SATURDAY www.thestatesman.com 06 MARCH 2021 FIND US ONLINE Scan this with your smartphone twitter.com/TheStatesmanLtd facebook.com/thestatesman1875 Pages 12 |`5|LC KOLKATA | NEW DELHI | SILIGURI | BHUBANESWAR ‘FINDINGS’ IN KERALA GOLD SMUGGLING CASE KICK UP STORM WEATHER Mainly clear sky. Mist in the morning. The maximum and minimum temperatures would be around 32 and 14 degrees Celsius respectively. RAINFALL: Nil RELATIVE HUMIDITY Max: 93% Mamata to contest from Nandigram Trinamul chief releases candidates list for 291 Assembly seats SOMA MOOKHERJEE from the clutches of the 2021: PRESTIGE FIGHT FOR TMC Min: 42% TEMPERATURE Max: 31.6°C (+5) SUN RISES 06:40 hrs MOON RISES 02:05 hrs P10 P7 P4 Min: 14.4°C (1) SUN SETS 18:24 hrs MOON SETS 11:39 hrs THUMBNAILS Union defence minister Rajnath Singh with the Tri-service Commanders, at the Combined Commanders’ Conference, at Kevadia, PIB Narmada district of Gujarat on Friday. NCB chargesheet in Sushant death case: The Narcotics Control Bureau on Friday filed a charge sheet before a special court in Mumbai in the drugs case related to actor Sushant Singh Rajput's death, naming 33 accused including his girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty. The charge sheet accuses Chakraborty of being part of a “drug syndicate” and claims she was part of a conspiracy to procure and supply drugs. Of the 33 accused, eight are still in judicial custody while the rest including Rhea and her brother are out on bail. ED summons Mehbooba in PMLA case: The Enforcement Directorate summoned former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti on Friday for questioning on 15 March in a money laundering case, officials said. The 60-year-old PDP leader, who was released last year after more than a year in detention, has been served notice to appear at the ED headquarters in New Delhi. The case has been filed under Prevention of Money Laundering Act. KOLKATA, 5 MARCH T rinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee today confirmed that she was contesting the upcoming Assembly elections from Nandigram, vacating her Bhowanipore seat in Kolkata, as she released the list of candidates contesting in all 294 Assembly segments going to the polls in eight phases starting from 27 March. “I have promised them and I always keep my promise. I will be contesting from Nandigram in 2021 election,” Miss Banerjee said as she released the Trinamul Congress candidate list for the state polls. “I will go to Nandigram on 9 March and file my nomination on 10 March in Haldia.” Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay will be contesting from her traditional Bhowanipore seat, Miss Banerjee disclosed, as she threw a challenge at her protege-turnedrival Suvendu Adhikari, who crossed over to the BJP in December. Asked how much time she will spend in Nandigram, she said the Nandigram election is “top-ofthe-top” election. After former Trinamul MLA Suvendu Adhikary defected to the BJP, he had said only Harish Chatterjee Street and Harish Mukherjee Street were given any importance in the Trinamul Congress, these being the streets where chief minister Mamata relinquishes her bastion Bhowanipore seat to Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay 48 per cent general 240 male candidates, candidates are con- making up 82 per cent testing in 141 seats of the list and 50 women who represent 18 per 7 per cent OBC cent of the list. candidates contesting in 19 seats 80-year-old and above will not be con27 per cent reserved testing elections this for Schedule Caste con- time keeping in mind the testing in 79 seats, of ongoing Covid-19 panwhich 11 Schedule Caste demic situation. candidates to contest from non-SC seats. 6 per cent Schedule Tribe candidates will contest from 17 seats. 12 per cent Muslim candidates contesting 35 seats. Khela Hobe, ladai Hobe, jeta Hobe (we will play, fight and win the elections) MAMATA BANERJEE Mamata Banerjee and TMC Youth Congress chief Abhishek Banerjee live. This time, Miss Banerjee said, the chief minister should represent rural Bengal, pointing to her association with Nandigram where she led the anti-land acquisition movement. As many as 23 sitting MLAs have been dropped from the party’s list with Miss Banerjee emphasising that this time stress is being given to more youth and women candidates. She said in her 2021 Assembly poll list, there are 48 per cent general candidates who are contesting in 141 seats, seven CLUB V COUNTRY AS PANDEMIC PLAYS HAVOC POPE ARRIVES IN IRAQ TO RALLY CHRISTIANS ‘STATES MUST BATTLE DRUGS JOINTLY’ per cent OBC candidates, contesting in 19 seats, 27 per cent Scheduled Caste contesting in 79 seats of which 11 Schedule Caste candidates are contesting from non-SC seats and six percent Schedule Tribe candidates who will contest from 17 seats and 12 per cent Muslim candidates contesting in 35 seats. She said there are 240 male candidates, which comprises 82 per cent of the list and 50 women who represents 18 per cent of the list. Miss Banerjee said that she believes in women empowerment and in order to safeguard Bengal ‘outsiders’ she is fielding women candidates in 50 seats. The party will be contesting 