MONDAY www.thestatesman.com 22 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 NUKE WATCHDOG CHIEF STARTS IRAN TALKS FOLLOW RAJ DHARMA, REDUCE FUEL PRICES, SONIA TELLS MODI P5 WEATHER Mainly clear sky. Shallow fog in the morning. The maximum and minimum temperatures would be around 29 and 10 degrees Celsius respectively. RAINFALL: Nil RELATIVE HUMIDITY Max: 100% Min: 53% TEMPERATURE Max: 28.0°C (+3) SUN RISES 06:52 hrs MOON RISES 13:33 hrs Min: 10.1°C (-1) SUN SETS 18:16 hrs MOON SETS 03:50 hrs THUMBNAILS Central force personnel during a route march ahead of Assembly election at Salt Lake in ANAGHA BANIK Kolkata on Sunday. Bengal govt cuts fuel tax: The West Bengal government on Sunday announced a reduction of tax by Re 1 per litre on petrol and diesel effective from midnight of February 22. State finance minister Amit Mitra said the move will provide some respite to people stung by burgeoning prices of fuel. The minister said the tax rebate on fuel will be valid till June 30. “The Centre earned Rs 32.90 per litre in taxes from petrol (on February 20), while the state got around Rs 18.46 only,” he said. Puducherry MLAs quit: Two more MLAs of the Congress- DMK alliance in Puducherry resigned on Sunday, delivering yet another jolt to Chief Minister V Narayanasamy as the ruling side's strength further depleted to 11 against opposition's 14 in the 33-member assembly, a day before the trust vote. A beleaguered Narayanasamy said the government's strategy would be made known before Monday's floor P4 test to prove his majority. P10 P10 Centre writes to states with Covid-19 spike 1 P12 OUT AND ABOUT Daily new cases, total active caseload both increasing PRESS TRUST OF INDIA Central advisory NEW DELHI, 21 FEBRUARY W ith a spike in daily new cases of Covid19 in some states including Maharashtra and Kerala, the Centre has advised them to increase the proportion of RT-PCR tests and regularly monitor mutant strains besides refocusing on strict surveillance and stringent containment in affected districts. India has been witnessing a rise in the Covid-19 active caseload over the past few days whichis pegged at 1,45,634 as on date and now consists of 1.32 per centof India's total infections. New Covid-19 cases registered an increase for the fourth consecutive day with 14,264 new cases recorded in the previous 24 hours, taking the total tally to 1,09,91,651. The death toll increased to 1,56,302 with 90 new fatalities, the data updated at 8 am showed. “More than 74 per cent of the active cases of the country are in Kerala and Maharashtra. Of late it is seen that there has been a spike in the daily cases in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh also. Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir too are witnessing a surge in daily new cases,” the ministry said. In the last four weeks in Kerala, the average week- 1,09,91,651 1,45,634 14,264 11,667 1,56,302 UNION HEALTH MINISTRY FIGURES AS OF 8.00 A.M. SUNDAY 21 FEBRUARY 2021 The five states which are now a cause of concern have been advised by the Centre to improve the overall testing numbers by focusing on increasing the proportion of RT-PCR tests. It has asked them to refocus on strict and comprehensive surveillance as well as stringent containment in selected districts and conduct regular monitoring of the mutant strains. ly cases have fluctuated between a high of 42,000 and a low of 34,800. Similarly, in the last four weeks, the weekly positivity in Kerala has ranged from 13.9 per cent to 8.9 per cent. In Kerala, the district of Alappuzha is a cause of special concern where the weekly positivity rate has increased to 10.7 per cent and weekly cases have increased to 2,833, the ministry underlined. In Maharashtra, in the last four weeks, the weekly cases have shown a rising trend and have increased from 18,200 to 21,300; while the weekly positivity has also increased from 4.7 per cent to 8 per cent. The areas of concern are the Mumbai suburban areas where the weekly cases have risen by 19 per cent. In Nagpur, Amravati, Nashik, Akola andYavatmal the weekly cases have increased by 33 per cent, 47 per cent, 23 per cent, 55 per cent and 48 per cent, respectively, the ministry underscored. Punjab is rapidly assuming critical dimension in respect of the spread of Covid-19 infection, the ministry highlighted adding in the last four weeks, the weekly positivity rate in the state has increased from 1.4 per cent to 1.6 per cent, while the weekly cases in the last four weeks have seen a rise from 1300 to 1682. In one district of SBS Nagar alone, the weekly positivity rate has become 4.9 percent from 3.5 per cent and the weekly cases have more than doubled from 165 to 364. India, China decide to push for mutually acceptable resolution of border stand-off o ASHOK TUTEJA NEW DELHI, 21 FEBRUARY In a significant development in their talks to resolve the military stand-off at eastern Ladakh, India and China have agreed to stabilise and control the situation on the ground and push for a mutually acceptable resolution of all issues in a steady and orderly manner so as to jointly maintain peace and tranquility in border areas. In a joint statement issued today at the end of the 10th round of corps commander level meeting, the two sides ''positively appraised the smooth completion of disengagement of frontline troops in the Pangong Lake area, noting that it was a significant step forward that provided a good basis for resolution of other remaining issues along the LAC in Western Sector.'' The two sides had candid DJOKOVIC WINS HIS NINTH OZ OPEN MERRICK GARLAND IN LINE TO BE US ATTORNEY GENERAL and in-depth exchange of views on other issues along the LAC in the Western Sector. They agreed to follow the important consensus of their state leaders, continue their communication and dialogue and resolve the remaining issues peacefully, said the joint statement