ~medicines, PPE, and testing equipment. “This spirit of collaboration is a valuable takeaway from this pandemic. Through our openness and determination, we have managed to achieve one of the lowest fatality rates in the world. This deserves to be applauded. Today, the hopes of our region and the world are focused on rapid deployment of vaccines. In this too, we must maintain the same cooperative spirit” he said. The Prime Minister also asked whether the Civil Aviation Ministries of the countries could coordinate a regional air ambulance agreement for medical contingencies. He suggested that the regional countries could create a platform for collating, compiling and studying data about the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines among their SNS populations. 1,37,342 12,881 11,987 1,56,014 UNION HEALTH MINISTRY FIGURES AS OF 08.00 A.M. THURSDAY 18 FEBRUARY 2021 eries have reached 1,06,56,845, according to the Union health ministry. The death toll increased to 1,56,014 with 101 daily new fatalities over the same period. The active caseload stands at 1,37,342. Covid-19 norms are not followed, people should be prepared for a fresh round of strict lockdown. The country's tally of Covid-19 cases, meanwhile, reached 1,09,50,201 as of 8 a.m. on Thursday, with 12,881 new infections being reported in the previous 24 hours, while recov- Delhi logs 130 cases, 2 deaths: The national capital today reported 130 fresh Covid-19 cases and 2 coronavirus-linked deaths, according to the Delhi government’s latest health bulletin. These fresh cases came to light following 60,441 tests. The positivity rate stood at 0.22 per cent. Delhi’s Covid caseload mounted to 6,37,445, the health bulletin said. The cumulative figure of Covid fatalities climbed (SEE P2) to 10,896. Restraint plea The Delhi High Court was hearing climate activist Disha Ravi’s plea to restrain police from leaking to the media any probe material. Ravi said she is “severely aggrieved and prejudiced by the media trial surrounding her arrest and the ongoing investigation, where she is being viscerally attacked by the (police) and several media houses” rial relating to the investigation to the media. The court said it will hear the matter on Friday. The petition has also sought to restrain the media from publishing the content or extract of any private chats, including those on WhatsApp, between her and third parties. Ravi said she is “severely aggrieved and prejudiced by the media trial surrounding her arrest and the ongoing investigation, where she is being viscerally attacked by the respondent 1 (police) and several media houses”. She claimed that her arrest from Bengaluru on 13 February by a Cyber Cell team of Delhi Police was “wholly unlawfully and without basis”. “The illegal actions and omissions on part of the respondents has irrevocably violated the petitioner’s fundamental right to privacy, her right to reputation, her dignity, and the consequent effect of the administration of justice and right to fair trial,” the petition has said. Farmers stage nationwide ‘rail roko’; railways says little impact PRESS TRUST OF INDIA NEW DELHI, 18 FEBRUARY Agitating farmer groups on Thursday held a fourhour nationwide 'rail roko' agitation with the railways saying there was negligible impact on services though some trains were stopped by officials at stations as a precautionary measure. In Punjab and Haryana, farmers at several places squatted on railway tracks which led to disruption in normal movement of trains on some routes. Protests were also staged at some places in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka. However, in many states, it was a low-key affair. The All India Kisan Sabha claimed the agitation received ‘massive response across the country’. It further claimed that some activists were arrested in Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka and Telan- gana. “The massive success of the rail roko struggle is a warning to the Modi government. The farmers across the country have expressed their determination to continue the struggle till the demands are met with,” the Sabha said in a statement. Prove majority on 22 ‘Disengagement of Chinese, Indian With China on mind, Quad FMs call for Feb: Pudu Guv to CM troops at LAC going on smoothly’ PRESS TRUST OF INDIA PUDUCHERRY, 18 FEBRUARY The Congress government in the Union Territory will have to prove its majority in the Assembly on 22 February with Lt Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan on Thursday ordering the floor test, hours after assuming charge vowing to function in accordance with the Constitution. The development came days after a ruling party MLA resigned, becoming the fourth to quit the Assembly since last month, bringing down the numbers of the CongressDMK alliance to 14 in the 33member House with an effective strength of 28. Soundararajan, the Telangana Governor handed additional charge of the UT on Tuesday following the removal of Kiran Bedi, issued the direction to chief minister V Narayanasamy after the Opposition, which also has 14 MLAs, petitioned her, saying the government has been reduced to minority and it should prove its strength on the floor of the Assembly. Narayanasamy earlier in the day attended Soundararajan’s swearing-in and also called on her later. Four Congress MLAs have resigned and one member had been disqualified. The simple majority in the Assembly with the reduced strength is 15. The Opposition has been demanding the resignation of Narayansamy since Tuesday, when his confidante John Kumar quit as MLA. PRESS TRUST OF INDIA BEIJING, 18 FEBRUARY China on Thursday said the disengagement process of the Chinese and Indian frontline troops at the eastern Ladakh border was progressing smoothly and expressed hope that both sides will make concerted efforts to achieve the goal. On 10 February, China’s Defence Ministry spokesman Senior Colonel Wu Qian in a brief Press release announced that the Chinese and Indian frontline troops at the South and North banks of the Pangong lake in eastern Ladakh started synchronised and organised disengagement. “The relevant process is smooth on the whole. We hope that the two sides will The relevant process is smooth on the whole. We hope that the two sides will work in concerted efforts to achieve the goal. According to the consensus of our multi-round negotiations, the frontline troops have started disengagement in a synchronised way on both sides HUA CHUNYING CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESPERSON work in concerted efforts to achieve the goal,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said on Thursday when asked how the disengagement process is proceeding. “According to the consensus of our multi-round negotiations, the frontline troops have started disengagement in a synchronised and organised way on both sides,” Hua said. About the timeline of the disengagement of the troops, she said, “I’m not aware of the specifics. ”. After nine months of border standoff in eastern Ladakh, the two armies reached an agreement on disengagement in the North and South banks of Pangong lake that mandates both sides to cease forward deployment of troops in a “phased, coordinated and verifiable” manner. The Indian Army on Tuesday released short videos and photographs showing thinning down of troops and dismantling of bunkers, camps by the Chinese military in eastern Ladakh. Supreme Court closes ‘conspiracy’ probe in ex-CJI case PRESS TRUST OF INDIA NEW DELHI, 18 FEBRUARY The Supreme Court on Thursday closed the proceedings initiated to probe a larger conspiracy behind sexual harassment allegations against exCJI Ranjan Gogoi and “fixing” of benches at the top court. A bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said that nearly two years have passed and the possibility of retrieving electronic records is very little. The top court, while closing the suo motu proceedings in the case, said the in-house probe has been completed and the three-member panel headed by Justice S A Bobde, the current CJI, has already given the report exonerating the former CJI. The top court referred to the letter of the Director of Intelligence Bureau that some conspiracy might have ensued due to certain tough decisions taken by former Chief Justice Gogoi like verdict on preparation of the NRC in Assam. There are strong reasons to believe that some kind of conspiracy might have been undertaken against the then CJI Gogoi The bench, also comprising justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, said the Justice (retd) A K Patnaik panel was not able to get electronic records like WhatsApp messages to probe the conspiracy and hence no purpose would be served by continuing with the suo motu case. The top court referred to the letter of the Director of Intelligence Bureau that some conspiracy might have ensued due to certain tough decisions taken by former Chief Justice Gogoi like verdict on preparation of the National Register for Citizens (NRC) in Assam. There are strong reasons to believe that some kind of conspiracy might have been undertaken against the then CJI Gogoi, the bench said, while quoting the report of Justice Patnaik. It said that in view of the mandate of the order dated 25 April, 2019 Justice Patnaik’s report opines that it cannot really inquire whether the decisions of the then CJI on the judicial side had triggered the conspiracy against Gogoi. We are of the view that the suo motu proceedings in the present case is accordingly closed and the report be sealed again, it said, adding that the veracity of the allegations levelled by lawyer Utsav Singh Bains could not be verified completely due to the limited access of records and other collaborative mate- rial. The top court, while referring to the report of Justice Patnaik, further said that simultaneously the report on the existence of conspiracy cannot be completely ruled out. On 25 April, 2019, the top court had appointed former apex court judge Justice Patnaik to hold an inquiry into the sensational allegations of a lawyer about “larger conspiracy” to frame Gogoi and fixing of benches in the top court. The apex court made it clear that inquiry by Justice Patnaik shall not be with respect to the “alleged misbehavior” involving the CJI, against whom allegations of sexual allegations have been levelled by a former top court employee. freedom of navigation STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE NEW DELHI, 18 FEBRUARY The four ‘Quad’ members ~ India, Japan, Australia and the United States ~ today held their third ministerial dialogue to discuss rising challenges in the Indo-Pacific region in the wake of aggressive posturing by China on maritime issues. External Affairs minister S Jaishankar represented India at the virtual meeting which was attended by America’s new Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi. According to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), the ministers highlighted their shared attributes as political democracies, market economies and pluralistic societies. They recognised that the changes under way in the world makes a strong case for their countries working closely together. It was important for the international community that the direction of changes remains positive and beneficial to all. The ministers emphasised their commitment to upholding a rules-based international order, underpinned by respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty, rule of law, transparency, freedom of navigation in the international seas and peaceful resolution of disputes. “Their productive exchange of views on regional issues included a reiteration of their common vision for a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific The four ‘Quad’ members ~ India, Japan, Australia and the US, emphasised their commitment to upholding a rulesbased international order, underpinned by respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty region, with clear support for ASEAN cohesion and centrality. It was noted that the Indo-Pacific concept had gathered growing international support, including in Europe,” the MEA said. The ministers discussed ongoing efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, including vaccination programmes. They expressed their commitment to cooperate in addressing this challenge, enhancing access to affordable vaccines, medicines and medical equipment. India’s efforts at providing vaccines to 74 countries was recognised and appreciated. They exchanged views on responding to climate change and furthering cooperation in areas such as maritime security, HADR, supply chain resilience and counter-terrorism. In the discussion pertaining to recent developments in Myanmar, the upholding of rule of law and the democratic transition was reiterated by India. Noting that regular “Quad” consultations hold value, the ministers agreed to continue these useful discussions.
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