291 seats, while candidates of the Bimal Gurung faction of the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha will be contesting from the remaining three seats in Darjeeling. She also said people who are 80-plus won’t be contesting elections this time keeping in mind the Covid-19 pandemic situation. State finance minister Dr Amit Mitra is among those who would not be contesting because of poor health. Prominent ministers Partha Chatterjee, Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee have been retained from their traditional seats. She said some important people who are left out would be inducted as members of a state legislative Council. Miss Banerjee also lashed out at the Election Commission and asked it to conduct the election in an impartial way."Why have you at the behest of BJP appointed the same officers for conducting election who have a tainted past?" she asked. "This time we will aggressively contest in 294 seats and will not tolerate any partiality of the officers who are in charge of the election," the Trinamul chief said. She declared, “Khela Hobe, ladai Hobe, jeta Hobe ~ we will play, fight and win the election.” More on Page 5 P12 ‘High oil prices a burden’: FM says tax cut must be joint call of Centre, states SNS & PTI ‘Income Tax raided Pannu, Kashyap in 2013 as well’ NEW DELHI, 5 MARCH Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday acknowledged that consumers have a case for petrol and diesel prices to be brought down but said a reduction in taxes to make that happen should be a joint call of the central and state governments. As much as 60 per cent of the retail price of petrol, which has shot above Rs 100-mark in some places in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra and is at an all-time high elsewhere in the country, is made up of Central and state taxes. Taxes make up for about 56 per cent of the record-high diesel rates. Sitharaman, who had increased central excise duty on petrol and diesel by a record margin last year to mop up gains arising from international oil prices plunging to a two-decade low, remained non-committal on taking the first step to cut central taxes to give relief to consumers. For consumers, “there is enough case to say that prices should be down, its a burden,” she said while interacting with journalists at IWPC. While the burden on the consumers is “understood”, the pricing is a vexatious issue, she said. “That’s where I use the word dharamsankat,” she said. “It is a question which I would like states and the Centre to talk about because it’s not just the Centre which has duties on petroleum products, it also has the states charging.” Stating that both states and the NEW DELHI, 5 MARCH Centre draw revenue out of taxes levied on petrol and diesel, she said 41 per cent of the tax collections made by the Centre go to the states. “So there is an issue which is layered and as a result that has to be a matter ideally for the Centre and the states to talk about,” she added. On the issue of bringing petrol and diesel under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime, which will end the cascading impact of taxes and bring uniformity, the finance minister said the call has to be taken by the GST Council, the apex decision making body of the indirect tax regime. Currently, the Central government levies a fixed rate of excise duty while states levy different rates of VAT. Under the GST, the two would merge and bring uniformity, solving the problem of fuel rates being higher in states with higher VAT. “Whenever the GST Council decides to take up this issue, they are well within their interest to take it up and discuss. It’s a call which the Council has to take,” she said. Sitharaman raised excise duty by Rs 13 and Rs 16 per litre on petrol and diesel, respectively, between March In comments seen as defending income tax raids on Bollywood actor Taapsee Pannu and filmmaker Anurag Kashyap, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday said the same persons were raided in 2013 as well, but no issue was made out then as it is being done now. She said it is in the national interest to know if some evasion is happening. “First of all, I am not commenting on any A or B individual. (But) since the names were taken, (I want to say) the very same names were raided in 2013,” she said in an interaction with journalists at IWPC (Indian Women’s Press Corps). It “wasn’t an issue (in 2013). It's an issue now,” she said. She, however, did not talk about the outcome PTI of the 2013 raids. 