issued at the end of the 16-hour meeting held at Moldo on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The Indian side was led by Lt Gen P G K Menon, Commander of 14 Corps based in Leh, on the Indian side and included Naveen Srivastav, Joint Secretary (East Asia) in the External Affairs Ministry. Maj Gen Liu Lin, the commander of the South Xinjiang military district of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) headed the Chinese side. The latest round of talks was held two days after the armies of the two countries completed the first phase of disengagement at both the north and south banks of the Pangong Tso Lake. The agreement for disengagement of troops of the Indian Army and China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) from the LAC was reached after sustained negotiations at the military and diplomatic level, said the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) last week. At the 10th round of talks, India is understood to have insisted on a faster disengagement process in areas like Hot Springs, Gogra and Depsang to further bring down tension in the border areas. "The focus of the talks is on carrying forward the disengagement process. Both sides met to discuss modalities for it," sources said. On 11 February, defence minister Rajnath Singh had announced in Parliament that the two countries have reached an agreement on disengagement in the North and South banks of Pangong lake which mandates both sides to "cease" forward deployment of troops in a "phased, coordinated and verifiable" manner. Under the agreement, China will pull back its troops to the east of Finger 8 areas in the northern bank of Pangong lake while the Indian personnel will be based at their permanent base at Dhan Singh Thapa Post near Finger 3 in the region. Similar action would take place on the southern bank of the lake as well. Troops of both countries have retreated to positions that were agreed upon, according to reports. At the 26th Hunar Haat organised by the Ministry of Minority Affairs on the theme of Vocal for Local from 20th February SUBRARA DUTTA to 01st March 2021, at Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium, in the capital on Sunday. CBI knocks at Abhishek Banerjee’s door; wife and sister-in-law get notice SNS & PTI NEW DELHI/KOLKATA, 21 FEBRUARY A CBI team on Sunday went to the Kolkata residence of Abhishek Banerjee, Trinamul Congress MP and chief minister Mamata Banerjee's nephew, serving a notice to his wife and his sisterin-law to join the probe in the coal pilferage case, a development that further raised the political temperature in poll-bound West Bengal. The Trinamul Congress accused the ruling BJP at the Centre of a political vendetta and Abhishek Banerjee said they would not be cowed down by such tactics. “Don't try to intimidate us with jail, we have fought against guns and are not afraid of fighting against rats,” a fuming Mamata Banerjee said at an event soon after the CBI action. The BJP hit out at the TMC, accusing it of politicising the matter, and said the law will take its course. The agency team handed over the notice issued by Investigation Officer Umesh Kumar, Additional Superintendent of Police in the CBI, in connection with the case of theft of coal from the mines of Eastern Coalfields Ltd in West Bengal in which Anup Manjhi is the alleged mastermind, sources said. The notice issued on Sunday asked Abhishek Banerjee's wife Rujira Banerjee to remain present at her address on Harish Mukherjee Road on the same day “for the purpose of answering certain questions relating to the case”, they said. “However, she could not be questioned today,” a source said. Rujira's sister Menaka Gambhir has been asked by the CBI to join the probe on Monday when she will be quizzed by the investigation team, the sources said. “At 2 p.m. today, the CBI served a notice in the name of my wife. We have full faith in the law of the land. However, if they think they can use these ploys to intimidate us, they are mistaken. We are not the ones who would ever be cowed down,” Abhishek Banerjee tweeted. The notice to Banerjee's family members from the central agency came a day before a court in Kolkata is due to hear a defamation case filed by him against home minister Amit Shah who is spearheading the BJP campaign in the state. The court has summoned Shah to appear before it “personally or through a pleader” on Monday. Banerjee's lawyer Sanjay Basu had claimed that Shah had made certain defamatory statements against the TMC MP on 11 August 2018, during a BJP rally at Mayo Road in Kolkata. Farmers to further escalate protest NEW DELHI, 21 FEBRUARY Protesting farmers Sunday announced a series of events from February 23-27 to further intensify their agitation against the three new agricultural laws as they accused the government of adopting “repressive” measures against them. They also said they will soon devise a strategy to keep the protest going for long. The Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), which is spearheading the protests, told a press conference here that under their proposed escalation programme, February 23 will be observed as 'Pagadi Sambhal Diwas' and February 24 as 'Daman Virodhi Diwas', essentially to underline that farmers must be respected and no “repressive measures” should be taken against them. The Morcha said February 26 will be observed as 'Yuva Kisan Diwas' (youth farmers day) and February 27 as 'Mazdoor Kisan Ekta Divws' (farmerlabourer unity day). “The government is adopting all the repressive measures, mischief and manipulations including arrests, detentions and registration of cases against the protesters. The Singhu border has been fortified and appears to be an international border,” farmer leader Yogendra Yadav said. A long-term plan for movement will be discussed in view of the Parliament session from March 8, and the strategy will be shared in the next meeting of SKM, he PTI said. MP: Woman gang-raped, BJP man among accused, sacked India signs $50 million defence LoC pact with Maldives PRESS TRUST OF INDIA MALE, 21 FEBRUARY SHAHDOL, 21 FEBRUARY A 20-year-old woman was gang-raped allegedly by four persons, including a BJP functionary, in Madhya Pradesh's Shahdol district, police said on Sunday. The ruling party later in the evening issued a statement that the accused office-bearer had been removed from its primary membership. The woman was abducted in a four-wheeler, forced to drink liquor in a farmhouse in Gadaghat area under Jaitpur police station limits and then gang-raped on February 18 and 19, said Shahdol Additional Superintendent of Police (ASP) Mukesh Vaish. “On February 20, the four accused dumped her in front of her house. She filed a police complaint on Sunday. The victim was first taken to Jaitpur health centre and then shifted to the district hospital for treatment,” he added. Soon after news broke out that the name of BJP Jaitpur mandal chief Vijay Tripathi figured in the FIR as one of the accused, the BJP issued a release stating that he had been thrown out of the party. Shahdol district BJP president Kamal Pratap Singh has sacked Vijay Tripathi from Jaitpur mandal president's post, and primary membership of the party after his name figured in the gang-rape case, the release said, declaring that the BJP has no place for such workers involved in heinous crimes. Efforts are underway to nab the four accused, said the Additional SP. PRESS TRUST OF INDIA India on Sunday reaffirmed its commitment to the Maldives' security and signed a USD 50 million defence Line of Credit agreement with the strategically vital Indian Ocean island nation to boost its maritime capabilities, as External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar held in-depth talks with the country's top leaders to further cement bilateral ties. The signing of the agreement took place after Jaishankar held talks with Maldivian Defence Minister Mariya Didi, Minister of Finance Ibrahim Ameer, Minister of Economic Development Fayyaz Ismail and Minister of National Planning, Housing and Infrastructure Mohamed Aslam. The USD 50 million credit line agreement for defence projects was signed between the Finance Ministry of Maldives and the Export Import Bank of India. A Letter of Intent between Fahi Dhiriulhun Corporation and EXIM Bank was also signed towards extending a credit facility under EXIM Bank's Buyer's Credit scheme to support the design and construction of 2000 social housing units in Hulhumale, accord- ing to a joint statement on the two-day visit of Jaishankar. Jaishankar held a cordial meeting with Didi and reviewed the various facets of defence and security cooperation. He told Didi that India would always be a reliable security partner for the Maldives. After their talks, Jaishankar and Didi signed an agreement to develop, support and maintain a Maldives Nation- al Defence Force Coast Guard Harbour at Sifavaru. The agreement will help India to assist the Government of Maldives for enhancing the capability of the country's defence forces in exercising jurisdiction and undertaking maritime surveillance of its Exclusive Economic Zone and islands, the joint statement said. It will “strengthen Maldivian Coast Guard capability and facilitate regional HADR (Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief) efforts,” Jaishankar tweeted. Didi said that from time immemorial, defence cooperation has been a key element of the sisterly relationship that exists between India and the Maldives. The Coast Guard Harbour & Dockyard at Sifavaru will mark another significant milestone, she tweeted. The Maldives is India's key maritime neighbour in the Indian Ocean Region. China, which has been expanding its footprint in the Indian Ocean region, has been eying key infrastructure projects in the strategically-important island nation and step up defence ties. Jaishankar also witnessed the signing of a project execution contract for the construction of roads in Addu, the second-largest urban area in the Maldives, in terms of population. This is the first of the eight major infrastructure projects being implemented jointly by the Maldives and India to be awarded. Jaishankar also called on Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and reaffirmed India's fullest commitment as a comprehensive development partner of the island nation during the Covid- 19 pandemic and beyond. Jaishankar on Saturday handed over 100,000 additional doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to the Maldives. “Guided by mutual respect and trust, the Maldives-India partnership has grown even stronger during the Covid-19 pandemic,” the joint statement said. On Saturday, Jaishankar met his Maldivian counterpart Abdulla Shahid in a warm and friendly atmosphere, reflective of the renewed dynamism over the past two years in the traditionally close relationship, it said. They noted with appreciation that in the last two years, the leadership of President Solih and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has steered the Maldives-India partnership into a new era of high ambition and cooperative action for mutual benefit.
The Statesman is one of India's oldest English newspapers. It was founded in Kolkata in 1875 and is directly descended from The Friend of India (founded 1818). The Englishman (founded 1821) was merged with The Statesman in 1934. The Delhi edition of The Statesman began publication in 1931. The Statesman Weekly is a compendium of news and views from the Kolkata and Delhi editions. Printed on airmail paper, it is popular with readers outside India. The Statesman (average weekday circulation approximately 180,000) is a leading English newspaper in West Bengal. The Sunday Statesman has a circulation of 230,000.