2020 and May 2020 and it now accounts for more than one-third of the Rs 91.17 a litre price of petrol in Delhi and 40 per cent of Rs 81.47 per litre rate of diesel. Earlier this week, economists at SBI in a report stated that petrol price can go down to Rs 75 a litre across the country if it is brought under the ambit of GST. Digital media guidelines lack teeth: SC India rejects ‘partly-free’ Nearly 14L inoculated in a day status in Freedom report PRESS TRUST OF INDIA NEW DELHI, 5 MARCH The Supreme Court on Friday said the Centre’s guidelines on regulating social media lacks teeth and do not have any provision for taking appropriate action for prosecution or punishment against digital platforms which show inappropriate content or violate the norms. The top court also granted interim protection from arrest to Amazon Prime Video’s India head Aparna Purohit in FIRs lodged over web series Tandav. It asked her to co-operate with the investigation and appear before the Investigating Officer as and when required. A bench comprising justices Ashok Bhushan and R S Reddy also issued notice to the Uttar Pradesh government on Purohit’s plea for anticipatory SNS & PTI The court said there is nothing in the rules to control the inappropriate content on these platforms and without legislation it may not be possible to control it. It granted interim cover to Amazon Prime’s India head in the Tandav case bail in FIRs on Tandav series. The top court said that there is nothing in the rules to control the inappropriate content on these platforms and without legislation it may not be possible to control it. A perusal of the Rules indicate that the Rules are more and more in the form of guidelines and have no effective mechanism for either screening or taking appropriate action for those who violate the guidelines, the bench said in its order. The top court said that one of the issues, which have been cropped up in the facts of the present case, is regarding control and regulation of platforms on which web-series are released. During the hearing, the bench perused the recently notified rules, the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, placed before it by Mehta. Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Purohit said that the government has notified the rules on 25 February. These rules lack teeth, these are mere guidelines. They don’t have any provision for prosecution or punishment. It is mostly a guideline thing, the bench told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Centre. NEW DELHI, 5 MARCH SNS & PTI NEW DELHI, 5 MARCH The government on Friday rejected a Freedom House report downgrading India’s status to a “partly free” country as “misleading, incorrect and misplaced”, and said it treats all citizens equally without discrimination and asserted that discussion, debate and dissent are part of Indian democracy. “The Freedom House report, titled Democracy Under Siege, in which it has been claimed that India’s status as a free country has declined to ‘partly free’ is misleading, incorrect and misplaced, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said. The report by the US-based organisation had claimed that the decline in India’s status was “due to a multiyear pattern in which the Hindu nationalist government and its allies have presided over rising violence and discriminatory policies affecting the Muslim population and pursued a crackdown on expressions of dissent by the media, academics, civil society groups, and protesters. The Ministry said, “GoI treats all its citizens with equality. “With specific reference to the North East Delhi riots in January 2019, the law enforcement machinery acted swiftly in an impartial and fair manner. Proportionate and appropriate actions were taken to control the situation.” China’s defence spending hiked to $209 billion PRESS TRUST OF INDIA BEIJING, 5 MARCH China on Friday hiked its defence budget for the first time to more than $200 billion, over three times higher than that of India, maintaining a single-digit growth for the sixth consecutive year with a 6.8 per cent increase in 2021. The hike in defence spending was announced by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on the opening day of the National People’s Congress, China’s Parliament, amidst a military standoff with India in eastern Ladakh and growing political and military tensions with the United States. This year's planned defence spending will be about 1.35 trillion yuan (about $209 billion), state-run Xinhua news agency reported, adding that AMBITIOUS BUDGET The hike in defence spending was announced by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on the opening day of China’s Parliament, amidst a military standoff with India in eastern Ladakh and growing political and military tensions with the USA. the annual defence budget maintains a single-digit growth for a sixth consecutive year. China's defence budget is about one quarter of the US figure, which is $740.5 billion for the 2021 fiscal year, it said. Friday’s increase is over three times higher than India's defence budget of about $65.7 billion (including pensions). Last year, China allocated 1.268 trillion yuan (about The annual defence budget maintains a single-digit growth for a sixth consecutive year. Friday’s increase is over three times higher than India’s defence budget of about $65.7 billion $196.44 billion), according to the state-run Global Times. In his 35-page work report outlining China’s achievements in 2020 and tasks for 2021, premier Li described last year as a major success for the armed forces without mentioning China moving over 60,000 well-armed troops who were mobilised for annual exercises, to contentious areas like Pangong Tso in eastern Ladakh, prompting India to match the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) mobilisation which led to an over eight-month long standoff. After lengthy rounds of talks, the two sides simultaneously withdrew troops from Pangong Tso area while talks are on for the withdrawal of troops from rest of the areas. Last year, major success was attained in the development of national defence and the armed forces. Our people’s forces, with complete competence and fine conduct, safeguarded China’s national security and participated in epidemic control, Li said in his work report. He also asserted that absolute leadership over the two million-strong PLA, the largest in the world, will be vested with the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) and its core leader and President Xi Jinping who heads the allpowerful Central Military Commission (CMC), the overall high command of the PLA. The increase of the defence budget, amid massive expansion of the military hardware, including building of more aircraft carriers in addition to the two newly-built ones, also comes amidst the increasing tensions between China and the US over Taiwan and the South China Sea (SCS) besides growing discord between the two over Tibet, Xinjiang and Hong Kong. China is the second biggest spender of defence after the United States. Defending the increase in defence budget, Zhang Yesui, spokesperson for the NPC, told the media here that China's efforts to strengthen the national defence do not target or threaten any country. Nearly 14 lakh people were inoculated against Covid19 on 4 March, the highest in a day so far, taking the total number of vaccine doses administered in the country to over 1.8 crore, official sources said. Among healthcare workers, 68,53,083 have been administered the first dose and 31,41,371 the second dose till now. As for frontline workers, 60,90,931 have received the first and 67,297 the second dose, according to Union Health Ministry. From 1 March, as many as 2,35,901 beneficiaries more than 45 years old with specific comorbidities and 16,16,920 people aged more than 60 years have received anti-coronavirus vaccine dose, it stated. On Thursday, day 48 of the nationwide Covid-19 vaccination drive, 13,88,170 people were inoculated. This was the highest number of vaccination recorded in a day so far, an official said. The country’s Covid-19 tally has climbed to 1,11,73,761 with 16,838 fresh cases reported in a day. Maharashtra continued to report the highest daily new cases at 8,998. Delhi sees spike of 312 cases: Delhi today recorded 312 fresh coronavirus infections — the highest single-day figure in nearly one-and-a-half months — and three more fatalities which pushed its Covid death toll to 10,918, according to ‘Expect China to work with us to complete disengagement’ STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE NEW DELHI, 5 MARCH India today said it expected China to work with New Delhi through diplomatic and military level talks to complete at the earliest the disengagement process in Eastern Ladakh. “It is our expectation that the Chinese side will work with us, both through the WMCC (Working Mechanism for Coordination and Consultation) and Senior Commanders’ meetings, to ensure that disengagement in the remaining areas is completed at the earliest,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said at a media briefing. He said the disengagement would allow the two countries to consider de- escalation of forces in Eastern Ladakh as that alone would lead to the restoration of peace and tranquility and provide conditions for progress in the bilateral ties. The spokesperson pointed out that External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, during his telephonic conversation with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi last week, had emphasised that with the completion of disengagement in the Pangong Lake area, the two sides should now move quickly to resolve the remaining issues along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh. He said senior commanders in their last meeting, on 20 February, had noted the disengagement in Pangong Lake provided a good basis for resolution of other remaining issues along the LAC. 1,11,73,761 1,76,319 16,838 13,819 1,57,548 UNION HEALTH MINISTRY FIGURES AS OF 8.00 A.M. FRIDAY 05 MARCH 2021 the Delhi government’s latest health bulletin. (SEE P2) Bombs-laden SUV owner found dead MUMBAI, 5 MARCH Hiren Mansukh, owner of the vehicle with explosives which had been found parked near industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s residence last week, was found dead in a creek in neighboring Thane today, police said. In another twist in the case, Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said the deceased was not the real owner of the vehicle. Mansukh, around 45 years old, went missing on Thursday night, as per his family. The body was found on the banks of the creek along the Mumbra Reti Bunder road. Mansukh’s Scorpio with gelatin sticks inside was found near Ambani’s multi-storey house in South Mumbai, on 25 February. Police had said it had been stolen from AiroliMulund Bridge on18 Feb.PTI
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